Monday, July 17, 2017

Greek Manuscripts in the K. W. Clark Collection (Duke University)

            The Kenneth W. Clark Collection of Greek Manuscripts, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (USA), is among the most impressive collections of New Testament manuscripts in the United States.  It currently contains 106 Greek manuscripts – almost half of which have been digitized.  Over a dozen of these digitized manuscripts contain text from the New Testament.  (An introduction to the Kenneth W. Clark Collection can be found online at the website of the Rubenstein Library at Duke University.)    
Below the headpiece and title of the Gospel of Matthew
in GA 1780, the initial letter Beta is zoomorphic,
resembling a fox and snake in combat.
            Here is a list of embedded links to digital images of the New Testament manuscripts in the Kenneth W. Clark Collection that have been digitized.  Some of the other volumes are also listed.  Digitized Gospel-manuscripts are indexed with embedded links to the beginning of each book. 

MS 1 is GA 1780 (Codex Branscombius, from c. 1200), which is especially notable because it contains all 27 books of the New Testament.  (See this earlier post for a description and basic index of digital page-views of 1780.)

MS 2 is GA Lect 1619, a very late (1600’s) Gospels-lectionary, with many blank pages.

MS 3 is GA 2423, a manuscript of Acts and the Epistles, from the 1200’s.  It is not yet digitized.  Hebrews is between Second Thessalonians and First Timothy.

MS 4 is GA 2268, a leaf from the Gospel of Mark, from c. 1300.  It contains text from Mark 1:1-14.  A portrait of Mark is in the headpiece. 
The beginning of the Gospel of Mark
in Clark MS 4 (GA 2268).

MS 5 is GA 2612, a manuscript of the Gospels (1200’s).  It is not yet digitized.  The order of the Gospels is said to be highly unusual:  Mark, Luke, John, Matthew. 

MS 6 is GA 2613, a manuscript of the Gospels from the 1000’s.  The pericope adulterae does not appear in the text of John (though a note in the margin mentions it), but it appears at the very end of the manuscript, following a lectionary-table that occupies several pages after the end of John 21. 
MS 7 is GA 2614, a manuscript of the Gospels from the 1200’s.   Matthew:  21Mark: 200Luke:  325John:  518.     

MS 10 is GA Lect 1965, a Gospels-lectionary from the 1100’s.  The text is formatted in two columns per page.  The Heothinon-series is included.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.

MS 12 is GA Lect 1966, a Gospels-lectionary from c. 1100.  The text is formatted in two columns per page.  The lection for Saint Pelagia’s Day (October 8), from John 8:3-11, begins on page 365.

MS 15 is GA 2615, a manuscript of the Gospels from the 1100’s.  Matthew:  5 (missing the opening page).  Mark:  145Luke:  233John:  382.  This manuscript was obtained by Kenneth W. Clark himself in 1950 in Egypt during a trip to Egypt and St. Catherine’s Monastery.  In Luke 24:42 its text includes the phrase, “and the rest He gave to them.”  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.  The pericope adulterae begins (in the text of John) on 421. 
            Some pages of GA 2615 are missing at the end; the text of John breaks off in 19:12 at the end of a page.  Curiously, after the chapter-list for the Gospel of Mark and before the beginning of the text of Mark (perhaps inserted out of order by an ancient repairer of the manuscript), page 138 contains only text from John 20:30b-31.       

MS 16 is GA 2616,  a manuscript of the Gospels from the 1100’s.  Matthew:  5Mark: 167Luke:  271John:  443.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online

MS 17 is a Psalter from the 1100’s. with some braided and/or colored initials.  It includes most of the Odes at the end, including the Magnificat, extracted from Luke 1:46ff.

MS 22 is GA 2491, a fragment from c. 1050.  It is not yet digitized.  It is a single leaf with text from Matthew 22:31-23:10.

MS 24 is GA Lect 1967, from the 1000’s.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 25 is GA 1813, a manuscript of the Gospels, from c. 1100.  Matthew:  19Mark:  145Luke:  225.  John:  367.   A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.  The copyist, Hierotheos, mentioned himself in a colophon at the end of the book.

MS 28 is GA Lect 648.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 31 is GA 2766, a manuscript of the Gospels, from the 1200’s.  It is not yet digitized.  It has pictures of the Evangelists.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.  

MS 38 is GA 2757, a manuscript of the Gospels, from c. 1100.  Matthew:  25 (Pigment from the picture of Matthew on the opposite page has severely damaged most of the text on this page.)  Mark:  165Luke:  261. (The headpiece to the Gospel of Luke contains the wrong title – Ευαγγέλϊον Κατὰ Μάρκον – as if the artist did not realize where he was at in the book.)  John: 421.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.          

MS 39 is GA Lect 2138, a very late Gospel-lectionary, from 1627.  The text is formatted in two columns per page.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.  The Synaxarion, Heothinon, Menologion are all included.  The copyist was Lucas Buzau, a prolific scribe whose manuscripts have reached multiple monasteries and museums.  

MS 43 is GA Lect 2145, a leaf from a Gospels-lectionary from the 1200’s, containing text from Luke 1:59-80 and Matthew 16:13-18.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 60 is GA 1423, Codex Daltonianus, a manuscript of the Gospels from c. 1000, with marginal commentary-material.  It is not yet digitized.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.    

MS 64 is GA 2757, a manuscript of the Gospels from c. 1300.  It is not yet digitized.  A PDF describing this manuscript, prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe III, is available online.

MS 65 is GA Lect 1839, a Gospels-lectionary from the 1000’s.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 82 is GA Lect 1623, a Gospels-lectionary from c. 1200.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 83 is GA Lect 302, a Gospels-lectionary from c. 1450.  It is not yet digitized. 

MS 84 is a manuscript of the Gospels from c. 1150.  It is not yet digitized. 

In Clark MS 106, on this page, in the second column,
an account of the life of Gregory, missionary to
Armenia, begins (for September 30).
MS 85 is GA Lect 451, a Gospels-lectionary from 1052.  It is not yet digitized.  The copyist’s name was Clement.

MS 89 is a fragment from a Gospels-lectionary from the 1100’s.  It is not yet digitized.  It contains text from Matthew 8:31-9:3.

MS 92 is a Gospels-lectionary from the 1100’s.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 93 is a Gospels-lectionary from the 1100’s.  It is not yet digitized. 

MS 100 is a manuscript of the Gospels and Revelation from c. 1000.  It is not yet digitized. 

MS 104 is a late lectionary (c. 1530?) with readings from the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles.  It is not yet digitized.

MS 106 has been described as a Menologion, but is a Menaion (containing saints’ biographies) for the month of September.  The text is formatted in two columns per page.  (This manuscript has been returned to Mount Athos.) 

Friday, July 14, 2017

First-century Mark: More Information!

Will something like this
(a model of what a first-century
fragment with text from Mark 1
might be like) be published soon?
            Remember the announcement in 2012 about the existence of a first-century manuscript-fragment from the Gospel of Mark?  Here we are five years later, and after various rumors have come and gone, it has still not been published.  This has led some folks to suspect that the announcement might have been premature, or that the dating must be wildly inaccurate, or even that it was all some sort of groundless claim. 
            However, footage of a discussion between Scott Carroll and Josh McDowell from 2015, provided by Hezekiah Domowski, was found by Elijah Hixson, and was recently described by Peter Gurry at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. 
            We already had the means to deduce – if one is willing to take the reports about the fragment at face value – that that the papyrus fragment is very early (possibly from the first century), and that it probably contains text from Mark chapter 1, and that Dirk Obbink was probably involved in analyzing its contents, and that Scott Carroll had seen the fragment. 
            Now some of the “probably” factor seems to be diminished.  We also learn in this video that the Green Collection does not have the manuscript, or, at least, that Scott Carroll was confident that someone else owned it in 2015.

            I made a full transcript of the discussion between Scott Carroll and Josh McDowell, and then checked it against the transcript made by Peter Gurry.  I have added a few embedded links and pictures.  Here it the transcript: 

McDowell:  How was it discovered, and who –

Carroll:  I can give you some basic information.  It’s in the process –

McDowell:  He’s limited on what he can share, because it’s being published right now and all, and the owner of it might want to remain anonymous, et cetera.  So he’s limited on what he can share with us.

Carroll:  Correct.  These things are tricky.  I first worked with the papyrus in 2012; so, it was discovered earlier than that.  It wasn’t discovered by me.  Although the group that’s working on its publication did some [??] – it’s very tempting, when you get the press, and Fox News, and other press agencies are after [it?]; you want to get information on it, and some stuff was leaked, and they contacted me, I think, about a year ago, wanting some definitive information on how it was extracted from a mummy-covering.  And I was not involved in that process.
            When I saw it, I can tell you, it was relaxed, which means it was flat.  If it had been extracted – if it was extracted from a context like that, there’s no evidence of it, to me.  It looks like it was just a text that was found.  Now, a lot of the texts that come to light in this kind of context, like, if I went back to the picture, and we looked at the pile, you can see that a lot of this stuff has white on it; and that’s, like, the residue of the plaster.  So these things came from mummy-coverings.

McDowell: Isn’t that interesting.  I thought it was [??] –  

Carroll:  No, no.  So, they probably were in a burial-setting, or something like that, and over time, it just separated, one from another, but we can look and it was originally part of it.  Now, this Mark may have been in that kind of context; I’m not sure.
            I saw it in, at Oxford University, at Christ Church College, and it was in the possession of an outstanding and well-known, eminent classicist.  I saw it again in 2013.  There were some delays with its purchasing.  And I was working at that time with the Green Family Collection, which I had the privilege of organizing and putting together for the Hobby Lobby family, and hoped that they would, at that time, acquire it.  And they delayed, and didn’t.  We were preparing an exhibit for the Vatican Library, and I wanted this to be the showpiece in that exhibit. 

McDowell: Why wouldn’t?

Carroll:  I know; wouldn’t that have been awesome?  But it was not the timing, and so it was passed on, and delayed.  It has since been acquired.  I can’t say by whom.  It is in the process of being prepared for publication.  And what’s important to say –

McDowell:  What does that mean?  ‘The process of being prepared’?  What does that mean?

Carroll:  It’s a lengthy process.  Actually, going through – especially with this, because it’s gonna get – it’s gonna go out there, and there are gonna be people immediate trying to tear it down, questioning its provenance, where it came from, what it dates to – especially the date.  So they want an ironclad argument on the dating of this document, so that it won’t be – um, they have a responsibility to do that.  This is going to be very critical, and raise – it’ll be a major flashpoint in the media when this happens.

McDowell:  Who’s the main person responsible in the publishing [process?]?

Carroll:  Well, the most important person of note is Dirk Obbink, who is –

McDowell:  This is a lot more information than we heard last time.

Carroll:  Yeah, it is.  Dirk Obbink is an outstanding scholar; he’s one of the world’s leading specialists on papyri. He directs the collection – for students who are in here, you may remember hearing the word ‘Oxyrhynchus’ Papyri – he is the director of the Oxyrhynchus papyri.  I can’t speak to his own personal faith position; I don’t think he would define himself as an evangelical in any sense of the word, but he is not – he doesn’t have a derogatory attitude at all.  He’s a supportive person.
            He specializes in the dating of handwriting.  And as he was looking at the – both times I saw the papyrus, it was in his possession – so, it was at Oxford, at Christ Church, and actually on his pool-table, in his office, along with a number of mummy-heads.  So, you have these mummy-heads –

McDowell:  So you played pool –

Carroll:  No.  And, you’ve got that document there, and that’s the setting – it’s kind of surreal.  And Dirk, Dirk was wrestling with dating somewhere between 70 A.D. and 120, 110, 120.

McDowell:  That early?

Carroll:  Yes, A.D.

McDowell;  Whoa.  That’s [??] an old manuscript. And Mark!

Carroll:  Mark is one that the critics have always dated late, so this is, like, I can hear their arguments being formulated now.  So this is what the later authors were quoting.

McDowell:  Folks, make sure:  that is all tentative.  And you may say that, right?”

Carroll:  Yeah, yeah.

