Friday, March 23, 2018

‘Father Forgive Them’ – The Variant in Luke 23:34a

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (6)

This is the last of a series of blog post [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. The series discusses the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

The previous variant that we discussed (Lk 22:43-44) was substantial and important. It makes quite a difference how Jesus is portrayed by Luke whether or not the episode of the strengthening angel and the sweat like drops of blood is present. The final variant of this series is, in my view, even more important and one with considerable theological ramifications. Come to think of it, I am not sure if there are many variants that have a bigger impact on New Testament Christology than Luke 23:34a.

It concerns the presence or absence of the following words

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν· πάτερ, ἄφες αὐτοῖς· οὐ γὰρ οἴδασιν τί ποιοῦσιν.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

None of the other evangelists has any reference to Jesus prayer of forgiveness for those who are crucifying him; the presence of these words make a unique contribution, their omission changes Luke’s narrative considerably. And just to draw the modern battle lines: the THGNT has these words as part of the main text, though signalling the problems with a diamond in the apparatus. NA26-28 has these words in white square brackets, claiming that these words are certainly not part of the original text of the gospel but have been inserted at an early stage.

Here is the Greek evidence, and as far as the omission goes I believe it is complete:

omit P75 ℵ2a B D* W Θ 070 579 1241
text ℵ* ℵ2b A C D3 K L N Q Δ Ψ 0211 f1 f13 33 158 700 713 892 1071 l844 Maj

[IGNTP-Luke mentions 0124, but that witness is now combined with 070.]

There are at least two similarities between this textual variant and Lk 22:43-44, the angel and the sweat like drops of blood.
The first is found in the supporting evidence. This was the evidence for the omission of Lk 22:43-44

omit 22:43-44 P75 ℵ2a A B N R T W 0211 f13(but adds after Mt 26:39, as does a later corrector of C) 158 579 713 1071* l844.

The witnesses that omit at both places are P75 ℵ2a B W 579. The ones that omit in 22:43-44 and not at 23:34a are A N 0211 f13 158 713 1071 l844 (R and T are only extant at the first place) and those that omit 23:34a but not 22:43-44 are D Θ 1241 (070 only extant at 23:34a). The five witnesses that omit at both places form something of a solid core, it is not remarkable to see P75 B W 579 together (and on their combined testimony alone I am prepared to consider any reading quite seriously).

A second similarity is the nature of the longer reading. Neither in 23:43a or in 22:43-44 is there a clear source of influence. Yet there are plenty of thematic links with the Lukan corpus. Stephen’s words in Acts 7:60 (κύριε, μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς ταύτην τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’) convey a similar sentiment as 23:34a but the wording is quite different. We have a shared theme rather than a source of harmonisation. The same is true for the shared notion of ‘not knowing what they are doing’ in 23:34a and Acts 3:17 (κατὰ ἄγνοιαν πράξατε ‘you acted in ignorance’). One could even argue that Acts 3:17 presupposes something like Luke 23:34a. Yet again, it seems unlikely that Acts 3:17 provided the wording that we find in our passage.

So what are the arguments for or against?
  • The main argument against the originality of 23:34a is that it is left out in a part of the earliest evidence.
  • If these words were original, there does not seem to be a good motivation for leaving it out.
  • A reconstructed background is that the words in question may be an agraphon (Metzger’s Commentary) which is subsequently made part of the gospel-tradition for numerological reasons as it brings the number of sayings on the cross up to seven (Whitlark and Parsons).
The arguments in favour of printing the passage are:
  • The shorter text can be explained as a harmonization, this time by omission. And there are parallels elsewhere in the early manuscripts, and especially so in the Passion narratives. We have seen harmonization in the early witnesses in Matthew 27:49, and harmonization by omission in the variants in Mark 14, and I believe also in the two earlier discussed variants in Luke 22. And for those who accept the reading ‘Jesus Barabbas’ in Matthew 27:16, 17 (which I don’t) there is another example of harmonization by omission.
  • Thematically and theologically it fits the Lukan writings.
  • Metzger in his Textual Commentary mentions the destruction of Jerusalem as an event that seems in contradiction to Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness. One could go one step further and suggest that the omission is an anti-Jewish variant (in the sense that they should not be forgiven). However, as with many attempts to find a social or theological background to a textual variant, such reconstruction is rather speculative and perhaps more indicative of our desire to have a story behind a textual variant than that it provides us with a real argument. Admittedly, anti-judaism is not a strange sentiment in early Christianity (see Eubank who unpacks this line of argument).
For these reasons the Tyndale House Edition presents the text ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ as part of the original text of Luke. There seems to be enough going on in the P75 B-03 group to throw some doubt over their testimony in the big variants in the Passion narratives. The omission has – what I would call – strong external support. But this is exactly why textual criticism cannot be reduced to choosing an algorithm or preferred group of manuscripts. The reality of historical transmission is more complex and messier than any simple solution.

Some literature

Nathan Eubank, “A Disconcerting Prayer: On the Originality of Luke 23:34a”, Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010): 521-36

Jason A. Whitlark, and Mikeal C. Parsons, “The ‘Seven’ Last Words: A Numerical Motivation for the Insertion of Luke 23.34a”, New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 188-204 (see a discussion of this article on the ETC blog here)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Panel on the Christian Biblical Canon at Southeastern

Southeastern Seminary has a series of Library Talks, which apparently take different forms. For this ‘Library Talk’, they asked me to be part of a panel with two of their faculty members, Steve McKinion and Scott Kellum, to discuss the formation of the Christian Canon. The event is free and open to the public. I’m told seating is limited, so register today. If you can't attend the event, it will be recorded, and the video will be posted about two weeks after the event.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Book in the Pipeline: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament

Image from the colloquium by
Ian Nelson Mills (can you see me?).
Another new book on New Testament textual criticism is in the making: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament: Papers from the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament edited by H. A. G. Houghton, Text and Studies 3.16 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018).

Publisher’s description:
The textual history of the New Testament is a dynamic tradition, reflecting differing readings, interpretations and uses of its canonical writings. Twenty years after the publication of D.C. Parker’s celebrated volume The Living Text of the Gospels, the papers in this collection provide further insight into the lives of the New Testament text. One especially important focus for the New Testament as “living text” is its use in Christian worship: individual chapters examine the importance of liturgical manuscripts in Coptic and Greek traditions, alongside consideration of broader themes related to the lectionary text. Several famous biblical passages are the subject of extended treatment, including the Pericope de Adultera, Jesus’ teaching on the Temple in Mark, and the Lukan genealogy. The contributions represent original research by an international range of scholars, first presented at the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.
I am very pleased to have received proofs a few days ago of my chapter which will open the volume, “Was There and Alexandrian Recension of the Living Text of the Gospels?,” in which I interact with Parker’s Living Text as well as the question of an Alexandrian textual recension, an issue that has received some attention after Brent Nongbri’s recent redating of Papyrus 75.

A few other blogposts related to the topic of my article here, here and here 

Here you can read all about the wonderful colloquium organized by Hugh Houghton who is also the editor of the volume.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Book: The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context

Below is the editors’ overview of the new Festschrift for John Nolland: The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context: Essays in Honour of John Nolland. Thanks to Aaron White for providing it.

