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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 09, 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!

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

“Missing” Manuscripts in North America

By: Jacob W. Peterson

Yesterday, CSNTM posted on social media: “Did you know 13 Greek New Testament manuscripts formerly known to be in the US or Canada are now lost or missing?” We intended this to just be an interesting factoid that particularized an unfortunately all too common problem resulting from accidental loss, destruction, and items being sold into private collections. However, we got quite a response asking for additional details, so I wanted to take the time to provide a bit of context.

Naturally, terms like “missing” and “lost” can have a certain definitiveness that may not be appropriate in every instance. A couple of the manuscripts in the thirteen count are legitimately lost, in the sense that there is no paper trail or leads as to their location (see the description of the manuscripts in Montreal below). Others among the thirteen are merely unaccounted for at present (i.e. “missing”). Typically, these are manuscripts that have been sold anonymously through an auction house, meaning we know someone currently possesses them. So, they are not irretrievably lost, but rather have been moved to an unknown location and are thus currently unavailable for scholarly research. Of course, the hope is that these do eventually turn back up (and they often do, as the case with some of the Charles C. Ryrie manuscripts).

A project we’ve been working on recently at CSNTM has been to determine the state of digitization of Greek New Testament manuscripts in North America. It only makes sense for us to be aware of what is going on in our own backyard! There are numerous manuscripts that have been divided between multiple libraries such that there are around 360 distinct shelf numbers related to Greek New Testaments in North American collections. I’m happy to report that in addition to the work that CSNTM has done, many libraries and museums have undertaken their own digitization projects so that around 80% of them have already been digitized. We’ll hopefully say more about this in the future.

Gaining an accurate picture of things necessitated tracking down as many of the North American manuscripts listed in the online Kurzgefasste Liste as possible. The researchers at INTF have already commented on the state of most of these manuscripts, lest anyone believe this is all my own original labor. Accordingly, the list could grow as we continue the project, but the thirteen manuscripts currently believed to be “lost” or “missing” are:

So, what happened? In most cases the collections appear to have been dissolved, which more often than not means sold at auction or dispersed to heirs. This was the case with collection of Charles C. Ryrie, who owned a few Greek New Testament manuscripts that were sold at Sotheby’s in 2016. One of his manuscripts went to Dumbarton Oaks (GA 669), and another went to the Museum of the Bible (GA 2813). Unfortunately, the new owner of GA 2346 is currently unknown. The same is true of MS 1 (and likely MS 2) from the Chicago Theological Seminary Library.

The Liste entries for MSS 3 and 9 from Drew University include identical notes that, according to Dr. Kavrus-Hoffmann, each manuscript “has been missing since the early 1930s, when it was studied by Everett Arthur Overton for his dissertation ‘The ‘Drew’ Gospel Manuscripts’ One can surmise that this manuscript was borrowed by Overton and never returned to the library and its present location is not known.” MS 9 from Drew ends up being doubly lost, in a sense. It appears that it eventually made its way into the collection of M.H.A Walton, where it was re-catalogued as lect 2361. Unfortunately, as can be seen in the above chart, the Liste records that the Walton manuscript collection was dispersed in 2009 and its current location is unknown.

About the manuscripts from the Diocesan Theological College, the Liste states they “must now be considered irretrievably lost. The College library no longer exists and [the leaves have] not been located among the material transferred to the McGill Library.”

In the case of GA 2325, for which we only know New York City as a location, the manuscript likely should have never been catalogued to begin with. The manuscript is almost comically described as follows in Kenneth W. Clark, A Descriptive Catalogue of Greek New Testament Manuscripts in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937), 376.

The cited bibliography contains no additional details about the manuscript or its owner.

It is basically incorrect to state that “GA 2385” from the Morgan Library & Museum is “missing” or “lost.” Rather, the manuscript is a palimpsest and part of its undertext was incorrectly identified as from the New Testament and was given a Gregory-Aland number. As it turns out, the undertext is entirely from the Septuagint (see, Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann, “Catalogue of Greek Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Collections of the United States of America. Part IV,2: The Morgan Library and Museum,” Manuscripta, 52, 2008, p. 276 n. 87. h/t INTF Liste).

Finally, I can briefly talk about the availability of images of these thirteen manuscripts. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find images of the Diocesan Theological College leaves of 2398 or 2415. Similarly, images of 667, 2325, 2438, lect 1564, lect 1672, and lect 1840 have not been found. Fortunately, not all is lost. In its earliest years, CSNTM digitized 2346 when it was in the collection of Dr. Ryrie. Microfilm images also exist of 2311 and Lect 954/2361. Additionally, microfilms do exist of “2385,” but again it is a Septuagint manuscript. The last three of these are all available through the NT.VMR.

Thank you all for your interest in this discussion as expressed on social media. If any of you happen to have information on the whereabouts of any of these lost or missing manuscripts, we would be most grateful.

Monday, October 07, 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 03, 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.

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