Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Registration Now Open


I’m happy to report that registration for our 2024 TCI Colloquium at Yarnton Manor is now open. The fee is $100/person and includes lunch both days. I hope to see some of our readers there. You can register at textandcanon.org/events/text-types/

Friday, February 09, 2024

Scribal Habits in Near Eastern Manuscript Tradition and the Dead Sea Scrolls

I recently read and reviewed Scribal Habits in Near Eastern Manuscript Traditions for the journal, Presbyterion, published by Covenant Theological Seminary. I thought an overview of the book and some of my takeaways as an OT textual critic studying the Dead Sea Scrolls might be helpful here. To purchase the book with a 40% off coupon, use this code generously provided by the publishers: SH40%



Overview: The paratextual elements of Near Eastern manuscripts are the focus of Scribal Habits in Near Eastern Manuscript Traditions. These elements, such as annotations, colophons, illustrations, diacritical signs, and commentaries are often overlooked by those interested in biblical studies because of an emphasis on a manuscript’s main literary text. This tendency is understandable given evangelicals' commitment to the text of Scripture but neglecting these paratextual elements ultimately obscures a fuller and more complete understanding of these manuscripts and the texts they transmit. This book, Scribal Habits, highlights these features to provide readers with the ability to ‘“virtually look over the scribes’ shoulder” (xiii; a slight rephrase of the words of J. R. Royse).

Here is a sampling of the book’s content. Elizabeth Buchanan concluded in her chapter that the use of the diaeresis in Byzantine Egypt evinces patterns. One of these patterns is that the “more accomplished writers” used the sign most consistently (23). Binyamin Katzoff studied the chapter divisions in the Tosefta and concluded that the divisions in the E tradition corresponded with the divisions of the Mishna. This study provides insight into how one tradition could be influenced by another literary work: in this case, the Mishna (102). Katzoff’s second chapter of the book investigated how a text could be systematically corrected to a text of an alternative textual tradition (112). This summary suffices to show the importance of these features, especially for evangelicals when studying biblical texts. Our assessment of the biblical text has to consider these features. 

Application to OT Textual Criticism: As a biblical scholar, in particular, a textual critic primarily concerned with the Dead Sea Scrolls, two topics of this book intrigued me. First, I was interested to learn about the significance of the paratextual elements in Near Eastern manuscripts since several of these elements are also present in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For example, diacritical signs are used in some manuscripts such as the margins of 1QIsaa and 4QCantb, 1QIsaa may preserve a marginal gloss, and a drastic shift in paleography occurs in 4QJosha. Moreover, there is a shift from poetry to prose in 11QPsa. Given the use of these features in the Dead Sea Scrolls, I was interested in how these paratextual elements functioned in other texts of this region.

Second, I hoped that this book would help me ask different questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls and open new avenues of study for me. This task is comparative. That is, I hoped to compare these mostly later more extant manuscripts and their signs and features to the earlier less extant Dead Sea Scrolls.

Before I engage in this comparative task, it is helpful to mention a few difficulties with this process. Perhaps the most profound difficulty in comparing these later Near Eastern manuscripts to the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the Dead Sea Scrolls exist in a highly fragmentary state. Anyone familiar with this discipline understands this reality, and it can easily be illustrated by turning to the back of a DJD volume and observing the PAM plates. One can also see this reality by exploring “The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library” accessed here https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/home. Many Dead Sea fragments are unidentified, and some are only probably identified (see the debate around 4Q118, for example). This reality complicates an investigation into the paratextual elements of the Dead Sea Scrolls since many upper, lower, and intercolumnar margins have decayed. Handle sheets, title pages, and the endings of most manuscripts have deteriorated into dust. What precious information that these columns of parchment once contained is now lost, regrettably so, so that scholars can only dream of what a now lost colophon might have contributed to our understanding of these manuscripts.

Another difficulty with this process is the chronological and cultural gap between the Scrolls and the texts analyzed in Scribal Habits. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls are usually earlier than the manuscripts discussed here although there is at least one exception to this (see Szilvia Sövegjártó’s chapter on the Sumerian texts from the Old Babylonian era). Scribal habits, and the paratextual elements that they utilized, may not have remained static. The same can be said of the cultural differences between ancient Jews and the cultures of the scribes who preserved the manuscripts discussed in Scribal Habits. These realities, likewise, might complicate the comparative task.

