Friday, December 22, 2017

The Text of Phoebadius

            Today’s subject requires some historical background.
            Following the Council of Nicea in 325, Arius – who promoted the view that there was a time when the Word did not exist, and was the first created thing – was declared a heretic and was sent into exile.  But in the years that followed, Athanasius – Arius’ most vocal opponent, who promoted the orthodox view that the Word is uncreated and worthy of worship – was also sent into exile, and then was restored to his office, and then was exiled again; this happened repeatedly.  If emperor Constantine’s purpose for organizing the Council of Nicea had been to reduce disharmony in the Christian churches, he did not succeed.  Eventually, just before dying, Constantine was baptized (or sprinkled) by Eusebius of Nicomedia (not to be confused with Eusebius of Caesarea) – a bishop who was in the minority that favored Arianism. 
            The bishops at the Council of Nicea had established the divinity of Christ and issued the Nicene Creed – but some other important subjects were not addressed (particularly, the subject of which books were to be considered authoritative was not covered, contrary to widespread claims that may be traced to the fictitious Da Vinci Code) and in the decades that followed the leaders of the Arians managed to stretch the vocabulary of the creed in such a way that it seemed to the emperors that their theology could fit through it.
Julian the Apostate
(Emperor, 361-363)
            Constantius II (co-emperor from 337 to 350, and sole emperor from 350 to 361) favored Arian theology, and just before he died, he was baptized (or sprinkled) by Euzoius, the Arian bishop of Caesarea.  His successor Julian (reigned 361-363) was neither orthodox nor Arian; he attempted to revive paganism and for this reason is known as Julian the Apostate.
            In the middle of this chaotic stage entered Phoebadius of Agen in what is now southwestern France.  He was a bishop from sometime before 357 to sometime after 392 (when Jerome, in his Lives of Illustrious Men, mentioned that Phoebadius was still living).  In the mid-300’s, when the Arian bishops of Caesarea were busy transferring texts from papyrus onto parchment to remedy the destructive natural effects of humidity, Phoebadius boldly and busily defended orthodox theology, participating in councils and writing letters against the slippery word-games used by his Arian contemporaries. 
            Phoebadius wrote in Latin, and thus the Scripture-quotations in his sole extant composition – Against the Arians – provide a glimpse at the Old Latin text that he used.  R. P. C. Hanson has observed that Phoebadius was well-acquainted with at least some of the writings of Tertullian, and that Phoebadius “certainly had Hebrews in his canon.”  Phoebadius also quoted from the book of Tobit.  His work was influential in the theological disputes of the mid-300’s.  Against the Arians was translated into English by Keith C. Wessel in 2008 and this English translation can be downloaded for free.  Using that resource, let’s take a look at some of Phoebadius’ citations and utilizations of the New Testament in the first 12 chapters of his composition Against the Arians, remembering that this was composed in 357 and thus represents a witness as old as Codex Sinaiticus.  I list them in the order in which they appear.

●  John 20:17b
●  Philippians 2:9
●  John 17:3
●  Matthew 19:17 or Mark 10:19 or Luke 18:19 – “Why do you say that I am good?  No one is good except God alone.”
●  John 5:44 – “Why do you not seek honor that comes from the one and only God?”
●  Matthew 24:36 – “Concerning that day and hour no one knows except the Father alone.”  (Notice that Phoebadius’ text does not include the phrase “nor the Son.”)
●  John 11:35 – Phoebadius does not quote this verse but mentions that Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus.
●  Luke 19:41 – Phoebadius does not quote this verse but mentions that Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
●  John 3:6
●  Matthew 26:41 or Mark 14:38 – “The flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing.”  (Notice the transposition.)
●  First John 3:7 (a snippet) – “The one who has the substance of the world”
●  Luke 19:8 (a snippet) – “Look, I am giving half of my substance.”
●  Colossians 1:27
●  First Corinthians 1:24 – “Christ is the power (virtus) of God”
●  Romans 11:34 (snippet)
●  First Corinthians 2:16 (snippet)
●  First Corinthians 2:11 (snippet, twice) – “from him and with him and in him”
●  John 9:29
●  John 16:28 – “I have come forth from the Father and from the bosom of the Father”
●  (20) Matthew 11:27
●  John 16:13
●  First Corinthians 2:10-11
●  Matthew 7:7 or Luke 11:9 (notice the transposition)
●  Matthew 11:25
●  Matthew 13:11 or Mark 4:11 (Byz) or Luke 8:10
●  Ephesians 3:5
●  Colossians 1:27 (an allusion)
●  John 8:14-15
●  John 4:24 (snippet)
●  (30) First Corinthians 15:28 (allusion)
●  Revelation 13:11 (adaptation) – “having horns like lambs but speaking as dragons” 
●  John 14:28 (snippet)
●  John 5:23 (snippet)
●  John 1:18 – Phoebadius specifies that he is citing from John, and quotes, “No one has ever seen God except the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.”  We see here a defender of Christ’s divinity using the reading “only begotten Son.” 
●  John 17:10
●  John 5:19
●  John 6:38
●  John 8:29 (snippet)
●  John 14:10
●  Second Corinthians 1:20

