Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Most Read Posts in 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time for that yearly tradition, the Year in Review. Here at the ETC blog we’ve had over 165 posts and over 172,000 hits in 2015 according to Google Analytics. (Blogger stats are much higher because apparently they count bots and spiders.)

So what have been the most read posts here? People are very interested in the oldest NT manuscript. Bart is always popular, but so are the top ten essential works in NT textual criticism and historic editions of the GNT (probably helped by being on the main navigation).

Rank Title Hits
Top Ten Essential Works in New Testament Textual Criticism
Questions about “First Century Mark”
Breaking News on the First-Century(?) Fragment of Mark
Historic Editions of the Greek New Testament online
What is the Oldest Manuscript of the New Testament?
Review of Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus
Has anyone seen “First Century Mark”?
How many books in the New Testament?
New NT Papyrus Manuscripts
Journal Rankings for New Testament

Slightly different, here are the most popular posts written in the last year.

Rank Title Hits
Questions about “First Century Mark”
Historic Editions of the Greek New Testament online
What is the Oldest Manuscript of the New Testament?
Has anyone seen “First Century Mark”?
New NT Papyrus Manuscripts
Distribution of New Testament Manuscripts by Century
Lunn on the End of Mark. Part 3
The Gospel of Jesus Wife and Grondin’s Interlinear
A New Papyrus of the Gospel of John
How Many Variants Are There in the Greek New Testament? 720

Thanks to all our readers. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Christmas Story through the Centuries

In time for your Christmas Eve service, here is the text of the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke from a selection of 3rd-11th century Greek manuscripts. (Links will take you to larger versions.) 

Merry Christmas!


Matt 1:1-11 (P1) - 3rd cent.

Matt 1:1-22 (03 Vaticanus) - 4th cent.

Matt 1:20-25; Matt 2:1-4 (05 Bezae) - 5th cent.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How (Not) to Use
a Computer-Generated Stemma

Barbara Bordalejo has been heavily involved in the use of computer-aided stemmatics since at least the time of her NYU doctoral thesis (2003; found here).

In the newest issue of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities she has an important essay on how to understand the differences (and similarities) between the genealogy of texts and the genealogy of manuscripts—a distinction central to the CBGM

Put another way, this is an article on how to avoid misusing computer-generated genealogies. Since this is a concern that comes up again and again when I talk to people about the CBGM, I thought it would be worth quoting Bordalejo’s conclusion in full:
Phylogenetic analysis and other computer-assisted stemmatological approaches can be used productively when studying large textual traditions, despite the difficulties presented by contamination, changes in order, major alterations, and significant losses. The stemmata produced using computer-assisted methods are working hypotheses which serve as a starting point of investigation. These stemmata, whether they correspond to a textual tradition or a manuscript tradition, are one of the tools that we can use to further our understanding of how texts are transmitted and how variants are inherited. What they do not do is to present us with a one size-fits-all solution that could answer all of our queries. In the end, we are still subject to the remarks of A. E. Housman who said that knowledge and method were important, but that besides those a scholar was required to make use of her brain (Housman, 1921).

The interpretation of the stemmata generated by the use of phylogenetic software is fundamentally changed when we understand the difference between textual and manuscript traditions. Although the search for meaning in each of these follows a similar pattern, the recognition of the differences between the data sets will have an impact on our expectations.

A stemma, computer-generated or made by hand, is only a graphic representation of a hypothesis (machine or human or a combination of both) created following a specific model and has to be treated as such. The historical reality that underlies our hypotheses cannot be recovered in its totality, whether this reality corresponds with the textual tradition or with the manuscript tradition. However, combining computer-assisted stemmatic analysis, database searches and historical knowledge of the production history of a particular text can help us build increasingly convincing hypotheses about it. Once we recognize this, we will be better equipped to use the tools at our disposal more efficiently and interpret the results of our research more accurately.*
Notice that Bordalejo is saying that regardless of whether we are after manuscript relations or textual relations, our stemmata are only partial representations of the historical reality. This is important because some of the literature on classical manuscript stemmatics can leave one with the impression that what they provide is a complete history. But this is not the case (cf. M. West, Textual Criticism, p. 35 and P. Trovato, Lachmann’s Method, p. 144 [quoted here]).

It’s also worth noting that Bordalejo does not set textual relations against manuscript relations but considers them to be mutually informing. The bulk of her essay helps us think through how they can be used in this way. But for that, you’ll have to read the full article (it’s it was free).

