Many of the writings we commonly ascribe to Jewish antiquity are only preserved in manuscripts produced much later by Christian communities. This is an often repeated methodological point, emblematically associated with scholars such as Marinus de Jonge, Robert A. Kraft and Michael E. Stone, and rightfully brought up when we discuss the challenges of exploring Jewish literatures of the Second Temple period—particularly, but not restricted to, the texts sometimes categorized as Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Summarily, the point being made in discussions about our access to these texts is that our sources are the received texts and that their development cannot easily be disentangled from their receiving contexts. With some notable exceptions, we do not have access to early sources for these texts. What is left to us are shapes of the texts materially embodied in manuscripts produced at a much later time by a third party. Furthermore, these material snapshots of the longer history of the text traditions commonly suggest that the texts have developed in transmission, a transmission which was also—at least in part—dependent on that same third party.
Now, despite the attention to the methodological aspect of this situation, another pressing aspect has gone almost unnoticed. I am referring to the ethical aspects of academic practices.
Consider my initial sentence one more time bearing this in mind: “Many of the writings we commonly ascribe to Jewish antiquity are only preserved in manuscripts produced much later by Christian communities.”
When we study the writings in question, we are fully dependent on the cultural products of other communities than those to which we commonly ascribe the texts. On many occasions, these other communities were, and to some degree still are, Christian minority communities in the Middle East. We know these writings only because members of these communities copied them and cared for the manuscripts that contained them. And frequently, the manuscripts continue to matter to their stewards today, or alternatively to contemporary communities still identifying with their historical stewards.
In short, these manuscripts are someone else’s manuscripts. They belonged to someone, they mattered to someone, and, they are part of cultural heritage discourses among contemporary communities. How have textual scholars treated the cultural heritage claimed by that third party? Whose efforts, whose artefacts, and whose heritage claims have we side-lined? And at the same time, how do we deal with the complexities of potential multiple belongings and heritage claims, acknowledging the heritage of that third party, without running the risk of erasing the equally legitimate claims of a Jewish immaterial heritage?
For approximately a century and a half, a major goal of textual scholarship in Biblical Studies, Classics, etc., has been to identify the early text and to read that text in the context of the time, place and society in which it is assumed to originate. This has not been the only focus of textual scholarship, but it has certainly been a dominant one, not the least in its Western, (Protestant) branches. In order to access the early text, scholars have engaged texts inscribed in younger manuscripts as abstract witnesses to that text. Targeting a (hypothetical) text outside and beyond the textual artefact, the text inscribed in a manuscript has been analytically bracketed from its material context and appreciated primarily by its capacity to shed light on the most ancient text.
Let me be clear: it is not my goal to dismiss that historical-critical approaches have proven successful in many regards. However, due to its traditional dominance in our fields, this calls for an awareness of its epistemological and practice-producing side effects.
First, the material presence of the text-bearing artefact has been left largely out of sight since the approach moves our attention away from the material constitution and cultural situation of individual manuscripts. Second, to a large degree—but with some important exceptions—it has created a guild of textual scholars that identify mainly as scholars of immaterial literature. And third, these practices face the ethical dilemma noted above: when applying manuscripts as witnesses to older texts, the fact that the manuscripts are the cultural products of a third party is easily missed. The goal of textual scholars may well have been to engage the literature of marginalized Jewish communities of antiquity. The side effect of this academic practice is the systematic silencing of the equally marginalized voices of those, who by preserving the texts, are to be credited for the very fact that the writings are available to contemporary scholarship at all.
There are two points I would like to raise. Both have grown out of my ongoing work on the transmission of and engagement with the presumably Jewish 1st-2nd century text, 2 Baruch, among Syriac Christians, based on the manuscripts that preserve this text and drawing on the perspective of New Philology.
My first point concerns expressions of historical manuscript-steward relationships and the ways in which textual scholars have treated traceable aspects of them.
One of the things I look for when I work on the Syriac manuscripts that contain 2 Baruch is signs of use. Put otherwise, I have been looking for traces of subject-object relations: practices of reading, handling and engagement that matter to the way we understand the text in a particular material embodiment.
