Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Larry Hurtado and Rethinking the Text of Acts

5 Comment(s) +
One of the intractable problems in TC research is the Book of Acts. Larry Hurtado has a stimulating post on Rethinking the Text of Acts in light of a recently published 5th century manuscript P.Oxyrhynchus 74.4968 (Gregory-Aland P127), comprising portions of eight leaves preserving portions of Acts 10–12 and 15–17. He refers to the volume by David C. Parker and Stuart R. Pickering in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume LXXIV, ed. D. Leith, et al. (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2009) that discuses the manuscript. In short, the discovery shows that the bifurcation between the Alexandrian and Western text of Acts needs to be re-thought since P.Oxy 74.4968 probably shares a common ancestor with Codex Bezae even though the texts are not particularly close.

For an introduction to the problems associated with the text of Acts see Peter M. Head, “Acts and the Problem of its Texts,” in The Book of Acts in its Ancient Literary Setting (eds. B.W. Winter & A.D. Clarke; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans & Carlisle: Paternoster, 1993), 415–444.

Up-date: There is a scanned version of this paper here (PMH).


  1. Thanks for the link to my post on my blog site. I'm not sure, however, that Parker/Pickering propose that P127 and Codex D share a common ancestor. In any case, I'm not sure that we can posit such a genealogical connection. They both reflect similar transmission-tendencies, but this needn't involve a genealogical relationship.

  2. See also Georg Gäbel, “The Text of P.Oxy. 4968 and Its Relationship with the Text of Codex Bezae," in Novum Testamentum Volume 53, Number 2, 2011 , pp. 107-152.

    This essay discusses the text of the recently published P.Oxy. 4968, which contains parts of Acts 10-12, 15-17, and its relationship with the text of Codex Bezae (D05) and some other witnesses. The text of P.Oxy. 4968 is characterized by tendencies to add and to omit, by a high number of singular variants, and by a high number of variants agreeing with variants in D05. After close scrutiny of some of the latter, a model is sketched of the development of the particular strand of textual tradition (formerly called “Western” text) to which they belong. While some variants common to P.Oxy. 4968 and D05 clearly reveal theological interests, it is suggested that others might be more aptly described in terms of narrative criticism.

  3. Here is something I never noticed. I was interested to check Muenster's online collation, to see if they had P127 included (they do), but unlike the other books of the NT, for Acts they also have a large number of important majuscules and minuscules included as well. All other NT books are just the papyri and Aleph and B.

  4. The most common reasons for omitting Acts 8:37 is that:

    1) It is found in mainly in Western manuscripts.
    2) It is found with many variants.

    Peter Head's article lists several preferred variants that are found only in Western manuscripts; so much for that objection.

    The Muenster site has 8:37, if you can find it down Diagon Alley; interestingly, that verse (essentially 8:36 Prime) is shown to exist in five renditions (LaParola lists six). Looking at the context, here are the different renditions of the surrounding verses, according to Muenster:

    30: 5
    31: 10
    32: 9
    33: 7
    34: 8
    35: 7
    36: 5
    36': 5
    38: 5
    39: 10
    40: 6

    It would appear that verse 37 is the most textually stable portion of the record of the eunuch's baptism--so much for the second objection.

    It could further be objected, however, that the great variation in the other verses is due to great variation amongst the manuscripts that don't contain verse 36 Prime. Ah, but in that case the objection is turned back against the very party that offered it. Eliminate the testimony of wild manuscripts, and you have eliminated evidence for the omission of Acts 8:37.

  5. I should have ended that post with "you have eliminated the oldest and most respected evidence for the omission of Acts 8:37."

    Another objection is that most manuscripts don't contain the verse, but it's been centuries since that objection carried much of any weight in textual criticism.