The Polonsky Foundation Digitization Project

2013-1204 Stamp.Ross.283 Biblia. Tedesco.   c. 1478You’ve probably noticed that the “printed” word is more and more available digitally. This digital explosion of information is simultaneously good news and bad news.

Sadly, with the 24/7 “news cycle” more and more information is available every time a person logs on to see what’s happening. Not all the information is accurate and we haven’t yet developed, as a society, a good sense for weeding out the spurious and the superfluous. Such detection is still a work in progress. Erroneous reporting can quickly go ‘viral’ and then seems to hang on forever.

Happily, digital technology has also made available to both scholars and ‘amateurs’ printed texts that have helped form our society (artistically, linguistically, and morally). For this Sunday Morning Forum biblical texts from codices and papyri dating back thousands of years are now viewable (even if we are not proficient in ancient Hebrew or Greek). Today’s English translations of the Bible allow scholars (who are proficient in ancient languages) to make wide use of texts and have helped improve modern translations of this ancient treasure (which we put to good use in our Forum).

Two such efforts at digitization are the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center of the Claremont School of Theology and The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project. 

Now the Polonsky Foundation has brought together the resources of the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the Vatican Library for digitization:

Through the generous support of the Polonsky Foundation, this project will make 1.5 million digitized pages freely available over the next three years. Portions of the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries’ collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts, and incunabula have been selected for digitization by a team of scholars and curators from around the world. The selection process has been informed by a balance of scholarly and practical concerns; conservation staff at the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries have worked with curators to assess not only the significance of the content, but the physical condition of the items, prioritizing items that are robust enough to withstand being transported to the imaging studio and handled by the photographers. In order to preserve the integrity and completeness of the manuscript collections, the libraries have also agreed to digitize whole collections where appropriate. The complete list of works to be digitized can be accessed here for Greek manuscripts, here for Hebrew manuscripts, and here for incunabula.

Go to the Polonsky Foundation Digitization Project

You are encouraged to go and see for yourself what is now available online.

Image: Genesis illustration in the Cologne Bible (1478-1479) from the Vatican Library part of the Digitization Project

Grateful for scholars

Geza Vermes
Geza Vermes was known for his skillful translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were first discovered in 1947 and contain the earliest known versions of the Hebrew Bible. (David Levenson / Getty Images / April 22, 1992)

Most of us who study the Bible depend on scholars like Geza Vermes.

All of us who have taken up Bible Study after 1947 (the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls) have benefitted from the scholarship (and advocacy) of Dr. Vermes.

Geza Vermes died on May 15, 2013. You can read more about the man in the LA Times: Geza Vermes.

Throughout his life’s work Vermes advocated for wider access to the Dead Sea Scrolls. And this has come about in the ‘digital age.’

The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project allows “users to examine and explore these most ancient manuscripts from Second Temple times at a level of detail never before possible.”

Go to The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project