Saturday, October 27, 2018

Todd Friel, the KJV, and Wretched Oversimplifications

Todd Friel

            I’m not sure that Todd Friel asserted anything in his recent Wretched program in which he addressed KJV-Onlyism.  But amid all the question-raising, question-rephrasing, tangent-chasing, suggestion-making, and excerpt-taking from another video, I think Todd Friel said a few things that need to be clarified – not to promote KJV-Onlyism, but to reduce inaccuracies in how Friel’s audience might picture the manuscript-evidence as a result of some shortcomings in Friel’s descriptions of it. 
            When Friel said, “We’ve found better manuscripts than the Textus Receptus,” he was correct; the  Greek text from which the New Testament was translated in the KJV includes some words that originated with copyists rather than with the authors of the New Testament, and it also leaves out some words that were written by the authors.  It is true that we have better manuscripts today than in 1611.  So, Friel is partly right.    
            But then Friel said, “We’ve found thousands of manuscripts – which is rockin’ cool.”  That also is true – but something important went unsaid.  Most of those thousands of Greek manuscripts discovered in the past 400 years agree with the Textus Receptus far more often than with the Greek compilations on which the NIV, ESV, and CSB are based.  This is especially true regarding manuscripts of the Gospels. 
            To put this another way:  suppose we were to simultaneously read aloud the KJV’s base-text of the Gospels and one of the Greek Gospels-manuscripts discovered after 1611, making a note each time they were materially different.  And suppose that we did the same thing using the Nestle-Aland compilation (the base-text of the NIV, ESV, and CSB) and one of those Greek Gospels-manuscripts.  And suppose that we did this for every Greek Gospels-manuscript, setting aside instances where a manuscript diverged from the Textus Receptus and the Nestle-Aland compilation.  We would see that most of the Gospels-manuscripts discovered since the early 1600s agree with the KJV’s base-text far more frequently than they agree with the NIV’s base-text. 
            The impression given by Friel – that thousands of manuscripts have been found that point away from the KJV’s base-text – is not an accurate picture of what the manuscripts actually say.  Granting that some readings in the Textus Receptus are supported only by a small minority of manuscripts, the Textus Receptus is far closer to the majority text of the Gospels than the Nestle-Aland compilation is. 
            I do not mean to contend that the analysis of textual variants should be like a democratic election, with the majority always winning.  The thing to see is that when someone points out that we have “thousands of manuscripts” now, as opposed to relatively few in the 1500s, the vast majority of those manuscripts display a Byzantine Text.  Unlike the ESV, they include Matthew 12:47, Matthew 17:21, Matthew 18:11, Mark 7:16, Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46, Mark 15:28, Luke 22:43-44 (included in the ESV today, but give it time), Luke 23:34a (included in the ESV today, but give it time), and Luke 23:17.  They support the reading “firstborn” in Matthew 1:25, and the reading “in the prophets” in Mark 1:2, and they do not convey that Matthew confused king Asa with the psalmist Asaph, or that Matthew confused king Amon with the prophet Amos.  And when we survey the Gospels-manuscripts that have been discovered in the past 400 years, we see that 85% of them support the inclusion of John 7:53-8:11, and over 99% of them support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.
            If the differences between the KJV and modern versions were merely the differences between the Textus Receptus and the readings in the majority of Greek manuscripts, then the significant differences would not involve any of those verses.  They would involve instead the Textus Receptus’ minority readings, in passages such as Luke 2:22, Acts 8:37, Acts 9:6, Ephesians 3:9, and First John 5:7.      
            So I have three suggestions for Todd Friel’s audience.

            ● First, those who listen to Todd Friel ought to be informed – when he defends the ESV and NIV by pointing out the existence of thousands of manuscripts discovered subsequent to 1611 – that the vast majority of those manuscripts agree with the KJV (and NKJV, and MEV, and WEB, not exactly “pretty much every other translation except KJV,” contra Friel) far more often than they agree with ESV and NIV. 

            ● My second suggestion:  when Todd Friel refers to the “eclectic” text, listeners should understand that for all practical purposes he is referring to the Alexandrian Text.  The base-text that he considers superior to the Textus Receptus – and to the Byzantine Text – is “eclectic” in about the same way that a group of 19 housecats and one parakeet is a zoo.  To put it another way:  in Matthew-Jude, the so-called “eclectic” base-text of the NIV is over 95% Alexandrian in the textual contests where the Byzantine Text and the Alexandrian Text disagree. 

            ● Thirdly, I suggest that Friel’s audience should filter his appeals to older manuscripts through the sieve of knowledge about the background of those manuscripts.  When Friel appeals to older manuscripts, he refers to manuscripts found in Egypt.  Due to the especially low level of humidity in Egypt, papyrus lasts longer there than it does in other places; this is why we have so many more papyrus copies of New Testament books (and assorted other books, and letters, and receipts) from Egypt.  But it is not as if younger copies from other locales sprang up out of the ground; they had ancestor-manuscripts which have not survived.  To reject the readings in younger manuscripts merely because the material on which they are written is younger would be tantamount to letting the weather make one’s text-critical decisions. 

            Also, Friel’s audience should be aware that in many cases, the earliest manuscript disagrees with the NIV and ESV.  For example, the Textus Receptus has the word οτι in the first part of First Peter 5:8, represented in the KJV by the word “because.”  You will not find the word “because” in First Peter 5:8 in the ESV and ESV, because the word οτι is not in their Greek base-text.  Yet if you consult Papyrus 72 at the Vatican Library’s website, you will see the word οτι in its text.
John 7:8 in Papyrus 66.
            Another example:  the Textus Receptus has the word ουπω in John 7:8, where the Nestle-Aland compilation has the word ουκ.  Accordingly, in the KJV, Jesus says, “I go not up yet unto this feast,” where in the ESV, Jesus says, “I am not going up to this feast,” and in the NIV (using the same base-text as the ESV), “I am not going up to this festival.”  (Verse 10 then explains that Jesus proceeded to secretly go to the feast.)  One might think, if one believed Todd Friel, that our earliest manuscripts support the NIV’s reading, and the Textus Receptus’ reading was concocted by “some overly ambitious scribes” in the Middle Ages.  But when we consult Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75, we find that they both support the reading ουπω.        
            Hundreds of other examples could be supplied of readings in the papyri (readings capable of impacting translation) that are not adopted in the Nestle-Aland compilation.  These include a substantial number of Byzantine readings. 
            So:  when Friel appeals to quantities of manuscripts, keep in mind that that manuscript-mountain affirms the KJV’s readings much more than it opposes them (and that that manuscript-mountain opposes the NIV’s readings much more than it affirms them).  And when Friel appeals to older manuscripts, keep in mind that this is frequently not the case; the Nestle-Aland compilation still depends heavily on Codex Vaticanus, which is younger than witnesses such as Papyrus 66, Papyrus 45, Papyrus 46, Papyrus 75, and patristic testimony from authors such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, and Origen.  I am not arguing here that this means that Vaticanus’ text is inferior to the others; the thing to see is that it is an oversimplification to assume that quantity and age are assured measurements of quality.  Without that wretched oversimplification, Friel’s case against the KJV is just an assertion, or a suggestion – not anything remotely close to a real case.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Meet GA 804: A Pocketful of Surprises

            When a team of researchers from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts visited Greece this past winter, they photographed a particularly interesting little Gospels-manuscript that resides at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, in Athens.  And I do mean little:  this codex is approximately just 5.25 inches tall and 4 inches wide.  That’s smaller than a Kindle e-reader, although 804 is much thicker (a bit over two inches).  
            It would be natural to think that such a small manuscript could contain the basic text of the Gospels, and not much else – but a close examination shows that 804, while far from being a deluxe manuscript, contains Eusebian Canon-tables, Eusebius’ Ad Carpianus (an explanation of how to use the Canons and Section-numbers as a cross-reference system for the Gospels), chapter-lists for each Gospel, monochromatic icons of each Evangelist, headpieces (of which one, for Matthew, is in a quatrefoil shape), titloi at the head and foot of many pages, red initials usually at section-breaks, and lectionary-related notes, including identification of the lections for Saturdays and Sundays (and of the Eastertime readings and the eleven Heothina lections), incipit-phrases, and crimson αρχη and τελος and υπερβαλε and αρξου symbols (meaning “start,” “stop,” “jump ahead,” and “resume,” respectively) throughout the text, appearing not as later additions but with space reserved to contain them. Substantial quotations from the Old Testament are accompanied in the margin by columns of double diple-marks (>>), one in black (or brown) ink, and one in red.
            Also, before the icon of Saint John, on what was probably a blank page when the manuscript was produced, someone has written (very sloppily) a brief note describing the apostle John, identifying him as the author of the fourth Gospel, a Jew, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James.  A large smudge has removed most of the rest of the note.        

            As surprising as it may be to find such so many supplements in such a small manuscript, much more remarkable is the feature that appears in 804 before the text of Matthew begins:  after the last page of the kephalaia for Matthew (a page that has been badly torn, but carefully repaired with a series of neat stitches), the next ten pages constitute a different manuscript altogether:  they are from a lectionary, and they contain (with introductory notes and titles) excerpts from Galatians 4, First Corinthians 9, First Corinthians 10, Titus 2, Titus 3, Hebrews 7, and Hebrews 2.  Very unusually, the last page with text from Hebrews 2 (still plainly visible for three lines, after which it is only perceptible) was used to contain the icon of Saint Matthew.  Such a pictorial palimpsest is, I think, completely unique.    

            The text of 804 – extant from Matthew 1:1 to midway through John 15:19 – is interesting and merits further investigation.  Although the manuscript has been assigned to the 1000s, it echoes the earliest recoverable stratum of the Byzantine Text, often agreeing with uncials (especially K and Π, but also A and Y) against the majority of minuscules. 

            In Matthew, 804’s text’s affinities with K and/or Π pop up infrequently near the beginning, at points such as 4:20 (δικτυα αυτων, also attested by W 118 565) and 5:12 (προφήτας προ υμων), and with greater frequency near the end, at points such as 26:40 (λέγει αυτοις instead of λέγει τω Πέτρω), 26:43 (ευρεν αυτους παλιν), 26:47 (without ηλθεν) and 26:52 (μαχαίρα απολουνται) and 26:69 (without πάντων).    
            Turning to the first four chapters of Mark, 804 continues to agree with the Byzantine Text more often than it agrees with K and Π where they diverge from the usual Byzantine reading, but there are plenty of agreements with K and Π which diverge from the majority-reading.  Examples: 
            1:12 – 804 agrees with A K Π* 700:  ευθεως           
            1:13 – 804 agrees with K Π* 1:  ην εκει ημερας 
            1:15 – 804 agrees with K Π B W:  Και before λέγων
            1:16 – 804 agrees with Ec M Y Πc 157 1424:  βάλλοντας
            1:19 – 804 agrees with Cc K M Π 157:  δικτυα αυτων
            1:35 – 804 agrees with A E Y K M U Π 157 700:  εννυχον λίαν, without ο Ιησους
            1:42 – 804 agrees with A C K Π* 157 565:  η λέπρα απ’ αυτου
            1:43 – 804 agrees with A C D K Π* 157:  εν / ην / πάντοθεν  
            2:7 – 804 agrees with A C K Π 579:  ουτω
            2:9 – 804 agrees with A B C K Π 579:  τον κραβαττον σου
            2:21 – 804 agrees with A K Π:  μήγε αιρει αυτου το πλήρωμα
            3:7 – 804 agrees with A K Π 579 700:  ηκολούθησεν αυτω   
            3:31 – 804 agrees with A K Π:  Ερχονται ουν οι αδελφοι αυτου
            3:32 – 804 agrees with A B C K Π W 33 700:  περι αυτον οχλος
            3:32 – 804 agrees with B À K Π W 1424:  without και αι αδελφαι σου
            3:34 – 804 agrees with A Y K Π f1:  λεγει ιδου
            4:1 – 804 agrees with K Π Y M f1 157:  εις πλοιον
            4:11 – 804 agrees with K Π Y D W:  παραβολαις παντα
            4:30-31 – 804 agrees with Y Π 157:  παραβάλωμεν αυτην ως κόκκω

In Luke chapter 10, 804 shares eight unusual readings with K and Π:
            10:1 – 804 agrees with B Y K Π 565:  δυο δυο
            10:1-2 – 804 agrees with Y K S Π 565:  εμελλεν / ουν
            10:2 – 804 agrees with Y K M Π:  αν εκβαλη
            10:11 – 804 agrees with A C K L M Π Wc 579 700:  includes εις τους ποδας ημων 
            10:22 – 804 agrees with P45 P75 B À D Π 579 700:  without και στραφεις προς τους μαθητας ειπεν
            10:35 – 804 agrees with Y K Π:  και ο τι δ’αν
            10:40 – 804 agrees with P75 À Y Π 157 565supp 579 700:  κατέλιπεν
            10:40 – 804 agrees with D K Π 565supp:  ο Ις ειπεν αυτη 

I also noticed that in Luke 14:5, 804’s text agrees with A D Y K Π by reading Και ειπεν προς αυτους and by reading ονος (with À K L Π Y 579 f1) instead of υιος.   And in Luke 19:8, 804 agrees with G K M Π 118 f13, reading προς τον Ιν.

In Luke 20, 804’s text has a detectable trace of KΠ readings:
            20:10 – 804 agrees with K Π:  απέστειλαν 
            20:19 – 804 agrees with B A K L M Π f1:  γραμματεις και οι αρχιερεις
            20:36 – 804 agrees with M Π f1:  και υιοι του Θυ (without εισιν)
            20:37 – 804 agrees with B Y K L Π W 579:  Μωϋσης 
            20:41 – 804 agrees with A Y K M Π:  τινες τον Χν
            20:44 – 804 agrees with B A K M Π 157 f1:  πως αυτου υιος εστιν  

In John chapter 3, there are only about 12 points where Κ’s readings stand out from the Byzantine text; 804 displays five of them:
            3:5 – 804 agrees with K M Π f13 1424:  απεκρίθη Ις και ειπεν αυτω
            3:14 – 804 agrees with P66 P75 B À Y K L Π 579:  Μωϋσης 
            3:16 – 804 agrees with P63 P66 À A K Π f1 565:  αλλ’ εχη   
            3:26 – 804 agrees with F K L M 157 579 700:  ειπον / ραββι
            3:28 – 804 agrees with P66 B A D Y K L Π 157 579 700:  υμοις μοι    

In John chapter 7, about a third of Π’s non-Byzantine readings appear in 804:
            7:1 – 804 agrees with P66 À* D Y K L Π f1 565:  μετα ταυτα περιεπάτει ο Ις   
            7:3-4 – 804 agrees with Κ Π L N:  τα εργα σου α / τι εν κρυπτω
            7:12 – 804 agrees with K Π:  ουχι
            7:26 – 804 agrees with P66 P75 B À D N K L Π 565:  without αληθως
            7:29 – 804 agrees with P66 À D Y N Π f1 565:  εγω δε οιδα   
            7:31 – 804 agrees with P66 P75 B À K L N Π 157 565:  without τουτων
            7:32 – 804 agrees with Y K M N Π f1 565:  Ηκουσαν ουν
            7:32 – 804 agrees with P75 K L N W Π f1 33 565:  οι φαρισαιοι υπηρέτας ινα
            7:39 – 804 agrees with P66 P75 B À D N Π f1 565:  λόγων τουτον [sic – itacism in 804]
            7:50 – 804 agrees with Y K 157:  ο ελθων προς αυτον νυκτός εις
            7:53 – 804 agrees with P66 P75 B À D Y K N W Π:  ουκ εγειρεται

            Occasionally, 804’s text is neither Byzantine nor family-Π.  For example, in Luke 7:31, where the Byzantine text begins the verse with Πολλοι δε εκ του οχλου and K Π read Εκ του οχλου ουν πολλοι, 804 matches up perfectly with B’s reading, Εκ του οχλου δε πολλοι. 

            804 has an interesting feature in Mark 11:26 – a verse which does not appear at all in the Alexandrian Text.  The loss of this verse was due to a simple mistake, caused when an early copyist’s line of sight drifted from the words τα παραπτώματα υμων at the end of verse 25 to the same words at the end of verse 26.  While this verse was lost in the Alexandrian text-stream, it underwent expansion elsewhere:  Codex M, 346 (a member of f13), 579, and 713 (the Algerina Peckover Codex), agreeing with some lectionaries, augment the verse with a repetition of the contents of Matthew 7:7.  In 804, the text that continues after the end of v. 26 runs as follows:  λεγω δε υμιν, Αιτειτε και δοθησεται υμιν.  Ζητειτε, και ευρήσετε.  Κρούετε και ανοιγησεται υμιν.  Πας γαρ ο αιτων λαμβάνει, και ο ζητων ευρισκει, και  τω κρούοντι ανοιγήσεται.  In 804, faint marks for “stop here” and “start here” are visible in the margins after the interpolation, and a fresh red “start here” mark is also present – and thus this interpolation is accounted for as a concluding flourish for a lection.  Not far away, in Mark 11:29, 804 continues to display family-Π readings, with καγω υμας after επερωτήσω, and in 11:33 αποκριθεις ο Ις, and in 12:2, δουλον τω καιρω.
            It may be fitting to mention a few more readings in 804:
            ● Matthew 6:13 includes the doxology of the Lord’s model prayer.
            ● Matthew 16:2-3 is present, and an obelus symbol (⁒) at the end of verse 3 is linked to a margin-note which reads δοκιμάζειν, a reading which appears after δύνασθε in G M N U and 33. 
            ● Matthew 17:21 is present. 
            ● Matthew 25:13 ends with “in which the Son of Man comes.”
            ● Matthew 26:39 is followed by a red υπερβαλε symbol, and a lengthy red note appears in the margin; although most of the note has been rubbed away, the word “Luke” has survived, indicating that Luke 22:43-44 was introduced here in the liturgical reading at Eastertime.
            ● Mark 15:28 is present.  A red υπερβαλε symbol appears before the beginning of the verse, and a red αρξου (“resume here”) symbol appears after the end of the verse.  
            ● Mark 16:9-20 is present, and in the lower margin an annotation identifies it as the third Heothina-lection; its usual incipit-phrase is also provided.  In the outer margin, section-breaks occur at 16:9 (214, although the preceding section-number is 233) and 16:10 (215).   
            ● Luke 14:24 includes, after δείπνου, πολλοι γαρ εισιν κλητοι ολιγοι δε εκλεκτοι (“For many are called, but few are chosen”), added as a flourish to end a lection.
            ● Luke 17:36 is not present.  
            ● Luke 22:43-44 is present, and red notes instruct the reader to resume the reading for the Maundy Thursday service at this point (having turned here from Matthew 26:39).
            ● Luke 23:17 is present.
            ● Luke 23:34 includes Jesus’ prayer for the Father to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.
            ● Luke 24:42 mentions the honeycomb.
            ● John 3:13 includes ο ων εν τω ουνω (“who is in heaven”).
            ● John 5:4 is present (with Κυ after γαρ) but most of the verse is accompanied in the outer margin by black and red double-diples (>>), which seem to have been intended to indicate that the verse is either questionable in some way, or else should be understood as a quotation.
            ● John 7:40-41 is marred by parablepsis, caused when a copyist’s line of sight drifted from the ελεγον in verse 40 to the second ελεγον in verse 41; an obelus (⁒) in the text is linked to the correction in the upper margin.  This is particularly interesting because 579 omits the same words that are supplied in 804’s correction; meanwhile, Codex M (which with 579 shares 804’s unusual reading at Mark 11:26) also has an omission in verse 41, skipping from the first ελεγον in verse 41 to the second ελεγον in verse 41, thus bypassing the words Ουτος εστιν ο Χς οι δε ελεγον. 
            ● John 7:8 reads ουπω, and further along in the verse reads ο καιρος ο εμος ουπω.
            ● John 7:53-8:11 is present, in a form very similar to the text in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.  A red υπερβαλε symbol appears between 7:52 and 7:53 – indicating that the lector was to jump to 8:12 for the Pentecost-lection.  A red αρχη (“start here”) symbol appears at the beginning of 8:3, signifying the beginning of the lection for September 8.  In the lower margin this date is given and is described as the feast-day of Saint Pelagia.  The incipit-phrase for the lection is also provided – the beginning of verse 3 without δε.  A red τελος (stop here) symbol appears at the end of verse 11, signifying the end of the lection for Saint Pelagia’s Day. 
            John 8:12 begins on the next line, and is accompanied in the outer margin by instruction to resume the lection for Pentecost at this point.  A red τελος symbol appears at the end of verse 12, signifying the end of the lection for Pentecost.  A very faint αρχη symbol appears at the beginning of verse 12, signifying the beginning of the lection for the fifth day of the fourth week after Eastertime; this lection concludes at the end of 8:20 where accordingly a red τελος symbol appears in the text.  The lection for the fifth day of the fourth week after Eastertime is identified in the upper margin, where its incipit-phrase is also provided, all in red.

            All in all, 804 is perhaps the most significant manuscript in Greece that has been digitized by the researchers at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.   Digital photographs of the entire manuscript, indexed page by page, are available to view at the CSNTM website.

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post, and to explore the embedded links for additional resources.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Book Review: The Bible Illuminated

          When textual critics study a New Testament manuscript, their primary focus is the text that it contains.  Dr. Karen York, who served until January 2018 as the Director of the Curatorial Department of the Museum of the Bible, explores manuscripts with a different focus in the book The Bible Illuminated:  How Art Brought the Bible to an Illiterate World.  Dr. York briefly describes, in short chapters, the artwork found in 61 Biblical manuscripts, and readers are given full-color examples of the artwork found in each one – often in the form of full-page illustrations.  Len Woods also contributed to the book. 
            Novice manuscript-admirers will likely find their vocabularies expanded by the rare terms that are encountered from the outset; before the end of the first three chapters (on the Rossano Gospels, the Vienna Genesis, and the Book of Durrow), readers will encounter words such as folio, scriptio continua, evangelistary, insular, colophon, canon table, and sacristy.  Fortunately most of these terms are accompanied by their definitions, making this book a rather helpful introduction to the jargon of manuscript-studies; by the time attentive readers reach the end of the book, they will be familiar with medieval book-production.      
          Fewer than half of the manuscripts featured in The Bible Illuminated are of much interest for text-critical purposes – most are Latin, a few are Hebrew, and over a dozen are Latin devotional books – but for the story of medieval art, every one is interesting.  The Book of Kells is featured, of course, along with the Harley Golden Gospels, the Theodore Psalter (one of the few Greek volumes described in the book), and volumes such as the Winchester Bible and the Luttrell Psalter.  (Alas, the Bury Bible is not featured.)
          Readers are likely to not only gain an appreciation of the use of art in medieval Bibles (and related books) but also gain some fascinating details about specific manuscripts, such as information about the cover of Codex Aureus of Echternach, or the story about how the Sarajevo Haggadah survived World War II, or the historical background of the Psalter of Queen Melisende.
          One could perhaps wish for a greater geographical variety of sample-books; it would have been nice to see a page from the Ethiopic Garima Gospels, and a few examples of Armenian ornamentation and illustration, and at least one example of art in a manuscript from Egypt.  This shortcoming, however, by no means diminishes this book’s value as an illuminating review of primarily European art in primarily European manuscripts.      
          The Bible Illuminated:  How Art Brought the Bible to an Illiterate World is published by Worthy Books, in association with the Museum of the Bible.  It is available online at Amazon for about $8.00, and I was able to find it (as of early October 2018) for about the same price at a local Ollie’s store.  The lavish pictures alone are well worth the price; this book is an art gallery you can hold in your hands.

Post-script:  Worthy Books also sells bookmarks that feature art from a few of the volumes featured in The Bible Illuminated, including 
the Rice Psalter and the Hours & Psalter of Elizabeth de Bohun.  I imagine that they would complement the book attractively on a coffee table.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mark 16:9-20: A Quiz for Grace To You

          Some friends have suggested that my previous post was too accusatory.  I disagree, since I was raising the point that if someone were to continue to spread falsehoods knowing that they are false, then such a person would be a liar.  This should be obvious to everyone.  Nevertheless, since not everyone sees things from the same perspective, it seems fitting to recast my points, via this simple quiz.  
            If you know anyone associated with John MacArthur, or Grace To You, or The Master’s Seminary, or The Master’s University, or Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, please share this quiz with them.  For as far as I can tell, everyone supervising those ministries and schools is unaware that they are responsible for the spread of a lot of false statements about Mark 16:9-20.

1.  T or F:  New Testament copyists wrote one letter, and then took a bath, and then wrote another letter, and took a bath, and so forth.

2.  T or F:  All manuscripts of the New Testament survived after the Council of Nicea in 325.

3.  T or F:  The earliest copies of Biblical texts are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.

4.  T or F:  Codex Vaticanus contains both the Old Testament and the New Testament, as we (evangelicals) know them.

5.  T or F:  We have 8,000 Latin manuscripts going back to the fourth century.

6.  T or F:  There are 350 Syriac copies that go back to the 200s.

7.  T or F:  When you compare all the Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts, they're all saying exactly the same thing.

8.  T or F:  It is possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament from 32,000 Scripture-quotations made by patristic writers.

9.  T or F:   A reconstruction of the New Testament based on patristic quotations will match perfectly all other manuscript sources.

10.  T or F:  Over 19,000 quotations from the Gospels in patristic writings read the Gospel text the very same way you read them in your Bible today.

11.  T or F:  The original text of the New Testament was preserved and protected as it was passed down. (Remember, this is in the context of a talk about Mark 16:9-20, which is supported by every Greek manuscript of Mark 16 made after the 300s except one, minuscule 304, a commentary-manuscript.)

12.  T or F:  We have so many accurate, consistent manuscripts that we know without hesitation that the ESV is an English translation of the original with no loss.

13.  T or F:  There are no manuscripts of Homer
s Iliad from between the thirteenth century A.D. and the eighth century B.C.

14.  T or F:  Irenaeus was aware of more than one way in which the Gospel of Mark ended.

15.  T or F:  Justin Martyr and Tatian were aware of more than one way in which the Gospel of Mark ended.

16.  T or F:  Several endings to the Gospel of Mark were composed to help Mark a little bit with his abrupt ending.

           Anyone familiar with the relevant evidence about Mark 16:9-20 should perceive that the correct answer to every question in the quiz is “False.”  But if you believe a video that Grace To You is circulating online, you would conclude that the correct answer to every one of these questions is “True.”  John MacArthur promoted every one of those claims in that video.  I call upon Grace To You to stop spreading those false claims, and I hope that others will join me in the effort.  This is not about making judgments about personal integrity; it is about stopping the spread of false claims.  There is no need to remind preachers such as John MacArthur and distinguished ministries such as Grace To You that it is wrong to spread false claims; what is needed is for their friends to explain to them that that is what they have been doing.

            Post-script:  I will gladly send a free copy of my book Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20 to any staff-member of Grace To You, any faculty-member of The Masters Seminary, and any member of Grace Community Church who contacts me and requests one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Mark 16:9-20: Is John MacArthur a Liar?

John MacArthur
            Grace To You, a California-based ministry, is still spreading the false statements about Mark 16:9-20 that are found in John MacArthur’s infamous sermon, The Fitting End to Mark’s Gospel.  Here are some of them.           

● MacArthur conveyed that copyists of New Testament books wrote one letter, and then took a bath, and then wrote another letter, and took a bath, and so forth.  This is false.  When Grace To You spreads this sort of nonsensical fable, they insult viewers’ intelligence.

● MacArthur said that all manuscripts of the New Testament survived after the Council of Nicea in 325 because no one was banning them or destroying them.  This is false.  The natural effects of humidity destroyed many papyrus manuscripts.  There were still areas where Christianity was opposed.  And there are many cases in which Christians themselves destroyed ancient manuscripts by recycling their parchment to use as material with which to make new books.             

● MacArthur stated that the earliest copies of Biblical texts are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.  This is false, inasmuch as the Dead Sea Scrolls are older than those two manuscripts, and so are some New Testament papyrus manuscripts (P52, P104, P45, et al).

● MacArthur said that Codex Vaticanus contains both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It should be clarified however that Codex Vaticanus does not contain the books of First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation; in addition, the Old Testament text in Codex Vaticanus is a Greek text, primarily a form of the Septuagint, which includes apocryphal books  (Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, etc.) and which varies in many other respects from the Hebrew-based English translations that MacArthur uses and endorses.

● MacArthur, referring to Latin manuscripts, conveyed that there are “eight thousand copies going back to the fourth century” but what ought to be said is that the Vulgate was translated in the fourth century, and our extant copies of the Vulgate were produced later.  There were later revisions of the Vulgate, such as the revision undertaken by Charlemagne’s scholar-advisor Alcuin.  It is not as if all existing copies of the Vulgate read the same as the Vulgate as it existed at the end of the fourth century.

● MacArthur stated, referring to Syriac manuscripts, “There are 350 copies that go back to the 200s, very ancient manuscripts.”  In real life, the number of Syriac manuscripts with text from the New Testament that were made in the 200s is zero.  There are two major Syriac manuscripts that represent an early Syriac text of the Gospels (not the whole New Testament).  The 350 Syriac manuscripts to which MacArthur refers are copies of the Peshitta, a translation which scholars such as Syriac-specialist Sebastian Brock do not consider earlier than the late 300s in terms of its creation.  In terms of the production-dates of manuscripts of the Peshitta, its representative manuscripts are all significantly later than the 200s.   

● MacArthur, after describing Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts, said, “When you compare all of these manuscripts, they’re all saying exactly the same thing.”  That is outrageously false – so false than it must be concluded, if one assumes that MacArthur had no desire to deceive, that MacArthur does not know very much at all about the contents of ancient manuscripts of the New Testament.  It boggles the mind that MacArthur was capable of saying such a thing in the course of a sermon in which he rejected Mark 16:9-20, because in those thousands of copies of the Vulgate, and in those dozens of copies of the Peshitta, Mark 16:9-20 is in the text.  MacArthur makes it seem as if the opposite is the case.  Grace To You spreads this severe misrepresentation of the evidence every day they keep MacArthur’s sermon online.      

● MacArthur claimed that using 32,000 Scripture-quotations made by patristic writers, it is not only possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament, but that “it matches perfectly all other manuscript sources.”  This too is absurd.  Dozens of patristic writers, in the era of the Roman Empire, quoted from Mark 16:9-20 and used the passage as Scripture; this alone proves that what can be reconstructed from patristic quotations does not match perfectly with “all other manuscript sources.”  A brief investigation of practically any major patristic writers – Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil of Jerusalem, Chrysostom – will show that their quotations do not match perfectly with each other, let alone with “all other manuscript sources.”  MacArthur’s claim about this is preposterous, and the staff of Grace To You should be ashamed to participate in the circulation of such nonsense. 

● MacArthur claimed that over 19 thousand quotations from the Gospels in patristic writings “read the Gospel text the very same way you read them in your Bible today.”  This is not just one absurdity, but a stack of absurdities, a tower of absurdities.  It is a statement which can only be made by an honest man if he has vigilantly avoided studying the materials about which he is speaking.  Anyone who picks up an ordinary UBS Greek New Testament and reads its textual apparatus with a modicum of understanding will see that there are hundreds of textual contests in which some patristic writers favor one reading, and other patristic writers favor a rival reading.  Grace to You should not expect to be trusted while it spreads claims that are refuted by a basic familiarity with the evidence.    
● MacArthur conveyed that the original text of the New Testament was “preserved and protected as it was passed down.”  Without testing this claim, I merely wish to raise a point:  considering that out of 1,670 Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark, only three end the text at 16:8, how can MacArthur say one minute that the original text has been preserved and protected as the text was passed down, and then say the next minute that 99.8% of the Greek manuscripts of Mark contain a “bad ending” that shouldn’t be there? 

● MacArthur explicitly appeals to the number of manuscripts as evidence of the preservation of the original text:  “we have so many accurate, consistent manuscripts that we know without hesitation that what we hold in our hands is an English translation of the original with no loss.”  By “many,” he cannot mean three.  But if he were to consult 99.8% of the Greek manuscripts of Mark (plus lectionaries, in which Mark 16:9-20 is routinely found), he would find the passage that he rejects!  The moment one posits that the text of the vast majority of manuscripts is the text that should be accepted without hesitation, one surrenders any objection against Mark 16:9-20.

● MacArthur claimed that the oldest manuscript we have of Homer’s Iliad is from the thirteenth century A.D.:  “We don’t have anything between the thirteenth century and the eighth century B.C. of Homer’s Iliad.”  That is false,  Over two dozen fragments of the Iliad exist which were produced before the thirteenth century A.D.  Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 560, from the 200’s, is just one example.

● MacArthur claimed that Irenaeus, a prominent Christian writer in the 100s, was aware of “other endings starting to float around.”  This too is false.  In real life, Irenaeus – writing well over a century before Codex Vaticanus was made – clearly quoted Mark 16:19, stating that he was quoting from near the end of Mark’s Gospel-account.  This shows that as far as Irenaeus’ manuscripts of Mark were concerned (and Irenaeus had been in Asia Minor, and southern Gaul, and Rome), the Gospel of Mark ended with verses 9-20.  Contrary to MacArthur’s claim, the only way in which the Gospel of Mark ended, as far as we can tell from Irenaeus’ testimony, is with verses 9-20 included.  Irenaeus does not express an awareness of the existence of manuscripts of Mark that end at the end of verse 8.  Irenaeus does not indicate in any way that he is aware of manuscripts of Mark that end with the “Shorter Ending.”  MacArthur’s statement about Irenaeus is 100% fictitious and 100% misleading. 

● MacArthur claims that two other second-century writers – Justin Martyr and Tatian – also “show knowledge of other endings.”  This too is false.  The only ending of Mark attested in any way by Justin Martyr and Tatian is the ending that consists of verses 9-20.   
● MacArthur claims that several endings were composed by people who tried “to help Mark a little bit with his abrupt ending.”  However this too is false; exactly one alternative ending, the Shorter Ending, was created in Egypt, where the text had formerly circulated with no words after the end of verse 8.  Except for the Shorter Ending – which stands alone after (most of) Mark 16:8 in exactly one Latin manuscript, and which appears along with verses 9-20 (or at least verse 9; incidental damage having affected the rest) in six Greek manuscripts (sometimes in the margin, sometimes with notes – see my book for details) – there are no endings of Mark after 16:8 that do not involve the presence of verses 9-20.  When Grace To You spreads the claim that “several endings” were floating around, as if referring to several independent compositions, Grace To You misleads people.
            And where are the faculty members of The Masters Seminary on this subject?  Where are the staff-members of Grace To You?  Or the officers of Grace Community Church?  These trusted men are entirely silent as far as I can tell – either too scared, too apathetic, too distracted, or too misinformed to adequately address the wild inaccuracies that are being spread daily by their school’s founder.      

            Grace To You, you have one proper course of action:  take down the video in which John MacArthur makes these false claims.  This is not about debatable points of theology; this is not even about whether or not Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the text.  It is about whether Grace To You’s leadership and staff want to spread false statements, or not.    
            Any teacher who aspires to inform listeners, rather than misinform them, would be happy to improve his work by removing false claims.  If Dr. MacArthur and Grace To You do not stop spreading these claims, having been informed that the claims are false, the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that these men continue to spread false claims because they have decided to do so.  When I ask if John MacArthur is a liar, I do not mean for this to be construed as an accusation but rather as an invitation:  please show me, Dr. MacArthur and Grace To You, that you do not want to continue to spread false claims.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Mark 2:17 - Calling Sinners

            At the end of Mark 2:17, there is a textual variant that has an impact on translation.  Strangely, there is no indication in the textual apparatus of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece that this contest exists.  Nor is it mentioned in the UBS Greek New Testament.  The Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament does not alert readers to its existence either.
            That is unfortunate, because this variant-unit is a good example of why the relative diversity of manuscript-support is more important than the relative quantity of manuscript-support.  Suppose we were to encounter a tree upon which some oranges, some lemons, and one kumquat were growing, and we were to ask, “Was this originally a lemon tree, or an orange tree?”  Can we find the answer by finding out whether the tree has more lemons, or more oranges? 
What is the original tree?
            Suppose we count the fruit, and learn that there are 20 oranges, and 200 lemons.  Clearly the dominant fruit on the tree, when we encounter it, is lemons.  But suppose we examine the tree in more detail and notice that those 200 lemons are on a single branch of the tree.  All of the other branches, though not nearly as productive, bear oranges (except for that one with a kumquat).  Would you conclude that the tree, at its base, is an orange tree that has had a branch from an orange tree grafted onto it, or that it is a lemon tree that has had several branches from an orange tree grafted onto it?  
            That situation is similar to the situation that we encounter in Mark 2:17.  Most Greek manuscripts include two words – εἰς μετάνοιαν, “to repentance” – at the end of Mark 2:17.  With these two words included, Mark’s record of Jesus’ words resembles the record in the parallel-passage in Luke 5:32 a little more closely.  Without them, the meaning of the passage is not lost, inasmuch as Mark had already reported (in 1:15) that Jesus was calling people to repentance – but the form of the text is obviously affected.   
            Although the vast majority of Greek manuscripts (including Codex C and Codex F and Codex M and Codex S and Codex Ω) reads εἰς μετάνοιαν, the manuscripts that do not have these two words in Mark 2:17 represent diverse branches of the text’s transmission.  The flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian text, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, do not have these words.  Neither does the fourth-century fragment Papyrus 88.  Codex L, another Alexandrian witness, does not have these words either.  The Bohairic version as compiled by Horner also does not have “to repentance” in Mark 2:17; Horner mentions however an Arabic gloss in one of his MSS (Copt. Arab. Rome Vat. 9, from A.D. 1205, with a colophon written at a church in Cairo in 1270) that mentions that “to repentance” is in the Greek text. 
            But it is not as if the Alexandrian Text is singing a solo.  Codex Bezae, the primary Greek witness to the Western Text, does not contain εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17.  Codex W also does not have εἰς μετάνοιαν  here.  A few Old Latin manuscripts have the Latin equivalent of the words, but this is probably the effect of independent harmonizations to the parallel-passage in Luke; there are more Old Latin witnesses that do not mention repentance here.  The Vulgate doesn’t have these words here either. 
Mark 2:17 in Codex K, a Byzantine
uncial, ends without "to repentance."
Several uncial manuscripts that are considered among the earliest and/or most important witnesses to the Byzantine Text do not support the inclusion of εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17; these include Codex Alexandrinus, Codex K, Codex Π, and Codex Υ.  The Peshitta (a Syriac version, prepared no later than the late 300s) likewise does not support “to repentance” at this point.  Neither does the Gothic version (translated in the 300s) as preserved in Codex Argenteus.  In addition, although εἰς μετάνοιαν has enormous support among the minuscules, a small assortment of minuscules such as GA 34, 157, 1273 (the George Grey Gospels, housed in New Zealand), 478, and 700 do not include εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17. 
            The main representatives of the Caesarean Text also do not include εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17:  Codex Θ, the family-1 cluster of manuscripts, and the Armenian version support the shorter reading in this case.   
            J. J. Griesbach, in his 1798 critical commentary on the Gospels, noted that there is a “telos” symbol in many manuscripts immediately following Mark 2:17, indicating that a lection ended here (specifically, the lection for the third Saturday in Lent).  This suggests that the inclusion of the words εἰς μετάνοιαν, drawn from Luke 5:32, may have begun as a flourish with which to end two lections – one consisting of an extract from Mark; the other consisting of an extract from Matthew. 
            The text of Mark 2:17 should not be considered in isolation; its transmission-history is linked to the transmission-history of Matthew 9:13, where εἰς μετάνοιαν similarly appears in the Byzantine Text (and where, as is the case with Mark 2:17, the verse is at the very end of a lection – in this case the lection for the fifth Saturday after Pentecost).  In Matthew 9:13 the words εἰς μετάνοιαν do not appear in a widespread array of early witnesses such as À B D N W, the Peshitta, and the Gothic version. (Although support for εἰς μετάνοιαν in Matthew 9:13 is found not only in the Byzantine Text but also in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript and an early Middle Egyptian manuscript, the UBS Greek New Testament’s textual apparatus completely ignores the reading there, just as it ignores the existence of the majority-reading at the end of Mark 2:17.)        
            The inclusion of the words is benign; it yields closer harmony among parallel accounts, and it augments the original meaning of the text.  These three traits elicited the adoption of the words in the Byzantine Text (and in a few other places where independent scribes made harmonizations), albeit not so early in the Byzantine Text’s history as to affect all of its major witnesses.  The absence of the words in such diverse manuscripts cannot be explained easily if these words were originally part of the text of Mark 2:17; meanwhile their adoption by scribes familiar with the parallel-passage in Luke 5:32 can be accounted for as a harmonization.  Thus, it should be concluded that the words εἰς μετάνοιαν were not part of the original text of Mark 2:17.       
            As a closing note, I think it should be stressed that the neglect of this variant in the Nestle-Aland and UBS textual apparatuses (and the apparatus of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament as well) is a shortcoming that ought to be rectified.  Practically all Greek Gospels-manuscripts that do not read εἰς μετάνοιαν in Mark 2:17 are manuscripts of special importance.