Thursday, November 26, 2015

Business Insider and the Bible

          Earlier this month, a website called Business Insider spread several false claims about the Bible in a short video produced by Joe Avella.  The video also promoted some statements which are technically true but which were framed in a way which is likely to mislead viewers.  Let’s test the reliability of the claims made in the recent Business Insider video about the Bible.
          The Business Insider video’s narration stated, “This sacred text has changed a great deal.”
          There’s no doubt that this is true, because whenever an ancient text is translated, it changes.  However, such changes tend to be benign, like when water is poured from one bottle into another.  The form changes, but not the content of its message, provided that the translation is accurate.  And, among Greek manuscripts, spelling changed; lettering-styles changed, individual copyists made mistakes (which can be filtered out by comparing multiple copies), and so forth.  Then came a claim that the earliest copies we have were made hundreds of years after the events they describe.
For the Gospels, that would be after A.D. 230.
          Granting that we do not have any of the actual documents written by the authors of the books of the New Testament, the Business Insider’s claim that the earliest copies that we have were made “hundreds of years” after the events they describe is FALSE.  
          At the beginning of the New Testament, the Gospels describe the ministry of Jesus, around A.D. 30, and at the end, John mentions his exile to the island of Patmos, around A.D. 90.  Thus “hundreds of years” after that would be between 230 and 290.   
Some manuscripts that were made before A.D. 230.
        But we have several manuscripts of New Testament books that were made before 230.  And it is not as if this is difficult to discover.  Ten minutes of casual research should be enough to prevent any responsible writer from making such a ridiculous claim, and to prevent any responsible website from spreading it.

          Next, the Business Insider video stated, “For the first 100-200 years, copies of the Bible were made by hand – and not by professionals.”  Bibles were made by hand for a lot longer than that; they were made by hand until after Gutenberg invented movable type in the mid-1400’s.  That is why we call them “manuscripts.”  But the claim that no early manuscripts were written by professionals is not true.  In the early manuscript known as Papyrus 46, one can observe notes about the number of sense-lines after some of the books, showing that the copyist was a professional who expected to be paid by the sense-line.  
Meanwhile in the real world.

      Now let’s turn to what Joe Avella described as the three biggest changes in the Bible.  First, he mentioned the story of the woman caught in adultery.  I’ve looked into this subject, and I consider this passage part of the original text of the Gospel of John, and I believe that it was lost in the following way:  an early exemplar contained symbols in the margin which were intended to instruct the lector to skip the passage about the adulteress when reading the adjacent lection for the Feast of Pentecost; a copyist, thinking that those symbols meant that the passage was to be skipped by copyists, dutifully obeyed, and thus these verses were lost in an early transmission-stream that affected practically all early copies from Egypt.  On the other hand, the passage is present in over 1,450 Greek manuscripts of John, and in 383 Jerome included it in the Vulgate, and in the early 400’s he stated that it was found in very many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin.
Not familiar with the
evidence about the story
of the adulteress?
This book can help.
          And let’s consider that quote from Bill Warren:  if one holds the view that the story about the adulteress was not written by John as part of his Gospel, then what we have in John 7:53-8:11 is an authentic story.  In which case, what has happened is that instead of making an entire New Testament book out of this episode, it was grafted into the Gospel of John instead.  So in this scenario, with the longer text, readers get one more true, authentic report about Jesus.

          The Business Insider video then considered Mark 16:9-20 and stated, “In original manuscripts of Mark, this part of the story is nowhere to be found.”  But the same video just finished telling us that we don’t have the original manuscripts!  The original manuscript of Mark was made in the first century, probably in the mid-60’s.  The manuscripts to which the Business Insider’s video refers are not the original manuscripts; the two early Greek manuscripts which end the text of Mark 16 at the end of verse 8 were made in the 300’s – at least one hundred and thirty years after Saint Irenaeus quoted from this passage as it appeared in his manuscript of Mark, around the year 184.  This passage is supported by over 1,600 Greek manuscripts, and is used by over 40 writers from the era of the Roman Empire.  The Business Insider doesn’t seem to sense a need to share these details with its viewers. 
          Next, the video turns to Jesus’ words in Luke 23:34:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Here we learn that Joe Avella consulted a book by an atheist to learn about the background of the Bible.  What could go wrong?)  Although some early interpreters tried to remove this passage from the text because it seemed to pose a theological difficulty, it was not removed in the Byzantine text, the text that was used in medieval Greek churches and which is attested by the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.  Nor was it removed in the Vulgate, the text that was used in the Latin-speaking churches.  So:  what the video presents as the third-biggest change in the Bible turns out to be an attempt at alteration which the church reacted against.   
          The Business Insider’s video says that this passage was “changed to reference the Romans.”  That is false.  Interpretations of the phrase “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” varied, but the words themselves were not changed to refer to the Romans.  If the Business Insider has been hiding a manuscript in which Luke 23:34 says that Jesus said, “Father, forgive these Romans,” let’s have it.  Otherwise this false claim – and the other false claims crammed into this video – should be withdrawn.
          Let’s hope that Business Insider’s writers and video-makers are better at dispensing financial advice than they are at investigating the history of the text of the Bible. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Clear Word: Clear, But Far from Pure

