Friday, June 30, 2006

Subakhmimic online

Thanks to Christian Askeland for pointing out to me that Thompson's edition of the Subakhmimic of John is available here.

Meeting in Edinburgh

The Society of Biblical Literature international congress is next week in Edinburgh University. There are many relevant items on the programme of which I particularly note the following.

How would people feel about having an ETC meet, open to anyone, on the Tuesday at the morning break, assembling in William Robertson?

Working with Biblical Manuscripts (Textual Criticism)
7/03/2006, 8:45 AM to 12:00 noon
Room: Lecture Theatre - William Robertson
Theme: The Use of the Codex

David Trobisch, Bangor Theological Seminary, Presiding
Larry W. Hurtado, University of Edinburgh
Does Size Matter? Early Christian Codex-sizes and Significance (30 min)
Malcolm Choat, Macquarie Universiry
Combinations of Christian works in Codices (30 min)
Scott David Charlesworth, University of New England
Christian Preference for the Codex as a Window on Textual Authority and Comparative Transmission of Canonical and Non-canonical Gospels in the Second Century (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Don Barker, Macquarie University-Sydney
Christian and Secular Codices from Oxyrhynchus (30 min)
David J. Trobisch, Bangor Theological Seminary
What is There in a Picture? An Introduction to Codex Washingtonianus W 032. (30 min)

Working with Biblical Manuscripts (Textual Criticism)
7/04/2006, 8:45 AM to 12:00 noon
Room: Lecture Theatre - William Robertson

David Trobisch, Bangor Theological Seminary, Presiding
Tommy Wasserman, Lund University
P78 – the Epistle of Jude on an amulet? (30 min)
Pablo Torijano Morales, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Andrés Piquer-Otero, University of California-Berkeley and Juan-José Alarcón
Text-critical Value of Secondary Versions in the Study of The Suptuagint 3-4 Kingdoms (30 min)
John P. Flanagan, Leiden University
Isaiah 6:13: A New Look at an Old Textual Problem (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Ekkehard Henschke, Oxford
Tischendorf's Codex Sinaiticus and its Modern Presentation (30 min)
Elvira Martin Contreras, Oriente Antiguo Instituto Filologia
M1’s Massoretic Appendices: A New Description (30 min)

Working with Biblical Manuscripts (Textual Criticism)
7/05/2006, 8:45 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Lecture Theatre - William Robertson

David Trobisch, Bangor Theological Seminary, Presiding
Holger Szesnat, CambridgeTheological Federation
Teaching the Text-critical Basics (30 min)
Kathleen Maxwell, Santa Clara University
The Relationship Between Paris 54 and Princeton, Garrett 3 (30 min)
Alanna Nobbs, Macquarie University
Papyri from the Rise of Christianity in Egypt: An Overview of the Project (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Edwin Judge, Macquarie University
Papyrus Evidence for the Appearance of Distinctively Christian Names (30 min)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Burroughs, Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus

I've been notified by the publisher of a new book critiquing Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus (of which various reviews can be found here). The book is by Dillon Burroughs, a young-looking chap who has a Dallas Theological Seminary ThM, but who makes no claim to special expertise in the subject. Details of the book can be found on Amazon here.

I've been sent a PDF of the book and have briefly perused it. I did not notice inaccuracies and observe that many of the 80 of so pages contain extensive quotations from scholars such as Bock, Blomberg, Wallace, and Witherington. In that sense he may be 'doing a Lee Strobel' in his form of writing, i.e. basing what he says on more authoritative individuals.

The basic contents are as follows:

Chapter 1: Misquoting Jesus in the Media: NPR to Comedy Central
Chapter 2: What Misquoting Jesus Gets Right
Chapter 3: Will the Real New Testament Please Stand Up?
Chapter 4: Postmodern and Personal Bias in Misquoting Jesus
Chapter 5: Quantity of Manuscript Changes vs. Quality of Changes
Chapter 6: Deal or No Deal: Must Inerrancy Be All or Nothing?
Chapter 7: New Testament: Remix or Remake?
Chapter 8: Misquoting Jesus and the King James Only Debate
Chapter 9: Women's Issues in Misquoting Jesus
Chapter 10: How Can Evangelicals Respond to Misquoting Jesus?

Given the almost exclusive dependence on electronic sources (e.g. Wikipedia for a list of Ehrman's publications), some of the material is surprising to see in print. He also publishes, evidently without permission, an e-mail exchange between himself and Ehrman.

There is some discussion at the end about what is the best way to respond to books like this (trying to learn lessons from responses to The Da Vinci Code).

It is a quick read and, while seasoned textual critics will learn nothing from it, those who are not scholars or those who are following the debate following the publication of Misquoting Jesus are likely to pick up some insights through reading this.

