Saturday, April 29, 2017

Preserving the Cairo Geniza: Video

As part of its new exhibition on the Cairo Genizah, the Cambridge University Library has put together a nice video on the process of conserving this extensive collection of Medieval Hebraica. More info here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House: First Steps

Where do you start when preparing a Greek New Testament? Of course you can start absolutely from scratch, by typing in each and every letter and accent manually, with all the associated risks, but somehow this did not appeal very much. So we needed an existing text that we could adjust towards the desired wording of our edition.

What we did was to settle on the text as prepared by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles as our point of departure. The actual procedure was that we started with an electronic edition of the Nestle-Aland 26 / UBS3 text and adapted every paragraph, word, punctuation, and accent to match the print edition of Tregelles. We even asked permission to start out with the Nestle-Aland / UBS text as we wanted to avoid any shade of doubt as to existing copyright arrangements, yet in reply we were told that no permission was needed to create a new text in this way.

Interestingly, when Tregelles prepared his text, he started off with a Textus Receptus and adapted this text so that it matched his own. Especially in cases where Tregelles did not make an explicit decision or weighed the evidence, his text still reflects the TR. I assume that changing the TR to Tregelles included more changes than the NA26 / UBS3 to Tregelles.

It is surprisingly difficult, though, to get everything right. Even though two people worked independently on creating the digital Tregelles, and every difference between the two versions was resolved by reference to the printed Tregelles, a considerable number of errors remained. The whole exercise was a valuable lesson in the psychology of textual work. When starting from the same base text two transcribers of a second text may make at times the same error.
It is our digital Tregelles that functioned as a point of comparison for the SBL Greek New Testament project, and its editor, Mike Holmes, notified us of a good few errors in our transcription that came up in comparing Tregelles with a number of other editions. It is often impossible to see if you have typed a Greek 'ο' or a Latin script 'o'.

There are a number of reasons why Tregelles was chosen as our starting text. One is that by starting from Tregelles we go back beyond Westcott-Hort and their influential and lucid textual theories, but not as far back as the Textus Receptus. We could have opted for the text of Lachmann too, but I think that Tregelles is more explicit, and certainly more accessible, in justifying his methodology and theoretical approach. Another reason is that Tregelles is the most recent critical text that was not included in the triad of texts used to create Nestle's first edition (Westcott-Hort; Tischendorf 8th; Weymouth [in itself the result of a comparison of editions]) or fourth (Weymouth replaced with Weiss).

Whilst working on the digital Tregelles, we were hoping / expecting that this would lead to a full-scale, fresh edition of the GNT, and this is reflected this in the abbreviations used for the Tregelles New Testament: TNT1 for the text that reflects the print as accurately as possible, TNT2 for the text in which obvious print errors are corrected. The next edition could then be TNT3 (Tyndale New Testament), which gives an instant 'editional' pedigree, but it turned out this name was never going to work. Regardless, there is some history behind our text.

For Tregelles see:

S.P. Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament: with Remarks on its Revision upon Critical Principles. Together with a Collation of the Critical Texts of Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf, with that in Common Use (London: S. Bagster and Sons, 1854).

———. The Greek New Testament, edited from ancient authorities, with their various readings in full, and the Latin version of Jerome (London: S. Bagster & Sons, 1857-79).

———. Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. Vol. 4 of An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, edited by Thomas Hartwell Horne and John Ayre, 12th ed. (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1856 [1869]).

Congrats to Mike Holmes on His Retirement!

Thanks to Juan Hernandez, news has reached the interwebs that Mike Holmes is retiring from his position at Bethel University. Mike’s work hardly needs an introduction at this blog so I will instead say how much I have appreciated the time Mike has given to me over the years. I remember him sitting with me for about an hour when I was in grad school to talk about the divorce passages which I was working on for my masters thesis (see photo). Ever since, he has generously given his time to talk to and encourage me along the way. Last year at SBL, Tommy Wasserman and I had a great lunch with Mike and got to hear the story of how he went from rural farm life to accomplished academic life. It was quite a story.

Many congrats, Mike, on your well-deserved retirement. I hope this does not mean we will be seeing less of you in the years to come. Don’t miss the “be like Mike” video shared by Juan Hernandez (HT: Chris Keith).

Michael W. Holmes and Peter J. Gurry
Discussing the divorce passages with ECM in hand.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ETC Interview with Thomas Hudgins

I’m happy to present another installment of our ETC interview series. Today’s interview is with Thomas W. Hudgins who is Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Capital Seminary and Graduate School. I first spoke with Thomas a little over a year go when he had just completed his doctoral thesis on the Complutensian polyglot and I thought readers here would be interested in that work. His most recent publication is a Festschrift for David Alan Black which includes a number of essays on text criticism from our own Tommy Wasserman and Maurice Robinson and others. You can learn more about Thomas at his blog or read his list of publications.

PG: I understand you have two doctorates, the first one in education (EdD) and the second in New Testament (PhD). Most people who teach New Testament in U.S. seminaries only have the second, so what led you to do both?

TH: Explaining the PhD at the Complutense is a little easier since the PhD is the norm. I love the New Testament and wanted to study it for the rest of my life and help others do so as well. But why an EdD and a PhD? The easy answer is I am a glutton for punishment—or so people often say when they hear I did two. But there’s actually a better answer. An opportunity arose for me to enter the EdD program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and at the same time assist a seminary start-up in Central America. I had taken plenty of classes on the biblical languages, book studies (e.g., Isaiah, Mark), and theology, but despite having an undergrad degree in biblical studies and an MDiv, I had never taken a single course on education (and homiletics courses don’t count). That’s pretty remarkable if you ask me, especially considering the church is in part an educational institution (“teaching them...” Matt. 28:20).

I don’t know how many hours the average PhD program (for biblical studies) requires of instruction in the field of education, but I know it’s not a lot. The opportunity to study in the education department at Southeastern really changed my life—personally and professionally. It was the first time I was ever challenged to think about education. Even though I entered the Doctor of Education program, I was able to work with a faculty member outside of the department. I knew I wanted to do something different from what you would generally find with an EdD dissertation. I wanted to study the New Testament and education. So, I applied to study with David Alan Black (yes, Dave has a separate application to work with him). Working with him was one of the best experiences of my life.

A few months after I started teaching New Testament and Greek full-time at Capital Seminary, another opportunity arose for me to study in the PhD program at the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain and work with another world-renowned New Testament scholar, Antonio Piñero, on a topic that few had engaged in recent years (even though the subject’s quincentennial was rapidly approaching). Who could resist, right?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blogging the Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament

Over at the Tyndale House website, we are now hosting a blog dedicated to the Greek New Testament we have been preparing. This blog will be devoted to that project only, but rest assured, with the exception of the first introductory post, we will cross-post everything to our beloved ETC Blog, which will also be the place where comments are welcomed (there is a direct link between the two). Rather than asking you to check (or subscribe to) an additional address, it seems better to keep things centralised. The blog at the Tyndale House address functions to give the posts a sense of thematic continuity and visibility and catch some of the search traffic that is targeted at our edition.

