My last class this past Tuesday availed me with such a neat opportunity. My professor brought out a facsimile (identical face-value representation) of Codex Vaticanus that cost my school's library roughly $6,500 to purchase. Needless to say, I have never handled or seen a book quite that expensive before. In case you are wondering, Codex Vaticanus is one of two 4th century hand-copied Bibles. It is an extremely important manuscript in the transmission of the Bible. And if you are wondering why this facsimile cost so much, allow me to explain. The attention to detail was so rich and specific, that to produce such a product was not cheap.
Each page was taken from high resolution pictures. Everything down to the smallest smudge, water mark, ink smear, marginalia, faded letter, retraced letters, various ink colors, and so on is represented in its actual size and form. But it gets better. Each page is laser cut to match each page of the real codex (i.e. every page is cut differently to exactly match the page it is representing). Everywhere there is a hole in a page of Vaticanus, there is a laser cut hole in the facsimile to identically match. I mean it felt and looked like the real thing. Even the binding was so precise, that you could tell when a scribe made a note in the margin, flipped the page before the ink dried, and the ink transferred on to the page it touched, by simply putting the adjacent pages together. The mirror images of the words were perfect when compared. Amazing!
And this is the technology that is being used to advance the realm of Biblical Studies to new levels. Along the same vein, Dan Wallace and his team at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts have the goal of taking as many high resolution digital images of ancient Greek manuscripts that they can get their hands on. They then post their amazing pictures on their website (if the owners allow it; otherwise you have to travel to Dallas, TX to view them). People like me now have access and ability to study hundreds of Greek manuscripts that very few eyes have ever seen, all without leaving my recliner!!!
But this technology goes beyond pictures and expensive books. There are currently 3 major Bible software programs that are breaking boundaries with the way we study and research the Bible. Logos, BibleWorks, & Accordance are all cutting edge programs (each with their own specialties and niches) that aid the student of Scripture to do things that have never been done before. The advanced level of searches that can be done cut months of researching down to a simple formula that one simply enters and waits for the results to appear in a matter of seconds. Now, I can simply type in a simple search function and have the computer explore through every church father with a certain verse quotations, word choices, or even grammatical constructions. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Those interested in specific linguistic analysis of the Bible can really benefit from this. In other words, we are discovering truths about the Bible that have never been seen before!
I say all of this to say this: we are living in a time where we are richly blessed. I believe that our knowledge of Biblical studies is going to continue to increase. Bible knowledge should never plateau, and with these and other tools, I see it multiplying. But therein is the challenge. With the ability to learn at these rapid levels comes the responsibility to put this technology to good use. I don't believe God would have us gain access to this kind of study without expecting us to nail down some of these issues that have long been mysterious and hotly contested. We need to be good stewards of the great resources that God has put before us. Even though these resources help in accomplishing the work, it still takes minds to flesh out the conclusions.