Friday, May 27, 2016

News Flash: Two-Weeks Excavation in the Cave of Sculls

My friend Alison Schofield reports that she will be joining a new excavation that is now taking place in a remote Dead Sea cave after a previously-unknown papyrus manuscript was found there by plunderers in 2014 (more here).

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announces the excavation on their webpage (here), from which I cite :
In November 2014, inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery apprehended a band of robbers, residents of the village Sa‘ir near Hebron, while engaged in plundering the contents of the Cave of the Skulls in Nahal Tse’elim. The suspects were caught “red-handed”, were arrested on the spot, have been investigated, sentenced and served a prison sentence, and are required to pay the State of Israel a fine of 100,000 NIS. At the time of their arrest they were in possession of important archaeological artifacts that date to the Roman period, c. 2,000 years ago, and the Neolithic period, c. 8,000 years ago.

In 2009 an ancient papyrus was seized that was written in Hebrew and dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE). The papyrus was confiscated in a joint operation by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police during a meeting with antiquities dealers in which the papyrus was offered for sale for the amount of 2 million dollars. The investigation of the robbers involved in the affair showed that this papyrus was apparently also discovered in Nahal Tse’elim. The contents of it, which mentions the towns and settlements in the area of the Hebron hill-country, suggests that the papyrus was part of an archive of documents belonging to Jews who fled to the desert from the Hebron area after the Bar Kokhba uprising. Now, the Israel Antiquities Authority hopes to find such documents.

The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 meters from the top of the cliff, and c. 250 m above the base of the wadi. Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the Israel Antiquities Authority obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions. Many requests by individuals offering to participate have been denied because of the lack of infrastructure to provide for such a large group of archaeologists, volunteers and interested parties. The current excavation season will end in another two weeks, assuming this will be sufficient time in order to extract the valuable archaeological information from the cave.

Fun Fact Friday

Tregelles’s 1549 Stephanus GNT
Dallas Theological Seminary’s Turpin Library owns a copy of Robert Stephanus’s 1549 Greek New Testament that was once own by Samuel P. Tregelles and was then given, by his wife, to B. F. Westcott. Stephanus, of course, is best known for adding versification to the NT in his 1551 edition.

The book was owned by DTS professor J. Dwight Pentecost who donated it to the library. Pentencost was still teaching classes when I graduated in 2012. He was then 93! We used to eat dinner with him fairly regularly because he lived in student housing. He was slowing down by then, but his mind was still sharp.

One night I got to talking to him about my text critical interests and I learned that he regularly used a form of the textus receptus for his own study. Apparently Tregelles and Westcott had not worn off on him.

If you’re in Dallas, stop by the Turpin Library and check out their nice collection of rare Bibles.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Gospel of Judas Documentary (Indiana Wesleyan University)

I am really impressed with my eight Indiana Wesleyan University John Wesley Honors College students who created the documentary below as part of their HNR 325 Honors Research Tutorial class.  I prefer to call it Honors Research Supervision, but that's another story...  Keep in mind that this is created by undergraduate students with no formal training in technology or prior background with the relevant historical or philosophical issues.  The documentary attempts to interpret the Gospel of Judas in light of related historical documents.  The students read broadly, including texts from Plato, Plotinus and Porphyry, Irenaeus and Origen, (not enough time for Augustine), and several texts from Nag Hammadi (Apocryphon of John, Three Stele of Seth and Zostrianus).  The students were most enthused with Judas, though, and opted to pool their audio-visual projects into one documentary.  Enjoy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Why the Complutensian Polyglot Did Not Use Greek Accents for the NT

John 1.1-14. Note the dot under the
superscript ‘c’ before εγεννηθησαν
in the second line from the bottom.
From John Lee’s translation (emphasis added):
So that you may not be surprised, diligent scholar, or be displeased with us that in the present Greek printing of the New Testament, in a way different from that of the Old, only the letters, without the breathings and accents, have been set in print and published, we have thought it important that the reason for this be made clear to all at the outset. It is as follows.

That the most ancient of the Greeks were accustomed to write with out these points (κορθφαί) on the letters is too clear to need many testimonies. For certain old copies (ἀντίγραφα), not a few in number, clearly show this, such as poems of Kallimakhos and the verses of the Sibyll, and carvings of great age on stone in the city, engraved simply with letters alone. So it is quite evident that, in that first bringing into being of the Greek language, the placing on of these small strokes and marks was not devised, nor contributed to the full completeness of the said language in any way.

