Penn Papyri Project

I have had a scintillating time perusing the UPenn papyri holdings at their nicely designed online collection hosted by the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image. These are very sharp digital images, and allow a set zoom to the level of two lines of the text square.

In one good example of how the clear these digital images are, here is the P.Oxy. manuscript of Matthew 1 (P.Oxy. 2?). As Robert Kraft just pointed out to me, you can clearly see what appears to be an iota (or upsilon) with a superlinear mark on the upper left margin, as well as the alpha (page number) on the upper center. He suggested that this may be the sort of feature I am looking for as a manufactural mark (for lack of a better term) of its actual construction as a codex.

There are a few interesting features posed by these markers. From what I can tell from the online photograph, the "A" page number could be from a different hand from the rest of the text. The top stroke of the right half of the alpha ends a bit low and round compared to the other alphas on the page. Likewise, the hand of this manuscript produces a rather crisp, confident iota. If the secondary marker in the top margin is an iota, it also doesn't match the hand of this manuscript. From what I can tell, the same is true even if it is an upsilon. If it is a slightly faded lowercase gamma, however, it would be hard to tell from which of these two hands it comes.

All this is to say that such markers as are found in this margin, if truly coming from a different hand, could be assessed as marks of manufacture. I am a bit at a loss as to its actual reference. An iota perhaps marking this as the first quire of ten sheets (40 pages)? This would be a bit bulky, but possible. A gamma marking 3 sheet quires (12 sheets)? This comes closer to the classic octavo pattern of book-binding, much more amenable to early binding materials than larger quires.

Disclaimer: I am simply musing here with no firsthand knowledge of this actual manuscript, and a basic grasp of these features. I am interested in actually finding some marks of manufacture, and it is interesting to muse about the features described above from this perspective. Any corrections to the above is greatly appreciated, if not requested. If anything, take this post just as a link to the Penn project.


UK Holdings in the Kurzgefasste Liste

I have completed a list of any and all items in the KL that are held at UK institutions, including lectionaries (though I have had a harder time verifying the location of those half-dozen on the antiquities market or in private collections). As the list is 30 pages long, cross-referenced by location, I will not post it here but simply offer it to anyone who is interested. Just reply to this topic indicating your interest and I can email it to you.


Scottish Postgraduate Conference In Theology and Religious Studies

On June 8, New College is hosting the Scottish PG. Conference in Theology and Religious Studies. I have never attended one of these, so I don't quite know what to expect. But I did toss an abstract into the mix and it was accepted. I am looking forward to using the occasion as a chance to outline the broad strokes of some secondary research I have been doing here in Edinburgh through the following short paper:

Book Culture in Early Christianity: Text, Technology, and Early
Christian Theology

Recent advances in codicology and the history of literacy in early Christianity offer new paradigms for the study of early Christian origins and New Testament theology. This paper will summarize key historical propositions from these fields of scholarship and the nature of their relation to early Christian faith and practice. Much of the data concerning the writing culture of early Christianity, scribal practices in antiquity, and literacy rates in different areas of the Roman Empire has been part of New Testament studies for quite some time, but the means by which this data can deepen our appreciation of the development and spread of early Christian theology has not. This paper will propose several ways in which these rich fields of study can affect New Testament criticism and interpretation.

I did not have room in the abstract to toss in a sentence or two on my introduction to the paper, but I have been increasingly struck by how analogous the period of transition from scroll to codex in Greco-Roman culture is to our contemporary limbo between written and online publishing. In each historical context you have an authority granted to one medium or technology that is only slowly being granted to the other. Part of this textual transition is a complete redefinition of publishing, writing, and reading, and the cultural or semiotic authority that attends these activities. At the very least, thinking of a few early Christian scribal tendencies from this perspective is provocative. I won't have the time on this occasion to explore that thought in great detail, but perhaps at another conference.


Day Conference on TC and the NA Text (3 of 3)

NA 28 - The First Digital Critical Edition of the Greek New Testament.

Klaus Wachtel

This final paper was primarily connected with a series of Power Point slides, which makes it difficult to summarize here. The INTF should consider publishing an introductory volume or CD for the CBGM, NA 28, and related projects that includes the visual presentations that were part of this conference. Such a volume would help articulate the finer points of the CBGM to specialists, and serve as a helpful introductory volume to new users of the NA text. I could imagine taking one or two class periods in an intermediate level NT Greek class to walk students through some of this same information.

Wachtel started by pointing out that the digital NA 28 is not exactly the "first" digital or online edition of the Greek New Testament, as there are several out there currently available for use. I think it is worth pointing out though that the projected digital NA 28 has been designed on such a grand scale that it will set a new bar for online Biblical Studies resources. The innovative thing about the NA 28 is that in all actuality, its content is and always has been digital. The print format, akin to the NA 27, is simply a reader-friendly format of its digital source. The INTF has brought the NT into the information age by monopolizing on this new status of written "texts" that by now is standard in the publishing industry. And as they have shifted what would normally just become a printed repository of these digital databases (the printed NA 28) into an online, flexibly searchable, and endlessly clickable resource, the claim that it is in some sense the "first" online critical Greek New Testament does hold water.

The NA 28 Prototype

The current prototype gives one a basic sense of the permanent design. It turns all words, variants, and other such isolated bits of information that make up the critical apparatus into XML entities that pop-up when clicked. Imagine for a moment looking at the entry in the critical apparatus for 1 John 1:4 in the NA 27 and being able to instantly access all the relevant information about its variants in several different ways. This is what the digital NA 28 is all about. One can click on each word and look at all of its extant variants in a column on the right. One could then click on a particular manuscript that features a reading for 1 John 1:4, such as the 04 manuscript, and on a new screen pops up the relevant section of 1 John 1:4 (1 John 1:2-10 in this case) directly transcribed from the 04 original manuscript. Wnat to see the reading of 03 on 1 John 1:4? No problem. Click it and up pops Vaticanus. And once in this screen, one can click on any word in the Vaticanus transcription to find out how it compares to other manuscript witnesses.

This is just one example of the flexibility of the entire system. Currently, only 1 and 2 John are available in a sample format, but we are definitely looking at a new generation of Greek New Testament publishing. Ultimately, one will be able to select what windows are on the screen, and thus tailor the system to their research needs. The timing of when this will be completely available is uncertain, and it may be sold as part of a package with the printed NA 28 edition.

The Transcripts

A secondary resource also available online, is the Transcripts section of the database. In order for the NA 28 prototype to function, it must have the text of every NT manuscript transcribed directly into it. For the INTF, this transcription process takes place in three stages, and all single inscriptions are done intially by two different people. What we are then left with is (for the sake of argument) an accurate transcription of all of our fragments in a searchable format.

The Transcriptions database is searchable in two main ways. One can first search verse by verse through the NT and look at all the manuscript variants of a particular text. In this new window, one can either then access the actual transcription of each manuscript for this verse or look at a collation of the original spellings of the variants related to the verse. Another way to use the Transcriptions database is simply to click on the drop down "Manuscript Descriptions" menu on the main page of the database. From this menu one can select a manuscript and look at a detailed description if its content, size, location, and even a related bibliography. Eventually, the INTF would like for this information to occupy one side of the page while having an actual digital image of each manuscript on the other. This would also be possible then for each verse as well. Want to see the transcription of p64 next to an actual image of the fragment? No problem, just click it. This image would come directly from the servers of its host institution.


There are several other potential projects linked to these two databases, such as an online textual commentary, searchable groups of patristic citation, more paleographical notations, and the integration of a Greek Lexicon. Syriac, Coptic, and Latin resources could also become available. I am not sure what the timeline on all this is, but I can not imagine it is in the near future.

There is a final way in which the digital NA 28 can be concieved of as the "first" of its kind. Apparently, the final database will be available as part of the printed edition of the NA 28. This may involve an access CD or a code that provides access to the database, but either way the printed and online editions will initially exist as different formats of each other. What happens though in the future when the INTF decides to alter particular readings (such as happened between the NA 27 and Editio Critica Maior), or happens upon additional manuscript sources for a particular verse? Naturally, the digital nature of the online version will make it easy for such changes to occur.

Yet, this poses an interesting problem for the print edition, as such changes would render it relatively obselete in relation to its online twin. Perhaps the key feature of the NA 28 does not necessarily just involve the incredible flexibility of its digital component. Rather, when I put my money down on the counter for the printed NA 28 I will not actually paying for a text, but for the scholarship behind the text. And I will be paying to have access to the scholarship that may uncover new readings or manuscripts that will then be available in the online database. Buying the NA 28 will be more of a subscription than a purchase.

Again, the timeline on all of this is a bit fuzzy. Strutwolf quipped that he hopes to see the Editio Critica Maior done in his lifetime. As he is older than I, that means I have a very good chance at using all these resources some day. This paper concluded the conference, and I hope that the Center for the Study of Christian Origins will have another day conference of this sort next year.


Day Conference on TC and the NA Text (2 of 3)

Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine? The Theory of Local Text-Types - A Plea For Paradigm Shift in New Testament Textual Research.

Holger Strutwolf

In this second paper of the day conference we recieved a heavy dose of a few theoretical considerations at work behind the various projects related to the new NA databases. It was very helpful to look at the NA 28 and the Editio Critica Maior from this perspective as it served two convenient aims. Strutwolf situated these projects and the CBGM in the broader history of NT text criticism, and he demonstrated the potential they have for founding new paragigms in textual research.

The paper was outlined in three sections (these points are in paraphrase):

I. Essentials of the History of the Recension Hypothesis.
II. Reasons This Theory is Faulty.
III. Ways the Editio Critica Maior Embodies Necessary Theoretical Changes.

I. In the first section Strutwolf handily summarized the history of the Recension Hypothesis starting with Bengel, and then working through Griesbach, Semler, Westcott and Hort, and von Soden. In the introduction to his 1734 text, Bengel hypothesized that we should adopt the regions mentioned by Jerome and Tertullian as the broad outlines of the text-type groups manifest in our extant manuscripts. This basic notion of Bengel's Recension Hypothesis was taken up by Semler, and then popularized by Griesbach in his 1775 edition. The history of the RH is basically the history of variations on Bengel's theme. Different scholars used different nomenclature for various recensions, and retooled Bengel's original regional groupings. But by and large, the idea that we should assign manuscripts to one of a set number of geographical recensions held fast. Strutwolf suggested that the basic fault of Bengel's hypothesis is as material as it is methodological. As he simply didn't have enough manuscripts to critically discern different text-types, he was far too reliant on Jerome's attestation. It is a construct that stands or falls based on the accuracy of Jerome's comment which can be attributed to a number of things other than objective historiography. For example, Strutwolf commented that perhaps his partitioning early Christianity into three main areas of influence is colored by a trinitarian theology. Yet one of the long-standing durabilities of the RH is its simplicity, and it has become no less than axiomatic in NT textual research as a result.

II. The Editio Critica Maior is a crisis for the RH. Utilizing the flexible visualizing capabilities of the CBGM and its related databases, Strutwolf walked us through a number of texts which contradict the idea that we can draw such hard and fast lines between text-types and their according geographical locations. To this end, Strutwolf made two points in this section raised by manuscript evidence made clearer by the unique capacities of the CBGM.

- Firstly, when you look at the role manuscripts from different text-types play in genealogical coherence, the RH crumbles. We begin to see differing text-types showing up in stemmatic diagrams in places they shouldn't according to the RH, as their genealogical coherence displays textual interaction and ancestry where the RH attempts to make hard and fast regional distinctions. (Sorry I don't have any specifics on this, you really have to see the slides Strutwolf was using to get a detailed sense of his argument.) This leads us to a basic principle that we must privilege the role a manuscript plays in the genealogy of a text rather than its pre-concieved text type. Such roles are most properly assessed via the CBGM.
- Secondly, when one looks at the regional statistics (Sahidic, old Latin, Peshitta, etc...) of the manuscripts within the stemma for a particular reading, one can often see different text-types appearing in single regions. Simply based on these stastics, it doesn't seem that assigning sets of manuscript idiosyncracies to particular regions a priori is a legitimate critical enterprise. We can find any given set of "recensional" characteristics in any region throughout the transmission histories of certain texts. (Strutwolf demonstrated, for example, that we can see the characteristics of the Alexandrian tradition all over the place.)

