Thursday, December 13, 2018

New Review of THGNT

In the latest Puritan Reformed Journal, Jeffrey Riddle has a review of the THGNT which he has uploaded to Academia. I believe Jeff is a proponent of either the Majority Text or the Received Text (not sure which exactly) and that pokes through at various points, notably in this latest sentence: “Despite all the scholarly erudition reflected in this work, however, the question remains as to whether modern text critical methodology will ever be able to offer a scholarly approximation of the text.” It’s pretty clear that Jeff’s answer to that question would be no. For more on his view of the THGNT, he has a podcast episode on it here.

I’ll leave you with this snippet:
In the final analysis, the THGNT is a visually attractive printed edition of the Greek New Testament. It is inspired by the text-critical approach of Tregelles and focuses on the earliest extant Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (papyri and uncials). It reflects the modern “reconstructionist” method of text criticism, which emerged in the nineteenth century and eventually led to the toppling of the Textus Receptus as the standard text among most Protestants including evangelicals. It also departs at points, however, from the current trends manifest in the application of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) in the Editio Critica Maior and in the most recent critical handbooks produced by the Institute für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster and the United Bible Societies. As noted, this reflects an effort “to constrain editorial choice” as “a check on editorial fallibility and eccentricity” (505) and appears to be in keeping with a long history of both Anglo adaptation and dissent from German higher criticism.
I don’t know if Dirk and the Petes saw themselves as dissenting from German higher criticism or not, but there we are.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brent Nongbri Responds

Some of you may recall my recent post where I mention my recent article that briefly disputes Brent Nongbri’s case for P18’s greater likelihood of being a codex. Following this, Brent concocted a twofold response, which is as eloquent as it is amicable. In Part 1, he engages with Charlesworth’s response published last year and in Part 2 with mine. I won’t be writing a rejoinder and would encourage our readers to read Brent’s posts for themselves. He summarises the points of contact very accurately and, since both his and my piece were written in more tentative terms, the debate pretty much ends up in weighing the probabilities. I for one remain unconvinced by the counterproposal, but, once again, I am impressed by how Brent is able to interact with opposing views with civility and fairness. (Another good example of this is Brent’s latest post concerning Ryan Kaufman’s counterproposal concerning the ending of John 20 in P66.)

I might note, however, that I was quite intrigued by (parts of) Steven Goranson’s comment under Brent’s second post quite interesting. Let me quote it in full:
I am undecided whether it is a roll or a codex, and excuse me if I missed something, but concerning the paragraph ‘Yes, but the specific point at issue is “fragments of what were once more extensive rolls” that preserve no more or less than a single column of writing on both sides. How common is that? (It’s an honest question–I don’t know the answer.) If our Exodus/Revelation papyrus is indeed a portion of a reused roll, it would seem to be a very happy coincidence indeed that this surviving portion of the roll preserves exactly a single column of text on each side.’ I would comment that if one column from the *middle* of a roll were preserved on the recto, then the chances of a nearly-matching column on the verso would be smaller than the chances of a match if indeed this piece were a roll end. That it holds the end of Exodus and the beginning of Revelation (assuming the top edge, with room for initial Rev. verses, is missing) might suggest (but not prove) the end of a roll. After all, if using a similar margin, one side of the column already aligns as a given (unlike in a mid-roll scenario), so if similar column width was used, the match of columns may not occasion much surprise. Also, though I may be on thin ice, let me go further: aren’t Exodus and Revelation both scroll-prominent books, and scribes knew that? So, given a choice…
Although I’m not sure I’d call Revelation a ‘scroll-prominent book’ (it does involve a comparatively higher proportion of papyri, the numbers are so small that it’s very hard to make any convincing generalisations), I think the main force of Goranson’s argument lies in the fact that the beginning followed by the ending of another work in a fragment like this would speak in favour of a re-used roll. To this I might add that portions of the roll closer to the centre (i.e. ending of the → side) are more likely to get preserved than outer parts—for obvious reasons. This would fit nicely with the situation in P18, provided that the roll wasn’t rolled up the opposite way upon re-use. Here I must confess that I don’t really know how this was done or whether there are any studies that deal with this. I would thus gladly echo Brent’s observation that ‘we really do need a thorough survey of reused rolls’. I couldn’t agree more. How’s that for a doctoral thesis topic? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Papyrus Artemidorus in the News Again

This article has been updated (additions/substitutions in italics).

In 2009 Peter Head wrote a short piece on this blog about the Artemidorus Papyrus. There has been an endless debate over the authenticity of this manuscript, purportedly a work by the first-century BCE geographer Artemidorus, which was purchased in the early 2000s by an Italian foundation related to a bank group for an unbelievable price of nearly 2.750.000 EUROS ($3,369,850). The papyrus was exhibited in 2006 and then published in 2008 as Il Papiro di Artemidoro by an Italian group of scholars. However, a professor from Bari, Luciano Canfora argued at a very early stage that it was a modern forgery, possibly by the infamous 19th century forger Constantin Simonides. So, there are two camps among scholars, one defending its authenticity, one arguing that it is a fake.

Now, the manuscript has surfaced in the news again, in Italian newspapers (here, for example), suggesting that the case is closed – the manuscript has been proven a forgery. What is this fuss about? Apparently, there has been a legal investigation and the prosecuting side, the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that the papyrus is a forgery, based on investigations arranged by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage (Ministero dei Beni Culturali). Well, who did the prosecutors call in as expert? Answer: Luciano Canfora & co, the one side that has argued for a forgery for many years. In fact, the news article repeats Canfora’s hilarious proposal that “it is most likely a 19th-century forgery attributed to the Greek Constantine Simonides.” As one who has studied Simonides’ forged papyri (yes, I have just submitted an article on the topic to a major journal), I must say that the Artemidorus papyrus is nothing like the papyri we know were forged by Simonides. I am ready to go to Italy to testify, just invite me :-).

What was more interesting than the old arguments by Canfora & co, however, was the anticipated “smoking gun” mentioned later on in the article, namely tests of the ink. There are no decisive evidence yet, but apparently, preliminary tests have supported the case for forgery (of course not specifically by Simonides) rather than authenticity, as suggested by Piero Gastaldo, Secretary General of Compagnia di San Paolo, the foundation that bought the papyrus (related to the Turin bank that now owns it) just before he resigned. But what tests and when?

 It is suggested that the ink composition is different from that which was used in papyri from the first to the sixth century (it is unclear whether they mean 1st century BCE here). Preliminary tests have detected zinc, and suggest that the fragments were placed on a metallic net that contained zinc, and then treated with acids. There is, however, no details of this testing, and it seems that the legal case is already closed … this is interesting.

One of our anonymous readers explains that these facts of the case were presented far too long ago for anybody to be charged at this point. It was a personal investigation by a judge who is now about to retire, and therefore  "he had to publish his findings now or never. For this reason the case is closed - without that judge following his personal interest and no possibility of charging anybody, no one in the legal system will not continue with the investigation."

In 2010, a Florence-based research group published the results of their tests on the Artemidorus papyrus in the journal Radiocarbon vol 52 (2010): 356–63. They tested both the writing material and the ink with various methods including radiocarbon. There was nothing they could find to prove the case for forgery – this is their conclusion:
C4 measurements have dated the papyrus to a period that is compatible with the hypothesis of the papyrologists. However, this result alone cannot be conclusive proof of the document’s authenticity. Some have already commented that a blank ancient papyrus might have been used to draw the inscriptions in the 19th century (even though it seems unlikely that a forger used such a great support). The ink analysis can add some important information: actually, all the results support the idea of the originality of the scroll. It is true that also in this case, someone has suggested that an expert forger might have simulated the composition of an ancient ink. In any case, in spite of and in addition to these results, discussion among the scholars is ongoing, mostly based on philological and linguistic issues. It will probably continue for a long time, at least until we are able to directly date theink (perhaps in the future!)
Finally, I should point out that there is a lot more to learn about ancient ink on papyri. In fact, last year, a group of Danish scholars showed for the first time that carbon black inks on ancient Egyptian papyri from different time periods and geographical regions contain copper. This article was published in Nature. I have recently learnt that my co-author Malcolm Choat, with whom I am working on Simonides, with two colleagues has received funding from the Australian Research Council (again!) for a project “to investigate the chemical composition of papyri from ancient Egypt and their inks to identify scribes, date texts, detect forgeries, match fragmentary texts, and illuminate environmental and technological change.”

All I know is that the last word on Papyrus Artemidorus is not said.  

Monday, December 10, 2018

30+ Sessions of Dan Wallace on Textual Criticism—Free

A student of mine emailed to let me know that Credo House currently has a sale going on for Dan Wallace’s lecture series on textual criticism. I believe you still have to pay if you want the video (with slides?), but all 30+ audio sessions are free! I don’t know what they normally go for, but the video is listed at $200. This is a steal. I think this is an updated and maybe expanded version of the course I took (and paid for!) from Dan at Dallas Seminary. If you’re a student, pastor, or layperson wanting to learn TC from Wallace himself, go get it.

Friday, December 07, 2018

John’s Bible Version in John 19:37?

See the update to this post below.
I continue my series of highlighting places where a NT author cites the Old Testament but does not use the Old Greek/Septuagint (see 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Cor 15:54). In addition, I would propose that the NT author in these cases probably does not give his own ad hoc rendering of the Hebrew, since there was a perfectly good revision of the older Greek translation at his disposal. My assumption, therefore, is that the NT author simply used and modified an already existing Greek translation of which he and his audience were aware. Here, I list the Hebrew, OG, and the readings of the Three for the part of Zechariah 12:10 that John quotes in 19:37 including some context:
Hebrew: וְהִבִּ֥יטוּ אֵלַ֖י אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁר־דָּקָ֑רוּ וְסָפְד֣וּ עָלָ֗יו
“and they will look to me whom they pierced and they shall mourn for him.”
Greek: καὶ ἐπιβλέψονται πρός με ἀνθ᾽ ὧν κατωρχήσαντο καὶ κόψονται ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν
“and they will look to me because they danced triumphantly, and they will mourn over him.”
John 19:37: καὶ πάλιν ἑτέρα γραφὴ λέγει· ὄψονται εἰς ὃν ἐξεκέντησαν 
“and again another scripture says, ‘They look at whom they pierced‘.”
Aquila: α’ σύν ᾧ ἐξεκέντησαν καὶ κόψονται αὐτόν
“[they will look to me(?)] whom they pierced, and will mourn for him.”
Theodotion: θ’ ...πρός με ὃν ἐξεκέντησαν καὶ κόψονται αὐτόν
“[they will look] to me whom they pierced, and they will mourn for him.”
Symmachus: σ’ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεξεκέντησαν καὶ κόψονται αὐτόν
“[they will look to me(?)] before/in whose presence they pierced, and they will mourn for him.”
The OG’s κατορχεῖσθαι “to dance triumphantly” is a hapax legomenon in the Greek Old Testament’s corpus and probably resulted from reading a form of the verb רקד “to leap about, dance” Piel, which metathesized ד and ר due either to ד/ר confusion or exegesis.

The readings of the Three were originally incorporated into Origen’s Hexapla but come down to us via Ra 86 (image from DigiVatLib). John clearly depends on Theodotion’s version for his quotation of Zechariah 12:10, not the Old Greek. However, John has also modified it slightly by using a different preposition than Theodotion (but see the Syrohexapla for the Th fragment which could be retroverted as εἰς which would mean that Th’s version equal’s John’s form of the quotation in this respect). In any case, John has certainly not read with the Old Greek in this place but rather the revision of it.

The apostles (at least Paul, John, and Matthew) were aware of not only the older Greek version but also other forms of the Greek scriptures, for they cite and quote them too. What factors led to their choice? The Hebrew source? The texts at their disposal in any given situation? We don’t know. But what seems clear is that these Jewish followers of Jesus had not declared an exclusive preference for the older Greek version. At one point, they are quoting from the ‘LXX’ and at another point they are quoting from one of its revisions. We would do well to bear this phenomenon in mind as we continue to read the NT’s use of the OT and also how these matters develop in the second century and beyond.

UPDATE 12/8/2018

I’ve now had the chance to look at Syrohexapla (Syh fol. 112r) for the Theodotion reading in Zach 12:10 (ܒܗܘ), and no doubt, the translator rendered an equivalent for a Greek preposition before the relative pronoun ὅν. The beth is often used for εἰς in this tradition thus Ziegler’s εἰς in the second apparatus is probably correct.

In my mind, then, John removes πρός με (contextual to be sure) and modifies the verb from ἐπιβλέψονται to ὄψονται. But εἰς ὃν ἐξεκέντησαν seems to be the original reading of Theodotion and that would give three words of correspondence. Even Ra 86 agrees with John on the choice of the relative pronoun for two words of correspondence.

When compared with Aq, Sym, and OG, we see that not all come to the same rendering of the Hebrew which makes agreements between Th and John all the more interesting. Lastly, for the key word “pierce,” John had several lexical options in Greek but landed on Theodotion’s equivalent. It could be coincidence. But presuming that version is already around, I don’t think we need to argue along those lines in this case.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

New Book on the Revised Version by Cadwallader

Alan Cadwallader has been working on a major book on the Revised Version for years now. I first became aware of his work when I visited Westcott House a few years ago and found that he had preceded me and had very helpfully produced a catalogue of the materials there. Since then, I have been waiting for the fruit to appear. Now it has.

Although I have not seen the final book in hand, I was able to use some of the chapters in pre-pub form thanks to Alan’s generosity. If the rest of the book is like what I saw, then you can expect it to be finely researched, insightful, and full of spicy details. I learned a good deal from what I read. For a taste of the earlier fruit of his research, see the article I mention here.

The price is uncomfortable, but I hope to get a copy somehow at some point. If you’re interested in Bible translation, the history of New Testament scholarship, or Victorian church politics, you’ll want to take a look.

The full details are The Politics of the Revised Version: A Tale of Two New Testament Revision Companies, The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies (T&T Clark, 2018).

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Review of David Daniels, Is the ‘World’s Oldest Bible’ a Fake?

A couple of weeks ago during my trip to Denver for ETS/SBL, I read David W. Daniels’ book, Is the “World’s Oldest Bible” a Fake? I decided to write a review of it that I posted as an ‘unpublished’ review on

In the book, Daniels attempts to argue that Codex Sinaiticus is a modern production (c. 1840s). This bizarre position has been a trend in recent years among KJV-only circles and even taken up by people I’ve known and respected for decades.

I honestly cannot stress enough how much I do not recommend this book to anyone. I quote from my conclusion:
In summary, David Daniels demonstrates over and over again that he is agenda-driven by a desire to undermine any opposition to the KJV, he cherry-picks references that he can twist in his favour without giving the full context (or without reporting information from the same works that he cites elsewhere that could undermine his point), and he has effectively zero experience with real manuscripts. I cannot recommend this book to anyone.
One of the most striking things to me is how much Daniels doesn’t say. If you are on the fence about this issue, that should concern you—what Daniels is not telling you.

To be clear, I don’t harbour any ill-will toward Daniels. In fact, I wrote a positive review of one of his other books, a biography of Jack Chick.

That being said, I cannot recommend his book on Codex Sinaiticus to anyone. That is not because I’m opposed to finding out manuscripts are fakes. The Museum of the Bible is to be commended for removing some of its Dead Sea Scrolls after getting further tests done (let’s not forget that they were the ones who paid for these extra tests and have supported Kipp Davis’ investigations on their authenticity this whole time). Also, there was that other manuscript that caused a big stir and turned out to be a fake a few years ago. No, the problem with Daniels’ book is that it is built on one-sided reporting, conspiracy theories and a desire to defend the King James Version at all costs rather than the careful analysis, experience with manuscripts and expertise that normally leads to the identification of forgeries.

Read my full review here.