What Is a Lectionary?
The only connection we have to the original New Testament is through the thousands of hand-made copies we have today. From the second century through the sixteenth, these manuscripts each tell their own story. And they come in two different forms: First are the ‘continuous text’ manuscripts in which the books of the New Testament are written out in full, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Most manuscripts are of this type.
But the ancient church began to have, as part of its celebration of the faith, portions of scripture read in the worship service. These would be passages of about 10–20 verses, usually from the Gospels. A passage from Matthew would be read one day, then one from Luke the next, and so on. (This is similar to the responsive reading portions of scripture found in the back of some hymnals today.) These non-continuous text manuscripts are known as lectionaries. Making the images available on-line will enable more scholars to examine them, enriching us all about the legacy of the ancient church for today’s Christians.
The Center’s Connection to This Manuscript
A four-person team from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) went to Romania last summer to examine and photograph manuscripts. After we landed in Bucharest, two people drove to Craiova in the southwest, and two people traveled to Iasi in the north. Professor Emanuel Contac of Bucharest was our liaison for all of our work in Romania. He worked for nearly two years, searching for manuscripts in the country, contacting institutes and curators, opening doors. We are exceedingly grateful to Emanuel for all his labors to get the New Testament manuscripts in Romania examined and digitally photographed. If you are in Europe or the Middle East and want to help CSNTM in a similar way, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The team that went to Iasi had the privilege of photographing an uncatalogued lectionary—that is, a lectionary unknown to New Testament scholars. This manuscript is housed at the Museum of Literature. Dr. Dan Jumara, the director of the museum, gave us a brief tour of the museum, then showed us the New Testament manuscript in its possession. Manuscript 7030 is a sumptuous, large Gospels lectionary, which dates from the 11th century. Just imagine: We had the privilege of photographing a 1000-year-old manuscript! Although this happens scores of times every year for CSNTM staff, we never get tired of it.
A Massive Manuscript in Great Condition
Now, you might think that a manuscript halfway between the time of Jesus and us would be bleached out, faint, nearly impossible to read. But that is not the case. Although this is true for some manuscripts, most are actually fairly easy to read. Just look at the pictures: they speak more eloquently than I ever could about their own clarity and beauty!
The manuscript is in two columns, as is typical for lectionaries. Two columns were used because lectionaries were intended to be read in the worship services: a double column means that each line is shorter and thus harder for the priest to lose his place in the text. It measures approximately 34 × 26 centimeters. By comparison, the majestic codex Alexandrinus, semi-permanently on display next to codex Sinaiticus at the British Library, measures 32 × 26 centimeters. Manuscript 7030 is heavy, weighing easily 20 pounds! It’s nearly 10 centimeters thick—hardly a pocket Bible! The text is 800 pages long.
Every Manuscript Tells Its Own Story
The original parchment leaves are nicely adorned with lapis lazuli, gold, and extensive red lettering. The manuscript was at one time (c. 14th century) owned by “the sinner Nikοlaos.”
Among lectionaries, this one stands out as the fourth longest and the third largest from the 11th century. That is, there are only three 11th century lectionaries that have more pages and only two with larger dimensions. There are only 44 lectionaries—out of nearly 2500 known to exist—that are longer.
Dr. Jumara has graciously permitted CSNTM to post images of this lectionary on its website. You can see the full description and images here. We are grateful for Dr. Jumara’s assistance in making known this truly beautiful manuscript, which also gives us one more piece of the puzzle of the transmission of the New Testament text.