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Friday, October 20, 2017

15th Anniversary of CSNTM

The concept for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts began long before it became an official non-profit organization. In my sabbatical at Cambridge University in 1995 I logged many happy weeks at the University Library examining New Testament manuscripts. Peter Head of Tyndale House, Cambridge, and I even spent a day poring over Codex Cantabrigiensis, a fifth-century codex that had been donated to the University in 1581 by Theodore Beza. Digital photography was starting to have an impact in the late 90s. Dr. Hall Harris (CSNTM board member) urged me to start my own institute for examining and photographing NT manuscripts. The need was great: only microfilms were available for most NT manuscripts, and the quality was abysmal. Frequently, the text was illegible on these microfilms, and virtually all marginal notes by the scribes were way too blurry to read. Our knowledge, therefore, of the NT manuscripts was, in each instance, almost always incomplete. Once 4 megapixel digital cameras were produced, the time was right to found a new institute. Digital photography ushered in a new era of textual study: for the first time, these manuscripts would be easily accessible and read with great clarity. 

Microfilm Image of NT Manuscript

CSNTM was granted 501(c)3 status on September 13, 2002 by the IRS.

Our inaugural expedition was to St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai, Egypt in September 2002. In our week there, we examined some of the ‘New Finds’ manuscripts that had been discovered in 1975. In the process of examination, we discovered two more previously unknown manuscripts: an ancient Greek Old Testament palimpsest (a manuscript that had been scraped over and reused) of the major prophets, in majuscule script; and the Protevangelium of James, an apocryphal book of which very few copies still exist (this was one of the earliest ones).

Later in the same month, my wife and I moved to Münster, Germany where we spent a sabbatical year. Because CSNTM was a brand new institute with virtually no funding, we needed a major gift for the sabbatical year to be as effective as possible. Our prayers were answered: Just such a gift from a small church in Minnesota arrived that summer, allowing me to travel throughout Europe in search of manuscripts. Several more discoveries were made in 2002–03. And our first digitizing project was at the Institute for New Testament Research (INTF) in Münster. With one 4 MP and one 5 MP camera (the cost for each of these state-of-the-art cameras was in the four digits!), an assistant and I spent several weeks digitizing the 22 manuscripts in Münster’s collection. It took 90 seconds to process a single picture! The quality was not very good compared to today’s standards, but it was far better than microfilm. 

In the early years, CSNTM was essentially a summer project. We usually raised enough funds for a two- or three-week expedition each summer. The physical location of the Center was my study, closet, garage—and sometimes living room! As word of our mission spread, the funds began to pour in. In 2004 we digitized 30 manuscripts at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, including an early majuscule palimpsest of Mark’s Gospel that we discovered.

The Center grew, our expedition season expanded, and the quality of the cameras improved. We procured subleased office space in 2008, and the staff increased to two full-timers and one part-time employee.

Codex 800 (National Library of Greece) 

During these years, we continued to discover more manuscripts and improve our photographic protocols. In 2007 our visit to the National Archive in Tirana, Albania revealed dozens of NT manuscripts that the scholarly world was unaware of. The news of these discoveries was reported in over 100 international newspapers.

2008–09 was another sabbatical year for me. I spent it digitizing manuscripts on three continents. The CSNTM team photographed manuscripts in Albania, Romania, Cambridge University, Arundel Castle, Glasgow University, St. Andrews University, University of Michigan, Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), New Zealand (Auckland), the Bavarian State Library in Munich, several sites in Greece, and many other locations.

Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Patmos

By this time, CSNTM had earned an international reputation. The quality of our images, the free access to these images, and the many discoveries were helping biblical scholars all over the globe in the task of reconstructing the exact wording of the original text—all at the click of a mouse.

