Friday, January 31, 2014

Codex Zacynthius

Codex Zacynthius is two Greek New Testament manuscripts in one.

 It is a palimpsest, with two levels of writing throughout.

The upper text is lectionary 299, a thirteenth-century gospel lectionary. And the underlying text is 040 a manuscript of Luke 1-11 with commentary (variously dated from the sixth to the eighth century). The codex is owned by the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS MS #213), and currently resides, like the rest of the BFBS books and manuscripts in the University Library in Cambridge (where they have been since 1985). I have seen it several times, it has always been perfectly accessible to scholars who want to study it.

So now the Bible Society wants to sell Codex Zacynthius to the University Library for 1.1 million pounds, so that it can build a visitor centre in this rather pretty little abandoned church in Wales, to celebrate the role of the Bible in shaping Wales:

And the University Library wants to buy Codex Zacynthius for 1.1 million pounds (and would love to hear from any benefactor on the subject). There are probably good reasons to buy such a manuscript (and move it from one shelf in the UL to a different one somewhere else in the UL). Some of those which have been offered so far may not, however, be very persuasive:

a) “It is unique” (attributed here to Ben Outhwaite). Hmmmm. Every manuscript is by definition “unique”.

b) “It must be in the top 20 of New Testament manuscripts” (attributed here to Ben Outhwaite) or “among the top flight of Biblical manuscripts” (attributed here to Rowan Williams). Hmmmm. Who would determine this? Since NA27 puts it among the ‘consistently cited witnesses of the first order’ for the Gospels (NA27 p. 58*) that puts it among the top one hundred and sixty-one Greek manuscripts of the Gospels. I could see it having a place in the top one hundred of New Testament manuscripts, but definitely not in the top twenty.

c) It is “critical to establishing the transmission of Luke’s Gospel” (attributed here to Rowan Williams). Hmmmm. No doubt it is interesting and helpful and contributes something to our understanding of the transmission of the text of Luke’s Gospel, as of course does every manuscript. But “critical”? I am not familiar with any study of the last hundred years which would say such a thing about Zacynthius.

d) “It is the oldest extant New Testament manuscript with a commentary alongside the text” (attributed here to Rowan Williams). Hmmmm. This one does look to me to be correct (even if one took an eighth century date, which is actually something that has been much disputed in the scholarly literature).

e) “Purchasing Codex Zacynthius would give us the opportunity to digitise the manuscript and share it on a global scale” (attributed here to Anne Jarvis). Hmmmm. In one sense this is true, but in every other sense this is nonsense. The Bible Society could digitise it themselves, or give CSNTM permission to digitise it, and post the images on-line for next to nothing. A change of ownership may facilitate the production of new images, but can hardly be deemed necessary.
Purchasing Codex Zacynthius would give us the opportunity to digitise the manuscript and share it on a global scale - See more at:
it is the oldest extant New Testament manuscript with a commentary alongside the text - See more at:
critical to establishing the transmission of St Luke’s Gospel - See more at:
among the top flight of Biblical manuscripts
among the top flight of Biblical manuscripts
among the top flight of Biblical manuscripts
among the top flight of Biblical manuscripts

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What does CBGM actually stand for?

Last Monday, when Peter Head, Peter Gurry, and yours truly were having a good old conversation with the Münster folk deep in the heart of the Institute itself, we were playing around with the CBGM as a universal method for the past and present. I claimed that the true CBGM is practiced at Tyndale House, since a correct interpretation of the abbreviation yields ‘Coffee Based Greek Method’.

