Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gary Habermas on First-Century Mark

Yes, it seems that about every three months or so First-Century Mark reappears. I hate to keep adding fuel to the fire, but there is some value to keeping a record of these things.

This latest mention of the fragment came to me in my Twitter feed via Sean McDowell who posted this summary from Facebook about a talk Gary Habermas gave this week at Purdue University. (For those counting, we are now two social media platforms and two people away from the source.) The post is from Clark Bates who says, 
Gary Habermas spoke at Purdue University last night. During the talk he stated that he has permission to announce that the Mark fragment has been dated between 80–110 AD. He also said that this is all he or CSNTM will say about the matter so no more questions regarding it will be entertained.

As a side note, there will eventually be a lengthier critical analysis of the fragment but we in the apologetics community need to be cautious with how we handle this data. If the dating is accurate, this will become the oldest NT fragment in existence. However, paleography can’t really get a date accurately within about 100 years so there is always room for later dating.

Point being, no matter what the results, this fragment will go into the already immense amount of evidence for the New Testament and it’s early production and dissemination. Good information to have but not a nail in the coffin so to speak.

Blessings to you all!
I did a quick search and found the video of Habermas at Purdue. You can view it below (starting at the 22:10 mark) with my transcript below that. The main problem with Habermas’s claim is now old news to ETC readers and it is the specificity of the date. I don’t know how you date a papyrus to a thirty-year period like 80–110 A.D., especially if it is based on paleography (see the recent posts here by Malik and Orsini). Also, I didn’t hear Habermas mention CSNTM, so maybe that was a deduction by Bates. Unless I just missed it in the video. In any case, I appreciate his word of caution to fellow apologists.

Habermas mentions a paleographer who is not a Christian, a description we heard already in Dan Wallace’s original debate announcement. We have since identified this paleographer as Dirk Obbink of Oxford. What seems possibly new is that Habermas says he asked permission to share this and was told he could. But when did he ask and who granted such permission? He doesn’t say. There are further odd things said about provenance, but Habermas seems a bit fuzzy on that.

What I find curious at this stage in the First-Century Mark saga is how information about it keeps coming out in the context of Evangelical apologetics. I’m not sure what to make of that in terms of who owns this papyrus, but it is a consistent thread and I suspect one that will make more sense once we know for sure who the owner is.


Transcript (from 22:10)

But before I do that [make my preferred argument for the resurrection], let me just make one other point. Some of you may have heard about a fragment in Mark that’s been floating around. I see a few of you shake your head yes. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. The dating on this hasn’t come out, there’s reasons the dating hasn’t come out. I won’t explain that; it’s a legal thing having to do with the provenance of the papyrus.

The previous earliest copy of a gospel book we have is the Rylands fragment of John at about 125. It’s very, very valuable because remember early is a key historical sign. Rylands only dates from about 25 or 30 years after the Gospel of John.

I dialogued with a guy—true story—I dialogued with a guy years ago who’s a classical theo—a classical scholar and he put the Gospels from 140–180 AD. Apparently, nobody told him that when he put John at 170 AD that we have a piece of John from fifty years earlier. That didn’t seem to bother him. [laughter]

Okay, so there’s been a piece of Mark that we’ve been concerned about for a long time. We hadn’t come out with dates for legal reasons that could land you—there’s a question about where this thing came from–not the provenance of it, not if it’s—it’s a good piece of papyri. But you got to be careful where you pick things up or you could be in jail because you have to register it with Middle Eastern antiquities authorities or they wonder what you stole that from.

Okay, but one paleographer—I don’t even think he’s a Christian—but you have to be very specialized to be able to date ancient writing by handwriting analysis, by the type of handwriting. And the date was just given. And I asked permission, “Could this be given?” I was told it could be. And the date of this little papyrus for Mark is 80–110 AD. It is earlier than Rylands for John.

So, if the fragment for Mark is about the time of John or earlier, now critics are saying, “We’re going to have to move the Gospel of Mark back before the year 50 AD.” What’s that do to early [...] witness? Plus, there are two agnostics, one of them just passed away before [...], but two agnostic scholars, neither one Christian, and they have recently—without reference to the fragment—have both dated Mark, one at 40 AD, one at 38–42 AD. This is good stuff.

But I don’t think it’s the best argument for the historicity of Jesus.

From this point on I’m going to use the second argument that some of you may know I call the minimal facts argument, I sometimes call the lowest common denominator. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Matthew 27:49 Was Jesus Pierced before His Death?

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (2)

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.

In many ways the following variant is salutary, as it will correct any slavish tendency to think about the ‘earliest and best’ attested reading as an almost pleonastic collocation. The ‘best’ reading is not always the ‘earliest’, there may be good reasons not to follow the earliest manuscripts, and our variant is a good example. And, yes, we could, and probably should have mentioned the variant in the Tyndale House Edition, but we did not.

Mt 27:49
οἱ δὲ λοιποὶ ἔλεγον· ἄφες, ἴδωμεν εἰ ἔρχεται Ἠλίας σώσων αὐτόν.
But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him” (ESV).

The early variant ἔλεγον / εἶπαν should not distract us here, what is interesting is the addition we find after the final word of this verse:

ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα.
And someone else, taking a spear, pierced his side and there came out water and blood.

Those who know their gospels will suspect that we might have influence from one of the other gospels, and indeed, in John 19:34 we have (without relevant variation):

Jn 19:34
ἀλλ᾽ εἷς τῶν στρατιωτῶν λόγχῃ αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν ἔνυξεν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν εὐθὺς αἷμα καὶ ὕδωρ.
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (ESV)

The addition in Mt 27:49 and the undisputed text in Jn 19:34 are not identical, but they share the same vocabulary: ‘spear’, ‘to pierce’ (same form), ‘his side’ (same word order), ‘to come out’ (same form), ‘water and blood’ (reversed word order).

The differences in the first words of the addition in Matthew are explained by the immediate context of Matthew. The non-specific ‘someone else’ (ἄλλος) is in line with the equally non-specific designations in Mt 27:47 ‘some’ (τινές), 27:48 ‘one of them’ (εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν), and 27:49 ‘the others’ (οἱ λοιποί). The participle λαβών in the phrase λαβὼν λόγχην comes from the earlier Mt 27:48 λαβὼν σπόγγον. However, in Jn 19:34 this piercing happens after Jesus’ death, whilst in Matthew the death occurs only in the next verse.

On transcriptional grounds (influence of parallel account) and internal grounds (unlikely that Matthew would associate the loud cry of Jesus with the piercing) the addition in Matthew 27:49 is clearly secondary, but what about the external testimony? Happily, this is one of the Teststellen in the Matthew volume of Text und Textwert (no. 63, volume 2.2). There are some minor variants (addition of ευθεως before εξηλθεν and the order of ‘water and blood).

With the addition in Mt 27:49:
the majuscules ℵ B C L U Γ,
the minuscules 5 26* 48 67 115 127* 160 364 782 871 1010 1011 1057 1300c 1392 1416 1448 1555 1566 1701* 1780* 2117* 2126 2139 2283 2328T 2437* 2585 2586 2622L 2680 2766* 2787,
and NA28 adds some Vulgate mss, and the middle Egyptian, and there is the CPA and Ethiopic.

Without the addition: everyone else (including 15 witnesses that leave out the whole of the verse).
[Incidentally, Text und Textwert did not pick up the majuscule U-030 in support for the addition. It ought to have listed U-030 under a new variant, 3D, with ευθεως and the order ‘blood and water’.]

On external evidence, the addition has definitely a very good shout. Or, to put it in the short-hand principles behind the THGNT, “In light of the external evidence, do we have good reason not to print the reading of the ‘earliest and best manuscripts’?” And indeed, this is one of those high-profile cases where I think that the transcriptional and internal reasons outweigh the external evidence. We should beware of treating any group of manuscripts as so reliable that we ignore what stares us in the face.

However, is there any way we can bolster the argument for the inclusion of the addition? Obviously, if original, the removal of the extra words may solve a problem in the sequence of events in comparison to the other gospels: Jesus did not die because of the spear thrust and neither should the text give any suggestion as such. Therefore, the shorter text provides a less difficult reading.

And then there is Dan Gurtner, in the recent Holmes Festschrift (who does an excellent job of discussing the versional evidence). He is also bold enough to put the suggestion forward that it is perhaps John who is editing the original text of Matthew and places it at a different, more appropriate location in his narrative. However, ultimately this possibility (I don’t think Dan proposes the originality of the longer text of 27:49) raises so many other problems that the simpler conclusion of influence of parallel accounts is preferable over any complex, redactional theory. We may wish the combined cluster of ℵ-01 B-03 C-04 L-019 Γ-036 to be infallible, but it is not. The ‘best and earliest manuscripts’ do not always present us with the ‘best and earliest readings’.

Incidentally, a comparable variant happens at Matthew 27:35, where we have another intrusion inspired by the gospel of John. It concerns the added fulfillment of Psalm 22:19 as found in John 19:24. In the variant we see a similar adaptation of the Johanine language (ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ ἡ λέγουσα) towards Matthean style (ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου), just as happened in the longer text of 27:49. The difference is that the external evidence for the addition in 27:35 is less impressive, but it is a good illustration of the same phenomenon as in Matthew 27:49. As far as I can see almost every transmissional strand suffered these harmonisations.

Gurtner, Daniel M. “Water and Blood and Matthew 27:49: A Johannine Reading in the Matthean Passion Narrative?” In Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Michael W. Holmes On the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Daniel M. Gurtner, Juan Hernandez and Paul Foster (New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents 50. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015), 134-50.

On the Relationship of Inspiration to Canon in the Church Fathers

Today, there is a renewed focus on the primary sources pertaining to the New Testament text (just peruse most of the posts on this blog) and its canon. Some of our source material is relatively new (MS finds, whole works of church fathers rediscovered etc.), but with regard to canon, the relevant sources have been at our fingertips for a long time. In any case, all of this evidence is under great scrutiny now, and this development is welcomed, for returning to the primary sources is the surest way forward in our current discussions.

One particular area under scrutiny is how to describe the nature of early Christian writings. Did early Christians think only the eventual NT books were inspired or did they view inspired literature as a wider category of books than what eventually became recognized as the canon of authoritative-for-doctrine Scripture? Michael Kruger has brought this issue to the fore in a recent blogpost and it is worth presenting his view along side of Lee McDonald’s, whose view he mentions in the post, in short order without attempting to resolve the differences between the two. Both views affirm the inspiration of the NT books. Both views affirm that early Christians thought their works were inspired in some sense. Both views affirm that early Christians recognized (at least eventually) the NT books as unique revelation. The disagreement is over why early Christians saw these NT books as unique, not whether they saw them as unique.

It’s important to remember that this is a blog exchange and that Kruger has written whole books and articles on the topic of canon. He didn’t say everything in his post. I bet Lee McDonald would even say he didn’t write everything in his most recent two volume tome on the biblical canon. I will include these works along with a few others in the Further Reading section below.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Matt 18.11 as a Test of the ‘Internal’ Consistency of the Byzantine Priority Position

NOT the Silver-haired Assassin
Matt 18.11 It is one of a dozen or so verses that are completely missing (relative to the KJV) from modern English Bibles. It follows precedes Matthew’s version of the parable of the lost sheep and fits quite well in that role. It reads thus in the KJV: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”

This verse is demoted to the apparatus in eclectic texts and the explanation usually given is that it was brought over from Luke 19.10 almost verbatim. That “almost” is what I want to address here. Compare:
  1. omit — 01, 03, 019* f1, f13, 33, e, ff, syr.sin, etc.
  2. ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός — 05, 032, Byz, lat,, etc.
  3. ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός — 019mg, 579, 892c, etc.
  4. ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός — Luke 19.10 (no vll. in NA)
On external grounds, the external argument from the Byzantine prioritist is straightforward. There is no serious split in the Byz manuscripts at this point and therefore reading 2 is original at Matt 18.11.

But how does the same Byz prioritist explain the corruption that is reading 3 on internal grounds without appeal to harmonization and thus showing an inconsistency? After all, if ζητῆσαι καί is an addition due to Luke 19.10 then surely the whole verse can (and should) be explained the the same way. 

It seems to me that this shows an “internal” inconsistency on the part of the Byzantine priority position. Internal evidence is accepted when it supports the conclusion made from external evidence. But the same evidence is rejected when it does not.

As always when I talk about the Byz text, I shall wait to be corrected by our resident Byzantinist, the Silver-haired Assassin himself!

Monday, February 19, 2018

What was the Hexapla?

What was the Hexapla? There is the question of what were the readings that were at one time in the Hexapla as presented herehere, and here. Then, there is the question of what was the Hexapla? We have to ask this question because it was not transmitted much (if at all), and there is no manuscript to date that we can point to and say, “that’s the Hexapla.” This is one of the saddest truths of literary history. Furthermore, these questions do not answer “Why the Hexapla?” or “How the Hexapla“, which are also interesting questions.

Quick Description

Now, the quick answer is that the Hexapla was Origen’s (ca. 185-254) six-columned synopsis containing the following versions of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: (1) the Hebrew text in Hebrew letters, (2) the Hebrew text in Greek letters, i.e., in Greek transliteration, (3) the Greek version of Aquila, (4) the Greek version of Symmachus, (5) the Greek version of the Seventy, and (6) the Greek version of Theodotion. So far this description matches the early patristic descriptions of Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis (who also say that for some books like Psalms, Origen had a Fifth and a Sixth edition; read about them here). Eusebius says:
Having collected all of these [Greek versions], he divided them into sections, and placed them opposite each other, with the indication (σημείωσις) itself of Hebrew [Ἑβραίων pl.] [versions?]. He thus left us the copies (ἀντίγραφον) of the so-called Hexapla, having arranged separately the edition (ἔκδοσις) of Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion with the edition of the Seventy in the Tetrapla (Hist. eccl. 6.16.4; ANFP [adapted]).
The term σημείωσις “indication, inference from a sign” is an interesting way to describe a “text,” but perhaps this term indicates the Hebrew versions in Columns 1 and 2; that is, the Hebrew and its inference, meaning its sense or meaning in transliteration. Since he calls this work “the Hexapla“ and there are four Greek versions, he must envision the very “inference” of Hebrews as two texts. Now, there are two problems we should address.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Matthew 27:16,17 Was Barabbas Called ‘Jesus Barabbas’?

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (1)

This is the first of a series of blog post 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.

Only in Matthew is there some confusion about the exact form of the name Barabbas, as a small section of the evidence has Jesus Barabbas instead of just Barabbas. The variant is interesting as it may have been discussed explicitly by Origen, back in the first half of the third century.

16 εἶχον δὲ τότε δέσμιον ἐπίσημον λεγόμενον Βαραββᾶν. 17 συνηγμένων οὖν αὐτῶν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Πειλᾶτος· τίνα θέλετε ἀπολύσω ὑμῖν; Βαραββᾶν ἢ Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον χριστόν;

The two readings are visible in two popular modern translations:

ESV: 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?"

NIV 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?"

The manuscript support:

Jesus Barabbas
v16 ιησουν βαραββαν Θ f1 700* l844, Sinaitic Syriac
v17 ιησουν τον βαραββαν f1, Sinaitic Syriac
ιησουν βαραββαν Θ 700* l844

v16 βαραββαν ℵ A B D K L W Γ Δ f13 all other minuscules, Latin, Syriac – Peshitta and Harkleian, Coptic
v17 βαραββαν ℵ A D K L W Γ Δ f13 all other minuscules, Latin, Syriac – Peshitta and Harkleian, Coptic
τον βαραββαν B 1010 1012
I do not think that the Latin is of much help to decide between βαραββαν and τον βαραββαν in v17, but at least the Latin is helpful in that it does not have ‘Jesus Barabbas’.

The external evidence for (16) ιησουν βαραββαν and (17) ιησουν τον βαραββαν is limited, though this is the text given in NA26 – NA28, yet with the first part in brackets.

In Metzger’s commentary, the longer reading is granted much weight because of the supposed discussion in Origen. Having read what Donaldson has written on this Origen (387-90), I am much less sure that we have Origen’s words in the discussion. According to Donaldson (388 FN 28) there is only one manuscript that attributes the relevant scholion to Origen. Of course, it may still be by him as his star fell rather dramatically in later centuries, but there is a serious question mark about the attribution. There is also an interesting difference between the Latin and Greek version of the scholion in question. The Latin states that ‘in many copies it is not included that Barabbas is also called Jesus’, whilst the Greek says, ‘But in many old copies I have encountered, I found also Barabbas himself called Jesus’. There is a difference in perspective, in the Latin the reading assumed is Jesus Barabbas with the alternative being just Barabbas, in the Greek it is the other way around (incidentally, Streeter in his The Four Gospels, 94-95 knows only the Latin version – and yes, Jesus Barabbas is of course a ‘Caesarean reading’ in his eyes).

Are there any scribal explanations for the rise of the two readings?
• The omission of ιησουν in ιησουν βαραββαν can be explained as ridding the text of a confusing repetition of the name Jesus. The same name cannot be used for the Saviour and for the murderer.
• Metzger points to the second of this pair of variants and notes the sequence υμιντονβαραββαν. The nomen sacrum for Jesus would be ι̅ν, which is the same as the final letters of υμιν. If this is indeed the origin of the longer reading, then the first instance was corrected to bring it in line with the accidentally longer second instance. Alternatively, of course, a haplography of -ιν- within υμινι̅ντονβαραββαν would be an argument the other way around. Either way, this is the most mechanical explanation available, and for that reason attractive.

In this case, perhaps, the origin should be sought in manuscript tendencies. There is a cluster of readings that show up in a select group of manuscripts. Though I would not talk about Caesarean manuscripts or a Caesarean text, this group of readings found in a specific part of the tradition can be called ‘Caesarean readings’. Please note that I am more interested in the set of readings than in the question what the appropriate label should be. Our variant is one of these readings and should be studied as part of the whole cluster of Caesarean readings. We might then learn more about what these readings have in common and possible even find a historical context. For the sake of the argument here it suffices to acknowledge that this group of readings exists and that there is no strong argument to accept any of their unique readings as original. So in this case the main argument for rejecting the readings ‘Jesus Barabbas’ is that it is found mainly in a small group of witnesses that have a shared set of unique, but suspect readings.

Metzger note that the decision to accept [ιησουν] βαραββαν was a majority decision. I think that the majority of the committee was mistaken.

Donaldson, Amy M. "Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin Church Fathers." Dissertation, Notre Dame 2009.

Streeter, B.H. The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. 4th ed. London: Macmillan, 1930.

Worshipping Weird Things in Rev 14:9

One of the treats of working on the ECM is the sheer exposure to a wide array of manuscripts from a variety of periods. Normally, you’re simply assigned manuscripts you’d be working on, not necessarily on the basis of your preference. Coming from more of a papyrological background myself, I don’t think I would have looked at most manuscripts that I’ve had to deal with over the past 8 months or so. But in most cases it’s been fun and very enriching.

Most recently, I enjoyed working through GA 69, a 15th-century minuscule manuscript housed, of all places, in Leicestershire Record Office, Leicester. (But let us not be derailed by a reference to the city of Sir David Attenborough.) GA 69 is a rare instance of a Greek manuscript that contains the entire New Testament, though with a few lacunae. In Revelation, its text may be broadly classified as belonging to the ‘Koine’ group (siglum 𝔐K) in NA28). As such, then, 69 will yield few surprises if you’re acquainted with this type of text. Until, that is, you get to Rev 14:9.

In this passage, the third angel flying in midheaven pronounces the promise of a bitter drink of the ‘wine of God’s wrath’ to the worshippers of the beast. At least that’s what one would expect based on the their Nestle-Aland text, which (rightly) follows the majority of witnesses in reading το θηριον.
The only variant reading cited NA28 apparatus is offered by Codex Alexandrinus, which, oddly, reads θυσιαστηριον. Thus, the angel pronounces God’s wrath on all the worshippers of the ‘tabernacle and its image’ and those who receives the mark on their foreheads or hands. The reading θυσιαστηριον, as Weiss suggested, is most likely to be a ‘pure scribal error’, possibly occasioned by the phonetic and/or visual similarity (Die Johannes-Apokalypse [TU 7.1; Leipzig, 1891], 60). The closest occurrence of the word is at Rev 14:18, which might be a bit too far to have triggered a harmonisation to the immediate context. Incidentally, Hernández classifies this reading as ‘nonsense in context’ (Scribal Habits [WUNT II.218; Tübingen, 2006], 106), which I could see on exegetical grounds, even though it wouldn’t fly with the ECM where nonsense readings are defined rather more strictly.

But Alexandrinus is not the only manuscript where weird things receive divine honours. In the aforementioned GA 69, we read that the cup of God’s wrath is to be drunk by anyone who worships the ‘cup (ποτηριον) and its image’:

(Note that this reading is not to be found in the apparatus critics of NA28, because 69 is not one of the relatively few ‘consistently cited witnesses’.) Interestingly, 69 slightly re-structures the flow of the sentence too, such that there is a minor break, signified by a raised dot, between the ending of v. 9 and v. 10: ει τις προσκυνει το ποτηριον και την εικονα αυτου, λαμβανει χαραγμα επι του μετωπου, η επι την χειρα αυτου· (punctuation original). Thus, v. 9b outlines the first consequence of worshipping the cup and its image, namely receipt of the mark on the worshipper’s forehead or his hand. V. 10 then adds the unwelcome drink of the wine of the divine wrath.

What may have occasioned this variant reading? Unlike with Alexandrinus, I think here we have really good grounds for a  (probably inadvertent) harmonisation to the immediate context. The closes occurrence of ποτηριον is in v. 10; and I wonder, too, whether the idea of ‘drinking’ in v. 10 couldn’t have reinforced this confusion in the moment of copying. That this is an error and not some sort of clever exegesis or allusion to pagan libations seems clear from the fact that the manuscript has the standard reading θηριον in v. 11.

The ultimate sense of the passage, despite these little oddities in transmission, remains the same, however: whatever the object—be it the beast, the tabernacle, or the cup (which is, by analogy, pertinent during the Olympic season)—it ain’t worth worshipping it!