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Friday, August 03, 2018

From the Library: GA 804

By Andrew K. Bobo and Andrew J. Patton

GA 804

Gregory-Aland 804 (a.k.a. Parliament Library 2) at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens, Greece


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 feature individual manuscripts from our collection in order to showcase their unique beauty and importance. This is part of CSNTM’s mission to make NT manuscripts accessible for everyone.

The manuscript featured in this article is Gregory-Aland 804, a Gospels manuscript from the 11th century. The manuscript originally contained all four Gospels, but it is now missing the last third of the Gospel of John. We digitized GA 804 at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament during our expedition in January. As we study a manuscript, its physical features offer clues about the people who produced and used this particular copy of the New Testament. GA 804’s unique physical features help us draw conclusions about how it may have been used.

Travelers Edition

Modern publishers design Bibles in a variety of formats and features to accommodate the people who will read a particular copy of the Scriptures. Some have extra room for note-taking, others are pocket-sized, and others include comments and symbols to guide interpretation. Each is produced for a particular kind of reader. This is not new. Throughout the history of the Bible, scribes and copyists devised a variety of different formats depending upon the intended use.

Let’s consider the size. GA 804 is noticeably small—hardly larger than an average iPhone—and only 5.4cm deep. The scribe copied the text of all four Gospels in minute script so that it would fit the tiny proportions of this codex. You get a sense of how small this manuscript is when it’s compared to others. Below is a to-scale comparison of GA804 and the largest lectionary in the Hellenic Parliament’s collection.

HPL MS Comparison

The scribe’s handwriting is another clue. GA 804 was copied with petite handwriting indicating it was probably a personal New Testament that was read privately rather than for public services like the lectionary in the above example. A codex this small designed for personal use would have been ideal for travel.

804 Handwriting

Taken together, these traits indicate GA 804 is a 1,000 year-old traveler’s Bible. The liturgical and public reading of Scripture was vital in the ancient and medieval church; but, as GA 804 indicates, so was personal and reflective reading. We can scarcely imagine just how arduous and unpredictable journeys were back then. Travelers wanted to have the Gospels ready at hand as they encountered challenges and difficulties on their path to new places and cultures. The words of Christ provided guidance along the way. 

Every manuscript has a story to tell. We are grateful for the privilege to digitize GA 804 and share part of its story with you. The exceptional staff at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament are also to be thanked for conserving this codex and collaborating with CSNTM. You can see all the images of this Greek New Testament here in our digital library.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

More Than $100,000 Raised

We would like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to more than 200 of our friends who made a donation since we announced our $100,000 matching grant. You went above and beyond in your response. Together, you gave $198,752, nearly doubling what was needed to complete the matching grant challenge.

You provided crucial support so that CSNTM could digitize manuscripts in Tbilisi, Georgia; Ioannina, Greece; and Heidelberg, Germany this summer. The manuscripts preserved include the most significant parchment manuscript CSNTM has ever digitized and one of the oldest manuscripts of Romans known to exist. And we used multispectral imaging technology that will reveal text never before seen in modern times. Soon these manuscripts will be shared online for the world to see in breathtaking high-resolution images. 

Your generosity will have an ongoing impact. Beyond these expeditions, we will continue to build relationships with new partners who want to see their manuscript collections preserved. We also will continue to study manuscripts in our collection so that their texts and features can impact the latest research on the New Testament.

Thank you, again, for preserving ancient New Testament manuscripts for the modern world!

Matching Thank You

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Manuscripts Digitized in Georgia, Greece, and Germany

By: Robert D. Marcello

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) travels every summer to visit key locations throughout the world and digitize their collections of manuscripts. This summer we digitized some of the most significant manuscripts that we have ever preserved on a whirlwind expedition to three countries! The trip began at the end of May, when Dr. Daniel B. Wallace and a team of researchers traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia to evaluate and prepare the manuscripts housed at the National Centre of Manuscripts (NCM). Working with their staff they were able to view Codex Koridethi (Θ), which is a 9th century majuscule or capital-letter copy of the Gospels. The digitization team, composed of Robert D. Marcello and Jacob W. Peterson, arrived in June and now this manuscript, which has been an extremely important witness to the text of the Gospels, will be made available for all to see in high-resolution images.

Tblisi Researchers

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace and research assistants Laura Peisker and Brittany Burnette examining manuscripts at the NCM


The team also digitized the rest of the collection at the NCM, including Gregory-Aland 0240, which is an early palimpsest—a manuscript that had its original text scraped off and a new text written over it—containing portions of 1 Timothy and Titus. This manuscript was digitized with CSNTM's new multispectral imaging equipment, and it has allowed the under-text—which has hardly been visible for centuries—to now be easily seen. While digitizing this manuscript the team also identified a new Georgian palimpsest in the same volume! The team loved working with Director Zaza Abashidze and the staff of the National Centre of Manuscripts and greatly appreciated their willingness to have these cultural-heritage artifacts preserved for future generations.

Tblisi MSI

Traveling from Tbilisi, the team went to Greece to meet with some of our partners and International Advisory Board members about future projects, and to digitize a collection in the city of Ioannina, Greece. We digitized a 12th–13th century minuscule of the Gospels at the Byzantine Museum of Ioannina. This manuscript was given to the museum by a monastery and is enclosed in a stunning silver binding. We want to specifically thank Konstantinos Soueref and the Byzantine Museum’s staff for their hospitality and allowing this treasure to be preserved.

Byzantine Museum

For the final leg of our summer expeditions, the CSNTM team traveled to Heidelberg, Germany to digitize the New Testament papyri found at the University. These manuscripts, which are some of the earliest witnesses to the text of the New Testament, were in need of special digitization, since some of the text has been difficult to decipher. Dr. Wallace prepared the manuscripts noting their key features, and Jacob and Rob digitized them with our new multispectral imaging equipment. After image processing is complete, these manuscripts will be made freely available to all on our website. We must also thank Professor Dr. Andrea Jördens and the staff at the University of Heidelberg’s library for their generous hospitality and willingness to allow us to preserve these manuscripts with multispectral imaging.

P40 Heidelberg

This summer we completed expeditions in three countries. We digitized some of the earliest and most significant witnesses to the text of the New Testament. In so doing, we are continuing to fulfill our mission of making these manuscripts free for all and free for all time.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

CSNTM Acquires Multispectral Imaging

Recently, CSNTM acquired multispectral imaging equipment (MSI) in order to digitize manuscripts whose text cannot be read with the naked eye. MSI is an advanced camera technology, originally developed by NASA for satellites. The equipment we purchased digitizes manuscripts at 15 points across the light spectrum—from ultraviolet to infrared—in order to produce better, more revealing images of manuscripts and the texts they contain.

MSI images are superior for two reasons. First, they are more scientifically precise in how they represent color than a traditional RGB camera, thereby providing better color data to archivists and art historians than was previously possible. Second, and more important for textual scholars, the images can be processed to reveal details that have not been seen for centuries! This is especially important for manuscripts that are illegible because they deteriorated over time or are palimpsests—a codex that had its original text scraped off and then was rewritten with a different text.

CSNTM is already using MSI to digitally preserve manuscripts on its summer 2018 expeditions. After a period of intense training, we sent our team to image manuscripts in multiple countries. The manuscripts being digitized include one of the most important parchment manuscripts we have ever digitized along with one papyrus and four other majuscules. Of course, the images captured with MSI equipment will be made available free for all, and free for all time at We can’t wait to share with you what this amazing technology reveals!

The Center purchased this state-of-the-art equipment after raising $125,000 over the last two years. This funding was provided by a generous grant from the Hillcrest Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, and dozens of other generous donors. Thank you for your partnership with us to preserve ancient manuscripts for the modern world!


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Summer Expeditions and a Matching Grant!

One of the busiest times for CSNTM is the summer. It is during these months that we begin our expedition schedule and travel to places around the world to preserve manuscripts for future generations. This summer is jam-packed with some very significant expeditions. In fact, this summer teams from CSNTM will be working at seven sites in four different countries! As with every trip, due to security reasons, we are not able to announce where we are traveling. However, we can’t wait to share with you about some of these exciting opportunities. What we can say now is that we will be visiting two countries for the first time, and digitizing some exceptionally rare manuscripts—utilizing our new MSI technology! This technology will allow us to see texts that have been hidden for centuries. As always the images will be freely posted on our website for all to see. We also plan on establishing some new collaborations and securing additional sites for future work. So many places are opening their doors to CSNTM. In fact, right now we have a larger demand than we can even meet in one summer. This is an amazing problem to have.

Funds are needed now to fulfill these expeditions. We just received news of a $100,000 matching grant! We are asking you to consider supporting these exciting opportunities. That $100,000 could soon become $200,000, allowing us to continue our mission of preserving ancient Scripture for the modern world.

Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

Executive Director

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts


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