Thursday, August 26, 2021

Calvin’s Conjectures


Warning: This is a long post in which I trace out my research method and show the steps I try to take to find answers.


John Calvin, probably.
Several months ago, I was reading F.F. Bruce’s chapter “Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” published in David Alan Black, ed., “Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honor of J. Harold Greenlee.” In Bruce’s discussion of Heb. 11:37, Bruce opts for the P46 reading, which does have some scant attestation from minuscule witnesses, and Bruce calls in Zuntz (Text of the Epistles, p. 47) for support.  Not making any judgments on Bruce’s arguments, what intrigued me was Bruce’s next sentence: “So already Erasmus and Calvin.”

Those 5 short words sent me down a long rabbit trail.

What seemed to be implied here was that Calvin followed Erasmus in adopting a reading that was—as far as either of them were concerned—completely without known manuscript support. I checked the notes in the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation and there is a note on this conjecture that “…Erasmus could have known some Greek attestation, but his opinion seems independent from it.”

Of course, that doesn't necessarily prove that Erasmus had no manuscripts, but Jan Krans and co. know their stuff, and I am happy to defer to their judgment on Erasmus. That still leaves Calvin, however. On p. 184 of Johnson’s 1963 translation of Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews and 1–2 Peter (which Calvin published in 1549, according to T.H.L. Parker’s Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries), Calvin says:

Regardless of what we may say about Erasmus, it seems here that Calvin understood that the text was corrupted at some point in the transmission process, and that Erasmus’ explanation for what happened was correct.

From there, I was interested to see if there were any other times Calvin accepted or proposed a conjectural emendation: the notion that the text he has in his day was corrupt and that he suggested a correct reading even if there was no manuscript support for it.

When we search the Amsterdam Database, we find 13 hits for John Calvin, though two of them are sort of the same one (see below). Admittedly, that’s not much. [[At this point it’s good to give a brief explanation of the Amsterdam Database: When you search for an author, you’ll see a list of every time that author is included. This list is not a list of every time they have been the first to propose an emendation, nor is it a list of emendations they adopt—the “Author” in the list is the first to propose, and then clicking on the conjecture itself will show all the subsequent authors who commented on it, and whether they accept it, reject it or simply discuss it.]] Calvin is only the first to propose 5 of these 13 conjectures, but since 13 is not a huge number, I might as well list and discuss them all here.

Calvin’s conjectures

The date in parentheses is the publication date for Calvin’s discussion as I understand it, but it’s a little tricky. The translations I used (the series edited by D.W. and T.F. Torrance) were made from Tholuck’s edition (1834), which seems to be something of a re-print of the Amsterdam edition (1667), which is presumably made from the final editions of Calvin’s commentaries. I admit that’s a presumption on my part, and the date does matter because Calvin does seem to have shifted around 1548 from using Colinaeus’ 1534 edition as his working text to an Erasmus or Stephanus edition, as I discuss a bit more at the end of the post. In some cases I give an image of the text as additional proof that I’m not making stuff up. I haven’t been exhaustive with it though. My main purpose is to provide enough information for someone to be able to confirm what I’m saying, and at the most basic level, the Scriptural reference alone should be enough to do that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Documentary by Kipp Davis, “Josh McDowell: Manuscript Hunting and Mythmaking for Jesus”


Tonight I watched Kipp Davis’ new documentary about one of the most influential apologists in the US: “Josh McDowell: Manuscript Hunting and Mythmaking for Jesus” live in a webinar organized by the Lying Pen project at UiA, Kristiansand. My co-blogger Peter Head was there too I noticed. There was an introduction by Kipp, and brief responses by Roberta Mazza and Dana Ryan Lande. I only heard Roberta’s and then had to go.

 If you want to watch the documentary, it was released simultaneously on YouTube. I think everyone ought to see it, but perhaps in particular those involved in Christian apologetics. I already lacked confidence in McDowell before watching the film, in particular after his wheelings and dealings with manuscripts, mummy masks and Palmolive (though I doubt he knew Carroll somehow faked these sessions), etc. But this documentary brings out a lot more about McDowell’s own “testimony” that is highly disturbing and tragic.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

ECM of Mark: Thirty-three Changes to the Initial Text


The Novum Testamentum Graecum. Editio Critica Maior (ECM) of the Gospel of Mark has just arrived in Sweden in a shoebox size 43. First of all I want to warmly congratulate the team of the INTF in Münster for this splendid achievement, in particular for doing the finish during a long pandemic.

 There are of course many things to say, but here below I simply list the thirty-three changes to the initial text from NA28 to the ECM of Mark, indicating where how the Byzantine text aligns where it is not split itself (ECM Mark I:2,1, p. 20*). Apparently, in twenty twenty-five places the initial text moves towards the Byzantine text, and in six five places it moves away from it. In this context, however, it should be noted that there are thousands and thousands of variation-units (I have not checked how many).

A pdf of the list of changes as it appears printed in vol. 1 can be downloaded from the INTF, here

Further, there are 126 places where the editors print a split guiding line, i.e., where the decision between two competing variants is left open. This list can be downloaded from here

As for the accompanying digital tools, I wrote some years ago: “A desideratum for the future is an interactive interface that will enable users to pursue the complete critical process: to create their own local steammata of variants, build up a genalogical database, and successively evaluate the consequences of their textual choices” (Tommy Wasserman, “Criteria for Evaluating Readings in NT Textual Criticism,” in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, ed. Ehrman and Holmes [Brill, 2013], p. 607).  Well, the future is now here; to cite Klaus Wachtel, “Every user may now install the CBGM locally, make textual decisions, construct local stemmata, and make these the basis for their own genealogical evaluation” (ECM Mark I:2,3, p. 6). 

