Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Recent Writings on Textual Criticism

Various things have come across my screen in the last few weeks on textual criticism and I haven’t had time to read them all. So I’m collecting them here both to remind myself later and for anyone who might otherwise miss them.
  • “The Ways that Parted in the Library: The Gospels according to Matthew and according to the Hebrews in Late Ancient Heresiology” by Jeremiah Coogan
    Coogan argues that Matthew and the Gospel according to the Hebrews are just two versions of Matthew but with differentiated titles. This one I did read and it’s good. Go read it. I did wonder about the comparison between Matthew and GHebrews and Acts in the Alexandrian text and the “Western” text (is there some point at which we can drop the scare quotes?). The fact that the “Western” text never got a distinct title whereas the GHebrews did may be the evidence we need that the latter two were conceived of differently by more than just the heresiologists. (The comparison with Marcion’s Gospel is also helpful.) Either way, it got me thinking afresh about when one text is changed so much that it becomes a different work. And congrats to Jeremiah on the Eusebius Prize!
  • “A Note on GA 2311” by David Lincicum
    GA 2311 has moved to Notre Dame from private ownership. That’s as far as I could read.
  • “The Construction and Contents of the Beatty-Michigan Pauline Epistles Codex (𝔓⁴⁶)” by Brent Nongbri
    Brent has done further work on the contents of single-quire codices and has concluded that P46 could have contained the Pastorals. I haven’t been able to read the article, but his blog summary says, “The upshot of this is the possibility that there were more missing pages at the end of P46 than we have generally thought, which opens up the possibility that the quire did originally contain all of the fourteen letters of Paul that we find in later Greek manuscripts of Paul’s letters.” I especially like that he says, “I did not at all expect to reach this conclusion, but I suppose that is why we do the research!” Indeed.
  • Kelsie Rodenbiker and Garrick Allen have edited a special issue of Religions on paratextual issues. It includes seven essays on “Titles, Paratexts, and Manuscript Communication: Jewish and Christian Literature in Material Context.” The range from Coptic titles to iconography. Especially interesting—from what I was able to read so far—is Mina Monier on the endings of Mark and paratextual features. The articles are all open access.
  • Speaking of Markan endings, the Text & Canon Institute posted two new articles this month on the Longer Ending. The first, by James Snapp, gives a condensed version of his argument in favor of authenticity and the second, by our own Peter Head, gives a rejoinder. These are intended for a fairly wide audience, so keep that in mind.
  • The CSNTM conference last month was a great time. Thanks to the whole CSNTM crew for their work putting it together. James Snapp has been posting summaries of some of the papers at his blog here, here, here, and here.
That’s all I’ve got. If you know something I missed, drop it in the comments.

Hixson reading Burgon as a youth. Credit

Friday, June 17, 2022

“Guest Post” from the Grave: William G. Pierpont on E.F. Hills


With the permission of Maurice Robinson, I am making available one of Pierpont’s unpublished papers, an evaluation of E.F. Hills’ defense of the textus receptus. Some formatting may have changed a bit, but I include here both text (to make it searchable) and images of the paper itself (for transparency).

Edward F. Hills’ Views on the N.T. Text

[by William G. Pierpont]

Dr. Hills’ agenda is openly and clearly expressed in the title of the four editions of his book “THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED,” of which this reviewer used the first (1956) and the second (1973), together with several items of personal correspondence (the last dated 10 June 1981, shortly before his death). During this period his basic premises and conclusions remained resolutely unaltered, although expressed in somewhat different ways.

His reverence, sincerity, integrity and scholarship are unquestioned. His presentation of facts is balanced, fair and precise, and often interestingly made. It is his interpretation and use of the facts, as well as certain presuppositions which we must examine.

Starting from the confidence that God is the God of truth, he lays out his two primary principles as:

a) the autographs of the NT were Divinely inspired, and therefore in­fallible, and that
b) because of this God must see that they were providentially preser­ved. (The logic for this step rests on Mt. 5:17+, 24:35, etc.)

Therefore, textual criticism of the Scriptures is different from that of other books. Its principles must be drawn from Scripture itself—and from creeds and other Church writings which are in agreement with Scripture—and used in constructing theories for criticism itself.

