Tuesday, January 15, 2019

P. J. Williams to Give Cooley Lecture at Gordon-Conwell

At the end of this month, Peter Williams is set to give the Cooley Lecture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte) on a topic that will be of interest to our readers. Here is the info from the brochure.

Can We Know the Exact Words of God? 

Peter J. Williams
Principal of Tyndale House in Cambridge
January 24–25, 2019

About the Event 

These lectures engage with some of the most common questions asked by those seeking a solid grasp of an evangelical doctrine of Scripture. They argue that God can be correctly described as having given us books, which are made up of specific verbal sequences, which are in turn made up of specific words.

Schedule and Location 

Patrons’ Reception: Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 6:00 PM – Room 122A
Lecture: 7:00 PM each evening – Room 219

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
14542 Choate Circle
Charlotte, NC 28273-9103

For any questions concerning the lecture events, please contact Mark Poe at mpoe@gordonconwell.edu or 704-435-6408.

Lecture 1 (January 24) 

Can we know the exact words of Scripture? Evangelical Christians hold Scripture to be their supreme authority. Evangelicals often identify their supreme authority as the ‘original text’ of the Bible. But haven’t the originals been lost? Isn’t it problematic to adhere to a non-existent authority? And how are we to decide which text to follow when manuscripts disagree? What are we to do when a New Testament quotation seems to differ radically from the Old Testament text it is quoting? This lecture will argue that the classic evangelical understanding of Scripture is robust today and is able to deal with the data of the manuscripts. However, one of the main risks to evangelicals comes through widespread misunderstanding of what they believe. Lazy thinking and confused use of terminology represent major threats to the spread of evangelical approaches today.

Lecture 2 (January 25) 

Can we know the exact words of Jesus? For Christians the teachings of Jesus hold a key place within their supreme authority. But if he taught in Aramaic and we have his words only in Greek, aren’t Christians cut off from their supreme source? Haven’t Jesus’s words been corrupted during transmission to us? Has the church been corrupted by Greek culture and ideas away from its original Semitic identity? This lecture explores various contemporary claims which stress the distance between us and the teaching of Jesus and argues that we can have reliable knowledge of the teaching of Jesus today

For a list of past Cooley lectures from speakers that include Dan Wallace and Mike Holmes, see here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Anthony Ferguson on Texts Preserving Psalms from Qumran

Last week, guest blogger, Anthony Ferguson, described his recently defended and completed dissertation on the ‘Non-Aligned’ Texts of Qumran and reported on its major conclusions. I asked Anthony to write another post on the texts preserving Psalms at Qumran, and he kindly obliged. Thank you, Anthony, for your labors, and we look forward to reading more of your work in these areas in the future.

11QPs-a (XX-XXIV; Image from Leon Levy Library)
The texts preserving Psalms from Qumran classified by scholars as biblical texts are significant for the fluid/standard text debate because they preserve large-scale differences that designate them in the mind of many scholars as an alternative tradition or edition of the Psalter (e.g., Sanders, Ulrich, and Flint). Contrary to these scholars, many others understand these texts to be secondary to the MT, and not strictly biblical texts at all but liturgical texts (e.g., Talmon, Gottstein, Skehan, and Tov). Despite Tov viewing many of these texts as non-biblical, he still labels them non-aligned. I understand these texts to be based on a Masoretic like text and secondary to the Masoretic Psalter. Thus, I label many of these texts as texts belonging to the Masoretic tradition that contain liturgical alterations.

Types of Differences found among the Texts Preserving Psalms

11Q5 (11QPs-a) generally represents the types of differences preserved in the texts preserving Psalms from Qumran. The major differences preserved in 11Q5 include a different sequence of Psalms, the inclusion of Psalms not found in the Masoretic Psalter, and large-scale additions.

Sanders, the editor of 11Q5 in DJD, argued that 11Q5 represented a genuine Psalter. Sanders’ reasons included the following: his belief that David was the author of the Psalter, the nature of the non-Masoretic Psalms, the presence of large-scale additions such as superscriptions and interjections, and the fact that 11Q6 (11QPs-b) appears to be another copy of the text preserved in 11Q5 (whether 4Q87 represents this same text is debated).

