A Fascinating Look at the Manuscripts of St. Catherine’s

The Greek Orthodox monks of St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai have been accumulating manuscripts and books since the sixth century, making their library the world’s greatest repository of early medieval writing after the Vatican. The collection is even richer than it first appears, because many of the 3,300 ancient manuscripts contain hidden text and illustrations older than their visible contents – and a large scientific effort is under way to reveal and record them. The concealed texts are in palimpsests, manuscripts on which the original writing was erased so that scribes could reuse the precious parchment. Faint signs of the original text remain, as traces of pigment or indentation, which can be enhanced visually through modern techniques of spectral imaging at different wavelengths.

But here’s the most intriguing bit, a little further on in the essay-

Many of the erased texts are in Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a language used between the third and eighth centuries, which then died out. “These texts were erased because they were in a dead language for which the medieval scribes had no use,” Phelps says. “We can help to recover its voice.”

Read the entire report here– it’s fascinating! And two thumbs up to the Financial Times for publishing quality scholarship- something which can’t be sad, sadly, of the Smithsonian Magazine or the Discovery News.

Finally, a Photo of the ‘Earliest Fragment of Mark'(?????)

Via our friends at ‘almost to Emmaus‘.

My gut reaction?  It looks fake.  Look how crisp the papyrus is.  The letters are excessively ‘sharp’.  If you’ve ever seen a really old manuscript they never (in my experience) look like that.  It looks like something hatched in someone’s tourist trinket workshop.

They need to test the material in a lab and they need to examine the ink.  I’d trust Yuval Goren to do it.  Until someone of his caliber says ‘yes, it is indeed ancient’ I think it’s a fraud.

UPDATE:  If this is the manuscript Wallace is talking about, it’s junk.  If it’s some fake being passed around (doubtless in hopes of selling it), it’s just plain unethical junk.

An Early Copy of Mark’s Gospel? Color Me Skeptical

James McGrath, following a couple of others, ( Joel Watts and Brian LePort) writes

… a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark has been found which has been dated on paleographical grounds to the first century.

I’m skeptical for a couple of reasons.  First, paleographic grounds alone don’t prove anything.  Second, in spite of the wishes of some that this text is as close as we’ve ever gotten to the autograph, this manuscript, even if authentic, could just be a rubbish copy of a rubbish copy of a rubbish copy.

We need to see the manuscript.  The paleographers have to do their work.  The text needs to be subjected to stringent tests.  And most of all, the provenance of the manuscript has to be fully disclosed.  In these days when frauds and fakes flood the market and claims of authenticity are bantered about with ease and aplomb, everyone should be especially cautious.

Announcing ‘an early manuscript of Mark has been found and it might be very close to the autograph’ is inappropriate.  It’s just unfounded potentially misleading speculation.

BibleWorks 9 is Out

And it has new features, the most important of which, in my estimation, is

BibleWorks Manuscript Project

Compare and analyze original manuscript text and images


New transcriptions and complete image sets of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, and GA1141. Manuscripts are fully searchable using the full array of BibleWorks analysis tools. Morphological tagging is not complete for all manuscripts but updates will be provided free of charge to BibleWorks 9 users as they become available.

I saw a demo in November and even then, in its incomplete form, it was brilliant.  It’s a massively desirable tool.

Seven Newly Digitized New Testament Manuscripts, And Other Stuff

According to the British Library

A new batch of manuscripts has now been published online, and contains 24 manuscripts ranging in date from the tenth to the nineteenth centuries. They include a group of illustrated medieval manuscripts of the gospels, formerly owned by the celebrated English physician and book collector Anthony Askew (fl. 1699–1774), acquired by the British Museum in 1775. Also included is a tenth-century parchment manuscript of Old Testament fragments (Add MS 20002), acquired in parts from Sinai by Constantin von Tischendorf (1815–1874) during his second journey to the East in 1853, which came to the British Museum in 1854. Another part of this manuscript is housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (Bodleian Auct. T. infr. ii. 1). A further highlight is an eleventh-century manuscript of Symeon Metaphrastes’s Saints’ Lives for December (Add MS 11870), which bears ownership marks of Cardinal Salviati (d. 1553) and Pope Pius VI (1775–1779).

Read the rest. With thanks to Tommy W.