Such traces are palpably and visually present, and sometimes you can even smell them. Wax stains, burn marks, traces of fluids, signs of thumbing, and the occasional smell of incense attest to the basic fact that the manuscripts have been handled and part of dedicated practices.
When we turn to verbal traces of manuscript-steward relationships, more doors open. As has been pointed out by many scholars before me, Syriac (and other) manuscripts often contain colophons and annotations. Scribes, donors, owners, binders, and active readers have applied available space to express their relationship with the artefact, using the manuscript page as a medium, requesting the next reader to remember and pray for them when they read the texts inscribed in it. These notes, which share the page with the text in the columns, tell us stories about ownership and belonging, sometimes in chains or in layers, or about culturally shared assumptions of the redemptive effects of entering a plea for your afterlife in the manuscript, illustrating the existence of historical bonds between manuscripts and their stewards still traceable today. The texts inscribed in the manuscripts are not foreign to these artefacts, or the cultural interaction that continued to shape them. They are intrinsic parts of a dynamic manuscript-custodian connectivity that transmitted, preserved, engaged, and transformed the texts that are extant to us today.
Once we acknowledge the consequences of approaching texts as materially situated texts in culturally specific textual artefacts, the ethical dilemmas become urgent. Textual scholars systematically depend on the cultural artefacts of a third party to shed light on their target text, but traditionally applied philological procedures in our fields are designed to circumvent—equally systematically—all the traces of that third party. Scribes have asked us to remember them—we have employed the fruits of their labor for our own purposes. While fulfilling those purposes, we have not only forgotten them, we have treated their work as faint copies of something else, their input to the texts they copied as corruption and as a challenge to be overcome in our quest for the early text. We have interpreted the annotations of active readers, in which they communicate the request for prayers as clutter. Conservators have erased them, binders have trimmed them, and editors have treated them as irrelevant.
My second point concerns current manuscript-steward relationships, and how textual scholars relate to contemporary cultural dynamics, as well as debates in adjacent academic fields.
During the last decade, disciplines with a long history of identifying their academic professionals as scholars of material culture, such as museology, archaeology and papyrology, have hosted heated debates about academic ethics and the treatment of archaeological and heritage artefacts. These debates, which have focused on issues of provenance and authenticity, have been pivotal to the production of new policy documents in professional societies such as ASP (2007), AIP (2010) and ASOR (2015). Their policy documents display both the fundamental influence of major international conventions such as the 1970 UNESCO World Heritage Convention, and a broader international discourse of cultural heritage artefacts among national governments, heritage professionals and in society at large. The documents also reflect a real concern for the effects of a precarious political climate, particularly in the Middle East.
It is interesting, then, that the scholarly guild present here at the SBL—a professional society of textual scholars—did not have a policy document regulating professional treatment of ancient artefacts until the fall of 2016. This situation illustrates the paradox in the history of textual scholarship, indicated above: although inscribed material artefacts constitute the very source material for the study of ancient texts, and although our texts are fruitfully to be considered “material texts,” textual scholars have not been identified as a guild working with material artefacts.
This means that we have missed out on debates that have been going on in fields that identify their academic professionals as scholars of material culture, and that the discussions that have served to regulate the ways cultural artefacts are engaged in these other disciplines have not had a comparable effect on practices of textual scholarship. And still, it remains a fact that a majority of the manuscripts that today serve as our sources have been removed either from an archaeological site or from the communities that once served as their custodians. It is also a fact that this “removal” of manuscripts during the period of European colonization of the Middle East played an important role in the very shaping of our modern exegetical disciplines. We currently see an emergent debate about the colonial projects that once shaped our fields, but in some important ways, we do in fact continue these projects: when we edit or interpret texts, we do so based on someone else’s manuscripts.
My ethical point is particularly pressing for scholars like me, who work on Syriac manuscripts. During recent years of warfare in the Middle East, manuscript collections have been dismembered and destroyed, sometimes deliberately. These manuscripts are ascribed heritage functions by contemporary communities who see their past markers of belonging at risk. This means that the manuscripts are—once again—essential parts of discourses of ownership, belonging and artefact-related practices among communities that identify with the manuscripts’ historical custodians.
The academic fields that study texts traditionally ascribed to ancient Jewish communities but preserved and transmitted mostly by later Christians are in many ways particularly apt for harbouring a discussion that takes its ethical aspects seriously into consideration. It is also particularly apt for acknowledging the ethical complexities involved. We are dealing with texts that have a complex production and transmission history, and we must acknowledge the multifaceted associations of what remains for us to study. In my own research, I am dealing with potentially marginalized communities in either camp and there is a real risk that by stressing the claims of a Syriac Christian material heritage, I would in effect put an equally important ancient Jewish literary heritage in the dark. This is a dilemma that needs to be dealt with. And yet, the ethical responsibility of also representing the manuscript producing third party in a fair way has to my knowledge never been acknowledged. I think this is a discussion we ought to have in the shaping of future scholarly practices.
My suggestion would be that we develop a heritage-aware textual scholarship, which takes the larger picture of the historical transmission of these texts seriously into consideration, acknowledging claims both to material and to immaterial heritage. If we move beyond the one-sided focus on origins and acknowledge more points in time as equally interesting, valid and relevant, we may allow ethical—alongside methodological—reflections about the longer historical lines of shifting associations to shape our academic practices.
Liv Ingeborg Lied is Professor of Religious Studies at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society in Oslo. Lied has published extensively on the transmission history of early Jewish literature and is co-editor of Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology (De Gruyter, 2017; with Hugo Lundhaug).
 Marinus de Jonge, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: A Study of Their Text, Composition and Origin. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1953; Robert A. Kraft, “The Multiform Jewish Heritage of Early Christianity.” Pages 174-99 in Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty. Part Three: Judaism Before 70. Edited by Jacob Neusner. SJLA 12. Leiden: Brill, 1975; Liv Ingeborg Lied, “The Transmission History of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Texts and Traditions in Judaism and Christianity.” In Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters. Revised Edition. Edited by Matthias Henze and Rod Werline. Atlanta: SBL Press, forthcoming.
 William Adler, “The Story of Abraham and Melchizedek in the Palaea Historica,” Pages 47-63 in The Embroidered Bible: Studies in Biblical Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Honour of Michael E. Stone. Edited by Lorenzo DiTommaso, Matthias Henze and William Adler. SVTP 26. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
 Liv Ingeborg Lied and Hugo Lundhaug, eds, Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and Material Philology. TUGAL. Berlin: De Gruyter. 201.
 And how should we deal with these issues without falling prey to certain branches of a contemporary “Christianity as persecuted minority” – rhetoric?
 See, for instance, the work of Sebastian P. Brock, “Fashions in Early Syriac Colophons.” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 18.2 (2015): 361–77; Thomas Carlson “Formulaic Prose? Rhetoric and Meaning in Late Medieval Syriac Manuscript Colophons.” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 18.2 (2015): 379–98; and Adam Bremer-McCollum “The Rejoicing Sailor and the Rotting Hand: Two Formulas in Syriac and Arabic Colophons.” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 18.2 (2015): 67–93.
 Liv Ingeborg Lied and Marilena Maniaci eds. Bible as Notepad: Annotations and Annotation Practices in Late Antique and Medieval Biblical Manuscripts. Manuscripta Biblica 1. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018..
 Roberta Mazza, “Papyrology and Ethics.” Paper at the 28th International Congress of Papyrology. Barcelona, 5 August 2016..
 Columba Stewart, Yours, Mine, or Theirs? Historical Observations on the Use, Collection and Sharing of Manuscripts in Western Europe and the Christian Orient. Analecta Gorgiana 126. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009..
 Heritage artefacts are material objects imbued with values and emotions that invoke a sense of belonging, which are claimed to connect a community to its past and continues to define its identity, and which should thus be cherished and cared for. Identifying and relating to inscribed cultural artefacts as “heritage,” and assessing them for their ability to structure and feed current identities, is a late modern idea and practice.
 There are good reasons to believe that many of these texts were once ancient and Jewish – the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls showed that many of them were, and the finds in the Cairo Genizah indicated that at least some of these texts continued to be relevant, at least in some Jewish communities.