Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, February 27, 2015

New article in NTS on Early Christianity and Culture

“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).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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

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

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