Monday, September 19, 2022

Church Conference on Textual Criticism Near Raleigh


This Saturday, Abidan Shah is hosting a conference at his church in Henderson, NC on the text of the New Testament. Abidan is a former PhD student of Maurice Robinson and wrote on the quest for the original text. He will be speaking along with myself, Maurice Robinson, and David Alan Black. John Meade and I spoke at Abidan’s church a few years ago and had a great time. I’m looking forward to being back. Come by if you’re in the area.


Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022
Time: 9:00am–5:00pm
Location: Clearview Church in Henderson, NC (about an hour from downtown Raleigh)

Join us on Saturday, September 24, for this year’s apologetics conference at Clearview Church! This year will focus on New Testament Textual Criticism and will be led by Dr. Abidan Shah of Clearview Church, Dr. David Alan Black of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Maurice Robinson of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary.

You can learn more and get tickets here.

Update: Schedule

8:30–9:00 am, Coffee/Meet and Greet
9:00–10:00 am, Dr. Shah - The Current State of the Original Text of the New Testament
10:15–11:15 am,  Dr. Gurry - Reasoned Eclecticism and the Original Text
11:30–12:30 pm,  Dr. Robinson - A Byzantine-Priority Perspective Regarding the Recognition of Autograph Originality
12:20–1:30 pm, Lunch
1:30–2:30 pm, Dr. Black - Matthew 5:22 as a Possible Model of Recovering the Original Text
2:45–3:45 pm, Q&A
3:45–4:00 pm, Dr. Shah - Closing Remarks

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Comparing New Testament Manuscripts


Recently I had some reason to compare a number of manuscripts in Acts and was happy to be able to use the CBGM tools for this, in particular the ‘Comparison of Witnesses’. The reason for this post is to point out some issues that are perhaps at first sight less intuitive. This is not criticism of the way the data set is constructed, as the actual manuscripts are always messier than what can be captured in a database.

1. Beware of comparing manuscripts to ‘A’, the reconstructed initial text. Why? Because at every place where ‘A’ has a ‘split reading’ it does not show up in the actual comparison; ‘A’ is treated as if it presents no reading here. Since the number of split readings equals around 2% of the total variant readings, there are some potential issues.

For example in Acts 1:6, we have ‘A’ and ‘01’ compared with ‘Show Agreements’ activated, and we see that the split reading at Acts 1:6/10 is simply not there.

2.    Equal does not always mean that things are the same. This caught me out when I was comparing P50 – arguably a difficult manuscript to encode – and 01. At three places differences between these two are given as ‘equal’ (‘=’) in the list (see below) despite a difference between the two: at Acts 10:28/22 (P50: ανδρι ιουδαιου; 01 ανδρι ιουδαιω), Acts 10:29/17 (P50: ουν; 01: -), and Acts 10:30/50 (P50: μου; 01: εμου).

In the actual apparatus of the ECM it becomes clear why these three differences are treated as being the same. At the first two places the original hand of P50 is deemed to have made an obvious scribal error which was corrected by the original hand, at the third place 01 is deemed to give a mere orthographic variant. This is all perfectly justifiable, but it is good to be aware of this when relying on the ‘Comparison of Witnesses’ to give you all differences. You would not get this extra information from simply relying on the list of Agreements/Differences.

Not equal does not always mean that you will see the difference. The example to illustrate this comes actually from the ECM apparatus, which gives here more detailed information than the comparison of witnesses does. Nothing comes up in the comparison at Acts 10:30/10, yet the ECM tells us that P50 has a scribal error in the word απο (recorded as P50f) namely οπο. Again, I can see the rationale why such difference does not show up in the Comparison of Witnesses. However, there is some inconsistency in recording corrections by the original hand on itself in P50 (as the first two examples in 2. above). At Acts 10:30/18 the first hand corrects τη to ταυτη, which – in analogy to 10:28/20 and 10:29/17 – should probably be recorded or show up somewhere. But this time it is not found as a 'difference that is equal' or as a remark in the apparatus of the ECM.

4. Despite best intentions, the apparatus at ECM can still beat me. Again this has to do P50, and in particular how P50 is treated at the place of the split reading at Acts 10:28/34-38 in the ECM. The top line of the split reading has the support of P50C*V (so the probable reading of the original hand correcting itself). But then for the complete absence of this passage (absence, so not an omission) we find P50(C)*, and what this might mean beats me, though I trust there is a perfectly logical explanation.

