Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Luther’s Marginalia on Erasmus’s NT Annotationes


For those interested in such things, the University of Groningen has a very nice digital version of Martin Luther’s personal copy of Erasmus’s Annotationes. Elsewhere, Luther says, “At first it was a good book, although he [Erasmus] is often devious in it.” That gives you a flavor for the marginalia too. The online edition nicely catalogues the marginal comments and gives transcriptions by Arnoud Visser. For helpful context, see Visser’s chapter in the FS for Anthony Grafton.

Luther’s marginal response to Erasmus’s hope that his reader is kind to him: “I am not a kind reader and you are a not a kind writer”

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Hernandez on Chapa’s New Introduction to TC


Over on the FB NTTC group, Juan Hernandez shares his thoughts on the new introduction from Juan Chapa which I have copied here with permission.

Fresh off the press! Juan Chapa’s new book on textual criticism: La Transmisión Textual del Nuevo Testamento: Manuscritos, Variantes y Autoridad. Having read the pre-published version I can tell you that the book is a real treat, especially having such a careful, thorough discussion of textual criticism not simply from the perspective of an experienced papyrologist (editor of several Oxyrhynchus papyri), who is current in today’s text-critical trends, but also from the perspective of a priest from the order of Opus Dei. The discussion of textual authority was particularly fascinating, nuanced, historically grounded, and theologically sophisticated. There was also a good amount of textual criticism on the Latin text toward the end as well. There will be a lot to learn here, and it will have a slightly different tone from the multitude of Protestant voices in the discipline today since Chapa stands squarely in the Catholic tradition. I have included a picture of the book with the table of contents. Even if one doesn’t read Spanish, the contents will be easy to discern.

Here’s the table of contents:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

New Articles and Reviews in TC 25 (2020)


 I am delighted to announce that the delayed second installment of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 25 (2020) has just been published which completes vol. 25, packed with 163 pages of textual criticism. The new installment contains a number of articles in honor of Eldon Epp who turned 90 years old in 2020 and four new reviews. Note also the new section on digital tools.

Here below is all the new contents:

Volume 25 (2020)


Special Section in Honor of Eldon Jay Epp

Jennifer Wright Knust and Tommy Wasserman, “In Honor of Eldon Jay Epp: Nonagenarian and Doyen of New Testament Textual Criticism” (pp. 85–88)

Abstract: The editors Knust and Wasserman introduce five articles in the current volume written in honor of Eldon J. Epp, now a nonagenarian, and at the same time express their own appreciation and personal gratitude for Epp’s tremendous contribution to the field.

Bart D. Ehrman, The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis at Age Forty-Four. In Commemoration of Eldon Epp’s Eightieth Birthday” (pp. 89–95)

Abstract: Not many years after Eldon Epp composed a “Requiem for the Discipline” of New Testament textual criticism in America, the field experienced a birth to new life. Ironically, in many ways Epp himself was the progenitor. His best-known publication The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis in Acts had earlier raised issues now central to the discussions: textual variants as historically significant data rather than mere chaff to be discarded; the importance of “scribal tendencies”; and the fraught question of an “original” text. This essay looks back on Epp’s early achievement and its long-term effect on what is now a vibrant and thriving discipline.

J. Keith Elliott, “Eldon Jay Epp’s Exegesis. A Paper Honoring the Exegetical Work of Eldon Jay Epp” (pp. 97–101)

Abstract: Since the 1960s I have been reading with interest all that Eldon Epp has been publishing on New Testament Textual Criticism. He is clearly the doyen of the trade and his many papers (now carefully gathered together into two separate volumes) have been expertly and professionally reprinted and updated. Those articles, together with his two main books, have provided us with a splendid summary of his work. In this article I offer a brief review of his most important contributions including appreciative comments on what he has done more generally for our discipline.