These two general points are evidence that any reliance on the RH is unacceptable, as it doesn't fit our most current manuscript evidence.

III. Strutwolf then called for an abandonment of the text-type paradigm. In its place we should rely on the type of evidence produced by the CBGM. In a charming analogy, Strutwolf explained that his children are his children no matter where they live. Even if they are currently in Munich, they are his children based on their genetic relationship. In the same way the geographical location of a manuscript is not indicative of its ancestry. The place of origin and/or storage of a manuscript is nothing other than an indication of where it was last used. Instead we should assess the text-type of a manuscript based on its genealogical relationship to other manuscripts.

All the papyri from Egypt, for example, display a great deal of supposed "recensions" or text-types in one given region. And we have early Christian writers such as Origen who seem content with using a number of different text-types at the same time in one location. After an accumulation of such evidences, Strutwolf exclaimed that we are now in a "thrilling time" for NT textual criticism. We now have the tools and know-how available to initiate "a radical transformation of New Testament textual history." Even if one reads Strutwolf's paper in light of related points made by Colwell and Epp in equally paradigmatic essays, it actually was "thrilling" to see some of his evidences visualized by the CBGM and its databases. It did become apparent throughout the course of this essay that just as Strutwolf is able to conduct a wholesale appraisal of the RH and its affect on NT text criticism, so in the near future will one be able to conduct an appraisal of the CBGM as an apex of past genealogical methods and identify its pros and cons from that perspective.

Highlights from the Q and A Session:

1. When one looks at the stemmatic diagrams produced by the CBGM, we find certain single manuscripts cited as ancestors for a larger group of manunscripts through one or two other single manuscripts (completely hypothetical example: you will have a branch from 663 leading to 754 which then leads to another level of numerous manuscripts). How are we to then discern whether 754 or 663 is the most probable ancestor for this branch of the stemma?

Rather conveniently, Wachtel pointed out that even if one were to switch 754 and 663 (in this hypothetical example), the structure of the stemma would still remain the same. We can still argue about the fine details of probable ancestors for given readings, but the CBGM does produce more accurate structural outlines of manuscript transmission than we have had in the past.

2. Shouldn't we then switch from the geographical labels of the RH to something like "text-type 1," "text-type 2," usw...

No, because this approach still retains the basic notion that we need to seperate out text-types. We still could not legitimately draw a line between text-type 1, 2 and 3 when faced with the evidence of the CBGM. We simply need to confine our discussion of manuscript variants within the specific context of the transmission history of a given text.

3. What are some of the broader hermeneutical backgrounds to the CBGM?

Strutwolf did start his answer by recognizing that it is impossible to conduct any sort of criticism without some sort of hermeneutical bias. But, the CBGM is a relatively neutral tool in this respect. It features no ideological perspective on the text of the NT, and seems to circumvent the Bengelian fiddling with manuscript evidence which led to the RH by virtue of its raw statistical nature.

4. (My poorly worded question.) With the RH we had a starting place with discussing manuscript variants, namely the labels assigned to them a priori based on geography. But where then is our starting point with the CBGM? It seems that we are limited to talking only about the textual tradition of single texts, such as James, or 2 Peter. With such a starting point, we can't talk about the textual tradition of the Johannine Corpus as a whole, as we could with the RH. Rather, we can only talk about 1 John in isolation, GJohn in isolation, etc...

Yes. We have to start over with each book and develop their transmission histories in isolation. We cannot speak of a Luke/Acts transmission history. Only a Luke and an Acts transmission history.

I wish we had more time during the session to address this final point, as it raises the question as to how Strutwolf's hypothesis relates to the history of early Christianity. He did state that he sees in early Christianity a much broader network of textual transmission than the RH permits. If we can find all these different text-types existing in what are supposed to be the scribal and theological centers of early Christianity, then we must assume a different social structure than is often presupposed. Thus, while the CBGM presents itself as a neutral tool in terms of hermeneutical ideology, it does at the very least suggest a vision of early Christian geographical relationships that cuts against the grain of current models which position early Christian communities in relative textual isolation (thus resulting in historical constructs like "Johannine Christianity"). Here is a point of contact between the CBGM and the study of early Christian origins that really needs to be explored.