Saturday, December 31, 2005

Review of Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus seeks to fill a market niche by being a book written for people who know nothing about textual criticism. Here it is reviewed under five headings: Synopsis, Praise, Critique, Conclusion, and Appendix.

1. Synopsis

Book cover Introduction (pp. 1-15). Ehrman explains why the subject of the text of the New Testament is one that has radically affected him both emotionally and intellectually. He was brought up in a ‘churchgoing but not particularly religious’ family (p. 1) but in teenage years felt a kind of loneliness (which he now thinks was just what all teenagers feel). After becoming involved in a Campus Life Youth for Christ club he had a ‘born-again’ experience aged 15 and some time after that was encouraged to attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, which he did in 1973. This institution held to biblical inerrancy and that the words of the autograph were inspired, but in an early class he encountered the fact that we do not possess the autographs, only ‘error-ridden copies of the autographs’ (p. 5). This got him interested in trying to learn about textual criticism. By the end of his three-year diploma at Moody he wanted to become ‘... an evangelical “voice” in secular circles, by getting degrees that would allow me to teach in secular settings while retaining my evangelical commitments’ (pp. 5-6). He went to Wheaton College, majoring in English and learning Greek, and there he experienced some doubts. After two years he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied with Bruce Metzger. He writes, ‘A turning point came in my second semester’ (p. 8), during a course on Mark when he had written a paper trying to justify the name ‘Abiathar’ in Mark 2:26 and his professor, Cullen Story, wrote thereon ‘Maybe Mark just made a mistake’. Once Ehrman had concluded that he did, ‘the floodgates opened’ to admitting other problems in scripture (p. 9) and then to having a radical rethink of his understanding of the Bible. He now writes a book which he believes is the first of its kind: a book ‘for people who know nothing about textual criticism’ (p. 15).

1. The Beginnings of Christian Scripture (pp. 17-43). Judaism was a religion of the book and writing became important within Christian churches through such things as Paul’s letters, pseudonymous letters, early gospels, acts, apocalypses, church orders, apologies, martyrologies, antiheretical tractates and early Christian commentaries. A canon began to form and people began to ascribe to New Testament writings the authority already ascribed to the Old Testament. In response to Marcion, the ‘Orthodox’ sought to delineate the canon’s boundaries. Despite the importance of writings for the churches, literacy was not common and there was consequently an emphasis on reading texts out publicly.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Final notes on Horton

Herewith comments on the remaining essays within Charles Horton, The Earliest Gospels and other reflections inspired thereby.

Martin McNamara, 'The Latin Gospels, with Special Reference to Irish Tradition', pp. 88-106, is a particularly useful introduction to the Irish Gospel tradition, or indeed to the Latin Gospel tradition in general. It deals with the nature of the mixed-text manuscripts, which contain both Vulgate and Old Latin elements. One methodological question that is raised by this essay is the question of what is Old Latin. McNamara explains that within the Irish scribal tradition there was a certain license in transmission of Vulgate texts and that this license is often found alongside genuine Old Latin elements. This of course raises the question as to how you actually recognise what is pre-Vulgate (i.e. Old Latin) and what is post-Vulgate license in transmission. Both might show similar features. This is where translation technique profiling will be absolutely vital. I note that we have a parallel situation in the Syriac tradition, where it has often been difficult to identify what is 'Old Syriac' because some scholars, esp. Arthur Vööbus, seemed to work on the basis that whatever was not Peshitta (or a later Syriac translation) was Old Syriac.

Barbara Aland, 'The Significance of the Chester Beatty Papyri in Early Church History', pp. 108-121, considers attitudes to textual transmission in the early Church and asks how the communities which commissioned early papyrus manuscripts might have viewed their errors. The communities may not have been so aware of the errors of an early papyrus 'because they have nothing to compare it with' or perhaps 'because the lector in the worship service can quietly smooth over any difficulties ...' (p. 118).

J. Keith Elliott, 'Singular Readings in the Gospel Text of P45', pp. 122-131, considers 'singular' and 'subsingular' readings, but also discusses the meaning of these terms. No readings should be dismissed as aberrant simply because they fall into one of these categories.

Larry W. Hurtado, 'P45 and the Textual History of the Gospel of Mark', pp. 132-148, focuses on scholarship since Westcott and Hort and especially the concept of the 'Caesarean' text: how P45 seemed at first to give support to this concept, but then led to its undermining.

The final essay is Charles Horton, 'The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: A Find of the Greatest Importance', pp. 149-160. It surveys the history of the discovery and acquisition of these papyri, and brings together a number of sources to highlight various personal details about Beatty, his financial position and his method of acquiring manuscripts. However, it does not relate the origins of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Overall the volume is of a high quality (with some weaknesses of proofreading). A number of senior figures restate, précis, and develop material they have previously worked on. The essays have a wide relevance.

Issues which those interested in evangelical doctrine may wish to consider carefully relate to the general conclusions about scribal habit. A number of the authors conclude that the willingness of scribes to modify their Vorlage was not merely occasional. If this is true, what does it suggest about their attitude to verbal inspiration? Of course, someone who believes in verbal inspiration is not bound to maintain that early scribes generally believed in it. However, it would be somewhat surprising, at least to me, if none of the early scribes were concerned for full verbal accuracy in their product. (Those who do not share my convictions about verbal inspiration will have no occasion for surprise if indeed scribes were not concerned to produce full verbal accuracy in their manuscripts.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

James Robinson on The Gospel of the Egyptians

The next installment of highlights from essays of Charles Horton, The Earliest Gospels, is from James Robinson, 'The Nag Hammadi Gospels and the Fourfold Gospel', pp. 69-87. Robinson argues that the application of the term 'gospel' to The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of the Egyptians is inappropriate, whereas it is appropriate for The Gospel of Thomas. His statements on The Gospel of the Egyptians are particularly striking:

'The editors [Böhlig and Wisse] conclude: "The title 'The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit' should have been preferred but Doresse's title [i.e. The Gospel of the Egyptians] is now too well established to change it". Jean Doresse, the French graduate student and adventurer, was the first to prepare an inventory of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Hence our first information and first dis-information, stems from him. His reason for preferring the title "The Gospel of the Egyptians" is obvious, when one recalls that the leaf from the Nag Hammadi Codices that always hung in public display at the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo was Codex III, p. 69, with the reading "The Gospel of the Egyptians" in full view, as a vindication of Egypt's claim to have had a Gospel of its own. Doresse really knew how to endear himself to the staff of the Coptic Museum, and we have to live with the consequences.' (Robinson, p. 75)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Felix Dies Nativitatis

For some reason I won't be blogging tomorrow, but I want to wish everyone God's blessing for the day and to put up two carols for Christmas edification. (I also hope that these are edifying for those evangelicals who, like John Knox, don't celebrate Christmas.)

In these enlightened days when we no longer have to prove the general primacy of Greek over Latin, and when most evangelical publishing houses seem enamoured with the vernacular we may perhaps indulge in a post-Reformation Latin carol written as recently as about 1742 by John Francis Wade. 1742 was, of course, the year when Bengel brought out his Gnomon Novi Testamenti, which was translated into English by John Wesley, brother of Charles, who wrote 'Hark! The herald angels sing' (1739)—one of my favourite carols (full original-ish text below). Unfortunately, John did not translate it into Latin.

Here I give the longer recension of Wade's carol, only four of whose verses made it into the English version 'O come all ye faithful'.

If you teach this carol to your children then there is a greater likelihood that they will become textual critics.

Adeste, fideles, Laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.

Venite adoremus (ter)

En grege relicto, Humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastores approperant.
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.

Stella duce, magi Christum adorantes
Aurum, tus, et myrrham dant munera.
Iesu infanti corda praebeamus.

Cantet nunc hymnos chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula caelestium:
"Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!"

Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum.

Aeterni Parentis splendorem aeternum,
Velatum sub carne videbimus;
Deum infantem pannis involutem.

Pro nobis egenum et foeno cubantem,
Piis foveamus amplexibus.
Sic nos amantemquis non redamaret?

Ergo qui natus die hodierna
Iesu tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum


According to the following is the original text of 'Hark! The herald angels sing'. Actually, although in the first line the word 'welkin' is somewhat obscure to most moderns, it is arguably no less intelligible than the more recent version, whose punctuation and sense are often misunderstood.

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More essays from Horton

I want to make brief comments on three more essays from Charles Horton, ed., The Earliest Gospels.

Harry Gamble, ‘Literacy, Liturgy, and the Shaping of the New Testament Canon’, pp. 27-39, argues that in early Christianity there was a paradox between the ‘bookishness’ of the religion and the very limited literacy of the Christian congregations. However, oral and literate cultures intersected at the point of Christian liturgy. The liturgical tradition in Christian congregations was established early and it was liturgical use that was decisive in debates about the canon in the fourth century.

‘Although from time to time the church appealed to various criteria of canonicity (e.g. authorship, derivation from the apostolic period, orthodoxy, etc.), the ultimate criterion for the canonical, authoritative status of a book was its reception by the church, and there could be no more certain or compelling indication of reception by the church than that such a book had over long years been publicly read in the service of worship.’ (p. 37)

Graham Stanton, ‘Early Christian Preference for the Codex’, pp. 40-49, argues that the evidence (e.g., of P.Petaus 30) does not suggest that Christians were responsible for the invention of the codex. He also suggests that the writing tablets from Vindolanda in Northumberland (England) make it ‘probable that some of the many literary references in first and second century writings to notebooks (pugillaria) may be to leaf tablets rather than to stylus tablets.’ (p. 45)

William L. Petersen, ‘The Diatessaron and the Fourfold Gospel’, pp. 50-68, reviews Diatessaronic issues and focuses on two passages that suggest that extra-canonical traditions were incorporated into the Diatessaron. This, he argues, must either mean that the Diatessaron involved material from more than the four Gospels, or that the text of the four Gospels was fluid enough to have contained this material.

He argues that the making of the Diatessaron was ‘a frontal assault on the four-gospel canon’ or ‘a rejection of the multiple-gospel canon’ (p. 67). Bill of course knows infinitely more about the Diatessaron than do I, but I do not see why an author who produces a harmony necessarily is rejecting their Vorlage. Loraine Boettner would not have been convinced!

The good thing about this book is that in it authors such as Hengel, Gamble, Stanton and Petersen summarize in a single article arguments that they have laid out previously in full monographs. These little essays are certainly good adverts for the books.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hengel on TC

I'm working through the volume edited by Charles Horton on P45. The essay by Martin Hengel, 'The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ', is basically a summary of his book bearing the same title (London: SCM, 2000). It is an exceptionally useful distillation. One sentence that stood out was this:

'The text of the Gospels is the best-transmitted text in antiquity.' (p. 15)

I actually think that the text of some of the epistles might have been a better choice and better still might have been texts from the OT: proto-Masoretic mss from Qumran show a higher level of agreement with mss from about a millennium later.

Hengel's statement did, however, make me wonder how much scholars have actually compared the NT and Classical transmission processes from the perspective of their fidelity (rather than just observing that there are usually vastly more witnesses for the NT text).

What are the main investigations of this area?

And the winner is ................

Here are the results of our first ever annual ETC achievement awards. Many thanks for all of you who nominated people for the various categories. Strangely many categories earnt no nominations. There is always next year (when all those 'forthcoming's arrive).
Thanks are due too to those within the academy who read the relevant books and articles and voted for us. Also thanks to Indiginata Theological Consultancy, Inc. for sponsorship, airfares and prizes.

So without further ado I'll hand over to Tammy and Johnny for the announcements:

Johnny: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. I've always admired textual critics for their careful scholarship ("One Piece At A Time"), their discernment ("The One on the Right is on the Left"), and their consistent efforts to help those troubled by gender confusion ("A Boy Named Sue"). But, now, as they say, I've gotta "Walk the Line" through that "Ring of Fire" and find the "Man in Black".

Tammy: Well, thanks Johnny. I fell in love with a textual critic in my youth. That is why I wrote "He Loves Me All the Way [to the Bodleian]". I wrote several songs for him, although my producers changed some of the words: "Stand by your man[uscript]" and "The Ways to Love a Man[uscript]". Finding a new manuscript would make it a "Perfect Day". Anyway, it is my privilege to introduce the awards:

1. Best contribution to biblical textual criticism.
And the winner is: Frank Moore Cross et al., Qumran Cave 4 XII: 1-2 Samuel (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 17; Oxford: Clarendon, 2005).

2. The Bruce Manning Metzger Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame / Life-time achievement Award.
And the OT winner is: David Gooding
And the NT winner is: Gordon Fee

Victory speeches transcript here: ETCVictory

Monday, December 19, 2005

Alain Martin on Matthew 1:16

In the 'note' on Matthew 1:16 mentioned earlier, Alain Martin considers a number of aspects of the variant in the Sinaitic manuscript of the Old Syriac version. As is well known, this version presents an account that says that 'Joseph begot Jesus'. I argued in 2004 that the Syriac reads as it does for linguistic reasons (Early Syriac Translation Technique, pp. 19, 39, 240-44, 289), but this article, completed by 2002 yet delayed in publication, does not consider such linguistic possibilities. Martin posits that the Sinaitic manuscript, which is probably an early form of Matthew, spoke both of human paternity by Joseph (1:16) and of a supernatural conception (1:18) but that this does not reflect a contradiction so much as a 'sensibilité théologique'.

Near the end of the article (p. 93) we are told the following:

La critique texuelle apprend au théologien à clairement distinguer entre l'essentiel et le secondaire (attitude bien calviniste!). Elle rappelle que la Parole de Dieu n'est pas figée dans un text ou dans un temps, mais que'lle est vivante et se développe dans l'histoire, ce que est le rôle du Saint-Esprit selon le Nouveau Testament.

It appears that theological discourse in textual criticism is alive an well. However, it is interesting that 'living' should be used as the opposite of 'fixed'.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

3 more difficult Byzantine readings

Here are a few more Byzantine readings that I suggest are difficult:

Acts 18:17: εμελλεν not εμελεν.

1 Peter 1:8: 'whom not knowing [ειδοτες] you love ...'

2 Peter 2:18: 'those who have really [οντως] fled ...'

Any thoughts?

More corrections to Robinson and Pierpont

I've added further corrections, mainly of accentuation, for Robinson and Pierpont's Greek New Testament to the original post.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ETC Annual Achievement Awards: More Nominations?

Up-date: I'm just posting this again to keep it near the top. For earlier posts see here and here and the numerous comments.

As the end of the year approaches we invite our readers (yes, all three of you) to engage in a bout of critical reflection on the major text critical achievements of 2005.
We invite nominations for awards in the following categories:

1. Best contribution to biblical textual criticism.
2. Best discussion of an individual manuscript.
3. Worst treatment of textual criticism in a biblical commentary.
4. Best evangelical contribution to biblical textual criticism.
5. Most arcane detail published in any text critical discussion.
6. Funniest item connected to textual criticism of the Bible.
7. Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame / Life-time achievement Award.

Nominations can be submitted (over the next 4 days) as comments or by email.

Andrew Wilson's links

Andrew Wilson draws our attention to the following links:

Shorter Reading canon:
Harder Reading canon:
Harmonization canon:

Fee nominated for award

We have received the following nomination from Jim Leonard:

Perhaps the student can be forgiven for nominating, from his limited experiences, his own favorite professor to an award. Perhaps, despite the student's own experiential limitations, that professor really is deserving. Let me argue such on behalf of Gordon Fee in regard to the highly esteemed and world renowned Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame/Lifetime Achievement Award.

First, let me explain that as a student of Prof. Fee, amazingly, I actually never read a single textual critical work of his. I came to study with him well after he had established his reputation as text-critic-turned-exegete, and my work with him was exegetically oriented, with only sideward glances at tc. What I know of his tc work comes from informal readings after my graduate degree.

In this light, I was surprised to find in my first real tc research paper how often I resorted to citing Prof. Fee's various works. The variety and scope of his writings and their strategic importance necessitated such frequent citation.

With a few exceptions, scholarship in textual criticism is not so much reflected in tomes, but in shorter research articles (Colwell and Birdsall, for example, had but two tc books published between them). Prof. Fee has written two volumes on tc, but his research articles are of such importance that we recall them as quickly as we recall the names of the few larger, important books in the field. These works are often definitive, and future scholarship will not be able to avoid prefacing their work with reference to Prof. Fee's works.

One example of this is William L. Petersen's 2002 article, "The Genesis of the Gospel" (in A. Denaux's New Testament Textual Exegesis) wherein he argued for a closer look at the early Fathers to determine gospel texts which look quite different from our canonical gospels. Despite his recognition of the cautions expressed in Prof. Fee's article, "The Text of John in Origen and Cyril of Alexandria" (Bib 52 [1971], 357-394), one wonders if the phenomena Petersen observed in citations from Theophilus (40) and the Didache (51-53) may be explicable in terms proffered by Prof. Fee thirty years earlier. Prof. Fee's passionate cautions regarding Patristic evidence were such as to have spilled over even into his introductory courses. One suspects that the radical revision of the Patristic evidence in the apparatus of NA-27 had a portion of its impetus from Prof. Fee's own writings (see also "The Text of John in The Jerusalem Bible: A Critique of the Use of Patristic Ciations in New Textament Textual Criticism" and "The Use of Greek Patristic Citations in New Testament Textual Criticism: The State of the Question").
Prof. Fee has had a knack for publishing strategically important articles for the discipline. This was true of his debunking of the myth that the "Alexandrian" text form was a recension. To a large degree, this work confirmed the basic Hortian program of reconstructing the NT text largely on the basis of the strict text form behind B, at a time when such confidence was beginning to lag.

Prof. Fee has been in the frontlines on issues which have been polemical. At a time when some Christian conservatives (Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) were being swayed by a revival of the Majority Text, Prof. Fee entered the arena and published several articles and debates on the issue. The same is true over the issue of eclecticism; his arguments for a reasoned eclecticism have seemed to have won the day against the rigorous eclecticism of Kilpatrick and Elliott.
Prof. Fee's work still speaks to current issues in tc. The last two decades have seen an increasing interest in the relationship between tc and gospel formation prior to 180 CE. Much of this scholarship would undermine our confidence in our critical text and in the "original text." Prof. Fee has probably written the definitive work looking at the implications of synoptic harmonization for the Synoptic Problem ("Modern Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem: On the Problem of harmonization in the Gospels"). Also, he himself has recognized the first 300 years as the "Period of Confusion," yet gives an analysis of this period which is far more sympathetic to Evangelicals and to the issue of biblical authority than is often given ("Textual Criticism of the New Testament;" cf. Koester, Petersen, Ehrman). In a short review of Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of the Text, Prof. Fee politely and with some subtlety shreds methods and conclusions so thoroughly that the book needs to be re-read with great reservation (Critical Review of Books and Religion, Aug 1995, 203-206).

I wonder if Prof. Fee has made his own contribution to the canons of criticism. He argues that "one criterion above all others superintends the scholar's choice at any point of textual variation: the variant that best explains the origin of all the others is most likely original." This probably is not original to Prof. Fee, but in my own limited experience, I have not seen the criterion stated so lucidly elsewhere.

A word should be said in regard to Prof. Fee's relationship to evangelicalism. As a Pentecostal, he admits to having some tensions within his evangelical world. One of these tensions is his emphasis on the Spirit's role in interpreting the text. He is more concerned with what, for example, Paul meant than what the text actually said. As such, he has been a little outside of the issue of inerrancy, and one wonders if maybe his emphasis on the Spirit has more in common with Prof. Parker and the living text approach than the earlier comment may suggest.
More importantly, however, Prof. Fee's evangelicalism can be seen in his far-reaching exegetical work. In an era when the Pastorals were considered not even deutero-Pauline, but trito-Pauline, Prof. Fee argued for their authenticity, and his tiny commentary on the Pastorals (New International Bible Commentary) rocked liberal scholarship way back on its heels. The same is true in regard to Paul's Trinitarianism; while it had become commonplace to dismiss orthodox Trinitarianism as a later Church development, Prof. Fee has boldly argued that the Trinitarianism of the later creeds is latent in Paul's writings, and largely assumed in his theology (God's Empowering Presence, 898).

One important exegetical insistence of Prof. Fee's has import for some recent developments in tc. In the attempt to reconstruct primitive forms of the gospels prior to 180 C.E., a number of scholars have argued that the early Fathers and texts seem uninformed in regard to Jesus' life and teaching. They point out that this is a feature of the earliest Christian writings, and surmise that the four canonical gospels must not have been widely received by the Church in the first two centuries. In so doing, they point to the Pauline writings which have little to say about Jesus' life and ministry, suggesting that Paul knew little of Jesus' life. Prof. Fee would cry foul to this line of reasoning, arguing first of all the ad hoc nature of the Pauline epistles, and that they were task oriented, not treatise of theology or ethics. Typically, Paul wrote to fix problems, and the situation rarely would have required Paul to cite sayings or deeds of Jesus. In this regard, Prof. Fee was fond of pointing out that overly skeptical scholars would assume that Paul knew nothing of the Lord's Supper, except that, quite incidentally, observance of the institution had become a problem in Corinth, requiring Paul to address the situation. Likewise, in our attempt to push the text beyond the 180 C.E. barrier, we should remember this admonition, and ask whether a writing or a writer really had the occasion to refer to Jesus' life and ministry.

But for Prof. Fee, the goal of exegesis is hermeneutics…how one applies what was said back then to our lives today. I think if this is not the essence of evangelicalism, it is very close to its core. For it is only the appropriation of the text into our lives that we are truly Christian. And this is clearly evident in Prof. Fee's life's work.

Prof. Fee's larger works:
The Text of the Fourth Gospel in the Writings of Origen (with Ehrman and Holmes)
Papyrus Bodmer II (P66): Its Textual Relationships and Scribal Tendencies
For a convenient collection of his essays see Studies in the Theory and Method of NTTC (with Epp) and New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis (with Epp).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Up-date on a left-handed scribe .... not

In the comments to an earlier post (found here), there was some discussion about whether it was possible to distinguish left-handed from right-handed scribes, both in terms of their writing styles and characteristic 'scribal habits'. It was also suggested that there were no left-handed scribes depicted in manuscript illustrations etc.

During the course of the discussion PJW came up with an image of a left-handed scribe, but the picture didn't seem to match the description (click for details).

So I emailed the museum:

In the description given of the Manuscript Illumination with the Evangelist Luke, late 13th-early 14th century
Tempera and gold leaf on parchment; 5 13/16 x 4 1/16 in. (14.7 x 10.3 cm). Purchase, The Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. Gift, 2001 (2001.633) (
it is said:
"On a single page from a gospel book, the illumination shows the evangelist Luke seated on a backless chair, reaching with his right arm toward the open book on a pedestal before him. He wears a loose-fitting blue tunic and white himation, and sandals on his feet. He holds a quill pen in his left hand as he pauses to contemplate the text."
But not only is there no pen to be seen in his left hand, it is not his right hand that reaches to the open book. It looks to me more like a pen in his right hand, held in such a way that he may be about to write. [Most scribes were right-handed, so it would be nice to know if this really was a depiction of a left-handed evangelist.]

I wonder whether it is possible either to refer me to some published discussion of this piece, or to have someone take another close look at the picture and confirm (or alter) the description.

And today I received this reply:

Dear Peter, if I may,

Thank you very much for your email. You are quite right that the evangelist Luke reaches for the book with his left hand, and that he is a right-handed scribe. We very much appreciate your bringing this to our attention and we will correct the descriptive text as soon as possible.

Best wishes for a happy holiday,



Dr. Sarah T. Brooks
Research Associate
Department of Medieval Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028-0198
Phone 212-650-2459
Fax 212-570-3866

So, if there were no left-handed scribes we shan't need to spend much time pondering their distinctive habits.

Up-date (to the up-date; 15.12.05): I am pleased to say that Dr Brooks has given permission for me to quote her email in full. I am sorry to say that I only asked for this permission retrospectively. At least we have advanced the cause of scholarship together.

Accents and Semitic words

My last message, musing on the accentuation of σαβαχθανι in Matthew 27:46, has caused me to reflect further and in fact brought me to a point of consternation in regard to the following question:

What is the rationale that editors of the Greek New Testament use to put accents on Semitic words?

In my folly I had previously assumed that editors placed accents on the stressed Semitic syllable, or, with Rahlfs, omitted accents on such words entirely. This works for a great many words, but there are many examples that do not fit this pattern. For instance Βηθλεεμ is given by many editors as accented on the last syllable, though in the Hebrew the stress is on the penultimate syllable.

Why does NA26 put the accent on the last syllable of Zerubabel in Matthew 1:13, but WH on the penultimate?

Why does Scholz (1830) put the accent on the first syllable of Αχαζ in Matthew 1:10 while NA25/26 put it on the final syllable? (Other editions could have been consulted.)

Are editors generally just copying from each other rather than thinking through the principles involved in accentuation or is there a pattern of treatment found within Greek mss?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Accents (etc.) in Robinson and Pierpont

I here post a list of corrections to Pierpont and Robinson. These pertain almost entirely to accents and breathings. In general I have not noted mistakes involving misuse of comma. Rather than type out every letter using the laborious system for Greek that we have I have started by just listing the verses in which the errors occur. I hope that this will be sufficient to enable those with interest to find them. Maurice has done us a valuable service by providing this text with all rights released and we ought to do what we can to enable it to represent the Byzantine tradition as closely as possible. Here are the verses where I have found errors. I have not systematically read through the apparatus.

Matthew 5:39; 6:4, 31; 10:37 (mistake either of accent or of comma); 13:55; 16:23; 19:29; 20:16, 26; 21:18 text and apparatus; 23:13, 28; 24:23; 25:1, 4, 7.

Mark 2:17; 7:26; 9:17, 22, 23; 10:47 breathing and Δαυιδ (and 10:47 apparatus); 11:3, 24; 14:9 margin; 15:34 (σαβαχθανι should be accented if the other Aramaic words are. See note below.)

Luke 1:21, 36; 3:23; 4:1 (2x), 11; 4:18, 22 (2x); 5:29 (lack of diaeresis inconsistent with 5:27), 33; 6:12, 17 (2x), 25, 38, 42, 45 (2x), 49; 7:1, 6, 15, 19, 27, 33 (2x), 36 (2x), 42 (2x), 44; 8:20 (2x), 27; 9:5, 9, 36, 52, 56 (breathing); 10:22 (5x), 30, 38 (2x); 11:2 (2x), 11, 26, 54; 12:22, 26; 13:4; 14:5 (use circumflex not grave on τη and add iota subscript), 12, 24 (3x), 26; 15:16 (breathing); 16:2, 26; 19:23; 20:2, 30; 21:8; 22:34 (2x), 47; 23:17, 42 (2x); 24:17.

John 5:14 (margin); 6:22; 7:52; 8:9 (first apparatus), 26; 9:29; 10:12; 11:32; 12:20; 14:28; 16:17, 23; 17:24; 18:16, 36, 37; 19:6, 35; 20:23.

Acts 1:19 (apostrophe); 2:12, 18, 33, 47 (iota subscript); 4:27 (capital required on Ποντιος; cf. Matthew 27:2); 5:40; 14:17 (breathing); 17:28; 19:41; 20:15; 25:5 (iota subscript); 26:26.

James 2:19 and 2:19 apparatus; 3:4, 12 and 3:12 apparatus; 4:14 [2x] (because of the enclitic it is necessary to show two words for the variant in the margin); 5:12 (2x) and 5:12 apparatus (2x).

1 Peter 2:12, 3:15, 16 and 3:16 apparatus.

2 Peter 2:22; 3:9.

1 John 2:20 [accentuation of χρισμα inconsistent with accentuation of 2:27 (2x)—though the choice between circumflex and acute is difficult], 28; 5:13 (comma and breathing), 16, 18.

2 John 7.

3 John 9.

Jude 1, 4.

Romans 8:15 (Αββα needs an accent because one occurs in Galatians 4:6), 34; 11:13, 23 (2x); 13:12.

1 Corinthians 1:20; 3:2; 5:12, 13; 7:13, 38, 39; 14:38.

2 Corinthians 1:17 (2x); 6:16, 17; 11:18; 12:20.

Galatians 2:9 (accentuation of Barnabas is inconsistent with accentuation in 2:1); 3:7; 5:15.

Ephesians 2:15 (3x); 4:28; 5:5, 23, 30 (2x), 32.

Philippians 2:8; 3:8, 10, 21; 4:23.

Colassians [sic] 3:20 (2x), 23.

1 Thessalonians 2:6, 9, 11, 18.

2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Hebrews 1:9, 12; 2:14; 3:9 (2x); 7:24; 8:5, 13; 10:8, 9, 12; 11:3; 12:2, 7, 9.

1 Timothy 1:17 (iota subscript); 5:5, 23; 6:19.

2 Timothy 4:8.

Titus 1:16 (capitalization).

Philemon 11.

Revelation 1:3 (margin), 4, 13; 2:20; 3:7; 5:6, 13 (margin); 13:4; 16:21 (margin); 17:10, 18; 20:5, 11; 22:5, 8 (margin).

The edition is inconsistent on whether to use the circumflex or acute with στυλος. Future editions will use the acute.

Note 1: In Matthew 27:46 an acute accent appears on the final iota of σαβαχθανι. No accent appears on the same word in Mark 15:34. Despite the fact that learned editors of Greek New Testaments have put the acute accent on the final vowel it should be placed on the final alpha, not on final iota, if we are to follow documented Aramaic stress patterns.

Note 2: A few of the errors now listed have been pointed out to me by Prof. Robinson himself, some having been spotted by Dr Louis Tyler.

Appendix: Iota Subscript
I have been supplied by Prof. Robinson with the following list of forms where the current printing lacks iota subscript, but where it will be included in the future.

λαθρα: Mt 1:19; 2:7; Jn 11:28; Ac 16:37

εικη: Mt 5:22; Ro 13:4; Ga 4:11; Col 2:18 (already correct in 1 Co 15:2; Ga 3:4 [2x])

σωζ-: Mk 6:56; Ac 2:47; 27:20; Heb 7:25; 1 Pe 3:21 (already correct in Lk 13:23; 1 Co 1:18; 15:2; 2 Co 2:15; Heb 5:7; 1 Pe 4:18; Jude 1:23)

ζω-: Jn 5:21 (2x); 6:63; Ac 7:19; Rom 4:17; 8:11; Gal 3:21; 1 Ti 6:13; 1Pe 3:18 (already correct in Lk 17:33; 1 Co 15:22, 36, 45; 2 Co 3:6)

πρω-: Ac 27:30, 41

κρυφη: Eph 5:12

αθωο-: Mt 27:4 (already correct Mt 27:24)

συνεζωο-: Eph 2:5; Col 2:13

Per Dr Louis Tyler:

Mk 5:34, main text: capitalize Θυγατερ; apparatus: capitalize both Θυγατερ and Θυγατηρ.

Per Jussi Ala-Konni in Finland:

Mk 10:43: remove extraneous high point between υμων and διακονος

In the closing phrase of Rev 19:17, το δειπνον ... θεου, leaving off accents, etc., the main text should have marked with angle brackets the phrase το μεγα του instead of only το μεγα. The marginal reading at that point should show the two alternatives as του μεγαλου = τον μεγαν του.

Marc Multilingue

I've just been reading J.K. Elliott, Christian Amphoux and J.-C. Haelewjck, 'The Marc Multilingue Project', in Fil Neot 29-30 (2002) 3-17. It describes a significant collaborative project to produce ten volumes on the Gospel of Mark, with each version provided with its own volume. Languages covered are Greek, Latin, Gothic, Coptic, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, Syriac and Slavic. It will attempt to present text forms diplomatically, while also showing the relationship between them.

The edition will set out texts in their relative sequence, starting with D followed by W, since it is believed (by Amphoux) that D may represent the earliest form of the text of Mark we have (I would have preferred P45).

This is clearly a massive and important project, though not one without eccentricity. I love the sentence (co-authored by Amphoux) which says that Amphoux 'has his own, often idiosyncratic theories about this history [i.e. the history of text forms]' (p. 8).

It talks about the research of Didier Lafleur on family 13. A quick Google revealed the fact that Monsieur Lafleur had his doctoral viva a week or so ago. Is there no privacy?

Apparently the Marc multilingue project is officially undertaken by the Société d'histoire du texte du Nouveau Testament about which the WWW knows next to nothing.

Rather strange that the article twice explicitly identifies the Majority Text with the TR, even to the point of calling Hodges and Farstad's edition one of the TR (pp. 4-5). I should have thought that a glance at the end of Romans would have shown that a distinction needs to be drawn here.

At the same time the more that is done to produce critical editions of the versions the merrier.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas variants (3)

In Matthew 1:20 should we read Μαριαμ or Μαριαν? Is it possible to explain the form with ν as an assimilation to the declension of the genitive in 1:18? NA27 records inconsistency of spelling for the name of Mary Magdalene between 27:56 and 27:61/28:1. Luke 1:41, contrasted with Luke 1:30, 34, 38, 39, 46, etc. allows us to assume that the first declension genitive can be used suppletively alongside the Semitic nominative and accusative (Luke 2:16). What should we make of the first declension variant in Luke 2:19?

The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection (on-line)

Today I found another very good resource, The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, hosted by the Chicago University Library. This collection includes many New Testament MSS and the plan is to make them all electronically available. Very user friendly system, and high quality of the images.

There are already two complete MSS online, Greg. Aland 2400, and 2427. I examined the Epistle of Jude in MS 2400, and was actually helped by these images which are clearer than the photographic material I had used earlier for my transcription of this MS.

There is also a catalogue (without sample plates) available with basic bibliographic information of the MSS. This catalogue is from an exhibition in 1973 and exists also in print (probably with plates) and can be ordered from the library.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas variants (2)

NA27 records that in Matthew 1:21 the Curetonian Syriac supports κοσμον ‘world’ as opposed to λαον ‘people’ plus the possessive. The Curetonian Syriac indeed reads ܥܠܡܐ ‘world’ rather than ܥܡܐ ‘people’. However, since the two Syriac words look very similar (even more so in the script of many manuscripts) is it not far more likely that the Syriac reading ‘world’ arose as an inner-Syriac development? In this case there is no basis for the retroversion into Greek. Consequently, there is no support for a universalistic reading of this part of the Christmas narrative.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas variants

As we are in Advent it seems rather appropriate to consider variants from some of the famous Christmas passages. IMHO the earliest text of Matthew 1:16 is not in significant doubt (so the Nativity plays can go on). Yet there is an interesting variant in Θ f13 it (the peculiarities of the Old Syriac recorded in NA27 do not reflect any real Greek Vorlage). Would anyone like to make suggestions as to how and when this variant arose?

Another 'Byzantine' reading (Luke 18:14)

I'm still working through Robinson and Pierpont. I'll post a list of accentual mistakes when I've finished the whole. One reading that struck me in the Byzantine text they print (also shared by A Ψ) is the expression η γαρ εκεινος in Luke 18:14. What is the function of γαρ in this context?

Friday, December 09, 2005

ETC Annual Achievement Awards: Nominations

Up-date: I'm just posting this again to keep it near the top. (There may be some sensible way of doing this, I'm just going to try to give it a date about three days in advance and see if that works).

As the end of the year approaches we invite our readers (yes, all three of you) to engage in a bout of critical reflection on the major text critical achievements of 2005. We invite nominations for awards in the following categories:

1. Best contribution to biblical textual criticism.

2. Best discussion of an individual manuscript.

3. Worst treatment of textual criticism in a biblical commentary.

4. Best evangelical contribution to biblical textual criticism.

5. Most arcane detail published in any text critical discussion.

6. Funniest item connected to textual criticism of the Bible.

7. Evangelical Textual Criticism Hall of Fame / Life-time achievement Award.

Nominations can be submitted (over the next 8 days) as comments or by email.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Barthélemy on Psalms

Apparently the posthumous fourth volume of Dominique Barthélemy's Critique textuelle de l'Ancien Testament is available now at a modest $239. It may have been out for some time, though I have not seen it.

Byzantine Palaeography

I've added the excellent site recommended by Peter Head on Byzantine Palaeography (aka Paleography) to the sidebar.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Housman, The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism

Since we have been blogging and commenting a fair bit on conjectural emendations (most recently More on Conjectures); I thought it would be good to link to the interesting, entertaining and otherwise-adjectivally-stimulating essay by A.E. Housman on “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism” (originally given in Cambridge on the morning of Thursday 4th August 1921). See the text here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A palaeontologist's view of manuscripts

Can a palaeontologist really work out how many copies of a work there have been? Has anyone looked at Cisne's work?

Ketiv-Qere in Ps 100: 3 & Christian allusions

הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ וְלֹא אֲנַחְנוּ is the Masoretic Ketiv text of Ps. 100: 3, while the Qere text is הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ. The Ketiv text (which is difficilior, it seems) is supported by the LXX: αυτος εποιησεν ημας και ουχ ημεις·
I want to draw your attention to two possible allusions to the verse in Christian writings. One of them to the Ketiv text, the other to Qere. Interesting enough both seem to address the relationship between Father and Son.
Qere: 1 Cor. 8:6 αλλ ημιν εις Θεος ο πατηρ, εξ ου τα παντα και ημεις εις αυτον ( וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ), και εις Κυριος Ιησους Χριστος, δι ου τα παντα και ημεις δι αυτου.
Ketiv: Odes of Solomon 7: 12 (Translation of Charlesworth) "He has allowed Him to appear to them that are His own; in order that they may recognize Him that made them, and not suppose that they came of themselves (וְלֹא אֲנַחְנוּ )."
I was tempted to read in the Odes passage an allusion to both Ketiv ("they came [not] of themselves") and Qere ("that are His own"), but this second phrase may represent עַמּוֹ rather than וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ.
Sorry I couldn't find a Syriac font to get the transmitted text of the Odes on the screen. (PJW may know a solution?)

Filología Neotestamentaria 29-30

Filología Neotestamentaria tends to run a little late, but I have now received Vol. XV of their journal (May to November, 2002), which counts as issues 29-30.

The most pertinent contents are as follows:

J.K. Elliott, C. Amphoux and J.-C. Haelewjck, 'The Marc Multilingue Project...', pp. 3-17.

A. Martin, 'Matthieu 1:16 dans le Palimpseste Syriaque du Sinaï', pp. 87-94.
J. Rius-Camps and J. Read-Heimerdinger, 'The Variant Readings of the Western Text of the Acts of the Apostles (XIII): Acts 8:1b-40)', pp. 111-132 [strange that a note can be longer than the article by Elliott et al.].

There are also bibliographical notes on various articles, which obviously only cover up to 2001. Most will be well known, but I will just draw attention to a few that may not be known due to their language of publication.

There is a 1999 Gregorian University dissertation by T. Abrahà entitled, Testo e commentari etiopici della Lettera ai Romani: Traduzione annotata. Analisi della storia, stile, metodo interpretativo e teologia dei commentari. I don't know whether this has been subsequently published.

J. Rius-Camps has an article that I presume is in Catalan entitled 'Les variants de la recensió occidental de l'evangeli de Marc (IV) (Mc 1,40-2,17)' in RCatalT 23 (1998) 401-419. I guess that the journal title is something like the Catalan Review of Theology, but quick Googling has not helped me identify the full title.

There is reference to an article in Polish on the Secret Gospel of Mark by M. Wojciechowski. I now see that this is online. I don't know whether its contents are available in any other language.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

To what extent is the Byzantine text smooth?

I'm working my way through the revised edition of Robinson and Pierpont (I'll give a full report when I get to the end) and am coming across cases where arguably what is printed is less smooth than what is found outside the Byzantine tradition. In Mark 13:31 Robinson and Pierpont print Ο ουρανος και η γη παρελευσεται using a singular verb for a compound object. They note marginally the Byzantine variant παρελευσονται, which is of course the reading of enough of the textual tradition for NA27 not even to note the variant.

I have two questions: (a) is what Robinson and Pierpont print indeed less smooth? (b) if so, are there other cases where less smooth readings within the Byzantine tradition are not noted in critical editions?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Codex Sinaiticus in the News

Jim Davila of paleojudaica has a good discussion of a poorly researched article about Codex Sinaiticus and St Catherine's Monastery (here).

One point might be worth adding to Jim's discussion; he wrote: "The discovery of Marcan priority had nothing to do with Tischendorf and progress on the Synoptic problem was not based on study of Sinaiticus or Syriacus." This is basically true, although could do with a little careful nuancing: progress on the Synoptic Problem (assuming for the moment that Markan priority was a 'discovery' and 'progress') was related to advances in textual criticism, which were in turn related to manuscript discoveries (including Sinaiticus). For example Sinaiticus lacks Mark 16.9-20 and so helped support the view that this long ending (which looks like it draws upon Matthew and Luke and thus supports the Griesbach hypothesis) was not original to Mark.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Summer School in Coptic Papyrology

Forwarded from Papy-List for interested text critics:

International Summer School in Coptic Papyrology
23rd July - 30th of July 2006, Austrian National Library, Vienna

This summer school, organized by the Austrian National Library, will provide an introduction to Coptic papyrology in within its larger context in the fields of Egyptology, Classics, Ancient History, Early Christianity, and Archaeology. Classes will be taught on the decipherment of literary as well as documentary hands, on the Sitz im Leben of both kinds of manuscripts, and their relationship to other forms of textual and archaeological evidence. Each student will be given an unpublished papyrus to work on as a practice exercise. The intention is to offer a mixture of taught classes and workshops in which students can learn to appreciate the manifold information which the different kinds of papyri provide, as well as to getting acquainted with a wide range of questions raised by the papyrological material. The programme will offer insights into the culture of late antique and early Christian culture of Egypt. The programmme will also include visits to the Papyrus Museum of the Austrian National Library, and to the Egyptological holdings of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Students with an interest in Coptic papyrology are invited to participate, whether they already have experience in the subject or not. The main teachers of the course will be: Stephen Emmel (Münster), Monika Hasitzka (Vienna), Sebastian Richter (Leipzig) and Helmut Satzinger (Vienna). Speakers will include Andrea Donau (Vienna), Hans Förster (Vienna), Harald Froschauer (Vienna), Ulrich Luft (Budapest), Fritz Mitthof(Vienna), Federico Morelli (Vienna), Bernhard Palme (Vienna), Amphilochious Papathomas (Athens) and Cornelia Römer (Vienna).

The course will begin on Sunday, 23rd July, and will end on Sunday,the 30th of July, 2006.
A fee of Euros 250 includes accommodation in a university Hall of Residence and one warm meal per day.The number of places is restricted to 15. Classes will be taught in English. A solid knowledge of the Coptic language will be required.

Applications should contain
1. Curriculum Vitae; and
2. two references from teachers, who should also comment on the applicant´s Coptic language-skills.
The deadline for the submission of final applications will be the end of February, 2006.
Successful applicants will be informed by the end of March, 2006.

Please send applications to Univ.-Prof. Dr. Cornelia Römer
Direktorin der Papyrussammlung und des Papyrusmuseums
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Josefsplatz 1A-1015
Wientel.: + 43 1 53 410 323
fax: + 43 1 53 410 395

More on Conjectures

D.A. Black (dbo) emailed in to report that his article on conjectures (refered to here in relation to the general discussion here - don't forget to read the comments!) was 'Conjectural Emendations in the Gospel of Matthew' in NovT 31 (1) 1989, pp. 1-15.

It is a useful paper and a good resource for what the title says (no mystery here): it discusses seventeen conjectural emendations to Matthew which have been proposed by a number of different contemporary scholars. He argues that only one is at all plausible and that generally we'd be better off looking more closely at the 'transmitted Greek text'.

Perhaps it is inevitable with conjectures that the one Dave Black regarded as 'viable' but not certain, seems a non-starter to me. For 19.4 Sahlin proposed that Matthew originally wrote ARSEN KAI QHLU EPOIHSEN A. This alpha was meant to represent the numeral 1: HEN; but scribes misunderstood this and harmonised it to the LXX.

Christians as Useful People: Textual Criticism and Wirkungsgeschichte

On Tuesday we had an interesting paper at the NT Seminar from David Horrell (Exeter) on 1 Peter 4.16. I won't go into the paper in general (except to say that it was generally convincing - in the sense that it defended a view of this verse that I already held - usually the reason for recognising the most convincing papers!), nor into the major textual criticism raised regarding the choice between ONOMATI and MEREI in 4.16b.

In the course of the discussion the reading of Sinaiticus at Acts 11.26; 26.28 & 1 Pet 4.16 was raised. Sinaiticus uses the spelling: XRHSTIANOS. Dirk suggested it was a real variant not a mere spelling error. I proposed that the term was itself a deliberate statement that Christians were 'useful people' (XRHSTOS means useful; cf. 1 Peter 2.3 where it is used in 1 Peter from Ps 33LXX [although not without interesting variants there too]), which might be taken as a mark of the impact of 1 Peter as a whole: that those who have tasted the benevolence/usefulness/kindness of God would be a people themselves marked by kindness/usefulness/benevolence towards others (e.g. 2.12 etc.).

So the variant reading might be a window into the reception- or impact- history of 1 Peter.

Crazy theory I know, but I thought I should share it here first.