Monday, December 23, 2019

Certificates of Pagan Worship

P.Mich inv 158. Certificate of Sacrifice from the Decian era.
During his reign (249-251 CE), Emperor Decius ordered that everyone in the Roman Empire was required to make a sacrifice to the Gods. An official record of this sacrifice was to be made and submitted to the local bureaucracy. Several examples of these "Certificates of Sacrifice" (Latin: libelli) have been preserved, likely due to the vast numbers that must have flooded the many local administrative offices of the Roman Provinces. Here is a typical example of a lebellus below, P. Mich inv 158.

"τοῖς ἐπὶ θυσιῶν κώμης
Θεαδελφίαςπαρὰ Αὐρηλίας Βελλι̣ᾶ̣ Πετερήως καὶ τῆς ταύτης
θυγατρὸς Καπῖνις ἀὶ θύουσε τοῖς θεοῖς διετελέσαμεν καὶ νῦν ἐπὶ παρόντων ὑμῶν κατὰ τὰ προστεταγμένα ἔσπισα καὶ ἔθυσα καὶ ἐγευσάμην τῶν εἱερων καὶ ἀξιῶ ὑμᾶς
ὑποσημιώσαστε ἡμῖν. διευτυχ(εῖτε).
(hand 2) Αὐρήλιοι Σερῆνος καὶ Ἑρμᾶς εἴδαμεν ὑμᾶς θυσιάζοντος
(hand 3) Ἑρμᾶς σ(εσ)η(μείωμαι).
(hand 1) (ἔτους) α Αὐτοκράτορος Καίσαρος
Γαίου Μεσίου Κυίντου {Τρ[αιανοῦ]}
Τραιανοῦ Δεκίου Εὐσεβοῦς
Εὐτυχοῦς Σεβαστοῦ
Παῦνι κζ."

Here is an English translation of the libellus.

"To those in charge of the sacrifices of the village Theadelphia, from Aurelia Bellias, daughter of Peteres, and her daughter, Kapinis. We have always been constant in sacrificing to the gods, and now too, in your presence, in accordance with the regulations, I have poured libations and sacrificed and tasted the offerings, and I ask you to certify this for us below. May you continue to prosper.;
(2nd hand) We, Aurelius Serenus and Aurelius Hermas, saw you sacrificing.;
(3rd hand) I, Hermas, certify.;
(1st hand) The 1st year if the Emperor Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius Pius Felix Augustus, Pauni 27." (P.Mich inv 158)

Though P.Mich inv 158 is from the Fayyum region of Egypt, the lebelli were, of course, used even father west in Carthage. At this time Cyprian of Carthage felt it necessary to address this issue of offering sacrifices to the gods in his treatise "On the Lapsed." In chapter 27 he mentions a specific practice that Christians (in Carthage at least) were doing as a response to the moral delima.

"27. Nor let those persons flatter themselves that they need repent the less, who, although they have not polluted their hands with abominable sacrifices, yet have defiled their conscience with certificates. That profession of one who denies, is the testimony of a, Christian disowning what he had been. He says that he has done what another has actually committed; and although it is written, You cannot serve two masters, Matthew 6:24 he has served an earthly master in that he has obeyed his edict; he has been more obedient to human authority than to God. It matters not whether he has published what he has done with less either of disgrace or of guilt among men." (

Here Cyprian mentions two types of deceptions. 1) christians forging a libelus and submitting it to the authorities, 2) having someone else perform the sacrifice in their place. Both of these Christian responses were unacceptable to Cyprian. 
One small ellement of this whole affair is this, how did Cyprian know that Christians were forging these libelli? My guess is that some, presumably overcome with guilt, were approaching their local Church leaders to ask for forgiveness. No matter how these actions of forgery came to light, it is an interesting example of the ways in which allegedly sinful actions of Christians were exposed within Christian these communities. In this case the sin involved a textual deception, the forging of documents. Perhaps the same type of exposure would occur if Christians were to, say, forge a Gospel, or significantly alter the text of a Gospel or other Christian writing.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Aristotle's Long Lasting Library

A first century copy of Aristotle's Constitutions. Papyrus 131
In connection with his academy it is known from ancient sources that Aristotle possessed a collection of books, a combination of his own, student's, and other philosopher's writings. Aristotle handed down this library on to his successor Theophrastus, who then bequeathed the collection to his follower Neleus. After Neleus failed to step in the leadership role of the Academy, he moved the collection to Skepsis (in Asia Minor). After this time the library was poorly cared for, at one point being buried in a trench! Years later the library was acquired by Apellicon, an Athenian collector and the books were moved to Athens. Strabo (quoted at length in full below), notes that Apellicon attempted to restore these works, without success, by filling in the lacuna now present in these copies due to decay. Later Sulla took (stole) the entire library and took it to Rome. Here booksellers gained access to these works and poorly transcribed them and circulated these poor copies widely. At this time, Aristotle's and Theophrastus's books would have been some 250 years old (Gamble, "Books and Readers in the Early Church," 177). Following is Strabo's account in full;

"From Scepsis came the Socratic philosophers Erastus and Coriscus and Neleus the son of Corsica's, this last a man who not only was a pupil of Aristotle and Theophrastus, but also inherited the library of Theophrastus, which included that of Aristotle. At any rate, Aristotle bequeathed his own library to Theophrastus, to whom he also left his school; and he is the first man, so far as I know, to have collected books and to have taught the kings in Egypt how to arrange a library. Theophrastus bequeathed it to Neleus; and Neleus took it to Scepsis and bequeathed it to his heirs, ordinary people, who kept the books locked up and not even carefully stored. But when they heard bow zealously the Attalic kings to whom the city was subject were searching for books to build up the library in Pergamum, they hid their books underground in a kind of trench. But much later, when the books had been damaged by moisture and moths, their descendants sold them to Apellicon of Teos for a large sum of money, both the books of Aristotle and those of Theophrastus. But Apellicon was a bibliophile rather than a philosopher; and therefore, seeking a restoration of the parts that had been eaten through, he made new copies of the text, filling up the gaps incorrectly, and published the books full of errors. The result was that the earlier school of Peripatetics who came after Theophrastus had no books at all, with the exception of only a few, mostly exoteric works, and were therefore able to philosophize about nothing in a practical way, but only to talk bombast about commonplace propositions, whereas the later school, from the time the books in question appeared, though better able to philosophise and Aristotelise, were forced to call most of their statements probabilities, because of the large number of errors. Rome also contributed much to this; for, immediately after the death of Apellicon, Sulla, who had captured Athens, carried off Apellicon's library to Rome, where Tyrannion the grammarian, who was fond of Aristotle, got it in his hands by paying court to the librarian, as did also certain booksellers who used bad copyists and would not collate the texts—a thing that also takes place in the case of the other books that are copied for selling, both here and at Alexandria. However, this is enough about these men." (Strabo, Geogr. 13.1.54; translation taken from Perseus)
 There are several intriguing features of this account that should be drawn out.
  • This library contained copies of Aristotle's and Theophrastus's works that were made under their direction, yet, because of the decay of long years, the transcriptions made directly from these copies were poorly done and thus interjected textual corruptions early in the history of transmission, both during Apellicon's time and years later when Sulla possessed the library in Rome.
  • These books did last for at least 250 years or so (supporting Houston's conclusion that books in antiquity had a useful life of 100-300 years), however, these authorial copies of Aristotle's and Theophrastus's works were not always available for use because at some point the collection was buried in a trench!
  • The collection, though preserved over two centuries by the time it came to Rome, passed into many different hands and was transported across a wide geographical region. Different communities with their own agendas and priorities controlled access to these texts.

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

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Myths About Autographs on Google Books

For those readers who may be interested, one can read the entire content on Google Books of my chapter contribution "Myths About Autographs" in the newly released "Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism

It was exciting to receive in the mail last week my pre-release copy of "Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism." I am only about half of the way through the book and I just have to say that it is a fantastic piece of scholarship! Every chapter has easy to read prose, with technical terms explained. Yet each presents rigorous scholarship with footnotes and references equal to any high level scholarly tome. It is an honor to have my own modest piece, Chapter 2 "Myths About Autographs" alongside such high caliber scholarship. Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson did a stellar job of editing and bringing the different chapters together in a cohesive unit. It is my prayer that "Myths and Mistakes" will serve well those wishing to better understand a field that encompasses a broad array of disciplines.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Revisiting the Shift from the Roll to the Codex Book Form

Recently, Brent Nongbri published an article in JSNT raising valid concerns with regard to using objectively dated rolls to assign dates to codices based on palaeography (see previous post). This JSNT article, and the subsequent interchange with Nongbri on the blog, got me thinking about the fantastic new resource put together by Grant Edwards.

"The Collaborative Database of Dateable Greek Bookhands"

The online database is very user friendly and it's sorting and filtering tools are quite intuitive. One drawback about using the data found in LDAB (which is a fantastic resource) is that many of the dates for the material referenced are not derived objectively.  Thus, any conclusions relying on the dates of the material obtained from LDAB (for example determining when the codex supplanted the roll) may not be as secure.

I thought that it might prove to be an interesting exercise to query the new "Collaborative Database of Dateable Greek Bookhands" for this information. Of course, objectively dated manuscripts are extremely rare and one should be careful about drawing sweeping conclusions from the information. 

All the same, using the "Filter" option to show only the format of "codex" gave only 32 results. The earliest codex being P.Bodmer 20 of the 4th century with some examples extending out to the 9th century (though with only one other 4th century example).

