Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Nestle-Aland Text in Galatians 1: Alexandrian or Eclectic?

       It is sometimes claimed that the text in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament was compiled via a process that rejects the contents of over 90% of the existing manuscripts of the New Testament, strongly preferring the contents of two manuscripts:  Vaticanus (B, 03) and Sinaiticus (À, 01).  Is that true?  Lets find out – or at least, lets use a sample to get some idea about how accurate that claim is  by comparing the text of the first chapter of Galatians in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece to the text in Codex Vaticanus, the text in Codex Sinaiticus, and to the Byzantine Text.  (In Galatians, the text in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation is the same as the 26th and 27th edition, going back to 1979; the same text is in the fourth and fifth editions of the UBS Greek New Testament.)  In Matthew-Jude, the Byzantine Text usually represents the contents of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.       
          In Galatians chapter 1, there are only nine differences between the  Nestle-Aland compilation and the Byzantine Text, and in three of those cases, the text in NA27 is bracketed, indicating that the NA compilation is unstable at those three points.  Here are the differences:   

● 1:3 – NA rejects the word-order in B and Byz, adopting À’s reading instead.
● 1:4a – NA rejects the reading of Byz and À and Papyrus 46 (περι), adopting instead the reading in B (υπερ).
● 1:4b – NA rejects the shorter reading found in Byz (ενεστωτος αιωνος), agreeing instead with B and  (αιωνος του ενεστωτος), 
● 1:6 – NA has Χριστου (supported by B, Byz, and À) in the text, but it is bracketed.
● 1:8 – NA has υμιν (supported by Byz), but bracketed.
● 1:8 – NA has ευαγγελίζηται where Byz also has ευαγγελίζηται.  The Byzantine Text, however, is divided here:  the text of the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text, and the margin of RP2005, read ευαγγελίζεται.  B agrees with RP2005 at this point in the verse, but disagrees earlier, reading καν instead of και εαν. 
● 1:10 – NA rejects the Byzantine reading γαρ before ετι, thus agreeing with B and À.
● 1:11a – NA rejects δε (thus disagreeing with Byz and ), and accepts γαρ (thus agreeing with B).  (And, in 1:11b, NA rejects the extra two occurrences of το ευαγγελιον in B, agreeing instead with Byz and À.)
● 1:15 – NA has ο θεος (agreeing with Byz and À) in the text, but it is in brackets.  (The words are not in B.)  [The ESV, by the way, does not translate these words, deviating from the NA text.]
● 1:18 – NA rejects the Byzantine reading Πετρον in favor of Κηφαν (which is supported by B and À).

        Another comparison may be considered.  Using the late scholar Reuben Swanson’s volume of line-by-line comparisons of the contents of various manuscripts, let’s investigate line-by-line to see whether the NA compilation looks like it depends heavily upon B and , or if it looks like an eclectic text, in terms of its results.  

The result:  out of 44 lines of text in Galatians in Swanson, 35 lines match the text of B without variation.  Out of the remaining nine lines, which in NA do not agree with B, five of them agree with À.  So when one reads Galatians 1 in the Nestle-Aland compilation, one is reading a text that is in either B or  roughly 91% of the time, if one divides the text into the comparison-lines in Swanson.

          Does this mean that NA is Byzantine in the 11% of comparison-lines where it is not Alexandrian?  No.  Out of the remaining four lines in Swanson where NA does not agree with B and does not agree with À:
■ At the beginning of verse 8, NA disagrees with B and with  and agrees with the text in RP2005.
■ Near the end of verse 8, NA disagrees with B and with  and agrees with Byz. (The word υμιν is, however, bracketed in NA27.)
■ At the beginning of verse 11, NA disagrees with B (due to B’s weird triple occurrence of το ευαγγελιον) and with À and Byz (which both read δε instead of γαρ early in the verse). This sequence of readings adopted by NA is found as a correction in B, a correction in , and in G and 33.
■ At the beginning of verse 19, where B has ουχ ειδον and À has ουκ ιδον, NA agrees with Byz (and a correction in B), reading ουκ ειδον.

          So: in Galatians 1, if we divide the text into Swanson’s 44 lines (as a convenient reference):  35 lines agree with B.  Five of the 9 remaining lines that do not agree with B, agree with .  Three of the four remaining lines that do not agree with B, nor with À, agree with Byz.  Thus, in Galatians 1, in terms of how many full lines in Swanson’s comparison agree with either B, À, or both, the Nestle-Aland compilation is roughly 91% Alexandrian, 7% Byzantine, and 2% something else.
          If we zoom in for a closer look at those three lines in which NA agrees with Byz against B and , we see how small the impact of the Byzantine Text is:  
(1) The difference at the beginning of verse 8 amounts to καν (in B) versus και εαν, which is read by ﬡ as well as by Byz.
(2) The contest near the end of verse 8 is between the absence (in B and ) or presence (in Byz) of υμιν.  Inasmuch as the word is bracketed in NA27, this should not be considered a stable portion of the NA compilation. And,
(3) The difference near the beginning of verse 19 is a matter of two letters in two words.  Treated as separate variants, each word adopted in NA is supported by either B or ﬡ:   B has ειδον and ﬡ has ουκ.

          Thus, one can produce a compilation of Galatians 1 that is identical to the text of NA by picking and choosing exclusively from first-hand readings in B and ﬡ, with one exception:  the Byzantine Text has contributed one bracketed word (consisting of four letters) in verse 8.  (B also has υμιν, but before ευαγγελίζηται instead of after it.)   It seems to me that the presence of a single word (constituting a little less than one-third of one percent of the text of Galatians 1) does not justify calling the NA compilation of Galatians 1 an eclectic text.  Whatever has been said about the eclecticism of the method used to compile the Nestle-Aland text, the compilation itself in Galatians 1 is more than 99% Alexandrian.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Straining at a Gnat

Matthew 23:24 in the KJV (1611)
          The subject of this post is a phrase in Matthew 23:24 in the King James Version, and how it has been treated by commentators.  (Technically this is not a text-critical question, but it arises often in discussions about the differences among English Bibles.)

          In 1909, commentator Alfred Plummer wrote, “‘Strain at a gnat’ (AV.) was originally a misprint for ‘strain out a gnat’ (Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, RV.), the object being to avoid drinking what was declared to be unclean.”  More recently Daniel Wallace, in an article titled (ironically) Fifteen Myths About Bible Translation, used the KJV’s phrase “Strain at a gnat” as an example of “Some of the typos and blatant errors of the 1611 KJV.”  Author James D. Price has asserted that in Matthew 23:24, “The word at must be a misprint for out.”  Even Bruce Metzger wrote that the KJV’s rendering there is “A printer’s error.”
          Some commentators in the 1800’s were also confident that the KJV’s rendering was a misprint:  Adam Clarke stated in 1826 that “It is likely to have been at first an error of the press.”  Albert Barnes, in 1835, not only affirmed that “It should have been, to strain OUT a gnat,” but even proceeded to state, “So it was undoubtedly rendered by the translators.  The common reading is a misprint, and should be corrected.”  George Campbell (in 1814 and 1837), John Peter Lange (in 1884, translated by Philip Shaff), Marvin Vincent (in 1887), and A. T. Robertson (in 1932) are also part of the collection of commentators who have flatly asserted that the KJV’s rendering is a misprint, going all the way back to John Wesley in 1791.  All this may have been elicited by a comment made by Robert Lowth, who mentioned the passage in 1764 in a book on English grammar, stating that “The impropriety of the Preposition has wholly destroyed the meaning of the phrase.”
          Yet Henry Alford, on page 158 of The First Three Gospels, (published in 1863) gently opposed what some earlier commentators had claimed about the rendering:  “The “strain at a gnat” in our present auth. Vers. for “strain out a gnat” of the earlier English vss., seems not to have been a mistake, as sometimes supposed, but a deliberate alteration, meaning, “strain [out the wine] at [the occurrence of] a gnat.””  This was also the conclusion of Charles Ellicott
          In 1638, when the second Cambridge folio edition of the King James Version was released – having been carefully prepared by a team of scholars that included Samuel Ward and John Bois, who had been part of the translation-committee that had initially produced the KJV in 1611 – the rendering in Matthew 23:24 was not changed.   Now, this is not some obscure detail in a book-summary or in an apocryphal book; we are considering a phrase in the words of Jesus; if it were a printing-error, it seems strange that 27 years of scrutiny by friend and foe did not detect it. 
          There is a sound explanation for its non-detection:  it is not a printing-error.  The expression is rare and rivaled but not erroneous. Several examples of the use of the phrase “strain at a gnat” or “strain at gnats” have been found in English writings produced before, during, and shortly after the production of the KJV.  Here they are.  (Little of this, by the way, is my own research; I have sifted through data acquired by others, especially the KJV-Onlyists Will Kinney and Steven Avery, and refined what I found.)
John Whitgift
          On March 26, 1574, John Whitgift preached a sermon which was published by Henry Bynneman, with the title, A Godlie Sermon Preched Before the Queenes Maiestie at Grenewich the 26. of March last past by Doctor Whitgift, Deane of Lincolne.  In the course of this sermon, Whitgift stated the following (retaining the old spelling):  “we may say vnto them as Christ sayd vnto the Pharisies: Ye hypocrites, ye stumble at a strawe and leape ouer a blocke: ye straine at a Gnat, & swallow vp a Camell.
          In addition, on page 523 of the third volume of Whitgift’s works, one can find a sentence that runs, “Whereas M. Doctor compareth us with the Pharisees, and saith we do all to be seen of men, and that we hold down our heads in the streets, and strain at a gnat swallowing down a camel; because they are in all men’s knowledge, I will leave it to them to judge of the truth of those things.”
          In the same volume, beginning on page 586, there is an imperfect record of a sermon preached by Whitgift at St. Paul’s Cathedral on November 17, 1583 (the same year he became Archbishop of Canterbury), and on page 595, we read this part of it:  “These be they of whom Christ speaketh:  “They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.””
          In 1587, Archbishop Whitgift was busily persecuting the Separatist leaders Henry Barrow and John Greenwood (who were both executed in 1593).  In a summarized description of the claims that were being made by Barrow and Greenwood against the Church of England, Whitgift included the following in his list of their “schismatic and seditious opinions” – “That all the Precise, which refuse the Ceremonies of the Church, and yet preach in the same Church, strain at a Gnat and swallow a Cammel, and are close Hypocrites, and walk in a left-handed Policy.”
          (It was this same Archbishop Whitgift, by the way, who crowned James I the king of England.  Whitgift attended the Hampton Court Conference, but died soon afterwards in 1604.)
          In 1572, Rudolph Gwalther wrote An hundred, threescore and fiftene Homelyes or Sermons, vppon the Actes of the Apostles, written by Saint Luke, in Latin, and this was translated into English by John Bridges in 1616.   The translated text included the following sentence:  “Suche lyke things as these Chryst vpbraydeth them with in the Gospel, where he sayth they strayne at a Gnat, and swalowe downe a Camell.”  
          Also, in 1577, an English translation of sermons preached by John Calvin was published, having been translated by Arthur Golding.  To Golding, the translator, we must credit the following lines (antiquated spelling and all) as a representation of Calvin’s French words on page 260:
          “The manner then of discouering, is not too backebyte one another, or too taunt and vpbrayd one another by this and that, and too play the hipocrytes, who will streyne at a gnat, and swallowe vp and Oxe or a Sheepe at a morsell: that is too say, which will make conscience in very small and lyght matters, and not see a number of great enormities, which they suffer too passe hard by their nozes, without beeing any whit offended at them.”
          Also, in 1583, a book was published which was written by Robert Greene, called Mamillia, A Mirrour or Looking Glasse for the Ladies of England, and in it he wrote a very long sentence on page 156, of which I present a portion, with and without the antiquated spelling:
          . . . yea they accufe women of wauering when as they themfelues are fuch weathercocks as euerie wind can turne their tippets, and euerie new face make them haue a new fancy, difpraifing others as guiltie of that crime wherewith they themfelues are moft infected, moft vniuftly ftraining at a gnat, and letting paffe an elephant . . . 
          That is:  . . . Yea; they accuse women of wavering when as they themselves are such weathercocks as every wind can turn their tippets, and every new face make them have a new fancy, dispraising others as guilty of that crime wherewith they themselves are most infected, most unjustly straining at a gnat, and letting pass an elephant . . .            
George Abbot
          This evidence is further augmented by a snippet from the works of George Abbot, who was one of the KJV’s translators – he was part of the Second Company, which focused on the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation – and who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633.  Abbot wrote the following in his Exposition Upon the Prophet Jonas, Lecture 12, published in 1613 but composed before 1600 (page 254): 
        “This is a fault too common among the sons of men, to dread that which is little, and to pass by that which is more; to make a straining at a gnat, and to swallow up a whole camel.”
          And, in 1610, Thomas Gainsforth composed The Vision and Discourse of Henry the Seuenth Concerning the Unitie of Great Brittaine, and therein he wrote these lines (I have updated the spelling):
          “Some factions are in love with novelties,
          And different minds their different fancies follow;
          They shun the mean, and seek extremities,
          They strain at Gnats, and Elephants do swallow.”
Gainsforth’s reference is especially interesting because he gives no indication that he is using Matthew 23:24; the contrast (here, and in Robert Greene’s book) is between gnats and elephants, rather than between a gnat and a camel.  
          And, lastly, Roger Fenton, in 1599, wrote An Answer to William Alabaster – His Motives, in which we find the following sentence on page 30:  “Let us then leaue to straine at gnattes, and ingenuously acknowledge thus much at the first:  that all differences doe not take away the nature of the true Church.”  (In this sentence, “Let us then leave” means “Grant us then permission.”) 
From page 254 of George Abbot's
Exposition on the Prophet Jonas
Obviously all of these examples of the use of “strain at a gnat” are not typographical errors or printing-mistakes.  The expression was in use in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s.  Therefore, the verdict:  death to the fiction that a printer’s error caused the KJV’s rendering in Matthew 23:24.  Those who have promoted that theory (and especially those who have presented it as a fact) should stop doing so.   
          However, it is not as if there is anything wrong with the rendering “strain out” which is found in most English translations.  The Greek term διϋλίζοντες (diulizontes) – used only here in the New Testament – refers to the act of using a strainer or filter to remove impurities from liquid.  Whether one says, “You use a filter at the sight of a gnat in your drink,” or, “You use a filter to get a gnat out of your drink,” the Greek term is well-represented.  The rendering “strain out” has the advantage of ensuring that readers do not misinterpret “strain at a gnat” to refer to the physical effort of choking on a gnat, but this does not turn “strain at a gnat” into a misprint or a mistranslation.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Nativity Icon: How Copyists Perceived Christmas

A representation of the Nativity Icon
in minuscule 157
(housed at the Vatican Library)
       It’s almost Christmas, so this might be a good opportunity to momentarily detour from the world of New Testament textual criticism, going slightly off-course into the field of New Testament iconography.  Icons, like other non-textual features in manuscripts, can sometimes help trace a manuscript’s historical background and its relationship to other manuscripts.  Let’s take some time to think about the Icon of the Nativity.  The image shown here is based on the Nativity Icon found in the important minuscule 157, but the same basic icon is found in many other manuscripts, whether the accompanying text is Greek, Latin, Armenian, or something else. 
         The Nativity Icon depicts several scenes.  The main scene, in the center, shows Mary resting on a bed, or mattress, after giving birth to Jesus.  (Usually the mattress is red; the white mattress with red and blue stripes is a relatively rare feature in the icon in minuscule 157.)  The location is a cave which served the purpose of a natural barn for animals; the cave is pictured somewhat abstractly by the opening on the hill behind Mary.  The infant Jesus is in swaddling cloths, and lying in a manger.  A cave in Bethlehem that is said to be the place of Jesus’ birth can be visited to this day.  But the icon is not intended to only convey a historical reality in its depiction of the cave.  It also signifies that the Word of God took on flesh to bring God’s light into a dark world that was in rebellion against God.  Jesus is the light; the world is the cave.  And, setting a pattern of salvation, the cave did not come to Christ; Christ came to the cave.   
          An ox and a donkey look curiously at Jesus over the edge of the manger.  These animals are not mentioned in the Gospel-accounts, but the tradition about their presence at the manger goes back at least to the 300’s; they are included in sculptures depicting Christ in the manger that were sculpted in that century.  They are also mentioned in the fourteenth chapter of a composition which has come to be known as the Gospel (or, Infancy Gospel) of Pseudo-Matthew; it was not written by Matthew but its author – hundreds of years after Matthew’s time – claimed that Matthew wrote it in an attempt to promote its acceptance.  Prominent atheist Bart Ehrman has spread the claim that the tradition that Jesus was born in the cave at Bethlehem, and the tradition about the ox and donkey, both originated with this late source; however, Justin Martyr, in the first half of the 100’s, mentions the cave at Bethlehem in chapter 78 of his composition Dialogue With Trypho. So does the Proto-evangelium of James, which I will describe shortly. In addition, the presence of the ox and donkey was mentioned by Ambrose of Milan, in the late 300’s, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke. 
A simple depiction of the
Adoration of the Animals,
from the 300's.
          Possibly the tradition about the animals began as an explanation of Isaiah 1:3a – “The ox knows its owner and the donkey knows its master’s crib.”  Another passage, Habakkuk 3:2, probably also had something to do with the spread of the tradition about the animals:  part of the Hebrew phrase which, in modern English Bibles, is translated as “in the midst of the years make known” was translated into Greek in intertestamental times as δύω ζώων, that is, “two living creatures,” or, “two animals,” with the result that in one form of the Greek Old Testament text, the sentence read, “You shall be known between the two living creatures.” 
          The word ζωή does not only refer to animals, but technically to any living creature, and so it is possible (if one were to treat the Septuagint’s rendering as correct) to apply this prophecy from Habakkuk not only to the scene at Christ’s birth, where He is made manifest with two animals at the manger (one clean ox, and one unclean donkey), but also to the scene at Christ’s death, where He is crucified between two thieves (one of whom repents).
          In sync with the idea that the events of Christ’s birth fit the pattern of events surrounding His death, the manger pictured in this icon is made of stone, foreshadowing that as the infant Christ was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in the stone manger, likewise, the body of Christ, after being taken from the cross, was wrapped in a clean linen cloth by Joseph of Arimathea (as related in Matthew 27:59) and placed in a stone tomb.
A Nativity Icon at
Saint Catherine's Monastery
          Augmenting that theme, the Nativity Icon includes a scene that is found nowhere in the New Testament:  a scene in which two women give the infant Jesus a bath while Mary rests.  These two characters are derived from a second-century text called the Proto-evangelium (or Infancy Gospel) of James. This text was mentioned by the writer Origen, and so a simple deduction leads to the conclusion that it was written no later than the late 100’s – possible even as early as the mid-100’s.  It was composed to “fill in the blanks,” so to speak, regarding the background of Jesus’ family – which it does sometimes via plausible narratives, and sometimes via outlandish tales. But although all that is an interesting subject, let’s keep the focus today on the Nativity Icon:  the two women are sometimes named Salome and Zelemi.  (These are different forms of the same name.  I suspect that the scene in the icon was produced with Salome and an unnamed midwife in mind, and then somewhere along the line, someone gave the midwife a name.)  Once again, the imagery lends itself readily to a thematic application; the washing of the infant Jesus foreshadows His future baptism, at the outset of His ministry.       
          The woman Salome (not the Salome who danced for Herod; she is not named in the Gospels) is named in the Gospels, in Mark15:40 and 16:1; she is one of the women who were the first people to deliver the news about Jesus’ resurrection.  Her relationship to the family of Jesus is never explained in detail in the Gospels, but one tradition says that Joseph was a widower, and that the individuals described as Jesus’ brothers in the Gospels were the sons of Joseph from his previous marriage; similarly Salome was one of Joseph’s daughters and for that reason she was one of the individuals who were called Jesus’ sisters by the residents of Nazareth (although in Mark 6:3, the residents of Nazareth only name Jesus’ brothers).  
An Armenian
Nativity Icon
That cannot be verified but it is consistent with the tradition (also reflected in the Proto-evangelium of James) that Joseph was much older than Mary when they were married.  It interlocks with the detail stated in the Gospel of John (in 7:5) that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe on Him during His ministry; if they were all considerably older, then they might have never (or only briefly) shared the same house with Him.  It may also explain why Joseph is not on the scene during Jesus’ ministry; his absence is accounted for by his earlier decease.        
          And speaking of Joseph:  he has his own scene in the Nativity Icon:  he is situated apart from Mary and the baby Jesus, looking somewhat perplexed by everything that has happened.  There is no early tradition that explains exactly what Joseph is supposed to be thinking, but in some versions of the icon, he is accompanied by an old man who represents the devil in disguise, attempting to raise doubts in Joseph’s mind about Mary’s purity.  Faced with a choice between believing what would normally be a reasonable position (that is, that no baby is conceived without the involvement of a man), or a declaration from God, Joseph resolves to believe God – but not without a struggle.  He thus typifies everyone who fights an internal battle against doubts, and who is willing to shoulder the responsibilities that faith requires.     
          The wise men, or Magi, whose journey to honor the newborn King of the Jews is described in the Gospel of Matthew, are also in the icon.  They are three in number (although Matthew does not provide their exact number), and they have different ages – one is young; one is middle-aged, and one is elderly.  Their names and corresponding gifts are as follows: 
The Magi, pictured in a mosaic made
in the mid-500's in Ravenna, Italy
           Gaspar (or Casper) the elderly wise man gave gold;
          ● Melchior the middle-aged wise man gave frankincense from Arabia;
          ● Balthazar the young wise man, who is often pictured as black-skinned, gave myrrh from Yemen.  Their names can be traced at least as far back as the 500’s; they are in a mosaic in Ravenna, Italy which was made in 565, and they are also recorded in a Latin text known as the Excerpta Latina Barbari, which was probably put together around the year 500.  The wise men are typically distinguished in icons not only by their gifts but also by their unusual Persian hats.
          In earlier icons, the wise men are pictured on their way to the Christ-child; by the time they arrived, Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus were residing in a house, according to Matthew 2:11.  In later icons, however, they are sometimes pictured at the manger with the shepherds, as in some modern-day Nativity scenes.  The old arrangement, in which Christ’s birth is celebrated on December 25 and the Feast of Epiphany (when the wise men arrive and encounter the Christ-child) is celebrated on January 6, is the basis for the custom of treating Christmastime as a 12-day-long celebration.  And, like the wise men who departed to their own country “by another way” after their visit, likewise we should all be changed by consideration of what God has done, and what He continues to do, through Christ.        
          The Gospels provide no direct evidence that the wise men were kings; however it is possible that they served as de facto ambassadors, and thus their actions may be regarded indirectly as actions done in the name of a king, or kings, depending on how many political entities sent the wise men.  It is in this sense that some interpreters have understood Psalm 72:10 and Isaiah 60:3 to be fulfilled by the wise men – “The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts,” and “Nations shall come to Your light, and kings to the brightness of Your dawn.”
          The wise men’s presence in the story of Christmas raised a question for thoughtful Christians in the early church:  how did the wise men know to look for a special star that would signal the arrival of the King of the Jews?  As a guide to the answer to this question, the Nativity-icon in minuscule 157 includes another Biblical scene, drawn from the book of Numbers:  the prophet Balaam points out the Star of Bethlehem to the pagan king Balak, in accord with his prophecy in Numbers 24:17:  “I shall see him, but not now:  I shall behold him, but not nigh:  there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”  A recollection of Balaam’s ancient prophecy – combined perhaps with the influence of Daniel among the astrologers of Persia – would prod the Magi to perceive a special significance in the Star of Bethlehem.       
An ivory panel-carving of
the Nativity Icon,
at the Walters Art Museum
in Baltimore.
          In most Nativity-icons, Balaam and Balak are replaced by shepherds.  This might have been done by an artist who was unfamiliar with the significance of these characters, and who was copying a small icon in which the names of the characters were not given and the details were not clearly defined.  Feeling that the shepherds should be included, and seeing an angel facing these two characters, the artist identified them as shepherds, and thus Balaam and Balak disappeared from the scene.  (Balak’s crown, accordingly, was apparently redrawn as an unusual hat on one of the shepherds.)  There is something thematically appealing to this development – emphasizing the teaching that we are no longer under Law, but under grace – for as Balaam and Balak are replaced by shepherds, the angel of the Lord who appeared to Balaam with a rebuke and a sword now stands as the angel who proclaimed “Good tidings of great joy which shall be for all peoples.”
          Finally, in the background, the angelic armies stand ready to be discharged to visit the shepherds, and the Old Testament prophets stand by as a cloud of witnesses, looking on as God’s plan unfolds. May we stand with them in wonder this Christmas, as heaven and earth praise God together for the salvation He has brought us through His Son.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Papyrus Support for Mark 16:9-20

Some Coptic text from the papyrus
manuscript of Acts of Pilate at Turin.
Red = damaged text.
Yellow = use of Mark 16:15-18.
          That headline is technically correct, but there is more to the story.  Similarly, when you read the Gospel of Mark and encounter headings and footnotes at 16:8 that say, “The most reliable early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at verse 8” (NLT) or,  “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20,” a closer look at the evidence may yield a very different impression than what one might initially receive, particularly when one notices that there are only two early Greek manuscripts of Mark in which the text ends at 16:8, and that both of those manuscripts from the 300’s (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) have unusual features at the end of Mark, and that there is significantly earlier support for Mark 16:9-20, unmentioned by the footnote-writers.  
          But if you’ve read my book, Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20, you already know that.  Let’s look at something new:  papyrus support for Mark 16:9-20!  The papyrus in question is a manuscript of a composition called the Acts of Pilate (or Gesta Pilati), also called the Gospel of Nicodemus.  Though little-known nowadays, the Acts of Pilate was widely circulated in medieval times, often in an expanded form that featured an account of the “Harrowing of Hell.”  
          It is precarious to assign production-dates for such stratified texts.  At least three points involving patristic testimony should be considered:
          ● Justin Martyr, writing in his First Apology chapter 35, around 160, stated that a record of the events involved in Christ’s trials and crucifixion could be confirmed by consulting the Acts of Pontius Pilate, but Justin gives no further details and so it is impossible to determine from such a statement that Justin was referring to this particular composition, or if he was referring to another text, or if he simply assumed that the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (to whom Justin’s First Apology was addressed) would have access to archives that contained Pilate’s annual reports. 
          ● Eusebius of Caesarea (in Book 9, chapters 4-5 of Ecclesiastical History, around 320) mentioned that an anti-Christian book called the Acts of Pilate had been concocted and circulated by agents of Emperor Maximinus as part of his persecution efforts, but Eusebius does not mention any similarly titled texts written from a pro-Christian perspective. 
          Epiphanius of Salamis (around 375), in Panarion, (under heading IV, part 50, on the Quartodecimans), commented that some persons had found, in their copies of the Acts of Pilate, a reference to the eighth day before the calends of April as the precise day on which Christ was crucified.  Epiphanius also stated that he had seen copies of the Acts of Pilate in which the date of Christ’s crucifixion was given as the fifteenth day before the calends of April.  In the opening chapter of the extant text of Acts of Pilate, there is a reference to the date of Christ’s crucifixion as the eighth day of the calends of April, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius (or, in some copies, the nineteenth year); so it would seem from this that by the time Epiphanius wrote, the earliest form of Acts of Pilate had been already been written and had been in circulation long enough to undergo some corruption where its numerals were concerned.

Codex Einsidlensis 326, 18v,
with a utilization of Mark 16:15-16.
          In 1973, H. C. Kim produced an edition of the Gospel of Nicodemus based mainly on the text as found in a Latin manuscript from the 900’s, Codex Einsidlensis (or Einsiedeln).  On page 18v of the manuscript, an excerpt from the fourteenth chapter runs as follows:

“Now a certain priest named Phinees, and Addas a teacher, and a Levite named Haggaeus came down from Galilee to Jerusalem, and told the chief priests and all the synagogue-rulers, ‘We saw Jesus who was crucified, speaking with his eleven disciples, and sitting in their midst upon the Mount of Olives, and he said to them, “Go into all the world; preach to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.  And as he was saying these things to his disciples, we saw him ascend up into heaven.” 

          We now turn to the papyrus manuscript, which is housed in Turin, Italy, at the Egyptian Museum, where it is catalogued as item 129/18.  This papyrus manuscript was produced in or near the 700’s.  It was probably once housed in Thinis, Egypt.  (This location is named in a note in another manuscript which was taken to Italy around 1820 along with the manuscript that is in view here.) 
          It, too, contains the Acts of Pilate in its early form.  However, the text in this manuscript is in Coptic, rather than Latin.  Its Coptic text was published in Patrologia Orientalis, Volume 9 (1913) by Eugene Revillout, who also provided a French translation of it.  Its text had previously been published by Francesco Rossi in 1883, and had been studied by Amedeo Peyron, whose research-work was used by Tischendorf.   
          Compared to the excerpt from Codex Einsidlensis, the Coptic text in the Turin papyrus at this point is somewhat different:  instead of blending Matthew 28:19 with Mark 16:15-16, it presents Mark 16:15-18, as follows (I have relied upon the recently released English translation by Anthony Alcock, whose work I have somewhat adjusted) –

“One of the priests named Phineas, and Addas the teacher, and Ogias the Levite came from Jerusalem and said to the synagogue leaders and the people of the Jews, ‘We have seen Jesus and His eleven disciples sitting on the mount called Mambrech and saying to them, “Go into the world and preach to the entire creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be judged in the Judgment. You, my disciples, will cast out demons from those who are afflicted by them. You will speak in another new language. You will take poisonous serpents in your hands and they will do nothing to you. You will be given deadly lethal potions, and nothing will be able to harm you. You will lay your hands on the sick and they will be healed. Everything that you ask in my name will be granted to you.” We heard Jesus saying these things. Then He ascended to heaven in great indescribable glory.’”

An account of the "Harrowing of Hell," pictured here
in the Beaupre Antiphonary (from 1290), was part of a
secondary portion of the Acts of Pilate (or, Gospel of
) which was very widely circulated
in the Middle Ages.
          The Latin text probably preceded the Coptic text, for the most part.  Without delving into a detailed comparison, it looks like the initial author used and condensed material from the fifty-fifth chapter of the Diatessaron, and his work is reflected in the Latin text; a revisor replaced the Diatessaron-text with a block of text from Mark 16 (and a flourish based on John 13:14).  There is not much way to tell if this happened in Latin, or exclusively in the Coptic text; however, the reference to taking up serpents “in your hands” in the Coptic text of Acts of Pilate suggests that this particular detail, at least, was introduced by a revisor who possessed a text of Mark 16:18 that contained the phrase about serpents being taken “in their hands”).        
          If the Latin text of Acts of Pilate utilized the Diatessaron at this point, then here we have yet another piece of evidence that Tatian, around 172, used a text of Mark that contained 16:9-20.  If not, then the author of Acts of Pilate is a witness for Mark 16:9-20 (for when part of the section is used, it implies awareness of the whole section, as when part of a skeleton is excavated; the existence of the rest of the body is deduced) from the mid-300’s, contemporary with the copyists of Codex Sinaiticus, and the papyrus manuscript at Turin is an additional witness for the Coptic text of Mark 16:15-18. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Early Latin Evidence for John 7:53-8:11

          Many commentators reject John 7:53-8:11, echoing Bruce Metzger’s well-known comments.  The NET, for example, states that this passage (the passage about the adulteress, also called the pericope adulterae) “is not contained in the earliest and best MSS and was almost certainly not an original part of the Gospel of John.”  Yet all major English Bible translations include it.  It may seem difficult to account for this friction as a result of any factors other than ecumenical or financial priorities, but there is another consideration:  recognition of the possibility that the vast consensus of commentators are wrong, and that the 1,495 Greek manuscripts which contain the passage are right. 
          But in that case, how does one account for the early manuscripts which do not have these 12 verses between John 7:52 and 8:12?  My basic answer is that very early in church history, John 7:37-52 was read in some churches as the annual Scripture-passage for Pentecost-day, and that 8:12 was used as the conclusion of the reading, skipping the 12 verses in between.  A lector marked his manuscript to signify that those 12 verses were to be skipped during the Pentecost-reading – but when his manuscript was later used as an exemplar, the copyist misunderstood the marks as if they meant that he, the copyist, was to skip those 12 verses, and that is what he dutifully did, and thus they disappeared in all subsequent copies descended from manuscripts of John made by that particular copyist.       
          Another possibility is that instead of merely skipping the passage, a copyist simplified the Pentecost-lection by transplanting these 12 verses to the end of the Gospel of John – where indeed the passage is found in the best representatives of the Caesarean text of the Gospels (minuscules 1 and 1582 among others).  (Via this step, the Pentecost-lection became one uninterrupted block of text.)  Although these manuscripts are medieval, their line of descent is traceable to an ancestor-manuscript made in the late 400’s, the text of which has some affinities with a form of text used by Origen in the 200’s.  (For instance, Origen mentioned that he had manuscripts which called Barabbas “Jesus” in Matthew 27:16-17, and this rare reading tends to be supported by the leading members of this group of manuscripts.)
          If, in earlier manuscripts, John 7:53-8:11 was transplanted to the end of the book, we would have no way to know it from the earliest Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John.  Due to damage, the text of Papyrus 66 cannot be confidently reconstructed after 21:17.  Papyrus 75 is in even worse shape; incidental damage has caused its extant text of John to end in 15:10.  Due to damage, the Lycopolitan Codex of John (an early Coptic manuscript) has no more text after 20:27.  Codex N, too, is damaged, and its last extant text of John is in 21:21, leaving it an open question if anything followed after 21:25.  As for Codex L and Codex Δ, their copyists testified to the presence, as well as to the absence, of the passage, as I have shown previously
          These six Greek manuscripts – P66, P75, N, L, and Δ – constitute five of the first ten Greek manuscripts that are typically listed as evidence against John 7:53-8:11; however, on the question of whether or not they retained the passage after John 21:25, they appear to be silent.  Similarly, we cannot discern with certainty that the blank spaces after the end of John in Codex Sinaiticus, Codex A, and Codex W are merely examples of filler-space, or of space reserved for the pericope adulterae by copyists whose exemplars lacked the passage but who revertheless recollected it. 
          But I want to give you more today than just a reminder of the tentative and incomplete nature of the testimony of most of the major Greek uncials which are often described or listed by commentators as if they speak uniformly and without qualification against the inclusion of the pericope adulterae.  Regarding the often-asked question about why the account appears in different locations within John 7-8, and even at the end of Luke 21, I will simply refer you to my book, A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11, so that we may focus today on something else which I am confident you will find interesting.
          It is not unusual to find, in ancient Gospels-manuscripts, book-divisions, often marked by chapter-numbers, chapter-titles, and sometimes brief chapter-summaries.  (These divisions are different than the Eusebian Canons and Sections, which I have described elsewhere.)  Latin copies contain a variety of chapter-lists, or capitula, and chapter-summaries, or breves.  (The terms are practically interchangeable.)  One of the earliest examples of Latin capitula is in Codex Fuldensis (produced c. 546), in which the Vulgate Gospels-text was formatted to correspond to an exemplar which bishop Victor of Capua thought might have been a Latin version of the Diatessaron made by Tatian around 172.  The chapter-numbers and list from Victor’s lost exemplar were preserved in Codex Fuldensis – and they include a chapter-summary which covers the pericope adulterae – #120:  “De muliere a Iudaeis in adulterio deprehensa.”
          As old as Codex Fuldensis is – and its exemplar must have been older yet – another form of Latin chapter-summaries is assigned to the 200’s – the Cy form, so-called to signify that it was created by a contemporary of Cyprian.  This is one of several forms of Latin chapter-summaries which were collected in 1914 by a researcher named Donatien De Bruyne.  His book, Sommaires, Divisions et Rubriques de la Bible Latine, written in French, is helpfully available online at the Gallica website as a free download.  When one turns to page 320, one can find the relevant chapter-summary, #30, that is, in Roman numerals, XXX: 

“Ubi adulteram dimisit et se dixit lumen saeculi et de testimonio suo et patris; ibi ait :  si me nossetis, et patrem meum nossetis, loquens in gazofilatio et quod non eum inuenientes in peccatis suis morituri essent, et quod illi essent de isto saeculo, ipse non esset et quod quaerentibus quis esset respondit : initium, et de patre locutus est non cognoscentibus quia cum illo est qui eum misit.” 

Click here to see the full-color page-view of this chapter-summary.
          As far as the pericope adulterae is concerned, the opening words of this chapter-summary are very significant, because they refer to the dismissal of the adulteress before summarizing the other contents in the thirtieth portion of John.  The beginning of this chapter-summary runs something like this in English:  “Wherein he dismissed the adulteress, and said that he was the light of the world, and described his testimony and the testimony borne by his Father.  He said, If you knew me, you would have known my Father also.  And he was saying in the temple-treasury that those who did not find him would die in their sins, and that they were of this world, but he was not.”
          The Cy form of the chapter-summaries, though initially created to accompany an ancient Old Latin text, has survived – barely – by being grafted onto a standard Latin text.  The Cy chapter-summaries are extant primarily in only two known manuscripts:  Vatican Barberini 637, and Munich BSB Clm. 6212.  (They are partly preserved in the British Library in Harley 1775. 
          Happily, digital images of both of these two manuscripts are accessible online.  The Vatican’s page-views are under strict copyright, but once you arrive at the Vatican Library’s website, it is easy to find Barberini 627, and to turn to page 99r, looking for chapter-summary #30 in the left column of the page.  Similarly, to view the full-color page-view of the same chapter-summary at the top of page 131v of the other manuscript, visit this embedded linkHugh Houghton has noted that the Munich manuscript was thought by McGurk, who studied it, to have been copied from a much earlier exemplar produced in the 500’s.  
          You may be asking, why is this form of Latin chapter-divisions, extant in just two manuscripts from the 800’s and 900’s, associated with Cyprian?  Basically this is a conclusion drawn from cumulative evidence in the form of special repeated points of correspondence between the text that is used in the chapter-summaries (especially where rare terms are used, and when quotations are included) and Cyprian’s Gospels-quotations.  Hugh Houghton, in a 2011 article in Revue Benedictine, noted that the text embedded in this form of chapter-summaries has affinities “to the citations of both Cyprian and Tertullian.”    
          As Hugh Houghton has reported, De Bruyne also noted the antiquity of the chapter-summaries known as Type I; Houghton has placed this form in the 300’s.  In John, Type I’s chapter-summary #16 says, “Adducunt ad eum mulierem ‘in adulterio deprehensam,’ and in one form of this chapter-summary, found in six manuscripts, the text continues, “in moechatione ut eam iudicaret.”    The form of the chapter-summaries which De Bruyne lists as Type D also has these words, followed by “quod nemo miserit super illam manus.”  (See page 264 of his book.)  An interesting feature of this particular chapter-summary is that it contains the loan-word moechatione, suggesting that this chapter-summary was based on an Old Latin text which someone had translated from Greek rather literally, at least at this point.
          Type I of the chapter-summaries tends to accompany a distinct form of the Old Latin text which is basically a form of the Gospels-text which was used by Ambrose of Milan in the 370’s-390’s.  According to Houghton, this was also, in general, the form of the Latin text used by Zeno of Verona (c. 300-371).  
          So, to sum up:  various forms of Old Latin chapter-summaries, the earliest of which has been deduced via the detection of shared readings to have been based on a form of the Latin text of the Gospels used by, or at approximately the same time as, Cyprian in the 200’s, are a cluster of significant witnesses for the pericope adulterae.   To those who may want to locate where the pericope adulterae is summarized in the forms of chapter-summaries of the Gospel of John which are presented by De Bruyne, here they are:

