In the midst of a global pandemic, we still need to save Scripture

 

This coming Saturday, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM.org) had scheduled to have its annual Dallas Fundraising Banquet. Some weeks ago we pulled the plug on that. The coronavirus has spread exponentially since then.

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The world is facing a pandemic right now, and we are all sheltering at home. People are losing jobs, facing personal isolation, depression, and genuine crises. Many are dying, communities are dissolving, and a new normal may be emerging. We are praying that this is not the new normal for very long though!

In the midst of this global scenario, there are some things I am sure of. The sun will come up tomorrow, people need to eat, and our time on this planet is limited. CSNTM was founded 18 years ago because of another thing I am sure of: ancient, handwritten copies of the Bible are deteriorating. They are all written on organic material (papyrus, parchment, or paper), and because of this they are not permanent. Our initial task is to save Scripture. Each manuscript is unique. Every one has a story to tell. These are not books rolling off a printing press; they are individual works of love, gifts to future generations of people, written by men and women whose only thanks is from their Lord. The task of saving Scripture remains, and its necessity is underscored in light of the fragility of life that the whole world is now coming face to face with. Life has always been fragile, but sometimes it takes a crisis to bring this out of the shadows and put it front and center.

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Our mission is still the same. And our need is still the same. When this pathogen runs its course, CSNTM will be back at our preservation work throughout the world. There are more than 250 locales where these manuscripts are housed; our mission is to make sure they are digitally preserved, cover to cover and everything in between, with state-of-the-art equipment, allowing us to post the images on line and make them accessible to all. These images have always been free for all, and free for all time. We are ready to traverse the globe to save these Scriptures; we will pack up our equipment and fly out as soon as we are allowed.

This week, instead of a physical banquet, CSNTM is having its first-ever (and hopefully, only) VIRTUAL banquet! Please follow along this week, enjoy the testimonies, and watch the short videos, on the significant and exciting work that CSNTM is doing. Every day you will see new videos. In the least, you can watch these shorts and learn something about the Bible, its heritage, and the faithful, mostly anonymous scribes who labored in abysmal conditions to bring the Scriptures to generations of people they would never know.

Sometimes scribes penned a personal note at the end of a manuscript they were copying. One of them, Andrew, wrote this note to conclude the copy of the New Testament he had worked on for many months: “The hand that wrote this is rotting in the grave, but what is written will last until the fulness of times.” Andrew penned this note in AD 1079. The manuscript is not in great shape, but CSNTM was able to photograph it and preserve it digitally. Like Andrew, some day all of us will be rotting in the grave. Wouldn’t it be an incredible gift to  our descendants a thousand years from now to be able to read these manuscripts with the same clarity we have today?

Please join us for this virtual banquet. And please partner with us in a mission that is bigger than any of us; it’s an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.

 

Ed Komoszewski: A Man of God, a Man in Need

I announced on Facebook at the beginning of December a new GoFundMe campaign for Ed Komoszewski. Many generous folks responded–it was, in fact, overwhelming! For all of you, a big THANK YOU! The gifts rolled in even into the new year. We are over half way there! Let’s see this to the end. Below is what I wrote in December:

Dear friends, I resurrected a GoFundMe campaign for Ed Komoszewski at the beginning of December. The first five weeks were, frankly, incredible. The body of Christ has come through in a huge way. But we still have some distance to go. Below is what I wrote then. Please consider how you can help.

My very good friend, Ed Komoszewski, is a man who constantly thanks God—and this in the midst of his own body fighting against itself, tearing him apart.

At this time of year, I am hoping to resurrect the donations to Ed’s health account. The GoFundMe campaign launched two years ago came up short. Ed’s medically-related debt has increased far beyond the original goal which we failed to meet. So many of you contributed generously to Ed’s account. He would be in incalculably worse shape without your help. But now he’s in a new season of his life, and with it comes more debt.

Ed has been deemed disabled by his doctors and the federal government; he’s been unable to earn a regular income since 2015. He has been hospitalized for extensive stays four times in the past three or so years. Debt has accelerated; bills are piling up. Some have gone unpaid and have been turned over to collection agencies. The need is urgent.

I have personally witnessed his humble lifestyle. Your gifts help pay the bills. Some friends help out with specific needs, allowing him to attend a crucial academic conference each year. But he lives a ridiculously frugal life. Not only does he need funds for the medical bills, but the family car limps along, the AC unit (NOT a luxury in Texas) has problems working, and his oldest daughter is heading to college in the fall.

Because Ed is a “medical mystery” (as his doctors at Mayo said of him for the past two decades), he has exhausted many traditional therapies for his various conditions. This means he must experiment with non-traditional treatments often recommended by his doctors but not covered by insurance.

Even though Ed cannot earn a sufficient salary, he continues to work on researching and writing as God gives him strength. Long-term projects with distant deadlines are necessary because of his health. This means income is sporadic and small; authors and editors know that academic writing projects pay meagerly. The revenues are not an adequate reflection of the impact.

 Jesus, Skepticism, and the Problem of History is a book co-edited by Ed, with several notable authors defending historicity in the Gospels. It was just released a few weeks ago. Ed conceived of the project and worked with Darrell Bock in editing it. A three-hour session was dedicated to discussing it at the recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting—it’s that important.

Ed is working now with Rob Bowman on a second edition of Putting Jesus in His Place. This book has already had a huge influence. It was endorsed by a veritable Who’s Who of biblical scholars and theologians. The acronym used in the book to show that the New Testament affirms Christ’s deity has been widely used by theologians, preachers, and apologists. The publisher gets a steady flow of requests by such folks to use the HANDS acronym in their own publications. What does “HANDS” stand for? You’ll just have to get the book to find out!

It is likely that Ed and I will be revising Reinventing Jesus, too. He is trying to remain as productive as possible, as long as he draws breath, in spite of his limitations.

Besides the influence of his writings, Ed has a massive ministry behind the scenes. I have seen him share the gospel with strangers, pray with people he’s just met, counsel friends and friends of friends. God has given him wisdom borne of suffering and it draws people to Ed like a magnet.

Please consider giving as well as sharing this campaign with your circle of friends. Facebook algorithms in particular limit exposure, so sharing multiple times and asking friends to do the same is the best way to get the word out.

For his current expenses and for the near future, Ed needs $40,000. Yes, that’s a lot of money—and it shows how desperate the situation is. Let’s get Ed to “ground zero” for the first time in many years.

 

Making an Impact on the Bible This Year

We do not have the original copies of any of the Gospels or letters in the New Testament. What we do have are thousands of handwritten Greek New Testaments. Some of these are as old as the 200s, or perhaps even older. And almost all were written before the invention of the printing press.

These treasures were the Bibles for entire Christian communities, for families, and even for individuals—if they were fortunate enough to afford the luxury of having a book. They bear witness to the words of the Christian Scriptures and the history of the Church in the Greek-speaking world.

Greek New Testament manuscripts are singularly important because they are the foundation for modern Bibles. By studying them we can discern what were the very words written by the apostles and their associates. While we know essentially what the New Testament says, there are still a number of places where Bible scholars and translators wrestle with what was originally written. Studying Greek New Testament manuscripts answers those questions. In this way, CSNTM stands at the head of the stream of Bible translation. When people read the New Testament in future years, it will differ in some places from what you read today, and a large reason for that will be greater knowledge of the original Greek New Testament—knowledge which comes through the work of CSNTM.

It is crucial to both preserve and study these significant documents. They must be preserved digitally in case of unexpected destruction AND in case of what IS expected—the inevitable decay over time.

And they must be studied so that we have the best possible knowledge of the Greek New Testament. Complete study of manuscripts is usually impossible without having a digital copy made available online.

Our mission at CSNTM is to digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.

There are still thousands of undigitized and inaccessible manuscripts. And right now teams of researchers in the United States and Europe are working on a new edition of the Greek New Testament. Therefore, it is urgent that we digitize more manuscripts and share the images with these teams.

Will you make a gift to help CSNTM before the end of the year?

Our focus in 2020 is in Eastern Europe—the location of many significant manuscripts not yet digitized. Your partnership with CSNTM will be instrumental in making sure these documents become available for free online.

GIVE TODAY!

Insider’s Expedition to Greece coming this March!

The CSNTM Insider’s Expedition is fast approaching; we have a few more spots available. This is a one-of-a-kind trip to Greece crafted with our friends and donors in mind. It will be an excursion for a very small number of folks, making the time more intimate.

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One of the monasteries at Meteora

The Insider’s Expedition to Greece is a full-service tour of Greece guided by Ancient Tours. What makes this trip unlike other tours of the ancient world is that in addition to visiting places where the Apostle Paul logged time—places like Corinth and Mars Hill, we’ll also go behind-the-scenes at libraries where CSNTM has digitized, giving you first-hand exposure to New Testament manuscripts. On top of that, we’ll head inland to a collection of monasteries where manuscripts were copied and treasured by Greek Orthodox monks.

Be sure to contact Ancient Tours if you’re interested in joining us so that your spot will be held. I would encourage you to do it soon. What a magnificent Christmas present this would be for a loved one!

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Ancient Corinth

Our itinerary will include:

  • Athens: Tour the Parthenon, Mars Hill, the National Library of Greece, and more
  • Meteora: Tour other-worldly ancient monasteries perched atop sheer cliffs, where monks copied manuscripts for centuries
  • Islands: Sail for a day-tour of three islands near Athens—Hydra, Poros, and Aegina
  • Corinth: Tour the ancient city where Paul spent a year and a half and which subsequently received the letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians.

More specific details about travel, accommodations, the itinerary, and how to reserve your spot are available on the tour’s website: https://www.ancienttours.org/the-csntm-tour-march-7-16-2020/.

 

 

From the Library: Decorated Letters in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

Two of my colleagues at CSNTM, Leigh Ann Thompson and Andy Patton, have co-authored a brief essay on decorated letters in New Testament manuscripts. This is in the series “From the Library” that Andy Patton and Andrew Bobo started some time ago for CSNTM’s newsletter. I’ve included a link to this latest offering here.

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This is really fascinating stuff. The ancient and medieval scribes went to some lengths to encourage people to engage with Scripture. If you’d like to keep up with these articles, the best way to do it is to sign up  for CSNTM’s free newsletter. It comes to your inbox about 10 times a year and it offers not only interesting essays but updates on our expeditions to digitize manuscripts. You want this! I know you do. Click here to sign up and be among the first to know the latest sites CSNTM is visiting to preserve ancient Scripture for a modern world.

Thanks, Leigh Ann and Andy, for a terrific piece on scribal practices, giving us a small glimpse of how they viewed Scripture.