Monday, October 31, 2011

New Second Century Text of John?

A Comment in an earlier post referred to this article (New NASA technology reveals ancient texts) which claims, among other things:
NASA super cameras, developed originally for military surveillance and scientific surveys and adapted for work at the St. Catherine library, now can reveal in amazing detail not only smudged or damaged surface portions but also the earliest and most intriguing strata of the palimpsests. Incredibly, these cameras even make it possible to read documents wholly or partly destroyed by fire.

And what has the Texas-led team discovered so far? Among other things, an extremely ancient portion of the Gospel of John, perhaps dating from the second century and which contains wording missing in the conventional biblical text.
There would seem to be some potential problems with this. For a start one wouldn't expect many second-century texts of John on parchment (required for a useful palimpsest).

Greek palaeography course

There's an opportunity to do a summer course in Greek palaeography, 13-18 August 2012 in Lincoln College, Oxford. [Per Paul Anderson]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Here and There

Some points of interest on the internets:

The latest Scripture Language Report from the UBS reports that "Bibles have become available in ten more languages and New Testaments in 27 more than this time last year." (HT: Bibliablog)

David Lamb hates Study Bibles (and I sympathise).

Rod Decker approves of the NIV non-rendering of selah in the Psalms (here and here). Jim Hamilton is not so keen (here).

The papyri of the University Library in Groningen, The Netherlands are online.

Also there is quite a full report of the Hurtado study day (featuring Professor Wasserman) over at BECS.

The Lindisfarne Gospels Online

Congratulations to all manuscript lovers: The Lindisfarne Gospels (BL, Cotton MS Nero D IV) have been digitized and are available online at the British Library Digitised Manuscript website.

More Digitized GNT MSS from the British Library

Hugh Houghton informs me that a few more GNT MSS are now online at the British Library website:

Here are the GA numbers and links:

GA 384

GA 447
GA 448
L340

For previous releases see here, here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

PDF's for Coptic Bible

Alin Suciu has made available several articles listing key witnesses to the Coptic Bible. If you like to pack your hard drive with PDFs like I do, you will find this helpful. Thanks, Alin!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rodgers, Text and Story: Review

In a previous post Peter Rodgers announced the publication of his new book:

Peter R. Rodgers, Text and Story: Narrative Studies in New Testament Textual Criticism (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011).

I went to the Wipf and Stock website (see previous post), but couldn't order the book as they don't seem to ship to the UK (get this sorted Robin Parry). I put it on my list of books to buy at SBL (don't think of this as an actual list, more a general intention), and promptly forgot about it until Peter kindly (and independently) sent me a copy in the mail. I thought I would write up a brief review on the blog, but it won't be a savage critical review for the following reasons:
  1. Peter is a friend of mine and a respected older evangelical pastor with a scholarly interest in textual criticism;
  2. Peter is a member of this blog (I know Tommy attempts the odd savage critique of my early work on this blog, but I'm a tall Australian and he is Swedish);
  3. Peter studied with G.D. Kilpatrick who once rented a flat in Oxford to my uncle Alan (incidentally I met him once while staying with my uncle and aunt and G.D. Kilpatrick immediately pulled a Greek NT out of his pocket and we talked about Mark 1.1 - I thought it was excellent that an Oxford Professor walked around with a GNT in his pocket)
  4. Peter was (I think I remember correctly) curate at the Round Church in Cambridge (I don't remember this from personal experience, it was a seriously long time ago; not as far back as Noah, but definitely before the internets was born);
  5. Although it is not a long book, it covers 10 passages and has loads of arguments, but I don't have time for the extensive engagement of a long review (remember this is a blog).
Anyway, the book is very readable (I only got it yesterday and have actually read the whole thing already), with an introduction, ten brief chapters, and a conclusion. It is only 106 pages of text. Clearly this means that it is not a full-on scholarly treatment of each passage and all the history and issues raised; that is no bad thing even if there aren't enough footnotes for the enthusiast (note that he certainly references scholarship in English, French and German).

In a nutshell Rodgers thinks that attention to the way in which various NT texts allude to or echo OT passages or broader scriptural stories can offer a new perspective on textual problems where external and internal evidence is indecisive. Hitherto, he argues, there has been 'a clear tone-deafness to intertextuality and its possible bearing on text-critical issues' (p. 10). A repeated theme/claim is that Christian scribes of the second and third century may have missed allusions that would have been obvious to Jewish(-Christian) authors and original readers (e.g. p. 42f, 53, 60, 70, 76, 83, 92). So many of his preferences are for readings where the external evidence is at least somewhat divided, where one of the readings exhibits evidence of allusive reference to an OT text or embedded story more than the other reading.

An example of this is his take on Heb 2.9 where he prefers XWRIS QEOU (with Origen, loads of fathers, 1739 and some other support), because of the way in which the wording, shape and story of Psalm 22 informs the broader context of Hebrews 2 in such a way as fits with the reading XWRIS QEOU in 2.9 (pp. 31-43). He argues that 'copyists who did not hear the echo of Ps 22:1 in 2:9 or recognize the importance of Psalm 22 for the early chapters of Hebrews would have failed to recognize the literary and theological value of the harder reading' (p. 42f).

It is interesting that Rodgers often (as in this example) finds common ground with B. Ehrman on the preferred reading, but not on the question of scribal motivation; he states in the conclusion that 'the context of second temple Judaism is equally as fruitful as the Christological debates of the second and third centuries for explaining textual change' (p. 105).

Sometimes this takes Rodgers into what might be thought of as pretty wild territory. For example he argues for the reading WNEIDISAS ME in Mark 15.34 (on the basis of a combined allusion to Ps 22 and 69), but with only D and some Old Latin in support (pp. 44-53); in Phil 4.7 he prefers the text - 'your hearts and your minds and your bodies' - with support only from P16 (and then not completely - his reading is really somewhat conjectural) and some vulgate manuscripts, and the basis of a claimed echo of Is 26.3 (pp. 72-76). Here we see something of the radical eclectic, the disciple of Kilpatrick (Elliott also offers a supporting blurb on the back cover).

At other points, somewhat similar arguments can support a reading already widely accepted: so the long text of Luke 22.43f (on the basis of allusions to Is 53 and Ps 22); the NA reading of Acts 20.28 (on the basis of a complex of echoes to Gen 22; Is 43 and Ps 74); the NA reading of Luke 3.22 (on the basis of a complex of echoes to Gen 22; Is 42 and Ps 2). In addition he argues for other readings, which while not adopted in NA have been argued before, e.g. reading QEOS in Rom 8.28; 'and fasting' in Mark 9.29; 'me' in Rom 8.2.

The great thing about Rodgers' approach is the integration of exegesis (broadly conceived, including the structures of thought and story underlying NT texts) with textual criticism. The pondering of OT allusions and echoes is very valuable, although the arguments for these allusions are not, in my humble opinion, universally persuasive. Nor indeed, are the allusions demonstrated in detail (Rodgers paints the broader picture of the themes and story of an OT text well, but doesn't always pin the broader story to the details of the NT reading). Take Luke 22.43f as an example. He thinks that these words 'would have been "heard" by their earliest readers as an echo of Isaiah 53, and of Psalm 22' (p. 60). But this is defended only on the most general basis (Luke is interested in these texts; scholars have studied the relevance of these texts to NT writers, they appear in a list of 12 passages that have been thought to be reflected in this passage), never on the basis of the wording of the reading itself.
Another example is Phil 4.7. Rodgers thinks that the original reading is 'And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds and your bodies in Christ Jesus.' These three terms are 'a conscious echo of Is 26.3' (p. 75); but 'the echo of Isaiah 26 was not of sufficient volume to copyists less attuned to intertextual echo than Paul and his readers' (p. 76). But we might ask how load is this echo? [Is 26.3 RSV: 'Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.'] Rodgers thinks that 'bodies' are in view in Is 26.19 and throughout Philippians, but fails to show any real anchor for this echo in Phil 4.7. So the strength and clarity of the proposed allusion/echo remains an important issue for me in considering each of these cases. When the case for the allusion/echo is strong (say for Heb 2.9) this made the text-critical argument also strong, but reasonably often this was not the case (some friends would suggest that I am not strongly attuned to picking up quiet echoes).

An interesting aspect of this is the broader question about transcriptional probability. Rodgers, appealing to Gentile scribes as missing OT allusions, stands against the TC tradition that sees harmonisations towards the OT as a marked scribal characteristic. Rodgers recognises that he stands outside the common assumption (p. 104), urging the many unharmonised variants, and the support of Holmes and Parker. This would make for an interesting further discussion. [We could note that on at least one occasion, when dealing with Luke 3.22 Rodgers does appeal to scribes who had memorised the Psalms as an explanation for the D reading, see p. 24, 29] [We could also note that the suggestion that Gentile scribes could alter the text reasonably often in this way, stands in some degree of tension with his general stance that early scribes copied their texts carefully and accurately, p. 24, 60.]

In summary I should say that of his ten examples I think I already agreed with three of them strongly and two of them mildly. Of the five others I was pleased to read the discussion and argument, and found one or two of them "interesting" (as opposed to convincing) and will certainly try to take these into account in the future, but couldn't pronounce myself persuaded that he was right. I certainly take the point that some readings may exhibit original authorial intertextuality, but would like a more solid foundation for some of the claims. As a whole it is certainly a worthwhile 'experiment in New Testament Textual Criticism' (p. 101), an interesting contemporary example of a reasonably radical eclecticism (in the tradition of Kilpatrick and Elliott) in a spirit of loyalty to a high view of Scripture, and a reminder that the critical apparatus can hide interesting readings for which a good case can be made.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ehrman's Appeal to Intrinsic Evidence

Over at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM), Nika Spaulding and Robert D. Marcello summarize the recent debate at the Southern Methodist University campus (Dallas) between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace here. It should be noted in this connection that Wallace is the director of CSNTM, and that Spaulding and Marcello of course largely share Wallace's views on the NT text.

I am happy to have contributed a little to the preparation of Wallace's argument (in private correspondence) about the inconcistency on the part of Ehrman (and others), when he appeals to intrinsic evidence, and at the same time takes a completely agnostic position as to what a certain author wrote. In fact, I discussed this issue with Ehrman on a textual criticism discussion group in 2008 (here). Ehrman fully realized the problem as he responded:
Now, if someone can explain to me the logic of appealing to an author's style when you don't think you can get back to his words (hence his style), I'll eat my Westcott and Hort!

Consequently, in the new edition of his The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (recently released), he has a brief discussion of the "resulting theoretical problem," i.e., the apparent contradiction of his own reconstruction of an early form of the text, and his claim that there is no way of getting to an original (pp. 350-52). There he states:
At the same time, I have not observed other critics wrestling with the issue; instead they continue to use intrinsic probabilities even while admitting that we have no access to an authorical text. I belive that is a problem, but I also believe it has a theoretical solution.

Then Ehrman proposes that although we are reconstructing an "author" with verbal, stylistic, literary and theological predilections, and although "recognizing them allows us to decide which readings go back to his imaginary pen and which were later creations of scribes," we must at the same time acknowledge that this author is not a tangible human being of the past.

I actually agree with Ehrman – this is the bottomline of my own reply to him (and actually in accordance with the theoretical basis for the Coherence Based Genealogical Method, which seeks to reconstruct something more than the archetype of the tradition, but less than the authorial text – the term used is "the initial text"). So the question then is how far removed is our reconstructed author's text from the historical author's text? In my discussion with Ehrman I further suggested:
As I said, the simplest theory is that the initial text is the autograph (we do not know); the more complicated theory, the less is intrinsic evidence worth .... In practice, we assume that the text we reconstruct approximates towards the author's text.

In sum, other text-critics have indeed wrestled with the problem, even directly in discussion with Ehrman. I also discuss the issue in my essay "The Implications of Textual Criticism for Understanding the ‘Original Text’" in Mark and Matthew I. Comparative Readings: Understanding the Earliest Gospels in their First Century Settings. Edited by Eve-Marie Becker and Anders Runesson (WUNT I 271; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011). There is much to say about this problem. I have found Peter Shillingsburg's works very helpful in this area. Perhaps I will post something on that in the future.

Finally, "the theoretical problem" is of course mainly a problem for those who are utterly pessimistic about reaching the initial text ("the more complicated theory, the less is intrinsic evidence worth").

Friday, October 21, 2011

"The Son of God Was in the Beginning (Mark 1:1)" – (Free Access)

I have just provided a link on my institutional webpage to a free access version of my JTS article, ”The Son of God Was in the Beginning (Mk 1:1)." Journal of Theological Studies 62/1 (2011): 20-50. (Just scroll down to the title and link to the article.)

Mark 1:1 Handout

I am making a handout on the text-critical problem in Mark 1:1 available. I originally used it for the SBL in Tartu 2010. It can be found under TC Files (free download) in the right sidebar or via this link.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1 John 2:23 in the KJV


I'm giving a talk at Exeter University on Friday entitled 'Things that might surprise you about the King James Version'. Here is one of them (though given the educational levels of ETC readers it might not surprise everyone): in the original KJV small print (later replaced by italics) was used to represent words not in the original. But then in 1 John 2:23 there is a rather different use, which aligns with the presence of a textual variant and the whole phrase 'but he that acknowledgeth the Sonne, hath the Father also' is in small print. One interpretation could be that they were indicating that the words in small print should be 'in, but with doubt'. Obviously the translators were aware that they were going against Tyndale, the Matthews Bible, Geneva Bible, etc. But could it be that they wanted to ensure the reading they wanted (i.e. the longer reading) got in, but without the political rumpus of a change to the text? Ultimately they could have been seen to be making a claim about the meaning of the text rather than about the original wording. Can anyone adduce further considerations to guide our interpretation of this?

Mark 1.1: the Long(ish) reading

Tommy's excellent presentation on the text of Mark 1.1 is now available in audio via the CSCO website (where it is also described as argued persuasively):

Tommy Wasserman, ‘The “Son of God” was in the Beginning,’ lecture (44min)

Wasserman, Question and Answer, (28min)

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Apocalypse Project (Wuppertal)

I am pleased to announce the latest major inquiry into the text of the Greek New Testament. At the beginning of this month, a team based at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal-Bethel has started work on an Editio Critica Major of the book of Revelation in partnership with the INTF-directed Editio Critica Maior series. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Fund) has funded the initiative. Martin Karrer is the primary investigator. Ulrich Schmid is playing a leading role in deploying the latest relevant technological innovations. The project will progress in three phases with a completed edition hopefully after approximately ten years.
At least two from our blogroll will be active in the project. For the next two and a half years, I will be editing the Sahidic text of the Apocalypse. In a year, Martin Heide will begin creating an edition of the Syriac. I am fortunate to be able to conduct my research in Münster, which is a world center for Coptology as well as New Testament textual criticism. My colleagues at the INTF have repeatedly surpassed my expectations with their kindness and Gastfreundschaft! ...not to mention patience for my rudimentary German.
In coming months, I will say a bit more about the project. I am excited that Alin Suciu has discover a new fragment of the Sahidic Apocalypse which he has also identified as deriving from the same codex as other already-known leaves.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Leonard on Middle Egyptian Matthew

Yesterday James (Jim) Leonard, one of our ETC bloggers, defended his Cambridge PhD thesis on the Middle Egyptian Schoyen Codex of Matthew. This manuscript (mae2) had been edited by Schenke, who had maintained that the codex shows signs of a non-canonical Matthew. Though Leonard had been initially drawn to the codex by this idea, he ultimately rejected (and refuted) this notion.

His treatment also contains a number of new reconstructions of lacunae in the manuscript and rearranges two pieces.

A significant conclusion is that mae2 is not actually a weird manuscript at all. In fact, when certain things are taken into account, it is more like NA27 than either 01 or 03!

Well done, Jim!

[Technical note: in the Cambridge system the award of the degree is formally confirmed by a large committee and one does not really 'know' the result of a viva immediately. However, in certain circumstances, e.g. when examiners discuss publication plans, it is legitimate to celebrate in anticipation of formal confirmation.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"How on Earth Did Larry Hurtado Become a Text-Critic?"

Some years ago when Larry Hurtado had been invited to the research seminar at Lund university in Sweden, where I did my PhD at the time, I mentioned in advance to the professors and students, that I know Larry Hurtado from my field, New Testament textual criticism. "You know, he is a leading text-critic. What? Is he working in textual criticism? I didn’t know that." The large project in Lund at the time was devoted to exploring the First Hundred Years of Christian Identity and Larry had been invited to speak mainly on early Christian worship in relation to that project. So textual criticism, on this occasion, was left to the coffee time, where it was basically a subject for a chat between Larry and myself.

A year ago I was in Oslo, invited to give lectures on textual criticism at Menighetsfakultetet. The professor in charge of the course then mentioned that he had invited Larry Hurtado to participate in a project on prayer and identity. They will host a conference in just a month or so. I told Sandnes, "Yes, I know Larry rather well. You know he is a leading text-critic. What? Is he working in textual criticism? I didn’t know that."

A few months ago, when I had just received the invitation to come to Edinburgh for this very occasion, to speak specifically about Larry’s contribution to New Testament textual criticism, I shared this news to my colleagues at the coffee table including a New Testament scholar, who knew Larry Hurtado's work quite well (he thought), but replied: ”What? Is he working in textual criticism? I didn’t know that.”

So, instead of asking "How on earth did Jesus become God?" (a subject which I leave happily to Richard Bauckham), a more relevant question in light of these reactions, would be, "How on earth did Larry Hurtado become a text-critic?"


The above is the opening om my presentation, which you can download and listen to over at the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins website. Incidentally, Larry told me afterwards that he had just had the same reaction from one of the distinguished guests this day – "Did you do work in textual criticism, I didn't know that."



There were about seventy attendants in the Martin Hall, at the School of Divinity, Edinburgh University. Alban Books had a small bookstall (on the table to the right), where some titles by Hurtado and the presenters were available.

Mark Batluck, local PhD student (very promising), has made all the talks and discussions from this day available. Below are direct links to the audio files (the introduction by Helen Bond, the other presentations by Thomas Kraus and Richard Bauckham, responses by Larry, and Q & A to all three sections):

Helen Bond, "Appreciation for Larry Hurtado and his Career" (8min)

Tommy Wasserman, "How on Earth did Larry Hurtado Become a Text Critic?" (56min), Q & A (8min) and handout

Thomas Kraus, "Larry Hurtado and Manuscripts" (71min)

Larry Hurtado, Response to Wasserman and Kraus (11min)

Richard Bauckham, "Devotion to Jesus Christ in Earliest Christianity—An Appreciation and Discussion of Hurtado’s Work" (62min) and handout

Bauckham, Q & A (17min)

Hurtado/Bauckham discussion (41min)

Mark also recorded my presentation on Mark 1:1 in the postgrad seminar, which will soon be posted.

The only thing I hate with these audio clips is to hear myself speaking with that typical Swedish accent and pronunciation, sigh.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Exemplar of P46

P46 is a manuscript copied from a Greek - Latin exemplar. This explains the many readings of P46 that are subsequently found in later Greek - Latin manuscripts and it explains the direct influence of Latin errors in the Greek.

[Don't quote me yet on this, please read on.]



In that doorstop of a study Scribal Habits, James Royse discusses the singular reading επευξ of P46 in Heb 5:6. This is almost certainly nonsense as it stands, having replaced the normal ιερευς ('priest'). Zuntz suggested that this reading is a Latin alphabet error, a replacement of Greek Rho ρ for a Latin 'p' which is then graphically represented as a Greek Pi, π. The Xi ξ is a 'simple' replacement of ς. Royse rejects this explanation ('there appears to be no other evidence that our scribe was in any way influenced by Latin') and treats the reading as an inexplicable error (though he treats the preceding ει as a separate variant).

First, I believe the whole variant is ειεπευξ for ιερευς. That is, the first syllable ει represents an itacistic reading of the initial iota of ιερευς.
Secondly, I may have found another instance of a Latin misreading in 2 Cor 10:12 where we have the puzzling νεκρουντες ('died') for μετρουντες.

The appearance of νεκρ- for μετρ- might be interference of the Latin stem MORT- as in MORTALES. Admittedly, a few other errors have to take place at the same time τρ - ρτ, but that is not an argument against this proposal. Τhe fact that we have a strange reading implies that a few errors have occurred—what is left for us is to reconstruct these errors.
Thirdly, I actually quite like Zuntz's suggestion, and would love to see it as the hypothesis for an extended study of P46. What if there is a large Latin element in this manuscript? Can other readings be explained by means of Latin influence? In addition, it would open up interesting questions on the 'how?' of the countless instances where P46 joins the Greek - Latin bilingual manuscripts virtually on its own.

So, this is the justification of my first paragraph. A theory that may be worthwhile to put to the test, either to reject or accept.

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Wonderful Day in Edinburgh

This is just a quick report from the day in honor of Larry Hurtado.

I have had a fabulous day here today, doing a presentation in which I reviewed Larry Hurtado's scholarship in NT textual criticism.

The other presenters, Thomas Kraus and Richard Bauckham (we are all on this picture, chatting in the garden during one of the breaks), similarly reviewed Larry's works; Thomas Kraus on early Christian artefacts (including such areas as the adoption of the codex, the nomina sacra and the staurogram) and Richard Bauckham on Christology.

It all went very well, and I know that Larry was very pleased with the day. I also particularly enjoyed talking to some of the PhD students here during the reception afterwards. It is nice to be able to give some advice, and I remember well the days of my own struggles as a PhD student.

Then the organizers and us presenters, some of Larry's close colleagues and the Hurtado couple went out to a very nice restaurant in the centre of Edinburgh to have a meal together.

This whole day has been quite enjoyable for me. Apparently, one of the PhD students, which is also a friend of mine, recorded the presentations, so perhaps they will eventually be released on the website of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (CSCO). The same goes for my own presentation yesterday on Mark 1:1 for the postgraduate seminar, which was likewise very enjoyable.

Perhaps we will have to edit that one a bit, especially the part in which I tell about the background of the paper. Anyway, one of the things that triggered that piece was Peter Head's cheering during an SBL presentation of a new papyrus attesting to the short reading. :-) The other reason for working on that verse was because it is one of Bart Ehrman's main examples of what he labels as "anti-adoptionistic corruption" of the NT text.

Anyway, we were in a crowded room of approximately twenty students and a couple of senior scholars including Paul Travis (presiding), Larry Hurtado, Helen Bond and Paul Foster, all posing very intelligent questions after my one hour presentation.

Tomorrow (Sat) it is shopping day for me here, after having breakfast with my colleague Thomas Kraus staying at the same hotel.