McDowell:  That is just an assumption in there.  So don’t go out and say, “There’s a manuscript dated 70 A.D.”  How long do we have to wait, probably, to know specifically?

Carroll:  “I would say, in this next year, all right.  Any delays that are going to happen over the next couple of months are delays with the publisher to publish this.  If the route is to go to a major journal, they’ll of course want it to happen quickly, but there’ll be some delays through the whole academic process and all. 

McDowell:  So keep that in mind; that, don’t go out and say, well, Dr. Scott Carroll says it’s dated between 70 A.D. – we don’t really know yet.  But those are probably the parameters for it.  But it will be – now this is my opinion – the oldest ever discovered.

Carroll:  Yeah; I think this without question.  With manuscripts, um, the Rylands John fragment, it’s always like, 115 through 140 or maybe even later than that; so it’s kind of pushed to around the middle of the second century.  This is gonna be earlier than that; textbooks will change with this discovery.

McDowell:  So When this hits the media, you will hear about it.

Carroll:  Yes, you will.

McDowell:  It’ll be on every program.  So, be careful about what you share from tonight.  It’s good to be able to be updated and to hear [??]; I didn’t know that.  [Changing the subject:]  What is one of the most significant discoveries that have been made in the last four or five years?

And there the video ends. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eugene Peterson and The Message, Revisited

The Message:  Remix 2017
          Now that Eugene Peterson has advocated gay marriage – not just as a legal right, but as something that the body of Christ ought to bless – he should be regarded as one who has fallen away from the faith handed down to the saints.  I believe that this is how each and every one of Christ’s commissioned apostles would respond, prayerfully hoping and praying for him to repent.  [Update - July 13, 4:15 pm:  Peterson has retracted his earlier endorsement of gay marriage as a church rite.  Prayers answered, and quickly!]  
            With that in mind, I implore my fellow preachers, and anyone who has been treating Peterson’s “translation of tone,” The Message, as if it is a Bible translation, to stop using The Message in any ministry-context that would give people the impression that it is a Bible.  In February of 2015, I demonstrated that The Message is too inaccurate to qualify as a Bible translation.  Using Matthew 10 as a sample-passage, I showed that it is badly contaminated with additions, deletions, and alterations of various kinds which render it useless as a representation of the message conveyed by the original text of the Bible. 

            Why should Peterson’s affirmation that he would officiate at a same-sex marriage if he were asked to do so mean that Christians should not use The Message?  Perhaps for the same reason that when the author of How To Safely Drive a Car drives his car headlong into a wall at 100 miles an hour, it raises doubts about the wisdom of using his book to teach students how to drive.  Common sense ought to suggest that when someone openly defies the teachings of Scripture, his presentation of the meaning of Scripture might not be trustworthy. 
            But let’s not commit the genetic fallacy, right?  [Update, July 13, 4:15 pm:  whatever position Peterson holds - and earlier today, he affirmed that he subscribes to a Biblical view of marriage, one man to one woman - the flaws in The Message are still there.]  A close look at the contents of The Message reveals plenty of reasons to avoid using it.  Let’s examine specifically part of The Message that seems to have been adulterated because of the view which Peterson just now affirmed:  First Corinthians 6.

            For the first several verses of this chapter, Peterson’s paraphrase conveys the gist of the meaning of the original text; it is embellished but not obscured – until verse 6.  Where the text should mention that one brother take another brother to court (ἀδελφὸς μετὰ ἀδελφου), Peterson’s rendering loses the gender, stating only that “you are taking each other to court.”  But this is minor compared to what follows:  Peterson inserted a full sentence into end of verse 6:  “How can they render justice if they don’t believe in the God of justice?” 
            In First Corinthians 6:6, the Greek text is ἀλλα ἀδελφὸς μετὰ ἀδελφου κρίνεται, καί τουτο ἐπὶ ἀπίστων – but brother takes brother to judgment, and that before unbelievers.  This is adequately represented in The Message by the first part of verse 6:  “And here you are taking each other to court before people who don’t even believe in God!”  The rest of verse 6 in The Message – “How can they render justice if they don’t believe in the God of justice?” – has no foundation in the Greek text.  It comes from Eugene Peterson, not from Paul. 
            Perhaps one could overlook that in a “translation of tone,” regarding the insertion as completely unauthorized but rather benign.  Let’s move along to verses 9-10.  First, here are these two verses from the English Standard Version:

            “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Here is how the Christian Standard Bible renders the passage:
            “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom?  Do not be deceived:  No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 

And here’s verses 9-10 as they appear in the New International Version (2011 revision):  
            “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

You may notice that all three of these versions have something in common between the reference to adulterers and the reference to thieves, where the Greek text reads οὕτε ἀρσενοκοιται:
            ESV:  nor men who practice homosexuality
            CSB:  or males who have sex with males
            NIV:  nor men who have sex with men.

Yet in The Message this is what we find: 
            “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live?  Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom.  Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.”

            A more blatant case of watering down the meaning of Scripture would be hard to find.  Peterson butchered the text of First Corinthians 6:9-10 by removing Paul’s specific references to idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers, with generalizations – and, as if this was not enough, he added something brand new – “use and abuse the earth and everything in it” (which has no foundation in the Greek text).  Peterson thus erased Paul’s warning against committing homosexual acts (and other acts), and put words in Paul’s mouth as if Paul wrote something here against littering and pollution.  Both of these things are irresponsible – and some of those who have approved or recommended such butchery, committed under the cover of paraphrase, were also irresponsible.  (Looking at you, Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary.  You too, Michael Card and Max Lucado.) 

            Via this swindle of words, Peterson not only obscured the inspired apostle’s condemnation of fornication, adultery, sodomy, thievery, and so forth, but he also obscured the next verse’s statement that salvation is freely offered for those who repent of those acts.  A real Bible would inform its readers in First Corinthians 6:11 that among the Christians at Corinth, there were some individuals who had committed the specific acts that Paul warns against in verses 9-10 – and that they had been forgiven of those sins, as the New American Standard Bible puts it:  “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 
NavPress, something is wrong
with your product
The original text of First Corinthians 6:9-11 makes it clear that sodomy is classified as a sin, along with adultery and thievery; it also clearly states that those sins can be forgiven and that the guilty person who repents of those sins can be restored and become a child of God.  The Message does neither of those things in First Corinthians 6:9-11, because it is a counterfeit, not a real Bible.  It shouldn’t be called a Bible, and NavPress should never have marketed it as a Bible. 
            When The Message began to be deceitfully marketed as if it is the Word of God, I should have protested more vocally than we did.  I can’t go back in time and state my protests more forcefully.  I wish I could.  But I can say this:  I have no use for The Message as a paraphrase, and it is not very good as a commentary, either.  There is no good reason to preach or teach from The Message as if it is a Bible.  I advise everyone who has access to the KJV or NKJV or WEB or NIV or ESV or CSB or NASB to do to their copy of The Message what Eugene Peterson did to the meaning of the original text of First Corinthians 6:9-11:  tear it up and throw it away. 


Quotations from The Message are . . . oops; the copyright page is torn apart.  Let's see here . . . . 

The Message is Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.
Quotations from the ESV have been taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Quotations from the NIV have been taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®  Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers.  Used by permission.  Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

James White and Hebrews 1 - A Response

The first page of Hebrews
in Papyrus 46.
(Yellow circle = verse 3.)
            Recently, my post Fool and Knave! Hebrews 1 in Codex Vaticanus was the subject of part of a video broadcast by apologist James White (whom I shall call Dr. White in this post, since he accorded me the same title in his broadcast).  His main point seemed to be that it is possible for other people – particularly competitors or opponents – to misinterpret, reframe, or selectively edit one’s statements so as to misrepresent their intention. 
            Of course I agree with Dr. White about that.  Jesus Himself had His statements misused by those who wished to oppose Him.  However, along the way, some things were said which call for clarification, so I have cobbled together this response.            

● 25:50 – Just a little quibble:  Dr. White called the note in Codex Vaticanus alongside Hebrews 1:3 a colophon; however, a colophon is technically something else – more like a note by a copyist (rather than a later corrector) about when and where and by whom the manuscript was produced.  The note in Codex B alongside Hebrews 1:3 is just a note. 

● 27:30 – In the course of offering some thoughts about a variant-unit in Hebrews 1:8, Dr. White described me as a “Byzantine Priority-type textual critical scholar;” however, the term “Byzantine Priority” refers to a text-critical approach which favors Byzantine readings all the time, and that is not my view.  (I adopt και κριτὴς in James 4:12, for example.)  My approach is Equitable Eclecticism, in which readings with very strong intrinsic evidence in their favor are capable of being adopted instead of rival readings with much more abundant attestation.
            In his discussion about the presence or absence of “and ever” in Hebrews 1:8, Dr. White stated, “Other people would respond to that by saying, well, while that’s possible, and certainly there is something to be said about Alexandrian scribes desiring a concise, tight type text, it’s also just as possible and probable that there is the opposite tendency amongst the Byzantines to have a more flowing text, and  to have fuller titles, and especially in worship contexts, liturgical contexts, things like that; it could go the opposite direction.  So both of those have to be balanced.”
            I would be interested to know the identity of these “other people” who reject “and ever” in Hebrews 1:8.  For it is not just Byzantine Prioritists who adopt the longer reading there:  it is adopted in the Nestle-Aland compilation, and the UBS Greek New Testament accepts the longer reading without drawing attention to the shorter reading’s existence.  Michael Holmes (editor of the SBL-GNT) rejected Codex Vaticanus’ reading here too.  As far as I can tell, one has to reach back over a century, to Hort (of course) to find any editor willing to even bracket του αἰωνος; the inclusion of the words is reflected not only in the KJV and NKJV but also in the NIV, ESV, CSB, NLT, NRSV, and NASB
            Via his insistence that “Both of these have to be balanced” – both a reading that has massive and ancient and widespread support, and a reading with extremely limited support – Dr. White has illustrated a problem with the approach that has dominated the field of New Testament textual criticism for far too long:  it is often possible, if one is sufficiently creative, to imagine reasons to prefer readings with minimal external support.  To restate:  reasoned eclecticism, as it is currently practiced, opens a wide door to the acceptance of quirk-readings. 
            That is why the NIV currently has a reading in Mark 1:41 that is supported by only one Greek manuscript.  This is why the TNIV removed “Son of God” from Mark 1:1.  That is why Bart Ehrman argues for the reading “apart from God” in Hebrews 2:9.  That is why there is no reference to fasting in the text of Mark 9:29 in the ESV.  That is why, as Dr. White himself has observed, although the reading “not yet” in John 7:8 is supported by “an awesome array of witnesses” (including not only the Byzantine Text but also early papyri), the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation reads, instead, “not.”  And that is why the editors of the latest edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation took the next step in Second Peter 3:10:  they adopted a reading for which the editors created what was, to them, a plausible case, even though it is found in no Greek manuscripts.    
● 30:00 – Dr. White stated that he has said that “If you apply the same standards of hermeneutics and exegesis to the most Alexandrian text, and the most Byzantine text, you’re not going to come up with a different Christian faith.”  However, were Dr. White to undertake that task, I suspect that he would end up with two different Bibliologies – one in which the text of the New Testament is errant, and another in which the text of the New Testament is inerrant.      
            Inerrancy is a doctrine which cannot be proven; however, a demonstrable error in the text would show that the text is errant, Q.E.D.  Briefly leaving Dr. White’s video-broadcast, let’s explore the approach he used in his book The King James Only Controversy, when discussing a textual contest in Mark 1:2, and test its effects when applied to another variant.  (Speaking of The King James Only Controversy:  when will Dr. White acknowledge that his account of Tischendorf’s first encounter with Codex Sinaiticus in that book is incorrect??)
            Dr. White argued (I mean “argued” in the technical sense; he reasoned) that between the reading “in the prophets” (read by the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, and supported in a second-century composition by Irenaeus) and the reading “in Isaiah the prophet,” “it is much easier to understand why a scribe would try to “help Mark out,” so to speak, and correct what seems to be an errant citation than to figure out why someone would change it to “Isaiah the prophet.””
            Dr. White proceeded to propose that what appeared to scribes to be an error is actually a conventional way of referring to a conflated citation.  Dr. White and others have made similar arguments regarding not only Mark 1:2, but also Matthew 27:9, where two prophecies with similar themes are referenced using the name of only one.  However, does such reasoning work at Matthew 13:35? 
            Codex Sinaiticus – one of the two fourth-century manuscripts upon which the Nestle-Aland compilers lean most heavily and most often – identifies the prophet cited in Matthew 13:35 as Isaiah.  Problem:  the passage quoted there is Psalm 78:2, which was written by Asaph, not by Isaiah.  Eberhard Nestle (the first editor of what later became the Nestle-Aland compilation) considered Sinaiticus’ reading “certainly genuine.”  And if we were to apply the reasoning that Dr. White used to justify adopting “Isaiah the prophet” at Mark 1:2, how could we say otherwise?  It is much easier (using Dr. White’s reasoning) to understand why a scribe would try to help Matthew out, by removing the error, than to figure out why someone would put Isaiah’s name where it clearly does not belong. 
            And thus a case is made for the quirk-reading – in this case, a quirk-reading that, if adopted, would impact the doctrine of inerrancy, barring some desperate verbal acrobatics.  (The question of whether Biblical inerrancy is a cardinal Christian doctrine seems to be in dispute among some textual critics, by the way, even evangelical ones at Dallas Theological Seminary.)    
            Perhaps another example will be instructive.  The Alexandrian text, in Matthew 27:49, includes a statement that Jesus was struck with a spear before He died, which flatly contradicts the testimony in John 19:30-35.  (Does Dr. White think that this reading, too, has to be balanced?)  An argument could be made that this must be the original reading, on the grounds that it is the more difficult reading.  Without addressing the merits or defects of such a case, can it be denied that if one were to conclude that the errant Alexandrian reading in Matthew 27:49 were original, it would yield a different Bibliology than the non-problematic Byzantine reading? 

            More frequently, what is at stake is not a Christian doctrine, but the ability of a particular passage to teach what it originally taught.  And although, for the most part, Dr. White and I are saying the same thing about the ability of both the Nestle-Aland compilation and the Byzantine text (and some independent compilations) to adequately express Christian doctrine, we advocate two different approaches at this point.  
            Dr. White seems content, when encountering two rival variants, to say, “Both of those have to be balanced,” even when one has extremely meager external support, as long as a scenario can be imagined in which scribes created the reading that has massive and ancient support – whereas I would argue that quirk-readings should be treated as quirk-readings, and be rejected, rather than share the page with the inspired text. 
            Two examples of quirk-readings have already been provided, both from Hebrews 1:3:  it is not difficult to see how the words δι’ αυτου (or δι’ ἑαυτου) – “by Himself ” – could be lost via scribal negligence, when a copyist’s line of sight drifted from the final letters of δυνάμεως αὐτου to the letters του in the next word, thus skipping the letters in between.  The same kind of mistake explains the loss of the word ἡμων after ἀμαρτιων.  (In text-critical jargon, these are cases of parablepsis elicited by homoeoteleuton, and it is a very ordinary kind of scribal mistake.)  

Let’s look at three more examples of quirk-readings, all from the Gospel of Mark. 

            ● In Mark 10:50, in the account about the healing of blind Bartimaeus, Bartimaeus is said to throw aside his cloak as he jumps up, obeying Christ’s call.  In a respectably old Syriac manuscript, though, the text says that Bartimaeus, rather than putting down his cloak, took up his cloak.  A case can be imagined for the minority reading, the idea being that the story was tweaked by scribes who desired to turn Bartimaeus’ experience into an allegorical picture of repentance, in which the garments stained with sin are laid aside.  Should both of these readings therefore be perpetually retained, one in the text, and one in the margin, in our Greek compilations and in English versions, assuring that nobody will be confident about what Bartimaeus did with his cloak?       
            ● In Mark 10:24, in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts of Mark (and not just the medieval copies), Jesus tells His disciples, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.”  This reading is also supported by the Gothic version (made in the mid-300’s) and by a quotation made by Ephrem Syrus (in the mid-300’s) from Tatian’s Diatessaron (which was made around 170).  The flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian text, however, do not include the phrase “for those who trust in riches,” thus yielding the sentence, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” 
            Dr. White favored the Alexandrian reading of Mark 10:24 when he wrote The King James Only Controversy.  He reasoned that “It is easier to understand how the phrase could be added than to understand why it would be deleted.”  Is that so?  When I look at the Greek text –  Τέκνα, πως δύσκολόν ἐστιν τοὺς πεποιθότας ἐπὶ χρήμασιν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν του Θεου εἰσελθειν – it is very easy to see how the phrase would be deleted:  by simple scribal negligence, when a copyist’s line of sight drifted from the letters –ιν at the end of the word ἐστιν to the same letters at the end of the word χρήμασιν, thus accidentally skipping the words in between.  The longer reading, in this case, accounts for the origin of the shorter reading, and does so rather elegantly.  
            Dr. White acknowledged in his book that such a simple scribal error “is, of course, a possibility.”  But he did not conclude that the Alexandrian reading was incorrect.  Instead, he recommended putting a footnote at this passage:  “The reading should be noted if it is not contained in the text; or, if it is contained in the text, its absence in ﬡ or B should be noted as well.  In either case, the reader should be given all the information available.”
            However, this is both wishful thinking – for there is not an English translation in existence which gives readers all the information available – and wrong.  Such generosity toward minority-readings inevitably adulterates the force of the original reading, so as to cause readers to constantly wonder, “Where is the Word of God:  in the text, or in the footnote?”  Dr. White seems perfectly willing to reply that it doesn’t matter, since the same teachings emanate from the New Testament as a whole no matter which reading is adopted in that particular passage.  However, such an approach compels the original text in all those passages to share its authority with a scribal corruption.            
            ● A third example:  in Mark 10:19, the words “Do not defraud” are not in Codex Vaticanus, and some other uncial manuscripts concur.  This is not hard to explain:  the same mechanism that caused the loss of four words in Mark 10:24 caused the loss of two words here, when a copyist’s line of sight drifted from the letters –ρήσης at the end of μὴ ψευδομαρτυρήσης to the same letters at the end of μὴ ἀποστερήσης.     
            Is there really a need to inform Bible-readers about every passage where the copyists of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus made mistakes?  Should we clamor for more trivia in Bible-footnotes, so as to allow – nay, to cause – more glitch-readings to adulterate the authority of the original text?  Granting that we could afford to do so, I submit that the responsibility of textual critics is, rather, in the opposite direction:  the effects of scribal corruptions should be removed from the base-text, and expressions of indecision should be resorted to only in cases where the evidence is extremely closely contested.  I hope that Dr. White, upon further reflection, will agree.    

(Postscript:  in the forty-fourth minute of his video-lecture, as Dr. White read the textual apparatus for Hebrews 1:3, he misinterpreted the letter D as “Bezae Cantabrigiensis.”  Actually D in this passage stands for a different manuscript, Codex Claromontanus.) 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

America's Greek New Testament: Minuscule 1780

            In the Kenneth W. Clark Collection at Duke University, manuscript #1 is a volume containing the entire Greek New Testament:  minuscule 1780.  This manuscript should be of special interest to Americans, because ever since minuscule 1424 was returned to Greece in 2016, minuscule 1780 is one of only two complete Greek manuscript of the New Testament in the United States. 
            Minuscule 1780 has been digitized, and page-views are available at the website of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library of Duke University.  Besides the text of all 27 books of the New Testament, 1780 also has lectionary-tables, Ad Carpianus, the Eusebian Canon-tables, an introductory commentary/summary on the Gospels, book-introductions, chapter-lists, and a considerable amount of marginal commentary (which frequently is written in a cruciform shape).  Unfortunately, there is no index, so for those who might be encountering this manuscript for the first time, here is a basic index for minuscule 1780:

Canon-tables:  Page 13.
Chapter-list for Matthew:  page 53
Matthew:  page 55
Chapter-list for Mark:  page 95
Mark:  page 97
Chapter-list for Luke:  page 123
Luke:  page 125
(On page 131, the genealogy is formatted in five columns)
Chapter-list for John:  page 176
John:  page 177
(The story of the adulteress is in the text of John after 7:52 on page 190.)

(In Acts, the marginalia is much less abundant, consisting of notes, or scholia, rather than a full commentary.)
Prologue and chapter-list for Acts:  page 213
Acts:  page 217
(Acts 8:37 is included in the text on page 226)

Prologue to the Catholic Epistles:  page 250
James:  page 252 

Prologue to the Pauline Epistles: page 256
Romans:  page 263
End of Romans with pulpit-text in the margin:  page 277
First Corinthians:  page 279
Second Corinthians:  page 295
Galatians:  page 307
Ephesians:  page 313
            (notice the red “comet” symbol used to connect text to commentary in margin)
Philippians:  page 319
Colossians:  page 324 
First Thessalonians:  page 329 
Second Thessalonians:  page 334
First Timothy:  page 337 (some distigmai (umlauts) are in the side-margin) 
Second Timothy:  page 342 
Titus:  page 346 
Philemon:  page 348 
Hebrews:  page 251 

First Peter:  page 365
Second Peter:  page 370 
First John:  page 374
Second John: page 379
Third John:  page 380
Jude:  page 381

Revelation:  page 386   
(cruciform text:  page 399)
End of Revelation:  page 400

            Minuscule 1780 is such an exceptional manuscript that it really deserves a special title rather than just an identification-number.  I suggest the name Codex Branscombius, in honor of Bennett Harvie Branscomb (1894-1998), the Duke University professor (and, beginning in 1945, chancellor of Vanderbilt University) who acquired the manuscript, beginning what would become the Kenneth W. Clark Collection of Greek Manuscripts.
            Of course whenever a new manuscript comes to light, or when – as in this case – a known manuscript is made available to the public – a question is bound to arise:  how good is its text?  As a small sample of the quality of the text in 1780, let’s compare its contents in First Peter 1:1-12 to the same passage in Codex Sinaiticus, “The world’s oldest Bible,” most of which is currently housed at the British Library.  In the following comparison, I will use the Nestle-Aland compilation as the basis of comparison.  For each non-original letter, I will assign a point; for the absence of each original letter, I will also assign a point.  Transpositions will be mentioned but no points will be assigned for them.
            Since Codex Sinaiticus (signified as ﬡ, the Hebrew letter Aleph) is about 850 years older than 1780, let’s examine its text first.

1 – ﬡ [Aleph] has και after εκλεκτοις.  (+3)  [However, the kai-compendium is partly erased, and the erasure may have happened before the manuscript’s production was finished, so I will not count this in the total.]
1 – ﬡ has Γαλατειας instead of Γαλατιας (+1)
1 – ﬡ has Καππαδοκειας instead of Καππαδοκιας (+1)
1 – ﬡ does not have Ασιας.  (-5)  [The word is added in the margin by a later corrector.]
2 – ﬡ has πληθυνθιη instead of πληθυνθειη (-1)
3 – ﬡ has δια instead of δι’ (+1) 
4 – ﬡ transposes αμαραντον and αμιαντον
4 – ﬡ has ουρανω instead of ουρανοις (+1, -3)
5 – ﬡ has δυναμι instead of δυναμαι (-1)
5 – ﬡ has ετοιμως instead of ετοιμην (+2, -2)
6 – ﬡ does not have εστιν (-5)  [The word is added above the line by a later corrector.]
6 – ﬡ has λυπηθεντας instead of λυπηθεντες (+1, -1)
6 – ﬡ has πιρασμοις instead of πειρασμοις (-1)
7 – ﬡ has επενον instead of επαινον (+1, -2)
8 – ﬡ has αγαλλιασθαι instead of αγαλλιασθε (+2, -1)

            Sinaiticus’ text of First Peter 1:1-12 thus has 10 non-original letters, and is missing 22 original letters, for a total of 32 letters’ worth of corruption.

Now let’s look at the same passage in minuscule 1780.

2 – 1780 has απο Θ[εο]υ Π[α]τ[η]ρ after ειρηνη (+12, when the sacred names are uncontracted. )
7 – 1780 (with Byz) has τιμην και εις δοξαν instead of δοξαν και τιμην (transposition) (+3) 
8 – 1780 (with Byz) has ειδοτες instead of ιδοντες (+1, -1)
10 – 1780 (with Byz) has εξηρευνησαν instead of εξηραυνησαν (+1, -1)
12 – 1780 has απηγγέλη instead of ανηγγέλη (+1, -1)

            1780’s text of Second Peter 1:1-12 thus has 18 non-original letters, and is missing three original letters, for a total of 21 letters’ worth of corruption. 

            America’s Greek New Testament, at Duke University, is thus more accurate in First Peter 1:1-12 than “the world’s oldest Bible” at the British Library.  The copyists in Codex Sinaiticus’ Alexandrian transmission-line managed to make more non-original readings in 300 years in this passage than the copyists in minuscule 1780’s Byzantine transmission-line made in 1,150 years.  If not for one harmonistic reading in verse 2, minuscule 1780’s text of First Peter 1:1-12 would be three times more accurate than the text in Codex Sinaiticus.  This is truly a manuscript worth celebrating as a national treasure.

P. S. The other Greek New Testament in the United States was acquired in 1957; it is minuscule 680 and it is presently housed at the Yale University Library as Beinecke MS 248.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Museums of the Bible

The Museum of the Bible
            The countdown is on for the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., scheduled for November 17, 2017.  Perhaps then we will finally see if there is anything to the rumors of a first-century manuscript-fragment of the Gospel of Mark or not.  In the meantime, let’s not overlook the various museums and research-centers in the United States that already have Bible-related materials on exhibit or in their archives.  Here is a brief look at some of them.
             The Freer-Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. includes several Biblical manuscripts, including the Freer Gospels, also known as Codex Washingtoniensis.    

            The Goodspeed Manuscript Collection at the University of Chicago features 68 New Testament manuscripts, most of which are available to view online.  They include the infamous “Gangsters’ Bible” and a fifth-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark found at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt

            At Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library includes the Kenneth Willis Clark Collection of Greek ManuscriptsMinuscule 2613 (Manuscript 6 in the Clark Collection) is among the more notable manuscripts in the collection; in 2613, the story of the adulteress is included after the end of the Gospel of John.

The Holy Land Experience
                In Orlando, Florida, The Scriptorium:  Center for Biblical Antiquities  at The Holy Land Experience houses the Van Kampen Collection, which includes several Greek New Testament manuscripts, a Coptic manuscript from the 300’s with text from Jeremiah and the apocryphal book of Baruch, and the Syriac Yonan Codex, and several respectably old Latin manuscripts, as well as later copies of the Vulgate and the books which constituted the personal research-library of Eberhard Nestle.  The Holy Land Experience theme park also offers dramas and other interactive events that teach about the Bible and its message.  (Also in Orlando:  the Wycliffe Discovery Center.)
             The archives of the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland, though not specially designated as a Bible museum, contain numerous Biblical manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Armenian, and Ethiopic.  Many of them can be viewed page-by-page online.  Occasionally exhibits at the museum focus on Biblical subjects.   
            The University of Michigan has very many ancient manuscripts in its collections, some of which contain New Testament material.  By far the most significant and most ancient is a 30-leaf portion of Papyrus 46.  Also of historical importance are a 1536 copy of Tyndale’s English New Testament and a 1611 Authorized (King James) Version.

            The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library in Collegeville, Minnesota has a huge collection of Biblical manuscripts in a variety of early versions, including Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, and Ethiopic.

             The Morgan Library & Museum in New YorkNew York has a vast collection of medieval volumes, notable especially for their artistic content, including The Lindau Gospels and The Crusader Bible.

            The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has an impressive collection of medieval manuscripts which include some Biblical volumes.  One example is the Terrell Gospels, (minuscule 2322).  In 2012, the HRC has a special exhibition about the KJV and its history; some resources related to that exhibition are still online.  The center also has a permanent exhibition about the Gutenburg Bible.

            The Bible Museum at the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas has a collection of printed Bibles, including Erasmus’ 1516 Novum Instrumentum.  Inspired in part by a visit to Eureka Springs, Terry Snelling recently opened The Bible Museum in Houston, Missouri (not Texas) with a small but interesting collection.

            The Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University houses a variety of manuscripts, artifacts, Bible translations into Native American languages, Bible-era coins, and high-quality replicas.  

            The Museum of Biblical History in Collierville, Tennessee features kid-friendly programs and archaeology camps, and hosts lectures about the Bible. 

            Outside the United States, there are other museums which focus on the Bible and Bible-related objects.  One that seems to get a lot of online attention (possibly because of the similarity between its name and that of the Museum of the Bible) is St. Arnaud, Australia’s Bible Museum, which has in its collection unique tapestries based on famous Bible pages.

            Many Christian colleges and universities have small antiquities-museums; one notable example in Indiana is Anderson University’s Jeeninga Museum.  On the same campus, one can find a gallery than includes what is probably the most famous religious iconic image in the world, Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fool and Knave! Hebrews 1 in Codex Vaticanus

            Many textual critics consider Codex Vaticanus the centerpiece of the church’s collection of New Testament manuscripts.  Besides containing Greek text from much of the Old Testament (in a form of the Septuagint), Codex Vaticanus includes all books of the New Testament except First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation.  (After the book of Hebrews, which abruptly stops midway through 9:14 at the end of a page, the text of the book of Revelation is present, but it is written in handwriting typical of the 1400’s, and constitutes a separate manuscript from the much more ancient portion.)
            Today, let’s take a close look at one of the better-known pages of this important manuscript, which was produced around 325:  the page that contains the first chapter of the book of Hebrews.  I will simply list twelve features on this page, and describe them one by one.
            First, though, for those who might want to explore Codex Vaticanus’ pages directly, here is an index of the online images of the first page of every New Testament book that is included in the manuscript, in the order in which they appear in Codex Vaticanus.  Clicking the embedded link will take you to the image of that page at the Vatican Library’s website.
From Codex Vaticanus:  Second Thess. 3:11-18 and Hebrews 1:1-2:2.
This image is digitally altered; a digital photo of the page
is at the Vatican Library website.
Second Peter      

1.  Book title, in the upper margin of the manuscript.

2.  Decoration.  Similar decorative lines are not unusual in later manuscripts, which sometimes feature horizontal lines made of braided ropes or thorns.  In this case, the decoration was added long after the initial production of the manuscript.  Such decorations serve a practical purpose as well as an artistic one, helping draw attention to the beginnings of books.

3.  Enlarged initial.  When Codex Vaticanus was produced, it did not have this feature, which was added later.  A close look at the page shows that originally the letter pi at the beginning of Hebrews 1:1 was written in the same script, and in the same size, as the rest of the letters in the word Πολυμερως.  (In some manuscripts, the initial at the beginning of books is not only enlarged, but drawn in the shape of animals, or even of people.  It is not unusual, in medieval Gospels-manuscripts, for an initial to signify the beginning of a Eusebian Section, and for the initials to be written larger, and in different ink, than the rest of the text.)

4.  Distigme.  The two dots in the margin which resemble an umlaut (¨) seem to have been added to draw attention to a textual variant in the text.  In some other manuscripts, margin-notes similarly draw attention to textual variants, but they usually mention the alternative reading.  Probably whoever added these symbols to the pages of Codex Vaticanus (and there are wide-ranging opinions about whether these marks are ancient, or medieval, or even Renaissance-era) possessed another volume in which the same points of textual variation were marked, with notes about the readings in Codex Vaticanus.  More distigmai appear on this page (for example, at Hebrews 1:3). 

5.  Coronis.  Barely visible, a simple decorative design here, made of dots and flourishes, designates the end of a book.  Early copyists tended to use their own distinct designs, so the occurrence of different designs in the same manuscript is a clue that more than one copyist contributed to its production.  The remarkable similarity between a coronis-design that appears repeatedly in Codex Vaticanus (for example, at the end of Genesis), and a coronis that appears in Codex Sinaiticus (at the end of Mark), has suggested to some researchers that the same copyist was involved in the production of both manuscripts, possibly as a normal copyist for Vaticanus, and as a scriptorium-supervisor for Sinaiticus. 

6.  Subscription.  This is the closing-title of a book – in this case, Second Thessalonians. 

7.  Subscription expansion.  After the closing-title of Second Thessalonians, someone wrote an additional note:  “Written from Athens.”

8. Secondary Corrector’s Note.  Made somewhat famous by Bruce Metzger in his 1981 book Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament:  An Introduction to Palaeography, this note was written by someone who had discovered that someone had corrected an erroneous reading.  The copyist of Codex Vaticanus had written Φανερων in Hebrews 1:3, and a corrector had replaced that with the correct reading, Φέρων (which is supported by all other manuscripts, including Papyrus 46).  The person who wrote this note, however, objected to this correction, and wrote, ἀμαθέστατε καὶ κακέ, ἂφες τὸν παλαιόν, μὴ μεταποίει.  Metzger translated these words as, “Fool and knave, can’t you leave the old reading alone, and not alter it!”  Another rendering:  “Untrained troublemaker, forgive the ancient [reading]; do not convert it.”  He re-wrote Φανερων, erasing most of the corrector’s Φερων.  Apparently, the note-writer regarded Codex Vaticanus as a museum-piece to be protected and preserved, rather than as a copy of Scripture to be used as such.  

9. Diple-marks.  The “>” symbols in the margin accompany quotations from the Old Testament – in this case, quotations from Psalm 2:7 and Second Samuel 7:14.

10.  A Correction.  The copyist of Codex Vaticanus appears to have written  ελεον, but the person who reinforced the otherwise faded lettering throughout the manuscript declined to reinforce the second ε (epsilon), and either he or another corrector wrote above it the correct letters, αι.  See also the insertion of the letter ε in λειτουργοὺς in verse 7, in the last line of the second column on this page, and the lack of reinforcement of the letters ε and ν in εχρεισεν in verse 9, in the tenth line of the third column.

11.  Modern Chapter-number.  A relatively recent owner (or steward) of the manuscript wrote the modern chapter-number directly on the page in the margin, and crudely but clearly delineated the chapter-division in the text.

12.  Editorial Pruning.  Somewhere in the transmission-stream of Codex Vaticanus’ text, a copyist removed the words του αἰωνος, probably because he considered them superfluous.  (There seems to be nothing that would make these words vulnerable to accidental loss, and the difference between the inclusion or omission of the words is the difference between “forever and ever” and “forever.”

            It is sometimes claimed that no textual variants that are closely contested have an impact on Christian doctrine.  In Hebrews 1:3, however, most Greek manuscripts affirm that Jesus, by Himself – δι’ αὐτου or δι’ ἑαυτου – cleansed our – ἡμων – sins.  This unquestionably impacts the interpretation of the verse:  is there room for any other source of purification of sins – for instance, is it valid to seek purification through one’s own works, or through the intercession of Mary or of other saints – or was purification from sins fully obtained by Christ, and by Him alone?  And, did Jesus achieve the forgiveness of the sins of all people (as the American Bible Society’s 1976 Good News Translation says:  “after achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings”), or forgiveness for the sins of believers (as the New Living Translation says:  “When He had cleansed us from our sins”)?  Does this verse teach that atonement was provided solely by Christ?  And does it affirm that the atonement covers believers, or does it allow the belief that the atonement covers all people in general?
            (It is difficult to see how the UBS/Nestle-Aland compilations could beget the New Living Translation’s rendering.  Neither compilation has the Greek equivalent of “us” or “our.”  Yet the NLT’s publisher explicitly asserts that the text of the fourth edition of the UBS Greek New Testament and the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation was its New Testament base-text.)  
            It is possible, of course, to find answers to questions about the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, and about the range of His atonement’s effectiveness, elsewhere in the New Testament, and that is what is meant (or, what should be meant) by those who say that closely contested textual variants do not have an impact on doctrine:  if one were to simply ignore the verse in which the textual contest takes place, the doctrine which one might, or might not, find in that verse is affirmed elsewhere in the New Testament.  However, the fact remains that some textual variants do have an impact on the interpretation of specific passages of the New Testament.