Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Panel on Textual Criticism and Exegesis in New Orleans II


Several of us benefited greatly from the hospitality of Bill Warren and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The Center for New Testament Textual Studies shuttled people back and forth from Providence House to downtown regularly. Prof. Warren was superb in recommending restaurants.

Additionally, NOBTS and CNTTS had an open house followed by a session on textual criticism ( The panel was comprised of Larry Hurtado, Tommy Wasserman, and Michael Theophilus.

Prof. Hurtado argued that the longer reading of Mark 1:1 (… “the Son of God”) was an addition reflecting sound exegesis of the whole of Mark’s Gospel. One of the reasons for the shorter reading is that an accidental omission of ΥΥΘΥ (Son of God) would seem unlikely at the beginning of a book. Presumably, a scribe would have started his arduous task after a refreshing coffee break, etc.

I wonder, however, if a scribe was really less likely to make mistakes when fresh. I’m not sure that the data does support the presumption. A perusal of the opening verses of the individual writings of the New Testament indicates that they all have their fair share of accidental mistakes throughout the manuscript tradition. Perhaps a fresh start led the scribe to being in a hurry. This might explain the word order inversion of Christ Jesus in Rom 1:1, for example.

Prof. Hurtado conceded the existence of accidental mistakes in opening verses, but doubted whether an accidental omission similar to the omission of Son of God in Mark 1:1 could be found. I think, however, that 1 Cor 1:1 would be one such reading. There, κλητός is omitted in several manuscripts so that the text reads “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [or, Jesus Christ] through the will of God…” instead of “Paul, CALLED to be an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God.”


  1. I agree that the often assumed but undocumented hypothesis that a scribe would be less likely to make mistakes at the beginning of a work should be viewed with caution. My favorite example of initial blunders is the omission of Isaiah's name at the beginning of the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa-a).

  2. I agree. Saying that scribes were less prone to make mistakes at the beginning of a work presupposes things that cannot be proven, IMO.

  3. Larry Hurtado11/28/2009 11:15 am

    Well, I continue to think that *in his particular case* "hyiou theou" is a reverential addition. I've since checked the openings of NT writings as a quick sample, and in fact it's hard to find accidential omissions *of divine titles* in any of them. Larry Hurtado