Thursday, July 18, 2019

Textual Criticism and Other Areas of New Testament Studies: A Bibliography

Back in May I noted David Parker’s comments on the significance of the move away from the TR on New Testament studies. That got me thinking about how textual criticism more broadly has affected New Testament studies and that led to the start of a bibliography. I’ve copied it below and would like to expand it with readers’ help.

Textual Criticism and Other Areas of New Testament Studies

Aland, Kurt. “Glosse, Interpolation, Redaktion und Komposition in der Sicht der neutestamentlichen Textkritik.” Pages 35–57 in Studien zur Überlieferung des Neuen Testaments und seines Textes. ANTF 2. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967.
Bird, Michael F. “Textual Criticism and the Historical Jesus.” JSHJ 6.2 (2008): 133–156. A look at the perils of ignoring textual criticism in the study of the historical Jesus. Summary here.
Dormandy, Michael. “How the Books Became the Bible: The Evidence for Canon­Formation from Work-Combinations in Manuscripts.” TC 23 (2018): 1–39. A detailed look at the question of what manuscript contents might tell us about canon formation. Cf. to Mead and Schmidt below. Online here.
Head, Peter M. “Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem.” Pages 115–156 in New Studies in the Synoptic Problem. Oxford Conference, April 2008. Essays in Honour of Christopher M. Tuckett, edited by P. Foster, A. Gregory, J. S. Kloppenborg and J. Verheyden. BETL 239. Leuven: Peeters, 2011. A thorough look at the importance of textual criticism for the synoptic problem.
Epp, Eldon J. “Issues in the Interrelationship of New Testament Textual Criticism and Canon.” Pages 485–515 in The Canon Debate, edited by Lee Martin McDonald and James A. Sanders. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002. A survey of how textual criticism impinges on questions of canon including order of books, contents of manuscripts, variants, etc.
Malik, Peter M. “Whose Fathers? A Note on the (Un-)Johannine Echo in the Egerton Gospel.” Early Christianity 9 (2018): 201–211. Offers critical interaction with Francis Watson’s argument in Gospel Writing that the Egerton Gospel is a source for John’s Gospel based on the scribal correction of the phrase “(y)our fathers.”
Meade, John D. “Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us.” Pages TBD in Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, edited by Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, forthcoming. Argues that the contents of our codices are not a good guide to questions of canonicity.
Porter, Stanley E. and Matthew Brook O’Donnell. “The Implications of Textual Variants for Authenticating the Words of Jesus.” Pages 97–133 in Authenticating the Words of Jesus, edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans. New Testament Tools and Studies 28.1. Leiden: Brill, 1998.
———. “The Implications of Textual Variants for Authenticating the Activities of Jesus.” Pages 121–151 in Authenticating the Activities of Jesus, edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans. New Testament Tools and Studies 28.2. Leiden: Brill, 1998.
Schmidt, Daryl D. “The Greek New Testament as a Codex.” Pages 469–484 in The Canon Debate, edited by Lee Martin McDonald and James A. Sanders. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002. A survey of NT manuscript contents and the possible implications for canonicity. Cf. to Dormandy and Meade.
Shin, H. W. Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem in Historical Jesus Research: The Search for Valid Criteria. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology 36.  Leuven: Peeters, 2004. A comparison of text-critical criteria to those of the historical Jesus. Reviewed by Peter Head in JSNT 27.5 (2005): 47–48.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Barton on the Bible

John Barton, Oriel and Laing Emeritus Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford, has a new book out titled A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book. (The British subtitle is The Book and Its Faiths.) Barton has written on this before in How the Bible Came to Be (1998) and of course in his many other publications, but this book is more extensive and is aimed at a wide audience. Here’s the publisher’s info:
A literary history of our most influential book of all time, by an Oxford scholar and Anglican priest

In our culture, the Bible is monolithic: It is a collection of books that has been unchanged and unchallenged since the earliest days of the Christian church. The idea of the Bible as “Holy Scripture,” a non-negotiable authority straight from God, has prevailed in Western society for some time. And while it provides a firm foundation for centuries of Christian teaching, it denies the depth, variety, and richness of this fascinating text. In A History of the Bible, John Barton argues that the Bible is not a prescription to a complete, fixed religious system, but rather a product of a long and intriguing process, which has inspired Judaism and Christianity, but still does not describe the whole of either religion. Barton shows how the Bible is indeed an important source of religious insight for Jews and Christians alike, yet argues that it must be read in its historical context—from its beginnings in myth and folklore to its many interpretations throughout the centuries.

It is a book full of narratives, laws, proverbs, prophecies, poems, and letters, each with their own character and origin stories. Barton explains how and by whom these disparate pieces were written, how they were canonized (and which ones weren’t), and how they were assembled, disseminated, and interpreted around the world—and, importantly, to what effect. Ultimately, A History of the Bible argues that a thorough understanding of the history and context of its writing encourages religious communities to move away from the Bible’s literal wording—which is impossible to determine—and focus instead on the broader meanings of scripture.
Here is a clip chosen not at random from the section on NT textual criticism that I plucked from Amazon:
There are several thousand New Testament manuscripts from the first few centuries CE [!], from early papyrus fragments to the great elaborate fourth-century manuscripts such as Codex Sinaiticus. As well as manuscripts in Greek, the original language of the New Testament writers, there are many of translations into other languages, including even languages of northern Europe such as Gothic (see Chapter 18). The work of New Testament textual critics is painstaking and difficult, and earlier attempts to establish ‘the original text’ of any book have now largely been set aside in favour of tracing the history of different manuscript ‘families’, and so establishing various parallel traditions as to what, in detail, the books contain.

Thus there is not, and never can be, a text of ‘the New Testament’ as it left the hands of Paul, Luke or John: we have only variants. The implications of this for theories of the inspiration and authority of the New Testament have scarcely begun to be worked out. Where the words of Jesus are concerned, for example, we often know only roughly what he is supposed to have said (and whether he really said it is of course yet a further question). (pp. 285–286)
The British cover
From this you probably get a good sense of where Barton is coming from. I’ve had our library order a copy. But until then I’ll leave you with two more quotes from reviews of quite opposite persuasion. The first is from Julian Coman in the Guardian who is quite taken with the book and closes with this:
Along with the evident conviction that this marvellous “melee of materials” deserved fresh treatment beyond the absurdities of Da Vinci Code-style fantasies (conspiracy theories about the Bible’s compilation are well and truly laid to rest), it is this desire to free the Bible from overzealous interpreters that sums up Barton’s intellectual project. Asserting a perfect fit between scripture and the faiths of either Judaism or Christianity means doing violence to a set of texts that are open, mutually contradictory, historically situated, utterly diverse in genre and all the more suggestive for that.

Fundamentalists will not be queuing up to up to buy A History of the Bible: the Book and its Faiths. But for believers of a more open disposition, and non-believing lovers of great literature, reading it will be a revelation and a delight.
The second review is by another Barton, Barton Swaim in today’s Wall St. Journal, which closes with this:
Like many biblical scholars of a more “liberal” disposition, Mr. Barton wants to find a path between revering the Bible as in some sense a genuine revelation of God and dismissing it as a collection of ancient delusions. The evidence makes that middle path a hard one to travel. … John Barton’s reluctant, lukewarm “admiration” for the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures will impress some readers as perfectly respectable. But surely the Bible—a book that has outraged, captivated and upended greater minds than his—demands a more decided response.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Batovici on L2484 (Trinity Cambridge MS O.9.27)


Dan Batovici, ‘Digital Palimpsests: Mark in Trinity College Cambridge MS. O.9.27’ Open Theology 5 (2019).

Abstract: The O.9.27 manuscript of Trinity College Cambridge is a minuscule manuscript of Hesiod’s Opera et Dies. In a 2001 PhD thesis on Greek palimpsests in Cambridge by Natalie Tchernetska, this manuscript is described to contain two distinct lower scripts, one of which identified as a New Testament text. The author read four lines and a partial fifth of the one-leaf palimpsest that contain Mark 1:44, which is remarkable considering that the washing made the lower script virtually the same colour as the page. This note re-examines the Markan lower script in O.9.27 and offers an account of the use of image processing software for the purpose to uncover more text in a difficult palimpsest, a method useful when MSI is not available.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Is the Muratorian Fragment a Late Antique Fake?

Clare Rothschild says yes in “The Muratorian Fragment as Roman Fake,” NovT 60, no. 1 (2018): 55–82 and now Christophe Guignard says no in “The Muratorian Fragment as a Late Antique Fake? An Answer to C. K. Rothschild,RevSR 93/1–2 (2019): 73–90.

I haven’t had time to read either so I’m just the messenger here. For an informed opinion, I’d ask John Meade except he’s on vacation. Slacker!

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

10th anniversary of the Electronic Edition of Codex Sinaiticus

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the electronic edition of Codex Sinaiticus!

Here is the press release from ITSEE, University of Birmingham (by Hugh Houghton): 

Ten years ago this month, in July 2009, the complete digital edition of Codex Sinaiticus was released online at This remarkable collaboration between the four different institutions which possess parts of the manuscript (the British Library, Leipzig University Library, the National Library of Russia and St Catherine’s Monastery Mount Sinai), along with the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham (ITSEE), has been acclaimed as an epoch-making event in the development of online resources for the study of ancient manuscripts. For the first time, it was possible to compare all surviving parts of the manuscript with each other in high-resolution colour digital images, while an electronic transcription of the complete text, with each word hyperlinked to its location on the corresponding image, offered an authoritative reading of the manuscript’s evidence for the text of the Bible in Greek and an innovative teaching resource to introduce students to engaging with New Testament manuscripts.

The impact of the edition has been extraordinary. In the first 48 hours after the launch of the edition, the server received 96.4 million hits, with over 1 million unique visitors to the website in the first month online. A global array of news articles celebrated the achievement, with mentions on the BBC’s Today programme, TIME magazine, USA National Public Radio and many leading newspapers. Alongside a full-colour facsimile of the manuscript, the research project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council also produced two scholarly books on the manuscript and the new discoveries made during the creation of the edition. Conferences about the manuscript and its edition were held in London and St Petersburg, as well as a special event at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Boston, Massachusetts.

Back in 2009, an article in The Guardian newspaper proclaimed that “The online Codex Sinaiticus changes book scholarship for good”. Over the last decade, complete sets of digital images of hundreds – if not thousands – of manuscripts have been made freely available online, while the electronic transcription has led to the development of standards and software used in a variety of digital editing projects. Ten years on, we are seeking to learn more about the effect this electronic edition has had both on individuals and on biblical studies more broadly. What are the stories associated with this online edition? Who has been using the website? How has it changed their attitudes to the Bible? Has the digital edition encouraged people to learn Greek or undertake further studies? What other developments have been inspired by the online presentation of this manuscript?

To this end, a short survey of Ten Questions on Codex Sinaiticus has been set up to gather information. Alternatively, users of the electronic edition may send their comments directly to a dedicated email address ( The feedback will be shared among the partners in the project in order to assist with understanding the impact of the edition and the further development of the website and other resources.

Any of the following three links will take you to the survey:

Please help publicising the survey. It will help to show the effect which this digital edition has had over the last ten years.

Tregelles’s hymns

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles wrote hymns too. Here’s a link to 10.

As a textual critic, he occasionally couldn’t resist the temptation to use brackets as in these two instances:

1 O GOD of grace, our Father,
All praise we give to Thee,
‘Tis in Thy sovereign favour
All blessedness we see;
There only is the fountain
Whence living waters flow,
Which like a glorious river
Still gladden as they go.

2 As Thine, Thou didst foreknow us
From all eternity;
Thy chosen loved ones ever,
Kept present to Thine eye;
And when was come the moment,
Thou calling by Thy grace
Didst gently, firmly draw us
Each from his hiding-place.

3 Thy word, Thyself revealing,
Doth sanctify by truth,
Still leading on Thy children
With gentle heavenly growth:
Thus still the work proceedeth,
(The work begun by grace),
For each is meet, and training,
Father, to see Thy face.


1 THE gloomy night will soon be past,
The morning will appear,
The harbinger of day at last
Each waiting eye will cheer.

2 Thou Bright and Morning Star, Thy light
Will to our joy be seen;
Thou, Lord, wilt meet our longing sight
Without a cloud between.

3 Ah, yes, Lord Jesus (Thou whose heart
Still for Thy saints doth care),
We shall behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy full image bear.

4 Thy love sustains us by the way,
While pilgrims here below;
Thou dost, O Saviour, day by day,
Thy suited grace bestow.

5 But oh! the more we learn of Thee,
And Thy rich mercy prove,
The more we long Thy face to see,
And fully prove Thy love.

6 Then, shine, Thou Bright and Morning Star,
We wait for Thee to come
And take, from sin and grief afar,
Thy blood-bought people home.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Is the Future of Thesaurus Linguae Graecae Free?

Over at the Society for Classical Studies blog, there is a new post on the TLG. We get a little peek behind what goes in to adding new material to the site. But what really grabbed my attention is this last part from the director:
Additionally, Pantelia says that, with grant awards and other fundraising, the TLG endowment has grown under her direction so that soon subscription fees will no longer be required to support the project:
I am very confident…that before I leave the project, and hopefully long before that, the TLG will be free and open to everyone. So, everyone who has contributed financially, can think contributing to a TLG that exists in perpetuity. 
Open access to these myriad texts is potentially the best news a Hellenist has read all day.
Indeed it is—and not just for Hellenists!