Logos and the Duke Papyri Collection (Part 2)

I have been reviewing bits and pieces of the Logos presentation of the Perseus collection for the last three weeks.  In my opinion, the most valuable item in the Duke Papyri Collection is the The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.   While this counts as only a single resource, this is a massive series, each volume containing as many as 200 or more documents.  The published collection currently stands at 75 volumes, the first in 1898 edited by Grenfell and Hunt. 1898.  The most recent Logos volume (number 68) was published only in 1995. There are many missing volumes (5, 11, 13, 15, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28-30, 32, 35, 37, 39). I am not sure why these were never included in the Duke collection.  Volume five, for example, includes 840 through 844, a Fragment of an Uncanonical Gospel, Pindar, Paeans, Theopompus (or Cratippus), Hellenica, Plato, Symposium, and Isocrates, Panegyricus.  I assume that copyrights could not be obtained, but it would be nice to have access to the whole collection.

The Oxyrhynchus collection includes some biblical text, both New Testament and LXX, but also a number of literary texts and a massive number text from daily.  These include personal letters,  receipts, government documents, etc.  One of the main reasons for studying this material (from a NT perspective) is to expand our understanding of Greek vocabulary.  The Greek language of the New Testament is the language of ordinary people and not a unique “Holy Spirit” Greek, as was once thought.

By way of example, I examined P.Oxy 2104, which is (according to the Oxyrhynchus website) a Rescript of Severus Alexander, dated some time after A.D. 222, published originally in 1927. Complete words are syntactically tagged and linked to Greek lexicons.  As I observed in a previous installment, lexicons searched according to a priority list, so that double-clicking a word will open the first lexicon in which the word appears.  In this case, I clicked on the first word in the manuscript, αὐτοκράτωρ. The word does not appear in BDAG, but it does in Liddell and Scott (L&S) and the (LEH, a LXX lexicon).  In addition, I was able to find the word in six articles in Moulton and Milligan, a lexicon of NT words appearing in the papyri.  In line thirteen the form πρόρρησις appears, Logos identifies the form and double clicking opens L&S to προρρησις, “prediction.”  Words which are incomplete are not tagged, which is understandable but unfortunate.  This includes bracketed words and dotted letters, both of which are suggested reconstructions of the text.

Many of the volumes in this series have been scanned so that the actual papyri is available online. Starting about volume 17 you can view high resolution scans of the papyri and compare the transcriptions provided in Logos.  Here is a link to p.Oxy 2104, with high resolution scans of the fragments I just discussed.  Take a look at the scans and you will appreciate the difficulty of determining the text!  Since the Duke Collection only includes the transcriptions without the volume of plates, the Oxyrhynchus website provides the scholar with access to high resolution photographs of the individual fragments.

Some of the early volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri are available on Google Books.  I downloaded Volume One in Google Books and compared it to the data in the Duke collection in Logos.  Volume One in Logos omits the first 34 documents, so I compared document 35, (P.Oxy 35).  Logos gives only the date (A.D. 223) and I saw no differences in the text.  But for reasons I cannot understand, the Duke collection does not include the verso of this fragment, which has a list of emperors beginning with Nero and the dates they ruled. The printed volume also has a better description of the text (including size) and a few paragraphs of explanation.  Some of this data is available on the Oxyrhynchus website.  One thing that could be improved here is the arrangement of the text to give a visual clue to missing text.  The printed page shows that the first three lines are actually near the end of the line, the rest of the fragment is missing.  It ought to be possible for the data to be adjusted in Logos so that lacunae are lined up more accurately.

In short, the Duke Papyri Collection is an incredible resource for scholars, providing transcriptions of a massive collection of non-literary Greek.

Logos 4.3 and the Duke Papyri Collection

The Perseus Collection for Logos includes the Duke Papyri Collection.  I am just starting appreciate the extent of this collection of papyri, but I can say that this is the most valuable of the sub-collections in the massive collection of books Logos is offering for free.

What are the “papyri”? Papyrus (plural, papyri) is a writing material made from reed-like plant and is more or less like paper.  While this material is may not seem as durable as vellum or a potsherd, there are papyri documents which date back to the second millennium BC.  While the material could potentially be found in any location, the climate of Egypt is ideal for preserving papyri so a large percentage of these documents are Egyptian in origin.  The papyri may contain biblical books or other classical literature, but likely as not a collection of papyri will contain receipts, legal documents, government memos, perhaps even personal letters.  Papyri documents often give a reader access to the “normal life” of ancient people since we are reading their mail or legal documents.  There are two problems with this material, however.  First, most of the papyri are fragmentary, missing letters, words and even whole lines.  This makes reconstructing the text extremely difficult.  Second, the content of the fragment is often difficult because the content is obscure.  I am not sure a future scholar could examine the receipts in my wallet and make much sense of my life.  (Perhaps they might think I worship a goddess named Starbucks since I have so many texts with her name.)

What is the Duke Papyri Collection?  The Duke Papyri collection consists of about 256 volumes of published papyri fragments, ostraca, inscriptions, and other Greek texts.  Many of these Logos books are actually multi-volume series published over many years. (Here is a master list of papyri, inscription and ostraca with full publication dates.)  Not everything on this index page is included in the Logos package.  For example, P.Worp, (Sixty-Five Papyrological Texts Presented to Klaas A. Worp on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday) is not included, possibly because of the recent publication date (Leiden, 2008).

Not all the documents in a particular volume are included, sometimes because they are not in Greek, other times (I assume) because of copyright issues.  For example, the volume entitled Papyri Greek and Egyptian Edited by Various Hands in Honour of Eric Gardner Turner on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, ed. P.J. Parsons, J.R. Rea and others (Egypt Exploration Society, Graeco-Roman Memoirs 68; London 1981), (P.Turner) should have 55 items, but in the Logos collection numbers 1-15 are missing, as is number 55 (which was in Coptic).  According to the Duke site, document 15 was in Demotic, but it may be that documents 1-15 were in Demotic and not included for that reason.  Without looking at a physical copy of the book, I am not sure.  Omitting non-Greek papyri is the norm for the collection, likely because that data was simply not collected in to the Perseus project in the first place.

Even with the omissions, Logos provides an impressive collection of texts.  In the next installment, I will discuss some of the more important items in the collection and how Logos can be used to navigate this massive amount of data.  Later, I will briefly discuss the value of this material for NT exegesis.