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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Images Added to the CSNTM Digital Library

The CSNTM Library grows each month as new digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts housed in institutions all over the world are added to our website.  As we attempt to make our manuscript library more convenient, comprehensive, and accessible, we provide access to manuscripts digitized by others who permit access to their images in CSNTM’s library or by providing links to the holding institution’s digital images if we cannot post them ourselves. Since April, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

GA 0206 –Digital images of the majuscule from Museum of the Bible.

GA 677 – Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 1022 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 1356 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 1474 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 1498 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 1531 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2191 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2368 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2369 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2370 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2372 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2373 – Digital images of the minuscule from The Walters Art Museum.

GA 2412 – Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2474 – Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2608 – Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2610 – Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2751 – Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1555 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1584 – Digital images of the lecitonary—located at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas—made available by Digital Scriptorium at the University of California, Berkeley.

GA Lect 1598 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1599 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1600 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1642 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1663 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1959 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1960 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1961 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1963 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA Lect 1964 – Digital images of the lectionary from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

From the Library: GA 800

By Zachary Skarka

Zachary Skarka (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a doctoral student at the University of Birmingham and an adjunct professor at Southeastern University in Bradenton, FL. His doctoral thesis is “The Text and Transmission of Colossians” under Professor H.A.G. Houghton. Skarka worked as a graduate student intern at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts in 2018–2019 while he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. His internship research project focused on Gregory-Aland 800, a medieval manuscript at the National Library of Greece. Over the past year, he continued to analyze this manuscript and presented the initial results in the TC Thursday Seminar hosted by the IGNTP. We’re delighted to welcome Zack back to CSNTM as a guest contributor to the From the Library series.

Introduction

It was November 2018, and I was at my first academic conference, the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver. Since it was my first conference, I was meeting a lot of scholars for the first time. One of these scholars was Tommy Wasserman, a CSNTM board member. I was an intern at CSNTM, and two of the Center’s staff members introduced me to Tommy. Tommy asked me what I was researching during my internship. I told him that I was studying a Gospels manuscript, GA 800. Tommy responded with one word, “Why?”

This was a very good question. Why study a Byzantine minuscule when there are so many more interesting manuscripts out there? Majuscules! Papyri! The short answer is that Dan Wallace wanted me to. In a recent trip to the National Library of Greece, CSNTM digitized GA 800. During his initial look at GA 800 while he was at the National Library of Greece, Dan noticed that, in Mark 1:2, where most manuscripts have the reading τοῖς προφήταις, GA 800 had the minority reading τῷ ἡσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ. Seeing this, he thought that there might be more worth studying in GA 800. He was right.

In this post, I will demonstrate the significance of GA 800 by discussing some of its physical features, one of the scribe’s habits, and some of its rare and unique readings.

First, I would like to give a general introduction to manuscript GA 800. This manuscript contains most of the four Gospels. It is dated between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. It was written on parchment in a cursive minuscule script. It is one column and does not contain any illustrations. Lastly, one of the most noteworthy features of GA 800 is that it is a catena manuscript.

The Catena

To be more specific, GA 800 is frame catena, which means the biblical text of GA 800 is surrounded by commentary on the top, bottom, and outside of each page. I spent a significant amount of time studying the surrounding commentary in the Gospel of Mark. The catena that GA 800 contains is commonly attributed to an otherwise unknown Victor of Antioch or to Cyril of Alexandria.

To study the Markan commentary in GA 800, I compared it to the two published editions of the catena, by John A. Cramer and Christian F. Matthaei. According to Joseph Reuss, Cramer’s edition reflects one recension of the catena, while Matthaei reflects another recension of the catena. After studying GA 800’s commentary in Mark 1, it was immediately evident that its commentary followed Matthaei’s recension rather than Cramer. Unfortunately, Matthaei’s work was in two volumes, and, after much effort, I was unable to track down the second volume. The first volume only included the commentary for chapters 1 through 10 of Mark, with chapters 11 through 16 in the second volume.

The reason that this is so unfortunate is that the commentary on Mark 16 in GA 800 differs substantially from Cramer’s edition. Most notably, the last eighty-eight words of the commentary in GA 800 are not present in Cramer’s edition. I have translated this ending into English: 

Christ Jesus went up to his father in heaven being of years according to the flesh thirty-two, not, according to the Egyptians, eleven. And he is always with the pure flesh. Now eternal life is to him alone together with the Father and the Holy Spirit over above every ruler and authority and power and lordship and every name which was named and whoever is remaining who is called divine who is not eternal because they would thus be enthroned with the eternity of the trinity. And the son of God and man will come to judge every nation of mankind and to render to each according to their actions. 

Most of this information is fairly standard and predictable, but the mention of Jesus’ age when he ascended, 32 and not 11, is quite surprising! The biggest question I have is how anyone could think that Jesus accomplished all that he did before the age of 11!

There is a possibility that the words at the end of GA 800’s commentary appear elsewhere, but I have not found them yet. Even if they do appear elsewhere, the preservation of this commentary in this manuscript is enough to demonstrate that GA 800 is worthy of study. 

Scribal Habits

Having looked at the Markan commentary in GA 800, let’s turn to the biblical text of GA 800. The first thing I will discuss is the habits of the scribe of GA 800. A curious feature of this manuscript is that it abbreviates the name John quite regularly, even though this is not one of the regular nomina sacra. The name John appears ninety-one times in GA 800. Thirty-eight times it is abbreviated, and fifty-three times it is not. I searched the Center for New Testament Textual Studies’ (CNTTS) apparatus to see which manuscripts it listed as abbreviating John. I then looked at every occurrence of the name John in each of those manuscripts. Of the eleven manuscripts listed in the CNTTS apparatus, none abbreviate the name John as frequently as GA 800 does, with GA 118 coming the closest, abbreviating John thirty of the ninety-nine times it appears in that manuscript. CNTTS lists no papyri or majuscules with the abbreviation (it lists the supplement to majuscule 011, but the supplement is written in a minuscule script). In GA 800, the abbreviation appears in all four gospels and it refers to both John the Baptist and John the Apostle. While abbreviations do not tend to be genealogically significant, it is interesting that this manuscript may abbreviate the name John more than any other manuscript.

Notable Shared Readings

Now I will discuss two significant readings in GA 800 that it shares with very few manuscripts. The first of these readings occurs at the end of Matthew 27:58. GA 800 does not repeat the words τὸ σῶμα (“the body”) at the end of this verse as most manuscripts do, leaving the object of ἀποδοθῆναι (“to give”) implicit based on Joseph of Arimathea’s request to Pilate for Jesus’ body earlier in the verse. Despite this manuscripts’ habit of omission, NA28 prefers this shorter reading in its editorial text, because the reading without the object is more difficult. What is striking about this reading is that very few manuscripts share it. The CNTTS apparatus lists only manuscripts 01, 03, 019, 33, and Family 1 as sharing this reading with GA 800. This is clearly a very early reading, even though it is only preserved in few manuscripts.

