Tuesday, December 01, 2015

2015 ETS and SBL Paper Summaries

ETC blog dinner 2015.
ETS and SBL are now finished although my internal clock has yet to be convinced. This year there was a spate of text critical papers—many more than I could attend or take notes on. So here is a sampling of what was on offer this year. Perhaps otherss can fill in the gaps.

Also, this is a good time to say thanks to all who joined us for the annual dinner in which we celebrated the blog’s 10th anniversary. It was good to see some faces I hadn’t seen before. Hopefully all had a good time. A very special thanks to Christian Askeland for organizing the whole thing for us again!


“Discoveries and Contributions to the Text of the New Testament Found at the National Library of Greece” by Roberto Marcello

Rob Marcello is the Research Manager and Expedition Maestro (my term) for CSNTM. At ETS he gave an update on CSNTM’s Athens digitization project—their largest ever. He noted that, since its founding, CSNTM has digitized about 80 manuscripts previously uncatalogued by INTF and that several more were digitized on this summer’s trip. There were lots of other interesting finds as well but, unfortunately, my notes are sparse. I did manage to catch that GA 498 was found to have Ambrosiaster’s order of the Gospels: Matt, Luke, Mark, John (if I wrote it down correctly). I'm hoping the paper will be published somewhere but, until then, next month or two, you should be able to buy the audio.

“The Earliest Evidence for the Longer Ending of Mark” by J. D. Atkins

Justin Atkins is just finishing his PhD on the resurrection narratives at Marquette and, as a spin off of that larger project, he argued in this paper that three texts from 100–150 each make use of the Longer Ending of Mark. The three texts he discussed in detail were the Epistula Apostolorum (142–149), the “Ophite” account via Irenaeus (110–140), and the Preaching of Peter (100–135) and argued that for each, there is a good case for their dependence on the Longer Ending. The details are too many to give here but I will say that I found the first two convincing but the third—also the earliest—a bit less so. He told me afterwards that he has submitted the article for publication, so hopefully we can see the full argument in print in the not-too-distant future.

“Vaticanus Distigme-Obelos Symbols Marking Added Text, including 1 Corinthians 14:34–35” by Philip B. Payne

The front of Payne’s handout
showing the eight cases.
I have not heard Payne on the dots in Vaticanus before, but most will know that he is the originator and main proponent of the view that they are early and meant to mark textual variants known to the scribe(s). In this paper, Payne has extended his argument for what he refers to as “distigme-obelos” symbols (for the earlier form of the argument, see here, pp. 5ff). He finds eight such symbols in 03 at places with noticeable gaps in the text. In each case, they are said to mark “a block of added text.” I suspect that many readers will think, as I do, that these are just dots that happen to line up with the paragraphoi. But Payne says the obeli are longer and extend farther into the margin than the paragraphoi (he measured) and that this distinguishes them. Payne went on to argue that in seven of his eight cases (see photo), the “added text” is omitted from 03 itself, but in the eighth (1 Cor 14.34–35), the scribe has instead marked the text for omission but still included it. This was explained (I missed the exact logic here) by the fact that Payne thinks Vaticanus’s Gospel + Acts text is earlier than its text of the Paulines.

The whole presentation was given with energy and verve, but I can’t say I was convinced by much of it. Payne’s obeli are surely just typical paragraphoi (hence the gaps in the text) that occur next to dots. Payne’s measurements may be accurate, but if one has to measure them to make the distinction, then they aren’t very effective in conveying their meaning. During the Q&A I asked Payne if the fact that the “added text” marked by these symbols wasn’t actually in Vaticanus in his first seven examples means that the symbols would have been completely useless to readers of Vaticanus itself. He admitted that this is true, but suggested that they would have been useful in the scriptorium when set alongside “almost any other manuscript.” Some in the room seemed convinced.

GA 0232 (image source)

“P. Antinoopolois 12 (0232): A Miniature Codex of 2 John” by Michael J. Kruger

Kruger gave a good codicological and palaeographical analysis of 0232 arguing against the early date suggested by some. If I remember, Kruger placed it in the fifth century. He also spent some time thinking through what other contents could have fit within the same codex (our single leaf is numbered). Nothing works particularly well. But you can see the full argument in NTS 58.2.

Also, see Drew Longacre’s summaries of some of the ETS TC sessions I missed.


“What Is the ‘Text’ in Textual Criticism?” by Ronald L. Troxel

Given in the OTTC section, Troxel offered us a summary of his forthcoming article in Vetus Testamentum on the same topic. In the course of the paper he argued against those who want to relatavize our understanding of “text” to the point that constructing its earliest form becomes meaningless (e.g., Breed). But he also argued against those who want to define “text” in relation to the author’s intention (e.g., Tanselle). Troxel’s own preferred definition is “a socially produced and recognized form of written discourse that enters public circulation and can become manifest in different tokens [= instantiations of the text].” From this, Troxel concluded that textual criticism should describe (1) “the most likely form(s) of the text at the earliest recoverable stage of its development” and (2) the course of the text’s life attested by the surviving witnesses.” It strikes me that these are the same two goals that many NT text critics are advocating for today which means that perhaps OT and NT TC are closer than I thought in terms of their goals. Still, Troxel’s definition of “text” as “socially produced” left me pondering the old philosophical conundrum: if a text is written and no one is there to read it, is there still a text?

“Silencing Women, Raising the Dead: The Curious Origins of a Controversial Conjectural Emendation” by Karin B. Neutel

Following Phil Payne’s paper earlier in the week, I was very interested to hear Karin Neutel describe the origin of the conjecture that 1 Cor 14.34–35 is spurious. According to Neutel, it goes back to Jan Willem Straatman’s critical studies on 1 Cor published in the Netherlands 1863. Straatman was a pastor who became a very outspoken proponent of modernism and the non-miraculous theology he saw that it necessitated. What makes Straatman interesting is that his conjecture was motivated, not by any desire to promote women’s ordination, but rather a desire to discredit the resurrection appearances in 1 Cor 15. By finding examples of textual corruptions leading up to ch. 15, he had an easier case to make that the resurrection appearances were not from Paul’s hand either. Nevertheless, Straatman used many of the arguments that are standard fare today regarding 1 Cor 14.34–35: it contradicts 1 Cor 11, is incompatible with Gal 3.28, and occurs in various places. Instead of being from Paul, Straatman attributed these verses to the influence of “Jewish legalism.” I suspect most proponents of the conjecture today would not follow Straatman on that particular point. [Full abstract here.]

“Real or Perceived Scribal Habits? Assessing the ‘Singular Readings Method’ with Codex Sinopensis (O 023)” by Elijah Hixson

Elijah Hixson is working on the purple codices under Paul Foster at Edinburgh and this paper is part of that larger project. He let me read this paper a few months ago and I was glad to see him present it at SBL among some of the best practitioners of the singular readings method. To start, he noted two well-known problems with the method as typically practiced: (1) it wrongly includes inherited singulars and (2) it wrongly excludes non-singular scribal changes. Both can be addressed if we have access to the exemplar. Thankfully, we can reconstruct the shared exemplar of three of our purple codices (022, 023, and 042). Elijah applied the method to 023 with one change: he included readings unique to all three witnesses (i.e., “family readings”) not just readings found in 023 alone. This was because he wanted to apply the method as if we only had 023 since most of manuscripts we would apply the method to have no known siblings. (I am happy to report that after much discussion with Elijah I think I finally understand the validity of this change, although I would still like to see the results without the change too.) What did the results show? “For Codex Sinopensis, the Singular Readings Method fails to determine scribal habits accurately.” The method wrongly included 15 readings inherited from the exemplar (note: these could be included in Royse’s “complex scribe” as he noted in the Q&A), but it also failed to identify 11 non-singular scribal changes. The result was that the method wrongly detected a tendency to add. The method was fairly good at identifying nonsense readings (as I think we should expect it to be) and as such still has its uses in studying manuscripts.

Word on the street is that James Royse and Juan Hernández were stalking Elijah after the session looking to silence the young challenger to their method. I think Elijah made it out alive though. In all seriousness, Royse made some very gracious comments in the Q&A. It was a real model of how to respond to criticism of your own work.

Apologies if I missed your paper. If you know of other people’s summaries on blogs and such, do leave them in the comments.


  1. Only two of the three second-century sources covered by Justin Atkins seem to make use of Mark 16:9-20, eh? For a second there I thought his findings were going to have an impact on how the passage is viewed by pro-Alexandrian textual critics, but since we thus only have . . . lesseehere . . .
    Justin, Tatian, Irenaeus, Epistula Apostolorum, the Ophite account referenced by Irenaeus . . .

    I guess that would make *five* second-century compositions, instead of six, the consensus remains safe.

    Unless one is persuaded by Nick Lunn's proposal that Clement of Rome made several allusions to Mark 16:9-20. In which case, *seven* very early utilizations would be necessary.

    Unless Clement of Alexandria was alluding to Mark 16:19 in that obscure comment about Jude verse 24, preserved by Cassiodorus. In which case *eight* very early utilizations would be necessary.

    1. Mr. Snapp, at my blog, http://thenewporphyry.blogspot.com/2015/12/arguments-from-silence-for-mark-168-as.html I'm developing the argument that the early second century Patristic witness is for 16:8 as original. This is an Argument From Silence and I confess that generally Arguments from Silence are weak evidence. As you string together a group of such arguments though, the argument gets progressively stronger. I've currently inventoried GMatthew, GLuke and GPeter as for 16:8 and am about to add the EPA. I found your brief attempt to dismiss these as evidence weak. I am curious (a better word for me than "interested") to see what Atkins' criteria are for concluding that the three he claims bear witness, support LE.

  2. I think the dates Atkins is proposing for some of these texts are strangely definite (and early).

  3. Peter M. Head,
    Stein has already deduced that Epistula Ap.'s composition-date must be before 150, due to the part that indicates that Jesus' second coming was expected before 150. (And the Ethiopic text indicates that Epist.Ap. was around to reword so as to say that Jesus' second coming was expected before 180.

    Figuring that whatever Ireanaeus addresses/cites is earlier than Irenaeus, and granting a date before 150 for Preaching of Peter, they're all still pre-180.