Funding from Allchurches Trust has enabled the creation of a new online learning resource at the British Library, Discovering Sacred Texts. The website invites visitors to explore the world’s major faiths
It includes over 250 digitised collection items, teachers’ resources, short films and articles written by academics, faith leaders and practitioners, library curators and cultural leaders. Objects range from some of the best-known and most beautiful manuscripts of the scriptures of various world religions, to an extensive collection of printed editions, both early and modern.
Designed for Religious Education students, teachers and lifelong learners, it features nine faiths: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, the Baha’i Faith and Zoroastrianism.
"We hope that the Sacred Texts project will help people of all ages and of all faiths and none, to wrestle with the deep issues of meaning which these world religions seek to address. We have a great deal more in common than divides us."
Jeremy Noles, Allchurches Trust
Highlights of the Discovering Sacred Texts collection include the earliest surviving copy of the complete New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from the 4th century; The Ma'il Qur'an, one of the very earliest Qur'ans in the world, dating back to the 8th century; one of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from the 10th century and The Ramayana, an epic poem ascribed to the sage Valmiki, composed in Sanskrit in the middle of the first millennium.
"This site gives free access to an incredible range of texts, videos and curated articles relating to some of the world’s major faiths, which we hope will provide an invaluable tool for students, teachers and lifelong learners all over the world.”
Alex Whitfield, Head of Learning at the British Library
Over 100 of the collection items are now available to the public online for the first time, including Tyndale’s New Testament, the first to be printed in English and one of only three copies surviving from the 3,000 or more printed in 1526 and a woodblock-printed Illustrated Life of Jesus in Chinese, from 1647, one of 37 surviving copies of the book
Allchurches provided a £40,000 grant towards the development of Discovering Sacred Texts. The project has also been supported by Dangoor Education and other funders.
A year since the online resource launched, the site has attracted 340,382 unique users – against an initial target of 250,000. It has proven particularly popular during Coronavirus lockdown and its combination of spectacular religious treasures and scholarly insight is a model for how memory institutions can reach a global audience!