Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Barrett on Barth, Calvin, and Luther on Romans

From the preface to Barrett's 1957 commentary on Romans:
Not a few others could be named, but I must reserve a paragraph for special mention of three: Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Karl Barth. Barth's commentary . . . I read as an undergraduate. If in those days, and since, I remained and have continued to be a Christian, I owe the fact in large measure to that book, and to those in Cambridge who introduced it to me. Calvin has long been a companion whose patient exegesis is a model of critical and theological thoroughness. In the summer of 1953, in the University Library of Göttingen, I read through Luther's Scholia on Romans . . . with a sustained enthusiasm and even excitement which I never thought 400 large pages of medieval Latin could evoke. Less sound in detail than Calvin, Luther wrestles at perhaps even greater depth with sin and righteousness, race and predestination, and rarely fails to reach the heart of the matter, and to take his reader with him. To have sat at the feet of these three interpreters of Paul is one of the greatest of privileges." - C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1957), vi.
For those who wondered how his views changed over the next 40 years, Barrett adds this in the 2nd 1991 edition:

"There is nothing in the preface to the first edition of this Commentary that I wish to retract. My gratitude to the writers and teachers mentioned there is undiminished, but it is expanded now to include many more whose work on Romans and Pauline theology has greatly enhanced my own understanding." - C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Hendrickson, 1991), ix.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Advice for those contemplating graduate school

John Anderson, John Stackhouse, and Andy Rowell have some good advice and information for students considering graduate programs in Biblical Studies or Theology. But for a dose of hard reality you really should read Thomas Benton's recent columns in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go
Just Don't Go, Part 2
And, on a related subject: What to Advise Unemployed Graduates

My advice: Go for it, if you love it because you love it*, but stay out of debt if you can possibly avoid it--especially if you are entering a field where there may not be jobs at the other end.

*It refers to study in your field, not the dream of teaching.

My sense is that in Biblical Studies the number of graduates with newly minted Ph.D.'s is out of all proportion to the number of academic jobs available. Maybe I don't know where to look (since I'm not on the market), and now is not the job-posting time of year, but the SBL Career Center currently has 0 (that's zero) jobs posted.

Of course, a graduate degree in Religious Studies may lead to a lucrative fulfilling career in any number of other fields. And if you want to serve the church there are other more important jobs than being a professional academic--like being a pastor, for instance.

Finally, trust God and be thankful. Who you are matters more than what you do. (I'm aware the advice is easier to give when one has a job than to live when one doesn't.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Israel Trip 2c (April 30) - Megiddo

What does one say about Megiddo, a tell made up of at least 20 different historical periods dating between 4000 and 400 BCE? After fourteen years of archaeological excavations by the Rockefeller expedition (1925-1939), the site now looks like a pile of rubble--at least to the unaided eye. Fortunately, there is a model in the museum that helps make sense of it all:Unfortunately, those of us who stayed behind to take pictures took a wrong turn on the way out. When we rejoined the group, our guide was talking about a Solomon-era gate (see 1 Kgs 9:15):
The palm trees in the distance . . .
. . . overlook the sacred area where archeologists uncovered ruins of four different Canaanite temples. The round altar in the next picture is is dated to 2500 BCE:
Turning around, there is a magnificent view of the Jezreel valley. In the northeast we could see Mt. Moreh on the right, Mt. Tabor barely visible in the centre, and the Nazareth ridge on the left:
In the east we could make out Mt. Gilboa near Beit-Shan, where King Saul was killed (2 Sam 21:12):
Because of its prominent position overlooking the Jezreel valley, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor calls Megiddo "the royal box in one of the great theatres of history":
From time immemorial armies have surged from the surrounding valleys to play their parts on the flat stage of the Jezreel valley. Not surprisingly, Armageddon (= Har Megedon = Mountain of Megiddo) has become the symbol for the battle to end all wars (Rev. 16: 16). Its position at the head of the most important pass through the Carmel range . . . gave Megiddo control of the Way of the Sea, the ancient trade route between Egypt and the east. Traders from all over the known world passed its gates, as did invading armies. - The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (5th ed.; Oxford: 2008), 386.
The real question for me was the identity of this building:
The archaeologists first identified the building (and others like it on the northeastern side of the tell) as Solomon's stables. We know that Megiddo was in Israelite hands by Solomon's time. According to 1 Kings 9:15, he fortified the city; 1 Kings 10:26 says that he collected horses and stationed them in chariot cities. The buildings were identified as stables because limestone troughs were found within them. I saw this example later when I visited the Rockefeller museum in Jerusalem:
The problem is that archeologists later found a palace from Solomon's time underneath the southeastern stables. Apparently most now date the stables to Ahab or Omri's time in the 9th century BCE. O'Connor isn't even convinced they are stables: "if they were stables they must have housed very small, house-broken ponies" (390)!

