Dissatisfaction with the Chester Beatty Papyri
|P. Chester Beatty I, (P45) folio 13-14, containing portion of the Gospel of Luke|
I have noticed how in some important regards, recent scholarship is moving in my direction.
One of the great collections is:
The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri or simply the Chester Beatty Papyri are a group of early papyrus manuscripts of biblical texts. The manuscripts are in Greek and are of Christian origin. There are eleven manuscripts in the group, seven consisting of portions of Old Testament books, three consisting of portions of the New Testament (Gregory-Aland no. P45, P46, and P47), and one consisting of portions of the Book of Enoch and an unidentified Christian homily. Most are dated to the 3rd century. They are housed in part at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, and in part at the University of Michigan, among a few other locations.
- Chester Beatty Papyri
This reassessment is highly critical:
As to the reassessment of provenance, I think dissatisfaction is the order of the day. Because all of the codices passed through the hands of one or more dealers and are not associated with any secure archaeological context, the question of the provenance of the Beatty biblical papyri cannot be definitively settled. In all cases we are dealing with, at best, second- or third-hand hearsay. But the discovery that the papyri were (quite early on) attributed to Asyut should at least keep us honest and make us wary of overconfidence about having firmly established provenance for papyrus hoards when no clear archaeological link is extant. [Even today, scholars of the New Testament sometimes give Schmidt’s story too much credence. See most recently J.R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (Leiden, 2008) 17–18.]
- The Acquisition of the University of Michigan’s Portion of the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri and a New Suggested Provenance by Brent Nongbri (Macquarie University)
[Emphasis mine.]As to the dating:
The Pauline epistles are numbered and described separately. After a note stating that ‘The papyri numbered 6231–6237 were purchased in Egypt during the season of 1931/32’, the Pauline epistles are inventoried after that list (as number 6238): ‘Thirty papyrus leaves containing part of the epistles of Paul. IV’. It is not clear who assigned the fourth century date.
[Emphasis mine.]This category of manuscripts is generally used to further the apologist cause, which is how they are treated so shabbily.