My article on a recently identified papyrus has finally been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL). The small scrap of papyrus, housed in the University of Michigan Papyrology Collection, contains a partial citation of Matthew 1:20 in Greek.
I argue that the papyrus may have served as an amulet, as this passage from the gospel of Matthew is ritually charged (it involves the utterance of an angel), is written on one side, and appears to have been folded. I have tentatively dated the papyrus to the sixth-seventh century C.E. Despite its fairly late date, it is the only amulet to preserve this portion of gospel text and stands among the earliest textual evidence for this particular verse.
Since my book on Greek New Testament amulets was published in 2016, two other amulets have been published, excluding this one: Thomas Wayment published a Greek papyrus amulet containing a citation from Colossians, and Lincoln Blummel published one with a citation from Acts. I recommend that all three of these should be added to the list of amulets that started with Ernst von Dobschütz in 1923, a category that I have argued should be reinstated in the official list of New Testament manuscript, overseen by the Institut for Neutestamentliche Textforschung.
I have uploaded the article to the publications section of this website here.
UPDATE: This fragment has been assigned a number in the Trismegistos/LDAB portal as 754090 and can now be cited accordingly.
Research Webinar on Greek Papyri in the British Library
Rodney Ast (Heidelberg University) and Lajos Berkes (Humboldt University - Berlin), in partnership with Peter Toth at the British Library, are offering in Summer Semester 2018 an online seminar on Greek papyri housed in the BL. The aim of the class is to study and describe Greek documents and literature preserved on papyrus. Each participant will be assigned a group of papyri and the resulting descriptions will contribute to the BL’s freely accessible online catalogue. The texts will include published and unpublished documents (mainly letters and receipts), as well as a small number of published literary texts.
The course, which is free of charge, is open to participants of all levels and will be conducted online Tuesdays, 16:15 - 17:45, Central European Time. The first meeting is scheduled for April 17th and the last for July 10th. The language of instruction is English, and good knowledge of Ancient Greek is required. Certificates will be issued upon successful completion of the class.
Those interested in taking part should send a brief statement of interest and CV to Rodney Ast at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for applications is March 30, 2018.
The course is sponsored by the Ministry for Science, Research and Art in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, as part of Heidelberg University’s "Webinars in Specialized Disciplines" initiative.
From Pagan to Christian: Papyrology, Epigraphy, and the Divine – Colloquium
Baylor University, March 16 and 17
Friday, March 16th: Cox Lecture Hall, lower floor of Armstrong Browning Library.
A lively and helpful discussion is going on at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog on palaeography, prompted by a guest post by famous Italian palaeographer Pasquale Orsini. Orsini is responding to a previous conversation between Peter Malik and Brent Nongbri on the dating of some early Christian manuscripts. I have learned from this post that Orsini has a new book coming out titled, Studies on Greek and Coptic Majuscule Scripts and Books (SMC 15; Berlin: de Gruyter, June 2018), which will doubtless be a very useful resource.
Since Christmas is quickly approaching, I want to point my readers, as I do every year, to a fantastic article by Stephen Carlson published in NTS in 2010 titled, "The Accommodations of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: Κατάλυμα in Luke 2.7." Carlson's study turns the traditional interpretation of the "inn" as being a kind of ancient hotel on its head. He also denies the view that Jesus was born in a stable or barn. Through a detailed lexical and semantic analysis of κατάλυμα and Jewish patrilocal marital customs during the time of Jesus, Carlson demonstrates that the reference to κατάλυμα in Luke 2.7 alludes to a marital chamber built on top, or onto the side of, the main room of a family village home. According to Carlson, the phrase διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι should be rendered "because they did not have room in their place to stay." The reference to "their place" is the marital chamber attached to the family village home of Joseph where the married couple would have stayed for some time before finding their own place. Since there was no space in their room, Mary had to give birth in the larger main room of the house, where the rest of the family slept. Carlson also shows that it was common for a "manger" to be present in the main room of most Jewish homes and so this detail of the birth account is in keeping with Jewish living customs. I quote Carlson's conclusion found on page 342 of the article:
"Luke's infancy narrative therefore presupposes the following events. Joseph took his betrothed Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem (2.5). Bethlehem was his hometown (v. 3) and, in accordance with the patrilocal marital customs of the day, it must also have been the place where they finalized their matrimonial arrangements by bringing her into his home. As a newly married man, he no longer would have to sleep in the main room of the village house with his other relatives, but he and his bride could stay in a marital chamber attached to the house until they could get a place of their own. They stayed there for some time until she came to full term (v. 6), and she gave birth to Jesus in the main room of the house rather than in her marital apartment because it was too small, and she laid the newborn in one of those mangers (v. 7) common to the main room of an ancient farmhouse. After staying at least another forty days in Bethlehem (v. 22; cf. Lev 12.2–8), Joseph and Mary eventually moved to Nazareth to make their home together in her family's town (v. 39; cf. 1.26–27). To be sure, this scenario as presupposed in Luke's infancy account diverges greatly from the conventional Christmas story. There is no inn, no innkeeper, and no stable. But it is grounded in a careful exegesis of the text."
This is one of those articles that can be described as truly being groundbreaking. Carlson's conclusions are so convincing that it would take considerable evidence to overturn them. Indeed, some may be uncomfortable with how this evidence changes the face of the traditional Christmas story and it does throw a wrench in how manger scenes are reenacted every year. But this interpretation is, as Carlson admits, "grounded in a careful exegesis of the text." This article needs to be circulated widely, not only among academics, but also pastors and lay people alike, because it has serious implications for how we should understand this story as told by Luke. Carlson has posted this article on his personal website and it can be found here. Happy reading and happy holidays to all!