Saturday, October 20, 2018

Textus now Published by Brill

Brill has recently picked up the publication of Textus: A Journal on Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Here is the description:

The importance of the discipline of textual criticism received an enormous boost from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls showing that the study of these ancient documents is absolutely necessary for the exegesis of the Biblical literature. Textus covers that area as well as many additional ones, pertaining to all the fields that are traditionally studied by textual critics.
To celebrate this occasion Brill has made the articles of the first issue free online. You can access them here.

The first article, "Introduction," is an editorial by Emanuel Tov, who had this to say about the new launch of the journal:
From 2018 onwards, Textus will be published by Brill Publishers with a broader mandate. The establishment of an international editorial board consisting of recognized experts in various subdisciplines of textual criticism will ensure the high quality of the studies to be published in this journal. The journal is to be published annually.

The importance of the discipline of textual criticism was enhanced greatly with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls; it was seen that the study of these ancient documents is absolutely necessary for the exegesis of biblical literature. Textus covers this area as well as many others that pertain to all the fields that are studied traditionally by textual critics:
– All the subareas relating to the text of the Hebrew Bible (Jewish and Samaritan) in antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times (printed editions), the Masorah, its vocalization and accents;
– The Bible texts found in the Judean Desert including manuscript studies on these texts;
– Primary and secondary translations of the Bible, each in its own cultural and linguistic environment;
– Textual analysis of words, segments, or books in Hebrew and translated Scripture;
– Linguistic studies pertaining to textual issues;
– Quotations from the Bible in nonbiblical sources;
– History of research on text-critical issues.
As always, I'm happy whenever there are new initiatives to publish work in the area of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament textual criticism. Brill's relaunch of Textus appears to be a welcomed addition.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Codex Claromontanus and Romans 1.29 in NA28

My Greek students have just finished a text critical assignment on the variant in Rom 1.29 involving πορνείᾳ πονηρίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ κακίᾳ κτλ. One of the things I’ve done is compare the NA26 apparatus to the updated form in the NA28 (my NA27 is at the office). I do miss the brevity of the old version, but the new one is certainly easier to follow. What caught my attention was the treatment of Codex Claromontanus (D 06), highlighted below.

Comparison of NA26 and NA28 apparatus
The NA28 made more sense to me, but I still had questions. That led, of course, to checking the image at the BnF website.

Rom 1.29 in Claromontanus; sharpened for clarity
Everything in the NA28 about D now makes sense except one thing. Does D2 omit the word κακ(ε)ια? I only see what I assume is an itacistic erasure of an epsilon. So, is the (−D2) simply saying that some part of κακια (namely the original epsilon) is omitted? I assumed that the minus sign meant the whole word was omitted, which it’s clearly not. What I might have expected is something more like (D).

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Benjamin Laird Reviews Biblical Canon Lists in JETS

Another review of The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity has appeared. Benjamin Laird of Liberty University’s School of Divinity has reviewed it positively in the most recent issue of JETS (61.3; 2018: 617–9). In his introductory remarks, he notes the influx of publications on the biblical canon in the last quarter century but also that there is a paucity of works “designed to serve as a resource for those engaged in the study of the primary sources” (p. 617). In his estimation the book contributes to filling this lacuna, at least as far as the early canon lists are concerned.

Laird’s concluding remarks are positive but perhaps hint at some of his own disappointment with the book:
In sum, The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity is a unique, well-written, and clearly presented volume that provides both students and scholars with a valuable resource for the study of the canonical history of the biblical writings. Gallagher and Meade are to be commended for producing a definitive and up-to-date study of the early canon lists in an accessible format. The value of the book is apparent in the fact that the greatest disappointment many readers may have is that it is not wider in scope (p. 619).
As a New Testament professor, Laird comments on the usefulness of the book as a guide to the extant canon lists but also notes:
It should be kept in mind, of course, that because the authors focus specifically on canonical lists, several witnesses to the early state of the biblical canon receive only limited attention or are not discussed. What might be known, for example, of the state of the NT canon from the testimony of several notable church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian receives only scant treatment given that their extant writings do not contain explicit reference  to the content of either the OT or NT in the form of a list (p. 618).
He also includes a comment on Marcion to the effect that since the field has given considerable treatment to him in recent years, the volume might have included more substantive treatment of him and what his writings (known from his critics) might contribute to our knowledge of the early NT canon.

Laird would have liked more treatment of biblical manuscripts than our chapter six provides. Specifically, he would have preferred more treatment of those early MSS that do not preserve the whole OT or NT such as P46.

I appreciate Laird’s overall positive review of our book. Two comments are in order. First, we do acknowledge our book’s limits on p. xv:
Lists are not the only means by which early Christians expressed themselves on the subject of the biblical canon. Scattered comments on individual books or groups of books pepper patristic literature. We have not seen fit to collect all these comments. Some authors of fundamental importance—Irenaeus of Lyons, or Clement of Alexandria, or Tertullian, for example—left behind nothing that could be considered a canon list, though any canon history would have to give serious attention to their statements and practice. They do not receive extended treatment here because their works transmit no canon list, a decision which demonstrates that this book is not a full canon history but a tool for such research.
Second, it’s interesting to me that James Walters’s review of our book in Reading Religion expressed confusion over the presence of a chapter on full biblical MSS in the book in the first place and Laird would have liked more comment on them. [UPDATE 10/18/18: see Walter’s tweet thread for a helpful correction to my understanding of his review]. The former didn’t see what contribution a chapter on full MSS made for the volume, while the latter thinks that such early MSS “often contain valuable insight into the early state of the NT canon” and would have wanted more.

It seems clear to me, then, that the opposing sides in the canon debate interpret the evidence of MSS for the formation of the NT canon very differently. For the one side, full biblical MSS may not tell us anything about the canon, and for the other side, they may grant valuable insight.

[UPDATE based on his thread: rather than Walters and Laird being on opposite ends of a spectrum, they would agree on the value of MSS for the history of the canon; Walters actually concludes that perhaps early MSS may be more important than the lists themselves, a point I’d like him to tease out for me in the future.]

In other news, I have contributed a chapter to Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry’s forthcoming Myths and Mistakes volume on this very question. But I don’t think I’ll let any cats out of their bags until the book is released. :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Forthcoming Festschrift for Harry Gamble

Next month SBL Press has a Festschrift for Harry Gamble coming out. I can’t find a table of contents for it so, if anyone knows what’s in it, let me know in the comments, please. The table of contents is available at the link to Amazon. From the publisher:

A book about the role of books in shaping the ancient religious landscape

This collection of essays by leading scholars from a variety of academic disciplines explores the ongoing relevance of Harry Gamble’s Books and Readers in the Early Church (1995) for the study of premodern book cultures. Contributors expand the conversation of book culture to examine the role the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an played in shaping the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions in the ancient and medieval world. By considering books as material objects rather than as repositories for stories and texts, the essays examine how new technologies, new materials, and new cultural encounters contributed to these holy books spreading throughout territories, becoming authoritative, and profoundly shaping three global religions.


  • Comparative analysis of book culture in Roman, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic contexts
  • Art-historical, papyrological, philological, and historical modes of analysis
  • Essays that demonstrate the vibrant, ongoing legacy of Gamble’s seminal work


Paperback $32.95
ISBN 9781628372236
Hardcover $47.95
ISBN 9780884143291 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

ETC Interview with Caio Peres

In this installment of the ETC interview series, we diverge from our normal practice of interviewing established text critics to interview a (recent) student. I met Caio Peres through my wife and we have corresponded for a few years online. Some of that correspondence was about textual criticism  during his class on the subject with the good folks at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where he received his Master (Research) in Theology and Religious Studies in 2018. He currently works as a social worker for a missionary NGO in the south part of São Paulo and in this interview I wanted to hear his perspective on theological training in his native Brazil and what it was like to study abroad. Enjoy!

Peter: Caio, tell us a little bit about your background and what got you interested in the Bible? What’s your primary area of research interest?

Caio: I am married to Dorothee and have a four year old son, Mikael. I am Brazilian and grew up in one of the largest cities of the world, São Paulo. When I was very young my mom went through a process of conversion, so I would go to an evangelical church on Sundays since I can remember. However, there were no religious disciplines in my household. In part because my father is not a Christian, nor religious in any sense, and in part because common Brazilian evangelicals, like my mom, do not integrate their faith with everyday routines. Nonetheless, I remember that at a certain age, my mom would read a Bible verse for me in the morning at breakfast, before I would go to school.

Two experiences in my life, roughly at the same period, got me interested in the Bible. The first was attending a Bible study service at my former church. The guest pastor, who is well known in the Brazilian evangelical context, was the first I saw to include some aspects of textual interpretation and theological implications. At the time this was very different from all the spiritual and life-lesson kind of approach to the Bible that I have known for a long time. It was more rational, organized and intellectually stimulating. The second was meeting my wife. She is Dutch and I met her in Brazil, when she was doing a short-term mission work at a children’s shelter near São Paulo. She comes from a family of several Christian generations. Her household dynamic was very different than mine. Christianity really formed how they lived and saw the world around them. And this was very clear in their strong missionary commitment. That made me realize how much the Bible could penetrate our own lives, but for that to happen I had to become familiar with it. These two experiences led me to commit to the study of the Bible and to missions in social ministries for children at risk in Brazil.

This last development also guided my research interests. After a couple of years flirting with Reformed theology, I got hooked by Biblical Theology during seminary, and the Bible was never the same again for me. I started seeing interesting possibilities of integrating my studies of the Bible and my interest in social issues. Thus, I started to research the Latter Prophets, especially the Book of the Twelve. For reasons that I do not recall clearly, I got interested in Temple and cultic matters. So, at the moment, my primary area of research is the theology of the cult in ancient Israel, including ritual analysis from an anthropological perspective. I am especially interested in commensality and family relations in the context of the ancient Israelite cult. From a broader perspective, my aim is to understand how household dynamics and practices inform the religious conceptions of ancient Israel. Looking at these matters from my missionary perspective, this is highly important in the Brazilian context. To look at cultic practices and religious conceptualizations with an eye on family dynamics and table fellowship might be fruitful for people living in shanty towns, where broken families abound and basic human necessities, like food, are scarce. Especially because in this exact context is where we can find the highest numbers of small Pentecostal churches.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

2,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Contains Rare Spelling of Jerusalem

Several sources today reported on an inscription dated to the Second Temple period that contained the word “Jerusalem,” but I couldn’t find an actual transcription of the three short lines. I offer my amateur attempt here and accept any correction in the comments. The inscription is pictured here and I took this image from Biblical Archaeology.

חנניה בר

Hananiah son of




from Jerusalem

All the hubbub here is over the spelling of Jerusalem with the ending לים -lym, which is rare in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Jer 26:18: וִירוּשָׁלַיִם and a few other places [Esther 2:6, 2 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 32: 9, and 2 Chronicles 25:1]), even though the Qere received and preserved by the Masoretes usually (always?) included a hireq vowel to insure it would be pronounced -ayim even without the yod in the Kethib: יְרוּשָׁלִַם (e.g. Isa 3:8).

Thus what is of some interest here is that those rare spellings of Jerusalem with yod in MT are confirmed in the record at least as far back as the late second temple period and the pronunciation of the Qere, perhaps, is supported by this inscription as well. Other than that, this inscription is unremarkable on this point.

I’m more interested in the apparent Greek name, Dodalos, aren’t you? And what is the actual function of br “son” in this inscription? Anyways, I’ll let others speak to these matters.

Monday, October 08, 2018

An Affordable Reissue of Letis’s The Ecclesiastical Text

If you’re interested in the intersection of theology and textual criticism, you might want to know about a recent reissue of Theodore Letis’s 1997 book The Ecclesiastical Text: Criticism, Biblical Authority & the Popular Mind. Among other things, Letis argues in this book that the inspired New Testament text is to be found in the apographs (copies) rather than in the autographs (originals), offering a direct critique of B. B. Warfield and others in the process. For the basic argument, you can also read his article in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology [PDF].

We’ve written about Letis before on the blog (here and here). While I don’t usually find his text-critical views convincing, I do enjoy reading him and often learn new things when I do. Although he died around 2005, some have taken up Letis’s mantle over at the website and their accompanying Facebook group. Sadly, the typesetting of this new edition is worse than the old one, but the $100-cheaper price tag means it’s actually affordable. There’s also a Kindle edition for $10.