Monday, February 09, 2009

Happy 50th Anniversary, Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung!

The Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) was founded by Kurt Aland on February 7 in 1959, to be exact. Since this time until now, the INTF has been the world leading institute for the investigation of the text of the New Testament. It is difficult to describe with words what this institute has meant for the discipline, and where we would be without it, so I will not even try. Instead I will first share something from my personal experience of this institute and its staff. Then I will cite the history of the institute as it is described at the INTF web-page.

In 1998 I began my study of the Greek New Testament. During this time there happened to be a sales at the local Christian bookstore of some of the very few academic books in English, and among them was Kurt and Barbara Aland's introduction to New Testament textual criticism plus Ehrman and Holmes volume The State o the New Testament Text in Contemporary Research. I bought them of course, and read them almost instantly, and was then "hooked." I decided to write my exam paper (leading to a Bachelor of Theology) in textual criticism. I became a member of the TC-list (a discussion list run by Jimmy Adair), about which I was tipped by Bart Ehrman one of the editors of that book I had just read. On that discussion-list I sent out a question whether anyone had a good subject for me to write about. Only co-blogger Maurice Robinson replied and, in addition to this kindness, he suggested a very nice subject. I was to examine some 34 MSS which he suspected were related because of a peculiar shared reading in John 8:8b-9a: "he wrote on the ground the sins of each... after having read them..."

Of course, the only way to examine these MSS was to access them at the institute in Münster. So I wrote Klaus Wachtel, who was also on the TC-list, asking if it was possible to come. He kindly replied that this should be no problem, but that the normal policy was to write a formal request to the director, Barbara Aland. I did that, and was welcomed. Klaus Wachtel also helped me to arrange lodging at the local "Diakonissenmutterhaus" (I perceived it as kind of a combined hostel and home for retired nuns in the Evangelic Lutheran Church). This place was very good and, besides, it was cheap and perfect for a student without any funding (17 Deutsche Mark per night, and I could even lend a bike for free!).

Strategically, I planned the trip so that I came to Münster during Maurice Robinson's own visit. He had been working for years collating the Pericope of the Adulteress in all available Greek MSS. I had trained to read Greek MSS from various books, but I was a bit nervous when I went to Münster. On the first day at the institute I was welcomed, and showed to a little workroom for guests researchers where Maurice Robinson sat. I started out with my first microfilm, supplied to me by the palaeographer of the institute, Klaus Witte, who has ever since that day helped me to get appr. 700 films out of the cupboards (during five visits)!

The only problem was that in the little room there were only two microfilm readers, and Maurice, of course had the best one (he was there first, and, after all, he was the professor)! The one I got was a very old and heavy machine brought to Münster from DDR by Kurt Aland in the 50's! This was not a good start, and during that day (which I remember very well) I felt some panic - how should I be able to read 34 of these manuscripts in four different test pericopes during my three weeks - it took hours just finding the right place to start in one manuscript!

However, I soon asked to change to one of those (relatively) modern machines and was welcomed into the collation room where university students were collating manuscripts for the institute. It was a relief to sit down at one of these machines, and soon I got the hang of it; three films per day, five films per day, seven films per day...etc. It was also nice to get acquinted with some German students. Although Swedes have a lot in common with Germans, I still made a lot of funny experiences of German culture in this room. First, everytime I or someone else sneezed, everyone would say "Gesundheit" (like in a choir), and when someone was entering the collation room they first had to knock on the door before entering (but without expecting the "come in"-reply). In Sweden, if we knock (which we probably don't do as often), we have to wait for the reply, "come in").

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed this time, and the kind staff, although on this occasion I actually don't remember meeting Barbara Aland. The only downside what that I missed my family very much, and my one-year old son, but time flies. On the last day I was invited to Klaus Wachtel's room to discuss the results of my work. Well, the results were promising. Eventually I wrote that exam paper, which practically got me a research post as Ph.D. candidate at Lund university. The paper was rewritten to an article, published here, which is my first publication. Wachtel also kindly shared with me a paper he was going to present in Lille on some aspects of Colwell's quantitative method. So, during these weeks I met some great scholars in textual criticism for the first time. Also, another very nice member of the staff, Beate Köster, brought me the guestbook of the institute, where I signed my name among all great scholars in the discipline who had visited the institute during the years since 1959. The last Swede who had been there was René Kieffer, working on his Au delà des recensions? L'évolution de la tradition textuelle dans Jean VI, 52-71, but that was ca. thirty years earlier, so it was about time! After that first visit, I have been to the INTF many times, and I have always been met with great hospitality.

Welcome to share your own experiences of the institute in the comment section!

History of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research
(cited from the INTF web-page here, German version here)

"The Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) was founded in Münster in 1959 by Prof. D. Kurt Aland, D.D. Litt. (1915-1994). Aland had taught at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg and simultaneously at the Humboldt-University Berlin until 1958. After his teaching authorisation had been withdrawn and a disciplinary procedure been opened because he was regarded as 'enemy of the state,' he left what was then the German Democratic Republic and received a post as a research assistant at Münster. It was only after the Institute had been founded that in 1960, he was appointed Professor of History of the Ancient Church and New Testament Textual Studies at the University of Münster. Since the 1950s Aland had been working on Eberhard and Erwin Nestle's Novum Testamentum Graece. At the INTF the concise scholarly edition saw further revisions and publications, until it became the trade-mark of the institute under the name of Nestle-Aland hinzu. In 1966, a second concise edition intended for translators, the Greek New Testament, was published. The great papyri discoveries of the 20th century were of special relevance for a new reconstruction of the text published in both the 26th edition of Nestle-Aland and the third edition of the Greek New Testament. Both editions contain the identical text while differing in their apparatus.

However, the main objective of the Institute was the so-called Editio Critica Maior based on the entire tradition of the New Testament in Greek manuscripts, old translations and New Testament quotations in ancient Christian literature. The pre-requisite for the realisation of this task was the sifting and examination of the entire manuscript tradition of the Greek New Testament. Under the supervision of Kurt Aland the INTF first of all collected almost the entire material (partly on extensive manuscript travels), followed by analyses in single editions and specific studies in preparation of the Editio critia Maior.

Kurt Aland found a friend and patron in Bishop Hermann Kunst. In 1964 the latter established the Hermann Kunst Foundation for the Promotion of New Testament Textual Research that has granted crucial financial support to the Institute ever since.

In 1979, Kurt Aland founded the Bible Museum that presents the work of the Institute to the general public.

In 1983, Prof. Lic. Dr. Barbara Aland succeeded her husband as director of the Institute. Under her supervision, the analysis of the material that had been started under Kurt Aland continued and was made accessible for research in numerous publications. The first supplement of the Editio Critica Maior with the Epistle of James was finally published in 1997. Barbara Aland led the Institute until 2004. Since October 2004 Prof. Dr. Holger Strutwolf has been in office as director of the Institute and the Bible Museum."

To this we should add that recently, in 2007, the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Humanities accepted the Editio Critica Maior (ECM), presented by INTF, as one of their long-term projects (Hooray!), which means that the INTF now has funding for the production of their major critical edition ECM for decades ahead! The project work started in January 2008. Congratulations!
Read more here.

For an extensive biography and bibliography of Kurt Aland, see the entry in the Biographisch-Bibliographische Kirchenlexikon, here.

Update: In the comment section, Klaus Wachtel from the INTF mentions "one additional milestone of the recent institute's history, namely the 2005 agreement between IGNTP and INTF to work together at the ECM of the Greek New Testament. It is this agreement of collaboration that made for an acceptable time frame of the entire project and helped considerably with our proposal to the Academy of Science and Humanities." He further adds that 7 February was the date when Kurt Aland's proposal was officially accepted and that the institute took up work on 1 March. An official celebration of the anniversary, to which we look forward, will take place later this year.


  1. Excellent post, Tommy.
    Question: You speak of mss being "on Patmos" as if they were located on the isle of the Apocalypse. Is this the case, or does this refer to mss in the library of the Neophytos Monastery in Patmos, Cyprus?

    Is there a common way of distinguishing between the two?

  2. Tommy,

    Thank you for a wonderful and heart-felt post. It couldn't have come at a better time: I leave in just a few days for my first visit to the Institute, and while I am sure I will receive nothing less than a continuation of the warm welcome I have already experienced from the people there as we have planned my trip, all the same I still feel a little of the nervous intimidation you described having. It is *The Institute* after all! So re-assuring, however, to read about what a great time you had, so thank you.

    - Ryan Wettlaufer

  3. Thanks Daniel and Ryan,

    Daniel, I do mean Patmos. The MSS are in the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. The library of the monastery consists of 1,197 manuscript codices from the Classical to the post-Byzantine era. You can explore more via the post on the Patmos Workshop here:

  4. Thank you for the appreciation, Tommy.
    I would like to mention one additional milestone of the recent institute's history, namely the 2005 agreement between IGNTP and INTF to work together at the ECM of the Greek New Testament. It is this agreement of collaboration that made for an acceptable time frame of the entire project and helped considerably with our proposal to the Academy of Science and Humanities.
    7 February, btw, was the day when Kurt Aland's proposal was officially accepted. In his spirit we will have a glass of champagne the day when the institute took up work, which was on 1 March (when Klaus Junack was employed). An official celebration will take place later this year.

  5. Thank you Klaus! I will update the main post. I wasn't aware about the anniversary until I happened to read an interesting article a while ago by Kurt Aland, "Der gegenwärtige Stand der Arbeit an den Handschriften wie am Text des griechischen Neuen Testaments und das Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster (Westf.)":

    "Mit diesen Zahlen sind wir bereits bei der Arbeit des Instituts für neutestamentliche Textforschung, das am 7.2. 1959 in Münster als Einrichtung der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität begründet und unter die Leitung von Kurt Aland gestellt wurde, damit das Problem des neutestamentlichen Textes, das schwierigste aller philologischen Probleme, mit den Mitteln und Methoden der modernen Wissenschaft angegangen werden könnte."

  6. Hi,

    I know this is not the best place to leave this, but why is there not an entry for Dr James White, an evangelical text critical scholar, and his debate with Bart Ehrman?

    Posts were made for Pete Williams debate with him, so i think it could benefit to highlight this too? I think he was great in exposing Ehrman's radical skepticism.

  7. Dear anonymous, another way is of course to e-mail me or Peter Head (our e-mailaddresses are indicated at the bottom of the main page of this blog).

    You say James White is "a text-critical scholar," but I am unaware of his publications in the field. Can you please tell me what he has published in textual critism?

    If there was a debate between White and Ehrman specifically on text-critical matters, we could well have mentioned it, but I was simply unaware of it.

  8. I think White is mainly known in King James Version Only circles in the U.S.A. as one who (rightly) strongly opposes their position.


  9. Tommy, thanks for this great post. The INTF has been remarkable in their achievements and willingness to support the work of others by way of their hospitality, access to microfilms, and outstanding publication resources (both in print and on-line). They set the bar for first-rate scholarship and are deserving of the appreciation of all of us in the field, as you noted.

    In Christ,


  10. Tommy,

    He has published over 20 books, some of which are used in seminary's across the US (according to his opening statement).

    And yes, it is specifically a text-critical three hour debate. Thus I thought it would be good to mention.

  11. Anon: "He has published over 20 books..."

    Definitely not in textual criticism. Actually, I found his list of publications here

    He is more into Christian Apologetics than textual criticism. This of course doesn't mean that his debate with Bart Ehrman is not worth listening to, so thanks for mentioning it. Apparently it costs $6 to download. It is accessible on the mentioned website.