Thursday, January 19, 2017

50 Years of INTF’s Reports Online

For the past 50 years, INTF, the institute that produces the NA and now UBS editions, has published “reports” (Berichte) on their text-critical work. I came across these by accident one day at Tyndale House and discovered that they are a treasure trove of information about the Institute’s work. For those interested in the recent history of our discipline, they are often essentially reading.

The Institute always gave these away free, but sadly they couldn’t find any extra copies when I was last there. I had actually hoped to scan all these before leaving Cambridge, but I ran out of time. Now someone else has done it for me. Klaus Wachtel has just send word that the full set is now online at INTF’s website.

Many, many thanks to whoever was responsible for scanning these!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Way to Travel in Oxford

Word has just reached the Americas of a new form of transit for getting around Britain’s oldest and second greatest university.

Media outlets have reported that this new way of traveling is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and a even a good form of exercise.

A photo released by the BBC shows one particularly keen user of the new service.

Call for Papers: Horizons in Textual Criticism


Pete Williams sends word of the following:


Conveners: Jan Joosten and John Screnock

On 10-11 May, 2017, the University of Oxford will host a colloquium devoted to methodologically new and unique work in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and related texts.

We invite papers from scholars whose work goes beyond conventional approaches; early-career scholars and recent PhDs are especially encouraged to submit. Proposals of 1,000-2,000 words, based on projects that are well under way, should be sent to John Screnock (

The deadline for paper proposals has been extended to 22 January, 2017.

More detail:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The CBGM in One (!) Sentence

The discussion from the post last week on Greg Lanier’s thoughts on the CBGM was helpful I thought. In particular, it made me think again about how best to present the CBGM to those who find themselves mystified and or even frustrated by its complexity.

In my experience, the most common reaction to the method is still mistrust and a kind of anxiety. Some of that is not surprising. We don’t like people messing with our New Testament text in ways we don’t understand. I get that. I get it because it was a major motivation for my own research. I wanted to know why my Greek New Testament was changing and whether the changes were any good. At its most basic, that was the reason for my dissertation.

In light of that, and in light of some of the feedback I’ve received from my JETS article, I wanted to follow up with a new attempt to explain the method. In particular, I want to take a stab at defining it in a way that is not only accurate and clear, but also somewhat less intimidating.

So here is my one-sentence description: the CBGM is a new set of computer-based tools for studying a new set of text-critical evidence based on a new principle for relating texts. (Notice that I have not used any of the words in the name “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method” to define it. My English teachers would be proud.)

I think that does a good job of covering all the bases. But it is still a mouthful, so let me try to explain each part in turn. I’ll start at the end and work my way back.

Monday, January 09, 2017

What Greek-Latin Edition Did Jefferson Use for His Famous Bible?

Here’s a question for our American history buffs. I’ve looked in the usual places online and can’t find anything on this, but maybe some of our readers know. I’m curious as to what Greek NT Thomas Jefferson used to create is famous “Jefferson Bible.” If this is the first you’ve heard of that, here is how the Smithsonian explains its construction:
Wingrave (1794)
At seventy-seven years of age, Thomas Jefferson constructed his book by cutting excerpts from six printed volumes published in English, French, Latin, and Greek of the Gospels of the New Testament. He arranged them to tell a chronological and edited story of Jesus’s life, parables, and moral teaching. Left behind in the source material were those elements that he could not support through reason or that he believed were later embellishments, such as the miracles and the Resurrection. 
The act of cutting and rearranging passages from the New Testament to create something fresh was an ambitious, even audacious initiative, but not an act of disrespect. Through this distillation Jefferson sought to clarify Jesus’s teachings, which he believed provided “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”
From the online facsimile, it looks pretty clear that he used a Greek-Latin diglot. Any ideas?

Update: it is an edition of Wingrave (London, 1794). Thanks to Stephen Goranson for the tip.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Thinking about the Implications of the CBGM with Greg Lanier

Greg Lanier, a former compatriot at Cambridge, has two recent essays in the journal Reformed Faith & Practice (part 1 and part 2)  doing one of the things he does best: explaining what’s happening in NT scholarship to students and pastors. Here his focus is mostly on Greek grammar and lexicography, but he also touches on textual criticism in part two.

What I want to highlight here are Greg’s closing comments on the CBGM. (I’ve added the numbering and clipped these slightly.) I’m especially interested in helping to address Greg’s fourth point in future work because seminarians are going to need a lot of help using the CBGM. I hope we can give it to them. But he asks other questions about method and theology which seminary teachers will want to think about as they teach their students about the CBGM.

