Monday, February 25, 2019

Richard Baxter on the Autographs and Textual Criticism

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) is one of the most famous of the English Puritans. He was a “church leader, poet, hymnodist, theologian, and controversialist” per Wikipedia (yes, that Wikipedia). Continuing my interest in Reformation theology and textual criticism, here are a few choice quotes from his voluminous writings that touch on textual criticism.
And though the weakness and negligence of scribes have made many little words uncertain, (for God promised not infallibility to every scribe or printer,) yet these are not such as alter any article of faith or practice, but show that no corruption hath been designedly made, but that the book is the same. —The Catechising of Families, ch. 6, Question 24, Answer 7 in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, vol. 4
[Before this he gives a list of true beliefs that a person can doubt and still be saved.] 25. And yet more, may those have saving faith, who only doubt whether Providence infallibly guided any transcribers, or printers, as to retain any copy that perfectly agreeth with the autograph: yea, whether the perfectest copy now extant may not have some inconsiderable literal or verbal errors, through the transcribers’ or printers’ oversight, is of no great moment, as long as it is certain, that the Scriptures are not de industria [intentionally] corrupted, nor any material doctrine, history, or prophecy thereby obscured or depraved. God hath not engaged himself to direct every printer to the world’s end, to do his work without any error. Yet it is unlikely that this should deprave all copies, or leave us uncertain wholly of the right reading, especially since copies were multiplied, because it is unlikely that all transcribers, or printers, will commit the very same error. We know the true copies of our statute books, though the printer be not guided by an unerring spirit. See Usher’s Epistle to Lud. Capell. 26. Yet do all, or most of these [people], in my judgment, cast away a singular prop to their faith, and lay it open to dangerous assaults, and doubt of that which is a certain truth.  27. As the translations are no further Scripture, than they agree with the copies in the original tongues; so neither are those copies further than they agree with the autographs, or original copies, or with some copies perused and approved by the apostles. 28. Yet is there not the like necessity of having the autographs to try the transcripts by, as there is of having the original transcripts to try the translations by. For there is an impossibility that any translation should perfectly express the sense of the original. But there is a possibility, probability, and facility, of true transcribing, and grounds to prove it true, de facto, as we shall touch anon. —The Saints’ Everlasting Rest in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, 4 vols. (1846; Morgan, Pa., 2000), 3:93
Richard Brash, in his ThM thesis on the doctrine of preservation, says of this second quote, “Clearly, some in Baxter’s day did hold to such a view [viz., that Providence did not preserve any perfect copies], but it was not one that Baxter accepted or promoted” (p. 75 n. 242).

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Elliott’s Doctoral Thesis on the Text of the Pastoral Epistles

At some point in college, I remember looking through J. K. Elliott’s The Greek text of the epistles to Timothy and Titus, a detailed textual commentary on those books from a thoroughgoing eclectic perspective.

Recently, while putting a bibliography together I discovered that the two-volume Oxford DPhil that lies behind this book is freely available online from Oxford. As I don’t have a copy of the published version, I don’t know if there are any significant differences. But, if it’s like most published British dissertations, it is probably very similar. If someone can check, let me know. [Update: Elliott emails to say, “Very few changes were made.”]

Here’s the first part of the abstract:
To my knowledge there has been no thoroughgoing eclectic study of the text of any New Testament book, although the principles of eclectic textual criticism have been applied to individual readings. This thesis attempts to provide a study of all the known variant readings in the Greek text of the Pastoral Epistles. To this end, a full critical apparatus has been compiled and a discussion on each variant reading is provided with the object of establishing the original text and of explaining how variants arose.

The theory, on which these discussions are based is found in an introductory chapter. This introduction begins by arguing that previous methods of textual criticism based largely on the “cult of the best manuscript” are untenable and unreliable nowadays due partly to the growing realisation that no one manuscript or group of manuscripts contains the original text. Many scholars realise that the original reading may be found in any given manuscript. The implication of this is of course that the peculiar readings of every manuscript must (ultimately) be examined. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

On Heb 11.11 and Not Making a ‘Fetish’ of Longer/Shorter Readings

While doing some work in Hebrews this week I learned two new things: (1) Heb 11.11 has a number of knotty problems, several of them textual and (2) Herman Hoskier has a textual commentary of sorts on Hebrews. In reading his comments on this verse, I noted a little gem of a line at the end.

But first, here’s the text and the problem as illustrated by comparing RP/KJV with NA/NRSV. The main interpretive problem is who the subject is (Sarah or Abraham) with the variants bearing directly on that.
RP: Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν, καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας ἔτεκεν, ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον

KJV: Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

NA27: Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα στεῖρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας, ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον.

NRSV: By faith he [Abraham] received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised.
And here is Hoskier’s comment on the variants in play:
xi 11 και αυτη σαρρα στειρα. Thus P46, agreed to by D* Ψ d e f vg and a dozen Greek cursives (ἡ σπειρα Db Sod78boh sah and a few; στειρα ουσα P and a few, with syr arm aeth Thphyl), but στειρα is omitted by א A Dc P13Chr Aug Dam Thdt and the rest.

Here, then, we have the longer text A.D. 200, but στειρα could, of course, easily be dropped after σαρρα.

ibid. —ετεκεν P46 with P13vid A D* 17 d e f vg sah boh aeth arm Chr 1/2 Euthal, against the rest and syr Chr 1/2 Dam Thdt which have it; while D gr Egr P 37 73 80 116 add: εις τοτεκνωσαι after ελαβεν, and d e: filium.

Thus, in one single verse, we must judge between ‘longer’ and ‘shorter’ texts, and not make a fetish of either. There is no royal road or short cut in these matters.
This should become a new canon which, if my Latin serves me, I will call lectio non idolum.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

New Critical Edition of the Harklean Syriac of Revelation

Because it appears in a volume of essays, it might have gone unnoticed that Martin Heide has published his critical edition of Revelation in the Harklean Syriac. I haven’t had time to work through it, but I thought I should at least note it here for others. I did look it over in pre-pub form several years ago and I remember being impressed. It should go along nicely with Ian Beacham’s Birmingham PhD on the Harklean Syriac version of Revelation. As I’ve written before, the Harklean Syriac is fertile soil for understanding the transmission history of the New Testament text.

By my reckoning, it’s about time we put together all the work that’s been done on the Harklean Syriac into a complete Harklean New Testament. It would employ the materials from Barbara Aland and Andreas Juckel on Paul and the large Catholic Letters, the material collated for Acts and the small Catholics for the ECM, Kiraz’s work on the Comparative edition of the Syriac Gospels (with an assist from Yohanna’s edition in Mark), and now Heide’s work on Revelation. Who wants to make this happen?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Minuscule 372

GA 372 is a 16th century parchment manuscript in the Vatican (Vat. gr. 1161), which looks like a printed book. Apparently it is handwritten, but if that is the case, it is hard not to imagine that it must have been copied from a printed book: the page and chapter numbers, the variety in the fonts, the woodcut type intials.

Is there someone who could figure out which edition underlies the text? I don’t think the font looks like an Estienne font, Colines perhaps?

Update 14.ii.2019:
Thanks to Teunis van Lopik (see comments) we can solve the issue of the script of this manuscript. The script comes from Johannes Honorius who is mentioned in all three volumes of the Repertorium der griechischen Kopiisten (I 174, II 232, III 286).  I,  p.100: “His script formed the basis for the font of  the pontifical press. Honorius’s script has clearly influenced that of anonymous co-workers, and the manuscripts below are possibly not all written by him personally.”

An example of the print type of his script is found here (notice Honorius’s name after TYPUS; click through on the title).
A British Library MS (Harley 5732) by Honorius is found here.

Which leaves only the trivial question of the text of GA 372.

Monday, February 11, 2019

PJW Video: Can We Know the Exact Words of God?

Gordon-Conwell seminary now has the audio video online from Pete Williams’s recent Cooley lectures (noted here). Here are the links:
I haven’t had a chance to listen watch yet but hope to soon.

Update: videos

Friday, February 08, 2019

Happy International Septuagint Day!

