Evangelical Textual Criticism

Monday, January 26, 2015

Virtual Papyrus Exhibition in Leiden

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On the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the official foundation of the 'Leids Papyrologisch Instituut’, there is an excellent online the virtual papyrus exhibition 'Texts from Ancient Egypt. Highlights from the Collection of the Leiden Papyrological Institute’.

The exhibition can be viewed at http://www.hum.leiden.edu/papyrological-institute/papyrus-collection/
Here is a fascinating Christian creed from the exhibit:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Birmingham Colloquium Programme

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The History and Text of New Testament Commentaries

The provisional timetable is now available for the Ninth Birmingham Colloquium, to be held on 2nd-4th March 2015, and is included in this message below.

Booking continues to be open for a couple of weeks: please use the form which can be downloaded from:

We hope to welcome you to Birmingham in March.
Hugh Houghton (here via an email)

Monday 2nd March

From 2pm:  Registration
2.30pm   Welcome
2.45pm   Ronald Heine, “Origen’s Gospel Commentaries”
3.40pm   Carl J. Berglund, “Quotation practices in Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John: How dependable are his quotations of John, Paul and Heracleon?”
4.30pm  Christina Kreinecker, “The Biblical Text in Rufinus’ Translation of Origen’s Commentary on Romans”
5.00pm  Rory P. Crowley, “Justin’s Dialogue 88 and His Commentaries on the Baptism Material: Implications for the Variant Form of the Heavenly Voice in Luke 3:22”
5.30pm  Rosalind MacLachlan, “The Context of Commentary: Non-Biblical Commentaries in the Early Christian Period”

Tuesday 3 March

9.00am   Lukas J. Dorfbauer, “The Rediscovery of a Supposedly Lost Fourth-Century Work: Bishop Fortunatianus of Aquileia and his Commentary on the Gospels”
9.45am   Susan Griffith, “Sources and texts in Ambrose’s Commentary on Luke”
10.15am  Thomas O’Loughlin, “Capitula as commentary in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:1-7:28): the implicit exegesis in Latin division systems
11.15am  Shari Boodts & Gert Partoens, “The critical edition of Florus of Lyons’ Expositio epistolarum beati Pauli apostoli. State of the art and new results.”
11.45am   Maria Valeria Ingegno, “Patristic Sources for the Pauline Epistle Commentary of Gilbert de la Porée”
12.15pm   Alexander Andrée, “Peter Comestor and the Glossa 'ordinaria' on the Gospels”

Afternoon excursion to Worcester

Wednesday 4 March

9.00am   Gilles Dorival, “Biblical catenae”
10.00am  Klaus Wachtel, “Coherence and History: Commentary Manuscripts in Acts and the Catholic Letters”
10.30am  John Gram and Bruce Morrill, “Parsing Paul: Layout and Sampling Divisions in Pauline Commentaries”
12 noon  Will Lamb, “Catenae and the Art of Memory”
12.45pm  Dora Panella, “Jesus’ Post-resurrection appearances in 1Cor 15:5-8 and their interpretation in the catenae of Oecumenius, Theophylact and Zygabenus.”

2.15pm  Matthias Schulz, “Catena Manuscripts in the Coptic Tradition – An Overview”
2.45pm  Carol Downer, "A consideration of some texts from de Lagarde's Coptic Catena"
3.00pm  Carla Falluomini, “The citations of the Gothic New Testament in the Skeireins commentary” 
4.00pm  Garick V. Allen, “The Scholia in Apocalypsin: The Edition of P. Tzamalikos (2013) and Scriptural Interpretation in Manuscript 2351”
4.30pm  Agnès Lorrain, “Theodoret’s text of Romans”
5.00pm  Jan Krans “Romans in the Hands of Radical Commentators”
5.30pm  Concluding round table

7.00pm  Colloquium dinner with address by Prof. Gordon Campbell.

This timetable will also be available at:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

TC program unit at EABS in Cordoba 2015

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A few days ago the European Association of Biblical Studies committee accepted a proposal by Theodora Panella (ITSEE, Birmingham) for a workshop with the title “Textual Criticism of the NT, the OT and the Qur’an” for the next EABS’ Annual Meeting in Cordoba (July 12th-15th). Below is a description of the program unit and a call for papers.


