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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Every Greek New Testament Manuscript in Texas Digitized: Houston Baptist University Digitization

By: Stratton L. Ladewig 

In February, CSNTM traveled south 250 miles to Houston Baptist University’s Dunham Bible Museum (Houston, TX) in order to digitally preserve their three Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Gregory Aland (GA) 2878 is a one-leaf twelfth century minuscule manuscript written on parchment and contains Luke 23:7–25. GA Lectionary 2434 (14th–15th century) contains portions of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John within its four leaves. It, like GA 2878, was written on parchment.

The newest treasure of Dunham Bible Museum’s collection is an uncatalogued Greek New Testament manuscript—currently under official review by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster. Preliminarily dated by CSNTM’s Jacob W. Peterson to be from approximately the twelfth century, its seven leaves contain portions of the Gospel of John. A portion of the pages look to have possibly suffered from a little water damage at some point in the manuscript’s history. Thus, we also photographed this manuscript under ultraviolet light to bring out some of the more difficult-to-read text. Might this be a manuscript that could benefit from the Center’s recently acquired MSI equipment? Further research will provide insight into that question. Nonetheless, it was a great privilege to be able to preserve this manuscript with high resolution digital images. The images from this expedition will be available online soon in the Manuscripts Library.

CSNTM would like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to Dunham Bible Museum and Houston Baptist University. Their staff was professional and accommodating, making our task effortless. We especially want to thank Dr. Diana Severance for her availability during the project. And thanks to Dr. Phillip Marshal, Assistant Professor of Theology, School of Christian Thought, Department of Classics and Biblical Languages, for stopping in to extend a welcome.

It is with great pride that CSNTM has preserved this fine collection. Now, every Greek New Testament Manuscript in Texas has been digitized.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Why the CSNTM Internship?

By: Andrew K. Bobo

Textual criticism is a complicated field. New Testament manuscripts were written on three different materials, copied over the course of 15 centuries, and each scribe has unique handwriting. The sheer mass of materials is staggering, with over 5,300 Greek manuscripts scattered across 250 different institutions worldwide. The study of these manuscripts has gone through a series of revolutions since the advent of the printing press. Beginning with Erasmus, there has been a steady stream of printed Greek New Testaments. The early 18th century saw the first inclusion of a textual apparatus to list and discuss variants. The late 19th and early 20th centuries were abuzz with discussions of new manuscript finds. The Western world first became aware of the major biblical codices and the New Testament papyri during this time, pushing back the date of our earliest attestations by almost a millennium.

Even more recently, digital tools have once again fundamentally changed our field. Text-types, the 20th century’s dominant paradigm for understanding transmission history, have now come into question. A new approach, the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, is a complicated but promising way forward. Beyond these methodological questions, our study of the manuscripts themselves can now be done in tremendous detail from anywhere in the world, something never imagined in any previous period. On top of all these intricacies, textual critics also employ a jargon that is undecipherable to the uninitiated. For instance, our field employs an unusual number of acronyms for institutions, important publications, and manuscripts (e.g., INTF, CSNTM, ECM, CBGM, IGNTP, NA, UBS, SBL, THGNT, RP-MT, NTTS, NTTSD, NTS, ANTF, P46, GA 1739, PA, etc.).

Despite the complexity, few graduate students beginning in biblical studies feel bewildered by New Testament textual criticism. This is because most have no idea that it even exists. We all tend to take our printed, edited texts for granted, not realizing the work that lies behind them. Beginning students usually ignore the cryptic symbols, letters, and numbers at the bottom of their Greek New Testaments (called a “textual apparatus”), which represent the readings various important manuscripts have.

But when students take our internship, the abstract letters and numbers become real artifacts in living color that can be read, studied, and enjoyed. Leigh Ann Thompson, one of CSNTM’s interns for 2018–2019, described her experience: “There’s a whole world of biblical scholarship that I didn’t even know exists, much less the impact that it has on the texts we read and the materials that our pastors and leaders study. I’ve learned much about the importance of critical thought and thorough research. Even more, I’ve grown to be more thoughtful about my own faith.” Another intern, Ben Min, put it this way: “The internship exposed me to the wider world of biblical studies by introducing us to the best scholars and their works.”

Leigh Ann Thompson, Zack Skarka, and Ben Min—Research Assistants in the 2018–2019 internship cohort

Through a foundational set of readings and seminar discussions, we work through the methods, questions, and materials of textual criticism. We also guide students as they do original research in our field and prepare it for possible publication and presentation. We hope that the internship is the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of knowledge about the text of the New Testament.

