Saturday, December 25, 2010

HM Queen Elizabeth II on KJV

Queen Elizabeth II decided to lead off on the KJV in her Christmas message. Text here; video here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Gift – Article on GNT MSS in Sweden / Jerusalem Colophon

Merry Christmas from me too!

And here is a little Christmas gift article about the Greek New Testament MSS in Sweden with a special excursus on the so-called Jerusalem Colophon:

Tommy Wasserman, "The Greek New Testament Manuscripts in Sweden with an Excursus on the Jerusalem Colophon," Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok75 (2010): 77-108.

Update: I have uploaded a new version since a table in the first version was in too low resolution

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our readers. Don't waste too much time looking at blogs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Relaunch of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism

Today, just now, something big has happened: The journal TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism has been relaunched.

About TC

TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism (ISSN 1089-7747) is a peer-reviewed electronic journal dedicated to the study of the Jewish and Christian biblical texts. TC is an online publication of the SBL and is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Users are permitted to download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of all TC articles. Articles may not be reproduced without permission.

TC publishes full-length scholarly articles, shorter notes, project reports, and reviews of works in the field of biblical textual criticism. Articles on any aspect of the textual criticism of the Jewish and Christian scriptures (including extracanonical and related literature) are welcome, and contributions that transcend the traditional boundary between Hebrew Bible and New Testament textual criticism are especially encouraged. We also invite articles discussing the relationship between textual criticism and other disciplines.

TC uses a "Permanent URL" so that readers will always be able to find it regardless of which server is the current host. Please use the following PURL when linking to TC and its contents:

Submissions should conform to the SBL Handbook of Style or the Chicago Manual of Style in cases where the former does not provide guidance. Articles may be submitted in any standard file format and should use Unicode for those ancient scripts covered by the Unicode Standard. Accepted articles are subjected to a peer-review process before publication. Articles are normally published in Portable Document Format (PDF) but may be published as HTML in some cases. Please direct all submissions to the following email address:

editors at jbtc dot org

Book Reviews

One goal of TC is to provide informative and timely reviews of books in the field of biblical textual criticism. Anyone who would like to submit a book for review or to volunteer as a reviewer may contact the TC book review editors here:

reviews at jbtc dot org


General Editor
Jan Krans is a member of the Faculty of Theology at VU University Amsterdam. His research interests include the history of interpretation, and New Testament textual criticism. He wrote a PhD dissertation on the differing approaches of Erasmus and Beza to conjectural emendation of the biblical text.

Assistant Editor
Tommy Wasserman is Academic Dean and Lecturer in New Testament at Örebro School of Theology in Sweden. He wrote a PhD dissertation on the text and transmission of the Epistle of Jude.

Book Review Editor
Thomas J. Kraus is a private scholar. His main research interests are, among other things, early Christian manuscripts, the issue of (il)literacy in late Antiquity, the Septuagint Psalms, and everything about book culture in Antiquity. He wrote a PhD dissertation on the language and style of Second Peter.

Assistant Book Review Editor
Heike Braun is a research associate at the University of Regensburg. She wrote a PhD dissertation on the history of the people of God and Christian identity.

Technical Editor
Tim Finney is a computer programmer and New Testament textual researcher. He wrote a PhD dissertation on the Ancient Witnesses of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Editorial Board

* James R. Adair Jr, University of Texas at San Antonio
* Johann Cook, University of Stellenbosch
* Claude E. Cox, McMaster Divinity College
* Sidnie White Crawford, University of Nebraska
* Bart D. Ehrman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
* Leonard J. Greenspoon, Creighton University
* Peter M. Head, University of Cambridge
* Michael W. Holmes, Bethel College
* L. W. Hurtado, University of Edinburgh
* Arie van der Kooij, Universiteit Leiden
* Johan Lust, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
* Tobias Nicklas, Universität Regensburg
* Melvin K. H. Peters, Duke University
* Klaus Wachtel, Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung

TC was founded by James R. Adair Jr in 1996, only three years after the advent of the World Wide Web. Dr Adair continued to serve as General Editor until 2009.

