Friday, February 27, 2015

New article in NTS on Early Christianity and Culture

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“Culture” is not perhaps the best word, but it’ll do for the moment. Udo Schnelle’s SNTS presidential address from last year has been published: U. Schnelle, ‘Das frühe Christentum und die Bildung’ NTS 61 (2015), 113-143.

The abstract shows how interesting (and controversial) this is:

Early Christianity is often regarded as an entirely lower-class phenomenon, and thus characterised by a low educational and cultural level. This view is false for several reasons. (1) When dealing with the ancient world, inferences cannot be made from the social class to which one belongs to one’s educational and cultural level. (2) We may confidently state that in the early Christian urban congregations more than 50 per cent of the members could read and write at an acceptable level. (3) Socialisation within the early congregations occurred mainly through education and literature. No religious figure before (or after) Jesus Christ became so quickly and comprehensively the subject of written texts! (4) The early Christians emerged as a creative and thoughtful literary movement. They read the Old Testament in a new context, they created new literary genres (gospels) and reformed existing genres (the Pauline letters, miracle stories, parables). (5) From the very beginning, the amazing literary production of early Christianity was based on a historic strategy that both made history and wrote history. (6) Moreover, early Christians were largely bilingual, and able to accept sophisticated texts, read them with understanding, and pass them along to others. (7) Even in its early stages, those who joined the new Christian movement entered an educated world of language and thought. (8) We should thus presuppose a relatively high intellectual level in the early Christian congregations, for a comparison with Greco-Roman religion, local cults, the mystery religions, and the Caesar cult indicates that early Christianity was a religion with a very high literary production that included critical reflection and refraction.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bible Typos and Typography

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The Washington Post offers a collection of Bible typos - just the thing to liven up that lecture a bit: When ‘Jesus’ was ‘Judas’ and other pretty stupendous Bible typos 

 Mark Ward posts a video (from a talk in a church) about Why Bible Typography Matters (slight design geek alert - actually I got that from the talk about kerning and em-dashes in the opening and the actual video is not too geeky)

Fascinating video (and article) on the Dove Press type (used for a five volume Bible). More on the story of the Doves Press here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ethiopic Manuscript of Jannes and Jambres (and 2 Timothy 3.8)

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Over at PaleoJudaica, Jim Davila notes the recent discovery of an Ethiopic text of Jannes and Jambres (a work about the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses in Exodus 7, known only incompletely, which may be categorised, following the lead of Origen, as among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha - an introduction and ET of the fragmentary Greek witnesses is found in Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, 427-442). I re-quote here from the source of the information, the discoverer of the manuscript, Ted Erho:
The fragment consists of a bifolium of non-consecutive leaves datable on palaeographic grounds to the beginning of the 14th century, or perhaps slightly earlier. Although in relatively good condition and generally legible, the top inside corner is damaged, resulting in the loss of a few letters from the first two lines of each affected column; mold or some sort of related bacterial contamination on the recto of the initial leaf have additionally caused several characters and one full word to become completely obscured.

Approximately 80% of the text of Jannes & Jambres preserved in this Ethiopic witness is previously unattested. In two places, however, parallels exist with the Greek evidence. The first of these occurs at the very beginning of the fragment and overlaps with both Vienna Frag A and P. Chester Beatty XVI Frame 4↓, while the second, which commences about two-fifths of the way through f. 1v and continues almost until the end of the leaf, aligns with Vienna Frag B and P. Chester Beatty XVI Frame 3→. No precise textual correspondences with the extant Greek material exist for any portion of the second Ethiopic leaf. Its content, however, consists primarily of laments for various elites who have died (probably the nobles of Egypt), which each section introduced by the question “Where is (name)?”, traces of which may be attested in the very fragmentary later leaves of P. Chester Beatty XVI. In any case, the substantial quantity of unique material in the Ethiopic fragment suggests that the Greek evidence probably represents a smaller portion of the full text of the apocryphon than has been supposed to date.
  This is interesting of course because Jannes and Jambres are mentioned in 2 Timothy 3.8f: “As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith;  9 but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” This is interesting on at least three grounds: a) hermeneutical; b) canonical and c) textual.

