Thursday, March 28, 2019

ETS Septuagint Studies: Last Call for San Diego Papers

This post is for all those out there writing last minute ETS paper proposals with hopes of submitting them before 5:00pm (Central) tomorrow afternoon.

I want to encourage you to submit a proposal to ETS’s Septuagint Studies section. You can read more about the steering committee here and begin to submit your proposals here.

You can learn much more about the history of the section over at William Ross’ blog here.

Will and I along with rest of the Septuagint Studies committee look forward to reviewing your proposals and hearing about your fascinating research in the grand field of Septuagint.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Example Passages from the NASB Update

Over at the Opened Heart blog, Rob Oberto has helpfully culled a list of verses that the Lockman Foundation has been sharing on their Facebook page of the forthcoming update to the NASB translation (mentioned here). They have been posted as “NASB 2020.” Whether that date will hold as the actual publication date isn’t clear yet. In any case, here are some samples of the work in progress:

1 Thessalonians 5:14:
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 1995
We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 2020
Micah 6.8:
He has told you, O man, what is good… NASB 1995
He has told you, a human, what is good... NASB 2020
Joshua 1.9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NASB 1995
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor  dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NASB 2020
Luke 1.38
And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s bondslave; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. NASB 1995
And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s slave; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. NASB 2020
John 1.18
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. NASB 1995
No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him. NASB 2020
Some of these are more noteworthy than others, of course. Some are quite odd, like Micah 6.8. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Non-Evangelical Reads Misquoting Jesus

Bart Ehrman has from time to time expressed surprise that Christians and particularly Evangelicals reacted so negatively to his book Misquoting Jesus. In his follow-up book Jesus, Interrupted he writes, for example, that
The conservative evangelical response to my book surprised me a bit. Some of these critics criticized Misquoting Jesus for “misleading” people—as if facts such as those I have just cited [about the originals being lost, there being hundreds of thousands of variants, that some of these mistakes matter a lot, etc.] could lead someone down a slippery slope toward perdition. A number of critics indicated that they didn’t much appreciate my tone. And a whole lot of them wanted to insist that the facts I laid out do not require anyone to lose their faith in the Bible as the inspired word of God. (pp. 184–185)
Ehrman then goes on to take issue with this last point since he thinks the facts are incompatible with belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God. Still, he clarifies that he had no intention of making people lose their Christian faith as a whole. From there he goes on to make a summary case for why he’s fine saying that the vast majority of variants don’t matter but that some still matter a lot. I don’t really have any complaint about that way of saying it, although I might demur on some of the particular ways Ehrman thinks they matter.

Be that as it may, the question I think is worth considering is the degree to which Misquoting Jesus does, in fact, mislead people. I have long felt that most of the book is quite good and makes for a nice, eminently readable introduction to textual criticism for those who know next to nothing about it. But I did close the book thinking—and I know others who did as well—that Ehrman had overcooked his goose, especially as regards inspiration. But, then, I’m an Evangelical and so, according to Ehrman, maybe that explains it.

What, then, do non-Evangelicals take away from the book? Asking that question recently reminded me of an early review of the book from an unlikely source: the creator of one of America’s most beloved cartoons and a man who is quite certainly not an Evangelical.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Fantastic Film: “Greek Papyri – The Rediscovery of the Ancient World”

In a comment to the previous post on Oxyrhynchus, an anonymous person drew the attention to a fascinating film that has just been uploaded to YouTube, “Greek Papyri—The Rediscovery of the Ancient World”:
Fascinating footage of work on the Oxyrhynchus papyri, including many names familiar to New Testament papyrologists (E. G. Turner, W. E. H. Cockle, J. D. Thomas) in a film about Greek Papyri from 1972, uploaded to YouTube today: .
I am not certain but I think the image I pasted above from the film is of Walter Cockle, who recently passed away.

Brent Nongbri announced the film today (on the Papy-L list):
This 44-minute movie was produced in 1971 by the Greek and Latin Departments and the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London in 1971. It was directed by Mirek Dohnal and features some fantastic archival footage of the British papyrologists of the day. The film is mentioned in an exhibition catalog by T. S. Pattie and E. G. Turner, The Written Word on Papyrus: An Exhibition Held in the British Museum 30 July - 27 October 1974 (British Library Board, 1974).

