Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fantastic Film: “Greek Papyri – The Rediscovery of the Ancient World”

In a comment to the previous post on Oxyrhynchus, an anonymous person drew the attention to a fascinating film that has just been uploaded to YouTube, “Greek Papyri—The Rediscovery of the Ancient World”:
Fascinating footage of work on the Oxyrhynchus papyri, including many names familiar to New Testament papyrologists (E. G. Turner, W. E. H. Cockle, J. D. Thomas) in a film about Greek Papyri from 1972, uploaded to YouTube today: .
I am not certain but I think the image I pasted above from the film is of Walter Cockle, who recently passed away.

Brent Nongbri announced the film today (on the Papy-L list):
This 44-minute movie was produced in 1971 by the Greek and Latin Departments and the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London in 1971. It was directed by Mirek Dohnal and features some fantastic archival footage of the British papyrologists of the day. The film is mentioned in an exhibition catalog by T. S. Pattie and E. G. Turner, The Written Word on Papyrus: An Exhibition Held in the British Museum 30 July - 27 October 1974 (British Library Board, 1974).

The quality of the production was said to be excellent. The obituary for Eric Turner in the Proceedings of the British Academy described the film as follows:  “. . . in May [1971] came the première of Mirek Dohnal’s film Greek Papyri (Turner had suggested the subject to the head of the Slade Film Unit; he and his pupils and colleagues starred, with Zauberflöte in the background, and many hours of patient labour; the film won a silver medal at the Venice Festival) . . .”
One notable feature in the film, at about 24.15-25.10, is the dissolvement of a mummy mask to recover papyri, as it was done in the early 70’s – a now very controversial practice since it inevitably involves the destruction of an ancient artifact. In our era there are projects to “make the mummies talk” with non-invasive imaging technology. See here and here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Biblical Papyri Coming from Oxyrhynchus

For those who don’t follow the blog on Twitter or Facebook, here’s some very big news coming from the Egypt Exploration Society:
In response to recent queries about results of the review initiated in 2016 to identify unpublished New Testament fragments in its collection of Oxyrhynchus papyri (, the EES reports as follows:

Some twenty New Testament inedita have been identified, none of them apparently earlier than the late 2nd to early 3rd century AD. They have all been assigned to editors, and will be published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series as the editors complete their work over the next few years. There may be more small fragments still unidentified because, like the Mark fragment recently published (LXXXIII 5345), their identity only emerges from much more detailed study than is feasible when cataloguing. We note that Grenfell and Hunt were particularly keen to find New Testament texts, and so sorted out possible cases as they processed their finds in Egypt and back at Oxford, and published many of them.

Some ten patristic texts have also been identified and assigned to editors, and over eighty Septuagint and related texts are currently known to us and will gradually be assigned and published (some in the forthcoming volume LXXXIV). In the volumes of the Oxyrhynchus series we normally aim to publish a variety of texts, including literary fragments and the far more numerous documentary texts which are the primary interest of many of our readers.

Published: 7th March, 2019
HT: Brent Nongbri 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Another Shorter Reading Preserved in the Byzantine Text

Here’s another interesting shorter reading preserved for us in the Byzantine text, this one from 1 Cor 9.20:
τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω
To those under the law I became as one under the law (not that I was myself under the law) in order that I might gain those under the law.
Byz along with D2 (L) Ψ 1881 and the Peshitta (per NA27) don’t have the phrase μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον. It’s a case of parablepsis and so another place where the Byzantine text unexpectedly preserves a shorter, secondary reading.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Deuteronomy 33:2 in Textual and Linguistic Perspectives

In my last post, I introduced the book How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? Essentially, the book argues that diachronic/historical linguistics explains the changes we see in the language of the Hebrew Bible from Classical Biblical Hebrew to Late Biblical Hebrew. The authors (Hendel and Joosten) included a chapter on Textual History and Linguistic History in which they show how the two disciplines work together. In particular, a text’s history can show scribal mistakes, modernizations, and textual growth, and diachronic analysis may explain some of these changes.

