Celebrating Twenty Years of Digitally Preserving New Testament Manuscripts

When you find high-tech cameras, facsimiles, and cake in a banquet room, you know that CSNTM is celebrating with friends. The Center staff and many of our friends gathered on Saturday, September 10th for an early birthday party (our actual birthday was September 13th!).

Guests gathered to reflect on two decades of digitally preserving New Testament manuscripts and sharing excitement over the road ahead. Special exhibits allowed guests to share in that experience. Old cameras represented the former methods of capturing valuable images. Nearby, David Flood, CSNTM’s lead research fellow, demonstrated the current method of photography with the DT Atom. Looking over facsimiles with CSNTM staff and interns, guests were able to get a taste of interacting with a manuscript. Specially marked maps demonstrated the great amount of institutions that hold manuscripts, where CSNTM has traveled to digitize, and the look ahead at institutions we hope to visit on a photography expedition. Texas-sized hors d’oeuvres added a tasty element to the walk down memory lane. 

When the group gathered back together, some past staff members shared reflections on their time working with the Center. Each one recalled learning a great deal and continuing to hold on to the importance of digitally preserving Greek New Testament manuscripts.

CSNTM’s COO, Mark Gaither, shared a snapshot of CSNTM’s recent work. After pandemic travel restrictions lifted, CSNTM was finally able to use new equipment and upgraded protocols on expeditions. In 2022, we traveled to three locations—Houston, Washington, D.C., and London—to digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts. We look forward to more opportunities to digitize from new relationships we formed on expeditions and in other gatherings. We also hosted the inaugural CSNTM Text & Manuscript Conference in May, a scholarly gathering focused on text critical work in the New Testament. We plan for the next biennial meeting in 2024. The last year was certainly full, and opened up exciting opportunities for the future. 

Mark Gaither shares about 2022 expeditions to Houston, Washington, D.C., and London.

Dan Wallace shared some reflections on the past twenty years of digitally preserving scripture. He demonstrated the need and benefit of digital photography of the Greek New Testament, even in the early days with 4 megapixel cameras.

A slide from Dr. Wallace’s presentation showing a digital image from an early expedition compared to a microfilm image of the same page.

He shared many of the challenges that CSNTM has encountered in pursuit of finding and digitizing New Testament manuscripts. Besides the difficulty gaining access to libraries, treacherous travel and hostile cities posed problems for the Center’s work. Even more, these circumstances pose a threat of destruction to the manuscripts. CSNTM has participated in digitally preserving many manuscripts for future generations before they were lost to destruction or the elements.

CSNTM continues forward on the great endeavor of digitizing all Greek New Testament manuscripts and making them available for study. We look forward to future opportunities to digitize and partner with others in the study of the New Testament. All of the work continues to ensure that we hold the most accurate print copies of the New Testament possible. 

Maps displaying locations where CSNTM has digitized manuscripts and the many more yet to be digitized.

Throughout the evening, we celebrated the large community that has gathered around the work of digital preservation of the New Testament. From the precipitation of Dr. Wallace’s idea into an organization, the efforts and passions of many have moved the mission forward. Individuals and groups who desire to preserve New Testament manuscripts and provide tools to ensure accurate translation of the New Testament have joined with us in the great efforts to find and digitize manuscripts. We are grateful to the friends, supporters, and advocates who have shared and supported the mission.

Early on in CSNTM history, a special group called, “the Circle of Friends,” was formed to ensure the work of digitization would continue. The group commits to monthly financial support, and their faithfulness has proven vital to the Center’s success over the years. As the needs change from year to year, the steadfast efforts of the Circle of Friends have ensured expeditions continue and manuscript images will be made available free for all, free for all time. 

On our 20th anniversary, we’re celebrating the Circle of Friends and the good work their partnership has accomplished. Current and new Circle of Friends members will learn of CSNTM updates and insider information first. The group also gets the opportunity to take part in special resources, such as signed copies of Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism and access to private webinars with Dr. Wallace and the CSNTM research team. The Circle of Friends has been, and continues to be, one of the strongest influences for the ongoing work of digitally preserving the Greek New Testament. 

After twenty years, we thank so many of you for your passion for preserving these precious artifacts and ensuring accurate transmission of the New Testament text. 

We’re glad to continue the work with you all!

Join the Circle of Friends