Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Reconstruction of the Text of Marcion's Gospel and a New Doctor

Congratulations to Dr. Dieter Roth, Edinburgh University, who has just been awarded a PhD!

Thesis Title: “Towards a New Reconstruction of the Text of Marcion’s Gospel: History of Research, Sources, Methodology, and the Testimony of Tertullian”

Examined By: Ulrich Schmid and Paul Parvis

This thesis provides the initial and foundational steps for a new reconstruction of the text of Marcion’s Gospel. Though Harnack’s 1924 magisterial work on Marcion remains valuable and important, shortcomings in his reconstructed text of the Marcionite scriptures, as well as advances in critical methodology, text criticism, and patristic studies have led to the recognition that new reconstructions of Marcion’s scriptures are a scholarly desideratum. With the text of Marcion’s Apostolikon examined and reconstructed in a 1995 work by Ulrich Schmid, this thesis provides the most important elements for a new examination and reconstruction of Marcion’s Euangelion.

Chapter 1 provides an extensive history of research, not only to provide the context and rationale for the present work, but also to provide the first in-depth scholarly survey of work on Marcion’s Gospel in 150 years. In addition, since several flaws in earlier studies arose out of a lack of an accurate understanding of the status quaestionis at various points in the history of research on Marcion’s Gospel, by considering and engaging with previous scholarship such errors can be avoided.

Chapter 2 begins with a consideration of the sources for Marcion’s Gospel and provides a comprehensive listing of verses attested as present in, verses attested as absent from, and unattested verses of this Gospel. The chapter concludes with a methodological discussion, highlighting the particular importance of understanding the citation customs of the witnesses to Marcion’s text and noting the significant citation customs of Tertullian demonstrated by Schmid’s and my own research.

Chapter 3 begins the analysis of the data found in Tertullian, the most extensive and important source for Marcion’s Gospel. This chapter examines all of the verses that Tertullian attests for Marcion’s Gospel that are also cited elsewhere in Tertullian’s corpus and focuses particularly on how these multiply-cited passages provide insight into Tertullian’s testimony to readings in Marcion’s text.

Chapter 4 continues the analysis of Tertullian’s testimony by examining the remaining verses, i.e., those attested for Marcion’s Gospel but not multiply-cited in Tertullian’s corpus.

Chapter 5 provides a reconstruction of the 328 verses in Marcion’s Gospel for which Tertullian is the only witness and offers not only readings for Marcion’s text, but also the relative certainty for those readings.

Chapter 6 summarizes and concludes the thesis, along with brief mention of avenues for future research.

Dieter is planning to continue the work with a complete reconstruction, which means that for the moment public access to the thesis is restricted. If anyone is interested in various issues related to reconstructing Marcion's Gospel a few recently published articles by Dieter address important aspects of working with Marcion's Gospel and the testimony for it:

“Matthean Readings and Tertullian’s Accusations in Adversus Marcionem,” The Journal of Theological Studies 59 (2008): 580–97;
“Marcion’s Gospel and Luke: The History of Research in Current Debate,” The Journal of Biblical Literature 127 (2008): 513–27; and
“Did Tertullian Possess a Greek Copy or Latin Translation of Marcion’s Gospel?,” Vigiliae Christianae 63 (2009): 429–67.

Read also about my first meeting with Dieter in Edinburgh earlier this year, as I was there for the Northern Scholar's Lecture, here. And last week I had the pleasure to meet Dieter again at the SBL, and he joined us for our record breaking ETC blogdinner.

And don't forget to look up Dieter's piece in the SBL Forum "American versus British Ph.D. Programs: Three Doctoral Students Reflect on Their Decisions. Why I Chose To Start in an American Ph.D. Program and Finish in a British One"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Home from SBL 2009

Safely home now from the SBL meeting in New Orleans. No doubt Tommy will be blogging individual papers for several months. So this is just a brief reflection and some highlights. I realise that it is extremely costly to go to SBL: money, time, consumption of resources, time away from family and teaching (and feeling crumby for a couple of days after I get back). I often find it a rather strange and even unsettling experience which raises fundamental questions about what I am doing with my life. But I also enjoy the whole experience, even if one has to extrovert for four days in a row.

I enjoyed giving one paper this year. In previous years I have often done two (or last year even three), which is invariably stressful no matter how far in advance I prepare them. I put a bit more thought into the one presentation as a presentation, and even managed to rehearse it twice at home, and I think this helped with the clarity and focus of the presentation (although the final version of the powerpoint was prepared in the 'plane while waiting on the tarmac at Heathrow).

I majored on sessions relevant to my research interests in "NT Textual Criticism" and "Papyrology and Early Christianity" with various other things more connected with teaching (Mark, NT Theology etc.). Probably the highlight was the new text of Mark 1.1-2 from Oxyrhynchus, but lots of these were interesting and may be blogged in more detail in coming days. There were some odd schedule conflicts and it was noticeable that attendance at some sessions (esp. papyrology) was pretty low.

I had great room-mates and was able to spend time with lots of people (although it is striking how many people who were in New Orleans I didn't meet); I got plenty of exercise in the hotel gym, walking about, and one longer ride; enjoyed some jazz (on the street and in Preservation Hall); enjoyed some good food on a budget (breakfast buffet meant a banana generally could suffice for lunch which left some great dinners). I had several helpful discussions about publishing matters (while managing to buy only three books), and have some ideas for future projects of various sorts (this section deliberately vague). I also met with some students thinking about coming to Cambridge. It was also noticeable that several friends are struggling with job hunting in a difficult economic environment.

