Evangelical Textual Criticism

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Review of The Early Text of the New Testament (Kruger & Hill)

Over at his new website, Brice Jones has published a review of The Early Text of the New Testament (eds. Kruger & Hill).

I note with satisfaction that this reviewer "found the approach and format of Wasserman’s essay to be the most clear of all the essays." However, the most interesting aspect of the review is that Jones identifies a theological agenda behind two of the articles (Charlesworth and Kruger): "In sum, it seems apparent that there is a theological agenda behind both Kruger's and Charlesworth's articles. The conservative and apologetic undertones in their arguments are clear."

Kruger's co-editor C. E. Hill also gets his share in the summary:

Overall, this book is an important addition to our field and thus is to be recommended to anyone interested in the text of the New Testament, in spite of the apparent apologetic predispositions on the part of the editors. 

Go ahead and read the whole review here and welcome to comment!

Update: I just went through the typos that Brice Jones identified in my essay, and this makes me so disappointed with Oxford University Press – they are responsible for all the typos.

In any case, the most embarrasing thing is that OUP has managed to duplicate my chart for P77 and insert it under P70 (including a typo).

So, here is the correct chart for P70 (p. 97) which any owner of the book can print out and insert.

Textual analysis

Var.-units in NA27
Extra var.-units
Ratio of deviation
Type of deviation
Singular readings
2:13–16; 2:22–3:1; 11:26–27; 12:4–5; 24:3–6, 12–15
7/10 (70%)

1 x O
6 x SUB
3 x SUB

At some point someone made a mistake. Unfortunately, I did not read the proofs as I should have! (why don't I learn the lesson).


  1. Having an apologetic agenda is fair enough. The just means you want to defend a position against criticism. Making bad arguments in support of a position is the basic problem (for whatever reason that is held).

  2. I have the book and it is next up on my TC reading list, as soon as I finish Wallce's "Revisiting The Corruption of the New Testament." I was encouraged to see the criticism of the apologetic agenda. Knowing your theological leanings, I was hoping such an element was present in this project. Will we ever learn that true Christian scholarship has a profound duty to defend the Creator and His work everywhere without ceasing?

  3. I received a response from the Green Collection regarding the papyrus fragment I mentioned in the threads below. They are going to look into the discrepancy I found, that is, their display saying it is a late 2nd/early 3rd century fragment of 1 Corinthians 8:10; 9:3, and the fact that the actual text is without question from 1 Corinthians 10:1-6.

    But I think this is sort of exciting to learn that the Green Collection has a newly found fragment of 1 Corinthians extracted from mummy cartonnage and dated to the same time period as P46 or maybe earlier. I would guess that this will end up getting numbered around P130.

  4. Speaking of typo's, "embarrasing" should be changed to "embarrassing."

  5. James, the plural of typo is typos, not typo's.

  6. I appreciated Mr. Jones' review very much. I do agree that there were "apologetic undertones" but I do not understand his statement here;
    "scribal conventions generally do not tell us anything about theological unity or diversity in early Christianity."

    Someone please point out any weakness in my thinking here, but does not the "Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" argue theological motivations behind scribal conventions in changing texts? Does not even Epp's great article “Issues in the Interrelation of New Testament Textual Criticism and Canon,” in The Canon Debate: On the Origins and Formation of the Bible (eds. Lee M. McDonald and James A. Sanders; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002) argue for certain theological tendencies in early Christianity (at least in regards to canon) based on scribal conventions?
    Someone please help me understand here because I am sure I am seeing something incorrectly here.
    Thank you

  7. Thanks for the post, Tommy!

    Timothy, I probably could have been a little clearer there. You will need to see what Charlesworth means by scribal conventions. He is not talking about theological tendencies on the part of scribes but physical manuscript production. Here is an excerpt from p. 41:

    "Conventional approaches to manuscript production, in terms of codex size and the wholesale contraction of nomina sacra, are indicative of an interconnected 'catholic' church in the second half of the second century."

    My point is that it is dubious to forge a connection between manuscript production, which has to do with external features, and theological unity. Charlesworth understands the widespread use of nomina sacra and the codex as representative of "theological unity," and he ultimately claims that this "presents real problems for the Bauer thesis" (46). This is a flawed argument, since, as I say in my review, "early Christian collaboration on issues related to text-production (=Charlesworth’s two indicators) does not necessarily imply collaboration and consensus on matters theological." I hope this makes more sense, Timothy. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any further questions.

  8. Thank you Mr. Jones for your clarifying response and for your generous offer of answering my email questions! I appreciate that. I will shoot you an email when I get my thoughts together.

  9. Brice, I fear that the term "catholic" is causing problems here. Charlesworth is not using it to indicate "theological unity" per se, but rather a "consensus and collaboration between early Christian groups" (p.39) with regard to scribal features present in early canonical Gospel mss. He argues that this consensus presumes a unity which is hard to attribute to an agreement between Gnostics, Marcionites, etc.; that non-canonical Gospels do not exhibit the same features; and that there are substantially fewer (extant) non-canonical Gospels than canonical ones from Egypt. These I take to be fair points against a Bauerian "historical" construct. His alternative, that the scribal conventions "are indicative of 'catholic' collaboration and consensus, presumably among the 'orthodox'" (p.42) may be somewhat more controversial, but note his "presumably" and his inverted commas. Again, "catholicity" in his chapter has to do essentially with consensus in scribal practice, and only secondarily with any relative theological unity which might lie behind it.

