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Archive for August, 2012

Oxford University is offering an unprecedented opportunity for ordinary people such as you and me to transcribe ancient Greek manuscripts online. You do not have to read or understand Greek to participate. If you want to check it out, you may go to the website below.

http://ancientlives.org/tutorial/transcribe

In the late 19th century over 500,000 papyrus fragments were discovered at an Egyptian city called Oxyrhynchus. Even after more than 100 years, scholars have been unable to transcribe such a huge quantity of manuscripts. These manuscripts are now available online, and Oxford University is seeking your help in transcribing them.

The vast majority of these manuscripts are small fragments of what scholars call documentary papyri – lists, bills, notes, letters, wills, etc. While the likelihood of discovering a portion of the New Testament is small, something similar has occurred. One of the manuscripts included a portion of an unknown gospel describing Jesus’ activities. The project has also discovered part of Herodotus’s The Histories.

At the same time, we should recognize that these manuscripts can be useful for New Testament studies. Understanding how Greek words and grammatical constructions were used in everyday life has proven valuable in helping Biblical translators understand the New Testament texts. Quite simply, ordinary Greek manuscripts taken from ancient rubbish heaps have helped us translate the New Testament more accurately.

I have tried to transcribe two of the fragments, and even with my limited knowledge of the Greek language, as well as the uncial letter forms in the manuscripts, I found the task to be quite challenging. I would encourage you to go to the website and look around. Even if you decide not to participate, I believe the experience will provide an appreciation for the difficulties textual scholars encounter when trying to transcribe ancient papyri.

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