Saturday, April 7, 2018

New Witnesses to a Singular Reading in Codex Colbertinus

In my last post, I noted that the brand new Old Syriac Gospel in the Sinai New Finds Palimpsests supports the otherwise singular reading at Luke 23:9 in the Curetonian Old Syriac. The verse reads "and he [Pilate] questioned him [Jesus] at length, but he didn't answer" and then the two Old Syriac Gospels add ܗܘ ܕܠܐ ܗܘܐ ܬܡܢ ܗܘܐ = "as if he wasn't there". Here's a photo of the reading in Sinai NF 37 f. 2v.

This variant, I mentioned, might also be attested by the Old Latin Codex Colbertinus and therefore represent another mysterious Syrio-Latin reading. Codex Colbertinus concludes Luke 23:9 with, Ipse vero nihil ei respondit quasi non audiens = "He replied nothing to him as if he didn't hear". Here's a photo of the reading from Colbertinus (BnF Lat. 254 f. 65r). 

These two variant readings aren't identical but given the Old Syriac tendency to paraphrase (see Lyon 1994), this could plausibly* reflect two translations of a common Greek text not preserved in our manuscripts.

This Easter Sunday I discovered a new witness to this Syrio-Latin reading. In Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, Pilate recounts his dream of Jesus' trial in the musical number "Pilate's Dream." The following lines are of particular interest (emphasis mine).

I asked him to say what had happened,
How it all began.
I asked again, he never said a word.
As if he hadn't heard.

The lyricist, Tim Rice**, working in 20th century Britain, is unlikely to have drawn upon Codex Colbertinus directly -- especially given how difficult the Bibliothèque nationale de France is to navigate. Although Rice is clearly a person of deep learning, his oeuvre does not evince knowledge of Latin. It seems, therefore, most probable that Rice (or his sources) are drawing this Jesus tradition from a rivulet of oral tradition trickling into 20th century England. More research into this "Superstar Source" is called for! Here's a video of the relevant portion of the consummate dramatization of this 20th century piece of gospel literature.***

*I think this is plausible but (barring more evidence) deserving of a blog post rather than a scholarly publication. 

**Thanks to Mark Goodacre for this clarification. 

***Superstars Ranked 1) 1973 2) 2018 3) 1999. This is the only part of the blogpost that I will defend with conviction. 


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Some Notable Readings from the new Old Syriac Gospel MS (Sinai NF 37 & 39) -- with pictures!

Since the announcement of a new (third) Old Syriac Gospel MS in the New Finds palimpsests at St. Catherine's (Brock, 2016), I have been desperately awaiting any information on the content of its text. While we will all be excited to get our hands on David Taylor's edition of the MS, the images uploaded by the Sinai Palimpsest Project ( allow the impatient among us to try their hand at transcribing the palimpsest themselves.

Here are some interesting readings that I rushed to check. It's hardly a systematic survey but it gives one a sense of the split loyalties of the new gospel MS on intra-Syriac variants.

Mark 1:41 (Sinai NF 39 f.8r)

The New Finds Gospel agrees with the Peshitta and Sinaitic palimpsest in attesting a merciful = ܐܬܪܚܡ, rather than "angry" = ὀργισθεὶς Jesus with the Codex Bezae and the Old Latin.

Mark 2:14 (Sinai NF 39 f.8v)

Brock discussed this variant in his article but I wanted to include the picture. The New Finds Gospel names the publican in Mark 2 "James" = ܝܥܩܘܒ rather than "Levi" = ܠܠܘܝ with Codex Bezae and the Old Latin.

Luke 10:17 (Sinai NF 37 f.4r)

The New Finds Gospel agrees with the Curetonian Old Syriac and Peshitta against the Sinaitic Palimpsest, Codex Bezae, and Old Latin on the number "seventy" = ܫܒܥܝܢ (not seventy two) disciples sent out by Jesus.

Luke 23:9 (Sinai NF 37 f.2r)

The New Finds Gospel agrees with the Curetonian Syriac (and maybe the Old Latin Codex Colbertinus) in adding "like he wasn't there" = ܐܝܟ ܗܘ ܕܠܐ ܗܘܐ ܬܡܢ ܗܘܐ to the end of the verse. This reading is found nowhere else.

Luke 23:34 (Sinai NF 37 f.2v)

The New Finds Gospel agrees with the Sinaitic Palimpsest, Codex Bezae, and the Old Latin against the Curetonian and Peshitta in omitting Jesus' plea "Father, forgive them for they not what they do."

So, if you're keeping score, the New Finds gospel agrees with Sinaitic and Peshitta against Curetonian once, with Sinaitic against the Curetonian and Peshitta once, with the Curetonian and Peshitta against Sinaitic once, and with the Curetonian against the Sinaitic and Peshitta once. This is hardly a representative data set but the new Old Syriac manuscript doesn't seem to align with either of the Old Syriac gospels.



Sunday, May 1, 2016

Congratulations to Mark Goodacre -- Howard D Johnson Teaching Award

Duke New Testament's Mark Goodacre was honored with the "Howard D. Johnson Teaching Award" this week. Congrats Doctor Goodacre!

Read the article here:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nathan Eubank's new blog

I've just started a new humble little website with a humble little blog.

Please drop by!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SBL 2012 Registration and Housing are already open

Just so everyone will know, I was surprised to notice that Registration and Housing are already open for the 2012 Annual Meeting. It is unusual that SBL did not send out an email advising members that registration and housing were open. Considering how quickly hotels are filled up, you all might want to register even though there has been no official notification regarding anything except the call for papers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Almsgiving is the ‘the commandment’ in 1 Timothy

The new issue of New Testament Studies includes my short article, “Almsgiving is ‘the Commandment’: A Note on 1 Timothy 6.6-19”.

Here’s a link to the full text.

There are two thorny problems in 1 Timothy 6:6-19. First, why does the author interrupt two discussions of money with a charge to Timothy to “keep the commandment”? Second, what on earth is “the commandment”? In this article I argue that there is one surprisingly simple solution to both of these questions.

In Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and various rabbinic texts ‘the commandment’ refers to almsgiving. This idiom also has precursors in earlier texts such as Sirach. If one reads 6:6-19 on the hypothesis that the author was employing this idiom the whole passage snaps into focus. Verses 6-10 describe how the pursuit of money can lead to spiritual ruin. In vv.11-16 Timothy is given the antidote to such ruin. He is to A) flee from the love of money, B) pursue instead righteousness, godliness etc., and C) take hold of eternal life (ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς) and keep the commandment until Christ appears. Verses 17-18 repeat this advice, adapting it to apply to the rich. They are A) not to be proud because of their money nor put their hope in it; B) rather, they should put their hope in God, and C) give their money away in order to take hold of true life (ἐπιλάβωνται τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς). If “the commandment” here refers to almsgiving then the author would simply be telling Timothy the same thing that Timothy is to tell the rich: instead of pursuing money, pursue eternal life and give alms. The idiom of almsgiving as ‘the commandment’ not only explains why the author simply speaks of ‘the commandment’ with no further clarification; it also fits hand in glove with 6.6-19 as a whole.

Also, check out the article by Duke’s own Robert Moses in the same issue. "Jesus Barabbas, a Nominal Messiah? Text and History in Matthew 27.16-17.