A different sort of blog this time, but one I can hardly keep to myself. As many of you know, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org) sent out two teams on expeditions this past summer—one to Patmos and one to an eastern European country. The expeditions accomplished far more than we thought they would: 25,000 images shot with high-resolution digital cameras, more than sixty manuscripts photographed altogether. Not only that, but we discovered several manuscripts that are up till now unknown to western scholarship. We’re not sure exactly what we have found in all instances so far because with thousands of images to go through it takes time to determine exactly what each manuscript contains. But we’ve been working through the images and documenting what we have found.
In addition to the new discoveries, CSNTM also "rediscovered" several manuscripts that had been presumed lost decades ago. To put all this in perspective, those manuscripts that go missing almost never show up. And certainly they donâ€™t show up in batches. This time, they did. More importantly, we photographed them as well as the newly discovered manuscripts.
One of the areas that the Christian faith has been attacked of late is its literary basis. The New Testament is an extremely well-documented book (i.e., there are thousands of copies of it), and it’s getting better all the time. What CSNTM is attempting to do is add significantly to the fund of knowledge that we have of the handwritten copies by discovering manuscripts, photographing them, and making the information available to the community of scholars. As well, we are working on developing OCR technology (optical character recognition) that will be able to scan the images and crank out printed text of what they say. The primary tasks of CSNTM, then, are to discover, photograph, and scan manuscripts. These tasks will enable scholars to become increasingly more sure of what the original text said. By filling in the gaps of various family trees, we will be able to connect the dots better. Ultimately, we are hoping to trace those genealogical lines back to their roots, and see how the roots converge close to the base of the tree. In other words, our ideal goal is to duplicate exactly the wording of the original text of the New Testament. Every Christian who is interested in the Bible should be interested in this endeavor because the Bible you hold in your hands (unless it is a King James or New KJV) is the direct result of painstaking textual research done by scholars in the past 125 years.
You can read the story of our recent trip to Patmos (complete with some photographs) posted at www.csntm.org under "Photographic Expeditions." But just to show you what I’m talking about, here’s an image of one of the manuscripts that we photographed:
Finally, of the manuscripts that we discovered this past summer there seem to be one or two that are significant as far as the original wording of the New Testament is concerned. I can’t tell you more yet, but soon will (we are hoping to make an announcement to the media in the winter).
Daniel B. Wallace
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts
PS For those of you who know some Greek, try to figure out the text of the page seen above. The book is easy; but what about the details?