Saturday, March 17, 2018

Alan Taylor Farnes on Scribal Habits in Copies with Extant Exemplars


We are delighted to feature the newly baked Dr. Alan Taylor Farnes in this guest blogpost where he summarizes his work on scribal habits in copies where the exemplar is preserved.  Well done Dr. Farnes!

Scribal Habits in New Testament Copies with Extant Exemplars 
As many of you may know, I have recently completed my dissertation at the University of Birmingham. The following is a summary with some conclusions, ramifications, and next steps to take.

In 2007, James R. Royse published his exceptional study on the scribal habits of six early New Testament papyri. In his work, Royse revolutionized text critics’ understanding of the text critical canon lectio brevior potior or, “the shorter reading is preferred”[1] by demonstrating that the scribes he studied tended to omit more than they added. In its place he coined a new canon which he called lectio longior potior or, “the longer reading is preferred."  

One disadvantage of Royse's method is, because the papyri he studies had no known exemplar. he was forced to reconstrcut what the hypothetical exemplar probably said and then determine how the scribe copied the hypothetical exemplar. This is obviously a completely normal procedure in textual criticism. Royse admitted that his method had flaws and called for an examination of another set of manuscripts—those with surviving exemplars. Royse wrote: "there has been (it seems) a failure to explore the problem of scribal habits for the text of the New Testament in the best possible case, namely where the Vorlage of an extant manuscript is also known to be extant. In such a situation we can virtually look over the scribe's shoulder and compare the text he is copying with his result."[2]

My research has attempted to support or disprove Royse's new text critical canon that, in fact, the longer reading is preferred. Rather than analyzing early papyri for which no exemplar remains, I chose to identify and analyze manuscripts which have a known exemplar. 

I have therefore identified twenty-two New Testament manuscripts which have known extant exemplars (see Table here). Of these twenty-two I chose four manuscripts, which are italicized in the Table, and their copies to transcribe, collate, and analyze to determine how well the scribes copied the text of their exemplar.

In the past, unfortunately, manuscripts with a known exemplar have actually been tossed aside and ignored because they seemingly provide no new information. Previous scholarship has attempted to locate manuscripts which are direct copies of a known exemplar in order that they may discount and ignore them from text-critical consideration. My motivation is exactly the opposite. By locating and analyzing these directly copied manuscripts we gain special insight into the scribal habits of the copy. Rarely have previous scholars employed direct copies as a way to understand scribal habits better.

Eberhard Nestle typified the attitude that has largely been held toward direct copies when he wrote of 0319: “in the Greek merely an incorrect transcription of [06], and may therefore be dismissed.”[3] Hort agreed saying “These instructive phenomena naturally receive little consideration now, because the exact knowledge that we possess of the original [Claromontanus] renders attention to the copy [Sangermanensis] superfluous.”[4] While it is correct to exclude a manuscript from critical editions when we can know that it is a copy, it is not sufficient to ignore them altogether since they provide a unique glimpse into scribal activity. The tradition of ignoring direct copies has persisted for some time. Kirsopp Lake ignored 205 because he thought it is was copy of 209, saying: “It is for this reason that no further notice has been taken of 205.”[5] But, unfortunately for Lake, more recent scholarship thinks that 205 was not actually a copy of 209 but that they were simply very closely related. Most believe that 2886 is a copy of 205 as is found in the Liste. For this reason, Amy Anderson ignored 2886 from her study of Family 1 in Matthew.[6] Frederick Wisse did the same.[7] But now more recent scholarship believes that 205 is actually a copy of 2886.[8] The only time a manuscript which is a known direct copy of an extant manuscript should be excluded from text critical consideration is in the formation of critical editions. Above all, such manuscripts are invaluable in revealing scribal habits.

But we must carefully determine which manuscripts are indeed direct copies of extant exemplars. I have therefore formulated six steps to ask of a manuscript to determine if it is indeed a direct copy of an extant manuscript: (1): Does the proposed copy share a high percentage of textual agreement with another manuscript? (2): Do these manuscripts share a good number of peculiar dual agreements, or readings which are found only in these two manuscripts? (3): Historical considerations: can one of the manuscripts be demonstrated to be older than the other or were the two manuscripts created contemporaneously to each other? This is important in order to discern the direction of borrowing between the manuscripts. (4): Paleographical concerns: is there any evidence from the appearance of the text itself that one is a copy of the other? If perhaps the proposed exemplar is damaged or faded in a certain location, perhaps the proposed copy will show difficulty or commit an error here. (5): Corrections: does the proposed copy stumble over corrections in the exemplar or show their hand in any way? (6): Codicological concerns: do the two manuscripts share similar formatting, i.e. line breaks, page breaks, columns, pages, etc.? The last three steps provide almost irrefutable evidence that one manuscript is a copy of another. If, however, no paleographical evidence corroborates the textual evidence then concluding that a manuscript is a direct copy of another should only be done tentatively while accepting that the two manuscripts may actually be sibling manuscripts or simply very closely related. Such is the case in my analysis of two manuscripts previous mentioned: 205 and 2886. Many have believed that 2886 is a direct copy of 205 but recent scholarship has argued for a reversal of the dependence that 205 is a copy of 2886. Because I have not been able to find paleographical evidence that one of these manuscripts directly depends on the other, I have concluded, following Josef Schmid, that they are likely sibling manuscripts descended from a now lost exemplar.[9] 

Codex Claromontanus (06), copied in the fifth century, is the earliest extant manuscript with extant copies being copied not only once but at least twice by Codex Sangermanensis (0319, ninth century) and Codex Waldeccensis (0320, tenth century). I have transcribed, collated, and analyzed all three of these codices by test passages in order to determine the scribal habits of the scribes of 0319 and 0320. All three of these manuscripts are Greek-Latin diglots. There were two surprising conclusions from the analysis of these manuscripts: first, the scribes of both direct copies neither added nor omitted any words. They broke even completely on word count. Not only did they break even but they had no variants of adding or omitting any words. They copied their exemplar almost exactly. They did make many substitutions, spelling errors, and nonsense errors, but they did not add or omit a single word. Which leads to the second surprising conclusion: these scribes were this accurate because of their ignorance of Greek. These manuscripts are diglots with Greek and Latin and an analysis of the scribal habits shows that these scribes were more proficient in Latin but had very little knowledge of the Greek language. They therefore copied the text extremely accurately but when they made a mistake it was an egregious mistake which usually resulted in such a nonsensical error that the result was not even a real Greek word. I have therefore tentatively concluded that scribes who do not know the language they are copying may copy extremely well for the most part but when they reach a difficulty they may produce an extremely obvious error. More research on the habits of scribes copying a language with which they are unfamiliar is needed.

The Latin scribal habits of the scribes who copied Claromontanus were more in line with what we would expect to see in light of Royse’s new text critical canon. On the Latin side of the page the scribes—who were the same scribes who copied the Greek text in the case of 0319—lost words on the whole and made the types of errors that scribes who know the language are prone to make. Most of the variants between Claromontanus’ Latin text and its copies were a result of the copies updating their text to match the Vulgate. This resulted in numerous substitutions but very few nonsense errors.

Another manuscript pair are two catena manuscripts of John: the 10th century 0141—the exemplar—and its 16th century copy, 821 copied by a man named Camillus Venetus and commissioned by Cardinal Francisco de Mendoza. 0141 seems to actually have two extant copies being copied also by the 16th century 1370, but I was unable to procure digital images of this manuscript and I was unable to travel to Berlin to transcribe it in person. I hope to complete the study of this family in the near future. Venetus acted as we would expect most Greek scribes to behave. Over the course of more than 4,000 words he added one word and omitted seven for a net loss of six words. Therefore, while being incredibly accurate, on the whole Venetus lost more words than he added and had an error rate of 2.22 total variants per thousand words. This is the lowest error rate of any scribe in this study and in Royse’s study. But this is not unexpected since it is likely that a 16th century scribe will copy better than an earlier scribe. In fact, the data bears this out: the error rate of the scribes in this study decreased as the centuries rolled by—meaning, as time went on the scribes became better copyists and the text became more stable.

I also compared the error rates found using this method to those found if I were to use the method employed by James Royse who tabulated only singular readings—or, readings which are only found in the manuscript he was analyzing. I found that his method was less accurate than this direct copies method. Sometimes the inaccuracy was minor but in the case of 821’s relationship to 0141, Royse’s method yielded an error rate which was less than half of the scribe’s actual error rate.

I have found that the scribes in this study did their best at a difficult job of copying manuscripts. At no point did I find any example of intentional corruption for theological reasons. The most blatant intentional changes found in this study were the Latin scribes copying 0319 and 0320 who consistently altered the wording from Claromontanus’ Old Latin to update their text to the Vulgate. Additionally, some of the scribes in this study lost words on the whole, as did Royse’s, but other scribes broke even. None of the scribes in this study gained words on the whole. Therefore, with respect to the scribes in this study, we can reject the older canon lectio brevior potior. We are unable, however, to confirm Royse’s new canon of lectio longior potior but rather I caution that length should not be used in any way to determine which reading is more original. Here I add my voice to Stephen Carlson’s[10] and Peter Malik’s[11] that length is not a valuable metric for determining which reading is more original.

Another main conclusion of the dissertation was the role of the patron. We see hints of the hidden hand of the patron in Codex Sangermanensis (0319) which was actually copied by two different scribes. The two scribes who copied 0319 were very different individuals with different scribal habits. 0319A seems to have had at least enough Greek knowledge to pronounce (or mispronounce) words which led to many orthographic variants. 0319B, however, made only one orthographic variant. Neither 0319A or 0319B added or omitted any text. That 0319B was a better copyist with respect to significant variants and total variants further suggests that 0319B knew less Greek than 0319A. So 0319A and 0319B were very different people with different scribal habits. What is striking, however, are their shared scribal attributes. Both 0319A and 0319B usually followed the same corrector (06***). Additionally, they both ignored marginal corrections preferring instead only corrections in the main body of the text. These shared scribal attributes, in spite of these scribes’ distinct individuality, suggest that a patron was behind the production of this manuscript. The patron instructed both of these scribes on how to copy the text and what changes, if any, to make. We therefore see that patrons play a substantive role in textual transmission—a larger role than previously thought. We should therefore at each point of variation endeavor to determine who in the editorial process created each variant: the patron, a reader, or, only lastly, the scribe. I wholeheartedly agree with Barbara Aland that scribes wanted to copy as best as they could and that scribes would not have been authorized to make any changes in the text.[12] 

There are many avenues for further study from this study. I would like to know more about the scribal habits of those copying a language with which they are unfamiliar and if my hypothesis holds true that non-native scribes will actually copy the text more accurately most of the time but will make rare but egregious nonsensical errors. 010 is a possible manuscript with which to begin.

We should be honest, however, about the limitations of this method. While this method gives great insight into copying procedures it is not without its shortcomings. For example, the earliest direct copy of the Greek New Testament is 0319 from the 9th century. Additionally, there are currently only twenty-two known directly copied manuscripts. Nonetheless, in order to best understand New Testament scribal habits, more attention should be paid to manuscripts which are direct copies. All twenty-two directly copied manuscripts should be wholly transcribed, collated, and analyzed for their scribal habits. Doing so will provide a much more complete picture of how scribes copied the New Testament text.

In the end, our analysis of these codices was greatly enhanced by access to their exemplar. Had we not had access to the exemplar but rather analyzed these codices based on singular readings alone, then our understanding of their scribal habits would be less accurate. While the singular readings method captures many scribally created readings we can be confident that the direct copy method captures all scribally created readings.

Alan Taylor Farnes is currently an adjunct instructor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. You can find him on Twitter @alanfarnes. His dissertation can be found as: Alan Taylor Farnes, “Scribal Habits in Selected New Testament Manuscripts, Including those with Surviving Exemplars,” (PhD dissertation; University of Birmingham, 2017).


[1] James R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (NTTSD 36; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 732.
[2] Royse, Scribal Habits, 34.
[3] Eberhard Nestle, Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament (tr. William Edie; New York: Putnam's Sons, 1901), 77.
[4] Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton James Anthony Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Introduction and Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882), II:255.

[5] Kirsopp Lake, Codex 1 of the Gospels and Its Allies (TS 7; Cambridge: Cambridge, 1902), xxii.
[6] See Amy Sue Anderson, "Codex 1582 and Family 1 of the Gospels: The Gospel of Matthew," (PhD. Diss., University of Birmingham, 1999), 118-19; Amy S. Anderson, The Textual Tradition of the Gospels: Family 1 in Matthew (NTTS 32; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 116.
[7] See Frederick Wisse, The Profile Method for Classifying and Evaluating Manuscript Evidence (SD 44; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 106. 

[8] See Alison Welsby, A Textual Study of Family 1 in the Gospel of John (ANTF 45; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 82-83 = Alison Sarah Welsby, "A Textual Study of Family 1 in the Gospel of John," PhD diss., University of Birmingham, 2011, 122-24.
[9] See Josef Schmid, Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Apokalypse-Textes, vol. I: Der Apokalypse-Kommentar des Andreas von Kaisareia. Einleitung (Munich, 1956), 288.
[10] See Stephen C. Carlson, The Text of Galatians and Its History (WUNT 2:385; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015), 90.
[11] See Peter Malik, P. Beatty III (P47): The Codex, Its Scribe, and Its Text (NTTSD 52; Leiden: Brill, 2017), 114-15.
[12]  See Barbara Aland, "Sind Schreiber früher neutestamentlicher Handschriften Interpreten des Textes?" in Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-critical and Exegetical Studies (Jeff W. Childers and D. C. Parker, eds; TS 3.4; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006), 114 and Barbara Aland, "Der textkritische und textgeschichtliche Nutzen früher Papyri, demonstriert am Johannesevangelium," in Recent Developments in Textual Criticism: New Testament, Other Early Christian and Jewish Literature: Papers Read at a Noster Conference in Münster, January 4-6, 2001 (W. Weren and D-A. Koch, eds; Studies in Theology and Religion 8; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 36.

Kruger on Ehrman’s Latest

Over at the Gospel Coalition, Mike Kruger has a review of Bart Ehrman’s latest book. It’s another popular volume, this one on why Christianity spread so quickly, a topic Kruger and his Doktorvater have recently published on as well. The surprising thing here? Kruger likes the book and says it’s an important resource.

Here’s the conclusion.
Ehrman has written an intriguing, helpful, and well-balanced volume exploring the development, and eventual dominance, of early Christianity.

Certainly there are areas were I, and others, would disagree—for example, on the treatment of miracles, analysis of martyrdom, and the role of tolerance and intolerance. But this volume is a refreshing shift away from the tone of some of Ehrman’s earlier volumes that seemed more polemical and critical in their assessment of early Christianity. Indeed, as a whole this is an enjoyable read that is clear, insightful, and well-written.

Thus, Ehrman’s volume will be an important addition to any reading list exploring the emergence of Christianity in the first four centuries.
How about that.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Sweat like Drops of Blood and the Angel in Luke 22:43–44. An early addition?

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (5)

This post is part of a series [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

Within the various variants found within the Passion narrative the variant found in Luke 22:43-44 is the most substantial. It is also one of the passages, together with Luke 23:34, where the Tyndale House Edition differs radically in its assessment from the NA26 – 28 editions. The THGNT prints these verses as part of the main text and signals the difficulties with the ‘diamond of uncertainty’. The Nestle-Aland editions enclose these verses in white square brackets ⟦ ⟧, indicating that, according to NA28, 55*, ‘the enclosed words, generally of some length, are known not to be a part of the original text. These texts derive from a very early stage of the tradition, and have often played a significant role in the history of the church (cf. Jn 7,53 – 8,11).’ The German version of the Introduction uses the term ‘mit Sicherheit’ (10*).

So what about Luke 22:43-44? These are the words under contention:

ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτόν. καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο. ἐγένετο δὲ ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (NIV)

There is good evidence on both sides (note that the apparatus of THGNT failed to include 0171 in support for the presence of these words, a genuine error). Here is the Greek evidence, and the evidence for the omission is as complete as I can get—NA28 and IGNTP-Luke combined:

text: ℵ* ℵ2b D K L Q Δ Θ Ψ 0171(vid ]θρον[...]ς κα̣τ̣[.]βαι[...]π̣ι την γην) 0233 1071c 1424 Maj

omit: P75 ℵ2a A B N R T W 0211 f13(but adds after Mt 26:39, as does a later corrector of C) 158 579 713 1071* l844.

Sinaiticus: The correction hooks and dots that were added by ℵ2a were later erased by ℵ2b
Tischendorf’s transcript

In addition, a number of manuscripts that have the text obelized in the margin, which can indicate uncertainty whether to include the words or not. IGNTP Luke mentions Δ 230 1295 1424.

Depending on who you read, often the testimony of P69 is given as supporting the omission. We did not cite it as such in the Tyndale House Edition for the following reason. In P69 not just verses 43-44 are missing, but apparently also verse 42 (see for yourself here at the NT.VMR). So for all practical purposes, P69 misses our additional words because it is missing a larger section of text. Below I may suggest that P69 still might be relevant, but only in such a speculative way that it should not clutter an apparatus.

We have patristic references to this passage (and I recommend the discussion of Blumell in the TC journal, if you want to read more). The reference in Justin shows that the actual episode was known in the mid 2nd century.

The first thing with any textual variant is to see if the variant can be explained by some sort of scribal habit, things that can go wrong in the process of copying. Though text can drop out for any random reason, there is no ready scribal habit to explain its omission here. So we need to do some old-fashioned text-criticism here.

Comparable variants

Before going into specific internal reasons for the omission or addition of these words, it is good to ask the question if there are any comparable cases. Perhaps the following are the most pertinent ones:
  • It is difficult not to think of Jn 5:3-4, where we have an explanatory comment added to the text concerning another angel, who disturbs the water so that the first ill person to reach it is healed. Though the similarity between our variant unit and that in John are clear (roughly similar length, involves an angel), there are also differences. In John the expansion fills a perceived gap in the story, but here in Luke the variant interrupts rather than explains the flow of the narrative.
  • Mt 27:49, addition of piercing the side of Jesus, taken from Jn 19:34 – dealt with in a previous blog post. The cautionary tale of this variant is that even though the two oldest manuscript have the text (and some good additional support), one cannot automatically follow the rule that the oldest attested reading is therefore the best.
  • Lk 22:31 small addition in a transition – dealt with in a previous blog post
  • There is something of a parallel with Jn 7:53 – 8:11, the story of the woman caught in adultery, in that this story also appears in different locations (e.g. in f13 between Lk 21:37 and 22:1. This same family has also our passage moved.)
  • Lk 23:17 (explanation that Pilate had to release a prisoner) – again an explanatory gloss.
  • Lk 22:19b-20 omission only found in D-05 (and versions) – harmonization by omission
  • Lk 22:64 small addition – influence from parallels
  • Lk 23:34a the words ‘And Jesus said, Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’. Omitted by quite a few of the same manuscripts as omit the text here.
It seems that there is no clear parallel except for Lk 23:34a, and we deal with that variant in the next post. Unlike Jn 5:3-4 and Lk 23:17, our passage does not add an explanation, and neither is it based on a parallel elsewhere. Its varying location might be thought of as an argument against originality, but of course it is only an argument against its presence here in Luke in the source of that particular textual tradition. Wandering passages may be suspect, but are thereby not automatically condemned (1 Cor 14:34-35, anyone?)