In 2013, through the advocacy of Dr. Larry Hurtado of Edinburgh University, CSNTM was granted permission to photograph some of the oldest and most important papyri of the NT, housed at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. Portions of one of these manuscripts, which we digitized the following year, were at the University of Michigan. Eighty years ago, photographs of these unspeakably significant papyri were published. Technology has improved a bit since then; the crisp clarity of CSNTM’s images has revealed many more details. Two PhD dissertations on these papyri have been done/are being done based on our images. All this will help scholars discern the early transmission of the NT text and assist them in recovering the wording of the originals. 

A Page from P46 (University of Michigan)

Speaking of doctoral students, every year CSNTM staff train interns for scholarly work in the New Testament. Many of our interns have gone on to prestigious universities to earn advanced degrees—Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Yale, Brown, Princeton Seminary, St. Andrews, Wheaton College, Dallas Seminary, University of Dallas, Baylor University, and many other schools. And several of them are now teaching, bringing solid, biblical scholarship to the classroom. Like CSNTM’s digital images, these scholars will have an impact for generations to come. 

The next year was no less momentous. CSNTM received a contract to digitize the entire collection of Greek NT manuscripts at the National Library of Greece in Athens. We labored for the next two years on the project. Forty-four people were rigorously trained for precision digitizing. During this time we purchased the long-anticipated Canon 50 MP cameras—ten times better than our original cameras. Over 300 manuscripts were photographed producing 45 terabytes of images (150,000 images). Thanks especially must go to Rob Marcello, who is in charge of our expeditions and who planned this two-year enterprise down to the smallest details. The post-production work is still ongoing.

Our tiny institute—with only seven employees—has a reputation that belies its size. The staff includes:

Rob Marcello, Director of Operations and Research

Christina Nations, Development Manager

Stratton Ladewig, Project Manager

Andrew Bobo, Research Coordinator

Mark Arvé, Finance Coordinator

Andy Patton, Development Coordinator

Dan Wallace, Executive Director.

Rob Marcello in Dublin

As of last month, CSNTM now has its own leased office—more than 2000 square feet including offices, a dedicated digitizing room, equipment room, library, and conference room.

In CSNTM’s first 15 years, we have worked at more than forty locations throughout the world, digitizing more than half a million pages of the Greek NT and discovering upwards of 90 manuscripts. As we look to the future, our sights are set on libraries in Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, former Soviet bloc countries, and the Middle East. We will soon add Multi-Spectral Imaging to our digitizing equipment, enabling us to read erased manuscripts—manuscripts whose text has not been seen for centuries. Donations are both welcome and necessary for this work. Not only are CSNTM’s images helping biblical researchers, art historians, and Greek scholars, but they are also digitally preserving these amazing artifacts, freezing them in time before the decay of the ages has its full sway. And, as always, our commitment is to make our images free for all, free for all time.


Daniel B. Wallace

Executive Director



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

200 New Manuscripts Added to Our Library

 We have just added 200 new manuscripts to our digital library from St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. All of these manuscripts were taken on microfilm in 1950 by the Library of Congress, assisted by dozens of scholars from various institutions. This was a vast and important project, and you can read more about it here. These images are publicly available on the Library of Congress website. You can search within the collection, which also contains writings by church fathers and liturgical documents, by going here.

The St. Catherine’s manuscripts will now show up in manuscript queries using our website’s search functionality. We have also posted links to each manuscript below, organized by date. We hope you enjoy exploring this collection further through our website. This is part of fulfilling our mission to make the best available images of Greek New Testament manuscripts accessible to everyone.


10th Century or Earlier

GA 1203, GA 1220, GA 1223, GA 1225, GA 1880, GA Lect 844, GA Lect 845, GA Lect 846, GA Lect 847, GA Lect 848, GA Lect 849, GA Lect 907, GA Lect 909, GA Lect 1269, GA Lect 1270, GA Lect 1272, GA Lect 2211

11th Century 

GA 1187, GA 1188 (11th-12th), GA 1191 (11th-12th), GA 1192, GA 1194, GA 1195, GA 1207, GA 1209, GA 1210, GA 1211, GA 1212, GA 1214, GA 1216, GA 1219, GA 1221, GA 1222, GA 1243, GA 1244, GA 1878, GA 1879, GA Lect 300, GA Lect 851, GA Lect 853, GA Lect 859, GA Lect 863, GA Lect 864, GA Lect 865, GA Lect 870, GA Lect 875, GA Lect 877, GA Lect 1267, GA Lect 1268, GA Lect 1356, GA Lect 1401, GA Lect 1442, GA Lect 1443, GA Lect 1750

12th Century

GA 1186, GA 1190, GA 1193, GA 1197, GA 1198, GA 1199, GA 1200, GA 1204, GA 1217, GA 1218, GA 1224, GA 1227 (12th-14th), GA 1228, GA 1230, GA 1231, GA 1240, GA 1241, GA 1245, GA Lect 809, GA Lect 850, GA Lect 852, GA Lect 854, GA Lect 855, GA Lect 856, GA Lect 858, GA Lect 860, GA Lect 861, GA Lect 866, GA Lect 867, GA Lect 869, GA Lect 871, GA Lect 876, GA Lect 878, GA Lect 891, GA Lect 901, GA Lect 911, GA Lect 912, GA Lect 916, GA Lect 1364, GA Lect 1365, GA Lect 1405, GA Lect 1439, GA Lect 1753, GA Lect 1754, GA Lect 1755, GA Lect 1771

13th Century

GA 1201, GA 1205, GA 1206, GA 1208, GA 1213, GA 1215, GA 1226, GA 1229, GA 1238, GA 1242, GA 1251, GA 1255, GA 1256, GA 2499 (13th-14th), GA 2502, GA Lect 862, GA Lect 880, GA Lect 896, GA Lect 902, GA Lect 903, GA Lect 904, GA Lect 910, GA Lect 1440, GA Lect 1441, GA Lect 1590, GA Lect 1752, GA Lect 1773, GA Lect 1774

14th Century

GA 1185, GA 1189, GA 1196, GA 1234, GA 1235, GA 1236, GA 1248, GA 1249, GA 1252, GA 1254, GA 1877, GA 1881, GA 2085, GA 2086, GA 2355, GA 2356, GA 2492, GA 2493, GA 2494, GA 2503, GA Lect 887, GA Lect 888, GA Lect 889, GA Lect 1470, GA Lect 1593, GA Lect 1594, GA Lect 1756, GA Lect 1757, GA Lect 1763, GA Lect 1764, GA Lect 1765, GA Lect 1770

15th Century or Later

GA 1202, GA 1232, GA 1233, GA 1237, GA 1239, GA 1247, GA 1250, GA 1253, GA 1876, GA 2495, GA 2496, GA 2497, GA 2501, GA Lect 610, GA Lect 874, GA Lect 885, GA Lect 886, GA Lect 890, GA Lect 892, GA Lect 893, GA Lect 894, GA Lect 897, GA Lect 914, GA Lect 1281, GA Lect 1282, GA Lect 1283, GA Lect 1284, GA Lect 1436, GA Lect 1471, GA Lect 1591, GA Lect 1592, GA Lect 1595, GA Lect 1749, GA Lect 1758, GA Lect 1759, GA Lect 1761, GA Lect 1762, GA Lect 1766, GA Lect 1767, GA Lect 1768, GA Lect 1769, GA Lect 1772

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Helps for Readers: A Page from GA 773

By: Andrew K. Bobo

This blog features a tenth-century manuscript of the Gospels known to scholars as Gregory-Aland 773 (GA 773). The manuscript is held at the National Library of Greece in Athens, the site of our 2015–16 digitization project. GA 773 is a remarkable manuscript in many respects. First of all, though it is over 1000 years old, it is nearly in mint condition. Each of the ornate icons of the Evangelists is entirely intact, along with the headpieces and other features of the manuscript. GA 773 also has extensive commentary surrounding the biblical text in the margins and a brief introduction to each Gospel. You might characterize GA 773 as a medieval study Bible.

