Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CNTTS Featured in Major Newspaper Article

The title ‘Changes to the Bible through the ages are being studied by New Orleans scholars’ was a bit unfortunate, but the Center for New Testament Textual Criticism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was featured in a major newspaper article.

The news writer attempts to explain CNTTS’ 10 year project to produce an exegetical commentary on the (non-original) variants.


  1. I’ve learned to lower my expectations for news reporting on biblical studies. It would be wonderful if for newspapers and other media were filled with Christian journalists who were knowledgeable in biblical studies. As it is, any time Bible scholars agree to be interviewed, they hold their collective breath, as they await the outcome.

    I suspect that the writer attributes to Dr. Warren some comments which were extremely loose!

  2. After the article appeared, the religion editor for CNN called to request a follow up.

  3. Some of the readers' comments were absurd and hilarious, providing us with an urgent motive to educate the public.

    Here's a fun comment that someone made: "Good article. Nice to see this set of scholars doing this work, always nice to be getting after the truth. I would think that this work by these scholars would be well-received by Christians and non-Christians alike. This is the kind of work that helps one sharpen his/her worldview (whatever that is), not erode it. I would think, however, that the VATICAN already has done all this work. They may not be putting it online like this particular group, but I would find it hard to believe that Vatican scholars have not already completed this work."

  4. Other funny comments can be found on my facebook page.

  5. In light of the article--which appeared front page of the Sunday edition--my pastor was asked some questions by church members and people in the community.

    He interviewed me and blogged about it. Here's the link, although tc specialists should read it understanding that it was given off the top of my head, and that it was given for non-specialists.

  6. That was a truthy report, giving readers just enough information and misinformation to make them dangerous.

    Copyists "began inserting" the PA into John some time after 390, and "found its current home" by the 7th century? Impossible and misleading in light of Jerome's statement that he found the story in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin.

    And, Mark 16:9-20 "does not appear in the earliest manuscripts," but P45 doesn't have text from Mk. 16 at all, due to extensive damage. And why is the evidence from Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus so entirely ignored in the report, as if their manuscripts don't deserve to be mentioned because their weather was different?

    And Lk. 23:34 "likewise does not appear in the earliest versions of his Gospel" but again this is not at all the whole story.

    Back to the PA: it "wanders across several early John manuscripts" and "even shows up in two early copies of Luke"?? Is that remotely realistic? Who's likely to get an accurate impression of f13 from that?

    And regarding the phrase "and fasting" in Mark 9:29 -- "3rd century manuscripts added" the words? Are you kidding? The one extant third-century copy of Mark (P45) appears to support the inclusion of the phrase. The other third-century manuscripts are what, exactly??

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  7. Of course this is the problem with a popular newspaper on a story that was to focus on the textual commentary that we're undertaking. There is no recourse for proofing on our part before it is printed (freedom of the press), so they relate matters from their own perspective and understanding. On the other hand, overall the story was not bad for a newspaper on this type of topic.

    On a couple of your points, Jim, here are some clarifications. The "390" date was actually "around 400" and was exactly the reference to Jerome as showing knowledge of the passage, with it becoming fairly standard to include it at Jn. 7:52 by "about the 7th to 8th centuries." On Mk. 9:29, of course the reference was to a single ms, not plural, from the 3rd century. Other remarks on some variants were made, but the real focus of the interview was about the textual commentary that we're launching.

    Hope that at least clarifies some of the actual substance of the interviews. Most of the responses that I've received from non-TC folks have been very positive based on their understanding of the work that's being done at the CNTTS, so the overall impact seems to be quite good.

  8. I presume the papyrus in the photo is a reproduction of p52 and not the originial.

  9. We only wish it was the original! :-) Yes, it is a reproduction that we hand-wrote, aged, and cut out in the shape of the original.

  10. At CSPMT we not only reject the theory of "Orthodox" corruption of the text of the New Testament but affim the validity and originality of the mentioned variants in the article.

    It is good to see our field of study and work publicized but there is another important perspective on the origins of the text of the New Testament, that being the Byzantine/Majority text position which affirms the validity of all these important variants in question.

    In Christ,

    Paul Anderson

  11. Anderson: At CSPMT we not only reject the theory of "Orthodox" corruption of the text of the New Testament but affim the validity and originality of the mentioned variants in the article.

    On the contrary, while I clearly would accept the originality of the Byzantine readings in each case, it is too great a blanket claim to suggest that there was no "Orthodox corruption" occurring.

    Even Burgon, in his Causes of Corruption volume (edited posthumously by Miller) devotes a whole chapter encompassing some 22 pages (211-231) to the specific matter of "Corruption by the Orthodox", as well as another 22 pages (67-88) relating to Orthodox corruption resulting from liturgical and lectionary influence.

  12. Dr. Robinson,

    This is a straw man at best because the fact remains in the Orthodox Church there are lectionaries and other liturgical manuscripts which follow a Byzantine textual pattern of primarily being Kx, Kr/f35, f1424 (majority of cases) and even weak Byzantine Ka readings or f13 for that matter. The fact remains the overall bulk of lectionaries remain Byzantine based with no major changes made or "corrupted".

    In the West we define "corrupted" losely with the text yet we disregard differences that are normal for the Greeks as they have told me so. In the liturgical texts (synaxarion and menologion) all disputed major variants have remain untouched. No leaving out major sections or major disputed variants no matter what the textual profile of the liturgical text.

    So, we are disputing about "small" changes not major "corruptions". In the end the liturical text remains Byzantine textually based regardless of the small differences at times introduced. Therefore, I stand by my comment made. There is no "Orthodox corruption" of the text. All major variants remaining untouched.

  13. Dr. Warren,

    I understand the problem, but it still bothers me that readers are bound to get false impressions of the evidence.

    Revisiting "around 400" as a proposed date for the addition of the PA into the Gospel of John: even if we were suppose that Ambrose's comments about the PA were the last thing he wrote, and that John was the last part of the Vulgate Gospels he produced, the proposal still seems impossible.

    I am glad that the overall impact of the publicity has been positive so far.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  14. Hi Folks,

    An article like this one is simply Metzger-style word-parsing brought to the popular press, resulting in the common disinformation.

    "..woman accused of adultery.. is a variant that copyists began inserting into John at least 300 years after that Gospel first appeared."

    This is somewhere between dubious theory and wild speculation, since the only extant manuscripts in the world that exist in that period are the two popular abbreviated (compendium) manuscripts and some localized and related papyri.

    While the evidence for the section is between strong and massive, with one's view largely depending on a sensible conceptual understanding of inclusion/omission, an area where even modern scholarship is catching up to common sense.

    On the actual textual evidences, the usual gang of innocent suspects is simply ignored in Metzger-parsing (also utilized by Ehrman, Wallace et al.) Including many early church writers with the very special Augustine reference about manuscript history of the Pericope. The Old Latin, the Vulgate which utilized the Old Latin corrected from fountainhead Greek manuscripts, and strong versional evidences from Syriac, Coptic and Ethiopic. Also supported by a sensible Greek stemmata perspective, since in the real world it is very unlikely for an addition to text over a large text line..

    And then to turn logic upside down, the small number of Greek manuscripts with the Pericope in Luke are called "early" - despite their being way later than the supporting evidences and despite their being clearly derivative from the absence and then replacement-misplacement of what was considered a scripture section. (Ie. nobody claims they were following a missing Lukan-based textline, so they really are close to irrelevant in the study, except to show that the section was considered missing.)

    Overall .. why are scholars happy to see the layman confused and misinformed about the actual textual issues for an easy putty, pseudo-scholarship approach ?

    Steven Avery
    Queens, NY