Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Paragraphing and Formatting in Nestle-Aland

The arrival of the THGNT has provoked us to think afresh about matters we normally take for granted like orthography, paragraphing, and even punctuation. With that provocation in mind, I was interested to see this description in my newly-acquired NA26, the first NA edition, you may remember, to move away from Nestle’s tradition of following other critical editions.
The system of paragraph divisions has been developed more extensively than before, and not simply for greater clarity. It is designed to aid the reader’s understanding of the writings by clarifying their structure, e.g., in the Gospels distinguishing the primitive units. The strophic printing of verse has been expanded, perhaps even too much at times but further revision is always possible. The same holds for punctuation, which seek to follow Greek usage in contrast to the earlier Nestle which was dominated by German usage, and The Greek New Testament where the influence is English.

Old Testament quotations are not printed in bold face as before (and in The Greek New Testament), but in italics. We hope this will be welcomed as a means of making them distinct , but without the overemphasis to which their frequency in bold face tended. They have also been completely revised: the problems involved here are familiar. (Intro, p. 44*)
Remember that NA and UBS share the same text, but not necessarily orthography, paragraphing, or punctuation. Regarding the last of these, I knew that Nestle had followed German comma rules but I didn’t realize that these were revised in the NA26 to follow “Greek usage.”

It is also interesting (to me, at least) that the NA26 introduction says that “the font used is certainly lacking in the simplicity and clarity of that used for The Greek New Testament.” That font, of course, was Porson. Metzger—rightly!—bemoaned the loss of “the beautiful Porson font” from the UBS4 which, he tells us, he had recommended for the earlier editions (Reminiscences, p. 73). For its part, the NA26 blames the font change on the need for a typeface “that could be used in diglot editions.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Saving Manuscripts from ISIS

On Christmas Eve, the American news magazine 60 Minutes aired a good segment on the work of Father Columba and Father Najeeb Michaeel to save manuscripts in Northern Iraq. Father Columba runs the excellent Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. It is really sad to see the destruction left by ISIS—both material and human.

You can read and watch the report here.

The remains of manuscripts burned by ISIS
HT: John Meade

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Thankfully, you don’t have to have gold, Frankenstein, or myrrh to celebrate the birth of Jesus. To all our blog readers, merry Christmas and a happy 2018!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

News: IGNTP Releases 350 Transcriptions of Manuscripts

Here is a pressrelease from the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP) announcing that 350 transcriptions can be downloaded and are freely available for re-use:

Open Data Release by the International Greek New Testament Project

The International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP), established in 1948, is working towards major new editions of the Gospel according to John and the Pauline Epistles using the latest digital tools.

In a move towards making its data openly available, the IGNTP has now released 350 of its transcriptions of Greek New Testament manuscripts under the Creative Commons Attribution licence, meaning that these files are freely available for re-use.

Dr P.J. Williams, chair of the IGNTP committee, said, “A huge amount of work has gone into these transcriptions, both from research projects funded by the British Academy and Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the work of volunteers from across the world. We are keen that the results of this pioneering effort to make full-text searchable transcriptions of New Testament manuscripts should be as freely available for re-use as possible, enabling others to carry out new research on the textual evidence for the New Testament in addition to our own work on the Editio Critica Maior.”

The transcriptions of John are available to view and download at the website A companion site for the Pauline Epistles is at In addition, further information and links to download multiple files are provided on the IGNTP’s own website at The transcriptions are encoded in XML and conform to the standards of the Text Encoding Initiative.

8th December 2017

The problem with digitizing our discipline

There is much rejoicing about the benefits of computer technology for the humanities in general and for New Testament textual criticism in particular. I too rejoice as I suspect you do. Who among us is not thrilled, for example,  by the ease of access to so many manuscript images or by the wonderful NTVMR or by the fact that the texts of our modern Greek New Testaments are all freely available online?

But here I want to sound a warning about computer technology. We all know how fast technology changes. Probably none of you have a flip phone any more or use floppy disks to save your work (although I know Maurice has some truly old school tech he still works with still). Technology changes rapidly, usually for the better. But therein lies the problem. Technology changes rapidly. That means that tools that were great five or ten years ago may be difficult or even impossible to use now.

This is one of my fears about digital critical editions. The new digital ECM may be great now, but will it be great in ten years? Maybe, but how do we know? We can’t, because we don’t know the future. There is always talk of future-proofing our digital work. But let us be honest: that is a myth. When I worked on the CBGM, there were parts of the software for the Catholic Letters that only ran  on Mac OS 9. What happens when the computer running that defunct operating system dies?

Nor is the internet the solution. Look, for example, at the genuinely wonderful Codex Sinaiticus website. When it came out in 2008, it was the baddest manuscript viewer in town. You could zoom in and out, switch to raking lighting, and even select words from the transcription and watch them be highlighted right there in the image—it was great. And most of it still is great.

But when I use the site in Chrome now, look at what happens.

The zoom disappears in Chrome
The zoom function does not even show up. I have to move my mouse around until it turns into a hand and then I have to guess how far I am zooming in because there is no visual measurement.

Things are better in Microsoft’s Edge browser, but still a little off.

The zoom is not quite right in Edge, but it is usable
Compare this to Tischendorf’s facsimile of 01 which, as a technology, works just as well today as it did on the day it came off the press in 1863. Obviously, the website for 01 has major advantages over Tischendorf’s facsimile. There is no question about that. But that is not my point. My point is that the usability of Tischendorf’s edition has aged less in 150 years than the Sinaiticus website has in 15! Will the Sinaiticus website work at all in 30 years? 50? 100? Who knows.

What I do know from designing websites for the last 17 years is that there is no way to guarantee that a site built today will still be usable in 10 or 15 years. And usually, the more bells and whistles a site has when it’s built, the worse it ages. Part of this is a matter of funding. It is easier to fund an exciting new digital project than to maintain or update an old, flagging one. But I do not see that changing any time soon.

So the problem remains and it is serious one we all need to think more about in our mad dash to digitally revolutionize our discipline. Are there still things that are better in analog than digital? If so, what are they? Are there things that can be done digitally but shouldn’t be? How can we ensure that our best digital work is still accessible in 100 years time? These are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

‘You will call his name Jesus’ (Matt 1.21 in Codex Vaticanus)

In a recent publication on the nomina sacra in Mark in Vaticanus (see here) Peter Malik notices that there are only five places in the New Testament portion of Codex Vaticanus where Ἰησοῦς is not contracted. Two of these are the interesting (emphatic?) vocatives of Mark 1.24 and 5.7 (although not in the Lukan parallels or vocatives generally); two others are references to other people: Jesus son of Eliezer (Luke 3.29) and Jesus Justus (Col 4.11) (which is very sensible and careful); and the other one is Matt 1.21: τέξεται δὲ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν. (NA from BW9).

Malik is inclined to explain this anomaly on practical lines related to word division at the end of the line. Clearly this is a very important subject, but I didn’t see its particular relevance in this instance. When the contraction is the default, then exceptions might be signally something different, something important, especially when read at this time of the year.

The climax of Matthew’s (exceedingly brief) birth narrative involves the juxtaposition of the two names that he will be given: Jesus (v. 21) - the name given by Joseph in his act of accepting Jesus into the Davidic line; and Emmanuel (2.23) - the name given by his people. Both of these are of central importance for Matthew, and for all his people (especially, but not only, at Christmas time): he will ‘save his people from their sins’ and he will be ‘God with us’.

Wishing all our readers are very happy Christmas holiday season.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

An ‘Unanticipated Discussion of CBGM and P45’

Some of my students brought this video to my attention yesterday. It is James White, a well-known apologist and debater in the States, discussing the CBGM on his show The Dividing Line. Starting at about the 19:19 mark (video below), he mentions the Text und Textwert volumes, the difficulty of grasping the CBGM, the new THGNT as a kind of methodological push back against the CBGM, the correct (longer) reading at Mark 1.1, James Royse and singular readings, his own dissertation on P45, and some of the apologetic value of the CBGM and its data. He covers quite a bit.

