Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Galatian Papyrus on Sale

Brice Jones (The Quaternion) has identified a Galatians (2:2-4, 5-6) manuscript for sale on eBay, here.  I am going to make sure we archive the image here in Münster.  Thanks, Brice!   I have to disagree with Jones, Suciu and Choat on what Brice qualifies as a "likely" dating of the papyrus.  Correctly, one could argue that our datable 4th-5th century Coptic codices have documentary qualities such as this, but the inverse assumption is dangerous and factually untenable.  In other words, we should not assume that all Coptic codices from later centuries must resemble those  high-quality monastic codices of Sohag, Hamuli and Saqqara, and that no later codices were written with documentary qualities.  I am hoping that younger scholars will be conservative than previous generations, and will avoid dating Coptic (and Greek) manuscripts to the 4th-5th centuries just because they are ugly and written on papyrus.  I would need to examine further samples, but epsilon and kappa have traits here that may reflect Alexandrian majuscule influence -- indicating a likely date later than the 6th century (contra alpha, which is clearly following a Biblical majuscule style).

Could this be a writing exercise?  Consider the spelling anomalies which Brice mentions, and I note also the spelling ⲧⲉ which has been corrected to ⲇⲉ.  The ductus suggests documentary qualities (epsilon's horizontal stroke, position of tau, eta written with one continuous stroke).

With regard to the Turkish seller, I have been wondering if this is the source for the Green foundation papyri.


  1. Looks like a good catch Brice.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Christian. I was actually going to contact you today so that you could inform the Münster folks and save the images!

    My own approach to dating Coptic MSS is to leave it open. I have three forthcoming editions of Coptic NT MSS in ZPE and JcopS and I am working on others. In all of these I give no date, stating that the whole business of dating Coptic MSS is notoriously difficult. The 4th-5th century date is just a guess based on the general impression of the hand.

    It is possible that it is later than 4th-5th century, but I would disagree with what you say about epsilon and kappa. You should compare the ductus of epsilon and kappa in this MS with those in P66—they are identical. It is not uncommon to find epsilon's hasta extended in this manner in Greek literary MSS. I have suggested that the scribe may not have known Coptic that well, and so Greek comparanda might be more helpful here. Also, notice the form of horeh in r. l 5: it is not written in a single sequence. The scribe lifts his stylus to finish the lower portion of the letter, which is crudely written.

    I appreciate your suggestion that this may be a writing exercise. This is certainly a possibility and would therefore explain many of the spelling errors. In any case, it is a nice little piece.

  3. Brice,

    Again, this is a great identification, which probably would have been lost for a long time if not forever, had you not noticed it and brought it to our attention. So, thanks again.

    You have clearly offered the 4th-5th century as a "likely" date (twice), and will potentially be cited as supporting that date. You have not left this open, and seem to still be arguing for the early date in your comment above.

    Your comparison with P66 75 is indicative of the core problem here. (1) We do not know the dates for P66 75 with any certainty. According to James Robinson, they were buried in the early 7th century -- which does not bode well for a 3rd century date. (2) Just because they agree with one manuscript, does not mean they come from that era. The character formations which you are describing here are common in documentary papyri of the 6th-8th centuries (kappa, hori). (3) You are speaking of a guess based on an impression and citing names (Suciu, Choat) to substantiate your claim. This is no substitution for objective evidence.

    I seriously doubt that this scribe had a problem with Coptic. In fact, his Coptic phonology has bled into the spelling of the Greek loanword δέ which he has initially written as ⲧⲉ.

    In summary, I would say that when we do not have factual evidence to substantiate a date we should give a broad range, in this case 4th-9th centuries, with a strong probability of the 6th-8th (= datable documentary texts).

  4. Christian,

    I think we all understand the “circular” approach to dating MSS based on other MSS whose dates are uncertain. There is an inherent danger here of course. Most editors of Greek and Coptic MSS do in fact date by the general “impression” of the hand. The formation of the “control letters” (or test letters) that you mention—epsilon and kappa— are indeed found in later documentary papyri. But they are also found abundantly in Greek literary texts that are firmly judged to be quite old. Since you have charged me with extreme subjectivity (making guesses and citing names), I will cite some examples. And these are excellent examples (P66, as I mentioned, is another great example).

    P.Oxy. 1231: Compare the epsilon, kappa, and mu. There is a striking resemblance between these letter and the Galatians MS. Grenfell, Hunt, Roberts, Turner and everyone else date this to the 2nd cent.

    P.Beatty VI: Epsilons (with extended hasta) are identical between both MSS. But so are the pis (with the “leg”) and upsilons (lower loop and curved tips). Kenyon, Roberts, Hurtado and everyone else date this 2nd-3rd cent.

    P.Beatty VII: The epsilons are identical. But several of the letter formations are strikingly similar to the Galatians papyrus. Compare the ductus of kappa, epsilon and omicron of P.Beatty VII fol. 95r with those same letters in the Galatians MS. Note also that the sigma in P.Beatty VII has a “cap,” as in the Galatians papyrus. P.Beatty VII is dated 3rd cent. by Kenyon, Roberts, Turner, Bagnall, and everyone else.

    P.Oxy. 1235: Speaking solely about word formation, the Galatians letters alpha, mu, upsilon, pi and sigma can be compared to P.Oxy. 1235. In this MS, the wedged-shape alpha is identical. The pi has a little leg. The “saddle” of the mu is consistent. Upsilon is looped at the bottom in most occurrences. This is dated by Grenfell and Hunt “not later than the first half of the second century” (ed. princ., Oxy. Pap. X). Turner and other editors follow suit.

    There are also some good comparanda in the dated documents in Roberts’ Greek Literary Hands…

    So, we have identical letter formations in Greek MSS from a period which most classical scholars have judged to be early 2nd-3rd cent. It is, therefore, perhaps not completely convincing to say that a later date is more probable on the basis of the control letters you have mentioned, although I am not one to die on this hill. If I were to make an educated guess, I would say that this fragment is 4th-5th century; certainly no earlier than this and most probably pre-Arab conquest.

  5. Brice,

    You have amassed a number of manuscript comparisons which many (perhaps most) will find relevant, if not convincing. You also have cited an impressive group of scholars to back your argument. Many who have worked far more with manuscripts than myself will find your work here persuasive.

    IMO, manuscripts with semi-literary Greek hands have been dated systematically against one another to the pre-Constantinian era by all the big names of papyrology. You and I are going to have to agree to disagree on a major issue of method, here. I can not agree with you that these "Greek literary texts ... are firmly judged to be quite old." The letter formations we are discussing relate to documentary tendencies of the scribes -- tendencies would have been relevant in Greek alphabet manuscripts for essentially as long as the Greek alphabet was widely used by everyday Egyptian Christians.

    Although I have no problem in theory with Greek comparisons, I would suggest that there are a handful of Coptic manuscripts which can be firmly dated to the 4th-5th centuries by external evidence, and you could consider them in the future (Nag Hammadi, Dakhleh, minor dialectal MSS, etc...). I have an article on the dating of early Coptic MSS which will be published hopefully within the next year. I would also like to see negative comparison which establishes that certain features are not present in various periods, although I recognize that this requires much more time than simply looking for similar hands. For instance, can we demonstrate that this ductus does not appear in the Coptic documentary tradition of the 6th-8th centuries?

    My mention of the 6th-8th centuries as a probability (within a larger range) in my previous comment reflects the mass of Coptic documentary documents extant from that period. This is not a statistical and not a paleographic argument.

  6. p66 is pretty extensive. Why not carbon-date a portion of it? That could easily exclude a 3rd century date, whilst reducing the age of all manuscripts dated thereby.