Friday, August 17, 2018

Where Orthography Affects the New Testament Text

Beginning Greek students are often shocked when they discover the gap between the formatting of their modern, printed New Testaments and our earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts. The letters are all “uppercase,” there are few if any spaces between letters, accents and breathing marks are nowhere in sight, iotas aren’t written subscript, and punctuation is rare as well.

Having now been introduced to scriptio continua, the first question they ask is usually “How on earth could they read it?” This is quickly followed by two more questions: “Then who decides where to put all these things in our print editions and doesn’t the decision affect interpretation?” Last year I found myself telling my first-year students that editorial decisions about formatting only rarely affect interpretation (cf. Mark 4.30; Rom 9.5; Eph 5.21–22).

Rom 9.5 in P46
This is probably true in the grand scheme of things. But, almost as soon as I said it, I knew there must be far more examples than I’m actually familiar with. In prepping for a new Greek class this semester, I wanted to close the gap on my ignorance. So, I started compiling a list of places where matters of orthography—especially punctuation, accenting, spelling, and word division—affect the translation or interpretation.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Museum of the Bible and Dirk Obbink

Somehow I missed this, but back in June, Michael Press wrote an article exploring the latest mandatory tax filing from the Museum of the Bible. Most of the payments are not terribly surprising although Press sees problems with some of the locations of their funded digs. He seems most troubled that the Museum is Evangelical and influential.

Of most interest to me is the end of the article which explains payments to one particular individual associated with the Oxyrhynchus collection. Press suggests that the unnamed “Domestic Individual” is Dirk Obbink, and that certainly makes the most sense. It’s not actually news that he was paid by them (see here), but now I guess we know how much. According to the tax filing, it was $225,311 in 2016/2017. (Who says textual criticism doesn’t pay?)

Press suggests that the payments might be what confused people into thinking the Museum owned P.Oxy. 5345 (previously “First-Century Mark”). That seems unlikely to me since paying for research on a fragment is hardly the same thing as owning it. Also, why would anyone sign an NDA with the people funding the research rather than with the institution that actually owns the object of that research? These questions persist.

Here is what Press has to say about the payment:
Besides funding institutions, the Museum of the Bible also reports grants to individuals — most of which are non-itemized scholarships. One grant, however, is itemized in some detail: in 2016–2017, the museum awarded $225,311 to an unnamed individual as a “research grant for Early Christian Lives, Proteus/Ancient Lives, and Imaging Papyri projects as well as establishing a research center.” All of these projects involve the Oxyrhynchus papyri, the largest group of papyrus documents from the ancient world. They consist of fragments of several hundred thousand texts from an ancient garbage dump at the site of Oxyrhynchus (modern Al Bahnasa) in Egypt. Most of the papyri were found in excavations at the site in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, conducted on behalf of the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) in the U.K. The Museum of the Bible purchased several Oxyrhynchus papyri that had been gifted to American institutions in the early 20th century and later deaccessioned. However, most of the papyri from the site are still owned by the EES and housed at the University of Oxford.

The unnamed individual who received the grant from the Museum of the Bible is presumably Dirk Obbink, an American-born papyrologist currently at the University of Oxford. Obbink is the principal investigator for all of the projects named on the Form 990. Obbink’s relationship with the museum has been public for years, though the exact nature of it has never been clear. Obbink is listed as Papyrus Series editor for the museum’s publications with the prominent Dutch academic publisher Brill, and has been paid by the museum as a consultant, but in comments to Megan Gannon of Live Science in 2015, Obbink suggested that the Greens had more direct control over his work. Unlike many other collaborations, this arrangement was never made public — there is no press release on the Museum of the Bible website. It was also unusual in that the grant was made to an individual rather than an institution. (In a statement to Hyperallergic, the EES declared that “the EES has not, and has never had, any arrangement of any kind with the Museum of the Bible.”)

This funding arrangement may shed some light on the issue of the rumored “First Century Mark.” Starting in 2012, rumors circulated among biblical scholars of a fragment of the New Testament Gospel of Mark dating to the first century CE. This rumored First Century Mark would be significant as the earliest known version of the text, and one dating shortly after the book would have been written (it is generally dated by scholars sometime in the middle decades of the first century CE). It was thought that the Green family owned or was trying to purchase this fragment, but no firm evidence was ever put forward about this. Last month, the EES posted a note about a recently published Oxyrhynchus papyrus, confirming that this was in fact the rumored First Century Mark — except that it dated to the late second or early third century, and was owned not by the Museum of the Bible but by the EES. The publication of the fragment was edited by Dirk Obbink. The Museum of the Bible’s funding of Obbink’s Oxyrhynchus projects might have some bearing on puzzling aspects of the case, such as why it was believed that the fragment was owned by the Museum of the Bible. (If in fact the Green family is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars funding Oxyrhynchus-related research, then they may have a proprietary attitude toward that research even if they do not own the fragments themselves.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

INTF’s New Blog

Against Pete Head’s advice, the INTF has started a blog. Here is the first post from Greg Paulson:
The INTF has set up a new blog! Although we have featured blogs on our site before (as “Personal Blogs”), our newly implemented Liferay portlet called “Blog” aims to create a centralized portal for offering regular updates on the happenings of the institute and its projects as well as other things that are related (at least tangentially) to New Testament textual criticism.

Just to offer one tidbit before our next post, in case you were unaware, there is a paleography database (compiled by Marie-Luise Lakmann) that may be useful for those of you who are transcribing Greek manuscripts: To get started, click on “Suche” on the left-hand column.
Welcome to the blogosphere! I have added them to our blogroll in the sidebar. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Text-Critical Seminar at SNTS in Athens 2018

Today I am flying home from Athens where I have participated in the 73rd SNTS meeting including three sessions in the text-critical seminar. This was the fifth and final year of the seminar, chaired by me, Claire Clivaz and Ulrich Schmid, and the theme of this year was NTTC in exegesis.

We had three wonderful presentations followed by responses and fruitful discussions by the sixteen or so participants and I think the presenters got some very useful feedback. 

Tommy Wassermans foto. Jennifer Knust kicked off on Wednesday with a brilliant paper on textual criticism as exegesis discussing Lachmann’s idea of recensere sine interpretatione, Origen on John 1:28 (Bethany/Bethabara) among other things followed by a stimulating response by Claire Clivaz, wherein she coined the term “Lachmannian utopia,” among other things.

Tommy Wassermans foto.
Next on Thursday, Klaus Wachtel gave an instructive presentation on the interactive commentary on ECM of Acts in the NT.VMR with an example in Acts 3:13, followed by a response by Mike Holmes, who also brought up the conjecture in Acts 13:33.

Tommy Wassermans foto.On the last day of the SNTS meeting in Athens (Fri), we had Juan Hernandez Jr. present on ”The Apocalypse in Light of Recent Advances: A Return to J. Schmid’s Studien to Contextualize Current Text-Critical Trends.” The paper presented and evaluated Josef Schmid’s work on Revelation which has now been translated into English by Juan, Garrick Allen and Darius Müller (Juan is holding the book in the picture), and concluded by briefly looking to the future.

This was followed by a response by myself where I posed several questions to the presenter about Schmid’s work in particular in light of recent advances in research on Revelation through Text und Textwert, monographs and articles by Juan himself, Darius Müller, Peter Malik, and many others.

Tommy Wassermans foto.A highlight was when Juan stood up and read out loud for us a paragraph from the new translation which answered one of the questions.

This session as the two others went great and I have had good feedback from many participants in the seminar who thought we had great sessions. The best thing with the meeting though is to meet wonderful colleagues (here I am with Jennifer Knust and Claire Clivaz).

And, now I can announce that our seminar was accepted for renewal for another five years with me, Claire Clivaz and Hugh Houghton as chairs.

These are the themes for the coming period:

1)    Significant manuscripts and scribal habits (2019) – joint session(s) with papyrology
We will begin with a focus on the physical manuscripts and their scribes. We have agreed with the papyrology seminar to arrange a joint seminar (or sessions) on significant New Testament MSS at the meeting in Marburg.

2)    The Latin Bible (2020)
This will coincide with the publication of the Oxford Handbook to the Latin Bible, and enable us to invite distinguished guests as well as contributions from existing members.

3)    New Testament editions (2021)
This topic is evolving so fast that there is no doubt that we will have new topics and novelties to discuss in 2021.

4)     Digital developments and challenges (2022)
The same remark can be made here, based on the successful seminar on this topic in 2017, which has led to new standards being adopted for digital data in this field. Moreover, we expect to see several new digital projects developed in NTTC in the next years.

5)    NTTC and Reception History (2023)
This topic acts as a link between the study of the text and its significance for those working in other areas of New Testament scholarship.

So, I hope I will see some of you colleagues out there in Marburg next year!

New Reader’s LXX on Sale

For readers who haven’t heard, Greg Lanier and Will Ross have a new, two-volume reader’s Septuagint coming out this fall called Septuaginta. You can learn more about the edition (which follows Rahlfs) at the book’s website: See below for a preview of the page layout. Right now, the publisher is running a pre-order sale on both volumes for just $65. That’s 40% off retail.

I know Greg and Will have been working on this for about four years now, so a big congrats on finishing a massive project that will be a welcome aid to many!

Page Layout

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Museum of the Bible and Repatriation (GA 2120)

Yesterday, the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) posted a Facebook Live video featuring Brian Hyland, Associate Curator of Medieval Manuscripts. Hyland introduces GA 2120, a 12th-century minuscule of the Gospels. The Greens acquired the manuscript in 2010, and it was donated to the MOTB in 2014. Since then, it came to light that the manuscript was “lost” (=stolen) from the University of Athens. Representatives from the University of Athens contacted the MOTB about it, and the manuscript will be repatriated later this year in October.

Hyland gives an overview of the modern history of the manuscript back to Spyridon Lampros, who owned it before his daughter Lina Tsaldari gave it to the University of Athens in the 1960s. He includes some of the more recent history as well, including an estimate of when it was taken from the University of Athens (between 1987 and 1991), when it resurfaced at Sotheby’s (3 December 1998), and evidence of the identity of one of its modern owners.

It’s really great to see the MOTB doing the right thing here. They realised that they have an item that was taken illegally from its former owner, and they are making it right as well as they can in the situation.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Giveaway: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament

Gorgias Press has just released the latest volume of papers from the Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament with the title Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament. To help get the word out, Gorgias has offered to give away a free copy to one of our lucky blog readers. Enter to win by any of the means listed at the bottom of this post.

Description: The textual history of the New Testament is a dynamic tradition, reflecting differing readings, interpretations and uses of its canonical writings. Twenty years after the publication of D.C. Parker’s celebrated volume The Living Text of the Gospels, the papers in this collection provide further insight into the lives of the New Testament text. One especially important focus for the New Testament as “living text” is its use in Christian worship: individual chapters examine the importance of liturgical manuscripts in Coptic and Greek traditions, alongside consideration of broader themes related to the lectionary text. Several famous biblical passages are the subject of extended treatment, including the Pericope Adulterae, Jesus’ teaching on the Temple in Mark, and the Lukan genealogy. The contributions represent original research by an international range of scholars, first presented at the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.

Book webpage

Update: Congrats to Jeff C. for winning!

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