More news about the so-called "1st century" fragment of Mark, this time from Christian apologist Craig Evans. Still no images. Still no publication.
Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts, Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015). Paper $22.
Fills the need for a truly mid-level, qualitytextbook on New Testament textual criticism
This book provides a student-level overview of the foundational elements necessary to grasp textual criticism of the New Testament, also addressing such issues as canonical formation and translation theory.
Stanley Porter and Andrew Pitts cover a range of topics related to New Testament textual criticism, including appropriate definitions, the canon, the manuscripts of the New Testament, and the best methodologies for determining the original reading when manuscripts disagree. They also provide a history of the various editions of the New Testament with a how-to guide for using and understanding them.
The end of each chapter includes a list of key vocabulary and a select bibliography, making this text especially useful for teachers and students. An appendix introduces students to the tools of textual criticism and invites discussion on how they might use textual criticism in a future classroom or ministry setting.
Today I came across an auction on eBay with the title "Ancient Egyptian papyrus with Greek letters – Bible." It is listed with a "buy it now" price for $1,098. From the images posted on eBay, it is clear that the language is Coptic, despite the erroneous description that it is "written in Greek" and "from the Ptolemaic period c. 200 years B.C." It is also not biblical, as the title indicates (a crafty business ploy to drive potential buyers to the auction). Aside from the obvious questions about provenance and which private collection this piece stems from, it seems the papyrus may have once belonged to the collection of famous antiquities dealer Erik von Scherling. According to the card on the back, the papyrus was "Collected in the 1960's and from an old Swiss private collection." The description from the seller gives a further detail: "From an old Swiss collection, probably Erik von Scherling collection."
If this is true, then it would be a missing piece from von Scherling's collection. Prof. Klaas Worp and Renate Dekker have diligently been working to reconstruct von Scherling's collection over the years and this one may add to the fragmented picture. Of course there is no way to assess the authenticity of the description unless the seller is willing to talk about the fragment. However, I doubt a seller would know the name of von Scherling unless he saw it somewhere or new about the purchase, the owner, or both. Given that von Scherling's descriptions were usually accurate about language of composition and contents, it is my hunch that the card on the back was written by someone else, perhaps a non-specialist owner. There is a hand-written number on that card that reads "3106." I don't think this is a Rotulus number (von Scherling's private catalogue that buyers and potential buyers would consult), but it could possibly be one of the items sold outside Rotulus (these had different numbers). If it is a von Scherling item, I think it might be no. 1696, listed in the June 1933 issue of Rotulus and described as a "Coptic papyrus. Ten imperfect lines in Cursive uncial letters, part of a document or letter, verso blank (with transcription) (4:2.5 inches) 7th century (Egypt)." Everything is consistent with what we see on the eBay papyrus, except the dimensions listed on the card.
In any case, it is worth knowing about, since, given the nature of the sale (international e-commerce), the chances of the papyrus going missing forever are possible, and even probable. Note the word μακάριος in l. 4 and the Z-shaped horeh in ll. 6 and 7. The straight left edge suggests that the piece has been cut, probably for the purpose of being sold piecemeal to individual buyers – a common (and unfortunately lucrative) practice among private dealers and sebbâkhîn in the Middle East.
Update: I received the following private message from Prof. Klaas Worp (posted here with permission):
"Comparing the description of the piece given on eBay, I conclude that this item MUST be Rotulus 3 (1933) no. 1696. So, this fragment was already on the market in the year 1933 and might have been swimming 'up Rhine' from Leiden (the 'Old Rhine' river curves through part of the town!) to Basel or so already before the start of WW II."
The famous Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis has been digitized and is online at the World Digital Library here. Also known as the Stockholm Papyrus, this 4th century CE codex contains recipes for mordanting and dying imitation stones. For example, recipe 101 is as follows:
"Cold Dyeing for Purple which is Done in the True Way"
"Keep this as a secret matter because the purple has an extremely luster. Take scrum of woad from the dyer, and a sufficient portion of foreign askant of about the same weight as the scum – the scum is very light – and triturate it in the mortar. Thus dissolve the alkanet by grinding in the scum and it will give off its essence. Then take the brilliant color prepared by the dyer – if from kermis it is better, or else from kirmnos – heat, and put this liquor into half of the scum in the mortar. Then put the wool in and color it unmordanted and you will find it beyond all description."
It's nice to have all the papyrus leaves online and available for study. An English translation may be found in Caley, E. R., "The Stockholm Papyrus: An English Translation with Brief Notes,”Journal of Chemical Education IV:8 (1926): 979-1002, conveniently posted online here. The German edition is also online here. Be sure to check out the images of this fascinating codex!
Ed. Princ. Kurt Treu and Johannes Diethart, Griechische literarische Papyri christlichen Inhaltes II, vol. 1 (MPER N.S. XVII; Vienna: Hollinek, 1993), No. 10.
P.Vindob. G 29831 is a parchment bifolium measuring 4.2 x 6.5 cm and contains two distinct texts: 1) a prayer for God to send his angel to the one wearing the amulet and 2) the text of John 1:5-6. The prayer provides justification for labeling this artifact as an amulet, and this is precisely the title the editors give it. But G.H.R. Horsley has questioned this designation vis-à-vis its original purpose. Bothered by the fact that the text of John 1:6 cuts off mid-sentence, Horsley proposed that the sheet was turned into an amulet only after the scribe realized he botched up the folio arrangement of a non-amuletic codex. But instead of wasting his efforts, he turned the problem-sheet into a fancy amulet. Originally, however, according to Horsley, the codex (which Horsley attempts to reconstruct partially) must have contained more than just the two verses. He contends that a complete continuous codex of John’s Gospel is unlikely; perhaps it only contained the prologue (1:1-18). He disagrees with the editors’ speculation that nothing followed the citation of John in Fol. 2b, which concludes with the preposition παρά.
I find Horsley’s theory problematic for two main reasons. First, it does not take into account the ritual culture of late antiquity in which ritual experts manufactured amulets for clients. Horsley’s reconstruction assumes that amulets were premanufactured but there is no evidence for this, as far as I am aware. On the contrary, amulet production was necessitated by the performative circumstances that were themselves prompted by clients looking for divine protection, healing, and the like. Moreover, many amulets are tailored to their clients, where a specific ailment is mentioned or where the client him- or herself is listed explicitly (e.g., P.Oxy. 8.1151). These features indicate that some ritual specialists produced amulets on the spot; they were thus products of the ritual performance that could be taken away and used over and over again. This omission in Horsley’s discussion is surprising, since he is aware of such ritual contexts, as evidenced by his claim that P.Turner 49 stems from a priestly or monastic milieu. Second, that the Johannine citation concludes mid-sentence is not necessarily an indication that the text continued onto another folio. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find in amulets a citation deliberately cut off in mid-sentence or mid-word (see, e.g., P.Oxy. 76.5073, P.Col. 11.294, and P.Berol. inv. 11710, P.Ant. 2.54). Likewise, beginning a citation at a particularly “random” place is also not uncommon in amulets (e.g., P.Vindob. G 26034 +30453, P.Vindob. G 2312, P.Berl. inv. 16158). Given that the prayer and the biblical citation are written by the same scribe, I think the most likely explanation is that P.Vindob. G 29831 was written as an amulet from the very beginning; Horsley’s hypothetical theory should be rejected, since it assumes too much.
But we must ask another question at this point: are we dealing with an amulet or rather a miniature codex? According to Turner’s criterion, a “miniature” codex is one whose width is 10 cm or less. Michael J. Kruger has recently problematized both categories (amulet and miniature codex), concluding that Christians viewed amulets and miniature codices as distinct literary categories. That is to say, a miniature or “pocket” codex is not synonymous with an amulet, or vice versa. According to Kruger, the category “amulet” “should be reserved for those texts that were clearly designed for magical use and not for documents that simply may have been used in a magical way.” The problem with this criterion is that it distinguishes too sharply between production and use. A fragment used secondarily as an amulet becomes an amulet, regardless of its previous use and purpose. De Bruyn and Dijkstra operate with a more inclusive approach, “taking into account not only charms and spells but also texts that are not solely or explicitly charms and spells.” The identification of an amulet is facilitated by a number of criteria, and de Bruyn and Dijkstra are careful to weigh both internal and external features in their assessment.
But the bigger question is: to what extent do form and function relate to each other? This is admittedly a modern concern, resulting from the need to classify items in neat and tidy categories. Although Kruger might be right that Christians generally distinguished between amulets and miniature codices, we know that not all did. He admits the possibility when he says that “it is possible (though rare) for a document to be both a codex and an amulet at the same time.” And even though the evidence is comparatively slim, there are several codices less than 10 cm in width that were in all likelihood designed to be amulets: P.Vindob. G 29831, P.Berl. inv. 11710, and P.Oxy. 34.2684, P.Leid.Inst. 10 and P.Oxy. 17.2065. This is especially true for the amulet currently under discussion (P.Vindob. G 29831), which begins with a prayer for protection—an obvious earmark of an amulet. Brief mention should also be made of one of the pocket codices (consisting of four wooden boards) recently discovered at Kellis. The text is a parody of Homer (LDAB 10674), but the editor wonders “whether elements of the ‘Pater noster’ were taken over in the story sketched in ll. 8 ff. Within this context, one should not only note l. 14: ‘Father Zeus, give us bread,’ but note also l. 10 where the word χρήστον may have been used intentionally as a reminder of Χριστόν.” Whether or not we can designate this miniature codex as an amulet is open to debate, but the presence of words reminiscent of the Lord’s Prayer makes it at least possible.
To be sure, we are restrcited solely to the evidence that has survived due to good fortune and so it is not clear to what extent the extant record reflects the situation of late antiquity. Nonetheless, I contend that it is reductionistic to argue that an amulet must never be a miniature codex or vice versa. I concur with Kraus’ opinion that “Kruger’s polarity between ‘miniature codex and (or better versus) amulet’ appears to be questionable.” I would add to Kraus’ critique by simply suggesting that the polarity is artificial and thus unhelpful. Book production in late antique and early Byzantine Egypt was fluid, and there is certainly no universal form or pattern for amulet production, as the evidence attests. We find amulets written in single columns and multiple columns; with short lines and long lines; on oblong materials and on square materials; on papyrus, but also on parchment, wood, and pottery. Some are folded and some are rolled, and so on. And indeed, some were bound or folded as little codices in contrast with the usual practice. Thus, we need to move beyond these categorical restrictions and restraints (amulet versus miniature codex), even though it might leave some dissatisfied.
I argue that P.Vindob. G 29831 is a miniature codex that was manufactured as such for the purpose of being used in a ritual context. To close this extended discussion, I might just note that Turner’s criterion of 10 cm or less in width has been accepted as the rule. That is, a codex’s width must fall within 10 cm if it is to be designated “miniature.” But, to quote Kraus again,
[i]s it really enough simply to stick with the dimension given by Turner (less than 10 cm broad) and is this dimension really able to embrace all the diverse manuscripts to form one single category? Does it consequently make any sense to exclude papyri that are wider, as could be the case with P.Ryl. I 3 being 10 x 10.4 cm large, while many fragmentary papyri have been included in this category on an assumed and therefore hypothetical width?
It seems to me that the “10 cm rule” needs to be reassessed.
 “Reconstructing a Biblical Codex: The Prehistory of MPER n.s. XVII. 10 (P.Vindob. G 29 831),” in Akten des 21. Internationalen Papyrologenkongresses. Berlin, 1995, vol. 1 (ed. Bärbel Kramer, et al.; Stuttgart: Teubner, 1997), 473-481.
 “Obwohl der Text auf IIv 12 mitten im Satz abbricht, folgte vielleicht nicht mehr. Dann wäre I mit der Anrufung der Beginn des Doppelblattes” (Treu and Diethart, Griechische literarische Papyri christlichen, 23).
 Of course not all amulets were produced in this way. Some amulets were cut or torn out of biblical codices and used secondarily, such as P.Col. 11.293 and P.Oxy. 64.4406. In such cases, it is unclear if a ritual specialist was involved or not.
 Turner, Typology, 30. For further discussions of miniature codices, see C.H. Roberts, Manuscript, Society, and Belief, 10-12; Gamble, Books and Readers, 235-236; Leiv Amundsen, “Christian Papyri from the Oslo Collection,” Symbolae Osloenses 24.1 (1945): 121-147, at 127-128; Kraus, “P.Oxy. V 840—Amulet or Miniature Codex? Principal and Additional Remarks on Two Terms,” in Ad Fontes, 47-67.
 Michael J. Kruger, The Gospel of the Savior: An Analysis of P.Oxy. 840 and its Place in the Gospel Traditions of Early Christianity (TENT 1; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 23-40; idem., “P.Oxy. 840: Amulet or Miniature Codex?” JTS 53.1 (2002): 81-94.
 Kruger, “P.Oxy. 840,” 93 (emphasis original).
 For fragments recycled as amulets, see P.Col. 11.293, P.Oxy. 64.4406.
 De Bruyn and Dijkstra, “Greek Amulets,” 168.
 Kruger, “P.Oxy. 840,” 91.
 Surprisingly, this amulet was not mentioned by Kruger, even though it had been published almost a decade before his study appeared. This is probably because Kruger relied solely on Van Haelst’s 1976 catalogue, as he admits (“P.Oxy. 840,” 85, 90). At any rate, P.Vindob. G 29831 offers a corrective to his statement that “prayers on miniature codices are practically non-existent” (“P.Oxy. 840,” 92).
 Colin A. Hope and K.A. Worp, “Minature Codices from Kellis,” Mnemosyne 59.2 (2006): 226-258, at 247. The Greek of ll. 8-14 run as follows: Ὣς εἰπὼν πυλέων ἐξέσσυτο λευκὸς ἀλέκτωρ | τῷ δ’ ἁμ’ Ἀλέξανδρος πιάσας παρέδωκε μαγείρῳ | ὁ δὲ μάγειρος ἑψήσας καὶ γευσάμενος ἔλεγε, “Xρηστόν! | Τρῶες καὶ Λύκιοι καὶ Δάρδανοι, δεῦτ’ ἐπὶ δεῖπνον· | ἀνέρες ἔστε, φίλοι, μνήσασθε δὲ μάππαν ἐνεγκεῖν. | Αἰσθίετε πάντες καί μοι καταλίψατε ὀστοῦν. | Ζεῦ πάτερ, ἢ ἄρτον μοι δὸς ἢ τυρίον ὀπτὸν.
 Kraus, “P.Oxy. V 840,” 59 (emphasis original).
 Kraus, “P.Oxy. V 840,” 57.
In P.Col. 11.294, an amulet with the text of a prayer and a citation of Ps 150, there is an interesting nomen sacrum (with overlining) for "Abraham" on the verso, l. 11:
This is one I haven't seen before. It seems to be an abbreviation of Ἄβραμος, the spelling of which is attested. The editor (Timothy M. Teeter) notes two other possible occurrences of the nomen sacrum in P.Bodmer VII 12.14 and P.Bodmer VIII 49.12. Otherwise, this may be the only example. One thing I have learned from my study of Christian amulets is that scribes wrote nomina sacra--among other things--in strange ways. They were rarely consistent in employing abbreviations and supralinear strokes. In one line, for example, you will encounter a sacred name in abbreviated form and then in the very next line you will see it written in scriptio plena. My forthcoming dissertation (which I am presently wrapping up for good!) documents many of them. So, an unusual nomen sacrum is not a strange thing in amulets. In any case, I'm wondering: has anyone else encountered an example of a nomen sacrum for Abraham, other than those mentioned above? Teeter published his edition of P.Col. 11.294 in 1998 so perhaps another example has appeared since then.
I am editing a Sahidic literary papyrus fragment and need help deciphering an interlinear addition. Can anyone make out the letters following the words ASH PE ("what is")? The kappa from the top line (from JWKE) and the phi from the lower line (from COPHOC) intrude into the interlinear addition, so don't let that throw you off. It looks to me something like ASH PE PN.D. – but I can't make heads or tails of it. I don't think we are dealing with a nomen sacrum for "spirit" since there is no overlining. I know I have some Coptic readers out there, so I would be grateful for any of your thoughts. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
One feature of the Nag Hammadi codices that has always fascinated me is the leather covers in which the papyrus codices were bound. According to the traditional story, the Nag Hammadi codices were discovered in 1945 by a native Egyptian while looking for sabakh, a natural fertilizer. It is claimed that he found them in a jar in the ground at the base of the Gebel al-Tarif. (On the question about this discovery, see most recently Nicola D. Lewis and Justine A. Blount, "Rethinking the Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices," JBL 133.2 : 399-419.) Below are two images (open and closed) of the remarkably well-preserved cover of Codex IX, which was found intact. According to Birger Pearson, the papyrus codex was "cut out of the cover" in order to be preserved and mounted in between glass (Nag Hammadi Codices IX and X; [NHS 15; Leiden: Brill, 1981], 1). James M. Robinson offers a full analysis of this cover in the preface to the facsimile edition of Codices IX and X (The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices: Codices IX and X [Leiden: Brill, 1977], 4). This cover was apparently made of sheepskin and goatskin and belongs typologically, according to Robinson, in a group together with Codices II, VI, and X. As with most of these leather covers, this one was reinforced with papyrus fragments (known as cartonnage), and those papyri have been published as well. What is interesting about the cartonnage is that they are datable and thus provide a terminus a quo (starting point) for Codex IX. The photos below were taken by Jean Doresse and may be found—along with many other excellent images of the Nag Hammadi codices, covers, cartonnage, etc.—at Claremont College's Digital Library. When we think of the Nag Hammadi codices, we normally think of the papyrus codices and their texts. However, these are fascinating pieces of 4th century Egyptian material culture that deserve to be studied and analyzed.
Post-scriptum: While the Nag Hammadi codex covers are remarkable, they are not unique. We have several such covers from other manuscripts; see some of them here.
Can you name this New Testament manuscript? What does the isolated text toward the bottom of this papyrus say? I will wait a few days before updating with the answer. Leave your answers, comments, and/or questions below.
Philip W. Comfort, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2014). 416 pp. $30. May be purchased here.
"An up-to-date commentary on all the significant manuscripts and textual variants of the New Testament.
This small and insightful volume is an essential resource for the committed student of Greek New Testament. Using the same trim size as UBS and NA28 Greek New Testaments, this reference commentary, based on the latest research, is designed to aid the reader in understanding the textual reliability, variants, and translation issues for each passage in the New Testament.
Unlike any other commentary, this volume contains commentary on actual manuscripts rather than a single version of the Greek New Testament. There are nearly 6,000 existing manuscripts, and just as many textual variants, with thousands of manuscripts having been discovered since the time of the King James Version. This commentary is filled with notes on significant textual variants between these manuscripts."