Thursday, July 29, 2010

SBL Tartu, Working With Biblical Manuscripts (TC) 2

On Wednesday it was time for the second session in the Working With Biblical Manuscripts (Textual Criticism) unit. The focus was on NTTC and the room was really crowded (which means just over 20 people attended the session). Although I am clearly biassed, the quality of the papers was high in my opinion.

David Trobisch, whom I had not previously seen at the conference (though he had been there) presented the first paper "'From Dresden to Timbuktu' Working with Electronic Editions of Manuscripts.” In fact I was a bit worried that David would not show up, but on the other hand I would not be surprised if he had arrived in a helicopter from Timbuktu (he is a real globetrotter). David's paper described experiences and insights from the several projects to digitize MSS, in which he has been directly or indirectly involved; Codices Boernerianus, Boreelianus and Sinaiticus, and, finally, the effort to digitize ancient MSS from the University of Timbuktu. This university is older than most European universities (Africa has a long history!), and the MSS dealing with astronomy, medicine, music, theology, etc, I think ranged from the 9th century and onwards. More about this collection here.

The next paper was by Klaas Spronk, ”A New Catalogue of Byzantine Manuscripts."

In textcritical research Byzantine manuscripts are usually regarded as being of less importance, because they are relatively late and often contain only parts of the Biblical texts. To do justice to the this material it is important to take into account the own context and purpose of these manuscripts as part of a very old and still ongoing liturgical tradition. One should also realize that this liturgical embedding of the Biblical texts is more authentic than the view of modern scholars on the Bible as something on itself. At the Protestant University of Kampen an ambitious project has started to describe the field from a codico-liturgical perspective. An important source for researchers is the Byzantine liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, in which one can still find these same codex forms in use today; the forms of the printed editions closely resemble the manuscript forms. From here one can trace the tradition of those factors that contributed to forming the codices. The corpus of Byzantine manuscripts is characterized by diversity, but within this, standard codicological forms can be distinguished; those containing text items from the Greek NT or OT corpora, or both, and those containing biblical texts combined with other specific liturgical and patristic books and texts, that comment on the biblical monuments in an extremely rich and varied way. The codico-liturgical approach can redirect the study of the Byzantine manuscripts to a system of cataloguing that allows for a far more complete and inclusive picture of the state of affairs of the codex forms in which the biblical and other ecclesiastical texts were handed down to us.

My loose notes from this presentation:

Scope: A catalogue of all Byzantine MSS (not necessarily Biblical). Codexbased. Integrate and co-operate with scholars from the East.

The total of extant Byz. MSS from 4th to end of 19th cent. is estimated to be 60.000 codices. For example, Athos alone holds 16.000 codices.

Good to use existing catalogues. In the early work of Gregory (Textkritik) he took the liturgical content more seriously than later (also Aland, and Rahlfs). Subsequently they became more ”practical”. The liturgical components were left out.

The Bible as a liturgical text: where East and West can meet. Their codicological forms were closely related to the liturgical function of these texts.

In how far can/should we see biblical texts themselvelse as liturgical texts? Cf. Neh 8:5-8.; 2 Tim 3:14-17; Luke 24:27-32. A text to be read aloud, explained and applied.

Then it was time for my presentation on "The 'Son of God' Was in the Beginning (Mark 1:1)"

The text-critical problem in the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark is much debated. The main question is whether the phrase “Son of God” was accidently omitted from an original or added by some scribes in order to expand the divine name or the title of the book? The disputed words are enclosed in square brackets in UBS4 and NA27. Most modern translations and commentators include the words. Several scholars, however, have argued for the shorter version of Mark 1:1. In consideration of external evidence, including items that are not acknowledged as New Testament manuscripts, as well as internal evidence, this paper will defend the longer version including the words "Son of God."

After a much needed coffee break, it was time for Stephen Carlson to present his paper, ”’For Sinai is a Mountain in Arabia’: A Note on the Text of Galatians 4:25.”

Ever since Richard Bentley, textual critics and exegetes have been perplexed by the note in Galatians 4:25a that Sinai was a mountain in Arabia. Early and important witnesses are divided as to its reading, and this clause is problematic not only in terms of its grammar but also in its relation to Paul’s argumentative discourse. This paper revisits this textual problem and comes to the following conclusions. The external, transcriptional, and intrinsic considerations all suggest that v.25a should read "to gar Sina oros estin en têi Arabiai" (“for Sinai is a mountain in Arabia”), so this reading ought to be adopted in the critical text. Moreover, other evidence suggests that v.25a was originally a marginal note in the archetype of Galatians, so this clause ought to be enclosed in double brackets to indicate that it was not originally part of the autograph of Paul’s letter.

My loose notes:

A crux interpretum. Syntax error – word order, neuter article.
Many theories try to explain one obsurity with another (e.g., Hagar, Arabic for Iraq).

Bentley suggested a conjecture, but then abandoned it [did he explain why?]

My questions in the time for questions: Has Stephen constructed a stemma of the different readings? This stemma should take into consideration that even if the two subvariations: γαρ / δε and Σινα / omit are related, it is nonetheless more likely that the interchange between γαρ / δε would occur independently in the tradition (lower ”connectivity” to use the vocabulary of the CBGM), whereas the second variation is not as likely to have happened independently.

Stephen agreed on my point that he should construct a stemma, and that the change of γαρ / δε more likely could happen by chance. I suggested that with this in mind I assumed that the text attested to by A B D et al (note all traditional text-types) would end up at the top of the stemma, and that it is the lectio difficilior (but is it impossible?).

Interestingly, Stephen also told us, in this connection, that he had in fact noted that most likely the exemplar of D (06) had had a γαρ, an inference that had to do with the sense line divisions – an insight gained by examining the manuscript itself. The related MSS F and G both have the γαρ. So we see in practice how this interchange of conjunctions could easily happen.

Two additional observations: note the very nice Japanese podium that Stephen used. What you cannot see in this picture is that Stephen's wife was present – she got to hear a lot of papers these days. She apparently has her roots in Estonia, and it was very nice to make her acquaintance.

Then it was time for the last paper, delivered by my co-chair Jan Krans, ”Conjectural Emendations in New Testament Textual Criticism.”

As in previous centuries, many scholars today use conjectural emendation as a tool within the textual criticism of the New Testament. Yet many others neglect or even reject conjectural criticism altogether. This paper will take stock of these conflicting tendencies, and explore the current developments in the field. In the end, the paper will defend the legitimate and natural place conjectural emendation has in New Testament textual criticism.

My notes:
The several citations, some of which we have included in our ”Conjectural Emendation Quiz” shows the varying attitude to conjectural emendations in New Testament textual criticism during different eras. It is often been viewed as the last resort. Jan suggested that this reluctance could be ”theological” or ”text-critical” (or both). Classical scholars have a different attitutde.

Then Jan demonstrated how the recording of conjectures in a succession of Nestle-Aland editions is often problematic. The apparatus may record only a part of conjecture, or a conjecture under wrong name, or some scholarly suggestion which is not a conjecture but rather reflects source criticism. With these inconsistencies in mind Jan asked ”Whose conjecture is it?”

Further, Jan presented his new project to create a computer database of conjectures, a project in co-operation with the work done by INTF/ITSEE (the latter under the auspices of the IGNTP) on the Editio Critica Maior. This included special PhD projects focused, e.g., on the Dutch school.

In the time for questions I pointed out that, in my opinion, conjectures should remain the last resort, not because of ”theology” but mainly because of a general methodological consideration – Occam’s razor: If we have manuscript evidence and a valid textcritical principle that says we should prefer the difficult reading (lectio difficilior), then we should be very hesitant to look for other ”smoother” solutions. On the other hand, I agree that there is a thin line between what is a lectio difficilior and a nonsense reading. (I particularly remember a variation in Luke 2:14 with a construction, ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας, that seemed impossible, before some Hebrew manuscript showed that the underlying ”impossible” Greek construction reflects a Hebraism.)

Someone else pointed out that classical scholars of course have access to very different material (sometimes perhaps merely one inferior MS, and conjectures become necessary). Jan wanted to compare the NT textual tradition with Homer [although that tradition, I think, consist of 90% less MSS].

Further, I pointed out that the conjectures, although most will remain unnecessary, can nevertheless be significant, not least in order to highlight difficulties in the text. They can surely help us in the exegetical process (just as can the existing secondary variant readings).

