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Writing & Book-Production in the Hellenistic & Roman Periods

May 21, 2013

After about three years of waiting, I received today the newly-published Vol. 1 in The New Cambridge History of the Bible (eds. James Carleton Paget & Joachim Schaper) in which appears the discussion of “Writing and Book Production in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods,” that I co-wrote with Chris Keith (a former PhD student).  This volume covers the period, “From the Beginnings to 600,” with 37 contributions and amounts to slightly over 1000 pp.  The projected five volumes will replace the classic reference work produced back in the 60s.  I’m very pleased to see the work out, and certainly pleased with the customary high quality in production qualities that we expect from CUP.

This volume alone covers an impressive spectrum of topics and time.  Part 1, “Languages, Writing Systems and Book Production,” includes contributions on “The Languages of the Old Testament” (Geoffrey Khan), “Varieties of Greek in the Septuagint and the New Testament” (Jan Joosten), “Writing and book production in the ancient Near east” (William M. Schniedewind), and “Writing and book production in the Hellenistic and Roman periods” (by me and Keith).

Part 2, “The Hebrew Bible and Old Testaments,” comprises treatments of “The Old Testament Text and its Transmission” (Eugene Ulrich), “The Literary History of the Hebrew Bible” (Joachim Schaper), “The Old Testament Canons” (John Barton), “The ‘Apocryphal’ Old Testament” (John J. Collins), “From Inner-Biblical Interpretation to Rabbinic Exegesis” (Günter Stemberger), “The Aramaic Targums” (C.T.R. Hayward), “Scriptural Interpretation at Qumran” (Johnathan G. Campbell), “The Septuagint” (Kristin De Troyer), “Biblical Interpretation in Greek Jewish Writings” (WIlliam Horbury), “Scripture in the Jerusalem Temple” (C.T.R. Hayward), “The Political and Legal Uses of Scripture” (James W. Watts), and “Modern Editions of the Hebrew Bible” (Emanuel Tov).

In Part 3, “The New Testament,” we have discussions of “The New Testament Canon” (Joseph Verheyden), “The New Testament Text and Versions” (David C. Parker), “The ‘apocryphal’ New Testament” (J. K. Elliott), and “The Old Testament in the New Testament” (Dale C. Allison).

Part 4 is given over to “Biblical Versions other than the Hebrew and the Greek,” with contributions on “The Latin Bible” (Pierre-Maurice Bogaert), “The Syriac Versions of the Bible” (Peter J. Williams), and “The Translation of the Bible into Coptic” (Wolf-Peter Funk).

Finally, Part 5, on “The Reception of the Bible in the Post-New Testament Period,” includes “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Second Century” (James Carleton Paget), “Gnostic and Manichaean Interpretation” (Winrich Löhr), “Origen” (Gilles Dorival), “Eusebius” (Michael J. Hollerich), “Jerome” (Adam Kamesar), “Augustine” (Carol Harrison), “Syriac Exegesis” (J. F. Coakley), “Figurative readings:  Their Scope and Justification” (Mark Edwards), “Traditions of Exegesis” (Frances M. Young), “Pagans and the Bible” (Wolfram Kinzig), “Exegetical Genres in the Patristic Era” (Mark W. Elliott), “The Bible in Doctrinal Development and Christian Councils” (Thomas Graumann), “the Bible in Liturgy” (Gerard Rouwhorst), and “The Bible in Popular and non-Literary culture” (Lucy Grig).

In our bit, Keith and I discuss ancient “Books as physical objects” (writing materials, the literary roll, the codex, Christians and the codex), “Book Production, Dissemination and Collection” (producing and copying texts, dissemination & exchange of texts, early libraries), “Using Books:  Social Functions of Books” (social settings of readings, public and private reading), “Books and Religion” (books as scripture, copying texts as religious practice, Christians and the new book forms).  I invited Keith to co-write the piece during a very busy time as Head of the School of Divinity, but the result wasn’t simply a helping hand.  To my mind, the piece is stronger for his involvement.  It’s a daunting prospect to be asked to write what is effectively the replacement for the discussion of the material by Colin Roberts in the earlier Cambridge History of the Bible, and I hope that readers will find our contribution useful, perhaps making observations not readily available elsewhere.

It’s an expensive book (£125 Sterling), and so likely to be purchased mainly by libraries and those both particular interested as financially endowed.  But it stands alone, to my mind, in the breadth and quality of coverage of topics concerning the Bible in the early period addressed.

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  1. Ali Hussain permalink

    Vow ! , looks fabulous , especially the line of scholars who are contributing the book , each top notch in their respective fields .

    Will the book be available at British library ? or should one visit a university for it ?

    • As a CUP publication there will be mandatory copies deposited in the British Library and the National Library of Scotland, and I’d imagine that it will be purchased by all serious university/college libraries with any teaching/research interests in biblical studies.

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