On the Amsterdam NT weblog, chief editor Jan Krans presents the current issue - vol. 15 (2010) - and our plans for the future.

Something Big in TC – Fifth Clue


Something Big in TC – Fourth Clue

The astronauts: Jan Krans, Tommy Wasserman, Tim Finney, Thomas J. Kraus and Heike Braun.

Something Big in TC – Third Clue


Something Big in TC – Second Clue

A welcome return.

Something Big in TC – First Clue

Only about seven hours to go now. Now there will be some clues.

First clue: we're not launching a rocket, but something else (we≠ETC).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The practical use of Greek accents

Greek accents have an undeserved reputation for being of no practical use. If sheer curiosity is not enough to persuade students to learn them, I hope these reasons might be more effective.

A knowledge of Greek accents:

1) helps you analyse previously unfamiliar vocabulary.

You are reading through the book of Acts and reach 1:18 where you have the phrase πρηνὴς γενόμενος. Many people are likely to be unfamiliar with the former word and so the question naturally arises as to whether it is the genitive singular of a first declension feminine noun *πρηνη. It is the accent which instantly tells you that this is impossible. Nor is this an isolated example. People who know the accents probably use them on a regular basis to decode and process unfamiliar texts.

2) helps you spot typos in Greek more readily.

Just as vultures hover over a battlefield, misplaced accents hover round other typographical errors in Greek. If you are an editor you probably will not check every ancient quotation, but not infrequently an accentual error is the first thing you notice to be wrong with a quotation and this leads you to check further. For example, if you know accents and you are reading Bart Ehrman's Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p. 128, and come across ἐν ταῖς παλαίας ἀντιγραφαῖς, it may be that you instantly notice there is a missing iota in παλαιαις, or it may be that the wrong accentuation highlights the problem first. What if you're not sure whether there's a typo? After all, παλαιας is a possible word. Do you have to refer to an edition? No, the impossible accentuation on παλαιας confirms that there is at least one typo on this word. It's not therefore a big leap to infer that there are two. You're able to be pretty confident that the Greek letters are wrong without consulting an edition.

3) can be one of the fastest rough and ready guides to assessing the quality of someone's scholarship.

If a work contains lots of typos, it's pretty likely that references will be wrong too. If the author hasn't bothered to check such superficial errors as typos then s/he probably hasn't checked other things carefully either (e.g. quotations). The same applies to Greek accents. Carelessness in one area is likely to imply carelessness in others. The great advantage of Greek accents is that books generally contain more mistakes in Greek accents than in other parts of the text. So if you're wanting to check levels of scholarly care quickly you can scan a few pages with Greek in for 30 seconds and get a pretty good idea whether the Greek is carefully written. You probably wouldn't be able to get such a reliable impression of the typography of the English of a book in such a short time. Of course I need to issue the caveat that a scholar whose Greek was badly written could make a significant contribution. However, if you're going round the SBL book stalls and don't have long to decide whether a book by an unknown author is worth purchasing, a knowledge of Greek accents might provide an economic advantage.

So in certain circumstances knowledge of Greek accents could save time or even money. Are there any other significant practical reasons for learning them?

Something Big Will Happen Soon

Something big in textual criticism will happen soon, so keep your eyes open on the countdown clock in the right sidebar.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quality of the Sinaiticus transcription

I have considerable admiration for the whole Sinaiticus project, but especially when it comes to the underlying quality of what is produced. Though one could argue that the web-presence is not as slick as is possible, I think there is little argument as to the quality of the images and the transcription. Everyone who has worked for a long time with a single manuscript develops an understanding for the mechanics of its scribes and correctors. The transcribers of Sinaiticus clearly knew the manuscript.
Take the following example from Philemon 18.

The initial correction is from ελλογα to ελλογι (-γει). Tischendorf notes that corrector C wrote the iota but that this correction was erased (super α C ut videtur ι adscripserat, ut esset ελλογι, sed rursus rasum est). On the website both the corrector who added the iota and who erased it is identified as Ca. Though no reason is given for the second identification it is more likely than not that the transcribers are correct. Ca would normally strike the α out or would mark it in any other way. The fact that there is nothing like this visible, seems to indicate that he corrected his initial correction almost immediately.

Quality stuff.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Did Jesus Write on the Ground?

Some readers may remember my report of the very highlight of SBL Annual Meeting in Boston 2008 ... for me personally, that is – the presentation I held together with Jennifer W. Knust of our co-written paper, “Earth Accuses Earth: Tracing Jesus’ Writing on the Ground.”

Jennifer and I continued to work on the material and submitted an article in the beginning of 2009 to Harvard Theological Review, which was accepted after a long period of review. Then came an even longer period editing and waiting for the article to get published. After two years from submission, we are now thrilled that the article is finally out in the current issue, HTR 103 (2010) (2010): 407-446.

The story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53–8:11) has a long, complex history. Well-known in the Latin West, the story was neglected but not forgotten in the East. Incorporated within Late Antique and Early Medieval Gospel manuscripts, depicted in Christian art, East and West, and included within the developing liturgies of Rome and Constantinople, the passage has fascinated interpreters for centuries despite irregularities in its transmission.

Throughout this long history, one narrative detail has been of particular interest: the content and significance of Jesus' writing. Discussed in sermons, elaborated in manuscripts, and depicted in magnificent illuminations, Jesus' writing has inspired interpreters at least since the fourth century, when Ambrose of Milan first mentioned it. Offering his opinion on the propriety of capital punishment, the bishop turned to the pericope in order to argue that Christians do well to advocate on behalf of the condemned since, by doing so, they imitate the mercy of Christ. Nevertheless, he averred, the imposition of capital punishment remains an option for Christian rulers and judges. After all, God also judges and condemns, as Christ showed when, responding to the men questioning him and accusing the adulteress, he wrote twice on the ground. Demonstrating that “the Jews were condemned by both testaments,” Christ bent over and wrote “with the finger with which he had written the law,” or so the bishop claimed. Ambrose offered a further conjecture in a subsequent letter: Jesus wrote “earth, earth, write that these men have been disowned,” a saying he attributes to Jeremiah (compare Jer 22:29). As Jeremiah also explains, “Those who have been disowned by their Father are written on the ground,” but the names of Christians are written in heaven.

The published article includes a good number of nice plates, one of which is the only depiction we have found of the Pericope of the Adulteress in a Greek New Testament manuscript, Florence, Laurenziana cod. Plut, VI, 23 (= Greg.-Aland 187), fol. 184v:

As I have reported earlier, high-resolution color images of the Plutei MSS of Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence are now available online. So here is the link to this beautiful and rather unique illuminated Gospel codex. There is one other MS in Paris with a similar type of comic-strip like illuminations (but without this specific motive).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mike Bird in Commercial for SBLGNT


Don't miss Mike Bird's commercial for Mike Holmes' SBLGNT.

HT: Brice Jones, who also reports from SBL Atlanta, where he heard some really good papers ;-) and tells us that he has received an acceptance letter to the PhD program at McMaster Divinity College. Congratulations Brice!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Robinson on the Bodmer Papyri

Another book I picked up at SBL was James M. Robinson, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery's Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin (Eugene OR: Cascade Books [Wipf and Stock], 2011 - yes that is the date printed in my copy as purchased in Nov. 2010).

It is an unusual book as the main story part was composed 'two decades ago' according to Robinson in the preface and has not been revised or up-dated (in fact 'two decades ago' is already perhaps a bit optimistic as internal evidence suggests a composition date of closer to 1980). The outline of Robinson's story has already been known in his paper 'The Pachomian Monastic Library at the Chester Beatty Library and the Bibliotheque Bodmer' (which is republished here but without the photographs found in the Occasional papers of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (1990) edition).

So this was state of the art research, and tells the story of Robinson's interviews with the various characters involved in finding, selling and purchasing the manuscripts, but is now twenty years old (not even the bibliography of editions of the Dishna texts has been up-dated with e.g. P. Bodmer XXXVIII in 1991 or P. Bodmer XXX-XXXVII in 1999). It is nevertheless definitely worth a read; and there are loads of interesting details. Two things I noted were that P. Bodmer XVII (P74) was not from the same original collection (p. 21); and that the rebinding of P. Bodmer XIV-XV (P75) likely rendered it impossible to read (since the binding thongs did not go throguh the centre of the spine but through the front and back covers near the nner margin, with the result that the book couldn't be opened out enough to read the text at the inner margin; p. 32).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

New Testament Manuscripts Image Collection

Rick Bennett told me he has blogged the other day about a new Accordance module, "New Testament Manuscripts Image Collection" over at the Accordance Blog:
We used the Scripture ranges provided to us (with some modification), created e-texts for the facsimile introductions, and then interleaved the high-resolution images taken by the CSNTM. The end result is the first of its kind: a fully indexed, locally stored collection of high-resolution images of four facsimiles (including one pseudo-facsimile), and one original manuscript of the Greek New Testament.

The module costs $179.00 and includes images of the following codex facsimiles: Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus (pseudo-facsimile), Washingtonensis, and the original Codex 2882. These are also freely available at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).

I think it is nice with all sorts of resources in textual criticism, but of course images of the real MSS are preferable to facimiles (e.g., Codex Sinaiticus). Nevertheless, we get here a convenient way of looking instantly at the manuscript evidence in connection with the study of a certain text in the Greek New Testament.

Update: Pete points out in a comment that the module includes links to the online images of Codex Sinaiticus

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Codex Sinaiticus Project recognised

Just the other week the Codex Sinaiticus Project received a commendation for their work (as read on the Museums and Heritage site here). However, the Pilgrim Conservation price was not awarded to the manuscript project, but to some restoration activity that built scaffolding so that the public could see some paintings as intended. Clearly, the comfort of up-to-date digital access from your sofa lost out on climbing up the good old scaffolding.

Glad that no one can accuse the price of being indiscriminately progressive.

Michael Holmes SBLGNT Page

Co-blogger Mike Holmes has started a new webpage! The primary focus of activity, as Mike says, is the SBL Greek New Testament page. We have added links to the SBLGNT webpages (Holmes/SBL-Logos) in the right sidebar.

See earlier posts about SBLGNT here, here, and the initial announcement here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hill, Who Chose the Gospels?

One of the books I picked up at SBL, and the one I chose to read on the plane home was C.E. Hill, Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy (Oxford: OUP, 2010). Chuck, who has written a load of important things about the history of the NT canon (some listed on his faculty web page) has written a readable, but not sensational, treatment of the history of the four-fold gospel canon (he has also written a short summary here).

In fact Chuck doesn’t think that anyone chose the gospels, he thinks (quoting and following Bruce Metzger) that they ‘imposed themselves as canonical upon the church’. The approach works backwards from an excellent and thorough demonstration that Irenaeus was not alone in accepting an exclusive four-fold gospel canon towards the end of the second century (Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, Dionysius, Cyprian, Victorinus, Marinus and Euplus [yes a new one to me too] held fundamentally similar views). In working back through the second century Hill argues that Justin Martyr and Papias both also had a four-fold gospel collection, and there is perhaps room for some disagreement here (although it should be noted that Hill has published a long article on the “new” Papias material he discerned in Eusebius, and for a fuller argument see Hill, ‘What Papias Said About John (and Luke): A “New” Papian Fragment’ JTS 49 (1998), 582-629). If you work backwards from the really clear evidence I think you are more inclined to think that somewhat marginal evidence is actually proof that the four-fold gospel was known in a period when working inductively from the available evidence we might not be able to say that.

Overall I think this is a really useful book. It is not sensationalist (despite the talk of conspiracy, Hill is generally in respectful dialogue with other scholars [with a hint of frustration that they haven’t considered all the relevant evidence]). Occasionally I found myself not quite so convinced of Hill’s position as he was, but had to admit he had arguments for his position. Certainly if you accept that Papias had a four-gospel canon tradition this would be tremendously significant for how we read the less clear evidence in the early part of the second century.