Finally I posed another question to Jan which is just interesting to think about: ”Whose error is it?” If we assume hypothetically that the archetype of the tradition is equal to the autograph, does this archetype have to be inerrant? Can, for example, Paul or his amanuensis have made a grammatical mistake? (that could result in a nonsense reading.) Would the conjecture in that case be what the author intended to write ... it is an interesting question. (From a theological perspective, one can of course postulate that the autographs are inerrant, but this cannot be proven with scientific means.)

The gentlemen on this picture all enjoyed this year's sessions. Thanks to Ronald van Bergh (to the left) who presided the second session. I had the opportunity afterwards to discuss with Ronald some ideas for his PhD project on OT quotations in Codex Bezae.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Complete collation of GA 1764

Some images of GA 1764 have been posted by CSNTM. The agreement concluded with the Albanian National Archives prevented CSNTM from posting the whole manuscripts, but not from sending a complete DVD to readers for personal study.

So it is now my priviledge to offer you the possibility of reading a collation made for the whole text of the Acts of the Apostles in GA 1764.

J.-L. Simonet

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Conjectural Emendation Quiz

This is a quiz in co-operation with the Amsterdam NT Weblog.

Below are five citations by five different scholars from the 19-21th centuries, three against and two in favour of conjectural emendation in New Testament textual criticism (presented in no particular order).

Who said:

#1. "Not long ago philologists evinced such a fondness for conjectural emendation that the question might not unreasonably be asked why they did not rather themselves write the text that they took in hand to explain."

#2. "It is now agreed among competent judges that Conjectural Emendation must never be resorted to, even in passages of acknowledged difficulty."

#3. "Knowledge of authors should precede judgement of their conjectures."

#4. "It is a sobering experience to observe what flights of fancy Biblical scholars indulge in order to discredit a conjecture."

#5. "No authority could be attached to words which rested upon conjecture; and a critic who should devote himself to editing the Scriptures on conjectural lines would be merely wasting his time."

Tomorrow [update: On Thursday] Jan Krans over at the Amsterdam New Testament Weblog will give the answers to this quiz here.

First, however, he will present his paper on "Conjectural Emendation in New Testament Textual Criticism" in the Working with Biblical Manuscript section – unfortunately no MSS there, however ;-).

Update: the answers to the quiz can now be found here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SBL Tartu, Working with Biblical Manuscripts (TC) 1

Today we had our first session in the Working with Biblical Manuscripts (Textual Criticism) unit. Unfortunately, Dave Nielsen could not make it – his paper on restoring the Pentateuch to Codex Sinaiticus sounded very interesting.

These are the four presentations with abstracts. They were all interesting, but I did not take any extensive notes this time, but I might come back with some reflexions. Jan Krans presided the session and he also did well as expected.

The next session (in which I and Jan present) will be on Wednesday.

Jonathan Robker

"'And YHWH Spoke to Jehu' Wait! What?!"

While the language and phraseology of 2 Kings 10:26-36 makes a Deuteronomistic redaction of this pericope conspicuous, it must be determined what material there can legitimately be identified as belonging to this level of redactional and what material must be regarded as original to the narrative of Jehu’s supposed extermination of the Baal cult. Such a problematic becomes especially apparent when one considers verses 26-27 and 30. This process can be seriously aided by consulting the oldest existing editions of the text, in both Hebrew and Greek. When one reconsiders this pericope in the light of a new text-critical analysis, important implications for both the history of the text and history of the religion behind the text become apparent.

Donald Parry

"LXX Isaiah Versus MT—Primary Misreadings and Secondary Modifications."

A number of factors associated with Biblical Hebrew manuscripts during the last centuries before the Common Era presented distinctive challenges for translators. These challenges included rare words (esp. hapax legomena), difficult-to-read bookhands, graphically similar characters and words, irregular or inconsistent orthography, incomprehensible scribal notations, inconsistent use of matres lectionis, lack of vocalization, and more. Because of these and other factors, the translators of the Septuagint–Isaiah, in a number of instances, misread Hebrew roots or words.

