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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thank You from Dan Wallace

As the holidays approach, we want to wish you and your loved ones a happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your invaluable support this year. 2018 has been another successful year for CSNTM. Over the course of the year, we completed four significant expeditions. The year began with an expedition to the Library of Hellenic Parliament in Athens. Then in the summer we worked at the National Centre of Manuscripts in Tbilisi, the Byzantine Museum in Ioannina, and the University of Heidelberg. Altogether, we digitized seventeen of the most significant and fragile manuscripts we have ever handled, adding up to 9,159 total images. 

Happy Thanksgiving

Our work this year was enhanced by our new access to multispectral imaging technology. This technology allows us to view and preserve text otherwise invisible to the naked eye. In 2018, we were able to purchase this equipment, train our staff, and use it for the first time, leading to the discovery of two manuscripts by our team this summer. All this work allows anyone to examine Greek New Testament manuscripts from anywhere in the world. So far this year, over 45,000 people have visited our website to study manuscripts or learn about digital preservation.

Your faithful and generous support – shown by your involvement, gifts, and encouragement – made all of this possible. Because of your enduring partnership with us in our mission the task of preserving these important documents continues to move forward. For that we are immensely grateful. Thank you.

 

Daniel B. Wallace

Executive Director

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From the Library: Codex Koridethi

By: Andrew K. Bobo and Andrew J. Patton 

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.

CSNTM’s staff digitized arguably the most significant parchment manuscript we have ever handled at the National Centre of Manuscripts in the Republic of Georgia. Scholars call this famous manuscript Codex Koridethi (Gregory-Aland 038, also known as Θ [theta]). Koridethi, copied in the 9th century, contains all four Gospels written in majuscule script, which means it was written in capital letters. However, we believe the scribe may not have known Greek well because of many unnatural syllable breaks, odd letter formations, and corrections to the text. Koridethi is also an important witness for several major textual variants, such as the omission of “Son of God” in Mark 1.1 and the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7.53–8.11). This unique manuscript raises interesting questions about our understanding of the relationships between Greek New Testament manuscripts and contains curious oddities in its physical production.

Koridethi OT Markings 

What Text?

Since J. A. Bengal in the 1700s first discussed “families, tribes and nations” of manuscripts, text critics have often divided New Testament manuscripts into categories called text types based on similarities in their texts. The predominant text types that came to the fore were the Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine, and (sometimes) Caesarean types. The past several decades, however, have seen scholars move away from this system because more comprehensive analysis of manuscripts has not only become more possible but also shown that the divisions are not so distinct or definable. (However, Byzantine manuscripts continue to be recognized as a text type because they do have a remarkable degree of uniformity.)

Codex Koridethi is one manuscript that exemplifies the challenge and inherent problems with classifying manuscripts into text types. Studies of the Gospels in Koridethi have shown a partial alignment with different textual traditions—some parts appear to be “Alexandrian,” others “Byzantine,” and still others an idiosyncratic blend. Koridethi exposes the difficulty of fitting some manuscripts into particular categories and further highlights how much work remains to understand the transmission history of our New Testament manuscripts. Accordingly, this manuscript has consistently been identified as a significant witness to the original wording of the Gospels, and scholars producing editions of the Greek New Testament consult its readings whenever they are evaluating a textual problem in a passage it contains. 

Imperfect Parchment

Something you will notice as you scroll through the images of Codex Koridethi are a number of holes in the parchment. It is not unusual that in the daily use of a manuscript there would be damage, tears, burns, or other events that could cause parchment to go missing. But if you look closely, it is clear that the vast majority of the holes in Koridethi’s leaves are original to the parchment’s production. The scribe chose to work the text around them. In a quick search, we found 22 leaves containing various types of production defects. Below are a few examples:

Leaf 128

From Leaf 128.

Leaf 180

From Leaf 180. Notice that the text is not only written around a pre-existing hole in the leaf, but a tear in the parchment has also been sewn back together, with the text written around it.