  • a) In terms of the hermeneutical assumptions exhibited here, it seems to be a very clear example of a NT author reading (and referring) to an OT text not (only?) in its original form (where the magicians of Egypt are not named), but in the form in which it was understood in popular Jewish Bible reading (the names appear at Qumran in CD 5.18f; Tg Ps-Jon on Exod 1.15 & 7.11f; and become very widespread in magical circles, even appearing in Pliny, Nat. Hist 30.2.11) [Other clear examples to consider would include Acts 7.22; 1 Cor 10.4; Jude 9, 14f] It will be interesting to see whether the new discovery sheds any light on Paul’s appeal to these men in 2 Timothy 3.
  • b) According to Origen (who discusses the reference to these names in 2 Tim 3.8f in a little excursus to his Commentary on Matthew at 27.9) some people had rejected 2 Timothy on the grounds that it contained text from some secret book. Origen seems to broadly agree with the attribution of the source of the material to a secret book, but not with the consequential rejection of the epistle (partly at least on the grounds that Paul does something similar in 1 Corinthians). While it seems to me that it is not necessary to think of a written source for the names (as opposed to popular traditions), I think Origen’s canonical thinking is along the right lines here. [Jude also was rejected by some on the basis of its parallels with non-canonical texts.]
  • c) In terms of the textual interest, we could note that NA28 notes a variant reading “Mambres” for Jambres. “Mambres” is read by F G it vg(cl.ww) and Cyprian. This reflects the spelling within Latin and rabbinic sources for the Jannes and Jambres tradition which also read “Mambres” (including Origen, since the latter portions of his commentary on Matthew survive only in Latin). So there may be some intersection there between apocyrphal traditions and the text of the NT.
  • d) Although it doesn’t, as far as I can tell, address this passage, there is an excellent and informative discussion of some similar issues in relation to expansionist readings of the New Testament text in Bruce M. Metzger, “Names for the Nameless in the New Testament: A Study in the Growth of Christian Tradition,” in Patrick Granfield & Josef A. Jungmann (eds.), Kyriakon: Festschrift Johannes Quasten, 2 vols. (Münster, Verlag Aschendorff, 1970) vol. 1: 79–99 (reprinted in his New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic (Leiden: Brill, 1980), 23-45 (and available here).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A New Name for P75

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In an interesting new development in scholarly textual criticism the Vatican announced on Twitter that “The Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV (P75) has a new name: Hanna Papyrus 1 (Mater Verbi)”

This is a new development, since until recently the Vatican had been referring to the codex as “Vatican Library, Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV”. While the reference to Bodmer at least recalled the place of this codex in the larger collection with which it was purchased, this new name refers to Frank Hanna (who bought the codex from the Bodmer Library in 2006 and donated it to the Vatican in 2006/7). I am not sure whether the additional term “Mater Verbi” is a reference to Mary as mother of the Word, or to the church as the mother of the Word. I await further clarification on that aspect of Catholic theology. I’m also not too sure whether this new name will catch on (even the Vatican seems to be using “Hanna Papyrus 1 (Mater Verbi) (P75)”).

It is also interesting that for Frank Hanna the private ownership of biblical papyri is intimately connected with his Christian faith and apologetics, as seen in the following interesting excerpts from his recent talk entitled, Defending the Faith, Defending the Word of God.
Frank Hanna, CEO of Hanna Capital in Atlanta, Ga., ... told students that his efforts to acquire the papyri for the Vatican were the beginning of “a defense of the Faith” for him. “Faith is something that we decide to do,” Hanna said. “It draws us closer to God. So when we talk about the defense of the faith, we are talking about the defense of a decision we made. And when we need to defend a decision we have made, we like to provide evidence.”
Hanna explained that the Christian faith is one that relies on the spiritual nature of man, but also embraces the corporal nature. “We are spiritual, but we live in this physical world,” he said. “And thus physical evidence of that which has happened is important. Defending that physical evidence is important. Defending that physical evidence is not a substitute for faith, but it can enhance it.” Hanna said that while we cannot prove that Jesus was God made man, we do have a lot of proof that Jesus was a real man, that many people believed he was God, and that they were willing to die for that belief. “The better preserved the records of those events are, the better it is for all of us and our faith,” he said. “And the [Bodmer] Papyrus helps us to preserve that record. When we cling to those records, it is like clinging to photographs of a loved one.”

Transportation of Manuscripts in Medieval Times

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There is a nice post with great photos by Erik Kwakkel at Medievalbooks about the transportation of medieval books, including many Bibles, in bags, boxes, various types of containers and wraps: Box It, Bag It, Wrap It: Medieval Books on the Go

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Autograph will reveal everything

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Don McLean has said that the original manuscript of American Pie (for our younger readers who don’t know what that is see below) will ‘divulge everything there is to divulge’ about the meaning of the track. Coincidentally he is also try to sell the 16 page manuscript for $1.5 million. See here and/or here.




