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P52 and date of John

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  • sarban
    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
    Message 1 of 7 , Aug 10, 2005
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      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
    • Roger Pearse
      ... the Fourth Gospel ... Perhaps I can repeat my comment from Hypotyposeis, rather than say it again in different words?: [quote] The great value of Nongbri s
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 29, 2005
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        --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "sarban" <sarban@s...>
        wrote:
        > 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 ?

        Perhaps I can repeat my comment from Hypotyposeis, rather than say
        it again in different words?:

        [quote]
        The great value of Nongbri's article is to marshall some good
        quality images of the papyri to be compared. It is also useful to
        see his review of the dates that people have given for P52, and the
        attempts to redate it later. I'm not sure he has got all the
        references for the original date, tho: I seem to remember reading
        some of the papers connected with the original discovery (possibly
        by H.I.Bell?) which were more specific than those he references. It
        is salutary to point out the degree to which the date has slipped
        into being more specific than originally published, if indeed this
        is correct.

        But the value of the article as a whole is less certain. It seems as
        if we know less at the end of it than we did at the start, and we
        gain no clear overview of how we might better date these papyri.

        Unless I am mistaken, the article seems to attack in a general way
        the value of paleography as a way to date Greek papyri, and uses
        arguments that apply to all bookhands in every period to do so --
        length of life of scribe, etc. But isn't this rather like anti-
        scholarship? How is this different from debunking paleography? I
        wonder what the paleographers think of this? Do we apply the same
        uncertainty to all papyri? To medieval bookhands? Or only to P52?

        If we are saying that the pronouncements of paleographers have been
        treated too much like oracles -- and of course this is possible --
        then we indeed need to have the drains up and revisit the
        discipline, and return to more data-driven conclusions. But is this
        really established by this paper?

        How do we set our dating on a more secure framework, if we can no
        longer trust the paleographers? Nongbri does not answer this
        question, and indeed seems to suggest he is not interested in it.

        Somewhat worryingly Nongbri also tells us that his purpose is to
        make it possible to assert that John was not composed until the late
        second century (p.26, n.10:

        'I should be clear about precisely which debates I mean to
        resurrect...'

        Are we all comfortable that advancing an agenda like this is the
        right way to start a review of the dating of P52, or a debate on the
        value of paleography for Greek papyri? I am not sure it is, and
        Colin Roberts did not do so when he originally published P52.

        The reaction to the paper will be most interesting to observe. [end
        quote]

        The ball is now with the professional paleographers, in my view.

        All the best,

        Roger Pearse
      • Peter Head
        There are some excellent things in this article. 1. It is very powerful on the emergence of a spurious consensus (for an early 2nd cent date for P52) without
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 30, 2005
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          There are some excellent things in this article.
          1. It is very powerful on the emergence of a spurious 'consensus' (for an early 2nd cent date for P52) without any supporting evidence or argumentation. This sort of 'groupthink' slippage is well documented and shows that even senior NT text critics don't always appeal to relevant evidence (see note 22 on pp 30-31): 'This so-called "consensus" in "recent opinion," as it rests on assertions with no evidence, is highly dubious.' (p. 31). Since this seems to be an endemic problem for NT studies generally, it is helpful to have such a good case study. A good one for students to ponder. [Although in this particular case I think Nongbri underplays Roberts' own mature comments in Greek Literary Hands, p. 11 that P. Fayyum 110, AD 94, is the closest datable manuscript to P52.]

          2. It is very helpful to get all the photos here and looking pretty clear. That takes a bit of work and helps everyone.

          3. unfortunately Nongbri doesn't actually propose any particular date for P52. This seems strange as after all the work it would have been useful to get his considered opinion on this. Nevertheless it appears from the conclusion ('I have not radically revised Roberts's work') and from his comments on P. Mich. inv. 5336 (ca. 152 CE [he doesn't explain how this one is dated and how secure it is, he seems to accept the opinion of the editor]) that a date around the latter rather than earlier period of the range 100-150 would be prefered (also cf. p. 30-31 comments from Turner and Bell on this).