The quality of the production was said to be excellent. The obituary for Eric Turner in the Proceedings of the British Academy described the film as follows:  “. . . in May [1971] came the première of Mirek Dohnal’s film Greek Papyri (Turner had suggested the subject to the head of the Slade Film Unit; he and his pupils and colleagues starred, with Zauberflöte in the background, and many hours of patient labour; the film won a silver medal at the Venice Festival) . . .”
One notable feature in the film, at about 24.15-25.10, is the dissolvement of a mummy mask to recover papyri, as it was done in the early 70’s – a now very controversial practice since it inevitably involves the destruction of an ancient artifact. In our era there are projects to “make the mummies talk” with non-invasive imaging technology. See here and here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Biblical Papyri Coming from Oxyrhynchus

For those who don’t follow the blog on Twitter or Facebook, here’s some very big news coming from the Egypt Exploration Society:
In response to recent queries about results of the review initiated in 2016 to identify unpublished New Testament fragments in its collection of Oxyrhynchus papyri (, the EES reports as follows:

Some twenty New Testament inedita have been identified, none of them apparently earlier than the late 2nd to early 3rd century AD. They have all been assigned to editors, and will be published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series as the editors complete their work over the next few years. There may be more small fragments still unidentified because, like the Mark fragment recently published (LXXXIII 5345), their identity only emerges from much more detailed study than is feasible when cataloguing. We note that Grenfell and Hunt were particularly keen to find New Testament texts, and so sorted out possible cases as they processed their finds in Egypt and back at Oxford, and published many of them.

Some ten patristic texts have also been identified and assigned to editors, and over eighty Septuagint and related texts are currently known to us and will gradually be assigned and published (some in the forthcoming volume LXXXIV). In the volumes of the Oxyrhynchus series we normally aim to publish a variety of texts, including literary fragments and the far more numerous documentary texts which are the primary interest of many of our readers.

Published: 7th March, 2019
HT: Brent Nongbri 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Another Shorter Reading Preserved in the Byzantine Text

Here’s another interesting shorter reading preserved for us in the Byzantine text, this one from 1 Cor 9.20:
τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω
To those under the law I became as one under the law (not that I was myself under the law) in order that I might gain those under the law.
Byz along with D2 (L) Ψ 1881 and the Peshitta (per NA27) don’t have the phrase μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον. It’s a case of parablepsis and so another place where the Byzantine text unexpectedly preserves a shorter, secondary reading.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Deuteronomy 33:2 in Textual and Linguistic Perspectives

In my last post, I introduced the book How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? Essentially, the book argues that diachronic/historical linguistics explains the changes we see in the language of the Hebrew Bible from Classical Biblical Hebrew to Late Biblical Hebrew. The authors (Hendel and Joosten) included a chapter on Textual History and Linguistic History in which they show how the two disciplines work together. In particular, a text’s history can show scribal mistakes, modernizations, and textual growth, and diachronic analysis may explain some of these changes.

At the beginning of the chapter, they provide the “famous example” from Deut 33:2, with which I want to interact in this post:

Ketiv: ֹמִימִינוֹ אשׁדת לָמו “From his right hand ‘sdt for them”
Qere: ֹמִֽימִינוֹ אֵשׁ דָּת לָמו “From his right hand fire was a law/there was a fiery law for them”

