How Long Were Late Antique Literary Manuscripts In Use? | Craig Evans | PhD

How Long Were Late Antique Literary Manuscripts In Use? | Craig Evans | PhD



yeah in recent years my ministry my career has taken some interesting turns dr. Quarles just mentioned being at the Vatican rat soccer conference on Christology in theology and history that was quite an experience there were two of us invited to give papers from North America who were Protestants and Stan I understand Porter were those two that was quite an honor and we arrived and we were taken to the st. Martha hotel and we were told this is actually where the Pope lives he didn't want to live in the palace and my wife and I were put on the second floor at the very floor where the Pope lives and it was very interesting to be told now look the Holy Father is right down that hall that's his room you're right here you use elevator be at that end he uses elevator a so don't use his elevator and whatever you do don't go down a hall a bang on its door it's okay because you know I'm a Protestant they didn't know what to expect and I said okay we won't and well you got to stay for dinner tonight and I was thinking of getting out of the Vatican City into the end of the city of Rome proper but I was tired jet-lagged everything I said no we'll go ahead and have supper here well then beyond be downstairs in the dining hall at 6:00 so he went down in the dining hall at 6:00 and in walks the Pope I just thought I'm having dinner with the Pope that was amazing and I start getting up out of my chair and he smiles at me no I just stay seated he walks by and he's wearing Nike runners not those little red slippers that this guy he's different and had breakfast 26 mornings in a row two lunches two dinners but who's counting well what had experience to be there well received and it was great wandering around the city to see how the clergy were so loved and respected I thought what do you know that's that's good to see and some of you will know Bernardo Estrada he's a New Testament scholar he's a member of citing New Testament studies he was often with us wandering about the city and warmly embraced by people a good reputation and I was happy to see that because we tend to hear in the news the negative stuff and it was just good to see that actually there is another side to it yes we want to talk about how long late antique literary manuscripts of course that includes Scripture which is really what we're after we're in use this is some new information some new thinking in recent years that we need to take into account we have created a documentary and I want you to know about that it's in theaters April 24 741 theaters throughout the United States and a bunch of them right here in North Carolina encourage people in your churches to go including seekers people who have been influenced negatively by Bard Airmen and other skeptics say oh you know who can trust the manuscripts they've been changed and so we've gone to the major cities where the oldest manuscripts are kept we've interviewed curators text critics papper ologists and others for their expert opinion and you'll see that it's not at all the way professor airmen and his misquoting Jesus book presented it some years ago anyway this is designed to help clergy and lay people but also scholars to don't don't have expertise in the field to understand this very important topic better fragments of truth about the fragments the oldest fragments of the Greek New Testament where they are how good they are what they tell us and how we should understand the text of the New Testament so please promote that I think it's fathom is a ticket site but I think you can just show up I doubt if you know it'll be like a sellout but get as many people as you can to go April 24th stratigraphy and longevity this is the focus for my talk with you today careful stratigraphy and you know what that means in archaeology basically like a layered cake go down deeper it's older obviously there are some changes sometimes the ground can be sloped landslides things can get mixed up but typically the newer is on top you go down deeper gets older and we're careful with our Stratego fee when we unearth manuscripts in trash heaps like a toxin or Incas we can learn some interesting things about longevity how long manuscripts were in use when I was in seminary a number of years ago well is the previous century but anyway a number of years ago I asked my New Testament prophet a class probably a lot like some of your courses right here it was an advanced exegesis course and I said Professor so-and-so how long do you think the autographs were in use don't we so that's an interesting question well I don't know 10 20 years and at the time I thought that was a very reasonable reply that ok sure I've got some paperback books that a home they last 10 years and they fall apart well if he had put a zero on the end of the number he'd have been much closer to the truth but we just didn't know that as you as you will find out manuscripts recovered in situations where Stratego fee is possible a lot of times it isn't there is no stratigraphy at all if we simply find a manuscript that's pasted together as carton aaggghhhh paper mache and it's part of a mummy