Upcoming SBL presentation on Bezae’s “anti-feminist” readings in Acts

I will be presenting at the 2016 SBL Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, on Codex Bezae’s so-called “anti-feminist” readings. According to the online program book, the presentation is currently scheduled for the morning session on Sunday, 20 November. I will approach these primarily “singular” Bezan readings from the perspective of the fourth-century anti-ascetic movement, active in the decade preceding Bezae’s paleographically-assigned date of ca 400 and evidenced, for example, by the Jovinian controversy at Rome in the early 390’s.

The title and abstract are on the SBL site and below:

The ascetic choices of Rome’s aristocratic women and ecclesiastical authority in late fourth-century Rome as a proposed background for Codex Bezae’s “anti-feminist” readings in Acts

The “Western” text of Acts is often cited for a tendency to diminish the visibility and prominence of women, sometimes thought to reflect a second-century context (Schüssler Fiorenza, 1983; Witherington, 1984). But Holmes (2003) observes that at least half of the cited readings are attested only by Codex Bezae, which suggests that they may belong to a narrower layer of variants deriving from a time closer to Bezae’s production in ca. 400 C.E. In this paper, I will argue that specific concerns apparent in these readings are anticipated by critics of the privileged status of sexual asceticism in the Latin West in the final decades of the fourth century, including Helvidius, Jovinian, Filastrius, Vigilantius, and especially Ambrosiaster, whose ostensibly spiritual objections (e.g. charges of Manichaeism) were in part animated by a contest for authority over female lay ascetics of the Roman aristocracy, whose perceived independence was seen as a challenge not merely to the integrity of the household but also to the prerogatives of the male ecclesiastical hierarchy (Clark, 1981; Hunter, 1989). On the one hand, Bezae enhances precedents favorable to arguments against the special prestige of sexual renunciation, such as the apostolic example of marriage and procreation (a point argued by Ambrosiaster and Jovinian), evident in Bezae’s mention of wives and children in the upper room (Acts 1:14) and reinforced by the enlargement of the married Peter’s role over that of the celibate Paul in Bezae’s tradition (Brock, 2003). On the other hand, Bezae’s obfuscation of the conversion accounts of women who are depicted in Acts as making spiritual choices outside the authority structure of the household, such as the public profession of Damaris, apparently unaccompanied by a husband, who chooses to follow Paul, a man who is not her husband (Acts 17:34), accords well with Ambrosiaster’s contention that women possessed the imago Dei only through a male head (Hunter, 1992). These and other parallels suggest that the decades prior to Bezae’s production warrant closer attention as a potential context for its “anti-feminist” readings.

The Contribution of Fourth-Century Sources to Research on Codex Bezae

This Saturday I will be presenting a paper at the Pacific Northwest Regional SBL conference entitled “The Contribution of Fourth-Century Sources to Research on Codex Bezae.” The paper will discuss the potential contribution of fourth-century sources, such as Ambrosiaster and Jerome, to an understanding of the text of Codex Bezae and the context in which it was produced. As a demonstration, I will examine an important passage from Ambrosiaster’s Commentary on Romans (5:14), in which Ambrosiaster offers a thinly-veiled attack on the Vulgate for its dependence on corrupt Greek texts. In his critique, Ambrosiaster takes a special interest in the relationship between the Latin and Greek traditions, summarizing his views in three criteria for discerning the ancient text in a corrupt tradition — reason, history, and authority — each of which I will relate to specific features of Codex Bezae as a document. From the abstract:

“Research on Codex Bezae has typically focused on its distinctive text of the gospels and Acts as a second-century phenomenon. At the same time, little if any research has been dedicated to the place of Bezae’s text in the late fourth-century context which inspired its production. In this paper, I will argue that the circumstances of Bezae’s production in the fourth century warrant more attention as a source of potential insight into its unique text form.”

Fulbright Awarded for Research on Codex Bezae

I am pleased to announce that I have been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for my proposed research on Codex Bezae to be performed at the Institut für Neutestamentlische Textforschung in Münster, Germany starting in October. The thrust of the research is developing a method to partition Bezae’s readings by layer, but the demonstration will be in the analysis that follows. A proof-of-concept of the method has already been published in Lorenz (2015). The project will be supervised as a Ph.D. dissertation by INTF Director Prof. Dr. Holger Strutwolf with the support of colleagues at the Institute and the Institute’s vast resources for textual research.

Please see the attached press release.

Article Now Available on Textual Layers in Codex Bezae

I recently published an article on textual layers in Codex Bezae found here:

Analyzing Textual Stratification in the Greek Gospel Text of Codex Bezae: Comparing Three Approaches to Layer Extraction in John 4,1–42 (2015)

It is one thing of course to suggest that Codex Bezae attests a mixed text with readings from multiple sources combined into its final text. But it is quite another matter to identify and extract these sources in a systematic and repeatable way. The basic method was proposed by Michael Holmes in a 1996 essay (“Codex Bezae as a Recension of the Gospels”). Holmes then successfully demonstrated this method on the text of Matthew. The consistency of his results speaks for itself.

My goal in this paper is to identify more accurate and efficient techniques to extract Bezae’s layers based on Holmes key insights, namely

  1. That the same witnesses are often found together in support of distinct subsets of Bezae’s readings and
  2. That any group of readings supported by essentially the same selection of witnesses represents a ‘layer,’ which we can treat as a distinct element of Bezae’s tradition.

The motivation is to repeat Holmes’ proof-of-concept on the text of Matthew with other full-scale applications in other parts of Bezae. The article uses complete IGNTP transcriptions for a small part of John.

From the abstract:

It has been suggested that Codex Bezae’s Greek column (D) attests a stratified text, consisting of distinct layers of readings that reflect its historical contact with different traditions. Using John 4:1-42 as a case study, this paper compares three methods of partitioning D’s readings by layer: first, Holmes’ (1996) method based on patterns of agreement; second, a proposed method based on the levels of D’s readings in local genealogies; and, third, a proposed method based on multivariate clustering.

The result shows that Bezae’s readings tend to bifurcate cleanly between two main layers, a mainstream layer and an Old Latin layer.