These essays have been written by a number of friends, colleagues and students, to mark John Nolland’s 70th birthday and to express, on our own behalf and on behalf of many others, our appreciation of John and of his work. They were presented to John Nolland at a meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research in Cambridge in July 2017.

The essays range widely over John’s own range of interests. Some essays are very much related to the context of Jesus and of the Gospels: Rainer Riesner’s discussion of the latest archaeological and historical evidence surrounding Nazareth falls very clearly into this category. Craig Evans describes the importance of Livia Julia August, the second wife of the emperor Augustus, not least in the estimation of Philip the tetrarch, and suggests that Philip’s controversial plan to build a temple to Julia in Bethsaida may be the context of Jesus’ famous promise to Peter ‘On this rock I will build my church’.

The Gospels themselves are obviously among the earliest perceptions of Jesus to which we have access,  and Armin Baum considers the much debated question of the genre of the gospels, concluding that they are closest generically to Old Testament and Jewish narratology, though with slight influence from Graeco-Roman biography. Thomas Hatina writes of the importance of Social Memory perspectives for an appreciation of the gospels, considering particularly Jesus’ quotations of Scripture and relating these to the culture and context of the evangelists.

Most of our essays are studies of the perception of Jesus within the New Testament. Tom Wright argues that Psalm 8 is a key Christological text in the gospels, and in a wide ranging article explores the text in relation to a range of themes from Adam to Davidic Messianism to the Son of man, to priesthood and temple, concluding with reflection on the coming of Yahweh and the divine identity of Jesus.

Others focus on particular gospels, notably on Luke-Acts and on Matthew,  as is appropriate in a volume dedicated to John Nolland. Darrell Bock explores one particular part of Luke’s Central Section, namely 11:24–13:9, pointing out the themes of authority and accountability running through those verses. Robert Brawley looks at the characterization of the Pharisees in Luke-Acts, finding the Lukan portrayal of their relations with Jesus to be more positive and less confrontational than has often been recognized. Yongbom Lee looks at Jesus as Son of Adam and Son of God in Luke-Acts, identifying places where Adamic Christology is important to Luke. Steve Walton focuses on the Ascension theme in Acts, showing its importance with significant implications for the divine identity of Jesus. Christoph Stenschke looks at the missionary speeches of Acts, and notices how Luke, for all his interest in the Gentile world, brings out the Jewish context of Jesus.

Daniel Gurtner takes in both Luke and Matthew,  examining the theme of the temple in both gospels, finding a rather positive view. Douglas O’Donnell looks just at  Matthew, examining the vocative kyrie as it is used in addressing Jesus, and concludes that it has divine resonances and it is not just respectful address. Roland Deines offers a rather comprehensive and insightful discussion of the generally neglected subject of the Holy Spirit in Matthew. David Wenham supports those who see the Matthean beatitudes as having a very coherent almost poetic shape, related to its Matthean context.

Of course, the rest of the New Testament apart from the gospels and Acts gives us insight into the earliest perceptions of Jesus. Craig Smith explores the theme of rest, sabbatismos, in Hebrews and relates it to Matthew 11:28–12:14. Peter Davids looks at James and 1 Peter,  noting many echoes of the traditions of Jesus in both letters, but explaining how their use of the traditions reflects their particular contexts.

John Nolland’s interests range much more widely than just the gospels, and indeed than the New Testament. He has been involved for many years in ministerial training, and it is good to have an article by former colleague Dr Eeva John on ministerial training, relating it to Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as teacher. It is also appropriate to have Eduard Schnabel’s article on  Romans 12:1, the point in Romans where Paul moves from doctrine into ethics; the article explores the meaning of  worship that is logikē. Schnabel recognizes the strength of the traditional translations ‘reasonable’ or ‘spiritual’, but prefers to look towards the ‘word’ sense of logos, suggesting that Paul is exhorting the Romans to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice that speaks and communicates with the world. This is an appropriate conclusion to our volume of essays both because John Nolland  has done so much to  help  students to engage with detailed and responsible study of the Greek text (especially in his class on ‘Advanced Greek’ on 2 Corinthians), and because his interests have included both a concern for mission – for communication – but also for Christian life and  ethics.

In bringing these essays together we honour John as someone who has’ investigated  things accurately’, so that we may ‘know the reliability of the things we have been taught’ (Lk. 1:3–4), and as a teacher, ‘discipled for the kingdom of heaven, who is like a man bringing out of his treasure things old and new’ (Matt 13:52). He is also a humble and self-effacing Christian scholar who would want to say ‘we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’ (2 Cor 4:5). We are grateful for all his service to us and to many others.

As editors we are grateful to Bloomsbury T&T Clark for their willingness to publish these essays and for all their help in doing so.

Aaron W. White, Craig A. Evans, David Wenham

We have a winner!

Congrats to Miguel M. who won our latest ETC blog giveaway. His copy of A New Approach to Textual Criticism is in the mail. For those that didn’t win, Amazon now has the paperback for just $13.28 $15.94 which is 33% 20% off. With free shipping, that’s cheaper than Tommy and I can get it with our author discount! Very good used copies can be had for even less.

Monday, March 19, 2018

‘The copy is the original’

John Meade, who is currently gallivanting around North Carolina, alerted me to an article over at aeon which is relevant to this blog. It is about the different conception of “original” and “copy” in China. I’m not sure what I think honestly, but I’ve ordered the author’s book out of curiosity and maybe that will help.

(Mini) Terracotta Army. (photo credit)
The distinction between original vs. copy is, of course, of central importance and sometimes a matter of debate in textual criticism (for example, and note our previous discussion about altering valuable art and artifacts). Here’s a snippet from the article:
The Chinese have two different concepts of a copy. Fangzhipin (仿製品) are imitations where the difference from the original is obvious. These are small models or copies that can be purchased in a museum shop, for example. The second concept for a copy is fuzhipin (複製品). They are exact reproductions of the original, which, for the Chinese, are of equal value to the original. It has absolutely no negative connotations. The discrepancy with regard to the understanding of what a copy is has often led to misunderstandings and arguments between China and Western museums. The Chinese often send copies abroad instead of originals, in the firm belief that they are not essentially different from the originals. The rejection that then comes from the Western museums is perceived by the Chinese as an insult.
I asked a relative who’s lived in China for over a decade about this quote and she sent me the following:
We had three friends over when I read your email so I asked them. They immediately described the first concept, Fangzhipin, and then had a hard time describing the second, fuzhipin, especially in a way that answered the question of “do you see it as the same as the original?” I’d probably want to ask a few more people but my feeling from them was that the description [above] is accurate.
Read the whole article here

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Alan Taylor Farnes on Scribal Habits in Copies with Extant Exemplars

We are delighted to feature the newly baked Dr. Alan Taylor Farnes in this guest blogpost where he summarizes his work on scribal habits in copies where the exemplar is preserved. Well done Dr. Farnes!

Scribal Habits in New Testament Copies with Extant Exemplars

As many of you may know, I have recently completed my dissertation at the University of Birmingham. The following is a summary with some conclusions, ramifications, and next steps to take.

In 2007, James R. Royse published his exceptional study on the scribal habits of six early New Testament papyri. In his work, Royse revolutionized text critics’ understanding of the text critical canon lectio brevior potior or, “the shorter reading is preferred”[1] by demonstrating that the scribes he studied tended to omit more than they added. In its place he coined a new canon which he called lectio longior potior or, “the longer reading is preferred.”

One disadvantage of Royse’s method is, because the papyri he studies had no known exemplar. he was forced to reconstrcut what the hypothetical exemplar probably said and then determine how the scribe copied the hypothetical exemplar. This is obviously a completely normal procedure in textual criticism. Royse admitted that his method had flaws and called for an examination of another set of manuscripts—those with surviving exemplars. Royse wrote: “there has been (it seems) a failure to explore the problem of scribal habits for the text of the New Testament in the best possible case, namely where the Vorlage of an extant manuscript is also known to be extant. In such a situation we can virtually look over the scribe’s shoulder and compare the text he is copying with his result.”[2]

My research has attempted to support or disprove Royse’s new text critical canon that, in fact, the longer reading is preferred. Rather than analyzing early papyri for which no exemplar remains, I chose to identify and analyze manuscripts which have a known exemplar.

I have therefore identified twenty-two New Testament manuscripts which have known extant exemplars (see Table here). Of these twenty-two I chose four manuscripts, which are italicized in the Table, and their copies to transcribe, collate, and analyze to determine how well the scribes copied the text of their exemplar.

Kruger on Ehrman’s Latest

Over at the Gospel Coalition, Mike Kruger has a review of Bart Ehrman’s latest book. It’s another popular volume, this one on why Christianity spread so quickly, a topic Kruger and his Doktorvater have recently published on as well. The surprising thing here? Kruger likes the book and says it’s an important resource.

Here’s the conclusion.
Ehrman has written an intriguing, helpful, and well-balanced volume exploring the development, and eventual dominance, of early Christianity.

Certainly there are areas were I, and others, would disagree—for example, on the treatment of miracles, analysis of martyrdom, and the role of tolerance and intolerance. But this volume is a refreshing shift away from the tone of some of Ehrman’s earlier volumes that seemed more polemical and critical in their assessment of early Christianity. Indeed, as a whole this is an enjoyable read that is clear, insightful, and well-written.

Thus, Ehrman’s volume will be an important addition to any reading list exploring the emergence of Christianity in the first four centuries.
How about that.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Sweat like Drops of Blood and the Angel in Luke 22:43–44. An early addition?

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (5)

This post is part of a series [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

Within the various variants found within the Passion narrative the variant found in Luke 22:43-44 is the most substantial. It is also one of the passages, together with Luke 23:34, where the Tyndale House Edition differs radically in its assessment from the NA26 – 28 editions. The THGNT prints these verses as part of the main text and signals the difficulties with the ‘diamond of uncertainty’. The Nestle-Aland editions enclose these verses in white square brackets ⟦ ⟧, indicating that, according to NA28, 55*, ‘the enclosed words, generally of some length, are known not to be a part of the original text. These texts derive from a very early stage of the tradition, and have often played a significant role in the history of the church (cf. Jn 7,53 – 8,11).’ The German version of the Introduction uses the term ‘mit Sicherheit’ (10*).

So what about Luke 22:43-44? These are the words under contention:

ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτόν. καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο. ἐγένετο δὲ ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (NIV)

There is good evidence on both sides (note that the apparatus of THGNT failed to include 0171 in support for the presence of these words, a genuine error). Here is the Greek evidence, and the evidence for the omission is as complete as I can get—NA28 and IGNTP-Luke combined:

text: ℵ* ℵ2b D K L Q Δ Θ Ψ 0171(vid ]θρον[...]ς κα̣τ̣[.]βαι[...]π̣ι την γην) 0233 1071c 1424 Maj

omit: P75 ℵ2a A B N R T W 0211 f13(but adds after Mt 26:39, as does a later corrector of C) 158 579 713 1071* l844.

Sinaiticus: The correction hooks and dots that were added by ℵ2a were later erased by ℵ2b
Tischendorf’s transcript

In addition, a number of manuscripts that have the text obelized in the margin, which can indicate uncertainty whether to include the words or not. IGNTP Luke mentions Δ 230 1295 1424.

Depending on who you read, often the testimony of P69 is given as supporting the omission. We did not cite it as such in the Tyndale House Edition for the following reason. In P69 not just verses 43-44 are missing, but apparently also verse 42 (see for yourself here at the NT.VMR). So for all practical purposes, P69 misses our additional words because it is missing a larger section of text. Below I may suggest that P69 still might be relevant, but only in such a speculative way that it should not clutter an apparatus.

We have patristic references to this passage (and I recommend the discussion of Blumell in the TC journal, if you want to read more). The reference in Justin shows that the actual episode was known in the mid 2nd century.

The first thing with any textual variant is to see if the variant can be explained by some sort of scribal habit, things that can go wrong in the process of copying. Though text can drop out for any random reason, there is no ready scribal habit to explain its omission here. So we need to do some old-fashioned text-criticism here.

Comparable variants

Before going into specific internal reasons for the omission or addition of these words, it is good to ask the question if there are any comparable cases. Perhaps the following are the most pertinent ones:
  • It is difficult not to think of Jn 5:3-4, where we have an explanatory comment added to the text concerning another angel, who disturbs the water so that the first ill person to reach it is healed. Though the similarity between our variant unit and that in John are clear (roughly similar length, involves an angel), there are also differences. In John the expansion fills a perceived gap in the story, but here in Luke the variant interrupts rather than explains the flow of the narrative.
  • Mt 27:49, addition of piercing the side of Jesus, taken from Jn 19:34 – dealt with in a previous blog post. The cautionary tale of this variant is that even though the two oldest manuscript have the text (and some good additional support), one cannot automatically follow the rule that the oldest attested reading is therefore the best.
  • Lk 22:31 small addition in a transition – dealt with in a previous blog post
  • There is something of a parallel with Jn 7:53 – 8:11, the story of the woman caught in adultery, in that this story also appears in different locations (e.g. in f13 between Lk 21:37 and 22:1. This same family has also our passage moved.)
  • Lk 23:17 (explanation that Pilate had to release a prisoner) – again an explanatory gloss.
  • Lk 22:19b-20 omission only found in D-05 (and versions) – harmonization by omission
  • Lk 22:64 small addition – influence from parallels
  • Lk 23:34a the words ‘And Jesus said, Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’. Omitted by quite a few of the same manuscripts as omit the text here.
It seems that there is no clear parallel except for Lk 23:34a, and we deal with that variant in the next post. Unlike Jn 5:3-4 and Lk 23:17, our passage does not add an explanation, and neither is it based on a parallel elsewhere. Its varying location might be thought of as an argument against originality, but of course it is only an argument against its presence here in Luke in the source of that particular textual tradition. Wandering passages may be suspect, but are thereby not automatically condemned (1 Cor 14:34-35, anyone?)

If anything, the variants listed above raise the possibility that just as the earliest manuscripts have a big harmonization by addition in Mt 27:43, and a harmonization by omission in Mark 14, so it is at least possible that some of the early manuscripts also have harmonized by omission here in Lk 22:43-44. Since the story of the sweat like drops of blood and the comforting angel is not found in the parallel accounts of the passion, a part of the tradition which is not known to be collecting bits and bops anyway, left the passage out.

Scholarly opinion

Nothing as nebulous as the consensus of the scholarly world. When somebody has published an article, and nobody writes a rebuttal in 10 or 20 years, it is a fallacy to assume that therefore everyone agrees with you (people who know the literature on this variant may recognize this). There have been voices in favour of its authenticity and also against. The NA26 – 28 editions are clear though, they do not regard these words as original by Luke as original.

So what could be the reasons for regarding the words as an addition, if they are not original to Luke?
  1. Adding details – Embellishment of an existing narrative. If these words were part of the common, popular memory of the Passion narrative, they were bound to find their way into the biblical text.
  2. They interrupt the flow of the narrative, there is no need for this heightening description of Jesus’ agony.
  3. Both the appearance of an angel and the sweat like drops of blood have a folklore feel about them and are unnecessary supernatural expansions.
  4. Better too much than too little. In cases of doubt, leave the words in.
  5. Ehrman and Plunkett: These words were added as an anti-docetic improvement of the text.
What could be the reasons for seeing these words as original?
  1. There is no obvious explanation for their origin other than that they are part of the original composition.
  2. Luke has an angel motif throughout his writings. From the announcement of Jesus’ birth, all the way through Acts, finishing with an angel encouraging Paul before the shipwreck. Thematically this passage fits Luke.
  3. As learned above, this could be a case of bringing Luke’s account into line by omitting an unknown episode (harmonization by omission).
  4. The words are original, but were omitted because of theological embarrassment – Jesus is portrayed as too weak (a crude summary of Blumell’s argument).
  5. The words are original, but were omitted because of an anti-Gnostic improvement of the text (Clivaz).
Without doubt there are many refinements and additions to these two sets of arguments, but this a blog post, not a full-blown review article.

I am wondering, though, what we can learn from P69. Often this papyrus is dated quite early, to the third century. It omits 22:42-44, uniquely so. Whether or not this was done by the scribe or copied from its exemplar is irrelevant, what is interesting though is that it raises the question that here we have an omission that clearly is secondary, nobody is going to defend this larger omission as being original. This could be because P69 copied a text without 43-44 and happened to omit another verse. Or it may have copied a text in which 43-44 were marked for deletion and simply deleted too much. Or, and this I find the most interesting possibility, P69 omitted roughly the same passage as is omitted in other manuscripts, and for similar reasons (whatever they may have been). Independently, P69 may have done the same (by and large) as was done elsewhere (and perhaps also earlier) in removing a section that was too unlikely to be correct.

In the end though, on one hand there is the relatively simple observation that manuscripts from any age and affiliation do harmonise, and I am fine to go with this. On the other hand there is the subsequent, more fraught exercise to come up with possible theological motivations behind an addition or omission. Therefore I am perfectly content to print 22:43-44 as part of the main text and signal the difficulties by means of a diamond in the apparatus.

Some literature

Blumell, Lincoln H. “Luke 22:43–44: An Anti-Docetic Interpolation or an Apologetic Omission?” Textual Criticism 19 (2014): 1-35 (you can find it here).

Clivaz, Claire. “The Angel and the Sweat Like “Drops of Blood” (Lk 22:43–44): P69 and f13.” Harvard Theological Review 98, no. 4 (2006): 419-40 [and also her monograph on the issue – not for the fainthearted: L’ange et la sueur de sang (Lc 22,43-44): ou, Comment on pourrait bien encore écrire L’histoire (Biblical Tools and Studies 7. Leuven: Peeters, 2010)]

Ehrman, Bart D., and Mark E. Plunkett. “The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43-44.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45 (1983): 401-16.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

3 postdocs and a funded doctoral position at ITSEE

I received this notice, which should be of wide interest.

Dear colleagues,

We are delighted to announce the advertisement of three postdoctoral fellowships at ITSEE (the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham).

All involve work on Greek New Testament commentary manuscripts, to start this autumn. One is on the AHRC-funded Codex Zacynthius project, using multispectral imaging to recover the text of the earliest catena on Luke. Two are on the ERC-funded CATENA project, producing a catalogue of commentary manuscripts, identifying different stages in their history and development and making electronic transcriptions and editions of their text.

The posts would be suitable for Classicists or scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity with experience of working with Greek manuscripts.

Further details and links to the application portal may be found at:

Candidates may apply for one or more of these positions. The deadline is 11th April 2018.

In addition, the CATENA project is advertising a funded doctoral studentship on the Pseudo-Oecumenian Catena on Romans, suitable for candidates with expertise in Greek and an interest in manuscripts. Further information and application link at:

Closing date 9th April 2018.

Informal queries may be addressed to me by email (links on the webpages above)

Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested in applying.

With many thanks,
Hugh Houghton

Textual Examples Wherein MT and the Jewish Revisions Differ

In this post, I give a few examples wherein Theodotion, Aquila, or Symmachus reflect a different vocalization of the consonantal text than what the later Masoretes recorded as the traditional reading. The issue is this: how closely do the Three (1–2 century Jewish revisers of the Greek Jewish Scriptures) mirror the Masoretic Text (9–10 century)? Of course, the general answer is that they followed the proto-MT closely, but that is different than saying they agree with the MT perfectly. As a caveat, textual criticism focuses on the differences between texts (which is what I'm about to do), but let's not let these relative few, but important differences, distort our view of the overwhelming agreement between MT and the Three. It's difficult to overstate the Three's close agreement with MT, which is why it would be easy to gloss over places where they disagree. My examples come from Job and Isaiah, and they could be multiplied.

Job 34:6a

MT: עַל־מִשְׁפָּטִי אֲכַזֵּב
Concerning my judgment/right, I lie

OG: ἐψεύσατο δὲ τῷ κρίματί μου
He lied about my judgment/right

Theodotion and Aquila: περὶ τὴν κρίσιν μου ψεῦσμα
There is a falsehood/lie concerning my right/judgment

Comment: The Old Greek read אכזב as a verb similar to later MT, while Th and Aq read it as אַכְזָב, an adjectival/nominal "false" or "falsehood." They read the same consonants with different vocalizations. As an aside, HALOT's entry of אַכְזָב probably could have cited the readings of Theodotion and Aquila here in support of this rarely attested Hebrew lexeme (cf. HALOT 1:45).

Job 35:9a

MT: מַרֹב עֲשׁוּקִים יַזְעִיקוּ
Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out

Theodotion: ἀπὸ πλήθους συκοφαντούμενοι κεκράξονται
From a multitude those oppressors/those being oppressed will cry out.

Symmachus: συκοφαντιῶν
Of oppressions

Comment: There is no Old Greek for this verse, the Greek line in our MSS coming from Theodotion. Sym agrees with the vocalization of MT, “oppressions”  (cp. Ecclesiastes 4:1), while Th read עָשׁוֹקִים “oppressors” or עֲשׁוּקִים “the oppressed” (the latter option may equal the vocalization of MT but indicates a different derivative, the pl. pass. ptc.). In any case, Theodotion and MT attest to the same consonantal text but different vocalizations or understandings of those consonants. Or, if we want to read MT as the pass. ptc., then Symmachus has the different reading or understanding.

Isaiah 3:12a

MT: ֹוְנָשִׁים מָשְׁלוּ בו
And women rule him

OG: καὶ οἱ ἀπαιτοῦντες κυριεύουσιν ὑμῶν
And creditors rule you

Theodotion: δανεισται

Aquila: ἀπαιτοῦντες

Symmachus: γυναικες

Comment: Symmachus agrees with MT in his reading of נשים "women." But Theodotion and Aquila read נשים as נֹשִים "creditors" from I נשׁא/II נשׁה “to lend” (the analogous formation of III-ה and III-א verbs). Therefore, this is another example of some of the Jewish revisers agreeing with the Old Greek's reading of the consonantal text where the Masoretes preserved a different vocalization, still an ancient reading as Symmachus confirms.

Isaiah 53:8b

MT: ֹמִפֶּשַׁע עַמִּי נֶגַע לָמו
Because of the transgression of my people, the strike was to them.

OG: ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνομιῶν τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἤχθη εἰς θάνατον
Because of the lawless deeds of my people, he was led to death.

Theodotion: ἀπὸ ἀθεσίας τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἥψατο αὐτῶν
Because of the faithlessness of my people, he struck them.

Aquila: ἀπὸ ἀθεσίας τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἥψατο αὐτῶν
Because of the faithlessness of my people, he struck them.

Symmachus: διὰ τὴν ἀδικίαν τοῦ λαοῦ μου πληγὴ αὐτοῖς
On account of my people's unrighteousness, the strike was to them.

Comment: The purpose of this example is not to engage the textual issue between the OG and MT (as fun and interesting as that one is). More modestly, today, I want to point readers to the fact that MT vocalized נגע as a noun (cp. Symmachus), while Theodotion and Aquila rendered the same consonants as a verb (cp. Jerome's Vulgate: percussit eos/eum).


There are some large-scale differences between the readings of Theodotion and proto-MT (e.g. parts of Theodotion Daniel and the longer ending of Theodotion Job). But most readings of the Three are of the kind surveyed in this post. These readings, preserved for us in Origen's Hexapla and its subsequent Christian reception, give evidence for the history of the Hebrew Bible and also for Jewish exegetical approaches to their texts around the turn of the era and into the Rabbinic period. They provide a link between the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Greek on the one hand and the later Medieval Hebrew MSS on the other. Thus we would do well to pay attention to them.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Win a Free Copy of A New Approach to Textual Criticism

It’s time for another ETC blog giveaway! This time we’re giving away mine and Tommy’s recent book on the CBGM. Enter to win below.

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Update: Congrats to Miguel M!

About the book

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
“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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

New Film: ‘Fragments of Truth’

Faithlife, producers of Logos Bible Software, have a new film (what don’t these people do??) coming out about New Testament manuscripts. It looks apologetic-y and is hosted by Craig Evans. Below is the description and the promo video. You may see some familiar faces. I don’t know what “groundbreaking new evidence” there will be, but the production quality here seems great. The manuscripts sure do look cool in the trailer.
In this new Faithlife original film, Dr. Craig Evans takes this claim [?] head on, traveling the globe to track down the most ancient New Testament manuscripts. Along the way, he highlights groundbreaking new evidence that is changing the debate. Hear from scholars who have devoted their lives to learning the truth, and discover how the evidence for the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts is stronger than ever. Coming soon exclusively on

Friday, March 09, 2018

‘And the Lord said’ – A Variant in Luke 22:31

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (4)

This post is part of a series [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

A variant is a variant, but not all variants have the same effect on our understanding of the text. Today’s variant has only limited effect; it will not change anything within Luke’s narrative. It concerns the introduction to direct speech that we (do not) find in Luke 22:31:

Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος· Σίμων Σίμων, ἰδοὺ ὁ σατανᾶς ἐξῃτήσατο ὑμᾶς τοῦ σεινιάσαι ὡς τὸν σῖτον.

Are the word εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος part of the text or not? And to me this is quite a thorny problem that I haven’t been able to resolve yet. Its impact on the text is not big, but if the text adopted in the THGNT is correct, we may have a pattern in a group of early manuscripts that is relevant for the two big variants later in Luke’s passion narrative.

First the Greek external evidence.

Omit: P75 B L T 1241 2542c l1231
Text: ℵ A D K N Q W Γ Δ Θ Ψ, all minuscules

Obviously the support for the shorter text is early and, barring any counter-arguments, my first inclination would be to go with it. And this is what almost everyone since Westcott-Hort till NA28 has done. However, the longer reading (in critical editions adopted only by Vogels and in brackets by Tregelles) has early witnesses at its side, from the fourth century onwards.

Before looking at any further arguments, what is the context of our passage? From 22:25 onwards Jesus is talking, first addressing the issue of who is the greatest (22:25-27), then moving to the promise of eating at the table in the Kingdom and judging the twelve tribes, which is introduced with stating that the disciples have stayed with him in his trials. From there it is a relatively small move to addressing Simon Peter and warning him about the trials Peter is about to face.
Our variant provides a separate, explicit, framing of the warning to Simon Peter that starts with the address ‘Simon, Simon’.

For what reasons could the introduction be a secondary development?
  • The abrupt change of addressee called for a marker to signal this change, the variant supplied this.
  • A new kephalaion starts at 22:31 and expansions such as ‘and the Lord said’ occur frequently at these breaks, especially at the start of a lectionary.
  • In light of the synoptic parallels it seems that the whole of Jesus’ speech comes from two occasions, and therefore the variant is introduced to separate these out.
  • The reference to Jesus as κυριος betrays it secondary origin; it is the language of the introduction to lections more than how the evangelists describe Jesus in narrative.

What about regarding the words as original?
  • The introduction to Jesus’ direct speech is superfluous, he is already speaking, and therefore the words provide an unnecessary disturbance which led to their removal.
  • Though it is true that the start of a kephalaion is a strong argument against originality of the longer reading, ℵ-01 has it, and there is no indication that the kephalaia were already part of the textual tradition in the fourth century.
  • The reference to Jesus as κυριος within authorial narrative (so, not in quoted speech) is found elsewhere in Luke: 7:13; 10:1, 41; 11:39; 13:15 etc.

For me this is a real tricky variant. If someone could demonstrate to me that kephalaia were around by the time ℵ-01 was produced and could have influenced its text, the case for switching around the text and variant gets stronger. As things stand now, I would not put it past the P75 B-03 cluster to give us a text that is a bit too clean, and therefore the Tyndale House Edition prints the words in the main text, though the variant has the ‘diamond of uncertainty’.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

A New NA/UBS in 2021/22

Over at the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft website, there is a German press release about a recent meeting of the new NA/UBS committee. Below is a translation into English. The most important news here is the projected date of completion (2021/22), the expected changes covering Mark and Acts, and the changed order of books.

Editors of “Nestle-Aland” and Greek New Testament meet at Bible Museum in Washington

Preparations for a new edition of the authoritative scholarly texts

Stuttgart / Washington. The editors for the Greek New Testament and the Novum Testamentum Graece (“Nestle-Aland”) met at the newly opened “Museum of the Bible” (MOTB) in Washington, DC. After the conference, the contours for new editions of the world’s two leading scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament are emerging. The Global Council of the United Bible Societies (UBS) recently recruited the international panel.

The editions are being prepared at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research founded by Kurt Aland at the University of Münster under the direction of Prof. Holger Strutwolf. In addition to him, the following scholars have been appointed as editors: Prof. Christos Karakolis (University of Athens), Prof. David Parker (University of Birmingham), Prof. Stephen Pisano (Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome); David Trobisch (Green Collection, Oklahoma City) and Dr. Klaus Wachtel (University of Münster). This ensures that the experiences and interests of different regions and denominations (Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox) are incorporated. In addition, Dr. Simon Crisp (UBS) and Dr. Florian Voss (German Bible Society) are working with the panel.

“The research of the text of the New Testament is at an exciting stage,” reports Florian Voss. As part of a large-scale, international research project in Münster, Birmingham and other cities, the Greek initial text of the entire NT, the so-called Urtext, is newly constituted. As a result, among other things, the Greek text is changing in many places. “This will also affect the interpretation of the text and the translation,” explains the editor for the German Bible Society. New editions are planned for 2021/2022. They will bring changes especially in the Gospel of Mark and Acts. Furthermore, the scholars are considering adapting the order of the New Testament writings to the tradition prevalent in the manuscripts, according to which Acts is immediately followed by the so-called Catholic Letters: the Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude.

The German Bible Society, in consultation with the United Bible Societies, publishes the most important scholarly editions of the Biblical texts. The editions are the basis of Bible translation and exegesis worldwide.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A diamond reading in 1 Pet 2:12 in NA28 (1st printing)

A while ago, Pete Head raised an issue concerning the lack of the positive apparatus for a ‘diamond’ reading at 1 John 2:4. Diamond readings are a well-known convention of the ECM. For those that might not be cognisant of it: in ECM (and now, in the Catholic Epistles in NA28) mark places where the editors couldn’t decide on the initial text between the two most likely variants—hence, at such places the base text is split. The reading appearing on top is actually that of the NA26–7 text, although that doesn’t imply its genealogical priority in any way.

This morning, as I read the work of another Peter, I came across a similar problem at 1 Pet 2:12. Here NA28 follows its predecessor in printing εποπτευοντες, which, however, is marked with a diamond, following the ECM. The competing variant is the aorist form εποπτευσαντες, attested in A P Ψ 5 33 81 436 642 1735 2344 Byz Cl. In contrast, when we turn to the NA27 apparatus, the positive apparatus is provided, and we’re told the reading is supported by P72 ℵ B C 69 614 630 945 1241 1505 1739 al syH co.

I’m not quire sure why this ‘omission’ took place, especially given the presence of the positive evidence in the previous edition—and this is not the only one in the Catholic Epistles (besides the above-mentioned 1 John 2:4, cf. e.g. 1 Pet 3:5). I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is? Someone should check this as there are clearly places which have both (e.g. 1 Pet 3:20). In any case, as Jim Royse once retorted to an inquisitive panelist, ‘[O]mission is always so much more tempting than addition.’

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Coffee and Origen’s Hexapla at Southeastern

Please, excuse this blatant, self-promoting announcement. I felt compelled to post this one because presentations on Origen’s magnum opus rarely, if ever, occur outside the confines of the academic guild. And I’m sure these venues, if they exist at all, never provide coffee and take place in such a beautiful setting as Southeastern’s library and campus. I plan to talk on what the Hexapla was and why it matters to us today and to hang around afterwards for coffee and conversation. If you are in North Carolina’s Triangle area on March 22 at 2:00pm, make your way over to Southeastern’s library. The event is free, and I’m told that seating is limited, so you will need to register here.

Monday, March 05, 2018

We have a winner!

Our latest blog giveaway has now ended and Christopher Atkins at Houston Baptist University has won himself a free copy of John Meade and Ed Gallagher’s Biblical Canon Lists. Congrats, Chris!

Thanks to all who entered. For those who didn’t win, you can still get the book for 30% off right now at with the code RELIGION18. And watch for more giveaways here on the blog soon.

Friday, March 02, 2018

A Rooster Crowing Once and Twice – Mark 14

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (3)

This post is part of a series [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

The scene is familiar. The disciple Peter responds vehemently to Jesus’ announcement that all his disciples will fall away (οὐκ ἐγώ). Jesus responds that Peter will deny him three times in the coming night. But three times before what? Matthew has simply ‘before the rooster crows’. Luke says that the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times. But what does Mark have? The text should read ‘before the rooster crows twice’, but there are a surprising number of variants relating to this number, both in Mk 14:30 and the subsequent unfolding of events.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

NASB Now Being Revised

More translation news today. On their Facebook page, the Lockman Foundation announces a revision of the New American Standard Bible which is underway. I’m guessing they are feeling the heat from updates to the ESV, NIV, and CSB.
Update on the NASB revision:

The whole text is being reviewed with more emphasis in the Old Testament.

The primary goal is to maintain accuracy and modernize English.

As our base texts are the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) and Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) for the books available and the NA28 for the NT. We don’t always agree with the editors of those texts and choose alternate or variant readings when we feel they are more accurate.

Our current publication goal is to have a first release in early 2019.
The NASB was last updated in 1995 and has often been promoted for its literalness and accuracy. I tried adopting it at one point but the English was just too stilted. For example: “...and she [Eve] said, ‘I have gotten a manchild (!) with the help of the Lord’” (Gen 4.1). Hopefully they can improve some of that.

This is yet another English translation that will be working from the NA28. Note, however, that they explicitly say they do not always agree with the editors’ decisions. This is important because, in conversations about the CBGM and the NA28, some people assume that English translators simply adopt the NA/UBS text ipso facto. But I don’t know of English translations that do this. Rather, they (rightly) diverge from that text when they feel it appropriate.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Win a free copy of The Biblical Canon Lists

It’s time for another ETC blog giveaway! In this edition, we’re giving away a brand new copy of John Meade and Edmon Gallagher’s The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis (Oxford). To enter, do any or all of the things listed below. Entries will be received up to 12am EST on March 3 and a winner will be chosen at random.

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About the book

The Bible took shape over the course of centuries, and today Christian groups continue to disagree over details of its contents. The differences among these groups typically involve the Old Testament, as they mostly accept the same 27-book New Testament. An essential avenue for understanding the development of the Bible are the many early lists of canonical books drawn up by Christians and, occasionally, Jews. Despite the importance of these early lists of books, they have remained relatively inaccessible. This comprehensive volume redresses this unfortunate situation by presenting the early Christian canon lists all together in a single volume. The canon lists, in most cases, unambiguously report what the compilers of the lists considered to belong to the biblical canon. For this reason they bear an undeniable importance in the history of the Bible.

The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity provides an accessible presentation of these early canon lists. With a focus on the first four centuries, the volume supplies the full text of the canon lists in English translation alongside the original text, usually Greek or Latin, occasionally Hebrew or Syriac. Edmon L. Gallagher and John D. Meade orient readers to each list with brief introductions and helpful notes, and they point readers to the most significant scholarly discussions. The book begins with a substantial overview of the history of the biblical canon, and an entire chapter is devoted to the evidence of biblical manuscripts from the first millennium. This authoritative work is an indispensable guide for students and scholars of biblical studies and church history.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gary Habermas on First-Century Mark

Yes, it seems that about every three months or so First-Century Mark reappears. I hate to keep adding fuel to the fire, but there is some value to keeping a record of these things.

This latest mention of the fragment came to me in my Twitter feed via Sean McDowell who posted this summary from Facebook about a talk Gary Habermas gave this week at Purdue University. (For those counting, we are now two social media platforms and two people away from the source.) The post is from Clark Bates who says, 
Gary Habermas spoke at Purdue University last night. During the talk he stated that he has permission to announce that the Mark fragment has been dated between 80–110 AD. He also said that this is all he or CSNTM will say about the matter so no more questions regarding it will be entertained.

As a side note, there will eventually be a lengthier critical analysis of the fragment but we in the apologetics community need to be cautious with how we handle this data. If the dating is accurate, this will become the oldest NT fragment in existence. However, paleography can’t really get a date accurately within about 100 years so there is always room for later dating.

Point being, no matter what the results, this fragment will go into the already immense amount of evidence for the New Testament and it’s early production and dissemination. Good information to have but not a nail in the coffin so to speak.

Blessings to you all!
I did a quick search and found the video of Habermas at Purdue. You can view it below (starting at the 22:10 mark) with my transcript below that. The main problem with Habermas’s claim is now old news to ETC readers and it is the specificity of the date. I don’t know how you date a papyrus to a thirty-year period like 80–110 A.D., especially if it is based on paleography (see the recent posts here by Malik and Orsini). Also, I didn’t hear Habermas mention CSNTM, so maybe that was a deduction by Bates. Unless I just missed it in the video. In any case, I appreciate his word of caution to fellow apologists.

Habermas mentions a paleographer who is not a Christian, a description we heard already in Dan Wallace’s original debate announcement. We have since identified this paleographer as Dirk Obbink of Oxford. What seems possibly new is that Habermas says he asked permission to share this and was told he could. But when did he ask and who granted such permission? He doesn’t say. There are further odd things said about provenance, but Habermas seems a bit fuzzy on that.

What I find curious at this stage in the First-Century Mark saga is how information about it keeps coming out in the context of Evangelical apologetics. I’m not sure what to make of that in terms of who owns this papyrus, but it is a consistent thread and I suspect one that will make more sense once we know for sure who the owner is.


Transcript (from 22:10)

But before I do that [make my preferred argument for the resurrection], let me just make one other point. Some of you may have heard about a fragment in Mark that’s been floating around. I see a few of you shake your head yes. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. The dating on this hasn’t come out, there’s reasons the dating hasn’t come out. I won’t explain that; it’s a legal thing having to do with the provenance of the papyrus.

The previous earliest copy of a gospel book we have is the Rylands fragment of John at about 125. It’s very, very valuable because remember early is a key historical sign. Rylands only dates from about 25 or 30 years after the Gospel of John.

I dialogued with a guy—true story—I dialogued with a guy years ago who’s a classical theo—a classical scholar and he put the Gospels from 140–180 AD. Apparently, nobody told him that when he put John at 170 AD that we have a piece of John from fifty years earlier. That didn’t seem to bother him. [laughter]

Okay, so there’s been a piece of Mark that we’ve been concerned about for a long time. We hadn’t come out with dates for legal reasons that could land you—there’s a question about where this thing came from–not the provenance of it, not if it’s—it’s a good piece of papyri. But you got to be careful where you pick things up or you could be in jail because you have to register it with Middle Eastern antiquities authorities or they wonder what you stole that from.

Okay, but one paleographer—I don’t even think he’s a Christian—but you have to be very specialized to be able to date ancient writing by handwriting analysis, by the type of handwriting. And the date was just given. And I asked permission, “Could this be given?” I was told it could be. And the date of this little papyrus for Mark is 80–110 AD. It is earlier than Rylands for John.

So, if the fragment for Mark is about the time of John or earlier, now critics are saying, “We’re going to have to move the Gospel of Mark back before the year 50 AD.” What’s that do to early [...] witness? Plus, there are two agnostics, one of them just passed away before [...], but two agnostic scholars, neither one Christian, and they have recently—without reference to the fragment—have both dated Mark, one at 40 AD, one at 38–42 AD. This is good stuff.

But I don’t think it’s the best argument for the historicity of Jesus.

From this point on I’m going to use the second argument that some of you may know I call the minimal facts argument, I sometimes call the lowest common denominator. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Matthew 27:49 Was Jesus Pierced before His Death?

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (2)

This post is part of a series [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

In many ways the following variant is salutary, as it will correct any slavish tendency to think about the ‘earliest and best’ attested reading as an almost pleonastic collocation. The ‘best’ reading is not always the ‘earliest’, there may be good reasons not to follow the earliest manuscripts, and our variant is a good example. And, yes, we could, and probably should have mentioned the variant in the Tyndale House Edition, but we did not.

Mt 27:49
οἱ δὲ λοιποὶ ἔλεγον· ἄφες, ἴδωμεν εἰ ἔρχεται Ἠλίας σώσων αὐτόν.
But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him” (ESV).

The early variant ἔλεγον / εἶπαν should not distract us here, what is interesting is the addition we find after the final word of this verse:

ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα.
And someone else, taking a spear, pierced his side and there came out water and blood.

Those who know their gospels will suspect that we might have influence from one of the other gospels, and indeed, in John 19:34 we have (without relevant variation):

Jn 19:34
ἀλλ᾽ εἷς τῶν στρατιωτῶν λόγχῃ αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν ἔνυξεν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν εὐθὺς αἷμα καὶ ὕδωρ.
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (ESV)

The addition in Mt 27:49 and the undisputed text in Jn 19:34 are not identical, but they share the same vocabulary: ‘spear’, ‘to pierce’ (same form), ‘his side’ (same word order), ‘to come out’ (same form), ‘water and blood’ (reversed word order).

The differences in the first words of the addition in Matthew are explained by the immediate context of Matthew. The non-specific ‘someone else’ (ἄλλος) is in line with the equally non-specific designations in Mt 27:47 ‘some’ (τινές), 27:48 ‘one of them’ (εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν), and 27:49 ‘the others’ (οἱ λοιποί). The participle λαβών in the phrase λαβὼν λόγχην comes from the earlier Mt 27:48 λαβὼν σπόγγον. However, in Jn 19:34 this piercing happens after Jesus’ death, whilst in Matthew the death occurs only in the next verse.

On transcriptional grounds (influence of parallel account) and internal grounds (unlikely that Matthew would associate the loud cry of Jesus with the piercing) the addition in Matthew 27:49 is clearly secondary, but what about the external testimony? Happily, this is one of the Teststellen in the Matthew volume of Text und Textwert (no. 63, volume 2.2). There are some minor variants (addition of ευθεως before εξηλθεν and the order of ‘water and blood).

With the addition in Mt 27:49:
the majuscules ℵ B C L U Γ,
the minuscules 5 26* 48 67 115 127* 160 364 782 871 1010 1011 1057 1300c 1392 1416 1448 1555 1566 1701* 1780* 2117* 2126 2139 2283 2328T 2437* 2585 2586 2622L 2680 2766* 2787,
and NA28 adds some Vulgate mss, and the middle Egyptian, and there is the CPA and Ethiopic.

Without the addition: everyone else (including 15 witnesses that leave out the whole of the verse).
[Incidentally, Text und Textwert did not pick up the majuscule U-030 in support for the addition. It ought to have listed U-030 under a new variant, 3D, with ευθεως and the order ‘blood and water’.]

On external evidence, the addition has definitely a very good shout. Or, to put it in the short-hand principles behind the THGNT, “In light of the external evidence, do we have good reason not to print the reading of the ‘earliest and best manuscripts’?” And indeed, this is one of those high-profile cases where I think that the transcriptional and internal reasons outweigh the external evidence. We should beware of treating any group of manuscripts as so reliable that we ignore what stares us in the face.

However, is there any way we can bolster the argument for the inclusion of the addition? Obviously, if original, the removal of the extra words may solve a problem in the sequence of events in comparison to the other gospels: Jesus did not die because of the spear thrust and neither should the text give any suggestion as such. Therefore, the shorter text provides a less difficult reading.

And then there is Dan Gurtner, in the recent Holmes Festschrift (who does an excellent job of discussing the versional evidence). He is also bold enough to put the suggestion forward that it is perhaps John who is editing the original text of Matthew and places it at a different, more appropriate location in his narrative. However, ultimately this possibility (I don’t think Dan proposes the originality of the longer text of 27:49) raises so many other problems that the simpler conclusion of influence of parallel accounts is preferable over any complex, redactional theory. We may wish the combined cluster of ℵ-01 B-03 C-04 L-019 Γ-036 to be infallible, but it is not. The ‘best and earliest manuscripts’ do not always present us with the ‘best and earliest readings’.

Incidentally, a comparable variant happens at Matthew 27:35, where we have another intrusion inspired by the gospel of John. It concerns the added fulfillment of Psalm 22:19 as found in John 19:24. In the variant we see a similar adaptation of the Johanine language (ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ ἡ λέγουσα) towards Matthean style (ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου), just as happened in the longer text of 27:49. The difference is that the external evidence for the addition in 27:35 is less impressive, but it is a good illustration of the same phenomenon as in Matthew 27:49. As far as I can see almost every transmissional strand suffered these harmonisations.

Gurtner, Daniel M. “Water and Blood and Matthew 27:49: A Johannine Reading in the Matthean Passion Narrative?” In Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Michael W. Holmes On the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Daniel M. Gurtner, Juan Hernandez and Paul Foster (New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents 50. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015), 134-50.

On the Relationship of Inspiration to Canon in the Church Fathers

Today, there is a renewed focus on the primary sources pertaining to the New Testament text (just peruse most of the posts on this blog) and its canon. Some of our source material is relatively new (MS finds, whole works of church fathers rediscovered etc.), but with regard to canon, the relevant sources have been at our fingertips for a long time. In any case, all of this evidence is under great scrutiny now, and this development is welcomed, for returning to the primary sources is the surest way forward in our current discussions.

One particular area under scrutiny is how to describe the nature of early Christian writings. Did early Christians think only the eventual NT books were inspired or did they view inspired literature as a wider category of books than what eventually became recognized as the canon of authoritative-for-doctrine Scripture? Michael Kruger has brought this issue to the fore in a recent blogpost and it is worth presenting his view along side of Lee McDonald’s, whose view he mentions in the post, in short order without attempting to resolve the differences between the two. Both views affirm the inspiration of the NT books. Both views affirm that early Christians thought their works were inspired in some sense. Both views affirm that early Christians recognized (at least eventually) the NT books as unique revelation. The disagreement is over why early Christians saw these NT books as unique, not whether they saw them as unique.

It’s important to remember that this is a blog exchange and that Kruger has written whole books and articles on the topic of canon. He didn’t say everything in his post. I bet Lee McDonald would even say he didn’t write everything in his most recent two volume tome on the biblical canon. I will include these works along with a few others in the Further Reading section below.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Matt 18.11 as a Test of the ‘Internal’ Consistency of the Byzantine Priority Position

NOT the Silver-haired Assassin
Matt 18.11 It is one of a dozen or so verses that are completely missing (relative to the KJV) from modern English Bibles. It follows precedes Matthew’s version of the parable of the lost sheep and fits quite well in that role. It reads thus in the KJV: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”

This verse is demoted to the apparatus in eclectic texts and the explanation usually given is that it was brought over from Luke 19.10 almost verbatim. That “almost” is what I want to address here. Compare:
  1. omit — 01, 03, 019* f1, f13, 33, e, ff, syr.sin, etc.
  2. ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός — 05, 032, Byz, lat,, etc.
  3. ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός — 019mg, 579, 892c, etc.
  4. ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός — Luke 19.10 (no vll. in NA)
On external grounds, the external argument from the Byzantine prioritist is straightforward. There is no serious split in the Byz manuscripts at this point and therefore reading 2 is original at Matt 18.11.

But how does the same Byz prioritist explain the corruption that is reading 3 on internal grounds without appeal to harmonization and thus showing an inconsistency? After all, if ζητῆσαι καί is an addition due to Luke 19.10 then surely the whole verse can (and should) be explained the the same way. 

It seems to me that this shows an “internal” inconsistency on the part of the Byzantine priority position. Internal evidence is accepted when it supports the conclusion made from external evidence. But the same evidence is rejected when it does not.

As always when I talk about the Byz text, I shall wait to be corrected by our resident Byzantinist, the Silver-haired Assassin himself!

Monday, February 19, 2018

What was the Hexapla?

What was the Hexapla? There is the question of what were the readings that were at one time in the Hexapla as presented herehere, and here. Then, there is the question of what was the Hexapla? We have to ask this question because it was not transmitted much (if at all), and there is no manuscript to date that we can point to and say, “that’s the Hexapla.” This is one of the saddest truths of literary history. Furthermore, these questions do not answer “Why the Hexapla?” or “How the Hexapla“, which are also interesting questions.

Quick Description

Now, the quick answer is that the Hexapla was Origen’s (ca. 185-254) six-columned synopsis containing the following versions of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: (1) the Hebrew text in Hebrew letters, (2) the Hebrew text in Greek letters, i.e., in Greek transliteration, (3) the Greek version of Aquila, (4) the Greek version of Symmachus, (5) the Greek version of the Seventy, and (6) the Greek version of Theodotion. So far this description matches the early patristic descriptions of Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis (who also say that for some books like Psalms, Origen had a Fifth and a Sixth edition; read about them here). Eusebius says:
Having collected all of these [Greek versions], he divided them into sections, and placed them opposite each other, with the indication (σημείωσις) itself of Hebrew [Ἑβραίων pl.] [versions?]. He thus left us the copies (ἀντίγραφον) of the so-called Hexapla, having arranged separately the edition (ἔκδοσις) of Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion with the edition of the Seventy in the Tetrapla (Hist. eccl. 6.16.4; ANFP [adapted]).
The term σημείωσις “indication, inference from a sign” is an interesting way to describe a “text,” but perhaps this term indicates the Hebrew versions in Columns 1 and 2; that is, the Hebrew and its inference, meaning its sense or meaning in transliteration. Since he calls this work “the Hexapla“ and there are four Greek versions, he must envision the very “inference” of Hebrews as two texts. Now, there are two problems we should address.