bodice or mask or something like that there's no stratigraphy there but when you find it where stratigraphy is possible like the rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus those main ships can be relatively dated and in some cases absolutely dated manuscripts recovered along with proper stratigraphy can answer the question how long were manuscripts in use before being discarded this is a very important question because it goes to this whole issue of well if we have copies of copies of copies of copies and we have mistakes introduced every time a manuscript is copied and no one can dispute that it's a fact copy of copy of copies by the time we get to the fourth century manuscripts that we have and you know what I'm referring to codex Vaticanus codex Sinaiticus where you have virtually the entire New Testament if not the old Greek Old Testament as well by the time you get there by the time you get to Bea's I which dates to about 400 by the time you get on into the fifth century alexandrina and others by that time we have so many copies of copies of copies of copies so many generations who knows how badly altered and changed the Texas has has become because of mistakes and if you have deliberate theologically motivated alterations to improve what Bart Ehrman calls the Orthodox corruption of Scripture then do we really know when you open up your nestle Ilan or United Bible Society Greek New Testament you flip it open and turn to Romans is that really the text that Paul dictated to tercius described when you flip to matthew is that really the text that represents what Matthew the Evangelist wrote down in the first century or have we something else now see that's the issue but if it turns out the autographs and first copies were in circulation a long long time that changes the equation because somebody writing a copy of scripture at the end of the second century beginning of the third does he have in front of him the autograph is that possible or a first century copy of an autograph and it's on this table when he makes a new copy the longer a text circulates and continues to be studied copied repaired re-inked corrected etcetera the greater its influence on the text of the writing in question if a first century copy or the autograph itself circulates all the way until the Year 205 or something it has been copied many times and so you could have a first generation copy made in the Year 200 and not just in the year 75 see that's the point and a whole bunch of copies in the middle greater longevity could bridge the time of the autographs of the first century to the time of the earliest extant witnesses such as P 45 if we're talking about the Gospels they'd somewhere between 220 and 240 big chunks of Matthew Mark Luke John and acts when that was copied we're on a graphs or first century copies still circulating greater longevity means in some cases fewer generations stand between autographs and extent manuscripts oh the old telephone game analogy begins to fall apart determining the age and longevity of manuscripts would aid in the study of all literature's of antiquity from classical texts to biblical texts and other related tax such as Philo Josephus etcetera the age and longevity of our earliest biblical manuscripts could impact textual criticism in a major way so let's consider the relevance and the evidence of Oxyrhynchus Grenfell and hunt of course they're legendary but what I encourage you to do is to read the reports and in a recent book about Oxyrhynchus most most if not all other reports have been reprinted a very handy way you don't have to find a lot of these things that date to the end of the 19th century but that particular report that you see listed there on the screen and especially on pages 6 and 7 is my point of departure grin felon hunt disgust finding a basket quite literally a basket of wicker baskets still intact containing several book rolls about 20 dating perhaps to the 2nd century judging by the hand but where did they find it well they on this occasion they happened to be paying close attention to the stratigraphy and the layer in which they found it was judged to be either 4th or 5th century AD so think about that for a moment 2nd century Scrolls found in a 4th or 5th century layer of ground that means these scrolls were in use till discarded 2 to 300 years that's significant and of course we're not talking about archives we're not talking about business papers we're talking about literature here now of course literature is always notorious because literature is rarely dated archival materials documents of what's called documentary papyri they often are data because there are personal letters their business papers their contracts or government papers things like that they almost always have you know the third year of Emperor's somebody they have dates but literature almost never does and so we we rely on paleography that is dating according to the style of handwriting anyway there are Grenfell and hunt and they began their excavations at Ochsner n cos and the late 1890s at 96 97 that's where they were these are some old black-and-white photos now you can see this trench the man in the center two men in the center are standing in a trench they're digging down into