Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Codex Climaci Rescriptus contains Aratus and Eratosthenes

We've partially cracked the previously undeciphered 20 sides of Codex Climaci Rescriptus. They contain astronomical texts by Aratus and Eratosthenes. In the case of the latter this is the earliest known manuscript.

See further DeMoss press release.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ancient Textual Scholarship: Pseudo Aelius Herodianus

The Partitiones contains orthographical and inflectional observations on Greek. A number of these words appear to come from the Greek Bible, both Old and New Testament, though the work in itself does not betray any ecclesiastical Christian connection. Under the initial syllable /i/, for example, the entry ιησους is glossed rather simplistically, as ο θεος. The work is ascribed to Aelius Herodianus (II AD), but apparently falsely so, according to the Neue Pauly. The Pinakes website lists his work under Herodianus Alexandrinus (also II AD), but I haven't seen any justification for this. A date of this work with its New Testament terms somewhere in the second century AD would be nice, but it is inherently unlikely that the writings of the New Testament (including Mark - Boanerges is mentioned) already had drawn attention from any grammarian. My own rule of thumb for dating anything is that if I don't have a clue it is likely to be fourth of fifth century AD.

Secondary literature on authorship, date or nature of the work seems absent (or at least I haven't found it; any help appreciated).

The Partitiones are potentially interesting because of some of the glosses and particular spellings, though these may have been influenced by liturgical influences or Byzantine linguistic updating. The explanation for Moses, μωσης is that it derives from μως (88.6), an explanation that would not work with the spelling μωυσης:
μῶς, τὸ ὕδωρ, ὅθεν καὶ Μωσῆς, κύριον.

There is clearly a relation with what Micheal Psellus (XI AD) writes:
53, 255-256
παρ' Αἰγυπτίοις γὰρ τὸ ‘μῶς’ ὕδωρ ἐστὶ σημαῖνον,
ὁ δὲ ληφθεὶς ἐξ ὕδατος Μωσῆς αὐτοῖς καλεῖται.

And possibly also with this passage from Joannes Zonaras (XII AD):
ἡ δέ “κάλεσον” ἔφη. καὶ παρήγαγε τὴν μητέρα, καὶ ἡ Θέρμουθις τὴν τοῦ παιδὸς τροφὴν ἔμμισθον αὐτῇ ἀνατίθησι, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ συμβεβηκότος ὀνομάζει αὐτό. τὸ γὰρ ὕδωρ μῶς καλοῦσιν Αἰγύπτιοι, ὑσῆς δὲ τοὺς σωθέντας ἐξ ὕδατος· ἄμφω γοῦν συνθεῖσα τὰ ῥήματα εἰς κλῆσιν αὐτοῖς τοῦ βρέφους ἐχρήσατο.

See also the spelling of Bethphage (accentuation as in TLG):
Πᾶσα λέξις ἀπὸ τῆς βη συλλαβῆς ἀρχομένη διὰ τοῦ η γράφεται· οἷον· Βηθλεὲμ, καὶ Βηθανία, Βηθεσδὰ, Βηθσαϊδὰ, καὶ Βηθσφαγὴ, ὀνόματα τόπων ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις·

The spelling Bethsphage is interesting and common in the later manuscript tradition. But is this an adaption, is there variation within the tradition of the Partitiones, or what? It seems that without a critical edition of the Partitiones and a good study on the contents there is little we can do as yet.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Review of The Story of the Bodmer Papyri

My review of James M. Robinson, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery's Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin (Cambridge: James Clarke, 2013; ISBN 9780227172780) has been published in Review of Biblical Literature:

The conclusion of the review:
Stories of manuscript discoveries are always exciting, and this account of one of the most valuable treasure troves of biblical and other manuscripts is no exception. In my opinion, Robinson convincingly establishes the connection between manuscripts in the Bodmer and Chester Beatty libraries as well as a number of other collections, primarily Mississippi, Cologne, and Barcelona. Although Robinson’s investigations in Egypt are likely to be influenced by rumors and exaggeration and the exact extent of the “Dishnā Papers” is impossible to establish, his main proposal of a common discovery is thoroughly backed up with documentation and hard evidence from the manuscripts themselves.