Not to be outdone, our German colleagues retorted that the CBGM as the Coherence Based Genealogical Method had already an earlier incarnation in the days of Kurt Aland himself when the approach was pretty much the ‘Cigar Based Genealogical Method’. There are even rumours that the smoke detectors in the strictly non-smoking building were adjusted to tolerate Kurt Aland’s persistent flaunting of the rules. Wonderful!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Inscriptions for Catholic Epistles in Sinaiticus (errors in ECM2)

Here are an interesting series of pictures from the header space above the start of the relevant columns of text in Codex Sinaiticus (from the Sinaiticus Project Website):

These raise a couple of interesting issues. Firstly, given the general consistency I'm sure that most of us would agree that these are probably best understood to be connected products of the same scribal activity. Secondly, given that both 1 Peter and 1 John are introduced as 'the first epistle of Peter' and 'the first epistle of John' respectively, it seems likely that the meaning of the others is thought to be consistent, i.e. 'the second [epistle] of Peter', 'the second [epistle] of John', 'the third [epistle] of John'.

So now to the ECM2. Firstly it attributes the inscriptions for 1 Peter (p. 103), 1 John (p. 263), 2 John (p. 369), 3 John (p. 387) and Jude (p. 403) to 01C2 (in each case 01* is given for "om.", i.e. originally lacking any inscription); but the inscription for 2 Peter is attributed directly to 01 (p. 203). From this we would deduce that Sinaiticus originally had an inscription for 2 Peter, but nothing for the other Catholic Epistles until the seventh century. But this is clearly wrong, both because it is inconsistent, and because there does not appear to be a clear link with the C2 corrector. Probably within the parameters available in the ECM2 they should all have been attributed to 01C1 [covering corrections from the fourth to the sixth century]. But in any case the Sinaiticus Project attributes all these titles to S1 - a scriptorium corrector, and this seems right to me. This means that they could be regarded as an aspect of the original production of the manuscript as a whole.

For these I would suggest that we regard them as an aspect of the original production of the manuscript as a whole, and hence simply 01. Or perhaps if we were being pedantic we could attribute them to 01Z(S1) - an addition (Zusatz) by a different but contemporary hand (and not to give any 01*).

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Gospel of Thomas: a quick guide


Need to remember or revise some basic information about the Gospel of Thomas? Here is a guide I have used before and wrote up for a seminar last week.
Gospel according to Thomas: title acc. to the subscription in Nag Hammadi Codex II
Gospel: significant
Thomas (GT 1; lost of other literature attributed: Acts Thomas, Book Thomas Contender, Infancy Gospel of Thomas)

G = Gnostic (obviously a question as well of definition, history, provenance & theology)
O = Origen (knows of a Gospel according to Thomas, Hom. Luke 1)
S = Sayings (GT 1: ‘these are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke’)
P = Parables (many: net, sower, weeds, banquet, vineyard etc.: diff. from SGs)
E = Early (early material on almost any view)
L = Lacking OT (nothing; polemical: GT 52)

O = oi logoi sophwn (words of the wise: connection with wisdom genres)
F = Form/genre

T = Three Greek papyri (P. Oxy 1, 654, 655)
H = Hundred and 14 sayings (not numbered in original, but clearly demarcated)
O = One Coptic Manuscript (Nag Hammadi Codex II; Apoc. John, GT, Gos. Philip …)
M = Monachoi (‘monks’ = GT 16, 49, 75)
A = ‘All’ (GT 2: ‘… king over the All’, 67, 77: ‘I am the All’)
S = Seventy-Nine sayings have synoptic parallels

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fortunatianus' Commentary on the Gospels

Fortunatianus was bishop of Aquileia in the middle of the fourth century. About him Jerome had the following to say (De Viris Illustribus 97 from here):
Fortunatianus, an African by birth, bishop of Aquilia during the reign of Constantius, composed brief Commentaries on the gospels arranged by chapters, written in a rustic style, and is held in detestation because, when Liberius bishop of Rome was driven into exile for the faith, he was induced by the urgency of Fortunatianus to subscribe to heresy.
 According to W.H. Fremantle (in Smith & Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography, vol. 2, p. 550) 'He persuaded Liberius, the bishop of Rome, who was ready to go into exile for his faith, that he might properly subscribe the formula of the council of Sirmium; and he even went so far as to consent to the condemnation passed upon Athanasius in the council of Milan.'

So Fortunatianus was obviously a bit Arian in Christology. But Jerome did value his commentaries, describing them in a letter requesting that Paulus of Concordia send him a copy, as 'the pearl of the Gospel, the words of the Lord, pure words, even as the silver which from this earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire' (Jerome, Ep. X of AD 374, alluding to Matt 13.46; Ps 12.7).

Only a couple of fragments survive of Fortunatianus' commentary, .... or so we thought. Recently Lukas Dorfbauer has identified an anonymous commentary on the gospels (MS Köln, Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibl. 17) as a copy of this commentary:  "Thus, Fortunatianus’ work becomes the apparently oldest commentary on the Gospels written in the Latin West which is still extant; it amplifies our knowledge of ancient Christianity and its literature in many respects." (CSEL web page)
For details see L. J. Dorfbauer, Der Evangelienkommentar des Bischofs Fortunatian von Aquileia (Mitte 4. Jh.). Ein Neufund auf dem Gebiet der patristischen Literatur, Wiener Studien 126 (2013), 177-198.

The manuscript itself is online here. (HT: Roger Pearse [with more details from Quasten]) [Looks like further confirmation of Head's rule.]

The Text of the NT in Contemporary Research, 2nd Ed., Now in Paperback


I'm happy to announce that The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, 2nd edition (ed. Ehrman and Holmes; Brill, 2013 [2012]), is now available in a paperback edition, at a considerably more affordable price (59, $76). (Details available here.)
Also, Larry Hurtado has posted a discussion of the chapter dealing with the topic of "original text" at his blog (here).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Thought and Culture in Christian Egypt 284-641 AD (Cairo, 1-2 April 2014); already mentioned here.

An International Seminar in Coptic Papyrology (Barcelona, 6-13 July 2014): (deadline 15 March 2014): more info here or here. 
International SBL (Vienna, 6-10 July 2014): call for papers closes 5th Feb 2014. Info.

Tyndale Fellowship Study Groups (Cambridge): OT 7-9 July; NT 9-11 July. Info

Matthew Henry: The Bible, Prayer, and Piety (Chester, 14-16 July 2014): more information

SNTS (Szeged, Hungary; 5-8 August 2014)

British Patristics Conference (London, 3-5 Sept. 2014): Call for Papers and other Info.

From Egypt to Manchester: unravelling the John Rylands papyrus collection (Manchester, 4-6 Sept. 2014):
This conference aims to bring together scholars who are working or have recently worked on the John Rylands papyri. We welcome papers from any period and perspective based on papyri from our collection in any of the languages and scripts attested from the Ptolemaic to the early Arab period. Topics are open, and may include, but are not confined to: edition and commentary of texts, historical studies based on the Rylands papyri, connections with other collections, history of the collection, and archives and dossiers of individuals and institutions held or partially held in Manchester. We are particularly interested in papers offering new insights on the papyri considered and at the same time dealing with methodological questions related to the value of papyrus sources for the study of the past.Abstracts of about 300 words for papers of 30 minutes must be sent via email to Roberta Mazza ( by 15 February 2013.

 British New Testament Conference (Manchester, 4-6 Sept. 2014). Not much info here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The religious provenance of the Aquila manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah

Edmon L. Gallagher, 'The religious provenance of the Aquila manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah' Journal of Jewish Studies LXIV (2013), 283-305.

