Monday, July 31, 2017

An Online Lexicon of Stemmatology

Typically, Biblical textual critics have not paid much attention to stemmatics—the study of relational trees—for the simple reason that these methods have never worked for the Old or New Testament on any sizable scale. But that is beginning to change as computers have brought with them new attempts to address the longstanding problem of contamination.

The problem is that the world of stemmatology can be hard to break into because of its technical nature. I certainly had difficulty with it when I started working on the CBGM.

So today I was happy to come across the Parvum lexicon stemmatologicum (PLS) which bills itself as “a scholarly digital resource providing explanations for technical terms related to stemmatology, a discipline of classical and mediaeval philology aiming at understanding the historical evolution of textual traditions.”

The editors are experts in the field and the entries I have looked at are reliable and helpful. To give you a flavor, here is the entry on “autograph”:
The word is derived from the Greek adjective αὐτόγραφος ‘written with one’s own hand’. In manuscript studies, an autograph is a witness written by the author himself. For texts from antiquity and the middle ages it is very rare that such autographs are today still extant (examples in Chiesa 1994). For scholars of stemmatology, matters become more complicated if the author revised the autograph, sometimes repeatedly. Copyists may copy revised and unrevised text or choose between the two, which may lead to a situation of having an archetype containing variants in some places. An example of an extant mediaeval autograph is the work Periphyseon by 9th century author John Scotus Eriugena (cf. Jeauneau & Dutton 1996) in Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875. This manuscript is written in several hands, at least one of which seems to be the author’s. In case the author wrote only one autograph and it is extant, it is equivalent to the text’s archetype.

– Jeauneau, Edouard, and Paul Edward Dutton. 1996. The autograph of Eriugena. Turnhout: Brepols.
– Chiesa, Paolo, and Lucia Pinelli, eds. 1994. Gli autografi medievali: Problemi paleografici e filologici. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo (CISAM)

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Text-Savvy Issue of Novum Testamentum

The latest issue of Novum Testamentum contains two articles of interest:

Eldon J. Epp, ‘Text-Critical Witnesses and Methodology for Isolating a Distinctive D-Text in Acts’, pp. 225–96.

Within the past decade, a few leading New Testament textual critics have challenged two major, long-standing convictions by urging that we should speak no longer (1) of “text-types” or (2) of two textual streams in the Acts of the Apostles. Certainly the term “type” is too rigid and definitive to describe our textual groups, and “textual clusters” is more appropriate. The present essay concerns whether dual texts can be identified certifiably in Acts, thereby distinguishing a “D-Textual Cluster” from an alternate cluster headed by Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus ( א). It is clear that all D-Text Primary witnesses are mixed texts that, over time in various ways, have been conformed and assimilated to the increasingly dominant B-Cluster, as well as to the ascending Byzantine text.A fresh method, however, is proposed and illustrated at length (1) to identify a tightly cohesive group of Primary witnesses to a D-Textual Cluster, which (2) reveals that these D-Text readings virtually always are opposed by the א-B-Cluster. The result is a strong testimony to the early existence of dual textual streams in Acts that stand firmly over against one another.The fresh aspect of the method involves, for each variation -unit, (1) identifying the Primary witnesses available for a given reading; (2) counting the number supporting a presumptive D-Text reading; (3) counting those that do not; and (4) calculating the percentages of witnesses agreeing and not agreeing to the readings in question. Three or more Primary witnesses must be present in a variation-unit to be included. The global figures show that available Primary D-Text witnesses agree with one another 88% of the time on readings in 425 variation-units, while 97% of the time these readings are opposed by both א and B together.

Garrick V. Allen, ‘Textual History and Reception History: Exegetical Variation in the Apocalypse’, pp. 297–319.

