I’ve been knee-deep in Synoptic Problem things for the last couple weeks, and it has been quite enjoyable. The degree of complication you face when trying to balance the best critical text of each synoptic gospel with the question of dependence among the gospels really is tricky. The saying in Matthew 12:8 (and its parallels) presents a fun puzzle. After the Pharisees confront Jesus because his disciples plucked grain on the sabbath, each gospel ends the passage with a version of this saying. Here are all three gospels in Throckmorton’s synopsis (NRSV translation):
the Son of Man is
of the sabbath.”
“the Son of Man is
of the sabbath.”
“The Son of Man is
of the sabbath”
Aside from the introductory “For” in Matthew, the core saying differs in just one word across the three synoptic gospels, the “even” in Mark. Thus, the passage presents a very minor agreement between Matthew and Luke against Mark. That is how the NRSV translation makes it appear, anyway. The situation in the Greek text is a little more complicated. Here is the text of the passage in the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland along with its critical apparatus:
Detail of British Library Papyrus 107, the Harris Homer roll; image source: The British Library
A couple years ago, I wrote an article on two papyrus manuscripts now housed in the British Library, the so-called Harris Homers. I’ve written on this blog before about the curious story of their discovery in the “Crocodile Pit of Maabdeh” in Egypt in the middle of the nineteenth century. They were supposedly found by the British collector Anthony Charles Harris (1790-1869) and later sold by his daughter, Selima Harris (ca. 1827-1899) to the British Museum. One of these manuscripts was the remains of a papyrus roll, perhaps copied in the first or second century CE, containing book 18 of Homer’s Iliad. The other, the other was (in its present form) a single papyrus quire consisting of of 9 sheets of papyrus folded in half with parts of books 2-4 of the Iliad, probably copied in the third century CE and inscribed only on the recto of the leaves (the versos were apparently left blank and reused at a later date). Continue reading
There was a rather depressing article in the New York Times about the New York Public Library a few days ago. But reading the story brought back some fond memories for me. I first visited the main branch of the library at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street when I was a graduate student. I was writing a term paper that would become an article called “The Use and Abuse of P52.” In those days, I was lucky enough to have access to the wonderful libraries at Yale University, but on a handful of occasions over the years, even they couldn’t manage to get some resources I needed. One of these instances resulted in a trip to the New York Public Library.
I went in search of the December 3, 1935 issue of the Deutsche allgemeine Zeitung, which contained an article by the famed New Testament scholar Adolf Deissmann, who had given his opinions about the newly published Rylands fragment of the Gospel According to John (P.Ryl. 3.457=P52=LDAB 2774) in this popular periodical. The NYPL was one of the few places in the US that had a copy. Quite a few institutions carried the title on microfilm, but the microfilms inevitably lacked the 1935 issues. Continue reading
One of the habits of papyrologists and New Testament scholars that I’ve tried to highlight over the last decade is the practice of dating the handwriting of ancient manuscripts by comparing them to other samples of handwriting that are themselves of uncertain date. Another good example of this phenomenon is P.Köln 10.406 (better known to New Testament scholars as P118), fragments from a leaf of a papyrus codex containing Paul’s letter to the Romans (LDAB 10081) copied in two columns per page.
I mentioned that I gave a paper in Oslo some weeks ago on the issue of manuscripts and the synoptic problem. While it was the issue of manuscripts and variant readings that was the focus of my attention, writing this paper forced me to revisit some foundational scholarship on the gospels and challenged me to try to visualize some data for a general audience. I did so using Venn Diagrams. Now I see that Mark Goodacre, in a series of posts (here, here, and here) prompted by the insightful work of Matthew Larsen, has also been experimenting with Venn Diagrams to model synoptic relationships (see also the interesting contribution by Joe Weaks). Continue reading
While the Bodmer Papyri are best known for the subset of Greek and Coptic codices that Martin Bodmer acquired from Egyptian sources through the Cypriot dealer Phocion Tano in the 1950s, there are other early Christian materials in the collection that were acquired under different circumstances. One of the most curious of these is now known as P.Bodmer 58 (LDAB 107785). This papyrus codex, usually said to have been copied in the sixth or seventh century, contains a series of works in Coptic: a dialogue between two deacons and Cyril of Alexandria, letters of Theophilus, a dialogue between Horsiesius and Theophilus, a dialogue between Phausos and Timotheos with Horsiesius, and a collection of works attributed to Agathonicos, along with a set of instructions for the preparation of parchment. Unlike the more famous Bodmer Papyri that first appeared on the antiquities market in the 1950s, P.Bodmer 58 has been known since the nineteenth century. It was formerly in the collection of Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872). The individual papyrus leaves have been placed between a kind of wax paper, and these “sandwich” leaves have been bound together in a modern binding in a somewhat jumbled order. Three different copyists seem to have been responsible for the production of the leaves now bound together in the codex. Continue reading
In light of the recent report on unpublished early Christian manuscripts from the Oxyrhynchus collection, it may be worth revisiting an old video. In 2006, the PBS television program Nova: ScienceNow presented a segment on the use of multispectral imaging (MSI) on ancient manuscripts, including some in the Oxyrhynchus collection. Continue reading