Krans, Beyond What Is Written

The much-awaited study by Jan Krans of conjectures in NT textual criticism has been announced by Brill (here) as forthcoming in September. Publication details: Jan Krans, Beyond What Is Written (New Testament Tools and Studies, 35; Leiden: Brill, 2006). Their publicity reads: Beyond What is Written examines Erasmus' and Beza's multiple editions of the New Testament and the vast body of annotations which accompany these editions. This study provides a new understanding of the many conjectures on the New Testament text proposed by these two renowned scholars as part of their New Testament projects. As a consequence, it not only elucidates their different approaches to New Testament textual criticism, but also clarifies the nature and role of conjectural emendation in sixteenth-century scholarship. As a piece of historical research, this investigation into conjectures in the work of Erasmus and Beza also contributes to the ongoing debate on the nature and task of textual criticism today. The study is an important publication for textual critics and exegetes of the New Testament, as well as for historians of the Renaissance and the Reformation.

Isaiah scroll images

Fred Miller has updated his page with images of the great Qumran Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa). See here. He appears to reproduce Trevor's photos, but I should have thought that these would still be in copyright. Can anyone advise as to the legality of the site?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Images of the Genizah targum mss

If you go to the website of the Taylor-Schechter Unit in Cambridge University Library, where about 140,000 manuscript fragments from the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo are housed, you will find a wealth of good images of the targums. Go to the manuscript search facility and check the 'Klein' box, name your biblical book and away you go. This site is a very well-hidden treasure.

Information provided does not deal directly with the date of manuscripts and this is also not provided in the hard copies of the published catalogues. The scholars working on this project have elected to record the more objective types of information over speculative estimates of age.

Italy vs Australia


Italy has many biblical manuscripts, while Australia has only a couple.
Italy has won the World Cup 3 times, Australia has never reached the last 16 before.
Italy has many ancient wonders, Australia has many wonderful beaches.

And soon (4pm) the battle will commence. It is almost as exciting as textual criticism.

Note Simon Barnes' comments:

  • The entire Australia World Cup campaign has been a showcase for all the things the English person loves best about Australia — that is to say, a total rejection of the conventional dominance hierarchy, a complete inability to bow the knee to anyone, no matter how exalted, the exaltation of bloody-mindedness to a point of ethical perfection and, when it comes to sport (or anything else), a relish for the process of combat. Young and free — how we envy that boast.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What's happened to the Majority Text Society?

I wonder if anyone out there can tell me anything about current activities of the Majority Text Society. I put a link to them on the sidebar of the blog because I thought that in some circles they represent a significant strand of evangelical thought on textual criticism. However, their webpage shows no sign of activity since 2003. I am wondering whether they have published newsletters more recently than 2003, whether they still have active membership (do people really subscribe to something without receiving at least a newsletter) and, if so, what size their membership is. Is there is anyone active within them or did the departure of James Davis to Jordan mean that it is no longer active? Also, is the Hodges-Farstad NT available electronically? What signs are there of Majority Text theology still around (connecting providential preservation to number of mss)? Or would it be fair to say that many who would formerly have affiliated with the Majority Text position would now prefer to support Maurice Robinson's Byzantine Priority position, which has a different theology of providence and text-critical method, even if the resultant text is not very different?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pericope 5 reviewed

In the latest Review of Biblical Literature the fifth volume of the Pericope series is reviewed by John Engle (see here). The Pericope series considers units of textual division, especially in scripture.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Codex Bezae getting online

Through Wieland Willker I notice this site which is beginning to put the Latin and Greek text of Codex Bezae online. So far Luke is complete.

Isaiah in Coptic

Jim West (here) notes the discovery of a ms of Isaiah in Coptic. The report describes it as 9/10 century and complete (here). The dialect is not specified. Is it Sahidic? Any know of any images?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Round 4

Important places for textual criticism. Any guesses as to identity?











Pre-Septuagintal OT translations

The Letter of Aristeas 314 and Aristobulus (C3-2 BC) in Eusebius' Praeparatio Evangelica 13.12 seem to assert that there were Greek translations of parts of the Pentateuch prior to the Septuagint. Is it possible that we have the remains of any aspects of those earlier translations in our current Septuagints? How early could they be?

Misquoting Jesus on audio

I've just been informed by a representative of that they are making an audiobook recording of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus. They had previously prepared his Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code. It will be a few months before it is out.

Monday, June 19, 2006

How short is an opusculum/suntagmation?

I wonder if anyone can help me with a Gospel of Judas related question? Epiphanius calls the "Gospel of Judas" which he knows of a "suntagmation" (in the Lat. tr., opusculum). Does anyone know of any other works called something similar? Would it imply that it's shorter than the canonical Gospels, or might it just be a diminutive of contempt?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Leuven Septuagint symposium

There will be a specialists' symposium on the Septuagint in Leuven, 4-6 December 2006. Details on the webpage of the Centre for Septuagint Studies and Textual Criticism at the Catholic University of Leuven.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Epp's book reviewed on RBL

Eldon Jay Epp's volume, Perspectives on New Testament Textual Criticism: Collected Essays has been reviewed at RBL by J K Elliot.

