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 prordered 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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Seneca on the Roman Baths

"Seneca Letter 56.1-2

My dear Lucilius,
If you want to study, quiet is not nearly as necessary as you might think. Here I am, surrounded by all kinds of noise (my lodgings overlook a bath-house). Conjure up in your imagination all the sounds that make one hate one's ears. I hear the grunts of musclemen exercising and jerking those heavy weights around; they are working hard, or pretending to. I hear their sharp hissing when they release their pent breath. If there happens to be a lazy fellow content with a simple massage I hear the slap of hand on shoulder; you can tell whether it's hitting a flat or a hollow. If a ball-player comes up and starts calling out his score, I'm done for. Add to this the racket of a cocky bastard, a thief caught in the act, and a fellow who likes the sound of his own voice in the bath, plus those who plunge into the pool with a huge splash of water. Besides those who just have loud voices, imagine the skinny armpit-hair plucker whose cries are shrill so as to draw people's attention and never stop except when he's doing his job and making someone else shriek for him. Now add the mingled cries of the drink peddler and the sellers of sausages, pastries, and hot fare, each hawking his own wares with his own particular peal."

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Text and Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary

Phoenix Seminary announced today the launching of the "Text and Canon Institute" co-directed by Dr. John Meade Assoc. Professor of Old Testament and Dr. Peter Gurry Asst. Professor of New Testament. The website indicates that the Institute,

"exists to encourage research and publication of scholarly work on the history of the canon and the text of the Bible."

Living in southern Arizona, I am excited to see this venture flourish and I look forward to future conferences and colloquia on the text of the scriptures.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Augustine of Hippo on Losing his Own Books

The conversion of St. Augustine by Benozzo Gozzoli

A few years back Craig Evans of Houston Baptist University published an article that argued,
"at the time our extant Greek NT papyri were written in the late second and early to mid-third centuries, some of the autographs and first copies were still in circulation and in a position to influence the form of the Greek text." (Evans, 23)
This thesis was later propagated by a documentary that came out in April of 2018, "Fragments of Truth." I have already offered my own critique in a forthcoming work edited by Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson, "Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism," in the chapter "Myths About Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived." I want to add one other, small push back to another proposal made in the article by Evans (but not made in the documentary that I recall). Besides arguing for the longevity of New Testament "autographs and first copies," Evans also comments on the number of copies that an author might make of their own work. Evans wrote,
"We usually assume a single autograph per NT writing. But that can hardly have been the case. In late antiquity, no one produced a single exemplar of a work and then circulated it. This is well documented in the papyri, especially with reference to letters." (Evans, 33)
 Though Evans is correct to note that authors often made more than one copy of their letters, as he notes, there is ample evidence in the papyri and in statements made in extant letter collections that point to senders making a copy of a letter before dispatching it, there is less evidence that this was done for works of literature. There are a few examples from Galen that I briefly mention in the chapter. This was a phenomena that spanned the centuries for there are examples from later periods as well. One instance comes from Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE). In his "Confessions," Augustine expounds on his early life of seeking knowledge and studying the thought and writings of the Manichaens. During this time (ca. 380 CE), he wrote a work of Philosophy, "De Pulchro et Apio," (On the Fair and Fit). By the time he sat down to write his "Confessions" (ca. 397-400 CE) he had lost any copies of the work. Augustine wrote,

"And this consideration sprang up in my mind, out of my inmost heart, and I wrote "On the Fair and Fit" [De Pulchro et Apio], I think, two or three books. Thou knowest, O Lord, for it is gone from me; for I have them not, but they are strayed from me, I know not how." (Augustine, Confessions, 4.13.20)

Now Augustine does not tell us how he came to lose these books. His "Confessions" may give us a clue as to what may have happened. Later in book 4 he wrote,

"But what moved me, O Lord my God, to dedicate these books unto Hierius, an orator of Rome, whom I knew not by face, but loved for the fame of his learning which was eminent in him, and some words of his I had heard, which pleased me? But more did he please me, for that he pleased others, who highly extolled him, amazed that out of a Syrian, first instructed in Greek eloquence, should afterwards be formed a wonderful Latin orator, and one most learned in things pertaining unto philosophy." (Confessions, 4.14)

It was common for authors in late antiquity to dedicate a work to a friend or learned acquaintance  (sometimes even to Emperors). The author would then send a copy of the work to the dedicatee (See Cicero, Att. 13.21a; and Galen, De. libr. propr. 19.13). In the case of Galen, this seemed to be his only copy of the work because he did not retreave a copy until the dedicatee died and he re-acquired a copy. It is possible that this occurred in the case of Augustine as well, that he sent his only copy of the book to the dedicatee Hierius. After which, any copies, first drafts, or notes he had were lost.
Craig A. Evans, “How Long were Late Antique Books in Use? Possible Implications for New Testament Textual Criticism,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 25.1 (2015): 23-37.

Donald A. Cress, "Hierius & St. Augustine's Account of the Lost  'DE PULCHRO ET APTO': Confessions' IV,13-15," Augustinian Studies 7 (1976): 153-163

Translation of Augustine's Confessions taken from,

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Helmut Koester on the Autographs of the New Testament

Helmut Koester (December 18, 1926 -- January 1, 2016) was a German born scholar of the New Testament at Harvard Divinity School.[1] In his widely used New Testament introduction Koester makes reference to the earliest form of the New Testament autographs and the corruptions that they underwent.

"There are numerous examples of alterations and corruptions of the autographs of the NT writings during the earliest period of transmission. These problems cannot be solved with conventional text-critical methods, but require the aid of literary criticism. The edition of the Gospel of Mark which was used by Matthew and Luke, for example, was substantially different from the Gospel of Mark which we know as transmitted in all texts and manuscripts. In the Gospel of John, a redactor made several editions to an earlier work (the most significant is John 6:52-59). In the compilation of the writings which the manuscripts transmit as 2 Corinthians, the editor had combined a number of smaller letters of Paul to produce this major epistle; the same seems to be the case with Philippians. How severely such new editions and redactions could alter the original text is demonstrated in Marcion's edition of the Pauline letters--and Marcion had no intention but to restore the original text of Paul's writings. Also instructive is the example of 2 Peter, which, written in II CE, incorporated the entire letter of Jude in a new edition (2 Peter 2)." (Koester, Introduction, 20)

I find it intriguing that, despite being altered and corrupted, Koester still manages to appeal to a definitive "autograph" of the New Testament writings, though, without defining the term "autograph."
[1] Elaine Pagels of Princeton University has recently shared her traumatic story of being sexually assaulted by Koester during her time as a graduate student under his supervision.


Helmut Koester. Introduction to the New Testament: History and Literature of Early Christianity. Volume 2 (German Edition, Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 1980; English Translation, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982).