Monday, 15 December 2014

Bible as Notepad conference: Introductory talk

The Bible as Notepad Conference is concluded. I have uploaded my introductory talk on Here:

SBL Pseudepigrapha Section call for papers, 2015 Annual Meeting

The SBL Pseudepigrapha Section Call for papers for the 2015 Annual Meeting is out:

The Pseudepigrapha Section is planning to have three sessions at the 2015 meeting in Atlanta. The first, closed session, jointly organized with the Hellenistic Judaism section, will be organized around Benjamin G. Wright’s new CEJL volume on the Letter of Aristeas. The second session, “Pseudepigrapha and Method,” is an open session. We invite papers that explore the methodological approaches that have shaped the study of the Pseudepigrapha, current methodological challenges in the study of the Pseudepigrapha, or the ways in which studies of the Pseudepigrapha can offer methodological corrections to the wider study of early Jewish and Christian texts and contexts. The third session is also an open session. Young scholars and new voices in Pseudepigrapha Studies are especially encouraged to submit abstracts.

More information here:

Monday, 8 December 2014

Exhibit of annotated Scandinavian Bibles

At the occasion of the conference Bible as Notepad starting on Wednesday 10 December we have put together an exhibit of annotated Scandinavian Bibles in the Library at MF Norwegian School of Theology.

The items on display are printed Danish-Norwegian Bibles, Psalters and Postills from the period 1550 - 2013, i.e., the post reformation period, and among them you find some real gems.

The focus of the exhibit is annotations - the short notes, comments, and doodles found in the margins, on flyleaves and pastedowns. These annotations show how owners (lay and learned) have engaged with the Bibles: preparing sermons, reading and studying, commenting, as well as doodling, sharing their private thoughts and episodes from their daily lives, and writing their names and family history.

The exhibition is a cooperation between The Norwegian Bible Society and MF Norwegian School of Theology and will be open until 15 December.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Guest lecture, Eibert Tigchelaar

Professor Eibert Tigchelaar is visiting Oslo and will give a lecture at MF Norwegian School of Theology tomorrow, 26 September, 9:30-12:00 (Auditorium 3).

The title of the lecture is "Looking for Heterogeneity in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Resurrection as Reward for Piety".


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and/as/beyond/towards the Scriptures

The volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the Scriptures (BETL 270) is out. It is edited by Eibert Tigchelaar and contains the papers from the 2012 Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniensium.

My essay on 2 Baruch and the Scriptures, "Die syrische Baruch-Apokalypse und die Schriften - die syrische Baruch-Apokalypse als Schrift" is in there somewhere. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Jeremiah conference (Ascona) and research stay in Milan

I am off to Ascona in Switzerland to attend the conference Jeremiah's Scriptures: Production, Reception, Interaction, Transformation (22 - 26 June), organized by Hindy Najman and Konrad Schmid.

Together with Matthias Henze I am presenting the paper "Jeremiah and Baruch in 2 Baruch". In this paper we address the complex literary and text historical relationships between 2 Baruch and Jeremiah. In my part of the paper I discuss the relationship between the two in the Syriac History of transmission, asking how this transmission process affected the discourses on Jeremiah and Baruch, the relationship between them and the textual units associated with the figures. The explicit focus of my part of the paper is the so-called Epistle of Baruch (e.g., 2 Bar 78-87) in Syriac manuscript sources. In the Syriac (pre 10th-12th century) context the Epistle, assumed by most scholars to be originally excerpted from 2 Baruch, was appended to the larger Jeremiah corpus in biblical manuscripts and ascribed to Jeremiah in lectionaries. This transmission process also illustrates how collections and orders of biblical books, contents of transmitted texts, and cultural identifications of text units may be transformed as they circulate.

More on the Epistle of Baruch here later. I am working on three articles on there different issues relating to it; one dealing with the relationship between 2 Baruch/the Epistle and Jeremiah (proceedings, above), another on the common use of the various mss containing the Jeremianic corpus-version of the Epistle as a "text witness" to the Epistle as an attached part of 2 Baruch (Snapshots of Evolving Traditions, Eds. Lied and Lundhaug) and one on textual history and codicological details for the forthcoming Textual History of the Bible (Eds., Tov/Lange/Henze).

Once the conference is over I am heading to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan to work on the Codex Ambrosianus and a couple of other mss. I will blog on this while there.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bible as Notepad. Conference in Oslo

In cooperation with the Schøyen Collection, The Norwegian Bible Society, MF Norwegian School of Theology, the research project "'Biblical' Texts before the Bible," and with the assistance of Matthew P. Monger, I am putting together the conference Bible as Notepad. As the title indicates, the topic of the conference is annotations of various sorts in late antique and medieval manuscripts. An exquisite group of scholars from various countries and disciplines will come to Oslo to share their knowledge and reflections on this important yet understudied topic.

