Saturday, December 31, 2005

Review of Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus

61 Comment(s) +
Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus seeks to fill a market niche by being a book written for people who know nothing about textual criticism. Here it is reviewed under five headings: Synopsis, Praise, Critique, Conclusion, and Appendix.

1. Synopsis

Book cover Introduction (pp. 1-15). Ehrman explains why the subject of the text of the New Testament is one that has radically affected him both emotionally and intellectually. He was brought up in a ‘churchgoing but not particularly religious’ family (p. 1) but in teenage years felt a kind of loneliness (which he now thinks was just what all teenagers feel). After becoming involved in a Campus Life Youth for Christ club he had a ‘born-again’ experience aged 15 and some time after that was encouraged to attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, which he did in 1973. This institution held to biblical inerrancy and that the words of the autograph were inspired, but in an early class he encountered the fact that we do not possess the autographs, only ‘error-ridden copies of the autographs’ (p. 5). This got him interested in trying to learn about textual criticism. By the end of his three-year diploma at Moody he wanted to become ‘... an evangelical “voice” in secular circles, by getting degrees that would allow me to teach in secular settings while retaining my evangelical commitments’ (pp. 5-6). He went to Wheaton College, majoring in English and learning Greek, and there he experienced some doubts. After two years he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied with Bruce Metzger. He writes, ‘A turning point came in my second semester’ (p. 8), during a course on Mark when he had written a paper trying to justify the name ‘Abiathar’ in Mark 2:26 and his professor, Cullen Story, wrote thereon ‘Maybe Mark just made a mistake’. Once Ehrman had concluded that he did, ‘the floodgates opened’ to admitting other problems in scripture (p. 9) and then to having a radical rethink of his understanding of the Bible. He now writes a book which he believes is the first of its kind: a book ‘for people who know nothing about textual criticism’ (p. 15).

1. The Beginnings of Christian Scripture (pp. 17-43). Judaism was a religion of the book and writing became important within Christian churches through such things as Paul’s letters, pseudonymous letters, early gospels, acts, apocalypses, church orders, apologies, martyrologies, antiheretical tractates and early Christian commentaries. A canon began to form and people began to ascribe to New Testament writings the authority already ascribed to the Old Testament. In response to Marcion, the ‘Orthodox’ sought to delineate the canon’s boundaries. Despite the importance of writings for the churches, literacy was not common and there was consequently an emphasis on reading texts out publicly.

2. The Copyists of the Early Christian Writings (pp. 45-69). All texts in the ancient world needed to be manually copied and the difficulties involved in copying are presented by considering the narratives about books in the Shepherd of Hermas 5.4 and 8.3. At the earliest stage Christian texts were not copied by professional scribes and, accordingly, references to miscopying in Origen, Irenaeus and Revelation 22:18-19 are explored. Even if scribes only occasionally changed texts, changes were permanently introduced into the manuscript tradition. If Paul sent multiple copies of the letter to the Galatians round the Galatian churches, how can we be sure that they were all the same? If you assume, for instance, that John 1:1-18 and chapter 21 were not originally in the Gospel, what would it mean to reconstruct the original text? The Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:12) and the last twelve verses of Mark (16:9-20) illustrate that major secondary additions occur in the New Testament text.

3. Texts of the New Testament (pp. 71-99). As professional scribes took over from non-professionals the transmission of the New Testament became more controlled. A further stage of standardization was achieved through the invention of printing during the fifteenth century. Erasmus produced the first published Greek New Testament, but one with significant weaknesses. Subsequent editions of the Greek New Testament are considered. Mill, in 1707, based on variants from 100 manuscripts, showed some thirty thousand places of variation in the New Testament and thereby demonstrated a significant problem for those who attribute authority to the original text. The problem that Mill demonstrated, however, is relatively small when compared with our present situation when so many more variations in the New Testament are known. There are various types of change that take place in manuscripts.

4. The Quest for Origins (pp. 101-125). Over recent centuries various scholars have contributed to discussions on method in textual criticism and the theological significance of variation in manuscripts. Those treated here are Richard Simon, Richard Bentley, Johann Albrecht Bengel, Johann Jakob Wettstein, Karl Lachmann, Lobegott Friedrich Constantine von Tischendorf, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort.

5. Originals That Matter (pp. 127-149). Variants can be very important. Here are presented some variants that are crucial for the interpretation of a whole book. Judged by a process of weighing external and internal evidence Mark 1:41 originally said that Jesus was angry, Luke did not originally contain 22:43-44 and Hebrews 2:9 originally read χωρις θεου ‘without God’ rather than χαριτι θεου ‘by the grace of God’. These three variants are highly significant for the picture of Jesus that emerges from these books and yet, Ehrman notes, most of our modern translations are based on the wrong text in these cases. If the wrong text is selected a quite different picture of Jesus can emerge.

6. Theologically Motivated Alterations of the Text (pp. 151-175). Scribes in the early centuries of Christianity sometimes allowed theological considerations to dictate what they wrote. The early centuries were a time of intense competition between various groups and a group we may label ‘Orthodox’ generally won the day. Members of this group occasionally altered the text to preclude interpretations that they viewed as heretical. For instance, the reading θεος in 1 Timothy 3:16 was anti-adoptionistic. Other changes were anti-docetic or anti-separationist.

7. The Social Worlds of the Text (pp. 177-205). Three further categories of changes introduced into the text are considered. First, Jesus and even Paul, though still adhering to certain aspects of patriarchy, had promoted the role of women. A number of later textual alterations seek to restrict women’s roles. Secondly, some secondary alterations to the text were anti-Jewish. Thirdly, some secondary alterations to the text were apologetically motivated, to protect Christianity from certain criticisms brought forward by pagans.

Conclusion: Changing Scripture: Scribes, Authors, and Readers (pp. 207-218). ‘The more I studied the manuscript tradition of the New Testament, the more I realized just how radically the text had been altered over the years at the hands of scribes, who were not only conserving scripture but also changing it’ (p. 207). The changes in the New Testament make it impossible to believe that God inspired the original words.

My summary: the book’s purposes are (a) to introduce laypeople to New Testmant textual criticism and (b) to disprove the divine inspiration of the New Testament.

2. Praise

There are a number of strong points in this book. First, we may note that the material is all basically mature. Ehrman has been publishing in this area for some while and therefore for almost every variant he discusses in this popular treatment he can refer us to a more detailed and technical treatment of his elsewhere. His treatment is not superficial and every variant is dealt with instructively.

Secondly, Ehrman shows the importance of variants and that many of these cannot be lightly dismissed. He has done everyone a service in presenting us with a strong case for many of the variants he chooses to take as earlier.

Thirdly, the book makes some important connections that are often not made. It denies the authority of scripture by arguing against verbal inspiration, thereby agreeing with evangelicals that authority requires verbal inspiration.

Fourthly, it is a good read.

Fifthly, the pictures are nice.

3. Critique

Nevertheless, this important book cannot escape criticism and this can be made for a number of reasons.

1. Lack of emphasis on manuscripts. For an introduction to textual criticism this book has a rather low emphasis on manuscripts. Though a number of manuscripts are referred to, the readers are in general kept at some distance from manuscripts, while there is much discussion of variant units.

2. Uncertain analysis of variants. It is hard to begin to discuss treatment of variants within this book without referring to Ehrman’s more technical discussions of the same variants. This would involve basically reviewing much of Ehrman’s scholarly work. Rather I will here raise broader issues about how one decides between variants: first, it must be remembered that for many variants Ehrman discusses he does not dispute that modern Bible translations are based on the earliest available form of the text. For all the other cases, i.e. where the text that Ehrman claims is original differs from that behind modern Bible translations, it would be possible to find a number of top textual scholars who agreed with and a number who disagreed with Ehrman’s analysis. We may therefore ask how many of Ehrman’s analyses need to be right for his portrait of New Testament transmission to be right. What if only 75%, or even 50% or 25% were correct? Actually, for Ehrman’s overall analysis to be right he needs a very high proportion of his analyses of variants to be right. For many of the types of changes he gives but a few examples, and these are the ‘best’ examples. If he is wrong just a few times then a ‘type of change’ may be almost non-existent.

