Thursday, March 31, 2016

Archaeologists find Q

This is one of the most phenomenal discoveries of the century. I am still in a state of shock and (g)nashing my teeth for previously entertaining doubts about Q. For full details of the discovery follow the link to the original article. I give the opening section below.

[Addendum: Apparently not all readers are aware that this is an April Fool. Q has not been found. The manuscript pictured is the Nash Papyrus, containing the 10 commandments, held in Cambridge University Library.]

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Report on the International Conference for the NT Textual Criticism in Athens

Over at the Volos Acadamy for Theological Studies website there is a report on a recent conference in Athens on NTTC.
On February, 22 2016, an International Conference was successfully held at the central building of Athens University (“Al. Argyriadis” Amphitheater), on the general theme: New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Scholarship, Culture and Church. The conference was co-organized by the Dean’s office of Theological School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Department for the study of the manuscript tradition of the New Testament of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, and attended by a vast number of academics and special researchers who are members and contributors to the Editorial Board of the critical editions of the New Testament “Novum Testamentum Graece” (known as Nestle-Aland) and “UBS Greek New Testament”, which internationally constitute the basis for the scholarly study and the translation of the text of the New Testament.
Speakers included Klaus Wachtel, Holger Strutwolf, Florian Voss, David Trobisch, Greg Paulson, Stephen Pisano, Simon Crisp, Christos Karakolis.

Apparently this was in some way the first scholarly conference being held in Greece on the subject of New Testament Textual Criticism. I’m not sure exactly what that means. But it’s good to see more TC happening in Greece where so many GNT manuscripts are kept. It looks like there was a pretty good crowd too. Full report here.


A blog reader has pointed out that this conference also saw the first a meeting of the new Editorial Committee of the NA/UBS. That is historic. I confess that I still don’t understand what the new committee’s role actually is. Also I thought David Parker was a member. Still, exciting stuff.

Left (from rear to front) David Trobisch, Klaus Wachtel, Holger Strutwolf, Stephen Pisano; right (from rear to front) Christos Karakolis, Simon Crisp, Florian Voss. (Photo: Greg Paulson)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Holmes on Objective Evidence in Textual Criticism

In response to the notion that the use of internal evidence is more subjective than external and therefore less reliable, Mike Holmes says this:
The claim that some methods are more “objective” than others—in particular, the view that decisions based on external data are somehow more “objective” (or at least less “subjective”) than those based on internal considerations—is largely illusory and misleading. With respect to both external and internal evidence, what counts as “data” or “evidence” is a theory-driven decision, and the choice of what data to follow is inescapably subjective. (p. 103 n. 40).
Maybe he will permit me to offer a simplified version: there are no text critical conclusions achieved without human judgment.

Michael W. Holmes. “The Text of the Epistles Sixty Years after: An Assessment of Günther Zuntz’s Contribution to Text-Critical Methodology and History.” Pages 89–113 in Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies. Text and Studies Third Series 4. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2006.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

ETC Interview with Chuck Hill: Part 2

This is part 2 of our interview with Chuck Hill. Part 1 is here.

In The Early Text of the NT, you suggest that David Parker “gives the impression that concern for the original text is simply a religious phenomenon, driven by pressure from churches who desire an ‘authoritative text’” (p. 4). You point out, rightly in my opinion, that religious belief is hardly the only motivation for seeking a work’s original text. But what is the relationship between a high view of Scripture (as found, say, in the Westminster Confession) and the quest for the original text? Is such a view of scripture viable without the concept of a single original text?

Having a high view of Scripture, as you pointed out, is not the only motivation for seeking an original text. I don’t know why anyone would make that assumption. But is a high view of Scripture viable without ‘the concept of a single original text’? The short answer, I suppose, has to be ‘yes’, but it depends, of course, on what is meant by ‘the concept of a single original text.’ You can, of course, make a distinction between the original text (let’s just define it as the text as it left the author’s hands for the last time, with the author’s intent for release) and the ‘Initial text’ or Ausgangstext (the text we reconstruct as the source of all the known readings). But even the ‘Initial text’ is a form of the text that originated with the author. Different compositional stages of a book (e.g., a book before the author added a prologue, or decided to insert new material, etc.) are not different editions of the book, and it just seems like obfuscation to bring them into the picture.

The main, possible complication, I suppose, would be if the author did make a second edition (as some people have argued for the text of Acts). Let’s say (for the sake of argument) Paul sent a letter to the Roman church and kept his own personal copy, then later modified his copy in some way, intending to make this revised copy the basis for copies that would be more widely distributed to the churches, perhaps along with a collection of his letters. In this case you could say there are two ‘original’, authorial texts of Romans, essentially two editions.

Each of these would have originated with the author with his intention to be ‘released’ or published. Each one, I think we would have to say, was inspired, written by Paul in the exercise of his apostolic ministry. So here we would have two ‘originals’. In my opinion, the natural standard we would be seeking (if we could tell the difference) would be the final version that left Paul’s control, as representing the author’s final, intended ‘original’, even if it was not the ‘original’ original.

Or, let’s say that the ‘release’ of a book like Revelation, or even one of the Gospels, for that matter, was marked by the sending out of several ‘initial’ copies as part of the release. What if there were minor scribal differences between them? In this case, presumably there was still one single master copy from which other copies were made, which would be the logical ‘original’. But what if this, or any other, first exemplar itself contained errors that were made and somehow not corrected, in the inscription process? Then the ‘original’ text, or the normative text, would presumably go back to the author’s intention, no matter what happened between thought and words appearing on a page. This is why Warfield, in his book on NT textual criticism, identified the original text as the text intended by the author.

You teach in an institution that holds the Bible to be “absolutely and finally authoritative as the inerrant Word of God.” How do you respond to critics who say that such a belief is necessarily restrictive and even incompatible with the academic study of the Bible? Does belief in inerrancy restrict your scholarship in any way?

Yes, I’m sure it has restricted the number of stupid things I would otherwise have said. I can’t say I feel restricted in a negative way. Inerrancy can be defined in unhelpful ways but I see it not as ‘a thing in itself’ so much as simply a corollary of a couple of very basic articles of the Christian faith: that God is true and cannot lie, and that Scripture is his word. If we were starting over today, perhaps we would have found another word besides ‘inerrancy’ because it seems so prone to misunderstanding. But it has entered the theological vocabulary and it does have its value – and not to affirm it sounds a lot like not affirming God’s truthfulness. God speaks in a way that is ultimately true, not false. For me, that doesn’t predetermine very much about what the text must say or look like; God might speak, and speak truly, in ways and in forms I don’t expect. Human language (which God seems happy to employ, thankfully, because we are humans) is full of surprises.

It’s true that my convictions about God and Scripture will make me loathe to declare historical or theological problems in Scripture to be real errors or material contradictions, preferring instead to lay out options and sometimes withhold judgment until more evidence is in. But I don’t know why that should be judged to be incompatible with academic study. The ability to jump to conclusions should not be considered an essential attribute of academic scholarship. (I know that might be controversial.)

I think those who have a high appreciation for the divinity of Scripture will often look at a text much more carefully and insightfully than those who don’t, who might be satisfied with (or even eager to take) a shallower and less sympathetic treatment. And, of course, I think we would have much, much deeper problems without such a God who has spoken to us in Scripture.

If you had a particularly gifted student who wanted to pursue graduate work in textual criticism or canonicity (or both!), are there any particular issues you might want to steer them toward? Any you would advise them to avoid?

Studies of particular manuscripts are now starting to come into their own, and this is a good thing that should be encouraged in every way. I think the study of textual division is one area that holds a lot of potential (see on next question).

Sorting out the issues behind what has been called the ‘Western’ textual tradition, in my view, would be helpful, particularly the relationship between the early Latin and Syriac translations and their presumed Greek Vorlagen. How much of what has been attributed to a Greek Vorlage is really a result of translation technique? I don’t think the Greek fragments of Irenaeus that contain Biblical citations have been adequately analyzed and compared with the Greek manuscripts and the Old Latin translation(s).

More work is being done on early patristic appropriations of Scriptural texts, and that is a welcome sign, but more can still be done. More attention could be given to early Christian book collections, of churches or of individuals. There are a number of signs that Christians in the second half of the second century already believed that Scripture consisted of a ‘closed collection’ of books. These could be explored further.

I can’t think of any to avoid, except anything that won’t hold your interest for years of study.

2016 Academic Lecture  |  Listen here

Dr. Charles E. Hill, delivers the Spring 2016 Academic Lecture at RTS Orlando on the theory of the early development of the NT text. Offering an alternative solution to long held views.

Can you share any of your current research projects with us?

Of most interest to readers of this blog might be the work I’m doing on textual divisions in early manuscripts. For the Michael Holmes FS I did an investigation of early manuscripts of John, focusing on what appears to be a very early template for textual division, best preserved in P75 and in B. Among other things, I think it indicates that the scribes of Vaticanus probably had access to a very early copy, or copies, of John. My paper at SBL last November (2015) carried the study through to the other three Gospels, and I’m hoping to take this research further.

Following up on the work begun in ETNT, I’m working on updating the prevailing theoretical model for the early development of the NT text. Extending work on the Johannine Corpus (The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church) I’m also working on a book on the composition of John, in which I’m revisiting theories of multiple editions of the Gospel. Also I’m writing something on the socio-theological context of 13 John. If I should live long enough, I’m hoping to write a commentary on John.

Dr. Hill, thank you so much for your time and experience.

Thank you for your interest!

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Flourishing Field of New Testament Textual Criticism

In 1973, Eldon J. Epp held a lecture on what he regarded as the “Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism” (published in JBL 93 [1974]: 386–414). He suggested that there had been an interlude ever since the golden era of the 19th century, which had peaked with the work of Westcott and Hort. A few years, Epp published an article in JBL 98 (1979): 94-98, entitled “New Testament Textual Criticism in America: Requiem for a Discipline,” in which he lamented the contemporary situation of the discipline. The term “interlude,” is of course much more optimistic than “requiem.” The latter suggests the death of the discipline, whereas “interlude” gives hope of resurrection and new life.

Two decades later, it was Larrys Hurtado's turn to describe the field of New Testament textual criticism in an essay, “Beyond the Interlude? Developments and Directions in New Testament Textual Criticism,” in Studies in the Early Text of the Gospels and Acts (ed. D. G. K. Taylor; Birmingham: University of Birmingham Press, 1999), 26-48. Taking his Doktorvater Epp’s pessimistic survey as the point of departure, Hurtado stated at the outset that Epp’s analysis of the situation was essentially correct, but now he could cite various signs of vigor in the discipline and conclude that things were not as bad any longer. Interestingly, when Epp’s collected essays were published by Brill in 2005, one can read in the notes he had added to his “Twentieth Century Interlude” essay that although he stands by his views in broad terms, he does agree with his PhD student, referring to Hurtado’s essay, that “the ‘interlude’ in recent decades has been undercut by increased interest in the field, significantly larger numbers of participants, numerous text-critical projects and publications, and brighter prospects for the future.”

In this blogpost I would like to mention another important sign that the discipline of New Testament textual criticism is currently beginning to flourish, and that the 21th century might become a new golden era: the representation of textual criticism at international conferences. There are now a number of established units and seminars at various meetings:

1. SBL Annual Meeting

A. New Testament Textual Criticism (chair: Jennifer Knust)

Description: The New Testament Textual Criticism Section seeks to foster the study and criticism of the text of the New Testament—including examination of manuscripts and other sources, restoration of the text, and especially the investigation of the history of its transmission—in its Late Antique cultural context. SBL has had a group dedicated to this topic as far back as 1946.

Call for papers (2016): The NTTC Section is sponsoring two open sessions in 2016: (1) A panel designed to reconsider the periodization of controlled versus fixed New Testament texts. Questions to be considered include: Is it accurate to assume that NT texts, which could be quite fluid early on, became more stable in the post-Constantinian period? Did the identification of particular texts as sacred scriptures impact the transmission of these texts? How? (2) An open panel that welcomes papers on all aspects of the textual transmission of the New Testament. Papers addressing second-century textual traditions, scribal habits, comparative book typology, and the impact of author attribution are especially welcome this year. The Section is also co-sponsoring an invited panel with the International Quranic Studies Association that will compare New Testament and Quranic textual criticism. 

B. Novum Testamentum Graecum: Editio Critica Maior (chairs: Holger Strutwolf and Tommy Wasserman)

Description: The unit presents the on-going work on the Editio Critica Maior (ECM), a comprehensive text-critical edition of the Greek New Testament that exhibits the history of the Greek text through its first millennium as documented in manuscripts from the second century until the invention of letterpress printing. It provides scholars engaged in the tasks of exegesis and textual criticism with all the relevant materials found in Greek manuscripts, patristic citations, and early translations. The selection of Greek manuscripts rests on an evaluation of all known primary witnesses, and each of the manuscripts selected is cited completely with all its variants. This opens the way for a new understanding of the history of the text, the more so because all relevant evidence is stored on databases. The primary line of the ECM presents a text based on a careful application of internal and external criteria, streamlined by the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method.

Call for papers (2016): The unit presents the work on a comprehensive edition of the Greek New Testament in the making. New Testament scholars are invited to discuss achievements and goals.

2. SBL International Meeting

Working with Biblical Manuscripts (chairs: Timothy B. Sailors and Ronald van der Bergh)

Description: This program unit is devoted to the text of “biblical” writings, as understood in the broad sense of the term: This includes the Jewish Bible, early Jewish literature, and the Old Testament (in Hebrew and Aramaic, Greek, and other ancient languages), as well as early Christian literature and the New Testament (in Greek, Latin, and other ancient languages). We offer a forum for the investigation of all types of material witnesses related to the text of this literature—tablets, manuscripts, ostraca, inscriptions—and for the consideration of the textual form of this literature reflected in its citation and use by ancient authors and in writings from antiquity through the Middle Ages. This consists not only of contributions that deal with the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin textual witnesses, but also those that engage evidence in Ugaritic, Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Coptic, Armenian, and other linguistic traditions. A wide variety of additional issues related to textual criticism are also addressed, including epigraphy, manuscript studies, papyrology, codicology, paleography, scribal habits and the production of texts, the history of transmission (and its cultural, social, and religious settings), the practice of textual criticism from antiquity to modern times, restoration and conservation, the use of modern technology in studying this material, the production of critical editions, and discussions of particular passages.

Call for papers (2016): Papers concentrating on any aspect of textual criticism are welcome, particularly those that deal directly with manuscripts, i.e., papers that work with material witnesses to the text—tablets, ostraca, inscriptions, papyri, majuscules, minuscules, lectionaries.

3. European Association of Biblical Studies

Textual Criticism of the New Testament, the Old Testament and the Qur’an (chairs: Alba Fedeli and Theodora Panella)

Description: This research group focuses on the textual study and criticism of sacred texts from the ancient Eastern Mediterranean world that later had a global influence; the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’anic text. All three have similarities and differences. They have influenced other writings and at the same time have themselves undergone external influence bearing on questions of interrelationship, orality, textuality and language. Not only the aforementioned characteristics, but also their preservation and the copying as well as the proliferation of manuscripts are of particular interest to textual scholars.

The sine qua non of this research unit for Textual Criticism is the study of the major witnesses to the text of the Old Testament – the Hebrew Bible, the texts from Qumran, the Septuagint, the Masoretic Text – as well as the Aramaic Targumim, the Syriac translations, the Vulgate, Commentaries and others. Of course, also the study of the Critical and the Majority Text, of the versions of the New Testament, as well as the Patristic citations and commentaries, but also Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and others. And finally, the research unit includes the textual criticism of the Qur’an, standard text or authoritative text, and the qira’at tradition (that corresponds to different readings); the cultural milieu and context in which the Qur’anic text has been transmitted and used and the tradition of the commentaries.

Call for papers (2016): Two sessions are scheduled for the meeting in Leuven:
  • an open session where papers on any topic within the range of the interests of the research group are welcome.
  • a thematic session “Do margins matter?” focused on the structure and content of comments, notes, diagrams at the margins of the manuscripts, with the possibility of finding common elements and interactions between the traditions.
The “Textual Criticism of the New Testament, the Old Testament and the Qur’an” research group cordially invites the submission of proposals for papers for the forthcoming EABS meeting in Leuven. Generally the duration of papers to be read should not exceed 20 minutes. Abstracts (no more than 300 words) have to be enrolled through the EABS meeting website until 31st March 2016.  More details on dates and abstract submissions please check here.

4. Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS)

New Testament Textual Criticism Seminar (chairs: Claire Clivaz, Ulrich Schmid and Tommy Wasserman)

Rationale: The establishment of the New Testament text is a prerequisite for New Testament studies, and the subsequent history of the text (the textual variants) offers windows into the social history of Christianity and the reception of the text by ancient readers and interpreters. There can never be a strict border between the exegesis of the text and the «Wirkunsgeschichte» as reflected in the history of readings and the study of the NT manuscripts. . . .

New Testament textual criticism has experienced a strong development in recent years and is currently a thriving field of New Testament studies, as evident from the number of publications, including editions (Editio Critica Maior, Nestle-Aland 28, SBLGNT) and electronic tools, as well as a significant increase in activity at scholarly conferences.

The strong development in the digitization of NT manuscripts as undertaken by institutions worldwide, and the perspective of future digital tools and editions such as the forthcoming digital Nestle-Aland 28 strongly points to the necessity to open a new New Testament textual criticism seminar at the SNTS.

