Monday, June 22, 2015

The National Library of Greece (NLG) holds one of the five largest repositories of Greek New Testament manuscripts in the world.

This happens because, throughout the centuries, the global influence of the ancient Greek culture resulted in its language becoming the lingua franca of the first century, and it was this language in which the books of the New Testament were originally written.

The Greek Library is in possession of 300 New Testament manuscripts, out of a total 5,800 which are known to NT scholars. It is a valuable treasure which is being preserved and passed on to future generations by the Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts, an American non- profit organisation which is in Athens with the purpose of digitising the Greek Library’s 150,000 pages of manuscripts. 

It is a large and ambitious project which will cost €744,000 and will be completed in the summer 2016. The procedure is extremely delicate due to the sensitivity of the manuscripts, since they date centuries back. "Some of them are even older than we initially thought” says Dr Daniel Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Head of Mission. “They were listed as 14th century manuscripts, when, in reality, they are 200 to 300 years older."

The study of the manuscripts is full of surprises; "to date, we have found at least ten manuscripts that are not yet catalogued by INTF," Wallace continues. The director of the NLG, Dr. Philippos Tsiboglou says it is fascinating to observe the marks which the manuscripts leave behind. "In one manuscript it seems a child was practising on its alphabet at the corner of the pages. Some other manuscripts have one end of their book spine thicker than the other end, which means they were left upside down on a shelf for about 500 years!"