Despite these difficulties, I did enjoy comparing these texts to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here are some thoughts regarding one of the chapters. T. C. Schmidt discussed the reception history of the Book of Revelation in Eastern churches, and in particular, the scribal strategies that might indicate a scribe's general assessment of the book. For example, the material used for writing, the books to which Revelation was bound, and the writing style of the scribe were all strategies that might demonstrate the scribe's attitude about the book’s status.

These insights provided me with interesting questions to ask of the Dead Sea Scrolls such as Does the quality of the script have any effect on a book’s status? Is there any connection between expertly copied texts and the status of the texts preserved in these manuscripts? Here I am thinking of what Tov labels de luxe edition manuscripts (see Scribal Approaches, 125-129). What does the phenomenon of stitching biblical and nonbiblical texts together signify about these texts’ status? This question continues to be an important issue regarding 11QPsa. Although most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are copied on parchment, what does the use of papyrus signify if anything during the Second Temple period? This distinction was significant in rabbinic literature. Is there a correspondence between the orthographic profile of a manuscript and the manuscript’s paleographic style? This one chapter demonstrates the importance of Scribal Habits for those interested in the history of ancient manuscripts including manuscripts that preserve the biblical text.

Overall, Scribal Habits was an enjoyable and insightful read, and it rightly stressed the importance of these paratextual features. Going forward let's open our eyes to the margins of the manuscripts, and let's get excited about what we might see. 

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Book Notice and Giveaway: Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew


I don't post here too often these days, but when I do, I announce a wonderful, new book and a giveaway! We're giving away two copies of Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the Old Testament by H.H. Hardy II and Matthew McAfee.

Lest one thinks this book is only an intermediate Hebrew Grammar (as if that wouldn't be sufficient), it also includes a chapter on Old Testament textual criticism along with a guided lesson for students to learn to do it for themselves.

To enter the giveaway, share the link of this post on Facebook or X (@ETCtomwas) and tag the ETC Blog in it or simply Share or Repost the original social posts. I'll announce the winners of the giveaway on Friday afternoon!

More from the publisher:

Learning any language is no small task, not least one that sounds as unusual as Hebrew does to most English speakers’ ears. Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew primarily aims to equip second-year grammar students of biblical Hebrew to read the Hebrew Scriptures. Using a variety of linguistic approaches, H. H. Hardy II and Matthew McAffee offer a comprehensive and up-to-date textbook for professors and students.

From an endorser:

Both practically accessible and linguistically rigorous, Hardy and McAffee’s valuable resource meets the needs of students and professors. Though not shying away from the technical details, the authors carefully balance the technical semantic information with the important pragmatic implications. Using famously complex passages (such as the Nephilim) as examples both draws students in and illustrates the importance of the issues. Overall, the authors make the technical relatable and, most of all, practical to second-year Hebrew students. –JoAnna M. Hoyt
Table of Contents

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Vesuvius Challenge Finds a Winner


You’ve probably already seen the news that the Vesuvius Challenge just announced a winner for their contest to read CT scans of carbonized scrolls from Herculaneum. The contest focused on about 5% of one scroll that turns out to be an Epicurean text. This is a big breakthrough that builds on the work done back in 2015 to digitally unroll the En Gedi scroll (blogged about here) and opens the possibility of reading more of the 800 or so carbonized scrolls recovered from the library of Herculaneum that was destroyed in AD 79. Naturally for ETC readers, the question arises whether there might be some biblical manuscripts among these 800.

You can read more about the prize and the prize winning team at scrollprize.org.

A section of scroll read for the first time since AD 79

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Dormandy: Jesus and the Victory of Manuscripts? A Wrightian Analogy Unpacked

The following is a guest post from Dr. Michael Dormandy who is a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, University of Innsbruck, Austria and was mentioned on the blog recently for his forthcoming dissertation on pandects. —Ed.

I recently came across the following striking passage in one of N. T. Wright’s more recent academic books:
Just as the massive nineteenth-century advances in discovering and collating early manuscripts led to major revisions of the text of the New Testament (resisted in some quarters, partly on the grounds that if God had wanted us to have this new text he would have given it to us a lot sooner), so the major twentieth-century advances in our knowledge of the ancient Jewish world, of which the discovery of the Qumran scrolls is just one example, have opened up new possibilities and insights which systematic theology has barely noticed but cannot afford, in my view, to resist or discount. (History and Eschatology, p. 119)
The analogy comes in the context of an argument for the theological relevance of empirical historical research into Jesus and the New Testament. If we really believe that God has entered our world as the human being Jesus, a Jewish carpenter-turned-Rabbi, then we should be able to learn a lot about God by studying in detail the historical evidence for the first-century world(s) in which he lived. Similarly, if we really believe God has spoken through the letters of another human being, the first-century Jewish man, Paul, then the same conclusion follows. If we don’t believe we can understand Jesus and Paul better by studying their cultural and historical context, we have in effect stopped believing they were normal human beings. This methodology has fueled Wright’s ground-breaking work for decades.

A similar conviction drives confessional Protestant textual-critics. If we really believe that God has particularly spoken through human literary works, written in the first-century but without surviving autographs, we should be able to learn a lot about God through studying our earliest and best evidence for the text of those works. It is no secret however that Wright’s work has been controversial, not least in those evangelical circles which have enthusiastically accepted the results of modern textual criticism. Wright appears in the passage quoted to hint that there is an inconsistency here. If modern manuscript discoveries can be allowed to alter the traditional text, they should also be allowed to alter its traditional interpretation.

We must not, of course, assume too great an analogy. Just because the last 150 years have seen us discover both many interesting manuscript sources for late second-temple Judaism and many early and important NT manuscripts, this does not mean that new readings and ideas built on these discoveries are equally persuasive. It is a striking historical coincidence that hordes of manuscripts were discovered both at Oxyrhynchus and at Qumran within a century of each other, but that does not mean both hordes are equally significant. However, for those who reject Wright’s theological conclusions, while still treasuring their modern critical editions of the NT, his challenge has bite. We are willing to allow new manuscript discoveries to influence the text of the Bibles we read. If we are consistent, we should be open to the possibility that new discoveries about the context of the NT could give new insights into what those Bibles mean.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

2024 Colloquium at Yarnton Manor on NT Text-Types


I’m happy to share a project I’ve been working on for some time here at the Text & Canon Institute. Some readers may remember that back in 2021 John Meade hosted our first colloquium on Origen as  Philologist. As the papers for that near publication, we are pleased to announce our second colloquium will be this July on the topic of NT text-types. The event will be hosted at Lanier Theological Library’s beautiful Yarnton Manor just outside Oxford, England on July 18–19. We hope to open registration for attendees in the coming weeks. For now, here are the details of the speakers.

Held just outside Oxford, England, the Text & Canon Institute’s second colloquium will bring together an international group of textual scholars to take stock of the current debate, present fresh avenues of understanding, and discuss the implications for New Testament studies. You can find more details at the conference page.

Speakers and topics 

Titles are subject to change of course

silvia castelli 
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
The Origin and Early History of Text-Types

peter j. gurry 
Phoenix Seminary
What Are Text-Types For?

klaus wachtel 
Institute for New Testament Textual Research
The Text-Type Theory in Light of the CBGM

andrew edmondson 
University of Birmingham
The Contribution of Phylogenetics

peter m. head 
University of Oxford
The Alexandrian Text

peter lorenz 
University of Münster
The Western Text

maurice a. robinson
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Emeritus)
The Byzantine Text

stephen c. carlson 
Australian Catholic University
The Caesarean Text

dirk jongkind 
Tyndale House, Cambridge
In Defense of Text-Types

peter malik & darius müller
Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel
Text-Types in the Book of Revelation

h. a. g. houghton
University of Birmingham
Text-Types in the Latin Tradition

Monday, January 22, 2024

Philip W. Comfort (1950–2022)


I just found out that Philip Comfort passed away just over a year ago. I had no idea! I never met him, but I've found his work to be interesting to say the least. Sure, I've had my disagreements with some of his dates of papyri, but the information he compiled in his various works is certainly helpful to have, and the relative accessibility of his work (in terms of price) has no doubt helped to introduce many to textual criticism. I still remember how excited I was in seminary when I found a copy of his Text and Translation Commentary for 75% off at a Christian bookstore in a going-out-of-business sale.

According to his obituary, he was a man of diverse interests, which included writing poetry and surfing. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

You can read the obituary here.

Friday, January 19, 2024

An interesting point in the NA28 apparatus at Gal 1.8


 I'm sure that enticing title should get the clicks coming! Anyway, I'm enjoying teaching a class this term on the Greek text of Galatians (this includes syntax, exegesis, translation, and text). So I was excited to see in the apparatus at Gal 1.8 the following notation: D(*.c).2

At this point I wasn't actually that interested in solving the textual question, more to point out that there are occasions when the NA28 text is based on only a couple of manuscripts. (Incidentally THEGNT prints a different text reading, but as I said, I'm not trying to solve the overall problem here). And secondly to point out that the main early witness in support of the NA28 reading is presented in a complicated way: D(*.c).2

So I tried to explain as best as I could, using the appendix at the back of NA28, what may have happened here in this manuscript (also that D is potentially confusing to those new to textual criticism!). I thought that this notation suggested that the text of D was corrected twice; that the original text must have a spelling variant that broadly supported the text reading more than any other reading and that it was corrected to another reading that was also not the text reading exactly, but must have been quite like it - hence the parentheses. And then that a second corrector had corrected the already corrected text another time to make it correspond to the text reading. 

It was a helpful exercise in demonstrating how much information is preserved in the NA28 apparatus (and appendices); but I also argued that in these situations it is always necessary to check a photo so that you really can see what was happening. So I did: 

Friday, January 12, 2024

ECM Revelation available for pre-order


The German Bible Society now has a page for the ECM Revelation, available for pre-order for €329.00 (plus shipping). The info on the page indicates there are nearly 100 changes from the NA28 [cue the unnecessary fear-mongering]; I am interested to know what all they are and how many of them are translatable. The release date is set for 12 May 2024, and hopefully vol. 3.2 will have Revelation, not Acts, on the front cover in real life. Congrats to Martin Karrer and his team!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Nicholas Elder: Common Myths about Ancient Reading, Writing, and Circulating Jesus Traditions

This week I received a nice new copy of Nicholas Elder’s new book Gospel Media: Reading, Writing, and Circulating Jesus Traditions (Eerdmans). In it, he addresses various myths that prevail in NT studies about ancient reading, writing, and publication. By “myth, he doesn’t necessarily mean they are false but that they exercise a powerful influence on our thinking and are often left unscrutinized (p. 1). Well, he scrutinizes them! Given my soft spot for books correcting myths and given that this book should be of keen interest to ETC readers, I asked Nick if he would give us a taste of the book. Enjoy. —Peter

There is a notion that in the ancient world people always read aloud. Especially in biblical and patristics studies, the idea is connected to an anecdote about Augustine coming upon his teacher, Ambrose, reading to himself. The details of the account are often fuzzy when one recalls it. An individual may not immediately know how the account suggests that reading aloud was the normal mode of reading in antiquity, but they know the tale supports the notion. It is Exhibit A for the claim that most persons could not or did not read silently in antiquity.

The account is found in Confessions 6.3. In it, Augustine tells how he would often happen upon Ambrose alone with a text that he, Ambrose, was reading not aloud, but silently. Augustine explains that even when his pupils were present, Ambrose read silently to himself. This explanation has spiraled into the myth that most persons could not read silently in the ancient world.

The logic is that because Augustine explains that Ambrose read silently, he must be surprised that Ambrose did so, and he must have been surprised that Ambrose read silently because most people could not or did not.

However, nothing in Augustine’s anecdote suggests surprise at Ambrose’s supposed unique abilities. Rather, his point is to commend Ambrose’s scholastic diligence. He was so committed to his study that he continued doing it even when his pupils came calling. In fact, Augustine himself could and did read silently. In the famous “take up and read” account in book 8 of the Confessions, Augustine reads Romans 13:13–14 in silence (Conf. 8.12).

It is a myth that persons in antiquity could not or did not read silently. The reality is that those who were literate did read silently regularly, and there are just as many, if not more, primary sources that narrate persons reading silently to themselves as those that narrate persons reading aloud to themselves.

This is the first media myth that I address and correct in my new book, Gospel Media: Reading, Writing, and Circulating Jesus Traditions. The book is divided into three parts, each one addressing one of the three media practices mentioned in the subtitle: reading, writing, and circulation. The chapters in each part identify a “media myth” that is prevalent in biblical and New Testament studies and, in its place, offer a more complex “media reality” on the basis of what I find the primary source evidence to indicate. These myths and realities are as follows:

Chapter 1

Media Myth: Reading was always or usually aloud.
Media Reality: Literate persons read both silently and aloud.

Chapter 2

Media Myth: Texts were always or usually engaged in communal read­ing events.
Media Reality: Reading was both a communal and solitary affair. Indi­viduals read texts to themselves, both aloud and silently. Communal reading events were diverse. Small groups read and engaged texts together. Texts were publicly read to large gatherings of people. An­ tiquity was characterized by a variety of reading events, constituted by different numbers of persons in participation of the event. A given text could be read in different ways and in different social contexts.

Chapter 3

Media Myth: Each gospel was written to be experienced the same way.
Media Reality: Each gospel expresses its textuality differently, indicat­ing that the gospels are different kinds of texts that made for different kinds of reading events.

Chapter 4

Media Myth: Persons in antiquity did not often compose texts in their own hands.
Media Reality: Handwriting played an important role in the composi­tion process of various kinds of texts, though how and why it was used varied on the basis of a text’s genre and the author’s social context, literacy, and compositional preferences.

Chapter 5

Media Myth: Composition always involved dictation, which was an act of freezing an oral discourse in written form.
Media Reality: Composition was an interplay between writing by hand and by mouth. Even when a text was dictated, the act of inscribing af­fected the spoken words. Not all forms of writing by mouth were equal and not all should be considered dictation.

Chapter 6

Media Myth: The gospels were all written using the same composi­tional practices.
Media Reality: The gospels were composed using a variety of composi­tional practices.

Chapter 7

Media Myth: Texts were distributed following a “concentric circles” model in which the discourse gained more influence and readers as it went systematically through these different social circles.
Media Reality: Texts were distributed in a variety of different ways.

Chapter 8

Media Myth: The gospels were all circulated the same way and in the same physical format, whether it be a codex or roll.
Media Reality: The gospels, like other texts in their media context, were circulated textually in a variety of socially constructed ways and physical forms.

To address and correct these myths, the book engages various kinds of primary source evidence: Second Temple Jewish narratives and histories, documentary papyri, Greco-Roman literature, letters written by elite literary figures, the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament. The ultimate aim of the book is to explicate the complex media environment of the New Testament context situate the gospels within it.

Friday, January 05, 2024

RP Byzantine Text in Free Digital Formats


This may be old news to some of you but I pass the info along anyway. Norman Simón Rodríguez maintains the public domain repository for the Robinson-Pierpont Greek Byzantine text. The following info is from him.

The repository includes the following resources:

  • The beta code files of the Robinson-Pierpont 2018 text, including Byzantine variants and the Byz vs. critical text apparatuses. There are both accented and unaccented versions, and one version has grammatical parsing data. These files are the official source files created by professor Robinson for his edition.
  • Converted Unicode files in CSV (Excel) format.
  • TEI-XML files of the Unicode text. This format is especially convenient for creating collations against the transcriptions made by the INTF, as those transcriptions also follow the TEI-XML standard.
  • The code used to convert the beta files into Unicode and XML. The code is written in the Python programming language and is open source.
  • Plain-text versions of the 'The case for Byzantine priority' essay in both English and Spanish.
The repository can be found at https://github.com/byztxt/byzantine-majority-text. More information about the Byzantine text can be consulted at https://byzantinetext.com/study/editions/robinson-pierpont/

Thursday, January 04, 2024

New Book: Building a Book of Books


My thanks to Michael Dormandy to alerting me that the published version of his Cambridge thesis will soon be out as vol. 54 in the ANTF series from de Gruyter.

Building a Book of Books: Textual Characteristics of the Early Greek Majuscule Pandects 

Michael Dormandy

This book analyses how the early Greek whole-Bible manuscripts (pandects) change and preserve the text. Dormandy refutes the method based on singular readings and so investigates all the ways in which each pandect differs from the initial text, both changes introduced by its own scribe and by the scribes of earlier manuscripts. He surveys sample chapters in John, Romans, Revelation, Sirach and Judges (including discussing the “new finds” of Sinaiticus). Dormandy’s observations of Codex Ephraemi challenge accepted transcriptions. Dormandy argues that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus may plausibly have been made in response to commissions by Constantine and Constans. Dormandy concludes that generally, across all the Biblical books considered, the pandects preserve the initial text well. Transcriptional and linguistic variations are more common than harmonisations or changes of content. The more precise profiles of each manuscript vary between Biblical books. The pandects thus create bibliographic unity from textual diversity. This shows their significance in the history of the Christian Bible: they reflect in bibliographic form the hermeneutical move to consider all the books of the Christian Bible as one corpus.

Some of you may remember Michael's 2018 article in TC on the question of canon and codex. Congrats to Dr. Dormandy!