Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Volumes in Memory of Bruce Metzger

Two new volumes in memory of Bruce Metzger have been announced by Sheffield Phoenix Press. The work is actually a 2 volume work entitled "Text and Community: Essays in Memory of Bruce M. Metzger" edited by J. Harold Ellens. Both volumes are now on sale. The ISBN numbers are 978-1-90655-15-7 and 978-1-906055-00-0. The first volume has some essays related to textual criticism according to the publication info.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

IGNTP John: The Majuscules


Yesterday I saw a copy of: The New Testament in Greek IV. The Gospel According to St. John. Edited by the American and British Committees of the International Greek New Testament Project. Volume Two The Majuscules (edited by U.B. Schmid, with W.J. Elliott and D.C. Parker; NTTSD 37; Leiden: Brill, 2007) brill

I only saw it briefly (I'm wondering whether contributors get a discounted copy - Hint to Ulrich?), so only have a few quick thoughts: Much like the Papyri volume it looks pretty good stuff (preliminary congratulations all round). Each small manuscript gets an individual transcription and (I haven't checked for completeness) a reasonably clear photo (proper plates in the back). Probably the title is a bit more convoluted than it needs to be. There is a rather nice footnote suggesting that some of the editors would have prefered The Uncials. I look forward to seeing whether I can get a copy cheaper than Euro 169 (Hint 2). Hopefully we might have some fuller comments later (or a review if I can scrounge a copy - Hint 3!)

PJW noted in a comment: The Majuscule edition has just also been put online:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Old Latin of John

The Old Latin of John is now available at This is a result of the Verbum Project based at Birmingham (UK). The 'synopsis' function is useful, but one can also view the basic layout of manuscripts. The editors are to be congratulated on this excellent work.

Basic Tenets of Evangelical Textual Criticism

Sorry folks, but I am not at all impressed with the overall result of the discussion on the most recent thread on ‘What is evangelical textual criticism‘. I think it should be possible to come up with something more constructive. So bear with me.

By means of introduction, evangelicals practising textual criticism (are/should be) aware of human imperfection in history (‘many things did go wrong’) as in our study of textual history (‘we may get things wrong’). This is not a unique point for textual criticism, or even of evangelical scholarship in general, but it is in my view a sine qua non.

I think there are three basic assumptions that characterise evangelical textual criticism (each with their own modifications and refinements, but we are not going to bother with these).
  1. There is an ‘original text’ to aim for in New Testament textual criticism.
  2. There is the theological conviction that the preservation of the New Testament is sufficiently reliable.
  3. The canon of the New Testament is (in one way or the other) a real and given entity.
Each of these points should be properly expanded and clarified in what they affirm and deny, and can probably be refined in their wording, and perhaps there are even other foundational notions. But I think these three taken together constitute a neat distinctive for evangelical textual criticism.

Grenfell, Hunt, Breccia, and the Book Collections of Oxyrhynchus

An article of interest in the latest issue of Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies. Autumn 2007. Vol. 47, Iss. 3; pg. 327:

"Grenfell, Hunt, Breccia, and the Book Collections of Oxyrhynchus" by George W Houston.

"In the winter of 1905-1906, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt made a series of three great literary finds while digging for papyri at Oxyrhynchus. In the 1990s, Maria Serena Funghi and Gabriella Messeri Savorelli published two articles that dealt with these finds. Here, Houston reconstructs the archaelogy Grenfell and Hunt's second and third finds, and argues against Funghi and Messeri Savorelli, that Breccia's find cannot have been a continuation of Grenfell and Hunt's second find."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

John Rylands Library Reopens

"The John Rylands Library in Manchester officially reopens on Thursday September 20 after a £17m transformation to preserve its collections and open them up to the public." noted here
The Rylands John fragment (P52) is on display.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is there such a thing as “Evangelical Textual Criticism”? (again)

I was attempting to explain this blog to a colleague the other morning and I don’t think he was completely satisfied. Or perhaps he just wants an argument. He wrote me an email:
“I would place textual criticism as a necessary foundation to all NT and OT studies. If we cannot trust the text, we cannot trust the message that springs out of it. Where there is doubt or the hint of doubt, this opens the door to evangelicals to import radical methods of textual criticism that reflect the belief system of non-evangelicals arising from their non-evangelical belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
The fundamental issue that evangelicals must address at some stage in their academic career is how far can an evangelical adopt an eclectic approach to Scripture and remain an ‘evangelical’? By eclectic, I mean, one who creates a text that is not found in any MS, or is a hybrid text, which is not found in any family of MSS, or they invent a reading in the hope that it solves some perceived difficulty in the latest printed text.
It seems to me that you cannot have an “evangelical” textual criticism, when there is no consensus of what an evangelical position is on this topic. If a site like ETC is to have a goal it should work toward a consensus among evangelicals which should rule out some DIY approaches and agree on some parameters arising from an evangelical concensus on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, or is there no consensus on that doctrine among evangelicals? Maybe ETC needs to work out a statement of faith on an ETC doctrine of inspiration of Scripture before it can move on to a statement about what an “Evangelical” position on Textual Criticism would look like?”
Leslie McFall (


James Snapp thought you would all laugh out loud when you read this:

You Might Be a Textual Critic If . . .

(1) You take the Rorshach test, and a couple of inkblots look like the silhouettes of papyrus fragments.

(2) When someone refers to Constantine the Great, you think of Tischendorf.

(3) When someone says “Manning,” you think of Bruce Metzger instead of the Indianapolis Colts.

(4) You think it’s more accurate to call “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” a Category IV movie.

(5) When people ask you what time it is, you direct them to a clock, 200 miles away, which was made in honor of a great clockmaker.

You’re Probably Not a Textual Critic If . . .

(1) Upon hearing of the Freer Logion, you wonder if there is a Less-free Logion.

(2) You think Kirsopp Lake is somewhere in Minnesota.

(3) You think the Eusebian Canons were used at the Battle of Waterloo.

(4) You think the Textus Receptus puts extra punctuation in First John 5:7.

(5) When informed that ancient copyists contracted nomina sacra, you wonder if they ever recovered.

Meanwhile check out his annotated Greek Uncial Archetype of Mark.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nomina Sacra and Mary

Josh McManaway asked us a question on his blog:

  • In his book The Earliest Christian Artifacts, Larry Hurtado mentions on pg. 97 that other than the four divine nomina sacra, others began to be used in the Byzantine period. One of these NS was for ΜΗΤΗΡ (Mother, specifically in reference to Mary). I'm wondering if there's some way I could find the earliest manuscript known that uses the NS for Mary. Anyone know? (I'm looking your way, Evangelical Textual Criticism!)

You can answer in the comments

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unidentified Manuscript Fragment 01

Here is a mystery.

I've been working again on some new manuscripts and this small fragment still has me stumped.

It came from a collection of small pieces which turn out to be mostly biblical (1 OT; 5 NT so far identified); but other than some ideas about the letters and a possible colour match with one of the NT pieces, I can't find a fit.
So feel free to solve the mystery. I shall give you full credit. You may "discover" a new piece of the Bible.

Syriac-Latin Bible and other varia

I've received notification of the following from Tigran Aivazian:

We have published the following books recently: Syriac-Latin Bible, Vol I: Genesis-Ecclesiastes. This edition contains the Syriac text and the corresponding literal Latin translation of the Walton's Polyglot of 1657, known also as The London Polyglot. It is available here:

The most comprehensive Thesaurus Syriacus by J. Payne Smith. The original is in 2 volumes but we had to split it into 3 volumes because of Lulu's maximum of 800 pages per volume limitation. The volumes are available here:
Volume 1:
Volume 2:
Volume 3:

We have also reprinted the classic tool for studying Syriac -- Whish, Clavis Syriaca. This is a grammatical analysis of the Syriac Gospels (in Peshitto version) word by word. It is available here:

For those interested in the ancient coptic witnesses of the NT we have reprinted: The Text, Facsimile and (English) Translation of the earliest Coptic manuscript of the Gospel of John. Also included is an introductory grammar of Coptic. This book is available at:

Friday, September 14, 2007

ETS Papers On-line

In regard to the Evangelical Theological Society, note that Reclaiming the Mind Ministries and the ETS have made available hundreds of papers from the past years here. And there is a category, Textual Criticism/Bible Translations with 19 items to look at.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Diamond Synchroton

No, not a new Robert Ludlum novel.

Rather: "The hidden content in ancient works could be illuminated by a light source 10 billion times brighter than the Sun."

See the BBC report (HT: What's New in Papyrology? for more links).

Apparently it can read a book without opening the covers (it seems to me like some book reviewers have already been using this tool).

ETS Conference Programme Available

The Nov 2007 ETS conference programme (of course they spell it differently) is on-line. There are lots of interesting papers, but not many papers on textual criticism (especially when compared with being a southern baptist, finding Noah's ark and keeping women in their proper place); but I did find the following:
Douglas Burleson, 'When Did Scribes Stop Being Creative? Scribal Tendencies in Fp and Gp' (on p. 26)

Somebody else should take a look to see whether I missed some.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Value of Old Books

The Times today has an interesting (and sad) story of the sale of a collection of old books (pre 1800) by the Diocese of Truro (here). The basic story seems to be that the Diocesan Library discovered that no one had used any of the pre 1800 books for more than ten years, so they sold the lot in order to free up space. The problem being that they sold that lot for £36,000; but the lot was worth more than £500,000! The source for this is an article in the Bookdealer (here), which has some nice photos and prices.

Two examples:
Erasmus 1516 first edition: sold at auction for £19,200
Complutensian Polyglot (all six volumes): sold at auction for £69,600

Four Lessons:
1) Every now and then just visit old libraries and ask to see their old Bibles (otherwise they'll think no one is interested and sell them).
2) It is possible (occasionally) to make money from a knowledge of old Bibles.
3) Collecting old Bibles takes fairly big league finances.

The Devil's Bible Returns to Prague

One of Sweden’s most famous booktreasures is Codex gigas, also known as “The Devil’s Bible.” As implied of its Latin name, this book is one of the largest surviving medieval books (89,5 x 49 cm, weighs 75 kg), and it contains the Old and New Testaments in pre-Vulgate Latin translations, Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae, Josephus’ History of the Jews in a Latin translation, the Chronicle of Bohemia, written by Cosmas of Prague, etc.

The manuscript is written on vellum, prepared from calf skin. It was produced in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlazice in Bohemia. The name, the “Devil’s Bible,” derives from the impressive picture of that potentate on fol. 290r, see here. According to a legend, the monk who copied the manuscript had been confined to his cell by way of some penance, and apparently he finished the copying in one single night with the aid of the Devil, whom he had summoned for help.

In 1594 the manuscript was acquired by the Imperial Treasury in Prague, and then brought as a war treasure to Sweden in 1648 when the Swedish army conquered the city. It was presented to the Royal Library (Kungliga Biblioteket) in Stockholm the following year. Now, after more than 350 years, it will be temporarily returned to Prague for an exhibition which opens on September 19 and runs til Januari 2008. The “Devil’s Bible” is part of the Czech cultural heritage and the planned exhibition has aroused a lot of attention. The Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek, and the Minister of Culture, Václav Jehlička, will be present at the grand opening, as will some representatives from Sweden.

Prior to the exhibition a large digitization project in Stockholm has been completed, and the codex now has its own web-site here, where the manuscript is presented (in Swedish, English and Czech), and where anyone can browse images of the manuscript. In a way, the manuscript has been “returned” permanently to the Czech Republic in the form of high quality images.

The exhibition at the National Library of the Czech Republic has a homepage, here.

For a recent detailed scholarly commentary on the history and contents of the manuscript, see here.

For those interested in the actual photographic process, a special photo studio was built in the underground of the Royal Library, and there are some detailed pages here (unfortunately only in Swedish, but with interesting images).

Old and new announcements in the press here and here (the latter wrongly says that the MS will be digitized in Prague).

Update: Peter Head notices in the comments that the linked scholarly article suggests that the MS was made from calf-skin, whereas I first wrote “ass skins.” Apparently, the new analysis of the MS has shown that it is indeed calf-skin, and not, as previously thought, ass-skin. I have made the change in the original text above.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Romans 13:3 from 4-5 c.


During this past summer we (Biblical Language Center) had Greek students in a semi-immersion environment where we visited a few interesting sites together. At Caesarea in a seven-room office for administrative records (taxes?) we find two mosaics that repeat a verse from Romans 13:3, presumably to encourage cooperation. They are only one verse, repeated in two of the rooms. They do not add to our text type information, but they should be preserved in NT textual databases.

In the spelling of one of the mosaic inscriptions ΦΟΒΙΣΘΑΙ was thoughfully spelled by the ancient mason/artist so that Erasmians would pronounce the word correctly. (OK, -smile- maybe that wasn't his motive.)

Since the inscription makes use of a NT text we may be reasonably confident that it is post-Constantine and pre-Islam, say 325-600 CE. Archaeologically the area is dated to 300-600CE.

There are several other short inscriptions of general interest around the city and still in situ, one is a house blessing for Sivanus "for the salvation of Sivanus (spelled ΣΗΛΒΑΝΟΥ) and Nonia". (see attached images 3 and 4, with sea in background)

Another is a note of thanks (where 'they give thanks' is ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΟΥΝΤΕ, not uploaded), and there is a general prayer for the continued peace for Christians ΔΙΑΜΕΙΝΗ Η ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΤΩΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΩΝ. (also attached)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Charlesworth on P64+67 and P4

Scott Charlesworth has an interesting article in the latest issue of NTS:
S. D. CHARLESWORTH, 'T. C. Skeat, P64+67 and P4, and the Problem of Fibre Orientation in Codicological Reconstruction' New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 04, October 2007, pp 582-604

In this article Charlesworth argues that P64+67 (Matthew) and P4 (Luke) were quite separate multiple-quire codices written by the same scribe. He makes additional criticisms of Skeat's arguments in NTS 1997 (already subjected to a 'telling' critique by Head in NTS 2005) relating especially to fibre orientation (to which Skeat paid insufficient attention). An interesting study. Note - this was never a four-gospel codex.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Reviews of Hurtado's The Earliest Christian Artifacts

In the latest newsletter from Review of Biblical Literature, two fresh reviews of Larry Hurtado's monograph, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins, are announced. A brief description of the book, and the two reviews by Joseph Verheyden and James F. McGrath, respectively, are found here.

4 new jobs at Münster

Klaus Wachtel has asked me to mention that there are 4 new jobs (wow!) being created at the INTF in Münster. The advert is here. It is an amazing opportunity for any textual critic to work at the INTF and I'm delighted that the INTF is attracting the funding to create such posts. Klaus continues: 'Unfortunately we did not mention that English speaking persons may apply, if they can read the Ausschreibungstext.' I found that the Kaffepause at the INTF provided an excellent opportunity to learn to speak German.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New fragments of Matthew

Apparently the supplement to the Journal of Juristic Papyrology being published this autumn by Tomasz Derda contains 'contiguous fragments of the Gospel according to Mathew [sic]' on ostraca. They are from near Deir el-Naqlun and in Greek. Source: Oxbow Books printed catalogue. Any more details welcome.

Oxford Conference on the Synoptic Problem

Andrew Gregory has sent some information on a major conference in Oxford, April 7-10, 2008:

The Oxford Conference on the Synoptic Problem
This conference is designed to mark the centenary of the landmark conversations that occurred in Oxford and led to Oxford Studies in the Synoptic Problem (ed. William Sanday; Oxford: Clarendon, 1911). The purpose of the 2008 Conference is both to give a comprehensive assessment of the state of research into the synoptic problem over the last hundred years and to indicate potential ways in which discussion may be advanced. It will also highlight and critically examine key methodological issues that shape the way in which the discussion is conducted.

For a list of participants and booking form try here (not working yet) or here.

There is one paper on textual criticism and the synoptic problem (do leave any suggestions in the comments!).