Friday, October 20, 2017

Brief review of Bible Nation

Over the weekend I managed to read the new book by Candida Moss and Joel Baden called Bible Nation: the United States of Hobby Lobby.

 The book is an attempt to understand the motivations and actions of the Green family in relation to their plans for collecting Bible manuscripts, the Museum of the Bible, the Scholars Initiative, and the school curriculum they have designed. In general I found it readable and interesting, helpful for getting a perspective on some of the story and people involved (although I didn't learn much that was new except for some details about tax deductions for charitable donations); it is, however, not very well informed on matters relating to manuscripts, papyrology, and evangelical theology (once accusing the Greens of subscribing to the prosperity gospel). It is also badly out of date. The whole discussion of the court case involving Cuneiform tablets announced in early July 2017 (see for example here) is treated on the basis of what was known in 2015 (which, to be fair, the authors had announced in articles published around that time).

They adopt a quasi-journalistic tone, but don't always pull it off (e.g. Brent Nongbri is described as 'the eminent New Testament scholar'; Christian Askeland as 'a well known papyrologist'). They seem to like Mike Holmes (who is basically a genius) but not get on so well with David Trobisch ('a stocky man, who sports the standard academic uniform of slightly ill-fitting suits and goatee'); they are impressed by all the members of the Green family they meet, but obviously don't like their theology or their politics. They hear a broad narrative that the Green Collection started and grew so rapidly that some corners seem to have been cut, while much higher standards of professional and curatorial behaviour are currently being followed. But they wonder about whether this is so when the collection does not seem to be very forthcoming on issues of (dodgy) provenance of some items in the collection.

Of course a thing to note is that our blog gets a couple of mentions. So our annual dinner at 2012 SBL in Chicago gets a mention on p. 71 (basically noting the generosity of Jerry Pattengale and the Green Scholars Initiative in paying for our meals). The authors take this as an example of the generosity of the GSI towards some scholars, which contrasts with others: 'while some who craved access were denied it, others were actively recruited to join the GSI' (they don't provide any evidence about the ones who craved access). (Nor do they note any of our other dinners which GSI generously supported!) [In note 33 they take several of our blog discussions about the supposed and so-called First Century Mark as indicative of 'the type of conversations that were happening around this fragment among papyrologists and scholars.']

One massive problem is that they haven't seen the Museum of the Bible, which opens next month, which they describe on the basis of a walk through the building site; and they have apparently not had first hand experience of any of the Scholars Initiative activities.

Richard Fellows’s measurements of the Vaticanus paragraphoi

Over on his blog, Richard Fellows has written up the results of his measurements of the paragraphoi in Vaticanus and plotted them against the measurements of Philip Payne from his recent NTS article. Fellows has linked to his blog in the comments of my last post about it but I thought they were worth highlighting here. In short, he has found that Payne’s “characteristic bars” are not actually characteristic.

This can be seen, for example, in the graph below which plots the the length and marginal extension of paragraphoi at the 28 places where Payne finds them next to digstimai. There is no clear correlation here. (It would be useful to see this same graph using Payne’s own measurements.)

Fellows’s measurements against Payne’s

Here is the end of Fellows’s post:
What we can conclude is that the peer review process has failed us yet again. The measurement errors and questionable statistical method should have been spotted by reviewers.

We can also conclude that online discussion can make much faster progress then peer reviewed journals. The blog posts and comments on the ETC blog have advanced the debate, in large part because Philip Payne and others have been so willing to share their ideas and data. He has also exchanged multiple emails with me. If only all scholars were as willing to engage in online and offline discussion!
Payne has suggested that the discrepancy may be because Fellows is using the online images whereas Payne has access to the excellent facsimile. Certainly, that could be a factor. But I do not think that is the main issue here.

The problem is that we are measuring in millimeters in the first place. What we have is a case of what Charles Seife calls “proofiness,” an improper use of measurements in statistics. The question is not whether we can measure these paragraphoi in millimeters and attach meaning to the differences we find, it’s whether we should in the first place. To my mind, it’s a bit like saying that eating Whataburger will make you 50% happier. It might be true, but measuring happiness in percentages is the wrong way to prove the point.

As Pete Head says, “I don’t think the length of the bars or their distance from anything is of any significance whatsoever. These are written by hand!” Are we to imagine the scribe of 03 using a ruler to make them? Of course not. So a ruler is probably not the right tool for the job.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MS Contents: NT Text and Material Document

Perusal of the LDAB over the past several days has yielded some interesting results in researching the contents of “NT MSS.” In the process, it has become clear that the Nestle-Aland edition and, even the Liste, describe MS contents in an unhelpful way, if one is looking at their listings for documentary evidence within the MSS. If one is looking at matters from a NT text perspective, then these resources helpfully supply the contents within MSS for the NT books.

For example, we are told in NA 27-28, that P6 (04C [= Liste] or 05C [= LDAB]) contains sections of John. The Liste confirms this and adds James 1:13-5:20. Now, if one reads all of the entry in the Liste, one will find the LDAB number with a link to its entry. What one finds on this page is different from the Liste’s page. Here, we are not even told the MS is P6. We are given archive and library numbers (Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 362 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 375 -379 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 381 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 382 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 384) and are also told that the contents of the MS include 1 Clement 1-26 (Copt.), James 1-13 (Copt.; note the mistake in reference numbers that are corrected by the Liste to James 1.13-5.20), Gospel of John 10, 11-13 (Gr.-Copt.; the Liste has more to say about the exact contents). Both the Liste and the LDAB provide links to the other’s site, which is helpful.

By using both databases, we learn P6 contains sections of John (Gr.-Copt.), James (Copt.), and 1 Clement 1-26 (Copt.). NA lists only the Greek portions of the MS. NA does not list the evidence of James because it is probably in Coptic (I have not checked this). The Liste includes all evidence for the text of the NT. Most interestingly, LDAB includes 1 Clement (Copt.) as part of this “NT MS,” while neither the Liste nor NA provide that information.

I’m not sure there’s a perfect database out there designed to meet all of our needs. At this point, it will be helpful to realize there are several wonderful, free resources on the Web to aid us in our varied research endeavors.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Matthew 2:15 and the Hexapla

We all know Matthew’s citation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν μου.

The exact form of the citation is not how you find it in your Septuaginta as edited by Rahlfs, which reads ἐξ Αἰγύπτου μετεκάλεσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ. A reasonably straightforward conclusion might be that Matthew translated straight from the Hebrew, which reads וּמִמִּצְרַ֖יִם קָרָ֥אתִי לִבְנִֽי.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see how other translators rendered the Hebrew? Enter Origen’s Hexapla, a third-century work setting the Hebrew, a transliteration into Greek, and four different Greek versions in parallel columns next to one another. Besides some rewritten fragments, most of the Hexapla is still lost though we have quite a few marginal comments.

Rather surprisingly, we have a good version of Hosea 11:1 tucked away within a commentary section in a manuscript in the Vatican, (which is a rich source of Hexaplaric material anyway – Rahlfs 86). On folio 17v we find this:

The first line gives the title of this little sub-section ἐκ τῶν ἑξαπλῶν, ‘from the Hexapla’.
The next line gives us five sections, which are the five columns of the Hexapla written in Greek letters. First, we get the transliteration, then the reading of Aquila (marked by α), followed by Symmachus (ς), the Seventy (oἱ ο̃), and Theodotion (θ); for νιπιος read νηπιος, note the nomen sacrum ιηλ for ισραηλ (as in the transliteration ισραηλ).

In the next two lines Theodotion’s reading is apparently the same as first Aquila’s and then Symachus’s, though it is convenient that the otherwise too long a line now fits on a single one. We see the various translations diverging: ἀπό and ἐξ, the presence of the conjunction καί, and in the next line, after ἐκάλεσα, Theodotion adds αὐτόν. This becomes important when we take this together with the next line, as Theodotion reads ἐκάλεσα αὐτὸν ὑιόν μου, ‘I called him as my son’. In the son line (starting with the transliteration λαβανι), only the reading of Aquila contains a nomen sacrum for ὑιόν, but that seems to me a scribal phenomenon more than anything else.

As things stand, none of the versions follows Matthew exactly, though every element in Matthew is reflected somewhere. There is little remarkable going on here as this is a basic sentence in which you cannot do that much wrong. There is of course always the possibility that things have gone wrong in the transmission of the Hexapla, so that we may not have the exact texts of the Greek versions, or already in the texts that Origen had available wording may be corrupted. Did Theodotion really read αὐτόν or is this a corruption of the article τόν as in Aquila and Matthew? Anyway, once the commentator has given this fragment of the Hexapla, he continues saying that Matthew did the same.

It is fun, I think, to see that at times New Testament text and the sometimes arcane field of Hexaplaric studies come close to overlapping. And perhaps more of us could use this example in our ‘Old Testament in the New’ lectures.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform on the web

Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen has sent me an announcement:
The Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, along with various resources developed by Maurice A. Robinson, have a new home on the web at

The website contains freely downloadable resources and pointers to further information about the Byzantine Majority text.
Audio downloads of the entire Greek New Testament Byzantine text (1991 edition), spoken by Maurice A. Robinson.
A downloadable Reader's edition, as prepared by Jeffrey Dodson in consultation with Maurice A. Robinson.
Select bibliographies of articles and books on the Byzantine Text.
Downloadable editions of the Byzantine and other Greek New Testament texts.
... and more.
For developers, the website is accompanied by an official GitHub repository for Dr. Robinson's various resources,  The repository will be updated in close collaboration with Dr. Robinson as he makes updates available.  The repository includes Greek New Testament texts with morphological parsings and Strong's numbers, documentation, and a library written in the Python programming language for reading these texts.

The team behind the website and GitHub repository comprises Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen and Daniel J. Mount, in close collaboration with Maurice A. Robinson.

Friday, October 13, 2017

7th Lincoln College Summer School of Greek Palaeography

Georgi Parpulov has announced the 7th Lincoln College Summer School of Greek Palaeography.
The school is intended for students of Classics, Patristics, Theology, Biblical or Byzantine Studies. Potential applicants are advised that it only offers introductory-level instruction in Greek palaeography and codicology. Adequate knowledge of Greek is a must for all students.
It is well worth it if you can make it. I would echo what Pete Head says about it, “Highly Recommended (don’t let the fact that it is in Oxford put you off).” I did it several years ago and really enjoyed it. And now you can even pop by Wycliffe Hall during the breaks to make jokes about Oxford with Pete Head! ;)

More info is here. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2018.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What hath Codex to do with Canon? A Rejoinder to Michael Kruger

UPDATE: this conversation is inching along with Michael Kruger’s response to my post here. I probably won’t pursue the matter any further with him presently due to time constraints. I do think matters have been well presented on both sides, even if there are lingering questions we may have for one another. Overall, I have appreciated the conversation with Kruger and think it has highlighted different aspects of method for determining and describing the ancients’ biblical theory.

My post a few days ago has attracted some attention; most significantly, it has prompted Michael Kruger to respond, which you can read on his own blog here.

Before I reply to him, I do want to affirm what Kruger says in his last paragraph: we probably do agree on more than we disagree. However, I think I have read Kruger carefully, and I restrict my response to method and the Shepherd.