At the beginning of the chapter, they provide the “famous example” from Deut 33:2, with which I want to interact in this post:

Ketiv: ֹמִימִינוֹ אשׁדת לָמו “From his right hand ‘sdt for them”
Qere: ֹמִֽימִינוֹ אֵשׁ דָּת לָמו “From his right hand fire was a law/there was a fiery law for them”

The ketiv אשׁדת is difficult to understand; perhaps its meaning was lost. The qere reveals a different word division, but דָּת (“law”) raises a question for the historical linguist. The word is only otherwise attested in LBH (e.g. Esther and Ezra) and this would be the only case of a Persian loanword in the Pentateuch. But the authors conclude that the linguistic difficulty is superficial, for the text is problematic. The MT itself indicates that דָּת is only one possibility, since it is only the qere, the way the text is read. The ketiv is אשׁדת, a reading admittedly “that is hard to understand” (in fact the lexicon is still puzzled over its meaning). The authors then cite the Septuagint (ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ “at his right hand angels with him”) and the Peshitta (ܡܢ ܝܡܝܢܗ܂ ܝܗܒ ܠܗܘܢ “from his right, he gave to them”), “neither of which seems to reflect the qere“ (p. 48). The authors then conclude:
The qere may reflect a late midrashic interpretation of an earlier text that was at some point no longer understood. The expression אֵשׁ דָּת (fire of the law) does not represent the earliest text of the verse, and as such does not provide a solid basis for historical linguistics (p. 48).
Now, the authors may well be right in their conclusion and they may have a ready defense for their thesis in this instance, but I suggest they have too simplistically solved this problem. The fact is the qere does have early support in the Jewish revisers:
Aquila: ἀπὸ δεξιᾶς αὐτοῦ πῦρ δόγμα αὐτοῖς (“from his right, fire was an ordinance for them”)
Symmachus: …πυρινὸς νόμος… (“...fiery law...”)
Jerome’s Vulgate also reflects this reading (in dextera eius ignea lex) but probably depends on Symmachus for it. Both Jewish revisers are earlier sources than the Peshitta, and their reading of the text reflects an earlier tradition. I’m not saying Aquila, Symmachus, and the qere preserve the more original text. Rather, Aquila and Symmachus show the antiquity of the qere אֵשׁ דָּת which may or may not be the original text. “The late midrashic interpretation” of the authors would now have to be pushed back to the period of some of our earliest evidence for the text.

Here is the tension: is textual criticism guiding linguistics or linguistics guiding textual criticism? What is intriguing here according to the authors is that the qere reflects a later midrash, and part of the leverage for this conclusion is that דָּת would be the only Persian loanward in the Pentateuch, a very important datum, to be sure. We have a good example here of both disciplines attempting to inform one another. The problem now is that there’s more evidence for the antiquity of the qere than the authors presented, and therefore, the TC question has to be reopened.

The ketiv אשׁדת is unintelligible at present and the error of word division could go in either direction, which leaves room for the qere to be the more original text (“fiery law” could be an original, poetic description for the theophanic giving of the law on the mountain; Exod 20:18; Deut 4:15). If the ketiv is the more original, then we avoid the diachronic problem as the authors have framed the matter. If דָּת of the qere is the more original reading, then we have an isolated instance of a word from a later period in an otherwise CBH text. This isolated instance would not date the text of Deuteronomy to a later period because one instance does not satisfy the “Criterion of Accumulation.” Rather, one late word in an otherwise early text might simply be chalked up to a later scribe’s modernization. The qere could represent early updating of the text or the more original text (added late? or דָּת is an older word than we thought?). The ketiv is a rather difficult, if not impossible (corrupted?), text. Perhaps, the LXX and Peshitta attempted to render a corrupted text, which then gives appearance of a difficult one?

We won’t solve the matter today, but I found this example to be interesting for the authors’ case of diachrony because the text history remains unclear. In any case, Hendel and Joosten provide a fascinating and helpful contribution to the ongoing dialogue on the history and formation of the Hebrew Bible.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

New Book on Textual Criticism and Apologetics

We have had discussions on this blog before about mistakes well-intentioned Christians often make when defending the Bible. There was a lively discussion about three years ago when The Gospel Coalition published an excerpt from Greg Gilbert’s book Why Trust the Bible? titled “Debunking Silly Statements About the Bible“ that had a number of “silly statements” of its own. I seem to remember a lively comments section at TGC as well, but they seem to have removed comments sections at some point. To be clear, I am glad there are popular authors defending the Bible. That is an important work, and I would want to see more of that (and done well), not less.

