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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Manuscripts Digitized in Georgia, Greece, and Germany

By: Robert D. Marcello

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) travels every summer to visit key locations throughout the world and digitize their collections of manuscripts. This summer we digitized some of the most significant manuscripts that we have ever preserved on a whirlwind expedition to three countries! The trip began at the end of May, when Dr. Daniel B. Wallace and a team of researchers traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia to evaluate and prepare the manuscripts housed at the National Centre of Manuscripts (NCM). Working with their staff they were able to view Codex Koridethi (Θ), which is a 9th century majuscule or capital-letter copy of the Gospels. The digitization team, composed of Robert D. Marcello and Jacob W. Peterson, arrived in June and now this manuscript, which has been an extremely important witness to the text of the Gospels, will be made available for all to see in high-resolution images.

Tblisi Researchers

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace and research assistants Laura Peisker and Brittany Burnette examining manuscripts at the NCM


The team also digitized the rest of the collection at the NCM, including Gregory-Aland 0240, which is an early palimpsest—a manuscript that had its original text scraped off and a new text written over it—containing portions of 1 Timothy and Titus. This manuscript was digitized with CSNTM's new multispectral imaging equipment, and it has allowed the under-text—which has hardly been visible for centuries—to now be easily seen. While digitizing this manuscript the team also identified a new Georgian palimpsest in the same volume! The team loved working with Director Zaza Abashidze and the staff of the National Centre of Manuscripts and greatly appreciated their willingness to have these cultural-heritage artifacts preserved for future generations.

Tblisi MSI

Traveling from Tbilisi, the team went to Greece to meet with some of our partners and International Advisory Board members about future projects, and to digitize a collection in the city of Ioannina, Greece. We digitized a 12th–13th century minuscule of the Gospels at the Byzantine Museum of Ioannina. This manuscript was given to the museum by a monastery and is enclosed in a stunning silver binding. We want to specifically thank Konstantinos Soueref and the Byzantine Museum’s staff for their hospitality and allowing this treasure to be preserved.

Byzantine Museum

For the final leg of our summer expeditions, the CSNTM team traveled to Heidelberg, Germany to digitize the New Testament papyri found at the University. These manuscripts, which are some of the earliest witnesses to the text of the New Testament, were in need of special digitization, since some of the text has been difficult to decipher. Dr. Wallace prepared the manuscripts noting their key features, and Jacob and Rob digitized them with our new multispectral imaging equipment. After image processing is complete, these manuscripts will be made freely available to all on our website. We must also thank Professor Dr. Andrea Jördens and the staff at the University of Heidelberg’s library for their generous hospitality and willingness to allow us to preserve these manuscripts with multispectral imaging.

P40 Heidelberg

This summer we completed expeditions in three countries. We digitized some of the earliest and most significant witnesses to the text of the New Testament. In so doing, we are continuing to fulfill our mission of making these manuscripts free for all and free for all time.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

CSNTM Acquires Multispectral Imaging

Recently, CSNTM acquired multispectral imaging equipment (MSI) in order to digitize manuscripts whose text cannot be read with the naked eye. MSI is an advanced camera technology, originally developed by NASA for satellites. The equipment we purchased digitizes manuscripts at 15 points across the light spectrum—from ultraviolet to infrared—in order to produce better, more revealing images of manuscripts and the texts they contain.

MSI images are superior for two reasons. First, they are more scientifically precise in how they represent color than a traditional RGB camera, thereby providing better color data to archivists and art historians than was previously possible. Second, and more important for textual scholars, the images can be processed to reveal details that have not been seen for centuries! This is especially important for manuscripts that are illegible because they deteriorated over time or are palimpsests—a codex that had its original text scraped off and then was rewritten with a different text.

CSNTM is already using MSI to digitally preserve manuscripts on its summer 2018 expeditions. After a period of intense training, we sent our team to image manuscripts in multiple countries. The manuscripts being digitized include one of the most important parchment manuscripts we have ever digitized along with one papyrus and four other majuscules. Of course, the images captured with MSI equipment will be made available free for all, and free for all time at We can’t wait to share with you what this amazing technology reveals!

The Center purchased this state-of-the-art equipment after raising $125,000 over the last two years. This funding was provided by a generous grant from the Hillcrest Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, and dozens of other generous donors. Thank you for your partnership with us to preserve ancient manuscripts for the modern world!


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Summer Expeditions and a Matching Grant!

One of the busiest times for CSNTM is the summer. It is during these months that we begin our expedition schedule and travel to places around the world to preserve manuscripts for future generations. This summer is jam-packed with some very significant expeditions. In fact, this summer teams from CSNTM will be working at seven sites in four different countries! As with every trip, due to security reasons, we are not able to announce where we are traveling. However, we can’t wait to share with you about some of these exciting opportunities. What we can say now is that we will be visiting two countries for the first time, and digitizing some exceptionally rare manuscripts—utilizing our new MSI technology! This technology will allow us to see texts that have been hidden for centuries. As always the images will be freely posted on our website for all to see. We also plan on establishing some new collaborations and securing additional sites for future work. So many places are opening their doors to CSNTM. In fact, right now we have a larger demand than we can even meet in one summer. This is an amazing problem to have.

Funds are needed now to fulfill these expeditions. We just received news of a $100,000 matching grant! We are asking you to consider supporting these exciting opportunities. That $100,000 could soon become $200,000, allowing us to continue our mission of preserving ancient Scripture for the modern world.

Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

Executive Director

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts


Monday, May 14, 2018

From the Library: GA 2907

By: Andrew K. Bobo

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) Digital Library contains hundreds of Greek NT manuscripts, each with its own story to tell. In our “From the Library” series, we will feature individual manuscripts from our collection in order to showcase their unique beauty and importance. This is part of CSNTM’s mission to make NT manuscripts accessible for everyone. 

The manuscript now known to New Testament scholars as Gregory-Aland 2907 was ‘discovered’ by CSNTM almost a decade ago. The Center became aware of this manuscript through a route full of intrigue. A friend of the Center—whom we have never met—was on the lookout in his country for uncatalogued New Testament manuscripts. After some super-sleuthing, he was able to locate the owner, a private collector, and he put them in contact with the Center. CSNTM then partnered with the owner to digitize the manuscript and make the images available online. This was highly significant, since GA 2907 is a first-millennium witness to the text of the Gospels, and its witness is only now being taken into account by scholars.

From the work of Darrell Post, who did a collation of the entire codex, we have learned that the text of GA 2907 very closely resembles the Majority Text. According to Post, the original scribe was careful and “committed very few unforced errors in the copying of this manuscript.” The original scribe wrote “very neatly” and was even neat in correcting the text, leaving little or no trace of the mistakes in places where the text has been scrubbed and rewritten.

In contrast to the scrupulous work done by the original scribe, the extensive repairs and ‘corrections’ of a later scribe appear clumsy and at times even bizarre. As Post notes, the later corrector’s attempts to retrace over the original scribe’s writing often did “more harm than good.” The corrector “sometimes left alone faded brown letters, and at other times traced over perfectly legible letters.” This is reminiscent of what a later copyist did to the text of Codex Vaticanus, although 2907’s ‘corrector’ was not in the same league as Vaticanus’s corrector.

A good example of such corrections comes towards the very beginning of the manuscript in Matthew 1.

Matthew 1 in GA2907

You can see the original scribe’s writing in the top half of the page. Then the later scribe’s retracing begins in dark black ink on the bottom half. The retracing skips some letters and does not trace well over others, ignoring the form of the letters in some cases.

Here is another example from a few leaves later at the end of Matthew 2 and beginning of chapter 3.


In the fourth line from the bottom, you can even see an instance where the corrector’s re-written line completely departs from the original scribe’s. The reasons for the corrector’s sloppy work are unknown, but they illustrate the fascinating and complicated histories that manuscripts can have. GA 2907 was obviously well worn from centuries of use, with someone even going through the trouble of trying to make the manuscript usable again after the original work had become damaged and faded.

 Gospel Titles in GA 2907

An idiosyncratic feature of GA 2907 is the title given to each Gospel. In the three extant titles by the original hand, shown above, the scribe includes an extra preposition within the traditional formulation. Typically, the title is written: “The Gospel According to Mark.” But in 2907, the scribe wrote “The Gospel From the According to Mark,” adding the Greek preposition ek, or “from,” to the title.  This way of writing the title would have been typical of a lectionary, where the manuscript contains selections from a Gospel rather than the entire text of a Gospel. It seems likely that this scribe inadvertently used lectionary titles here out of habit, perhaps because the scribe usually copied lectionaries rather than minuscules.

 Missing Pericope Adulterae in the Gospel of John

Another idiosyncrasy of GA 2907 is how the manuscript deals with the pericope adulterae, the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7.53–8.11). The text of GA 2907 follows a well-known group of manuscripts, referred to as “family 13.” This family of closely related manuscripts places the pericope adulterae in an odd place—towards the end of Luke rather than in John’s Gospel. GA 2907, however, appears to differ from its close relatives in some interesting ways. Instead of inserting the material from John after Luke 21.38, GA 2907 inserts the material just after Luke 23.33. The material inserted is from John 7–8, but curiously the pericope adulterae itself is not included. Instead, the manuscript’s original hand moves directly from John 7.52 to 8.12 without any break. There is writing in red ink just between these two verses that could indicate that something is missing, but it is unclear. So although the manuscript has a type of text which we would expect to contain the story, instead it is missing entirely.

 Missing the Pericope Adulterae in John

A close-up of the transition between John 7.52 and 8.12.

GA 2907 illustrates how CSNTM is contributing to scholarly work on the Greek NT. During the last 15 years, we have discovered scores of manuscripts which were previously unknown and uncatalogued. This came about through our collaborations with manuscript owners to make their collections available freely on our website, which then allows the manuscripts to be consulted by the editors of critical editions of the Greek NT. GA 2907, now less than a decade after CSNTM discovered it, was cited as one of the manuscripts consulted in a recently published critical edition, The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge(THGNT). THGNTand critical editions like it are the base texts used for Bible translators, whose work will soon be in the hands of readers worldwide.

It is important to remember that even today, there are still manuscripts that lie undiscovered and their treasures unexplored. We want to find them. We hope that you will partner with us to discover the undiscovered in order to make it available for all.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Manuscript Release: Images for Nine MSS from the Hellenic Parliament Library

Today we are releasing images of the nine New Testament manuscripts held by the Hellenic Parliament Library in Athens, Greece. CSNTM partnered with HPL’s excellent library staff to complete this project earlier in 2018. You can read about it here.

As mentioned in our initial blog about the expedition, one feature of the HPL collection that we found most interesting was the wide variation in size among the manuscripts. GA Lect 450 was one of the largest manuscripts CSNTM has ever digitized, whereas GA 804 was nearly the smallest. To put it in perspective, a leaf of GA Lect 450 has nearly eight times the surface area of GA 804 (GA 804 is roughly the height and width of an iPhone). 

 HPL Image Comparison

These variations among NT manuscripts occur due to the different purposes for which they were intended. GA Lect 450 was obviously intended to be read out loud to a church gathering as part of the liturgy, and therefore its large writing made for easy reading. On the other hand, it seems GA 804 was intended to be a hand edition of the Gospels, perfect for personal use and constant access.

We hope you will enjoy exploring this collection. You can find links to each of the manuscripts below.

GA 804: Eleventh century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 805: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 806: Fourteenth century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 807: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels with commentary

GA 2049: Sixteenth century minuscule of Revelation

GA 2096: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 2097: Eleventh century minuscule of the Gospels with commentary

GA 2313: Eleventh century minuscule of the Gospels

GA Lect 450: Tweflth century lectionary of the Gospels 

These images have now become part of our growing searchable library, which gives everyone free access to the best available digital images of New Testament manuscripts.

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