Hugh Houghton on New Testament catenas

The late antique and medieval commentaries on scripture took the form of chains of quotations from ancient writers, including much lost early Christian commentary.  These are known today as the catena (=chain) commentaries, and their study is a rather specialised one.

Thankfully it is receiving some real attention today.  Hugh Houghton writes to say that a volume of papers edited by himself on the subject is now online. This contains a great number of papers that will interest most of us.

It begins with “An Introduction to Greek New Testament Commentaries with a Preliminary Checklist of New Testament Catena Manuscripts”!  Of course we’re discussing ancient Greek New Testament commentaries here.  This paper alone will be of use to many.

The volume is H.A. Houghton, Commentaries, Catenae and Biblical Tradition: Papers from the Ninth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, in association with the COMPAUL project. Gorgias Press (2016)

Those who remember my volume of Eusebius, Gospel Problems and Solutions, may know that it included Coptic fragments of the work.  Dr H’s volume includes an interesting paper, “An Overview of Research on Bohairic Catena Manuscripts on the Gospels” by Matthias Schulz – something that I would have killed to read back in 2011.

Of deep interest to many will be C. M. Kreinecker’s paper on Rufinus’ translation of Origen’s commentary on Romans.  It’s always interesting to wonder how accurate Rufinus is, considering that he is the only version of much of Origen, and also remembering a load of accusations by Jerome.  The rediscovery of the original Greek of the Commentary on Romans means that this particular work can now be investigated; and this paper examines the Latin biblical text involved.

Fortunately the work is online.  Dr H. writes:

The new Gorgias online repository is now available at https://www.gorgiaspress.com/gorgias-open-repository

 The book on catenae can be downloaded at: https://www.gorgiaspress.com/Content/files/GorgiasOpen/978-1-4632-0576-8.pdf

This is excellent news.  Add it to your library now.

Dr H. also added a note to my post on the lost – and now found! – gospel commentary of Fortunatianus, to advise that he is producing an English translation which will be available with the text in 2017.  But, better yet, the translation will be available online.  Which means, of course, that we can all read it.

It is really a great pleasure to see useful scholarship being made available to the whole world like this.  Well done, everyone involved, and especially Dr Houghton.

Postscript: I also see that Dr H.’s own website has a bunch of his papers which, inevitably, are also of wide interest.  Recommended.

A curious article opposing open-access to the products of state-funded research

AWOL has drawn my attention to a rather curious article by the president of the Archaeological Institute of America, Elizabeth Bartman.

The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 was introduced in both houses of Congress on February 9 of this year.

The legislation would require that publishers of academic and scholarly journals provide the government with final peer-reviewed and edited manuscripts, and, six months after their publication, those manuscripts would be made available to the public, on the Internet, for no charge. The House bill states, “The Federal Government funds basic and applied research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries that result from the research, if shared and effectively disseminated, will advance science and improve the lives and welfare of people of the United States and around the world.”

Quite properly too.  Who but a vested interest could argue that those who pay should be able to see the fruits of what they pay for?  Well…

We at the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), along with our colleagues at the American Anthropological Association and other learned societies, have taken a stand against open access. Here at the AIA, we particularly object to having such a scheme imposed on us from the outside …

Huh?  Why on earth?

Here at the AIA, we particularly object to having such a scheme imposed on us from the outside when, in fact, during the AIA’s more than 130-year history, we have energetically supported the broad dissemination of knowledge, and do so through our extensive program of events and lectures for the general public and through our publications.

Emphasis mine.  This woman believes that the public must pay for the research, but is NOT entitled to see the research.  Instead they should be grateful to be allowed to attend the occasional public lecture — if they live anywhere nearby — and to know that the publications exist, even if they can’t ever see them.  Wow.  That’s pretty obscurantist.

While it may be true that the government finances research, it does not fund the arduous peer-review process that lies at the heart of journal and scholarly publication, nor the considerable effort beyond that step that goes into preparing articles for publication. Those efforts are not without cost. When an archaeologist publishes his or her work, the final product has typically been significantly improved by the contributions of other professionals such as peer reviewers, editors, copywriters, photo editors, and designers. This is the context in which the work should appear. (Almost all scholarly books and many articles lead off with a lengthy list that acknowledges these individuals.)

What?  The public is to be denied access, because someone has to pay typesetters so that it can appear in nice printed form?!  Talk about cart before horse!  As for reviewers … erm, just how do reviewers get paid now?  By the taxpayer, of course, who funds every element of their life-style bar one or two.

But of course Mrs Bartman has published this article on the web.  We might ask, if we are cynical enough, how she was able to afford to place her article on the web?  After all, are there not “the contributions of other professionals such as peer reviewers, editors, copywriters, photo editors, and designers”? 

There is a polite response here

My own response, as a member of  the tax-paying public, is to suggest that AIA find another president.  Open access is morally right.  Obstructing it is morally wrong, and, for someone who lives off the public, disgustingly wrong.  Mrs Bartman needs to be removed, for the sake of the AIA itself.

UPDATE: Quite by coincidence I saw this cartoon at Trevin Wax.  For some reason it seemed relevant:

Ever wonder why textbooks are so expensive? Me too. (HT)

UPDATE: Another dissection of the same article here.