Monday, June 14, 2021

Roman Writing Equipment


A. Willi, Manual of Everyday Roman Writing. Volume 2. Writing Equipment 

Here is a very useful little e-book with some nice illustrations. 



Saturday, June 12, 2021

ECM Mark and More on the Way


Here’s some happy news out of Muenster: “The ECM of Mark is currently being printed and will be available soon.” I think there is an SBL session on the Mark data. (That reminds me I need to register for SBL.) You can see the initial book listing here which gives July 26 as the release date. More from Muenster:

After the ECM of the Gospel of Mark appears in print, we’ll upload a list of textual changes and split guiding lines online. Like Acts, there will be an online textual commentary, a digital version on the NTVMR, the CBGM (with downloadable docker container), and the Patristic citations database.

We hope these resources will guide readers to better understand the data behind the editions and can provide a solid starting place for further research to take place. Now that a Docker container is available for Acts, anyone can now experiment with the CBGM, which may be the best way to learn how the method works firsthand.
Don’t miss that last sentence. The CBGM has a version you can edit yourself (albeit with some tech know-how). The “black box” is open for anyone with enough motivation to explore it.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Hobby Lobby Sues Obbink for $7m


Courthouse News Service reports today that Hobby Lobby is suing Dirk Obbink for $7 million for fraud and breach of contract. The complaint details seven private sale agreements between February 2010 and February 2013 for “fragments along with other ancient objects” for approximately $7,095,100. To date, the complaint says, 32 papyri have been identified as stolen from EES and sold directly to Hobby Lobby.

It also clarifies that Hobby Lobby came into possession of all the sale items except those in the seventh lot, purchased in February 2013 for $760,000. This last sale “contained four (4) papyrus pieces of New Testament Gospels identified as Matthew 3:7–10, 11–12; Mark 1:8–9, 16–18; Luke 13: 25–27, 28; and John 8:26–28, 33–35.” The second of those should look familiar as P.Oxy. 5345, aka “First-Century Mark.” So, we now know that Hobby Lobby did pay for these fragments. Scott Carroll’s infamous Tweet was in December of 2011 and Dan Wallace announced a first-century Mark fragment in February 2012—all before Hobby Lobby bought it. We know from Mike Holmes, that negotiations for its sale started in “early 2012.” 

The complaint goes on to tell us that “On or about December 2017, Obbink informed Hobby Lobby that he had ‘mistakenly’ sold the Gospel Fragments in Purchase #7 and that they were, in fact, owned by his employer, the EES.” The fragment was published not long after, in May of 2018. Surely Obbink had finished editing it for his employer well before then. He did refund Hobby Lobby $10k of the $760k while pleading for more time to pay the rest—which never came.

A number of questions arise from this new wrinkle. The complaint says that $760,000 was the cost of the four Gospel fragments in lot 7, but the entire lot contained that and “other antiquities,” all totaling $1.81m. It does not specify what those other antiquities are or whether Hobby Lobby initially asked for a refund for those as well. The complaint is also mum about the specifics of the other fragments and antiquities sold. 

A last point: if you split $760k four ways, that could mean that “First-Century Mark” sold for around $200k. That actually seems low to me, but what do I know.

It’s safe to say we have not heard the end of this sordid saga.

HT: Hixson

6/4/21 Update: Brent Nongbri has blogged about this here. He’s followed this closer than anybody so read the whole thing. This bit in particular jumped out: “Remember that between the Museum of the Bible and the American collector Andrew Stimer, who is said to have bought 6 stolen EES fragments from a business partner of Prof. Obbink, a total of 40 pieces have been returned to the EES. Now, the EES has said that 120 papyri are missing from its collection. That means 80 Oxyrhynchus papyri remain missing.” 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Blog Maintenance: New Subscription Manager


Hi all. For a while the blog has used to keep track of subscriber stats and to handle email subscriptions. Unfortunately, Feedburner has basically been dead in the water for some time. Recently Google announced it would drop support the email subscription feature altogether. 

So, as of today, I have switched the ETC blog over to to handle both features. If you currently receive the blog by email, I am working on moving your email over. So far, I’ve managed to migrate the most recent 100 subscribers but I’m waiting on someone on their staff to do the rest. (Update: All is now migrated.) If you don’t want to wait, you can always subscribe with this link—unless you’re a robot. Your ETC emails will now be delivered through which gives you some control over how and when you get them. 

I’ve also updated the RSS icon at the top of the page to point you to The email subscription form in the sidebar does the same. If you want to bypass altogether, you can still do that using the Atom link. If none of this means anything to you, you might be a robot.

Please let me know if you spot problems.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Free Book (Open Access): Georgi Parpulov’s new catalogue of catena manuscripts


This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while.

Georgi R. Parpulov’s new book, Catena Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament: A Catalogue Texts and Studies, Third Series (Piscataway, NJ; Gorgias, 2021) is open access and has been published. The publisher’s page for the book is here, but a FREE pdf of it is available here.

I haven’t read the book in full yet, but I have been able to look at one place. I’ve had a very casual and low-priority interest in Niketas of Herakleia’s Catena in Lucam for a few years now because of one of the sources Niketas used, and when I checked the group of manuscripts I had been looking at (pp. 122–123), Parpulov lists two additional manuscripts that are members of that group that I didn't previously know about.

If you’re not familiar with Parpulov, you should be. When I see his name on the schedule of conference presentations, I usually just plan to drop whatever else I’m doing to go hear him.

As a bonus: here is another one of Parpulov’s publications that is also free: “Kr in the Gospels”, which is a must-read for anyone interested in Family 35.

Congrats, Georgi!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

C.H. Spurgeon on the Preservation of Scripture

[Note: I originally wrote this post over a year ago during UK lockdown but didn't post it at the time.]

It’s no secret that for many years now, I’ve had an unhealthy obsession a healthy respect for the Last of the Puritans. I was recently working on a side project, and I had left a note for myself to “find a way to put Spurgeon in.” It was really just a joke to myself. [Update: I found a way!] Nothing wrong with an occasional irrelevant reference to the man, even if it’s against an editor’s wishes!

I decided to follow my note up and search his sermons for references to manuscripts again, and after sorting away all the references to sermon manuscripts, I came across something I had not seen before.

C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892),
looking amused
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892) preached his sermon no. 3303 “on behalf of the British and Foreign Bible Society” on Thursday evening, 14 May 1885. (By the way, the Bible Society has an amazing library in Cambridge.) The sermon wasn’t published right away. It was one of the posthumously-published sermons that finally came to print about twenty years after he died. Spurgeon’s text for the sermon, “A Very Early Bible Society,” is 2 Chron. 34:15, 18, 19—when Hilkiah finds the lost Book of the Law.

Spurgeon has a whole sermon point on “that Peculiar Preservation which God has extended to the Scriptures which he has inspired” (somewhat ironically, in light of the fact that he was preaching this from an instance in Scripture in which God’s Word appears to have been lost to his people for a time). I have shown elsewhere that Spurgeon spoke out at times in favor of textual criticism and even occasionally mentioned textual variants from the pulpit. Once, he even preached from a phrase that is in the Revised Version but not the King James Version because homoioteluton/visual similarity caused a phrase to be omitted in the majority of manuscripts (κληθῶμεν καὶ ἐσμέν, but κλη/και and θ/ε would be very similar in some hands as well). Spurgeon drank deeply from the wells of the Puritans and carried their intense respect of Scripture with him his whole life. He vehemently defended the reliability, truthfulness, and infallibility of the Scriptures, but he also understood that our access to God’s Word is not the same as what God’s Word is ontologically. Here, I stumbled upon a section in which Spurgeon defends the preservation of Scripture, but he also affirms that copies of Scripture have errors and can be corrected by comparing them to other copies. I quote a few sections below:
Now look you along through all the ages, and if you are a reverent believer in the Word, you will be filled with grateful wonder that the Sacred Roll has been preserved to us. Through what perils it has passed, and yet, as I believe, there is not a chapter of it lost; nay, nor a verse of any chapter. The misreadings of the copies are really so inconsiderable, and are so happily corrected by other manuscripts, that our Bible is a marvel in literature for the comparative ease with which the correct text is discoverable. It seems to me that God’s divine care has extended itself to the whole text, so that, with far less care than would be needed by any classic author, the very words of the Holy Spirit may be known. As the wings of cherubim overshadowed the mercy-seat, so do the wings of providence protect the Book of the Lord. As Michael guarded the body of Moses, so does a divine care secure the Books of Moses. I invite lovers of history and of famous books to look into the interesting story of the immortality of Scripture. Let us think of that special preservation with reverent gratitude.
Quickly, note here that Spurgeon does imply that the “correct text” does need to be discovered, but God’s preservation is evident in the “comparative ease with which” that is done: “with far less care than would be needed by any classical author.” In apologetics terms, Spurgeon is giving an early version of the comparison of the Bible/New Testament with classical literature, perhaps most famously made by F.F. Bruce and recently discussed by James B. Prothro.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Review of Falcetta’s Bio of J. Rendel Harris


The new issue of BBR has my review of Alessandro Falcetta’s The Daily Discoveries of a Bible Scholar and Manuscript Hunter: A Biography of James Rendel Harris. It’s an account thick with detail of a life marked by some remarkable adventures. The man survived not one but two German U-Boat attacks and “discovered” the Odes of Solomon in his own office!

One feature I wished for in the book was a bit more of Rendel’s own voice. Falcetta appears to have worked through all the personal correspondence and there were times I would have liked to hear them rather than Falcetta’s summary of them. One other thing I didn’t mention in the review is the extreme price. Thankfully, I noticed today that the publisher has put out a much more affordable paperback edition. It’s worth a read.

You can read the review here.