This year’s SBL conference in Baltimore was a spectacular experience. I have attended the SBL every year since 2007 (San Diego) and my young career has benefited tremendously from these conferences. It is such a great opportunity to share one’s own research, hear about the work of others, make connections, and enjoy fellowship with old and new friends. This year, I was privileged to meet for the first time in person several people with whom I have been in contact through e-mail for years. Many of the papers are a hit or miss, but I can highlight two of the good ones. As you might guess, I spend most of my time hanging out in the papyrology and textual criticism sessions and this year there were several excellent papers.
Brent Nongbri’s paper on the Christian Greek literary materials at Oxyrhynchus was fascinating. Brent’s papers are never dull and I always love hearing what he has to say, as he always brings fresh questions to old problems. (And his PowerPoints and handouts are simply the best!) He highlighted the various codicological features of the manuscripts at Oxyrhynchus and raised some interesting questions about the dates of papyri. One of the questions concerned the peak and decline of literary papyri. Copies of the New Testament peak in the 3rd century but drop off in the 4th. Is this due to random survival? Possibly. One statement that piqued my curiosity was this: The Schøyen Leviticus and Joshua, which have been attributed to Oxyrhynchus, might actually be part of the Beatty find (wherever that came from) because these two Schøyen manuscripts look a lot like the Beatty Numbers-Deuteronomy, and because they seem to have been bought in 1930, the same year the Beatty codices hit the antiquities market. I would love to see this developed further and I am sure Brent will say more about it in the future.
Geoffrey Smith and Alexander Kocar’s paper on the status of the Coptic manuscripts from Oxyrhynchus was also very interesting. Geoff and Alex are working on the Coptic manuscripts from Oxyrhynchus, which is a much-needed study. Scholars have often made the claim that almost no Coptic manuscripts were found at Oxyrhynchus, but Geoff claims that there is in fact a minimum of 370 Coptic manuscripts in the collection. The confusion lies in the fact that there are 274 inventory numbers, yet there are multiple fragments for each inventory number. Thus, there may well be more Coptic manuscripts than the minimum number given. What was exciting to me was Geoff’s statement that in season three Coptic manuscripts were found among dated Greek documents, which in turn may help us date the Coptic. This is truly exciting since the majority of Coptic manuscripts are not datable. There is a question whether the Coptic material will be published in the Oxyrhynchus series, which they have been granted permission to do, or in an entirely new series such as P.Oxy. Copt. I look forward to hearing more from Geoff and Alex as they continue to work on the Coptic collection.
My paper on amulets from Oxyrhynchus with New Testament citations was well received. I took the opportunity up front to describe briefly the structure of my doctoral dissertation, from which the conference paper was distilled. The paper generated fruitful discussion. One of the first questions came from Larry Hurtado who questioned the utility of these documents for the study of the text of the New Testament. His point was that if these texts are somewhat outside the main textual stream then they might not be that helpful. I acknowledged the marginal status of the materials in relation to the main textual stream (alluding to Peter Head’s claim that these are the “dangling ends of branches that go no further”) but stated that the patristic citations present the same problems. Many of the patristic citations are also outside the main textual tradition, and we deal with the problems of faulty memory, adaptation, etc. Thus, if we are going to cite patristic citations in the critical apparatus of the Greek New Testament, then why not cite an amulet that is genealogically significant? This point was well taken and Robert Kraft then commented that the study was needed and desired. Michael Theophilos noted correctly that there was a precedent for including amulets in the official Liste and I am glad he brought that up. The first chapter of my dissertation discusses Ernst von Dobschütz’s inclusion of amulets and ostraka and then looks at their removal during the time of Kurt Aland’s tenure as keeper of the Liste. Brent Nongbri wondered whether the cord or string in P.Oxy. 4406 (which I showed in a PowerPoint slide) was in fact a cord used to repair the papyrus. This is an extremely interesting question and Brent has provided me with parallels. In any case, I ended by saying that my interests are both textual and non-textual and that even if an amulet does not offer any value to the textual critic, they are still important for study and analysis. I heard from Malcolm Choat after the session that Roger Bagnall, who was in the audience, agreed with me and liked my paper! Well, if Roger Bagnall liked my paper, then I must be doing something right!
All in all, I had a very enjoyable conference. I had coffee with Malcolm Choat on Monday and learned about one of his papyrological projects that is going to blow the minds of papyrologists and textual critics alike. Yep, good stuff from that Aussie, who is indeed one of my favorite papyrologists. Or maybe I just like Aussies generally, because Pete Head, that beast of an athlete, is now also one of my favorite persons in the world!
Due to an administrative mixup, my SBL paper is, unfortunately, not listed in the program book this year. So, I thought I would provide an abstract here along with details. I will be presenting on Saturday in a thematic panel on "Christian Papyri from Oxyrhynchus" in the Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds group. Here is the current program lineup:
S23-231 Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Room: Carroll - Hilton Baltimore Theme: Christian Papyri from Oxyrhynchus
AnneMarie Luijendijk, Princeton University, Presiding
Bart B. Bruehler, Indiana Wesleyan University
P39 and the Socio-Economic Spectrum of Christian Manuscripts at Oxyrhynchus in the Early Third Century (30 min)
Michael P. Theophilos, Australian Catholic University
Christian Prayer at Oxyrhynchus (30 min)
Todd Brewer, Durham University
Reading Thomas Backwards: From Nag Hammadi to Oxyrhynchus and Beyond (30 min)
My paper will be given sometime during this session, although I have not been told when I will go. In any case, here is the abstract of my paper:
Amulets from Oxyrhynchus with New Testament Citations
This paper offers an analysis of a few of the amulets from Oxyrhynchus that contain New Testament citations (P.Oxy. VIII 1077; VIII 1151; LXIV 4406). The study is part of a larger project on the non-continuous manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in which, among other types of non-continuous materials, all extant New Testament amulets (in Greek) will be catalogued and studied in detail. In this preliminary study, we shall attend to matters palaeographical and textual in an effort to establish a better picture of these texts collectively, and to see how they may assist us in text-critical endeavors as well as in our questions concerning the early Christians from Oxyrhynchus. Thus, the analysis will nuance our perspective on Christians and their texts from Oxyrhynchus, but it will also have methodological implications for our treatment of Christian amulets generally.
Summer Institute in Papyrology at Princeton University, 7 July - 8 August 2014
From July 7 to August 8 of 2014, Princeton University will host an intensive summer Institute in Papyrology for advanced graduate students and junior faculty in Ancient History, Classics, History, Egyptology, Art and Archaeology, History of Religions and Biblical Studies as well as other related disciplines. The 2014 Papyrological Institute will focus on Late Antique papyri and the primary materials will consist of Greek papyri. In keeping with the goals of previous years, the institute aims to provide participating scholars with direct experience of the papyri through close reading of individual texts, and with knowledge of the field of papyrology in general, so that they may employ this knowledge effectively in conducting their own future research and teaching. The 2014 institute is the ninth in a series of intensive summer programs held under the aegis of the American Society of Papyrologists.
The institute will include a combination of lectures and advanced coursework with first-hand experience working with ancient sources. Students are expected to participate actively in all of the institute’s programs and activities; a full-time commitment is required while the institute is in session. Principal instructors are Professors Jean-Luc Fournet (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris) and Nicolaos Gonis (University College, London), Directors, and Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk (Princeton University), organizer. A series of guest lectures on topics related to the theme of the seminar will supplement the core presentations.
Admission to the summer Papyrological Institute is by application only; approximately twelve scholars will be selected to participate. Any qualified academic may participate; no prior experience with papyrology is expected, but since we will work with Greek papyri, a high degree of competence in Ancient Greek is essential. Participation in the institute is free of charge (no tuition); applicants are expected to seek financial support from their home institution to facilitate their participation, but grants may be available to any participants who do not have other means of support. No credit will be given for the course, and no grades or transcripts will be issued, however those participants completing the institute will receive a certificate from the American Society of Papyrologists.
The application consists of the completed application form along with a current curriculum vitae and two letters of recommendation. All materials must be received by March 1, 2014 in order to be considered for admission. Notification of decisions will be issued in late March. For further information about the summer institute, please contact AnneMarie Luijendijk.
Send application materials to: Prof. AnneMarie Luijendijk,Department of Religion, 1879 Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 or electronically to email@example.com
One of the questions for my New Testament comprehensive exam was: "How did Rudolf Bultmann contribute to the field of New Testament studies? What was his perspective on Historical Jesus research?" I am glad this question appeared on my exam because I have always been a fan of Bultmann. His History of the Synoptic Tradition is one of the first places I go when I want to learn more about a certain pericope, and his New Testament Theology is just remarkable. One may not agree with all of Bultmann’s conclusions, but one cannot deny that he was always barking up the right tree. One of my favorite quotes about Bultmann is by the famous English systematic theologian, Ian Henderson (1910-1969). Here is what Henderson says:
"Quite a lot of people have got round to writing refutations of Bultmann by now. The fact that there is always room for one more gives rise to the uneasy suspicion that some of the earlier writers may have underestimated their theological prey and made the mistake of going hunting for a tiger with a .22 rifle."
P.S.: For those who don't know anything about guns and hunting, a .22 caliber rifle is a small gun that would hardly kill a tiger. But I suspect that this could easily be deduced from the context.