As I have already mentioned, one of the most significant readings in GA 800 occurs in Mark 1:2. This verse introduces two quotations; one from Malachi 3:1, and one from Isaiah 40:3. The majority of manuscripts introduce these quotes with the phrase “as it is written in the prophets,” while GA 800 and several older manuscripts, including manuscripts 01, 03, 05, 037, 038, have the phrase τῷ ἡσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ (“Isaiah the prophet”) instead of τοῖς προφήταις (“the prophets”). The reading in GA 800 is the more difficult reading, because Isaiah did not write the first quote. It is more likely an editor would produce the reading in the majority of manuscripts to avoid an apparent contradiction in the text than that an editor would change the general “prophets” to the partially incorrect “Isaiah.” This is an apparent link to the earliest text of Mark in GA 800 that is not found in most other manuscripts.

Notable Unique Readings

Lastly, after looking at significant readings that GA 800 shares with other manuscripts, we will look at two significant readings that are not otherwise attested in the CNTTS apparatus. One of the most unusual features of this manuscript is the genealogy in Luke. It covers two pages of the manuscript. The genealogy is numbered throughout, with the numbers following a left right left right pattern. On the first page, the genealogy follows this numbering, but on the second page, it does not. Instead, it goes down the left column and then down the right column, except it still has Adam and God on the very bottom and Abraham and Nahor on the right. 

Not only does the genealogy go against the numbering on the manuscript, but it also has two additions and an omission. In Luke 3:25, GA 800 adds τοῦ συμεών after the name ναγγαί. In Luke 3:26, this manuscript adds τοῦ ἰούδα after the name μαάθ. CNTTS lists no manuscripts that share these additions.  In Luke 3:35, the scribe omits τοῦ σερούχ. CNTTS lists two manuscripts that share this omission: 032 and 579.  By contrast, the genealogy in Matthew in GA 800 has no additions, no omissions, and no variation in order. How might these changes to the Lukan genealogy in GA 800 have occurred? Where did the extra names come from? How did the text end up not matching the numbering? What happened to poor Serug?

I saved what I consider the most interesting variant for last. In John 1:40, we are first introduced to two of Jesus’ disciples: Andrew and his brother, who is normally called Peter. While every manuscript except for one in the CNTTS apparatus refers to him as σίμωνος πέτρου (the original hand of P75 has σίμωνος πέτρος, which is corrected to σίμωνος πέτρου), GA 800 omits the word πέτρου. This is significant not only because it may be a singular reading, but because it is a reading that makes a lot of sense internally. It is not until John 1:42 that Jesus gives Simon the name Cephas, which is translated into Greek as πέτρος, so we should not expect him to be referred to as Peter before he is named Peter. In fact, in John 1:41, every manuscript listed in CNTTS’ apparatus refers to him simply as Simon, though this raises the possibility that GA 800 is harmonizing this this verse.

Considering the internal evidence, it is far more likely that an editor would add the name Peter to the name Simon in this introduction to clarify which Simon was being introduced than that an editor would remove the name Peter to make it less clear. There is the possibility that the scribe, like me, realized that Simon had not been named Peter yet and removed the name, but I have yet to see any evidence of the scribe making these types of edits elsewhere in the manuscript. While it is unlikely that this reading arose intentionally in GA 800, it is possible that it arose unintentionally. It is possible that the exemplar had σίμωνος πέτρος like the original hand of P75, and that he skipped the name Peter because of the repeated ος ending. This would be almost as interesting as a singular reading, because it could indicate a relationship to an early reading.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have seen many indications of the value of studying GA 800. We have seen an interesting variant at the end of the Markan catena in this manuscript. We have seen the habit of this scribe to abbreviate the name John. We have seen minority readings in GA 800 that were likely the early readings, as well as readings that are possibly unique to this manuscript that pose questions about how they entered the history of the transmission of these gospels. So, why study a Byzantine manuscript? Because you never know what you might discover. There could be more than meets the eye.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Farewell, Robert Marcello

By: Daniel B. Wallace

On February 15, Robert Marcello’s twelve-year tenure with CSNTM came to an end after he accepted a position with another company. We are truly going to miss Rob! Over the past dozen years, he has made incomparable contributions to our team as a digitizer, manager, and friend. For myself, Rob was not simply an employee, but was and is a close friend. 

Robert played an integral role at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, influencing the direction of the organization in nearly every area. Beginning as an exceptional graduate student intern, he grew as a scholar, manager, and leader—assuming new responsibilities over time. These last few years, he served as Assistant Executive Director.

Digitization and Research

The initial focus of Rob’s work was at the heart of CSNTM’s mission: digitization and research. During his time at the Center, we made significant improvements in our digitization protocols and technology—incorporating the Graz Conservation Copy Stand and multispectral imaging into our workflow, and following best practices and international standards for the growing field of digital humanities. He demonstrated superb skill in digitizing manuscripts and in supervising digitization projects. 

The Center’s most significant digitization projects were completed under his guidance, including the Chester Beatty Library and University of Michigan (2013–2014), the National Library of Greece in Athens (2015–2016), and the National Centre of Manuscripts in Tbilisi, Georgia (2018).

Rob also oversaw and contributed to academic initiatives at CSNTM. While he was at CSNTM, dozens of graduate student interns received training in textual criticism and digitizing manuscripts. Rob also contributed to building our presence in academic circles: attending conferences and meetings including the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Evangelical Theological Society; a workshop on the Pinakes database in Paris, France; and the Society of New Testament Studies in Athens, Greece (2018). In 2015, he announced the initial launch of a new version of CSNTM’s digital library and manuscript viewer at the Society of Biblical Literature—a project he spearheaded. And earlier this year he co-authored a profile of CSNTM with Stratton L. Ladewig in the journal Open Theology titled, “Presentation of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: Bridging the Gap between Ancient Manuscripts and Modern Technology.” Rob, Stratton, and Dan—along with just about every intern and staff member who worked at CSNTM in the last half dozen years—logged thousands of hours on a major project that should be published in coming months. But we cannot say anything more about it at this time—but stay tuned!

Organization Improvement

Rob also left a large footprint on the shape of CSNTM. As the Director of Operations and Research and then the Assistant Executive Director, Rob initiated many improvements for our internal operations. Though much of this work occurred behind the scenes, it was his initiative and leadership that made the Center a better place to work for his colleagues. In particular, we appreciated his concern for efficiency and streamlining processes to ensure that a small team could make a big impact.

Personal Engagement

Finally, Rob was not just a co-worker or supervisor to our staff. He intentionally developed personal relationships with his teammates. The staff would smile gratefully when he brought bagels or breakfast tacos to the office for all to share. And his concern for teambuilding was evident on expeditions where he strove to foster a productive and enjoyable environment. 

As for me, Rob was my sage counselor, friend, and energetic colleague. He tempered my ideas and offered many of his own. CSNTM is what it is today because of Rob Marcello. His fingerprints are on every aspect of our little institute.

These past twelve years with Robert Marcello were some of the best years in our history, and he played a vital role in those successful moments. We will deeply miss his presence and influence in our ongoing work to preserve manuscripts. And we wish him much success in his new work and many blessings for his family.

Monday, April 20, 2020

New Images in the CSNTM Digital Library

The CSNTM Library grows each month as new digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts housed in institutions all over the world are added to our website.  As we attempt to make our manuscript library more convenient, comprehensive, and accessible, we provide access to manuscripts digitized by others who permit access to their images in CSNTM’s library or by providing links to the holding institution’s digital images if we cannot post them ourselves. So far in 2020, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

 

GA 035 -Digital images of the majuscule from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. 

GA 069 - Digital images of the majuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 0163 - Digital images of the majuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 1152 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 1290 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

 

GA 2222 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2266 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2406 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2407 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2409 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2411 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2425 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2396 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2397 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2398 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2399 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2400 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2401 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2402 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2404 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2405 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

GA 2622 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the Austrian National Library.

GA 2752 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the Gordon College Library in Wenham, MA.

GA 2753 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the Gordon College Library in Wenham, MA.

GA 2821 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the Cambridge University Library.

GA 2838 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the Austrian National Library.

GA 2847 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

GA 2861 - Microfilm images of the minuscule from the David M. Rubinstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

GA 2898 - Microfilm images of the minuscule form the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

GA 2931 - Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Inspiring Stories and Astounding Support: Recapping CSNTM’s Virtual Banquet

By: Stephen Clardy

At the beginning of the month, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts hosted its first ever Virtual Banquet. After our annual Dallas banquet was canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, we transitioned to holding a week-long online event. It was an exciting time to spread awareness about our urgent work and invite people to partner with us financially.

The event progressed throughout the week of March 30, with new online content shared daily at csntmbanquet.org. Each day focused on a different theme or aspect of CSNTM.

On day 1, Nathan Wagnon—a pastor at Dallas-area Watermark Community Church—and Dr. Wallace introduced the Virtual Banquet.

Day 2 focused on our mission: preserving ancient New Testament manuscripts for the modern world. A brief video explained what the Center does, along with the goal and heart behind it. Day 3 highlighted CSNTM’s internship program, which has helped train dozens of rising New Testament textual critics and biblical scholars. Many past and present interns provided video testimonies of how their time at the Center impacted them.

On day 4, we shared about two aspects of the Center’s work: digitizing manuscripts and providing free access to our online image library. The highlight of the day was Dan Wallace’s recounting of the story of a manuscript that CSNTM serendipitously discovered in England, how we digitized it in the owners’ home, and the impact it has had on the text of the New Testament because researchers were able to study its images.

The banquet concluded with members of our Board of Directors sharing their perspective on the impact and significance of CSNTM’s mission and the reasons they got involved. Then Dan gave a preview of what CSNTM intends to do in the rest of the year, once travel restrictions are lifted and libraries can re-open.

Financially, our supporters showed up for us in an astounding way during the Virtual Banquet. The Center’s Dallas banquet is typically our largest fundraising event of the year and plays a pivotal role in launching the summer’s initiatives. We were overwhelmed by the generous support of our friends through the Virtual Banquet. Some members of our board of directors and Dallas advisory board provided $41,000 in matching funds, an amount not only met, but surpassed by donations! Overall, just over $100,000 was provided. These gifts will help us preserve precious manuscripts of the New Testament for generations to come.

Thank you to everyone who followed along during this special week. We hope you enjoyed it and found it enriching. Thank you to everyone who donated to support our mission in these difficult times. And, thank you to everyone who provided the matching funds and shared stories, which inspired the generosity of others.

If you missed the virtual banquet or want to catch up on any of the videos, it’s not too late! You can still visit csntmbanquet.org to see everything we posted online. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay up to date with our work.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

From the Library: Illuminations of Passion Week

By: Andrew J. Patton and Leigh Ann Hyde

Welcome to a most unusual Holy Week. While most of us shelter in place, we can find it difficult to remember the day of the week. The blur of one day into another without a change of scenery can sap our usual reflections on Easter. Since we cannot attend a service or gather with family and friends as many do, we would like to contribute to your Easter weekend by pointing out Byzantine artwork of the passion narratives in Greek New Testament manuscripts. Join us as we look at the unique ways readers of Scripture in the past signified this week in their manuscripts with images and illuminations.

Illustrations in New Testament manuscripts decorated the pages of medieval Scriptures more than any other period of these documents’ handwritten production. These ornamentations reveal how Byzantine readers valued and interacted with the text that they adorned. Most often, we find headpieces, patterned borders, decorated letters, and author portraits in New Testament manuscript illustrations. A few of the artifacts include narrative scenes that picture the events that the text describes. These kinds of images indicate that readers of Scripture valued these stories and desired to know, share, and preserve them. Let’s look at representations of the passion and resurrection narratives found in manuscripts digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).

GA 777, NLG

Gregory Aland 777 has the most decorative miniature paintings of the Gospel stories of any manuscript digitized by CSNTM. This medieval manuscript from the 12th century at the National Library of Greece depicts many of the most memorable scenes from the final week of Jesus’s life. Note a few of the highlights from above.

  • In the painting of Jesus entering Jerusalem, he enters on a donkey while the crowds place palm branches and garments across the path. 
  • The scene of the Last Supper, interestingly for those of us more familiar with da Vinci’s Renaissance painting, places the twelve disciples seated around a round table. 
  • The manuscript also includes a portrait of Simon the Cyrene carrying Jesus’s cross to Golgotha. 

GA Lect 1807, NLG

The covers of Gregory Aland 1807 depict the crucifixion and resurrection in silver. On the front, small portraits of angels surround the crucifixion scene. Some bow, and others look downcast or even shedding tears. Their expressions reflect the horror and divine glory at the crucifixion of the Son of God. The center of the back cover shows Jesus’s resurrection. He triumphantly rises from the dead, pulling Adam and Eve from their graves, which demonstrates his victory over death. Around the resurrection scene we see portraits of Peter and Paul and the four Gospel writers. Simon, Bartholomew, Phillip, Matthias, James, and Thomas, other disciples, join them. At the bottom stand two early Christian martyrs: Saints George and Demetrios.

GA Lect 434, NLG

Lectionary 434, also in the collection of the National Library of Greece, has a particularly interesting illumination from the Passion narratives. The decorative headpieces at the beginning of each Gospel in this manuscript contain paintings of Jesus Christ. Most Greek manuscripts exclude icons or depictions of Jesus in their manuscripts, showing only the evangelist at the beginning of his Gospel. One of these headpieces includes a painted scene, showing Judas’s kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane—complete with a weapon-toting crowd in the background.

GA 784, NLG

Codex 784 contains a full-page painting of Jesus’s crucifixion that curiously someone pasted onto the blank page before the first page of Luke’s Gospel. This manuscript has many loose or missing leaves, including the beginning of Luke, so the text of the Gospel begins at verse nineteen. It is also noteworthy that Luke’s Gospel begins with an image of the crucifixion when the other three Gospels begin with the traditional portrait of the author. Among the people at the foot of the cross we find Jesus’ mother, with the words “Mother of God” written above her head, and John the apostle, labeled as “St. John the Theologian.”

