Monday, August 31, 2015

ETC Interview with Maurice Robinson: Part 1

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If you’re still wondering, the answer to my quiz of last week is none other than that Byzantine Beatle, Maurice A. Robinson. Maurice also happens to be the first participant in what I hope will be an ongoing series of interviews with text critics. In the past, we have interviewed Bart Ehrman, Dan Wallace, and Stanley Porter and these were well received. So I thought we should continue the tradition. I don’t have any detailed criteria by which to pick our interviewees (suggestions welcome), but I can say I am quite pleased with those who have already agreed to be interviewed. There are many familiar names on the list, but also some lesser-known or younger scholars that I am excited to introduce to our readers. So without further ado, I present our first interview.

As a regular commentator and sometime contributor at the ETC blog, Maurice Robinson is no stranger to regular readers. But despite the blog’s great fame, he is most well-known for his work editing and defending the Byzantine textform. He teaches at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC where he was recently named research professor of New Testament studies. He’s been interviewed a number of times before, but I thought there were a few things those interviews didn’t cover, especially the final question of part 2. Enjoy!

Peter Gurry: Many readers might be surprised to learn that you worked with Kenneth W. Clark during your master’s work. Can you tell us how that relationship has (or hasn’t) influenced your own view of textual criticism?

[Maurice A. Robinson] I began studying with Clark (1898–1979) in 1971 during my MDiv program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (where I currently serve as Research Professor); this was arranged by the then text-critical professor here, since he said I already knew more about the subject from previous self-study than did he. Clark at that time was already emeritus from Duke, having retired from teaching in 1967, but he genuinely was excited about my interest in the field, since at that time very few students anywhere were becoming interested or involved in the subject. As a result, Clark and I began and maintained a very good relationship from 1971–1977 (when I moved to Texas for my PhD studies), despite our evangelical versus liberal theological differences.

My position at that time was one of reasoned eclecticism, basically following the Metzger-style theory and praxis; Clark, however, in various of his publications had already raised serious questions as to whether that or any type of eclectic method really represented a solution rather than a symptom (a theme later discussed by Epp in 1976). Clark therefore strongly encouraged me to study, heavily read, and critically examine various alternative views, including those favoring a primarily external and transmissional approach to the text as opposed to those theories that placed a more subjective emphasis on internal criteria (including both thoroughgoing and reasoned eclecticism). In essence, what Clark strongly suggested was a return back to primarily external principles such as espoused by Westcott and Hort, but without their unsupported speculative historical baggage regarding a “Syrian recension” being the creative cause of the Byzantine Textform.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus Wife and Grondin's Interlinear

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Breaking News

Andrew Bernhard, independent scholar, has produced new evidence that once again demonstrates the modern origins of the Gospel of Jesus Wife (GJW).  For the technical details, I refer the reader to Bernhard’s analysis, here.

Grondin’s Interlinear

I am a huge fan of Michael Grondin’s online resources.  He has been a trailblazer in terms of making resources related to the Gospel of Thomas and related topics accessible online for more than a decade.  As Bernhard argued in 2012, Grondin’s interlinear translation of the Gospel of Thomas was particularly helpful to the forger of the GJW in creating a patchwork text in which Jesus says “my wife.”  Several facets of the Coptic clearly were gleaned from the Grondin PDF, indicating that the GJW itself could be no older than the PDF uploaded in 2002.

The Owner’s Transcription

A modern owner of the GJW wife provided Karen King with a transcription and translation of the papyrus, which is now available online.  Bernhard has shown that this transcription is not itself a transcription and translation from the GJW fragment, but clearly a reiteration of Grondin’s PDF.  The cumulative weight of the agreements is startling and irrefutable.  I mention only one of many agreements, here, as it reflects a Greek term.  The third line of the GJW uses the Greek-Coptic loanword derived from ἀρνέομαι.  Both Grondin and the Owner’s Translation render this loanword as “abdicate,” a gloss not found in, for instance, the LSJ or BDAG.

Some Notes on the Image

Although I leave the content of the Owner’s Transcription to Bernhard, my own analysis can be downloaded as a PDF, here.  I would like to note some contextual clues which this new document provides to our story:
  • This Owner’s Transcription was prepared after the inscription of the GJW papyrus, since it cites the forger’s own errors.
  • The owner has apparently photographed a print-out of this document with a cell phone.  The paper has creases and is bowed at the top and bottom.  A few characters are cut off of one side.  The manila coloring derives from indoor lighting on normal printer paper.  There is a small hole or blemish in the midst of the transcription.
  • I would guess that the forger has used the ASCII font CS Coptic Manuscript.  This document was not prepared by Peter Munro in the 1980s on a typewriter!   The document includes numerous typos, some of which indicate a weak knowledge of Coptic.
  • The file creation date has been wiped. One can only read the XMP version (Adobe XMP Core 4.1-c036 46.276720, Mon Feb 19 2007 22:13:43).  Please let me know if you can make anything of this.
  • The wording of the title is definitely leading since the text contains no clearly Gnostic material, “Coptic Papyrus, Sahidic, Gnostic Gosple (sic), probably 3-5th Centruy (sic) A.D.”  This could be a synthesis of popular opinion on the Gospel of Thomas, or could reflect opinion on the Gospel of Judas, which was big around 2008.  I would suggest that the GJW emerged from the latter hype — and probably after the death of Peter Munro (2 Jan 2009).
  • As already mentioned, this is sloppy on many levels and suggests that the forger has a weak command of Coptic at best, and probably no experience with editions of ancient manuscripts.
  • I always wondered if the forger had any riddles built into the seemingly unreadable verso.  The Owner’s Transcription does not offer any clues to what was written on the verso.

What’s Next

This only proves beyond question what essentially all specialists already had concluded.  If we are to continue the discussion with this forged papyrus, as has recently been suggested, then the next step is pursue the remaining documents to attempt to identify the forger.  Who knows what the other documents may hold in terms of clues?  In particular, I would like to see the handwritten note, which probably preserves the forger’s hand.  If the current owner is the person mentioned in the bill of sale, then he/she has some interesting questions to answer.  I enthusiastically thank Karen King for uploading the Owner’s Transcription, and would like to request that the remaining documents (bill of sale, handwritten note and typed note) also be shared, if possible.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Article in the TC Journal on "The Earliest Corrections in Codex Sinaiticus"

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As one of the editors, I am delighted to announce that a new fine article has been published in the current volume of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism.
Peter Malik, The Earliest Corrections in Codex Sinaiticus: Further Evidence from the Apocalypse

Abstract: Previous research into the scribal corrections of Codex Sinaiticus—also labelled as “S1”—has yielded fruitful results, especially regarding distribution of the scribal correcting activity and the textual affinities of corrections. The present article extends our knowledge of this aspect of Sinaiticus by examining scribal corrections in the book of Revelation, especially with regard to their nature, authorship, and textual affinities. It is argued that the palaeographical and textual evidence suggests that, unlike other previously studied portions of Sinaiticus, the text of Revelation was most likely never subjected to a secondary review in the scriptorium.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus Wife — the saga continues ...

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This is a synthesis of some breaking news developments on the Gospel of Jesus Wife forgery with a short comment by myself at the end.

Karen King, Harvard professor 

On pages 8–9 of the most recent BAR issue (Sept–Oct 2015), Karen King responded to prior comment, indicating that she still believed that the GJW could be an authentic ancient witness to a married-Jesus tradition in the Early Church or Islamic-era Egypt.
At this point, when discussions and research are ongoing, I think it is important, however difficult, to stay open regarding the possible dates of the inscription and other matters of interpretation, to consider the implications that scholars are operating with different methodological assumptions, and to take into account the enormity of the gaps in our knowledge of both ancient and modern contexts.

Owen Jarus, Live Science reporter

In terms of investigative journalism, Jarus was the first to openly call the GJW story into question, especially with regard to the person of Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, the purported former owner of the papyrus.  I was skeptical of his Laukamp arguments at first, but now it is clear that the entire modern history of the GJW is indeed a forgery.  In a recent Live Science article, Owen Jarus has produced handwriting samples from Laukamp which, he argues, could be used to authenticate or inauthenticate the accompanying documents.  Further, he reports that further tests may be used to revive the debate.
In addition, James Yardley, a senior research scientist at Columbia University, told Live Science that the new tests confirm that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife holds different ink than the John papyrus. This could undercut Askeland’s argument that the two papyri were written by the same person.

Andrew Bernhard, independent scholar

Andrew played a crucial role in the beginning of the controversy, publishing a patchwork theory which amalgamated prior assessments by Gathercole, Lundhaug-Suciu, Watson and others, and which further linked the GJW to a particular modern source, a 2002 online PDF produced by Mike Grondin.  Bernhard has just renewed a call for King to release the documents related to the GJW controversy, with a summary stressing why such a release remains necessary (here).
Nonetheless, I have become convinced that identifying (or at least trying to identify) the forger may be the only way to bring an end to the strange saga of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. This will require that Professor King identify the owner (as she has said she can legally), make the three supporting documents cited in her article (p. 31) available for public inspection, and release the English translation given to her with the papyrus fragment. We need access to anyone who may have been involved with what now seems to be an obvious forgery, and we need all potentially pertinent evidence to be made available.

My own response

I have expressed my opinion that the GJW has been so exhaustively proved a forgery, that the matter could be laid to rest.  With regard to provenance documents and the identity of the present owner, I had surmised that King had legal or ethical reasons for withholding these.  After all, what more could be gained from identifying the forger when everyone knows that the GJW is a fake?  Her suggestion that the GJW could be authentic has caused me to reconsider.  I would suggest that, if she considers the debate “ongoing,” then she should without hesitation produce the relevant materials.  Furthermore, I would suggest that it would be disingenuous of King to conduct further Raman-spectroscopy testing (or the like) in highly-speculative support of authenticity and to simultaneously withhold documents which would almost certainly demonstrate forgery.

King cited the prior set of scientific tests and paleographic analysis infelicitously, suggesting that they supported authenticity.  Readers can reference my reaction, here.  I am concerned that Yardley’s tests will further murk up the waters, by exaggerating some minor differences between the ink of the GJW and the Harvard Lycopolitan John.  This would be an appeal to science for something that (1) is fairly plain to the naked eye and (2) was already covered with a prior test.  These two documents are remarkably similar in regard to their ink, writing instrument and character formation — and in their utter dissemblance from any known ancient parallel.  Even the prior Raman tests suggested only minor differences.  In the New Testament Studies response, Ira Rabin argued,
It is noteworthy that their own statistical analysis does not support the conclusion that the inks of the two sides of GJW are distinct from that of JnFragm offered in the executive summary. In Fig. 8.2 (top) of the report ID/IG, the intensity ratio of the disordered and ordered bands for both fragments clearly falls within the error bars. (363)
In other words, the prior study, when accurately interpreted, demonstrated that the two shared essentially the same ink.  I would suggest that we let the matter drop.  If Karen King would like to continue to the discussion, then she should produce the documents which will allow scholars to potentially identify the forger.

Name This Text Critic

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No hints. I will be posting an interview with this text critic next week.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Working Bibliography of Scribal Habits

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With the help of Pete Malik, I’ve put together the following bibliography of scribal habits. It is noticeably weighted toward the Greek New Testament, but I wouldn’t mind expanding it beyond that. I should add that Pete and I used slightly different formatting and I have not bothered to align them. Let me know what we’re missing either by email or in the comments and I’ll try to add them to the main list.

Aland, Barbara. “Das Zeugnis der frühen Papyri für den Text der Evangelien: diskutiert am Matthäusevangelium.” In The Four Gospels 1992, edited by F. van Segbroeck, C. M. Tuckett, G. van Belle, and J. Verheyden, 325–335. BETL 100. Leuven: Leuven University Press and Peeters, 1992.
———. “Kriterien zur Beurteilung kleinerer Papyrusfragmente des Neuen Testaments.” In New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel, edited by A. Denaux, 1–13. BETL 161. Leuven: Leuven University Press and Peeters, 2002.
———. “Neutestamentliche Handschriften als Interpreten des Textes? P75 und seine Vorlagen in Joh 10.” In Jesu Rede von Gott und ihre Nachgeschichte im frühen Christentum, edited by Dietrich-Alex Koch, Gerhard Sellin, and Andreas Lindemann, 379–397. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1989.
———. “Sind Schreiber früher neutestamentlicher Handschriften Interpreten des Textes?” In Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-critical and Exegetical Studies, edited by Jeff W. Childers and D.C. Parker, 114–122. TS 3.4. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2006.
———. “Was heißt Abschreiben? Neue Entwicklungen in der Textkritik und ihre Konsequenzen fur die Überlieferungsgeschichte der frühesten christlichen Verkündigung.” In Mark and Matthew I: Comparative Readings: Understanding the Earliest Gospels in their First Century Settings, edited by Eve-Marie Becker and Anders Runesson, 55–76. WUNT 1.271. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.
———. “Welche Rolle spielen Textkritik und Textgeschichte für das Verständnis des Neuen Testaments? Frühe Leserperspektiven.” NTS 52 (2006): 303–318.
Ashton, June. Scribal Habits in the Ancient Near East: C. 3000 BCE to the Emergence of the Codex. Mandelbaum Studies in Judaica 13. Sydney: Mandelbaum Publishing, 2008.
Burleson, Douglas Y. “Case Studies in Closely Related Manuscripts for Determining Scribal Traits.” PhD diss. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012.
Colwell, E. C. “Hort Redivivus: A Plea and a Program.” Pages 148–71 in Studies in the Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament. NTTS 9. Leiden: Brill, 1969.
———. “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75.” Pages 106–24 in Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament. NTTS 9. Leiden: Brill, 1969.
Dain, Alphonse. Les manuscrits. Collection d’études anciennes. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1949.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Manuscripts of the Lord's Prayer (Bible Odyssey)

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My new article on "Manuscripts of the Lord's Prayer" has just been published on the Bible Odyssey, a website developed and maintained by Society of Biblical Literature. On the Bible Odyssey, biblical scholars "share the latest historical and literary research on key people, places, and passages of the Bible."

This was my second entry – I have written a piece on the "Alexandrian Text" last year. You can find a fuller report on the Odyssey project in that blogpost.

 There are various other entries related to textual criticism, and, under "tools" you can find a special timeline on the history of the text of the New Testament. Go on and explore!