    In any case, I hope readers will appreciate Charlesworth's careful assembly of significant data in his chapter.

    Finally, I would refer everyone to Mike Kruger's blog and his response to Brice's review of his chapter at http://michaeljkruger.com/brice-jones-reviews-the-early-text-of-the-new-testament/

  10. Darrell,
    The general rule for pluralizing nouns that end in a long 'o' is to add -es:

    However, 'typo,' having been coined after Mr. Webster had his fun with English Orthography, finds itself the beneficiary of the general tendency to add standard suffixes to the root form of a word even when doing so violates a rule of orthography:

    Here, where the tendency to add -'s to an abbreviation collides with a new paradigm in which abbreviations are exempt from rules which govern their suffixes, "typos" won out over "typo's."

  11. Darrell,

    Well that's embarrasing. (I had always thought an apostrophe was appropriate there to represent the missing letters.) Another example of the Law of Corrections, I reckon. Anyway, it was a DAR comment.

    James Snapp, Jr.

  12. Language is fun--and naturally full of mistakes and weirdness. Whenever my 1st year Greek students complained about Greek, I always pointed out how strange English is:

    The word LAUGHTER. Just put an S augment on the front, and you get SLAUGHTER.

  13. Brice, great point on the supposed "catholicity" reflected in the common features of the early MSS. Scribal conventions don't necessarily reflect theological convictions. What they do, I think, is they exhibit some sort of widespread "commonality" of early Christian scribes/scribes that copied early Christian MSS (and even that is much more nuanced, especially with regard to the actual deployment of the NS). Regarding the early Xian use of codex, I think Bagnall's reflections in his little 2009 volume are quite noteworthy..

  14. Dear Dr. Hill,

    I think Charlesworth works too closely with problematic terms. Perhaps the inverted commas are suggestive of Charlesworth's conscious. In any case, I think we can all agree that the use of the codex and nomina sacra within early Christian groups reflects a kind of scribal uniformity, even very early on. Where he takes this, however, I found unpersuasive. And of course, the data he provides is helpful.

    And readers may now read my response to Kruger here:


  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. I appreciate this interchange concerning where the physical evidence may lead us. It is very helpful for us laymen who depend much on the opinions of the scholars. It seems here that once again philosophy intersects with the field of NTTC and Early Christian studies. The issue here between these two different perspectives (i. e. that Early Christians were unified or not unified) is one of "epistemic warrant." We are essentially not discussing "evidence" but where the evidence can "lead" one to believe i. e. "warrant." I apologize in advance for citing a "wikipedia" article but it is a good overview of the subject if anyone is interested (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_justification).

  17. Darrell noted the content of the Corinthians frg. in the Green Collection as I Cor.10:1-6. In the Spring 2011 faculty accomplishments for Bethel University, under Mike Holmes, is found the following:

    "Through the Green Scholars Initiative (www.greenscholarsinitiative.org), Holmes received a small fragment (ca. 1-3/4” w. x 2-3/4” h.) of a papyrus leaf that has been initially and tentatively dated to the second century A.D. Since receiving it, Holmes and students Catherine Creelman and Erica Sherrod have determined that the papyrus preserves portions of 1 Corinthians 8:10-9:3 + 9:27-10:6. If the initial dating holds up to further scrutiny, it would be one of the two oldest surviving copies of 1 Corinthians."

    A question for Darrell: Is it possible the caption on the display relates to the other side of the papyrus leaf and the only discrepancy is that they displayed the wrong side?

    Matthew Hamilton

  18. Matthew, I suppose that is possible, as the range 1 Corinthians 8:10-9:3 + 9:27-10:6 would fit what I saw (although I didn't see any trace of 9:27 on the side that was visible). But 8:10 through 9:3 would fit the number of lines I saw that contained 10:1-6.

    But the Green Collection program and the placard next to the display case read "1 Corinthians 8:10, 9:3, in Greek on Papyrus, Fayoum, late 2c AD - early 3c AD. This is a papyrus containing 1 Corinthians 8:10 and 9:3 that was extracted from mummy cartonnage."

    Based on that sort of description, I drew the conclusion that one side contained 8:10 and the other side 9:3, a very normal situation.

    But this fragment was of a manuscript with long lines (approximately 55 characters per row, by my count), and so the Holmes quote is likely the explanation needed.

    Whoever put together the program information for the Green Collection did not correctly record the contents of the fragment.

    That being said, I wonder what is taking so long for this to get published. There is nothing on the side I saw of textual value.

    If you want me to send you a word doc where I show the shape of the fragment, along with the text it contains, I would be happy to e-mail it to you.

  19. I believe P46 is lacunose at 1 Corinthians 9:3, so this new fragment would be the oldest witness to at least this verse. Of course it would only preserve a word or two. But the next oldest witnesses to the verse would be 01 and 03.

  20. Glad a world-class scholars like prof Wasserman can make a few typos as well :)