Apr 272015

JosephusThe question of the origin of the “table of contents” and related practices in antiquity (when they began to be used, how they entered the manuscript tradition, and whether they are authorial or not in any particular case) is an involved one. There is an excellent paper by Roger Pearse providing some notes on the subject. On the question of the origin of the summaries found at the beginning of the books in Josephus’ Antiquities, some circumspect notes are offered by Joseph Sievers (“The Ancient Lists of Contents of Josephus’ Antiquities” in Studies in Josephus and the Varieties of Ancient Judaism, pp. 290-291).

1. “The author of the argumenta is ‘ostensibly’ Jewish, as Thackeray remarked. Abraham is called ‘our’ forefather (Ant. 1 #vii; cf. Ant. 1.158); ‘our’ people served the Moabites (Ant. 5 #v); Demetrius presented gifts to ‘our’ people (Ant. 13 #iv).”
2. “Christians took great interest in the Antiquities and were early on, from the third century at the latest, involved in their textual transmission.  The fact that the argumenta show no Christian influence suggests an early date.”
3. “A terminus ante quem for the argumenta of the Antiquities is their Latin translation commissioned by Cassiodorus (c. 490–c. 583 C.E.), for the Latin argumenta, attested in relatively early manuscripts, agree on the whole with the Greek ones.”
4. “Nodet’s suggestion that the argumenta constituted Josephus’ outline before he wrote the Antiquities seems to be a brilliant solution to the striking inconsistencies between argumenta and text of the work. In support of his hypothesis one may adduce that they are at times closer to the content and wording of the War than of the Antiquities, and sometimes mix elements from both works.”
5. “Yet, there are other indicators that suggest that, as in the case of other ancient authors, the argumenta were provided for the benefit of the reader and are not fortuitous remains of the author’s outline. (see Ant. 1 #vii; 13 #i).”
6. “In some instances, the argumenta reflect use of a text of the Antiquities similar to the one known to us (see especially Ant. 14 #xxxvii and 15# 1; 15 #2). It does not appear feasible to assign just these sections to a later redactor.”
7. “Thus, the author of the argumenta seems to have known different (but not all) sources and stages of composition of the Antiquities, had a fair acquaintance with Jerusalem topography (Ant. 14 ##i, xii), and had a less than perfect knowledge of the geography of Greece and/or Roman history (Ant. 14 #xxii). Whether he knew the Histories of Nicolaus of Damascus (a principal source for both the War and the Antiquities) seems an intriguing but hard-to-verify possibility.”
8. “If it is hard to see the argumenta as Josephus’ own composition, Gutschmid’s suggestion of a ‘servus litteratus’ (or Thackeray’s ‘assistant’) does not seem as farfetched as it had appeared to me when I began my research for this paper.”

With these observations in mind, we turn to the subject of the table of contents of Antiquities, book 18.

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Apr 192015

Artist’s Rendition of Machaerus

The translation in the Loeb edition of Josephus’ Antiquities 18.112 reads:

On his return after transacting his business in Rome, his wife, who had got wind of his compact with Herodias, before any information reached him that she had discovered everything, asked him to send her away to Machaerus, which was on the boundary between the territory of Aretas and that of Herod. She gave no hint, however, of her real purpose. Herod let her go, since he had no notion that the poor woman saw what was afoot. Some time earlier she herself had dispatched messengers to Machaerus, which was at that time subject to her father, so that when she arrived all preparations for her journey had been made by the governor. She was thus able to start for Arabia as soon as she arrived, being passed from one governor to the next as they provided transport. So she speedily reached her father and told him what Herod planned to do.

The footnote here says:

The reading of the mss. is “and to him who was subject to her father.”

The following notes are in the text here in the Loeb edition.

εἰς τὸν Μαχαιροῦντα τότε3 πατρὶ αὐτῆς ὑποτελῆ,4
3 τότε] ed. pr.: τῷ τε codd.
4 ed. pr.: ὑποτελεῖ codd.

The Neise edition simply reads, in agreement with the manuscripts:

εἰς τὸν Μαχαιροῦντα τῷ τε πατρὶ αὐτῆς ὑποτελεῖ

F. F. Bruce remarks in a footnote:

He appeals to the statement found in all the printed editions of Josephus, Ant. xviii 112, that Machaerus was subject to Aretas at the time of his daughter’s flight from Antipas (εἰς τὸν Μαχαιροῦντα τότε [τὸν τῷ Bekker] πατρὶ αὐτῆς ὑποτελῆ); but the manuscript tradition (εἰς τὸν Μαχαιροῦντα τῷ τε πατρὶ αὐτῆς ὑποτελεῖ) does not make this statement.

The reading of the printed texts and translations may be called a conjectural corruption of Josephus. Although it is to be found in the editio princeps of the Greek text of Josephus printed in 1544, it disagrees with the three extant manuscripts that attest to Antiquities 18 (AMW).

[Update May 2, 2015: The Latin version (and quotation of it) reads “apud Macherunta omnia pararentur quae itineris usus exposceret” and thus omits the phrase. A perceived inconcinnity in the original wording, “and to him who was subject to her father,” may explain this. On the other hand, if the original wording were the phrase “which was at that time subject to her father,” an omission by the Latin translators of the sixth century may be more difficult to explain. But if the original wording were the wording present in the Greek manuscripts, which could be considered a ‘difficult’ phrasing due to the oblique way of mentioning this person, both the omission in the Latin and the alteration in the Greek is explained.]

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Apr 062015

Apostle-Paul_Humanity-HealingThis post will explore some of the plausible “shorter readings” in the Apostolikon used by the Marcionites. There may be more shorter readings in the Apostolikon that are possible that are not found in this list, but this list is intended to include those that meet a minimum standard of evidence, referencing this list of criteria.

(1) Shorter readings attested as such by the patristic writers.

(2) Unattested readings that have manuscript support or patristic support for their absence.

(3) Unattested readings that were likely to be quoted by Tertullian if they were in the Apostolikon.

(4) Unattested readings that correspond to a scholarly conjecture for interpolation on grounds other than the alleged absence in Marcion’s Apostolikon.

However, this is not a list of interpolations in the letters of Paul, as such a list may be shorter or longer and would have somewhat different contents. It is a list of likely or suspected shorter readings in Marcion’s Apostolikon, compared to most extant manuscripts of Paul. The existence of such shorter readings in the Apostolikon is something mentioned (in a general way and with specific instances) by several of those who comment on Marcion’s text.

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Apr 012015


Tallies have been tallied, and tables have been tabulated. As in the last report, the method here uses Alexa rankings whenever they are available. For some sites (i.e., Patheos and Livejournal), where Alexa doesn’t have separate data on each blog, the position has been reckoned by hand.

Some of the rising stars of the “biblioblogosphere” include The Bart Ehrman Blog (up 19 places), BiblicalStudies.org.uk (previously unranked), Sansblogue (up 19 places), Psephizo (up 17 places), Vridar (up 13 places), Jennifer Guo (previously unranked), Bible Background (up 94 places), Evangelical Textual Criticism (up 19 places), Remnant of Giants (up 16 places), Brice C. Jones (up 45 places), Κέλσος (up 44 places), Pursuing Veritas (previously unranked), and Alin Suciu (up 45 places).

See anything you like? Add it to your regular reading!

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Mar 192015

whaddayadoWhen it comes to getting a professorship of biblical studies: Quite simply, I have enormous respect for anyone who is brave enough just to dare to try, and I have (naturally) great respect for those who have succeeded in the same.

At the same time, I don’t view it as a standard by which one can judge whether someone is mentally fit to have a competent opinion on the subjects of concern, any more than (to draw an analogy) being an Olympic athlete is a necessary condition of being physically fit and able to play a sport competently. In each case there is the plain truth regarding the large number of people who either do not make the cut (for whatever reason) or who self-select themselves out of the running (quite rationally).

On the rationality of avoiding the race entirely (and the possible ethical ambiguity, then, of encouraging people without much means to pursue it), one could read Peter Enns’ post, are PhD programs in biblical studies ethical?

Consequently, I don’t view it as a terribly important criterion for judging whether someone is worth hearing, let alone whether an opinion is worth consideration. Asking for university credentials (demonstrating an ability to analyze material at a high level of sophistication and/or facility with languages or other specific working knowledge) seems at least germane; asking for place of employment seems tantamount to a sort of social-positional snobbery rather than any attempt to get at the truth of things. Perhaps I’m biased, since I don’t have anything relevant to say to either question. But I am hoping that the people reading this blog find some value to some of it, so perhaps you already agree with me, to some extent.

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Mar 152015

nag-hammadi-codices-2-260x194As I noted in my previous post on The Myth of Nag Hammadi’s Carbon Dating, the book from the Nag Hammadi find called Codex VII had dated papyri, the most recent from 348 CE, being used in the bindings of the cover. This lets us know the earliest possible date of the binding of this cover.

Shelton writes, “A terminus a quo for Codex VII can safely be set: it was bound during or after October of A.D. 348″ (Nag Hammadi Codices: Greek and Coptic Papyri from the Cartonnage of the Covers, p. 11).

Can we say anything more than that? After all, we’re interested not only in the terminus a quo (earliest possible date) but also in the terminus ad quem (latest possible date), or the entire range of the likely dating of this codex; or, more specifically, of the binding of this codex. Can we narrow it down further?

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Mar 082015

krosneyThe most detailed account of the C-14 carbon dating results for the Gospel of Judas manuscript in Codex Tchacos, of which I am aware, is found in the book by journalist Herbert Krosney, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, published by National Geographic (April 6, 2006).

While I am aware of other discussions (particularly in The Gospel of Judas, 1st edition [April 6, 2006], p. 184, and 2nd edition [2008], p. 209, also published by National Geographic, and by Peter M. Head in the Tyndale Bulletin [2007]), they demonstrate dependence on Krosney (or, in the case of the brief account on Krosney’s page 326, perhaps a statement not from Krosney but rather prepared at National Geographic and used in both books published by National Geographic). The exact same quote (with some of the same surrounding context) is shared between Krosney’s book on page 326, the 1st edition of the Gospel of Judas book on page 184, and the National Geographic webpage.

There is an (apparently independent) account by Lori Stiles on March 30, 2006 for the UA News, which confirms the substance of the quote (but does not explicitly give it) found on the webpage and in the books published by National Geographic.

There is a 2014 paper on “Carbon Dating and the Gospel of Judas” by Christian Askeland delivered before the SBL at San Diego, which I have not read (but would certainly like to). There may be other information available elsewhere, which I would be very interested in. Of course, the full details must exist somewhere, right? If nobody else, Jull and Hodgins should be able to confirm the details of the tests run.

Here is what I’ve been able to determine (or guess) from Krosney, however, who gives the most detailed account that is available to me right now.

[Added March 10, 2015. Christian Askeland has given us a blog post update at Evangelical Textual Criticism, including this exciting quote from that blog post: “The National Geographic Society granted the Arizona AMS laboratory permission to send me the actual results, and I am publishing an update on the dating of the Tchacos Codex based on the findings.” Also, “The lab had six test results.”]

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Mar 082015


In scholarship, there are some things that are known to be true, some things that are known to be false, some things that are simply unknown (whether true or false), and some matters of opinion and speculation that are keenly debated. But there are also things that are known to be false that are often taken as true, and of such things it is said: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

One of these urban legends is the idea that the texts or the cartonnage of the Nag Hammadi Library codices have been examined with C-14 radiometric dating.

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Mar 062015

harnack1851_kHarnack’s book Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God has been translated into English but with the omission of the valuable appendices containing the notes regarding the text of Marcion. So I’d like to go some way towards addressing this. Harnack’s text is actually in three languages (German, Greek, and Latin), so all of them are translated for easier study. I have relied on the translations of others for many of the quotations (Evans for Tertullian, Williams for Epiphanius, and the ESV for the New Testament).

I have re-arranged Harnack’s text in blocks, one block per footnote. The footnotes exceed the text itself and provide the most interesting information, the various references used to support the readings. For accurate comparison of my translations with the original German, please refer to the scanned originals online at Archive.org, thanks to Roger Pearse and Wieland Willker.


For further study, Harnack’s reconstruction and notes can be compared with Detering, van ManenWaugh, Mahar, ClabeauxBeDuhn, and Schmid (Amazon/Google) along with comments by Quispel, Lieu, Moll, Roth, BarnikolCarlson, Eysinga, McGuire, Baarda, Waugh, and Huller.

The work of translation is fairly arduous, but it is also very rewarding, and I hope to release other letters of Paul as found in Harnack’s reconstruction of Marcion’s Apostolikon, as I find time.

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Feb 192015

google-power-searchI recently mentioned the search tools available here:


And they have already improved greatly.

The historical archive of the Biblical Criticism & History forum has been reindexed and checked so that it is indeed complete and unabridged.

The greater Blogosphere search function has been expanded with more websites and upgraded with “refinements,” which let you drill down by category into “biblioblogs,” “forums,” “books,” “articles,” “google-books,” “jstor-articles,” “resources,” or “websites” with just the click of a link.

Last but not least, an Early Writings search function has been created to allow you to use a Google custom search engine over online translations of early Jewish and Christian texts, which themselves are tagged for search refinement as “Early Jewish Writings,” “Pseudepigrapha,” “DSS,” “Talmud,” “Early Christian Writings,” “Apocrypha,” “NHL,” “Church Fathers,” or “Gnostica.”

Please have fun with these new toys! Let me know if you have any suggestions.

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