I’d like to hear what blog readers think of these. I given some of my own thoughts in brackets.
  1. There are a lot of positives with the CBGM. The data set alone is a substantial improvement over what we had previously. The project has made great strides towards the previously unicorn-like dream of having thousands of manuscripts digitized, collated, and analyzable.... Moreover, the results for the Catholic Epistles indicate just how high-quality prior editions of the GNT (going back to Westcott and Hort and their contemporaries) have been. I would argue that our confidence in the text has, in the end, gone up with the ECM’s findings. [Generally agreed. I would just say that there is greater uncertainty overall in the results, judging by a comparison of brackets to diamonds in NA27 and NA28. But uncertainty can be better than unwarranted confidence.]
  1. The ECM project began with the Catholic Epistles in part due to their relatively more stable textual tradition. [Not actually true from what I’ve read, but many seem to think so. See the essay mentioned here from Aland.] Additionally, one could argue that the implications of modifying the critical text (which had been unchanged for nearly forty years) in this section of the GNT poses the least risk of ruffling feathers. One wonders, however, just how substantial the revisions may be in the ECM for Acts, the Gospels, and Paul — which, for most in the evangelical world, tend to harbor more emotional/theological investment. We can only wait to find out. [True, the Catholics don’t get much attention. Klaus Wachtel said at SBL that there are about 40 changes in Acts so far. Just remember, textual changes may be the easiest way to measure progress in TC, but they are not the only way.]
  1. Most contemporary English translations (outside the KJV-tradition) have used NA-26 or NA-27 as their base text. Presumably at some point the English translation committees will update their volumes, and when they do so, how will they approach the changes made to NA-28 (or NA-29 and beyond)? Will they embrace them? How will they signal the ◆ readings in the English text and footnotes, if at all? [This remains to be seen. Hopefully, they will find that their responsibility includes weighing the NA28’s decisions and rejecting them where appropriate. As for diamonds, we should note how few of them are even given space in the UBS5 apparatus. Clearly the UBS is showing their opinion that most are not relevant to translators.]
  1. How will (or should) students learn to do textual criticism in the future? This issue is particularly challenging. As outlined above, for decades students have been taught a fairly straightforward method for weighing major manuscripts and internal evidence to determine whether they agree with the NA/UBS critical text. However, the CGBM producing the critical text that future Greek students will purchase is operating according to an entirely different method. This method is, as all readily admit, rather complex to understand, let alone teach. More importantly, one would need to have access to significant analytical tools — and abandon a manuscript-focused mentality (and text-types) in favor of the more abstract text-focused mentality — in order to reproduce the thought process behind a given judgment on a textual variant in the ECM/NA-28/UBS-5. Take the 2 Pet 3:10 example shown above. The old-school approach would look at the various options, weight א, B, papyri, minuscules, and Byzantine witnesses (most of which disagree) and come to some conclusion. However, this conclusion is quite unlikely to be that the lone attested witness for +οὐκ (sa in NA-27; the Syriac is not even mentioned) offers the best reading. Yet that is precisely what NA-28/UBS-5 print in the main text! The student is at a loss, then, for explaining why that reading is preferred when, on the traditional approach, it seems to be the least preferred! .... In short, we are facing a situation in which the method currently being taught to students (and taught to scholars/pastors in the past) will no longer correspond to the method underlying the new editions of the critical GNT they are/will be working with! It is encouraging that the total number of changes to the text itself, at least for the Catholic Epistles, was fairly small; however, the underlying method is, nevertheless, changing substantially. [I agree completely that the use of the CBGM will change how we as scholars and students interact with and critique the NA text. No longer can we engage that text on its own methodological terms with just the print edition. You now need a laptop. Pete Head and I discussed this a number of times during our supervisions. As for helping students, see my recent JETS article for a starting point and stay tuned for more.]
  1. Related to the prior point, one wonders what use Metzger’s justly famous Textual Commentary will have in the future. It constitutes, in essence, the editorial committee’s notes from how they decided among variations in the 1970s and 1980s; its A-B-C ratings (in the UBS volumes only) have also been a helpful data point for years. However, as Elliott rightly notes, for those portions of the NA/UBS editions that incorporate the outcome of the CBGM/ECM project, “the tried and trusted vade mecum of old, Metzger’s Commentary … is only partially useful.” It may have helpful things to say about the internal evidence that might have impacted the ECM team’s decision for a given local stemma, but any appeal it makes to specific manuscripts is, now, almost entirely outdated. [For my part, I don’t see this as a bad thing. Metzger is great but he too easily becomes a crutch and an excuse to avoid TC rather than engage in it. But it would be nice to have a commentary on the new changes.]
  1. Finally, how will the shift in goal, from “original” text to “initial” text impact the way Reformed/evangelical folks who hold to biblical inspiration approach the critical GNT? Majority-text/KJV-only debates aside, most inerrantists who make use of the NA/UBS volumes have functionally equated the eclectic text found therein with, for all intents and purposes, the inspired autographs. Yes, we know that the critical edition is not itself inerrant or infallible — thus necessitating the need to make one’s own text-critical judgments — but we have embraced it as the next-best-thing we have (much like our approach to the Masoretic Text). The philosophical shift underlying the ECM project, however, is meaningful. The goal is no longer positioned as “getting back to what Mark wrote” but, rather, “getting back as early as possible, given the extant data, to what the early church received as coming from Mark.” Much effort needs to be devoted to thinking through the epistemological and doctrine-of-Scripture implications of such a change with respect to the GNT text coming out of the project. [I have some thoughts on this but will save them for another time. I would only add that this is a concern that has emerged among some American Lutherans. See the recent debate on TC between Jeff Kloha and John Warwick Montgomery.]
Read the rest here