See also Larry W. Hurtado, “Going for the Bigger Picture: Eldon Epp as Textual Critic” (TC 15 [2010])

Abstract: Eldon Jay Epp, who turned 80 in 2010, has made numerous contributions to NT textual criticism. In this essay, the focus is on his repeated efforts to promote greater efforts toward framing a fully-informed theory and history of the early textual transmission of NT writings. At various points over the last several decades, he has drawn upon his appreciable knowledge of the history of the discipline to criticize the slow pace in these matters. He has also promoted and demonstrated study of the earliest NT papyri as key evidence for any such theory and history of the NT texts. Moreover, he has urged that study of NT papyri be done with attention to the larger Roman-era environment of textual transmission.

Yii-Jan Lin, “The Multivalence of the Ethiopian Eunuch and Acts 8:37” (pp. 103–110)

Abstract: Modern textual critics have concluded that the Christological confession at Acts 8:37 is a later addition to the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is therefore neglected by most contemporary exegetes. As Epp has argued, however, such “discarded snippets” open up new interpretive possibilities, inviting further reflection on the multiplicity of meaning and the changing role of texts in actual human lives. Building on Epp’s insight, this article reclaims Acts 8:37 as a site for the creative use of textual criticism.

An-Ting Yi, Jan Krans, and Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, “A New Descriptive Inventory of Bentley’s Unfinished New Testament Project” (pp. 111–128)

Abstract: One of Eldon J. Epp’s areas of expertise is the scholarly history of New Testament textual criticism. He offers an excellent overview of its different stages, including Bentley’s unfinished New Testament project. Yet, many aspects can be refined by studying the materials left by Bentley, preserved at Wren Library of Trinity College (TCL), Cambridge. This contribution offers an up-to-date descriptive inventory of all the remaining archive entries, containing bibliographical information, precise descriptions, relevant secondary literature, and parts of the reception history.

Section on Digital Tools

Sarah Yardney, Miller Prosser, and Sandra R. Schloen, “Digital Tools for Paleography in the OCHRE Database Platform” (pp. 129–143)
Tuukka Kauhanen and Hannu Kalavainen, “Automated Semantic Tagging of the Göttingen Septuagint Apparatus” (pp. 145–147)



Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, ed., Biblical Women and the Arts (Michael Sommer, reviewer) (pp. 149–151)
Alan Taylor Farnes, Simply Come Copying: Direct Copies as Test Cases in the Quest for Scribal Habits (Zachary Skarka, reviewer) (pp. 153–156)
AnneMarie Luijendijk and William E. Klingshirn, eds., My Lots Are in Thy Hands: Sortilege and Its Practitioners in Late Antiquity (Anna Oracz, reviewer) (pp. 157–159)
Paul Trebilco, Outsider Designations and Boundary Construction in the New Testament (Michael Sommer, reviewer) (pp. 161–163)

Friday, February 12, 2021

Best board imaginable!?


Ravi fell, but he had help.

“It is with deep gratitude to God, joined by the best board anyone can imagine and affirmed by the rest of our senior leadership, that these two appointments have been made.”

These are Ravi Zacharias’s words as he celebrates the appointment of two executives of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, namely his daughter Sarah Zacharias Davis as CEO and Michael Ramsden, a Christian apologist as president. Ravi Zacharias remained as the chairman of the board. It’s difficult to say who’s currently on the board, because I can’t find an annual report on the website and RZIM seems to have used a religious exemption to avoid filing a public 990 for several years. The 2014 statement has Ravi and his wife earning a total of $523,926 ($190,565 + 174,750 & 143,690 + 14,921). His daughter, Sarah Davis earned $208,995 plus $7,042 in other compensation. Naomi Zacharias, who oversaw poverty relief internationally, was subsisting on $129,679. 

If you serve on the board of a non-profit, you are responsible for oversight. When the poop hits the fan, it’s your fault. Why was the fan there? Why is poop being flung around the room? It is your fault; you should have been asking these questions! Family members of executive staff should not occupy a board seat. Contractors or employees of other organizations should never have a board seat or an executive position. Rarely do academics or public speakers possess any gifting with management or strategic planning. No matter how much prestige their name may carry, they should not manage or lead unless they have demonstrated ability.

Every board should review and publish an annual report and is responsible for setting the executive salary through its own research or consultants. Likewise, the board should ensure that compliance officers (HR and finance) have reporting mechanisms to catch ethical and legal violations when they are small.  In other words, the board should be interacting discretely with these staff to address problems.  A ministry the size of RZIM should undergo an external audit annually and should have published this audit on or its own website. Problems are normal; cover-up allows gangrene to spread. 

From the 2014 990, the RZIM board seems to have had about twenty members, including Ravi, Ravi’s wife and his daughter. That’s too big and the lack of a board-approved annual report causes one to wonder whether any of the members of the board had assigned annual responsibilities. The founder and/or CEO can never be the chairman of the board, unless s/he owns the company. If the president/CEO is also chairman of the board, you have no oversight. Zero. 


Centrality of Christ. Christian charities should be based on a gospel mission which itself focuses on Jesus Christ. Naming a charity after yourself is unacceptable. Serving as chairman of your own oversight committee reflects nothing more than narcissism. Put Christ at the center. "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2)

Compliance and transparency. Compliance means knowing and following the legal and ethics mandates of your business. Transparency is speaking truth, telling people what they need to hear when or before they need to hear it. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4.) 

Accountability. Things will go wrong, because even the best people are selfish and depraved. Will your organization nip it in the bud or let the cancer spread? Recognize that the easiest way to solve a problem is to deny its existence. Acknowledge, however, that the easy solution is a lie. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Prov 12:1) 

Greed. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim 6:10) 

Victims. RZIM must be shut down and its assets designated toward the victims. Ravi’s family can’t earn money from his name and the employees need to move on. The board members as well as Ravi’s family are people of integrity who fell short on compliance, but the current organization’s continued existence under any name will only continue Ravi’s now-inexcusable legacy. The “Executrix” should release all parties from the Non-Disclosure Agreements and likewise release the documents related to the earlier investigation of RZ which found him innocent. “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (1 Tim 5:20) 


This blog post responds to the Evangelical readers will have watched this scandal unfold through our niche media and may not realize that former-evangelical, now atheist skeptic, Steve Baugman played a central early role in building support for the victims. In other words, RZIM affiliated lawyers seem to have quashed the story and Christian media outlets pursued it with reticence. Baugman’s original discoveries entailed Zacharias’s extensive lies about academic credentials. Baugman himself was not shocked by the evangelical inability to hold its own accountable, saying, “This is exactly what my atheist worldview would have predicted.” 

RZIM has released a twelve-page commissioned report, which largely relies on interviews with women and some of Ravi’s cell phones. While most of the 200 images of women on his phone were clothed selfies, he requested nude images from at least two women and received nude images from at least one woman.  According to the report, another woman who purportedly sent nude images later requested “$5 million in exchange for a release of claims against him and the ministry.” Christian leaders would do well to consider the following summary paragraph:

[Ravi Zacharias] further claimed, “In my 45 years of marriage to Margie, I have never engaged in any inappropriate behavior of any kind.” Much of the inappropriate massage therapy behavior discussed above occurred prior to the Thompson matter, and Mr. Zacharias’s lengthy text and email communication with the massage therapist from Bangkok whose culinary schooling he arranged for through RZIM and whom he called the “love of his life” occurred in 2014. His claim that he had long made it his practice “not to be alone with a woman other than Margie and our daughters” was similarly false. As reported above, Mr. Zacharias’s inappropriate conduct often occurred when he was alone with massage therapists. Because his need for massage treatments was well known and accepted, he was able to hide his misconduct in plain sight. He further stated that, after reflection, he learned that the “physical safeguards” he had “long practiced to protect my integrity should have extended to include digital communications safeguards.” As the architect of those “physical safeguards,” Mr. Zacharias well knew how to elude them.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Predicting Scribal Glosses in Acts 17.26


I recently bought a new book on the Bible in the American Civil War. Among other things, the author does some great work detailing the most quoted Bible verses in sermons, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and the like in both North and South. 

The most quoted verse by the North was Acts 17.26: “And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” The first half of v. 26 was regularly used to attack slavery by Northern pastors and writers. Ironically (and sadly), the second half was later used to defend segregation

The reception of this verse, however, isn’t my interest here. Rather, it’s the variant. The problem is that our earliest witnesses do not have the word “blood” (αιματος). The two main readings, from the ECM, are:

  1. εποιησεν τε εξ ενος    P74V. 01. 02. 03. 33. 35*. 81. 181. 323. 629. 630. 1739. 1875. 1891. 2200. 2718. L1178. Clem. CosmIn. L:V. 54. 58. 189.
  2. εποιησεν τε εξ ενος αιματος    (05). (08). 014. 020. 025. 049. 0142. 1. 5. 18. 35C. 43. 61. 88. 93. 94. 103. 104. 180. 206. 254. 307. 319. 321. 326. 330. 365. 378. 383. 398. 424. 429. 431. 436. 441. 453. 459. 467. 468. 522. 607. 610. 614. 617. 621. 623. 636. 642. 665. 808. 876. 915. 945. 1127. 1241. 1243. 1251. 1292. 1359. 1448. 1490. 1501. 1505. 1509. 1563. 1609. 1611. 1642. 1678. 1704. 1718. 1729. 1735. 1751. 1827. 1831. 1832. 1837. 1838. 1842. 1852. 1874. 1890. 2138. 2147. 2243. 2298. 2344. 2374. 2412. 2495. 2652. 2774. 2805. 2818. L23. L60. L156. L587. L809. L1825. L2010. Chrys. IrLat. NilAnc(V). Thdrt. L:51. 61.
In his textual commentary, Metzger concedes that the shorter reading could easily be explained by accidental omission aided by the repetition of -ος. But the committee finally settled on the shorter reading on the strength of the external evidence. In his discussion, Metzger also notes what a factor that deserves more weight when he writes, “Likewise, there is some force in the consideration that αἵματος is not a very natural gloss on ἑνός—for that one would have expected ἀνθρώπου or something similar.”

This is indeed what we find scribes doing in John 18.39 where 1820, 2129, 2786, 1819 have δεσμιον after ενα (per Morrill’s apparatus). Also worth considering is that in John 11.50, 18.14 the original text has a form of ἄνθρωπος with the adjective (and we find the same in Rom 5.12, 15, 19). The only biblical texts I know that even have εἷς and αἷμα in the same verse are Lev 7.14, Ps 13.3, and 1 Jn 5.8 and in none of these are they grammatically related. All this adds weight to Metzger’s observation that αἵματος is not the obvious gloss here.

In the end, it’s a tough call and I still lean toward the shorter reading. But I might give it a C rating rather than the UBS’s B.

I’d love to hear what our readers might think.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Grinfield Lectures on the Septuagint

The famous and learned James K. Aitken, Reader in Hebrew and Early Jewish Studies in the University of Cambridge, is presenting this year’s Grinfield Lectures on the Septuagint and the History of the Book (in the University of Oxford):

The Material World of the Septuagint (2020–2021)

The schedule is as follows, and are open to anyone interested (sign up by clicking on the embedded zoom link):

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

New Spanish Intro to NTTC by Juan Chapa

I have just learnt that my friend and colleague Juan Chapa Prado, professor of New Testament at the Facultad de Teología (Universidad de Navarra) and one of the editors of The Oxyrrhynchus Papyri has just published a new introduction to New Testament textual criticism in Spanish: La transmisión textual del Nuevo Testamento Manuscritos, variantes y autoridad, Biblioteca de Estudios Bíblicos, 163 (Salamanca: Ediciones Sigueme, 2021).

Since Chapa is a skilled papyrologist, there is excellent coverage of the material aspects and the earliest manuscripts on papyrus. Apart from the traditional topics in introductions to the field, Chapa discusses concepts like "initial text," "living text," "narrative textual criticism," canon, authority of scripture, regula fidei, the relationship to oral tradition and many other interesting topics.

Table of contents and introduction is available here.