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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Richard Porson’s Famous Handwriting

Although he published little, the Cambridge classicist Richard Porson (1759–1808) is best known for his insight into Greek meter, accentuation, and orthography. He was apparently skeptical of Granville Sharp’s rule about the use of the Greek article that has been so important to New Testament studies. he was even suspected by some of having written a tract against it under the pseudonym “Gregory Blunt” (pun intended). More popularly, he was known for “an astonishing memory, a turn for satire and badinage, beautiful penmanship, personal slovenliness, and alcoholism” (Naiditch, xxi). But Porson denied having written it and his biographer agrees (Watson, 267270). His greatest legacy, as far as I am concerned, is his Greek handwriting that was turned into what I consider the best Greek typeface ever designed in Britain. 

The original characters were cut by Richard Austin and cast by Caslon and Catherwood. Austin was paid 22 pounds and 7 shillings. It was first used in 1809 in E. D. Clarke’s Greek Marbles brought from the shores of the Euxine. Its simplicity and lack of ligatures made it easy to read so that it was quickly copied and by the mid 19th century it was “almost universal in Britain” (Bowman, 2). You can see it in all sorts of books from Metzger’s Lexical Aids to Westcott and Hort’s GNT to Loeb Classical Library. One reviewer at the time compared the new type to the “disgustingly luxuriant” types of Bodoni and said that, in contrast, “the eye of the scholar now peruses, with a satisfaction bordering on delight, the porsonic type” (Bowman, 2). 

Porson’s Book Notes from c. 1800 (source)

Porson’s handwriting

The original type specimen from Cambridge University Press (from Bowman)

It was also used for the early editions of the UBS Greek New Testament but this changed to Metzger’s chagrin. He says that he was not happy about the change to the “less attractive and harder to read [type] than the beautiful Porson font of Greek type that I had recommended for the earlier editions” (Reminiscences, 73). Kurt Aland admits as much in the intro to the NA26 (p. 43*) when he says “the font used [for NA26] is certainly lacking in the simplicity and clarity of that used for The Greek New Testament.” Given its ties to Cambridge, I tried to get the THGNT editors to use it but they went with Adobe Text instead (not a bad choice).

Westcott and Hort’s GNT (1881)

You can download a PBOHUZ Battery Plate V-Mount Battery Power Plate Adapter w/D-tap from the Greek Font Society.

Further reading

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

GA 048 and the Text of Ephesians 5:22


Some years ago, I wrote a blog post on the text of Ephesians 5:22. There I suggested that the neglected longer reading (ὑποτασσέσθωσαν) seemed to me to be the more difficult reading while noting a simple transcriptional explanation for the shorter reading.

Since then, I have fleshed out my argument in much more detail and the result is a new article in NTS. (For those without access, here’s the pre-pub version.) If my textual argument is sound, the upshot is a resolution to the longstanding debate about where Paul starts his instructions to the household. Beginning with the RSV, English translations started to reflect the uncertainty by putting paragraph breaks before 5.21 or before both 5.21 and 5.22 (NEB, NIV1984, NRSV, NCV, etc.) while some still put one only before 5.22 (NKJV, NASB, ESV, NET). Commentators, of course, also disagree and the issue has become a lighting rod for debates about Paul and gender.

As part of my work on this variant, I revisited the text of 048 (Elmer's Craftbond Multi-Purpose Spray Adhesive, 11 oz, White,Pac). 048 is a palimpsest with a fifth-century undertext from Acts and Paul. Given its early date, it’s quite important and is consistently cited in NA28. However, it is not cited at Eph 5.22. My guess is that this is because the last major collation of 048, done by Dale Heath in 1965 from photographic plates, says the text is illegible at this point. Well, I gave it a crack using the images at the VMR and some Photoshop adjustments and I’m pretty sure that this fifth-century witness has ὑποτασσέσθωσαν. Not surprisingly, it also has a new paragraph at 5.22 too. 

You can see my attempt to reconstruct the text and judge how I did. Red letters are ones I’m pretty confident about and blue are ones where I really can’t be sure about.

Because I didn’t have color images or MSI, I included 048 with “vid” in my article. So, here is my formal appeal for the Vatican to digitize this early manuscript using MSI and for someone to write a fresh dissertation on it. Even without new photos, I think there’s quite a bit more text to be deciphered than what Heath was able to if someone is willing to work at it.


Christian spotted that the Vatican now has color photos that weren’t there when I worked on this last. They seem to use UV light. Posted below is a close shot of the color image with some heightened contrast. I only had a little time to spare today. Anon also alerted me to the IGNTP transcriptions that I didn’t know about. They disagree with my reconstruction so be sure to check that out too.

fol. 300r

Monday, September 13, 2021

MOTB Early Printed Books Curator

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Museum of the Bible is advertising a curatorial position with specializations relevant to the early Renaissance. Applicants should be proficient in German and Latin. PhD preferred. Located in Washington, DC.

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Ozoliņš: Observations on ESV Old Testament Translation Notes


The following is a guest post from Kaspars Ozoliņš who has a PhD from UCLA in Indo-European linguistics and currently works as a Research Associate at Tyndale House in Cambridge.

Translation notes are a time-honoured tradition in biblical translation. Here, for example, is an excerpt from the preface “To the Reader” of the 1611 KJV:

[I]t hath pleaſed God in his divine prouidence, heere and there to ſcatter wordes and ſentences of that difficultie and doubtfulneſſe, not in doctrinall points that concerne ſaluation, (for in ſuch it hath beene uouched that the ſcriptures are plaine) but in matters of leſſe momentNow in ſuch a caſe, doth not a margine do well to admoniſh the Reader to ſeeke further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily?They that are wiſe, had rather haue their judgements at libertie in differences of readings, then to be captiuated to one, when it may be the other.

Translation notes are in fact a very useful tool for expanding and clarifying particular words and passages, given the many complications involved in transferring the meaning of ancient texts written in languages generally unfamiliar to the reader. The NET version excels at this, containing no fewer than 60,932 translation notes. But such an abundance of information raises an important question. What are the intended audience(s) for such notes, and therefore, what kind of information ought to be included?

This question is especially germane to notes of a text-critical nature. Naturally, the academic or pastor will consult standard critical editions of the biblical text for information about variant readings for a given passage. So it would seem that text-critical notes in an English Bible are not aimed at such an individual, at least not directly. On the other hand, what purpose could be fulfilled by supplying a layperson with variant manuscript and versional readings?

Of course, the obvious answer is that some variants ultimately make a difference, especially when dealing with an inspired text. To that end, anyone engaging with the biblical text should take at least some interest in important variant readings. Text-critical notes in translated versions should be a kind of bare-bones apparatus presenting the most important variant readings which are exegetically significant and difficult to evaluate (i.e., valuable and viable).

Friday, September 03, 2021

Codex 28 at Mark 1:1


Here is an image of Codex 28 at Mark 1:1 that came to my attention tonight via the new ECM. It seems to be a witness both to the shorter reading and to the fact that nomina sacra are easily skipped—even when only one letter is shared. I suspect Peter (Head) and Tommy remember this manuscript.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Calvin’s Conjectures


Warning: This is a long post in which I trace out my research method and show the steps I try to take to find answers.


John Calvin, probably.
Several months ago, I was reading F.F. Bruce’s chapter “Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” published in David Alan Black, ed., “Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honor of J. Harold Greenlee.” In Bruce’s discussion of Heb. 11:37, Bruce opts for the P46 reading, which does have some scant attestation from minuscule witnesses, and Bruce calls in Zuntz (Text of the Epistles, p. 47) for support.  Not making any judgments on Bruce’s arguments, what intrigued me was Bruce’s next sentence: “So already Erasmus and Calvin.”

Those 5 short words sent me down a long rabbit trail.

What seemed to be implied here was that Calvin followed Erasmus in adopting a reading that was—as far as either of them were concerned—completely without known manuscript support. I checked the notes in the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation and there is a note on this conjecture that “…Erasmus could have known some Greek attestation, but his opinion seems independent from it.”

Of course, that doesn't necessarily prove that Erasmus had no manuscripts, but Jan Krans and co. know their stuff, and I am happy to defer to their judgment on Erasmus. That still leaves Calvin, however. On p. 184 of Johnson’s 1963 translation of Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews and 1–2 Peter (which Calvin published in 1549, according to T.H.L. Parker’s Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries), Calvin says:

Regardless of what we may say about Erasmus, it seems here that Calvin understood that the text was corrupted at some point in the transmission process, and that Erasmus’ explanation for what happened was correct.

From there, I was interested to see if there were any other times Calvin accepted or proposed a conjectural emendation: the notion that the text he has in his day was corrupt and that he suggested a correct reading even if there was no manuscript support for it.

When we search the Amsterdam Database, we find 13 hits for John Calvin, though two of them are sort of the same one (see below). Admittedly, that’s not much. [[At this point it’s good to give a brief explanation of the Amsterdam Database: When you search for an author, you’ll see a list of every time that author is included. This list is not a list of every time they have been the first to propose an emendation, nor is it a list of emendations they adopt—the “Author” in the list is the first to propose, and then clicking on the conjecture itself will show all the subsequent authors who commented on it, and whether they accept it, reject it or simply discuss it.]] Calvin is only the first to propose 5 of these 13 conjectures, but since 13 is not a huge number, I might as well list and discuss them all here.

Calvin’s conjectures

The date in parentheses is the publication date for Calvin’s discussion as I understand it, but it’s a little tricky. The translations I used (the series edited by D.W. and T.F. Torrance) were made from Tholuck’s edition (1834), which seems to be something of a re-print of the Amsterdam edition (1667), which is presumably made from the final editions of Calvin’s commentaries. I admit that’s a presumption on my part, and the date does matter because Calvin does seem to have shifted around 1548 from using Colinaeus’ 1534 edition as his working text to an Erasmus or Stephanus edition, as I discuss a bit more at the end of the post. In some cases I give an image of the text as additional proof that I’m not making stuff up. I haven’t been exhaustive with it though. My main purpose is to provide enough information for someone to be able to confirm what I’m saying, and at the most basic level, the Scriptural reference alone should be enough to do that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Documentary by Kipp Davis, “Josh McDowell: Manuscript Hunting and Mythmaking for Jesus”

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Tonight I watched Kipp Davis’ new documentary about one of the most influential apologists in the US: “Josh McDowell: Manuscript Hunting and Mythmaking for Jesus” live in a webinar organized by the Lying Pen project at UiA, Kristiansand. My co-blogger Peter Head was there too I noticed. There was an introduction by Kipp, and brief responses by Roberta Mazza and Dana Ryan Lande. I only heard Roberta’s and then had to go.

 If you want to watch the documentary, it was released simultaneously on YouTube. I think everyone ought to see it, but perhaps in particular those involved in Christian apologetics. I already lacked confidence in McDowell before watching the film, in particular after his wheelings and dealings with manuscripts, mummy masks and Palmolive (though I doubt he knew Carroll somehow faked these sessions), etc. But this documentary brings out a lot more about McDowell’s own “testimony” that is highly disturbing and tragic.