Friday, March 31, 2006


Dave Black dbo notes that we are not far from the five hundredth anniversaries of the Complutensian Polyglot (NT printed 1514; but not published until maybe 1521 or 22) and Erasmus' first edition (Novum Instrumentum, 1516).

Larry Hurtado is working on a project with SBL/BYU/Freer (mentioned here) to mark the centenary of the purchase of the Freer manuscripts in Washington (Freer site & byu page). Scheduled for SBL 2006.

Closer to home we have Mill's edition of the GNT published in 1707 (also the year of his death, exhausted after 30 years of work on the book). Someone in Oxford should really organise a conference to mark this.

I am waiting until 2013 to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of S.P. Tregelles with a series of books and conferences (well, maybe a nice dinner).

What other anniversaries are coming up in the next ten years or so?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Summer School in Manuscript Studies

Some of you may be interested in this announcement of a Summer School in Manuscript Studies (June 20-26, 2006):

The annual Summer School in Manuscript Studies, formerly called the Palaeography Summer School, is a week-long series of intensive day- or half-day classes in Palaeography and Diplomatic given by experts in their respective fields from a wide range of institutions. Subject areas include introductory palaeography, electronic resources for manuscript studies, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval manuscripts, Latin palaeography, German palaeography, Papal diplomatic, illuminated manuscripts and Medieval musical notation.

The Summer School is hosted by the Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies with the co-operation of the British Library, the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society, the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library, the Warburg Institute, , University College and King's College London. For this year's summer school visit the Summer School webpages.

Update: If you would be more interested in a summer school in biblical manuscript studies, then check the comments.

Unique variants per manuscript page

In a recent message to Wieland Willker’s textual criticism list (here), Daniel Wallace estimates the number of pages of extant Greek NT manuscript at 2.5 million.

In a Kenneth W. Clark memorial lecture of 1997, Bart Ehrman (here) says:

‘No one knows for sure how many differences there are among our surviving witnesses, simply because no one has yet been able to count them all. The best estimates put the number at around 300,000, but perhaps it’s better to put this figure in comparative terms. There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the NT.’

What is the basis of Ehrman’s calculation? There is no further reference.

If Wallace’s and Ehrman’s estimations are both correct then it strikes me that the overall rate of unique variants per manuscript page is incredibly low. This is only just above one unique variant per 10 ‘pages’ (which I presume in Wallace’s original context, i.e. of photography, means either a single side or the facing sides of an open codex). Obviously the rate of unique variants per page is not the same as the rate of errors since the same error could occur independently in two manuscripts and then only count as one unique variant. Nevertheless, I still find the ratio rather low. Has Ehrman been too conservative?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Westcott and Hort as Manuscript Scholars

In his interesting but rather unsatisfactory book, A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition, and the Interpretation of the Gospels (Doubleday, 1999), David Laird Dungan misjudges the contribution of textual criticism to the synoptic problem in a number of different ways. He also makes several extraordinarily incorrect statements about Westcott and Hort. I’d like to focus here on his assertion of ‘the fact that neither Westcott nor Hort ever personally examined a single ancient manuscript. Working entirely from previous editions (e.g. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf), where the task of comparison had been done for them, Westcott-Hort’s contribution came in the application of a systematic approach to the mass of data others had collected.’ (p. 295).

Dungan here misunderstands and exaggerates the rather misleading if not equally incorrect statement in the Aland’s description of Westcott and Hort’s method (‘neither Westcott nor Hort ever actually collated a single manuscript but worked completely from published material, i.e. critical editions (viz., Tischendorf)’ (Aland & Aland, The Text of the New Testament, p. 18).

It is certainly true that Westcott & Hort depended on the work of other scholars, but this does not preclude first-hand examination of manuscripts (easily documented in e.g. Hort’s comments on his own claim that F, a codex located in his own college library, was a copy of G in ‘On the End of the Epistle to the Romans’ in Journal of Philology III(1871), 51-80, here in a note at pp. 67-68, Codex F was (and still is) located in Trinity College Cambridge), nor was the work dependent on editions. The primary resources were published collations and complete texts and facsimiles (as is detailed in the chart on p. 15 of their Introduction; although without notes), a number of which were in Hort’s personal library as can be demonstrated in the catalogue of Hort’s library (Catalogue of the Valuable Library of Books Cambridge: John Swan & Son, 1893). Further confirmation, if such is needed (!) of Hort’s interest in the actual manuscript resources can be found in his published letters. At an early stage of planning for the edition Hort wrote to J. Ellerton: ‘Lachmann and Tischendorf will supply rich materials, but not nearly enough’ (19.4.1853); he later enthusiastically discussed Tregelles work on Zacynthius: ‘It is inferior to B, but scarcely, if at all, inferior to C and L’ (letter to J.B. Lightfoot 18.2.1859) and indeed finished the editorial work for Tregelles edition of the Greek New Testament with its very complete apparatus (for these letters (see A.F. Hort, Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (London: Macmillan & Co., 1896; 2 vols); I.250 and I.404 - the unpublished letters further document Hort’s interest in particular manuscripts, not least in visits to foreign libraries while on vacation).

Hort’s intimate knowledge of the important manuscript witnesses is demonstrated in his spectacular observation about the exemplar of Ephraimi Rescriptus in Revelation: ‘In the MS of the Apocalypse from which C was taken some leaves had been displaced, and the scribe of C did not discover the displacement. It thus becomes easy to compute that each leaf of the exemplar contained only about as much as 10 lines of the text of the present edition; so that this one book must have made up nearly 120 small leaves of parchment, and accordingly formed a volume either to itself or without considerable additions.’ Westcott & Hort, Introduction, 268.

As far as I can tell there is no evidence that Hort (or Westcott) ever travelled to Paris to see this manuscript; but a moment’s thought (or a look at the fuller discussion of this displacement in H.H. Oliver, ‘A Textual Transposition in Codex C (Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus)’ JBL 76(1957), pp. 233-236) reveals something of the detailed work on the manuscript witnesses that underlies this brief comment.

Are writers supposed to know what they are talking about or not?


Maurice Robinson offered more published evidence for Hort’s acquaintance with manuscripts in a comment, which I have (with his permission) added here:

For the record, regarding Hort and collation of MSS, cf. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, 2nd ed (1874), 432:

“So far as it appears from their Preface [circulated privately to members of the ERV Committee], the editors [W-H] have not made any great additions of their own to the mass of collated materials for the revision of the sacred text. Those which exist ready at hand have been verified as far as possible, and the whole mass of evidence, both documentary and internal, has been thoroughly and deliberately weighed by them, separately and in conference, with an amount of care and diligence that have been hitherto unexampled.”

Within the same volume, Scrivener speaks regarding Hort’s direct examination of MS 339 while in Turin:

“Found by Mr Hort to contain John, Luke (with Titus of Bostra’s commentary), Matthew, hoc ordine” (p. 68).

“Mr Hort informs me that on examining this copy he found it written in three several and minute hands” (p. 200n1).

As to the Apocalypse in MS 339: “Much like Cod B [046] and other common-place copies, as Mr Hort reports, who collated five chapters in 1864, and sent his papers to Tregelles” (p. 248).

Regarding MS 133 of Acts [Gtreg.-Al. 611]: “Mr Hort noticed good readings in the Catholic Epistles” (p. 231).

Regarding a Vulgate MS (B. x. 5)at Trinity College, Cambridge, containing 1Co-1Thess, “readings [were] sent by the Rev. F. J. A. Hort to Tregelles” (p. 314)

So Hort, at least, was to some extent engaged in direct manuscript examination and collation.

[End of Maurice Robinson’s comment]

Update 2 (PJG, Nov 2016)

Here is the relevant section from the privately-circulated preface mentioned above by Scrivener. (Sorry about the rough images.)

