Tuesday, June 18, 2024

On Female Scribes


There is a really good discussion of a significant amount of evidence for female involvement in literary activities such as reading, authoring, and writing, in Leah Mascia, 'Female Monastics and Devotees in Late Antique and Byzantine Egypt: Papyrological, Epigraphic and Archaeological Sources' in Female Agency in Manuscript Cultures (ed. E. Grossmann; SMC 39; Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, 2024), 129-169. The whole book is available Open Access

Conclusion: 'This survey has aimed to provide some insight into the lives of female devotees and monastics in late antique and Byzantine Egypt, offering tangible evidence of their roles as readers, writers, scribes and active participants in the contemporary literary society. While numerous questions remain open regarding women’s literacy in Christian Egypt, the integration of papyrological and epigraphic evidence – in their original archaeological contexts whenever possible – strongly suggests that a significant part of female society was able to read and write. These data force us to rethink many of the dogmas upon which our understanding of female literacy in ancient Egypt is based. While many women were probably not accustomed to reading and writing on a regular basis, others stand out for their remarkable writing skills, which in some cases are comparable to those of professional scribes. The examination of textual evidence associated with specific monastic communities leads us to think that women may also have played a significant role in book production. In this sense, the comparative study of written and archaeological sources and, in particular, the evaluation of the Coptic textual evidence alongside the Greek have the potential to shed new light on the role played by women in shaping the manuscript culture of Christian Egypt.'

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

J. K. Elliott (1943–2024)


Last week marked the passing of one of the great NT textual critics of the 20th/21st-centuries. J. Keith Elliott has been a staple of textual criticism as long (and longer) than I’ve been a student of the subject. I first heard him at a conference on the ending of Mark at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007 as an undergraduate. That conference, later published as a book, was instrumental in pushing me to become a text critic.

Elliott taught for many years at the University of Leeds after having studied under G. D. Kilpatrick at Oxford from whom he picked up his thoroughgoing eclecticism. This method is known for putting primary (though not exclusive) emphasis on internal evidence and a willingness to accept a reading regardless of its source. 

As a proponent of this method, he could write negatively about “the cult of the oldest and best manuscripts” though he was careful to add that he did not treat all manuscripts the same. Positively, his approach meant he could be extremely careful and insightful when writing about matters of Greek syntax and authorial style. All this left me surprised when, in my viva, he left my criticisms of his method virtually untouched. I had claimed that the results of the CBGM basically made his method untenable. But he seemed completely unbothered and was nothing but a delight as an examiner. Even typos were forgiven!

Speaking of typos, he was a very close reader, as any who read his book reviews will know. He had plenty of practice as as the long-time book review editor for Novum Testamentum. Receiving a positive review from Elliott gave one a sense, not so much of pride, as relief. I will never forget him referring to what he considered to be a book’s overly sanctimonious acknowledgements as “cringe-making and toe-curling.” Besides moving me to keep my own acknowledgments short, this particular line taught me that good academic writing did not have to be stiff and boring; it could be careful and still colorful. Elliott’s writing was both. 

In my mind, his meticulousness as a scholar is encapsulated in two books on my shelf: his Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts and his Survey of Manuscripts Used in Editions of the Greek New Testament. The former he updated regularly and it is amazing to read it and see all that Elliott kept his pulse on. If readers would like a good sample of his work, Brill has kindly made his essay on thoroughgoing eclecticism open access.

Besides serving as an editor for Novum Testamentum and secretary of SNTS, Elliott served the IGNTP for 43 years in various roles as editor, secretary and member. (See the interview with Tommy at his retirement.) It surprised me to learn that Elliott was instrumental in the work of the Luke volumes as early as the 1970s. Much more surprising, but still indicative of the kind of person he was, Elliott was also a member briefly of the Majority Text Society for some years of the Dean Burgon society. Hixson will have to confirm this for me, but my understanding is that he was asked to give a talk at one of their meetings and he maintained his membership in order to get their newsletter and stay abreast of their work. He was ever the consummate bibliographer.

Elliott truly was a giant in our field. His passing feels like a great loss, one impossible to replace. But I take it as a moment to remind myself how important it is for those of us in the field to inspire the next generation. For myself, Elliott did that most of all through his speaking and writing. He remains for me a model of precision and thoroughness.

Posted below is a video of Elliott with Craig Evans to get a good sense of the man. (By the way, did you know Elliott has an IMDB page?)

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Video Look at the New ECM of Revelation


Greg Paulson has recorded a short video on YouTube giving an overview of the new four-volume (!) Editio Critica Maior edition of Revelation. One whole volume is dedicated to punctuation and “textual structure.”

Some highlights: 

  • The textual commentary is the longest yet
  • 84 changes to the initial text; 106 split lines; 95 changes in orthography
  • The edition gives a list of singular readings
  • There is a new punctuation apparatus with paratextual data too
  • Nomina sacra are marked in the main text (I wonder how these were decided on)
  • This is the first ECM completed outside Münster

Congratulations to the team!