11Q5 as secondary and dependent on the Masoretic Psalter

Contrary to Sanders, I argued that 11Q5 is secondary to and dependent on the Masoretic Psalter. First, I believe that the major differences that distinguish 11Q5 from the MT can reasonably be explained as liturgical adjustments. For example, the different sequence of Psalms can be attributed to liturgical traditions that recognize a stable Masoretic Psalter (see m. Tamid 7:4). Moreover, the inclusion of non-canonical psalms is a phenomenon found in texts that preserve the Masoretic Psalter. The LXX superscription to Psalm 151 demarcates this text as non-canonical, and thus, shows that ancient Jews did not have a fundamental problem with combining canonical and non-canonical psalms together in the same scroll. Last, one should note that there are analogies in later Jewish liturgical texts to many of the large-scale additions preserved in 11Q5. Space permits only a few examples. The liturgical function of the Hallel Psalms (Pss 113-118) during the feast of Booths led to additions in the liturgy. For example, if a slave, woman, or minor answers the reader of the Psalms, they were to repeat what was said. If an adult male answered the reader, he was only obligated to respond halleluyah (m. Sukk. 3:10). Local customs then permit further types of repetition. Moreover, as the Levites walked around the altar, it was known that they would repeat portions of Psalm 118:25: אָנָא ייי הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא אָנָּא והוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא, “Save now, we beseech thee, O Lord! We beseech thee, O Lord” (m. Sukk. 4:5). Thus, there appears some precedent for dissecting and reworking Masoretic Psalms for liturgical purposes in liturgical traditions that clearly recognized a stable Masoretic Psalter. Overall, it seems that the major differences that distinguish 11Q5 from the MT are liturgically motivated.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Logos in Oxford, 29 May–12 June 2019

Our friends at SCIO are planning another Logos conference in Oxford this summer:

Logos in Oxford

A summer workshop on biblical texts, vocation, and the Christian mind

Offered by SCIO with funding provided by Steve and Jackie Green

To be held at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford
Programme dates: 29 May–12 June 2019

This workshop is primarily intended for graduate students (including graduating seniors who will begin advanced studies in Autumn 2019) working in Biblical-related studies with a special focus on ancient texts and manuscripts, history of the Bible, reception history, ancient languages (with a Biblical focus), and related disciplines. Working on Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative projects is no longer a prerequisite, though students working on Scholars Initiative Projects are particularly encouraged to apply.

Logos in Oxford offers an opportunity to be taught by academic experts in the fields of history, theology, and textual studies.

The award of a place at Logos in Oxford 2019 will cover travel to and from Oxford (including air travel), as well as board and lodging during the workshop. In addition, participants will receive a generous stipend. Up to thirty places are available in 2019.

Fore more information and application forms click here:  Logos Conference

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Important Series for New Testament Textual Criticism

I’m slowly working on a syllabus for a new ThM-level course in NT textual criticism and that means putting together a student-friendly bibliography. I thought it might be helpful to students to have a list of the most important text-critical series. Here’s what I have so far. See what you think. Anything I should add or change?

ANTF = Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung (transl. Works on New Testament textual research). Published by de Grutyer and edited by the director of INTF (formerly Kurt Aland and now Holger Strutwolf). Includes the extremely important Text und Textwert series as well as a number of other very important works. 50 volumes. Full list at https://www.degruyter.com/view/serial/16070.
(N)CHB = (New) Cambridge History of the Bible. Organized chronologically and covering a full range of issues, the series was recently updated in a completely new edition, but the original volumes are still worth consulting. Orig. 3 volumes; now 4 volumes. Full list at https://www.cambridge.org/core/series/new-cambridge-history-of-the-bible/5012DD455841A9074F8A0C996A57ABC5.
NTGF = New Testament in the Greek Fathers. A series started, I believe, by Gordon Fee to study the text used by the Greek Fathers and now published by SBL. It was founded with special attention to methodological refinements and that remains a hallmark. 9 volumes. Full list at https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/books_ntgrf.aspx.
NTTSD = New Testament Studies, Tools, and Documents. Arguably the premier series for text-critical research. This series combines and continues two older series: New Testament Tools and Studies (NTTS), founded in 1965 and Studies and Documents (SD), founded in 1935. 60 volumes. Full list at https://brill.com/view/serial/NTTS.
Swanson = New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus by Reuben J. Swanson. The subtitle tells you what you need to know. This novel format led to a quite useful series which gives an immediate sense of variation in the select manuscripts and is often the quickest route to full collations of important manuscripts. Dogged only by its regular lists of errata, Swanson died before finishing the series and it is now in the hands of Kent Clarke. 9 volumes. Full list with lots of background on Swanson’s work at http://www.biblical-data.org/4therecord/4_record.html.
T&S = Texts and Studies. Another good series, this one now published as a “third series” by Gorgias. Noteworthy for, among other things, publishing papers from the biennial Birmingham Colloquium on New Testament Textual Criticism. 18 volumes. Full list at https://www.gorgiaspress.com/texts-and-studies. For reprints of the older, “first series,” see https://www.gorgiaspress.com/text-and-studies.
TCS = Text-Critical Studies. A series published by SBL Press and currently edited by Michael W. Holmes. Covering both testaments, this series has not been as significant as the others but may be more notable for being the only affordable one! Under the direction of Holmes, it is once again publishing new volumes after a hiatus. 11 volumes. Full list at https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/Books_textcritical.aspx.
Important text critical works are sometimes published in other major series such as LNTS, SNTSSup, NovTSup, etc. and as individual volumes by the major publishers.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

A Greek Witness to the Lord’s Prayer, Written in Latin Letters, without the Doxology

Yesterday, I wrote that I would devote a full post to what was one of my favourite items in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library.

The catalogue entry gives it the title “The earliest Durham gospel-book”, not to be confused with the Durham Gospels (also on display, by the way).

The manuscript, of which only thirteen folios survive, contains bits of Matthew and Mark in Latin written in the mid-seventh century. Folios are spread across three volumes in the Durham Cathedral Library, but the one on display is MS A.II.10. The text is mostly Vulgate, but Mark 2:12–6:5 are Old Latin (VL 19A). Hugh Houghton writes that its text there corresponds “to the text of the Gallo-Irish subgroup seen in VL 14” (Latin New Testament, p. 221).

Source: Wikipedia
What makes this manuscript so interesting to me, however, is that it contains the Lord’s Prayer written in Greek but in Latin characters. It is difficult to see, but it’s there in the two lower D-shaped panels.

Now this raises the question to me: should the INTF give it a GA number?

It’s clearly not an amulet or an ostracon, and it’s not written on wood, wax or anything like that. Although it is not strictly a continuous-text manuscript, it does occur between Matthew and Mark in a continuous-text manuscript. It isn’t really analogous to a liturgical manuscript because this bit of text is not located within the context of its place in the liturgy; it’s just there.

If P42 can be P42 though it is a Greek-Coptic book of the Odes, then why can’t this manuscript have its own GA number? It is a Greek-Latin continuous-text manuscript of the Gospels, even if the Greek bit lacks an accompanying Latin parallel, is limited to this one selection and is written in Latin characters rather than in Greek.

Perhaps of greater interest to readers is that, unless I’m mistaken (the text is admittedly difficult to see and my complete inexperience reading Greek in 7th-century Latin transliteration), it appears to lack the doxology of Matt. 6:13. In the second-to-last line, I see puniro (πονηροῦ) followed by what look like a couple of nomina sacra. I also see curion (κύριον) in that last line. Thus, not only is there not room for the doxology, the text that is there seems to be a different kind of ending to the prayer than the traditional doxology (I will happily let any readers spend more time than I did trying to decipher the full text).

What can we make of this? It is a Greek witness to the Lord’s Prayer without the doxology from either Iona or Northumbria in the mid-seventh century. Should it have a GA number? Should it be considered among textual witnesses for that variant?

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Cats, Bibles and More at the British Library

Over the weekend, I made a trip to the British Library and got to see an amazing exhibit: Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. This exhibition is open until 19 February 2019 and features some amazing manuscripts:
Treasures from the British Library’s own collection, including the beautifully illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, sit alongside stunning finds from Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire Hoard. The world-famous Domesday Book offers its unrivalled depiction of the landscape of late Anglo-Saxon England while Codex Amiatinus, a giant Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy in 716, returns to England for the first time in 1300 years.
Here is a 30-second promo for the exhibition:

As exciting as that exhibition is, I am sure that all of our readers would be interested in another exhibition, Cats on the Page, because who doesn’t love cats? This one is free, and best of all, if you are coming to the UK for the Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (4–6 March 2019), you can make it to this exhibition. It is open until 17 March 2019.

Source: I took this photo
(no photography permitted in the exhibit)
To be clear, Cats on the Page did not feature any manuscripts with paw prints on them, but the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog has a recent post about those manuscripts, with several images. There is also this book, if you need more cats and manuscripts. The exhibition did feature an anti-witchcraft pamphlet from around 1579 with something about a cat in it. There were also a few bizarre recordings that you could listen to, including one of a musical duet featuring two singers meowing at each other, and another that was just sounds of a cat hissing. Fun for children though, for sure.

Does anyone know if there are any manuscripts of the Bible with cat prints on them? Has CSNTM digitised any?

I went to the Cats on the Page exhibit mainly because we had to wait a little while before we could go to the Anglo-Saxon exhibit (and also because cats). If you only have time for one—as much as I’m sure you would be tempted to see the cat exhibit, you should definitely skip it in order to see Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War.

We booked our tickets to Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms on the train on the way down, and it had sold out by the time we arrived at the British Library. It truly is an amazing exhibit. If you are remotely in the area, it is absolutely worth a trip. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It took me over an hour to get through, and that was because I had to rush through a lot of it due to having two small children with us. I could have easily spent two hours or longer there.

The exhibition has some of the “greatest hits” of manuscripts connected to the British Isles from way back when. You are met in the first room with The St. Augustine Gospels, one of the books Augustine of Canterbury brought with him on his mission to the English in 597. Other famous Bibles on exhibit include the Lindisfarne Gospels, the St. Cuthbert Gospel, the Harley Golden Gospels, the Coronation Gospels, the Utrecht Psalter, and its copy, the Harley Psalter, the **massive** Codex Amiatinus. There are even a couple of folios of purple parchment from the Stockholm Codex Aureus. You can imagine how I was about as excited as a 4-year-old in a candy store when I turned the corner to see purple parchment. The mood was somewhat dampered when my actual 4-year-old decided to argue with me on the grounds that it was more reddish than purple. In the end, I conceded her point.

Codex Amiatinus (good stuff from the BL here) is especially significant. It was produced at Wearmouth-Jarrow (up near Newcastle) in the early 8th-century—one of three massive single-volume Bibles. It is the only one that has survived, and this is the first time it’s been back to Britain in 1300 years, having been excellently cared-for in Italy through the centuries. What I was shocked to see, however, was that in the middle of the room a few feet from Codex Amiatinus was a less-imposing display of a few pages. These were the Middleton leaves (BL, Add Ms 45025)—some of the few folios that remain of one of the other two volumes made with Codex Amiatinus. Not only do we have Codex Amiatinus in Britiain for the first time in 1300 years, but we have it on display next to the remains of one of its two siblings.

St. Cuthbert Gospel;
source: Wikipedia (but I saw it with
my own eyes 
and this is really it)
There is also an element of shock to see the tiny St. Cuthbert Gospel and the massive Codex Amiatinus next to each other. Two copies of the Scriptures made near to each other in time and location, yet their outward appearances look nothing alike.

The exhibition features not just biblical manuscripts, either. You can also see the only copy of Beowulf, the earliest copy of the Rule of St. Benedict, and the Great Domesday Book (as well as the Exon Domesday). A number of non-book items are of interest as well, but again, I had to rush through parts of it.

Perhaps one my unexpected favourites of the exhibition was another manuscript. I will post more on it tomorrow morning as it deserves its own discussion.

My only criticism (and I feel guilty for having any criticism at all for this excellent exhibit) is that I would have liked to see f. 1 of BL, Cotton MS Titus C XV. The other four folios are from the 6th-century purple codex N022, but f. 1 has a papyrus fragment of Gregory the Great’s Forty Homilies on the Gospels in Latin that dates right to around the time of the composition of the work itself. Robert Babcock wrote a delightful article a few years ago in which he identified the fragment and speculated (reasonably in my opinion) that it might have been one of the other books Augustine of Canterbury brought with him to Britain in 597. It would have been nice to see it next to the St. Augustine Gospels (though there is a nice image of the fragment on p. 21 of the exhibition catalogue).

It is also always a treat to see some of the treasures of the British Library that are on permanent display, like Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest complete copy of the New Testament.

In summary, drop what you’re doing and go see this amazing exhibit, but be sure to book in advance.

More to come tomorrow.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Anthony Ferguson on the ‘Non-Aligned’ Dead Sea Scrolls

Last month, I noted the completion of Anthony Ferguson’s dissertation, “A Comparison of the Non-Aligned Texts of Qumran to the Masoretic Text.” In this guest post, Anthony describes his thesis in more detail, and I hope it stirs up some discussion on this crucial topic. Anthony will write one more post on his treatment of texts preserving Psalms, a most significant datum for the entire discussion so be on the look out for it.

A preliminary reading of Emanuel Tov’s classification of the biblical texts from Qumran gives the impression of textual fluidity since he labels roughly 35% of the biblical texts from Qumran as non-aligned or independent. Michael Law [p. 79 here] among other scholars use Qumran to argue for a fluid text. He says:
We have seen repeatedly that the Septuagint and especially the Dead Sea Scrolls offer proof that the Hebrew Bible was not fixed before the second century CE and, perhaps more surprisingly, that many readers and users of scriptural texts before then were not bothered about it.
The Qumran texts Law refers to appear to be the non-aligned texts since this category represents the most diverse Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts of the OT from Qumran. However, Law seems to have misunderstood the nature of the non-aligned category. Not all non-aligned texts are equally non-aligned in Tov’s mind. This fact may not be immediately apparent when one first learns of Tov’s classification grid (Tov labels some texts as proto-MT, LXX, proto-S(amaritan) P(entateuch) while others are categorized as non-aligned.); yet, a brief survey of appendix 8 of Tov’s monumental work Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts found in the Judean Desert confirms it (cf. pp. 332–35 where he categorizes 57 texts [38.77 percent of the biblical-DSS] as non-aligned. A non-aligned text is defined by Tov as a text that is inconsistent in its agreement with the MT, LXX, and SP while preserving unique readings. Cf. also p. 98 in Time to Prepare the Way in the Wilderness: Papers on the Qumran Scrolls). In Scribal Practices, some non-aligned texts are noted with a question mark (?), others with an exclamation mark (!) while others lack notation. As Tov notes, the non-aligned category contains a range of texts that are more or less aligned to the previously known witnesses. Therefore, it seemed pertinent to understand how aligned each of these texts were to the MT in order to illuminate the nature of the category. My thesis offers a major correction to the comments of Law.

