Bible Bytes – Ancient Biblical Manuscripts

This month, I will review websites that feature photographs of ancient biblical manuscripts. We know that the Lord has promised to preserve the scriptures, ‘My words shall not pass away’, Matt. 24. 35. It is encouraging to see how this promise has been fulfilled over the centuries, as extremely old copies of parts of the Bible are on prominent display in famous museums. I remember making a visit to the British Library in London (it was a date with my wife-to-be, in fact!) when I had the privilege of examining the Codex Sinaiticus. This handwritten document is a near-complete copy of the Greek New Testament, bound together with a sizable proportion of the Old Testament Septuagint Greek translation. The codex is around 1400 years old; it has recently been photographed and is available online at You can search by Bible passage, and view the actual corresponding parchment pages.

The oldest known surviving copy of any Greek New Testament manuscript is also archived in Britain, at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. This papyrus fragment of John’s gospel is dated from the early 100s AD. Again, it can be viewed in a web browser at

There are also online copies of Old Testament manuscripts. The Dead Sea scrolls caused excitement when they were found in the middle of the 20th century in the caves of Qumran. The most remarkable discovery was a scroll of the book of Isaiah showed the almost complete agreement with the extant Hebrew text, which relied on more recent sources. God’s word was carefully preserved by His divine sovereignty, using diligent, reverent scribes. The scroll of Isaiah (perhaps similar to the document the Lord would have unrolled in the synagogue, Luke 4. 17) can be explored online at The animation starts at the right hand end of the scroll (where the first page in Hebrew would begin), and you can move left with the mouse across the scroll.

More recent historical treasures are also available online. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version last year, the King James Bible Trust set up a website to allow people to view pages from an original print of the 1611 version. Again, you can select a passage and view the corresponding page at The text is quite clear, although in a very old-fashioned typeface. ‘Blessed is he that readeth’, Rev. 1. 3.


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