If anything, the variants listed above raise the possibility that just as the earliest manuscripts have a big harmonization by addition in Mt 27:43, and a harmonization by omission in Mark 14, so it is at least possible that some of the early manuscripts also have harmonized by omission here in Lk 22:43-44. Since the story of the sweat like drops of blood and the comforting angel is not found in the parallel accounts of the passion, a part of the tradition which is not known to be collecting bits and bops anyway, left the passage out.

Scholarly opinion

Nothing as nebulous as the consensus of the scholarly world. When somebody has published an article, and nobody writes a rebuttal in 10 or 20 years, it is a fallacy to assume that therefore everyone agrees with you (people who know the literature on this variant may recognize this). There have been voices in favour of its authenticity and also against. The NA26 – 28 editions are clear though, they do not regard these words as original by Luke as original.

So what could be the reasons for regarding the words as an addition, if they are not original to Luke?
  1. Adding details – Embellishment of an existing narrative. If these words were part of the common, popular memory of the Passion narrative, they were bound to find their way into the biblical text.
  2. They interrupt the flow of the narrative, there is no need for this heightening description of Jesus’ agony.
  3. Both the appearance of an angel and the sweat like drops of blood have a folklore feel about them and are unnecessary supernatural expansions.
  4. Better too much than too little. In cases of doubt, leave the words in.
  5. Ehrman and Plunkett: These words were added as an anti-docetic improvement of the text.
What could be the reasons for seeing these words as original?
  1. There is no obvious explanation for their origin other than that they are part of the original composition.
  2. Luke has an angel motif throughout his writings. From the announcement of Jesus’ birth, all the way through Acts, finishing with an angel encouraging Paul before the shipwreck. Thematically this passage fits Luke.
  3. As learned above, this could be a case of bringing Luke’s account into line by omitting an unknown episode (harmonization by omission).
  4. The words are original, but were omitted because of theological embarrassment – Jesus is portrayed as too weak (a crude summary of Blumell’s argument).
  5. The words are original, but were omitted because of an anti-Gnostic improvement of the text (Clivaz).
Without doubt there are many refinements and additions to these two sets of arguments, but this a blog post, not a full-blown review article.

I am wondering, though, what we can learn from P69. Often this papyrus is dated quite early, to the third century. It omits 22:42-44, uniquely so. Whether or not this was done by the scribe or copied from its exemplar is irrelevant, what is interesting though is that it raises the question that here we have an omission that clearly is secondary, nobody is going to defend this larger omission as being original. This could be because P69 copied a text without 43-44 and happened to omit another verse. Or it may have copied a text in which 43-44 were marked for deletion and simply deleted too much. Or, and this I find the most interesting possibility, P69 omitted roughly the same passage as is omitted in other manuscripts, and for similar reasons (whatever they may have been). Independently, P69 may have done the same (by and large) as was done elsewhere (and perhaps also earlier) in removing a section that was too unlikely to be correct.

In the end though, on one hand there is the relatively simple observation that manuscripts from any age and affiliation do harmonise, and I am fine to go with this. On the other hand there is the subsequent, more fraught exercise to come up with possible theological motivations behind an addition or omission. Therefore I am perfectly content to print 22:43-44 as part of the main text and signal the difficulties by means of a diamond in the apparatus.

Some literature

Blumell, Lincoln H. “Luke 22:43–44: An Anti-Docetic Interpolation or an Apologetic Omission?” Textual Criticism 19 (2014): 1-35 (you can find it here).

Clivaz, Claire. “The Angel and the Sweat Like “Drops of Blood” (Lk 22:43–44): P69 and f13.” Harvard Theological Review 98, no. 4 (2006): 419-40 [and also her monograph on the issue – not for the fainthearted: L’ange et la sueur de sang (Lc 22,43-44): ou, Comment on pourrait bien encore écrire L’histoire (Biblical Tools and Studies 7. Leuven: Peeters, 2010)]

Ehrman, Bart D., and Mark E. Plunkett. “The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43-44.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45 (1983): 401-16.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

3 postdocs and a funded doctoral position at ITSEE

I received this notice, which should be of wide interest.

Dear colleagues,

We are delighted to announce the advertisement of three postdoctoral fellowships at ITSEE (the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham).

All involve work on Greek New Testament commentary manuscripts, to start this autumn. One is on the AHRC-funded Codex Zacynthius project, using multispectral imaging to recover the text of the earliest catena on Luke. Two are on the ERC-funded CATENA project, producing a catalogue of commentary manuscripts, identifying different stages in their history and development and making electronic transcriptions and editions of their text.

The posts would be suitable for Classicists or scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity with experience of working with Greek manuscripts.

Further details and links to the application portal may be found at:

Candidates may apply for one or more of these positions. The deadline is 11th April 2018.

In addition, the CATENA project is advertising a funded doctoral studentship on the Pseudo-Oecumenian Catena on Romans, suitable for candidates with expertise in Greek and an interest in manuscripts. Further information and application link at:

Closing date 9th April 2018.

Informal queries may be addressed to me by email (links on the webpages above)

Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested in applying.

With many thanks,
Hugh Houghton

Textual Examples Wherein MT and the Jewish Revisions Differ

In this post, I give a few examples wherein Theodotion, Aquila, or Symmachus reflect a different vocalization of the consonantal text than what the later Masoretes recorded as the traditional reading. The issue is this: how closely do the Three (1–2 century Jewish revisers of the Greek Jewish Scriptures) mirror the Masoretic Text (9–10 century)? Of course, the general answer is that they followed the proto-MT closely, but that is different than saying they agree with the MT perfectly. As a caveat, textual criticism focuses on the differences between texts (which is what I'm about to do), but let's not let these relative few, but important differences, distort our view of the overwhelming agreement between MT and the Three. It's difficult to overstate the Three's close agreement with MT, which is why it would be easy to gloss over places where they disagree. My examples come from Job and Isaiah, and they could be multiplied.

Job 34:6a

MT: עַל־מִשְׁפָּטִי אֲכַזֵּב
Concerning my judgment/right, I lie

OG: ἐψεύσατο δὲ τῷ κρίματί μου
He lied about my judgment/right

Theodotion and Aquila: περὶ τὴν κρίσιν μου ψεῦσμα
There is a falsehood/lie concerning my right/judgment

Comment: The Old Greek read אכזב as a verb similar to later MT, while Th and Aq read it as אַכְזָב, an adjectival/nominal "false" or "falsehood." They read the same consonants with different vocalizations. As an aside, HALOT's entry of אַכְזָב probably could have cited the readings of Theodotion and Aquila here in support of this rarely attested Hebrew lexeme (cf. HALOT 1:45).

Job 35:9a

MT: מַרֹב עֲשׁוּקִים יַזְעִיקוּ
Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out

Theodotion: ἀπὸ πλήθους συκοφαντούμενοι κεκράξονται
From a multitude those oppressors/those being oppressed will cry out.

Symmachus: συκοφαντιῶν
Of oppressions

Comment: There is no Old Greek for this verse, the Greek line in our MSS coming from Theodotion. Sym agrees with the vocalization of MT, “oppressions”  (cp. Ecclesiastes 4:1), while Th read עָשׁוֹקִים “oppressors” or עֲשׁוּקִים “the oppressed” (the latter option may equal the vocalization of MT but indicates a different derivative, the pl. pass. ptc.). In any case, Theodotion and MT attest to the same consonantal text but different vocalizations or understandings of those consonants. Or, if we want to read MT as the pass. ptc., then Symmachus has the different reading or understanding.

Isaiah 3:12a

MT: ֹוְנָשִׁים מָשְׁלוּ בו
And women rule him

OG: καὶ οἱ ἀπαιτοῦντες κυριεύουσιν ὑμῶν
And creditors rule you

Theodotion: δανεισται

Aquila: ἀπαιτοῦντες

Symmachus: γυναικες

Comment: Symmachus agrees with MT in his reading of נשים "women." But Theodotion and Aquila read נשים as נֹשִים "creditors" from I נשׁא/II נשׁה “to lend” (the analogous formation of III-ה and III-א verbs). Therefore, this is another example of some of the Jewish revisers agreeing with the Old Greek's reading of the consonantal text where the Masoretes preserved a different vocalization, still an ancient reading as Symmachus confirms.

Isaiah 53:8b

MT: ֹמִפֶּשַׁע עַמִּי נֶגַע לָמו
Because of the transgression of my people, the strike was to them.

OG: ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνομιῶν τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἤχθη εἰς θάνατον
Because of the lawless deeds of my people, he was led to death.

Theodotion: ἀπὸ ἀθεσίας τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἥψατο αὐτῶν
Because of the faithlessness of my people, he struck them.

Aquila: ἀπὸ ἀθεσίας τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἥψατο αὐτῶν
Because of the faithlessness of my people, he struck them.

Symmachus: διὰ τὴν ἀδικίαν τοῦ λαοῦ μου πληγὴ αὐτοῖς
On account of my people's unrighteousness, the strike was to them.

Comment: The purpose of this example is not to engage the textual issue between the OG and MT (as fun and interesting as that one is). More modestly, today, I want to point readers to the fact that MT vocalized נגע as a noun (cp. Symmachus), while Theodotion and Aquila rendered the same consonants as a verb (cp. Jerome's Vulgate: percussit eos/eum).


There are some large-scale differences between the readings of Theodotion and proto-MT (e.g. parts of Theodotion Daniel and the longer ending of Theodotion Job). But most readings of the Three are of the kind surveyed in this post. These readings, preserved for us in Origen's Hexapla and its subsequent Christian reception, give evidence for the history of the Hebrew Bible and also for Jewish exegetical approaches to their texts around the turn of the era and into the Rabbinic period. They provide a link between the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Greek on the one hand and the later Medieval Hebrew MSS on the other. Thus we would do well to pay attention to them.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Win a Free Copy of A New Approach to Textual Criticism

It’s time for another ETC blog giveaway! This time we’re giving away mine and Tommy’s recent book on the CBGM. Enter to win below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the book

An essential introduction for scholars and students of New Testament Greek
With the publication of the widely used twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and the fifth edition of the United Bible Society Greek New Testament, a computer-assisted method known as the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) was used for the first time to determine the most valuable witnesses and establish the initial text. This book offers the first full-length, student-friendly introduction to this important new method. After setting out the method’s history, separate chapters clarify its key concepts such as genealogical coherence, textual flow diagrams, and the global stemma. Examples from across the New Testament are used to show how the method works in practice. The result is an essential introduction that will be of interest to students, translators, commentators, and anyone else who studies the Greek New Testament.


  • A clear explanation of how and why the text of the Greek New Testament is changing
  • Step-by-step guidance on how to use the CBGM in textual criticism
  • Diagrams, illustrations, and glossary of key terms
“For anybody who cares about the text of the New Testament, there will be few books published in biblical studies over the next decade that will be more important than this one. Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry describe some of the tectonic shifts that are currently occurring in the way that New Testament text critics are reconstructing the earliest recoverable form of the Greek text of the New Testament. With great care and clarity, the authors explain the intricacies of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method in ways that both scholars and nonspecialists can readily understand. For anybody who wishes to know how the text of latest printed scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament has been determined and why it differs from earlier editions, this is the book to read.”

Paul Foster
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Saturday, March 10, 2018

New Film: ‘Fragments of Truth’

Faithlife, producers of Logos Bible Software, have a new film (what don’t these people do??) coming out about New Testament manuscripts. It looks apologetic-y and is hosted by Craig Evans. Below is the description and the promo video. You may see some familiar faces. I don’t know what “groundbreaking new evidence” there will be, but the production quality here seems great. The manuscripts sure do look cool in the trailer.
In this new Faithlife original film, Dr. Craig Evans takes this claim [?] head on, traveling the globe to track down the most ancient New Testament manuscripts. Along the way, he highlights groundbreaking new evidence that is changing the debate. Hear from scholars who have devoted their lives to learning the truth, and discover how the evidence for the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts is stronger than ever. Coming soon exclusively on