Re: P52 Is Not a Fragment of the Autograph
- As an American Literature teacher, my classes do a short unit each
year on the Declaration of Independence. Most people are surprised to
learn that the copy of the Declaration in the National Archives is
not the original copy. In fact, it could be considered a "late" copy.
The first copies of the Declaration were smaller sheets that were
typeset and were distributed to orators whose job it was to read them
publicly. Several months later an official "embossed" copy was
prepared and had to be sent to each colony to be signed. Since the
Continental Congress met only sporadically and not all delegates
attended each session, the final copy was not signed in July 1776.
Off the top of my head, I don't know how many months it took, but it
was a while.
What happened to the original copy? No one knows. Most likely it was
destroyed by the printer since it was a treasonous piece of
literature to have in one's possession during a war.
No matter when you think the Gospel of John was written -- under
Nero, Titus, or Domitian -- or who was the author, it is not hard to
imagine much the same scenario. Even though this was ancient Rome and
not colonial America, we have to consider that the opening words of
the Gospels -- especially of Matthew and John -- suggest the writer
knew he was delivering something of prophetic authority. It's
therefore not hard to imagine the author directing some scribe to
send it off to be hand copied many times over. What would then happen
to that copy? Would it be treasured as a relic or would it be
discarded as treasonous or even confused with the second generation
What would then preclude copies being made of these initial copies
almost immediately wherever they were sent and even translations made
back and forth into whatever language was most used by the audience?
I am not as well read on this as I would like to be, but I've only
heard of one expert who thinks that the New Testament authors
themselves could have been responsible for directing this initial
copy process as well. There was one AUTOGRAPH, but perhaps there were
several second generation manuscripts that had apostolic approval,
minor variants and all.
The following scenario, proposed by John Henry Ludlum, makes sense
whether one holds to a late date or an early date view. There is
nothing to preclude multiple copies and even multiple translations
being made under the direction of the original author or authors.
John Henry Ludlum was one of the first of a new wave of Marcan
Priority challengers in the 1950s. I think of Ludlum as a Bart Ehrman
in reverse, a Yale graduate steeped in liberalism, who later became a
conservative. He wrote this in an unpublished paper that was used as
"I myself would think that wherever a missionary went he would take
whatever gospel he had in his own language and would translate it
into the language of his hearers, whoever they might be. This is the
only realistic view of the matter I can take. I know that there is a
widely held view that the early church did not use writing to any
extent. But I think the evidence and commonsense judgment on the
basis of experience are against that view. And this suggestion I have
made as to what a missionary would do, moreover, is specifically
asserted to have been the actual case in reference to Matthew's
Gospel. That is to say, what experience and knowledge of missionary
practice in every age would lead one to expect, we are told did in
fact occur. This is exactly what the earliest statement on record, as
far as we know, tells us about the first Gospel.
"It says: 'Matthew therefore indeed composed the Logia in Hebrew, and
each one translated them as he was able.'
"This statement and others, which the subscriptions in the
manuscripts of Matthew contain, and which point the same way, if we
let them make their natural, easy, and full strength impression on
us, suggest to us a situation somewhat as follows. In the early days
of the church Matthew wrote a Gospel which the first apostles and
missionaries carried with them into the world. Then, in different
places, different Greek translations, different Latin translations,
different Coptic translations, perhaps also different Syriac
translations, and so forth, might often come into existence
independently of one another. In one and the same language there
might well be more than one independently made translation of a
Gospel such as Matthew's. Everything would depend, of course, upon
the needs and necessities of various situations.
"As a general principle to follow, in studying such matters as these,
I would suggest the following. We should make it our constant aim to
keep an open mind to the possibility of any developments which the
needs and necessities of any special situation may seem to suggest.
Besides this, there are simple general considerations most decidedly
not to be overlooked. For example, who can doubt that the existence
of an apostolic record would meet a need wherever missionaries went,
if they had available to them any such record? And further, if they
had any such record, translations of it into any and every language
would meet a need, not to say a necessity, almost anywhere. So that
the real question is simply whether a development of many
translations (the various early versions), which no one doubts
actually took place before the end of the second century, could not
just as easily and with the same natural inevitableness have been in
process all through the last half of the first century, perhaps
beginning even a few years earlier than that time."
