Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew

I was very pleased to see recently that some articles I worked on back in 1997-98 have now been published on the Faculty of Divinity website in Cambridge. These are part of the Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (there's actually no database, but that's what it was called!) Other articles are hosted on the Edinburgh site. Many of the entries engage in text-critical questions for the lexemes under discussion. I have a series of articles on words for weapons in Hebrew (sorry I can't dot the shin):

מַסָּע II

I believe that James Aitken is the person to be thanked for efforts to make these articles available.

Monday, October 30, 2006

From Georgskommende to Pferdegasse

The supreme institution for the study of the NT text, the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) has recently moved within Münster. They used to be at Georgskommende 7 (smaller picture) but now are in Pferdegasse 1 (large picture), nearer good places for coffee and with somewhat more room. Although arguably the previous building was more photogenic for a webpage, the latter should provide (even) better resources for visiting scholars.

Crazy: Bodmer mss for sale

See here. Jim West points this out on Wieland Willker's list.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Keys to Images of Manuscripts on-line

Two sites, the TC EBind and the CSNTM, have placed images of facsimiles of NT Manuscripts on-line, and several bloggers have created really helpful off-site indices for these:

Jan Krans has an index to the images of Bezae at TC Ebind (Bezae)

Ben Smith has an index to images of Alexandrinus at CSNTM (Alexandrinus)

Ben Smith has an index to images of Sinaiticus at CSNTM (Sinaiticus)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Minuscule Manuscript Seminar 2


Up-date: if you are curious about the date of this manuscript, then this may help:

Up-date: here are two more photos:

Up-date: a picture of fol. 37v with the Ammonian section numbers, but no Canon numbers:

Further Up-date: Here is a photo of S (028 = AD 949), which (as has been noted in the comments) was written within four months of 1582 (above). Spot the difference!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Catalogue of Tregelles' Library

In a letter of 16 Dec. 1876 Hort wrote to Tregelles' widow:

My dear Mrs Tregelles,
I was much obliged for the Catalogue, and am now very glad to hear the sale was so successful. It was certainly a most remarkable library. I only hope the books will for the most part fall into hands a quarter as able and willing to use them as those of their late master.

I like this expression of Hort's appreciation for Tregelles and I take this to refer to a Catalogue used for the sale (or auction) of the library of S.P. Tregelles in 1876 (he died in April 1875). But I have not been able to find a copy of this catalogue. [There is Tregelles manuscript material in the British Library, John Rylands Library, St Andrew's University Library and Cambridge University Library (indirectly), but none of these seem to have the catalogue.] I suspect there may be some way into this via book collectors and book sellers of the nineteenth century, but I wonder if any one out there has any suggestions. Another complication is not knowing the exact title of the Catalogue.

Islamic Awareness article

The Islamic Awareness website is a high-quality Muslim apologetics site. It seems to be run by a group of intelligent people, with boundless time and energy (they may tell me otherwise). I have been rather reluctant therefore to start any sort of debate with the bright folk there, knowing that they will have far more time to reply to anything I write than I will have to reply. For anyone who wants to look at the quantity and quality of material produced just check here. One particular article that has been drawn to my attention is the one of the reliability of the NT text. A full response would require an article of equal or perhaps greater length. Time forbids a comprehensive reply, but I wish here briefly to show some of the weaknesses and imbalances in this article by Saifullah et al.

Straw MenIn the opening paragraph the authors state their purpose as being to counter four false arguments for the integrity of the NT text: the first, that the NT text is reliable because a large number of manuscripts survives; the second, that most of the NT text could be reconstructed by quotations from early church Fathers; the third, that the quantitative integrity of the NT text can accurately be described by statistics suggesting integrity of 95-99.9%; the fourth, that some manuscripts of the NT are extremely early.

Of course, we should observe that even if all these arguments were to fall that would not mean that there was no ground for believing the NT to be true. After all, Aquinas, Calvi, Luther, etc., did not use any of these relatively modern arguments. To my knowledge the second argument is not one that is commonly used, and the fourth (claims by C.P. Thiede and J. O’Callaghan that there are first-century NT manuscripts) is not one that is advanced by most Christians with knowledge in the area. The four counter-arguments are presented by Saifullah et al. as if they were replies to mainstream Christian scholars, and yet how many authors can they quote who would use all four arguments that they attribute to Christians?[1]

On the first argument, that the mere number of NT manuscripts suggests that the NT text has been well transmitted, the authors present us with a rather crude version of an argument that appears in some Christian apologetic literature. As they note, the argument goes back at least to F.F. Bruce, but it can hardly be suggested that Bruce thought that mere number was sufficient to indicate reliability.