This workshop focuses on the textual study and criticism of sacred texts from the ancient Eastern Mediterranean world that later had a global influence. These are the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’anic text. All three have similarities and differences. They have influenced other writings and at the same time have themselves undergone external influence bearing on questions of interrelationship, orality, textuality and language. Not only the abovementioned characteristics, but also their preservation and the copying as well as the proliferation of manuscripts are of particular interest to textual scholars.
Relevant topics for discussion:
  • The study of OT, NT or Qur’anic writings not only in manuscripts, but also inscribed or printed,
  • The text itself and the circumstances of its transmission
  • Types or groupings of texts
  • Reconstructions of forms of text
  • Textual Criticism and history
  • Textual Criticism and exegesis
  • Textual Criticism and theology
  • Textual Criticism and the world
At the same time, this workshop seeks to foster dialogue among researchers.

Call for Papers

We welcome paper proposals that focus on the above mentioned topics and related aspects.
Generally the duration of papers to be read should not exceed 20 minutes. Abstracts (no more than 300 words) have to be enrolled through the EABS meeting website.

There is also a call for papers for the section on "Biblical Philology in Byzantine Manuscripts"
Byzantinists and patristic scholars might take interest in the fact that in the framework of the upcoming conference of the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS), a session on “Biblical Philology in Byzantine Manuscripts” will be organized. The conference will take place July 12-15, 2015 in Córdoba (Spain), and the call for papers is now open. Proposals can be submitted until April 1 through http://www.eabs.net.

More information on the “Biblical Philology in Byzantine Manuscripts” session can be found here: http://www.eabs.netF/site/biblical-philology-in-byzantine-manuscripts/. Proposals are invited for papers dealing with the study of medieval marginal annotations to the biblical text within the Greek Christian tradition. Particularly welcome are papers highlighting possible acquaintance with Hebrew culture and exegesis on the part of Byzantine scholars, but other topics can be suggested.

For more information, please contact Mariachiara Fincati (mc.fincati@gmail.com), Barbara Crostini (crostini.barbara@gmail.com) or the undersigned. Feel free to circulate this call.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Questions about "First Century Mark"

Discussion is beginning again about the claim that there is a first century manuscript of part of Mark's Gospel. In particular LiveScience reports such a claim associated with Craig Evans and this has been reported positively elsewhere. The report in the International Business Times is a bit more critical.

So I thought it would be good to raise a few questions about this alleged "First Century Mark", hereafter FCM.

If we begin with the LiveScience report, which is our most recent 'source' for information about FCM, we note that it has not been written with great care about accuracy. The second century is said to consist of dates between 101 and 200. It is suggested that 'ordinary people' had mummy masks.

It is said: "In recent years scientists have developed a technique that allows the glue of mummy masks to be undone without harming the ink on the paper". It would be hard to harm the ink on the paper of a mummy mask, because one can be sure one will not find paper in one.

This and other features of the article mean that one must show extreme care about using this report as a source to gain information. I am not even confident that we can use it with any accuracy as a source for what Craig Evans has said.

Therefore although I'd be delighted if we could rely on the source to establish that we have a single sheet of papyrus, and that currently seems probable, it's difficult to be certain.

We come now to a central paragraph:

"Evans says that the text was dated through a combination of carbon-14 dating, studying the handwriting on the fragment and studying the other documents found along with the gospel. These considerations led the researchers to conclude that the fragment was written before the year 90."

As the source is demonstrably not particularly careful and as this is also not a direct quotation from Evans it is difficult to know what Evans actually said.

However, C14 dating will not render a date as precise as 'before 90'; nor will palaeography. That leaves us with two other methods of dating: archaeological context and associated writings.

If for convenience we suppose that other manuscripts in the mask are ones with dates that survive (remembering that for a majority of texts no date survives) and that the mask luckily enough contains four texts with firm date formulae (which would be really nice, but quite unlikely) and that these date formulae show manuscripts from the years 50, 60, 70 and 80, that would still not mean that they could not be put together with a manuscript from considerably later than the year 90 to make a mummy mask.

Finally, it might be possible that archaeological context would date a mummy mask to a particular date, but that would be highly unusual, and would not accord well with Dan Wallace's earlier emphasis on the expertise of an unnamed palaeographer as the basis for the dating. Palaeographers don't normally deal with archaeological dating.

Therefore the public claims about the basis for dating this fragment appear incoherent.

Something should be said about the ethics of extracting texts from mummy masks. I actually have no objection to this in principle. Obviously the process is somewhat destructive, but archaeology is inherently destructive. However, every effort must be made to minimise destruction and every step should be carefully recorded photographically and scholars should keep a record for posterity of exactly what they've done and explain why they chose to do so, and show a process of evaluation in which the benefits of what they do are shown to be superior to other options, including leaving the mask intact.

There are also ethical questions which surround the acquisition of such items.

It is common for researchers to have explicit statements on ethics and it is important for scholars to have an ethical code that they have written or one to which they publicly subscribe prior to handling such controversial matters.

Scribe Quiz (a.k.a. "The Geeekiest Quiz on the internet")

Here is another blog quiz (for earlier quizzes see: the conjectural emendation quiz, the geography quiz, a monastery quiz, a western text quiz, a NT majuscule manuscript quiz, a general manuscript quiz). This one is a little different, a little more difficult, some might even say down-right impossible. I'm not so sure (but I've got an answer key!). So, you have to identify the manuscript and the scribe.











Friday, January 16, 2015

Falluomini on the New Gothic Fragment

Some time ago, Peter Head blogged about a recent discovery of new fragments of the Gothic Bible. He referred to Carla Falluomini, who states in the new edition of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research that: "no new parts of the Gothic Bible have been found that would have attracted attention to this branch of the biblical tradition" (p. 331). So this discovery, albeit of a fragment, is highly significant. In fact, it is significant as part of the few literary remains of the Gothic language in general.

Professors Rosa Bianca Finazzi and Paola Tornaghi of The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan who made the fantastic discovery of the two folios dated to the 6th-century named it Gothica Bononiensia, since it was found in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. They published a complete analysis including transcription of the text and images in "Gothica Bononiensia. Analisi linguistica e filologia di un nuovo documento," Aevum 87 (2013): 113-155 (the image below is taken from this article, p. 152). Thanks to Irmengard Rauch from Berkeley University, an English translation is available in Interdisciplinary Journal for Germanic and Semiotic Analysis 19, 2 (2014): 1-56. Moreover, they have published another article focusing on the linguistic significance of the new finding: "Alcune riflessioni sul palinsesto gotico-latino di Bologna," in Carla Falluomini ed., Intorno alle Saghe Norrene, Edizioni dell'Orso (Alessandria, 2014), 229-265. More on the Gothica Bononiensia here.

In the guestpost below, Carla Falluomini (University of Turin) offers further comments on the new fragment. She has specialized on the Gothic version and her new book The Gothic Version of the Gospels and Pauline Epistles is soon to be published in the ANTF series (ANTF 46) by De Gruyter. Carla was also a referee in the nomination process for the Gothic Codex Argenteus (the "Silver Bible") to be included in the UNESCO's Memory of the World Register (which happened in 2011). See my blogpost on that topic and the Gothic version in general here.

A New Gothic Fragment
The Gothic fragment discovered recently in Bologna (where it is preserved, in the Archivio della Fabbriceria della Basilica di San Petronio, Cart. 716/1, n°1; olim Cart. 353, cam. n°3) offers for the first time parts of an independent – i.e. non-translated – text, probably part of a sermon or liturgical prayer (there are markers of orality, which suggest that it was read in front of an audience). The main topic of the text is the power of God (the author offers some exempla of salvation, e.g. of the three Hebrews in the furnace, of Noah, etc. ). The manuscript may be dated in the first third/half of the sixth century, judging by the similarities with the other Gothic manuscripts. Some codicological divergences between this fragment and the Gothic manuscripts certainly produced in Ravenna suggest that the place of its production may be different. Verona, another important centre of Gothic power, might be a possible alternative. The script is the ‘sloping uncial’, a script used for glosses and texts of ‘everyday use’, not the elegant and regular script of the Codex Argenteus.

The place and period of the composition of the text is unknown but the most probable guess is that it was produced in North Italy, in the first part of the sixth century (it seems unlikely that this kind of text was brought from Moesia to Italy by Theoderic the Great and/or the Gothic clergy). The author is unknown (it is not impossible that the author coincides with the scribe). He was certainly a (Homean) priest, very expert in the Holy Scriptures. The text transmits several citations from the Old and New Testament, marked in the link margin by a horizontal sign (not a diplé as usual in the Gothic manuscripts). Some of these citations – e.g. from the Psalms, Acts and 1 Peter – are not preserved in the extant parts of the Gothic Bible, which is transmitted in a fragmentary form.

The text of the citations derives from the Wulfilian tradition. It agrees perfectly with the text of the manuscripts of the Gothic Bible (only one deviation, which is not relevant to textual criticism). Furthermore, the author uses the particular form Nauel ‘Noah’, attested in the Gothic biblical tradition. Some Gothic words are attested for the first time, together with the title of the Acts (here in dative: tojam ‘deeds’).

Update (2015-01-21): I have added a paragraph about the initial discovery of the new Gothic MS by Professors Rosa Bianca Finazzi and Paola Tornaghi (TW).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Pro-Byzantine Textual Commentary

A textual commentary on passages that differs between the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (28th ed.) and the Robinson-Pierpont The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (2005) is in the making.

The editors are Jonathan Borland and Mike Arcieri. According to Borland, "the commentary intends to supplement Metzger's by offering alternative views of the manuscript evidence held by various major editors of or commentators on the GNT over the last three centuries."

Thus far passages in Matt 1-7 have been treated.

Update: Maurice Robinson have explained that he is not contributing to the commentary so I removed his name.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Breaking News: CSNTM to Digitize MSS at the National Library of Greece!

Today the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) publically announced the breaking news that they are to digitize all the NT MSS of the National Library of Greece in Athens. Manuscript lovers world wide can be happy that more MSS are becoming available in digital format for study. The fact that this major project has been agreed upon by one of the largest repositories of Greek MSS in the world, the National Library of Greece, is a great acknowledgement of the CSNTM as a professional organization for manuscript photography and digitization. In addition, this undertaking may open up many more doors in the future. We owe our gratitude to Dan Wallace and his staff and we look forward to seeing the results. I am proud of being a member of the board of the CSNTM.

Extra: Watch Dan Wallace breaking the news.

Here is a part of the press release from CSNTM.
Press Release
12 January 2014
On January 7, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts’ Executive Director, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, and Research Manager, Robert D. Marcello, traveled to Athens to meet with the Director of the National Library, Filippos Tsimboglou. After meeting with the Director last September to begin discussions of a collaboration, they worked out final negotiations and signed a contract for CSNTM to digitize all the New Testament manuscripts of the National Library. This is a historic collaboration between one of the five largest repositories of Greek New Testament manuscripts and the world’s leading institute in digitizing Greek New Testament manuscripts. Approximately 300 manuscripts with 150,000+ pages of text will be digitized over the next two years. CSNTM is excited to be working with Dr. Tsimboglou and his staff on this strategic undertaking.
Read the whole press release here.

What is the Oldest Manuscript of the New Testament?

For years the answer to this question was easy: P52, a manuscript identified and housed in Manchester, handsomely dated to the early 2nd century. C.H. Roberts wrote in the original publication of this fragment

'On the whole we may accept with some confidence the first half of the second century as the period in which P. Ryl. Gk. 457 was most probably written—a judgment I should be much more loth to pronounce were it not supported by Sir Frederic Kenyon, Dr. W. Schubart and Dr. H. I. Bell who have seen photographs of the text and whose experience and authority in these matters are unrivalled' (C.H. Roberts, An Unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel in the John Rylands Library [Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1935], 16).

A lot has happened since then in the study of Greek palaeography and with the increase in readily available collections of digital images and refined classification one would assume that the experts are able to form an even more informed opinion now than they were in the 1930s. A 2012 article by Orsini and Clarysse provides exactly this re-evaluation. Their method is solid and responsible, both scholars have a tremendous track record, and in general I don't find much to disagree with, even though in some of the finer distinctions Orsini and Clarysse make I cannot always follow them. Their evaluation of the date is not far off from what Roberts came up with in giving the range 125-175 for P52. So is P52 still the earliest fragment of the New Testament?

Possibly, but looking through the results presented by Orsini and Clarysse there is another candidate, P104, an interesting fragment of Matthew 21, published in 1997. This papyrus receives a date 100-200. Some particular scripts are easier to pin down than others and that is why P104 has a span of a century, whilst P52 only half a century. So we have P52 and P104 both dated by a range that has its median in the centre of the second century (it may be earlier, it may be later).

So what is the oldest manuscript? Well, there are two candidates, P52 of John 18, and P104 of Matthew 21; the former oldest manuscript has become part of a double act (two times 52 is 104).

P52 (left) and P104 (right)

**Pasquale Orsini and Willy Clarysse, "Early New Testament Manuscripts and Their Dates: A Critique of Theological Palaeography", Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniensis 88, no. 4 (2012): 443-74.

Monday, January 12, 2015

P. Oxy 4959 - some notes

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P. Oxy 4959 is a very interesting documentary letter of the second century - interesting at lots of levels in terms of content, style, grammar, compositional process (corrections and cross through), etc. (for info, text and ET see here) But it is also interesting because it shows some interesting word division, and even clearer marked spaces between sentences (cf. Dirk's post from a couple of days ago), and uses filler marks at the end of lines (to keep a right hand justification - lines 4, 14, 17, 19) - not dissimilar in function at least to some NT literary texts (e.g. P66 and Sinaiticus).