          4. Nongbri does have some pretty basic problems of method though. He knows that it is hard to date un-dated literary texts. Lots of documents have dates and some have hands similar to P52. So he compares P52 with these documents and refuses any comparison with palaeographically dated literary texts as involving circularity. But he doesn't provide any sense of how the hand/style fo P52 may have developed over time. He doesn't really do palaeography, certainly not in the style of Roberts, Cavallo, Maehler: construct the outline of the development of the hand from datable examples and then trace the development of the hand over time, then seek to locate the sample in the time-line (if indeed there are enough datable examples to construct such). Nongbri is too concerned with individual letter formations (similarities and dissimilarities) and not concerned enough with the style of the hand in general and in its development.

          5. As a general rule (the virtues of democracy notwithstanding) some opinions are worth a lot more than others. Of course the opinions of general NT scholars commenting on John (Moody Smith, Raymond Brown etc.) are pretty irrelevant to the dating of a particular manuscript. But the opinions of some scholars, who handled and examined hundreds of manuscripts, remains important. In this connection Eric Turner's acquiescence to Roberts' dating (the only codex he admitted into the first half of the second century) and Roberts' own attention to P. Fayyum 110 as the closest datable text to P52 retain some force, especially since Nongbri has, in his own admission, not found a more recently published text from a later period that is closer to P52.

          6. So this is a helpful challenge to the consensus and a warning to the popularisers, but it is hardly the last word on the subject.

          Cheers

          Peter

           PS. Anyone have any idea how to pronounce "Nongbri"?



          At 09:14 PM 8/29/05, you wrote:
          --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "sarban" <sarban@s...>
          wrote:
          > 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 ?

          Perhaps I can repeat my comment from Hypotyposeis, rather than say
          it again in different words?:

          [quote]
          The great value of Nongbri's article is to marshall some good
          quality images of the papyri to be compared. It is also useful to
          see his review of the dates that people have given for P52, and the
          attempts to redate it later. I'm not sure he has got all the
          references for the original date, tho: I seem to remember reading
          some of the papers connected with the original discovery (possibly
          by H.I.Bell?) which were more specific than those he references. It
          is salutary to point out the degree to which the date has slipped
          into being more specific than originally published, if indeed this
          is correct.

          But the value of the article as a whole is less certain. It seems as
          if we know less at the end of it than we did at the start, and we
          gain no clear overview of how we might better date these papyri.

          Unless I am mistaken, the article seems to attack in a general way
          the value of paleography as a way to date Greek papyri, and uses
          arguments that apply to all bookhands in every period to do so --
          length of life of scribe, etc. But isn't this rather like anti-
          scholarship? How is this different from debunking paleography? I
          wonder what the paleographers think of this? Do we apply the same
          uncertainty to all papyri? To medieval bookhands? Or only to P52?

          If we are saying that the pronouncements of paleographers have been
          treated too much like oracles -- and of course this is possible --
          then we indeed need to have the drains up and revisit the
          discipline, and return to more data-driven conclusions. But is this
          really established by this paper?

          How do we set our dating on a more secure framework, if we can no
          longer trust the paleographers? Nongbri does not answer this
          question, and indeed seems to suggest he is not interested in it.

          Somewhat worryingly Nongbri also tells us that his purpose is to
          make it possible to assert that John was not composed until the late
          second century (p.26, n.10:

          'I should be clear about precisely which debates I mean to
          resurrect...'

          Are we all comfortable that advancing an agenda like this is the
          right way to start a review of the dating of P52, or a debate on the
          value of paleography for Greek papyri? I am not sure it is, and
          Colin Roberts did not do so when he originally published P52.

          The reaction to the paper will be most interesting to observe. [end
          quote]

          The ball is now with the professional paleographers, in my view. 

          All the best,

          Roger Pearse






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          Peter M. Head, PhD
          Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
          Tyndale House
          36 Selwyn Gardens                                             Phone: (UK) 01223 566607
          Cambridge, CB3 9BA                                            Fax: (UK) 01223 566608
          http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/Staff.htm

        • sarban
          ... From: Roger Pearse To: Sent: Monday, August 29, 2005 9:14 PM Subject: [textualcriticism]
          Message 4 of 7 , Aug 30, 2005
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Roger Pearse" <roger_pearse@...>
            To: <textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Monday, August 29, 2005 9:14 PM
            Subject: [textualcriticism] Re: P52 and date of John



            >
            > Perhaps I can repeat my comment from Hypotyposeis, rather than say
            > it again in different words?:
            >
            > [quote]
            > The great value of Nongbri's article is to marshall some good
            > quality images of the papyri to be compared. It is also useful to
            > see his review of the dates that people have given for P52, and the
            > attempts to redate it later. I'm not sure he has got all the
            > references for the original date, tho: I seem to remember reading
            > some of the papers connected with the original discovery (possibly
            > by H.I.Bell?) which were more specific than those he references. It
            > is salutary to point out the degree to which the date has slipped
            > into being more specific than originally published, if indeed this
            > is correct.
            >
            > But the value of the article as a whole is less certain. It seems as
            > if we know less at the end of it than we did at the start, and we
            > gain no clear overview of how we might better date these papyri.
            >
            > Unless I am mistaken, the article seems to attack in a general way
            > the value of paleography as a way to date Greek papyri, and uses
            > arguments that apply to all bookhands in every period to do so --
            > length of life of scribe, etc. But isn't this rather like anti-
            > scholarship? How is this different from debunking paleography? I
            > wonder what the paleographers think of this? Do we apply the same
            > uncertainty to all papyri? To medieval bookhands? Or only to P52?
            >
            > If we are saying that the pronouncements of paleographers have been
            > treated too much like oracles -- and of course this is possible --
            > then we indeed need to have the drains up and revisit the
            > discipline, and return to more data-driven conclusions. But is this
            > really established by this paper?
            >
            > How do we set our dating on a more secure framework, if we can no
            > longer trust the paleographers? Nongbri does not answer this
            > question, and indeed seems to suggest he is not interested in it.
            >
            I've read the article this weekend and felt that it IMVHO it presented
            a much stronger case for dating P52 between say 90 and 170 CE
            than for dating it in the very late 2nd or early 3rd century.

            Impressionistically P Michigan 5336 seemed the closest of the new
            dated documents suggested as parallels (which agrees with Stephen
            Carlson's more quantative study) but with a date of 152 this is less
            surprising a parallel in terms of the traditioinal date of P52 than the
            other documents suggested as parallels by Nongbri.

            (One other point: seeing P52 and the Egerton Papyrus in the context
            of the other parallels left me thinking that they are not actually all that
            close and the recent redating of Egerton to 200 CE may have rather
            little relevance to the date of P52. I would be interested to hear from
            Stephen how close his quantitative analysis found P52 and Egerton
            to be.)

            Andrew Criddle
          • Andrew Bernhard
            Hello, I ve finally gotten my hands on a copy of the article. Here are my thoughts and responses to others who ve commented on it. Me:
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 3, 2005
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              Hello,

              I've finally gotten my hands on a copy of the article. Here are my thoughts
              and responses to others who've commented on it.

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

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

              Me(now): Forgive me if I'm stating the obvious, Wieland, but if this were
              simply taken for granted by all, I really doubt Nongbri would have begun his
              article by discussing how D. Moody Smith and Raymond Brown "view P52 as the
              main evidence for an early dating of John. Many scholars have followed this
              judgment." (The "many scholars" at least include Metzger, Kuemmel, and
              Hengel also use P52 to date the gospel). So, no, I don't think everybody
              agrees about this, even if you and I do.

              Roger Pearse:
              <But the value of the article as a whole is less certain. It seems as
              if we know less at the end of it than we did at the start, and we
              gain no clear overview of how we might better date these papyri.>

              Me:
              I would state this slightly differently: We know less at the end of it than
              we THOUGHT we did at the start.

              Roger:
              <Unless I am mistaken, the article seems to attack in a general way
              the value of paleography as a way to date Greek papyri, and uses
              arguments that apply to all bookhands in every period to do so --
              length of life of scribe, etc. But isn't this rather like anti-
              scholarship? How is this different from debunking paleography? I
              wonder what the paleographers think of this? Do we apply the same
              uncertainty to all papyri? To medieval bookhands? Or only to P52?>

              Me:
              I don't think Nogbri's "debunking paleography" any more than Heisenberg was
              "debunking physics" with his uncertainty principle. No, I think Nongbri is
              trying to make New Testament scholars aware of the level of uncertainty
              involved in paleographic dating (every papyrologist knows this). Is
              paleography worthless? Of course not: no paleographer thinks P52 was copied
              in the 5th century. Can paleography tell us what year a literary text was
              copied? Of course not: paleographers disagree about what decade in the
              second century P52 was copied. This is not a discussion of whether
              paleographic dating is valid or invald; it is a discussion of how precise
              results it can give us . . . and they don't give results that are as precise
              as some New Testament scholars (and apologists) would have us belive.

              And yes, we should apply the same uncertainty to all papyri (and medieval
              books). Not only should we, but I think papyrologists in fact do just this.
              People just don't tend to get all upset about whether a New Testament
              manuscript was copied in the fifth or sixth century (and they tend to care
              even less with non-biblical texts). There are some unique circumstances that
              have caused people to want more precision with P52. However, paleographic
              dating just isn't precise enough to satisfy their desires.

              Roger:
              <How do we set our dating on a more secure framework, if we can no
              longer trust the paleographers? Nongbri does not answer this
              question, and indeed seems to suggest he is not interested in it.>

              Me:
              Nongbri does not answer this question because paleography is still the most
              precise way we have to date most papyri (if they have a date already written
              on them, that tends to help), it just isn't as precise as well would all
              like. If he suggests he is not interested in it, he probably isn't because
              in most cases it's a matter of little consequense (ok, that's my opinion,
              not necessary his).

              Roger:
              <Somewhat worryingly Nongbri also tells us that his purpose is to
              make it possible to assert that John was not composed until the late
              second century . . . Are we all comfortable that advancing an agenda like
              this is the
              right way to start a review of the dating of P52, or a debate on the
              value of paleography for Greek papyri?>

              Me:
              Advancing an agenda? He's saying that a legitimate scholarly debate was cut
              short because papyrological evidence (which most New Testament scholars
              apparently are not competent to evaluate) was misunderstood. Agenda or not,
              I don't see any other way to resurrect the original legitimate debate
              without clearing up the confusion about the misunderstood evidence.

              Roger:
              <The ball is now with the professional paleographers, in my view. >

              Ha, well, then all hope is lost because they won't agree.

              Peter Head:
              < unfortunately Nongbri doesn't actually propose any particular date for
              P52. This seems strange as after all the work it would have been useful to
              get his considered opinion on this. >

              I don't think this is strange. I think it is wise. What's the point of
              throwing in one more conjectured date. He's proposed a date range, which I
              think is the best we can do.

              Peter:
              <. . . it is hardly the last word on the subject.>

              Agreed.


              Best,
              Andrew
            • Peter Head
              Andrew said: What s the point of throwing in one more conjectured date. He s proposed a date range, which I think is the best we can do. What do you take as
              Message 6 of 7 , Sep 5, 2005
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                Andrew said:

                "What's the point of throwing in one more conjectured date. He's proposed a
                date range, which I think is the best we can do."

                What do you take as the date range he is proposing? It doesn't seem explicit.

                Cheers

                Peter

                >

                Peter M. Head, PhD
                Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                Tyndale House
                36 Selwyn Gardens Phone: (UK) 01223
                566607
                Cambridge, CB3 9BA Fax: (UK) 01223 566608
                http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/Staff.htm
              • Andrew Bernhard
                ... a ... explicit. After looking the article over again, I must admit that Nongbri (whose name I don t know how to pronounce) doesn t spell out explicitly
                Message 7 of 7 , Sep 5, 2005
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                  > Andrew said:
                  >
                  > "What's the point of throwing in one more conjectured date. He's proposed
                  a
                  > date range, which I think is the best we can do."

                  Peter said:
                  > What do you take as the date range he is proposing? It doesn't seem
                  explicit.

                  After looking the article over again, I must admit that Nongbri (whose name
                  I don't know how to pronounce) doesn't spell out explicitly what date range
                  he is proposing. However, I think it is safe to infer that he would support
                  a date range of roughly 150 C.E. +/- 60 years.

                  I take it Nongbri supports Eric Turner's statement: "I have no evidence to
                  invalidate the first editor's dating to the first half of the second
                  century. But I should echo his warning about the need for caution" (cited on
                  pages 30-31).

                  In addition, Nongbri adds in his conclusion: "What I have done is to show
                  that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must
                  include dates in the later second and early third centuries" (pg. 46).

                  Thus, I conclude that Nongbri thinks it is possible that P52 was copied
                  sometime between roughly 90-210 C.E. This is a larger margin of error than
                  we'd all like, but it's probably the best we can do.

                  Best,
                  Andrew

                  >
                  > Cheers
                  >
                  > Peter
                  >
                  > >
                  >
                  > Peter M. Head, PhD
                  > Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                  > Tyndale House
                  > 36 Selwyn Gardens Phone: (UK) 01223
                  > 566607
                  > Cambridge, CB3 9BA Fax: (UK) 01223
                  566608
                  > http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/Staff.htm
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
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