Sunday, November 29, 2015

Multiple Drafts, Multiple Autographs

There are only a few examples of authorial copies and first drafts (autographs) from antiquity. Sean Alexander Gurd in Work in Progress: Literary Revision as Social Performance in Ancient Rome, listed out several accepted examples of literary "autographs" from antiquity (note 44 pages 132-133).
P. Berol. 11632 (2nd cen. CE)

P. Köln VI 245 (3rd cen. CE)

PSI I 17 (3-5th cen CE)

P. Köln III 128 (1st cen. CE)

P. Ross. Georg. I 11 (3rd cen. CE)

P. Oxy VII 1015 (3rd cen. CE)

P. Berol. 10559A-B + P. Berol. 10558 (4th cen. CE)
Besides these literary "autographs," Gurd also mentioned several "documentary" drafts of letters, wills, and contracts. Maryline G. Parcia in Ptocheia, or, Odysseus in Disguise at Troy: P. Köln VI 245 (American Studies in Papyrology 31) also listed several literary "autographs" in note 7 pages 3-4 (I have not included the duplicate papyri that were already noted by Gurd above).

P. Giss. 3 (117 CE)

P. Cairo Cat J 67097 (6th cen. CE draft of Dioscorus of Aphrodite)

Heitsch I (1st cen. CE) text on wooden tablets

A. Carlini, "Nuovi papiiri fiorentini," ASNP 35 (1966), 5-11 (1st cen. CE)

P. Oxy XXXVII 2816 (3rd cen. CE)

P. Oxy L 3537 (3rd-4th cen. CE)

P. Oxy L 3539 (3rd-4th cen. CE)

P. Oxy LIII 3702 (2nd-3rd cen. CE)

P. Oxy LIV 3723 (2nd cen. CE)

P. Yale II 105 (1st cen. CE)

P. Lond. 137 (2nd cen. CE)
Each of these ancient examples of papyrus "autographs" (and other writing materials) have extensive marginal or interlinear corrections and re-writings. It is these markings (usually in the same hand as the main body of text) that indicate to papyrologists that these documents were unfinished and in the draft stage of composition. The assumption is that a completed work of literature would not have these types of extensive re-writings.These few examples give us a first hand glimpse of what the first-drafts of New Testament and other early Christian writings may have looked like before they were completed and released for copying and circulation.
P. Köln VI 245 (3rd cen. CE) Detail of interlinear alterations.

P. Oxy VII 1015 (3rd cen. CE) Authorial Draft of an Encomium.

P. Köln VI 245 (3rd cen. CE) Detail of interlinear alterations.

I published a paper in 2016 that utilized a couple of the autographs referenced here.

"What are the NT Autographs? An Examination of the Doctrine of Inspiration and Inerrancy in Light of Greco-Roman Publication." JETS 59/2 (June 2016): 287-308.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cicero and the Elder Pliny on the Papyrus Bookroll

The Papyrus Plant along the Nile River
As I was reading a paper on the oldest fragment of a Cicero manuscript, I came across a rare reference by Cicero to a type of high quality papyrus used in book-making (Austin, pg. 14-15).
Pliny the Elder (ca. 77 CE) gave a fascinating account of the ancient manufacturing processes for papyrus paper which was used in making bookrolls.
"Paper of all kinds is ' woven ' on a board moistened with water from the Nile, muddy liquid supplying the effect of glue. First an upright layer is smeared on to the table, using the full length of papyrus available after the trimmings have been cut off at both ends, and afterwards cross strips complete the lattice-work. The next step is to press it in presses, and the sheets are dried in the sun and then joined together, the next strip used always diminishing in quality down to the worst of all. There are never more than twenty sheets to a roll.” (Nat. 13.80)
Pliny continued and described the various sizes and qualities of papyrus sheets in use;
“There were also eighteen-inch sheets called 'macrocola,' (macrocolis) but examination detected a defect in them, as tearing off a single strip damaged several pages. On this account Claudius paper has come to be preferred to all other kinds, although the Augustus kind still holds the field for correspondence; but Livia paper, having no quality of a first-class kind, but being entirely second class, has retained its position.” (Nat. 13.80) 
Although Pliny indicated that the "macrocola" paper had fallen out of use in his day (ca. 77 CE) Cicero (ca. 44 BCE) made explicit reference to this size of papyrus in a letter to his friend Atticus.
Menander reading a Bookroll, Pompeii
". . . I am sending you the same composition [On Old Age] more carefully revised, indeed the original copy, with plenty of additions between the lines and corrections. Have it copied on large paper (macrocollum) and read it privately to your guests; but, if you love me, do it when they are in a good temper and have had a good dinner, for I don't want them to vent on me the anger they feel towards you." (Att. XVI.3)
It appears that Cicero was referring to the same type of papyrus paper described by the Elder Pliny more than one hundred years later. This paper must have been expensive, so it is surprising that Cicero instructed Atticus to copy his work while the work was still being revised and edited. About a year earlier (ca. 45 BCE) Cicero had written Atticus about some of his books that were to be sent on to Varro (the dedicatee of the work).
"But what on earth is the reason why you are so frightened at my bidding you send the books to Varro on your own responsibility? Even now, if you have any doubts, let me know. Nothing could be more finished than they are. . . . However, I don't despair of winning Varro's approval; and, as I have gone to the expense of a large paper copy (macrocolla), I should like to stick to my plan."
(Att. XIII.25)
Once again Cicero made referrence to these deluxe sized bookrolls, the "macrocolla," and he seems to have mentioned that this format was a big expense compared to other paper sizes and book formats (see Austin, pg. 14-15).
Cicero's comments help us understand the drastically divergent approach that Christians had in regards to their sacred writings. Most early Christian (papyrus) fragments of the writings that later formed the New Testament contrast drastically from the expensive and ornate rolls that Cicero described (for more on these differences, see From Scroll to Codex: Early Christian Book Technology).

Austin, Jacqueline. Cicero's Books and the "Giessener Verres." Unpublished paper, 2008.

Cicero. Letters to Atticus. Translated by E. O. Winstedt. Vol. 3. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961.

Pliny. Natural History. Translated by H. Rackham. Vol. 4. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lucian on Education: Illiteracy in the Roman World

A boy recites a lession to a tutor, 2nd cen. AD
A previous post brought attention to the low literacy levels of the Roman world and the effect this had on the reading practices of the early Christians. William Harris argued that literacy levels in the Roman world were somewhere around 15 to as high as 20% in some regions like Pompeii (p. 264). Overall, the literacy level in Rome likely would have never been above 15% (p. 267) and for any region to reach the levels of 20 to 30% literacy among males would have been remarkable (p. 141). When discussing precise percentages of literacy, it is important to remember William Harris's own caution,
"We shall obviously never know in a clear-cut numerical way how many people were literate, semi-literate, or illiterate in the Graeco-Roman world in general, or even in any particular milieu within it." (p. 7)
I thought about the levels of literacy in the Roman world and the education that may or may not have been available to the early Christians. A dialogue of Lucian of Samosata (125-180 CE) came to mind that illustrates well the path to education available in his day. In his satire Hermotimus, one character, Hermotimus, a philosopher steeped in study for the past 20 years, is engaged in dialogue (in the Socratic method) by Lycinus, an interlocutor who values the simple and average life. At one point Hermotimus described the path of education as climbing a steep mountain slope;
"Many would climb it, if it could. As it is, a fair number make a very strong beginning and travel part of the way, some very little, some more; but when they get half-way and meet plenty of difficulties and snags, they lose heart and turn back, gasping for breath and dripping with sweat; the hardships are too much for them. But all who endure to the end arrive at the top, from then on are happy having wonderful time for the rest of their life, from their heights seeing the rest of mankind as ants." (Hermot. 5)
Hermotimus described that there were many who began the path of education in philosophy, that is, education, but few completed the journey. This gives and excellent picture of education during the Roman empire. There was probably a large number of the population who began the journey of education and literacy, many who could scrawl their names on a document, scratch some crude graffiti onto an alley wall, or read signs and laundry lists. The reality was that few attained any reasonable level of education. Listen to Lycinus as he responded to Hermotimus's description of his path to educated enlightenment,
"Goodness, Hermotimus! How small you shall make us, not as big as pygmies! Utter groundlings crawling over the earth's surface. It's not surprising--your mind is already away up above; and we, the whole trashy lot of us ground-crawlers, will pray to you along with the gods, when you get above the clouds and reach the heights to which you have been hastening for so long." (Hermot. 5)
 Lycinus identified himself with the "whole trashy lot of us ground-crawlers," namely, the uneducated masses. When a person reached a high level of education, it was as if that person reached divine status.


Harris, William V. Ancient Literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Lucian,  Translated by K. Kilburn et al. 7 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913-1961.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pliny the Younger on the Roman Bookroll

When reading through The Letters of the Younger Pliny, I came across some comments regarding the bookroll. In one of his letters to Cornelius Tacitus (who wrote the Annals and Agricola, among other writings), Pliny was discussing his argument with another orator on the over-use of brevity when giving a speech. Pliny believed that there was no substitute for a well crafted lengthy speech. Though brevity was "desirable if the case permits," he thought that "most points [in a speech] gain weight and emphasis by a fuller treatment, and make their mark on the mind by alternate thrust and pause, as a fencer uses his foil" (Ep. 1.20).
After describing several Greek and Roman orators who gave well crafted lengthy speeches, Pliny buttressed his argument by writing;
"Like all good things, a good book is all the better if it is a long one; and statues, busts, pictures and drawings of human beings, many animals and also trees can be seen to gain by being on a large scale as long as they are well-proportioned. The same applies to speeches; and when published they look better and more impressive in a good sized volume." (Ep. 1.20).
The context of Pliny's arguments are what make his comments on the bookroll so telling. In the same paragraph Pliny describes well proportioned statues, paintings, and lengthy bookrolls of speeches. In Pliny's mind, the format that the speech would take when published, that is, the bookroll, was just as visually important as a painting or a statue. The Greco-Roman bookroll carried with it a cultural symbolism of everything that was refined and educated. Even a speech gained when it was published in the form of a bookroll.
Hundreds of papyrus bookrolls have been discovered in Egypt that date to around the time Pliny was writing his letter to Tacitus. After studying these  Roman era papyrus bookrolls perserved in the sands of Oxyrhynchus, William A. Johnson noted that,
"The bookroll, here and elsewhere, shows distinct signs of deliberate design and attention to what is stylish, as well as exactness in execution involving both measurement and expert estimation. All of this is consistent--as a general picture--with the conclusion that bookrolls were generally the product of scribes trained for the task, that is, to an artisan apprentice trade. The trade clearly also involves a strong sense of cultural demands on the product. The bookroll signaled culture and learning, but for the bookroll to qualify as such required a particular look and feel with well-defined traditions of detail." ("The Ancient Book," 261)
 In other words, the material remains of the ancient papyrus books, and these comments by Pliny, reveal the cultural and aesthetic demands placed upon the bookroll.
This is in stark contrast to the book form used by the earliest Christians for the writings that later formed the New Testament (see previous posts, here, and here.)


Johnson, William A. “The Ancient Book,” The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology (ed. Roger S. Bagnall. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 256-277.

Radice, Betty, trans. The Letters of the Younger Pliny. London, England: Penguin Books, 1969.

A Roman Mosaic Depicting Virgil with a Bookroll

Monday, August 24, 2015

Irenaeus on Hyperbaton: Public Reading as a Source for Textual Variation

A previous post discussed the importance of reading out a text in the proper manner in elite literate circles of Greco-Roman society. It was crucial for the reader to pay close attention to breathing, inflection, and reading performance so as to properly bring out the meaning of the text for the listeners.
Irenaeus also emphasized the importance of properly reading-out the text of scripture during the Christian worship gathering. Irenaeus wrote:
"If, then, one does not attend to the [proper] reading [of the passage], and if he does not exhibit the intervals of breathing as they occur, there shall be not only incongruities, but also, when reading, he will utter blasphemy, as if the advent of the Lord could take place according to the working of Satan. So therefore, in such passages, the hyperbaton must be exhibited by the reading, and the apostle’s meaning following on, preserved. (ANF 1:42-421, Haer. 3.7.2, emphasis mine)"
It was Irenaeus's mention of the proper "breathing" that originally brought my attention to this passage but a commenter pointed out the curious mention of "hyperbaton" by Irenaeus. So what did Irenaues mean by hyperbaton?
Herbert Weir Smyth in A Greek Grammar for Colleges, defined hyperbaton as,
"Hyperbaton (ὑπέρβατον transposition) is the separation of words naturally belonging together. Such displacement usually gives prominence to the first of two words thus separated, but sometimes to the second also. In prose hyperbaton is less common than in poetry, but even in prose it is frequent, especially when it secures emphasis on an important idea by placing it at the beginning or end of a sentence. At times hyperbaton may mark passionate excitement. Sometimes it was adopted to gain rhythmical effect. Thus: “Such resting found the sole of unblest feet”: Milton."
In the immediate context of the passage in "Against Heresies" Irenaeus was defending Paul's alleged placement of words which were not in their proper grammatical sequence. In other words, Irenaeus believed Paul used hyperbaton in his style of writing. Earlier in the same passage as quoted above, Irenaeus highlighted a passage in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that apparently was being used by some Gnostics as a "proof-text" for their belief in a lower "God of this world" and a higher "God who is beyond all principality (Haer. 3.7.1). 2 Corinthians 4:4 reads;
"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (ESV)"
In order to combat this interpretation Irenaeus argued that Paul used the "transposition of words" in this verse and that one should actually read "'in whom God,' then pointing it off, and making a slight interval, and at the same time read also the rest [of the sentence] in one [clause], 'hath blinded the minds of them of this world that believe not'" (Haer. 3.7.1). Irenaeus believed that the phrase "of this world" was actually referring to those who "believed not" and that the lector should read the phrase as, "God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world" (Haer. 3.7.1).
Irenaeus continued with an example from Galatians in 3.7.2 and then moved on to an example from 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Here too Paul is allegedly using hyperbaton and it is the job of the lector to properly read out the text with its intended meaning for the audience. 
"And again, in the Second to the Thessalonians, speaking of Antichrist, he says, “And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus Christ shall slay with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy him with the presence of his coming; [even him] whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders.”Now in these [sentences] the order of the words is this: “And then shall be revealed that wicked, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the presence of His coming.” For he does not mean that the coming of the Lord is after the working of Satan; but the coming of the wicked one, whom we also call Antichrist. (ANF 1:42-421, Haer. 3.7.2)"
In order to better explain this passage Irenaeus instructed the reader to take a portion from verse 9, "whose coming is after the working of Satan" and place it along side of verse 8 in order to better explain to the listeners that it is the "lawless one" who is after the working of Satan and not the "Lord Jesus Christ." These examples Irenaeus used to illustrate the importance of properly reading-out a text.

