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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Interviews With the Authors: Myths and Mistakes—Gregory R. Lanier

Series Introduction: Leigh Ann Thompson | Interview: Madi Cannon and Gregory R. Lanier

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!

Greg Lanier is an associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando and associate pastor at River Oaks Church. His research interests include canon and textual criticism, the Synoptic Gospels, the use of the OT in the NT, the Pauline epistles, and the Septuagint. He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies, and he maintains a blog.

In Lanier's chapter, “Dating Myths: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts,” he explores how the dating of a manuscript is related to its quality and reliability, and especially among the Byzantine form, a later-dated text form. 

What prompted your interest in New Testament textual criticism?

It‘s difficult to retrace the steps exactly, but I believe I first caught wind of the whole issue when I was a layperson member of a church in Charlotte, NC, where Dr. Mike Kruger (president of Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte) served as associate pastor. At the time (ca. 2007–2009) some of his Sunday school materials reflected the research he was doing that resulted in Canon Revisited (Crossway, 2012). That was when I was first exposed to the idea of textual variants, copyists, manuscripts, and so on. As with many who discover the field in their adulthood, there was a dual sense of "wow, this is really fascinating" and "wow, how tragic it is that no one has ever told me about this in church before." The scholarly interest in textual criticism subsequently developed further during seminary and doctoral studies. Though textual criticism was not the explicit focus of my PhD thesis, it played a large role (both LXX and Greek NT) behind the scenes. I also worked out of Tyndale House, Cambridge, where I was surrounded by text critics, including Peter Gurry (co-editor of Myths and Mistakes). Peter and I, in turn, met Elijah Hixson (the other editor) at a paleography course in Oxford. At RTS-Orlando I have the privilege of working with Dr. Charles Hill, so together we get to try to convince students of the importance of the field!

You explain that later scribes would occasionally copy or correct their text using much earlier manuscripts. Why do you think a distinction should be made between the actual physical manuscripts and the text within manuscripts?

Imagine a world in which, say, a 1990s Hollywood movie project was organized not based on the content of the movie itself, but, rather, based on the various formats in which it would appear: a DVD division, a Streaming division, a Blu-ray division, and a VHS division. And let‘s say that film critics and viewing audiences generally assumed that the VHS division always had the better copy of the movie, while the Streaming division was sort of suspect because it came along later. We would, after thinking it through, realize that this kind of privileging of a given format of the movie doesn't really make sense. There‘s nothing about VHS that inherently means it has a more authentic copy of the movie; it could very well have been copied poorly and accidentally chopped out some scenes, while the Streaming version could have gone back to the archives to get the original director‘s cut. While the format (DVD, VHS, or whatever) is no doubt important, you have to separate those factors from the movie content itself. 

While this is an imperfect analogy, it gets at the issue we face in NT textual criticism. Textual critics have long recognized that it is a bit awkward that the field tends to organize the data based on (a) material on which a manuscript is copied (papyrus or vellum), (b) handwriting of the scribe (uncial/majuscule vs. cursive/minuscule), and (c) estimated date of the production of the manuscript, which is related to (a) and (b). Each of these factors is important, obviously, but focusing on the combination of these features can lead to a kind of mysticism about the material artifact itself: i.e., that papyri and early majuscules are somehow always magically “better“ (helped, of course, by more memorable labels like P75, א, B, and so on). But, as other essays in Myths and Mistakes point out (along with mine), the combination of material + handwriting + dating of a given manuscript does not magically make it “better“ (or “worse“) in terms of the text that is written on it. Just because a witness is a papyrus manuscript doesn‘t infallibly mean its scribe was more competent than others, or that its exemplar was superior to others, or that its resulting text is more accurate. As with the Hollywood analogy: in terms of understanding and reconstructing the wording of the NT, then, we need to distinguish the wording itself and the artifact that carries it.

This becomes clear, as you mention, in the case of some later minuscule manuscripts that we know consulted earlier manuscripts, church fathers, etc. as they copied their exemplar. If you automatically default to the view that “later“ is worse, you might downplay these manuscripts simply because of their handwriting/date/etc. But the text on that manuscript may reflect what you find centuries earlier. In other words, you have to maintain a distinction between the date of the physical artifact and the date of the wording it contains.

You challenge the myth that later dated manuscripts are less reliable because they are later. If scholars no longer privilege older manuscripts, can you foresee any issues arising?

I would perhaps rephrase the arguments this way: later manuscripts are not necessarily less reliable simply because they are later, nor are earlier manuscripts necessarily more reliable simply because they are older. What is needed is a more nuanced approach to the witnesses than simply "older-is-better and later-is-worse."  

I wouldn‘t necessarily say that scholars are no longer privileging older manuscripts, full stop. Individual text critics will still value, at some level, P46 and Vaticanus, as examples. The mindset shift, rather, is that those manuscripts should be appreciated not simply because of material considerations (i.e. papyrus=reliable), but because the text has shown to be reliable and/or important for textual criticism. It is true, however, that the Coherence Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) tends to disembody, so to speak, the text/wording from the artifact, at least at certain steps of the method. This may adversely impact our understanding of the history of the text, since ultimately physical artifacts were the means by which the text was passed on. But this would be a bigger can of worms than we can address here.

If the date of a manuscript is not always an indication of its quality, what are some characteristics of better quality manuscripts?

To be clear, we‘re not suggesting that date is irrelevant—just that it needs to be discussed more accurately. "Better" depends, of course, on the goal. And in modern textual criticism there may be more than one valid goal. The traditional goal has been to reconstruct a text that approximates as closely as possible what the NT author wrote/dictated (or, according to more recent discussion, the form of the text that stands as the wellspring of the textual tradition in the church, i.e. "initial text" or Ausgangstext). According to that goal, the quality of a manuscript more or less amounts to how closely its wording matches this reconstruction. As an example, Vaticanus agrees with the Editio Critica Maior text of Acts (2017) at a rate of 96.5% in toto (the highest of any single witness). Importantly, this way of approaching quality depends on the reconstruction you believe to be most accurate (the benchmark, so to speak). For those who prefer the Byzantine text, the quality of a manuscript would depend on how well it matches up to that reconstruction (and, in such a case, Vaticanus may not look so good).

There are other goals. One could be to use textual variants as a window on early Christian reception and/or scribal culture. In this realm, a given textual variant in a manuscript may be judged inferior in terms of the aforementioned goal, but it could be quite interesting for understanding how the text was passed on and what factors influenced that. As an example, I‘ve been working on a minuscule that is regularly cited for the Gospels but is not going to be at the top of anyone‘s list in terms of importance or overall quality. But at many points its text, corrections, and marginal annotations are very interesting in terms of understanding the scribe‘s behavior in what is otherwise a largely Byzantine manuscript. Thus, it may be low quality for reconstructing the text but high quality in understanding scribal culture and reception.

How do you hope your chapter will influence pastors and apologists?

In many ways the chapter is somewhat technical, and the manuscripts discussed will likely be unfamiliar to many, for the very  reasons mentioned above (and because minuscules have boring numerical labels!). But my overall goal is pretty simple. For a long time in textual criticism, there has been a standoff between the pro-Alexandrian group (who favor, say, the NA/UBS text or others like the SBL edition or the Tyndale House edition, which still fit in this vein) and the pro-Byzantine group—with pure eclectics floating between. The former camp either tends to state explicitly (or at least insinuate) that most readings found in the Byzantine (or Majority) text, or in later minuscules by-and-large, are probably inferior and secondary; and the latter camp states the opposite. There is an unfortunate apologetic downside to this (particularly when you think of, say, Muslim apologetics): each side treats the other as corrupt, secondary, inferior, untrustworthy, etc., thereby sending the message that millions of Bibles based on that text are problematic. (For instance, many Greek students are taught basically to discount altogether a reading they find in their apparatus with the 𝔐 or Byzantine label). There is an unfortunate factual downside to this as well: the distance between these two poles is far less than often admitted or realized. Yes, we will keep debating the adulterous woman story or the ending(s) of Mark (though the debates on those might benefit from more level-headedness and less dogmatic assuredness). But on the whole, the wording of the NT has been passed on with tremendous stability across all streams, even the two (Alexandrian and Byzantine) often viewed as most polarized. Pitting the two against each other is apologetically counterproductive and, in fact, not terribly well-grounded when you actually look at the data. Put more simply, pastors/apologists who support an Alexandrian text should show the Byzantine tradition more love, and vice versa.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Last Minute Shopping Book Recommendations from CSNTM

All of us on staff at CSNTM love books. And we know that many of our friends do too. Here are a few recommendations if you’re still in need of ideas for gifts this Christmas season.  The descriptions accompanying each book are taken directly from the publisher, but we included a link to our blog if we reviewed or mentioned it earlier this year. Happy reading!

Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism

Edited by Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry

Since the unexpected popularity of Bart Ehrman's bestselling Misquoting Jesus, textual criticism has become a staple of Christian apologetics.

Ehrman's skepticism about recovering the original text of the New Testament does deserve a response. However, this renewed apologetic interest in textual criticism has created fresh problems for evangelicals. An unfortunate proliferation of myths, mistakes, and misinformation has arisen about this technical area of biblical studies.

In this volume Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry, along with a team of New Testament textual critics, offer up-to-date, accurate information on the history and current state of the New Testament text that will serve apologists and Christian students even as it offers a self-corrective to evangelical excesses.


A great gift for pastors, Bible teachers, and people curious about the text of the New Testament


Shop Now


Brother Hugo and the Bear

Written by Katy Beebe and Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Brother Hugo and the Bear Cover 

It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book. The Abbot was most  displeased. 

   “Our house now lacks the comforting letters of St. Augustine, Brother Hugo. How did this happen?”

   “Father Abbot,” said Brother Hugo,  “truly, the words of St. Augustine are as sweet as honeycomb to me.

   But I am afraid they were much the sweeter to the bear.”

The precious book, it turns out, has been devoured by a bear — and so the Abbot tasks Hugo with replacing it. Letter by letter and line by line the hapless monk crafts a new book and sets off to return it. Once a bear has a taste of letters, though, he’s rarely satisfied. With a hungry bear close on his heels, will Brother Hugo ever make it back with his fine parchment in one piece? 

Based loosely on a note found in a twelfth-century manuscript, this humorous tale will surely delight readers who have acquired their own taste for books.


A great gift for children and parents


Watch the Book Trailer

Shop Now


An Introduction to the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge: Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

By Dirk Jongkind


Is the New Testament text reliable?
What do we do with textual variants?
How do I use the Greek New Testament?

This short book, written as a companion to The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, provides crucial information about the Tyndale House Edition in particular and the Greek New Testament in general.

Dirk Jongkind, one of the principal scholars behind this groundbreaking project, answers critical questions for understanding the biblical text so that you can have clarity and confidence as you engage with the New Testament in the original Greek.


A great gift for students and people who want to learn more about how scholars make the Greek New Testament


You can read CSNTM’s review here.


Shop Now


New English Translation Bible, Full-notes Edition


Ever feel lost in translation? With the NET Full-notes Edition of the Holy Bible, you don’t need to be. Modern readers can find it challenging to connect with the ancient words and cultural contexts of the biblical writers. The NET offers a completely new solution: pairing a readable, everyday English translation with the largest set of translators’ notes ever created for a Bible. The NET’s 60,000 notes bring complete transparency to every major translation decision and invite you to look over the translators’ shoulders, allowing you to come to your own understanding of the Scriptures. It is an indispensable resource for every Bible reader.

Features include: 

  • The newest complete English translation based on the most up-to-date manuscript discoveries and scholarship
  • A translation that explains itself—over 60,000 translators’ notes offer unprecedented transparency
  • Full-color maps
  • Durable Smyth-sewn binding lays flat in your hand or on your desk
  • 8.75-point print size Scripture text in Thomas Nelson’s exclusive NET Comfort Print® typeface


A great gift for people needing a new study Bible with detailed notes on translation, biblical theology, and textual criticism


You can read about the connection between the NET Bible’s formatting and New Testament manuscripts here.


Watch Thomas Nelson’s promotional video about the translation:


Shop Now

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Making an Impact on the Bible This Year

We do not have the original copies of any of the Gospels or letters in the New Testament. What we do have are thousands of handwritten Greek New Testaments. Some of these are as old as the 200s, or perhaps even older. And almost all were written before the invention of the printing press.

These treasures were the Bibles for entire Christian communities, for families, and even for individuals—if they were fortunate enough to afford the luxury of having a book. They bear witness to the words of the Christian Scriptures and the history of the Church in the Greek-speaking world.

Greek New Testament manuscripts are singularly important because they are the foundation for modern Bibles. By studying them we can discern what were the very words written by the apostles and their associates. While we know essentially what the New Testament says, there are still a number of places where Bible scholars and translators wrestle with what was originally written. Studying Greek New Testament manuscripts answers those questions. In this way, CSNTM stands at the head of the stream of Bible translation. When people read the New Testament in future years, it will differ in some places from what you read today, and a large reason for that will be greater knowledge of the original Greek New Testament—knowledge which comes through the work of CSNTM.

It is crucial to both preserve and study these significant documents. They must be preserved digitally in case of unexpected destruction AND in case of what IS expected—the inevitable decay over time.

And they must be studied so that we have the best possible knowledge of the Greek New Testament. Complete study of manuscripts is usually impossible without having a digital copy made available online.

Our mission at CSNTM is to digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.

There are still thousands of undigitized and inaccessible manuscripts. And right now teams of researchers in the United States and Europe are working on a new edition of the Greek New Testament. Therefore, it is urgent that we digitize more manuscripts and share the images with these teams.

Will you make a gift to help CSNTM before the end of the year?

Our focus in 2020 is in Eastern Europe—the location of many significant manuscripts not yet digitized. Your partnership with CSNTM will be instrumental in making sure these documents become available for free online.

Give Today

Did you know that you can donate stock directly to CSNTM and receive significant tax advantages? As of this month, CSNTM is now enabled to receive stock equities directly! You can contact us directly at to get the information you need to make this kind of donation through your broker.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Interviews With the Authors: Myths and Mistakes—Peter J. Gurry

Series Introduction: Leigh Ann Thompson | Interview: Joy Singh and Peter J. Gurry

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!


Peter Gurry is the co-editor of Myths and Mistakes and he wrote a chapter on "Myths about Variants," which investigates the number and nature of the differences between the texts in New Testament manuscripts. Peter is an Assistant Professor of the New Testament and Co-Director of the Text and Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary, Arizona. He graduated with a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and PhD from Cambridge University. Gurry regularly contributes to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

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

I had been interested in how we get our English Bible since high school when I received my first Greek New Testament. In college, I took more Greek and that’s where I first learned about textual criticism. I was fascinated and challenged by the process by which scholars move from hundreds and hundreds of hand-copied manuscripts to a printed Greek New Testament and, finally, to my English Bible. I wanted to know as much as I could about this process. I’ve also had a long interest in visual communication, and so I was immediately drawn to manuscripts themselves because of their scripts, formatting, paragraphing, artwork, layout, etc. Eventually, my passion for all this took me to Dallas Seminary and CSNTM. It was on my first trip with the Center that I got to see my first (non-forged!) Greek New Testament manuscript. That settled it. I was hooked.

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?

Well, the discrepancy I talk about is about estimating the number variants. What I found in the academic literature was a wide variety of claims about how many variants there might be. But nobody gave a real justification for their number. For the sake of my own estimate (which is about ½ million), I defined a “variant” as a non-spelling difference in wording in our Greek manuscripts. This means I exclude variants found only in translations like Latin or Coptic or only in patristic citations. As for how these variants affect the reliability of the NT text, it depends on the variant. Upwards of 50% of the variants that my estimate is based on are only found in a single manuscript. Still another percentage are nonsense readings (like writing “teh” for “the”). These are easily set aside when the question is what the original text is. Other variants in the remainder make sense and are found in more than one manuscript but still have no claim to being original because they are so obviously scribal mistakes. When it comes to sifting the real wheat from the textual chaff, the number of variants that present difficulties is quite tiny in comparison. Of course, for professional textual critics, the more data the better for studying the history of the text. Perhaps ironically, the many variants can actually provide greater confidence in our decisions even though it means there are more decisions to make.

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? 

I would say the printed texts we have today provide more than what’s needed for a robust Christian confidence in the text of the New Testament. I do think there is a small group of difficult variants that affect theologically important texts (like Jesus’ remarkable prayer from the cross in Luke 23:34). But I know of no difficult variant that, by itself, determines Christian doctrine. When viewed holistically, the New Testament text is remarkably stable. On this I largely agree with a scholar like Marcus Borg who has written, “With only a few minor exceptions, we can be confident that the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole reliably report what was originally written” (Debating Christian Theism, p. 432).

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

I hope it has two. The first is that it helps Christians sharpen their defense of the Bible. Where we use bad information, we end up discrediting the Bible. So, I hope the book clears away garbled arguments and replaces them with good ones. More broadly, I hope the book encourages Christians to place a higher premium on integrity in our public witness and to do our homework. The truth of the Christian faith never ultimately rests on our ability to publicly defend it. Knowing that should relieve us of the pressure to grasp at the first argument that “works.” Instead, we should be more interested in being right than in being seen to be right. Doing that builds trust with our critics, honors Christ, and “adorns the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10).

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Announcing Interviews With the Authors of Myths and Mistakes

By: Leigh Ann Thompson

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!

Series Installments:

Peter J. Gurry (Text and Canon Institute, Phoenix Seminary)—"Myths about Variants"

Greg Lanier (Reformed Theological Seminary)—“Dating Myths: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts”

Elijah Hixson (Tyndale House, Cambridge)—"Dating Myths"

James Prothro (Ave Maria University and The Religious Studies Review)—“Myths about Classical Literature”

Zachary J. Cole (Union Theological College)—“Myths about Copyists: The Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts”

John Meade (Text and Canon Institute, Phoenix Seminary)—"Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can't Tell Us"

Thursday, December 12, 2019

From the Library: Byzantine Lectionaries and Advent

By: Andrew J. Patton and Leigh Ann Thompson


Throughout history, Christians oriented time around Jesus Christ. It started by recognizing the first day of the week by his resurrection. Later, significant days like Easter and Epiphany were commemorated. Even entire special seasons like Advent and Lent were observed. Scripture, naturally, played a crucial part in worship and traditions at these times of the year. Today, we can see what was being read in Greek New Testament lectionaries. 

What is a lectionary? Lectionaries are liturgical books that correspond with the calendar, ordered so that particular passages of the Bible are read on certain days. These books were most often created for public reading in churches, monasteries, or other services rather than for private reading. In the 7th and 8th centuries, Greek New Testament lectionaries resembled the form that they would follow for the next thousand years while the Scriptures were copied by hand. Lectionaries seem to have been ubiquitous. We have more than 2500 Greek New Testament lectionaries remaining today.

The readings are divided into two sections. The first section, called synaxarion, followed the movable church calendar beginning and closing with Easter. The menologion section, which comes after the synaxarion, follows the civil calendar from September 1 to August 31, with readings for the celebration of events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, commemoration of saints, apostles, and martyrs, as well as readings aligned with special occasions in the church. 

Since we are in the season of Advent with Christmas nearly two weeks away, we thought it would be meaningful to take a look at lectionaries for Advent and see how medieval Christians copied the texts about Jesus’ birth. 

Readings from the Christmas Story in Byzantine Lectionaries 

In the menologion, we find readings in December that, like modern day Advent readings, culminate in the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th.

While some lectionaries included Scripture readings for every day in December, others simply indicated the day and noted what Scripture should be read. The readings that focused on Christ’s birth begin on December 23rd which includes Jesus’ genealogy found in the beginning of Matthew. On the following day, readings for Christmas Eve were designated for each hour leading up to Christmas day starting at 6:00pm. Finally, to celebrate Christ’s birth, readings from the first two chapters of Matthew rang through churches beginning at dawn on Christmas Day.

Special Features that Accompanied the Christmas Story

Lectionaries are some of the most elaborately and consistently decorated Greek New Testament manuscripts. This partially reflects their context, being a part of a visual and ornate liturgical setting (see this blog post for more about illustrations in liturgy). Furthermore, since a lectionary often served a lector who was reading aloud, decorations marked out important places so that a reader could easily navigate through the text. Notice how the beautiful decorations below accompany, emphasize, and point out the Christmas readings.

Decorated letters were often placed at the beginning of a reading as indicators. Below are some examples that not only stand out on the page, but also among other readings in the menologion. 

Decorative Beta

Lectionary 384 includes other interesting markings that note the beginning of this lection.

Advent Lections in Lectionary 1957

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin owns a 10th–11th century lectionary written in majuscule (capital letter) script called Gregory-Aland Lectionary 1957 by scholars.The handwriting alone makes this a special artifact because there are only a few hundred or so majuscule lectionaries. This beautiful copy of the Greek New Testament is a terrific example for looking at the readings around Advent.


The scribe wrote out the month and date at the top of the column. Then included in red and gold ink labels for Saturday and Sunday readings. The Saturday reading is expected to be Luke 13.29, of which an excerpt is recorded below the heading. The Sunday reading is Matthew 1.1–25. 

On this and the following pages, the scribe copied Jesus’ genealogy with deluxe gold letters for the start of his ancestors’ names. The genealogy of Jesus was commonly treated in special ways that made it more prominent

Then later in the manuscript, the Christmas reading is introduced. The prescribed texts for Christmas in the menologion included Matthew 2.1–12. Here, the scribe recorded an introduction to the reading in smaller script and then added the biblical text following the decorated tau. If you notice the small red markings above the letters, those are guides for the reading of Scripture aloud. They would have helped the clergy member read this text to the congregation.


We hope you have found it interesting to examine these artifacts that show how Christian scribes copied the nativity stories in the Gospels in lectionary manuscripts. 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. At such an important season and moment in the Christian year, we wish you a merry and joyful Christmas.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Larry Hurtado (1943–2019): Textual Critic, Christologist, Exegete, Scholar, Christian

By: Daniel B. Wallace

On November 25, 2019, one of the great biblical scholars of our time died too young. Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor in the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, succumbed to cancer. I learned of his passing after the annual dinner of the Evangelical Textual Criticism group, which was meeting at a pizza restaurant in San Diego during the Society of Biblical Literature conference that evening. We all knew he had cancer and had made a turn for the worse in recent days. But we didn’t expect him to slip into eternity so quickly. He was just weeks shy of his 76th birthday.

Larry was one of Eldon Epp’s students at Case Western Reserve University. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on text-critical methods in Mark’s Gospel that he employed to determine the flavor of Codex W. I found this work remarkably helpful in its clear articulation and solid logic. Larry was a longtime champion of proper methodology in textual criticism. E. C. Colwell’s mantle fell on his shoulders. I remember the two-day conference on NT textual criticism focusing on the coherence-based genealogical method in Münster in 2009. Just a few dozen folks were there; I was told by one of the organizers that every NT textual critic was invited, and all but one came. Hurtado was present, and he made his presence known. He offered objections and insights throughout the conference that far outshined almost all others. In short, even 35 years after his PhD on textual criticism, and 12 years after he moved to Scotland where his attentions were now focused on early devotion to Jesus, he still had it. He was up to date on the field. He never left his first love.

Larry’s career took him from Canada to Scotland. Even before he came to Edinburgh in 1996, he was expanding his expertise far beyond the arcane walls of textual studies. Most importantly, he founded the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins at the University. Larry became known for his work in early Christology, focusing on the worship of Jesus in the first few centuries of the Church. His work dealing with the binitarian transformation of monotheism that incorporated the worship of Jesus was truly ground-breaking. Larry published several detailed volumes on this subject.

He continued to show strong interest in things textual, too. He authored The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins, a fascinating book that addressed a largely neglected field of research, viz., New Testament and Christian manuscripts as artifacts. This book was one of the catalysts that helped scholars see a difference between the text in a manuscript (i.e., the wording) and the manuscript itself (i.e., the material on which the text was written). Manuscripts include many significant things besides text, including helps for readers such as sacred names in abbreviation (known as nomina sacra), marginal notes, corrections, musical notations, Scripture references, section titles, colophons, subscriptions, and the like. Manuscripts are now treated as artifacts in their own right.

Larry was also on CSNTM’s International Advisory Board. In fact, he was the key player responsible for connecting the Center with the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin where we digitized some of the most important papyri known to exist (along with other New Testament manuscripts). You can hear why he values the work of digitizing manuscripts in this video, taken five years ago at SBL in San Diego. 

Finally, Larry was a friend and a Christian. His own devotion to Jesus Christ drove his scholarship. Some today think that they are wholly objective in their study of the Bible; this is a naïve view that was thrown out with historical positivism over a century ago. Hurtado never pretended to be completely objective, but he was willing to challenge his own presuppositions and test them under rigorous examination. He thus serves as a great model for us today. He will be missed but, I hope, emulated by the next generation of biblical scholars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Surrounded on all Sides by History: How the NET Bible Has Brought Textual Tradition Full Circle

By: Sarah Allen

Image Source: NET Bible

One of the most fascinating aspects of studying biblical manuscripts is the gateway they give readers into visually experiencing the historical accounts found in the gospels. Not only do the contents of the pages serve as snapshots of these narratives, but they also function as a window through which readers of the twenty-first century are privileged to observe how these same accounts were viewed in centuries past. 

The New English Translation, or NET Bible, is well known for having an unprecedented 60,932 translator notes! This astonishing number of notes creates an equally massive dilema for publishers: how do you arrange the notes in a way that is easy to use, visually appealing, and keeps the focus on the biblical text? To answer this problem, the editors of the NET second edition took their cue from the scribes who produced New Testament manuscripts for over a millennium. 

The NET features a single column of biblical text surrounded on three sides (left, right, and bottom margins) with footnotes covering translation notes, interpretive decisions, text critical analysis, and historical background information.

Scholars have long observed that scribes commonly formatted the manuscripts they copied in this way. The wrap-around commentary in Greek New Testament manuscripts remains an area for future study.

These types of notations and commentary appear mostly in the minuscules of later centuries. However, some earlier manuscripts that also utilize this format have been discovered. In a few cases, these early examples are written completely in majuscule hand. Our friends at the University of Birmingham are currently working on a project attempting an in-depth study of the seventh century undertext of a palimpsest (Codex Zacynthius) which features a single column of biblical text surrounded on three sides by patristic commentary.

Image source: Cambridge University Library

While there remains much translation work to be done in order to know the full extent of the content of these commentary sections of the manuscripts, readers can rest assured that interaction with the text itself by scribes was a common practice and has long been an essential part of the transmission process.

Choosing to mimic the format of these early biblical manuscripts,  the editors at Thomas Nelson went back to the future.The NET Bible edition 2.1 provides readers easy access to notes concerning translation choices without the hassle of pesky page turns or the need for secondary sources. Furthermore, bringing the pages “full circle” enables readers to take part in a way of reading the Bible that has a long history among those who undertook the task of transmitting and interpreting the New Testament for future generations.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

$100,000 Challenge Gift Met!

By: Daniel B. Wallace

We are thrilled to announce that, through your generosity, we have officially met our $100,000 challenge gift goal. On September 30th—only two months after the challenge began—you gave the final gifts needed to push us over the top and double a generous donation of $100,000! This truly is incredible news. Your financial sacrifice is enabling us for upcoming expeditions to digitally archive unique, handwritten copies of the New Testament.

You humble us through your significant and continued support for CSNTM's mission. We are repeatedly struck with gratitude for the incredible, faithful, and growing generosity of those who support the Center and our work to preserve the text of the New Testament for future generations.

You have our heartfelt gratitude!

Monday, October 7, 2019

From the Library: Eusebian Canons in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

By: Andrew J. Patton and Leigh Ann Thompson 

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.  

Decorated Eusebian Canon

Besides displaying the talented artistry of manuscript decorators, these lists are a unique and interesting feature of Greek New Testament manuscripts. They come from a series of ten tables, called canons, that were introduced into the Gospel codices by Eusebius of Caesarea. We find in a letter he wrote to Carpianus that he took information from one Ammonius the Alexandrian to construct a system of tables that indicate where similar material appears in the Gospel books. Bruce Metzger defines the Eusebian Canon as “a device for showing which passages in each Gospel are similar to passages in other Gospels.” This navigational tool appeared in many manuscripts and reflects the ongoing systems of concordance and marginal notation that students of the Bible employ today.


Eusebius benefited future generations by writing a letter to Carpianus because in this letter he described the tables and the system he used to create them. His ten canon tables each designate passages that occur within a certain grouping of Gospel books. The passages were counted by paragraph, therefore the numbers in each table correspond to which paragraph holds the particular passage as counted from the beginning of the book. Canon table I contains all passages that occur in all four gospel books. The image below is a picture of Canon I.

Canon I

Tables II to IV indicate which passages appear in three of the four books. Interestingly, each of these tables includes the passages included in Matthew and the other Gospels (e.g., Matthew-Mark-Luke; Matthew-Mark-John; Matthew-Luke-John); there is not a table for passages only found in Mark-Luke-John because there are no parallel passages found only in Mark, Luke, and John.

Three Column Canon

Each book is paired with one other in tables V to IX to show which passages occur in just two of the Gospel books. 

Two Column Canon

The final table, Canon X, shares which passages are unique to each of the Gospel books. See GA 106 at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, GA 9 from the Bibliothèque nationale in France, and GA 86 at the Academy of Sciences in Slovakia for examples of all ten tables. 


The symbols in the canon tables are repeated in the margins at the beginning of the passage. These marginal notations are called capitula parallela. Notice the Greek numbers in margins in the following examples.

Margins 1

Margins 2

The canon table indicated by the marginal notation demonstrates which other Gospel books contain a similar passage. Even more, by turning to the referenced canon table, readers can find those passages in the row with the one they were reading. 

Contemporary Examples

The Eusebian Canons were an ingenious way to navigate through the four Gospels, and their continued use in New Testament manuscripts indicates that they were helpful for Bible readers. Since Eusebius, we have developed new navigational tools for Bible reading—the most notable of these is chapter and verse numbers, first introduced to the New Testament in Stephanus’ 1551 edition of the Greek New Testament.

Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament

The standard critical edition of the Greek New Testament for biblical research and text criticism is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum. This hand-edition still incorporates elements of the Eusebian Canon. Just before the printing of the Gospels, they include the Greek text of Eusebius’ letter that explains the canons, followed by the canon tables. Then in the inner margins, the editors place the capitula parallela corresponding to the tables. Having the Eusebian Canons in the Greek New Testament is an aid to text critics studying manuscripts and maintains continuity with the history of textual transmission.


Synopsis of the Four Gospels by Kurt Aland

Another approach to identifying and examining the parallel passages in the Gospels is Kurt Aland’s Synopsis of the Four Gospels. This work prints the text of the Gospels in four columns, presenting parallel passages adjacent to one another. Aland’s format makes quick comparisons of the text immediately possible. 

Aland's Synopsis

Modern Bibles

While modern Bible translations do not reprint the Eusebian Canons, many still try to inform the reader about parallel passages in the Gospels. The most common method are reference notes located on the page that give the chapter and verse number for the parallels. This system also allows translators to expand the scope of the references to include allusions, citations, and similar texts.

What is clear from contemporary editions of the Greek New Testament and modern translations is that scholars, students, and Bible readers share the same desire of the ancient readers. We all want tools in our Bibles that help us navigate between the various books and enable our reading to be informed by the whole canon. 

The Eusebian Canons in Modern Scholarships

Eusebian Canons, including the capitula parallela, are one of the most frequently included paratextual features in Greek New Testament manuscripts. They were an essential tool for navigating the Gospels, and, in illuminated manuscripts, they enhanced the beauty of the codex. 

It is clear that Eusebius’ system was useful for navigating between the Gospels. But how are Eusebian canon tables and capitula parallela useful for reconstructing the initial text of the New Testament? Satoshi Toda helpfully observes the significance of Eusebian canons as an early witness to the macro-level content of the Gospels. Eusebius, he explains, died circa 340 CE, and his work was completed prior to this date. Therefore, the Eusebian canons predate most of our Greek New Testament manuscripts, especially those that still contain significant portions of the text of the Gospels. Thus, Toda would argue that the presence of a text on a canon table should be a valuable external witness to its authenticity. An example of the textual function of this paratext is the lack of an original Eusebian canon for the long ending of Mark (any material after Mark 16.8) or for the Pericope Adulterae (John 7.53–8.11).This is another indicator against the originality of these two highly disputed passages. In this way, he shows that paratextual details like the Eusebian Canons are valuable for the work of text criticism, not only for navigating the Gospels.

If you are interested in seeing additional examples of Eusebian canon tables, you can easily search for them in CSNTM’s manuscript library. Under the heading “MS Feature,” click the check box for “Canon Table,” and any manuscript with a page tagged will populate. Once you click on the manuscript you’re interested in viewing, only those pages with the feature will be displayed in the thumbnail viewer.

Sources and Further Reading: 

Metzger, Bruce M. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek Palaeography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Metzger, Bruce M. and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Parker, David C. An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Toda, Satoshi. “The Eusebian Canons: Their Implications and Potential.” Pages 27–44 in Early Readers, Scholars and Editors of the New Testament: Papers from the Eighth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. Edited by H. A. G. Houghton. Texts and Studies Third Series 11. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2014.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Welcome CSNTM’s 2019–2020 Interns!

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts is excited to welcome its newest class of interns! This cohort of talented graduate students has the opportunity to study the field of New Testament textual criticism, work directly with the Center’s collection of digital images, and gain valuable research skills in a collaborative environment. They play a vital role in our mission to preserve, share, and study Greek New Testament manuscripts, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to mentor, inspire, and work alongside each of these students.


Take a moment to meet this year’s cohort:


Sarah Allen


Hometown: Mesquite, Texas

Last book read: A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds, edited by Beryl Rawson 

Academic Inspiration(s): Professors Daniel B. Wallace and Scott Horrell, without whom I would never have thought I deserved a seat at the table

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings: Harry Potter

What are you excited to learn or do in your internship this year? 

As someone fairly new to studying the Greek language and New Testament manuscripts, I am excited to learn the tools for higher level scholarship that help us make decisions about our translations of biblical texts. Working with CSNTM puts me at the ground level of that scholarship, which I look forward to strengthening my foundational approach to seeking the truth.


Madi Cannon


Hometown: Curwensville, PA

Last book read: Music in the Air Somewhere: The Shifting Borders of West Virginia's Fiddle and Song Traditions by Erynn Marshall

Academic Inspiration(s): Don Grigorenko, Professor of Missions at Cedarville University

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings: Lord of the Rings

What are you excited to learn or do in your internship this year?

I'm excited to study the New Testament manuscripts that have been foundational for the faith of Christians through the centuries.


Joy Singh


Hometown: New Delhi, India

Last book read: Reinventing Jesus by Daniel B. Wallace

Academic inspirations: Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, my wife Janice, and Timothy Keller

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings: Lord of the Rings (no question!)

What are you excited to learn or do in your internship this year?

I am excited to be entrenched in the world of textual criticism and learn how to do academic research. I am also looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding of scribal habits in the transmission of the text.

Monday, September 30, 2019

CSNTM's Houston Banquet 2019

On September 21, CSNTM hosted its annual Houston banquet at the Houston Racquet Club. This banquet is our biggest fundraiser of the year in Houston and an incredible opportunity to reconnect with our friends and supporters while also meeting new people who share our passion for New Testament manuscripts.

These are always special evenings, and this year was no exception. During the reception our guests viewed facsimiles of New Testament manuscripts, an incunabula leaf of Romans from 1492, and a copy of John Mill’s 1707 edition of the Greek New Testament; we also had a display featuring CSNTM’s digitization equipment to demonstrate how our teams capture the images on our website.

A highlight of the evening was a personal reflection from Tori Andrew. Tori is a master’s student studying New Testament textual criticism and a volunteer with CSNTM. In her spare time, if you can imagine a grad student with free time, she tags manuscripts in our digital library so that they are searchable for all of our users. Her reflection artfully connected her interest in textual criticism with the history of Christianity and the transmission of the text: “Being able to study the manuscript connects me to the history of our church, to the people who came before us and on whose shoulders we now stand.” One of our favorite lines in her speech was, “The manuscripts stretch us and connect us, like thread binding parchment, all the way back to the original authors.”

Later in the evening, our Executive Director, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, gave his keynote remarks on the topic, “A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery.” In his presentation, Dr. Wallace recounted how the Renaissance was given a boost by the influx of Greek manuscripts into Western Europe after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Along with the invention of the printing press and a few other watershed events, the recovery of these ancient documents had a transformative impact on Europe and the world. He went on to explain that multispectral imaging is introducing the possibility of seeing invisible material in old manuscripts in order to fully study the biblical text they contain. With this technology and a team dedicated to studying the New Testament text, CSNTM is making a valuable contribution to both the academy and the world.

The evening concluded with an invitation to support CSNTM’s work by Barney Giesen, a longtime friend of CSNTM in Houston. This year’s event raised over $16,000. What is especially remarkable is that nearly every person who attended made a commitment to support CSNTM’s work to preserve Greek New Testament manuscripts! Our mission simply could not carry on without the generosity of many people, so we are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support from our friends in Houston. It is our hope that your joy was increased as you gave!

Special events like this are only possible with the support of numerous people. We’d like to thank our steadfast members of the Houston Advisory Board. You played such a valuable role in making the evening a success, in addition to your generous service throughout the year. Tori Andrew also deserves special recognition for giving a passionate and personal reflection. You conveyed your experience, our mission, and why it all matters with unique clarity. Finally, we want to specially thank everyone who attended the event. It was wonderful to meet new friends and see many familiar faces again.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Happy Birthday, CSNTM

Happy Birthday! Χρονια Πολλα! Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag! 

September 13, 2002. It seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? CSNTM’s birthday leads me to reflect on what we set out to do 17 years ago. I founded the Center with a few goals in mind:

  • Capturing high-resolution, color images of every Greek New Testament manuscript in the world;
  • Making sure that these manuscripts could be studied online;
  • Developing computer-based tools to increase the efficiency and accuracy of studies on the text of the New Testament.

After personally visiting Greece more than 30 times—I stopped counting after 30—and scores of trips to other countries around the world, we’ve come a long way.

  • CSNTM has digitized more Greek New Testament manuscripts than any other institute in the world. Our digitizers have preserved nearly 700 manuscripts and captured over 300,000 pictures—one page at a time.
  • Among that number are 75 discoveries previously unknown to scholars, adding to the “embarrassment of riches” that is the plethora of New Testament manuscripts around the world.
  • Our website hosts all the manuscript images we’ve captured and hundreds more that were digitized or microfilmed by others. Right now, there are 1,766 manuscript entries at!
  • The robust search features on our website make research easier than at any time before. And we are working behind the scenes to develop the advanced tools of tomorrow.

The last 17 years have seen tremendous changes in the way we interact with and examine the ancient copies of the Bible. They are digital. They are accessible. And they are being studied anew.

We can’t predict exactly what remarkable things will take place in the next 17 years. But I can tell you that CSNTM will be a part of it and that the images we have already captured will continue to bear fruit.

Will you make a gift today to help us continue our work this year? Right now all gifts count toward our $100,000 giving challenge. So far, you’ve given more than $68,000! That’s much more than half of the goal in 43 days! We can finish this challenge in the next few weeks with your help!

Give on CSNTM's Birthday 

Another way you can help us with this challenge and ensure that our 18th year starts off strong is by initiating a monthly donation. Our monthly donors—the Circle of Friends—are the faithful people who sustain the Center and support everything we do. Scheduled monthly contributions helps you budget your giving, and they help us budget our projects throughout the year.

Join the Circle of Friends

Thanks for partnering with CSNTM to preserve ancient New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.

CSNTM’s staff: Kelsey Hart, Leigh Ann Thompson, Andrew Patton, Robert Marcello, 

Jacob Peterson, Stephen Clardy, Daniel B. Wallace, Stratton Ladewig


Three cheers to another year!


Dan Wallace
Executive Director
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Memory, Liturgy, and Illustrations in Lectionaries

By: Leigh Ann Thompson

If we all took a moment to click through the CSNTM manuscript library, certain images would catch our eyes more than others. Colors, illustrations, and decorations tend to draw attention to the pages of parchment and paper more so than than the standard dark ink text that makes up the majority of the pages. Images stand out. That’s the reason Facebook advertisements contain pictures instead of just blocks of text.

We know that it cost manuscript producers and commissioners a pretty penny to include these features in manuscripts. Such an investment indicates to us that manuscript decoration sprang from an intentional decision. What would the purpose of such investment be? Color and pictures, as already noted, are conspicuous, so they could serve as markers. Even more, the cost of production indicates that they may have been status markers demonstrated by their extravagance. Illustrations could also serve as exemplary or instructional tools, like a diagram in a science textbook. These purposes and more may have influenced the decision to include illustration. We best understand a manuscript’s features when we understand the context in which it was produced and used.

The majority of illustrated Greek New Testament manuscripts were produced in the 10th–14th centuries in the Byzantine Empire. Besides their eye-catching beauty, images on the pages of manuscripts reveal a highly visual religious culture. Liturgy and the lectionary were two important features of this culture. Liturgy is the rhythmic religious practices that follow the calendar, including Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, Lent, etc.. The lectionary was a book that contained Scripture readings assigned to certain days on the religious calendar. Lections could be arranged variously, depending on the lectionary’s intended purpose. It could include only special days, Saturday and Sunday readings, or readings for every day of the week. Therefore, the arrangement of each manuscript is a clue as to how a book functioned within its context. Let’s take a look at the ways the images we see, particularly on the pages of 11th–12th century lectionaries, connect a manuscript to a broader liturgy whose visual and rhythmic nature made lectionary readings particularly memorable.

Memory in the Medieval World

Visual images and visualization often play an important role in forming memories. Medieval thinkers in particular demonstrated the way that they grasped this truth by building up and storing their thoughts. Teachers of mnemonics used architectural metaphors to explain this process. They would “construct” images and “build” off of them, connecting thoughts in a memorable way. For example in the twelfth century Hugh of St. Victor taught his students to memorize by envisioning an arc, which they built in their minds by placing memories in each part of their imagined construction project (see his work Libellus de formatione Arche, the Little Book on the Construction of the Ark). Working with the mind’s sensory associations, especially the visual, teachers and learners of the medieval world immersed themselves in images and practices that “built up” and expanded their “storehouses” of memory. Orthodox liturgy, church practices, and lectionaries shared this approach to thinking and learning.

Understanding of Liturgy in Byzantium (11th–12th century)

Orthodox practices reflected an understanding of the way that sensory involvement influences thought. They took a multisensory approach, leveraging auditory, physical, olfactory, and visual practices in the liturgy of the church; there were visual representations of Scripture, church history, and the orthodox beliefs. Take for example, the prominent practice of iconography which involved painting and contemplating images of Christ and the saints. Church buildings depicted scenes from Scripture and important narratives within the Orthodox church. 

What is striking about these practices, especially considering medieval mnemonics, is how the imagery and practices in Byzantine liturgy correlated with one another. Scriptures and feasts occurred according to a rhythmic liturgical calendar. These events were often depicted on the walls of church, painted as icons on wood panels, and even added to the pages of lectionaries. A picture marking the beginning of a lection often reflects the reading which followed. The same picture might also be pictured on a church wall as a mosaic. Both the physical worship space, the reading, and the accompanying illustration drew a worshiper’s attention to the same account. Liturgical imagery created a web of reference, bringing together thought and practice. Through these associations, a worshiper built their thoughts towards the worship of God and knowing Scripture.

Illustrations in Liturgical Books

Liturgical books are some of the most decorated of all Greek New Testament manuscripts. These illustrated books contain decorated headers and ekthesis, historiated initials, small narrative illustrations in the margins, and full portrait scenes of the biblical authors, some of which took up an entire page. It’s no surprise that these books formed an important part of the highly visual Byzantine liturgy.

Lectionary Decoration

Often, decorations served as elaborate navigational tools for a text to be read aloud. Headers marked the beginning of a month’s reading or other section; ekthesis marked where to begin reading.


The images above show three different kinds of headers used in GA Lect 1227 to mark the beginning of sections of readings.

Observing their content and style, we find that narrative illustrations reflected the readings and artistic representations seen in other liturgical spaces. The two images below are pages from GA Lect 2017. The one on the right shows Jesus teaching a crowd. The other pictures Jesus casting demons out of the Gerasene demoniac.

Narrative Images

As already mentioned, visual content within Byzantine liturgy often repeated across mediums. Decorations, then, served as connectors, placing the book within the liturgy whose rhythms and practices involving the senses drew worshipers into memory-making activities. 

Mural at St. John's Monastery

The picture above was taken at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on the island of Patmos. The frescoes painted in the 12th century depict narrative scenes from Scripture and of St. John’s life. 


When we look at manuscripts with illustration or decoration, we notice their beauty, the great expense to the commissioner, and the illuminator’s skill. We should consider these historical and artistic questions. Yet, these visual details also give us a glimpse into the communities that read and listened to Scripture. Their experience with the New Testament was seen and heard and interacted with. Illustrated lectionaries were purposeful pieces of an effective whole which led churches and communities to think about God both in church and daily life.



The above picture comes from the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, and can be accessed at

Charles Barber. “Icons, Prayer, and Vision in the Eleventh Century.” In ​Byzantine Christianity, edited by Derek Krueger. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006. pp. 149-163.

Mary Carruthers. ​The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric and the Making of Images 400–1200​. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 

Mary Carruthers. ​The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture​. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 

Derek Krueger and Robert S. Nelson, eds. ​The New Testament in Byzantium​. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2016. 

John Lowden. ​Luxury and Liturgy: The Function of Books​. Birmingham: Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies. University of Birmingham, 1990. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Save the Date—North Texas Giving Day, 9/19/2019

On Thursday, September 19, 2019, CSNTM is participating in North Texas Giving Day, a one-day online giving extravaganza for our whole region hosted by the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Since its founding in 2009, North Texas Giving Day has inspired people to “get up and give,” resulting in donations that made a big difference in North Texas and beyond. Last year, Communities Foundation of Texas brought together 2,700 organizations to collectively raise $48 million, and we are excited to be a part of the movement this year!

This year, your giving will work toward our $100,000 challenge gift—providing a total of $200,000 for our mission to preserve Greek New Testament manuscripts and share them online. Will you help us reach our goal on September 19? Here are three big ways you can help:

1) Get up and give on September 19

Your gift matters! On September 19, if you donate to CSNTM via between 6am and midnight, your dollar will help us hit our challenge goal and potentially receive bonus funds and prizes from North Texas Giving Day’s sponsors!

Not available on September 19? No worries! Starting on September 9 you can schedule your donation in advance and make your gift count!

2) Spread the word

Spread the word to your friends and loved ones about the Center and North Texas Giving Day! Don’t forget to tag @CSNTM and #NTxGivingDay if you’re posting online. During last year’s Giving Day, 43% of donations came through social media—so a simple share to encourage your friends and family to get up and give can make a huge difference!

3) Follow us

Follow our social media @CSNTM and, as well as @NTxGivingDay and to stay up to date on North Texas Giving Day! 

For more information on North Texas Giving Day, visit! To find out how you can help our organization on September 19, please reach out to Stephen Clardy (

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

CSNTM's Houston Banquet: September 21

Join Executive Director Dan Wallace and many others committed to preserving and studying the ancient Scriptures for CSNTM's annual Houston banquet. This year’s banquet will be held at the Houston Racquet Club on Saturday, September 21st from 6:30–9:00 p.m. A reception will begin at 6:30, and dinner will be served at 7:00.

The theme of this year’s banquet is "A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery." Dr. Wallace will deliver a lively presentation about how our recently acquired digitization technology—multispectral imaging—is helping the Center rediscover words that were lost long ago in New Testament manuscripts. You won't want to miss this insider's look at the future of the digitization and study of New Testament manuscripts. The evening will conclude with the special opportunity to partner with the Center to preserve and rediscover ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.


Where: Houston Racquet Club

10709 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77024

When: Saturday, September 21, 2019 | 6:30pm–9:00pm

Reception at 6:30pm

Dinner at 7:00pm

RSVP: September 9, 2019


Tickets and Information

Monday, August 5, 2019

$100,000 Challenge Grant!

By: Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

You and I are living at a time when ancient texts are joining hands with modern technology; the result is magnificent digital images of hundreds of thousands of handwritten pages of the New Testament, copied out by faithful scribes in wretched conditions.  

Can you imagine what would be lost if scribes had not copied the biblical texts? They labored alone, in dark and dank rooms, copying the texts of old for unknown generations to come. But because of their devotion to Scripture, even the ravages of history could not erase the abundance of New Testament manuscripts we still have today.

But these texts are deteriorating—even in the best libraries all manuscripts will decay—and they are scattered across the globe in hundreds of cities and villages. What would happen if we came too late? This has happened before; I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The urgency is great. And at CSNTM, we have the trained staff, we have the equipment, but we don’t have all the funds that we need.

A generous supporter of CSNTM is offering a significant and time-sensitive opportunity to you. This partner, who would like to remain anonymous, is challenging you—the friends of CSNTM—to give $100,000 toward our mission. Your support will make multiple opportunities possible:

  • Digitizing manuscripts: This is the core of our mission and our primary task. We are currently preparing for future digitization projects—especially in Eastern Europe—with the potential to photograph scores of Greek New Testament manuscripts.
  • Improving the website: We are working to add improvements to our website that make it even easier to use for people studying manuscripts online and to maximize the potential for studying multispectral images.
  • Training graduate students: Our internship program prepares talented graduate students to become the next generation of scholars and leaders. Over the course of a year, they receive hands-on training from CSNTM’s Research Team. We are looking forward to working with this year’s cohort in just a few weeks.
  • Undertaking original research: Between expeditions, the Research Team at CSNTM is working on a major transcription project of papyrus manuscripts. We expect this publication to make a valuable contribution to the scholars studying these important New Testament manuscripts. 

What this gift means is that we have received a $100,000 donation and the donor is inviting and challenging you to match their gift. Altogether, your support could provide a total of $200,000 for the preservation of New Testament manuscripts! Already more than $13,000 has been given toward the challenge grant—so we're more than 10% of the way there. You could join this group of generous people. This opportunity applies whether your gift is a monthly donation or a one-time gift. Your partnership with CSNTM will make an invaluable impact. We are asking you to consider supporting this urgent mission. Would you make a gift today while you still have the opportunity for it to be doubled?

Donate Now

Thursday, August 1, 2019

From the Library: Decorated Letters in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

By: Leigh Ann Thompson and Andrew J. Patton

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—visual markers 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. These noticeable letters served to guide readers through the text, drawing their eye to the beginnings of passages. As you’ll see below, an ekthesis can vary in style—from the simple placement of the first letter of a line into the margin to the incorporation of elaborate decorations and even narrative scenes drawn into the form of the letter. The many ways scribes wrote these decorated letters and the striking beauty of the more elaborate ones makes them worth a closer look. In this post, we’ll examine a few different types of ektheses, working our way from the simple to the ornate.

Simple Decoration

The most common way that manuscript scribes and illuminators employed ektheses was to have very little or no decoration.

GA 038 Ekthesis

Codex Koridethi (GA 038) is a fine example of a manuscript using prominent letters without adding decoration. The scribe who copied this ninth-century manuscript used ektheses to break up the text of the Gospels using only a larger form of the letter placed into the left margin. On this page you can see multiple omicrons, an epsilon, and an alpha written in such a way.

Colorful Decoration

GA 792 Ekthesis

Other manuscripts use a slightly more decorative form of ektheses. Some copyists simply used a different color of ink, usually red, to highlight the incipit letter. You can see an example of this type of lettering in a thirteenth-century manuscript of the Gospels and Revelation from the National Library of Greece (GA 792).

Decorated Ekthesis

Some copyists enhanced the letter with more detailed decorations. You often find these at the beginning of the Gospels. GA 765 is a thirteenth-century manuscript of the Gospels from the National Library of Greece. The manuscript’s illuminator went to great lengths to beautify the first epsilon of John’s Gospel. He or she used multiple colors and a dot pattern that blends nicely with the headpiece above. 

Scribes commonly drew letters in a floral pattern. GA 106 is an eleventh- or twelfth-century manuscript of the Gospels from the Chester Beatty Library. The illuminator of this medieval manuscript began the book of Matthew with a beta drawn with a floral pattern in multiple colors and gold leaf.  

These colorful and ornate letters added to the beauty of these New Testaments—enhancing the reading experience and conveying the value and worth of the Scriptures to the community. 

Elaborate Decoration

In some of the more elaborate minuscule manuscripts and lectionaries we find beautiful examples of ektheses that are embellished with other objects or have been made into a picture themselves.

Historiated Initials

These examples from GA Lect 117, digitized at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy, display historiated initials—an enlarged opening letter that contains a picture. Here the decorated letter also doubles as pictures of birds and a hand reaching through the middle of an epsilon. Note the hand in particular. Often, the opening page of an illustrated Gospel manuscript would depict a hand reaching down from the top of the page toward the evangelist to visually indicate that the biblical text was divinely given from God. The pictured hand resembles this common illustration, and the community that used GA Lect 117 would likely perceive its meaning when reading the passage.

Decorating Manuscripts Matters

Large letters set into the margin, ektheses, are one of the most common features you’ll find in New Testament manuscripts. This simple form of illumination pragmatically guided the readers through the text of the New Testament by marking off the paragraphs. But this ancient and medieval practice does not always mean the same thing that it does in modern language. In his latest book, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, Dirk Jongkind writes, “Nowadays a paragraph is a building block in the hierarchical structure of the text. But in some of the manuscript paragraphing, one gets the impression that a paragraph is used to highlight what follows” (p. 36). In other words, these readily identifiable letters draw the reader’s attention toward a passage—emphasizing its significance—while sometimes guiding the reader structurally through the text.

Additionally, ektheses have a visual effect on the reader. The decoration of these large letters enhances the beauty of the manuscript‚ thereby conveying the value of the Scriptures to the people who read or even simply saw the biblical text. Simple features like large letters reflect the importance of texts for Christian communities throughout history. 

** If you’re interested in seeing more examples of ektheses, our manuscript library can sort manuscripts with this feature if the page has been tagged. Under the heading “MS Feature” click the check box for “Ekthesis or Ornamented Letters” and the tagged manuscripts will populate. Once you click on the manuscript you’re interested in viewing, only those pages with the feature will be displayed in the thumbnail viewer. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Understanding MSI Images

By Jacob W. Peterson and Leigh Ann Thompson

This May CSNTM had the opportunity to attend a digital archiving conference in Portugal and digitize in Germany. The images captured during the Beuron expedition are now available in our digital library. In the entry for GA 0197, we include a series of images captured by our MSI equipment that we obtained in May 2018. See the above link to our newest entry in the digital library and see below for an explanation of the different images you will see. Head over to the library page to view this new entry and the fascinating results of MSI.

What Kinds of Images Does MSI Produce?

Multispectral imaging equipment captures images at different and specific wavelengths of light. A series of images for each page we digitize reflects what each band of light captures. These different bands will bring forward different features of manuscripts based on what the materials, depth and layers reflect better or worse with the utilized wavelength and filter.

The series of images that reflect what each band of light captures taken together produce a “composite image.” This image is first in the series for each page, and is in color, displaying what the naked eye would see if viewing the manuscript in person. For example, see the image of GA 0197 below.

0197 1a composite

Basically all that you can see if the overtext of a Typikon. However, the undertext becomes especially visible under the 365 nanometer ultraviolet light with a UV-pass:

0197 undertext

The Physics of MSI

The visible light spectrum–what you and I can see with our eyes–is only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum seen in the image below.

Light wavelengths spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum records the wavelengths in nanometers (nm) of the various types of waves floating around in the air—from gamma rays to radio waves. In our multispectral setup, we are only interested in the visible spectrum and the two surrounding divisions of ultraviolet and infrared light. Our equipment is capable of producing light from 365nm in the UV spectrum, through the visible light spectrum, and up to 940nm in the infrared spectrum.

Viewing MSI Images in the CSNTM Library

When you are looking at the images produced from each of the individual bands, you will see the composite image first, followed by 25 monochrome images. After you click on a particular thumbnail, the image description will give you information such as this:

MSI filename

What you are seeing in the image name field is the GA number of the manuscript, the image sequence number, and finally the multispectral information. The following is a list of the 25 different images captured in one session:

  • MB365UV_0011 - Mains, 365nm, ultraviolet light
  • MB400UV_0012 - Mains, 400nm, ultraviolet light
  • MB420VI_0001 - Mains, 420nm, violet light
  • MB450RB_0002 - Mains, 450nm, royal blue light
  • MB470LB_0003 - Mains, 470nm, light blue light
  • MB505CN_0004 - Mains, 505nm, cyan light
  • MB530GN_0005 - Mains, 530nm, green light
  • MB560LI_0006 - Mains, 560nm, yellow light
  • MB590AM_0007 - Mains, 590nm, amber light
  • MB615RO_0008 - Mains, 615nm, red-orange light
  • MB630RD_0009 - Mains, 630nm, red light
  • MB655DR_0010 - Mains, 655nm, dark red light
  • MB735IR_0013 - Mains, 735nm, infrared light
  • MB850IR_0014 - Mains, 850nm, infrared light
  • MB940IR_0015 - Mains, 940nm, infrared light
  • W365B47_0020  - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with blue filter
  • W365G58_0018 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with green filter
  • W365O22_0023 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with orange filter
  • W365R25_0016 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with red filter
  • W365UVB_0022 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with UV-block
  • W365UVP_0025 - Wheels, 365nm, ultraviolet light with UV-pass
  • W450B47_0021 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with blue filter
  • W450G58_0019 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with green filter
  • W450O22_0024 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with orange filter
  • W450R25_0017 - Wheels, 450nm, ultraviolet light with red filter


As might be clear, everything that begins with a “W” indicates that there is some sort of filter being applied to the shot. Our system runs through 15 “main” images first, then the “wheel” apparatus attached to the camera cycles through 10 addtional combinations of lights and filters.

As you will notice, not every image is created equally. Some of the bands of light produce little of value while others reveal all kinds of information. Some patterns between types of images will be apparent (e.g. UV light works well with water damage), but what works well on one page in a manuscript may not be successful at revealing anything on the next page. All that to say, make sure you consult all of the images in the sequence.

What’s Next?

The next step for CSNTM will be the post-processing of these images. Through this, the various bands are manipulated and various processes are applied to help reveal as much of the text as possible. Once this has been completed, these images will be added to our online library.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Welcome, Leigh Ann

In May, Leigh Ann Thompson joined the staff at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. The exceptional quality of her work, her industrious work ethic, and her team-oriented outlook as a Research Assistant in our internship program last year demonstrated the value she would bring to the team. We’re thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to the contribution she will make toward our mission.

We’d like to give you the opportunity to meet Leigh Ann.

After spending a year as an intern at CSNTM, I will be joining the staff as Research Coordinator. Along with overseeing the internship program and the interns' work, I also will cultivate CSNTM’s digital collection and connect people—scholars and students utilizing our digital library, institutes and interested non-specialists—to CSNTM’s work.


Before coming to CSNTM, I worked in non-profit ministries that served young adults and families. I’m in my third year of the Masters of Theology program at Dallas Theological Seminary, pursuing an emphasis in New Testament Studies. When I am not at the Center or studying, I enjoy spending time outdoors, playing just about any game, going on a trail run, sipping a good cup of coffee, listening to live music, and playing competitive board games with friends. This opportunity to join the team at CSNTM brings together my experience and love of investing in people with my passion for the Scriptures and their digital preservation. I look forward to equipping others through cultivating our collection of manuscripts and connecting them with our research projects.

Friday, June 7, 2019

On the Bookshelf: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

By: Andrew J. Patton

2017 marked an important year for New Testament scholars with the publication of The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (THGNT). Now, Dirk Jongkind, one of the editors of the THGNT and Senior Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language, Tyndale House has produced a new volume: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. This brief book offers a primer on the distinctive features of the Tyndale House Edition and the method the editors used for making textual decisions.

One of the best things about Jongkind’s new book is that while the focus is centered on the production of the THGNT, it functions as a concise introduction to the field of New Testament textual criticism. He provides background on the making of the New Testament—answering the question of the relationship between New Testament manuscripts, scholarly editions, and then modern translations (chapter 1). Only then does he proceed to describe the manuscript witnesses to the Greek New Testament with brief introductions to some of the most significant manuscripts (chapter 3).

Of special interest to text critics is the chapter “How Decisions are Made” (chapter 4). Here, Jongkind describes the method used to create the THGNT. For a beginner student, the chapter is a useful summary of the various aspects of textual criticism. For the experienced text critic, he offers greater insight into how he and the editors of the Tyndale House Edition made textual decisions. Overall, this provides more detail into their thinking than is conveyed in the THGNT (pp. 505–523). The starting point for considering a variant reading is, “How is the evidence distributed over the various alternative readings?” (p. 68). They favor readings found throughout the earliest manuscripts and argue that those places where later manuscripts preserve the original reading against the early ones are, in fact, exceptions. The editors considered a variety of factors in both external and internal evidence, placing them solidly in the camp of reasoned eclecticism with a priority toward (early) external evidence. Jongkind also addresses their rationale for not following the Textus Receptus and the Majority Text (chapters 5 and 6). 

The final chapter offers a biblical theology on variation and the transmission of the text. Jongkind argues that the starting point for this discussion begins not with the abstract reflection on what Christians believe God should have done but acknowledging the reality of what God has done. Then he examines biblical passages related to the transmission of the Scriptures. Ultimately, he maintains that the reality of textual variation in the copies of the Scriptures reflects the incomplete knowledge God has given to finite people and the wide geographic spread of early Christianity. 

Aside from the theory and methodology presented above, the book also includes information specific to the Tyndale House Edition, including a chapter that describes its unusual features and a guide to using its apparatus (chapter 2). The so-called unusual features are especially related to the editorial decision to follow the early manuscript tradition by placing the Catholic Epistles before Paul and in display features like ekthesis (dividing paragraphs by placing the first letter in the inside margin) and following archaic spelling.

Jongkind’s work is a helpful introduction to the Tyndale House Edition and to New Testament textual criticism in general. It will be especially valuable for beginning seminary students and anyone looking to better understand the Greek texts standing behind the translations they read everyday. For the expert in textual criticism, the volume offers additional insight into the method and perspectives undergirding the Tyndale House Edition. Their focus on early external evidence in particular should inspire further conversation about how we make decisions about variant units. At less than 100 pages of text and $12 on Amazon, this is a great value addition to your library. 

N.B.: Our Executive Director, Dan Wallace, wrote one of the cover endorsements for this book. He concludes: “Jongkind introduces the reader to manuscripts, textual theory, praxis, major textual problems, and even brief theological reflections on the reality of textual variants. It is no easy task to render this field of study within the grasp of any interested reader, and Jongkind has done so in a remarkably disarming manner.” 

You can purchase An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Digitization of 0197

By: Stratton L. Ladewig, PhD

Nestled in the beautiful countryside of Germany is the Erzabtei St. Martin zu Beuron, where a wonderful ninth-century palimpsest manuscript is housed. A palimpsest manuscript is one that has been erased and reused to record another text. The undertext—the text that was erased—in the manuscript is essentially unreadable to the naked eye. However, the archabbey was gracious to permit digitization of the manuscript with multispectral imaging (MSI) equipment, which has the potential to reveal the undertext of portions of the Gospel of Matthew hidden under the text of a Typikon.

The timing of this expedition to Beuron could not have been more opportune. The week prior, several of the Center’s staff attended an archiving conference in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference was rich with information on things like digital imaging standards, technicalities of color, usage of metadata, and management of digital imaging workflows. Alongside those topics, we participated in workshops on post-processing of MSI data.

At 3:00 a.m. the Sunday after the conference, Jacob Peterson and I arrived at the airport to make the short trip from Lisbon to Frankfurt. Once there, we grabbed our rental car and drove the few hours south to Beuron. The trip was short–only one day of digitization–but very enjoyable. Jacob Peterson was a tremendous asset because all conversation with the monk had to take place in German. We extend a special sense of gratitude to Br. Petrus Dischler, the librarian at the archabbey, for his warm hospitality and collaboration. We invite you to visit CSNTM’s Manuscripts Library to view the images when they become available.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

New Manuscripts Added to Our Digital Library

We are excited to give you access to images of five manuscripts digitized during our spring expeditions. This past February and March CSNTM digitized at the Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University, the James P. Boyce Centennial Library at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and  the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University to digitize manuscripts. We’ve added four new manuscripts to our collection and new composite color images captured with our multispectral camera for P26. (The full set of multispectral images of P26 will be released at a later date).  

P26: A single papyrus fragment from the seventh century containing portions of Romans 1. This is the second time CSNTM has digitized P26. The newest images were captured with MSI equipment.

GA 2358: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels dubbed Codex Robertsonianus after New Testament grammarian and scholar A. T. Robertson.

GA 2878: Twelfth century parchment single leaf containing a section of Scripture from Luke 23.

GA lect 1547: Thirteenth century Gospels manuscript written on parchment. This manuscript has an interesting history of ownership, which you can read about in our expedition report.

GA Lect 2434: A lectionary from the fourteenth to fifteenth century containing readings from the Gospels copied in two columns.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a trip with us, now is your chance!

For the first time, we are taking an expedition specifically for our friends and supporters. This Insider’s Expedition is a one-of-a-kind trip to Greece where you will visit ancient sites and also examine Greek New Testament manuscripts with Dan Wallace and members of our staff.

We want to give you the opportunity to see many of the places mentioned in the New Testament and also to go behind-the-scenes at libraries where historic copies of the New Testament are housed. This will be unprecedented access, and ensure it is a trip unlike any other. We will likely never be able to do a trip like this again, so now is your chance.

The dates of this expedition are March 7–16, 2020. Our planned destinations include:

  • Athens
    • The Acropolis: An ancient citadel containing the remains of several significant, ancient buildings, the most famous being the Parthenon.
    • Mars Hill: The site where Paul preached his famous sermon in Acts 17.
    • The National Library of Greece: A beautiful modern library where you will have the opportunity to view New Testament Greek manuscripts. CSNTM digitized over 150,000 pages of manuscripts here in 2015 and 2016.
    • Lycabettos Hill: One of Athens’ many hills with a panoramic sunset view.
    • Benaki Museum: A museum of Greek culture located in the heart of Athens. CSNTM digitized 36 Greek New Testament manuscripts in the Benaki’s collection in 2009.
  • Meteora: A stunning rock formation hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Orthodox monasteries.
  • Islands: An all-day cruise to the islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.
  • Corinth: One of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece, Corinth was an important city in Paul’s missionary work and the recipient of the epistles 1 and 2 Corinthians.

The Insider’s Expedition is being managed by Ancient Tours. The company’s co-founders, Dr. David Hoffeditz (ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and PhD from the University of Aberdeen) and Dr. Richard Blumenstock (ThM and DMin from Dallas Theological Seminary) will lead the tour, sharing their expertise as guides of biblical sites. You can view trip information such as our destinations, costs, and travel details at this website—

You can register for the trip here. We can only take twenty couples on this unique trip, and it is filling up. If you have any questions, you can reach out directly to Ancient Tours or to us at the Center.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Digitization of Codex Robertsonianus

By: Stratton L. Ladewig

Codex Robertsonianus standing on CSNTM's digitization copy stand

CSNTM digitized another manuscript in March 2019: the renowned Codex Robertsonianus. Catalogued by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research as 2358, it is located in the James P. Boyce Centennial Library on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). This Gospels manuscript, which contains portions of each Gospel (see below), is dated by the seminary to the eleventh century.

This manuscript has an interesting story. It was named after the New Testament Greek grammarian, A. T. Robertson, by his student John W. Bowman. Robertson had acquired 2358 in 1927 on behalf of SBTS from Adolf Deissmann. It was claimed to be “the second-most important Greek New Testament manuscript” in the United States of America. Upon receipt of the manuscript after its purchase, Robertson tasked Bowman to photograph it. Preservation via photography was a cutting-edge technique at the time. This was to be the sixth complete Greek manuscript ever photographed! The process took an incredible three months to complete.

Interestingly, the result of Bowman’s efforts produced a product that improved the readability of 2358. He claimed that the images “proved to be more legible than the original itself!” By contrast, CSNTM's digitization of the same manuscript took just ¾ of one day, and the 50-megapixel digital images permit the examination of the manuscript in great detail by anyone who might be anywhere in the world.

Left: Bowman’s image, 1927 / Right: CSNTM's image, 2019

We want to express our gratitude to the Centennial Library’s staff. We would like to especially thank Dr. Daniel M. Gurtner for proposing the collaboration and Dr. Adam Winters, Charles Loder, and Dr. C. Berry Driver, Jr. for hosting us and arranging for our work. They were a joy to work with. We are appreciative that they rightly value this New Testament treasure.

Contents:    Matthew 9.33b–11.14a; 15.8–26.71; 27.32–28.20; Mark 1.34–4.3; 4.37–5.12; 5.30–6.16a; 6.30–16.20; Luke 1.1–3.8; 3.25–24.53; and John 1.1–7.23; 7.41–12.30

Reference: The Robertson Gospel Codex

Friday, May 3, 2019

Farewell, Andrew Bobo

By Daniel B. Wallace 

One of the best things about working with a highly motivated and talented staff is that they also have ambitious plans and tremendous opportunities for the future. And so it is for Andrew Bobo, who is leaving the Center to pursue a PhD in Politics at the University of Dallas.

Andrew Bobo (left) at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament

Andrew has played an integral role at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts for the past 5 years, primarily in the role of Research Coordinator. His work touched many areas of the organization.

Andrew managed the internship program, overseeing the work flows for each graduate student and mentoring them individually. He also worked tirelessly to improve the internship experience. Among his creative and insightful suggestions were his proposal and implementation of a revision and refocusing of the program to better prepare students for future doctoral studies and careers in the academy.

Andrew also took primary responsibility for managing our growing archive of manuscript images and also coordinating with the scholars and publishers who needed assistance using the collection. As our collection expanded under his watch, our archiving system needed to be revamped. Andrew explored options for CSNTM, and then overhauled the entire system which created greater security for the data and made backup more efficient for the whole team.

Andrew Bobo (second from left) with the 2018–2019 interns and Andrew Patton

Andrew also played a part in multiple digitization expeditions. He was a part of the team that digitized at the National Library of Greece (2015–2016) and then at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament (2018). He developed a skill for capturing images quickly and accurately, which contributed to the success of both expeditions.

Finally, where you might know Andrew is as an author of the “From the Library” posts on our blog. Andrew helped create, with Andy Patton, this series of blog posts that describes interesting and unique features in Greek New Testament manuscripts digitized by CSNTM. These short articles bring manuscripts to life with interesting information for everyday readers and also for experts in New Testament textual criticism. Since the series started in 2016, I have been delighted to read these posts and learn from Andrew.

Suffice it to say, Andrew has had an industrious and impactful five years at the Center. But what we will miss most is the depth of kindness, thinking, and patience that he brought to the team. We wish him all the best in his doctoral program and look forward to the impact he will have as a researcher and teacher.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Memorable Evening at A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery

Last month, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts hosted its annual Dallas banquet. This year’s theme was A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery.

Dr. Wallace recounted how the Renaissance was given a boost by the influx of Greek manuscripts into Western Europe after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Along with the invention of the printing press and a few other watershed events, the recovery of these ancient documents had a transformative impact on Europe and the world. Dan went on to explain that multispectral imaging is introducing the possibility of seeing invisible material in old manuscripts in order to fully study the biblical text they contain. With this technology and a team dedicated to studying the New Testament text, CSNTM is making a valuable contribution to both the academy and the world. We are truly entering a new Renaissance.

The Center’s banquet is not only a moment to showcase the work of CSNTM, but also our largest fundraising event of the year. This year’s event raised more than $75,000! These donations will equip our team to complete the post-production of multispectral images, ensure that Greek New Testament manuscripts are preserved for future generations, and encourage a new cohort of interns to become excellent scholars and leaders. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the more than 50 individuals and families who chose to partner with the Center.

Such a memorable evening could not be possible without the support of many people. We’d like to thank the steadfast members of CSNTM’s Dallas Advisory Board for their involvement in both planning the event and inviting their friends, colleagues, and family. We’d also like to recognize the event’s sponsors whose tremendous support made the dinner possible. Finally, we would like to thank everyone who attended the event.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Every Greek New Testament Manuscript in Texas Digitized: Houston Baptist University Digitization

By: Stratton L. Ladewig 

In February, CSNTM traveled south 250 miles to Houston Baptist University’s Dunham Bible Museum (Houston, TX) in order to digitally preserve their three Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Gregory Aland (GA) 2878 is a one-leaf twelfth century minuscule manuscript written on parchment and contains Luke 23:7–25. GA Lectionary 2434 (14th–15th century) contains portions of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John within its four leaves. It, like GA 2878, was written on parchment.

The newest treasure of Dunham Bible Museum’s collection is an uncatalogued Greek New Testament manuscript—currently under official review by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster. Preliminarily dated by CSNTM’s Jacob W. Peterson to be from approximately the twelfth century, its seven leaves contain portions of the Gospel of John. A portion of the pages look to have possibly suffered from a little water damage at some point in the manuscript’s history. Thus, we also photographed this manuscript under ultraviolet light to bring out some of the more difficult-to-read text. Might this be a manuscript that could benefit from the Center’s recently acquired MSI equipment? Further research will provide insight into that question. Nonetheless, it was a great privilege to be able to preserve this manuscript with high resolution digital images. The images from this expedition will be available online soon in the Manuscripts Library.

CSNTM would like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to Dunham Bible Museum and Houston Baptist University. Their staff was professional and accommodating, making our task effortless. We especially want to thank Dr. Diana Severance for her availability during the project. And thanks to Dr. Phillip Marshal, Assistant Professor of Theology, School of Christian Thought, Department of Classics and Biblical Languages, for stopping in to extend a welcome.

It is with great pride that CSNTM has preserved this fine collection. Now, every Greek New Testament Manuscript in Texas has been digitized.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Why the CSNTM Internship?

By: Andrew K. Bobo

Textual criticism is a complicated field. New Testament manuscripts were written on three different materials, copied over the course of 15 centuries, and each scribe has unique handwriting. The sheer mass of materials is staggering, with over 5,300 Greek manuscripts scattered across 250 different institutions worldwide. The study of these manuscripts has gone through a series of revolutions since the advent of the printing press. Beginning with Erasmus, there has been a steady stream of printed Greek New Testaments. The early 18th century saw the first inclusion of a textual apparatus to list and discuss variants. The late 19th and early 20th centuries were abuzz with discussions of new manuscript finds. The Western world first became aware of the major biblical codices and the New Testament papyri during this time, pushing back the date of our earliest attestations by almost a millennium.

Even more recently, digital tools have once again fundamentally changed our field. Text-types, the 20th century’s dominant paradigm for understanding transmission history, have now come into question. A new approach, the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, is a complicated but promising way forward. Beyond these methodological questions, our study of the manuscripts themselves can now be done in tremendous detail from anywhere in the world, something never imagined in any previous period. On top of all these intricacies, textual critics also employ a jargon that is undecipherable to the uninitiated. For instance, our field employs an unusual number of acronyms for institutions, important publications, and manuscripts (e.g., INTF, CSNTM, ECM, CBGM, IGNTP, NA, UBS, SBL, THGNT, RP-MT, NTTS, NTTSD, NTS, ANTF, P46, GA 1739, PA, etc.).

Despite the complexity, few graduate students beginning in biblical studies feel bewildered by New Testament textual criticism. This is because most have no idea that it even exists. We all tend to take our printed, edited texts for granted, not realizing the work that lies behind them. Beginning students usually ignore the cryptic symbols, letters, and numbers at the bottom of their Greek New Testaments (called a “textual apparatus”), which represent the readings various important manuscripts have.

But when students take our internship, the abstract letters and numbers become real artifacts in living color that can be read, studied, and enjoyed. Leigh Ann Thompson, one of CSNTM’s interns for 2018–2019, described her experience: “There’s a whole world of biblical scholarship that I didn’t even know exists, much less the impact that it has on the texts we read and the materials that our pastors and leaders study. I’ve learned much about the importance of critical thought and thorough research. Even more, I’ve grown to be more thoughtful about my own faith.” Another intern, Ben Min, put it this way: “The internship exposed me to the wider world of biblical studies by introducing us to the best scholars and their works.”

Leigh Ann Thompson, Zack Skarka, and Ben Min—Research Assistants in the 2018–2019 internship cohort

Through a foundational set of readings and seminar discussions, we work through the methods, questions, and materials of textual criticism. We also guide students as they do original research in our field and prepare it for possible publication and presentation. We hope that the internship is the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of knowledge about the text of the New Testament.

For many of our interns, the passion that develops during their internship turns into a career. Many have pursued doctoral studies in textual criticism, and several have become leading experts in the field. Zack Skarka, a 2018–2019 intern, is headed in the same direction: “This internship helped me develop a love for biblical research in general and textual criticism in particular. This fall, I will begin doctoral studies at the University of Birmingham in textual criticism, fully confident that I am doing what I was made to do.” A former intern, Peter Gurry, received his doctorate in textual criticism from Cambridge University. He is now a professor of New Testament at Phoenix Seminary, co-edits the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, and has already produced several important scholarly publications, including a comprehensive study of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method mentioned above.

In exciting ways, the internship’s graduates have already begun to bear the fruit of careful study. In the forthcoming book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, a group of young scholars have provided accurate research about our field in order to correct popular misunderstandings. Several former CSNTM interns made important contributions, including Gurry, who is a co-editor, and both CSNTM’s Assistant Executive Director, Rob Marcello, and Research Fellow, Jacob Peterson, are contributors. The book exemplifies the cycle that our internship is intended to replicate. Students like Peter, Rob, and Jacob were trained in textual criticism through our internship. They then went on to further doctoral study. Now, they have not only produced scholarly works for other textual critics, but they are also doing the difficult job of translating that work for general readers who have pressing questions about the text of the New Testament. CSNTM digitizes materials and makes them available for study, but we also believe we must train a new generation of scholars to carry out that study. Our internship is where that happens.

Monday, March 4, 2019

From the Library: Lectionary 1807

By Andrew K. Bobo and Andrew J. Patton

Every year, thousands of tourists travel across the globe to view great works of art and architecture from history. Though they may not, at first glance, be as grand as towering buildings or impressive sculptures, manuscripts have also become must-see attractions. Travelers to Dublin stop to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College Library, tourists to London visit the British Library to see Codex Sinaiticus, and sightseers to Jerusalem make their way to the Israel Museum in order to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although these high profile manuscripts enjoy most of the attention, one of the joys of digitizing manuscripts is that we often come across exquisite items that are hardly known to the world. One of these treasures is a 15th century manuscript known to scholars as Gregory-Aland Lectionary 1807 (GA Lect 1807). This manuscript resides at the National Library of Greece in Athens, where the Center digitized in 2015 and 2016. The manuscript is particularly noteworthy as an artifact because of its ornate silver covers, carefully crafted in the high middle ages. As we approach the seasons of Lent and Easter, we thought it would be worth examining the scenes on the covers, since they depict the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Front Cover

The front cover shows the crucifixion of Jesus surrounded by panes of angels and symbols of the four evangelists. Church tradition developed a specific symbol for each of the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—who are known as the Evangelists. Most commonly, Matthew is associated with a man, Mark with a lion, Luke an ox, and John with an eagle. These four creatures derive from the four creatures in Ezekiel’s vision recorded in chapter 1 of his book. In the corners of our manuscript, you find each of these creatures holding a book, indicating that they represent the Evangelists.

Between the four corners are angels. When you look closely, you will observe that each of the angels is in a different posture and facial expression. Some appear to be in a reverential position and others appear to be downcast or even weeping. Their expressions reflect the horror and divine glory at the crucifixion of the Son of God.


The center panel portrays a scene of the crucifixion. Christ on the cross is the focus of the scene. The cross itself is planted into a small hill of Golgotha. Jesus is surrounded by many grieving people, including John the Apostle who is indicated by the nomina sacra ιω to the left of his head. Angels flank Christ. The two on the left are holding up a bowl, and the two on the right are shown with a scroll. Below the cross, a skull represents death. And above him are the nomina sacra ιϲ and χϲ meaning Ἰησούς (Jesus) and Χριστός (Christ).

Back Cover

The back cover features the triumphant resurrection of Christ. The dynamic scene that unfolds shows Jesus in the middle of his resurrection work. Now that he has himself been resurrected, he is resurrecting those who had previously died. So on the left side there is a group of people wearing crowns to show their victory over death and their reign with Christ. John the Baptist appears most prominently in the foreground: his feet planted in a grave, still wearing his camel hair clothes and leather belt but now with a halo showing his sainthood. On the right side, Jesus is pulling saints with sullen faces out of the grave. These saints are Adam and Eve—a demonstration of the resurrection reversing the curse of death. Below Christ’s feet are a cross and two figures who appear to be in the midst of judgment. Above his head are two angels. The entire event is shown in such a way that not only the reality of the resurrection is displayed, but its implications and meaning as a theological event are communicated visually.

Surrounding the whole scene are those whose task it was to be the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. At the very top of the frame are Peter (left) and Paul (right). They are flanked on either side by the four Evangelists. To Peter’s left are John and then Luke, whereas to Paul’s right are Mark and Matthew. All six figures are holding codices, probably the bound corpus of their own writings, which testify to the death and resurrection. Another six figures—Simon, Bartholomew, and Phillip on the left; Matthias, James, and Thomas on the right—are holding scrolls and some seem to be speaking or ready to begin speaking. The two figures at the bottom are two Christian martyrs from the first decade of the fourth century, Saint George and Saint Demetrios. The entire cover works together to show the historical reality of Christ’s work, the richness of its meaning, and those who were affected by it. The edges of both sides show the individuals tasked with witnessing to these events, which is appropriate since every manuscript itself is the physical testimony to the continuation of that witnessing work.


Lectionaries were manuscripts intended to be read in Christian worship. They were built around the church calendar. So rather than having the New Testament books in their entirety, like we find in our Bibles today, they instead divided the biblical text into particular readings for the daily worship services of the church. The schedule of the readings developed gradually in the church’s early centuries and later became standardized to form a regular rhythm around the life of Christ. The lectionary covers of this manuscript added another element of grandeur and special reverence to the liturgy, reminding both hearers and readers of the sacred importance of the message contained within.

We are grateful for our partnership with the National Library of Greece whose archival staff cares for this manuscript. We would like to especially thank Director ‎Fillipos Tsimpoglou who granted permission and provided oversight for the Center’s historic two-year digitization project, and to Andreas Vyridis for continuing to collaborate with us to ensure the digital preservation of Greek New Testament manuscripts throughout Greece.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Manuscripts Digitized at Southern Methodist University

By: Jacob W. Peterson

CSNTM rarely revisits a location where it has already digitized, but sometimes previously unforeseen factors make it an easy decision. Back in 2010, CSNTM traveled the whole fifteen miles down highway 75 in Dallas to the Bridwell Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University to digitize one of its manuscripts—Papyrus 26 from the early 7th century. This fragmentary manuscript contains portions of Romans 1.1–16. In fact, it is one of only three papyri with this text. Back in 2010, we imaged the manuscript using our typical high-resolution color images and also used handheld black lights to try and illuminate some of the difficult-to-read portions of the text. This worked pretty well, but you can see in the images that more could probably be done.

P26 under handheld black lights

Well, as you have all read by now, CSNTM acquired multispectral imaging (MSI) last year, so it seemed appropriate to reach out to SMU about re-digitizing the papyrus. Multispectral imaging is especially useful for recovering difficult-to-read, covered, erased, or damaged text that is so common to antiquities. Without having completed any post-processing yet, we have already seen positive results in the initial images.

In addition, SMU has officially gained possession of another manuscript, GA Lect 1547, which had been on loan to them for many years. This lectionary dates to the 13th century and has not been previously microfilmed or digitized. This manuscript has a fascinating modern ownership history, beginning with the biblical scholar J. Rendel Harris in the UK, before going through a Chicago bookstore, being bequeathed to Baylor University Medical Center, and finally acquired by SMU. You can still see traces of several of these owners in the beginning flyleaves, which are full of ownership stamps, purchasers’ codes, notes between text-critics, and more.

Owners notes in GA Lect 1547

The proximity of CSNTM and SMU, the potential to see new things in the papyrus, and the opportunity to digitize a new manuscript made this an obvious project for our team. Thankfully, the staff at Bridwell Library Special Collections kindly agreed to allow us to visit them again to digitize their lectionary and utilize MSI on the papyrus. We would especially like to thank Daniel Slive and Rebecca Howdeshell, who worked with us in both the planning and execution of this project.

The images from this expedition will be available in our library soon, and the MSI images of P26 will be available after post-production is complete. We can now say that every manuscript in Dallas-Fort Worth has been digitized, and as a glimpse of the future, every manuscript in Texas will soon be digitized and made available online.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Value of a Monthly Donation

By: Stephen Clardy

In June of 2015, our digitization team at the National Library of Greece in Athens found something in a twelfth-century lectionary of the Gospels that immediately grabbed their attention. Pasted to the inside of the document’s front and back covers were additional leaves of Greek text. The text was from 1 John and Acts, not the Gospels, and the script seemed to indicate these were taken from slightly later manuscripts, dating to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. We had discovered a previously unknown manuscript!

Front and back covers of GA 2934

Images from the front and back covers of the new discovery

Over the past 17 years, CSNTM has found over 70 previously uncatalogued manuscripts, more than any other institute or individual in the world. Discoveries like these, however great or small, are tremendously meaningful for New Testament text critics and all of us who are excited to have so many ancient and medieval copies of the scriptures to see and enjoy. Each digitally preserved manuscript and every new find adds another piece to the puzzle, setting up the next generation for even better scholarship and greater discovery.

Just as new discoveries are vital for textual critics, monthly donors are vital to the work of CSNTM. A lot goes on between expeditions. Throughout the year our team studies manuscripts, works on important publications using the images we captured, and plans for new expeditions to preserve additional manuscripts. These endeavors are only possible with a steady flow of recurring financial support. In a very literal sense, regular donations—however great or small—from faithful partners provide us the stability we need to follow through on our work to preserve, study, and share Greek New Testament manuscripts with excellence, and to plan for the future. These donations truly sustain CSNTM and move our mission further.

All this being said, if you are already giving regularly to the Center or have in the past, I want to thank you. It is with the sincerest gratitude that I say your contribution is making a real impact toward the preservation and study of New Testament manuscripts. Thank you!

If you are not already supporting CSNTM regularly, would you consider becoming a monthly partner with us? Any gift helps, and you have the option to give at whatever level your budget allows. Many of our partners give in the amounts of $25, $50, or $100. If you decide to join in our mission by becoming a monthly partner, it only takes a few minutes to start your donation on our website at

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Benefits of a Digital Manuscript Library

By: Jacob W. Peterson

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has an international reputation for taking exceptional high-resolution images of Greek New Testament manuscripts. While producing good images is a worthwhile goal in itself, the production of images serves a much larger goal within our organizational mission. The first stated objective of CSNTM in our mission statement is:

To make digital photographs of extant Greek New Testament manuscripts so that such images can be preserved, duplicated without deterioration, and accessed by scholars doing textual research.

In other words, CSNTM does not just travel to remote corners of the world in order to take a bunch of pictures of old manuscripts. The goal of this work is threefold:

  1. the digital preservation of the manuscript

  2. the ability to share the manuscript without need to access the original

  3. the availability of the images to textual scholars

At the end of the day, the result of CSNTM’s labors is a website, and the central feature of that website is our manuscript library. At the time of writing this, we currently have images of or links to more than 1500 manuscripts in our library. About half of these were produced by CSNTM since our founding in 2002. Before proceeding, I first want to note that we recognize that our online library is useful to far more people than just textual scholars. A natural goal of CSNTM is to benefit those in our direct line of work, which is contributing to future editions of the Greek New Testament. However, we know and are glad that our website is useful for art historians, codicologists, paleographers, professors, students, pastors, and just those interested in the historical documents of Christianity.

The most recognizable benefit of a digital library is access to the manuscripts. It was not that long ago that if you were interested in seeing what a manuscript contained, you had to travel to that library or monastery to see it. Naturally, this was prohibitively expensive for almost everyone and does not account for all of the issues involved in contacting the holding institutions and being granted access to see the manuscript. With an online library of images, anyone anywhere in the world can quickly access the images of any manuscript they want to see. Additionally, a fully-tagged library of images (which is what CSNTM is working towards) allows users to find every instance of certain features, such as icons of Mark, or to consult every instance of Romans 1.1 in the manuscript tradition. 

This latter point relates to a second benefit of an online library, which is the ability to consult the actual manuscripts versus the abstract presentation of the data in a critical apparatus.


The critical apparatus from a printed Greek New Testament.

Seeing the actual manuscripts allows scholars to confirm the data in the apparatus, which can be incorrect at times, and serves a pedagogical purpose for professors wanting to make textual criticism more tangible and exciting for their students. It is beneficial any time instructors can shift their students from thinking of manuscripts as numerical data to thinking of them as historical artifacts. Images help make that shift in ways the critical apparatus, transcriptions, and collations cannot. 

Continuing with the benefit of being able to confirm details in an apparatus, an online library of high-resolution images offers one the ability to clarify details in the manuscripts that might have been obscured by lower-resolution images. It’s just a small example, but the fuzziness and darkened ink in the following microfilm led one scholar to assume there was a correction present.

GA 69 version 1

GA69 version 2

A microfilm image (top) and CSNTM's digital image (bottom) of GA 69

However, the sharpness of CSNTM’s high-resolution images makes it clear that there is no correction present and that the darkness of the ink is just the result of the scribe re-inking his pen. These kinds of fine details are only accessible when we have excellent images to consult.

When CSNTM was founded, the primary goal was to preserve and make manuscripts available to anyone who wanted access anywhere in the world. We have been around for 16 years now, and the reach of the organization is greater than I think anyone could have initially conceived. We are glad that so many thousands of users each year find our website helpful for their research, studies, or to satisfy their own personal curiosity. As we look to the future, we are excited about continually adding to our online library and, perhaps most importantly, making all of these resources available for free.