And for the purists - one might notice the hand of Peter Gurry in its design.

Attempted Attack on St. Catherine’s Monastery

Christianity Today reports of an attempted attack on the monastery of St. Catherine on Tuesday. ISIS has reportedly claimed responsibility. St. Catherine’s is, of course, the original home of Codex Sinaiticus and still houses a number of leaves. Its library is one of the richest in the world in terms of ancient Christian manuscripts.

Here is the description of the attack:
One policeman was killed and four injured during an exchange of gunfire at a checkpoint about half a mile from the monastery entrance. Police were eventually able to gain control and force the militants to flee, according to the Ministry of Interior as reported by Ahram Online.

ISIS claimed responsibility in a terse statement via their official news agency, Amaq. However, local speculation suggested it may have been a result of skirmishes between disgruntled tribes and the government.
If anyone has any additional information on the state of the monastery, please post it in the comments. And do pray for the safety of the monks and others who live near or frequent the site.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

3rd Summer School in Textual Criticism in Ferrara, Italy

(photo credit)
Paolo Trovato sends word about his 3rd summer school in textual criticism. I attended part of last year’s school and can say it was a great experience. One of my favorite aspects is that it attracts students who are working on a range of textual traditions. I find that I learn the most about textual criticism from those not working on NTTC. So do not be put off by lectures on Catullus and Dante; NT students will be most welcome.

The Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara will offer an intensive seven-day summer school in Textual Criticism. The course is designed for both graduate and PhD students (max. 20 people) from diverse disciplines who would like to improve their knowledge in the field of Textual Criticism and discuss their research topics with instructors and colleagues. An introduction to current theories as well as the presentation of individual research subjects will be covered in the first four days. The final days will be spent delving more deeply into particular aspects of Textual Criticism, both in modern and classical languages, with particular attention to more recent developments, and discussing individual research.

On Saturday and some weekday afternoons free guided visits and tours in medieval and Renaissance Ferrara are scheduled.

Among the programme instructors you will find Dario Bullitta (University of Venice), Dàniel Kiss (Universitat de Barcelona), Nicola Morato (Université de Liège), Roberto Rosselli Del Turco (Università di Pisa), Elisabetta Tonello (University e.Campus) Paolo Trovato (Università di Ferrara), and Giorgio Ziffer (Università di Udine).
See here for complete details.

One tip for those attending: book a room with A/C. You will thank me later. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Codex Sinopensis (O 023) Online

The following is another guest post from Elijah Hixson. He is currently writing a PhD thesis at the University of Edinburgh on the NT purple codices about which Jerome famously said, “parchmens are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying” (Epist. 22.32).

The Bibliothèque nationale de France have just made some very nice, high-quality images of (most of) Codex Sinopensis available! The manuscript is gorgeous and worth a look.

Codex Sinopensis (O 023), f. 8v.
Codex Sinopensis (Paris, BnF supp. gr. 1286; O 023) is a 6th-century manuscript of Matthew’s Gospel. It is one of the purple codices—deluxe manuscripts written in gold and silver inks on parchment that has been dyed purple (on Codex Rossanensis, one of the other 6th-century purple codices, see here). Codex Sinopensis is especially magnificent, because it was written entirely in gold ink, and there are five extant miniatures painted right into the pages of the Gospel. These are some of the earliest examples of Christian art in manuscripts. Art historians know this manuscript well, and its well-trained scribe was probably in his or her prime. There are very few mistakes and corrections in this manuscript, compared to its two siblings.

Its text is not especially exciting; Codex Sinopensis has an early form of what will become the Byzantine text. What is more exciting than its text is its textual relationship with two other purple codices, N 042 and Σ 042. These three manuscripts were all copied from the same exemplar. Back in 2015 at the SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta, I presented a paper on Codex Sinopensis and its close relationship with its two siblings as a way to test the singular readings method of determining scribal habits (summarised here).

If my quick count of the newly available images is correct, the new images include 41 of the 43 folios at the BnF, but they also include images of the lost leaf from Ukraine. Shortly after Henri Omont published the editio princeps of the 43 Paris leaves, Prof. Dmitry Aynalov sent a photograph of a 44th leaf, which was in the custody of a gymnasium (the equivalent of American high school) in Mariupol, Ukraine. The leaf has been lost since at least 1966, when Kurt Treu could only write that it was formerly in Mariupol and to my knowledge, the leaf has never resurfaced. Now, however, the BnF has digitised their black/white photograph of the lost leaf, which is grounds for rejoicing.

The two pages I could not find on Gallica are folios 11 and 30, but both of those folios include miniatures, and images of the painted sides are readily available all over the internet. Realistically, that leaves 11v and 30r as the only pages of Codex Sinopensis that are still only accessible through Omont’s pseudo-facsimile in the editio princeps. Of course, Muphy’s Law would correctly predict that if one is writing a doctoral thesis on Codex Sinopensis, one would encounter a discrepancy on f. 30r, line 9 about which the editio princeps is unclear, but that is another story.

The images are posted at Gallica ( The easiest way to find them, however, is through the links to each folio/bifolio at

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dániel Kiss on Uncertainty in Textual Criticism

Its [textual criticism] reputation for arbitrariness can probably be ascribed to the fact that
having grown up in a late stage of the age of printing, we are used to carefully edited texts, and textual corruption strikes us not only as unfamiliar, but also as uncanny and somehow fundamentally wrong. But a doubt that affects the reconstruction of a passage in Catullus is no different in kind from one that affects how the same passage should be interpreted, nor from one that might affect Roman economic history in the late Republic. If textual criticism is difficult at times, that is not because it is arbitrary, nor because textual critics are incompetent, but because centuries of textual corruption have resulted in problems for some of which there is no easy solution. Faced with such difficulties, one can only make progress by strenuous and open-minded research.

—Dániel Kiss from What Catullus Wrote, p. vii–viii.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Masoretic instructions on how to format the text

My colleague Kim Phillips has written another fascinating piece about a manuscript in the Cairo Genizah. Read it here

Zach Cole Reviews Christian Oxyrhynchus

In lieu of our own Peter Head’s unsuccessful attempt to review Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources, I offer this snippet from Zach Cole’s new and helpful review in JETS (60.1):
Foremost among this project’s shining virtues is that it brings together in one place what would otherwise require several dozens of volumes. Further, the editors’ careful and consistent treatment brings some of the older editions up to date and provides English translations where some were lacking. Also laudable is the extent to which the editorial introductions to each text provide crucial background information and evaluation; the result is much more than a simple database of texts, but rather a coherent and understandable anthology. Another strength is the inclusion of texts written in languages other than Greek. The reader will find some texts in Syriac, Coptic, and Latin. Finally, while the subject of Christian documentary papyri has received increased attention in recent years (e.g. the work of AnneMarie Luijendijk and of Blumell elsewhere), sadly it remains unfamiliar to many scholars of NT and early Christianity. The present volume is thus an ideal entry point into the fascinating world of Christian documentary texts.
The only complaint he lodges is that the book should have included the 20 Old Testament fragments from Oxyrhynchus. The editors’ reasons for not doing so—having to do with the problem of using nomina sacra to identify them as Christian rather than Jewish—are a bit inconsistent with some of their other comments in the volume. But that’s Cole’s only criticism.

It’s too bad this volume isn’t a bit more affordable.

Monday, April 03, 2017

More Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls in the US?

One of the 15 fragments.
(Photo credit)
Owen Jarus, who reported extensively on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment for Live Science, has an article today about 15 new Dead Sea Scroll fragments recently sold to an undisclosed institution in the U.S. Jarus apparently has photographs of all of these sent by the seller and notes that some appear to be in Greek (see photo).

Here’s the relevant portion:
It’s not certain when the 15 fragments sold through Les Enluminures will be studied and published. The institution in the United States that now owns those fragments has not made a public announcement about the acquisition, Hindman [the president of Les Enluminures] said.

Spokespersons for the Museum of the Bible, Azusa Pacific University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Lanier Theological Library all told Live Science that their institutions had not bought the Les Enluminures fragments.

Les Enluminures sent a batch of black-and-white photographs of the fragments to Live Science. The images show what appears to be Greek text on some of the fragments, a language that has been seen on other Dead Sea Scrolls. Hindman said she believes all 15 fragments were once in the collection of Bruce Ferrini, a collector in Ohio who died in 2010.
It would be good to see photos of all 15 of these if Jarus has them. You can see one more in this galleryFull article here. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

New Evidence for Earliest Tetraevangelion (Part 1)

Seven years ago, I presented a paper on SBL in Atlanta (2010) on "A Comparative Textual Analysis of 𝔓4 and 𝔓64+67"  which was later published in the TC Journal vol. 15 (2010).

Background to the paper here.

In my last couple of slides I pointed out that there is more to discover, in particular in reference to 𝔓4 = BnF Suppl. gr. 1120 ii 3 / 4.
Two years later, Simon Gathercole published his study in NovT 54 (2012) on the earliest title of Matthew's Gospel which is found on the flyleaf of this MS an image of which was published for the first time.

However, as I said in my paper there is yet more to discover. There are traces of letters on the flyleaf (reverse side of where the title of Matthew is found), which had been noted by T. C. Skeat and Kurt Aland but they were unable to decipher them from black and white photos. I now have access form high-resolution images from the National Library in Paris.

Further, I pointed out that there are mirrored impressions on fragment B, verso because the pages had been glued together for centuries and fragment D has left impressions, but I did not work further on this, and I have had too many projects to think about it.
At the last SBL in San Antonio, however, Elijah Hixon presented a wonderful paper, "Was There a Staurogram in P.Oxy. LXXI 4805 (P121)?" in which he presented a digital restoration using photo-manipulation software.

This gave me the idea to try again on P4 using his software, where the first step is to create a profile by entering all the visible letters and then trying to trace the faint letters from the new high-res images (and also to mirror the impressed letters on fragment B). The results are amazing, and I have been able to decipher about three verses from Luke on fragment B, and Matthew (!) on the flyleaf – this is new evidence that 𝔓4 and 𝔓64+67 did belong to the same codex as argued most forcefully by T. C. Skeat.

In the next post, I will supply transcription and comments to five textual variants.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Notice: A Companion to Byzantine Illustrated Manuscripts

This volume offers an overview of Byzantine manuscript illustration, a central branch of Byzantine art and culture. Just like written texts, illustrations bear witness to Byzantine material culture, imperial ideology and religious beliefs, as well as to the development and spread of Byzantine art. In this sense illustrated books reflect the society that produced and used them. Being portable, they could serve as diplomatic gifts or could be acquired by foreigners. In such cases they became “emissaries” of Byzantine art and culture in Western Europe and the Arabic world. The volume provides for the first time a comprehensive overview of the material, divided by text categories, including both secular and religious manuscripts, and analyses which texts were illustrated in Byzantium, and how.

Edited by Vasiliki Tsamakda, University of Mainz

Contributors are Justine M. Andrews, Leslie Brubaker, Annemarie W. Carr, Elina Dobrynina, Maria Evangelatou, Maria Laura Tomea Gavazzoli, Markos Giannoulis, Cecily Hennessy, Ioli Kalavrezou, Maja Kominko, Sofia Kotzabassi, Stavros Lazaris, Kallirroe Linardou, Vasileios Marinis, Kathleen Maxwell, Georgi R. Parpulov, Nancy P. Ševčenko, Jean-Michel Spieser, Mika Takiguchi, Courtney Tomaselli, Marina Toumpouri, Nicolette S. Trahoulia, Vasiliki Tsamakda, and Elisabeth Yota.

Price: unaffordable ($259)

HT: Rick Brannan

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Marginal dots of Vaticanus – Again

Every now and then I see the claim that the two dots that appear in the margin of Vaticanus indicate textual variants known by the original group of scribes. I believe that our own Peter Head agrees that they may indicate knowledge of textual variation at these points, but also that these marginal dots are very late.

I am not sure if the following is on his list of examples but it may be instructive. Here we have the two dots under a correction which projects into the margin.

The passage is Lk 18:19 and the variant concerns the presence / absence of the article before θεος. The original (archetypal/initial/autographic – take your pick) hand omits the article, which is then added by the second corrector. Rather unusually, two dots are placed under the omicron, closer together than the normal marginal dots (there are two sets on this page, 1337, col. 1), but apparently intended to match the size of the letter in question.

This suggests to me that at least these dots are 1) indeed connected with noting textual variation, 2) are by necessity added after the work of the second corrector. Add to this that the use of two dots to mark textual variation is rare in the tradition as a whole but is used elsewhere in Vaticanus, it follows that also those other marginal dots are post second corrector. Of course, the textual variants thus indicated might well be known to the original group of scribes, but the dots are an incorrect way of proving that.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hoskier Photos

More on Herman Hoskier courtesy of an email from Maurice Robinson. The mustache is quite impressive I must say. Here’s Maurice:
I don’t think I can attach photos or the like in reply segments, but you perhaps might want to post these in the main section on Hoskier (or start another post entirely).

The caricature of Hoskier comes from a very rare limited edition book honoring various persons in and around South Orange NJ. I happened to stumble across that on eBay, and since the fellow could not sell the entire book, he ended up willing to sell the caricatures individually.

The signature came from Hoskier’s copy of one of Tischendorf’s Monumenta Sacra Inedita that Kenneth Clark had obtained (now in the Duke Divinity School library).

The other photo was sent to me by someone... from somewhere.

Also for trivia buffs: Hoskier is buried on one of the Channel Islands between England and France.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Conference: Herman Hoskier and the Future of Textual Scholarship on the Bible

I meant to post about this when it was announced but forgot in the mix of other responsibilities. This looks like an outstanding lineup of speakers and I understand that a conference volume is expected. Paper proposals are open until 15 April. More info and registration here.
28-30 August 2017
Dublin City University
School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music
Herman Charles Hoskier (1864-1938) was a textual scholar of the New Testament whose work remains influential in the field today. As part of the Irish Research Council’s Decade of Centenaries, this conference explores the present state and future prospects of textual scholarship on the Bible in the digital age, using Hoskier’s work as a starting point for the discussion. Short papers are invited that address the following topics: the intellectual context of twentieth century textual scholarship, manuscript collections in Ireland, the future of the critical edition, the digital humanities and the Bible, Hoskier’s text critical work and current developments in the field, the versions in textual scholarship, the Editio Critica Maior, manuscripts as objects and material culture, trends and prospects in textual criticism, text critical method, the future of textual scholarship, early printed editions, studies on manuscripts, and related topics.