Thus, the CBGM toolbox (formerly called “Genealogical Queries”) for Mark is found here.

If you want to know more about how you can use the tools on your own, go here.

Again, congratulations to the editors and all contributors to this milestone in New Testament textual criticism! Now we look forward to the next volume.

Changes to the Initial Text of Mark

ECM / NA28 

  • 1:1/12-16
    υιου του θεου Byz / [υιου θεου] 
  • 1:2/18
    εγω Byz / om.  
  • 1:4/5
    om. Byz / [ο] 
  • 2:12/18
    εναντιον Byz / εμπροσθεν
  • 3:11/18-26
    προσεπιπτον αυτω και εκραζον λεγοντα / προσεπιπτον αυτω και εκραζον λεγοντες 
  • 3:14/6-14
    δωδεκα ινα ωσιν μετ αυτου Byz / δωδεκα [ους και αποστολους ωνομασεν] ινα ωσιν μετ αυτου
  • 3:16/1
    om. Byz / [και εποιησεν τους δωδεκα] 
  • 3:20/12-16
    συνερχεται παλιν οχλος Byz / συνερχεται παλιν [ο] οχλος 
  • 3:32/34-40
    om. / [και αι αδελφαι σου] Byz
  • 4:15/50-52
    εν αυτοις / εις αυτους 
  • 4:16/2-6
    και ουτοι εισιν ομοιως Byz / και ουτοι εισιν 
  • 4:31/4
    κοκκον Byz / κοκκω 
  • 6:22/30-40
    ο δε βασιλευς ειπεν τω κορασιω / ειπεν ο βασιλευς τω κορασιω Byz
  • 6:23/6
    αυτη Byz / αυτη [πολλα] 
  • 6:40/10-16
    ανα εκατον και ανα Byz / κατα εκατον και κατα 
  • 7:6/24-26
    ως γεγραπται Byz / ως γεγραπται [οτι] 
  • 7:9/28
    τηρησητε Byz / στησητε 
  • 7:12/2-10
    και ουκετι αφιετε αυτον ουδεν ποιησαι Byz / ουκετι αφιετε αυτον ουδεν ποιησαι 
  • 7:35/3
    om. / [ευθεως] Byz 
  • 7:37/22-30
    ποιει ακουειν και αλαλους λαλειν / ποιει ακουειν και [τους] αλαλους λαλειν Byz 
  • 8:35/28
    απολεση Byz / απολεσει 
  • 9:1/20-24
    των ωδε εστηκοτων Byz / ωδε των εστηκοτων 
  • 10:25/18
    εισελθειν Byz / διελθειν 
  • 10:28/22
    ηκολουθησαμεν / ηκολουθηκαμεν 
  • 11:3/20
    οτι Byz / om. 
  • 11:23/4
    γαρ Byz / om. 
  • 11:32/12-14
    τον λαον Byz / τον οχλον 
  • 12:36/20
    ο Byz / om. 
  • 14:31/12-18
    με δεη συναποθανειν σοι Byz / δεη με συναποθανειν σοι 
  • 14:44/34
    απαγαγετε Byz / απαγετε 
  • 15:12/19
    om. / [θελετε] Byz 
  • 16:14/4 
    om. Byz / [δε] 
  • 16:19/8
    κυριος Byz / κυριος ιησους 

Update: After I published this blogpost, Maurice Robinson asked me why the Byz was not indicated in a few additional passages, and in one case (16:19/8) it was indicated in the wrong place. When I looked at these passages I realized that the Byz had been dropped from the passages because the sign is not indicated where there is only a negative apparatus, but it certainly ought to be in the list on p. 20*. Greg Paulson of the INTF confirms that this is the case and will add them in the online PDF of textual changes (see link above). (I will ask him to check also the list with split guiding line.) In the last passage there was a printing error (the Byz sign was placed before κυριος ιησους too far to the right which created confusion; this has also been rectified).

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What Happened to the Van Kampen Collection?


Christianity Today’s Daniel Silliman reports on the closure of the Holy Land Experience in Orlando. I’ve never been, but their Scriptorium attraction used to house the Van Kampen collection which apparently included part of the library of Eberhard Nestle. Do any of our readers know the fate of either the collection or Nestle’s library?

Monday, August 09, 2021

Holmes: New Article on the Homeric Poems

The following is a note from Mike Holmes that I’m happy to share here.

Gunther Zuntz observed that the New Testament and Homer are the two “paramount examples of a ‘contaminated tradition’” (Text of the Epistles, 9). This circumstance alone is reason enough for NT textual critics to take notice the article recently published by CUP (on behalf of the Classical Association): “The Composition and Transmission of the Homeric Poems: A Summary.” (If I understand the fine print correctly, it is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license. Many thanks to the author, Jerome Moran.)

Readers will note at various points some significant similarities (as well as differences) between the transmission of the Homeric poems and the transmission of the Gospel narratives about Jesus that are well worth pondering.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The end of the 50km walk in the Olympics


It is a sad day for me, given my own long-term involvement in the sport of walking, to have to report that there won’t be any more 50km walks in the Olympics. Obviously we leave it with great memories, and it is great to see the media acknowledging Jesus for his history in the event (see also the BBC report here).

I’d like to request some privacy for me and my family as I’ll be taking some time to think through my own future sporting options.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Zwingli’s Manuscript of Paul’s Epistles


I haven’t had time to go down this rabbit hole myself, but linked here is apparently a hand-written copy of Paul’s epistles made by the famous Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. The date is 1517. Pretty cool. If you know more, please share in the comments.

H/T: Dane Johannsson

The Text of Codex Bezae in Finnish


Pasi Hyytiäinen has let me know that he has finished a translation of the text of Bezae in Acts into Finnish. You can find it here. I can’t say anything about the translation, of course, but I trust it’s good.