Friday, September 23, 2016

The Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation is online

Over on τον βιβλιον του προσοπου, Jan Krans announces the public arrival of the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation. It has now been added to the NT.VMR. This is a fantastic resource many years in the making. Huge congrats to Jan and crew for getting to this stage. Go check it out.

You can learn lots of fascinating things. For example, Alexandros Pallis once proposed removing all of Rom 3.21-26! They should have heeded Bengel’s words: “No conjecture is ever to be regarded. It is far safer to bracket any portion of the text, which may seem inexplicable.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Bounty of Text Critical Reviews in the Latest NovT

Roughly the number of books
J. K. Elliott reviews in a year.
Here is a list of what is reviewed in the latest issue of Novum Testamentum with some snippets that caught my eye. All but one of these are reviewed by J. K. Elliott with his characteristic flare for spotting misstatements and typos.

(In the spirit of the latter, I might mention that the ECM for the Catholic Epistles does not restrict itself to manuscripts from before A.D. 1000 as claimed on p. 420. Rather it gives evidence for the transmission history up to A.D. 1000 but it does so using many manuscripts from well after that cut off.)

Anyway, enjoy!

Marcus Sigismund, Martin Karrer and Ulrich Schmid (eds.) Studien zum Text der Apokalypse (Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter, 2015)
This rich array of well-documented facts and figures in the volume makes it a worthy research tool to sit along other long-lasting volumes in this prestige series. We congratulate Martin Karrer, his Mitarbeiter and other colleagues for their steadfast progress towards the goal of publishing the definitive 21st-century edition of Revelation.
J.K. Elliott, A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts. Third Edition. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 160.
Information about manuscript families is missing from the third edition. There are no longer cross-references to 07 or 041 for manuscripts which are treated in studies of Family E or Family Π. Even though Family 1 and Family 13 have separate entries at the beginning of the section on Minuscules, the list of members is now absent: similarly, the indication has been dropped from the entries for manuscripts such as 118, 131, 205 and 209 that they also feature in publications on the whole family. No doubt this can quickly be put right in the electronic version, but those who prefer printed books will once again have to return to the second edition.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Does Scripture’s Self-Attestation Apply to Textual Criticism?

The Reformed tradition has long held that one of the means by which Christians are convinced of Scripture’s divine origin is through the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit is essentially one in which he removes the blinders from our eyes to see the truth and beauty of the Bible. Both these qualities were there before, but it takes the work of the Spirit to help us appreciate them (in both senses of the word). As the Westminster Confession puts it, “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (§1.5). This quality is also sometimes also referred to as Scripture’s self-attestation. Scripture impresses its own nature and authority upon us, we might say. Many Christians can attest to this feature of the Bible in their own experience.

In this post, I don’t intend to defend this particular doctrine; I take its truth for granted. Instead, I want to ask those of us who hold to this doctrine to reflect on the level to which it applies. In particular, I want to ask if (a) the doctrine applies to canonicity, does it also (b) apply to textual variants? If the Spirit attests to the divine qualities of Genesis or Jude, does he also attest to the divine ending of Mark’s Gospel or to the right form of Jeremiah?

Friday, September 09, 2016

Textual Criticism on the Moon

Just to show that some of us are not the only ones procrastinating about the absence or presence of a single letter.

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Read here

Thursday, September 08, 2016

A Newly Customized VMR

Last week Troy Griffitts was in town and he showed me how to make a custom VMR. In the meantime he’s helped me do some extra editing as well and the result is that I’ve put together my own public version of the VMR. You can use it at

The basic functionality is the same. But I’ve changed the layout a bit and tried to clean up the interface. Specifically, I’ve kept the Liste from popping in and out from the left side and made the image viewer much wider. I also tried to clean up the Full Search quite a bit. I find it much easier to use now. By the way, did you know you can search for things like MS features by page? I did not. It’s handy.

The new interface. Hopefully a bit easier on the eyes.

Full search before (left) and after (right)
A few issues I’m aware of:
  • My version does not list Elliott’s bibliography. For that you need to use INTF’s Liste.
  • Some transcriptions look bad because of the narrower column.
  • Not all the blue buttons in the MS viewer are what they should be.
Otherwise, I’d be grateful for any feedback from people. Troy is quite happy to let me play around with things which has been great. Ultimately, I’d like to make the three columns re-sizable and maybe simplify the functionality of the Liste Catalog if possible.

P.S. A massive thanks to Troy and others for all their work on the VMR over the years. It’s hard to imagine doing NTTC these days without it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

In Praise of Westcott and Hort’s Uncertainty

It’s not uncommon today to read criticisms of past textual scholars for their overconfidence. First among the guilty in this regard is often Westcott and Hort who titled their edition The New Testament in the Original Greek. So, for example, Eldon Epp recently referred to this title as “arrogant” and one that, along with their term “Neutral” text were “soon considered overstatements and have been abandoned.”*

Of course, Westcott and Hort did not think they could always attain the original Greek text of the NT and this fact explains many of their marginal readings, especially those discussed in the Appendix.

What I find interesting is that the charge of overconfidence seems to be of recent vintage. Closer to their own time, the much maligned editors were actually praised on occasion for their hesitance and uncertainty about attaining the original text. Here is Edward A. Hutton, for example, writing in 1911:
Our final text must therefore often be difficult of determination, and here Drs Westcott and Hort have shown their wisdom in giving a much larger number of alternative readings than any other critic, and thus better representing the present state of New Testament criticism. In other words, while the principles of criticism are satisfactory enough, the paucity of authorities makes it unsafe to be too confident in all cases. Hesitation is the truest wisdom, and in the New Testament best represents the present state of the case. Infallibility is the mark of the ignoramus, or of the charlatan. (An Atlas of Textual Criticism, p. 9).
So which is it? Were Westcott and Hort arrogant and overstated in their edition or wise and rightfully hesitant? Whatever your answer, it can't be because they thought they could always identify the original text.

*Eldon J. Epp, “Critical Editions and the Development of Text-critical Methods, Part 2: From Lachmann (1831) to the Present,” in The New Cambridge History of the Bible: From 1750 to the Present, edited by John Riches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 27.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Happy First Day to Pete Head!

Happy first day to Pete Head who starts his new post today! When I left his new office yesterday it was... still a bit of a mess. But I have every confidence that at some point this week it will be neat and tidy. (How long that lasts I will not predict.) Pete, maybe you can post a pic once the boxes are moved and you can reach the computer.

Anyway, wish Pete good luck and congrats on the new post.

Update: photo courtesy of the Facebook: