Bible Software and Papyrology

Published: March 4th, 2004

As many of you know, there has been some debate over the exact identification of certain Qumran fragments (most notably 7Q5). Ernest Muro has been involved in the exchange of scholarly arguments that has taken place at different points in the controversy. One of his pages, entitled “7Q6: Can the Computer be of any Help?”, explains how he went about his study of these fragments of papyri with the aid of BibleWorks.

Back in 1999, I had an email exchange with Ernest Muro. I had been researching O’Callaghan’s identification of 7Q5 as part of Mark’s Gospel (a hypothesis that was also supported by Carsten Thiede) for almost a year, and was interested in using Bible software in order to work on different identifications. We ended up sharing a few searches and some insights. In his former website there was a very interesting
article summarizing the results of his analysis. Unfortunately, it is no longer available, as far as I know. The only one I could find that deals with 7Q5 is found here. So what follows is a brief excerpt from our “conversation” on 7Q5:

Ernest Muro: Please let me know your opinions regarding 7Q5 and also regarding the use of BibleWorks in this regard.

Rubén Gómez: Well, my personal feeling after examining the evidence is that 7Q5 does not belong to the Gospel of Mark, but I am not very satisfied (let alone convicted) with many of the other proposed identifications
(either Biblical or pseudoepigraphical). At this point I must confess I don’t know where this little fragment comes from. Therefore I must suspend my final judgment until further elements come to light.

Concerning the computer searches, what I did was a search based not on the editio princeps, but rather on O’Callaghan’s proposed emendations.

I tried an Advanced Search Engine (ASE) query - a new graphical interface available in version 4.0 - for the 7Q5 papyrus fragment identified by José O’Callaghan as Mark 6:52, 53. The query was the equivalent to writing <’KAI *6 *NNHS* *1 *QHSA*> on the Command Line, and the
only match was Mark 6:53. There were no hits in the LXX. Incidentally, Accordance for Macintosh returned the same results.

Now, obviously, the point of this particular exercise was to search the
GNT/LXX to find out whether there were any verses that met such criteria (provided, that is, that the identification of the letters was correct and the two textual variants proposed by O’Callaghan were right, i.e. DIAPERASANTES would have turned into TIAPERASANTES, and EPI THN GHN would had been left out).

Regarding your own search based on the editio princeps,
BibleWorks does not return any exact matches (and textual emendations and stichometric considerations are always highly subjective anyway). So, I’m afraid we are left in the dark again. I think it would probably be quite interesting to perform a search based on the latest edition of the whole Thesaurus Linguae Graece (TLG) CD-ROM, but I do not have access to it.

Finally (…) O’Callaghan’s latest book on the subject (1995, and not
translated into English as far as I know) is quite interesting, and includes some mathematical studies on the probabilities of the 7Q5 belonging to Mark’s Gospel. But, as I said at the outset, in my opinion, the evidence is still inconclusive, one way or the other.

Ernest Muro: I have added more details to my web site for 7Q5 (…) I have given an example of one of the searches that I performed with BibleWorks. The command line was (’*h kai t*).2(*nnh*) This resulted in 9 “hits”, which are listed at the web site. Of these 9, Genesis 46:20 was the best by far. However, it is not a suitable identification for 7Q5.

For the record, let me repeat that this exchange took place in 1999, that I never managed to publish my research, and that I haven’t made my mind up yet as to the exact identification of 7Q5, though I’m pretty sure it does not belong to Mark (or proto-Mark).

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