It is easy for us, as inheritors of a tradition, to take for granted the many helpful features that have grown up around the bare text of scripture. Nearly all of our Bibles include basic things like page numbers, topical headings, chapters, verses, and intertextual cross-references; and study Bibles also include explanatory notes from trusted scholars on the historical, literary, and theological features of the text. These do not claim to be essential nor original (besides book titles and page numbers, none of these features can be found in the earliest manuscripts of the NT). Instead, features like these are the products of centuries of study and reflection. Over time, certain innovations and helps became standard in the medieval church. 

These features are referred to by scholars as ‘paratext.’ That is, they are features which frame and guide the reading of the scriptural text. In this blog, we will examine a single page from the beginning of Mark in GA 773. This single page can serve as a window into the many interesting paratextual features that became prominent after the first 1000 years of the text’s development.


Helps for Readers: Mark


Headpiece: In nearly all medieval manuscripts, each book begins with a headpiece. It is often rather ornate, with gold and blue ink used to beautify the beginning of the Gospel. The headpiece signals to the reader that a new book starts here.



Inscriptio (Book Title): From the earliest manuscripts of the Gospels in the second century and throughout the entire tradition, each Gospel has had a title. It is either “The Gospel According to Mark” or simply “According to Mark.” GA 773 has the longer title, “The Gospel According to Mark,” written in gold ink with majuscule letters (similar to ‘all caps’ in modern English).



Ornamented Letter: It is very common throughout manuscripts to have enlarged letters at the beginning of books and throughout each book in order to mark the beginning of new sections. In some cases it could even be intended help readers recall verses for memorization by causing the first letter to stick out in their minds. The first Greek letter in the Gospel of Mark is alpha, identical to a capital “A.” It begins the word arche, ‘the beginning.’

Ornamented Letter


Biblical Text: As you can see on this page, the biblical text is written in a block in the top left quadrant of the page. The reader can easily see that the biblical text is the primary focus of the page, since it is much larger and more prominent than the commentary text surrounding its three sides.


Eusebian Canon: If you spend any amount of time looking at medieval Gospels manuscripts, you will no doubt notice small notations in the margin of the text. These combinations of letters are an ancient system devised in the fourth century by Eusebius, the church historian and scholar. Though the system is a bit too complicated to explain here, these notations assisted readers in quickly finding stories that occur in multiple Gospels.

Eusebian Canon


Nomina Sacra (‘Sacred Names’): One feature unique to Christian manuscripts is the presence of nomina sacra, or ‘sacred names.’ Scribes would abbreviate names referring to God, the Spirit, many titles referring to Jesus (such as ‘Christ,’ ‘Son,’ ‘Lord,’ ‘Savior,’ ‘God,’ and others). In the first verse of Mark, the words “Jesus Christ” have been written as nomina sacra. In Greek, these words would be spelled ιησου χριστου, but as nomina sacra they are shortened to only the first and last letters ιυ χυ (with a line over each one to alert readers these are shortened words). This communicated to readers the uniqueness of Christ and the worshipful reverence due to him.

Nomina Sacra


Introduction: As the medieval era dawned and progressed, certain historical information became standard introductory material in Greek NT manuscripts. It would often include information about the Gospel’s author and when it was written. In GA 773, this information is provided briefly on the first page of each Gospel, in (now somewhat faded) red ink before the commentary begins. This introduction provided readers with helpful information about the Gospel writer’s connection to Christ and the apostles, which reinforced the authority that the canonical Gospels held for Christian readers as a reliable witness to Christ’s person and work.



Commentary: In medieval manuscripts of the New Testament, it is relatively common for there to be commentary accompanying the biblical text. After the first 500 years or so of Christianity, certain particularly reliable teachers emerged. Their teaching was deemed to be so helpful for so many Christians over such a long period of time that scribes wanted to make these comments on the biblical text readily available to future readers. In GA 773 specifically, it seems that the commentary provided in the margins is a combination of writings from numerous church fathers, especially from the fourth and fifth centuries.

Markers in text and commentary: Though it may be hard to see in the image above, there are small Greek letters written in red ink which are interspersed throughout the text and commentary. These were devised to help readers find the section of commentary that corresponded to each phrase in the biblical text they were reading. Similar systems are used in modern study Bibles with cross references or textual notes.

Commentary Markers


If you would like to see the rest of GA 773 for yourself, please go here. If you would like to explore our manuscript library, go here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

New Manuscripts from the National Library of Greece

 Additional manuscripts digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts have just been added to our collection. These include 10 manuscripts from the National Library of Greece in Athens, the site of our 2015-16 digitization project.

GA 2528

A reconstructed image of GA 2528 as an open codex. On the left there is a paper replacement leaf which ends with Matthew 20:19. On the right, the facing page contains the original parchment leaf, which begins at Matthew 20:15. The early leaves in the manuscript, containing the first 20 chapters of Matthew, seem to have suffered some significant wear and damage over time (to see some examples, original leaves from Matthew 9-10 were retained as a buffer at the front and back of the codex). The replacement leaves in Matthew were written in the 16th century, about 2-3 centuries after the original manuscript was produced. As you continue through the codex, you will notice that there are two additional paper replacement leaves (ff. 154, 161) in the Gospel of John. These are from yet another scribe writing sometime prior to 16th century. The codex as it stands truly represents a group effort across the centuries!

  • GA 2089: 15th century minuscule of Paul.
  • GA 2524: 14th century minuscule of the Gospels.
  • GA 2527: 12-13th century minuscule of the Apostolos and Paul.
  • GA 2528: 13-14th century minuscule of the Gospels.
  • GA Lect 1308: 15th century lectionary of the Gospels and Apostolos.
  • GA Lect 1315: 12th century lectionary of the Apostolos and Paul. The manuscript consists of 5 leaves found at the front and back of the codex.
  • GA Lect 1510: 17th century lectionary of the Gospels and Apostolos.
  • GA Lect 1519: 16th century lectionary of the Gospels and Apostolos.
  • GA Lect 1525: 12th century lectionary of the Gospels.
  • GA Lect 1526: 13th century lectionary of the Gospels.

These images have now become part of our growing searchable library, which gives everyone free access to the best available digital images of New Testament manuscripts.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New Manuscripts from the National Library of GreeceĀ 

 Additional manuscripts digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts have just been added to our collection. These include 10 manuscripts from the National Library of Greece in Athens, the site of our 2015-16 digitization project.

GA 1832

A leaf from Romans in GA 1832. Large portions of the manuscript, including a few leaves in Romans, most of 1 Corinthians, and all of 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians, have been restored. It appears that the original ink had faded enough that it became difficult to read the text, so a later scribe very carefully traced over the original in a darker ink. 

  • GA 1699: 14th century minuscule of the Gospels.
  • GA 1762: 14th century minuscule of the Apostolos and Paul. Several quires are missing from the manuscript, including the first few chapters of Acts and all of 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, and James.
  • GA 1832: 12th-13th century minuscule of the Apostolos and Paul. 
  • GA 1875: 10th century minuscule of the Apostolos and Paul. Contains an icon of Peter and two icons of Paul.
  • GA Lect 1226: 14th century lectionary of the Gospels.
  • GA Lect 1227: 12th century lectionary of the Apostolos.
  • GA Lect 1228: 12th century lectionary of the Gospels.
  • GA Lect 1229: 12th century lectionary of the Gospels.
  • GA Lect 1230: 14th century lectionary of the Apostolos and Paul.
  • GA Lect 1232: 14th century lectionary of the Gospels.

These images have now become part of our growing searchable library, which gives everyone free access to the best available digital images of New Testament manuscripts.

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