Happy International Septuagint Day everyone! In 2006, the IOSCS declared February 8 to be International Septuagint Day, a day to celebrate the Septuagint and encourage its study, based on the following rational:
The date was chosen because, as Robert Kraft noted, it is “the one date we know of from late antiquity on which LXX/OG/Aquila received special attention.” Emperor Justinian’s Novella 146 permitted the Jews of the Roman Empire to read the Scriptures in their synagogues in Greek, Latin, or “any other tongue which in any district allows the hearers better to understand the text”. Specifically, “We make this proviso that those who use
Greek shall use the text of the seventy interpreters...”
This novella (see English translation) was published on the eighth day of February in the year 553 CE.
So celebrate the work of the Seventy and all of the other Greek translators of the Hebrew Scriptures today (and really everyday ;-)).

Is Codex Sinaiticus a Fake? New Evidence

Just to be clear, no. It’s not a 19th-century fake.

With that out of the way, I decided to take another look at a couple of things, and I noticed what some might consider to be new evidence in the question of whether or not the manuscript is a modern fake.

One of the biggest ‘selling points’ for people who claim that it’s a fake is the difference in colour between the Leipzig leaves and the British Library leaves, according to the images at the Codex Sinaiticus Project website. Despite at least one professional manuscript photographer taking the time to explain why it is problematic to make arguments based on the colour of those images, the colour is still a point of emphasis from people who maintain that Codex Sinaiticus is a fake.

David Daniels, author of the book Is the “World’s Oldest Bible” a Fake? (Ontario, CA: Chick Publications, 2017), recently posted a video (link and info in my longer note linked below) in which he again emphasised the colour of the leaves as part of his ‘evidence’.

So what about this new evidence I claim to have? Well, it’s not really new as much as it is a repackaging of old evidence into a way that more clearly shows why determining colour from images is a bad idea.

I’ve put a file online that goes into more detail, but I’ll give you the spoilers here.

When you compare the colour charts in the Leipzig images and the British Library images, it becomes clear that there is no way that these two sets of images were taken to the exact same standards. However, the clearest way to demonstrate this conclusion is to take a single colour from each of the colour charts, lay the two samples out in a mosaic like Daniels does, and then see how they look.

Obviously, the two sets of images were not taken to the level of precision that Daniels’ theory needs. If they were, we would see no difference in colour at all, because those two versions of yellow that you see in this image are the exact same colour in real life.

For the full description (as well as a couple of other samples like this one using other colours from the colour charts, and an argument based on raking light images), see my note here: “Unpublished Paper: ‘New’ Evidence on “Is Codex Sinaiticus a Fake?”

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Five millionth visitor

Congratulations to us for our five millionth* visitor.

Celebrations in various parts of the world are happening as I type.

* Of course maybe we’ve had more, or fewer, visitors. I personally have little idea as to how this was counted. 

UP-DATE: One of my students (Ben Lucas), who was in my office for an interesting discussion of the use of the OT in Hebrews, claimed to be the five millionth visit(or)** so I gave him a relevant old book to celebrate:

** I’m sure that now that the actual five millionth person has been identified, the anonymous trolls will admit their error.

Free Brill Book: The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Evidence

A new publication in the esteemed series New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents (Brill) has been published:  The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Evidence, edited by H.A.G. Houghton, C.M. Kreinecker, R.M. MacLachlan, and C.J. Smith. 

The book is a verse-by-verse collation of Old Latin manuscripts, the lemmata of early Latin commentaries and testimonia extracts in Romans, 1–2 Corinthians and Galatians.
This is the final output from the ERC-funded COMPAUL project and therefore an open access title which may be downloaded for free here
The transcriptions underlying the collation are publically available at

Here is a short extract from the Preface to give you the background and scope of the volume:
In 2011, a European Research Council Starting Grant enabled Hugh Houghton to assemble a team at the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing (ITSEE) in the University of Birmingham to investigate the earliest commentaries on Paul as sources for the biblical text (the COMPAUL project). In order to assist with analysis of the numerous early Latin expositions, full electronic transcriptions were produced of the four principal Pauline Epistles in three types of material:
  1. Manuscripts identified as having an Old Latin affiliation;
  2. Existing scholarly reconstructions of the Pauline text of individual early Latin commentators;
  3. Early collections of biblical testimonia.
These were then automatically collated to provide a representative sample of early Latin readings which might be reflected in commentaries and their textual tradition. Although the publication of this data was not part of the original plan for the COMPAUL project, it soon became evident that—until the appearance of the corresponding volumes of the Vetus Latina edition—making this material more widely available would be of service to scholars in a variety of fields.