the trench that's what gives us the possibility of stratigraphy but Grenville and hunt often were supervising 100 diggers at once digging in a bunch of places it was very hard to maintain that and these these balks as we would call them in archaeology as they get higher and higher they just collapse and the diggers didn't care they were just recovering they were paid on papyri they recovered and put in their own baskets by the way there was destruction there was looting they discovered that these goofy Europeans would be willing to pay money back sheesh for this worthless old rotting brown paper and so they would steal it smuggle it out sell it on the antiquities market so a lot of unproven inspire II that began to circulate the early 20th century likely came from Oxyrhynchus again you can see the trench you can see them gathering up fragments of papyrus placing the baskets we have several hundred thousand pages that's estimated about half million pages of papyrus from OC's and Rankin salomi only about 10% of its published see so that's why from time to time you hear a big surprise about something that's published and the ox and rank is series and that's why well we'll be hearing surprises for years and years and years to come so the stratigraphy unfortunately was for the most part weak if there was any at all it tended to be sporadic and imprecise mounds were identified though sometimes vaguely workers recovered materials and place them in baskets papyrus was stolen and ended up on the antiquities market and supervision of the work was often less-than-ideal such as sometimes grenfell or hunt alone supervising as many as 100 workers you can imagine what that was like I'm not criticizing them for that we I don't think it's fair to take our archaeological techniques and expectations and apply them to 125 years ago and then criticize them for not doing what we do today but a lot of these mounds cannot even be identified I mean think of how it's done now I've been working mostly in recent years at Mount Zion Shimon Gibson is the lead archaeologist there and we do GPS coordinates so where something is found we know within like a foot give or take a foot where it was found we do elevations we know exactly the level you know that that's just standard that's why they only dig four or five six weeks each year and then spend the rest of the year cataloging and assessing what's been unearthed thousands of fragments of pottery pieces of glass maybe a hundred coins other objects that are found and this goes on year after year and finally they have to just stop and then write up everything that's been found and that's the way it is at our dig and that's way it is it all the other digs well Grenfell and hunt were not there to do archaeology they were there to recover manuscripts and so the stratigraphy was just an afterthought and that's part of the problem on the problem of imprecise stratigraphy and almost complete lack of what would pass today's archaeology and the recovery of papyri Fox ranked us you can see some essays particularly that first one in Roger bag now Oxford Handbook of pathology and get read up on that and see what I'm talking about nevertheless as poor as the archaeology and stratigraphy were we have acquired significant information about the longevity of manuscripts so it's an exciting new area of study just in the last few years and got underway by George Houston who's at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill he's now retired a classist in a publication that came out in 2009 I became aware of it began corresponding with him he has published more since then and I've entered the fray as well anyway there is important evidence about longevity of literary manuscripts including biblical literature and so we have there's new consideration of old evidence such as the archives and comments made by ancient authors you'll find intriguing because they used to be dismissed it's like well they can't that can't be right he doesn't know what he's talking about that kind of stuff now we look at I say I think they did know what they're talking about and the whole idea of libraries finding an entire library tacked up to a thousand literary documents or two thousand documents or something like that now the archives are interesting they're not that much to the point but it's worth mentioning and passing the archive of the family of Phil Osiris spans some 135 years now that's a long archive most of archives don't exceed a century the well-known xenon archive numbering some 2,000 documents it's an archive so we're not talking literature we're talking business papers anyway ranges in date from as early as 261 to 229 BC the archive of Phinehas a seller of oil that archive ranges in date from about 233 to 223 such a 1011 years the temple arc I of silicone braces and the foam who's his paper span some 80 years that's a little on the long side the archive of erroneous whore sorry her own Nina's numbers about 450 documents that range from 253 to 306 so that gives you an idea of typical greco-roman archives in our period of time reaching back perhaps to post Alexander the Great on into the first century from the Judean Desert we also have the babba thha archive comprising 35 legal documents 26 Greek 6 and habitants 3 and Aramaic ranging in date from 93 or for ad to 132 ad and that archive likely would have continued on had they not died in the Bar Kokhba rebellion in most cases the longevity of archival documents not great the especially so in reference to business and legal papers the papers found on the archives of Phinehas xenon abathur date over periods of 10 or 11 31 or 32 and 38 or 39 years respectively the family archives of patron and Phyllis are APIs exhibit much greater longevity we may speculate that business and legal archives were an active use for shorter periods of time simply because contracts expired legal matters were concluded either in court or in death family archives may have remained in use for much longer periods of time because sentimental value was attached to the documents the longevity of the temple archive of silk embraces may have been due in part to the religious nature of some of the documents and the value placed on them in contrast to business and legal papers including family papers literary documents enjoyed much greater longevity they did not expire or become obsolete now here's some of the literary evidence for that and this I think you'll find fascinating it has in the past been brushed off but let's take a new look at it in light of the mounting evidence first century Pliny the Elder claims to have seen autographs of some of the grassy letters the grassy people with legal opinions social and political ideas and so on were very famous well in his time they would have been about two hundred years old now he said autographs not copies the autographs of their letters and of course as an ancient writer he'd know what an autograph looks like it's the professional scribe rights and a neat practiced hand and then the pen is handed to the dictator the person dictating the letter the true author of the letter and the author of the letter picks up the pen and usually in a very clumsy unpracticed hand with larger letters writes out his own name maybe says greetings to you or I pray for you I look forward to seeing you and then signs his name so this is an intelligent man who writes natural history and everything else he knows what he's talking about and he says he saw autographs in the plural of some of these grokking letters well when he's writing this and the letters when they were pinned about a hundred and fifty BC or so would mean that that the longevity is about two hundred years there's more late second century Galen tells us that some also had desired to find very old volumes not necessarily autographs in this case very old volumes written three hundred years ago which I had he says so this is not some rumor about somebody else Galen himself is saying this I had at Pergamum of which were preserved in Scrolls part and papyrus part on excellent lime tree bark and so on by the way lime tree bark letters and they're really brief they're usually just a diptych writing on two sides inside it's folded we found over 900 of those in Britain that date to the Roman period in this particular case we have a longevity of at least 300 years Plutarch relates the story of the discovery at skepta seven umber of manuscripts of Aristotle which were then seized by sulla about 86 BC and taken to Rome if this story is factual and of course this is second and third-hand so you know we have to be a little careful with it then the papyrus manuscripts in question would have been about two hundred fifty years old a similar similar longevity has been observed at Qumran where the life of this community's library as a consequence of the Jewish revolt came to an abrupt end either in 68 or 73 those are the two dates that scholars debate over when Qumran was destroyed by the Romans most of the scrolls were 100 to 150 years old when the community ceased to exist so longevity of 100 to 150 years however approximately 40 Scrolls many of them Bible Scrolls there was some 220 Bible Scrolls at Qumran well about 40 of them about one-fifth or so were 200 to 300 years old and evidently still in use when the community was destroyed well I think this is very relevant because Christianity of course grows and springs up out of the Jewish soil and so here are these Bible Scrolls still use a few of them like the Leviticus scroll the Leviticus scroll by the way from k4 dates to 300 BC we think well that that puts it over 350 years old still being read and studied when Qumran came to a sudden and violent end George Houston professor of classics at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill now retired has reopened the evidence of the longevity of literary manuscripts on the basis of stratigraphy and other methods of determining dates he cites five libraries recovered from oxen rankest in one library recovered from the villa of papyri at Herculaneum here is some of his work that's 2007 so it's been 11 years that's what God had started he started reading Grenfell and Hunt's reports including Italian scholar Bray Xie and his reports later on in the 20th century and he said you know what there's some very interesting evidence of longevity of literature then he published something and william johnson holt Parkers book ancient literacies and then very recently just well now four years ago