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Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls for Sale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 There are still some that have not been sold, and quite a few still unpublished.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.