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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

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.


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.

Monday, December 17, 2018

From the Library: Luke's Genealogy in NT Manuscripts

By: Andrew K. Bobo and Andrew J. Patton

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 from our collection in order to showcase their unique beauty and importance. This is part of CSNTM’s mission to make NT manuscripts accessible for everyone.

If we’re honest, the genealogy is often considered the most boring part of the birth narratives in Luke. When was the last time you heard a message about that part of the Christmas story? But throughout the centuries, the Christian tradition developed unique ways of presenting this part of the biblical story—often setting it apart to make it more readable and more identifiable. In this blog we’re going to show you how some scribes copied Luke 3.23–38 and explain one example where it went terribly wrong.

Copying the Genealogy of Jesus

Of course, some manuscripts do not differentiate the genealogy from the rest of the biblical text. A manuscript we digitized at the National Library of Greece, referred to by scholars as Gregory-Aland (or GA) 780, is one example of this pattern. As you can see, there is no break in the text where the genealogy begins, and it is written in the same single column style.

GA 780

The text of Codex Vaticanus (GA 03, or “B”) was written in three columns, but the scribe clearly differentiated Jesus’ genealogy by listing the names in a new format. The first word, ΤΟΥ (tou) is set on the left margin, and then there is a noticeable space before each name is written.

GA 03

Other manuscripts break their normal pattern of copying the text by arranging Jesus’ lineage into separate columns. GA 773, also from the National Library of Greece, organizes the names into two columns. The scribe also included commentary in the margins. 

GA 773

The scribe who copied CSNTM’s manuscript (GA 2882) wrote the Scriptures in a single column with very neat handwriting. At Luke 3.23, the scribe broke the flow of the text to copy the list of names in three columns. The names proceed from left to right with the article ΤΟΥ (tou) written with a large red tau before the name.

GA 2882


A Scribal Error in the Genealogy

When scribes copied Jesus’ genealogy in columns, it was perhaps intended to make the passage more prominent and easier to read. But one scribe who copied GA 109, a fourteenth century Gospels manuscript in the British Library’s collection, made an infamous mistake. The scribe completely rearranged Jesus’ genealogy. As you probably know, Luke traces Jesus’ ancestry from Joseph all the way back to Adam, concluding with “Son of Adam, Son of God.” In GA 109, the scribe wrote, “Son of Adam, Son of Aminadab, Son of God, Son of Aram”! Apparently, God was born from Aram! How did the scribe make such a serious mistake?

It seems the scribe’s exemplar—the manuscript from which GA 109 was copied—had Luke’s genealogy written in two columns. These should have been read going down each column completely before going back to the top of the next column. But this scribe read the columns from left to right, putting Jesus’ descendants all out of order. At one point, there are two names in the proper order: “Son of Melki, Son of Addi.” We conjecture that at this point the exemplar proceeded to a new page, so the scribe happened to get two correct in a row, but then continued to make the same mistake. Regardless of how absentmindedly the text was copied, we have to wonder whether the scribe knew Greek because “son of God” is written with a nomina sacra, which should have given enough pause to catch the mistake. Whatever the scribe’s Greek proficiency, leaving Jesus’ genealogy out of order is a serious error which was only possible because of the varied ways Luke 3.23–38 was copied in columns in some manuscripts.

GA 109 Exemplar Comparison


Though it is easy for us to gloss over the list of Jesus’ ancestors when studying the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, the ancient and medieval scribes deliberately copied the story in ways that set it apart and drew attention to it. The various ways the Lukan genealogy was copied caused us to wonder why they took the time to write the names like this. There could be a few practical reasons. The scribes may have done this because it was easier to write the names (some of which are duplicated in the text, like Joseph in 3.23 and 3.30) without error in column form. Or it could be that they found it easier to read the names for public recitation when they were listed in columns rather than written in paragraph form. But we speculate that in their era of kings and heroes they found greater significance in the genealogy of Christ—a significance that is often missed by modern readers. Whatever the reason may be, the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3.23–38 has a fascinating and infamous place in the textual history of the New Testament. So this year if you read the story of Christ’s birth, don’t skip over the long list of names Luke gave us. Take a moment to reflect on what a long lineage like Jesus’ would have meant to the early readers of Luke’s Gospel.

* If you’re interested in looking at additional examples of how scribes copied Luke’s genealogy, there are a few easy ways to do this in our manuscript library. You could use the “Jump to Book” feature to navigate easily to the beginning of Luke in all the manuscripts we have tagged on our site. The other way would be to search “Luke 3” or “Luke 3.23-38” in the search bar of our website. This guide will explain how to use these features if you need extra help.

We suggest taking a look at some of the most famous manuscripts like Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Bezae (05). You also could look at GA 800, which has commentary from church fathers surrounding the text.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Letter from Dan Wallace

By: Daniel B. Wallace

I feel like a student in the class of a proverbially unreasonable professor. The prof gave a final exam, with one question: “Define the universe. Use three examples.” So much has happened in the last year at the Center! Where to begin? I think I’ll just give three examples.

First, CSNTM is growing! Three new staff members have joined our team. Kelsey Hart is now our office manager. Stephen Clardy is our Development Coordinator, working closely with Andy Patton, our Development Manager. And Jacob Peterson is CSNTM’s Research Fellow. (You might recognize Jacob’s name; he worked for the Center before heading off to the University of Edinburgh for his PhD in New Testament textual criticism.) We are excited to see how Kelsey, Stephen, and Jacob will complement the team, enabling us to continue our mission of preserving ancient Scripture for a modern world.

Second, through a generous grant and magnificent gifts from you, our partners in preservation, we were able to purchase a multispectral imaging (MSI) camera. This camera, which came with a $100,000 price-tag, uses 15 points on the light spectra, including invisible bands on both ends. With it we can now see texts that disappeared over the centuries, were washed out in floods, became burnt in fires, or were scraped off by scribes who then penned something different over the erased text. And these ancient texts have been lost to the ages—until now. What natural disasters and man-made destruction did, with this equipment we can undo. With MSI, the age of rediscovery is born.

In May, four members of the CSNTM staff took an intensive course on using this new camera. We are now one of a handful of organizations in the world using a portable MSI camera. And this means that more doors are opening for us across the globe.

And third, while the staff was learning the ropes with this game-changing camera, I was in Tbilisi (Republic of Georgia) with two former interns, Brit Burnette and Laura Peisker. We were on a ‘front trip’ to make contact with two libraries in Tbilisi and one in Mestia. A native of Georgia, Nino Fincher, translated for us as we built relationships, examined manuscripts, and wrote up our findings for the digitizing team that would follow. Then, as we were flying back home, Rob Marcello, CSNTM’s Assistant Executive Director, and Jacob Peterson flew to Tbilisi with the new camera.

I met up with Rob and Jacob in Greece where we did more photography. Finally, we traversed northern Europe, landing in Heidelberg. In these locales, words on ancient papyrus and parchment—words that time forgot—have come to life again!

So, where do we go from here? We are working out contracts for next year’s expeditions with institutes in Greece, Germany, and the U.S. Libraries, museums, and monasteries are seeking CSNTM’s help to digitally preserve these ancient artifacts, these irreplaceable treasures of the Church.

We have the opportunities. We have the staff. We have the equipment. But we don’t have all the funds needed to do this work. We are making aggressive plans for upcoming expeditions. This Christmas season, we hope to raise the first $150,000 needed to begin our work on these critical expeditions.

It is CSNTM’s mission both to protect the past and to ensure the future of these sacred Scriptures. As you ponder your end-of-the-year giving, please consider making a generous investment in this work. Our equipment and staff are opening doors across the globe, but it takes a team to make these expeditions possible.

Will you make an investment that ensures the handwritten text of the New Testament is preserved for the next generation? Together, we can accomplish our mission by having:  

• 2 people who give $25,000

• 2 people who give $15,000

• 2 people who give $10,000

• 4 people who give $5,000

• 15 people who give $1,000

• 15 people who give $500

• 15 people who give $250

• 25 people who give $100

• 10 people who give $50

• 30 people who give $25

Monday, November 26, 2018

25 Days of Christmas

Multispectral imaging is a gift that keeps on giving. After using our new equipment this summer in Tbilisi and Heidelberg, even more institutes have expressed interest in CSNTM digitally preserving their Greek New Testament manuscripts. There are so many of these potential partners that we simply could not digitize all their treasures in a single year or even three years!

At this season, many of you are thinking about your year-end giving and the impact you want to have in the world. Your donations could unlock the partnership between CSNTM and a library or monastery. You could preserve a unique manuscript before it experiences further deterioration. And you could give a text critic access to the best images of the New Testament manuscripts she or he uses to study the original text of the Christian Scriptures.

We are inviting 25 of you to give $25 monthly by December 25th. This new campaign is called the 25 days of Christmas initiative. Together, your partnership will give $7,500 in year-round support for CSNTM’s mission to preserve, study, and share Greek New Testament manuscripts. Monthly donations are a critical part of CSNTM’s planning for future expeditions and special projects. 

Will you join our team of 25 and make a monthly gift of $25? 


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