Thursday, April 30, 2020

Some Light COVID-19 Reading from Wuppertal

Few texts are more pertinent during a time when paracetamol, hand sanitisers, toilet paper, pasta, and yeast are hopelessly sold out (perhaps never to be seen again on this side of eternity) than the Apocalypse of John.

In this vein, I'd like to bring to everyone's attention a recently published collection of essays Studien zum Text der Apokalypse III (ANTF 51), edited by Marcus Sigismund and Darius Müller, in collaboration with Matthias Geigenfeind. This is the third instalment in a series of studies primarily by internal and external collaborators on the ECM Revelation project housed at the Institut für Septuaginta- und biblische Textforschung at Kirchliche Hochschule Wupperal. In keeping with the previous two volumes, the vol. 3 too is broad in scope and might have just something to lighten up your pandemic-laden days.

Here's the TOC:

Aus der laufenden Arbeit an der ECM der Apokalypse, by Marcus Sigismund

Kollation und Auswertung neu zugänglicher Minuskeln der Apokalypse, by Markus Lembke and Darius Müller

Apk-Zitate bei Gregorios Palamas, by Marcus Sigismund

Form und Funktion der Apk-Zitate bei Theodoros Studites, by Marcus Sigismund

Die Vetus Latina Apocalypsis Iohannis, by Matthias Geigenfeind

The Earliest Attainable Text of Ethiopic Revelation, by Curt Niccum

Die georgische Überlieferung der Johannesapokalypse, by Nino Sakvarelidze

Ein früher Textzeuge der arabischen Johannesoffenbarung, by Martin Heide

Ein Apk-Zitat des Hypatios von Ephesos, by Marcus Sigismund

Marginalglossen in GA 2323: Edition und Übersetzung, by Peter Malik and Edmund Gerke

The last essay is, as you may have noticed, co-authored by yours truly, and presents the first fruits of my continuous work on this tradition of scholia. On this particular occasion,  I was happy to team up with Edmund Gerke who concocted a German translation of the scholia and rigorously checked each gloss.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Text critics who are cat people

I figure we could all use a bit of lighthearted fun during these difficult times, so I give you: textual scholars and manuscript specialists with cats!

Image credit: co-blogger Amy Anderson (used with permission)

Obviously, I would love to include myself in the following list, but since my current landlord doesn’t allow pets, I’m limited to hoping the neighbor’s friendly cat stops by when she’s out prowling the neighborhood, or stopping to pet any cats I find on the street while I’m out running errands. Anyway, some of the rest of us are in alphabetical order.

Amy Anderson
Amy writing a book review. Image credit: Amy Anderson (used with permission).
Christian Askeland
Christian, with his daughter’s cat, “Mouse,” who, I’m told “would kill and eat her human slaves under the right circumstances,” but nevertheless is “super soft and hilarious.” Image credit: Christian Askeland (used with permission).
Josephine Dru
“Easter cat.” Image and caption credits: Josephine Dru (used with permission).
We met on Resurrection Sunday. She was a stray trying to join my friends’ kids in their backyard egg hunt.
[L] This photo may look slightly blasphemous, but please note: 1. my hand is in the human’s spot, and 2. I still consider Bella my second best Easter gift ever.
[R] She insisted on helping. Her contributions were brief but bilingual. Fitting for her middle name (Natanya).
Peter Gurry
Pete getting some help in a YouTube debate.
Dan Gurtner
Gus Gus working on P.Oxy. 403. Image credit: Dan Gurtner (used with permission).
Rendel Harris (1852–1941)
According to this recent biography by Alessandro Falcetta. See Harris and his cat Zenon here.
Hugh A.G. Houghton
Dorcas and Barnabas, before they began work on the ECM. Image credit: Hugh Houghton (used with permission).
Larry Hurtado (1943–2019)
On his cat, Cupar, see the preface to Hurtado’s book, Earliest Christian Artifacts.
David Parker
Source: the possibly-now-defunct “Cats Who Edit” page (HT: Hugh Houghton), thankfully still available here via the Wayback Machine because nothing on the internet ever truly goes away.
Elizabeth Schrader
Elizabeth hard at work. Image credit: Elizabeth Schrader (used with permission).
James Snapp
James (here with Elway) blogs at Image credit: James Snapp (used with permission).
Klaus Wachtel
Source: “Cats Who Edit“ (see caption above under David Parker’s picture).
Nigel Wilson
Image credit: Wilson’s faculty page at the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford. Who knew that the legendary palaeographer is a cat person? This is a new life goal for me right here—to make it to a point in my life where I can have a faculty/staff page with a photo like this one.
Mae Gilliland Wright
With Hermione the “office cat” who likes to eat important documents. Thankfully, Mae’s excellently organized thesis on Clement of Alexandria’s text of Paul remains uneaten and available here. Image credit: Mae Gilliland Wright (used with permission).