The Cairo Genizah yielded two palimpsest manuscripts of Aquila’s Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. For more than a century, scholars have commonly assumed, often without argument, that these manuscript fragments derive ultimately from Jewish circles. This in turn has led to citations of them in arguments regarding the Jewish reception of Greek scripture in Late Antiquity and the origins of the system of contractions known as nomina sacra . However, the opinion that these are Jewish manuscripts cannot claim universal scholarly assent, though doubts in this regard have not often been noted. This article surveys the use of these Genizah manuscripts in arguments concerning the Jewish use of Greek scripture and the nomina sacra and then examines the evidence to hand regarding their religious provenance. It concludes that the general assumption of a Jewish provenance remains unproven.
 I would say that this article is more interesting than it sounds. Broadly speaking it is a reminder that some things we think we know (i.e. that LXX texts with the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew characters reflect a Jewish provenance) are not necessarily absolute. Among other things Gallagher argues that there is evidence for Christian scribes attempting to preserve the representation of the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew square letters within copies of the Greek Old Testament (p. 303 - so the Mercati Hexapla [Rahlfs 1098]; other evidence, e.g. Marchalianus [Rahlfs 2125] and TS 12.182 [Ralhfs 2005] show the Greek letters PIPI being used in some contexts, which may have become conventional); and even possibly that Christian scribes might attempt to preserve a form of the Tetragrammaton in palaeo-Hebrew characters (p. 304).
In this manuscript we have to reckon either with a Jewish scribe using nomina sacra or with a Christian scribe attempting to reproduce the Tetragrammaton in palaeo-Hebrew character. Gallagher suggests the latter.
[Up-dated from comments from the author and a second look at the article]

Thursday, January 09, 2014

10 January 1514: Complutensian Polyglot New Testament


The New Testament volume of the six volume Complutensian Polyglot—Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine in Academia Complutensi Nouiter Impressum—has a colophon at the conclusion of the Apocalypse which dates its printing to 10th January 1514, five hundred years ago tomorrow. This of course makes the Complutensian Polyglot New Testament the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament.

This massively impressive collection is known after the ancient Latin name, Complutum, of the town and university of Alcalá de Henares, where it was produced under the direction of, and with funding from, the Spanish cardinal, Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros (1436–1517), archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain (1495). Its publication, based on the best contemporary scholarship, was intended to reform and revive the Christian church, as Ximenes makes clear in his prologue (addressed to Pope Leo X), which reflects on the importance of both the original language of Scripture and the original text of Scripture:
There are many reasons, Holy Father, that impel us to print the languages of the original text of Holy Scripture. These are the principal ones. Words have their own unique character, and no translation of them, however complete, can entirely express their full meaning. This is especially the case in that language through which the Lord Himself spoke. The letter here of itself may be dead and like flesh which profits nought (‘for it is the spirit that gives life’ [2 Cor. 3:6]) because Christ concealed by the form of the words remains enclosed within its womb. But there is no doubt that there is a rich fecundity so astonishing and an abundance of sacred mysteries so teeming that since it is ever full to overflowing ‘streams of living water shall flow out from His breast’ [John 7:38]. And from this source those to whom it has been given ‘to behold the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face and thus be transformed into that very image’ [2 Cor. 3:18] can continually draw the marvellous secrets of His divinity. Indeed there can be no language or combination of letters from which the most hidden meanings of heavenly wisdom do not emerge and burgeon forth, as it were. Since, however, the most learned translator can present only a part of this, the full Scripture in translation inevitably remains up to the present time laden with a variety of sublime truths which cannot be understood form any source other than the original language.

Moreover, wherever there is diversity in the Latin manuscripts or the suspicion of a corrupted reading (we know how frequently this occurs because of the ignorance and negligence of copyists), it is necessary to go back to the original source of Scripture, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine and other ecclesiastical writers advise us to do, to examine the authenticity of the books of the Old Testament in the light of the correctness of the Hebrew text and of the New Testament in the light of the Greek copies. And so that every student of Holy Scripture might have at hand the original texts themselves and be able to quench his thirst at the very fountainhead of the water that flows unto life everlasting and not have to content himself with rivulets alone, we ordered the original languages of Holy Scripture with their translations adjoined to be printed an dedicated to your Holiness. And we first took care to print the New Testament in Greek and Latin together with a lexicon of all the Greek expressions that can help those reading that language. Thus we spared no effort on behalf of those who have not acquired a full knowledge of the Greek tongue.
The NT volume contains a short preface in Greek and Latin, Eusebius’ letter to Carpianus (without any canons), Jerome’s letter to Damasus and a series of Jerome’s Latin prologues preceding each book. After the Gospels come the Pauline Epistles (themselves preceded by a range of Euthalian and other material), then the Acts, Catholic Epistles and Revelation (the whole is followed by some verses in praise of Ximenes, a list of proper names and a Lexicon of the Greek of the NT). The volume presents the Greek text on the left alongside the Latin Vulgate (in a slightly narrower column). Throughout the volume parallel passages, especially in the gospels, and the source of OT citations are given in the Latin margin (sometimes also unusual words are defined, or unusual verb forms are parsed). Since only standard Latin chapter numbering is used, along with an A, B, C or D, this is the system used in indicating parallel passages in the gospels (most of the information that could be gleaned from the Eusebian canons is therefore included beside the text at each point). A system of consecutive letters links Greek words to their Latin counterpart (where there is one). The Greek text is given without accents or breathings, on the grounds, according to the preface to the NT volume, that they were not part of the genuine text as seen in the most ancient copies. The Greek font for the NT volume, modelled on an unknown archetype of the tenth century, is often praised, in the over-blown words of R. Proctor, as ‘undoubtedly the finest Greek fount ever cut’. The volume also contains a list of names in NT order with an interpretation, a brief (one page) summary of Greek grammar and a lexicon of Greek words used in the LXX apocrypha and the NT, essentially a word list with Latin glosses, the first such lexicon.

There is no critical apparatus and only five marginal notes, these relate to readings at Matt 6.13; 1 Cor 13.3; 15.31; 15.51; 1 John 5.7f (we shall return to these in more detail in a few moments). Little information is offered as regards the textual basis of the Complutensian edition, although the editors claim to have used ‘very ancient and correct’ manuscripts (antiquissima emendatissimaque) supplied from the Vatican library by Pope Leo X:
Ordinary copies were not the archetypes for this impression, but very ancient and correct ones; and of such antiquity, that it would be utterly wrong not to own their authority; which the supreme pontiff Leo X., our most holy father in Christ and lord, desiring to favour this undertaking, sent from the apostolical library to the most reverend lord the cardinal of Spain, by whose authority and commandment we have this work printed.
Here is an image of a page of the Greek New Testament: 

Some bibliography:

  • J.P.R. Lyell, Cardinal Ximenes: Statesman, Ecclesiastic, Soldier, and Man of Letters, with an Account of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible (London: Crafton & Co., 1917)
  • F.J. Norton, A Descriptive Catalogue of Printing in Spain and Portugal 1501 – 1520 (Cambridge: CUP, 1978), 11-15.
  • J.C. Olin, Catholic Reform: From Cardinal Ximenes to the Council of Trent 1495-1563 (new York: Fordham UP, 1990), esp. 61-64 for ET of Ximenes’ dedicatory prologue cited above. 
  • E. Rummel, Jiménez de Cisneros: On the Threshold of Spain’s Golden Age (MRTS 212; Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1999).

Thursday, January 02, 2014

R.I.P. Birger Gerhardsson (1926-2013)

During the holidays, on 25 December, one of Sweden's finest exegetes ever, Prof. em. Birger Gerhardsson, passed away at the age of 87. Gerhardsson was born in 1926 in Vännäs. He studied in Uppsala and became ordained priest in the Church of Sweden in 1953. During 1953-58 and 1961-64 he was teacher at Fjellstedtska skolan in Uppsala and in 1961 he received his PhD and docentur at Uppsala University, after successfully defending his thesis Memory and Manuscript; Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity. 

