Monday, November 17, 2014

Homer Papyrus

If you are looking for a Christmas present, there is a Homer papyrus for sale at

It looks pretty 4th century to me, and the text is from the Iliad bk 13, 565-580 (lower margin visible).

New Look

As you can see, we are trying a new look on the blog. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, Part II: Jesus’s Wife Rediviva


BL Add. MS 17202 dated colophon
"The date of writing is given in l. 1 and l. 3 as A.S. 880 = A.D.569. This must have been the date of the completion of the work, of which different parts were written at different times; thus 12,4 was written in 561, and 12,7 in 555; 10,12, which I have restored from Michael (see below), would appear, on the prima facie interpretation of the words to have been written in 545 ; but, since the style of the narrative makes it incredible that it was written within a year of the events recorded, " this year 8 " must be understood to mean " this year 8, with which we are now dealing." Throughout the history of Justinian's reign the author speaks of the Emperor in terms which imply that he was still living." Hamilton & Brooks, 1899, p. 5.

Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson have published a new book which is attracting considerable media attention. The monograph contends that a well-known ancient text, “Joseph and Aseneth,” is actually a coded witnesses to an early Christian tradition which believed that Jesus was not only married, but also had children. Although this text is known in Armenian, Greek (the original language), Latin and Syriac, the new thesis is primarily interested in the earliest manuscript, the Syriac witness BL Add. MS 17202. I will survey what I have been able to initially glean from this monograph via Google Books, below. Unfortunately, this medium does not allow me to accompany my quotes with page numbers.


“When interpreted in the way that ancient Christians understood their sacred writings, this is absolutely the first written document that makes the personal life of Jesus apparent.  After all, it tells the story of how Jesus met his wife, how they married, and how they had children.  More than this, it goes into details of who she was and what happened in their lives after the marriage and before the crucifixion.  It’s surprising—perhaps shocking to some—but it presents a history that has thus far been hinted at but not otherwise known.”
Most are familiar with the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. In Genesis 41:45, Pharaoh gave Aseneth, daughter of an Egyptian priest, to Joseph in marriage. In 41:50–52, Aseneth gave birth to two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. The apocryphal account of Joseph and Aseneth describes Aseneth’s journey from pagan worship to monotheistic Israelite faith. Jacobovici and Wilson argue that this account is a coded story, which in its interpretation is actually a gospel account.

Joseph as Jesus

“In Syriac Christianity, whom does Joseph stand for?  Remarkably, we find that Syriac-speaking Christians did see Joseph as a type.  In fact, in Syriac Christianity, Joseph is a surrogate for none other than Jesus himself.”

Aseneth as Magdalene

“Aseneth is literally the woman in the tower — she’s the ‘Tower Lady,’ if you will… Since we have firmly set this story in a Christian context, we know of only one tower lady in Christian tradition, and she happens to be intimately associated with Jesus.  She is none other than Mary the Magdalene… Migdal [sic] in Hebrew (Magdala in Aramaic) means—of all things—Tower.  Translated literally, Mary the Magdalene’s name does mean Mary the Tower.”

Aseneth as Artemis

“If we are right, Mary the Magdalene was seen by her followers as the incarnation of a specific goddess—Artemis.  Jesus, therefore, would have been associated with a bee goddess and, as the Gospels record, his opponents may well have charged him of heretically healing in her name.”
The authors note Artemis is associated with bees (as Athena is associated with an owl), and Aseneth is attacked by bees in the story (ch. XVI). Likewise, Aseneth lived in a tower (mentioned thrice?), and Artemis wore a tower on her head.

The Church

“Aseneth and Mary the Magdalene are both Towers and types of the church. The logic is clear: Aseneth and Mary the Magdalene are identical, the former acting as a surrogate for the latter.”

Mark Goodacre and Richard Bauckham

Readers should note that Goodacre and Bauckham responded to this a year ago, here and earlier here.


  • Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. Pegasus Books: New York, 2014. (Google Books)
  • F. J. Hamilton and E. W. Brooks, eds.The Syriac chronicle known as that of Zachariah of Mitylene. Methuen & Co.,: London 1899. (
  • (Although Joseph and Aseneth was in this manuscript, this section was not translated; the editors instead cited the Greek editions, cf. p. 8, fn. 2)
  • Randall D. Chesnutt, From Death to Life: Conversion in Joseph and Aseneth. JSP Supplements 16. Sheffield Academic Press: 1995. (Google Books)
  • Ross Shepard Kraemer, When Aseneth Met Joseph: A Late Antique Tale of the Biblical Patriarch and His Egyptian Wife, Reconsidered. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. (Google Books)
  • Angela Standhartinger "Recent Scholarship on Joseph and Aseneth (1988-2013)" Currents in Biblical Research 12.3 (2014): 353-406. (Sage Journals)
  • Joseph and Aseneth: Translated by David Cook (via Mark Goodacre),
  • Syriac Chronicle … Zachariah of Mitylene (via Roger Pearse),

Friday, November 07, 2014

Green Scholars Initiative, new director announced

The Museum of the Bible has announced that ETC blog member, Michael Holmes, has been chosen to lead the Green Scholars Initiative.  You can read the full announcement, here.  The following excerpt details Mike's placement:
Assuming the role of executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, Holmes will lead a team of researchers and student-scholars at more than 60 universities around the world advancing groundbreaking discoveries on artifacts from the Green Collection. Holmes holds a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he also taught New Testament, and continues in his role as University Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity at Bethel University. He is a frequent speaker and international lecturer who has authored 11 books on biblical and early Christian writings.
Further information on Michael Holmes may be found on his university webpage, here.  Congratulations, Mike, from all of us on the blog!

Conference on the Bodmer Papyri (Feb 2014)

No comments:
Further details (including abstracts of papers) from Alin Suciu's blog

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Your Greek New Testament & Revisions of Editions

There is something interesting going on in the apparatus of NA28. But I need a long introduction ...

For any critical edition of the Greek New Testament a decision is made which manuscript to include in the apparatus and which not. Nestle-Aland 28 divides the manuscripts up between ‘consistently cited manuscripts’ and the others. In the introduction to NA28 a clear (!) explanation is given why manuscripts were included as 'consistently cited'. Eighteen manuscripts were included because they have the ‘initial text’ as their closest potential ancestor. There is also a 19th manuscript in this category, minuscule 468, but this one was replaced with minuscule 307 since the Byzantine text was well represented anyway. In addition to these, 88 and 1881 are added for one of the letters only, 33 because it is so interesting, 1448 and 1611 because they are Harkleian, and 642 because it represents a particular Byzantine group. All the papyri are included as well. We all know that for the Catholic Epistles NA28 is dependent on the Editio Critica Maior, 2nd edition (ECM2) and there the continuous witnesses of the first sub-group above (the 18 + 1) are given under the label ‘witnesses that have A as potential ancestor with rank one’.

The term ‘closest potential ancestor’ comes from the Coherence Based Genealogical Method (and if you don’t understand what that is, you should come to the SBL session, which will teach you everything you need to know). What is important for now is that the CBGM is an iterative method, which shapes the overall structure of the witnesses according to the decisions you take during the editing process.
You can of course revisit again and again, but at some points you have to publish something. So the INTF published the Catholic Epistles between 1999 and 2005 (Editio Critica Maior, 1st edition), and the shape of the witness tradition at that particular point was reflected in version one of ‘Genealogical Queries’ (the database of decisions and data underlying the text). Lucky for them, the INTF had the opportunity to use the data collected at that particular point to go over the text of the Catholic Epistles again. So the starting point was ‘Genealogical Queries version one’, which developed in the course of editing the second edition of the Editio Critica Maior into ‘Genealogical Queries version two’.

At the start of working on ECM2, there was a list of witnesses that, at that point, had the initial text as their closest potential ancestor. It is this particular list that is given in the introduction to ECM2 as the witnesses with rank one. However, as a result of editing ECM2, this list changed quite a bit. In Genealogical Queries version two’, which reflects the decisions made for ECM2, three of the witnesses no longer have the initial text (A) as their closest ancestor, 442, 2344, and 2492. Now minuscule 442 has rank 8, 2344 rank 2, and 2492 has sunk all the way down to rank 11.

What does this mean for the justification of what manuscripts to include as ‘consistently cited witnesses’? The group of important manuscripts as found in the apparatus of NA28 is based on the group the editors started out with when working on the text, but is not the group of witnesses that they ended up with. Three of the manuscripts, at least within the method, appeared less important for the text that was produced then initially thought. If the selection of manuscripts to include in the apparatus was made again today, these three manuscripts might well be deselected (unless they were deemed to be interesting for some other reason).

So when do you use ‘Genealogical Queries version one’ and when ‘version two’? If you want to know what the editors started out with for the second edition, you use ‘one’, if you want to know what they ended up with, you use ‘two’. ‘Version two’ reflects the situation at the end of the process. But, counterintuitively, the data from ‘version one’ and not ‘version two’ have been used to draw up the list of ‘witnesses of rank one’ (in ECM2 terminology) which is the same as the first group of ‘consistently cited witnesses’ (NA28 terminology). Current thinking would have left out the three witnesses mentioned earlier.

I needed some patient help from Klaus Wachtel to explain the background and that the pressure of publishing was a big factor in setting up ‘Genealogical Queries version 2’ only after NA28 and ECM2 went to press. And I needed Peter Gurry to point out to me that the list in ECM2 had something to do with the consistently cited witnesses for the Catholic Epistles in NA28. I just hope I have explained all the confusion correctly.

So what was the interesting thing going on in the apparatus of NA28? Well, three of the manuscripts cited in the Catholic Epistles (442, 2344, and 2492) do not have an obvious right to be there.

We don’t make it ourselves easy in this discipline, do we?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Sahidic OT Project at Göttingen!!!

Sahidic Job, Naples,
National Library, Ms.I.B.18
Scholars have long had access to editions of the Coptic New Testament texts.  In addition to more recent editions of various NT texts, one could always check the extensive editions of George Horner for the Bohairic and Sahidic NT.  The Old Testament, however, has been a more desperate situation, especially in the case of the Sahidic.  The Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities has confirmed the funding a complete digital edition and translation of the Sahidic Coptic Old Testament (Digitale Gesamtedition und Übersetzung des koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments), here.  The project will run from 2015–2036 with an annual budget of €500,000.  Heike Behlmer (Göttingen) and Frank Feder (Berlin) will oversee the project.  Although this project will doubtlessly be a great support to the Septuaginta-Unternehmen, it will be housed in the Egyptology department at Göttingen, an international center for Coptic scholarship.  Sometime in 2015, we can anticipate hearing positive news about funding for a major Greek LXX Psalms project from Göttingen.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Report from the Digital Collation Conference in Münster

1 comment:
The following is a report from Peter Gurry who attended theResearch Summit on Collation of Ancient and Medieval Texts in Münster on 3-4 October.

* * *

A few weeks ago I attended the Research Summit on Collation of Ancient and Medieval Texts in Münster, Germany and I thought I would offer a brief summary of some of the papers. The conference was designed to introduce textual scholars to the ins and outs of electronic collation in general and CollateX in particular. The first day was primarily focused on papers from invited speakers and the second day was set up to be more hands-on with CollateX. Readers of this blog will be interested to know that versions of Collate have been used for the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) since 1 John (published in 2003).

The first presentation was from Caroline Macé of the Universität Frankfurt who spoke about her experience editing Gregory of Nazianzus. She spoke about the choice between collating and transcribing and suggested that the right choice depends on the purpose of the edition being made. For Gregory, she had around 140 manuscripts and decided that transcribing these would have been too much work with too little benefit. Her own preference, in fact, would be to have automated transcriptions from digital collations rather than automated collations from digital transcriptions.

Next up was Peter Robinson whose pioneering work as a student at Oxford in the 1980s led to the first version of Collate (history here). Robinson spoke about misconceptions of digital collation, the main one being the belief that the computer does all the work. In actual fact, Robinson wrote Collate only after becoming dissatisfied with other collation software because he felt it was too mechanical; he wanted something that required editorial input during the collation process itself. He went on to argue that the purpose of a digital collation should not simply be to record differences but to use those differences to understand the relationships of witnesses. Like the CBGM, Robinson wants to use all textual variants for genealogy rather than just a selection. The use of complete collations is what led to a revision in previous genealogies in the recent electronic edition of Dante’s Commedia

The third presentation was offered by Klaus Wachtel and David Parker about their use of Collate for the ECM. For John’s Gospel, the team in Birmingham has incorporated Collate into their own editing software (mentioned here) which allows them to move from transcriptions, to regularization of spelling, to construction of the apparatus, all in one place. It was impressive. In all, Parker said that the new software has made constructing the apparatus faster and more accurate. If my notes are right, he said it took them about 6 months to construct a full apparatus for the Greek witnesses of John.

Barbara Bordalejo presented next on the praxis of collation and gave some fun examples of how hard but also important it can be to electronically encode the complexities encountered in a manuscript. She showed examples of the change in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence including the change discovered in 2010 from “our fellow subjects” to “our fellow citizens”—a small change that makes a big difference! (But given my current home I shall say no more about that.) At the end of her talk there was a brief but lively back-and-forth over whether an expunction dot should be marked in a transcription as a “deletion” or as “marked for deletion” in order to distinguish it from the ways other scribes in the same manuscript deleted text.

The final talk was offered by Ronald Dekker, one of the programmers behind CollateX, who talked about some of the principles behind the software’s collation algorithms. The hardest part, as any human collator knows, is deciding how to segment the texts for comparison; the actual comparison is the easy part. Peter Robinson told us at one point that only about 1–2 percent of his original code was actually for comparing the texts; most of the rest was used to identify which parts of each text to compare with each other (a process known as “alignment”). Dekker illustrated the complexity of programming these decisions by showing that two witnesses with 100 segments (or “tokens”) could potentially produce as many as 10,201 possible points of disagreement (or “nodes”).

Unfortunately I had to catch a train the next morning so I wasn’t able to attend the second day of the conference. But the first day provided a good sense of where digital collation is and how it is being used. And as always, it was good to meet and talk with scholars editing a variety of other texts. The only real disappointment for me was learning that the location had originally been set for Iceland. I guess there’s always next time.

Finally, my thanks to Joris van Zundert and Klaus Wachtel for all their behind the scenes work in organizing the conference for us.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Any information on claim about 1st century Latin text?

A few recent web articles have mentioned a Latin text that records a miracle of Jesus. Supposedly the text is from a Marcus Velleius Paterculus from the first century. However, usable pictures of the text do not seem to be available and what is posted doesn't seem to fit the description. Any updates on this? Thanks

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oxford Syriac Conference Jan 2015: Call for Papers


Syriac Intellectual Culture in Late Antiquity
Translation, transmission, and influence

This conference explores the intellectual cultures of Syriac-language literary and scholarly communities of the late antique (c. 3rd–9th century) Near and Middle East. It will also provide an opportunity for postgraduate and emerging scholars in the fields of biblical studies, theology and religion, late antique and Byzantine studies, near eastern studies, and rabbinics to present their work on Syriac literature within the University of Oxford’s vibrant late antique studies community.

The conference welcomes proposals for papers on the following and related topics:
  1. The reception and revision of Syriac biblical translations, especially works such as the Harklean and Syrohexaplaric versions and Jacob of Edessa’s Old Testament revision. How did Syriac authors navigate the diversity of translation options available to them? How were later translations and revisions received in both exegetical and liturgical contexts? Which textual variants were employed by exegetes, and in what contexts?
  1. What role do translations of Greek patristic literature, such as the works of Gregory Nazianzen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, play in the context of Syriac literature? How is material from Greek historiography, such as the ecclesiastical histories of Eusebius, Socrates, and Theodoret, translated and transmitted by Syriac chroniclers?
  1. What factors played a part in the development of literary canons and exegetical traditions in Syriac? How did different communities determine which texts to elevate to canonical status? When and why were authors from rival communities read and utilized? How did Greek-language authors, such as Severus of Antioch, undergo a process of ‘Syriacization’? Which authors survived the decline of spoken Syriac and were translated into Christian Arabic, and how?
  1. What forms did Syriac intellectual life take over the course of the period, in monastic, scholarly, and church communities? How did Syriac culture react to and interact with influences such as Aristotelian and neo-Platonist thought, rabbinic scholarship, and other vernacular literatures? What role did Syriac scholars play in the early development of Arabic-language intellectual culture, and how did this role affect or change their own traditions?

Those wishing to present a twenty-minute paper may submit a brief abstract (250 words or less) and academic biography to The deadline for submissions is Monday, 17 November 2014.