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Keeping Track of Manuscripts

It was reported this year that the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) is returning one of their manuscripts to a previous owner in Athens. This is, of course, welcome news and is reminiscent of other similar situations.

GA 1424 (formerly Chicago Gruber 152), a 9th/10th century manuscript that is regarded as the earliest complete Greek New Testament in minuscule text, was recently voluntarily returned to Greece. Its recorded history can be traced back to at least 1885, when it was included by Athanasios Papadopoulos-Kerameus in his catalogue of the manuscripts at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa. This monastery is located in the mountains of the Serres region, of which Drama is the capital (the closest city to the monastery is called Kosinitza in Turkish, or Kormista in Greek). What the Liste refers to as 1424, was numbered 124 in the 1885 catalogue of the monastery. This manuscript was, however, looted from the monastery in March 1917, and subsequently remained in the US for nearly a century.

In 2010, Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann explained how the manuscript ended up in the Gruber collection in Chicago:

"In 1917 all manuscripts were taken from the Kosinitza monastery by Bulgarians and transported to Sofia. Many manuscripts were eventually returned to Greece and are now in the National Library of Greece in Athens. But nearly three hundred manuscripts are still in Sofia, in the Ivan Dujcev Center for Slavo-Byzantine Studies. And an unknown number of Greek manuscripts and fragments found their way to European book dealers and are now dispersed throughout the world."

Kavrus-Hoffmann continues,

"Some of the former Kosinitza manuscripts were acquired by American collectors. A complete New Testament, Kosinitza 124 [i.e. GA 1424], came into the possession of Levi Franklin Gruber, who acquired the manuscript from Jacques Rosenthal, a Munich book dealer, in 1920. After Gruber’s death, his collection of rare books and manuscripts, including fourteen Greek manuscripts, was sold by his widow to the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in Maywood, Illinois, where Gruber was president from 1926 to 1941. The Seminary joined three other Lutheran theological seminaries in 1962 and formed the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, which in 1967 moved to Hyde Park near the University of Chicago. The Gruber collection is now housed in a special room of the School’s Jesuit-Krauss-McCormick Library."[1]

In correspondence with the INTF, President of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), James Nieman, explains that 1424 may never have resided at the Maywood campus. It spent most of its time in Gruber’s private vault in a downtown Chicago bank and only came into the seminary’s possession via Gruber’s widow, likely in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

At the end of 2016, in a ceremony of homecoming, it was voluntarily returned to Greece by LSTC and now resides again in the collection of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa.

 

Examining 1424. From left to right: Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod Bishop Wayne Miller, President of LSTC James Nieman, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Archbishop Demetrios of America, and Rev. Donald McCoid. Image courtesy of LSTC.

Although some of the story about 1424 can be found online here, one important detail was still missing that the INTF needed for the Liste: the shelf number at its current location. LSTC has been very helpful in this regard. Earlier this year, we contacted them to inquire about the shelf number. They forwarded our request to a liaison for the monastery, who then contacted the monastery and was able to ascertain this information for us. Thus, we are now able to record the current location and shelf number of 1424 as Kormista, Panagia Eikosifoinissa, Icosifinissis nr. 3 (3P).

Similarly, in 2014, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, CA willingly returned one of their manuscripts to Greece, known in the Liste as GA 927. A 1960 report from Dionysiou Monastery, which was not made public at that time, recorded that manuscript number 8 was illegally removed from their premises. This manuscript was later acquired by the Getty Museum in 1983 "as part of a large, well-documented collection" and was subsequently given shelf identification Ludwig II 4. After the missing manuscript from Dionysiou Monastery was discovered, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports worked with the museum to help return it. Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, said that returning the manuscript was "the right course of action." The Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, Panos Panagiotopoulos, noted: "The decision [to return the manuscript] also clearly demonstrates the respect the Getty Museum has for Greek cultural heritage and encourages us to continue to build and strengthen our collaborative relationship for the future."[2] The manuscript has returned home to Dionysiou Monastery and has taken its old shelf number 8 again.

Although the purchase of a manuscript may be legal, if a manuscript is discovered to have been taken illegally at some point, returning it to its rightful place is not always straightforward. As we strive to keep the ever-changing Liste up to date, it is important to check holding institutions and online databases (such as Pinakes and Trismegistos) for the latest information. The best case scenario for completing this work is when holding institutions have digitized their manuscripts online and provided their own detailed information about their manuscripts. Normally when an institution already has images for public viewing online, we are granted permission for the NT.VMR to deep-link to them under a Creative Commons License. In updating the Liste, the fact that some monasteries or other holding institutions have no email or even phone number (let alone their own images of manuscripts) can often prove challenging. In some cases, we are lucky to even find a mailing address to request information about an institution’s manuscripts. We also rely on other researchers to inform us of new information and are very grateful to have been notified in many instances via the NT.VMR forum about location changes or even newly discovered manuscripts.

I mention the return of manuscripts to offer a quick behind the scenes look at the ongoing work of the INTF in its effort to update the Liste and to offer a centralized venue where these valuable artifacts can been seen and studied online.

 

[1] "A New Testament Manuscript Produced in the Stoudios Scriptorium: Codex 152 in the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago," Thirty-Sixth Annual Byzantine Studies Conference, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, October 8-10, 2010.

[2] "The J. Paul Getty Museum Announces the Return of a Byzantine Illuminated New Testament to Greece." <http://news.getty.edu/byzantine-manu-to-greece.htm>.

What is the Kurzgefasste Liste?

Introduction

 

One of the on-going projects the INTF is responsible for is the Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des neuen Testaments, commonly called the Liste.

 

The Liste is a brief catalogue of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts. Although J.J. Wettstein was the first to create a systematic list of Greek manuscripts in 1751–52, the current system is credited to Caspar René Gregory. In his 1908 work, Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Gregory separated manuscripts into four categories: papyri, majuscules, minuscules, and lectionaries. He also resolved other problems from older lists such as registering one number multiple times to refer to more than one manuscript.

 

Following Gregory, the primary individuals who have kept the Liste up to date are: Ernst von Dobschütz, Georg Maldfeld, Bruce M. Metzger, and Kurt Aland, who then passed the Liste on to the INTF. Until Aland began working on the Liste in the 1950s, most of the publications after Gregory were updates and new additions to the Liste. In 1963, Aland published a comprehensive catalogue of Greek New Testament manuscripts, which was revised and published in 1994.

 

Image: Klaus Junack's personal copy of the 1963 Liste, in which he wrote changes to contribute to the 1994 edition.  

For each manuscript in the Liste, a very basic profile is offered including information such as:

  • a Gregory-Aland number
  • the New Testament contents
  • the manuscript’s date
  • the material the manuscript is written on
  • the number of pages
  • the number of columns per page
  • the number of lines of text per page
  • the physical dimensions of the manuscript
  • its current location along with an identification number at its current location

 

At the INTF, Aland amassed the world’s largest collection of Greek New Testament manuscripts on microfilm. This collection not only enabled manuscript details to be verified for the Liste but also provided the basis for other research projects at the INTF as well as for visiting researchers.

 

Since Aland, care of the Liste has remained a priority for the INTF. Currently, Holger Strutwolf and the staff at the INTF have kept the Liste in an up-to-date format online in the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NT.VMR): http://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/liste

 

An effort has been underway for years to digitize the INTF microfilms and upload them online on the NT.VMR so anyone can access them. Since these microfilms are black and white, one of the INTF’s current goals is to completely update the NT.VMR by uploading as many new digital images as possible online as well as to provide transcriptions. For example, images and a transcription of what is probably the world’s best known biblical manuscript, Codex Sinaiticus, can be seen here.

 

Presently, we are working intensively to update the Liste, a project supported by the Hermann Kunst Foundation and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). It is hoped that this endeavor will greatly benefit researchers around the world by providing access to state-of-the-art images and encouraging further scholarly collaboration.

 

Basic Criteria for Adding a Manuscript to the Liste

 

How does a manuscript get added to the Liste? Although there are some exceptions, there are a few basic criteria when deciding if a manuscript should be added to the Liste: it must contain a portion of the New Testament and it must be written in Greek. Although a variety of ancient manuscripts could fit these two fundamental criteria, certain types of manuscripts are not normally included in the Liste, such as patristic writings or documentary papyri.

 

Within the Liste, a few types of manuscripts are identified such as commentary manuscripts (e.g. 186). In addition, some categories of manuscripts are no longer included. For example, after Aland began working on the Liste, he discontinued adding amulets and ostraca to the Liste. Recently, there has been discussion about including them once again (see especially Brice C. Jones, New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity [Bloomsbury: London, 2016]).

 

Further, a manuscript can have either a continuous text (that is, a sequential text such as Matthew chapter 1, chapter 2, and so on) or a non-continuous text (that is, a text that does not proceed in a literary sequence, but could have a passage of Mark, followed by a passage from Matthew, followed by a passage from John). The latter is commonly found in lectionaries, which are liturgical manuscripts that have daily readings for the church. In addition, other liturgical manuscripts like prayer books are included.

 

Assigning Numbers to Manuscripts

 

In an attempt to standardize and classify the manuscripts, each manuscript is assigned a unique number—a Gregory-Aland number—so it can be easily identified. These numbers fall into one of four categories.

 

The first category has to do with the material the manuscript is written on. If written on papyrus, the manuscript is identified by “P” followed by a number (for example, P52).

 

The next two categories are based on the script of the manuscript: manuscripts written in majuscule are assigned numbers beginning with “0” (for example, 032) and minuscule manuscripts are just assigned a regular number (for example, 1).

 

The fourth category has to do with the function of the manuscript, namely liturgical; these manuscripts are catalogued beginning with “l” followed by a number (for example, l358).

 

This system is, however, not perfect. It is not always clear-cut how a manuscript should be classified—or if it should be included in the Liste at all. For example, 056—listed as a majuscule with a commentary text—has a majuscule biblical text but the commentary is in minuscule. There are also ongoing debates about the dates of certain manuscripts, and these are sometimes changed in the Liste based on current research. Codex Bezae (D 05), for example, was dated to the 6th century in Aland’s 1963 Liste but changed to 5th century in the 1994 edition of the Liste.

 

Here is a flow chart highlighting the basic principles of the Liste, but keep in mind there are exceptions as to which manuscripts are included and how they are numbered.

 

 

In another post, we will explore the number of manuscripts recorded in the Liste.

 

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