Lecture 18: Resources for NT Manuscripts: CSNTM | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 18: Resources for NT Manuscripts: CSNTM

Course: Textual Criticism

Lecture: Resources for NT Manuscripts: CSNTM


A. Resources for New Testament Manuscripts

1. Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Introduction: Now, we will look at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts or CSNTM. The goal for CSNTM is to digitally preserve ancient Christian documents and to recover the wording of the original New Testament as much as possible. It is a non-profit institute that I established in the year
2002. It is dedicated to digitally photographing all handwritten manuscripts of the New Testament, starting with the Greek manuscripts and other ancient languages as well. It is to use these manuscripts to get back to the original wording of the New Testament as much as it is humanly possible.

Official Number of Manuscripts: How many manuscripts are we talking about? As of September 2012 there are 5,824 official counted Greek New Testament manuscripts. This count comes from INTF in Munster, Germany, the organization who catalogs all of these. And yet, not all the manuscripts that
have been discovered have been registered, as INTF is still catching up with CSNTM in terms of registering some of these manuscripts. For a while, they got so far behind that they could only catalog two manuscripts per month. They couldn’t just assign them numbers from their catalog; these manuscripts had to be studied for information had to be ascertained first. They have to check it with other manuscripts that are already known. So that is why that fingerprint on these manuscripts is very important. One of the manuscripts that we photographed was just a couple of lectionary leaves, were discovered to be part of a lectionary at Duke University. These were owned by private individuals. We photographed them and recorded all the data, which includes columns, lines, type, date and pages. Immediately, after seeing it, someone pointed out that Duke University actually already had most of the manuscript. So, this is why it takes time; they don’t want to give a different INTF number if it belongs to a different manuscript. This has happened before, more than once.

CSNTM’s Work and Objective: So far, we have photographed well over four hundred New Testament manuscripts and that is more than two hundred thousand pages photographed where one page is photographed at a time. We are collaborating with INTF and many other institutes. CSNTM is taking these digital images that are now being used by different organizations, especially for the Aland and Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. This affects the faith and practice of Christians throughout the world. So, in one sense, CSNTM is beginning to stand at the head of all future Bible translations. And in terms of the material that we read to know who Jesus is and was; CSNTM is providing those materials in an initial way that is extremely important for scholars to understand. In a large part, the microfilms that we had and depended upon before digital imagining, were illegible or so poor that it is impossible to read them. So years ago, there was only microfilm and it simply wasn’t that good, but yet, that is what scholars had to use. But realize that INTF has done all of this on a very limited budget and have accomplished miracles in what they have done. Of course, now, we have digital photography with cameras that are so very advanced compared to what they had to work with even twenty to thirty years ago. You can see in Codex 1175, Romans 1 in microfilm compared to our digital images which can be blown up to 5 X 8 feet without any pixelation. So, our objective has been to make the digital images easier to read than the actual manuscripts themselves. And we have accomplished this for every manuscript we have photographed. One such manuscript we discovered in Romania; the library itself knew what it had but nobody else knew. We actually had a friend who was a professor in Romania who traveled around the country for two years looking for all the Greek New Testament manuscripts were located. And this is how we find a lot of these things.

We photographed one such manuscript in Lasi that was eight hundred pages long. It was hidden away and never mentioned to anyone. We came in, giving ourselves one day to shoot it. It is a thousand-year-old manuscript in beautiful condition. This manuscript has beautiful artwork in it with beautiful colors. If this had been a western manuscript, it would have been examined so much; they would have already been worn out. Often the icons that are painted on the page are cut off and sold because they are so popular and expensive. There was also some controversy over those icons in the 8th and 9th century and so some of them were removed for that reason alone. Then in the 20th century, these manuscripts became like a fever-pitch where all kinds of people were fascinated by them; that is when many of the icons were cut out to be sold. The manuscripts that were kept in communist countries were stuck in some achieve room hidden away in the basement and thus perhaps God used communism to preserve these Scriptures. I think it is one of those great ironies of history.

Priority of CSNTM: There is a 10th or 11th century manuscript of the Book of Acts where the upper right corner contains a child’s handwriting of the Greek Alphabet. The letters were mixed with the lower case and the upper case. Our priority is to go to poor or unstable countries to photograph these manuscripts as these are the places they are most at risk. We have been to places where it has been too late; one such manuscript we saw was made of paper and beyond repair and impossible to photograph. These places are usually very old at places that often catch on fire. We also go where we have leads on uncatalogued manuscripts that even Munster doesn’t know about. If you think of the New Testament as a thousand-piece puzzle of manuscripts; maybe we have seven hundred of the pieces right at this time. It would be nice to find the other three hundred to see how they all connect to each other. So, it is interesting to think in terms of these manuscripts belonging to a genealogical tree seeing how they all relate to one another. We also try to photograph manuscripts that are known to be significant and then finally every Greek New Testament manuscript is what we want to digitalize or for others to digitalize.

Various Sites with Manuscripts: Some of the sites include the one at Istanbul or what is called the Ecumenical Site at Constantinople. This is equivalent to the Vatican for the Eastern Orthodox World. Then there is the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian on the Island of Papas where John wrote the
Book of Revelation. It is a nine hundred-year-old monastery. We sat in the dining room on nine hundred-year-old stone benches which were thirty feet long. We sat and ate with the priests and the Monks. The Abbott comes in and rings a little chime and sits down and offers a prayer. When he finishes he rings the bell again and everyone stands up and he prays and then everyone leaves. You have murals on the walls of events in the life of Christ and the great creeds of the church. It is very much like Credo House in that respect. It has a subterranean library where they take care of manuscripts. The National Archives of Tirana in Albania is where we discovered twenty-eight manuscripts which made news in about a hundred different newspapers, internationally. The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has more manuscripts than anywhere else in North and South America. In the early 1900’s they begin purchasing a lot of these manuscripts. Cambridge University has thirty-eight different colleges and the Bavarian State Library in Munich is one of the world’s great libraries. They have more incunabulum (books printed on a printing press before 1501) than any other library in the world. So the printing press was invented in 1454; there were thirty thousand titles printed before1500? The Bavarian State Library has eighteen thousand titles from this time. So if you want to get a rare book, you will want to get an incunabulum. The museum of literature in Lasi, Romania; it is the only library in the world that Michal Angelo designed. Some of the places are very interesting and many are out of the way; some places within the former communist countries often would shut the electricity down in the middle of the day. At one of these sites, the air-conditioning finally started to work but by eleven in the morning, everything shut down. We would also bring plenty of batteries for the computers as we couldn’t rely on the local power. Windows are usually nailed shut so you couldn’t get any fresh air. So the temperature shoots up the one hundred degree while we are shooting.

In Albania, we shot photos of a manuscript that is called a purple codex. It is a 6th century manuscript of the Gospels. There are only seven purple codices in the world. All of these are parchment manuscripts dyed in purpose ink and all of them contain the Gospels and are called royal manuscripts. What would happen, the scribe would write out the letters in silver ink for the Gospel text but would reserve either the words of Jesus or something else for gold letters. Gold ink was used in this manuscript for four words, ‘Jesus, Christ, Lord and God.’ Those are the original sacred names. What does this tell you about the scribes and what they thought of Jesus? Jesus Christ who is Lord who is God; those are the four words and it is remarkable the trouble they would go through in the coloring of the ink. This was a manuscript in the mountains of Berat in a Monastery. During WWII, Hitler sent Nazi soldiers to confiscate this manuscript. They lined the people up threatening them with death if they didn’t reveal the manuscript. One by one they said that they didn’t know; they weren’t shot and then the soldiers packed up and left. A couple of days later the Abbott of the monastery came back seeing a long line outside of his office with these monks and old man confessing their sins of having lied to the Nazi’s about not knowing where the manuscript was. It was hidden underneath one of the stones in a sort of a damp area which is why it isn’t in great condition around the edges. But, it ended up in the National Achieves in Tirana. When they received it, it was put on display. Note that these people didn’t speak Greek but nevertheless people gathered in a long line to see this manuscript. It is their number one national treasure. Another country offered to buy this from them but they refused to sell it. These monks and old men who may or may have not been able to read the text of the manuscript were willing to give up their lives for the Scripture in a language they didn’t know. This is one of those unique hand-written manuscripts of the Word of God and it is absolutely fascinating.

There was a manuscript in Italy of the Metemgee family who was the most influential people behind the Renaissance. They sponsored the library that Michal Angelo designed making the ceiling a mirror image of the floor. They used the hides of cows to make the manuscripts. We try to go to Athens every year as half of the Greek New Testament manuscripts in the world are owned by Greeks in Greece or at monasteries. We have discovered manuscripts even in Athens. The libraries may know what they have but that doesn’t mean that Munster knows what they have. So it counts as a discovery if we are revealing it to Munster. Sadly for the last several years, there have been riots and shootings in Athens due to the economic situation. I love the Greeks but Athens has been a difficult place for us to visit. One place known as Mateora is located in the central part of Greece with high stone-mountain pillars rising up above the valley with a monastery on top. And for centuries the only way to get to them was in a net being pulled up the side of the mountain. The government put in roads and paths as some of these monasteries were a thousand feet up in the air. It is really an-other worldly looking place. These monks wanted to get away and just devote their time to praying seven hours a day. There is now a tourist town that has developed around this monastery that used to be completely isolated and off the beaten track. They have several important manuscripts that are also very important.

Then there is Saint Catharine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, Egypt. This is the oldest monastery in the world. A Father Justine was the librarian when I was there. The library was very functional yet not elegant. There were these tubes that would suck the oxygen out of the room if a fire started; this was in
order to save the books. We have actually discovered over twenty thousand pages of manuscripts; more than seventy-five Greek New Testament manuscripts. One such manuscript here is Codex 0322, a Palimpsest manuscript of Mark 3 and 6 dated from the 7th – 9th century. It has icons of the four
evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. John always looks the same, an old man with an oblong face with a little tuff of hair on the top of his head.

Summary: Please check out our website where we have manuscripts and printed books even with a history of the center, etc. You can see all the manuscripts that we have photographs of with some that we are not allowed to show unless you come to the center. But there are hundreds that you can look at on the site. We also have rare printed books; New Testaments that was done as early as 1560 by Erasmus’ published Greek New Testament. We have resources, text-critical tools, and links and New Testament resources as well. The showroom is also very fascinating to go through with endorsements from people and scholars around the world. You can also read about our past expeditions. The images that we have on the site are free for all and free for all time.

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