Subscribe to our feed Archives

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Missing Element: Digitization

By: Joy Singh

Joy Singh is a ThM student at Dallas Theological Seminary. He worked as a graduate student intern at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts in 2019–2020. His internship research project focused on fragmentary medieval manuscripts. This blog is derived from that research project.

The discovery of New Testament Greek manuscripts has proliferated since the dawn of the twentieth century. But with the gust of manuscript discoveries, the burden of maintaining a sacrosanct process of cataloguing these manuscripts has fallen on team INTF in Münster. When a manuscript is discovered, INTF is notified and provided with images and as much bibliographical detail as possible. Then incomplete manuscripts are checked to see if they belong to a portion of another manuscript already assigned a Gregory-Aland (GA) number. Unique manuscripts are assigned their own numbers, and missing pieces are included under the existing entry.

If only the process was as easy as it seems. Many manuscripts, due to their inherent value and profiteering sellers, have often been disassembled and sold as pieces. Fragments of the same codex can be found in different parts of the world and have been discovered at different times. The task of comparing each manuscript with the ones catalogued before is hard, even with the available technology. Text critics in the past have discovered fragments belonging to the same codex that were given unique GA numbers. One of the more famous cases of such discovery was accepting P4 to be a part of P64+67.

It should make one wonder if there are other accidental duplicates with unique GA numbers belonging to the same codex. While it is comparatively easy to look through 140 papyri and even 323 majuscules recorded in the Liste for a match, looking for a match in 2956 minuscule entries is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The need to conduct this search is necessary for two reasons. First, it will give us a more accurate count of manuscripts. Second and more importantly, finding additional fragments will give the textual critics more data to work with in order to ascertain the scribal habits and a better chance of ascertaining its textual character.

As a part of my research at CSNTM, I ventured to look for matches among the minuscules. INTF’s search tools provide different parameters to narrow the search—columns, lines, height, width, content, and the image source if the listing has an image.  To have a manageable project for my research, I narrowed the date range to 1100–1499 CE and only considered manuscripts with available images.

Manuscripts containing single digit page numbers were selected as base manuscripts since it seems more likely for a single page or a handful of pages to be sold separately or distributed than larger sections. I will illustrate one case to demonstrate my process of trying to find potential matches for these fragmented minuscules.

For our purpose, we will look at the case study of GA 2010. This manuscript is a 14th-century eight-page gathering of Romans written on paper located at the Trinity College, Dublin. The document was written with one column of 25 lines, and the paper dimensions are 215 mm height by 140 mm width. My search for other manuscripts with similar characteristics of GA 2010 yielded five results. These were GA 969, 1236, 1537, 2900, and 2942.

The only potentially close match was GA 2900. Manuscript 2900 is a 14th-century manuscript containing the Gospels, located at the Albanian National Archives, digitized by CSNTM. The measurements are nearly an exact match with GA 2010, with only a minor difference in width. In addition, GA 2900 does not have covers that could indicate whether it once contained more than just the Gospels. There were other common features such as enlarged letters at the beginning of sections, pagination, and other marginalia.

But we are quickly able to determine that GA 2010 was not a part of GA 2900 by looking at the scribe’s handwriting. The letters are formed in different ways in each manuscript. For example, the end sigma in the pronoun αὐτοῖς is different in the two manuscripts. The article τῶν is written differently. And the preposition ἐξ is drawn differently. These are highlighted in the image below.

In addition to this case, I examined four other fragmentary minuscules to see if I could find a match: 1284, 2286, 2124, 2588. In total, thirty-six manuscripts came close to the search parameters of the four base manuscripts. Twenty out of the thirty-six manuscripts did not have images. And some that had images were difficult to read from microfilms. Within the time period 1100–1499 CE, INTF has 3545 manuscripts catalogued out of which 859 manuscripts do not have any images—microfilm or digital. And the number of manuscripts with older low-quality images creates barriers for studying some of those that do have images. It is possible that we do have duplicate entries in our collective list of New Testament manuscripts, but we do not yet have the necessary element to confirm all possibilities—that is, high quality digital images.

CSNTM’s work to digitize manuscripts is critical and foundational to the effective study, analysis, and knowledge of the manuscripts. This is, of course, also true for the imaging work other libraries and institutes are doing. Without clear digital images, a manuscript’s value is primarily as an antique for the majority of scholars. The cost of digitization and online access is fractional compared to what it would cost for every person engaged in text critical research to physically access these manuscripts scattered around the globe. The partnership between library, researcher, and academic institutes like the INTF and CSNTM is crucial for a thriving study of Greek New Testament manuscripts. Having worked with and learned from CSNTM this year, I believe the Center’s mission needs ongoing support in gaining access to undigitized manuscripts.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Message From Dr. Daniel B. Wallace

Dear Friends,

Our summer work has officially begun, but this summer looks quite different from previous years. We are not going on any expeditions because of the global pandemic. This doesn’t mean that CSNTM is idle—far from it! There have been many back-burner projects that have been stacking up in the midst of the opportunities to go digitize manuscripts somewhere in the world.

CSNTM’s initial mission has always been digitization. The second phase of our work is to make the manuscripts accessible through a variety of tools for our online library. The final phase is to assist others in the breathtaking task of recovering the wording of the original text as much as is humanly possible. We have regularly kept you abreast of our initial mission. And that is an ongoing task which will take decades to complete.

Phase one of CSNTM’s work: Digitization

The second phase is not as well known. Frankly, it doesn’t quite capture the imagination as well as globetrotting photographers climbing up ancient steps of remote monasteries. But it is every bit as necessary. People know CSNTM from our website; scholars know us from the Manuscripts page. And this is where we have been concentrating our efforts; while the novel coronavirus is traveling the globe on a destructive binge, CSNTM is working in place. We have found a silver lining in this pandemic—catching up with the many tasks that took a backseat to our initial job. So far this year, we have uploaded the images of sixty manuscripts! And we are systematically tracking down manuscripts and working with libraries everywhere to get permission to post their images.

Phase two of CSNTM’s work: Accessibility

CSNTM staff are also tagging the manuscripts—identifying the Scripture on each page of each manuscript to make the search capabilities of our website even better. We have a long way to go, but now we are taking the opportunity to get into high gear on such tasks. (You really owe it to yourself to try out our search engine: go to and type in “John 3:16” in the search line. You will find dozens of manuscripts that have already been tagged, and each one will give you the exact page where that verse is found!) New Testament manuscripts lack both chapter and verse numbers. For those who have to search these codices physically and spend inordinate amounts of time just finding the passage they are looking for, CSNTM’s search engine is a great gift.

And this is not all CSNTM is working on right now. We are planning expeditions for when we get the go-ahead, and we are publishing important articles and books. I’m not at liberty to tell you yet what is coming, but suffice it to say that on June 2 we handed off to the publisher a multi-year project about unspeakably significant and early manuscripts. Stay tuned: you’ll be the first to know what this project is when it appears!

We of course are eager to get back to our primary mission. The reality is that many institutes that were able to do their own digitization may no longer have the funds to do so. CSNTM is eager to help them, but we need the funds both for these future expeditions and to keep us working extensively on making the website as robust as possible. When the doors open again, we do not want to be waiting to get the funding. Your ongoing support of CSNTM is vital.

Many cannot give now; unemployment and underemployment are wreaking economic devastation on millions. But if you can give, we ask you to help CSNTM fulfill its unique calling. The world is changing rapidly. The opportunities that await us will not be there forever. But your gifts will keep on giving for generations to come.

With sincere appreciation,

Daniel B. Wallace

Executive Director, Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM)

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.


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.


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.

Newer Posts > < Older Posts