Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Appeal to the Autograph in Early Protestant Theology

Back when I had time for such things, I did a bit of digging into how early Protestant theologians viewed the role of the autographs in their doctrine of Scripture. For Evangelicals, the qualification that the Biblical text is inerrant in the autographs (or on them, if you prefer) is standard fare. But was it always so?

My interest in this question was piqued by reading Theodore Letis who claims that this appeal to the inspiration and inerrancy of the autographic text originates with Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. For Letis, “one of the historical ironies of this development [by Hodge and Warfield] is the inescapable loss of awe and reverence for the existential Bible as sacred text in confessing communities and in the culture at large” (The Ecclesiastical Textp. 58 n. 33). In other words, there is a loss in that the Sacred text lies in the past rather than right here in my hands.

Painting of the Westminster divines

Monday, December 11, 2017

Should we preach and teach the story of the woman caught in adultery?

If the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7.53–8.11 is not original to the fourth Gospel, as I think, does it follow that it should not be used as Scripture? The same question confronts us with the Longer Ending of Mark, a text which, as I have said before, I think is not original but should be preached as Scripture.

‘Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery’ by Sebastiano Conca
Although I feel that way about Mark 16.9–20, I am not as sure about this passage. It is not as early or widely attested as the Longer Ending is. But many think it preserves authentic tradition about Jesus. So, when the question came up in class a few weeks ago, I let Tommy answer for me. Here’s what he says:
Is the PA [Pericope Adulterae] original to John’s Gospel or is it a later interpolation? Should it be proscribed or proclaimed? My short answer to the first question is: Yes, I think it is an interpolation as I have argued in this essay. This, however, does not automatically lead to a negative answer to the second question, namely that this passage should be proscribed rather than proclaimed. I regard the story as an authentic Jesus tradition, which has been highly treasured by the Church from a very early stage. I hope it continues to be told and proclaimed, but at the same time, I think it is proper to signal to modern readers of John that the passage (at its present location) is a suspect interpolation.
This is from Tommy Wasserman, “The Strange Case of the Missing Adulteress,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, ed. David A. Black and Jacob Cerone, LNTS 551 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark), 63, which is a very helpful volume on the subject. It includes articles that defend the pericope’s originality and articles, like Tommy’s, that don’t.

What say you, O blog readers? If the pericope is not original, should we still preach and teach it? Should we derive theology from it? Or should it be rejected as a wonderful, extra-Biblical story without authority for us?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Pope Francis on μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν


There’s been quite a lot of press excitement about Pope Francis wanting to change the translation of Lord’s Prayer (The Telegraph, The Times, etc.). It wasn’t easy to find the original interview online. Therefore I thought it would be good to present the short video clip here. I hesitate to transliterate since I think that sometimes his words are not clear even to a native Italian speaker.

All the early translations of the Lord’s Prayer I checked had an active equivalent. I guess the Pope is expressing the usual concern that the masses may misunderstand unless the clerics do the work of interpretation for them.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Red skies in Matt 16.2–3: original or not?

What do folks think about the long variant in Matt 16.2–3? NA28 along with Tischendorf and WH have it in brackets. SBLGNT, THGNT (and Tregelles), and RP include it. UBS4 gives it a “C” rating.

Here is the text:
Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς. 2 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· [ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε· εὐδία, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός· 3 καὶ πρωΐ· σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁ οὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε;] 4 γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν.
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Westcott and Hort write that “both documentary evidence and the impossibility of accounting for omission prove these words to be no part of the text of Mt. They can hardly have been an altered repetition of the || in Lc 12.54, 55, but were apparently derived from an extraneous source, written or oral, and inserted in the Western text at a very early time” (Appendix, p. 13).

Without the disputed text, the text flows quite naturally from the question to the direct answer. France thinks the switch from second to third person between vv. 3 and 4 also makes the disputed text “seem out of place” (604 n. 1), but I’m not so sure about that.

According to Metzger (Commentary, p. 33), Scrivener and Lagrange argue that scribes removed the text because they lived in climates like Egypt where the meteorological observation doesn’t work. Even if true, this seems like special pleading. But if it’s not original, where did it come from?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Audio from our ETS Session on Apologetics and Textual Criticism

Credit to Matt Solomon for the action shot
The audio from my and Elijah Hixson’s special session at ETS a week or so ago is now online. The session was titled “Growing Up in the Ehrman Era: Retrospect and Prospect on Our Text-Critical Apologetic.” The first part of the session was given to several presentations drawn from chapters that will be in a book we are editing; the second part was a panel discussion featuring Dan Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Michael Kruger, Charles Hill, Peter Head, and Pete Williams. For more details on the session (and the book), see the original announcement here.

From our perspective as conveners, the session was a real success. The room was packed—we did try to get a bigger room—and there was helpful feedback both from our panelists and from the audience which included not only many apologists but also several unexpected special guests all the way from Münster. My thanks to all our presenters and especially our “mature” panelists.

For those who couldn’t make it, the audio files are $4.00/each. I haven’t listened to them yet myself so I don’t know how the quality is.
  1. Common Problems in Evangelical Defenses of the New Testament Text - Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry
  2. Dating Myths: Why Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts - Greg Lanier
  3. Math Myths: Why More Manuscripts Isn’t Necessarily Better - Jacob Peterson
  4. Panel Discussion - Dan Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Michael Kruger, Charles Hill, Peter Head, and Pete Williams

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Elijah Hixson discovers lost text in Codex Bezae

At SBL this week, Elijah Hixson presented his discovery of lost text in Codex Bezae. The full research is forthcoming in New Testament Studies, but you can read about how Elijah found the missing text at the Cambridge special collections blog.

Here’s a snippet explaining how Elijah made the discovery.
Samuel P. Tregelles noted that although there was no visible writing [in Gregory-Aland 33/Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 14) where there should have been, the text was not completely lost. It was just in the wrong place: on the opposite page, backwards. The damp storage conditions had caused the pages to stick together. When they were pulled apart, the ink often adhered to the facing page.

The same phenomenon occurs in Codex Bezae. In at least one place, a few letters from the Greek side have stuck – backwards – to the facing page of Latin text. What is significant, however, is that in this one place, the Greek page was subsequently lost. We have no record of what this page looked like or what Greek text it contained. Thanks to the wonderful images of Codex Bezae on the Cambridge University Digital Library, it is possible to work with the images in photo-editing software to recover some of the lost text.
Here is one example:

Reversed ink in Bezae 455r
Fantastic work on this, Elijah. As he said in his paper, even the most studied manuscripts still have secrets to reveal to those willing to look carefully enough.

And happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!