--- In email@example.com, "Simpson, Gary"
> Questions from a layperson:
> Do we have a precise definition of what is an autograph?
> How would we recognize a New Testament autograph if we had one?
> only rule out what could not have been from the original writer?world,
> In the time and culture of the NT documents, what was their attitude
> towards original manuscripts? We highly value manuscripts of noted
> authors today, but with less wide spread literacy in the ancient
> they may have valued oral or eyewitness comments more or not seen aneed
> to keep an original rather than a copy?article
> Gary Simpson
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Bart Ehrman
> Sent: Monday, February 16, 2009 1:05 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] P52 Is Not a Fragment of the
> I agree with most everything you say here; Nongbri's
> is especially useful. One caveat (not against what you said, butwhat
> others have said): the fact that P52 was found in Egypt does not, ofEgypt
> course, mean that it was made in Egypt (or that it was present in
> in 125 CE+/- 25 years!). It could have been brought there frommost
> anywhere (Ephesus! -- I'm not sure we know where the 4G wasproduced,
> btw), say in 225 CE +/1 25 years.Jr.
> -- Bart Ehrman
> Bart D. Ehrman
> James A. Gray Professor
> Department of Religious Studies
> University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
> From: email@example.com
> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of James Snapp,
> Sent: Monday, February 16, 2009 11:26 AMC.H.
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: [textualcriticism] P52 Is Not a Fragment of the
> Dear Eddie M.:
> P52 is not part of the autograph of the Gospel of John. As
> Roberts noted: in the initial publication of the fragment,there
> does not seem to be enough space for EIS TOUTO in the second
> line of
> the verse; this implies that the words were accidentally
> to h.t. Plus, the dominant tradition about the Gospel of
> production includes the idea that it was written in or aroundP52:
> Ephesus, whereas P52 was found in Egypt.
> I'd also point you to Brent Nongbri's "The Use and Abuse of
> Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel,"
> came out a few years ago in Harvard Theological Review. In an
> accompanied by pictures of handwriting-features in various
> papyri, Nongbri makes a strong case that P52 could just as
> just as legitimately, be assigned to 150 or even 175, with 25
> of sway in either direction.
> Taken by themselves, the comments of Roberts and, especially,
> later more one-sided comments of Comfort seem entirely
> the impression is given that P52 is from about 125 or earlier!
> Nongbri's carefully written essay is quite an effective
> those one-sided pronouncements.
> Yours in Christ,
> James Snapp, Jr.
- Jay Rogers wrote:
>>But here we are just doing simple exegesis."Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul."
What does it mean?<<
What it says. There's no reason to suppose that he intends the autograph, especially as, see below.
>>I am not trying to belabor the point, but comes down to twopossibilities.
The writer of Clement means that the Corinthians must have the
original autograph of 1 Corinthians.
He means that they must have a copy.<<
He could mean both, but no matter. It is clear that the letter has been copied: Clement knows the contents of the letter. This means that either the church in Rome has a copy, or Clement went to Corinth, read the letter and memorized its contents, and later returned to Rome and wrote his own letter to the Corinthians. The latter, while possible, I find unlikely, particularly since we know from Colossians etc that there was a willingness and even encouragement to copy the documents and share them. This is strong indication that copies were made.
But what about the Corinthians themselves? Well, if we use just the traditional dates, the scroll of the letter would be 40+ years old by the time Clement is writing. Now unless we suppose that the Corinthians never used the scroll and seldom read the letter, 40+ years of regular use of the papyrus would simply wear it out. (As an aside, I doubt that the Corinthian community, or any other Christian community, was concerned to preserve the original letter as an object of veneration or even respect. That idea if I'm not mistaken where the object of writing takes on special status in its own right is almost half a millenium in the future of Clement's letter.) So at the least, we would expect either a) as the original wore out from reading and copying, they simply recopied it or b) they copied the original and preserved the original for special occasions and as the "archetype" for future copies.
So while it is within the realm of possibility that Clement means the original, I think on the evidence it is unlikely.
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