Monday, November 27, 2017

Audio from our ETS Session on Apologetics and Textual Criticism

Credit to Matt Solomon for the action shot
The audio from my and Elijah Hixson’s special session at ETS a week or so ago is now online. The session was titled “Growing Up in the Ehrman Era: Retrospect and Prospect on Our Text-Critical Apologetic.” The first part of the session was given to several presentations drawn from chapters that will be in a book we are editing; the second part was a panel discussion featuring Dan Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Michael Kruger, Charles Hill, Peter Head, and Pete Williams. For more details on the session (and the book), see the original announcement here.

From our perspective as conveners, the session was a real success. The room was packed—we did try to get a bigger room—and there was helpful feedback both from our panelists and from the audience which included not only many apologists but also several unexpected special guests all the way from Münster. My thanks to all our presenters and especially our “mature” panelists.

For those who couldn’t make it, the audio files are $4.00/each. I haven’t listened to them yet myself so I don’t know how the quality is.
  1. Common Problems in Evangelical Defenses of the New Testament Text - Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry
  2. Dating Myths: Why Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts - Greg Lanier
  3. Math Myths: Why More Manuscripts Isn’t Necessarily Better - Jacob Peterson
  4. Panel Discussion - Dan Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Michael Kruger, Charles Hill, Peter Head, and Pete Williams

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Elijah Hixson discovers lost text in Codex Bezae

At SBL this week, Elijah Hixson presented his discovery of lost text in Codex Bezae. The full research is forthcoming in New Testament Studies, but you can read about how Elijah found the missing text at the Cambridge special collections blog.

Here’s a snippet explaining how Elijah made the discovery.
Samuel P. Tregelles noted that although there was no visible writing [in Gregory-Aland 33/Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 14) where there should have been, the text was not completely lost. It was just in the wrong place: on the opposite page, backwards. The damp storage conditions had caused the pages to stick together. When they were pulled apart, the ink often adhered to the facing page.

The same phenomenon occurs in Codex Bezae. In at least one place, a few letters from the Greek side have stuck – backwards – to the facing page of Latin text. What is significant, however, is that in this one place, the Greek page was subsequently lost. We have no record of what this page looked like or what Greek text it contained. Thanks to the wonderful images of Codex Bezae on the Cambridge University Digital Library, it is possible to work with the images in photo-editing software to recover some of the lost text.
Here is one example:

Reversed ink in Bezae 455r
Fantastic work on this, Elijah. As he said in his paper, even the most studied manuscripts still have secrets to reveal to those willing to look carefully enough.

And happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tyndale House Greek New Testament intro video

Crossway has produced a nice video with Pete and Dirk introducing and explaining the new Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Digital ECM Acts now online

Last night in Boston many of us experienced an eschatological moment, as Holger Strutwolf called it, when he officially launched the digital ECM for Acts. 

This is the culmination of much work and means that the ECM is now both print and digital. The new digital edition can be accessed at

The interface for the new digital ECM for Acts
If you’re familiar with the ECM, the layout will be familiar. There are features in the interface for commenting on the variant unit and a link that will take you to the local stemma and coherence modules for said variant unit. There is also an option to see the unedited collation data, a list of patristic citations (fuller than in the print edition as I understand it), the Vetus Latina collations, and a nice feature which tells you how many conjectures have been offered for the variant unit and a link that will take you to the data in the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation.

One thing the online edition does not have is the material in parts 2 and 3 of the ECM Acts which cover supplementary material and the special studies. The exception to that is that Klaus Wachtel’s textual commentary is included (where available) when you click on the comment button for a variant unit.

Well done to Holger and the team!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Initial thoughts on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament

Dan Wallace, Larry Hurtado, James Snapp, Todd Scacewater, and Brice Jones have all given us their first impressions on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT) and, since I have now had some time to look over my gratis copy, I thought I would share some of mine.

