Thursday, November 28, 2013

Post-Doctoral Research at the University of Helsinki

Today I officially accepted an invitation to conduct post-doctoral research at the University of Helsinki as part of the Centre of Excellence in "Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions." I will be working in Helsinki from 1 September 2014 to 31 December 2016, working on the Septuagint manuscripts of Exodus. My family and I are very excited about moving to Finland, and I look forward to getting connected with my new colleagues and starting this challenging project. Thanks to everyone in Birmingham, Helsinki, and beyond, who made this opportunity possible. Below is the abstract for my research project:


As part of the University of Helsinki’s Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions,” this project will entail a comprehensive (re-)consideration of the earliest, continuous-text, Greek witnesses to the text of Exodus with a view both to reconstructing the original Greek translation and to elucidating how and why the text changed over time and what this tells us about the authority and reception of the book in antiquity. I will undertake fresh transcriptions of all the Greek manuscripts dating from the 7th century and earlier, including those that have only recently come available. I will then systematically compare each manuscript with each other manuscript and with the Hebrew scrolls from the Judean Desert to gain a clearer picture of manuscript relationships and the complex history of the Greek text of Exodus. This research will require the use of computerized tools and methods developed in the digital humanities to store, organize, manipulate, and display the large amounts of data envisaged for this project. I intend to publish the results in an electronic edition, one or more articles, and a monograph giving a synthesis of my conclusions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Center for the Study of (New Testament) Manuscripts

I had the chance to meet Dan Wallace in Dublin this summer while viewing the Chester Beatty papyri, and I greatly appreciate his desire to make high-quality digital images of manuscripts available online. He and his team have taken photos of all of the Chester Beatty papyri (and other significant manuscripts) and posted them online here. Uncharacteristically for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, they have also photographed and published the images of the Chester Beatty Septuagint papyri (961-968, 2149, 2150). Thanks to the CS(NT)M for posting these images!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

British Library Digitizing Hebrew Manuscript Collection

The British Library has announced here that they will be digitizing 1250 of their collection of over 3000 Hebrew manuscripts. This includes some very important biblical manuscripts, as well as other Jewish literature. This is a very promising development indeed!

(HT: Blog for the Study of the Jewish Book)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

InscriptiFact Digital Image Library

I have been playing around with the search facilities and images on the InscriptiFact Digital Image Library of the West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California. If you register an account with them, you can get access to a number of high-quality images of important manuscripts and inscriptions for personal and classroom use. I highly recommend taking a look at this helpful online resource.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Principles of Akkadian Textual Criticism Online

Martin Worthington's Principles of Akkadian Textual Criticism has been digitized by the Glascow University Library and put up on I was quite surprised to find this 2012 book online. I'm not sure of the copyright issues at this point, but I have emailed the author to determine the legality of this digitization.

Update (16 August 2013): Michiel Klein-Swormink from De Gruyter has confirmed that this is an illegal digitalization.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hendel's Text of Genesis 1-11 Online

Ron Hendel has now put his book The Text of Genesis 1-11: Textual Studies and Critical Edition online on While I would have a few minor critiques, this is an excellent work worthy of study by anyone interested in textual criticism and an essential reference tool for anyone working on the text of Genesis 1-11. This book also gives a good taste of the kind of work we can expect from the Oxford Hebrew Bible project, though the latter editions will probably vary significantly in format from Hendel's initial work.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Bible in Arabic

Jack Sasson has pointed out a new book by Sidney H. Griffith: The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam. It looks like a very interesting read for both textual criticism of the Bible and Judeo-Christian-Islamic relationships in late antiquity and the early medieval period.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Textus Online

The volumes of the Hebrew University's Textus series are now available freely online here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Torah Scroll at the University of Bologna

Picture from the BBC report

Scott Bashoor has pointed out to me that the BBC has published a report about the redating of a Torah scroll at the University of Bologna in Italy to around 850 or more years old. It was dated to the 17th century by university librarian Leonello Modona in 1889, but was recently redated by the university's Professor of Hebrew Mauro Perani. The redating is reported to have been made on the basis of carbon dating, an oriental Babylonian script, and lack of conformity to Maimonides' rules from the 12th century.

The report quotes Mauro Perani as saying that this would be "the oldest complete text of the Torah known to exist," but surely this is incorrect without some qualification. The Leningrad Codex, for instance, is complete for the Pentateuch and dates to A.D. 1008/9. I'm not sure off the top of my head how old the oldest complete Torah scroll is, however.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls for Sale

Jack Sasson has pointed out an interesting article in Haaretz on the history of the sale of small Dead Sea Scrolls fragments to private collections. Apparently Kando retained several fragments in Switzerland and bequeathed them to his sons. William Kando has been selling them to private collections in Norway and the United States for very high prices. There are still some that have not been sold, and quite a few still unpublished.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Limitations of Selective Apparatuses

In teaching through Luke 21 this week, I came across a significant textual problem that brings to mind an important methodological point.

In Luke 21:36, the "Western" witnesses say "that you might be counted worthy to escape" the traumatic events preceding the coming of Christ. The "Alexandrian" witnesses say "that you might have strength to escape." The "Byzantine" witnesses are sharply divided over these two readings. The former reading stresses the divine prerogative in escaping, whereas the latter reading stresses the human responsibility for endurance as requisite for escaping. This is a relatively significant and meaningful difference with strong support for both readings.

But what was most surprising to me was that this variant was not cited in the fourth edition of the United Bible Society's Greek New Testament! For an edition designed to minimize the clutter and emphasize the most meaningful variants for translation, they clearly dropped the ball on this one and cut down the apparatus too far. This is a good reminder that nearly every printed apparatus is necessarily selective, and when editors have to make such choices, inevitably they will make some errors, either including non-essential information or excluding essential information. The moral of the story (apart from standing firm in the faith, looking for the coming of Christ...) is that you have to be careful cutting corners by only considering the variants listed in selective critical apparatuses, because you may very well miss something important.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Geza Vermes Has Passed Away

Jim Davila has posted on PaleoJudaica that Geza Vermes has passed away, due to a recurring bout with cancer. He is survived by his wife Margaret. Vermes was from a Jewish family, turned Catholic priest, who later left the priesthood. He was best known as a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and historian of Christian origins with at times decidedly unorthodox views. His translation of the non-biblical scrolls from Qumran has been one of the most well-known books relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls. There can be no doubt that Vermes has left a lasting impression on Biblical Studies.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bill Barrick's Hebrew Grammar Lectures Online

Bill Barrick at The Master's Seminary in Southern California has kindly put up his video lectures for beginning and intermediate Hebrew, along with his freely-downloadable grammar and workbook. I had the pleasure of taking a number of classes and seminars with him (including my intro to OTTC!), and he is highly competent in dealing with the Hebrew text. For those who want to brush up on their Hebrew or learn it from scratch, consider checking out his free lectures!

Hebrew Grammar I

Hebrew Grammar II

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

IOQS Munich Schedule

Eibert Tigchelaar has posted the schedule for the IOQS conference in Munich this summer here, along with abstracts. I will be presenting a paper on Tuesday afternoon at 15:30, for those who might be interested.
"Scribal Treatment of Defective Exemplars: Not Just a Modern Dilemma"
Drew Longacre (University of Birmingham)

The tasks of ancient copyists and modern editors are normally worlds apart, but when handling physically defective exemplars, these two worlds converge to a large degree. Modern scholars are accustomed to dealing with manuscripts ravaged by time, but it is easy to forget that manuscripts were also often damaged in antiquity. When ancient copyists encountered lacunose or illegible texts in their exemplars, they were forced to take on an essentially editorial role. By looking at selected examples from "biblical" and "non-biblical" Qumran scrolls (with particular reference to 1QIsa
a and 4Q252), I intend to illustrate three methodologies scribes utilized in these situations. First, they could insert blank space in the new copies corresponding to the defective text and leave the resulting text untouched. Second, they could insert blank space in the new copies corresponding to the defective text and then attempt a full or partial reconstruction of the missing text based on whatever text remained legible in the exemplar, memory, and/or contextual clues. And third, they could attempt a full or partial reconstruction of the defective text without inserting corresponding blank space before proceeding. Acknowledgement of these scribal practices has the potential to illuminate numerous difficult textual problems in Dead Sea Scrolls studies.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsa-a’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34–66

My article on the Isaiah scroll is now out in the latest volume of Dead Sea Discoveries, for those who might be interested.

Longacre, Drew. "Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34–66." Dead Sea Discoveries 20, no. 1 (2013): 17-50.


The Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa) does not generally reflect a text form earlier than the Masoretic text. Instead, the convergence in 1QIsaa of patterns of spacing irregularities, literary and textual problems, and secondary supplementations, as well as a consistent pattern of distribution, are best explained on the basis of the hypothesis of an exemplar for chapters 34-66 with a damaged bottom edge. Upon reaching the defective edge in each column of his exemplar, the scribe dealt with any lacunose or illegible text in one of two ways before continuing with the unaffected text at the top of the subsequent exemplar column. Sometimes he left blank spaces in his new copy to be filled in with the correct text from other manuscripts at a later time. At other times he attempted full or partial reconstructions of the text based on whatever text remained legible in the damaged exemplar, memory, and contextual clues.

I previously blogged about this here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Random Copyist Omissions

When dealing with manuscripts, the phenomenon of parablepsis is commonly recognized. Copyists often left out words, phrases, and even longer strings of text when their eyes accidentally skipped from one word or phrase to another with a similar sequence of letters, inadvertently omitting the intervening text. Anyone who has read standard handbooks on textual criticism in any field will be familiar with the terms parablepsis, homoioarcheton, and homoioteleuton, which are used to describe this. These errors are relatively frequent and easy to spot.

But one thing I do not recall ever reading about is the apparently random omission of words or phrases. Not all accidental omissions are obviated by clear visual triggers. Sometimes words were just missed without any apparent cause. My recent work with 4QExod-c has yielded a few good examples to look at.

5 31 (Ex 8:8)

ויצא משה ואהרן מעם̇ פ̇ר̇ע֯ה ו̇יצעק משה֯ אל יהוה̇
 And Moses and Aaron exited from before {Pharaoh}. And Moses cried out to the LORD.

Here the scribe accidentally omitted the word Pharaoh, which was secondarily added (apparently by a second hand, according to Sanderson). There is no obvious visual cause for the omission, but the shorter text is nonsensical (the meaning "people" would not be appropriate here). The scribe simply missed the word.

32 i 7 (Ex 12:37)

ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס סכתה כש̇ש {א֗} מאו̇ת אלף ר̇גלי ה̇גברים  
 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six {thou-} hundred thousand footmen.

Here the scribe accidentally skipped the word hundred, and began to write the following word thousand, which would put the number of Israelite footmen at 6000, rather than 600,000! This would have provided a convenient text-critical explanation of the large numbers of Exodus, except that the scribe realized his mistake and erased the א, replacing it with the correct text. If he had not done so, textual critics would have had a very hard time explaining this reading, since there are no obvious triggers for parablepsis.

37 2 (Ex ?:?)

ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ולא שמע 
 So entered Moses {and Aaron to} Pharaoh, but he did not listen.

This example is difficult, because it is hard to figure out what is going on. Sanderson reconstructs the text as above, but she cannot place the fragment in any known text of Exodus. Alternatively, perhaps the first verb was וידבר he spoke? If either of these verbs is reconstructed, the primary text is left non-sensical, since it lacks not only Moses' collaborator, but also the preposition connecting Moses to Pharaoh. A secondary correction (possibly the original scribe, according to Sanderson) added both Aaron and the requisite preposition. Whatever the context of this fragment, the preserved text of the main line seems to be impossible, and yet it has no obvious visual trigger.

This is a very select group of examples, but it does prove the point that such apparently random omissions do occur. In fact, in 4QExod-c, they are nearly as common as omissions with clear visual triggers. Another possible fruitful avenue to consider could be transpositions, which are often thought to have occurred largely when a copyist accidentally skipped the first word or phrase and inserted it later. The main point to draw from this discussion is this: not every shorter reading should be preferred, even if there is no obvious visual trigger for parablepsis. Scribes sometimes made mistakes that leave no clear evidence of their cause, and we must be careful not to adopt these readings in our critical texts.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

3rd University of Birmingham Biblical Studies Postgraduate Day Conference Call for Papers

On behalf of the organizing committee, I am proud to announce that we will be hosting the 3rd University of Birmingham Biblical Studies Postgraduate Day Conference on 3 July 2013 in Birmingham, UK. This conference is aimed at postgraduate researchers from across the UK. Our theme this year will be "Unity and Diversity in Text and Tradition," which promises to spark many lively discussions. We are now accepting paper proposals of no more than 300 words. Please e-mail me your paper proposals no later than 15 April 2013.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Online Greek Paleography Resource

Christian Askeland has pointed out a helpful resource for Greek paleography. PapPal has a databank of images of dated Greek papyri for help in dating undated manuscripts.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cairo Genizah Autograph and Copy

Dotan Arad and Esther-Miriam Wagner note a letter from the Cairo Genizah by the Rabbi Joshua Maimonides which is extant in both an autograph draft form and a later scribal copy. This intriguing situation gives us an inside peek into the relationship between authorial texts and scribal copies in medieval Egyptian Jewish literature. Most of the differences attested in the two manuscripts include stylistic improvements in line with Classical Arabic norms.

"The two letters, with the final copy above (T-S 12.608) and the draft copy below (Mos.IV.85)"