A:  (none)
B:  (none; this is a shorter form of Type A.)
BrVII:  Iesus supra mare ambulat . . . . [and after several sentences] De muliere adultera.  Iesus lumen mundi se esse non credentibus Iudaeis in gazophilacio docens praedicat.
Ben:  XXI:  De muliere in adulterio deprehensa.
C:  XX:  Mulierem in adulterio deprehensam atque ad se adductam nec ab accusatoribus condemnatam ipse sub condicione qua ulterius non peccaret absoluit.
D:  XVIII:  De muliere in adulterio depraehensa. [in moechatione u team iudicaret, quod nemo miserit super illam manus].  
I:  XVI:  Adducunt ad eum mulierem in adulterio deprehensam.  (See above for expanded form.)
W:  XVI:  De muliere in adulterio deprehensa.
Cat:  XVI:  Adducunt ad Iesum mulierem deprehensam [in adulterio], et ego sum lux mundi, et uos secundum carnem iudicatis, et neque me scitis neque patrem meum, et si non credideritis quia ego sum moriemini.        
Ifor:  (none) 
Pi:  XVI:  De muliere in adulterio deprehensa.       
Cy:  XXX:  Ubi adulteram dimisit et se dixit lumen saeculi . . .  (See above)
In:  No mention of the adulteress, but XVI:  Iesus autem ascendit in montem Oliueti.
VichVII:  (at the end of the summary) Mulierem adulteram liberans lucem mundi se dicit.
Z:  XVIII:  De muliere in adulterio deprehensa.
          The pericope adulterae is not supported by forms A and B (which are the same in John), or by form Ifor; however, even this is conceivably an effect of the conciseness of these summaries rather than evidence that the passage was absent in the texts accompanied by the chapter-summaries.  In any event, we have here twelve witnesses (much more, of course, if we were to count each manuscript individually instead of the chapter-lists themselves, but less if we were to group together four similar forms) for the inclusion of the pericope adulterae.  
          Furthermore, none of them show any signs of deviation regarding the sequence in which the episode occurs in the text of the Gospel of John.  This is quite strong evidence that the passage was in its usual location following John 7:52 before it was moved to the back of the book.  This should motivate those who treat the pericope adulterae’s dislocations as anything other than the effects of lection-cycles and special formatting of the Pentecost-lection to reconsider their position.  In addition, claims that convey that no early versions included John 7:53-8:11 should be withdrawn.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

New Coptic Evidence for Mark 16:15-18

          If you’ve already carefully read Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20, then you may recall that in the list of patristic witnesses supporting the passage, there was one called The Enthronement of the Archangel Michael.  Even though this short book was composed before the year 600 – and is thus older than several other witnesses which are routinely cited when the subject of the ending of Mark is addressed – it is not mentioned in the lists of witnesses in the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, nor in the Nestle-Aland compilation, nor in the notes in the New English Translation.  Bart Ehrman does not mention it in his descriptions of the evidence pertaining to the ending of Mark; nor did Bruce Metzger, his mentor, who authored the influential (but obsolete) A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.         
A page from a manuscript of
The Investiture of the Archangel Michael
          The tendency to ignore The Enthronement (also called the Investiture, or Institution) of the Archangel Michael – a tendency exhibited by almost all English-writing commentators on the Gospel of Mark – may now be remedied by the availability of an English translation by Anthony Alcock of the Sahidic text of this composition.  As Alin Suciu recently noted at his blog, The Investiture of the Archangel Michael was translated into several languages and dialects in ancient times but it was probably composed in an Egyptian language.       
          This implies that sometime before bishop John of Parallos (c. 540-620) wrote his criticism of heretical books, including objections against The Investiture of the Archangel Michael, someone in Egypt borrowed verbiage from Mark 16:15-18 when constructing the closing narrative of this text – and this implies, in turn, that at that time, copies of Mark were circulating in Egypt that contained verses 9-20 of chapter 16. 
          Because the composition-date for The Investiture of the Archangel Michael is centuries earlier than the production-dates of Armenian and Old Georgian manuscripts that are often mentioned by commentators as witnesses against the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, The Investiture of the Archangel Michael should be mentioned in any future commentaries’ discussion of the ending of Mark that mention those versional copies, lest the authors risk being accused of cherry-picking the evidence deliberately as so many of their predecessors have done accidentally.   
          The author of The Investiture of the Archangel Michael covered a variety of topics, ranging from the rebellion of Satan (the story in this text resembles one that was known to Muhammad, and which is echoed in the Quran in surah 7:11-18) and the promotion of Michael to take Satan’s place, to the benefits of acts of piety done in the name of Jesus and Saint Michael, especially when they are done on the annual feast-day of the archangel Michael (the 12th of Hathor in the Coptic calendar).  Along the way, the author utilized Matthew 26:29, Acts 3:6 (with the variant “rise and walk”), and Matthew 13:16, as well as the Gospels’ narratives about the death of John the Baptist.  And in the 20th chapter, the author makes extensive use of Mark 16:15-18, depicting Jesus telling His apostles the following:
Another manuscript
of the Investiture text.
See the Morgan Library's website
for the full-color image.

“Now then, my disciples, go forth into the world and preach the four gospels and the sweet teaching that I told you when I was teaching. . . . . Everything you eat, pray over it first, because everything is purified by prayer.  Everything you embark on, pray first before you do it and preach the gospel to all creation.  The one who believes and receives baptism will not be slighted.  These signs will be revealed to those who believe.  They will cast out demons in my name.  They will speak other languages.  They will seize serpents in their hands.  Even if they drink poison, it will do them no harm.  They will place their hands on the sick, who will be healed.” 

          A clearer utilization of Mark 16:15-18 could hardly be asked for.  It should be noted that the text which the author used included the variant “in their hands,” showing that his text of Mark likewise contained this phrase at the beginning of Mark 16:18.  This little detail suggests that the author was using a form of the text of Mark that was indigenous (because this reading tends to be found in the Alexandrian form of Mark 16:18), not something newly arrived from a locale where the Byzantine Text was in use (because the Byzantine Text does not have “And in their hands” in Mark 16:18).
          Anthony Alcock is to be thanked for this new English translation of The Investiture of the Archangel Michael.  May the news of its existence be shared with, and by, future commentators!