GA 106, CBL

GA 106 contains marvelous headpieces to begin each book emphasized with inlaid gold so that they truly illuminate the manuscript. Each headpiece contains the familiar author portrait housed by a frame that includes a scene from that Gospel book. This illustration of the resurrection scene pictures the risen Jesus surrounded by witnesses and raising an old man from a grave. We find this picture of the risen Jesus in numerous medieval Christian pieces of art titled and the AnastasisGreek for resurrection. (For more information on the resurrection icons, see the paintings and descriptions at the Walters Art Museum). Some of these resurrection depictions show Christ raising Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, from the grave by their wrists. This detail reflects Christian teaching of the resurrection that Christ’s life allows new life offered to the human race. The risen Jesus mightily liberates those bound to death and helpless since the fall of mankind.

GA 199, BML

This manuscript, which resides at Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, along with author portraits and a few other narrative illustrations, pictures the crucifixion and resurrection appearances. The image of the resurrection illustrates the pericope of the first appearances of Jesus to women who followed him (See Mk. 16:1–8 or Lk. 24:1–11).

Remembering Easter

The Easter events—Jesus’ death and resurrection—are the central moments in the life of Christ and the history of Christianity. Byzantine art within manuscripts generally focused on full-page portraits of the Gospel writers and decorative headpieces. As Annemarie Weyl Carr, Professor Emerita of Art History at Southern Methodist University noted, “Byzantine New Testament illumination stands out for its inventive deployment of the author portrait” (Carr, “New Testament Imagery,” in A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts, ed. Tsamakda, pp. 263–64). Their rare occurrence, then, indicates the significance and value of scenes from the Gospels and other decorations about the life of Christ in manuscripts. This artwork often points to theological convictions and had an affective impact on the person reading or seeing the manuscript decorations. 

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians: “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15.1–4 [NIV]). We hope that as you celebrate Easter or recall the Gospels’ testimony about Jesus, these Byzantine illuminations serve as a reminder of the gospel Paul received and passed on that most significant week nearly two thousand years ago.

As always, we at CSNTM extend our gratitude to you and our partnering institutions for the opportunity to digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy; the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland; and the National Library of Greece in Athens, Greece. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Announcing CSNTM’s Virtual Banquet

We can’t begin to comprehend the extent of the impact the COVID-19 epidemic has had on each of your lives collectively. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as many of you navigate especially difficult times. As an organization, we too are feeling our own effects from this crisis. Currently, our staff is working remotely as local restrictions are in place, and travel restrictions and wise precautions have put all digitization projects on an indefinite hold.

One particularly difficult consequence is that we canceled our annual Dallas banquet. The evening is our largest event of the year, and the gifts received from this banquet each year are crucial for our summer expeditions, regular operations, and future plans.

In light of this, CSNTM is holding our first ever virtual banquet next week. This week-long online event will be an exciting time to spread awareness about our important work and give people an opportunity to partner with us financially. We’ll begin Monday, March 30 and conclude the day of the original banquet, Saturday, April 4.

Understanding that the recent events may have made it simply impossible for you to partner with us right now, I want to humbly invite you to participate. Below are some ways you can get involved.

1) Stay in the loop
Each day we will share short videos and other content related to aspects of CSNTM’s mission. You’ll hear from Dan Wallace, as well as many others connected to the Center. Even if you are unable to contribute financially, this will be a fun way to learn more about our organization and the impact we’re having in the world.

2) Make a donation
Every dollar counts. The funds CSNTM receives from our banquet each year are critical for sustaining our work. Will you help us reach our goal of $80,000 and see our work move onward? Give online at csntmbanquet.org any time through April 4th.

3) Spread the word
Share with your friends and loved ones about the Center and our online campaign. We will have plenty of email and social content for you to pass along to others. You can even forward this very email! If you’re posting on social media, don’t forget to tag @csntm. A simple share or post encouraging friends and family to give can make a huge difference.

Thank you for your support of CSNTM. It truly means the world to us! We hope you’ll join us for our first ever virtual banquet.


Thank you,


Andy Patton
Development Manager

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

CSNTM’s 2020 Banquet Has Been Canceled

By: Daniel B. Wallace

In the interest of maintaining public health, we have decided to cancel CSNTM’s Dallas banquet scheduled for April 4.

While we made a decision without reservation, it was a difficult one to make. We were very excited about this Dallas banquet. The evening is our largest event of the year and plays a pivotal role in our spring fundraising. Last year, we received just over $80,000 from the banquet and were planning for a similar result this year. The funds CSNTM receives are crucial for our summer expeditions, regular operations, and future plans.

Now, I would like to invite you to CSNTM’s first ever virtual banquet. Starting on Monday, March 30 and concluding the day of the original banquet, Saturday, April 4, we will post short videos and provide access to additional information related to various parts of CSNTM’s mission. You’ll hear from Dan Wallace and many others connected to CSNTM. We hope this will be a fun way to share about our mission and upcoming work, keep everyone engaged, and give you the opportunity to partner with CSNTM.

We will share additional details later this week.

May you and your family remain healthy and at peace in these uncertain times.

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Join us for CSNTM’s 2020 Banquet

Join Executive Director Dan Wallace and our friends committed to preserving and studying the ancient Scriptures for CSNTM’s annual Dallas banquet. Our largest event of the year is a great opportunity to hear from Dr. Wallace about the Center’s latest projects, meet other supporters, and learn how you can join in.

This year’s banquet will be held at the Museum of Biblical Art on Saturday, April 4th from 6:30–9:00 p.m. A reception will begin at 6:30, and dinner will be served at 7:00.

Tickets can be purchased at csntm.org/banquet.

This Year’s Theme

CSNTM scours the earth to find and photograph ancient manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. But how relevant are these old parchments to your life? What difference does a manuscript make? Make the pilgrimage to the Museum of Biblical Art to find out for yourself!

Details

Where: Museum of Biblical Art, 7500 Park Lane Dallas, TX 75225

When: Saturday, April 4, 2020 | Reception at 6:30pm | Dinner 7:00pm–9:00pm

RSVP by March 23, 2020

If you have any questions, contact Stephen Clardy at (972) 941-4521 or sclardy@csntm.org.

 

We hope to see you April 4th!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

From the Library: GA 807

By: Andrew J. Patton and Leigh Ann Thompson

Every single Greek New Testament manuscript teems with valuable information about the New Testament’s text and history. Manuscripts play a pivotal role in moving words from the author’s pen to the many translations available today. Even more, in each manuscript we find a unique artifact from a historical moment that tells a story of the people who interacted with the words on its pages.

In 2018, CSNTM digitized the collection of the Library of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens, Greece. One of the medieval manuscripts in their collection is a twelfth century Gospels manuscript numbered as GA 807 according to the Gregory-Aland system used by text critics around the world. This manuscript was copied in the cursive minuscule script common in the medieval era and includes most of the text of the four Gospels.

As we feature this manuscript in our From the Library series, we will give our attention to the process of digitizing this manuscript, see how it handles the story of the woman caught in adultery, and discuss the commentary included throughout. Taken together, these aspects of GA 807 reflect the ways Christian readers interacted with the New Testament.

Digitizing GA 807 

I (Andrew Patton) had the pleasure of digitizing this manuscript with Andrew Bobo during our 2018 digitization project at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament. We are always captivated by the unique aspects of each manuscript as we work our way through the document. In this case, there were a few features that caught our eye:

  • The alternating ink colors for biblical text and commentary
  • A four-column layout for Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3
  • The decorative headpiece at the beginning of John’s Gospel

As exciting as the details in a manuscript might be, you can’t get too distracted by them. Imaging manuscripts requires precision and problem solving, and every artifact presents its own challenges. In this case, the manuscript is bound between leather covers that are different on the front and back. The leather on the back cover wraps around a wooden board with two remaining metal studs affixed. While the front cover is made of flexible leather without a board.

During digitization, there were a few points where we used small wedges or blocks to compensate for the missing studs on the back cover to create a squarer image. You might be surprised to see how even small differences like having a metal stud in one corner and not the other can have a significant impact on an image before the discrepancy is corrected for the final image. Small adjustments are the rule in digitization!

We experienced a different issue while photographing the back of the page (the verso). The flexible covers did not provide a solid base for the pages to lay on, making it more difficult to capture consistent images. So we placed a piece of cardboard underneath the black cloth to form a sturdier place for the leaves to rest upon. This helped us capture better images in a more time-efficient manner.

The result is a set of useful images that are aesthetically pleasing to view and, most importantly, accurately reproduce the manuscript at the point in time of digitization. Now, this medieval manuscript is available for anyone to examine online.

The Pericope Adulterae

In the Gospel of John, GA 807 includes the text of the pericope adulterae—the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7.53–8.11). Even if you do not know Greek or read the apparatus included in Greek New Testaments, you probably are familiar with this textual problem because of the footnotes and bracketing in English translations. For example, the NIV notes:

“[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]”

The majority of New Testament scholars agree that this story was not originally part of John’s Gospel and was inserted into the text sometime in the third century. (If you want to learn more about how New Testament text critics address this variant, you can watch CSNTM’s Executive Director, Dan Wallace, in this podcast.)

The scribe of GA 807 included the pericope in the text of this manuscript but also left signals that indicate his or her awareness of the debate surrounding the passage. The scribe’s work was described in a significant recent book by Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman called To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story. They wrote:

“Minuscule 807 (Athens Parlamentsbibliothek 1, fol. 230r) incorporates an arche sign at (modern) 8:3 and a telos sign above (modern) 8:11, indicating where the lection ‘about the adulteress’ begins and ends, followed by an instruction to skip the passage at Pentecost. . . . Such a direction reiterates a practice that had, by then, been in place for more than six hundred years” (pg. 293).

What they are describing is that at some point, a reader of this manuscript added guides indicating when to begin (arche) and stop (telos) reading according to the lectionary system. Notice the markings on the page:

The markings around this portion of the text reveal how Christians interacted with and used the text. Further, as Knust and Wasserman demonstrate, it also indicates that the story entered the text of John after the church had established the proper order for reading Scripture—sometime around the fourth century. This minuscule carries with it, as other manuscripts that came before it, indications of how the community read the text of the New Testament throughout the year. And it reveals their awareness of differences between copies of the New Testament. Ancient and modern notes about the history and reading of John 7.53–8.11 show that the Scriptures have often been read in connection to the past.

A Catena Manuscript 

As we noted above, this medieval manuscript includes both biblical text (in red ink) and commentary (in black ink). We find that scribes generally gave priority of prominence to the biblical text over other elements within the manuscript. In this case, the biblical text was written in red ink and the commentary in the more commonplace black ink.

We call chains of commentary from various commentators a catena. Generally, Greek manuscripts with commentary point back to the authoritative tradition of biblical interpretation rather than offering the glosses and reflections of the person preparing a particular copy. According to a checklist of manuscripts including biblical commentary produced by Dr. Georgi Parpulov, GA 807 includes commentary from Theophylact, an important church father from the medieval era (d. 1107).

Some researchers question whether or not some catena manuscripts belong in the official list of New Testament manuscripts (the Kurzgefasste Liste) managed by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research. One of the primary issues is that some catenae seem to have been produced as commentaries that include biblical text rather than a copy of the biblical text with added commentaries. A current project at the University of Birmingham, called CATENA, seeks to identify, classify, and analyze these manuscripts with biblical commentary. This research project will help us better understand the role of commentaries in Greek New Testament manuscripts and how catenae may have shaped the process of transmitting the biblical text from generation to generation. Additionally, they have already found manuscripts that were not on the official list, which now have been assigned Gregory-Aland numbers—adding to the wealth of Greek New Testament manuscripts available for study on the text of the New Testament.

Reading in Dialogue

The 12th century manuscript GA 807 is an interesting example of how Christians copied and interacted with the text of the New Testament. As two text critics observe, the manuscript includes the story of the woman caught in adultery, but the scribe instructed readers not to read the text in the liturgy. This shows awareness of a significant textual problem and how a scribe offered a pragmatic solution for reading. Additionally, the biblical commentary shows how readers were connecting the Scriptures to their tradition. Both the scribe who copied the text and the reader(s) of this manuscript were engaged in dialogue with the past—and they leave us a window into the text and history of the New Testament. It was a privilege for us to digitize this unique artifact at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament. And we extend our gratitude to the curatorial staff and librarians for their collaboration with CSNTM to digitally preserve their collection.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Interviews With the Authors: Myths and Mistakes—Zachary J. Cole

Series Introduction: Leigh Ann Thompson | Interview: Sarah Allen and Zachary J. Cole

In November the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism—edited by Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson— hit the shelves. Each chapter in the book considers a “myth” about manuscripts and the text of the New Testament and offers a response with helpful information for apologists and lay people who are interested in how data about manuscripts influences our understanding of the reliability of the text of the New Testament.

Some of the authors of Myths and Mistakes have kindly participated in interviews with the CSNTM interns about their contributions. Over the next few weeks we will post these written interviews here on CSNTM’s blog. We hope you enjoy learning from the book’s contributors, and we highly recommend purchasing the book for yourself!

Zachary J. Cole (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the author of the chapter entitled “Myths About Copyists: The Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts” in the recently published work, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. Cole currently serves on faculty at Union Theological College in Belfast, equipping students in the areas of New Testament and Greek. He also is an active minister in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. He earned his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh and authored the book Numerals in Early Greek New Testament Manuscripts: Text-Critical, Scribal, and Theological Studies.

What benefits have you experienced in your own research and teaching by studying the habits of New Testament scribes?

One clear benefit of studying the habits of New Testament scribes is that it improves one’s ability to solve textual problems. Getting to know the tendencies of particular copyists allows a more nuanced consideration of textual problems because we learn something about how they worked. If you know, for example, that one scribe in particular was more prone to omit text than to add it, then this knowledge might change the way you assess the work of that scribe in a another textual problem. This takes us back to Westcott and Hort’s famous (and sound) principle: “knowledge of documents should precede final judgement upon readings.”1  

Another benefit is the cumulative effect of seeing that the vast majority of New Testament scribes were good at what they did and that they were mainly interested in copying text not creating it. That is, we might get the impression that scribes played fast and loose with the text, editing it and changing it as they pleased. However, the more I study the work of New Testament scribes the more I see a different picture. By and large, most scribes aimed to make good, reliable copies of their texts, not new literary creations. We can see this fact demonstrated in a number of studies, but anyone can observe it for themselves if they take the time to examine the work of a scribe.

What are the main fallacies embedded within the common generalization that scribes were “unprofessional?” 

The main fallacy here is an uncritical use of the word “professional.” We need to be clear about exactly what that word is supposed to mean. Does “professional” here mean competent or trained or skilled or scribes by trade? Or something else?

It is perhaps true that most of the early scribes were not “professional” in the sense of being scribes by trade, but this by no means implies that these copyists were untrained or incompetent. On the contrary, in the ancient world we see that a range of individuals were able to competently transcribe, take dictation, copy, and produce texts, not just “professional scribes.” For example, many slaves and freed-persons working in sizeable households were fully capable of producing accurate, carefully made texts and did so on a regular basis. Such individuals may not have been “professionals” in the sense of being scribes by trade, but they were nonetheless routinely entrusted with a wide range of tasks involving copying texts, and they were often highly trained for the task. 

When we examine our earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, there is not much evidence to suggest that they were made by copyists who were scribes by trade. There may be some exceptions. P46, for example, has marginal stichoi counts, which suggest the scribe was paid for the work. Nevertheless, these very same manuscripts are quite obviously the work of experienced, skilled copyists who knew what they were doing. Were they “professional” scribes? Probably not. Were they competent? Definitely.

For a helpful discussion of this issue, see Kim Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford University Press, 2000).

We know that some scribes displayed great consistency in their copies. Why would it be significant for their accuracy to be attributed to an ability to sit for long stretches of time versus the possibility of consistent breaks?

I’m not sure we know enough about ancient scribal habits to discern the importance of being able to sit for long stretches of time. At least I don’t. What we can see, however, is that experienced scribes demonstrate a consistency in handwriting that extends for long stretches of text. That is, inexperienced writers tend to get sloppy as the work goes on, such that the end of a letter or text will become increasingly illegible. Frankly, their hands get tired. Experienced copyists, however, are able to maintain a consistency of legibility for long portions of text. This fact is demonstrated by Roger Bagnall and Raffaella Cribiore in their book Women’s Letters from Ancient Egypt: 300 B.C.–A.D. 800 (University of Michigan Press, 2006). They show that even brief letters—consisting of just a few paragraphs—illustrate this decreasing legibility when penned by inexperienced writers. 

What is important to note, and not very well appreciated, is that our earliest New Testament papyri of substantial length show a remarkable ability to maintain legibility and clarity of script for considerably long stretches, chapter after chapter. Notable papyri such as P45, P46, P66, and P75, for instance, exemplify an impressive consistency in script for very long stretches that we hardly even notice—perhaps because we are accustomed to seeing it in modern printing. This overlooked feature provides additional support for the assertion that our early copyists were experienced and well trained for the task.

Why is it important to understand that a scribe’s ability does not necessarily determine the care he or she might give to their copy?

Scribes were humans. This of course means that they could be inconsistent, physically tired, or prone to migraines. Some scribes may have been capable of brilliant calligraphy but relatively unconcerned with accuracy on a given day. Evidently, this was a widespread problem in antiquity; the best looking books were not always the most carefully copied books. On the other end of the spectrum, some scribes used unpretentious scripts and produced books that were visually unimpressive but nevertheless accurate and reliable. Given this complexity, when we evaluate the work of the scribe we need to be careful to observe not just the scribe’s ability to produce attractive work, but also their ability to produce accurate work. Some scribes achieved both; some didn’t.

A further complicating factor is the nature of the text that the scribe was intending to copy. Sometimes, scribes accurately copied bad texts; that is, he or she received a poor copy of a book but faithfully reproduced that poor copy. Identifying such instances can be tricky.

All in all, it can be extremely difficult to untangle these issues when it comes to a particular manuscript. We need to resist the urge to psychologize, impute motives to a scribe, or say more than the available evidence actually allows. We should be thorough in our research and cautious in our conclusions. 

How do you personally deal with the tension between the known and the unknown concerning the study of scribal habits?

Before we knew anything about scribal habits, we still had a good, reliable text of the New Testament. That should be enormously encouraging, and it should keep things in perspective. The more we learn about scribal habits and manuscript history, the more we are able to make minor adjustments here and there in the text; but it has remained remarkably stable in substance. That is something to be thankful for.

 

Footnotes:
1The New Testament in the Original Greek: Introduction-Appendix (Macmillan, 1882)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Interviews With the Authors: Myths and Mistakes—James Prothro

Series Introduction: Leigh Ann Thompson | Interview: Sarah Allen and James Prothro

In November, the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism—edited by Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson— hit the shelves. Each chapter in the book considers a “myth” about manuscripts and the text of the New Testament and offers a response with helpful information for apologists and lay people who are interested in how data about manuscripts influences our understanding of the reliability of the text of the New Testament.
Some of the authors of Myths and Mistakes have kindly participated in interviews with the CSNTM interns about their contributions. Over the next few weeks, we will post these written interviews here on CSNTM’s blog. We hope you enjoy learning from the book’s contributors, and we highly recommend purchasing the book for yourself!

James Prothro is the author of the chapter entitled “Myths about Classical Literature” in the recently published work, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, in which he explains the need for apologists to clarify the content of the number(s) of manuscripts they present in comparative arguments. Classicists use a “functional manuscript count” that eliminates some existing documents which do not contribute to their textual decisions. New Testament textual critics, on the other hand, often include the number of all known artifacts in their count, called an “inclusive manuscript count.” Prothro earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge and studied classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He currently serves as an assistant professor of theology at Ave Maria University and as a sub-editor of The Religious Studies Review.

What makes a good understanding of the classics so important when doing textual criticism and considering the reliability of the Bible?

For textual criticism, knowing classics can help us appreciate the task that New Testament textual critics have and also appreciate how hard they are working on their methods. There is a plethora of New Testament manuscripts, in all probably around five thousand. Most classical works have far fewer, and most of them are copies made much later than some of the early manuscripts we have for the New Testament. Many classicists, therefore, do their work by whittling down their manuscripts to a smaller number of ones they really need to use to get at the best, earliest text. For the New Testament, it is much more complex, so it requires a more complex kind of method. This is also important for apologetics. People defending the reliability of the NT regularly suggest that if we trust classical works then we have to trust the NT since the NT scholar has more to work with to get the words right. But usually they give an inaccurately low number for classical works, citing a functional, whittled-down number that doesn’t actually reflect the number of manuscripts that exist for classics. Understanding how classical text criticism works can help apologists compare numbers more fairly.

You mention in your chapter that the growing number of New Testament manuscripts should affect the arguments used by apologists. How do you think they should rephrase their statements?

The numbers of all manuscripts—both of the New Testament and of classical texts—should be accurately presented if they are going to be presented, especially if someone is going to hang the New Testament’s reliability on it. But more importantly, I think that the larger number of New Testament manuscripts presents a great opportunity for an apologist to talk about text-critical method, how we use what we have to choose what words most probably go where in our printed Greek Bibles and ultimately in people’s translations at home. Having more manuscripts doesn’t necessarily mean we have got the right text. What it means is that we have more to work with. What makes the real difference is whether our methods are up to the task of helping us sift through the material and come to a sufficiently reliable conclusion about what’s most likely the earliest recoverable text in a given line of the New Testament. And we do have good methods and are improving them to the best of our knowledge. This is a great jumping-off point for an apologist to highlight the methodological refinements of the coherence-based-genealogical-method and the work of the INTF or the CSNTM. Explaining that helps people know that we don’t just have more stuff; we have the tools to make the best use of it and achieve a reliable text.

You acknowledge that apologists are strapped for time in fact-checking their numerical data research and that the variety of data out there is immense. What resources should apologists use on the classics to better ensure that the data they use is accurate?

My chapter in Myths and Mistakes suggests several places to go for better data. The Leuven Database of Ancient Books is a helpful place to start—though one can’t just count down the page and have the true “number” (it is more complicated than that). Apologist Clay Jones has also gone to the trouble to update numbers for apologists, and my chapter has references to recent articles by papryologists and others. Better, I would suggest citing a classicist, and to remember that you may be reading a functional rather than exhaustive number of manuscripts even there. But my more enthusiastic advice would be not to get too specific about numbers. Defending a particular number may take time better spent elsewhere, and even a perfectly accurate number will change with the next discovery. Even counting the New Testament manuscripts can be dodgy when we get overly specific (Jacob Peterson’s chapter in Myths and Mistakes illustrates this well.) More important, the apologetic point of the comparison doesn’t need that many numbers: it can be established just on the basic claim that there are more manuscripts of the New Testament and that we have manuscripts of relatively earlier date compared to classics. If one wanted to be more specific about numbers, I would maybe offer one or two examples and give more specific information about the state of this or that classical text. Focusing on fewer allows apologists to do more work with less material and show their work to the audience rather than reproducing charts from other apologists with questionable numbers.

Based on what you believe to be the goal of New Testament Textual Criticism, what is the most effective way to count manuscripts?

For apologetics, the best way to count the manuscripts is to research in the right places and, always, be generous. One of my favorite quotes from Ambrose of Milan is “No one heals himself by wounding another.” It’s a comparison but not a competition. And the actual reliability of the New Testament isn’t helped by making it one. It’s tempting to drive down the classical numbers to suggest that people who believe they know what Herodotus recorded should at least believe what Luke did, which can be an effective argument, but at the end of the day Christian apologists don’t want people to believe Luke the same way they want them to believe Herodotus (and I wouldn’t believe everything in Herodotus even if I had an ancient sound recording of him confirming that he actually said it). And if we are quite blunt—returning to your question—counting manuscripts comparatively actually has nothing to do with the goal of textual criticism because knowing how many more manuscripts we have of John than Plato’s Republic does not help us reconstruct the earliest recoverable text of John. The comparison with classics can offer people something good to chew on, but the real question of the text’s reliability is done by the real work of critical method, and talking about that is the best way to get others to consider whether they should trust that the scholars are doing a good job.

Friday, January 24, 2020

You Can Donate Stock to CSNTM, and Now May Be the Time!

Did you know that there are ways to partner financially with CSNTM besides giving cash?

One such way is by giving stocks or bonds. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. For many donors whose assets have increased in value, stock and bond contributions can yield significant tax savings—allowing you to receive the most benefit for your generosity. Now may be the right time for you to make a stock donation. After a year of strong performance and the major U.S. markets hitting record highs, you might be facing capital gains taxes in the future. Making a gift of stock may be a way to invest in the Center’s mission and capitalize (intentional pun) on the impressive yields your own account may have brought you.
  2. Just like a cash gift, donations of stocks or bonds directly support the Center’s mission to digitally preserve Greek New Testament manuscripts. CSNTM stands at the head of the stream of Bible translation and scholarship around the globe. The images we digitize are utilized by scholars to produce new and improved editions of the Greek New Testament; the very editions used by Bible translators, pastors, missionaries, and students to impact the world. Moreover, through initiatives like our internship program, CSNTM has helped train 30% of the past decade’s rising New Testament textual scholars! The true impact is incalculable.

This way to give may be a strategic opportunity for you and your family to meet your giving and financial goals. We know that you give out of the kindness of your heart and because you believe in preserving manuscripts so that we can study the New Testament more. Public tax benefits are one important aspect of determining when and how to give. At CSNTM, we hope the opportunity to give stocks and bonds directly will serve you well. 

We’ve already received our first stock donation—a generous gift worth nearly $500. Will you join this friend and partner with CSNTM with a stock donation?

Here’s how it will work. If you’re interested in giving stock, you can fill out this form or contact Andrew Patton, CSNTM’s Development Manager. He will provide the information and support that you need to execute the transfer from your broker to CSNTM. Once you’ve followed your financial institution’s process for making a transfer, please alert us about the incoming contribution so that we know it is from you. Then the Center will gratefully receive your donation and direct your gift toward our upcoming projects.

(972) 941-4521

We sincerely appreciate your ongoing generosity and commitment toward our mission!

Stock Giving Form

 

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The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in any examples are for illustrative purposes only. References to tax rates include federal taxes only and are subject to change. State law may further impact your individual results. You should consult with your financial planner regarding the best options for managing your assets and giving to charitable causes.

CSNTM is a US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the Federal Tax ID: 30-0121808.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

SMU Debate Between Dan Wallace and Bart Ehrman Is Now on YouTube

The second debate between Dr. Bart D. Ehrman and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, held at SMU, is now available to view on YouTube. The two scholars debated the issue of whether or not we can trust the text of the New Testament on October 1, 2011.

The debate was an exciting event. At the time, it was the largest attended debate on the text of the New Testament ever. In the first few days of ticket sales, the venue sold out—a site on SMU's campus with a capacity of 500. So, the debate location was changed to the McFarlin Auditorium to accommodate the 1500+ people who signed up.

The debate video not only includes the remarks and rebuttals by Drs. Ehrman and Wallace, but also includes Q&A from the audience and post-debate interviews with attendees. Dr. Mark A. Chancey, Professor of Religious Studies at SMU, served as emcee.

You can view the debate video by following the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsVWFS9r9DY.

The Center has sold copies of this debate for years, and now is making it available for free digitally. Those who still wish to have a physical copy can purchase one online here. We hope you enjoy watching (or re-watching!) the 2011 debate between Ehrman and Wallace.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Interviews With the Authors: Myths and Mistakes—Elijah Hixson

Series Introduction: Leigh Ann Thompson | Interview: Joy Singh and Elijah Hixson

In November the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism—edited by Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson— hit the shelves. Each chapter in the book considers a “myth” about manuscripts and the text of the New Testament and offers a response with helpful information for apologists and lay people who are interested in how data about manuscripts influences our understanding of the reliability of the text of the New Testament.

Some of the authors of Myths and Mistakes have kindly participated in interviews with the CSNTM interns about their contributions. Over the next few weeks we will post these written interviews here on CSNTM’s blog. We hope you enjoy learning from the book’s contributors, and we highly recommend purchasing the book for yourself!

Elijah Hixson is the co-editor of Myths and Mistakes, and he also wrote a chapter on "Dating Myths," that explains the methods scholars use to date manuscripts and the significance of a manuscript’s date. Elijah works as a junior research associate in New Testament Text and Language at Tyndale House, Cambridge. He earned his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh and contributes to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

What inspired or got you interested in the field of New Testament Textual Criticism (NTTC)?

It was really a combination of things that got me into NTTC. For one, I grew up in a church that used a Textus Receptus-based Bible, and most of the churches around us in our area were either KJV-only or liberal. The KJV or at least NKJV were just the default versions that a person used. My youth pastor was KJV-only as well, even if our church wasn’t (though we did use the KJV until I was 12 and then the NKJV after that). I knew that if I broke from this, I needed to be serious and know my stuff really well, because God’s Word is important. Running in parallel to that is that I majored in chemistry as an undergraduate, and I like measuring things and working in a lab. With manuscripts, I can still do that to an extent. It’s more hands-on to argue that a spot of ink is an α not a λ than it is to argue what Paul meant in a random verse in Galatians. Add to that the fact that I realized in seminary that I don’t have a good personality for being a pastor, but I wasn’t bad with Greek, and I loved manuscripts. Everything just came together into NTTC.

You talk about the discrepancy in citing the variants. How do you define a variant? And how does the existence of variants add or detract from the claim to the reliability of the text?

I would define a variant as any place where a manuscript of a work has a different reading than another manuscript/edition/etc. of that work. I don’t think the existence of variants matters very much about the reliability of the text. It would be suspicious if we had no variants—that would look like someone has messed with the text to craft a version of it that they wanted to promote and to silence the opposition. But we don’t see that. What we see is consistent with the way Paul describes our stewardship of the Gospel in 2 Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" (ESV). We see copies of the Scriptures that have mistakes from the copyists, but God never allowed so many mistakes such that God’s truth is lost. A great example of this is that you could have someone using the KJV and someone using the ESV in the same local congregation. In that scenario (a very real one that happens), you’d have two people using two ‘forms’ of the New Testament that are about as far apart as they can be, yet not only are both of them Christians, both of them are part of the same local church. To me, that is a powerful illustration that we do have a reliable text—we can be certain about the vast majority of it, and where we lack complete certainty, it is not as though we have no idea what the original text was. Where there is uncertainty, there is still certainty that the text is usually one of two or (in exceptionally rare cases) three competing readings, and when we start looking at specifics in those places, we realize that nothing in those differences is enough to make a difference in an overall system of belief. In short, the New Testament that we have is reliable.


Robert Price used words and phrases like “probabilistic arguments, ambiguous evidence which is impossible to verify,” to describe his faith-shattering experience of the uncertainty of the text at hand. How would you as the author describe the text at hand today?

At the end of the day, we believe what we want to believe. Yes, God works in mysterious ways and uses different kinds of things to bring different kinds of people to faith, but if someone wants to cast aside the Scriptures, there are always excuses for it. But that’s the same with everything, isn’t it? Just last night, someone told me that the only way I could even attempt to make a believable case about an issue was if I responded page-by-page, evidence-for-evidence to every bit of a very specific 300-page book written on that subject in the 1800s. Well, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (Prov. 18:2 KJV). If someone is setting up that specific and exhaustive a standard, then he or she is almost certainly not interested in the truth. It’s similar to people who claim manuscripts are fake because they’ve never been scientifically tested—but testing is often destructive and destruction is against the policies of nearly every library. Without credible reason to subject a manuscript for testing, it will never be needlessly damaged. No amount of evidence is enough to convince someone who is thoroughly committed to disbelief. Only a work of God in someone’s heart can do that. I would say that we can be certain that we have not lost God’s Word, and though there may be cases when the process of textual criticism cannot at present decide between two competing readings (and many of these places are not translatable differences), we can even in those cases be certain that the original text is one of those options (and for a good estimate of how many places those are that make any kind of real difference, simply look at the footnotes in a few modern Bibles that say things like “some manuscripts say…”). And honestly, that’s consistent with the experience of many Christians before the printing press—if a manuscript had a correction where the corrected and the uncorrected reading were sensible, how could a reader know with certainty which reading was correct? Well, you simply had faith in Christ, that he will not let you down, and you trust that one of those readings is correct, and you do what you can in faith, and you trust that whatever you do will not be enough to snatch you out of Christ’s hand.

What impact do you desire to see in the Christian world through this book?

What impact do I desire to see through this book? I would hope that it has a long-term trickle-down effect of helping those who defend the New Testament’s reliability sharpen their arguments. Richard Porson said, “To use a weak argument in behalf of a good cause, can only tend to infuse suspicion of the cause itself into the minds of all who see the weakness of the argument.” Would that we could avoid that!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

From the Library in 2019: In Case You Missed It

Some of our most popular blogs each year are the From the Library posts, so for those of you who are new to CSNTM or might have missed an earlier post we created a summary of the From the Library posts from last year. Enjoy reading (or re-reading!) these four pieces. We look forward to continuing the From the Library series in 2020. 

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 and common manuscript features using images digitzed by CSNTM. We hope these articles showcase the unique beauty and significance of these fascinating documents. This is part of CSNTM’s mission to make NT manuscripts accessible for everyone.

From the Library: Lectionary 1807

Lectionary 1807, a manuscript from the National Library of Greece in Athens, is particularly noteworthy as an artifact because of its ornate silver covers, carefully crafted in the high middle ages. We examined the various images on its cover including the large scenes of Jesus' death and resurrection.

 

From the Library: Decorated Letters in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

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—a visual marker 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. This post examines different styles of ektheses in five New Testament manuscripts.

 

From the Library: Eusebian Canons in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

When readers open up the beginning of a Gospel manuscript, whether physically or digitally, they often come across pages of lists that are arranged in columns and made up of Greek letters. These lists are often some of the most decorated pages of Greek Gospels manuscripts. This article explains these elaborate tables—the Eusebian Canons—describing how they functioned in New Testament manuscripts and how they connect to modern New Testaments.

 

From the Library: Byzantine Lectionaries and Advent

This post looked at readings for Advent in New Testament lectionaries—manuscripts arranged for reading in Christian worship. Byzantine lectionaries recorded the story of Jesus’ birth for reading when Christians gathered to celebrate their Christmas services, and the ordered readings led the congregation and clergy to reflect on the significance of the birth of their holy savior—as Jesus is described in the introduction to the Christmas readings in Lectionary 1957.