Ancient Biblical Manuscript Returns to Cambridge, Seen in New Light—Feb. 3, 2012

Green Scholars Initiative and Tyndale House Use New Research Technologies to Study World’s Oldest Biblical Text In Jesus’ Native Language

Nearly two years after its sale to a private collection, one of the world’s rarest and most famous ancient biblical manuscripts is headed home. the Green Collection has announced that the Codex Climaci Rescriptus—containing the earliest known texts of Scripture in something close to Jesus’ household language—will return to the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the collection’s international research arm, the Green Scholars Initiative.

Top manuscript scholars from Cambridge’s Tyndale House will conduct intensive, high-tech research on the codex’s 137 reused vellum leaves, which feature overlapping layers of text. Recent technological breakthroughs developed by Green Scholars at the University of Oxford allow once unreadable, underlying text from the codex to be “lifted” to the surface for enhanced study through a process known as “multi-spectral imaging.”

In selecting Cambridge as the official research home of the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, Green Scholars Initiative Director Dr. Jerry Pattengale said, “Tyndale House is a perfect fit for this project given both its excellent scholars and its reputation in biblical studies. We are pleased with the strength of their ancient languages, from Aramaic, Syriac and Hebrew to Greek and Coptic—and, just as important, their passionate interest in biblical studies.”

Scholars believe scribes penned the codex—written in a dialect of Jesus’ native Palestinian Aramaic language—sometime during the sixth century, likely at St. Catherines Monastery on Egypt’s Mount Sinai. In 2010, Sotheby’s sold the rare manuscript on behalf of Cambridge’s Westminster College to the philanthropic Green family, founders of U.S.-based arts and crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby and the benefactors behind the Green Collection, the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.

“This is among the most significant items in our growing collection,” said Dr. Scott Carroll, director of the Green Collection. “We are delighted to be working with Tyndale House and Cambridge on this project and are optimistic it will lead to significant discoveries about the biblical text and the world of late antiquity.”

Dr. Peter Williams, warden of Tyndale House and a specialist in the language of Jesus, honored Pattengale and Carroll with appointments as research associates at Tyndale House in a ceremony commemorating the research partnership.

“We at Tyndale House are absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity to publish this important and fascinating manuscript. This partnership with the Green Scholars Initiative is a perfect match of a Cambridge manuscript, a team that loves to work on primary texts and the promise that the imaging techniques of the Green Scholars Initiative will enable us to see the obscure underwriting more clearly than ever before,” said Williams.

More than 30 colleges and universities across the globe are conducting similar research projects on items in the Green Collection through the Green Scholars Initiative. Combining scholarship and mentorship, the initiative brings together young and established scholars to pioneer groundbreaking research on the Green Collection’s more than 44,000 rare biblical artifacts. A companion lecture series is also educating audiences around the world in conjunction with exhibits from the Green Collection, including Passages (now in Atlanta) and Verbum Domini (opening at the Vatican on March 1).

About the Green Collection
The world’s newest and largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts, the Green Collection is an ever-growing, non-sectarian compilation of more than 44,000 biblical antiquities. Named for the family who founded national arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, the collection “has created a buzz” (Fox News, 2011) and is “a sampler of Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant treasures” (USA Today, 2011). Hobby Lobby President Steve Green oversees the expansion and outreach of the collection and will serve as chairman of the board for an eventual national Bible museum that will take a non-sectarian, scholarly approach to the Bible.