inside Roman libraries I come in that book to you you want to see those pages mentioned there where he tabulates things and talks about how long manuscripts were in use in the six libraries where we actually have chronological information 53 no this is the sad part 53 libraries were recovered in Oxyrhynchus we have stirred stratigraphy information chronological information on only five so not quite even one in ten and that was the lost opportunity and as the any archaeologist will tell you when you do archaeology get one kick at the can when you dug everything up you can't decide to read it well I didn't do it right let's do it again it's done and so if the stratigraphy is botched lost nothing much you can do about it so what has what has George Houston learned regarding longevity the manuscripts well he has found that literary manuscripts not McGuiness literary manuscripts is not business papers contracts literature people that things people read for pleasure for education they were in use in a range of 150 he did find a few that were a little younger than that but most of them in that 150 to 500 years and the majority in the 150 to 250 year range that is really amazing okay so the question is did Christians value their literature as much as the pagans valued theirs they applied to the New Testament manuscripts this suggests that some of the autographs and first copies could still have been in use as late as the third century now this is where it gets really interesting so if we just go with 150 the shorter end of the average instead of 200 or 250 autographs say written in the year 50 through 75 New Testament autographs 50 75 Gospel John probably later like 90 tack on 50 150 years and that takes them all the way to 200 that 200 to 225 range well that's where things that you see at the bottom of the slide p45 Gospels an axpy 46 Paul's letters P 66 the whole Gospel of John P 72 Luke and John or just Luke and P 75 Luke and John most of these I know P 75 recently by Brent nombre has been challenged but most of these everybody would agree are in that – 9 – 200 – 250 range and there's a possibility that when these were written the autographs are still circulating and still being copied and so whoever wrote these manuscripts these copies of Scripture they're not necessarily using a 10th generation or 15th generation or 20th generation removed from the originals but could be I'm not claiming that any of them had an autograph in front of him but could be using copies two copies one copy two maybe three comparing them who knows that or only second third generation not 15 or 20 generations now do we actually have direct evidence for the great longevity of the autographs actually we do Tertullian writing about the Year 190 talks about autographs still available in several cities Peter Bishop Alexander II who died in 311 some years earlier in a homily Easter homily stated the autographed copy itself of the evangelist John which up to this day has by divine grace been preserved in the most holy Church of Ephesus and is their adored by the faithful if we date John to 90 and we date the homily to 290 or to 90s John's autograph is 200 years old now my interpretation of this statement by Peter the bishop Alexandria is not it's divine grace that the book lasted so long as though while papyri normally falls apart no it hasn't been confiscated and destroyed by enemies of the church I think that's his point that's the divine grace the text has been protected by by human destructive efforts not Wow against all odds somehow this thing is still legible that's not his point now let me in some detail look at Tertullian Tertullian is writing of something called prescription against heresies as chapter 36 first two verses he says this come now you who would indulge a better curiosity if you would apply it to the business of your salvation run over the Apostolic churches in which the very Thrones of the Apostles are still preeminent in their places in which their own authentic writings to a little Latin study here if sigh authentic I'd live to write that autumn are read uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally now this is the translation by Peter Holmes in 1880 by the way that's in the ante-nicene fathers now notice this how he translates her does not translate really he says authentic writings well authentic is nothing more than an English translation alliteration of authentic I so what does that mean we'll see that a minute Greece is near you in which you find Corinth you are not far from Macedonia you have Philip I and there are two you have the Thessalonians since you are able to cross to Asia you get Ephesus since moreover you are close to Italy you have Rome from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority of the Apostles themselves is what he means so anyway there you have it now we have seven letters mentioned here in five locations so what does authentic I the its feminine plural to agree with the letter is feminine plural according to the oxford dictionary of Latin authentic um that adjective means autograph Peter Holmes did not translate it autographs he translated authentic writings the authentic I litter I would mean letter autographs now the ante-nicene translated 1880 Peter