God's Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts

Yale Univ. Aug. 2018. 416p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300215410. $35. REL
OrangeReviewStarNongbri (ancient history, Macquarie Univ.; Before Religion) challenges readers to reconsider the earliest Christian writings as three-dimensional objects, theorizing that we are unable to know precisely the dates or provenance of these texts, owing to circumspect antiquities dealers, questionable and/or dated excavation methods, and a singular focus on paleography. The first chapter details what we should consider in determining this critical bibliographical information: archaeological context of the collection(s), the size and layout of the text, binding techniques, type of paper and inks used, etc. The following sections focus on archaeological and scientific methods previously used to date these documents. To support his theory, Nongbri reexamines the Oxyrhynchus Papyri to illustrate how past practices in dating these materials can lead to inaccurate results. This well-researched, richly illustrated, and readable volume makes a strong case for why alternative methods ought to be used in the dating and locating of early Christian documents.
VERDICT For those interested in the history of the book, religious studies, paleography, and archaeology. Highly recommended.

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