Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Gospel of Mark in the Syriac Harklean Version (2015)

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Samer Soreshow Yohanna. The Gospel of Mark in the Syriac Harklean Version: An Edition Based upon the Earliest Witnesses. Biblica et Orientalia 52. Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2015. xi + 196. €48 (hardback); £5.75 (e-book)
“No other branch of the church has given so much effort to spread and to accurately transmit the Gospel. From the hills of Lebanon and Kurdistan, from the Mesopotamian plains and the coast of Malabar, even from faraway China, Syriac manuscripts that are valuable for textual criticism have come to the European libraries.” —Eberhard Nestle

1. Background

The Syriac speaking church has left us one of the richest traditions of Biblical translation. The translation of the New Testament starts with the Gospels as early as the second and third centuries with Tatian’s Diatessaron and the Old Syriac Gospels. The Peshitta came next and was to become the most prominent of all the Syriac translations. Even so, the heat of theological controversy led to a number of more exacting translations which were intended to help settle matters of exegetical dispute. The Philoxenian was completed in 508 and was the first to include the small Catholic Epistles and possibly Revelation, the former being all that survives to us today. The last of the major translations and the most literal was that of Thomas of Harkel who finished his work in 616, shortly after Paul of Tella’s completion of the Syro-hexepla.

Even with native Aramaic, Thomas gives
the Greek (e.g., μαραναθα in 1 Cor 16.22)
Although the youngest of the Syriac translations, the Harklean has proven to be one of the most fruitful for textual criticism. This is due to Thomas’s innovation as a translator. His colophon tells us that he based his work on the Philoxenian but revised it with the help of what he considered to be “well proven and accurate” (ܣܓܝ ܒܚܝܪܝܢ ܘܚܬܬܝܬܝܢ) Greek manuscripts. These he represents with an exacting translation style designed to give the Syriac reader as much access to the Greek as possible. To this end he adopted the text critical symbols made famous by Origen (the asterisk, metobelus, and obelus) to mark words not found in his Greek manuscripts but either required by Syriac idiom or found in his Philoxenian predecessor. In the margin he adds more detail, supplying textual variants, translation notes, word meanings, and often simply giving the Greek word itself. In short, Thomas holds the distinction of producing the very first critical edition of the Syriac New Testament.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lunn on the End of Mark. Part 2

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For the introduction to this book and review series, see my previous post.
N.P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014).

Ch. 1: Introduction
The introductory chapter opens up the issue of the authenticity of Mark 16.9-20. The general consensus against the authenticity of these verses has two forms, one in which 16.8 is the proper original ending of Mark (particularly depending on strands of reader-response, but with no consensus interpretation of why Mark ends so abruptly), and one in which it is thought that the original ending is lost. Lunn suggests that doubts about the ending at 16.8 are reasonable, since one might expect a clear affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus in view of the early kerygma, creedal formulations, the other gospels, the resurrection predictions in Mark (8.31; 9.9f; 9.31; 10.34), the implausibility of ending a work with GAR, and various other considerations, siding with a quite large number of English-language commentators to the effect that there was probably more of Mark (Witherington, Evans, France, Edwards, Wright, and Stein).

So the introduction sets the scene for the presentation, but also something of the style and academic level of the book. Positively, it is very clear and well organised. Relevant material is collected from a wide variety of sources and presented in ways that support the case the author is making. Occasionally the style grated, with too many introductions like "famed professor of biblical exegesis F. F. Bruce ...". And there were a couple of minor related points of concern (referring to "Morner Hooker" rather than "Morna Hooker", introducing Philip Comfort alongside Bruce Metzger as "leading textual critics" - both of which may be slips, or may indicate a lack of broader scholarly perspective). Although reasonably full in making his nine points against Mark ending at 16.8, he dismisses the view that the author of Mark intended to end at 16.8 very briefly in view of a secondary summary of such arguments. Finally the discussion only concerns English language scholarship - Westcott and Hort are in view, not Tischendorf or Weiss or Nestle or anyone else (Griesbach and Lachmann get a mention via a secondary source - Croy on the Mutilation of Mark). A quick look at the author index confirms this (Mark commentaries by Cranfield, Edwards, France, Lane, Marcus are frequently cited, but not a single German or French commentator); Amphoux is absent even from the bibliography. Judging by the index the other main dialogue partners are Burgon, J.K. Elliott, W.R. Farmer, J.A. Kelhoffer, Metzger, J.E. Snapp, Jr., and Westcott & Hort.

The aim of the book is to argue that Mark 16.9-20 is precisely the ending that makes sense of Mark. So the following chapters address arguments against this and mount arguments in its favour.

