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Monday, March 04, 2019

From the Library: Lectionary 1807

By Andrew K. Bobo and Andrew J. Patton

Every year, thousands of tourists travel across the globe to view great works of art and architecture from history. Though they may not, at first glance, be as grand as towering buildings or impressive sculptures, manuscripts have also become must-see attractions. Travelers to Dublin stop to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College Library, tourists to London visit the British Library to see Codex Sinaiticus, and sightseers to Jerusalem make their way to the Israel Museum in order to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although these high profile manuscripts enjoy most of the attention, one of the joys of digitizing manuscripts is that we often come across exquisite items that are hardly known to the world. One of these treasures is a 15th century manuscript known to scholars as Gregory-Aland Lectionary 1807 (GA Lect 1807). This manuscript resides at the National Library of Greece in Athens, where the Center digitized in 2015 and 2016. The manuscript is particularly noteworthy as an artifact because of its ornate silver covers, carefully crafted in the high middle ages. As we approach the seasons of Lent and Easter, we thought it would be worth examining the scenes on the covers, since they depict the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Front Cover

The front cover shows the crucifixion of Jesus surrounded by panes of angels and symbols of the four evangelists. Church tradition developed a specific symbol for each of the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—who are known as the Evangelists. Most commonly, Matthew is associated with a man, Mark with a lion, Luke an ox, and John with an eagle. These four creatures derive from the four creatures in Ezekiel’s vision recorded in chapter 1 of his book. In the corners of our manuscript, you find each of these creatures holding a book, indicating that they represent the Evangelists.

Between the four corners are angels. When you look closely, you will observe that each of the angels is in a different posture and facial expression. Some appear to be in a reverential position and others appear to be downcast or even weeping. Their expressions reflect the horror and divine glory at the crucifixion of the Son of God.

 

The center panel portrays a scene of the crucifixion. Christ on the cross is the focus of the scene. The cross itself is planted into a small hill of Golgotha. Jesus is surrounded by many grieving people, including John the Apostle who is indicated by the nomina sacra ιω to the left of his head. Angels flank Christ. The two on the left are holding up a bowl, and the two on the right are shown with a scroll. Below the cross, a skull represents death. And above him are the nomina sacra ιϲ and χϲ meaning Ἰησούς (Jesus) and Χριστός (Christ).

Back Cover

The back cover features the triumphant resurrection of Christ. The dynamic scene that unfolds shows Jesus in the middle of his resurrection work. Now that he has himself been resurrected, he is resurrecting those who had previously died. So on the left side there is a group of people wearing crowns to show their victory over death and their reign with Christ. John the Baptist appears most prominently in the foreground: his feet planted in a grave, still wearing his camel hair clothes and leather belt but now with a halo showing his sainthood. On the right side, Jesus is pulling saints with sullen faces out of the grave. These saints are Adam and Eve—a demonstration of the resurrection reversing the curse of death. Below Christ’s feet are a cross and two figures who appear to be in the midst of judgment. Above his head are two angels. The entire event is shown in such a way that not only the reality of the resurrection is displayed, but its implications and meaning as a theological event are communicated visually.

Surrounding the whole scene are those whose task it was to be the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. At the very top of the frame are Peter (left) and Paul (right). They are flanked on either side by the four Evangelists. To Peter’s left are John and then Luke, whereas to Paul’s right are Mark and Matthew. All six figures are holding codices, probably the bound corpus of their own writings, which testify to the death and resurrection. Another six figures—Simon, Bartholomew, and Phillip on the left; Matthias, James, and Thomas on the right—are holding scrolls and some seem to be speaking or ready to begin speaking. The two figures at the bottom are two Christian martyrs from the first decade of the fourth century, Saint George and Saint Demetrios. The entire cover works together to show the historical reality of Christ’s work, the richness of its meaning, and those who were affected by it. The edges of both sides show the individuals tasked with witnessing to these events, which is appropriate since every manuscript itself is the physical testimony to the continuation of that witnessing work.

Conclusion

Lectionaries were manuscripts intended to be read in Christian worship. They were built around the church calendar. So rather than having the New Testament books in their entirety, like we find in our Bibles today, they instead divided the biblical text into particular readings for the daily worship services of the church. The schedule of the readings developed gradually in the church’s early centuries and later became standardized to form a regular rhythm around the life of Christ. The lectionary covers of this manuscript added another element of grandeur and special reverence to the liturgy, reminding both hearers and readers of the sacred importance of the message contained within.

