Assistant News Editor
At Wheaton College, both students and faculty spend time delving into biblical texts and researching religious artifacts. However, professor of New Testament Greek and exegesis Karen Jobes and her class of ancient language majors are taking the study of biblical texts to a new level by being the first to translate an ancient Greek manuscript.
According to an article entitled “Wheaton College Professor to Lead Papyrus Research Project” on Wheaton College’s website, Jobes has been selected to research a rare papyrus text owned by The Green Collection, the world’s largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.
“Jobes joins a growing group of internationally known academics at more than 30 colleges, universities and seminaries around the world who are conducting similar research projects on items in The Green Collection through the Green Scholars Initiative,” the article said.
When asked about the nature of the papyrus, Jobes said in an email that the document is about 3 by 6 inches, “written on both sides in clear, capital Greek letters. We haven’t yet translated and identified the text. We’re planning a public display of the papyrus after we’ve concluded our work.”
Senior Jeremiah Coogan, a student in Jobes’ class, explained that the project is more than translation.
“Our work is not simply translation — that’s one piece of it, but the project is more expansive,” Coogan said in an email.
Coogan also said that the research will try to describe the manuscript, date when it was written and determine where the text came from.
Furthermore, the team will “compare (the papyrus fragment) to published editions of that same work, a process called collation, and then seek to find out if it’s actually a fragment belonging to another known manuscript. When all that’s said and done, we also want to take away some conclusions about what the significance of our discoveries might be,” he said.
The Green Scholars Initiative will bring young and established scholars together to conduct groundbreaking research on more than 40,000 rare biblical texts and artifacts that belong to The Green Collection.
Jobes said that her class is ready to take on the task.
“All of them have had adequate preparation in ancient Greek, and they’re already making great progress on the project,” she said. “I have great confidence in their ability to bring the project to a successful conclusion.”
Coogan explained why he is taking the class with Jobes.
“I keep taking ancient languages courses because I love the opportunity to work with translation and because I love thinking about textual transmission of Scripture,” Coogan said. “And, of course, the opportunity to publish an unstudied papyrus is a marvelous and unheard-of opportunity.”
Jobes said earning the research project displays Wheaton’s reputation in the academic world.
“Wheaton was chosen as one of the institutions to receive an item from The Green Collection because our students and faculty have a very good reputation for scholarship,” Jobes said. “I’m hoping that other faculty might get involved in the future and that other items will be placed with us.”
Jobes also expounded on the benefits of the project for ancient languages and biblical archeology majors.
“This is a fabulous opportunity for both … majors. It allows them to put so much of their book learning into an actual research project and introduces them to possible future vocations for which a degree in ancient languages is required,” Jobes said.
Coogan has hopes for the project’s influence.
“I hope that similar opportunities will open up in future years and that more biblical studies students will learn to value and enjoy the centrality of original languages,” he said. “Perhaps exciting opportunities like this will even attract more students to our rather thin ranks.”
Jobes and her team will publicly present the papyrus artifact later this semester.
Photo Courtesy Wheaton College
Printed in the February 1, 2013 issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.