Friday, July 03, 2009

SBL International Meeting in Rome: Day 4

Today we had some good papers again, especially that of Rick Bennett who also had prepared a nice slideshow. He presented results of extensive investigations of the use of nomina sacra in early papyri and his nice tables of data supplanted that of O' Callaghan. His presentation also aptly demonstrated how the use of computer software (Accordance) offers a strong tool to gather and analyse this data. Right now Rick and Accordance are working on a new and updated version of the digitial Comfort & Barrett volume The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts which includes corrections and more newly discovered MSS. This will hopefully be released before the SBL in New Orleans (I think he said...).

Matteo Grosso from University of Turin presented a thoughtful paper on Col 3:11 where he preferred the variant with the insertion of the words “male and female." I had two major problems with that: (a) the variant has weak attestation, only "Western" witnesses; (2) the reading may represent an influence from Gal 3:28, and the "Western" text in particular is known to be harmonistic. (However, Grosso does have a point that the sequence is different in Col 3:11.) Moreover, I advised him to look at some other variants in the immediate context which may be related in broader terms, especially the variant in v. 14 where basically the same Western witnesses read συνδεσμος της ενοτητα for συνδεσμος της τελειοτητος.

Besides our own papers in the Working with Biblical Manuscript session I attended only three other papers, two of which were on Christian art. It was a pity that the scholar who read a paper on the depiction of Paul in Christian art as it relates to the description of him in the Acts of Paul and Thecla 3 did not refer to the latest finding in the catacombs (Jim Snapp mentioned this in a comment yesterday) of what is the earliest known depiction of Paul and which actually differs from the description in the Acts of Paul and Thecla since he is semibald and without meeting eyebrowses. This came up only in the time for questions. Apart from those I attended on on Hebrews and whether the heavenly sanctuary was understood by the author as real or as a metaphor. He concluded that the author must have taken it as real. Jesus as actually sitting on the fathers right hand is a starting point, although the author at the same time has used some platonic/philosophical language to elaborate on some related ideas. I agreed with most of what he said.

The highlight of the day was the visit to Biblioteca Casanatense (see previous post). The librarian Simona Peruggia welcomed us (we were nine in the group), and first led us in to the marvellous library which all except me had not seen before (I was there two days ago). She told us (in English) about the library and the collection.

I will just share a few details, in the front you can see the statue of Cardinal Casanatense who was the man behind the library (see previous post). And in this front of the library is the heart, where the most precious books are kept, namely the bibles. Far back in the hall, in the old entrance are secular literature (history, geography), and then comes theology, canonical law, etc all the way to biblical science and, finally, the bibles themselves in the centre at the front. Another funny detail was the leather curtains that protected books from dust, and made them look even so that their differeing hight would not distract the visitors (sic). Apart from being sorted according to subject the books were also sorted according to their hight, the smaller volumes at the top, the largest at the bottom.

After the presentation in the library we were led to the manuscript room where the four Greek New Testament MSS were brought out. The most interesting one was MS 165 (GA 395) a parchment palimpsest (the other three were written on paper).

We attempted to identify the underwriting. Simona brought us a UV-lamp. (Below Rick Bennett and Dave Nielsen have a go.)

We cannot say at this point which text it is, but we gathered enough text to be able to exclude that it is the New Testament. However, I observed one nomen sacrum which shows it is a Christian text (or several texts). I will get back if I am able to identify where the text comes from.
As every day I went out with good friends to eat and drink! Now I have walked so much that I have soar feet. In London next week I will probably sit still nearby Codex Sinaiticus as much as I can.

Thanks to Rick Bennett who sent me these images on e-mail so I could include them in my report. Now it is bedtime, and tomorrow I will deliver my own paper.

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