Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

St Catherine Monastery |
Preserving the New Testament in the desert

St Catherine Monastery is drawn from Chapter One, beginning on page 36, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit www.TheChristians.info.

At the foot of Mount Sinai, Greek Orthodox monks have for seventeen centuries guarded Christian texts

St Catherine Monastery - Preserving the New Testament in the desert

St Catherine Monastery – Preserving the New Testament in the desert
St. Catherine’s Monastery huddles under the protection of Mt. Sinai. Until the twentieth century, the only way to get past the massive granite walls of the monastery, was to be pulled up in a basket through a small door thirty feet above ground. Within the heart of the monastic complex, whose site is holy not only to Christianity but to Judaism and Islam, stands a small mosque, built in the tenth century to appease Muslim authorities and in recognition of the Bedouin tribes that still use its oasis as a base.

A Greek Orthodox archbishop once likened St. Catherine’s Monastery, nestled in the desert sand at the foot of Gebel Musa (Mount Sinai), to Noah’s Ark–because for seventeen centuries its monastic community has zealously protected a treasure trove of Christian art and manuscripts from the tossing storms of natural weather and human strife.

Founded by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (a.d. 527—565) on the site of a chapel built in 363, the isolated, granite-walled monastery includes a church said to occupy the very site where the voice of God spoke to Moses from the Burning Bush. Also within the stronghold stands a remarkable library with more than three thousand ancient manuscripts and five thousand early printed books.

Until 1865, the library’s collection included the Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth-century vellum manuscript containing the complete text of the New Testament. Though the monks of St. Catherine’s had cherished the codex for centuries, it was unknown to the rest of the world until a German-Russian researcher, Constantine Tischendorf, found it there in 1844.

News of its existence rocked skeptics who had long discounted biblical texts because they could be verified no earlier than the twelfth century. After announcing his “discovery,” Tischendorf borrowed the codex in 1865–and, like many other patrons of libraries, he never got around to returning it. In 1933 it passed into the hands of the British Museum.

More recent research has pushed the dates of New Testament fragments back to the late first century or early second, and investigations of the texts indicate the actual writing might have begun even before the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.

Hundreds of tourists visit St. Catherine’s Monastery daily in peak season. Though their presence distracts the praying monks, visitors are charged no admission fee–the Greek Orthodox remind themselves that any guest could be Christ in disguise.

This is the end of the St Catherine Monastery category article drawn from Chapter One, beginning on page 36, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense. To continue reading more about St Catherine Monastery from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at www.TheChristians.info