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Friday, February 16, 2018

Nine New Testament Manuscripts Digitized

By: Andrew J. Patton

In January, nine Greek New Testament manuscripts owned by the Library of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens, Greece were digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. The Library of the Hellenic Parliament is prominently located in the center of Athens at the Old Royal Palace which is now Greece’s Parliament building. It is a historic and beautiful site.

Travelling to Athens feels like taking a long journey home. Yet, even after spending months working at museums and libraries in Athens, it is still a joyous experience to examine and digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts in such a historic city.

Rob and Jacob examining Lectionary 450

Robert D. Marcello and Jacob W. Peterson examing Lectionary 450

The concept for our digitization project at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament was developed during the summer of 2017 when Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, CSNTM’s Executive Director, met Dr. Eleni Droulia, the head of the library’s collection, and examined their manuscripts with Dr. Samuel Lamerson, president of Knox Seminary. This visit was instrumental for our agreement to partner with one another to digitize their nine Greek New Testament manuscripts. In December, Dr. Wallace returned to prepare the manuscripts for digitization. In only three days he combed through more than 4,000 leaves and recorded essential information for the digitization team and metadata that will be useful for future studies on the manuscripts.

Robert D. Marcello, Andrew J. Patton, Jacob W. Peterson, and Andrew K. Bobo

At the beginning of January, our digitization team traveled to Athens, led by CSNTM’s Director of Operations and Research, Robert D. Marcello. The other team members were Jacob W. Peterson, Andrew K. Bobo, and Andrew J. Patton. The team worked with precision and efficiency, completing the digitization work ahead of schedule. One of the most interesting features about Parliament’s collection was the wide range of sizes for their manuscripts. Lectionary 450 is an enormous manuscript: 35 cm by 28 cm, written in gigantic script on 478 leaves! On the other hand, codex 804 was especially small; its height was that of an iPhone with petite handwriting on 262 leaves.

GA 804

We greatly enjoyed working with the staff at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, including Dr. Eleni Droulia and Mrs. Angela Karapanou. They were gracious hosts for us. Their leadership expedited our digitization project and has contributed to the excellent condition of the library’s special collections. We were honored to collaborate with their staff and look forward to continued partnership.

Two other groups of people deserve special thanks for their invaluable support. First, we are grateful for our partners at the National Library of Greece who introduced CSNTM to the staff at the Parliamentary Library and collaborated on the project with us. Second, CSNTM could not have completed this project apart from the generosity of you, our donors, who believe as we do that it is critical to preserve handwritten copies of the Greek New Testament and share the images freely online. Thank you for contributing to this digitization project!

We would also ask you to show your support for the Parliament Library by liking them on Facebook here.

The following manuscripts were digitized and will be available to study online in the coming months.

GA 804

GA 805

GA 806

GA 807

GA 2049

GA 2096

GA 2097

GA 2313

GA l450

Friday, January 26, 2018

Why Digitize Manuscripts?

By: Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

In the beginning there was microfilm. And it was not good. The finer points of the text could not be read, the colors were rendered in various shades of gray, and marginal notes and commentaries were seen as lines and bumps. Erased text and corrections were undetectable, and dating the manuscripts was made more difficult because certain paleographical clues were invisible. A large percentage of the microfilm images were completely illegible. But this was all that NT scholars had to work with. And hundreds of manuscripts have never been microfilmed at all, quite a few of which were completely unknown to biblical scholars. Of these, CSNTM has already digitized nearly 100 previously unknown manuscripts.

Microfilm Image from GA 2813

Microfilm Image of Codex 2813

Then came digital photography. And it was very good. The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts was founded in 2002. Our first digitization project was in Münster, Germany, at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF). We shot the NT manuscripts owned by the institute. These were the first NT manuscripts to be digitized, and it was appropriate that INTF was the place to launch our work. Our four and five megapixel cameras (state of the art at the time)—produced significantly better images than the microfilm. The shutter click to computer upload took 90 seconds. The whole job took several weeks.

Comparing microfilm and digital images of GA 1175

Microfilm and Digital, side by side

In the following years, digital cameras continued to improve. Today, we use 50 MP cameras that produce 300 MB images in TIFF. From shutter to camera is virtually instantaneous. The finest details on any given page can be blown up many times. The colors, marginal notes, even much erased text, can now be seen with ease. And posting these images on www.csntm.org, making them free for all and free for all time, gives scholars accessibility to these manuscripts at the click of a button.

The beginning of John in Codex 800

Codex 800 at the National Library of Greece, Athens

One of the most significant values of digitizing these manuscripts is that an exquisite image of every page is preserved for ages to come. Every library where we digitize these documents gets a complete archival copy of each handwritten treasure. And the images can be enlarged multiple times without any pixilation. Even the finer hues—which often have interpretive significance—are clearly visible. The tiniest detail no longer hides from the scholar’s sight; the former blurs are now conspicuous letters.

A leaf from P46 from the University of Michigan

Page from P46, the oldest manuscript of Paul’s letters

So, why do we do what we do? CSNTM digitizes manuscripts for preservation, accessibility, clarity, recovery, and discovery. Ultimately, these images help scholars to produce Greek New Testaments that, in turn, are translated into modern languages. These priceless, one-of-a-kind codices, long obscured by microfilm, are coming to brilliant light, bringing glory to the libraries that own them and informing the New Testament text that you read today.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

CSNTM in 2017: In Case You Missed It

2017 was an exciting and busy year for CSNTM. We digitized manuscripts in both Greece and Scotland, and visited others for future work. We finished releasing the images from the National Library of Greece expedition. We also celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. We hope you enjoy reading (or re-reading!) these five posts that encapsulate our year.