The ketiv אשׁדת is difficult to understand; perhaps its meaning was lost. The qere reveals a different word division, but דָּת (“law”) raises a question for the historical linguist. The word is only otherwise attested in LBH (e.g. Esther and Ezra) and this would be the only case of a Persian loanword in the Pentateuch. But the authors conclude that the linguistic difficulty is superficial, for the text is problematic. The MT itself indicates that דָּת is only one possibility, since it is only the qere, the way the text is read. The ketiv is אשׁדת, a reading admittedly “that is hard to understand” (in fact the lexicon is still puzzled over its meaning). The authors then cite the Septuagint (ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ “at his right hand angels with him”) and the Peshitta (ܡܢ ܝܡܝܢܗ܂ ܝܗܒ ܠܗܘܢ “from his right, he gave to them”), “neither of which seems to reflect the qere“ (p. 48). The authors then conclude:
The qere may reflect a late midrashic interpretation of an earlier text that was at some point no longer understood. The expression אֵשׁ דָּת (fire of the law) does not represent the earliest text of the verse, and as such does not provide a solid basis for historical linguistics (p. 48).
Now, the authors may well be right in their conclusion and they may have a ready defense for their thesis in this instance, but I suggest they have too simplistically solved this problem. The fact is the qere does have early support in the Jewish revisers:
Aquila: ἀπὸ δεξιᾶς αὐτοῦ πῦρ δόγμα αὐτοῖς (“from his right, fire was an ordinance for them”)
Symmachus: …πυρινὸς νόμος… (“...fiery law...”)
Jerome’s Vulgate also reflects this reading (in dextera eius ignea lex) but probably depends on Symmachus for it. Both Jewish revisers are earlier sources than the Peshitta, and their reading of the text reflects an earlier tradition. I’m not saying Aquila, Symmachus, and the qere preserve the more original text. Rather, Aquila and Symmachus show the antiquity of the qere אֵשׁ דָּת which may or may not be the original text. “The late midrashic interpretation” of the authors would now have to be pushed back to the period of some of our earliest evidence for the text.

Here is the tension: is textual criticism guiding linguistics or linguistics guiding textual criticism? What is intriguing here according to the authors is that the qere reflects a later midrash, and part of the leverage for this conclusion is that דָּת would be the only Persian loanward in the Pentateuch, a very important datum, to be sure. We have a good example here of both disciplines attempting to inform one another. The problem now is that there’s more evidence for the antiquity of the qere than the authors presented, and therefore, the TC question has to be reopened.

The ketiv אשׁדת is unintelligible at present and the error of word division could go in either direction, which leaves room for the qere to be the more original text (“fiery law” could be an original, poetic description for the theophanic giving of the law on the mountain; Exod 20:18; Deut 4:15). If the ketiv is the more original, then we avoid the diachronic problem as the authors have framed the matter. If דָּת of the qere is the more original reading, then we have an isolated instance of a word from a later period in an otherwise CBH text. This isolated instance would not date the text of Deuteronomy to a later period because one instance does not satisfy the “Criterion of Accumulation.” Rather, one late word in an otherwise early text might simply be chalked up to a later scribe’s modernization. The qere could represent early updating of the text or the more original text (added late? or דָּת is an older word than we thought?). The ketiv is a rather difficult, if not impossible (corrupted?), text. Perhaps, the LXX and Peshitta attempted to render a corrupted text, which then gives appearance of a difficult one?

We won’t solve the matter today, but I found this example to be interesting for the authors’ case of diachrony because the text history remains unclear. In any case, Hendel and Joosten provide a fascinating and helpful contribution to the ongoing dialogue on the history and formation of the Hebrew Bible.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

New Book on Textual Criticism and Apologetics

We have had discussions on this blog before about mistakes well-intentioned Christians often make when defending the Bible. There was a lively discussion about three years ago when The Gospel Coalition published an excerpt from Greg Gilbert’s book Why Trust the Bible? titled “Debunking Silly Statements About the Bible“ that had a number of “silly statements” of its own. I seem to remember a lively comments section at TGC as well, but they seem to have removed comments sections at some point. To be clear, I am glad there are popular authors defending the Bible. That is an important work, and I would want to see more of that (and done well), not less.

I recently came across a couple of other posts in the last month that make some of the same mistakes, and I was again reminded of the words of one of our blog editors:

A New Book

I am happy to report that a book several of us have been working on for about three years now is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Peter Gurry and I co-edited a book that seeks to give a good resource to people who are doing good work but are not manuscript specialists themselves. It is hard to keep up-to-date with everything, and we get that, so we wanted to help where we can by showing where the problems often are and making suggestions for how to improve important discussions like “why trust the Bible?”. The book is Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, and it is due out in November from IVP Academic. Just in time for ETS and SBL! IVP has a book page here.