The third argument, of statistics for textual integrity, is one that is used by Christians, and the authors rightly point out some of its weaknesses, though, as we will see, they suggest replacing it with a far more misleading set of statistics.

StatisticsPercentages of textual certainty are generally misleading, but then so are the percentages of uncertainty suggested by the authors. If you define certainty one way you can get an answer in the high nineties. On the other hand, if you prefer to talk of ‘variant free verses’ as in this article you get a lower percentage. The authors say,

The percentage agreement of the verses when all the four Gospels are considered is 54.5%. This is very close to the probability that a tail (or head) appears when a coin is tossed once (i.e., the probability that a tail or head appears when a coin is tossed is 50%!). It is still a mystery to us from where exactly the evangelicals pick-up [sic] such fantastic ‘agreements’ between the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

However, they have purposely chosen the Gospels rather than Epistles and the unit of the verse rather than a more meaningful smaller unit in order to achieve their low statistic. If two adjacent verses contain fifty words and one of them has two words in a varying order then according to Saifullah et al. we have 50% uncertainty of the text, when in fact only 4% of the text is affected! Now I’m willing to admit that there are problems with the statistics of Christian apologists, but it seems to me that they are not wider from the mark than the statistics of this article. Moreover, we must remember here that not every variant makes the text uncertain; not every variant has a reasonable claim to be original. Here they are comparing seven different editions of the NT. Yet sometimes these editions have decided to print texts with minimal or no Greek support. For instance, in Matthew 1:16 von Soden printed a Greek text without the support of any Greek manuscripts. Thus their statistics for variation include variants that were in von Soden’s mind as well as real variants in Greek manuscripts. The variant in Matthew 1:16 arose because von Soden, despite linguistic evidence,[2] began with naturalistic assumptions that sought to explain Jesus’ birth without recourse to a miracle and accordingly chose to print what he thought must be the original reading. Ironically, in the article by Saifullah et al. they typically build on naturalistic assumptions within textual criticism. Likewise the belief that there are ‘primitive errors’ within the NT text (i.e. errors that precede all our manuscripts) is a supposition that is open to challenge rather than a bare fact.

A key thing to realize when making any useful statistics on this issue is that in general the more manuscripts you have the more known variations there will be in the entire collection of manuscripts. Therefore, Saifullah et al. are in the position that the more evidence the Christian finds, the more evidence for NT unreliability Saifullah et al. will believe that they have. If Christians had twice the number of manuscripts they presently have almost certainly there would be more variants than are presently known. Thus, almost in principle, Saifullah et al. are committed to the view that the more evidence there is, the less certain something is. This has the air of making a vice out of a virtue. This is where their argument unravels. Although simple numerical comparison between NT texts and Classical texts cannot assure us of the reliability of the former, NT texts are not only more numerous than Classical texts, they are also generally earlier, more widely cited, and more widely translated. Obviously this produces a wealth of material attesting the NT, but with that wealth comes evidence of variety. Those sceptical of Christianity, whether Muslims, secularists or any other group, can of course latch onto the variety and then make the lazy assumption that it is not possible to apply critical assessment to the variety nor to argue that much of the variation has no claim to be original.

However, it is not only lazy, but it is also ignorant to conclude that every variant in a Greek manuscript has a claim to be original. When one gets familiar with a Greek manuscript one will often find that it makes a recurrent type of error. Once you factor out the errors that are peculiar to that manuscript these variations no longer play a role in identifying the text of the NT. Unfortunately, within the discipline of NT textual criticism it has been common to present textual witnesses, such as manuscripts or translations, prior to undertaking an analysis of what factors within that witness are almost certainly secondary. This is something that I have had reason to criticize in relation to early translations on a number of occasions.[3] Essentially, these critical editions of the Greek NT serve up for us information in an undigested form. They often assume that variation in a translation means that there was variation in the Greek original from which that translation was made. They likewise do not adequately consider the mistakes of individual scribes within the manuscripts. As a consequence many modern editions serve us up with an apparatus full of variations that, to the unsuspecting eye, probably look like evidence that there is a high degree of uncertainty about the biblical text. To the extent that Saifullah and others are building on a false assumption that all variants bring the original into question, their work is inadequate.

The Age of ManuscriptsIt takes some skill to present an argument that makes the fact that the NT exists in earlier manuscripts than the overwhelming majority of Classical texts into a weakness for the NT, but this is what happens in Table VI. A clear strong point of NT transmission (relative to all texts of its age) is argued to be a weakness.

The statement following Table VI that 1 and 2 Timothy and 3 John only have ‘very late manuscripts’ is rather misleading. Here comparison with Classical works is relevant. Scholars have a great deal of confidence in the integrity of the text of Classical works though the manuscripts are generally much later than those of NT works. If 1 and 2 Timothy and 3 John are only in ‘very late manuscripts’ then most Classical works are only in ‘very, very late manuscripts’. The argument presented by Saifullah et al. is that the witnesses are late, and yet their argument is also subject to attrition. One century or two centuries ago the earliest manuscripts were considerably later than the ones we now have. It would be better to say that the manuscripts are early, and are getting earlier all the time. Moreover, their table ignores the fact that sometimes manuscripts in languages other than Greek exist prior to Greek manuscripts. For instance, there is a Coptic manuscript in London, namely Crosby-Schøyen Codex Ms 193, which contains all of 1 Peter, which has been dated to the late second century or early third century by Roberts (whose datings the authors accept elsewhere in this article), though other scholars put this manuscript later in the third century (J. Goehring, The Crosby-Schøyen Codex Ms 193 [CSCO 521, Louvain, 1990]). Thus their entry for 1 Peter might be amended to show this earlier witness. Now the point is this: most scholars would accept that if 1 Peter was being translated into Coptic by this stage then so were the Gospels. Christian literature was very widespread early on and spread across language boundaries. It would not be possible for some conspiracy to exist to change all the Bible manuscripts at any one stage because they were too widespread. What is not observed by Saifullah and friends, and which would need to be worked out at greater length, is that the amount of variation amongst extant NT texts is probably too little for it to be plausible that there was widespread change of these texts early on.

Certainty and Diversity
The article rather lacks precision when dealing with the issue of certainty. The article seems to confuse lack of certainty amongst a range of scholars with lack of certainty of the issue. I doubt whether the authors would accept an argument of the structure: a range of scholars are uncertain about the status of Islam, therefore the status of Islam is uncertain. Yet their argument is very much of the structure that if a range of scholars are uncertain about the NT text therefore the NT text is itself uncertain. The article does not consider that ‘lack of certainty’ is a feature of many areas of scholarship. You could take many an issue from global warming to economic theory and find a range of opinions and therefore declare the issue uncertain. This, however, would not mean that another scholar could not rationally reach a much higher degree of certainty about the text than was available within the academy as a whole. They do not show that an individual scholar could not rationally be 99% or more sure of what the original text was.

Muslims and Christians live in an academic environment where the overwhelming number of scholars in the world’s most distinguished universities do not believe that God has given a record of his words to humans. This is an environment in which a believer in God, whether Christian or Muslim, should begin with an approach which does not uncritically accept that trends in academic scholarship necessarily represent the truth. There must be a rigorous attention to evidence and argument. The article in question could, I think, do more to distinguish between bare fact and the consensus opinion of scholars working in a largely secular academic environment.

In my publications cited, as well as in others found on my webpage, I have sought to document large numbers of textual variants within the Bible which are only believed to have existed due to uncritical presuppositions which have flourished in a more secular age. They do not really exist. These pseudo-variants are open to critique on scholarly and linguistic grounds, though I have found that a sceptical attitude towards secular attitudes to scripture has also been helpful in exposing some of these errors. I suspect, though I cannot prove, that if more scholars were to have a similar scepticism and apply it in their area of study that the text of the NT would appear in an ever better light.

There is obviously plenty to discuss with the Islamic Awareness folk and if the rumour is true that some of them are in Cambridge, England, then perhaps I will get a chance to meet them and chat as I'm usually down there a couple of times a year. I would not even deign to think that these few ramblings are a match in quality for their far more thoroughly researched article.

[1] Clearly the authors are trying to persuade us that this is how many Christians argue. The first argument is said to be used ‘invariably’. The second argument is introduced as ‘The Christian apologists’ second line of defence…’ Assuming the apostrophe to be correctly placed, the authors are asserting that this is generally the line that is taken by Christian apologists.
[2] I refute von Soden’s reconstruction of Matthew 1:16 in P.J. Williams, Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels (Texts and Studies 3:2; Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2004) pp. 240-44.
[3] For my criticism of this procedure in the textual apparatus see, P.J. Williams, ‘On the Representation of Sahidic within the Apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece’, Journal of Coptic Studies 8 (2006) 123-25; ‘Bread and the Peshitta in Matthew 16:11-12 and 12:4’, Novum Testamentum 48 (2001) 331-33; ‘Some Problems in Determining the Vorlage of Early Syriac Versions of the NT’, New Testament Studies 47 (2001) 537-43; ‘“According to all” in MT and the Peshitta’, Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 12 (1999) 107-109. I understand that my conclusions will be taken into consideration in future versions of the Nestle-Aland edition.

Textual criticism and rhetorical criticism

One of the subjects that is all the rage now in NT studies is rhetorical criticism. It is frequently proposed that some rather elaborate rhetorical structures can be found in Paul's letters or in other epistles in the NT. I have been wondering how much research has been carried out on the relationship between this and textual criticism.

Often the proposals for rhetorical units do not correspond to units indicated in the earliest manuscripts. Now that could be because the early scribes simply failed to recognise the units, but is there a case for saying that the widespread failure of early scribes to recognise rhetorical structures which are claimed to be widespread in the first century actually undermines the view that the structures themselves were so widespread? What bibliography could one recommend?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Controversial Romans Manuscript

Finally, some Textual-Critical evidence for gender neutral language.

In addition to the reasons cited by the author of this article, I found that the manuscript was unique in several facets of its orthography including the use of an Athenian/Pre-Imperial script, the dots, and the fact that it was typed. ;^)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bruce Metzger's Library

Andrew Wilson pointed me to the fact that a large number of books from Bruce Metzger's library, including some outstanding historical editions of the Greek New Testament including a 1550 Stephanus; Wettstein 1751&2; Mill 1723 [I presume this may be an edition of Kuester's revision of Mill, it is not specified]; as well as Tregelles 1861 [a bit steep at $550 methinks, considering it lacks volume one!!!]; von Soden 1902 [the most tempting, and a significant lack in my library, but I'm not convinced that I have $500 to spare at the moment]. There are plenty of others to choose from as well, although not too many outstanding bargains.
Have a look around if you are interested (I'm not getting any commission): here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

5th congress: Targum Studies

Notice from the Hugoye List:

The Fifth Congress of the International Organization for Targumic Studies (IOTS) is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, 12-13 July 2007, in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It will be held in conjunction with the XIXth Congress of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament (IOSOT) in Leiden during 15-20th July 2007. As with past meetings, registration and accommodations will be arranged through the IOSOT, whose website is located at: http://www.iosot2007.si/ .

We are pleased to announce a call for short papers in the following categories:
1. Language, Dating and Inter-relationships among the targumim; translational theory and the targumim.
2. Exegesis; Relationships with other rabbinic and contemporary literature (halakhic, aggadic, patristic, historical etc.).
3. Theology, Eschatology and Sitz im Leben of the targums.
4. Text-criticism, manuscript history, and stemmatology.

Papers should be of twenty-minutes length, allowing ten additional minutes for discussion. The deadline for paper proposals is 15 January 2007, and 15 March 2007 for the submission of written abstracts. Please respond to:

Dr. Paul V.M. Flesher
Religious Studies Program
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82071-3353

Mss display by the Smithsonian

Stephen Carlson lists here the most important mss put on display by the Smithsonian. Worth going to SBL for.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Armed police set to raid Esphigmenou

Armed police are now set to raid the Esphigmenou Monastery on Athos. It appears that, contrary to my previous announcement, some of the sentences handed out to the monks were custodial. See here. For some of the background to this and details of the manuscripts in the monastery see the previous post and comments attached to it. Patriarch Bartholomew arrives on Athos today.

Friday, October 20, 2006

James Barr dies

The distinguished Old Testament scholar James Barr has died. Mark Goodacre's notice here. Times obituary here.

His writings ranged across a number of areas, and touched often on matters text-critical. He also supervised and examined important works within textual criticism.

His Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament (first published 1968) is his most obvious contribution to textual criticism. However, his Typology of Literalism (1979) is a very important study of the development and categorisation of so-called 'literal' translation. I enjoyed reading his Semantics of Biblical Language, Fundamentalism, Variable Spellings of the Hebrew Bible and His History and Ideology in the Old Testament. His Escaping from Fundamentalism book was, as he said in the preface, not aimed at my type, and consequently less enjoyable or edifying.

Thus though I only met Barr once (and was surprised to find that already back in 1998 he had read something I had written), his writings had a deep effect on me and on my outlook on evangelical scholarship, though perhaps not the effect that Barr himself would have wanted. His Variable Spellings further inspired my interest in spelling in scripture and its importance, but the book that I found the most helpful was Fundamentalism. Now Barr did have a tendency to apply the term 'Fundamentalist' to anyone who had a view of scripture remotely approaching historic views of verbal inspiration found across Christendom and then to wonder why people objected to this use of the term. But that matter aside, his book Fundamentalism is important for its critique of how those who hold to the verbal inspiration or infallibility of scripture and then try to defend this view so often insist on 'changing the text'. He shows cogently how those who keep the text are showing more respect for the scriptures than those who in the name of respect for the scriptures change it. It is a lesson well worth heeding and I must say that they were in my thoughts as I wrote a piece on 'inerrancy' for this blog.

I am thus grateful to God that he used the writings of James Barr to increase my respect for his word. I hope that his life directly or indirectly will have the same effect on many others.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sahidic NT on e-Sword

The following was received as a comment from Robert Hommel to another post, but I thought that it should receive more prominence and be posted here:

"I have created 3 free Sahidic Modules for e-Sword, the popular freeware Bible program. They are based on the Sahidica Text and Lexicon.You can download them here: e-Sword Original Languages Library"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Minuscule Manuscript Quiz/Seminar 1

I was thinking about another quiz involving bits of minuscule manuscripts; but decided that a minuscule quiz might need more than isolated snippets in order to identify the manuscript, and make observations about the hand, the layout and the text, etc. Then I thought that the label "quiz" might not be the best label, since there are still plenty of things for us all to learn. So let's see if we have any interest in discussing a series of NT minuscule manuscripts.
What can you tell us about this text and this manuscript? Why is this a good place to begin?

Up-date: another page from the Uspensky Gospels (ms 461; AD 835)

Up-date: here is another page (fol. 161; Luke 1.1-6; from Hatch):

Ma'agarim database

I have just received an advert about the Ma'agarim database available free here. It is a bit like an equivalent of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae but for post-biblical Hebrew to the 11th century. The user interface is all in Hebrew, but it will not take too long to learn how to use it. It claims to be based on a 9 million word corpus, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, inscriptions, and masorah.

It sounds like the free demo version may not be eternally available, so get searching.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Teststellen for the MT

There are thousands of manuscripts of the Hebrew OT. We have reasonably precise numbers for the manuscripts of the Greek NT, but does anyone know about manuscripts of the Hebrew OT? Does anyone even care?

There are a few reasons why so little has been done with the vast number of medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The OT is longer than the NT and 'collation' for a Masoretic manuscript involves not only collating letters, but also vowels, accents and of course the masoroth.

A further reason why no one seems bothered about collating the medieval mss is that people are convinced that they will not find much. That's why if we want information about variations in medieval manuscripts we have to go to Kennicott and De Rossi at the end of the eighteenth century. But how about the strophe beginning with nun in the alphabetical Psalm 145 (Hebrew numbering just after v. 13)? Does an agreement here between a Hebrew ms and the Greek Psalter not suggest that the Hebrew ms in question deserves more investigation?

Given the mass of Hebrew material I think that the only way to begin to make sense of it is to start devising a set of Teststellen—places where we dip in to the manuscript tradition to try to get a sense of what is worth further exploration.

Hurtado on Thomas

Announcement received from British New Testament Conference list:

Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Greek Manuscripts of the Gospel of Thomas: Papyrological Analysis and Demonstration

Professor L. W. Hurtado

Friday, 8 December 2006, 3−4:30 p.m., Senate Room, New College

Uniquely among the many Coptic texts in the Nag Hammadi find, there are portions of three Greek manuscripts extant of the Gospel of Thomas, which are palaeographically dated to the third century CE. Though only fragments survive, in this session we will see how a careful analysis yields considerable data, from which we can make inferences about how these manuscripts were intended to be used and how the text of Gospel of Thomas was handled in this early period. This illustrated session is intended also to demonstrate how one makes a detailed analysis of ancient papyri containing literary texts.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

New Book: The Freer Biblical Manuscripts

The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: Fresh Studies of an American Treasure Trove

Larry W. Hurtado, editor

The six biblical manuscripts that reside in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., are historically significant artifacts for tracing the early history of the transmission of the writings that make up the New Testament and the Septuagint. The manuscripts, all purchased in Egypt at the beginning of the twentieth century by Charles Freer, date to the third through fifth centuries and include codices of the four Gospels, Deuteronomy and Joshua, the Psalms, and the Pauline Epistles, as well as a Coptic codex of the Psalms and a papyrus codex of the Minor Prophets, which, until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was the earliest Greek manuscript of the Minor Prophets known. The ten essays in this volume are a notable collection of fresh scholarship with long-term value for the study of what is a small but highly valuable treasure trove of biblical manuscripts.

Paper $39.95 • ISBN: 1-58983-097-0 • 372 pages, October 2006 • Archaeology and Biblical Studies 9 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

—Larry W. Hurtado

Paleography and Philanthropy: Charles Lang Freer and His Acquisition of the “Freer Biblical Manuscripts”
—Kent D. Clarke

The Freer Twelve Minor Prophets Codex—A Case Study: The Old Greek Text of Jonah, Its Revisions, and Its Corrections
—Kristin De Troyer

The Unidentified Text in the Freer Minor Prophets Codex
—Malcolm Choat

The Text of Matthew in the Freer Gospels: A Quantitative and Qualitative Appraisal
—Jean-François Racine

The Use and Nonuse of Nomina Sacra in the Freer Gospel of Matthew
—J. Bruce Prior

Was Codex Washingtonianus a Copy or a New Text?
—Dennis Haugh

The Corrections in the Freer Gospels Codex
—James R. Royse

Reassessing the Palaeography and Codicology of the Freer Gospel Manuscript
—Ulrich Schmid

The Scribal Characteristics of the Freer Pauline Codex
—Thomas A. Wayment

Manuscript Markup
—Timothy J. Finney

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blogiversary Eve

It is now the eve of ETC's First Blogiversary. I thought it better to announce this today since Saturdays are not one of our peak times. I launched the blog with this message in a hasty moment before a dinner with Simon Gathercole on this Friday last year. Since then it has been a pleasure to welcome a growing team of bloggers and to receive such a wide range of input from comments, submitted posts and commissioned posts. I have been really grateful for the encouragement received, even from those who think that some of the blog's theological aims are misguided!

Perhaps to mark this occasion I could ask for comments on the following subjects (though perhaps others will propose other subjects that should be mentioned):

1) Messages and discussions that people have found most useful.

2) Honest assessments as to what might have been achieved so far.

3) What role the blog might play in contributing to textual criticism and the church in the future.

Scribal Habits and Theological Influences in the Apocalypse

New Book:
Hernández Jr., Juan, Scribal Habits and Theological Influences in the Apocalypse
The Singular Readings of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi
(Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.Reihe; 2006).
ISBN 3-16-149112-2 ca. € 50.00

Modelled on the respective studies of Ernest C. Colwell and James R. Royse, Juan Hernández Jr. offers a fresh and comprehensive discussion of the Apocalypse's singular readings in Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi. Moreover, the singular readings of the Apocalypse are also assessed in light of the work's reception history in the early church. The author shows that the scribes of these three manuscripts omitted more often than they added to their texts, were prone to harmonizing, and, in the case of at least one scribe, made significant theological changes to the fourth century text of the Apocalypse. The author also attempts to integrate the findings of the most recent text-critical research of the Apocalypse with studies of its reception history in the early church. His book is the first systematic study of scribal habits on the Apocalypse that takes seriously the claim that some scribes were making changes to the text of the Apocalypse for theological reasons.

no more details yet at http://www.mohr.de/t/n4656_e.htm

Old Testament verse numbers

If I asked who introduced the NT verse numbers, when he did so, where he was and what he was doing at the time I expect that I would get plenty of accurate information. Would I get the same if I asked when the OT verse numbers date from and who first introduced them?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Konrad Jenner's Festschrift

It has probably been out for a while, but I have only just noticed the appearance of the Festschrift for Konrad Jenner who has been leader of the Peshitta Institute in Leiden where the definitive edition of the Peshitta OT is produced. Further details are here. The title is Text, Translation, and Tradition Studies on the Peshitta and its Use in the Syriac Tradition Presented to Konrad D. Jenner on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday Edited by W.Th. van Peursen and R.B. ter Haar Romeny (Brill: Leiden, 2006). The series produces works at a fairly slow rate. This is vol. 14 of the series, while my vol. was number 12 and came out in 2001. I see that Brill have slapped a further 54 dollars on the price since then. Anyway, it would be good to have a table of contents of the Jenner volume because I'm sure it would contain much of interest.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dispute on Athos

Today there has been a significant event in a long-running dispute on Mt Athos, home to more Greek NT manuscripts than anywhere else in the world. Some monks from the Esphigmenou Monastery (pictured) were today given suspended prison sentences for charges related to their opposition to Patriarch Bartholomew's attitude to the Pope. The Greek government supports the siege that these quiet anti-ecumenical monks are under. The Esphigmenou Monastery is home to the oldest manuscript of Epictetus' Manual and ms 983 (a twelfth century ms of the Gospels). I don't know whether they have other NT holdings.

Peshitta Foundation

The Peshitta Foundation offers a visually attractive NT Peshitta as well as of Targum Onkelos with Tiberian pointing. [I would not wish to endorse the site's claim: "Evidence leans toward the fact that the Greek (and eventually Latin) manuscripts were translated from the original Aramaic Peshitta and other Hebrew manuscripts."]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

SBL forum October 2006

Other highlights of the SBL forum are a piece by Stephen Carlson on ms 2427 as a forgery, and one by Stefan Reif about new finds from the Cairo Genizah discovered in Switzerland. The latter article actually focuses on material already known from the Genizah and we therefore need further information before we can assess the importance of the new finds. Does anyone know how many more remnants of the Genizah might still lie undiscovered in Western Europe?

Another Manuscript Quiz: NT Majuscules





















Rules: 1 point for identification of passage; 1 point for identification of manuscript; 1 point for good observations about unique scribal characteristics
Please only three point-scoring attempts per person per day (leave some for others to have a go at).
Up-date: The identifications are listed in the comments. I have added links to the sources (normally fuller pictures).

TC-journal—official SBL publication

In the SBL Forum of October (here) it is announced that the electronic journal TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, which was established already in 1996 (as one of the first e-journals), has now become an official online publication of the SBL.

Members of the editorial board are:

James R. Adair, Religion and Technology Center, Editor
Tobias Nicklas, Radboud University of Nijmegen, Book Review Editor
Johann Cook, University of Stellenbosch
Claude E. Cox, McMaster Divinity College
Sidnie White Crawford, University of Nebraska
Bart D. Ehrman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Leonard J. Greenspoon, Creighton University
Michael W. Holmes, Bethel College
L. W. Hurtado, University of Edinburgh
Arie van der Kooij, Leiden University
Johan Lust, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Melvin K. H. Peters, Duke University
William L. Petersen, Pennsylvania State University
Klaus Wachtel, Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung

Monday, October 09, 2006

Macclesfield Psalter images

There are here a number of images of the Macclesfield Psalter, acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge last year. It is C14 and made in East Anglia, the general region in which Cambridge finds itself. The illustrations on the manuscript are often quite bold, and not always greatly edifying (e.g. the picture of a man urinating). Perhaps the manuscript can at least remind us of the full variety of entities that fall under the heading of 'biblical manuscript'.

Sahidic and Bohairic NTs in print

Tigran Aivazian of bibles.org.uk has teamed up with J. Warren Wells of Sahidica, to produce printed editions not only of the Sahidic NT, but also of the Bohairic. Whereas I presume that the textual basis of the Sahidic text is Wells' own (basis described here) I do not yet have any details of the textual basis of the Bohairic.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Statistical Question

There are some useful statistics for the Greek NT listed here by Felix Just; including the Number of Chapters, Number of Verses in Each Chapter, Total Number of Verses, and Total Number of Words in each book of the Greek New Testament.
But what I would like to know is the number of letters in each book of the Greek New Testament (any critical edition accepted; or even TR for comparison). Any offers?

Rhalfs (Textual Criticism of the GNT [ET, 1901], 48f) reports that Zahn (Geschichte des N.T. Kanons, i.76) gives figures from work done by Graux (Revue de Philologie, ii). Rhalfs only provides some figures (letters first, then stichoi [I can't figure out how to do a table]):

Matthew: 89,295 (2,480)
Mark: 55,550 (1,543)
Luke: 97,714 (2,714)
John: 70,210 (1,950)
Acts: 94,000 (2,610)

3 John: 1,100 (31)
Apocalypse: 46,500 (1,292)
Philemon: 1,567 (44)

Looks like a trip to the library to get all the figures; unless someone has Zahn on their shelves.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ortega Monasterio on M1

The latest edition of the Review of Biblical Literature contains a review of Maria Teresa Ortega Monasterio's edition of the Masorahs of M1, a thirteenth century manuscript used for the Complutensian Polyglot. As many will be aware the Masoretic notes are arranged in exquisite tiny letters to form patterns and pictures. Unusually, the review contains two actual images of the manuscript. These are well worth seeing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The adulteress and her accusers

Andrew Wilson has produced some detailed material on internal arguments for the authenticity of the Pericope Adulterae here.

Tregelles Quote Quiz 2

Who said this about Tregelles?

'As the editor lacks critical sagacity; his text has a wooden character; and an absence of tact and skill, an antiquarian stiffness, unfits it for becoming the text of the accomplished scholar or the source of a popular version.'

And why?

NT papyri on CD


Has anyone yet formed an opinion on the CD by Karl Jaroš? It is entitled Das Neue Testament nach den ältesten griechischen Handschriften and I understand that it contains images of some of the papyri.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Robert Gundry Reviews Ehrman

Bob Gundry of Westmont College reviews Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus over at Books and Culture (Sept-Oct 2006). The article is entitled: "Death by hardening of the categories". The article includes an interesting postscript which I reproduce here:

Despite the foregoing criticisms, my sympathies often lie with Ehrman. The rigidity of the fundamentalism in which I grew up far exceeded anything he has described concerning his own experience. His inveighing against homogenizing the distinctive messages of biblical authors for the sake of historical harmony strikes in me a resonant chord. And at an early stage of my doctoral research on Matthew's use of the Old Testament, what increasingly seemed to count as misquotations—the usual suspects: reversing Micah's description of Bethlehem as small into a strong denial of that description (2:5–6), quoting Hosea's reference to Israel's exodus from Egypt as though it predicted the Messiah's stay in Egypt and exit from there (2:15), and so on—led me at one point to say aloud in the privacy of my study, "God, it's not looking good for you and your book." So why didn't I arrive at Ehrman's "dead end"? I have no explanation except to say that "by the grace of God" (the phrase Ehrman judges a textual corruption in Hebrews 2:8–9) I was spared a hardening of the categories through which Scripture is perceived. Or since they were already hard—unreasonably hard—I should rather say that the Spirit of God softened my categories so as to give them an elasticity that accommodates the human features of Scripture without excluding its ultimately divine origin. I pray that Ehrman and all others like him may enjoy such a softening.

Snapp reflects on Ehrman interview

[The following is from Jim Snapp and is similar to a comment he posted earlier.]

A few thoughts about Dr. Ehrman's Comments in the Recent ETC Interview.

Kirsopp Lake wrote (p. 16, Lake’s Text of the NT), "The perfect textual critic will have to be an expert palaeographer and the possessor of a complete knowledge of all the bypaths of Church history." It’s no news that NTTC and the study of church history overlap, or that textual data and historical data complement one another. What is news is how Dr. Ehrman re-defines NTTC as a branch of historical research. He calls the goal of reconstructing the original text a "myopic" concern. However, the reconstruction of the original text is and ought to be the concern, the goal, of New Testament textual criticism. Reconstructing transmission-history is an important part of that task, but for the text-critic it’s relevant as a step toward the goal, not as a separate goal. When it’s a separate goal, a separate discipline is entered.

Misquoting Jesus was not the first book of its kind, unless one defines "well-marketed sensationalistic introduction to textual criticism for people who will never do any textual criticism" as a unique kind of book. J. Harold Greenlee’s Scribes, Scrolls, & Scripture was very, very much the sort of book that Misquoting Jesus was (where positive traits are concerned) — right down to the use of "abundanceonthetable" to illustrate continuous-script writing (see Greenlee, p. 62).

While inspiration was not the main subject of Misquoting Jesus, it was a significant sub-topic. Dr. Ehrman told his readers that a God who took the trouble to inspire the production of Scripture should have assured that the words of Scripture be preserved; a failure to divinely preserve Scripture must imply a failure to divinely inspire the Scripture in the first place. This was, if not the climactic pronouncement of the book, one of its major points. Dr. Ehrman did not try to develop a thesis, but he certainly made a sustained and obvious antithesis.

Dr. Ehrman still seems not to differentiate between having the original papyrus and ink, and having the original message that was communicated by the original papyrus and ink. He asked in the interview, as he did in his book, "What good does it do to say these original texts were inspired if we don’t have them?" First of all, we do have them. Where difficult variants are concerned, we have them along with competing alternate readings. How many variants does Dr. Ehrman think there are in which (a) the original text cannot be reasonably determined via textual criticism and (b) there is an appreciable difference of meaning between the variants? 40? 160? 400? It’s a very thin sliver of the Scripture-pie. The question ought to be more like this: "What good does it do to say that these original texts were inspired if we can only confidently eliminate 99.99% of the non-original meaning-altering variants from consideration?"

The premise that the authors of Scripture produced exactly what God wanted them to produce, when combined with the premise that God is a God of truth, implies that Scripture is a truthful and authoritative message from God. As an article of faith, taken on faith, this means that what disagrees with Scripture is not a truthful and authoritative message from God. Even in cases where we face competing, evenly supported variants, and are thus unsure of exactly what the divinely inspired words are, there is still an obvious limit as to what they could possibly be. Thus even a reconstructed New Testament text with 40, or 160, or 400 significant points of instability is capable of communicating God’s truthful and authoritative message.

Dr. Ehrman made a reference to "the fallacy of the view … that the intention of the author dictates the meaning of a text." That’s no fallacy. There may be more to the significance of a passage than the author’s intended meaning, but the task of seeking to discern what the author was trying to communicate remains a vital exegetical step. Without this premise, there’s hardly any point to having a text in the first place; it becomes an inkblot.

Dr. Ehrman said, "I insist that there are certain things that can be stated as factually true. I try to state these things as clearly as I can in the book." Where is the clarity in an estimate of the number of variants with a range of 200,000???

Dr. Ehrman said, "Some of the differences are very significant and can change the meaning of a passage or even of an entire book. Is there any textual critic who can say that these are not facts?" Some differences are very significant, and some variants can change the meaning of a passage, sure. But what variants change the meaning of an entire book? If one consistently adopted an array of poorly attested variants throughout a book, the meaning of the book could change, but that would not be sound textual criticism. The recovery of more of the original text of any New Testament book will not significantly change the message of that book from the message already communicated by the text with its points of instability.