On the other hand, the book is poorly edited and betrays many traces of several layers of revision and scattered updates, not only by Robinson, who “composed the book two decades ago” from several earlier publications and new material, but, more recently, also by K. C. Hanson, who edited and published the book (vii). The resulting unevenness is all the more annoying in a book that presents the reader with many names, dates, and details about the manuscripts, which are repeated back and forth, sometimes with variation, which creates confusion.

For example, we are told in the introduction (6) that the Vatican Library was given P. Bodmer XIV–XV (P75) in 2007, a piece of information that may give the reader a sense that the book is brought up to date. In the next sentence, another manuscript is mentioned, “the Savery Codex (then the Crosby Codex of the University of Mississippi),”
 Read the whole review here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

An Amulet Referring to the Last Supper in John Rylands Library

The Daily Mail reports today (September 3rd, 2014) that Dr. Roberta Mazza, Research Fellow of the John Rylands Research Institute at the University of Manchester, recently made a significant re-discovery in the vaults of John Rylands Library. She found a papyrus amulet from Egypt dated to the sixth century. The apotropaic text was written on re-cycled papyrus (traces of a grain tax receipt have been identified on the reverse side with multispectral imaging). The amulet contains biblical passages from Psalm 78:23-24 and Matthew 26:28-30 and others. The text includes:
Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.
The news story claims that this is the first example of an amulet referring to the Christian Eucharist in the context of (apotropaic) magic, which I assume is correct. However, several other statements are erroneous (as usual when things get in the media), for example:
The papyrus contains some of the earliest documented references to The Last Supper.
It is also one of the first recorded documents to use magic in the Christian context.
Some Christians still use passages from the Bible as protective charms, so the amulet marks the beginning of a trend in Christianity [my italics].
An image of the amulet is available here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A variant unique to cited text

When a substantial chunk of the Bible is cited in some ancient work and within the manuscript tradition of this work new variants happen, do they count for anything? Well, at the very least they give us another fresh set of stuff to study.
Take this example from Kosmas Indikopleustes, citing Acts 17:26, εποιησεν τε εξ ενος παν εθνος ανθρωπων (He made out of one the whole human race):

The last word on line 2 is εποιησε, line 3 continues with τε εξ αιωνος παν εθνος αν̅ων (He made from eternity the whole human race). ενος (of one) and αιωνος (of eternity) differ phonetically only in the added syllable /o/ in the latter. Phonetics made the error easier, context did as well: the whole of the context is devoted to arguing that heaven is 'eternal'.

Image is from Plut. IX.28, but there is also another Kosmas manuscript with the identical error. Until we find a Greek biblical manuscript with this variant, most of us will never see this one again (except for the poor student who is going to study the text of Kosmas's bible - any takers?)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Doodling in New Testament manuscripts: 0189

Whilst preparing the slides for my paper at the BNTC conference for this coming Friday, I was delighted to find the oldest manuscript of Acts GA 0189 online. Normally I have some inkling of what is happening on a manuscript page, but what is happening in the upper margin on the recto (left of the page number) stumps me.

My best guess so far is that it is a dog with sunglasses.

Is there anyone with a more reasonable suggestion?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Postdoctoral job opening at ITSEE in Birmingham

Hugh Houghton who leads the COMPAUL project at ITSEE in Birmingham announces a job opening:
There is a vacancy for a postdoctoral research fellow to work on the COMPAUL project at the University of Birmingham, investigating the earliest commentaries on Paul as sources for the biblical text.

We seek a scholar with expertise in classical or biblical Greek, an interest in the New Testament and experience of working with electronic and online corpora. The principal duties will be the analysis of early Greek commentaries on Paul and the creation of a database of biblical quotations.
The research fellow will join an established team working in the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham.

The appointment will start from 1st October 2014, or as soon as possible thereafter. The post is initially for 12 months, with the possibility of extension.

I apologise for the very short notice, but the deadline for applications is: 7th September 2014.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to
Applications must be made online through the portal at
A job description may be downloaded from
I should point out that this is a terrific chance to join a leading team of specialists in New Testament textual criticism as well as electronic editing.

See also this previous post.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Greek Palaeography in Oxford

This is a guest post by Peter Gurry who just came home from the fifth Summer School of Greek Palaeography in Oxford:

Last week was the fifth Summer School of Greek Palaeography hosted by Lincoln College in Oxford. This year’s program was run by Georgi Parpulov and a small cadre of other instructors.
The program ran for five days and concluded with a review exam on Saturday morning. The students were organized into groups of nine with each group led by a seasoned palaeographer. The majority of time was devoted to deciphering various Greek hands starting with Codex Bezae and quickly jumping to manuscripts from the 8th–15th century (so almost all minuscules). My own group spent time with about 30 manuscripts and I assume most of the other groups were the same. The focus was decidedly on matters of palaeography and codicology, so there was very little translation.
The late mornings were spent at either Christ Church library or the Bodleian examining manuscripts of roughly the same time period as in our reading groups. We got to examine a number of Psalters and Gospel books but the highlight was seeing a book of patristic excerpts presented to Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”) that had been commissioned by the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. At something like 2.5 feet tall by 2 feet wide, I was told it was the largest Greek book in the Bodleian’s collection.

The evenings were given to lectures from Nigel Wilson (Oxford), Hugh Houghton (University of Birmingham), Ilse de Vos (King’s College London), and Elisabeth Jeffreys (Oxford).
Nigel Wilson opened the series with a lecture on “The Rewards of Palaeography.” The main reward, he said, was filling in some lacuna in our present knowledge by finding previously unknown texts such as the sermons of Origen found a few years ago or the Archimedes Palimpsest, by finding an older copy of a known text, or of correcting the work of previous scholars.
 On Tuesday, Hugh Houghton gave an energetic talk on “Digital Editing and the Greek New Testament” that was meant to introduce the work being done on the Editio Critica Maior. He gave a brief overview of the CBGM and noted its role in helping establish the “earliest attainable text” (his term). He also gave us quick demos of the software currently being used at Birmingham to collate MSS and to construct variation units from those collations. If I heard correctly, the collation software is already implemented on the NT.VMR website, but this was the first I’ve seen of the additional software that they are using to demarcate variation units. One interesting feature I noted was that the software displays a warning message whenever the editor combines variants into a variation unit in such a way that it misrepresents one of the witnesses in that particular unit. It all looked quite impressive in the demo and I’m eager to know more about how it works. I was also interested to learn from Houghton that there are already plans to build a fresh version of the CBGM software at Birmingham as well. It will be worth watching to see what innovations such a project might produce; might we finally see a version that will allow others to construct their own local stemmata? Whether or not we can hope for such a development, there is clearly a very fruitful collaboration happening between text critics and computer scientists at Birmingham and we can all hope that continues. In all, I think Houghton did a great job presenting some of the developments happening in our discipline to text critics working on other texts. I left with the feeling that now is an exciting time to be working in this field.
On Thursday night, Ilse de Vos spoke to us on “Dealing with an Abundant Textual Tradition,” a talk which introduced us to her editorial work on the Quaestiones ad Antiochum ducem. This collection of 137 questions and answers about Christianity is extant in some 250 witnesses in Greek, Latin, Church Slavonic, Arabic, and several other languages. What caught my attention was how helpful she has found phylogenetic methods to be especially helpful in tracing the textual transmission of the Quaestiones. Although she hasn’t been able to root her phylogenetic tree yet, she has been able to identify a number of different manuscript groupings and even to connect some of these groups to various translations. For her this has raised the question of whether her critical edition should focus on reconstructing the original Greek text of the Quaestiones or should instead focus on the Greek text from which some of the more interesting translations were made.
The final lecture was given on Thursday evening by Elisabeth Jeffreys on “Editorial Problems in Byzantine Homilies.” Jeffrey’s is currently working on an edition of the homilies of James of Kokkinobaphos which exists in two remarkably similar copies, often agreeing with each other even at the level of punctuation. It struck me as a good example of the kind of skill Byzantine scribes could achieve.
The week gave me a much greater respect for the discipline of palaeography and a much better sense of how such work is conducted. Particularly with the Byzantine period where so many dated manuscripts are extant, I can see little reason for skepticism about the dates offered by those who specialize in this discipline. All-in-all it was a great week and I would highly recommend that those interested in textual criticism take part the next time around. Many thanks to Georgi Parpulov and the other instructors for putting on such a valuable course. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why It Is Helpful to Include Accents in Transcripts

A real summer topic (with an apparatus error in NA28 thrown in for good measure). When transcribing a New Testament Greek manuscript for exercise, I encourage my students to include accentuation and breathing marks. Of course this slows things down considerably, and accents occur only occasionally in the earliest manuscripts. But they are a source of information and consequently help us in our understanding of scribal behaviour. Let me give you three reasons, each with an actual example.

1) Accents and breathings help us see how the scribe understood the text. Take for example P104 (P.Oxy. 4404), 2nd century.

Twice in Mt 21:35 a relative pronoun is provided with a spiritus asper, and I recall having seen a number of these in Sinaiticus (I think it was in John's gospel). It may be that relative pronouns such as ον were marked out to avoid confusing it with a word-final syllable. There is no doubt that P104 wanted to make things crystal clear.

2) It can help us avoid collation errors. A good example is Ψ(044) in Mk 10:12. The manuscript is cited by NA27/28 in support of the reading αυτη. And indeed these four letters do appear before απολυσασα:

But look at the accents, αὐτῆ ἀπολύσασα, which is not quite like the text αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα. A second look at the manuscript reveals why. It is not the nominative but the dative we have here, ἠ ταύτην καὶ ἐν αὐτῆ ἀπολύσασα. (iota subscript not in manuscript; we would write αὐτῇ).

The reading itself is not completely clear to me, but certainly it is incorrect to cite Ψ(044) as direct support for the reading 'αὐτὴ'.

3) Accents can help us to think about the prehistory of certain corrected passages. Here is an example from X(033), Jn 1:32. The text in its corrected form gives καταβαίνoν.

The transcript of the IGNTP John project gives the nonsense form καταβαινυν as the original version. One could question this on space considerations alone. But attention to accents steer us in the right direction. Why καταβαίνον instead of the correct καταβαῖνον? I think this is because the scribe of X(033) originally wrote the masculine participle καταβαίνων (which fits the spacing much better), and correctly accented. The -ω- was later corrected to an -ο-, yet the accent remained untouched (Tregelles transcribed the manuscript here correct back in 1850).

These are only a few real-world examples; I am sure there are many more out there which have escaped notice. I don't think there is any excuse not to include accents and breathings by the first hand in transcriptions when these occur only sporadically (such as P104). Admittedly, there are practical considerations in favour of ignoring such signs, given where we are in transcribing the corpus of NT manuscripts. However, tools that we use for transcribing should at the very least have the option to include these accents and breathings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On-line Lecture "Variants of Evil in the NT"

Chris Keith (Historical Jesus blog) has uploaded my lecture  "Variants of Evil in the New Testament" from the conference on Evil in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. Thanks Chris for organizing this conference!

For my previous report on the conference, see here.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Beautiful Error in Aland's Synopsis Quattor Evangeliorum

In Kurt Aland's Synopsis [I am using the 4. korrigierter Druck 2005] a gorgeous error appears. In Mark 8:25 the text as printed reads και ενεβλεπεν τηλαυγως απαντα, 'and he saw everything clearly'. There are variants: παντα (not interesting now) and απαντας, 'and he saw everyone clearly'.
However, in the apparatus of the Synopsis this last variant is not given as απαντας (see e.g. in Alexandrinus), but incorrectly as αναστας, leading to a text that says something like 'and he saw clearly after he arose'.

Is the non-existing variant in the Synopsis an error of reading, influence from the wider context, or is this theologically motivated? Can we talk about its intention, its effect, and its reception history? Or is this an example of that most useful and most neglected of text-critical categories, namely 'errors just happen, get over it'?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Birmingham Colloquium

Hugh Houghton writes:

This is advance notice to colleagues and attendees of former colloquia that the Ninth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament will be held in Birmingham on 2nd-6th March 2015.

The theme will be The History and Text of New Testament Commentaries. 

A call for papers and further details will be posted in October, but you are welcome to contact me before then if you have any queries or suggestions.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Greek NT Reunited (GA 699)

Interesting blog post over at the British Library on GA 699 and the separate histories of its two parts (with nice pictures).

This is a notable NT manuscript partly on the grounds that it was (unusually) a manuscript of the whole New Testament - one of only around 60 extant that ever contained what we regard as the whole New Testament.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ancient Greek Lexica

We know that modern lexica are important for providing information on how modern scholars understand the meaning of words. And we know that ancient lexica are even more useful for providing information on how ancient scholars understood the meaning of words. So it is interesting to read through Roger Pearse's useful list and discussion:Lexicon: an introduction to the dictionaries of ancient Greek that survive from antiquity.

PS. We also know that such lexica may preserve interesting text-critical information - on one of which see Dirk Jongkind, "Some Observations on the Relevance of the 'Early Byzantine Glossary' of Paul for the Textual Criticism of the Corpus Paulinum", Novum Testamentum 53 (2011): 358-75.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stephen Emmel on The Fake Harvard John Fragment

Building on Christian Askeland's argument that the Harvard Coptic John Fragment was textually dependent on Thompson's 1924 publication of the Qau codex (see The forgery of the Lycopolitan gospel of John) Stephen Emmel has recently done a great job on assessing "The Codicology of the New Coptic (Lycopolitan) Gospel of John Fragment"

I was interested to read it because in a comment to Christian's post I had suggested that "It may be worth trying to reconstruct the page (as a reductio ad absurdum)." Emmel has now done that in massive detail and shows how extremely implausible are the results, concluding that "No Codicological Reconstruction of H Is Entirely Credible". Emmel also agrees that if the Coptic John fragment is fake, then the Gospel of Jesus Wife fragment is also fake.

I would say that the end is nigh.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fighting over Recto and Verso

Over the recent weeks I have been twice in a skirmish on the correct use of the terms recto and verso, and I blame the dark days of early papyrology for this (there are articles on this topic; I leave it to commentators to share that wisdom). Before the dawn of papyrology everyone knew what the recto and verso of a manuscript page were: the recto is the front, the verso the back, identified on the basis of the direction of the text. On paper the physical aspects of either side of the page are (virtually?) indistinguishable; on parchment there is a hair and flesh side, though with well prepared parchment there is not that much of a striking difference. However, on papyrus there is the writing either along the direction of the strips of papyrus or across these. But still, recto and verso are terms based on the direction of the text, not on any physical aspect of the material.

Then there were papyrologists. And they described rolls, where the primary writing is on the 'along side' (normally the inner side of the roll), and where there is possibly secondary writing on the 'across side' (normally the outer side of the roll). Or other reused sheets of papyrus, where, again, the first text is along, and the secondary text across (normally). And the terms recto and verso were used so that they became often identical with along and across the direction of the fibres.
I think that this explains the odd labelling on the actual frames of P45, where the folio number is followed by a 'r' or 'v' which indicates not the direction of the text, but the direction of the fibres. In the transcription on the INTF website the same terms are used, but there correctly. This results in regular mismatches between the labelling on the frame and on the transcription. E.g. folio 16:

Label on frame '16v'; content John 10:7-25; transcription '16r'

Label on frame '16r'; content John 10:29 - 11:10; transcription '16v'

These days papyrologists tend to avoid the terms recto and verso (and rightly so, at least in their world), but within book studies (codicology proper) the terms have a rightful place as describing the direction of the text.

Physical description Parchment: Hair - Flesh. Papyrus: Along (→) - Across (↓)
Text direction (not related to the physical description!) Parchment: Recto - Verso. Papyrus: Recto - Verso (only really useful in papyrus codices)

It is only now with electronic texts and webpages that recto and verso have lost their relevance.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Online Images of NT manuscripts in Oxford

Oxford Bodl., Barocci 3 (G-A 314):

Oxford Bodl., Barocci 28 (G-A 2101): (XIII; Gospels with Comm.; on paper)

Oxford Bodl., Barocci 29 (G-A 46):(c. 1300; Gospels)

Oxford Bodl., Barocci 31 (G-A 45): (XIII; Gospels)

Oxford Bodl., Barocci 48 (G-A 2408 = fol. 18 [XIV; Rev 5.1-5]; G-A 2015 = fol. 51-74 [XV; Apocalypse]):

[HT: Paleografia Greca]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I am running a promotional on my novels featuring the principles and practice of New Testament Textual Criticism this week. The Kindle edition of THE SCRIBES, Vol. 1 is free. The Kindle edition of THE SIGN OF THE DOLPHIN, Vol 2 is $0.99. Already over 700 people have taken advantage of this offer  on the first day.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Conference: From Egypt to Manchester: Unravelling the John Rylands Papyrus Collection

Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History and John Rylands Research Institute Research Fellow, is organizing a conference on 4-6 September at John Rylands Library in Manchester which looks very interesting:

 "From Egypt to Manchester: Unravelling the John Rylands Papyrus Collection"

Admittance is free, but registration (here) is necessary.

The programme for friday afternoon (5 September) will be of particular interest for readers of this blog:

5 September, Friday afternoon (venue: Historic Reading Room)

  • 2:00-2:30
    AnneMarie Luijendijk (Princeton):
    Unravelling the Oldest Septuagint Manuscript (P.Ryl. III 458)
  • 2:30-3:00
    Brent Nongbri (Sidney):
    Palaeography, Precision, and Publicity: Some Further Thoughts on P52
  • 3:00-3:30
    Coffee Break
  • 3:30-4:00
    Thomas Kraus (Neumarkt):
    Small in Size, but Fabulous Artefacts: P.Ryl. III 463, P.Ryl. I 28 and Late Antique Miniature Books
  • 4:00-4:30
    Todd Hickey (Berkeley):
    Grenfell, Kelsey, and the Dealers
  • 4:30-5:00
    Elizabeth Gow (Manchester):
    Enriqueta Rylands: Private Collector of a Public Library
  • 5.00- 5.30
  • 5.30

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Manuel de critique textuelle du Nouveau Testament (ed. Amphoux)

A new French introduction to New Testament textual criticism, edited by Christian-Bernard Amphoux, has just been published by Éditions Safran, Manuel de critique textuelle du Nouveau Testament. Introduction générale.  Contributors include C.-B. Amphoux, J.C. Haelewyck, D. Gonnet, A. Boud'Hours, G. Dorival, D. Pastorelli, J. K. Elliott, D. Lafleur and J. Reynard. 

Publisher's description:

La critique textuelle est l'étude des documents à partir desquels on établit le texte d'une œuvre transmise par des manuscrits.
Le Nouveau Testament nous est parvenu à travers de nombreux manuscrits entre lesquels il existe d'innombrables variantes. Certaines, les plus nombreuses, sont de simples fautes de copie ; mais des milliers d'autres sont les indices de l'évolution du texte des évangiles et des autres écrits du recueil. Le texte du Nouveau Testament a donc une histoire et, par cette histoire, une diversité dans sa transmission.

Le premier volume de ce manuel propose une introduction générale qui rassemble les informations principales concernant le matériau dont nous disposons (manuscrits grecs, versions anciennes et citations patristiques), la méthode de traitement de ce matériau et ce que nous savons de l'histoire du texte du Nouveau Testament, d'abord manuscrit, puis imprimé à partir du XVIe siècle.
A second volume treating textual variants is in preparation.

More details including table of contents here.