The oldest Bible in the world

Radio 4 have just repeated an excellent programme which tells the incredible story of the Codex Sinaiticus. Hidden for hundreds of years and preserved by the ideal desert conditions, it was discovered by a German scholar in 1844 at St Catherine’s Monastery. Its history is contentious and its contents controversial ….

Listen here to Roger Bolton’s programme on BBC Radio 4 extra.

The beautiful Greek script on parchment was handwritten some 1600 years ago and is the earliest known copy of the New Testament. It was stored in the basement of St Catherine’s Monastery, which lies at the foot of Mount Sinai in the remote South Sinai mountains. Built in the sixth century by the Roman Emperor Jusinian, the Monastery escaped the destruction faced by so many other churches and monasteries throughout the Middle East because of its unique protection by the prophet Mohammed. As a result, the Monastery today holds the greatest library of early Christian manuscripts outside the Vatican – an astonishing 33,000 items – plus an unrivalled collection of rare and beautiful icons.

The best way to discover the full story of the Codex Sinaiticus is to visit the Monastery itself. It is just one of the Monastery’s many treasures, looked after by the small community of Greek Orthodox monks. Join a forthcoming journey to South Sinai and stay at the Monastery Guesthouse, with an optional ascent of Mount Sinai.

The British Library also holds part of the manuscript and a recent collaborative research project means that the the Codex can now be viewed online:


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A unique experience and a privilege to share the Bedouin’s way of life, for a short time.

Guest, Sinai Summits, April 2019

It was the most wonderful trip, so glad I took up this opportunity. All beautifully organised – well done.

Icons of St Catherine’s Guest November 2022

Enthralling and beyond my hopes, it was a deeply spiritual experience at many levels. I am still raving about it all to anyone who crosses my path!

Icons of St Catherine’s Guest November 2022

“The whole trip was AMAZING – thank you so much.”

Francis Burkitt, St Catherine tailor made, August 2017

We got more out of our adventure than we had ever hoped for, thanks to a country of huge diversity and historical interest and to a very special guide.

Cunningham family, Jordan, April 2017

So many thoughts about our wonderful trip to St Catherine’s; the fantastic warmth of welcome from the Egyptians, Fathers Justin and Nilus, and the unique history which we felt privileged to be given access to. In my book, how could one not enjoy and be inspired!

Julia Palmer, St Catherine’s Retreat, February 2017

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Christine Dunmow, Exploring Ethiopia’s Orthodox History with John Binns 2016

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