All the Manuscripts!

You guys, you guys, you guys, YOU GUYS!

Check this out: Scribes of the Cairo Geniza

I get embarrassingly giddy when interacting with manuscripts. Manuscripts of any material, actually, but the Biblical material is truly fantastic.

For years, scholars have been digitizing these manuscripts and making them available online. Just like the GRAMCORD project, these are mountainous endeavors that is going to pay dividends over the next twenty years. To give it some context, I’m sure most of the people reading this have some kind of bible app on their phone. Putting the Bible into searchable databases was a huge project, one that has transformed Bible study (while also making print lexicons and Bible dictionaries seem like wastes of paper and making concordances totally irrelevant).

I mean, if we want to follow a cross-reference, or do a word search or even a phrase search (!) we just tap on it or click on it. That’s the power of putting the Bible (and the companion resources) into a database and connecting everything together.

Now, imagine a world where you can do that with manuscripts. We all like to boast how many manuscripts there are. So how about instead of a marginal note that says, “Early manuscripts did not include ____”, That static text becomes a hyperlink that shows a list of all the manuscripts? And what if clicking on those list items took you to a picture of the actual manuscript

All the major Bible software packages are already doing something like that for the New Testament. The OT, sadly, lags way behind, but that’s because the text tradition is so different. And it’s only a matter of time before high resolution images of all the major manuscripts become so ubiquitous that it’s just an expected feature for the apps.

Anyway, there are a bunch of digital manuscript projects out there. You can check out a bunch of them here:

There are solid images of the Biblical manuscripts found at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) here
CSNTM has piles of NT manuscript images at their website.
You can see the Aleppo codex here
There’s a well-developed site for Codex Vaticanus here

By way of a practical note for Bible teachers everywhere: we’re living through an incredible era of manuscript discovery, transcription, and digitization. So stop talking about manuscripts and start showing them!