Friday, February 29, 2008

Identical Copies

Today I received a mailing by Wilbur Pickering, who is labouring away on the collation of Byzantine manuscripts. Here is what he writes:

"Down with canards! In graduate school (theology) I was taught that no two MSS of the NT are identical in text. If we consider a book at a time, which I take to be the only reasonable demand, the statement is not true. Taking only the MSS that I myself have collated (copies in my possession), I have fourteen with an identical Text for Philemon, seventeen for 2 John, sixteen for 3 John, twelve for Jude, five for Titus and 2 Thessalonians, three for Galatians, Colossians and 1 Thessalonians, and two for Ephesians, Philippians, James and 2 Peter. As I collate more MSS these numbers can only go up. The shorter books have the higher scores because the copyists didn’t have time to get tired or bored. For all that, the care with which the monks did their work is impressive. I invite all who read this to join me in exposing this canard."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Review of BHQ5

I received a note from John Hobbins that he has begun a review of BHQ 5 on his blog, ancienthebrewpoetry, in which he compares McCarthy's apparatus with that of Crawford's in her OHB sample in selected loci of Deut 32:1-9.

Read more here and here.

New Book: Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies?

Gorgias Press has announced a new book edited by Hugh A.G. Houghton and David C. Parker, entitled, Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies? Papers from the Fifth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Texts and Studies Third Series 6; Gorgias Press LLC, forthcoming 2008; ISBN: 978-1-59333-789-6); 207 pages, illustrations.
Did scribes change the text of the New Testament? This book questions the assumption that they did and the claim that variant readings are due to theological motivation or social difference. Evidence is gathered from some of the earliest surviving biblical manuscripts in order to reconstruct the copying habits of scribes and to explore the contexts in which they worked. Alongside these are studies of selected early Christian authors and writings, which illustrate attitudes to and examples of textual change. The papers were first presented at a colloquium in Birmingham and further developed in the light of subsequent discussion and interaction between the presenters. The international team of contributors represents a wide range of approaches and theories and includes many leaders in the field.

The contents of the book are as follows (thanks to Hugh Houghton):

Scribes and Variants ­ Sociology and Typology: ULRICH SCHMID
Kings or God? Towards an Anthropology of Text: RICHARD GOODE
Singular Readings in Sinaiticus: The Possible, the Impossible, and
the Nature of Copying: DIRK JONGKIND
Scribal Behaviour and Theological Tendencies in Singular Readings in
P.Bodmer II (P66): PETER M. HEAD
Theological Creativity and Scribal Solutions in Jude: TOMMY WASSERMAN
The Ethics of Sexuality and Textual Alterations in the Pauline
Towards a Redefinition of External Criteria: The Role of Coherence in
Assessing the Origin of Variants: KLAUS WACHTEL
A Brief Study of Variations on Proper Names in Lectionaries: W.J.
Opting for a Biblical Text Type: Scribal Interference in John
Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Letter to Titus: MARIA KONSTANTINIDOU
On Revisiting the Christian Latin Sondersprache Hypothesis: P.H. BURTON
Scribal Tendencies and the Mechanics of Book Production: D.C. PARKER

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

INTF Colloquium, 3-6 August 2008

[I've received this notice from Klaus Wachtel:]

This summer, 3-6 August, the INTF in Münster will host a colloquium on contemporary research on the textual history of the Greek New Testament. In addition to about 30 invited guests, a further 30 persons may attend. Participation is free, and INTF staff will help to find convenient accommodation.

The programme of the colloquium can be found here:

P. Köln 436

The most recent volume of the Kölner Papyri has a small piece of Luke's Gospel (HT: What's New in Papyrology?):

Kölner Papyri (P. Köln), ed. Charikleia Armoni at al; Band 11 (Papyrologica Coloniensia VII/11), Verlag Ferdinand Schoeningh, Paderborn 2007).
436. Lukas 3.29–30 (Inv. 2638) 58

It does not appear to be on-line as yet; nor have I seen the book.

The Dating of the Umlauts

In the comment section of the previous post (on "Asceticism") I mentioned the so-called "Umlauts" in Codex Vaticanus. Wieland Willker has set up a very valuable section on his website that deals with the Umlauts.

There he discusses a number of issues, e.g., the dating of the Umlauts over which there is disagreement among scholars. Leaving aside the "material" side of the problem (that has to do with the nature of the ink, etc), I assume that a complete survey of the textual support for each variant (at least at the un-ambiguous places where we can identify a particular textual variant) could bring us a step closer to the question of the nature and,in extension the dating of the Umlauts even if I realize that the evidence may be open to different interpretations.

In any case, besides Payne, Canart, Niccum and Miller, I know that one scholar in America is working on a thesis on the subject. Moreover, I know that C.M. Martini is working on a new study of Codex Vaticanus, but I don't know to what extent it will deal with the Umlauts. Are there any others out there?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The "Asceticism" of Alexandrian Witnesses

The other day I read a remark on the ending of Mark and the "asceticism" of B and Aleph by Streeter (The Four Gospels, 337):

"Since B Aleph were written in the fourth century, both the Longer and the Shorter Conclusions were already of great antiquity, and can hardly have been unknown to the scribes who wrote these MSS, and, for that matter, to a fairly long succession of MSS. from which they were copied. Incidentally I may be permitted to remark that an asceticism which could decline to accept either of these endings argues a fidelity to a text believed t obe more ancient and more authentic, which materially increases our general confidence in the textual tradition which these MSS. represent."

Another passage that comes to my mind is Matthew 6:9-13 - The Lord's prayer, and the absence in this textual tradition of a concluding doxology (of whatever kind) that was also of great antiquity and surely in liturgical use very early (cf. Didache 8.2, more remotely 2 Tim 4:18 - and various ancient liturgies). How great a temptation to add a doxology, or at least an AMEN - the prayer ends so abruptly with the "Deliver us from evil".

What other examples of major "textual temptations" can you think of?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem

I've mentioned before the Oxford Conference on the Synoptic Problem coming up in April. I have been asked to write a paper on 'Textual criticism and the synoptic problem’; and I have a welcome chance to try out some thoughts on this at a seminar this afternoon at King's College London Biblical Studies Research Seminars (somehow the fact that this is generally abbreviated to the BS seminars is a little worrying).

Anyway, here is the outline of my talk (Room 2E at 5pm if you are interested)


1. Sanday’s Oxford Seminar (1894-1910)
W. Sanday (ed.), Oxford Studies in the Synoptic Problem (Oxford: Clarendon, 1911)

2. Earlier Approaches

3. B.H. Streeter (1924)
The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. Treating of the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, and Dates (London: Macmillan & Co., 1924; 1930rev)

4. C.H. Turner, ‘Notes on Markan Usage’ (1920s)

5. Textual Criticism Advances
New manuscripts: Oxyrhynchus Papyri from 1898; W; P. Ch. Beatty, esp. P45
New editions: Von Soden (1911); Legg, Mark 1935; Legg, Matthew 1940 (WH)

6. The Synoptic Problem Solved

7. W.R. Farmer and the revival of the Griesbach Hypothesis
The Synoptic Problem (1964)
The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (1974)

8. The New Standard Text (UBS3 – 1975; NA26 – 1979; Aland, Synopsis 1978 -9th)

9. Synopsis Construction: Theory and Practice
B. Orchard (1983)
Huck-Greeven (1981 - 13th)

10. Textual Critics Address the Synoptic Problem
G.D. Kilpatrick (1977)
G.D. Fee (1978 & 1980)
J.K. Elliott (1979/80 & 1986 & 1990)

11. Q as a “virtual” Text-critical artifact
Critical Edition of Q (2000)

12. The Minor Agreements

13. The Pre-History of the Synoptic Tradition

14. Some Recent Attempts at Synthesis
H.W. Shin (2004)
M.C.C. Yuk (2005)
M.C. Williams (2006)

15. Retrospect and Prospect
a) Materials
b) Resources:
c) Approaches:

Monday, February 18, 2008

New Finds at Deir al-Surian monastery

There is an interesting story in the Independent about a recent manuscript discovery at Deir al-Surian monastery: here.
They found a single page (from a manuscript in the British Library) dated to November 411, which would make it (according to S.P. Brock as quoted in this article) 'the oldest dated Christian text in existence'. I guess this would be true so long as we meant 'literary text' rather than 'documentary text'.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Apple Features the Dead Sea Scrolls Project (via Targuman)

Apple Education features Emanuel Tov and the Dead Sea Scrolls Project, with a focus on the major role played by computer technology, specifically the use of Macs:

"'The Mac played an absolutely critical role in our 16 years of work', confirms Professor Emanuel Tov, Editor-in-Chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project, based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 'Most important for us was the Mac’s versatility in using different fonts, as we were working in Greek, Hebrew-Aramaic, ancient Hebrew, Syriac and English. We also found the Macs so easy to use, and they literally never crash'."

Read more here.

Ehrman and Wallace in dialogue

Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing out that on April 4-5, 2008, Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace will be 'in dialogue' about the textual reliability of the New Testament at NOBTS. Details here.

Theologica: Interview with Dan Wallace

Justin Taylor is just beginning a serial interview with Dan Wallace. Justin informs me that later installments will deal with textual criticism. ETC's own interview is, of course, here.

Aune on the Text of Revelation

I have been impressed with Aune's text-critical work in his commentary on Revelation. It contains perhaps the most thorough and independent text-critical judgement of any commentary of the last thirty years. (Discuss?)

One general point he makes puzzles me and I wonder if anyone else can shed any light on it. It relates to the important fact that a large number of the manuscripts of the Apocalypse are found within collections of non-biblical writings.[1] In this connection Aune states:
  • ‘The text of Revelation was transmitted in two quite different settings, in an ecclesiastical setting and as part of collections of miscellaneous documents. Copies of Revelation transmitted in the second way have been less subject to harmonistic and theological alterations.’ (Revelation, p. cxxxvi - my emphasis)

So my problem is that I can't see any correlation between the list of Revelation manuscripts which were transmitted in miscellaneous collections and supposedly less harmonistic alterations (many of them are fairly straightforward Byz). Nor can I see any correlation between these manuscripts and the 34 places where Aune proposes different readings compared with the NA27 text, most of which seem to reflect a different perspective on the internal evidence.[2] Nor can I see any correlation between this statement and the general perspective (shared not only by Schmid, but also Weiss, Charles, Kilpatrick and Aune) that Alexandrinus contains the best single text of Revelation.

[1] Schmid, Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Apokalypse-Textes, II.33-35: Q, 920, 1774, 2076, 2258, 1806, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2024, 2025, 2048, 2049, 2050, 2057, 2061, 2079, 2084, 2196, 2329, 2436, 2078, 2377, 2434. To which Aune apparently adds: 2023, 2024, 2030, 2449, 2681, 2737, 2743 (Revelation, p. clviii).

[2] Aune lists 40 (pp. clix-clx), but the variant at 9.9 doesn’t exist (duplication); 17.10 is an error for 7.10; and at 18.16; 19.5, 12; 21.12 he actually agrees with the NA27 text (and simply proposes deleting square brackets); at 20.4 he also agrees with the NA27 text (and has mistakenly represented it). This leaves: 1.6; 2.15; 4.4, 7, 8; 5.6 (2), 10; 6.17; 7.10 (kra/zousi, not listed in NA27 app.); 9.6; 10.6; 11.16; 14.13, 16, 18 (2); 16.4, 6 (2) (pei=n, not listed in NA27 app.); 17.3 (2); 18.2, 3; 19.6, 7, 9, 11, 17; 20.11 (au0tou= after prows=pou, not listed in NA27 app.); 21.16, 22, 27; 22.11

Friday, February 08, 2008

'Rarely Cited' Early Versions by Number

I am trying to gather some statistics regarding the difference in NA27's use of the early versions. According to my electronic search, the 'rarely cited' versions produced the following number of hits from the apparatus criticus:

Ethiopic 4
Armenian 8
Georgian 2
OC Slavonic 0
Gothic 0

This is a steep difference, when one considers that the Coptic versions are cited 1057 times in the Gospel according to John (the above numbers are for the whole NT). I understand the reasoning behind this, but am still somewhat surprised at the contrast.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dan Wallace press release

Dan Wallace has given indications of the content of a press release here. (I'm grateful to Ulrich Schmid for pointing this out.)

McDonald on the Biblical Canon

Lee Martin McDonald, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority ( Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007).

This book is the third edition of an earlier work entitled The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon (1988, 1995). It has three sections, Part 1 deals with introductory issues, especially the notion and use of the terms ‘Scripture’ and ‘Canon’; Part 2 deals with the ‘Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Canon’ and Part 3 deals with ‘New Testament Canon’. Primary texts in English translation are cited abundantly throughout (and a number of appendices provide lists and catalogues of various canon lists). Broadly speaking McDonald argues that the OT canon was not fixed until at least the second century, and that the fixed and closed NT canon was formed during the fourth to the sixth centuries. To some extent the discussion and even some conclusions reflect the author’s own theological journey from a conservative theological starting point to the rather more open perspective which he now apparently adopts (I counted thirty question marks in his ‘final reflections’).

In such a wide-ranging work there are bound to be issues with which one might take a different view of how the evidence might be construed; especially on issues reflecting earlier appreciations of canonical reflection than McDonald’s schema allows, such as the date of the Muratorian Canon, or the reliability of Eusebius’ notes about earlier canonical information and reflection.

But it is interesting that an author on the canon can make so many mistakes in referring to manuscripts and textual criticism - and that these mistakes follow the general Tendenz of his overall programme. I noted the following:

1. on p. 262 he says: 'When the author of the Gospel of Thomas ends his work with the words "The Gospel according to Thomas", this is probably the oldest document actually claiming to be a gospel. But this mistakes the Coptic colophon from the fourth century Nag Hammadi codex as an authorial conclusion. On this basis we might as well say that the author of John entitled his own work as 'The Gospel according to John' because that is what is says in P66.

2. on p. 354 he says, firstly that Codex Vaticanus 'apparently intentionally omits the Pastoral Letters'' and then he complains that he editors of the NA27 'do not tell us that Hebrews is only partly included, that it is not currently where it was originally intended (the page numbers are out of sequence), or that a later scribe added both the conclusion of Hebrews and all of Revelation'. This is the sort of half-digested information, incorrectly summarised, which one dreads in under-graduate essays.

  • A manuscript doesn't do anything intentionally, although it may have things done to it by people. In this case, since Philemon is also missing (not mentioned by McDonald), it is perhaps more likely that the PEs and Philemon followed Hebrews in the original of Vaticanus, than that these were 'intentionally omitted' (by the compiler).
  • Nor of course can a manuscript have an original intention; the reference to the page numbers is presumably supposed to be a reference to the chapter ennumeration (not page numbers) in Vaticanus which presumably reflects a different place for Hebrews in an exemplar (#1-58: Romans, 1 & 2 Cor, Gal; then #70-93: Eph, Phil, Col, 1Th, 2 Th; then: #59-64: Hebrews) - in this situation it would seem to be completely intentional that the compiler of Vaticanus has shifted the place of Hebrews (which was always the most flexible item in the Pauline corpus).
  • Why he should complain that the NA27 doesn't give us full information relevant to the detailed contents of B he never explains. Of course, he may not have known where to look, since NA27 does include almost all of the information he thinks is lacking (p. 690 in my edition: 1 Tim to Philemon is lacking; Hebrews 9.14 to the end is lacking; Revelation is lacking).

3. on p. 357-8 and n.13 he argues (following Professor Ehrman) for considerable fluidity in the text of NT manuscripts into the third century. He then quotes Aland and Aland in support of this, when they said that ‘some 10 to 20 percent of the Greek manuscripts have preserved faithfully the different text types of their various exemplars’ (from Text, 70). But this is a gross misunderstanding of the argument made by Aland and Aland at this point, which is not at all to do with the early period, and is actually an argument in favour of faithful copying, since the Alands are talking about the later Byzantine-dominated period - in that period we still get 10 - 20 % of manuscripts preserving non-Byzantine text tyes.

4. on p. 382 on the subject of non-canonical Christian writings included in biblical manuscripts, he writes that ‘Codex Claromontanus, a bilingual Greek-Latin manuscript dating to the fifth-sixth century, includes Shepherd of Hermas, Acts of Paul, and Revelation of Peter.’ This is very misleading. Claromontanus contains no such texts; except for a Latin canon list secondarily inserted into Claromontanus which lists, in addition to the NT documents, those three works, and also the Epistle of Barnabas.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Free Access to New Testament Studies 54/1

The latest New Testament Studies is freely available here. (None of the articles deals directly with text-critical matters.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Digitization of Microfilms of NT MSS

At the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies in New Orleans, we have just completed the digitization of our microfilms of NT mss into grey-scale files (about 500 were on microfilms with another 200 in facsimile, editions, and digital forms). The results are looking quite good so far (haven't been able to go through all of them yet) and often give better options for seeing the ms than even the microfilms did with the zoom, etc. on our reader/printer. The next stage is that we're going to label each digital file (individual frames, with either 1 or 2 pages of the ms) to indicate the exact content of the file. When we've finished that process, those mss that we can legally loan in digital form to others will be available for the field. Of course, some holding institutions have not given such permission, but we do have it for films like those from the Library of Congress (the Mt. Athos, Jerusalem Patriachate, some St. Catherine mss).

Now if folks would like to help in the labeling of the files, feel free to contact me off-list at

As another note, Münster is in the process of digitizing their collection as part of a major project there and is doing much more with their project than we have done, so hopefully within a couple of years via Münster's work and that of others (such as the mss. already available on-line from multiple sources, including the Center for the Study of NT MSS that Dan Wallace directs), we'll have substantially better access to the mss. for NT scholars.