ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 46 (2009) 255-258
James R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri.
New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, Vol. 36. Leiden and
Boston: Brill, 2008. xxx + 1051 pages. ISBN 90-04-14945-7.
The six manuscripts studied here are the most extensive and important
witnesses to the New Testament written on papyrus. In the Gregory-Aland
catalogue they are P45, P46, P47 (the three Chester Beatty papyri: 1 + Vienna,
Osterr. Nat. Bibl. Pap. G. 31974; 2 + Ann Arbor, Univ. Lib. Pap. 6238; and
3), P66, P72, and P75 (the three Bodmer papyri: 2 + Chester Beatty s.n. +
Cologne Univ. Inst. fuir Altertumskunde Pap. 4274/4298; 7; and 14-15, now
in the Vatican Library). In a nutshell, the enquiry proceeds by studying the
singular readings in each manuscript in turn and then making an overall assessment of what has been found. The work is meticulous in detail, exhaustive
in bibliography and in discussing every opinion on each topic, and significant
in its conclusions.
As Royse himself points out, it is arguable that a full textual commentary
on each papyrus would be more valuable than any other approach in advancing
research on the early history of the New Testament text. We may note that it is
disappointing, almost extraordinary, that Zuntz's study of P46 in 1 Corinthians
and Hebrews has not been followed by similar analyses of other books; that
Martini's work on P75 in Luke does not have a companion piece on John; and
that even something as fundamental as the identification of the hand or hands
responsible for corrections in P66 has not been cleared up. It is true that P72 (or
rather the codex in which it is found, for it contains other texts which are not
part of the New Testament) has been the subject of thorough examination as an
artefact, and the analyses of the Miinster editio critica maior ofthe Catholic Letters and of Wasserman's edition of all Greek manuscripts of Jude have cast some
light on its text. But P45 and P47 have been rather neglected except, of course,
in Josef Schmid's thorough work on the Apocalypse). Whatever the attractions
of a full commentary, the fact is that we have to start somewhere, and North
American scholarship hitherto has taken a different route. The starting-point is
the well-known article by E.C. Colwell, "Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits:
A Study of P45, P66, P75," first published in 1965. Proceeding by evaluating
singular readings, Colwell isolated certain characteristics of each manuscript.
It was an obvious step for Royse, as a doctoral student in the late seventies,
to develop this idea. It led to his dissertation of 1981, which bears the same
name as this book.
This reviewer, while admiring the freshness of Colwell's approach, had
long needed to be convinced that studying singular readings was a good meth