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Thursday, August 01, 2019

From the Library: Decorated Letters in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

By: Leigh Ann Thompson and Andrew J. Patton

New Testament manuscripts are not only vehicles of Scripture passed down to future generations through careful copying, but also are repositories of many features that make them unique, beautiful, easy to navigate, and eye-catching. One of the most common features are ektheses—visual markers that signifies the beginning of a new paragraph or other section by giving the first letter prominence through color, decoration, or position on the page. These noticeable letters served to guide readers through the text, drawing their eye to the beginnings of passages. As you’ll see below, an ekthesis can vary in style—from the simple placement of the first letter of a line into the margin to the incorporation of elaborate decorations and even narrative scenes drawn into the form of the letter. The many ways scribes wrote these decorated letters and the striking beauty of the more elaborate ones makes them worth a closer look. In this post, we’ll examine a few different types of ektheses, working our way from the simple to the ornate.

Simple Decoration

The most common way that manuscript scribes and illuminators employed ektheses was to have very little or no decoration.

GA 038 Ekthesis

Codex Koridethi (GA 038) is a fine example of a manuscript using prominent letters without adding decoration. The scribe who copied this ninth-century manuscript used ektheses to break up the text of the Gospels using only a larger form of the letter placed into the left margin. On this page you can see multiple omicrons, an epsilon, and an alpha written in such a way.

Colorful Decoration

GA 792 Ekthesis

Other manuscripts use a slightly more decorative form of ektheses. Some copyists simply used a different color of ink, usually red, to highlight the incipit letter. You can see an example of this type of lettering in a thirteenth-century manuscript of the Gospels and Revelation from the National Library of Greece (GA 792).

Decorated Ekthesis

Some copyists enhanced the letter with more detailed decorations. You often find these at the beginning of the Gospels. GA 765 is a thirteenth-century manuscript of the Gospels from the National Library of Greece. The manuscript’s illuminator went to great lengths to beautify the first epsilon of John’s Gospel. He or she used multiple colors and a dot pattern that blends nicely with the headpiece above. 

Scribes commonly drew letters in a floral pattern. GA 106 is an eleventh- or twelfth-century manuscript of the Gospels from the Chester Beatty Library. The illuminator of this medieval manuscript began the book of Matthew with a beta drawn with a floral pattern in multiple colors and gold leaf.  

These colorful and ornate letters added to the beauty of these New Testaments—enhancing the reading experience and conveying the value and worth of the Scriptures to the community. 

Elaborate Decoration

In some of the more elaborate minuscule manuscripts and lectionaries we find beautiful examples of ektheses that are embellished with other objects or have been made into a picture themselves.

Historiated Initials

These examples from GA Lect 117, digitized at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy, display historiated initials—an enlarged opening letter that contains a picture. Here the decorated letter also doubles as pictures of birds and a hand reaching through the middle of an epsilon. Note the hand in particular. Often, the opening page of an illustrated Gospel manuscript would depict a hand reaching down from the top of the page toward the evangelist to visually indicate that the biblical text was divinely given from God. The pictured hand resembles this common illustration, and the community that used GA Lect 117 would likely perceive its meaning when reading the passage.

Decorating Manuscripts Matters

Large letters set into the margin, ektheses, are one of the most common features you’ll find in New Testament manuscripts. This simple form of illumination pragmatically guided the readers through the text of the New Testament by marking off the paragraphs. But this ancient and medieval practice does not always mean the same thing that it does in modern language. In his latest book, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, Dirk Jongkind writes, “Nowadays a paragraph is a building block in the hierarchical structure of the text. But in some of the manuscript paragraphing, one gets the impression that a paragraph is used to highlight what follows” (p. 36). In other words, these readily identifiable letters draw the reader’s attention toward a passage—emphasizing its significance—while sometimes guiding the reader structurally through the text.

Additionally, ektheses have a visual effect on the reader. The decoration of these large letters enhances the beauty of the manuscript‚ thereby conveying the value of the Scriptures to the people who read or even simply saw the biblical text. Simple features like large letters reflect the importance of texts for Christian communities throughout history. 

** If you’re interested in seeing more examples of ektheses, our manuscript library can sort manuscripts with this feature if the page has been tagged. Under the heading “MS Feature” click the check box for “Ekthesis or Ornamented Letters” and the tagged manuscripts will populate. Once you click on the manuscript you’re interested in viewing, only those pages with the feature will be displayed in the thumbnail viewer. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Understanding MSI Images

By Jacob W. Peterson and Leigh Ann Thompson

This May CSNTM had the opportunity to attend a digital archiving conference in Portugal and digitize in Germany. The images captured during the Beuron expedition are now available in our digital library. In the entry for GA 0197, we include a series of images captured by our MSI equipment that we obtained in May 2018. See the above link to our newest entry in the digital library and see below for an explanation of the different images you will see. Head over to the library page to view this new entry and the fascinating results of MSI.

What Kinds of Images Does MSI Produce?

Multispectral imaging equipment captures images at different and specific wavelengths of light. A series of images for each page we digitize reflects what each band of light captures. These different bands will bring forward different features of manuscripts based on what the materials, depth and layers reflect better or worse with the utilized wavelength and filter.

The series of images that reflect what each band of light captures taken together produce a “composite image.” This image is first in the series for each page, and is in color, displaying what the naked eye would see if viewing the manuscript in person. For example, see the image of GA 0197 below.

0197 1a composite

Basically all that you can see if the overtext of a Typikon. However, the undertext becomes especially visible under the 365 nanometer ultraviolet light with a UV-pass:

0197 undertext

The Physics of MSI

The visible light spectrum–what you and I can see with our eyes–is only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum seen in the image below.

Light wavelengths spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum records the wavelengths in nanometers (nm) of the various types of waves floating around in the air—from gamma rays to radio waves. In our multispectral setup, we are only interested in the visible spectrum and the two surrounding divisions of ultraviolet and infrared light. Our equipment is capable of producing light from 365nm in the UV spectrum, through the visible light spectrum, and up to 940nm in the infrared spectrum.

Viewing MSI Images in the CSNTM Library

When you are looking at the images produced from each of the individual bands, you will see the composite image first, followed by 25 monochrome images. After you click on a particular thumbnail, the image description will give you information such as this:

MSI filename

What you are seeing in the image name field is the GA number of the manuscript, the image sequence number, and finally the multispectral information. The following is a list of the 25 different images captured in one session:

  • MB365UV_0011 - Mains, 365nm, ultraviolet light
  • MB400UV_0012 - Mains, 400nm, ultraviolet light
  • MB420VI_0001 - Mains, 420nm, violet light
  • MB450RB_0002 - Mains, 450nm, royal blue light
  • MB470LB_0003 - Mains, 470nm, light blue light
  • MB505CN_0004 - Mains, 505nm, cyan light
  • MB530GN_0005 - Mains, 530nm, green light
  • MB560LI_0006 - Mains, 560nm, yellow light
  • MB590AM_0007 - Mains, 590nm, amber light
  • MB615RO_0008 - Mains, 615nm, red-orange light
  • MB630RD_0009 - Mains, 630nm, red light
  • MB655DR_0010 - Mains, 655nm, dark red light
  • MB735IR_0013 - Mains, 735nm, infrared light
  • MB850IR_0014 - Mains, 850nm, infrared light
  • MB940IR_0015 - Mains, 940nm, infrared light
  • W365B47_0020  - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with blue filter
  • W365G58_0018 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with green filter
  • W365O22_0023 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with orange filter
  • W365R25_0016 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with red filter
  • W365UVB_0022 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with UV-block
  • W365UVP_0025 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with UV-pass
  • W450B47_0021 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with blue filter
  • W450G58_0019 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with green filter
  • W450O22_0024 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with orange filter
  • W450R25_0017 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with red filter

 

As might be clear, everything that begins with a “W” indicates that there is some sort of filter being applied to the shot. Our system runs through 15 “main” images first, then the “wheel” apparatus attached to the camera cycles through 10 addtional combinations of lights and filters.

As you will notice, not every image is created equally. Some of the bands of light produce little of value while others reveal all kinds of information. Some patterns between types of images will be apparent (e.g. UV light works well with water damage), but what works well on one page in a manuscript may not be successful at revealing anything on the next page. All that to say, make sure you consult all of the images in the sequence.

What’s Next?

The next step for CSNTM will be the post-processing of these images. Through this, the various bands are manipulated and various processes are applied to help reveal as much of the text as possible. Once this has been completed, these images will be added to our online library.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Welcome, Leigh Ann

In May, Leigh Ann Thompson joined the staff at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. The exceptional quality of her work, her industrious work ethic, and her team-oriented outlook as a Research Assistant in our internship program last year demonstrated the value she would bring to the team. We’re thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to the contribution she will make toward our mission.

We’d like to give you the opportunity to meet Leigh Ann.


After spending a year as an intern at CSNTM, I will be joining the staff as Research Coordinator. Along with overseeing the internship program and the interns' work, I also will cultivate CSNTM’s digital collection and connect people—scholars and students utilizing our digital library, institutes and interested non-specialists—to CSNTM’s work.

 

Before coming to CSNTM, I worked in non-profit ministries that served young adults and families. I’m in my third year of the Masters of Theology program at Dallas Theological Seminary, pursuing an emphasis in New Testament Studies. When I am not at the Center or studying, I enjoy spending time outdoors, playing just about any game, going on a trail run, sipping a good cup of coffee, listening to live music, and playing competitive board games with friends. This opportunity to join the team at CSNTM brings together my experience and love of investing in people with my passion for the Scriptures and their digital preservation. I look forward to equipping others through cultivating our collection of manuscripts and connecting them with our research projects.

Friday, June 07, 2019

On the Bookshelf: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

By: Andrew J. Patton

2017 marked an important year for New Testament scholars with the publication of The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (THGNT). Now, Dirk Jongkind, one of the editors of the THGNT and Senior Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language, Tyndale House has produced a new volume: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. This brief book offers a primer on the distinctive features of the Tyndale House Edition and the method the editors used for making textual decisions.

One of the best things about Jongkind’s new book is that while the focus is centered on the production of the THGNT, it functions as a concise introduction to the field of New Testament textual criticism. He provides background on the making of the New Testament—answering the question of the relationship between New Testament manuscripts, scholarly editions, and then modern translations (chapter 1). Only then does he proceed to describe the manuscript witnesses to the Greek New Testament with brief introductions to some of the most significant manuscripts (chapter 3).

Of special interest to text critics is the chapter “How Decisions are Made” (chapter 4). Here, Jongkind describes the method used to create the THGNT. For a beginner student, the chapter is a useful summary of the various aspects of textual criticism. For the experienced text critic, he offers greater insight into how he and the editors of the Tyndale House Edition made textual decisions. Overall, this provides more detail into their thinking than is conveyed in the THGNT (pp. 505–523). The starting point for considering a variant reading is, “How is the evidence distributed over the various alternative readings?” (p. 68). They favor readings found throughout the earliest manuscripts and argue that those places where later manuscripts preserve the original reading against the early ones are, in fact, exceptions. The editors considered a variety of factors in both external and internal evidence, placing them solidly in the camp of reasoned eclecticism with a priority toward (early) external evidence. Jongkind also addresses their rationale for not following the Textus Receptus and the Majority Text (chapters 5 and 6). 

The final chapter offers a biblical theology on variation and the transmission of the text. Jongkind argues that the starting point for this discussion begins not with the abstract reflection on what Christians believe God should have done but acknowledging the reality of what God has done. Then he examines biblical passages related to the transmission of the Scriptures. Ultimately, he maintains that the reality of textual variation in the copies of the Scriptures reflects the incomplete knowledge God has given to finite people and the wide geographic spread of early Christianity. 

Aside from the theory and methodology presented above, the book also includes information specific to the Tyndale House Edition, including a chapter that describes its unusual features and a guide to using its apparatus (chapter 2). The so-called unusual features are especially related to the editorial decision to follow the early manuscript tradition by placing the Catholic Epistles before Paul and in display features like ekthesis (dividing paragraphs by placing the first letter in the inside margin) and following archaic spelling.

Jongkind’s work is a helpful introduction to the Tyndale House Edition and to New Testament textual criticism in general. It will be especially valuable for beginning seminary students and anyone looking to better understand the Greek texts standing behind the translations they read everyday. For the expert in textual criticism, the volume offers additional insight into the method and perspectives undergirding the Tyndale House Edition. Their focus on early external evidence in particular should inspire further conversation about how we make decisions about variant units. At less than 100 pages of text and $12 on Amazon, this is a great value addition to your library. 

N.B.: Our Executive Director, Dan Wallace, wrote one of the cover endorsements for this book. He concludes: “Jongkind introduces the reader to manuscripts, textual theory, praxis, major textual problems, and even brief theological reflections on the reality of textual variants. It is no easy task to render this field of study within the grasp of any interested reader, and Jongkind has done so in a remarkably disarming manner.” 

You can purchase An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Digitization of 0197

By: Stratton L. Ladewig, PhD

Nestled in the beautiful countryside of Germany is the Erzabtei St. Martin zu Beuron, where a wonderful ninth-century palimpsest manuscript is housed. A palimpsest manuscript is one that has been erased and reused to record another text. The undertext—the text that was erased—in the manuscript is essentially unreadable to the naked eye. However, the archabbey was gracious to permit digitization of the manuscript with multispectral imaging (MSI) equipment, which has the potential to reveal the undertext of portions of the Gospel of Matthew hidden under the text of a Typikon.

The timing of this expedition to Beuron could not have been more opportune. The week prior, several of the Center’s staff attended an archiving conference in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference was rich with information on things like digital imaging standards, technicalities of color, usage of metadata, and management of digital imaging workflows. Alongside those topics, we participated in workshops on post-processing of MSI data.

At 3:00 a.m. the Sunday after the conference, Jacob Peterson and I arrived at the airport to make the short trip from Lisbon to Frankfurt. Once there, we grabbed our rental car and drove the few hours south to Beuron. The trip was short–only one day of digitization–but very enjoyable. Jacob Peterson was a tremendous asset because all conversation with the monk had to take place in German. We extend a special sense of gratitude to Br. Petrus Dischler, the librarian at the archabbey, for his warm hospitality and collaboration. We invite you to visit CSNTM’s Manuscripts Library to view the images when they become available.

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