Public Reading as a Source for Textual Variation

Now one must consider if this practice of altering the positions of phrases, words, and even whole sentences was a wide-spread, or common practice in the early Church. If it was, then this might be the source of some of the variations that we see in the textual tradition. I will use only one example from Romans 8:1.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (ESV)."
The text in the earliest Greek manuscripts stand as it reads in the ESV. But there are two readings that appear to have been added in stages. An early group of Greek manuscripts added "who do not walk according to the flesh" and even later group of Greek manuscripts added the phrase "but according to the spirit." Romans 8:1 in the KJV reads,
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
 It is apparent that some scribes felt that Romans 8:1 gave too much liberty to the sinning Christian, that there IS condemnation for those who DO walk "after the flesh." It looks like this phrase was taken from Romans 8:4 in various stages. But is it possible that scribes were merely copying down what was being read during worship gatherings? Of course, this example is not hyperbaton in the sense that Irenaeus understood it. However, it is possible that the reader took interpretive liberties with the text at Romans 8:1 and simply "added" these words from verse 4 because that was the "sense" of the text as it was understood.
Is it possible that some textual readings ended up in later manuscript copies only because they were being read during worship gatherings in that way?



Gamble, Harry Y., Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Johnson, William A. “The Ancient Book.” in The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology. ed. Roger S. Bagnall, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Virginius Rufus Killed by a Large Bookroll

My Dad pointed me to a reference in a letter of Pliny the Younger to a Virginius Rufus who had been killed by a large bookroll. It was too interesting not to pass it on.
Pliny wrote to his friend Voconius Romanus informing him about a cultured Roman dignitary, Virginius Rufus, who had lived a long and fruitful life to the age of 84 years. Virginius was such a revered man that Cornelius Tacitus gave the funeral oration. Pliny praised the virtues of Virginius's disciplined life to such a degree that even the circumstances surrounding his death were an occasion for admiration.
Pliny wrote:
"As he was rehearsing his speech of thanks to the Emperor, who had raised him to the consulship, a volume, which chanced to be inconveniently large for him to hold, escaped by its sheer weight the grasp that age and his upright posture doubly enfeebled. In hastily endeavoring to recover it, he missed his footing on the smooth slippery pavement; fell down, and broke his hip-bone; which fracture, as it was unskillfuly set at first, and having besides the infirmities of age to contend with, could never be brought to unite again. (Ep. 2.1)"
Apparently, the complications from this nasty fall contributed to Virginius's death. What is striking about Pliny's account is that some bookrolls were so large and cumbersome that they could not be easily handled by an aged man. This contrasts Martial's references to the codex made just a few decades before:

"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 [codex] confines in small pages. Assign your book boxes to the great; this copy of me one hand can grasp. (Martial Epigr. 1.2)"
Of course, not all bookrolls were this large and later codices became quite large and bulky (i.e. Codex Sinaiticus), but this account illustrates the impracticality of the bookroll when compared to the codex (see previous discussion on the practicality of the codex, here and here).


Martial Epigrams, translated by C. A. Ker, (2 vols. Loeb Classical Library. New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1919), 1:30-31.

Pliny the Younger, Letters, Books 1-10, translated by William Melmoth, and W. M. L. Hutchinson (2 vols. Loeb Classical Library; London: W. Heinemann, 1915), 1:91-93.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Gospel of John and Readers of Mark

I have been reading through Richard Bauckham, ed. The Gospel for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). In chapter five, "John for Reader's of Mark," Bauckham argued that John wrote his gospel with the understanding that the Gospel of Mark had been widely disseminated and read throughout the larger Christian community (p. 148). Therefore the Gospel of John was written in order to complement the stories and the chronology of Mark (p 170-171). John must have had the Gospel of Mark in view and not just oral traditions as these oral traditions might vary from place to place in their specifics and chronology (p. 164). This dependance can be seen particularly in two parenthetical glosses found at 3:24 and 11:2 (p. 151).

Eusebius on John's Gospel
Bauckham's theory aligns well with Eusebius' explanations concerning Mark;
"Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ. . . . [Mark] had no intention of giving and an ordered account of the Lord’s sayings." (Hist. eccl. 3.39.15)
A little earlier Eusebius had given the motivation for John to write his gospel;

“And after Mark and Luke had already made the publication of the Gospels according to them, John, they say, used all the time, a proclamation that was not written down, and at last came to writing for the following cause. After the three Gospels which had been previously written had already been distributed to all, and even to himself, they say that he welcomed them and testified to their truth, but that there was therefore only lacking to the Scripture the account concerning things which had been done by Christ at first and at the beginning of the proclamation. . . . Now they say that on account of these things, the apostle John was exhorted to hand down in the Gospel according to himself the time passed over in silence by the first evangelists and the things which had been done by the Savior at this time.” (Hist. eccl. 3.24.7-11)
According to Bauckham, several of John's parenthetical glosses (i.e. 2:14-22; 3:24) can be explained as chronological correctives or explanations for readers of Mark who might be confused by the differences between the events as they occur in John and those in Mark (p. 153, 159). Bauckham's theory aligns well with Eusebius' understanding of the writing of Mark and John. Mark and Luke had apparently already circulated widely when John decided that he would write his gospel account. If Mark wrote down Peter's preaching without regard to chronology, it would have been necessary for John to correct or explain the chronology at points of variance.

Mark: Macro Level Stability
Reading this got me thinking about the textual veracity of the Gospel of Mark. Bauckham's theory in "John for Readers of Mark" would only work if the overall structure and content of the Gospel of Mark has remained preserved over the centuries. Let me explain.
There has been significant scholarly interchange over the last few years concerning the usefulness of the term "original-text" (see Epp, “The Multivalence of the Term ‘Original Text’). Some scholars are more skeptical than others, but there is an overall hesitation to assume that the Gospel texts that we have preserved today (in critical editions) are the same as when these Gospels were penned in the first century. If Bauckham's theory is correct, then the parenthetical glosses in John (if original, and Bauckham makes a convincing case that they are) indicate that the overall structure of Mark preserved today is very similar to that which circulated in John's day in the late first century. This confirms Holmes' reflections on the preservation of the Gospels;
"In short, a very high percentage of the variation evident in the text of the Four gospels and Acts affects a verse or less of the text. On this level, the fluidity of wording within a verse, sentence, or paragraph is sometimes remarkable. At the same time, however, in terms of overall structure, arrangement, and content, these five documents are remarkably stable. They display simultaneously, in other words, what one may term microlevel fluidity and macrolevel stability."
(Holmes, From Original Text to Initial Text, 674)

Epp, Eldon Jay. “The Multivalence of the Term ‘Original Text’ in New Testament Textual Criticism.” Harvard Theological Review. 92.3 (1999): 245–281.

Holmes, Michael W. “From ‘Original Text’ to ‘Initial Text’: The Traditional Goal of New Testament Textual Criticism in Contemporary Discussion.” Pages 637-681 in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis. Second Edition. Edited by Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes. New Testament, Tools, Studies and Documents 42. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

More on the Subject of New Testament Textual Corruption

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corruption: Part 1

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corruption: Part 2

Eusebius and New Testament Textual Corruption: Part 3

Asclepiodotus and Theodotus, the Banker: 'Corruptors' of Scripture  

A Riot in the North African Church! Augustine on Jerome's Translation of the Bible