Monday, October 23, 2017

Wuppertal Coptic Intensive 2018

For those of you who have been lying awake all night, lamenting your ignorance of the Coptic language, the solution is at hand.  I will be teaching a two-week intensive introduction to Sahidic Coptic in English 12–24 February 2018 at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel.  During the first six-day session, students will rapidly encounter the basics of grammar and vocabulary, while the second-day series will survey texts from the Coptic Bible and Nag Hammadi corpus.  Students should arrive Sunday 11 February with at least the first 98 words from Metzger’s Coptic word list memorized (preferably through 205; digital flashcards available) and a master of the first three Chapters of Layton’s grammar Coptic in 20 Lessons (preferably through chapter ten).  The experience will not replace a proper Coptic course, but instead augments self-learning, offering students a brief overview of the language as well as some of the cardinal issues relevant to early Christianity and textual criticism.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Brief review of Bible Nation

Over the weekend I managed to read the new book by Candida Moss and Joel Baden called Bible Nation: the United States of Hobby Lobby.

The book is an attempt to understand the motivations and actions of the Green family in relation to their plans for collecting Bible manuscripts, the Museum of the Bible, the Scholars Initiative, and the school curriculum they have designed. In general I found it readable and interesting, helpful for getting a perspective on some of the story and people involved (although I didn’t learn much that was new except for some details about tax deductions for charitable donations); it is, however, not very well informed on matters relating to manuscripts, papyrology, and evangelical theology (once accusing the Greens of subscribing to the prosperity gospel). It is also badly out of date. The whole discussion of the court case involving Cuneiform tablets announced in early July 2017 (see for example here) is treated on the basis of what was known in 2015 (which, to be fair, the authors had announced in articles published around that time).

They adopt a quasi-journalistic tone, but don’t always pull it off (e.g. Brent Nongbri is described as ‘the eminent New Testament scholar’; Christian Askeland as ‘a well known papyrologist’). They seem to like Mike Holmes (who is basically a genius) but not get on so well with David Trobisch (‘a stocky man, who sports the standard academic uniform of slightly ill-fitting suits and goatee’); they are impressed by all the members of the Green family they meet, but obviously don’t like their theology or their politics. They hear a broad narrative that the Green Collection started and grew so rapidly that some corners seem to have been cut, while much higher standards of professional and curatorial behaviour are currently being followed. But they wonder about whether this is so when the collection does not seem to be very forthcoming on issues of (dodgy) provenance of some items in the collection.

Of course a thing to note is that our blog gets a couple of mentions. So our annual dinner at 2012 SBL in Chicago gets a mention on p. 71 (basically noting the generosity of Jerry Pattengale and the Green Scholars Initiative in paying for our meals). The authors take this as an example of the generosity of the GSI towards some scholars, which contrasts with others: ‘while some who craved access were denied it, others were actively recruited to join the GSI’ (they don’t provide any evidence about the ones who craved access). (Nor do they note any of our other dinners which GSI generously supported!) [In note 33 they take several of our blog discussions about the supposed and so-called First Century Mark as indicative of ‘the type of conversations that were happening around this fragment among papyrologists and scholars.’]

One massive problem is that they haven’t seen the Museum of the Bible, which opens next month, which they describe on the basis of a walk through the building site; and they have apparently not had first hand experience of any of the Scholars Initiative activities.

Richard Fellows’s measurements of the Vaticanus paragraphoi

Over on his blog, Richard Fellows has written up the results of his measurements of the paragraphoi in Vaticanus and plotted them against the measurements of Philip Payne from his recent NTS article. Fellows has linked to his blog in the comments of my last post about it but I thought they were worth highlighting here. In short, he has found that Payne’s “characteristic bars” are not actually characteristic.

This can be seen, for example, in the graph below which plots the the length and marginal extension of paragraphoi at the 28 places where Payne finds them next to digstimai. There is no clear correlation here. (It would be useful to see this same graph using Payne’s own measurements.)

Fellows’s measurements against Payne’s

Here is the end of Fellows’s post:
What we can conclude is that the peer review process has failed us yet again. The measurement errors and questionable statistical method should have been spotted by reviewers.

We can also conclude that online discussion can make much faster progress then peer reviewed journals. The blog posts and comments on the ETC blog have advanced the debate, in large part because Philip Payne and others have been so willing to share their ideas and data. He has also exchanged multiple emails with me. If only all scholars were as willing to engage in online and offline discussion!
Payne has suggested that the discrepancy may be because Fellows is using the online images whereas Payne has access to the excellent facsimile. Certainly, that could be a factor. But I do not think that is the main issue here.

The problem is that we are measuring in millimeters in the first place. What we have is a case of what Charles Seife calls “proofiness,” an improper use of measurements in statistics. The question is not whether we can measure these paragraphoi in millimeters and attach meaning to the differences we find, it’s whether we should in the first place. To my mind, it’s a bit like saying that eating Whataburger will make you 50% happier. It might be true, but measuring happiness in percentages is the wrong way to prove the point.

As Pete Head says, “I don’t think the length of the bars or their distance from anything is of any significance whatsoever. These are written by hand!” Are we to imagine the scribe of 03 using a ruler to make them? Of course not. So a ruler is probably not the right tool for the job.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MS Contents: NT Text and Material Document

Perusal of the LDAB over the past several days has yielded some interesting results in researching the contents of “NT MSS.” In the process, it has become clear that the Nestle-Aland edition and, even the Liste, describe MS contents in an unhelpful way, if one is looking at their listings for documentary evidence within the MSS. If one is looking at matters from a NT text perspective, then these resources helpfully supply the contents within MSS for the NT books.

For example, we are told in NA 27-28, that P6 (04C [= Liste] or 05C [= LDAB]) contains sections of John. The Liste confirms this and adds James 1:13-5:20. Now, if one reads all of the entry in the Liste, one will find the LDAB number with a link to its entry. What one finds on this page is different from the Liste’s page. Here, we are not even told the MS is P6. We are given archive and library numbers (Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 362 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 375 -379 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 381 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 382 + Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale P. k. 384) and are also told that the contents of the MS include 1 Clement 1-26 (Copt.), James 1-13 (Copt.; note the mistake in reference numbers that are corrected by the Liste to James 1.13-5.20), Gospel of John 10, 11-13 (Gr.-Copt.; the Liste has more to say about the exact contents). Both the Liste and the LDAB provide links to the other’s site, which is helpful.

By using both databases, we learn P6 contains sections of John (Gr.-Copt.), James (Copt.), and 1 Clement 1-26 (Copt.). NA lists only the Greek portions of the MS. NA does not list the evidence of James because it is probably in Coptic (I have not checked this). The Liste includes all evidence for the text of the NT. Most interestingly, LDAB includes 1 Clement (Copt.) as part of this “NT MS,” while neither the Liste nor NA provide that information.

I’m not sure there’s a perfect database out there designed to meet all of our needs. At this point, it will be helpful to realize there are several wonderful, free resources on the Web to aid us in our varied research endeavors.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Matthew 2:15 and the Hexapla

We all know Matthew’s citation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν μου.

The exact form of the citation is not how you find it in your Septuaginta as edited by Rahlfs, which reads ἐξ Αἰγύπτου μετεκάλεσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ. A reasonably straightforward conclusion might be that Matthew translated straight from the Hebrew, which reads וּמִמִּצְרַ֖יִם קָרָ֥אתִי לִבְנִֽי.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see how other translators rendered the Hebrew? Enter Origen’s Hexapla, a third-century work setting the Hebrew, a transliteration into Greek, and four different Greek versions in parallel columns next to one another. Besides some rewritten fragments, most of the Hexapla is still lost though we have quite a few marginal comments.

Rather surprisingly, we have a good version of Hosea 11:1 tucked away within a commentary section in a manuscript in the Vatican, (which is a rich source of Hexaplaric material anyway – Rahlfs 86). On folio 17v we find this:

The first line gives the title of this little sub-section ἐκ τῶν ἑξαπλῶν, ‘from the Hexapla’.
The next line gives us five sections, which are the five columns of the Hexapla written in Greek letters. First, we get the transliteration, then the reading of Aquila (marked by α), followed by Symmachus (ς), the Seventy (oἱ ο̃), and Theodotion (θ); for νιπιος read νηπιος, note the nomen sacrum ιηλ for ισραηλ (as in the transliteration ισραηλ).

In the next two lines Theodotion’s reading is apparently the same as first Aquila’s and then Symachus’s, though it is convenient that the otherwise too long a line now fits on a single one. We see the various translations diverging: ἀπό and ἐξ, the presence of the conjunction καί, and in the next line, after ἐκάλεσα, Theodotion adds αὐτόν. This becomes important when we take this together with the next line, as Theodotion reads ἐκάλεσα αὐτὸν ὑιόν μου, ‘I called him as my son’. In the son line (starting with the transliteration λαβανι), only the reading of Aquila contains a nomen sacrum for ὑιόν, but that seems to me a scribal phenomenon more than anything else.

As things stand, none of the versions follows Matthew exactly, though every element in Matthew is reflected somewhere. There is little remarkable going on here as this is a basic sentence in which you cannot do that much wrong. There is of course always the possibility that things have gone wrong in the transmission of the Hexapla, so that we may not have the exact texts of the Greek versions, or already in the texts that Origen had available wording may be corrupted. Did Theodotion really read αὐτόν or is this a corruption of the article τόν as in Aquila and Matthew? Anyway, once the commentator has given this fragment of the Hexapla, he continues saying that Matthew did the same.

It is fun, I think, to see that at times New Testament text and the sometimes arcane field of Hexaplaric studies come close to overlapping. And perhaps more of us could use this example in our ‘Old Testament in the New’ lectures.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform on the web

Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen has sent me an announcement:
The Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, along with various resources developed by Maurice A. Robinson, have a new home on the web at

The website contains freely downloadable resources and pointers to further information about the Byzantine Majority text.
Audio downloads of the entire Greek New Testament Byzantine text (1991 edition), spoken by Maurice A. Robinson.
A downloadable Reader's edition, as prepared by Jeffrey Dodson in consultation with Maurice A. Robinson.
Select bibliographies of articles and books on the Byzantine Text.
Downloadable editions of the Byzantine and other Greek New Testament texts.
... and more.
For developers, the website is accompanied by an official GitHub repository for Dr. Robinson's various resources,  The repository will be updated in close collaboration with Dr. Robinson as he makes updates available.  The repository includes Greek New Testament texts with morphological parsings and Strong's numbers, documentation, and a library written in the Python programming language for reading these texts.

The team behind the website and GitHub repository comprises Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen and Daniel J. Mount, in close collaboration with Maurice A. Robinson.

Friday, October 13, 2017

7th Lincoln College Summer School of Greek Palaeography

Georgi Parpulov has announced the 7th Lincoln College Summer School of Greek Palaeography.
The school is intended for students of Classics, Patristics, Theology, Biblical or Byzantine Studies. Potential applicants are advised that it only offers introductory-level instruction in Greek palaeography and codicology. Adequate knowledge of Greek is a must for all students.
It is well worth it if you can make it. I would echo what Pete Head says about it, “Highly Recommended (don’t let the fact that it is in Oxford put you off).” I did it several years ago and really enjoyed it. And now you can even pop by Wycliffe Hall during the breaks to make jokes about Oxford with Pete Head! ;)

More info is here. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2018.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What hath Codex to do with Canon? A Rejoinder to Michael Kruger

UPDATE: this conversation is inching along with Michael Kruger’s response to my post here. I probably won’t pursue the matter any further with him presently due to time constraints. I do think matters have been well presented on both sides, even if there are lingering questions we may have for one another. Overall, I have appreciated the conversation with Kruger and think it has highlighted different aspects of method for determining and describing the ancients’ biblical theory.

My post a few days ago has attracted some attention; most significantly, it has prompted Michael Kruger to respond, which you can read on his own blog here.

Before I reply to him, I do want to affirm what Kruger says in his last paragraph: we probably do agree on more than we disagree. However, I think I have read Kruger carefully, and I restrict my response to method and the Shepherd.

Isaiah: rough or smooth?

Ever wondered whether Isaiah should have a rough or smooth breathing? Wonder no more. Mss I consulted were univocal:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why give Abraham a rough breathing?

cross posted from the blog The Greek New Testament. Post by P.J. Williams.

The question of whether to give Abraham a rough or smooth breathing is difficult. Manuscripts differ. We could say that it begins with aleph and that aleph = smooth breathing. The problem with this is that it’s sheer prejudice. We don’t have data which show a regular alignment between aleph and smooth breathing. OK, you say, but rough breathing = aspiration, and we know from lots of languages, the original Hebrew, and the NT versions of Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, Latin, Syriac, etc., that it wasn’t represented by aspiration in those scripts. Fair point, but it still doesn’t settle the question of how it was (a) pronounced in Greek; (b) written by educated scribes.

Look at Liddell and Scott and you’ll see that, if you exclude alpha privatives, ἁβρ- (perhaps with the rough breathing representing Proto-Indoeuropean s) is a more common Greek word beginning than ἀβρ-, so why should Greek not use the rough breathing here and make Abraham sound a little more native?

Now look at some manuscripts for Matthew 1:1 and note the first 12 sources I come across.

B 35 689 690 774 1418 2278 2414 read rough

478 481 1424 read smooth

688 has one of each!

Look at Gal 3:29 and check some different sources as well as some of the same:

B 35 69 104 319 757 2298 read rough

D (06) 1424 read smooth

So it seems that the rough breathing is preponderant. How do we decide which to print? That’s tough, but we know that the accentor of B was really smart and I value him more than the accentor of D (Claromontanus). So with a bit of hesitation, we choose the rough breathing as representing the stronger learned tradition for Greek breathings. Now we’re not thereby saying that anyone ever pronounced this with aspiration. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Nor are we saying that this was pronounced with aspiration at the time of the NT. We’re just saying this: if you’re going to bother having breathings at all, they need to be there to give readers historical information which comes from manuscripts rather than from the heads of editors. Any reader who’s studied Hebrew knows that Abraham’s name in Hebrew begins with an aleph. They don’t need an NT editor to tell them that. What may be of more interest is for them to know that the strongest learned tradition of breathing in Greek is for Abraham to have a rough breathing.

What we’re printing here is not odd or a novelty. It was also what Erasmus printed and other early editions of the TR (which of course were closely based on the manuscripts available at the time). It’s also what you’ll sometimes find, for instance, in Niese’s edition of Josephus that Abraham is Ἅβραμος, given not only the nice Greek ending, but the nice Greek beginning of a rough breathing, in line with the mss.

So in making an edition where we try to model everything we can off the manuscripts we decided on balance to use a rough breathing for this name. It’s not necessarily a big deal, except that users may like to know that thought, care, and above all, documentary evidence has gone into decisions like these.

Monday, October 09, 2017

The New Testament Canon and Manuscripts

UPDATE: Michael Kruger responds to my post on his own blog here.

In this post, I briefly lay out some of Michael Kruger’s argument for the NT canon from the MSS to evaluate its worth for determining early canonicity of NT books. This is a pilot post, not finished research. I welcome your feedback in the comments.

In Canon Revisited, ch. 7, Kruger treats the “potentially fruitful” but often overlooked “study of the New Testament manuscripts themselves” (233) to discern what they might tell us about the formation of the NT canon. This chapter is divided into (1) The Quantity of Early Manuscripts, (2) Early Manuscript Collections with subsections treating the Gospels, Pauline Epistles, Catholic Epistles/Acts, Revelation, (3) The Early Christian Use of the Codex, and (4) Public and Private Manuscripts. Kruger notes that the first three areas focus on the broad features, while the last area treats internal features of early Christian MSS, noting the difficulty in attempting to separate public from private use (254).

Thursday, October 05, 2017

γεινομαι not γινομαι in Luke

Luke 6.36 in P75
One of the claims we’re making in the THGNT is that at the time of the New Testament there was a distinction (or at least a partially preserved distinction) between short and long [i], with the latter sometimes represented by ει. In due time we’ll publish more data backing up this claim. Here I’ll just start with the spelling of the word γίνομαι which in Luke we believe should be spelled γεινομαι, or blending later accent with earlier letters (we explain how accents and letters are separate ‘layers’ in our edition) γείνομαι. Here are some data on early spelling.
  • Luke 6:36 γειν P75(vid) 01 02 03 05 but γιγν 032 
  • Luke 9:7 γειν P75(vid) 01 03 05 032 but γιν 04 
  • Luke 11:26 γειν P75 02 03 05 032 but γιν 01 
  • Luke 12:40 γειν P75 02 03 05 032 but γιν 01 
  • Luke 12:54 γειν P45 P75 01 02 03 05 032 
  • Luke 12:55 γειν P45 P75 01 02 03 05 032 
  • Luke 13:17 γειν P45 P75 02 05 032 (03’s reading γεν- better explained from γειν- than γιν) 
  • Luke 15:10 γειν P75 01 02 03 032 
  • Luke 19:19 γειν 01 02 03 05 
  • Luke 20:33 γειν 02 03 032 
  • Luke 21:7 γειν 01 02 03 032 
  • Luke 21:28 γειν 01 02 03 04 05 032 
  • Luke 21:31 γειν 01 02 03 032 but γιν 04 
  • Luke 21:36 γειν 01 02 03 05 but γιν 04 032 
  • Luke 22:26 γειν 01 03 05 (γεν P75 02 032) 
  • Luke 22:42 γειν P75 01 02 03 but γιν 032 (γεν 05) 
  • Luke 23:8 γειν P75 01 02 03 05 032
  • The earliest witnesses P45 and P75 always support γειν
  • γιν is only supported by 01 04 032, of which we know that 01 has an overwhelming preference for iota in many instances where other mss have epsilon-iota. 04 is fifth century and sometimes supports epsilon iota and 032 may not be as early as the rest and still favours γειν more often than γιν.
  • Against the 3 relatively weak witnesses for γιν we have 7 for γειν.
  • In only 6 of the 17 occurrences in Luke is there earlyish support for γιν. In the rest there is none.
γεινομαι was the normal spelling in Luke. It’s not a misspelling, but a prestigious koine spelling used by careful scribes to bring out the long vowel which arose when the second gamma of the Classical form γιγνομαι was dropped. You can call it a ‘historic spelling’ if you like and claim it has nothing to do with pronunciation, but that just makes the scribes smarter that they were able to preserve into the fourth and fifth centuries spellings representing pronunciations which were no longer current.

And finally
There is one incredibly overused word in this context, which is the word itacism. We can only claim that such has occurred when we understand the standard and conventions which scribes were seeking to attain and are able to demonstrate that they missed it. Itacism certainly occurs often enough in some mss, e.g. 01, but many instances when this is claimed are nothing of the sort.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

More on Forged Dead Sea Scrolls, or ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife saga times 70’

The Times of Israel has a lengthy article out yesterday on forged Dead Sea Scrolls in the Museum of the Bible collection, the Schøyen collection, and elsewhere. Here are a few snippets, but the whole article is worth reading. One scholar working on it calls this the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife “times 70” in terms of its importance.
MOTB’s Nehemiah fragment
In his latest article, “Caves of Dispute,” published in the Brill Dead Sea Discoveries series this month, [Kip] Davis found that at least six of the Museum of the Bible’s 13 published fragments are forgeries. (“Published,” in this context, refers to artifacts that have been researched by experts, with their findings presented in academic journals. The Museum of the Bible collection includes three more fragments whose origin and content have not yet been published.)

In conversation with The Times of Israel, Davis said while he is convinced that six of the fragments are forgeries, “that number could be higher. There are people out there that think that all 13 of the fragments are fake. I’m not quite there, but I have colleagues who are fairly sure they are forgeries.”

Far from ignoring the forgery assertions, the Museum of the Bible is sponsoring Davis’s research and that of other scholars.

Årstein Justnes, a professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Agder, Norway, has built the blogsite The Lying Pen of Scribes to document for free public use the mounting evidence of forgeries in the post-2002 Dead Sea Scroll-like fragments.


“The sellers of these fragments have preyed on the well-meaning faith of Evangelical Christians who are compelled by the idea of owning a piece of ‘the Bible that Jesus read,’” said Davis.

“This is more than a simple form of manipulation,” said Davis. Given how seriously Evangelicals “are committed to their notion of sanctity of scripture,” he warned, “there is a danger of inflicting collective psychological harm.”
A couple reflections. It is good to see the Museum and the Schøyen collection investing in the effort to vet their own collections here even if that means they turn out to not be what they thought. It is not so good, however, to see Evangelical schools being duped into buying these. I remember being at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when they unveiled some of their fragments and it was all quite exciting. It’s obviously not so exciting if they turn out to be forged.

For more from the blog on all this, see our past posts on the MOTB DSS publication, DSS forgeries in Bible software, curious DSS recently bought in the US; and various current projects on forgery.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The most learned TC blog post ever?

