Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11

in the United States
(as of June 23, 2016)

Various commentators, preachers and seminary professors have called for the removal of John 7:53-8:11 – the story about Jesus and the adulteress – to be removed from the Bible, because it is not in some important early manuscripts, and because, in some other manuscripts, it is in different locations.  In this book I offer the following:  

● A case for the genuineness of John 7:53-8:11,
● Corrections and clarifications of some well-circulated falsehoods and misinformation (answering especially some claims spread by Bruce Metzger, Dan Wallace, Bart Ehrman, David Parker, John Piper, and James White),
● An explanation of the simple scribal mechanism that elicited the loss of the passage in an early transmission-stream,
● An explanation of the influence of lection-cycles that led to the transference of the passage to other locations  including a consideration of the rarely cited evidence from Palestinian Aramaic texts.
● A refutation of the theory that the passage was a “floating” anecdote,
● A consideration of Augustine’s theory about why the passage was removed from the text, 
● A thorough review of the relevant external evidence, including not only Greek manuscripts but also versional and patristic evidence, 
● An examination of the internal evidence, and the disruption in the narrative that results when the pericope adulterae is removed, and
● Some brief notes about miscellaneous concerns which have a bearing on the question about John 7:53-8:11 (or upon which the question about John 7:53-8:11 has a bearing) in one way or another. 

I have tried to make this digital volume affordable for the typical Bible student.  (The price varies from country to country.)  Those for whom the price is prohibitively high are welcome to request a copy directly from me.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Houghton's Latin New Testament: An Essential Resource

          Earlier this year, Hugh Houghton gave the field of New Testament textual criticism a great gift:  a definitive introduction to the transmission of the New Testament in Latin.  His recent book, The Latin New Testament:  A Guide to Its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts, is excellent.  Metzger’s 1977 description of the Old Latin and Vulgate texts (in pages 285-374 of The Early Versions of the New Testament may now be dismissed in peace, like a candle extinguished at sunrise.
          The main text of the book is conveniently divided into three parts:  History (describing the rise of the Old Latin and the Vulgate in patristic times, and their dissemination in the Middle Ages), Texts (describing the various resources and compilations of the Latin text, especially the Vulgate), and Manuscripts (with descriptions of the features often found in Latin manuscripts, and a remarkably thorough catalog of Latin manuscripts of text-critical importance.  The bibliography, appendices, and indices occupy the final third of the book.  
          Houghton’s account of the development of the Old Latin version is full of fascinating details which may cause even experienced researchers to wonder if they have given the Old Latin evidence the attention it deserves.  For example, in the course of making a case that the Old Latin witnesses of the Gospels share a common Latin ancestor, Houghton does not neglect to mention the example from Mark 9:15, which has been enlisted for this purpose for a long time:  gaudentes (rejoicing) appears in the Latin text of “all pre-Vulgate Latin manuscripts,” which seems to imply that behind them all there was a Greek text which read προσχέροντες (i.e., minus itacism, προσχαίροντες), as in Codex Bezae, rather than the usual reading προστρέχοντες (running).  This example, however, is not left to carry the case by itself; Houghton also cites readings in the majority of Old Latin copies in Luke 1:9, Luke 9:62, Luke 22:11, Matthew 27:60, and more. 
          It is still possible to believe Augustine’s statement (in De Doctrina Christiana, 2:11) that “The Latin translators cannot be counted.  For whenever, in the first ages of the faith, a Greek manuscript came into the hands of anyone who had also a little skill in both languages, he made bold to translate it forthwith.”  However, the shared anomalies in the Old Latin manuscripts – some of which imply a shared Greek base-text, or the same rendering of once-used Greek words – imply that these translators did not work in full independence; we must picture them sharing a Latin source and proceeding to adjust it in various ways.
          Houghton also makes it clear that despite Aland & Aland’s attempts to downplay Greek text-types, text-type-based categorization is very much alive in Old Latin research.  He presents 14 forms of the Latin text, ranging from the early forms used by Tertullian and the translator of Irenaeus, to the Stuttgart Vulgate text.  Some of the most prominent Latin text-types are:
● K, the text used by Cyprian,
● I, an Italian text closely resembling the Vulgate,
● A, a text used by Augustine,
● R, the text used by Lucifer of Cagliari, and
● S, a Latin text used in Spain.

