Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kirsopp Lake on the need for conjectural emendation

Here is a quote I came across today in Kirsopp Lake’s inaugural lecture at the University of Leiden. Note very carefully how Lake argues for the need for conjecture. In the context, he is explaining why he thinks Westcott and Hort failed “spectacularly” in their preference for 01 and 03.
It has become more and more probable that Greek MSS. as a whole only represent one type of text and its corruptions, that the Latin Versions and Fathers represent another type, and the Syriac versions a third, while perhaps Clement of Alexandria may provide us with a fourth.

 It is between these texts, and not between individual MSS., that we shall have in the last resort to judge, so that the situation which we must face is that we have to deal with a number of local texts, that no two localities used quite the same text, that no locality has yet been shown to have used a text which is demonstrably better than its rivals, and that no one of these local texts is represented in an uncorrupt form by any single MS.

The effect on the method of the textual critic is enormous. He has no longer the right to suggest that he can immediately edit the original text. He must go back and edit first the local texts. In the case of each locality he has the evidence of the versions used in the local church and of the writers who used them, but it is not very large, and in no case is without traces of corruption. Therefore, the student of these local texts is reduced to the level of the critic of classical texts. In the face of suspected corruption he has the right to use conjectural emendation. It used to be said that the classical student often needed to make use of conjectural emendation, because he had so few and so poor authorities for the text of his authors, but that the biblical student had no such need, because the MSS. of the New Testament were so numerous and so good that primitive corruption was almost unknown. The argument was reasonable, but when we recognize that in reality the text of the Gospels has not much better attestation than have some classical texts, the whole case is altered and the textual critic must be conceded the right of as free emendation in the Gospels as in the Classics. Granted this freedom it will perhaps be possible some day to reconstruct the texts which were in use at the close of the second century in Africa, in Alexandria, in the East, and perhaps elsewhere. None of these have been yet reconstructed : all that we can say is that each as compared with any of the others presents a definite series of interpolations and a definite series of omissions.
From The Influence of Textual Criticism on the Exegesis of the New Testament (1904), pp. 5-7 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic online

NYU’s Ancient World Digital Library has the Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic now online for free. This includes both volumes of the Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament Version from the Early Period by Christa Müller-Kessler as well as the Christian Palestinian Aramaic Old Testament and Apocrypha Version from the Early Period by Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff.

Also, don’t miss their papyrology section whcin includes the Chester Beatty Biblical papyri IV and V by Pietersma.

HT: Morgan Reed

Looking for advice on “Categorizing MSS”

Good morning from St Paul, where we finally got some rain on our parched gardens,

I am re-writing a textbook for beginners on TC of the Bible. The OT part was pretty good, but the NT part needed to be re-done. I’m now in the section that introduces some of the important MSS. We only introduce the most commonly discussed ones and otherwise suggest to the reader to go to the other established resources like Metzger & Ehrman, Parker, Aland & Aland, and the GNTs.

Originally the book had charts, one each for the papyri, majuscules, and minuscules.

Here are the first lines of the papyrus chart:

Table 4.1: Important New Testament Papyri
Number Date Textual Tendencies Contains Name/Collection
𝔓1 3rd century Alexandrian Matt 1:1–9, 12, 14–20 P. Oxy. 2, Univ. of Penn.
𝔓4, 64, 67 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Luke and Matthew P. Oxy. 208, British Lib., Oxford
𝔓13 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Heb 2; 10–12 P. Oxy. 657
𝔓20 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Jas 2:19–3:9 P. Oxy. 1171
𝔓22 3rd century Independent John 15:25–16:2, 21–32 P. Oxy. 1228
𝔓23 ca. 200 Alexandrian Jas 1:10–12, 15–18 P. Oxy. 1229
𝔓24 3rd century Alexandrian Rev 5:5–8; 6:5–8 P. Oxy. 1230
𝔓27 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Rom 8–9 P. Oxy. 1355
𝔓29 Early 3rd century Possibly Western Acts 26:7–8, 20 P. Oxy. 1597

There are about 30 total papyri listed.

When I hit the papyrus chart I wrote the following to the editor:

“Table 4.1: Important New Testament Papyri. I find myself wondering if this ought to be included. The main reason for it would be to provide the textual tendency of many of the papyri, but most textual critics are now frowning on the over-simplicity of assigning each MS to a text type. If we don’t list the textual tendencies, I don’t really see a reason for the chart at all. We can refer the reader to the more extensive list of NT MSS in the back of the NA28. This would lead to a similar decision about the other charts for the majuscules, etc.”

He wrote back the following:

“I know tables and charts tend to oversimplify, and I want our text to address the text type categorization issue directly. However, there may still be heuristic value in identifying what text type those MSS have been traditionally associated with. That is, we are indicating the classification solely as a help for the reader who might come across those categorizations if they read previous scholarship on NT TC. Our text will prepare them for the reality that those are now not as widely accepted, but knowing of them may help them evaluate future work that appears stuck in the past methodologically.

“I think some of the charts are helpful but perhaps too long to include in the chapters themselves, so I was considering moving them to appendices. They could also be edited to not be presenting as “important papyri” but maybe more as “representative papyri.” That is, giving students a quick reference for well-known MSS.”

My request from you my colleagues is to hear not only your opinion on whether papyri ought to be categorized. I am going to try to talk him out of that. (Though his point about students encountering previous scholarship is valid.) But also whether such a chart is helpful in a book for beginners. Please stay in the beginners mindset when you evaluate this.

Responses much appreciated. Amy

Batovici: Two B Scribes in Codex Sinaiticus?

In the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, Dan Batovici has a new article arguing against splitting the “B” scribe into two.
Abstract: The history of scribal hand identification in Codex Sinaiticus is a fairly complicated one. The most recent identification, splitting the work of Tischendorf’s scribe B in B1 and B2, was attempted by Amy Myshrall in a 2015 contribution, as a result of the work on the Codex Sinaiticus digitizing project completed in 2009. This article will assess the argument proposed by Amy Myshrall for distinguishing the two new scribes, and it argues that there is not enough reason to adopt the newly proposed distinction.
The article is on his Academia page.

Friday, July 14, 2017

New Details Emerge about ‘First Century Mark’ from Scott Carroll

Elijah Hixson has sent me a YouTube video that has Josh McDowell interviewing Scott Carroll about “First Century Mark.” The video is posted below to which I have added a partial transcript for reference. The video was uploaded on November 15, 2015, but the conference was in October, 2015 given what Carroll says in the video, it must be from before that.

The most important things we learn are that Scott Carroll has seen “First Century Mark” twice and that Dirk Obbink is indeed the unofficial source of its tentative date. So, we now have someone on record claiming to have actually seen it—twice. (Cf. PJW’s question here.) We are told that Obbink wrestled with dating it between AD 70 and 110/120. The former date has obvious reference to the destruction of the temple, but why 110/120 would be a sensible cutoff date, I have no idea. Obviously, we are hearing this from Carroll rather than from Obbink himself. So, caveat lector.

We also learn that Carroll does not seem to think it came from mummy cartonnage although he is not sure. (Papyrus can be cleaned of the signs of cartonnage, of course.) He tried to acquire it for the Green collection but wasn’t able to. An unnamed source now apparently owns it and is preparing it for publication. We continue to wait.

One other minor note. Carroll says he first saw the papyrus in 2012 and then again in 2013. His famous tweet, claiming that P52 was no longer the earliest known New Testament papyrus, was sent on December 1, 2011. So, my guess is that in the video Carroll has just rounded up to 2012. If so, this adds further confirmation that Carroll is the original source of the claim to a “First Century Mark” even though Dan Wallace was the first to announce it as such. This makes it a bit odd that Carroll refers to some stuff being “leaked.”

For a helpful timeline of events, see James Snapp’s site. For ETC’s past discussions, see here.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reviews of Lin’s Erotic Life of Manuscripts

Sometime in the spring while my head was still in boxes, BBR published my review of Yii-Jan Lin’s provocatively titled book The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences (Oxford, 2016). I must say that I did not expect to like the book when I first picked it up but the more I read the more it grew on me. There were still some problems and some... weirdness (cyborgs, anyone?), but overall I found it a helpful exercise to step back and consider the conceptual metaphors we use in the discipline. Lin admits up front that she is an outsider and occasionally it shows. But, on the whole, her outsider perspective was more benefit than liability. 

Here is my conclusion:
In the end, what is most enduring and helpful about Lin’s book is not its particular conclusions (will any be taken with her “cyborg” textual model?), but its method of interrogating past practitioners to see how their categories of thought have shaped their work. In that the work succeeds admirably and should generate a good deal more self-awareness on the part of textual scholars.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Christian Graffiti in Smyrna – not as early as once thought

Back in 2012 I posted a brief note about some Christian graffiti in Smyrna that was dated by Roger Bagnall to before AD 125 (and mentioned in R. Bagnall, Everyday Writing in the Graeco-Roman East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011, 2012 pb), 22f., see here). I suggested that if the date was secure “this would be the earliest securely dated archaeological evidence for Christianity anywhere in the ancient world”.


kurioj   w
pistij   w

This could be translated as: ‘equal in value: lord: 800, faith: 800’. It works on the basis of isopsephy:
  • kurioj  when one counts the letters equals 20+400+100+10+70+200=800 (i.e. omega)
  • pistij  when one counts the letters equals 80+10+200+300+10+200=800 (i.e. omega)
Anyway, recently I came across the publication of these texts on the new book shelves in the Sackler library: Graffiti from the Basilica in the Agora of Smyrna (eds R.S. Bagnall, R. Casagrande-Kim, A. Ersoy, C. Tanriver; New York: New York University Press, 2016)

In this analysis the dating is shifted back to ‘the last part of the second century and the first part of the third’ (p. 40). Other evidence for Christian presence is also noted (pp. 45-47). It is a full discussion with photos of a range of graffiti texts.

Book on the Green Collection and Museum of the Bible

Before the recent news about Hobby Lobby broke, Facebook alerted me to the book by Candida Moss and Joel Baden titled Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby (Princeton). Amazon lists it as coming in October and Tommy’s post says there will be an SBL panel on the book which will no doubt be even more important now. Here is the description:
How the billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make America a “Bible nation” 

Like many evangelical Christians, the Green family of Oklahoma City believes that America was founded as a Christian nation, based on a “biblical worldview.” But the Greens are far from typical evangelicals in other ways. The billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby, a huge nationwide chain of craft stores, the Greens came to national attention in 2014 after successfully suing the federal government over their religious objections to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. What is less widely known is that the Greens are now America’s biggest financial supporters of Christian causes—and they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an ambitious effort to increase the Bible’s influence on American society. In Bible Nation, Candida Moss and Joel Baden provide the first in-depth investigative account of the Greens’ sweeping Bible projects and the many questions they raise.

Bible Nation tells the story of the Greens’ rapid acquisition of an unparalleled collection of biblical antiquities; their creation of a closely controlled group of scholars to study and promote their collection; their efforts to place a Bible curriculum in public schools; and their construction of a $500 million Museum of the Bible near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Bible Nation reveals how these seemingly disparate initiatives promote a very particular set of beliefs about the Bible—and raise serious ethical questions about the trade in biblical antiquities, the integrity of academic research, and more.

Bible Nation is an important and timely account of how a vast private fortune is being used to promote personal faith in the public sphere—and why it should matter to everyone.
For a taste of the book, see the authors’ Atlantic article from a few years ago where they first broke the news about the Department of Justice investigation.

I do worry about how intent some people are on politicizing the Museum before it even opens. Is this book, for example, really a must read “in our increasingly polarized country” as Reza Aslan blurbs?

This unnecessary politicizing has only worsened since news broke of the settlement. Some people clearly have it in for the Museum because of the connection with the Greens and their victory at the the Supreme Court over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. (For a case in point, see Donna Yates’s “fantasies.”)

Let me say clearly that there are very serious questions that need answering about the Museum’s artifacts in light of the DOJ settlement. These questions are not helped and the issues are not clarified in the least by animosity toward the Greens because of their religious or political views. I hope the book does not traffic in them, but the marketing for it does not give me hope. Regardless of your political or religious views, let’s deal with the issues as they are. 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Where Should the Books of Chronicles be Placed?

In the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 60.2 (2017): 283–99, Gregory Goswell has contributed an article entitled “Putting the Book of Chronicles in Its Place.” His “aim is to unsettle any developing consensus that Chronicles must be read as the last book of the OT (in preference to other positions)” (283–4; emphasis original). His conclusions are worth citing in full:
My argument has been that the placement of Chronicles within the different canons reflects post-authorial evaluations of the book and its contents. Each position has its rationale and potentially contributes to the understanding of readers. There are no grounds for insisting that any one position is the earliest or best. In particular, there is no proof that the Chronicler composed his work to conclude the OT canon. Chronicles after Kings alerts readers that Kings (and the preceding historical books) record the history of Israel from a prophetic perspective. Chronicles at the head of the Writings suggests that succeeding books have a liturgical and/or wisdom orientation. Finally, Chronicles at the end of the Writings sums up the witness of the OT to God’s purposes that culminate in the rebuilt temple (= palace) of God as a precursor to the dawning of God’s final kingdom (pp. 298–9).
The first order of books alluded to above is the Greek ordering of the OT books in which Chronicles or Paraleipomenon follows Kings (p. 284ff); the second order is that of the earliest extant Hebrew codices of Aleppo and Leningrad which have Chronicles at the beginning of the Writings (p. 289ff); the third order in which Chronicles concludes the Writings is found in Baba Batra 14b.

In the final analysis, Goswell shows that our current, variegated evidence keeps us from concluding that any one of these orders is primary or better. Most importantly, according to him, we cannot conclude that the author of Chronicles is responsible for closing the Writings and therefore closing the Hebrew Bible with his own book. The different canonical orders result from “post-authorial interpretive frames” not an “authorial paratext” or an authorial guide to interpretation of the whole.

The article is worth reading in its entirety paying especial attention to pp. 295-7 wherein he shows the improbability that Chronicles was composed as a conclusion to the Writings as an authorial paratext. Goswell probably has not settled the debate, but he and others like Edmon L. Gallagher (see Tyndale Bulletin 65.2 (2014): 181-199; pdf) are certainly unsettling any recently formed consensus on this question.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

United States Department of Justice announces Hobby Lobby Cuneiform Verdict


Earlier today, the United States filed a civil complaint to forfeit thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae. As alleged in the complaint, these ancient clay artifacts originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law. Packages containing the artifacts were shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two of Hobby Lobby’s corporate affiliates. The shipping labels on these packages falsely described cuneiform tablets as tile “samples.”
Read the complete verdict, here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sister of Leningrad Codex Discovered!

Congratulations to Kim Phillips, Tyndale House Research Associate, for discovering a manuscript of the Former Prophets by Samuel ben Jacob the scribe of the Leningrad Codex. This should make a significant difference to our understanding of the main manuscript used for the study of the Hebrew Bible today.

The Tyndale House notice is here. The original article is online freely in the Tyndale Bulletin.

New Book on the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection

University of Michigan Press has a book coming out this year that looks interesting. Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection by Arthur Verhoogt is “the first-ever history of Michigan’s celebrated collection of papyri offers nonspecialists an inviting encounter with the ancient world.”


Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection provides an accessible introduction to the University’s collection of papyri and related ancient materials, the widest and deepest resource of its kind in the Western hemisphere. The collection was founded in the early part of the 20th century by University of Michigan Professor of Classics Francis W. Kelsey. His original intention was to create a set of artifacts that would be useful in teaching students more directly about the ancient world, at a time when trips to ancient sites were much harder to arrange.

Jointly administered by the University of Michigan’s Department of Classical Studies and its Library, the collection has garnered significant interest beyond scholarly circles and now sees several hundred visitors each year. Of particular note among the collection’s holdings are sixty pages of the earliest known copy of the Epistles of St. Paul, which are often featured on tours of the collection by groups from religious institutions.

Arthur Verhoogt, one of the current stewards of the University of Michigan Papyrology Collection, provides clear, insightful information in an appealing style that will attract general readers and scholars alike. Extensively illustrated with some of the collection’s more spectacular pieces, this volume describes what the collection is, what kinds of ancient texts it contains, and how it has developed from Francis Kelsey’s day to the present. Additionally, Verhoogt describes in detail how people who study papyri carry out their work, and how papyri contribute to our understanding of various aspects of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Translations of the ancient texts are presented so that the reader can experience some of the excitement that comes with reading original documents from many centuries ago.

Arthur Verhoogt is Professor of Papyrology and Greek and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan.

HT: Brice Jones

Monday, July 03, 2017

C. S. Lewis: Why the miracle of inspiration does not require the miracle of preservation

In his little book on miracles, C. S. Lewis has a chapter explaining why miracles should not be thought of as breaking the laws of nature. Instead, he says, they should be thought of as God introducing something new to nature which nature then acts on in typical fashion. He illustrates with a series of examples, one of which touches on the question of divine preservation.
If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born. We see every day that physical nature is not in the least incommoded by the daily inrush of events from biological nature or from psychological nature. If events ever come from beyond Nature altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate [but don’t tell Baptists], miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.*
What constitutes the peculiarity of a miracle, Lewis goes on to say, is that it does not “interlock” with what comes before in the way that it does with what follows after. “And this,” he says, “is just what some people find intolerable.” They assume that nature is all there is and so they cannot tolerate anything invading it from beyond.

Related to textual criticism and inspiration, there is an unexpected agreement on this issue between Bart Ehrman and KJV-onlyists that Lewis is inadvertently touching on. The agreement lies in the belief that the miracle of inspiration must walk hand-in-hand with the miracle of preservation such that if you lose one, you end up losing both. For KJV-onlyists, this explains why they insist on the miracle of divine preservation; for Ehrman, if we are to believe what he says in Misquoting Jesus, it explains why he came to deny the miracle of divine inspiration.

But Lewis helps us see why neither view is right. There is no reason to assume that God’s miraculous inspiration of the Bible should require him (or lead us to expect him) to miraculously preserve it from the “ordinary processes of textual corruption.” Instead, we have God, in the miracle of inspiration, introducing something from outside nature and then, in the non-miracle of transmission, letting nature take its course. (Or, as I might prefer to say it, we have God returning to his natural way of overseeing the world.)

Lewis helpfully reminds us that the inspiration and transmission of Scripture fit with the pattern of many of God’s other miracles. Just as we can expect the baby Jesus to gestate normally, so we can also expect the Bible to be transmitted normally. The miracle of origin does not require a second miracle of subsequent development.

*From the end of ch. 8 of Miracles: A Preliminary Study; emphasis mine