Those with an interest in early Christian manuscripts will want to have a look at the latest issue of Adamantius — Journal of the Italian Research Group on Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition. This most recent volume (21) includes a thematic section with several articles dedicated to the Bodmer papyri, the results of a conference on the Bodmer collection held in 2014 (noted on this blog here). The editors' introduction to the issue along with a full table of contents is available here.
For now, I'll just single out a couple of the contributions. Pasquale Orsini provides a palaeographic overview of the collection that includes multiple illustrations and a table presenting his revised palaeographic datings of the codices. Paul Schubert wrestles with the problems of figuring out what books actually make up the "Bodmer papyri" proper. Paola Buzi examines the codicology of the collection. As an appendix to the articles, a very short contribution by me gives an overview of my recent work on the construction of the Bodmer "composite" or "miscellaneous" codex; it can be downloaded here.
Most exciting, however, is the publication of more papyri extracted from the cover of P.Bodm. XXIII (the Coptic Isaiah codex) by Jean-Luc Fournet and Jean Gascou. Among these papyri is a document (now designated P.Bodm. LVI) that mentions the name of a person who is very likely a known individual from Dendera, which is just 30 km east of Dishna, the location that James M. Robinson identified as the site where the codices first appeared on the antiquities market. This would seem to be another piece of evidence pointing to the area around Dishna as the place of the production of the codices (as opposed to Panopolis further north).
The Bodmer papyri have a lot to offer students of early Christianity, but it's a challenging corpus for many reasons, so it's great to see these essays begin to treat some of these problems in a systematic way.
Dr. Brent Nongbri is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University.
What did a scribe do when there was a pre-existing hole, tear or abrasion in their writing material? Did they write around it? Under it? Over it? Patch it up? Write through it?
A few years ago, I realized that not many scholars were drawing attention to this phenomenon. For example, I found many cases where authors made no mention of scribes intentionally avoiding damages in their writing material. But it has become clear to me that scribes were accustomed to negotiating faults and imperfections. In my mind, this raises all sorts of questions about the materiality of written artifacts and even the manufacturing process.
Anyway, I put some of my questions and thoughts down in an article recently published: "Scribes Avoiding Imperfections in Their Writing Matierials," Archiv für Papyrusforschung 61.2 (2015): 371-383.
"This article examines the phenomenon of preexisting imperfections in papyri. Rarely noted by modern commentators, many ancient scribes were forced to deal with different kinds of papyrus damage, such as holes, tears, abrasions, stains, cracks, cuts, etc. This study offers several examples of preexisting damage and demonstrates how some scribes attempted to avoid it. It also raises questions about how modern editors might take scribal avoidances into account in their transcriptions."
A downloadable PDF of this article may be found here.
As I admit in the article, these are all very simple questions. But they are questions rarely asked by editors of papyri. A more significant question is how papyrologists should indicate when a scribe "skips" damage in their writing material. In the editor's transcription? In the notes? I cannot answer that question for the field, but I think there is much more to think about in this regard.
The Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) is a fascinating first or second century Christian treatise dealing with Christian ethics and rituals. Many consider this text to be the earliest example of what might be called a “church manual” or “church orders.”
The chief textual witness to the text of the Didache is an eleventh-century Greek parchment manuscript known as Codex Hierosolymitanus (or Codex H) that was discovered in the late nineteenth century, now kept in Jerusalem. The Church Fathers also cite the Didache, so we know it enjoyed a place within early Christian life and practice. Eusebius, for example, places it alongside non-canonical books that “are known to most of the writers of the Church” (Ecclesiastical History 3.25).
In the early twentieth century, two small Greek parchment codex fragments with portions of the Didache turned up in the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. These represent the earliest Greek witness of the Didache by about 650 years, since the fragments are generally dated to the fourth century (and Codex H to the year 1056). In 1922, British papyrologist Arthur Hunt published the edition of the fragments in the famous Oxyrhynchus Papyri series. The fragments are referred to by their publication number, P.Oxy. 15.1782.
Measuring 5 x 5.8 cm and 5.7 x 4.8 cm, the fragments are part of a “miniature codex.” These palm-sized manuscripts apparently became popular among Christians in the fourth century and beyond, and quite a few of them were discovered in the ancient trash heaps at Oxyrhynchus. The Oxyrhynchus fragments preserve the text of Didache 1:3c-4a and 2:7b—3:2a. Hunt calculated that eight leaves were required for the text intervening between folio 1 verso and folio 2 recto. This is of course assuming that the fragments are part of a continuous text of the Didache and not merely extracts. (I personally think it is highly possible that we have here extracts and not a continuous text, but more on that later.)
The fragments are significant for their age but also because they demonstrate variation in wording compared to the text of Codex H. To wrap up this brief summary, I provide below two good photographs of the two Oxhyrhynchus Didache fragments.