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HTR: The Use and Abuse of P52

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  • Wieland Willker
    Here is the abstract: The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel by Brent Nongbri Harvard Theological Review (2005),
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 10, 2005
      Here is the abstract:

      "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel"
      by Brent Nongbri
      Harvard Theological Review (2005), 98: 23-48

      Abstract:
      "The thesis of this paper is simple: we as critical readers of the New Testament often use John Rylands Greek Papyrus 3.457, also known as P52, in inappropriate ways, and we should stop doing so. A recent example will illustrate the problem. In what is on the whole a superb commentary on John's gospel, D. Moody Smith writes the following about the date of John:
      For a time, particularly in the early part of the twentieth century, the possibility that John was not written, or at least not published, until [the] mid-second century was a viable one. At that time Justin Martyr espoused a logos Christology, without citing the Fourth Gospel explicitly. Such an omission by Justin would seem strange if the Gospel of John had already been written and was in circulation. Then the discovery and publication in the 1930s of two papyrus fragments made such a late dating difficult, if not impossible, to sustain. The first and most important is the fragment of John chapter 18 … [P52], dated by paleographers to the second quarter of the second century (125–150); the other is a fragment of a hitherto unknown gospel called Egerton Papyrus 2 from the same period, which obviously reflects knowledge of the Gospel of John…. For the Gospel of John to have been written and circulated in Egypt, where these fragments were found, a date no later than the first decade of the second century must be presumed."
      -

      Perhaps someone with online access could send me a copy? Thanks!
      http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?jid=HTR&volumeId=98&issueId=01

      Best wishes
      Wieland
      <><
      ------------------------------------------------
      Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany
      mailto:willker@...-bremen.de
      http://www.uni-bremen.de/~wie
      Textcritical commentary:
      http://www.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/index.html
    • Andrew Bernhard
      I haven t read the article yet, but let me throw in my two cents worth: HURRAY! It s about time someone made this argument in print (I wish I had). P52 is the
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 11, 2005
        I haven't read the article yet, but let me throw in my two cents worth: HURRAY! It's about time someone made this argument in print (I wish I had). P52 is the size of a credit card. Four fragments of P.Egerton 2 were discovered in 1935, two of them containing the better part of a full page from the codex (written on both sides), the other comparatively small. After examining the more than 80 lines of text, Bell and Skeat concluded that P.Egerton 2 was copied no later than the middle of the second century because the handwriting on it closely resembled that found on other papyri from the late first and early second century. Their assessment was affirmed by the eminent palaeographers Sir Frederic Kenyon and Wilhelm Schubart, with Schubart going so far as to declare the assigned date “as good as certain”. (Bell and Skeat, Fragments of an Unknown Gospel, 1-7).  
         
        Then in 1987, Gronewald found P.Koeln 255, another piece of fragment 1 of P.Egerton 2 and saw that it had an apostrophe between two consonants and pointed out that this was characteristic of manuscripts copied in the third century. Hence, he redated P.Egerton 2 to the late second century.
         
        The point of saying all this is that if the most esteemed paleographers of their day couldn't get it right when they had 90+ lines of handwriting to examine, why should we expect that that any paleographers could precisely date a fragment like P52 with only 14 (mostly lost) lines of text. The handwriting on P52 does look early, but given that so little is preserved the date should be something like ca. 125 C.E. plus or minus a hundred years or so.
         
        Thus, a summary of my position on this matter is: P52 is of no use in dating the Gospel of John. Nobody doubts that the Gospel of John was written by the time Irenaeus and Theophilus of Antioch cited it around 180 C.E. (or in the preceding couple of decades when gnostics like Heracleon were writing commentaries on it), but P52 very well could have been copied after this time, so it is of no use in dating when the Gospel of John was written.
         
        I agree with the author that people should stop misusing P52.
         
        Thank you greatly, Wieland, for calling this article to my attention. If someone does have a subscription, I wouldn't mind seeing the article either. Hint hint!
         
        Best,
        Andrew
         

        Message: 2
        Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2005 21:55:51 +0100
        From: "sarban"
        Subject: P52 and date of John

        There has just been published an article by Brent Nongbri
        in the Harvard Theological Review

        The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel



        It apparently claims that the date of P52 is to uncertain to be
        of value in dating John.

        Does anyone have any comments ?

        Andrew Criddle

        [This message contained attachments]



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      • Wieland Willker
        ... Well, probably not *minus* 100 years. :-) I have sometimes the impression that the dates given are more the earliest possible than something in the
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 12, 2005
          Andrew Bernhard wrote:
          > The handwriting on P52 does look early, but given that so
          > little is preserved the date should be something like ca. 125
          > C.E. plus or minus a hundred years or so.


          Well, probably not *minus* 100 years. :-)
          I have sometimes the impression that the dates given are more the "earliest possible" than something in the middle. I agree that dating is more inexact than most people believe. It also depends on the MS. Some MSS can be dated more accurately than others.


          > Thus, a summary of my position on this matter is: P52 is of
          > no use in dating the Gospel of John.

          Of course, I think we all agree on that. This is more something apologists jump on.

          I do have the article now. If anybody is interested, send me a mail. It's 14 MB though!


          MIA HMERA WS CILIA ETH KAI CILIA ETH WS HMERA MIA. (Einstein)

          Best wishes
          Wieland
          <><
          ------------------------------------------------
          Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany
          mailto:willker@...-bremen.de
          http://www.uni-bremen.de/~wie
          Textcritical commentary:
          http://www.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/index.html
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