Initially I found New Orleans a bit grim (not helped by a delayed flight which meant I didn't arrive until 1AM on Saturday morning, the rain, the smell, the sights on Bourbon Street at 5AM on Sunday morning). Monday afternoon was lovely and sunny and I hired a bicycle for an enjoyable tootle around in the sun covering the French Quarter, the Garden District, Audubon Park and the bike path on top of the levee upstream along the Mississippi (I arrived back a little late to the final TC session and sat in the back sweating and rehydrating!).

On Tuesday a friend with a car meant we could head south for a two mile nature trail in the Barataria Nature Preserve (unfortunately no alligators, but plenty of interest as it follows a lovely bayou through a range of different habitats - we did see egrets, vultures, squirrels, lizards, snakes and fish leaping); followed by a trip to the end of the road at Lafitte where we had lunch looking out on shrimp boats coming in and a large flock of pelicans while feasting on the Shrimp Special (shrimp cocktail, followed by shrimp gumbo, fried shrimp, and stuffed shrimp with shrimp salad). Getting out and about helped me to appreciate the natural environment of the area, as well as something of its fascinating history.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Panel on Textual Criticism and Exegesis in New Orleans III

Jim has already posted on Larry Hurtado's presentation. Next was my presentation, entitled "Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses." I have already described it briefly here, but to rehearse a little, my main point was this:
Variants that are judged as textual corruptions of the initial text, nevertheless stand in a direct or indirect hermeneutical relationship to the initial text, and as such they are more or less valuable for understanding that text.

I used Luke 10:41-42 (Jesus' response to Martha) in order to illustrate the point. The NASB text reads:

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but {only} one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

My own interpretation of this passage is the following: Jesus is saying to Martha that there is one thing in life that is more important than everything else, and that is to be in his presence. That is what Mary has chosen and she should not be blaimed for doing so. According to the poll here on the blog 29 responses agreed with this interpretation, whereas 9 responses disagreed, so the small sample at least indicates that this is a common interpretation.

Now the UBS committee thought that the third reading, which is reflected in the NASB translation, is the most difficult reading because of the absolutenss of ενος (one thing) which can be perceived as a strong rebuke of Martha – scribes asked: Weren’t Martha’s preparations necessary? and so the other smoother readings originated.

As a result of the absolute interpretation on the part of some scribes, the first change that happened in the textual tradition according to the committee was a substitution of ολιγων (a few things) for ενος, in order to stress that Martha’s activity was also important, although Mary made a better choice (την αγαθην μεριδα). This is the second reading. Then the fourth reading developed as a conflation, that is, a combination of the second and third reading, combining ενος and ολιγων, with ”disastrous results as to sense” but is this scenario really likely from the viewpoint of external evidence?

Is it possible that the fourth reading, attested by a wide array of important witnesses including ��3, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, could have developed from the second reading extant only in one Greek minuscule, 38, and some versions? Theoretically, it is not impossible, but it is very unlikely. Besides, even the word order of the fourth reading speaks against this possibility.

Gordon Fee has argued persuasively that the real choice is between the third and fourth readings, one is clearly a revision of the other. The real question is which variant that can best be explained as the revision of the other. The choice must be made on internal grounds given that both readings are so well attested.

What then is the meaning of the fourth reading, ”but few things are necessary, or only one”? Jonathan Borland drew the attention to a 19th century commentator, Wilhelm Meyer who thought it originated because of the explanation which takes the passage and the word ENOS as referring to one dish. Martha worried about many things, but just a few or one dish was necessary to prepare. However, Fee follows Godet’s interpretation which is less culinaric, ”few things are necessary,” that is, for the body, ”or only one,” that is, for the soul. Fee identifies this as the more difficult reading which led a scribe to clarify by omitting the perplexing reference to a ”few things,” because ultimately only one thing is necessary and that is what Mary chose.

Fee further thinks the variation between γαρ and δε among witnesses in the third reading reflects the fact that the fourth reading, where γαρ makes more sense, is original. The γαρ introduces an explanation, ”but few things are necessary, or only one, for [γαρ] Mary has chosen the good part...”

Okay, but if the fourth reading is initial, and the third reading is smoother, is there another way of interpreting it than a strong rebuke of Martha? Otherwise we just have one difficult reading originating from another difficult reading. Fee does not answer this question clearly in his treatment. In fact, when he concludes his argument for the fourth reading he says that "if we accept the fourth reading then the text is not so much a ’put down’ of Martha, as it is a gentle rebuke for her anxiety." So in the end Fee implies that he still interprets the third reading as a "put down," which hardly makes it a smooth reading. He does, however, point out that the third reading never seems to have given anyone trouble in antiquity among those who comment on the text.

So is there an alternative smooth interpretation of this reading? I suggest the following:

Jesus could have meant that Martha worried about many things when only one thing was necessary for the moment, that is, focus on what you are doing and don’t worry about the many things that you cannot attend to now. And then he went on to say that Mary focused on one thing and that was the good part (or the best part if you will).

In conclusion, external and internal evidence in my opinion suggest that the fourth reading has priority. Notwithstanding, the study of the readings in the passage made me aware of several alternative interpretations, specifically a smooth interpretation of that reading which is now adopted in NA27.

Finally, if any reader was there at NOBTS and took a picture of us, I would be grateful to have a copy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Panel on Textual Criticism and Exegesis in New Orleans II

Several of us benefited greatly from the hospitality of Bill Warren and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The Center for New Testament Textual Studies shuttled people back and forth from Providence House to downtown regularly. Prof. Warren was superb in recommending restaurants.

Additionally, NOBTS and CNTTS had an open house followed by a session on textual criticism ( The panel was comprised of Larry Hurtado, Tommy Wasserman, and Michael Theophilus.

Prof. Hurtado argued that the longer reading of Mark 1:1 (… “the Son of God”) was an addition reflecting sound exegesis of the whole of Mark’s Gospel. One of the reasons for the shorter reading is that an accidental omission of ΥΥΘΥ (Son of God) would seem unlikely at the beginning of a book. Presumably, a scribe would have started his arduous task after a refreshing coffee break, etc.

I wonder, however, if a scribe was really less likely to make mistakes when fresh. I’m not sure that the data does support the presumption. A perusal of the opening verses of the individual writings of the New Testament indicates that they all have their fair share of accidental mistakes throughout the manuscript tradition. Perhaps a fresh start led the scribe to being in a hurry. This might explain the word order inversion of Christ Jesus in Rom 1:1, for example.

Prof. Hurtado conceded the existence of accidental mistakes in opening verses, but doubted whether an accidental omission similar to the omission of Son of God in Mark 1:1 could be found. I think, however, that 1 Cor 1:1 would be one such reading. There, κλητός is omitted in several manuscripts so that the text reads “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [or, Jesus Christ] through the will of God…” instead of “Paul, CALLED to be an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SBL New Orleans 2009 ETC Blog Dinner

My batteries are reloaded :-). I have just been to the annual ETC blog dinner, and we apparently broke a new record with some 35 participants, the large majority of which are currently involved in TC, including friends from Birmingham and Münster and others that joined in. Unfortunately, we couldn't all sit at the same table, and Peter Head cancelled the speech he had prepared on the napkin in the last minute (with all the annual awards and everything...).

In any case, this dinner was just after the TC section, in which six of us had presented papers, so at least I had that nice feeling of relief - my paper on "Text-types and Criteria for Evaluating Readings in New Testament Textual Criticism" went very well – and enjoyed myself very much for the whole evening.

From the menu I had a Chicken Gumbo, actually I don't remember the full name of it, but it was delicious, and for desert some vanilla ice cream. New Orleans is known for its spicy seafood, and I have had the chance to taste that too. I am very content with the food, except the breakfasts which have not been exactly what I am used to.

When I sum up, this meeting has been terrific, not least for getting the opportunity to meet all friends (and particularly the manuscript geeks out there). Bill Warren and Steven Whately here from New Orleans have been particularly gracious to me in all kinds of ways. In fact, Steven picked me up at the airport way past midnight when I arrived, and will bring me there again tomorrow early in the morning. So the ETC blog award 2009 for brotherly service at least goes to Bill and Steven.

There is so much to blog about from this meeting. As usual I have been crazy enough to take extensive notes of many papers (some I just couldn't keep up with), and this will probably make for another SBL marathon series that will last for a long time (perhaps until the next meeting). I hope my co-bloggers are not turning lazy when they see me at the computer – I hope some of them will contribute on the topic SBL New Orleans 2009 so that we can share with all our readers our experiences during these days.

That's all for now, more to come.

Monday, November 23, 2009

SBL New Orleans 2009 Brief Note

I am in the Marriot Lobby and the batteries are low. Today there was a massive amount of textual criticism, which is good for any TC addict. During the IGNTP session in the morning a new word was coined by Rachel Kevern who described the procedure of doing electronic transcriptions, which ended with an appeal, in which she by accidence, said that the IGNTP needs scholunteers (scholars/volunteers). In the discussion Scott Hayes suggested that people helping out with transcription could be acknowledged in some way for doing such work (good for their CV). Larry Hurtado with his tounge in his cheak followed up with a suggestion that T-shirts be printed saying "I am an INGTP-scholunteer."

During this session Hugh Houghton had a very interesting presentation on capitula in OL witnesses with many useful pieces of information. Moreover, Christian Askeland presented on editing John in Coptic. And Craig Koester presented an exegete's viewpoint on the IGNTP John in which he discussed matters of punctuation and internal evidence in a number of interesting passages. After the IGNTP public session there was a board meeting (my first board meeting).

The afternoon was filled with marvellous papers in the New Testament textual criticism session. More on that later. Afterwards I went on to a TC editorial board meeting. I have just been out for good food with Peter Head, Jim Leonard, Dirk Jongkind, Jan Krans, and one other scholar whom I have never met before. Going out and having a good time together is as good as it gets. Tonight there is the Scottish reception.

I will come back with

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SBL New Orleans 2009 I: Peter Head Putting the Distigmai in the Right Place Pt. 2

The previous post continues here:

4. The distigmai and the small chapter numbers
Peter pointed out that the small chapter number are not generally thought to belong to the oldest layer, i.e., when the codex was first produced. T. S. Skeat examined the hand which he found was different, and the system does not correspond to other features of text segmentation. So it is later, and it also accomodates to the diple. On four occasions written over the top, e.g., 1249 C., 1252 C13. On the other hand, also this feature is earlier than the distigmai, as seen when they interfer on at least five occasions, e.g., 1240 C23, 1245 B 6, 1273 B R 41, 1496 B.

5. Large chapter numbers
These were perhaps added in the 9th century. The large numbers are also older than the distigmai. Sometimes distigme appear outside, sometimes inside large nubmers (did not take down the examples).

So, all three systems above (diple, small and large chapter numbers) interfer with the distigmai, and they are prior. This establishes a relative chronology.

6. The distigmai and other marginal material.
A distigme is written over a lection marker 1409 C 10 R; another over a faded note 1426 C 32; another affected by a reinked text: 1479 B 39 L; another displaced by a marginal comment 1512 B 17; yet another one was tucked in perhaps to avoid interference with a large capital letter (that Skeat has dated to the 15th century); and, finally, there are distigme on the first page of the minuscule addendum.

7. The right place: 16th century (Sepulveda)
Curt Niccum has suggested that the distigmai (formerly Umlauts) were added in the 16th century. Juan Ginés de Sepulveda (1490-1574) had access to Codex Vaticanus and in letter exchange supplied Erasmus with 365 readings to show that these readings agreed with the Vulgate against the TR, and that Erasmus should revise his edition. [As Jan Krans pointed out to me, Erasmus prefered to go with the pope’s opinion and refused to carry through this revision.]

Now, Peter had compared the published text of Erasmus reflecting MSS available in his time and had found that in the gospels there was a 92% match between Erasmus edition and the distigmai. If one includes the notes in Erasmus the rate goes up tp 98%! This supports Niccums' thesis.

The relative chronology shows that the distigmai are late.
A comparison of the distigmai with Erasmus' edition gives 98% match.
This explanation is economical.

After the presentation Payne was the first to respond. He said none of the photos with examples of distigmai shown in the presentation were in apricot color. Payne admitted that they therefore could be later distigmai, and, in fact he has pointed out himself that one sign of late addition is their displacement. Then he mentioned another piece of evidence n the Another piece in the mirror impression of some distigmai, which would have occured only after the binding of the codex when the distigmai were still wet enough. As for the relative chronology, then, the diplai, added before the codex was bound, are only expected to be prior to distigmai, so no objection to that.

Peter Head then resonded that we primarily need to date the distigmai as a unified system, and it is questionable to date it on the basis of the color. Everything can happen with dots.

Payne was apparently not convinced by Head's relative chronology but admitted that the Erasmus' material may be something. Then Payne turned around to address the audience and said he had found five places where there is a special form of distigme which marks large blocks of text (major interpolations). He offered a handout with new material that he had brought. This apology felt a little bit awkward.

Then Amy Anderson, who was presiding, gave Peter the word again and pointed out that against the textual evidence available up to the 4th century we don’t get enough match against the distigmai (somewhere in the range 60-70%). [TW: I said to Peter earlier, that this comparison group will be very important; after some more thought, I think it may also be necessary to compare with some early representatives of the Byzantine text; and moreover I think it would be interesting to look specifically at places where the TR has peculiar minority readings and diverge from the MT].

Nevertheless, Head thinks the 98% match with Erasmus is the death-knell of Payne’s theory.

David Parker got to respond and agreed with Peter that the dating by the color of dots is problematic.

Tim Brown asked Peter how he would date the reinforcement. I do not remember exactly Peter's response but since he thinks the distigmai were added in teh 16th century he does not accept that they were reinforced, since Tischendorf dates the reinforcement of the manuscript to the 10-11th century.

In conclusion: Peter presented a convincing argument that the distigmai were added late, probably in the 16th century as Niccum has proposed, based on the relative chronology of marginal features in the manuscript, and on a close match with Erasmus' edition. In my opinion, this in itself does not entirely exlcude the possibility that some of the distigmai were very early, but I do agree that Peter's explanation is the more economical (Occams' razor), so that only one explanation for the origin of the distigmai is necessary, regarded as one unified system.

Payne still comes back to the apricot colored ink of a few distigmai which is his strongest argument. Of course, his apology created a certain impression of someone desperately clinging on to a theory in which he has invested so much. But, to be fair to Payne – although this presentation must have been rather payneful – I think the case is not entirely closed (but almost).

I have not personally looked into this matter much, but what I would do if I were Peter Head writing an article on the subject on the plane back to Cambridge, I would, if possible, seek to address Payne's remaining argument based on the color of the ink and find contra evidence (if Peter can find access to the facsimile in the cabin). Do any of the later dated features that Peter highlighted in his presentation, or other features known to be late, also have a similar apricot color? Is there any fluctuation in the color of the ink in those later layers?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

SBL New Orleans 2009 I: Peter Head Putting the Distigmai in the Right Place Pt. 1

The first New Testament textual criticism session is over. There were several interesting papers. The one I enjoyed the most was probably that by Peter Head prepared on the plane to New Orleans:

”The Marginalia of Codex Vaticanus: Putting the Distigmai (Formerly known as 'Umlauts') in Their Place"

Phil Payne, who discovered the distigmai and has dated them to the 4th century (which Head thinks is the "wrong place") was sitting on the frontrow. Don't ask me about the funny hat Peter is wearing on the photo. I have never seen him wear it before. Maybe it is a special for SBL, to create an effect.

Unfortunately I don't have time right now, here in the lobby of Sheraton Hotel, to summarize Peter's whole paper, but it was divided into seven points, so we will see how far I get.

1. Intro: the story so far
PH briefly showed some examples of the distigme and charts of distribution. The total number is a bit uncertain, approximately 800 (some are unclear). Payne thinks some distigmai are original to the scribe working in the 4th century. This standpoint has been accepted by Miller, Epp, and others. Payne's main case is that these distigmai are in the apricot color ink. At the last meeting Payne showed some statistics trying to demonstrate (with NA27 as a basis of comparison) how the distigmai corresponds to textual variants.

Peter Head argued that the distigmai all belong to one unified system that was added some time in the 16th century. The feature is Interesting for the history of textual criticism. Head emphasized several times that he was not persuaded by the appeal to the ink color. On the other hand he agreed with Payne that the distigmai mark textual variation, and that the different colors do suggest more than one movement through the NT text (they were obviously not added in e.g., one and the same day).

Peter Head's main argument was based on the establishment of a relative chronology of these dots compared to others features of the codex as they appear in its margin. This lead Head to his second point:

2. A note on the method
The best place to look when establishing a relative chronology is the place where there is interferene between the different systems. The more ancient system will have a more consistent pattern, whereas the more recent will wary in its placement as other older items interfere.

3. The oldest stage: the diple.
This system of adding the diple in the margin of an OT quotation [TW: and I think also at some points extrabiblical material] is original to when the codex was first produced.

When diple and distigmai interfer the latter is secondary. The placement of the diple is consistent, not the distigme. e.g. page 1255 A39, 1255 B 3L

There are totally 16 places of interference between the systems, where the placing of distigmai is accomodated – the diple is never accomodated.

Part 2 will follow in another post. Now I am soon off for dinner.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology

I will have to order this title:

The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology by Roger S. Bagnall

ISBN13: 9780195178388
ISBN10: 0195178386
Hardback, 712 pages
Jun 2009, In Stock
Price: $150.00 (06)
Shipping Details
Thousands of texts, written over a period of three thousand years on papyri and potsherds, in Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, and other languages, have transformed our knowledge of many aspects of life in the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology provides an introduction to the world of these ancient documents and literary texts, ranging from the raw materials of writing to the languages used, from the history of papyrology to its future, and from practical help in reading papyri to frank opinions about the nature of the work of papyrologists. This volume, the first major reference work on papyrology written in English, takes account of the important changes experienced by the discipline within especially the last thirty years.

Including new work by twenty-seven international experts and more than one hundred illustrations, The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology will serve as an invaluable guide to the subject.
Product Details
712 pages; 125 halftones; 6-3/4 x 9-3/4;
ISBN13: 978-0-19-517838-8
ISBN10: 0-19-517838-6
About the Author(s)
Roger S. Bagnall is Director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Greek Mosaic Quiz

Possibly inspired by my recent Greek Mosaic travel quiz, one of our readers Brice Jones has posted another one on his blog here. Brice is a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT,doing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies). He writes on his blog that he collects Greek New Testaments and that he likes attending the SBL. So, I guess I might bump into Brice any day now.

I am in New York waiting for my flight to New Orleans. I will get there 11.17PM (=6AM Swedish time). I will have traveled 24 hours before I get to my destination. And tomorrow I am on that panel at NOBTS.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ETC Dinner at SBL, Monday 7 pm

We're all set for our ETC blog dinner on Monday night, Nov. 23rd, at 7 pm. We'll be at the Gumbo Shop about a block from Jackson Square, located at 630 St. Peter's Street--somehow the address seemed right for our group! :) This is a more moderate priced setting with quality food and a great atmosphere. Let's plan to meet in the lobby of the Marriott after the session ends, say at 6:40, then we can walk over together (about 10 minute walk).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Panel on Textual Criticism and Exegesis in New Orleans

One day before the SBL Annual Meeting opens in New Orleans, on 20 Novmeber, 3-5PM there will be a panel talk on textual criticism and exegesis (I don't know the exact title) at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, arranged by Bill Warren, director of the Center for New Testament Textual Studies (CNTTS). Panel members include Larry Hurtado, Edinburgh University, Michael Theophilos, Oxford University and Tommy Wasserman, Lund University/Örebro Theological Seminary. (-Yes, just men. I think Bill attempted to include a female scholar on the panel, but was unsuccessful.) Each panel member will offer a 20 minute presentation, and there will be plenty of room for response and discussion.

I have just finished my own presentation, "Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses," in which I will make three points.

Pay attention to:

- the scribes
- the variants
- the parallels (including all the variants)

I will just mention the first and third point in passing because of the time constraint. My actual example from Luke 10:41-42 (Jesus' response to Martha) will focus on the second point. I will emphasize that:
Variants that are judged as textual corruptions of the initial text, nevertheless stand in a direct or indirect hermeneutical relationship to the initial text, and as such they are more or less valuable for understanding that text.

The pre-eminent criterion in textual criticism suggests that the variant that is the initial text should be able to account for the origin, development, or presence of all other readings in its variation-unit. My point in this presentation is that conversely, the origin, development or presence of all other readings in the variation-unit contributes to the understanding of the initial text.

As for the example, Luke 10:41-42 (NASB) says:
But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but {only} one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

As most English versions NASB reflects the variant readings adopted in NA27.

This is basically how I have interpreted Jesus' answer to Martha: Jesus is saying to Martha that there is one thing in life that is more important than everything else, and that is to be in his presence. That is what Mary has chosen and she should not be blaimed for doing so.

How many agree with my interpretation of the passage (in NASB)? Please answer the poll in the right sidebar, but don't think too much about your answer – I want your spontaneous reaction.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

ETC Dinner at SBL New Orleans

Up-date: I have just shifted this to the top of the pile so as to get something sorted.

We need to organise another ETC dinner during the SBL conference coming up in New Orleans. Last year Monday evening seemed to work well (since most of the institutional receptions seem to be on Saturday and Sunday, and some people will want to get to church on Sunday evening). Some of us will be at the NTTC session which ends at 6:30PM (23-327 @
Balcony J - MR); some others may be at the Samuel-Kings session (23-340) which ends at 7PM. Any ideas on location (for meeting and then eating?)? Local help especially welcome.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Michael Holmes

Congratulations to Michael Holmes on his recent promotion to University Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity at Bethel University (for an earlier news report see here). The first page contains a link so that you can listen to his lecture From Scrolls to Scrolling: Scripture, Technology, and the Word of God (although sadly we can't see the pictures that obviously accompanied the lecture).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Form and Function in the Late Medieval Bible

The Centre for the History of the Book in the University of Edinburgh is hosting a conference next summer (12-14 July 2010) on "Form and Function in the Late Medieval Bible" and have invited offers of papers (by December 20 2009):
Papers are invited on any aspect of the Late Medieval Bible (c.1230-c.1450) and its place within medieval religion, culture and society; sessions will address the evolution of the Late Medieval Bible, its layout, addenda and art, as well as its connection to exegesis, preaching and liturgy.

Conspiracy Against Users of Internet Explorer?

Several people have complained that the Virtual Manuscript Room does not support Internet Explorer, now recently James F. McGrath, who, with his tongue in his cheek, expressed disappointment that he could not find Fox Mulder and Dana Scully when he followed the link to the VMR (and "Münster X-Files"), although he had found one conspiracy:

Actually, there is one indication of a conspiracy on the site. It is a conspiracy against users of Internet Explorer. The virtual manuscript room web site is not optimized for use with Internet Explorer, although you can just barely make use of the site anyway.