The conference takes place at MF Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo, 10-12 December 2014. There is room for a limited number of non-paper giving attendees. To register please visit, or contact


Wednesday 10 December

9.00 Formal opening
Rector Vidar L. Haanes

9.15 Liv Ingeborg Lied
“Introductory reflections: Bible as notepad”

9.45 Marilena Maniaci
“Written evidence in the Italian Giant Bibles: around and beyond the sacred text”

10.45 Coffee break

11.00 Nurit Pasternak
“The hand of the Florentine humanist Giannozzo Manetti in his Hebrew manuscripts”

12.00 Lunch

13.00 James R. Davila
“Notes in the text?  The unique secondary readings in MS Leiden Or. 4730's text of the Hekhalot Rabbati”

14.00 Loren Stuckenbruck
"Marginal notes on the liturgical use of Enoch in the Ethiopian tradition"

16.30 Exhibit of annotated manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection. By invitation only

20.00 Dinner


09.00 Patrick Andrist
“Scholarly and non-scholarly notes in the margin of the Greek Bible”

10.00 Matthew P. Monger
“The names of the wives of the Patriarchs in the margins of Minuscule 135 of the LXX (Univ.-Bibl., A.N. III. 13)”

11.00 Coffee break

11.15 Michael Philip Penn
“Commenting on Chalcedon”

12.15 Lunch

13.30 Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin
“The poetic art of East and West-Syriac colophons”

14.30 Jeff Childers
Divining Gospel: Classifying manuscripts of John used in Sortilege”

15.30 Coffee break

16.00 Hindy Najman
“‘Philologie der Philosophie’: revisiting the limits and possibilities of philology”

17.00 Otfried Czaika
“Used theological and spiritual books in Scandinavia ca 1450-1600”

18.00 Exhibit of Scandinavian bibles
Hans-Olav Mørk

20.00 Dinner


08.30 Malachi Beit-Arié
“Glosses by users of Hebrew handwritten books

09.30 Daniel Falk
“Marginal marks in Psalms scrolls and liturgical manuscripts from Qumran”

10.30 Break

10.45 Kipp Davis
“Margins as media:  The long insertion in 4QJer-a (4Q70)”

11.45 Årstein Justnes and Torleif Elgvin
“In the footsteps of the scribes of the great Isaiah scroll (1QIsa a)”

13.00 Lunch

14.00 End of conference

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Syriac bindings in the British Library - follow up

The post "A sense of detachment" has just been published over at the British Library Medieval manuscripts blog. The post contains some interesting information about the 18th-19th century practice of routinely rebinding newly-arrived manuscripts. Syriac codices and bindings are not  explicitly mentioned, but the blog post confirms some of the information posted on this blog here.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Scandinavian bibles as cultural artefacts - a popularized piece in Norwegian

I am a columnist in the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land. The piece below, "The Bible Artefact", was published last weekend and is relevant also for readers of this blog - at least those of you who read a Scandinavian language (alternatively: run it through Google Translate at your own risk). I deal with some cultural functions of Norwegian/Scandinavian bible artefacts beyond their functions as text carriers. Bibles are, among other things, interior decorating style icons, an integrated part of the festive dress of the confirmand, a diary/notebook, and a scrapbook.



Gå bort til bokhylla og ta ned Bibelen. Du holder nå en gjenstand i hånda.

Det er vel knapt en overdrivelse å si at Bibelen er en av kristenhetens viktigste bøker. Det er heller ingen overdrivelse å si at det er en av verdens mest utforskede bøker. Tekstene i bibelen har blitt studert og analysert så lenge de har eksistert, men bibelforskere har hatt en tendens til å glemme er at når bibeltekstene samles og bindes sammen av en perm så blir det enkelte bibel-eksemplaret også en materielt eksisterende ting. Bibelen er i så måte en ting som har betydd og som betyr noe for folk flest, som befolker stuer og nattbordsskuffer i det ganske land, som kan anskaffes for å matche et festantrekk, og som minner, livs- og familiehistorie bokstavelig talt skrives inn i.

Bibelen er en interiør-ting. Vi vet at Bibelen er blant Norges mest solgte bøker og derfor nødvendigvis må befinne seg i mange norske hjem. Noen oppbevarer nok ganske enkelt Bibelen i bokhyllen. Andre, derimot, gjør Bibelen – og aller helst oldemors velbrukte bibel – til en meningsladet pyntegjenstand. Fra 2005-2010 var såkalt Fransk land-stil en dominerende interiørtrend i Norden, den dikterte utsmykningen av mange norske hushold også, og tilhengerne av denne interiørstilen brukte bibler som en sentral stilmarkør. Man skulle ha en velbrukt, gammeldags bibel liggende på avlastningsbordet ved sofaen, på samme måte som man også skulle ha mariastatuetter, englevinger, sofaputer med fransk tekst og støvete roser i en gammel kaffekanne av sølvplett til å pynte opp i stuen.

Bibelen er også en trendy del av et antrekk eller en personlig klesstil. Bibeltingen er med andre ord mote. Du kan få kjøpt bibler i svart, brunt eller burgunder lær, i orange eller røde toner, samt i såkalte trend-utgaver med urban ekstravagansa på coveret. Det er ikke noe nytt ved dette. Gå en generasjon tilbake og finn bibler og salmebøker med pusete fløyelstrekk – alt for å stemme overens med den håpefulle konfirmants nyinnkjøpte kjole.

Noen ganger er Bibelen en dagbok. Den er med andre ord fortsatt bibel, men det er vel så mye margene og de tomme sidene nærmest permen som selve bibelteksten som sier noe om hva denne tingen er for den som har brukt den. Her skrives det av hjertens lyst – små og store livshendelser. Blant annet, «Søndag den 4 August 1958. ‘Kari’ og jeg er på bærtur (blåbær) i dag på […]. Ganske bra med bær. Vi holdt matpause ved hytta kl 16 (4)». Det er kanskje ikke så langt fra Galilea til hjemlig blåbærskog likevel.