In 1965 Gerhardsson became professor in New Testament exegesis at Lund University; a position he held to his retirement in 1992. However, he continued to be very active in the research seminar for many years to come. Thus, I had the occasion to learn to know Gerhardsson as a scholar and friend during my own studies at Lund University in 2003-2006. I remember his encouragement and advice, and the several personal letters he used to write on various occasions, e.g., when I had presented him a copy of my dissertation.

In relation to my own special area, textual criticism, and my extensive collations of Greek MSS, I particularly remember him sharing about his own ordeal as doctoral student, when Prof, Harald Riesenfeld assigned him to collate and study a lectionary MS in Uppsala (Uppsala Gr. 4 = Gr.-Al. L1256). "In order to study Greek MSS, you need a lot of 'sittfläsk' ['butt flesh']." Gerhardsson's patient collation work and "sittfläsk" resulted in the article,  “Ein griechisches Lektionar,” Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 24 (1959): 72-88. Incidentally, Riesenfeld and Gerhardsson have both been presidents of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) in 1968 and 1990, respectively.
In Gerhardsson's 1992 farewell lecture (available in Swedish here) he gives a retrospective view of his research, listing his favorite subjects: tradition and transmission, the role played by Israel's confession of faith (the Shema) for Jesus and Early Christianity, New Testament Ethics, and the Gospel of Matthew. These areas are reflected in Gerhardsson's many publications (see selected bibliography below), but of course Gerhardsson is most well-known for his work in the first area.

In a 2009 tribute to Gerhardsson,  Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (ed. S. Byrskog and W. Kelber; Waco: Baylor, 2009) — a volume of essays which gives an excellent overview and evaluation of Gerhardsson's groundbreaking research — his student and successor at Lund University, Prof. Samuel Byrskog writes in the introductory chapter (p. 4):

Few scholars have influenced New Testament scholarship in the areas of orality, memory, and tradition more profoundly than Birger Gerhardsson. Today, as these topics have again become important in biblical scholarship, his pioneering work takes on a new light. . . . The discussion of his ideas, even when there is disagreement, is a manifestation of the crucial importance of his work.

Gerhardsson will be missed not only by his family, but by many colleagues and friends in Sweden and all over the world.

Selected bibliography

In this bibliography I list some of Gerhardsson's studies, primarily as they are now available in reprints and translations.

Tradition and transmission
Memory & Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity with Tradition & Transmission in Early Christianity (Dove and Eerdmans, 1998)
This is a reprint of the revised edition of Gerhardsson's thesis (1961), augmented with the follow-up booklet Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity (1964), and a signficant foreword by Jacob Neusner (who refers to it as "an act of penance" since Neusner had reviewed Gerhardsson's original study three decades earlier "in an uncomprehending and unappreciative, indeed dismissive way.").

The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Fortress and SCM Press, 1979) 
= Die Anfänge der Evangelientradition (Brockhaus, 1977).

The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition (Hendrickson, 2001)
A revision of the The Origins of the Gospel Traditions

The Gospel Tradition (Gleerup, 1986)
Also published in The Interrelations of the Gospels (ed. D. L. Dungan; Peeters, 1990), 497-545.

The Shema and New Testament Ethics
Hör Israel! Om Jesus och den gamla bekännelsen [Shema] (Liber, 1979)

The Shema in the New Testament: Deut 6:4-5 in Significant Passages (Novapress, 1996).
Seventeen studies written over a period of 30 years collected in one volume.

The Ethos of the Bible  (Wipf & Stock, 2005)

The Gospel of Matthew
The Testing of God's Son: (Matt. 4:1-11 & PAR), An Analysis of an Early Christian Midrash (Wipf & Stock, 2009; originally appeared 1966)

The Mighty Acts of Jesus according to Matthew (Gleerup, 1979)
The parables
The Good Samaritan — the Good Shepherd? (Gleerup, 1958)

Jesu liknelser [the parables of Jesus]: en genomlysning (Novapress, 1999)