patristics | manuscripts

St Helia review in Sacris Erudiri and then some

The latest issue of Sacris Erudiri 57 (2018) is now out, with several remarkable articles. Although it is not yet online – I’ve seen the printed issue – you can find the TOC here. I imagine it will eventually be posted on their webpage.

Until then, a couple of highlights:

The issue includes a 100 pages (!) review by Gregory Hays of V. Burrus and M. Conti (eds.), The Life of Saint Helia (OUP). That’s just about the most developed critique of a critical edition that I’ve seen so far. That should spark some conversation.

vechi 2013

There are also two critical editions, one from Aäron Vanspauwen (“The Anti-Manicaean Treatise De fide contra Manichaeos, Attributed to Evodius of Uzalis,” 7-116[!]), the other from Sergey Kim (“«Je suis venu jeter du feu sur la terre»: l’édition critique de l’original grec et de la version arménienne d’une homélie du Pseudo-Chrysostome cappadocien (CPG 4669),” 117-66).

There is no need to list the TOC since it is available here, but I would still mention Leontien Vanderschelden‘s discussion of “Two Alleged Witnesses of the Catena of the Paris Psalter: Vaticani graeci 617 and 1519” (403-38), and David Lincicum‘s “An Excerpt from the Apostolic Church Order (CPG 1739).


1 Clement papers May

I have three papers coming up, all in May, and 1 Clement emerges as the common theme.

“Organising 1 Clement in Syriac and Coptic: Text dividers in University Library Cambridge Add. MSS 1700, Berlin Staatsbibliothek Ms. or. fol. 3065, and Strasbourg Université copte 362-385” at the Scribal Habits in Middle Eastern Manuscripts workshop, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (May 9-11).

“1 and 2 Clement in University Library, Cambridge, Add. MSS 1700”, at the Ancient Translations of the Apostolic Fathers conference in Leuven (May 22-23).

“Revisiting the Dating of 1 Clement”,  at Das Baujahr hinter der Fassade: Probleme bei der Datierung neutestamentlicher Pseudepigraphen und neuere Lösungsansätze, conference organised in Gießen (May 30-June 1).

I will post the programmes as they become available.

New JbAC issue

I received recently my copy of the Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 60 (2017) 83-90, which appeared by the end of 2018.


In my piece I deal with a couple of issues I’ve been following up on the transmission of the Shepherd, which are incredibly persistent in Greek, Coptic as well as Latin:

“Dating, Split-Transmission Theory, and the Latin Reception of the Shepherd of Hermas”

The Shepherd of Hermas has been translated twice into Latin between the second and fifth centuries. This contribution revisits and calls into question two issues which seemed settled: the dating of the first Latin translation, and the relevance of the Latin transmission for the proposal that the Shepherd might have circulated initially split in two different books, the first four Visions on the one hand, and the rest of the book with the fifth Vision as introduction.

Here goes the TOC of the issue, for convenience:



The latest JBL: A scroll papyrus of John

The latest JBL is out, 137.4 (2018), including the following article by Geoffrey Smith:

The Willoughby Papyrus: A New Fragment of John 1:49–2:1 (P134) and an Unidentified Christian Text

Here goes the abstract:

Formerly in the possession of Harold Willoughby, professor of early Christian origins at the University of Chicago, this unpublished fragment of the Gospel of John in Greek created a stir when it appeared briefly on a well-known auction site in January 2015. Having obtained permission from the owner to edit and publish the manuscript, I offer in this article the results of my analysis of the so-called Willoughby Papyrus, which I have assigned to the third or fourth century. On the basis of new images of the fragment, I provide a transcription of the text, discuss its apparent bookroll format, and assess its text-critical value. Finally, I present the secondary text on the verso and offer some tentative suggestions about its literary character. Though no more than six fragmentary lines survive on either side, the Willoughby Papyrus is of historical interest for three reasons: (1) it is a rare example of a New Testament fragment in which “God” is not abbreviated as a nomen sacrum, a “sacred name”; (2) it furnishes scholars with the first defensible example of a New Testament text written on the front side of an unused bookroll; and (3) it preserves six lines from an otherwise unknown Christian literary text. The Willoughby Papyrus has the potential to provide fresh insight into the emergence and standardization of nomina sacra conventions, the transition from the bookroll to the codex, and the circulation of canonical and noncanonical Christian writings.

I don’t have access to the article just yet, but I very much look forward to reading it.  In as much as we do have in the Willoughby papyrus a NT text which was written on a scroll I suppose that another strong claim in early Christian studies, linking the format of the codex to the formation or circulation of the canon on the basis that we have no scroll of a New Testament text, falls. Interesting days.


Other articles on manuscripts in the issue are

NTP (Novum Testamentum Patristicum) colloquium in Leuven

Quick note on a three-day meeting which just took place in Leuven:

The Ninth International Colloquium of the Novum Testamentum Patristicum
Patristic Commentaries on New Testament Writings: Aims, Methods, and Strategies

For those who didn’t come across this project just yet, a brief intro: the NTP project started a while back by the late Kurt Niederwimmer (in 1993). The general aim to produce a systematic treatment of the Patristic reception and exegesis of each book of the New Testament, all throughout Late Antiquity.  Almost fifty commentary volumes are projected (and six supplementary volumes on connected topics). Most New Testament books receive one volume treatment, though 1 Peter is divided in two volumes, John in four, and Matthew in six. The first published was the volume on Galatians authored by Martin Meiser, in  2007, followed by a first supplementary volume, which is a collections of essays on the reception of the New Testament in the Apocrypha, in 2014. In 2016, Andreas Merkt published the first volume on 1 Peter, and 2017 Justina C. Metzdorf that on Matthew 19-21.


Back to the colloquium: the hosts were Joseph Verheyden and Tobias Nicklas, editors with Andreas Merkt of the NTP series. There were five papers on Patristic commentaries, and the four presentations from scholars who currently work on NTP volumes:

Lorenzo Perrone, Origenes als Interpret des Neuen Testaments: Hermeneutische Ansätze und auslegungsgeschichtliche Perspektiven

Steven Cooper, Ambrosiaster’s Aims, Methods, and Strategies in his Commentary on the Letter to the Colossians

Alfons Fürst, The Prefaces of Jerome’s Pauline Commentaries

Konrad Huber, “ut non ordo lectionis sed rationis intellegatur” (in Apoc. XI,5): Rekapitulation als ein zentrales hermeneutisches Prinzip im Apokalypsekommentar des Viktorin von Pettau

Sarah Foot, The Bark and the Text: Bede’s Exegetical Method in His New Testament Commentaries


Hans-Ulrich Weidemann, Der NTP-Kommentar zur Johannespassion (Joh 18-19). Konzeption und Stand der Arbeit

Hagit Amirav and Cor Hoogerwerf, The NTP Commentary on Ephesians: Process and Results

Brian Matz, Matthew 13-18 in the NTP: The Forest (Organization Scheme) and Some Trees (Chapter 13)

Dan Batovici, Notes on the Patristic Reception of 1 Peter 4:7-11.

I am currently working on the second NTP volume on 1 Peter (on 1 Pt 2:11-5:14). There are only a handful of exegetical works dealing specifically with 1 Peter, and they tend to be fragmentary (which means that not all verses are commented upon) or focused rather on all Catholic epistles (which means that they are not necessarily very detailed, and might skip verses, and indeed entire sections), or a combination of both. In this paper, I discussed one pericope, 1 Peter 4:7-11, specifically its treatment in the few extant Petrine exegetical works.

SBL Sessions and Papers

I will be giving two papers at the SBL meeting in Denver in these sessions (both on the 19th, so I might be doing something wrong):

Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
4:00 PM to 6:15 PM
Room: 110 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

AnneMarie Luijendijk, Princeton University, Presiding (5 min)
Lincoln H. Blumell, Brigham Young University
The New Testament Text of Didymus the Blind: A Reconsideration of The Tura Papyri and their Text-Critical Value (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Dan Batovici, KU Leuven
Reading Aids in Early Christian Papyri (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (5 min)
AnneMarie Luijendijk, Princeton University
Walking Oxyrhynchus: Local Religion, Early Christian Diversity, and the Vulnerability of Transmission(25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Bruce Griffin, Keiser University–Latin American Campus
Christianization, Romanization, and the Rise of the Codex (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

My abstract:

This paper proposes a discussion of the available theories concerning the purpose, function, and significance of the various para-textual features in early Christian literary papyri which are considered to be reading or lectional aids of various kinds. Based on a study of the papyri of canonical and non-canonical early Christian papyri this paper re-evaluates the basis for identifying the usage of literary papyri in liturgical contexts in Late Antiquity. This would be relevant not only for a better understanding of the late-antique material perusal of early Christian books, but it also serves to call into question the implications that such theories draw with regard to the formation of the New Testament canon.

History of Interpretation
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Centennial Ballroom H (Third Level) – Hyatt Regency (HR)

Mark Elliott, University of St. Andrews, Presiding
Eric Covington, Howard Payne University
Wirkungsgeschichte and Trilateration; or How GPS Can Affect New Testament Exegesis (25 min)
Simeon Burke, University of Edinburgh
The Hermeneutical Benefits of Wirkungsgeschichte: Patristic Applications of the Maxim to “Render to Caesar and to God” as a Case Study (25 min)
Athanasios Despotis, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
An Ancient Mystagogical Perspective on Matthew (25 min)
Stefano Salemi, Oxford-Centre for Hebrew-Jewish Studies/KCL London
New Testament Exegetes of Alexandrian Tradition over the Interpretation of John 19:34 (25 min)
Dan Batovici, KU Leuven
Reception History, Authority, and Marginal Texts (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)

My abstract:

This paper seeks to problematise the particular facet of New Testament Wirkungsgeschichte which involves the reception of what can be conceived of as marginal NT books. Indeed, speaking of the reception of the New Testament as a whole runs the risk of glossing too easily over the fact that the books which compose it have separate reception histories which are different both quantitatively and qualitatively. The study of the reception of marginal New Testament texts, however, especially in relation to that of the reception of non-canonical yet nonetheless authoritative early Christian writings, is crucial for better understanding the dynamics of authority of texts around the margins of the NT canon. Within this framework, the proposed paper will discuss the nature of the authority assigned to a marginal New Testament letter – 1 Peter – in Late Antiquity.

And, to round this off, here are the other Leuven papers at SBL:

Bert Jacobs, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Weighing the Qurʾān by the Bible: Dionysius Bar Ṣalībī’s Polemics against the Qurʾān
Session: The Qur’an and the Biblical Tradition (IQSA)
11/18/2018 | 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM |  Room: 709 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Danilo Verde, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
“You Have Girded Me with Strength for the Fight” (Ps 18:40): Building Resilience through the Words of the First Book of the Psalter
Session: Biblical Literature and the Hermeneutics of Trauma
11/19/2018 | 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM | Room: Mile High Ballroom 2B (Lower Level) – Convention Center (CC)

David Van Acker, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
The Conjunctive Accents in Relative Clauses
Johan de Joode, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Spelling Richness and Spelling Uniformity: Majority and Minority Spellings in the Masoretic Text
Session: Masoretic Studies
11/19/2018 | 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM | Room: Mile High Ballroom 1A (Lower Level) – Convention Center (CC)

Pierre Van Hecke, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
The Linguistic Similarity between Qumran’s Core Texts: A Computational Stylistic Approach
Session: Qumran
11/19/2018 | 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM | Room: Capitol Ballroom 6 (Fourth Level) – Hyatt Regency (HR)

Mathias Coeckelbergs, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Johan de Joode, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
FastText: A Computational Semantic Approach to Lexical Choice in the Hebrew Bible
Session: Biblical Lexicography
11/20/2018 | 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM | Room: 402 (Street Level) – Convention Center (CC)


Report: The Dumbarton Oaks/HMML Syriac Summer School

For five weeks in July and August I was fortunate to take part in the Dumbarton Oaks/HMML Syriac Summer School. I do like a good summer school – especially one in which you gain a new ‘tool’ – and over time I have participated in a handful of good ones. This has been one of the best so far.

Here goes a brief report.


The overall format involved language classes in the morning and lectures on Syriac studies (for the most part) in the afternoon. (The classes were held in the Wallin Classroom, pictured below, beyond the glass wall.)


The tools used for the language classes were J.F. Coakley, Robinson’s Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac Grammar, 6th ed. (2013) and G.A. Kiraz, Verbal Paradigms in Syriac (2010). Instructors Jeffrey Wickes (Saint Louis University), for the most part, and David Calabro (HMML) took us through the grammar in two weeks an a half. For the remaining two weeks and a half Emanuel Fiano (Fordham) took us through a range of Syriac texts from Bardasain, Aphrahat, Isaac of Niniveh, and from the Apocalypse of Ps.-Methodius, as well as a couple of unvocalised Psalms. These parts involved a lot of work and required three to six hours of daily homework.

In addition, in a couple of afternoon sessions with Jeffrey Wickes we read through chrestomathies (from the Gospel of John and Thomas of Marga), and in two others with manuscript reading (which was particularly fun to do). Another session with Emanuel Fiano was devoted to the various Syriac scripts.

Most afternoon sessions, however, were geared toward various aspects of current Syriac studies. We had lectures from Columba Stewart (Executive Director of HMML) on the activity of HMML (a remarkable project!), then on Syriac Asceticism and Monasticism, Yota Batsaki (Executive Director of Dumbarton Oaks) on Dumbarton Oaks, Jeanne-Nicole Saint-Laurent (Marquette) on (do visit!) via Skype, Jeffrey Wickes on the Syriac bible and exegetical literature, Scott Johnson (University of Oklahoma) on early Syriac literature, and Jack Tannous (Princeton) on Syriac and Islamic studies (via Skype). A couple of further sessions, lead by Adam Bursi (Utrecht), were offered as introduction to vHMML and to various instrumenta for Syriac studies (bibliographies, book series, journals).

The group was just big (or small) enough for this: ten students which were PhD candidates (some first year, others more advanced) and postdocs or early career scholars. I believe only three had a background in other semitic languages, the rest of the group being trained in classics (which was helpful to me).

The summer school’s Fellowship awarded to the participants covered all costs excluding travel. It therefore included, apart from tuition, accommodation and three meals (all you can eat!) a day in Saint John’s Refectory for the five weeks of the course, as well as generous refreshments during coffee breaks. The home team, lead by Tim Ternes (Director of the HMML Programming), was extremely helpful and efficient; thanks are due to the excellent Maren Curley, Elizabeth Boyd, Julie Dietman, and Tim!

All in all, a rewarding, world class, programme.

The HMML is part of the Alcuin Library of the Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The whole site is a green, small, campus, with two lovely lakes around it, with surprisingly friendly fish in them.


Pictures by Madalina Toca & D.B., 2018.

Papyri between early Christian and Classical studies

If you happen to be in Leuven this week and have an interest in early Christian papyri, I’ll be delivering on Thursday a paper in the doctoral seminar of the Institute of Classical Studies on “Early Christian Papyri between Classical and Theological Studies”. Here’s the abstract:

The papyri finds from the turn of the ninth century proved immensely fruitful for several fields in humanities – antique and late-antique history, classics, theology and early-Christian studies – as many unknown classical or theological texts have emerged. The different disciplines took different routes as they pursued different aims, with specific sets of tools and approaches. However, various disagreements have emerged in particular between classical studies and theology (more exactly between papyrology and early Christian studies), for instance with regard how the papyri are dated and are used to reconstruct a virtually ‘exceptional’ history of early Christianity. The aim of this paper is to map out the persistent tension between two fields as they approach and assess the same set of data: the papyrus finds in Egypt at the beginning of last century. Brought about not only by the different methodologies, but also by differing sets of assumptions, this tension can be shown to be not only instructive, but ultimately productive.

This will be preceded by the following paper:

Emanuel Zingg, “The New Verse Inscription from Mylasa. An Overview”

In September 2014, archaeologists found in Mylasa (modern Milas, Turkey) a huge stele from the beginning of the 2nd cent. BC. It contains the second longest Greek verse inscription known so far, a hymn to an unknown superhuman being. The lecture tries to give a first overview of the poem.

This would be on Thursday 7 June (12-2 pm), in the Romero room of the Collegium Veteranorum (COVE 02.10, Sint-Michielsstraat 2-4, Leuven).

Coptic and Latin versions of the Shepherd

I have just received the latest issue of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses – 94.1 (2018), contents here – which includes a review article I wrote on the recent critical edition of the Shepherd of Hermas in Latin, the so-called ‘Vulgata’ version. You can find it uploaded here.

For those interested in OT metaphors, this issue also features an article from my colleague, Danilo Verde, “Playing Hard to Get: The Elusive Woman in Song 4:4,” ETL 94.1 (2018) 1-25. The abstract goes as follows: “The present essay analyses the simile of Song 4,4, which portrays the woman’s neck as an armed tower. On the syntactic level, it is argued that Song 4,4 presents a case of inverted word order that underscores the simile in question. On the semantic/conceptual level, it is argued that Song 4,4 presents an overlap of the domains CITY and WAR to describe the woman as having the power of simultaneously attracting and parrying the man’s courtship. On the communicative level, it is argued that the underlying metaphor WOMAN IS FORTIFIED CITY twists the mirror metaphor DEFEATED CITY IS WOMAN, which is very wide-spread in both the Hebrew Bible and cognate literature. In doing so, Song 4,4 has the effect of empowering the woman and challenging not only the Song’s beloved man, but also androcentric comprehensions of both eros and woman common to both biblical literature and its cultural milieu.”

Recently was also published the latest issue of Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin – 3.2 (2017), available here – including an article on Hermas’ Coptic reception, which I uploaded here.

This issue of COMSt Bulletin also includes a report by Madalina Toca on a conference panel on “Versions of Late-Antique Christian Literature” organised at the EASR conference in Leuven last year, uploaded here.

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