          Houghton also shows that it is important not only to notice textual relationships, but also to detect shared features in the meta-text (or paratext) of Latin manuscripts:  the formatting of the text, as well as supplemental materials such as canon-tables, chapter-summaries, and even the use of different colors of ink, can contribute to important discoveries.  For example, there are 13 different forms of the capitula (chapter-summaries), and early Old Latin forms are sometimes found in later manuscripts in which the Gospels-text is Vulgate.  The most significant example of these forms of the capitula is KA Cy, which Houghton assigns to the first half of the 200’s.  Although this form of the capitula is found mainly in later manuscripts with an essentially Vulgate text, “The affiliation of the passages quoted in these lengthy summaries corresponds very closely to the text of Cyprian and VL 1” [i.e., Codex Bobiensis].  The significance of this is felt when it is observed that KA Cy describes the pericope adulterae as the sixteenth chapter of John, and thus indirectly constitutes a very early witness for the inclusion of the passage. 
          Readers of The Latin New Testament will likely gain a new insight or new information every few pages, whether the subject is a Latin manuscript, a lectionary (such as VL 32, from the 500’s), a patristic writer, or a modern-day editor.  After reading this book, it will be obvious that the Old Latin evidence is much more extensive than it was believed to be just 40 years ago.  The use of letters to represent Old Latin manuscripts (such as k for Bobiensis) is manifestly insufficient, and the Beuron system which Houghton uses throughout the book will inevitably replace it; indeed it must replace it in order to allow all relevant Latin witnesses to be coherently identified.  
VL 8 (Codex Corbeiensis) - with the
pericope adulterae (BnF Lat. 17225)
          Sixteen illustrations supplement the text (including a photo of Codex Complutensis with the Comma Johanneum), but a far greater supplement is the provision of links to digital photographs of many of the manuscripts in the catalogue in chapter 10.  This represents a real step forward, allowing readers the ability to virtually see many of the manuscripts online.  The Vetus Latina website, which Houghton maintains, helpfully supplements the book, and so does his website.  One can find there, among other things, a list of Old Latin Gospels-manuscripts (many of which have been fully digitized), Houghton’s article Latin Chapter-divisions, Capitula Lists, and the Old Latin Version of John, and his essay on the text of Luke in VL 11A, which appeared in the Festschrift for the great Roger Gryson, one of the giants, with Bonifatius Fischer, Hermann Josef Frede, and others, upon whose shoulders Houghton stands.
          It is traditional for authors to say that if they have seen further than their respected predecessors, it is because they are dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants.  Readers of Houghton’s work, however, may be justified if they adjust the axiom somewhat, recognizing that they are reading the work of a giant standing on the shoulders of other giants in a relatively obscure field that has finally been made accessible, comprehensible, and up-to-date.    
          Last but not least, let us applaud the publisher, Oxford University Press, for distributing this monumental book at a reasonable price:  Amazon offers the hardcover edition for $39.95, and the Kindle edition for $14.57.

The Latin New Testament:  A Guide to Its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts, is © H.A.G. Houghton 2016, and is published by Oxford University Press.    

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Pericope Adulterae and Some Early Manuscripts

          The Greek manuscripts which are often cited as the primary external evidence against the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11 – a passage which some evangelical seminary professors and influential preachers, including John Piper, do not regard as Scripture) are Papyrus 66, Papyrus 75, À (01, Sinaiticus), B (03, Vaticanus), A (02, Alexandrinus), C (04, Ephraemi Rescriptus), L (019, Regius), N (022, Petropolitanus Purpureus), W (032, Washingtoniensis), and Δ (038, Sangallensis).  None of these manuscripts has John 7:53-8:11 between 7:52 and 8:12.  However, the testimony of some of these witnesses is significantly nuanced by additional details.
Codex Delta's blank space.
Color page-views are online.
          For example, in Codex Δ (from the 800’s), the copyist provided a clear indication of his recollection of the passage, even though it was absent from his exemplar.  After John 7:52, the copyist wrote the first seven words of 8:12, but then left the rest of the page blank, and resumed writing after leaving three additional blank lines on the following page.  Then he restarted the text of 8:12, and proceeded on from there.  Thus, while Codex Δ attests to the absence of the pericope adulterae in its exemplar, it also attests to the copyist’s memory of the presence of the passage in some other manuscript.
          Similarly, in Codex L (from the 700’s), the copyist left a long blank space between the end of John 7:52, on one page, and the beginning of 8:12, on the following page.  This blank space in Codex L includes more than an entire blank column.  In codices Δ and L, the blank space is not sufficient to include John 7:53-8:11, but the copyists’ intention to leave “memorial space,” acknowledging their awareness of the absent passage, remains obvious.  It therefore seems somewhat selective when commentators such as Metzger, Wallace, and White (among others) mention the absence of John 7:53-8:11, but fail to mention these blank spaces, of equal age, which attest to the presence of the passage in the memories of these manuscripts’ scribes.
Codex Regius' blank space.
          Before we turn to some other interesting features in these manuscripts, it should be pointed out that of the 1,476 manuscripts that contain the pericope adulterae, about 60 manuscripts have it in a location other than between John 7:52 and 8:12.  One particular group of manuscripts, which includes the important minuscules 1 and 1582, has the passage after the end of the Gospel of John, preceded by a note stating that because most manuscripts did not contain the passage, and because it was not commented upon by venerable patristic writers (such as John Chrysostom), it was moved to the end of the book, having been previously found after John 7:52 (the end of which the annotator quotes). 
          Although the minuscules that contain John 7:53-8:11 after John are not particularly early, their agreements are considered to echo an ancestor-manuscript which was produced in the 400’s.  In addition, their distinct readings tend to have an affinity with readings used by Origen, a patristic author who died in 254. 
          The transfer of John 7:53-8:11 from the usual place in chapters 7 and 8 to the end of the Gospel of John thus did not begin when these manuscripts were produced, but centuries earlier, when their shared ancestor was made.  This raises a question:  could some of the manuscripts which have been cited against the pericope adulterae, and which do not have it in chapters 7 and 8, have had it at the end of the Gospel of John? 
          In the case of Codex N (from the 500’s), there is no way to verify if it contained the pericope adulterae after the end of John or not, because the manuscript is damaged; the last extant bit of John 21 is in verse 20, and so there is no way to know if 21:25 was followed by the pericope adulterae when Codex N was in pristine condition or not.
          In Codex W (from about the year 400), the Gospels are arranged in the order Matthew-John-Luke-Mark.  Commentator Wieland Willker has noticed that between the end of John and the beginning of Luke, there is a blank page – blank on both sides.  No such similar feature exists in Codex W between Matthew and John, or between Luke and Mark.  This might be an attempt, by a copyist aware of the existence of the pericope adulterae, to provide space where it could be added.    
          In Codex A (from the early 400’s), the pages containing the text from John 6:50 to 8:52a have been lost.  Thus, we cannot see directly that in Codex A, John 7:52 was followed by 8:12; we have to rely on space-calculations.  Here, again, Willker’s commentary is very helpful:  he notes that the copyist accidentally omitted John 8:52, when his line of sight wandered too far down the page.  When this is accounted for, a reconstruction of the missing text, without John 7:53-8:11, fits the space that would have been on the absent pages, whereas if the pericope adulterae had been present, the space would not be remotely sufficient. 
Codex Alexandrinus -
The end of John,
and a blank column.
          At the end of the Gospel of John, the copyist of Codex A put the closing-title of the book at the end of the first column on the page.  The second column is completely blank.  One might argue that this is to be expected at the end of the Gospels – yet, at the end of Acts, there is no similar blank column; the column in which the book of Acts ends is followed immediately by a column in which the Epistle of James begins.  On the other hand, between the end of Philemon and the beginning of Revelation, there are two blank columns, that is, one side of the page is blank.  There is little way to discern, from this evidence alone, if the blank column at the end of John in Codex A is filler-space, or memorial-space.
          In Codex Sinaiticus (from the mid-300’s), after the Gospel of John concludes in the fourth column of a page, the next four columns are completely blank.  Once again, while it is probable that this is simply filler-space, it is not impossible that this feature represents copyists’ recollection of the presence of the pericope adulterae at the end of the Gospel of John. 
          In Codex Vaticanus (from the early 300’s), John 7:53-8:11 does not appear after 7:52, and there is no unusual blank space after the end of John (on page 1382 of the codex) – just the usual leftover space below the end of the book.  However, in the outer margin alongside that blank space after John 21:25, there is an interesting feature:  an umlaut, also known as a distigme.    Very many of these symbols appear in the margins of the New Testament books in Codex Vaticanus; researcher Philip Payne brought them to the attention of his fellow-researchers in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and established that they were added to denote the locations of textual variants. 
          It has not been determined beyond reasonable doubt that these symbols were added in ancient times.  Payne has contended that most of the distigmai are contemporary with the production of the manuscript; Peter Head, however, has challenged this position.  My own suspicion is that these marks are all late.  However, because some scholars, including Daniel Wallace, have treated them as if they are ancient, let’s consider their possible significance in the case at hand:  the only known textual variant that would elicit the addition of a distigme in the blank space after the end of the Gospel of John is the presence of the pericope adulterae.   
          If the distigmai are as ancient as the manuscript itself, Codex Vaticanus testifies to a fourth-century copyist’s awareness of the pericope adulterae’s presence at that location in at least one manuscript older than Codex Vaticanus itself.  This would imply that the transfer of the passage to the end of John 21 was not initially due to its lack of use by Chrysostom and other patristic writers, but was caused by some other factor.
          Papyrus 75 (usually assigned a production-date in the early 200’s) is only extant in John up to 15:10, so there is no way to tell whether or not the pericope adulterae was present after the end of chapter 21.          
Papyrus 66 -
not much remains
of John 21:17ff. except
the page-number.
          Similarly, Papyrus 66 (which Robert Waltz describes as “a notably inaccurate copy”), also from the 200’s, is very fragmentary in John 21, and no text can be confidently reconstructed beyond 21:17.  Thus we cannot tell with certainty that Papyrus 66 did not contain the pericope adulterae after John 21. 

