Today’s contribution was written by Greg Paulson. Paulson is a research associate at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (University of Münster). He is co-editor of the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior (ECM) as well as co-editor of the Kurzgefaßte Liste and manager of the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NTVMR).
The New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NTVMR), hosted by the University of Münster, is an online open collaborative research environment focusing on the textual criticism and research of Greek New Testament manuscripts. The NTVMR was developed by researchers at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) and continues to be developed there.
There are over 5,600 known Greek New Testament manuscripts and approximately 90% of these have images available on the NTVMR, which form the basis for much of the research conducted on the NTVMR. The NTVMR was initially designed for editing critical editions of the Greek New Testament, in particular the Editio Critica Maior (ECM). However, because the platform is open access, anyone with an email address can create an account and begin customizing their own workspace and creating their own projects.
On the homepage of the NTVMR, the left-hand column displays the various pages where research can be carried out.
While it has long been a desideratum of critical editions to use full transcriptions and collations of manuscripts, since the New Testament corpus has over 5,000 extant manuscripts, their full comparison has not been feasible until now, with the implementation of digital tools.
One of the first steps in creating a critical edition is the selection of witnesses. In the NTVMR, all known Greek New Testament manuscripts are registered using the Gregory-Aland (GA) system of identification, giving each manuscript a unique number which can be found on the Liste page. The GA numbers are published in the printed catalogue called the Kurzgefasste Liste, which offers basic data about a manuscript such as its biblical contents, number of folios, location, etc. In the NTVMR, however, more extensive information about manuscripts can be recorded, such as bibliographies or tagging of nomina sacra and other paleographical features. It is also possible to do complex searches of the inventory of manuscripts catalogued in the NTVMR. Researchers can, for example, pull up a list of manuscripts that only contain the Gospels or limit search results to only manuscripts that date before the year 1000 C.E.
Indexing and Transcribing
After a selection of manuscripts has been made, whether it be for the ECM or for personal projects, their contents must then be recorded. This is carried out in two ways in the NTVMR: indexing and transcribing. “Indexing” means recording which verses are on each folio of the manuscript on the indexing page. For example in GA 2756, page ID 140 contains the first three verses of the Gospel of Matthew, so this is written: Matt 1:1-3.
Image 2a: Image of GA 2756, page ID 140. Used with permission
After a page is indexed, it can be transcribed on the Transcribing page. “Transcribing” (not to be confused with “translating”) means inputting the biblical text letter by letter into an electronic format. The text of a popular edition of the Greek New Testament, the Nestle Aland 28th edition (NA28), can be pulled up as a base text and users can make their own changes at places where the manuscript differs, which creates the transcription of that manuscript. Here is what GA 2756 page ID 140 looks like on the Transcribing page.
Image 2b: Transcribing GA 2756 page ID 140.
Many, but not all, of the manuscripts in the NTVMR are already indexed and have electronic transcriptions. This means, after calling up a specific manuscript on the Manuscript Workspace page, it is possible to scroll on the left-hand tab and see the indexed biblical contents for any given page. After clicking on the page, an image of the page appears and finally the transcription will appear (if available).
Image 3: Manuscript Workspace.
The transcriptions are available in TEI and HTML and are free to download under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. While these transcriptions are normally done by the INTF or other groups, such as the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE) in Birmingham, UK, it is also possible to see other individual users’ transcriptions.
News on the NTVMR
Transcribing and indexing are carried out live on the NTVMR, and the homepage is automatically updated to show the most recent additions and modifications made to manuscripts. There is also the INTF Blog with occasional postings on research currently underway at the INTF or other news that visitors might find interesting.
The most popular features of the NTVMR are its exhaustive catalogue of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts (the Liste), the image viewer, the transcription gadget, and indexing feature, as described above, but many more lesser known resources are also available.
The ECM (mentioned above) is both a digital and printed edition of the Greek New Testament. Currently the ECM volume of Acts is available on the NTVMR and soon the Gospel of Mark will be online as well. The digital edition of Acts gives a full apparatus of textual variants from 183 Greek witnesses as well as other witnesses such as Coptic, Syriac, Latin, and ancient patristic sources.
Image 4: Digital ECM.
Clicking on a Greek manuscript in the apparatus will display its digital transcription in the right panel and offer further links to images. This enables the work behind the edition to be checked by anyone interested. The digital ECM also offers a textual commentary on select passages where the user can open a discussion topic and post comments in the forum.
Apart from the textual commentary, the Forum on the NTVMR gives users the space to ask any questions about manuscripts or start conversations on a number of different topics. The designated NA28 message board serves a similar purpose, allowing users to discuss and comment on the text, apparatus, and other parts of the NA28.
On the Collation page researchers can compare (collate) the text of manuscripts. After selecting their manuscripts (called a “witness list”), researchers can, for example, design their own rules to regularize orthographic spellings and create an apparatus of variant readings (which is used together with the “unedited realtime collation” tool on the digital ECM page).
Also available on the NTVMR is the database of conjectures used in critical editions and other New Testament scholarship. The team responsible for development and maintenance of the NT Conjectures database is based at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
The various pages on the NTVMR offer a wealth of resources for those interested in the textual criticism of Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is hoped that this brief introduction to some of these tools and resources will offer the reader a solid foundation to begin exploring the NTVMR for themselves.
 On how to collate manuscripts and make a digital critical edition see the tutorial by Paulson 2021.
Cover Image: GA L1684 f.110r. Used with permission ©Münster Bibelmuseum
(ECM) Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: III The Acts of the Apostles, 2017 (eds. Strutwolf, Holger, Georg Gäbel, Annette Hüffmeier, Gerd Mink, and Klaus Wachtel). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2017.
Griffitts, Troy A. 2017. “Software for the Collaborative Editing of the Greek New Testament.” PhD diss. University of Birmingham. https://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/8244/
(NA28) Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed. 2012 (eds. Holger Strutwolf, Luc Herren, Marie-Luise Lakmann, Beate von Tishischwitz, and Klaus Wachtel). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
Paulson, Gregory S. 2018a. “What is the Kurzgefasste Liste?” INTF Blog, https://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/intfblog/-/blogs/what-is-the-kurzgefass
Paulson, Gregory S. 2018b. “How to View Greek New Testament Manuscripts on the VMR.” INTF Blog,https://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/intfblog/-/blogs/how-to-view-greek-new-testament-manuscripts-in-the-vmr.
Paulson, Gregory S. 2019. “How to Index a Manuscript on the VMR.” INTF Blog, https://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/intfblog/-/blogs/how-to-index-a-manuscript-on-the-vmr.
Paulson, Gregory S. 2021. “The Nestle-Aland as Open Digital Edition: Already and Not Yet.” Classics@ Issue 18: Virtual Research Environments and Ancient Manuscripts, forthcoming.
Wachtel, Klaus. 2018. “An Interactive Textual Commentary of Acts.” INTF Blog, https://ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/intfblog/-/blogs/an-interactive-textual-commentary-on-acts.