Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, May 04, 2007

City of the Sharp-nosed Fish

Recently, when I was at the Birmingham Colloquium, Walter Cockle showed me a new book by Peter Parsons on Oxyrhynchus:

City of the Sharp-nosed Fish: Greek lives in Roman Egypt
320pp. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN: 978 0 297 64588 7

Mary Beard has written a review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement (and published on artlblogger here). Here is an extract of the very positive review:

"Parsons, who recently retired from the Regius Chair of Greek at Oxford, has been involved with the Oxyrhynchus project for almost half a century. His aim in City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish is to use the surviving scraps of papyrus to provide a guide to the life and letters of this ancient city for the non-specialist as much as for the professional Classicist. (The original germ of the book came from a “Commentary” in the TLS in 1998.) He writes with tremendous verve and wit, and with memorable turns of phrase. I liked, for example, the idea of Egypt being the “California of opportunity” to the Ancient Greeks. The sheer elegance of his style tends to make the reconstruction and synthesis he has attempted look effortless. In fact, it depends on truly phenomenal learning and expertise. It is hard enough to decipher the handwriting of these documents, let alone to work out how any particular fragment might fit into a bigger picture, and then to explain it to a general audience, as he does, without dumbing down."

There is another review in New Statesman here.

Here are two links with more on Oxyrhynchus:

The homepage of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project at
http://www.papyrology.ox.ac.uk/POxy/

And a more "popular" introduction at the webpages of BBC (in connection with an old programme) at:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/oxyrhynchos.shtml

On the BBC pages there is a quiz to test your knowledge about Oxyrhynchus, I got the score 7/10 (before reading the pages), try to beat me, good luck!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Tommy,

    Both these reviews are worth reading. Mary Beard especially raises a fundamental issue which biblical scholars will be familiar with in terms of the ideological/cultural distance that is sometimes masked by superficial similarities.
    Perhaps it is possible to look at it in terms of ideological similarities masked by superficial cultural distance.

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  2. I've just had a go at the quiz, I enjoyed it, but is question 5 a trick question?

    5. Fragments of which synoptic gospel were found on the site?

    A St Luke
    B St Matthew
    C St Mark

    According to the appendix in NA27 the answer is both Matthew and Luke.

    P101 (POxy. 4401), P102 (POxy. 4402), P103 (POxy. 4403), and several others contain verses from Matthew.

    P69 (POxy. 2383) and P111 (POxy. 4495) both contain verses of Luke.

    I don't know much about Oxyrhynchus (yet), so perhaps there is an obvious explanation for this apparent trick question... Or have the compilers of the quiz made a mistake?

    Pete C

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  3. Yes, I am sure you are right.
    Mss of Luke and Matthew and John. Not much evidence of Mark (but it is not entirely lacking).

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  4. Wonderful Writing Style. He writes with tremendous verve and wit, and with memorable turns of phrase. I liked, for example, the idea of Egypt being the “California of opportunity” to the Ancient Greeks. The sheer elegance of his style tends to make the reconstruction and synthesis he has attempted look effortless.

    ReplyDelete