My dream is to have all Bible manuscripts available, right on my iPad or laptop. (Ewan MacLeod, Director and Visionary, Bible Manuscript Society)
The vision of the Bible Manuscript Society is to open up the field of Old and New Testament textual studies to all members of the general public who wish to have access to the original manuscripts of God’s Word for themselves. Just as the early translators of the Bible into English (Wycliffe and Tyndale) emancipated Bible manuscripts from the shackles of Church tradition - from a Church that wanted to keep God’s Word from the common people - and dedicated their lives to translating them, thus making them available to the common people in a language they could understand, so too, we want to free the original Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin manuscripts and early editions of the Holy Bible, and make them available to Bible students everywhere to examine and study for themselves.
Because today, although ordinary people can read translations of the Bible, the early editions and manuscripts of the Bible are still carefully locked away in museums and universities around the world, only available to a select and privileged few, just as they have been since Medieval times. Bible students can gain glimpses into 'other readings' through cryptic footnotes in a Critical Apparatus, but despite the passage of almost 1000 years since the first translations of the Bible into English, Bible students are still no further forward in their desire to have access to all extant manuscripts of the Holy Bible. The lack of access to the Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance, and the way they have been jealously guarded by a select cabal of academics, has been famously described as "the academic scandal par excellence of the 20th century."
The lofty and ambitious goal of the Bible Manuscript Society is to change all that. In this brave new world of the Internet, we aim to work with individuals and institutions around the world who have access to early editions and manuscripts of the Bible - and photograph, transcribe, collate and tag them, and make them available electronically to the general public - to Bible students everywhere via Bible software such as Accordance, BibleWorks, OliveTree and Logos. Our view is that God's Word should be available to all who would read it, not just through a translation, but to the actual manuscripts and textual witnesses themselves - as far back as we can go towards the original inspired autographs of God's Word.
Just as the best and most exciting discoveries in astronomy are often made by the many talented and interested 'amateurs' rather than the few lucky enough to be 'professionals' in the field, we hope and pray that our work will allow God's Word to be studied by all Bible students everywhere, to the end that the Holy Scriptures will be better loved and appreciated by everyone.
Our intention is to fund and/or co-ordinate the work done by institutions around the world who can further this goal. This will involve funding projects to photograph manuscripts, but also working with qualified and motivated individuals to speed up the work. We have begun to make Bible study resources available - resources to help people to understand the original languages of Scripture, and the traditions by which these have been passed down through the centuries.
We are especially interested in attracting substantial funding, because that will allow the work to pick up speed and make these things happen. If you can support our work by making a donation, or publicizing, promoting and marketing the work we want to accomplish, then please get involved. All contributions of time and money are welcome.
The harvest is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)