Ehrman is strangely certain about the correct explanation of the variants in almost every case. There are some positions on the overall transmission of the text that allow textual critics to be relatively certain about what is original. For instance, if one has a high view of the reliability of one particular tradition (e.g. the Alexandrian or Byzantine) or of one particular manuscript (e.g. Vaticanus) then it is intellectually consistent to reach a high degree of confidence about what is the earliest available form of the text. Similarly, one might construct a stemma showing the genealogical relationship between manuscripts, or one might have another theoretical way of reaching confidence about the earliest text. One might even have a theological reason for certainty about the text. Whatever the merits of such positions—which cannot be explored here—they can be methodologically consistent.

I would maintain, however, that, if the history of textual transmission is as Ehrman maintains it is, then it is really rather unreasonable of him to be so certain that his reconstruction of the earliest forms of the text are correct. If there were scribes who not infrequently introduced alterations into their texts, and the changes they introduced were capable of spreading across almost the entire range of manuscripts available to us, then we must be rather uncertain of what the earliest form of the text is. At one level this is what Ehrman himself maintains. And yet time and again Ehrman claims to be able to tell us what is earlier and what is later, and something of the theological convictions and motivation of those who introduced a variant in the text. The text he prefers may sometimes be in the mass of Alexandrian witnesses and may at other times be only attested in late manuscripts. At times it will be a difficult reading while at others a difficult reading is rejected. The one thing, however, that does run through most of the discussions of variants is Ehrman’s historical reconstruction of what scribes thought, how they were motivated, and how they acted in an environment of theological debate. Yet, the historical reconstruction is not some datum, but something itself supposedly derived from the manuscripts. This derivative construction has been given decisive authority, just as another textual critic might give decisive authority to a manuscript. Clearly, however, the construction needs its own verification before it can be given such decisive weight.

3. Misunderstandings of Concepts of Inspiration. The book is in some ways framed as an argument against divine verbal inspiration of the scriptures (a core historic evangelical belief, as well as one found widely in churches that are not evangelical). Nevertheless, it contains a number of statements that either misunderstand or misrepresent standard expressions of inspiration. One might well ask why this is the case. It might be, of course, that those evangelicals with whom Ehrman had contact as he was working through the question of inspiration did not correctly understand or present standard positions on inspiration. Yet, whatever the reason, Ehrman is now a mature scholar and should not merely engage with the non-intellectual expressions of evangelicals he happens to have encountered, but also with the ablest exponents of verbal inspiration. He has not, and the result is often unsatisfactory as will be seen as a few passages below are discussed.

In his ‘testimony’ Ehrman says (p. 7):
I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes—sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.
The premise seems to be that we do not have the words that God inspired, but Ehrman has produced little evidence that this is ever the case. He has shown that there are variants in the manuscripts, but unless he is prepared to show that none of the variants in the manuscripts is correct (and he does not do this), then he has merely shown that anyone believing in the divine inspiration of scripture would also have to believe that many New Testament manuscripts have lost divinely given words and replaced them with words that were not divinely given (which is hardly going to worry anyone provided this has not occurred in the whole manuscript tradition). It might be correct to say that such and such a scribe in history ‘did not have’ the divinely given words, but this cannot be converted into a statement about what ‘we’ have. The phrases ‘... we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes’ introduces a rather strange dichotomy. After all, these words are generally the same. Since it is the words that are inspired, not the ink, words do not lose inspiration by being copied. As for the sentences, ‘What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals!’, these are extremely strange. ‘Autographs’ and ‘originals’ as used here by Ehrman clearly mean material entities, i.e. actual manuscripts. Now, while I’m sure that many evangelicals have talked of ‘inspired autographs’ and the like, it has never been evangelical doctrine, or the doctrine of another group in Christendom, that any material was ever inspired. The text, which is immaterial, is inspired, and this text is recorded on a material. However, that text is neither more nor less inspired when written in the manuscript autograph or on a CD. The inspired words are therefore not lost when the originals are lost. The final sentence of this section uses the rhetorically-laden phrase ‘error-ridden’ (completely undefined) and observes that the majority of manuscripts are centuries removed in time from the autographs (which is irrelevant unless one attaches authority to numbers of manuscripts).
We come across the same issue on p. 60:
... it is a very complicated business talking about the ‘original’ text of Galatians. We don’t have it. The best we can do is get back to an early stage of its transmission, and simply hope that what we reconstruct about the copies made at that stage—based on the copies that happen to survive (in increasing numbers as we move into the Middle Ages)—reasonably reflects what Paul himself actually wrote, or at least what he intended to write when he dictated the letter.
In this context ‘original’ refers to a material entity. Ehrman conjectures that there may have been multiple copies sent to the Galatian churches and that these would have differed in text. One could equally conjecture that there was a single autograph containing only one original text. Of the ‘original’ text Ehrman asserts: ‘we don’t have it’. If he is referring to the material of the manuscript then the answer is naturally, ‘so what?’ If he is referring to the actual verbal sequence contained in the earliest manuscript then Ehrman has a lot more work to do to make his case. Take, for instance, the first 100 letters of Galatians as given in any Greek New Testament. There is no reason to suppose that these letters differ in any way from what the original scribe wrote. Of course one cannot ‘prove’ that the original scribe wrote these—one could never ‘prove’ anything about an original scribe. But believers in divine inspiration do not need to ‘prove’ their belief to be true; they only need to be able to show that it is reasonable and to be able to show grounds of some kind that warrant that belief. In fact, there is no case in Galatians where we need suppose that a single letter written by the original scribe is not preserved in one of a relatively small number of Greek witnesses.

Throughout this work, and particularly in the final chapter, Ehrman uses terms in an ill-defined way. The words ‘change’ and ‘alter’ are used in different senses and the words ‘scripture’, ‘text’ and ‘Bible’ are also used in more than one sense. The phrases ‘mean different things’ (p. 212) and ‘not saying the same thing’ (p. 214) are also used rather loosely.

Consider the following:
The more I studied the manuscript tradition of the New Testament, the more I realized just how radically the text had been altered over the years at the hands of scribes, who were not only conserving scripture but also changing it. (p. 207)
Clearly scribes may produce a text which is altered by being different from the text that they received. They may also alter what was written in a manuscript (by an addition or erasure). But in most cases scribes doing this do not alter ‘the text’ if by ‘the text’ we mean something that we now consider ‘the text’ of the New Testament. Ehrman has presumably opted for the ill-defined expression ‘change the text’ rather than a precise expression like ‘introduce a new variant reading’ for rhetorical reasons.

Note the change in sense of the word ‘scripture’ in the following extract:
When I was a student just beginning to think about those fifteen centuries of copying and the vicissitudes of the text, I kept reverting to the fact that whatever else we may say about the Christian scribes—whether of the early centuries or of the Middle Ages—we have to admit that in addition to copying scripture, they were changing scripture. Sometimes they didn’t mean to—they were simply tired, or inattentive, or, on occasion, inept. At other times, though, they did mean to make changes, as when they wanted the text to emphasize precisely what they themselves believed, for example about the nature of Christ, or about the role of women in the church, or about the wicked character of their Jewish opponents.

This conviction that scribes had changed scripture became an increasing certitude for me as I studied the text more and more. (p. 210)
In the first paragraph the first reference to ‘scripture’ refers to what the scribes held to be scripture. The second occurrence refers to ‘changing scripture’, which more often than not refers to the process whereby a second version of a text is produced alongside the first (which continues to be preserved in some copy). In the second paragraph ‘scripture’ seems to refer to ‘scripture’ as available to Ehrman. For Ehrman’s argument against verbal inspiration to be cogent it needs to mean that scribes had changed scripture before it got to Ehrman and that he thereby no longer had access to the original text.

On the next page he says the following:
As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost. (p. 211)
There is very little in this book that even attempts to show that we do not have the ‘original words’. To say that ‘the words God reputedly inspired had been changed’ must mean that the words are no longer available, which is not the case. He mentions that such words have been lost, but has not adduced evidence for this.

On the same page:
... the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them. (p. 211)
This is a fairly unnuanced argument. Must all people have all of God’s word at every moment for it to be possible to believe that God ‘wanted people to have his actual words’? Or will it suffice to believe that God wanted some people to have some of his words for some of the time? Just what are the conditions that Ehrman is demanding for inspiration to be logical? He does not say. Ehrman’s whole emphasis here, however, is on human reception. Yet there is no need for reception of the whole of God’s word by the entire human race for it to function as his word. God may speak through a single verse that someone encounters, or through a single book of the Bible that has been translated into a particular language. Similarly, for us to insist on a perfectly printed version of the Greek New Testament bound under a single cover before we can believe that the text is inspired is a rather anthropocentric condition. We would also be insisting that scripture could only be verbally inspired for us in the twenty-first century if God fulfilled for us conditions that could not possibly have been fulfilled for Christians prior to the invention of printing. It is not irrational to suppose that God has not made his word available to all people at all times and places. Yet it is possible to maintain that in our time and place the whole original text of the New Testament is available in a relatively limited number of Greek witnesses.

The final section of the book is a rather weak section on openness of interpretation: ‘The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and that texts do not speak for themselves. If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says’ (p. 216). We are presented with an all or nothing dichotomy. Either there is complete agreement on every point of interpretation, or else basic interpretative openness. Actually interpretations can converge. Ehrman knows this, and elsewhere he seems to presuppose a more restricted view of a text’s meaning. Here, however, he seems to be throwing just one more argument in favour of uncertainty to do with the New Testament.

4. Conclusion

There is much that is true and correct in this book and which should cause constructive reflection amongst those who believe in the verbal inspiration of Scripture. Many of the discussions are also highly debatable from a historical angle. The book engages in a theological subject, but often fails to make vital distinctions in treating theological positions. Consequently, although it is a book from which one will learn much, it is better treated as a repository of information than as a model of argumentation. This critique of Ehrman’s has been made without disputing the various discussions of variants. Perhaps this can take place at a further stage of review.

5. Appendix A: Lesser Points

  • A review of major textual critics in recent centuries, such as is undertaken in chapter 4, really must include a separate section on Griesbach.
  • The Hebrew on the dust jacket is upside down.
  • ‘Desiderus Erasmus’ should read ‘Desiderius Erasmus’ (p. 70).
  • The phrase scriptio continua is twice miswritten as scriptuo continua (pp. 48, 90).
  • Despite the comments on p. 91 the normal nomen sacrum for πνευμα is not πμα but πνα. This causes problems in the statement with relation to 1 Corinthians 12:13 ‘The word Spirit (PNEUMA) would have been abbreviated in most manuscripts as PMA, which understandably could be—and was—misread by some scribes as the Greek word for ‘drink’ (POMA)...’ (p. 91).
  • The next paragraph contains the following ironic sentence: ‘This kind of mistake is called periblepsis (an “eye-skip”) occasioned by homoeoteleuton (the “same endings”). I teach my students that they can lay claim to a university education when they can speak intelligently about periblepsis occasioned by homoeoteleuton.’ (p. 91). Twice the author means ‘parablepsis’.
  • Codex Sinaiticus does not support the presence of ‘and he was taken up into heaven’ (Luke 24:51) despite the rather confused assertion on p. 169 that it does.
  • P. 192 should refer to Acts 17:30 not 17:27.

Appendix B, 26 Jan 2006:

Further typographical confusion is pointed out in the following paragraph, quoted from a review by Marcia Ford on FaithfulReader:
‘Despite all my praise for MISQUOTING JESUS, I confess I had a tough time reading past page 13, for what may seem to some readers to be an insignificant reason. But there, right on the page, Ehrman refers to the “Timothy LeHaye and Philip Jenkins series Left Behind.” Do I need to point out all the errors in those few words? One, it’s LaHaye, not LeHaye. Two, I’m guessing no one’s called him Timothy since his baptismal certificate was signed; he’s been known as Tim for at least the nearly 40 years he’s been a published author. Three, Philip Jenkins? Philip Jenkins? I have to believe that a scholar of Ehrman’s stature, a professor who pores over ancient manuscripts with exactitude and precision and accuracy, is not the one who made that mistake; I’m going to assume it was a well-meaning editor. Philip Jenkins is a religion professor at Penn State, and I’m sure Ehrman is well-acquainted with his work. LaHaye’s co-author is Jerry Jenkins, not Philip. Oh, and “Timothy” was given the last name of LaHay on page 110, but in the index, it was back to LeHaye. Should I even mention that Hal Lindsey’s name was spelled “Lindsay” in that same sentence on page 110?’
[with thanks to Jan Krans for pointing out some of my own typos in the first posting]

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Final notes on Horton

2 Comment(s) +
Herewith comments on the remaining essays within Charles Horton, The Earliest Gospels and other reflections inspired thereby.

Martin McNamara, 'The Latin Gospels, with Special Reference to Irish Tradition', pp. 88-106, is a particularly useful introduction to the Irish Gospel tradition, or indeed to the Latin Gospel tradition in general. It deals with the nature of the mixed-text manuscripts, which contain both Vulgate and Old Latin elements. One methodological question that is raised by this essay is the question of what is Old Latin. McNamara explains that within the Irish scribal tradition there was a certain license in transmission of Vulgate texts and that this license is often found alongside genuine Old Latin elements. This of course raises the question as to how you actually recognise what is pre-Vulgate (i.e. Old Latin) and what is post-Vulgate license in transmission. Both might show similar features. This is where translation technique profiling will be absolutely vital. I note that we have a parallel situation in the Syriac tradition, where it has often been difficult to identify what is 'Old Syriac' because some scholars, esp. Arthur Vööbus, seemed to work on the basis that whatever was not Peshitta (or a later Syriac translation) was Old Syriac.

Barbara Aland, 'The Significance of the Chester Beatty Papyri in Early Church History', pp. 108-121, considers attitudes to textual transmission in the early Church and asks how the communities which commissioned early papyrus manuscripts might have viewed their errors. The communities may not have been so aware of the errors of an early papyrus 'because they have nothing to compare it with' or perhaps 'because the lector in the worship service can quietly smooth over any difficulties ...' (p. 118).

J. Keith Elliott, 'Singular Readings in the Gospel Text of P45', pp. 122-131, considers 'singular' and 'subsingular' readings, but also discusses the meaning of these terms. No readings should be dismissed as aberrant simply because they fall into one of these categories.

Larry W. Hurtado, 'P45 and the Textual History of the Gospel of Mark', pp. 132-148, focuses on scholarship since Westcott and Hort and especially the concept of the 'Caesarean' text: how P45 seemed at first to give support to this concept, but then led to its undermining.

The final essay is Charles Horton, 'The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: A Find of the Greatest Importance', pp. 149-160. It surveys the history of the discovery and acquisition of these papyri, and brings together a number of sources to highlight various personal details about Beatty, his financial position and his method of acquiring manuscripts. However, it does not relate the origins of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Overall the volume is of a high quality (with some weaknesses of proofreading). A number of senior figures restate, précis, and develop material they have previously worked on. The essays have a wide relevance.

Issues which those interested in evangelical doctrine may wish to consider carefully relate to the general conclusions about scribal habit. A number of the authors conclude that the willingness of scribes to modify their Vorlage was not merely occasional. If this is true, what does it suggest about their attitude to verbal inspiration? Of course, someone who believes in verbal inspiration is not bound to maintain that early scribes generally believed in it. However, it would be somewhat surprising, at least to me, if none of the early scribes were concerned for full verbal accuracy in their product. (Those who do not share my convictions about verbal inspiration will have no occasion for surprise if indeed scribes were not concerned to produce full verbal accuracy in their manuscripts.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

James Robinson on The Gospel of the Egyptians

4 Comment(s) +
The next installment of highlights from essays of Charles Horton, The Earliest Gospels, is from James Robinson, 'The Nag Hammadi Gospels and the Fourfold Gospel', pp. 69-87. Robinson argues that the application of the term 'gospel' to The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of the Egyptians is inappropriate, whereas it is appropriate for The Gospel of Thomas. His statements on The Gospel of the Egyptians are particularly striking:

'The editors [Böhlig and Wisse] conclude: "The title 'The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit' should have been preferred but Doresse's title [i.e. The Gospel of the Egyptians] is now too well established to change it". Jean Doresse, the French graduate student and adventurer, was the first to prepare an inventory of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Hence our first information and first dis-information, stems from him. His reason for preferring the title "The Gospel of the Egyptians" is obvious, when one recalls that the leaf from the Nag Hammadi Codices that always hung in public display at the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo was Codex III, p. 69, with the reading "The Gospel of the Egyptians" in full view, as a vindication of Egypt's claim to have had a Gospel of its own. Doresse really knew how to endear himself to the staff of the Coptic Museum, and we have to live with the consequences.' (Robinson, p. 75)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Felix Dies Nativitatis

2 Comment(s) +
For some reason I won't be blogging tomorrow, but I want to wish everyone God's blessing for the day and to put up two carols for Christmas edification. (I also hope that these are edifying for those evangelicals who, like John Knox, don't celebrate Christmas.)

In these enlightened days when we no longer have to prove the general primacy of Greek over Latin, and when most evangelical publishing houses seem enamoured with the vernacular we may perhaps indulge in a post-Reformation Latin carol written as recently as about 1742 by John Francis Wade. 1742 was, of course, the year when Bengel brought out his Gnomon Novi Testamenti, which was translated into English by John Wesley, brother of Charles, who wrote 'Hark! The herald angels sing' (1739)—one of my favourite carols (full original-ish text below). Unfortunately, John did not translate it into Latin.

Here I give the longer recension of Wade's carol, only four of whose verses made it into the English version 'O come all ye faithful'.

If you teach this carol to your children then there is a greater likelihood that they will become textual critics.

Adeste, fideles, Laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.

Venite adoremus (ter)

En grege relicto, Humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastores approperant.
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.

Stella duce, magi Christum adorantes
Aurum, tus, et myrrham dant munera.
Iesu infanti corda praebeamus.

Cantet nunc hymnos chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula caelestium:
"Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!"

Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum.

Aeterni Parentis splendorem aeternum,
Velatum sub carne videbimus;
Deum infantem pannis involutem.

Pro nobis egenum et foeno cubantem,
Piis foveamus amplexibus.
Sic nos amantemquis non redamaret?

Ergo qui natus die hodierna
Iesu tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum


According to the following is the original text of 'Hark! The herald angels sing'. Actually, although in the first line the word 'welkin' is somewhat obscure to most moderns, it is arguably no less intelligible than the more recent version, whose punctuation and sense are often misunderstood.

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More essays from Horton

Comment(s) +
I want to make brief comments on three more essays from Charles Horton, ed., The Earliest Gospels.

Harry Gamble, ‘Literacy, Liturgy, and the Shaping of the New Testament Canon’, pp. 27-39, argues that in early Christianity there was a paradox between the ‘bookishness’ of the religion and the very limited literacy of the Christian congregations. However, oral and literate cultures intersected at the point of Christian liturgy. The liturgical tradition in Christian congregations was established early and it was liturgical use that was decisive in debates about the canon in the fourth century.

‘Although from time to time the church appealed to various criteria of canonicity (e.g. authorship, derivation from the apostolic period, orthodoxy, etc.), the ultimate criterion for the canonical, authoritative status of a book was its reception by the church, and there could be no more certain or compelling indication of reception by the church than that such a book had over long years been publicly read in the service of worship.’ (p. 37)

Graham Stanton, ‘Early Christian Preference for the Codex’, pp. 40-49, argues that the evidence (e.g., of P.Petaus 30) does not suggest that Christians were responsible for the invention of the codex. He also suggests that the writing tablets from Vindolanda in Northumberland (England) make it ‘probable that some of the many literary references in first and second century writings to notebooks (pugillaria) may be to leaf tablets rather than to stylus tablets.’ (p. 45)

William L. Petersen, ‘The Diatessaron and the Fourfold Gospel’, pp. 50-68, reviews Diatessaronic issues and focuses on two passages that suggest that extra-canonical traditions were incorporated into the Diatessaron. This, he argues, must either mean that the Diatessaron involved material from more than the four Gospels, or that the text of the four Gospels was fluid enough to have contained this material.

He argues that the making of the Diatessaron was ‘a frontal assault on the four-gospel canon’ or ‘a rejection of the multiple-gospel canon’ (p. 67). Bill of course knows infinitely more about the Diatessaron than do I, but I do not see why an author who produces a harmony necessarily is rejecting their Vorlage. Loraine Boettner would not have been convinced!

The good thing about this book is that in it authors such as Hengel, Gamble, Stanton and Petersen summarize in a single article arguments that they have laid out previously in full monographs. These little essays are certainly good adverts for the books.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hengel on TC

12 Comment(s) +
I'm working through the volume edited by Charles Horton on P45. The essay by Martin Hengel, 'The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ', is basically a summary of his book bearing the same title (London: SCM, 2000). It is an exceptionally useful distillation. One sentence that stood out was this:

'The text of the Gospels is the best-transmitted text in antiquity.' (p. 15)

I actually think that the text of some of the epistles might have been a better choice and better still might have been texts from the OT: proto-Masoretic mss from Qumran show a higher level of agreement with mss from about a millennium later.

Hengel's statement did, however, make me wonder how much scholars have actually compared the NT and Classical transmission processes from the perspective of their fidelity (rather than just observing that there are usually vastly more witnesses for the NT text).

What are the main investigations of this area?

And the winner is ................

4 Comment(s) +
Here are the results of our first ever annual ETC achievement awards. Many thanks for all of you who nominated people for the various categories. Strangely many categories earnt no nominations. There is always next year (when all those 'forthcoming's arrive).
Thanks are due too to those within the academy who read the relevant books and articles and voted for us. Also thanks to Indiginata Theological Consultancy, Inc. for sponsorship, airfares and prizes.

So without further ado I'll hand over to Tammy and Johnny for the announcements:

Johnny: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. I've always admired textual critics for their careful scholarship ("One Piece At A Time"), their discernment ("The One on the Right is on the Left"), and their consistent efforts to help those troubled by gender confusion ("A Boy Named Sue"). But, now, as they say, I've gotta "Walk the Line" through that "Ring of Fire" and find the "Man in Black".

Tammy: Well, thanks Johnny. I fell in love with a textual critic in my youth. That is why I wrote "He Loves Me All the Way [to the Bodleian]". I wrote several songs for him, although my producers changed some of the words: "Stand by your man[uscript]" and "The Ways to Love a Man[uscript]". Finding a new manuscript would make it a "Perfect Day". Anyway, it is my privilege to introduce the awards:

1. Best contribution to biblical textual criticism.
And the winner is: Frank Moore Cross et al., Qumran Cave 4 XII: 1-2 Samuel (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 17; Oxford: Clarendon, 2005).

2. The Bruce Manning Metzger Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame / Life-time achievement Award.
And the OT winner is: David Gooding
And the NT winner is: Gordon Fee

Victory speeches transcript here: ETCVictory

Monday, December 19, 2005

Alain Martin on Matthew 1:16

Comment(s) +
In the 'note' on Matthew 1:16 mentioned earlier, Alain Martin considers a number of aspects of the variant in the Sinaitic manuscript of the Old Syriac version. As is well known, this version presents an account that says that 'Joseph begot Jesus'. I argued in 2004 that the Syriac reads as it does for linguistic reasons (Early Syriac Translation Technique, pp. 19, 39, 240-44, 289), but this article, completed by 2002 yet delayed in publication, does not consider such linguistic possibilities. Martin posits that the Sinaitic manuscript, which is probably an early form of Matthew, spoke both of human paternity by Joseph (1:16) and of a supernatural conception (1:18) but that this does not reflect a contradiction so much as a 'sensibilité théologique'.

Near the end of the article (p. 93) we are told the following:

La critique texuelle apprend au théologien à clairement distinguer entre l'essentiel et le secondaire (attitude bien calviniste!). Elle rappelle que la Parole de Dieu n'est pas figée dans un text ou dans un temps, mais que'lle est vivante et se développe dans l'histoire, ce que est le rôle du Saint-Esprit selon le Nouveau Testament.

It appears that theological discourse in textual criticism is alive an well. However, it is interesting that 'living' should be used as the opposite of 'fixed'.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

3 more difficult Byzantine readings

5 Comment(s) +
Here are a few more Byzantine readings that I suggest are difficult:

Acts 18:17: εμελλεν not εμελεν.

1 Peter 1:8: 'whom not knowing [ειδοτες] you love ...'

2 Peter 2:18: 'those who have really [οντως] fled ...'

Any thoughts?

More corrections to Robinson and Pierpont

0 Comment(s) +
I've added further corrections, mainly of accentuation, for Robinson and Pierpont's Greek New Testament to the original post.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ETC Annual Achievement Awards: More Nominations?

11 Comment(s) +
Up-date: I'm just posting this again to keep it near the top. For earlier posts see here and here and the numerous comments.

As the end of the year approaches we invite our readers (yes, all three of you) to engage in a bout of critical reflection on the major text critical achievements of 2005.
We invite nominations for awards in the following categories:

1. Best contribution to biblical textual criticism.
2. Best discussion of an individual manuscript.
3. Worst treatment of textual criticism in a biblical commentary.
4. Best evangelical contribution to biblical textual criticism.
5. Most arcane detail published in any text critical discussion.
6. Funniest item connected to textual criticism of the Bible.
7. Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame / Life-time achievement Award.

Nominations can be submitted (over the next 4 days) as comments or by email.

Andrew Wilson's links

3 Comment(s) +
Andrew Wilson draws our attention to the following links:

Shorter Reading canon:
Harder Reading canon:
Harmonization canon:

Fee nominated for award

11 Comment(s) +
We have received the following nomination from Jim Leonard:

Perhaps the student can be forgiven for nominating, from his limited experiences, his own favorite professor to an award. Perhaps, despite the student's own experiential limitations, that professor really is deserving. Let me argue such on behalf of Gordon Fee in regard to the highly esteemed and world renowned Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame/Lifetime Achievement Award.

First, let me explain that as a student of Prof. Fee, amazingly, I actually never read a single textual critical work of his. I came to study with him well after he had established his reputation as text-critic-turned-exegete, and my work with him was exegetically oriented, with only sideward glances at tc. What I know of his tc work comes from informal readings after my graduate degree.

In this light, I was surprised to find in my first real tc research paper how often I resorted to citing Prof. Fee's various works. The variety and scope of his writings and their strategic importance necessitated such frequent citation.

With a few exceptions, scholarship in textual criticism is not so much reflected in tomes, but in shorter research articles (Colwell and Birdsall, for example, had but two tc books published between them). Prof. Fee has written two volumes on tc, but his research articles are of such importance that we recall them as quickly as we recall the names of the few larger, important books in the field. These works are often definitive, and future scholarship will not be able to avoid prefacing their work with reference to Prof. Fee's works.

One example of this is William L. Petersen's 2002 article, "The Genesis of the Gospel" (in A. Denaux's New Testament Textual Exegesis) wherein he argued for a closer look at the early Fathers to determine gospel texts which look quite different from our canonical gospels. Despite his recognition of the cautions expressed in Prof. Fee's article, "The Text of John in Origen and Cyril of Alexandria" (Bib 52 [1971], 357-394), one wonders if the phenomena Petersen observed in citations from Theophilus (40) and the Didache (51-53) may be explicable in terms proffered by Prof. Fee thirty years earlier. Prof. Fee's passionate cautions regarding Patristic evidence were such as to have spilled over even into his introductory courses. One suspects that the radical revision of the Patristic evidence in the apparatus of NA-27 had a portion of its impetus from Prof. Fee's own writings (see also "The Text of John in The Jerusalem Bible: A Critique of the Use of Patristic Ciations in New Textament Textual Criticism" and "The Use of Greek Patristic Citations in New Testament Textual Criticism: The State of the Question").
Prof. Fee has had a knack for publishing strategically important articles for the discipline. This was true of his debunking of the myth that the "Alexandrian" text form was a recension. To a large degree, this work confirmed the basic Hortian program of reconstructing the NT text largely on the basis of the strict text form behind B, at a time when such confidence was beginning to lag.

Prof. Fee has been in the frontlines on issues which have been polemical. At a time when some Christian conservatives (Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) were being swayed by a revival of the Majority Text, Prof. Fee entered the arena and published several articles and debates on the issue. The same is true over the issue of eclecticism; his arguments for a reasoned eclecticism have seemed to have won the day against the rigorous eclecticism of Kilpatrick and Elliott.
Prof. Fee's work still speaks to current issues in tc. The last two decades have seen an increasing interest in the relationship between tc and gospel formation prior to 180 CE. Much of this scholarship would undermine our confidence in our critical text and in the "original text." Prof. Fee has probably written the definitive work looking at the implications of synoptic harmonization for the Synoptic Problem ("Modern Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem: On the Problem of harmonization in the Gospels"). Also, he himself has recognized the first 300 years as the "Period of Confusion," yet gives an analysis of this period which is far more sympathetic to Evangelicals and to the issue of biblical authority than is often given ("Textual Criticism of the New Testament;" cf. Koester, Petersen, Ehrman). In a short review of Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of the Text, Prof. Fee politely and with some subtlety shreds methods and conclusions so thoroughly that the book needs to be re-read with great reservation (Critical Review of Books and Religion, Aug 1995, 203-206).

I wonder if Prof. Fee has made his own contribution to the canons of criticism. He argues that "one criterion above all others superintends the scholar's choice at any point of textual variation: the variant that best explains the origin of all the others is most likely original." This probably is not original to Prof. Fee, but in my own limited experience, I have not seen the criterion stated so lucidly elsewhere.

A word should be said in regard to Prof. Fee's relationship to evangelicalism. As a Pentecostal, he admits to having some tensions within his evangelical world. One of these tensions is his emphasis on the Spirit's role in interpreting the text. He is more concerned with what, for example, Paul meant than what the text actually said. As such, he has been a little outside of the issue of inerrancy, and one wonders if maybe his emphasis on the Spirit has more in common with Prof. Parker and the living text approach than the earlier comment may suggest.
More importantly, however, Prof. Fee's evangelicalism can be seen in his far-reaching exegetical work. In an era when the Pastorals were considered not even deutero-Pauline, but trito-Pauline, Prof. Fee argued for their authenticity, and his tiny commentary on the Pastorals (New International Bible Commentary) rocked liberal scholarship way back on its heels. The same is true in regard to Paul's Trinitarianism; while it had become commonplace to dismiss orthodox Trinitarianism as a later Church development, Prof. Fee has boldly argued that the Trinitarianism of the later creeds is latent in Paul's writings, and largely assumed in his theology (God's Empowering Presence, 898).

One important exegetical insistence of Prof. Fee's has import for some recent developments in tc. In the attempt to reconstruct primitive forms of the gospels prior to 180 C.E., a number of scholars have argued that the early Fathers and texts seem uninformed in regard to Jesus' life and teaching. They point out that this is a feature of the earliest Christian writings, and surmise that the four canonical gospels must not have been widely received by the Church in the first two centuries. In so doing, they point to the Pauline writings which have little to say about Jesus' life and ministry, suggesting that Paul knew little of Jesus' life. Prof. Fee would cry foul to this line of reasoning, arguing first of all the ad hoc nature of the Pauline epistles, and that they were task oriented, not treatise of theology or ethics. Typically, Paul wrote to fix problems, and the situation rarely would have required Paul to cite sayings or deeds of Jesus. In this regard, Prof. Fee was fond of pointing out that overly skeptical scholars would assume that Paul knew nothing of the Lord's Supper, except that, quite incidentally, observance of the institution had become a problem in Corinth, requiring Paul to address the situation. Likewise, in our attempt to push the text beyond the 180 C.E. barrier, we should remember this admonition, and ask whether a writing or a writer really had the occasion to refer to Jesus' life and ministry.

But for Prof. Fee, the goal of exegesis is hermeneutics…how one applies what was said back then to our lives today. I think if this is not the essence of evangelicalism, it is very close to its core. For it is only the appropriation of the text into our lives that we are truly Christian. And this is clearly evident in Prof. Fee's life's work.

Prof. Fee's larger works:
The Text of the Fourth Gospel in the Writings of Origen (with Ehrman and Holmes)
Papyrus Bodmer II (P66): Its Textual Relationships and Scribal Tendencies
For a convenient collection of his essays see Studies in the Theory and Method of NTTC (with Epp) and New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis (with Epp).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Up-date on a left-handed scribe .... not

4 Comment(s) +
In the comments to an earlier post (found here), there was some discussion about whether it was possible to distinguish left-handed from right-handed scribes, both in terms of their writing styles and characteristic 'scribal habits'. It was also suggested that there were no left-handed scribes depicted in manuscript illustrations etc.

During the course of the discussion PJW came up with an image of a left-handed scribe, but the picture didn't seem to match the description (click for details).

So I emailed the museum:

In the description given of the Manuscript Illumination with the Evangelist Luke, late 13th-early 14th century
Tempera and gold leaf on parchment; 5 13/16 x 4 1/16 in. (14.7 x 10.3 cm). Purchase, The Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. Gift, 2001 (2001.633) (
it is said:
"On a single page from a gospel book, the illumination shows the evangelist Luke seated on a backless chair, reaching with his right arm toward the open book on a pedestal before him. He wears a loose-fitting blue tunic and white himation, and sandals on his feet. He holds a quill pen in his left hand as he pauses to contemplate the text."
But not only is there no pen to be seen in his left hand, it is not his right hand that reaches to the open book. It looks to me more like a pen in his right hand, held in such a way that he may be about to write. [Most scribes were right-handed, so it would be nice to know if this really was a depiction of a left-handed evangelist.]

I wonder whether it is possible either to refer me to some published discussion of this piece, or to have someone take another close look at the picture and confirm (or alter) the description.

And today I received this reply:

Dear Peter, if I may,

Thank you very much for your email. You are quite right that the evangelist Luke reaches for the book with his left hand, and that he is a right-handed scribe. We very much appreciate your bringing this to our attention and we will correct the descriptive text as soon as possible.

Best wishes for a happy holiday,



Dr. Sarah T. Brooks
Research Associate
Department of Medieval Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028-0198
Phone 212-650-2459
Fax 212-570-3866

So, if there were no left-handed scribes we shan't need to spend much time pondering their distinctive habits.

Up-date (to the up-date; 15.12.05): I am pleased to say that Dr Brooks has given permission for me to quote her email in full. I am sorry to say that I only asked for this permission retrospectively. At least we have advanced the cause of scholarship together.

Accents and Semitic words

0 Comment(s) +
My last message, musing on the accentuation of σαβαχθανι in Matthew 27:46, has caused me to reflect further and in fact brought me to a point of consternation in regard to the following question:

What is the rationale that editors of the Greek New Testament use to put accents on Semitic words?

In my folly I had previously assumed that editors placed accents on the stressed Semitic syllable, or, with Rahlfs, omitted accents on such words entirely. This works for a great many words, but there are many examples that do not fit this pattern. For instance Βηθλεεμ is given by many editors as accented on the last syllable, though in the Hebrew the stress is on the penultimate syllable.

Why does NA26 put the accent on the last syllable of Zerubabel in Matthew 1:13, but WH on the penultimate?

Why does Scholz (1830) put the accent on the first syllable of Αχαζ in Matthew 1:10 while NA25/26 put it on the final syllable? (Other editions could have been consulted.)

Are editors generally just copying from each other rather than thinking through the principles involved in accentuation or is there a pattern of treatment found within Greek mss?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Accents (etc.) in Robinson and Pierpont

3 Comment(s) +
I here post a list of corrections to Pierpont and Robinson. These pertain almost entirely to accents and breathings. In general I have not noted mistakes involving misuse of comma. Rather than type out every letter using the laborious system for Greek that we have I have started by just listing the verses in which the errors occur. I hope that this will be sufficient to enable those with interest to find them. Maurice has done us a valuable service by providing this text with all rights released and we ought to do what we can to enable it to represent the Byzantine tradition as closely as possible. Here are the verses where I have found errors. I have not systematically read through the apparatus.

Matthew 5:39; 6:4, 31; 10:37 (mistake either of accent or of comma); 13:55; 16:23; 19:29; 20:16, 26; 21:18 text and apparatus; 23:13, 28; 24:23; 25:1, 4, 7.

Mark 2:17; 7:26; 9:17, 22, 23; 10:47 breathing and Δαυιδ (and 10:47 apparatus); 11:3, 24; 14:9 margin; 15:34 (σαβαχθανι should be accented if the other Aramaic words are. See note below.)

Luke 1:21, 36; 3:23; 4:1 (2x), 11; 4:18, 22 (2x); 5:29 (lack of diaeresis inconsistent with 5:27), 33; 6:12, 17 (2x), 25, 38, 42, 45 (2x), 49; 7:1, 6, 15, 19, 27, 33 (2x), 36 (2x), 42 (2x), 44; 8:20 (2x), 27; 9:5, 9, 36, 52, 56 (breathing); 10:22 (5x), 30, 38 (2x); 11:2 (2x), 11, 26, 54; 12:22, 26; 13:4; 14:5 (use circumflex not grave on τη and add iota subscript), 12, 24 (3x), 26; 15:16 (breathing); 16:2, 26; 19:23; 20:2, 30; 21:8; 22:34 (2x), 47; 23:17, 42 (2x); 24:17.

John 5:14 (margin); 6:22; 7:52; 8:9 (first apparatus), 26; 9:29; 10:12; 11:32; 12:20; 14:28; 16:17, 23; 17:24; 18:16, 36, 37; 19:6, 35; 20:23.

Acts 1:19 (apostrophe); 2:12, 18, 33, 47 (iota subscript); 4:27 (capital required on Ποντιος; cf. Matthew 27:2); 5:40; 14:17 (breathing); 17:28; 19:41; 20:15; 25:5 (iota subscript); 26:26.

James 2:19 and 2:19 apparatus; 3:4, 12 and 3:12 apparatus; 4:14 [2x] (because of the enclitic it is necessary to show two words for the variant in the margin); 5:12 (2x) and 5:12 apparatus (2x).

1 Peter 2:12, 3:15, 16 and 3:16 apparatus.

2 Peter 2:22; 3:9.

1 John 2:20 [accentuation of χρισμα inconsistent with accentuation of 2:27 (2x)—though the choice between circumflex and acute is difficult], 28; 5:13 (comma and breathing), 16, 18.

2 John 7.

3 John 9.

Jude 1, 4.

Romans 8:15 (Αββα needs an accent because one occurs in Galatians 4:6), 34; 11:13, 23 (2x); 13:12.

1 Corinthians 1:20; 3:2; 5:12, 13; 7:13, 38, 39; 14:38.

2 Corinthians 1:17 (2x); 6:16, 17; 11:18; 12:20.

Galatians 2:9 (accentuation of Barnabas is inconsistent with accentuation in 2:1); 3:7; 5:15.

Ephesians 2:15 (3x); 4:28; 5:5, 23, 30 (2x), 32.

Philippians 2:8; 3:8, 10, 21; 4:23.

Colassians [sic] 3:20 (2x), 23.

1 Thessalonians 2:6, 9, 11, 18.

2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Hebrews 1:9, 12; 2:14; 3:9 (2x); 7:24; 8:5, 13; 10:8, 9, 12; 11:3; 12:2, 7, 9.

1 Timothy 1:17 (iota subscript); 5:5, 23; 6:19.

2 Timothy 4:8.

Titus 1:16 (capitalization).

Philemon 11.

Revelation 1:3 (margin), 4, 13; 2:20; 3:7; 5:6, 13 (margin); 13:4; 16:21 (margin); 17:10, 18; 20:5, 11; 22:5, 8 (margin).

The edition is inconsistent on whether to use the circumflex or acute with στυλος. Future editions will use the acute.

Note 1: In Matthew 27:46 an acute accent appears on the final iota of σαβαχθανι. No accent appears on the same word in Mark 15:34. Despite the fact that learned editors of Greek New Testaments have put the acute accent on the final vowel it should be placed on the final alpha, not on final iota, if we are to follow documented Aramaic stress patterns.

Note 2: A few of the errors now listed have been pointed out to me by Prof. Robinson himself, some having been spotted by Dr Louis Tyler.

Appendix: Iota Subscript
I have been supplied by Prof. Robinson with the following list of forms where the current printing lacks iota subscript, but where it will be included in the future.

λαθρα: Mt 1:19; 2:7; Jn 11:28; Ac 16:37

εικη: Mt 5:22; Ro 13:4; Ga 4:11; Col 2:18 (already correct in 1 Co 15:2; Ga 3:4 [2x])

σωζ-: Mk 6:56; Ac 2:47; 27:20; Heb 7:25; 1 Pe 3:21 (already correct in Lk 13:23; 1 Co 1:18; 15:2; 2 Co 2:15; Heb 5:7; 1 Pe 4:18; Jude 1:23)

ζω-: Jn 5:21 (2x); 6:63; Ac 7:19; Rom 4:17; 8:11; Gal 3:21; 1 Ti 6:13; 1Pe 3:18 (already correct in Lk 17:33; 1 Co 15:22, 36, 45; 2 Co 3:6)

πρω-: Ac 27:30, 41

κρυφη: Eph 5:12

αθωο-: Mt 27:4 (already correct Mt 27:24)

συνεζωο-: Eph 2:5; Col 2:13

Per Dr Louis Tyler:

Mk 5:34, main text: capitalize Θυγατερ; apparatus: capitalize both Θυγατερ and Θυγατηρ.

Per Jussi Ala-Konni in Finland:

Mk 10:43: remove extraneous high point between υμων and διακονος

In the closing phrase of Rev 19:17, το δειπνον ... θεου, leaving off accents, etc., the main text should have marked with angle brackets the phrase το μεγα του instead of only το μεγα. The marginal reading at that point should show the two alternatives as του μεγαλου = τον μεγαν του.

Marc Multilingue

3 Comment(s) +
I've just been reading J.K. Elliott, Christian Amphoux and J.-C. Haelewjck, 'The Marc Multilingue Project', in Fil Neot 29-30 (2002) 3-17. It describes a significant collaborative project to produce ten volumes on the Gospel of Mark, with each version provided with its own volume. Languages covered are Greek, Latin, Gothic, Coptic, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, Syriac and Slavic. It will attempt to present text forms diplomatically, while also showing the relationship between them.

The edition will set out texts in their relative sequence, starting with D followed by W, since it is believed (by Amphoux) that D may represent the earliest form of the text of Mark we have (I would have preferred P45).

This is clearly a massive and important project, though not one without eccentricity. I love the sentence (co-authored by Amphoux) which says that Amphoux 'has his own, often idiosyncratic theories about this history [i.e. the history of text forms]' (p. 8).

It talks about the research of Didier Lafleur on family 13. A quick Google revealed the fact that Monsieur Lafleur had his doctoral viva a week or so ago. Is there no privacy?

Apparently the Marc multilingue project is officially undertaken by the Société d'histoire du texte du Nouveau Testament about which the WWW knows next to nothing.

Rather strange that the article twice explicitly identifies the Majority Text with the TR, even to the point of calling Hodges and Farstad's edition one of the TR (pp. 4-5). I should have thought that a glance at the end of Romans would have shown that a distinction needs to be drawn here.

At the same time the more that is done to produce critical editions of the versions the merrier.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas variants (3)

Comment(s) +
In Matthew 1:20 should we read Μαριαμ or Μαριαν? Is it possible to explain the form with ν as an assimilation to the declension of the genitive in 1:18? NA27 records inconsistency of spelling for the name of Mary Magdalene between 27:56 and 27:61/28:1. Luke 1:41, contrasted with Luke 1:30, 34, 38, 39, 46, etc. allows us to assume that the first declension genitive can be used suppletively alongside the Semitic nominative and accusative (Luke 2:16). What should we make of the first declension variant in Luke 2:19?

The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection (on-line)

2 Comment(s) +
Today I found another very good resource, The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, hosted by the Chicago University Library. This collection includes many New Testament MSS and the plan is to make them all electronically available. Very user friendly system, and high quality of the images.

There are already two complete MSS online, Greg. Aland 2400, and 2427. I examined the Epistle of Jude in MS 2400, and was actually helped by these images which are clearer than the photographic material I had used earlier for my transcription of this MS.

There is also a catalogue (without sample plates) available with basic bibliographic information of the MSS. This catalogue is from an exhibition in 1973 and exists also in print (probably with plates) and can be ordered from the library.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas variants (2)

Comment(s) +
NA27 records that in Matthew 1:21 the Curetonian Syriac supports κοσμον 'world' as opposed to λαον 'people' plus the possessive. The Curetonian Syriac indeed reads ܥܠܡܐ 'world' rather than ܥܡܐ 'people'. However, since the two Syriac words look very similar (even more so in the script of many manuscripts) is it not far more likely that the Syriac reading 'world' arose as an inner-Syriac development? In this case there is no basis for the retroversion into Greek. Consequently, there is no support for a universalistic reading of this part of the Christmas narrative.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas variants

4 Comment(s) +
As we are in Advent it seems rather appropriate to consider variants from some of the famous Christmas passages. IMHO the earliest text of Matthew 1:16 is not in significant doubt (so the Nativity plays can go on). Yet there is an interesting variant in Θ f13 it (the peculiarities of the Old Syriac recorded in NA27 do not reflect any real Greek Vorlage). Would anyone like to make suggestions as to how and when this variant arose?

Another 'Byzantine' reading (Luke 18:14)

3 Comment(s) +
I'm still working through Robinson and Pierpont. I'll post a list of accentual mistakes when I've finished the whole. One reading that struck me in the Byzantine text they print (also shared by A Ψ) is the expression η γαρ εκεινος in Luke 18:14. What is the function of γαρ in this context?

Friday, December 09, 2005

ETC Annual Achievement Awards: Nominations

19 Comment(s) +
Up-date: I'm just posting this again to keep it near the top. (There may be some sensible way of doing this, I'm just going to try to give it a date about three days in advance and see if that works).

As the end of the year approaches we invite our readers (yes, all three of you) to engage in a bout of critical reflection on the major text critical achievements of 2005. We invite nominations for awards in the following categories:

1. Best contribution to biblical textual criticism.

2. Best discussion of an individual manuscript.

3. Worst treatment of textual criticism in a biblical commentary.

4. Best evangelical contribution to biblical textual criticism.

5. Most arcane detail published in any text critical discussion.

6. Funniest item connected to textual criticism of the Bible.

7. Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame / Life-time achievement Award.

Nominations can be submitted (over the next 8 days) as comments or by email.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Barthélemy on Psalms

0 Comment(s) +
Apparently the posthumous fourth volume of Dominique Barthélemy's Critique textuelle de l'Ancien Testament is available now at a modest $239. It may have been out for some time, though I have not seen it.

Byzantine Palaeography

0 Comment(s) +
I've added the excellent site recommended by Peter Head on Byzantine Palaeography (aka Paleography) to the sidebar.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Housman, The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism

Comment(s) +
Since we have been blogging and commenting a fair bit on conjectural emendations (most recently More on Conjectures); I thought it would be good to link to the interesting, entertaining and otherwise-adjectivally-stimulating essay by A.E. Housman on "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism" (originally given in Cambridge on the morning of Thursday 4th August 1921). See the text here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A palaeontologist's view of manuscripts

Comment(s) +
Can a palaeontologist really work out how many copies of a work there have been? Has anyone looked at Cisne's work?

Ketiv-Qere in Ps 100: 3 & Christian allusions

10 Comment(s) +
הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ וְלֹא אֲנַחְנוּ is the Masoretic Ketiv text of Ps. 100: 3, while the Qere text is הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ. The Ketiv text (which is difficilior, it seems) is supported by the LXX: αυτος εποιησεν ημας και ουχ ημεις·
I want to draw your attention to two possible allusions to the verse in Christian writings. One of them to the Ketiv text, the other to Qere. Interesting enough both seem to address the relationship between Father and Son.
Qere: 1 Cor. 8:6 αλλ ημιν εις Θεος ο πατηρ, εξ ου τα παντα και ημεις εις αυτον ( וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ), και εις Κυριος Ιησους Χριστος, δι ου τα παντα και ημεις δι αυτου.
Ketiv: Odes of Solomon 7: 12 (Translation of Charlesworth) "He has allowed Him to appear to them that are His own; in order that they may recognize Him that made them, and not suppose that they came of themselves (וְלֹא אֲנַחְנוּ )."
I was tempted to read in the Odes passage an allusion to both Ketiv ("they came [not] of themselves") and Qere ("that are His own"), but this second phrase may represent עַמּוֹ rather than וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ.
Sorry I couldn't find a Syriac font to get the transmitted text of the Odes on the screen. (PJW may know a solution?)

Filología Neotestamentaria 29-30

13 Comment(s) +
Filología Neotestamentaria tends to run a little late, but I have now received Vol. XV of their journal (May to November, 2002), which counts as issues 29-30.

The most pertinent contents are as follows:

J.K. Elliott, C. Amphoux and J.-C. Haelewjck, 'The Marc Multilingue Project...', pp. 3-17.

A. Martin, 'Matthieu 1:16 dans le Palimpseste Syriaque du Sinaï', pp. 87-94.
J. Rius-Camps and J. Read-Heimerdinger, 'The Variant Readings of the Western Text of the Acts of the Apostles (XIII): Acts 8:1b-40)', pp. 111-132 [strange that a note can be longer than the article by Elliott et al.].

There are also bibliographical notes on various articles, which obviously only cover up to 2001. Most will be well known, but I will just draw attention to a few that may not be known due to their language of publication.

There is a 1999 Gregorian University dissertation by T. Abrahà entitled, Testo e commentari etiopici della Lettera ai Romani: Traduzione annotata. Analisi della storia, stile, metodo interpretativo e teologia dei commentari. I don't know whether this has been subsequently published.

J. Rius-Camps has an article that I presume is in Catalan entitled 'Les variants de la recensió occidental de l'evangeli de Marc (IV) (Mc 1,40-2,17)' in RCatalT 23 (1998) 401-419. I guess that the journal title is something like the Catalan Review of Theology, but quick Googling has not helped me identify the full title.

There is reference to an article in Polish on the Secret Gospel of Mark by M. Wojciechowski. I now see that this is online. I don't know whether its contents are available in any other language.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

To what extent is the Byzantine text smooth?

8 Comment(s) +
I'm working my way through the revised edition of Robinson and Pierpont (I'll give a full report when I get to the end) and am coming across cases where arguably what is printed is less smooth than what is found outside the Byzantine tradition. In Mark 13:31 Robinson and Pierpont print Ο ουρανος και η γη παρελευσεται using a singular verb for a compound object. They note marginally the Byzantine variant παρελευσονται, which is of course the reading of enough of the textual tradition for NA27 not even to note the variant.

I have two questions: (a) is what Robinson and Pierpont print indeed less smooth? (b) if so, are there other cases where less smooth readings within the Byzantine tradition are not noted in critical editions?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Codex Sinaiticus in the News

Comment(s) +
Jim Davila of paleojudaica has a good discussion of a poorly researched article about Codex Sinaiticus and St Catherine's Monastery (here).

One point might be worth adding to Jim's discussion; he wrote: "The discovery of Marcan priority had nothing to do with Tischendorf and progress on the Synoptic problem was not based on study of Sinaiticus or Syriacus." This is basically true, although could do with a little careful nuancing: progress on the Synoptic Problem (assuming for the moment that Markan priority was a 'discovery' and 'progress') was related to advances in textual criticism, which were in turn related to manuscript discoveries (including Sinaiticus). For example Sinaiticus lacks Mark 16.9-20 and so helped support the view that this long ending (which looks like it draws upon Matthew and Luke and thus supports the Griesbach hypothesis) was not original to Mark.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Summer School in Coptic Papyrology

6 Comment(s) +
Forwarded from Papy-List for interested text critics:

International Summer School in Coptic Papyrology
23rd July - 30th of July 2006, Austrian National Library, Vienna

This summer school, organized by the Austrian National Library, will provide an introduction to Coptic papyrology in within its larger context in the fields of Egyptology, Classics, Ancient History, Early Christianity, and Archaeology. Classes will be taught on the decipherment of literary as well as documentary hands, on the Sitz im Leben of both kinds of manuscripts, and their relationship to other forms of textual and archaeological evidence. Each student will be given an unpublished papyrus to work on as a practice exercise. The intention is to offer a mixture of taught classes and workshops in which students can learn to appreciate the manifold information which the different kinds of papyri provide, as well as to getting acquainted with a wide range of questions raised by the papyrological material. The programme will offer insights into the culture of late antique and early Christian culture of Egypt. The programmme will also include visits to the Papyrus Museum of the Austrian National Library, and to the Egyptological holdings of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Students with an interest in Coptic papyrology are invited to participate, whether they already have experience in the subject or not. The main teachers of the course will be: Stephen Emmel (Münster), Monika Hasitzka (Vienna), Sebastian Richter (Leipzig) and Helmut Satzinger (Vienna). Speakers will include Andrea Donau (Vienna), Hans Förster (Vienna), Harald Froschauer (Vienna), Ulrich Luft (Budapest), Fritz Mitthof(Vienna), Federico Morelli (Vienna), Bernhard Palme (Vienna), Amphilochious Papathomas (Athens) and Cornelia Römer (Vienna).

The course will begin on Sunday, 23rd July, and will end on Sunday,the 30th of July, 2006.
A fee of Euros 250 includes accommodation in a university Hall of Residence and one warm meal per day.The number of places is restricted to 15. Classes will be taught in English. A solid knowledge of the Coptic language will be required.

Applications should contain
1. Curriculum Vitae; and
2. two references from teachers, who should also comment on the applicant´s Coptic language-skills.
The deadline for the submission of final applications will be the end of February, 2006.
Successful applicants will be informed by the end of March, 2006.

Please send applications to Univ.-Prof. Dr. Cornelia Römer
Direktorin der Papyrussammlung und des Papyrusmuseums
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Josefsplatz 1A-1015
Wientel.: + 43 1 53 410 323
fax: + 43 1 53 410 395

More on Conjectures

10 Comment(s) +
D.A. Black (dbo) emailed in to report that his article on conjectures (refered to here in relation to the general discussion here - don't forget to read the comments!) was 'Conjectural Emendations in the Gospel of Matthew' in NovT 31 (1) 1989, pp. 1-15.

It is a useful paper and a good resource for what the title says (no mystery here): it discusses seventeen conjectural emendations to Matthew which have been proposed by a number of different contemporary scholars. He argues that only one is at all plausible and that generally we'd be better off looking more closely at the 'transmitted Greek text'.

Perhaps it is inevitable with conjectures that the one Dave Black regarded as 'viable' but not certain, seems a non-starter to me. For 19.4 Sahlin proposed that Matthew originally wrote ARSEN KAI QHLU EPOIHSEN A. This alpha was meant to represent the numeral 1: HEN; but scribes misunderstood this and harmonised it to the LXX.

Christians as Useful People: Textual Criticism and Wirkungsgeschichte

3 Comment(s) +
On Tuesday we had an interesting paper at the NT Seminar from David Horrell (Exeter) on 1 Peter 4.16. I won't go into the paper in general (except to say that it was generally convincing - in the sense that it defended a view of this verse that I already held - usually the reason for recognising the most convincing papers!), nor into the major textual criticism raised regarding the choice between ONOMATI and MEREI in 4.16b.

In the course of the discussion the reading of Sinaiticus at Acts 11.26; 26.28 & 1 Pet 4.16 was raised. Sinaiticus uses the spelling: XRHSTIANOS. Dirk suggested it was a real variant not a mere spelling error. I proposed that the term was itself a deliberate statement that Christians were 'useful people' (XRHSTOS means useful; cf. 1 Peter 2.3 where it is used in 1 Peter from Ps 33LXX [although not without interesting variants there too]), which might be taken as a mark of the impact of 1 Peter as a whole: that those who have tasted the benevolence/usefulness/kindness of God would be a people themselves marked by kindness/usefulness/benevolence towards others (e.g. 2.12 etc.).

So the variant reading might be a window into the reception- or impact- history of 1 Peter.

Crazy theory I know, but I thought I should share it here first.