*Barbara Bordalejo, “The Genealogy of Texts: Manuscript Traditions and Textual Traditions” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30.4 (2015): 1–15 (12–13); italics mine.


I see that Peter Robinson also has an essay out in DSH which comes to many of the same conclusions. For example: “In our reconstructions, we are making a wager about history, not a statement of fact.... These strictures still leave substantial space where quantitative methods can, in combination with traditional scholarly methods and knowledge, achieve valuable results.” He goes on to cite the example of Prue Shaw’s work on Dante. His article is “Four Rules for the Application of Phylogenetics in the Analysis of Textual Traditions“ (not free).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Call for Papers: 13th Annual Conference of the European Society for Textual Scholarship

Call for Papers for the 13th annual conference of the European Society for Textual Scholarship (ESTS) that will be hosted by the University of Antwerp’s Centre for Manuscript Genetics.

Conference Title: Digital Scholarly Editing: Theory, Practice, Methods

Conference organized by the European Society for Textual Scholarship (ESTS) and the Digital Scholarly Editing Initial Training Network (DiXiT); hosted by the Centre for Manuscript Genetics at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

  • Date: 5-7 October 2016
  • Keynote speakers: Kathryn Sutherland and Paul Eggert
  • Deadline: 20 March 2016
  • More detail here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Notice

Yii-Jan Lin has a new book coming out next month that is the published form of her Yale dissertation. The provocative title is The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences (OUP).

Publisher’s Description

Since the New Testament’s inception as written text, its manuscripts have been subject to all the dangers of history: scribal error, emendation, injury, and total destruction. The traditional goal of modern textual criticism has been to reconstruct an “original text” from surviving manuscripts, adjudicating among all the variant texts resulting from the slips, additions, and embellishments of scribal hand-copying.

Because of the way manuscripts circulate and give rise to new copies, it can be said that they have an “erotic” life: they mate and breed, bear offspring, and generate families and descendants. New Testament textual critics of the eighteenth century who began to use this language to group texts into families and genealogies were not pioneering new approaches, but rather borrowing the metaphors and methods of natural scientists. Texts began to be classified into “families, tribes, and nations,” and later were racialized as “African” or “Asian,” with distinguishable “textual physiognomies” and “textual complexions.” The Erotic Life of Manuscripts explores this curious relationship between the field of New Testament textual criticism and the biological sciences, beginning with the eighteenth century and extending into the present.

While these biological metaphors have been powerful tools for textual critics, they also produce problematic understandings of textual “purity” and agency, with the use of scientific discourse artificially separating the work of textual criticism from literary interpretation. Yii-Jan Lin shows how the use of biological classification, genealogy, evolutionary theory, and phylogenetics has shaped—and limited—the goals of New Testament textual criticism, the greatest of which is the establishment of an authoritative, original text. She concludes by proposing new metaphors for the field.
I’ll be interested to see the connection she draws between the biological sciences and textual criticism. A year or so ago I came across an article by John van Wyhe showing that, when it comes to evolutionary thinking, the philologists had it before the biologists.

Table of Contents 


Part I: Collection and Theorization
Chapter 1: Bengel and the Classification and Racializiation of Texts
Chapter 2: Lachmann and the Genealogy and Corruption of Texts

Part II: Historicization and Innovation
Chapter 3: Darwin, Streeter, and Narrative Textual Criticism
Chapter 4: Philology and Phylogeny


Appendix 1: Excerpt of Interview with Gerd Mink and Klaus Wachtel, Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung, Münster, March 10, 2011
Appendix 2: “Marcus Niebuhr Tod,” by Maurice Bowra
You can look inside the book already at Amazon. I only read the appendix which has an interesting and candid interview with Klaus Wachtel and Gerd Mink on the CBGM. Of course, I couldn’t miss the reference to the ETC blog on p. 178.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

How Many Variants Are There in the Greek New Testament?

(Not this many)
The short answer is no one knows because most of our manuscripts remain uncollated. But this has not stopped scholars from offering numbers since at least the publication of John Mill’s 1707 edition of the Greek New Testament.

That edition was said to have 30,000 variants (that number too is an estimate, by the way). In 1848, J. Scott Porter suggested 100,000 in his Principles of Textual Criticism (p. 11) and the number has been rising ever since. Most recently, Eldon Epp has given a “wild guess” as high as 750,000.

What no one has done—so far as I’m aware—is give a reliable justification for their suggested number of variants. This despite the fact that the number continues to be a matter of genuine apologetic interest—not only to those wanting to defend the NT’s textual reliability but just as much to those wanting to oppose it.

Since a number of major collations have been published in recent years, I thought something could probably be done to set the question on firmer ground. In the latest issue of NTS (online here) you’ll find my best attempt at doing that. I won’t spoil it except to say that my results are larger than most other estimates (including Ehrman’s) but still lower than Epp’s “wild guess.”

In order to produce a good estimate, you need three things: a good data source from which to estimate, a method of extrapolating, and a clear definition of what you’re estimating. In the last case, I decided to exclude spelling differences. This was partly because two of my data sources didn’t include very many of them and partly because I just don’t find the number of spelling differences to be all that significant.

Arguably the most important question, however, is how to define “variant.” I don’t think it is always appreciated in our discipline that the term “variant” is necessarily relative. Something can only vary from something else. If you only have one of something, you have no variation. So the question was whether I should define “variant” in relation to the manuscripts or in relation to some fixed, printed text of the New Testament. I decided to go with the former. My estimate is thus an estimate about the number of cases where the manuscripts vary from one another. It is not an estimate of the number of cases where the manuscripts vary from any particular reconstruction of the original text.

What this means, is that my estimate assumes nothing about whether any of the estimated variants are are also original or authorial. But undoubtedly a great many of them are. Naturally, one question I’ve been asked about my estimate is “How many of your estimated variants are original?” The question is actually not hard to answer. If we assume that the original reading has survived in the manuscript tradition at each point of variation, then it’s simply a matter of counting the number of variation units and extrapolating from there. Thankfully, I did count the number of points of variation in my data.

Based on my sources, the number of “original variants” ranges from 17%–25% of the total number of extant variants. The percentage is much lower in the Text und Textwert volumes (only 9%) because the average number of variants per variant unit is much higher there. I suspect this has to do with the way the variant units were chosen in those volumes. But that’s a post for another day.

Besides variants and variant units, I also kept track of the number of singulars and nonsense readings in my data sources. If we add those in, we can graph the results in a way that gives us some perspective on the kind of variation an editor of a large collation must deal with. Obviously, most of these variants don’t (and probably shouldn’t) make their way in to our hand editions. But it’s still helpful to know what these percentages are.

The hard numbers for these charts are all in the article which is now online here. I’ve also put up the pre-pub version (which is basically the same) on my Academia page for those without access to NTS. There is more that can be done with these data and hopefully I and others will explore some of those in the future.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The physical appearance and handling of sacred texts in terms of material text culture

There is an interesting review of the following book at BMCR: Joachim Friedrich Quack, Daniela Luft (ed.), Erscheinungsformen und Handhabungen Heiliger Schriften. Materiale Textkulturen, Bd 5.  Berlin; München; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2014.

“Erscheinungsform” means something like “physical appearance” and “Handhabung” means something like “handling”, so this volume treats the interesting subject of: The physical appearance and handling of sacred texts in terms of material text culture. The range is very wide—from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to China and contemporary Bali (with some chapters on Jewish and Christian approaches), but it is interesting to get a broader perspective on issues which are of interest to many of us on this blog.

The review by Geert Lernout summarises each of the chapters. I’ll just quote some excerpts and direct interested readers to the review and to the book (which is available in print, and on open access—i.e. free—as an e-book).

