Monday, March 13, 2023

Recent Unsubstantiated Critiques of the CBGM (Pastorelli and Alexanderson)


At the SNTS in Leuven last summer, David Pastorelli came up to me during a break and handed over an off-print of an article, "La mise en oeuvre de la cohérence prégénéalogique dans le cadre de la Coherence-Based Genealogical Method: évaluation critique," BABELAO 10-11 (2022): 169-188, in which he criticizes the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method making ample references to my and Peter Gurry's introduction to the method. When I read the article I just felt that it was so full of misunderstandings that I did not know where to begin. Unfortunately, Pastorelli has never participated in our text-critical seminar at SNTS, where we could have had a dialogue about his concerns.

In any case, Klaus Wachtel has now actually taken the time to offer a response to Pastorelli under the heading, "Selective Reading and Unsubstiantiated Criticism" on the INTF Blog, for which I am grateful. In the blogpost, Wachtel refers to one of the many unsubstantiated statements that Pastorelli cites in his article, namely a statement that he has drawn from Bengt Alexanderson's 2014 critique of the CBGM: "This is all arbitrary, a 'place of variation', a reading, a variant, a passage can be anything" (Pastorelli, 179).  

Many years ago I was asked by a Swedish journal to review Alexanderson's study. I wrote the review in Swedish (Swedish version here), but  I have now translated it below for our blog readers – it is another example of criticism against the CBGM which is totally off the mark. (The critique of the CBGM are in his chapters 3–4.)

Review of Bengt Alexanderson, Problems in the New Testament: Old Manuscripts and Papyri, the New Genealogical Method (CBGM) and the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) (Acta Regiae Societatis Scientiarum et Litterarum Gothoburgensis. Humaniora 48). 146 pages. Kungl. Vetenskaps- och Vitterhets-Samhället i Göteborg 2014.

Bengt Alexanderson’s short study is divided into four chapters: (1) An analysis of textual variants in four of the oldest textual witnesses to the Gospel of John (P66, P75, Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus); (2) A survey of how Barbara Aland has analyzed early NT papyri in three studies; (3) A critical treatment of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM), developed by Gerd Mink of the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster and applied for the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) and, in extension, also Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (from the 28th edition and onwards); (4) An evaluation of the second edition of the Editio Critica Maior IV. Catholic Letters (“ECM2”).

Friday, March 10, 2023

Emanuel Tov and His Evolving Categories for the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls


Emanuel Tov is the most well-known textual critic of the Hebrew Bible and for good reason. Under his leadership, thirty-three volumes of the authoritative series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) were published in less than twenty years. Before his tenure, only seven volumes were published in nearly forty years. Despite this impressive feat, Tov is probably most well-known for his work Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

The book is now in its fourth edition, and it is the go-to work for those interested in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. One aspect of the fourth edition, among many, worth discussing is his categorization of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. A comparison of these categories across his four editions shows a certain evolution in how he views the text of the Hebrew Bible in the Second Temple period.

First Edition (pp 114-117)
QSPProto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Second Edition (pp 114-117)
QSPProto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Third Edition (108-110)
Proto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Rest of Scripture
Proto-MTClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Proto-MTPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Fourth Edition (pp 135-136)
Proto-MTMT-SP BlockPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXLXX-SP BlockNon-Aligned


Rest of Scripture
MT-LikeMT-LXX BlockClose to Hebrew of LXXNon-Aligned


Proto and semi-MTMT and LXX BlockMT-SP BlockPre-SamClose to Hebrew of LXXLXX-SP BlockNon-Aligned


Observation #1: The category, Qumran Scribal Practice, was a group of texts united by a distinctive orthography and morphology. These texts, however, did not share a textual background, so Tov eliminated this category in his third edition (see 3rd ed., 110). The elimination of this category caused the non-aligned and proto-MT categories to increase by 10% each.

Observation #2: The statistics of the proto-MT category and the non-aligned category have changed most drastically. Tov has not been completely clear on the qualifications for the categorization of these manuscripts. For example, he describes a non-aligned text as one that is “not exclusively close to MT, LXX, or SP.” They are inconsistent in aligning with MT, SP, and LXX while preserving unique readings (3rd ed., 109). This description of the non-aligned category lacks precision. At what point does a text morph from being proto-MT or MT-like to being non-aligned?

