Monday, August 15, 2016

28th International Congress of Papyrology - Part 1

The 28th International Congress of Papyrology took place in Barcelona from 1-6 August, and it was a great success. While there were far too many papers to discuss them in any depth, I would like to highlight a few papers that were more relevant for OTTC.

The conference was opened with an interesting plenary session by Andrea Jördens on the assets and liabilities in trends towards globalization and digitization in papyrology, where she somewhat controversially recommended increasing the use of languages other than English within the field of papyrology, against the dominant trend towards presenting and publishing in English.

Roger Bagnall and Paola Davoli delivered a nuanced paper on balancing high standards in archaeological excavations with pragmatic necessities.

Jeff Fish presented an interesting paper demonstrating the process of reconstructing a fragmentarily preserved literary roll (Sappho fragments) by tracing continuations of fiber patterns across large lacunae (5-10 cm).

Raffaella Cribiore reviewed the question of school texts 20 years after her foundational volume Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt. She stressed that there are very few times where we can identify purpose-built "schools," such that we are often on safer ground simply to speak more broadly of educational contexts.

Jennifer Cromwell traced the educational development of the 7th-century monk Pleine from novice to advanced writer and possibly (also teacher?) based on his writings from a Theban tomb. This is a rare example where you can actually see the development of a single writer's hand throughout the entirety of his career.

Julia Lougovaya suggested that ostraca could be used not only for practical documents and short excerpts of literary texts in educational contexts, but also as the support for short literary texts proper.

Gabriel Macedo discussed the two preserved papyri of the popular Latin playwright Terence, concluding that it is impossible to construct a stemma for the many manuscripts of Terence and especially to incorporate the papyri.

Ágnes Mihálykó studied the use of Greek and Coptic in Egyptian liturgy for clues about the transition from Greek to Coptic within church contexts. Liturgy has a tendency to be conservative, and we don't start seeing written evidence for Coptic prayers alongside Greek prayers until the 6th century. Coptic hymnography takes off in the 8th-9th centuries, and communal acclamations (e.g., the Lord's prayer) continue to be spoken in Greek in that period, even if the people often did not understand Greek anymore.

Aaltje Hidding examined the functions that martyr stories played in Oxyrhynchus, namely: 1) connecting the community with the persecuted church prior to Islamic rule; 2) instructing and exhorting the community to stand strong in the faith; and 3) to provide cult aetiologies to explain the origins of certain churches.

Gesa Schenke surveyed the origin of the cult of the saints, suggesting sites associated with burial were normally considered efficacious for healing. The cult typically expanded from the bones of the saint to any contact relic associated with the saint, though not all were necessarily considered equally efficacious. Many who were helped by the relics subsequently dedicated themselves to serve at that shrine.

Anastasia Maravela demonstrated that scripture was used for argumentative purposes in monastic letters. While scholars have been doing this type of scholarship for many years on the Pauline epistles and other ancient letters, this approach also promises to yield results (including potentially text-critical) for later periods.

Marco Stroppa brought attention to ongoing work on the PSI project, including one papyrus of Acts, one of the patristic text Apophthegmata Patrum, and three Christian amulets.

Benjamin Overcash proposed the application of social-semiotic theory to the question of the use of nomina sacra. The basic idea was that every instance of an abbreviated nomen sacrum implies a choice that had semiotic value. For instance, in P46 in 1 Cor 8:5-6, the unabbreviated form is used for pagan gods, but the abbreviated form for the true God (Rahlfs 960 has a similar example, which I discussed in my paper). In many cases, the meaning may be as simple as to identify the scribe with a particular scribal tradition, but there was a lot of (legitimate) pushback from the audience for fear of overreading default Christian scribal practices.

Meron Piotrkowski gave a helpful survey of the literary papyri from Oxyrhynchus relevant to Jewish history, including: 1) Jewish biblical manuscripts; 2) Jewish Hellenistic literature; 3) Jewish religious and liturgical texts; 4) Jewish magical texts; and 5) semiliterary Christian texts dealing with Jews in a largely polemical way. He suggested (on minimal evidence) that the literary papyri attest to a continuous Jewish presence in Oxyrhynchus from the 1st-6th centuries, but an increase due to an influx of Palestinian immigrants in the 3rd-4th centuries.

Tal Ilan presented an interesting paper equating Julia Crispina of Ein Gedi with a woman by the same name from the Fayum. Julia--the granddaughter of queen Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa I--is known from the Babatha archive and a papyrus registration document from Egypt, and Tal tried to piece together a possible scenario to explain her presence in documents from both locations based on her leaving Palestine during the Bar Kokhba revolt. After the session, she also gave a brief prospective of the future of the Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum project. Because of the growing amount of material, the volumes will have to be more selective in what they include, but there will be an appendix of inscriptions published since 1993. The new volumes will also include texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Demotic, as well as literary papyri, unlike previous volumes. This includes the early biblical fragments from Egypt, which will be of particular interest to readers of this blog.

Zsuzsanna Szántó suggested that the popular Jewish name Shabtai = שבתי = σαββαταιος/σαμβαταιος may also have referred to non-Jewish keepers of the Sabbath, even in the Ptolemaic period.

This is part 1 of a series. See also part 2.

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