Here is an ALR New Release about the CSNTM find:
DALLAS, March 25, 2008 – Normally, two or three New Testament manuscripts handwritten in the original Greek are discovered each year.
Last summer, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) found a treasure trove of them during a trip to Albania. The Center, based in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, devotes itself to the high-resolution digital preservation of these early copies of the New Testament.
Scholars tried for decades to gain access to the National Archive in Tirana with little success, partly because Albania is a former police state. Until now, only two manuscripts of the 13 there known to Western scholars had been photographed, both with microfilm many years ago.
Recently though, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, the CSNTM director, received permission to send a team of four men to Albania to photograph the manuscripts with state-of-the-art digital methods. By the end of their first day in Tirana in July, they realized there were more than 13 manuscripts – far more.
"When the news came back across the Atlantic, I was stunned," Wallace said.
The catalog at the National Archive listed 47 New Testament manuscripts, and at least 17 were unknown to Western scholars. Evidence suggests that some of the other manuscripts had been presumed lost elsewhere in Albania, but no final determination has been made.
The oldest manuscript in the collection is Codex Beratinus, written in the sixth century. It contains only the Gospels of Matthew and Mark today.
The codex is the ancestor of the modern book form, replacing the scrolls and wax tablets of earlier times. Early Christians popularized the codex, adopting it for their scriptures and other writings.
Codex Beratinus was dyed in purple; only a handful of purple biblical codices exist today — with silver and gold letters on it.
The staff at the National Archives said that during World War II, Hitler tried to obtain this particular document. Several monks and priests risked their lives to hide the manuscript. Today, it is registered with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world treasure.
Among the other notable finds were four manuscripts, dating from the 11th century on, that provided more information on a familiar Biblical controversy. The story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 is included in most Bibles today, but many scholars doubt its authenticity. These four manuscripts either have the story at the end of John or lack it altogether, suggesting it is something of an add-on.
Wallace says that no basic teaching of the Bible such things as the virgin birth and the deity of Christ — has been compromised by such study but that some of the particulars have been brought into question.
When studying these manuscripts, the age is important, but so is the pedigree (which previous manuscript it was copied from.) Experts like Wallace, also a Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, strive to trace the antecedents of a Biblical manuscript much like an expert in genealogy would reconstruct a family tree.
It’s a daunting task.
"It is like working on a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing," Wallace said. "But with the discovery of new manuscripts, more of the pieces make sense. And the result is we are getting closer to reconstructing the original wording of the New Testament in the few places where there still is question."
Wallace has personally examined manuscripts at the base of Mount Sinai in Egypt; The Vatican; Cambridge University, Oxford University and the British Library in England; Dresden, Cologne and Berlin in Germany; and Florence, Italy, along with several other sites in the United States and abroad .
In its five years of existence, CSNTM has photographed manuscripts in, among other places, Istanbul, Turkey; Patmos, Greece and Muenster, Germany at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research. The Institute is the clearinghouse for original manuscripts. When a â€œnewâ€ manuscript comes to light, it is assigned a unique number certifying the discovery. To date, some 5,700 manuscripts containing about 1.3 million pages have been catalogued.
Photographing these manuscripts is painstaking work. Wallace says that the average Greek New Testament manuscript has about 550 pages. Optimally, a team can shoot 1,200 to 1,800 pages a day, depending on the size and condition of the manuscripts. Members of the team take extraordinary measures, including wearing white cotton gloves, not to damage the manuscripts.
The bill is high — $6 to $7 a page, when all the expenses are figured in and the task is Herculean. Wallace, not one to set his sights low, wants to photograph all 1.3 million pages of manuscripts known to scholars.
"We’ve photographed several thousand pages, but it’s just a drop in the bucket of what needs to be done,"he said. "These manuscripts are deteriorating, and older photographs done on microfilm, a much poorer quality than what we can do today, are deteriorating as well.
"Plus, some manuscripts are lost or stolen, and others are damaged by fire, worms or water. So there is a sense of urgency about this. We have to get these photographed while we have the opportunity."
For more information on the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, visit www.csntm.org.
Note to editors: For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, contact Steve Yount of A. Larry Ross Communications at 972.267.1111 or [email protected].
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