This article explores the possibility of examining reception history within the textual history of the New Testament, focusing on the book of Revelation. Both intentional alterations located in particular manuscripts and reading practices gleaned from slips of scribal performance are indicative of reception. Attempts to facilitate a certain understanding of a locution constitute acts of reception embedded in Revelation’s early textual history. The article concludes by analysing the social dynamics of the milieus in which exegetical textual alterations were tolerated, suggesting that the work of informal scribal networks provides modern researchers access to evidence for reception.

It’s a bit rare to see an entire journal issue comprised solely of text-critical studies. Given the length of one of the articles, however, this is perhaps not unexpected! (Fun fact: NovT author guidelines suggest that the manuscripts ‘should typically not exceed 8,500 words’, a suggestion which the editorial board tends to take [in my experience at least] rather seriously.) I hope to say more on the latter [edit: Allen's] article shortly. For now, enjoy the hefty meal from Leiden.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tyndale House Edition: Triggers for Harmonisation

When we had to work through the whole of the New Testament in a more systematic way, we started with the Pauline corpus. The assumption was that the letters of Paul did not pose as many problems as some other parts of the NT, and this assumption bore out. Apparently there is something in tightly argued prose that puts it in less danger of textual change than simple narrative, especially narrative with synoptic parallels. Yet even within the Pauline corpus the same phenomena are present that you can find in the Gospels. Ephesians and Colossians contain sufficient parallel material to allow for cross-contamination, and the same happens with Galatians and Romans.

However, influence from parallel passages is not limited to similar sentences or similar narratives. There are all sorts of phenomena that can spark off cross-contamination. And, true to the reputation that the Greek-Latin manuscripts have, a number of these are found in the D(06) F(010) G(012) cluster. Two obvious examples to illustrate the point.

Gal 4:17 ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ καλῶς, ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν, ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε. (‘They are not zealous for you in a good way, but they want to shut us out so that you may be zealous for them’)

Paul finishes the sentence with ζηλοῦτε and after a negative sentence such as this one often introduces a positive contrast, which more or less follows in the next verse. Somehow, however, linked by the contrasting pattern and specifically the link work ζηλοῦτε we find in the D(06) cluster the extra words ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ κρείττω χαρίσματα (‘but be zealous for the better gifts’). These words are a clear echo of 1 Cor 12:31, though with some minute differences. Is this addition simply a marginal note that slipped into the main text? Is it the result of someone who is copying Galatians from memory more than from a document? Who knows, but the extra words are there now. The link is tenuous but we could reconstruct the triggers, and therefore learn something about the way in which copying can be affected.

The second example is just as gorgeous and concerns influence from within Galatians.

Gal 3:1: Ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν (‘O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you’).

The D(06) cluster, now with a whole lot of additional support, adds the words τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι (‘to not obey the truth’). The source of these words is Gal 5:7 and the trigger here is the start of the actual question, τίς ὑμᾶς, followed by a verb (ἐβάσκανεν and ἐνέκοψεν), and both in an accusatory question. Not that much to go on, mainly the τίς ὑμᾶς part. Still it is enough of a trigger to import wording from elsewhere.

Both Galatian cases are quite clear to me (the second of course not for those who favour a Byzantine text, though I assume they would acknowledge the mechanism in the first case). Which leads me to the conviction that if this mechanism is at work in clear instances, it might well be at work in many less obvious cases. Therefore, if there is an explanation available that can explain the longer text as being the result of influence from elsewhere, the shorter reading has a strong transcriptional case.

What goes around comes around

Sometimes we need to know the history of our discipline better. In his brief bio of Kirsopp Lake in the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, J. K. Elliott writes,
The link between textual criticism and interpretation was one already made by Lake as early as 1904 with his study The Influence of Textual Criticism on the Exegesis of the New Testament. This was based on the inaugural lecture he gave on January 27, 1904, at the University of Leiden, and it shows how he made that theme pivotal for this professorial appointment. It has taken nearly a century for his general thesis that textual variants must be used as an invaluable source for our study of the history of the church to bear fruit in a determined way. B. D. Ehrman, following Lake’s example, published The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture in 1993... That book was justifiably well reviewed, but for many readers it was as if such opinions were new. Lake had already been preaching some ninety years earlier that text critics had a duty to do more than establish a supposed original text. According to Lake, exegetes must expound the meaning not only of one printed text but also of the ecclesiastical Bible in use at different times, and to see textual variants as a window on the exegesis of the church. To do that, they need to keep a close eye on the critical apparatus (pp. 637–638).
Here is a taste of Lake on this point:
In the first place, he will need to expound the meaning, not of Westcott and Hort’s text, but of the ecclesiastical Bibles in use at different times; for I take it that to explain what a passage in the Gospels ought philologically to mean, or what it probably did mean originally, is only the beginning of exegesis: we need to know what the early Church thought it meant and how it altered its wording in order to emphasize its meaning (pp. 11–12).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Introduction to Brill’s Textual History of the Bible

What follows is not a review. It is a teaser and brief orientation to one of the most comprehensive projects on the text of the Hebrew Bible. Brill’s Textual History of the Bible (THB) is a four volume work in process. Volume 1: The Hebrew Bible consists of three massive parts; that is, three separate books: 1A: Overview Articles, 1B: Pentateuch and Prophets, and 1C: the Writings. Volume 2 is in production stages and plans to treat the Deuterocanonical Scriptures. Volume 3: A Companion to Textual Criticism will cover a range of matters related to modern textual criticism. Volume 4 will contain Indices and Manuscript Catalogues. The project does not plan to treat the New Testament at this time. There is already a first volume to a supplement series.

What is the purpose of THB?
The Textual History of the Bible will be the first comprehensive reference work to cover all aspects of the textual history and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and its deuterocanonical Scriptures. The aim of THB is not to create a single coherent argument beginning with the earliest Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran addressed in volume 1 and ending with the contemporary history of research described in volume 3. Rather, THB is a reference work that allows for room for scholarly disagreement among its contributors....THB is thus both an encyclopedia and a handbook. It covers the textual transmission of both the Jewish canon and its deuterocanonical Scriptures in their original texts as well as in their translations. In addition, THB includes information about all other issues related to the textual criticism and textual history of these biblical texts (XIII).
 What do the articles of Volume 1 seek to accomplish?
The articles in this volume address the textual history of the Hebrew Bible and its primary and secondary translations until the time of the medieval Masoretic master codices. In many cases, they not only summarize the status of knowledge but also present new research in small or large areas. In several areas, THB 1 even offers the first scholarly research based on manuscripts rather than scholarly editions. THB 1 records the story of the transmission of the biblical text, and it describes the many textual forms of the Bible, evaluates them, and helps the reader to find his or her way in the labyrinth that is called “the text of the Bible.” After all, “the text of the Bible” is not found in a single source, but in all the sources that contain a biblical text (XV).
Whatever one thinks about the claim to textual pluriformity at the end of this statement, THB 1 provides a major update to the state of the question of Hebrew Bible textual research and at times pushes the conversation forward by presenting new evidence from manuscripts.

Volume 1 consists of three types of articles. Volume 1A contains key Introductory Articles on topics such as Canon of the Hebrew Bible, Samaritan Pentateuch, Hexaplaric Translations, Arabic Translations, and similar. Volumes 1B and 1C contain major Overview Articles on the textual history of each of the biblical books as well as Detailed Articles on topics related to individual biblical books such as Hebrew text traditions and the Primary Translations of LXX, pre-Hexaplaric translations, Hexapla, post-Hexaplaric translations, Syriac Peshitta, etc. In addition to these detailed articles, there are articles on the secondary translations such as the Armenian or Georgian versions and much more. The volume ends with articles on the subject of Exegesis in the sources, that is, treating differences between sources that aren’t directly related to the transmission of the text but relate more to its interpretation.

As a contributor (no, I don’t make a royalty) to this work in the area of the pre-Hexaplaric and Hexaplaric translations and as one becoming more familiar with its contents overall, I would say that this work fills a gap in scholarship, namely, it provides the most up to date history of research and most up to date information on any aspect of the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible and its Versions. I look forward to seeing the next volumes in print. Of course, the regrettable fact of its cost will prohibit some from accessing it. Hopefully, libraries will choose to buy these volumes before other, less worthy works to fill their shelves. If you are interested in the text history of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, this is a great resource to survey the scholarly landscape and to deepen and widen your perspective of a very challenging field of research.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kirsopp Lake on the need for conjectural emendation

Here is a quote I came across today in Kirsopp Lake’s inaugural lecture at the University of Leiden. Note very carefully how Lake argues for the need for conjecture. In the context, he is explaining why he thinks Westcott and Hort failed “spectacularly” in their preference for 01 and 03.
It has become more and more probable that Greek MSS. as a whole only represent one type of text and its corruptions, that the Latin Versions and Fathers represent another type, and the Syriac versions a third, while perhaps Clement of Alexandria may provide us with a fourth.

 It is between these texts, and not between individual MSS., that we shall have in the last resort to judge, so that the situation which we must face is that we have to deal with a number of local texts, that no two localities used quite the same text, that no locality has yet been shown to have used a text which is demonstrably better than its rivals, and that no one of these local texts is represented in an uncorrupt form by any single MS.

The effect on the method of the textual critic is enormous. He has no longer the right to suggest that he can immediately edit the original text. He must go back and edit first the local texts. In the case of each locality he has the evidence of the versions used in the local church and of the writers who used them, but it is not very large, and in no case is without traces of corruption. Therefore, the student of these local texts is reduced to the level of the critic of classical texts. In the face of suspected corruption he has the right to use conjectural emendation. It used to be said that the classical student often needed to make use of conjectural emendation, because he had so few and so poor authorities for the text of his authors, but that the biblical student had no such need, because the MSS. of the New Testament were so numerous and so good that primitive corruption was almost unknown. The argument was reasonable, but when we recognize that in reality the text of the Gospels has not much better attestation than have some classical texts, the whole case is altered and the textual critic must be conceded the right of as free emendation in the Gospels as in the Classics. Granted this freedom it will perhaps be possible some day to reconstruct the texts which were in use at the close of the second century in Africa, in Alexandria, in the East, and perhaps elsewhere. None of these have been yet reconstructed : all that we can say is that each as compared with any of the others presents a definite series of interpolations and a definite series of omissions.
From The Influence of Textual Criticism on the Exegesis of the New Testament (1904), pp. 5-7 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic online

NYU’s Ancient World Digital Library has the Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic now online for free. This includes both volumes of the Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament Version from the Early Period by Christa Müller-Kessler as well as the Christian Palestinian Aramaic Old Testament and Apocrypha Version from the Early Period by Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff.

Also, don’t miss their papyrology section whcin includes the Chester Beatty Biblical papyri IV and V by Pietersma.

HT: Morgan Reed

Looking for advice on “Categorizing MSS”

Good morning from St Paul, where we finally got some rain on our parched gardens,

I am re-writing a textbook for beginners on TC of the Bible. The OT part was pretty good, but the NT part needed to be re-done. I’m now in the section that introduces some of the important MSS. We only introduce the most commonly discussed ones and otherwise suggest to the reader to go to the other established resources like Metzger & Ehrman, Parker, Aland & Aland, and the GNTs.

Originally the book had charts, one each for the papyri, majuscules, and minuscules.

