CATENA: The Project

This page records the activity of the project across its duration, bringing together outputs and findings as they appear.

The project released its first checklist of Greek New Testament manuscripts which contain commentary on the biblical text on the University of Birmingham ePapers repository in August 2018. This comprises 646 items in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, including 50 new witnesses not included in the preliminary checklist published in 2016. The checklist was superseded in May 2021 by the published Catalogue of Greek New Testament Catena Manuscripts and the online searchable Database of Catena Manuscripts.

The project has identified four new manuscript witnesses to the Greek New Testament held by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria. One of them is a tenth-century gospel catena manuscript, which has been allocated the number GA 2937. The others are three lectionaries, copied between the tenth and sixteenth century, which have been added to the Kurzgefasste Liste as L2477, L2478 and L2479. News of the discovery was released on the NT.VMR blog in April 2019. A full description of the manuscripts, with illustrations, has been published in the Journal of Theological Studies (2020). In total, the work of Dr Georgi Parpulov has added thirty-one manuscripts in the Kurzgefasste Liste of Greek New Testament manuscripts. The GA numbers of the new entries are as follows: 2945, 2947, 2948, 2949, 2950, 2951, 2952, 2961, 2962, 2963, 2964, 2965, 2966, 2975, 2977, 2978, 2979, 2981, 2983, 2984, 2985, 2986, 2987, 2988, 2989, 2993, 2994, 2995, 2997, 2998, 2999. Further details are given in the Catalogue of Greek New Testament Catena Manuscripts (2021) and the Database of Catena Manuscripts. Dr Parpulov also identified the following pairs of witnesses as coming from the same manuscript: GA 640 and 1862; GA 2011 and 2968; GA 2205 and 2659; GA 2764 and 2936; GA L954 and L2361. He found a new fragment of GA L1586. We are grateful to Dr Greg Paulson of the INTF for ratifying these discoveries and including them in the online Kurzgefasste Liste.

The project's research has also identified twenty-three previously-unknown types of catenae on the New Testament. The majority of these have come from work towards the catalogue of catena manuscripts. The new types have been  registered in the online version of the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, the Brepols Clavis Clavium (Open Access). The new types (some of which are the subject of project publications) are as follows:

  • Gospel of Matthew: C116.4, C119.1, C119.2, C119.3
  • Gospel of Mark: C126.7, C126.8
  • Gospel of Luke: C137.7, C137.8, C137.8, C137.10, C139.1, C139.2
  • Gospel of John: C147.8, C147.9
  • Acts of the Apostles: C155.1, C155.2, C155.3, C155.4, C155.5, C155.6, C156
  • Pauline Epistles: C169.1 (see Parpulov, Byzantine Review, 2020).
  • Catholic Epistles: C182.1

The project would like to thank Dr Bram Roosen of Brepols Publishers for his assistance with these entries. The CATENA project has also updated the Clavis Clavium sigla for Catenae on the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, following its new research.

In summer 2019, the Principal Investigator of the CATENA project teamed up with the ERC PLATINUM project to produce an edition of Latin Christian papyri. This led to the identification of the earliest known witness to two works of Augustine in a sixth-century manuscript which was later palimpsested and found in the Cairo Genizah at the end of the nineteenth century. It is now held in Cambridge University Library. An edition of these texts was published in the 2019 volume of the journal Sacris Erudiri.

The project held a consultation on catenae at the University of Birmingham's Brussels office in February 2020. In addition to the project team, twenty experts from Belgium, France and Germany attended to discuss the current state of the question in the study of catena manuscripts. A smaller workshop on manuscript layout was held in Birmingham in March 2022, papers from which will be published as a separate issue of the Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism.

The first two books from the project were published in summer 2020. These are a monograph by Dr Panagiotis Manafis on collections of Greek historical extracts: (Re)writing History in Byzantium. A Critical Study of Collections of Historical Excerpts (Routledge, 2020), and a printed edition of the Greek text of the catena in Codex Zacynthius with an English translation, The Palimpsest Catena of Codex Zacynthius: Text and Translation (Gorgias Press, 2020).

The three doctoral projects involve an examination of the Pseudo-Oecumenian Catena on Romans (Jacopo Marcon), an analysis of witnesses to unique forms of the Catena on Acts (Emanuele Scieri), and a study of the development of Gospel Catenae (Andrew Patton). In December 2021, both Emanuele and Andrew published articles in leading journals with new findings from their research. Andrew's article was awarded the Michael K. O'Rourke publication prize in 2022. Jacopo had a successful doctoral viva in December 2022.

The CATENA project has also been contributing to the bank of transcriptions of Greek manuscripts of the Pauline Epistles hosted by the International Greek New Testament Project at In November 2021, an initial apparatus of over 200 Greek manuscripts of Galatians (prepared by Hugh Houghton with Catherine Smith and Amy Myshrall) was released, which includes the biblical text from 60 catena manuscripts. In May 2023, the project completed its release of 164 proofread transcriptions of the Epistle to the Romans.

The project's work on the importance of catenae for the text of the New Testament has been presented at numerous conferences. Four team members presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature 2022 in Denver, while Prof. Houghton gave a keynote address at the inaugural Text and Manuscript conference in Texas in May 2022. The project hosted a conference at Birmingham from 15–17 May 2023 focussing on catenae and other biblical marginalia, to an international audience both in person and online. All of the presentations are available on a YouTube playlist, including Prof. Houghton's paper on the goals and achievements of the CATENA project.

The project's comparison of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method with an analysis of the same collation of New Testament witnesses using phylogenetic algorithms has led to the identification of three direct copies of surviving manuscripts of the Pauline Epistles. Prior to this, only eighteen direct copies had been identified in this tradition. The new findings provide fresh material for the study of manuscript production and scribal habits.

There is also a page dedicated to project publications, with links to open access downloads.

The project will conclude in May 2024.