Providential Preservation (PP) forms the center about which his further presentation revolves. Summarizing his "axioms", he declares that:-

1) The purpose of PP is to preserve the infallibility of the autograph­ic text, and that God must have done so in a public way, i.e., so that all may know where and what it is-- not hidden somewhere among the MSS and requiring to be searched out.
2) It is the Greek text which is thus preserved, not a translated ver­sion of it. (God never promised that a translation would be kept free of errors, great or small.) Further, there may not be competing authorities.
3) During the long centuries of hand copying, PP operated through the Greek-speaking Christian community, who understood and used the language.
4) PP operated through the testimony of the Holy Spirit: only through Bible-believing universal Christian preiesthood [sic], those who have taken a supernatural view of the text, applying to it standards of judgment di­rected by the Holy Spirit, and were thus enabled to distinguish the true from the false. This was not only through the Spirit’s testimony to the individual’s soul, but also in the collective priesthood of believers through the ages (continuing onward into the Protestant period). Thus errors entering were weeded out by Divine Providence and guidance.
5) From the very first, PP supplied a multitude of trustworthy copies which were read and recopied, while faulty and untrustworthy ones fell out of use and passed into oblivion. Thus the genuine text was kept safe in the vast majority of MSS.
6) Thus the consensus agreement of this vast majority of copies forms the Traditional Text (TT), which accurately represents the originals and is the Standard Text.

This vast majority of MSS thus contains an essentially uniform text, al­though hardly any two MSS agree exactly throughout by reason of little individual variations and errors. Their differences are often hard to detect, being rare and small. This verifies that each descended indepen­dently from its own ancient ancestor, and therefore the text itself is ancient and not medieval in origin.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Fourth-Century Witness Excluded from NA28


The other day I was looking at the textual variation in 1 Peter 5:7 between ἐπιρίψαντες an ἐπιρίψατε: “... casting/cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Now if one compares the apparatus of NA28 to NA27, the likely attestation of επιριψατε – (the imperative like in 1175 and Augustine) in 0206 has been removed from the apparatus. Apparently, in the ECM of 1 Peter, 0206 is cited for either επιριψατε/επιρριψατε. 


I was very surprised to learn that 0206, a fourth-century uncial (which may be dated even earlier, as proposed by Don Barker who thinks that it may be as early as the late second century) is not included in NA28. As the apparatus stands now, minuscule 1175 is the only attesting Greek witness. In my opinion, it is significant that 0206 almost certainly support this reading (seventh line in the image below where you see -ΨΑΤΕΕΠΑΥ). I hope it will be reinstated in NA29!



Pierpont’s unpublished papers

Thanks to the generosity of Maurice Robinson, one of my recent projects at CSNTM (where I have been a full-time Research Fellow since August 2020) has been scanning the unpublished papers of William G. Pierpont (1915–2003; see his obituary by Robinson in the TC Journal, here). Robinson is now the custodian of the papers, which include many short studies, remarks, letters, etc. It is a fascinating group of papers, and it seems like there’s a little bit of everything in there (there is even a very interesting one-pager in which Pierpont [who knew something like 20+ languages] analyzes a 13-second recording of an instance of glossolalia, transcribing it, breaking it down into syllables, making observations on frequency of sounds, etc. It’s remarkable!).

William G. Pierpont (photo c. 1980)
Eventually, I hope to put much of the material online at CSNTM. We’re working on adding a section to our website for materials relevant to the text and textual history of the New Testament that aren’t Greek manuscripts or printed editions (e.g. the manuscript of Legg’s unpublished edition of Luke’s Gospel, which J.K. Elliott allowed us to digitize a couple months ago).

While I am not a Byzantine prioritist myself, I have the greatest respect for both Robinson and Pierpont and have deeply enjoyed reading much of the material. The reverence for God’s Word these men had while preparing their edition (2018 edition available here) is both convicting and encouraging. In his unpublished papers, Pierpont is thoroughly Christian in everything he writes, and I can’t express how much I appreciate that.

With Robinson’s permission, I am preparing a “guest post” by Pierpont (assuming they don’t kick me off the blog first for stirring the pot too much!). In the next few days, I’ll post here one of Pierpont’s unpublished papers. They are almost all very short—this one is one of the longer ones at about 4 pages long. I hope Pierpont's writings are as edifying to you as they have been to me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Reprint of Sturz’s The Byzantine Text-Type


I have good news to report today. For years I’ve looked in vain for an affordable used copy of Harry Sturz’s The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism. It looks like that will not be a problem anymore as Energion Publishers is producing a reprint of the original with a new preface by David Alan Black. 

I first learned about Sturz’s book from my course on NTTC with Dan Wallace at Dallas Seminary and then again in reading through Klaus Wachtel’s work on the Byzantine text in the Catholic Letters. Here’s some sense of the book’s argument from the new publisher:

Should the Byzantine text-type be considered valuable in determining the original text of the New Testament? Does it bear independent witness to ancient readings? Dr. Harry Sturz, in a book published in 1984, maintained that it should be valued and that it could help with finding older readings and thus contribute to our knowledge of and confidence in the text of the Greek New Testament. His position, that the Byzantine text-type should be weighed along with other witnesses to the ancient text, differs from those who dismiss Byzantine manuscripts, which were largely copied later, but also from those who hold that the Byzantine text has priority or even is determinative of what the final reading should be. He uses carefully laid out arguments and numerous specific examples in making his case. This book is divided into two parts. The first outlines the positions both for relying on the Byzantine text and for largely ignoring it. Part two examines the evidence and outlines an argument that neither side of this debate should win the field, but rather that the Byzantine text should be valued, but not made exclusive.

This is an especially good time to reprint the book given the renewed interested in and esteem for the Byzantine text from the folks producing the ECM. My advice? Go get the book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Book Notice: Jerome’s Epistle 106


Michael Graves sends word that his new edition of Jerome’s Epistle 106 is now available from SBL Press. he told me about it last Fall and I am very pleased to see it’s out. There is lots of very interesting material in this letter of Jerome for the textual history of the Bible. Here’s the publisher's description:

The present volume offers the first accessible English translation and commentary on Jerome’s Epistle 106, an important work of patristic biblical interpretation. In his treatise Jerome discusses different textual and exegetical options according to various Greek and Latin copies of the Psalms with input from the Hebrew. Epistle 106 provides insightful commentary on the Gallican Psalter, Jerome’s translation of Origen’s hexaplaric edition. Jerome’s work offers a unique window into the complex textual state of the Psalter in the late fourth century and serves as an outstanding example of ancient philological scholarship on the Bible.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Three PhD positions on 1 Cor. at KU Leuven


Good news out of Belgium: KU Leuven, Belgium, offers 3 PhD positions (4 years) for suitably qualified candidates to form part of the research team of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) funded Odysseus project “1COR – Text, Transmission and Translation of 1 Corinthians in the First Millennium”.

The project’s main goal is to produce full scholarly editions and textual analyses of 1 Corinthians with a multilingual perspective.

The doctoral studies may focus on citations of 1 Corinthians in Early Christian writers, the text in liturgical manuscripts, the textual developments in the Latin tradition or other versional evidence.

Further information and application details can be obtained through the following link:

The deadline for applications is 7th June 2022.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Prof. Henk Jan de Jonge (1943–2022)


I’ve heard now from several of you about the passing of Prof. Henk Jan de Jonge. His name may be most familiar to our readers for his work on Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum, work I have referenced even in the last year. Here is the in memoriam from his colleague in Leiden. If any have personal memories, please do share in the comments. 

Of Leiden schools

Henk Jan de Jonge was born in Leiden in 1943. He studied classics in Leiden in the 1960s and combined this, his first love, with the study of the New Testament, early Christian literature and patristics. His first job brought him to the Leiden Faculty of Theology, where he assisted in the monumental project of a critical edition of the Greek text of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, under the supervision of the Leiden professor of New Testament Marinus de Jonge, with whom he shared much more than the coincidence of their family names. The two professors De Jonge and their students constituted a “Leiden school” of historical-critical research of early Christian literature that aimed at historical precision and reliability, often in vigorous debate with a historically grown academic consensus that did not meet their standards of scholarship, and with more modern hermeneutic approaches.

Research themes

Henk Jan de Jonge obtained his PhD in Leiden in 1983 with a dissertation on the long and bitter debate between Erasmus and the Spanish humanist Diego López de Zúñiga (Stunica) over the text of the New Testament. In this, a second line of his impressive academic production became evident: the study of the reception, textual history and exegesis of the New Testament in early modern Europe. He combined these two lines of research – the historical-critical study of earliest Christianity and the history of Biblical exegesis in early modern times – at the highest academic level until his premature death. This led to many authoritative publications and editions in both areas and a large international scholarly network.

His stern interpretation of his field of research and teaching and its relevance implied that Henk Jan attempted to contribute to the study of the pivotal themes of earliest Christianity: the death, resurrection, and commemoration of Jesus. The centrality of these themes and his unyielding defense of historical-critical scholarship often brought him in conflict with others and gave rise to public debates, live and in writing, to which he successfully brought his sharp pen and equally sharp tongue.

Career in Leiden

After an early start as lecturer in New Testament studies in the University of Amsterdam, Henk Jan returned to the Leiden Faculty of Theology in 1985. In 1987, he was appointed to a chair by special appointment on the History of Biblical Exegesis in early modern times, and in 1991 he succeeded Marinus de Jonge to the Leiden Chair of New Testament and early Christian literature. He acted as dean of the Leiden Faculty of Theology twice and left a distinctive mark on academic theology in the Netherlands during his long service to his chair. Apart from his academic publications, he impacted the field in various ways: in first instance through his teaching and supervision of doctoral candidates. He was known as a demanding teacher and supervisor. In addition, he frequently engaged in public debates on central themes in early Christianity and their current relevance for scholarship, church, and society. He was strongly committed to the Église Wallonne in Leiden, and to the history of francophone

Protestantism in the Netherlands

Henk Jan was deeply involved on all possible levels in the life and the history of Leiden University. This involvement ranged from historical work on Scaliger to the arduous task of drafting the Latin diplomas for new study programmes and for honorary doctorates. The strong affection he felt for Leiden university was mutual: he acted as dies orator and had the distinctive privilege of placing the cappa on Queen Beatrix’ shoulders on the occasion of her Leiden honorary doctorate in 2005. He acted as pro-rector during PhD defences with great regularity and with a legendary sense of decorum.

