Tuesday, September 19, 2017

“Daniel” in Select Codices

I have written elsewhere on the (in)significance of the codex for determining the boundaries of an ancient’s canon of Scripture. Probably, historical anachronism has occurred, and we have foisted the significance of our modern, printed Bible on to the ancient codex. So what is the value of the MSS for such studies? They do help in determining a wide range of contents of religious literature as well as provide context for the various orders of books, neither of these aiding in determining a canon.

Though the MSS probably did not help the ancients concretize the canon, they do visualize for us what an ancient scribe or church father meant or conceptualized by the title of a certain book. This may not be a big deal for New Testament studies, but for the Greek Old Testament, we need to take this point to heart. The contents of books such as Jeremiah, 1-2 Esdras, Esther, and Daniel are not very straightforward. Let’s use “Daniel” as a test case by touring some select MS images of the book to see whether our vision of the contents improves. As is well-known, the book of Daniel in Greek was transmitted in quite a different form from the Protestant Bible, taking the form of Susanna-Daniel-Bel and the Dragon in most of the early MSS. We will consider briefly Daniel in Codex Vaticanus (IV), Codex Marchalianus (VI), and Codex Syro-hexaplaris (VIII/IX).

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Problem of P38 and the ‘Western’ Text in Acts

In his published dissertation, Eldon Epp was interested in theological tendencies in Acts. In particular, he was interested in theological tendencies in the “Western” text. (From here on, I’ll forgo the quotation marks because they get tedious.) His method, however, was to study one particular witness of the Western text, namely, Codex Bezae.

The problem for Epp is that Codex Bezae could not be treated as a simple proxy for the earlier Western text. The reason is that Bezae sometimes reflected various accretions to the Western text. In order to address the problem, he compared Bezae “with those witnesses which, along with D, are recognized as the best ‘Western’ evidence” (p. 28). In this way, Epp could confirm where Bezae was or wasn’t likely preserving the earlier Western text-type.

Setting aside for a moment the risk of circularity here, I want to point out a serious problem with one of Epp’s key control manuscripts, namely, P38.

In discussing the proper use of D as a witness to the Western text, Epp cites P38 as a key reference point for determining whether a reading in D is, in fact, Western. He writes:
If P38, because of its earlier date, is ipso facto assumed more accurately to preserve the early “Western” text, then a comparison of D with this papyrus shows, as H. A. Sanders concluded, that “D is a very imperfect source for the ‘Western’, or second-century, text’. Granting this, however, it must also be emphasized that D and P38 show such a degree of agreement over against the B-text that the papyrus can be used, at the same time, to show that ‘the D text existed in Egypt shortly after A.D. 300’; A. C. Clark could call P38 ‘a text almost identical with that of D’. Codex Bezae, then, at many points is an imperfect witness to the ‘Western’ text, and yet on this account it does not lose its leading place among those witnesses.
Later, Epp cites D, P38, and the Harklean Syriac margin as “the outstanding ‘Western’ sources for Acts” and they form, with the (then) recently discovered Coptic G67 as an “élite group” (p. 31). Epp cites Clark approvingly that P38 has a text “almost identical with D” and Epp says this agreement is especially prominent “over against the B-text.”

The problem is that this isn’t the case when one compares these manuscripts in more detail. Here are the results from the recently-released ECM for Acts:

P38 03/B 05/D
P38 69.4% (43/62) 59.0% (36/61)
03/B 69.4% (43/62) 68.4% (3,514/5,140)
05/D 59.0% (36/61) 68.4% (3,514/5,140)

P38 is, of course, fragmentary, containing only Acts 18.27–19.6, 19.12–16. This means that there is far less text to compare with B and D. But the problem for Epp’s Western text should be obvious. Far from P38 showing strong agreement with D “over against the B-text,” P38 actually agrees more with B than with D! And yet, Epp says that P38 is a member of the “élite group” of Western witnesses.

Now, perhaps Epp would argue that these texts shouldn’t be compared in all these places in our effort to identify the Western text. But until we can agree what variant points should be used and why, we cannot agree on whether or not P38 should assigned to the same text-type as D. If it should not be, then it obviously cannot be used to confirm that D’s readings are early Western readings and Epp’s thesis will need some revision.

Perhaps the issue of definition will move toward some resolution at this year’s SBL meeting in the ECM sessions. We shall see. But those in attendance will certainly want to read the ECM’s article (which I haven’t seen yet) on the Western text along with Epp’s recent, data-filled argument in NovT for its existence there.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where are they now? New Testament text-critics’ libraries

Eb. Nestle’s library (photo credit)
Occasionally, one buys a book on Amazon or at a used book store and discovers with delight that it was owned by a famous scholar from times past. When I was at Tyndale I managed to get a copy formerly owned by F. F. Bruce, many of which float around the stacks there.

Much better than a one-off copy, however, is to discover a past scholar’s entire library. Aside from the insight this can give of a scholar’s interests and abilities (for example), there are often many hidden gems to be found either in correspondences, in the margins of the books, or simply in the books themselves if they are rare.

To further this benefit, I thought it might be worth trying to compile a list of New Testament textual critics’ libraries. Here is what I have come up with so far, with the help of a few of my fellow bloggers. I would like to add to this, so if you know of any corrections or additions, please let me know.
  • Richard Bentley – Trinity College CB (per P. M. Head)
  • J. J. Wettstein – scattered across Europe (see Jan Krans here)
  • S. P. Tregelles ­– papers and correspondence at various British libraries (see here)
  • C. von Tischendorf University of Glasgow
  • B. F. Westcott – Some at Westcott House (Cambridge), some with Bible Society in the CUL. A PDF catalogue from the British National Archives is here
  • F. J. A. Hort – Sold at auction. See here. PMH mentions Hort’s books here.
  • Hermann Hoskier – some books at Duke Divinity School Library
  • Caspar René Gregory – papers at Harvard Divinity School (see here)
  • Eberhard Nestle – Sold to Cambridge after 1913, now with the Van Kampen collection at the Scriptorium; papers, letters, and other memorobilia of Eberhard and Erwin are at FTH Giessen (see here)
  • Kirsopp and Silva Lake – ?
  • J. Rendel Harris – Woodbrooke Study Center in Birmingham, UK (see PDF here) and some at University of Birmingham library
  • E. C. Colwell – Library sold by his son (per Maurice Robinson)
  • Kenneth W. Clark – Duke Divinity School Library, mixed among the main collection
  • Alands – INTF?
  • Neville Birdsall – University of Birmingham (info)
  • Bruce M. Metzger – Sold on the internet if my memory is right
  • Gordon Fee – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (info)
  • Jacob Geerlings – CSNTM (see here)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Press of the Text: Festschrift for James W. Voelz

Back in May a Festschrift was published in honor of James Voelz who has worked across many topics in his career including Mark’s Gospel, Greek grammar, and occasionally matters of text-critical interest. Sometimes the three came together as in his NovT essay “The Greek of Codex Vaticanus in the Second Gospel and Marcan Greek,” which I remember reading with interest in seminary.

I haven’t seen the book in person, but thought I would let our readers know about it. You can see the table of contents below with articles on TC by Elliott and Kloha that will be of interest.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

‘Held in Honor’: The Roman Catholic View of Textual Criticism

While doing some reading tonight on Roman Catholic theology, I rediscovered my copy of Pope Pius XII’s 1943 encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu on the promotion of Biblical studies. There is much of interest in this document, especially in its robust defense of Scripture’s inerrancy and its explanations on the role of the Latin Vulgate in Catholic theology. 

What most caught my attention, however, was the material on textual criticism. Near the very the beginning, the document turns to Augustine to set the stage. In clarifying the nature of inerrancy, the encyclical quotes Augustine as follows:
Nor is the sacred writer to be taxed with error, if “copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible,” or, “if the real meaning of a passage remains ambiguous.”
This qualification about scribal errors is, of course, stock-in-trade for Evangelicals and Augustine is often who we turn to for early support for it. Then later, the document becomes more explicit on the importance of textual criticism for the proper study of the Bible when it says this:
17. The great importance which should be attached to this kind of criticism was aptly pointed out by Augustine, when, among the precepts to be recommended to the student of the Sacred Books, he put in the first place the care to possess a corrected text. “The correction of the codices” – so says this most distinguished Doctor of the Church – “should first of all engage the attention of those who wish to know the Divine Scripture so that the uncorrected may give place to the corrected.” In the present day indeed this art, which is called textual criticism and which is used with great and praiseworthy results in the editions of profane writings, is also quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books, because of that very reverence which is due to the Divine Oracles. For its very purpose is to insure that the sacred text be restored, as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruptions due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, from the interchange and repetition of words and from all other kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries.

18. It is scarcely necessary to observe that this criticism, which some fifty years ago not a few made use of quite arbitrarily and often in such wise that one would say they did so to introduce into the sacred text their own preconceived ideas, today has rules so firmly established and secure, that it has become a most valuable aid to the purer and more accurate editing of the sacred text and that any abuse can easily be discovered. Nor is it necessary here to call to mind – since it is doubtless familiar and evident to all students of Sacred Scripture – to what extent namely the Church has held in honor these studies in textual criticism from the earliest centuries down even to the present day.

19. Today therefore, since this branch of science has attained to such high perfection, it is the honorable, though not always easy, task of students of the Bible to procure by every means that as soon as possible may be duly published by Catholics editions of the Sacred Books and of ancient versions, brought out in accordance with these standards, which, that is to say, unite the greatest reverence for the sacred text with an exact observance of all the rules of criticism. And let all know that this prolonged labor is not only necessary for the right understanding of the divinely-given writings, but also is urgently demanded by that piety by which it behooves us to be grateful to the God of all providence, Who from the throne of His majesty has sent these books as so many paternal letters to His own children.
I haven’t read any further than this encyclical to know whether this view has changed since the momentous Vatican II council. But I thought it interesting, not least because of how it overlaps with Evangelical views of the importance of textual criticism.

Monday, September 04, 2017

What are text-types?

Do text-types exists or not? Tregelles and others thought not, CBGM folk don’t like the term either, but most scholars in the 20th century were perfectly fine with it.

Martini (1977) surprised me with the following analysis of what text-types are:

“(a) A distinctive text-type is primarily not a group of manuscripts, but a set of readings.

(b) This set is limited; it does not cover all the readings of the NT. This view is entirely different from the silent presupposition which seems to be common today in textual treatments of the New Testament.”

And what surprised me more is that Martini is analysing Westcott-Hort at this point.

Martini, Carlo M. “Is There a Late Alexandrian Text of the Gospels?”. New Testament Studies 24 (1977-78): 289.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Lists of Greek New Testament Manuscripts on Wikipedia

One of our readers, Darrell Post, has made a magnificent update of the Wikipedia articles for the Greek New Testament manuscripts divided into papyri, uncials and minuscules (three parts). These pages promise to be great resources.



Here Darrell has indicated the manuscripts also photographed in UV light.

Minuscules (three articles)

Updates to the minuscule page include an additional pass through the column for digital images, adding light grey shading for microfilm images, tan color for high-resolution color images hosted locally but not available online, and then gold color for links to new high resolution color images available online.

The highest GA number is now 2936.

Some numbers have been stricken from the K-Liste. By Darrell’s count there are 2,847 distinct manuscripts numbered. Of those 2,847, nineteen have been classified as destroyed, and 53 are described as either lost or with an unknown owner. 

The new total is 2,775 minuscule script manuscripts that could be available for modern color imaging.

By Darrell’s count 553 of the 2,775 (or 20%) have now been color digitized (roughly 20%). A large number exist on microfilm, and these are available online now at the INTF or other hosting locations like the National Library of France or the Vatican Library.

In the course of his work, Darrell further reports that he has found two manuscripts shown as “owner unknown” on the K-Liste. The first is GA 2324, known as the Hoffman Gospels. Darrell found it among the Yale University collection here.

The other is 2771, which is Lambeth Palace Library MS2795 here.

Darrell has notified the INTF. 

Thank you Darrell for your hard work on this!

Jechoniah’s Uncle and the Text of 2 Chron 36.10

At the risk of flaunting my ignorance, I thought it might be worth discussing an interesting textual problem from the OT that I came across tonight. I actually stumbled on this while working on Matthew’s genealogy where Jechoniah is mentioned at the end of the second set of names and again at the beginning of the third (Matt 1.11–12).

Jechoniah in the Sistene Chapel
The issue in 2 Chron 36.10 involves Jechoniah’s precise relationship to his successor. The text reads as follows in the ESV:
9 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 10 In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought him to Babylon, with the precious vessels of the house of the LORD, and made his brother Zedekiah (צִדְקִיָּהוּ אָחִיו) king over Judah and Jerusalem.  
The problem here is the relationship of Zedekiah to Jehoiachin. (Jehoiachin is another name for Jechoniah according to Jer 24.1.) As the NET Bible explains:
According to the parallel text in 2 Kgs 24:17, Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle, not his brother. Therefore many interpreters understand אח here in its less specific sense of “relative” (NEB “made his father’s brother Zedekiah king”; NASB “made his kinsman Zedekiah king”; NIV “made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, king”; NRSV “made his brother Zedekiah king”).
Jechoniah did have a brother named Zedekiah according to 1 Chron 3.16, but he did not become king so far as we know. Thus the problem which some translations solve through the alternate meaning of אח as “relative” or the like (cf. BDB s.v., def. 2).

Translation, however, is not the only possible solution here. If we compare the ancient versions, the big three read “father’s brother” (Σεδεκιαν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ) or “uncle” (ܨܕܩܝܐ ܕܕܗ, Sedeciam patruum ejus) for describing Zedekiah, which in Hebrew would be אחי אביו. From there it is easy enough to see how we could arrive at the MT’s אָחִיו through the omission of אבי by parablepsis involving either the yods or the alephs and aided, perhaps, by the similarity of het and bet.

I wonder what people think about this possibility. To me, the reading of the versions seems like a good contender for the original text on transcriptional grounds. At the very least it deserves a footnote in our English translations, doesn’t it?

Of course, none of this explains why Matthew mentions Jechoniah’s brothers rather than his uncles as 2 Kings 24 would lead us to expect or why he omits Jechoniah’s father Jehoiakim (though note the vl in Matt 1.11). But that’s another topic for another day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

More Manuscripts from the Library of Congress (Montoro)

Earlier today, Peter Montoro alerted me to a new cache of manuscripts just published by the Library of Congress. Since Peter is more familiar with the contents than me, I asked if he would introduce them for us.

In 1949–1950, Kenneth Clark led an expedition to Mt. Sinai and Jerusalem that microfilmed over 2500 manuscripts on behalf of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, the Library of Congress, and the American Schools of Oriental Research. A full account of the expedition can be found here.

Earlier this year, Peter Head alerted us to the fact that the Library of Congress had made the entirety of its Sinai Microfilm collection freely available online. A descriptive checklist for this collection is available here, and the full collection can be accessed here.

The Jerusalem collection of the same expedition, containing slightly over 1000 additional manuscripts, has now also been made available and can be accessed here. This collection contains manuscripts in Greek (669), Georgian (125), Arabic (96), Armenian (32), and Syriac (27), as well as smaller numbers in other languages. The checklist for this collection can be accessed here. The numbers in the checklist appear to be drawn from the earlier and quite thorough catalogue by Athanasios Papadopulos-Kerameus (in Greek).

I’ve added links to the volumes I’ve been able to locate at the bottom of the post. This catalogue can be quite useful as the descriptions in the checklist are brief to the point of cryptic and, in at least one case, simply incorrect. (E.g. Hagios Sabas 20 contains Chrysostom’s Homilies on Romans, not Matthew—I’ve been in contact with the LOC and this should be corrected soon in the online description.)

Interesting drawings in Panagios Taphos 87
Though the collection is diverse in date and contents, it does contain a good number of New Testament manuscripts, as well as a very large collection of patristic writings. Included among these are some of the oldest extant copies of the Homilies of Chrysostom, dating back to the 9th century.

I’ve also been informed that the 1952–53 expedition to Athos, containing over 200 additional manuscripts is scheduled to be made available sometime this fall. As a sneak preview, the checklist for this collection is available here.

Together these three collections form an enormous body of freely available manuscripts and should prove very useful to many lines of research.

Note on Downloading Manuscript Images

The LOC interface allows you to freely download these images at full resolution in either the JPEG2000(Jp2) or Tiff formats. While it is possible to click from image to image, downloading each one, I’ve found that it saves considerable loading time to get the link to one of the Jp2 files and simply change the numbers in the browser bar to get the needed folios.

Links to the ΙΕΡΟΣΟΛΥΜΙΤΚΙ ΒΙΒΛΙΟΘΗΚΗ, by Athanasios Papadopulos-Kerameus
I have not yet been able to locate a PDF of the fifth and final volume of this series.

Monday, August 28, 2017

ECM and CBGM for Acts Now Available

Back in May, Pete Head noted that the ECM Acts would be out soon and I am happy to report that it has now been released. This marks another major milestone for the team in Münster. Along with the ECM, of course, there is the CBGM and I am happy to say that the new Genealogical Queries for Acts are now online. For Acts, we have data from all four phases of the team’s work. This gives unprecedented access to the development of the data over the last 4+ years. As the guide says, the data for phase four is still being checked and may be corrected still. So be aware of that.

Perhaps most importantly, the fourth phase now comes with a completely refreshed interface, one which I have found to be a significant improvement over the previous one which is now almost a decade old. Besides the responsiveness, one thing I really like about the new interface is that you can use the CBGM queries without having the print ECM in hand. Just pick a chapter and verse and then you will get a list of the variants in that verse. Once you pick one, you now get a full apparatus right on the same page. This is extremely useful and roughly gives us a digital version of the ECM at least for the Greek evidence.

Well done to Marcello Perathoner who did the programming for the new interface. And a big congratulations to the whole team in Münster. I hope you all get a nice rest before starting the next phase of the project!

The new interface for the Acts CBGM

Friday, August 25, 2017

Biography of James Rendel Harris

Alessandro Falcetta was my fellow PhD student under David Parker in Bham. His dissertation topic was a biography of James Rendel Harris and it has just come out with Bloomsbury Publishing. This promises to add important information to the history of textual criticism and manuscript studies as well as other fields.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

The earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels published

Exciting news out of Birmingham (UK) today. De Gruyter has just published the long-lost fourth century commentary on the Gospels by Fortunatianus of Aquileia. Hugh Houghton explains:
The earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels, lost for more than 1,500 years, has been rediscovered and made available in English for the first time. The extraordinary find, a work written by a bishop in northern Italy, Fortunatianus of Aquileia, dates back to the middle of the fourth century.

The biblical text of the manuscript is of particular significance, as it predates the standard Latin version known as the Vulgate and provides new evidence about the earliest form of the Gospels in Latin.

Despite references to this commentary in other ancient works, no copy was known to survive until Dr Lukas Dorfbauer, a researcher from the University of Salzburg, identified Fortunatianus’ text in an anonymous manuscript copied around the year 800 and held in Cologne Cathedral Library. The manuscripts of Cologne Cathedral Library were made available online in 2002.

Scholars had previously been interested in this ninth-century manuscript as the sole witness to a short letter which claimed to be from the Jewish high priest Annas to the Roman philosopher Seneca. They had dismissed the 100-page anonymous Gospel commentary as one of numerous similar works composed in the court of Charlemagne. But when he visited the library in 2012, Dorfbauer, a specialist in such writings, could see that the commentary was much older than the manuscript itself.

In fact, it was none other than the earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels.
Dr. Houghton has published the (free) English translation of the Latin text edited by Lukas J. Dorfbauer. I do wish these had been published as a diglot rather than separate volumes. But well done to all involved! These kind of discoveries are what make textual criticism and the study of manuscripts so exciting. There is always the chance of new finds.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RIP Tjitze Baarda (1932–2017)

The sad news has reached me that Tjitze Baarda, a giant of our discipline, has passed away on 22 August at the age of 85. I cite below Jan Krans’s announcement on the New Testament Textual Criticism Facebook page:
It is my sad duty to inform you all of the passing away, last Saturday 19 August, of one of the most learned and loved New Testament textual critics of our age, Tjitze Baarda, at the age of 85. [Edit: He was found on 22 August in his home.]

Fuller obituaries will be given later, as impossible as it is to do full justice to him as a wonderful person and a remarkable scholar. His command of languages somehow useful to biblical textual criticism, from Arabic to Armenian, from Ethiopic to Old Dutch, was legendary, and rightly so. His very many articles must have driven peer reviewers to despair. They cover a wide array of subjects, though it can be fairly said that the Diatessaron and the Gospel of Thomas occupy a place of pride among them.

The list of his PhD students is long, and all of them remember his self-effacing support, his high standards of scholarly rigour, and his friendliness, fully in line with Phil 4:5. He counted Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger, and the Alands among his friends, to name but a few.< In 1998 he became emeritus professor of New Testament Studies at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and he was president of SNTS in 2001.

In Amsterdam, at Vrije Universiteit, we had the privilege to count him as a regular participant of our New Testament Colloquium. Especially after the passing away of his wife, Hilda, in January 2013, he found renewed spirit in his scholarly endeavours, and became a source of scholarly anecdotes as well as an inspiration for the newer generations among us. He did not fade away, but was still fully engaged, in publishing, in exchanges, and in sharing his insights with students, not only in Amsterdam, but throughout the world.

We will miss him sorely, remember him dearly, and aspire to emulate the scholarly and human example he set.
The last time I had the privilege to meet Tjitze Baarda was at the SNTS in Amsterdam a few years ago where we had great conversations in the seminar and over coffee. He was one of those rare scholars who combine the highest level of scholarship with humility, generosity and a great sense of humour. He will be missed by many.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dan Wallace Responds on the ‘Embarrassment of Riches’

Last week, I wrote about the charge made against some reasoned eclectics that they are guilty of praising the large number of NT manuscripts in their apologetic but then not actually using them in their text-critical work. For the details, see here.

I had hoped the post would spark some discussion and it certainly did! It’s now at almost 100 comments. Clearly, it touched a nerve. One of the people I mentioned in my original post was Dan Wallace and I am happy that he responded on the original post. I thought his response deserved its own separate post and so I present it here, only lightly edited by Dan.

This has been an interesting discussion (which I just learned about from a friend) on the quantitative argument that I have used in public debates and lectures. I’ve read through the comments as of yesterday (and noticed, but did not read, a mass of comments posted just in the last 24 hours) and noted the objections to this argument. I think the thread can be grouped as follows:
  1. Peter Gurry calls me an apologist. 
  2. Gurry mentions that both Ehrman and Robinson have argued against the quantitative argument for various reasons.
  3. The quantitative argument in isolation is weak and misleading. It’s not 5000+ MSS in any given place, and only 424 (Greek) MSS are from the eighth century or earlier. 
  4. I am apparently speaking hypocritically when I invoke the numbers because most of these are Byzantine MSS and I presumably think the Byzantine text isn’t worth much. A good analogy would be that I consider the Byzantine witnesses to be counterfeit in thousands of places.
I’m sure I’ve overlooked some of the arguments. But these are the major ones from what I can tell. My response:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Masterclass in Barcelona on the GNT

4-6 December 2018, Dirk Jongkind will be holding a masterclass aimed at evangelical leaders and NT teachers with a good knowledge of Greek to introduce them to the Tyndale House GNT as well as deepen their knowledge of the GNT. It will be in the beautiful context of Barcelona. Pre-reading required. At the time of writing there are only 18 more spaces left.

The Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians
Tyndale House, Cambridge
European Leadership Forum Theologians Network
The Reformanda Initiative

Topics to be covered include
1. Why do we need an 'edition' of the Greek New Testament?
2. Current issues and developments in textual criticism
3. Meaning and the limit of translations ('not just translatable differences are important')
4. The blessing of the detail: sentences and paragraphs
5. Word order matters
6. Teaching and preaching from the Greek text
7. The reliability of Scripture and textual variants

Further detail
QUALIFICATIONS: All participants will be actively involved in using the Greek New Testament in teaching or studies and have a good grasp, after at least two years of study, of Koine Greek.

COMMITMENTS: In addition to submitting an application, in order to be accepted as a participant, you will need to commit to:
1. Attend the three-day seminar in Barcelona, starting at 12:00 on December the 4th, 2017
and finishing at 12:00 on December the 6th, 2017
2. Complete all reading assignments by their assigned due dates
3. Pay the necessary fees: 150 Euros / 100 Euros for scholarship recipients

Apply here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the ‘idle boast’ of having so many New Testament manuscripts

My post on the topic of the comparative argument for trusting our modern texts of the New Testament produced some good discussion. But one issue that got passed over in the ensuing comments deserves more attention and that is what I want to give it here.

A slide from Wallace’s presentation at Biola
The issue is whether apologists like James White or Dan Wallace, for example, are being inconsistent for practicing reasoned eclecticism and for appealing to the vast number of Greek NT manuscripts. Wallace, for example, likes to refer to our “embarrassment of riches” for recovering the original text of the New Testament. But his practice of reasoned eclecticism seems to suggest that he is “embarrassed” in quite a different way by these riches because he doesn’t actually use them (see, e.g., the NET Bible). Apologetically he wants to have his embarrassingly-rich cake, but text-critically he has already eaten it. That is the charge anyway and it is one I have heard Bart Ehrman use in debate against Wallace.

But Ehrman is not the only one to use it. He finds himself a strange bedfellow with Maurice Robinson on this who puts the problem this way:
The resources of the pre-fourth century era unfortunately remain meager, restricted to a limited body of witnesses. Even if the text-critical evidence is extended through the eighth century, there would be only 424 documents, mostly fragmentary. In contrast to this meager total,the oft-repeated apologetic appeal to the value and restorative significance of the 5000+ remaining Greek NT MSS becomes an idle boast in the writings of modern eclectics when those numerous MSS are not utilized to restore the original text.*
Robinson again:
Granting that a working presumption of most eclectic scholars (including Ehrman) is that the vast bulk of NT MSS basically should be excluded as irrelevant for the primary establishment of the text, Ehrman’s statement [against the comparative argument] makes perfect sense. Rather than claiming some sort of text-critical superiority to the classics based on the sheer quantity of extant MSS, modern eclectics perhaps should acknowledge that their actual preferred witnesses for establishing the best approximation to the “original” NT text number only in the few dozens, as opposed to the several thousands otherwise set aside from serious consideration.
I’d like to open this up to discussion again. Can reasoned eclectics make any apologetic appeal to the abundance of our NT witnesses without being inconsistent? If so, how?

* “Appendix: The Case for Byzantine Priority” in The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, p. 568.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What is a Catena Manuscript and Why should we Care?


In the course of my research on the hexaplaric fragments of Job, I became immersed in its catena tradition. I also became aware that most handbooks and introductions to the Septuagint that mention these MSS did not describe them well, and they usually assumed too much knowledge on the part of the reader, especially the beginner, or worse, the specialist did not understand catena MSS either. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a visual of these MSS allows one to understand commentary on them and what the “C“ symbolizes in a critical text’s apparatus. Knowledge of their material layout aids in understanding their contents.

“Catena” is the Latin word for “chain,” and it will become evident below why these MSS were named as such. The details of the textual tradition of the Job catena need not detain us here. See my article on this topic for details, but one does not need to wade through it to appreciate the content of this post. There are two types of catenae MSS: Marginal and Text.

Tregelles and Tyndale House contra mundum: Reconsidering the Text of Rev 5:9

It is common knowledge that, at at several places in the book of Revelation, the main text of our standard Handausgabe (i.e. Nestle-Aland, 28th ed.) follows a singular reading of Codex Alexandrinus (GA 02; LDAB 3481). In principle, this is not inadmissible: a reading that is singular now needn’t have been so 1,500 years ago. Generally, though, some might find singular readings prima facie suspect, especially if they can be adequately accounted for on internal grounds.

Now, for quite some time I’ve been fascinated about ways in which various facets of the copying process affect the rise of variant readings. At one level, copying seems like a simple and rather straightforward procedure: dip, look back (at the exemplar), write (a unit of text, whatever its length), look back, complete a line and start a new one, write, look back, write, look back, start a new column, write, look back, dip ... you get the idea. Seemingly uneventful. Or is it? All one need do is to browse through a few pages of Louis Havet’s Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris: Hachette, 1911) to see that, in between these few rudimentary processes, all manner of things may occur which can make it to our apparatus critici as variant readings.

One such reading occurs at Rev 5:9. The main text of NA28 reads as follows:

καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες· ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας  τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους.

The only one variation-unit recorded for this verse concerns the addition/omission and the placement of ἡμᾶς. All the Greek witnesses but 02 contain ἡμᾶς before or after τῷ θεῷ. On the one hand, I could see why the editors would prefer the omission here, as the first-person pronoun makes for a somewhat awkward transition to v. 10 (καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς κτλ.). Personally, however, I find this explanation unimpressive. To begin with, the scribe of 02 may have followed the same logic and so drop the pronoun under the influence of the ensuing context (a very common scribal tendency). Another possible scenario has to do with the aforementioned mechanics of the scribal process. Given that the last line of a column 1 on the given page 02 ends with τω θ̅ω̅, it seems quite likely (to my mind at least) that the pronoun may have been dropped accidentally as the scribe was traversing to another column (again, a well-documented tendency).

In short, I think we’d better print here what is a better-attested and more difficult reading whose origin is not easily accounted for by a scribal error. If you’re interested to read about this in greater detail, see my recent note: ‘“And You Purchased [Whom?]”: Reconsidering the Text of Rev 5,9’, ZNW 108 (2017) 306–12.

P.S. If you don’t have access to the article and/or don’t read footnotes, you’ll miss that, amongst NT editions, there are two that do not favour the singular reading of 02 at this point, namely Tregelles and the forthcoming Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament (THEGNT).

Friday, August 11, 2017

ETC Interview with Paolo Trovato: Part 2


Here is Part 2 of my interview with Paolo Trovato. Read Part 1 here.

For someone who isn’t an editor or working on an edition of a text, what do think is the main value of your book for them?

Being able to easily detect the typos in a newspaper or a brand-new book. I am not kidding. This means realizing that, even in our time, any work hides or can hide within its pages a number of textual problems, born during the transmission, that is, the journey of the text from the author (via printing house or Xerox copies or internet) to the reader.

Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

Well, it is a rather long “moment”. Since 2007 I am working with a small team on a critical edition of Dante’s Commedia. The classification of the 600 extant MSS not reduced to small fragments took almost ten years, but now, thank God, we find ourselves in the more amusing and creative phase of fixing the text, for which we use 12 MSS only, the highest and most conservative in our stemma. In these very days I am working on Inferno, IV, but I already published provisional editions of Inferno, XXIII and Inferno, XXXIV on the web where I am getting precious feedback (see here and here). I have also completed some other cantos.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Poll: Pick your favorite book cover

Tommy and I are finishing up our introduction to the CBGM right now. It will be jointly published by SBL and the German Bible Society and they are hoping to have it out at the SBL meeting in November. There are some details for the book over on Amazon. But you’ll notice that there’s no book cover, which brings us to the point of this post. One of the fun things about this project is that SBL is letting us design the cover ourselves and we need some feedback on our final two. Which do you like better?



Which is better?

(Both manuscript images were taken on an expedition with CSNTM at the National Library of Greece and will be used by permission.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Lecture: Lee Irons on the the ‘Righteousness of God’ in Paul

This October, Charles Lee Irons will be speaking at Phoenix Seminary on what Paul meant by the “righteousness of God” (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ). This was the topic of his book The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation (Mohr, 2015). His thesis challenges the interpretation of this term which has been crucial in the interpretation of Paul by scholars like N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, and others. For a positive review of Irons’s book, see Tom Schreiner’s here; for a strong critique, see John Frederick’s in JBTS (vol. 1)  with a response from Irons.

If you’re in the area, come join us. It’s free and open to the public. No registration needed. Register here.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Cutting and Pasting P66 in Jn 18:34

One of the advantages of images being available:
The NT.VMR transcription of the first words of Jn 18:34 is απεκρινα̣[τ]ο ι̅ς, and the image looks like this (start at the beginning of the first line):

There is not much of the alpha present, and I was wondering how strong the case for the absence of the article with ιησους is. In line 3 there is the sequence ατο and a simple copy and paste gives this image:

It is still possible that there is a correction in the gap in the shape of the addition of an extra ο, but I am fine to cite P66vid for the absence of the article.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

DeVining the NT.VMR in 1947

Writing in 1947, the Catholic scholar Charles DeVine seems to have foreseen the value of the NT.VMR. The only piece missing from his vision is the internet. No one can anticipate everything, I guess.
True, we have critical editions which cite the main codices, but “to err is and the probability of error becomes greater when but a single text is in question. This prompts the thought, how fine it would be if all the principal codices of the New Testament were gathered in one place and could be compared at leisure and systematically. A vain desire! And yet in this age that has seen such tremendous progress made in the use of all forms of photography and electric facsimile, why should it be altogether beyond the realm of practicality to have codices preserved in microfilm or equivalent facsimile at some Catholic educational centre in America? In connection with an up-to-date filing-system, and with the co-operation of scholars, such an arrangement would be of inestimable benefit. It could also serve as the basis for a new and fully complete, Catholic, critical edition of the text of the New Testament.
From Charles F. DeVine, “The ‘Blood of God’ in Acts 20:28,” CBQ 9, no. 4 (1947): 381–408.

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Different Spin on 1 Cor 14:34–5

The July issue of NTS contains an interesting text-critical offering by Aļesja Lavrinoviča: ‘1 Cor 14.34–5 without ‘in All the Churches of the Saints’: External Evidence’. The abstract goes like this:
The present study of the oldest and most relevant extant manuscripts that contain 1 Cor 14.33b–35 shows that v. 33b (ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων) is not connected with vv. 34–5. Scribes would consider 33b to be a part of 33a. Manuscripts ℵ, A, B, Fuldensis, D, F, G, ms. 88* clearly read 1 Cor 14.34–5 as a separate paragraph. In these manuscripts, where vv. 34–5 are found after v. 40, v. 33b closely follows 33a. P46 and P123 are damaged and require reconstruction. Moreover, Greek New Testament editions that link v. 33b with v. 34 reflect exegetical decisions and are not based on external evidence.
Broadly speaking, it seems that Lavrinoviča has made a plausible cumulative case, even if some of the details adduced seem problematic. For instance, Lavrinoviča mentions ‘slashes’ in P46, which she takes to be indicative of text-division, yet without citing any primary evidence or relevant secondary literature apart from Comfort’s general remarks in his Encountering Manuscripts. Here a reference to Edgar Ebojo’s recent thesis on P46 would have been useful. (By the way, the ‘slashes’ in Chester Beatty Biblical papyri are an interesting phenomenon, not exclusive to P46, and would probably repay some further specialised study.) In a similar vein, what the author does not seem to pay much attention to is that various phenomena listed as indicating text-division often appear inconsistent and sometimes downright iffy (e.g. vacant spaces can occur in the middle of a word; ekthesis occurs where you wouldn’t expect a ‘major’ break in the text’ based on the surrounding occurrences; a ‘slash’ used mid-sentence; etc).

Despite these quibbles, I enjoyed Lavrinoviča’s approach, which sits well with the recent trends in Editionswissenschaft whereby editors increasingly consider the manuscript data in deciding matters such as orthography, punctuation, and text-structuring rather than merely imposing a system of their own or standardising solely according to modern conventions. From a reception-historical standpoint, MSS data such as those adduced by Lavrinoviča can come extremely handy for exegetical purposes. Few of us would doubt that the way the text is laid out considerably impacts one’s reading.  Having said that, appropriating MS evidence to such end needs a healthy dose of critical scrutiny. What does it mean in this particular case? Well, even if one followed the said MSS in dividing the text after v. 33b, that says next to nothing about the (in)authenticity of vv. 34–5. This, of course, is not the line of argument pursued (directly at least) in the article, but it is not difficult to imagine someone jumping the gun here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

ETC Interview with Paolo Trovato: Part 1

It’s a pleasure for me to introduce our next interviewee in our ETC interviews series. Today I am speaking with Paolo Trovato who is a professor at the Università degli Studi di Ferrara in Italy. Prof. Trovato is best known for his work on Italian philology and particularly his work on Dante. He publishes widely on range of topics. I first encountered his work through his wonderful book on Lachmann’s method (reviewed here). That book has just been released in a revised edition and that provided a good opportunity for an interview. Enjoy!

Textual criticism is not typically a popular pursuit in my experience. What led you to it in your own work? How did you come to it?

When I was a university student in the seventies, I wanted to became a literary critic and I thought that textual criticism was quite boring stuff. Aging, I went sick with all the silly hypotheses that we continuously utter and read about texts of the past and I decided that the most useful thing I could do for the sake of my studies was to repair the damages of the textual transmission or at least try to do so.

Monday, July 31, 2017

An Online Lexicon of Stemmatology

Typically, Biblical textual critics have not paid much attention to stemmatics—the study of relational trees—for the simple reason that these methods have never worked for the Old or New Testament on any sizable scale. But that is beginning to change as computers have brought with them new attempts to address the longstanding problem of contamination.

The problem is that the world of stemmatology can be hard to break into because of its technical nature. I certainly had difficulty with it when I started working on the CBGM.

So today I was happy to come across the Parvum lexicon stemmatologicum (PLS) which bills itself as “a scholarly digital resource providing explanations for technical terms related to stemmatology, a discipline of classical and mediaeval philology aiming at understanding the historical evolution of textual traditions.”

The editors are experts in the field and the entries I have looked at are reliable and helpful. To give you a flavor, here is the entry on “autograph”:
The word is derived from the Greek adjective αὐτόγραφος ‘written with one’s own hand’. In manuscript studies, an autograph is a witness written by the author himself. For texts from antiquity and the middle ages it is very rare that such autographs are today still extant (examples in Chiesa 1994). For scholars of stemmatology, matters become more complicated if the author revised the autograph, sometimes repeatedly. Copyists may copy revised and unrevised text or choose between the two, which may lead to a situation of having an archetype containing variants in some places. An example of an extant mediaeval autograph is the work Periphyseon by 9th century author John Scotus Eriugena (cf. Jeauneau & Dutton 1996) in Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale, 875. This manuscript is written in several hands, at least one of which seems to be the author’s. In case the author wrote only one autograph and it is extant, it is equivalent to the text’s archetype.

– Jeauneau, Edouard, and Paul Edward Dutton. 1996. The autograph of Eriugena. Turnhout: Brepols.
– Chiesa, Paolo, and Lucia Pinelli, eds. 1994. Gli autografi medievali: Problemi paleografici e filologici. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo (CISAM)

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Text-Savvy Issue of Novum Testamentum

The latest issue of Novum Testamentum contains two articles of interest:

Eldon J. Epp, ‘Text-Critical Witnesses and Methodology for Isolating a Distinctive D-Text in Acts’, pp. 225–96.

Within the past decade, a few leading New Testament textual critics have challenged two major, long-standing convictions by urging that we should speak no longer (1) of “text-types” or (2) of two textual streams in the Acts of the Apostles. Certainly the term “type” is too rigid and definitive to describe our textual groups, and “textual clusters” is more appropriate. The present essay concerns whether dual texts can be identified certifiably in Acts, thereby distinguishing a “D-Textual Cluster” from an alternate cluster headed by Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus ( א). It is clear that all D-Text Primary witnesses are mixed texts that, over time in various ways, have been conformed and assimilated to the increasingly dominant B-Cluster, as well as to the ascending Byzantine text.A fresh method, however, is proposed and illustrated at length (1) to identify a tightly cohesive group of Primary witnesses to a D-Textual Cluster, which (2) reveals that these D-Text readings virtually always are opposed by the א-B-Cluster. The result is a strong testimony to the early existence of dual textual streams in Acts that stand firmly over against one another.The fresh aspect of the method involves, for each variation -unit, (1) identifying the Primary witnesses available for a given reading; (2) counting the number supporting a presumptive D-Text reading; (3) counting those that do not; and (4) calculating the percentages of witnesses agreeing and not agreeing to the readings in question. Three or more Primary witnesses must be present in a variation-unit to be included. The global figures show that available Primary D-Text witnesses agree with one another 88% of the time on readings in 425 variation-units, while 97% of the time these readings are opposed by both א and B together.

Garrick V. Allen, ‘Textual History and Reception History: Exegetical Variation in the Apocalypse’, pp. 297–319.

This article explores the possibility of examining reception history within the textual history of the New Testament, focusing on the book of Revelation. Both intentional alterations located in particular manuscripts and reading practices gleaned from slips of scribal performance are indicative of reception. Attempts to facilitate a certain understanding of a locution constitute acts of reception embedded in Revelation’s early textual history. The article concludes by analysing the social dynamics of the milieus in which exegetical textual alterations were tolerated, suggesting that the work of informal scribal networks provides modern researchers access to evidence for reception.

It’s a bit rare to see an entire journal issue comprised solely of text-critical studies. Given the length of one of the articles, however, this is perhaps not unexpected! (Fun fact: NovT author guidelines suggest that the manuscripts ‘should typically not exceed 8,500 words’, a suggestion which the editorial board tends to take [in my experience at least] rather seriously.) I hope to say more on the latter [edit: Allen's] article shortly. For now, enjoy the hefty meal from Leiden.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tyndale House Edition: Triggers for Harmonisation

When we had to work through the whole of the New Testament in a more systematic way, we started with the Pauline corpus. The assumption was that the letters of Paul did not pose as many problems as some other parts of the NT, and this assumption bore out. Apparently there is something in tightly argued prose that puts it in less danger of textual change than simple narrative, especially narrative with synoptic parallels. Yet even within the Pauline corpus the same phenomena are present that you can find in the Gospels. Ephesians and Colossians contain sufficient parallel material to allow for cross-contamination, and the same happens with Galatians and Romans.

However, influence from parallel passages is not limited to similar sentences or similar narratives. There are all sorts of phenomena that can spark off cross-contamination. And, true to the reputation that the Greek-Latin manuscripts have, a number of these are found in the D(06) F(010) G(012) cluster. Two obvious examples to illustrate the point.

Gal 4:17 ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ καλῶς, ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν, ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε. (‘They are not zealous for you in a good way, but they want to shut us out so that you may be zealous for them’)

Paul finishes the sentence with ζηλοῦτε and after a negative sentence such as this one often introduces a positive contrast, which more or less follows in the next verse. Somehow, however, linked by the contrasting pattern and specifically the link work ζηλοῦτε we find in the D(06) cluster the extra words ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ κρείττω χαρίσματα (‘but be zealous for the better gifts’). These words are a clear echo of 1 Cor 12:31, though with some minute differences. Is this addition simply a marginal note that slipped into the main text? Is it the result of someone who is copying Galatians from memory more than from a document? Who knows, but the extra words are there now. The link is tenuous but we could reconstruct the triggers, and therefore learn something about the way in which copying can be affected.

The second example is just as gorgeous and concerns influence from within Galatians.

Gal 3:1: Ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν (‘O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you’).

The D(06) cluster, now with a whole lot of additional support, adds the words τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι (‘to not obey the truth’). The source of these words is Gal 5:7 and the trigger here is the start of the actual question, τίς ὑμᾶς, followed by a verb (ἐβάσκανεν and ἐνέκοψεν), and both in an accusatory question. Not that much to go on, mainly the τίς ὑμᾶς part. Still it is enough of a trigger to import wording from elsewhere.

Both Galatian cases are quite clear to me (the second of course not for those who favour a Byzantine text, though I assume they would acknowledge the mechanism in the first case). Which leads me to the conviction that if this mechanism is at work in clear instances, it might well be at work in many less obvious cases. Therefore, if there is an explanation available that can explain the longer text as being the result of influence from elsewhere, the shorter reading has a strong transcriptional case.

What goes around comes around

Sometimes we need to know the history of our discipline better. In his brief bio of Kirsopp Lake in the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, J. K. Elliott writes,
The link between textual criticism and interpretation was one already made by Lake as early as 1904 with his study The Influence of Textual Criticism on the Exegesis of the New Testament. This was based on the inaugural lecture he gave on January 27, 1904, at the University of Leiden, and it shows how he made that theme pivotal for this professorial appointment. It has taken nearly a century for his general thesis that textual variants must be used as an invaluable source for our study of the history of the church to bear fruit in a determined way. B. D. Ehrman, following Lake’s example, published The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture in 1993... That book was justifiably well reviewed, but for many readers it was as if such opinions were new. Lake had already been preaching some ninety years earlier that text critics had a duty to do more than establish a supposed original text. According to Lake, exegetes must expound the meaning not only of one printed text but also of the ecclesiastical Bible in use at different times, and to see textual variants as a window on the exegesis of the church. To do that, they need to keep a close eye on the critical apparatus (pp. 637–638).
Here is a taste of Lake on this point:
In the first place, he will need to expound the meaning, not of Westcott and Hort’s text, but of the ecclesiastical Bibles in use at different times; for I take it that to explain what a passage in the Gospels ought philologically to mean, or what it probably did mean originally, is only the beginning of exegesis: we need to know what the early Church thought it meant and how it altered its wording in order to emphasize its meaning (pp. 11–12).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Introduction to Brill’s Textual History of the Bible

What follows is not a review. It is a teaser and brief orientation to one of the most comprehensive projects on the text of the Hebrew Bible. Brill’s Textual History of the Bible (THB) is a four volume work in process. Volume 1: The Hebrew Bible consists of three massive parts; that is, three separate books: 1A: Overview Articles, 1B: Pentateuch and Prophets, and 1C: the Writings. Volume 2 is in production stages and plans to treat the Deuterocanonical Scriptures. Volume 3: A Companion to Textual Criticism will cover a range of matters related to modern textual criticism. Volume 4 will contain Indices and Manuscript Catalogues. The project does not plan to treat the New Testament at this time. There is already a first volume to a supplement series.

What is the purpose of THB?
The Textual History of the Bible will be the first comprehensive reference work to cover all aspects of the textual history and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and its deuterocanonical Scriptures. The aim of THB is not to create a single coherent argument beginning with the earliest Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran addressed in volume 1 and ending with the contemporary history of research described in volume 3. Rather, THB is a reference work that allows for room for scholarly disagreement among its contributors....THB is thus both an encyclopedia and a handbook. It covers the textual transmission of both the Jewish canon and its deuterocanonical Scriptures in their original texts as well as in their translations. In addition, THB includes information about all other issues related to the textual criticism and textual history of these biblical texts (XIII).
 What do the articles of Volume 1 seek to accomplish?
The articles in this volume address the textual history of the Hebrew Bible and its primary and secondary translations until the time of the medieval Masoretic master codices. In many cases, they not only summarize the status of knowledge but also present new research in small or large areas. In several areas, THB 1 even offers the first scholarly research based on manuscripts rather than scholarly editions. THB 1 records the story of the transmission of the biblical text, and it describes the many textual forms of the Bible, evaluates them, and helps the reader to find his or her way in the labyrinth that is called “the text of the Bible.” After all, “the text of the Bible” is not found in a single source, but in all the sources that contain a biblical text (XV).
Whatever one thinks about the claim to textual pluriformity at the end of this statement, THB 1 provides a major update to the state of the question of Hebrew Bible textual research and at times pushes the conversation forward by presenting new evidence from manuscripts.

Volume 1 consists of three types of articles. Volume 1A contains key Introductory Articles on topics such as Canon of the Hebrew Bible, Samaritan Pentateuch, Hexaplaric Translations, Arabic Translations, and similar. Volumes 1B and 1C contain major Overview Articles on the textual history of each of the biblical books as well as Detailed Articles on topics related to individual biblical books such as Hebrew text traditions and the Primary Translations of LXX, pre-Hexaplaric translations, Hexapla, post-Hexaplaric translations, Syriac Peshitta, etc. In addition to these detailed articles, there are articles on the secondary translations such as the Armenian or Georgian versions and much more. The volume ends with articles on the subject of Exegesis in the sources, that is, treating differences between sources that aren’t directly related to the transmission of the text but relate more to its interpretation.

As a contributor (no, I don’t make a royalty) to this work in the area of the pre-Hexaplaric and Hexaplaric translations and as one becoming more familiar with its contents overall, I would say that this work fills a gap in scholarship, namely, it provides the most up to date history of research and most up to date information on any aspect of the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible and its Versions. I look forward to seeing the next volumes in print. Of course, the regrettable fact of its cost will prohibit some from accessing it. Hopefully, libraries will choose to buy these volumes before other, less worthy works to fill their shelves. If you are interested in the text history of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, this is a great resource to survey the scholarly landscape and to deepen and widen your perspective of a very challenging field of research.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kirsopp Lake on the need for conjectural emendation

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic online

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

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

HT: Morgan Reed

Looking for advice on “Categorizing MSS”

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

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

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

Here are the first lines of the papyrus chart:

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

There are about 30 total papyri listed.

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

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

He wrote back the following:

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

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

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

Responses much appreciated. Amy

Batovici: Two B Scribes in Codex Sinaiticus?

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