Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Journal Issue on Biblical Authority and Textual Criticism


The latest issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is devoted to textual criticism and bibliology. The main essays are published versions of the Text & Canon Institute’s inaugural conference from 2020 with some intro essays by Steve Wellum, John Meade, and myself. We’re glad to see this material reach a new audience and thankful to SBJT for hosting it. Don’t mind the 2020 date; it’s a COVID thing. It’s all open access, by the way. 

Editorial: Defending Biblical Authority on the Textual Front

Discipleship and the History of the Bible

Some Missteps in Narrating the Bible’s History

From a Smoking Canon to Burning Hearts: The Making of the Hebrew Bible

Chaos Theory and the Text of the Old Testament

Where Inspiration is Found: Putting the New Testament Autographs in Context

Listening to the Dead Sea Scrolls

What Do James, Peter, John, and Jude Have in Common? Arguing for the Canonical Collection of the Catholic Epistles


  1. Some interesting thoughts there, in the Missteps article. Thank you.

  2. Agree, the Missteps article is very good.

    One point should be emphasized about the Great Isaiah Scroll, which can be seen with commentary on the Fred P. Miller site.

    Great Isaiah Scroll

    First, the differences with the Masoretic Hebrew Bible text are remarkably limited, outside of the dialect differences.

    And Isaiah, with lots of significant Messianic prophecy, starting with Isaiah 7:14, 9:6 and chapter 53, used in the NT and early church writers, would be an expected target for textual tampering, against Christian interpretation, if the Masoretes had tampering proclivities.

    The consistency of texts is a major confirmation of Masoretic fealty to their early text. (There is a sub-culture of writing that tries to paint the Masoretes as tamperers, often from Christian Identity circles.)

    This does not affect the overall presentation in Missteps, of overly hopeful examinations of the DSS in Christian apologetic literature. In general the article does a good job in pointing out this on-going problem. However, the Great Isaiah Scroll deserves special examination.

    And it is also worth pointing out that the DSS Pentateuch is, in a more general sense, akin to the Masoretic text. The book introductions in the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible by Flint and Abegg and Ulrich are helpful on this point.


    Steven Avery
    Dutchess County, NY, USA

  3. Where Inspiration is Found: Putting the New Testament Autographs in Context (2021)
    Timothy M. Mitchell

    "Jerome mentions that the long ending was absent from all the Greek codices in his day."

    Referencing in a footnote Metzger and Donaldson.

    The Amy Donaldson paper has the quote and does not support the claim.

    Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin Church Fathers - Vol 2

    "In the more accurate copies, the Gospel according to Mark has its end at ―for they were afraid." In some copies, however, this also is added,—―Now when He was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils."

    And then Jerome goes on to say that there really is no contradiction when the longer ending is concluded, which is the context of the discussion.


    Another puzzle in the article:

    "This process that Luke describes necessitates editing at some level, ordering the eyewitness accounts, weaving in scriptural quotations, and selecting from a larger corpus of Jesus’s parables (Gospel of Thomas Saying 22; John 20:30-31) using the composition tools and practices of his Greco-Roman milieu."

    This looks like Timothy is saying that Luke utilized:

    The Gospel of Thomas, saying 22

    However, there is no reason for super-late dating of Luke or super-early dating of the Gospel of Thomas.

    And I date Luke to c. 41 AD based on his writing to the high priest Theophilus. However, the difficulty of placing Luke after the Gospel of Thomas exists with later dating as well.

    Perhaps Timothy has a different point in the Gospel of Thomas reference, however no other explanation is apparent.



    Steven Avery
    Dutchess County, NY, USA

    1. I can't speak for Timothy. But I think what he meant by referring to Gospel of Thomas saying 22 was that that saying perhaps represented an example of a parable that was reported by some to have been spoken by Jesus, and that Luke opted not to include it in his Gospel. Since he mentions it in support of the point that Luke must have selected the parables that he did include out of a larger corpus of parables, that would seem to be the significance of that citation. Notably, Gospel of Thomas 22 is a saying that other early Christian sources (e.g. 2nd Clement) knew about--not necessarily that they knew the saying from the Gospel of Thomas, just that they knew it from somewhere as having been attributed to Jesus--as a parable that none of the 4 canonical gospels chose to include in their accounts (thus making essentially the same point Timothy made).

      Granted, this isn't completely clear to me either, and I may have missed his point. But I don't see him saying or implying that Luke was in any way dependent on the Gospel of Thomas. It is possible that the significance of Gospel of Thomas 22 to his argument is brought out more fully in the Loveday Alexander article that he cites at that point.

    2. Fair enough. Awkward, but possible.

    3. Thank you Eric Rowe. That is exactly the point I was making by referencing Thomas Saying 22.

    4. Steven Avery, good catch on my reference to Jerome and the LE of Mark. I was thinking of the translation in Donaldson's excellent work, page 402.

      "The answer to this question is twofold. For either we do not accept the testimony of Mark, because it is present in few [copies of the] Gospels—nearly all the Greek manuscripts do not have this section to the end—especially since it would seem to narrate what is different from and contrary to the other evangelists; or this response: that both [Matthew and Mark] speak the truth."

      I did a typo and left out the word "nearly" in my sentence. It should read,

      "Jerome mentions that the long ending was absent from **nearly** all the Greek codices in his day."