Honorable mentions:

Whoever runs this Twitter account.

The anonymous monk of Reichenau monastery who wrote (or perhaps copied) the 9th-century poem in Old Irish, Pangur Bán, about ‘hunting words’ while his cat, Pangur Bán, was hunting for mice.

Whoever made and/or owned these manuscripts.

The University of Michigan’s Karanis excavation teams in the 1920s and 1930s, who had dogs and also two cats named Topsy and Sipsy. See Terry G. Wilfong, “Dig Dogs and Camp Cats at Karanis: The Animals of the 1924–1935 University of Michigan Expedition to Egypt“, in Beyond Hatti: A Tribute to Gary Beckman, ed. Collins/Michalowski (Atlanta, Lockwood Press, 2013), pp. 325–341.

UPDATE: I have updated the post to add Dan Gurtner.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Wycliffe Hall New Testament Research Group


Wycliffe Hall New Testament Research Group

Our  NT Research Group has gone online and we are hosting the following seminars this term. The first two are based on recently completed PhD theses; the last two are more ‘work in progress’. Some of these will probably be of interest to readers of this blog (if time-zones allow of course): 

9:00 – 10:00AM (British Summer Time) on Wednesdays online (email the convener for an invitation)

Week 1 (Wed 29 April): Dr Simeon Burke (Research Development Advisor [Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences] at the University of Cambridge), From Sayings to Texts: The Literary Contextualisation of Jesus’s Words in the Writings of Tertullian of Carthage and Origen of Alexandria

Week 3 (Wed 13 May): Michael Dormandy (Lecturer in New Testament, Ripon College Cuddesdon), All in One: Textual Characteristics of the Early Whole-Bible Manuscripts

Week 5 (Wed 27 May): Jacob Rodriguez (Oxford DPhil Student): Evidence for the Use of Mark’s Gospel in Early Christian Catechesis (PSI 1041 Reconsidered)

Week 7 (Wed 10 June): Ruth Norris (Cambridge PhD Student): Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15, and the Significance of Matthew’s Grammar

All welcome
Convener: Peter M. Head (

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Goal(s) of New Testament Textual Criticism

Recently, my co-blogger Peter Gurry participated in a conversation on the topic of how Christians should approach textual criticism and textual variation in manuscripts in a podcast hosted by Josh Gibbs (here and here).

In the wake of the debate between the participants, Jeff Riddle, a reformed baptist pastor in Virginia and proponent of the Textus Receptus, appeals on his blog (here) to my recent book (with Jennifer Knust) To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story (Princeton, 2019) as proof of David C. Parker’s great influence on the discipline in recent years, and more particular, “the postmodern shift that has taken place in contemporary text criticism and the abandonment of any certainty with respect to the reconstruction of the autograph.”

It is true that the focus of our book is not on the initial text of the pericope adulterae (to reconstruct the text of this story), although we do touch on that matter. Neither is the focus on the initial text of John, although we make very clear our opinion that the pericope adulterae is not a part of the initial text of John and why, where and how we think it entered John at a later stage. The authenticity of the pericope adulterae, on the other hand, was the focus of a symposium at SEBTS a few years ago, where I actually met Jeff Riddle in the audience (conference volume here).

In To Cast the First Stone, however, we are interested in how the pericope adulterae traveled in the history of transmission as we explain in the first chapter:
Our interpretation therefore begins not with the search for an original or initial text but with the available textual objects, each of which tells its own story, and with the readings of these distinctive objects by the communities that produced and interpreted them. (p. 46)
The point I would like to clarify in this blogpost – which I also had to clarify in the review session of the book at the SBL in Denver 2018 in conversation with Bart Ehrman – was that I think it is a big mistake to think that one perspective, or goal of textual criticism must exclude the other. For me it is not an “either-or” but rather it is a “both-and.” I am interested in both the initial text and the whole history of the text. I pointed out that my other recent book, the introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, co-written with Peter Gurry in 2017, is very focused on the initial text, as we explain the new method used for the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior (and in extension future Nestle-Aland editions) to reconstruct the critical text of the Greek New Testament.

I have had to repeat this point over and over again, because there are clearly scholars who are “either-or”-oriented on both sides and want to play out their perspective against the other. There are those who stick to their reconstructed or received text and pay less attention to textual variants (they are of binary character, to use Eldon Epp’s language, either in or out), and, conversely, there are scholars disinterested in the classic goal of textual criticism – to reconstruct an initial (or original) text – and this is true for textual criticism in general. With a renewed focus on material culture, ancient media studies, New Philology and Digital Humanities we have seen a resurgence of interest in manuscripts (texts and paratexts), scribes and textual variants (as “windows”into the social history of Christianity), etc., but I would like to see this as a broadening of the field where different perspectives can be mutually fruitful.

I am now delighted to see that the current issue of Early Christianity is devoted to “New Testament Textual Criticism: The State of the Question.” In the opening article, “New Testament Textual Criticism in 2020: A (Selective) Survey of the Status Questionis,” nestor and co-blogger Michael W. Holmes, describes the field, incidentally by focusing on two recent publications, the Editio Critica Maior of Acts and To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story.

I want to conclude this blogpost by citing from Holmes’ fourth section, a discussion of the scope or goal(s) of New Testament textual criticism, where he eloquently expresses what I am trying to convey:
The “debate” about whether New Testament textual criticism has a single goal or multiple goals – in effect, a conversation between those who tend to lose interest in variants once they prove to be secondary, and those who view the “afterlives” of (at least some) secondary readings as a worthy topic of research – is unlikely to reach a definitive conclusion, largely because it involves a matter of opinion rather than fact. Furthermore, the conversation goes astray to the extent that it frames the debate as an “either-or” question. To be sure, determining the form of the earliest text(s) to which we have access will usually carry some degree of diachronic or logical priority in that it provides a point of reference from which to discern and assess later developments in the history of the text. At the same time, the study of the variant forms of texts that influenced and shaped the individuals and communities that read and valued these texts is no less worthy of investigation; indeed, as Knust and Wasserman demonstrate, sometimes the variant forms had far more impact than the earlier form(s). That the study of the variant forms may at some point seem more wirkungsgeschichtlich than text-critical does not change the fact that both creation and reception are important aspects of the life of a text, and equally worthy of study. The decision to focus on one, the other, or both is a matter of personal preference: those who wish to focus on a single goal, per the tradition, are free to do so, as are those who prefer to define the matter more broadly. (p. 13–14)

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Use of Scripture’s Self-Authentication to Solve Variants

On this 40th (?) day of quarantine, I find myself wondering if there are writers in the Reformed tradition who use the doctrine  of Scripture’s self-authentication to decide between textual variants. Anyone know of clear examples?

For some background on the issue, see here.

A picture I found on Google

Thursday, April 16, 2020

From the Guardian: ‘Oxford professor arrested on suspicion of ancient papyrus theft’

The Guardian just ran a story today about the ongoing circumstances with regard to Oxyrhynchus papyri that ended up missing and/or in private collections, “Oxford professor arrested on suspicion of ancient papyrus theft.” According to the article, Dirk Obbink was arrested “on suspicion of theft and fraud” last month but “has been released while inquiries continue.” I am reluctant to say any more than that. See the linked article for more details.

See also the post by Brent Nongbri that references another article on it.

Friday, April 10, 2020

“He will see light” in Isaiah 53:11

Over on Southern Equip today, I published a piece on Easter and textual criticism by commenting on a few of the crucial textual variants within Isaiah 53. I hope the post introduces more folks to some of the issues that have been long recognized, even if some of our translations are slow to incorporate them.

Isaiah 53:11 contains a significant problem in the text. I provide the main witnesses and some additional commentary on the reading in Ziegler’s II App containing the readings of the Three.

The Key Witnesses to “He will see light” in Isaiah 53:11

יראה אור וישבע “He will see light and be satisfied”

1QIsaa (four lines up; image from Digital Dead Sea Scrolls)
יראה אור י[שבע “He will see light, he will [be satisfied]”

יראה או[ר ] ושבע “He will see lig[ht] and be satisfied”

4QIsad (2nd line from top; image from Leon Levy Library)
δεῖξαι αὐτῷ φῶς “to show him light”

In each witness, “light” is the direct object of the verb “to see.” This is a fairly common idiom, even in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 9:2). G probably read the same Hebrew consonantal text but as a causative instead of the simple transitive.

The Key Witnesses to Isaiah 53:11 “He will see”

MT (= Vulgate, Peshitta, Targum?)
יִרְאֶה יִשְׂבָּע “He will see, he will be satisfied”

ὄψεται ἐμπλησθήσεται “He will see, he will be filled”

ὄψεται ἐμπλησθήσεται “He will see, he will be filled”

ὄψεται χορτασθήσεται “He will see, he will be filled

The readings of ‘the Three’ are found in Ra 86 and Q as the Edition makes plain below. But I want to comment here on a peculiarity in the Edition and an uncharacteristic infelicity in the second apparatus. Below at v. 11, Ziegler broke up the marginal note in Ra 86 (pictured below) across two separate readings, giving the impression that there were two separate fragments in the margin of the manuscript: (1) ὄψεται and (2) ἐμπλησθήσεται ἐν τῇ γνώσει αὐτοῦ. The obvious problem here is that the reader cannot tell whether the Three had the crucial word φῶς or not. One must actually consult the MS, which is easier now than ever, to see that there is one continuous fragment for the Three which omits φῶς, and therefore, the Three agree with MT. In fact, the Three are the earliest witnesses to the shorter text.

Ziegler’s Göttingen Isaias

Ra 86 (Barb. 549, f. 112v; image from Digivatlib)
Our reading is the top note in the margin with an index to δεῖξαι in the bible text. Clearly, the scribe copied one continuous note for the Three, and we do not have to wonder whether the Three had the longer or shorter reading. In the new critical edition of the Hexaplaric fragments, the one continuous reading of Ra 86 will be supplied so that future researchers will be able to access the correct reading more easily.

Thus, the main witnesses to the proto-Masoretic Text all attest the shorter text, the text without “light.”


A couple of factors probably decide in favor of the longer reading, “he will see light.” First and most significantly, different Qumran texts and G agree. All agree that 1QIsab is a very good representative of proto-MT and it has the longer text against MT. That 1QIsaa (a text not as close to proto-MT), 4QIsad, and G agree with 1QIsab probably shows the independence of the longer reading across witnesses. Second, it’s probable that אור was omitted because אור looks similar to the אה, and thus homoioteleuton accounts for an accidental omission of אור just before the time of the Jewish revisers.

I’m happy to see that many English translations have already adopted this reading (e.g. NIV CSB). I wonder what it would take for them all to adopt it.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Hernández: 2020 Alexander Thompson Memorial Lecture

Before the coronavirus madness, Juan Hernández Jr. delivered this year’s Rev. Alexander Thompson Memorial Lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary. The lecture is titled “Recovering Revelation’s Forgotten Textual History: Josef Schmid’s Magnum Opus for the Twenty-First Century.” If you’ve already finished Tiger King, you now have something to watch.

Juan also sent this photo and says, “Also, with B.B. Warfield above my left shoulder and a sneering Josef Schmid directly to my right, I had to walk a fine line in talking about the value of historical perspective in the textual criticism of the book of Revelation!”

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Another Revision of the NASB

Over the last few years, I noted that the NASB, last updated in 1995, is currently undergoing a major revision (see here and here). Today, a video came out from Pastor John MacArthur that faculty at his university and seminary have been working on yet another revision of their own.

It will be called the Legacy Standard Bible. MacArthur describes it as “the expositor’s dream Bible” and says it is bound to be the “most accurate and most consistent translation in English.” So, they are aiming for the fences.

The only changes he mentions in the video are the use of “Yahweh” for the divine name (יְהוָה) and “slave” for doulos (δοῦλος). You may remember that the original HCSB also used Yahweh, but then reversed course in the CSB. As for doulos, MacArthur has previously emphasized why he thinks this is so important (see his book on the subject). MacArthur and his church and schools are well known around the world for their emphasis on the importance of doctrine, which include being cessationist, dispensational, inerrantist, and complementarian. It will be worth seeing if these are reflected in any particular ways in the translation. (My hunch is that most of the original NASB committee shared these views as well.)

The revision committee named in the video includes Abner Chou, William Varner, Jason Beals, Iosif Zhakevich, Mark Zhakevich, and Paul Twiss. New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs is set to be out by next March. He does not mention who will publish it but it is licensed from the Lockman Foundation which owns the rights to the NASB. You can watch the announcement in this video starting around 7:20.

My main reaction to this news is: why is this needed? Are the changes really enough to justify an entirely new translation? In any case, I will be most interested to see what they do text critically in the New Testament, especially with Varner on the committee. This may be one of the first NT translations in a long time to have three different critical editions of the Greek New Testament to work from.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Text & Canon Institute’s Fellowship Application Open

Co-blogger, Peter Gurry, and I want to invite serious MDiv grads who intend to pursue a PhD in the areas of Textual Criticism (Old or New) or Canon Studies to consider applying to Phoenix Seminary’s Master of Theology in Biblical Studies and especially the Text & Canon Institute’s Fellowship scholarship. Fellows receive a scholarship for up to $10,000 towards their degree and work alongside the directors in implementing the vision and mission of the TCI.

Peter and I had the wonderful opportunity to mentor our first fellow, Clark Bates, this past year. In addition to completing ThM coursework and helping with Scribes & Scripture events and our inaugural church conference Sacred Words, Clark has been working on a ThM thesis entitled, “Συρμεογραφεῖν Ὠκύτης: An Historical and Paleographical Analysis of the Origin and Advancement of the Greek Minuscule Hand.” Hopefully, we will have more to say about his thesis and his future plans in the coming weeks.

Clark has also provided some kind comments on the ThM program at Phoenix Seminary and the TCI, which I leave here.
As I now look toward my PhD program, I am able to reflect on this year and recognize that were it not for the TCI, Phoenix Seminary’s ThM program, and especially Drs. Meade and Gurry, I would not be as prepared as I am today. I am able to make a contribution to the field of biblical studies. I have the knowledge necessary to engage the conversation, the necessary research skills, the language skills to engage international scholarship, and the confidence to promote my research. I cannot recommend Phoenix Seminary, and especially the Text & Canon Institute, more highly. I hope always to be connected with their work and to spread the word of its mission everywhere I go. Anyone desiring to work in the fields of Old or New Testament Textual Criticism and/or the reception history of the Bible, should absolutely consider the TCI for their future endeavors.