Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Synopsis of P.Oxy. 5575, Matt, Luke, and Thomas


I had a little time on Friday afternoon to work through the editors’ editio princeps of P.Oxy. 5575 and I hope to write some more on it soon. But in the meantime, I thought I might share a first pass I made at a Greek synopsis here [PDF]. 

For this, I have simply adopted the editors’ reconstructed text even though there are places where I’m of a different mind. They naturally include plenty of alternate possibilities in their discussion, so their reconstructed text should obviously not be treated as final. But you have to start somewhere. Feel free to use and share it. Corrections are welcome.

One initial observation from making this synopsis is that the inclusion of Luke is, to my mind, somewhat precarious. I don’t see anything in the fragment that is distinctive of Luke. The material from the canonical Gospels is from the so-called double tradition and, in the few places where Matt and Luke diverge, our fragment is lacunose, follows neither, or follows Matthew. I don’t see any point where it distinctly follows Luke. If so, then parsimony would suggest we leave Luke out of the equation in explaining what this fragment is. But maybe others will see something I missed—as I said, I only had an afternoon to spend with it so far.

As for other initial reactions, here’s a nice video from Bible Unboxed, and don’t miss Brent Nongbri’s post on the paleography.

Update: if you’re looking for an English synopsis, Mark Goodacre has uploaded one he made here. Mike Holmes also has a nice intro to the papyrus here, with an English translation.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

New 2nd-Century ‘Sayings of Jesus’ Oxyrhynchus Papyrus


Volume 87 of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri is apparently out today and it lists some pretty exciting papyri. From the website:

This volume includes editions of fifty-eight papyri and one text on parchment. Among the theological texts, three are of exceptional interest. 5575 is an early copy of sayings of Jesus corresponding in part to the canonical gospels of Matthew and Luke and in part to the apocryphal gospel of Thomas. Jesus is also the speaker in 5576 and apparently in 5577, where Mary is addressed. Both pieces may be loosely called “Gnostic”; the latter appears to be Valentinian.

Candida Moss has more detail at the Daily Beast here. From her article:

The significance of the fragment lies in its date and contents. In conjunction with distinguished papyrologist and paleographer Ben Henry, the editors—Jeffrey Fish, Daniel Wallace, and Michael Holmes—date the fragment to the second century CE. This is important because, as Dr. Fish told me, “Only a few gospel papyri can be securely dated to the second or beginning of the third century.” This is the earliest period from which we have Christian manuscripts. “What is so significant about this papyrus,” continued Fish, “is that it contains sayings of Jesus which correspond partly to canonical gospels (Matthew and Luke) and partly to sayings we know only from the Gospel of Thomas. It is as early or earlier than any of our papyri of the Gospel of Thomas [our earliest non-canonical Gospel],” including other fragments of the Gospel of Thomas found at Oxyrhynchus.

I will update this post as I learn more. But needless to say, this looks like a big deal.

Update (9/1/23)

Now that I’ve seen pictures and emailed the editors I can confirm this is the fragment I worked on as a student in the Green Scholars Initiative back around 2012. It was a treat to work on it and I’m very glad to see it finally published. I did get to spend an afternoon with the fragment. I’ll try to publish some more of the work I did on it back then later on the blog. I haven’t seen the official publication yet and, naturally, the editors went well beyond my meager student efforts. You’ll notice that comparing the photos from 2013 to the b/w images from the Oxy volume that another piece of the fragment was identified. So the color photos do not show the entire known fragment.

2012 Photos (by Ardon Bar-Hama)

2023 Photos from the Oxy volume (via Facebook)

Update (9/12/23)

See the Greek synopsis I put together here.

Friday, August 25, 2023

J. Gresham Machen on Conjecture


J. Gresham Machen is known for many things: starting Westminster Seminary, starting the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, writing a widely used introductory Greek grammar (one still used when I was in high school!), battling theological modernism, etc. Among his books, the most famous is Christianity and Liberalism, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It is a classic. If you’ve never read it, you should. 

One thing Machen is not known for is textual criticism. Nevertheless, one will find in his major study of the virgin birth a chapter devoted especially to the textual problem of Matt 1:16. It’s a nice treatment overall. But what caught my attention was his response to the conjecture proposed by A. Merx (and others, see here) that the text initially read “Joseph begat Jesus” and this was only later emended in various ways to include Mary and her virginity. Here is Machen:

In reply, it may be said, in the first place, that the method of conjectural emendation, which is here followed, can be applied only with the greatest caution to a work which has so extraordinarily rich a documentary attestation as has the Gospel according to Matthew. In the case of many classical authors, where we have only one or two late and obviously very imperfect manuscripts, an editor is often justified in rejecting the transmitted text of a passage and in substituting for it a reading which shall best account for the obviously incorrect wording of those manuscripts that happen to be extant. But in the case of the Gospels, the extant documentary attestation is so very abundant, and the various lines of transmission began to diverge at such an early time, that one has difficulty in understanding how the original text could have been so completely obliterated as to leave no trace. There may indeed be such instances, where all of our extant witnesses to the text have been corrupted; but surely they are very few. Thus although conjectural emendation cannot be excluded in principle from the textual criticism of the New Testament, it should certainly be employed there in the most sparing possible way. The employment of it in any passage should be regarded as a counsel of desperation, to be resorted to only when all ordinary methods fail. If it is possible to regard any one of the extant variants as original, that alternative should be chosen; and the critic should not undertake to reproduce by conjecture a text which has actually left no trace. 

In the case of Mt. 1:16, if there is any truth in what has been said above, we are by no means reduced to such desperate expedients. It is perfectly possible to understand the reading attested by our earliest Greek manuscripts as belonging to the original text of the Gospel, and both the variants as having been produced from that reading in the course of the transmission by well-known causes of textual corruption. But if such a solution of the problem is possible, it is surely—in view of the wealth of documentary attestation— decidedly preferable. What need is there of going so far afield to solve a problem for which a satisfactory solution lies near at hand? (pp. 183-184)

I’ll just note two points of interest to me. The first is that, despite his famously staunch defense of the Westminster Confession, Machen is willing to entertain that conjecture might be needed in the rarest cases in the Gospels: “There may indeed be such instances, where all of our extant witnesses to the text have been corrupted; but surely they are very few.” 

The second is that Machen’s hesitation about conjecture is based on two points not one. It is not only the “abundance” of manuscript evidence for the Gospels but also that the lines of transmission diverged so early. If this is true, then any convincing conjecture must not only explain why the original text was lost in so many manuscripts, but, more importantly, how it was lost in all the lines of transmission so early. Even still, Machen is not opposed to conjecture tout court.

P.S. It’s pronounced gress-um.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Tribute to Gordon Fee


It’s been almost a year since Gordon Fee passed away. I wrote a little about his passing at the time and linked to other obituaries for him. Now the latest issue of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology has an editorial about Gordon Fee that is worth reading. On this blog, we remember Fee most for his text-critical work but he was known for much, much more of course. Here’s a taste:

Amongst the incredibly candid revelations to come out of this interview was Gordon’s confession that he was the least intentional NT scholar on the face of the earth, for he had pursued his theological training as preparation for a lifetime of missionary teaching and accidentally ‘fell’ into teaching; that he was spurred on to scholarship in part when he heard a minister say from the pulpit, ‘I would rather be a fool on fire than a scholar on ice’ – which led Gordon to the conviction that it should be possible to be a ‘scholar on fire’...

Later, the article mentions a tribute session at SBL in 2014 which, I think, is the one I attended. Here is what Fee said about that occasion.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease that robs you of your memories. I had forgotten about many of the things about which you spoke, but your memories brought back my memories that had been lost to me and I want to thank you all for these memories you have helped me reclaim. It is a gift I could not possibly have received in any other way.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Parablepsis to the Rescue in Jude 12


Jude 12 has an above average number of variants in it. But one in particular is quite striking. It’s the addition of the words γογγυσταὶ μεμψίμοιροι κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας αὐτῶν πορευόμενοι (“grumblers, malcontents, following their own desires”). This longer reading is found in 01*, 04C, 1270, 1297, 1827, and some Coptic witnesses at the end of v. 11 and must come from v. 16. How did it get here? Probably by dittography caused by the presence of οὗτοί εἰσιν in both verses. But that is a long way for an eye to skip as seen in Codex Sinaiticus.

The red lines mark the shared verbiage in v. 12 and v. 16 (οὗτοί εἰσιν).

Is it really possible that a scribe’s eye skipped that far? I doubt it. Thankfully, Tommy Wasserman’s dissertation cites J. Rendel Harris who provides a better explanation. He suggests that the mistake happened when the two verses were on the same level in parallel columns. The scribe’s eye jumped, not just from one verse to the other, but from one column to the other. The longer reading wasn’t always corrected, in part, because as Tommy notes, it fits pretty well in v. 12 given the reference to Korah’s rebellion in v. 11 and the grumbling that was a key part of it (cf. Num 16.11; 17.6 etc.).

All this is well and good. It explains how the scribe got off track. What it doesn’t answer is how he got back on. How does a scribe go from jumping columns like this and not leave out everything in between (vv. 12–15) as a result? A mistake that big would not have gone unnoticed and therefore would not have survived like it has in the tradition. What gives?

At this point, the corrector in Sinaiticus may offer a clue. Just after the addition (marked as such), we find another correction in the small addition of οἱ out in the margin before ἐν ταῖς κτλ. 

The article οἱ has been added in the margin in 01

Sure enough, the other three Greek manuscripts with the longer reading also lack the article οἱ after the addition (04 is not extant at this point per ECM). Since those are the same last two letters in the addition (πορευόμενοι), might it be possible that, having skipped to the wrong verse, the scribe’s eye now skipped back to the right one thanks to the letters -οι? From there, he carried on with the rest of v. 12, missing only the οἱ. This would explain why his mistake went completely unnoticed and how he managed to skip from v. 12 to v. 16 without leaving out everything in between. In short, he managed to get himself back on track without ever having realized he left it. 

If so, then we have a rather fun case where one parablepsis led to a lengthy addition and a second parablepsis kept it from leading to a much larger omission—while the combination kept the scribe from noticing he made either mistake.


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Textual Criticism in the 1970s and 1980s


Was there an interlude in the discipline of NT textual criticism in the mid-20th century? Eldon Epp thought so. Kurt Aland disagreed. Whichever side you take, I noticed an interest contrast today in an article by Georg Luck published in 1981 on the state of classical textual criticism. 

Writing shortly after Epp made his provocative claim about an interlude, Luck wrote these words introducing an extended review of several books: “Above all, these works show that textual criticism today is as an essential tool of classical scholarship as it has ever been.” 

That’s an interesting contrast. At roughly the same period of time, a NT scholar was suggesting the discipline was in a lull on his side of things while a classicist was saying it was thriving on his. I have no grand conclusion to draw. Just an observation.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Three New Essays on Theology and Textual Criticism


At ETS last year, the conveners of the session on inerrancy invited several people to give papers on inerrancy and textual criticism. That included me and my coblogger Dirk Jongkind and Matthew Bennet of Cedarville University. (Dan Wallace was also slated to speak, but unfortunately couldn’t make it at the last minute.) Those papers have now been published in the latest issue of Presbyterion

In Dirk’s paper, he examines the claim that textual variants don’t affect theology and uses that to discuss the relationship of textual criticism and theology more generally. In my paper, I consider whether a shift to the pursuit of the initial text creates a problem for evangelicals who hold to inerrancy. In Bennett’s very interesting paper, he compares textual criticism of the New Testament to textual criticism of the Qur’an with particular attention to the theological ramifications for Christians and Muslims respectively. (It was certainly news to me to learn about the online Encyclopedia of the [variant] readings of the Qur’an and its 14,000 recorded textual variants.)

You can read all three papers online at our Academia pages:

Friday, June 30, 2023

Curetonian Syriac Gospels Digitized


I learned some good news by way of Ian Mills on Twitter today. The British Library has now digitized Add MS 14451, better known as the Curetonian Syriac Gospels. There are a handful of leaves in other places as well (see here). The images from the BL are listed as in the public domain.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Ending of Mark Papers Published


The papers from the Mark 16 conference around this time last year have now been published in the latest issue of Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin. I haven't had a chance to read them yet myself but look forward to.

The Transmission of Mark’s Endings in Different Traditions and Languages

Papers presented at the International Workshop, Lausanne, 2–3 June 2022; ed. by Claire Clivaz, Mina Monier, and Dan Batovici

Introductory Essay

Greek and Latin Traditions

Other Languages

History of the Reception

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

New Series “Papyri and the New Testament”


I just discovered today that Brill has a new series called “Papyri and the New Testament” edited by Peter Arzt-Grabner, John S. Kloppenborg, and Christina M. Kreinecker. Here’s the publisher’s summary:

Papyrology has always interested scholars of the New Testament and of Christian origins, mainly because of the discovery of papyrus copies of texts from the Christian scriptures. However, what documentary papyri, ostraca, and tablets indicate about issues of everyday Greco-Roman life has also much to contribute to the understanding of early Christ groups. These issues include ancient economy and agriculture, labor and social relations, reading cultures, administration, and a variety of other topics. The PNT series is designed to introduce students and teachers to the value of this material. The volumes provide introductions, evaluations, and conclusions. Many documents are presented in their entirety with an English translation and commentary. The authors cover the state of papyrological research and supplement it with their own conclusions and updates, making the series also of interest to scholars of Papyrology, Biblical Studies, Ancient History, and Classics.

The first two volumes are scheduled for release this year.

The first volume is More Light from the Ancient East: Understanding the New Testament through Papyri edited by the series editors. The title is an obvious ode to the pioneering volume by Adolf Deissmann.

The first volume of the new series “Papyri and the New Testament” introduces students, teachers, and scholars to the value of the study of papyrological documents and their impact on the understanding of early Christ groups. Papyri, ostraca, and tablets document the social, economic, political, and multilingual circumstances of the Greco-Roman period and are the best sources for understanding New Testament times. Compared to the first studies devoted to this topic about 100 years ago, the amount of available material has grown twentyfold. In addition, the days have passed when papyri were found exclusively in Egypt: a significant number of texts from Israel, Syria, North Africa, Britain, Switzerland, and other Greco-Roman regions demonstrate that these sources shed light on general conditions throughout the Roman Empire. The volume both introduces the main issues of comparing papyri with New Testament texts and presents many comprehensive examples.

The second volume is Letters and Letter Writing by Peter Arzt-Grabner.

New Testament letters are compared with the private, business, and administrative letters of Greco-Roman antiquity and analyzed against this background. More than 8.000 letters – preserved on papyrus, potsherds or tablets from Egypt, Israel, Asia Minor, North Africa, Britain, and Switzerland – have been edited so far. Among them are not only short notes by writers with poor writing skills, but also extensive letters and correspondences from highly educated authors. They testify to the high art of Paul of Tarsus, who knew how to make excellent use of epistolary formulas or enrich them with new variants, but they also show that some New Testament letters clearly fall outside the framework of standard epistolography, raising new questions about their authors and their genre. The introductions and discussions offered in the volume reflect the current state of research but also offer new results. Over 130 papyrus and ostracon letters are newly translated in their entirety.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Why We Wrote Myths & Mistakes in Two Tweets

Twitter is not exactly famous for nuance, but at least it reminds you from time to time of the value of writing books. Today was one such day. Here are two tweets, from different ends of the spectrum that repeat unhelpful myths about the text of the NT. 

If only someone had edited a book correcting such common myths.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

William Eyre: Neglected Figure in the History of Textual Criticism?


I recently acquired access to the substantial three-volume collection of James Ussher’s correspondence edited by Elizabethanne Boran. Ussher is most famous today for his very specific dating of creation. I’m no expert on him, but I can safely say that this was hardly his greatest contribution. He was, according to one recent biographer, “formidably learned” and kept a wide correspondence with great lights of hisday. He wrote on a wide range of subjects, including those of interest to this blog (see here). 

The particular letter I’m interested in, however, is not from Ussher but to him from a man named William Eyre (or Eyres, Aiers). Eyre was a Fellow at Emmanuel College and, according to Gordon Campbell, an overseer of the first Cambridge company of KJV translators who were assigned 1 Chronicles to Song of Solomon (more here).

Emmanuel College, where Eyre was a fellow

Before introducing the letter, it’s important to remember that, at this time, the dating of the Hebrew Masoretic vowel points was hotly contested. The issue was hardly arcane as it touched on a much larger debate between Catholics and Protestants on which versions of the Bible were “authentic” and therefore authoritative for settling doctrinal debate. If the Jews added the vowel points after both the Septuagint and the Vulgate, then it was easier to argue that the Hebrew text of the 16th century was inferior to either of those translations. From this Catholics could ground their preference for the Vulgate since, it was argued, Jerome had access to a purer Hebrew text than the one Protestants claimed. (If you want a great example, take a close look at Gen. 3.15 in the Douay-Rheims vs. KJV and think about its potential to influence Mariology.)

This is the backdrop to a long and fascinating letter that Eyre sent to Ussher on 24 March, 1608. (You can find the Latin online here.) The main subject of the letter is a proposed two-volume work that would contribute to the debate by showing that “only the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament, just as the Greek of the New, is authentic and pure.” The OT seems to occupy his special attention, but the NT is not left out.

What’s fascinating is the amount of detail he provides Ussher for his plan.

...here is the method of the things that I have begun to prepare — and indeed shortly (with the Lord’s help) I shall complete this work for private use. It can be called סיג התורה ‘fence around the law, or ‘Massoreth’ ’ or (as others read) ‘Masorah’, for preserving the purity of the sources, or removing corruption from the text of the sacred scriptures, and consequently for proving their authority; it is contained in two books, of which: 

  1. The first, will contain general introductory material. 
  2. The second, an index of variant readings, in the whole of scripture. 
The chief material of the first book (after the state of the controversy about the authentic edition of the scriptures and purity of the sources) I have covered in six propositions, which I could confirm with the firmest of reasoning, if they are rightly understood: 

  • 1st proposition: only that edition of the scriptures is authentic which was divinely inspired, and written down by the prophets and apostles. 
  • 2nd proposition: that prophetic scripture which was first written down is still preserved in the Church in a pure and whole state. 
  • 3rd proposition: the Hebrew scripture of the Old Testament was handed down in antiquity with the same notes of vowels and accents that we use today. 
  • 4th proposition: the Greek scripture of the New Testament (which was divinely inspired) still remains whole and pure in the Church. 
  • 5th proposition: the Greek translation of the Old Testament is neither divinely inspired, nor pure and whole. 
  • 6th proposition: the Vulgate Latin edition of the Bible is not faithful nor authentic, nor yet divinely written down.

Friday, May 19, 2023

2023 Birmingham Colloquium Papers Online


Thanks to Hugh Houghton and his team for putting on the latest Birmingham Colloquium. The videos are now up on YouTube here. The theme this year was Catena, Marginalia and the IGNTP. I have sadly never been but I take Dirk's word as accurate to many who are able to go.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Codex Sassoon Sells for $38m


We wrote earlier about the sale of Codex Sassoon which was billed, with some exaggeration, as the earliest, most complete copy of the Hebrew Bible. Less exaggerated, as it turns out, was the claim that it could be the most expensive book sold at auction. As of today, it can officially claim that title. 

JNS reports that it sold today for $38.1 million to the Tel Aviv ANU–Museum of the Jewish People. For comparison, the most expensive book sold at auction before today was da Vinci’s Codex Leicester which Bill Gates bought for almost $31m. I should note that this is at the short end of Sotheby’s original projection which put it at $30–50m.

From JNS:

Alfred H. Moses, a former U.S. ambassador to Romania and active member of the Georgetown Jewish community, and his family purchased the Hebrew manuscript on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and gifted it to the museum, according to a press release from the auction house. Moses is chair of the museum’s international board of governors.

“The hammer fell after a four-minute bidding battle between two determined bidders,” Sotheby’s stated.

Read the rest here

Update (5/18/23): JNS updated its story after I wrote this to correct the amount the codex sold for. They had originally said 33.5m but it was apparently 38.1.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

‘Fragments of Truth’ Now Free to Watch Online


Craig Evans shares word that his Fragments of Truth documentary on the text of the New Testament is now free to watch on YouTube. He’s also uploaded a few extras, including the video below with the late great Larry Hurtado dispensing uncommon wisdom on P52. The documentary has some fantastic footage of early NT papyri and (most of) the interviews are with genuine experts on the subject. It’s worth watching. You can read my review here.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Robinson’s Defense of Byzantine Priority in Spanish


Norman Simón Rodríguez has translated Maurice Robinson’s essay defending the Byzantine priority position into Spanish. You can read it free online.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Ioannis Karavidopoulos (1937–2023)


INTF shared yesterday the passing of Ioannis Karavidopoulos. I never had the chance to meet him but I have friends who did. I believe he was the only Eastern Orthodox scholar on the UBS committee at the time. Here is the in memoriam from INTF

On April 15, 2023, Greek Orthodox Holy Saturday, Ioannis Karavidopoulos, Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Theology of Aristotle University Thessaloniki, passed away at the age of 86. 

Ioannis Karavidopoulos was born in Thessaloniki in 1937. He studied theology and philosophy at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, then in Strasbourg, France, and Göttingen. Since 1975 he was Professor of Theology and Exegesis of the New Testament in Thessaloniki. 

He was one of the five editors responsible for the 26th and 27th editions of the Nestle-Aland and the 4th and 5th editions of the UBS Greek New Testament, the two authoritative critical hand editions of the Greek New Testament. He was particularly concerned to make the value of the Byzantine text fruitful for the textual history of the New Testament and to counteract its disdain. With his passing, we lose not only an outstanding New Testament exegete and textual critic, but also an endearing colleague who will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Monday, March 13, 2023

Recent Unsubstantiated Critiques of the CBGM (Pastorelli and Alexanderson)


At the SNTS in Leuven last summer, David Pastorelli came up to me during a break and handed over an off-print of an article, "La mise en oeuvre de la cohérence prégénéalogique dans le cadre de la Coherence-Based Genealogical Method: évaluation critique," BABELAO 10-11 (2022): 169-188, in which he criticizes the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method making ample references to my and Peter Gurry's introduction to the method. When I read the article I just felt that it was so full of misunderstandings that I did not know where to begin. Unfortunately, Pastorelli has never participated in our text-critical seminar at SNTS, where we could have had a dialogue about his concerns.

In any case, Klaus Wachtel has now actually taken the time to offer a response to Pastorelli under the heading, "Selective Reading and Unsubstiantiated Criticism" on the INTF Blog, for which I am grateful. In the blogpost, Wachtel refers to one of the many unsubstantiated statements that Pastorelli cites in his article, namely a statement that he has drawn from Bengt Alexanderson's 2014 critique of the CBGM: "This is all arbitrary, a 'place of variation', a reading, a variant, a passage can be anything" (Pastorelli, 179).  

Many years ago I was asked by a Swedish journal to review Alexanderson's study. I wrote the review in Swedish (Swedish version here), but  I have now translated it below for our blog readers – it is another example of criticism against the CBGM which is totally off the mark. (The critique of the CBGM are in his chapters 3–4.)

Review of Bengt Alexanderson, Problems in the New Testament: Old Manuscripts and Papyri, the New Genealogical Method (CBGM) and the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) (Acta Regiae Societatis Scientiarum et Litterarum Gothoburgensis. Humaniora 48). 146 pages. Kungl. Vetenskaps- och Vitterhets-Samhället i Göteborg 2014.

Bengt Alexanderson’s short study is divided into four chapters: (1) An analysis of textual variants in four of the oldest textual witnesses to the Gospel of John (P66, P75, Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus); (2) A survey of how Barbara Aland has analyzed early NT papyri in three studies; (3) A critical treatment of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM), developed by Gerd Mink of the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster and applied for the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) and, in extension, also Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (from the 28th edition and onwards); (4) An evaluation of the second edition of the Editio Critica Maior IV. Catholic Letters (“ECM2”).

Friday, March 10, 2023

Emanuel Tov and His Evolving Categories for the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls


Emanuel Tov is the most well-known textual critic of the Hebrew Bible and for good reason. Under his leadership, thirty-three volumes of the authoritative series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) were published in less than twenty years. Before his tenure, only seven volumes were published in nearly forty years. Despite this impressive feat, Tov is probably most well-known for his work Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

The book is now in its fourth edition, and it is the go-to work for those interested in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. One aspect of the fourth edition, among many, worth discussing is his categorization of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. A comparison of these categories across his four editions shows a certain evolution in how he views the text of the Hebrew Bible in the Second Temple period.

First Edition (pp 114-117)
QSPProto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Second Edition (pp 114-117)
QSPProto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Third Edition (108-110)
Proto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Rest of Scripture
Proto-MTClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Proto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Fourth Edition (pp 135-136)
Proto-MTMT-SP BlockPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXLXX-SP BlockNon-Aligned


Rest of Scripture
MT-LikeMT-LXX BlockClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Proto and semi-MTMT and LXX BlockMT-SP BlockPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXLXX-SP BlockNon-Aligned


Observation #1: The category, Qumran Scribal Practice, was a group of texts united by a distinctive orthography and morphology. These texts, however, did not share a textual background, so Tov eliminated this category in his third edition (see 3rd ed., 110). The elimination of this category caused the non-aligned and proto-MT categories to increase by 10% each.

Observation #2: The statistics of the proto-MT category and the non-aligned category have changed most drastically. Tov has not been completely clear on the qualifications for the categorization of these manuscripts. For example, he describes a non-aligned text as one that is “not exclusively close to MT, LXX, or SP.” They are inconsistent in aligning with MT, SP, and LXX while preserving unique readings (3rd ed., 109). This description of the non-aligned category lacks precision. At what point does a text morph from being proto-MT or MT-like to being non-aligned?

Despite this lack of precision, it is clear that Tov’s proto-MT, and even his semi-MT, categories are restrictive categories. For a text to fit into these categories, a text must align closely with the MT even regarding its orthography. If a text deviates orthographically from the MT, it most likely becomes non-aligned as in the case of 1QIsaa. The opposite is true with the non-aligned category. It is by definition, extremely broad since these manuscripts are joined together not by a common denominator of shared readings but by the simple fact that they disagree with the other texts (MT, SP, and LXX). Over time, Tov’s proto-MT category has become more restrictive while the non-aligned category has become broader. This detail has led to a dramatic decrease in those texts labeled proto-MT texts and a dramatic increase in those texts labeled non-aligned.

Observation #3: A superficial survey of the above statistics shows that the fourth edition has more categories than the first three. The reason for this is that in earlier versions, texts that were equally close to the MT and SP were categorized as MT. Similarly, texts equally close to MT and LXX were understood as proto-MT (3rd ed., 108). The MT, however, in the fourth edition, is no longer the default text in the categorization of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. If a text agrees with the MT and the SP, it is labeled MT-SP. If a text agrees with the MT and LXX, it is labeled MT-LXX. Moreover, Tov now differentiates between proto-MT and semi-MT texts. Proto-MT texts are more closely aligned with the MT than semi-MT texts. Overall, the addition of more categories has led to a further decrease in those texts labeled proto-MT.

Observation #4: Since 1992, more manuscripts are included in Tov’s statistics. For example, Tov understood 4QRPc-e (Reworked Pentateuch) to be non-biblical in the first two editions, but beginning in the third edition, these manuscripts are categorized as non-aligned. The statistics in the fourth edition also include seventeen tefillin that do not seem to have been included in the statistics for earlier editions. Although tefillin are technically non-biblical texts (they are excerpted texts), Tov now includes them in his categorization grid. These details, likewise, have shifted the statistics away from the proto-MT and semi-MT categories.

Tracing the Evolution
Overall, the evolution of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls in Tov’s categorization grid moves away from proto-MT. The steps contributing to this movement included the increase in categories, the increase in texts now included in the statistics, and the understanding that the MT is no longer the default text in his categories. The elimination of the QSP category led to an increase in the proto-MT category in the third edition, but this type of change has been the anomaly. The evolution of Tov's categories is rather straightforward: for Tov, fewer texts are proto-MT, and more texts are now non-aligned. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

TC Journal vol. 27 (2022) Is Out


I have the pleasure to announce that vol. 27 (2022) of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism is finally published after some delay. A number of reviews will be added soon, but we could not wait to get these articles out. In the previous blogpost, Peter announced a book about the Greek palimpsests at St Catherine's Monastery. Incidentally, in this volume of TC, my student Conrad Elmelund has produced an editio princeps of one of those palimpsests – Greek NF MG 99 (GA 0289), presumably from the fifth century. Do I need to say that I am proud?

 Below I paste the contents and links:

Volume 27 (2022)


Timo Tekoniemi, The Position of Old Latin Manuscript La115 in the Textual History of 2 Kings: Identifying kaige and (Proto-)Lucianic Readings in a kaige Section (pp. 1–15)

Abstract: The value of Old Latin witnesses in the textual criticism of Septuagint has been lately noted by a growing number of scholars. As a daughter version of the Septuagint, the Old Latin is an important witness to the textual history of the Septuagint, as well as to the Hebrew Vorlage behind it. This article seeks to elucidate and ascertain the text-historical position of the fifth century Old Latin manuscript Palimpsestus Vindobonensis (La115) in 2 Kings. This task is carried out by first mapping all the characteristic readings of the manuscript (248 cases in total) and then by studying fourteen most illuminating readings. In 2 Kings, the manuscript seems to be free of Hexaplaric and Vulgate influence and most probably also of kaige readings. There are few, if any, recensional Lucianic readings. For the most part, the text of La115 belongs to the proto-Lucianic layer and therefore mostly seems to preserve the Old Greek text—sometimes even when all preserved Greek witnesses have lost these Old Greek readings. La115 is thus argued to be an exceedingly important witness to the textual evolution of 2 Kings.

Leonardo Pessoa da Silva Pinto, The CBGM and Lachmannian Textual Criticism (pp. 17–31)

Abstract: The discipline of New Testament textual criticism has changed considerably in the last few decades. Among the most relevant developments is the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, which, however, is often unknown to or misunderstood by textual scholars of both biblical and nonbiblical literature. This article explains the main concepts of the CBGM and compares them with the core principles of (Neo-)Lachmannian textual criticism. The comparison shows how deeply many steps and concepts of the CBGM are rooted in the traditional methods of textual criticism, the Lachmannian method in particular, but also the many differences in its procedures and terminology. Many of these changes result from the effort of integrating the potential of the computer tools now available to the discipline.

Katrin Maria Landefeld, Die textgeschichtliche Verbindung zwischen Codex Bezae (05) und dem Handschriftenpaar 08/1884 in Acta (pp. 33–49)

Abstract: The so-called Western tradition in the text of Acts is a much-discussed topic in New Testament Textual Research. There is still no agreement concerning possible theological tendencies in the text and the analysis of the transmission of this text is not completed. Present research uses the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) of the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster. By measuring quantitative agreement between manuscripts and building local stemmata for variation-units, potential ancestors and descendants for manuscript texts can be found. This is more difficult with texts of the Western tradition. They often contain long insertions and these differ among the manuscripts of this tradition as well. So, the agreement rates between these manuscripts and others, and also among themselves, are quite low. Although these manuscripts have different wording, they are probably connected in the transmission of the text. This can be seen with the help of internal criteria. This essay will study variants in the manuscripts 05, 08, and 1884 and show that they most probably have a genealogical connection despite several textual differences. The discussed variants show the same insertions with regard to content and only show different wording or grammatical phrasing. By studying these, a possible chronological order of the variants can also be assumed. This can also be useful to assess other variation-units, as an example will show. The study shows that further analyses of this kind can help to clarify the transmission of the Western text and also make it visible in the CBGM.

Conrad T. Elmelund, The Undertext of Greek NF MG 99 from Sinai (GA 0289) (pp. 51–68)

Abstract: Despite having been included in critical editions since NA27, an edition with the full text of Sinai Greek NF MG/ΜΓ 99 (GA 0289) has not been published until now. The Greek undertext of the palimpsest, written in biblical majuscule, was provisionally dated in the Kurzgefaßte Liste to VII/VIII (600–799 CE) but has now been redated by Guglielmo Cavallo to the fifth century. The present edition, based on new multispectral images of the damaged palimpsest, not only corrects readings included in the NA28-apparatus but also brings to light and discusses a significant number of new readings that should be considered for inclusion in future editions.

Paul A. Himes, Lectio difficilior potior and an Aramaic Pun—Βεώρ vs. Βοσόρ in 2 Peter 2:15 as a Test Case for How a Classic Rule Might Be Refined (pp. 69–83)

Abstract: Lectio difficilior potior (“prefer the more difficult reading”), while still in use in recent scholarship, has been criticized for being overly subjective and of relatively little value as a canon of internal criteria. These criticisms have not been adequately addressed. Yet 2 Pet 2:15 provides a fertile testing ground for the refinement of this rule absent text-critical bias. Since every single current edition of the Greek New Testament, and almost all commentators, agree with Βοσόρ due to overwhelming external support, the rule is not needed to prove the superior reading of Βοσόρ. Rather, the near-universal agreement on the reading gives us an opportunity to develop a methodology for determining whether or not Βοσόρ is the lectio difficilior compared to Βεώρ, a methodology that would hopefully be free from bias. This methodology, which draws from Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort’s distinction between “real and apparent excellence,” could then assist in rehabilitating lectio difficilior potior as a helpful, if secondary, principle in textual matters.


Elvira Martín-Contreras, How to Deal with Annotations by Different Scribes When Studying and Editing the Masorah (pp. 85–92)

Abstract: This article tackles the problem posed by presence of annotations written by different scribal hands when studying and editing the masorah. What should we do? Should we ignore the differences between the annotations and merely focus on their content? Starting with a review of how second hands and other paleographic features have been treated in the most recent editions of the masorah from the Leningrad B19a codex, a step-by-step guide on how to include paleographic and other material aspects in the study of the masorah in critical editions (in particular in the Biblia Hebraica Quinta) is presented.


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

New Book on Greek Palimpsests at Saint Catherine’s


An email informs me of a new, open-access book that will be of interest to readers here. It’s called Greek Palimpsests at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Sinai): Three Euchologia as Case Studies. The author is Giulia Rossetto. You can read it online here

The Monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai peninsula preserves one of the largest collections of manuscripts in the world, which include a significant number of palimpsest manuscripts (over 170). This book deals with Saint Catherine’s palimpsests in Greek language and offers their first-ever inventory. Three selected cases studies are then extensively described in order to showcase the richness and heterogenity of Sinai palimpsest books.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Codex Sassoon Heads to Auction


Sotheby’s has announced the upcoming auction of Codex Sassoon. They are dubbing it “The Earliest, Most Complete Hebrew Bible” and anticipating that, at $30–50m, it could be “the highest valued manuscript or historical document ever offered at auction.” From their description:

The earliest, most complete copy of the Hebrew Bible is actually a book known as Codex Sassoon, named for its most prominent modern owner: David Solomon Sassoon (1880–1942), a passionate collector of Judaica and Hebraic manuscripts. Dating to the late 9th or early 10th century, Codex Sassoon contains all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible – missing only 12 leaves – and precedes the earliest entirely complete Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex, by nearly a century.
It all sounds quite impressive, but that’s what you would expect from someone about to make money off of it. I wonder if our readers could say more about this manuscript. I admit this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. (Wikipedia seems to have it confused with the Damascus Pentateuch.)

Update (2/22/23): Kim Phillips addresses some of the exaggeration about Codex Sassoon over at the TCI website and points to some other helpful sources here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Martin Heide on Erasmus


Some of our readers may know that Martin Heide, one of our blog members, has written on Erasmus. His book Der einzig wahre Bibeltext? Erasmus von Rotterdam und die Frage nach dem Urtext (The Only True Bible Text? Erasmus of Rotterdam and the Quest for the Original Text) is now in its fifth edition. Martin has worked extensively in the languages over the years, contributing to and producing numerous critical editions of the versions. 

For those who don’t read German, you can sample his work on Erasmus in his new article at the Text & Canon Institute website: “Erasmus and the Search for the Original Text of the New Testament.” Here’s a taste:

The Novum Instrumentum was the only printed and published Greek text available at the onset of the Reformation and it has done the church a great service. The success and deep impact of the Reformation and its aftermath would be unthinkable without this new spiritual and intellectual basis of the New Testament text. Moreover, no cardinal doctrine is jeopardized by its obvious shortcomings. However, the Greek of the Novum Instrumentum, or the “Received Text,” as it was later called, “soon became, as it were, stereotyped in men’s minds; so that the readings originally edited on most insufficient manuscript authority, were supposed to possess some prescriptive right, just as if … an apostle had been the compositor” (Tregelles).

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Subgrants for Paratext Research in Glasgow


A note from Garrick Allen about new research opportunities that includes two partially-funded PhDs:

Dear friends and colleagues,

I'm writing to make you aware of a unique opportunity coming from our recently funded project Paratexts seeking Understanding here at the University of Glasgow, led by me, Christoph Scheepers, and Kelsie Rodenbiker. We are planning to make multiple subgrants (36 months from 1 October 2023) with budgets of up to £121,328 for research on the paratextuality of manuscript cultures in and represented by the Chester Beatty collections, with special attention to questions of aesthetics and knowledge (aesthetic cognitivism).

We hope to make subgrants that address manuscripts cultures preserving Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and other religious traditions.

Subgrantees are to propose a plan for philological research on a specific tradition and be willing to work with our Scientific Team here in Glasgow to operationalize empirical studies on their tradition. Applicants must hold a PhD and have the support of their host institutions. No experience with empirical research is required.

More information on the project, its application materials, and support for applicants can be found at www.gla.ac.uk/paratext. Questions can be directed to paratexts@glasgow.ac.uk.

Applications (which are not too onerous) are due 15 April 2023. Outcomes will be communicated 15 May 2023. Applications will be evaluated by our advisory board, project leaders, and external reviewers.

A video overview of the project can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAUjNjrkTis

Information on early stages of this project can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIykXTuZ5nE&t=1s
Glasgow University