Travels with Homer

It is never easy to retrieve the person behind the academic persona, and as a scholar, Henk Jan de Jonge was in many ways larger than life: at times imperious and always critical, committed, and precise. He was also a family man, spending his summers on a Greek island of choice in the company of his family and a Teubner edition of Homer. He was a remarkable and witty speaker and raconteur and someone who was capable, sometimes, of self-mockery. His colleagues, doctoral candidates and students all have a large stock of anecdotes about Henk Jan, but also an indelible memory of him, and we will all miss him very much. That is, of course, even more strongly the case for those who mattered most to him: his wife, Marjan, his sons, Hans, Casper and Lodewijk, and their families.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Clare Rothschild on the Muratorian Canon


 Congratulations to the author!

 See also our previous blogpost "Is the Muratorian Fragment a Late Antique Fake?"

Friday, April 15, 2022

Good Friday Hymn


I enjoyed this hymn in church this morning. I'm not so sure my daughter was interested in my discussion of the third verse. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

CSNTM Conference near Dallas, TX

There’s still time to register for the CSNTM Text & Manuscript Conference. The gathering will take place May 19th–20th near Dallas, Texas. The theme is Pen, Print, and Pixels and features plenary speakers Prof. H.A.G. Houghton, Dr. Kathleen Maxwell, Prof. Holger Strutwolf, Dr. Dirk Jongkind, and Dr. Jan Krans.

For more information and registration visit

Donation of a Manuscript Leaf (L1663) to the Goodspeed Collection


Two years ago or so I discovered a new leaf from a lectionary in Uppsala. This was the seventeenth Greek New Testament manuscript in Sweden and I started to research it, which eventually led to the publication of the open-access article "A New Leaf of Constantine Theologites the Reader’s Lectionary in Uppsala University Library (Fragm. Ms. Graec. 1 = Greg.-Aland L1663)." I blogged about this manuscript in December last year and provided a link to my newly published article (blogpost here).

At the time of writing and blogging, this lectionary was divided between at least four collections in three countries; besides the leaf in Uppsala,  the other three were: McGill University (Montreal), Ms. Greek 11 (one leaf); University of Chicago, Joseph Regenstein Library Ms. 879 [formerly Goodspeed Ms. Grk. 34] (110 leaves); Edgar M. Krentz (s. n.) in Chicago (one leaf, which is in the image here). 

On 18 March, 2014, Brice C. Jones announced in a blogpost his discovery of the missing leaf in the Rare Books and Special Collections of McGill University in Montreal and managed to connect it to the two other parts in Chicago and (then) St Louis (where E. Krentz lived at the time). Jones had found out in the library files that it had come to McGill library in the 1930s and that it was purchased from the Swede Erik von Scherling (1907–1956) who run a bookshop in Leiden and traded in manusripts and other ancient artifacts over a period of almost 30 years. Interestingly, Edgar Krentz, the only private owner of another leaf, noted Jones’s blogpost and commented, “I got my leaf in 1961 from the Internationale Antiquaria[a]t in Amsterdam, Menno Herzberger the owner."

In November last year, the sad news reached me that Edgar M. Krentz had passed away (obituary here). Before that, Krentz had been made aware by Margaret Mitchell of my research and the fact that the larger codex of which he owned a leaf (image above) was located in the same town, in the university library, and he expressed a wish to donate it. However, he passed away shortly thereafter. I offered my condolences to his son Peter Krentz, W. R. Grey Professor of Classics and History at Davidson College, and told him about my research, and both he and representatives of Chicago University Library have now notified me that the donation has been realized a few days ago. Krentz was able to see the bound codex, and reports that it looks like his father's leaf had been extracted from the bound volume (the stitching matched up), and I believe that this will be true also of the McGill and Uppsala leaves.

In my article, I treat the problematic practice of biblioclasty, i.e., when manuscripts are torn apart and loose leaves are sold in order to increase profit. This donation is a marvellous and very unusual example of the opposite practice – to reunite what once belonged to one and the same codex. Perhaps other private owners of loose leaves can follow the same example and donate leaves to public institutions that have the facilities to curate and preserve ancient manuscripts and make them available for research and display.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A New Series on the Text of Isaiah 53


The Text and Canon Institute has launched a new series of articles on several of the crucial textual problems in Isaiah's Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13–53:12). The series will focus on the problems that affect translation such as the following:
  1. Does the servant startle the nations because he is disfigured or sprinkle them after being anointed? (Isa. 52:14–15; by Peter Gentry)
  2. Is the servant stricken to death for the people’s rebellion, or are they? (Isa. 53:8; by John Meade)
  3. Is the servant’s death or his tomb with the rich? (Isa. 53:9; by Peter Gentry)
  4. Who and what does the servant intercede for? (Isa. 53:12; by John Meade)
  5. Is the resurrection of the servant anticipated in what he sees? (Isa. 53:11; by Anthony Ferguson)
Peter Gentry, co-blogger Anthony Ferguson, and myself have written up the articles on these problems in an accessible way to put them back on the radar of commentators and Bible translators as well as guide the interested layperson who has probably heard that their translation contains mistakes (and maybe their translation does). You can read the Introduction article here and follow the unfolding of the series over the next few weeks until Easter.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Luke Timothy Johnson on Scholarship


Nijay Gupta has just published a short interview with the prolific NT scholar Luke Timothy Johnson. It follows on the publication of his new memoir. It is well worth reading. There is quite a bit of wisdom here and I especially appreciated this part about how he views the place of scholarship in the light of eternity.

Book cover

First, I have always considered only one thing essential — to become (or better, to allow God to make one) a certain kind of person. Everything else I have considered as secondary and non-essential. The judgment of other humans is trivial compared to the absolute judgment of God. Such a conviction enables one to speak boldly and without fear. 

Second, I have considered scholarship as a serious enterprise, but one without ultimate importance. It is, indeed, a game that, like all games, must be played seriously if it is to be played well. But it is played best when it is played with the freedom that authentic faith gives and is not erected into an idolatrous project. 

Third, if scholarship is non-ultimate, then an academic career is even more nugatory. The academy should be regarded as a social arrangement whose importance is measured solely by the way it serves the ends for which it was designed. Do students learn? Do teachers grow in knowledge? Is the church and society made better by these processes? To the degree that “the academy” becomes absolute and self-serving, to that degree it has lost its way.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Ozoliņš on Who Killed Goliath


Over at the TCI, we’ve just published a new article by Kaspars Ozoliņš on the question of who killed Goliath. The issue, if you’re unfamiliar (like I was), is that 2 Sam 21.19 is clearly in conflict with 1 Samuel 17:

And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

It also doesn’t match the parallel text in 1 Chron. 20.5:

And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

Kaspars argues that a series of scribal mistakes explains the differences between the two verses and that, once sorted, 2 Sam 21.19 offers no conflict with 1 Sam 17. I should note that the version Kaspars has published at TCI is a summarized version of his more detailed argument published recently in Vetus Testamentum

I should also mention that, after reading his article, I checked the NET Bible notes and they offer basically the same solution (in much condensed form).

In any case, since we don’t have comments over at the TCI, I thought folks may want to discuss the argument here.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Passion Translation Removed from Bible Gateway


Here’s a bit of Bible translation news from last month. The very popular translation website has removed the Passion Translation from its list of available Bibles. Christianity Today has the story. What is the Passion Translation, you ask?

First released as a New Testament in 2017, The Passion Translation includes additions that do not appear in the source manuscripts, phrases meant to draw out God’s “tone” and “heart” in each passage.

Or, according to the publisher:

The Passion Translation is a modern, easy-to-read Bible translation that unlocks the passion of God’s heart and expresses his fiery love—merging emotion and life-changing truth.

Why was it pulled from Bible Gateway? Mainly, it seems, because its not a translation, but rather one man’s effort to combine his own idiosyncratic interpretations with occasional “insights” and readings from the “Aramaic” (presumably meaning the Syriac). To give you a taste, here is Eph. 6:5–8

5 Those who are employed should listen to their employers and obey their instructions with great respect and honor. Serve them with humility in your hearts as though you were working for the Master. 6 Always do what is right and not only when others are watching, so that you may please Christ as his servants by doing his will. 7 Serve  your employers wholeheartedly and with love, as though you were serving Christ and not men. 8 Be assured that anything you do that is beautiful and excellent will be repaid by our Lord, whether you are an employee or an employer. 9 And to the caretakers of the flock  I say, do what is right with your people by forgiving them when they offend you, for you know there is a Master in heaven that shows no favoritism.

