Friday, January 15, 2021

A claim that Jesus was a woman(!) and other things I’ve read about recently


Now that I’ve got your attention with my shamelessly clickbaity title, I mention below some observations from my recent reading. But the titular claim is not the only thing I could have used as clickbait! Below are discussions on a manuscript that contains the Comma Johanneum, facsimiles of the Chester Beatty papyri, and even a romance novel inspired by a manuscript!

1. Andrew J. Brown on Codex 61

Part of my job at CSNTM has been purchasing books for our physical library. One group of books that I have been eager to acquire is the four volumes of Andrew J. Brown’s edition of Erasmus’ text in the Amsterdam series, Opera Omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami (ASD VI-1 through ASD VI-4). ASD VI-1 has not been published yet, but I was especially excited to get ASD VI-4 for CSNTM. This volume covers Erasmus’ editions of 1 Timothy–Hebrew, the Catholic Epistles, and Revelation. Brown’s editions are really remarkable. Take ASD VI-4, for example: Opening the 698-page book at random, you’ll see on average about 1/4 of the two-page opening given to Erasmus’ Greek and Latin texts and 3/4 to Brown’s notes. These notes cover textual variations among Erasmus’s editions, textual variants in the manuscripts he would have had access to and even Brown’s own text-critical observations. I even updated my post about textual commentaries to include Brown’s editions there.

In ASD VI-4, Brown includes an 82-page excursus on Codex 61. Thorough doesn’t seem even to begin to describe it. Brown seems to leave no stone unturned, covering the history of 61, its previous owners, Erasmus’ use of it, etc. Brown even gets into the most likely exemplars used for different parts of the manuscript. He suggests that in the Catholic Epistles, 61 was copied from 326 but displays a noticeable tendency to break from 326 in a way that conforms the Greek text to readings in the Vulgate. Brown does allow the possibility that it was copied from a lost sibling of 326, but adds “such a line of argument could be adopted by someone who wished to exculpate the scribe of codex 61 from the charge of re-translating parts of his text from the Latin Vulgate. However, the attribution of such passages to the work of another unidentifiable scribe would not help to circumvent the strong evidence that such readings ultimately had a Vulgate origin” (p. 71).

Brown’s article (citation below) really is a remarkable piece of work. It is a must-read for anyone who is writing on Codex Montfortianus (61), Erasmus’ use of it, or the Comma Johanneum in general. Any article or work on the subject written since its publication really is incomplete if it doesn’t take Brown’s work into account. Although it is not published in the most easily accessible of places, such is the nature of good, thorough scholarship—you find a way to read the must-reads. Arrange a visit to CSNTM to read it in our copy if you need to, but by all means, tolle lege.

Brown, A. J. “Codex 61 (Montfortianus) and 1 John 5,7–8.” In Novum Testamentum ab Erasmo recognitum, IV, Epistolae Apostolicae (secunda pars) et Apocalypsis Iohannis, edited by A. J. Brown, 30–111. ASD VI-4. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

2. Chester Beatty Papyri facsimiles and P45, f. 8

The facsimiles of the Chester Beatty Papyri (P45, P46, P47) have been out for a few weeks now, and if you order from CSNTM, you can get a signed copy. The price is steep, but if my copy is representative of all of them (and I think it is), the $299 price buys two copies of the same book—one with images over a white background, and one with images over a black one. The introductory material (and even editors’ signatures, I believe) is identical in both volumes. As long as it was agreed upon beforehand who will take the black background version and who would take the white one, two people could go in together and split the cost, and both would have a facsimile edition of these three papyri.

Anyway, the reason for including these facsimiles in the post was to draw attention to Stratton Ladewig’s edition of the additional fragments from folio 8 of P45, which is printed in both volumes of the facsimiles as part of the introductory material. Ladewig’s transcription includes fragments of about 5 lines on both sides of f. 8 that are not in the INTF transcription, nor in Comfort/Barrett’s 3rd edition (I did not check the first two), nor in the addendum in Kenyon’s editio princeps. Ladewig’s edition concludes with what I assume is a photo-editing job that places these fragments together digitally, much like this facsimile of P66  adds the Chester Beatty fragment to the rest of pp. 139–140 of P66. Ladewig has blogged a little about digitally reuniting fragments here.

3. Per Beskow, Strange Tales about Jesus

I’ve been casually reading about forgeries for the past year or so. In doing so, I recently came across a reference to Per Beskow’s 1983 Fortress Press book, Strange Tales about Jesus (a translation of Beskow's 1979 Swedish work, Fynd och fusk i Bibelns värld). According to Birger Pearson, Beskow claimed that the Secret Gospel of Mark was a modern-day forgery. That in itself is not a surprise (see Stephen C. Carlson’s book The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark for a case for the same conclusion made more recently). What did surprise me, however, was Pearson’s remark that Morton Smith threatened to sue Fortress Press for $1 million on account of the “malicious libel” he claimed was in Beskow’s chapter that covered Secret Mark). According to Pearson (p. 7) Fortress Press caved: “I should add that Fortress published a “sanitized” version of the book in 1985, in which passages to which Smith had objected were removed.”

Naturally I went immediately to the internet to try to find a copy of the 1983 edition. I did, and I’ve been casually reading it, a few minutes here and a few minutes there. So far it’s a very easy and thoroughly enjoyable read. Most of what I have read so far has been about forgeries, and on p. 5, I came across this little surprise:

I admit that I have made no effort to identify the journalist or the announcement, but I welcome any illuminating information in the comments. Was there an actual forged text? Was there no text, and the announcement itself the whole joke? What other practical jokes had this journalist made to gain such a reputation?

4. TC/Manuscripts in the recent issue of NovT

The latest issue of NovT has a few articles and reviews of interest, not all of which I have read yet:

  • Shaily Shashikant Patel, “Marcionism and Luke 3:22: An ‘Orthodox Corruption’ Reconsidered”
  • Garrett Best, “The Aural Impact of Solecisms in Revelation”. I haven’t read this one, but I met Garrett a year or two ago at Tyndale House. This article seems like it could be very interesting because so many of the solecisms in Revelation are subject to textual variation, especially in the different strands of the Byzantine text, which often clean up the grammar.
  • Dieter T. Roth, “Raising the Bar: An Overlooked Element for Identifying a Staurogram within Nomina Sacra
  • J.K. Elliott also reviews a number of books relevant for TC/manuscript studies. You can imagine the shock that went through me when I read the line “Two titles bearing Hixson’s name on the covers are reviewed together”. Not only does Elliott review my published thesis, Scribal Habits in Sixth-Century Greek Purple Codices, he also reviews the volume I edited with co-blogger Peter Gurry, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. Thank you, Prof. Elliott for your reviews!

5. An Italian romance novel inspired by Codex Rossanensis (Σ042)

I still try to keep up with the purple manuscripts, and I was surprised to see this one. At some point, I think I'd like to write a whole post just on some of the more unusual places Codex Rossanensis (Σ042) has turned up. In my Brill monograph, I mentioned a sculpture in a roundabout, but now we have a romance novel!

Here is an excerpt from the Amazon plot summary of La carezza by Elena Loewenthal. I'll let readers use their own knowledge of Italian or their preferred translation app/service:

Lea è una ricercatrice universitaria di paleografia, moglie di un uomo distratto e madre di un bambino piccolo e due gemelli adolescenti insofferenti; Pietro un professore di filologia affascinante e riservato, sposato a sua volta. Si incontrano a un convegno in Calabria dedicato al Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, un antico manoscritto bizantino, e subito tra loro scatta una fortissima attrazione che li porta a passare una travolgente notte di passione.

6. A Review of Craig Evans’ Jesus and the Manuscripts

Jim West has posted on his blog a very pro-textual criticism review of Craig Evans’ new book on manuscripts. West and I met briefly a couple of months ago at the annual meeting of the same small, rural local association of churches in which we are both pastors. He blogs several times a day, so I am happy to have made it online at just the right time to catch his review before my feed showed something more recent.


  1. You could always subscribe and get emails when posts appear. ;-)

  2. Thanks, Elijah, for this round up! It's much appreciated by guys like me, whose dayjobs don't allow them to follow all the news themselves.

    Also, if my Google translate is right, I might have to order that book just to see what kind of "night of over-whelming passion" comes from a Byzantine manuscript!

  3. Your "hesitance to English" the racy novel overview reminds me of the first time I read a hard copy (the only kind they had in 1997) of the Ante-Nice Fathers. One whole section, perhaps Barnabas X, was left untranslated from Latin to avoid defrauding young scholars. Must have been very young, as they taught Latin in the elementary grades when those were first published.

  4. Per Beskow in “Modern Mystifications of Jesus,” ch. 28 in The Blackwell Companion to Jesus (2011) 458-71 did not further mention the “Swedish journalist,” but imo the article is worth reading.