Despite this lack of precision, it is clear that Tov’s proto-MT, and even his semi-MT, categories are restrictive categories. For a text to fit into these categories, a text must align closely with the MT even regarding its orthography. If a text deviates orthographically from the MT, it most likely becomes non-aligned as in the case of 1QIsaa. The opposite is true with the non-aligned category. It is by definition, extremely broad since these manuscripts are joined together not by a common denominator of shared readings but by the simple fact that they disagree with the other texts (MT, SP, and LXX). Over time, Tov’s proto-MT category has become more restrictive while the non-aligned category has become broader. This detail has led to a dramatic decrease in those texts labeled proto-MT texts and a dramatic increase in those texts labeled non-aligned.

Observation #3: A superficial survey of the above statistics shows that the fourth edition has more categories than the first three. The reason for this is that in earlier versions, texts that were equally close to the MT and SP were categorized as MT. Similarly, texts equally close to MT and LXX were understood as proto-MT (3rd ed., 108). The MT, however, in the fourth edition, is no longer the default text in the categorization of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. If a text agrees with the MT and the SP, it is labeled MT-SP. If a text agrees with the MT and LXX, it is labeled MT-LXX. Moreover, Tov now differentiates between proto-MT and semi-MT texts. Proto-MT texts are more closely aligned with the MT than semi-MT texts. Overall, the addition of more categories has led to a further decrease in those texts labeled proto-MT.

Observation #4: Since 1992, more manuscripts are included in Tov’s statistics. For example, Tov understood 4QRPc-e (Reworked Pentateuch) to be non-biblical in the first two editions, but beginning in the third edition, these manuscripts are categorized as non-aligned. The statistics in the fourth edition also include seventeen tefillin that do not seem to have been included in the statistics for earlier editions. Although tefillin are technically non-biblical texts (they are excerpted texts), Tov now includes them in his categorization grid. These details, likewise, have shifted the statistics away from the proto-MT and semi-MT categories.

Tracing the Evolution
Overall, the evolution of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls in Tov’s categorization grid moves away from proto-MT. The steps contributing to this movement included the increase in categories, the increase in texts now included in the statistics, and the understanding that the MT is no longer the default text in his categories. The elimination of the QSP category led to an increase in the proto-MT category in the third edition, but this type of change has been the anomaly. The evolution of Tov's categories is rather straightforward: for Tov, fewer texts are proto-MT, and more texts are now non-aligned. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

TC Journal vol. 27 (2022) Is Out


I have the pleasure to announce that vol. 27 (2022) of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism is finally published after some delay. A number of reviews will be added soon, but we could not wait to get these articles out. In the previous blogpost, Peter announced a book about the Greek palimpsests at St Catherine's Monastery. Incidentally, in this volume of TC, my student Conrad Elmelund has produced an editio princeps of one of those palimpsests – Greek NF MG 99 (GA 0289), presumably from the fifth century. Do I need to say that I am proud?

 Below I paste the contents and links:

Volume 27 (2022)


Timo Tekoniemi, The Position of Old Latin Manuscript La115 in the Textual History of 2 Kings: Identifying kaige and (Proto-)Lucianic Readings in a kaige Section (pp. 1–15)

Abstract: The value of Old Latin witnesses in the textual criticism of Septuagint has been lately noted by a growing number of scholars. As a daughter version of the Septuagint, the Old Latin is an important witness to the textual history of the Septuagint, as well as to the Hebrew Vorlage behind it. This article seeks to elucidate and ascertain the text-historical position of the fifth century Old Latin manuscript Palimpsestus Vindobonensis (La115) in 2 Kings. This task is carried out by first mapping all the characteristic readings of the manuscript (248 cases in total) and then by studying fourteen most illuminating readings. In 2 Kings, the manuscript seems to be free of Hexaplaric and Vulgate influence and most probably also of kaige readings. There are few, if any, recensional Lucianic readings. For the most part, the text of La115 belongs to the proto-Lucianic layer and therefore mostly seems to preserve the Old Greek text—sometimes even when all preserved Greek witnesses have lost these Old Greek readings. La115 is thus argued to be an exceedingly important witness to the textual evolution of 2 Kings.

Leonardo Pessoa da Silva Pinto, The CBGM and Lachmannian Textual Criticism (pp. 17–31)

Abstract: The discipline of New Testament textual criticism has changed considerably in the last few decades. Among the most relevant developments is the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, which, however, is often unknown to or misunderstood by textual scholars of both biblical and nonbiblical literature. This article explains the main concepts of the CBGM and compares them with the core principles of (Neo-)Lachmannian textual criticism. The comparison shows how deeply many steps and concepts of the CBGM are rooted in the traditional methods of textual criticism, the Lachmannian method in particular, but also the many differences in its procedures and terminology. Many of these changes result from the effort of integrating the potential of the computer tools now available to the discipline.

Katrin Maria Landefeld, Die textgeschichtliche Verbindung zwischen Codex Bezae (05) und dem Handschriftenpaar 08/1884 in Acta (pp. 33–49)

Abstract: The so-called Western tradition in the text of Acts is a much-discussed topic in New Testament Textual Research. There is still no agreement concerning possible theological tendencies in the text and the analysis of the transmission of this text is not completed. Present research uses the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) of the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster. By measuring quantitative agreement between manuscripts and building local stemmata for variation-units, potential ancestors and descendants for manuscript texts can be found. This is more difficult with texts of the Western tradition. They often contain long insertions and these differ among the manuscripts of this tradition as well. So, the agreement rates between these manuscripts and others, and also among themselves, are quite low. Although these manuscripts have different wording, they are probably connected in the transmission of the text. This can be seen with the help of internal criteria. This essay will study variants in the manuscripts 05, 08, and 1884 and show that they most probably have a genealogical connection despite several textual differences. The discussed variants show the same insertions with regard to content and only show different wording or grammatical phrasing. By studying these, a possible chronological order of the variants can also be assumed. This can also be useful to assess other variation-units, as an example will show. The study shows that further analyses of this kind can help to clarify the transmission of the Western text and also make it visible in the CBGM.

Conrad T. Elmelund, The Undertext of Greek NF MG 99 from Sinai (GA 0289) (pp. 51–68)

Abstract: Despite having been included in critical editions since NA27, an edition with the full text of Sinai Greek NF MG/ΜΓ 99 (GA 0289) has not been published until now. The Greek undertext of the palimpsest, written in biblical majuscule, was provisionally dated in the Kurzgefaßte Liste to VII/VIII (600–799 CE) but has now been redated by Guglielmo Cavallo to the fifth century. The present edition, based on new multispectral images of the damaged palimpsest, not only corrects readings included in the NA28-apparatus but also brings to light and discusses a significant number of new readings that should be considered for inclusion in future editions.

Paul A. Himes, Lectio difficilior potior and an Aramaic Pun—Βεώρ vs. Βοσόρ in 2 Peter 2:15 as a Test Case for How a Classic Rule Might Be Refined (pp. 69–83)

Abstract: Lectio difficilior potior (“prefer the more difficult reading”), while still in use in recent scholarship, has been criticized for being overly subjective and of relatively little value as a canon of internal criteria. These criticisms have not been adequately addressed. Yet 2 Pet 2:15 provides a fertile testing ground for the refinement of this rule absent text-critical bias. Since every single current edition of the Greek New Testament, and almost all commentators, agree with Βοσόρ due to overwhelming external support, the rule is not needed to prove the superior reading of Βοσόρ. Rather, the near-universal agreement on the reading gives us an opportunity to develop a methodology for determining whether or not Βοσόρ is the lectio difficilior compared to Βεώρ, a methodology that would hopefully be free from bias. This methodology, which draws from Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort’s distinction between “real and apparent excellence,” could then assist in rehabilitating lectio difficilior potior as a helpful, if secondary, principle in textual matters.


Elvira Martín-Contreras, How to Deal with Annotations by Different Scribes When Studying and Editing the Masorah (pp. 85–92)

Abstract: This article tackles the problem posed by presence of annotations written by different scribal hands when studying and editing the masorah. What should we do? Should we ignore the differences between the annotations and merely focus on their content? Starting with a review of how second hands and other paleographic features have been treated in the most recent editions of the masorah from the Leningrad B19a codex, a step-by-step guide on how to include paleographic and other material aspects in the study of the masorah in critical editions (in particular in the Biblia Hebraica Quinta) is presented.


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

New Book on Greek Palimpsests at Saint Catherine’s


An email informs me of a new, open-access book that will be of interest to readers here. It’s called Greek Palimpsests at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Sinai): Three Euchologia as Case Studies. The author is Giulia Rossetto. You can read it online here

The Monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai peninsula preserves one of the largest collections of manuscripts in the world, which include a significant number of palimpsest manuscripts (over 170). This book deals with Saint Catherine’s palimpsests in Greek language and offers their first-ever inventory. Three selected cases studies are then extensively described in order to showcase the richness and heterogenity of Sinai palimpsest books.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Codex Sassoon Heads to Auction


Sotheby’s has announced the upcoming auction of Codex Sassoon. They are dubbing it “The Earliest, Most Complete Hebrew Bible” and anticipating that, at $30–50m, it could be “the highest valued manuscript or historical document ever offered at auction.” From their description:

The earliest, most complete copy of the Hebrew Bible is actually a book known as Codex Sassoon, named for its most prominent modern owner: David Solomon Sassoon (1880–1942), a passionate collector of Judaica and Hebraic manuscripts. Dating to the late 9th or early 10th century, Codex Sassoon contains all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible – missing only 12 leaves – and precedes the earliest entirely complete Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex, by nearly a century.
It all sounds quite impressive, but that’s what you would expect from someone about to make money off of it. I wonder if our readers could say more about this manuscript. I admit this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. (Wikipedia seems to have it confused with the Damascus Pentateuch.)

Update (2/22/23): Kim Phillips addresses some of the exaggeration about Codex Sassoon over at the TCI website and points to some other helpful sources here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Martin Heide on Erasmus


Some of our readers may know that Martin Heide, one of our blog members, has written on Erasmus. His book Der einzig wahre Bibeltext? Erasmus von Rotterdam und die Frage nach dem Urtext (The Only True Bible Text? Erasmus of Rotterdam and the Quest for the Original Text) is now in its fifth edition. Martin has worked extensively in the languages over the years, contributing to and producing numerous critical editions of the versions. 

For those who don’t read German, you can sample his work on Erasmus in his new article at the Text & Canon Institute website: “Erasmus and the Search for the Original Text of the New Testament.” Here’s a taste:

The Novum Instrumentum was the only printed and published Greek text available at the onset of the Reformation and it has done the church a great service. The success and deep impact of the Reformation and its aftermath would be unthinkable without this new spiritual and intellectual basis of the New Testament text. Moreover, no cardinal doctrine is jeopardized by its obvious shortcomings. However, the Greek of the Novum Instrumentum, or the “Received Text,” as it was later called, “soon became, as it were, stereotyped in men’s minds; so that the readings originally edited on most insufficient manuscript authority, were supposed to possess some prescriptive right, just as if … an apostle had been the compositor” (Tregelles).

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Subgrants for Paratext Research in Glasgow


A note from Garrick Allen about new research opportunities that includes two partially-funded PhDs:

Dear friends and colleagues,

I'm writing to make you aware of a unique opportunity coming from our recently funded project Paratexts seeking Understanding here at the University of Glasgow, led by me, Christoph Scheepers, and Kelsie Rodenbiker. We are planning to make multiple subgrants (36 months from 1 October 2023) with budgets of up to £121,328 for research on the paratextuality of manuscript cultures in and represented by the Chester Beatty collections, with special attention to questions of aesthetics and knowledge (aesthetic cognitivism).

We hope to make subgrants that address manuscripts cultures preserving Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and other religious traditions.

Subgrantees are to propose a plan for philological research on a specific tradition and be willing to work with our Scientific Team here in Glasgow to operationalize empirical studies on their tradition. Applicants must hold a PhD and have the support of their host institutions. No experience with empirical research is required.

More information on the project, its application materials, and support for applicants can be found at Questions can be directed to

Applications (which are not too onerous) are due 15 April 2023. Outcomes will be communicated 15 May 2023. Applications will be evaluated by our advisory board, project leaders, and external reviewers.

A video overview of the project can be found here:

Information on early stages of this project can be found here:
Glasgow University