(Larry Hurtado): I pass on a notice (from Rod Mullen) that Yale University Art Gallery has completed a renovation and among items on display are frescoes from the Dura Europos baptistry (3rd cent CE). They have also now posted online images of these frescoes: here.
You can search for specific images by using the following numbers:
1932.1200 -Good Shepherd with Adam and Eve
1932.1201a -Women at the Tomb, left side
1932.1201b -Women at the Tomb, center
1932.1201c -Women at the Tomb, right side
1932.1202 -Christ healing the paralytic
1932.1203 -Christ walking on water
1932.1204.1a -David and Goliath
1932.1204.2 -Woman at the well
Fully updated images will appear by about February next year, and higher resolution images may be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org
(Larry Hurtado) By happy accident (often a feature of scholarly research!) yesterday, I ran across an article I would likely never have learned about otherwise: Ann Marie Yasin, “Displaying the Sacred Past: Ancient Christian Inscriptions in Early Modern Rome,” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 7 (2000): 39-57.
Yasin focuses on the origins of scholarly investigation of ancient Christian sites and artifacts in Rome, particularly inscriptions and grave sites. I was surprised to learn that this takes us back to the late 15th century (Fra Giocondon and Pietro Sabino, who catalogued inscriptions). Archaeological work began with Antonio Bosio, who discovered the Roman catacombs “on an unprecedented scale” from 1593 (Bosio published his “monumental work”, Roman sotterranea in 1632).
As she further shows, all through the 17th and 18th centuries, the Roman Church was keenly interested in the investigation, acquisition, and study of ancient Christian artifacts, particularly those reflective of, or thought to be connected with, early Christian martyrs. The furtherance of connections with the ancient period of Christianity was seen as of great interest by church authorities.
It is interesting also that in this period a number of scholars valued “material evidence” over texts, as they were so suspicious of the forgery and alteration of texts.
(Larry Hurtado) I found Daniel Falk’s (University of Oregon) presention yesterday (in a special CSCO session) very interesting in a number of points. One of these was some of the manuscripts data he provided. By his count, 131 of the ca. 930 manuscripts from the Dead Sea sites are papyrus, which = ca. 14% (the remaining ones skin). Of the papyrus mss, ca. 50% are poetic and/or “community rule” texts. By comparison, only about 1% of the papyrus mss contain biblical texts. This confirms the ancient Jewish preference for manuscripts of skin for biblical texts.
Falk also counts some 21 “opisthographs” (i.e., re-used scrolls, with a new text written on the outer side of the roll), 14 of which are papyrus, and 7 of them containing prayer texts. As Falk judged, these opisthographs were likely copies for individuals, showing an interest among some to have personal copies of these texts.
All this gives us yet another snapshot of the use of ancient texts, this snapshot very much based on artifactual evidence.
(Larry Hurtado) Over on my own blog site, I’ve posted about some graffiti from ancient Smyrna that are identified by Roger Bagnall as possibly to confidently Christian:
See Roger Bagnall, everyday Writing in the Graeco-Roman East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), pp. 22-23.