Friday, August 3, 2018

The Hazards of Paleographic Dating

I have an article in press with Textus on the dating of the charred En-Gedi Leviticus scroll (EGLev), which I suggest should probably be dated to the 3rd-4th centuries CE. One comparandum I intentionally did not include was Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Heb. d.89 (P) i, a small Hebrew Exodus fragment from Oxyrhynchus, because uncertainties about its date made it an unreliable anchor for the typology. Yardeni dated it to the 2nd-3rd centuries, but in the Textus article I suggest it could also be dated later (maybe as late as the 4th-5th centuries) based on comparison with EGLev and the archeological context (most Greek papyri found alongside the Oxford fragment were from the 3rd-5th centuries). I recently reread Engel's paleographic analysis of the London-Ashkar Exodus manuscript (7th-8th centuries) and realized that I failed to note in my article that Engel dates the Oxford fragment to the 7th-8th centuries on the basis of similarities with London-Ashkar! Thus, this rare Exodus fragment is dated variously from the 2nd-8th centuries by the foremost specialists in the field. If that doesn't make you skeptical of overly-precise paleographic dating, I don't know what will. :) In the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I have even seen proposed paleographic date ranges narrower than 20 years...


Photo credits: EGLev courtesy of Brent Seales; Oxf d.89 (P) i from Engel and Mishor, "An Ancient Scroll of the Book of Exodus"; London-Ashkar courtesy of the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop, Brooklyn, New York.

No comments:

Post a Comment