Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Caring about the ‘infinitesimal points’


One of the marks of a good editor of the Greek New Testament is a near-obsessive attention to detail. There are so many decisions to be made about the little things like punctuation, paragraphing, spelling, etc. How (or if!) an editor chooses to handle these small details often says a lot about the overall quality of the work. As a famous man once said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

Because of this, one of the pleasures of working on Westcott and Hort’s correspondence is watching them discuss the tiniest of details, sometimes at great length. Today, I came across this portion of a letter from Westcott to Hort in July 1880. The edition was entering its final phase before publication the next year. Here, Westcott, more often the one to tire of minutiae, is still thinking about the details. 

I have been growing anxious about our text, but I have no doubt that Macmillan will push on the printers. Just lately it has occurred to me (an infinitesimal point) that in Hebrews 6.7 βοτάνην should be uncial. The reference to Genesis 1 really helps the understanding of a very hard passage more than appears at first and I cannot doubt that there is a reference. If you agree and the change can be made, I should like it; but I can be quite satisfied as things are.

Sure enough, βοτάνην was set in regular type in their privately circulated installment of the Pauline epistles. But Westcott got his way. Hort replied, “I am glad you have mentioned βοτάνην in Hebrews 6.7: of course you would add γῆ: not more I fear can be marked. There will be no difficulty.” The final edition prints the two words in “uncials” to mark them as an OT allusion. What’s the allusion? Westcott’s commentary says that βοτάνην means “the simplest natural produce: Gen. 1:11ff. Hence the word is used in a bad sense for wild plants, weeds.” 

Westcott and Hort’s 1875 installment (left) and 1881 final edition (right)

This is the kind of attention to detail that their correspondence reveals in letter after letter. It nearly pushed their publisher to the edge, I should add. But it did not go unnoticed. Another great editor of the Greek New Testament, Eberhard Nestle, told Westcott after its publication that “I never handled a book made up with so much care and thoughtfulness in the smallest details as your edition.”

Monday, November 23, 2020

In lieu of our beloved blog dinner


I was just reminded that today is the day we should be celebrating the highlight of our year here at the ETC blog: the annual dinner. Alas, that will not be happening. We do hope all our readers are well despite the many losses, big and small, that this year has brought with it.

I remember my first blog dinner and being surprised by two things. The first was how big it was. There were well over 30 people in attendance, I think. I’m sure it has only grown since then. The second was how fun it was. I was just a student at the time but I was welcomed into the group straightaway. It’s truly one of the great things about our discipline, how collegial it is, and that is on full display at the dinner.

In lieu of this annual tradition, perhaps our readers could leave a happy note in the comments about (a) something good you read on TC this year; (b) a good joke at the expense of one of our contributors; or (c) a good meal you plan to have tonight instead of our usual fare of burgers at Hard Rock Cafe.

036: A nice looking Oxford late majuscule

The other day in class we were reading Mark 14 and I noticed the variant at Mark 14.61 for the omission of ὁ χριστὸς (in Gamma and k). Gamma (036) is not one of those manuscripts that I am very familiar with, so this became an opportunity to show the class how to look up in the information in Appendix 1 (at the back of NA28). Lo and behold it is a local Oxford manuscript. Here is a nice colour photo from the Digital Bodleian.

And here is an image (from NT.VMR) of the passage under discussion:

Friday, November 20, 2020

Congratulations to Peter Head, CBE


I would like to congratulate our longtime blog editor, Dr. Peter Head, on his recent appointment to the order of Commander of the British Empire (CBE). This is also a good time to recognize his International Award of Merit in Structural Engineering. Congratulations, Peter! You don’t look a day over 73.

H/T: Google Search

Correction: The original title of this post incorrectly identified Peter Head’s appointment in the Order of the British Empire. He is, in fact, in the class of CBE not OBE. We apologize for the mistake.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Interview with Elliott after 43 Years with the IGNTP


A few days ago, in conjunction with the recent meeting of the IGNTP Committtee, Professor J. Keith Elliott stepped down from active service after being on the committtee for 43 years (as editor, secretary and member). That is in fact a record hard to beat. If you look at the historical data on the IGNTP webpage, you can see that Eldon Epp was on the committee for 42 years, Gordon Kilpatrick (Elliott's Doktorvater) for 41 years, and Bruce Metzger and Thomas Pattie "only" for 38 years.

As the current secretary, I took the opportunity to interview Elliott. You will find the interview here. By the way, there is also a link back to our blog (to the post about how Kurt Aland got two votes on the UBS Committee). 

The picture here is of the file with papers that I inherited from Elliott, who served as secretary to the IGNTP Committtee 1987–2010 (I celebrate 10 years as secretary). It is packed with communication, editorial reports, treasurer's reports, and minutes. Nowadays there is a digital archive but we still keep hardcopies of the signed minutes.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Two New Books on the Eusebian Canons

I recently published a very brief review of Matthew Crawford’s book, The Eusebian Canon Tables: Ordering Textual Knowledge in Late Antiquity (OUP, 2019).

Here is the Publisher’s Description:  

One of the books most central to late-antique religious life was the four-gospel codex, containing the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A common feature in such manuscripts was a marginal cross-referencing system known as the Canon Tables. This reading aid was invented in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea and represented a milestone achievement both in the history of the book and in the scholarly study of the fourfold gospel. In this work, Matthew R. Crawford provides the first book-length treatment of the origins and use of the Canon Tables apparatus in any language. Part one begins by defining the Canon Tables as a paratextual device that orders the textual content of the fourfold gospel. It then considers the relation of the system to the prior work of Ammonius of Alexandria and the hermeneutical implications of reading a four-gospel codex equipped with the marginal apparatus. Part two transitions to the reception of the paratext in subsequent centuries by highlighting four case studies from different cultural and theological traditions, from Augustine of Hippo, who used the Canon Tables to develop the first ever theory of gospel composition, to a Syriac translator in the fifth century, to later monastic scholars in Ireland between the seventh and ninth centuries. Finally, from the eighth century onwards, Armenian commentators used the artistic adornment of the Canon Tables as a basis for contemplative meditation. These four case studies represent four different modes of using the Canon Tables as a paratext and illustrate the potential inherent in the Eusebian apparatus for engaging with the fourfold gospel in a variety of ways, from the philological to the theological to the visual.
PMH: Despite its presence in practically every manuscript of the four canonical gospels and in our standard edition, the Novum Testamentum Graece, for more than a century (from the 7th edition of 1908 through to the 28th edition in 2012), the Eusebian apparatus to the gospels – a paratextual system enabling readers to locate similar or parallel passages across the whole four gospel collection – has remained relatively unexplored by biblical scholars. The system comprises three features: a letter (from Eusebius to Carpianus) in which the system is explained; a set of ten Canon Tables that offer a visual and tabular method of ordering and presenting the relationships between the four gospels; and a running numbering system through each of the four gospels. In this brilliant book Crawford takes the reader on a tour of this complex of information. From its background in late-antique methods of ordering and presenting textual knowledge in tables, and the earlier work of the shadowy and little-known Ammonius – who first created a kind of physical manuscript synopsis of parallels to Matthew’s Gospel; we are introduced to one of Eusebius’ great achievements: ‘a tool that enables the reader to attend simultaneously to what is unique and what is common, without disrupting the integrity of any of the four’ (p. 121). In the second part of the book Crawford traces the reception of Eusebius’ work in Augustine – arguing convincingly that Augustine’s De consensus evangelistarum was written with the aid of the Eusebian system as it was incorporated into Jerome’s Vulgate; the Syriac Peshitta – which incorporated the relevant information at the foot of each page; the Hiberno-Latin exegetical tradition – four case studies of medieval Irish work on the gospels show the impact of the Eusebian apparatus; and the Armenian tradition – wherein medieval Armenian scholars offered a kind of mystical commentary on the artistically decorated canon tables. Beautiful plates of the presence of these features in the manuscripts abound. Some details could be disputed; but this book offers a wonderfully detailed introduction to the development and reception of the Eusebian Canon Tables, and superbly fills a major lacuna in the scholarly study of the fourfold Gospel canon. 

NB. See a previous post on an article that is included as a chapter in this book.

Another new book has recently been published (and is available on Open Access), edited by Alessandro Bausi, Bruno Reudenbach, and Hanna Wimmer: Canones: The Art of Harmony. The Canon Tables of the Four Gospels (de Gruyter, 2020).
Here is the publisher’s summary:
The so-called ‘Canon Tables’ of the Christian Gospels are an absolutely remarkable feature of the early, late antique, and medieval Christian manuscript cultures of East and West, the invention of which is commonly attributed to Eusebius and dated to first decades of the fourth century AD. Intended to host a technical device for structuring, organizing, and navigating the Four Gospels united in a single codex – and, in doing so, building upon and bringing to completion previous endeavours – the Canon Tables were apparently from the beginning a highly complex combination of text, numbers and images, that became an integral and fixed part of all the manuscripts containing the Four Gospels as Sacred Scripture of the Christians and can be seen as exemplary for the formation, development and spreading of a specific Christian manuscript culture across East and West AD 300 and 800.

In the footsteps of Carl Nordenfalk’s masterly publication of 1938 and few following contributions, this book offers an updated overview on the topic of ‘Canon Tables’ in a comparative perspective and with a precise look at their context of origin, their visual appearance, their meaning, function and their usage in different times, domains, and cultures.

PMH: I enjoyed the many many wonderful colour photos spread throughout the book. There is a biographical essay on Carl Nordenfalk (by Ewa Balicka-Witakowska). This is very interesting (his memoirs were published in Swedish – but it is always nice to have English summaries of learned contributions in Swedish!). Matthew Crawford has a chapter focusing on Codex Fuldensis. Jeremiah Coogan has a chapter entitled ‘Transmission and Transformation of the Eusebian Gospel Apparatus in Greek Medieval Manuscripts’. This is interesting as an attempt to evaluate what sort of impact the (acknowledged) tendency to error in reproducing numbers had on the usefulness of the apparatus. He does this by looking at Canon IX in a selection of Greek manuscripts (I’m not sure of the basis for the selection). Other chapters look at Irish Pocket Gospel Books, an Ethiopian example, a discussion of the use of Prefatory Images in early books, Early Medieval Gospel Illumination, the Gospels of Sainte-Croix of Poitiers, and some interesting studies in aspects of the Illuminations used in reproducing Canon tables. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

More on the Legacy Standard Bible


My thanks to William Varner for alerting me to the new website for the Legacy Standard Bible (descendant of the NASB). You can sign up for a sample of Mark and watch a 37-minute video.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

How Many Manuscripts: Election Edition


How many manuscripts of the Greek New Testament exist today?

Jacob Peterson’s chapter, “Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn’t Always Better” in Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism attempts to shed some light on this question. It’s a complicated question because of double- (and triple-, etc.) counts, lost manuscripts, etc. Here is a summary from the Key Takeaways in his chapter:

Most manuscripts of the New Testament are only manuscripts of part of the New Testament, and providing an exact count of them is a fool’s errand. It is best to say that there are about fifty-three hundred Greek New Testament manuscripts in existence, although fifty-one hundred might be the safer estimate.

Or to provide a comparison that might make it easier to remember (because, as my pastor taught me when I started learning Greek, the weirder the analogy, the more likely it is that you will remember it), there are about half as many Greek New Testament manuscripts as there are people in Tennessee who voted for Kanye West: