Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Length of a Scroll: Quantitative Evaluation of Material Reconstructions

I want to highlight an important article entitled The Length of a Scroll: Quantitative Evaluation of Material Reconstructions recently published by Eshbal Ratzon and Nachum Dershowitz in PLOS ONE. I have had many opportunities to discuss the methods of reconstruction with the authors over the past few years, and I greatly appreciate their rigorous work on the topic. For those who work on material reconstructions, this article provides important counterbalance to the traditional Göttingen approach, which in my experience often expects unrealistic precision. While I am not quite as pessimistic about the practical application of the method as Ratzon and Dershowitz, there can be little doubt that there are often very large margins of error to be factored in. Difficulties in observing and measuring patterns of damage and many unknown variables necessitate a very careful and cautious approach. 

One cautionary example from my own experience can illustrate this. I once looked at the reconstruction of T-S NS 3.21, and--using typical values from the Dead Sea Scrolls corpus--the numbers seemed to suggest that there was no way the scroll could have contained the entire Torah. I suggested to Ben Outhwaite that the scroll may only have contained Genesis, and then he went and discovered a further fragment of the scroll from Exodus! Only after the fact did I find out that the parchment was extremely thin, much more so than the average values I assumed from the Dead Sea Scrolls corpus. One unknown variable made the huge difference between a Genesis scroll and a complete Torah scroll. This is especially worrisome for a corpus like the Dead Sea Scrolls, where measurements of parchment thickness are rarely available for control. The method works in theory, but the results are only as good as the data and assumptions that go into it.

For those interested in further discussion about the method, my own approach to reconstruction should be published next year:

Drew Longacre. “Methods for the Reconstruction of Large Literary (Sc)rolls from Fragmentary Remains.” In Research Approaches in Hebrew Bible Manuscript Studies. Edited by Élodie Attia-Kay and Antony Perrot. Textual History of the Bible Supplement. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

Here is the abstract from Ratzon's and Dershowitz's article:


Scholars have used mathematical models to estimate the missing length of deteriorated scrolls from ancient Egypt, Qumran, Herculaneum, and elsewhere. Based on such estimations, the content of ancient literature as well as the process of its composition is deduced. Though theoretically reasonable, many practical problems interfere with the method. In the current study, the empirical validity of these mathematical models is examined, showing that highly significant errors are quite frequent. When applied to comparatively intact scrolls, the largest contribution to errors is the subjectivity inherent in measuring patterns of damaged areas. In less well preserved scrolls, deterioration and deformation are more central causes of errors. Another factor is the quality of imaging. Hence, even after maximal reduction of interfering factors, one should only use these estimation methods in conjunction with other supporting considerations. Accordingly, past uses of this approach should be reevaluated, which may have substantial implications for the study of antiquity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

David Marcus on the Masorah in BHQ

David Marcus has a helpful discussion on the Masorah and its treatment in the BHQ series on Ancient Jew Review, including many examples and help in interpreting the notes.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Albert Baumgarten on the puncta extraordinaria in Deut 29:28

Albert Baumgarten proposes an interesting theory that the puncta extraordinaria in Deut 29:28 were added to mark these words for deletion by scribes concerned with the possible partisan use of these words to claim esoteric revelation.

Shaus et al. on the Writer Identification at Arad

The Tel Aviv team has produced another interesting article on writer identification in the Arad ostraca, this time comparing an analysis by a forensic document examiner with two computer algorithms. The forensic analyst concludes that the 18 samples were written by at least 12 different writers, which implies a proportionally large number of writers at the fort of Arad. The two computer algorithms are more conservative in concluding multiple writers, but provide some additional quantitative support for the FDE's conclusions.

Shaus A, Gerber Y, Faigenbaum-Golovin S, Sober B, Piasetzky E, Finkelstein I (2020) Forensic document examination and algorithmic handwriting analysis of Judahite biblical period inscriptions reveal significant literacy level. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0237962. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237962 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

IntCal20 Radiocarbon Calibration Curve

According to Science Daily, the new IntCal20 calibration curve for radiocarbon dating is now complete and will be published in Radiocarbon. I checked the OxCal website, and the new curve is already available.

