A Visit from Father Justin

1/3/2012

CSNTM offices

3 January 2012

With a lengthy beard and ponytail to match, Father Justin easily stands out in a crowd. After hearing about his journey that led him into becoming a Greek Orthodox priest and eventually to St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, Egypt, one becomes convinced of the uniqueness of this priest.

Born in El Paso, TX into a Baptist home, Father Justin later discovered the world of Greek Orthodoxy in college at the University of Texas. After serving twenty years at a monastery in Brookline, MA, he became the first non-Greek to live in St. Catherine’s Monastery. As he put it, he “just showed up hoping they would allow me to stay”! After serving faithfully at Mt. Sinai for many years, Father Justin was recently appointed the position of librarian at the monastery.

It is due to this recent appointment as the librarian that the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) gained the privilege of hosting Father Justin for two days in November. Father Justin’s duties at the library include photographing the 1,200 manuscripts that were discovered in 1975 in a hidden compartment at the monastery. This number increased St. Catherine’s holdings to 3,300, making its collection of ancient manuscripts the second largest in the world, behind only the Vatican.

Due to the large costs that inevitably arise when setting out to digitally preserve manuscripts, Father Justin has been touring the country aiming to raise funds for this great endeavor. Consequently, CSNTM jumped at the opportunity to partner with Father Justin and St. Catherine’s, and on November 8–9 Father Justin shared about the past, present, and future work concerning the texts housed at St. Catherine’s at the Center’s headquarters in Plano, TX. Attendees were both entertained and encouraged by the work already taking place at Mt. Sinai.

Among the 3,300 manuscripts housed at St. Catherine’s Monastery, the most important and well known is Codex Sinaiticus—the oldest complete New Testament in existence. The history of this manuscript is wrought with mystery, politics, and perhaps even some deception as the bulk of it was taken from the monastery in the mid-1800s. With this codex, along with the thousands of others, it becomes difficult to overestimate the value of St. Catherine’s Monastery to textual research.

The humility and reverence Father Justin practices in his efforts to preserve the ancient texts are admirable to say the least. Therefore, it is with great enthusiasm and honor that CSNTM hopes to continue to partner with Father Justin and St. Catherine’s Monastery in the work of digitally preserving the text of the New Testament.