Textual critics have published examples of such first-level misreadings of the Hebrew by the Septuagint translators of Isaiah. This present paper, however, will focus on the manner in which the first level misreadings frequently caused secondary modifications to the Greek translation in order to make sense of the context. That is to say, when the translator misread the Hebrew root or word, he would sometimes make secondary modifications to provide meaning or clarification to the passage. The secondary modifications often resulted in one or more of the following: (a) disruptions of the parallelism; (b) creation of strange readings; (c) alterations of the syntax; (d) additions; (e) omissions; (f) or other alterations to the passage. In this paper I will present a catalog of some 130 examples of probable primary misreadings from the Septuagint–Isaiah; then I will set forth several examples of secondary modifications and discuss their significance to textual critics.

Hanna Kilkkinen

“Shaping the Story about the Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the Dynasty: Editing in Jer 52:7-16.”

This presentation investigates the transmission and the editorial changes witnessed by the differences between the parallel texts in Jer 52:7-16 and 2 Kgs that describe the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem as well as the final days of its last king. The aim is to categorize and describe the changes made in the text. There are many differences between the parallells such as a chiastic change in word order, various additions, and a change in number that completes some very short and “elliptical” expressions of 2 Kgs. There are also additions and changes that seem to be prompted by the larger context. One addition creates an antithesis between the stories of two kings of Jerusalem. Besides the very notion that here is concrete evidence of deliberate editing of the Biblical text, it is important to note that in a very short text, just a few verses, the number of these changes is quite high. One should also find it interesting that the changes reported here belong to the earlier LXX forms of the text. There are many opportunities to study the editing of LXX-Jer towards the longer MT, but here the LXX-Jer text itself reveals intensive editing.

Ronald van der Bergh

”Tracing the Old Testament quotations in Codex Bezae's Acts: Some methodological issues”

This paper tackles the methodological issues in tracing the textual tradition(s) that influenced the explicit Old Testament quotations in Codex Bezae’s Acts. The text of the Septuagint, from which these quotations were gleaned, was by no means in a stable condition during the time up to the writing of this important manuscript. The same goes for other Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament and – up to a point – the Hebrew texts, which all might have exerted an influence on the textual tradition of the Acts of Codex Bezae. Revisions to the textual tradition independent from other textual traditions (e.g. the Septuagint) and other scribal alterations must also be kept in mind, and a set of criteria needs to be drawn up for identifying influences from such revisions on the explicit Old Testament quotations in Bezae’s Acts. The paper aims to describe the structure which such an investigation will take, and gives preliminary results on selected Old Testament quotations in the Acts of Codex Bezae to illustrate some methodological issues. This paper is only the first step in a project which aspires to paint the picture of the vicissitudes of the Old Testament quotations of Bezae’s Acts. This will, hopefully, shed light both on the ambiguous background of this manuscript and the early church’s use of the Septuagint text.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Book on Codex Vaticanus

Keith Elliott has drawn my attention to a new book on Vaticanus which has just come out (NB publication year 2009):

Patrick Andrist, ed., Le manuscrit B de la Bible (Vaticanus graecus 1209). Introduction au fac-similé, Actes du Colloque de Genève (11 juin 2001), Contributions supplémentaires (Histoire du texte biblique 7, Studien zur Geschichte des biblischen Textes; Lausanne: Éditions du Zèbre, 2009)

ISBN 2-940351-05-8
310 pages
Dimensions 240 x 165 x 31 mm
8 color plates
1 black and white photograph
13 "Tables" (including the Table of 51 Unreinforced Distigmai that match the color of the original ink of Codex Vaticanus)

See detailed presentation and order information at Linguist Software here.

For links to a long discussion about the "distigmai" on this blog, see here.

Blogged from the SBL 2010 in Tartu.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Critique of Ehrman's "Orthodox Corruption"

Over at Verily, Verily Rafael Rodriguez offers a critique of Bart Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture concerning his remarks on anti-adoptionistic corruptions of Scripture.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Muraoka on Septuagint Lexicography (LXX 5)

For general orientation to this series of posts see here.

Takamitsu Muraoka, Recent Discussions on the Septuagint Lexicography With Special Reference to the So-called Interlinear Model in Die Septuaginta - Texte, Kontexte, Lebenswelten: Internationale Fachtagung veranstaltet von Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D), Wuppertal 20.-23. Juli 2006 (ed Martin Karrer & Wolfgang Kraus; WUNT 219; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 221-235.

The Septuagint lexicography debate continues and Muraoka reminds us of the polarities of the discipline: translator-oriented vs reader-oriented approach.

NETS approaches LXX as the translator, not the audience, perceives the text, and the so-called Interlinear Model, advocated by Albert Pietersma, understands that the LXX aims at bringing the reader to the Hebrew, not vice versa.

Muraoka disagrees with Boyd-Taylor's pessimistic approach to LXX lexicography. Boyd-Taylor sees the LXX as a mirror of the Hebrew. He holds that, to treat such a decidedly hybrid linguistic environment as bearing on the study of word-use in the target-language is, to say the least, highly problematic. He thinks that LXX data are nothing more than parole data from which one cannot extract and distill a langue. (p. 228, 230)

Muraoka, however, does not think it is restrictive. For him it is wrong to start with the assumption that LXX Greek, being translational Greek, must necessarily deviate from the "normal" contemporary Greek. (p. 228-229)

A reason for strangeness of LXX Greek is the interference of the source language, some of which may have been tolerated. The average member of the congregation would have adjusted his bearings a little bit to understand the text. Therefore, the reader is not compelled to fall back on the source text to infer what possibly the translator wanted his reader to understand. (p. 235) According to Muraoka, no serious lexicographer can leave out translated works when compiling a lexicon of any language or time. (p. 234)


Friday, July 16, 2010

"Crucifixion-scholar" Gunnar Samuelsson Launches Website

I have recently reported several times on Gunnar Samuelsson's dissertation "Crucifixion in Antiquity," which has attracted much attention worldwide, not least in the media. Some weeks ago the author pointed me to his new web-site which he now makes public, where there is already a lot of material about the author and his work, e.g., a Questions and Answers section and a huge list of links to media coverage. I assume that Samuelsson will also put links to reviews (and responses) there in due course.

Read also Darell Bock's assessment after reading the book. Apparently, Bock has recently been in the excellent Tyndale House library which probably swiftly acquired a copy (they recently ordered my commentary on Hebrews written in Swedish).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gal 6.11 and copying Paul's Letters

In Gal 6.11 Paul wrote 'See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand'. Today I read an interesting deduction from this in Angela Standhartinger, ‘Colossians and the Pauline School’ NTS 50 (2004), 571-593. She suggests that Paul's letters were not regularly copied in the earliest period (until Colossians which she dates 65-69). She writes (at p. 576):
The earliest letter that undoubtedly reached several churches is the letter to the Galatians. Paul and its other senders did not expect this letter to be copied (cf. Gal 6.11).
I can see why she might say this, since only the autograph would visually display the large letters in the hand of Paul. But drawing attention verbally to the size of the writing only makes sense if the author understands that most readers won't actually see the large letters, but will hear it read out. This way of verbalising the graphological information actually preserves the autographical feature into the textual tradition (hence Galatians does not get what some other letters in the literary traditions got - editorial notes on the handwriting). So I don't see it as precluding any anticipation of copying. In any case if we take the plural in 1.2 seriously ('to the churches in Galatia'), multiple copies would be envisaged from the outset (as Standhartinger seems to recognise in the first sentence quoted).

NB. For a different take on this see Chris Keith «'In My Own Hand': Grapho-Literacy and the Apostle Paul» Biblica 89 (2008) 39-58 (not to my mind entirely convincingly).

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Blog by Larry Hurtado

I am delighted to announce (a bit late) that Larry Hurtado has a new blog!

I am sure there will be a lot of posts on matters relating to textual criticism. At this point we can read about Larry's visit to Münster here and here, and about the staurogram here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Chrys Caragounis' Review of Samuelsson on Crucifixion

In a blogpost on 14 June I mentioned a review of Gunnar Samuelsson's thesis "Crucifixion in Antiquity" written by Chrys Caragounis. The review, found here, was very negative (to use mild words). Towards the end he writes:
Sadly, it is the view of the present Reviewer that Samuelsson’s book does not meet the standards of stringent scientific inquiry into Greek linguistic problems. Through the use of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, he may have amassed a long list of texts, which at first sight may look impressive to the uninitiated, but a specialist in Greek linguistics and philology is not fooled by this caricature presentation of the Greek evidence on the question of ancinet crucifixion in general and of Jesus’ crucifixion in particular. The evidence stands clear and cannot be falsified by such dilettantish investigations.

When a reader of our blog, "Z," had read Caragounis' review he made this comment:
Still haven't read the work of Gunnar Samuelsson, but the review confirms my suspicion: He must have forgotten about lots of ancient texts which describe crucifixion.
To which I replied:
I wait to see Samuelsson's reply. The thing is that almost all those texts that Caragounis cites are included in Samuelsson's treatment, which implies that Caragounis has not read Samuelsson's interpretation of those texts. It seems Caragounis has browsed the work, made his own searches and then responded.

Nevertheless, the critique is serious and many points are probably relevant, but I'd like to hear Samuelsson's response. In fact, he now will have time to revise his dissertation on some points before publication (hopefully in the WUNT series).

Apparently Caragounis reads this blog, at least occasionally, and that is something I take pride in. However, he was not pleased with this comment, and, thus, he posted a two pages long reply to my blogcomment, "Tommy Wasserman and Crucifixion" on his website.

I offer here some comments to Caragounis' comments. Perhaps it is not the best timing since I will be on holiday for some time without good internet access, but nevertheless, here it is:

First, C. says I have assumed the role of Samuelsson's advocate. Let me clarify that I would prefer it if Samuelsson's thesis is wrong! (Not for Samuelsson's sake of course.) However, I feel that I owe it to Samuelsson to listen to his reply, he has after all devoted many years to the study of crucifixion, although he has now been criticized sharply by a very competent scholar like C. (which of course makes me worried for Samuelsson's sake).

C. asks this question: "With what right does Wasserman assume that 'Caragounis has not read Samuelsson's interpretation of those texts'? How does he know that?"

I do not know that. What I say is that something *implies* that C. has not read the (whole) book, but that it *seems* he has browsed the book (see further below). Only C. (and God) really knows the truth. However, *I* assumed it because I had spoken to a rather depressed author the day before, and he had that very impression. Now the author of the book of course would know better than me, because I had only read the conclusion, and browsed other parts.

By the way, C. later goes on to ask why, if he has followed such a procedure – browsing the book, searching texts on one's own and responding – would invalidate what he as a reviewer has to say about the dissertation ... Well, the point, if I understand Samuelsson, is that C. is basically reproducing the traditional understanding of those texts, a traditional understanding which Samuelsson criticizes with his new thesis (which may or may not be groundbreaking). It seems to me the question of method becomes rather important. (Again, I am not saying that Samuelsson's method is good but I would have liked to see Caragounis discuss the question of how to select the texts.)

C. asks:
In which way does my citation of a number of texts that Samuelsson treats prove that I have not read what he wrote? ... Here it is not a case that we need more texts about crucifixion (there are about 10.000 texts till the XVIth century and many more till the present day!), but that we need to understand what the texts are saying.

I agree with C., that we need to understand what the texts are saying, and I assume that is what Samuelsson also claims. Here C. mentions "10.000 texts till the XVIth century," and in his review of Samuelsson he similarly says: "Samuelsson treats a smaller number of occurrences, but even these should have been sufficient to clarify the meaning of crucifixion" (p. 2), and, further, "The evidence for crucifixion is altogether too overwhelming to cite here. The examples are innumerable. I shall here content myself with presenting just a few brief texts" (p. 5).

Why does Samuelsson treat "a smaller number of occurences"? Is it a sloppy omission or does it rather have to do with his method? Has C. noted that Samuelsson has searched *all* accessible texts within the defined time span of the investigation, from Homer to the turn of the 1st century? Samuelsson's very method is to not treat later texts. Why? Because Samuelsson thinks they might have been influenced by the death of Jesus. As the title of the thesis implies, Samuelsson studies the *background* to the NT terminology: "Crucifixion in Antiquity. An Inquiry into the Background of the New Testament Terminology of Crucifixion."

And, yet, in his review C. cites later texts as evidence for crucifixion using a different methodology (again, I am not saying C. is wrong, but it seems to me he, as a reviewer, is not sensible to Samuelsson's work at this point). It would indeed have been interesting to hear what Caragounis says about Samuelsson's method on this point, but that is not what he does in the review (although he does make other very relevant methodological points on p. 3ff.). Instead C. presents "a few brief texts" as evidence for crucifixion. When one reads those texts (and the rest of the review) and has not read Samuelsson's thesis in any detail, one probably reacts as the reader "Z" – Samuelsson "must have forgotten about lots of ancient texts which describe crucifixion."

