Monday, February 27, 2012

The Text of the Lord's Prayer in Marcion's Gospel

My friend Dieter Roth, specialist on the reconstruction of Marcion's Gospel, tells me that his new article on "The Text of the Lord's Prayer in Marcion's Gospel," has been published in ZNW 103 (2012): 47-63.

Although Peter Head surely doesn't remember the papers from the SBL in Atlanta 2010, I remember enjoying Dieter's excellent presentation on this topic very much. We were in the same session, and I remember the other paper on Marcion delivered after my paper and right before Dieter's. This German scholar who first had some major problems getting into his computer because of wrong access code, so he had to borrow mine instead and inserted a UBS stick (it subsequently turned out he had pressed Shifts lock on his computer). Moreover, the presiding Amy Anderson by mistake sent him a note to the effect that he should come the the conclusion (5 mins. left) when there was actually plenty of time left. Well he hurried up, but a little later, as I had pointed out her mistake she quickly scribbled down and passed him another note, 10 mins. left ... and he burst out something like, "She keeps sending me these notes ..." And there was warm laughter.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The antique Syriac Bible

There have been many news reports about an antique Syriac Bible. We're told here that:

it's connected with smugglers
it's 1500 years old
may contain the gospel of Barnabas
is worth some vast sum (e.g. $28,000,000)
even photocopies of its pages are worth $1,700,000

Sounds like the photocopies are worth more than the original!

[and don't forget that the Vatican is involved -- a vital ingredient for all tasty conspiracy stories]

But hang on. How many gold letter Syriac Bibles are there sloshing round smuggling rings in Turkey and Cyprus? Haven't we seen this before?

Anyway, those who want some facts can look at the images in this news report.

The photo starts by homing in on the word 'Amen' halfway down the left hand page. As it scrolls over the wording above it is clear that it is Matthew, we get the sequence:

[dn]trwn klm' dpqdt[kwn]...
'n' 'mkwn 'n' kl[hwn]
[yw]mt' 'dm' lšwlm[h]

that they should keep all that I have commanded [you]
I am with you all
[da]ys until the end [of]

It's just plain Peshitta.

Now are my eyes deceiving me or does the last line of the colophon they show say something about 'in the year 1,500 of our Lord'?

bšnt' 'lp' whmšm' dmrn

If so, the media dating is only out by a millennium, but I'm not sure of my reading at this stage.

The pointed Nestorian script is the giveaway that we're not dealing with something 1,500 years old.

It is puzzling that if the end of Matthew is on the left hand page, the right hand page should be blank. Also with only two verses appearing on this page of Matthew (28:19-20) there is certainly no way this manuscript has enough pages to contain the four gospels and no way that the whole of Matthew could occur to the right. Moreover, it's odd that all the writing is grouped on the right hand side of the page. These are features which would make me think of it as a modern forgery. Why go to the effort of using gold and yet have the appearance on the page so irregular and the margins so uneven?

Anyway, anyone who would pay $28,000,000 for this ought to consider doing the world a favour by buying up some toxic debt instead.

Any more observations?

I see that Michael Law got there first on reading the '1,500 years' and in suspecting a forgery.

Possible arguments in favour of forgery could be failure to distinguish beth and kaph; the angle of the nun in 'year', the page layout, the line spacing, the gold, the criminal context, the release with such hype. This sort of thing could happen when someone is copying a text without really knowing the language.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Greek Financial Crisis and Majuscule 0278

Working my way through Paul, I got increasingly intrigued by 0278, one of the larger new finds from St Catherine's on Mt Sinai. There was no way I could find an image on the web and to my knowledge no-one has devoted much study to it. The most perceptive comment on this manuscript that I was able to find (and, incidentally, the only one) is by Barbara Aland:

Von unsern Majuskeln des 9./10. Jahrhunderts ist am interessantesten das sehr umfängliche Fragment aus dem neuen Fund im Katharinenkloster/Sinai, 0278, das, wie eine genaue Durchsicht dieser Ausgabe zeigt, mehr an altem Bestand aufweist, als es die Teststellenkollation vermuten ließ.

In my search for an image I managed to stumble over a second hand copy of The New Finds of Sinai (1999). The Classics library has a copy of this book in Greek, but there were also 1500 copies printed in English. The book was $75, but the $47.95 postage fee almost warranted buying a ticket to Austin TX and pick it up myself. Still, unhindered by any economic sanity I ordered the book and now have a picture of the opening showing the end of Ephesians and beginning of Philippians. Apparently it is a palimpsest but this does not show from the colour image in New Finds. Two columns, one a fully accented sloping Greek majuscule, the other a beautiful Arabic hand. I don't read a word Arabic, but would happily learn it for the sake of studying this manuscript (how difficult can yet another Semitic language be?).
There is a book waiting to be written on this manuscript.

My newly acquired title opens with a Greeting by the then Minister of Culture of Greece:

"[The Ministry of Culture] charged the competent State Sector, the Department of Manuscripts and Facsimilies [sic] of the National Library of Greece, to classify, to maintain and to record the new finds. It has organized missions and it has funded works, always in cooperation, with the sovereign Holy Monastery. The narration of their discovery, the reference to the first moves made in the direction of rating the Manuscripts as well as their first concise recording, all of which are presented in the present volume, are a tangent proof of the contribution of the Ministry of Culture."

Admittedly, the money was well spent.
By the way, the greeting was written by Evanghelos Venizelos, now the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

UPDATE (TW): Didier Lafleur informs us of two articles that refers to 0278 (SINAI, Monè tès Hag. Aikaterinès, NE MG 2):

1) F. D'Aiuto, «Un antico inno per la Resurrezione (con nuove testimonianze di "scrittura mista" d'area orientale)», Rivista di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici, 45, 2008, p. 11 n. 11
2) P. Géhin, S. Frøyshov, «Nouvelles découvertes sinaïtiques: à propos de la parution de l’inventaire des manuscrits grecs», Revue des études byzantines, 58, 2000, p. 172.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

R.T. France (1938 - 2012)

I learnt this morning that Dick France had died on 1oth Feb 2012. I studied Mark's Gospel with Dick in 1985-86 at LBC. They were great times with a small group of us gathered round the text under Dick's guidance. His books (especially Jesus and the Old Testament and Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher) have been a constant source of good judgement and good material for lectures, and his commentaries (on Matthew and Mark) exhibit his calm and thoughtful attention to reading the text. But it is Dick the teacher I will remember, the model he provided of Christian scholarship, and the encouragement he offered at several crucial moments.

Friday, February 10, 2012

First century Mark fragment and extensive papyrus/i?

Dan Wallace has now further specified his claim that there is an unpublished manuscript of Mark which is likely to be first century. Many of us will have no small scepticism towards such claims, but as the claim is of inherent interest and as it is made by someone who has made significant contributions to the study of the text of the New Testament I thought it would be good to repeat the whole text here. Also of interest is the claim that 7 unpublished early papyri cover 43% of the NT, which would at a minimum require one of them to be extensive. If there is an extensive papyrus then that, for me, is of far greater interest (see Dan’s ‘thrill’ below) than a ‘fragment’ which on the basis a few letter shapes is assigned by one palaeographer to the first century. It is suggested that publication can be expected in 2013. It sounds like the dates have been proposed on the basis of palaeography, not of association within the context of cartonnage.

Dan writes here:

On 1 February 2012, I debated Bart Ehrman at UNC Chapel Hill on whether we have the wording of the original New Testament today. This was our third such debate, and it was before a crowd of more than 1000 people. I mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year.

These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.

It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.

Not only this, but the first-century fragment is from Mark’s Gospel. Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.

How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say? We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts. As an illustration: Suppose a papyrus had the word “the Lord” in one verse while all other manuscripts had the word “Jesus.” New Testament scholars would not adopt, and have not adopted, such a reading as authentic, precisely because we have such abundant evidence for the original wording in other manuscripts. But if an early papyrus had in another place “Simon” instead of “Peter,” and “Simon” was also found in other early and reliable manuscripts, it might persuade scholars that “Simon” is the authentic reading. In other words, the papyri have confirmed various readings as authentic in the past 116 years, but have not introduced new authentic readings. The original New Testament text is found somewhere in the manuscripts that have been known for quite some time.

These new papyri will no doubt continue that trend. But, if this Mark fragment is confirmed as from the first century, what a thrill it will be to have a manuscript that is dated within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection!

Having been prompted to reread Dan’s statement it is clear that the 43% includes existing known manuscripts. Therefore the ‘Seven’ do not need to be extensive.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Is the original New Testament lost?

Dan Wallace and Bart Ehrman have had another debate. Dan blogs about his arguments and strategy here (including news about mysteriously unknowable new manuscripts including the autograph of Mark). Andreas Ko/estenberger was there too and didn’t like Dan’s approach, he blogs about it here (Dan answers Andreas’ critique in a long and interesting comment). I don’t know what Bart thought about it all.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Codex Climaci Rescriptus Collaboration

It's now official: DeMoss have made a press release announcing the collaboration of Tyndale House, Cambridge, and the Green Scholars Initiative to study the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, which belongs to the Green Collection. Peter Head will be heading up investigation of the Greek underwriting and I'll be heading up investigation of the Christian Palestinian Aramaic underwriting. GSI will supply a range of images and access to the original.

The text of DeMoss's press release is here. There are one or two things I would have put differently, but this gets the gist.

[Pictured above: Simon Gathercole and Peter Williams looking at a plate of Codex Climaci Rescriptus at the reception in Cambridge on 19 January 2012 announcing the collaboration of Tyndale House and the Green Scholars Initiative.]

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Frederick W. Danker dies

I understand from an e-mail chain from Terry Falla that the eminent lexicographer Frederick W. Danker died today around noon local time. His memorial service is Saturday 18 Feb, 2 p.m., at Bethel Lutheran Church, 7001 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63105.

Mark 1:41 and Ehrman

Just published: Peter J. Williams, ‘An Examination of Ehrman’s Case for ὀργισθείς in Mark 1:41’, Novum Testamentum 54 (2012) 1-12.

I argue that ὀργισθείς is actually the lectio facilior, and that the internal evidence is strongly in favour of σπλαγχνισθείς (please excuse vertical accents!)

Bart D. Ehrman has made one of the most detailed cases for the reading ὀργισθείς in Mark 1:41. This critical examination of his arguments and of the text seeks to demonstrate that his presentation, like that of other scholars, has not adequately explored ways by which an original σπλαγχνισθείς could be changed, largely by accident, into ὀργισθείς. It also highlights some of the methodological tensions in Ehrman’s arguments for ὀργισθείς and argues that advocates of ὀργισθείς need to give a plausible explanation for the felicitous fit of σπλαγχνισθείς as both a contextually appropriate and graphically similar word.