Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Paragraphing and Formatting in Nestle-Aland

The arrival of the THGNT has provoked us to think afresh about matters we normally take for granted like orthography, paragraphing, and even punctuation. With that provocation in mind, I was interested to see this description in my newly-acquired NA26, the first NA edition, you may remember, to move away from Nestle’s tradition of following other critical editions.
The system of paragraph divisions has been developed more extensively than before, and not simply for greater clarity. It is designed to aid the reader’s understanding of the writings by clarifying their structure, e.g., in the Gospels distinguishing the primitive units. The strophic printing of verse has been expanded, perhaps even too much at times but further revision is always possible. The same holds for punctuation, which seek to follow Greek usage in contrast to the earlier Nestle which was dominated by German usage, and The Greek New Testament where the influence is English.

Old Testament quotations are not printed in bold face as before (and in The Greek New Testament), but in italics. We hope this will be welcomed as a means of making them distinct , but without the overemphasis to which their frequency in bold face tended. They have also been completely revised: the problems involved here are familiar. (Intro, p. 44*)
Remember that NA and UBS share the same text, but not necessarily orthography, paragraphing, or punctuation. Regarding the last of these, I knew that Nestle had followed German comma rules but I didn’t realize that these were revised in the NA26 to follow “Greek usage.”

It is also interesting (to me, at least) that the NA26 introduction says that “the font used is certainly lacking in the simplicity and clarity of that used for The Greek New Testament.” That font, of course, was Porson. Metzger—rightly!—bemoaned the loss of “the beautiful Porson font” from the UBS4 which, he tells us, he had recommended for the earlier editions (Reminiscences, p. 73). For its part, the NA26 blames the font change on the need for a typeface “that could be used in diglot editions.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Saving Manuscripts from ISIS

On Christmas Eve, the American news magazine 60 Minutes aired a good segment on the work of Father Columba and Father Najeeb Michaeel to save manuscripts in Northern Iraq. Father Columba runs the excellent Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. It is really sad to see the destruction left by ISIS—both material and human.

You can read and watch the report here.

The remains of manuscripts burned by ISIS
HT: John Meade

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Thankfully, you don’t have to have gold, Frankenstein, or myrrh to celebrate the birth of Jesus. To all our blog readers, merry Christmas and a happy 2018!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

News: IGNTP Releases 350 Transcriptions of Manuscripts

Here is a pressrelease from the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP) announcing that 350 transcriptions can be downloaded and are freely available for re-use:

Open Data Release by the International Greek New Testament Project

The International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP), established in 1948, is working towards major new editions of the Gospel according to John and the Pauline Epistles using the latest digital tools.

In a move towards making its data openly available, the IGNTP has now released 350 of its transcriptions of Greek New Testament manuscripts under the Creative Commons Attribution licence, meaning that these files are freely available for re-use.

Dr P.J. Williams, chair of the IGNTP committee, said, “A huge amount of work has gone into these transcriptions, both from research projects funded by the British Academy and Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the work of volunteers from across the world. We are keen that the results of this pioneering effort to make full-text searchable transcriptions of New Testament manuscripts should be as freely available for re-use as possible, enabling others to carry out new research on the textual evidence for the New Testament in addition to our own work on the Editio Critica Maior.”

The transcriptions of John are available to view and download at the website A companion site for the Pauline Epistles is at In addition, further information and links to download multiple files are provided on the IGNTP’s own website at The transcriptions are encoded in XML and conform to the standards of the Text Encoding Initiative.

8th December 2017

The problem with digitizing our discipline

There is much rejoicing about the benefits of computer technology for the humanities in general and for New Testament textual criticism in particular. I too rejoice as I suspect you do. Who among us is not thrilled, for example,  by the ease of access to so many manuscript images or by the wonderful NTVMR or by the fact that the texts of our modern Greek New Testaments are all freely available online?

But here I want to sound a warning about computer technology. We all know how fast technology changes. Probably none of you have a flip phone any more or use floppy disks to save your work (although I know Maurice has some truly old school tech he still works with still). Technology changes rapidly, usually for the better. But therein lies the problem. Technology changes rapidly. That means that tools that were great five or ten years ago may be difficult or even impossible to use now.

This is one of my fears about digital critical editions. The new digital ECM may be great now, but will it be great in ten years? Maybe, but how do we know? We can’t, because we don’t know the future. There is always talk of future-proofing our digital work. But let us be honest: that is a myth. When I worked on the CBGM, there were parts of the software for the Catholic Letters that only ran  on Mac OS 9. What happens when the computer running that defunct operating system dies?

Nor is the internet the solution. Look, for example, at the genuinely wonderful Codex Sinaiticus website. When it came out in 2008, it was the baddest manuscript viewer in town. You could zoom in and out, switch to raking lighting, and even select words from the transcription and watch them be highlighted right there in the image—it was great. And most of it still is great.

But when I use the site in Chrome now, look at what happens.

The zoom disappears in Chrome
The zoom function does not even show up. I have to move my mouse around until it turns into a hand and then I have to guess how far I am zooming in because there is no visual measurement.

Things are better in Microsoft’s Edge browser, but still a little off.

The zoom is not quite right in Edge, but it is usable
Compare this to Tischendorf’s facsimile of 01 which, as a technology, works just as well today as it did on the day it came off the press in 1863. Obviously, the website for 01 has major advantages over Tischendorf’s facsimile. There is no question about that. But that is not my point. My point is that the usability of Tischendorf’s edition has aged less in 150 years than the Sinaiticus website has in 15! Will the Sinaiticus website work at all in 30 years? 50? 100? Who knows.

What I do know from designing websites for the last 17 years is that there is no way to guarantee that a site built today will still be usable in 10 or 15 years. And usually, the more bells and whistles a site has when it’s built, the worse it ages. Part of this is a matter of funding. It is easier to fund an exciting new digital project than to maintain or update an old, flagging one. But I do not see that changing any time soon.

So the problem remains and it is serious one we all need to think more about in our mad dash to digitally revolutionize our discipline. Are there still things that are better in analog than digital? If so, what are they? Are there things that can be done digitally but shouldn’t be? How can we ensure that our best digital work is still accessible in 100 years time? These are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

‘You will call his name Jesus’ (Matt 1.21 in Codex Vaticanus)

In a recent publication on the nomina sacra in Mark in Vaticanus (see here) Peter Malik notices that there are only five places in the New Testament portion of Codex Vaticanus where Ἰησοῦς is not contracted. Two of these are the interesting (emphatic?) vocatives of Mark 1.24 and 5.7 (although not in the Lukan parallels or vocatives generally); two others are references to other people: Jesus son of Eliezer (Luke 3.29) and Jesus Justus (Col 4.11) (which is very sensible and careful); and the other one is Matt 1.21: τέξεται δὲ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν· αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν. (NA from BW9).

Malik is inclined to explain this anomaly on practical lines related to word division at the end of the line. Clearly this is a very important subject, but I didn’t see its particular relevance in this instance. When the contraction is the default, then exceptions might be signally something different, something important, especially when read at this time of the year.

The climax of Matthew’s (exceedingly brief) birth narrative involves the juxtaposition of the two names that he will be given: Jesus (v. 21) - the name given by Joseph in his act of accepting Jesus into the Davidic line; and Emmanuel (2.23) - the name given by his people. Both of these are of central importance for Matthew, and for all his people (especially, but not only, at Christmas time): he will ‘save his people from their sins’ and he will be ‘God with us’.

Wishing all our readers are very happy Christmas holiday season.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

An ‘Unanticipated Discussion of CBGM and P45’

Some of my students brought this video to my attention yesterday. It is James White, a well-known apologist and debater in the States, discussing the CBGM on his show The Dividing Line. Starting at about the 19:19 mark (video below), he mentions the Text und Textwert volumes, the difficulty of grasping the CBGM, the new THGNT as a kind of methodological push back against the CBGM, the correct (longer) reading at Mark 1.1, James Royse and singular readings, his own dissertation on P45, and some of the apologetic value of the CBGM and its data. He covers quite a bit.

Along the way, he says that the primary problem of the CBGM for most people is still the basic one of understanding it. I think he’s right about this and I have obviously been working to remedy that problem in my writing. But there is more work to be done, especially in explaining the method to pastors and laypeople. I will keep trying and, in the meantime, I say kudos to White for his efforts to understand the CBGM and explain it to his audience. For an “unanticipated” discussion of the method, he does a pretty good job describing it. May his tribe increase.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tertius, Romans 16.22 and Grotius’ Conjecture

Hugo Grotius
I’ve been doing some work in the last couple of days on my SBL paper (‘Epistolary Secretarial Greetings in the Documentary Papyri and the Greeting from Tertius in Romans 16.22’*) so that I can submit it for print publication. Most of the paper is papyrological and epistolographical, but there is some textual criticism here and there in the footnotes. One of those footnotes concerns Hugo Grotius and a conjecture he made about Romans 16 verse 22: Ἀσπάζομαι ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ Τέρτιος ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ἐν κυρίῳ.

I first came across Grotius’ conjecture in the ET of Meyer’s late 19th century commentary on Romans. Then I checked The Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation (Jan Krans, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, et al. (eds.), I don’t think I had previously realised what a useful and comprehensive tool this is (also responsive: I left a comment that I’d found a mention of the conjecture in Meyer, Romans ET, and the next thing I knew Jan Krans had added the details from the German edition). [NB. If you use online tools and find them useful, it is generally worth a tiny bit of effort to make a suggestion for further improvement.]

Anyway, if you go to NTVMR and then enter NT Conjectures you can enter Romans 16.22 and get a load of results (six in total: four involving transpositions of different amounts of text of which v. 22 is a part). The one I’m interested in is cj10315 (here is a link that will take you straight there). You can tell at a glance that Grotius conjectured a text lacking Rom 16.22 in 1645 and that this idea was taken up and discussed between 1866 and 1898 (the golden age of conjectures?), and has not been much discussed since then. This you can tell at a glance, but if you start clicking on the little blue i symbols [like this: 🔁, but with a little white i inside], you can get access to complete bibliographical details and citations of the original points.

From all that information we can discover that Hugo Grotius suggested that Tertius’ greeting to the Roman believers was a marginal comment to the original letter incorporated into the archetype of Romans by a copyist (reference: Hugo Grotius, Annotationum in Novum Testamentum, tomus secundus (Annotationes in Acta Apostolorum et epistolas apostolicas) (Paris: Pelé, 11646), 336–337).

This is interesting, because this is not so much a conjectural omission (as it is labelled), but a conjecture about the format of the original letter (Grotius plainly thinks that Tertius’ greeting is part of the original communication by letter). Once we see this is a conjecture about formatting we can see that in its favour we could note:
  1. that documentary letters quite often show margins used for additional greetings (see e.g. my discussion in ‘The Letters of Claudius Terentianus and the New Testament: Insights and Observations on Epistolary Themes’ Tyndale Bulletin 65 (2014), 219–245 available here);
  2. that it is simpler to think of Paul dictating all the greetings from those with him together (rather than a switching from Paul to Tertius and then back to Paul again); and 
  3. that it would be natural for a scribe to copy such a marginal greeting into his text of Romans; and
  4. that even if we adopted Grotius’ conjecture we would still think of Tertius’ greeting as a part of the original communication between Paul and the believers in Rome.
So this is interesting to think about from an exegetical and historical point of view. Against Grotius’ idea I would suggest that the natural place for a scribe to copy such a marginal greeting would be after the other greetings. That direct papyrological parallels to Tertius’ greeting (discussed in my SBL paper) occur in normal continuity with third person reported greetings. And that the current location for Tertius’ greeting is a difficult reading. (Here we come back to a basic problem with conjectures—they are designed to solve difficulties in the text, but it seems more methodologically sensible to prefer more difficult readings.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Appeal to the Autograph in Early Protestant Theology

Back when I had time for such things, I did a bit of digging into how early Protestant theologians viewed the role of the autographs in their doctrine of Scripture. For Evangelicals, the qualification that the Biblical text is inerrant in the autographs (or on them, if you prefer) is standard. But was it always so?

My interest in this question was piqued by reading Theodore Letis who claims that this appeal to the inspiration and inerrancy of the autographic text originates with Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. For Letis, “one of the historical ironies of this development [by Hodge and Warfield] is the inescapable loss of awe and reverence for the existential Bible as sacred text in confessing communities and in the culture at large” (The Ecclesiastical Textp. 58 n. 33). In other words, there is a loss in that the Sacred text lies in the past rather than right here in my hands.

Painting of the Westminster divines

Monday, December 11, 2017

Should we preach and teach the story of the woman caught in adultery?

If the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7.53–8.11 is not original to the fourth Gospel, as I think, does it follow that it should not be used as Scripture? The same question confronts us with the Longer Ending of Mark, a text which, as I have said before, I think is not original but should be preached as Scripture.

‘Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery’ by Sebastiano Conca
Although I feel that way about Mark 16.9–20, I am not as sure about this passage. It is not as early or widely attested as the Longer Ending is. But many think it preserves authentic tradition about Jesus. So, when the question came up in class a few weeks ago, I let Tommy answer for me. Here’s what he says:
Is the PA [Pericope Adulterae] original to John’s Gospel or is it a later interpolation? Should it be proscribed or proclaimed? My short answer to the first question is: Yes, I think it is an interpolation as I have argued in this essay. This, however, does not automatically lead to a negative answer to the second question, namely that this passage should be proscribed rather than proclaimed. I regard the story as an authentic Jesus tradition, which has been highly treasured by the Church from a very early stage. I hope it continues to be told and proclaimed, but at the same time, I think it is proper to signal to modern readers of John that the passage (at its present location) is a suspect interpolation.
This is from Tommy Wasserman, “The Strange Case of the Missing Adulteress,” in The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, ed. David A. Black and Jacob Cerone, LNTS 551 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark), 63, which is a very helpful volume on the subject. It includes articles that defend the pericope’s originality and articles, like Tommy’s, that don’t.

What say you, O blog readers? If the pericope is not original, should we still preach and teach it? Should we derive theology from it? Or should it be rejected as a wonderful, extra-Biblical story without authority for us?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Pope Francis on μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν


There’s been quite a lot of press excitement about Pope Francis wanting to change the translation of Lord’s Prayer (The Telegraph, The Times, etc.). It wasn’t easy to find the original interview online. Therefore I thought it would be good to present the short video clip here. I hesitate to transliterate since I think that sometimes his words are not clear even to a native Italian speaker.

All the early translations of the Lord’s Prayer I checked had an active equivalent. I guess the Pope is expressing the usual concern that the masses may misunderstand unless the clerics do the work of interpretation for them.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Red skies in Matt 16.2–3: original or not?

What do folks think about the long variant in Matt 16.2–3? NA28 along with Tischendorf and WH have it in brackets. SBLGNT, THGNT (and Tregelles), and RP include it. UBS4 gives it a “C” rating.

Here is the text:
Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς. 2 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· [ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε· εὐδία, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός· 3 καὶ πρωΐ· σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁ οὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε;] 4 γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν.
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Westcott and Hort write that “both documentary evidence and the impossibility of accounting for omission prove these words to be no part of the text of Mt. They can hardly have been an altered repetition of the || in Lc 12.54, 55, but were apparently derived from an extraneous source, written or oral, and inserted in the Western text at a very early time” (Appendix, p. 13).

Without the disputed text, the text flows quite naturally from the question to the direct answer. France thinks the switch from second to third person between vv. 3 and 4 also makes the disputed text “seem out of place” (604 n. 1), but I’m not so sure about that.

According to Metzger (Commentary, p. 33), Scrivener and Lagrange argue that scribes removed the text because they lived in climates like Egypt where the meteorological observation doesn’t work. Even if true, this seems like special pleading. If it’s not original, where did it come from?

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).

Monday, October 30, 2017

New Book: The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity

The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis (OUP) by yours truly and Ed Gallagher releases in the UK this week (see the preview on Google Books here; see Amazon UK here; see Amazon USA here). It will be available on the tables at SBL in Boston, MA, and it will release in the USA on Jan. 2.

What is the relevance of this book for canon studies? The biblical canon of the Old and New Testament was formed over centuries. There were many Jewish “scriptures” or sacred writings of inviolable authority as shown from the MSS from Qumran and the deuterocanonical literature from Palestine and Alexandria. Even significant works such as the Didache or the Shepherd of Hermas reveal the early impulse for Christian literary output. Answers vary for how and why the churches settled on the same core Jewish canon with variation at the edges (N.B. the differences between the modern HB/OT Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox canons). Furthermore, the answers differ over the formation of the twenty-seven-book NT canon. These questions focus on the quantity and the quality of our evidence. Scholars have noted the variegated nature of the evidence for the biblical canon. What do we learn from MSS (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls; Christian codices), citations of religious literature (e.g. early Christian usage of the Shepherd), ancient translations (e.g. Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures), ancient notices (e.g. “The Law and the Prophets”), and canon lists? Thus, a book on canon lists will necessarily not tell the whole history of the canon, but we suggest that the various, early lists provide the most specific information about the ancients’s canon.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

2017 SBL Boston Blog Dinner


Your SBL Boston 2017 experience will not be complete without the annual ETC blog dinner, which will take place at 7:30pm Mon 20 Nov at the Hard Rock Café.  Please purchase your ticket online ASAP.  Pre-purchase guarantees group seating, a special rate ($28.11) and protects the organizer (me!) from losing a deposit.  Everyone is invited.  You need not be an evangelical, a text critic or as dashing as Peter Williams to attend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A New Approach to Textual Criticism – A Book that Will Keep You Awake

It is now possible to order my and Peter Gurry’s introduction to the CBGM from the SBL website or from Amazon.

Authors: Tommy Wasserman and Peter J. Gurry
ISBN: 9781628371994
Price: $19.95
Binding: Paperback (hardcover $34.95 here)
Publication Date: November October 2017
Pages: 164

Below is information from the publisher. Note in particular Peter Head’s endorsement, “It kept me awake almost the whole way through.”


An essential introduction for scholars and students of New Testament Greek
With the publication of the widely used twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and the fifth edition of the United Bible Society Greek New Testament, a computer-assisted method known as the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) was used for the first time to determine the most valuable witnesses and establish the initial text. This book offers the first full-length, student-friendly introduction to this important new method. After setting out the method’s history, separate chapters clarify its key concepts such as genealogical coherence, textual flow diagrams, and the global stemma. Examples from across the New Testament are used to show how the method works in practice. The result is an essential introduction that will be of interest to students, translators, commentators, and anyone else who studies the Greek New Testament.


  • A clear explanation of how and why the text of the Greek New Testament is changing
  • Step-by-step guidance on how to use the CBGM in textual criticism
  • Diagrams, illustrations, and glossary of key terms


Tommy Wasserman is Professor of Biblical Studies at Ansgar Teologiske Høgskole, Kristiansand, Norway. He is secretary of the International Greek New Testament Project, serves on the board of the Centre for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and has started projects on manuscript transcription and manuscript forgeries for the Museum of the Bible. He is Associate Editor of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism. Wasserman has authored and edited several books including The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission (2006) and Studies in Isaiah: History, Theology and Reception (2017).

Peter J. Gurry is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Phoenix Seminary. He has worked with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and the Museum of the Bible to both preserve and publish New Testament manuscripts.
This is Resources for Biblical Study 80. Download a printable standing order sheet to see other available volumes in the series and to give to your librarian to set up a standing order.

View the hardcover edition of this title.

Praise for A New Approach to Textual Criticism

“This book is essential reading for everyone who wants to understand how contemporary research is changing our understanding of the text of the New Testament or the significance of this new method for all textual scholarship. It is a clear and perceptive explanation of the methodology behind the new editions of the Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Societies Greek New Testaments, as well as the major edition on which they are based. With a historical overview and suggestions for further reading, it contains a step-by-step guide and examples that shed new light on such difficult passages as the first verse of Mark’s Gospel. The authors, who have practiced the methodology and studied it in detail, are ideally placed to offer this simple but thought-provoking guide.”
David Parker
Professor of Digital Philology and Director of the Institute for the Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE)
University of Birmingham

“Wasserman and Gurry have together written an extremely useful book. They introduce and explain in detail the history and inner workings of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, a method that has become extremely important to the textual criticism of the Greek New Testament through its foundational role in determining the Initial text for the Editio Critica Maior and, in consequence, the printed text in the current (28th) and future (projected) editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. All students of the Greek New Testament … are in their debt for writing such a helpful and informed account. It kept me awake almost the whole way through.”
Peter M. Head
New Testament Tutor
Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford

A New Approach to Textual Criticism is a clear introduction to a complex method, the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method. It reflects the transition of textual criticism into the digital age, by showing a new path to deal with the multiplicity of the New Testament manuscripts, leaving behind the categorization of text-types.”
Claire Clivaz
Head of Digital Enhanced Learning
SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Lausanne

“For anybody who cares about the text of the New Testament, there will be few books published in biblical studies over the next decade that will be more important than this one. Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry describe some of the tectonic shifts that are currently occurring in the way that New Testament text critics are reconstructing the earliest recoverable form of the Greek text of the New Testament. With great care and clarity, the authors explain the intricacies of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method in ways that both scholars and nonspecialists can readily understand. For anybody who wishes to know how the text of latest printed scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament has been determined and why it differs from earlier editions, this is the book to read.”
Paul Foster
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

“This book will be of great service in helping scholars and serious students of the New Testament to grasp what the CBGM is. To this point it has largely been a “black box” for many.The explanations are clear, and the examples will be particularly helpful in showing what the CBGM offers and how to make use of the online access to it.”
Larry W. Hurtado, PhD, FRSE
Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology
University of Edinburgh
In addition to the endorsements so far published on the SBL website, we have received this one from Dan Wallace:
“Writing an introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method for the uninitiated must be akin to trying to teach the Amish how to drive a Ferrari. CBGM is a complex method that Wasserman and Gurry have simplified with a rather humane writing style, but this does not mean that those who have minimal exposure to this method will jump at the chance to understand it. They should, and Wasserman and Gurry are the right guides to gently bring them into the realm of 21st century NT textual criticism. This book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone (not just the neophyte) who wants to understand this arcane, yet foundational, discipline that has grown in intricacies and subtleties in recent years.”
Daniel B. Wallace
Executive Director
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts