Thursday, April 30, 2015

Texts on wood and bark

For obvious reasons we are accustomed to thinking of biblical texts on papyrus and parchment (the most obvious reason is that most biblical texts were in fact written on papyrus and parchment). Among the minuscules we also find manuscripts written on paper. We may also be vaguely aware of biblical texts written or inscribed on other material (ostraka, inscriptions etc.), which are of significant interest on the liminal margins of the book culture of early Christianity (for a survey of this material [which never once uses the word "liminal"] try this). Among OT manuscripts we also have material on lead and silver.

Two other types of material are of interest. One is the wax tablet. These are reasonably common, and were used for teaching, composition, and even semi-permanent records.

It is interesting that there are at least thirteen Greek OT texts surviving on tablets (acc. Fraenkel's Verzeichnis), including for example this one in Michigan, with Proverbs 7.3-13 in Greek - where, as appears to be generally the case, text survives because it penetrates through the wax into the wood (and the wax does not survive):
As far as I am aware (feel free to correct me), there are very few examples of tablets with text from the NT, and none in the Liste (although there is an interesting set of discussions about the compositional possibilities of wax tablets and the gospels here and here and here). For possible examples, both containing portions of the Lord's Prayer see P. Baden 4.60 (van Haelst 346); van Haelst 349 (unedited).

Another option is wood and bark strips. Perhaps the most interesting are the well known Vindolanda tablets - preserved in northern England where there was a peculiar parallel with conditions for papyri in Egypt - the papyri were preserved in Egypt because they never got wet, the Vindolanda tablets were preserved in England because they never got dry. (this one is about the fighting capabilities of the wretched Britons):
There are no biblical texts from Vindolanda, but it may well be the case that wooden surfaces were used more widely in Europe. Recently 915 texts on wood and bark were excavated from Novgorod, and among the many more there may well be Christian texts among them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Papyrus 28 Sold to Private Collector Gifford Combs


Papyrus 28 (= P.Oxy. 1596) containing John 6:8-12, 17-22 formerly Berkeley, Pacific School of Religion, Palestine Institute Museum, Pap. has been sold to the private collector Gifford Combs, Los Angeles. Thus, it can be identified as "Collection of Gifford Combs, Los Angeles." (HT: Hugh Houghton)

The first editors, Grenfell and Hunt, dated the papyrus to 300-375 CE. Nestle-Aland gives the date 200-300 CE, whereas Orsini and Claryssee date it to 250-350 CE.

Editio princeps: B. P. Grenfell & A. S. Hunt, Oxyrynchus Papyri XIII, (London 1919), pp. 8-10.

IGNTP transcription is available here.

Wiki here.

More about Gifford Combs here and here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Differences between early Nestle editions of the New Testament?

Nestle’s first edition (1898) involved the mechanical process of comparing the text of Tischendorf with that of Westcott & Hort. When they agreed Nestle printed the text; when they disagreed he consulted R.F. Weymouth (1892) and printed the majority decision. Then for the third edition (1901) he discarded Weymouth and instead used B. Weiss (1894-1900) for the casting vote.

Presumably that required some changes in the printed text, although it is said that these were limited to ‘only the most important alterations’ until the thirteenth edition (1927), where Nestle finally reviewed the text to make it fully confirm to the majority principle.

This narrative (based on Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 19f) suggests that the text of Nestle must have had three different forms reflecting these three editions with revisions. But in a footnote the Alands also say: ‘the old plates of the 1898 edition remained in use for the Nestle text even through the twenty-fifth edition’ (p. 20 note 46). So can anyone who knows about all this enlighten me a bit further?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Summer School Options


1. Summer School in Textual Criticism

The Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara offers an intensive 2-week summer school in textual criticism. The course is aimed at both graduate and PhD students in diverse disciplines who would like to improve and deepen their knowledge in the field of Textual Criticism, with particular attention to more recent developments.

For further information and application form see our website: or contact the Director of the Summer School: Professor Paolo Trovato, Department of Humanities, University of Ferrara, Italy,
More info in the PDF:

2. International Summer School “The Coptic Bible and Coptic Literature in the Digital Age,” Göttingen-Hamburg, July 20 – August 1, 2015.

The summer school is organised by the Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, University of Göttingen and the Corpus dei Manoscritti Copti Letterari, Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies, Hamburg.

3. manuSciences ‘15 a Franco-German summerschool in manuscript studies combining perspectives from philology, materials sciences, computer sciences and digital humanities.

SCOPE: The aim of the summer school is to illustrate the interdisciplinary approaches to manuscript studies combining lectures in history and philology with non-textual information from materials analysis, imaging techniques, digital humanities and computer science.

Lectures will be complemented with practical courses in small groups on mobile instruments (e.g. x-ray fluorescence XRF, multispectral imaging MSI, and Reflectance Transformation Imaging RTI) and on computer programs.

WHEN: 6-12 september 2015,
WHERE: on the beautiful island Frauenwörth D-83256 Frauenchiemsee (Germany) -
PARTICIPANTS: Up to 40 (max.) M.A. or Ph.D. students, researchers and university lecturers from all countries are welcome. Active participation and contribution is expected (including posters). The school language will be English. Participating masters students may obtain ECTS credit points from FU Berlin, Fachbereich Physik. Participants interested in this option should indicate so in their application.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT (e.g. for lodging and food) can be granted based on the application (letter of recommendation, CV). Please specify when applying. We expect to be able to financially support a large number of participants.

Deadline for application: May 26, 2015

For details see or

4. Sommerkurs Handschriftenkultur - Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung Alfried Krupp-Sommerkurse für Handschriftenkultur an der UBL

Seit 2011 wird an der UBL einmal pro Jahr ein Sommerkurs zur Handschriftenkultur angeboten. Das Sommerkurs-Programm wird ermöglicht durch die großzügige Unterstützung der Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung und ist zunächst auf fünf Jahre angelegt.

Ziel der Leipziger Sommerkurse ist es, Fortbildungsmöglichkeiten für den wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchs im Bereich der Arbeit mit handschriftlichen Quellen anzubieten und Kompetenzen für die handschriftengestützte Forschung zu vermitteln. Die einwöchigen Kurse bestehen aus Lehreinheiten und praktischen Übungen an handschriftlichen Originalen. International renommierte Expertinnen und Experten unterstützen das wissenschaftliche Personal der UBL bei der Durchführung der Kurse.

Die einzelnen Kurse decken dabei unterschiedliche Fachgebiete der Handschriftenkunde ab und kor­res­pon­die­ren so mit der Breite der historischen Bestände der UBL. Das Sommerkursprogramm umfasst Veranstaltungen zu antiken, mittelalterlichen, neuzeitlichen und orientalischen Handschriften. Aufgrund der großen Nachfrage nach Angeboten zur mittelalterlichen Handschriftenkunde ist geplant, Mittelalterkurse im zweijährigen Turnus anzubieten.

Zum Konzept der Leipziger Sommerkurse gehört es, die Teilnahme von finanziellen Barrieren freizuhalten, um so offen für alle besonders qualifizierten Nachwuchswissenschaftlerinnen und -wissenschaftlern sein zu können. Dank der Förderung durch die Krupp-Stiftung werden daher in der Regel alle Fahrt-, Unterkunfts- und Teilnahmekosten übernommen.
Fünfter Alfried Krupp-Sommerkurs für Handschriftenkultur an der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig

„Einführung in die Handschriftenkultur des Mittelalters“ vom 13. bis 19. September 2015. Das Kursprogramm und die Lehrenden können Sie der Ausschreibung entnehmen.

Ausschreibung „Einführung in die Handschriftenkultur des Mittelalters“ [PDF – 781 kB]

Leitung und Ansprechpartner: Dr. Christoph Mackert

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rebinding news

A helpful discussion with illustrations of the recent re-binding of one of the manuscripts in the Goodspeed collection in Chicago (connected with a project to put complete digital images of all the Greek manuscripts in the Goodspeed Collection).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Housekeeping note

In our constant pursuit of excellence in the fulfilment of the mission of our blog it would be really helpful to have posts from all our blog members once in a while. Here are some suggestions if you are not feeling inspired (which would seem to apply to quite a few of us):
  • here is something interesting I thought/observed/noticed/made up/found on Wikipedia
  • here is an article/book/video that I wrote/read/found on the internet
  • here is a book review I wrote 
  • here is something I heard about and wanted some help in thinking through
  • here is a summary and a couple of critical comments on a recent journal article
  • here is a photo and discussion of one of my favourite books, something interesting in my personal library
  • here is a different blog discussing something interesting/wrong/stupid/correct on textual criticism
  • here is a footnote on some point of textual criticism
  • here is a bibliography I used for a lecture the other day - helpful to everyone and you may get some suggestions
  • here is a picture of my cat, Bible, lecture notes, favourite manuscript
  • here is another reason to prefer the longer/shorter reading at Mark 1.1
  • here is a video of my lecture to three hundred students
  • here is how I learnt to do that cross-out thingy with letters
  • here is a Taylor Swift song that is relevant to textual criticism
  • here is a picture of Australia beating England at cricket (perhaps better to save that for a more unusual event, like four text critics playing croquet or something)
  • here is a definition of “evangelical” for use by evangelical textual critics
  • here is a definition of “textual” for use by evangelical textual critics
  • here is a definition of “criticism” for use by evangelical textual critics
  • here is a definition of the word “is”
  • here is something of genuine comedic value which is more likely to make you laugh than cry
  • here is something you can only do with a computer that is of interest to textual criticism
  • here is something you can only do without a computer that is of interest to textual criticism
  • here is something about the Old Testament
  • etc.
Space them out - not all at once (you can schedule posts into the future, kind of spooky I know)

Just a note that there are around one hundred posts for this blog that are still in the “draft” state. You may well have some treasures hidden away in there. I have done a little bit of checking some of the ones under my name and either up-dating them for posting or deleting them. In a month or two I will probably do a more ruthless cull. Be warned. I can’t stand untidiness in any form.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts (3d ed.)

The third edition of A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts by J. Keith Elliott, with the assistance of the Institut romand des sciences bibliques (IRSB) Université de Lausanne, has been published by Brill. This is a must-have tool.

ISBN13: 9789004289239
E-ISBN: 9789004289680
Format: Hardback
Price: €115 / $149
Publisher’s description

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dirty manuscripts

Two interesting links to discussions of dirty manuscripts.

discusses dirty medieval books, including fingerprints, leaves and twigs, sand, pins, paint, and cat paws (with nine photos illustrating these). Final paragraph:
While we are perhaps inclined to regard dirt as an unwanted addition to the medieval book – which is an object that should be spotless, after all – the bits and pieces shown here act as historical clues that shed light on how a book was produced or used. There is an interesting parallel to be drawn with the concept of “damage”. This, too, is often seen as a flaw when encountered in a precious medieval book, while, in fact, it may offer crucial information about how the object was used (see this post). Dirt is an intrinsic part of the historical artefact that is the medieval book and deserves to be studied as such.
It is exciting to find a scribal fingerprint - it always evokes in me a sense of connection. I found a really good one last year in the Codex Climaci Rescriptus. To this list I would add wax which is often found in biblical and liturgical manuscripts and can reveal patterns of usage (and I seem to recall it is mentioned negatively in a monastic rule), see some good examples here; as well as glue, which is often found on small fragments re-used in bindings (cf. e.g. here).

Dr. Brice Jones discusses a piece of papyrus featuring “brown lumps of organic material” (a bit of Homer’s Illiad: P. Oxy 4633): “Toilet Papyrus”: A Papyrus of Homer Used as Toilet Paper

For more background: AnneMarie Luijendijk, ‘Sacred Scriptures as Trash: Biblical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus’” Vigiliae Christianae 64 (2010), 217-254.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Scratching the plural out of prayer - Mt 6:5

This is a story about how difficult it can be to get the data right even before starting to ponder the original wording of a text.

These are the opening words of Mt 6:5 as in Tregelles and NA28:

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί,
And when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites

The majority reading is as follows:

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, οὐκ ἔσῃ ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταί,
And when you (singular) pray, you (singular) must not be as the hypocrites

I am only interested in the two verbs, whether they are singular or plural.
In the apparatus of NA28 we learn that, among others, Codex Sinaiticus (א*) supports the singular verb, though with a minor variation, as indicated by the round brackets. In Appendix II we learn that א* actually reads προσευχη ουκ εσεσθε. That is, a singular verb προσευχη followed by the plural εσεσθε. The second corrector supports the text.

There are sorts of things wrong here. First of all, why is א* given as support for the double singular reading as, arguably (having one of each), it can be forwarded as support for the double plural reading?
Moreover, I don't think the reading of א* is accessible. Have a look at the images:

Normal light:

Striking light:

The transcribers of Sinaiticus on the Codex Sinaiticus website get it right, as usual. Here corrector Ca is made responsible for the intralinear correction of προσευχη to προσευχησθαι (itacism for προσευχησθε), the remainder of the text as visible on that line is the work of the first corrector (אa [or 1]), while the erased text of א* is unreadable. As you can see on the image, a rewriting starts from the third letter onwards, where we have indications of something being scratched off the parchment before the current writing. The parchment is rough till the end of the line and even torn at the final epsilon of εσεσθε.
What can we say about the erased text of א*, except that it was erased quite efficiently? The original version had something that started with προσευχησ-. It seems clear to me (and Tischendorf) that the omicron of ουκ is created out of a lunar sigma Ϲ. But is there space on the line to have the version with the two plural verbs? I don't think so, since it would require an extra two letters to be accommodated on the line which is already wider than average. That means that if the first version had two plural verbs, the first of these (and only the first) was already corrected in scribendo, that is before the next line was written.
For once, Tischendorf is not much of a help in suggesting that perhaps the original error was made from -σθε to -σθε. Though this is possible, it means, again, that the error was caught and mended before the writing of the next line, and only after almost the whole line had been filled up. His scenario requires that in addition to messing up the original line, the scribe also messed up the correction, by forcing the first verb into a singular (even though originally he had it right).

Whatever the underlying error we should represent the testimony of Sinaiticus as follows:
א*: προσευχησ[illegible] ...
אa: προσευχη ουκ εσεσθε ως οι
אca: προσευχησθαι (read προσευχησθε; remainder of the line untouched).
Interestingly, this suggest that א* may have intended to write the double plural before messing up, and that (I am slightly increasing the speculation value), whilst clearing the mess, the same scribe but now in the guise of the first corrector, messed up again.
Anyway א* is closer to the text of NA28 than to the variant in the apparatus, despite what the apparatus tells you, אa can be read as supporting either wording but should probably figure as a separate reading, and אca [or] 2] supports indeed the reading as given in the text.

British Library: More manuscripts online

The British Library Medieval Manuscripts blog reports that seventy-five more manuscripts are on-line. These seem to be the last group in the current project (hopefully they will get more funding to keep up the good progress). In this batch are a mountain of patristic and ecclesiastical manuscripts including homilies and such, and the following biblical ones. I’ll copy in excerpts here:

Burney MS 34, Catena on the Octateuch (Rahlfs 424), and additional theological texts. Italy, N. E. (Veneto?), mid-16th century.

Burney MS 48, Commentaries of St John Chrysostom on the Pauline letters, followed by the Catholic Epistles (Gregory-Aland 643; Scrivener act 225; von Soden α 1402, X40), in two volumes, Burney MS 48/1 and Burney MS 48/2. 11th-12th century.

Burney MS 408, Palimpsest, the upper (14th-century) text being homilies of St John Chrysostom on Matthew and John, and the lower fragments of a 10th century Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 338).

Egerton MS 2610, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 700). Canon tables in architectural frames in gold and colours (ff 3v-4r, 5v-6r, 7v-8r, 9v-10r). 4 miniatures of Evangelist portraits in colours on gold grounds (ff 12v, 91v, 144v, 230v). Large headpieces in colours and gold, with foliate patterns and birds (f 13r), and 4 large initials in colours and gold, at the beginning of the Gospels (ff 13r, 92r, 145r, 231r). Initials in gold. Simple head- and tailpieces in gold. Chrysography. 11th century.

Egerton MS 2783, Four Gospels, imperfect (Gregory-Aland 714). 12th-13th century. 7 full-page miniatures in colours on gold grounds of the symbols of the Evangelists and Evangelist portraits (lacking a portrait of Luke) (ff 13r, 13v, 106r, 106v, 166v, 264r, 264v). Canon tables in red in frames, with foliate decoration (ff 5r-9v). Large headpieces in red with foliate patterns. Large initials in red with penwork decoration. Small initials in red. Simple headpieces in red. Text and rubrics in red. 18th century binding of brown stamped leather, with blind tooling and gold edges. On the inside of each cover there is a portion of a 13th-century manuscript of the Sententiæ of Peter Lombard.

Harley MS 5785, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 151), with ecphonetic notation.  12th century. 3 evangelist portraits in colours and gold of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (ff 66v, 143v, 187v). 18 headpieces in colours and gold with animals, birds, and/or floral and foliate motifs (ff 1r, 67r, 104r, 144r, 202v, 234r, 246r, 274r, 281r, 298v, 313r, 320v, 325v, 328v, 332r, 340r, 344r, 353r). 1 very large initial in colours and gold (f 289v). Major initials in colours and gold, some with anthropomorphic designs (e.g. 3v). Titles in gold capitals written over red. Marginal notations in red.

Harley MS 5796, New Testament (Gregory-Aland 444; Scrivener evan. 444, Act. 153, Paul 240; von Soden δ 551). 1st half of the 15th century. Headpieces with geometric and foliate decoration and initials with foliate decoration in gold and/or colours (ff 2r, 44r, 73r, 121r, 163r). Titles in display capitals in gold or red (ff 2r, 44r, 73r, 121r, 163r). Rubrics, decorated initials and scholia in red.

Royal MS 1 B II, Old Testament: Major and Minor Prophets of the Septuagint version (Rahlfs 22). 1st quarter of the 12th century. Headpieces, initials and titles in carmine ink.

Royal MS 2 A VI, Psalter (Rahlfs 175). 12th century. Illuminated headpieces at the start of Psalms 1 and 77 (ff 22r, 154r).

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Note on a Conjecture (Philemon 23)

From a footnote in something I am writing about letter-carriers:
In 1909 Amling proposed a single-letter emendation to read  0Ihsouj rather than  0Ihsou= at Phile 23, and thus allow complete agreement in those sending greetings in Col 4.10-14 and Phile 23f (‘Eine Konjectkur in Philemonbrief’). The passage would thus read as follows: ‘Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ greets you; (as do) Jesus, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my co-workers’. In support Amling observed that in Philemon the normal expression is simply ‘in Christ’ (cf. v8, 20), and that Paul is not consistent in always adding ‘Jesus’ in such expressions concerning terms like ‘prisoner’, ‘slave’, or ‘fellow-prisoner’ (Rom 1.1; Phile 1; cf. 1 Cor 7.22; Gal 1.10; Eph 6.6; Rom 16.7). This conjecture was supported by Lohse (Colossians and Philemon, 207: ‘highly probable’, and note 16); Ollrog (Mitarbeiter, 49: ‘höchstwahrscheinlich’); Knox (Philemon, 13: ‘plausibly argued’), and most recently Campbell, Framing Paul, 280f: ‘seems highly plausible’, although Campbell does not refer to the earlier discussions). However, despite the advantages which result from this reading, and the simplicity of the proposal (concerning only a single letter); against it stands not only the general caution against adopting conjectural readings (especially those which smooth an obvious interpretive difficulty) – hence the description of the proposal as ‘arbitrary’ (Fitzmyer, Philemon, 124) or ‘Willkür’ (Gnilka), or as standing against the whole textual tradition (Stuhlmacher, Philemon, 55; confirmed recently by Solomon, The Textual History of Philemon, 562); but also the specific problem that in Pauline circles, and especially in a greeting, it is most unlikely that an undisambiguated ‘Jesus’ would stand for the personal name ‘Jesus Justus’, so Dunn, Colossians and Philemon, 343 note 2 and Gnilka, Philemon, 92 note 8 (cf. the broader issues canvassed in Bauckham, Jesus, 67-84).