HT Agade

Friday, August 7, 2020

New York University Conference Recordings

The video recordings of the New York University public conference "Dead Sea Scrolls in Recent Scholarship" (May 17-20, 2020) are now online here. Among many other interesting lectures, see especially the Groningen paleography lecture:

The Hands that Wrote the Bible. Digital Palaeography of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Identifying and Dating Manuscripts Mladen Popović and Maruf Dhali, University of Groningen

Friday, June 12, 2020

Noonan on Non-Semitic Loanwords

Benjamin Noonan provides an interesting overview article based on his book on non-Semitic loanwords in the Hebrew Bible. He suggests that Egyptian loanwords predominate in the earlier texts of the Hebrew Bible, while later texts have much more influence from Greek and Old Iranian.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Ph.D. Scholarship in Louvain-la-Neuve

Matthieu Richelle has posted on Agade a call for applications for a Ph.D. scholarship at the The Catholic University in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium). It sounds like an exciting opportunity to work on interesting textual problems with an excellent scholar!


Call for applications : PhD scholarship in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

The Catholic University in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) invites applications for a two-year (renewable once) doctoral scholarship starting in Fall/Winter 2020.

This FSR Seedfund fellowship will be ascribed to a student writing a PhD dissertation, in English or in French, under the supervision of Matthieu Richelle, professor in the Faculty of Theology and member of the RSCS Institute.

This dissertation will be based on a research project concerning the so-called Miscellanies: two passages in the Books of Kings that are proper to the Septuagint (3 Kingdoms 2,35a-k et 46a-k). They contain some material that appears elsewhere in Kings, interspersed between 1 Kgs 5,2 and 1 Kgs 11,27. But they also include information without any parallel. The main objective of the dissertation is to shed light on the origins of the Miscellanies thanks to a methodology that combines diachronic and synchronic methods: textual and compositional analysis on the one hand; structural and narrative criticisms on the other.

For further details about the research project, the starting date of the scholarship, and financial aspects, please contact Matthieu Richelle (matt_richelle@yahoo.fr).

How to apply ?
Send a CV, a cover letter (1-2 pages) and a letter of recommendation to Matthieu Richelle (matt_richelle@yahoo.fr) by 15 July 2020.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday, May 22, 2020

Abbreviations is Psalm Manuscripts

In this month's Genizah Fragment of the Month, Kim Phillips describes A Shorthand Psalter: T-S A43.8. Looking at this personal production—as well as the note sheet T-S A40.34—Kim shows how writers could abbreviate well-known psalms as reference guides for recitation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Kaifeng Torah Scroll

Ilana Tahan posts an interesting discussion on a Torah scroll from Kaifeng, China, with background on the history of Jews in China.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Ariel Sabar on Dirk Obbink

Ariel Sabar has done another great exposé on the current controversies involving stolen papyri, Dirk Obbink, Scott Carroll, the Green and Stimer collections, and the Egypt Exploration Fund. It is a fascinating and revealing read in an ongoing saga.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Jodi Magness Tour of Qumran

I recently came across a series of YouTube videos of Jodi Magness giving a tour of Qumran, for those who are interested.

Virtually Unrolling New Dead Sea Scrolls

Ariel David gives a survey of ongoing work by Brent Seales and the IAA to virtually unroll additional Dead Sea Scrolls, beyond EGLev. These include a Herculaneum papyrus (which Seales is confident they will be able to read) and two more DSS: 4Q82 (4QXII<sup>g</sup>) and 11Q4 (11QEzekiel).

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, Volume 4

De Gruyter announces the publication of Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, Volume 4, a very helpful resource.


Noah Hacham, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Tal Ilan, Free University of Berlin.


The edition collects and presents all papyri and ostraca from the Ptolemaic period, connected to Jews and Judaism, published since 1957. It is a follow-up to the Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum (= CPJ) of the 1950s and 60s, edited by Victor Tcherikover, which had consisted of three volumes – I devoted to the Ptolemaic period; II to the Early Roman period (until 117 CE); and III to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. The present book, CPJ vol. IV, is the first in a new trilogy, and is devoted to the Ptolemaic period.
The present and upcoming volumes supplement the original CPJ. They present over 300 papyri that have been published since 1957. They also include papyri in languages other than Greek (Hebrew, Aramaic, Demotic), and literary papyri which had not been included in the old CPJ. Aside from quite a number of papyri in these categories, the present volume (of over 100 documents) includes 21 papyri from Herakleopolis in Middle-Egypt that record the existence of a Jewish self-ruling body – the politeuma. These papyri put an end to a long-standing dispute over whether such a Jewish institution had ever existed in Egypt.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Life and Courage of Paul Kahle

Gary Rendsburg points out a fitting eulogy for the famous Semiticist Paul Kahle by Lea Goldberg, entitled On a Man’s Greatness. I did not know the history of Kahle's resistance to the Nazi regime, and it was a great encouragement to see how one person of courage can make a difference. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Winston - How Much Is an Unkosher Torah Worth?

Hella Winston writes an interesting investigative article entitled How Much Is an Unkosher Torah Worth?, looking into the market for old Torah scrolls no longer fit for ritual usage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Elisha Qimron's "The Qumran Texts: Composite Edition"

Elisha Qimron has uploaded his three-volume The Qumran Texts: Composite Edition on Zenodo. Qimron has done much important work on giving his own readings of these texts, and this is no doubt a valuable contribution.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Free Hebrew Linguistic Resources

In the recent Genizah newsletter, Nick Posegay highlights two important open-access works just published by Geoffrey Khan, which are worth downloading and checking out:

The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1

The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 2


The form of Biblical Hebrew that is presented in printed editions, with vocalization and accent signs, has its origin in medieval manuscripts of the Bible. The vocalization and accent signs are notation systems that were created in Tiberias in the early Islamic period by scholars known as the Tiberian Masoretes, but the oral tradition they represent has roots in antiquity. The grammatical textbooks and reference grammars of Biblical Hebrew in use today are heirs to centuries of tradition of grammatical works on Biblical Hebrew in Europe. The paradox is that this European tradition of Biblical Hebrew grammar did not have direct access to the way the Tiberian Masoretes were pronouncing Biblical Hebrew. 

In the last few decades, research of manuscript sources from the medieval Middle East has made it possible to reconstruct with considerable accuracy the pronunciation of the Tiberian Masoretes, which has come to be known as the ‘Tiberian pronunciation tradition’. This book presents the current state of knowledge of the Tiberian pronunciation tradition of Biblical Hebrew and a full edition of one of the key medieval sources, Hidāyat al-Qāriʾ ‘The Guide for the Reader’, by ʾAbū al-Faraj Hārūn. It is hoped that the book will help to break the mould of current grammatical descriptions of Biblical Hebrew and form a bridge between modern traditions of grammar and the school of the Masoretes of Tiberias. 

Links and QR codes in the book allow readers to listen to an oral performance of samples of the reconstructed Tiberian pronunciation by Alex Foreman. This is the first time Biblical Hebrew has been recited with the Tiberian pronunciation for a millennium.

See also the forthcoming:

Studies in Rabbinic Hebrew


This volume presents a collection of articles centring on the language of the Mishnah and the Talmud – the most important Jewish texts (after the Bible), which were compiled in Palestine and Babylonia in the latter centuries of Late Antiquity. Despite the fact that Rabbinic Hebrew has been the subject of growing academic interest across the past century, very little scholarship has been written on it in English. 

Studies in Rabbinic Hebrew addresses this lacuna, with eight lucid but technically rigorous articles written in English by a range of experienced scholars, focusing on various aspects of Rabbinic Hebrew: its phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics and lexicon. This volume is essential reading for students and scholars of Rabbinic studies alike, and constitutes the first in a new series, Studies in Semitic Languages and Cultures, in collaboration with the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Text & Canon Institute Videos

Phoenix Seminary's Text & Canon Institute has uploaded video recordings of two lectures on the history of the OT text. These are aimed at a popular audience, but it is nice to see the speakers' take on the issues.

Peter Gentry, Chaos Theory and the Text of the Old Testament

Anthony Ferguson, Listening to the Dead Sea Scrolls

Saturday, March 28, 2020

De Kreij on Law and the Art of Bookroll Maintenance

Mark de Kreij has an amusing discussion of a case of the inheritance of a damaged archive that sheds interesting light on the difficulties of maintaining a collection of scrolls in antiquity. See his Law and the Art of Bookroll Maintenance.

MOTB Repatriations

Steve Green has released a Statement on Past Acquisitions on the Museum of the Bible webpage. In it he acknowledges past failures to verify the provenance of many artifacts and the appropriateness of criticisms leveled against the Museum on account of his mistakes, citing bad advice from previous consultants. The big news is that Green officially announced that approximately 5000 papyrus fragments will be voluntarily repatriated to Egypt, and 6500 clay objects to Iraq. These artifacts do not have reliably documented provenance, and likely originated in the respective countries. In other words, it is quite likely that many of them were looted and illicitly exported from their countries of origin.

This is a big and important step in the right direction. Mike Holmes told me already in 2018 that they were in conversation with the relevant authorities, and all publications of this material were on hold until proper ownership and publication rights have been sorted out. It is nice to see this announced publicly and that they are making progress on this front. This will go a long way towards establishing the credibility and legitimacy of both the Green collection and the Museum of the Bible, and they are to be commended for this decision.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Loll et al. 2019 - Museum of the Bible Dead Sea Scroll Collection Scientific Research and Analysis: Final Report

The Museum of the Bible has posted the well-illustrated final report of Colette Loll et al., which concluded unanimously that all of the MOTB DSS-like fragments were modern forgeries. This confirms the suspicions of many researchers, offering considerable new material evidence to the discussion.
Most prominently, all of the inscribed fragments have irregularities with the ink, such as:

  1. Ink on top of delaminated skin, where the top layer of the skin has flaked off.
  2. Ink flowing down the edges of fragments and into cracks.
  3. Ink on top of accrued mineral deposits.
  4. Ink "feathering" or bleeding outside the boundaries of the letters.

The report also confirms the observations of others that the letters often follow the contours of the broken edges and cracks of the fragments. Another noteworthy oddity is that some of the fragments seem to have been ruled with a greasy white substance before inscription. 

The writing surfaces also seem inconsistent with genuine DSS. All but one (MOTB.SCR.004742 [Leviticus]) are written on leather, characterized by: interwoven collagen fibers; a thick, spongy texture (now brittle); flexibility and resilience (again, now brittle); bumpy surface from the grain and fibrous surface on the skin side; and the absorption of tannins through the entire skin as part of the preparation process. In contrast, genuine scrolls are (almost?) always written on parchment, characterized by: parallel aligned collagen fibers; thin, relatively stiff texture; smooth surfaces due to scraping; and sometimes a surface treatment with tannins.

The leather was apparently soaked in a lime solution to help remove the hair, a technology which is supposed to have been introduced in the 4th cent. CE. This is interesting, since one questionable Azusa Pacific University fragment is said to have been radiocarbon dated to the 1st cent. CE, and it would be easy to explain how the forger got access to similar material from this time. The report suggests that several holes in certain fragments may have been human-created and resemble leather used for Roman shoes, so the leather may have originally been created for a similar usage. Heavy mineral deposits on the surfaces (including under the ink) suggests that the leather was recovered from an ancient archeological context, though it cannot be dated precisely.

The report gives a detailed analysis of the material of the leather and sediments. On each of the fragments there was an amber-colored protein coating (probably animal skin glue), but it is not clear whether this was part of the preparation of the parchment or natural gelatinization. The report notes suspicious striations on one fragment resulting from brush strokes, which apparently applied a transparent substance to the surface. The ink is carbon-based and uses gum Arabic as a binder; the team apparently did not detect any egg-white, unlike the ink in the Schøyen ink well. The report also suggests that someone deposited a layer of sediment consistent with the Dead Sea region on the surface of the fragments, possibly while the ink was still wet.

Though I am no expert on the material side, and there are some material problems with the leather, it seems clear that the irregularities of the ink are the primary indicators for the team's decision. To quote a helpful and succinct summary:

"Aside from unambiguous conservation materials, no anachronistic or anomalous materials were identified in the studied fragments. The state of degradation and minerology of the parchment samples suggests they may old or ancient, however, physical clues, such as the application of ink over delaminated support material and sediment, as well as cracks in several fragments, suggests that much or all of the ink may have been applied more recently (111)."

Indeed, the fact that the ink and script are so problematic for each of the fragments is a strong indication that all of these fragments are modern forgeries on ancient skins.


See also the discussions by Christopher Rollston, Sidnie Crawford, and Michael Langlois. Contrast the following statement by Emanuel Tov cited in a National Geographic article:

"I will not say that there are no unauthentic fragments among the MOB fragments, but in my view, their inauthenticity as a whole has still not been proven beyond doubt. This doubt is due to the fact that similar testing has not been done on undisputed Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts in order to provide a base line for comparison, including the fragments from the Judean Desert sites that are later than Qumran. The report expects us to conclude that abnormalities abound without demonstrating what is normal."

While I agree that it would be helpful to do similar tests with authentic DSS for comparison, the combined evidence with regard to the MOTB DSS-like fragments collected to date does seem to me to be quite compelling. These fragments are almost certainly modern forgeries.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Sunday, March 8, 2020

DVL Introductions to Greek and Latin Paleography

The DigiVatLib (DVL) website has published two very clear and well-illustrated introductions to Greek and Latin paleography, which I highly recommend for interested beginners.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Neo-Paleography: Analysing Ancient Handwritings in the Digital Age

Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello has posted videos with slides and audio for each of the presentations at the recent conference Neo-Paleography: Analysing Ancient Handwritings in the Digital Age (Basel, 27-29 January 2020). This is a great resource for understanding the current state of digital paleographic tools, especially for Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, and Latin scripts. See below the full conference program.


Monday 27 January

14:15Nachum Dershowitz, Adiel Ben-Shalom in abs., Lior Wolf in abs. (Tel Aviv): Computerized Paleography: Tools for Historical Manuscripts
14:45Mladen Popović, Lambert Schomaker, Maruf Dhali (Groningen): Digital Palaeography of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Dating Undated Manuscripts
15:15 Gemma Hayes, Maruf Dhali (Groningen): Identifying Dead Sea Scribes: A Digital Palaeographic Approach
15:45 Discussion
16:00 Coffee break
16:30Vinodh Rajan Sampath (Hamburg): Script Analyzer: A Tool for Quantitative Paleography
17:00Timo Korkiakangas (Helsinki): Quantifying Medieval Latin handwriting with Script Analyzer
17:30Elena Nieddu, Serena Ammirati in abs. (Roma): IN CODICE RATIO: a gateway to paleographical thesauri
18:30Buffet in Dep. Altertumswissenschaften (for the speakers)

Tuesday 28 January

9:00Peter Stokes (Paris): (Still) Describing Handwriting: With Archetype and Beyond
9:30Simona Stoyanova (Nottingham): The Python in the letterbox – epigraphic palaeography with Archetype
10:00Lorenzo Sardone (San Marino): For a Palaeography of Demosthenic Papyri
10:45Coffee break
11:00Yasmine Amory (Ghent): More than a simple intuition. Towards a categorisation of palaeographical features 
11:30Loreleï Vanderheyden (Heidelberg): How to unmask a digraph scribe? Apollos’ Greek and Coptic styles in the Aphrodito Byzantine Archive
14:00Anne Boud’hors (Paris): Identifying hands and styles in the Coptic papyri from Edfu (Papas' archive)
14:30Esther Garel (Strasbourg): The Fayyumic Coptic Documentary Papyri: Issues of Palaeography, Formats and Dating
15:00Christian Askeland (Cambridge): On the History of the Alexandrian Majuscule
15:45Coffee break
16:00Katharina Schröder (Münster): Searching for Relatives: Palaeographical Analysis of Coptic New Testament Manuscripts in the Institute for New Testament Textual Research Münster 
16:30Alin Suciu, Ulrich Schmid in abs. (Göttingen): Digital Support for a Paleographical Assessment of the White Monastery Manuscripts
19:00Dinner (for the speakers)

Wednesday 29 January

9:00Marie Beurton-Aimar, Cecilia Ostertag in abs. (Bordeaux): Re-assembly Egyptian potteries with handwritten texts
9:30Vincent Christlein (Nuremberg): Writer identification in historical document images 
10:00Imran Siddiqi (Islamabad): Dating of Historical Manuscripts using Image Analysis & Deep Learning Techniques 
10:45Coffee break
11:00Tanmoy Mondal (Montpellier): Efficient technique for Binarization, Noise Cleaning and Convolutional Neural Network Based Writer Identification for Papyri Manuscripts
11:30Andreas Fischer (Fribourg): Recent Advances in Graph-Based Keyword Spotting for Supporting Quantitative Paleography
12:30Coffee break
14:00Vlad Atanasiu, Peter Fornaro (Basel): On the utility of color in computational paleography
Visit of the Digital Humanities Lab and the papyrus collection in the University Library

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Dhali et al. 2020 - Feature-extraction methods for historical manuscript dating based on writing style development

Maruf Dhali et al. from the Groningen ERC team just published a paper on the use of digital feature-extraction methods for dating Dead Sea Scrolls.

