Monday, August 29, 2016

Enoch Seminar review of Satlow's "How the Bible Became Holy"

Isaac Oliver de Oliveira has pointed out a review of Michael Satlow's How the Bible Became Holy, for the Enoch Seminar. Gregory Paulson's review of Satlow is fairly critical of his treatment of the Christian literature, which follows on Ron Hendel's critical review focusing on the treatment of the Septuagint and Qumran materials. I have not read the book myself, but many of the quotes and conclusions cited in the reviews do seem somewhat overstated. Have any others read the book?

Jobs in Helsinki

The University of Helsinki is calling for applications for doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, and university researchers. Having spent the past two years with the Centre of Excellence, "Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions," I can personally vouch that it is a great opportunity, and I highly recommend qualified and interested candidates to apply. For HB/OT textual research, the center has a particularly vibrant community. Juha Pakkala's team focuses on combining literary and textual criticism, and Anneli Aejmelaeus' team focuses on the text of the Bible in the Septuagint, Qumran, and NT citations of the OT. Jutta Jokiranta's team also deals with Qumran, with a particular emphasis on the relevance of sociological theory and ritual studies for the study of the Qumran community. Great people, and a great research environment, so don't hesitate!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

New Greek Psalms Manuscript

Antony Perrot recently pointed out an article by Klaas Worp to me that will be of interest to readers of this blog: "Psalm 9.22-26 in a 4th-Century Papyrus from the Western Desert in Egypt" in Vetus Testamentum, Volume 66, Issue 3, pages 473 – 478.

First edition of a Psalm fragment on a Greek papyrus coming from a settlement in the Western desert of Egypt. Discussion of its religious background (Jewish, Manichaean,or Christian?) and of its possible use, as an amulet? Attention is paid to a textual variant.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

28th International Congress of Papyrology - Part 2

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

Myriam Krutzsch gave some reflections on the material analysis of papyrus supports based on her years of experience as a conservator and recent collaboration on material analysis with Ira Rabin. She discussed important aspects of the material that should be documented by conservators, as well as how these can be important for locating the production of the papyrus in space and time.

Ira Rabin gave some of her thoughts and results on the study of ancient inks based on material analysis. Optically, carbon inks are black, those from plant extracts brown, and iron gall inks black. Carbon inks show clearly in the IR range, whereas plant inks disappear, and iron gall disappears at long wavelengths greater than 1200 nanometers (for cameras that can't use such long wavelengths, iron gall inks are only barely visible at somewhat shorter wavelengths). Nevertheless, inks were often mixtures (even in written recipes), and many different types of metals and other chemical traces can tell you about the composition and origin of the inks.

Bruce Griffin stressed the subjective nature of assigning dates to manuscripts paleographically and the need for quantitative controls on these dates. Statistics cannot replace expert judgment, but they can be tools for making better critical judgments. Bruce then showed some preliminary statistics showing the relative prominence of slanting hands, decorated scripts, and individual letters' violating bilinearity to show the potential gains. As one who works regularly on Greek manuscripts, I for one would love to have a nice database to make the comparison process a lot easier. :)

A helpful plenary session moderated by Alberto Nodar featured a lineup of scholars discussing the current state of papyrology in relation to other questions: Gianluca del Mastro (Papyrology and science); Mark Depauw (Papyrology and new digital technologies); Marie-Hélène Marganne (Papyrology and academia); Roberta Mazza (Papyrology and ethics); and Cornelia Römer (Papyrology and archaeology).
  • Gianluca del Mastro surveyed recent developments in material analysis of papyri, carbon dating, and reconstructions of rolls.
  • Mark DePauw discussed current digital papyrological resources and the complications of working with them (e.g., the need for continuous updating and technical development). He made several recommendations, such as to publish openly, assist free websites with volunteer help, give scholarly credit to websites, accommodate industry standards, don't expect perfection, and keep studying the papyri carefully.
  • Marie-Hélène Marganne warned of the tenuous position of papyrology in academia in an era of budget cuts, institutional restructuring, and the loss of Greek and Latin training in schools. She suggested that papyrologists attempt to popularize the discipline (e.g., with exhibits and online presence) and to partner with other disciplines.
  • Roberta Mazza reviewed current discussions on ethics in papyrology, the market for papyri, their legal and cultural heritage status, and the role of collectors, calling for transparency in terms of provenance information and censoring scholars who do not follow the primary ethics codes of the papyrological societies. Most of the discussion in the round table focused on these issues, and the water cooler conversation revealed quite an uneasiness in the ranks about what some fear are simplistic solutions to complex questions. General impression: the ethical questions are extremely complex and controversial, and professional standards for scholars remain an unresolved issue with no consensus immediately in sight.
  • Cornelia Römer addressed prejudices from archaeologists against papyrologists and suggested that papyrologists should familiarize themselves with and participate in archaeological excavations to encourage cooperation and enrich research.
Brent Nongbri supported the theory that the technology of the codex developed from joining wooden tablets and making notebooks. One line of development constructed papyrus codices from multiple folded single sheets. Another line of development led to the construction of single-quire codices, subsequent experiments with codices of more than one quire, and then proper multi-quire codices with the important technological innovation of the link-stitch technique of binding the codices (certainly before the 4th century, but the early stages cannot be documented).

Lincoln Blumell and Thomas Wayment reported the results of their work on the Rendel Harris collection at the University of Birmingham, which were collected during Harris' two trips to Egypt in 1916 and 1922, mostly from Oxyrhynchus, but also some from elsewhere. Two volumes are already published, and a third is apparently in preparation by Nikolaos Gonis. Blumell and Wayment noted three early Christian papyri: 1) P. Birm. 317, which mentions an Oxyrhynchite bishop; 2) P. Birm. 300 (LXX Psalms 1:6b-2:1), an opisthograph from around the first half of the 4th century with a non-continuous text that they consider likely an amulet; and 3) P. Birm. 486 (Acts 9:1), a non-continuous NT text from the late 3rd or early 4th century, probably also an amulet.

Yanne Broux briefly summarized recent developments in the coverage of texts in Trismegistos: 1) including texts from Egypt from before 800 BCE; 2) covering texts from the entire ancient world, not just Egypt; 3) including Latin and Greek inscriptions; and 4) a new Networks feature. The TM Editors and TM People networks feature allows scholars to visualize social connections between modern editors collaborating on work and ancient people as various nodes connected by directed or undirected edges, which indicate the connections.

Nico Dogaer elaborated in more detail on Social Networking Analysis with the use of the Trismegistos database and illustrated its potential with a consideration of patterns of combinations of formulaic elements in Demotic letters.

Joanne Stolk illustrated the use of the TM Text Irregularities feature for studying ancient corrections and modern regularizations, using the iotacistic confusion of ει and ι as an example. The interchange is very frequent in the 1st-7th centuries, peaking in the 4th century. Then it declines in the 7th-8th centuries, despite the fact that they continued to be pronounced the same way. These iotacistic errors were also often corrected by scribes, but interestingly most corrections were from the 3rd-2nd century BCE. Thus, it appears that the phonetic equivalence/confusion was already beginning to occur in this period, but scribes recognized it and corrected it according to a standard. In later times, the confusion became so widespread that it became more widely acceptable.

Peter Arzt-Grabner addressed the bewildering array of diverse abbreviations for papyrological resources, offering several suggestions to help standardize the terminology for the aid of computer databases and nonspecialists.

And last... and maybe least... I hope my paper on two selective Greek texts of Exodus was interesting to someone... :) I suggested that Rahlfs 896 was an educational exercise and that Rahlfs 960 was a thematic collection focusing on passages pertaining to periods of rest. Thanks again to all those who gave helpful feedback during the session.

All in all, it was a great week in Barcelona, and I am very happy I went. As one who does not normally attend papyrological conferences, I had the chance to meet many new friends and found the papyrological community very warm and welcoming. A hearty thanks to the organizers and presenters. Perhaps I will see you all again in three years, if not sooner. :)

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.

Jubilees Palimpsest Project

I just learned that Todd Hanneken was awarded an NEH grant for his Jubilees Palimpsest Project. The project will involve photographing the 5th-century underwriting of the Milan Latin Jubilees palimpsest with Spectral RTI. The Latin portions of Jubilees provide an important check on the complete Ethiopic tradition, especially when they are not preserved in Hebrew or Greek fragments, so focus on this manuscript promises to make an important contribution to the study of the text of Jubilees and related literature. Congratulations to the awardee!

HT: Todd Bolen 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Symposium on Digital Scholarly Editions as Interfaces (23.-24.9.2016)

The Centre for Information Modelling – Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Graz is hosting a symposium on Digital Scholarly Editions as Interfaces from 23-24 September 2016. The program and abstracts have been posted online. The lineup sounds very interesting for anyone working in the digital humanities, and some of the abstracts are substantial enough to get a good idea about what the speakers will be discussing.

Friday, August 12, 2016

MOTB Dead Sea Scrolls Volume

Peter Gurry has pointed out that Brill has released information on the publication of the Museum of the Bible volume Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection. In addition to several introductory and overview articles, there are publications of Dead Sea Scrolls fragments of the following passages:
  • Genesis 31:23–25?, 32:3–6
  • Exodus 17:4–7
  • Leviticus 23:24–28
  • A Fragment of Leviticus?
  • Numbers 8:3–5
  • Jeremiah 23:6–9
  • Ezekiel 28:22
  • Jonah 4:2–5
  • Micah 1:4–6
  • Psalm 11:1–4
  • Daniel 10:18–20
  • Nehemiah 2:13–16C
  • A Fragment of Instruction
Congratulations to all the authors and editors who have worked so hard to get this important volume published. I look forward to looking through it at some point in the near future.