Update 3 (PJG, Oct. 20, 2020)

One wonders if the Alands got their opinion from Kenyon who has a very similar statement on p. 251 of his Handbook: “Westcott and Hort did not themselves collate or edit manuscripts, but devoted themselves to the study of the materials collected by others, and to the elaboration of a theory of the history of the early transmission of the New Testament text, which might serve as a guide to the discovery of the true text among the multitude of divergent witnesses that have come down to us.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Bible vs the scriptures

I mentioned some time ago in my review of Misquoting Jesus that I thought Ehrman was using the word ‘Bible’ in multiple senses: to refer to individual copies of works given by divine inspiration, and to refer to the non-material entity, the Word of God, to which Christians often ascribe complete inspiration and truthfulness. The point of my distinction is that educated Christians down the ages (Jerome, Calvin) seem to have made a distinction between the copy in front of them (which might be in error) and the communication they held to come from God, which they did not see as in error.

It has been occurring to me that the confusion in Ehrman (and many others) arises from a disjunction between the language used in creeds and in popular Christian discourse.

I’ve been looking through Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson, eds, Reformed Confessions Harmonized (Baker, 1999) which lays out synoptically various reformed confessions. The word that is completely absent in treatments of scripture is of course ‘Bible’. The same is true for the 39 Articles (see articles 6 and 7). The phrases that tend to be used are ‘the Word of God’, ‘the Scriptures’, ‘Holy Scripture’ (capitalization varies and I haven’t checked early mss or edns of these creeds).

I suspect that more recent creeds (e.g. UCCF, InterVarsity, Campus Crusade) tend to use the word ‘Bible’ more prominently, though the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy uses the word ‘Bible’ less than ‘Scripture(s)’. I’d be interested in knowing whether a shift has indeed taken place and, if so, when and why it took place.

I am tending to think that the word ‘Bible’, though advantageous in some settings, too readily focuses those considering doctrines of scripture on particular material manifestations of the word of God. Would anything significant be lost if we focused our discussions about doctrine and textual criticism on the terms ‘scripture(s)’ and ‘Word of God’ and reserved the term ‘Bible’ exclusively for material entities?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bill Combs on divine preservation

After the recent discussions on divine preservation of scripture arising from the interview with Dan Wallace I decided to ask Bill Combs of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary to give us a summary of his thoughts on divine preservation of scripture. Bill had earlier written a substantial article on this subject, in particular interacting with views of preservation presented by TR and KJV people (for article see here). I’ve asked for a presentation of his views without significant reference to such folk, and I hope that it can be discussed exclusively with reference to more serious positions.

Here are Bill’s words:
I would affirm there is a doctrine of preservation of Scripture, taught by Scripture itself, possibility directly, but certainly indirectly. I would distinguish between belief in a doctrine of preservation and, simply, belief in preservation. Most would agree that the Bible has been substantially preserved to our day because of the actual historical evidence. Those who argue for a doctrine of preservation also believe that the historical evidence demonstrates the preservation of Scripture, but add that preservation is a theological necessity—Scripture must be preserved because Scripture itself promises its own preservation. Evangelicals have, I believe, commonly affirmed belief in a doctrine of preservation.

Many ancient writings have been preserved because God is in control of the universe (my Calvinism). Any ancient document that is extant today owes its present existence to God’s preservation. So we can say that all the works of ancient authors in existence today have been “providentially preserved.” “Providential” means preservation is by secondary causation, through ordinary human means, rather than by God’s direct, miraculous intervention. The preservation of Scripture is not different in method from any other ancient book God has determined to preserve. Both Scripture and non- inspired works have been preserved providentially by secondary causation, by essentially ordinary human means. But we could also say that Origen’s Hexapla has providentially not been preserved. The doctrine of preservation of the Scriptures affirms, however, that the preservation of Scripture was always assured even though God carried out his will to preserve the Scriptures primarily through the actions of human wills.

A number of verses are commonly used to support the doctrine of preservation, including Ps 12:6-7; 119:89, 152, 160; Isa 40:8; Matt 5:17-18; 24:35; John 10:35; and 1 Pet 1:23-25. In my article on this subject, I examined these verses (see here). I concluded that some verses (e.g., Ps 12:6-7; 119:89) are not applicable to the doctrine of preservation. It is possible that Ps 119:152 and Ps 119:160 may offer a more direct promise, but, admittedly, the case is not rock solid. Isa 40:8 and Matt 24:35 offer more indirect support to the doctrine, while Matt 5:18 and John 10:35 strongly imply a doctrine of preservation with their emphasis on the continuing authority of Scripture.

The argument for preservation from the continuing authority of Scripture contends that since the Scriptures are authoritative, an authority that comes from their inspiration (2 Tim 3:16), the Scriptures can have no continuing authority unless they are preserved. Genuine Christianity is not possible apart from a dependable form of the Word of God, and all people are responsible to be Christians. The purposes for Scripture, to teach, reprove, correct, and train (2 Tim 3:16) cannot be fulfilled unless Scripture is preserved. This is where Matt 5:17–18 and John 10:35 tie into the doctrine of preservation since both passages teach a continuing authority for Scripture. But the same can be said for numerous texts that command the believer’s obedience. If these texts are essential to the believer’s sanctification, and they are, they must have been preserved.

Another argument for a doctrine of preservation comes from the principle that preservation is a natural corollary of inspiration. To say that there is a corollary between inspiration and preservation does not reveal anything about the exact nature of that preservation. It is perfectly reasonable to assert a corollary between inspiration and preservation without asserting that preservation be in every way equal to inspiration—for example, that inerrant inspiration demands inerrant preservation. Basically, the corollary suggests that there is no real purpose or value in inspiring a document that is not preserved. What, we might ask, would be the purpose of producing an authoritative record (inspiration) and letting it perish? Why, for instance, let Paul write an inspired letter to the Romans and then have it perish on the way to Rome? Of course, that did not happen, but could it have happened? If one denies a corollary between inspiration and preservation, Paul’s letter could have perished before it got to Rome.The purpose of inspiration was to produce graphe (2 Tim 3:16), a written record, a deposit of divine truth for the readers, not the writer. Without preservation the purpose of inspiration would be invalidated. Since it was clearly God’s intention that Paul’s inspired letter to the Romans be read by the Romans—it could not have perished—there must have been a divine work of preservation at work for at least a few weeks or months until the letter was received by the Romans. This suggests that there is some degree of correlation between inspiration and preservation. And the letter to the Romans was not meant just for the Romans. No Scripture was intended for only the original recipient—“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction…” (Rom 15:4). Similarly, Paul says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction…” (1 Cor 10:11). If the OT Scriptures (“these things”) were “written,” that is, inspired for the purpose of instructing future believers (“our instruction”), that purpose for the inspired writings demands their preservation. It is important to make clear that none of these Scripture texts and arguments tell us how God would preserve his Word, only that he would preserve it. We are told neither the method nor the extent of this preservation. It is an indisputable fact, proven by the manuscript and versional evidence, that God has not perfectly preserved the Scriptures throughout their long history of transmission. God has preserved his Word to this day, but because of the means he has chosen to use to accomplish this preservation—providentially, through secondary causation—the words of the autographs have not been inerrantly preserved. Instead, God has chosen to allow for variations to occur—variants within the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek copies of the autographs. God has providentially provided all these copies in order to preserve the Scriptures. So it is proper to say that preservation has taken place in the totality of manuscripts. Because God chose this method of preservation, it was not possible to provide a perfectly pure text with no variations. This level of purity is sufficient for God’s purposes.

The evidence from manuscripts and versions suggests that, while not perfect, the Scriptures have been preserved in an essentially pure form such that we can rightfully affirm that the essential message of Scripture has not been lost or corrupted. We are justified, then, in referring to our reliable manuscripts and versions as the Word of God because they are tethered to the autographs and are sufficient representatives of them.

What does the doctrine of preservation mean for textual criticism? Since preservation is by secondary causation, through ordinary human means, only by careful examination of the preserved documents can the most accurate form of the text of Scripture be identified and ultimately preserved. The science (and art?) of textual criticism is thus essential. Textual criticism therefore becomes one of the ordinary human means God in his providence uses to preserve his Word. The doctrine of the preservation of Scripture correlates with the doctrine of Scripture’s inspiration—there was an original inerrant text of the canonical Scriptures to be preserved. Therefore, the goal of textual criticism should be the recovery of that inspired text to the degree the documents will permit. The doctrine of preservation does not, however, provide any basis for choosing between, for example, the Byzantine and Alexandrian text types since both preserve the essential message of Scripture. I am not sure how much more the doctrine of preservation impacts the actual practice of textual criticism except to say that I would think conjectural emendation would normally be avoided, certainly kept to a minimum.

Sinaiticus Research Job

This could be quite a cool job for someone.
From Birmingham: "We are seeking an experienced Research Fellow to work on the AHRC and DFG funded Codex Sinaiticus Project under the direction of Professor David Parker. You will be responsible for the production of an electronic transcription of this manuscript and will contribute to the development of electronic transcription tools by testing and commenting on them as they become available. You will also provide advice and resources for other aspects of the project, including the conference on the Codex and will present conference papers on the work of the project. In addition to the above, you will be responsible for the planning, preparation and delivery of teaching in the Department of Theology and Religion. A willingness to undertake international travel is essential for this post. You will possess either a PhD based on a study of ancient Greek biblical manuscripts or have experience in making an electronic transcription of an ancient Greek biblical manuscript, together with experience of working on a research project. It is essential that you have an excellent knowledge of biblical Greek and are able to work effectively as a member of a team. A high initial knowledge of Codex Sinaiticus is desirable."
These details come from here; official and fuller details here

Tamm's Magisterarbeit online

I've now put Ivo Tamm's Magisterarbeit online at the bottom of the ETC webpage. For a summary, see earlier comments by Tommy Wasserman. The central part of the work is a critique of Bart Ehrman's concept of orthodox corruption of scripture.

Friday, March 24, 2006

P 967 Rahlfs online

Images of P 967 Rahlfs, which inter alia is the earliest witness to the so-called LXX text of Daniel, are online here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

James Rendel Harris (forthcoming!)


James Rendel Harris, New Testament Autographs and Other Essays

Edited by Alessandro Falcetta

James Rendel Harris (1852–1941) was one of the most prolific and influential New Testament scholars of his time. He opened new paths in textual criticism, brought to light hitherto lost early Christian writings and gathered major collections of Syriac manuscripts and Greek papyri.

An introductory essay sketches Rendel Harris’s life and works, while the rest of the book collects published essays and unpublished lectures and letters written by Rendel Harris over a span of 50 years, providing an essential picture of his scholarship. The papers include a lively and first-hand account of the controversies over the Hort–Westcott Greek New Testament; the suggestion of using mathematical devices for reconstructing New Testament autographs; the finding of the only known Diatessaronic reading in a Greek New Testament; the account of Rendel Harris’s initial ‘discovery’ of testimonia collections and his two last daring essays on the topic; one of the first proposals of a wisdom hymn lying behind John's prologue; and, finally, an entertaining guide for the manuscript hunter.

The personal correspondence at the end of the volume throws light on the driving forces of Rendel Harris’s scholarship and on his own assessment of his work on the testimonia. The goal of his studies was to draw attention to new or little-explored topics and to provoke his colleagues to carry out fresh research on what they had overlooked. This collection aims at the same goal.

Alessandro Falcetta holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fondazione per le scienze religiose Giovanni XXIII in Bologna.
Series: New Testament Monographs, 7
1 90504 8157 hardback
Publication April 2006 (not yet published)

c. 275 pp., £30 / ¤47.50 / $45


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Divine Preservation of Scripture

I enjoyed the Dan Wallace interview, but confess to be suspicious of the ideas that the bible doesn’t speak of its own preservation, and that the doctrine first emerged in the Westminster Confession. Isaiah 55.10-11 and (in one sense) Daniel 12 seem to me to imply preservation, and the idea is I think present in, for example, the Habakkuk pesher and Josephus’ Contra Apionem (book 2). Does anyone have any thoughts on biblical evidence for the doctrine beyond Isaiah 55, and of possible discussions of the theme by the doctores ecclesiae both before and after Westminster?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Constructing Literacy Conference

Some readers may be interested in this conference which has several papers which (despite the pomo blurb) sound like they will be discussing interesting evidence: Constructing 'Literacy' among the Greeks and Romans. A Semple Symposium [via Papy-List]
Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, April 28-29, 2006. Organized by William A. Johnson.

The goal of this two-day symposium is to try to formulate new, interesting, productive ways of talking about 'literacy' in the ancient world—'literacy' not in the sense of whether 10% or 30% of people in the ancient world could read or write, but in the sense of a text-oriented event embedded in a particular socio-cultural context. Interest in constructivist modes of attack is revealed in the formulation of the title, but there is no insistence on that or any other viewpoint. Rather, the symposium is intended as a forum in which selected leading scholars try to rethink from the ground up how students of classical antiquity might best approach the question of 'literacy' in classical antiquity, and how that investigation might materially intersect with changes in the way that 'literacy' is now viewed in other disciplines. The result is intentionally pluralistic: theoretical reflections, practical demonstrations, and combinations of the two share equal space in the effort to chart a new course.

Program and logistics:
Reservations and inquiries:

Codex Alexandrinus images

Following on from Dan Wallace's interview, I draw attention to the announcement by Ivan Yong on Wieland Willker's TC list that CSNTM has made high quality images of a facsimile of Codex Alexandrinus available. See here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Interview with Dan Wallace

Dan Wallace
I’m very grateful to Dan Wallace for being prepared to be interviewed for this blog.

PJW: So, Prof. Wallace, how long would you say you’ve been studying New Testament textual criticism?

DBW: Well, ‘studying’ is a strong word. I’d say I’ve been dabbling in it for 35 years. I started thinking about textual criticism in 1971 when I took a course from Harry Sturz at Biola University. My understanding was that his year-long course on New Testament textual criticism was the only such course in the nation. Sturz, by the way, was a student of Colwell, and had a role in the IGNT Luke volumes.

PJW: What got you into it?

DBW: Harry Sturz was a godly man whose humility was attractive. I got into it because of him. My interest at the time was in Greek grammar, but Sturz got me to think about textual criticism as well.

PJW: How has your thinking about the subject developed over the years?

DBW: I have slowly migrated toward elevating internal evidence to a place in which it has equal value with external evidence. But a decisive moment came in 1987. Up until that time, I had held to Sturz’s view of the text, a view I would label ‘the Independent Text-Type view.’ He saw the Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine textforms as independent in their archetypes, and all originating in the second century. I held to that perspective for more than a decade and a half. But it began to erode every time I wrestled with the internal data. I took Zane Hodges’ course on textual criticism at Dallas Seminary in the late 70s. There were only two of us in the class who did not embrace his perspective at the end of the course. Although Sturz’s view was not at all identical with Hodges’, the resultant text was often the same. That’s why Sturz worked on the Majority Text. But as I wrestled with so many Byzantine readings that just didn’t have adequate internal evidence, I began to question some things. When I color-coded Aland’s Greek Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, things started to fall into place. In 1987, I was asked to teach a doctoral course at Dallas Seminary on textual criticism. I was barely into the program, but was asked to teach the course! The department was desperate since it had no one else who knew the discipline as well as I did. As I prepared for that course, wrestling with the internal evidence, thinking about the history of the text, I found myself agreeing more and more with reasoned eclecticism. Remarkably, articles and books from reasoned eclectics that I had read before with strong bias now appeared more reasonable. All this showed me that if someone doesn’t want to consider the evidence, he or she can still do a good job of arguing a case. But in the end, evidence must win out. As William Lane was fond of saying, ‘An ounce of evidence is worth a pound of presumption.’

PJW: Do you have any hero or heroes in textual criticism?

DBW: I have quite a few heroes! Colwell for his method; Metzger for his learning and insights; Fee for his ability to burst bubbles with data; Tischendorf for his dogged determination in search of manuscripts; Kurt Aland for his vision for INTF; Jerome and Origen for their handling of the textual variants in the pursuit of truth; Sturz for his humility. The list is endless, frankly. I could add Michael Holmes, Bart Ehrman, David Parker, Klaus Wachtel, Barbara Aland, Beate Köster, Maurice Robinson, Zane Hodges, Eldon Epp, Johannes Karavidopoulos, J. K. Elliott, Neville Birdsall, Hort, the Lakes, Kenyon, Skeat, Hoskier, Gregory, Harris, Tregelles, the Nestles. Obviously, I don’t agree with everyone on this list over everything, but each has made a significant contribution to the field.

PJW: You’ve been known for becoming involved in debates about the Majority Text. How would you explain origins of the Byzantine text?

DBW: That’s an excellent question. We don’t have enough concrete evidence to argue decisively about its roots, but the work of Kurt Aland, Gordon Fee, Bart Ehrman, Michael Holmes, and Tim Ralston has helped immeasurably. Aland did some nice work showing that the first father to use the Byzantine text qua text was Asterius, one of Lucian’s students. Fee and Ehrman have shown that the Byzantine text just didn’t seem to exist anywhere prior to the fourth century, and that its earliest form is decidedly different from later forms. This also was the point of Tim Ralston’s doctoral dissertation at Dallas Seminary. Holmes has shown that, in the words of Samuel Clemens, ‘There are lies, damn lies, and statistics’—and statistics are no way to measure authenticity. My best guess on the origins of the Byzantine text—a view that is constantly being shaped—is that it originated in the early fourth century as a consciously edited text, cannibalizing readings from earlier textforms, even to the point of almost obliterating any traces of one of those textforms (the Caesarean). But then it took on a life of its own, developing into a growing text that had several sub-branches. Two major recensions were done on it, one in the ninth and one in the eleventh century. Ironically, the text that Hodges and Farstad produced, and the one that Robinson and Pierpont produced, did not, in every respect, represent the majority until the fifteenth century. Hort’s threefold argument against the Byzantine text is still a good argument that demonstrates the Byzantine text to be secondary, late, and inferior. Although there are a few leaks in the Hortian boat, it’s not enough to sink the ship.

PJW: As someone who teaches in a confessional institution, how, briefly, would you say that theology and scholarship interrelate, particularly with regard to textual criticism?

DBW: Up until the last few years, I would say—and have said—that the practice of textual criticism neither needs nor deserves any theological presuppositions. For example, I am not convinced that the Bible speaks of its own preservation. That doctrine was first introduced in the Westminster Confession, but it is not something that can be found in scripture. But with the rise of postmodern approaches to biblical studies, where all views are created equal, it seems that theology is having a role in the discussion. The question is, Is it the right theology? What I didn’t care for about modernism was its tendency toward dogmatism; what I don’t care for about postmodernism is its tendency toward scepticism. I think we’ve jumped out of the frying pan of modernist certainty and into the fire of postmodern uncertainty. At bottom, historical investigation has to deal with probabilities. These fall short of certainty, but all views are not created equal.

As for the broader realm of the integration of theology and scholarship, I would fundamentally disagree with Michael Fox’s definition of faith as having nothing to do with evidence. Genuine Christian faith is a step, not a leap. The driving force in my pursuit of truth is the Incarnation. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals make Christology the handmaiden of bibliology, rather than the other way around. But the Incarnation requests us and even requires us to investigate the data. And sometimes that pursuit seems to be in conflict with bibliology. My own views on inerrancy and inspiration have changed over the years. I still embrace those doctrines, but I don’t define them the way I used to. The evidence has shaped my viewpoint; and I must listen to the evidence because of the Incarnation.

What I tell my students every year is that it is imperative that they pursue truth rather than protect their presuppositions. And they need to have a doctrinal taxonomy that distinguishes core beliefs from peripheral beliefs. When they place more peripheral doctrines such as inerrancy and verbal inspiration at the core, then when belief in these doctrines start to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down. It strikes me that something like this may be what happened to Bart Ehrman. His testimony in Misquoting Jesus discussed inerrancy as the prime mover in his studies. But when a glib comment from one of his conservative professors at Princeton was scribbled on a term paper, to the effect that perhaps the Bible is not inerrant, Ehrman’s faith began to crumble. One domino crashed into another until eventually he became ‘a fairly happy agnostic.’ I may be wrong about Ehrman’s own spiritual journey, but I have known too many students who have gone in that direction. The irony is that those who frontload their critical investigation of the text of the Bible with bibliological presuppositions often speak of a ‘slippery slope’ on which all theological convictions are tied to inerrancy. Their view is that if inerrancy goes, everything else begins to erode. I would say that if inerrancy is elevated to the status of a prime doctrine, that’s when one gets on a slippery slope. But if a student views doctrines as concentric circles, with the cardinal doctrines occupying the center, then if the more peripheral doctrines are challenged, this does not have an effect on the core.

At bottom, theology and faith do have a place in biblical studies. They can function as sort of a quality control on our exegesis. But they cannot be used as a trump card that allows us to ignore the data. Such a view does not honor Christ.

PJW: You’ve travelled a fair bit in search of manuscripts. What were the funniest and most exciting moments of your travels?

DBW: I could go on for several pages on this one! But I won’t bore you with all the details. As for funny moments, eating lunch with the priests and monks at St. Catherine’s comes to mind. Every day, a monk would have to stand and read out of Chrysostom while the rest of us ate. If he mispronounced a word, the Archbishop would clink his glass with a spoon and the monk would repeat the words. I thought, ‘Hey! I can use that in my Greek classes!’

Another funny incident was when I visited the Vatican library. I had been given written permission to examine Codex Vaticanus. But when I showed up at the kiosk that issues passes, bureaucracy reared its ugly head. My assistant, Mr. (now Dr.) Joe Fantin was with me. When the guards looked at his passport, they were very pleased that a man with such a famous Italian name would be visiting the Vatican library. We immediately reversed roles and I became Joe’s assistant. They gave us passes and we proceeded past the five armed guard checkpoints with no trouble. We ended up spending a week examining the manuscript.

As for exciting moments, obviously discovering manuscripts has to rank high on the list. In the past four years, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts ( has been in the business of taking digital photographs of manuscripts. Although our principal objective is Greek New Testament manuscripts, we don’t stop there. To date, we have discovered over a dozen manuscripts, half of which are New Testament. Among these is an uncial text from Mark 3 and Mark 6 (it’s only two leaves, a palimpsest at the end of a book), discovered by Ivan Yong, my special assistant. We cannot yet positively identify the date because most of the letters have been scraped clean, but tentatively it looks to be between the third and fifth century. If the earlier date is correct, this would be the oldest fragment extant of Mark 3. Another important discovery was of the Assumption of the Virgin. Only five copies are known to exist—or, rather, now six with this one. It’s coeval with the oldest of them.

PJW: Why did you start the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and what are its goals?

DBW: I started CSNTM in the fall of 2002. Its initial objective is to take or purchase digital photographs of all extant Greek New Testament manuscripts. This is the only institute that I know that is dedicated to this task. There are over 2.5 million pages of such texts, so the job is not something that can be done overnight. Our desire, however, is to post on-line as many of these photographs as we are permitted to. Recently, we have begun to take pictures of facsimiles that are beyond copyright protection. We just posted Alexandrinus on our website. Other manuscripts and rare published Greek texts will follow soon. Our desire is to make accessible to scholars good quality images of the manuscripts so that they can work with them on their computers. We are in no way attempting to compete with the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung! Rather, we want to supplement what they are doing.

Part of the supplementation involves discovering more manuscripts. CSNTM has leads on over 200 uncatalogued Greek NT MSS right now. I won’t go into the details, but I believe that there are far more than 200 left to be discovered. Eastern European countries, Turkey, and a host of other locales have thousands of uncatalogued Greek manuscripts. Even western European libraries and the United States have uncatalogued Greek NT MSS.

We plan to work with the University of Hamburg to take multi-spectral images (MSI) of palimpsests. Professor Dieter Harlfinger of Hamburg headed up a three-year, 26-nation project (called Rinascimento Virtuale) to do this very thing. Using MSI requires an expert and is quite expensive. But it also can give us data that cannot be discovered any other way.

Once the digital imaging is complete, we should be able to do OCR scans of the documents. A company in Athens is working right now on OCR for minuscules. Uncials will follow. Our dream is to be able to electronically collate all known manuscripts. If so, we could produce in a month for the whole NT what it took Herman Hoskier thirty years to accomplish for Revelation!

Beyond shooting manuscripts and moving toward collations, CSNTM is involved in several other projects. For example, we are creating electronic tools that should help in the study of textual criticism. We plan to discuss several textual problems, publish information on newly-discovered families, and help doctoral students get their theses published. If we had the funds, we could become a resource that pays the subvention fee for fledgling students.

None of this work comes cheap. And getting permission for many sites takes time. If anyone is sufficiently interested in the work of CSNTM, we would love to get more donations (tax-deductible for Americans) as well as permissions to shoot manuscripts. Some on this list can open doors for us; others may be able to help financially. If you’re one of these people, contact me.

PJW: What weaknesses do you see in the way the discipline of textual criticism is currently practised?

DBW: Fundamentally, we need to get beyond reasoned eclecticism. I’m not advocating replacing it, but refining it. Many of the criticisms I’ll mention here have been stated by others; in fact, several scholars are doing something about these matters. But I will list what I think are still some basic problems with the predominant school of New Testament textual criticism:

-A typical undervaluing of the Byzantine and Western textforms
-lack of an integrative view of history, the canon, and textual criticism
-insufficient work done in producing critical texts of the Fathers
-lack of complete collations of manuscripts
-insufficient apparatus because of the selectivity of the editors
-typical overvaluing of external evidence
-lack of integration of external and internal evidence
-almost complete absence of discussion about individual scribes’ proclivities
-lack of integration with other disciplines that impact textual criticism, and vice versa.

Very few scholars take the time to actually look at facsimiles of manuscripts. This is where the discussions should begin.

PJW: What do you think are the most significant areas for text-critical research in the future?

DBW: A major desideratum is the complete collation of all extant manuscripts. Only in this way can we fully detect genealogies, families, groups. Only in this way can we know the proclivities of a given scribe (by isolating singular and sub-singular readings). And if we know that, we can judge the value of any manuscript on its readings. If, for example, a certain scribe tends to replace Ιησους with κυριος, when a textual problem involves these two words, the weight of that scribe’s manuscript in this textual problem can be more accurately determined.

Barbara Aland, Klaus Wachtel, and Michael Holmes have urged scholars to take a closer look at the minuscules. Of course, they are so inaccessible that the trumpet sound hardly causes a stir. If CSNTM can help to make these MSS accessible, we will have done a great service to the body of Christ and biblical scholarship.

As well, much work needs to be done on the lectionaries. Every once in a while, scholars will speak of the value of the lectionaries, but they still are hardly getting looked at.

Other tasks remain, such as making a more careful distinction between a patristic commentary and a minuscule text with commentary. Sometimes the difference between classifying a manuscript as a father or a minuscule with commentary is very slight. Kurt Aland reversed his own decisions on such matters more than once. But since minuscules are considered far more important than fathers, the very label can be the death knell of an otherwise important manuscript.

As well, there are several other kinds of witnesses to the text of the New Testament that have been ruled out of court. No one considers them any more, but they should be given their due. For example, P.Oxy 405, if I recall, is a late second century/early third century papyrus that includes a quotation from Matt 3. At the time of its discovery, it was the oldest manuscript to witness to the text of the New Testament. But it doesn’t get mentioned because there is no classification for it.

Unfortunately, we are very much in the dark regarding versions. There are probably thousands of versional witnesses to the New Testament that have not been catalogued. If CSNTM had the resources, we would be shooting those as well. For now, we have to pass up the many uncatalogued versional manuscripts we have seen so that we can shoot the Greek manuscripts. There needs to be an INTF for versions and fathers, a one-stop shop that has all the data accessible in one location.

In other words, getting a better grasp on the history of transmission and the scribal tendencies is crucial. There are, of course, other goals. But these strike me as of primary importance.

PJW: Do you have a vision for educating the church at large on the importance of textual criticism?

DBW: Absolutely. There is a widening chasm between the church and the academy over biblical studies in general and textual criticism in particular. When the Jesus Seminar produced The Five Gospels it rattled people because they had no context in which to place the discussion, no sense that these scholars were for the most part too liberal for most liberals, and no knowledge that conservative scholarly treatments of the life of Jesus existed. The same kind of lay response occurred when Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was published. More recently and more relevant for textual criticism, Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus has shaken up a lot of people. But if we tell people that they don’t need to worry about such tomes, that everything is under control, we simply confirm them in their prejudices, and widen the chasm a little bit more. I have come to believe that Christian scholars have a duty to the church that we don’t typically consider as part of our job description, viz., close the gap. How? By explaining in lay terms what all the scholarly fuss is about. By offering a different model, but one that is backed up with the best scholarship.

To this end, I’ve recently co-authored a book with Ed Komoszewski and Jim Sawyer. It’s called Reinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You, and it’s coming out in May (in time, we hope, for the movie). Information on the book can be found at Five chapters in this book deal with textual criticism. If Ehrman’s book is the first lay introduction to the field, this might be considered the second.

This book really is the tip of the iceberg for me of introducing the discipline to laypeople. For the past twenty-five years I have done a seminar in churches and schools on textual criticism. The seminar includes the audience becoming scribes and creating six generations of copies of an ancient text (all in English). Each scribe is given specific instructions. Then, the textual critics enter the room (the rest of the audience). Several of the manuscripts have been destroyed or lost by the time they get there. So, they’re working with partial data and big gaps in the genealogies. But with absolutely minimal instruction in how to do textual criticism, they all have to work back to the original wording. And once they reconstruct the original text, I put on screen what the real original text says. Every time, without exception, the group is amazed at how close they got to it. Except for one occasion, they have been able to reproduce the text within two words (once they were three words off). Often they get it exactly right. Yet the extant manuscripts for this project are generally in much worse shape than our late Byzantine manuscripts. It’s a fun activity of discovery and debate, suitable for a postmodern age. When we get all done I can then speak about principles of textual criticism, manuscripts, internal evidence, you name it. They understand because they’ve just experienced it. And they appreciate how the Bible has come down to us.

Out in the field: Genesis 4:8

One of the vital witnesses used to support the presence of the phrase 'let us go into the field' in Genesis 4:8 is in fact a witness against its inclusion ...

In the deadly fraternal encounter of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 there is a well known textual dispute. The Masoretic Text is most naturally translated thus:

'And Cain said to Abel his brother. And it happened, when they were in the field, Cain arose against Abel his brother and killed him.'

The problem in MT is the appearance of the phrase 'and he said' or ויאמר without any quoted speech. Westermann (Genesis 1-11: A Commentary [London: SPCK, 1984], p. 302) is typical of commentators in asserting that the Samaritan Pentateuch, LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate seem to supply נלכה השדה 'let us go into the field'.

If we ignore proposals of emendation, commentators usually choose one of the following options:

1) MT has a lacuna that has been creatively supplied by versions (not necessarily independently of each other);
2) The versions preserve words which dropped out of MT;
3) MT can be retained by supposing that ויאמר 'and he said' does not have to be followed by direct speech, being equivalent to 'and he spoke' (thus, for example, the KJV).

Undoubtedly both readings—the one including the words נלכה השדה and the one excluding them—have a high antiquity. MT omits the words, but some manuscripts show a space (pisqah be'emsa' pasuq) that may show knowledge of a tradition including the words. Furthermore, 4QGen-b from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a manuscript remarkable because throughout it only differs from the consonants of MT in one minor point of spelling, lacks the words. The Samaritan Pentateuch is the only Hebrew witness for the inclusion of the words. The reading of the LXX, διεθωμεν εις το πεδιον, is best explained as a translation of נלכה השדה since in 85 out of 129 occurrences of πεδιον or its plural it corresponds to שדה or its plural in MT.

It is frequently added at this point that the Peshitta also supports the longer reading. U. Cassuto, for example, claims that the Peshitta reads 'let us go into the open country' (A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part 1 [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1961], p. 214). The editors of 4QGen-b agree that the Peshitta supports SP ([DJD XII; Oxford: Clarendon, 1994], p. 37). However, the Syriac in fact reads 'let us travel to the valley' (ܢܪܕܐ ܠܦܩܥܬܐ [nrd' lpq't']). It is precisely at this point that we see that the Syriac has not arisen from a Hebrew Vorlage, but from consultation of the Greek. Weitzman holds that the Syriac ܦܩܥܬܐ (pq't') may have meant 'plain' originally, and seeks to support this on the basis of LXX's πεδιον (M.P. Weitzman, The Syriac Version of the Old Testament [Cambridge: CUP, 1999], pp. 74-75). However, it is possible to look at this from another angle. Though the LXX's πεδιον may mean 'plain', the Syriac translator (having no access to the Hebrew נלכה השדה) has understood it as 'valley'. The Peshitta seems generally to have been translated from a Hebrew text, but that the translators occasionally consulted the LXX, especially in places of difficulty. It is consistent with this if we suppose that here the Peshitta is in fact a witness to the absence of נלכה השדה in its Vorlage. If it had השדה why would it not translate with ܚܩܠܐ the normal word for 'field' as in fact it did for שדה later in Genesis 4:8? The best explanation for the difference of word in the Syriac is that for the first occurrence the translators did not have a Hebrew text, but for the second they did.

It is suprising that Étan Levine, in an important treatment of this passage in Syriac, consistently renders the Peshitta's phrase as 'let us descend into the valley'. The mistranslation 'descend' seems to arise from confusing the Syriac word ܪܕܐ (rd') 'travel' with Hebrew ירד 'descend'. See E. Levine, 'The Syriac Version of Genesis IV 1-16', Vetus Testamentum 26 (1976) 70-78, esp. 71-72.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Galatians 2.20: 'I live by faith in God and Christ ...'

I gave a paper at a conference almost two years ago on this passage, and may never get around to publishing the argument unless I give it a bit more air. So, briefly put, I think that the evidence in support of the reading, TOU QEOU KAI XRISTOU, has been widely misunderestimated.
Our two oldest witnesses to the Greek text of Paul support this reading: the Chester Beatty Papyrus of Paul (P46) from around AD 200; and Vaticanus from the fourth century. This early Alexandrian textual tradition is supported in a strong group of 'Western' witnesses (D G it etc.).

P46, the earliest evidence for the reading QEOU KAI XRISTOU in Gal 2.20.

Some account of the slender argumentative basis behind the general consensus of contemporary scholarship can be seen in the arguments summarised in Metzger's Textual Commentary:
  • God and Christ ‘can scarcely be regarded as original since Paul nowhere else expressly speaks of God as the object of a Christian’s faith’ (p. 524).
  • ‘the son of God’ best explains the origin of the other readings:
  • ‘It is probable that in copying, the eye of the scribe passed immediately from the first to the second TOU, so that only TOU QEOU was written (as in ms. 330); since what followed was now incongruous, copyists either added TOU UIOU or inserted KAI XRISTOU.’ (p. 524)
In response to this we could note:
  • Romans 4!!
  • Metzger's argument involves an imaginary process, a crucial part of which is found only in a single twelfth-century manuscript. It doesn’t explain what may have drawn a scribe to add ‘and Christ’, although it does seem to acknowledge that this was a very early variant.
  • It is really a desperate measure because as is universally admitted the ‘Son of God’ reading is a smooth reading, making perfect sense and generally consistent with Pauline thought. If one asks what sort of reading scribes would have preferred clearly the answer is precisely this sort of reading.
  • Here the more difficult reading seems pretty clear and it has very good external attestation.

So what Paul wrote was obviously (!): 'The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in God and Christ who loved me and gave himself over for me.'

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Theologisch-christologische Varianten in der frühen Überlieferung des Neuen Testaments?" A "Magisterarbeit" by Ivo Tamm from Münster

The review of Ehrman's recent book "Misquoting Jesus," by P.J. Williams last December aroused many comments. (See here.)

In one comment, C. Stirling Bartholomew, asks for "a more aggressive deconstruction of Ehrman's project." We haven't seen many attempts, but I know of one German student, Ivo Tamm who wrote his "Magisterarbeit" (equivalent to a Master thesis), Theologisch-christologische Varianten in der frühen Überlieferung des Neuen Testaments? at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, under Barbara Aland, which may give some direction.

The author, Mr Tamm, currently working as a translator in theology, has agreed to making his work is available for interested. I will make a mailing list and send his thesis in PDF-format to those who are interested (alternatively make it available for download), and Ivo is especially invited to participate with comments in further discussions.

So, if you would like to receive the work by Tamm, please reply to

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Still, What Are We Trying to Recover?

The question raised by Mike Holmes on this blog on 2 March is indeed one we ought to consider well. I wish to offer another side to this same question with the hopes of some profitable discussion which will not veer off course on the thread.

Mike’s problem concerned emendation, but mine is more basic. What I am interested in is how literary criticism can be used by evangelical textual critics and theologians alike in the pursuit of establishing and preserving ‘the Word of God.’ (Tov: “Literary criticism deals with…the stage of development of the biblical books, whereas textual criticism operates within the second stage, that of the books’ copying and transmission.”) The evangelical positions on Scripture have insisted on the autographa, but I wonder if we would really want them if we could get them! For example, LXX and Qumran scholars have argued that LXX Jer and 4QJerb,d reflect an earlier version of Jeremiah, and MT is a second version that is more expansive than the first. For the sake of argument, let us grant the point made (it is compelling enough anyway) and ask then, would we really want that ‘first edition’ of Jeremiah if what we have come to know of the ‘canonical’ Jeremiah is what we have in MT? Another: do we really want the actual autographa of the Pentateuch (from Moses himself???), in which Moses’ death would not have been recorded at the end of Deuteronomy (not to mention other such cases as place name updates)? Are we not more interested in the finished form of the book?

So then, how do we work with literary criticism as evangelicals who believe in Divine revelation? Is it wrong for us to ‘allow’ for the literary development of a book of Scripture, or must we insist on an 'original' that came from the hand of the inspired author? To me at least, there seems to be room in our doctrinal definitions for some sort of ‘canonical’ starting point, rather than the unknown, and perhaps undesired, autographa.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Wiki idea

A while back I mentioned the idea of a Wiki venture towards full collation (see here). I have just become aware that a group has already begun serious thinking in this direction. Sorry not to give more details now, but all will be revealed in due time (Luke 12:2).

Welcome T.M. Law

I'm pleased to say that T.M. (Michael) Law is joining the blog. He is currently doing a DPhil at Oxford on the Hexapla and we look forward to more OT discussions with him on board. He is involved in the new critical edition of Field's Hexapla and has responsibility for 3 and 4 Kingdoms (1 and 2 Kings).

For further details of the Hexapla Institute see here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Twenty-four thrones in heaven (Rev 4.4)

We had several puzzles in our text-criticism class today; but perhaps the most puzzling one was in Rev 4.4 - the first variant on the twenty-four thrones (thronous eikosi tessares).

The first puzzle was what on earth 0273 is doing in the NA27 apparatus, when this is a fragment of a ninth century majuscule of John's Gospel! [Answer ... sadly ... a typo for 2073; but this emerged only after class when I checked a couple of other sources]

The second puzzle, for which I don't yet have an answer, is why the reading supported by 2073 was supported by earlier editors (notably Tischendorf and Nestle)? The external evidence and transcriptional probability seems so strongly to favour the text reading I can't see any reason for the uncertainty which the cross normally suggests.

Any thoughts? What am I missing here?

Foundations for Syriac Lexicography I

A. Dean Forbes and David G.K. Taylor, eds, have just brought out the volume Foundations for Syriac Lexicography I: Colloquia of the International Syriac Language Project (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2005). It contains much that is of interest to Syriasts and lexicographers with contibutors such as Terry Falla, Alison Salvesen, George Kiraz, Dean Forbes, Janet Dyk, Andreas Juckel and Sebastian Brock. Perhaps I may be forgiven for drawing attention to my own contribution, which is probably the one most relevant to textual criticism. It is: 'On Matching Syriac Words with Their Greek Vorlage' (pp. 157-166). Andreas Juckel, Syriac expert at the INTF in Münster, writes on 'Should the Harklean Version Be Included in a Future Lexicon of the Syriac New Testament' (pp. 167-194), which, despite the title, also includes material of text-critical interest.

WWJD - What Would Judas Do?

National Geographic is facilitating a translation of the gospel according to Judas. There is an interesting discussion about the purchaser who paid three million dollars for an artifact that they may never legally sell.

Article by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Thursday, March 09, 2006

From Rabboni to Rabbuni

When, I ask myself will English Bible translators have the guts to transliterate ραββουνι in John 20:16; Mark 10:51 as Rabbuni rather than Rabboni? Obviously the reading ραββωνι is early and has come via the Latin tradition to find a place in many European Bible translations. You can find Rabboni or something quite like it in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian—even Albanian. However, unless textual critics are going to argue that the form with omega is original they surely ought to give us a more precise transliteration of the spelling ραββουνι.

What got into the ESV committee that they rendered the term as Rabbi in Mark 10:51 and Rabboni in John 20:16?

More Inerrancy

Pursuant to the earlier discussions on inerrancy, here is a really nice piece from Dan Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) on the subject.

Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament:
Assessing the Logic of the Agnostic View

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp

New from Mohr Siebeck:

Charles E. Hill
From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp: Identifying Irenaeus' Apostolic Presbyter and the Author of "Ad Diognetum"

This book significantly expands our understanding of the life and work of Polycarp of Smyrna. Part One establishes that the anonymous "apostolic presbyter", whose oral teaching is cited intermittently by Irenaeus in Against Heresies 4.27.1 through 4.32.1, is in fact Polycarp. The fragments of teaching preserved by Irenaeus shed valuable light upon his relationship with Polycarp, establishing that Irenaeus contact with his teacher was neither fleeting nor shallow. They also reveal Polycarp's important role in opposing the early effects of the Marcionite movement and gain a valuable perspective on Polycarp's Old Testament hermeneutic in the face of ecclesiastical controversy. Part Two considers the many links which would tie Polycarp to the work known as Ad Diognetum. Charles E. Hill proposes that the work is not a treatise but the transcript of an oral address. A new proposal is made for the identity of Diognetus, the addressee, based upon archaeological evidence of an aristocratic Smyrnaean family of the second century.

2006, 207 pages, ISBN 3-16-148699-4, cloth € 49.00.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament

I imagine its relevance for New Testament textual criticism would be entirely indirect.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Septuagint Conference

The Septuagint - Texts, Contexts And Cultural Setting. A Congress organised by Septuaginta Deutsch at the Barmen School of Theology, Wuppertal, Germany. July 20-23 2006. More information (looks like it is too late to submit a paper proposal).

Enoch Question

Rod Decker asks:
I just ran across something that might be an interesting blog query/post. At there is a ad for a $30, tri-lingual edition of Enoch: Greek, English, and Russian. The English translation is just a repro of RHCharles, but the Greek text includes a complete collation (it claims) of Codex Panopolitanus. It's done as a critical apparatus with notes for (apparently?) all variants in Panopolitanus from the main text. It's done by a Tigran Aivazian and lists as publisher. I know nothing of the author or the organization. There are sample pages posted in pdf, but no info as to the Greek text, etc. The Greek text appears to be fairly close to that published by M. Black, though it has no punctuation other than verse breaks and no capitalization. I noted one v.l. (from Black) in the first few verses. It also appears that is a "web-vanity" publisher. I'd be curious to know if this is a credible publication or if it has any particular value.
- - -
Rodney J. Decker, Th.D.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

More about The Scribes

Peter Rodgers' novel The Scribes is available in its second edition from Authorhouse. Below is some (lightly edited) publicity from their webpage and an extract—just so you get hooked.

Authorhouse publicity:

The Scribes is the first in a series of historical novels. The book is set in Rome in the years A.D. 179-180. Its protagonist is Justin, a young scribe of the Roman church, named after Justin Martyr. He is helped in the copyist's tasks by two friends, Marcus and Rufus. His teacher in Rome had been Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who was beginning to write his Against Heresies when the novel takes place.

The story begins when the Roman church receives a visit from a wealthy ship merchant from Alexandria in Egypt and his daughter, Juliana. This appealing young woman is a student in the catechetical school in Alexandria, and is also a scribe for her church. Justin is attracted to her, but troubled by her manuscript. Her St. Mark begins differently. He has the longer ending (Mark 16:9-20) and she does not etc. For Justin This is very unsettling. His primary aim in life is to copy with scrupulous fidelity the text of the gospels, as the church in Rome has receieved it. But the church in Alexandria has perserved a different type of text. He is determined to get to the bottom of this puzzle, and as he does, he develops a romantic interest in Juliana. But she has returned to Alexandria. How will he pursue the relationship?

The opportunity comes when Bishop Eleutherus of Rome sends Justin and Marcus to deliver letters to various churches throughout the empire. Their final destination is Alexandria.

TRAVEL... with Justin and Marcus as they visit churches in Cornith, Athens, Ephesus, Antioch, and Alexandria.

MEET... the remarkable leaders they encounter: Dionysius of Cornith, Athen agoras of Athens, Pinytus of Cnossus, Theophilus of Antioch, the aged Hegesippus and the young Clement of Alexandria.

JOURNEY... with them to exotic places like Cnossus in Crete, Oxyrhyhchus in the Nile Valley and Crocodilopolis in the Fayum in Egypt.

EXPERIENCE...with them the many hazards that could befall a traveller or a manuscript: storms, pirates, arrests, theft, greedy customs agents, eager booksellers, heretical groups, unscrupulous innkeepers, scribes who improve the style of their texts.

JOIN... them as they face the challenge of different readings in the texts, different methods of copying, different interpretations among the churches, and strange gospels among the Gnostics.
About the Author

Peter Rodgers is the Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, New Haven, Connecticut and an Associate Fellow of Timothy Dwight College at Yale University. He holds degrees from Hobart College, General Theological Seminary and Oxford University. Before coming to St. John's in 1979 he was curate for student ministry at the Round Church in Cambridge, England. He has published several journal articles on the text of the New Testament and is the author of Knowing Jesus (InterVarsity 1982, Forward Movement, 1989).

Free Preview
Justin could not sleep. It was a little after midnight and a long time until dawn. His mind was filled with thoughts of the manuscript and its owner. He had been caught off guard by his reaction. His glance at Marcus made it clear that he too was taken aback. The prospect of spending the next few weeks in the scriptorium, day by day with such an attractive, intelligent and interesting woman was undeniably pleasant. She sought to learn from him not only the skill of the scribe, but also the craft of the reed-pen. But what more was in store: many conversations on theology, the endless contrasts between East and West, the playful banter over disputed points? They would think the same thoughts, breathe the same air, drink of the same spirit for the better part of a month.

The whole idea of a woman scribe was new. Rufus, of course, with his rigorist views, would not have approved. The thought of women in the church, let alone in the scriptorium, would be suspect, and from his point of view, put the whole Christian enterprise in jeopardy. 'Flee from meat and wine and women!' he would often cry in heated debate. And although he was, alas, not present to protest, and was in any case the newest member of the scribal band, he was nonetheless a valued brother, and Justin was aware of what he would think and what he might say. He chided himself for thinking it a relief that Rufus was detained.

Was Justin investing too much in the eastern visitor? Was this striking woman with her beautiful manuscript to be honored any more than another visitor to Rome? It was her faith and love of learning had led her to seek out the local scribes and learn all she could from them. But why should he think that she would show any special interest in him? He must be entirely sensible and get on with his work. The rigorism of Rufus was not for him, but it did have its point. Single-minded zeal for the task at hand was what was called for, and he must keep guard over his heart.

But it did surprise him that she was willing to leave her precious copy of St. Mark there with him at the scriptorium. It was her special private possession, used for devotion. She felt it would be safe with him. It certainly bespoke a high degree of trust in a man she had only just met. Had she thought it a great generosity that he invited her to come each morning to the scriptorium, to join and aid him in his work? Had she been impressed with his eagerness to read and copy this beautiful manuscript from Alexandria? Whatever her reason, there it lay, in the room adjacent to his own. No wonder he couldn t sleep! He lit his lamp, dressed himself and went into the scriptorium. Several hours without disturbance lay before him, when he could read and enjoy the splendid codex. He carefully untied the string and opened to the title page.

'The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ...'

Something was missing. In every copy of St. Mark that he had ever read were the words 'Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' Why was this splendid Alexandrian manuscript different? Surely they believed in Alexandria that Jesus was the Son of God? Perhaps it was a scribal slip, caused because in Greek 'Christ' and 'God", written in abbreviation, ended in the same letter. So some Alexandrian scribe had inadvertently left out the precious words. Justin had caught himself in just such a mistake some time ago. He had left out a line in St. John, and found his text reading in the great prayer of Jesus 'I do not pray that thou shouldst take them from the evil one.' But what had Mark originally written? Mark had had links with the earliest churches in both Rome and Alexandria, but was reputed to be the founder of the latter. Had some early copyist, eager to honor the Lord, or to underline the Gospel's emphasis added it? What, perhaps, could Juliana tell him? He needed to know, but he hardly dared ask her, knowing how much this particular manuscript meant to her. Yet the faithful handing on of the faith depended on the faithful transmission of the text.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Gilles Quispel dies

Gilles Quispel, textual critic and pioneer of work on the Gospel of Thomas, has died. For reports see here. Below are extracts from a report by J.P. van de Giessen (original here).

Prof. Gilles Quispel, emeritus professor of theology at the University of Utrecht, died on Thursday during a holiday in Egypt. He was aged 89. He was one of the most prominent experts on gnosticism and early Christianity. Gilles Quispel was born in Rotterdam on 30 May 1916 and grew up in the shadow of the mills of Kinderdijk. He studied ancient languages and theology in Leiden, and received his doctorate in 1943 in the sources of the five books Tertullian wrote in AD 208 against the heretic Marcion. Having been a school teacher for a while, he became a University professor at Harvard and Leuven. Until 1989 he was lector at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Quispel was an authority in the area of the so-called Gnostic writings from the first centuries that had been found in Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945. ... In 1952 Prof. Quispel bought a gnostic codex in Brussels with five unknown gnostic texts from the school of Valentius. ...

Prof. Quispel said of himself that he was 'orthodox, historic christian, and non-catholic'. The Bible was holy scripture for him, and he did not see this as in conflict with the critical biblical scholarship in which he engaged. ...

[my translation, unchecked]

Friday, March 03, 2006

Peter R. Rodgers joins blog

I am delighted to announce that Peter R. Rodgers has joined the blog. Peter is author of a number of articles on textual criticism in places like the Journal of Theological Studies, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik as well as of many reviews on text-critical matters in Novum Testamentum. One work of his I would highlight is his book The Scribes: A Novel about the Early Church (1stbooks, 2000). Here is what two reviewers from had to say about it:

Mary Sorens
'How do you know that your Bible is accurate? This has always been a spiritual or philosophical question for me, and the answer usually revolved around God's sovereignty in working through humans. This novel doesn't discard that idea, but it shows us through ordinary characters what the actual transcription process was like.

Here our eyes are opened to the fact that the accuracy of Scripture depended on the decisions of many Christians over many years. We see the dilemmas that they faced when the true text did not say what they wished that it did. We read of the struggles that they endured as Christians in a hostile environment. We understand the challenges that they dealt with when they discovered two different versions of the same text. Finally, we see that many scribes were faithful Christians who were determined to maintain the accuracy of the Scriptures, even if it was harmful to their cause at the time.

This novel will give you a deeper understanding of your Christian heritage. It will make you proud to be a part of this great movement of God and God's people in the world. Its romantic elements will keep you interested and involved in the story. But the value of this novel is in educating us about the Scriptures that we hold today.'

Jeffrey Boyd
'This novel about the love life of Justin and Juliana brings the Christian church of AD 179-180 alive, and gives us a sense of what it felt like to live in the Roman Empire as a minority religion that was generally viewed with contempt. But, even more important, this book makes us dramatically aware of issues of New Testament textual criticism, such as why the end of the Gospel of Mark is missing in many manuscripts. The study of how the documents evolved that later became the "New Testament" is an esoteric scholarly arena into which few lay people would venture. But this novel makes it simple amidst the love life of Justin and Juliana, two scribes involved in copying Scripture, how the Gospels of Mark and John came to have exactly the wording they now have. Rodgers' novel might have the title, "How the Orthodox Text of the New Testament Was Defended Against Corruption." There is continual debate inside the hero's mind as to the necessity of preserving (i.e. copying onto a new scroll or parchment) the text of the Gospels exactly as it was originally written by the Evangelists, even though modification of the text would have made the Gospels more marketable to the audience of AD 179. This novel covers the same years as the movie "Gladiator."

"The Scribes," although written for lay people, is a response to a controversial but esoteric and dry scholarly book by Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Ehrman claimed that scribes who copied the Gospels century after century altered the text so as to make it more "orthodox," thereby corrupting it. Rodgers' novel takes the opposite view: that many scribes were scrupulously accurate, and that every scribe in the Roman Empire read everyone else's work, with the end result that the Gospels as we now have them are precisely what was originally written by the Evangelists.'

It is of course a layman’s introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism somewhat prior to Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus, of which Peter will shortly be bringing out a corker review (publication details to be announced in due time). Peter is working on a sequel to The Scribes.

Peter also publishes hymns and poems and has written a book entitled Knowing Jesus (a good topic).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Are We Trying to Recover?

The recent discussions of Romans 5:1 and of Ulrich Schmid’s (very good) proposals about the textual history of Romans raise an issue worth thinking about a bit more: precisely what is it that we are attempting to recover? The traditional answer of the discipline is, of course, “the original.” But in giving this answer, I don’t think the discipline has given sufficient attention to the matter of how we envision the path from the original to the textual tradition. Let me illustrate the issue I am trying to raise with an example from 1 Corinthians, in light of the work of E. Randolph Richards (e.g., Paul and First-Century Letter Writing [IVP, 2004] 218-221), who proposes that Paul retained copies of (some of his) letters, and this personal collection is the source of the Pauline corpus. If one grants for the sake of argument Richard’s point, this means that the Corpus has as its source copies of the individual Pauline letters, the original in each case having been sent off to the designated church. Given the realities of the copying process, it is highly unlikely that the retained copy was identical to the letter sent. If so, then it is possible that the “earliest recoverable stage of the manuscript tradition” is one (or possibly more) stage short of the letter sent to the church—and preserves the errors of that first copy. Perhaps this explains 1 Cor. 6:5, “to judge between (ana meson) his brother”, where two parties, not just one, ought to be mentioned; Zuntz terms this phrase “an unexampled and unbelievable way of speaking; in short, a corruption” (Text of the Epistles, 15).
In short, I think the tendency has been to assume that “original” = “archetype”, and it is this assumption that I wish to question. It may be in some cases that the two are identical, but such a conclusion ought to be argued, rather than simply assumed. And if there are (as I think) cases where the two are not identical, then it may be necessary to rethink the role and place for emendation in the process for recovering the original.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bible Works 7 and TC Tools

The latest version of Bible Works is available with several significant resources for textual criticism including:

Bruce M. Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edn (unlocked)

Caspar Rene Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testaments (unlocked)

CNTTS Critical Apparatus (locked - $100)

New Testament Peshitta Collection (locked - $29)

Philip W. Comfort and David P. Barrett, The text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (locked - $30)

Reuben Swanson, New Testament Greek Manuscripts (locked - $45)

Manuscript transmission experiment

Rick Brannan has set up a manuscript transmission experiment, involving modern copying of NT manuscripts. Here are the first and second reports on the project. This is something I've thought about myself, in consultation with Peter Head. I had conceived of the experiment somewhat differently from Rick. Start with one text, copy it twice, copy each copy twice, etc. Devise a simple unique label for every ms involving a number for its 'generation' and then A or B for whether it is the first or second copy, plus further designators as necessary. I'd hope that at least 1054 copies could be produced that way. We could then look at the copying errors that occurred and do various tests to see whether it was possible to restore the original on the basis of partial evidence. Ideally the experiment would be carried out on a mass volunteer basis, with certain controls, e.g. that people do not copy a copy that they themselves have produced. Volunteers would submit their copies in scanned form.

The experiment could work in Greek or in English. An English version would open up the possibility of more volunteers and possibly many thousands of mss.

My favourite copying experiment actually would not be to produce manuscripts. I'd start with a bit of the KJV in original spelling on computer and a user interface inviting people to copy it by typing. Perhaps it should all be block capitals. Once two copies have been produced, these then form the foundation of the four copies of generation 2, etc. Since all data would be entered electronically it would be very simple to analyse it. Obviously certain mistakes would occur on qwerty or azerty keyboards that would not occur in manual copying. However, it might still be possible to get some useful observations on various forms of parablepsis.

Why KJV in original spelling? This would be to mimic simultaneously the familiarity and linguistic strangeness that many a Greek scribe must have felt when copying the NT.

Aim: 100,000 copies of 1 chapter of the Bible. Who's going to set this up?