As so often in scholarship, it is only by using a tool that we learn about its strengths and limitations. I am still impressed how much the data gathering and sharing by the INTF has enabled progress and deeper understanding of the textual tradition of the New Testament, yet data are never as hard as we want them to be. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Trouble Commenting on the Blog


If you’ve been having trouble commenting on the blog using your Google account, as I have, it may be because of your cookie settings. From Blogger’s help files:

Blogger uses third-party cookies so you can comment from your Google Account. If third-party cookies are disabled on your browser, you may not be able to comment on blog posts while you’re signed in. You can still comment anonymously, or with a name and URL.

In Chrome, which stats say most of you are using to read this, you can enable third-party cookies by going to Settings > Privacy and security and then select either Allow all cookies or Block third-party cookies in Incognito. 

If you don’t want to allow any third-party cookies, you should still be able to comment by choosing Comment as Name/URL in the commenting dropdown. 

If this works for you, could you leave a comment and let me know?

As a final word, please keep your comments on topic

Friday, August 26, 2022

Richard Brash on Preservation (again)


Over at the TCI website, Richard Brash has a short argument about providence and textual preservation. Along with his careful distinctions between two methods and two modes of providence, I appreciated this part:

In the New Testament era, the picture is more complicated. The church is called to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and part of this calling is surely to take care of the text of the Bible. God’s providential preservation of his people is still tied closely to the providential preservation of his written word. It is therefore reasonable to identify the process of canonization as an instance of special providence. But just as it can be spiritually dangerous to attempt to define the precise contours of special providence in our own lives, or even with respect to the preservation of the church, it is unwise to tether our doctrine of providential preservation to a particular “approved” manuscript or manuscript tradition. The Bible does not give the church today the authority to do this.

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

50% Off Scribes & Scripture Book


My new book with John Meade comes out in October and should interest ETC readers. The subject—how we got the Bible—is intentionally broad and so is the audience. The goal is to introduce the subject to new readers. I’m not 100% sure, but it may be one of the only books in this category written by those with training in each testament.

Another feature I hope serves readers well is that we wrote the book following several years of field testing the material in churches through our conference of the same name. That taught us what works and what doesn’t in terms of examples, anecdotes, key figures, etc. While we tried to make the material accessible, I don’t think you’ll find it dumbed down. We also included lots of charts, sidebars, and pictures to make it more engaging to the youngins (and our parents). Until it releases, you can get it for 50% off + free US shipping via TCI. 

Publisher info

Scribes and Scripture: The Amazing Story of How We Got the Bible

By John D. Meade, Peter J. Gurry

Answers to Common Questions about the Writing, Copying, Canonizing, and Translating of the Bible

There are many common questions and misconceptions surrounding the formation and history of the Bible: Why is the Bible composed of the current 66 books instead of others? Why are there so many translations? How are we to understand both the human and divine elements of the Bible? In Scribes and Scripture, scholars John D. Meade and Peter J. Gurry answer these questions and give readers tools to interpret the evidence about God’s word. 

Beginning with the history of the Bible—from the invention of the alphabet to the most recent English translations—the book focuses on three main areas: the writing and copying of the Bible, the canonization of the Bible, and the translation of the Bible. Using Old and New Testament scholarship, Meade and Gurry help God’s people better appreciate the story of the Bible as a way to better appreciate the stories in the Bible.

Table of Contents


Part 1: Text
Chapter 1: Writing the Bible
Chapter 2: Copying the Old Testament
Chapter 3: Copying the New Testament

Part 2: Canon
Chapter 4: Canonizing the Old Testament to the Reformation
Chapter 5: The Old Testament in the Reformation Period
Chapter 6: Canonizing the New Testament

Part 3: Translation
Chapter 7: Early and Medieval Bible Translation
Chapter 8: English Bible Translation to the King James
Chapter 9: The English Bible after the King James

Appendix 1: Modern Canons
Appendix 2: Early Christian Canon Lists


“One of the striking features of the book is its fairness and its reasonableness. No book, of course, is written without a perspective, but Meade and Gurry aren’t trying to win a debate or to demonize opponents. They carefully present and analyze the evidence so that readers can make their own judgments. I can’t think of another book that introduces in such a brief and illuminating way matters of text, canon, and translation.”
—Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“I don’t have time to read this.”
—Elijah Hixson, Research Fellow, Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, Forger of Sinaiticus (probably)

