Thursday, 27 February 2014

Material (New) Philology and the Dead Sea Scrolls: conference in Copenhagen

The upcoming conference Material Philology and the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Approaches for New Text Editions (3-5 April 2014) should be of interest for readers of this blog. The organizers, the Norwegian project Biblical Texts Older than the Bible and the Danish Qumran Initiative,  have put together an excellent program including some of the leading voices in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or editorial theory.

Program here.
Abstracts here.

Conference invitation here. Register before 20 March.

I'll be there.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Recycling 4 Ezra: 4 Ezra 8:33-41a and 8:41c-47 in an Arabic codex

During a recent stay at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), Nils H. Korsvoll did me the favor of checking Supplément turc 983, fols. 113/126. The item identified by this somewhat obscure shelfmark hides a highly interesting little thing for those of us who are interested in the transmission history of 4 Ezra. It includes a single parchment folio containing Syriac 4 Ezra 8:33-41a on the one side and 8:41c-47 on the other. This folio thus complements our knowledge about the circulation of 4 Ezra, and as far as I know this is only the second attestation of 4 Ezra 8 in Syriac (some other passages are attested in lectionary manuscripts).

The existence of the fragment was made known to (the French reading) public by Bernard Outtier back in 1993 in the article “Un fragment syriaque inédit de IV Esdras” (Apocrypha 4 (1993):19-23). The fragment is also described, but not identified, on page 185 of Françoise Briquel Chatonnet’s catalogue of Syriac manuscripts in the BnF (1997). I came across a reference to it in Les Apocryphes Syriaques, vol 2 (pp. 114-115) where it is mentioned and mistakenly attributed to 2 Baruch. Although published by Outtier some 20 years ago, the fragment is in my experience not generally known among scholars of 4 Ezra. Hence this post.

The folio containing the passages from 4 Ezra illustrates a quite common, and yet fascinating, manuscript practice: folios from manuscripts that were no longer in use were recycled. Together with other parchment folios containing Arabic, Hebrew and Latin texts, the folio containing Syriac 4 Ezra served the purpose of  stiffening and reinforcing the quires of an Arabic paper codex. In other words, the folio was recycled and reused, not due to the literary qualities of the text it contained, but due to the material qualities of the parchment. The size of the folio (170 (165) x 128 mm) was adjusted in order to fit this new purpose, the result being that the upper margin and probably four lines of (precious!) text have quite simply been cut off.

The folio contains 20-21 lines per page, the text is in Estrangelo. Each page has one column of text and narrow margins. The letters are quite large. On the one side of the folio the ink is relatively strong, while on the other side it is rather faint. The margins, particularly the lower margins, contain Arabic notes, some long and some short, written by several hands.

It is not clear whether the codex the folio was once excerpted from contained a “complete version” of 4 Ezra, or whether the codex was an compilation of some sort. Outtier suggests that it might have been part of a liturgical manuscript (p. 19), but he does not provide more information than that. The folio itself does not give away its former function (the first lines of the text have been cut off – there might have been a rubric there but this remains speculation).

The Syriac text of 4 Ezra on the folios are generally quite similar to the Ambrosianus version. There is variance – there always is – but non that changes the content of the text as we know it. I have counted 18 variant readings: some are alternative spellings (e.g. kl instead of kwl), there are differences in punctuation, the relative pronoun is added in a few places, occasional words are added or left out, etc. In addition, three words in verse 40 is left out.

So how about the date of the folio? The Syriac script has been dated paleographically to the 6th century (Outtier) as well as to the 8th-9th century (Briquel Chatonnet). If Outtier is correct, this fragment is among the oldest witnesses we have to any passage of 4 Ezra, possibly as old as, or older than, the version of 4 Ezra in the Codex Ambrosianus. And even if Briquel Chatonnet is right, this 4 Ezra fragment is still pretty early, compared to the Latin, Georgian and Armenian versions. I am however not a paleographer and will not do anything else than to repeat Outtier and Briquel Chatonnet’s points of view on this issue.

Thanks are due to Nils H. Korsvoll!

*This blogpost has been edited*