Here is a table of contents:

Front matter
Daniel B. Wallace
More front matter
  1. Introduction
    Peter J. Gurry and Elijah Hixson
  2. Myths about Autographs: What They Were and How Long They May Have Survived
    Timothy N. Mitchell
  3. Math Myths: How Many Manuscripts We Have and Why More Isn’t Always Better
    Jacob W. Peterson
  4. Myths about Classical Literature: Responsibly Comparing the New Testament to Ancient Works
    James B. Prothro
  5. Dating Myths 1: How We Determine the Ages of Manuscripts
    Elijah Hixson
  6. Dating Myths 2: How Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts
    Gregory R. Lanier
  7. Myths about Copyists: the Scribes Who Copied Our Earliest Manuscripts
    Zachary J. Cole
  8. Myths about Copying: the Mistakes and Corrections Scribes Made
    Peter Malik
  9. Myths about Transmission: The Text of Philemon from Beginning to End
    S. Matthew Solomon
  10. Myths about Variants: Why Most Variants Are Insignificant and Why Some Can’t Be Ignored
    Peter J. Gurry
  11. Myths about Orthodox Corruption: Were Scribes Influenced by Theology and How Can We Tell?
    Robert D. Marcello
  12. Myths about Patristics: What the Church Fathers Thought about Textual Variation
    Andrew Blaski
  13. Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us
    John D. Meade
  14. Myths about Early Translations: Their Number, Importance, and Limitations
    Jeremiah Coogan
  15. Myths About Modern Translations: Variants, Verdicts, and Versions
    Edgar Battad Ebojo
End matter

Friday, March 01, 2019

New Book: How Old Is the Hebrew Bible?

In How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study (Yale, 2018), Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten provide an accessible treatment of some of the complex issues regarding inquiry into the history of the Hebrew Bible. In short, they are convinced that within the Hebrew Bible there is a traceable diachrony from Classical Biblical Hebrew (CBH; texts dated to the monarchy) to Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH; texts dated to the Persian period). The book is only 221 pages. It is not intended to be a full or complete study of all of the evidence but it does present some intriguing arguments for its thesis.

My interest in the book goes beyond the linguistic to the textual critical. In chapter 4, the authors address “Textual History and Linguistic History.” They state the problem plainly, “Textual variation interferes with diachronic linguistics” (p. 47). However, the situation is not hopeless in the eyes of the authors. The Masoretic Text is “notoriously layered” (p. 48) and the MT’s vowel pointing at times does preserve evidence of a later grammatical development (cf. Isa 1:12; p. 49), but our authors conclude, “Textual criticism and diachronic linguistics complement each other. The judicious combination of the two approaches paves the way to a correct understanding of the text” (p. 50, and similar on p. 53 regarding the consonantal text).

So how do we know whether we are reading early or late Biblical Hebrew in any one narrative or book? Under “The Criterion of Accumulation,” the authors say that the comprehensive difference between CBH and LBH could hardly be the result of textual corruption. Rather, only an accumulation of late features can date a text as late (cf. ch. 3). That is, early texts may contain anomalous late linguistic features due to sporadic linguistic modernization. The authors final assessment of the Masoretic Text in this regard is worth quoting in full:
The fact is that the MT of Isaiah and the Pentateuch does not exhibit this modernizing profile. On the whole, the MT is a rather conservative and well-preserved text. Occasional modernizations exist, but they did not affect the MT to the extent of making the diachronic approach impossible (p. 55).
They close the chapter with a section on Textual Criticism and Redaction Criticism, which addresses the matter of different literary editions; that is, textual change not due to scribal mistakes and modernizing versions (pp. 56–57).

The authors conclude the chapter as follows:
When textual criticism is brought into the picture, it has the global effect of confirming the diachronic approach. The textual history of the Hebrew Bible provides an explanation for occasional “false positives,” late features occurring in a relatively early text. In addition, such late features in the CBH corpus can often be shown to have entered the text secondarily, as scribal mistakes, as occasional modernizations, or as products of textual growth. Textual criticism and historical linguistics  reinforce one another, and together contribute to a better understanding of the biblical text (p. 59).
I’m only part way through chapter 5 of the book, but overall, the authors are to be commended for their treatment and presentation of the matter of historical linguistics and its relationship to TC. I plan to write a follow-up post attempting to engage the authors on one of their examples from chapter 4 with a view to show how they think diachony and TC work together.