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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.

Details

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 05, 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 01, 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.

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