Paraphrasing is not
a license to embellish.
(A review of The Clear Word, by Jack J. Blanco, Copyright © 2003 by Review and Herald® Publishing Association)

          I am not sure what disturbs me more:  that the paraphrase-commentary hybrid known as The Clear Word could be created by a former dean of a Seventh-day Adventist university, or that Seventh-Day Adventists would welcome it, promote it, and distribute it.  Jack J. Blanco’s The Clear Word is one of the most corrupt forms of the English Bible being sold today.  Its author has smuggled thousands of man-made additions into the Biblical text.
          I have little doubt that the author’s intentions to create a “devotional paraphrase expanded for clarity” were noble.  This review is not intended as an evaluation of intentions, but of results.  The author of The Clear Word has essentially squeezed and molded Scripture into the shape of the teachings of Seventh-Day Adventism.
          Several authors have already reviewed some of the renderings in The Clear Word that have a distinctly Adventist doctrinal spin.  For example, at the CARM website, one can find explanations of how the Scriptural text has been manipulated and changed in The Clear Word so as to support annihilationism, and the belief that Jesus and the archangel Michael are identical (Revelation 12:7b:  “God’s Son Michael and the loyal angels fought against the dragon and his angels.”), and other unusual beliefs.
More examinations of The Clear Word
are at the CARM website
(This is not an endorsement.)
          Even if all of those doctrinally driven anomalies were corrected, The Clear Word would still be useless for anyone who wants to know what the Bible says, because The Clear Word is full of commentary-material that has been blended into the text.  It is not as if commentary-material is in a side-bar, or in footnotes, as is the case with various Study Bibles.  The commentary-material is blended directly into the text.  This unfortunate trait contaminates every page of The Clear Word.  I will supply some samples from Genesis and the Gospels.  Comparisons of these passages to translations such as the KJV, NKJV, HCSB, ESV, or NASB will illustrate the same thing:  The Clear Word is saturated with man-made insertions.  In the following six quotations from Genesis in The Clear Word, passages that are neither translation, nor paraphrase, but simply insertions, are highlighted and are in bold print:   

(1)  Genesis 3:6:  “As Eve watched the serpent eat the delicious fruit, she suddenly felt a strong urge to taste it too.  She reached out and touched the fruit and nothing happened.  Then she picked it, took a bite and instantly felt a surge of energy.  Excited, she took more fruit and ran to find her husband.  When Adam saw her, he sensed what she had done.  But in the blush of her excitement, she looked more beautiful than ever.  He couldn’t bear the thought of living without her, so he took the fruit and ate it also.”

(2)  Genesis 3:21:  (KJV:  “Unto Adam and also to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”)  “But God didn’t carry out their sentence that day.  He told them He had a plan to save them.  Adam must sacrifice a lamb as a symbol of the One who would come and die in their place.  God then took the lamb’s skin to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.”

(3)  Genesis 6:8:  (KJV:  “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”)  “So gradually the Lord laid to rest all those who loved Him, except Noah and his family.  Finally, they were the only ones left alive who found grace in God’s sight because they obeyed the Lord and did what was right.

(4)  Genesis 19:26a:  “Lot’s wife, who had begged to live in Sodom, looked back.”   The phrase, “who had begged to live in Sodom,” is not a paraphrase of anything.   It is simply an insertion. 

(5)  Genesis 22:9:  (KJV:  “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”)  “Finally they reached the top.  Together they found some stones, arranged them to build an altar and put the wood on top.  Then Abraham told Isaac what God had said.  Though sad, Isaac saw it as a privilege to give up his life for God while he was young.  He let Abraham tie his hands, then he willingly lay down on the altar.”  The two highlighted sentences are fabricated, and the sense of the final sentence is significantly altered.

(6)  Genesis 25:34:  (KJV:  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way:  thus Esau despised his birthright.”)  “Then Jacob gave him as many lentils as he could eat, and Esau ate and drank until he was full.  Without even thinking about what he had just given away, Esau said good-bye and left.  But Jacob had run ahead of God’s providence, just as Abraham had in fathering Ishmael.”  The final sentence has no foundation in the Hebrew text; it is commentary-material.