Den mest rørende bruken av Bibelen som materiell ting er likevel bruken av den som arkiv for livs- og familiehistorie. Nordmenn har i flere generasjoner skrevet slektens liv inn i permer og flygeblad. Fødsler, dåp, ekteskapsinngåelse og død noteres med fin løkkeskrift. Slekters gang dokumenteres med innstukne foldere fra dåpsgudstjenester og begravelser, og brev og julekort av spesiell betydning oppbevares trygt mellom permene. Og så rapporteres det fra gamlehjemmet, at noen ganger, når det ryddes etter et langt liv som stille har forlatt oss, så daler et lettkledd ungdomsbilde av beboerens kone ut av bibelen som ligger på nattbordskanten: Et minne fra forlovelsestid og ungdoms prakt stukket inn et sted mellom Lukas og Johannes. Vurderer vi Bibelen som hellig tekst, kan det synes merkelig at 50-tallets nordiske skjønnhet skal pynte opp evangelieteksten, men ser vi bibler som kjære gjenstander med en spesiell plass og historie i folk flests liv er ingenting mer naturlig enn å oppbevare det du har kjærest der det ligger som tryggest.

Holder du bibel-tingen i hånda, eller ligger den kanskje til pynt borte på konsollbordet? Åpne den nå og se hvilke livshistorier tingen kan by deg.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

2 Baruch and 4 Ezra: Another Syriac lectionary manuscript

Today I have some real news for those of you who are fans of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra: Lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra have been identified in yet another, hitherto unpublished, Syriac lectionary manuscript.

Manuscripts containing (parts of) 2 Baruch, in particular, do not come to light very often. This is the first time since the late 1970s/early 1980s that a manuscript containing any part of 2 Baruch surfaces. The last manuscript to appear was the Arabic Mount Sinai manuscript, nr. 589 of the Atiya handlist. The last time a lectionary manuscript containing a lection from 2 Baruch was identified was back in the early 1970s (Ms 77 of the A Konath collection). That is forty years ago.

Sebastian Brock and Lucas Van Rompay's Catalogue of the Syriac Manuscripts and Fragments in the Library of the Deir al-Surian, Wadi Al-Natrun(Egypt) has just been published by Peeters Press. Congratulations to the editors! This is a great accomplishment and very helpful for many of us.

One of the manuscripts described in the new catalogue is Dayr al-Suryan Ms 33 (DS Syr 33), formerly MK 10bis. Unlike so many other codices, this lectionary manuscript was apparently not brought to Europe in the 19th century but remained in the Syrian Monastery. Although the existence of the manuscript was already known, the content (i.e., the identity and order of the lections) of this lectionary manuscript has as far as I know not been published before, and it has definitely not been known among scholars of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra. I have not had the chance to examine DS Syr 33 myself, but Brock generously shared his entry on the manuscript with me some time ago and I have had the opportunity to work on it for a while.

According to Brock, DS Syr 33 probably dates from the 13th century. The manuscript unfortunately lacks the last folios and hence the colophon (which was assumedly there), but the hand resembles the hand responsible for DS Syr 42, which was copied in Tripoli, Lebanon, in 1221. It is unknown whether DS Syr 33 was copied in the Syrian Monastery, or whether the manuscript was brought there later on. In any case, the list of readings of the manuscript is very similar, partly identical, with the order of lections in Add 14686 of the British Library, which according to the colophon was copied in the monastery in 1255. Add 14686 is a manuscript I have worked on for a while now. (More on this manuscript on this blog later.)

The lection from 2 Baruch in Ds Syr 33 is 2 Bar 44:9-15, identified in the rubric as “From Baruch the Prophet”. It is found on folios 74v-75r and was read on the Sunday of the Departed. There are two lections from 4 Ezra in the lectionary manuscript. The first, 4 Ezra 7:26-42 identified as “From the Prophecy of Ezra”, is found on folios 72v-74v and was read immediately before the lection from 2 Baruch on the Sunday of the Departed.  The second lection, 4 Ezra 6:18-28 (“From Ezra the Prophet”) is one of the readings for the Feast of Mount Tabor (ff. 222r-223r).

As could be suspected due to the similarities between the two manuscripts, the lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra and the occasions of reading in Ds Syr 33 are the same as in Add 14686. In Add 14686, 4 Ezra 12:31-38 is also read at the event of the Revelation of Joseph (ff. 16r-v). It is possible that this event and the reading were originally there in DS Syr 33 as well, but the relevant folios are unfortunately missing from the codex. We don’t know what the relationship between the two manuscripts is in terms of production and copying, but it is at least likely that DS Syr 33 is  somewhat older than Add 14686. In effect, DS Syr 33 is probably the oldest known lectionary manuscript attesting to the explicit liturgical use of a passage from 2 Baruch.

So, what’s new and why is this important?

The fact that lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra were read during worship by groups of medieval Syriac Christians have been known for a while (W. Baars, 1963; L.I.Lied, 2013). However, what DS Syr 33 shows us is that there probably was a “chain of transmission” (I hesitate using “tradition”) of reading lections from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra in West Syriac worship practice – at least in some monastic milieus in the Middle Ages. I neither suggest that these lections and the texts they were excerpted from were read by everyone, nor that they were the most important texts in the world. I am saying that they were in use in a liturgical tradition that is known for its lack of uniformity (or in other words: its ability to adjust and to use texts and traditions creatively). DS Syr 33 is so far the fifth known Syriac manuscript from this period that contains lections from both or one of these texts. It shows us that passages once excerpted from 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra were read as "scripture"/biblical books/parts of the “biblical story”/associated with the figures Baruch and Ezra, and that they continued to be copied as such.  

It is a big day! Go celebrate!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

GJW and the status of online academic discussion: will you cite this?

Thursday last week (10 April) the results of the testing of the papyrus fragment containing the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife (GJW) were finally published in the Harvard Theological Review (HTR 107/2), one and a half year after Karen L. King first presented a paper on it at the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome (18 September 2012). The current issue of HTR includes, e.g., King's revised paper "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...': A New Coptic Papyrus Fragment", three essays presenting the various test results (Yardley & Hagadorn; Azzarelli, Goods & Swager; Hodgins), an essay on paleographical features by Macolm Choat, Leo Depuydt 's  discussion of authenticity, in addition to King's response to Depuydt.
Both the test results and the formal publication of King's revised article have been eagerly awaited. At the same time, although not "properly published" until last week (the first version of the article was made available at the Harvard Divinity School website), GJW and King's interpretation of it were discussed with high intensity in a number of widely read blogs and other online fora from the very moment of its initial mention in Rome. During the weeks and months that followed, online academic discussion among specialists in the field contributed both important new information and alternative perspectives that challenged and supported King's initial points of view, the most intense discussion concerned the assumed status of the fragment as a possible modern forgery.
This post will neither discuss aspects of the textual contents of GJW nor the possible status of the fragment or its text as a forgery - I am not a Coptologist. Rather, this post concerns the function, use and status of online academic discussions: the discussions that take place in blogs, in their commentary fields, and sometimes even on Facebook, and which sometimes may turn out to make a difference to wider academic debates. Just like numerous others, I have followed the discussions on GJW online ever since a first post appeared on my Facebook newsfeed while King was still on stage in Rome. And since I am interested in media culture and the history of editing and publishing, I have been curious about whether, how, and the extent to which, these online platforms and the discussions taking place there would in fact be used and referred to when the traditionally published article on the issue would finally materialize. 
I have read through King's essay, as well as other relevant articles of the current issue of HTR (the online, html-version) with this in mind, looking for allusions and references to, as well as explicit mention of online contributions. Here is what I find:
On the one hand, the online discussion is indeed referred to in King's essay. In the introduction to her essay, King explicitly mentions contributions in online media as one among other reasons for her revision. In other words, these online contributions figure alongside "three peer reviews" and "private communications"  as inputs King have taken seriously and allowed to shape the revised version of her essay. In a history of publishing perspective, this is interesting since it brings in online media contributions as a legitimate part of the shaping of a published academic essay. 
On the other hand, the online discussion and individual contributions still serve primarily as intertexts, or as backdrops in King's essay. In other words, the online discussion may well be affecting the choice of topics, focus, and be decisive for the level of detail in discussions, but it is not referred to explicitly as such. When reading, for instance, the sections on "Language" and "Dating the Manuscript and Question of Forgery", several passages ring a bell, for instance the mention of the speculation about the ink on the lower layers of the recto fibers, the clumsiness of the script, the use of a brush, etc. One could, further, have expected references to the online debate of or individual contributions to the discussion of the variant spelling of  "my wife". Even though all these issues were discussed on various occasions by identifiable scholars online, these individual contributions are not explicitly mentioned.
When looking at the sources referred to in the footnotes in King's essay, the explicit references to online contributions to the debate in question are not many. I find ten references (n. 52; 112; 114; 116; 117), most of them appearing in the final part of the essay where King explicitly addresses the issue of forgery. In the rest of the essay, references to online debates are scarce, in fact I see only one: the reference to Hugo Lundhaug and Alin Suciu's negative aorist (n. 52). The effect is that contributions made by individual scholars are hard to retrieve, and the existence of the cultural phenomenon/social practice of online academic debate is blurred.
This is interesting, since in other essays in HTR, the place of the online discussion is much more prominent. In the essay "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A Preliminary Paleographical Assessment," for instance, Malcolm Choat shares the following spot-on reflection, capturing much of the complexity involved:
"As the discussion concerning this fragment has taken place almost exclusively online or via the media since it was made public, I respond here inter alia to points that have been raised by various commentators in conversation (which I have not attributed) and in fora such as blogs: [Choat mentions blog posts by Head, Lundhaug & Suciu, Askeland, and Peppard]. I should emphasize (with apologies to others who have contributed paleographical observations) that this list is not exhaustive and that I do not respond here to every point made in these blogs (n. 3)".
As Choat points out, between the initial presentation in Rome and the publication of HTR 107, important parts of the discussion has taken place online, and Choat considers his essay as, among other things, a response to these debates.
For those of us who either participate in online academic debates from time to time, who read and learn from others who are contributing to these debates, or who publish academic books and essays and wonder how to deal with and refer to online debates Choat's reflections matter. We are doing scholarship at a time when the conditions of scholarly discussion and circulation of information, as well as knowledge-sharing and publication practices are changing. Online media change the pace of discussion and offer venues for scholarly exchange outside the formally accredited academic channels. This gives us new possibilities for sharing and learning. At the same time, the status of  online discussions in social/new media are somewhat vague, and the platforms that mediate them are sometime not regarded as "scholarly enough" to even be cited. When the first suggestion of the parallel between the HTR text and Gospel of Thomas line 7 was assumedly made in a comment on Facebook, do you refer to it, or do you not? 
How we refer to online discussions and individual contributions on line is still not settled. It is still not entirely clear who "owns" the utterances, and the extent to which we feel that we should, or have to, refer to them in traditional channels of publication. To me, the history of discussion of GJW, which is still very much alive both online and offline, is a perfect test case for studying how new scholarly practice matters to the overall academic knowledge production and practices of publication.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Off to Copenhagen

I'm off to Copenhagen to talk about New/Material Philology and my work on the transmission of 2 Baruch.

I am giving a paper at the conference Material Philology in the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Approaches for New Text Editions, noted here before.

“Material Philology, Syriac Manuscript Culture and the Transmission of 2 Baruch”
In this paper, I will discuss some of the benefits and challenges of applying a Material/New Philology perspective to the study of the transmission of 2 Baruch in Syriac Manuscripts. Scholars commonly approach 2 Baruch as a first or second century ce, Jewish, non-canonical apocalyptic text. However, the manuscripts in which this work, or parts of this work, has survived, are much younger. The manuscripts are primarily Syriac manuscripts, dating from the seventh to the fifteenth century. Whereas these manuscripts have typically been used as witnesses to the assumed older text, a Material Philology perspective may open up for new approaches to 2 Baruch. A study of these manuscripts as Syriac cultural artefacts and text carriers allows us, first, to study 2 Baruch in context of Syriac manuscripts and media culture as a work that in fact meant something to those who decided to copy and include it in, for instance, a seventh century Old Testament pandect. And second, a study of the transmission of 2 Baruch in accordance with a Material Philology approach will by necessity pinpoint some key methodological challenges to the more traditional historical critical paradigm, since a closer look at the manuscripts show that 2 Baruch was not only “transmitted”, but also transformed. This paper will present and contextualize the perspective of Material Philology, discuss the transmission and transformation of 2 Baruch as one example of how the perspective can be applied, and reflect on how this perspective can be used and possibly improved by scholars working on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

And while I am there I am also giving a lecture on New/Material Philology at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Copenhagen - in Norwegian (!).

"Materiell filologi: Fra 'tekstvitner' til 'kulturelle artefakter'"

"Materiell filologi" er en av flere nyere retninger innen filologi/"editorial theory" som i dag utfordrer - og er i dialog med - det dominerende historisk-kritiske filologiske paradigmet, både i bibelvitenskapene og i andre akademiske felt som tradisjonelt har beskjeftiget seg med antikke tekster. Målet for et historisk-kritisk paradigme har vært å (1) rekonstruere den tidligst mulige teksten basert på de manuskriptene vi har, for deretter å (2) fortolke den rekonstruerte teksten i lys av den historiske konteksten teksten antas å ha vært produsert i. Fokuset for såkalt materiell filologi, derimot, er å studerer tekster som (1) integrerte deler av historisk eksisterende manuskripter og (2) å fortolke disse i lys av den konteksten som manuskriptet og den historiske bruken av det gir. Materiell filologi tar med andre ord utgangspunkt i enkeltstående manuskripter som meningsfulle historiske artefakter og leser tekstversjonene som disse manuskriptene inneholder som interessante tekster i og for seg -- ikke som vitner til en opprinnelig eller tidlig tekst. Denne forelesningen vil gi en introduksjon til materiell filologi, en diskusjon av fordeler og utfordringer ved å anvende dette perspektivet, samt eksempler på hvordan perspektivet kan være med på å gi nye innfallsvinkler til studiet av antatt antikke tekster.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Women scribes and copyists: a note on Syriac manuscripts on the occasion of the International Women's Day (8 March)

8 March is International Women’s Day. This fact has inspired the current post on women scribes and copyists.

During the last couple of years I have worked my way through library catalogues and read and translated colophons and notes in various Syriac manuscripts.  As pointed out on this blog earlier,  Syriac manuscripts will commonly contain such colophons and notes. I have read them with great interest, looking mainly for (1) references to manuscript circulation and (2) annotations referring to collaborate and ongoing text production beyond the assumed first hand, in the form of continuing engagement with the manuscript text. 

Now, Syriac colophons and notes will typically contain select information about some of those who engaged with the manuscripts. Quite often the scribe will record his name, as well as the place and the date of the completion of the manuscript. Sometimes copyists, correctors and binders will write their names and a short description of their activities too. Finally, we find the names of donators, owners and a few active readers. The side effect of the fact that those who engaged with the manuscripts tended to write their names in the codices is that we also know that the large majority of the scribes, copyists, etc., were men.

Honestly, in the Syriac manuscripts I have come across so far I have not seen many identifiable traces of women’s engagement with manuscripts. Sure, women are described in the literary texts contained in the columns of the manuscripts – some biblical women relatively often (Mary, Shmuni) – and in a couple of manuscripts historical women are mentioned in notes in the margins and on flyleaves. Some mothers and daughters are for instance mentioned in ownership notes. However, these notes are assumedly written by men.  

Other traces of women's manuscript engagement in the form of scribal, corrector, copyist or ownership notes are not particularly frequent. To me that is reason enough to highlight it whenever I come across signs of women’s manuscript practices.

So far I have seen notes from two identifiable women, testifying to their engagement with the manuscripts.

One note assumedly written by a woman is a colophon in a manuscript kept at the British Library, Sloane 3597. This manuscript is described by William Wright in his Catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum acquired since the Year 1838 (volume I, pp. 236-237) (here). The manuscript, which is dated 1701-2 and copied in Lebanon, is a collection of texts for various offices. I had a look at the manuscript and its colophon when I visited the library last year. This colophon says that the manuscript was written by Maryam, daughter of the priest Yohannan. She (of course) describes herself in accordance with the tradition of scribal humbleness as the greatest sinner (fem.) there is (folio 85r).

The other note is found in a Garshuni manuscript described by William F. Macomber in the Final Inventory of the Microfilmed Manuscripts of the St Mark’s Convent Jerusalem. Manuscripts in Syriac, Garshuni, Arabic. April 16, 1990. This manuscript (ms 183) is A Collection of two treatises on confession and eight lives of saints and is dated 1533. I have not seen this manuscript myself, but it is included in Kristian Heal's handlist. According to the cataloguer, Macomber, the note says: “The manuscript belongs to the nun, st’l’bwh, daughter of Mubarak al-Barard‘i from Mardin, who copied it for her own use” (folio 232v/ pages 129-131 of the inventory/SMC 3-5 of the handlist).

These are but two examples of women’s manuscript activities. There may well be more – there are lots of Syriac manuscripts I have not seen and since I have never looked systematically for women’s manuscript practices in the ones I have in fact worked on notes may have escaped me. Hence, this post is more of an inspired tribute to female scribes and copyists on the occasion of the International Women’s Day than a thorough investigation of women’s manuscript practices. However, I know that there is a whole literature on women's manuscript practices out there, mostly on European manuscript traditions, and I hope that someone would write on women manuscript practices in the Syriac tradition too. For all I know, someone may already be working on it. If not, someone should do that job.
Happy Women's Day!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Material (New) Philology and the Dead Sea Scrolls: conference in Copenhagen

The upcoming conference Material Philology and the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Approaches for New Text Editions (3-5 April 2014) should be of interest for readers of this blog. The organizers, the Norwegian project Biblical Texts Older than the Bible and the Danish Qumran Initiative,  have put together an excellent program including some of the leading voices in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or editorial theory.

Program here.
Abstracts here.

Conference invitation here. Register before 20 March.

I'll be there.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Recycling 4 Ezra: 4 Ezra 8:33-41a and 8:41c-47 in an Arabic codex

During a recent stay at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), Nils H. Korsvoll did me the favor of checking Supplément turc 983, fols. 113/126. The item identified by this somewhat obscure shelfmark hides a highly interesting little thing for those of us who are interested in the transmission history of 4 Ezra. It includes a single parchment folio containing Syriac 4 Ezra 8:33-41a on the one side and 8:41c-47 on the other. This folio thus complements our knowledge about the circulation of 4 Ezra, and as far as I know this is only the second attestation of 4 Ezra 8 in Syriac (some other passages are attested in lectionary manuscripts).

The existence of the fragment was made known to (the French reading) public by Bernard Outtier back in 1993 in the article “Un fragment syriaque inédit de IV Esdras” (Apocrypha 4 (1993):19-23). The fragment is also described, but not identified, on page 185 of Françoise Briquel Chatonnet’s catalogue of Syriac manuscripts in the BnF (1997). I came across a reference to it in Les Apocryphes Syriaques, vol 2 (pp. 114-115) where it is mentioned and mistakenly attributed to 2 Baruch. Although published by Outtier some 20 years ago, the fragment is in my experience not generally known among scholars of 4 Ezra. Hence this post.

The folio containing the passages from 4 Ezra illustrates a quite common, and yet fascinating, manuscript practice: folios from manuscripts that were no longer in use were recycled. Together with other parchment folios containing Arabic, Hebrew and Latin texts, the folio containing Syriac 4 Ezra served the purpose of  stiffening and reinforcing the quires of an Arabic paper codex. In other words, the folio was recycled and reused, not due to the literary qualities of the text it contained, but due to the material qualities of the parchment. The size of the folio (170 (165) x 128 mm) was adjusted in order to fit this new purpose, the result being that the upper margin and probably four lines of (precious!) text have quite simply been cut off.

The folio contains 20-21 lines per page, the text is in Estrangelo. Each page has one column of text and narrow margins. The letters are quite large. On the one side of the folio the ink is relatively strong, while on the other side it is rather faint. The margins, particularly the lower margins, contain Arabic notes, some long and some short, written by several hands.

It is not clear whether the codex the folio was once excerpted from contained a “complete version” of 4 Ezra, or whether the codex was an compilation of some sort. Outtier suggests that it might have been part of a liturgical manuscript (p. 19), but he does not provide more information than that. The folio itself does not give away its former function (the first lines of the text have been cut off – there might have been a rubric there but this remains speculation).

The Syriac text of 4 Ezra on the folios are generally quite similar to the Ambrosianus version. There is variance – there always is – but non that changes the content of the text as we know it. I have counted 18 variant readings: some are alternative spellings (e.g. kl instead of kwl), there are differences in punctuation, the relative pronoun is added in a few places, occasional words are added or left out, etc. In addition, three words in verse 40 is left out.

So how about the date of the folio? The Syriac script has been dated paleographically to the 6th century (Outtier) as well as to the 8th-9th century (Briquel Chatonnet). If Outtier is correct, this fragment is among the oldest witnesses we have to any passage of 4 Ezra, possibly as old as, or older than, the version of 4 Ezra in the Codex Ambrosianus. And even if Briquel Chatonnet is right, this 4 Ezra fragment is still pretty early, compared to the Latin, Georgian and Armenian versions. I am however not a paleographer and will not do anything else than to repeat Outtier and Briquel Chatonnet’s points of view on this issue.

Thanks are due to Nils H. Korsvoll!

*This blogpost has been edited*

Friday, 31 January 2014

On manuscripts, preserves and cold feet: Robert Curzon's Visits to Monasteries in the Levant

If you have not yet read it, go to as quickly as you can and buy the classic travel description Visits to Monasteries in the Levant, written in the 1840s by the English baron and gentleman traveler, Robert Curzon, and published in 1849. This book contains Curzon's tales of his visits to monastic communities in, for instance, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey and Greece in the 1830s.

Just like a handful of other European travelers at the time, this English gentleman was out looking for manuscripts to complement his book collection and he ended up buying quite a few on his way. His descriptions of these manuscripts and the monastic communities he visited may contain bits and pieces of historical information. For instance, his story about the search for manuscripts in the storerooms and cellar of the Monastery of the Syrians  in the Wadi al-Natrun, is interesting reading. The story is obviously biased (!), but some of the information about the manuscripts he claims to have seen there in fact finds some support in the actual manuscripts he brought with him back to England. One example is the codex Or.8729, today in the British Library (mentioned on this blog a week ago). This codex contains a note from Curzon saying that this is one of the volumes he found in the monastery's cellar. The exterior and layout of this codex fits the description Curzon gives of one of the manuscripts in his book.

