Thursday, April 15, 2021

GA 1429, Looted in 1917, Is Returning Home


I didn’t want this to get lost in my last post about the MOTB, but, while we were there, Jeff Kloha told us about GA 1429 and the Museum’s recent work identifying it as part of a cache of manuscripts looted in 1917. The Museum now has a detailed account of the process and history of the manuscript on their website. It’s worth reading. 

Several other U.S. institutions also have manuscripts from this cache. The Museum and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago are repatriating theirs. As far as I know, Princeton and Duke have not said what they will do with theirs. 

The marking of the woman caught in adultery in 1429 was key to identification


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  2. The article posted at the MOTB was a great read, and a good illustration of why it was important to photograph the entire manuscript, covers and all.

  3. Looking further at the list of GA numbers with the M.K. initials from the MOTB article, 1425, 1428, 1766, 1779, 1781, 1783, 1784, 1787, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1794 obviously there are some numbers in the gaps that were also from Kosinitza Monastery but apparently lacked the M.K. inside the back cover.

    I just pulled up the image of the back cover of 1788...

    ...and unless I am seeing things, there appears to be a very faint M K in the upper right corner of the image.

  4. I applaud the integrity of the MOTB. Even though this was bought at an auction put on by the well-respected Christie's, the trail of ownership had apparently not gone far enough. My suspicion is that quite a few MSS stolen from Greece during both WWI and WWII will begin to undergo greater scrutiny. (Maybe Brent Nongbri could help!) MOTB has upped their game significantly in the last few years; they are a model for all of us to follow.

    The CSNTM staff was working at a major library some years back digitizing their large collection. I learned that about 15 or so of these MSS came into the possession of the library in the early 20th century. A monastery in Greece where we had been working had lost at least 15 MSS sometime between the published catalog of 1902 and our visit in 2004. Perhaps just a coincidence, but I asked the curator at the library about the connection: "Do you think that some of the MSS in your collection might have been stolen from this monastery?" Her response, "Probably so."

    1. I agree Professor Wallace, and I'm glad to hear you say that.

      MOTB is blazing new trails with the degree to which they are providing biblical antiquities in a private museum, and it's something the Greens themselves had no background in prior to taking on that task. They had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way, and have weathered more than their fair share of criticism for it.

      At the end of the day, what they're doing is in every respect ethically far preferable to the model that has prevailed over the past couple centuries of having this kind of thing be provided by the governments of nation-states, which in many cases acquired their artifacts by military conquest or by purchasing them with funds gotten by taxation. Even in cases where artifacts were donated to government museums by people who rightfully owned them, their preservation still relies on taxation.

      MOTB stands as a testament to the fact that the service of curating antiquities for the public can be done without disobeying the Lord's prohibition against lording it over the nations the way their rulers do (Mat 20:25-26).