On Creating an Annotated Edition of the Greek Acts of Pilate

As I shared in a previous post, one of my projects for 2018 (and 2019, likely) is an introduction, translation, and brief commentary on the Acts of Pilate, which is also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus in its Latin tradition.

Most of you know that my day job for the past two decades (wow, now I feel old) involves processing and analysis of texts in the Biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin) and also English. So I’m a little peculiar in how I approach a project like this.

If I’m translating something, I want a transcription of the Greek text I can use. And by “use” I mean analyze, correct, and append. I want a basic edition of the Greek text annotated with dictionary/lemma forms, with morphology data, and with English glosses. I’ll use this data as I work through the translation.

Unfortunately, creating and annotating the electronic edition is usually the most labor intensive portion of the whole task. But it is also, to me, the most valuable. If I didn’t care about the annotation data (and possible derivatives, like a Greek Readers Edition), I’d just work the text and translate away. But creating the annotation gives me an anchor to look back on. I’ll remember when I looked up that weird word that is likely a Latin loanword (this happens more than I’d realized in the Acts of Pilate), and I find this important.

So I find or make a transcription. Sometimes this even involves typing the Greek or some portion thereof, which can be slow-going, but is also good for familiarizing oneself with the text.

Next step: A few passes looking for typos and correcting them. I’m definitely old-school here; I just see typos much easier on paper than on the screen. So I usually print out the transcription at a larger-than-normal font size (typos scream when they’re bigger, trust me), and mark it up. Then I incorporate those changes back in the transcription.

When that feels good, then it’s write some code to compare words against existing morphological databases. James Tauber’s MorphGNT.org is one source, Perseus is another. If you have half an idea what you’re doing (and understand a bit about Greek and Unicode), you can grab these sources and create a fairly decent dictionary to do brute-force lookups to initially populate a new Greek text with lemma and morphology data. Since I’d like to think I have at least half an idea on these things, this is the way I roll.

Note I say initially because, particularly for participles, nouns, and adjectives, there is need to review and revise based on context (particularly when drawing from Perseus data). And it won’t populate for every word, which means you’ll need to devise a system to track missed items and re-integrate them back into your data. I’ve been doing this long enough that it isn’t usually a big deal (cross your fingers, Brannan!).

Once all of this is done, I have an initial edition of the text to start a translation from. I’ll write some code to output the transcription with morphology and glosses as an HTML document, and that’s what I’ll consult as I translate (and review the morphology data and glosses). It looks sort of like this:

ActaPilati-HTML-001

By the time I get to the translation, I’ve already spent a fair amount of time in the Greek text, which I think is beneficial.

My approach with the Acts of Pilate will be slightly different, however.

Thanks to our good friend (to whom all NT and Early Christianity folks are in immense debt), Constantine Tischendorf, there are two (yes, two!) editions of the Acts of Pilate, commonly referred to as Acts of Pilate (A) and Acts of Pilate (B). Most translations/editions focus on Acts of Pilate (A) for the first 16 chapters, but snag the 11-chapter piece known as The Descent of Christ to Hades from Acts of Pilate (B) because it isn’t in the Acts of Pilate (A).

I’m not planning on doing that. I’m planning on giving the full treatment to both Acts of Pilate (A) and Acts of Pilate (B). This means I’ll have to get text for B. My current plan is to complete the draft translation of Acts of Pilate (A) and then start the transcription of Acts of Pilate (B).

My ultimate plan/hope (if the typesetter is adventurous enough) is to table the “A” and “B” portions in the translation, so the differences can be more easily seen in the shared portions of the text. Arranging the translation(s) as such should also help me more easily isolate the areas of difference that require comment.

(For the record, apart from noting differences between A and B, and perhaps some text-critical interaction, my hope for the commentary portion is to focus on the use of OT and NT material in the progression of the narrative. But we’ll see if that happens.)

After all of this is done, then I’ll have to write the introduction, without getting too carried away. After all, the Acts of Pilate, whether you know it or not, was a very popular text in antiquity (and straight through to modern times). There are scads of different versions of it in scads of different languages.

Apparently people were really curious about what happened during the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Who’d’ve thunk it?

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New Book: Greek Readers Edition of 1 Apocr. Apoc. John

1AAJn-Cover-Amazon-001Over the past two years, off and on, I’ve been working on a new introduction and translation of the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (1AAJn) for the second volume of Tony Burke and Brent Landau’s New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures series.

A few months back, I realized I had most of the parts required to make a reader’s edition of 1AAJn. I had keyed in the text and assigned dictionary forms (lemmas), morphology, and English glosses. I could write code to generate the rest needed, and then do some editing on the result to produce something that could be published.

But why would anyone want a reader’s edition of this little-known text?

1AAJn-sample-002There are all sorts of reasons, but the basic reason is: The more Greek you read, the better your Greek will get. Even if the New Testament is your swimming pool, you need to read stuff outside of the Greek NT. Apostolic Fathers are good, so is the LXX. But I thought that 1AAJn was unique because its vocabulary (and forms) are largely those found in the Greek New Testament, its content is similar to content in the canonical book of Revelation, and it “baby bear” sized: Not too short, not too long, but just right.

When you make it through this little book, you’ll have worked through a text that will make your Greek better. There’s an English translation provided too (Walker’s translation from Schaff’s Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 9). The Greek text provides a footnote for every instance of every word that occurs 30x or less in the Greek New Testament. The footnote includes dictionary form, part of speech, number of NT occurrences, and a short English gloss. There is even an appendix in the back that provides a glossary of all the footnoted words.

About 1 Apocr. Apoc. John

The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, originally composed sometime between the 5th and 8th centuries, is an apocalypse structured as questions and answers with “John the Theologian” questioning the Lord Jesus. Several themes from the canonical book of Revelation are echoed. There are also several interactions with Psalms and New Testament material, and the vocabulary is largely that of the Greek New Testament.

Lexham Press to publish my Apostolic Fathers and Greek Apocryphal Gospels

It’s a long headline, but I’m not sure how to make it shorter. And it’s true; Lexham Press will be publishing my translation of the Apostolic Fathers and my introduction and translation of several Greek editions of Apocryphal gospels, manuscript fragments, and agrapha. They’re targeted for Fall 2017, which means they should be (fingers crossed!) on the tables at SBL in Boston along with other forthcoming Lexham Press titles.

I’m thrilled about this. My books are being published in the Lexham Classics series, which means my stuff is on the same page as works by Martin Luther, Louis Berkhof, and G.K. Chesterton. And the covers are pretty sweet too.

LexhamPressApostolicFathers-001

LexhamPressGreekApocGospels-001

These have been available for Logos Bible Software for while (see here and here), and they’ve been well received. When folks have asked me about print editions, I’ve had to direct elsewhere. Now I’m happy to finally be able to point to these Lexham Classics editions.

I’ll pass along more info when I have it. There are a bunch of other great books in the Fall 2017 Lexham Press Academic Catalog, so do give it a look.

NT Apocrypha: The Second Apocalypse of John

Flammarion Woodcut, via Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday I blogged about my introduction of and translation to John and the Robber, a nice and relatively unknown piece of Christian (New Testament) Apocrypha. I also mentioned Eerdmans’ New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1.

A volume 1 usually implies the intent of a volume 2 and that is the case with New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. I’ve recently committed to write another piece for volume 2. This next one is a bit outside of my wheelhouse as it involves an apocryphal apocalypse, but I chose to do it anyway; largely because it was there and needed to be done. And, I think, it’ll be fun.

I’ll be writing an introduction and translation to The Apocalypse of Saint John the Theologian; which is also known as The Second Apocalypse of John and The Later Apocalypse of John.

Constantin Tischendorf

The Greek text is available in, of course, Tischendorf’s volume of apocryphal apocalypses. Did that guy ever sleep?

Constantiunus Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae: Mosis, Esdrae, Pauli, Iohannis, item Mariae Dormitio, additis evangeliorum et Actuum Apocryphorum Supplementis. Hermann Mendelssohn: Lipsiae, 1866. Pp. 70–94.

Edition also found in:

John M. Court, The Book of Revelation and the Johannine Apocalyptic Tradition. JSNTS 190. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England. 2000. Pp. 32–46.

Court reproduces Tischendorf’s edition, with his own translation on the facing page and notes.

Since I didn’t have a digital non-image edition of Tischendorf’s Greek text, I figured I’d key it in. It isn’t that long, so no biggie. It just took a few mornings. I started with Court’s edition of Tischendorf, as the diacritics were clearer in the print than my PDF of Tischendorf. Then I proofed against Tischendorf.

Now I’ll be able to do other stuff with the text as I begin to actually work on the text over the next weeks and months. You’re welcome.

Since you may not read Greek, here’s a translation from the Ante Nicene Fathers, volume 8. Of course I’ll do my own, but I haven’t started yet, and that one will be in the forthcoming volume 2 (so probably not released on the blog).

The full citation, if you’re interested:

Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages (vol. 8, pp. 582–586; The Ante-Nicene Fathers; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886).

If you find this useful, interesting, or helpful, please let me know.

NT Apocrypha: John and the Robber

9780802872890I just realized that I have not mentioned this on the blog. But recently I wrote an introduction and translation for a neat piece of Christian (aka New Testament) Apocrypha known as John and the Robber. It is a great little apocryphal story of the apostle John, post-Patmos, in Ephesus and his encounter with the bishop of Smyrna and a robber.

This will be published in Tony Burke and Brent Landau’s forthcoming New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Volume 1), to be published in November 2016 by Eerdmans. So keep an eye out for it, the volume looks to be awesome.

Note: I mention this because a volume 2 is in the works, and I’ve recently been working on a submission. More later.