For those who like detailed philology, I’d like to highlight the post by the extremely learned Patrick James over at the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House blog. The brief summary: print φιλονικία in Luke 22:24 (against all editions) but φιλόνεικος in 1 Corinthians 11:16. The blog post is definitely worthy of a journal, but a journal wouldn’t give such good access to the images.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Tyndale House Greek NT: Mark available

With about 6 weeks to go before the publication of the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, we now have the gospel of Mark available for download from Crossway (scroll to bottom for download, or go directly here.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Trovato on why we need to face the ‘awkward problem’ of conjectural emendation

The following post is from Paolo Trovato who has been a welcome contributor to the comments the last few months. It can be good to have an outside perspective sometimes and that is what Paolo gives us. For those who need an introduction to his work, see my interview here and here.

Dear all,

Even though I don’t belong to your community, I am really interested in your posts and comments. One of the aspects that strikes me is the following position, which seems to be a very popular position in Greek NT studies: We have so many MSS that at least one of them must preserve the original reading of any passage of NT.

I only quote two different but clear examples of similar statements
PG: “it is assumed that manuscripts to which we don’t have access contained original readings. But if we don’t have access to them, how do we know they had original readings? From the argument as stated, we don’t. We need other evidence.”

MAR: “there is a reason to postulate a greater likelihood of the original reading being present in our existing MSS, and that indeed is the quantity of extant data that has been preserved — particularly in contrast to the extremely limited number of works of Latin antiquity (or even Greek classical antiquity) that virtually force conjecture by their paucity.

To put it statistically: even assuming, say, that 60% of all Greek NT MSS that ever existed have been lost, the odds remain extremely favorable that the remaining MSS would preserve in relative proportion the same readings that might have appeared in those now-lost documents; if so, then there is no good reason to postulate much if any supposed “loss” of original readings as matters now stand.”
(Both quotations are drawn from a very interesting post of last January.)

I have probably already bored some of you with my partial attempts of applying to the textual criticism of Greek NT some standard approaches of genealogical textual scholars of Classical and Romance literature. For those who are still interested in a comparison with different textual schools and methodologies I will try, very briefly, to explain why, in my opinion, these positions don’t seem very likely.
  1. The message of the Gospels was so new, moving and fascinating that it created very soon a strong interest (i.e. a strong demand of copies), but also persecution, theological opposition among the faithful, different degrees of standardization etc.
  2. There is a gap of centuries between the lost original(s) and the lost first copies of the Gospels and the few oldest extant witnesses
  3. Every act of copying produces fresh innovations., mostly but not always insignificant. No witness is a Xerox copy of its exemplar. In the domain of classic and Romance transmissions, four or five major, significant innovations every 10 pages seem a realistic rate for the progressive entropy of the textual transmission of any not too short text. So, a copy of 4th rank should feature 4 or 5 × 4 (= 20 or 25) significant innovations every 10 pages.
  4. In the first decades of printed books (1470–1530), every time we happen to know the runs of a book and we look for its extant copies, we find a loss rate of about 85% or 90%. I suspect that, the value T(ime) being higher for Greek NT MSS, their loss rate must be higher than that of the printed books of the Renaissance.
  5. Let’s suppose that after the original(s) of NT, there existed 3 copies of 1st rank, 9 copies of 2nd rank, 27 copies of 3rd rank, 81 copies of 4th, 243 copies of 5th rank, 729 copies of 6th rank, that is, a complete tree of 1,092 copies. (I will stop here for the sake of simplicity, even if I imagine that the complete tree, that is, ALL the MSS of Greek NT that ever existed were probably no less than 20,000). If we assume an optimistic random loss rate of 90%, the extant MSS should be 98 out of 1,092. 
Even without introducing other factors (the obsolescence of materials, the old fashion layout etc.), mere math suggests that most of the extant MSS must belong to ranks 5 and 6 (972 out of 1,092 MSS). It is probable that only one or no MS of ranks 1 and 2 (12 MSS) could survive to a rate loss of 90%. But even if a couple from these ranks was preserved nowadays, they should present 4 to 10 major innovations every 10 pages. No need to say that most of the surviving MSS must belong to rank 6 and that, as a rule, they should be marred by a good number of innovations.

Therefore, I would say that, at least in a few passages, not even my colleagues devoted to textual criticism of the Greek NT, can feel completely freed from the awkward problem of conjectural emendation.

(By the way, Dante’s Commedia, which I have been studying for 15 years, is transmitted by 600 extant MSS plus 200 fragments. Notwithstanding the fact that the oldest extant witnesses are only 15 years later than the completion of the work, a few passages do exist in which emendation is really necessary).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Payne Again on Punctuation

Last week co-blogger Peter Gurry turned our attention to Philip B. Payne’s recent article in New Testament Studies: “Vaticanus Distigme-obelos Symbols Mark Added Text Including 1 Corinthians 14.34–5,” NTS 63 (2017): 604-25.

I thought I should comment on another interesting feature in Codex Vaticanus (that Larry Hurtado also highlights). Payne observes that in Vaticanus there is a high presence of high stops marking the end of sentences in the Epistles, whereas this feature is virtually absent in the Gospels (Payne, “Vaticanus,” 621-622).

I do not think this evidence permits us to say, as Payne does, that the gospel text in Vaticanus must therefore be older than 𝔓75 which has punctuation. Payne points out that 𝔓75 uses high stops extensively in contrast to Vaticanus and the papyri traditionally assigned to the second century (𝔓52, 𝔓90, 𝔓98, 𝔓104) and takes this as a sign that the text in Vaticanus is older than in 𝔓75 (“Vaticanus,” 622). In my opinion, the presence of punctuation cannot be used in this way to construct a relative chronology between the early witnesses of the Greek New Testament.

Punctuation is present in Greek MSS from the fourth century BCE and, as Alan Mugridge observes, “[t]here is some punctuation in a large number of the Christian papyri from the early centuries . . .” Alan Mugridge, Copying Early Christian Texts (WUNT 362; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck), 81.

In this connection, I should also point out that punctuation (cola in high position and dicola) is present in 𝔓4, 𝔓64+67.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Payne on supposed ‘distigme-obelos’ symbols in Vaticanus

Supposed distigmai-obeli in 03
In the latest NTS, Philip Payne has published an expanded form of his 2015 ETS paper on Vaticanus and its supposed use of “distigme-obelos” symbols to mark additions in the text. Payne has also summarized his “groundbreaking discoveries” for Scot McKight’s blog here. The full article is generously open access and can be read here.

I heard Payne give this argument in 2015 and wrote about my reaction to it back then. Here I thought I would add just a little to that.

The crux of the argument is that certain NT paragraphoi are longer than others and occur alongside distigmai (double dots). These “distigme-obelos” marks are then said to mark textual additions which Payne identifies, as before, using the NA apparatus. Payne does concede this time around that seven of his eight “distigme-obelos” symbols might also mark paragraph breaks, but he is quite confident that they are more than that. The upshot in all this for Payne is that 1 Cor 14.34–35 is not Pauline and the apparent inconsistency with 1 Cor 11 is thereby removed.

As before, I find the manuscript argument nearly impossible to believe.

All of Payne’s supposed obeli happen at natural breaks in the text, none of them are actual obeli like we find in the OT portion of Vaticanus (or in other MSS), and all look just like the other paragraphoi to the naked eye. The fact that Payne has to measure them in millimeters to show their distinctiveness only proves the point, in my mind. How could any ancient reader be expected to identify them without measurement?

Add to this the fact that seven of his eight “obeli-distigmai” texts do not actually include the supposed “added text” and the problems are just too much. The ancient reader would have no idea what text these marks were actually marking. The whole point of using an obelos, of course, was that you leave the questionable text in but mark it so that the reader knows what it is. In Payne’s system, the reader is left with no way to know what the symbols mark in 87% (seven of eight) of their cases. Payne’s system, as he envisions it, would never work in practice.

With scholars like Niccum and Miller, then, we should conclude that there is no semantic connection between these distigmai and paragraphoi.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

“Daniel” in Select Codices

I have written elsewhere on the (in)significance of the codex for determining the boundaries of an ancient’s canon of Scripture. Probably, historical anachronism has occurred, and we have foisted the significance of our modern, printed Bible on to the ancient codex. So what is the value of the MSS for such studies? They do help in determining a wide range of contents of religious literature as well as provide context for the various orders of books, neither of these aiding in determining a canon.

Though the MSS probably did not help the ancients concretize the canon, they do visualize for us what an ancient scribe or church father meant or conceptualized by the title of a certain book. This may not be a big deal for New Testament studies, but for the Greek Old Testament, we need to take this point to heart. The contents of books such as Jeremiah, 1-2 Esdras, Esther, and Daniel are not very straightforward. Let’s use “Daniel” as a test case by touring some select MS images of the book to see whether our vision of the contents improves. As is well-known, the book of Daniel in Greek was transmitted in quite a different form from the Protestant Bible, taking the form of Susanna-Daniel-Bel and the Dragon in most of the early MSS. We will consider briefly Daniel in Codex Vaticanus (IV), Codex Marchalianus (VI), and Codex Syro-hexaplaris (VIII/IX).

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Problem of P38 and the ‘Western’ Text in Acts

In his published dissertation, Eldon Epp was interested in theological tendencies in Acts. In particular, he was interested in theological tendencies in the “Western” text. (From here on, I’ll forgo the quotation marks because they get tedious.) His method, however, was to study one particular witness of the Western text, namely, Codex Bezae.

The problem for Epp is that Codex Bezae could not be treated as a simple proxy for the earlier Western text. The reason is that Bezae sometimes reflected various accretions to the Western text. In order to address the problem, he compared Bezae “with those witnesses which, along with D, are recognized as the best ‘Western’ evidence” (p. 28). In this way, Epp could confirm where Bezae was or wasn’t likely preserving the earlier Western text-type.

Setting aside for a moment the risk of circularity here, I want to point out a serious problem with one of Epp’s key control manuscripts, namely, P38.

In discussing the proper use of D as a witness to the Western text, Epp cites P38 as a key reference point for determining whether a reading in D is, in fact, Western. He writes:
If P38, because of its earlier date, is ipso facto assumed more accurately to preserve the early “Western” text, then a comparison of D with this papyrus shows, as H. A. Sanders concluded, that “D is a very imperfect source for the ‘Western’, or second-century, text’. Granting this, however, it must also be emphasized that D and P38 show such a degree of agreement over against the B-text that the papyrus can be used, at the same time, to show that ‘the D text existed in Egypt shortly after A.D. 300’; A. C. Clark could call P38 ‘a text almost identical with that of D’. Codex Bezae, then, at many points is an imperfect witness to the ‘Western’ text, and yet on this account it does not lose its leading place among those witnesses.
Later, Epp cites D, P38, and the Harklean Syriac margin as “the outstanding ‘Western’ sources for Acts” and they form, with the (then) recently discovered Coptic G67 as an “élite group” (p. 31). Epp cites Clark approvingly that P38 has a text “almost identical with D” and Epp says this agreement is especially prominent “over against the B-text.”

The problem is that this isn’t the case when one compares these manuscripts in more detail. Here are the results from the recently-released ECM for Acts:

P38 03/B 05/D
P38 69.4% (43/62) 59.0% (36/61)
03/B 69.4% (43/62) 68.4% (3,514/5,140)
05/D 59.0% (36/61) 68.4% (3,514/5,140)

P38 is, of course, fragmentary, containing only Acts 18.27–19.6, 19.12–16. This means that there is far less text to compare with B and D. But the problem for Epp’s Western text should be obvious. Far from P38 showing strong agreement with D “over against the B-text,” P38 actually agrees more with B than with D! And yet, Epp says that P38 is a member of the “élite group” of Western witnesses.

Now, perhaps Epp would argue that these texts shouldn’t be compared in all these places in our effort to identify the Western text. But until we can agree what variant points should be used and why, we cannot agree on whether or not P38 should assigned to the same text-type as D. If it should not be, then it obviously cannot be used to confirm that D’s readings are early Western readings and Epp’s thesis will need some revision.

Perhaps the issue of definition will move toward some resolution at this year’s SBL meeting in the ECM sessions. We shall see. But those in attendance will certainly want to read the ECM’s article (which I haven’t seen yet) on the Western text along with Epp’s recent, data-filled argument in NovT for its existence there.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where are they now? New Testament text-critics’ libraries

Eb. Nestle’s library (photo credit)
Occasionally, one buys a book on Amazon or at a used book store and discovers with delight that it was owned by a famous scholar from times past. When I was at Tyndale I managed to get a copy formerly owned by F. F. Bruce, many of which float around the stacks there.

Much better than a one-off copy, however, is to discover a past scholar’s entire library. Aside from the insight this can give of a scholar’s interests and abilities (for example), there are often many hidden gems to be found either in correspondences, in the margins of the books, or simply in the books themselves if they are rare.

