Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“First-Century Mark,” Published at Last?

It looks like we are finally getting that First-Century Mark (henceforth, FCM) fragment everyone has been talking about for years. (By the designation “FCM” I am not implying that it actually dates to the first century. I don’t know the date yet. I only mean that “FCM” is probably the actual papyrus that has been reported to be the first-century Mark fragment.)

I have not yet seen the latest volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The Egypt Exploration Society's website shows vol. LXXXII as the most current volume, at least as of today. However, Amazon informs me that volume LXXXIII was published last month. When I first saw it, there was only one copy available. It has since been sold. The description begins:
Volume LXXXIII of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri continues our publication of biblical texts, including what is only the second Egyptian witness to the Epistle of Philemon as well as further early witnesses to the text of Mark and Luke, and an amateur copy of excerpts from Ezekiel’s Exagoge.
Though it is also exciting for NT textual criticism that we will see fragments of Luke and Philemon, the key thing to notice here is that the description mentions an early fragment of Mark.

We can get a bit more information from the Oxford Faculty of Classics publications page:

Both the Mark (P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345) and the Luke (P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5346) fragments are being edited by Daniela Colomo and Dirk Obbink. The reported publication date of 2017 is probably just a delay in publication, which would not be the first time we've encountered such a delay with this fragment. I can’t see a date assigned to the papyri yet, but we can piece together a trail of breadcrumbs and arrive at the conclusion that P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is probably the infamous First-Century Mark—even if the date is not given as first-century. Here is the trail:

1. The text of P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is Mark 1:7–9, 1:16–18

This confirms what was reportedly announced by Josh McDowell in 2014. “Jeff” mentioned in the comments at Brice Jones’ blog a that there was a video (that has since been deleted) in which McDowell spoke at Wheaton Bible Church on April 23, 2014. McDowell announced that the text was Mark 1 at 1:12:40, according to “Jeff.”

2. Dirk Obbink is a co-editor of P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345

We’ve known for a while now that Obbink is the Oxford papyrologist who assigned the date. Scott Carroll remarked in a video posted at this blog last summer:
Well, the most important person of note is Dirk Obbink who is [inaudible]. Dirk Obbink is an outstanding scholar. He’s one of the world’s leading specialists on papyri. He directs the collection—for students who are in here, you may remember hearing the word “Oxyrhynchus Papyri.” He is the director of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

I can’t speak to his personal faith positions and I don’t think he would define himself as an Evangelical in any sense of the word, but he is not—he doesn’t have a derogatory attitude at all. He’s a supportive person. He specializes in the dating of handwriting. And as he was looking at the—both times I saw the papyrus, it was in his possession. So, it was in Oxford at Christ Church, and actually on his pool table in his office along with a number of mummy heads.

3. Just how many early fragments of Mark are there, anyway?

One of the problems of the “Early Text of Mark“ is that there are so few early manuscripts. We have only one Greek manuscript of Mark earlier than the 4th century, P45. FCM is supposedly a fragment of Mark 1, and P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is definitely a fragment of Mark 1. Assuming that the report that FCM is from Mark 1 was correct, what are the odds that we are seeing two early fragments of Mark 1? Unless Josh McDowell was wrong about the text on FCM, it is a very reasonable conclusion that P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is FCM.

However, if P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is indeed FCM, we also have a few problems.

1. Was an unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyrus really up for sale?

Carroll told Josh McDowell that the Greens were possibly in line to purchase it, that they did not purchase it, but that the papyrus had since been sold. Who could have offered it for sale?
Carroll: There were some delays with its purchase and I was working at that time with the Green family collection which I had the privilege of organizing and putting together for the Hobby Lobby family and had hoped that they would at that time acquire it. But they delayed and didn’t. We were preparing an exhibit for the Vatican Library and I wanted this to be the show piece in that exhibit but it--

McDowell: Who wouldn’t?

Carroll: I know, wouldn’t that have been awesome? But it was just not the timing and so it was passed on, delayed. It has since been acquired. I can’t say by whom.
This possibility makes me more than a little uncomfortable, but it leads to the next question:

2. Could a papyrus that was not obtained through Grenfell and Hunt’s expeditions be published as an Oxyrhynchus papyrus?

If FCM were for sale, I suppose it is possible that it originated in some other collection. If that is the case, however, why is it being published with the Oxyrhynchus Papyri?

In summary, it looks very much like:

  • FCM is finally being published as P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345.
  • We still do not know the date. It might not be first-century. Maybe a reader has access to the latest volume and can confirm the editors' date.
  • The fragment is very small. It has only parts of six verses from Mark 1.
  • The fragment tells us nothing about the famous textual variants in Mark 1:1, Mark 1:41 or the Ending of Mark.
  • A papyrus document that is now published as part of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri was, at some point, offered for sale. Who was the seller?


  • If it is the case that P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 really is FCM, then perhaps the publication will include some explanation of the fragment's history that will clear up most (or ideally, all) of these questions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Siker’s Liquid Scripture

A recent book from Jeffrey Siker may interest readers here. It’s called Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World (Fortress, 2017). Claire Clivaz has recently given it a nice review in RBL and she ends with this:
Lastly, it is worth considering an important point enlightened by Siker: “the ready availability of so many translations in digital form results in a certain destabilizing of the biblical text” (5). In each chapter Siker tries to figure out what will become of the Bible online; for example, “The unbound Bible on a screen does not lend itself to an immediate awareness of any particular shape of the Bible, canonical or otherwise. From this perspective skimming the Bible on screens would necessarily seem to undermine understanding the Bible in its canonical frame” (69). This situation could still be strengthened by the audio Bible (171–74). In this “Fast Times and Slow Times” situation (242), a last chapter could have been added on the growing diversification of the Greek editions of the New Testament, with the newest one, the Tyndale House Greek New Testament. The flexibility of the Greek New Testament text itself is surely one of the clearer features of the digital Bible era.
One thing I’d like to see is a study that compares people who read the Bible primarily or exclusively digitally and those whose digital reading is used only to supplement their reading of a physical book. Maybe that’s in Siker’s book. But I didn’t catch it in Clivaz’s review.

Here’s the publisher’s description.
The electronic Bible is here to stay‒‒packaged in software on personal computers, available as apps on tablets and cell phones. Increasingly, students look at glowing screens to consult the Bible in class, and congregants do the same in Bible study and worship. Jeffrey S. Siker asks, what difference does it make to our experience of Scripture if we no longer hold a book in our hands, if we again “scroll” through Scripture? How does the “flow” of electronic Scripture change our perception of the Bible’s authority and significance? Siker discusses the difference made when early Christians adopted the codex rather than the scroll and Gutenberg began the mass production of printed Bibles. He also reviews the latest research on how the reading brain processes digital texts and how churches use digital Bibles, including American Bible Society research and his own surveys of church leaders. Siker asks, does the proliferation of electronic translations reduce the perceived seriousness of Scripture? Does it promote an individualistic response to the Bible? How does the change from a physical Bible affect liturgical practice? His synthesis of the advantages and risks of the digitized Bible merit serious reflection in classrooms and churches alike.
Remember our recent discussion about how present technology affects our view of past technology. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Meade on Canon on Camera

My sources tell me that John Meade is currently hiding out in the outer banks, camping or some such thing. Lucky for you, he was recently captured on camera talking about all things canon with several faculty from Southeastern. Take a watch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

4th Annual Textual Criticism Summer School in Italy

Ferrara in 2016
Paolo Trovato is once again putting on his Summer School in Textual Criticism in Ferrara, Italy. The dates are July 2nd–July 7th. I attended a few years ago and can recommend it as a great opportunity. And this year there appears to be an online option.

Particularly for those doing Biblical textual criticism, the chance to learn from people working deeply in the textual criticism of other texts can be particularly stimulating. Some of my most helpful conversations during my PhD were had with text critics who didn’t work on the Bible. Their outside perspective can be invaluable. I still try to read beyond Biblical textual criticism to see how scholars in other fields approach similar problems. And did I mention this is in Italy?
The Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara will offer an intensive six-day summer school in Textual Criticism. The course is designed for both graduate and PhD students (max. 20 people) from different disciplines who would like to improve their knowledge in the field of Textual Criticism and discuss their research topics with instructors and colleagues. An introduction to current theories as well as the presentation of individual research subjects will be covered in the first 3 days. The final days will be spent delving more deeply into particular aspects of Textual Criticism, both in modern and classical languages, featuring more recent developments, and discussing individual research. A free guided visit to Ferrara medieval and Renaissance Art Collections is scheduled.

Online option. The classroom meetings are live streamed for registered students ( ). They will receive an email with the link and a personalized username and pw to login.

Among the programme instructors you will find Dàniel Kiss (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Federico Marchetti (Ferrara), Roberto Rosselli Del Turco (Pisa), Francesco Stella (Siena), Elisabetta Tonello (e.Campus), Luciano Formisano (Bologna) and Paolo Trovato (Ferrara). The enrolment dead-line is on 11th June.

For further information and application forms see our website: or contact the Director of the Summer School: Professor Paolo Trovato, Department of Humanities, University of Ferrara, Italy, with the subject line: SUMMER SCHOOL
The full program is available here

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lectures: A material history of the Bible in England 1200–1600

If you happen to be in Cambridge for the summer, Cambridge University Library is hosting a series on the Bible in England that looks good.

From the rise of mass-produced Vulgates in the thirteenth century to the proliferation of innovative vernacular prints in the sixteenth, five lectures will chart the history of the Bible in England across print and reform. Manuscript and early printed bibles from the collections of Cambridge University Library will support a new history of the Bible in England, one which blurs the boundaries between reform and conservatism, and between the Church and heresy. Among their pages we will encounter a hidden portrait of Jane Seymour, the marks of scholars, children and crooks, and the discovery of America.

Each lecture will be accompanied by a display of manuscripts and books from the Library’s collections and will be followed by a discussion led by a respondent.
  • 22 May — The Late Medieval Bible: Beyond Innovation
  • 29 May — Wycliffite Bibles and the Limits of Orthodoxy
  • 5 June — 1535 and the First Two English Bibles
  • 12 June — The Great Bible as a Useless Book
  • 19 June — The Bibles of Edward VI and Beyond: Moving Fast Forward
Each lecture will take place at 5:30pm in the Milstein Room at Cambridge University Library. Lectures are free and open to everyone.

HT: CUL Special Collections 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Where did the Byzantine text come from?

In my occasional interactions with Byzantine-text-preferring folks, I have been puzzled by how many of them are unaware of modern research on the Byzantine text and its development. Some of these folks sincerely seem to think that Westcott and Hort’s views of the matter are still what modern textual critics believe. This is not the case. I know of no text critic today who would argue that the Byzantine text as we find it promulgated in the minuscules is the result of a concerted fourth-century recension.  

So, what do scholars think? The most serious work on the Byzantine text’s development has been done by Klaus Wachtel, especially in his 1995 dissertation. But few Byzantine advocates seem aware of it, probably because it remains untranslated into English (sadly).

Fortunately, a number of Wachtel’s papers from over the years are easily accessible online—and in English. So, I thought I would point out just one of the places where he has explained his view. This is in the hope that those who hold to a Byzantine priority position, a Majority text position, or an Ecclesiastical text position (I realize there are differences in these views) will see that modern eclecticism has developed since 1881 on the question of the Byzantine text. In fact, Wachtel’s animating goal in his dissertation was refuting the view of a fourth-century recension.

In any case, here is Wachtel talking about the Gospels:
The term “text-type”, however, still carries along relics of the old division of the New Testament manuscript tradition into three or four “recensions”. If we take the whole evidence into account, a picture emerges that is far more complex. The external criteria applied when variants are assessed have to be re-defined accordingly. To this end we have to focus on individual manuscripts and explore their relationships with other manuscripts. Assigning them to text-types has become obsolete.

You may ask, why then I am still referring to the “Byzantine text” myself. I am doing so, because the term aptly denominates the mainstream text form in the Byzantine empire. This mainstream has its headwaters in pre-Byzantine times, in fact in the very first phase of our manuscript tradition, and it underwent a long process of development and standardization. The final phase began with the introduction of the minuscule script in the 9th century and ended up in a largely uniform text characterized by readings attested by the majority of all Greek manuscripts from the 13th - 15th centuries counted by hundreds and thousands.

Standardization means editorial activity, and in fact, a text form so similar to the late majority text as represented by Codex Alexandrinus cannot have emerged from a linear copying process without conscious editing. It is indeed likely that the text in Codex Alexandrinus is the result of editorial activity which may have been carried out in one or, more likely, several steps. Likewise, the text of the 6th century purple codices N 022 and Σ 042 certainly was not just copied from some manuscript picked at random. Diorthosis, correction, was an integral part of the copying process. Yet the assumption that a recension stood at the beginning of the formation of the Byzantine text and then penetrated the whole manuscript tradition reflects a categorically different view of the transmission history. I am going to focus on the differences between five manuscript texts to show that despite intense editorial activity the Byzantine majority text is the result of a process of reconciliation between different strands of transmission.*
I myself have found this view persuasive at least as far as the Catholic Letters are concerned (though I have tweaked it just slightly). You, of course, may or may not agree with this view, but it is the most detailed and substantiated view of the Byzantine text’s origin on offer. And it is now cited as such in both the major introductions to the field (Metzger-Ehrman’s, and Parker’s).

Kirsopp Lake’s diagram of WH’s view of textual history. He rejected this too.

No major textual critic, to my knowledge, holds to Westcott and Hort’s fourth-century revision view anymore though it may well linger among those in the wider NT guild. My point here is only to say that Byzantine prioritists (of whatever stripe) need to address Wachtel’s arguments not Westcott and Hort’s.

Here ends my public service announcement.

* Klaus Wachtel, “The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?” paper delivered at SBL in 2009, online here.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Preferring a Longer Reading in Ephesians 5.22

Yesterday at church, I happened to be reading Eph 5.22 and thinking again about the relationship between Eph 5.21 and Eph 5.22. My NA26, which I had with me at the time, notes the possibility of punctuating v. 21 with v. 22 or separately from it. The NA28 punctuates it with v. 22 and the paragraphing follows suit. One of the reasons for doing this is because v. 22 doesn’t have a main verb but one that is implied from the participle ὑποτασσόμενοι (“being in submission to”) from v. 21. In this, v. 21 is set apart from the other similar participles in 5.16–20 that unpack what it means to “walk worthy” (5.15).

However, the apparatus of NA also notes that most manuscripts have an explicit imperative in 5.22 which would make 5.22 line up naturally with the other second person imperatives in the rest of Eph 5.22–6.20 (see 5.25, 6.1, 6.5, 6.10). Each of these starts its own paragraph in NA.

There are two alternate readings in 5.22. The first is ὑποτάσσεσθε (“y’all be in submission to”) found in K L 630 Byz syr. The other is ὑποτασσέσθωσαν (“they should be in submission”) found in 01 A I P 0278 6 33 1505 1739 lat syh co etc. What I realized yesterday in thinking about this is that the second reading has a really good claim to originality; in fact, I now think it may have the best claim to that.

Variant and paragraph break at Eph 5.22 in 01
Not only is it attested early and well, but it can easily explain both the alternate readings while alternatively not being well explained by either. It explains the shorter reading (found only in P46 B Clem Hier) by simple homoioteleuton, the word being omitted because of the repeated ν on ἀνδράσιν just before it. On the other hand, it explains the Byzantine reading which is the obvious way to assimilate this verse to the rest of this section, the other imperatives being 2nd person rather than 3rd person as we have with ὑποτασσέσθωσαν. I think this latter point is also good grounds against preferring the shorter reading; if a scribe were going to add a verb here (as, I readily admit, would be natural), it  would most likely have taken the form of the 2nd person imperative to fit with the others. In other words, it would take the form of the dominant Byzantine reading.

There is, then, a strong case to be made for ὑποτασσέσθωσαν as the original reading. And, if so, then v. 21 should be read more with what precedes and v. 22, more with what follows. The paragraph break thus belongs after v. 21 not before it.

The question I had at church was whether or not anyone else had taken this view. Sure enough, Tregelles prefers ὑποτασσέσθωσαν and he is followed by the editors of the new THGNT. The latter also has a paragraph break at v. 22. [Update: Lachmann has it and WH give ὑποτασσέσθωσαν as a marginal reading.] So, I am at least in good company.

Whatever your view, this is certainly not an insignificant decision. Given the debates about vv. 21 and 22, the choice of variant and its effect on where to break the text, affects how you read and apply the text. Let no one say that textual criticism doesn’t influence interpretation and application. The other lesson from this example is: always take your GNT to church! You never know what you’ll discover.