Today was supposed to be a melancholy day for us: saying goodbye to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. But we were too rushed to be very melancholy. We will have one more day on the island, but we had planned on actually seeing the island instead of working 12-15 hours as we have been doing. Last night we finished burning the DVDs for the monastery (76 total!), prepared a PowerPoint presentation in Greek and English, labeled the DVDs, and did miscellaneous preparations for the meeting with the Abbot today.
The DVD burning took longer than expected (a couple of us didnâ€™t get to bed until 4 am), and the PowerPoint also took time because of the language issue. I went to bed thinking that I had given the wrong form for a verb but since we had already burned all the CDs of the PowerPoint it was too late to fix it. I lost sleep thinking about it, knowing that I couldnâ€™t do anything to fix the problem. When we met with the Abbot, he kindly corrected my Greekâ€”that one verb was the lone mistake in the presentation. But Iâ€™m getting ahead of myself.
We made it to the monastery at 11.20 this morning. We had said we would try to get there by 11, knowing that we had work to do last night and today. We met with the librarian, Father Polukarpos, and Father Gregorias, the icon restorer, while waiting to meet with Abbot Antipas. They asked several questions about the manuscript images we had shot and what the impact will be for textual criticism. The librarian was aware of the standard Greek New Testament, the Nestle-Aland 27th edition. We talked about variants and we showed them where the Patmos manuscripts were mentioned in the Nestle apparatus. They were delighted to see the recognition. We also showed them places where the Patmos manuscripts could have shown up in the apparatus but were not mentioned.
After about 30 minutes in the waiting room, we were called into the Abbotâ€™s office. Andy filmed the meeting with the Abbotâ€™s permission. Of course, we were nervous because this was the last meeting and the one that would hopefully pave the way for a trip next year. We started with the PowerPoint presentation. Father Gregorias, Father Polukarpos, and Ioannis Melionos were also in the room. As Billy Todd fired up his laptop to show the men the PowerPoint, the Abbot got up from his chair, walked around his desk, and started taking over the PowerPoint. He pressed the forward buttons and simply admired the show! This both showed his savvy in handling a Mac laptop and relieved us of the anxiety of having to talk our way through the presentation.
When the show was done, we presented the Abbot with the 76 DVDs along with a CD of the PowerPoint show. We also gave a CD to the librarians and the restorer. Then, warm commendations were exchanged. One notable one was that the Abbot said that our work was very important because it will help people to know how important the New Testament is. He then said that he felt we had become a part of the monastery. He noted that we were respectful and acted like monks at mealtime because we knew how to be silent when we ate. The other men nodded their heads in agreement; this was truly a symbiotic relationship. Then, I asked if it would be permissible for us to post a few photographs of manuscripts on our website. The Abbot agreed, though noting that icons (or miniatures) should not be among them. Finally, we gave the Abbot a large cash gift for the library. Almost immediately, a â€œrecipeâ€ (a.k.a. receipt) was written up for the gift. The Abbot asked if our Center owned copies of two large folio volumes about the monasteryâ€”one on the icons and one on the manuscripts and other treasures of Patmos. When I said that we did not, he directed the librarian to get a copy of each of these tomes for us. What magnificent volumes they are, too!
At the end of the meeting, the Abbot invited us again to photograph more manuscripts, and simply asked that we write a letter making the request official. He also asked if he could meet again with us before we left for Athens. We will be meeting with him tomorrow at 6 pm. He wants to talk to us about Orthodox spirituality. Then, a few hours later, we will be on a ferry heading back to the mainland, to examine manuscripts for the next three days at the National Library in Athens.
Before the day at the monastery ended, however, we were able to go back to the library and examine four more manuscripts. We again noticed palimpsests within their coversâ€”ancient texts that had been scraped clean by later scribes. We cannot yet identify the contents, but we are excited about the possibility that they may contain great treasures. Next year, when we return with UV lighting, we hope to uncover these mysteries.
All in all, this expedition has gone far beyond our expectations. Every day has brought new turns, built stronger connections, deepened friendships, and opened doors. I am convinced that our success has been largely due to you, our praying friends. May Jesus Christ be glorified through our efforts and may the Church come to appreciate more deeply the importance of the scriptures to guide our lives. We are thankful to the Orthodox for preserving the word of God these many centuries. Without their excellent care of these sacred treasures, we would have nothing to photograph.
In his grip,
Daniel B. Wallace, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts