Friday, November 16, 2018

Blog Dinner: Get Tickets Now!

If you’re planning to come to the blog dinner this coming Monday night, now is the time to get tickets. The restaurant is going to ask me for a final headcount tomorrow and if you haven’t purchased your ticket, I can’t guarantee a spot. So, please get your tickets now if you’re planning to come.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Around the Blogs

Larry Hurtado took a significant break from his blog over the summer due to health issues, so it has been great to see him back in the blogosaddle recently and posting on a number of interesting text-critical issues, including (to select two interesting examples):

A Review of Brent Nongbri’s new book God’s Library:  The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts (Yale University Press, 2018).

Notable Markan Variants in Codex W

Brent Nongbri has also been blogging regularly recently, on the ending of John’s Gospel in P66 and Tertullian, and a load of other interesting issues (including a response to Hurtado’s review which raises some really good points about the use of roll palaeography in dating codices). 

There has been a bit of buzz recently around a couple of Reader’s Editions (This seems to be a euphemism for “Lazy Readers’ Editions”). Marketing is gearing up for the SBL market-fest. Firstly, the Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament has been released with some vocab lists at the bottom of each page (for words that occur 25 times or less in this Greek NT) (sadly that means the textual apparatus has been jettisoned). See here for details.

Secondly, Will Ross and Greg Lanier have produced a Septuagint Reader’s Edition. This comes in two volumes, with a text that seems to be a copy of Rhalfs’ text, and also has vocab lists at the bottom of each page (every word occurring 100 times or fewer in the LXX as well as other words that occur fewer than 30 times in the Greek New Testament). Check out the Hendrickson blog and also for a design perspective see the Logos blog. Again the vocab lists push out any textual apparatus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Apocryphal Gospels and Textual Criticism: An Interesting Case of P.Egerton 2 + P.Köln VI 255

This forum is primarily concerned with textual criticism of biblical literature—and rightly so. Yet, the basic skills acquired in the course of studying biblical manuscripts can also come in handy when studying other textual traditions, including the ever-popular apocryphal Gospels.

This summer, I published a little study of the so-called Egerton Gospel (GEg), an intriguing late second-/early third-century papyrus containing non-canonical Gospel-like material. (Many of our readers will have been familiar with this text, and I'd refer those who aren't to a brief but very lucid discussion in Markus Bockmuehl, Ancient Apocryphal Gospels [Louiseville 2017] 106–10.) The topic of this article was borne a while ago as I read Francis Watson's Gospel Writing, in preparation for Peter Head's reading group (which, I'm afraid, I never ended up attending, but that's another story).

In his chapter on the composition of John, Watson argues that the fourth evangelist re-interprets some of the material found in the GEg, hence the latter preserves a tradition anterior to the Johannine account. Although Watson's overall argument is rather extended and intricate, the point of departure for his entire discussion is, in fact, a single reading of the Cologne fragment of the GEg (the main portion of the text is housed in the British Library). In particular, Watson contends that, at ↓ 23, GEg should read 'our fathers'. Thus, the entire GEg parallel goes like this: εἰ γὰρ ἐπι[ϲτεύϲατε Μω(ϋϲεῖ)]· ἐπιϲτευϲάτε ἄ[ν ἐμοί· πε]ρ̣[ὶ] ἐμοῦ̣ γὰρ ἐκεῖνο[ϲ ἔγραψε]ν̣ τοῖϲ πατ[ρά]ϲ̣ι̣ν ἡμῶ[ν] ('If you had believed Moses you would have believed me, for he wrote them about me—to your fathers'). Most of this resembles John 5.46 quite closely, apart from the 'our fathers' bit, which Watson sets in contrast with John 6.49 where Jesus says: 'Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died'. This being the case, GEg preserves what Watson calls a 'Mosaic' stratum of the tradition, while John's material is a reinterpretation in view of the severance of his community from the synagogue.

At any rate, it would seem that Watson's argument is based on a misunderstanding of editorial conventions as well as of the reading itself. To begin with, he criticises Gronewald for reading ὑ̣μῶ[ν] in his articulated transcription whereas in the diplomatic transcription he prints ⟦η⟧`ϋ̣΄μω[ν. This, however, is a standard papyrological practice of editing previously unknown literary texts: a diplomatic transcript is followed by a full/articulated transcription (as well as a translation based on the latter) where abbreviations are resolved and scribal corrections of initial errors are incorporated into the main text. Moreover, Watson doesn't seem to appreciate that his preferred reading is quite likely to have been an error corrected by the scribe himself (there are three further examples of such scribal behaviour in the papyrus). Although the surface is a bit damaged at this point, one can make out the remains of the eta having been partly written over by a supralinear upsilon (notice the trema over it, right below the iota on the previous line):

P.Köln VI 255↓ 22–3.

You can easily follow Gronewald's reasoning on the basis of this reconstruction. Obviously, there's always a possibility that both readings are 'good' (i.e. non-erroneous) but reflect divergent traditions—though this would be more plausible in a text with a wider circulation. Who knows how wide, if any, distribution GEg may have enjoyed. In his aforementioned book, Bockmuehl observes that there's little reason to think that GEg was widely read in early Christian communities. I tend to agree.

For a fuller discussion of this problem, see ‘Whose Fathers?: A Note on the (Un-)Johannine Echo in the Egerton Gospel’, EC 9 (2018) 201–11.

2018 SBL Denver Blog Dinner

The day we’ve all been waiting for has arrived: the 2018 ETC blog dinner is on! Christian Askeland has faithfully served as our blog maitre d’ for many years now, but this year he was overworked (Mike Holmes, if you’re reading this, give the guy a break!). Since I seem to have too much time for blogging, the responsibilities fell to me.

Hard Rock Cafe, Denver
The dinner will be Monday, November 19 at 7:30pm at the Denver Hard Rock Cafe. I’ve reserved 50 spots in the main dining room where we will order from the group menu. Since the restaurant won’t split tickets, I’m asking people to pay ahead like last year to expedite things. Tickets are $31 per plate. This includes entree, salad, cookie, and soft drink as well as tax, gratuity, and fees. Alcohol will be on your own. I’ve listed the menu options below.

Order Tickets
As a special treat this year, our other blog editor, Tommy Wasserman, will be delivering the annual speech in Pete Head’s stead. As always, everyone is invited. You don’t need to be an evangelical, a text critic, or a good-humored Swede.

Menu options

Monday, November 12, 2018

Collation Advice from the Past

Following from Tommy’s recent transcription suggestions, here is some advice on the subject from A. A. Vansittart, written to Hort on October 15, 1869.
…. How I wish I had seriously taken to collating and the like when I took my M.A. degree! Then I might have been able to follow your plans of collation which are in many respects admirable. Now alas I have 45 strong reasons against it! But I think I should recommend it to any young man beginning betimes: only with two modification. First I should impress on his mind always to collate to the best text within reach: never for instance to use a Lloyd’s Testament if he could beg, borrow, or steal a ‘Tregelles’. The best plan I think is what Wright was doing this year with his Chaucer, to take or make a text and have a lot of copies printed (with large margin, on writing paper: neglect nothing which may help one to write with speed what can be read with ease) and collate two or three MSS in each of them. Secondly I should decidedly recommend the use of coloured inks. They lose no minute of time: and they gain distinctness which is an equivalent of time: very likely they may save you from the dilemma of either having to do the work of weeks over again or not being able to rely on it. But perhaps I may have misunderstood your monochromania: perhaps it may bear the innocent nay laudable meaning that one should only write with one ink at a time? …
Given that Vansittart wrote this from the Hotel du Louvre in Paris, I think I would add one more tip: always try to do your collating from nice hotels in Paris.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

From a Text-Carrier to a Book Project

In his previous post, my erstwhile neighbour and fellow-postgraduate mentioned a brief article of mine that appeared in the second volume of Didaktikos. My task in this article was to write up a short overview of various trends in the study of biblical manuscripts for the journal’s ‘Currents’ section. (Peter’s fine essay on the NT TC appeared under in the same section under the ‘New Testament’ heading; I guess ‘texts’ are closer to the ‘New Testament’ than manuscripts. Or are they?)
Anywho, in the article I briefly address three main areas: specialised studies of individual manuscripts, particularly with the focus on ‘scribal habits’ (not forgetting to mention the giants of this approach like our very own Dirk Jongkind); material culture and social history; and book-historical approaches, particularly with the focus on paratextual materials and codicology.

The article is free to download (see the link at the end of the post), so here’s just one remark concerning the second of the aforementioned topics. A great deal of ink has been spilt recently over the matters of the social-historical matters pertaining to some manuscripts, and, I must admit, I’ve often found the way this line of enquiry has been pursued rather wanting. Particularly disconcerting is the ease with which some people use binary categories like ‘professional/unprofessional’ and ‘public/private’ based on rather meagre data: the script looks a bit ugly, → the manuscript is private; hey, there’s a paragraphos! → the manuscript is churchy; the nomina sacra are inconsistent → the scribe may not have been a Christian. You get the idea. Sometimes it’s better to admit ignorance than to perpetuate inane ideas.

Anyway, for the article, see ‘From a Text-Carrier to a Book Project’, Didaktikos 2 (2018) 44–6.

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Quiet Renaissance in Textual Criticism

In the latest Didaktikos journal, I have a very brief article attempting to introduce fellow teachers of New Testament to some of the things happening in our discipline. To regular ETC readers, the article will probably be old news, but maybe some will be curious as to what I chose to focus on. In the same issue there is an essay by another Peter (Malik) on the value of studying manuscripts as material objects. That article is titled “Biblical Manuscripts: From a Text-Carrier to a Book Project.”
If you’ve not heard of Didaktikos, that’s because it’s a very new journal, put out by the makers of Logos Bible software. It’s devoted to theological education and the articles are all short and to the point—something I very much appreciate now as a busy teacher myself. Best of all, they send the journal out free to theological educators and they encourage contributors to share them for free as well.

Here’s the link: “A Quiet Renaissance in Textual Criticism,” Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education 2.3 (2018): 40–42.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Helpful Review of Papyri.Info

In vol. 9 of the online journal RIDE there is a helpful review of Papyri.Info by Lucia Vannini. If you don’t know anything about Papyri.Info then this review is a good source for anybody interested in documentary papyri. If you use Papyri.Info a lot there are some helpful points of information. If you are interested in the critical analysis of digital text collections then this is a geek-fest for you.

Review of Papyri.Info
Abstract:, made available by the Duke University, is a text collection of over 50,000 documentary papyri, i.e., Greek and Latin documents, dating back to the IV century BC – VIII century AD, which constitute a fundamental body of evidence for ancient everyday life in the classical antiquity. The collection consists of transcriptions encoded in EpiDoc (a subset of TEI for the representation of ancient documents preserved in inscriptions and in papyri), metadata, links to related resources, and, for some records, images and translations. It also includes a platform for the scholarly community to contribute to the database, whether for the digitisation of already published material or for the proposal of new contributions, with an editorial vetting process. This review aims to illustrate the content of the collection, discussing whether the relevant information is presented in a clear way to the user; to assess the usability of the interface for searching and browsing the papyri; and to analyse the technical aspects of the resource, especially the integration of different databases and the possibility of downloading and reusing the data, while highlighting, for all these aspects, both strengths and features that could be improved.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Bibliography of the Arabic Bible

Fresh from the Biblia Arabica project comes a new bibliography of the Arabic Bible which is said to be a classified and annotated history of scholarship. 

You can find it at and read more about it on the introductory blog post. Here’s a snippet of that:
The bibliography aims to include all Arabic Bible prints and all secondary literature on Arabic versions of the Bible, regardless of language. Currently we have entries in Arabic, English, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Latin, and (coming soon) Russian. Translations made by three different communities––Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan––as well as citations by Muslim authors are all within scope. For more about this, see the Introduction.

That said, what we are releasing today is the first 200 of about 1500 entries we have drafted. These published entries make up part or all of the following subject collections: Generalia (edited by Ronny Vollandt), Gospels (edited by Robert Turnbull and Vevian Zaki), Pauline Epistles (edited by Vevian Zaki), Qaraite Translations (edited by Ronny Vollandt and Michael Wechsler), and Quotations in Christian Arabic Writings (edited by Peter Tarras).

Our plan is to upload new entries fortnightly, so stay tuned!
This looks very helpful.