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A Noteworthy Papyri Project: The Green Scholars Initiative

February 5, 2013

I’ve just returned from a trip to Baylor University (Waco, Texas), invited there to give a public lecture (hosted by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion), and also to take part in the first papyri “workshop” organized under the auspices of the Green Scholars Initiative (GSI).  I had heard of the GSI, and the rumors of newly identified papyri (including early copies of NT texts) that are to be published in coming years have been circulating for many months now.  So, I was pleased at last to learn first-hand something of the organization and the projects sponsored.

The Green project arises from the acquisition of a number of ancient papyri (fragments of varying sizes) that have not heretofore been identified or published.  After a preliminary identification, these are individually made available to selected scholars for more detailed analysis, leading to formal publication in a series published by E. J. Brill (Leiden).  In the workshop last week, about a dozen or so of those assigned to this task reported on their progress in identifying, transcribing, and analyzing the papyri put into their hands.   We all found it exciting to see these items and to learn what had been discovered thus far.  Also, those working on these papyri were able to indicate their questions and invite contributions and suggestions from the others present.  It seems to me exactly the sort of live-time collaboration needed for this particular kind of work.

An additional factor making the event exciting was that each of these items will represent a new addition to knowledge, and the work of analysis is original research that will widen our pool of data about ancient manuscripts.  Nearly all of the items treated in the workshop were apparently fragments of ancient Christian manuscripts.  I can’t disclose any specifics, but the volumes planned will comprise significant publications.  The plan is basically to follow the guidelines adopted for the Oxyrhynchus volumes as to format.

It is a further commendable feature of the project that each scholar assigned a papyrus must involve students seriously in the work of analysis.  The aim is to inspire and help train a future generation of scholars in papyrological research.  Indeed, the Green Scholars Initiative web site states, “the primary goal is to use this research as an opportunity to mentor participating students in both primary research and the publication process.”  For more information, click here

The senior advisor on papyri is Dirk Obbink (Oxford University), and internationally respected papyrologist.  So, in aim, execution-plan, and in expert advice, this seems a commendable project that promises to put before the scholarly community a noteworthy body of new material.

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