I found quite a few problems / errors / something more than just differences of opinion, especially in relation to manuscripts and such things. Somethings to consider for the second edition:

  • p8. Here Hill is discussing how many other gospels existed in the second century and gives a list of nine, noting ‘It is not unlikely that more Gospels might have circulated before 175. But if they once existed they have left no record, even in later lists of books to be avoided ...’ But there are later lists of non-canonical gospels which do provide some record of numerous named gospels. For example, there is a Samaritan list of 35 named non-canonical gospels (J. MacDonald & A.J.B. Higgins, ‘The Beginnings of Christianity according to the Samaritans’ NTS 18(1971)54-80, esp. pp. 66-69), and the Decretum Gelasianum also names a number of gospels and other books.
  • p. 13. In discussing the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Hill mentions 500,000 pieces, ‘only about a tenth of which have so far been published’. But in fact it is more like a hundredth, since the most recently published is P. Oxy 5071 (Parsons, cited by Hill in note 7 confirms this).
  • p. 20f. Here Hill is discussing the lack of early manuscripts of Mark. He argues that since church fathers knew Mark, and since some manuscripts could have included Mark alongside other gospels, ‘there is reason to believe that at this time Mark was more widely used in Christian churches than the statistics of papyrus discoveries would, by themselves, lead us to believe’. I think on the contrary that there is no reason to believe this (and I have argued this more fully in an essay on Mark in a forthcoming book edited by Hill) - it is rather a consistent phenomena that church fathers who doubtless knew Mark did not often quote Mark (for Clement of Alexandria for example Cossaert has 274 quotations from Matthew; 143 from Luke; 72 from John and 1 from Mark; for Didymus Ehrman has 155 passages from Matthew; 146 passages from John; 111 passages from Luke; and 10 passages from Mark; Brogan found only one quotation from Mark in Athanasius!).
  • p. 25. Hill writes: ‘A “book” was a scroll, or roll, a long sheet of papyrus or parchment rolled up with rods attached at each end to serve as handles.’ In Greek bookrolls on papyrus no rods are used (either in contemporary illustrations or in actual archaeological finds).
  • p. 30f. Hill follows Hurtado’s idea that use of a codex might correspond with identification of the text as scripture by the scribe; and further that public reading in church required a large codex. Since non-canonical gospels are often on rolls or small codices, they probably were not regarded as equivalent with the four canonical gospels. But in discussing the size of two non-canonical texts Hill slightly cooks the books. This is perhaps not a big problem, but suggests that perhaps the overall argument is driving how the evidence is perceived and presented. Firstly by taking P. Oxy 4009 (G.Peter?) as representing a miniature codex (‘a strong possibility’), whereas we don’t really know that for sure, and the editors also suggest that it could have been from a double columned codex. Secondly by describing P. Ryl 463 (G. Mary) as ‘a miniature’ when as reconstructed (9cm x 13.5 cm) it certainly goes beyond the normal categorisation of a miniature codex.
  • p. 72. Here Hill is comparing Clement of Alexandria’s use of non-canonical gospels with his use of the canonical ones, citing a monograph by Mutschler [whose first name is misspelt as Bernard, when it is actually Bernhard] on Irenaeus that he used Matt 757 times; Luke 402 times; John 331 times and Mark 182 times. Now I haven’t been able to check Mutschler’s book, nor his definition of “use”; but it is plain that the more recent monograph actually on the subject (The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria by Carl Cossaert) offers significantly different figures: 274 quotations from Matthew; 143 from Luke; 72 from John and 1 from Mark (and actually discusses Clement’s lack of knowledge of Mark).
  • p. 84. Here Hill is discussing the Akhmin codex of the Gospel of Peter. He writes: ‘It has often been reported that this codex was found in the grave of a monk ... This is part of a legend that has grown up around the discovery. We don’t know if the person in whose grave it was found was a monk or not, or what the person thought of the book. As far as we know, the gravedigger could have thrown it into the grace to get rid of it!’ Well, the reason it is often reported is not because of legend, but because the original publication of the manuscript, by one of the French archaeologists who excavated the Christian cemetery at Akhmim, stated that it came from the grave of a monk. One might disagree with this, or wonder whether the archaeologists had sufficient basis for making this identification (as van Minnen does in an article cited by Hill), but the conclusion is more well-grounded than Hill’s speculation. Another grave in the same cemetery contained a mathematical papyrus - the phenomena of people being buried with texts that had some relevance/value to them is fairly widely attested.
  • p. 118. Here Hill is discussing various aspects of Skeat’s view that some NT papyrus manuscripts were originally four-gospel codices. I was especially interested in this bit, and read it especially carefully and found a couple of problems. a) He notes that the scribe of P75 has some harmonisations and suggests that these ‘seem to indicate the scribe’s knowledge of Matthew and perhaps Mark’. This reference to Mark goes beyond the evidence, even of Comfort and Barrett (cited as evidence) who note the scribe’s knowledge of Matthew (as also picked up in Royse), since the possible reference to Mark is only in a direct parallel to a passage also in Matthew - if the scribe knows uniquely Matthean readings it doesn’t make much sense to propose he drew a reading from Mark. b) Hill states ‘if copied around 200, it is more likely than not that it [P75] had such a companion volume [containing Matthew and Mark], whether attached or separated.’ This is interesting, but I have no idea how this likelihood is measured. I would think this is extrapolating beyodn the available evidence. c) In discussing Skeat’s view of P4, 64 & 67 he states that in Skeat’s view ‘the codex contained at least three Gospels, and other features of the papyri indicated that this condex in fact originally contained four.’ Hill gives no indication of what these ‘other features’ are. I had another look at Skeat and can’t find any comment in this direction. d) Hill says that ‘Skeat’s conclusions have indeed been accepted by a number of other papyrologists’, but the footnote refers only to van Haelst, writing more than twenty years before Skeat and who does not accept Skeat’s view (although he does accept that P4 is probably from the same codex as P64 & P67). e) Hill notes that Skeat’s views have ‘not gone unchallenged’ (with footnote to Head and Charlesworth) but then says: ‘it seems agreed, however, that the books of Matthew and Luke represented in P4, 64, 67 were copied by the same scribe, whether bound together with Mark and John or not.’ This fails to note the major disagreement about whether we should even think of Matthew and Luke as bound together.
  • p. 119. Hill says that P75 ‘has sectional divisions which would make it easier to read aloud to a congregation’. This is clearly either wrong or rather exaggerated. I’m not saying that P75 couldn’t be read aloud to a congregation, but it has less help in this than just about any other NT manuscript. (On p. 121 he refers to ‘the apparent liturgical design of the papyri P75’ which I also found very questionable).