The thesis of my dissertation was as follows:
Contrary to Emanuel Tov’s analysis that fifty-five texts from Qumran are exclusively identified as textually non-aligned, a more cautious analysis of each text demonstrates that once the few ambiguous texts are excluded from the category, the remaining texts can reasonably be explained as belonging to the Masoretic tradition.
One should note that I am not arguing that all of the non-aligned texts should be classified as proto-MT texts per Tov’s classification grid; that is, I am not arguing that they are close to Leningrad to the same degree that some other biblical-DSS are (e.g., 1QIsa-b), to the degree that the other Judean Desert texts are (e.g. MasLev-b), or to the degree that the Medieval Manuscripts are. Rather, I say that these texts belong to the Masoretic tradition. Classifying texts according to textual tradition, not simply as texts, is a significant methodological difference that distinguishes my approach from Tov’s. Bruno Chiesa (on p. 266 here) has already insightfully critiqued Tov for classifying texts as mere texts. In short, this classification is too specific to be helpful for the fluid/standard text debate. I agree with Chiesa.

The Non-aligned Category: A Diversity of Texts

I discovered that the non-aligned category is made up of a range of texts that align more or less with the MT. A few examples illustrate this conclusion, and thus, show that this category as a whole cannot be used as evidence of a fluid text. First, 1QIsaa is non-aligned, according to Tov, in the least “meaningful type of deviations, namely in orthography” [see p. 303 here]. An alternative orthographic profile, in my mind, is not germane to the fluid/standard text debate. This criterion should thus be set aside (a sample of Tov’s graphic representation of this text can be viewed online [PDF]). Second, 4QEzeka (4Q73) is labeled non-align by Tov and yet Sanderson (the editor of the text in DJD) notes that the orthography and text of 4Q73 is close to the MT. The text, according to my calculations, sufficiently preserves 214 words (מלכי “my king” being two words), and yet, the orthography only deviates from the MT in four places (DJD, 210) while the text only preserves three certain textual variants when compared to the MT: all are very minor. In the end, this text is actually very close to the MT even regarding orthography. Grounding a theory about the fluidity of the OT text based on a category that includes 4Q73 is untenable. Third, unlike the first two texts that differ from the MT in minor details, 4QLama (4Q111) is one of the non-aligned texts that aligns statistical least with the MT. Moreover, it contains one difference that lacks a typical scribal explanation; yet, with Cross, I argue that a deeper analysis of this text indicates that it is not far removed from the Masoretic text. Even in this instance a general relationship can be traced.


This analysis demonstrates how misleading the non-aligned category is if one hopes to use this category to substantiate the idea that the text of the OT was fluid during the Second Temple period. Some texts are actually very close to Leningrad (e.g., 4Q73) while most texts are close enough to warrant the conclusion of belonging to the Masoretic tradition. At this point, let’s revisit the comments of Law [p. 79 here]. He says:
We have seen repeatedly that the Septuagint and especially the Dead Sea Scrolls offer proof that the Hebrew Bible was not fixed before the second century CE and, perhaps more surprisingly, that many readers and users of scriptural texts before then were not bothered about it.
What does Michael Law mean by a fluid text and which Qumran texts substantiate this claim? My dissertation reasonably demonstrates that the non-aligned texts cannot unequivocally be these texts unless the fluidity Law has in mind concerns expected scribal differences. The fact that these texts generally share a high statistical relationship with the MT and the fact that most of these variants can be attributed to common scribal tendencies (e.g., mechanical errors and interpretation) indicates to me that the majority of these texts can reasonably be understood as belonging to the Masoretic tradition. (The ambiguous texts were 4Q47, 4Q49, 4Q95, and 4Q98g. These exceptions do not prove the theory of a fluid text since these texts may not be biblical. For a discussion of these texts and their biblical/non-biblical status, see the discussion of each text in my dissertation.) This conclusion calls into questions Law’s comments if, of course, he has in mind the non-aligned texts. Regardless of Law’s comments, this conclusion reveals a reasonable unity amongst the diversity of these texts. That unity may be broader than Tov’s classification gird permits, but it is, nonetheless, the tradition of the Masoretic text.

Anthony Ferguson finished his Ph.D. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under the supervision of Russell Fuller. He teaches at Gateway Seminary and California Baptist University. His publications include “The Elijah Forerunner Concept as an Authentic Jewish Expectation” in JBL vol 137 and two forthcoming book reviews to feature in SBJT and Presbyterion.