Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Bible: So Mispresented, It's a Sin (Part Two)

Continuing the corrections of Kurt Eichenwald's Newsweek article, "The Bible:  So Misinterpreted, It's a Sin" -- 

(4)  Eichenwald wrote, "An early version of Luke 3:16 in the New Testament said, “John answered, saying to all of them.…” The problem was that no one had asked John anything, so a fifth century scribe fixed that by changing the words to “John, knowing what they were thinking, said.…” Today, most modern English Bibles have returned to the correct, yet confusing, “John answered.” Others, such as the New Life Version Bible, use other words that paper over the inconsistency."

Kurt Eichenwald is one confused dude who has made multiple mistakes:
(A) The variant in Luke
3:16 that consists of the insertion "Knowing what they were thinking" is an anomaly. It's not in the Byzantine Text -- the text-type represented by over 85% of the manuscripts. Nor is it in the Alexandrian Text -- the text-type that forms the primary basis for most modern versions of the New Testament. It is a variant in Codex Bezae, a manuscript famous (or, rather, infamous) for its interpolations and quirks. 
(B) Most likely it was not the fifth-century copyist of Codex Bezae, but an earlier copyist, of some ancestor-manuscript, who invented this reading.
(C) It is virtually libelous to say that "most modern English Bibles have returned to the correct" reading, because anyone can consult the English Bibles from the 1500s as well as the King James Bible and turn to Luke 3:16 and see that they never adopted Codex Bezae's variant in the first place. So when Eichenwald says that English Bibles "returned" to the correct reading, it's like saying that there was time when English Bibles' text of Luke 3:16 was based on Codex Bezae, which is simply false.  A responsible publication would retract, and apologize for, this demonstrably untrue statement.
(D) I consulted the "New Life Version" online, and it accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek text of Luke 3:16. Nothing is "papered over."  The gracious conclusion to draw is that Eichenwald simply does not know the Greek text well enough to make an informed judgment on this point. (NLV, Luke 3:16a: "But John said to all of them," -- Greek text: APEKRINATO LEGWN PASIN O IWANNHS. Likewise the KJV: "John answered, saying unto them all,".)

(5)  Kurt Eichenwald's comments about John 7:53-8:11 look like they were extracted from a book by Bart Ehrman, and Eichenwald even repeats Ehrman's ridiculous statement that scribes in the Middle Ages made up this story.  Ehrman told a radio-interviewer in 2006 that "in the Middle Ages," a scribe added the story to the Gospel of John, but Eichenwald stretches the lie even further in Newsweek, claiming, "S͋cribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages." 

Meanwhile, in a world apparently inaccessible to Ehrman and Eichenwald, Ambrose of Milan (c. 370/380) utilized the story of the adulteress repeatedly; Augustine (early 400s) discussed it at length, and Jerome (late 300s) stated that he had found the story of the adulteress in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin. Newsweek's dissemination of such laughably out-of-focus descriptions of the evidence, as if John
7:53-8:11 did not come along until the Middle Ages, is deplorable and irresponsible. Granting that the passage is not in 267 Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John, it is present in 1,476. The case is not nearly as one-sided as Eichenwald pretends. 

Eichenwald claims that the passage "does not appear in any of the three other Gospels," but this is true of most of the events in the Gospel of John! Does he not know this? Or is he just grasping at anything that will give the appearance of supporting his claim?

Likewise he claimed that the passage is not "in any of the early Greek versions of John," but while this may be true of manuscripts from
Egypt, it is certainly not true of manuscripts used by Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, Pacian, Augustine, and others. Plus, the passage about the adulterous woman is found in Codex Bezae, the quirky manuscript that Eichenward himself referred to as an "early version."

(6)  Kurt Eichenwald's cherry-picking of evidence regarding Mark 16:9-20 is shamefully misleading. He stated, "The earliest versions of Mark stop at 16:8." That is partly true: the two earliest copies of Mark 16, both produced in the 300s, end Mark's text at the end of 16:8. But this is hardly the whole truth.

In one of those two copies - Codex Vaticanus - the copyist reserved blank space after verse 8, instead of beginning the Gospel of Luke in the following column. 

In the other copy - Sinaiticus - all of the text from Mark 14:54 to Luke 1:56 is on a cancel-sheet, that is, replacement-pages, and the copyist made extra effort to avoid leaving a blank column between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1, and drew a heavy decorative frame after 16:8. Both manuscripts, in different ways, indicate their copyists' awareness of material beyond verse 8.

Out of over 1,600 Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark, those two are the only Greek manuscripts of Mark in which the text clearly ends at verse 8, followed by the closing-title of the book. Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Washingtoniensis, Codex Bezae, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus -- the passage is in them all, representing different copying-centers in different locales. Kurt Eichenwald's statement that Mark 16:9-20 is not "in early copies of the original Greek writings," is not entirely true. The text ends at 16:8 in two early Greek copies, echoing an early Alexandrian form of the text. But those two manuscripts are two among a bunch.

None of these manuscripts are the earliest evidence regarding Mark
16:19. It is for some reason a secret which Newsweek-readers must be kept from that Irenaeus of Lyons, writing around 180, specifically quoted Mark 16:19 from his copy of the Gospel of Mark -- a manuscript which must have been over a century older that the manuscripts produced in the 300s.  (Irenaeus' quotation is in Against Heresies Book 3.)  And around 170, a man named Tatian, in the course of composing the Diatessaron -- a blended account of all four Gospels into one narrative -- included Mark 16:9-20 in the account.  And, around the year 160, Justin Martyr made a strong allusion to Mark 16:20, using its verbiage in his First Apology, chapter 45. Even the pagan author Hierocles, c. 305, probably recycling material written by his mentor Porphyry, used Mark 16:17-18 in an anti-Christian jibe.

Does Kurt Eichenwald think that the utilizations of Mark 16:9-20 by writers in the 100s-early 300s, earlier than the earliest manuscripts of Mark 16, are not worth mentioning? Or did he decide that Newsweek-readers should not be told about them because this might interfere with the thesis of his article? Or is he simply clueless when it comes to New Testament patristics?

(7)  Kurt Eichenwald wrote that First John 5:7, Luke 22:20, and Luke 24:51 "first appeared in manuscripts used by the translators who created the King James Bible, but are not in copies from hundreds of years earlier."

As far as First John 5:7 (the "Comma Johanneum") is concerned, that is certainly true. Regarding Luke
22:20 and Luke 24:51, however, Kurt Eichenwald's statement in Newsweek is . . . let's say, horsefeathers.

Luke 22:20 is attested by the early manuscripts Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Washingtoniensis, and many more; the verse was included in the Vulgate by Jerome in 383 -- which is, I believe even Mr. Eichenwald will concede, hundreds of years before the King James Version was produced. Luke
22:20 is also included in Papyrus 75. Kurt Eichenwald apparently has stumbled upon and swallowed a pet theory of Ehrman, who favors Codex Bezae's quirky liturgical adjustment that resulted in the non-inclusion of this verse -- but that is no excuse for mangling the presentation of evidence. The only difference between Kurt Eichenwald and someone lying about the evidence pertaining to Luke 22:20 is that a liar knows what he's doing.

Luke 24:51, likewise, is included in Papyrus 75 and in Codex Vaticanus and a plethora of other manuscripts. Papyrus 75 is typically assigned a production-date by paleographers in the early 200s -- which is earlier than Codex Bezae (fifth or sixth century) and much earlier than the manuscripts used by the translators of the King James Bible. Newsweek is spreading distortions and nonsense by publishing claims that give an impression to the contrary.

I call on Newsweek's editors to retract the errors in this story/article/mess.


  1. Very well written, thanks for taking the time to respond.

  2. Another response to Eichenwald's inaccuracies is at