Saturday, April 14, 2018

Larry Hurtado on P52

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I recently came across this short video of Craig Evans interviewing Larry Hurtado. It appears to be made during the production of Evans’ new documentary, Fragments of Truth (see Peter Gurry’s review here). The date of P52 comes up, and Hurtado briefly explains why he thinks it is “among the earliest New Testament manuscripts” but not necessarily the earliest New Testament manuscript.



Hurtado’s position isn’t new or unusual, but I find it helpful to draw attention to another voice among those who reject specifically early or narrow dates for P52. He has gone on the record before about what he thinks of the date of P52 (on his blog here, or in various articles, some of which are in his recent collection of essays, Texts and Artefacts).

8 comments :

  1. Hurtado is not really qualified to comment on palaeography.

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    1. Nothing better than an unattributed comment to make me believe that a noted NT scholar who has handled numerous early papyri is not qualified to speak to dating of these manuscripts.

      Tim

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  2. What Hurtado says really isn't out of the mainstream if all he means is that the range of dates for P52 overlap the range for some other early papyri (such as P90, P98, and P104), so that they could well have been produced early in the range of dates assigned to them, and P52 could be produced late in the range assigned to it and be later than them.

    However, unless there's been some development, I assume that we can still say that there are no other papyri with GA numbers, that can be said to be positively likely to be earlier than P52. And my guess is if we did assign likelihoods of being the earliest manuscript to each papyrus, P52 would probably be the outright winner, allowing for the qualification that this probability is still too low to speak with any kind of certainty. The comments on Hurtado's blog at the link given in the OP suggest that he, along with Orsini and Clarysse would still agree with this. And unless I'm mistaken, I think Nongbri probably would as well, and that the line of reasoning that leads him to advise caution about having too much confidence about P52's early date would apply just as much to other early papyri as well.

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    1. Eric, Dirk Jongkind writes about P104 here (http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/what-is-oldest-manuscript-of-new.html) as a possible contender for the earliest NT manuscript. Orsini and Clarysse date P52 to 125–175 and P104 to 100–200.

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  3. As I was looking over the dates of papyri at the INTF VMR when writing my above comment, I noticed something that is probably obvious to those who use the VMR a lot but that strikes me as a problem.

    There is a huge tendency in the reporting of dates there to make them coincide with centuries, so that the "origin year early" of each manuscript is usually reported as a nice round number ending in 00, and the "origin year late" is usually reported as a number ending in 99.

    Few manuscripts' date ranges straddle a turn of a century, and when they do, it's because they have full 2 century ranges.

    I thought it was especially odd for P45 and P46, that their "origin year early" is as late as 200. This is probably due to the simplicity of calling them third-century. But wouldn't consideration of most paleographical dates for these manuscripts (excluding some outlier proposals) result in a range of something more like 150-249, than 200-299?

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  4. Elijah,
    Neither here or in any other article does Hurtado deny specifically early dates, unless you intended specifically early or narrow dates to describe only a particular year. Even in this video, Hurtado gives a specifically early and narrow date of 150-200 AD, this timeframe in almost anybody’s view is both early and specific.
    Unlike skeptics, Nongbri as an example, Hurtado takes a broader historical approach which allows for the evidence to determine his position.

    Tim

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    1. Tim, I struggled for a bit on how to describe what I meant and settled on the phrase "specifically early or narrow". I was intending to convey the popular date "c. 125" which is easily misunderstood to mean "125" or something like "120–130" rather than "100–150", as well as the dates given by Karl Jaroš (A.D. 80–125), Philip Comfort (A.D. 110–125) and Carsten Peter Thiede (A.D. 80–130). I frequently come across apologetic works that take these "specifically early or narrow" dates and run with them like the wind.

      In that regard, I concede your point that "150–200" is both early and specific, but relative to other discussions of P52, it is neither early (e.g. Jaroš and Thiede both allow a date in the first century[!], but also the ed. pr. and most commonly-cited dates by commentators and apologists of "c. 125" or "100–150") nor specific (e.g. the 15-year range given by Comfort).

      On Nongbri, I don't think he would deny an early date of P52 as a possibility—that is to say, if it were to be somehow carbon dated with unusual precision to the 110s, I think his response would be "well of course, I was never denying that possibility". Instead, I think he's saying that on palaeographic grounds alone, we cannot exclude later dates.

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    2. Elijah,
      Thanks for the clarification, I would agree that there are those who run with the earliest dates as if they are exact.
      I have read much of what Nongbri has written on his own and what he has written in response to others, I still think you view his take in a generous way, but that is not a bad thing at all!
      Thanks again!
      Tim

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