Thursday, January 22, 2009

CSNTM Photographs Van Kampen Collection: Unregistered MSS

Over at CSNTM, Jeff Hargis reports on "Two New Manuscripts in One: VK 908.".

VK 908 contains the Acts and the Catholic Epistles (Apostolos) and the Pauline Epistles. Hargis explains that Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews have been displaced between the Thessalonian letters, with the result that these three epistles were copied a second time by someone who probably thought they were missing (hence "two new minuscules in one"). I do not know whether the INTF will assign this manuscript two different Greg.-Aland numbers.

In my own work on Jude I have encountered similar examples. Greg.-Aland 90 actually contains two texts of Jude, copied from two different exemplars - the first of them from an exemplar of Theodore Hagiopetrites dated to 1293 C.E.. Only the second text was collated by the INTF for the Text und Textwert. In my monograph, The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission I have labeled the two versions (copied by the same scribe and placed in separate parts of the codex!), 90a and 90b. In other codices I also found the same texts copied twice (but not Jude). Apart from my monograph, such observations are noted in an article, "Some Bibliograhic Notes on Greek New Testament Manuscripts," Novum Testamentum 49,3 (2007):291-295.

Now some words about the Van Kampen collection:

Robert van Kampen (1938-1999) managed to assemble one of the largest private collections of rare biblical manuscripts and artifacts in the world. His collection was founded in 1986. He desired that the collection would be available for scholarly research, and open to public display, so in 1994 "The Scriptorium" was established as a repository for collection in Grand Haven, Michigan. Private, personal tours of the collection were given to the public for five years in the small museum in Grand Haven, Michigan. The Scriptorium also hosted some significant conferences in the 90s at Hampton Court, Hereforshire in England, gathering several leading scholars in textual criticism and related fields. (That facility has now been sold by the Van Kampen family.) As an outcome of this scholarly activity, several books were edited a series called The Bible as Book. One of the editors of these volumes, Kimberly Van Kampen, I assume is a daughter of Robert Van Kampen. However, she now seems to have left the scholarly career and is into horse breeding at her establishment, Hampton Green Farm.

The Van Kampen Collection includes eleven witnesses to the Greek New Testament including some which are previously unrecorded. The majority predate the thirteenth century. The earliest Gospelbook with lists of Kephalaia, and full-page portraits of the Evangelists is claimed to date from the ninth century (!) on the web-site describing the collection here. This date, however, is very controversial. Bruce Metzger, who was allowed to examine the MS dated it later (I think I read an article on this, but I cannot remember the details). Interestingly, this MS has now been registered as Greg.-Aland 2860 in the digital update of the Kurzgefasste Liste, where it is dated to the 11th century! Thus, I assume that the INTF staff has examined the MS and concurred with Metzger.

Apparently, two other Gospel books and a lectionary in the collection are dated to the eleventh century, and two manuscripts of the Acts of the Apostles belong to the twelfth, but these dates must be verified by experts at the INTF once they become registered. It is also unclear to me how many of these MSS that have been registered before. For example, I know that Greg.-Aland 2523 is one of the items in the collection. In the Kurzgefasste Liste from 1994 it is registered as Athens Nat. Libr., 2720 (dated to 1453), so at some point it has been transferred from Athens to Orlando. This may be the case with other MSS too. When already registered MSS are transferred to other locations without the knowledge of the INTF, there is always a risk of double registration (see e.g., the case of 2483=2866 here), so "new" MSS have to be carefully examined before they can be registered and assigned new Greg.-Aland numbers.

Several years ago when I realized that the Van Kampen Collection had unregistered MSS, including at least two copies of the Apostolos, as judging from information they had put on the web (here). After Robert Van Kampen's death in 1999, the family decided to relocate the collection to a theme park to be built in Orlando, Florida. So from 2002 it has been on loan to the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, in the facility with the similar name as the original repository Scriptorium: Center for Biblical Antiquities, where a part is still on public exhibit. This museum is described as a "non-sectarian library/research center" housing the several thousand manuscripts, scrolls, and other religious artifacts of the collection, which also includes other resources like the personal library of the text-critical scholar Eberhard Nestle.

So in those days I contacted a Dean Tisch, director of administration at Sola Scriptura, which is the collective ministry now in charge of the collection, the theme park, etc. I asked Mr. Tisch for permission to access the MSS in question (actually I wanted to purchase some photos of the folios with Jude), but, for some reason, the answer was unfortunately negative. I have been under the impression that the people in charge of the collection now are more "ministry-orientated" and, perhaps for that reason not so interested in academic values, but I hope I am wrong. Anyway, I think the restrictive attitude that I experienced back then was not in line with the wish of the founder, Robert Van Kampen, who wanted to make the items accessible for scholars. But, in fact I had heard of other scholars who were able to gain access to some items (e.g., photos of relevant parts of the MSS), but for my part I gave up.

Now, I am really pleased to hear that the CSNTM has been able to photograph the GNT MSS, and I do hope that they will get permission to make the images available for scholars. I think that is the right way to honour the legacy of Robert Van Kampen.

Read more about the collection with a focus on Hebrew MSS in this paper by William Baker, "United States: Hebrew manuscripts and incunabula."


  1. On a related note: Paul D. Wegner's book "The Journey from Text to Translations" (Sub-title: "The Origin and Development of the Bible") features some photographs from the Van Kampen Collection:

    Fig. 13.1 = Jerome's Prologue, Vulgate Bible made in 1447, VK MS 797.

    Fig. 13.3 = beginning of Luke, Greek Gospels, 1000's, VK MS 905.

    Fig. 15.3 and 15.4 = sample-page from an Armenian Gospels, 1420 and sample-page from a Georgian Gospels, 1743 -- both called VK MS 781.

    15.5 = page from Ethiopic Gospels, 1700's, = VK MS 205.

    And there are more, including a title-page from VK MS 366, Erasmus' first edition, 1516, and sample-pages from influential early English translations.

    Plus, at the Scriptorium's website, mention is made of a Latin MS which is, it is claimed, despite its late date, peppered with Old Latin readings. That, istm, would be potentially more valuable -- if the claim is true -- than another Byzantine copy of some of the Pauline Epistles. I hope whoever is studying the Van Kampen collection will not overlook it.

    In other news, I found a very useful website today: the "NT Studies" section at

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. Something else in the Van Kempen collection is the library of Eberhard Nestle.

  3. Yes, The White Man, I mentioned that.

  4. Ms 794 has Hebrews in its ancient location between the ecclesiastical and pastoral paulines. A later scribe appears to have noticed it missing from the end of the ms and added it there too, following Philemon.