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Clivaz, Claire, and Jean Zumstein[Eds.]


Reading New Testament Papyri in Context. Lire les papyrus du Nouveau Testament dans leur contexte. Ed. in collaboration with J. Read-Heimerdinger and Julie Paik.


Leuven u. a.: Uitgeverij Peeters 2011. XIV, 440 S. = Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, 242. Kart. EUR 80,00. ISBN 978-90-429-2506-9.


J. K. Elliott

In 2009 the University of Lausanne hosted a conference entitled »New Testament Egyptian Papyri among Others«. The present book contains edited versions of the papers delivered then, plus some addenda. Its unnecessarily bilingual title does not alert us that two of its chapters are in German (as well as are five in French and nine in English). All the editorial matter throughout is only in English. The articles appear under one of four sub-headings: I Papyrology and the New Testament (with a broad-ranging and important article by Thomas Kraus: »Christliche Papyri aus Ägypten – Kleine Facetten des großen Ganzen: Exemplarische Wechselbeziehungen«); then II Egypt, Papyri and Christians and III Every Papyrus Tells a Story, both of which give some oblique indication of the approach and contents. Following come two highly significant articles (by Xavier Gravend-Tirole and by Thomas Kraus, this time writing in English) placed under a weak and bland sub-heading IV Some Further Considerations. The whole volume is well-edited with fine footnoting and all is immaculately printed, as expected from Uitgeverij Peeters.
The priority allocated to texts on papyri in the register of New Testament manuscripts or in a sequence of manuscripts cited in a critical apparatus may be due to the fact that, although most come from a relatively confined area of eastern Mediterranean lands and consequently possibly deemed unrepresentative of the entire tradition, some of these manuscripts are among the oldest surviving witnesses to that text and thus worthy of highlighting – not that age in itself should determine a manuscript’s importance. The edit­ing of the New Testament text has not taken conspicuous advan­-tage of these witnesses – even the extensive remains in the Chester Beatty or Bodmer collections – despite some observers’ expectations. Nonetheless, many New Testament papyri, especially those – the majority – from Oxyrhynchus merit special attention because with them, rarely, we know the provenance and, thanks to the publication of huge numbers of other papyri from the same source, we possess a wide knowledge of the social, educational, cultural and literary environment in which those Biblical texts were produced, read and used. A popular and learned book, Peter Parsons’ City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish, gives a fascinating insight into the life in Oxyrhynchus revealed from the contents of its heaps of discarded pa­pyri. This book could be required background reading for those who turn to the book under review here.
How to utilise such vivid insights into the contexts in which New Testament papyri were written is the main thrust of this collection of essays. Some contributors adopt recent approaches into New Testament textual criticism that see in all viable readings evidence of the text used, lived and probably treated as canonical by its owners. Ehrman’s and Parker’s names, not surprisingly, crop up in these discussions. The digital age has furthered such a message by democratising many of our base texts. No wonder then that at least one essay here, on the definition of ›canon‹, reflects how sola scriptura may be redefined as pluralibus scripturis (Gravend-Tirole).
If we now live in a world when the creation of one ›original‹ text is chimeric and if, as a consequence, all surviving texts are theore­tically of equal authoritativeness then it is not surprising that we want to, and increasingly are now able to access as many readings as possible. Several articles urge us to squeeze as much information as we can from the manuscripts, through multi-spectral imaging (Michael Theophilos), by comparing readings in as full an apparatus criticus as practicable (Keith Elliott), and by utilising a new quantitative methodology of profiling manuscripts by means of a clustering program that has harnessed a new software processing package (David Pastorelli, who demonstrates it by applying the method to P45 in Mark 6 and 9). In this last article the innovative ›Coherence Based Genealogical Method‹ devised by Gert Mink/ Münster probably merits more than one passing footnote.
But, in general, a key message of this volume is to demonstrate that to read a New Testament manuscript correctly each not only needs to be analysed as an artefact in its own right (its format, its scribal care and handwriting, its respect for accuracy) and to be stud­ied in the light of, and in association with, any allied texts bound alongside it, which may alert us to its original function and use, but also (in the case of the New Testament papyri) must be seen as Christian writings that may be rooted in a broader context in which Jewish as well as pagan papyri may illuminate the Christian texts and vice versa. (See the contributions by Régis Burnet, Daniel Stöckl (ben Ezra) in a characteristically thorough and informative piece, well-furnished with impressive tables, Sylvie Honigman, Paul Schubert). The Salzburg project behind the »Papyrologische Kommentare zum Neuen Testament«, itself a fine example of how our understanding of the New Testament can be enhanced by disclosures from papyri, shows how lexicographical aids may be found in contemporary papyri, in this case to define a hapax in Heb 9:4 (Christian-Jürgen Gruber). One essay looks at Christian education: Kim Haines-Eitzen’s 2009 Lausanne lecture »Christian Manuscripts: Scribes, Habits, Stories« has been repackaged as a brief ar­ticle, now more tellingly and intriguingly entitled »Imagining the Alexandrian Library and a ›Bookish‹ Christianity«.
Some articles look at specific manuscripts e. g. P12, P75, P126 (by Claire Clivaz); the Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas (by Anne Marie Luijendijk); Codex Bezae in Acts and potential allies among the papyri (by Jenny Read-Heimerdinger and Josep Rius-Camps). One essay (by J. Zumstein on P66) shows how even a manu­script’s singular readings may aid exegesis of the Fourth Gospel.
»Instructive«, »inspirational« and »timely« were judgements on the presentations overheard during the Lausanne conference itself. The publication of its papers should serve to alert others to what has been, can be, and should be achieved, now that we are in this brave new world where all readings in all New Testament manu­-scripts have something to impart. Papyrology and New Testament textual criticism (and early Christianity too) have much to contribute, one to the other. The multifaceted and interdisciplinary ap­proach demonstrated here is increasingly recognised and is being acted upon. This book should serve as an additional spur to such initiatives.