Monday, July 24, 2017

Introduction to Brill’s Textual History of the Bible

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kirsopp Lake on the need for conjectural emendation

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic online

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

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

HT: Morgan Reed

Looking for advice on “Categorizing MSS”

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

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

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

Here are the first lines of the papyrus chart:

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

There are about 30 total papyri listed.

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

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

He wrote back the following:

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

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

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

Responses much appreciated. Amy

Batovici: Two B Scribes in Codex Sinaiticus?

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reviews of Lin’s Erotic Life of Manuscripts

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

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