Monday, February 16, 2015

Vaticanus Online

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The whole of Codex Vaticanus (OT and NT) now online.

http://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.gr.1209

For background on the wider project (digital images of all 80,000 manuscripts in the Vatican Library), see here

The Glory of Byzantium On-line

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Byzantine News has announced the release of a good resource for the study of Byzantine art:

The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, edited by Helen C. Evans, William D. Wixom (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997).

This exhibition catalogue includes a number of Greek New Testament MSS (see the chapter by Jeffrey C. Anderson on Manuscripts, p. 83ff.).

Friday, February 13, 2015

News and notes

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News of a tremendous marketing and tax scam arrangement involving biblical manuscripts and evangelical seminaries is covered by Paul Barford and Roberta Mazza. (I am a bit busy to get into this right now, but if someone else is following things and wants to post on this subject it would probably be helpful.)

Fires in Moscow and New York highlight the fact that even manuscripts in major libraries are not imperishable - get those manuscripts photographed (please!). (we already noted CSNTM’s plans for Athens)

Interesting brief discussion from about the possible impact of the increasing availability of digital images of manuscripts: Digitization and manuscripts as visual objects: effects of a media change 

Anne Marie Luijendijk’s new book on the Gospel of the Lots of Mary has been published, and there are some reviews and notes about (e.g. RBECS; BMCR; Larry Hurtado’s Blog; James Snapp’s blog [with pictures])

The 28th International Congress of Papyrology will be held in Barcelona in August 2016. The organisers write: “We congratulate ourselves and very much look forward to host a new edition of our periodic gatherings, where we traditionally share scientific knowledge and human experiences.” If you are planning that far ahead information is available here.

If All The Bible Translations Had A Dinner Party.

Roger Pearse has written a paper on “Ancient chapter divisions, chapter headings, and tables of contents: a preliminary survey of the question” (he blogs about it here)

Brice Jones notes a new agraphon (of Jesus) in P.Monts.Roca 4.59 (V/VI): “It has been retained to pronounce sweet words.” (yes, not too clear, I know; but it could be an agraphon about textual criticism, since the context seems to be a dispute about wording)

Lee McDonald bravely attempts a 322 word answer to the question - When did the early Christians consider the New Testament or rather, some books of the New Testament, scripture? (I wouldn’t have said it quite like this, but would have taken longer!)

N de Lange is doing the second half of his Grinfield Lectures in the Septuagint in Oxford (March 2-4)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wikipedia is still bad: Notes on Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus

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About this time last year I wrote a blog about the wikipedia page concerning Codex Alexandrinus, under the heading How Bad Is Wikipedia? Codex Alexandrinus as a Test Case.

My general conclusion was fairly negative:
“Wikipedia is quite bad. Facts are wrong, correct facts are placed in the wrong context, incorrect conclusions are drawn. ...  The best and most recent scholarship is cited the least. Evidence is not routinely provided. And the overall style is dreadful.”
Well, recently (in fact yesterday) I led a seminar on the NT manuscript C or 04 (Codex Ephraimi Rescriptus), and I happened to have a look at wikipedia again. Oh dear. This page also has plenty of problems - wikipediea obviously hasn’t really get a lot better in the last year. And this time I went all the way to the end and I found 20 problems, approximately half of which are either completely wrong or seriously misleading. See what you think.


1. Opening Sentence: “Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (Paris, National Library of France, Greek 9; Gregory-Aland no. C or 04, von Soden δ 3) is an early 5th century Greek manuscript of the Bible, the last in the group of the four great uncial manuscripts (see Codex Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus).”
Three problems with this sentence: i) the use of the word “early” for the date in the fifth century. By way of introduction it would be better to simply say ‘fifth century’ which is widely agreed. The possibility of narrowing down the range could be dealt with later (with evidence or argument). ii) and iii) the description of this as ‘the last in the group’. It is not clear what the word ‘last’ refers to here. If it is a dating issue, then it is unclear why C should be regarded as later than A (esp. if it is thought to be ‘early 5th century’ of course). It was not the last to be discovered or published. It is only ‘last’ in the alphabetical arrangement, but that means nothing. Further the sense in which the four great Greek Bible manuscripts are a ‘group’ is also not clear. It would be better to keep it simple: ‘one of the four Greek Bible manuscripts which survive from the fourth and fifth centuries’.

2. Second paragraph: “The manuscript received its name as a codex in which Greek translations of Ephraem the Syrian‘s treatises were written over (“rescriptus”) a former text that had been washed off its vellum pages, thus forming a palimpsest.[1] The later text was produced in the 12th century. The effacement of the original text was incomplete, for beneath the text of Ephraem are the remains of what was once a complete Bible, containing both the Old Testament and the New.”
These sentences are just too clunky and inelegant. 

3. “There are only 209 leaves of the codex surviving, of which 145 belong to the New Testament and 64 to the Old Testament.”
Well it is true that 209 leaves survived up to the time of Tischendorf and are reflected in his published text; and this is a bit geeky, but in fact only 208 leaves are extant in the volume currently in the BN - there is one missing (and Tischendorf was the last person to hold it).

4. “The nomina sacra are abbreviated in an unusual way: ΙΗΣ for Ἰησοῦς (Jesus), IHY for Ἰησοῦ (of Jesus), XPΣ for Χριστὸς (Christ), ΧPY for Χριστοῦ (of Christ), ΠΑP for Πατήρ (Father), and ΣTH for Σταυρωθῇ (crucify).”
This is completely wrong. The footnote reference is to Gregory’s discussion of Codex Bezae. 

5. “The text of the Gospels is divided according to κεφαλαια (chapters), but their τιτλοι (titles of chapters) are not placed in the upper margin of the page as in Codex Alexandrinus. A list of their τιτλοι (tables of contents) preceded each Gospel.”
The difficulty here is partly linguistic and partly relates to the incomplete nature of the surviving evidence. Firstly it is not right to say that “the text of the Gospels is divided according to ...” The problem here is the word “divided”, the ennumeration of the kephalaia does not divide or even disturb the text of the gospels. It is a marginal system of ennumeration. Further it looks like the parenthetical italicised terms are translating the Greek words cited, but that doesn’t work with the third of these which is merely an equivalent for the whole phrase (a list of titloi = a table of contents). Further only two of the lists survives - so one should inject a note of caution: ‘based on the presence of the list of titloi preceding Luke’s Gospel and John’s Gospel it is reasonable to think that similar lists would have preceded each Gospel’. Finally, although no titloi are visible in the upper margins it is not to my mind certain that none were ever placed in the upper margin, since it is normal to have some orientation in the upper margins. Two possibilities would be worth considering, either that the material in the upper margin was written in red ink and so very thoroughly erased (like the first verse/s of each NT book); or that the pages were trimmed down when the book was rebound in the twelfth century [this in fact was Tischendorf’s view].

6. “The text of the Gospels is divided into small Ammonian Sections, whose numbers are given at the margin, with references to the Eusebian Canons (written below Ammonian Section numbers).”
Here again the term “divided” is not helpful. More substantially there is a question about the the presence of the two numbers in C. Only the upper number (the so-called Ammonian Section) is visible, and only these numbers are represented in Tischendorf’s transcription. Since Eusebius specifically mentions that the second number, the Eusebian Canon number, should be written in red ink; and since it appears that the red ink was well washed off in this manuscript, then it is possible that the Eusebian Canons were marked. But no one has ever seen them.

7. “The Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53–8:11) is omitted; though the pericope is located on the lost two leaves (John 7:3–8:34), by counting the lines it can be proved that it was not in the book – there is not room for it (as in Codex Alexandrinus).”
This should be stated in terms of probability rather than provenness, as indeed Metzger does in the Textual Commentary that is cited: ‘highly probable’.
8. “The text of Mark 16:9–20 was included to the codex, though it was located on the lost leaves; by counting the lines it can be proved that it was in the work.
Other than the basic affirmation all the rest is completely wrong. Mark 16.9-20 is included in the text of Mark in this codex, there is no need to count anything. It is all there on folio 148r.
9. The list of lacunae. Two problems: a) surely it is more helpful to offer a list of passages which are present in the manuscript rather than a list of what is not present; b) the current list includes many passages that were present in red ink and have been more thoroughly erased than the main text in black ink. So it would be helpful to treat this, when extant, a bit differently from passages that are merely missing.


10. Text-type section
Obviously this is a difficult aspect of this manuscript, but this could be made clearer. Especially the referent of “it” is often not clear. E.g. in the following sentence one would be forgiven for thinking that Westcott-Hort (and von Soden) are addressing the textual character of Luke’s gospel in particular (which they are not): “In Luke its textual character is unclear. Westcott-Hort classified it as mixed; Hermann von Soden classified it as in the Alexandrian text-type.” It is also not quite correct to say that Westcott and Hort “classified” the textual character of the manuscript as “mixed” (it approximates to their view, but makes it sound more technical than it was). 

11. “Interpolations”, “Some corrections”,Selected textual variants” and “Some other textual variants”
Since ‘interpolations’ are textual variants, we have three different categories for the same thing. Simplest to have a list of ‘Some textual variants’ and another list of ‘some corrections’. Of course some consideration as to why these are chosen to be listed and on what basis would be helpful.