Since also all acknowledge that the whole New Testament, apart from the Gospel according to Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews, was written down in the Greek language from the beginning just as it was imparted by the Holy Spirit, we too decided piously to preserve the archaic antiquity and majesty therein of the same language, and to publish the book without the least addition whatever, in the manner of the ancient writings, so that we may not seem to have introduced novelty into something so holy and full of revered lofty thought, by means of alien and new operations imposed on it. Moreover, if the truth be told, the lack of breathings and accents could cause no obstacle to those with any training at all in Greek letters. I mean this with reference to the pure thought of what is said.
Instead of accents, the editors used “a simple mark” (κεραία) in polysyllabic words to show where the accent would go if it had been included. This is to aid pronunciation.

Interestingly, the vocabulary referencing system between Greek and Latin includes small dots under the reference letter to indicate ambiguous Greek meanings. See the dot under the ‘c’ before εγεννηθησαν in John 1.13.

The translation above is from John A. L. Lee, “Dimitrios Doukas and the Accentuation of the New Testament Text of the Complutensian Polyglot,” NovT 47, no. 3 (2005): 250–90.

For more on the Complutensian Polyglot, see here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Marc Polonsky Talk on the ‘Digitisation of Cultural Heritage’


Of interest to those readers forced to live in Oxford.

The Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles is pleased to welcome Marc Polonsky, trustee of the Polonsky Foundation, who will deliver a talk on the ‘Digitisation of Cultural Heritage’.

Tuesday 24th May, 5.30pm
Oakeshott Room, Lincoln College - All welcome

The Polonsky Foundation, originally founded in 1985 by Dr Leonard Polonsky, an Oxford alumnus (Lincoln), has devoted a large amount of energy and resources to the digitisation of significant representatives of our written cultural heritage, in an effort to democratise access to some of the greatest treasures of humanity, too often unknown to the wider public due to their own rarity.

Over the last few years, in particular, the Polonsky Foundation has cooperated with a number of major libraries and institutions, including the Bodleian and the Vatican Library, to sponsor one of the greatest digitisation projects of manuscripts and early printed books in the world.

Marc Polonsky, son of Leonard Polonsky, is a leading lawyer in corporate law and mergers and acquisitions (White & Case), specialising in Russia and Central and Eastern European countries. An Oxford alumnus himself (Univ), he divides his time between legal practice and the Polonsky Foundation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Variant Versification

Robert Stephens’s 1551 edition
was the first to add verses to the NT.
A few days ago I stumbled across a case of differing versification. If you check your NA or SBLGNT, you’ll find that the phrase Γράφω ὑμῖν, παιδία, ὅτι ἐγνώκατε τὸν πατέρα occurs at the start of 1 John 2.14. It’s the same in Tregelles, WH, and Merk. But if you are dutifully reading your Robinson-Pierpont text (so as not to miss any Byzantine readings), you’ll find this phrase at the end of 1 John 2.13. That’s also where it is in Elzevir, Mill, Wettstein, and Tischendorf.

A quick email to Maurice Robinson alerted me to Ezra Abbot’s collation on verse division. In all, he catalogs 71 cases of variant versification in 60 editions or translations. (And here I was thinking I had found something unique.) In the case of 1 John 2.13–14, the discrepancy goes back to Theodore Beza who seemed to struggle a bit with decisiveness. In 10 editions, he is split 5-5 on where to put the phrase in question.

In fact, it seems that quite a bit of the blame for the variation that exists is due to Beza. Here’s what Abbot says:
Beza followed Stephens’s [1551] division into verses, with some variations, in the first edition of his Latin translation of the Greek Testament, published at Geneva in 1557 (this is the date at the end of the volume; the title-page is dated 1556), already referred to as the second volume of Robert Stephens’s Latin Bible of that year. In his first edition of the Greek New Testament accompanied with his Latin version and notes, Geneva, 1565, fol., and in his numerous subsequent editions, Beza deviated much more frequently from the verse-divisions of Robert Stephens; and his editions had great influence in giving currency to the use of the division into verses, which soon became general. His variations from the division of Stephens were largely followed by later editors, especially the Elzevirs, who also introduced others of their own (p. 466).
I asked Dirk about the Tyndale House GNT and he said there were quite a few places where he would have liked to adjust the verse boundaries but didn’t.

I’d like to know if this causes any problems for Bible software.

(Abbot’s collation is also found in Tischendorf’s Prolegomena for those who prefer Latin.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Don Verdean: Christian, Charlatan, Archeologist

Has anybody seen this? Currently, it has 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Here is the promo:
Hired by an ambitious small-town pastor to find sacred relics in the Holy Land, a self-proclaimed Biblical archaeologist comes up short and his attempt to cover up his failure fuels a comic conspiracy from the filmmaking team behind Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre.