Monday, October 30, 2023

Update from CSNTM on Their Oxford Expedition


Here’s a nice video from Dan Wallace on their recent trip to the Bodleian. Sounds like they made some exciting discoveries, including several palimpsests that may become legible finally.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The History of Codex Vaticanus in NT Textual Scholarship


Congratulations are in order for An-Ting Yi for the successful defense of his thesis “From Erasmus to Maius: The History of Codex Vaticanus in New Testament Textual Scholarship” at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The thesis is online and can be accessed here. It looks excellent. Combined with the recent work of Jesse Grenz and Chuck Hill, this is really a great time for the study of Codex Vaticanus.

Let me also draw attention to something Yi says in his conclusion. He notes the value of studying a manuscript’s use in the history of scholarship and then says that other great candidates for such a study would be “Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi, and Codex Bezae, but many others would be equally suitable for smaller scale research” (p. 442). I completely agree. Personally, I think Bezae would make a great study like the one Yi has done and would love to see an enterprising PhD student take it on.

Here is the summary

The famous Codex Vaticanus (Vat. gr. 1209 in the Vatican Library) is currently regarded as one of the most essential sources for reconstructing the Greek text of the New Testament. Although it had already been used by textual critics from the sixteenth century onward, the manuscript only rose to the prominent status it now holds in the course of the nineteenth century. This PhD thesis writes the scholarly history of Codex Vaticanus, beginning from Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) and his Greek New Testament editions until the editio princeps of this manuscript prepared by Cardinal Angelus Maius (1782–1854). In this time-period that spans 350 years, perceptions of this manuscript changed profoundly. For a long time it had been seen as an inferior witness, useless for making the Greek New Testament edition. However, scholars gradually discovered its value and importance, and their appreciation eventually led to the consensus that considers its text as foundational for the Modern Critical Text, the basis for many contemporary vernacular translations of the New Testament. 

By examining critical editions, analysing monographs and articles, considering book reviews and pamphlets, and delving into archive collections, the present study delineates the stages of the manuscript’s progression from an ancient manuscript held at the Vatican Library to its designation as the ‘Codex Vaticanus’. It is a study of the many individuals and their stories surrounding this very manuscript, stories about accessibility and the dissemination of knowledge, authority and head-on collisions between the most learned critics, and of continuity and changing paradigms in scholarship. All in all, this thesis sets out how Codex Vaticanus became the manuscript par excellence in the history of New Testament textual scholarship.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

How Many Greek NT Manuscripts Are There Really?


That’s a question I get asked a lot. It’s a question many Christian apologists and skeptics of Christianity ask. And, it’s the question that Katie Leggett and Greg Paulson answered very carefully and very helpfully last month at the INTF blog. I’m tempted not to give you their answer here so that you have to read their entire post. 

But first, why is answering this so hard? Isn’t it just a matter of tallying up the highest manuscript number assigned in each of the four categories of papyri, majuscule, minuscule, and lectionary in the official list of manuscripts (known as the K-Liste)? It’s not. For at least three reasons. 

The first is the difficult question of what counts as a manuscript. Do amulets count? Should they count? What the Liste has included over the years has changed. 

Second, manuscripts can go missing, change hands without the list-keepers knowledge, or they can be lost or destroyed. If they were once on the list but are now unaccounted for, do they count? 

Third, what do we do when the same physical artifact contains portions of the New Testament in different hands from different centuries? Are we counting the resulting artifact or the varying copying events (for lack of a better term) that led to the one artifact? 

The point is not that these questions can’t be answered but that they must be answered before we can answer the original question. (By the way, these issues are all helpfully addressed in Jacob Peterson’s chapter in Myths and Mistakes.)

With all that said, what number do Leggett and Paulson arrive at? Drum roll, please... 5,700.

This is the number I will now be giving to people when they ask and it’s the number I would encourage you to use. Whenever you do, let me encourage you give the necessary caveats about the wide range in date, quality, and size of these 5,700 manuscripts. They are not all created equal! Furthermore, the number is not stable given new discoveries, the movement of manuscripts, and the ongoing identification of duplicates and the like. Still, it is very helpful to have a count from the same source that makes the official list we all use. Kudos to Leggett and Paulson!

Update (1/11/24): see the follow up posts on this here and here.

Monday, October 23, 2023

New Book: Can We Recover the Original Text of the New Testament?


Released last week is a new book edited by Abidan Shah and Dave Black called Can We Recover the Original Text of the New Testament?. It includes all the papers given last year at Abidan’s church conference (more on that here and here). 

Notably, the contributors all answer yes to the book’s title but disagree on how best to identify the original text. In this way, the book serves as a kind of update to Dave Black’s 2002 book Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, a book I cut my methodological teeth on. A huge thanks to Abidan and Dave for editing this and especially to Abidan and his staff for spearheading the conference.

Here is the publisher’s description:

In recent decades, the traditional definition of the original text of the New Testament (NT) has shifted from seeking one singular text to seeking a number of texts. Instead of one “authorial” text, now it is claimed that it could be one of several different texts based on their locations in the history of transmission: preauthorial, authorial, canonical, and postcanonical. These distinctions were first listed by Eldon Epp in his article “The Multivalence of the Term ‘Original Text’ in New Testament Textual Criticism” as “predecessor,” “autographic,” “canonical,” and “interpretive” text-forms. It is apparent that with such changing definitions of the original text of the NT, text-critics are ambivalent regarding reaching the traditional goal of NT textual criticism. Instead, attention is now given towards hypothesizing regarding the emergence of the variant readings. Furthermore, any attempt towards utilizing text-critical principles to reach the original text is looked upon as being out of date and pointless. All such shifting definitions of the original text and the ensuing claims have far-reaching consequences for biblical faith and praxis. 

In this work, three different scholars will present their methodologies for retrieving the original text of the NT. No matter how each of the presenters evaluates the text-critical evidence, it is obvious that they all believe in the inerrancy and retrievability of the NT text.

Table of contents:

Friday, October 20, 2023

New book on Sinai Palimpsests (Open Access)


A very interesting new book has just been published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (and is available on Open Access): 

Claudia RAPP - Giulia ROSSETTO - Jana GRUSKOVÁ - Grigory KESSEL (Eds.), New Light on Old Manuscripts: The Sinai Palimpsests and Other Advances in Palimpsest Studies (link here)

The English abstract: 

The study of palimpsest manuscripts has a long tradition and has led to spectacular discoveries of new texts or new text versions. Recent decades have seen the development of advanced nondestructive methods of multispectral imaging and computer-based image processing. The focus of such research have been individual manuscripts, such as the Archimedes palimpsest that was studied in Baltimore, or the Dexippus fragments in Vienna. The Sinai Palimpsests Project broke new ground by studying for the first time a collection of palimpsest manuscripts that have been preserved for centuries in the library of the Monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai (Egypt). The erased layers preserve texts in eleven languages of the Christian Orient. An international team of scholars has identified numerous new texts or versions of texts, often in very early scripts. This volume has its origin in a conference that was held in Vienna in 2018, where these results of the Sinai Palimpsests Project were presented, along with the advances in image capture and image processing that have made them possible. Additional contributions about current projects in the study of palimpsests, also including Jewish and Muslim text traditions, place the study of palimpsest manuscripts within the larger context of the cultural history of the middle ages. The 30 contributions in this volume thus offer a cross-section, including the most recent technologies, of the current state of research in palimpsest studies.