Koridethi collage

From Leaf 151 (top left), Leaf 154 (top right), Leaf 165 (bottom left), and Leaf 212 (bottom right).

In the production of parchment, as the animal skin was scraped and stretched repeatedly, it was easy to scrape a section too thin, which could result in larger and larger holes developing as the skin was stretched to its final size. It is unclear why parchment with such significant defects would have been allowed for use in a Bible, but we can make a decent guess. Parchment, because it is made from animal skins, was highly valuable in the medieval world, and the bill for an order the size of Koridethi would have been steep. So it is possible that whoever produced Koridethi got a bit creative here and was willing to have a few imperfections present in their codex if it meant it could contain all four Gospels. This would certainly have been preferable to undertaking again the laborious and expensive process of producing parchment. Whatever the case may be, the scribe made it work, and this small feature provides us yet another window into the world of ancient book production.

Conclusion

Every manuscript has a story to tell. We are grateful for the privilege to digitize Codex Koridethi and share images of it freely in our digital library. The exceptional staff at the National Centre of Manuscripts are also to be thanked for conserving this codex and collaborating with CSNTM. You can see all the images of this Greek New Testament here in our digital library.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

New Research Fellow for CSNTM

By: Jacob W. Peterson

In August, CSNTM appointed Jacob W. Peterson to the newly-created position of Research Fellow. Jacob began working with us as a graduate student intern in 2011. Afterward, he joined the staff as Intern Coordinator until he left to pursue a PhD in New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at the University of Edinburgh. While away, Jacob continued to play an integral role in the Center’s mission by participating in every digitization expedition over the last three years. Now that he is wrapping up his dissertation at Edinburgh, we are thrilled to have him back on our team where he will not only lead worldwide digitizing expeditions, but also will enhance our research agenda. Now, hear from Jacob about what he will initially do in his new role.


One of CSNTM’s missional aims is “to publish on various facets of New Testament textual criticism.” Unfortunately, aside from the occasional conference presentation or journal article, we have been unable to dedicate much time or resources toward this aim. As the Center has continued to grow, both in terms of its size and reach, the time has come to highlight the impact of the work being done on the discovery and digitization side of operations.

CSNTM has historically focused its efforts and resources on the discovery and digitization of manuscripts, and it has been very successful at this task. Since its founding in 2002, CSNTM has digitally preserved almost seven hundred manuscripts at locations around the world. Among these are nearly one hundred manuscripts that were previously unknown to Western scholarship. Approximately seventy of these manuscripts have been officially catalogued with the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany, yet almost all of them have gone unstudied.

The desire to fulfill the Center's missional aim combined with the growing number of discoveries the organization has made presented the perfect opportunity for someone to step in and begin doing in-house research. My primary responsibility over the next few years will be examining the manuscripts CSNTM has discovered for the purpose of producing several academic volumes focused on their contents. The aim of the volumes is to provide scholarly treatment of all of CSNTM's discoveries and, in this way, complete the act of manuscript discovery, digitization, and scholarly presentation. A secondary aim is the publication of volume(s) on images in CSNTM's manuscript library. These would focus on new research on and editions of known manuscripts resulting from advanced digitization techniques (i.e., multispectral imaging) or in-depth text-critical studies of particular manuscripts. Ultimately, the hope is to increase CSNTM’s research profile, and also to collaborate with up-and-coming students and recent PhDs to give them opportunities to do original research.

We at CSNTM, and I especially, are thankful for your continued support of everything we are doing and are grateful for the opportunity to expand the scope of our operations, which will hopefully only increase our reputation and impact.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

CSNTM Welcomes Intern Class of 2018

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is excited to welcome its newest class of interns! This cohort of talented graduate students has the opportunity to study the field of New Testament textual criticism, work directly with the Center’s collection of digital images, and gain valuable professional skills while working in a non-profit organization. They play a vital role in CSNTM’s mission to preserve, share, and study Greek New Testament manuscripts, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to mentor, inspire, and work alongside each of these students. Take a moment to meet this year’s cohort:

Ben Min

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Academic Inspiration: Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director at CSNTM

Favorite Snack: Roasted Cashews

Last Book ReadThe Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

What are you excited to learn or do in your internship this year? I’m excited to learn the ways of research and what life in the academy is like.