This very comment (that preceded my comment) made me suspect that the review, in this regard, may not represent Samuelsson's work very well, because, as I have pointed out, Samuelsson actually discusses in detail *all* those texts except those outside the time span for the investigation, and he comes to a different conclusion. Samuelsson's point is that the Greek words under discussion are used in a wider sense than previously assumed (in the time span of the investigation).

Note that Samuelsson is *not* arguing against the major event - that Jesus was executed on Calvary - I think on this point Samuelsson is being constantly misunderstood, especially in the media.

C. further writes in his review of Samuelsson (p. 2):
Such an astonishing claim makes it incumbent on me ... to look critically into the kind of evidence that has led the author to such an extraordinary conclusion, namely, that Jesus most probably was not crucified, but died in some other way. e.g. through some kind of 'suspension' (e.g. p. 372).

Does Samulesson really draw this conclusion, “that Jesus most probably was not crucified” or has C. misunderstood him? Is he not saying that the texts are so vague that one cannot say on the basis of them how Jesus was executed, or to conclude that what happened to Jesus cohere altogether with modern definitions of "crucifixion." Samuelsson therefore chooses to use a wider designation, "suspension" (which, in the case of Jesus' execution, may or may not have been what we think today of as "crucifixion").

C. further says:
Wasserman does not seem to appreciate that I write both as a scholar of Greek and as a Greek user of Greek. I have mentioned, for example, that the words in question have been used in the Greek language continuously till the present day. If some non-Greek students of Greek are uncertain about what Greek words mean, we, at least, who have Greek as our mother tongue, consider that we do know what we mean with the words of our language!

I certainly do not doubt C.'s superior knowledge and command of the Greek language. In fact, I have consulted him a number of times on various issues (the last time on Atticism). However, I think Samuelsson's point is that the Greek terms relating to crucifixion have been affected much by what happened to Jesus (it is a major historical event). Again, a methodological question.

Further, C. cites me saying that his “critique [against Samuelsson] is serious and many points are probably relevant” and C. finds it troublesome that I use a “probably” here, implying an uncertainty on my part. Then he makes a further remark:
[P]erhaps old Riesenfeld was not so wrong after all, when he deplored that with the developments taking place in his time, the day would soon come in Sweden when it would be difficult to find a competent scholar of Greek within the field of the NT.

Okay, I am not so competent in Greek as I would wish (sorry Riesenfeld, but you, if anyone, would probably have been very happy with my textual criticism), but when I said "probably relevant" I was only trying to be humble, because (1) I had not read the entire book; and (2) I had not heard Samuelsson's reply.

Finally, I find it very strange that a "dilettantish investigation" (to use C.'s words) would leave Gothenburg University, which has a long and good tradition of Greek studies. What about the joint seminaries where linguists have read Samuelsson's material? What about the examining board? What about the opponent Erkki Koskenniemi (Åbo Akademi). Were they all, in contrast to Caragounis (p. 10), "fooled by this caricature presentation of the Greek evidence on the question of anci[ent] crucifixion in general and of Jesus’ crucifixion in particular"?, since this dissertation has passed their scrutiny (of course not without criticism, but far from the level expressed in Caragounis' review).

Update (12/7): C. has posted a new reply here. In the comments to this blogpost Christian Askeland captures well what would be my re-response:
Caragounis does not seem to understand Wasserman's basic challenge concerning Samuelsson's method. In point 5, he admits that he did not discuss Samuelsson's minimalist method in his review. One would assume that either (1) he had accepted the method (which he obviously did not) or (2) that he was unaware of it (the assumption of Samuelsson via Tommy Wasserman).

Garima Gospels: recent discussions in the news

The Daily Telegraph reports today that carbon dating tests have dated the Garima Gospels (an illustrated manuscript of the Gospels in Ethiopic) between 330 and 650 AD (previously dated to the eleventh century). They say:

A manuscript found in a remote Ethiopian monastery could be the oldest illustrated Christian work in the world, experts have claimed.

There is a fuller report by Martin Bailey about the dating here (not perhaps as conclusive as one could wish). There is a brilliant report with some great photos of the restoration work here.

Links: David Thomson (from whom I copied two pictures), Ethiopian Heritage Fund (with more pictures)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Read any good books lately?

I would really prefer to only read good books. By "good" I mean something that will still be worth reading in twenty years time. So does anybody have any suggestions?