At the same time, Curzon's descriptions are first and foremost tales of the Victorian gentleman traveler’s meeting with the oriental “other”. The book can be read as an orientalizing and deeply Eurocentric story. Curzon’s accounts of the monks' mistreatment of the manuscripts are obviously apologetic, telling his European audience why it is OK for Europeans to bring manuscripts back home from the monasteries in the Middle East. Curzon is basically telling us that the monks are incapable of taking care of them and that the manuscripts should rather be preserved by an educated an enlightened European upper class.

Still, Curzon's stories are sometimes truly hilarious and deserve to be read simply because they are entertaining. He probably intended some of the descriptions to be humorous. But in addition, his accounts of the monk’s engagement with manuscripts are unintentionally witty to us, precisely because they are fabulous examples of 19th century, European, orientalizing discourses.

Two examples:

Curzon describes his search for manuscripts in the Monastery of the Syrians:
"[In the morning I was conducted by the old abbot] into a small upper room in the great square tower, where we found several Coptic manuscripts. ... One of these was a superb manuscript of the Gospels, with commentaries by the early fathers of the church; two others were doing duty as coverings to a couple of large open pots or jars, which had contained preserves, long since evaporated. I was allowed to purchase these vellum manuscripts, as they were considered to be useless to the monks, principally, I believe, because there were no more preserves in the jars."

Or how about this description from a monastery in Greece:
"The agoumenos begged his guest to enter with the monks into the choir, where the almost continual church service was going on, ... each of the monks was standing, to save his bare legs from the damp of the marble floor, upon a great folio volume, which had been removed from the conventual library ... The traveler, on examining these ponderous tomes, found them to be of the greatest value; ... all these he was allowed to carry away in exchange for some footstools or hassocks, which he presented in their stead to the old monks; they were comfortably covered with ketche or felt, and were in many respects more convenient to the inhabitants of the monastery than the manuscripts had been, for many of their antique bindings were ornamented with bosses and nail-heads, which inconvenienced the toes of the unsophisticated congregation who stood upon them without shoes for so many hours in the day."

Now go online and buy the book, paper back or hardcover. 
If you plan to use the book for covering a jar I would recommend the paperback. 

UPDATE: Over at PaleoJudaica James R. Davila points out that Curzon's book is available online. And as Davila also says, this is excellent as long as you have enough jar lids. You find the link to the online version in his post.

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Syriac manuscripts in the British Library: what happened to the bindings?

Those of you who have been working on the Syriac manuscripts in the British Library have probably observed that many of these codices have been rebound after arriving in London. The large majority of the codices that I brought to my desk during my stay there came in a fairly recent museum or letterpress binding.

I am working on Syriac codices that have been used in worship contexts. In other words, I am interested in these codices as ritual artifacts, not only as text carriers. Hence, I am curious about the ways in which the aesthetical qualities of the bindings and the overall layout of the codices mattered to those who engaged with them in those contexts.

During my stay in the British Library last year, I asked the academic librarian if it would be possible to see any codices in original binding, enquiring in particular about 13th century bindings. She kindly offered me
to have a look at two beautiful exemplars: Or. 13465 and Or. 8729. Or 13465 (dated 1475) is a particularly well kept New Testament in an original goatskin binding decorated with brass studs. Or. 8729 is a large and beautiful Gospel lectionary with an equally beautifully engraved leather binding (possibly 13th century). A note explains that this binding has been purposefully preserved. The leather covered wooden boards have been turned inside out, so that the embossed leather – formerly the exterior of the codex – now faces the textblock. I could easily understand why these two items had been kept intact. These were items intended to be admired. The bindings were obviously valuable, and in addition they were so well kept that they were still able to perform their main duty: to protect the vulnerable quires of the textblocks.

When I asked the helpful librarian if it would be possible to see an exemplar with the more typical, less expensive, Syriac binding: simple wooden boards covered partly or in whole with equally simple leather (not the ornamented or engraved type), she unfortunately could not offer me any further assistance.

If William Cureton can be trusted on this issue, however, there probably were a few of that kind in London when the Syriac manuscripts arrived there in the 1840s. In his preface to The Festal Letters of Athanasius (1848), Cureton writes the following about the arrival of a new shipment of manuscripts from the Syrian Monastery (Wadi al-Natrun, Egypt), 12 October 1847:

"The day after their arrival I went to inspect them. At the first view I could almost have imagined that the same portion of the library as had been brought, nearly five years previously, by Dr. Tattam, was again before me in the same condition as I found it when the books were first taken from the cases in which they had been packed, as if the volumes had been stripped by magic of their Russia, and clad in their original wooden binding; and the loose leaves and fragments which had cost me many a toilsome day to collect and arrange, had been again torn asunder, and scattered in almost endless confusion. I found the collection to consist of a considerable number of volumes, and a large quantity of disjointed quires and separate leaves” (Cureton, Festal Letters, xiii-xiv).

So, what happened to all these other bindings mentioned by Cureton: all those half-damaged and not-so-pretty, rather mediocre bindings that were not covering the stunningly beautiful display items, but the codices typically intended for use?

I made some further enquiries at the library and was told that the codices were rebound in the last half of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, most likely by the HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationary Office) for the British Museum (Thanks are due to Martyn Jones and Cordelia Rogerson).

But what really gave me food for thought was that the library could not provide me with more information than this. Apparently no one had kept records or photographs of the process when the codices were in fact rebound. Consequently, if this is correct, we don’t know what happened to the bindings and we can’t find out what the individual volumes would have looked like.

This is quite striking and interesting in so many ways. On the one hand, it is of course honorable that a library will decide to rebind an item that is longer protected from wear and tear. If a codex is not bound properly, it will fall apart and people like me would not be allowed to study it at all. When it comes down to it, Her Majesty's Stationary Office has only done what binders have always done: when a binding is worn out you repair it. If the binding is beyond repair, you rebind the codex. In addition, as Cureton pointed out, many of these manuscripts did not arrive in London as neatly preserved codices. They arrived in the form of dismantled or unbound quires and sometimes in heaps of single leaves. I am of course grateful to the ones who made the effort to gather them, put them orderly back together and bound them so that scholars can study them.

On the other hand, the procedure of not keeping track neither of the original binding of the codices, nor of the process of rebinding them suggests to me that this was done at a time when scholars and librarians were not that interested in manuscripts as cultural and material objects. The texts contained in the codices mattered a lot, and they still do, but the qualities of the artifact per se did not: particularly not if the item was mediocre, low cost, and manufactured for general use. So unfortunately, at a time when the tide has turned and we are increasingly interested in these aspects of manuscripts, this information is no longer available.

If anyone knows more about what happened to the bindings than I do, or if you have other information than the one I got - please write to me or leave a note below and I will update this post. If anyone knows of more medieval Syriac bindings in the British Library, please let me know that as well. I am going back there next month.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A New Philology reading list

I sometimes get asked about literature on New Philology (New Medievalism/Material Philology). This is an incomplete, but hopefully helpful, reading list for those interested in New Philology and related perspectives. The list presents the literature I have read up on and actually applied in my own research, as well as some valuable input from Hugo Lundhaug. Please, feel free to improve the list by adding other helpful references in the commentary field below.

Forerunners and classics
Cerquiglini, Bernard. Éloge de la variante: Histoire critique de la philologie. Paris: Seuil, 1989
  • or read the English version: In Praise of the Variant: A Critical History of Philology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Nichols, Stephen. “Philology in a Manuscript Culture,” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 65/1 (1990):1-10.
  •    And do have a look at the other articles in 65/1 as well

Zumthor, Paul. Essai de poétique médiéval. Paris: Seuil, 1972.
  •           or go for the English translation: Toward a Medieval Poetics. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1992.

Introduction/ “In a nutshell
Driscoll, Matthew J. “Words on the Page: Thoughts on Philology, Old and New.” Pages 85-102 in Creating the Medieval Saga: Versions, Variability, and Editorial Interpretations of Old Norse Saga Literature. Edited by Judy Quinn and Emily Lethbridge. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2010.
  • Have a look also at Judy Quinn’s introduction (pp. 13-37)
  •  Look for other publications by Driscoll

Studies and discussions (selection)
Bradshaw, Paul F. “Liturgy and ‘Living Literature’.” Pages 138-53 in Liturgy in Dialogue:Essays in Memory of Ronald Jasper. Edited by Paul F. Bradshaw and Bryan Spinks.  London: SPCK, 1993.
  • Look for other publications by Bradshaw, particularly if you’re interested in liturgy

Brownlee, Marina S., Kevin Brownlee, and Stephen G. Nichols, eds. The New Medievalism. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1991.
  • Check out the essays by S.G. Nichols, David F. Hult, R. Howard Bloch etc.

Busby, Keith, ed. Towards a Synthesis? Essays on the New Philology. Amsterdam: Ropopi, 1993.
Lied, Liv Ingeborg. “Nachleben and Textual Identity: Variants and Variance in the Reception History of 2 Baruch”. Pages 403-28 in Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall. Edited by Matthias Henze and Gabriele Boccaccini with the collaboration of Jason M Zurawski. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 164. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Lied, Liv Ingeborg and Hugo Lundhaug, eds. Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology. Under contract with De Gruyter. Forthcoming.
  • An introduction to New Philology; studies and discussions of the applicability of the perspective to late ancient and early medieval Christian and Jewish texts.

Lundhaug, Hugo. “Case Study, Coptic: Textual Fluidity and the Nag Hammadi Texts”. Handbook of Oriental Manuscript Studies. Forthcoming.

Lundhaug, Hugo. "Nag Hammadi Codex VII and Monastic Manuscript Culture." Forthcoming in Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Rome, September 17-22, 2012. Edited by Alberto Camplani et al.
  • And have a look at Lundhaug’s NEWCONT project here.

Trachsler, Richard. "How to do Things with Manuscripts: "From Humanist Practice to Recent Textual Criticism," Textual Cultures 1:1 (2006): 5-28.

Varvaro, Alberto. "The 'New Philology' from an Italian Perspective," Text 12 (1999): 49-58.

Philology, background and contextual; related theoretical inputs; other helpful reading
Bryant, John. The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen. Editorial Theory and Literary Criticism. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Petrucci, Armando. Writers and Readers in Medieval Italy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Timpanaro, Sebastiano. Genesis of Lachmann’s Method. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

  • At least, read Glenn W. Most’s “Editor’s Introduction”.

Look also for literature by
Stephen Nichols (follow him on,
John Dagenais (for instance The Ethics of Reading in Manuscript Culture),
Andrew Taylor (Textual Situations: Three Medieval Manuscripts and Their Readers),
Daniel Hobbins (Authorship and Publicity before Print)
Odd Einar Haugen (“The Spirit of Lachmann, the Spirit of Bedier”)