Many more could be listed.  Let’s turn to the New Testament and look at some of the insertions in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John. 

Mark 1:13:  (KJV:  “And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.”)  “He was there for forty days surrounded by wild animals.  He was severely tempted by the devil to use His divine powers to feed Himself.  When it was all over, He was so exhausted that angels from heaven had to come to revive His dying body.”  Wherever Jack J. Blanco got that part about the angels having to “come and revive His dying body,” it was not from the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark. 

Mark 1:45:  (KJV:  “But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places:  and they came to him from every quarter.”)  “But the man didn’t listen.  He thought that Jesus was just being modest, so he told everyone he met how Jesus had healed him.  This greatly upset the priests, especially since the man hadn’t yet carried out the prescribed ritual.  So Jesus decided to leave town, because He knew He would attract other lepers and be accused of breaking down the restrictions of the ritual law.  He decided to carry on His ministry in a more isolated area, but before long people found Him and once again huge crowds came to see Him.”  Some of the imprecision in this verse could be regarded as paraphrasing – but about half of it has no basis in the Greek text.  

Mark 2:14b:  “Matthew got up, asked his assistant to take over and followed Jesus.”

Mark 2:28:  “I am the Lord of the Sabbath.  I know what’s right to do on the Sabbath and what isn’t.

Mark 3:12:  “Jesus commanded the spirits to stop shouting because this could bring on a public disturbance if the people began to argue over who He was instead of listening to what He had to say.

Mark 4:39a:  “Jesus, knowing that the demons were causing the fierce wind, stood and said to the storm, “Peace, be still.””

Mark 6:22b:  “Having had too much to drink, Herod said to the girl, “Ask for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.””

Mark 8:33:  “Jesus then turned to His disciples and rebuked the Satanic influence around them, saying, “Get behind Me Satan!”  Looking straight at Peter, He said, “You’re only thinking about what’s important to man, not what’s important to God.”

Mark 11:7:  “They led the donkey to the top of the Mount of OlivesSuddenly they realized that what Jesus was about to do had for centuries been a symbolic act of kings prior to their coronation.  Joyfully, they took off their robes and laid them on the young animal.  Jesus then mounted the donkey, and the disciples led Him into Jerusalem.”

Mark 11:14:  “Jesus said to the tree, “Never again will you deceive people with your pretense.”  The disciples wondered why He would speak that way to a tree, but later they understood that it was a symbol of Israel.”

Mark 12:7:  “What was God telling Moses?  He was telling him that He was the One who activated Sarah’s dead womb, giving through Abraham life to Isaac who, in turn, gave life to Jacob.  Therefore, God is not the end of life but the Giver of life!  So your idea that there is no life after death is wrong.”  (For comparison:  Mark 12:27 in the KJV:  “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living; ye therefore do greatly err.”)
Mark 14:23-24:  “Then He took the cup of unfermented wine, gave thanks and passed it to the disciples to drink from, which they each did.  Jesus said, “The pure juice which you just drank represents my blood that I will shed for the sins of the world.  This will fulfill the covenant my Father and I made from the beginning.”

Mark 14:28:  But I will always love you.  When I rise again, I’ll meet you by the lake of Galilee where we had such good times together.”

Mark 14:72b:  “Ashamed of what he had just done, Peter hurriedly left the courtyard, ran all the way back to Gethsemane and wept bitterly.”

Now let’s turn to the Gospel of John.

John 2:4-5:  “Jesus answered, “Mother, I love you, but why are you asking me to help them?  I can’t work a miracle unless my Father tells me it is time to do it.”  Mary understood His hesitation but turned to the waiters and said, “Whatever my Son tells you to do, do it.”  (For comparison, here’s John 2:4-5 in the KJV:  “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?  Mine hour is not yet come.  His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”)

John 3:14:  “The miracle of the new birth was taught by Moses when he put a brass serpent on a makeshift cross and held it up for people to look at.  All those bitten by snakes who looked at it in faith were healed.  That power didn’t come from the cross Moses made, but from the Son of God who would come and die on a cross.  He will soon be lifted up between heaven and earth for all to see,”.  (For comparison, here’s John 3:14 in the KJV:  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”)

Now we come to John chapter 8.  The embellishments of this passage are particularly strange.
John 8:1-4:  “Toward the end of the day Jesus left the Temple and went out of the city to the top of a hill called the Mount of Olives to spend some time in prayer.  The following morning, He went back to the Temple and sat down in the courtyard to teach, even though the week-long festival was over.  Soon a crowd gathered around Him to listen to what He had to say.  While He was teaching, the Scribes and Pharisees dragged in a prostitute whom they had tricked into adultery so they could use her to confront Jesus.  They pushed her toward Him and said,” ….

Jumping ahead to John 8:8:
“Then He leaned forward and started writing again.  This time the leaders looked at what He was doing and saw traced before them their own secret sins and their part in trapping the woman.

Now, there is a sub-branch of the text of the Gospel of John that contains a reading in this verse to the effect that the religious teachers saw their sins written in the earth.  But there is nothing in the Greek text of John 8:3 that says that the scribes and Pharisees had tricked the woman into committing adultery, and there is nothing that says that they saw, written down, anything about their part in trapping the woman.  All those details are entirely made-up. 

Further along, in chapter 11, The Clear Word adds another made-up detail:
John 11:2:  “His sister Mary was the one who had been caught in adultery, whom the Pharisees wanted to stone but whom Jesus forgave.  She was also the one who later anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wiped His feet with her hair shortly before His death.”  I emphasize:  this new claim that Mary of Bethany was the woman caught in adultery does not come from anywhere in the Greek text of John 11:2.

Extra details continue to pop up in the text of The Clear Word:
John 12:8:  “You will have plenty of opportunities to feed the poor, but I’m only here once.  After what I’ve been through, it’s refreshing to be appreciated.

John 13:6-8a in The Clear Word contains some insertions and substitutions, too: 
“When He came to Peter, Peter said, “Lord, you’re the Son of God!  You’re not going to lower yourself by washing my feet!”  Jesus looked at him and said, “Right now you don’t understand why I’m doing this, but after I’m gone, you will.”  Peter said, “I am not letting my God wash my feet!”  This frivolous imprecision risks misleading readers:  some are likely to rely on this passage to prove that the Bible teaches the deity of Christ, only to be shown that the words “my God” do not belong in the text.

A little further on in The Clear Word, John 13:10 looks like this:  “Jesus said, “When a person has had a bath, he only needs to rinse the dust off his feet.  If a man has been born again and baptized, he doesn’t have to be baptized all over again each time he does something wrong.  All of you are clean, except one.””  An entire sentence, attributed to Jesus, appears out of the blue.

          These examples are not exceptional.  Similar insertions appear throughout The Clear Word.  In addition, parallel-passages are frequently altered, removing difficulties at the expense of effectively erasing the text written by the inspired authors.  In The Clear Word, Mark mentions both Gadarene demoniacs, and both blind men at Jericho (not just Bartimaeus) – whereas in the original text of the Gospel of Mark, Mark simply does not do so.  Acts 1:17-18 is barely recognizable in The Clear Word.  This sort of alteration does indeed result in a clear text, but not a pure one.
           Without all the baseless embellishments, The Clear Word could be a lucid paraphrase of the same base-text upon which the KJV is based.  Unfortunately, Jack Blanco has created an adulteration, a hybrid that is partly the Word of God, and partly his own ideas (mostly based on the teachings of Ellen G. White), blended together without distinction.  For Christians who want their Bibles to be undiluted, this completely disqualifies The Clear Word from being used for any purpose, except as an example of how translation should not be done.  I encourage the Review and Herald Publishing Association to stop printing it, and I encourage Adventist Bible Centers to stop distributing it. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Willoughby Papyrus of John 1:50-2:1

          Earlier this week at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, Tommy Wasserman reported about a lecture that Dr. Geoffrey Smith (from the University of Texas) gave at the Society of Biblical Literature’s gathering in Atlanta.  Smiths lecture is about the Willoughby Papyrus, a small piece of papyrus which appeared for sale on eBay for $99 in January of 2015.  Brice Jones gave an early report about this item in January of 2015, and it was noticed by Wieland Willker as well.  It was mentioned at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, with comments, before disappearing from eBay. 
Harold R. Willoughby
(Univ. of Chicago Archive
         Fortunately, as reported at the New York Times, it has not vanished into obscurity, and is receiving some scholarly attention.  This tiny scrap of papyrus contains text from John 1:50-2:1.  (See Brice Jones’ description for a transcript and brief discussion of its contents.)  It appears to be from the mid-late 200s or early 300’s.  At one time, it was the property of Harold R. Willoughby, who was a professor at the University of Chicago in the 1900’s.  (He was also instrumental in the acquisition of the Gangsters’ Bible (also known as the Argos Lectionary), a lectionary which is part of the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection.)  The papyrus has text from the Gospel of John on one side, but something else is written on the other side, upside-down. This suggests that this fragment is from a scroll.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nick Lunn's Book about Mark 16:9-20 - Reviewing a Review

Yet another author supports the
genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 --
and the defenders of the status quo
are getting nervous
Recently a review of Nick Lunn’s book, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9–20 appeared online at the website of the Australian Biblical Review.  I believe that that poor quality of the review demands a response.  In the following eight ways, and more, reviewer Stephen Carlson has done a disservice to readers of ABR.