12. History: “The manuscript was probably written in Egypt (or Palestine)[5] before the middle of the fifth century.”
Firstly there is an error in the inclusion of ‘or Palestine’ at this point, since that is not what Gregory says. Secondly, whether it was ‘probably written in Egypt’ is doubtful. Better to say that Tischendorf suggested Egypt and no one has made a serious counter proposal.Thirdly, this ‘before the middle of the fifth century’ (or as previously ‘early fifth’) is in Gregory, but there really is not much by way of evidence, and most authorities seem to have been happy with a simple ‘fifth century’.
 13. “It was written by at least two scribes; according to Tischendorf, there were three scribes (A, B, C).”
Aside from the fact that this sentence barely makes sense, it is also wrong. Tischendorf discerned two scribes: one for the OT, one for the NT. Others (including Lyon) have suggested the possibility of a third scribal hand.

14. “The first corrector (C1) worked in scriptorium, while the second corrector (C2) worked in Palestine in the sixth century.”
This makes it all sound so definite. No one knows where (or indeed when) C2 worked. Tischendorf suggested Palestine, Syria or Asia Minor (just places in between Alexandria and Constantinople). 
15. “At that time, the manuscript was probably housed in the Caesarea library, a famous theological library in ancient times
This is completely bogus. The cited reference makes no such claim.
16. “Jean Boivin, a French scholar, ...”
He was in charge of the Royal Library, so he was more than just any old French scholar.

17. “Because Tischendorf worked by eye alone, his deciphering of the palimpsest’s text was less than perfect.
This is a rather odd statement. Of course it was not perfect, but the logic does not follow and judging by the paucity of Lyon’s corrections Tischendorf’s transcription was excellent.
18. Re Lyon: “This was also an imperfect work.”
This sort of comment (and the citation where it is made) is not particularly helpful. It makes it sound like it was a poor piece of work, which it was not.

19. “According to Edward Miller (1886) codices “B and probably א were procured under the dark gloom of Asian ascendency; A and C in the light of the most intellectual period of the early Church” (B – Vaticanus, א – Sinaiticus, A – Alexandrinus, C – Ephraemi Rescriptus).
And the relevance of this is what exactly?
20. “According to Frederic Kenyon “the original manuscript contained the whole Greek Bible,...””
Strictly speaking this is true (i.e. Kenyon did say that). But the problem is that three or four times in this discussion we’ve been told that originally C comprised the whole OT; but no one has thought to notice that while the remains of the NT cover the whole breadth of the NT, from the OT we only have a few of the poetic works of the LXX.

Monday, February 09, 2015

SBL Int. Meeting 2015: Call for Papers

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The SBL International Meeting will be held in Bueonos Aires, Argentina on July 20-24. The call for papers closes this week, on 12 February. This is a reminder to log in on the SBL website and submit your proposal to the Working with Biblical Manuscripts (Textual Criticism) program unit.


The current chairs, Timothy B. Sailors and Ronald van der Bergh have issued the following description of the unit and call for papers:

Description: This program unit is devoted to the text of “biblical” writings, as understood in the broad sense of the term: This includes the Jewish Bible, early Jewish literature, and the Old Testament (in Hebrew and Aramaic, Greek, and other ancient languages), as well as early Christian literature and the New Testament (in Greek, Latin, and other ancient languages). We offer a forum for the investigation of all types of material witnesses related to the text of this literature—tablets, manuscripts, ostraca, inscriptions—and for the consideration of the textual form of this literature reflected in its citation and use by ancient authors and in writings from antiquity through the Middle Ages. This consists not only of contributions that deal with the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin textual witnesses, but also those that engage evidence in Ugaritic, Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Coptic, Armenian, and other linguistic traditions. A wide variety of additional issues related to textual criticism are also addressed, including epigraphy, manuscript studies, papyrology, codicology, paleography, scribal habits and the production of texts, the history of transmission (and its cultural, social, and religious settings), the practice of textual criticism from antiquity to modern times, restoration and conservation, the use of modern technology in studying this material, the production of critical editions, and discussions of particular passages.

Call for papers: Papers concentrating on any aspect of textual criticism are welcome, particularly those that deal directly with manuscripts, i.e., papers that work with material witnesses to the text—tablets, ostraca, inscriptions, papyri, majuscules, minuscules, lectionaries. For the 2015 meeting in Buenos Aires, a joint session with the program unit “Bible and Syriac Studies in Context” is planned. We therefore especially invite papers discussing the evidence of Syriac manuscripts for the textual criticism of the Bible and/or other early Jewish or Christian writings.

Thursday, February 05, 2015