Weâ€™ve been on Patmos now for over a week and have taken over 7000 hi-res digital photographs of Greek New Testament manuscripts. These are housed in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, which sits atop the infamous island where John penned the Apocalypse over 1900 years ago. The Orthodox have rolled out the red carpet for us, showing us extreme hospitality and kindness. We have enjoyed our time immensely, even if it is, at times, back-breaking work.
We photographed thirteen manuscripts while here. The longest one was over 1000 pages. It filled 13 DVDs; each image was 48 megabytes (TIFF format). And get this: the text covered was only the Gospels! The reason is that there was a commentary attached to the scriptures and it was, well, not given to brevity.
Although we brought 150 DVDs with us to burn, we soon discovered that that was not nearly enough. We will have enough for the monastery, but only about half of what we need for ourselves. So, we will be flying home with most of the data only on hard drives. Pray that we donâ€™t hit too many air pockets!
Below are a couple of pictures to show our work. I thought youâ€™d enjoy these. Our first day on the job, one of the priests asked us why we wore black. My response: â€œTo honor the priests of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.â€ He was pleased with our response.
We had a wonderful and important weekend here on Patmos. The Abbot invited us to the grand opening of the Museum of the Convent of the Life-Giving Spring (a nunnery close to the monastery). The nunnery is about 40 years old (a real youth on this island!) but the museum is brand new. We were honored to be among the invited guests for this event! The inauguration started in the sanctuary. We all stood for about 75 minutes, while the service took place. The incense got a little strong and the air was thick, warm, and humid. After the service, there were speeches and more consecrations in the museum courtyard. Then, after about an hour we were allowed to tour the small museum. Remarkable icons were on display. What a treat to be part of this grand opening!
On Sunday, we went to the Holy Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, also held at the nunnery. The service started at 7 am; we showed up at 10 am and it was still going. Afterward, the museum was again consecrated. And we were invited for this event as well. There was a PowerPoint presentation, followed by fellowship with Greek coffee and some desserts. During our time here, cheese and other milk products have not been eaten by the faithful, nor has meat; they are fasting in honor of St. Peter and St. Paul. But the Greeks know how to celebrate anyway! We finally left at 12.30 pm.
I was able to spend some time with one of the priests of the monastery on Sunday as well. It was an important contact. Sunday night we went to dinner and Andy captured a beautiful sunset on video on the west side of the island. He also shot two people riding on a small motorcycle with a dog in lap! Typical of Patmos to have motorcycles with multiple passengers, including dogs!
By Monday, we got back to photographing manuscripts. We were actually able to complete all the photography today except for perhaps one retake photo. 7000+ photos in six days is pretty decent work. All proofed and processed.
As well, one friend prayed that we would be able to discover another manuscript while here. Well, that didn’t quite happen… yet. But we did notice that the last few pages of a manuscript had been scraped over; the Unterschrift (or undertext) was written perhaps two or three centuries earlier than the uppertext. Someone discovered it a few years ago, but was unable to identify it. We are still working on the identification. We know it is not from the New Testament or the apostolic fathers. It may not even be a copy of any known Greek text. Pray that we can discover what lurks beneath the clearly written text! We had to use UV light to bring out the letters and even then we could not make out the whole thing.