Saturday, July 13, 2019

E. M. Thompson and the Precision of Greek Palaeography

Berlin Papyrus 9782 (LDAB 3764),

While reading through Brent Nongbri's excellent book "God's Library," I couldn't help but notice a somewhat negative tone (however unintentional) towards Victorian era palaeographers. In a discussion over the dating of the famed Hawara Homer papyrus (LDAB 1695), Nongbri noted that some of the dates assigned to the papyrus had been determined by "Victorian aesthetics (the 'handsomeness' of a hand or the presence or absence of 'character')" (Nongbri, 65, 66). Frederic Kenyon did re-date the Hawara Homer based upon the "handsomeness" of the script, yet, not all Victorian era palaeographers were so subjective and definitive in their evaluation of scripts. Edward Maunde Thompson, a contemporary of Kenyon, was fully aware of the subjectivity of palaeography and the importance of having many examples by which to date an undated manuscript. In the middle of a discussion over the date of Berlin Papyrus 9782 (LDAB 3764), Thompson wrote,  
“Indeed, the difficulty, in such an instance as the present one, of judging of the age of book-hand papyri is very great; for the number of examples is comparatively limited, and they have to be distributed over so large a space of time, that it is only when certain of them can be grouped within not too wide a period and can therefore individually give support to each other in the sequence assigned to them, that we can be said to be standing on fairly firm ground. Then the eye acquires a familiarity with the character of the writing and its subtle changes, and the palaeographer developes a kind of instinct for the exercise of his judgement and for the conclusions at which he arrives. But when the examples lie far apart in date, then we cannot speak without diffidence and reserve, recognizing that further discoveries may largely modify present opinion.” (Thompson, 133)

Brent Nongbri, God's Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).
Edward Maunde Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912).

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Cicero and his "Original Copy"

In a letter to his long time friend Atticus, Cicero informs his friend that he had finished revising an essay and was sending it his way for publication;
"I am glad that you were not disappointed in that expectation: but nevertheless I am sending you the same essay somewhat more carefully revised—and it is indeed the original copy (ἀρχέτυπον) itself with interlineations and corrections in many places. Get this copied on large paper (macrocollum) and read it privately to your guests, but, as you love me, when they are cheerful and have had a good dinner, lest they vent their wrath on me, though really angry with you." (At. 16.3)
This letter was previously discussed in an earlier post (here) that interacts with Cicero's mention of "large paper" (macrocollum). What I wanted to highlight today is Cicero's mention of an "original copy" or ἀρχέτυπον. In this context, it sems to function as a synonym for "autograph." This is mainly because this "source copy" of Cicero's composition contains his own interlinear corrections and must be the corrected original-composition. I find it interesting that, even though the authorial copy is in view (the autograph), the text was under some amount of flux as Cicero continued to revise and polish the work. As long as the autograph remained under Cicero's control, the text was subject to change. As soon as Atticus receives this ἀρχέτυπον, copies it onto a macrocollum, and begins to distribute it widely, Cicero would effectively loose control over the textual form and the composition would be fixed.
Cicero understands this fact of publication well for he is afraid that his composition will circulate and be distributed out of his control. In a previous letter to Atticus he wrote concerning the same work,
"I am sending you my de Gloria. You will therefore please to keep it under lock and key as usual: but let select passages be marked for Salvius at least to read when he has got some fitting hearers at a dinner party." (At. 16.2)
Here Cicero is concerned that his piece will be released before he is finished with it so he implores Atticus to keep it under lock and key. It also reveals the potential fluidity of the text at this point as Cicero desires only select portions to be read by a close friend at a diner party. This would provide opportunity for his work to receive some initial exposure while at the same time remaining under Cicero's control.

English translation:(

Latin text: (

Friday, June 21, 2019

Seneca the Younger on the Codex

Roman fresco from Herculaneum depicting from left to right,
 ink well and reed pen, bookroll, wax tablet codex, and wooden tablet.
Recently I was reading through Seneca the Younger's (tutor to Emperor Nero) thought provoking treatise, "On the Shortness of Life." Besides providing insight into stoic thinking, Seneca dropped an interesting reference to the codex. The comment is buried in a discussion on useless knowledge of history. Seneca wrote,

"We may also excuse investigators who ask who first  persuaded the Romans to deploy a naval force (it was Claudius, who was called Caudex for this reason, because the ancients termed the composite structure of several planks a caudex hence the public records are called codices, and the barges which carry provisions up the Tiber are still called codicariae in accordance with ancient practice)." ("On the Shortness of Life," 13.4)

Seneca reveals that some of the records kept in Roman archives consisted of wooden tablets attached together. Hence the reference to "the composite structure of several planks." The content of these codices suggests that, at the time of Seneca's writing (ca. 49 CE), codices were used for sub-literary and utilitarian texts rather than for literature proper.

A similar use for the codex can be seen a century later in one of the physician Galen's writings, "On the Avoidance of Grief." 
"What then, you will say, is even greater than all the things mentioned that might be able to cause distress? Well, I will tell you this: I was entrusted with the possession of the most remarkable medical recipes, such as no one else in the entire Roman world (possessed)--fortune, in part, contributing to this and I myself, in part, contributing equally. In fact, two-fold fortune granted me each (of the recipe collections) along the way. The first of which is as follows: A certain rich man of those around me hastened to find knowledge concerning effective medications, with the result that he purchased some recipes in the amount of more than one hundred gold coins. He set about this task in such a way as to purchase not only all recipes that were held in esteem by (physicians) today in Asia, but also by those (physicians) of the past. These medical recipes were preserved, with upmost care, in two parchment codices that a certain one of the heirs--himself most dear to me--gave to me of his own accord without being asked." ("On the Avoidance of Grief," 31-33)
Of course, Galen is referring to the parchment codex, not a wooden codex as was Seneca. Yet, the two book formats appear to be connected in that the wooden codex developed into the parchment codex. Galen uses his parchment codices for storing utilitarian texts, recipes, and reference material. The Roman archival material would have been used in a similar manner as recipes, as reference sources only and not books to be read from beginning to end.


Seneca, "On the Shortness of Life." Translated by Gareth D. Williams.

Rothschild, Clare K. , and Trevor W. Thompson, "Galen: "On the Avoidance of Grief"," Early Christianity 2 (2011): 110-129.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Text and Canon Institute Conference

This coming Febuary 21-22, 2020 the newly formed Text and Canon Institute of Phoenix Seminary will be launching its inaugural, Sacred Words: History of the Bible Conference at First Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ. From the TCI website;
"The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and its influence on Western culture beyond compare. But how did this group of ancient books written and then copied over millennia become the Bible we now know?
Join us for the Text & Canon Institute’s inaugural conference and learn from internationally known speakers about how the Bible has been copied, collected, and confessed as God’s sacred words."

The list of Plenary Speakers are Daniel Wallace, Peter J. Gentry, and Stephen Dempster. These plenary speakers will be followed by four Breakout Speakers, Jeff Cate, Darian Lockett, and Anthony Ferguson.

Peter Gurry and John Meade also kindly invited me to speak at one of these breakout sessions. My topic will be on the intersection of inspiration and the autographs of the New Testament. The talk will explore questions regarding the inspiration of the New Testament, ancient publication, autographs, and textual criticism.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Libanius's Copy of Thucydides Stolen then Recovered

Libanius was a Greek who lived during the 4th century (ca. 314-393 CE). Never converting to Christianity, he was born in Antioch and taught rhetoric in Antioch, Constantinople and eventually returned to Antioch where he lived the remainder of his days. In his autobiography "First Oration" Libanius makes an interesting reference to a copy of Thucydides that was stolen and then recovered.
"148. Another occurrence deserves mention also. Although a trivial matter, it is significant. Some of you perhaps will regard me as a mere pedant, but I, smitten to my very heart, know that my emotion arose because of a calamity great indeed. I had a copy of Thucydides’ History. Its writing was fine and small, and the whole work was so easy to carry that I used to do so myself, while my slave followed behind: the burden was my pleasure. In it I used to read of the war between Athens and Sparta, and was affected as perhaps others have been before me. Never again could I derive such pleasure from reading it in another copy. 
149. I was loud in praise of my possession, and I had more joy in it than Polycrates did in his ring, but by singing its praises so, I invited the attention of thieves, some of whom I caught in the act. The last of them, however, started a fire to prevent capture, and so I gave up the search but could not but grieve at the loss. In fact, all the advantage I could have gained from Thucydides began to diminish, since I encountered him in different writing and with disappointment. 
150. However, for this discomfort Fortune provided the remedy, a tardy one, admittedly, but, none the less, the remedy. I kept writing to my friends about it, so grieved was I, and I would describe its size and what it was like inside and out, and wonder where it was and who had it. Then a student, a fellow citizen of mine, who had purchased it, came to read it. The teacher of the class set up the cry, ‘That’s it,’ recognizing it by its tokens, and came to ask whether he was right. So I took it and welcomed it like a long-lost child unexpectedly restored. I went off rejoicing, and both then and now I owe my thanks to Fortune. Let him who likes laugh at me for making a mountain out of a mole hill. I have no regard for the laughter of boors." (Or. 1.148-150).
By the fourth century, the roll had been supplanted by the codex. So Libanius is almost definitely referring to a codex format in this story. I find it interesting that his description of this copy of Thucydides closely matches the description of what scholars consider to be one of the earliest depictions of the codex by Martial in the first century.
"You who wish my poems should be everywhere with you, and look to have them as companions on a long journey, buy these which the parchment confines in small pages. Assign your book-boxes to the great; this copy of me one hand can grasp. Yet, that you may not fail to know where I am for sale, or wander aimlessly all over town, if you accept my guidance you will be sure. Seek out Secundus, the freedman of learned Lucensis, behind the entrance to the Temple of Peace and the forum of Pallas." (Epigr. 1.2)
Libanius's description of his copy of Thucydides gives insight into the value of books in the 4th century. Because books were hand made, each was unique and irreplaceable, like painting or sculpture. Books we're obviously very expensive to produce as a thief purloined Libanius's copy and was able to resell it for Libanius's friend was able to re-purchase the book in the market. Though very low compared to modern standards, literacy must have been high enough for there to have been a ready market for a stolen book.

Libanius Autobiography and Selected Letters, Volume I: Autobiography. Letters 1-50 (Edited and translated by A. F. Norman. Loeb Classical Library 478. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992) pg. 217-219.

Martial. Epigrams, Volume I: Books 1-7. Edited and translated by Walter C. A. Ker. Loeb Classical Library. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1919.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Epiphanius on a Jewish Treasury of New Testament Writings

Epiphanius was born 310-20 CE in Israel and later in his early adult years founded a Monastery in Eleutherapolis (in Judea) and remained in this position until he was appointed a Bishop of Constantia of Cyprus in 366 CE. In the last half of the 370s Epiphanius wrote and released his "Panarion" which was a heresiology (see the introduction in Williams, xiii-xxvii). In Book I, section 30, Epiphanius discusses the Jewish Ebionite sect. In the midst of this discussion, Epiphanius diverges into a discussion centered on the Christian works these Ebionites used.

"[3.7] They too accept the Gospel according to Matthew. Like the Corinthians and Merinthians, they too use it alone. They call it, “According to the Hebrews,” and it is true to say that only Matthew expounded and preached the Gospel in the Hebrew language and alphabet in the New Testament. [3.8] But some may already have replied that the Gospel of John too, translated from Greek to Hebrew, is in the Jewish treasuries (γαζοφυλακιοις), I mean the treasuries at Tiberias, and is stored there secretly, as certain Jewish converts have described to me in detail. (9) And not only that, but it is said that the book of the Acts of the Apostles, also translated from Greek to Hebrew, is there in the treasuries (γαζοφυλακιοις), so that the Jews who have read it, the ones who told me about it, have been converted to Christ from this. [4.1] One of them was Josephus—not the ancient Josephus, the author and chronicler, but Josephus of Tiberias, during the old age of the Emperor Constantine of blessed memory." (Panarion, 30.3.7-4.1; Williams, 133-134)
Epiphanius apparently received this testimony from this Josephus of Tiberias, an older man who must have been born in the 280s or so for he was in his 70s when he recounted these things to Epiphanius years before (Pan. 30.5.1). Later, Epiphanius recounts how Josephus discovered this collection of Christian writings.

"Now there was a “gazophylacium”(γαζοφυλακιου) there which was sealed—“gaza” means “treasure” in Hebrew. (8) As many had different notions about this treasury because of its seal, Josephus plucked up the courage to open it unobserved—and found no money, but books money could not buy. (9) Browsing through them he found the Gospel of John translated from Greek to Hebrew, as I said, and the Acts of the Apostles—and Matthew’s Gospel moreover, which is actually Hebrew. After reading from them he was once more distressed in mind, for he was somehow troubled over the faith of Christ. But now he was prodded for two reasons, his reading of the books and the patriarch’s initiation. Still, as often happens, his heart was hardened." (Panarion 30.6.7-9; Williams, 136).

It is not entirely clear in the story where this "treasure" of Christian writings was kept. Though it might have been at the Jewish Patriarch's house. But it may have been hidden in their synagogue or meeting place. Later in the story, after Josephus became a Jewish leader (an "apostle"), he begins to flirt with Christianity and thus garner the objections of his fellow countrymen. Epiphanius continues,

"At this time he lodged next to the church, I don’t know in which city. But he made friends with the bishop there, unobserved, borrowed the Gospels and read them." (Pan. 30.11.3; Williams, 139)

Those that were hostile to Josephus's flirtations with Christianity and his strict methods of leadership began to look for ways to catch him up. They were finally presented with an opportunity,

"[11.4] Since very severe as an apostle should be—as I said, this is their name for the rank—and indeed was a reformer, he was always intent on what would make for the establishment of good order and purged and demoted many of the appointed synagogue-heads, priests, elders and “azanites” (meaning their kind of deacons or assistants), many were angry with him. As though in an attempt to pay him back these people took no little trouble to pry into his affairs and find out what he was doing. (5) For this reason a crowd of meddlers burst in upon him at home in his residence, and caught him pouring over the Gospels. They seized the book and grabbed the man, dragged him to the floor with shouts, bore him off to the synagogue with no light mistreatment, and beat him as the Law prescribes. (6) This made his first trial; however, the bishop of the town arrived and got him out." (Pan. 38.11.4-6; Williams, 139)

There are some interesting insights into the interchange between Jewish and Christian communities in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries in Palestine that can be gleaned from this account. The lines between the Jewish and Christian communities were blurred and there appears to have been a considerable amount of interchange. Not only did the Jewish Patriarch have his own secret collection of Christian writings, these were translated from Greek into their own Hebrew dialect. Coupled with this, Josephus had access to the Gospel writings that were part of a local Church's collection even though, at the time he was not a Christian.

Skarsaune, Oskar,  "Evidence for Jewish Believers in Greek and Latin Patristic Literature", in Jewish Believers in Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 505-567. For Epiphanius see,  528-540.

Williams, Frank, trans. The  Panarion  of  Epiphanius of  Salamis: Book 1, Sects 1-46 (2nd Ed. Leiden: Brill, 2009).

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism

IVP Academic now has a webpage dedicated to the forthcoming book edited by Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson. It looks like the book can be preordered at a discount.

"Myths and Mistakes In New Testament Textual Criticism."

The book has several contributors and each of the chapters addresses a particular issue raised in apologetics and discussions of New Testament Textual Criticism.

I contribute a chapter,

"Myths About Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived."

Many thanks to Elijah and Peter in their tireless efforts to see this work through to publication.

Here is the table of contents;

Daniel B. Wallace

1. Introduction
Peter J. Gurry and Elijah Hixson

2. Myths about Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived
Timothy N. Mitchell

3. Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn't Always Better
Jacob W. Peterson

4. Myths about Classical Literature: Responsibly Comparing the New Testament to Ancient Works
James B. Prothro

5. Dating Myths 1: How We Determine the Ages of Manuscripts
Elijah Hixson

6. Dating Myths 2: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts
Gregory R. Lanier

7. Myths about Copyists: the Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts
Zachary J. Cole

8. Myths about Copying: the Mistakes and Corrections Scribes Made
Peter Malik

9. Myths about Transmission: The Text of Philemon from Beginning to End
S. Matthew Solomon

10. Myths about Variants: Why Most Variants Are Insignificant and Why Some Can't Be Ignored
Peter J. Gurry

11. Myths about Orthodox Corruption: Were Scribes Influenced by Theology and How Can We Tell?
Robert D. Marcello

12. Myths about Patristics: What the Church Fathers Thought about Textual Variation
Andrew Blaski

13. Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can't Tell Us
John D. Meade

14. Myths about Early Translations: Their Number, Importance, and Limitations
Jeremiah Coogan

15. Myths About Modern Translations: Variants, Verdicts, and Versions
Edgar Battad Ebojo