Along the way, he says that the primary problem of the CBGM for most people is still the basic one of understanding it. I think he’s right about this and I have obviously been working to remedy that problem in my writing. But there is more work to be done, especially in explaining the method to pastors and laypeople. I will keep trying and, in the meantime, I say kudos to White for his efforts to understand the CBGM and explain it to his audience. For an “unanticipated” discussion of the method, he does a pretty good job describing it. May his tribe increase.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tertius, Romans 16.22 and Grotius’ Conjecture

Hugo Grotius
I’ve been doing some work in the last couple of days on my SBL paper (‘Epistolary Secretarial Greetings in the Documentary Papyri and the Greeting from Tertius in Romans 16.22’*) so that I can submit it for print publication. Most of the paper is papyrological and epistolographical, but there is some textual criticism here and there in the footnotes. One of those footnotes concerns Hugo Grotius and a conjecture he made about Romans 16 verse 22: Ἀσπάζομαι ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ Τέρτιος ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ἐν κυρίῳ.

I first came across Grotius’ conjecture in the ET of Meyer’s late 19th century commentary on Romans. Then I checked The Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation (Jan Krans, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, et al. (eds.), I don’t think I had previously realised what a useful and comprehensive tool this is (also responsive: I left a comment that I’d found a mention of the conjecture in Meyer, Romans ET, and the next thing I knew Jan Krans had added the details from the German edition). [NB. If you use online tools and find them useful, it is generally worth a tiny bit of effort to make a suggestion for further improvement.]

Anyway, if you go to NTVMR and then enter NT Conjectures you can enter Romans 16.22 and get a load of results (six in total: four involving transpositions of different amounts of text of which v. 22 is a part). The one I’m interested in is cj10315 (here is a link that will take you straight there). You can tell at a glance that Grotius conjectured a text lacking Rom 16.22 in 1645 and that this idea was taken up and discussed between 1866 and 1898 (the golden age of conjectures?), and has not been much discussed since then. This you can tell at a glance, but if you start clicking on the little blue i symbols [like this: 🔁, but with a little white i inside], you can get access to complete bibliographical details and citations of the original points.

From all that information we can discover that Hugo Grotius suggested that Tertius’ greeting to the Roman believers was a marginal comment to the original letter incorporated into the archetype of Romans by a copyist (reference: Hugo Grotius, Annotationum in Novum Testamentum, tomus secundus (Annotationes in Acta Apostolorum et epistolas apostolicas) (Paris: Pelé, 11646), 336–337).

This is interesting, because this is not so much a conjectural omission (as it is labelled), but a conjecture about the format of the original letter (Grotius plainly thinks that Tertius’ greeting is part of the original communication by letter). Once we see this is a conjecture about formatting we can see that in its favour we could note:
  1. that documentary letters quite often show margins used for additional greetings (see e.g. my discussion in ‘The Letters of Claudius Terentianus and the New Testament: Insights and Observations on Epistolary Themes’ Tyndale Bulletin 65 (2014), 219–245 available here);
  2. that it is simpler to think of Paul dictating all the greetings from those with him together (rather than a switching from Paul to Tertius and then back to Paul again); and 
  3. that it would be natural for a scribe to copy such a marginal greeting into his text of Romans; and
  4. that even if we adopted Grotius’ conjecture we would still think of Tertius’ greeting as a part of the original communication between Paul and the believers in Rome.
So this is interesting to think about from an exegetical and historical point of view. Against Grotius’ idea I would suggest that the natural place for a scribe to copy such a marginal greeting would be after the other greetings. That direct papyrological parallels to Tertius’ greeting (discussed in my SBL paper) occur in normal continuity with third person reported greetings. And that the current location for Tertius’ greeting is a difficult reading. (Here we come back to a basic problem with conjectures—they are designed to solve difficulties in the text, but it seems more methodologically sensible to prefer more difficult readings.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Appeal to the Autograph in Early Protestant Theology

Back when I had time for such things, I did a bit of digging into how early Protestant theologians viewed the role of the autographs in their doctrine of Scripture. For Evangelicals, the qualification that the Biblical text is inerrant in the autographs (or on them, if you prefer) is standard. But was it always so?

My interest in this question was piqued by reading Theodore Letis who claims that this appeal to the inspiration and inerrancy of the autographic text originates with Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. For Letis, “one of the historical ironies of this development [by Hodge and Warfield] is the inescapable loss of awe and reverence for the existential Bible as sacred text in confessing communities and in the culture at large” (The Ecclesiastical Textp. 58 n. 33). In other words, there is a loss in that the Sacred text lies in the past rather than right here in my hands.

Painting of the Westminster divines

Monday, December 11, 2017

Should we preach and teach the story of the woman caught in adultery?

If the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7.53–8.11 is not original to the fourth Gospel, as I think, does it follow that it should not be used as Scripture? The same question confronts us with the Longer Ending of Mark, a text which, as I have said before, I think is not original but should be preached as Scripture.

‘Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery’ by Sebastiano Conca
Although I feel that way about Mark 16.9–20, I am not as sure about this passage. It is not as early or widely attested as the Longer Ending is. But many think it preserves authentic tradition about Jesus. So, when the question came up in class a few weeks ago, I let Tommy answer for me. Here’s what he says:
Is the PA [Pericope Adulterae] original to John’s Gospel or is it a later interpolation? Should it be proscribed or proclaimed? My short answer to the first question is: Yes, I think it is an interpolation as I have argued in this essay. This, however, does not automatically lead to a negative answer to the second question, namely that this passage should be proscribed rather than proclaimed. I regard the story as an authentic Jesus tradition, which has been highly treasured by the Church from a very early stage. I hope it continues to be told and proclaimed, but at the same time, I think it is proper to signal to modern readers of John that the passage (at its present location) is a suspect interpolation.
This is from Tommy Wasserman, “The Strange Case of the Missing Adulteress,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, ed. David A. Black and Jacob Cerone, LNTS 551 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark), 63, which is a very helpful volume on the subject. It includes articles that defend the pericope’s originality and articles, like Tommy’s, that don’t.

What say you, O blog readers? If the pericope is not original, should we still preach and teach it? Should we derive theology from it? Or should it be rejected as a wonderful, extra-Biblical story without authority for us?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Pope Francis on μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν


There’s been quite a lot of press excitement about Pope Francis wanting to change the translation of Lord’s Prayer (The Telegraph, The Times, etc.). It wasn’t easy to find the original interview online. Therefore I thought it would be good to present the short video clip here. I hesitate to transliterate since I think that sometimes his words are not clear even to a native Italian speaker.

All the early translations of the Lord’s Prayer I checked had an active equivalent. I guess the Pope is expressing the usual concern that the masses may misunderstand unless the clerics do the work of interpretation for them.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Red skies in Matt 16.2–3: original or not?

What do folks think about the long variant in Matt 16.2–3? NA28 along with Tischendorf and WH have it in brackets. SBLGNT, THGNT (and Tregelles), and RP include it. UBS4 gives it a “C” rating.

Here is the text:
Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς. 2 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· [ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε· εὐδία, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός· 3 καὶ πρωΐ· σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁ οὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε;] 4 γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν.
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Westcott and Hort write that “both documentary evidence and the impossibility of accounting for omission prove these words to be no part of the text of Mt. They can hardly have been an altered repetition of the || in Lc 12.54, 55, but were apparently derived from an extraneous source, written or oral, and inserted in the Western text at a very early time” (Appendix, p. 13).

Without the disputed text, the text flows quite naturally from the question to the direct answer. France thinks the switch from second to third person between vv. 3 and 4 also makes the disputed text “seem out of place” (604 n. 1), but I’m not so sure about that.

According to Metzger (Commentary, p. 33), Scrivener and Lagrange argue that scribes removed the text because they lived in climates like Egypt where the meteorological observation doesn’t work. Even if true, this seems like special pleading. But if it’s not original, where did it come from?