Maruf A. Dhali et al., Feature-Extraction Methods for Historical Manuscript Dating Based on Writing Style Development, Pattern Recognition Letters 131 (2020): 41320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.patrec.2020.01.027.


Proposes feature-extraction techniques for dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).
A grapheme-based method with a self-organized time map outperforms textural methods.
A codebook size of 225 performs the best with a Mean Absolute Error (MAE) of 23.4 years.
Cumulative Score (α = 25) improves with an increase in the sub-codebook size.
The result is positioned as a basic benchmark for further work on dating for the DSS.


Paleographers and philologists perform significant research in finding the dates of ancient manuscripts to understand the historical contexts. To estimate these dates, the traditional process of using classical paleography is subjective, tedious, and often time-consuming. An automatic system based on pattern recognition techniques that infers these dates would be a valuable tool for scholars. In this study, the development of handwriting styles over time in the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of ancient manuscripts, is used to create a model that predicts the date of a query manuscript. In order to extract the handwriting styles, several dedicated feature-extraction techniques have been explored. Additionally, a self-organizing time map is used as a codebook. Support vector regression is used to estimate a date based on the feature vector of a manuscript. The date estimation from grapheme-based technique outperforms other feature-extraction techniques in identifying the chronological style development of handwriting in this study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed

I just received my editor's copies for our new volume!

Anneli Aejmelaeus, Drew Longacre, and Natia Mirotadze, eds. From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed. De Septuaginta Investigationes 12. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2020.

For the contents and introduction see the free preview here.

How ancient texts could and could not be changed has been in the focus of vibrant scholarly discussions in recent years. The present volume offers contributions from a representative group of prominent scholars from different backgrounds and specialties in the areas of Classical and Biblical studies who were gathered at an interdisciplinary symposium held in May 2015 at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the first part of the volume Ancient Scribal and Editorial Practices, the authors approach ancient scribal and editorial techniques in Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources concerning classical and biblical texts, their textual criticism, and editorial history. The second part Textual History of the Hebrew Bible focuses on scribal and editorial aspects of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible. The third part Writing and Rewriting in Translation deals with a variety of writings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, and Patristic texts in various languages (Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian), focusing on issues of textual criticism and translation technique. The volume contains an especially rich assortment of contributions by Georgian textual scholars concerning ancient editorial practices and ancient Georgian translations of biblical and patristic texts. This collection of papers provides insights into a variety of different areas of study that seldom come into contact with each other but are clearly in many ways related.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Stylistic Classification of the Hebrew Scripts

For those interested in Hebrew paleography, I just got word that my article on stylistic classification is now published. My goal in this article was to clarify what paleographers mean by "formality" and lay a theoretical framework for stylistic classification of the Hebrew scripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Drew Longacre, “Disambiguating the Concept of Formality in Palaeographic Descriptions: Stylistic Classification and the Ancient Jewish Hebrew/Aramaic Scripts.” Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin 5, no. 2 (2019): 101–128. http://doi.org/10.25592/uhhfdm.739.


The concept of formality in palaeographic analysis is often ill-defined and understood in conflicting ways by the scholars who utilize it. In this article, I attempt to clarify the meaning and significance of formality by suggesting that it is best understood as a multifaceted concept dependent upon the interaction between morphology, execution, and function. From this perspective, formality is an overall impression of the level of handwriting based on the type of model script chosen to reproduce, the skill and care with which it was written, and the purpose(s) for which the embodying manuscript was created. Each aspect can be conceptualized and to some extent analyzed independently in concrete terms other than formality. The resulting, more explicitly-defined nature of formality proposed here then provides a better foundation for hypothesizing about the functions of manuscripts. I apply this schema to the Jewish Hebrew/Aramaic scripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls to show its potential for increased clarity and resolution in stylistic analysis.