Photo Credit: James E. Goehring, The Crosby-Schøyen Codex MS 193 in the Schøyen Collection (Louvain: Peeters, 1990), plate 3.
MF CASR Lunch with Brent Nongbri
The Early History of the Codex: A New Methodology and Ethics for Manuscript Studies
This talk introduces a new research project at MF funded by the RCN. The technology of the book with pages (i.e., the codex) may appear completely normal, but the use of the codex as a vehicle for literature was actually an innovation of the Roman period (circa 100-400 CE). The replacement of the scroll, which had been the carrier of literature for millennia, marked a major change in the production and transmission of knowledge. Many scholars have suspected that followers of Jesus were among the first to embrace the new technology. The early history of the codex is thus of perennial interest to papyrologists, historians of the book, scholars of early Christianity, and many others. Yet, scholarship on the development and spread of the technology of the codex relies on a set of evidence that is both methodologically and ethically problematic. The body of surviving ancient codices and codex fragments has been inadequately described, contains very few samples with secure dates, and a significant portion of the corpus was acquired illegally. EthiCodex aims to address these issues by cataloging the features and provenance of the earliest codices, distinguishing those that were legally acquired that those that may not have been, funding tests to more securely date early codices, and using that information to provide new grounding for the discussion around the development of the codex.
Brent Nongbri is a Professor of the History of Religions at MF School of Theology, Religion and Society.