New Early Fragment of Romans

At the Society of Biblical Literature’s annual conference in Chicago last week (17–20 Nov 2012), Grant Edwards and Nick Zola presented papers on a new papyrus fragment from Romans. They have dated it to the (early) third century, which makes this perhaps only the fifth manuscript of Romans prior to the fourth (though a couple of others are usually thought to also be from the third century). This manuscript is part of the Green Collection (inventory #425). It will be published in the first volume of a new series by the Dutch academic publishing house, E. J. Brill. The series, edited by Dirk Obbink and Jerry Pattengale, is called the Green Scholars Initiative: Papyrus Series. Volume one is edited by Jeff Fish of Baylor University.

The text of the fragment is from Rom 9.18–21 and small portions of Rom 10. Edwards presented information about the paleography and provenance of the fragment, while Zola presented his findings on the textual affinities of the papyrus.

The papyrus was written on a codex rather than a roll, as is customary for even the oldest Christian documents. What these two scholars could determine is that the original size of each leaf of this papyrus would have been a little larger than that of P66—18 cm x 16 cm for this fragment compared to 16.2 cm x 14.2 cm for P66.

The dating of the manuscript was done rather prudently by comparing it to fixed-date manuscripts. Paleographically, the fragment was found to be close to POxy 1016 (a mid-third century papyrus), POxy 2703 (late second/early third), and POxy 2341 (208 CE).

Regarding the specific text, among early papyri of the corpus Paulinum, only P46 covers the same passage. But because of the lacunose state of P46, sixteen letters of text that are missing from the Beatty papyrus are found in the Green papyrus. Zola selected four textual problems for our consideration (are these all or does the fragment read for others?). In all four, it agrees with other manuscripts, chiefly Alexandrian. The certain readings all agree with the text of NA28. In the gaps, reconstructions were necessary and there Green 425 agrees with the main Alexandrian witnesses where they are united, with a portion of them when they split.

In 9.19, it has μοι ουν, in agreement with the Alexandrians, instead of ουν μοι found in the Western and Byzantine witnesses. The second ουν of v. 19 is apparently omitted in this fragment, in agreement with א A 1739 Byz, against P46 B D F G. In 9.20 Green 425 apparently omitted μενουνγε, agreeing with P46 D F G. In 10.1 the fragment agrees with the Alexandrian and Western witnesses in reading αυτων instead of the Byzantine reading, του Ισραηλ.

Edwards and Zola are to be thanked for making a fine presentation on the data of this new find. In keeping with other early papyri, its readings are no surprise: largely Alexandrian, with some Western strains also seen.

As an addendum, you can see images of this fragment (upside down!) on CNN in an interview that Steve Green did regarding its discovery which was made earlier this year:


The Demise of Codex 1799

A graduate of Princeton University in the early nineteenth century, Robert Garrett, acquired a medieval copy of Paul’s letters, Hebrews, Acts, and the Catholic letters from Mt. Athos in 1830. His estate later donated this manuscript to Princeton University. The manuscript was produced in the twelfth or thirteenth century on parchment. It was meant as something of a pocket Bible, measuring only 13.9 x 10.3 centimeters. The leaves are very fine vellum, extraordinarily thin. Housed in the Special Collections room of the Princeton University’s Firestone Library with the shelf number Garrett 8, it had only briefly been mentioned in works dealing with New Testament manuscripts.

According to J. K. Elliott’s Bibliography of New Testament Manuscripts, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 2005), the latest published discussions of this manuscript was in Kenneth W. Clark’s Eight American Praxapostoloi in 1941.

Kurt Aland’s Kurzgefasste Liste des griechischen Handschriften der Neuen Testaments, 2nd edition (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), the standard tool that indicates the location, contents, date, and other pertinent information of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts, put the location in parentheses and said that the manuscript was “verbrannt” or burnt. The Internet update to the Kurzgefasste Liste claims that the manuscript is now “zerstört”—destroyed. But just as when Mark Twain presumably proclaimed, after reading his obituary in a newspaper, “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” so too the demise of codex 1799 is exaggerated. (Twain actually wrote, “This report of my death was an exaggeration.”)

I examined the manuscript on Thursday, 16 August 2012 for about an hour. It is true that the manuscript has been burned. It is also true that many of the leaves stick together, most likely from the heat melting the ink. But it is still completely intact. It needs to be restored, but it is not gone forever—not by a long shot. In fact, it is mentioned in some detail in Greek Manuscripts at Princeton: Sixth to Nineteenth Century, by Sofia Kotzabassi and Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, with the collaboration of Don Skemer (Princeton University Press, 2010). Mr. Skemer in fact wrote to me and said he had no idea why anyone would ever think the manuscript had been destroyed.

I am grateful to Mr. Skemer, the Curator of Manuscripts at the Firestone Library, and his assistant, Charles Greene, for granting us access to this and other manuscripts in the Special Collection. And I am thrilled that a presumably dead manuscript has come back to life!