(1)  The paperback edition of The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9–20 might be $53 in Australian dollars (in the USA, it is currently $43 at Amazon), but the Kindle e-book is $9.99 US.  The availability of the book in an electronic format (available since at least November of 2014) that can save readers $33 is worth mentioning. 

(2)  Carlson frames Lunn’s view as something that goes “against the weight of critical opinion.”  That’s okay.  But then he goes further and says, “This issue is no longer disputed among New Testament textual critics.”  This is mere “poison-the-well” rhetoric.  It is like beginning the review of a restaurant by saying, “True connoisseurs do not visit this restaurant.”  
          One could similarly claim that before the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece was released, the reading of Second Peter 2:18 was no longer disputed among textual critics; the adoption of ολιγως instead of οντως received an “A” from the UBS Committee; implying, as the UBS Introduction says, that “the text is certain.”  It was certain, until the decision about this variant-unit was reversed in the 28th edition!  Meanwhile, advocates of the Byzantine Text had favored οντως the whole time.        
          Furthermore, Carlson’s statement is flatly wrong.  In the 2007 book Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, Dr. Maurice Robinson and Dr. David Alan Black both argued for the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20.  Dr. Dave Miller has advocated the genuineness of the passage.  Dr. David Hester has offered a case that “modern day readers of the Gospel of Mark should use the verses as part of Scripture.”  I, too, have written a detailed defense of the passage, which members of the NT Textual Criticism group on Facebook can obtain for free, in an expanded and updated edition.  Several recent English translations, including Gary F. ZeollaAnalytical-Literal Translation (based on the Byzantine Text), the New Heart English Bible, the World English Bible, the English Majority Text Version, the Eastern/Greek Orthodox New Testamentand the Modern English Version (the MEV is based on the Textus Receptus) also format Mark 16:9-20 as part of the text.  Does Carlson truly have the temerity to deny that there are textual critics who accept Mark 16:9-20 as authentic, or is he merely out of touch?
          It is understandable that Carlson, having claimed that Lunn is not likely to convince textual critics, did not mention what Craig Evans says about Lunn’s book on its cover.  Craig Evans’ misrepresentations of important aspects of the relevant evidence still circulate in his commentary on Mark; nevertheless Evans acknowledges:  “Nicholas Lunn has thoroughly shaken my views concerning the ending of the Gospel of Mark,” and, “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,” and, I will not be surprised if Lunn reverses scholarly opinion on this important question, and so forth.  
          I do not think that Carlson could gather a list of very many textual critics who reject Mark 16:9-20 if, in order to be on the list, one would have to have not written anything erroneous about the passage.  (This would certainly rule out Bruce Metzger and Daniel Wallace; Wallace’s writings on the passage are a veritable cornucopia of misinformation.)  As a New Testament textual critic who regards Mark 16:9-20 as part of the original text, and who has documented an epidemic of inaccuracies in commentators’ treatments of the evidence pertaining to these verses, I regard Carlson’s insinuation that if one is really a textual critic, one cannot think that Mark 16:9-20 is genuine, to be nothing but hollow, desperate rhetoric that is inappropriate in a book-review.      

(3)  Carlson states that Lunn’s arguments “often contain factual mistakes.”  Granting that Lunn overplays the differences between the wording of the resurrection-predictions in 8:31, 9:31, and 10:34 and the wording in 16:6, this is a minor consideration that is nowhere near the core of Lunn’s case.  In addition, Carlson seems to think that the angelic announcement that Jesus has been raised and will be see in Galilee – without any narrative about His post-resurrection appearance – satisfies the prediction in 14:28, and that Lunn’s denial of this is problematic.  Whether this is or is not the case, we are dealing here with a point of interpretation, not a “factual mistake.”    

(4)  Carlson put his own spin on Lunn’s descriptions of the evidence, as if Lunn has somehow minimized some of the main witnesses for the abrupt ending at 16:8:  when Lunn points out (correctly) that “within the confines of the Greek evidence both the abrupt and the shorter endings are restricted to the Alexandrian text-type,” Carlson objects that “The limitation of this argument to Greek evidence weakens the argument.”  However, Lunn does not ignore the non-Greek evidence.  He describes it and even devotes several paragraphs to Codex Bobiensis.  Readers of Carlson’s review – particularly his claim about “Lunn’s attempt to avoid this Western witness” – are likely to get a different impression, that is, a false impression.   