Holmes was reluctant to translate authentic I'd litter I as letter autographs because he couldn't imagine the autographs surviving for more than a century and his time papyrus was a brand new thing and it was believed that it was a fragile medium and could not possibly survive a hundred plus years okay of course now we have evidence that suggests otherwise but he blame him he did not know that so that's why he does not translate but transliterate on into the 20th century the myth of the fragility of papyrus persisted to which the great papper ologist TC skeet responded in this essay early christian book production popeye read manuscripts in 1969 i wish he had actually written it as a separate article because it gets lost in the cambridge history to bible but this is an important essay and in there he talks about this myth that papyrus is not durable but fragile these that are you kidding just to stop and think about it we find papyri in the dump at Oxyrhynchus and it's intact legible and still in pretty good shape as long as it didn't get too wet dug down too deep and the moist sand but up closer to the top and some of this stuff is to 2,300 years old and is preserved and legible how is it how is it fragile that's silly so the implications of Tertullian just to tease it out Romans written we think about 57 AD Philippians about 63 Tertullian wrote in 190 therefore the autograph of Romans would have been a hundred and thirty-three years old the autograph of Philippians would have been 127 years old well within the longevity spans noted in the ancient literature and in the evidence of the excavations as pointed out by George Houston now there's additional evidence early Christian Bibles such as codex Vaticanus and codex Sinaiticus were reinker continued reading 500 years or more after they originally produced codex Vaticanus was ranked in the 10th century missing leaves were added the 15th century correctors worked on Codex Sinaiticus was late as the 7th century the codex was annotated by a monk named Dionysus in the 12th century 5th century early 5th century late 4th codex B's I was repaired between 8:30 and 8:50 many other biblical codices show signs of rincon correcting repair and annotations hundreds of years after they were produced the manuscripts were in use a long long time we're Christian scribes unique I'll skip over these quotations by Harry gamble but he says no they're not they were very much part of the scribal book question of their time okay and so Gamble's books and readers in Late Antiquity I should add to that the more recent dissertation by Alan Muggeridge I reviewed his book and the bulbs of a biblical research he concludes that the majority of the early scribes that is in the 1st 2nd and on into the 3rd century were professional scribes many of them not Christian now think of the implication of that professional scribes who are paid line by line they're not paid to innovate improve update they have no theological dog in the fight so why are they going to corrupt the text and move it in an orthodox direction what do they care and some of their scribal mistakes are mindless where it's clear they're not really tracking or following what they're what they are reading they're none of those in other words they're not reading what they're copying that's an interesting observation and this Yanks the rug out from under Bart Ehrman's scepticism and his point about Orthodox corruption of Scripture now were there textual variants motivated by theology well of course I'm not saying there weren't but the problem was not it really wasn't problematic and widespread as some have assumed so what are the implications for textual criticism that I'll stop and give you an opportunity to ask some questions if autographs and first-century copies survived 150 years or more if our earliest extent substantial papyri such as P 45 P 46 P 47 p66 and P 75 survived let us say very modestly let us say in use for 100 years in other words from 220 to 240 until 320 to 340 we then have a bridge linking the autographs to the great codices in which the Greek texts of the New Testament is extant in its entirety this does not mean that the autographic text is preserved in the great codices but it does help explain how well stabilised the text of the Greek New Testament is in contrast for example to the 2nd through 4th century Gnostic books there are thousands of variants but the vast majority are quite minor and and have no bearing on anything the text of the Greek New Testament is quite stable and we could if we had time talk about some of these other Gnostic writings whose text if you have two copies or more of any Gnostic texts they are all you can't even begin to imagine what the original text looked like and that's acknowledged for example by Fred wisi of Yale well known expert on Gnostic texts and secret book of John for example so one of the reasons for the stability of the text of the New Testament manuscripts I believe was the great longevity and how they were treated as precious great longevity the autographs and first copies their longevity guarded against corruption and free rewriting of the text as seen for example in the Gnostic texts I'll stop now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *