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Monday, January 25, 2021

Announcing CSNTM’s Brand New Manuscript Viewer

Today, we are pleased to announce the release of our newly redesigned manuscript viewer. The desire for greater ease of use and an overall more pleasant experience lays at the heart of this renovation.

According to CSNTM Executive Director Daniel B. Wallace, “Since we began our work in 2002, a core part of our mission has been to make it possible to view and study New Testament manuscripts from anywhere in the world.” Global accessibility remains foundational to our mission and work today. For this vision to be reality, occasional improvement is required to keep our images available in an intuitive and functional way.

Here are a few of the new features and improvements you’ll find.

New Presentation

We’ve worked to make the visual hierarchy more seamless. With our previous system, the manuscript information and thumbnail images were too prominent on a page where the image viewer should be the focal point. Upon selecting a manuscript from the library, the user was met with that document’s information. Only after scrolling past this information as well as the collection of thumbnail images, would they find the actual image viewer.

Layout of CSNTM’s previous viewer

With our new viewer, the image is the main attraction. Most of the page’s space is dedicated to the image being viewed, while the other features have been moved to the periphery where they are still easily accessible. Image thumbnails and navigation tools are now featured in a sidebar, and the manuscript’s information can be found in a ribbon atop the page. This means no more scrolling; everything is immediately available.

Layout of CSNTM’s new viewer

Additionally, we have introduced some helpful new viewing options. The new book view option allows you to read a manuscript as it would appear in its original bound format, with neighboring pages set side-by-side.

The new book view option

Also, if you are viewing papyri digitized by CSNTM, you can now select to view only images with a black or white background, if you prefer to not navigate through both page after page.

Using the new background color filter

Improved Filter Options

We have added more filters, including several additional manuscript features, background color, and image type. Perhaps the most unique change is the addition of a deselect option on each filter, allowing the user to exclude certain criteria when viewing.

Using new filter options

Back End Improvements

One area of improvement that will be less immediately felt by the user but is valuable nonetheless is the back end of the system. Updates to our input system will allow for improved consistency in our data. Additionally, new changes will allow our staff to respond to user difficulties and issues more quickly.

Acknowledgements

We are proud of this new viewer and are grateful for the hard work of our research team in identifying opportunities for improvement and re-envisioning our viewer. Additionally, several friends graciously gave outside input. Most notably, we would like to give special thanks to David Long, a long-time friend of the Center, for putting this new viewer together.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Logos 2021 in Washington, DC

The Logos 2021 Workshop will be held this year, May 31–June 11, at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

Logos is a workshop dedicated to equipping graduate students with the tools and knowledge needed to further Biblical studies, ancient texts and manuscripts research, museum studies, education programmes and other similar disciplines. The 2021 workshop is hosted by Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) and will be held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, from 31st May to 11th June. For more information, please visit the SCIO website at https://www.scio-uk.org/research/logos/.

The application deadline is February 14th.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

In Case You Missed It: From the Library 2020 Recap

Some of our most popular blogs each year are the From the Library posts, so we compiled every From the Library post from last year for those of you who are new to CSNTM or might have missed an earlier post. Enjoy reading (or re-reading!) these five pieces. We look forward to continuing the From the Library series in 2021.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) Digital Library contains hundreds of Greek NT manuscripts, each with its own story to tell. In our From the Library series, we will feature individual manuscripts and common manuscript features using images digitzed by CSNTM. We hope these articles showcase the unique beauty and significance of these fascinating documents. This is part of CSNTM’s mission to make NT manuscripts accessible for everyone. 

From the Library: GA 807

In 2018 CSNTM digitized the collection of the Library of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens, Greece. As we feature this manuscript in our From the Library series, we will give our attention to the process of digitizing this manuscript, see how it handles the story of the woman caught in adultery, and discuss the commentary included throughout.

 

From the Library: Illuminations of Passion Week

Join us as we look at the unique ways readers of Scripture in the past signified Holy Week in their manuscripts with images and illuminations.