If you want to find out more about Megiddo, check out the Megiddo Expedition. Better yet, join the archeological dig at Megiddo that is set to begin June 13th, 2010.

This is the 4th post in a series on the 2009 Briercrest Israel Tour:
Israel Trip 1 (April 28-29) - Climate Change
Israel Trip 2a (April 30) - Caesarea
Israel Trip 2b (April 30) - Views from Mt. Carmel

Thursday, June 25, 2009

German, the most important biblical language

When I was first in Israel way back in 2000-2001 I had a memorable conversation with Étienne Nodet, a scholar at l'École Biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem. During the course of our conversation (in English) I confessed I had not yet learned German. You must, he replied, "it is the most important biblical language." The saying is apparently an old one, but the irony was particularly intense coming from a French scholar in Jerusalem.

F.F. Bruce apparently took the saying to heart: The preface to volumes 5-8 of Geoffrey Bromiley's English translation of Kittel's Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament contains this comment:
"A great debt is again owed to Professor F. F. Bruce of Manchester University for his invaluable and indefatigable labours in proof reading. If some errors still slip through the net—and we are grateful to readers who call attention to these—there is the consolation that Dr. Bruce in particular has been able to correct not a few errors in the original German."
I read somewhere that Bruce proofread TDNT while commuting to and from Manchester.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Greek Inscriptions from Israel 4 Revisited

The transcription and translation below of inscription #4 is based on Charis's proposal, which beat out Danny's for a free coffee:Transcription:
επι φλ-
του μεγαλοπρε
R ηγεμονος
το εργον της στοας
μετα και της

Translation (updated): "The work of the stoa along with the mosaic was done (sponsored?) in the time of Flavius Palladius son of Porforius the magnificent leader."

The inscription commemorates the building of a marble sidewalk along a major street in Scythopolis, coined the 'Palladius street' by excavators (or in the Byzantine period?). This is what Jerome Murphy-O'Connor has to say: "Palladius street takes its name from a C4 [so is my date right?] AD circular inscription in the mosaic sidewalk, which reads, 'In the time of Palladius son of Porphyrius, the most magnificent governor, the work of the stoa together with the mosaic pavement'" (The Holy Land, 223). I'm not sure why O'Connor left out the date and the verb.

Comments on the Greek (updated):
  • I wasn't sure what to do with φλ. Charis suggested a date, which I at first thought was correct. But when you convert the letters to arabic numerals (here, here or here), you get 530, which is a little strange for a 4th century inscription. In a comment, Stephen Carlson proposed the more likely alternative that φλ. is an abbreviation for Φλαβιος. This abbreviation is in fact common (e.g., here and here).
  • I treat το εργον as the subject of εγενετο, since the name παλλαδιου is in the genitive case as the object of the preposition ἐπί, functioning temporally.
  • μεγαλοπρε must be short for the adjective μεγαλοπρεπής (magnificent), whose genitive singular form would be μεγαλοπρεποῦς (on the analogy of ἀληθής).
  • I don't know what the R is doing at the beginning of line 5. Charis read it as a rho, which Wikipedia says is possible in some Western Greek forms of the letter. Is it a sign of the rough breathing? Is it a ligature for the missing ending of μεγαλοπρε?
  • ἡ ψηφωσίς means to work in or adorn with mosaics according to LSJ.
Other posts in this series:
Greek Inscriptions from Israel 1
Greek Inscriptions from Israel 1 Revisited
Greek Inscriptions from Israel 2
Greek Inscriptions from Israel 2 Revisited
Greek Inscriptions from Israel 3
Greek Inscriptions from Israel 4

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gadamer, Collingwood, and Barth on asking the right questions

"We can understand a text only when we have understood the question to which it is an answer."
- That's H.-G. Gadamer in Truth and Method (1960, repr. Continuum, 2004), 363, paraphrasing the English philosopher and historian, R.G. Collingwood.

Collingwood puts it like this in his intellectual autobiography:
"By now meditation on the Albert Memorial had taught me a second [rule], namely, 'reconstruct the problem'; or, 'never think you understand any statement made by a philosopher until you have decided, with the utmost possible accuracy, what the question is to which he means it for an answer."
- R.G. Collingwood, An Autobiography (1939; repr. Oxford, 1982), 74.

To my mind, Gadamer's paraphrase is better worded than the original, though Collingwood's engaging and readable autobiography is way more accessible than Gadamer. Here is another variation from Collingwood's, An Essay on Metaphysics (Oxford: 1940, repr. 2002), 23, which I have not read:

"Every statement that anybody ever makes is made in answer to a question."

Not that the basic idea was original to Collingwood. Karl Barth says something similar in the preface to the second (1921) edition of his Romans commentary:
"Criticism (κρίνειν) applied to historical documents means for me the measuring of words and phrases by the standard of that about which the documents are speaking--unless indeed the whole be nonsense. When documents contain answers to questions, the answers must be brought into relation with the questions which are presupposed, and not with some other questions."

But Barth goes on to speak specifically of theological exegesis:
"And moreover, proper concentration of exegesis presses behind the many questions to the one cardinal question by which all are embraced. Everything in the text ought to be interpreted only in the light of what can be said, and therefore only in the light of what is said. When an investigation is rightly conducted, boulders composed of fortuitous or incidental or merely historical conceptions ought to disappear almost entirely. The Word ought to be exposed in the words. Intelligent comment means that I am driven on till I stand with nothing before me but the enigma of the matter; till the document seems hardly to exist as a document; till I ahve almost forgotten that I am not its author; till I know the author so well that I allow him to speak in my name and am even able to speak in his name myself."
- Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans(Oxford: 1968), 8.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Israel Trip 2b (April 30) - Views from Mt. Carmel

The Carmelites built the Mukhraka monastery at the site where they believe Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal (click here for a Google satellite image):

Elijah's extravagant command to fill 4 jars of water, and douse the altar with it 3 times (1 Kings 18:33-35) takes on new significance from this vantage point. During a drought the only water source would likely have been the Kishon River far below (aka. the creek beyond the highway in the foreground):
According to 1 Kings 18:40, the Kishon River was also the location where Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal slaughtered.

From the rooftop there is a magnificent view of the Jezreel valley, playing field of so much of ancient Israel's history, and crucial plank on the land bridge between empires from the north (Assyria, Babylon, Persia, the Seleucids) and Egypt in the south. This photo looks north (and a bit west) at the part of the valley that faces modern day Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea.The next photo looks northeast. Barely visible in the haze following the trajectory of the left runway is Nazareth with Mt. Tabor beside it; beyond the right runway is Mt. Moreh (cf. Judg 7:1):
The Mt. Carmel panorama was especially exciting after working through Biblical Backgrounds' Regional Study Guide, Regional Study Maps, and the book, Regions on the Run. The authors do an excellent job showing how geography shapes history. For example, while I knew the Carmel range posed a major natural obstacle for anyone traveling north or south . . .
I didn't realize there were only three natural passes that "carried almost all of the commerce and military might of the ancient world passing through the Land Between, the land bridge between the Nile and Mesopotamian river valleys" (Regional Study Guide, 29). It is for this reason that George Adam Smith refers to the Jezreel valley as "the classic battle-ground of Scripture" (The Historical Geography of Scripture [1901], 391).

