Unpublished Hebrew and Aramaic fragments from Oxyrhynchus

In the first, Mohr Siebeck printing of my book, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy, I erroneously spoke in a footnote of ‘thousands’ of Hebrew and Aramaic fragments from Oxyrhynchus, on the basis of an unsubstantiated remark I heard someone connected with the collection make during a papyrology seminar. After the fact, I checked with Prof. Peter Parsons and the actual number is much lower, so I revised for the Baker Academic reprint (my apologies for the error in the first printing!). Since I had some recent correspondence with someone over the question on the basis of the first printing, I thought it might be useful to share what the actual state of affairs is here. And perhaps if some Hebrew papyrologist tires of the last fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Cairo Genizah, they can take up the surviving bits from Oxyrhynchus? Here are the relevant bits excerpted from my correspondence with Prof. Parsons following my query:

[first email]:
I will check the inventory,  and also whether any of the unpublished material has been assigned for publication (I remember discussing the matter with Sebastian Brock,  and more recently with David Taylor).  …[there] is not so much a question of the number of fragments as of their extent and quality – witness Cowley’s disappointment with the Hebrew pieces that he published in 1915 (now in Bodley),  which he found valuable only for their palaeography.  Add the difficulty that the preliminary inventory will have been made by classical scholars who could recognise the script but not understand the content.  Anyway, I’ll see what I can find out,  and be in touch again shortly.

[second email]:
I’ve now looked at the inventory.  One must make allowance for the ignorance of the cataloguers,  but as things stand only c. 30 items are classified as ‘Hebrew’ or occasionally as ‘Hebrew or Aramaic’ (nothing unequivocally ‘Aramaic’).  Of these c. 25 are described as ‘scraps’,  the rest as ‘fragments’;  of the fragments only one is identified,  as part of a Hebrew account.  This doesn’t seem promising,  even if you are already expert in Hebrew palaeography;  on normal experience,  small fragments take a lot of blood and sweat without any guarantee of interesting results.

So hopefully this helps a bit to set the record straight after the erroneous information I supplied in the first edition of my book.

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  1. #1 by Vincent S Artale Jr on April 7, 2015 - 11:57 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

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