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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: WSW In Response To: Ron Price On: Ac 15:36 From: Bruce RON [following a claim to have reconstructed Acts in terms of exact page boundaries in
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 30, 2010
      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: WSW
      In Response To: Ron Price
      On: Ac 15:36
      From: Bruce

      RON [following a claim to have reconstructed Acts in terms of exact
      page boundaries in an 80-page, 20-sheet codex]: Thus 15:36 ff. was not
      a later addition.

      BRUCE: These theories of formal constraint of NT texts by the
      dimensions of the codex (some would say, the papyrus roll) have their
      attraction. I don't deny it. So does the Aramaic translation theory of
      Torrey. In the end, neither idea seems to me to be habitable. I think
      the translation idea fails (at least in Torrey's form) by the
      requirement of multiple translations from Aramaic, some of them guided
      by previous translations into Greek. And I cannot be convinced of the
      codex constraint for similar reasons, chiefly (as Ron and I have
      earlier explored in connection with interpolations in Mark) that the
      theory does not allow for expansion events which the structure of the
      text itself, as I see it, clearly suggests. But also because it
      suggests a curious motive for writing, namely, to fill a certain size
      quota. To borrow a phrase from the poets, "Let no man say, Come, I
      will write a duodecimo." Arnold Bennett worked that way, I work that
      way, but it seems risky to extrapolate from those modern examples to
      ancient practice. Rather, is it not unlikely that at least in some
      cases, the matter grew under the writer's hands?

      How many fixed-length literary forms were there in antiquity? Cyrano,
      improvising a ballade, knows exactly how many rhymes he is going to
      need, but was Horace in similar situation?

      The theory (due to Torrey and myself) that at one point only Acts I
      existed has its unlikable features, not only those due to our long
      acclimatization to canonical Acts, but more relevantly, the fact that
      the proposed Acts I is short; about half of what we are accustomed to
      think of as a standard Gospel or Gospel-associated text. But then
      again, how long is Mk? How long was gLk, the first time round? For a
      start, it was surely shorter by the two chapters now containing the
      Birth and Infancy narrative, which stand outside the plausible formal
      beginning of gLk at Lk 3:1. The expansive style of the rewritten
      Nazareth incident as it now stands (and in which form, though not in
      its probable original form, it harmonized with the authorial agenda of
      Acts II) is another point at which the first text of Luke is likely to
      have been substantially shorter. The Lukan travel narrative, which is
      grossly expanded over its precedents in Mk and Mt, and which seems to
      have been an assembly point for a certain amount of material of
      extraPalestinian origin, possibly including, as was earlier noted,
      Dau/Dv Jing and other exotic echoes, is a third place to which one
      might look for expansion between the first and subsequent versions of
      Lk. (That investigation continues, but I do not attempt to report
      results here).

      Taking all the NT into account, I don't think we are entitled to put a
      lower bound on possible sizes of texts, else how do we deal with the
      Johannine epistles? What does seem likely is that, at least for the
      1c, there may have been an upper bound. Then at one point, if I am
      reading the signs in the texts aright, the expansions of gLk including
      Acts I outran what a single codex (of the time) could easily
      accommodate. At that point, the thing was pushed into a second volume,
      and the second preface (a slapdash affair) might accordingly have been


      Exactly the same situation (mutatis mutandis) seems to apply to
      classical Chinese texts, which were written on strips of bamboo tied
      together and rolled up like a snowfence. Some very short independent
      texts do exist (and have been archaeologically recovered; this is not
      conjectural), of as few as 7 or even 2 or 3 strips. On the other hand,
      depending on the length of the strip (there were different standard
      lengths), there was a point when a big roll became unwieldy, perhaps,
      as I have conjectured, when the diameter of the roll came to exceed
      the length of the strip. At that point, however defined, a second
      physical roll was required. In Mencius, a text which some in the NT
      corner of things may have seen, the result is what are called "double
      chapters," where the same title applies to both parts (with the
      distinction shang/"upper" and sya/"lower"). This implies an expanding
      text. And why? Because if composed originally in the two-bundle form,
      we would expect that each bundle, and not as at present every other
      bundle, would be named from its incipit.

      The pervasive fact that, in terms of present texts, we see a sort of
      threshold at 5000 characters for texts, and an implied physical limit
      of 2500 characters per allowed single roll of bamboo, seems to reflect
      these physical factors. Besides the Mencius chapters, each of which
      has a double structure with 5000 characters (roughly) going under one
      title, there is the somewhat well known Dau/Dv Jing, also with 5000
      characters (roughly, and so described in antiquity) and divided into
      what were later called "Dau" and "Dv" halves.

      So there seems to be a size factor, and it does to some extent limit
      what can be done in one consecutive text, but only at the upper end,
      not at the lower. Little texts might be easily lost, but there seems
      to have been no absolute bar to their creation, and subsequent copying.

      In the NT in general, I seem to see a similar bounded-at-one-end range
      factor reflected. That much seems to have some teeth in it.

      Not that Ron's reconstruction, as a comment on Final Acts, is
      necessarily without interest. The commentators note places in Acts
      (chiefly, as I recall, in Acts II) where the narrative seems to have
      been noticeably stretched or compressed. How do those places map out,
      in terms of Ron's page-end coordinations? Are they ways of avoiding a
      page break?While not seeing the answer (whatever it might be) as
      refuting the possibility of an earlier and shorter Acts, I admit I
      would be curious to know what the answer is.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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