For many of our interns, the passion that develops during their internship turns into a career. Many have pursued doctoral studies in textual criticism, and several have become leading experts in the field. Zack Skarka, a 2018–2019 intern, is headed in the same direction: “This internship helped me develop a love for biblical research in general and textual criticism in particular. This fall, I will begin doctoral studies at the University of Birmingham in textual criticism, fully confident that I am doing what I was made to do.” A former intern, Peter Gurry, received his doctorate in textual criticism from Cambridge University. He is now a professor of New Testament at Phoenix Seminary, co-edits the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, and has already produced several important scholarly publications, including a comprehensive study of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method mentioned above.

In exciting ways, the internship’s graduates have already begun to bear the fruit of careful study. In the forthcoming book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, a group of young scholars have provided accurate research about our field in order to correct popular misunderstandings. Several former CSNTM interns made important contributions, including Gurry, who is a co-editor, and both CSNTM’s Assistant Executive Director, Rob Marcello, and Research Fellow, Jacob Peterson, are contributors. The book exemplifies the cycle that our internship is intended to replicate. Students like Peter, Rob, and Jacob were trained in textual criticism through our internship. They then went on to further doctoral study. Now, they have not only produced scholarly works for other textual critics, but they are also doing the difficult job of translating that work for general readers who have pressing questions about the text of the New Testament. CSNTM digitizes materials and makes them available for study, but we also believe we must train a new generation of scholars to carry out that study. Our internship is where that happens.

Monday, March 04, 2019

From the Library: Lectionary 1807

By Andrew K. Bobo and Andrew J. Patton

Every year, thousands of tourists travel across the globe to view great works of art and architecture from history. Though they may not, at first glance, be as grand as towering buildings or impressive sculptures, manuscripts have also become must-see attractions. Travelers to Dublin stop to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College Library, tourists to London visit the British Library to see Codex Sinaiticus, and sightseers to Jerusalem make their way to the Israel Museum in order to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although these high profile manuscripts enjoy most of the attention, one of the joys of digitizing manuscripts is that we often come across exquisite items that are hardly known to the world. One of these treasures is a 15th century manuscript known to scholars as Gregory-Aland Lectionary 1807 (GA Lect 1807). This manuscript resides at the National Library of Greece in Athens, where the Center digitized in 2015 and 2016. The manuscript is particularly noteworthy as an artifact because of its ornate silver covers, carefully crafted in the high middle ages. As we approach the seasons of Lent and Easter, we thought it would be worth examining the scenes on the covers, since they depict the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Front Cover

The front cover shows the crucifixion of Jesus surrounded by panes of angels and symbols of the four evangelists. Church tradition developed a specific symbol for each of the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—who are known as the Evangelists. Most commonly, Matthew is associated with a man, Mark with a lion, Luke an ox, and John with an eagle. These four creatures derive from the four creatures in Ezekiel’s vision recorded in chapter 1 of his book. In the corners of our manuscript, you find each of these creatures holding a book, indicating that they represent the Evangelists.

Between the four corners are angels. When you look closely, you will observe that each of the angels is in a different posture and facial expression. Some appear to be in a reverential position and others appear to be downcast or even weeping. Their expressions reflect the horror and divine glory at the crucifixion of the Son of God.


The center panel portrays a scene of the crucifixion. Christ on the cross is the focus of the scene. The cross itself is planted into a small hill of Golgotha. Jesus is surrounded by many grieving people, including John the Apostle who is indicated by the nomina sacra ιω to the left of his head. Angels flank Christ. The two on the left are holding up a bowl, and the two on the right are shown with a scroll. Below the cross, a skull represents death. And above him are the nomina sacra ιϲ and χϲ meaning Ἰησούς (Jesus) and Χριστός (Christ).

Back Cover

The back cover features the triumphant resurrection of Christ. The dynamic scene that unfolds shows Jesus in the middle of his resurrection work. Now that he has himself been resurrected, he is resurrecting those who had previously died. So on the left side there is a group of people wearing crowns to show their victory over death and their reign with Christ. John the Baptist appears most prominently in the foreground: his feet planted in a grave, still wearing his camel hair clothes and leather belt but now with a halo showing his sainthood. On the right side, Jesus is pulling saints with sullen faces out of the grave. These saints are Adam and Eve—a demonstration of the resurrection reversing the curse of death. Below Christ’s feet are a cross and two figures who appear to be in the midst of judgment. Above his head are two angels. The entire event is shown in such a way that not only the reality of the resurrection is displayed, but its implications and meaning as a theological event are communicated visually.

