Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Text Critical Papers at BNTC 2015

The Annual Meeting of the British New Testament Society (BNTC) is being held this year at the University of Edinburgh from 3–5 September and there are a number of text critical papers on offer. There are enough, in fact, to make you wonder why there isn’t a dedicated textual criticism section.

Edinburgh always looks like this, right? (photo credit)

I’ve heard that BNTC is much more personable than the circus that can be SBL, so I’m looking forward to attending this year. Perhaps I’ll report on some of these paper if I get a chance. Here’s what’s on offer:

Theological Orthography, Numerical Symbolism, and “Numeri Sacri” in Early New Testament Manuscripts

Zachary Cole (University of Edinburgh)
Abstract: Although much scholarly attention has focused on the Christian scribal practice of the nomina sacra, the reverential abbreviation of divine names, this study explores an analogous phenomenon within early NT manuscripts with respect to theologically significant numbers. In the same way that sacred names could be distinguished by abbreviation, Greek numbers could be and were written in two distinct forms (as longhand words or alphabetic numerals). The aim of this study is to identify patterns and/or examples that suggest numerical symbols ever served a theological, devotional, or mystical function comparable to the nomina sacra. For instance, were alphabetic numerals ever reserved by copyists for special referents? Do any numerical symbols bear a special visual significance over against the longhand words? Recent studies have shown that numerals were indeed used in such ways in Christian documentary papyri from Egypt, especially in private correspondence between churches (such as the cryptic use of 99 to be mean “amen”), but no similar investigation of Christian literary texts has been conducted.
Several examples of possible “numeri sacri” in manuscripts such as P45, P75, and Codex Sinaiticus are examined with support from external testimony of numerological exegesis (patristic and documentary), suggesting that the term “numeri sacri” might be a helpful category. While a handful of numbers might qualify as such, it will be shown that they were never developed into a coherent scribal system in the way that the divine names were. This allows a remarkable comparison between early Christian conceptions of divine names/titles and theologically significant numbers, at least as they were represented in early scribal conventions.

Using the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) to Detect Scribal Habits in the Book of James

Peter Gurry (University of Cambridge)
Abstract: The proper consideration of the types of errors scribes make has been a longstanding aspect of New Testament textual criticism. Designated “transcriptional evidence” by F. J. A. Hort, such evidence is generally taught as a key part of internal evidence. Since the pioneering work of E. C. Colwell and followed recently by James R. Royse and others, the study of such scribal habits has been steadily advanced by careful attention to so-called “singular readings,” that is, readings unique to a single manuscript. One of the conclusions of such study has been a proposed reversal of the principle lectio brevior potior (prefer the shorter reading) since such singular readings show that early scribes tended to omit text more often than they added it. But the use of singular readings has not gone without criticism. In particular, questions have been raised about how representative singular readings are of a scribe’s work and, more importantly, of the tendencies of the textual tradition at large. More recently, the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) has been suggested as an appropriate corrective to the use of singular readings for understanding scribal practices because it identifies possible ancestors for each textual witness. But no concerted effort to apply the CBGM in this way has yet appeared. After offering a short summary of prior research, this study will apply the CBGM to the book of James using the data from the Editio Critica Maior to see what it reveals about the habits of scribes during the first millennium of transmission. The results will be compared with previous conclusions gained from the study of singular readings. In conclusion, I offer some thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each method and their implications for the canons of internal criticism.

The Greek Text of Revelation and the Editio Critica Maior

Garrick V. Allen (University of St Andrews)
Darius Müller (Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel)
Abstract: The Institut für Septuaginta und biblische Textforschung at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel is currently in the process of constructing a new Greek critical edition of the book of Revelation, with the hope that the edition will be available in 2023. The main text of the new edition and a condensed version of its apparatus will eventually become the text printed in the Nestle-Aland edition. This paper serves as a progress report, describing the various stages of the project, demystifying the process of editing an edition, and presenting an overview of the manuscript tradition of Revelation and its various text types. Additionally, we highlight the importance of this long-term project for numerous areas of critical concern in Apocalypse studies, including textual history, exegesis and interpretation, reception history, Byzantine art history, and scribal practices. The Editio Critica Maior project is an almost exclusively German enterprise and we hope to raise awareness of continental Apocalypse research in the Anglophone world.

The Chester Beatty Papyrus of Revelation and its Egyptian Friend: Preliminary Remarks on the Affinities of P47 and the Sahidic

Peter Malik (University of Cambridge)
Abstract: In his seminal work on the textual history of Revelation, Josef Schmid focused primarily on the Greek witnesses, amongst which he identified four distinct textual groupings: A C, P47 ℵ, Andreas and Koine. Versional support was cited only sporadically, and only to the extent it appeared in then available critical editions. Even so, Schmid remarked that, among other witnesses, the P47 ℵ group is followed by both Coptic versions. This relationship, however, has never been analysed or even confirmed. Recent research into P47 has identified various peculiar agreements with the Sahidic version, agreements which necessitated further investigation. The present paper aims to outline basic methodological issues as well as preliminary results of such investigation.


  1. Nice photo. Long abstracts. Hills.

    1. Long indeed. Beginner's error (speaking for myself). Now back to counting.

  2. Malik and Gurry, making Dr Head and Cambridge proud ...

  3. Please post information regarding possible Editio Critica Maior changes to NA27 in Revelation :)