Friday, February 24, 2017

Two Third-Century Papyri in John 1:34

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I am currently writing a chapter for an edited volume, where I treat a number of early scribal alterations relating to Christology. The following is an extract of the draft introduction of one of the examples in John 1:34:
One of Bart Ehrman's examples of possible "anti-adoptionistic" corruption  (treated on pp. 69-70 in the original edition of his Orthodox Corruption) is found in the baptism account in John 1:34. The main question here is whether John the Baptist calls Jesus ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, “the Son of God” (NRSV) or ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ, “God’s Chosen One” (now adopted in the NIV). Ehrman prefers the latter assuming that later scribes modified the text in order to avoid an adoptionistic interpretation: “[H]ere again the idea of Jesus’ election is associated with his baptism, an association that the orthodox took some pains to eschew” (Orthodox Corruption, 70)

Certainly the variant reading ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ deserves serious consideration, in particular in light of the external attestation, which is somewhat controversial. No papyrus witness is cited in support of the reading in the recent Nestle-Aland editions NA27-28 leaving the first hand of Codex Sinaiticus as its single Greek witness. On the other hand, 𝔓5vid is cited in its support in UBS4 but lacking in UBS5, whereas 𝔓106vid is cited in UBS5 but not in UBS4.
In the most recent Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources (edited by Blumell & Wayment [Baylor University Press, 2015]) both of these witnesses are reconstructed as reading ἐκλεκτός (p. 45, p. 62), although the notes to these readings are deficient (only citing evidence from NA27/28).

In the transcription of the IGNTP, the reconstruction of 𝔓5 has ἐκλεκτός

High res image of 𝔓5 here (CSNTM).

The IGNTP transcription of 𝔓106 also reconstructs ἐκλεκτός

High res image of 𝔓106 (look at the second line from the bottom).

This MS is discussed by co-blogger Peter Head in an article on NT papyri from Oxyrhynchus (Tyndale Bulletin 51.1 [2000]). In a note he says, "The reading is established, though not all the letters are visible (the edition has: ο [ε]κλεκ[τος, with dots under all of the visible letters except epsilon" (p. 12 n. 22).

Based on the IGNTP transcriptions, the forthcoming Editio Critica Maior edition of John will probably cite both papyri in support of ἐκλεκτός in John 1:34 (in which case I assume they will be cited thus in NA29).

This is a tough call, but In my opinion, both witnesses, dating to the third century, should be cited (ut videtur) in support of ἐκλεκτός. Do you agree with this judgement?

Another problem concerns the reading of the fourth-century papyrus 𝔓120. In the last line of the first page here, the editors reconstruct ο υιος ο, and the next page continues with του θ(εο)υ. Hence, a singular reading, ὁ υἱὸς ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ.


20 comments :

  1. Tommy: "an extract of the drafty introduction"

    Time to plug up those leaks before the wind blows too cold....

    Also, if there were supposedly a problem with εκλεκτος as a description of Christ, why then did not the supposedly anti-adoptionist scribes alter Lk 23.35 (ο χριστος ο του θεου εκλεκτος) in a similar manner?

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  2. Thanks Maurice! Regardless of the question of an "anti-adoptionistic" tendency, I am interested in the question whether to cite these two papyri (or not) in favor of εκλεκτος. What donyou think?

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  3. Being neither a papyrologist nor the son of a papyrologist, the best I can suggest is to cite either reading within these papyri with a qualified "vid?".

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  4. Yes, it is possible, but neither is cited in NA28. I am most optimistic about P106 due to the epsilon. I am ambiguous about P5.

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    1. I share your opinion. I am currently writing an article on exceptional variants in the text of the Gospel of John, for which I have decided to qualify P106 with "vid" and to add square brackets to [P5vid] because of its ambiguity. In my view, also the line length in P106 speaks in favor of ο εκλεκτος.

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    2. Thanks for the response Jan!

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  5. Cite everything that is really there, even with "vid" -- at least it lets people know where to look.

    Meanwhile - regarding the variant-unit in John 1:34 -

    The internal argument for "the chosen one" seems to require the existence of an anti-adoptionistic tendency among scribes, but why would such a tendency influence the transmission of John 1:34 but not Luke 23:35?

    And what about that conflate reading in Vercellensis?!

    Doesn't this essentially break down into a Western-Text-versus-everything-else contest?

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    1. P106 is not a "Western"witness is it?

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    2. "but why would such a tendency influence the transmission of John 1:34 but not Luke 23:35?"

      Because the scribes thought an adoptionist theology in Luke is Ok but not in John since Luke is obviously adoptionist but John is Arian (the word is God John 1:1 but John 17:3 Jesus says only the Father is the true God).???

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  6. Perhaps a GNT with an apparatus of witnesses should include an appendix that offers discussion of matters like this, rather than being content with such a vague appendage to a siglum as "vid."

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  7. Stephen, in digital editions you will hopefully be able to click on that siglum and get up an image.

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  8. The reference to P5vid in the UBS4 in favor of ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ in John 1:34 was an error removed in the UBS5. I have examined the fragment and it certainly reads CTOYϴ̅Y THE which is [ὁ υἱὸ]ς τοῦ θεοῦ Τῇ ἐ[παύριον]. The word ending in the sigma has been lost. As all but one manuscript read ὁ υἱὸς in this place, deeming it to have been ὁ ἐκλεκτός without any visible traces is an unreasonable conclusion.

    I checked the P106 fragment also via the INTF in Muenster, but I must confess the letters are far too degraded to demonstrate as much as the IGNTP transcription allows. The transcription used by the INTF is [ο]υ̣το̣ς εστ̣ι̣ν̣ [ο υιος] [του θ̅υ], and to be more specific, if you are not familiar with the notation, what is visible is YTOCECTIN (υ̣το̣ς εστ̣ι̣ν̣) and the papyrus is defective afterward, meaning the words following are completely lost. This is my conclusion as well based upon what I see in the image of the fragment.

    In short, neither papyrus fragment testifies in any way to the reading ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ.

    Ehrman himself is full of nonsense as to who has tampered with the text. I examined this folio in Aleph, a very singular document and the only MS reading ὁ ἐκλεκτός τοῦ θεοῦ. The typical number of letters per line in this particular column is eleven or twelve, and outdented columns around 13 or 14 letters. In this place, there are exactly SEVENTEEN letters crammed into the line, and in order to fit it all he has been forced to superscript three of the letters in ἐκλεκτός. However, the construction TOCECTINOY̅S, the reading found in every other known manuscript is, exactly, eleven letters. The more reasonable conclusion is that the scribe of Aleph was not faithful to his source document, which must have read OY̅S (i.e., ὁ υἱὸς).

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    1. Dear anonymous (please sign if you can), Well, it is not as simple as that. The transcription of INTF which your refer to has not been updated for years. In the new examination by the editors of the Editio Critica Maior (in extension Nestle-Aland 29), the reconstruction of P106 is in support of εκλεκτος which goes with the editio princeps (see also the note in that transcription). It is trickier with P5. I do not think there was a nomen sacrum, because in the other cases the overbar extends to the right of the word, and this does not happen in P5 although there is some ink there... In any case, the space apparently suggests εκλεκτος, but I am more hesitant about this one.

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    2. Thank you for your response. Apologies I do not have a sign in (my name is Brian) In regard to your response, as I said previously I was not relying on the INTF transcription even though I agreed, for the most part, with it. What I said was based upon what I could see with my eyes.

      I do not believe it is responsible to conclude that a fragment supports a word where the actual fragment is defective, which is the case in both papyri. For perspective, I would not list either in favor of ὁ υἱὸς in an apparatus for that same reason, though in discussion I will say my OPINION that reading is more likely for P5, and perhaps not as likely for P106. You are correct in stating, regarding P5, that "in other cases the overbar extends to the right of the word." But more responsibly it should be said that the overbar "typically" extends to the right, because it does not always. In John 16:17 and 16:28, for instance, the overbar terminates before the end of the letter and even with the letter, respectively. Also in 16:19, the overbar is drawn very thick and ends nearly flush with the sigma. Therefore when you say "although there is some ink there," right above the remaining portion of the sigma in John 1:34, then you have no certain way of asserting that ἐκλεκτός was the original reading.

      In regards to the space in P5, I agree with your hesitation. I am estimating roughly 24-26 letters per line, would you agree? And yet here is 29, from what I gather, and the next line then must be around 27, before returning to normal. That is between 5 and 7 letter more than I, personally, would expect. In that ἐκλεκτός is 6 letters longer than υἱὸς in the papyri, I believe the latter reading is better supported. Of course, that is the problem with reconstructions, we do not know exactly where all the letters fall. In truth, we could debate endlessly. In my opinion, however, this fragment is defective and should not be cited either way.

      Concerning P106, it is the prerogative of the editors to list witnesses as they see them; I do not say it is responsible. What I read for certainty is οὗτός ἐστιν, and at second glance I see an epsilon (or theta) which, on account of spacing, may suggest ἐκλεκτός. I've seen constructions with more letters supposedly visible, but my eyes tell me this is a stretch. In my opinion, citing a defective witness as reading a word based upon a letter is precarious, and should not be done.

      My main point was against Ehrman. The gospel of John was written at Ephesus in Asia, modern Turkey, whereas based on the available evidence ἐκλεκτός appears to have originated in either North Africa or Syria, was not widely used, and did not move far from that region. And it seems to me, based upon how the reading is presented in Aleph, that ὁ υἱὸς was being censured.

      It is not found in any of the Asian writers. As the gospel was written against the adoptionist tendencies of the Gnostics (esp. Cerinthus; Cf. Irenaeus, AH, 3.11), and that they relied on the baptism of John to promote such a view, John omits the mention of the baptism but instead records the testimony of John the Baptist that Christ is the "Son of God" and that He, being six months younger according to the flesh, was before Him. I would say, based upon these circumstances, the evidence is quite against ἐκλεκτός being in any way genuine.

      Thank you for your time!

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    3. Thanks Brian! I am inclined to agree that P5 should not be cited at all whereas P106 may be cited ut videtur. As for the most likely initial reading I think it is εκλεκτος based on internal evidence.

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    4. Can you spell that out a little?

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  9. I forgot to say that P5 too will be cited in support of εκλεκτος in the ECM of John (and presumably NA29).

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  10. I'm just a layman with a couple of semesters of Greek under his belt, but I am fairly well read on the subject of textual criticism. As I've done my own research over the years into this topic I've come to the conclusion that much of the evidence given by professional textual critics is misrepresented, and in some cases flat out dishonest. There seems to be a desire for novelty and great leaps of conjecture on very flimsy evidence, especially when the latest theory casts doubt on historic Christian belief. I suppose a settled text would be a great disaster for professional textual critics, because then what would they do for a living? I don't think it's necessary to give examples, I'm sure Mr. Snapp would be glad to oblige if you want them. Now I pretty much classify textual critics with journalists and global warming scientists. Just wanted to put that out there from blue collar land. Thanks. P.S. I'm definitely not talking about Dr. Robinson, he rocks!

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    1. For the record, Robinson doesn't have a definitive "settled text" either, as witness the numerous Byzantine marginal alternative readings in RP2005, not to mention various minor textual changes in the progressive RP editions.

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    2. Anonymous, you may want to be more careful you word things, for as it stands your comments could easily be taken as impugning the character of many or most textual critics, few of whom, I'd hazard a guess, you've met. Also, it seems as though you take the reading under discussion here as casting doubt on historic Christian belief, but this claim would seem to require some defense, given such christological passages as Isa 42:1. I happen to prefer the Byzantine reading here (on internal as well as external grounds), but it's far from obvious to me that heretical interests led to the minority readings, and while I can only dissent from the theological stances of some textual critics, I think it's right to avoid lumping people together.

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