Therefore I thought it useful to publish below the response made in the comments to previous post by Ulrich Schmid, one of the responsible person's for the VMR in Münster:

Since the issue of IE support comes up every now and then with regard to the INTF's NT.VMR, I would like to clarify our position on that.

1. For the first installment of the NT.VMR we had to meet deadlines and our limited resources did not include coding support.

2. We had to choose between supporting a rather limited range of functions and options for more than one platform or additional functions for just one platform.

3. Since it seems to be fairly easy to download one of the supported (free) browsers and we do not ask to pay for our service, we thought people could live with that for the time being.

4. For the next few months we have to meet other deadlines that leave little room for supporting IE in the nearest future.

5. Depending on the results from the next deadlines, we might be in a position (mid-2010) to set up a forum in which requests for additional functions and support can be placed and will be dealt with.

Ulrich Schmid

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Münster X-Files on NT Manuscripts Go Public

Those who have visited the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster probably know that each of the registered New Testament manuscripts have a special dossier containing various information relating to the manuscript. These "Münster X-Files," hitherto safely stored in large metal lockers, are now being scanned and the documents (PDF) are made available in the Virtual Manuscript Room (Münster), accessible through each manuscript entry. The links appear in the field "Resources."

I am certain that researchers will be able to find goldnuggets among these files in the future. So far only the dossiers of a number of papyrus MSS have appeared, e.g., P1, P20, P21, P22, P26 und P37. This image shows the entry of P1. There are 13 documents available for download.

Read also my previous announcement of the digitial Kurzgefasste Liste here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Arabic Website on TC (Fadie A. Fahmy)

Here is a guest post from Fadie A. Fahmy, in which he presents his website "Scholarly faith" (slightly edited by TW):

I am Fadie A. Fahmy (21 years), and my blog is mainly concerned with textual criticism. As Christian Arabic communities are almost KJV-only (our major Arabic translation is translated from KJV), they believe that all the MSS are identical. It was muslims who translated Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, and this led me personally to seriously study textual criticism. I studied the discipline on my own from the major textbooks. Then I started to invite my friends to study it too.

I have written several essays on textual criticism published on my blog, and I give lectures in several Churches to educate people about the discipline. Lately, I and a friend (Atef Wagih) have translated almost all the reviews of Misquoting Jesus. Dan Wallace helped us tremendously for nearly two years or so; we got permission to translate his reviews, and various publications relating to textual criticism.

So, here are the reviews translated so far:

Dan Wallace:

1- "The Gospel according To Bart"
2- Lee Strobel's interview with Wallace about Misquoting Jesus
3- The first chapter of Dethroning Jesus about Misquoting Jesus
4- Second century papyri (published originally in English on


5- Ben Witherington, "Misanalyzing textual criticism"
6- Craig Blomberg, Review of Misquoting Jesus
7- Michael Kruger, Review of Misquoting Jesus
8- Peter Williams, Review of Misquoting Jesus

We also got permission to translate Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus (of Dillon Burroughs), which we are working on now. We translated Reinventing Jesus (of J. Ed Komoszewksi et al.), and we are currently negotiating with the publisher (Kregel) concerning permission to publish.

In addition, I have made an interview with Wallace, here, and another interview with Williams, here.

All these works help much in defeating the arguments of whoever argues against the reliability of the NT text.

If you need any further information you can post an e-mail through our website (just click on the envelope).

Friday, November 06, 2009

Conference Presentations: Some Precautionary Thoughts

1. So SBL is around the corner and I am thinking about my presentation. As has become normal I'll be getting a powerpoint ready (of course preparation should not be confused with last minute tinkering). This opens up the opportunity for a great presentation or for total disaster. So take precautions. Here are some things I think about:

2. Fonts: if you are using your own laptop connected to a data projector then you probably won't have any problems with fonts, but if you have loaded your presentation onto someone else's computer you may have a problem with the recognition of your fonts (I would say this happens on 20% of presentations in biblical studies - it happened during two presentations at the Sinaiticus conference in early July). The key thing in powerpoint is to access the Options (under Tools), click on Save and then on Embed TrueType Fonts. This should do the trick (although the careful presenter will also keep a copy of the fonts you use on your flash drive so that you can load them onto the computer you are using - with permission!). The other key thing is to try the presentation out on the actual hardware that you will be using - and check that the fonts are working.

3. Sequence/animation problems: powerpoint enables various options for progression within a slide and from slide to slide. These can be useful and helpful for presenting, but need to be checked several times, preferably on a large screen, to make sure they work smoothly. In my opinion each presentation should have an overall coherence in terms of general format, transitions, and style of animation. Overly cheesy things should generally be avoided (except maybe once in the middle of a presentation for light relief). These are especially useful for focusing attention on one part of an image (e.g. a feature in a manuscript), and for inserting a magnified photo of the portion.

4. Have various back up options for your presentation. E.g. have a copy on your laptop, email a copy to yourself, and have a copy on a flash disk. You need to be able to cope with the situation when your laptop is broken or stolen, and you have misplaced your flash disk. One cool thing to do would be to share presentations with another person presenting in the same session - email each other a copy the week beforehand and then you have a perfect back-up if your lap-top blows up.

5. Have a back up plan for the presentation if the technology fails. It has never happened to me, but it has happened in my presence, that for whatever reason a carefully prepared presentation fails to project (two years ago at SBL it was because the projector plug had been bent so it could no longer plug into a laptop; on another occasion a presenter simply couldn't get his laptop to connect to the projector). Obviously this can be a bit tricky if you've prepared a primarily visual presentation, but it doesn't really pay to present as normal and yet repeat every couple of minutus, 'if you could see the next slide you would know what I am talking about'. Have a handout ready - people can take it away, it can have the basic text and an outline and your name and email. And take 30 minutes to think about how to present your paper without any technology and only a handout. (It is less stressful if this 30 minutes is not immediately before standing up.)

6. There are lots of other things, but I won't labour them now: have an interesting topic, know what you are talking about, think about how to communicate the interesting topic to normal human beings, skip the boring bits, don't read so fast, and DO NOT RUN OVER TIME!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Archaic Mark (Greg.-Aland 2427): A Story of a Modern Forgery

In 1945 E. C. Colwell announced a manuscript containing “the text of the Gospel of Mark in a more primitive form than any other known manuscript.” The codex had been found among the property left of John Askitopoulos, an Athenian collector and dealer of antiquieties, who had died in 1917. Almost twenty years later, in 1935, it was offered for sale to Edgar J. Goodspeed by a nephew of Askitopoulos. In 1936, or early 1937 the MS was sent to the University of Chicago where it resides today in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection (Chicago MS 972). The MS was subsequently registered as Greg.-Aland 2427, and became known as "Archaic Mark." For a long time several questions concerning this MS remained unresolved, above all, was this manuscript authentic?

Already in 1947 in a review of a Festschrift for W. H. P. Hatch, Munera studiosa (eds. M. H. Shepherd Jr. and S. E. Johnson), Journal of Religion 27 (April 1947): 148-149, Robert P. Casey concluded that the MS was "in every way extraordinary and the curious anomalies of its script and text form a pattern strikingly similar to that of its miniatures" (p. 148). He expressed his suspicion that the manuscript could have been copied from a 19th century critical edition:
Through the kindness of my colleagues in Chicago, I have examined this manuscript and discussed its text with its closest student, Dr. M. M. Parvis. . . . The parchment is indubitably old, the text agrees not only with B but with the modern misreadings of B and there are modern Greek words here and there. . . . It is to be hoped that in the forthcoming edition a chapter may be written by an advocatus diaboli who would do his best to prove that the codex was a manufacture of the nineteenth century, executed by a workman with the skill and limitations of a Simonides, familliar with Lachmann's edition and the modern Greek Bible, and thinking in Greek. Perhaps he had an Armenian friend living in Constantinople or Kaiseriye who was a skillful artist. The failure of the attempt to prove this thesis would do much to clear the ground for confidence in this remarkable possession. (p. 149)

Some twenty years ago Mary Virginia Orna, Robert Nelson (specialist on Byzantine illumination), et al. published an article on "Applications of Infrared Microspectroscopy to Art Historical Questions about Medieval Manuscripts," Advances in Chemistry 4 (1988): 270-288, republished in Archaeological Chemistry IV (ed. R. O. Allen; Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1989), 265-288.

Orna and her team had applied "Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy" to Byzantine manuscripts in the Special Collections Department of the University of Chicago Library, including a sample from an illumination in 2427. Although the illuminations in 2427 were based on a cycle that also appeared in a late 12th-century gospel book in the National Library in Athens, codex 93, the team found that the sample contained a chemical from a pigment, Prussian blue, that was not produced until the 18th century. However, the lack of authenticity observed for the illuminations did not necessarily mean that the text was late, since the illuminations could have been added much later – there are plenty of such examples.

Three years ago an article appeared in Novum Testamentum: Margaret M. Mitchell and Patricia A. Duncan, "Chicago’s 'Archaic Mark' (Ms. 2427): A Reintroduction to Its Enigmas and a Fresh Collation of Its Readings," Novum Testamentum 48 (2006): 1-35.

The article announced the public release via the Internet of a full set of interactive digital images of Gregory-Aland 2427, and included a collation in order to facilitate an accurate accounting of the manuscript in further editions and textcritical studies. Moreover, Mitchell and Duncan provided a history of research and a critical appraisal of the complex questions involved in its dating. On the issue whether the manuscript was a modern forgery they pointed out: "At the very least such a suspicion still awaits the testing of the codex’s readings against the various available collations and critical texts of the New Testament published in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to see if dependence can be established" (p. 7).

The manuscript images were made available here.

Peter Head commented on the article on this blog:
I personally found this article both very helpful and very frustrating. Like it says in the sub-title: Reintroduction to Its Enigmas! There is no attempt to solve any of the enigmas, it is basically clearing the ground for future reports on further research that remains to be done. The main feature of the article, the collation, is itself incomplete and only designed to supplement (and occasionally correct) the information in NA27. But that just means that anyone wanting to work on the text of 2427 has to compile a complete collation for herself, before beginning to work on it. Surely the Chicago folk must have done that, why not share it with everyone else?

In the same year, on 24 February, Stephen Carlson announced on his blog Hypotyposeis that he had sent in the following proposal to the SBL Annual Meeting New Testament Textual Criticism section::
The Nineteenth-Century Exemplar of “Archaic Mark” (MS 2427)
Gregory-Aland no. 2427 is an unprovenanced, illuminated manuscript of the Gospel of Mark, written in what appears to be a medieval hand. Its illuminations have been found to contain a modern pigment, but that finding does not settle the question of its curious text, which is closer to Codex Vaticanus (B) than to any other manuscript. Ever since Westcott and Hort (1881), B has been considered one of the most important manuscripts of the New Testament, so 2427’s closeness to B has attracted the attention of textual critics. However, Westcott and Hort were not the first to base a critical text largely on B. Some twenty years earlier, Philipp Buttmann (1860) published a recension of the Greek New Testament based on Cardinal Mai’s edition of B (1857, 1859). In the Gospel of Mark, Buttmann’s text departs from B at about 90 variation units, with which 2474 agrees more than 80 times, except where 2427 has a singular reading. Significantly, 2427’s support for Buttmann’s departures include his mistakes that otherwise lack manuscript attestation. Even more significantly, 2427 contains scribal errors occasioned by the unique page layout of the 1860 Buttmann edition. This evidence shows that the exemplar of MS 2427 is the 1860 Buttmann edition of the New Testament or its stereotypic reprints.

So finally the advocatus diaboli that Casey anticipated over 60 years ago had appeared, and he was a jurist by profession! Carlson had already raised a strong case against "Secret Mark" in his The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor University Press, 2005). His attractive proposal on this other Mark was of course accepted and Carlson presented his paper at the SBL Annual Meeting in Washington on Tuesday 21 November in the Textual Criticism session. Interestingly, Mitchell presented a paper on the same MS at this SBL meeting (in another session). Carlson reported on his blog that he had a good colloquy with Margaret Mitchell over 2427. I have since heard that Mitchell was mostly withholding immediate judgment at that point.

Later in the same year Carlson published his finding of the fake in the SBL Forum:

Stephen Carlson, "'Archaic Mark' (MS 2427) and the Finding of a Manuscript Fake," SBL Forum, n.p. [cited Aug 2006]. Online:

When Wieland Willker had heard of Carlson's SBL paper (which Carlson had also announced on Willker's textual criticism discussion list on 24 February, he decided to collate 2427 against Buttmann's edition. Willker subsequently reported in a message on his discussion list that he had found nine significant agreements in error between the texts, features that were unique to Buttmann's edition, and other signs of a late origin. However, Willker was still hesitant to call it a "forgery":

Is it a forgery? We cannot really know. Perhaps it was originally simply intended as a present to Mr. Askitopoulos? Or created for private entertainment? The MS turned up in the remains of Mr. Askitopoulos in the 1920s. The "who, where, when, how and why" are unknown.

However, in his subsequent on-line essay he labelled it "a fake": Manuscript 2427 - a fake, which I think is a correct description – there are a lot of examples of such forgeries in the 19th and early 20th century, not least in Athens. In the essay Willker confirmed Carlson's finding and concluded that "the probability that these errors happened independently is almost nil." On the other hand, Willker had also found many disagreements, some of which could be explained as harmonizations or as influenced by the Byzantine text, but others for which he could not find any explanation. Apparently, the scribe of the MS did not just copy Buttmann's edition, he seemed to have used other sources as well.

In any case, the matter was finally settled: both the illuminations and text of 2427 are of modern origin. Note, however, that Carlson's very important finding has not yet been referenced in the bibliography available on the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection website accompanying the on-line images! The Novum Testamentum article by Mitchell and Duncan is the last entry.

Just a few days ago, 26 October, there was a workshop on the manuscript at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago:

"A Report on the Results of Chemical, Codicological and Textual Analysis"

Joseph Barabe, Abigail Quandt, Margaret M. Mitchell
At this special session of the Workshop, jointly sponsored by the Library's Special Collections Research Center, the final results of a multi-year commitment by the University to solve a decades-long enigma - is this miniature codex a genuine Byzantine manuscript preserving a very early text-type of the Gospel of Mark or a modern forgery? - will be announced. The manuscript itself will be available for viewing, and Barabe, Quandt and Mitchell will document their findings and their implications in advance of their forthcoming article in the journal Novum Testamentum. All interested parties are welcome to attend. A light reception will follow. (Please note special evening time.)

I do not know what was announced on this occasion. The question whether the MS is a forgery has of course already been settled, although the more comprehensive analysis to be published in Novum Testamentum is always welcome. I assume that Stephen Carlson's convincing exposure of the origin of the text will be duly acknowledged there, and I hope that reference to his work will be made in the manuscript description and bibliography on the webpage of the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection of the University of Chicago as soon as possible.

However, the story is not entirely over yet. During my work on this story I found an interesting detail that casts doubt on another manuscript. More soon!

Carlson, Stephen, "'Archaic Mark' (MS 2427) and the Finding of a Manuscript Fake," SBL Forum, n.p. [cited Aug 2006]. Online:

Casey, Robert P., Review of Munera studiosa, edited by Massey Hamilton Shepherd Jr. and Sherman Elbridge Johnson, Journal of Religion 27 (April 1947), 148-149.

Clark, Kennet W. A Descriptive Catalogue of Greek New Testament Manuscripts in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937), p. 271.

Colwell, E. C. “An Ancient Text of the Gospel of Mark,” The Emory University Quarterly 1 (1945): 65-75.

New Testament manuscript traditions. An exhibition based on the Edgar J. Goodspeed Collection of the University of Chicago Library, the Joseph Regenstein Library, January-March, 1973 (University of Chicago. Library. Dept. of Special Collections Exhibition catalogs; Chicago: n.p., 1973), 36, nos. 64-65.

Mitchell Margaret M. and Patricia A. Duncan, "Chicago’s 'Archaic Mark' (Ms. 2427): A reintroduction to its enigmas and a fresh collation fo its readings," Novum Testamentum 48 (2006): 1-35.

Orna, Mary Virginia, et al., eds., "Applications of Infrared Microspectroscopy to Art Historical Questions about Medieval Manuscripts" Advances in Chemistry 4 (1988): 270-288, republished in Archaeological Chemistry IV (ed. R. O. Allen; Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1989), 265-288.

Parvis, M. M., The Story of the Goodspeed Collection (Chicago: n.p., 1952), 23.

Wikipedia Minuscule 2427

Willker, Wieland, Manuscript 2427 - a fake

Willoughby, H. R. "Archaic crucifixion iconography," in Munera studiosa (ed. M. H. Shepherd Jr. and S. E. Johnson; Cambridge, Mass.: The Episcopal Theological School, 1946), 123 -144.