The volume’s senior editor then tackles the issue of the presence of religious and profane texts on the same piece of papyrus, usually recto/verso. After a somewhat chatty introduction, Joachim Quack focuses on a number of specific cases, such as a papyrus copy of the Book of the Dead with accounts of cereal transactions written on the back. On the basis of a close study of quite a number of these cases (chronologically ending with biblical texts on the verso of administrative accounts), Quack concludes that the determining factor is not so much the nature of the text itself as its purpose and possible performance.
...In the next two essays we return to the kind of sacred text with which most readers will be familiar—the Hebrew and Christian Bible. Hanna Liss studies the special significance of books in the Hebrew tradition, with a close reading of the Sefer Chasidim (ca 1200), a book from a mystical Jewish movement led by Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg. According to this group, the scroll containing the Torah represented the presence of the divine on earth: it carried the divine which thus, in the form of a book, had become tangible.
The Sefer Chasidim is thus, among many other things, the book on the book and, after confirming Ludwig Blau’s suggestion that the Jewish book scroll is the only reminder we still have of what books looked like in antiquity, Liss distinguishes four different themes: prescriptions about the making of a book (materials, the writing itself); prescriptions about usage of books (ritual pureness, book as object); ritual uses of the book and finally the sacred nature of the book as an object. It is difficult to imagine a greater reverence for the book as object than the one described/proscribed here for the making of a ritual Torah scroll. Even the instruments used in its production had to remain ritually pure and could not be touched by goyim or women. Books even needed to be covered when somebody had to pass wind.
Some of this reverence for the book as an object carrying a divine presence also informed the Christian tradition. The art historian Bruno Reudenbach looks closely at early gospel books to study the topos of the codex as an incarnation of Jesus Christ, more specifically the iconography of Jesus with an open codex in his hand. The author opens with the fact that there is nothing in the gospel to connect Jesus with books or writing, with the exception of the later addition to the Gospel of John wherein a waiting Jesus writes with his finger in the sand. Reudenbach dates the displacement of the scroll by the codex to the early Christian centuries and like most recent scholars links it to the rise of Christianity, connected in part to the need for cross referencing to the prophetic texts of the Old Testament as well as to the desire for contrast with the Jewish practice of preferring scrolls. In fact, Reudenbach mentions, in the fifth century the opposite seems the case: more than three quarters of Christian texts of the fifth century survive in the form of codices, mostly Bibles, while commentaries and theological writings were written in the form of scrolls. He even goes so far as to claim that the codex had become a symbol of Christian identity. With bread and wine, it was one of the signathat made the Divine mystery visible, just like the Torah scroll in the thought of the Jewish mystics.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A Christian Amulet Containing Colossians 3:9–10 (Wayment)

Thomas Wayment has an article in the latest issue of Vigiliae Christianae (69.5) giving the editio princeps of a small papyrus containing Col 3:9–10 which he dates to the IV/V century.


Photo: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UC 32070

Wayment’s reconstruction:

ἀπεκδυσάμενοι τ̣[ὸν παλαιὸν ἄν(θρωπ)ον σὺν]
ταῖς πράξ̣εσιν αὐτο̣[ῡ καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν]
νέον ἀνακαινο[ύμενον εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατ’]
εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσα[ντος αὐτόν

The only new variant he notes is the omission of the article before ἀνακαινο[ύμενον. Also note the nomen sacrum posited for ἄν(θρωπ)ον which is also found here in Alexandrinus. Importantly, if Wayment is right to classify this as an amulet, then it’s the first one with any text of Colossians (or Paul?). He suggests it served as a reminder of the wearer’s Christian baptism. The reverse side contains a writing exercise published by D. Montserrat in BASP 29 (1992): 81–84.

Full article here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

2015 ETS and SBL Paper Summaries

ETC blog dinner 2015.
ETS and SBL are now finished although my internal clock has yet to be convinced. This year there was a spate of text critical papers—many more than I could attend or take notes on. So here is a sampling of what was on offer this year. Perhaps otherss can fill in the gaps.

Also, this is a good time to say thanks to all who joined us for the annual dinner in which we celebrated the blog’s 10th anniversary. It was good to see some faces I hadn’t seen before. Hopefully all had a good time. A very special thanks to Christian Askeland for organizing the whole thing for us again!


“Discoveries and Contributions to the Text of the New Testament Found at the National Library of Greece” by Roberto Marcello

Rob Marcello is the Research Manager and Expedition Maestro (my term) for CSNTM. At ETS he gave an update on CSNTM’s Athens digitization project—their largest ever. He noted that, since its founding, CSNTM has digitized about 80 manuscripts previously uncatalogued by INTF and that several more were digitized on this summer’s trip. There were lots of other interesting finds as well but, unfortunately, my notes are sparse. I did manage to catch that GA 498 was found to have Ambrosiaster’s order of the Gospels: Matt, Luke, Mark, John (if I wrote it down correctly). I'm hoping the paper will be published somewhere but, until then, next month or two, you should be able to buy the audio.

“The Earliest Evidence for the Longer Ending of Mark” by J. D. Atkins

Justin Atkins is just finishing his PhD on the resurrection narratives at Marquette and, as a spin off of that larger project, he argued in this paper that three texts from 100–150 each make use of the Longer Ending of Mark. The three texts he discussed in detail were the Epistula Apostolorum (142–149), the “Ophite” account via Irenaeus (110–140), and the Preaching of Peter (100–135) and argued that for each, there is a good case for their dependence on the Longer Ending. The details are too many to give here but I will say that I found the first two convincing but the third—also the earliest—a bit less so. He told me afterwards that he has submitted the article for publication, so hopefully we can see the full argument in print in the not-too-distant future.