Keynote Speakers:

  • David Parker (University of Birmingham)
  • Stanley Porter (McMaster Divinity College)
  • Jennifer Knust (Boston University)
  • J. K. Elliott (University of Leeds)
  • Martin Karrer (KiHo Wuppertal)
  • Juan Hernández Jr. (Bethel University)
  • Claire Clivaz (Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics)
  • Thomas J. Kraus (Universität Zurich)
  • Tommy Wasserman (Ansgar Teologiske Høgskole)
  • Christina Kreinecker (Universität Salzburg)
  • Klaus Wachtel (INTF Münster)
  • Catherine Smith (University of Birmingham)
  • Hugh Houghton (University of Birmingham)
  • Martin Wallraff (LMU München)
  • Jan Krans (VU Amsterdam)
  • Annette Hüffmeier (INTF Münster)
  • Jill Unkel (Chester Beatty Library)
  • Dirk Jongkind (University of Cambridge)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Birmingham Colloquium

Hope everyone’s having fun at the Birmingham Colloquium this week. From Hugh Houghton’s tweets, it looks like a great turnout this year. Wish I could be there. Also, can somebody help Elijah Hixson find his pen?

Friday, March 17, 2017

P73 and its claim to be the most insignificant manuscript of the NT

If you never had a look at P73, one of the Bodmer papyri, I cannot blame you. Dated to the 7th century, and said to contain ‘text’ from Mt 25:43 and 26:2-3. In all only (traces of) 18 letters are visible according to the INTF transcription, which makes this short blog post a whopping 226 characters longer.

Monday, March 13, 2017

On the Origin of the Pericope Adulterae in the Syriac NT

Here is an interesting detail about the origin of John 7.53-8.11 in the Syriac tradition. Apparently, in the excellent Mingana collection at the University of Birmingham, there is a “handsome and sumptuous” manuscript containing the New Testament and a number of other treatises. So says A. Mingana in his Catalogue (vol. 1, col. 863). One important feature of this manuscript that Mingana reports is this:

The Syriac can be translated as follows:
This story (ܣܘܢܬܟܣܝܣ = σύνταξις) is not found in all manuscripts. But Abba Mar Paule found it in one of the Alexandrian manuscripts and translated it into Syriac as written here from the Gospel of John.
From this, J. de Zwaan, writing in 1958, draws this conclusion:
Paul of Tella, who was the leading spirit in the translation of the Hexaplaric O.T. by order of Athanasius I, and under whose auspices Thomas of Harkel laboured on the N.T. at the same time and the same place, viz. the Enaton-monastery near Alexandria (615-617), is, therefore, responsible for the introduction of John vii.53-viii.11 in MSS. of the Syriac N.T.  
This is interesting as it confirms the hypothesis that on Paul’s initiative the Harklean enterprise (whatever it has been: translation, revision, collation or mere annotating) was completed.  
And this is important as it adds probability to the surmise that Thomas’ work should be considered as analogous to the O.T. enterprise. For textual criticism e.g. the question, whether ‘Western’ copies could be present in the viith century in Alexandria and be still valued there by experts as authoritative, this point is very important.
Now, we know that in most of the NT, Thomas actually used a nearly Byzantine text and in the Catholic Epistles he used something more distinctive, a possible precursor to the Byzantine text (so K. Wachtel). Where Thomas gave “Western” readings, so far as I understand it, is primarily in the margin in Acts.

So I’m not convinced with Zwaan that this remark in Mingana Syr 480 shows that the “Western” text was valued in the 7th century in Alexandria. But it is still significant if Zwaan is right that this confirms Paul of Tella’s involvement in both the Syro-hexapla and the Harklean NT and that he is somehow responsible for the inclusion of the Pericope Adulterae in the latter.

You can find this and more discussed in Chris Keith’s excellent book on the Pericope Adulterae. For more on the manuscript sources, see Gwynn.

* * *

For more on the PA in Syriac and Arabic, see Adam McCollum’s blog post on a 17th cent. Garshuni lectionary which has the following note pictured below:
Know, dear reader, that this pericope [pāsoqā] is lacking in our Syriac copy [lit. the copy of us Syriac people], but we have seen it among the Latins [r(h)omāyē], and we have translated it into our Syriac language and into Arabic. Pray for the poor scribe!
Marginal note in CCM 64, f. 79r, (17th cent.) explaining the origin of the Pericope Adulterae.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

TC Articles in the Latest Issue of NTS

From the latest issue of New Testament Studies, three articles on topics of interest to ETC readers.

P45 and the Problem of the ‘Seventy(-two)’:
A Case for the Longer Reading in Luke 10.1 and 17

Zachary J. Cole 

At Luke 10.17, most modern critical editions incorrectly cite the wording of P45 as ἑβδομήκοντα δύο (72) instead of ἑβδομήκοντα (70). As this is one of the two oldest witnesses to the verse, this revision of external evidence calls for a fresh examination of the textual problem as a whole. Previous discussions have focused almost exclusively on the perceived symbolic values of ἑβδομήκοντα (+ δύο) to identify the ‘more Lukan’ wording, but this essay argues on the basis of new transcriptional evidence that the earlier reading is more likely ἑβδομήκοντα δύο.

Postscript: A Final Note about the Origin of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

Andrew Bernhard

The owner of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife provided Karen King with an interlinear translation of the text. Like the Coptic of the papyrus fragment, the English of this interlinear translation appears dependent on ‘Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic/English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas’. It shares a series of distinctive textual features with Grondin’s work and even appears to translate two Coptic words found in the Gospel of Thomas but not in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Consequently, the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife seems undeniably to be a ‘patchwork’ of brief excerpts from the Gospel of Thomas created after November 2002.