Surrounding the whole scene are those whose task it was to be the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. At the very top of the frame are Peter (left) and Paul (right). They are flanked on either side by the four Evangelists. To Peter’s left are John and then Luke, whereas to Paul’s right are Mark and Matthew. All six figures are holding codices, probably the bound corpus of their own writings, which testify to the death and resurrection. Another six figures—Simon, Bartholomew, and Phillip on the left; Matthias, James, and Thomas on the right—are holding scrolls and some seem to be speaking or ready to begin speaking. The two figures at the bottom are two Christian martyrs from the first decade of the fourth century, Saint George and Saint Demetrios. The entire cover works together to show the historical reality of Christ’s work, the richness of its meaning, and those who were affected by it. The edges of both sides show the individuals tasked with witnessing to these events, which is appropriate since every manuscript itself is the physical testimony to the continuation of that witnessing work.


Lectionaries were manuscripts intended to be read in Christian worship. They were built around the church calendar. So rather than having the New Testament books in their entirety, like we find in our Bibles today, they instead divided the biblical text into particular readings for the daily worship services of the church. The schedule of the readings developed gradually in the church’s early centuries and later became standardized to form a regular rhythm around the life of Christ. The lectionary covers of this manuscript added another element of grandeur and special reverence to the liturgy, reminding both hearers and readers of the sacred importance of the message contained within.

We are grateful for our partnership with the National Library of Greece whose archival staff cares for this manuscript. We would like to especially thank Director ‎Fillipos Tsimpoglou who granted permission and provided oversight for the Center’s historic two-year digitization project, and to Andreas Vyridis for continuing to collaborate with us to ensure the digital preservation of Greek New Testament manuscripts throughout Greece.

Friday, March 01, 2019

CSNTM's Dallas Banquet 2019

Dallas Banquet 2019 — A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery 

Join Executive Director Dan Wallace and many others committed to preserving and studying the ancient Scriptures for CSNTM’s annual Dallas banquet. This year’s banquet will be held at the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU on Saturday, April 13th from 6:30–9:00 p.m. A reception will begin at 6:30, and dinner will be served at 7:00.

The theme of this year’s banquet is “A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery.” Dr. Wallace will deliver a lively presentation about how our recently acquired digitization technology — multispectral imaging — is helping the Center rediscover words that were lost long ago in New Testament manuscripts. You won’t want to miss this insider’s look at the future of the digitization and study of New Testament manuscripts. The evening will conclude with the special opportunity to partner with the Center to preserve and rediscover ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.

To purchase tickets or find out more information, visit the banquet page on our website. If you have any questions, reach out to us at (972) 941-4521. We hope to see you in April!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Manuscripts Digitized at Southern Methodist University

By: Jacob W. Peterson

CSNTM rarely revisits a location where it has already digitized, but sometimes previously unforeseen factors make it an easy decision. Back in 2010, CSNTM traveled the whole fifteen miles down highway 75 in Dallas to the Bridwell Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University to digitize one of its manuscripts—Papyrus 26 from the early 7th century. This fragmentary manuscript contains portions of Romans 1.1–16. In fact, it is one of only three papyri with this text. Back in 2010, we imaged the manuscript using our typical high-resolution color images and also used handheld black lights to try and illuminate some of the difficult-to-read portions of the text. This worked pretty well, but you can see in the images that more could probably be done.

P26 under handheld black lights

Well, as you have all read by now, CSNTM acquired multispectral imaging (MSI) last year, so it seemed appropriate to reach out to SMU about re-digitizing the papyrus. Multispectral imaging is especially useful for recovering difficult-to-read, covered, erased, or damaged text that is so common to antiquities. Without having completed any post-processing yet, we have already seen positive results in the initial images.

In addition, SMU has officially gained possession of another manuscript, GA Lect 1547, which had been on loan to them for many years. This lectionary dates to the 13th century and has not been previously microfilmed or digitized. This manuscript has a fascinating modern ownership history, beginning with the biblical scholar J. Rendel Harris in the UK, before going through a Chicago bookstore, being bequeathed to Baylor University Medical Center, and finally acquired by SMU. You can still see traces of several of these owners in the beginning flyleaves, which are full of ownership stamps, purchasers’ codes, notes between text-critics, and more.

Owners notes in GA Lect 1547

The proximity of CSNTM and SMU, the potential to see new things in the papyrus, and the opportunity to digitize a new manuscript made this an obvious project for our team. Thankfully, the staff at Bridwell Library Special Collections kindly agreed to allow us to visit them again to digitize their lectionary and utilize MSI on the papyrus. We would especially like to thank Daniel Slive and Rebecca Howdeshell, who worked with us in both the planning and execution of this project.

The images from this expedition will be available in our library soon, and the MSI images of P26 will be available after post-production is complete. We can now say that every manuscript in Dallas-Fort Worth has been digitized, and as a glimpse of the future, every manuscript in Texas will soon be digitized and made available online.

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