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World’s oldest Christian book goes on sale at auction

The Crosby-Schoyen Codex, a historic Christian manuscript, written in Coptic script on papyrus in Egypt, dates to between 250-350AD. It is part of the Bodmer Papyri, a collection of Christian memorandums, Biblical excerpts, and pagan documents.

The important piece of religious heritage, which consists of  20,000 texts,  including 400 related to the Bible, is currently in Dr Martin Schoyen’s private collection. The 104 pages, or 52 leaves were written by one copyist in one of the first Christian monasteries, over a period of 40 years. It is considered to be one of the oldest books and could sell for up to £3million at Christie’s auction house on the 11th of June.

The scripture contains the complete texts of two Bible books. Due to Egypt’s arid climate it had been preserved extremely well before being found after remaining undiscovered for approximately 1,500 years.

The University of Mississippi bought the book and it remained there until 1981. It was purchased several times before being acquired by Norwegian manuscript collector Dr Martin Schoyen in 1988.

According to Eugenio Donadoni, a senior specialist at Christie’s auction house: “The earliest monks in Upper Egypt in the earliest Christian monastery were using this very book to celebrate the earliest Easter celebrations, only a few hundred years after Christ and only a hundred or so years after the last Gospel was written. All of the oldest books in the world are roughly dated and have now been re-dated to the third or fourth century… This could be the earliest, but you can’t say with absolute certainty. It’s a cornerstone of early faith and a witness to the earliest spread of Christianity around the Mediterranean… It’s one of the three major discoveries of the 20th century that revolutionised the study of Christianity.”


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