Download the document HERE.
Download the document HERE.
Stephen Emmel earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1993 (department of religious studies, program in the study of ancient Christianity). His doctoral dissertation, “Shenoute’s Literary Corpus” (published in 2004), laid the groundwork for his current main research preoccupation, which is an international collaborative project to publish the writings of the ancient Coptic monastic leader Shenoute the Archimandrite (ca. 347–465). In 1996 Emmel was appointed professor of Coptology at the Institute of Egyptology and Coptology at the University of Münster in Germany. During the academic year 2010–11 he was on leave of absence from the University of Münster in order to serve as the first full-time professor of Coptology at the American University in Cairo. (Source: Wikipedia)
Some weeks ago, Christian Askeland discovered a crucial piece of evidence that must now necessarily be the basis for any scientifically founded opinion as to the genuineness of the Coptic papyrus fragment called the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The new evidence is a second papyrus fragment from the same source, with a part of the Gospel of John in one of the “Lycopolitan” dialects of Coptic. Because the text of the John fragment is known from Herbert Thompson’s 1924 edition of the fourth-century “Qau codex” (a few minor textual variants notwithstanding), and because the John fragment appears to have belonged to a codex leaf, it is possible to calculate hypothetically the approximate reconstructed dimensions of the complete leaf.
Using conservative measurements taken provisionally from scaled photographs, and assuming that the codex had only one column of writing on each side, the results of my calculations are as follows (the dimensions are given height × width):
minimally: 44 × 22 cm (and surely no smaller), proportion 0.50
on average: 49 × 25 cm (width quite possibly greater), proportion 0.51
maximally: 54 × 27 cm (width quite likely greater), proportion 0.50
These dimensions, if accurate, would mean that the John fragment represents the tallest papyrus codex yet known. Otherwise, the tallest papyrus codex known to me is a Greek codex, one complete leaf of which survives in the Berlin Papyrussammlung, measuring 40.4 × 21.5 cm. Papyrus codices taller than 35 cm are on the whole rare.
Assuming that the John manuscript was a two-column codex results in dimensions that are even more incredible (height × width):
minimally: 17 × 40 cm (and surely no smaller), proportion 2.35
on average: 20 × 45 cm (width quite possibly greater), proportion 2.25
maximally: 23 × 49 cm (width quite likely greater), proportion 2.13
The widest papyrus codex on record (so far as I know) is a Greek codex with dimensions of 28 × 37 cm (height reconstructed). As of 1977, the papyrologist and codicologist Eric G. Turner knew of only four such papyrus codices that are wider than they are tall. The greater than 2 : 1 proportion (width : height) of the hypothetical two-column John codex is without parallel in Coptic, Greek, and Latin papyrus codicology. The closest proportion recorded by Turner is 1.9 : 1, but the one known example with this proportion is small in size, only 9.8 × 19 cm. Papyrus codices laid out in two columns are in any case rather rare.
Thus the reconstructed John manuscript is either an extraordinarily tall and narrow single-column codex, or it is a short and even more extraordinarily wide two-column codex. If its existence be accepted as a fact, it would appear to deserve to be acknowledged as the tallest (or widest) papyrus codex yet known. Among extant papyrus codices written in Coptic in particular, this hypothetical John codex would stand out as even more extraordinary.
For myself, this codicological analysis of the John fragment strengthens still further the conclusion to be drawn from observations that other scholars have brought forward in recent weeks about its text, orthography, and paleography. I do not see how there can be any room for doubt in anyone’s mind that the John fragment is but the product of a hoax. That this conclusion has implications for judging the genuineness of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment is obvious, and the demonstrable certainty that the John fragment is a fake confirms me in the opinion that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment too is a fake, a product of the same hoax that has brought us a new (but worthless) witness to the dialect-L5 Coptic version of the Gospel of John.
On the other hand, the application of several “hard science” techniques of analysis to both the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the Gospel of John fragments – namely, radiometric dating and two types of spectroscopy – has resulted in a quantity of useful data, but the interpretation of these data must now be reviewed in light of the exposure of both fragments as having been inscribed only recently. In the hope and expectation that an increasing number of ancient manuscripts will be subjected to such analyses, students of ancient manuscripts need to become at least somewhat familiar with how these analytical techniques work, what kinds of data they produce, how the data are to be interpreted, and – perhaps most importantly – what questions the data might be used to answer.
Finally, as seriously as I take codicology, radiometric dating and spectroscopic analysis of ancient manuscripts, Coptic grammar and orthography – and also the existence of faked Coptic manuscripts – nevertheless, at the end of my paper I offer a somewhat light-hearted bit of food for thought in connection with the question of what might have motivated the person who faked these Coptic papyri.
How Much Text Is Missing from the “Harvard John Fragment”?
What Are the Dimensions of the Harvard John Fragment?
Reconstructing a Complete Codex Leaf from the Harvard John Fragment
Comparison of Reconstructed “Codex H” with Extant Papyrus Codices
An Alternative Reconstruction: A Two-Column Codex H?
No Codicological Reconstruction of H Is Entirely Credible
Conclusions from the Codicological Analysis
The Spectroscopic Studies: A Critique from a Layman
P.S. Yet More Nails for the Coffin?
P.P.S. Was the New Gospel of John Fragment Meant to Be a Joke?
Just recently, I have identified and edited the Sahidic version of Jacob of Serugh’s verse homily on the Ascension of Christ. This text is not only the first attestation of Jacob of Serugh in Coptic, but it may also be the first evidence of a direct translation from Syriac into Coptic, with the exception of some texts discovered in the milieu of the Manicheans of Kellis.
As my article is currently under review, I will not give many details about it. However, I will briefly discuss here an interesting feature of the Sahidic version of Jacob’s homily. Remarkably, although the text is translated from Syriac, the Coptic translator adjusted the biblical quotations and allusions in such a way as to conform to the Sahidic version of the Bible. It is well-known that the ancient translations of the Bible are not uniform, but they often contain different readings. These variae lectiones confer originality to each version. Choosing to adapt the Syriac according to the Sahidic Bible, the translator “corrupted” the original, but at the same time offered a text that certainly sounded more familiar to a Coptic audience.
For example, verse 236 (Bedjan p. 819, verse 21) of Jacob’s memrā reads in Syriac ܡܘܬܐ ܘܦܟܝܪ ܐܕܡ ܘܫܪܐ ܓܪܣܐ ܘܦܥܝܥ, “death was bound, Adam was freed, and the serpent was bruised.” Mentioning the bruising of the serpent, Jacob of Serugh refers to the messianic prophecy of Genesis 3:15. This was a widespread patristic exegetical tradition, which saw in this Old Testament passage a reference to Christ, the descendant of Eve who defeated the Devil. There is also an Arabic version of Jacob’s homily on the Ascension, which accurately translates the bruising of the serpent as وأنرضت الافعى. However, the Coptic text is so different that my first impression was that it must be corrupted,
But let’s have a closer look at the text. In order to understand properly the translational option of the Sahidic, one must compare the different versions of the biblical passage envisaged here. Thus, in the Masoretic text of Genesis 3:15, God curses the serpent saying, [הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹ֔אשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב,[2 “it (i.e. the seed of Eve) will bruise your head, and you will bruise its heel.” The LXX version differs at this point, αὐτός σου τηρήσει κεφαλήν, καὶ σὺ τηρήσεις αὐτοῦ πτέρναν, “he will watch your head, and you will watch his heel.” The fulcrum of the patristic exegesis of 3:15 is the translation of the Hebrew masculine singular pronoun הוּא by αὐτός, which is also masculine singular. However, while in Hebrew the pronoun connects well with the masculine “seed,” in Greek σπέρμα is neuter. This apparent disagreement constitutes the basis for the patristic interpretations of the passage as foretelling Christ’s final victory over the Devil.
More important for the present question, as can be seen above, the LXX (on which the Sahidic version is based) renders the Hebrew verb שׁוּף“to bruise, to trample, to crush” by τηρέω “to guard, to watch.” This refers to the seed of Eve (or to the mysterious masculine personage) watching the serpent’s head in order to bruise it, and to the serpent lying in wait in order to bite man’s heel. Jacob of Serugh knew Genesis 3:15 only according to the Peshitta, which follows closely the Hebrew text, [ܗܼܘܢܕܘܫܪܫܟ.[5 Precisely to this version he referred when he said that the “serpent was bruised (ܦܥܝܥ).”
However, although the Sahidic version of the Genesis rightly translates τηρέω by it differs both from the Masoretic text and the LXX because it says, , “he shall guard/watch his heel, and you, in your turn, will guard/watch your head.” Thus, in the Sahidic Genesis 3:15 the serpent does not watch to bite man’s heel, but rather watches its own head not to be crushed by man.
Only now it becomes apparent why the Coptic translation of verse 236 reads, “the serpent guarded/watched (roeis) his head” instead of “the serpent was bruised.” This reading does not find support either in the Syriac original of Jacob’s homily or in the Greek LXX, but only in the Sahidic version of Genesis 3:15.
In my article, I discuss whether the translation of the memrā was made by a Copt who knew Syriac or rather by a Syrian who learned Coptic. The peculiar rendering of verse 236 seems to suggest that the translator must be a Copt familiar with the Sahidic Bible. On the other hand, it is not impossible to imagine that the translation was made by a Syrian who anticipated the problems a Coptic audience may have, and adapted it according to the Sahidic text of Genesis. Be that as it may, the Sahidic version of Jacob of Serugh’s memrā raises many questions, some of which I address in my forthcoming article.
 Syriac text in P. Bedjan, S. Martyrii, qui et Sahdona quæ supersunt omnia (Paris – Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1902) 808-832. The Syriac text edited by Bedjan has been taken over and translated into English in T. Kollamparampil, Jacob of Sarug’s Homily on the Ascension of Our Lord (Texts from Christian Late Antiquity, 24. The Metrical Homilies of Mar Jacob of Sarug, 21; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2010).
 R. Kittel, Biblia Hebraica (Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1937) 4.
 A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta: Id est Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes vol. 1 (4th edition; Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1950) 5.
 J.L. Ronning, The Curse on the Serpent (Genesis 3:15) in Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics (Ph.D. thesis; Westminster: Glenside, PA: Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1997) 14.
 Biblia sacra juxta versionem simplicem quæ dicitur Pschitta vol. 1 (Beirut: Typis typographiæ catholicæ, 1951) 4 (in Syriac numerals).
 A. Ciasca, Sacrorum Bibliorum fragmenta copto-sahidica Musei Borgiani vol. 1 (Rome: Typis Eiusdem S. Congregationis, 1885) 1; same text published in A. Amélineau, “Fragments de la version thébaine de l’Écriture (Ancien Testament),” Recueil de travaux relatifs à la philologie et à l’archéologie égyptiennes et assyriennes 7(1886) 197-216, at 199.
 The Coptic verbs hareh and roeis are synonyms in this context.
Paola Buzi‘s catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin has finally been printed. This is a long awaited publication for those interested in Coptic manuscripts in general and in the reconstruction of the White Monastery codices in particular.
Although the collection belongs to the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the manuscripts are actually hosted at the Staats- und Universitätbibliothek Carl von Ossietzky, Hamburg. They were moved here some decades ago in order to be catalogued under the auspices of the Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. Thus, I often had the possibility to consult them in situ. It is an amazing collection of well-preserved parchment folios from the White Monastery.
The book can be purchased online via the publisher’s website. Here is a description of the catalogue:
“This volume is the seventh catalogue of the Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland series dedicated to the collection Coptic manuscripts belonging to the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz – Orientabteilung.
The volume contains the analytical description of literary and liturgical manuscripts (Ms. or. fol. 1348–1350, 1605–1610; Ms. or. fol. 3065; Ms. or. oct. 409 and Ms. or. oct. 987) from the well known library of the White Monastery, in Sohag (Upper Egypt), two papyrus documents from Thebes (Ms. or. fol. 2097) and two Old Nubian manuscripts (Ms. or. quart. 1019 and Ms. or. quart. 1020), which are all dated between the fourth and the tenth-eleventh centuries CE.
Since a large part of these manuscripts consists of leaves of dismembered codices, great attention has been devoted to the description of each single codicological unit (that often correspond to one single leaf), and, wherever possible, to the virtual reconstruction of the original codices. Moreover, particular care has been dedicated to applying an extensive codicological description and to the possibly exhaustive listing of secondary literature.”
Dr. Philip Sellew announces that the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota seeks to hire a recent PhD or ABD to join a team of researchers at Minnesota and Oxford universities on the ‘Ancient Lives’ crowd-sourced papyri transcription project. “Our next step is to focus on developing better search tools and analyzing documentary papyri in Coptic and Greek of interest to historians of early Christianity in Egypt.”
Start date is Fall 2014. Please see the link to the job posting for further details. Inquires and applications may be directed to Prof. Philip Sellew at email@example.com.