(5)  Carlson’s misrepresentation of Lunn’s treatment of Codex Bobiensis is particularly blatant.  Here is Carlson’s sentence:  “Lunn’s attempt to avoid this Western witness because it is “geographically closer to Alexandria” is simply wrong because Carthage is twice as far from Alexandria as it is from Rome.”  But consider Lunn’s entire sentence:   after proposing that Codex Bobiensis “most probably originated in North Africa,” Lunn states:  “This places it geographically closer to Alexandria in Egypt than the European Old Latin manuscripts.” 
          Either the point of Lunn’s sentence did not register to Carlson, or Carlson is guilty of misrepresenting Lunn’s position about this, which is simply that Old Latin transmission-streams on the European continent were a greater distance away from Egypt (by land-travel) than North Africa is, rendering the Old Latin transmission-stream in North Africa relatively more vulnerable to the sustained influence of the transmission-stream in Egypt.  Lunn clearly acknowledges that “the negative testimony begins to take on a broader shape” when versional evidence is considered.  But perhaps Carlson, instead of taking a cheap shot via his claim that Lunn “avoids” some evidence, was working under a tight deadline, and simply failed to notice what Lunn wrote about the versional evidence as a whole. Either way, the picture painted by Carlson is sadly out of focus to the point of being useless.
          What gets lost (or obscured) in Carlson’s comments is Lunn’s conclusion about the Old Latin evidence in general that “Bobiensis displays an entirely unique manner of ending Mark, while the weight of the testimony of other Old Latin Gospels is decidedly in favor of including 16:9-20.”  (This point alone should compel numerous commentators (such as James R. Edwards) to rewrite their comments about the testimony of the Old Latin regarding Mark 16:9-20.)

(6)  Carlson states, “Lunn admits that the Old Syriac witnesses in favour of the short ending is Western.”  Not only is this claim grammatically challenged, but it obscures Lunn’s description of the Syriac evidence, which consists of much more than the Sinaitic Syriac:  Lunn affirms that Tatian’s Diatessaron (produced around the 170’s), the Syriac Didascalion (third century), Aphrahat the Persian (early fourth century), Doctrine of Addai (fourth century), and Ephrem the Syrian (around the middle of the fourth century) support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.  
          Lunn describes the Sinaitic Syriac as “quite exceptional among the various Syriac witnesses” due to its non-inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.  [In the interests of brevity I will not address some quirks/mistakes in the nomenclature used by Lunn.]  Lunn also points out that in the Curetonian Syriac, the only text from Mark that has survived is 16:17b-20.  His conclusion regarding the Syriac evidence is that with the exception of the Sinaitic Syriac, “every other shred of evidence, both earlier (Diatessaron, Didascalion, Aphrahat, etc.) and later (Curetonian, Peshitta, Harklean) testifies to the existence of 16:9-20 as the ending of Mark in the Syriac tradition.”  This is a much more significant point that the point that the Sinaitic Syriac is a Western witness (which Lunn readily grants).            

(7)  As is often the case with commentaries about Mark 16:9-20, one must consider what is left out.  (Like when the NET’s note on Mark 16:9-20 does not mention Irenaeus.  Epic fail, NET!)  Carlson does not mention Lunn’s evisceration of Wallace’s flimsy dismissal of the blank spaces in the Old Testament portion of Vaticanus.  Nor does Carlson mention Lunn’s analysis of the blank space that follows Mark 16:8 in Vaticanus:  Lunn concludes that Vaticanus “provides indirect evidence for the prior existence of 16:9-20.”  Isn’t this something that Carlson’s readers might like to know?  In addition, Carlson does not mention Lunn’s analysis of the decorative design in Sinaiticus which follows Mark 16:8; Lunn concludes that it is plausible that via this feature, “Sinaiticus joins Vaticanus in its implicit testimony to the existence of a Markan ending beyond that which these two present.”  Did Carlson think that news of this would bore the readers of his review?

(8)  Again:  Carlson did not mention Lunn’s investigation into external evidence that has only rarely been covered by commentators.  Regardless of what one’s view on the main question is, Lunn should be thanked for offering an apparatus-listing for Mark 16:9-20 that is a substantial improvement upon the comparatively meager apparatus offered in the Nestle-Aland and USB compilations.  Lunn’s chapter on patristic citations, in the portion sub-titled “Evidence Prior to AD 150,” is bound to be interesting to all readers, whether they are persuaded or not.  Lunn proposes that the Epistle of Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas, and Barnabas probably contain utilizations of the contents of Mark 16:9-20.  He also offers evidence for utilizations of Mark 16:9-20 from the Gospel of Mary and the Epistula Apostolorum and other works that are not found in the UBS apparatus.  He also upgrades the testimony of Justin Martyr:  rather than consider Justin as merely a highly probable witness for Mark 16:9-20, Lunn affirms, with detailed analysis, that this is “a certainty.”  Is this not worth mentioning in a review?    

More could be said about Carlson’s spin on Lunn’s approach to the internal evidence and his strange selectivity of detail when describing the contents of Lunn’s book.  But you get the idea.  If there is a sufficiently detailed, careful, and unbiased review to be had of Lunn’s book, it is not likely to come from Stephen Carlson.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Medieval Scroll with Text from the Gospels

          Almost all manuscripts that contain text from the New Testament in Greek are codices, that is, hand-made books.  Even the earliest catalogued fragment, Papyrus 52, is from a codex.  However, a few scrolls containing Greek text from the New Testament exist.  One of them is the D’Hendecourt Scroll in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection at the University of Chicago (known as Manuscript #125 in the collection, and as Talisman 7 in the old Gregory-Dobschutz identification-system) 
          This interesting item (which is not cited in the apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, and the existence of which is not acknowledged in the current Gregory-Aland identification-system) is an “apotropaic” scroll, that is, a scroll which, it was thought, endued its possessor with divine protection.  It contains text from Mark 1:1-8, Luke 1:1-7, John 1:1-14, and Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord’s Prayer, complete with the doxology in verse 13  not Matthew 4:9-13 as is sometimes claimed).  It also contains the Nicene Creed and Psalm 68, in Greek.  When it was in pristine condition it probably included the opening verses of the Gospel of Matthew.
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1077, a small
manuscript made to be worn as a charm,
contains text from Matthew 4:23-24.
          The use of small scrolls containing excerpts from the beginnings, or near the beginnings, of the Gospels, as protective amulets or charms, was mentioned by the patristic writer John Chrysostom, who served in Antioch, and then Constantinople, in the late 300s/early 400s.  The church generally discouraged the use of such charms, but their production continued nevertheless.  Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1077 is also a talisman (probably made in the 500’s), albeit much smaller that the D’Hendecourt Scroll.  
          The scroll in the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection is one of two known portions of the same manuscript.  A longer portion is at the Pierpont Morgan Library (in New York), and it contains additional material, including Psalms 35 and 91, and invocations to Saints George (the dragon-slayer), Demetrius, Daniel, Eugenius, Artilektos, and Theodore, plus the story of King Abgar, interpolated with an unusual form of the Epistula Salvatoris – instructions (exemplified in the scroll) about how to write an inscription for divine protection.  The portion at the Morgan Library also features a colophon which informs the reader that the scroll was made in the 1,694th year after Alexander, which yields a date of A.D. 1383.  Both portions also contain illustrations.
          Casual observers might be forgiven if they assume that the Gospels-text in a scroll made less than a century before the invention of printing must be the ordinary Byzantine Text.  Upon examination, its text agrees more closely with the Byzantine Text than with any other text-type, but it has some interesting variants.  In Matthew 6:12, the D’Hendecourt Scroll reads “αφιομεν” (agreeing with Codices D, E, L, W, Θ, and 565), which is a little different from the Byzantine reading αφιεμεν and also distinct from the Alexandrian reading αφηκαμεν.  (The early patristic writing called the Didache, as well as Clement of Alexandria (in Stromata, Book 7, ch. 13), support αφιεμεν.  The parallel in Luke 11:4 reads αφιομεν.  Usually.)   In Mark 1:1-8, the text of the d’Hendecourt Scroll runs as follows, with its most notable feature in verse 2.  (Red bold text indicates a disagreement with the Nestle-Aland text; green bold text indicates a disagreement with the Byzantine Text; purple bold text indicates a disagreement with them both.  Transpositions are not indicated.)       

Researcher Glenn Peers offers
some additional analysis of the scroll
in two papers accessible
online at Academia.
1Αρχη του ευαγγελιου Ιυ Χυ υιου του Θυ 2ως
γεγραπται εν τω Ησαια τω προφητη ιδου
εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου προ προσω
που σου ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου εμ
προσθεν σου  3Φωνη βοωντος εν τη ερημω ε
τοιμασατε την οδον Κυ ευθειας ποιειτε τας
τριβους αυτου · 4Εγενετο Ϊωαννης  βαπτιζων
εν τη ερημω και κηρυσσων βαπτισμα μετα
νοιας εις αφεσιν αμαρτιων. 5Και εξεπο
ρευοντο προς αυτον πασα η Ιουδαια χωρα
και οι Ιεροσολυμιται και εβαπτιζοντο παν
τες εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμω υπ αυτου εξομο
λογουμενοι τας αμαρτιας αυτων . 6Ην δε ο
Ϊωαννης ενδεδυμενος τριχας καμηλου.  και
ζωννην δερματινην περι την οσφυν αυτου.
και εσθιων ακριδας και μελι αγριον·  7Και ε
κηρυσσε λεγων ερχεται ο ισχυροτερος μου οπι
σω μου ου ουκ ειμι ικανος κυψας λυσαι τον
ιμαντα των υποδηματων αυτου. 8Εγω μεν ε
βαπτισα υμας εν υδατι · αυτος δε βαπτι
σει υμας εν πνι αγιω : ~    