“The history of the Bible is complex: it involves multiple languages (ancient and modern), and it divides into two very much distinct (but also overlapping) branches we call the Old and New Testaments. Christians need trusted guides to lead us through that history. This is why I am so grateful for the work of Old Testament specialist John Meade, New Testament specialist Peter Gurry, and their Text & Canon Institute. They represent the newest generation of evangelical historians of the Bible, and they are both able and eager to keep a foot in the academy and a foot in the church. There are many threats to the orthodox viewpoint on text, canon, and translation. Scribes and Scripture is their attempt to serve the church by guiding Christians toward an accurate and faith-filled grasp of the Bible’s history.”
—Mark Ward, Editor, Bible Study Magazine; author, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible

“Is your book finally done??”
—My Kids, Kindergarten through 6th grade

“Misconceptions and myths about the Bible’s origins lead many to reject it and continue to confuse sincere believers. Now, at last, we have a book that shatters these misconceptions. This impressively informative book is based on solid scholarship, yet it is accessible, easy to read, and profitable for any reader at any level. Not for a generation have we seen such a helpful book on this topic! I heartily recommend it to everyone.”
—Peter J. Gentry, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Old Testament and Senior Research Fellow of the Text & Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary

“Please tell me this book gets royalties.”
—John’s Wife

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Pierpont: Dean Burgon and the Received Text


Pierpont sent the first page of this short essay to Maurice Robinson on June 8th, 1990. The first page appears to have been written originally on April 14th, 1990. Later, on July 13th, Pierpont sent Robinson the second page. He writes: "The part page goes with and follows what I sent previously on "Dean Burgon and the TR". It is part of a further section, but Wilbur [Pickering] rightly suggested it be added here." I have added in links to the transcription to make checking the quotes easier.


[By William G. Pierpont, 14 April–13 July 1990]

Dean Burgon has all too often been (deliberately?) misinterpreted by both friend and foe. This is still true today a century later. For example, "The Dean Burgon Society" consistently denies that Burgon would allow changes to the Textus Receptus until all MSS, Versions and Patristic evidence is in hand. Let us allow Burgon to speak for himself. (TT = "The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels", CC = "The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels", RR = "The Revision Revised")

First of all we must observe that he carefully distinguished between the Traditional Text and the Textus Receptus. He defended the former, not the latter, although he said that they do not greatly differ.

"Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction." RR-21 note 2.

"Yielding to no one in my desire to see the Greek of the New Testament judi­ciously revised...” (whereupon he goes on to say that it would be far better to let the TR stand than to go to the kind of text advocated and published by Westcott and Hort in 1881 -- though without naming them). CC-10,11.

His co-worker and editor reaffirms this: (Edward Miller)
"First, be it understood, that we do not advocate perfection in the Textus Receptus. We allow that here and there it requires revision. In the Text left behind by Dean Burgon, about 150 corrections have been suggested by him in St. Matthew’s Gospel alone. What we maintain is the TRADITIONAL TEXT." "I have kept before me a copy of Dr. Scrivener’s Cambridge Greek Testament, A.D. 1887, in which the disputed passages are printed in black type, although the Text there presented is the Textus Receptus from which the Traditional Text as revised by Dean Burgon and hereafter to be published differs in many passages." TT-5 and TT-95. (Only Burgon’s notes for changes recommended for Mt. Chapters 1-14 were published: in "A Textual Commentary upon the Holy Gospels, Part I. St. Matthew; Division I: i.-xiv." Edward Miller. 1899.)

"The Traditional Text must be found, not in a mere transcript, but in a laborious revision of the Received Text... which has been generally received during the last two and a half centuries." CC-1

There are many places in these volumes of Burgon which spell out the needed changes in certain passages, as well as further remarks similar to the above.

What is the problem? -- It is the radically revised-- almost rewritten "new" text which "the revisers" have thrust upon the world of Christianity in 1881. So unacceptable is it in every respect that to show it up for what it is takes preference over the much lesser task of revising the commonly Received Text.

As for the Received Text by comparison, "We do but insist, (1) That it is an incomparably better text than that which either Lachmann, or Tischendorf, or Tregelles has produced; infinitely preferable to the 'New Greek Text' of the Revisionists. And (2) That to be improved, the Textus Receptus will have to be revised on entirely different 'principles' from those which are just now in fashion. Men must begin by unlearning the German prejudices of the last fifty years; and address themselves, instead, to the stern logic of facts." RR-21 note 2. "...for, in not a few particulars, the 'Textus Receptus' does call for Revision certainly..." RR-107.

Specifically Dean Burgon called for correction, a revision of the Received Text, and he himself had done so for the Gospels, though most of it has been lost. He does not want to be misunderstood by friend or opponent: the Received Text must be revised. That is precisely what the Majority Text attempts to do.

[p. 2]

The question some have asked is whether the materials at hand to Burgon were adequate to make this necessary revision of the Received Text. Burgon answers this in 1864: "...the accumulated evidence of the last two centuries has enabled us to correct it with confidence in hundreds of places..." and "it is not to be supposed, (I humbly think, ) that we shall ever know much more about the sacred text than we know at present. But it is unquestionably to be believed that as the years roll on, and calm, judicious, conscientious criticism, (represented by such men as Mr. Scrivener,) extends its investigati[on] over the mighty field which lies before it, we shall attain to a greater and ye[t] greater amount of certainty as to the true readings of Scripture; approach nearer and yet nearer to the inspired autographs of the Evangelists and Apostle[s] of CHRIST." ("A Treatise on the Pastoral Office" pp. 69, 72, italics his.)

From what Burgon has said and done it is clear that he intended that correction. should be made now (in his lifetime) to the Received Text, based upon the plen[ty] of solid evidence, and further, that as more and more evidence is gathered and studiously and honestly examined some further changes must be made. It is ob­vious that he envisioned what every true textual critic aims for: a current edi[tion] of the Traditional Textform which is as accurate as the evidence in hand permi[ts]. Burgon had himself provided that first stage of correction in the notes he had developed himself and firmly intended should be published at that time.

He envisioned a progressively improved published text which conformed to the consensus of the multitude of MSS, and had provided the first step in that direction. But unfortunately it was never published in its entirity [sic], and the portion which was published (as noted above) seems almost unknown today.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Pierpont: Requisites and Basics for Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament


Here is another installment in the series of unpublished papers by Williams G. Pierpont, scanned from the Maurice Robinson Collection. This two-page essay is undated. I don't know when we'll be able to put it on CSNTM, so I am making it available here.


[By William G. Pierpont, undated]

1. NECESSITY. Scarcely any two of the many hundreds of manuscripts of the Greek New Testament agree exactly with each other-- even after ignoring the obvious and easily corrected simple scribal errors. Nor is there any divinely established or humanly agreed-upon standard against which all others may be corrected. Therefore textual criticism is necessary to establish, where there are sig­nificant differences, which readings are to be considered those of the autographs.

2. REVERENCE. The New Testament is no ordinary book: it is part of the Holy Word of God, and dare not be approached without a spirit of reverence and the utmost of respect. It is the Word of the Omnipotent Creator and Sovereign Lord of all. He Himself does not view it lightly: "for Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name." (Ps. 138:2) It partakes of His Divine Nature, of His holi­ness and perfection. We recognize that it was Divinely inspired-- that holy men of God were led along and guided in their writing by its Holy Author. We must tremble to tamper with it in any way. How we "handle" it is vital. We may well recognize that God is Himself most intimately concerned with what we do with it. We ought to approach it, as it were, on our knees. Anything less dishonors its Author.

Who are those who would dare to go hunting for "discrepancies" in a gleeful mood? Who are those who would presume to tell God what He has caused to have written? How do men dare to choose among alternate readings on the basis of what they "prefer"? Where is their sense of reverence for the Holy? Do such men indeed hold to the God-given apostolic faith, or are they merely toying with what is inherently holy?

For some, whatever is "interesting" or novel attracts them-- and unless it is strange they have no concern or interest. For others the "various readings" merely serve as opportunities to exercise their ingenuity, to see if they can puzzle out an answer to their own satisfaction. Often this merely serves as fodder for the grist mill of their desire to lecture or write.

Such a spirit of levity, "game playing", ill befits God’s Holy Word. The man of God is grieved and distressed when he finds seriously competing alternate readings, knowing that only one of them can be from the autograph. He earnestly and reverently seeks an answer.