Biblical Studies Carnival November

The Biblical Studies Carnival for November has been posted by Deane Galbraith at the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. This is a quite comprehensive carnival divided into seven sections and several subsections:

1. Academy, Biblioblogging and Handy Hints
a. Conference Time
Many references to SBL Annual Meeting blogposts and other meetings.
b. Academic Biblical Studies versus Faith
c. Handy Hints and Resources
d. Biblioblogging Anomaly
(An interview with Jim West)

2. Christian origins
a. The Gospels and Jesus
b. Paul and Pseudo-Paul
c. Apocalypse Now
d. Other Christian Origins Blogging

3. Emerging Judaism
a. Tanach
b. Jewish Pseudepigrapha and Mysticism
c. Ancient Near Eastern and Hellenistic Background
d. Septuaginta
e. Talmud and Rabbinics
f. Other Emerging Judaism Blogging

4. Language, Text and Translation
a. The NIV
b. Critical Edition
c. Hebrew
d. Greek

5. Reception History

6. Humor and Gossip

7. Biblioblog Top 30

All in all there are five references to ETC blogposts! Moreover, this blog makes it into the top 30 bibliobloglist (#9) as judged by "quality not quantity" (in reference to the latter, Deane refers to another bibliobloglist for November based on Alexa ranking (where ETC is #45).

Monday, December 06, 2010

SBL Gatecrashing

Before I say anything about the SBL sessions, if I manage to collect anything from my not so detailed notes from this year's meeting, I will share some funny memories on the theme of SBL gatecrashing.