Since I was able to see the final stages of the edition up close and personal, I cannot feign neutrality—I am an unashamed supporter of the effort, the editors, and (mostly) of the results. For what they’re worth, here are some of my initial reflections on the edition.
  • The most important distinctive of the edition is its documentary approach which aims to follow early manuscripts as much as was feasible. This is most obvious in the paragraphing and the textual choices but also in more subtle details of orthography. In terms of establishing the text, this approach means that only readings attested by at least two witnesses are printed and one of them (except in Revelation) must be from before the sixth century (p. 506). Within this documentary constraint, the editors gave special weight to matters of scribal tendencies. Where a variant could be explained transcriptionally, it was and was thereby set aside. The strict constraint bears some unexpected similarity to the Byzantine priority method of Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont. The difference is that here early external evidence sets the boundaries whereas in the Byzantine priority approach, late evidence plays that distinctive role. The result is that neither method is open to rejecting their take on external evidence where the internal evidence strongly goes against it. For examples, consider ὀνόματι vs. μέρει in 1 Pet 4.16 in THGNT and ἐπηγγείλατο vs. ἐπηγγείλατο ὁ κύριος in Jas 1.12 for Robinson-Pierpont. In both cases, strong internal evidence gives way to the editors’ external constraints.
  • The THGNT hardcover is
    just slightly taller than NA28.
  • The editors passed on printing nomina sacra in the main text though they do occasionally show up in the apparatus (e.g., Rom 8.34). This was because there was not time for a systematic review. While the nomina sacra would trip up beginning Greek readers, I think they would be great to have a in a printed edition. The trick, of course, will be deciding which nomina sacra to use and where. But its the same issue that faced the editors with the next matter of formatting so, I suppose, there is cause for hope for the future.
  • The paragraphing too has been drawn from the early manuscripts as much as possible. The editors only present a new paragraph where such is found in at least two pre-sixth-century manuscripts. Unfortunately, it is not clear from the edition itself which manuscripts these come from in any given case. How did the editors decide when two such manuscripts disagreed with two others? We are not told. This problem aside, I find the paragraphing to be one of my favorite features of the new edition. The amount of paragraphing is really quite surprising, especially in the Gospels. But even outside, the breaks will surprise many of us who are accustomed to reading, say, Romans in a certain way (note, for example, the non-break at Rom 3.21). One curiosity on this front is how often the THGNT’s paragraphs match the versification. So far, I’ve only spotted a small handful of places where a new paragraph does not line up with a new verse (e.g., Gal 4.12b).
  • Orthography is another major area of distinction as far as presentation goes (see Pete’s various posts). Much effort has clearly gone into matters of spelling here, so much that I think it is safe to say that no edition since WH has done more. Certainly, none that I can think of has been more transparent about it. Capitalization is kept to a minimum such that even χριστος is given a lowercase. However, I do question the decision to use uppercase letters at the start of paragraphs. Would doing otherwise really be a “stumbling block” (p. 511) to readers? I would think that the other changes introduced to the paragraphing (their frequency and ekthesis) are different enough, that it would be a small thing to also give way to the habit of capitalizing them too. There is also no distinction given to text cited from the Old Testament. I must say, this is one place I wish the edition had followed the early manuscripts more than it does. It seems to me that this is a perfect place to introduce the common use of the diple symbol to mark such quotations. Couldn’t that be handled in the same way as paragraphing? Perhaps something else for a 2nd edition. 
  • The apparatus is small and unencumbered. I cannot say I am happy that the versional evidence was excluded or that it seems to have played such a minor role in the editorial decisions (p. 507). But one thing I really like about the apparatus is that it gives much more detail about legibility. For instance, P75 is not merely marked with “vid” at John 13.10, but what appears to be in P75 is also listed as νι[ψ]α̣σ̣θ̣αι. This extra detail is quite nice to have in an appratus.
  • The order of books is a pleasant change. The editors have printed the Catholic Letters before Paul’s but have placed Hebrews at the end of the latter section. I am happy to see from the ECM for Acts that it too is moving this direction. Perhaps the NA29/UBS6 will adopt the same?
  • The type used in printing Greek New Testaments is one of my pet interests and I was very pleased with the use of Adobe Text here. Some letter shapes (like alpha) grate just slightly but, on the whole, it is a clean, crisp face that is a pleasure to read. I should confess that I campaigned several times for the use of Porson Greek given its Cambridge roots. But, alas, I failed to convince. Mostly I am just glad they did not settle for Times New Roman’s Greek. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to avoid Times New Roman altogether and here it managed to sneak itself into the edition in the book titles and the running heads.
These are some initial impressions, then. Overall, the edition is refreshing in its visual simplicity and some of the novelties such as paragraphing are a nice change. I will still use my NA, of course, for serious work but I expect to be reading the THGNT devotionally in 2018 and perhaps as my new church NT.

With only a few exceptions, the THGNT is set in Adobe Type throughout.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Some accents to note

Romans 16:5 Ἐπαινετὸν τὸν ἀγαπητόν μου not Ἐπαίνετον τὸν ἀγαπητόν μου.






Matthew 7:10 ἰχθῦν αἰτήσει not ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει (of course this affects the nominative and accusative singular of ἰχθῦς and ὀσφῦς elsewhere).








In assessing the differences between witnesses, we can take into account how smart, consistent, deliberate and grammatically knowledgeable each scribe was in matters of accentuation. The accentor of Vaticanus (B 03) is particularly deliberate and accents ἰχθῦς, ὀσφῦς and ὀφρῦς consistently, including for the genitive singular, e.g. Luke 11:11, against Herodian’s rules:

In this it was isolated, so we didn’t follow it in the THGNT. Minuscules tended to replace circumflexes with acutes and graves. This is but a grammatical trifle, but we had fun discussing it in preparing the THGNT and learning from Patrick James, who is, according to Dirk Jongkind the only person he knows who truly knows ancient Greek.

With thanks once more to CSNTM and the Vatican Library for images.

Where does the Parable of the Sower begin? (Mark 4:3)

In the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (THGNT) we made the decision to begin the Parable of the Sower in Mark’s gospel with the second, not the first, word of Jesus’s speech. In Mark 4:3 we have ἀκούετε ‘listen’ and then a new paragraph beginning Ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων σπεῖραι· ‘Behold the sower went out to sow’.

I don’t know that we could reasonably have done anything else.

To make the point, I’ll just paste a series of pictures of manuscripts below with brief comments.

Vaticanus, fourth century, marks the new paragraph with the paragraphos above ιδου (credit Vatican Library).

Sinaiticus, fourth century, leaves space to the end of the line after ακουετε and has ekthesis before ιδου (credit British Library).

Alexandrinus, fifth century, ends the column with ακουετε and begins a new page with ιδου beginning with a littera notabilior (credit British Library).

Ephraemi Rescriptus, fifth century, does not use ekthesis with ιδου. Though ιδου does begin a line this is probably just a result of where it naturally falls within the paragraph. This manuscript therefore goes against the trend of the others (credit Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris)

Codex Bezae, fifth century, ends a line with ακουετε when there’s plenty of space for more. It then has ekthesis with ιδου (credit Cambridge University Library).

1424, 9th-10th century, is included here as illustrative of a later manuscript. There’s now a gap before ακουετε and another between ακουετε and ιδου. It’s a sort of intermediate form evolving from the earlier pattern of paragraphing to the more recent system of having the main break before ακουετε (credit

Of course the beauty of the old system, restored now in the THGNT, is that it separates the command to use one’s hearing from the command to use one’s imagination (or mind’s eye).

‘Listen up’
‘Now imagine you can see ...’

Thursday, November 09, 2017

SBL Sale on A New Approach to Textual Criticism

The SBL has just launched their annual meeting book sale for SBL members, and even our new book, A New Approach to Textual Criticism is included. The discount price is $13.97 for the paperback (−30%) and $24.47 (−40%) for the hardback (I recommend the latter). To receive the discount, download the order form here and follow the instructions on the last page.

The discount price for SBL members is of course also valid at the meeting in Boston which starts next week. At the meeting, Peter and I will be happy to sign the book for anyone who wishes. The easiest way is to ask us after any NTTC session.

The book has received a number of endorsements by David Parker, Larry Hurtado, Claire Clivaz, Peter Head, Paul Foster and Dan Wallace, but a few days ago, the first customer review on Amazon appeared here, by a “Brent” which delighted Peter and me (on Amazon you can also look inside the book here):
Required Reading for Pastors, Students, and Scholars
This book provides a concise and intelligent overview of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM). While Wasserman and Gurry’s chosen topic may sound esoteric and inaccessible, the CBGM has become a foundational tool for establishing the text of the Greek New Testament (GNT). Anyone preaching or teaching is using some text; therefore, the methodology for establishing the text is paramount. Every pastor and scholar working with the GNT will benefit from reading this important work. The stated intent of this book is to introduce beginning students and trained scholars to the CBGM—and it certainly meets that goal. Admittedly, some chapters may require rereading, but the content and presentation are excellent. 
In fact, the material is presented in a fresh and readable manner (it only took me two days of casual reading to get through it) and the content is fascinating. It is a scholarly and even sometimes entertaining resource. Helpful examples abound, the footnotes are excellent and often point the reader to key sources for further reading, key terms are explained clearly, and the glossary is a bonus. 
Regarding presentation, unfortunately the actual printing of this book isn’t the best. Some of the letters lack sharpness and ink. Some of the figures are tough to make out too (4.2 and those in the appendix are very poor). At the same time, the abundance of figures and tables are most welcome and contribute greatly to assisting the reader’s understanding of the material. Only two typos stood out: an unwelcome capitalized word on p. 40 and an oversized superscripted “20” on p. 46. Additionally, BDAG and LSJ were omitted from the list of abbreviations.

Monday, November 06, 2017

The ‘beginning’ of the gospel and minuscule 1241

The opening line of Mark’s Gospel is of interest for several reasons. One is, of course, the famous variant at the end of 1.1 involving “son of God.” But another is its use of εὐαγγελιον to refer to the narrative of Jesus that follows. Mark opens with “the beginning (ἀρχή) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

It is from this opening line that many think the use of εὐαγγελιον to refer to a written narrative of Jesus developed. Hence we find εὐαγγέλιον κτλ. as the title for each of our canonical Gospels. I wonder if Mark’s opening might also explain why we find κατά in the titles. The use of  κατά to delineate authorship is, after all, somewhat unusual given that the simple genitive would do just fine. But, given Mark’s opening line, perhaps κατά was needed to distinguish the author of the narrative (e.g., εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ μαρκον) from its main subject (εὐαγγέλιον Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ; cf. Hengel, Johannine Question, 193 n. 3). In any case, if we assume Mark wrote first, his opening effectively serves as the “beginning” of the gospel in multiple senses.

What is interesting is that minuscule 1241 adopts Mark’s language for the actual τιτλοι for both Matt and Luke. Both are titled ἀρχὴ (σῦν θεῷ) τοῦ κατὰ ... εὐαγγελιοῦ. Mark and John, on the other hand, are not so titled in this manuscript, I assume because both already have ἀρχή in their opening sentence. Interestingly, Acts also is titled “the beginning (ἀρχή ) of...” such that Mark’s influence is felt on all five of the canonical New Testament narratives in this manuscript. (The other books in 1241 do not have ἀρχή in the titles.) This is just one of the many ways that actually looking at manuscripts can get us thinking more about the text—both its original meaning and its later influence.

Both NA27 and the Aland Synopsis list pc or al with these Gospel titles, but I have not been able to track these others down yet.

Here are some images (more at CSNTM or the VMR):

Matt 1.1 in 1241

Luke 1.1 in 1241

Acts 1.1 in 1241

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Second Annual ETC Lunch at ETS

Last year we started a new tradition with an ETC lunch at ETS (Evangelical Theological Society). It was good fun so I thought we should do it again. This is especially for those who can’t attend SBL and our famed annual dinner. It’s a good time to eat cheap American fast food and discuss textual criticism—what could be better?

This year we will plan to meet on Friday, November 17th at 11:15 am in the lobby of the Rhode Island Convention Center. From there we will head over to the Providence Place food court. Sadly, there is no Whataburger there. But, as a slight consolation, Pete Head should be joining us this time around. After lunch you can make your way over to Omni Providence room I for our special session on TC and Evangelical apologetics and hear from three of the five ETC Petes. All are welcome!

Foodcourt at Providence Place
Do leave a comment if you plan to come so that you won’t get left behind (and I don’t mean in the dispensationalist sense).

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Brian J. Wright on Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus

Today I’m happy to introduce a guest post from Brian J. Wright who is currently an adjunct professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a forthcoming book on communal reading published by Fortress. I heard Brian present some of his research at ETS last year and thought our blog readers would be interested in his work.

I’ve been a follower of this blog for over a decade, and have benefited from it in numerous ways. I also genuinely appreciate the work you all continue to do and look forward to getting my hands on a copy of the THGNT.

In my new work on communal reading, I’m essentially asking, “Who was reading what in the first century AD, and where?” The main reason I’m asking this question is because over the past few decades various scholars have argued for or against certain “quality controls” that must have been in place—consciously or unconsciously—in order to account for the transmission of the earliest Jesus movement (eyewitnesses, communal memory, memorization, performance, etc.). By successfully identifying one or more of these controls, it is thought, one can better account for the similarities and differences between the various Christian traditions, get closer to the earliest sources of the nascent Jesus movement, and ultimately understand the historical Jesus more accurately.

The problem, as I see it, is that the entire subject of communal reading events and their role in controlling literary traditions has been largely neglected in early Christian studies. Academic literature even hinting at the fact that communal reading events were a means of controlling literary traditions is sporadic and implicit at best—often centuries removed from the traditions’ inception. By asking the question I mentioned above, we can begin to answer the first of a series of important historical questions regarding communal reading events in the first century, namely, what evidence exists that would suggest that they were a widespread phenomenon? I ultimately argue that communal reading events were already a prevailing practice over a wide geographic range in the first century CE, and that these events acted as a conserving force over the transmission of literary traditions.

For readers of this blog, let me briefly mention just one important aspect that might not be immediately evident from the title and that I will not be covering specifically in my different presentations on various aspects of my book at the annual conferences next month (i.e., one at ETS, one at IBR, and two at SBL).

I document and discuss various comments made by first-century authors regarding manuscripts they hear, read, excerpt from, or examine. Based on their comments, it seems to me that more people in the world of the ancient biblical scribes and translators did care about consistency, and the aspiration for consistency was not merely an invention of later centuries. I’ll summarize just a few of the sorts of remarks here to illustrate my point.

Some first-century authors mention their community getting angry and throwing away manuscripts they receive to read because they contain mistakes. Other first-century authors write at length about textual differences, such as changes to earlier manuscripts and spelling differences between them, in order to highlight a quality control they think should be in place when audiences hear poets read their works. Still other first-century authors mention posting their communal readings publicly so others can read and verify the content, and/or they write about making corrections to manuscripts during readings.

Even in spite of the radical suppression of literature at certain times during the first century, such as the exiles, book burnings, and bans during the reign of Domitian, there was still a “vast flood of literature,” to use one of Petronius’s phrases; “thousands who recite,” as Epictetus states; and opportunities for “advertising your abilities” before “a multitude of fans” at communal reading events, according to Seneca the Younger and Martial, respectively. As I now see the evidence, the prevalence of literary works, activities associated with them, and more kinds of quality controls embedded in literary traditions in the first century CE suggests a world carefully shaped and controlled by a book culture typified by commonly held, albeit highly diverse, communal reading events. I believe the implications this will have on many other disciplines and subdisciplines, such as canonicity, NT textual criticism, orality, social identity, and performance criticism, are wide-ranging.

That said, perhaps I should conclude with a first-century quote: “One thing remains: please be equally honest about telling me if you think there are any additions, alterations, or omissions to be made. […] It is more likely to be long-lived the more I can attain to truth and beauty and accuracy in detail” (Pliny, Letters 3.10.5–6).