Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dan Wallace responds on (formerly) ‘First-century Mark’

Over on his blog, Dan Wallace has just written a post about his involvement with the fragment formerly known as “First-century Mark.” We now know, thanks in part to this post by Dan, that P. Oxy. 5345 is the fragment formerly known as “first-century Mark” and that it is not, therefore, first-century. Instead, the editors, Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo, date it to the 2nd/3rd century (see Elijah’s post). This is important because we have known for quite some time that the first-century date was based on the expertise of Dirk Obbink. Apparently he changed his mind before Dan even made the initial announcement, but Dan didn’t know. So, why was it ever dated first century? I don’t know.

In any case, here is the first part of Dan’s post.
There has been a flurry of announcements and comments on the internet about the “First-Century Mark Fragment” (FCM) ever since Elijah Hixson posted a blog on Evangelical Textual Criticism this morning. As many know, I signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 sometime after I made an announcement about it in my third debate with Bart Ehrman at North Carolina, Chapel Hill (February 1, 2012). I was told in the non-disclosure agreement not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published. Consequently, I am now free to speak about it.

The first thing to mention is that yes, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345, published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 (2018), is the same manuscript that I spoke about in the debate and blogged about afterward. In that volume the editors date it to the second or third century. And this now is what has created quite a stir.

In my debate with Bart, I mentioned that I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. So, I must first apologize to Bart Ehrman, and to everyone else, for giving misleading information about this discovery. While I am sorry for publicly announcing inaccurate facts, at no time in the public statements (either in the debate or on my blogsite) did I knowingly do this. But I should have been more careful about trusting any sources without my personal verification, a lesson I have since learned.
 Do read the rest of his post for his personal history with the fragment. 

“First-Century Mark,” Published at Last? [Updated]

It looks like we are finally getting that First-Century Mark (henceforth, FCM) fragment everyone has been talking about for years. (By the designation “FCM” I am not implying that it actually dates to the first century. I don’t know the date yet. I only mean that “FCM” is probably the actual papyrus that has been reported to be the first-century Mark fragment.)

I have not yet seen the latest volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The Egypt Exploration Society’s website shows vol. LXXXII as the most current volume, at least as of today. However, Amazon informs me that volume LXXXIII was published last month. When I first saw it, there was only one copy available. It has since been sold. The description begins:
Volume LXXXIII of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri continues our publication of biblical texts, including what is only the second Egyptian witness to the Epistle of Philemon as well as further early witnesses to the text of Mark and Luke, and an amateur copy of excerpts from Ezekiel’s Exagoge.
Though it is also exciting for NT textual criticism that we will see fragments of Luke and Philemon, the key thing to notice here is that the description mentions an early fragment of Mark.

We can get a bit more information from the Oxford Faculty of Classics publications page:

Both the Mark (P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345) and the Luke (P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5346) fragments are being edited by Daniela Colomo and Dirk Obbink. The reported publication date of 2017 is probably just a delay in publication, which would not be the first time we’ve encountered such a delay with this fragment. I can’t see a date assigned to the papyri yet (UPDATE: see below), but we can piece together a trail of breadcrumbs and arrive at the conclusion that P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is probably the infamous First-Century Mark—even if the date is not given as first-century. Here is the trail:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Siker’s Liquid Scripture

A recent book from Jeffrey Siker may interest readers here. It’s called Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World (Fortress, 2017). Claire Clivaz has recently given it a nice review in RBL and she ends with this:
Lastly, it is worth considering an important point enlightened by Siker: “the ready availability of so many translations in digital form results in a certain destabilizing of the biblical text” (5). In each chapter Siker tries to figure out what will become of the Bible online; for example, “The unbound Bible on a screen does not lend itself to an immediate awareness of any particular shape of the Bible, canonical or otherwise. From this perspective skimming the Bible on screens would necessarily seem to undermine understanding the Bible in its canonical frame” (69). This situation could still be strengthened by the audio Bible (171–74). In this “Fast Times and Slow Times” situation (242), a last chapter could have been added on the growing diversification of the Greek editions of the New Testament, with the newest one, the Tyndale House Greek New Testament. The flexibility of the Greek New Testament text itself is surely one of the clearer features of the digital Bible era.
One thing I’d like to see is a study that compares people who read the Bible primarily or exclusively digitally and those whose digital reading is used only to supplement their reading of a physical book. Maybe that’s in Siker’s book. But I didn’t catch it in Clivaz’s review.

Here’s the publisher’s description.
The electronic Bible is here to stay‒‒packaged in software on personal computers, available as apps on tablets and cell phones. Increasingly, students look at glowing screens to consult the Bible in class, and congregants do the same in Bible study and worship. Jeffrey S. Siker asks, what difference does it make to our experience of Scripture if we no longer hold a book in our hands, if we again “scroll” through Scripture? How does the “flow” of electronic Scripture change our perception of the Bible’s authority and significance? Siker discusses the difference made when early Christians adopted the codex rather than the scroll and Gutenberg began the mass production of printed Bibles. He also reviews the latest research on how the reading brain processes digital texts and how churches use digital Bibles, including American Bible Society research and his own surveys of church leaders. Siker asks, does the proliferation of electronic translations reduce the perceived seriousness of Scripture? Does it promote an individualistic response to the Bible? How does the change from a physical Bible affect liturgical practice? His synthesis of the advantages and risks of the digitized Bible merit serious reflection in classrooms and churches alike.
Remember our recent discussion about how present technology affects our view of past technology. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Meade on Canon on Camera

My sources tell me that John Meade is currently hiding out in the outer banks, camping or some such thing. Lucky for you, he was recently captured on camera talking about all things canon with several faculty from Southeastern. Take a watch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

4th Annual Textual Criticism Summer School in Italy

Ferrara in 2016
Paolo Trovato is once again putting on his Summer School in Textual Criticism in Ferrara, Italy. The dates are July 2nd–July 7th. I attended a few years ago and can recommend it as a great opportunity. And this year there appears to be an online option.

Particularly for those doing Biblical textual criticism, the chance to learn from people working deeply in the textual criticism of other texts can be particularly stimulating. Some of my most helpful conversations during my PhD were had with text critics who didn’t work on the Bible. Their outside perspective can be invaluable. I still try to read beyond Biblical textual criticism to see how scholars in other fields approach similar problems. And did I mention this is in Italy?
The Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara will offer an intensive six-day summer school in Textual Criticism. The course is designed for both graduate and PhD students (max. 20 people) from different disciplines who would like to improve their knowledge in the field of Textual Criticism and discuss their research topics with instructors and colleagues. An introduction to current theories as well as the presentation of individual research subjects will be covered in the first 3 days. The final days will be spent delving more deeply into particular aspects of Textual Criticism, both in modern and classical languages, featuring more recent developments, and discussing individual research. A free guided visit to Ferrara medieval and Renaissance Art Collections is scheduled.

Online option. The classroom meetings are live streamed for registered students ( ). They will receive an email with the link and a personalized username and pw to login.

Among the programme instructors you will find Dàniel Kiss (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Federico Marchetti (Ferrara), Roberto Rosselli Del Turco (Pisa), Francesco Stella (Siena), Elisabetta Tonello (e.Campus), Luciano Formisano (Bologna) and Paolo Trovato (Ferrara). The enrolment dead-line is on 11th June.

For further information and application forms see our website: or contact the Director of the Summer School: Professor Paolo Trovato, Department of Humanities, University of Ferrara, Italy, with the subject line: SUMMER SCHOOL
The full program is available here

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lectures: A material history of the Bible in England 1200–1600

If you happen to be in Cambridge for the summer, Cambridge University Library is hosting a series on the Bible in England that looks good.

From the rise of mass-produced Vulgates in the thirteenth century to the proliferation of innovative vernacular prints in the sixteenth, five lectures will chart the history of the Bible in England across print and reform. Manuscript and early printed bibles from the collections of Cambridge University Library will support a new history of the Bible in England, one which blurs the boundaries between reform and conservatism, and between the Church and heresy. Among their pages we will encounter a hidden portrait of Jane Seymour, the marks of scholars, children and crooks, and the discovery of America.

Each lecture will be accompanied by a display of manuscripts and books from the Library’s collections and will be followed by a discussion led by a respondent.
  • 22 May — The Late Medieval Bible: Beyond Innovation
  • 29 May — Wycliffite Bibles and the Limits of Orthodoxy
  • 5 June — 1535 and the First Two English Bibles
  • 12 June — The Great Bible as a Useless Book
  • 19 June — The Bibles of Edward VI and Beyond: Moving Fast Forward
Each lecture will take place at 5:30pm in the Milstein Room at Cambridge University Library. Lectures are free and open to everyone.

HT: CUL Special Collections 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Where did the Byzantine text come from?

In my occasional interactions with Byzantine-text-preferring folks, I have been puzzled by how many of them are unaware of modern research on the Byzantine text and its development. Some of these folks sincerely seem to think that Westcott and Hort’s views of the matter are still what modern textual critics believe. This is not the case. I know of no text critic today who would argue that the Byzantine text as we find it promulgated in the minuscules is the result of a concerted fourth-century recension.  

So, what do scholars think? The most serious work on the Byzantine text’s development has been done by Klaus Wachtel, especially in his 1995 dissertation. But few Byzantine advocates seem aware of it, probably because it remains untranslated into English (sadly).

Fortunately, a number of Wachtel’s papers from over the years are easily accessible online—and in English. So, I thought I would point out just one of the places where he has explained his view. This is in the hope that those who hold to a Byzantine priority position, a Majority text position, or an Ecclesiastical text position (I realize there are differences in these views) will see that modern eclecticism has developed since 1881 on the question of the Byzantine text. In fact, Wachtel’s animating goal in his dissertation was refuting the view of a fourth-century recension.

In any case, here is Wachtel talking about the Gospels:
The term “text-type”, however, still carries along relics of the old division of the New Testament manuscript tradition into three or four “recensions”. If we take the whole evidence into account, a picture emerges that is far more complex. The external criteria applied when variants are assessed have to be re-defined accordingly. To this end we have to focus on individual manuscripts and explore their relationships with other manuscripts. Assigning them to text-types has become obsolete.

You may ask, why then I am still referring to the “Byzantine text” myself. I am doing so, because the term aptly denominates the mainstream text form in the Byzantine empire. This mainstream has its headwaters in pre-Byzantine times, in fact in the very first phase of our manuscript tradition, and it underwent a long process of development and standardization. The final phase began with the introduction of the minuscule script in the 9th century and ended up in a largely uniform text characterized by readings attested by the majority of all Greek manuscripts from the 13th - 15th centuries counted by hundreds and thousands.

Standardization means editorial activity, and in fact, a text form so similar to the late majority text as represented by Codex Alexandrinus cannot have emerged from a linear copying process without conscious editing. It is indeed likely that the text in Codex Alexandrinus is the result of editorial activity which may have been carried out in one or, more likely, several steps. Likewise, the text of the 6th century purple codices N 022 and Σ 042 certainly was not just copied from some manuscript picked at random. Diorthosis, correction, was an integral part of the copying process. Yet the assumption that a recension stood at the beginning of the formation of the Byzantine text and then penetrated the whole manuscript tradition reflects a categorically different view of the transmission history. I am going to focus on the differences between five manuscript texts to show that despite intense editorial activity the Byzantine majority text is the result of a process of reconciliation between different strands of transmission.*
I myself have found this view persuasive at least as far as the Catholic Letters are concerned (though I have tweaked it just slightly). You, of course, may or may not agree with this view, but it is the most detailed and substantiated view of the Byzantine text’s origin on offer. And it is now cited as such in both the major introductions to the field (Metzger-Ehrman’s, and Parker’s).

Kirsopp Lake’s diagram of WH’s view of textual history. He rejected this too.

No major textual critic, to my knowledge, holds to Westcott and Hort’s fourth-century revision view anymore though it may well linger among those in the wider NT guild. My point here is only to say that Byzantine prioritists (of whatever stripe) need to address Wachtel’s arguments not Westcott and Hort’s.

Here ends my public service announcement.

* Klaus Wachtel, “The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?” paper delivered at SBL in 2009, online here.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Preferring a Longer Reading in Ephesians 5.22

Yesterday at church, I happened to be reading Eph 5.22 and thinking again about the relationship between Eph 5.21 and Eph 5.22. My NA26, which I had with me at the time, notes the possibility of punctuating v. 21 with v. 22 or separately from it. The NA28 punctuates it with v. 22 and the paragraphing follows suit. One of the reasons for doing this is because v. 22 doesn’t have a main verb but one that is implied from the participle ὑποτασσόμενοι (“being in submission to”) from v. 21. In this, v. 21 is set apart from the other similar participles in 5.16–20 that unpack what it means to “walk worthy” (5.15).

However, the apparatus of NA also notes that most manuscripts have an explicit imperative in 5.22 which would make 5.22 line up naturally with the other second person imperatives in the rest of Eph 5.22–6.20 (see 5.25, 6.1, 6.5, 6.10). Each of these starts its own paragraph in NA.

There are two alternate readings in 5.22. The first is ὑποτάσσεσθε (“y’all be in submission to”) found in K L 630 Byz syr. The other is ὑποτασσέσθωσαν (“they should be in submission”) found in 01 A I P 0278 6 33 1505 1739 lat syh co etc. What I realized yesterday in thinking about this is that the second reading has a really good claim to originality; in fact, I now think it may have the best claim to that.

Variant and paragraph break at Eph 5.22 in 01
Not only is it attested early and well, but it can easily explain both the alternate readings while alternatively not being well explained by either. It explains the shorter reading (found only in P46 B Clem Hier) by simple homoioteleuton, the word being omitted because of the repeated ν on ἀνδράσιν just before it. On the other hand, it explains the Byzantine reading which is the obvious way to assimilate this verse to the rest of this section, the other imperatives being 2nd person rather than 3rd person as we have with ὑποτασσέσθωσαν. I think this latter point is also good grounds against preferring the shorter reading; if a scribe were going to add a verb here (as, I readily admit, would be natural), it  would most likely have taken the form of the 2nd person imperative to fit with the others. In other words, it would take the form of the dominant Byzantine reading.

There is, then, a strong case to be made for ὑποτασσέσθωσαν as the original reading. And, if so, then v. 21 should be read more with what precedes and v. 22, more with what follows. The paragraph break thus belongs after v. 21 not before it.

The question I had at church was whether or not anyone else had taken this view. Sure enough, Tregelles prefers ὑποτασσέσθωσαν and he is followed by the editors of the new THGNT. The latter also has a paragraph break at v. 22. [Update: Lachmann has it and WH give ὑποτασσέσθωσαν as a marginal reading.] So, I am at least in good company.

Whatever your view, this is certainly not an insignificant decision. Given the debates about vv. 21 and 22, the choice of variant and its effect on where to break the text, affects how you read and apply the text. Let no one say that textual criticism doesn’t influence interpretation and application. The other lesson from this example is: always take your GNT to church! You never know what you’ll discover.

Friday, May 04, 2018

The Curious Case of P44

In my NA28, P44 is listed as a sixth/seventh-century manuscript containing Matt 17.1–3, 6–7; 18.15–17, 19; 25. 8–10 and Jn 9.3–4; 10.8–14; 12.16–18. It seems then to be a lectionary, which is how LDAB and the Met’s website list it. My co-blogger, Elijah Hixson, however, pointed out to me yesterday that P44 has been split in two since the printing of my NA28 so that it is now P44 and P128. The sections containing Jn 9.3–4; 12.16–18 are P128 and the other sections are now P44. That means that P44 still contains Matt and John materials and still seems to be a lectionary.

It’s the remaining bit of John in P44, however, that seems strange to me and I would like to hear from others about it. I pinged another one of my co-bloggers, Pete Malik, on this and all three of us get the impression that text of John that is still listed as part of P44 looks to be from a different hand. My library is limited at the moment and none of my own books gave me any help. So, I’m wondering if any of our readers know more about what’s going on here.

In this image, I’ve highlighted P44 in blue, P128 in orange, and the remaining John material of P44 in purple. It’s this last part I’m curious about.

P44 (in blue) and P128 (in orange). John 10.8–14 is in purple.
Update: Brent Nongbri emails this photo from the IGNTP volume of John, showing how they split it into A and B. In this case, their P44B is now P128 and they naturally don’t include the portions of Matt from what they’re calling P44A. But I’d like to know if they say anything more about their P44A and its relation to the rest of P44.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

PhD Funding in Dublin

Garrick Allen shares news of funding at Dublin City University for PhDs in Biblical Studies (among other things). He says this could certainly include TC. And since you’d be so close to the Chester Beatty papyri, why not?


PhD in Theology
Dublin City University - School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music
  • Qualification type: PhD
  • Location: Dublin
  • Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
  • Funding amount: €16,000; £14,182.06 converted salary* £13,401 converted
  • Hours: Full Time
  • Placed on: 3rd May 2018
  • Closes: 8th June 2018
The School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music is a dynamic and creative learning and research environment with a strong commitment to social and cultural engagement, and world-class research. The academic study of religion in DCU takes place within a pluralist, multi-religious, secular, and interdisciplinary context, with internationally-recognised staff who have distinguished records in research and teaching. We place an emphasis on ecumenical perspectives on theological themes and questions, on the study of sacred texts and languages, and on interreligious dialogue, particularly the dialogue between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We are offering Doctoral Scholarships in Theology. Applications are welcome in the areas of Biblical Studies, Interreligious Theology, Systematic Theology, and Theological Ethics.


Applicants must have an undergraduate degree at first-class honours level or at least 2.1 level in Theology, Religious Studies, or a related discipline, and a Master’s Degree in Theology, Religious Studies, or a related discipline. Candidates who are currently completing a Master’s qualification are welcome to apply.


The School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music is particularly interested in receiving research proposals in the following areas:
  • Biblical Studies
  • Interreligious Theology
  • Systematic Theology
  • Theological Ethics

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

How Present Technology Changes Our View of Past Technology

I’ve been thinking more recently about the significance we attach to technological developments. Think, for instance of the shift from scroll to codex or the change from handwritten books to books printed with movable type. Most readers here will be familiar with some of the significance found in these changes. Did the codex form reinforce the canon for instance? Was it a way that early Christians distinguished their sacred from non-sacred writings? Did Christians become more concerned with textual accuracy with the invention of the printing press? Etc.

These are good questions and it is worth reflecting on the ways new technologies affect or, alternatively, reflect Christian beliefs and practice. But I confess that I sometimes feel skeptical about how much significance is ascribed to them. One reason is because of something Alan Jacobs has written about, which he calls the tendency to “fetishize” past technologies. Here he is in 2015 reflecting on this tendency in Books & Culture (sadly defunct now):
Any given technology changes its meaning when alternatives to it arise: candles began to mean something different when gas lighting appeared; gas lighting began to mean something different when electrical light appeared. Associations form in the public mind with particular times, places, social groups—mental links that would have been impossible to forge without the clarifying power of contrast. This is not to say that technologies have no meaning until alternatives turn up: but the more universal they are, the less likely we are to reflect on them. The comment (I have heard it attributed to Huston Smith) that the only thing the world’s religions have in common is that they all use candles is something that no one would have thought of before the advent of other forms of lighting.

Thus when digital technologies of reading and writing arose, soon thereafter people became intensely reflective about what had preceded them: books, paper, pens and pencils. E-readers make the distinctive features, the characteristic conformation, of books stand forth vividly; a world in which everyone types becomes a world in which pens can be fetishized.

The attention vector of any particular technology goes something like this: from ubiquitous and largely unreflective use to the subject of specialized scholarly research to the topic of personal and idiosyncratic reflections. So the history of the book became a serious scholarly subdiscipline starting in the second half of the 20th century, and emerged onto the general public scene near the end of that century: Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading (1996) marked, more clearly than any other single book, that emergence... [the rest is pay-walled, sadly.]
I think Jacobs is right and the point is important because we may be tempted to see more in the shifts mentioned above than is deserved. In the case of early Christians and their “bookishness,” for example, I would like to know whether or not they thought of this as distinguishing them from other contemporary groups. If not, then might this be something we are reading into the past because of what Jacobs calls a fetishizing of previous technologies?

Well, I need to keep thinking about it. But it’s something to be aware of at least.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Matthew 24:36 and Rapture Predictions

In case you missed, it there was another end-times prediction for yesterday.

A ‘biblical numerologist’ who goes by ‘David Meade’—no relation to John—predicted that a rogue planet would appear, the rapture would happen, and the world as we know it would generally come to an end.

And yet, here we are.

Today, then, seems to be a great opportunity to look at the variant in Matthew 24:36:

Περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης καὶ ὥρας οὐδεὶς οἶδεν, οὐδὲ οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός, εἰ μὴ ὁ πατὴρ μόνος.

But concerning that day and hour, no one knows. Neither the angels of the heavens, nor the Son, except the Father alone.

The variant in question is the presence or absence of οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός.

According to the NA28:

Absent in: 01^2a K L W Γ Δ f1 22 565 579 700 892 1241 1424 g^1 l vg sy co; Hier^mss and the Majority text
Present in: 01* 01^2b B D Θ f13 l2211 it vg^mss Ir^lat Hier^mss

Bart Ehrman calls this variant “one of the clearest examples of an orthodox change effected to prevent its heretical ‘misuse’” (Orthodox Corruption, p. 91). Ehrman accepts οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός as the earlier reading that scribes then omitted. Dan Wallace, on the other hand, argues that the phrase οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός is indeed original—to Mark’s Gospel. Its absence in Matthew is because Matthew removed it, only for it to be added back in by later scribes.

Ehrman summarises the theological argument for ‘Orthodox Corruption’: “it suggests that the Son of God is not all-knowing and could be used therefore by adoptionists to argue that Jesus was not himself divine” (p. 92). Wallace has a series of responses to the theological argument in his article. I would like to point out that Ehrman does acknowledge that the same phrase is nearly always present at Mark 13:32 (though just a handful of manuscripts do omit it there).

If one reads Matthew and Mark together canonically, neither the presence nor the absence of οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός changes any core doctrines of Christianity. Whether Matthew included the phrase or not, it is clear that Mark did.

Finally, regardless of how one interprets Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, and regardless of which reading one accepts as original at Matthew 24:36, one thing is clear: Only the Father knows the day and the hour. Not the angels in the heavens, nor the televangelist end-times ‘prophets’.

If you really want to read a book on biblical numerology, I recommend this one.

For the editions of the works I cited here, see:

Ehrman, Bart D. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Wallace, Daniel B. “The Son’s Ignorance in Matthew 24:36: An Exercise in Textual and Redaction Criticism.” In Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Michael W. Holmes On the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Daniel M. Gurtner, Juan Hernández Jr., and Paul Foster, 178–205. NTTSD 50. Leiden; Boston, 2015.

EDIT (24 April): I corrected a typo that a reader caught, in which I mistakenly referred to Matthew 24:26 (not 24:36) in the final instance.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Paul’s Bible Version in 1 Corinthians 15:54?

I continue my series on what version of the OT is the NT using? Given the discussion of Theodotion or ‘Proto-Theodotion’ last week, it is time to address Paul’s bible version of Isaiah 25:8 in 1 Corinthians 15:54. Once again, we need to remember that when Paul uses the OT or Greek scriptures, he mostly uses them in the version we know as the LXX or ‘the Seventy’ or the Septuagint even if Paul may not have thought about the matter in that category unless he was referring to the Law or the Torah. Furthermore, it is unclear what Paul would have called the revisions of these Old Greek translations. Scholars refer to the ‘kaige tradition’ or ‘proto-Theodotion’ or even ‘kaige-Theodotion’ when referring to these texts. Late second-century Christians refer to the versions/editions of Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus, and we can reasonably date the latter two to the early-middle of the second century. Historical Theodotion could be dated to near the end of the second century based on some patristic statements, but internal evidence and some patristic testimony could locate him in the first century. Scholars continue to work on this pressing question.

Paul’s Text in 1 Corinthians 15:54

Whatever we call this Jewish tradition or movement from around the turn of the era, its work does appear within the NT. In 1 Corinthians 15:54, Paul writes: τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος· κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος (then the word which is written will happen, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”).

The question before us is what text of Isaiah 25:8 does Paul cite? And it just so happens that for this passage we have all of the relevant editions of the Jewish revisers that Origen included in his Hexapla: Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus in addition to the LXX and the Hebrew text.

Relevant Versions

HT: בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח
He swallowed up death forever

OG-Isa: κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος ἰσχύσας 
Death, strengthened, swallowed [them i.e. nations] up

Theodotion: κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος 
Death is swallowed up in victory

Aquila: καταποντίσει τὸν θάνατον εἰς νῖκος 
He will swallow up death in victory

Symmachus: καταποθῆναι ποιήσει τὸν θάνατον εἰς τέλος 
He will make death to be swallowed up forever

These versions probably reflect different vocalizations of the same consonantal proto-MT, but I won’t delve into the details here. The main point is that Paul’s short citation reflects exactly the version of Theodotion Isaiah (“Death is swallowed up in victory”), not OG-Isa, and this version does not reflect the vocalization of the MT. Given the contrasts with HT and OG and the exact wording of Theodotion, Paul has used this Jewish Greek version of Isa 25:8 in 1 Cor 15:54.

This instance and others like it raise the question over access to these Greek versions. How does the NT author access these other versions? Regional texts? Memory? But that’s another question for another day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Who said it?

It’s time for another round of everyone’s favorite game: “who said it?” Now, the invention of Google books has significantly diminished the challenge of this game, but it is best not to spoil it that way.
The point is that we have so many manuscripts of the NT and that these manuscripts contain so many variant readings that surely the original reading in every case is somewhere present in our vast store of material. ... We have, therefore, a genuine embarrassment of riches in the quantity of manuscripts that we possess, and this accounts, on the one hand, for the optimism in the discipline and for the promise of solid results.
So, who said it? 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two important, shorter Byzantine readings in 1 John

In reading through 1 John with my Greek students this semester, I noticed two unexpected variants. They are both places where the Byzantine majority preserves a shorter reading that is easily explained as an accidental omission.

The full Greek data for 1 John 2.23 are in Text und Textwert, but the evidence from ECM is:
  1. πᾶς ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν υἱὸν οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει, ὁ ὁμολογῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει.
    01. 02. 03. 04. 025. 044. 5. 33. 61. 94. 104. 206. 218. 252. 254. 307. 321. 323. 326. 378C. 398. 429. 436. 442. 453. 459. 467C. 468. 522. 614. 621. 623. 630. 720. 808. 918. 996. 1067. 1127. 1243. 1292. 1359. 1409. 1448. 1490. 1505. 1523. 1524. 1563. 1611. 1661. 1678. 1718. 1735. 1739. 1751. 1799. 1831. 18372. 18382. 1842. 1844f. 1852. 1881. 2138. 2147. 2200. 2298. 2344. 2374. 2412. 2464. 2541. 2544. 2652. 2805. 2818. L596. L1281. Ath. Cyr. CyrH. Or. K:S>BV>. S:P>H. A. G:A1. Sl.Si. Ä
  2. πᾶς ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν υἱὸν οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει.
    6. 81. 88. 181. 378*. 467*. 629. 642. 915. 945. 1241. 1875. 2186. 2243. 2492. Byz [424*. 424C2]. PsOec. K:Bms. Sl:ChMS
While the minuscules are not unified here, there is still a clear Byz text identified by the ECM. Because of this unity, you will not find this variant in Robinson-Pierpont as a Byzantine variant though it is in the apparatus as an NA27 reading. The obvious explanation for the second reading is, of course, homoiteleuton (ἔχει ... ἔχει).

By way of illustration, here is the correction of the text in 424 adding the text back in followed by a second correction expunging it.

The double correction in 424. See in VMR
The second such omission is just a few verses later in 1 John 3.1. There the main evidence is
  1. Ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν, καὶ ἐσμέν.
    01. 02. 03. 04. 025. 044. 5. 6. 33. 81. 94. 104. 206. 307. 321. 323. 378. 398. 4242. 429. 436. 442. 453. 459. 467. 522. 614. 621. 623. 629. 630. 918. 945. 996. 1067. 1127. 1243. 1292. 1409. 1490. 1505. 1523. 1524. 1611. 1735. 1739. 1799. 1831. 1838. 1842. 1844. 1852. 1881. 2138. 2147. 2200. 2298. 2344. 2374. 2412. 2464. 2541. 2652. 2805. 2818. L596. L:VT. A. G:A1. Sl:ChMSi
  2. Ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν.
    61. 88. 181 . 218. 254. 326. 642. 808. 915. 1359. 1448. 1563. 1718. 1837. 1875. 2186. 2243. 2492. Byz [424T]. PSOeC. L:Vms. K:Sms>. Sl:S
Once again, we have the earliest evidence, several dozen minuscules, and most of the versions in favor of the longer reading and the Byzantine manuscripts in favor of the shorter. This variant won’t show up in the RP as an intra-Byzantine variant either. Again, the simplest explanation for the Byzantine reading is homoioteleuton, the eye skipping from -μεν to -μεν.

Klaus Wachtel (Der Bzyantinische Text, 302–303) also suggests that the shorter reading would be preferable because it removes the abrupt shift from subjunctive (κληθῶμεν) to indicative (ἐσμέν) following ἵνα. Confirming this as a possible motive is the fact that we find the subjunctive ὦμεν in 2544 and this appears to be what is translated by the Harklean Syriac and some Coptic witnesses. 

Here is this variant again in 424 showing another correction.

1 John 3.1 in 424. See in VMR
Both variants are pretty easy to deal with for reasoned and thoroughgoing eclectics and pretty difficult for Byzantine prioritists. It may be surprising to see the Byzantine tradition preserve such obvious mistakes, but in this, it also shows how careful the Byzantine scribes often were. It also suggests that, in some cases, the Byzantine text goes back to a single exemplar that is not the autograph and not one of our earliest extant Greek witnesses. These two cases also illustrate well the reality that no single text-type or manuscript has a corner on the original text all the time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Congratulations to Troy Griffitts!

Good news out of Birmingham today.
ITSEE extends its warmest congratulations to Troy Griffitts, one of its most longstanding doctoral students, on qualifying for the award of PhD.

Troy began his studies in Birmingham in September 2010, researching the development of collaborative online frameworks for volunteer contributions to scholarly datasets, with a particular focus on the New Testament. A year later, however, the opportunity arose for him to move to ITSEE’s collaborator, the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, to become lead developer of the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NT.VMR). Troy continued to work on his doctorate as a part-time, split-site and latterly distance-learning student. His thesis describes the development of NTVMR 2.0, and the independent scholarly editing environment to which it has led, the freely-available Virtual Manuscript Room Collaborative Research Environment (VMR CRE).

Troy’s thesis, entitled Software for the Collaborative Editing of the Greek New Testament, was examined by Dr Dirk Jongkind of the University of Cambridge and Dr Andrew Davies, Director of the Edward Cadbury Centre at Birmingham. His supervisors were Dr Hugh Houghton and Professor David Parker. Following the successful completion of his doctorate, Troy continues to be active in supporting the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room, as well as the Museum of the Bible Greek Paul Project in the USA, the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament Project in Göttingen and other teams using his software. He also remains a director of the CrossWire Bible Society.
Congratulations, Troy! Thank you for all the hard work you put into these digital tools.

Monday, April 16, 2018

New Light on ‘Proto-Theodotion’

8ḤevXII Col 31
Jan Joosten has posted an intriguing paper to to be published in a congress volume, “New light on Proto-Theodotion. The Psalms of Solomon and the Milieu of the Kaige Recension.” It is worth reporting on some of the salient points in this piece.

Joosten begins by surveying scholarship on the questions of Theodotion, proto-Theodotion, and the kaige-group (mainly the work of D. Barthélemy) and he isolates three open questions: (1) the first century CE date of this revisional activity, (2) the location of the revision in Palestine, and (3) the revision’s relationship to proto-Rabbinic exegesis.

He then turns in an “unexepected” direction to the Psalms of Solomon. Most scholars believe that the Psalms of Solomon were originally composed in Hebrew, but Joosten and E. Bons believe that the work could have been composed originally in Greek. He locates the composition in Judea, freshly after the Roman invasion around the middle of the first century BCE.

What are the connections between the kaige group and the Psalms of Solomon? First, Joosten discerns a unique, common vocabulary between Ps. Sol. and members of the kaige group. Second, Ps. Sol. often employs and alludes to the Old Greek of biblical books, but on occasion the allusions veer away from the Old Greek and align with the Theodotionic and Aquilinic revisions of the Old Greek or at least align with their translation equivalents of the proto-MT elsewhere. For example (on p. 9):
Ps. Sol. 17:3 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐλπιοῦμεν ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν σωτῆρα ἡμῶν
      But we will hope in God our savior
Mic 7:7 Εγὼ δὲ… ὑπομενῶ ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου
      But as for me… I will wait for God my savior
MT אוֹחִילָה “I will await”
Note יחל – ἐλπίζειν in θ´ Job 14:14; Isa 42:4; Mic 5:6; α´ Job 14:14; Isa 42:4. The expression ὁ θεὸς σωτήρ is found in the Greek Bible only in these passages. This makes it very likely that the Ps. Sol. passage alludes to Mic 7:7. The constellation is the same as in the previous one, except that the revised reading is not extant for this precise verse in Micah. The equivalence יחל – ἐλπίζειν is attested elsewhere in Theodotion and Aquila, however. In Job 14:14, ὑπομένειν in the LXX was changed to ἐλπίζειν in θ´α´.
Here, we do not have extant evidence of the revisers for Mic 7:7, but Joosten has probably detected correctly that Ps. Sol. has adopted their approach (as members of the kaige-group) to the translation of scripture rather than the OG’s.

At the end of the article, Joosten returns to the open questions with which he began, quite cautiously drawing conclusions. First, if Ps. Sol. is dated to the second half of the first century BCE and there is a connection to kaige, then the kaige activity is more probably dated to the first century BCE, thus a minor correction to Barthélemy’s first century CE date. Second, Joosten notes that Ps. Sol. might now present new evidence for the kaige activity occurring in Palestine. Third, and most intriguing, Ps. Sol. expressed opinion that appears to be consonant with the Pharisees (e.g. resurrection of righteous in 3:11-12; 13:11), which might then link it—and now the kaige group—with the proto-Rabbinic movement.

There is much to consider in this piece, and generally, it seems right to me. The same tradition or group that revised its sacred scriptures and made new translations of some of them could have also generated new psalms and collections. Probably, the major challenge to this argument would be that Jews in Judea composed Ps. Sol. in Greek, not Hebrew, a challenge that Joosten himself notes. Another aspect of Joosten’s discussion that’s worth revisiting is the language of “Theodotion.” His article depends only on Ps. Sol. originating with the kaige tradition not necessarily “Theodotion” or proto-Theodotion. It may be best to remove the reference to Theodotion and continue to use kaige tradition or group. But this is a minor point, and I don’t want it to detract from Joosten’s overall intriguing piece.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Larry Hurtado on P52

I recently came across this short video of Craig Evans interviewing Larry Hurtado. It appears to be made during the production of Evans’ new documentary, Fragments of Truth (see Peter Gurry’s review here). The date of P52 comes up, and Hurtado briefly explains why he thinks it is “among the earliest New Testament manuscripts” but not necessarily the earliest New Testament manuscript.

Hurtado’s position isn’t new or unusual, but I find it helpful to draw attention to another voice among those who reject specifically early or narrow dates for P52. He has gone on the record before about what he thinks of the date of P52 (on his blog here, or in various articles, some of which are in his recent collection of essays, Texts and Artefacts).

Friday, April 13, 2018

Festschrift for Geoffrey Khan freely available

The full text of the Festschrift for Geoffrey Khan, one of the world’s leading Semitists, is now freely available here. In the opening essay of the volume I write about Semitic long /i/ vowels in Vaticanus NT, making the case that the spellings with epsilon-iota for the long /i/ in Vaticanus are a mixture of early readings and learned innovation.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Greg Lanier: Locating the Inspired ‘Original’ Amid Textual Complexity

Greg Lanier is an assistant professor and dean of students at Reformed Theological Seminary and a good friend of mine from Cambridge. Recently, he published a long article in JETS about a particularly knotty textual problem that spans both OT and NT. It also raises questions for Evangelicals about the goal of textual criticism and its relationship to our bibliology. I would like to see more discussion about these issues and so I asked Greg if he would introduce us to his article and pose some of the issues it raises. So, here is Greg.

The most recent volume of JETS (61.1) includes my analysis of the textual tradition of the murder (M), adultery (A), and steal (S) commandments of the Decalogue—traditionally 6th–8th in the Protestant numbering. The full article can be downloaded here.

The bulk of the article is an inventory of the various sequences found in extant sources (including the versions) for both OT and NT occurrences of these commandments. For instance, the order M-A-S is read in the MT for both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5; A-M-S in the Nash Papyrus and B-Deuteronomy; A-S-M in B-Exodus; and a variety of sequences appear in the NT references to these commandments (and the resulting textual traditions). The full set of results can, of course, be found in the article.

While tracing the minutiae of these passages as far as possible was interesting in its own right, I eventually realized that the project served as a well-contained case study that surfaces and helps crystallize a bigger-picture issue of significance in the study of the textual tradition of Scripture. Namely, what does it mean to speak of an authorial/original/initial form of a Scriptural writing when faced with tremendous complexity in the actual data itself?

In conversations with various OT and NT peers—particularly those who have a “high” doctrine of Scripture (of the American or British varieties)—I’ve found that this topic has struck a chord, as others have been thinking on it as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review of ‘Fragments of Truth’

The folks at Faithlife kindly sent me a review version of their new documentary Fragments of Truth that comes out two weeks from today. The movie itself lasts 115 minutes followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A with Craig Evans and others. Evans also serves as tour guide (think Mary Beard style) and the rest of the narration is filled in by John Rhys-Davies, better known as the amazing Gimli in Lord of the Rings.

The basic point of the movie is to show that the text of the New Testament is reliable and that the variants that do exist pose no threat to Christian confidence in the New Testament. The closing words go further in saying that when you read your Bible, you “really are reading the Word of God.” Probably many Christians won’t even notice the leap from “textually reliable” to “inspired by God,” but skeptics might.

Evans takes us on a tour to locations across Europe that hold some of our most famous Greek New Testament manuscripts in places like Cambridge, Dublin, Vatican City, and Oxford. One nice feature about this is that they interview the curators at most of these stops. I like this because curators often get overlooked. But not here.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Christian Biblical Canon Defined by Central Authority?

Timothy Lim has recently written a post for the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins blog (University of Edinburgh) entitled The Canonical Process Reconsidered (the post is a summary of a recent essay which I have not seen yet). Lim is commenting on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament canon in this post/article, specifically, questioning the role of "Criterial Logic" for tracing the canon process and promoting what he calls "Indicative Logic" instead. I won't engage those ideas here. However, Lim makes a curious statement in the very first paragraph, which I will engage. He states:
The canon of the Hebrew Bible was defined, if not yet finally closed, by the end of the first century CE. The Pharisaic canon became the canon of Rabbinic Judaism, because the majority of those who re-founded the Jewish religion after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans were Pharisees. The process that led to this canonization needs to be explored. How should we think about the books that were eventually included in the canon? Unlike the early church, ancient Jewish communities did not have a central authority that defined the books of the canon. The formation of the Jewish canon was not prescribed by the priests of the Temple of Jerusalem, it emerged from the bottom-up with each community holding to its own collection of authoritative texts (emphasis added).
Lim does not explain this analogy further, but surely, he is alluding to the all-too-common picture of a fourth-century council (usually Nicaea) that defined the books of the biblical canon once and for all. The problem with this view? No evidence. In fact, if you look through my and Ed Gallagher's recent The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity, perhaps the first thing you will notice is that there is no list from the Council of Nicaea or similar council from this early period. In fact, we wanted to ensure that even the gathering at Laodicea in the 360's and the one at Hippo in the early 390's were not mistaken for the big councils of the same century. We translated the relevant terms with "synod" to try to convey that these assemblies were more regional and smaller than what the term "council" typically conveys in these discussions.

If there was a canon list that came from a central, authoritative council, we do not possess it today. Rather, our lists show that there was almost certainly no such ruling on the canon, since, although the lists share much agreement, they also evince ongoing disputes and discussions over various books after the Council of Nicaea (325 CE). Therefore, both Judaism and Christianity cannot claim that their lists of books go back to some central authority. Both must trace the process of canonization according to the various sources we possess today.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Linguistics and New Testament Greek at Southeastern

Well, mark April 26–27, 2019 on your calendar because Southeastern Seminary is hosting a conference on Linguistics and New Testament Greek. Here is the description:
This two-day conference is designed to bring students of the Greek New Testament up-to-date regarding current issues related to linguistics and the interpretation of the New Testament. It features several top scholars in the field including Stan Porter, Constantine Campbell, Stephen Levinsohn, Steve Runge, and Robert Plummer. The session topics include verbal aspect, the perfect tense, discourse analysis, and word order. The cost of the conference includes dinner on Friday night, breakfast on Saturday morning, and a light snack late morning on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Samples of Early Printed Greek

Last week I gave a quick tour of Greek New Testament type design over on the Twitter. This was inspired by the arrival of the book Greek Printing Types: 1465–1927: Facsimiles from an Exhibition of Books Illustrating the Development of Greek Printing Shown in the British Museum, 1927 at my local library. The introduction to the book gives a really helpful overview of Greek type design by Victor Scholderer, curator of the incunabula section in the British Museum Library. He was also the designer of Monotype’s New Hellenic in 1927 (see here) which finally unsettled the dominance of Porson in England. Fun fact about New Hellenic: it was used in abecedaries for nearly three decades in Greece. I think it was more common in classics than Biblical studies, but you see it, for example, in the older Cambridge History of the Bible.

All that by way of introduction. For those particularly interested in reading historic editions of the GNT, one of the main obstacles to overcome is the proliferation of ligatures that grew out of the Aldine typefaces from the 15th century. The Aldine style was based on the hand of the Greek scribe Immanuel Rhusotas and, partly because it looked “scholarly,” it took off and would influence the major Greek New Testaments up to the nineteenth century. Practically, this means that reading anything before that can be a chore. To help, here is a website that gives a nice introduction to early printed Greek, especially the wild and woolly ligatures. Check it out if you’re interested in reading these old editions.

More resources

William H. Ingram, “The Ligatures of Early Printed Greek,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 7.4 (1966): 371–89 and William Wallace, “An Index of Greek Ligatures and Contractions,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 43 (1923): 183–193; Robert Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1900). For a nice overview of the development of Greek type design, see Gerry Leonidas’s article at the Association Typographique Internationale.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Why Does Michelangelo’s Moses Look Like That?

Translations have consequences. In Exodus 34:29, there is a fascinating example of the tension between the formal and functional renderings of the Hebrew text in the history of its translation. Here are the relevant texts on which I want to focus, but if your translation offers some interesting insight, indicate so in the comments.

The Versions

MT: ֹוּמֹשֶׁה לֹֽא־יָדַע כִּי קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו בְּדַבְּרוֹ אִתּו
Now, Moses did not know that the skin of his face qāran [when he spoke with him].

OG: Μωυσῆς οὐκ ᾔδει ὅτι δεδόξασται ἡ ὄψις τοῦ χρώματος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ λαλεῖν αὐτὸν αὐτῷ.
Moses was not knowing that the appearance of his face’s skin was magnified [while he spoke with him].

Aquila (apud Jerome Am III 6.13): et Moyses nesciebat quia cornuta erat species uultus eius.
And Moses was not knowing that the appearance of his face was horned.

Vulgate: et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua ex consortio sermonis Dei
And he was ignorant that his face was horned [from conversing with God].

Aquila’s Version

The first issue to sort out is the Greek text of Aquila. In his commentary on Amos 6:13 (PL 25:1067), Jerome is commenting on the noun Karnaim (קַרְנָיִם) “horns,” and among other texts he appeals to the Hebrew and Aquila’s edition of Exod 34:29 for an understanding of a person with horns. He does not provide the Greek reading of Aquila (which has not been preserved), but Aquila used κέρας and derivatives systematically for קרן and derivatives so we can reconstruct his version with some probability. Jerome used the adjective cornutu “horned,” so probably Aquila had something like ὅτι κερατώδης ἦν ἡ ὄψις τοῦ δέρματος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ. I doubt whether Aquila would have used ὄψις and not the nominative δέρμα “skin”, which would agree more closely with the Hebrew, but that’s another question for another day.

Hebrew Meaning

The reason for the differences in translation comes from whether to render the Hebrew text formally or functionally. Qāran is from qeren “horn,” which is often times an image of strength in the ancient world and the Hebrew Bible, specifically the strength of a king (e.g. Deut 33:17; 1 Sam 2:1, 10). In the ancient world, gods and kings were often described as horned as a measure of their great or superior status, and perhaps the horns were a symbol of the deification of the king. Thus the denominative verb “is horned” (cp. the Hiph stem in Ps 69:32 of a bull “sprouting horns”) could symbolize Moses’ strength as Israel’s leader (cf. Exod 4:16).

On the other hand, there are other references to horns in the Hebrew Bible such as the horns on the altar (many places in Exod and Lev), which would probably not symbolize superiority, but atonement and meeting with God. As mediator, Moses’ horns would perhaps fit with this background as well.


OG-Exod interpreted Moses’ horns with a metaphorical rendering by assigning shining, glory, or magnificence to Moses’ face in the presence of Yahweh (cp. Targ and Pesh). Aquila revised the text according to etymology or ultra-literalism, and thus restored the ancient picture of a leader or mediator with horns. Jerome continued this tradition in his Vulgate, which must have also impacted the interpretation of Moses’ appearance by the time Michelangelo put chisel to marble to sculpt his Moses.

Thus Jerome did not mistranslate the Hebrew (neither did the LXX for that matter). But he did borrow the ultra-literal translation of the Hebrew that Aquila had already supplied. And it is this rendering that explains why Michelangelo’s Moses looks the way it does.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Why Will the Last Be First? Reconsidering the Longer Reading at Matt 20.16

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20.1–16) closes with a repetition of the statement that immediately precedes it and is logically connected to (note γάρ in 20.1): “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Although some see a poor fit with this proverbial statement and the parable, it actually connects very closely at two points.

Not sure what the source of this is.
First, the workers hired last are paid first and the workers hired first are paid last (20.8, 10). Second, if we read the statement not simply as being about reversal (last in place of first) but also as a removal of distinction (the first are the last), then there is an obvious connection in the fact that all the workers were paid the same amount. This, of course, is the point of contention for the first workers since such a procedure makes the last equal (ἴσους) with them. This seems to be an injustice (cf. ἀδικῶ in v. 13 with δίκαιον δώσω ὑμῖν in v. 4). The envious, as Joseph Epstein writes, “have a restless competitiveness, which will not cease nagging away at them until they feel themselves clearly established as the first among unequals.”

The response is well known and despite much debate about the parable’s meaning, it does seem to be about the problem of envy or “the evil eye” (ὁ ὀφθαλμός πονηρός) among Jesus’ disciples. This was part of the problem Peter showcased in the preceding paragraph.

In this, the concluding proverbial statement works as a rebuke to Peter both in its first instance in 19.30 and then again in 20.16 at the end of the parable. The statement works as an inclusio for the parable. The point is that Jesus’ disciples should not begrudge God his generosity; instead they should be grateful when he treats people in ways that can only seem wrong when fairness has been wrapped around ourselves. After all, isn’t God free to do as he wishes with what is his? If so, then he is free to treat those we deem last the same way he treats those we deem first.

This brings us to the longer reading of 20.16 which adds a final justification for all this: “for many are called but few are chosen.” These words are found verbatim in Matt 22.14 and therein lies the problem for them. The recent eclectic texts (NA28, SBLGNT, and THGNT) all omit the words because of the parallel. (Tregelles has them in brackets.) Here is Metzger:
Although it is possible that the words πολλοὶ … ἐκλετοί had been accidentally omitted from an ancestor of א B L Z 085 al owing to homoeoteleuton, the Committee regarded it as much more likely that they were added here by copyists who recollected the close of another parable (22:14, where there is no significant variation of reading).
The problem is that the statement “many are called but few are chosen” makes good sense in Matt 22.14 after a man is thrown out from a wedding feast without proper dress. But here in Matt 20, there is no hint of some people being excluded or not chosen (presumably, all the workers take what is theirs and go). Instead, all receive the same pay just as all were chosen to work in the first place. Exclusion is not really the point here.

Nor is there an obvious reason to harmonize the text here as there is in Luke 14.24 where we also find the saying added by a few manuscripts. There, harmonization is the obvious explanation since that is Luke’s banquet parable. But Matt 20 has little in common with those two passages except for the general reversal of expectations which is found in much of Jesus’ teaching. There is a verbal connection in the use of the word “many” (πολλοί), but even that is only found in Matt 19.30 not here in 20.16. So I find it a bit odd for Westcott and Hort to say that the longer reading comes from “the close of a similar parable” (Appendix, 15; so too Willker).

Both readings have early support: in C D syr for the longer and א and B for the shorter. Given the apparent awkwardness of the longer reading in Matt 20.16 it is, in my opinion, the more difficult reading. As for transcriptional evidence, the lack of a good parallel context weighs against harmonization. On the other side, the -οι endings make homoeoteleuton, as Metzger recognized, the obvious cause for the shorter reading. If external evidence is not against the longer reading and the internal is for it, then it should be preferred.

But what do others think about this one? Is there a good explanation for Matt 22.14 being brought into Matt 20.16 that I’ve missed? If the longer reading is original, how does it fit in the context? What does it add to the meaning?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Maurizio Aceto and Scientific Analysis of Manuscripts

The John Rylands Library is running an exhibit through August 2018 called The Alchemy of Colour. They even have a series of short YouTube videos describing non-invasive ways that multi-spectral analysis can shed new light on manuscripts. The videos are a delight to watch.

One of the videos shows that cow’s urine was used for a particular yellow pigment—demonstrated by a yellow dress glowing under the blacklight. It sounds almost scandalous, but if you are familiar with ancient recipes for making inks and dyes, it really is no surprise. Earle Radcliffe Caley’s 1926 translation of P.Leiden X, for example, has six references to urine as an ingredient. The video that excited me, however, was a short discussion of the colour purple:

In the video, Cheryl Porter gives a great description of some of the ways purple was made and the significance the colour had in antiquity. She mentions specifically that purple was often equated with power. That has led some to suspect that purple Gospel books could have had political significance.

Rather than a discussion of the colour purple, however, I wanted to use the opportunity afforded by the video to point readers to some of the work being done by Maurizio Aceto. You might ask why Aceto appears in a video about the use of purple in manuscripts, especially because he doesn’t say anything about the colour.

Photo credit: John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog,
Purple is the new black“ (2 November 2017)
The reason is that Aceto has published several articles in recent years on the use of non-invasive scientific testing to learn about ancient artefacts, and purple codices have been subjects of a number of them. In one of his publications (“First Analytical Evidences of Precious Colourants on Mediterranean Illuminated Manuscripts), he and a team of researchers used Raman spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) and UV-Vis diffuse reflectance spectrophotometry with fibre optics (FORS) to identify the inks and colourants in the Vienna Dioscurides and Vienna Genesis manuscripts of the sixth century.

In another study (“Non-Invasive Investigation on a VI Century Purple Codex from Brescia, Italy”), Aceto led a team of researchers who used XRF, FORS and a couple of other non-invasive techniques on Codex Brixianus, a sixth-century Latin purple codex. This second article I mention was especially interesting, as Aceto et al. demonstrate that Tyrian Purple was not the main source of the purple dye, but they suggest that the codex might have been dyed by a process known as top-dyeing. The parchment was first dyed with a cheaper purple substitute, and then a thin layer of more expensive Tyrian purple was added on top of the lesser-quality dye. It was a way to save money without completely losing the colour of the more expensive dye. (Let me add that his suggestion about the possibility of top-dyeing applies only to Codex Brixianus, not necessarily to the Greek purple codices from the same era.)

I give the information for some of Aceto’s publications below. If you like manuscripts and dabble in science (or vice versa), they are interesting reads. Scientists like Aceto have a whole toolbox of equipment that can be used to study manuscripts that easily goes unnoticed by scholars concerned with the texts those manuscripts contain. Besides, science is fun!


Aceto, Maurizio, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Pietro Baraldi, P. Zannini, C. Hofmann, and E. Gamillscheg. “First Analytical Evidences of Precious Colourants on Mediterranean Illuminated Manuscripts.” Spectrochim. Acta A 95 (September 2012): 235–45.

Aceto, Maurizio, Angelo Agostino, Enrico Boccaleri, and Anna Cerutti Garlanda. “The Vercelli Gospels Laid Open: An Investigation into the Inks Used to Write the Oldest Gospels in Latin.” X-Ray Spectrometry 37 (2008): 286–292.

Aceto, Maurizio, Ambra Idone, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Monica Gulmini, Pietro Baraldi, and Fabrizio Crivello. “Non-Invasive Investigation on a VI Century Purple Codex from Brescia, Italy.” Spectrochim. Acta A 117 (January 3, 2014): 34–41.

Aceto, Maurizio, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Ambra Idone, Fabrizio Crivello, Martina Griesser, Franz Kirchweger, Katharina Uhlir, and Patricia Roger Puyo. “Analytical Investigations on the Coronation Gospels Manuscript.” Spectrochim. Acta A 171 (January 15, 2017): 213–21.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Visual Proof of the Original Reading at Mark 1.1

In honor of our newest blog member who is an expert in all manuscripts purple, here is something I noticed last week in class.

It’s not uncommon for Gospels manuscripts to feature portraits of the Evangelists writing out the first line or so of their Gospel. Now, look closely at the text Mark is copying in this miniature from Codex Rossanensis/042 (6th cent.). Elijah can tell us more about the dating of the artwork from what is perhaps the earliest illuminated NT manuscript. This is clearly telling us what the original reading is there. We have visual proof!

Okay, I kid. But here is a serious question: should this be cited as an additional witness to the longer reading? Why or why not? (The text of 042 also has the longer reading, with τοῦ.)

Miniature of Mark in 042