The Coptic-Sahidic Bible is one of the most important literary witnesses of Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean. The Coptic Old Testament, which essentially dates back to the 4th century, is one of the earliest and most extensive versions of the Greek Septuagint (LXX). The translation of the Bible into Coptic was source and inspiration for the entire Coptic-Christian literature of Egypt. In addition to this, its text corpus is essential for the study of the Egyptian language in its most recent stage, Coptic.
After the decline of Coptic Christianity and book culture under Islamic rule in the Middle Ages the fragmentary remainders of the ancient Bible manuscripts were sold, from the 17th century onwards, even in single sheets or fragments, to foreign missionaries, travelers, and scholars. This led to an extreme fragmentation and dispersal of former monastic libraries, one reason why all previous projects of a complete edition of the Coptic Old Testament have remained unfinished. Today, the methods and tools of the Digital Humanities offer the technical possibilities to virtually reunite and edit the manuscripts, which are scattered over more than 100 collections in Europe and North America.
The project “Digitale Gesamtedition und Übersetzung des koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments” at the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen has the task of collecting all remaining witnesses of the Coptic-Sahidic translation of the Old Testament, editing them digitally (and in book form) and translating them into German, English, and Arabic. The manuscripts are catalogued, described and edited in the “Virtual Manuscript Room” (coptot.manuscriptroom.com), which also serves both as a manuscript repository and as a publication platform. Each preserved manuscript page is represented by digital surrogates, and the individual fragments are virtually recombined into leaves and reconstructed into codices. Building on the significant preliminary work of previous projects and embedded in numerous international collaborations, the new project not only reconstructs and edits the manuscripts, but also digitally processes and analyses the Biblical texts and thus makes them available for further research.