Round 3

And now, after 20 male textual critics (and a further 10 on Stephen Carlson's blog) I can present you with 10 who are female. All of these deal or dealt with text-critical matters, though one of the images shows what I believe to be someone not generally judged competent in such issues. One of the pictures is of a Classical textual critic.











Thursday, June 15, 2006

A visit to Birmingham

A week ago I was on a visit to the ITSEE in Birmingham.

The institution is part of the Graduate Institute for Theology & Religion, and is situated in the brown building, "Elmfield House" on Selly Oak Campus (behind the sign).

The staff there booked me in at Woodbrooke college,
which was a very nice place, and one of central institutions of the quakers. Earlier it used to be a college affiliated to the university, and back in those days, it turned out, Rendel Harris, who was apparently a quaker, had been one of the first principals of the college.

Thus, there was still a room at the college
dedicated to his memory, "Rendel Harris' room,"
with a bust (to the right) and what was left of his
grande collection of books. I was told that his
collection of bibles had been sold (sob!), including
an Erasmus first edition for £50.000, if I remember
correctly. Woodbrooke had had some financial
trouble, but not any longer...

At the ITSEE I met the staff, and
presented my own work on the
Epistle of Jude in a seminar. I also got to see
some amazing images of the Codex Sinaiticus (on the
big monitor in the picture to the right). The only
problem will be how to distribute these
+100 MB images without loosing information.

It was interesting to follow the work a few days at
this institution, meeting all the people and observing Professor Parker hovering over his team of students and postgraduates, of which I was very jealous ... If only I had been one of them.

Peshitta of Psalms

Just announced on the Hugoye List:

Ignacio Carbajosa, Las características de la versión siríaca de los Salmos (Sal 90-150 de la Peshitta) (Analecta Biblica 162; Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, Roma 2006).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Round 2

Peter Head enjoyed the last one, so here is round 2. These individuals were all active in the 20th century. I apologise to the Political Correctness Review Committee of the ETC that there are no women. I am saving up the pictures that I have until I find 10 well enough known to put them in one batch.











Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Who are these?

I wonder if anyone can help me identify the textual critics in these ten photos. Who occurs twice?

1 (amended; earlier edition here)










Monday, June 12, 2006

P46 and P47 images

A leaf of P47 (Revelation) is online here and one of P46 here ('tis the end of Philippians and beginning of Colossians despite the library's rubric).

A Second Reply in Defense of Reduced Census-Numbers

By Jim Snapp, Jr

[Note: At present Williams intends to append any further comments he has on the subject to this message - PJW]

Since Dr. Williams did not use a point-by-point format to respond to my first defense of the initial proposal, I will likewise adopt a more general and concise approach here, amounting to seven paragraphs.

1) About the Idea of Not Being Conservative With the Text

A reverent attitude toward the original text drives a desire to discern the original text. Where the extant text appears to be non-original, reverence propels a search for the original text via conjectural emendation. The failure of non-evangelicals to join that search may reveal their lack of theological concern about the original text. While their inaction conserves energy and thought, it is not theologically conservative.

2) About the Idea that Textual Grounds Should be the Impetus for Emendation

First, the fragility of Hebrew numerical notations, considered in light of obvious disparities and/or suggestively puzzling features in the extant text, combine to form textual evidence of corruption. But a more basic point should be emphasized: there is such a thing as good evidence that is not textual evidence, and there is no reason to pretend that such evidence has no voice.

3) About the Idea that Inerrancy Should Not Be A Factor in Cases Like This

One doesn’t need to adhere to inerrancy to possess a high level of confidence in the historical accuracy of the original text. As mentioned about, reverence for the original text fuels the search for the original text -- but another fuel is disciplined curiosity, the spirit of historical inquiry. Using a historian’s perspective, the narratives in the text and the text’s own transmission-history can be approached as a series of events to be investigated, without involving the concept of inerrancy at all. After logically weighing the historical possibilities, it is possible to state, as a non-theological statement, that it is more likely that the numbers were enlarged by copyists than that Moses led 2,400,000 Hebrews out of Egypt.

4) About the Idea that the Emendation Implies That It Would Have Been Hard for Anyone to Read the Real Story of the Exodus in the First Century

I grant this point, but the same thing can be said about numerous other passages involving numerical amounts. This seems to be a rhetorical objection, capable of being raised against any conjectural emendation.
5) About the Idea that Just Because a Hebrew Population of 2,400,000 is Historically Improbable Is No Reason To Say that It Didn’t Exist

I’m just saving us the trouble of riding a tangent in a loop. We have lists of army-sizes and refugees and such from ancient Egypt, and they tend to defy an interlock with the picture of 600,000 Hebrew males and their families ever being slaves in Egypt, or ever sojourning in Transjordan. There’s more than a mere absence of evidence to deal with. It may be difficult to say precisely what the Hebrew population was, but it is not difficult to say what it was not.

6) About the Idea that Four Different Totalling Mechanisms of the Census-Numbers Secure the Text

A copyist who received lists enumerating, tribe-by-tribe, "thousands" and "chieftains," and who thought that the sums for each tribe should be combined into a single thousands-unit, would be much more likely to make such an error thoroughly than selectively. Against such a scribe, a series of numbers would have no built-in defense against the natural effects of an innocent misreading of numbers in the consonantal text, regardless of whether those numbers were presented two, four, or eight times.

7) About the Idea that the Emendation Abandons the Classic Text of Scripture

Scribal error is scribal error, no matter how often rewritten or how frequently read, and evangelicals of all eras agree that we should not look to identifiable errors for spiritual guidance. However, I probably should have noted earlier that the entire emendation I have presented is not intended to replace the extant text, but to supplement it, somewhat like a qere-note. This is not due to a desire to guard an empty bank-safe, so to speak; it is because the main reconstructions of the tribal populations are too tentative, and possess too wide a non-decreasible margin of error, to press for their adoption above the extant text. Their main value is to indicate the transmission-history by which the extant numbers came into being and to convey a more accurate idea of what the author wrote and what he wrote about.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Keep 'em large

A su-surejoinder to Jim Snapp, Jr, on the number of the Israelites during the exodus

Links: Snapp's proposal; Williams' rejoinder; Snapp's surejoinder.

I am grateful to Jim for the discussion on this issue and will not address each of his points but hope that people will read what we have written and come to their own conclusions.

Before beginning, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I might observe that the level of orthodox corruption presupposed by Jim does not seem less than the level of corruption Bart Ehrman suggests for the NT.

PJW: ‘The vast majority of scholars from other groups are quite happy for the text to stand as it is.’

JS: ‘But the vast majority of non-evangelical scholars do not have a high level of confidence in the historical accuracy of the original text. That is probably a major reason why they feel no impetus for emendation.’

In other words we clarify that
(1) non-evangelicals are often ‘more conservative’ with the text than some evangelicals;
(2) textual grounds alone would not provide an impetus for emendation;
(3) it is an application of belief in inerrancy not as a system of checking that you have the answer right but actually as something that you use to calculate your answer that is providing the impetus for rejecting the reading that is contained in all the manuscripts that, by the secondary causation of God’s providence, have been passed down to us.

I have previously said, many times, that I believe in scriptural inerrancy. However, I have also previously argued that inerrancy should only be applied secondarily in textual criticism, and that it is not the textual critic’s task to present readers with a Bible they have helped become inerrant. More importantly, I have argued that if textual emendation is introduced to safeguard inerrancy then its application will be utterly subjective. After all, who is to decide which problems should be solved by emendation? You may feel that the number of Israelites is a difficulty and another person may be far more troubled by Joshua’s ‘long day’. Why not solve archaeological problems about the conquest by positing that the names of the conquered towns in Joshua have been corrupted?

PJW: ‘The most significant thing in attracting evangelicals to abandon classic evangelical views of scripture is when they become convinced that other views show a greater loyalty to the scriptures.’

JS: ‘But who’s abandoning a classic evangelical view of Scripture: the person who proposes that the original text recorded some very impressive but plausible large population-numbers, or the person who proposes that the original text recorded historically implausible (i.e., false) population-numbers?’

My comment was one of psychology and was not accusing ‘number reducers’ of abandoning a classic evangelical view of Scripture, even if they are abandoning the classic text of Scripture of evangelicals, all the other main Christian groups, the Samaritans and the Jews. As I pointed out, the agreement between the MT, LXX, SP and DSS on these numbers rather suggests that, under Jim's proposal, it would have been hard for anyone to obtain the Bible with the ‘real story’ of the exodus at around the time the NT was written.

I also think that Jim is too quick to leap from ‘historically implausible’ to ‘false’. We must remember that there are no fixed points in ancient population estimates. There is no time when we can say that the population of a certain land was X. What we have is estimates, made within a paradigm that is supported by a degree of internal consistency, but that falls short of proof.

If experts still cannot agree on a date for the eruption of Thera by a century and if Finkelstein and Ben-Tor can argue about another whole century of Iron Age chronology we can be fairly sure that there are still significant problems in the archaeology of the Middle East in the second millennium and early first. Until we can agree what remains belong when it is rather hard to make definitive populaton estimates.

JS: ‘Plus, one could say that the external evidence for the text is equally overwhelming in cases which are clearly incorrect -- Ahaziah’s age of 42 in II Chronicles 22:2, versus 22 in II Kings 8:26.

Actually the external evidence is not 'equally overwhelming' here since it only concerns one word in two verses, not many words in 6 chapters. In this case, moreover, the numbers are of a rather different sort. If I write an English sentence with a number in and then an error is introduced, a third person will probably be able to emend the error in any part of the sentence except the number. Naturally, copying errors were more likely in the copying of biblical numbers (and this is why the frequency with which those who disparage inerrancy appeal to numerical conflicts in Scripture does not exactly show the strength of their case). However, these numbers involve no totals and thus no means of internal checking. The numbers at the exodus, however, have four different totalling mechanisms and a very large number of actual instances of totalling. They thus have the checks.

JS: ‘But whatever difficulty this poses is of essentially the same kind as other cases where disparate amounts are recorded in parallel passages in the MT and LXX (for example, II Kings 24:8/II Chron. 36:9 and the lists of the returners in Ezra and Nehemiah).’

I've dealt with isolated numbers above. I see no reason to emend any of the numbers in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Ezra 2 records those who returned; Nehemiah 7 records the numbers that were found in a book of those who returned (7:5). Obviously some copying errors may have occurred between the writing of Ezra and Nehemiah and the present, but there is no reason why an inerrantist should not suppose that errors also may have occurred between the return and when Nehemiah found the book.

Minor points:
I don’t think that the difficulty of the Hebrews in defeating the Amalekites can be considered a text-internal ground for reducing the numbers. A small armed group often has the advantage over a large unarmed one.

As for the number 40,000 in Judges 5:8b I think that it suits my method more than Jim's. After all, if you believe that a big number and a small number are incompatible you still do not know which you should change. Why not emend 40,000 to 400,000 to solve your problem? Personally I simply do not see any remote conflict between Judges 5:8b and the large numbers at the exodus.

‘Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?’

For those interested in more popular level things, Peter Gurry informs me of a talk by Dan Wallace entitled ‘Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?’ (see here—but I’d advise the impatient to skip the first six minutes).

News from Wieland Willker

Wieland Willker has been busy informing us of many things today: a new standard edition of the Septuagint (more information from Jan Krans here), a really cheap leather edition of Westcott and Hort's NT, new images of P1 (Matthew 1) of an outstanding quality, and the publication of Exodus fragments that were connected with the Gospel of Judas.

'P46 as the Earliest "Commentary" on Romans?'

A few days ago someone raised a question about the focus of my article on 'The Text of P46: Evidence of the Earliest "Commentary" on Romans?' (in New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World [eds T.J. Kraus & T. Nicklas; TENT 2; Leiden: Brill, 2006] 180-206). In brief, I suggest that some of the secondary readings (i.e., non-original textual variants) now preserved in P46 and/or B and/or 1739, on the one hand, and also in D and/or F and/or G, on the other, originated as 1 or 2 word “comments” or “notes” inscribed in the margins of an early copy of Romans by someone reading/studying the text (these “notes” would have entered the textual tradition when a subsequent scribe, mistaking these notes for corrections, copied them into the text). If we think of “commentary” as an activity rather than a genre, these notes or comments could represent the earliest surviving evidence of “commentary” on the text of Romans. Two examples:
1) in Rom 15:25, in place of διακονων, one finds in P46 DFG latt διακονησαι. Whereas the present participle is unexpected and ambiguous, the variant gives the anticipated final sense.
2) in Rom 15:31, in place of διακονια, “ministry”—by which Paul in fact meant his collection for the saints in Jerusalem—one finds in B DFG δωροφορια, the “bringing of a gift”: an excellent one-word explanation of the vague “ministry”.

Zuntz’s view of the history of the Pauline corpus—specifically, that readings with both early Alexandrian and ‘Western’ support are not later ‘Western’ intrusions into the Alexandrian text (as per the UBS Editorial Committee) but ancient survivors from a time before the textual traditions went their separate ways—is the foundation upon which my suggestion builds.

Hope this is of some help,

Childers, Transmission and Reception

Just being advertised by Gorgias Press:

Jeff Childers, Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies (Texts and Studies Third Series 4; Gorgias Press, 2006)
ISBN 1-59333-367-6; $75.00.

Without a table of contents it is difficult to get much of an idea of the volume and in particular how much others have been involved in its production. The Gorgias Press publicity (here) says the following, and this could be read as suggesting that David Parker had a significant amount to do with the volume:

The sixteen studies in this volume, never before published, explore a variety of topics pertaining to the transmission and reception of the New Testament text. In the first part (Transmission), some of the world’s leading textual critics present new textual data, offer helpful critiques of current methods, and apply the fruits of their text-critical research to issues within New Testament and Early Christian studies. The second part (Reception) presents ground-breaking studies in New Testament backgrounds and language, insightful new interpretations of New Testament passages, and intriguing explorations of the reception of the New Testament within Early Christianity. Including articles by Barbara Aland, D. C. Parker, Eldon Epp, Gordon Fee, Everett Ferguson, and others, the results of these researches bear important implications for the interpretation of the New Testament and for understanding the formative impact of the New Testament text on Early Christianity. Indispensable for those interested in textual criticism, this compilation will be a welcome resource for New Testament scholars, for those interested in Early Christianity, and for students taking seminary or Graduate courses in these areas.

J. W. Childers is Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas. The Rev. D. C. Parker is Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Palaeography in the Department of Theology at the University of Birmingham, England.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Christian Scribe, Muslim Egypt


The following scrap does not speak directly to the reconstruction of a biblical text, but speaks to the life of the ancient scribe.

P.Aberd. 82a
1 +
ν νόματι το θεο πρ.[

“The Christians in the late Byzantine period began their documents in the name of Christ or of the Trinity, and the Mohammedans (after 640) ‘in the name of God the merciful and compassionate.’ The formula with out any further qualification was used by the Christian scribes in the service of the government of Egypt.” (J. G. Tait, unpublished catalogue, vol. 8, p. 373; fragment soon to be published).

The simple lack of καί or το reveals the religion of the scribe and reminds us of the backdrop to medieval Christianity in Egypt.

Defending a Case for the Reduction of Large Numbers

A reply to P.J. Williams by Jim Snapp, Jr.

1. Emended Numbers Do Not Erode Any Biblical Theme.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be unable to be counted (Gen. 15:5). However, the Pentateuch writer did not mean that the Hebrew male population would grow so large by the time of Moses that to count the Hebrew males would be impossible, because no matter how you slice it, the censuses constitute a count of the Hebrew males who were capable of serving in the militia, plus a count of the Levites. And the reduced numbers in the arrays which I presented previously are large; they imply a full Hebrew population of over 200,000.

In the 1200’s B.C. (assuming a late date for the exodus -- but the point stands with an early date for the exodus as well), a group of over 200,000 people would be considered a very large group -- over 2,500 times the number of Abrahamites who had originally entered Egypt. Thus the theme that Abraham’s people were supposed to be fruitful and multiply is not compromised by the reduced amounts for the total population.

PJW: "The large number of Israelites is mentioned in Exodus 38:26 to be 603,550 men, and this number is confirmed by the quantity of tax in the context."

This was explained previously: the thousands-unit in 603,550 is a simple miscombination of the number of officers and actual thousands of men eligible to serve in the Hebrew militia.

PJW: "This number is, moreover, given at great length over the course of Numbers 1-2, and confirmed by multiple totalling."

And the individual sums of the tribes have already been shown to be compatible with the smaller total sum.

PJW: (summarizing) Moses’ objection that it would be impossible to feed "all this people" who number 600,000 men on foot does not fit a scenario in which the population is smaller.

It works as well with a total male population of c. 60,000 as it does with a total male population of c. 600,000.

PJW: Moses' disbelief in God's ability to provide meat is answered by God's provision of quail for one day's journey either side of the camp (let's say conservatively that this means quail for 15 miles in each direction) and 3 feet deep (11:31). This provision suits the large size of camp."

Instead of picturing a quail-rain producing a quail-sea three feet deep, I understand Numbers 11:31-32 to be describing the area where the quail flew (a day’s journey on either side of the camp) and the altitude at which they flew (two cubits above the ground), allowing the Hebrews to easily catch them in nets and swat down, and then collect them into piles.

PJW: "Balak takes Balaam to various points from which he can catch a view of some, but not all, of the Israelite camp (22:41). He emphasises their number (23:10)."

This objection stands against the reconstructions which propose that the Hebrew nation at the time was about the size of a large traveling circus. But these texts are not inconsistent with the amounts I proposed. (Besides, in light of the census-numbers, Balaam’s statement in Numbers 23:10 is hyperbole or prophecy.)

PJW: "The large number of Israelites is again confirmed by the counting of spoil in Numbers 31."

Rather, when one encounters, in the extant text, the statement that 12,000 Hebrews collected this much spoil, it tends to confirm the need for some sort of emendation. It seems circular to refer to one group of large numbers to demonstrate the accuracy of another group of large numbers; both these text-sections were reduced in the earlier proposal.

2. Emended/Reduced Numbers Are Not Inconsistent With Numbers 3:40-43 Or Deut. 9:1.

Numbers 3:40-43 seems to refer to all males at least one month old. A total of 22,273 such individuals seems compatible with a total population of c. 220,000-280,000. While one could raise questions about whether or not this sum was meant only to include underage males, or (a la Keil & Delitzch) males born since the exodus, the reduced sums themselves indirectly answer such approaches -- not so much by showing that the amounts in the extant text are impossible (for only a dense copyist would intentionally make a miscorrection which was palpably impossible) but by showing that the possibility of the extant amounts -- a possibility in the mind of the miscorrecting copyist, at least -- is not the only possibility. Historical feasibility takes the question from there.

Also, the point that the superiority of the occupants of Canaan referred to in Deut. 9:1 may not be a numerical superiority appears neutral. If the Canaanites’ superiority has to do with their building-skills or battle-readiness, then this passage doesn’t impact the numbers one way or another.

3. The Emended/Reduced Quantities Augment, Rather Than Compromise, Reliance Upon Scripture.

PJW: "When evangelicals assert that, despite multiple totalling, thematic links and textual agreement across all the versions, the text of the Bible is corrupt in regard to the number of Israelites, they make it rather attractive not to be evangelical."

The statement is poorly founded, because (a) the textual agreement is granted but its weight is not decisive in light of both the historical difficulty of the immense population-size implied by the extant numbers and the discrepancies between such amounts and other features in the text (such as the Hebrew army’s difficulty defeating the Amalekites), (b) the thematic links are a non-factor (see above), and (c) the multiple totals are already accounted for in the conjecture.

PJW: "The vast majority of scholars from other groups are quite happy for the text to stand as it is."

But the vast majority of non-evangelical scholars do not have a high level of confidence in the historical accuracy of the original text. That is probably a major reason why they feel no impetus for emendation.

PJW: "The most significant thing in attracting evangelicals to abandon classic evangelical views of scripture is when they become convinced that other views show a greater loyalty to the scriptures."

But who’s abandoning a classic evangelical view of Scripture: the person who proposes that the original text recorded some very impressive but plausible large population-numbers, or the person who proposes that the original text recorded historically implausible (i.e., false) population-numbers? What is really in question is not Scripture itself, but the accuracy of the scribal transmission of Scripture (specifically, the scribal transmission of numerical amounts in the Old Testament), and I’m not so sure that there has ever been a focused approach to this specific problem which could be called a "classic evangelical view."

PJW: "The external (mss) evidence for the text is overwhelming. Those who posit that the text is corrupt are positing that large swathes of the biblical text have been systematically corrupted. However, the quantity of text and quality of its thematic coherence on the subject of large numbers easily surpasses the quantity and quality of text needed to establish a whole number of core evangelical beliefs, both doctrinal and ethical."

Of course the extant external evidence will always overwhelm the non-extant external evidence. However the internal evidence is another story. The greater historical plausibility implied by the conjectures, combined with the relative simplicity of the mechanisms by which the proposed original amounts were enlarged, combine to outweigh the case for the originalness of many extant numbers. Plus, one could say that the external evidence for the text is equally overwhelming in cases which are clearly incorrect -- Ahaziah’s age of 42 in II Chronicles 22:2, versus 22 in II Kings 8:26. Inasmuch as the external evidence is not given the final say in cases like that, it should not be given the final say in these cases either -- especially since the extant text itself has some suggestive inconsistencies, which were referred to earlier (such as the (apparent) number of men in the Transjordan tribes, and the reference to 40,000 in the song of Deborah).

PJW: "If you're going to say that the large number of Israelites is textually corrupt, it would surely be easier to argue that John 3:16 is an interpolation."

No it wouldn’t. This particular emendation implies that special phenomena were involved in the enlargement of the numbers, and we have at least one demonstrable example (in Josephus) of one such phenomenon at work. And a fine interlock can be shown to occur between the reconstructed amounts and other (uncorrupted) amounts found in the extant text. Such confirmatory evidence would be lacking in regard to arbitrary assertions of interpolation in John.

PJW: "Corruptions common to MT and LXX as well as other versions would have to have taken place considerably prior to the time of the NT. Those who argue that the text is corrupt are likely to have to conclude that the truth about the exodus had been lost before the time of the NT."

Granted. But whatever difficulty this poses is of essentially the same kind as other cases where disparate amounts are recorded in parallel passages in the MT and LXX (for example, II Kings 24:8/II Chron. 36:9 and the lists of the returners in Ezra and Nehemiah).

4. As a Branch of Historical Research, Textual Criticism Can Legitimately Answer Historical Questions.

It is unsustainable to (a) admit that the extant text is historically problematic, (b) deny the need for conjectural emendation by stating that the issue is best left to a different field of study, and then (c) affirm one’s confidence in the reliability of the extant text. If the extant text is historically problematic, then the problem needs to be solved by historical investigation, and textual criticism is such an investigation -- a historical investigation limited to part of the picture, namely the history of the text’s transmission. Biblical archaeological research is another such investigation -- an investigation limited to another part of the picture, the discovery and analysis of the physical and cultural backgrounds of entities and events mentioned in the Bible. When archaeological research shows the improbability of a population of over 2,000,000 Hebrews at the time of the exodus, and textual criticism shows the probability of a series of textual corruptions (as well as the internal consistency of an emended text), it seems to me that the logical thing to do is not to hand the problem to archaeologists, because they will hand it right back. The logical thing to do is to gauge the historical probability of each option -- (a) Moses led over 2,000,000 Hebrews out of Egypt or (b) copyists corrupted the numbers -- and use the more likely scenario as a working hypothesis. (There are more options than just these two; I mention only them because they seem to be the only ones already on the table, so to speak.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Book on New Testament Manuscripts

A new book has just arrived: New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (eds T.J. Kraus & T. Nicklas; TENT 2; Leiden: Brill, 2006). Pretty pricey I’m afraid (try Brill or Eisenbrauns), but lots to interest ETC bloggers:

T.J. Kraus & T. Nicklas, ‘The World of New Testament Manuscripts: “Every Manuscript Tells a Story”’, 1-12

E.J. Epp, ‘The Jews and the Jewish Community in Oxyrhynchus: Socio-Religious Context for New Testament Papyri’, 13-52

M. Frenschkowski, ‘Studien zur Geschichte der Bibliothek von Caesarea’, 53-104

P.M. Head, ‘A Newly Discovered Manuscript of Luke’s Gospel (de Hamel MS 386; Gregory-Aland 0312)’, 105-120

D. Jongkind, ‘One Codex, Three Scribes, and Many Books: Struggles with Space in Codex Sinaiticus‘, 121-136

T. Wasserman, ‘P78 (P. Oxy. XXXIV 2684): The Epistle of Jude on an Amulet?’ 137-160

T. Nicklas & T. Wasserman, ‘Theologische Linien im Codex Bodmer Miscellani?’ 161-188

M.W. Holmes, ‘The Text of P46: Evidence of the Earliest “Commentary” on Romans?’ 189-206

L.W. Hurtado, ‘The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: The Earliest Visual Reference to the Crucified Jesus?’ 207-226

T.J. Kraus, ‘Manuscripts with the Lord’s Prayer- they are more than simply Witnesses to that Text itself’ 227-266

M. Choat, ‘Echo and Quotation of the New Testament in Papyrus Letters to the End of the Fourth Century’ 267-292

K. Haines-Eitzen, ‘The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles on Papyrus: Revisiting the Question of Readership and Audience’ 293-304

S.E. Porter, ‘Textual Criticism in the Light of Diverse Textual Evidence for the Greek New Testament: An Expanded Proposal’, 305-338

Monday, June 05, 2006

Zohrab NT online

I've just seen that almost all the Armenian NT by Zohrab (Zohrabean) is online here.

Thus from the comfort of your armchair you can now consult the following ancient versions:
Old Syriac*

Any more?

*available by going to the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, then clicking on 'Search the CAL databases', then 'Text Browse', then 'Syriac'.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Future of evangelical scholarship

As pointed out in Biblical Studies Carnival VI, Andreas Kostenberger (aliter Köstenberger) discusses the future direction of evangelical scholarship. He bemoans the way the agenda is often set by non-evangelicals, citing Ehrman’s Miquoting Jesus and Brown’s Da Vinci as examples. See here. The two books, though both popular, are in rather different categories. It doesn’t take a scholar to refute Dan Brown. But though some of Ehrman’s arguments should appear flawed to any careful reader, much of Misquoting Jesus can’t be evaluated properly by a lay person and therefore requires a scholarly response.

I agree wholeheartedly with Kostenberger that we should seek to set the agenda and not be merely reactive. But alas, the panel that my learned friend was on recently did not see textual criticism as one of the four tasks in which evangelicals most need to engage. I can’t say I’m very enthusiastic about the first three.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Last twelve verses of Mark: Original or not?

I'm informed by David Alan Black that there will be a conference entitled 'The Last Twelve Verses of Mark: Original or Not?' held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 13-14, 2007.

Daniel Wallace
Maurice Robinson
Keith Elliott
David Black
Darrell Bock

SEBTS publicity here.

I hope proceedings will be published.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Upside down Hebrew disappears

The Continuum edition of Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, under the title Whose Word Is It?, may now be available in an edition without any Hebrew on the cover. See here. If, as I suspect, the Continuum edition with enlarged inverted Hebrew is the earlier edition of Whose Word then it may become a collector's item. However, as I have not yet encountered either of these editions in 3D I will await news of any information from sightings.

Online database of NT mss

Click here for an online database of NT papyri and uncials. You can search to find all the mss by book, chapter, verse or location.

Von Soden online

As announced on Wieland Willker's TC list, the CSNTM has put images of all of Von Soden's edition of the Greek New Testament, Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments, online here.