Thursday, July 26, 2007

SBL International Meeting in Vienna: Final report

The SBL International Meeting in Vienna is just over. However, I am sitting in a computer room and writing these few lines. Next to me sits Richard Hess from Denver Seminary answering his mails. Richard was presiding in the session "Working with Biblical Manuscripts" in which I and co-blogger Martin Heide presented our papers.

However, the first presenter in our session was Dr. William Warren from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary who made a wonderful powerpoint presentation about the Center for New Testament Textual Studies. The center has recovered fine from Katrina, and is expanding in several areas. They will relocate to a new building in the next three years where there will also be a new Bible Museum (the only of its kind in northern US, the other one is in a theme park in Orlando). The center has received new donations and will expand their collection of microfilms, which they also plan to digitize and make accessible provided that the copyright holders agree. Warren presentation also included a despription of the several areas of text-critical research that is done at the center presently.

I delivered the second paper presenting a some items from the collection of Greek manuscripts in the National Library in Vienna. The first item, MS. Historicus graecus 88, I argued should be included in the official list of Greek New Testament manuscripts (Kurzgefasste Liste). Moreover, I discussed a few more items that do not qualify for inclusion in the list, such as a commentary manuscript with full biblical citation only up to Matthew 5, and then abbreviated text cited. I think we would all agree that where the text is fully cited, this MS is as good for TC purposes as another commentary MS with complete citation throughout a book like Matthew (only the latter can be included in the Liste). I also discussed two palimpsests from Gospel lectionaries (one uncial lectionary from the 10th century). Have they escaped notice, or has their fragmentary character prevented them from being registered? I suggest that all fragments whether early or late, containing NT text should be registered (not just papyri or parchment, or other when attesting to remarkable variants).

William Warren has summarized the other papers presented as posted on the Textual Criticism discussion list, so I hope he does not mind me publishing his usefull summary below:

"Dr. Martin Heide spoke on 'The Stability of the Transmitted Texts ofthe New Testament and of the Pastor Hermae.' He showed how ananalysis of portions of the early papyri in comparison with the N-Atext and the Byz text forms in the NT reveals that the copyingoverall was quite good, with an average divergence per ms from thesetwo text forms of about 96.3% versus the N-A text and 92.6% for theByz text form. In comparison with this, the early Pastor of Hermasmss reveal more divergence, thereby implying a less strict copyprocess. The implication was that the NT mss showed a better copyprocess in their transmission than those of the Pastor of Hermasones, so some assumptions about how NT mss were copied may need to berestudied or re-thought.

Adam Anderson presented research from a joint study by himself andPaul Hoskisson on the topic of "To Mar or to Anoint: A New Look atIsaiah 52:14." A dual reading of "anoint" and "mar" (readingsattested textually in the witnesses) was proposed in connection withthe surrounding verses, with alternative readings in those versesbeing linked to the two meanings in 52:14.

Jae Hyung Cho's presentation was on the variant readings in 1 Cor.15:51. He argued for the reading attested by P46 versus the currentN-A/UBS text.

In the evening, the Austrian National Library opened their papyricollection's special display to attendees. We had a wonderful timelooking at one of the best papyri collections in the world, includinga page from P45 and several other OT and NT mss."

As an additional comment to Cho's paper I can add that he also sought support for his reading in Codex Alexandrinus, but had misunderstood the attestation in that manuscript, which I could gather from the enclosed facsimile page. In fact, the NA presentation for Codex A in that passage is rather misleading (comments invited). I pointed out to Cho that there are two corrections in the text (text starting on the left column on the facs page, line 23), one is supralinear (adding a OU), one is on the line (where the corrector changed an original OI to OU by adding two strokes on the I turning it to an upsilon).

I agree with Bill Warren that we had a wonderful evening at the National Library and their Papyrus Sammlung. Many thanks to the director Cornelia Römer who guided us, and invited scholarly discussion around the items on display (24 items including their fragment of P45, P116, and other treasures). Römer also made a wonderful presentation of a paper in the Early Christian Art and Archaeology section in the SBL Meeting. Unfortunately, she was prevented to present in our session.


  1. Tommy, thanks for your post on the meetings. As a minor correction, in the USA we don't have a major Bible museum (meaning a permanent presentation open to the public, not a special display for a limited amount of time) in the Southern part outside of the Scriptorium display in Orlando. Of course, the American Bible Society has a major museum at their setting and several smaller exhibits exist. Just wanted to clarify that matter.

    Bill Warren
    Director of the Center for New Testament Textual Studies
    New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

  2. Here is a blogreport in Swedish from SBL Int. written by my travelpartner Stefan Green:

    For those of you who cannot read Swedish, enjoy the images from the conference. The first is from the bookexhibition, the second portrays me and Martin Heide, and a third scholar whom I don't remember. The photo was taken during the reception held in a beautiful area of the old university. The third image is not the SBL meeting as such but from a fantastic concert with biblical theme, "Il Gedeone" (Gideon).