Friday, August 30, 2019

Is Martha an Interpolation into John’s Gospel?

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One of the readers of our blog, and a very promising PhD student at Duke University, Elizabeth Schrader, is currently working on examining the textual transmission of John 11:1–12:2, specifically the presence (or absence) of the two sisters, Martha and Mary in the story. I have invited Elisabeth to share her research in three consecutive posts. Based on her observations in the manuscripts, she proposes the bold thesis that Martha was interpolated into the Fourth Gospel in the second century. I know she looks forward to response and debate. Personally, I think her findings are very significant, although I disagree with her overall explanation of the data.

A Problem around Martha: Introduction

In a 2017 article published in the Harvard Theological Review (Open Access version here), I argued that the character Martha is likely to be a second-century interpolation into John’s Gospel. In recent weeks, this research has received increased attention and discussion (Duke Today, Religion News Service, Religion for Breakfast). Tommy Wasserman has kindly invited me to introduce my work to this blog, and I was very happy to discuss it in more detail here.

In my research, I have demonstrated that Martha’s presence is consistently unstable throughout the textual transmission of John. Such instability is found in nearly every verse where Martha appears in John 11:1–12:2, in witnesses as early as Papyrus 66 and as late as the 1611 King James Bible. My conclusion is that approximately one in five Greek manuscripts and one in three Old Latin manuscripts has some problem around Martha. I define a “problem around Martha” according to the following five criteria:
  1. the unexpected omission of Martha’s name
  2. the initially transcribed name “Mary” altered to “Martha”
  3. the name “Mary” appearing instead of an expected “Martha”
  4. an unexpected singular noun, verb, or pronoun to describe the Bethany sisters
  5. a different person named as the first of those Jesus loved in John 11:5
My most recent compilation of the relevant manuscript and patristic data is available here for those who are interested; I will happily approve a read-only view of the spreadsheet for anyone that asks.

Of course we must now ask, why is there such a remarkable textual problem around Martha in John’s Gospel? My position is that Martha was added to John’s Gospel in order to discourage readers from identifying Lazarus’ sister Mary as Mary Magdalene, an identification that was happening in patristic and extracanonical literature as early as the third century. Martha’s presence in the Lazarus story is important: she is now the woman who speaks the central Christological confession “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” [John 11:27, NRSV]. This confession is often compared to Peter’s similar Christological confession in Matthew (“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” [Matt 16:16, NRSV]) to which Jesus replies that Peter is the rock upon which the church will be built [Matthew 16:18]. Since according to Matthew, the Christological confessor is designated as the foundation of the church, the identity of the Christological confessor in John’s Gospel is of paramount importance. It should give us pause to learn that Tertullian, writing in 206 AD, believed that Mary gave this confession – and that this Mary was understood by many early readers to also be Mary Magdalene, the first person to see the risen Jesus and to receive an apostolic commission in John’s Gospel. Indeed, if it was the Evangelist’s intent for Mary (Magdalene) to give the Christological confession in John 11:27, this would suggest that her leadership role in John was akin to Peter’s in the Gospel of Matthew.

One need not give authority to the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, or the Pistis Sophia today to notice that they offer evidence of early objections to Mary’s stature as “apostle to the apostles” (her status among Orthodox Christians even now). Composed by diverse Christian writers over the course of more than a century, these four documents each portray Jesus’ disciples—particularly Peter—objecting to Mary or to special status given to her by Jesus. Perhaps the changes we see from “Mary” to “Martha” are not so different from whatever process led to a textual variant at Luke 2:33, where Ἰωσὴφ is often copied instead of ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ. We know that there were early debates about the doctrine of Jesus’ virgin birth. So, when we see textual instability around the suggestion that Joseph was Jesus’ “father,” it is reasonable for textual critics to infer that this textual problem could be connected with the virgin birth debate. Similarly, we know that there was early controversy about Mary Magdalene’s authority, especially vis-à-vis Peter. So when we see that the presence of Martha, the Christological confessor, is unstable throughout John 11–12—and since we know that many early readers identified Lazarus’ sister Mary as Mary Magdalene—our scholarly antennae should go up.

37 comments

  1. Very interesting post so far, clearly written, looking forward to the second part.

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  2. I am so glad to see you here on this blog writing about your intriguing research Libbie. You have also been very generous in sharing your research data (which is quite extensive).
    As Tommy noted, I too see your findings as siginificant (and very thurough), though, at this time, disagree with the broad conclusions made. I look forward to reading your next posts.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. I saw your work a while ago and have some questions, which you probably already have dealt with?

    To what extent are explanations of intelligently designed change as opposed to chance change preferable when we are dealing with two five-letter forms which only differ by a single letter? OK, there's also the spelling of Mary with final mu to complicate things. When are we justified in appealing to ID when we know that so much stuff happens in manuscripts, esp. with words that look graphically similar?

    Is interchange between these two five letter names comparable to other consonant changes within words, e.g. πανδοχει vs πανδοκει in Luke 10:35?

    How do levels of variation compare with any other set of 2 such similar words? Do we have anything to compare these against?

    If your explanation is a valid one then we should not expect the same sorts of confusions to occur with the same frequency in late mediaeval manuscripts once their relative levels of textual variation are taken into account. If the patterns you see result from an interpolation of Martha, we shouldn't see them in a period when no interpolation is occurring.

    How do variations in John compare with control samples in John? Are there parts of John which show equally high amounts of variation? Can one make a connection between amounts of variation and the likelihood of interpolation?

    No need to answer any of these here, but I thought I should register some of my current questions.

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    1. Hello Dr. Williams! Thank you for this kind comment. You raise an interesting question, and I hope to have addressed it on page 386 of my HTR article: "With so much variation around the figures of Mary and Martha in the manuscript transmission of the Fourth Gospel, it is logical to wonder whether this is simply an issue of scribal blunder due to the graphic similarity of the two names. Fortunately for this study, the exact same two names appear in the manuscript transmission of Luke 10:38–42. Yet of 134 Greek and thirty-six Latin witnesses surveyed in these verses, 0% contain an unexpected 'Maria' transcribed instead of 'Martha,' or vice versa, either corrected or uncorrected." These witnesses were mainly found in the IGNTP volume of Luke - thank you for continuing the wonderful scholarship of the IGNTP! There are also several other control samples in the HTR article (see page 378).

      As for this comment, I'm not sure I agree: "If the patterns you see result from an interpolation of Martha, we shouldn't see them in a period when no interpolation is occurring." If this were always the case, then there would be no examples of manuscripts where the Pericope of the Adulteress is absent from John. But in fact the pericope moves around in manuscripts well into the Byzantine period. A major interpolation would leave traces throughout the entire text transmission - and I hope to have isolated those traces.

      All of your questions are excellent, and I give additional explanation in the next two blog posts. If you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out to me at elizabeth.schrader@duke.edu.

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    2. Elizabeth,

      This is a well-written post. I look forward to your next two.

      I also like your response above where you compare the long transmission of variants around Mary and Martha in John versus zero around them in Luke. Zero in Luke makes for a very good statistical argument that the many in John are not just random scribal errors.

      We cannot conclude from this remarkable data set that nothing was going on with these scribes just because we do not know what it was.

      I am not sure if any of the respondents claiming randomness have ever taken a statistics course. If so, they themselves can calculate the odds when there are zero variants around Mary and Martha in Luke. The likelihood that the variants in John are random appears to be less than one in several million.

      Again, we do not know what the scribes were thinking when they made these changes or corrections. That their variants are not merely random error, however, appears to be statistically conclusive.

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  4. Matthew M. Rose8/30/2019 5:32 pm

    Dr. Williams seems to have taking the words right out of my mouth, or head in this instance, when he states "To what extent are explanations of intelligently designed change as opposed to chance change preferable when we are dealing with two five-letter forms which only differ by a single letter?" Indeed!

    Some of the (few) variations I have put my finger on fall into this "box".

    John 11:1 cod. A* (first hand) and 157 omits MAPθAC due to Hom.Tel. MAPIAC [KAI MAPθAC].

    John 11:3 P66* (first hand) is alone in a singular interpolation of MAPθA. The error is subsequently corrected.

    John 11:5 θ Lambda*(first hand) f1 f13 565 1346* (P6vid w/ transposition)in a rarely attested interpolation add MAPθAN. The addition is obviously explanatory. (I would check the Church Lection here.)

    John 11:19 ms.28 omits kai Mapiav due to yet another instance of Hom.Tel.
    Mapθav [kai Mapiav]

    Looking forward to further explanation and analysis on this.

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    1. Please see my reply to Dr. Williams above - and I also hope that my forthcoming two blogposts will answer your questions more thoroughly.

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    2. Thanks for this, Matthew. You comment on 4 variants. Neither Elizabeth's hypothesis, nor my hypothesis builds on the last two. The other two are more important, as are some that you did not list. So I have some questions.

      1. Could you (or someone else) calculate the probability of the omission of Martha in 11:1 occurring by homoioarchton?
      2. You mentioned, but did not explain the variant in P66* at 11:3. How did this variant arise? The scribe included two women at 11:1, so why did he reduce the sisters at 11:3 to one sister? I'm thinking that both A* (11:1) and P66* (11:1, 3) witness a text of 11:1 that lacked Martha. Since both these manuscripts also have the male pronoun at 11:1, one suspects that misogyny, rather than chance, removed Martha from this verse.
      3. Were the variants in A* at 11:1, and in P66* at 11:3, corrected by the original scribes or subsequently?
      4. How are the male pronouns in variants in 11:1, 3, 5 to be explained? Is misogyny the simplest explanation?
      5. How should we explain the name order reversals at 11:5?

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    3. Hi Richard, you wrote "Matthew. You comment on 4 variants. Neither Elizabeth's hypothesis, nor my hypothesis builds on the last two. The other two are more important, as are some that you did not list. So I have some questions."

      Yeah, that's because I was not privy to all of the "primary" verses used in E. Schrader's theory at the time I posted. I simply scanned R.Swanson in the section of Text (John.11:1-12:2) mentioned in Miss Schrader's post above and those were some of the observations I made concerning the many locations where Mary and/or Martha are referrenced.

      Now to your questions. Due to time restraints I'm going to have to take these one at a time.
      Richard writes;

      "1. Could you (or someone else) calculate the probability of the omission of Martha in 11:1 occurring by homoioarchton?"

      Yes, I'll try. First off this would technically be termed homoioteleuton because it's the ending (as opposed to the beginning) of words which are alike. In John 11:1 the probability that the omission of the bracketed words MAPIAC {KAI MAPθAC} is a result of hom.tel. is extremely high. The primary reasons being: 1. It is a sub-singular reading. No Text critic in their right mind would ever follow cod.A* & ms.157 against the collective voice of universal antiquity. 2. Both names (MAPIAC & MAPθAC) have only one letter difference, thus increasing the possibility of scribal mishap. 3. Codex Alexandrinus, the primary witness here is corrected. Implying that the correcting scribe considered the shorter reading to be a mistake. Therefore the probability of HT in this instance is all but certain from my perspective.

      I had noticed that you had some interesting questions on both Mr. Snapp's and Mr. Mitchell's blogs. One stuck out to me concerning the probability of HT when only two letters are involved and the scribal habits of cod. A in regards to this. I'll attempt to shed a little light on this. As far as hom.tel. goes the 2 or 3 letter variety are probably the most common (KAI OYC OC ov wv etc.), followed by the 1 or 4 letter type, then would follow 5,6,7 etc.. In the case of homoioarcton, the 2 letter type is the most common followed by the 3 or 1 letter variety. 4,5,6 etc. being somewhat rare in comparison. The reason is simply that endings of Greek words are more often identical (due to gender, etc.) than the beginning of Greek words. I hope this helps.

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    4. Thanks Matthew. That is helpful. My question 1, however, was ambiguous. I meant something like this: If a thousand ancient scribes were to copy John 11:1 how many of them would eliminate Martha by mistake? It should be possible to estimate a number based on statistics around similar errors, shouldn't it? I would need a numerical estimate before I could form an opinion on whether what we see in A* and P66* probably resulted from mere mishaps.

      In answer to my questions 2 and 4, I see now that if Martha first fell out of a text at 11:1 the variant at 11:3 in P66* and the male pronouns at 11:1,3,5 could have arisen as attempts to make the resulting text make better sense. But I'm still curious about the name reversals at 11:5. Any thoughts on that?

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  5. Hi Elisabeth,

    Thanks for taking the time to make your research available through this blog with hyperlinks. I look forward to looking at your google doc on the data.

    Beyond some of the questions mentioned above, I'll be curious to see if the textual changes appear haphazard across many manuscripts or if the same manuscript(s) consistently has the same changes, which might indicate editorial intent.

    Also, it's interesting that early Christian writers certainly blurred descriptions of significant people with similar or identical names (whether John, James, Philip, etc) into an amorphous mix that's difficult to parse out... but it sounds like your thesis is somewhat the opposite... that confusion over Mary led scribes to distinguish and differentiate the Mary mix into a new separate character Martha. I've never investigated this phenomenon in patristic texts for precedents. It seems like (and I confess that I haven't investigated this yet) that "fusion" of characters into one tends to be more the norm... rather than "fission" of a character into separate identities. I'll be curious to see how this is addressed in your research.

    Well, these are some of my initial thoughts. I look forward to your research because you've been considering this longer than I have. It's a fascinating collection of variants for sure. Good on ya for addressing them!

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    1. Hello Dr. Cate! Thanks for this thoughtful comment. There are indeed several manuscripts with multiple problems around Martha - I mention them in my next blogpost, but they are P66, Codex Alexandrinus, 357, 423, 579, 841, 884, 994, 2680, L17, VL 2, VL 6, VL 8, VL 15, and sa 5. However I don't think any of these scribes had an editorial intent to interpolate Martha (probably the only scribe who actually knew the one-sister textform was the scribe of P66, who l believe had two exemplars - one with Martha, and one without. To my eye, this scribe made the decision to copy from the exemplar with Martha at John 11:5). More likely there was an editorial change early in the text transmission, and later scribes simply had to deal with the fallout of different variants surviving in different manuscripts.

      I would say that this is indeed another case of blurring significant people with identical names: I'm arguing that Mary the sister of Lazarus was deliberately conflated with Mary the sister of Martha. However the Johannine brother and sister are in Bethany, and the Lukan sisters seem to be in Galilee or Samaria. I think they are two different families.

      Basically I'm suggesting that one woman (Mary Magdalene, who is Lazarus' sister) has been split in three in the received text of John (Mary and Martha from Luke, plus Mary Magdalene). One might argue that the shifting number of women it the empty tomb narratives is a similar phenomenon. Also Hippolytus adds Martha next to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, and they both say "Rabbouni!" There may have been a general desire by early Christian writers to increase the number of women around Mary Magdalene. But of course that is another conversation! :)

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    2. //probably the only scribe who actually knew the one-sister textform was the scribe of P66//

      If it is true that the one-sister textform was the original one from which all extant witnesses ultimately derive, then this claim is pretty remarkable (I think this is what you're saying, but perhaps I've misunderstood your thesis, and this may get cleared up in parts 2 and 3). How did this original textform get so quickly and thoroughly purged from the textual witnesses that should have been available to other scribes later than that?

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    3. I think I was a bit unclear in my previous post - my apologies. What I meant to say was that the scribe of P66 was probably the only scribe of the *listed manuscripts* that actually saw the one-sister textform. I suspect that the one-sister textform did indeed survive for a while after the interpolation, but we simply don't have any extant witnesses with that version of the story.

      As for how the textform would have been quickly and thoroughly purged, I suppose one might ask Gordon Fee how he thought all of the manuscripts of 1 Cor 14 were so quickly interpolated. Re: 1 Cor 14:34-35, Fee writes, "The fact that it occurs in all extant witnesses only means that the double interpolation had taken place before the time of our present textual tradition, and could easily have happened before the turn of the first century." (Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 702) I'd say something similar happened with the interpolation of Martha, though I'd more likely say "before the turn of the third century." Hope that clears things up!

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    4. Elizabeth,
      Really? Not answering the question on text form, instead quoting another scholars controversial claims as if that settles the question?
      Tim

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    5. ? I'm simply stating that my argument is similar to Fee's - that is, I suggest that the interpolation of Martha had taken place before the time of our present textual tradition. I apologize if that was unclear.

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    6. Elizabeth Schrader,
      << I'm simply stating that my argument is similar to Fee's >>

      That is probably not likely to help your case among those who find Fee'a arguments unconvincing.

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  6. This is intriguing, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the argument. If both Mary and Martha appear in the earliest text of John, then there appears to be some shared Jesus-tradition with Luke (and I think Luke/John overlaps under-researched). Your theory would seem to suggest the Lucan material is used to "correct" a Johannine Mary – Lazarus narrative. One question I'm hoping you might answer is why this relatively obscure Lucan story is used to identify and develop a Johannine "Mary, sister of Lazarus" with a Lucan "Mary, sister of Martha", rather than one of the other available gospel Marys.

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    1. Hello Doug and thanks for this important question! I think the reason that the Lukan story was used is precisely because it only took one letter to add an additional woman to the story. It is quite sneaky (λάθρᾳ one might say!) ;) I suspect that the addition of Martha was the most elegant way to change the story undetected. If an early editor were to add things like "Mary of Joseph" or "Mary of Clopas" to the text, that would stick out like a sore thumb when comparing the manuscripts. But with the variation of a single letter, a scribe would more likely shrug and think that it was a mistake. I realize that not everyone is persuaded, but if I am correct, this editor was extraordinarily clever indeed.

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  7. Tommy Wasserman,
    Schrader has projected a conspiratorial agenda upon a series of scribal errors. Admirable as the data-collection is, this is not textual criticism; it's practically a form of pareidolia. For a thorough engagement of the relevant data and arguments, please see
    http://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2019/08/mary-martha-and-john-11.html .

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    1. The proposal need not involve "conspiracy," given reluctance to feature MM favorably.
      Addressing Tommy rather than Elizabeth could be seen as "mansplaining."

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    2. Stephen,
      Stop being the political police. The post was posted by Tommy. Since your comment asked James to consider the lack of conspiracy, it seems particularly absurd for you then to assume James was involved in a conspiracy to ‘dis’ Elizabeth.
      Tim

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    3. I concur with Mr Snapp on this point, since quite seriously in my opinion, the exercise is not textual criticism as normally understood, since determination of an actual "original text" would not follow on the basis of the quite singular variants adduced among the (mostly late) MSS noted.

      Rather, the thesis is primarily an exercise in higher criticism, presuming a particular view of (at least) source criticism, followed by an application of redaction criticism that merely happens to utilize several scattered and quite independent scribal variants as a jumping-off point. This, rather than anything text-critical per se (and by the way, if taken as an exercise in Source and Redaction Criticism, as a peer reviewer I would have no issue with approving the article for publication — just not as an exercise in NT textual criticism).

      As for attitude and approach, I find all sides overstepping bounds of academic propriety as seen not only here but in the lengthy interactions seen on Mr Snapp's blog.

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  8. Stephen Goranson,
    << The proposal need not involve "conspiracy," given reluctance to feature MM favorably. >>

    To Whose reluctance do you refer? Of all peripheral characters in the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is probably one of the most honored, the most famous, and the most frequently pictured; how is this "reluctance"?? Or are you referring to the reluctance of the whole academic world (outside Duke and Harvard) that is reluctant to treat Dan Brown's novels as if they are based on fact?

    As for "mansplaining" -- I decline to entertain such a silly concept. I am not responsible for what hyper-sensitive people are capable of imagining. Back to the subject please; thank you.

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    1. Hello Mr. Snapp! To answer your question ("to whose reluctance to you refer?") - it appears that you are still unfamiliar with the four early "gnostic" Christian documents that are listed in this blogpost (the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, and the Pistis Sophia). Responsible text critics must familiarize themselves with early Christian debates, including Marcionism, Arianism, Gnosticism, Docetism, etc. in order to do their jobs properly. Since you appear to think that controversy around Mary Magdalene originates in the twenty-first century (?) I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the ancient documents outlined in this blogpost. Nobody at Duke or Harvard gives any credence to Dan Brown's historical theories (including myself!). This conversation is about second- and third-century debates in the church, and I recommend that you familiarize yourself with those debates so you better understand the argument that is being made.

      Also, thank you for sharing your response to my data. As promised, my forthcoming two blogposts will address the points you raise.

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    2. Elizabeth Schrader,

      << It appears that you are still unfamiliar with the four early "gnostic" Christian documents . . . >>

      That is incorrect.

      << you appear to think that controversy around Mary Magdalene originates in the twenty-first century >>

      What an imagination you have. (And I would not strictly classify the Gospel of Thomas as Gnostic.)

      << I recommend that you familiarize yourself with those debates >>

      Ahem. Your assumption that I am not already familiar with those debates is noted. Meanwhile I recommend that you familiarize yourself with mundane scribal errors, which is where the basis for your proposal begins and ends.

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  9. "Composed by diverse Christian writers over the course of more than a century..."- the said writers were not really Christians. They were heretics, not adherents of some imaginary "lost Christianities".

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    1. Hello Orange Hunter - please carefully note my comment above: "One need not give authority to the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, or the Pistis Sophia today to notice that they offer evidence of early objections to Mary’s stature." If we were discussing a parallel topic, I might similarly have said "One need not give authority to the Apocalypse of Peter or the Didache today to notice that they offer evidence of early Christian objections to abortion." In other words, the conversation is not about the authority of the documents in question, it is about the evidence they preserve of early and widespread debates about Mary's authority. Please respect Dr. Wasserman's request that comments stay focused on the argument I have made. Thank you!

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  10. Matthew M. Rose9/01/2019 5:55 pm

    Miss Schrader, you wrote "In my research, I have demonstrated that Martha’s presence is consistently unstable throughout the textual transmission of John."

    From what I can see here, it appears that the truth is to be found in the very opposite of your conclusion on this point. Singular, sub-singular and rarely attested oddities do not prove textual instability, on the contrary, they prove the opposite. The exception, as it were, makes the rule. You have proved the opposite of what you set out for, to put it bluntly. Setting a rare example against the universal testimony of the Greek manuscript tradition is like casting small stones at an impregnable fortress. Is it not?

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    1. Hello Mr. Rose - if you can provide evidence of any other major named Biblical character who drops in and out of basically every verse where they are supposed to appear depending on the manuscript, in any pericope of substance (let's say named at least three times), then you have a reasonable argument. If Martha is present in 96% of the manuscripts and verses where she is supposed to be, but every other NT character is present 99.5-100% of the time, an explanation must be given for the discrepancy. In other words: provide a comparable control study showing that it is a banal phenomenon for major named characters to drop in and out of their pericopes, and you will have proven your point.

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  11. Matthew M. Rose9/01/2019 6:56 pm

    Miss Schrader, what would make you think that the burden of truth concerning an imagination which has come into your mind can be so flippantly set upon my shoulders. What I stated is axiomatic in the eyes of all careful critics. Otherwise why would those engaged in the study of scribal habits gravitate towards such examples? It is because these singular, sub-singular and rarely attested variations are determined to be corruptions by defualt in nearly every case. Thus giving them a solid foundation to build their respective arguments upon. Your thesis and subsequent methodology has put this commonly understood practice upside-down, like a pyramid on it's apex. Meanwhile, it is not the responsibility of your readers to disprove your theories, it is your responsibility to prove them.

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    1. Hello Mr. Rose - I have indeed demonstrated that approximately one in five Greek manuscripts and one in three Vetus Latina manuscripts has a problem around Martha (according to the five criteria outlined above in this blogpost). Perhaps this fact does not bother you? For careful text critics who find this fact troublesome, the conversation continues.

      I also hope you will read my upcoming two blogposts, which address your point about "oddities" in a bit more detail.

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    2. Matthew M. Rose9/01/2019 7:41 pm

      Hello Miss Schrader, none of your data bothers me. In actuality it provides more evidence of conclusions (and observations) that I am well acquainted with. Namely, that scribal error exists in every verse of every chapter within the mss. tradition of the Greek NT (we can be all but sure of this). The more similarities within the text, the more probability of scribal error.

      This said, I hope you do not find my questions and personal conclusions rude or "standoffish". I appreciate collation of data and zealous research as much as the next man or woman.

      -And like I touched on above, your data is not troublesome from my perspective. It is the supposed ramifications of an unprovable thesis and the utter disregard of sound Textual principles and methodology in your subsequent research that is troublesome. I pray your further post change my mind on these points. Looking forward to the Textual evidence and arguments!

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    3. Thank you for this kind reply Mr. Rose. I do hope that my forthcoming posts clarify my position a bit more. I'd also like to acknowledge that we all care deeply about the text of the Gospels and, as New Testament text critics, we are all attempting with our best efforts to help discern the Evangelist's intentions.

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    4. << one in five Greek manuscripts and one in three Vetus Latina manuscripts has a problem around Martha >>

      A close examination of the data will show that this is not really the case unless "Greek manuscripts" is redefines as "the MSS selected for this paper" and "a problem" is uniquely defined so as to include transpositions, interchanges of pronouns, scribal errors which are the obvious effects of carelessness, and loose renderings which are typical of the Old Latin.

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    5. Earlier this year when I began looking at the manuscripts in Duke's collection, the fifth manuscript I looked at had a "Mary" changed to "Martha." In another thread on the New Testament Textual Criticism Facebook group, Azim Mazamov made a list of the ten most Ancient Greek witnesses; two of them (that is, one in five!) had a problem around Martha (P66 and Codex Alexadrinus). When I published my HTR paper, 18% of the Greek manuscripts surveyed had a problem around Martha. That was before I incorporated the dative singular αὐτῆ's in John 11:4 into the data. I have since added about 100 additional Greek witnesses to the data set, and 22% of the manuscripts surveyed had a problem around Martha. You can object to the five criteria for "problems around Martha" listed in this blogpost, but according to those five criteria, 1 in 5 Greek manuscripts is quite a consistent finding.

      You will see that I have also responded to several of your objections in blogpost #2, and they will be further addressed in blogpost #3.

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    6. My apologies - it appears that I misspelled Azim Mamanov's name. This is the correct spelling.

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