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: https://youtu.be/WPFqI3UCVOo. More information about the MARK16 project: https://mark16.sib.swiss