Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kirsopp Lake on the need for conjectural emendation

Here is a quote I came across today in Kirsopp Lake’s inaugural lecture at the University of Leiden. Note very carefully how Lake argues for the need for conjecture. In the context, he is explaining why he thinks Westcott and Hort failed “spectacularly” in their preference for 01 and 03.
It has become more and more probable that Greek MSS. as a whole only represent one type of text and its corruptions, that the Latin Versions and Fathers represent another type, and the Syriac versions a third, while perhaps Clement of Alexandria may provide us with a fourth.

 It is between these texts, and not between individual MSS., that we shall have in the last resort to judge, so that the situation which we must face is that we have to deal with a number of local texts, that no two localities used quite the same text, that no locality has yet been shown to have used a text which is demonstrably better than its rivals, and that no one of these local texts is represented in an uncorrupt form by any single MS.

The effect on the method of the textual critic is enormous. He has no longer the right to suggest that he can immediately edit the original text. He must go back and edit first the local texts. In the case of each locality he has the evidence of the versions used in the local church and of the writers who used them, but it is not very large, and in no case is without traces of corruption. Therefore, the student of these local texts is reduced to the level of the critic of classical texts. In the face of suspected corruption he has the right to use conjectural emendation. It used to be said that the classical student often needed to make use of conjectural emendation, because he had so few and so poor authorities for the text of his authors, but that the biblical student had no such need, because the MSS. of the New Testament were so numerous and so good that primitive corruption was almost unknown. The argument was reasonable, but when we recognize that in reality the text of the Gospels has not much better attestation than have some classical texts, the whole case is altered and the textual critic must be conceded the right of as free emendation in the Gospels as in the Classics. Granted this freedom it will perhaps be possible some day to reconstruct the texts which were in use at the close of the second century in Africa, in Alexandria, in the East, and perhaps elsewhere. None of these have been yet reconstructed : all that we can say is that each as compared with any of the others presents a definite series of interpolations and a definite series of omissions.
From The Influence of Textual Criticism on the Exegesis of the New Testament (1904), pp. 5-7 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic online

NYU’s Ancient World Digital Library has the Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic now online for free. This includes both volumes of the Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament Version from the Early Period by Christa Müller-Kessler as well as the Christian Palestinian Aramaic Old Testament and Apocrypha Version from the Early Period by Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff.

Also, don’t miss their papyrology section whcin includes the Chester Beatty Biblical papyri IV and V by Pietersma.

HT: Morgan Reed

Looking for advice on “Categorizing MSS”

Good morning from St Paul, where we finally got some rain on our parched gardens,

I am re-writing a textbook for beginners on TC of the Bible. The OT part was pretty good, but the NT part needed to be re-done. I’m now in the section that introduces some of the important MSS. We only introduce the most commonly discussed ones and otherwise suggest to the reader to go to the other established resources like Metzger & Ehrman, Parker, Aland & Aland, and the GNTs.

Originally the book had charts, one each for the papyri, majuscules, and minuscules.

Here are the first lines of the papyrus chart:

Table 4.1: Important New Testament Papyri
Number Date Textual Tendencies Contains Name/Collection
𝔓1 3rd century Alexandrian Matt 1:1–9, 12, 14–20 P. Oxy. 2, Univ. of Penn.
𝔓4, 64, 67 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Luke and Matthew P. Oxy. 208, British Lib., Oxford
𝔓13 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Heb 2; 10–12 P. Oxy. 657
𝔓20 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Jas 2:19–3:9 P. Oxy. 1171
𝔓22 3rd century Independent John 15:25–16:2, 21–32 P. Oxy. 1228
𝔓23 ca. 200 Alexandrian Jas 1:10–12, 15–18 P. Oxy. 1229
𝔓24 3rd century Alexandrian Rev 5:5–8; 6:5–8 P. Oxy. 1230
𝔓27 Early 3rd century Alexandrian Portions of Rom 8–9 P. Oxy. 1355
𝔓29 Early 3rd century Possibly Western Acts 26:7–8, 20 P. Oxy. 1597

There are about 30 total papyri listed.

When I hit the papyrus chart I wrote the following to the editor:

“Table 4.1: Important New Testament Papyri. I find myself wondering if this ought to be included. The main reason for it would be to provide the textual tendency of many of the papyri, but most textual critics are now frowning on the over-simplicity of assigning each MS to a text type. If we don’t list the textual tendencies, I don’t really see a reason for the chart at all. We can refer the reader to the more extensive list of NT MSS in the back of the NA28. This would lead to a similar decision about the other charts for the majuscules, etc.”

He wrote back the following:

“I know tables and charts tend to oversimplify, and I want our text to address the text type categorization issue directly. However, there may still be heuristic value in identifying what text type those MSS have been traditionally associated with. That is, we are indicating the classification solely as a help for the reader who might come across those categorizations if they read previous scholarship on NT TC. Our text will prepare them for the reality that those are now not as widely accepted, but knowing of them may help them evaluate future work that appears stuck in the past methodologically.

“I think some of the charts are helpful but perhaps too long to include in the chapters themselves, so I was considering moving them to appendices. They could also be edited to not be presenting as “important papyri” but maybe more as “representative papyri.” That is, giving students a quick reference for well-known MSS.”

My request from you my colleagues is to hear not only your opinion on whether papyri ought to be categorized. I am going to try to talk him out of that. (Though his point about students encountering previous scholarship is valid.) But also whether such a chart is helpful in a book for beginners. Please stay in the beginners mindset when you evaluate this.

Responses much appreciated. Amy

Batovici: Two B Scribes in Codex Sinaiticus?

In the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, Dan Batovici has a new article arguing against splitting the “B” scribe into two.
Abstract: The history of scribal hand identification in Codex Sinaiticus is a fairly complicated one. The most recent identification, splitting the work of Tischendorf’s scribe B in B1 and B2, was attempted by Amy Myshrall in a 2015 contribution, as a result of the work on the Codex Sinaiticus digitizing project completed in 2009. This article will assess the argument proposed by Amy Myshrall for distinguishing the two new scribes, and it argues that there is not enough reason to adopt the newly proposed distinction.
The article is on his Academia page.

Friday, July 14, 2017

New Details Emerge about ‘First Century Mark’ from Scott Carroll

Elijah Hixson has sent me a YouTube video that has Josh McDowell interviewing Scott Carroll about “First Century Mark.” The video is posted below to which I have added a partial transcript for reference. The video was uploaded on November 15, 2015, but the conference was in October, 2015 given what Carroll says in the video, it must be from before that.

The most important things we learn are that Scott Carroll has seen “First Century Mark” twice and that Dirk Obbink is indeed the unofficial source of its tentative date. So, we now have someone on record claiming to have actually seen it—twice. (Cf. PJW’s question here.) We are told that Obbink wrestled with dating it between AD 70 and 110/120. The former date has obvious reference to the destruction of the temple, but why 110/120 would be a sensible cutoff date, I have no idea. Obviously, we are hearing this from Carroll rather than from Obbink himself. So, caveat lector.

We also learn that Carroll does not seem to think it came from mummy cartonnage although he is not sure. (Papyrus can be cleaned of the signs of cartonnage, of course.) He tried to acquire it for the Green collection but wasn’t able to. An unnamed source now apparently owns it and is preparing it for publication. We continue to wait.

One other minor note. Carroll says he first saw the papyrus in 2012 and then again in 2013. His famous tweet, claiming that P52 was no longer the earliest known New Testament papyrus, was sent on December 1, 2011. So, my guess is that in the video Carroll has just rounded up to 2012. If so, this adds further confirmation that Carroll is the original source of the claim to a “First Century Mark” even though Dan Wallace was the first to announce it as such. This makes it a bit odd that Carroll refers to some stuff being “leaked.”

For a helpful timeline of events, see James Snapp’s site. For ETC’s past discussions, see here.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reviews of Lin’s Erotic Life of Manuscripts

Sometime in the spring while my head was still in boxes, BBR published my review of Yii-Jan Lin’s provocatively titled book The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences (Oxford, 2016). I must say that I did not expect to like the book when I first picked it up but the more I read the more it grew on me. There were still some problems and some... weirdness (cyborgs, anyone?), but overall I found it a helpful exercise to step back and consider the conceptual metaphors we use in the discipline. Lin admits up front that she is an outsider and occasionally it shows. But, on the whole, her outsider perspective was more benefit than liability. 

Here is my conclusion:
In the end, what is most enduring and helpful about Lin’s book is not its particular conclusions (will any be taken with her “cyborg” textual model?), but its method of interrogating past practitioners to see how their categories of thought have shaped their work. In that the work succeeds admirably and should generate a good deal more self-awareness on the part of textual scholars.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Christian Graffiti in Smyrna – not as early as once thought

Back in 2012 I posted a brief note about some Christian graffiti in Smyrna that was dated by Roger Bagnall to before AD 125 (and mentioned in R. Bagnall, Everyday Writing in the Graeco-Roman East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011, 2012 pb), 22f., see here). I suggested that if the date was secure “this would be the earliest securely dated archaeological evidence for Christianity anywhere in the ancient world”.


kurioj   w
pistij   w

This could be translated as: ‘equal in value: lord: 800, faith: 800’. It works on the basis of isopsephy:
  • kurioj  when one counts the letters equals 20+400+100+10+70+200=800 (i.e. omega)
  • pistij  when one counts the letters equals 80+10+200+300+10+200=800 (i.e. omega)
Anyway, recently I came across the publication of these texts on the new book shelves in the Sackler library: Graffiti from the Basilica in the Agora of Smyrna (eds R.S. Bagnall, R. Casagrande-Kim, A. Ersoy, C. Tanriver; New York: New York University Press, 2016)

In this analysis the dating is shifted back to ‘the last part of the second century and the first part of the third’ (p. 40). Other evidence for Christian presence is also noted (pp. 45-47). It is a full discussion with photos of a range of graffiti texts.

Book on the Green Collection and Museum of the Bible

Before the recent news about Hobby Lobby broke, Facebook alerted me to the book by Candida Moss and Joel Baden titled Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby (Princeton). Amazon lists it as coming in October and Tommy’s post says there will be an SBL panel on the book which will no doubt be even more important now. Here is the description:
How the billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make America a “Bible nation” 

Like many evangelical Christians, the Green family of Oklahoma City believes that America was founded as a Christian nation, based on a “biblical worldview.” But the Greens are far from typical evangelicals in other ways. The billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby, a huge nationwide chain of craft stores, the Greens came to national attention in 2014 after successfully suing the federal government over their religious objections to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. What is less widely known is that the Greens are now America’s biggest financial supporters of Christian causes—and they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an ambitious effort to increase the Bible’s influence on American society. In Bible Nation, Candida Moss and Joel Baden provide the first in-depth investigative account of the Greens’ sweeping Bible projects and the many questions they raise.

Bible Nation tells the story of the Greens’ rapid acquisition of an unparalleled collection of biblical antiquities; their creation of a closely controlled group of scholars to study and promote their collection; their efforts to place a Bible curriculum in public schools; and their construction of a $500 million Museum of the Bible near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Bible Nation reveals how these seemingly disparate initiatives promote a very particular set of beliefs about the Bible—and raise serious ethical questions about the trade in biblical antiquities, the integrity of academic research, and more.

Bible Nation is an important and timely account of how a vast private fortune is being used to promote personal faith in the public sphere—and why it should matter to everyone.
For a taste of the book, see the authors’ Atlantic article from a few years ago where they first broke the news about the Department of Justice investigation.

I do worry about how intent some people are on politicizing the Museum before it even opens. Is this book, for example, really a must read “in our increasingly polarized country” as Reza Aslan blurbs?

This unnecessary politicizing has only worsened since news broke of the settlement. Some people clearly have it in for the Museum because of the connection with the Greens and their victory at the the Supreme Court over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. (For a case in point, see Donna Yates’s “fantasies.”)

Let me say clearly that there are very serious questions that need answering about the Museum’s artifacts in light of the DOJ settlement. These questions are not helped and the issues are not clarified in the least by animosity toward the Greens because of their religious or political views. I hope the book does not traffic in them, but the marketing for it does not give me hope. Regardless of your political or religious views, let’s deal with the issues as they are. 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Where Should the Books of Chronicles be Placed?

In the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 60.2 (2017): 283–99, Gregory Goswell has contributed an article entitled “Putting the Book of Chronicles in Its Place.” His “aim is to unsettle any developing consensus that Chronicles must be read as the last book of the OT (in preference to other positions)” (283–4; emphasis original). His conclusions are worth citing in full:
My argument has been that the placement of Chronicles within the different canons reflects post-authorial evaluations of the book and its contents. Each position has its rationale and potentially contributes to the understanding of readers. There are no grounds for insisting that any one position is the earliest or best. In particular, there is no proof that the Chronicler composed his work to conclude the OT canon. Chronicles after Kings alerts readers that Kings (and the preceding historical books) record the history of Israel from a prophetic perspective. Chronicles at the head of the Writings suggests that succeeding books have a liturgical and/or wisdom orientation. Finally, Chronicles at the end of the Writings sums up the witness of the OT to God’s purposes that culminate in the rebuilt temple (= palace) of God as a precursor to the dawning of God’s final kingdom (pp. 298–9).
The first order of books alluded to above is the Greek ordering of the OT books in which Chronicles or Paraleipomenon follows Kings (p. 284ff); the second order is that of the earliest extant Hebrew codices of Aleppo and Leningrad which have Chronicles at the beginning of the Writings (p. 289ff); the third order in which Chronicles concludes the Writings is found in Baba Batra 14b.

In the final analysis, Goswell shows that our current, variegated evidence keeps us from concluding that any one of these orders is primary or better. Most importantly, according to him, we cannot conclude that the author of Chronicles is responsible for closing the Writings and therefore closing the Hebrew Bible with his own book. The different canonical orders result from “post-authorial interpretive frames” not an “authorial paratext” or an authorial guide to interpretation of the whole.

The article is worth reading in its entirety paying especial attention to pp. 295-7 wherein he shows the improbability that Chronicles was composed as a conclusion to the Writings as an authorial paratext. Goswell probably has not settled the debate, but he and others like Edmon L. Gallagher (see Tyndale Bulletin 65.2 (2014): 181-199; pdf) are certainly unsettling any recently formed consensus on this question.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

United States Department of Justice announces Hobby Lobby Cuneiform Verdict


Earlier today, the United States filed a civil complaint to forfeit thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae. As alleged in the complaint, these ancient clay artifacts originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law. Packages containing the artifacts were shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two of Hobby Lobby’s corporate affiliates. The shipping labels on these packages falsely described cuneiform tablets as tile “samples.”
Read the complete verdict, here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sister of Leningrad Codex Discovered!

Congratulations to Kim Phillips, Tyndale House Research Associate, for discovering a manuscript of the Former Prophets by Samuel ben Jacob the scribe of the Leningrad Codex. This should make a significant difference to our understanding of the main manuscript used for the study of the Hebrew Bible today.

The Tyndale House notice is here. The original article is online freely in the Tyndale Bulletin.

New Book on the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection

University of Michigan Press has a book coming out this year that looks interesting. Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection by Arthur Verhoogt is “the first-ever history of Michigan’s celebrated collection of papyri offers nonspecialists an inviting encounter with the ancient world.”


Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection provides an accessible introduction to the University’s collection of papyri and related ancient materials, the widest and deepest resource of its kind in the Western hemisphere. The collection was founded in the early part of the 20th century by University of Michigan Professor of Classics Francis W. Kelsey. His original intention was to create a set of artifacts that would be useful in teaching students more directly about the ancient world, at a time when trips to ancient sites were much harder to arrange.

Jointly administered by the University of Michigan’s Department of Classical Studies and its Library, the collection has garnered significant interest beyond scholarly circles and now sees several hundred visitors each year. Of particular note among the collection’s holdings are sixty pages of the earliest known copy of the Epistles of St. Paul, which are often featured on tours of the collection by groups from religious institutions.

Arthur Verhoogt, one of the current stewards of the University of Michigan Papyrology Collection, provides clear, insightful information in an appealing style that will attract general readers and scholars alike. Extensively illustrated with some of the collection’s more spectacular pieces, this volume describes what the collection is, what kinds of ancient texts it contains, and how it has developed from Francis Kelsey’s day to the present. Additionally, Verhoogt describes in detail how people who study papyri carry out their work, and how papyri contribute to our understanding of various aspects of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Translations of the ancient texts are presented so that the reader can experience some of the excitement that comes with reading original documents from many centuries ago.

Arthur Verhoogt is Professor of Papyrology and Greek and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan.

HT: Brice Jones

Monday, July 03, 2017

C. S. Lewis: Why the miracle of inspiration does not require the miracle of preservation

In his little book on miracles, C. S. Lewis has a chapter explaining why miracles should not be thought of as breaking the laws of nature. Instead, he says, they should be thought of as God introducing something new to nature which nature then acts on in typical fashion. He illustrates with a series of examples, one of which touches on the question of divine preservation.
If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born. We see every day that physical nature is not in the least incommoded by the daily inrush of events from biological nature or from psychological nature. If events ever come from beyond Nature altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate [but don’t tell Baptists], miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.*
What constitutes the peculiarity of a miracle, Lewis goes on to say, is that it does not “interlock” with what comes before in the way that it does with what follows after. “And this,” he says, “is just what some people find intolerable.” They assume that nature is all there is and so they cannot tolerate anything invading it from beyond.

Related to textual criticism and inspiration, there is an unexpected agreement on this issue between Bart Ehrman and KJV-onlyists that Lewis is inadvertently touching on. The agreement lies in the belief that the miracle of inspiration must walk hand-in-hand with the miracle of preservation such that if you lose one, you end up losing both. For KJV-onlyists, this explains why they insist on the miracle of divine preservation; for Ehrman, if we are to believe what he says in Misquoting Jesus, it explains why he came to deny the miracle of divine inspiration.

But Lewis helps us see why neither view is right. There is no reason to assume that God’s miraculous inspiration of the Bible should require him (or lead us to expect him) to miraculously preserve it from the “ordinary processes of textual corruption.” Instead, we have God, in the miracle of inspiration, introducing something from outside nature and then, in the non-miracle of transmission, letting nature take its course. (Or, as I might prefer to say it, we have God returning to his natural way of overseeing the world.)

Lewis helpfully reminds us that the inspiration and transmission of Scripture fit with the pattern of many of God’s other miracles. Just as we can expect the baby Jesus to gestate normally, so we can also expect the Bible to be transmitted normally. The miracle of origin does not require a second miracle of subsequent development.

*From the end of ch. 8 of Miracles: A Preliminary Study; emphasis mine

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Armin Baum Responds to Ehrman on Pseudepigraphy

In the latest issue of JBL, Armin Baum has a response to Bart Ehrman on pseudepigraphy. In his big book on forgery in early Christian polemics, Ehrman argues not only that pseudepigraphical texts were intended to deceive (and were regarded as such by readers) and that forgers sometimes thought their deception was divinely sanctioned, but also that a work was considered authentic only if its words, not merely its contents, were the author’s. Baum agrees with Ehrman’s first two points but contests the third. He contends that content is enough to authenticate a work. He summarizes his own view with the following table:

from the author from someone else
Content from the author authentic authentic
from someone else forged forged

After working through his example texts, Baum concludes:
With an eye to these and other ancient statements, I cannot agree with the most innovative contribution of Ehrman’s otherwise very useful book. Ehrman has rightly joined the growing number of scholars who have raised substantial doubts regarding the once-popular thesis of innocent ancient pseudepigraphy. At the same time, his assertion that in antiquity a text’s authenticity was assessed not on the basis of its content but always on the basis of its wording goes one step beyond what the numerous relevant sources reveal.
I think Baum’s sources generally support this conclusion. Several also touch on the issue of works published without the author’s explicit consent. So the article is worth reading for an eye beyond just the question of pseudepigraphy. Some of his sources also touch on broader questions about authorship and publication which we discussed on the blog recently.

The article is “Content and Form: Authorship Attribution and Pseudonymity in Ancient Speeches, Letters, Lectures, and Translations—A Rejoinder to Bart Ehrman,” JBL 136.2 (2017): 381-403

Monday, June 26, 2017

Special ETS Session: Growing Up in the Ehrman Era

It’s just over ten years since Bart Ehrman published his bestselling Misquoting Jesus (reviewed here) and almost ten years since Christanity Today called textual criticism one of “the hottest issues in evangelical theology.” In that time, textual criticism, particularly of New Testament, has become a staple of Evangelical apologetics, with articles on the subject in study Bibles, popular apologetics, and books on the reliability of the Bible. Unfortunately, the apologetic output too often suffers from ignorance of what we all know to be a highly technical field. At times, the results can be quite embarrassing (for example). And the problem does not seem to be improving despite the increasing number of well-trained, Evangelical text-critics.

So, about a year ago, Elijah Hixson and I began planning a way to address this problem. The result is a book project that we are excited to say has recently been accepted by IVP Academic. (More on that later.) Today, as part of that larger project, we would like to announce a special session at this year’s Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Rhode Island. Rather than offering one more response to Ehrman and co., however, the idea is to hold an in-house discussion, one which takes stock of our apologetic efforts over the last decade.

The session is two-part. The first part offers selections from the forthcoming book and the second part is a panel of top Evangelical scholars who have written on the apologetic topic at hand. Elijah and are especially excited that everyone we asked to join the panel has agreed. We actually adjusted our original schedule to give our panelists extra time. Readers will notice several fellow ETC bloggers on the panel and at least one who will be participating in ETS for the first time. Don’t miss it!

Here are the details:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Timing of Burgon’s Last Twelve Verses

Some time ago, I posted Hort’s review of Dean Burgon’s defense of Mark 16.9-20. Along with that, and more interesting than the review, was a letter that Hort sent to Westcott about his review and the importance of its timing. Hort tells Westcott that he hopes the review is out before the committee for the RV meets to discuss this passage. And so it was. The review was published just before that meeting.

What I had not realized then was that Hort, in timing his response, was following in Burgon’s footsteps. Burgon’s own book was timed to precede—and so influence—the committee’s discussion of this passage.

Here is what A. H. Cadwallader says in his article “The Politics of Translation of The Revised Version: Evidence from the Newly Discovered Notebooks of Brooke Foss Westcott,” JTS 58, no. 2 (2007): 415–39. After discussing how careful the committee was to remain tight-lipped about their internal deliberations and disagreements, Cadwallader says (pp. 424-25),
The newspapers were officially provided only with details of the days of meeting, the members present, and the passages examined. This provided at least one antagonist, Dean Burgon, with the opportunity to time a publication on the integrity of the last twelve verses to Mark’s Gospel (the ‘Longer Ending’) before the Company dealt with the passage. Westcott’s close companion on such textual issues, Fenton J. A. Hort, saw the political danger immediately, and bemoaned to Westcott the rapid refutation that was needed if the Company was not to swing behind the moderately conservative Frederick Scrivener. As it was, the implication from the minutes is that the discussions on this passage were lengthy if not heated. Of all the 412 days of meeting, this seven-hour meeting yielded the least number of verses processed.
Having seen the minutes from these meetings, I can say that they are pretty boring. The first few entries detail who voted for what change but after that they quickly become a mere record of who was present and what changes were voted for. But Cadwallader’s observation is probably right to see the less-than-usual progress as a sign of serious debate. At least we know the decision was not made hastily.

Perhaps I should also note that Cadwallader has been at work on a history of the RV and I hear that he is making good progress. It should be a fine study when it comes out.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Chiesa’s Historical Philology of the Hebrew Bible

I can’t remember where I came across Bruno Chiesa’s work, but I think readers here will at least be interested to know of its existence. The two pertinent volumes I have in mind are titled Filologia storica della Bibbia ebraica or Historical Philology of the Hebrew Bible. Volume 1 covers Origen up to the medieval period and volume 2 takes us to the present.

I couldn’t get my hands on a copy before leaving England and it seems no library in the U.S. has them. The best I could do was this RBL review from Paul Sanders which provides a good English summary. I’ll clip from his conclusion here:
At the end of the eighteenth century, the focus of exegesis started to shift from philology to literary criticism and hermeneutics. Chiesa argues that textual criticism and literary criticism have different tasks. Textual criticism, which in Chiesa’s view deserves a positive reevaluation, tries to establish the oldest documented form of the given text, whereas it is the role of literary criticism to establish its original form. Chiesa believes that the time is ripe for the creation of critical editions of the books of the Hebrew Bible, especially of those for which a historical archetype can be reconstructed. During the past decades, several Italian scholars, such as Paolo Sacchi, have undertaken preliminary work in this field, but their studies have received too little attention.

In these two volumes, Chiesa has shown himself to be an independent expert who is thoroughly acquainted with the existing literature, both old and modern. Chiesa offers a magnificent overview of the history of the philology of the Hebrew Bible, paying due attention to periods that are usually disregarded by other authors. He even discusses the contribution of scholars, such as John Philoponus (sixth century), whose biblical studies have only recently been brought back into the limelight (104–9).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Forging Antiquity Website and Blog


Here is the new website for the Macquarie University/Heidelberg University project led by Malcolm Choat and funded by the Australian Research Council:

"Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri"

And the related blog Markers of Authenticity

Questions of authenticity, forgery, provenance and ethics are very hot topics, as reflected in this year's SBL Programme (HT: Malcolm Choat), where I will contribute a paper together with Malcolm on Simonides, "The Cable Guy: Constantine Simonides and his New Testament papyri":

S18-235– Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
1:00 PM to 3:15 PM
Theme: Authenticity and Dating
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester, Presiding
Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University and Tommy Wasserman, Orebro School of Theology
The Cable Guy: Constantine Simonides and his New Testament papyri
Andrew Smith, Shepherds Theological Seminary
Analysis of Ink from Ancient Papyri through Raman Micro-Spectroscopy
Kipp Davis, Trinity Western University
Dead Sea Scrolls papyri, scribal features and questions of authenticity
Charles E. Hill, Reformed Theological Seminary
Dating and Breaking Up (the text): Textual Division as a Non-Paleographical Aid in Dating Biblical Texts

S19-140 Public Scholarship in the New Media
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Robert Cargill, University of Iowa, Introduction
Nina Burleigh, Newsweek Magazine
Ariel Sabar, The Atlantic
Caroline T. Schroeder, University of the Pacific
Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

S19-238 – Qumran
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Discovering and investigating manuscript and scribal features of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Alison Schofield, University of Denver, Presiding
Oren Gutfeld, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Randall Price, Liberty University
The Discovery of a New Dead Sea Scroll Cave at Qumran
Ira Rabin, BAM Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing
Material analysis: authentication or forgery detection?
Arstein Justnes, Universitetet i Agder
Yet Another Fake? A Pre-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like manuscript
Sarah Yardney, University of Chicago
Assessing Current Methods for Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A Quantitative Approach
Eibert Tigchelaar, KU Leuven
A Critique of Frank Moore Cross’ Typological Development of the Jewish Scripts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Text und Textwert for Revelation

Darius Müller announced the latest (and last) volume of the Text und Textwert a few months back. As users of the ECM know, the TuT volumes are used to determine the most important witnesses cited in the ECM and these are then further reduced for citation in the NA. So for this and other reasons these are important volumes.

Here is Darius’s announcement:
The “Text and Textwert” volume of Revelation is on the way to the printing presses by De Gruyter (ANTF 49).

It will be edited by Markus Lembke, Darius Müller, and Ulrich B. Schmid in connection with Martin Karrer (head of the ECM project of Revelation housed at ISBTF, KiHo Wuppertal/Bethel).

The volume contains both the collation results of the 123 selected test passages of Revelation and the evaluation list of all available Greek manuscripts. Facilities also include a comprehensive introduction in German and Englisch (English translation was done by Garrick V. Allen) as well as six appendices which offer useful additional information to the material.
Details from de Grutyer are here.

Congrats to the team in Wuppertal for reaching this milestone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Error in NA28 apparatus (Phil 1.23)

I should say at the outset that finding errors in NA28 is rewarding because they are so few and far between, and because you are pitting your wits against the best in the business. Finding errors in NA28  is a sport based on a fundamental level of respect in the colleagues who have over the years made the NA into the gold standard in our field. It is also a challenge because many things that look at first sight like errors turn out not to be errors, but rather misunderstandings on the part of the challenger.

So with this brief introduction I shall note an error I spotted today following a great Logos seminar on page 170 (fol. 87R) of P46 [there is a problem already hidden there for the inquisitive, but I won’t say any more on that right now].

At Phil 1.23 NA28 notes that the word EIS is omitted before the articular infinitive TO ANALUSAI in P46c D F G. You wouldn’t be at all sure about the reading of P46* on this basis - a first guess might be that P46* did read EIS and a corrector has marked it for deletion - but you wouldn’t know anything except that there was some complexity in the manuscript here. [Incidentally, you might also wonder why DFG are agreeing with P46c but not (by definition) P46* - which could also be interesting if it really happened.] To figure out what was going on with P46 here you’d have to consult a good image.

But when you did consult a good image you would realise that the entry in NA28 is an error, at least the little “c” is an error. There is no correction to the text of P46 at this point:

I offer this small post as a homage to NA28 with a hope that this might be corrected in future editions (NA27 correctly noted P46 D F G as witnesses to the omission).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

John Bunyan on the ‘True Copy’ of the Scriptures

Here’s a little anecdote on how John Bunyan once responded to a Cambridge critic about his use of the English Bible:
To these years before the Restoration belongs also the story of Bunyan’s encounter on the road near Cambridge with the university man, who asked him how he, not having the original Scriptures, dared to preach. To this he gave answer by asking this scholar, in turn, if he himself had the originals, the actual copies written by prophets and apostles. No, but he had what he knew to be true copies of the originals. “ And I,’’ said Bunyan, “ believe the English Bible to be a true copy also,” upon which the university man went his way.
—John Brown, John Bunyan: His Life, Times, and Work (1885), p. 117

Friday, June 09, 2017

Phoenix: A New Hotbed of Textual Criticism

Manuscripts love the heat—and so will you
The Gurry family has just landed in the blazing sun of Phoenix, Arizona where I will be teaching New Testament in the fall. By my count, this means that the number of Biblical text-critics in the city has just doubled—amazing! (For those who don’t know, my colleague and sometime fellow-blogger, John Meade, is expert in all things OTTC with special emphasis on the Syro-hexapla.) So, if you want to study textual criticism, come to Phoenix Seminary. I can promise lots more sun than Cambridge or Oxford.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tyndale House Edition: Romans 1:1 and Manuscript Tendencies

“Knowledge of documents should precede final judgement upon readings.” Useful though this adage by Westcott and Hort is, it is also a little bit of an open door: lots of things should precede ‘final judgement’ (and when is anything ‘final’ in our discipline?) But what are the things that one needs to know about a document? It seems to me that ‘knowledge of documents’ includes also ‘knowledge of its readings’. Because manuscripts are not just characterised by their appearance, their dating, and their paratextual apparatus, first and foremost they are carriers of a text with a specific wording. The particulars of the wording of a manuscript, its ‘readings’, make a manuscript textually different from others and are an accumulation of inherited readings and scribe-created ones, but for our purposes today this latter distinction is irrelevant. What I want to demonstrate is how important it is to know about the tendencies a manuscript exhibits in the wording of the text, patterns within their readings. None of these individual readings needs to be unique to the witness, as long as one can make a case for a certain inclination to a type of reading. So we are talking ‘manuscript habits’ rather than ‘scribal habits’, or perhaps better, ‘manuscript tendencies’. Today I will share an example that explains a difference between the Tyndale House Edition and the modern critical editions.

Romans 1:1 starts as follows in the current Nestle-Aland, UBS, and SBL texts: Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ‘Paul a servant of Christ Jesus’. The Tyndale House Edition breaks the mold of modern critical texts and has, Παῦλος δοῦλος Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, ‘Paul a servant of Jesus Christ’ [edited: Initially I claimed wrongly that we had retained the reading of Tregelles]. The difference is that of the word order in ‘Jesus Christ’. Both orders are found widely elsewhere in the Pauline corpus, though ‘Christ Jesus’ is typically Paul, with hardly any occurrence outside his writings.
The evidence for ‘Christ Jesus’ here in Rm 1:1 is limited though, only B(03) and P10, a roughly written papyrus that doesn’t seem to have been part of a whole text of Romans, but contains nothing more than the opening of the epistle. Both manuscripts are palaeographically dated to the fourth century. In addition there are the minuscules 81 and 1838. Neither the two minuscules or P10 in themselves would be sufficient to tip the scales in favour of considering ‘Christ Jesus’ in the main text, but it is the presence of B(03) that opens up the possibility.

I assume that one of the main reasons why ‘Christ Jesus’ is preferred is that it is more likely that typically Pauline usage is harmonised to the more general pattern than the other way around. It would almost require a scholarly and editorial mind in order to make a text more ‘Paul’ than Paul himself was, and since we don’t know of such source, the reading of B(03) and P10 is more likely original than not.
This is where manuscript tendencies come in.

There are a number of variants elsewhere in Romans where B(03) occupies also a heavy minority position in its readings. In the following five places B(03) has Christ Jesus where almost everyone else has Jesus Christ: 5:17; 5:21; 13:14 (’Christ Jesus’ for ‘Lord Jesus Christ’); 16:25 (together with minuscule 1739); 16:27. In addition there is 3:22 where B(03) has ‘Christ’ for ‘Jesus Christ’, whilst A(02) has ‘Christ Jesus’, and also 5:15 where minuscule 1739 has ‘Christ Jesus’ for ‘Jesus Christ’. The changes in B(03) are not systematic or exhaustive by any means, but they are remarkable, and concentrated in this particular witness.

There are two things one can do: accept the text of B(03) in all these places, or conclude that B(03) has in this particular feature the tendency to do what we above rejected as highly unlikely, namely to make Paul’s text more like Paul. I believe it is the latter, but this implies something quite interesting: the text-critical canon to prefer the reading that is most in line with the style of the author has been applied apparently already in this fourth century manuscript! In B(03) we find an intensification of Pauline style, at least when it comes to the order ‘Christ Jesus’ (I believe that I have found similar intensification of author’s style elsewhere in B(03), but that is not for now).
Summing up, B(03)’s tendency throws a large shadow over the value of B(03) in Rm 1:1 and makes it hard to accept its reading. More broadly, I hope this shows how important it is to know the tendencies of some of the key witnesses (and constellation of witnesses) in order to understand and explain the evidence at any given point. And that is why we need good and deep studies of our main manuscripts. To come back to Παῦλος δοῦλος Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ in the Tyndale House Edition, now you know the story—it is more than just a numbers game.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

“PAVONe” – Platform of the Arabic Versions of the New Testament


The Digital humanities Center at the University of Balamand has just launched “PAVONe”, Platform of the Arabic Versions of the New Testament. Here is the news piece with pictures of the launching event. The Platform contains a huge number of Arabic manuscripts of the four gospels and lectionaries and a number of modules:

Since 2012 our Digital Humanities Centre at the University of Balamand has been developing an online database for the Arabic text of the Gospels. The database is accessible online and it’s open for scholars.

The database contains the following sections/services:
  1. The “About” section: It includes a presentation of the project and the methodology used. 
  2. The “Manuscripts” section: It allows the user to browse the Gospels manuscripts transcribed in the database. Two browsing modalities are offered: the first one allows the scholar to visualize the manuscripts in their geographical location using a geotagging feature; the second one allows the filtration of the manuscripts by a variety of parameters (date, language...). Both modalities lead to the same resources and give the researcher the possibility of displaying some codicological and paleographical properties of the manuscripts and their content as well. 
  3. The “Lectionary” section: It gives the liturgical structure of the lectionary as used by the Rum Orthodox Church and allows the researcher to browse the corresponding pericopes in the lectionary manuscripts. All the transcribed texts are published with a copy of the manuscript containing the reading. This allows the scholar to examine the original digital photo of the text and to compare it with our reading. 
  4. The “Citations” section: In this section, we identified all the citations and allusions of the Gospels verses in the literature produced by Christians and Muslims in the first millennium. We limited our sources to the works mentioned in the monumental work: “Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History”. This section enables the researchers to browse all these citations and allusions and to compare them with their parallels in the lectionaries and/or continuous texts of the Gospels. 
  5. The “Search” section: this module allows the researcher to look for a specific verse in all the contents of the database regardless of the type of the source. The user can search, for example, for a verse in the “Muslim-Christian citations” and lectionaries at the same time...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Missing Witnesses in Textual Flow Diagrams

After about 3½ years of studying the CBGM, I continue to learn new things about it. Sometimes I discover answers to question I was not even asking. This happened this week while reproducing the textual flow diagrams in my thesis. Because these diagrams connect each witness with their closest potential ancestor (within the constraints set by the user), someone smarter than me might  wonder what happens when a witness’s closest potential ancestor is not extant at the point of variation being studied.

Well, I found the answer. When this happens, any descendants are simply left out of the diagram, even if they are extant at this point.

Let’s give an example. If we look at the textual flow diagrm for the whole Catholic Epistles, we see that 104 is the closest potential ancestor for 1838 and 459. 459, in turn, is the closest ancestor for 1842.

104 and its descendants in the predominant textual flow for the Catholic Epistles
So, what happens when 104 is not extant? Its three descendants will disappear whenever the diagram is set to connect each witness with its closest potential ancestor (a connectivity of 1). In such cases 1838, 459, and 1842 are not displayed. For example, here is 2 John 1.2/2-6 with a connectivity of 1: You will not find the four witnesses I just mentioned.

At 2 John 1.2/2-6 with connectivity set to 1, 104 and its descendants are missing
But if you change the connectivity to absolute, they all reappear because they can be connected to other potential ancestors which, unlike 104, are extant at this point of variation.

At 2 John 1.2/2-6 with connectivity set to absolute, the descendants of 104 reappear
I think there are probably better ways to handle these situations, such as making the non-extant ancestors gray or circling them with a dashed border. Alternately, the descendants that have no ancestor available could just free float in the diagram.

I suspect this was something that was just overlooked in the original programming. Perhaps the situation will be treated differently in Acts. In any case, it’s worth knowing in case you’re using a connectivity of one and wondering where some of your witnesses have gone.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Editio Critica Maior: Acts announced

The Editio Critica Maior for Acts appears in the latest German Bible Society catalogue (HT: Greg Paulson on FB). It is due for publication in August 2017. We look forward to this and encourage and congratulate all those involved.

There are two main volumes on the text itself comprising 1,180 pages (there are 1,006 verses in Acts, so around one A4 page per verse). There is a second volume on materials. And (new for Acts compared with the Catholic Epistles) is a third volume on Studien. It is interesting that this is not entitled Kommentar, since I guess I had expected something like a textual commentary. It will be interesting to see what this volume contains. It is a bit disappointing that no scholars are named, only the Institut fur Neutestamentliche Textforschung - no doubt reflecting the hard work of many and the collective mode of textual decision-making, but I hope that contributing individuals will be named on the title page inside.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tyndale House Edition: Getting the Readings Right

A textual apparatus is useful as a quick summary of the evidence at a particular location and also to raise questions as to unexpected manuscript combinations or readings. However, by its very nature, an apparatus presents the evidence in an atomistic way and runs the risk of fostering a view of an artefact as little more than a collection of mutually independent readings. So it is advisable to have a large number of images open on your screen - and nowadays that is not much of a problem. But then we get the small problem of understanding what is actually there. The following two examples posed considerable problems, even though there is no problem with the physical clarity of the writing.

The first example is from Gal. 5:26.
Μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες.
‘Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.’

There is variation on the case ending of the second occurrence of the reflexive pronoun αλληλοις / αλληλους. In many aspects this is an interesting variant: not only are the early big codices split but also the Textus Receptus has a different reading from the Majority Text (provided that the CNTTS apparatus in BibleWorks is correct).

From a scribal habit perspective the solution is straightforward as the second instance underwent influence from the first, resulting in twice αλληλους.

What I am interested now is the reading of a minuscule in the BnF, GA 6.

Often it is possible to ‘predict’ the reading of a manuscript given its affinity to other manuscripts, but in this case it is much trickier. Does the ligature indicate -οις or -ους? The problem is that this minuscule does not use many ligatures for these endings and I couldn’t find any parallels in the vicinity. So I fired off an email to Maurice Robinson who I trust to have seen a few more minuscules than I, with, what I thought, was a ‘simple’ question. Questions are never simple. The solution he came up with, which I think is likelier than any alternative I had, was that the ligature for the accusative plural -ους is quite distinct; and he sent me kindly some examples from Hebrews. When trying to locate these I stumbled over a clear parallel in Heb 2:18 for -οις in the expression δυναται τοις πειραζομενοις βοηθησαι, ‘he is able to help those who are being tempted’

This solves the problem of GA 6’s reading in Gal 5:26; it reads αλληλοις.

The second example is from Codex Vaticanus, B(03). What does it read after τις ουν in 1 Cor. 9:18? μοι or μου?

It is not particularly clear to me and could go either way. Coupled with the correction that happens in Sinaiticus, ℵ(01), there is plenty of uncertainty around. In this case I judged that the direction of change would be from μου to μοι, in part because of the position of the pronoun. Had μου been at its neutral position after μισθος the problem would never have arisen. Still, what B(03) actually says is not immediately clear.

These are just two examples where the granularity of the data is starting to pose limits of what we can know. As a wise author once wrote, reality is not digital but analogue. With sufficient study we can push back the grey areas, yet only to find others instead.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Publication and Textual Criticism

1st-2nd cent. inkwell (credit)
M.D.C. Larsen, ‘Accidental Publication, Unfinished Texts and the Traditional Goals of New Testament Textual CriticismJSNT 39 (2017), 362–387.
Abstract:  Notions of ‘authorship’, ‘publication’ and ‘final text’ are often mentioned in traditional textual criticism, but less frequently discussed in detail. The projects of source and redaction criticism end and textual criticism begins based on when scholars imagine a text was finished. Yet modern notions of publication, textuality and authorship, which are largely shaped by the printing press, are often anachronistically applied to the ancient world. Exploring evidence from Plato to 4 Ezra to Tertullian and Augustine, I take up the question of when a text was considered ‘final’ by reconsidering what counted as publication in the ancient world. Once the assumption of textual finalization is set aside, the tools traditionally associated with textual, source and redaction criticism become unhelpful. While textual critics have noted the practical impossibilities of arriving at the ‘original text’, I demonstrate the conceptual roadblocks to imagining an ‘original’ and ‘final’ text in the ancient world.
In this article Larsen discusses examples of “textual unfinishedness” and accidental publication in antiquity in order to further complexify (or from his apparent perspective, rule out of court completely) the notion of the original or initial (published) text (especially in dialogue with Michael Holmes). Examples from a variety of ancient sources suggest to Larsen that accidental publication (i.e. publication of unfinished notes or the like) was ‘common’ (p. 372), ‘fairly common and widespread’ (p 372). He also discusses revisions and multiple versions of literary works, suggesting that for such texts a ‘living text’ model is better than ‘a final and fixed book’ model for discussing its textual development. This has, for Larsen, implications for New Testament textual criticism:
‘The prevalence of accidental publication, stolen texts and author variants simultaneously identifies and destabilizes one of the foundational assumptions of traditional textual criticism: without the assumption of a text existing in a final form, the boundaries between text, form and redaction criticism fall apart. Ancient writing practices and the prevalence of textual fluidity invite us to rethink some foundational categories and ideas of the discipline.’ (p. 376)
An obvious example, for Larsen, is the gospel attributed to Mark, which could be thought of as ‘unfinished textual raw material’ – ‘an open and unfinished gospel tradition’ (p. 378). (Larsen notes for further evidence and discussion his forthcoming book Before the Book: The Earliest Gospels (New York: Oxford University Press), which is presumably related to his 2017 Yale doctorate). Broadly he doesn’t think that the conceptualisation of publication is a useful category for discussing ‘the traditionary processes of revising a fluid text’ (pp. 379–380). The gospels, in particular, ‘are not the kind of texts that had originals’ (p. 379). Publication, for Larsen ‘was only notional and so existed only as a social construct’ (p. 376 – I’m not sure what this means).

I found it an interesting article. I wasn’t convinced that the evidence discussed showed ‘the prevalence of textual fluidity’ (as opposed to some form of publication, since even the authors he discusses presume the appropriateness of the distinction). I’m certainly not convinced that that gospels ‘are not the kind of texts that had originals’ – I don’t see the point in opposing one extreme caricature – ‘a single authoritative original text’ with a caricature at the other extreme; nor do I think we should conceptualise all the canonical gospels in the same way (which is another way of saying I look forward to hearing the argument of his book at some point). I do think it is helpful to think about the way that different genres functioned in antiquity, and I do wonder about the prevalence of epistolary notions (where a single original text is assumed by the genre) in our broader conceptualisations of how the New Testament text functions (this is not raised by Larsen, except to disagree with it briefly). Anyway, plenty to discuss.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Krister Stendahl Working on the Textual Apparatus

Life Magazine (26 Dec 1955) featured an article by Alfred Eisenstaedt on Harvard Divinity School, “Harvard Revival. Back in touch with life of the churches its Divinity School gains a new vigor.” The article includes a curious photo of a group of three scholars working on analyzing textual variants in the New Testament using the latest high-tech, the Harvard Lab’s computer. I think this model might be Harvard Mark IV (built by Harvard engineers in 1952 under the supervision of Howard Aiken) or perhaps Rand´s Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC). Perhaps one of our readers can tell us which it is.

The doctoral student sitting at a desk is Rev. John W. Ellison who subsequently completed his thesis on “The Use of Electronic Computers in the Study of the Greek New Testament” (Harvard Divinity School, 1957).  Ellison also used UNIVAC to create a concordance of the NRSV text (published in 1957).

The scholar leaning over the desk is the Swedish Bishop and Harvard Professor Krister Stendahl. I don’t know who the third guy is, perhaps a computer technician. Does any reader know?

A former student of mine asked, when he saw this picture, “What is that big machine?” I replied that it is a textual apparatus.

Another pioneer in this field was Vinton A. Dearing, who wrote a program for the IBM 7090 to record and analyze variant readings. The results were published in Methods of Textual Editing, (Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 1962).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Inerrancy and Textual Criticism

I have been reminded that some time ago I promised to open a discussion on the relationship between inerrancy and textual criticism. This is it. I’ll start with my thoughts and hope that others will contribute theirs as well as explore specific applications of the principles explored.


Luke in Cod. Bodmer 25 (credit)
The first thing I should say is about the relationship between inerrancy and this blog. As the blog’s founder I am very, very happy to sign inerrancy statements in almost whatever shape or form they take. However, the term I preferred when establishing this blog was simply to say that the scriptures were ‘true’. Although this might seem a weaker term, I do not mean it in a weaker sense. Moreover, it has the advantage of being self-evidently in continuation with all historic mainstream views of scripture that have been articulated down church history. Using the term ‘true’ also means that I am not forced into instant qualifications of the term I use because I am not using a technical term.

The second belief that I see as fundamental to this blog is the belief that God may be said to be the author of specific sequences of words which constitute scripture (i.e. belief in verbal inspiration). Though this belief is not without its problems, it is less problematic than alternative accounts of inspiration (e.g. that God inspired thoughts in scripture, but may not be said to be the author of specific words—the question ‘which thoughts?’ is even harder to answer than the question ‘which words?’).

That said, for the sake of discussion I want to use the term ‘inerrancy’, since, in this context, I believe it will optimise the point I am trying to make.

Basic thesis

My basic thesis is that inerrancy may only be used as a secondary criterion for the original reading. It cannot be used to overturn strong external support or to support conjecture.

Monday, May 08, 2017

What Is the Value of the Comparative Argument for the Reliability of the NT Text?

There is a common apologetic argument that says we should be far less skeptical about the text of the NT than we are for the text of other classical works since we have far more and far earlier manuscript evidence for the NT. You can find the basic comparison all the way back in Bentley. Among Evangelicals, the argument was deployed best by F.F. Bruce and his numbers for classical authors are still cited as if they have’t changed in over half a century. Today, the comparison is something of a staple of Evangelical apologetics.

But Bart Ehrman doesn’t buy it. He thinks the comparison is baseless and he gives three reasons why in a blog response to Dan Wallace. He explains:
First, it is not true that scholars are confident that they know exactly what Plato, Euripides, or Homer wrote, based on the surviving manuscripts. In fact, as any trained classicist will tell you, there are and long have been enormous arguments about all these writings. Most people don’t know about these arguments for the simple reason that they are not trained classicists. Figuring out what Homer wrote – assuming there was a Homer (there are huge debates about that; as my brother, a classicist, sometimes says: “The Iliad was not written by Homer, but by someone else named Homer” ) – has been a sources of scholarly inquiry and debate for over 2000 years!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Tyndale House Edition: The Text of the New Testament, of an Edition, and of a Manuscript

Lots of ink has been spilled and many pixels been lit up on the question of what we mean when we say ‘the text of the New Testament’. Is the only thing we are left with ‘texts of the NT’, in which every imperfectly copied manuscript constitutes a new and different text? How much can the text of a ‘work’ (that is here, the New Testament) be changed before the text of a particular manifestation of that work (a printed edition, a manuscript – the latter is also an ‘artefact’) is no longer that of the original ‘work’?1

In a sense this question is no different from what philosophers have been discussing since the days of Plato. Intuitively, or naively, most people who think for a moment about the text and the various forms in which it appears, solve the question the same way as Plato did. Different manuscripts with their slightly different wording, and even different translations of the text in a wild variety of languages, all constitute different instances of the same text, a perfect idea reflected in the wordings of the various manuscripts.

Relevance theorists would say that this is true because an utterance has no meaning in itself but only functions to point to the intention of the speaker, and listeners will interpret an utterance accordingly. When it comes to textual criticism, it may follow that the majority of differences we are talking about will hardly affect the listener’s (reader’s) construction of the speaker’s (writer’s) meaning. The same mental construction of the speaker’s meaning can be formed using an array of different utterances, and we can find evidence of this in that few, if any, of the various sub-strands of Christianity are based on particular manuscripts or depend on specific translations. If there were only ‘texts’ and not a single ‘text’, it is quite remarkable how few problems this has created in the course of history.

Perhaps a fresh way of doing Plato is found in linguistics, namely in prototype theory. Prototype theory says that often concepts are used in ways that are close to the mental prototype of that concept, but also allows for uses that are quite different. We all have the image of what a dog is, though many of us will have the experience to think about some actual dogs as more ‘dog’ than others; they conform more closely to the prototype we have formed. Perhaps it is possible to force an analogy with the ‘texts’ and ‘text’ discussion. There is the ‘prototypical text’ (perhaps better the archetypical text when we throw in chronology) and manuscripts, or again translations, conform more or less to the prototype yet still are all instances of that particular category / prototypical field. This is how we seem to organise concepts in our mind, and it works pretty well in the practice of doing textual criticism.

So what we have set out to do in the Tyndale Edition is to present a text that approximates as closely as possible the oldest recoverable text since we hold that this is the best approximation and representation of the ‘ideal text’, the text of the ‘work’ as it was produced in the first place.

The theology of all this is of course quite a different matter.

1 Thanks to Michael Dormandy, who pointed me to this helpful distinction made by Driscoll: “Hamlet is a work. The New Swan Shakespeare Advanced Series edition of Hamlet by Bernard Lott, M.A. Ph.D., published by Longman in 1968, is, or presents, a text. My copy of Lott’s edition, bought from Blackwell’s in Oxford in 1979 and containing my copious annotations, is an artefact. (93)” I am quite conscious (and relaxed about this) that by talking about ‘original work’, I may be accused of misappropriation of the term as used by Driscoll.

Driscoll, M.J. “The Words on a Page: Thoughts on Philology Old and New.” In Creating the Medieval Saga: Versions, Variability, and Editorial Interpretations of Old Norse Saga Literature, edited by Judy Quinn and Emily Lethbridge, 85-102. Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2010.