Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dan Wallace on the Media and Codex Sinaiticus

Dan Wallace has usefully collated a whole heap of incorrrect information about Codex Sinaiticus reported in the media. It is an informative read, informative in the sense that it shows just how ill-informed some journalists are and how they make half-truths become "gospel truth". When I was at the University of Queensland, there was a chap there doing his Ph.D on the reception of the Bible in the media which was most interesting. The things he found people saying in newspapers about the DSS and the Bible were positively mind bending.

HT: Steve Runge


  1. Hmm. I wonder when Dr. Wallace will get around to correcting the half-truths and inaccuracies in the text-critical notes in the NET.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. Some of these errors seem to come from the project itself - the media is often reporting overstatements made by participants in the project.

  3. From Dan Wallace on the media and Codex Sinaiticus:

    1. “The world’s oldest Bible”—a headline in countless newspaper articles. It is the world’s oldest complete New Testament, but Codex Vaticanus is probably older than Sinaiticus. Both are incomplete in the Old Testament, and Vaticanus is also incomplete in the New Testament. Thus, if an incomplete manuscript can be considered as the oldest Bible, Vaticanus would be the one.

    (Ulrich Schmid)
    There are reasons for reversing the date, i.e. Sinaiticus being slightly earlier than Vaticanus. But what seems more problematic in this case is the emphasis on considering an "incomplete" manuscript a "Bible". The next allegedly incorrect headline immediately invalidates this point.

    2. “The earliest surviving copy of the Gospels”—numerous sources, including New York Daily News and Welt (7-6-09). No, there are several manuscripts, especially papyrus fragments, that are older: P52 (c. 100-150 CE, thus a good 200 years older than Sinaiticus) contains five verses from John’s Gospel; P66 (c. 175 CE) contains most of John; P75 (early third century) contains most of John and Luke; P45 (third century) contains large portions of all four Gospels, etc. There are well over twenty papyri that are both older than Sinaiticus and have portions of at least one of the Gospels. In addition, Codex B has the complete Gospels and is probably older than Sinaiticus.

    (Ulrich Schmid)
    None of the mentioned papyri can by any stretch of the imagination considered a "complete" manuscript of the Gospels. Points 1. and 2. taken together seem to invoke double standards. This is not very helpful and counters overstatements with overstatements.

    Ulrich Schmid

  4. I was just about to say the same thing. Although in regard to completeness of content for this corpus, 01 and 03 do stand on equal footing, so the question must be settled by dating.

  5. James:

    What half-truths and inaccuracies are you referring to? Please remember Dan is a CT guy and you are not, so you both have two radically different presuppositions. Do you have any issues of substance to share here (other than the CT vs MT) debate?

  6. Anonymous,

    First, I /am/ a CT guy -- just not *their* CT!

    The half-truths and inaccuracies in the NET and NExT footnotes are:

    (1) No mention of the positive patristic testimony for Mark 16:9-20 in the 100's and 200's and 300's. Irenaeus, AH III:10:5? Completely not mentioned!

    (2) "Several mss have marginal comments noting that earlier Greek mss lacked the verses, while others mark the text with asterisks or obeli (symbols that scribes used to indicate that the portion of text being copied was spurious)."

    Wallace is just echoing Metzger here, making it sound as if the notes explicitly say that the MSS without 16:9-20 are the older MSS, whereas some notes affirm that the majority of MSS contain the passage, or that the complete passage appears in the old copies.

    Also, this note doesn't give the reader a clear idea of the differences between some of the features that Wallace is describing, and the sort of asterisks that accompany passages such as John 7:53-8:11 and Jn. 5:4 in some MSS.

    (3) When listing witnesses which contain 16:9-20 immediately after 16:8, he wrote, "A C D W [which has a different shorter
    ending between vv. 14 and 15] Theta" and so on. The Freer Logion, however, is not "a different shorter ending." As far as I can tell such a description is simply nonsensical.

    (4) Dr. Wallace wrote, "This shorter ending is usually included with the longer ending (L Ψ 083 099 0112 579 al)." Manuscripts 083 and 0112 are one witness; the one is a piece of the other. Also, the "al" gives the reader the impression that the list continues at length, whereas all that needs to be done is add 274's margin, and the list of Greek MSS with the double-ending is exhaustive.

    (5) The NET's online notes continue to list 2427 as if it is an authentic MS.

    (6) He gives his readers no indication that Jerome's comment about the contents of "almost all the Greek codices" is heavily dependent upon Eusebius' earlier comment to the same effect, so much so it is apparent that Jerome, in the epistle in which his statement is found (#120), was merely condensing Eusebius' statement, as Jerome's self-affirmed habit was to put the opinions of the ancients into the hands of his associates, without being very careful whether they were delineated as his thoughts or theirs. (See Jerome's Epistle #75, To Augustine).

    (7) Dr. Wallace does not mention, out of the 66 other occurrences of "gar" in Mark, how many other times it ends a sentence (zero).

    All in all, the note seems designed to promote Dr. Wallace's interpretation of 16:8, and not to give the reader a balanced view of the pertinent evidence.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  7. "you both have two radically different presuppositions." -Anon.

    To make such a statement, one has to have in mind what the respective prepositions are. Can anyone sharing this assessment please state them for me?