Monday, May 29, 2017

An Errant (A Working) Inerrancy Statement for Textual Critics

As a by product of a lengthy and very profitable online discussion of Biblical inerrancy, I decided to formulate my own version of a "Chicago Statement" (that was supposed to be funny) that might appeal (or not) to other evangelicals in academia. The two brief sentences dealing with the writings that form the New Testament are based upon my own publication;

"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.

The sentence dealing with the writings that form the Old Testament is based upon the work of Michael A. Grisanti;

"Inspiration, Inerrancy, and the OT Canon: The Place of Textual Updating in an Inerrant View of Scripture," JETS 44.4 (December 2001): 577-598.

Here is the working (errant) inerrancy statement in less than 250 words;

"As an out working of his holy and perfect nature, God inspired the scriptures by moving the various ancient authors to write his revelation in their own words, using the culture, language, composition, and publication conventions of their times.
"With regard to the New Testament writings, the inspiration of these scriptural works was complete once they were released by their authors for distribution and circulation. Once completed these writings were infallible, and truthful.”
“With regard to the Old Testament writings, these scriptural works were infallible, and truthful after their initial release to the people of God, and after divinely appointed prophetic authorities updated these writings during later stages of Israel’s History.
“Subsequent stages of circulation and copying introduced scribal alterations into the manuscript tradition of both the New and Old Testaments. These alterations were not divinely inspired, though some of these alterations have gained widespread confessional acceptance.”
“Modern printed Bibles are also inspired, infallible and truthful as long as they faithfully reflect, through the tools of textual criticism, the Greek text of the initially released New Testament writings, or the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament writings in their final form. Modern translations also carry this divine inspiration in so far as they faithfully render the original languages."

Now before I am burned at the stake of open academic discussion this post is meant to be somewhat light hearted. Anyone who may have constructive input, please feel free to critique and make suggested changes. I would prefer that this or a similar doctrinal statement be much more brief.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Julius Africanus and A Short Lived Book

George Houston, in his work “Inside Roman Libraries,” surveyed book collections in antiquity, analyzed their contents, the date of composition, and the rough date of the discarding of the collection, or, in the case of the library at Herculaneum, the last known period of use. From these data Houston wrote;
"The identification of such collections, and of the manuscripts within them, provides new evidence on an old question: how long did a papyrus roll last? The evidence from our collections indicates that a usable lifetime of about 100 to 125 years was common and can reasonably be considered the norm; a small but significant number of manuscripts were still usable some 300 years after they were first created; and on rare occasions a manuscript might last, it seems, for half a millennium." (p. 257)
These dates are not entirely novel, however, for E. G. Turner stated many decades earlier that,
"In the second case, that of a literary roll which has afterwards been used for a document such as a dated or datable letter, there is a probability, which may differ from example to example, that a longish life should be assigned to the literary text, perhaps 50, perhaps even 100 years." (Turner, GMAW2, 19)
Of course, all of these dates are approximate and are based on papyri that have been randomly preserved from antiquity. In some instances though, ancient books had a much shorter useful life and the papyrus was repurposed for another document. This is the case for P.Oxy III.412, a well known fragment of a bookroll containing a work of Julius Africanus, a Christian writer who lived ca. 160-240 CE. This is an encyclopedic piece entitled "Kestoi" and was likely written some time in the 220's CE, though very little is known about the details of his life.

P. Oxy III.412 (Thompson, plt. 14 pg. 134)
This copy of Julius Africanus's "Kestoi" was not valued for too long however, because the bookroll was reused on the reverse for a cursive document dated to 275-276 CE. If one assumes that this copy is not in close proximity to the author (mainly due to some evidence of textual corruption) and if one allows for at least a generation of use for the roll before it was repurposed, then the book was probably copied in the 240's or 250's CE.
This level of precision in dating a literary book is rare and because of this, P.Oxy III.412 is valuable to palaeographers for dating the type of script that was used to copy this roll; the "Alexandrian Stylistic Class" (Orsini, pg. 62).  A search in the Leuven Database of Ancient Books reveals several New Testament manuscripts that are assigned to this stylistic class. Thankfully, some ancient books such as P.Oxy III.412 had a short useful life so that modern palaeographers have a more securely dated example by which to compare and date New Testament manuscripts.

Grenfell B., P., and Author S. Hunt, eds. Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Part 3: Nos 401-653. London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1903: pages 36-41.

Houston, George W. Inside Roman Libraries: Book Collections and Their Management in Antiquity. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2014.

Orsini, Pasquale. "I Papiri Bodmer: scritture e libri." Adamantius 21 (2015): 60-78.

Thompson, Edward Maunde. An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1912.

Turner, E. G. Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. 2nd edition. Edited by P. J. Parsons. London: University of London, Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.

Here is an interesting blog post by James Snapp that discusses P Oxy 412