Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Free Audio Course on New Testament Textual Criticism by Daniel Wallace

Credo Courses has a great offer right now of a free audio course on New Testament Textual Criticism by Daniel Wallace, one of the leading evangelical practitioners in the field. I'm looking forward to listening to that in the near future while working on some more mundane tasks.

HT Andrew Simpson

Equation for the Calculation of Scroll Length

So apparently I missed Pi day, but I figured I would offer one fun equation a day late to honor the occasion. This is a preview of a forthcoming publication of mine on methods for reconstructing fragmentary scrolls in a conference proceedings volume. So here is the equation "to estimate the realistic length of material that can be expected to have been rolled up inside of a given point in the scroll (lr-real). Note well that this is not the total length of the scroll, but only the length of the rest of the material that would have been rolled inside of a given point in the scroll. If ri is the radius of the unused inner core, r is the radius of the scroll at a given point in the scroll from which lr-real is calculated, and z is the increase in circumference per turn of the scroll, then:

So if you happen to have a fragmentary scroll lying around where you can figure out how big it was at a certain point and can estimate how big the unused inner core was and how much you think the circumference grew each turn of the scroll, why not give it a shot!? :) Seriously though, I do think it is a very helpful equation for those working with fragmentary scrolls. If you ever have use of it but aren't comfortable with the math, don't hesitate to ask!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Emanuel Tov Reviews Hendel's Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible

Emanuel Tov reviews Ron Hendel's Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible in RBL. I have often felt that Tov was more focused and reliable on the nitty-gritty philological details, and Hendel moreso on the philosophical and methodological underpinnings of the discipline, and this review confirmed that to me clearly! The relationship and relative emphasis between theory and praxis remains a major dividing line in the field of OTTC, but I sincerely hope that HBCE will be able to balance both well. Maybe it will be possible to have both sound methodology and philological reasoning in the same volumes after all. <cue cheeky grin> :)

Hindy Najman on Sommer's Revelation and Authority

Hindy Najman has a glowing and interesting review of Benjamin D. Sommer's Revelation and Authority in Marginalia.

HT Agade

A Digital Palaeographic Approach towards Writer Identification in the Dead Sea Scrolls

The University of Groningen and KU Leuven ERC project "The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Digital Palaeography and Scribal Culture of the Dead Sea Scrolls" has produced its first publication, A Digital Palaeographic Approach towards Writer Identification in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Congratulations to Maruf, Sheng, Mladen, Eibert, and Lambert for a job well done, as well as to Ruwan van der Iest for all of his behind-the-scenes work on this pilot project. This article was an attempt to use digital images of the Dead Sea Scrolls to determine how accurately existing digital tools are able to distinguish the scripts of samples from a limited number of scribes from different parts of documents and across different documents considered by paleographers to have been written by the same scribe. The computer ranks all samples in relation to a query sample and produces a ranked hitlist of samples that most closely match the query sample. Overall competence in automated handwriting recognition peaked at 80% correct identification of the scribe in the first position in the hitlist. The ability of the computer to correctly place samples of the scribe within the top 10 of the hitlist peaked at about 95%. These results will provide an important benchmark as we now seek to increase our precision by using the higher-quality IAA images and tailoring the measured features better to our documents. The field of paleography of the Dead Sea Scrolls is now well on its way to becoming truly digital, and it will be exiting to see the results over the next couple of years.


To understand the historical context of an ancient manuscript, scholars rely on the prior knowledge of writer and date of that document. In this paper, we study the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of ancient manuscripts with immense historical, religious, and linguistic significance, which was discovered in the mid-20th century near the Dead Sea. Most of the manuscripts of this collection have become digitally available only recently and techniques from the pattern recognition field can be applied to revise existing hypotheses on the writers and dates of these scrolls. This paper presents our ongoing work which aims to introduce digital palaeography to the field and generate fresh empirical data by means of pattern recognition and artificial intelligence. Challenges in analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls are highlighted by a pilot experiment identifying the writers using several dedicated features. Finally, we discuss whether to use specifically-designed shape features for writer identifica tion or to use the Deep Learning methods on a relatively limited ancient manuscript collection which is degraded over the course of time and is not labeled, as in the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Percentage Attestation of the Hebrew Bible in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Everyone who has worked with the DSS has probably had that annoying time when you are working on a passage and check to see if any scrolls have it, only to find that there are none. The preserved remains are often quite meager, though it's extremely hard to quantify precisely how much. But in a fun, informal Facebook conversation, Rick Brannan crunched some numbers on Logos comparing the Lexham DSS Interlinear and Lexham Hebrew Bible modules and suggested that about 33% of verses in the Hebrew Bible have some attestation and about 30% of the total number of words are at least partially attested. Isaiah skews the overall results, such that it would be around 25% by word count if we exclude Isaiah. I initially suspected closer to 10-15% attestation by word, so I was pleasantly surprised by that result. :)

New TC Books on Jeremiah and the Syriac of Exodus


The Last King(s) of Judah

Zedekiah and Sedekias in the Hebrew and Old Greek Versions of Jeremiah 37(44):1–40(47):6
[Die letzten Könige von Juda. Zedekia und Sedekias in der hebräischen und altgriechischen Fassung von Jeremia 37(44):1–40(47):6.]
2017. XVII, 255 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 89
Published in English.
Zedekiah ben Josiah was the last king of Judah, and under his leadership, in 586 BCE, Jerusalem was destroyed. Interestingly, the Hebrew and Old Greek versions of Jeremiah present very different portrayals of Zedekiah, prompting a variety of literary and historical-critical questions. In this study, Shelley L. Birdsong uses a multi-critical approach to highlight the two unique characterizations of Zedekiah and address their relationship text- and form-critically. She argues that the Greek text depicts Zedekiah as a manipulative and mysterious Machiavellian prince, whereas the Hebrew presents him as a hesitant and kind king who metaphorically mirrors the fall of his capital. Following this literary comparison, the author employs several scholarly methods to substantiate the claim that the Hebrew text is a later edited text. Overall, she demonstrates the importance of doing character studies in Septuagint scholarship and using multiple methods to create a more comprehensive picture of biblical characters.

English Translation by Mark Meyer; Text Prepared by George Anton Kiraz & Joseph Bali
This volume is part of a series of English translations of the Syriac Peshitta along with the Syriac text carried out by an international team of scholars. Mark Meyer has translated the text, while Kiraz has prepared the Syriac text in the west Syriac script, fully vocalized and pointed. The translation and the Syriac text are presented on facing pages so that both can be studied together. All readers are catered for: those wanting to read the text in English, those wanting to improve their grasp of Syriac by reading the original language along with a translation, and those wanting to focus on a fully vocalized Syriac text.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Technology in Textual Criticism

Jacob W. Peterson has some interesting thoughts on important technological developments that have revolutionized textual criticism in From Scribe to Screen: How Technology is Changing Textual Criticism. He points out developments in multi-spectral imaging, optical character recognition, and online access to manuscripts. Many more could be added, but these are certainly some of the more revolutionary.