Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fourth-century Philemon: P139

           This past May, along with the release of the small fragment formerly known as “First Century Mark,” (P137) two other New Testament papyri were released:  a fragment with text from the Gospel of Luke (P138), and a fragment with text from Paul’s Epistle to Philemon (P139).  The Egypt Exploration Society kindly provided interested persons with access to images of the fragment of Mark, and a picture of Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5347 – the fragment from Philemon – is on the same page.  The images show text from verses 6-8 and 18-20.
             Without consulting the transcription offered by the editor of P139 (Notre Dame professor Dr. David Lincicum), I have attempted a transcription of it.   For the official transcription, made by someone who could study the papyrus directly, you will need to consult Volume 83 of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri – Graeco-Roman Memoirs, a publication of the Egypt Exploration Society.  The script is consistent with a production-date in the 300s, which means that this papyrus is one of our three earliest Greek manuscripts of Philemon (ranking behind P87 and more or less tied with Codex Sinaiticus).
Here are some thoughts and observations about the text of this newly published witness to the text of Philemon that was read in Egypt in the 300s:
● v. 6 – υμειν confirms the reading εν υμιν (with an inconsequential spelling-difference), and this might tilt the balance of evidence away from εν ημιν, the reading that is presently read in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.

● v. 6-7 – My reconstruction of the second line is very tentative.  Somewhere in the non-extant text,  space-considerations seem to support the non-inclusion of Ἰησουν (even contracted as a sacred name). 

● v. 7 – P139 definitely supports πολλην εσχον, not εχομεν πολλην. 

● v. 7 – There may be a raised dot between σου and οτι. 

● v. 8 – Where there should be an ο in πολλην, P139 appears to have an ε.

● v. 18 – τουτο appears to have been written as τοουτο.

● v. 19 – The last visible letter in the fourth line could be an ε or a smudged ι.

● v. 19 – Instead of the usual reading σεαυτόν, P139 reads αυτον, and ε has been added above the α, so as to support εαυτόν. 

● v. 19 – A slight orthographic variant, ι instead of ει in προσοφείλεις, is supported by P139.  This spelling (without the ε) is also supported by Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, and by Codex Claromontanus (which doesn’t have the ε after the λ, either; a corrector has inserted it).

● v. 20 – A new reading appears to be attested by P139:  after ἐγώ σου, one would expect ὀναίμην ἐν Κω (i.e., Κυρίω) – part of the phrase, “Let me have from you joy in the Lord.”  Instead, only a smidgen of ink has survived where ὀναίμην ἐν would be, and at the beginning of the next, last line, instead of Κω or Κυρίω, we see the letters χρ.  Over these two letters χρ and extending into the left margin there is a paragraphos, a horizontal line that was used by copyists to separate paragraphs.  The letters χρ appear to be followed by the remains of a sloping ω, in which case we have here a three-letter form of a sacred-name contraction (with the paragraphos to be construed as serving a dual purpose); however the last letter could also be a ε, which would imply that the copyist wrote the word χρειστω in full (which would be highly unusual); either way, P139 thus supports a form of the text of the middle of verse 20 which reads “in Christ” rather than “in the Lord.” 

            This is of course only a preliminary reading based on a black-and-white photograph.  After completing my own transcription, I checked it against the transcription in Oxyrhynchus Papyri Volume 83, and although there are some disagreements between my work and that of Dr. Lincicum, I was satisfied with how my transcription turned out.  Readers are encouraged of course to consult the official transcription.


Monday, May 28, 2018

A Moment Please, Dr. Holmes!

             In a recent article at the Bible Odyssey website, What Are English Translations of the Bible Based On?, Dr. Michael W. Holmes made some claims about the external support for some verses that appear in the text of the New Testament in the King James Version but not in the New International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, or the English Standard Version.  He claimed that Matthew 17:21, Matthew 18:11, Matthew 23:14, Mark 7:16, Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46, Mark 11:26, Mark 15:28, Luke 17:36, Luke 23:17, John 5:3b-4, Acts 8:37, Acts 15:34, Acts 24:6b-8a, Romans 16:24, and 1 John 5:7b-8a were all added to the New Testament; that is, that they are not original. 
From beginning to end, Holmes’ article seems designed to convey that these verses are not in the NIV, NRSV, and ESV because they are not supported by early evidence.  That is undoubtedly the impression that many of Dr. Holmes’ readers derived from the article.  However, the real state of the evidence is quite different.  Readers of Bible Odyssey may find their impressions modified by the following observations:

● Although it is claimed that the oldest manuscript used by Erasmus was “from the 10th century,” Erasmus also used the quotations made by patristic writers who wrote long before then, including Irenaeus (who wrote in the second century).  Also, in the course of making his revised editions, Erasmus learned of readings in other manuscripts, including some readings from Codex Vaticanus (made around 325). 

● Dr. Holmes claimed that to scholars in the late 1700’s and 1800s, it became clear, as they studied ancient manuscripts, that “the text of the New Testament had “grown” slightly as it was copied by hand century after century.”  However, while this was indeed the impression that those scholars had at the time – and they were so sure of it that a guideline was developed, Lectio brevior potior (the shorter reading is to be preferred) – a series of more recent studies (including a particularly extensive piece of research by James Royse) has shown that copyists’ tendency to omit was much more dominant than their tendency to add.  Dr. Holmes no doubt already knows that one should not casually adopt short readings from ancient manuscripts; he retained Matthew 12:47 in the text of the SBL-GNT although it is not supported by the early manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  (The ESV, meanwhile, does not have Matthew 12:47 in its text.)
Matthew 17:21 in Codex W.
Matthew 17:21 is not only in over 99% of the Greek manuscripts of Matthew; it was in the manuscripts used by the early church writer Origen (early 200s-254).  One can consult Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, Book 13, chapter 7, to see this.  It is also in the Vulgate, which was translated by Jerome in 383.  (Jerome stated in his Preface to the Vulgate Gospels that he had consulted ancient Greek manuscripts in the preparation of the Gospels’ text.)  Codex W, found in Egypt, also includes the verse.  The Latin manuscripts used by Ambrose of Milan in the 300s also included this verse, and so do several Old Latin manuscripts.  Thus the support for this verse does not only come from the vast majority of Greek manuscripts; it comes from a patristic quotation earlier than the earliest manuscript of this part of the Gospel of Matthew, and it comes from witnesses in at least four different parts of the Roman Empire. 

Matthew 18:11 was in the Greek manuscripts used by John Chrysostom (late 300s, in Constantinople) and in the Latin manuscripts used by Augustine (early 400s, in North Africa).  The verse is not only in the vast majority of manuscripts, but also in Codex Bezae (“one of our oldest witnesses,” according to Bart Ehrman) and Codex W and the Vulgate and the Peshitta – quite a diverse quartet from the late 300s and 400s (depending on what production-date is given to Codex D). 

Matthew 23:14 – the verse in which Jesus mentions widows’ houses and long prayers as He denounces the scribes and Pharisees – is in most manuscripts, and in most manuscripts it appears before the verse that is, in the KJV, verse 13.  The inclusion of this verse (whether before or after verse 13) is not just supported by a strong majority of Greek manuscripts; it is also supported by the testimony of Hilary of Poitiers (310-367, in France), John Chrysostom (late 300s-407, in Constantinople), and the Peshitta version (in Syria).
            Another consideration regarding this verse is that verse 13 and verse 14 begin with precisely the same word (“Woe,” Greek Οὐαὶ), which would make it easy for a verse to disappear if a copyist’s line of sight accidentally drifted from one occurrence of the word Οὐαὶ to another occurrence of the word Οὐαὶ.   

Mark 7:16 is supported by the vast majority of Greek manuscripts and also by Codex Alexandrinus, by Codex Bezae, by the Gothic version (made c. 350), by the Vulgate, by some Old Latin copies, and by Augustine.  By no possible stretch of the imagination is its support limited to late evidence. 

Mark 9:44 and 9:46 are supported by the vast majority of manuscripts, and also by Codex A, Codex D, the Gothic version, the Vulgate, and some Old Latin copies. 

Mark 11:26 is supported by the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, and by Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Bezae, by Old Latin copies including Codex Vercellensis (probably made in the 370s), by the Gothic version, the Vulgate, and by Augustine. 
Another consideration is that this verse ends with the same phrase (“your trespasses,” Greek τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν) as the verse that comes before it, which made this verse vulnerable to accidental omission in the event that a copyist’s line of sight drifted from one occurrence of the phrase to the occurrence of the same phrase further along in the text (thus skipping all the words in between). 

Mark 15:28 is supported by a large majority of Greek manuscripts, and by the Vulgate, the Gothic version, the Peshitta version, and very probably by Eusebius of Emesa (in the mid-300s).  Eusebius of Caesarea, in the early 300s, seems to have known it and included it in his Canon-tables as a cross-reference with Luke 22:37.

Luke 17:36 is not supported by a majority of Greek manuscripts, but it has support from Codex D, a dozen Old Latin copies, the Vulgate, the Peshitta, both forms of the Old Syriac (that is, both the Sinaitic Syriac and the Curetonian Syriac), and from Ambrose of Milan, and from Augustine. 
Another consideration is that this verse ends with the same word with which the previous verse ends (“shall be left,” Greek ἀφεθήσεται), which made this verse vulnerable to accidental omission when a copyist’s line of sight drifted from the ἀφεθήσεται at the end of verse 35 to the ἀφεθήσεται at the end of verse 36, skipping the words in between.      

Luke 23:17 is supported by the vast majority of manuscripts, and by Codex Sinaiticus (note that at the Codex Sinaiticus website, the English translation is completely bogus at this point), Codex W, Old Latin copies, and the Vulgate, and in Codex Bezae and in both Old Syriac manuscripts, the verse is found after verse 18 rather than before it.  
            Another consideration is that this verse begins with the word Ἀνάγκην and the following verse begins with the word Ἀνέκραξαν; a copyist’s line of sight could feasible drift from one Ἀν- to the next Ἀν, omitting the words in between.   

John 5:3b-4 is supported not only by the vast majority of manuscripts but also by the Vulgate, by Ambrose of Milan, by Chrysostom,  and by Tatian’s Diatessaron (as cited in the commentary on the Diatessaron by Ephraem the Syrian in the mid-300s) and by Tertullian (in De Baptismo, that is, On Baptism, chapter 5).  Tatian lived in the mid-100s, and Tertullian wrote in the early 200s.  Chrysostom also used this passage.    

Acts 8:37 is only supported by about 15% of the Greek manuscripts of Acts, but it was used by Irenaeus (in Book 3, 12:8 of Against Heresies, written c. 180, long before the earliest existing manuscript of this part of Acts was made), by Cyprian (in the 200s, in Book Three of his Testimonies, Treatise 12, chapter 43), by Pontus the Deacon (in the mid-200s), by Pacian of Barcelona (late 300s), and by Augustine (early 400s); it is also in the Coptic (Egyptian) manuscript known as the Glazier Codex (made in the 400s or 500s).

            Now I set aside the remaining four passages mentioned by Dr. Holmes, in the interest of brevity (and to avoid getting distracted by the “Comma Johanneum,” the interpolation in the Textus Receptus in First John 5 that originated as an interpretive note in a branch of the Old Latin version).  Even the evidence-descriptions I have given are far from complete.  My goal today was simply to demonstrate that the historical details about most of the passages in Dr. Holmes’ list of “added verses” do not sustain his presentation, or any presentation which conveys that in these textual contests, the shorter reading is supported exclusively by early evidence, and the longer reading is supported exclusively by late evidence.
            Contrary to the picture that Dr. Holmes has painted, the real-life scenario here is not one in which all the ancient evidence pertinent to these passages points one way, and all the young evidence points a different way.  It is not a simple matter of older-versus-later, as anyone can see by observing that evidence for both readings can be found in testimony from the 300s – and in some cases, evidence for the longer reading comes from sources earlier than the earliest evidence for the shorter reading. 
In closing:  this is not intended to represent a full defense of the genuineness of all or any of these passages.  My sole point is that in most cases, there is ancient evidence on both sides.  If you read anything that gives any other impression – whether a Bible Odyssey article, or a commentary, or vague Bible footnotes – I recommend that your suspicions should be alert to the possibility that instead of reading a disinterested and balanced description of the evidence, you are reading a well-disguised campaign speech for the Alexandrian Text – a speech that cannot be persuasive unless you remain uninformed about the actual state of the evidence.

[Readers are encouraged to explore the embedded links in this post for additional resources.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"First-Century Mark" - Finally! But . . .

First-century Mark is finally published!  Elijah Hixson has already reported at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog that in the latest issue of the journal Oxyrhynchus Papyri – Graeco-Roman Memoirs,#LXXXIII, Dirk Obbink – the specialist who, according to Scott Carroll, had been seen with “First-century Mark” in his possession – has, with fellow specialist Daniela Colomo, published Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345 – and that it contains text from Mark 1:7-9 and 1:16-18.  This fits exactly the contours of “First-century Mark” which could be deduced from earlier reports about the fragment, and Daniel Wallace has confirmed that this is the manuscript that he had in mind when he mentioned the existence of a fragment of the Gospel of Mark dated to the first century back in 2012.
As some researchers expected, the fragment is no longer considered to have been produced in the first century, but it is still very early – almost as old as Papyrus 45, which is the oldest known manuscript with text from the Gospel of Mark.  The newly published fragment has an almost-distinctive reading in Mark 1:17:  the words ὁ Ἰησοῦς (“Jesus”) are not present.  These genuineness of these two words is very well-attested in other manuscripts, and their absence in Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345 is probably due to a simple mistake by the copyist:  his line of sight could have drifted easily from the letters ΟΙΣ at the end of the preceding word (αὐτοις) to the same three letters that followed it, ΟΙΣ, without noticing.  This would imply that in the scribe’s exemplar, the nomen sacrum for Jesus’ name was already in place (that is, Jesus’ name was contracted out of a special reverence, it seems, for the divine, like the sacred names for “God,” “Lord,” and “Jesus,” and some other words).  (Or, perhaps, all three letters were overlined and the copyist construed this to signify a correction, meaning that the letters below the line were not to be copied.)  
Without actually seeing images of the fragment, there is not much that can be said about it.  No doubt there will be plenty of reports about it in the next few days and weeks.  The fragment is definitely from a codex, not a scroll.
It should be emphasized that even if the fragment had been from the late first century, it would not have had much impact.  The Gospel of Mark is generally considered to have been written in the 60s of the first century, and this would still be the most plausible composition-date whether this fragment had been from the late 100s or (as now seems much more likely) the 200s.  Rather than bring some shocking new text to light, the fragment essentially confirms the text we already had.  But of course I will need to read the publication before this can be shown in detail.
The issue of Oxyrhynchus Papyri – Graeco-Roman Memoirs in which this fragment was published also contains information on early fragments with text from the Gospel of Luke and the Epistle of Paul to Philemon, which certainly should not be overlooked!  
About the picture here:  this is merely a hypothetical model.  The real pictures of Formerly-First-Century-Mark are not yet online (as of May 23, 2018).  The real fragment is reported to have just five lines of text on each side, unlike this reconstruction.  This is meant to acquaint readers with what such a fragment might look like:  the front and back sides of a small fragment with text from Mark 1:7-9 and 1:16-18 is shown (above) with a presentation of its text in modern script (below).  The actual age of the pictured fragment is about an hour.   
[UPDATE:  The Egypt Exploration Society has released, as a free gift, a small file which includes a picture of the newly published papyrus.  A link to the file is in the brief article at the Egypt Exploration Society website.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

N-A in 2018 and W-H in 1881: How Similar?

Eldon Jay Epp

Eldon Jay Epp, in his 1974 essay, The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism (published in the Journal of Biblical Literature), mentioned the result of a comparison made by Kurt Aland between the compilation of the Greek New Testament that was produced by Westcott and Hort in 1881, and the compilation in the 25th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece published in 1963:  Aland detected that the difference between the 1881 text and the 1963 text amounted to 558 variants.  Epp concluded from this that “None of the currently popular hand-editions of the Greek NT takes us beyond Westcott-Hort in any substantive way as far as textual character is concerned.”
Epp observed the differences between the materials used by Westcott and Hort and the materials that subsequently became available.  Westcott and Hort did not use any papyri when making their compilation; they utilized no more than 45 uncial manuscripts; they used only about 150 minuscules; they cited only a small number of lectionaries.  In comparison, the modern textual critic in 1974 had the ability to consult over 80 papyri and 270 uncials.  Almost 2,800 minuscules were catalogued, along with 2,100 lectionaries.  (These quantities have grown significantly since 1974.)  Versional evidence and patristic research has “advanced significantly” – particularly where Syriac, Old Latin, and Armenian studies are concerned.
Yet in 1980, Epp acknowledged – in a sort of sequel-article, A Continuing Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism? (in Harvard Theological Review) – that the multitude of discoveries made after 1881 have not had much impact on the text, even though they have not vindicated the model of the text’s transmission-history that was assumed by Hort:  “What have our vastly increased manuscript discoveries and analysis done for us?” Epp asked.  “Do they confirm the methods and theories that produced the text of a hundred years ago?  All of us would quickly answer ‘Certainly not!’”
The thing to see is that the text of 100 years ago (i.e., in 1980, the text of 1881, Hort’s compilation) is barely different from the text being published as the 28th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece.  To offer up-to-date evidence of this point, I have made a fresh comparison of the 1881 compilation and the current edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation, in the following way:  first, I noted the 34 changes that were introduced between the 27th and 28th editions in the General Epistles.  (These have already been individually listed and described.)  I then proceeded to sift through Wieland Willker’s online presentation of the Greek New Testament in which he denotes differences between the Nestle-Aland NTG and Hort’s 1881 text.  Throughout the comparison, I noted all disagreements, but also assigned a special category to points in the text where one compilation or the other compilation has bracketed readings – that is, points where the difference between the two compilations is either (a) a matter of adding or subtracting brackets around variants, or (b) a matter of adding a bracketed word or words.
Here are the results, book by book: 

[Book: Disagreements / Disagreements that involve brackets]
Matthew: 188 / 95.  Full disagreements = 93.
Mark: 145 / 86.  Full disagreements = 59.
Luke: 156 / 84.  Full disagreements = 72.
John: 202 / 115.  Full disagreements = 87.
Subtotal:  Gospels: 691 / 380. Full disagreements = 311.
Acts: 204 / 89. Full disagreements = 115.
Romans: 65 / 36. Full disagreements = 29.
First Corinthians: 62 / 33. Full disagreements = 29.
Second Corinthians: 34 / 16. Full disagreements = 18.
Galatians: 23 / 10. Full disagreements = 13.
Ephesians: 16 / 11. Full disagreements = 5.
Philippians: 14 / 6. Full disagreements = 8.
Colossians: 14 / 10. Full disagreements = 4.
First Thessalonians: 17 / 11. Full disagreements = 6.
Second Thessalonians: 7 / 4. Full disagreements = 3.
First Timothy: 6 / 5. Full disagreements = 1.
Second Timothy: 8 / 3. Full disagreements = 5.
Titus: 6 / 2. Full disagreements = 4.
Philemon: 3 / 2. Full disagreements = 1.
Hebrews: 34 / 18. Full disagreements = 16.

Subtotal: Pauline Epistles: 309 / 167. Full disagreements = 142.
Papyri?  Who needs 'em?
James: 20 / 4. Full disagreements: 16.
First Peter: 26 / 13. Full disagreements: 13.
Second Peter: 12 / 5. Full disagreements: 7.
First John: 18 / 11. Full disagreements: 7.
Second John: 2 / 0. Full disagreements: 2.
Third John: 1 / 0. Full disagreements: 1.
Jude: 8 / 4. Full disagreements: 4.

Subtotal:  General Epistles: 87 / 37. Full disagreements = 50.
Revelation: 81 / 38. Full disagreements = 43.
Total Disagreements:  1,372
Total Full Disagreements:  661.
            Adding to this the 34 new readings in NA28, the total number of full disagreements in the 28th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece against WH1881 is 695.
            This is particularly interesting when one turns to the Editionum Differentiae (Appendix III) in the 27th edition of NTG, which lists (among other things) the differences between NA27 and NA25.  (The text was essentially unchanged in the intervening 26th edition, which had essentially the same text as the third edition of the UBS Greek New Testament.)  There one can observe that between NA25 and NA27, there were 397 changes in the Gospels, 119 in Acts, 149 in the Pauline Epistles, 46 in the General Epistles, and 29 in Revelation, for a total of 740.  
            Thus, setting aside cases of bracketed words, it seems that if one were to start with WH1881 and change it until it matched up with NA28, one would need to make 695 changes, whereas using the same approach, if one were to start with the 1963 NA25, and change it until it matched up with NA28, one would need to make 774 changes.  It seems that the compilers of NA28 must think that the WH1881 compilation – made without the benefit of papyri, and based on a transmission-model which no serious textual critics still advocate (at least, none known to Dr. Peter Gurry, as he mentioned in a recent post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog) – was closer to the original text than the 1963 compilation was. 

(Readers are invited to double-check the statistics in this post.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Papyrus 45 vs. Codex K in Luke 12

P45 - the fragment in Austria
It’s time for some text-critical hand-to-hand combat!  Which manuscript has the more accurate text of Luke 12:23-33:  Papyrus 45 or Codex Cyprius? 
Before we find out, let’s consider each manuscript’s background:  Papyrus 45 was produced in the 200s.  Papyrus 45 has undergone extensive damage, but enough has survived to show that when it was in pristine condition, it contained all four Gospels and Acts (if not more).  For much of its text, P45 is the earliest extant manuscript, particularly for the Gospel of Mark and the parts of the book of Acts that it contains.
After the initial publication of P45’s text of Mark, it was classified as “Caesarean” or “Pre-Caesarean” but these categories were shown to be inaccurate in a study undertaken by Larry Hurtado, who contended that P45’s text of Mark does not have strong affinities with any known text-type and is instead related most closely to Codex W’s text of Mark.  Almost the whole manuscript resides at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, and can be viewed at the website of CSNTM, except for a fragment in Austria (see picture).       
            Codex Cyprius (K, 017) resides in Paris at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.  It contains all four Gospels.  It can be viewed (and downloaded) at the Gallica website (search there for “Grec. 63”). Its production-date has been assigned to the 800s.      
            In the following comparison, the same ground rules will be applied to the text of both competing manuscripts:  first, deviations from the text of Nestle-Aland (27th edition) are noted, and then filtered.  Transpositions are noted but not counted as variants that cause an adulteration of the text.  Variants involving different formats of nomina sacra are not counted as variants.  Itacisms, cases of movable-nu, and benign consonant-exchanges are counted in the initial total, but the totals are then recalculated without them.  (The three uses of iota-adscript in P45 – τηι, δόξηι, and αγρωι in verses 27-28 – are not counted either.)  

            Let’s look at Papyrus 45 first:

23 – P45 omits γαρ before ψυχη (-3)
24 – P45 adds τα πετεινα του ουρανου και before τους κόρακας (+22)
24 – P45 reads αποθήκαι instead of αποθήκη (+2, -1)
24 – P45 reads αυτα instead of αυτους (+1, -3)
25 – P45 transposes:  προσθειναι επι την ηλικίαν αυτου
25 – P45 does not read ενα after πηχυν (agrees with NA27)
26 – no variants
27 – P45 does not read δε after λέγω (-2)
27 – P45 does not read πάση (-4)
28 – P45 transposes:  σήμερον τον χόρτον οντα
28 – P45 reads αμφιέζει (agrees with NA27)
28 – P45 reads ουν after πόσω (+3)
29 – no variants
30 – P45 reads επιζητει (agreeing with Byz against B and À) instead of επιζητουσιν (+2, -5)
31 – P45 reads του Θυ (agreeing with Byz against B and À) instead of αυτου (+5, -5)
32 – P45 reads ηυδόκησεν instead of ευδόκησεν (+1, -1)
33 – P45 reads ανέκλιπτον instead of ανέκλειπτον (-1)
33 – P45 reads ενγίζει instead of εγγίζει (+1, -1)

Sub-totals:  P45 contains 37 non-original letters, and is missing 26 original letters. 
Total amount of letters’ worth of alterations:  63.

Totals (without orthographic variants in the equation):  P45 contains 33 non-original letters, and is missing 22 original letters.  Total amount of letters’ worth of alterations: 55.

Luke 12:24b-25 in Codex K
(with verse-numbers added)
            Now let’s compare the same passage in Codex K:

23 – K omits γαρ before ψυχη (-3)
23 – K reads εστι instead of εστιν (-1)
24 – K reads τρεφη instead of τρεφει (+1, -2)
24 – [In K, the ι in πετεινων appears to have been added as a correction.]  (-1)
25 – K transposes:  προσθειναι επι την ηλικίαν αυτου
25 – K reads ενα at the end of the verse (+3)
26 – K reads ουτε instead of ουδε  (+1, -1)
27 – no variants
28 – K transposes and adds:  σήμερον εν τω αγρω οντα (+2)
28 – K reads αμφιεννυσι instead of αμφιεζει (+5, -3)
29 – K reads η instead of και (agreeing with P75) (+1, -3)
30 – K reads επιζητει instead of επιζητουσιν (+2, -5)
31 – K reads του Θυ instead of αυτου (+5, -5)
31 – K reads παντα after ταυτα (+5)
32 – no variants
33 – no variants

Sub-totals:  Codex K has 25 non-original letters, and is missing 24 original letters.  Total amount of letters’ worth of alteration:  49.

Without itacisms and benign consonant-exchanges in the equation, K’s text contains 23 non-original letters, and is missing 20 original letters.  Total amount of letters’ worth of alteration: 43.  (The total drops to 42 if we don’t include that correction in verse 24.)

            Codex K wins:  the score is 63 to 49 with all variants considered, and the score is 55 to 43 with accommodation given to orthographic variation.  (Each point is one letter’s worth of deviation from the original text; the lower score wins.)
            This tells us some things about the relative rates of variation in the transmission-lines that produced P45 and Codex Cyprius.  If we put the production-date of the Gospel of Luke in A.D. 62, and the production-date of P45 in 225, then the copyists in P45’s transmission-line introduced .3 letters’ worth of deviation every year, not counting merely orthographic changes.  In comparison, positing the production-date of Codex Cyprius at 850, the copyists in K’s transmission-line introduced .055 letters’ worth of deviation every year, not counting merely orthographic changes.  In other words, the copyists in K’s transmission-line introduced 5.5 times fewer deviations each year, on average, than the copyists in P45’s transmission-line.

            Interesting though it may be to thus see that a manuscript from the 800s has a better text of Luke 12:23-33 than a manuscript from the 200s (using the Nestle-Aland text as the basis of comparison – if the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform were used for the comparison instead, Codex K’s text would be nearly identical to it), some other data may be even more intriguing: 
● P45, K, and Byz (i.e., the Byzantine Text) do not include γὰρ in v. 23.
● P45, K, and Byz all transpose to read προσθειναι ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτου in v. 25.
● P45, K, and Byz all read ἐπιζητει instead of ἐπιζητουσιν in v. 30. 
● P45, K, and Byz all read του Θεου (or του Θυ) instead of αυτου in v. 31.
Thus, in these eleven verses, the Byzantine Text is allied with an early papyrus in four places against the Alexandrian reading.  In three of these four cases, the Byzantine reading is not in agreement with the Western reading in Codex D either.  This data implies that Hort’s approach, which was based on the theory that non-Alexandrian, non-Western readings did not exist before the late 200s or early 300s, was fundamentally flawed.  As of the publication of the text of Papyrus 45, it was no longer tenable.  Yet virtually the same compilation that Hort made in 1881 (with only about 660 differences) continues to be the standard New Testament base-text for modern versions such as the NIV, ESV, CSB, and NRSV – largely because the implications of the readings of the papyri discovered in the 1900s have not been clearly thought through.      

[Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.]

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Movie Review: Fragments of Truthiness

If you’re looking for a high-quality video presentation of some of the most important early Greek manuscripts known to exist, Fragments of Truth is worth watching.  Fred Sprinkle, the graphics-designer responsible for the excellent visuals which appear throughout the 75-minute movie, has done superb work.   Directed by Reuben Evans of FaithlifeFragments of Truth introduces viewers to Papyrus 45Papyrus 66Papyrus 19Papyrus 64 and 67 (the Magdalen Papyri), Codex VaticanusPapyrus 75Codex Bezae, and Papyrus 52

Minuscule Greek manuscripts never appear onscreen, so viewers are not given a glimpse at what most Greek New Testament manuscripts look like.  Instead, the focus is upon fragmentary papyri which were found in Egypt, beginning with excavations at a site at Oxyrhynchus by Grenfell and Hunt in 1897 (which is briefly re-enacted).  In the course of brief interviews with librarians, professors, and curators, viewers may learn how papyrus was transformed from plant-fiber into paper-like writing-material, and how specialists undertake the task of discerning the production-dates of manuscripts.  Within the first 15 minutes, viewers will have met scholars such as Dan WallaceLarry HurtadoJ. K. Elliott, and David Trobisch.  

Unfortunately, throughout this tour of early Christian documents and the institutions where they are kept, Dr. Craig Evans of Houston Baptist University provides rosy comments designed to support his pet theories.  (More about that later.)  The narration (provided by John Rhys-Davis, who also narrated KJB: The Book That Changed the World) is far more objective.  Also, a flatly wrong description of the relationship between Constantine and the early canon of the New Testament is provided by Dr. Michael Heiser.  If there were a way to turn the tinted comments of Evans and Heiser into more focused assessments of the evidence, Fragments of Truth would be a highly commendable resource. 
          Documentaries should get things right.  Here are some things which this movie either got wrong, or else presented in a very unfair way, leaving out details which would very likely have had a strong impact on viewers’ impressions if they had been mentioned.

● Is Papyrus 19 Related to the Medieval Shem-Tob?  Dr. Evans pointed out that in Papyrus 19, there is an omission in Matthew 10:37-38 that is shared by a medieval Hebrew text known as Shem-Tob.  Evans used this as support for the idea that some books of the New Testament were written in Hebrew or Aramaic as well as in Greek.  However, all that we have here is an example of two unrelated copyists making the same mistake at the same point in the text.  The Greek words ἔστιν μου ἄξιος (“is worthy of Me”) appear in verses 37-38 three times.  What has happened is that somewhere in the transmission-lines of both these witnesses, a copyist lost his line of sight and skipped from the first appearance of the phrase to the third one.   

● Are Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 “Ringers”?  Dr. Evans stated that these two passages “don’t appear in the earliest manuscripts.”  This is technically true, but the entire chapter of Mark 16 does not appear in any of the papyri that are featured in Fragments of Truth.  Codex Bezae, which is featured, includes Mark 16:9-15; the rest of the passage is lacking due to damage (although a repairer has provided his Greek and Latin text of the whole passage).  Codex Bezae contains John 7:53-8:11, too – in Greek, and in Latin, which is particularly significant if one believes Evans’ claim that the Latin text in Codex D comes from the 200s.  Only one featured manuscript (Codex Vaticanus) contains Mark 16 and ends the text at the end of verse 8, but it also proceeds to leave a special blank space that is large enough to include the absent passage – a blank space that includes the only fully blank column in the entire New Testament in Codex Vaticanus.  (Only two ancient Greek manuscripts – the other one being Codex Sinaiticus – end Mark’s text at 16:8 followed by the closing-title of the book; only one medieval Greek manuscript (out of over 1,600) similarly ends the text at 16:8.)  
          But the most problematic aspect of Evans’ treatment of these two passages is what he does not say:  he fails to mention the evidence from patristic authors such as Justin MartyrTatian, and Irenaeus that supports the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20.  Irenaeus, around the year 180 (over 150 years before Codex Vaticanus was made), specifically quoted Mark 16:19 in Book Three of his composition Against Heresies.  Yet Evans mentioned none of this evidence.
            Why not?  He certainly knows about Irenaeus’ quotation of Mark 16:19, because the quotation is mentioned in Nicholas Lunn’s 2014 book, The Original Ending of Mark:  A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.  Evans wrote a stunning comment which appears on the back cover of Lunn’s book; the first part of Evans’ comment runs as follows:  “Nicholas Lunn has thoroughly shaken my views concerning the ending of the Gospel of Mark.  As in the case of most gospel scholars, I have for my whole career held that Mark 16:9-20, the so-called ‘Long Ending,’ was not original.  But in his well-researched and carefully argued book, Lunn succeeds in showing just how flimsy that position really is.  The evidence for the early existence of this ending, if not for its originality, is extensive and quite credible.”
            Yet barely four years after writing that, Dr. Evans looked into the camera and told viewers of Fragments of Truth, “There are only two passages of any length where there is any doubt.  But there is no doubt, because the manuscript evidence is so substantial and so early, we can identify them as ringers; they don’t really belong in the text.”
            Dr. Evans and Dr. Evans should get together some time and sort this out.  (I commend to them my defense of Mark 16:9-20 – Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 – and my defense of the story about the adulteress – A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11.) 

● Are There Only Four or Five Important Textual Variants?  Dr. Evans is not doing his audience a favor when he gives them the impression that aside from those two 12-verse passages, there are only two or three other passages where there are significant differences in the manuscripts.  A mere glance at Bruce Terry’s online A Student’s Guide to New Testament Textual Variants should mercifully kill any such notion. 
Dr. Craig Evans repeatedly suggested that
the original New Testament documents
survived for centuries outside Egypt.

● Did Bruce Metzger Claim That There Are Only 40 Lines of Text in the New Testament About Which There Is Any Doubt At All?  About halfway through Fragments of Truth, Dr. Evans makes another inexplicable claim:  “Text-critic great Bruce Metzger remarked that there were only 40 lines out of 20,000, where there was any doubt at all about how it should originally read.”  Preposterous.
  If Dr. Evans can demonstrate that Bruce Metzger ever wrote those words, I will eat asparagus.  Anyone with the late Dr. Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament can verify that the compilers of the UBS Greek New Testament expressed doubt regarding hundreds of textual variants.  (This is stated in the Introduction to the UBS Greek New Testament, second edition, page xi.:  “B” indicates some degree of doubt, “C” indicates a considerable degree of doubt, and “D” indicates a very high degree of doubt.)
● Did Constantine Instruct the Bishops at Nicea to Establish the New Testament Canon?  Dr. Evans is not the only scholar who makes misleading statements in Fragments of Truth.  Dr. Michael Heiser, in the process of refuting the myth that Constantine the Great decided which books should be in the New Testament, made a myth of his own:  the notion that Constantine “forced the issue” at the Council of Nicea (in 325), telling the bishops there to decide which books should be considered authoritative by Christians.  Heiser stated:   
“He [i.e., Constantine] wanted the church to make a decision.  And he sort of forced their hand.   What he asked for at Nicea was 50 copies of the New Testament.  He wanted them produced by a certain time, so they could be distributed throughout the empire.”
In real life, Constantine made no such request at the Council of Nicea.  In an entirely different context, Constantine wrote a letter to Eusebius of Caesarea (who attended the Council of Nicea along with Constantine, precluding the need for a letter if that had been the occasion for the request) instructing him to make 50 Bibles.  In the letter, which Eusebius preserved in his composition Life of Constantine, Book Four, chapter 36, Constantine told Eusebius that these Bibles were for the congregations in the city of Constantinople (not “throughout the empire”).   
Contrary to Heiser’s claims in Fragments of TruthConstantine did not “force this issue on the leadership of the church.”  Nor did Eusebius establish a “minimalist canon,” for in his composition Ecclesiastical History, Book Three, chapter 25, Eusebius listed the four Gospels, Acts, the Pauline Epistles, First John, First Peter, and then – “if it really seems proper” – Revelation as the books with a high level of acceptance.  Eusebius listed “among the disputed writings” the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, Second Peter, and Second and Third John.  And, when listing rejected books, such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas, Eusebius mentioned that some people rejected Revelation, although others accept it.  Clearly Eusebius did not consider his production of 50 Bibles for the congregations of Constantinople as a definitive resolution of the question about which books were canonical.    

● Is There Evidence That the Autographs of the New Testament Books Lasted for Centuries?  Besides featuring the problematic statements just described, Fragments of Truth is thoroughly peppered with Evans’ theory about the longevity of the autographs (i.e., the original documents) of the books of the New Testament.  This aspect of the movie is, it seems, the “groundbreaking new evidence” that theater-goers were led to expect.  Basically, Evans noticed evidence from the excavations at Oxyrhynchus that implied that some documents that were produced in the 100s and 200s were not discarded until the 300s and 400s, implying that some of those documents may have lasted two or three centuries before being discarded.  If the original documents of the books of the New Testament lasted just as long, that would mean that the autographs were still in existence when copies such as P45, P66, P64/67, and P75 were produced. 
However, it’s just not that simple, and here’s why:  Egypt’s dry conditions, as Evans pointed out near the beginning of the movie, “made it the perfect place for manuscripts to be preserved in the sand for hundreds of years.”  Egypt’s dry, low-humidity climate did not exist in the locations where the autographs of the New Testament books were produced; nor did it exist in the locations where the Epistles were sent.        
          It is as if someone were to say, “If the dry Egyptian climate existed in the locations where the autographs were, then the autographs would last 200 years.”  The conclusion is a conclusion about a make-believe world, since Egypt’s dry climate did not exist where the autographs were.  Yet this does not stop Evans from repeatedly using this line of reasoning as the basis for an apologetic defense of the accuracy of the text of the New Testament Scriptures.    
          Similarly, Evans recruited the longevity of Codex Bezae and Codex Vaticanus (which, despite being damaged, have mostly survived to the present day) into his argument, but this is like saying, “If parchment and papyrus are equally durable, then we have evidence that the autographs lasted a long time.”  This is, again, a make-believe scenario.
          Evans offered, as evidence for the position that “the Bible we have now is the same as the Bible when it was originally produced long ago,” the possibility that the original documents of New Testament books were in existence when P45, P66, P75, and other fragments were produced – and that there was “continuity” between those fragments and the production of codices such as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. 
          It would have been helpful – to viewers, not to Evans’ theory – if Fragments of Truth had taken a minute or two to examine the differences in the papyri at points where they share the same parts of the New Testament text.  Larry Hurtado, had he been asked, could have helpfully explained that Papyrus 45’s text of Mark is quite unlike the text of Mark in Codex Vaticanus – which implies that the kind of continuity that Evans encourages viewers to believe in does not exist – at least, not between P45 and Codex Vaticanus. 
Rather than suggesting a simple line of descent from the autographs to these specific papyri to these specific parchment codices, the textual evidence implies that copyists in different locales undertook in different ways to render the meaning of the original text, without uniformly and invariably prioritizing the form of the text, which one would think would be prioritized if the autographs were readily available.  In other words, the degree of variation in the manuscripts (including most of the manuscripts presented in Fragments of Truth) weighs in against Evans’ picture of copyists using the autographs in the late 100s and early 200s.    
          At the risk of diverging from the movie, I will provide an example of textual variations that weigh in against the idea that any copyists of the extant manuscripts of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John possessed the autograph.  In John 7:31-44, P66 and P75 disagree 21 times.  In the same passage, P66 and Codex Vaticanus disagree 27 times, and P75 and Codex Vaticanus disagree 14 times.  I invite Dr. Evans to explain how this is possible in a world where the copyist of P66 or P75 used the autograph, and the copyist of Codex Vaticanus used P66 or P75.  Close continuity can be imagined, but it is not exhibited in these manuscripts.  The closest relationship among them is between P75 and Vaticanus, and even there we observe not only small differences (such as πέμψοντά versus  πέμψαντά in v. 33 and ζητήσατέ versus ζητήσετέ in v. 34) but also the appearance in Codex Vaticanus of εκει at the end of  v. 34, and the appearance in Codex Vaticanus of δεδεμένον in v. 39.
          More could be said about this, but let’s get back to the movie.  There are a few more statements made in Fragments of Truth that need qualification, such as when Dr. Evans describes Codex Vaticanus as if it contains the entire New Testament.  A larger problem, though, may be that this movie’s focus on papyri does not give viewers a clear look at how the Greek base-texts of their New Testaments were made.  Papyrus fragments are fascinating, but viewers should consider what Dr. Dan Wallace affirmed in 2012:  “In the last 130 years, there’s not been a single manuscript discovered that has a new reading, that scholars have said, ‘Ah, that’s the original, and no other manuscript has it.’” 
          The Greek base-texts of English versions of the New Testament such as the NIV, ESB, CSB, NLT, and NRSV are descended from a compilation that was published by two British scholars, Westcott and Hort, in 1881.  The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (27th edition) diverges from their 1881 compilation at only 661 places – not counting places where the editors of one compilation or the other placed the text in brackets, basically making a non-decision.  Before Grenfell and Hunt ever touched a New Testament papyrus, over 85% of the decisions to depart from readings found in the majority of manuscripts, in favor of readings found in a relatively small number of early manuscripts (especially Vaticanus and Sinaiticus), had already been made.  We should not lose sight of this.      
          In conclusion, although Fragments of Truth features an impressive tour of early manuscripts (including, toward the end, Papyrus 52, which many scholars consider the earliest New Testament manuscript in existence), the tour-guide’s frequent promotion of a flawed theory tends to weaken rather than strengthen its usefulness for apologetics.  While it is commendable to teach our fellow Christians that their accurately translated New Testaments teach what the original text of the New Testament taught, this should not be done by misrepresenting the evidence.  This movie is likely to induce the spread of a lot of misinformation if its shortcomings go uncorrected before it is released for wider distribution on DVD.  

(Note:  the theatrical presentation had a long epilogue, in which miscellaneous subjects were addressed.  I have not covered that in this review.) 

Other reviews of Fragments of Truth – mostly favorable – are online:
Peter Gurry’s review at Evangelical Textual Criticism

I have left some things unmentioned, such as a couple of scholars’ comments on the late dating of Papyrus 66 proposed by Dr. Brent Nongbri (who, being in Australia, was not in the movie, which visited manuscripts in Europe).  I may reserve a future post for smaller concerns.