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Monday, March 29, 2021

From the Library: Gospel Lectionaries and Easter Sunday

By: Leigh Ann Hyde

Introduction

The sun has just peeked over the horizon as a church in Byzantium commences a familiar and divine practice. A deacon solemnly walks from the altar through the north entrance around the nave and back to the altar from the central entrance. In his procession, known as the “Little Entrance,” the deacon carries a grand book. Its grand size and the reflection of early sunlight from the precious stones and metals worked into its cover draw every eye to the magnificent scene. A muted thump echoes in the reverential moment when he lays the book on the altar. On this day, Easter Sunday, the Presbyter, or leading church elder, approaches the grand codex. A deacon would serve as the reader for all other readings in the liturgical calendar. Today, however, the Presbyter reads the familiar words aloud from the page in front of him: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος... “In the beginning was the word….” 

Centuries later, hundreds of Gospel lectionaries—produced overtime for the church and study—stand on the shelves of libraries and monasteries around the world. Many of these impressive and unique books played an important role in Easter Sunday services throughout history. Lectionaries served a particular function in their world, making them a window for modern readers into the lives of those who first turned their pages. As we observe the Easter Sunday lections—or designated readings—held in precious Gospel lectionary books, we learn about how people celebrated the sacred day years ago. Even more, we have the privilege of participating in the long-practiced Easter tradition of reading and beholding the beginning of the lectionary readings for the year: John’s prologue.

Lectionary Sections and Calendar

Easter Sunday marks the first day on the Byzantine church calendar. The part of the lectionary that corresponds to the church calendar, otherwise known as the synaxarion, often falls at the front of complete lectionaries. Correspondingly, complete lectionaries begin with the Easter lection. The menologion, a section that accords with the civil calendar, follows the synaxarion section and begins on the 1st of September. Lectionaries, then, have a unique order reflecting the calendar instead of the canonical order of books. 

While the order of books occasionally varies between non-lectionary manuscripts, lectionaries implement a different order altogether, based on liturgical readings for the church calendar.  Comparing a Gospel book to a Gospel lectionary in the CSNTM Digital Manuscript Collection, the first page of the New Testament text differs. A continued reading of the two manuscripts would reveal the unique ordering of lectionaries compared to the other categories of New Testament manuscripts.

The Easter Lection(s)

Greek New Testament Lectionary readings for Easter Sunday include two readings: John 1:1–17, the prologue of the Gospel, titled τῇ ἁγίᾳ καὶ μεγάλῃ κυριακῂ πάσχα or “For the holy and great Lord’s day (Sunday) of the Passover” and John 20:19–25, the pericope of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples, titled κυριακῂ τοῦ πάσχα ἑσπέρας or “For the evening of the Lord’s day (Sunday) of the Passover.” In the manuscripts, readers find these texts accompanied by a variety of features such as the titles mentioned above, headers, ornamented letters, and icons.

Many lectionaries that begin with the Easter lection also contain evidence of the books’ function. Columns, headers, and liturgical markings served as readers aids and, therefore, signify the intended use for out-loud reading. Ecphonetic markings above text acted as music notes, informing the reader of rising, falling, and lengthening of words, creating a melodic chant of the familiar passage.

A great number of Greek New Testament lectionaries contain the Easter readings. Even more, the period from Easter to Pentecost held such importance in the liturgical calendar that a group of lectionaries contain readings for every day of that season while only containing Saturday and Sunday readings for the remainder of the year (the lesk group in the Kurzgefasste Liste). In the period from Easter to Pentecost, lectionary readings continue through the book of John with a few inserted pericopes about the time following Jesus’ resurrection from Luke and Mark. See GA Lect 435 and GA Lect 1964 for examples of this kind of lectionary.

Beyond the pericope’s position in a lectionary, ornamentation around the passage reveals the value of the text to those who read it. Some manuscripts even contain evidence of interaction with the text through notes written around the text or markings left after using the page.

Many students of the New Testament find passages to which they often return. Often certain frequented texts hold significance for celebrations, memorable events, and markers of important moments. For those who gathered around Greek New Testament lectionaries to celebrate Easter, the beginning and end of John would ring familiar in their ears, sometimes accompanied by melody or grand decoration. This Easter Sunday, you can join with celebrators from centuries ago by reading John’s prologue.

If you would like to read the Easter lection from a Greek New Testament lectionary in CSNTM’s Digital Manuscript Collection, search for lectionaries that contain John or choose one of these examples: GA Lect 185, GA Lect 217, GA Lect 220, GA Lect 224, GA Lect 261, GA Lect 291, GA Lect 345, GA Lect 384, GA Lect 387, GA Lect 434, GA Lect 1215, GA Lect 1225, GA Lect 1228, GA Lect 1529, GA Lect 1676, GA Lect 1802, GA Lect 1805, GA Lect 1967, GA Lect 1839.

Monday, March 29, 2021

March 2021 Digital Library Additions

The CSNTM Library grows each month as new digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts—housed in institutions all over the world—are added to our website. We are always striving to make our manuscript library more convenient, comprehensive, and accessible. Because of this, we sometimes provide access to manuscripts that others have digitized. In these cases, the Center is permitted to either include these images in our library or provide links to them on the holding institution’s website. Since January, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

GA Lect 499—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 962—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 1663—Digital images of the lectionary from the Uppsala University Library in Sweden.

Monday, February 22, 2021

February 2021 Digital Library Additions

The CSNTM Library grows each month as new digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts—housed in institutions all over the world—are added to our website. We are always striving to make our manuscript library more convenient, comprehensive, and accessible. Because of this, we sometimes provide access to manuscripts that others have digitized. In these cases, the Center is permitted to either include these images in our library or provide links to them on the holding institution’s website. Since January, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

GA 34—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 2111—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 7—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 2284—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

January 2021 Digital Library Additions

The CSNTM Library grows each month as new digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts—housed in institutions all over the world—are added to our website. We are always striving to make our manuscript library more convenient, comprehensive, and accessible. Because of this, we sometimes provide access to manuscripts that others have digitized. In these cases, the Center is permitted to either include these images in our library or provide links to them on the holding institution’s website. So far this year, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

GA 7—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 260—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 269—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 605—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 750—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 2298—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 71—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 1575—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA Lect 1837—Digital images of the lectionary from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

How to Navigate the CSNTM Digital Manuscript Collection

CSNTM aims to make all Greek New Testaments available in complete archival digital images to anyone who wishes to view them. The benefit of a digital library lies in the fact that the mileage between the physical locations of the manuscripts reduces to the click of a mouse. To accomplish this, the CSNTM team has traveled across the globe to partner with institutions that own Greek New Testament manuscripts. Other institutions and manuscript owners that have already digitized their collections have generously shared their images with the CSNTM library. By increasing the collection, CSNTM aids scholars by creating a thorough and complete collection of excellent images of the Greek New Testament, a “one-stop-shop" suited for intently studying manuscript pages through digital images.

Search the Collection

The CSNTM digital manuscript collection employs two tools to aid in searching for a specific manuscript. The first is the search bar at the top of the library home page. Users may simply type in the GA number, institution, book of the New Testament, material, or shelf number to bring up any associated manuscript entries. A second tool is the filter feature, found on the left side of the page. Selecting certain features limits the search results to include only those which have been marked.

After executing a search, users may browse the filtered entries to select a manuscript for viewing.

View a Manuscript 

To enter the viewer page for a manuscript, a user must click the “View” button within the entry on the search.

Users may scroll through the thumbnails on the left of the viewer page to select the page for display in the viewer. Toggle features allow for users to use the mouse or the “zoom-in” and “zoom-out” buttons, in the top left of the viewer, to examine features more acutely.  Clicking the “home” button restores the image to 100% size. A full-screen option is available for each image, opened by selecting the “toggle full-screen button” to the right of the “home” button.

The default view displays the thumbnails in a scroll-down bar to the left of the viewer, allowing users to see which page is currently being displayed in the viewer. Users may scroll down and select a thumbnail for display in the viewer. Users may un-select (white, raised button)  the thumbnails with the buttons in the top right corner of the screen.

Directly to the left of the “thumbnail” selection button, a user may select or un-select to reveal filter options. When selected (gray, “pressed down” button), viewer filters appear to the left of the thumbnail bar. The filter bar allows users to jump to a book, passage, or selected features. Clicking the button a second time on any feature serves as a “negative selection,” and removes those features from the images for viewing.  

Users can also adjust selections for a specific viewer format. Below the buttons for “filters,” “thumbnails,” and “details” is a drop-down menu to select viewing format.  

  • Book view – displays the manuscript as a book, starting with the cover and open to two pages at once, the back side of the previous page and the front side of the next, as if reading a book.  
  • Covers and color – displays only images of the cover and color chart. These are removed from “book view” to preserve the feel of reading a book. 
  • All images – includes both sets, the book view images, and covers and color. In this view, one image, as one page at a time displays in the viewer.  

Manuscript Details 

Details about the selected manuscript display above the viewer. These details include classification, date, location, material, features, and a description. When CSNTM digitizes manuscripts, a team member reviews each artifact and records details before shooting. To view all the recorded information from CSNTM review, click “More Manuscript Information” for a pop-up window. 

Below the manuscript viewer, users find the metadata tags for the displayed page. At the present time, image tagging is a manual collaborative work in progress. Though our team of staff and volunteers have worked hard to tag a great number of manuscripts, many still lack through metadata tagging. Individuals who are interested in helping to tag manuscript images may share their interest with CSNTM by emailing info@csntm.org. 

Questions or Trouble?

Users may contact the CSNTM team with questions about manuscripts by emailing manuscripts@csntm.org. Other queries, not specifically related to manuscripts, may be sent to info@csntm.org.

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