Starting a new website (dec 2013)
“There are holy books set out to be seen in all the churches of God, for the eyes of all men, just as the words of the books are set forth for the hearing.” Theodore the Studite, 8th/9th c.
Why does CBM concern itself with Byzantine biblical manuscripts? Why are biblical manuscripts of interest to the theologian and to the general public?
Manuscripts of the OT & NT and other related ancient Christian and Byzantine interpretative works, of which there are many, were used in earlier and later Christian communities. Manuscripts are windows on the origins and sources of the Bible, transporting the scholar to the experience, faith and praxis of ancient Christian churches.
Yet, one could say that biblical manuscripts have remained ‘buried’, even after having been discovered in the caves of the Middle East, dug up from under the sandy ground, or found hidden in rooms of ancient monasteries. They lie buried today in libraries and museums all over the world, and cannot be consulted easily. They also lie buried in the catalogues of manuscripts of these libraries, and are reduced to abstract numerical systems and summary descriptions.
However, the world of manuscripts should not only be the dominion of experts, codicologists and catalogue makers. It is the legacy of the Christian communities of old and belongs in this sense to us all. Manuscripts should essentially be available to everyone who wishes to investigate and research them.
A library or museum is a virtual world where the biblical manuscripts, however well they may be preserved there, are kept as fossils, foregone heritage, no longer an expression of the life and experience they once represented. Only great imagination and fantasy can bring one to ‘experience’ what is represented in the codices. Of course, the work conducted in libraries and laboratories of manuscript rooms is greatly respected, as is the technological expertise of highly specialised scholars working in the departments of manuscript studies. Complementary to this CBM wants to highlight values buried in the manuscripts of old, which go beyond material culture and heritage.
CBM’s interest in Byzantine biblical manuscripts lies not in the first place in the artful design, iconography or palaeography of the manuscripts themselves, nor in the cultural or historical value of these documents; the material and technological aspects of the codices - their codicology; the included texts (isolated from their codex context) and textual forms as such (separated from the original manuscripts). CBM is primarily interested in the liturgical experience embodied in the biblical manuscripts, which also shines through the artful design, iconography, arrangement of books, reading schedules, the particular format and construction (practical for usage in liturgical gatherings), and the presentation of the book content.
One of the questions we are currently considering is how websites (including our own PThU/CBM website) can contribute to our understanding of biblical manuscripts and the related ancient spiritual works of the fathers of the Church? In itself the digitised world is an abstraction from the liturgical content in which the manuscripts came about. The medium is highly impressive, communicative, and also an easy and fast entrance to knowledge from every corner of the globe. Remarkable, however, is the lack of scientific criticism applied concerning this medium. CBM does not aim to present manuscripts in digital showcases, or to set up clever digitised classifications and new enumerations. In our view catalogues of manuscripts, be they digitised or in book form, serve as windows on the handwritten documents and the experience which lies at their foundation.