The Sisters of Sinai - How two lady adventurers discovered the hidden gospels
by Soskice, Janet Martin
pub. Vintage Books - division of Random House, NY - copyright 2009 isbn 978-1-4000-3474-1 - - 316 p.
Mrs. Soskice has written the biography of Scottish women, born Agnes Smith and Margaret Smith (later Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson.) Their mother died a few weeks after they were born in January 1843. Their father, an industrious and wealthy lawyer never re-married. He raised the girls himself and instead of their having a proper Victorian womens education they were taught more like boys... given the education needed to proceed in life beyond the niceties of normal Victorian women.
They were more adventurous than most and traveled to the Holy Lands and to Egypt. They put together a caravan to explore the Sinai Peninsula and there visited St. Catherine's Monastery an ancient monastery.
In the monasterys library they found an ancient book which was the history of an early saint, but the book was a palimpsest (a parchment or vellum which had been re-used by having the original writing scraped off and new writing applied).
In this case the original writing was a very ancient copy of the Gospels. As it turned out, the most ancient ever discovered up to that time. It was written in Syriac, a language close to Aramaic which was actually spoken in Israel in the time of Christ.
As a palimpsest ages over a century or more the original ink (of what was first written on the parchment) often becomes more visible as the leftover ink ages, and perhaps oxidizes.
The sisters returned to England and after some passage of time some pictures of the book were shown to scholars, who became very interested. The sisters made a second trip to the monastery with better camera equipment and made a complete copy of the book. Upon their return to England the images of the pages were studied and a better understanding of the early text of the Gospels developed.
On a later trip to Egypt they discovered a genizah (a storage room for unused Jewish writings) and rescued a large quantity of them, eventually sharing them with Solomon Schechter and the Jewish community in New York, USA.
This is an absolutely gripping narrative. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the development of the Bible, or middle eastern archeology will enjoy reading this book.
See the link below for further information...
an interview with the author Janet Soskice
~ 2011-03-05 ~
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