          A few things should be clear from this review of the major early witnesses for the non-inclusion of the pericope adulterae.
● First:  the evidence strongly supports the view that the text of John used in Egypt in the 200’s did not contain the passage after John 7:52.  
● Second:  codices L and Δ should be considered witnesses for non-inclusion and for inclusion.  
● Third:  the testimony of most of the major Greek manuscripts that support the non-inclusion of the pericope adulterae in chapters 7 and 8 is not nearly as clear or one-sided when they are asked to testify about the passage’s presence or absence following John 21; on this question, most of the early Greek manuscript-evidence is open to interpretation.   

Saturday, June 4, 2016

John 7:53-8:11 and James White

 In a recent interview at Apologia TV, James White (of Alpha & Omega Ministries) offered some comments about John 7:53-8:11 which reflect a common misunderstanding of some evidence pertaining to that passage.  White, who does not believe that these 12 verses belong in the Bible, turned his attention to them about 52 minutes into the interview, stating that he was going to explain why most scholars are confident that the passage is not genuine.
         White proceeded to explain that although most manuscripts contain the pericope adulterae between John 7:52 and 8:12, it is also found in four other places:  “In manuscript 225, it’s found after John 7:36.  In manuscript 1, it’s found after John 21:25.  And here’s the important part:  in a group of manuscripts called family 13, it’s not in John.  It’s after Luke 21:38.  And in manuscript 1333, it’s after Luke 24:53.”
          These multiple locations, White stated, constitute “absolute evidence” that John 7:53-8:11 was not originally part of the Gospel of John, but was instead “a story, very popular, looking for a place to call home.”  (This remark from White is very similar to a sentence in a 2007 essay by Dan Wallace:  “The pericope adulterae has all the earmarks of a pericope that was looking for a home.”)
          In White’s 1995 book, The King James Only Controversy, the same evidence was cited, and in this respect White’s comments closely resemble the contents of Bruce Metzger’s 1971 Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.  White, like Metzger, has omitted important aspects of the evidence, probably because the depth of White’s research on this subject did not go much further than reading Metzger’s work.  The improbability of White’s idea that the pericope adulterae was “a story looking for a place to call home” should already be obvious to anyone who ponders the contents of the first sentence of the account:  “And everyone went to his own house.”  That is simply not how one begins a story. 
          Before we look in detail at some aspects of the evidence that White did not share in his Apologia TV interview, there is something we should know about the Gospel-lection for Pentecost – that is, the Scripture-selection that was read annually at the Feast of Pentecost (one of the major feast-days of early Christianity, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit as related in Acts chapter 2).  This lection began at John 7:37 and continued to John 7:52, at which point the lector (the person designated to read the Scriptures in the church-services) was to skip to 8:12.  In many Gospels-manuscripts that are supplemented by what is known as the lectionary apparatus in their margins, symbols and notes instruct the lector to read the lection in this way.  
          The Pentecost-lection, in other words, consisted of John 7:37-52 plus 8:12.  In lectionaries, the passage is presented in precisely that form, making it easy for the lector to read the entire passage without having to pause and jump forward in the text to find the final portion.  The same motivation that led to the development of lectionaries – a desire to simplify the lector’s task – also led some copyists to reformat the passage that contained the Pentecost-lection in continuous-text manuscripts of the Gospels, with the result that John 7:53-8:11 was transplanted to other locations. 
          When we take a closer look at the manuscripts mentioned by White, it may become clear that once he studies them more carefully, he might not wish to continue to present them as “absolute evidence” in the future.

“In manuscript 225, it’s found after John 7:36.” 
          Which means that a copyist moved it so that it would appear immediately before the Pentecost-lection.  In manuscript 225, John 13:3-17 – the lection for the annual foot-washing commemoration on Maundy Thursday – is likewise moved; it is found not only in its usual place but also is embedded in the text of Matthew, following Mt. 26:20, conforming to the sequence in which it was read on Maundy Thursday.  If one knows nothing about lection-cycles, one might start imagining that John 13:3-17 was a very popular story that was looking for a place to call home, but the more one learns about lection-cycles, the less plausible that becomes.

“In manuscript 1, it’s found after John 21:25.”
          White makes it seem as if this means that someone had the pericope adulterae sitting around as a freestanding composition, and placed it at the end of the Gospel of John.  If, however, one notices the note that appears in manuscript 1 before the passage, a very different impression is received.  The note says:  “The chapter about the adulteress:  in the Gospel according to John, this does not appear in the majority of copies; nor is it commented upon by the divine fathers whose interpretations have been preserved – specifically, by John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria; nor is it taken up by Theodore of Mopsuestia and the others.  For this reason, it was not kept in the place where it is found in a few copies, at the beginning of the 86th chapter [that is, the 86th Eusebian section], following, ‘Search and see that a prophet does not arise out of Galilee.’”
          Thus, according to this note, a copyist did not find this passage in most of his copies of the Gospel of John, and he also noticed that it was not commented upon by several patristic writers, so he removed it from where it had been found – after John 7:52 – and placed it at the end of the Gospel.  It had not been “a story in search of a home.”  According to this note, it had already had a home, following John 7:52, before it was moved to the end of the book.
In the Argos Lectionary,
the lection for Saint Pelagia's
feast-day is listed
for October 8.
          In addition, this note – which is also found in manuscript 1582, and thus echoes the archetype of family-1 – may be a copyist’s guess about how it ended up at the end of John’s Gospel, rather than an observation.  In two of the manuscripts that formed the basis for the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary, John 8:3-11, rather than 7:53-8:11, was transferred to the end of the Gospel of John.  This displacement of John 8:3-11 was not motivated by text-critical principles; like the dislocation of the entire pericope adulterae in 225, it was done to make the lector’s job on Pentecost a little easier – the difference being that in these manuscripts’ locale, the Gospels-lection for Pentecost included John 7:53-8:2.  Eighteen Greek manuscripts echo the same treatment of John 8:3-11, with the difference that instead of being transferred to the end of the Gospel of John, these nine verses have been dropped entirely from the text of these manuscripts, although 7:53-8:2 remains in the text after 7:52
          John 8:3-11 (or 8:1-11; there was some variation) was the lection for the feast-day of Saint Pelagia, or for The Penitents (this refers to a group of women famous for their penitence and austerity).  In dozens of manuscripts of John, 8:3-11 – not the entire pericope adulterae – are accompanied by symbols in the margin, not (as some researchers have claimed) to convey scribal doubt about the passage (as if the copyists accepted 7:53-8:2 but were suspicious about 8:3-11), but to thus show where, embedded within the Pentecost-lection, one could find the lection for the feast-day of Saint Pelagia, or for the Penitents, which was October 8. 

“And here’s the important part:  in a group of manuscripts called family 13, it’s not in John.  It’s after Luke 21:38.”
          The text of the pericope adulterae has been altered in the family-13 manuscripts; in 8:2-3, instead of reading “and all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  Then brought the scribes,” they read, “And the scribes presented to him,” in order to avoid repeating material similar to the contents of Luke 21:37-38.
          Once again when we notice details which White did not mention (not due to any malevolent intent, of course, but due to plain ignorance of the evidence), the picture changes significantly.
         What has happened here is that someone who had a manuscript in which John 7:53-8:11 had been transferred to the end of John took things a step further to simplify things for the lector.  When transferred to the end of Luke 21, the passage would be easy to find in the cycle of readings for feast-days in the Menologion:  the lection for October 7, for Saints Sergius and Bacchus, was nearby, in Luke 21:12-19.  Almost all of the remainder of Luke 21 is discourse, making the end of the chapter the nearest convenient place in which to insert the narrative that constituted the lection for the next day, namely, October 8, for Saint Pelagia/the Penitents.         

“And in manuscript 1333, it’s after Luke 24:53.”
          When we consider the details which the shallowness of White’s research prevented him from detecting, the implications of the evidence drastically change from what he misrepresented them to be.  In manuscript 1333, John 8:3-11 is written on the page that follows the page on which the Gospel of Luke concludes, before the chapter-list for the Gospel of John.  
          What has happened is that after the text of John was written in 1333 without John 7:53-8:11, someone noticed that the passage used for Saint Pelagia’s feast-day was missing, and this person added it, preferring to use the blank page after the end of Luke instead of writing the passage in the margin alongside the end of chapter 7.  According to Maurice Robinson, in manuscript 1333, the verses are accompanied by abbreviated rubrics in the margin; one says, “The Gospel-reading for October 8, for Saint Pelagia,” and the other one says, “From the Gospel according to John.”  
          So instead of weighing in as evidence that the pericope adulterae was “a story looking for a place to call home,” as White has claimed, 1333 simply shows that John 8:3-11 was a lection designated to be read annually on October 8, and that even after someone made 1333 based on an exemplar that did not contain John 7:53-8:11, the lack of the lection for St. Pelagia’s Day was so problematic that someone saw fit to add the lection on a blank page of the manuscript.
          James White has asked, “If it was original, why, why, why?  If it was original, why would there be all this chopping-up of it?  It doesn’t make any sense” –  I interrupt to mention that he seems to have asked that question out of sincere perplexity.  But one’s perplexity should not be regarded as a platform from which to jump to a conclusion.  Nevertheless that is what White has done; his statement concludes:  – “unless it wasn’t original.”  Such a text-critical method is highly dubious.  It would be better to investigate the evidence more thoroughly, in order to answer the questions, as we have done here.

           This is, of course, not all that could be said about the pericope adulterae.  (I intend to say much more soon in a book on the subject.)  It should, however, justify a measure of concern when one encounters the claim that the transference of John 7:53-8:11 to locations after the end of John, or to one side or the other of the Pentecost-lection, or to the end of Luke 21, constitutes “absolute evidence” that these 12 verses were “looking for a home” or similar nonsense.  Such claims say more about the shallowness of the authors’ research than they say about how copyists treated the pericope adulterae and why they did so.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Saint Spyridon and the Early Byzantine Text

Saint Spyridon
          Saint Spyridon (270-358) – champion of orthodoxy, worker of wonders, friend of Saint Nicholas – served as bishop of Tremithus on the island of Cyprus in the early 300’s, after the death of his wife.  Many stories about Spyridon circulate to this day.  Some of them are fabulous to the point of being amusing.  Others seem to have at least a kernel of truth.  But one in particular has special significance to New Testament textual criticism.
          Spyridon, who had attended the Council of Nicea, later attended a gathering of bishops on the island of Cyprus.  Also in attendance was another bishop, Triphyllius, who was as well-known for his eloquence as Spyridon was for his faithfulness and simplicity.  At one point during the gathering, Triphyllius delivered a discourse in which he quoted the words of Christ in Mark 2:9 – “Arise, take up your bed, and walk” – except Triphyllius did not quote precisely:  instead of using κράββατος, the word for “bed” that is found in the text, he used σκιμπους.
          Probably Triphyllius’ intention was to ensure that his hearers would understand that the paralytic’s bed was something more like a stretcher than a bed with a frame to hold a mattress.  But Spyridon did not tolerate this deviation.  Standing up in the assembly, he asked, “Are you greater than the one who uttered the word κράββατόν, that you are ashamed to use his words?”.  He then turned and looked out at the crowd, convicting them the man of eloquence should be made to know his limits. 
          Such is the report from the Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, who wrote around 440.  This little incident was so instructive that it was even recollected centuries later, in 1611, by the author of the preface to the King James Version:  “A godly Father in the Primitive time shewed himself greatly moved, that one of the newfangleness called κράββατον σκιμπους, though the difference be little or none.”  
Spyridon is the patron saint of the Greek
island of Corfu, about 1000 miles from
Cyprus, where he served as bishop
           Here is the text-critically interesting aspect of this anecdote:  observe how vigilantly resistant Spyridon was to any sort of textual alteration.  Even a benign deviation undertaken to ensure comprehension was opposed immediately and forcefully.  Such a mindset is the complete opposite of what is required for the theory that during the age of Spyridon (in the early 300’s), bishops throughout Christendom were setting aside their previously cherished manuscripts of the Gospels in order to adopt a previously unseen edition which contained hundreds of previously unseen readings, including whole episodes which to many bishops were utter novelties.
          Hort, whose 1881 Notes on Select Readings is still recycled to this day by commentators, depicted the means by which John 7:53-8:11 was accepted as follows:  “It would be natural enough that an extraneous narrative of a remarkable incident in the Ministry, if it were deemed worthy of being read and perpetuated, should be inserted in the body of the Gospels.” 
          Such an appraisal of the situation in the early-mid 300’s seems flatly unrealistic in a milieu in which, when a single word was exchanged for a synonym, a memorable protest commenced.  The report, found in medieval Menologions, that Lucian of Antioch personally made a manuscript of the entire Bible, written in three columns per page, can be believed.  But can it be believed that a novel edition of the books of the New Testament, based on Lucian’s work, spread throughout Greek-speaking Christendom in the 300’s, and that although it contained remarkable anecdotes previously not contained in the Gospels, the bishops raised no objections and meekly embraced these previously unknown passages, and quietly set aside the manuscripts which their predecessors had risked their lives to protect?  At a time when authors were willing to threaten copyists with severe curses if they failed to make accurate copies of their uninspired compositions, what bishops would find it “natural” to set aside their old exemplars, and replace them with new ones that contained new anecdotes – and not just any anecdotes, but one in which Jesus forgives an adulteress who shows no signs of repentance, and another in which Jesus states that believers will survive snake-handling and poison-drinking?
          When one looks into the question of where the churches in Asia, Greece, Cyprus, and Syria obtained their Greek New Testament manuscripts in the early 300’s, in light of several factors such as the tendency toward vigilance exemplified by Spyridon, it seems rather unlikely that the bishops in those areas quietly standardized their Gospels-text.  It seems far more likely that they basically kept on using the same texts that their predecessors had used. 
          If so, then this would indicate that when we see essentially Byzantine text-forms of the Gospels in the Gothic version (in the mid-300’s), in the Peshitta (no later than the late 300’s), in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa (in the late 300’s), in the writings of Basil of Caesarea (in the mid/late 300’s), in the writings of Epiphanius (also in the late 300’s), and in the writings of John Chrysostom (late 300’s/very early 400’s), this is not because a relatively novel text-form had suddenly become dominant in each of their far-removed locales.  Rather, it is because the manuscripts used in those witnesses’ locales echoed an ancient text-form (perhaps known to Lucian, but pre-dating him) that was at least 70% Byzantine.  This early stratum of the Byzantine Text, though it lacked the favorable climate-conditions that allowed manuscript-preservation in Egypt, had the advantage of a different sort of climate:  the climate of Christian bishops’ tenacious resistance to textual novelty in the 300’s.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