Each pass was guarded at or near its entrance by a city, the northernmost of which was Jokneam (mentioned in Josh 12:22; 19:11; 21:34; 1 Chr 6:77). It so happens that the modern town of the same name and the ancient tell is clearly visible from the monastery rooftop:
To the south, in the blurry distance is Megiddo, another famous gateway city, and our next major stop on our first day of touring:
The pictures, unfortunately, don't do justice to the view. You had to be there.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


This fall I will have the privilege of teaching the book of Romans for the second time. The following is an excerpt from my course syllabus:
Paul’s letter to the Romans has exerted a profound influence on many of the movers and shakers of Christian history:
  • St. Augustine (354-430), the most influential Christian thinker between the New Testament and the Reformation, was converted after reading Romans 13:13-14.
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546) “felt [him]self to have been born again” while studying Romans 1:17; his conclusions about the meaning of the “righteousness of God” triggered the Protestant Reformation.
  • It was after reading the preface to Luther’s commentary on Romans that John Wesley’s (1703-1791) “heart was strangely warmed”; his subsequent preaching about salvation by faith played an instrumental role in England’s Evangelical revival and in the founding of the Methodist movement.
Romans is also one of the most bewildering books in the New Testament—partly because many of the basic assumptions of Paul, the first century Jew, and the issues that preoccupied him, are foreign to a predominantly Gentile church twenty centuries later, partly because Romans is such a complex, tightly argued letter.

In this course we will make a concentrated attempt to follow Paul’s argument on his own terms and in his own context. We will examine what can be known about the historical setting and purpose of Romans and look at Paul’s Greco-Roman and Jewish context as it relates to the interpretation of the text. We will become familiar with debated topics in current scholarship on Romans and pause to consider hermeneutical issues raised by different approaches to the letter. We will discuss at least some of the many theological questions raised by the letter and consider how Paul’s instructions to Christians in Rome can be appropriated by believers today. By the end of this course you will be able to summarize your understanding of the structure of Paul’s argument and be able to justify it with evidence from the text. You will also be equipped for ongoing study of Romans. But the point of it all is to engage Romans and, I hope, to be transformed in the same way that Augustine, Luther and Wesley were.
  • I may change a few things yet (students didn't react well to the online discussion component when I tried it in Acts), but the current syllabus is here.
  • I confess I haven't read much on Romans (or Paul) since 2007 when I last taught the course. Any recommendations for summer reading to get me up to speed? I've got a few ideas of my own, but I'd like to hear what you think. I see that Michael Bird recommends Peter Lampe's From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, which looks good. Anything else? What are the one or two works on Romans (or Paul) that everyone should read?
  • Other suggestions about teaching Romans are, of course, welcome too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Greek Inscriptions from Israel 4

Here's one from Scythopolis / Beit Shean:The inscription was found on the sidewalk to the left of this street . . .
. . . not far from the Sigma:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ethnic Experiment

Scenario 1: A first century Jew* meets another Jew in Judaea. What term would they use to identify their ethnic background?
Scenario 2: A first century Jew meets another Jew in Galilee. What term would they use to identify their ethnic background?
Scenario 3: A first century Jew meets another Jew in Ephesus. What term would they use to identify their ethnic background?
Scenario 4: A first century Jew meets a Samaritan. What term would the Jew use to identify his ethnic background?
Scenario 5: A first century Jew meets a Syrian. What term would the Jew use to identify his ethnic background?

*For discussion of the complexities involved in the term "Jew" and its relationship to Israel on the one hand, and on the other hand, to the ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic terms, Ἰουδαῖος (Ioudaios), Iudaeus, יהודי (Yehudi) and יהודאי (Yehudai), see my What's in a Name? series from way back in 2007.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

St. Jerome on Luke the Spiritual Physician

I wish I had encountered this quote before teaching Acts last semester:
"The Acts of the Apostles seem, indeed, to express bare history and to narrate the infancy of the newborn church, but if we recognise that the author of Acts is Luke, a doctor, 'whose praise is in the Gospel' (2 Cor. 8.18) we perceive that all his words are equally medicines for the sick soul." - Jerome, Epist. 53.9 as quoted in C.K. Barrett, Acts 1.34.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Greek Inscriptions from Israel 3

Inscription 3 is from the 4th century CE synagogue at Capernaum:
Here is a close up of the right centre column:
As usual, I'll buy coffee for the first one to transcribe and translate the inscription.