Things do not get better in the footnotes. The first one, following the word “employers” (τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις) in v. 5, reads, “Literally ‘Servants should obey their caretakers.’” The last one, in v. 9, explains “caretakers of the flock” (οἱ κύριοι) with this:

As translated literally from the Aramaic. The “caretakers of the flock” can refer to both leadership in the church and in the workplace. The Greek text states “masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening.”

If you can figure that out, let me know. You can still read it online at—but I don’t recommend it.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Two Interviews with Peter Head


Ferdie Mulder recently sat down with Peter Head for a recorded interview and he has now posted the video. The geese get a bit excited at points, but don’t let that spoil it for you. The second video is more focused on textual criticism and papyrology, but do not miss the point in the first video where there is a soft giggle at the suggestion that Dr. Head has supervised some excellent PhD students. Aside from that, I quite enjoyed these. Thanks, Ferdie!

Part 1 Part 2

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Should the Next NA/UBS Editions Use Numbers for Majuscules?


 Florian Voss asks on Twitter. What say you?

I say yes despite the one drawback. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the Gothic letters too. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hixson on Lessons from P137 or “First-Century Mark”


Over at the Text & Canon Institute, Elijah purple-is-my-favorite-color Hixson has a new article on lessons from the “First-Century Mark” (aka P137) saga. Readers will probably remember that Hixson was the first to publicly connect the dots on this right here on this blog in what is now our second most read post ever.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Graves of Agnes Smith Lewis and F.J.A. Hort

In a piece I was writing today I mentioned the Sinaitic Syriac and how the Smith sisters were involved in its identification. As the Cambridge connections are obvious I wondered where they were buried. The wonders of Wikipedia quickly informed me that Agnes Smith Lewis was buried in Cambridge at Mill Road Cemetery. I happen to cycle on Mill Road most days on my way into Tyndale House, but had never visited the place (it is set back from the road). On the Wikipedia page of this cemetery it was mentioned that F.J.A. Hort was buried at the same burial grounds! Imagine, cycling past for 22 years without ever taking the time to stop.

So as to beat the winter blues on these short days, I decided to see if I could find their graves. The area is now mainly used for walking and recreation. Some of the stones are heavily overgrown but most are still very accessible. The place has more of the feel of a small nature reserve than the somber atmosphere and formality that cemeteries can have.

With help of the excellent website of the cemetery, it didn't take me very long to identify the two graves. Agnes and Fenton John Anthony are buried only 10 – 15 meters away from one another. I have marked the places on the map.

Both monuments show their age, and especially Hort’s inscription is very difficult to read. You need to know which grave it is; a passer-by would never take the time to try and decipher the fading letters. Perhaps I should take a brush and see if I can clean it up, but weathering is mostly irreversible. In another century or so the stone may have gone completely.
Second line: Anthony Hort 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Pluritext Conference Proceedings (and a Little Backstory)


Some of you may remember times when people actually attended conferences in person. I hear that some living humans, in fact, met at SBL last November, an achievement I highly applaud (and, as a Central European, observe with a sense of remote envy).

Anyway, perhaps some of our readers might be familiar with the Project Pluritext, which, sadly, went through some bleak times owing to the criminal conviction of Jan Joosten. (In fact, I’m not sure the Project still exists at this point, as its website appears to be down.)  In Novemeber 2018, the Project organised a lovely conference entitled ‘Scribal Activity and Textual Plurality’, bringing together a rather diverse battery of scholars working on scribal matters in various traditions. I was rather surprised to have received an invitation (I guess strange things begin to happen once you’re old enough), which I readily accepted. As one might expect, I was asked to present on scribal activity and textual plurality in the New Testament. My paper mainly dealt with general matters such as what sort of textual pluriformity one might encounter in the NT and how it normally came about. It was kind of the organisers to allocate generous time slots for the Q&A, hence I was able to receive helpful feedback from some of my fellow presenters.

Oddly enough, this presentation proved to be something of a prophetic enactment of the age to come: due to the family circumstances (my daughter was to be born soon), I had to opt out from presenting in the beautiful Parisian surroundings and present from via Skype instead (yes, Skype was a thing back then). As of now, this mode of presentation seems to be something of a new normal, and one wonders whether the tide will ever swing back once the pandemic subsides.

With a bit of an understandable delay, the proceedings were finally published last year. And, as it turns out, this blog announcement, too, is rather late, but who cares – we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and the notion of time has taken on a whole new semantic layer.

The proceedings were published as a special issue of the Henoch journal, including a revised version of my paper, cheekily entitled ‘The More the Merrier? Scribal Activity and Textual Plurality in the New Testament Tradition’

I hope you enjoy perusing this publication. As always, any critical comments welcome.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

R.I.P. Robert F. Hull, Jr.


Jeff Miller sends word that Robert Hull has passed. Readers may know him best from his book on TC. From Jeff:

Many readers of this blog will be saddened—though not as those who have no hope—to learn that Robert F. Hull Jr. passed to the presence of the Lord on January 15, 2022. Bob studied under Bruce Metzger, authored the 2010 book The Story of the New Testament Text: Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods, and Models, and had retired from a fruitful teaching career at Emmanuel Christian Seminary in eastern Tennessee. 

There is also this tribute from Lee Magness at the Stone-Campbell Journal:

Robert Hull emerged from the deep valleys of the coalfields of southern West Virginia to stand at the pinnacle of his profession in biblical scholarship. Bob arrived at Milligan College as its first National Merit Scholar and graduated in 1965 with an A.B. in Bible and History and with his dear and devoted wife, Loretta. He entered Emmanuel School of Religion with its first class of students, graduating with his M.Div. in 1971. Bob earned his PhD from Princeton Seminary, studying under Dr. Bruce Metzger and beginning a lifelong fascination with the textual criticism of the New Testament. While pursuing his graduate studies, he served local churches in Kentucky and Maryland. Returning to Emmanuel in 1977, Bob began a career spanning thirty-three years as Professor of New Testament and Greek, years marked by faithful service to the academy and the church. During his long career at Emmanuel, Bob also served two fruitful terms as the Dean of the Seminary. He retired from full-time teaching in 2010.

If any readers knew him and could share reminiscences, please share them in the comments. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

An Interview between Kenneth Clark and Maurice Robinson from 1977


The following interview from the 1970s is courtesy of Maurice Robinson shared here with his permission.

During the time I was studying NT textual criticism under Kenneth W. Clark, and just before beginning my doctoral studies in Fort Worth, I asked Clark if he would answer a number of questions in an interview format. He agreed, under condition that such would not be for general publication until long after he had died. As a result, my manually typed transcript of the taped interview (3 May 1977) lay buried among my papers for the past 43 years, and was frankly forgotten until it was rediscovered in a long-unpacked box this Fall. Sufficient time now having passed (Clark died in 1979, at age 81), it seems wise to electronically retype the transcript for full release. 

The approximately two-hour interview occurred at Clark’s home in Durham, North Carolina, on 3 May 1977, when he was 79 years old. He had been quite ill that previous winter, but was in reasonably good health at the point of the interview, although at times talking about other subjects and often repeating previous statements. However, the following transcribed excerpts are interesting and perhaps pertinent to NTTC theory and method even today:

MAR:        It seems that in your earlier articles you basically accepted the Westcott-Hort theory, but that this view had modified as time went by; first, to the status of “questioning” its validity, and most recently of “doubting” its general correctness.


CLARK:   My views really have never changed. I never had been quite convinced of the acceptability of the Westcott-Hort theory; there are too many unproven historical claims, and it relies too much upon subjective factors in its basic reliance upon internal evidence. As you know, I have always been strongly opposed to eclecticism; yet the idea that we are capable of picking and choosing the readings which best suit the context, and are therefore textual critics (whether or not we need utilize the documents which contain that very text) — this is our current “critical” stance, and we are much the worse for it. Again, Westcott-Hort were far more than the eclectics of today: they were document partisans — the nemesis of all poor text-critical theory. Far too attached to Vaticanus as an “infallible” standard.


As to why an increasing criticism of the Westcott-Hort theory seems to develop in my writings, I believe I was just further developing that which I have always held. It is true that much of my critique had been delayed, but that was for an entirely different reason: every new discovery of papyri had to be analyzed, because many of my criticisms would be affected thereby; in fact, many of the building-blocks of the Westcott-Hort theory were severely weakened, without a word from me; the papyri had toppled their theoretical building-blocks. However, had the papyri been known to Westcott and Hort, their text would still have been essentially the same. In fact, had they been in possession of Papyrus 66, the Bodmer MS, and knew nothing whatsoever about Papyrus 75, the close relative of Vaticanus, they would have rejected the evidence of P66 out of hand — and why? Because the text of P66 did not sufficiently parallel B. On the other hand, had they been in possession of P75, without P66, they would have praised it out of hand. And why? Because its text was so like B. You recall that Colwell wrote about Hort having put “blinders on our eyes”? Well, Hort had them on as well!


MAR:        You have stated that we are now working with and are in fact bound to a new “Textus Receptus”, in the form of an Alexandrian text rather than the old TR of the Byzantine type. It has been quite disturbing to Eldon J. Epp and Gordon Fee that you have so characterized our current critical texts as though they were somehow thereby “inferior”. Is that what you intend by your statements, or have Epp and Fee misinterpreted your point?


CLARK:   I should not say we should call the current critical texts “inferior” by any means. However, I have made it quite clear that all current critical texts have not moved far from the Westcott-Hort text, despite all the new discoveries such as the Koridethi Gospels (Θ), the papyri, and the increased studies into the lectionaries, versions, and fathers — none of which had been accomplished in the days of Westcott-Hort. Yet it should be clear to any unprejudiced mind that the Alexandrian texttype — though excellent in many respects — is not and cannot be regarded as the original text of the autograph MSS. Yet what do we see? In every critical edition since Westcott-Hort we have a reproduction, more or less, of their Alexandrian-based text — an exception being the work of A. C. Clark in Acts, who deliberately followed the Western text (if such can in fact be called a “text”), thinking it to be original.


MAR:        In regard to Souter, a while back you mentioned to me something to the effect that you felt Souter’s text to in fact be the closest we currently have available to the autograph text: does this not conflict somewhat with your statement regarding the new “Textus Receptus” of the Alexandrian type, since Souter’s text was basically a reprint of Palmer’s reconstruction of the Greek text presumed to underlie the Revised Version of 1881, and closely followed Westcott-Hort?

Monday, January 10, 2022

Update from Alan Bunning on Center for NT Restoration


The following is the latest update from Alan Bunning on his Center for New Testament Restoration.

It’s probably about time to give you another update about what has been going on lately at the CNTR. Although there have been several updates to the CNTR website since the last newsletter, much of my work has been related to documenting and presenting various aspects of the CNTR project. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. I made a short CNTR Introduction video, providing a higher-level overview of some of the CNTR’s goals and purposes in a way is that geared toward the average person. I also made a technical video on the CNTR Database for scholars who may be interested in collaborating with the CNTR and working directly with the data. 2. I gave a presentation on “The Universal Apparatus” at the Bible Translation Conference in October which was well received. It outlines a method for providing a simpler format for displaying variant information, while also providing more complete information resulting in greater accuracy. I later gave a slightly different version of that presentation at the 2021 Society of Biblical Literature Conference, Nida Institute - Copenhagen Alliance section held in San Antonio in November. I spoke a second time at the SBL conference giving a presentation entitled “Orthographic Priority for Interpreting Homophones in New Testament Manuscripts” in the Biblical Lexicography section.3. I put the finishing touches on the first computer-generated Greek New Testament which I am calling a beta version for now. This represents an earth-shaking milestone in the field of textual criticism where subjective decision-making that results in different critical texts can now be replaced with objective scientific statistical analysis. This work is based on several papers, two of which have been accepted to the upcoming 2022 Society of Biblical Literature Midwest Region conference in February:

  • “Scientific Definition of Variant Unit Boundaries” – provides an objective scientific definition for the boundaries of variant units that can automatically be identified by a computer algorithm, where previously there has been no standard.
  • “Corpus-Based Statistical Measurements of Textual Reliability for New Testament Manuscripts” – provides a scientific statistical measurement of the textual reliability of individual New Testament manuscripts against the entire corpus of data.

Currently, even with a limited dataset, the resulting text is only about 1% different than the Nestle-Aland 28th edition (but we won’t worry about why the NA28 is “wrong” about 1% of the time 😊). Lord willing, both the computer-generated Greek New Testament and the Universal Apparatus will show up on the CNTR website in some fashion in the spring. But this will probably require some significant changes to the website, so I am not going to commit to any particular time frame.4. There are also some initial talks with a major Bible publisher about the possibility of using some of the CNTR’s technology to publish a new open-license Greek New Testament for the purpose of serving the global Church, particularly in the area of Bible translation. I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects, but there is nothing firm at this point. So that is what I have been up to recently. If you want to get more involved with the CNTR project, here is how you can help:

  1. Pray for my work on the CNTR project: For wisdom in manipulating some very complex data and algorithms and for good relationships as I work with others in the field.
  2. Donate time to the CNTR project: There are occasionally some smaller projects that can be farmed out to volunteers, but they usually require knowledge of Greek, computer programming, or both. Let me know if you have those skills and some free time available to help out.
  3. Donate money to the CNTR project: Any donation you can give enables the project to continue and is much appreciated. Click on the donate button at the bottom of this message and you will be directed to a secure website to give.

Many thanks to those of you who have been supporting the project, financially and otherwise. It is indeed very much appreciated! Let me know if you have any questions about any of these things and may God bless you through the new year!Alan Bunning, D.Litt.Executive DirectorCenter for New Testament Restoration

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Seminar on the ending of Mark


Tyndale House New Testament Seminar Livestream

Dr Mina Monier | Wednesday 12 January 2022, 13:00-14:00

Dr Monier will be presenting a paper on the MARK16 Virtual Research Environment and the ending of the Gospel of Mark.

Livestream link: More information about the MARK16 project: