In 1927, Adolf Deissmann began a correspondence with A. T. Robertson that led to the purchase of a Greek Gospels manuscript by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of the story of this manuscript’s travels and text is told by John W. Bowman in his 23-page booklet (with four plates), The Robertson Codex (Allahabad, India: Mission Press, 1928). The booklet was a reprinting of articles in The Indian Standard 139, nos. 8 and 9 (August and September, 1928). Bowman had been a student of Robertson’s at Southern and later became professor of New Testament and Church History at North India United Theological College in Saharanpur, India.
In Bowman’s booklet are two chapters, which correspond to the two articles in The Indian Standard. The first chapter addresses the process of photographing the manuscript, and is a window on the difficulties that attended such labors in the 1920s. It took the author nearly three months to photograph it! Today, with digital photography, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts normally photographs a 350-page manuscript (the size of Codex Robertsonianus) in less than a day. In this chapter he mentions the rarity of photographs of New Testament manuscripts: “Very few complete MSS of the N.T. or portions thereof have hitherto been photographed: I am personally aware of only five such” (5). Bowman’s second chapter discusses many fascinating details of the manuscript.
One thing is largely missing, however, from the book: except for small snippets here and there, the correspondence between Deissmann and Robertson is not mentioned. This blog thus supplements Bowman’s pamphlet with Deissmann’s letters to Robertson concerning the codex (I do not have access to Robertson’s responses to Deissmann).
Below are photographs of the first letter (along with the text printed beneath each one), which was obtained from Southern Baptist Seminary. In later blogs, I will post the rest of the letters and text. These letters constitute the A. T. Robertson Papers, Box 7, Folder 3, Archives and Special Collections, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. I am grateful to Adam Winters, archivist at SBTS, who provided the photographs. They are used with permission of the SBTS Archives & Special Collections.
Professor Dr. Adolf Deissmann
Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Prinzregentenstrasse 6., March 2nd, 1927.
My dear Dr. Robertson:
Accept please my thanks for your kind letter of Jan. 13, 1927. It is not possible for me now to say an other time for an American tour of mine; but I hope it may be possible at a later date. To-day I should like to tell you some words about a Greek Tetra-Euangelion which I had the opportunity to find in the hands of a Turkish dealer and which I saved immediately. It is a parchment codex, dated by our excellent Berlin expert Dr. Schubart (the papyrologist) in the 11. century A.D. It contains 175 leaves (15 x 11 centimeters), the leaves containing the four Gospels and the following passages being lost: Mt 11–932; 1114–157; 2671–2731; Mr 11–31; 42–36; 616–30; Luk 38–25; Joh 723–41; 1231–2125. The hand-writing is very nice and easily decipherable; the κεφάλαια etc. are added. The codex came from the area of Trapezunt (Asia Minor). It is not known to v. Soden, Gregory etc. and I think it turned up during or after that horrible expulsio[n] of the Greeks in 1922. and adds an unknown new number to the series of extant N.T. manuscripts. The form of the text is not yet explored, I could make only some specimen investigation, e.g. the μοιχαλίς-Pericope is peculiar in some readings and seems to have a type not noted by von Soden.
Concerning the fact that the number of N.T. codic[es] is very small in American libraries (Gregory only mentions 13 codices or small fragments of the Greek Gospels existing in the States) I suppose you may perhaps be interested to acquire the newly discovered codex for the library of your Seminary[.]
I should like of course to acquire it for my N.T. Seminar, but I have had the chance in 1910 by a generous patron to buy a Greek Gospel codex (Gregory’s Nr. 2308), and now I must take care to save money for my Ephesus work. Therefore I cannot buy it for my Seminar. The price is $700.—a modern binding included (it was necessary to bind the venerable leaves). It is of course very helpful for the students to see and to study original manuscripts of the N.T., and I think the opportunities to acquire something like that Trapezunt-Codex are very rare. Next fall I shall try to find other new N.T. fragments in Asia Minor, but I am not very full of hope for a success.
I did not offer the Codex to anybody else; you are the first whom I informed about this chance. If you are interested I suppose you may find some patronage as I found in 1910.
If you should like to see the codex before I could send it to you, but of course this way is rather prolix.
Believe me, dear colleague,
Yours very sincerely