First, Ulrich Schmid invited me to the Birmingham breakfast (thank you), and I told my room mate and colleague, Mikael Tellbe, to join me and meet my friends. He was a bit hesitant and felt embarrassed since he did not know anyone (but me), but I told him not to, and so we had a very good time with a relaxed conversation around one of the two breakfast tables, and we both had nice chats; there were about 15 people there and I think I knew almost all (most of the folks were from ITSEE, save Mark Goodacre).

Mikael then told me it was my turn to join him to the Regent College breakfast reception the next morning. At the entrance we were warmthly welcomed by Rikki Watts, whom I had not met before. Then we were told to sign the guestbook indicating name and e-mailaddresses. We served ourselves breakfast and sat down at one of the tables. There were perhaps 60 people in the room, around 6-7 tables, Gordon Fee was there with his wife, and I also knew Michael Theophilus and Jim Leonard sitting at other tables (Jim had actually been Gordon Fee's TA when Mikael was at Regent, so Jim had learnt a lot, he said, from the experience of marking Mikael's papers, etc).

After people had settled around the tables, Rikki Watts held a nice talk about stuff going on at Regent these days. Then he said that we should go around each table, and everyone should present themselves and say when they were at Regent, what they studied, and what they are doing now. I bent towards Mikael and said, "You can say something about me being your colleague - I can't stand up." Then, I changed my mind, and said, "Ok, I can say something short..." But then, as the turn came to our table, I changed my mind again and told Mikael, "No, you go ahead and say something about me," which he did, "And this is Tommy Wasserman, and he has not been to Regent" :-). But I added, "But Regent has been to us - we have had several faculty members at our school."

Eventually, when everyone had presented themselves, it turned out there were three people present who had never studied at Regent. During the presentation, one of them stood up and said boldly: "I am at the wrong place, but I have learnt an awful lot!" The next evening when Peter Head and I were sitting at the hotel bar, Rikki Watts came by and joined us to discuss the cost of book manufacturing in the first century, and other interesting matters. It turned out that Peter and Rikki had had neighbouring study spaces for years at Tyndale Library, and were best of friends. Now I had the opportunity to return the hospitality and could take care of the bill.

The next, much funnnier story ;-), is about my colleague Mikael (I hope he doesn't read this, but I can't resist). Mikael met up with a friend and fellow student from the old days at Regent several times during the meeting. This very nice guy, whom I had the opportunity to meet, is currently writing a commentary for Zondervan, and was invited with another colleague to the Zondervan authors' meeting. The other person, however, was prevented to come to the meeting, and so the friend invited Mikael instead (who is not a Zondervan author - yet). The meeting turned out to be very cosy and informal. Of course, the Zondervan directors wondered who Mikael was, but after explaining he was heartily welcomed - in the end the Zondervan manager insisted that Mikael should have the little book bag gift which was given to the invited authors with some complementary Zondervan books.

However, at the beginning of the meeting, when everyone had settled around the table, the Zondervan representative announced a nice little welcome lottery – the price was a pack of commentaries. The winning ticket had been hidden under one of the chairs. So everyone stuck down their hands and fumbled around under the chairs. Lo and Behold! Mikael pulled out a little piece of paper, and bent towards his friend waving with the ticket: "Hey, I've won the lottery, I have the ticket ... what should I now do?" The uninvited guest wins the lottery? Then, suddenly, someone else announced that he had the winning ticket. What now? Didn't I have it, Mikael thought? Mikael looked again on his piece of paper. On it he could read the chair production number and place of manufacturing.

Friday, December 03, 2010

UBS Greek New Testament Reader's Edition with Textual Notes

On my desk: The new UBS Greek New Testament Reader's Edition with the Greek-English dictionary compiled by Barclay M. Newman, and with textual notes compiled by Florian Voss.

I picked up this book at the American Bible Society book booth. Although not in the picture from the Hard Rock Café in Atlanta, I actually bumped into Florian Voss in the restaurant, and I asked him to tell me more about these textual notes which he has compiled for this new reader's edition, which is offered here by Eisenbrauns either in hardcover or in flexisoft leather (my copy).

Florian has been kind to send me the following reply:

Our intention regarding the notes was to give the reader at least an idea that the text of the New Testament is not undoubtedly clear but has to be reconstructed out of a variety of manuscripts. As the apparatuses of the Nestle-Aland and the UBSGNT seemed to be too complex for a reader’s edition, we decided to take the apparatus of the UBSGNT as a basis but to reduce the information significantly.

Compared to the UBSGNT, the information was reduced in two ways: First, the notes are focused on places where variants significantly impact the meaning of the text. The approach was to look at modern English translations and to see where they have footnotes such as “Some manuscripts add…”; Some manuscripts omit” or something like that. Where more than one translation had such a footnote I formed an own opinion whether a textual note might be advisable or not. Second, as for the manuscripts, only the most important ones were selected: the papyri, some uncials and minuscules (01-06, 019, 032, 33, 81, 1006, 1739, 2053, and 2344), and the Byzantine tradition as represented by Byz. (1006, 2053, and 2344 are cited only in parts of the NT.)

I am aware of the limited value of notes like this. As explained in the introduction, they are to be understood just as a first step into the world of NT textual criticism and any reader is invited to progress beyond the Reader’s Edition some day and to make use of the Nestle-Aland or the UBSGNT.

Speaking of editions, I also picked up the SBLGNT and had it signed by the editor and co-blogger Mike Holmes. And during the meeting I got many questions from scholars who are not directly into textual criticism about the edition - it was the topic of the day at the meeting. We have already had some discussion about the new edition and I am sure it will continue. (For example, I look forward to discuss Mark 1:1 with Mike - who has opted for the shorter version without "Son of God" - probably to Peter Head's great pleasure, since Pete wrote an article, in his early career, arguing for the short version.)

Furthermore, I too, succumbed to Hendrickson's very attractive offer of the new Sinaiticus facsimile (sorry Camilla...) as they threw in David Parker's new monograph on the codex (which David kindly signed for me) and a fine print of one of the pages in the deal. David was present for several hours at Hendricksons to show the facsimile to interested people, and I think the publisher sold more copies than they could dream of (like some 30-40 copies). I arranged to have my copy sent from Alban books in the UK. Otherwise the shipping and customs would cost me a fortune (no customs in the European Union). Actually, this happened at one SBL meeting when I ordered a lot of books from the American Bible Society, and they sent it with Feedex. This was one of my worst bookbuying experiences ever, with all sorts of fees (shipping, customs, extra fee, VAT). However, the nice ABS representative gave me some compensation at a subsequent SBL meeting by offering some extra discount.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A day in the life

It was the last day of term and in order to round off a class on NTTC I took my students to see some manuscripts in the Cambridge University library.

The three oldest were all P.Oxys (Gregory-Aland P17 and P27, and Rahlfs 990; all third or fourth century). 990 is a fragment of a parchment codex of Tobit, and is one of the earliest Christian parchments with Biblical text. P17 with its large letters and multiple reading-helps looks very much like a text used for some sort of a public function, while the other two are 'good weather manuscripts' (only readable when there is enough light because of the small letters). Originally the papyrus may have been brighter though.

We also had two majuscule palimpsests, Zacynthius (040) and a Cairo Genizah item, majuscule 093. With the latter it took us about 15 minutes before we could correlate the first words of the published transcription (Taylor 1900) with the manuscript. The dating of the first is still a problem with 6th and 8th century the two options. If Zacynthius is really 6th, it is a contemporary of 093 (would be nice for reasons of parallelism).

We had to rush through our two remaining manuscripts, Codex Macedoniensis 034, and minuscule 70. The first, a ninth century majuscule, may be one of the youngest manuscripts to omit the pericope de adultera (though the fact that the passage is 'forgotten' λιθ [ληθη] is marked inline and in the margin). Minuscule 70 has a textual value of close to zero, but is interesting because of its scribe, Georgios Hermonymos. He worked in the second half of the 15th century, produced dozens of manuscripts (I know of 28 still preserved, 4 in Cambridge), and is extremely easy to read. Both Macedoniensis and 70 could have been written yesterday, such is the quality of the parchment.

Teaching is such a burden ...