Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ancient Bibles on Display

The Baltimore Sun reports on a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, "In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000." Housed in the Sackler Gallery, the purpose of this display is "to give people an idea of what survived from this period of the early development of the book, from tiny scraps to astonishingly well-preserved volumes," said curator Ann Gunter. "We convey the experience of looking at something so familiar to all of us. We all have books in our houses. Here is the earliest history of the format of something that we take for granted and only know as mass-produced material. Every one of these books is individually made and inscribed."

"In the Beginning" features many of the various formats in which the Bible was presented, and includes "some of the earliest biblical artifacts in existence, including pages and fragments written in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and Coptic." Many of the items are on display in the US for the first time.

The Sun article includes a list of highlights from the exhibit: among them are the third-century Chester Beatty Numbers and Deuteronomy Codex ("the oldest extant manuscript of any Bible in the world") and the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from the fourth century and "contains the only complete copy of the Greek New Testament that predates the ninth century."

Interestingly - and appropriately - the display also shows how the canonical gospels came to be chosen from among the thirty-two (known) potential candidates.

Don't think I'll be able to get down to DC before the exhibit closes in January, but the online display isn't bad at all.

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