The Nano Bible – something new or very old?

This is rather fun – The Nano Bible, the world’s tiniest Bible, is now on view at the Israel Museum. However, it can also tell us some interesting things about the use of the Bible past and present.

Haaretz image
Image: Haaretz

Measuring roughly the size of a grain of sugar, using powerful microscopes 1,200,000 Hebrew letters were engraved upon a piece of silicon coated with gold less than 100 atoms thick. It is being hailed as the world’s smallest Bible. The creators of the Nano Bible, Technion,   In order to read the text, it is necessary to use a microscope capable of 10,000 times magnification or higher.

The language Technion use in describing this project is interesting, juxtaposing the antiquity of the texts with the state of the art, cutting-edge technology which produced this Bible.

The Nano Bible serves as a contemporary complement to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Biblical manuscripts in the world, providing audiences with a unique opportunity to examine the technological evolution of the Hebrew Bible from antiquity to the postmodern era.

Nano Bible pendant
JNB Nano Bible

The quest for biblical miniaturisation is also the aim of another company; Jerusalem Nano Bible. Alongside, their miniature versions of the Tanakh, JNB also produce a version of the Christian Bible which includes the New Testament. Once again, this sheds an interesting light on the way in which these texts continue to function. JNB’s marketing blurb states that “Now you can carry our unique bible close to your heart and feel connected to God.” They go on to claim:

The Word of God promises health for your body, absolute peace in your heart and mind, prosperity and most importantly life filled with joy and bliss. You and your loved ones can now wear your unique and timeless Nano Bible anytime.

The keeping of the Word of God close to heart and mind dates back to the ancient Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries or tefillin ; where texts (often placed in small leather boxes) were worn on the head and/or arm (see Exodus 13:9, 16 & Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).

Some of our oldest manuscripts of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) are this type of phylactery strips. What they show is that, despite the lack of modern technology, some of them are, nevertheless, incredible feats of miniaturisation.  A wide range of texts found at the Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) site can be viewed at the superb Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

Image: The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

Size of manuscripts appears to have also been a consideration of the early church. Most people are rather surprised at the diminutive size of the majority of our early papyrus manuscripts. Even a lavishly produced volume like Codex Sinaiticus only measures 38cm x 34cm (15in x 13in). Cost may have been an early concern (although not so much with Codex Sinaiticus). However, it is more likely that portability was the key factor in keeping most manuscripts of a handy size.

The pursuit of the small is still evident today in the production of modern Bibles. Most publishers offer pocket-sized (or ‘compact’) editions, with Zondervan marketing a range of ‘novelty’ NIV ‘Bibles’ in their Teeny-Tiny range – although actually only containing the Gospels.

For those who are now suffering a little bit of eye strain from all this – here is a picture of the largest Bible; the 13th Century Codex Gigas that is 3ft tall!

Codex Gigas
Codex Gigas

For more on the tiniest Bible (together with a video) follow the link below

World’s tiniest Bible is now on view at the Israel Museum – Jewish World News – Israel News | Haaretz.

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