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Orsini on Bodmer Biblical Papyri

December 1, 2018

Further to my notice about Pasquale Orsini’s newly published English translation of several of his essays on Greek and Coptic scripts, there is a guest blog by Orsini that appeared earlier this year on the Evangelical Textual Criticism site (here) in which Orsini briefly describes the palaeographical method that he advocates.  The comments/exchanges that follow are also interesting.

In those exchanges and in the essay on the Bodmer papyri, Orsini indicates how he now views the likely date of the key Bodmer biblical papyri.  He now dates P.Bodmer II (P66) to somewhere mid-third to mid-fourth century, and P.Bodmer XIV-XV (P75) to the late-third to early-fourth century.  In the recently published book, he deals with these matters in the chapter on the scripts of the Bodmer papyri (Chap 3):  On P.Bodmer II, p. 32 note 93.  Orsini’s stature adds now weight to the opinions of other scholars such as Nongbri and Don Barker, that both papyri should be dated later than in previous opinion.

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  1. Tommy Wasserman permalink

    As for P4, P64+67, I see that Brent agrees with Don Barker’s very broad range of possible dates from the middle of the second century to the middle of the fourth century (God’s Library, 267). I cannot see any particular interaction with Orsini (apart from the dismissal of his and Claryssee’s “unrealistically narrow window” of 175-200 CE). So, Orsini argues that P4 and P64+67 is earlier than P.Ryl. I.16 citing from the blogcomments:

    “Well, the script of P4+P64+P67 seems to me to be earlier than that of P. Ryl. I 16. An element seems to me an index of anteriority: the shading (result of a particular writing angle) in P4 + P64 + P67 has slight contrast and is not regular (it is regular in Biblical majuscule when it is approx. 75°). The main reason for my dating (end of the second century) is this. Therefore, the two chronological extremes (175-200) are obviously not impassable borders, but new paleographic elements must appear to re-discuss the history of the biblical majuscule.”

  2. I have not yet had a chance to read Orsini’s new book. Are the chapters translations of his Italian articles on these topics or are they new compositions? And just a point of clarification that I want to stress again: In my articles on P.Bodmer II and P.Bodmer XIV-XV and in my book, the palaeographic argument is just one part of the case for broadening the range of possible dates for these codices. And just to affirm: I don’t exclude the possibility that these books might be as old as the second century, but I think the available evidence points in a different direction. We can show (to my satisfaction, at least) similar kinds of handwriting as well as similar codex formats and binding methods in books securely datable to the fourth century in the same geographic area where the Bodmer codices were most likely found. Over-reliance on palaeography for dating purposes is a problem we need to address.

    • The chapters in Orsini’s book are English translations of Italian originals, but there is a new and substantial Introduction to the book that is especially useful for readers unfamiliar with him and his method.

  3. Peter Malik permalink

    Thanks for this post, Larry. It was good fun arranging that response from Pasquale on our blog. Just one little thought: although I do think that Orsini deems P66 and 75 to be later than the earliest proposed dates (i.e. c. 200 CE and such), it seems that most and closest of his suggested dated comparanda are, in fact, from the third century. In case of P66 the fourth-century example is a Coptic later and in case of P75 it’s a papyrus with a script which has mixed elements of severe style and the ‘proto’ sloping majuscule type of hand. I think that Brent’s God’s Library is an amazing work, but his insistence on the fourth-century dating of P66 and P75 (spelt out in greater detail in his earlier studies) is, to me at least, the weakest point of his investigation.

    • I, too, didn’t find Nongbri’s argument for a 4th century date of P75 convincing, but I have to admit that, until someone produces a more complete study of comparanda with a tight argument, we have to take account of the later dating now also advocated by Orsini. Although I think that the real force of the argument thus far is that such a later dating cannot be excluded, not that it is the only one plausible.

      • Peter Malik permalink

        ‘the real force of the argument thus far is that such a later dating cannot be excluded, not that it is the only one plausible’—precisely. I think Orsini places the manuscript within the range that allows for a fourth-century date, but most of the comparanda he cites are from the third century and hence, based on palaeographical grounds alone, the third century part of the spectrum still seems more likely. I reached the same conclusion with respect to P47, btw. Most of my comparanda were from the second half of the third century, but there was one clear case from the early fourth, so I ended up assigning a broader the date range of 250–325.

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