Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mysteries, Solved And Unsolved

I'm still having trouble finding information about Classical Studies in Latin America. (Yes, I know I could assuage these difficulties as easily as contacting a university professor or two.) The other day, I thought that perhaps I had come across an indication of the study of ancient Latin in Peru: in Eutropii Breviarum Ab Urbe Condita, edidit Carolus Santini, Leipzig: Teubner, 1992,

on p xii and p xviii, a 14th-century manuscript of Eutropius is referred to as "Perusinus H 75." Could this be a manuscript currently held in a library in Puru? I asked myself excitedly. However, an Internet search for the term perusinus quickly taught me that it does not refer to Peru, but to the Italian city Perugia, which was once an Etruscan city. Most of the Google results in my search for perusinus refer to the Cippus Perusinus,

a stone inscribed in Etruscan, discovered near Perugia early in the 19th century. There are some claims that the Etruscan text on the Cippus Perusinus has been diciphered. However, if I have understood things correctly, the academic consensus is that Etruscan remains a lost language, not yet deciphered by modern people.

Anyway: the question of "Perusinus" was cleared up very easily. Only my laziness prevents me from beginning to learn about Classical studies in Latin America. (You know, it seems I recall that someone actually told me the titles of a couple of books on that very subject, and I've been too lazy to follow that lead, or even to jot down the titles in a place I'd remember.)

It seems that another question may remain somewhat more difficult: I've heard repeatedly from various sources that "the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament known at the time of the making of the King James Bible were from the 12th century." The more times I hear that repeated, the more implausible it sounds.

Now, it may be that the oldest Greek manuscripts actually used by the makers of the KJV were 12th century. But much older manuscripts were found by Western scholars in Egypt beginning in the mid-19th century: complete Greek Bibles, Old and New Testament, as old as 4th-century, many other copies of individual books or of the Gospels, in Greek, Coptic or Syriac, 6th century and older, and all of this before the beginning of the excavations at Oxyrhynchus began to yield New Testament fragments as old as the 2nd century.

How much of the statement: "the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament known at the time of the making of the King James Bible were from the 12th century" can possibly be anything but stupid Western provincialism and sheer ignorance of non-Western Biblical scholarship? Are we to believe that no-one in those Egyptian monasteries which contained those much older manuscripts was actually studying them, before rich Westerners swooped in and bought them and took them away to the West? Not to mention scholarship done in Greece, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Ethiopia, etc?

That's not just very hard for me to believe, it's impossible for me to believe. That so many Western scholars, to this very day, would be wholly ignorant of whatever Biblical scholarship has existed of the West, is staggering, to be sure -- but, sadly, I can believe it.

Frankly, it's also hard for me to believe that nowhere in Western Europe, before the 19th century finds in Egypt, was there any manuscript of the Greek New Testament older than the 12th century. Frankly, it strikes me as downright odd that there would be no Greek New Testament manuscripts as old as the 9th century or older well-known in England at the beginning of the 17th century, when the King James Bible was being made. But I don't even know whom to ask about this. I google these things and get all sorts of different answers from all sorts of different people. I can easily find all sorts of statements which are clearly nonsense. It's not at all clear to me who knows what they're talking about.

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