Friday, April 20, 2018

Who said it?

It’s time for another round of everyone’s favorite game: “who said it?” Now, the invention of Google books has significantly diminished the challenge of this game, but it is best not to spoil it that way.
The point is that we have so many manuscripts of the NT and that these manuscripts contain so many variant readings that surely the original reading in every case is somewhere present in our vast store of material. ... We have, therefore, a genuine embarrassment of riches in the quantity of manuscripts that we possess, and this accounts, on the one hand, for the optimism in the discipline and for the promise of solid results.
So, who said it? 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two important, shorter Byzantine readings in 1 John

In reading through 1 John with my Greek students this semester, I noticed two unexpected variants. They are both places where the Byzantine majority preserves a shorter reading that is easily explained as an accidental omission.

The full Greek data for 1 John 2.23 are in Text und Textwert, but the evidence from ECM is:
  1. πᾶς ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν υἱὸν οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει, ὁ ὁμολογῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει.
    01. 02. 03. 04. 025. 044. 5. 33. 61. 94. 104. 206. 218. 252. 254. 307. 321. 323. 326. 378C. 398. 429. 436. 442. 453. 459. 467C. 468. 522. 614. 621. 623. 630. 720. 808. 918. 996. 1067. 1127. 1243. 1292. 1359. 1409. 1448. 1490. 1505. 1523. 1524. 1563. 1611. 1661. 1678. 1718. 1735. 1739. 1751. 1799. 1831. 18372. 18382. 1842. 1844f. 1852. 1881. 2138. 2147. 2200. 2298. 2344. 2374. 2412. 2464. 2541. 2544. 2652. 2805. 2818. L596. L1281. Ath. Cyr. CyrH. Or. K:S>BV>. S:P>H. A. G:A1. Sl.Si. Ä
  2. πᾶς ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν υἱὸν οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει.
    6. 81. 88. 181. 378*. 467*. 629. 642. 915. 945. 1241. 1875. 2186. 2243. 2492. Byz [424*. 424C2]. PsOec. K:Bms. Sl:ChMS
While the minuscules are not unified here, there is still a clear Byz text identified by the ECM. Because of this unity, you will not find this variant in Robinson-Pierpont as a Byzantine variant though it is in the apparatus as an NA27 reading. The obvious explanation for the second reading is, of course, homoiteleuton (ἔχει ... ἔχει).

By way of illustration, here is the correction of the text in 424 adding the text back in followed by a second correction expunging it.

The double correction in 424. See in VMR
The second such omission is just a few verses later in 1 John 3.1. There the main evidence is
  1. Ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν, καὶ ἐσμέν.
    01. 02. 03. 04. 025. 044. 5. 6. 33. 81. 94. 104. 206. 307. 321. 323. 378. 398. 4242. 429. 436. 442. 453. 459. 467. 522. 614. 621. 623. 629. 630. 918. 945. 996. 1067. 1127. 1243. 1292. 1409. 1490. 1505. 1523. 1524. 1611. 1735. 1739. 1799. 1831. 1838. 1842. 1844. 1852. 1881. 2138. 2147. 2200. 2298. 2344. 2374. 2412. 2464. 2541. 2652. 2805. 2818. L596. L:VT. A. G:A1. Sl:ChMSi
  2. Ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν.
    61. 88. 181 . 218. 254. 326. 642. 808. 915. 1359. 1448. 1563. 1718. 1837. 1875. 2186. 2243. 2492. Byz [424T]. PSOeC. L:Vms. K:Sms>. Sl:S
Once again, we have the earliest evidence, several dozen minuscules, and most of the versions in favor of the longer reading and the Byzantine manuscripts in favor of the shorter. This variant won’t show up in the RP as an intra-Byzantine variant either. Again, the simplest explanation for the Byzantine reading is homoioteleuton, the eye skipping from -μεν to -μεν.

Klaus Wachtel (Der Bzyantinische Text, 302–303) also suggests that the shorter reading would be preferable because it removes the abrupt shift from subjunctive (κληθῶμεν) to indicative (ἐσμέν) following ἵνα. Confirming this as a possible motive is the fact that we find the subjunctive ὦμεν in 2544 and this appears to be what is translated by the Harklean Syriac and some Coptic witnesses. 

Here is this variant again in 424 showing another correction.

1 John 3.1 in 424. See in VMR
Both variants are pretty easy to deal with for reasoned and thoroughgoing eclectics and pretty difficult for Byzantine prioritists. It may be surprising to see the Byzantine tradition preserve such obvious mistakes, but in this, it also shows how careful the Byzantine scribes often were. It also suggests that, in some cases, the Byzantine text goes back to a single exemplar that is not the autograph and not one of our earliest extant Greek witnesses. These two cases also illustrate well the reality that no single text-type or manuscript has a corner on the original text all the time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Congratulations to Troy Griffitts!

Good news out of Birmingham today.
ITSEE extends its warmest congratulations to Troy Griffitts, one of its most longstanding doctoral students, on qualifying for the award of PhD.

Troy began his studies in Birmingham in September 2010, researching the development of collaborative online frameworks for volunteer contributions to scholarly datasets, with a particular focus on the New Testament. A year later, however, the opportunity arose for him to move to ITSEE’s collaborator, the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, to become lead developer of the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NT.VMR). Troy continued to work on his doctorate as a part-time, split-site and latterly distance-learning student. His thesis describes the development of NTVMR 2.0, and the independent scholarly editing environment to which it has led, the freely-available Virtual Manuscript Room Collaborative Research Environment (VMR CRE).

Troy’s thesis, entitled Software for the Collaborative Editing of the Greek New Testament, was examined by Dr Dirk Jongkind of the University of Cambridge and Dr Andrew Davies, Director of the Edward Cadbury Centre at Birmingham. His supervisors were Dr Hugh Houghton and Professor David Parker. Following the successful completion of his doctorate, Troy continues to be active in supporting the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room, as well as the Museum of the Bible Greek Paul Project in the USA, the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament Project in Göttingen and other teams using his software. He also remains a director of the CrossWire Bible Society.
Congratulations, Troy! Thank you for all the hard work you put into these digital tools.

Monday, April 16, 2018

New Light on ‘Proto-Theodotion’

8ḤevXII Col 31
Jan Joosten has posted an intriguing paper to to be published in a congress volume, “New light on Proto-Theodotion. The Psalms of Solomon and the Milieu of the Kaige Recension.” It is worth reporting on some of the salient points in this piece.

Joosten begins by surveying scholarship on the questions of Theodotion, proto-Theodotion, and the kaige-group (mainly the work of D. Barthélemy) and he isolates three open questions: (1) the first century CE date of this revisional activity, (2) the location of the revision in Palestine, and (3) the revision’s relationship to proto-Rabbinic exegesis.

He then turns in an “unexepected” direction to the Psalms of Solomon. Most scholars believe that the Psalms of Solomon were originally composed in Hebrew, but Joosten and E. Bons believe that the work could have been composed originally in Greek. He locates the composition in Judea, freshly after the Roman invasion around the middle of the first century BCE.

What are the connections between the kaige group and the Psalms of Solomon? First, Joosten discerns a unique, common vocabulary between Ps. Sol. and members of the kaige group. Second, Ps. Sol. often employs and alludes to the Old Greek of biblical books, but on occasion the allusions veer away from the Old Greek and align with the Theodotionic and Aquilinic revisions of the Old Greek or at least align with their translation equivalents of the proto-MT elsewhere. For example (on p. 9):
Ps. Sol. 17:3 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐλπιοῦμεν ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν σωτῆρα ἡμῶν
      But we will hope in God our savior
Mic 7:7 Εγὼ δὲ… ὑπομενῶ ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου
      But as for me… I will wait for God my savior
MT אוֹחִילָה “I will await”
Note יחל – ἐλπίζειν in θ´ Job 14:14; Isa 42:4; Mic 5:6; α´ Job 14:14; Isa 42:4. The expression ὁ θεὸς σωτήρ is found in the Greek Bible only in these passages. This makes it very likely that the Ps. Sol. passage alludes to Mic 7:7. The constellation is the same as in the previous one, except that the revised reading is not extant for this precise verse in Micah. The equivalence יחל – ἐλπίζειν is attested elsewhere in Theodotion and Aquila, however. In Job 14:14, ὑπομένειν in the LXX was changed to ἐλπίζειν in θ´α´.
Here, we do not have extant evidence of the revisers for Mic 7:7, but Joosten has probably detected correctly that Ps. Sol. has adopted their approach (as members of the kaige-group) to the translation of scripture rather than the OG’s.

At the end of the article, Joosten returns to the open questions with which he began, quite cautiously drawing conclusions. First, if Ps. Sol. is dated to the second half of the first century BCE and there is a connection to kaige, then the kaige activity is more probably dated to the first century BCE, thus a minor correction to Barthélemy’s first century CE date. Second, Joosten notes that Ps. Sol. might now present new evidence for the kaige activity occurring in Palestine. Third, and most intriguing, Ps. Sol. expressed opinion that appears to be consonant with the Pharisees (e.g. resurrection of righteous in 3:11-12; 13:11), which might then link it—and now the kaige group—with the proto-Rabbinic movement.

There is much to consider in this piece, and generally, it seems right to me. The same tradition or group that revised its sacred scriptures and made new translations of some of them could have also generated new psalms and collections. Probably, the major challenge to this argument would be that Jews in Judea composed Ps. Sol. in Greek, not Hebrew, a challenge that Joosten himself notes. Another aspect of Joosten’s discussion that’s worth revisiting is the language of “Theodotion.” His article depends only on Ps. Sol. originating with the kaige tradition not necessarily “Theodotion” or proto-Theodotion. It may be best to remove the reference to Theodotion and continue to use kaige tradition or group. But this is a minor point, and I don’t want it to detract from Joosten’s overall intriguing piece.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Larry Hurtado on P52

I recently came across this short video of Craig Evans interviewing Larry Hurtado. It appears to be made during the production of Evans’ new documentary, Fragments of Truth (see Peter Gurry’s review here). The date of P52 comes up, and Hurtado briefly explains why he thinks it is “among the earliest New Testament manuscripts” but not necessarily the earliest New Testament manuscript.

Hurtado’s position isn’t new or unusual, but I find it helpful to draw attention to another voice among those who reject specifically early or narrow dates for P52. He has gone on the record before about what he thinks of the date of P52 (on his blog here, or in various articles, some of which are in his recent collection of essays, Texts and Artefacts).

Friday, April 13, 2018

Festschrift for Geoffrey Khan freely available

The full text of the Festschrift for Geoffrey Khan, one of the world’s leading Semitists, is now freely available here. In the opening essay of the volume I write about Semitic long /i/ vowels in Vaticanus NT, making the case that the spellings with epsilon-iota for the long /i/ in Vaticanus are a mixture of early readings and learned innovation.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Greg Lanier: Locating the Inspired ‘Original’ Amid Textual Complexity

Greg Lanier is an assistant professor and dean of students at Reformed Theological Seminary and a good friend of mine from Cambridge. Recently, he published a long article in JETS about a particularly knotty textual problem that spans both OT and NT. It also raises questions for Evangelicals about the goal of textual criticism and its relationship to our bibliology. I would like to see more discussion about these issues and so I asked Greg if he would introduce us to his article and pose some of the issues it raises. So, here is Greg.

The most recent volume of JETS (61.1) includes my analysis of the textual tradition of the murder (M), adultery (A), and steal (S) commandments of the Decalogue—traditionally 6th–8th in the Protestant numbering. The full article can be downloaded here.

The bulk of the article is an inventory of the various sequences found in extant sources (including the versions) for both OT and NT occurrences of these commandments. For instance, the order M-A-S is read in the MT for both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5; A-M-S in the Nash Papyrus and B-Deuteronomy; A-S-M in B-Exodus; and a variety of sequences appear in the NT references to these commandments (and the resulting textual traditions). The full set of results can, of course, be found in the article.

While tracing the minutiae of these passages as far as possible was interesting in its own right, I eventually realized that the project served as a well-contained case study that surfaces and helps crystallize a bigger-picture issue of significance in the study of the textual tradition of Scripture. Namely, what does it mean to speak of an authorial/original/initial form of a Scriptural writing when faced with tremendous complexity in the actual data itself?

In conversations with various OT and NT peers—particularly those who have a “high” doctrine of Scripture (of the American or British varieties)—I’ve found that this topic has struck a chord, as others have been thinking on it as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review of ‘Fragments of Truth’

The folks at Faithlife kindly sent me a review version of their new documentary Fragments of Truth that comes out two weeks from today. The movie itself lasts 115 minutes followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A with Craig Evans and others. Evans also serves as tour guide (think Mary Beard style) and the rest of the narration is filled in by John Rhys-Davies, better known as the amazing Gimli in Lord of the Rings.

The basic point of the movie is to show that the text of the New Testament is reliable and that the variants that do exist pose no threat to Christian confidence in the New Testament. The closing words go further in saying that when you read your Bible, you “really are reading the Word of God.” Probably many Christians won’t even notice the leap from “textually reliable” to “inspired by God,” but skeptics might.

Evans takes us on a tour to locations across Europe that hold some of our most famous Greek New Testament manuscripts in places like Cambridge, Dublin, Vatican City, and Oxford. One nice feature about this is that they interview the curators at most of these stops. I like this because curators often get overlooked. But not here.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Christian Biblical Canon Defined by Central Authority?

Timothy Lim has recently written a post for the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins blog (University of Edinburgh) entitled The Canonical Process Reconsidered (the post is a summary of a recent essay which I have not seen yet). Lim is commenting on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament canon in this post/article, specifically, questioning the role of "Criterial Logic" for tracing the canon process and promoting what he calls "Indicative Logic" instead. I won't engage those ideas here. However, Lim makes a curious statement in the very first paragraph, which I will engage. He states:
The canon of the Hebrew Bible was defined, if not yet finally closed, by the end of the first century CE. The Pharisaic canon became the canon of Rabbinic Judaism, because the majority of those who re-founded the Jewish religion after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans were Pharisees. The process that led to this canonization needs to be explored. How should we think about the books that were eventually included in the canon? Unlike the early church, ancient Jewish communities did not have a central authority that defined the books of the canon. The formation of the Jewish canon was not prescribed by the priests of the Temple of Jerusalem, it emerged from the bottom-up with each community holding to its own collection of authoritative texts (emphasis added).
Lim does not explain this analogy further, but surely, he is alluding to the all-too-common picture of a fourth-century council (usually Nicaea) that defined the books of the biblical canon once and for all. The problem with this view? No evidence. In fact, if you look through my and Ed Gallagher's recent The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity, perhaps the first thing you will notice is that there is no list from the Council of Nicaea or similar council from this early period. In fact, we wanted to ensure that even the gathering at Laodicea in the 360's and the one at Hippo in the early 390's were not mistaken for the big councils of the same century. We translated the relevant terms with "synod" to try to convey that these assemblies were more regional and smaller than what the term "council" typically conveys in these discussions.

If there was a canon list that came from a central, authoritative council, we do not possess it today. Rather, our lists show that there was almost certainly no such ruling on the canon, since, although the lists share much agreement, they also evince ongoing disputes and discussions over various books after the Council of Nicaea (325 CE). Therefore, both Judaism and Christianity cannot claim that their lists of books go back to some central authority. Both must trace the process of canonization according to the various sources we possess today.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Linguistics and New Testament Greek at Southeastern

Well, mark April 26–27, 2019 on your calendar because Southeastern Seminary is hosting a conference on Linguistics and New Testament Greek. Here is the description:
This two-day conference is designed to bring students of the Greek New Testament up-to-date regarding current issues related to linguistics and the interpretation of the New Testament. It features several top scholars in the field including Stan Porter, Constantine Campbell, Stephen Levinsohn, Steve Runge, and Robert Plummer. The session topics include verbal aspect, the perfect tense, discourse analysis, and word order. The cost of the conference includes dinner on Friday night, breakfast on Saturday morning, and a light snack late morning on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Samples of Early Printed Greek

Last week I gave a quick tour of Greek New Testament type design over on the Twitter. This was inspired by the arrival of the book Greek Printing Types: 1465–1927: Facsimiles from an Exhibition of Books Illustrating the Development of Greek Printing Shown in the British Museum, 1927 at my local library. The introduction to the book gives a really helpful overview of Greek type design by Victor Scholderer, curator of the incunabula section in the British Museum Library. He was also the designer of Monotype’s New Hellenic in 1927 (see here) which finally unsettled the dominance of Porson in England. Fun fact about New Hellenic: it was used in abecedaries for nearly three decades in Greece. I think it was more common in classics than Biblical studies, but you see it, for example, in the older Cambridge History of the Bible.

All that by way of introduction. For those particularly interested in reading historic editions of the GNT, one of the main obstacles to overcome is the proliferation of ligatures that grew out of the Aldine typefaces from the 15th century. The Aldine style was based on the hand of the Greek scribe Immanuel Rhusotas and, partly because it looked “scholarly,” it took off and would influence the major Greek New Testaments up to the nineteenth century. Practically, this means that reading anything before that can be a chore. To help, here is a website that gives a nice introduction to early printed Greek, especially the wild and woolly ligatures. Check it out if you’re interested in reading these old editions.

More resources

William H. Ingram, “The Ligatures of Early Printed Greek,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 7.4 (1966): 371–89 and William Wallace, “An Index of Greek Ligatures and Contractions,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 43 (1923): 183–193; Robert Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1900). For a nice overview of the development of Greek type design, see Gerry Leonidas’s article at the Association Typographique Internationale.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Why Does Michelangelo’s Moses Look Like That?

Translations have consequences. In Exodus 34:29, there is a fascinating example of the tension between the formal and functional renderings of the Hebrew text in the history of its translation. Here are the relevant texts on which I want to focus, but if your translation offers some interesting insight, indicate so in the comments.

The Versions

MT: ֹוּמֹשֶׁה לֹֽא־יָדַע כִּי קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו בְּדַבְּרוֹ אִתּו
Now, Moses did not know that the skin of his face qāran [when he spoke with him].

OG: Μωυσῆς οὐκ ᾔδει ὅτι δεδόξασται ἡ ὄψις τοῦ χρώματος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ λαλεῖν αὐτὸν αὐτῷ.
Moses was not knowing that the appearance of his face’s skin was magnified [while he spoke with him].

Aquila (apud Jerome Am III 6.13): et Moyses nesciebat quia cornuta erat species uultus eius.
And Moses was not knowing that the appearance of his face was horned.

Vulgate: et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua ex consortio sermonis Dei
And he was ignorant that his face was horned [from conversing with God].

Aquila’s Version

The first issue to sort out is the Greek text of Aquila. In his commentary on Amos 6:13 (PL 25:1067), Jerome is commenting on the noun Karnaim (קַרְנָיִם) “horns,” and among other texts he appeals to the Hebrew and Aquila’s edition of Exod 34:29 for an understanding of a person with horns. He does not provide the Greek reading of Aquila (which has not been preserved), but Aquila used κέρας and derivatives systematically for קרן and derivatives so we can reconstruct his version with some probability. Jerome used the adjective cornutu “horned,” so probably Aquila had something like ὅτι κερατώδης ἦν ἡ ὄψις τοῦ δέρματος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ. I doubt whether Aquila would have used ὄψις and not the nominative δέρμα “skin”, which would agree more closely with the Hebrew, but that’s another question for another day.

Hebrew Meaning

The reason for the differences in translation comes from whether to render the Hebrew text formally or functionally. Qāran is from qeren “horn,” which is often times an image of strength in the ancient world and the Hebrew Bible, specifically the strength of a king (e.g. Deut 33:17; 1 Sam 2:1, 10). In the ancient world, gods and kings were often described as horned as a measure of their great or superior status, and perhaps the horns were a symbol of the deification of the king. Thus the denominative verb “is horned” (cp. the Hiph stem in Ps 69:32 of a bull “sprouting horns”) could symbolize Moses’ strength as Israel’s leader (cf. Exod 4:16).

On the other hand, there are other references to horns in the Hebrew Bible such as the horns on the altar (many places in Exod and Lev), which would probably not symbolize superiority, but atonement and meeting with God. As mediator, Moses’ horns would perhaps fit with this background as well.


OG-Exod interpreted Moses’ horns with a metaphorical rendering by assigning shining, glory, or magnificence to Moses’ face in the presence of Yahweh (cp. Targ and Pesh). Aquila revised the text according to etymology or ultra-literalism, and thus restored the ancient picture of a leader or mediator with horns. Jerome continued this tradition in his Vulgate, which must have also impacted the interpretation of Moses’ appearance by the time Michelangelo put chisel to marble to sculpt his Moses.

Thus Jerome did not mistranslate the Hebrew (neither did the LXX for that matter). But he did borrow the ultra-literal translation of the Hebrew that Aquila had already supplied. And it is this rendering that explains why Michelangelo’s Moses looks the way it does.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Why Will the Last Be First? Reconsidering the Longer Reading at Matt 20.16

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20.1–16) closes with a repetition of the statement that immediately precedes it and is logically connected to (note γάρ in 20.1): “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Although some see a poor fit with this proverbial statement and the parable, it actually connects very closely at two points.

Not sure what the source of this is.
First, the workers hired last are paid first and the workers hired first are paid last (20.8, 10). Second, if we read the statement not simply as being about reversal (last in place of first) but also as a removal of distinction (the first are the last), then there is an obvious connection in the fact that all the workers were paid the same amount. This, of course, is the point of contention for the first workers since such a procedure makes the last equal (ἴσους) with them. This seems to be an injustice (cf. ἀδικῶ in v. 13 with δίκαιον δώσω ὑμῖν in v. 4). The envious, as Joseph Epstein writes, “have a restless competitiveness, which will not cease nagging away at them until they feel themselves clearly established as the first among unequals.”

The response is well known and despite much debate about the parable’s meaning, it does seem to be about the problem of envy or “the evil eye” (ὁ ὀφθαλμός πονηρός) among Jesus’ disciples. This was part of the problem Peter showcased in the preceding paragraph.

In this, the concluding proverbial statement works as a rebuke to Peter both in its first instance in 19.30 and then again in 20.16 at the end of the parable. The statement works as an inclusio for the parable. The point is that Jesus’ disciples should not begrudge God his generosity; instead they should be grateful when he treats people in ways that can only seem wrong when fairness has been wrapped around ourselves. After all, isn’t God free to do as he wishes with what is his? If so, then he is free to treat those we deem last the same way he treats those we deem first.

This brings us to the longer reading of 20.16 which adds a final justification for all this: “for many are called but few are chosen.” These words are found verbatim in Matt 22.14 and therein lies the problem for them. The recent eclectic texts (NA28, SBLGNT, and THGNT) all omit the words because of the parallel. (Tregelles has them in brackets.) Here is Metzger:
Although it is possible that the words πολλοὶ … ἐκλετοί had been accidentally omitted from an ancestor of א B L Z 085 al owing to homoeoteleuton, the Committee regarded it as much more likely that they were added here by copyists who recollected the close of another parable (22:14, where there is no significant variation of reading).
The problem is that the statement “many are called but few are chosen” makes good sense in Matt 22.14 after a man is thrown out from a wedding feast without proper dress. But here in Matt 20, there is no hint of some people being excluded or not chosen (presumably, all the workers take what is theirs and go). Instead, all receive the same pay just as all were chosen to work in the first place. Exclusion is not really the point here.

Nor is there an obvious reason to harmonize the text here as there is in Luke 14.24 where we also find the saying added by a few manuscripts. There, harmonization is the obvious explanation since that is Luke’s banquet parable. But Matt 20 has little in common with those two passages except for the general reversal of expectations which is found in much of Jesus’ teaching. There is a verbal connection in the use of the word “many” (πολλοί), but even that is only found in Matt 19.30 not here in 20.16. So I find it a bit odd for Westcott and Hort to say that the longer reading comes from “the close of a similar parable” (Appendix, 15; so too Willker).

Both readings have early support: in C D syr for the longer and א and B for the shorter. Given the apparent awkwardness of the longer reading in Matt 20.16 it is, in my opinion, the more difficult reading. As for transcriptional evidence, the lack of a good parallel context weighs against harmonization. On the other side, the -οι endings make homoeoteleuton, as Metzger recognized, the obvious cause for the shorter reading. If external evidence is not against the longer reading and the internal is for it, then it should be preferred.

But what do others think about this one? Is there a good explanation for Matt 22.14 being brought into Matt 20.16 that I’ve missed? If the longer reading is original, how does it fit in the context? What does it add to the meaning?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Maurizio Aceto and Scientific Analysis of Manuscripts

The John Rylands Library is running an exhibit through August 2018 called The Alchemy of Colour. They even have a series of short YouTube videos describing non-invasive ways that multi-spectral analysis can shed new light on manuscripts. The videos are a delight to watch.

One of the videos shows that cow’s urine was used for a particular yellow pigment—demonstrated by a yellow dress glowing under the blacklight. It sounds almost scandalous, but if you are familiar with ancient recipes for making inks and dyes, it really is no surprise. Earle Radcliffe Caley’s 1926 translation of P.Leiden X, for example, has six references to urine as an ingredient. The video that excited me, however, was a short discussion of the colour purple:

In the video, Cheryl Porter gives a great description of some of the ways purple was made and the significance the colour had in antiquity. She mentions specifically that purple was often equated with power. That has led some to suspect that purple Gospel books could have had political significance.

Rather than a discussion of the colour purple, however, I wanted to use the opportunity afforded by the video to point readers to some of the work being done by Maurizio Aceto. You might ask why Aceto appears in a video about the use of purple in manuscripts, especially because he doesn’t say anything about the colour.

Photo credit: John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog,
Purple is the new black“ (2 November 2017)
The reason is that Aceto has published several articles in recent years on the use of non-invasive scientific testing to learn about ancient artefacts, and purple codices have been subjects of a number of them. In one of his publications (“First Analytical Evidences of Precious Colourants on Mediterranean Illuminated Manuscripts), he and a team of researchers used Raman spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) and UV-Vis diffuse reflectance spectrophotometry with fibre optics (FORS) to identify the inks and colourants in the Vienna Dioscurides and Vienna Genesis manuscripts of the sixth century.

In another study (“Non-Invasive Investigation on a VI Century Purple Codex from Brescia, Italy”), Aceto led a team of researchers who used XRF, FORS and a couple of other non-invasive techniques on Codex Brixianus, a sixth-century Latin purple codex. This second article I mention was especially interesting, as Aceto et al. demonstrate that Tyrian Purple was not the main source of the purple dye, but they suggest that the codex might have been dyed by a process known as top-dyeing. The parchment was first dyed with a cheaper purple substitute, and then a thin layer of more expensive Tyrian purple was added on top of the lesser-quality dye. It was a way to save money without completely losing the colour of the more expensive dye. (Let me add that his suggestion about the possibility of top-dyeing applies only to Codex Brixianus, not necessarily to the Greek purple codices from the same era.)

I give the information for some of Aceto’s publications below. If you like manuscripts and dabble in science (or vice versa), they are interesting reads. Scientists like Aceto have a whole toolbox of equipment that can be used to study manuscripts that easily goes unnoticed by scholars concerned with the texts those manuscripts contain. Besides, science is fun!


Aceto, Maurizio, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Pietro Baraldi, P. Zannini, C. Hofmann, and E. Gamillscheg. “First Analytical Evidences of Precious Colourants on Mediterranean Illuminated Manuscripts.” Spectrochim. Acta A 95 (September 2012): 235–45.

Aceto, Maurizio, Angelo Agostino, Enrico Boccaleri, and Anna Cerutti Garlanda. “The Vercelli Gospels Laid Open: An Investigation into the Inks Used to Write the Oldest Gospels in Latin.” X-Ray Spectrometry 37 (2008): 286–292.

Aceto, Maurizio, Ambra Idone, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Monica Gulmini, Pietro Baraldi, and Fabrizio Crivello. “Non-Invasive Investigation on a VI Century Purple Codex from Brescia, Italy.” Spectrochim. Acta A 117 (January 3, 2014): 34–41.

Aceto, Maurizio, Angelo Agostino, Gaia Fenoglio, Ambra Idone, Fabrizio Crivello, Martina Griesser, Franz Kirchweger, Katharina Uhlir, and Patricia Roger Puyo. “Analytical Investigations on the Coronation Gospels Manuscript.” Spectrochim. Acta A 171 (January 15, 2017): 213–21.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Visual Proof of the Original Reading at Mark 1.1

In honor of our newest blog member who is an expert in all manuscripts purple, here is something I noticed last week in class.

It’s not uncommon for Gospels manuscripts to feature portraits of the Evangelists writing out the first line or so of their Gospel. Now, look closely at the text Mark is copying in this miniature from Codex Rossanensis/042 (6th cent.). Elijah can tell us more about the dating of the artwork from what is perhaps the earliest illuminated NT manuscript. This is clearly telling us what the original reading is there. We have visual proof!

Okay, I kid. But here is a serious question: should this be cited as an additional witness to the longer reading? Why or why not? (The text of 042 also has the longer reading, with τοῦ.)

Miniature of Mark in 042

Monday, March 26, 2018

New Contributor: Elijah Hixson

When I first started learning about textual criticism at seminary, textual criticism was not much more than one lecture on Romans 5:1 in intermediate Greek, and if you were lucky, an introductory course that was only taught once every few years. I had to wait a few years for the introductory course. My intermediate Greek professor pointed me to Metzger and Ehrman’s Text of the New Testament. After that, I found this blog and never stopped reading it. It was like drinking from a fire hose at first, but I am deeply thankful for all the posts and comments here over the years that have helped make me who I am. It is an honour to be a contributor to this blog.

I recently finished my PhD at the University of Edinburgh under Paul Foster. James Snapp recently interviewed me about this research over at his blog, The Text of the Gospels, but I will give a summary of my research and results here. Like Alan Taylor Farnes, I too decided to test the “singular readings method”. Whereas Farnes did that with Abschriften, I took a closer look at the sixth-century purple codices 022, 023 and 042. Because these three manuscripts were copied from the same exemplar, I reconstructed the text of their exemplar in Matthew’s Gospel where that was possible.

Now, I know that scholars like Royse, Hernández and just about everyone else who uses the method are careful to qualify it—singular readings really tell us about the “complex scribe” not the actual scribe. Still, after a lengthy discussion of the matter, Royse concludes that the singulars are probably due to the actual scribe in most of the cases. His words are:
In what follows, consequently, I will speak of a manuscript’s “scribe” in the ordinary way, that is, meaning the person who actually wrote the manuscript. Discussions of the scribe’s handwriting or corrections, for instance, will obviously refer to this one person. And most of the singulars should, without doubt, be attributed to this person. (p. 55)
In nuce, singular readings hypothetically could be from anyone, but they’re probably the work of the actual person who made the manuscript. If anything, singular readings tell us about the activity of the person who made the manuscript with some contamination from previous scribes in the line of transmission back to the archetype.

But is that really true?

By focusing on singular readings, one could include inherited readings from the exemplar and exclude non-singular readings created by the scribe. Those possibilities allow errors on both sides of the data. I set out to test the method in a three-tiered approach.

First, I went to all the places in Matthew where 022, 023 and 042 are all extant and compared orthography (ει/ι and αι/ε interchanges), unit delimitation, kephalaia and titloi, the Eusebian apparatus and textual changes. This comparison allowed me to build a preliminary profile of each scribe to help resolve issues reconstructing the exemplar later one where only two of the three manuscripts were extant. For example, the scribe of 023 is incredible and makes very few changes, but the scribe of 042 has a noticeable tendency to harmonise Matthew to Markan parallels. Therefore, if only 023 and 042 are extant—and they differ—, and one of the possibilities is that 023 preserves the text of the exemplar and 042 harmonises to Mark, then that is probably what happened (as opposed to 042 preserving the text of the exemplar and 023 making the change).

Second, I analysed the singular and family readings of each manuscript (readings unique to these three manuscripts). I did this to include “inherited singulars”. Of course, the inherited readings aren’t singular in my cases, but that is only because we have more than one copy of the exemplar. Stated alternatively for 022, I studied the singular readings of 022 as we would count them if 023 and 042 never existed. This modification best replicates the situation for any other early manuscript, like the early papyri studied by Royse.

Third, I reconstructed the 022-023-042 exemplar, analysed the changes each scribe made to the text and compared these numbers with what I got from the modified singular readings method.

The results? An analysis of singular (and family) readings of 022, 023 and 042 does not give accurate conclusions about the scribes who made them. In fact, if you add up the total number of singular and family readings from the three manuscripts, about two-thirds of them are inherited readings, not scribal creations. If you add up the total number of scribal changes in all three manuscripts, about two-thirds of them are non-singular. Instead of getting the habits of the actual scribe with a bit of contamination from the complex scribe, with the purple codices, the unique readings tell us more about the “habits” of the complex scribe with a bit of contamination from the person who actually wrote the words. I wonder if even that is accurate because of how many non-singular scribal changes went unnoticed.

Even though the method doesn’t “work” with 022, 023 and 042, it still might tell us something about scribal habits in the early manuscripts. Several of the changes I saw were instances in which scribes aligned the text to what would become the majority reading, and I don’t think that would be the case for the early papyri—certainly not as much. I’m not saying to throw the method out. It still tells us how manuscripts are unique, even if in these three instances it fails to tell us about scribes.

In the end, the project was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about three sixth-century witnesses to Matthew’s Gospel and their scribes. The manuscripts themselves are gorgeous—they were a good choice of manuscripts to spend 3.5 years looking at. I also highly recommend Byzantine manuscripts to people looking for thesis topics. Even though I am not a Byzantine prioritist myself (though I have the highest respect for our Silver-Haired Assassin), it is exciting to notice new things by working with manuscripts that have been largely neglected since their discovery and initial publication.

Friday, March 23, 2018

‘Father Forgive Them’ – The Variant in Luke 23:34a

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (6)

This is the last of a series of blog post [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. The series discusses 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.

The previous variant that we discussed (Lk 22:43-44) was substantial and important. It makes quite a difference how Jesus is portrayed by Luke whether or not the episode of the strengthening angel and the sweat like drops of blood is present. The final variant of this series is, in my view, even more important and one with considerable theological ramifications. Come to think of it, I am not sure if there are many variants that have a bigger impact on New Testament Christology than Luke 23:34a.

It concerns the presence or absence of the following words

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν· πάτερ, ἄφες αὐτοῖς· οὐ γὰρ οἴδασιν τί ποιοῦσιν.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

None of the other evangelists has any reference to Jesus prayer of forgiveness for those who are crucifying him; the presence of these words make a unique contribution, their omission changes Luke’s narrative considerably. And just to draw the modern battle lines: the THGNT has these words as part of the main text, though signalling the problems with a diamond in the apparatus. NA26-28 has these words in white square brackets, claiming that these words are certainly not part of the original text of the gospel but have been inserted at an early stage.

Here is the Greek evidence, and as far as the omission goes I believe it is complete:

omit P75 ℵ2a B D* W Θ 070 579 1241
text ℵ* ℵ2b A C D3 K L N Q Δ Ψ 0211 f1 f13 33 158 700 713 892 1071 l844 Maj

[IGNTP-Luke mentions 0124, but that witness is now combined with 070.]

There are at least two similarities between this textual variant and Lk 22:43-44, the angel and the sweat like drops of blood.
The first is found in the supporting evidence. This was the evidence for the omission of Lk 22:43-44

omit 22:43-44 P75 ℵ2a A B N R T W 0211 f13(but adds after Mt 26:39, as does a later corrector of C) 158 579 713 1071* l844.

The witnesses that omit at both places are P75 ℵ2a B W 579. The ones that omit in 22:43-44 and not at 23:34a are A N 0211 f13 158 713 1071 l844 (R and T are only extant at the first place) and those that omit 23:34a but not 22:43-44 are D Θ 1241 (070 only extant at 23:34a). The five witnesses that omit at both places form something of a solid core, it is not remarkable to see P75 B W 579 together (and on their combined testimony alone I am prepared to consider any reading quite seriously).

A second similarity is the nature of the longer reading. Neither in 23:43a or in 22:43-44 is there a clear source of influence. Yet there are plenty of thematic links with the Lukan corpus. Stephen’s words in Acts 7:60 (κύριε, μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς ταύτην τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’) convey a similar sentiment as 23:34a but the wording is quite different. We have a shared theme rather than a source of harmonisation. The same is true for the shared notion of ‘not knowing what they are doing’ in 23:34a and Acts 3:17 (κατὰ ἄγνοιαν πράξατε ‘you acted in ignorance’). One could even argue that Acts 3:17 presupposes something like Luke 23:34a. Yet again, it seems unlikely that Acts 3:17 provided the wording that we find in our passage.

So what are the arguments for or against?
  • The main argument against the originality of 23:34a is that it is left out in a part of the earliest evidence.
  • If these words were original, there does not seem to be a good motivation for leaving it out.
  • A reconstructed background is that the words in question may be an agraphon (Metzger’s Commentary) which is subsequently made part of the gospel-tradition for numerological reasons as it brings the number of sayings on the cross up to seven (Whitlark and Parsons).
The arguments in favour of printing the passage are:
  • The shorter text can be explained as a harmonization, this time by omission. And there are parallels elsewhere in the early manuscripts, and especially so in the Passion narratives. We have seen harmonization in the early witnesses in Matthew 27:49, and harmonization by omission in the variants in Mark 14, and I believe also in the two earlier discussed variants in Luke 22. And for those who accept the reading ‘Jesus Barabbas’ in Matthew 27:16, 17 (which I don’t) there is another example of harmonization by omission.
  • Thematically and theologically it fits the Lukan writings.
  • Metzger in his Textual Commentary mentions the destruction of Jerusalem as an event that seems in contradiction to Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness. One could go one step further and suggest that the omission is an anti-Jewish variant (in the sense that they should not be forgiven). However, as with many attempts to find a social or theological background to a textual variant, such reconstruction is rather speculative and perhaps more indicative of our desire to have a story behind a textual variant than that it provides us with a real argument. Admittedly, anti-judaism is not a strange sentiment in early Christianity (see Eubank who unpacks this line of argument).
For these reasons the Tyndale House Edition presents the text ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ as part of the original text of Luke. There seems to be enough going on in the P75 B-03 group to throw some doubt over their testimony in the big variants in the Passion narratives. The omission has – what I would call – strong external support. But this is exactly why textual criticism cannot be reduced to choosing an algorithm or preferred group of manuscripts. The reality of historical transmission is more complex and messier than any simple solution.

Some literature

Nathan Eubank, “A Disconcerting Prayer: On the Originality of Luke 23:34a”, Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010): 521-36

Jason A. Whitlark, and Mikeal C. Parsons, “The ‘Seven’ Last Words: A Numerical Motivation for the Insertion of Luke 23.34a”, New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 188-204 (see a discussion of this article on the ETC blog here)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Panel on the Christian Biblical Canon at Southeastern

Southeastern Seminary has a series of Library Talks, which apparently take different forms. For this ‘Library Talk’, they asked me to be part of a panel with two of their faculty members, Steve McKinion and Scott Kellum, to discuss the formation of the Christian Canon. The event is free and open to the public. I’m told seating is limited, so register today. If you can't attend the event, it will be recorded, and the video will be posted about two weeks after the event.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Book in the Pipeline: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament

Image from the colloquium by
Ian Nelson Mills (can you see me?).
Another new book on New Testament textual criticism is in the making: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament: Papers from the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament edited by H. A. G. Houghton, Text and Studies 3.16 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018).

Publisher’s description:
The textual history of the New Testament is a dynamic tradition, reflecting differing readings, interpretations and uses of its canonical writings. Twenty years after the publication of D.C. Parker’s celebrated volume The Living Text of the Gospels, the papers in this collection provide further insight into the lives of the New Testament text. One especially important focus for the New Testament as “living text” is its use in Christian worship: individual chapters examine the importance of liturgical manuscripts in Coptic and Greek traditions, alongside consideration of broader themes related to the lectionary text. Several famous biblical passages are the subject of extended treatment, including the Pericope de Adultera, Jesus’ teaching on the Temple in Mark, and the Lukan genealogy. The contributions represent original research by an international range of scholars, first presented at the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.
I am very pleased to have received proofs a few days ago of my chapter which will open the volume, “Was There and Alexandrian Recension of the Living Text of the Gospels?,” in which I interact with Parker’s Living Text as well as the question of an Alexandrian textual recension, an issue that has received some attention after Brent Nongbri’s recent redating of Papyrus 75.

A few other blogposts related to the topic of my article here, here and here 

Here you can read all about the wonderful colloquium organized by Hugh Houghton who is also the editor of the volume.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Book: The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context

Below is the editors’ overview of the new Festschrift for John Nolland: The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context: Essays in Honour of John Nolland. Thanks to Aaron White for providing it.

These essays have been written by a number of friends, colleagues and students, to mark John Nolland’s 70th birthday and to express, on our own behalf and on behalf of many others, our appreciation of John and of his work. They were presented to John Nolland at a meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research in Cambridge in July 2017.

The essays range widely over John’s own range of interests. Some essays are very much related to the context of Jesus and of the Gospels: Rainer Riesner’s discussion of the latest archaeological and historical evidence surrounding Nazareth falls very clearly into this category. Craig Evans describes the importance of Livia Julia August, the second wife of the emperor Augustus, not least in the estimation of Philip the tetrarch, and suggests that Philip’s controversial plan to build a temple to Julia in Bethsaida may be the context of Jesus’ famous promise to Peter ‘On this rock I will build my church’.

The Gospels themselves are obviously among the earliest perceptions of Jesus to which we have access,  and Armin Baum considers the much debated question of the genre of the gospels, concluding that they are closest generically to Old Testament and Jewish narratology, though with slight influence from Graeco-Roman biography. Thomas Hatina writes of the importance of Social Memory perspectives for an appreciation of the gospels, considering particularly Jesus’ quotations of Scripture and relating these to the culture and context of the evangelists.

Most of our essays are studies of the perception of Jesus within the New Testament. Tom Wright argues that Psalm 8 is a key Christological text in the gospels, and in a wide ranging article explores the text in relation to a range of themes from Adam to Davidic Messianism to the Son of man, to priesthood and temple, concluding with reflection on the coming of Yahweh and the divine identity of Jesus.

Others focus on particular gospels, notably on Luke-Acts and on Matthew,  as is appropriate in a volume dedicated to John Nolland. Darrell Bock explores one particular part of Luke’s Central Section, namely 11:24–13:9, pointing out the themes of authority and accountability running through those verses. Robert Brawley looks at the characterization of the Pharisees in Luke-Acts, finding the Lukan portrayal of their relations with Jesus to be more positive and less confrontational than has often been recognized. Yongbom Lee looks at Jesus as Son of Adam and Son of God in Luke-Acts, identifying places where Adamic Christology is important to Luke. Steve Walton focuses on the Ascension theme in Acts, showing its importance with significant implications for the divine identity of Jesus. Christoph Stenschke looks at the missionary speeches of Acts, and notices how Luke, for all his interest in the Gentile world, brings out the Jewish context of Jesus.

Daniel Gurtner takes in both Luke and Matthew,  examining the theme of the temple in both gospels, finding a rather positive view. Douglas O’Donnell looks just at  Matthew, examining the vocative kyrie as it is used in addressing Jesus, and concludes that it has divine resonances and it is not just respectful address. Roland Deines offers a rather comprehensive and insightful discussion of the generally neglected subject of the Holy Spirit in Matthew. David Wenham supports those who see the Matthean beatitudes as having a very coherent almost poetic shape, related to its Matthean context.

Of course, the rest of the New Testament apart from the gospels and Acts gives us insight into the earliest perceptions of Jesus. Craig Smith explores the theme of rest, sabbatismos, in Hebrews and relates it to Matthew 11:28–12:14. Peter Davids looks at James and 1 Peter,  noting many echoes of the traditions of Jesus in both letters, but explaining how their use of the traditions reflects their particular contexts.

John Nolland’s interests range much more widely than just the gospels, and indeed than the New Testament. He has been involved for many years in ministerial training, and it is good to have an article by former colleague Dr Eeva John on ministerial training, relating it to Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as teacher. It is also appropriate to have Eduard Schnabel’s article on  Romans 12:1, the point in Romans where Paul moves from doctrine into ethics; the article explores the meaning of  worship that is logikē. Schnabel recognizes the strength of the traditional translations ‘reasonable’ or ‘spiritual’, but prefers to look towards the ‘word’ sense of logos, suggesting that Paul is exhorting the Romans to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice that speaks and communicates with the world. This is an appropriate conclusion to our volume of essays both because John Nolland  has done so much to  help  students to engage with detailed and responsible study of the Greek text (especially in his class on ‘Advanced Greek’ on 2 Corinthians), and because his interests have included both a concern for mission – for communication – but also for Christian life and  ethics.

In bringing these essays together we honour John as someone who has’ investigated  things accurately’, so that we may ‘know the reliability of the things we have been taught’ (Lk. 1:3–4), and as a teacher, ‘discipled for the kingdom of heaven, who is like a man bringing out of his treasure things old and new’ (Matt 13:52). He is also a humble and self-effacing Christian scholar who would want to say ‘we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’ (2 Cor 4:5). We are grateful for all his service to us and to many others.

As editors we are grateful to Bloomsbury T&T Clark for their willingness to publish these essays and for all their help in doing so.

Aaron W. White, Craig A. Evans, David Wenham

We have a winner!

Congrats to Miguel M. who won our latest ETC blog giveaway. His copy of A New Approach to Textual Criticism is in the mail. For those that didn’t win, Amazon now has the paperback for just $13.28 $15.94 which is 33% 20% off. With free shipping, that’s cheaper than Tommy and I can get it with our author discount! Very good used copies can be had for even less.

Monday, March 19, 2018

‘The copy is the original’

John Meade, who is currently gallivanting around North Carolina, alerted me to an article over at aeon which is relevant to this blog. It is about the different conception of “original” and “copy” in China. I’m not sure what I think honestly, but I’ve ordered the author’s book out of curiosity and maybe that will help.

(Mini) Terracotta Army. (photo credit)
The distinction between original vs. copy is, of course, of central importance and sometimes a matter of debate in textual criticism (for example, and note our previous discussion about altering valuable art and artifacts). Here’s a snippet from the article:
The Chinese have two different concepts of a copy. Fangzhipin (仿製品) are imitations where the difference from the original is obvious. These are small models or copies that can be purchased in a museum shop, for example. The second concept for a copy is fuzhipin (複製品). They are exact reproductions of the original, which, for the Chinese, are of equal value to the original. It has absolutely no negative connotations. The discrepancy with regard to the understanding of what a copy is has often led to misunderstandings and arguments between China and Western museums. The Chinese often send copies abroad instead of originals, in the firm belief that they are not essentially different from the originals. The rejection that then comes from the Western museums is perceived by the Chinese as an insult.
I asked a relative who’s lived in China for over a decade about this quote and she sent me the following:
We had three friends over when I read your email so I asked them. They immediately described the first concept, Fangzhipin, and then had a hard time describing the second, fuzhipin, especially in a way that answered the question of “do you see it as the same as the original?” I’d probably want to ask a few more people but my feeling from them was that the description [above] is accurate.
Read the whole article here

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Alan Taylor Farnes on Scribal Habits in Copies with Extant Exemplars

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

Scribal Habits in New Testament Copies with Extant Exemplars

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

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

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

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

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

Kruger on Ehrman’s Latest

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

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

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparable variants

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

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

Scholarly opinion

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

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

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

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

Some literature

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

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

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