Zack Skarka

Hometown: Eastport, New York

Academic Inspiration: Mark O’Connor, Director of the Arts and Sciences Honors Program at Boston College

Favorite Snack: Apples

Last Book Read for FunJudas and the Gospel of Jesus by N. T. Wright

What are you excited to learn or do in your internship this year? I am excited to do original research and to learn from Dr. Wallace.

Leigh Ann Thompson

Hometown: Crandall, Texas

Academic Inspiration: Nika Spaulding, Resident Theologian at Saint Jude Oak Cliff

Favorite Snack: Peanut butter M&Ms

Last Book ReadThe Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi

What are you excited to learn or do in your internship this year? Aside from getting practice, coaching, and exposure on how to research and think critically, I’m excited to grow in my own beliefs and in how to communicate those to others. I’m looking forward to deepening an understanding of worshipping with our minds.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sweet Sixteen!

 

 

 
Image

 

Sweet sixteen! Today, September 13, 2018, is CSNTM’s sixteenth anniversary. Back in 2002, our Executive Director, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, saw the potential of how digital photography and the internet could transform the way we study New Testament manuscripts—rapidly increasing our access to the physical materials of the Christian tradition. Now almost two decades later, this original vision has proven to be both timely and vital, and our commitment to it has only strengthened. As we move into our 17th year, we have a number of important projects underway that have us excited about what lies ahead for the preservation and study of the New Testament.

 
CSNTM's Multispectral Imaging

We used MSI for the first time in Tbilisi, Georgia in June 2018 

Multispectral Imaging
The acquisition of multispectral imaging (MSI) technology has been a critical addition to our digitization capabilities. MSI is a giant leap forward for digital preservation work because it allows us to see biblical text that was previously invisible or unreadable. We are among just a handful of research crews on the planet with a mobile MSI setup, which enables us to bring this advanced technology to institutes throughout the world. Our staff is collaborating with experts in cultural preservation to become proficient in processing MSI data, so that we can begin publishing images from data we’ve already captured at Heidelberg, Germany and Tbilisi, Georgia. There are several important manuscripts—water damaged or scraped and written over—that CSNTM has wanted to digitize over the years, but this simply could not be done with normal digital photography. Now that we have our MSI system, we can hardly wait to begin digitizing these invaluable manuscripts to discover what is there!
 
Research Fellowship
Digitization is critical for preserving manuscripts, but it is equally vital to study the images we’ve taken. So the task of doing and publishing research lies at the core of what CSNTM does. This is why we have recently created the position of Research Fellow. Jacob Peterson, a doctoral candidate doing research in New Testament textual criticism at the University of Edinburgh, has stepped into this role for us and already has important projects on his docket. He will primarily be working on a publication focused on the dozens of manuscripts that CSNTM has discovered during its 16 years of on-site digitization work.
 
Internship Program
This summer the CSNTM internship program welcomed a highly talented group of three graduate students. This semester they will be working their way through foundational readings in New Testament textual criticism, discussing them in student-led seminars. This introduces them to the various issues involved in our scholarly discipline, especially the manuscripts and textual history of the New Testament. In addition, each intern has taken on an original research project for the year. We offer guidance and feedback through the project that gives students opportunities to develop vital skills—critical thought, careful use of sources, accurate writing, and concise presentation. At the end, our interns will be contributing members to the field of NT textual criticism, as well as having experience that can help them excel in their future studies and careers.
 
Partner With Us
These projects have us energized to continue the work of digitally preserving the New Testament. But we cannot do this work alone. We need people to partner with us by donating to our work today. We realize that every donation is an investment in something. When you give to CSNTM, you are making an investment that will continue reaping rewards for future generations, allowing them to see, study, and enjoy these invaluable biblical manuscripts.

 

Thanks for your partnership with us!

 
 
 
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