The surviving parts of the world's oldest Bible were reunited online Monday, generating excitement among scholars striving to unlock its mysteries.
The Codex Sinaiticus was hand-written by four scribes in Greek on animal hide, known as vellum, in the mid-fourth century around the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great who embraced Christianity.
Not all of it has withstood the ravages of time, but the pages that have include the whole of the New Testament and the earliest surviving copy of the Gospels written at different times after Christ's death by the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The Bible's remaining 800 pages and fragments -- it was originally some 1,400 pages long -- also contain half of a copy of the Old Testament. The other half has been lost.
"The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the world's greatest written treasures," said Scot McKendrick, head of Western manuscripts at the British Library.
"This 1,600-year-old manuscript offers a window into the development of early Christianity and first-hand evidence of how the text of the Bible was transmitted from generation to generation," he said.
The ancient parchments, which appear almost translucent, are a collection of sections held by the British Library in London, the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, Egypt, the National Library of Russia and Leipzig University Library in Germany.
Each institution owns different amounts of the manuscript, but the British Library, which digitised the delicate pages of the entire book in London, holds by far the most.
The four-year joint project, which began in 2005 with the aim of "virtually reunifying" and preserving the Bible, as well as undertaking new research into its history, has shed new light on who made it and how it was produced.
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