Programme (five years):
  •     Development and diversity of critical editions (2014)
  •     The history of readings (2015)
  •     The use of patristic evidence in New Testament textual criticism (2016)
  •     Digital challenges (2017)
  •     New Testament textual criticism in exegesis (2018) 

5. Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (organizers David Parker and Hugh Houghton)

Description: The Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament is usually held every two years in Birmingham, UK. Since the first meeting in 1997, an ever-increasing number of established scholars as well as doctoral students have participated in the 2-3 day programme. The themes have included scribal practice (2007), patristic citations (2011) and commentaries (2015), as well as broader topics. The colloquium traditionally includes an excursion to examine manuscripts in a local cathedral library and a closing dinner with a presentation. Several sets of proceedings have been published in the ‘Texts and Studies’ series (

Friday, March 18, 2016

New book on the Authority of Scripture

Today I received my copy of a new book: D.A. Carson (ed.), The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016). It is quite a big book (36 chapters and 1,240 pages), so this is not a review, more of an initial reaction and recommendation.

For information on the general motivation there is an interesting video of Don Carson on the Eerdmans website, also some discussion on Justin Taylor’s blog where you can see a detailed list of chapters. For some early push-back on Carson’s framing of the book see the comments from Nijay Gupta: Why I’m Disappointed with DA Carson’s New Book (for part of the back story see here).

Here is a list of chapters (sorry for the length):

1. D. A. Carson, “The Many Facets of the Current Discussion”

Part 1: Historical Topics 

2. Charles E. Hill, “‘The Truth Above All Demonstration’: Scripture in the Patristic Period to Augustine”
3. Robert Kolb, “The Bible in the Reformation and Protestant Orthodoxy”
4. Rodney L. Stiling, “Natural Philosophy and Biblical Authority in the Seventeenth Century”
5. John D. Woodbridge, “German Pietism and Scriptural Authority: The Question of Biblical Inerrancy”
6. Thomas H. McCall, “Wesleyan Theology and the Authority of Scripture: Historic Affirmations and Some Contemporary Issues”
7. Bradley N. Seeman, “The ‘Old Princetonians’ on Biblical Authority”
8. Glenn S. Sunshine, “Accommodation Historically Considered”
9. David Gibson, “The Answering Speech of Men: Karl Barth on Holy Scripture”
10. Anthony N. S. Lane, “Roman Catholic Views of Biblical Authority from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present”

Part 2: Biblical and Theological Topics

11. Stephen G. Dempster, “The Old Testament Canon, Josephus, and Cognitive Environment”
12. V. Philips Long, “‘Competing Histories, Competing Theologies?’ Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Old Testament(s’ Readers)”
13. Peter J. Williams, “Ehrman’s Equivocations and the Inerrancy of the Original Text”
14. Simon Gathercole, “E Pluribus Unim? Apostolic Unity and Early Christian Literature”
15. Graham A. Cole, “Why a Book? Why This Book? Why the Particular Order within This Book? Some Theological Reflections on the Canon”
16. Peter F. Jensen, “God and the Bible”
17. Henri A. G. Blocher, ‘God and the Scripture Writers: The Question of Double Authorship”
18. Bruce K. Waltke, “Myth, History, and the Bible”
19. Barry G. Webb, “Biblical Authority and Diverse Literary Genres”
20. Mark D. Thompson, “The Generous Gift of a Gracious Father: Toward a Theological Account of the Clarity of Scripture”
21. Osvaldo Padilla, “Postconservative Theologians and Scriptural Authority”
22. Craig L. Blomberg, “Reflections on Jesus’ View of the Old Testament”
23. Douglas J. Moo and Andrew David Naselli, “The Problem of the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament”
24. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “May We Go Beyond What Is Written After All? The Pattern of Theological Authority and the problem of Doctrinal Development”

Part 3: Philosophical and Epistemological Topics

25. James Beilby, “Contemporary Religious Epistemology: Some Key Aspects”
26. R. Scott Smith, “Non-Foundational Epistemologies and the Truth of Scripture”
27. Michael C. Rea, “Authority and Truth”
28. Paul Helm, “The Idea of Inerrancy”
29. Richard Lints, “To Whom Does the Text Belong? Communities of Interpretation and the Interpretation of Communities”
30. Kirsten Birkett, “Science and Scripture”

Part 4: Comparative Religions Topics

31. Te-Li Lau, “Knowing the Bible Is the Word of God Despite Competing Claims”
32. Ida Glaser, “Qur’anic Challenges for the Bible Reader”
33. Timothy C. Tennent, “Can Hindu Scriptures Serve as a “Tutor” to Christ?”
34. Harold Netland and Alex G. Smith, “Buddhist Sutras and Christian Revelation”

Part 5: Thinking Holistically

35. Daniel M. Doriani, “Take, Read”

Part 6: FAQs

36. D. A. Carson, “Summarizing FAQs”

The essays I read were all interesting, well-informed, confident that they could defend the authority of the Bible against the challenges it faces. I especially liked Hill’s essay on Scripture in the early church, obviously that is because it dealt with a lot of things I am personally and professionally interested in, but also because it is obvious that Hill has worked in detail and for a long time with the questions he is addressing about this period. So it challenged me to think about the data and the argument. Readers of this blog will enjoy that essay. They will also enjoy Pete Williams’ essay, hopefully this will help straighten out a lot of discussions of the inspiration of the original text of Scripture (readers of this blog will have already figured this out from Pete’s posts). I dipped into some of the history chapters, read all the biblical chapters, enjoyed some of the more theological discussions and completely avoided the philosophical and comparative religion chapters.

