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Scholars Hope to Reveal the Hidden Text in This Ancient Biblical Manuscript

"The discovery and identification of the undertext represents a fascinating detective story."

University of Cambridge

Scholars and faith leaders are hoping to fully reveal the hidden text in a well-known New Testament document — a manuscript that is crucial to helping shed light on the Christian faith.

The Codex Zacynthius, an early biblical transcript dating back to the 6th or 7th century, offers scholars a lens into how the gospel of Luke was transmitted, according to the Cambridge University Library.

"At first glance the Codex is a text compiled in the 13th century from passages taken from the New Testament, but its true origins are much earlier," reads a press release.

University of Cambridge University of Cambridge Library

What's perhaps most interesting about the document is the fact that some of the early 7th century text was scraped away and written over in the 13th century, leaving scholars hoping they can fully uncover the original text, the Daily Mail reported.

According to the Cambridge University Library, the wiping away seen in the case of the Codex Zacynthius was common practice at a time when writing tools were rare, as the faithful would essentially reuse documents that were already available.

Published on treated animal hide, the document is on 176 leaves. It is believed that the Luke 1:1-11:33 was first placed in Greek on the Codex Zacynthius in the 6th or 7th century, but that new text from the gospels was placed on the document in the 13th century.

The Cambridge University Library, which had been housing the Codex Zacynthius since 1984, recently raised $1.78 million to purchase it from the British and Foreign Bible Society — and researchers already have some big plans.

University of Cambridge University of Cambridge Library

"The discovery and identification of the undertext represents a fascinating detective story," said Dr. Rowan Williams, who served as the former archbishop of Canterbury, according to the Daily Mail. "By securing the manuscript, we hope that multi-spectral imaging techniques will enable scholars to recover fully the hidden text." 

The undertext was apparently first uncovered in 1861, but researchers hope that new techniques will help offer a broader view of what was originally placed on the Codex Zacynthius. 

(H/T: Daily Mail)

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