Thursday, February 16, 2017

Historical Jesus Studies and Textual Criticism

Historical Jesus studies and textual criticism are two subjects that one does not regularly think of together. But recently I was looking over my copy of Anthony Le Donne’s little book Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? (2011) and came across a section which does bring them together. The context is Le Donne’s discussion about the problem of arriving at historical certainty or objectivity (think Lessing’s “ugly ditch”). He writes:
Scholars determined to attain historical certainty will always be frustrated by the limits of modern presuppositions. Modern presuppositions have made skeptics out of a small (but boisterous) contingent of Jesus historians in every generation since Lessing. But the larger portion of historians have been no less guilty of a hunger for certainty. Historians who are more optimistic about historical certainty have tried to attain it through something akin to textual archaeology....
One of the central presuppositions of textual criticism is that priority should be given to the best reconstruction of the “original manuscripts” of the New Testament. Furthermore, textual criticism was founded on the notion that the closer we get to the original manuscripts, the closer we get to the original Jesus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Website for the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP)

A brand new website of the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP) was launched this morning – the web address is the same

The complete redesign was done by no other than our talented co-blogger Peter Gurry who is not only a textcritic but also a professional web designer.

The old website has served since 2007, receiving thousands of visits from across the world, according to Hugh Houghton, the IGNTP officer who maintains the website on a regular basis.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Septuagint Song

Yesterday was the 11th International Septuagint Day, see here and here. One of our readers, Brent Niedergall therefore wrote “The Septuagint Song” together with his music pastor Mac Lynch which he would like to share with the world, so here it is (click on the images to magnify):

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Tyndale House Workshop in Greek Prepositions

From Will Ross and Steve Runge, a conference modeled after the well-done Greek verb conference from a few years back:
Students and scholars of Greek have long wrestled with understanding the meaning of prepositions. This challenge is partly the result of the centuries-old tradition in Greek lexicography of providing glosses (or translation equivalents) in the target language that fail to capture the meaning of a lexical item. 
Moreover, the semantics of Greek and English prepositions do not isometrically overlap, giving the misleading appearance of polysemy. In an effort to address these challenges, this Workshop aims to approach semantic description of Koine prepositions from the perspective of cognitive linguistics and prototype theory.  
Following the work of Silvia Luraghi (2003) and Pietro Bortone (2010) on Greek prepositions, there is growing consensus among scholars of Greek that the cognitive linguistic approach to meaning is the most promising way forward.  
Yet to date no concerted effort has been made towards applying this cognitive approach in a form that is accessible to non-specialists, which provides the occasion and motivation for our Workshop.  
This Workshop will be cross-disciplinary, bringing together classicists, biblical scholars, linguists, and theologians.
Speakers include
  • Dirk Geeraerts, University of Leuven
  • Richard A. Rhodes, U.C. Berkeley
  • Jonathan A. Pennington, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Patrick James, University of Cambridge
  • Steven Runge, Logos Bible Software
  • Randall Buth, Biblical Language Center
June 30-July 1, 2017. Registration opens March 1. No call for papers is forthcoming. More info at Background on the conference at Will’s blog. It sounds fun. I wish I could be there for it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

2017 HBU Theology Conference

This year’s Houston Baptist University Theology Conference is March 2–4 on the topic “How the Bible Came into Being.”

From the website:
The Department of Theology at HBU, in conjunction with Lanier Theological Library, is please to host the conference How the Bible Came into Being. The conference will consider the formation of the biblical canon, the literature included and excluded, and its theological significance. Our keynote speakers are James Charlesworth (Princeton Theological Seminary) and Lee McDonald (formerly of Acadia Divinity College). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.
The plenaries are:

James Charlesworth
“New Ways of Looking at Sacred Texts Regarded as ‘Apocryphal’ or ‘Pseudepigraphical’”
“The Theological Value of the ‘Rejected Texts’ and Dead Sea Scrolls for Understanding Jesus”

Lee M. McDonald 
“Why and When Was Scripture Written? Looking at the Old Testament Writings”
“Why and When Was Scripture Written? Looking at the New Testament Writings”

The ETC blog’s own John Meade will be presenting on “‘Canon’ Terminology of Epiphanius of Salamis” on Mar 3.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Vaticanus’s ‘least doubtful’ Byzantine impurity

The familiar text of Rom 11.6 as read in NA/UBS is found in P46 01* A C D F G P 1739 1881 lat co as follows:
εἰ δὲ χάριτι, οὐκέτι ἐξ ἔργων, ἐπεὶ ἡ χάρις οὐκέτι γίνεται χάρις
and if by grace, then it [election] is no longer of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace
However, 01c (B) 33vid Byz vg(ms) (sy) add the corollary to Paul’s axiom which is
ει δε εξ εργων, ουκετι εστιν χαρις, επει το εργον ουκετι εστιν εργον
and if it is from works, then it is no longer grace, otherwise the work is no longer work
Sanday and Hedlam say of this longer reading that “there need be no doubt that it is a gloss” (Romans, p. 313). I think they are right in this.

Rom 11.6 in Vaticanus (photo link).
Note the marginal dots.
What is surprising is to see B line up with Byz here against P46 01* etc. The agreement is not perfect, however, because B lacks the first εστιν and has χαρις instead of the final εργον. It would be worthwhile to consider whether Byz preserves a reading earlier than B here. B’s text could explain the shorter reading as a case of parablepsis (χαρις ... χαρις), but B’s reading doesn’t make much sense in the context.

Either way, B shows a striking agreement with Byz and one that receives a special mention from Westcott and Hort. They refer to this reading on p. 150 of their Introduction where they admit that it may be the one exception to B’s consistent purity from “Syrian” (= Byz) influence. They write:
...B is found to hold a unique position. Its text is throughout Pre-Syrian, perhaps purely Pre-Syrian, at all events with hardly any, if any, quite clear exceptions, of which the least doubtful is the curious interpolation in Rom. xi.6.
Did you notice the tortured circumlocution there? They don’t say that Rom 11.6 is a possible case of B’s Syrian corruption. Instead, they say it is “the least doubtful” of possibly clear exceptions to B’s pre-Syrian purity. It’s as if they can’t quite bring themselves to say that B might, even in this one case, be corrupted by the Syrian text-type. So a “possible impurity” becomes “the least doubtful exception to B’s purity.” I suppose this is akin to their infamous phrase “Western non-interpolations” which are just as easily termed “Alexandrian additions.” Which, of course, brings us back to the importance of rhetoric in textual criticism.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Variants on Forgiveness: Matt 18, Mark 11, and the Longer Reading

One of the positives of reading a Greek New Testament that lists variants but not the manuscripts that attest them is that it makes you pay more attention to internal evidence. I’ve been reading Scrivener’s edition of Stephanus (1550) which lists differences with a number of other editions including Lachmman, Tregelles, and Westcott-Hort.

‘The Unmerciful Servant’ by Willem Drost
One of the things I’m reading for are places where the traditional text has a longer reading and the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis. We looked at one in Eph 5.30 not long ago and there is another lengthy example at Matt 23.14. Two that caught my attention recently are in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matt 18. Here is Matt 18.29:
πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων· μακροθύμησον ἐπʼ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι.
The highlighted phrase “at his feet” is found in C2 W f13 33 Byz f q syp.h mae whereas the shorter reading is found in א B C* D L Θ 058 f1 579 1424 al lat sys.c sa bo.

Scrivener’s 4th edition
Then at the end of the parable, we have another longer/shorter reading involving almost the same witnesses on each side. This is Matt 18.35:
οὕτως καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν.
The longer reading is again found in C W f13 33 Byz f h sy(p).h and the shorter in א B D L Θ f1 700 892* pc lat sys.c co.

Finally, a third text that is relevant here is the parallel in Mark 11.25–26 which reads:
25 Καὶ ὅταν στήκητε προσευχόμενοι, ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος· ἵνα καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφῇ ὑμῖν τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν. 26 Εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
In this case, all of verse 26 is read by A (C, D) Θ (f1.13 33) Byz lat syp.h bo(pt); Cyp and omitted by א B L W Δ Ψ 565 700 pc k l sys sa bo(pt).

Besides being about forgiveness, what all these have in common is that the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis, homeoteleuton in particular. In Matt 18.29 the culprit could be αὐτοῦ, in Matt 18.35, -ῶν, and in Mark 18.26, τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.

What about the evidence in favor of the shorter readings? In the first case, there is no simple parallel in the context to easily explain the origin of the longer reading. In the second case, however, the longer reading could be influenced by Matt 6.14–15. Note especially the additional τὰ παραπτώματα in Byz in Matt 6.15. Although it doesn’t explain the somewhat awkward shift from singular ἀδελφῷ to plural αὐτῶν. Finally, Matt 6 could also explain the longer reading in Mark 11.25–26, but here too, as W. Willker points out in his online commentary, the harmonization would not be word-for-word. Compare:
Matt 6.15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
Mark 11.26 εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
None of the differences is radical. The ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖ is found in the preceding verse and maybe τοῖς ἀνθρώποις was left out because Mark 11.25 uses τις for the generic reference. But the change in mood is a bit harder to explain unless this is only a rough harmonization. As it is, the differences make parablepsis—and the longer reading with it—appealing.

If not for the strong, early manuscript evidence in favor of the shorter reading in all three cases, the longer readings would be easy choices on transcriptional grounds. But the external evidence being what it is, I am torn.

So my question: with the shift in opinion about the value of the Byzantine text, will future NA editions follow the transcriptional evidence here against the earliest witnesses like they have in, say, 1 Pet 4.16? More importantly, should they? Should Byz be set on par with the earliest evidence, thereby letting the transcriptional evidence tip the scales in these cases?