Digitizing

1. From Scribe to Screen: How Technology is Changing Textual Criticism

Jacob W. Peterson discusses some recent technological innovations that are revolutionizing the field of textual criticism.

 

GA 1424

2. From the Library: GA 1424

In March, an important manuscript digitized by CSNTM in 2010 made headline news.

 

Monastery

3. Manuscripts Digitized at Greek Monasteries

A team from CSNTM digitized three manuscripts at two remote monasteries in central Greece.

 

Helps for Readers   

4. Helps for Readers: A Page from GA 773

A guided tour through one page of a “medieval study Bible.”

 

Dublin

5. 15th Anniversary of CSNTM

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace reflects on CSNTM’s 15 years of work and the continuing relevance and importance of its mission.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

11x12 Christmas Eve Announcement

Thank you to the many people who participated in the 11x12 campaign. Over the last two weeks 17 people were honored with at least an $11 monthly contribution to the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Let us tell you about the difference your commitment will make. There are thousands of Greek New Testament manuscripts scattered among hundreds of libraries, museums, and monasteries. Many are decaying because of their great age and are inaccessible for study. Yet, it is these handwritten documents that are the basis for the translation and study of the New Testament. Through digitization, CSNTM is able to preserve these manuscripts and then share the images online so that they are available to the entire world—free for all and free for all time.

Digitizing ancient and medieval manuscripts is a high-tech and precise project. On our upcoming expeditions, it will cost $11 to digitize a single page. Each donation made in honor of these loved ones will allow CSNTM to digitize 12 such pages this year!

We are grateful that this Christmas season many people chose to partner with CSNTM to preserve ancient New Testament manuscripts for the modern world. And we appreciate the legacy of these honorees that have been recognized. Thank you and merry Christmas!

Honorees

Dale Beaver

Doris DaCosta

Erica Janzen

Ron and Linda Jenkins

Charles Johnson

Rusty Kennedy

Michael Krueger

Jamie McLaughlin

Mark Patton

Rod Routen

Beecher and Nayda Wallace

Betty White

Edward and Virginia Wright, Sr.

Elizabeth Z.

Zacharias Zachariassen

Thursday, December 14, 2017

From the Library: Preserving the Christmas Story in Matthew

A Bifolio of the Beginning of Matthew in GA 776

As Christmas approaches each year, Christians around the world turn once again to the account of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1–2. This beloved passage occupies a privileged position at the beginning of the NT. However, because of its prominent place at the front of each Gospels codex, it was also the portion of the Scriptures most likely to be damaged or destroyed. Nearly every codex has at least some deterioration on the first few and last few leaves, since these are the most exposed to the elements. 

In our own collection of medieval minuscules, a quick review shows that the Christmas story in Matthew has often experienced significant fading, water or other damage, and sometimes it was even completely destroyed and lost. For instance, GA 790, GA 764, and GA 898 are missing the first leaf of Matthew. GA 798 is missing the first two leaves. GA 768, GA 771, GA 784, GA 897, GA 1417, and GA 2526—though they once contained the entire Gospel of Matthew—are now missing the Christmas story entirely!

 GA 898 begins at Matthew 1:17.

GA 768 begins at Matthew 3:6.

GA 784 begins at Matthew 5:3.

 

Damage to the Christmas story in Matthew occurred in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was from water (GA 758, GA 782), dirt (GA 785, GA 791, GA 792, GA 793, GA 796, GA 799, GA 2524), wax drippings when readers read by candlelight (GA 763, GA 781, GA 783), fire (GA 786, GA 800, GA 1416), or some other kind of trauma (GA 798).

Water Damage

Water damage to the first leaf of Matthew in GA 782.

Dirt Damage 

Dirt damage to the beginning of GA 2524.

Wax Damage

Damage from wax drippings on the third leaf of Matthew in GA 781.

Fire Damage

Significant fire damage to the edges of the first leaf of Matthew in GA 1416.

Other Damage

An unknown event caused the first few leaves to be torn away completely from GA 798.

 

With the variety of ways that the Christmas story could be lost or damaged, it was essential that scribes who cared for these damaged manuscripts devise a number of ways to save the Christmas story from disappearing altogether from the codex. Sometimes scribes would trace back over faded or damaged ink, such as in GA 758 and GA 787. In GA 757, GA 772, GA 789, GA 1686, and GA 2528, a later scribe has remade lost leaves and placed them back where they go.

Retracing 1

A scribe retraced over a water-damaged leaf near the beginning of GA 758.

Retracing 2

A scribe retraced over the faded first verse of Matthew in GA 787.

Replacement 1

The beginning of Matthew was recreated and placed back into GA 789 (left) to replace a damaged or unreadable page. An original leaf from later in the Gospel is shown on the right.

Replacement 2

The first leaf of GA 1686 was remade and replaced (left). The next leaf, continuing the Christmas story, is on the right.

The Christmas story in Matthew 1–2 is an ancient narrative that has been handed down for generations in New Testament manuscripts. We are thankful for the work that nameless scribes throughout history did to ensure that this portion of the Christian Scriptures survived intact. This Christmas season, as you turn to read about Jesus’ birth in Matthew, remember the care and creativity required to preserve this story so that we could read it today.

 

 

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