To further this benefit, I thought it might be worth trying to compile a list of New Testament textual critics’ libraries. Here is what I have come up with so far, with the help of a few of my fellow bloggers. I would like to add to this, so if you know of any corrections or additions, please let me know.
  • Richard Bentley – Trinity College CB (per P. M. Head)
  • J. J. Wettstein – scattered across Europe (see Jan Krans here)
  • S. P. Tregelles ­– papers and correspondence at various British libraries (see here)
  • C. von Tischendorf University of Glasgow
  • B. F. Westcott – Some at Westcott House (Cambridge), some with Bible Society in the CUL. A PDF catalogue from the British National Archives is here
  • F. J. A. Hort – Sold at auction. See here. PMH mentions Hort’s books here.
  • Hermann Hoskier – some books at Duke Divinity School Library
  • Caspar René Gregory – papers at Harvard Divinity School (see here)
  • Eberhard Nestle – Sold to Cambridge after 1913, now with the Van Kampen collection at the Scriptorium; papers, letters, and other memorobilia of Eberhard and Erwin are at FTH Giessen (see here)
  • Kirsopp and Silva Lake – ?
  • J. Rendel Harris – Woodbrooke Study Center in Birmingham, UK (see PDF here) and some at University of Birmingham library
  • E. C. Colwell – Library sold by his son (per Maurice Robinson)
  • Kenneth W. Clark – Duke Divinity School Library, mixed among the main collection
  • Alands – INTF?
  • Neville Birdsall – University of Birmingham (info)
  • Bruce M. Metzger – Sold on the internet if my memory is right
  • Gordon Fee – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (info)
  • Jacob Geerlings – CSNTM (see here)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Press of the Text: Festschrift for James W. Voelz

Back in May a Festschrift was published in honor of James Voelz who has worked across many topics in his career including Mark’s Gospel, Greek grammar, and occasionally matters of text-critical interest. Sometimes the three came together as in his NovT essay “The Greek of Codex Vaticanus in the Second Gospel and Marcan Greek,” which I remember reading with interest in seminary.

I haven’t seen the book in person, but thought I would let our readers know about it. You can see the table of contents below with articles on TC by Elliott and Kloha that will be of interest.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

‘Held in Honor’: The Roman Catholic View of Textual Criticism

While doing some reading tonight on Roman Catholic theology, I rediscovered my copy of Pope Pius XII’s 1943 encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu on the promotion of Biblical studies. There is much of interest in this document, especially in its robust defense of Scripture’s inerrancy and its explanations on the role of the Latin Vulgate in Catholic theology. 

What most caught my attention, however, was the material on textual criticism. Near the very the beginning, the document turns to Augustine to set the stage. In clarifying the nature of inerrancy, the encyclical quotes Augustine as follows:
Nor is the sacred writer to be taxed with error, if “copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible,” or, “if the real meaning of a passage remains ambiguous.”
This qualification about scribal errors is, of course, stock-in-trade for Evangelicals and Augustine is often who we turn to for early support for it. Then later, the document becomes more explicit on the importance of textual criticism for the proper study of the Bible when it says this:
17. The great importance which should be attached to this kind of criticism was aptly pointed out by Augustine, when, among the precepts to be recommended to the student of the Sacred Books, he put in the first place the care to possess a corrected text. “The correction of the codices” – so says this most distinguished Doctor of the Church – “should first of all engage the attention of those who wish to know the Divine Scripture so that the uncorrected may give place to the corrected.” In the present day indeed this art, which is called textual criticism and which is used with great and praiseworthy results in the editions of profane writings, is also quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books, because of that very reverence which is due to the Divine Oracles. For its very purpose is to insure that the sacred text be restored, as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruptions due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, from the interchange and repetition of words and from all other kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries.

18. It is scarcely necessary to observe that this criticism, which some fifty years ago not a few made use of quite arbitrarily and often in such wise that one would say they did so to introduce into the sacred text their own preconceived ideas, today has rules so firmly established and secure, that it has become a most valuable aid to the purer and more accurate editing of the sacred text and that any abuse can easily be discovered. Nor is it necessary here to call to mind – since it is doubtless familiar and evident to all students of Sacred Scripture – to what extent namely the Church has held in honor these studies in textual criticism from the earliest centuries down even to the present day.

19. Today therefore, since this branch of science has attained to such high perfection, it is the honorable, though not always easy, task of students of the Bible to procure by every means that as soon as possible may be duly published by Catholics editions of the Sacred Books and of ancient versions, brought out in accordance with these standards, which, that is to say, unite the greatest reverence for the sacred text with an exact observance of all the rules of criticism. And let all know that this prolonged labor is not only necessary for the right understanding of the divinely-given writings, but also is urgently demanded by that piety by which it behooves us to be grateful to the God of all providence, Who from the throne of His majesty has sent these books as so many paternal letters to His own children.
I haven’t read any further than this encyclical to know whether this view has changed since the momentous Vatican II council. But I thought it interesting, not least because of how it overlaps with Evangelical views of the importance of textual criticism.

Monday, September 04, 2017

What are text-types?

Do text-types exists or not? Tregelles and others thought not, CBGM folk don’t like the term either, but most scholars in the 20th century were perfectly fine with it.

Martini (1977) surprised me with the following analysis of what text-types are:

“(a) A distinctive text-type is primarily not a group of manuscripts, but a set of readings.

(b) This set is limited; it does not cover all the readings of the NT. This view is entirely different from the silent presupposition which seems to be common today in textual treatments of the New Testament.”

And what surprised me more is that Martini is analysing Westcott-Hort at this point.

Martini, Carlo M. “Is There a Late Alexandrian Text of the Gospels?”. New Testament Studies 24 (1977-78): 289.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Lists of Greek New Testament Manuscripts on Wikipedia

One of our readers, Darrell Post, has made a magnificent update of the Wikipedia articles for the Greek New Testament manuscripts divided into papyri, uncials and minuscules (three parts). These pages promise to be great resources.



Here Darrell has indicated the manuscripts also photographed in UV light.

Minuscules (three articles)

Updates to the minuscule page include an additional pass through the column for digital images, adding light grey shading for microfilm images, tan color for high-resolution color images hosted locally but not available online, and then gold color for links to new high resolution color images available online.

The highest GA number is now 2936.

Some numbers have been stricken from the K-Liste. By Darrell’s count there are 2,847 distinct manuscripts numbered. Of those 2,847, nineteen have been classified as destroyed, and 53 are described as either lost or with an unknown owner. 

The new total is 2,775 minuscule script manuscripts that could be available for modern color imaging.

By Darrell’s count 553 of the 2,775 (or 20%) have now been color digitized (roughly 20%). A large number exist on microfilm, and these are available online now at the INTF or other hosting locations like the National Library of France or the Vatican Library.

In the course of his work, Darrell further reports that he has found two manuscripts shown as “owner unknown” on the K-Liste. The first is GA 2324, known as the Hoffman Gospels. Darrell found it among the Yale University collection here.

The other is 2771, which is Lambeth Palace Library MS2795 here.

Darrell has notified the INTF. 

Thank you Darrell for your hard work on this!

Jechoniah’s Uncle and the Text of 2 Chron 36.10

At the risk of flaunting my ignorance, I thought it might be worth discussing an interesting textual problem from the OT that I came across tonight. I actually stumbled on this while working on Matthew’s genealogy where Jechoniah is mentioned at the end of the second set of names and again at the beginning of the third (Matt 1.11–12).

