Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Inerrancy and textual criticism

I have been reminded by a correspondent that some time ago I promised to open a discussion on the relationship between inerrancy and textual criticism. This is it. I'll start with my thoughts and hope that others will contribute theirs as well as explore specific applications of the principles explored.


The first thing I should say is about the relationship between inerrancy and this blog. As the blog's founder I am very, very happy to sign inerrancy statements in almost whatever shape or form they take. However, the term I preferred when establishing this blog was simply to say that the scriptures were 'true'. Although this might seem a weaker term, I do not mean it in a weaker sense. Moreover, it has the advantage of being self-evidently in continuation with all historic mainstream views of scripture that have been articulated down church history. Using the term 'true' also means that I am not forced into instant qualifications of the term I use because I am not using a technical term.

The second belief that I see as fundamental to this blog is the belief that God may be said to be the author of specific sequences of words which constitute scripture (i.e. belief in verbal inspiration). Though this belief is not without its problems, it is less problematic than alternative accounts of inspiration (e.g. that God inspired thoughts in scripture, but may not be said to be the author of specific words—the question 'which thoughts?' is even harder to answer than the question 'which words?'). That said, for the sake of discussion I want to use the term 'inerrancy', since, in this context, I believe it will optimise the point I am trying to make.

Basic thesis

My basic thesis is that inerrancy may only be used at the most as a secondary criterion for the original reading. It cannot be used to overturn strong external support or to support conjecture. If inerrancy is allowed to be a primary criterion then we are adopting a method that is
  1. highly subjective
  2. does not adequately control human bias
  3. beyond the remit of an evangelical textual critic
1) Apologists are often naturally concerned to be able to present a Bible 'without problem'. There can therefore be a tendency to want to solve problems prematurely. There are therefore numerous cases where apologists adopt readings in the name of inerrancy that are text-critically highly dubious otherwise. For one example you can see a brave but misguided attempt to suggest that the name Cainan was not originally in Luke 3:36 (I do not intend to 'shame' this site, which has some merit to it).

For me a major problem with the attempt to solve a problem by taking a text-critical decision that would otherwise be judged unlikely is that it is hard to see any non-subjective criteria by which one could decide when to take such a step. There are, after all, difficult texts of various kinds within scripture: texts that can readily be read to suggest that Jesus' would return to earth within a generation of his ministry, texts that make the relationship between Synoptic and Johannine chronology problematic, etc. Who is to decide which texts are so problematic that the doctrine of inerrancy can be invoked with the result that the reading otherwise judged best be set aside? This is the problem of subjectivity.

2) Evangelicals have often taken a rather dim view of when critics of other persuasions have allowed their own interpretative framework to be decisive in adopting readings. Thus we have not been too impressed by von Soden's adoption of the reading without the virginal conception in Matthew 1:16 (on the basis of the Sinaitic Syriac), nor by the way Ehrman sometimes allows his framework of 'orthodox corruption' to be decisive in deciding between readings. The problem with these approaches is that the doctrinal framework does not appear to be adequately constrained by the external evidence. Advocates of inerrancy need to demonstrate to others that they too are accountable to the external evidence and will not ignore it simply to demonstrate the truthfulness of their position.

3) Ultimately, I think that to use the doctrine of inerrancy to override the manuscripts is to enter into a domain to which we are not called. I, personally, am of the conviction that an editor of the NT should never accept a conjecture into a text (though see earlier debate on this blog, e.g. 'Ephesians 1.1 update', 'conjectural emendation', 'more on conjectures'), not because I hold the absolute conviction that no conjecture could ever be correct. I strongly doubt that any conjecture is correct, but acknowledge in theory that some may be. My view that an editor should not accept an emendation into the text is not based on the view that there are no correct emendations, but on the view that even if some were correct it would not be an editor's business to print them. Similarly, if it be that God has not given us every word he inspired within the manuscripts that is essentially his business, not ours. I do not have to take it upon myself to 'restore' what he has not seen fit to preserve. That's why if editing 1 Samuel 13:1 I would simply preserve MT. If something has dropped out, I have no way of knowing what it is (despite the conjectures of the early versions), so it is not my business to put it in. My job as a textual critic is not to ensure that readers have an inerrant edition of the Bible in their hands.

Inerrancy is a belief that is derived from God's character as one who does not err and the inference that if words may rightly be said to be 'his' they should therefore share that characteristic. Historically, authors like Jerome or Calvin were convinced that God's words were entirely true, but almost certainly did not believe that they had an errorless copy of those words in their own possession.

Comments? Disagreements? Issues raised?

Sahidic NT online

Click here for an interesting attempt to provide a Sahidic New Testament online free.

Monday, February 27, 2006

ISV: Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek


I was just perusing the webpages of the International Standard Version and was somewhat surprised by the statements below. Does anyone know any more about these critical editions of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts of the Bible? What is being produced and when might it appear?

'The ISV Foundation undertakes to produce accurate biblical materials both in printed and electronic formats for use around the world. Projects that are currently being developed include:

  • A computer network based on biblical texts located in different countries
  • Critical editions of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible
  • Translations from the various texts of the Old and New Testaments
  • Bible related computer software
  • Critical textual commentaries on the Old and New Testaments'

Junia: The First Woman Apostle

The latest edition of the Review of Biblical Literature contains a generally descriptive review by Tobias Nicklas of Eldon Jay Epp's book Junia: The First Woman Apostle—obviously an exploration of the significance of Rom. 16:7 and a popularisation of something from the Delobel Festschrift.

Also in the same issue is Kristin De Troyer's review of Michaël van der Meer's Formation and Reformulation: The Redaction of the Book of Joshua in the Light of the Oldest Textual Witnesses. According to the review, this substantial book (nearly 600 pages) seems to have some original arguments in favour of MT against the LXX, and also involves a new reconstruction of 4QJosh-a. In RBL Steven McKenzie also writes a review of the same work saying, 'Thus, van der Meer concludes, the MT represents the oldest extant text of Joshua, and the other textual witness do not reflect earlier stages in the formation of the book. Literary criticism and textual criticism must remain separate endeavors.' He notes that Van der Meer studied under Arie van der Kooij.

Van der Kooij has been at times a lone voice in OT textual criticism generally arguing for the chronological priority of the textform of MT. He has argued this for MT of Job against the shorter LXX text (I think Peter Gentry would go with him here), and has argued it for parts of Jeremiah. I remember a breakfast conversation with him at the IOSOT congress in Oslo (1998) in which he said that he thought that the LXX Jeremiah could result from deliberate shortening in translation from something rather like MT (of course, I'm simplifying his position).

Anyway, I'm sure Van der Meer's volume deserves lengthier review than the 2 or 3 page evaluations in RBL.

Ancient Manuscripts Found in Egyptian Monastery


A cache of manuscripts have apparently been discovered in the Monastery of Deir al-Surian (in the Western Desert of Egypt) during restoration work on its ancient tower (the report here is quite detailed; mentioned on Explorator). No biblical manuscripts explicitly mentioned.

A photo of a fragment, not otherwise identified, is included in the report.

Blomberg on Misquoting Jesus

As noted by Michael Marlowe on Wieland Willker's list, Craig Blomberg has reviewed Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus.

I use this opportunity to bring together a list of critical reviews of Miquoting Jesus:

Craig Blomberg

Denny Burk

Mark D. Roberts

Jim Snapp

Daniel Wallace

P.J. Williams

Germane posts on this blog:
Ehrman, Whose Word Is It?
Michael Bird on Ehrman
Ehrman, Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene
Ehrman's Preferred Title
Further Reflections on Ehrman
Live and Late from SBL

Note (28 Feb 2006): The text of two 1997 lectures by Ehrman is online and provides a means of tracing the development of some of the material in Misquoting Jesus. Lecture 1; Lecture 2.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Two Early Editions of the Pauline Corpus?

In the comments to an earlier post on 0220 and Romans 5.1, Ulrich Schmid (after Pete Williams’ prompting) posted a summary of his view of the textual history of Romans. Considering Ulrich’s request for comments and the importance of the topic I’ve just lifted his comments up to the main blog (with his permission of course!). Note that this material has previously been tucked away in his Marcion und sein Apostolos: Rekonstruktion und historische Einordnung der marcionitischen Paulusbriefausgabe [ANTTF 25; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995], 284ff.

So, now in Ulrich’s own words:

In my view, the textual history of the letter of Romans is best explained by assuming two major editions of Paul's letters with different versions of Romans that later on produced the conflated versions we now have.

The one edition had the core version Rom 1,1-16,23 (full version), the other one Rom 1,1-14,23 (abridged version). Rom 16,24 and 16,25-27 are secondary endings, the former to Rom 16,23 and the latter to Rom 14,23 (with no 15,1sq, of course). Thus, the abridged version acquired and distributed the doxology (16,25-27).

To me that scenario proves to be the most elegant solution to explaining especially the various positions of the doxology.

The evidence for the abridged version hardly needs to be rehearsed (cf. Gamble, The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans, 1977). Scholars differ, however, on the questions (a) how the abridged version came to influence the textual history of Romans so profoundly, and (b) what was the reason for the abridged version.

Gamble says about the abridged version: "such forms must have had an earlier existence and continued for a long time to affect the textual tradition which even now preserves their traces" (Textual History, 121), to which I fully agree. However, I don't buy his point that the abridged version "emerged prior to the Corpus as a whole, during the period when this letter circulated independently" (ibid.). To my mind, an abridged version of Romans as an individually circulating entity hardly carries enough "weight" to impose itself to an editor, who is confronted with two (or more) versions of Romans. After all, the abridged version looks conspicuously incomplete and in itself not very appealing. It seems far more likely to assume that the abridged version once was part of an ancient and venerated edition of (a number of) Paul' letters.

There is undisputable evidence that the abridged version once was part of an ancient edition of Paul's letters, namely the edition that is associated with Marcion (Origen, Commentary on Romans 10,43). It is, however, virtually certain that Marcion was not responsible for the abridged version, i.e. he simply took it over as part of the 10-letter-edition he has used and edited for the purpose of his church. Why is this "virtually certain", despite the claims of such eminent scholars like, e.g., Kurt Aland and Eduard Lohse that it was Marcion who excised the last two chapters of Romans?

Tertullian repeatedly observes that Marcion's version of the letter to the Romans lacks considerable parts of the text (e.g., in chapters 2, 8 and 9-11). The fact that none of these omissions has left any trace in the textual history of Romans is the most glaring evidence AGAINST Marcion's edited version as being responsible for the severe impact of the abridged version. Thus, Marcion's edition inherited the abridged version, it did not start it!

There is more evidence that an ancient 10-letter-edition circulated outside marcionite circles and more could be said about what caused the abridged version. But I should pause here not the least because I never had any reaction to my last point (against Marcion's edited version as being responsible for the abridged version of Romans). Comments are welcome, especially on the validity of this last point.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Biblia Hebraica Quinta


Wieland Willker informs us of the appearance of the latest fascicle of the Biblia Hebraica Quinta, which aims to replace the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia as the main scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible. Ezra and Nehemiah have just appeared. Details here. For more about the project see Weis's article.

BHQ is an improvement on BHS in its presentation of the Masorah and also in its sensitive treatment of the versions. The information available in BHS that will no longer be in BHQ relates to the Hebrew variants collected by Benjamin Kennicott and G.B. De Rossi about two centuries ago. This information has probably been dropped because it is not judged to be reliable, it is not always possible to identify the manuscripts mentioned, and also because many of the variants are thought to be secondary. My own suspicion is that there is more important material to be uncovered within the mediaeval Hebrew mss and that some significant collation needs to go on. But the labourers are even fewer than in NT TC.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Editio Critica Maior IV. Installment 4 (2-3 John and Jude)

Hot from the press: Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior, vol. IV. Installment 4: The Second and Third Letter of John, The Letter of Jude (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 2005).

Generally, this work meets my expectation in reflecting the high standard in all respects as set in previous installments. However, it does offer some surprising news:

An interesting citation from "Notes on the Reconstruction of the Text of 2Jn, 3Jn and Jd:"

"The conclusion was that each letter has to be considered individually. Their conditions of transmission are so different, even in comparison with 1Jn. This is shown by the most closely related potential ancestors listed below. It would be premature to speculate about the reasons for these differences" (p.35*).


"03 loses its exceptional position in Jd, and A [Ausgangstext] is no longer its sole potential ancestor. This distinction now goes to 81" (p. 36*).

The editors do state that one must generally be careful about conclusions concerning these letters, because of the brevity of their text and their correspondingly few instances of textual variation (p. 35*), and it is also stated that "In closest agreement with A are 81 (96,9%) and 03 (95,4%)" (p. 36*). So the difference between these two MSS is very little, and based on very few variants (according to the editors there are 204 instances of variation in Jude).

In Jude the reconstructed text is different from NA/GNT in three places:

v 5: ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς (same as 03; 02 33C 81 2344 omit the initial pronoun); Interesting to note here is that the printed text in NA/GNT had no MS support for the whole unit.

v 18: omit ὅτι

v 18: omit τοῦ

The most significant change is of course v. 5, and the editors says "The discussion over the text of 5/12-20 was particular intense ..."(p. 37*). We know from Wachtel's study of the Byzantine text that he then preferred κύριος (Der byzantinische Text, 355-57). This intense discussion over v. 5 among the editors is reflected in a novel function of the bold dot. At the variation unit 5/12-20 it is placed in the primary line at word 20 (the word Ἰησοῦς) and below alongside an alternative reading: (ο) κυριος. Thus the system with different levels of uncertainty as indicated by bold dots and brackets at various places has now been enlarged.

I hope to offer more comments later.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

0220 at Romans 5.1

Last week during a class on textual criticism we discussed EXOMEN/EXWMEN in Romans 5.1. There are a number of interesting features about this variant (beyond the obvious question):
a) In the appendix in the back of NA27 (Editionum differentiae) it emerges that every other editor cited (Tisch, W&H, von Soden, Vogels, Merk and Bover) prefered the NA27 marginal reading EXWMEN.
b) The NA27 apparatus adjusts the witness of 1739 (cf. NA26) distinguishing between the original text - reading EXWMEN, and a corrector 1739C which reads EXOMEN.
c) The manuscript evidence is firmly on the side of the subjunctive: best representatives of diverse text-types (01 A B C D K L 1739) and early versions lat bo. Only later revisions and ‘worse’ manuscripts support EXOMEN.
d) EXCEPT for 0220, with its rather suspicious ‘vid’. Which it turns out is due to a rather sad hole in the manuscript:

In the third line of this picture you can see the last few letters of the word EIRHNHN, followed by a clear epsilon and then a hole! Traces are visible which may be read as EXO. The rest of the word appears at the start of the next line (for complete picture see here). It seems that the trace above the hole is the decisive one, since an omega wouldn’t have any ink there.

e) So, without this manuscript the external evidence would be most compelling in support of EXWMEN here at Romans 5.1. But with this new evidence - the earliest manuscript in the apparatus at this point - P46 being deficient here - it can be seen that EXOMEN is not only a secondary reading. [0220 has only just been fully published: Papyrologica Florentina, vol. XXXV. Rosario Pintaudi: Papyri Graecae Schøyen. Firenze, Edizioni Gonnelli, 2005 (Manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection V: Greek papyri, vol. I), pp. 65-71. non vidi]

f) It is an interesting illustration of the way in which text-critical decisions can hinge on rather detailed considerations of the witnesses of particular manuscripts (as well as the need to always check “vid”s). Once the external evidence has been considered we can then turn to other (internal) considerations.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Full collation Wikipedia style

An obvious desideratum is a full collation of all Greek manuscripts, freely available on the Web.

Can this be achieved and, if so, how?

It is possible for individuals and institutions to obtain images of the majority of known manuscripts (witness the collection of microfilms at Münster). There are usually no permission/copyright problems with producing an edition of the text contained within these manuscripts.

It should therefore be possible to obtain all the texts. The barriers to full collation are lack of personnel and finance. Here I have a suggestion.

It appears to me that we need a textual resource that is built up somewhat like Wikipedia. Perhaps using Wiki, or something similar, or even going through Wikimedia, contributors could gradually add material, for which they would recieve acknowledgement, but which would be freely available. I guess this would need some senior figure(s) within textual criticism to oversee and some who know something about technology. There would need to be editorial guidelines and the aim of achieving at least triple collation. Of course, without a burdensome system of checking contributions, it would not be possible to achieve the same level of accuracy as within the IGNTP and INTF collations. However, though accuracy is vital, a free tool like this can be constantly corrected and often something is better than nothing. Moreover, if a certain collator's collations were found to be unacceptably untrustworthy they could be removed, but if they were just occasionally unreliable then they could be supplemented by further collations. Each collation would come with the name of the collator (which should provide some incentive for accuracy) and if you spotted an error in a collation you could add a note in your name marking the error.

Clearly there would be a lot of work to do, but Wikipedia is surely a testimony to the fact that a useful tool can be created by creating a format into which contributions can be slotted. The editors would provide support by directing people to particular gaps (as here) and also by providing information on the whereabouts of manuscripts and addresses to contact. Otherwise contributors would be free to focus on what interested them.

I'm not going to begin this, so who is?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ehrman, Whose Word Is It?

I’m grateful to Simon Gathercole for tipping me off about a new title by Bart Ehrman, namely, Whose Word Is It? The Story Behind Who Changed the New Testament and Why (T & T Clark, January 31, 2006), £16.99. It appears to be another version (European edition?) of Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

The publisher’s synopsis on Amazon.com is:
‘Bart Ehrman provides a fascinating and highly readable account of who changed the words of the New Testament and why. With the advent of the printing press and the subsequent publishing culture that reproduces exact copies of texts en masse, most people today assume that they are reading the very words that Jesus spoke or St. Paul wrote when they consult the New Testament. And yet, for almost 1,500 years manuscripts were copied by hand by scribes - many of them untrained, especially in the early centuries of Christendom - who were deeply influenced by the theological and political disputes of their day. Mistakes and intentional changes abound in the competing manuscript versions that continue to plague biblical scholars who determine which words, phrases, or stories are the most reliable and, therefore, merit publication in modern Bibles. “Whose Word is it?” is the fascinating history of the words themselves. Ehrman shows us where and why changes were made in our earliest surviving manuscripts, changes that continue to have a dramatic impact on widely-held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself. Many books have been written about why some books made it into the New Testament and why some didn’t (canonization) or about how the meaning of words changes when translated from Aramaic to Greek to English. But, this is the first time that a leading biblical scholar reveals for the general reader the many challenging - even disturbing - early variations of our cherished biblical stories and why only certain versions of those stories qualify for publication in the Bibles we read today.’
In some ways it doesn’t sound like Misquoting Jesus, but then the table of contents from Tesco’s website is as follows. I give the chapter headings with the variant readings from Misquoting Jesus.

2Chapter One: The Beginnings of Christian Scripture;
3Chapter Two: The Copyists of the Early Christian Scriptures [vl. Writings];
4Chapter Three: Texts of the New Testament: Editions, Manuscripts, and Differences;
5Chapter Four: The Quest for Origins: Methods and Discoveries;
6Chapter Five: Originals that Matter;
7Chapter Six: Changes that Signify: [ vl. - ] Theologically Motivated;
8Alterations of the Text;
9Chapter Seven: Changes that Signify: [vl. - ] The Social Worlds of the Text;
10Conclusion: Changing Scripture: Scribes, Authors, and Readers.

It is advertised at 256 pages rather than the x + 242 pages of Misquoting Jesus.

If the picture in the Continuum/T & T Clark catalogue is to be believed, the cover is identical to that of Misquoting Jesus, only the upside-down Hebrew letters are now bigger. At present the publisher’s website does not seem to have details of the book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Leviticus fragments

Rather late (by WWW standards) I refer readers to the many interesting pages by Tyler F. Williams on the relatively recently discovered fragments of Leviticus. The main page from which all the others are linked is here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Paul Foster on Gospel of Peter

Of tangential relevance to this blog (relevant for comparative purposes) is the article by Paul Foster, Edinburgh, in the latest edition of New Testament Studies.

'Are there any Early Fragments of the So-Called Gospel of Peter?', New Testament Studies 52 (2006) 1-28. Here's the abstract:

The first text in the Akhmîm codex discovered in Upper Egypt in 1886–87 was confidently identified as the Gospel of Peter, mentioned by Eusebius in his description of the activities of the second-century bishop Serapion. Although the Akhmîm text is dated palaeographically between the seventh and ninth centuries, it is seen as being a witness to a text that dates from at least as early as the second century. This position appeared to have been strengthened by the identification of a number of early papyrus fragments as belonging to the Gospel of Peter. This paper calls into question such identifications, and consequently suggests caution should be exercised before too quickly making the conclusion that the text from Akhmîm is to be identified with the second-century Gospel of Peter.

Novum Testamentum 48.1 (2006): Archaic Mark

Wieland Willker observes that the latest edition of Novum Testamentum has now appeared and contains an article on ms 2427.


Margaret M. Mitchell and Patricia A. Duncan, 'Chicago's "Archaic Mark" (MS 2427): a Reintroduction to Its Enigmas and a Fresh Collation of Its Readings', Novum Testamentum 48 (2006) 1-35.


This article announces the public release via the Internet of a full set of interactive digital images of the University of Chicago's "Archaic Mark" (Gregory-Aland ms 2427; University of Chicago ms 972), an enigmatic miniature manuscript of the Gospel according to Mark. To foster further research into this curious illuminated hand-codex, we provide a history of research and critical appraisal of the complex questions involved in its dating—which has been placed as early as the 13th century, and as late as the early 20th century—and a fresh collation of its text, which supplements and corrects the readings heretofore available only in the Nestle-Aland 27th edition.



Monday, February 13, 2006

Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts

In a comment on Michael Bird's post 'Papyri and Christian Origins', Prof. Larry Hurtado, Edinburgh, informs us of his forthcoming book: The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Eerdmans, Autumn 2006). He says that it 'focuses on the artifactual significance of early Christian mss (widely overlooked) for wider questions about early Christianity. One chap[ter] deals with the texts copied (including number of copies of each text, etc.).' I am grateful to Prof. Hurtado for sending me some extracts from the book. It observes that while manuscripts tend to be looked at by palaeographers and textual critics they receive less attention from historians. Yet they are our earliest Christian artifacts and contain a wealth of information that may be used to ask and answer historical questions. Here is the table of contents:

Chapter One: The Texts
Chapter Two: The Early Christian Preference for the Codex
Chapter Three: The Nomina Sacra
Chapter Four: The Staurogram
Chapter Five: Other Scribal Features
Concluding Remarks
Select Bibliography
Appendix 1: Table of Manuscripts
Appendix 2: Photographic Plates of Selected Manuscripts

Suspicious Latin thread of variants

As some of you know, I've developed a certain suspicion towards a number of text-critical notes that use early translations of the NT to support certain Greek readings. Obviously there are many examples of good notes, but in all the major versional languages (Coptic, Latin, and Syriac) there seem to be notes that are not really justified.

This afternoon I decided to take a trawl through the first chapter of John in NA27 looking at the Old Latin. I note that in 1:17, 26, and 42 Old Latin witnesses reading autem are cited in support of δε, and that in the former two of these cases the reading with δε does not have wide Greek support.

The data from within this chapter suggest that it is rather precarious to infer that behind an Old Latin autem there must necessarily be a Greek δε. See 1:35 and, to a lesser extent, 1:40 and 47. Does anyone fancy doing the leg-work throughout all the Gospels to try to get a sense of the extent of correspondence between autem and δε and, consequently, the degree of confidence that can be ascribed to such textual notes?

I don't know whether there has been any study of autem in the Latin. I would, however, draw attention to a sentence in Philip Burton, The Old Latin Gospels: A Study of Their Texts and Language (Oxford, 2000), p. 91: 'Thus the humble δε, though almost lexically empty, may be rendered as et, autem, or vero, according as it marks simple continuity, slight, or strong antithesis.'

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Targums online

The other day I was writing a review of one volume of a 21 volume concordance to the targum of the Prophets. The price for the complete set was over 2000 USD. Although full of admiration for the work of the editors I felt unable to commend it for widespread purchase because there is, freely available, the text of all the major targums already online. I bring it to attention here, because the site may not be the most obvious one.

The basic site is the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon. On the front page click on 'Search the CAL databases' and then follow the link to 'Targum Studies Module'. All words are fully parsed and you can read in Roman or Aramaic script. The whole site is therefore accesible to those who do not know Aramaic. You can also pull up multiple targums (with the Peshitta too). They have a great team involved: Stephen Kaufman, also a poker legend, Joseph Fitzmyer, who needs no introduction, Michael Sokoloff, who is producing an English version of Brockelmann's Syriac Lexicon, and Jerome Lund, who has recently produced a concordance of the Old Syriac Gospels.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Welcome Mike Holmes

We're glad that Mike Holmes has joined our team of bloggers. Mike is Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity at Bethel University. Don't forget to look at the fish when you see his homepage. It rather reminds me of Gospel of Thomas Saying 8. He has produced a number of editions of the Apostolic Fathers (e.g. this one), written the NIV Application Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and co-edited with Bart Ehrman the classic volume The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (Grand Rapids, 1995). Note also his The Text of the Fourth Gospel in the Writings of Origen (Atlanta, 1992), which he co-authored with Bart Ehrman and Gordon Fee.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Pepper Bible

A Texan named Pepper has been copying the Bible (I assume KJV) by hand and producing illuminated manuscripts. It is really interesting to read about, although you can't see much of it yet. Worth having a look at anyway, rather thought-provoking actually (I mean this in a positive way; despite some of the historical errors on various parts of the site).

He said: "There is nothing like trusting in God that the page will turn out right, to be inspired at the moment the pen touches the page, only then will you know what to do when you write the scripture, You have to rely on your faith and the inspiration of God to make the pages turn out as beautifully as possible. Sure I have an idea of what I am going to do , but that usually goes by the way side as I start to write the page. This is why each chapter is written differently because they are each unique. It is this spontaneous interaction with the Holy Spirit that makes handwritten bibles so amazing. You cannot plan this on a computer, you have to do it yourself. Go ahead and try it, invite the Holy Spirit into your life, I recommend it highly!"

I'm kind of glad the NT scribes were basically more disciplined in writing each chapter the same (of course 'chapters' is an anachronism). It strikes me as well that there is not a lot of evidence that they would have attributed their scribal activity to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in such a direct way, but perhaps others might know something more about this.

If you scroll down he's got some jolly useful/extensive links to illuminated manuscripts and papyri.

Up-date (27.2.06). Mr Pepper emails:

Dear Dr. Head:
I just came across your Evangelical Textual Criticism page; if you have any questions, fire away. I am using an Authorized Version from 1715 made at Oxford, which is the same text published today, with all of the punctuation correct and it includes the word "The" When Peter says, you are the Christ. That word is missing from American KJV made before the 1830's, which I found by proofreading the Bible. It is interesting that when the Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey sent the Bible to me to correct my text in 1997, he sent an American KJV with that error. I found the best edition in the Bridwell Library at SMU in Dallas.

In John Chapters 18 and 19 I made an interlinear polyglot in English, Greek and Latin, using the Complutensian Polyglot and then translating the Greek and Latin using dictionaries. I came up with an interesting collection of Old Testament references to the Passion which I hope to use in a course for lent in my church.

The United Methodist News Service just recently interviewed me in my church for a television segment. It is being made right now and should be out soon. Also they made a print article, the best edition is on the last page of this

Glad to see my links are of help!


James G. Pepper
Biblical Scribe

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nomina Sacra

We had an interesting seminar here in Cambridge on Tuesday with Chris Tuckett (Oxford) on Nomina Sacra. Basically the first half was a summary of his argument (against Roberts and Hurtado) in C. M. Tuckett, ‘“Nomina Sacra”: Yes and No?’, in J.-M. Auwers & H. J. de Jonge (eds), The Biblical Canons (Leuven, 2003), 431-458. In discussion it turned out that Tuckett agrees that by the 3rd/4th century nomina sacra did function in a 'religious' manner (i.e. it reflects a religious attitude to the names) [evidence for this esp in the emergence of SWTHR as a nomen sacrum in this period; also 1 Cor 8.5 in P46; purple gospels etc.]; but he doesn't buy this theory for the origin of the nomina sacra (which is what Roberts and Hurtado argued). He proposes that they originated as reading aids for Christians unused to uncial texts.

Essentially Tuckett gathers up everything that Roberts dismissed as minor exceptions to the main rule (and finds a few more) and says 'aha' there are enough exceptions here to prove that the supposed rule is wrongly conceived. The second half of the seminar looked at some very unusual uses of nomina sacra in E 08 (Laudianus).

My own reflections, for what they are worth, are as follows:
1. Once Tuckett has admitted that the NS did function as 'sacred names' for scribes in a later period (i.e. sixth century purple gospels; the 3-4th century emergence of SWTHR; the early 3rd cent P46), then he has to explain the emergence of a religious dimension as somewhat in discontinuity with the point of origin. But there is no evidence that would point to discontinuity and the selection of words for abbreviation do look 'religious' (as also in Ep Barn 9 & Test Sol 11).
2. Since the problem about the 'origin' of the NS is related precisely to our lack of evidence from the earliest period why don't we say that we are not sure about the point of origin of the practice, but that it appears to function in 'religious' way in most of the manuscripts.
3. Once we are onto manuscripts we'll gain more by careful analysis of the individual practices of the scribes, something that we don't really have for all the major early biblical manuscripts. More research needs to be done here.

Hearing Mark's Endings

Hearing Mark's Endings: Listening to Ancient Popular Texts through Speech Act Theory

by Bridget Gilfillan Upton

ISBN 90 04 14791 8
Hardback (xviii, 246 pp.)
EUR 95.- / US$ 128.-
Biblical Interpretation Series, 79

Hearing Mark’s Endings has two foci: it represents an attempt to show that ancient popular texts are written to be read aloud, and further, develops an aurally attuned hermeneutic to interpret them by. The contents of the book include rhetorical readings of the ancient popular texts, by Xenophon of Ephesus: An Ephesian Tale, and the ending of Mark’s Gospel. These readings, which highlight the aural nature of the texts, are followed by a methodological justification for using Speech Act Theory as a hermeneutical tool, and further readings, of Xenophon’s romance, and three endings of the Gospel of Mark. The book concludes that Speech Act Theory has, indeed, much to offer to the interpretation of these texts. The particular usefulness of this work lies in the contribution it makes to New Testament hermeneutics, in the testing of a particular, underused methodology to illuminate ancient popular literature. It will prove to be useful to all those interested in interdisciplinary methodological studies of biblical and other ancient popular literature.

Source: http://www.brill.nl/

Day Conference on Textual Criticism and the Nestle-Aland Text

This conference provides a rare opportunity for UK based scholars and students to learn of the most recent developments in the production of the Nestle-Aland text (NA28), and to discuss the text-critical decisions behind this edition from members of the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung based in Münster.

All colleagues are welcome to attend as are graduate students and other interested people.

Date: Thursday, 27th of April
Location: New College, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh
Price: FREE!!
Contact: Dr Paul Foster (paul.foster@ed.ac.uk)

Please email if you are going to attend so we can produce the correct number of photocopies and cater for coffee.

Klaus Wachtel: Reconstructing the initial text in the Editio Critica Maior of the New Testament using the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method

15 min break

Holger Strutwolf: Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine? The theory of local text-types - a plea for a paradigm shift in New Testament textual research.

Klaus Wachtel: NA28 ? the first digital critical edition of the Greek New Testament

15 m break

All you want to ask about the N-A text (Question and Answer session)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Papyri and Christian Origins

In reading over Carl B. Smith, No Longer Jews: The Search for Gnostic Origins, pp. 237-44, it is apparent that manuscripts have a real part to play in mapping the origins of the early Christian movement. Walter Bauer argued that gnostic Christianity preceded orthodox Christianity in Egypt. Apart from the fact that we have very scant evidence for any Christians in Egypt in the first century (be they gnostic or orthodox), Colins Roberts ("Early Christianity in Egypt: Three Notes," JEA 40 [1954]: 92-96) identified 14 papyri that could be dated to the second century CE in middle and upper Egypt. These texts were "orthodox" and showed signs of Jewish influences, and only two have gnostic tendencies:

7 OT texts
3 NT texts (John; Matthew; Titus)
4 Extrabiblical texts (Egerton Gospel; Shepherd of Hermas; Gospel of Thomas, and Irenaeus' Against Heresies).

Brook Pearson adds to the list several other non-gnostic manuscripts:

Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of the Egyptians
The Secret Gospel of Mark [though I doubt this existed]
The Epistle of Barnabas

Does the textual evidence count against Bauer's thesis (at least in Egypt)? See further Smith, No Longer Jews, p. 243.

What further role can analysis of manuscripts play in plotting the various parties, groupings and overall diversity of early Christianity? Or is this line of evidence itself suspect due to our inability to assign a provenance to any manuscript with complete certainty?

Jim Snapp's pages

Jim Snapp has now revamped his textual criticism pages. They can be seen here. I've added them to the side bar.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Gary Dykes' pages

Gary S. Dykes has just advertised his new TC site on Wieland Willker's list. It is still being developed. One of the most interesting bits for me was the list of addresses to write to in order to acquire copies of NT mss.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Codex Sangallensis

Stephen Carlson tells us of various online resources for the Latin-Old High German gospel harmony, Codex Sangallensis here.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Greek NT audios

The entire Greek NT in audio file is to be found here: female voice, modern scholarly pronunciation, slow, not stumbling, but not sounding 'native'.

Most of the Greek NT is available here in a fluent male voice, using Modern Greek pronunciation, sounding native (to my ears).

Are there other Greek NT audios available?

The Orthodox OT

Does anyone know a good book surveying the textual history of the Old Testament used within the Greek Orthodox Church?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Michael Bird on Ehrman

See comments on Euangelion.

Competition: earliest ms without ν εφελκυστικον

Here's the competition: who can name the earliest Greek New Testament manuscript to have instances where the moveable nu (ν εφελκυστικον) is not present? What passages are involved?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Why spelling matters

No, this is not a reproduction of the lecture I give to my students when they hand in essays in bad English...

I want to argue here that the spelling of the Greek New Testament matters more than is usually reckoned.

Background: All editions of the GNT since printing began have sought to produce an NT with consistent spelling. Though there are various spellings in the manuscripts, editors usually plump for one and stick with it all the way through.

It is true that with words of rare occurrence different editors may accept different spellings in different places (e.g. the spellings of Rahab in Hebrews 11:31 and Matthew 1:5). There are also names for which different spellings are produced, e.g. Jerusalem or Mary. On the whole, however, when witnesses are regularly divided spelling is decided globally, despite fluctuations from text to text in the manuscript support for the general decision the editors have made. Thus Westcott and Hort spelled David's name Δαυειδ but this is always spelled Δαυιδ in Nestle-Aland. It is as if scholars woke up one morning and all of a sudden the evidence for the spelling in each passage changed.

This does not merely affect proper names, but also many verb and noun forms (e.g. forms of λαμβανω), and particularly the question of the moveable nu. There are literally hundreds of words in the GNT with varied possibilities for spelling. Some phenomena, such as the spelling of δε or αλλα and whether the final letter elides, offer a literal wealth of data.

Why does this matter? After all, spelling variants do not affect meaning.

The reason it matters are as follows:

1) Spelling may tell us something about canon history. David Trobisch has argued that the common presence of nomina sacra in manuscripts points towards a 'canonical edition'. Even if, like me, one is sceptical of his case, one can still admit that spelling may tell us something about which books were collected when. Letters by the same person might contain varied spelling (authors are not always consistent, and varying amanuenses might be used). If, however, there is a significant homogeneity of spelling this may point to a common scribe (perhaps someone who brought letters together) or author. To what extent is spelling uniform across the fourfold gospels? What about Luke-Acts? What about Hebrews in relation to the Paulines? These are all questions that could be addressed by research on spelling.

2) Spelling may tell us something about literary dependence. If there is an unusual congruence of spelling between two works, but not between others, this might show us something in relation to literary dependence. This might be used in the Synoptic question.

3) Spelling may help us detect secondary variants. Obviously, this could only be used alongside other criteria.

4) Spelling may help highlight citation. We have of course the fascinating case of the use of ειπον 'I said' in John 10:36 following the Septuagintesque (Bible-sounding) ειπα 'I said' in John 10:34. This may be somewhat akin to the difference for us between 'spoke' and 'spake'. How many more of these are there that are not recorded in editions?

5) Spelling data may tell us about the attitude of the copyists towards the text. We know from a comparison of P75 and B that spelling could be faithfully copied. How widespread was the view that the letters of the text should be copied faithfully? Can this be connected with a theology of the text?

6) Spelling data may help us differentiate between Patristic citation by memory and Patristic citation by consultation of a manuscript.


There are a number of other reasons why spelling data are important. I think that this may be a significant area of untapped data. Spelling is a domain in which theological debates are hardly likely to have made inroads. Moreover, despite the fact that scribes clearly did frequently change spelling, there is also plenty of evidence of conservatism, which is why some spellings widely used in Classical literature are hardly found in NT mss. The absence of the iota adscript, though more common in inscriptional material, is particularly noticeable. Since the spelling data taken over the whole NT gives us thousands of pieces of information it is highly unlikely that all historically useful information has been lost from our manuscripts. This is so, even if we take a pessimistic view of their transmission.

This is an area where there has been virtually no interest and virtually no research, but there is almost certainly lots to discover. It is also an area where an optimistic view of the transmission of the NT (such as an evangelical might tend to possess—though it is not exclusively found in them) is a far better stimulus to research than the pessimism that seems to dominate academic discourse about Christian origins. The critical consensus may be said to have tended to lead to complacency.