World’s Great Libraries Go Digital

News from BAR's Strata

When Johannes Gutenberg’s 1455 Latin Bible became the first book printed using movable type, it started a revolution by making literature (especially the Bible) easier to produce and more widely accessible. Now, thanks to a contribution of more than $3 million by London’s Polonsky Foundation, the Gutenberg Bible will once again be at the leading edge of a technological effort to make history’s most important texts available to all.

The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the Vatican Library (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) recently announced a new collaborative project to digitize 1.5 million pages of texts from their collections and make them freely available online. The project is expected to last four years and will include materials in three subject areas: incunabula, or early printed books from the 15th century; Greek manuscripts; and Hebrew manuscripts and early printed books. These subjects were chosen based on the strength of the two collections in these areas and on their importance for scholarship in their fields. After digitization, the texts will be freely accessible online to scholars and the general public. In some cases this new effort will digitally reunite texts that had been dispersed between the two institutions’ collections.

About two-thirds of the total pages for the project will come from the Vatican Library, which began a modest digitization effort in 2010 but has generally offered limited access to its vast holdings. The Vatican collection includes treasures such as the Gutenberg Bible, Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and Church Fathers, works by Homer, Sophocles and Plato, as well as one of the earliest extant codices in Hebrew and a copy of the Hebrew Bible written around 1100 in Italy. No word yet on whether the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus will be included in the project.


This article originally appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, Sep/Oct 2012

Posted in Archaeology Today, Cultural Heritage.

Tagged with , , , .

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  1. Bradford says

    I am deeply concerned about the naivity of such female archeologists.
    If ever there was a jumping to conclusions…this is it. Why have the questions not been asked: What motive did a “writer” of this item have to make such a declaration? there were all kinds of deviant efforts to claim notiriety and acclaim over the centuries. Is it not possible it is about another person named Jesus…there were others in history? Why give something credence solely based on the legitimacy of the dating of the item?
    I remain flabbergasted that true students of scripture are not outraged by these attempts to undermine the truth of Jesus, God’s son and his sinless life. This also declares the Gospel writers as deceptive and trying to maintain a coverup.
    Surely there are other issues in archeology that deserve more attention than contriving a fake assertion.

  2. James says

    If I understand this correctly, @Bradford takes the limited scope of what is being reported here in this article to draw the conclusions that: (1) female archaeologists are “naive”, and (2) makings statements to the matter of Jesus the Christ possibly having a wife are tantamount to blasphemy.

    Surely @Bradford must be aware that in the limited number of words in this article, we’re not told the context nor the circumstances of how the author came to these conclusions. I’d suggest that @Bradford withhold jumping to conclusions and making condemnations until s/he has at least read the full story. Presumably, the author of the research (surely for the basis of peer review in any credible academic forum) would have to submit more evidence for the conclusion stated, i.e., more than simple circumstantial association with Jesus based solely on results of carbon dating. I’d agree that such a conclusion would be pretty tenuous.

    That said, I think the story is quite clear in stating that (1) the author is not asserting that Jesus was married, but that the people who wrote the document of which the fragment is a part apparently *believed* that Jesus was married, or were touting that He was married, and that the text might have been speaking to that element; and (2) the context was rightly established within the broader competition of ideas that were making their way through Christendom during the time from which the fragment has been dated.

    I think that making inflammatory statements about how results of research constitute undermining the “truth of Jesus” or his “sinless life”. What do you mean, exactly? Are you making the leap in belief that if Jesus had been married, thereby following such customs of Jewish society of the time, then he could *not* have been “sinless” and therefore could *not* be the Son of God sent for the salvation of humankind? To me, that seems somewhat limiting in terms of what God could do and how He might have chosen to do it. Personally, I don’t make it a practice of putting God in a conceptual box of my own making.

    Although Paul discusses his thoughts on the matter of marriage in the epistles, it wasn’t until much later (as the writer of this article states) that asserting Jesus’ celibacy became a matter of church doctrine. I don’t recall anywhere, specifically, in the Bible that states unequivocally that Jesus was not married. If anything, it seems the canonical Bible is silent on the matter.

    Personally, I don’t presume to know the mind of God outside of what is directly spoken of in scripture. It generates less hateful and judgmental behavior on my part towards others that I’d have to give account for in that final day.


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