The first thing I noticed, and needed to figure out in order to appreciate the book at all, is that in general for this book the “authority” of Scripture is basically regarded as synonymous with the “inerrancy” of Scripture. In fact the indices show that “inspiration” and “inerrancy” are addressed far more frequently than “authority”. In addition, the book does not seek to demonstrate the authority (or inspiration or inerrancy) of Scripture. It basically presumes the doctrine and is then shaped around the many challenges to the authority of Scripture. For example, there is an interesting essay attributed* to D.J. Moo and A.D. Naselli, ‘The Problem of the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament’. The first sentence is as follows:
Does the use of the OT in the NT argue against Scripture’s inerrancy? Many scholars think it does. This essay explains why it does not.‘ [my italics] (Of the 36 chapters at least a dozen could have used an equivalent first sentence for their topics.) 
The essay discusses the topic of the NT use of the OT as a “problem”. It is not discussed as part of the data by which a responsible contemporary evangelical doctrine of Scripture might be formulated, it is rather presented as a problem to inerrancy. In fact by the end of the essay it is still a problem: ‘the phenomena of the OT in the NT, then, constitute a mixed picture for the doctrine of inerrancy.’ But in the end the problem can’t trump the doctrine. The final sentence: ‘Certainly, in our view, the issues do not constitute enough “inductive” data to overthrow the clear claims of Scripture for itself, claims that the Christian church through the centuries has recognized as significant to provide clear and enduring authority for the people of God.’ But this whole issue of the relationship between a “deductive” approach and an “inductive” approach to sourcing the doctrine of Scripture is never actually addressed. I went to the index and checked for discussions of the “phenomena” of Scripture - the actual nitty gritty of the Bible as it really is - and found only two pages (p. 55 where Hill argues that we shouldn’t think that the church fathers were ignorant of discrepancies between the Gospels; and p. 1159 where I couldn’t actually find the word). (Incidentally there is no essay on discrepancies between the Gospels and how this is not a problem.)

So the second thing I noticed is that for whatever reason ‘the clear claims of Scripture for itself’ (quoting Moo & Naselli from above) are never discussed in this book. The book pretty much assumes an already formulated doctrine of Scripture and seeks to defend that doctrine against various challenges. This is important because of something V. Philips Long says in his essay on OT history:
‘it is no good defending a text with respect to claims that it never makes’ (p. 387 my italics). 
So it would have been helpful to have some constructive discussions to articulate what ‘the claims of Scripture for itself’ really are. I had an ironic moment in reading Graham Cole’s very interesting chapter ‘Some Theological Reflections on the Canon’ when he complained about Brevard Childs: ‘the paucity of references in his major work on biblical theology to the role of the Holy Spirit in the production of Scripture is a singular weakness ... 2 Timothy 3:16 hardly figures in his work and 2 Peter 1:21 not at all according to his index of biblical references’ (p. 466).
Of course the irony is that this collection is equally lacking in treating these topics. There is practically nothing on the work of the Holy Spirit (in fact the first entry under ‘Holy Spirit’ in the index is ‘inspiration’, but next to it is only blank space, no page numbers!); the only actual engagement with 2 Tim 3.16 comes in a critique of Karl Barth’s exegesis of the passage, otherwise there are only glancing references which presume rather than demonstrate what it teaches (2 Peter 1.21 does appear in the index, but is not discussed in any substantial manner).

The third thing I noticed, building on the first two observations, is that only seven of the 36 chapters deal directly with the Bible. The weight of the whole collection is spread out fairly evenly over the major areas: history, theology, Bible, philosophy, and the helpful new areas of comparative religious issues in relation to the authority of Scripture. But I found it interesting that a book about the Bible’s inspiration and independent authority over the people of God begins not with the Bible itself, but with church history - nine chapters to get the tradition straight before we get to the Biblical chapters.

The fourth thing I noticed is that in fact lots of the biblical essays don’t really deal with the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture very straightforwardly. In fact a lot of them barely deal with the Bible at all (in this I would count Dempster, Long, Williams, and Waltke), but are discussions about background to or secondary discussions about the Bible. Dempster’s essay is about Josephus’ view of the OT canon, arguing that Josephus had a clear and closed view of the OT canon and then that this was (could have been?) part of the ‘cognitive environment’ of early Christianity. It is a helpful historical essay and it engages well with the issue, the arguments and the evidence. Long’s essay is a very general discussion of the problems in contemporary history of Israel study and how theists can engage with the debates. Williams defines the original text, in critical dialogue with B.D. Erhman, as the immaterial text which survives in the manuscript tradition and then mounts a brief 12 point defence of the presumption that the text of the New Testament has been transmitted reliably. Gathercole defends a broad apostolic unity around 1 Cor 15.3-11, and then spends 17 pages defending the apostolic connections to (not necessarily ‘authorship of’) the four canonical gospels. It is interesting stuff, but does Scripture itself claim apostolic authorship for the Gospels? Or is that a product of church tradition? In any case, the relationship between this discussion and the inspiration of Scripture is never articulated.

Only two of these essays reflect back on the definition of the authority of Scripture from the perspective of their subject. Blomberg discusses Jesus’ view of the OT, running a refreshed version of J.W. Wenham’s argument: ‘When it comes to the inspiration, truthfulness, authority, and relevance of the Bible of his world, Jesus could scarcely have held to higher views.’ (p. 696) ... ‘If we are followers of Jesus, we will want to adopt his view of the Scriptures.’ (p. 699)  Blomberg does then deal with the way that Jesus’ use of the OT also challenges some conservative views, especially on the interpretation of the revered Scripture. Webb describes the diverse literary genres which are found in the Bible. I found this a very interesting essay because he was not too bothered with the secondary literature and he went back to consider how the doctrine of Scripture might actually be re-shaped by the content and genres of Scripture itself. His question was: 
 ‘what are the implications of this diversity [of genres] for the kind of authority the Bible exercises?’ (p. 613) 
Personally I think I would have been helped more if this question had been asked more often.

Fifthly, there is a problem in relation to the chronology of the essays. The original essays were distributed in advance of a conference held in June 2010 and the book is published in 2016. D.A. Carson recognises the problem and suggests ‘most of these papers are sufficiently weighty and robust that they will not quickly become dated’ (p. xvi). The difficulty is obvious - you can’t expect authors to continually up-date essays while waiting for all the contributors to finish up. But the outcome does occasionally look a bit odd because the essays don’t address publications from the last five years, or we get the occasional distracting footnote: ‘Regrettably, I learned of Kevin Vanhoozer’s Remythologizing Theology, Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010) too late to use it in this essay.’ (p. 545) In addition, some topics seem more important now than they did six or seven years ago (pseudonymity, OT text issues, Septuagint).

In conclusion, I confess I haven’t yet found this book deeply satisfying. Intellectually, emotionally and spiritually it didn’t engage me in the way I hoped it would. Nevertheless, I’m glad I bought it. I’ve already found several of the essays useful in helping me articulate a high view of Scripture’s authority. I’m sure I’ll refer back to it on a variety of issues.

*I have some suspicions about this essay on stylistic and content grounds.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fischer's Prescience in 1970 on the Use of Computers for Textual Criticism

I just read an article by Bonifatius Fischer on the use of computers in New Testament studies. What makes it interesting is that it was written in 1970. Here are a couple of points that stood out to me. I especially liked this quote near the beginning:
It is strange in general that the use of a computer is taken in the public mind as a proof of scholarly thoroughness. Why does the same not hold for the use of a fountain-pen or a typewriter, especially an electric one? 
Fischer does not think computers hold much promise for questions of authorship. But he is enthusiastic about their use for textual criticism.
After so much pessimism we come at last to a field where the computer is of great importance to the student of the New Testament, indeed where it opens up a new dimension and makes possible what hitherto the scholar had not even dared to dream of: that is, in textual criticism.
He distinguishes between manuscripts “with all their peculiarities” and the “purely abstract sequence of readings” that can be fed into computers.
In textual criticism a strict distinction must be made between the logical, abstract, order and the concrete, historical, order: one might say, between the abstract textual criticism of variants and the concrete study of the tradition which is rooted in the historical environment. The various manuscripts with all their peculiarities and casual errors belong to the concrete, historical, order, and with them the whole indirect tradition in quotations, translations, etc. In the logical order there corresponds to every manuscript a particular series or combination of readings, which are quite abstracted from space and time, from the question of what is true or false, original or derived, given or received. This is not the current distinction between the manuscript and the text it transmits: the text itself is here a purely abstract sequence of readings, not a historical object. So in the logical order we have only sequences of readings, not real but only nominal manuscripts. But these and all their mutual relationships can be represented in quantitative, mathematical, terms in set-theory by means of Venn diagrams. The same holds good for all the groups or sub-groups of these ‘nominal’ manuscripts. And since they can be mathematically represented, they can also be grasped and processed by a computer. 
Especially interesting is that near the end of the article he anticipates the basic procedure both of the CBGM and Stephen Carlson’s use of cladistic software for Galatians: the computer provides the basic structure of the textual forms and the human editor gives it direction by making judgments about the “truth or falsity of the readings.” In hindsight, it may seem fairly obvious, but this was 1970 and computers were using punch-cards.
Two stages must be distinguished. In the first the relations between the manuscripts and the texts are defined on the basis of all their readings, irrespective of whether these readings are true or false: this stage is a purely mathematical process which can be done by a computer—indeed in so complicated a case as the New Testament it should be done by a computer. Then follows the second stage, the proper task of the textual critic, the judgement of the truth or falsity of the readings, the recension of the original text and perhaps also of its more important subsequent forms, and the reconstruction of the history of its transmission. This is a task that only a man can perform: it is beyond the capacities of a computer. But it rests on the firm basis that the computer supplies.  
Source: Fischer, Bonifatius. “The Use of Computers in New Testament Studies, with Special Reference to Textual Criticism.” JTS 21.2 (1970): 297–308.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Codex Bezae on Display Now

Just a note to those in or near Cambridge that Codex Bezae is said to go on display today at the University Library.

Probably not the page they’ll put on display.
I was there a few days ago and saw them setting up, but the displays themselves were off limits. Hopefully I can get over there this weekend to see the great manuscripts. If you’re not in Cambridge, you can still view the manuscript online.

Other Biblical items on display include:
All the items on display are available for viewing online as well.

Update: I went over today and Bezae is on display along with the other items listed above. Also Codex Zacynthius, one of two (?) fragments of Origen’s Hexapla, a medieval Hebrew Bible, some papyri and other interesting books were on display. Unfortunately the the three- and four-year-old accompanying me were not as impressed as I hoped so our visit was cut short. I’ll have to go back.

Update: Some photos (PMH):


Thursday, March 10, 2016

ETC Interview with Chuck Hill: Part 1

I am pleased to introduce our next interviewee in our ETC interviews series. Dr. Charles E. Hill completed his PhD on eschatology in the early Church at the University of Cambridge under Lord Rowan Williams of Oystermouth (yes, they still use such fantastic titles in England). More recently Dr. Hill has turned his attention to issues of NT text and canon in his Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy (2010) and The Early Text of the New Testament (2012) which includes several contributions from our ETC bloggers. He is also a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and is currently the John R. Richardson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Florida. Thanks to Pete Head for some of these questions.

PG: Few people probably know that your first degree was in fine art and you worked for a period as a graphic artist (a fine job to have, if I may say so). Is there any particular piece of art that you find yourself coming back to again and again?

CH: Not really, though I would say that I find myself being more and more fascinated by the beauty of creation. I can stare at trees and clouds for a long time (hopefully this is not just a sign of aging). I still have favorite artists: Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dürer, Caravaggio, and now, my kids. Somebody else who heard of my art background and didn’t realize that I’ve been out of it for the past several decades actually invited to give a lecture this spring on Salvador Dali before leading a tour through the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. That ought to be an interesting experience.

Readers of this blog will probably be familiar with your more recent text critical work, but your Cambridge dissertation was on the topic of eschatology in early Christian thought. Having worked on that topic, what led to your interest in textual criticism?

In the early nineties I was given a book on the Muratorian Fragment to review. At the time, I didn’t know very much about the formation of the NT canon per se. But having spent a great deal of time in the second century for my dissertation, I found several of this author’s conceptions about the second-century writers to be at odds with those I had developed. The experience of writing that review, along with some other things that were happing in scholarship at about that time (Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, for example), convinced me that the issues of canon and text were ones where there might be a real need for scholarship.

Shortly after that, I came to RTS, where teaching both NT textual criticism and the NT canon happened to fall to my lot. From very early on I also had an interest in manuscripts. I think the art background was certainly part of that, not only because of the aesthetics of the manuscripts, but also the artefactual, material-culture aspect. Maybe for all these reasons, and because I was not trained as a textual critic, my particular interest has not been so much on what you might call textual criticism in the traditional sense, the art/science and methods of establishing the text. I’ve been most interested in what happened with the text in the process of transmission, in how Christians were using the text, and in what the NT manuscripts as material objects can tell us about those things. We live in very exciting times, as you know, with more and more discoveries and with the wonderful increased access to digitized images. I hope this will lead to a real renaissance of manuscript and textual scholarship.

TC of the NT, OT and Qur'an

The European Association of Biblical Studies now has a research group focused on fostering cross-disciplinary conversation on the textual criticism of NT, OT and Qur'an. The programme from the website is pasted below. For more details go here.


This research group focuses on the textual study and criticism of sacred texts from the ancient Eastern Mediterranean world that later had a global influence; the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’anic text. All three have similarities and differences. They have influenced other writings and at the same time have themselves undergone external influence bearing on questions of interrelationship, orality, textuality and language. Not only the aforementioned characteristics, but also their preservation and the copying as well as the proliferation of manuscripts are of particular interest to textual scholars.

The sine qua non of this research unit for Textual Criticism is the study of the major witnesses to the text of the Old Testament – the Hebrew Bible, the texts from Qumran, the Septuagint, the Masoretic Text – as well as the Aramaic Targumim, the Syriac translations, the Vulgate, Commentaries and others. Of course, also the study of the Critical and the Majority Text, of the versions of the New Testament, as well as the Patristic citations and commentaries, but also Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and others. And finally, the research unit includes the textual criticism of the Qur’an, standard text or authoritative text, and the qira’at tradition (that corresponds to different readings); the cultural milieu and context in which the Qur’anic text has been transmitted and used and the tradition of the commentaries.

This research unit seeks to inspire debate among textual critics from all three fields.The scope/objectives of this group have the potential for expansion based on the materials, texts and approaches under discussion. Relevant topics for discussion would include:
  • The study of OT, NT or Qur’anic writings not only in manuscripts, but also inscribed or printed,
  • The texts themselves and the circumstances of their transmission
  • Types or groupings of texts
  • Reconstructions of forms of text
  • Textual Criticism and history
  • Textual Criticism and exegesis
  • Textual Criticism and theology
  • Textual Criticism and the world

Call for papers 2016

Two sessions are scheduled for the meeting in Leuven:
  1. an open session where papers on any topic within the range of the interests of the research group are welcome.
  2. a thematic session “Do margins matter?” focused on the structure and content of comments, notes, diagrams at the margins of the manuscripts, with the possibility of finding common elements and interactions between the traditions.
The “Textual Criticism of the New Testament, the Old Testament and the Qur’an” research group cordially invites the submission of proposals for papers for the forthcoming EABS meeting in Leuven. Generally the duration of papers to be read should not exceed 20 minutes. Abstracts (no more than 300 words) have to be enrolled through the EABS meeting website until 31st March 2016. More details on dates and abstract submissions please check here.

We welcome paper proposals that focus on the above mentioned topics and related aspects.

[HT Hugh Houghton]

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Hundreds More Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts from the British Library

Add. MS 9401 f. 3r. Genesis. Dated 1588.
Yesterday the British Library announced that more Hebrew manuscripts have now been digitized.
Our followers and readers will be delighted to learn that over 760 Hebrew manuscripts have now been uploaded to the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts. Generously funded by The Polonsky Foundation, the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project aims at digitising and providing free on-line access to well over 1250 Hebrew handwritten books from the Library’s collection. The project, which began in 2013 is due for completion in June 2016, when the full complement of manuscripts will be available to a global audience.
I haven’t found a reliable way to filter for Old Testament manuscripts yet. If someone knows, let me know in the comments. A keyword search for “Hebrew Bible” returned 818 results but plenty of these were false hits. Just poking around though there are some beautiful Hebrew Bible manuscripts in this collection.

Add MS 11657 f. 171v. Isaiah. Dated 1300-1399.

Add MS 15282 f. 75v. Exodus. Dated 1300-1324

Add MS 9402, f. 101r. Daniel. Dated  1588.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Antwerp University Summer School

This Summer the Antwerp University Summer School: Book and Culture – Religious Manuscripts, Hand Press Books and Prints (15th–19th centuries): Collections, Materials and Methodologies – will take place on 27 June – 1 July at the Ruusbroec Institute Library. (
The Summer School 2016 offers an interactive English-spoken training for 12 PhD students and postdocs who intensively use religious texts and visual media as source material for their research. The Summer School focuses on:  
  1. the materiality of manuscripts, hand press books and prints; 
  2. the way these sources have been gathered to build collections, and 
  3. various methodologies which may be used to analyze these sources
The training will focus on the relationship between the physical object and its metadata, and on “big data analysis” and on other techniques used in the Digital Humanities. Through hands-on sessions in the unique Ruusbroec Institute Library, and visits to three other important Antwerp historic, religious collections, participants will familiarize with religious collections and specific documents.
Lectures by: Erik Kwakkel (Leiden); David McKitterick (Cambridge); Falk Eisermann (Berlin); Evelyne Verheggen (Nijmegen); Pierre Delsaerdt (Antwerp); Hubert Meeus (Antwerp); Kees Schepers (Antwerp); Goran Proot (Antwerp and Paris); Tom Deneire (Antwerp); Daniël Ermens (Antwerp)
Visits to: Ruusbroec Institute Library; University of Antwerp Library - Special Collections; Heritage Library Hendrik Conscience; Carolus Borromeus Church

Fee € 150: including lunches, drinks and Summer School dinner
For registration, please send an e-mail to with the following information:
  • PhD or postdoc?
  • affiliation
  • current research project
  • short motivation for your registration
The number of participants is limited to 12 PhD students and postdocs. Admittance will be in order of registration. Master students can register but will only be admitted when the maximum number of participants is not reached. You will receive a confirmation of your admittance before 15 April 2016, which will include further details. For more information, please contact

Monastic Economies in Egypt and Palestine

Sorry for the late notice, but some readers may well be interested in this conference:

Please find below the programme for the Monastic Economies in Egypt and Palestine conference, which will take place in Oxford 16th-17th March, 2016. Attendance at the event is free, but registration is essential. To register, please email Further updates, including abstracts, will be posted at:

With best wishes,
Jenny Cromwell
Department of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

Monastic Economies in Egypt and Palestine, 5th–10th centuries CE
16th–17th March, Ertegun House, Oxford

Organisers: Louise Blanke, Jennifer Cromwell and Bryan Ward Perkins.

Wednesday 16th March

8.45 – 9.10 Registration
9.10 – 9.30 Introduction by Louise Blanke, Jennifer Cromwell and Bryan Ward Perkins.

Session I: Monastic food production and consumption
Session chair: Jennifer Cromwell

9.30 – 10.05 Alain Delattre: Agricultural management and food production at the monastery of Bawit
10.05 – 10.40 Dorota Dzierzbicka: Monastic vintages. The social and economic role of wine in Egyptian monasteries during the 5th–7th centuries.

Tea and coffee break

11.10 – 11.45 Darlene Brooks Hedstrom: Cooking, Baking and Serving: A Window into the kitchen of Egyptian Monastic Households and the Archaeology of Cooking.
11.45 – 12.20 Gábor Kalla: The refectory and the kitchen in the early Byzantine cloister of Tall Bi’a (Syria). The Egyptian and Palestinian connections.


Session II: The monastic estate (built environments and landholdings)
Session chair: Elisabeth O’Connell

13.30 – 14.05 Tomasz Derda and Joanna Wegner: The Naqlun fathers and their business affairs
14.05 – 14.40 Karel Innemée: St Macarius’s Monastery in Sketis: Questions raised by recent surveys
14.40 – 15.15 Jacob Ashkenazi and Mordechai Aviam: Economic growth and monastic built environment in Christian Galilee in Late Antiquity

Tea and coffee break

15.45 – 16.20 Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello: Monasteries as landowners: Evidence from the Egyptian village of Aphrodito (6th-8th centuries CE)
16.20 – 16.55 Arietta Papaconstantinou: Loans, land, and the Lord: Was credit important for monastic estates?
16.55 – 17.30 Davide Bianchi: A great monastic estate between Palaestina and Arabia

Thursday 17th March

Session III: Travel and pilgrimage
Session chair: Bryan Ward Perkins

9.00 – 9.35 Gesa Schenke: Egyptian Hagiotopography: documentary and literary evidence for the martyr veneration at monastic shrines
9.35 – 10.10 Tonio Sebastian Richter: The making of memory: visitors’ inscriptions in the Upper Egyptian monastery Deir Anba Hadra

Tea and coffee break

10.30 – 11.05 Orit Shamir: Garments and Shrouds of Egyptian and Nubian Pilgrims from Qasr al-Yahud, ninth century CE
11.05 – 11.40 Daniel Reynolds: Deconstructing the pilgrim economy
11.40 – 12.15 Paula Tutty: Monastic travels in fourth and fifth century Egypt


Session IV: Trade and the production and consumption of material goods
Session chair: Louise Blanke

13.30 – 14.05 Mennat Allah el Dorry: It’s a dung job: Exploring fuel disc production in Egyptian monasteries
14.05 – 14.40 Andrea Myers Achi: Illuminating the Scriptorium: Monastic economy and book production from the medieval monastery of St Michael in Egypt

Tea and coffee break

15.10 – 15.45 Daniel Caner: P.Colt 79 as evidence for the distinction between offerings (Prosphorai) and blessings (Eulogiai) in Byzantine Monasticism
15.45 -16.20 Sebastian Olschok: The economic complex of Deir Anba Hadra, Egypt


16.50- 17.30 Summary discussion led by Louise Blanke and Jennifer Cromwell

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

New Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts of Corpus Christi College, Oxford

An email from the librarian at Corpus Christi, Oxford informs me of a new catalogue which includes seven Biblical Hebrew manuscripts:

Corpus Library and Archives are delighted to announce the publication of A descriptive catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Edited by Peter E. Pormann (CCC 1994), the catalogue complements recently published volumes on the College’s Western and Greek manuscripts.

The editor, Profesor Peter Pormann (Manchester University) will be giving a David Patterson Lecture at 7.15 pm on Monday 7 March, in the Corpus auditorium: The Study of Hebrew in Medieval and Renaissance England: the Corpus connection

Here is a brief summary of the collection:

Although few in number, the College’s Hebrew manuscripts are outstanding in rarity and value. At the core of the collection are the seven Biblical manuscripts given to Corpus by John Claymond, each of which features an interlinear translation. Jewish and Christian scribes produced such texts in a collaborative effort during the mid-thirteenth century to provide tools for non-Jews to learn Hebrew. In addition the collection contains a near complete copy of Rashi’s biblical commentaries, and an Ashkenazi prayer book. In the latter, the owner, a Jew from Spain living in England, recorded different debts owed to him by a variety of Christian dignitaries around the year 1200. He did this in Judaeo-Arabic (i.e. Arabic written in Hebrew letters), and this document is the only one of its kind; no other texts are known to have been written in this language during the entire Middle Ages in the British Isles. Taken together, the Corpus collection forms one of the most important collections of Anglo-Jewish manuscripts in the world.

According to the VMR, Corpus Christi has only one Greek New Testament manuscript (l 2436).