 

From the Library: GA 800

One of our former interns features a medieval manuscript from the National Library of Greece that contains important commentary and a few surprises in the biblical text.

 

From the Library: GA 785 and GA 2933

How did a manuscript end up with two copies of the beginning of Luke? In his final From the Library contribution as a CSNTM staff member, Andy Patton retells how Dr. Wallace discovered one manuscript within another at the National Library of Greece and examines the relationship between the two documents.

 

From the Library: The Christmas Story As Told By Manuscripts

A special Christmas blog is the latest in our From the Library series. Leigh Ann Hyde and Johnathan Watkins discuss the textual history of the nativity story.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

December 2020 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 November, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

GA 1933—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 1934—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 1965—Digital images of the minuscule from the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France.

GA 2460—Digital images of the minuscule from the Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library in New York City.

GA Lect 1120—Digital images of the lectionary from the Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library in New York City.

GA Lect 2463—Digital images of the lectionary from the Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library in New York City.

 

Monday, December 21, 2020

From the Library: The Christmas Story As Told By Manuscripts

By: Johnathan R. Watkins and Leigh Ann Hyde

In the pivotal scene of the 1965 holiday special “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown,” the lead actor reaches a moment when he can no longer contain his exasperation. He failed to direct the Christmas play, he failed to understand the growing commercialism, he failed to pick out an appropriate Christmas tree, and finally, Charlie Brown yells out in distress:

“Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

From the crowd emerges an unlikely hero. Wielding only a security blanket and the text of Luke 2:9–14, Linus Van Pelt sets Charlie Brown straight on what Christmas is all about. It is a beautiful moment highlighted by Linus dropping his blanket as he utters the angelic command “fear not.” The scripture lesson corrects Charlie Brown’s perspective on Christmas. Even more, the whole Peanuts gang seems to suddenly get the spirit of the season.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can lead to “Charlie Brown-like” levels of exasperation for anyone. Coupled with COVID-19 and all the new challenges we face, the sentiment is likely exponentially multiplied in 2020. And yet, the text of the nativity account preserved in Greek New Testament manuscripts is exceptionally stable, inspiring something more like Linus’ confidence than Charlie Brown’s discouraged distrust. Given the witness of the New Testament textual tradition—we do know what Christmas is all about.

In the Manuscripts

The Christmas story, including the text Linus quoted, appears in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2 in the New Testament. Before animated movies and printing presses, the story passed down through handwritten copies of the text. The New Testament boasts of an impressive textual tradition. As we might expect, the nativity account appears in a great number of manuscripts that span the centuries. Over time, as the handwriting, materials, and look of manuscripts changed, scribes continued to copy the text of Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2. Let’s look at some digital images of the early books that contained the Christmas story.

All four chapters appear as early as the third century in papyrus manuscripts. The oldest copies of the New Testament text appear in the papyri, the earliest dated to the second century by papyrologists, an ancient writing material made of the systems of a papyrus plant. Age and use caused great deterioration for many New Testament papyri which now exist as fragments. Yet, the text they preserve has proven valuable to text critics who utilize these early resources to determine the original message copied down. See below two papyri that contain the earliest evidence of the Christmas story we have today.

Nativity in Papyri

We find the nativity account continues in the different classifications of Greek manuscripts that follow papyrus: majuscule manuscripts, minuscule manuscripts, and lectionaries. Majuscule manuscripts witness the nativity account. Some notable examples are Codex Sinaiticus (GA 01) and Codex Vaticanus (GA 03) (see below), as well as Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (GA 04), Codex Bezae (GA 05), Codex Cyprius (GA 017) and Codex Washingtonianus (GA 032). Majuscule manuscripts containing the Christmas story range from the third century to the beginning of the first millennium.

Nativity in Majuscules

The great pandects, GA 01 and GA 03, not only display the stunning effort of scribes to copy Old Testament, Apocryphal, and New Testament books, but also contain a text that scholars often refer to as witnesses of an older text. Unique to each of these manuscripts are the many columns that the scribes fit onto the large parchment pages. 

Finally, hundreds of minuscule manuscripts and lectionaries contain some or all of the beginnings of Matthew and Luke. Since minuscule print dominated a later time when greater manuscript production took place, we have many more copies of these kinds of manuscripts. The “clothing” that adorns these New Testament manuscripts—covers, decoration, readers aids, color, commentary, etc.—teach us about how the communities that read these copies valued and understood them. Minuscules take us through centuries of developing handwriting styles, manuscript ornamentation, and special markings for liturgical uses. 

Headers in Minuscules

Markings in Nativity

Textual critics utilize this large body of ancient literature—an “embarrassment of riches” as New Testament scholars are fond of saying—to determine the story that scribes so faithfully copied through centuries. To accomplish this, scholars study places where the copies differ from one another seeking to determine which reading best explains the rise of the others. This enables text critics to confidently determine the text that stood at the head of the long stream of the copies that followed.

Variants

One Christmas story variant occurs at Luke 2:9 where the oldest witnesses along with significant others (א B L W Ξ 565. 579. 700. 1241) read καὶ ἄγγελος (“and an angel”) while later (but some still early) sources (A D K Γ Δ Θ Ψ f1. f13. 33. 892. 1424. 2542. 𝔐) read καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος (“and behold, an angel”). The addition of ἰδοὺ appears in more manuscripts, most of the Byzantine text, yet due to its absence in more of the older copies that more strongly attest to an older text, the manuscript evidence indicates that the omission better reflects the original.

Omission

Inclusion

In Linus’ King James recitation we hear the familiar translation: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them.” Because the King James Version is based on a text that contains  ἰδού, the verse is translated  “Lo!” or “Behold!” The variant probably arose as a scribal accident or harmonization because Luke uses the word ἰδού ten times between chapters one and two of his Gospel. So it seems likely that somewhere along the line a scribe added an 11th ἰδού without noticing. Just as likely, a scribe could have added the word to bring the phrase into conformity with Luke’s pattern. In their work, text critics do find that longer texts usually involve scribal additions rather than attesting to the original. With almost the same weight, though, one might consider whether a scribe simply skipped over the small word. Bruce Metzger notes in his textual commentary on the passage, it is difficult to imagine why a scribe would have deleted this one ἰδού when it is among such a grouping. Internally, the scales slightly tip in favor of the omission.

At the end of the day, when weighing in the witnesses attesting to the different readings (or the external evidence), the omission appears to have been the initial wording with the inclusion of ἰδου added later. With thoughtful consideration, we can look at the evidence and confidently identify the reading that demonstrates the stronger case for originality. Most Bibles today prefer the shorter version and leave the ἰδού out of Luke 2:9. However, for those of us who grew up watching Linus ease Charlie Brown’s frustration, the variant ἰδού may remain in our memories of Christmas forever. 

Conclusion

The above discussion of the variant found in Linus’s speech serves as an example. Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2 contain many other instances in which text critics wrestle with the evidence to determine which reading preserved the original text. Some variants even bear on the interpretation, the most prominent in the nativity account found in Luke 2:14 (for a discussion on this variant see note 44 of Luke 2 in the NET Bible). That does not mean, though, that we must throw our hands up as Charlie Brown in exasperation. Working through the abundance of evidence, we find a reliable text that passed through many hands over the centuries. Manuscripts preserved this story first read by candlelight, later amidst ceremony, and eventually by Linus to the Peanuts gang.  Though copies contain differences, which sometimes become a familiar text to our ears, the ongoing work of text critics who study Greek New Testament manuscripts provides continual confidence about what the Christmas story says. Through the centuries the story has provided the response to the question, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

See the Christmas story in manuscripts through the centuries here (link: http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/search?q=christmas)

Resources about the Text of the New Testament and Manuscripts:

The Text of the New Testament, by Metzger and Ehrman

Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, by Hixson and Gurry

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament, ed. Wallace

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