Friday, July 27, 2018

Origin Stories - Part 3

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS has its third installment of essays in its series Origin Stories: A Forum on the “Discovery” and Interpretation of First-Millennium Manuscripts. The first set of essays in the series was noted here and the second here. There are two new essays:

Nils Hallvard Korsvoll (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) – Seeing the forest but Missing the Trees
Philology and text-critical studies traditionally see manuscripts as repositories of traces and clues to discovering ancient texts. I argue here that this emphasis on text, as opposed to historical artifact, allows scholars to neglect questions concerning provenance.

His points are illustrated from the study of the Mesoptamian Aramaic incantation bowls. More on those problems is here and links. I would have found this essay more useful if the author had given specific examples of bowls that do not exhibit textual uniformity. How many bowls have their provenance checked carefully because their text is unusual and how many pass through without question because their text overlaps with already authenticated bowls?

Also, I don't understand one element of the reasoning for authentication as presented. Wouldn't it be easier to forge a bowl using text known from authenticated bowls than to try to forge a new late antique Aramaic text? Why exactly does overlap with the text of authenticated bowls confirm a new bowl's authenticity? Again, perhaps some specific examples would have made the process clearer.

Samuel Collins (George Mason University) – The Staffordshire Hoard and the Distance of the Past
The contrast, however, between the treatment of the hoard, with all its war gear and the tools of rough early medieval politics, and the kinds of overtly religious material considered elsewhere in this forum by my colleagues could not be starker. Take, as an example of the different sort of popular explanation given over to discoveries with a core of religious content, the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” ...
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Staffordshire Hoard are here and here.

More essays in the series are promised.

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