Monday, May 18, 2009

SBL Boston, Book Review of James Royse Scribal Habits in Early Greek NT Papyri, pt. 4-5


SBL24-129 New Testament Textual Criticism

The next reviewer was no other than Peter Head

First he explained why he had accepted the honour of an invitation to review the book:

(1) "I had interacted with James Royse’s ThD in my first academic publication (Head, 1990) as well as subsequently (Head, 2004, 2008) – and these are actually discussed on pp. 720ff" [I missed the first reason (Pete might fill in) - Pete just did]
(2) "I met Dr. Royse at SBL meetings;"
(3) "I saw the price of the book and saw the chance for a free copy."

Then Head excused for his own delay sending his review to Royse. But he noted to his comfort Royse's delay of 27 years between the dissertation and the monograph (see also the apology in the preface).

Head had done a "redactional study" of the two works. He concluded that there is three times as much material in the monograph. Where, then, have things stayed the same? – Most significantly, the summary conclusions are practically identical. The general conclusions stand. Especially the challenge to the traditional canon to prefer the shorter reading.

What has been expanded? Head notes that the papyri are treated a bit more like artefacts (not just like reservoir of readings), relating to Haines-Eitzen’s urge.

Royse has written a small monograph of each one of the papyri! Head focused the rest of his discussion on the study on P66. There are 129 singular readings indicated in the 1981 work. In the book 128 singular readings are listed. Hence, we lost one singular reading, which is found on p. 487 (John 12:12; the evidence of Codex Koridethi has been revised). On p. 408 Royse discusses John 18:47 which could potentially provide an additional singular, but after discussing the ink etc Royse decides to follow the editio princeps.

Colwell concluded that the scribe was careless (wildness in copying). By contrast Royse thinks the scribe was rather careful to render a literal version of his Vorlage (the scribe was responsible for the changes!). Head is not convinced that we must choose either to follow Colwell who studied P66* or Royse who based his characterization on P66c. It is a matter of who corrected, and against what Vorlage. [PMH: both phases are very important as illustrating scribal habits/behaviour.] Royse thinks the scribe has a tendency to omit.

Royse is rather critical of the treatment of corrections in the International Greek New Testament Project volume on the papyri of John. In no case does the IGNTP make clear what happened! The editors only offer their opinion of what was the original and what is the correction. Royse thinks it is certain that the scribe of P66 was Christian (harmonization to other parts of NT; curious use of nomina sacra and staurogram - this could be extended to other papyri as well; e.g., P45, P46, P47, P72 and P75 with harmonizations to other books).

[Head also noted an important general issue: "Royse is attempting to revise the traditional canons – developed on the basis of medieval manuscripts and generalizations about scribal habits from them – on the basis of singular readings in the early papyri; which by definition made no impact on the wider scribal and textual tradition – on this question I think we still need to do some more thinking. Scribal habits determined on the basis of singular readings do I think (cf. Jongkind) reveal something about scribal behaviour, but may be no so clearly about the general tendency of the textual tradition."]

Finally, Head appreciates the transparency, which is easy to follow, i.e., what exactly did the scribe do? The book has been produced on a PC. Head congratulated the author, the series editors and the publishers on such a splendid piece of book production. [TW: should we interpret this ironically; is Pete a Mac freak like me? PMH: not at all. I was commenting on the interesting fact that this beautifully produced book, produced using Nota Bene on a PC, was a revision of a dissertation written on an IBM Selectric typewriter]. Head made it his mission to find a typo, but could not detect one until 401 note 14 “P46” should have been “P66.” [I also noted "one moment of unclarity (page XVII para 2)"]

Royse responds

Next, Peter M. Head:
All of the speakers have remarked upon the history of this work, its first appearance as a dissertation, and then its second appearance in the present form. But Head has given most attention to the continuities and changes, and seems better able than I am to describe what has happened. Certainly, as I revised and expanded the dissertation I was well aware that there were some dangers in the expansion, and that perceptive readers (such as our panelists), trained to detect layers of textual accretion, would be able to see that the material from 1981 did not always flow smoothly into the material from 2006, as both Jongkind and Head on occasion note. I am honored that Head has given such careful attention to the development of this work.

Also, his decision to look at the work on P66 in more detail reflects my own understanding of the importance of that manuscript. Particularly the study of the some 465 corrections seems to me to shed much light on the nature of copying a New Testament book around the year 200. Although I devoted a great deal of time to an analysis of those corrections, crucially aided by the studies of Gordon Fee and Errol Rhodes and many other scholars, I suspect that there is yet much to be discovered. What is especially interesting is that in P66, as also in P46 and again some 150 years later in Codex Sinaiticus, the extensive corrections preserve in one manuscript several layers of textual change that can, at least in theory, reveal much about what was happening to the text during the early period. Of course, the challenge is to organize what lies in such layers in a perspicuous manner.

I mention a few points very briefly. In his note 5 Head wonders about my decision to confine attention to singulars in A occurring in the first two chapters in Revelation; I chose the first two chapters for examination simply in order not to digress too much, and my point there was a very limited one. Naturally, a wider and more thorough investigation, as we now have in Hernández’s work, Scribal Habits and Theological Influences in the Apocalypse: The Singular Readings of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi, is much to be welcomed.

With respect to Head’s finding “one moment of unclarity” at p. xvii, second paragraph, line 2: let me note that one should delete the phrase “and asterisked”— I honestly don’t know what happened there, but it is an unwarranted addition. And at p. 401 n. 14, line 2 from the end: yes, “P46” should be “P66.”

In addition to this, Royse actually ended his response to Peter with this off-the-record statement: "I did find another typo, but I will let you find it for yourself."

I can now proudly announce that I have found it on p. 453, n. 105, “a construction that indeeds [sic] makes perfectly good sense.” I can't believe Peter missed this one!

After this came the final review by a certain Dutch scholar. Don't forget to tune in!

Earlier posts in this series:

Part 1: Juan Hernández' presentation

Part 2: Royse responds to Hernández

Parts 3-4: Haines-Eitzen's review and Royse's response


  1. I have added a couple of points.

  2. Very helpful blog and all post are excellent! Students can figure out how to organize notes in a huge struggle. I have got to pick dissertation-writing tips.