An Early Egyptian Manuscript Named Mae

          Once upon a time, there was a letter named Ash.  It was a combination of the letters A and E, smashed together.  For centuries, Ash began names such Æneas, Æesop, and Æschylus, and was found in Cæsar, as well as less distinguished words such as archæology.  After a distinguished career in mediæval English, Ash eventually retired.  Ash is still employed, however, in the textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Græce:  “mae” is the abbreviation used there to represent two manuscripts written in Middle Ægyptian.  The first Middle Ægyptian manuscript, referred to as mae1 in the apparatus, is the Scheide Codex (described by Metzger in 1980), a copy of practically the entire Gospel of Matthew made in the 400’s.  The second Middle Ægyptian manuscript, named mae2 in the apparatus, is Codex Schøyen 2650 – a manuscript which is surprisingly important considering how little attention it has received. (Other manuscripts, extant for other New Testament books, are also called mae; in the UBS4 apparatus they are called meg.)
          Codex Schøyen 2650 was probably produced sometime in the 300’s.  It is a prized item in the collection of Martin Schøyen.  It was first described in detail in 2000 by Hans-Martin Schenke, who proposed that its text reflects a form of the text of the Gospel of Matthew that is drastically different from the canonical text – perhaps even the Hebrew text which some patristic writers suggest was the basis for the Greek text of Matthew.  This tantalizing suggestion, however, was opposed by other scholars, including the late William L. Petersen and Tjitze Baarda.  Baarda was gentle in his criticism of Schenke’s approach; Schenke died in 2002, and Baarda may have wished to adhere to the proverb, De mortuis nil nisi bonum.                 
          But let the truth be told:  mae2 is a very good manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew (despite being extensively damaged; the text begins in 5:38, and every page has been damaged at least a little).  As a representative of the Alexandrian Text of Matthew its only rivals are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  If any researchers have had reservations about citing mae2 as a witness for the fourth-century Coptic text of the canonical Gospel of Matthew, such doubts should be forever set aside.
          Codex Schøyen 2650 was the subject of James Leonard’s 2012 dissertation, which he prepared with the full resources of Tyndale House at his disposal; his preparation also involved a year of research at the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies.  His dissertation has since been published by Brill as Codex Schoyen 2650:  A Middle Egyptian Coptic Witness to the Early Greek Text of Matthew’s Gospel.  Leonard demonstrates with thunderous force that Schenke’s appraisal of the manuscript’s text minimized its close adherence to the Alexandrian Text (especially Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) and maximized readings which can be, and should be, regarded as points at which the translator resorted to paraphrasing, or which are the results of the Coptic dialect’s inherent inability to directly correspond to every nuance of the Greek text.
          This is not to say that mae2 does not have more than its fair share of anomalies.  Leonard selected three passages for very thorough analysis:  5:38-6:18, 12:3-27, and 28:1-20.  In the first two passages, when mae2’s text initially appears to stray from the Alexandrian Text, there is almost always an explanation rooted either in the translator’s approach, in scribal mistakes, or in the limitations of Coptic syntax.  But in Matthew 28, we encounter the following oddities:

● 28:1 – Mae2 adds, “when the stars were yet above” as a way of signifying that it was very early in the morning.  (Mae1 also has a unique reading here.)
● 28:2 – Mae2 says the angel “took” the stone, rather than that the angel rolled away the stone.
● 28:2 – Mae2 includes not only the phrase “from the door” (agreeing with the Byzantine Text) but also “of the tomb” (agreeing with the Caesarean Text). 
● 28:5 – Mae2 makes the unusual statement that when the guards shook due to their fear of the angel, “they arose as dead men.”
● 28:5 – Mae2 does not have the phrase “who was crucified.”
● 28:10 – Mae2 does not have the phrase “Do not be afraid.”
● 28:10 – Mae2 says, “Tell my brothers to return to me in Galilee” instead of “Tell my brothers to go to Galilee.”
● 28:12 – Mae2 adds “of the people” after “elders.”

          These do not add up to justification for the idea that the translator’s base-text was descended from a different source than the forms of Matthew 28 that are extant in Greek, but they do show that Egyptian translators were far from the models of precision that they are sometimes claimed to have been.
          Leonard points out a distinctive characteristic of the translation preserved in mae2 that is particularly interesting:  “Mae2 often compresses synonymous verb pairings to a single verb.”  Leonard illustrates this by citing 9:27, where, in the Nestle-Aland compilation and in the Byzantine Text, two blind men “cry out and say.”  The compilers of the Nestle-Aland text were so confident that this is the correct text that they did not even note that there is a variant-reading at this point. But in a few important manuscripts (C (which was corrected), L, and f13), the text only says that the blind men “cry out.”  Mae2 agrees with this shortened reading.  Leonard mentions Matthew 9:36, 11:1, 12:44, 21:21, 23:23, 26:4, 26:74, 27:2, and 27:48 as other passages which display this phenomenon in mae2.        
          This spurs a question which, although it was not even raised by Leonard, seems worth exploring:  if scribes in Egypt could thus shorten the text when translating, could they not do the same thing when transcribing?  The tendency to compress synonymous verb-pairs displayed in mae2 could easily account for the short Alexandrian readings one finds in passages such as Luke 24:53, where the Byzantine reading has been regarded as a conflation.
           Mae2’s text generally adheres closely to the text of B and Aleph even at some points where they have almost no other support:  Mae2 does not have 12:47 (a verse which is exceptionally vulnerable to loss due to homoeoteleuton); maeagrees with B in 14:24 (where B’s text, though adopted in the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation, looks very much like something intended to ensure that “in the middle of the sea” was not misunderstood as referring to depth rather than distance); maeagrees with B and Aleph in 14:30 (where the word ισχυρόν was susceptible to loss via homoeoteleuton); mae2 even agrees with the two flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text in Matthew 27:49, where they state (in a flat contradiction of John 19:31-34) that Jesus was pierced with a spear before He died; mae2 has the interpolation in a slightly different form, mentioning the water before the blood.
          In Codex Vaticanus, although the text is very strongly Alexandrian, Western readings pop up here and there, seemingly out of nowhere (such as in Matthew 27:24b).  The same phenomenon manifests itself in mae2:  the entire text of 21:44 is absent from mae2, as it is from Codex D and several Old Latin manuscripts.
          Along with Leonard’s many insightful observations about the readings of mae2 is a chapter about their possible impact on the Nestle-Aland compilation; Leonard proposes that at several variant-units where the evidence seems finely balanced, the weight of mae2 might tip the scales.  These include variant-units in 6:33 and 12:15, among others.
Although the publisher is asking for
about $130 for a copy
less expensive copies
can be obtained second-hand 

(at least, this was possible
when this post was written).
          Leonard does not investigate the question of possible lector-influence upon the Alexandrian Text displayed in mae2, even though he provides some data which would be helpful in such an investigation.  It is sometimes thought that where the Byzantine Text has the name “Jesus” where the Alexandrian Text does not, this is due to a Byzantine tendency to add the name “Jesus” at the beginnings of lections.  In mae2 we see the opposite tendency:  Jesus’ name is missing in 16:21 and 17:8.  Lector-influence may, however, be the cause of mae2’s inclusion of Jesus’ name in 9:36
           Now that James Leonard has provided the go-to resource for mae2, irrevocably establishing it as a strongly Alexandrian witness, the stage is set for the next logical step:  a comparison of mae2 to its slightly younger relative, mae1.  Although these two manuscripts represent the same Egyptian dialect (sometimes called Mesokemic), and their production-dates are relatively close, they disagree at many important points, such as 5:44 (mae1 has the longer form; mae2 agrees with B), 6:33 (mae1 has “of God”), 9:13 (mae1 has “to repentance;” mae2 does not), 12:47 (mae1 includes the verse), 17:21 (mae1 includes the verse), 24:7 (mae1 includes “and pestilences”), etc.  That dissertation is yet waiting to be written.  In the meantime we can celebrate that Leonard’s dissertation is available.

Codex Schoyen 2650:  A Middle Egyptian Coptic Witness to the Early Greek Text of Matthew's Gospel - a Study in Translation Theory, Indigenous Coptic, and New Testament Textual Criticism, by James M. Leonard, is Copyright © 2014 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ending Inaccurate Comments about the Ending of Mark

           Last month, Larry Hurtado, at his blog, recommended the late Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, stating that readers would find it “very helpful as a first resource to consult.”  Hurtado mentioned specifically that Metzger’s book should be consulted for information about “the data on the “Pericope of the Adulteress”” and “the thorny issue of the endings of Mark.”  I chimed in to protest, in a brief comment, that Metzger’s comments on both of those passages contain some false claims, and that throughout Metzger’s book, readers frequently receive one-sided propaganda in favor of the UBS Committee’s decision.  Important evidence routinely is not mentioned, simply because it favors a variant that the UBS Committee did not adopt.
          Another reader of Hurtado’s blog chimed it to briefly say that I was making an “attack on Dr. Metzger” and that my views have been shown to be erroneous.  To this I concisely responded that my views have not been shown to be erroneous; they have been ignored.  (For instance, I have demonstrated that Metzger’s claim that some non-annotated manuscripts of Mark have asterisks or obeli accompanying Mark 16:9-20 is false.  Nevertheless Dan Wallace, Larry Hurtado, Ben Witherington III, James White, and others keep spreading that false claim.)  I also said, “Metzger’s commentary is terrible one-sided and selective.  A far more informative resource is Wieland Willker’s online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels.”
          The following week, Hurtado told his blog-readers about Wieland Willker’s work. Better late than never, I suppose.  The data in Willker’s online textual commentary is a welcome remedy to the inaccuracies, falsehoods, and constant spin that one finds in the obsolete volume by Metzger that Hurtado had recommended just a week earlier.  I am delighted that Hurtado has, at last, discovered and acknowledged Willker’s superior text-critical commentary on the Gospels.  
          Unfortunately Hurtado did not deduce that the typographical error in my earlier comment about Metzger’s book was a typographical error (like all the times Hurtado mentions the periscope about the adulteress).  The word “terrible” in my sentence, “Metzger’s commentary is terrible one-sided and selective” should have been “terribly.”  This became the basis for the following sentence from Hurtado:   “I think that James Snapp was unkind and inaccurate to describe the Metzger textual commentary as “terrible” in the way it handles the questions about the ending of Mark a recent comment.”  
          I responded to explain that I meant to write the word “terribly” instead of “terrible.”  Here we are two weeks later, and no change has been made in Hurtados blog-entry (not even to add the word “in” to the sentence).  So I will clarify my meaning here.  
          Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the New Testament is not terrible.  As a defense of the UBS Committee’s decisions to favor the Alexandrian Text more than 99% of the time in their allegedly eclectic approach, Metzger’s book is very good.  However, its readers should be warned that it mainly consists of terribly one-sided defensive arguments which very frequently minimize, misrepresent, or simply ignore important evidence and strong arguments for the readings which the UBS Committee rejected.
          The sad results of heavy reliance upon Metzger’s book can be seen in Hurtado’s own commentary on Mark.  He stated (in his 1983 volume on Mark in the New International Commentary series, reissued in 1989, and again in 2011 in Baker Books’ Understanding the Bible commentary-series) that “Readers of more modern translations will find these verses set off from the rest of Mark with an editorial note that they are not found in some of the most highly regarded manuscripts of the Gospel.”  By “some,” Hurtado meant two Greek manuscripts – Vaticanus and Sinaiticus
          Hurtado then wrote, “There is evidence in the ancient manuscripts of other material that may have formed two other endings of Mark in some editions of the Gospel.”  Hmm.  There is evidence of the “Shorter Ending” – a brief paragraph which states that the women who left the tomb reported to the disciples and to Peter, and that Jesus sent His followers to proclaim the eternal gospel from east to west.  Hurtado was referring to that little flourish when he wrote, “Several Greek manuscripts and other ancient witnesses insert a short block of material after 16:8, often followed by vv. 9-20.”  By “several,” he meant six.  In all six Greek manuscripts that have the Shorter Ending, Mark 16:9 also appears.
          But what did Hurtado mean by “often”?  He meant, in every such case except one (namely, in the Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis, in which an interpolation appears between Mark 16:3 and 16:4, and in which part of 16:8 has been removed).  Considering that Mark 16:9 appears in all six Greek manuscripts that have the Shorter Ending, and in the dozens of non-Greek copies that have the Shorter Ending, Hurtado’s statement is amusingly inaccurate:  the statement that when the Shorter Ending appears after Mark 16:8 it is often accompanied by verses 9-20 is like a statement that dead men often do not rise from the dead, eat food, and ascend to heaven.  There is only one exception.      
          And what is the second ending to which Hurtado referred by mentioning “two other endings”?  There is no such thing.  Hurtado was referring to the Freer Logion, but the Freer Logion is not another ending; it is an interpolation that appears between Mark 16:14 and 16:15 in one extant manuscript.  (I repeat:  One.  Not “Some” – the footnote about this in the New Living Translation is false and its author should issue a loud and clear apology for misleading the NLT’s readers about this.  Tyndale House Publishers should include the apology in the preface of the NLT for at least the next 20 years, to undo the damage their falsehood has done.  The NET’s false note about the Freer Logion also needs to be corrected.)  The Freer Logion is not “another ending,” and any commentator who presents it as one is mishandling the data and obscuring the evidence.
          To restate:  when Hurtado referred to “the several other endings that appear in the manuscript tradition,” he misrepresented the evidence so as to convey that rivals to verses 9-20 besides the Shorter Ending were written as continuations from Mark 16:8.  Other authors, such as Michael Holmes, have similarly juggled the formats in which Mark 16:9-20 and the Shorter Ending are presented, and have mistreated Codex W’s testimony.  
          Metzger knew that the Freer Logion was never an independent ending of the Gospel of Mark.  He described the Freer Logion as “probably the work of a second or third century scribe who wished to soften the severe condemnation of the Eleven in 16.14,” which would render the Freer Logion a piece of evidence in favor of verses 9-20 from the 100’s or 200’s.  This seems not to have registered at all upon those who are busy misrepresenting the Freer Logion as “another ending,” as if it began as a continuation of the narrative after 16:8.
The new edition of my defense
of Mark 16:9-20
as part of the original text.
          And consider Hurtado’s claim that “The testimony of the earliest “fathers” of the church (in the first four centuries) indicates that these verses were known only in a few copies.”  When we see utilizations of the contents of Mark 16:9-20 in Justin’s First Apology, in the Epistula Apostolorum, in Tatian’s Diatessaron, in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies Book Three (in which Irenaeus, in chapter 10, paragraph 5, specifically quotes Mark 16:19 from the Gospel of Mark, over a century before the production of the earliest surviving manuscript of Mark 16), in De Rebaptismate, in the pagan author Hierocles’ writings cited by Macarius Magnes, in Aphrahat’s First Demonstration (part 17), in Acts of Pilate/Gospel of Nicodemus, in the Gothic version, in the Apostolic Constututions, in the Peshitta, in the Vulgate, in Old Latin chapter-summaries, in four compositions by Ambrose, and in Greek manuscripts mentioned by Augustine – all from before the year 400 – all hope must be abandoned that a realistic appraisal of the evidence can be found in Hurtado’s work.
          Let future commentators take warning:  the days in which Metzger’s Textual Commentary could be cited as if it is a source of trustworthy and balanced information about the ending of Mark are over.  (The same should be true regarding Metzgers comments on John 7:53-8:11.)  And so are the days when commentators could take reckless swipes at Mark 16:9-20, and spread all sorts of falsehoods, without expecting their competence to be called into question.     
          This week I released the 2016 edition of Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 as a Kindle e-book, at a price which most researchers can easily afford.  Its new opening chapter includes numerous samples of the vague. misleading, and inaccurate (in some cases, bizarrely inaccurate) claims about Mark 16:9-20 which commentators have made.  Its appendix addresses some false claims promoted by Dan Wallace
          The old edition is still available for the researchers in Dallas, Wheaton, Edinburgh and elsewhere who prefer to rely on resources which are overpriced and obsolete.

The New International Commentary - Mark by Larry W. Hurtado is 
© 1983, 1989 by Larry W. Hurtado.  Published by Hendrikson Publishers and Paternoster Press.  
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger is  © 1971 by the United Bible Societies.