Here are the first lines of the papyrus chart:

Table 4.1: Important New Testament Papyri
Number Date Textual Tendencies Contains Name/Collection
𝔓1 3rd century Alexandrian Matt 1:1–9, 12, 14–20 P. Oxy. 2, Univ. of Penn.
𝔓4, 64, 67 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Luke and Matthew P. Oxy. 208, British Lib., Oxford
𝔓13 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Heb 2; 10–12 P. Oxy. 657
𝔓20 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Jas 2:19–3:9 P. Oxy. 1171
𝔓22 3rd century Independent John 15:25–16:2, 21–32 P. Oxy. 1228
𝔓23 ca. 200 Alexandrian Jas 1:10–12, 15–18 P. Oxy. 1229
𝔓24 3rd century Alexandrian Rev 5:5–8; 6:5–8 P. Oxy. 1230
𝔓27 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Rom 8–9 P. Oxy. 1355
𝔓29 Early 3rd century Possibly Western Acts 26:7–8, 20 P. Oxy. 1597

There are about 30 total papyri listed.

When I hit the papyrus chart I wrote the following to the editor:

“Table 4.1: Important New Testament Papyri. I find myself wondering if this ought to be included. The main reason for it would be to provide the textual tendency of many of the papyri, but most textual critics are now frowning on the over-simplicity of assigning each MS to a text type. If we don’t list the textual tendencies, I don’t really see a reason for the chart at all. We can refer the reader to the more extensive list of NT MSS in the back of the NA28. This would lead to a similar decision about the other charts for the majuscules, etc.”

He wrote back the following:

“I know tables and charts tend to oversimplify, and I want our text to address the text type categorization issue directly. However, there may still be heuristic value in identifying what text type those MSS have been traditionally associated with. That is, we are indicating the classification solely as a help for the reader who might come across those categorizations if they read previous scholarship on NT TC. Our text will prepare them for the reality that those are now not as widely accepted, but knowing of them may help them evaluate future work that appears stuck in the past methodologically.

“I think some of the charts are helpful but perhaps too long to include in the chapters themselves, so I was considering moving them to appendices. They could also be edited to not be presenting as “important papyri” but maybe more as “representative papyri.” That is, giving students a quick reference for well-known MSS.”

My request from you my colleagues is to hear not only your opinion on whether papyri ought to be categorized. I am going to try to talk him out of that. (Though his point about students encountering previous scholarship is valid.) But also whether such a chart is helpful in a book for beginners. Please stay in the beginners mindset when you evaluate this.

Responses much appreciated. Amy

Batovici: Two B Scribes in Codex Sinaiticus?

In the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, Dan Batovici has a new article arguing against splitting the “B” scribe into two.
Abstract: The history of scribal hand identification in Codex Sinaiticus is a fairly complicated one. The most recent identification, splitting the work of Tischendorf’s scribe B in B1 and B2, was attempted by Amy Myshrall in a 2015 contribution, as a result of the work on the Codex Sinaiticus digitizing project completed in 2009. This article will assess the argument proposed by Amy Myshrall for distinguishing the two new scribes, and it argues that there is not enough reason to adopt the newly proposed distinction.
The article is on his Academia page.

Friday, July 14, 2017

New Details Emerge about ‘First Century Mark’ from Scott Carroll

Elijah Hixson has sent me a YouTube video that has Josh McDowell interviewing Scott Carroll about “First Century Mark.” The video is posted below to which I have added a partial transcript for reference. The video was uploaded on November 15, 2015, but the conference was in October, 2015 given what Carroll says in the video, it must be from before that.

The most important things we learn are that Scott Carroll has seen “First Century Mark” twice and that Dirk Obbink is indeed the unofficial source of its tentative date. So, we now have someone on record claiming to have actually seen it—twice. (Cf. PJW’s question here.) We are told that Obbink wrestled with dating it between AD 70 and 110/120. The former date has obvious reference to the destruction of the temple, but why 110/120 would be a sensible cutoff date, I have no idea. Obviously, we are hearing this from Carroll rather than from Obbink himself. So, caveat lector.

We also learn that Carroll does not seem to think it came from mummy cartonnage although he is not sure. (Papyrus can be cleaned of the signs of cartonnage, of course.) He tried to acquire it for the Green collection but wasn’t able to. An unnamed source now apparently owns it and is preparing it for publication. We continue to wait.

One other minor note. Carroll says he first saw the papyrus in 2012 and then again in 2013. His famous tweet, claiming that P52 was no longer the earliest known New Testament papyrus, was sent on December 1, 2011. So, my guess is that in the video Carroll has just rounded up to 2012. If so, this adds further confirmation that Carroll is the original source of the claim to a “First Century Mark” even though Dan Wallace was the first to announce it as such. This makes it a bit odd that Carroll refers to some stuff being “leaked.”

For a helpful timeline of events, see James Snapp’s site. For ETC’s past discussions, see here.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reviews of Lin’s Erotic Life of Manuscripts

Sometime in the spring while my head was still in boxes, BBR published my review of Yii-Jan Lin’s provocatively titled book The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences (Oxford, 2016). I must say that I did not expect to like the book when I first picked it up but the more I read the more it grew on me. There were still some problems and some... weirdness (cyborgs, anyone?), but overall I found it a helpful exercise to step back and consider the conceptual metaphors we use in the discipline. Lin admits up front that she is an outsider and occasionally it shows. But, on the whole, her outsider perspective was more benefit than liability. 

Here is my conclusion:
In the end, what is most enduring and helpful about Lin’s book is not its particular conclusions (will any be taken with her “cyborg” textual model?), but its method of interrogating past practitioners to see how their categories of thought have shaped their work. In that the work succeeds admirably and should generate a good deal more self-awareness on the part of textual scholars.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Christian Graffiti in Smyrna – not as early as once thought

Back in 2012 I posted a brief note about some Christian graffiti in Smyrna that was dated by Roger Bagnall to before AD 125 (and mentioned in R. Bagnall, Everyday Writing in the Graeco-Roman East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011, 2012 pb), 22f., see here). I suggested that if the date was secure “this would be the earliest securely dated archaeological evidence for Christianity anywhere in the ancient world”.


kurioj   w
pistij   w

This could be translated as: ‘equal in value: lord: 800, faith: 800’. It works on the basis of isopsephy:
  • kurioj  when one counts the letters equals 20+400+100+10+70+200=800 (i.e. omega)
  • pistij  when one counts the letters equals 80+10+200+300+10+200=800 (i.e. omega)
Anyway, recently I came across the publication of these texts on the new book shelves in the Sackler library: Graffiti from the Basilica in the Agora of Smyrna (eds R.S. Bagnall, R. Casagrande-Kim, A. Ersoy, C. Tanriver; New York: New York University Press, 2016)

In this analysis the dating is shifted back to ‘the last part of the second century and the first part of the third’ (p. 40). Other evidence for Christian presence is also noted (pp. 45-47). It is a full discussion with photos of a range of graffiti texts.

Book on the Green Collection and Museum of the Bible

Before the recent news about Hobby Lobby broke, Facebook alerted me to the book by Candida Moss and Joel Baden titled Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby (Princeton). Amazon lists it as coming in October and Tommy’s post says there will be an SBL panel on the book which will no doubt be even more important now. Here is the description:
How the billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make America a “Bible nation” 

Like many evangelical Christians, the Green family of Oklahoma City believes that America was founded as a Christian nation, based on a “biblical worldview.” But the Greens are far from typical evangelicals in other ways. The billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby, a huge nationwide chain of craft stores, the Greens came to national attention in 2014 after successfully suing the federal government over their religious objections to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. What is less widely known is that the Greens are now America’s biggest financial supporters of Christian causes—and they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an ambitious effort to increase the Bible’s influence on American society. In Bible Nation, Candida Moss and Joel Baden provide the first in-depth investigative account of the Greens’ sweeping Bible projects and the many questions they raise.

Bible Nation tells the story of the Greens’ rapid acquisition of an unparalleled collection of biblical antiquities; their creation of a closely controlled group of scholars to study and promote their collection; their efforts to place a Bible curriculum in public schools; and their construction of a $500 million Museum of the Bible near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Bible Nation reveals how these seemingly disparate initiatives promote a very particular set of beliefs about the Bible—and raise serious ethical questions about the trade in biblical antiquities, the integrity of academic research, and more.

Bible Nation is an important and timely account of how a vast private fortune is being used to promote personal faith in the public sphere—and why it should matter to everyone.
For a taste of the book, see the authors’ Atlantic article from a few years ago where they first broke the news about the Department of Justice investigation.

I do worry about how intent some people are on politicizing the Museum before it even opens. Is this book, for example, really a must read “in our increasingly polarized country” as Reza Aslan blurbs?

This unnecessary politicizing has only worsened since news broke of the settlement. Some people clearly have it in for the Museum because of the connection with the Greens and their victory at the the Supreme Court over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. (For a case in point, see Donna Yates’s “fantasies.”)

Let me say clearly that there are very serious questions that need answering about the Museum’s artifacts in light of the DOJ settlement. These questions are not helped and the issues are not clarified in the least by animosity toward the Greens because of their religious or political views. I hope the book does not traffic in them, but the marketing for it does not give me hope. Regardless of your political or religious views, let’s deal with the issues as they are. 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Where Should the Books of Chronicles be Placed?

In the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 60.2 (2017): 283–99, Gregory Goswell has contributed an article entitled “Putting the Book of Chronicles in Its Place.” His “aim is to unsettle any developing consensus that Chronicles must be read as the last book of the OT (in preference to other positions)” (283–4; emphasis original). His conclusions are worth citing in full:
My argument has been that the placement of Chronicles within the different canons reflects post-authorial evaluations of the book and its contents. Each position has its rationale and potentially contributes to the understanding of readers. There are no grounds for insisting that any one position is the earliest or best. In particular, there is no proof that the Chronicler composed his work to conclude the OT canon. Chronicles after Kings alerts readers that Kings (and the preceding historical books) record the history of Israel from a prophetic perspective. Chronicles at the head of the Writings suggests that succeeding books have a liturgical and/or wisdom orientation. Finally, Chronicles at the end of the Writings sums up the witness of the OT to God’s purposes that culminate in the rebuilt temple (= palace) of God as a precursor to the dawning of God’s final kingdom (pp. 298–9).
The first order of books alluded to above is the Greek ordering of the OT books in which Chronicles or Paraleipomenon follows Kings (p. 284ff); the second order is that of the earliest extant Hebrew codices of Aleppo and Leningrad which have Chronicles at the beginning of the Writings (p. 289ff); the third order in which Chronicles concludes the Writings is found in Baba Batra 14b.

In the final analysis, Goswell shows that our current, variegated evidence keeps us from concluding that any one of these orders is primary or better. Most importantly, according to him, we cannot conclude that the author of Chronicles is responsible for closing the Writings and therefore closing the Hebrew Bible with his own book. The different canonical orders result from “post-authorial interpretive frames” not an “authorial paratext” or an authorial guide to interpretation of the whole.

The article is worth reading in its entirety paying especial attention to pp. 295-7 wherein he shows the improbability that Chronicles was composed as a conclusion to the Writings as an authorial paratext. Goswell probably has not settled the debate, but he and others like Edmon L. Gallagher (see Tyndale Bulletin 65.2 (2014): 181-199; pdf) are certainly unsettling any recently formed consensus on this question.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

United States Department of Justice announces Hobby Lobby Cuneiform Verdict


Earlier today, the United States filed a civil complaint to forfeit thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae. As alleged in the complaint, these ancient clay artifacts originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law. Packages containing the artifacts were shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two of Hobby Lobby’s corporate affiliates. The shipping labels on these packages falsely described cuneiform tablets as tile “samples.”
Read the complete verdict, here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sister of Leningrad Codex Discovered!

Congratulations to Kim Phillips, Tyndale House Research Associate, for discovering a manuscript of the Former Prophets by Samuel ben Jacob the scribe of the Leningrad Codex. This should make a significant difference to our understanding of the main manuscript used for the study of the Hebrew Bible today.

The Tyndale House notice is here. The original article is online freely in the Tyndale Bulletin.

New Book on the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection

University of Michigan Press has a book coming out this year that looks interesting. Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection by Arthur Verhoogt is “the first-ever history of Michigan’s celebrated collection of papyri offers nonspecialists an inviting encounter with the ancient world.”


Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection provides an accessible introduction to the University’s collection of papyri and related ancient materials, the widest and deepest resource of its kind in the Western hemisphere. The collection was founded in the early part of the 20th century by University of Michigan Professor of Classics Francis W. Kelsey. His original intention was to create a set of artifacts that would be useful in teaching students more directly about the ancient world, at a time when trips to ancient sites were much harder to arrange.

Jointly administered by the University of Michigan’s Department of Classical Studies and its Library, the collection has garnered significant interest beyond scholarly circles and now sees several hundred visitors each year. Of particular note among the collection’s holdings are sixty pages of the earliest known copy of the Epistles of St. Paul, which are often featured on tours of the collection by groups from religious institutions.

Arthur Verhoogt, one of the current stewards of the University of Michigan Papyrology Collection, provides clear, insightful information in an appealing style that will attract general readers and scholars alike. Extensively illustrated with some of the collection’s more spectacular pieces, this volume describes what the collection is, what kinds of ancient texts it contains, and how it has developed from Francis Kelsey’s day to the present. Additionally, Verhoogt describes in detail how people who study papyri carry out their work, and how papyri contribute to our understanding of various aspects of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Translations of the ancient texts are presented so that the reader can experience some of the excitement that comes with reading original documents from many centuries ago.

Arthur Verhoogt is Professor of Papyrology and Greek and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan.

HT: Brice Jones

Monday, July 03, 2017

C. S. Lewis: Why the miracle of inspiration does not require the miracle of preservation

In his little book on miracles, C. S. Lewis has a chapter explaining why miracles should not be thought of as breaking the laws of nature. Instead, he says, they should be thought of as God introducing something new to nature which nature then acts on in typical fashion. He illustrates with a series of examples, one of which touches on the question of divine preservation.
If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born. We see every day that physical nature is not in the least incommoded by the daily inrush of events from biological nature or from psychological nature. If events ever come from beyond Nature altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate [but don’t tell Baptists], miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.*
What constitutes the peculiarity of a miracle, Lewis goes on to say, is that it does not “interlock” with what comes before in the way that it does with what follows after. “And this,” he says, “is just what some people find intolerable.” They assume that nature is all there is and so they cannot tolerate anything invading it from beyond.

Related to textual criticism and inspiration, there is an unexpected agreement on this issue between Bart Ehrman and KJV-onlyists that Lewis is inadvertently touching on. The agreement lies in the belief that the miracle of inspiration must walk hand-in-hand with the miracle of preservation such that if you lose one, you end up losing both. For KJV-onlyists, this explains why they insist on the miracle of divine preservation; for Ehrman, if we are to believe what he says in Misquoting Jesus (p. 211), it explains why he came to deny the miracle of divine inspiration.

But Lewis helps us see why neither view is right. There is no reason to assume that God’s miraculous inspiration of the Bible should require him (or lead us to expect him) to miraculously preserve it from the “ordinary processes of textual corruption.” Instead, we have God, in the miracle of inspiration, introducing something from outside nature and then, in the non-miracle of transmission, letting nature take its course. (Or, as I would prefer to say it, we have God returning to his natural way of overseeing the world.)

Lewis helpfully reminds us that the inspiration and transmission of Scripture fit with the pattern of many of God’s other miracles. Just as we can expect the baby Jesus to gestate normally, so we can also expect the Bible to be transmitted normally. The miracle of origin does not require a second miracle of subsequent development.

*From the end of ch. 8 of Miracles: A Preliminary Study; emphasis mine