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 It is also badly out of date.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.)