Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Review of The Story of the Bodmer Papyri

My review of James M. Robinson, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery's Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin (Cambridge: James Clarke, 2013; ISBN 9780227172780) has been published in Review of Biblical Literature:

The conclusion of the review:
Stories of manuscript discoveries are always exciting, and this account of one of the most valuable treasure troves of biblical and other manuscripts is no exception. In my opinion, Robinson convincingly establishes the connection between manuscripts in the Bodmer and Chester Beatty libraries as well as a number of other collections, primarily Mississippi, Cologne, and Barcelona. Although Robinson’s investigations in Egypt are likely to be influenced by rumors and exaggeration and the exact extent of the “Dishnā Papers” is impossible to establish, his main proposal of a common discovery is thoroughly backed up with documentation and hard evidence from the manuscripts themselves.

On the other hand, the book is poorly edited and betrays many traces of several layers of revision and scattered updates, not only by Robinson, who “composed the book two decades ago” from several earlier publications and new material, but, more recently, also by K. C. Hanson, who edited and published the book (vii). The resulting unevenness is all the more annoying in a book that presents the reader with many names, dates, and details about the manuscripts, which are repeated back and forth, sometimes with variation, which creates confusion.

For example, we are told in the introduction (6) that the Vatican Library was given P. Bodmer XIV–XV (P75) in 2007, a piece of information that may give the reader a sense that the book is brought up to date. In the next sentence, another manuscript is mentioned, “the Savery Codex (then the Crosby Codex of the University of Mississippi),”
 Read the whole review here.


  1. Dr. W.,
    Thanks for the review, added to my wish list. As a side note, thanks for the 'full belly laugh', when you mentioned in quite passing fashion that JUDE, was not actually included in the Crosby-Schoyen MS, the source of my laughter was a immediate unconcious thought as I read this, "of all people, you would notice that!". Thanks for both (still chuckling). Tim

  2. Just a note that I bought the same book as Eugene, OR: Cascade (Wipf & Stock), 2011 (actually purchased at SBL in Nov 2010).

  3. Dr. Wasserman,

    How would one go about searching for lost manuscripts today? Is anyone doing that?