I recently came across a couple of other posts in the last month that make some of the same mistakes, and I was again reminded of the words of one of our blog editors:

A New Book

I am happy to report that a book several of us have been working on for about three years now is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Peter Gurry and I co-edited a book that seeks to give a good resource to people who are doing good work but are not manuscript specialists themselves. It is hard to keep up-to-date with everything, and we get that, so we wanted to help where we can by showing where the problems often are and making suggestions for how to improve important discussions like “why trust the Bible?”. The book is Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, and it is due out in November from IVP Academic. Just in time for ETS and SBL! IVP has a book page here.

Here is a table of contents:

Front matter
Daniel B. Wallace
More front matter
  1. Introduction
    Peter J. Gurry and Elijah Hixson
  2. Myths about Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived
    Timothy N. Mitchell
  3. Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn’t Always Better
    Jacob W. Peterson
  4. Myths about Classical Literature: Responsibly Comparing the New Testament to Ancient Works
    James B. Prothro
  5. Dating Myths 1: How We Determine the Ages of Manuscripts
    Elijah Hixson
  6. Dating Myths 2: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts
    Gregory R. Lanier
  7. Myths about Copyists: the Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts
    Zachary J. Cole
  8. Myths about Copying: the Mistakes and Corrections Scribes Made
    Peter Malik
  9. Myths about Transmission: The Text of Philemon from Beginning to End
    S. Matthew Solomon
  10. Myths about Variants: Why Most Variants Are Insignificant and Why Some Can’t Be Ignored
    Peter J. Gurry
  11. Myths about Orthodox Corruption: Were Scribes Influenced by Theology and How Can We Tell?
    Robert D. Marcello
  12. Myths about Patristics: What the Church Fathers Thought about Textual Variation
    Andrew Blaski
  13. Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us
    John D. Meade
  14. Myths about Early Translations: Their Number, Importance, and Limitations
    Jeremiah Coogan
  15. Myths About Modern Translations: Variants, Verdicts, and Versions
    Edgar Battad Ebojo
End matter

Friday, March 01, 2019

New Book: How Old Is the Hebrew Bible?

In How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study (Yale, 2018), Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten provide an accessible treatment of some of the complex issues regarding inquiry into the history of the Hebrew Bible. In short, they are convinced that within the Hebrew Bible there is a traceable diachrony from Classical Biblical Hebrew (CBH; texts dated to the monarchy) to Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH; texts dated to the Persian period). The book is only 221 pages. It is not intended to be a full or complete study of all of the evidence but it does present some intriguing arguments for its thesis.

My interest in the book goes beyond the linguistic to the textual critical. In chapter 4, the authors address “Textual History and Linguistic History.” They state the problem plainly, “Textual variation interferes with diachronic linguistics” (p. 47). However, the situation is not hopeless in the eyes of the authors. The Masoretic Text is “notoriously layered” (p. 48) and the MT’s vowel pointing at times does preserve evidence of a later grammatical development (cf. Isa 1:12; p. 49), but our authors conclude, “Textual criticism and diachronic linguistics complement each other. The judicious combination of the two approaches paves the way to a correct understanding of the text” (p. 50, and similar on p. 53 regarding the consonantal text).

So how do we know whether we are reading early or late Biblical Hebrew in any one narrative or book? Under “The Criterion of Accumulation,” the authors say that the comprehensive difference between CBH and LBH could hardly be the result of textual corruption. Rather, only an accumulation of late features can date a text as late (cf. ch. 3). That is, early texts may contain anomalous late linguistic features due to sporadic linguistic modernization. The authors final assessment of the Masoretic Text in this regard is worth quoting in full:
The fact is that the MT of Isaiah and the Pentateuch does not exhibit this modernizing profile. On the whole, the MT is a rather conservative and well-preserved text. Occasional modernizations exist, but they did not affect the MT to the extent of making the diachronic approach impossible (p. 55).
They close the chapter with a section on Textual Criticism and Redaction Criticism, which addresses the matter of different literary editions; that is, textual change not due to scribal mistakes and modernizing versions (pp. 56–57).