We are grateful for our partnership with the National Library of Greece whose archival staff cares for this manuscript. We would like to especially thank Director ‎Fillipos Tsimpoglou who granted permission and provided oversight for the Center’s historic two-year digitization project, and to Andreas Vyridis for continuing to collaborate with us to ensure the digital preservation of Greek New Testament manuscripts throughout Greece.

Friday, March 01, 2019

CSNTM's Dallas Banquet 2019

Dallas Banquet 2019 — A New Renaissance: The Age of Rediscovery 

Join Executive Director Dan Wallace and many others committed to preserving and studying the ancient Scriptures for CSNTM’s annual Dallas banquet. This year’s banquet will be held at the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU on Saturday, April 13th 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.

To purchase tickets or find out more information, visit the banquet page on our website. If you have any questions, reach out to us at (972) 941-4521. We hope to see you in April!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Manuscripts Digitized at Southern Methodist University

By: Jacob W. Peterson

CSNTM rarely revisits a location where it has already digitized, but sometimes previously unforeseen factors make it an easy decision. Back in 2010, CSNTM traveled the whole fifteen miles down highway 75 in Dallas to the Bridwell Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University to digitize one of its manuscripts—Papyrus 26 from the early 7th century. This fragmentary manuscript contains portions of Romans 1.1–16. In fact, it is one of only three papyri with this text. Back in 2010, we imaged the manuscript using our typical high-resolution color images and also used handheld black lights to try and illuminate some of the difficult-to-read portions of the text. This worked pretty well, but you can see in the images that more could probably be done.

P26 under handheld black lights

Well, as you have all read by now, CSNTM acquired multispectral imaging (MSI) last year, so it seemed appropriate to reach out to SMU about re-digitizing the papyrus. Multispectral imaging is especially useful for recovering difficult-to-read, covered, erased, or damaged text that is so common to antiquities. Without having completed any post-processing yet, we have already seen positive results in the initial images.

In addition, SMU has officially gained possession of another manuscript, GA Lect 1547, which had been on loan to them for many years. This lectionary dates to the 13th century and has not been previously microfilmed or digitized. This manuscript has a fascinating modern ownership history, beginning with the biblical scholar J. Rendel Harris in the UK, before going through a Chicago bookstore, being bequeathed to Baylor University Medical Center, and finally acquired by SMU. You can still see traces of several of these owners in the beginning flyleaves, which are full of ownership stamps, purchasers’ codes, notes between text-critics, and more.

Owners notes in GA Lect 1547

The proximity of CSNTM and SMU, the potential to see new things in the papyrus, and the opportunity to digitize a new manuscript made this an obvious project for our team. Thankfully, the staff at Bridwell Library Special Collections kindly agreed to allow us to visit them again to digitize their lectionary and utilize MSI on the papyrus. We would especially like to thank Daniel Slive and Rebecca Howdeshell, who worked with us in both the planning and execution of this project.

The images from this expedition will be available in our library soon, and the MSI images of P26 will be available after post-production is complete. We can now say that every manuscript in Dallas-Fort Worth has been digitized, and as a glimpse of the future, every manuscript in Texas will soon be digitized and made available online.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Value of a Monthly Donation

By: Stephen Clardy

In June of 2015, our digitization team at the National Library of Greece in Athens found something in a twelfth-century lectionary of the Gospels that immediately grabbed their attention. Pasted to the inside of the document’s front and back covers were additional leaves of Greek text. The text was from 1 John and Acts, not the Gospels, and the script seemed to indicate these were taken from slightly later manuscripts, dating to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. We had discovered a previously unknown manuscript!

Front and back covers of GA 2934

Images from the front and back covers of the new discovery

Over the past 17 years, CSNTM has found over 70 previously uncatalogued manuscripts, more than any other institute or individual in the world. Discoveries like these, however great or small, are tremendously meaningful for New Testament text critics and all of us who are excited to have so many ancient and medieval copies of the scriptures to see and enjoy. Each digitally preserved manuscript and every new find adds another piece to the puzzle, setting up the next generation for even better scholarship and greater discovery.

Just as new discoveries are vital for textual critics, monthly donors are vital to the work of CSNTM. A lot goes on between expeditions. Throughout the year our team studies manuscripts, works on important publications using the images we captured, and plans for new expeditions to preserve additional manuscripts. These endeavors are only possible with a steady flow of recurring financial support. In a very literal sense, regular donations—however great or small—from faithful partners provide us the stability we need to follow through on our work to preserve, study, and share Greek New Testament manuscripts with excellence, and to plan for the future. These donations truly sustain CSNTM and move our mission further.

All this being said, if you are already giving regularly to the Center or have in the past, I want to thank you. It is with the sincerest gratitude that I say your contribution is making a real impact toward the preservation and study of New Testament manuscripts. Thank you!

If you are not already supporting CSNTM regularly, would you consider becoming a monthly partner with us? Any gift helps, and you have the option to give at whatever level your budget allows. Many of our partners give in the amounts of $25, $50, or $100. If you decide to join in our mission by becoming a monthly partner, it only takes a few minutes to start your donation on our website at www.csntm.org/donate.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Benefits of a Digital Manuscript Library

By: Jacob W. Peterson

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has an international reputation for taking exceptional high-resolution images of Greek New Testament manuscripts. While producing good images is a worthwhile goal in itself, the production of images serves a much larger goal within our organizational mission. The first stated objective of CSNTM in our mission statement is:

To make digital photographs of extant Greek New Testament manuscripts so that such images can be preserved, duplicated without deterioration, and accessed by scholars doing textual research.

In other words, CSNTM does not just travel to remote corners of the world in order to take a bunch of pictures of old manuscripts. The goal of this work is threefold:

  1. the digital preservation of the manuscript

  2. the ability to share the manuscript without need to access the original

  3. the availability of the images to textual scholars

At the end of the day, the result of CSNTM’s labors is a website, and the central feature of that website is our manuscript library. At the time of writing this, we currently have images of or links to more than 1500 manuscripts in our library. About half of these were produced by CSNTM since our founding in 2002. Before proceeding, I first want to note that we recognize that our online library is useful to far more people than just textual scholars. A natural goal of CSNTM is to benefit those in our direct line of work, which is contributing to future editions of the Greek New Testament. However, we know and are glad that our website is useful for art historians, codicologists, paleographers, professors, students, pastors, and just those interested in the historical documents of Christianity.

The most recognizable benefit of a digital library is access to the manuscripts. It was not that long ago that if you were interested in seeing what a manuscript contained, you had to travel to that library or monastery to see it. Naturally, this was prohibitively expensive for almost everyone and does not account for all of the issues involved in contacting the holding institutions and being granted access to see the manuscript. With an online library of images, anyone anywhere in the world can quickly access the images of any manuscript they want to see. Additionally, a fully-tagged library of images (which is what CSNTM is working towards) allows users to find every instance of certain features, such as icons of Mark, or to consult every instance of Romans 1.1 in the manuscript tradition. 

This latter point relates to a second benefit of an online library, which is the ability to consult the actual manuscripts versus the abstract presentation of the data in a critical apparatus.

Apparatus

The critical apparatus from a printed Greek New Testament.

Seeing the actual manuscripts allows scholars to confirm the data in the apparatus, which can be incorrect at times, and serves a pedagogical purpose for professors wanting to make textual criticism more tangible and exciting for their students. It is beneficial any time instructors can shift their students from thinking of manuscripts as numerical data to thinking of them as historical artifacts. Images help make that shift in ways the critical apparatus, transcriptions, and collations cannot. 

Continuing with the benefit of being able to confirm details in an apparatus, an online library of high-resolution images offers one the ability to clarify details in the manuscripts that might have been obscured by lower-resolution images. It’s just a small example, but the fuzziness and darkened ink in the following microfilm led one scholar to assume there was a correction present.

GA 69 version 1

GA69 version 2

A microfilm image (top) and CSNTM's digital image (bottom) of GA 69

However, the sharpness of CSNTM’s high-resolution images makes it clear that there is no correction present and that the darkness of the ink is just the result of the scribe re-inking his pen. These kinds of fine details are only accessible when we have excellent images to consult.

When CSNTM was founded, the primary goal was to preserve and make manuscripts available to anyone who wanted access anywhere in the world. We have been around for 16 years now, and the reach of the organization is greater than I think anyone could have initially conceived. We are glad that so many thousands of users each year find our website helpful for their research, studies, or to satisfy their own personal curiosity. As we look to the future, we are excited about continually adding to our online library and, perhaps most importantly, making all of these resources available for free.

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