Jechoniah in the Sistene Chapel
The issue in 2 Chron 36.10 involves Jechoniah’s precise relationship to his successor. The text reads as follows in the ESV:
9 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 10 In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought him to Babylon, with the precious vessels of the house of the LORD, and made his brother Zedekiah (צִדְקִיָּהוּ אָחִיו) king over Judah and Jerusalem.  
The problem here is the relationship of Zedekiah to Jehoiachin. (Jehoiachin is another name for Jechoniah according to Jer 24.1.) As the NET Bible explains:
According to the parallel text in 2 Kgs 24:17, Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle, not his brother. Therefore many interpreters understand אח here in its less specific sense of “relative” (NEB “made his father’s brother Zedekiah king”; NASB “made his kinsman Zedekiah king”; NIV “made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, king”; NRSV “made his brother Zedekiah king”).
Jechoniah did have a brother named Zedekiah according to 1 Chron 3.16, but he did not become king so far as we know. Thus the problem which some translations solve through the alternate meaning of אח as “relative” or the like (cf. BDB s.v., def. 2).

Translation, however, is not the only possible solution here. If we compare the ancient versions, the big three read “father’s brother” (Σεδεκιαν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ) or “uncle” (ܨܕܩܝܐ ܕܕܗ, Sedeciam patruum ejus) for describing Zedekiah, which in Hebrew would be אחי אביו. From there it is easy enough to see how we could arrive at the MT’s אָחִיו through the omission of אבי by parablepsis involving either the yods or the alephs and aided, perhaps, by the similarity of het and bet.

I wonder what people think about this possibility. To me, the reading of the versions seems like a good contender for the original text on transcriptional grounds. At the very least it deserves a footnote in our English translations, doesn’t it?

Of course, none of this explains why Matthew mentions Jechoniah’s brothers rather than his uncles as 2 Kings 24 would lead us to expect or why he omits Jechoniah’s father Jehoiakim (though note the vl in Matt 1.11). But that’s another topic for another day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

More Manuscripts from the Library of Congress (Montoro)

Earlier today, Peter Montoro alerted me to a new cache of manuscripts just published by the Library of Congress. Since Peter is more familiar with the contents than me, I asked if he would introduce them for us.

In 1949–1950, Kenneth Clark led an expedition to Mt. Sinai and Jerusalem that microfilmed over 2500 manuscripts on behalf of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, the Library of Congress, and the American Schools of Oriental Research. A full account of the expedition can be found here.

Earlier this year, Peter Head alerted us to the fact that the Library of Congress had made the entirety of its Sinai Microfilm collection freely available online. A descriptive checklist for this collection is available here, and the full collection can be accessed here.

The Jerusalem collection of the same expedition, containing slightly over 1000 additional manuscripts, has now also been made available and can be accessed here. This collection contains manuscripts in Greek (669), Georgian (125), Arabic (96), Armenian (32), and Syriac (27), as well as smaller numbers in other languages. The checklist for this collection can be accessed here. The numbers in the checklist appear to be drawn from the earlier and quite thorough catalogue by Athanasios Papadopulos-Kerameus (in Greek).

I’ve added links to the volumes I’ve been able to locate at the bottom of the post. This catalogue can be quite useful as the descriptions in the checklist are brief to the point of cryptic and, in at least one case, simply incorrect. (E.g. Hagios Sabas 20 contains Chrysostom’s Homilies on Romans, not Matthew—I’ve been in contact with the LOC and this should be corrected soon in the online description.)

Interesting drawings in Panagios Taphos 87
Though the collection is diverse in date and contents, it does contain a good number of New Testament manuscripts, as well as a very large collection of patristic writings. Included among these are some of the oldest extant copies of the Homilies of Chrysostom, dating back to the 9th century.

I’ve also been informed that the 1952–53 expedition to Athos, containing over 200 additional manuscripts is scheduled to be made available sometime this fall. As a sneak preview, the checklist for this collection is available here.

Together these three collections form an enormous body of freely available manuscripts and should prove very useful to many lines of research.

Note on Downloading Manuscript Images

The LOC interface allows you to freely download these images at full resolution in either the JPEG2000(Jp2) or Tiff formats. While it is possible to click from image to image, downloading each one, I’ve found that it saves considerable loading time to get the link to one of the Jp2 files and simply change the numbers in the browser bar to get the needed folios.

Links to the ΙΕΡΟΣΟΛΥΜΙΤΚΙ ΒΙΒΛΙΟΘΗΚΗ, by Athanasios Papadopulos-Kerameus
I have not yet been able to locate a PDF of the fifth and final volume of this series.

Monday, August 28, 2017

ECM and CBGM for Acts Now Available

Back in May, Pete Head noted that the ECM Acts would be out soon and I am happy to report that it has now been released. This marks another major milestone for the team in Münster. Along with the ECM, of course, there is the CBGM and I am happy to say that the new Genealogical Queries for Acts are now online. For Acts, we have data from all four phases of the team’s work. This gives unprecedented access to the development of the data over the last 4+ years. As the guide says, the data for phase four is still being checked and may be corrected still. So be aware of that.

Perhaps most importantly, the fourth phase now comes with a completely refreshed interface, one which I have found to be a significant improvement over the previous one which is now almost a decade old. Besides the responsiveness, one thing I really like about the new interface is that you can use the CBGM queries without having the print ECM in hand. Just pick a chapter and verse and then you will get a list of the variants in that verse. Once you pick one, you now get a full apparatus right on the same page. This is extremely useful and roughly gives us a digital version of the ECM at least for the Greek evidence.

Well done to Marcello Perathoner who did the programming for the new interface. And a big congratulations to the whole team in Münster. I hope you all get a nice rest before starting the next phase of the project!

The new interface for the Acts CBGM

Friday, August 25, 2017

Biography of James Rendel Harris

Alessandro Falcetta was my fellow PhD student under David Parker in Bham. His dissertation topic was a biography of James Rendel Harris and it has just come out with Bloomsbury Publishing. This promises to add important information to the history of textual criticism and manuscript studies as well as other fields.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels published

Exciting news out of Birmingham (UK) today. De Gruyter has just published the long-lost fourth century commentary on the Gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia. Hugh Houghton explains:
The earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels, lost for more than 1,500 years, has been rediscovered and made available in English for the first time. The extraordinary find, a work written by a bishop in northern Italy, Fortunatianus of Aquileia, dates back to the middle of the fourth century.

The biblical text of the manuscript is of particular significance, as it predates the standard Latin version known as the Vulgate and provides new evidence about the earliest form of the Gospels in Latin.

Despite references to this commentary in other ancient works, no copy was known to survive until Dr Lukas Dorfbauer, a researcher from the University of Salzburg, identified Fortunatianus’ text in an anonymous manuscript copied around the year 800 and held in Cologne Cathedral Library. The manuscripts of Cologne Cathedral Library were made available online in 2002.

Scholars had previously been interested in this ninth-century manuscript as the sole witness to a short letter which claimed to be from the Jewish high priest Annas to the Roman philosopher Seneca. They had dismissed the 100-page anonymous Gospel commentary as one of numerous similar works composed in the court of Charlemagne. But when he visited the library in 2012, Dorfbauer, a specialist in such writings, could see that the commentary was much older than the manuscript itself.

In fact, it was none other than the earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels.
Dr. Houghton has published the (free) English translation of the Latin text edited by Lukas J. Dorfbauer. I do wish these had been published as a diglot rather than separate volumes. But well done to all involved! These kind of discoveries are what make textual criticism and the study of manuscripts so exciting. There is always the chance of new finds.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RIP Tjitze Baarda (1932–2017)

The sad news has reached me that Tjitze Baarda, a giant of our discipline, has passed away on 22 August at the age of 85. I cite below Jan Krans’s announcement on the New Testament Textual Criticism Facebook page:
It is my sad duty to inform you all of the passing away, last Saturday 19 August, of one of the most learned and loved New Testament textual critics of our age, Tjitze Baarda, at the age of 85. [Edit: He was found on 22 August in his home.]

Fuller obituaries will be given later, as impossible as it is to do full justice to him as a wonderful person and a remarkable scholar. His command of languages somehow useful to biblical textual criticism, from Arabic to Armenian, from Ethiopic to Old Dutch, was legendary, and rightly so. His very many articles must have driven peer reviewers to despair. They cover a wide array of subjects, though it can be fairly said that the Diatessaron and the Gospel of Thomas occupy a place of pride among them.

The list of his PhD students is long, and all of them remember his self-effacing support, his high standards of scholarly rigour, and his friendliness, fully in line with Phil 4:5. He counted Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger, and the Alands among his friends, to name but a few.< In 1998 he became emeritus professor of New Testament Studies at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and he was president of SNTS in 2001.

In Amsterdam, at Vrije Universiteit, we had the privilege to count him as a regular participant of our New Testament Colloquium. Especially after the passing away of his wife, Hilda, in January 2013, he found renewed spirit in his scholarly endeavours, and became a source of scholarly anecdotes as well as an inspiration for the newer generations among us. He did not fade away, but was still fully engaged, in publishing, in exchanges, and in sharing his insights with students, not only in Amsterdam, but throughout the world.

We will miss him sorely, remember him dearly, and aspire to emulate the scholarly and human example he set.
The last time I had the privilege to meet Tjitze Baarda was at the SNTS in Amsterdam a few years ago where we had great conversations in the seminar and over coffee. He was one of those rare scholars who combine the highest level of scholarship with humility, generosity and a great sense of humour. He will be missed by many.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dan Wallace Responds on the ‘Embarrassment of Riches’

Last week, I wrote about the charge made against some reasoned eclectics that they are guilty of praising the large number of NT manuscripts in their apologetic but then not actually using them in their text-critical work. For the details, see here.

I had hoped the post would spark some discussion and it certainly did! It’s now at almost 100 comments. Clearly, it touched a nerve. One of the people I mentioned in my original post was Dan Wallace and I am happy that he responded on the original post. I thought his response deserved its own separate post and so I present it here, only lightly edited by Dan.

This has been an interesting discussion (which I just learned about from a friend) on the quantitative argument that I have used in public debates and lectures. I’ve read through the comments as of yesterday (and noticed, but did not read, a mass of comments posted just in the last 24 hours) and noted the objections to this argument. I think the thread can be grouped as follows:
  1. Peter Gurry calls me an apologist. 
  2. Gurry mentions that both Ehrman and Robinson have argued against the quantitative argument for various reasons.
  3. The quantitative argument in isolation is weak and misleading. It’s not 5000+ MSS in any given place, and only 424 (Greek) MSS are from the eighth century or earlier. 
  4. I am apparently speaking hypocritically when I invoke the numbers because most of these are Byzantine MSS and I presumably think the Byzantine text isn’t worth much. A good analogy would be that I consider the Byzantine witnesses to be counterfeit in thousands of places.
I’m sure I’ve overlooked some of the arguments. But these are the major ones from what I can tell. My response:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Masterclass in Barcelona on the GNT

4-6 December 2018, Dirk Jongkind will be holding a masterclass aimed at evangelical leaders and NT teachers with a good knowledge of Greek to introduce them to the Tyndale House GNT as well as deepen their knowledge of the GNT. It will be in the beautiful context of Barcelona. Pre-reading required. At the time of writing there are only 18 more spaces left.

The Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians
Tyndale House, Cambridge
European Leadership Forum Theologians Network
The Reformanda Initiative

Topics to be covered include
1. Why do we need an 'edition' of the Greek New Testament?
2. Current issues and developments in textual criticism
3. Meaning and the limit of translations ('not just translatable differences are important')
4. The blessing of the detail: sentences and paragraphs
5. Word order matters
6. Teaching and preaching from the Greek text
7. The reliability of Scripture and textual variants

Further detail
QUALIFICATIONS: All participants will be actively involved in using the Greek New Testament in teaching or studies and have a good grasp, after at least two years of study, of Koine Greek.

COMMITMENTS: In addition to submitting an application, in order to be accepted as a participant, you will need to commit to:
1. Attend the three-day seminar in Barcelona, starting at 12:00 on December the 4th, 2017
and finishing at 12:00 on December the 6th, 2017
2. Complete all reading assignments by their assigned due dates
3. Pay the necessary fees: 150 Euros / 100 Euros for scholarship recipients

Apply here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the ‘idle boast’ of having so many New Testament manuscripts

My post on the topic of the comparative argument for trusting our modern texts of the New Testament produced some good discussion. But one issue that got passed over in the ensuing comments deserves more attention and that is what I want to give it here.

A slide from Wallace’s presentation at Biola
The issue is whether apologists like James White or Dan Wallace, for example, are being inconsistent for practicing reasoned eclecticism and for appealing to the vast number of Greek NT manuscripts. Wallace, for example, likes to refer to our “embarrassment of riches” for recovering the original text of the New Testament. But his practice of reasoned eclecticism seems to suggest that he is “embarrassed” in quite a different way by these riches because he doesn’t actually use them (see, e.g., the NET Bible). Apologetically he wants to have his embarrassingly-rich cake, but text-critically he has already eaten it. That is the charge anyway and it is one I have heard Bart Ehrman use in debate against Wallace.

But Ehrman is not the only one to use it. He finds himself a strange bedfellow with Maurice Robinson on this who puts the problem this way:
The resources of the pre-fourth century era unfortunately remain meager, restricted to a limited body of witnesses. Even if the text-critical evidence is extended through the eighth century, there would be only 424 documents, mostly fragmentary. In contrast to this meager total,the oft-repeated apologetic appeal to the value and restorative significance of the 5000+ remaining Greek NT MSS becomes an idle boast in the writings of modern eclectics when those numerous MSS are not utilized to restore the original text.*
Robinson again:
Granting that a working presumption of most eclectic scholars (including Ehrman) is that the vast bulk of NT MSS basically should be excluded as irrelevant for the primary establishment of the text, Ehrman’s statement [against the comparative argument] makes perfect sense. Rather than claiming some sort of text-critical superiority to the classics based on the sheer quantity of extant MSS, modern eclectics perhaps should acknowledge that their actual preferred witnesses for establishing the best approximation to the “original” NT text number only in the few dozens, as opposed to the several thousands otherwise set aside from serious consideration.
I’d like to open this up to discussion again. Can reasoned eclectics make any apologetic appeal to the abundance of our NT witnesses without being inconsistent? If so, how?

* “Appendix: The Case for Byzantine Priority” in The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, p. 568.