In the early years, CSNTM operations involved three to four people traveling for two to three weeks in the summer. The small group would visit a site with manuscripts to either examine or, after securing permission, photograph them. These expeditions relied on both, securing difficult-to-earn permission and raising the necessary funds for equipment and travel. Quite often, however, funds couldn’t be secured before open doors slammed shut again.
The world of digitizing antiquities can be fickle that way.
To help solve this problem, a group of individuals, families, and organizations who care about preserving the New Testament committed to providing monthly financial support. This “Circle of Friends” significantly advanced the work of CSNTM by allowing the staff to pounce on new opportunities before they slipped away. And this became a game-changer in three significant ways.
The Circle of Friends makes digital preservation and digital access to New Testament manuscripts free for all and free for all time. Traveling to sites and capturing images is only part of the story. We must also make them available on the Internet, which costs money each month. The regular funding provided by the Circle of Friends ensures that these treasures remain accessible to anyone and everyone.
The Circle of Friends enables the quick and confident response to invitations from manuscript holders. Securing permission to digitize a collection of manuscripts can take years of careful and patient diplomacy. Many sites are subject to the whims of local politics, funding, staffing, and cultural complications. Consequently, invitations can be sudden and surprising. When funds are readily available, we can immediately answer “yes” to an invitation to digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts. Without the funding provided by monthly partners, expeditions are delayed, at best, and quite often not possible.
The Circle of Friends strengthens the entire field of New Testament scholarship. This is important because scholars use CSNTM images to ensure that the New Testament you hold in your hands accurately reflects the words originally written 2,000 years ago. In addition to making Greek New Testament manuscripts available online, CSNTM collaborates with other institutions and provides cutting-edge technology to enhance the study of manuscripts. The Circle of Friends makes all of this possible.
Centuries ago, men and women heard the words of the New Testament because scribes faithfully reproduced copies by hand for more people to access and to preserve these words for future generations. But scribes didn’t accomplish this task alone.
Providing copies of the New Testament for churches, libraries, individuals, and future generations required the dedication of people working together in community. Fellow scribes or overseers reviewed the work, making corrections when necessary. Tradespeople prepared the parchment, ink, pens, and writing surfaces. Artists adorned the pages with icons, illuminations, headpieces, gilding, rubrication, charts, and other flourishes. Artisans bound the completed manuscripts into sturdy codices (books) that often lasted for centuries. Librarians stored and provided the manuscripts which served as exemplars for newer copies.
Of course, all of these people relied upon the support of benefactors, both individual and collective. While a single individual may have commissioned a New Testament copy, entire communities took part in the effort.
Obviously, much has changed since the invention of the printing press and the advent of digital technologies, but the ongoing work of preserving the New Testament text continues to require the effort of a community—just as it has for twenty centuries. By joining the Circle of Friends you become part of a growing community that safeguards the accuracy and permanence of the New Testament. Together, we are carrying on the legacy of those who preserved and passed on the words of the apostles centuries ago.
We invite you to join the Circle of Friends and continue this ancient and critical tradition.