(I carefully photographed the inscription on the left as well, only to realize when I returned home that it is a modern Latin inscription dated 1926.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Greek Inscriptions from Israel 2 Revisited

I don't know about you, but I found Inscription 2 difficult. The transcription below is courtesy of Patrick McCullough at kata ta biblia.
Pat's Transcription:
πολλὰ τὰ ἔτη

Pat's Translation: "(May the) years of glorious proconsul Andreas, fond of building, be many!"
My variation: "[This building was erected] by Andreas, the glorious, fond of building, proconsul, may his years be many."

(1) I didn't know what to do with the letter that looks like a Modern Hebrew Ayin (or the bottom half of the number 8) at the end of lines 1, 3 and 4. The character is apparently a Byzantine era abbreviation for the diphthong ου that is still used, on occasion, in colloquial modern Greek. (More information on ligatures here.)
(2) Pat's transcription of the article τα makes good grammatical sense, but it looks like an eta to me. Is this also an abbreviation?
(3) Is the omega in ενδοξω a typo for ου or is it dative? If the latter, why?
(4) I'm new to reading Greek inscriptions. Where does one learn this stuff? This Byzantine Paleography page is the most helpful thing I've found yet, but it doesn't deal directly with inscriptions. And here's a post on Byzantine Greek Fonts with ligatures. Is there a better reference anywhere online?

These two mosaic inscriptions from Caesarea are just a tiny sampling. A search of Brown University's excellent site devoted to Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine yields 317 inscriptions from Caesarea produced during the common era, with transcriptions, detailed descriptions, and publication information, but no pictures.

Greek Inscription # 3 from Capernaum will be easier!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Israel Trip 2a (April 30) - Caesarea

(This is the second in a series of Israel tour posts; the first is here.)
Our first stop on our first day of touring was Caesarea, well-known as the city Herod the Great transformed from the fishing village of Strato's Tower into a major port. It is also the city where, according to Acts 10-11, Peter encountered the Gentile centurion Cornelius, and where Cornelius and his invited guests encountered the Holy Spirit. The group is standing on the stage of a much-restored Herodian theatre:
Looking north from the theatre compound, there is a nice overview of the ancient city. Off to the left of the next picture is the ruins of the "Palace of the Procurators"; the stepped seats on the right overlook a Herodian amphitheatre, large enough for chariot races. In the distance are the walls of the crusader city and, on the left, the remains of the ancient city's man-made harbour:

After Herod's son Archelaus was deposed in AD 6, Judaea was ruled directly by Roman prefects and procurators, who made their capital in Caesarea, and their headquarters, apparently, in this palace:
Jerome Murphy-O'Connor (243) speculates that it was here that the apostle Paul was imprisoned for two years (see Acts 23-26). Not a bad view for a prison!

On the northeastern end of the amphitheatre . . .
. . . "are four long vaulted warehouses of the C3 AD"(O'Connor 245), one of which was transformed into Israel's only Mithareum, a place of worship for devotees of the god Mithras:
The worship of Mithras was a mystery religion popular among the Roman army. Apparently important to the construction of this Mithraeum was a hole in the roof through which a ray of sunlight would strike the altar at noon on the summer solstice (June 21):

East of the amphitheatre and parallel with it is the Byzantine Cardo, or main street. According to O'Connor, "it is extremely probable that the Herodian Cardo followed the same line" (245). The smokestacks in the background of the next picture belong to a coal-burning electricity plant south of Caesarea. On clear days, the smokestacks can be seen from Jerusalem. The mosaics to the right of the pillars contain the only inscriptions in Israel (outside of churches) containing a passage from the New Testament. (See this blog post for more details on the inscriptions.)

The lawn in the photo below once formed part of Herod's amazing man-made "circular harbour enclosing enough space for large fleets to lie at anchor near shore" (A.J. 15.334). The white caps mark part of the harbour's northern edge, now submerged:
(There is an aerial photo and an artist's reconstruction here.)

Josephus says "that the solidity of [Herod's] masonry defied the sea, while its beauty was such as if no obstacle had existed" (War 1.411):
"[H]e had blocks of stone let down into twenty fathoms of water, most of them measuring fifty feet in length by nine in depth and ten in breadth, some being even larger. Upon the submarine foundation thus laid he constructed above the surface a mole two hundred feet broad; of which one hundred were built out to break the surge...while the remainder supported a stone wall encircling the harbour. From this wall arose, at intervals, massive towers..." (War 1.411-412).
The apostle Paul would have entered this harbour on his several voyages to Caesarea. When he did so, he couldn't miss the monumental temple to Rome and Augustus that Herod built in honour of his Roman patron overlooking the harbour.

In the end, Herod's decision to build a pagan temple containing "a colossal statue of the emperor, not inferior to the Olympian Zeus" (War 1.414) played a role in the conflict between Jews and Gentiles that culminated in the Jewish revolt (2.266), and the destruction of Herod's more famous temple to the God of Israel in Jerusalem.

(Roman aqueduct built in the first century CE)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ben F. Meyer on Critical Realism and Truth

"Admittedly, once truth is reached, it is intentionally independent of the subject that reached it: that is self-transcendence and the goal of inquiry. But the ontological home of truth is the subject. The goal is not reached apart from a demanding process, as the drive to truth reveals itself in wonder, converts wondering into questioning and questioning into question-answering, solicits reflection on the answers, and climaxes in the act of judging them to be certainly or probably true or false. All of these are activities of the subject and there is no objectivity without all of them. Truth, in fine, ripens on the tree of the subject, and objectivity is the fruit of subjectivity at its most intense and persistent." - Ben F. Meyer, Critical realism and the New Testament(Allison Park, PN: Pickwick, 1989), 139-140.
In contemporary New Testament scholarship my impression is that "critical realism" is now most closely associated with N.T. Wright. (See, for example, The New Testament and the People of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992], 32-37.) I prefer the late Ben F. Meyer's presentation in Critical Realism and the New Testament (Pickwick, 1989), which is itself dependent on Bernard Lonergan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Greek Inscriptions from Israel 2

Here is another inscription from Caesarea. This one was in a Byzantine bathhouse near the Mithraeum, west of the Cardo: Leave a transcription and translation in the comments. Coffee's on me...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Greek Inscriptions from Israel 1 Revisited

Wow, thanks for all the responses! I'll have to try something more challenging next time. But first a couple more thoughts on the Romans 13:3 inscription from Caesarea:
The inscription dates from the Byzantine era, and as Randall Buth explained "It was in the government office for public accounts and taxes and was an encouragement to pay in full." ..... Here's what Jerome Murphy-O'Connor has to say:
"The frequent repairs of the mosaic sidewalk [along the Cardo] are evident outside the Byzantine Archive Building. . . . The identification of the edifice is based on an inscription found in the doorway . . . . It read, 'Christ help Ampelios, the keeper of the archives, and Musonius, the financial secretary, and the other archivists of the same depository.' The circular inscriptions in the centre of the rooms on either side of the entrance use religion to encourage payment of taxes. Both are a quotation from Paul's letter to the Romans, 'If you would not fear authority, do good'. The inscription in the room to the left also contains the next clause 'and you will have praise from it' (13: 3)." - Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide
(5th ed.; Oxford: 2008), 245.
In the inscription displayed above, the only lexical difference from our standard Greek text of Rom 13:3b is the omission of δέ after θέλεις, which makes sense because the inscription stands on its own instead of continuing the thought of Rom 13:1-3a. There are also two spelling variations:
  1. Randall commented on the use of ι for ει in φοβεῖσθαι, which is good evidence for his Reconstructed Koine pronunciation system (of which I am an enthusiastic supporter).
  2. Randall did not mention another spelling variation that does not fit his system. Note the spelling ἐξωσίαν instead of ἐξουσίαν. Were ω and ου pronounced the same in the Byzantine era? Is this evidence for a Caesarean dialect? Or is it merely a typo? I'm guessing the latter.
Isaac inquired about the use of the "lunate" C-shaped sigma. All I knew was that it was common, but Wikipedia says it was more common in "Eastern forms of Greek writing." (More information here and here.) Evidently it was common enough to be used in architecture. Our guide explained that this C-shaped row of shops in Scythopolis/Beit Shan) was known as a Sigma: