Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Online Resources of Interest to Text Critics

[Though this appears on another blog it is certainly of interest to this one and is reposted with gratitude to the author - PJW]

Online Resources of Interest to Text Critics
Preliminary Observations

John F. Hobbins

Textual criticism is a glorious field of study whose landscape is dotted with monuments of past and present erudition. The question I address in this post is to the degree to which the field is currently navigable online, and prospects for voyages in the future. In the interests of brevity, I confine my attention to a few aspects of the question only.

A new dynamic is operative in the world of information exchange, whereby, more and more often, something new from the point of view of method or content first becomes available free of charge online and only later is repackaged for sale in a market. For this and other reasons, there are a number of online resources out there for anyone to use that lack as yet a better equivalent in the commercial sphere. This holds true for the field of text criticism as much as for any other field of study.

This is a healthy situation, unless one holds to the view that Mammon must always be king. For my part, I have a demythologized view of Mammon, with a corollary: the purpose of an information market is not to make money per se, but to provide a venue that ensures support for and dissemination of original research and tools of the trade. To ring the changes on an eternal verity, the market was, or should be, made for man, not man for the market.

The line between online resources available free of charge and those which cost a pretty penny needs to become blurrier than it is now, so that access to the former becomes a portal to access to the latter, and ownership of a paid-for resource brings with it enhanced access to resources available to all. Someday any book worth paying for will include an online dimension. Reference works will be updated electronically on a continuous basis. Examples of both, of course, are already out there.

How this works for the moment and how it should work are often two different things. An example or two may serve to illustrate.

Let’s say I am interested in researching the Peshitta as a text-critical resource for the study of the Hebrew Bible and/or the New Testament, a key component of the Aramaic linguistic and literary heritage, and a magnum opus in its own right, knowledge of which is essential for an understanding of Syriac Christianity.

Ideally, in my view, I would be able to go to the site of the Leiden Peshitta Institute, access the text in the form of a tagged database free of charge, and in that context be offered other tools, both free and commercial, that will allow me to study the Peshitta in its various facets. In reality, when I go to the site, I find no more than a list of the Institute’s ongoing projects and links to lists of the fascicles of the Major Edition and the monographs of the Institute which have so far appeared. The cute picture of an unidentified researcher, of course, makes up for this. But still.

At the very least, one would have wished for a link to CAL, where part of the Peshitta Institute’s own database has graciously been made available to those who use CAL online. On the other hand, the OT Peshitta is not available in the for-pay version of CAL through Logos-Bible-Software. This is unfortunate.

Links to,, and so on would also have been helpful. (The music of Linda George on the first site is a nice throw-in.)

Furthermore, the purchasable items in the Institute’s lists are cold, so one has to look elsewhere for a place to buy them. In this regard, a good place to start is Eisenbrauns, and if one plugs “Syriac” or “Peshitta” into the online search engine, all kinds of excellent purchasable resources pop up, but not the Leiden Peshitta edition itself! The best way to examine and purchase volumes of the Leiden Peshitta online is to go to Brill’s site, and from there to its links to via ISBN number. It is then possible to take a look at a volume’s cover, peruse its table of contents and so on, and choose a bookseller from which to purchase. Here’s an example of what I mean: Beyond that, an almost complete listing of the Institute’s published monographs purchasable new or used is available at

One more example. Let’s say I’m interested in the Septuagint for reasons like those stated above with respect to the Peshitta. Here the situation is different, thanks to the marvelous site on the Septuagint and resources in the field offered by Joel Kalvesmaki. The site is literally priceless.

On the other hand, despite what Joel says, it’s not necessary to buy the Göttingen critical editions of the Septuagint via their publisher. You can purchase them at Eisenbrauns. After winning the lottery first.

I keep hoping that I will wake up someday, go to, and discover that it has become a one-stop shop for all my needs as a biblical scholar. It’s not that I’m expecting, necessarily, to find Gabriel Afram’s Swedish-Syriac-Dictionary among its listings, the very existence of which warms my cockles. But it is my hope that a commercially viable way will be found for Eisenbrauns’ book catalogues to become a comprehensive portal to the purchasable print and electronic resources of the fields of study they cover. I can dream, can’t I?

I also keep hoping that someone will gather and introduce to the rest of us online resources available in other subfields of the textual criticism of the Bible with the same alacrity as Joel has done for the Septuagint.

If you look long enough, you can find real gems, like this. But who has time to do all that looking?

[This post is also available at]


P J Williams said...

The case of the Peshitta Institute's website is particularly well chosen. The person in the picture is, I believe, Konrad Jenner. They could freely advertise all of the monographs of the Peshitta Institute (including one that I published back in 2001), but this opportunity is passed over. The PI do stirling scholarship—the top in the world in the field. However, it would be nice if someone offered to update their website.

On the subject of the price of the volumes of the Peshitta OT, it should be taken into account that authors of these volumes have, sometimes, been asked to provide a subvention to support the publication. If I trusted my memory more I might report what I thought was rather a large sum...

For those who want an update on the work of the Peshitta Institute I paste below these details from an e-mail of March 6 2007:

Dear list members,

I hereby would like to inform you about the current projects of the Peshitta Institute and the decisions that have been taken recently (in 2006) regarding the division of responsibilities among the members of the Institute.

I. The critical edition of the Old Testament in Syriac. As you may know, Dr Konrad Jenner retired last year (April 2006), but it is greatly appreciated that he was willing to continue his work as far as the last four volumes of
the edition are concerned - first of all Vol. IV, 4: Ezra Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Maccabees. This latter volume is scheduled to appear this year (2007). Unfortunately, due to technical problems (regarding the printing of the Syriac) it will not be available at the Congresses this summer (IOSOT, Ljubljana; SBL, Vienna; both in July).

II. The Concordance to the OT Peshitta. Dr W.Th. van Peursen is the one who as member of the Institute has agreed to act as coordinator of the project on behalf of the Institute. The first volume (Concordance, Volume 1: The Pentateuch), was published in 1997. The second volume, the Concordance to the historical books, is being prepared. It is scheduled to appear in 2008 or 2009.

III. The New English Annotated Translation of the Syriac Bible (NEATSB), also called the Edessa Bible project. Prof. dr R.B. ter Haar Romeny who is one of the General Editors of the project has agreed to act as coordinator
of the project on behalf of the Institute. The other general editors are: Dr Alison Salvesen, Dr Gillian Greenberg, Prof. Jan Joosten, and Dr W.Th. van Peursen. They act as Executive Committee of the Project. As you know, a Session on the project will be held at the coming Congress of the IOSOT in Ljubljana (Monday, 16 July 2007, 2.30-6.00 h), as was done at the Leiden Congress of 2004. It provides the collaborators an excellent
opportunity to exchange experiences and discuss matters pertaining to the guidelines.

Best wishes,

Arie van der Kooij
General editor of the Peshitta Project which is carried out under the auspices of the IOSOT (the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament)

Daniel said...

I hope it's okay if I go ahead and cross-post the comment I left at John's site...

John, thanks for mentioning the Peshitta product from Logos Bible Software.

Just to fill you in on some of the details of how Logos operates... We license all the content we can get from each publisher or institute, then publish electronically as much of that content as our market cares to purchase.

The determination of marketability is largely made through mechanisms such as our prepublication program (copyrighted works) and community pricing program (public domain works).

All that to say, if and when we are able to license the OT Peshitta we will. We're as desirous of an electronic edition as you are. :-)

In the meantime, however, I think it's safe to say that Logos offers the most comprehensive range of resources for textual criticism, from critical apparatus to Comfort and Barrett's transcribed manuscripts, Metzger's textual commentary and more.

One of the newest volumes on textual criticism to be released electronically is Wegner's A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible.

I'd be happy to direct you to additional offerings from Logos that would interest a text critic.

Daniel Foster
Logos Bible Software

Tyler F. Williams said...

Is there a reason the reference to my Septuagint resource page was edited from the original post?

Just wondering...

John said...

Hi Tyler,

No, you weren't edited out. I edited you in during a revision over at my site, and failed to report the addition to Pete on this blog.

It reminds me of things we see happening somewhere along the continuum of textual changes OT text and literary critics study. I like your assumption that you must have been in the original edition.

I plan to make one or two more additions to the post. Then I'll send it to this blog which can update accordingly if so desired.

How many autographs . . .

jps said...

Hope you don't mind the cross-post of comments from John's site, but Eisenbrauns is now listing all the volumes in the Leiden Peshitta series and at 5% off list. Just search by series.

By the way, if anyone notices other books that Eisenbrauns should be carrying, please let me know!


Anonymous said...

To the webmaster,

I am the webmaster of and author of "Was the New Testament Really Written in Greek?" I see that you have a link to, a website by Paul Younan. He has been missing for quite some time and now his website is down. I have however backed up all his biggest resources, including his Peshitta translation, on my website. My website is currently the number one Peshitta-themed website on the internet.

As you had wished to link to which no longer functions, please link to instead.

Thankyou for your time,

Raphael Lataster, BPharm, JP