Using the "Filter" option again to show only the format of "roll" yielded 68 hits. Of  these, only 8 rolls were dated from the 3/4th century out to the 8th, with the bulk falling somwhere in the 1st-3rd century mark. 
I thought it intriguing that these more objectively dated results seem to support the well noted trend, that is, that the 4th century saw a shift in book formatting from the roll to the codex.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Limitations of Assigning Dates to Christian Codices

Published in a recent issue of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament is a new piece by Brent Nongbri.

Brent Nongbri, "Palaeographic Analysis of Codices from the Early Christian Period: A Point of Method," JSNT 42.1 (2019): 81-97.

It is a fleshed out discussion of the same topic that is found in chapter 2 of his recent book, "God's Library," (pg. 71-72). In this article Nongbri sets out a critique of the palaeographic practice of assigning dates to undated Christian codices by comparing their scripts with the scripts of securely dated rolls. The article takes issue with this method of dating Christian codices for the following reasons.

First, Nongbri rightly notes that writing styles could theoretically span generations as they were passed down and taught to student apprentices. Along with this are the examples of scribes having very long working lives of 20-30 years. In addition, there are extant writing excercises that reveal scribes practicing different scripts normally assigned to different temporal priods (Nongbri, pg 87, note 6). Therefore, drawing into question the bedrock of the paleographic method, that "graphic similarity generally equates to temporal similarity" (Nongbri, pg. 86).

Second, and more importanantly, according to the data located in the LDAB, the roll largely dropped out of use in the 4th century CE being supplanted by the codex. However, most of the securely dated samples used for comparative scripts in assigning dates to undated Christian codices are taken from rolls. Thus, Nongbri posits that this practice would artificially skew the assigned dates of these codices much earlier (Nongbri, pg. 92). Another issue is that the practice of reusing rolls to copy documents allegedly went out of vogue by the beginning of the 4th century (Nongbri, pg. 91). Therefore, it is surmised that employing re-used rolls as comparators of script style will skew the assigned dates of undated codices earlier (Nongbri, pg. 92).

I would like to make a few observations and engage with the article on a few points. As to the first critique, this is a thought provoking piece that raises some valid concerns with the method of assigning too tight of a temporal time span to styles of handwriting. It has certainly been observed that a student's hand can mimick that of their instructor (Rafaella Cribiore presents a few examples in her work). This would definitely allow for certain styles of handwriting to continue for generations. The only push back I want to offer against this notion is that this observation fails to take into consideration market and cultural demands on writing styles in vogue at the time books were copied. For example, (to use a crude modern example), many of us were taught cursive writing as children, but due to current styles in vogue and cultural conventions, few of us use cursive writing today. I think this mentality is evinced in the famous Price edict of Diocletian where the quality of a script was subject to the limits a patron was willing to pay for a book to be copied out. It would follow that, though a scribe may have been taught certain styles, books may not have been copied out in those styles because they had fallen out of vogue. Also, I would argue that the content of a book could, and did (in the case of documentary records for example) affect the type of script used. This would suggest to me that some writing styles could, theoretically have very short useful lives if the styles came and went out of style quickly. Of course, this is neither here nor there if modern palaeographers have few securely dated examples of these hands to use in reconstructing a chronology.

As to the second point, Nongbri makes a poignant and relevant critique against the dataset of securely dated writing samples used to reconstruct a chronology. If Nongbri's criticism holds, then potentially the house of cards may come tumbling down. He rightly notes at the end of the article that,
"these observations reinforce the conclusion that historial arguments should never depend too heavily upon the dates of manuscripts that have been assigned only by palaeography, especially when such arguments involve codices in the early Christian period" (Nongbri, pg. 94).
The problem here is that (as Nongbri is aware) the dates assigned to the manuscripts (codices included) in the LDAB are largely based on Palaeography. Thus, if we are to carry this criticism of palaeography to its logical conclusion, the precise era of transition from the roll to the codex is largely an open question. The chronology of when the codex supplanted the roll should take into consideration only securely dated samples along with other data as well. For example, the limited data scattered throughout the primary resources seem to indicate that it was quite normal to use a codex in writing and copying before the 4th century (Quintilian, Inst. Or 10.3.31; Martial, Epigr. 1.2; 2 Timothy 4:13, and Galen, "On the Avoidance of Grief," 31-33).  

Finally, now that Nongbri has primed the pump of doubt, so to speak, I have my own set of questions with regard to paleography. How did the social upheavals of the 4th century affect book production? Would the growing recognition of the sacredness of New Testament writings have an affect on the style of script used? How would economic factors affect the style of script used? For example, with regard to Diocletians Price edict, perhaps the well documented economic slump of the Empire in the 3rd century saw with it a decline in the use of certain types of more expensive ornate scripts. Many more things could be said. Alltogether a steller article that will likely motivate additional shifts in the discipline of Greek Palaeography. 

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

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,