The authors conclude the chapter as follows:
When textual criticism is brought into the picture, it has the global effect of confirming the diachronic approach. The textual history of the Hebrew Bible provides an explanation for occasional “false positives,” late features occurring in a relatively early text. In addition, such late features in the CBH corpus can often be shown to have entered the text secondarily, as scribal mistakes, as occasional modernizations, or as products of textual growth. Textual criticism and historical linguistics  reinforce one another, and together contribute to a better understanding of the biblical text (p. 59).
I’m only part way through chapter 5 of the book, but overall, the authors are to be commended for their treatment and presentation of the matter of historical linguistics and its relationship to TC. I plan to write a follow-up post attempting to engage the authors on one of their examples from chapter 4 with a view to show how they think diachony and TC work together.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Richard Baxter on the Autographs and Textual Criticism

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) is one of the most famous of the English Puritans. He was a “church leader, poet, hymnodist, theologian, and controversialist” per Wikipedia (yes, that Wikipedia). Continuing my interest in Reformation theology and textual criticism, here are a few choice quotes from his voluminous writings that touch on textual criticism.
And though the weakness and negligence of scribes have made many little words uncertain, (for God promised not infallibility to every scribe or printer,) yet these are not such as alter any article of faith or practice, but show that no corruption hath been designedly made, but that the book is the same. —The Catechising of Families, ch. 6, Question 24, Answer 7 in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, vol. 4
[Before this he gives a list of true beliefs that a person can doubt and still be saved.] 25. And yet more, may those have saving faith, who only doubt whether Providence infallibly guided any transcribers, or printers, as to retain any copy that perfectly agreeth with the autograph: yea, whether the perfectest copy now extant may not have some inconsiderable literal or verbal errors, through the transcribers’ or printers’ oversight, is of no great moment, as long as it is certain, that the Scriptures are not de industria [intentionally] corrupted, nor any material doctrine, history, or prophecy thereby obscured or depraved. God hath not engaged himself to direct every printer to the world’s end, to do his work without any error. Yet it is unlikely that this should deprave all copies, or leave us uncertain wholly of the right reading, especially since copies were multiplied, because it is unlikely that all transcribers, or printers, will commit the very same error. We know the true copies of our statute books, though the printer be not guided by an unerring spirit. See Usher’s Epistle to Lud. Capell. 26. Yet do all, or most of these [people], in my judgment, cast away a singular prop to their faith, and lay it open to dangerous assaults, and doubt of that which is a certain truth.  27. As the translations are no further Scripture, than they agree with the copies in the original tongues; so neither are those copies further than they agree with the autographs, or original copies, or with some copies perused and approved by the apostles. 28. Yet is there not the like necessity of having the autographs to try the transcripts by, as there is of having the original transcripts to try the translations by. For there is an impossibility that any translation should perfectly express the sense of the original. But there is a possibility, probability, and facility, of true transcribing, and grounds to prove it true, de facto, as we shall touch anon. —The Saints’ Everlasting Rest in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, 4 vols. (1846; Morgan, Pa., 2000), 3:93
Richard Brash, in his ThM thesis on the doctrine of preservation, says of this second quote, “Clearly, some in Baxter’s day did hold to such a view [viz., that Providence did not preserve any perfect copies], but it was not one that Baxter accepted or promoted” (p. 75 n. 242).

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Elliott’s Doctoral Thesis on the Text of the Pastoral Epistles

At some point in college, I remember looking through J. K. Elliott’s The Greek text of the epistles to Timothy and Titus, a detailed textual commentary on those books from a thoroughgoing eclectic perspective.

Recently, while putting a bibliography together I discovered that the two volume Oxford DPhil that lies behind this book is freely available online from Oxford. As I don’t have a copy of the published version, I don’t know if there are any significant differences. But, if it’s like most published British dissertations, it is probably very similar. If someone can check, let me know.

Here’s the first part of the abstract:
To my knowledge there has been no thoroughgoing eclectic study of the text of any New Testament book, although the principles of eclectic textual criticism have been applied to individual readings. This thesis attempts to provide a study of all the known variant readings in the Greek text of the Pastoral Epistles. To this end, a full critical apparatus has been compiled and a discussion on each variant reading is provided with the object of establishing the original text and of explaining how variants arose.

The theory, on which these discussions are based is found in an introductory chapter. This introduction begins by arguing that previous methods of textual criticism based largely on the “cult of the best manuscript” are untenable and unreliable nowadays due partly to the growing realisation that no one manuscript or group of manuscripts contains the original text. Many scholars realise that the original reading may be found in any given manuscript. The implication of this is of course that the peculiar readings of every manuscript must (ultimately) be examined. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

On Heb 11.11 and Not Making a ‘Fetish’ of Longer/Shorter Readings

While doing some work in Hebrews this week I learned two new things: (1) Heb 11.11 has a number of knotty problems, several of them textual and (2) Herman Hoskier has a textual commentary of sorts on Hebrews. In reading his comments on this verse, I noted a little gem of a line at the end.

But first, here’s the text and the problem as illustrated by comparing RP/KJV with NA/NRSV. The main interpretive problem is who the subject is (Sarah or Abraham) with the variants bearing directly on that.
RP: Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν, καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας ἔτεκεν, ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον

KJV: Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

NA27: Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα στεῖρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας, ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον.

NRSV: By faith he [Abraham] received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised.
And here is Hoskier’s comment on the variants in play:
xi 11 και αυτη σαρρα στειρα. Thus P46, agreed to by D* Ψ d e f vg and a dozen Greek cursives (ἡ σπειρα Db Sod78boh sah and a few; στειρα ουσα P and a few, with syr arm aeth Thphyl), but στειρα is omitted by א A Dc P13Chr Aug Dam Thdt and the rest.

Here, then, we have the longer text A.D. 200, but στειρα could, of course, easily be dropped after σαρρα.

ibid. —ετεκεν P46 with P13vid A D* 17 d e f vg sah boh aeth arm Chr 1/2 Euthal, against the rest and syr Chr 1/2 Dam Thdt which have it; while D gr Egr P 37 73 80 116 add: εις τοτεκνωσαι after ελαβεν, and d e: filium.

Thus, in one single verse, we must judge between ‘longer’ and ‘shorter’ texts, and not make a fetish of either. There is no royal road or short cut in these matters.
This should become a new canon which, if my Latin serves me, I will call lectio non idolum.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

New Critical Edition of the Harklean Syriac of Revelation

Because it appears in a volume of essays, it might have gone unnoticed that Martin Heide has published his critical edition of Revelation in the Harklean Syriac. I haven’t had time to work through it, but I thought I should at least note it here for others. I did look it over in pre-pub form several years ago and I remember being impressed. It should go along nicely with Ian Beacham’s Birmingham PhD on the Harklean Syriac version of Revelation. As I’ve written before, the Harklean Syriac is fertile soil for understanding the transmission history of the New Testament text.

By my reckoning, it’s about time we put together all the work that’s been done on the Harklean Syriac into a complete Harklean New Testament. It would employ the materials from Barbara Aland and Andreas Juckel on Paul and the large Catholic Letters, the material collated for Acts and the small Catholics for the ECM, Kiraz’s work on the Comparative edition of the Syriac Gospels (with an assist from Yohanna’s edition in Mark), and now Heide’s work on Revelation. Who wants to make this happen?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Minuscule 372

GA 372 is a 16th century parchment manuscript in the Vatican (Vat. gr. 1161), which looks like a printed book. Apparently it is handwritten, but if that is the case, it is hard not to imagine that it must have been copied from a printed book: the page and chapter numbers, the variety in the fonts, the woodcut type intials.

Is there someone who could figure out which edition underlies the text? I don’t think the font looks like an Estienne font, Colines perhaps?

Update 14.ii.2019:
Thanks to Teunis van Lopik (see comments) we can solve the issue of the script of this manuscript. The script comes from Johannes Honorius who is mentioned in all three volumes of the Repertorium der griechischen Kopiisten (I 174, II 232, III 286).  I,  p.100: “His script formed the basis for the font of  the pontifical press. Honorius’s script has clearly influenced that of anonymous co-workers, and the manuscripts below are possibly not all written by him personally.”

An example of the print type of his script is found here (notice Honorius’s name after TYPUS; click through on the title).
A British Library MS (Harley 5732) by Honorius is found here.

Which leaves only the trivial question of the text of GA 372.

Monday, February 11, 2019

PJW Video: Can We Know the Exact Words of God?

Gordon-Conwell seminary now has the audio video online from Pete Williams’s recent Cooley lectures (noted here). Here are the links:
I haven’t had a chance to listen watch yet but hope to soon.

Update: videos

Friday, February 08, 2019

Happy International Septuagint Day!

Happy International Septuagint Day everyone! In 2006, the IOSCS declared February 8 to be International Septuagint Day, a day to celebrate the Septuagint and encourage its study, based on the following rational:
The date was chosen because, as Robert Kraft noted, it is “the one date we know of from late antiquity on which LXX/OG/Aquila received special attention.” Emperor Justinian’s Novella 146 permitted the Jews of the Roman Empire to read the Scriptures in their synagogues in Greek, Latin, or “any other tongue which in any district allows the hearers better to understand the text”. Specifically, “We make this proviso that those who use
Greek shall use the text of the seventy interpreters...”
This novella (see English translation) was published on the eighth day of February in the year 553 CE.
So celebrate the work of the Seventy and all of the other Greek translators of the Hebrew Scriptures today (and really everyday ;-)).

Is Codex Sinaiticus a Fake? New Evidence

Just to be clear, no. It’s not a 19th-century fake.

With that out of the way, I decided to take another look at a couple of things, and I noticed what some might consider to be new evidence in the question of whether or not the manuscript is a modern fake.

One of the biggest ‘selling points’ for people who claim that it’s a fake is the difference in colour between the Leipzig leaves and the British Library leaves, according to the images at the Codex Sinaiticus Project website. Despite at least one professional manuscript photographer taking the time to explain why it is problematic to make arguments based on the colour of those images, the colour is still a point of emphasis from people who maintain that Codex Sinaiticus is a fake.

David Daniels, author of the book Is the “World’s Oldest Bible” a Fake? (Ontario, CA: Chick Publications, 2017), recently posted a video (link and info in my longer note linked below) in which he again emphasised the colour of the leaves as part of his ‘evidence’.

So what about this new evidence I claim to have? Well, it’s not really new as much as it is a repackaging of old evidence into a way that more clearly shows why determining colour from images is a bad idea.

I’ve put a file online that goes into more detail, but I’ll give you the spoilers here.

When you compare the colour charts in the Leipzig images and the British Library images, it becomes clear that there is no way that these two sets of images were taken to the exact same standards. However, the clearest way to demonstrate this conclusion is to take a single colour from each of the colour charts, lay the two samples out in a mosaic like Daniels does, and then see how they look.

Obviously, the two sets of images were not taken to the level of precision that Daniels’ theory needs. If they were, we would see no difference in colour at all, because those two versions of yellow that you see in this image are the exact same colour in real life.

For the full description (as well as a couple of other samples like this one using other colours from the colour charts, and an argument based on raking light images), see my note here: “Unpublished Paper: ‘New’ Evidence on “Is Codex Sinaiticus a Fake?”

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Five millionth visitor

Congratulations to us for our five millionth* visitor.

Celebrations in various parts of the world are happening as I type.

* Of course maybe we’ve had more, or fewer, visitors. I personally have little idea as to how this was counted. 

UP-DATE: One of my students (Ben Lucas), who was in my office for an interesting discussion of the use of the OT in Hebrews, claimed to be the five millionth visit(or)** so I gave him a relevant old book to celebrate:

** I’m sure that now that the actual five millionth person has been identified, the anonymous trolls will admit their error.

Free Brill Book: The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Evidence

A new publication in the esteemed series New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents (Brill) has been published:  The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Evidence, edited by H.A.G. Houghton, C.M. Kreinecker, R.M. MacLachlan, and C.J. Smith. 

The book is a verse-by-verse collation of Old Latin manuscripts, the lemmata of early Latin commentaries and testimonia extracts in Romans, 1–2 Corinthians and Galatians.
This is the final output from the ERC-funded COMPAUL project and therefore an open access title which may be downloaded for free here
The transcriptions underlying the collation are publically available at

Here is a short extract from the Preface to give you the background and scope of the volume:
In 2011, a European Research Council Starting Grant enabled Hugh Houghton to assemble a team at the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE) in the University of Birmingham to investigate the earliest commentaries on Paul as sources for the biblical text (the COMPAUL project). In order to assist with analysis of the numerous early Latin expositions, full electronic transcriptions were produced of the four principal Pauline Epistles in three types of material:
  1. Manuscripts identified as having an Old Latin affiliation;
  2. Existing scholarly reconstructions of the Pauline text of individual early Latin commentators;
  3. Early collections of biblical testimonia.
These were then automatically collated to provide a representative sample of early Latin readings which might be reflected in commentaries and their textual tradition. Although the publication of this data was not part of the original plan for the COMPAUL project, it soon became evident that—until the appearance of the corresponding volumes of the Vetus Latina edition—making this material more widely available would be of service to scholars in a variety of fields.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Jewish and Christian Books in the First Millennium in Indiana

David Lincicum, Hildegund Müller, and Jeremiah Coogan are running a working group at Notre Dame on Jewish and Christian Books. Jeremiah tells me the group is open to all comers and that if you RSVP soon enough, you may even get free lunch! What’s not to love? (Except the polar vortex sweeping Indy right now.) Here’s the info:


Books do more than contain texts. They are objects, always implicated in economic, ritual, and readerly matrices of production, collection, and use. We never encounter texts disembodied, apart from the material constraints and paratextual interventions that enable their physical existence. Nor do books read themselves. They are manipulated by reading communities with specific reading practices.

This working group seeks to develop an ongoing conversation about material texts and reading practices in Judaism and Christianity of the first millennium CE. Christian and Jewish communities have often oriented themselves around books and reading. Attention to material texts thus enriches our understanding of both traditions and their interactions with one another.

The group is organized by David Lincicum, Hildegund Müller, and Jeremiah Coogan. For further information or to be included on the working group mailing list, please contact Jeremiah Coogan (jcoogan2[at]

Spring Schedule

  • 25 January | Book Discussion: Brent Nongbri, God’s Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018) | 12–1.30pm in 106 O’Shaughnessy 
  • 15 February | Andrew King (Notre Dame), “The Big Data of Intertextuality and the Book of Deuteronomy” | 12–1.30pm in 106 O’Shaughnessy 
  • 1 March | Hildegund Müller (Notre Dame), “The Early Transmission of Augustine’s Enarrationes in Psalmos” | 12– 1.30pm in 106 O’Shaughnessy 
  • 12 April | Paul Wheatley (Notre Dame), “Behind the Veil of Translation: Onomastics, Interpretation, and Revelation” | 12–1.30pm in 106 O’Shaughnessy 
  • 31 May | Conference: “The Material Gospel” (details forthcoming) Lunch will be provided for midday seminars; an opportunity to RSVP will be sent to the working group mailing list.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Source of Scott Carroll’s Mummy Masks?

Image source
Brent Nongbri has been writing some very good posts lately on his blog about Scott Carroll and the papyri he has been showing at various events. But today, Brent has followed that with an even more startling post exploring where Scott Carroll got all those infamous mummy masks from.

Readers of this blog will remember that Carroll claimed, in our comments section, that Dirk Obbink tried to sell him a “first-century Mark,” a claim the Egypt Exploration Society has strongly denied ever since. But many of us wondered why Carroll would make such a thing up. Well, now Nongbri has found Scott Carroll also claiming that Christ Church Oxford, where Obbink works, is a source of those mummy masks. Here is Brent’s conclusion:
In any event, the close association between Pattengale, Carroll, and Professor Obbink (as well as the Green Collection and Oxford) has long been known, and Professor Obbink appears to still be on the Museum of the Bible payroll. What was news to me was Carroll’s suggestion that Oxford was a source of the mummy masks that he was purchasing (his usual practice in describing provenance in these more recent videos is to say the material comes from “families” looking to sell things).
Scott Carroll has also suggested that Professor Obbink offered at least one artifact from the Egypt Exploration Society’s collection for sale (the Oxyrhynchus papyrus P.Oxy 83.5345, a fragment of the Gospel According to Mark). Professor Obbink and the Egypt Exploration Society have both denied Carroll’s claims in regard to that papyrus. Now we would seem to be in a similar situation with regard to the Green Collection mummy masks, in that all we really have connecting the Green Collection masks to Oxford is the word of Scott Carroll. And once again, it is the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible that could shed light on these questions by offering some transparency in their acquisition records for these artifacts.
You can read the full post with what Brent has been able to piece together from videos and online matter. 

The ‘Anonymity’ of Hebrews in Minuscule 104

The NA27 has a helpful feature that was sadly removed from the NA28 and that is a selection of subscriptions to the NT books. These often contain information about authorship and even the location of writing. In preparing to teach Hebrews, I noticed this particular subscriptio cited for minuscule 104. According to NA27, the subscriptio for Hebrews reads: πρ[ος] Ε[βραιους] εγ[ραφη] Εβραιστι απο της Ιτ[αλιας] ανονυμως δ[ια] Τιμ[οθεου], or “to the Hebrews, written in Hebrew from Italy anonymously through Timothy” (cf. Clement acc. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.14.2–4).

A number of other manuscripts include the reference to Italy and to Timothy but, so far as the NA27 goes, only 104 adds that it was written in Hebrew and anonymously so. It’s that last part about anonymity that grabbed my attention and turned me to the manuscript. GA 104 is also known as BL Harley MS 5537 and, per the BL catalog, was copied by Ioannes Tzoutzounas (Ἰωάννης Τζουτζούσας), hieromonk of the Asekretis Monastery in Artanion, in May 1087. When I checked the images of the manuscript, however, I found to my surprise that Hebrews is anything but anonymous. On the first page of Hebrews, the book is clearly titled “Epistle to the Hebrews by the Apostle Paul (του αγιου Παυλου).” Turning to the end of the book, I found I wasn’t getting the whole story from the NA27 there either. Because the subscriptio also names Paul as the author.

If you zoom in, you can see the full subscriptio is του αγ(ιου) απο(στολου) Παυλ(ου) επιστολ(η) προς Εβραιους εγραφη Εβραιστι απο της Ιταλιας ανονυμως δια Τιμοθ(εου), or “by the holy apostle Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, written in Hebrew, from Italy anonymously through Timothy.”

The obvious problem here is how something can be called “anonymous” when we’re told who the author and the amanuensis (?) are! A check of the dictionary (in this case, Brill’s GE), offers a solution in that the adverb ἀνωνύμως simply means “without a name.” That definition would fit well with the book of Hebrews, which never names its author within the text. (There’s a side lesson here about the danger of “false friends.”)

A couple of observations. The first may be obvious, but it is that the scribe’s own subscriptio requires that we clearly distinguish between the text and paratext of Hebrews. The rubrication and accompanying decoration do that too, of course. But it’s surprising to see that the subscriptio itself doesn’t make sense unless we keep that distinction firm. The text of Hebrews is ἀνωνύμως (without a name) whereas the very paratext that tells us this, just as clearly isn’t. Here the paratext is secondary—and must be read as such—otherwise it becomes self-contradictory.

The second observation is that this description should expand our conception of “anonymity.” ἀνωνύμως does not mean here that the author of the book is unknown; it means only that his name is unstated in the book itself. I draw attention to this because when it comes to other books like the Gospels and their alleged anonymity, we should not conflate unnamed authorship (ἀνωνύμως) with unknown authorship. For more on that matter, see Simon Gathercole’s recent article in JTS.

Beyond these two observations, I mostly thought it was a fun subscriptio and shows the unexpected things you learn when you go beyond the Nestle-Aland apparatus.

Monday, January 28, 2019

New Text & Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary

By now, some of our ETC readers may have heard about a new venture that John Meade and I are co-directing at Phoenix Seminary called the Text & Canon Institute.

A number of confessional institutions in the U.S. have professors doing research on the Old or New Testament text, or work on the Biblical canon. But Phoenix Seminary seems unique to me in that we are doing detailed work in all three areas. The desire to leverage this unique combination for the church and the academy has led to this new Institute. The mission is to
encourage research and publication of scholarly work on the history of the canon and the text of the Bible (1) by fostering and supporting scholarly research, academic colloquia, conferences, and professional presentations on biblical and related ancient texts, traditions, languages, methods of textual criticism, and the history of the canon and (2) by serving the church through publications and public events that illuminate the integrity of the Bible’s textual history and canonization.
There is more info about the Institute here along with the list of our advisory board members, among whom are several ETC contributors. We hope to have more to announce in the near future, but for now readers can sign up to get updates at the previous link.

Friday, January 25, 2019

2019 Gorgias Book Grant

Win $500 of Gorgias Press titles through the 2019 Gorgias Book Grant
The Gorgias Book Grant is an important part of our efforts to support young scholars in the humanities. Every year, Gorgias chooses two graduate students to receive an award of $500 worth of Gorgias titles (each) for demonstrating excellence in their fields.

2019 Grant Field: Any field within the scope of Gorgias Publications
Application Deadline: May 31, 2019


  1. Candidate must be enrolled in a graduate program (Master's or Ph.D.) in an accredited university or an institution of learning in the field of the grant.
  2. Candidate must be a student in good standing.

Application Process

To apply, please email the following to Gemma Tully (
  1. A letter indicating your interests in your field and plans for the future.
  2. A two-page description of your thesis, or a one-page description of your course work in the case of course-based programs.
    Send the following items by mail to: Gorgias Press LLC, Book Grants Program, 954 River Rd., Piscataway, NJ 08854.
  3. Official transcripts of the previous 2 years of university education. If the institutions you come from do not give out transcripts, please contact us to make alternative arrangements to satisfy this requirement.
  4. Two letters of recommendations from professors familiar with your work (one must be your current supervisor in the field of the grant).
Please bear in mind that all documents, except for official transcripts, should be in English.

In order to be considered for the grant, please submit all documents by May 31, 2019 (snail-mail documents should be postmarked by the due date). We’ll announce the lucky winners in July 2019.