We thus see that in these 12 chapters, 40 verses are used, mostly from the Gospels.  Let’s continue, covering the remainder of Phoebadius’ composition.

●  Matthew 16:27 – Phoebadius specifically quotes from Matthew:  “The Son is going to come in the glory of his own Father.”
●  Luke 9:26 – Phoebadius specifically quotes from Luke:  “When the Son of Man comes with his own glory and that of his Father.” 
●  Colossians 2:9
●  John 16:15 (snippet)  
●  First John 5:11 – “We proclaim to you eternal life, life that was with the Father, and he adds, and in the Son.” 
●  John 14:10
●  John 5:19
●  John 1:3
●  John 10:30
●  John 7:28-29 – “You neither know me or where I am from, nor that I have not come on my own.  But the one who sent me is true, the one you do not know.  But I know him because I am with him, and he has sent me.”  (Notice the rendering of the first part)
●  John 8:16b 
●  John 10:15a
●  John 3:35b
●  (15) John 5:43a
●  Revelation 1:8 or parallels – “He who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  (Notice the transposition.)
●  First John 1:1-2
●  John 16:27 (snippet)
●  John 10:30
●  John 14:9-10 (snippets)
●  John 8:29a
●  Romans 11:36 (snippet)
●  John 5:37 (allusion)
●  John 8:19
●  John 4:24a
●  Second Corinthians 13:4 
●  Matthew 26:41 or Mark 14:38 – “The flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing.”  (Notice the transposition, which also occurred the first time Phoebadius quoted the sentence.)
●  First Corinthians 1:18 (snippet)
●  First Corinthians 15:3 (snippet)
●  (30) John 10:30
●  John 14:10
●  John 10:30
●  John 14:9
●  John 4:24a
●  First Corinthians 2:11
●  Romans 11:34
●  John 1:3
●  Philippians 2:6-7
●  Romans 11:33
●  Romans 11:36
●  John 14:16
●  Galatians 1:8

            Taking all 28 chapters of Phoebadius’ Against the Arians into consideration, we see that in this composition he used material from the New Testament 82 times.  He used a few passages – particularly Matthew 26:41 (or Mark 14:38), John 4:24a, and John 10:30 – more than once.  All in all, no less than 70 passages from the New Testament are utilized in this composition.  If it had never been discovered until today, we would announce a rather significant discovery, equivalent to the discovery of 70 little manuscript-fragments as old as Codex Sinaiticus.    
            Yet Phoebadius is hardly known, and lately it seems that the entire category of patristic evidence is being unfairly and unscientifically minimized.  No patristic evidence of any kind appears in the apparatus of the recently published Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament.  And in the “textual flow diagrams” in Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry’s A New Approach to Textual Criticism, intended as an introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, I did not see any patristic writers at all. 
            Recently apologist James White claimed that “The citations of Scriptural material from patristic sources are notoriously vague,” but I welcome him to go through the list presented here and see where, aside from the parallel-passages and the three instances specifically described as allusions, there are any grounds for not affirming that Phoebadius used the passage that is listed.  He also said, “I do not believe that patristic citations can overcome the actual manuscript evidence.”  But where the patristic citations are clear and there is no reason to question the contents of the patristic text itself, they should have the same weight as the owners’ manuscripts.  What does Dr. White think the patristic writers were citing?

            Even relatively little-known patristic compositions can provide significant text-critical data.  Those who would minimize or dismiss patristic testimony run a high risk of investing a lot of effort in a method that is doomed to produce inaccurate results, like a recipe in which the cooks have chosen to omit important ingredients.
            In other news:  Merry Christmas, everyone!


1 comment:

Tommy Wasserman said...

The textual flow diagrams are connected with the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method used to survey the genealogy of manuscript texts, and does not work well on patristic evidence. You can certainly attempt in case you have a father that cites the NT text more extensively (once you have analyzed each citation of course, but that is another question).