Friday, November 07, 2008

Serious and Trivial Thoughts on new edition of NT Greek Papyri and Parchments from Austria

Stanley E. Porter and Wendy J. Porter, New Testament Greek Papyri and Parchments. New Editions 2 volumes. Vol. 1: Text; Vol. 2: Plates, Mitteilungen aus der Papyrussammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (MPER) XXX (Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 2008).

New and independent editions of manuscripts are always welcome and this re-edition of the papyri and small parchments from Vienna is no exception. Texts and plates, what more could we want?
Just for the fun of it, let's compare the Porters edition of 0101 (G39780) compare with the IGNTP edition of the John majuscules. Walter de Gruyter over against Brill!

Round 1: The Plates.
The plates look better in Schmid's work, the resolution of the pics is much higher than in the Porter volume. However, the verso side in the Porters' volume is darker and makes some of the letters easier to read. I have also the distinct feeling that the plates in the two books are not identical: the holes in the Porters' version look different, bigger, and more numerous, which would indicate a more recent picture. Am I seeing things here or not? Both editions only offer B/W pictures.
Minimal advantage to Brill.

Round 2: The Transcription.
First punch delivered by de Gruyter: having the plates and transcription in different physical volumes makes it so much more handsome to compare the two. The second uppercut is also landed by the Porter team, they give two versions of the text, a diplomatic text (what is there), and a reading text (with word divisions, accents, and reconstructions). The Schmid team has only one transcription, with word divisions and reconstructions of lacunae, but without accents.
And what about the actual transcribed letters? Schmid et al. are pretty certain, where Porter & Porter show much more caution. The first have in the first line only one dotted letter, the latter have three, but also have blanks on three places where the first have a letter (and two of these letters are undotted!) Who is right? Personally I would have fared a middle course between the two. The first two letters (T H) seem certain and complete to me (both dotted by the Porters. The next epsilon is uncertain (I agree with Stan and Wendy), the pi is incomplete but likely (Ulrich cum suis: certain; Porters print a blank), the first omicron after the lacuna is in my humble opinion (and based on the plates) a guess and cannot be printed as a modern transcription (Porters win). Wessely, the original editor, may well have seen an omicron in his days (and on second and third reflection the omicrons are almost an upright linear; there may be something of a case here). The final epsilon is printed as uncertain by the IGNTP project, and only appears as a lacuna in the MPER, again advantage Porter.
However, the reading text of the Porters shows some curiosities, it does not correspond exactly to the diplomatic text given earlier. In the first recto line, three letters that were absent from the transcription appear now as dotted letters. [By the way, the difference is not that a different text is given, simply that a different impression is given of what is actually there]. The introduction (xii) gives a - possibly relevant - statement, the exact meaning of which I find hard to decipher. "Whereas in the diplomatic edition we have plenty of sublinear dots to indicate that we know a letter was written, but cannot with certainty decipher it, in the reading edition we provide a texts, as much as we are able, but leave the sublinear dots to indicate that on the manuscript these were not clearly read." The reading text, in the end, contains two more and one less letter as what we find in the John majuscule volume.
Advantage Porter, clearly (forgetting about the reading text).

Round 3: The Commentary
Easy one, as there is no commentary on the transcription in the IGNTP volume, whilst there is a good commentary in the newer volume.
Porter wins.

The two volumes by the Porters give us editions of the text, and as these are commentated transcriptions, they provide the reader with the possibility to agree or disagree with them on an argument-based level. Well done. It is also nice to have the whole bunch of currently published material from Vienna together in one set. All in all, I think Stan and Wendy Porter did an admirable job and produced a volume that is pretty much indispensable for NT text-critics. The comparsion with IGNTP John fails of course partly because of the different aims of that project, but still, in the case of 0101, I prefer the Porters' diplomatic text (not their reading text) above Schmid's c.s. But let's give Brill due credit for printing on paper that is so much whiter than Walter de Gruyter's, though the latter has a posher cover.


  1. Dirk,

    Thank for this good review!

  2. Dirk,

    Any possibity of a photo of the pagination in either or both?


  3. There is a (relatively) cheap copy of this book at Amazon fyi.