St. Catherine’s Monastery: An Ark in the Wilderness

John Chitty, known in the blogosphere as Captain Headknowledge, recently had the opportunity to attend a symposium on the St. Catherine’s monastery library and the significance of the Sinai manuscripts, held at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).

Chitty has shared the text of Father Justin’s lecture: “St. Catherine’s Monastery: An Ark in the Wilderness”. I encourage you to take a look as the lecture covers the well known and the not so well known about St. Catherine’s Monastery. I’m not sure I had heard that they made some new manuscript discoveries there as late as 1975.

Here is an excerpt from the lecture notes, but I encourage you to go read the whole thing:

The monastery has never been destroyed or abandoned in all its centuries of existence. The climate at Sinai is surprisingly dry and stable, the humidity averaging from twenty to thirty percent. All of this, and the diligent care of the monks, account for the preservation of many manuscripts. The Sinai library is today a remarkable treasure for the antiquity and the significance of its volumes.

The library contains 3304 manuscripts, written in eleven languages. These are predominantly Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, and Slavonic. The manuscripts range in content from copies of the Scriptures, services, and music manuscripts, to sermons, writings of the Fathers, lives of the Saints, and books of inherited spiritual wisdom. The library also includes medical treatises, historical chronicles, and texts in classical Greek, which is the pinnacle of the Greek language.

A few of the manuscripts are splendid works of art, with gilded letters and brilliant illuminations, created in Constantinople in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, when the City was at its height as the centre of culture and devotion. But no less significant are the humble manuscripts written at Sinai, often on reused parchment, bound between rough boards, the pages stained from long use, a witness to the deprivations and austerity of Sinai, to the generations of monks who have maintained the life of devotion and the cycle of daily services at this holy place.

But perhaps we would come to a greater appreciation of the Sinai library if I could describe four manuscripts in particular, all of which have been recently studied by scholars.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a treasury filled with things new and old. Scholars still have much to learn from its library, its numerous icons, vestments, ecclesiastical vessels, its architecture. In all of this, it is a veritable ark in the wilderness.

See also a few related posts from John Chitty on the Sinai manuscripts:

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Announcing the Opening of The Center for The Study and Preservation of The Majority Text


I was informed by Paul Anderson of the opening of a new website and study center for the Majority Text. Here’s some information from the organization’s website:

The Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text has been formed with the following purpose and mission:

1. To give scholars and researchers a Christian non-profit organization where all extant Majority/Byzantine text manuscripts may be fully studied and compared for proper classification.
2. To increase awareness of the importance in readings and manuscripts within the Majority/Byzantine Text tradition.
3. To provide a one-stop website where all major printed editions of the Majority/Byzantine text may be found.
4. To include an online image gallery where important manuscripts may be seen.
5. To offer online collations and studies to increase understanding of the various groups within the Majority/Byzantine text.
6. To give individuals, churches and interested parties a tax-free organization in which to donate in order further the stated goals and mission above.
7. To provide an international Christian organization which views the Holy, Inspired Word of God as preserved within the Majority/Byzantine Text of the New Testament.

CSPMT officially opened October 1st and promises to be a one stop shop for the study of the Majority Text. The site is amassing links and resources on the various families of the Majority Text, as well as the study of the Textus Receptus and the Greek lectionary tradition. Paul Anderson, one of the founders of this initiative, informed me that Dr. Wilbur Pickering, author of The Identity of the New Testament Text, and Dr. Kirk DiVietro of the Dean Burgon Society (and father of Erik, one of our contributors here) will be two of the board members for this organization. We interviewed Dr. DiVietro on our site, here.

The group’s website should prove to be a valuable resource for students interested in learning more about the Greek Majority Text. You’ll want to bookmark it and see how the site develops. It may prove a blessing to all who are interested in the thousands of Greek manuscripts which have been providentially bequeathed to the Church.

In related news, Dr. Maurice Robinson, who we have also interviewed concerning his own Byzantine priority position, is recovering from a heart attack and scheduled for related surgery in the next month. Please keep him in your prayers.

Greek Scholar Bill Mounce: Textual Criticism 101

Greek scholar Bill Mounce, author of The Basics of Biblical Greek (Zondervan, second edition 2003), discussed John 5:4 on his blog today.  His discussion of that text included a basic explanation of what textual criticism is and why it is necessary.

Go over and check out his post, and let us know what you think.  I agree with his concluding assessment:

But God in his sovereign love made sure that the differences among the manuscripts would not hinder our faith.

  • About 5% of the Greek text is in question
  • No major doctrine is brought into question by 5%.

You can trust your Bible!

Read the whole post.  (HT: Jason Skipper)

An Apologetics Problem for the KJVO and Textus Receptus Only Believer

Just a thought about KJVO and TRO believers and apologetics. If the Alexandrian family of texts is no good, or is of Satanic origin, the John Rylands Papyrus (P52) cannot be used in apologetics arguments in favor of an early date of the New Testament Gospels. * To use the JRP, one must then acknowledge the practical worth of the Alexandrian text family. * See also Wiki 1 , 2 , and KCH.

OP here.

Recommended: New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip Comfort

Philip Comfort’s New Testament Text and Translation Commentary is a valuable resource for studying the textual variants in any given NT passage.  The book lays all the evidence out in a helpful format for which Greek manuscripts or early translations support which reading in almost every place where the text of today’s English Bibles differ with one another.

He not only shows which Greek manuscripts and text use which reading, he also shows which major English Bible versions use which reading (whether in the margin, footnote or text of the Bible).

After listing the evidence, Comfort will then walk you through it helpfully.  He explains what factors such as a particular scribe’s tendencies or the nature of a specific manuscript influence him to favor the reading he supports.  Having Comfort as a guide is valuable, especially since he is intimately familiar with the all the NT papyrii and many other points of textual criticism.

Comfort is no disbelieving scholar, either.  He is very evangelical and at times shows evidence of being conservative.  Above all, Comfort has provided an invaluable reference tool for use by those intrigued by the differences between English Bibles, and especially for those who aim to think through the KJV Only issue in depth.  What’s great is that he does all this with the average English speaker in view, he always translates the Greek he cites and the entire tool is usable by those with no Greek knowledge at all.

The book includes an overview of both textual criticism and its history, as well as the current state of the manuscript witnesses we have for each section of the New Testament.  Even the most well-versed student of these matters has much to learn from this work.  For instance, Comfort offers all the evidence surrounding the story of the woman caught in adultery that is missing from many key Greek manuscripts (John 7:53-8:11).  He shows why it is likely the reading was first introduced into the Greek manuscript witness in the 5th or 6th century.   Yet he offers proof for the reading’s antiquity as well, theorizing that it may have been a legitimate story of Christ handed down that eventually was added to a collection of the Gospels by a well-meaning scribe.

There is much more that could be said of this work, in fact I did say more about it when I reviewed it on my main blog.  I wish it highlighted the readings of the printed Majority texts of Robinson-Pierpont or Hodges-Farstad when examining the evidence, but it doesn’t.  Still, a more helpful resource for researching out the King James Only issue could hardly be found.  When one comes face to face with the reality of the textual facts, the story of the King James Only position is seen for the wishful thinking it really is.