Ch. 2 External Evidence (1): Biblical Manuscripts
Lunn will argue that the absence of 16.9-20 is 'a fairly localized textual variant which had no earlier explicit witness before the fourth century'.

Ch. 3 External Evidence (2): Patristic Citations
Lunn will argue that evidence of the knowledge of 16.9-20 reaches back into the second century, including 'some significant previously overlooked allusions to the Markan Ending in the Apostolic Fathers'.

Ch. 4 Linguistic Evidence (1): Vocabulary and Style
Lunn will argue against the wide-spread view that the style of 16.9-20 is distinctive and non-Markan, that the language of 16.9-20 'falls within the observable parameters of Markan usage'.

Ch. 5 Linguistic Evidence (2): Other Features
Lunn will argue that a range of 'deeper-level linguistic features' can be 'shown to actually provide evidence that supports Markan authorship'.

Ch. 6 Literary Evidence
Lunn will argue from various literary devices that 'the longer ending forms an integral element in the overall design of the Gospel'.

Ch. 7 Thematic Evidence
Lunn will argue that various Markan themes, including the new exodus motif, are 'strongly present in both the body of the Gospel and its ending'.

Ch. 8 The Longer Ending and the Gospels: The Question of Dependence
Lunn will argue that Luke 24 and the speeches in Acts demonstrate 'through unmistakable verbal resonances, acquaintance with a Gospel of Mark that included 16:9-20'.

Ch. 9 Miscellaneous Issues
Lunn will discuss remaining problems with the content of 16.9-20: its connection with 16.1-8, and the issues of baptism, snake handling, and poison drinking.

Ch. 10 The Cause of the Problem
Lunn will discuss whether 16.9-20 was accidentally or deliberately omitted.

Ch. 11 Summary and Conclusion

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Digitally Unrolling the Ein Gedi Scroll of Leviticus

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Ein Gedi scroll. (photo credit)
Yesterday, various news outlets reported the recent identification of Leviticus 1.1-8 in a charred scroll from Ein Gedi. First discovered in the 1970, the contents have been a mystery ever since. But with technology developed at the University of Kentucky, scholars were able to read the text by digitally “unrolling” it. The scroll has been carbon dated to the 6th century A.D.

I couldn’t find the full Hebrew text online, but there is a short write-up on the technology used to decipher the text. They also put together some videos of the process which are nicely done (see below).


Here’s the photo released by the IAA.

(photo credit)


Monday, July 20, 2015

Calhoun: Acts 17.27 in Bezae as a Reader’s Note

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The latest issue of Early Christianity (6.2) has an interesting short article from Robert M. Calhoun on the reading of Codex Bezea at Acts 17.27. Instead of reading that every nation has been made “to seek God” (ζητεῖν τὸν θεόν), Bezae says that it was “especially to seek the divine” (μάλιστα ζητεῖν τὸ θεῖόν ἐστίν). Several other witnesses attest τὸ θεῖον as well (gig, Clement, Irenaeus), but all of them, in one way or another, smooth the awkward syntax introduced by ἐστίν. As Metzger says, the text of Bezae “cannot be construed with the rest of the sentence” and must be emended either by removing ἐστίν or changing τό to something like ὅ (Commentary, p. 405).

Calhoun, however, points out that if Bezae’s text is taken as a complete sentence, it reads quite naturally as a reader’s note: μάλιστα “ζητεῖν τὸ θεῖόν” ἐστιν = “certainly [the correct reading] is ‘to seek the divine.’” At some point, the comment was misread so that instead of just replacing θεόν with θεῖον, the entire sentence was placed in the main text. Calhoun further suggests that this may give us a (small) clue about the editorial process behind the text of Bezae.

While this isn’t the kind of scenario one can definitively prove, and while I would like to see some uses of μάλιστα in similar contexts, it looks to me like a convincing solution and comes with the distinct advantage of not resorting to emendation.

Here is the relevant page in Bezae (line 2) courtesy of Cambridge’s nifty manuscript viewer:

Robert Matthew Calhoun, “The D-Text of Acts 17:27 (μάλιστα ζητεῖν τὸ θεῖόν ἐστιν),” Early Christianity 6.2 (2015): 230-234.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lunn on the End of Mark

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The other day I received in the mail the following book: N.P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014).

When it came out I got a copy on my Kindle, but I liked it so much I thought I should get a proper book for my library (who knows how long my Kindle will last and whether I’ll be able to find it). So the publishers have sent me a review copy, and I’ll tackle that in sections over the next couple of weeks. To begin with I would say it makes a good initial impression for four reasons:
  1. The title is straightforward. It tells you exactly what the book is about. I like that. It is an advocacy book - everything is slanted to persuade you that 16.9-20 is the original ending of Mark.
  2. The book is big enough. Sometimes you get books and you can tell in an instant that even the author hasn’t taken the subject sufficiently seriously - the book is too small. But here we get a large size book (i.e. large pages) and with 378 pages. Big enough to mount the necessary argument (without being an NT Wright sized over-production). 
  3. The layout is pleasing. Obviously Wipf and Stock must be doing something right at the moment. The paper, font, page layout etc. is just simple, clear and the sort of book an author could be proud of.
  4. The price is right. Obviously I got my print copy for free (although I did pay for my Kindle copy). In exchange for a critical review. But the price for this book is listed as US $34.40. If Wipf and Stock are going to be doing textual criticism then we are going to have a very marketable outlet for good scholarship and affordable prices. 
But one shouldn’t only judge a book by its cover. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Conference Announcement

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Call for Papers

Altertumswissenschaften in a Digital Age: Egyptology, Papyrology and Beyond

Workshop, Leipzig, November 4-6, 2015
Felix-Klein-Hörsaal, Paulinum, Augustusplatz 10, 4th Floor
Hashtag: #DHEgypt15

Call for Papers for Junior Scholars – English Version [Deutsche Version siehe unten]

Are you an Egyptologist or a Papyrologist? Do you conduct or plan research (master thesis, dissertation, etc.) in the field of Digital Humanities? How do you manage your data? Are you involved into new forms of teaching? Do you want to bring along your field into society and could talk about innovative methods? Our mission is to bring people together who envision a future for “Altertumswissenschaften” in times of transition in what is often called the “Digital Turn”. From November 4 to 6, 2015 we would like to gather especially Egyptologists and Papyrologists for two days of presentations and one day for a workshop. This call for papers has four key research areas:

Day 1:
1) How to structure, organize and represent data? Workflow
2) Which Fields of Research are relevant? Established and Emerging Use Cases Day 2:
3) How to train the next generations? Teaching
4) How to impact society? Citizen Science and Public Engagement

The workshop on day 3 will be reserved for discussion in small groups, touching the issues of Disruptive Technologies, Annotated Corpora, and leaves room for general discussions.

If you are interested in presenting a paper (20 minutes plus 10 minutes discussion or 30 minutes plus 15 minutes of discussion), please send us a title, duration, an abstract (max. one page) and a short CV. Let us also know if you would like to attend the workshop on day 3. Please send all the required information to Monica Berti and Franziska Naether until September 15, 2015. We look forward to your submissions and to see you in Leipzig!

There is no conference fee. Participants have to make their own hotel and travel arrangements under the usual travel regulations (economy class airfare, 2nd class train, up to 70 EUR per night for hotel, 70 EUR per day spending money).

Dr. Monica Berti
Alexander von Humboldt-Lehrstuhl für Digital Humanities Institut für Informatik Augustusplatz 10, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
E-Mail: monica.berti( - at - )

Dr. Franziska Naether
Ägyptologisches Institut/Ägyptisches Museum – Georg Steindorff – Goethestraße 2, 04109 Leipzig, Germany Telefon 0341 97-37146 Telefax 0341 97-37029
E-Mail: naether( - at - )
September 1, 2015 - August 31, 2016
Volkswagen Visiting Research Fellow
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), New York

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Conjecturing the Initial Text Where the Original Text Is Extant

19 Comment(s) +
While pondering the relationship of the initial text and the original text (as one does), a thought experiment occurred to me. I shared it with a friend who was asking about the difference between the initial text and the original text. This caused my friend to groan—whether at my scenario or the distinction itself I’m not sure. See what you think.

First, definitions: (1) the “initial text” is that text which is the starting point for the extant textual tradition; and (2) the “original text” is that text which was written by the author. Given these definitions, it is possible that the initial text may need conjectural emendation at a point where the original text itself is extant.*

Let’s give a concrete example. It is possible that at 2 Peter 3.10, the conjecture† οὐχ εὑρεθήσεται is the best candidate for explaining the witnesses of the extant readings and that εὑρεθήσεται is the original text. This would require something like the following scenario, where O = the original text and A = the initial text:

Filled circles = extant witnesses; hollow circles = non-extant witnesses.

Now I readily admit that I can’t imagine how to convincingly argue for such a scenario. But I also can’t imagine any way to argue against it. And this makes me wonder whether there is any sense in distinguishing the initial text from the original text, at least in places where the initial text is conjectured.

*Perhaps one caveat is necessary here. The thought experiment may only work in the context of a method like the CBGM where the relationships of entire witnesses are used to help judge the relationships of particular readings in those same witnesses.

†For the sake of argument we’ll define a “conjecture” as a reading with no Greek support.