Anger Issues: Mark 1.41 in Ephrem the Syrian,
the Old Latin Gospels and Codex Bezae

Nathan C. Johnson

While the vast majority of manuscripts portray Jesus in Mark 1.41 as ‘moved to compassion’ (σπλαγχνισθείς) before healing a leper, five putative witnesses in three languages depict him ‘becoming angry’ (ὀργισθείς/iratus). Following Hort’s dictum that ‘knowledge of documents should precede final judgments on readings’, this article offers the first thorough examination of the witnesses to ‘anger’, with the result that the sole putative Syriac witness is dismissed, the Old Latin witnesses are geographically isolated, and the sole Greek witness linked to the Old Latin as a Greek–Latin diglot. Since the final grounds for Jesus’ ‘anger’, that it is the lectio difficilior, also prove insubstantial, σπλαγχνισθείς is concluded to be original, with ‘anger’ originating in the Old Latin manuscript tradition.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Origen on Textual Criticism and Biblical Authority

Over at his blog, Alex Poulos has posted an interesting translation of Origen’s sermon on Psalm 78 (LXX 77). The issue at hand for Origen involves the first verse: “I shall open my mouth in parables, I shall speak riddles as from the beginning.” This is quoted in Matt 13.35 and the problem is that Origen’s text of Matthew attributes this not to a prophet generically, but to Isaiah specifically. This is the reading found today in 01*, Θ, f1, 13, 33, pc. Origen explains this as a simple scribal mistake:
It’s likely that one of the very first scribes found the text, “so that what was said through the prophet Asaph,” and supposed that it was an error because he did not realize that Asaph was a prophet. This caused him rashly to write “Isaiah” instead of “Asaph” because of his unfamiliarity with the prophet’s name.
But then he goes on to discuss the theological cause of textual corruption.
Now it must be said that the devil generally plots against living creatures and plans to divide the churches, to contrive heresies and schisms, and to produce countless stumbling blocks among men. It’s no surprise, then, that he also plots against the scriptures. Since our salvation is through them, he contrives to introduce discrepancies among them, so that through these discrepancies readers might be scandalized. Which are we to heed, this one or that one? You know all that we have labored over for God and for his grace, in juxtaposing the Hebrew text and the other editions to ascertain the proper correction of these mistakes. He will also grant aid in all that we want to do about the rest.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Lund on Ezekiel in the Antioch Bible (Peshitta)

In RBL, Jerome Lund reviews Gillian Greenberg and Donald M. Walter, trans. Ezekiel according to the Syriac Peshitta Version with English Translation (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2015).

After two pages of suggested improvements and corrections, he concludes:
Every researcher in Syriac Ezekiel will appreciate this fully vocalized text and translation. It is useful in learning Syriac and in understanding forms that might at first blush be allusive if left unvocalized. However, textual critics of the Hebrew Bible should not use this text independently of the Leiden edition.
I would think the same could be applied to the other OT volumes as well. The best place for TC is the Leiden edition but the Antioch volumes can be helpful.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Two Third-Century Papyri in John 1:34


I am currently writing a chapter for an edited volume, where I treat a number of early scribal alterations relating to Christology. The following is an extract of the draft introduction of one of the examples in John 1:34:
One of Bart Ehrman's examples of possible "anti-adoptionistic" corruption  (treated on pp. 69-70 in the original edition of his Orthodox Corruption) is found in the baptism account in John 1:34. The main question here is whether John the Baptist calls Jesus ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, “the Son of God” (NRSV) or ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ, “God’s Chosen One” (now adopted in the NIV). Ehrman prefers the latter assuming that later scribes modified the text in order to avoid an adoptionistic interpretation: “[H]ere again the idea of Jesus’ election is associated with his baptism, an association that the orthodox took some pains to eschew” (Orthodox Corruption, 70)

Certainly the variant reading ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ deserves serious consideration, in particular in light of the external attestation, which is somewhat controversial. No papyrus witness is cited in support of the reading in the recent Nestle-Aland editions NA27-28 leaving the first hand of Codex Sinaiticus as its single Greek witness. On the other hand, 𝔓5vid is cited in its support in UBS4 but lacking in UBS5, whereas 𝔓106vid is cited in UBS5 but not in UBS4.
In the most recent Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources (edited by Blumell & Wayment [Baylor University Press, 2015]) both of these witnesses are reconstructed as reading ἐκλεκτός (p. 45, p. 62), although the notes to these readings are deficient (only citing evidence from NA27/28).

In the transcription of the IGNTP, the reconstruction of 𝔓5 has ἐκλεκτός

High res image of 𝔓5 here (CSNTM).

The IGNTP transcription of 𝔓106 also reconstructs ἐκλεκτός

High res image of 𝔓106 (look at the second line from the bottom).

This MS is discussed by co-blogger Peter Head in an article on NT papyri from Oxyrhynchus (Tyndale Bulletin 51.1 [2000]). In a note he says, "The reading is established, though not all the letters are visible (the edition has: ο [ε]κλεκ[τος, with dots under all of the visible letters except epsilon" (p. 12 n. 22).

Based on the IGNTP transcriptions, the forthcoming Editio Critica Maior edition of John will probably cite both papyri in support of ἐκλεκτός in John 1:34 (in which case I assume they will be cited thus in NA29).

This is a tough call, but In my opinion, both witnesses, dating to the third century, should be cited (ut videtur) in support of ἐκλεκτός. Do you agree with this judgement?

Another problem concerns the reading of the fourth-century papyrus 𝔓120. In the last line of the first page here, the editors reconstruct ο υιος ο, and the next page continues with του θ(εο)υ. Hence, a singular reading, ὁ υἱὸς ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Historical Jesus Studies and Textual Criticism

Historical Jesus studies and textual criticism are two subjects that one does not regularly think of together. But recently I was looking over my copy of Anthony Le Donne’s little book Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? (2011) and came across a section which does bring them together. The context is Le Donne’s discussion about the problem of arriving at historical certainty or objectivity (think Lessing’s “ugly ditch”). He writes:
Scholars determined to attain historical certainty will always be frustrated by the limits of modern presuppositions. Modern presuppositions have made skeptics out of a small (but boisterous) contingent of Jesus historians in every generation since Lessing. But the larger portion of historians have been no less guilty of a hunger for certainty. Historians who are more optimistic about historical certainty have tried to attain it through something akin to textual archaeology....
One of the central presuppositions of textual criticism is that priority should be given to the best reconstruction of the “original manuscripts” of the New Testament. Furthermore, textual criticism was founded on the notion that the closer we get to the original manuscripts, the closer we get to the original Jesus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Website for the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP)

A brand new website of the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP) was launched this morning – the web address is the same

The complete redesign was done by no other than our talented co-blogger Peter Gurry who is not only a textcritic but also a professional web designer.

The old website has served since 2007, receiving thousands of visits from across the world, according to Hugh Houghton, the IGNTP officer who maintains the website on a regular basis.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Septuagint Song

Yesterday was the 11th International Septuagint Day, see here and here. One of our readers, Brent Niedergall therefore wrote “The Septuagint Song” together with his music pastor Mac Lynch which he would like to share with the world, so here it is (click on the images to magnify):

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Prepositions

From Will Ross and Steve Runge, a conference modeled after the well-done Greek verb conference from a few years back:
Students and scholars of Greek have long wrestled with understanding the meaning of prepositions. This challenge is partly the result of the centuries-old tradition in Greek lexicography of providing glosses (or translation equivalents) in the target language that fail to capture the meaning of a lexical item. 
Moreover, the semantics of Greek and English prepositions do not isometrically overlap, giving the misleading appearance of polysemy. In an effort to address these challenges, this Workshop aims to approach semantic description of Koine prepositions from the perspective of cognitive linguistics and prototype theory.  
Following the work of Silvia Luraghi (2003) and Pietro Bortone (2010) on Greek prepositions, there is growing consensus among scholars of Greek that the cognitive linguistic approach to meaning is the most promising way forward.  
Yet to date no concerted effort has been made towards applying this cognitive approach in a form that is accessible to non-specialists, which provides the occasion and motivation for our Workshop.  
This Workshop will be cross-disciplinary, bringing together classicists, biblical scholars, linguists, and theologians.
Speakers include
  • Dirk Geeraerts, University of Leuven
  • Richard A. Rhodes, U.C. Berkeley
  • Jonathan A. Pennington, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Patrick James, University of Cambridge
  • Steven Runge, Logos Bible Software
  • Randall Buth, Biblical Language Center
June 30-July 1, 2017. Registration opens March 1. No call for papers is forthcoming. More info at Background on the conference at Will’s blog. It sounds fun. I wish I could be there for it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

2017 HBU Theology Conference

This year’s Houston Baptist University Theology Conference is March 2–4 on the topic “How the Bible Came into Being.”

From the website:
The Department of Theology at HBU, in conjunction with Lanier Theological Library, is please to host the conference How the Bible Came into Being. The conference will consider the formation of the biblical canon, the literature included and excluded, and its theological significance. Our keynote speakers are James Charlesworth (Princeton Theological Seminary) and Lee McDonald (formerly of Acadia Divinity College). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.
The plenaries are:

James Charlesworth
“New Ways of Looking at Sacred Texts Regarded as ‘Apocryphal’ or ‘Pseudepigraphical’”
“The Theological Value of the ‘Rejected Texts’ and Dead Sea Scrolls for Understanding Jesus”

Lee M. McDonald 
“Why and When Was Scripture Written? Looking at the Old Testament Writings”
“Why and When Was Scripture Written? Looking at the New Testament Writings”

The ETC blog’s own John Meade will be presenting on “‘Canon’ Terminology of Epiphanius of Salamis” on Mar 3.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Vaticanus’s ‘least doubtful’ Byzantine impurity

The familiar text of Rom 11.6 as read in NA/UBS is found in P46 01* A C D F G P 1739 1881 lat co as follows:
εἰ δὲ χάριτι, οὐκέτι ἐξ ἔργων, ἐπεὶ ἡ χάρις οὐκέτι γίνεται χάρις
and if by grace, then it [election] is no longer of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace
However, 01c (B) 33vid Byz vg(ms) (sy) add the corollary to Paul’s axiom which is
ει δε εξ εργων, ουκετι εστιν χαρις, επει το εργον ουκετι εστιν εργον
and if it is from works, then it is no longer grace, otherwise the work is no longer work
Sanday and Hedlam say of this longer reading that “there need be no doubt that it is a gloss” (Romans, p. 313). I think they are right in this.

Rom 11.6 in Vaticanus (photo link).
Note the marginal dots.
What is surprising is to see B line up with Byz here against P46 01* etc. The agreement is not perfect, however, because B lacks the first εστιν and has χαρις instead of the final εργον. It would be worthwhile to consider whether Byz preserves a reading earlier than B here. B’s text could explain the shorter reading as a case of parablepsis (χαρις ... χαρις), but B’s reading doesn’t make much sense in the context.

Either way, B shows a striking agreement with Byz and one that receives a special mention from Westcott and Hort. They refer to this reading on p. 150 of their Introduction where they admit that it may be the one exception to B’s consistent purity from “Syrian” (= Byz) influence. They write:
...B is found to hold a unique position. Its text is throughout Pre-Syrian, perhaps purely Pre-Syrian, at all events with hardly any, if any, quite clear exceptions, of which the least doubtful is the curious interpolation in Rom. xi.6.
Did you notice the tortured circumlocution there? They don’t say that Rom 11.6 is a possible case of B’s Syrian corruption. Instead, they say it is “the least doubtful” of possibly clear exceptions to B’s pre-Syrian purity. It’s as if they can’t quite bring themselves to say that B might, even in this one case, be corrupted by the Syrian text-type. So a “possible impurity” becomes “the least doubtful exception to B’s purity.” I suppose this is akin to their infamous phrase “Western non-interpolations” which are just as easily termed “Alexandrian additions.” Which, of course, brings us back to the importance of rhetoric in textual criticism.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Variants on Forgiveness: Matt 18, Mark 11, and the Longer Reading

One of the positives of reading a Greek New Testament that lists variants but not the manuscripts that attest them is that it makes you pay more attention to internal evidence. I’ve been reading Scrivener’s edition of Stephanus (1550) which lists differences with a number of other editions including Lachmman, Tregelles, and Westcott-Hort.

‘The Unmerciful Servant’ by Willem Drost
One of the things I’m reading for are places where the traditional text has a longer reading and the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis. We looked at one in Eph 5.30 not long ago and there is another lengthy example at Matt 23.14. Two that caught my attention recently are in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matt 18. Here is Matt 18.29:
πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων· μακροθύμησον ἐπʼ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι.
The highlighted phrase “at his feet” is found in C2 W f13 33 Byz f q syp.h mae whereas the shorter reading is found in א B C* D L Θ 058 f1 579 1424 al lat sys.c sa bo.

Scrivener’s 4th edition
Then at the end of the parable, we have another longer/shorter reading involving almost the same witnesses on each side. This is Matt 18.35:
οὕτως καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν.
The longer reading is again found in C W f13 33 Byz f h sy(p).h and the shorter in א B D L Θ f1 700 892* pc lat sys.c co.

Finally, a third text that is relevant here is the parallel in Mark 11.25–26 which reads:
25 Καὶ ὅταν στήκητε προσευχόμενοι, ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος· ἵνα καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφῇ ὑμῖν τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν. 26 Εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
In this case, all of verse 26 is read by A (C, D) Θ (f1.13 33) Byz lat syp.h bo(pt); Cyp and omitted by א B L W Δ Ψ 565 700 pc k l sys sa bo(pt).

Besides being about forgiveness, what all these have in common is that the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis, homeoteleuton in particular. In Matt 18.29 the culprit could be αὐτοῦ, in Matt 18.35, -ῶν, and in Mark 18.26, τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.

What about the evidence in favor of the shorter readings? In the first case, there is no simple parallel in the context to easily explain the origin of the longer reading. In the second case, however, the longer reading could be influenced by Matt 6.14–15. Note especially the additional τὰ παραπτώματα in Byz in Matt 6.15. Although it doesn’t explain the somewhat awkward shift from singular ἀδελφῷ to plural αὐτῶν. Finally, Matt 6 could also explain the longer reading in Mark 11.25–26, but here too, as W. Willker points out in his online commentary, the harmonization would not be word-for-word. Compare:
Matt 6.15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
Mark 11.26 εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
None of the differences is radical. The ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖ is found in the preceding verse and maybe τοῖς ἀνθρώποις was left out because Mark 11.25 uses τις for the generic reference. But the change in mood is a bit harder to explain unless this is only a rough harmonization. As it is, the differences make parablepsis—and the longer reading with it—appealing.

If not for the strong, early manuscript evidence in favor of the shorter reading in all three cases, the longer readings would be easy choices on transcriptional grounds. But the external evidence being what it is, I am torn.

So my question: with the shift in opinion about the value of the Byzantine text, will future NA editions follow the transcriptional evidence here against the earliest witnesses like they have in, say, 1 Pet 4.16? More importantly, should they? Should Byz be set on par with the earliest evidence, thereby letting the transcriptional evidence tip the scales in these cases?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The New Christian Standard Bible and the NA28

Attendees to last year’s ETS meeting were given nicely bound copies of the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation which releases in March of this year. The CSB is basically a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), now without the “H.” I have always thought of the HCSB as basically “the Southern Baptist Bible.” I think others did too and the CSB looks to be an attempt to move the translation away from that identification.

The website explains that the Holman Christian Standard Bible was updated “with the goals of increased fidelity to the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts and increased clarity for today’s readers.” Specific changes mentioned are the non-capitalization of pronouns referring to God, the use of “tongues” rather than “languages” to translate λαλειν γλωσσα, The use of “LORD” rather than “Yahweh,” etc.

In light of our earlier discussion about what translators will do with the NA28/UBS5 changes, I should point out that the “pastoral FAQ” page says:
The textual base for the New Testament is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 5th corrected edition.... Where there are significant differences among Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek manuscripts, the translators follow what they believe is the original reading and indicate the main alternative(s) in footnotes.
Given this, I wondered what the translators did at 2 Peter 3.10 where the NA28 has changed quite noticeably. In particular, I wondered if they followed the NA28’s conjecture. The answer? No, they did not. The CSB text is exactly the same as it was in the HCSB (my emphasis):
But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.
So the new editors have not been bound to the NA28 text just as the website says. But this does not mean they have ignored the NA28’s change altogether, you have to look at the footnotes to see the change. Whereas the HCSB includes a single note saying, “Other mss read will be burned up,” the new CSB adds a second footnote immediately after this which reads, “Or will not be found.” This is almost certainly a reference to the conjecture found in NA28: ουχ ευρεθησεται.

What I find unhelpful is the sequence of notes in the CSB. Since both notes are given back-to-back, I think most people will naturally read them together as “some manuscripts read ‘will be burned up’ and some manuscripts read ‘will not be found.’” This is not what the second note explicitly says, of course, but how else are people expected to read it?

The problem is that the two alternate readings are here presented to the English reader as if they are on par with one another when they really aren’t. The reading of NA28 is attested by a few Syriac and Coptic witnesses which means this note breaks the translation’s own policy that “the Christian Standard Bible uses textual footnotes to show important differences among Hebrew manuscripts and other texts such as the Septuagint and the Vulgate for the Old Testament and between various Greek manuscripts for the New Testament.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not expect translation footnotes to do full justice to the external evidence. They can’t; that’s what critical editions are for. But I don’t see how the CSB’s current note can do anything other than mislead its readers here. It either needs to be revised to something like “some Coptic and Syriac manuscripts read...” or be taken out altogether. As it is, it’s counterproductive.

One other new reading in the CSB was pointed out to me by Maurice Robinson. John 1.18 reads:
No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
Notice anything odd?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Textual Criticism as Rhetoric

From Richard Tarrant’s new book Texts, Editors, and Readers: Methods and Problems in Latin Textual Criticism (reviewed in BMCR here):
To classify textual criticism as a form of rhetoric is a way of highlighting the fact that its arguments depend on persuasion rather than demonstration. Textual critics cannot prove that their choices are correct; the most they can hope to do is lead their readers to believe that those choices are the best available ones.

Facts do, of course, play an important part of textual criticism. But in the end the facts cannot yield a definitive answer, only a relative probability, which is where the critic needs to employ rhetorical argument.
This point is not, of course, unique to textual criticism. All study of the past, certainly the ancient past, trades in probabilities and textual criticism is nothing if not a historical endeavor. So long as we are okay with probabilities, there is little here to really fuss about. Where the debate can be had is about just how probable any of our particular text critical judgments are. That, however, takes us beyond mere rhetoric since some judgments are better than others. Still, I take Tarrant’s quote as a welcome reminder that judgment is always involved.

For more along the same lines, see Gary Taylor, “The Rhetoric of Textual Criticism,” Text 4 (1988): 39–57.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

50 Years of INTF’s Reports Online

For the past 50 years, INTF, the institute that produces the NA and now UBS editions, has published “reports” (Berichte) on their text-critical work. I came across these by accident one day at Tyndale House and discovered that they are a treasure trove of information about the Institute’s work. For those interested in the recent history of our discipline, they are often essentially reading.

The Institute always gave these away free, but sadly they couldn’t find any extra copies when I was last there. I had actually hoped to scan all these before leaving Cambridge, but I ran out of time. Now someone else has done it for me. Klaus Wachtel has just send word that the full set is now online at INTF’s website.

Many, many thanks to whoever was responsible for scanning these!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Way to Travel in Oxford

Word has just reached the Americas of a new form of transit for getting around Britain’s oldest and second greatest university.

Media outlets have reported that this new way of traveling is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and a even a good form of exercise.

A photo released by the BBC shows one particularly keen user of the new service.

Call for Papers: Horizons in Textual Criticism


Pete Williams sends word of the following:


Conveners: Jan Joosten and John Screnock

On 10-11 May, 2017, the University of Oxford will host a colloquium devoted to methodologically new and unique work in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and related texts.

We invite papers from scholars whose work goes beyond conventional approaches; early-career scholars and recent PhDs are especially encouraged to submit. Proposals of 1,000-2,000 words, based on projects that are well under way, should be sent to John Screnock (

The deadline for paper proposals has been extended to 22 January, 2017.

More detail:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The CBGM in One (!) Sentence

The discussion from the post last week on Greg Lanier’s thoughts on the CBGM was helpful I thought. In particular, it made me think again about how best to present the CBGM to those who find themselves mystified and or even frustrated by its complexity.

In my experience, the most common reaction to the method is still mistrust and a kind of anxiety. Some of that is not surprising. We don’t like people messing with our New Testament text in ways we don’t understand. I get that. I get it because it was a major motivation for my own research. I wanted to know why my Greek New Testament was changing and whether the changes were any good. At its most basic, that was the reason for my dissertation.

In light of that, and in light of some of the feedback I’ve received from my JETS article, I wanted to follow up with a new attempt to explain the method. In particular, I want to take a stab at defining it in a way that is not only accurate and clear, but also somewhat less intimidating.

So here is my one-sentence description: the CBGM is a new set of computer-based tools for studying a new set of text-critical evidence based on a new principle for relating texts. (Notice that I have not used any of the words in the name “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method” to define it. My English teachers would be proud.)

I think that does a good job of covering all the bases. But it is still a mouthful, so let me try to explain each part in turn. I’ll start at the end and work my way back.

Monday, January 09, 2017

What Greek-Latin Edition Did Jefferson Use for His Famous Bible?

Here’s a question for our American history buffs. I’ve looked in the usual places online and can’t find anything on this, but maybe some of our readers know. I’m curious as to what Greek NT Thomas Jefferson used to create is famous “Jefferson Bible.” If this is the first you’ve heard of that, here is how the Smithsonian explains its construction:
Wingrave (1794)
At seventy-seven years of age, Thomas Jefferson constructed his book by cutting excerpts from six printed volumes published in English, French, Latin, and Greek of the Gospels of the New Testament. He arranged them to tell a chronological and edited story of Jesus’s life, parables, and moral teaching. Left behind in the source material were those elements that he could not support through reason or that he believed were later embellishments, such as the miracles and the Resurrection. 
The act of cutting and rearranging passages from the New Testament to create something fresh was an ambitious, even audacious initiative, but not an act of disrespect. Through this distillation Jefferson sought to clarify Jesus’s teachings, which he believed provided “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”
From the online facsimile, it looks pretty clear that he used a Greek-Latin diglot. Any ideas?

Update: it is an edition of Wingrave (London, 1794). Thanks to Stephen Goranson for the tip.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Thinking about the Implications of the CBGM with Greg Lanier

Greg Lanier, a former compatriot at Cambridge, has two recent essays in the journal Reformed Faith & Practice (part 1 and part 2)  doing one of the things he does best: explaining what’s happening in NT scholarship to students and pastors. Here his focus is mostly on Greek grammar and lexicography, but he also touches on textual criticism in part two.

What I want to highlight here are Greg’s closing comments on the CBGM. (I’ve added the numbering and clipped these slightly.) I’m especially interested in helping to address Greg’s fourth point in future work because seminarians are going to need a lot of help using the CBGM. I hope we can give it to them. But he asks other questions about method and theology which seminary teachers will want to think about as they teach their students about the CBGM.

I’d like to hear what blog readers think of these. I've given some of my own thoughts in brackets.
  1. There are a lot of positives with the CBGM. The data set alone is a substantial improvement over what we had previously. The project has made great strides towards the previously unicorn-like dream of having thousands of manuscripts digitized, collated, and analyzable.... Moreover, the results for the Catholic Epistles indicate just how high-quality prior editions of the GNT (going back to Westcott and Hort and their contemporaries) have been. I would argue that our confidence in the text has, in the end, gone up with the ECM’s findings. [Generally agreed. I would just say that there is greater uncertainty overall in the results, judging by a comparison of brackets to diamonds in NA27 and NA28. But uncertainty can be better than unwarranted confidence.]
  2. The ECM project began with the Catholic Epistles in part due to their relatively more stable textual tradition. [Not actually true from what I’ve read, but many seem to think so. See the essay mentioned here from Aland.] Additionally, one could argue that the implications of modifying the critical text (which had been unchanged for nearly forty years) in this section of the GNT poses the least risk of ruffling feathers. One wonders, however, just how substantial the revisions may be in the ECM for Acts, the Gospels, and Paul — which, for most in the evangelical world, tend to harbor more emotional/theological investment. We can only wait to find out. [True, the Catholics don’t get much attention. Klaus Wachtel said at SBL that there are about 40 changes in Acts so far. Just remember, textual changes may be the easiest way to measure progress in TC, but they are not the only way.]
  3. Most contemporary English translations (outside the KJV-tradition) have used NA-26 or NA-27 as their base text. Presumably at some point the English translation committees will update their volumes, and when they do so, how will they approach the changes made to NA-28 (or NA-29 and beyond)? Will they embrace them? How will they signal the ◆ readings in the English text and footnotes, if at all? [This remains to be seen. Hopefully, they will find that their responsibility includes weighing the NA28’s decisions and rejecting them where appropriate. As for diamonds, we should note how few of them are even given space in the UBS5 apparatus. Clearly the UBS is showing their opinion that most are not relevant to translators.]
  4. How will (or should) students learn to do textual criticism in the future? This issue is particularly challenging. As outlined above, for decades students have been taught a fairly straightforward method for weighing major manuscripts and internal evidence to determine whether they agree with the NA/UBS critical text. However, the CGBM producing the critical text that future Greek students will purchase is operating according to an entirely different method. This method is, as all readily admit, rather complex to understand, let alone teach. More importantly, one would need to have access to significant analytical tools — and abandon a manuscript-focused mentality (and text-types) in favor of the more abstract text-focused mentality — in order to reproduce the thought process behind a given judgment on a textual variant in the ECM/NA-28/UBS-5. Take the 2 Pet 3:10 example shown above. The old-school approach would look at the various options, weight א, B, papyri, minuscules, and Byzantine witnesses (most of which disagree) and come to some conclusion. However, this conclusion is quite unlikely to be that the lone attested witness for +οὐκ (sa in NA-27; the Syriac is not even mentioned) offers the best reading. Yet that is precisely what NA-28/UBS-5 print in the main text! The student is at a loss, then, for explaining why that reading is preferred when, on the traditional approach, it seems to be the least preferred! .... In short, we are facing a situation in which the method currently being taught to students (and taught to scholars/pastors in the past) will no longer correspond to the method underlying the new editions of the critical GNT they are/will be working with! It is encouraging that the total number of changes to the text itself, at least for the Catholic Epistles, was fairly small; however, the underlying method is, nevertheless, changing substantially. [I agree completely that the use of the CBGM will change how we as scholars and students interact with and critique the NA text. No longer can we engage that text on its own methodological terms with just the print edition. You now need a laptop. Pete Head and I discussed this a number of times during our supervisions. As for helping students, see my recent JETS article for a starting point and stay tuned for more.]
  5. Related to the prior point, one wonders what use Metzger’s justly famous Textual Commentary will have in the future. It constitutes, in essence, the editorial committee’s notes from how they decided among variations in the 1970s and 1980s; its A-B-C ratings (in the UBS volumes only) have also been a helpful data point for years. However, as Elliott rightly notes, for those portions of the NA/UBS editions that incorporate the outcome of the CBGM/ECM project, “the tried and trusted vade mecum of old, Metzger’s Commentary … is only partially useful.” It may have helpful things to say about the internal evidence that might have impacted the ECM team’s decision for a given local stemma, but any appeal it makes to specific manuscripts is, now, almost entirely outdated. [For my part, I don’t see this as a bad thing. Metzger is great but he too easily becomes a crutch and an excuse to avoid TC rather than engage in it. But it would be nice to have a commentary on the new changes.]
  6. Finally, how will the shift in goal, from “original” text to “initial” text impact the way Reformed/evangelical folks who hold to biblical inspiration approach the critical GNT? Majority-text/KJV-only debates aside, most inerrantists who make use of the NA/UBS volumes have functionally equated the eclectic text found therein with, for all intents and purposes, the inspired autographs. Yes, we know that the critical edition is not itself inerrant or infallible — thus necessitating the need to make one’s own text-critical judgments — but we have embraced it as the next-best-thing we have (much like our approach to the Masoretic Text). The philosophical shift underlying the ECM project, however, is meaningful. The goal is no longer positioned as “getting back to what Mark wrote” but, rather, “getting back as early as possible, given the extant data, to what the early church received as coming from Mark.” Much effort needs to be devoted to thinking through the epistemological and doctrine-of-Scripture implications of such a change with respect to the GNT text coming out of the project. [I have some thoughts on this but will save them for another time. I would only add that this is a concern that has emerged among some American Lutherans. See the recent debate on TC between Jeff Kloha and John Warwick Montgomery.]
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