8 June 2015: There are eight of us from CSNTM in Athens right now. We’ve begun the process of digitizing New Testament manuscripts at the National Library of Greece this summer. CSNTM has a contract with the NLG to digitize all their NT manuscripts—over 300 manuscripts altogether! The director of the NLG, Dr. Philippos Tsimpoglou, is a visionary with energy, drive, innovation, and desire to bring the NLG into much greater prominence in the international discussions about ancient texts. CSNTM is very grateful to Dr. Tsimpoglou for this key partnership in digitally preserving and making accessible 150,000 pages of biblical manuscripts.
I have spent more time in Athens than in America this year, preparing manuscripts for the photographing teams. In the process of documenting each manuscript, I have come across some exciting discoveries—many of which were already known to the library, but not all. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, Germany is the official cataloguer of Greek NT MSS. And until INTF has catalogued a manuscript, it is generally not known to New Testament scholars. To date, we have found at least ten manuscripts that are not yet catalogued by INTF. In this blog, I want to discuss an apostolos (Acts and Catholic Epistles) manuscript that is glued to the inside front and back covers of a lectionary.
NLG 2676—known to biblical scholars as Lectionary 1813—is a 12th century Gospel lectionary, written on beautiful vellum, with 240 leaves still extant. It has ornate headpieces for each of the Gospels, produced by a true craftsman. Glued to the inside of the front cover is a manuscript leaf of a decidedly different character. Written in a professional but rather utilitarian hand is a two-column paper leaf. A leaf from the same manuscript is glued to the back inside cover.
Front Inside Cover of NLG 2676
(picture taken with iPhone)
1 John 3, 5
This paper manuscript is written in a later hand, 13th or perhaps 14th century. On the front inside cover three columns are visible. There is a vertical crease after the first column, which is our first clue that what is extant is a bifolio (or double leaf). The left column begins with 1 John 2.29 and ends at 1 John 3.3a.
The text is as follows:
] ην εξ αυτου γεγε- [2.29]
] ιδετε ποταπην α- [3.1]
]δωκεν ημιν ο π̅η̅ρ̅,
]α θ̅υ̅ κληθωμεν.
] . ο κοσμος ου γινω-
] αγαπητοι. νυν τε [3.2]
] . . μεν. και ουπω
]ρωθη τι εσομεθα
]μεν δε οτι εαν φανε-
] ομοιοι αυτω εσομε-
] οτι οψομεθα αυτον,
]… και πας ο εχων [3.3]
]πιδα ταυτη επ
The next two columns are from the same page; the text is 1 John 5.11b–15 in the first column and 1 John 5.18b–21 in the second. The left column of this page gives us the full lines so that we have firm evidence of how much text would be written on each line (they average 19.5 letters). The gap between 1 John 3.3 and 1 John 5.11 tells us that the bifolio is not the middle double-leaf of the quire, but is the bifolio prior to the midpoint. This is due to the fact that (1) there are approximately 30–31 lines per column (only 17 of which are extant), (2) there are approximately 600 letters per column, with two columns per page (and four per leaf), and (3) 1 John 3.3b–5.11a would involve approximately 250 lines or 8 columns. Thus, the gap would involve two columns per page, four per leaf, eight per bifolio. Therefore, this is the bifolio just before the midpoint of the quire.
The text of 1 John 5.11b–15 in this fragment is as follows:
η, εν [5.11]
ο εχων τον υιον …. τη ζω- [5.12]
ην. ο μη εχων τον υιον του
θ̅υ̅, την ζωην ουκ εχει. ταυ- [5.13]
τα εγραψα υμιν τοις πι-
στευουσιν εις το ονομα του
υιου του θ̅υ̅. ινα ειδητε ο-
τι ζωη αιωνιον εχετε. και ι-
να πιστευσητε, εις το ονο-
μα του υιου του θ̅υ̅. και αυ- [5.14]
τη εστιν η παρρησια ην ε-
χομεν προς αυτον. οτι εαν
τι αιτωμεθα κατα το θελημα
αυτου, ακουει ημων, ο εαν [5.15]
αιτωμεθα, οιδαμεν οτι ε-
χομεν τα αιτηματα α
Although this MS follows the Byzantine text, it has a rare variant of the aorist subjunctive πιστευσητε (049 218 945 1751 2374) instead of the present subjunctive πιστευητε in v. 13. It also has what may be a unique variant in v. 15, ητοικαμεν instead of ητηκαμεν. In the era in which this manuscript was written, the pronunciation of οι and η would have been identical. But the spelling alteration is most likely due to the scribe’s faulty memory as he repeated to himself the word he saw in his exemplar before writing it down.
The paper glued to the inside of the back cover is also a two-column bifolio, with the first two columns on the left side, followed by a vertical reinforcement strip, with text (which would have been used to strengthen the joint between the two leaves), then one column on the right. This bifolio is in worse condition, with the residue of ink from another leaf, along with the intrusive reinforcement strip, covering a large section of the text. Further, the original script has been written on top of in certain places, making the task of positive identification a bit tricky at times.
Back Inside Cover of NLG 2676
(picture taken with iPhone)
The text begins at Acts 3.1; χω]λος εκ κοιλιας (Acts 3.2) is visible on the what appears to be the third or fourth line in the far left column. This goes through Acts 3.5a (ο δε επειχεν αυ–). The second column picks up at v. 8 (the second line reads αλλομενος και αινων) and continues through v. 10. After this, it gets confusing. The next line appears to begin with a rubricated and enlarged epsilon. That would normally indicate a new section of material, whether it be the next paragraph in Acts, a new lection (if this is a lectionary), or perhaps the beginning of a commentary section. The word looks like εξομολογ…, so we should expect it to say something about confession. The string of letters doesn’t seem to match anything in the NT, nor is it the beginning of a lection. Further, the letters look as though they are written on top of others—yet there’s a mismatch between the under-text and upper-text. The whole thing is a puzzle. I invite any readers who may have access to better tools than I do while away from my library to offer their solutions to this conundrum. It’s probably an easy solution that is simply escaping me at the moment.
There are 57 known apostolos minuscules from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries that have both 1 John and Acts in them. Tentatively, this manuscript is the 58th, but we will most likely need to resolve what comes after Acts 3.10 on the backside to make that a definite assertion. Nevertheless, it’s always a thrill to find another manuscript of the New Testament. It is not uncommon to see manuscripts carved up and used as binding leaves in other codices. Obviously, it is unfortunate that a manuscript would be cannibalized, but many such manuscripts have been partially preserved by gluing them to wood-and-leather covers. Without such treatment, they might not have been preserved at all!
For Further Reading
The following tools are helpful for those who are fascinated by Greek New Testament manuscripts but are not sure how even to begin studying them—either online or in the flesh. This is a very basic bibliography (we didn’t want to overwhelm you right from the beginning). This is not a bibliography for New Testament textual criticism per se; rather, it is intended to be a primer on examining the manuscripts.
Aland, Kurt, et al., eds. Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, 2nd ed. Volume 1 of the Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung (ANTF). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994.
Since 1963, the K-Liste has been the standard tool for comprehensive knowledge about Greek New Testament manuscripts. It lists every extant manuscript with content, date, dimensions, columns, material, leaves, and location. It also has a convenient section of conversions between Tischendorf’s and Gregory’s systems, and Gregory’s and von Soden’s. In the back of the book is a list of all the sites that have Greek NT manuscripts, listed by city and library, along with the shelf number. For those who wish to see actual manuscripts, this is the indispensable bible on Bibles. It has been and continues to be updated as an online version, which has many useful search features.
The standard resource on the professional scribal writing of manuscripts in the early Byzantine period.
The standard resource on the professional scribal writing of papyrus manuscripts in the Hellenistic period.
This is the standard first-stop for a comprehensive treatment of what has been written on the various Greek NT manuscripts known to exist. Written by a meticulous scholar, who leaves no stone unturned, Professor Elliott’s Bibliography is must reading for going deeper with each manuscript. Perhaps what is most surprising in the volume is how many manuscripts don’t even have a paragraph written on them yet—about 80%! But if there’s a publication, dissertation, or obscure journal article about a given manuscript, Elliott includes it. That so many have nothing on them indicates that there is much, much more work to be done.
Another classic that has stood the test of time.
Hatch, W. H. P. The Principal Uncial Manuscripts of the New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939.
Another classical text that set the standard for dating Greek majuscule manuscripts of the New Testament.
Lake, Kirsopp and Silva. Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200. 10 volumes(!). Boston: 1934–1939; Index (Boston, 1945).
For getting the scripts of dated manuscripts up to the beginning of the thirteenth century, there is nothing that compares to Lake and Lake’s 10-volume set. It’s also extremely difficult to come by. If you can find it, let me know—I’ll buy it!
This is the best primer on getting into Greek biblical manuscripts (both New Testament and Old Testament). It’s a classic text, with several plates and characteristically Metzgerian detailed discussions. Help is also found in dating manuscripts and collating them.
A breathtaking array of secondary literature and primary insights on NT manuscript study from Great Britain’s leading active NT textual critic.
The standard introduction to when and why the codex book-form came into existence and later become the standard book-form in late antiquity and the middle ages.
A standard introduction which, though dated, still has much useful material.
Eric Turner was one of the great scholars of paleography, papyrology, and codicology. His opinion is always sober and never to be treated lightly.
The long-time standard against which all other works on ancient book-making have been measured.
And a third classic that is quite useful for dating manuscripts.
These ought to be enough to get any bibliophile started down a path of rich discovery and illumination.
Several other important volumes could have been listed as well. These are intended for those whose interests are not just in the texts of the biblical manuscripts but in all aspects of those manuscripts.