An icon at Saint Catherine's
depicts king Abgar of Edessa
being shown the cloth that bore
the image of the face of Christ.
So does an illustration on the
scroll-portion at the Morgan Library
          The presence of an Alexandrian reading followed by so many Byzantine readings suggests that the D’Hendecourt Scroll was produced at an intersection of competing transmission-streams – a place where the Byzantine Text was prevalent but the influence of other text-streams remained significant, even in the 1300’s.  Georgian and Arabic text on the scroll also provide a clue regarding its provenance.  While it is not impossible that the scroll was made in Trebizond (where Eugenius was especially revered), its earliest known provenance is Egypt.  In addition, a small Coptic amulet-text  British Library Or. 4919(2) – also combines, albeit in an extremely concise way, the beginning of the Epistula Salvatoris and the opening verses of each Gospel.
          The most likely point of origin is Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula – the same place where Constantine Tischendorf found Codex Sinaiticus in the safe custody of monks (who were, contrary to Tischendorf’s story, certainly not burning its pages).  The motifs in one of the pictures on the D’Hendecourt Scroll (in the portion at the Morgan Library) are similar to a scene in an icon at Saint Catherine’s, in which Abgar is presented with the cloth that bore the image of Christ’s face. 
          The story about King Abgar, the letter he wrote to Jesus, and the letter that Jesus wrote (or dictated) back to him accompanying a cloth upon which Jesus had transferred the image of His face, was very well-circulated.  It was mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea in his 
Ecclesiastical History;  in Eastern Christendom it formed part of the fifth-century composite-work known as the Doctrine oAddai, and in the West an excerpt from it is preserved in a British book made in the early 800’s.)
          The D’Hendecourt Scroll thus combined two motifs that were considered to induce divine protection upon the person carrying them:  the opening verses of the Gospels, and the story of the correspondence between Jesus and Abgar, augmented by the protective inscription of symbolic letters displayed on the scroll.  Although produced as the equivalent of a lucky charm, it has some textual value, and its text should not be ignored in discussions of Mark 1:2 and Matthew 6:13. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lessons from a Medieval Fragment of Second Timothy and Titus

          In the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection at the University of Chicago there is a twelfth-century manuscript called “2 Timothy and Titus Praxapostolos Fragment,” known as manuscript #943 in the collection, and identified as 2425 in the Gregory-Aland identification-system.  Manuscript 2425 contains text from Second Timothy (3:6-4:22) and Titus (1:1-3).  It also contains a Hypothesis (Summary) of Titus.
This detail from 2425 shows text from Second Timothy 3:15-4:3a,
including a variant in 4:1 that is not in the Nestle-Aland apparatus.
          The text of this minuscule fragment displays a strong adherence to the standard Byzantine Text.  It varies from the Robinson-Pierpont 2005 compilation of the Byzantine Textform at only four points – in Second Timothy 3:8, reading Μωϋσεῖ (Byz: Μωϋση), 3:11, reading ἐγένοντο (Byz:  ἐγένετο), 4:1, reading Κυριου (Byz:  του Κυριου) and 4:13, reading φαιλόνην (Byz:  φελονην).  (In the fourth case, the Byzantine Text itself is split; φαιλόνην is mentioned in the margin of RP-2005.)  Thus the difference between the text of Second Timothy 3:6-Titus 1:3 in this manuscript, and the text of RP-2005 amounts to eight Greek letters.  2425 is thus an excellent representative of its text-type.  It shows the stability of the Byzantine transmission-stream in the Middle Ages, at least for the Pastoral Epistles.  
          A couple of longer readings that are found in the text of Second Timothy in Codex Alexandrinus, produced in the 400’s (“and carnal pleasures” in 3:6, and “as a good soldier in Christ Jesus” in 4:5), are not in the text of 2425, and two shorter readings in Codex Alexandrinus (the non-inclusion of “the love” in 3:10 and the non-inclusion of “me” in 4:17) that were not adopted in NA27 are not supported by 2425 (that is, 2425 and the Byzantine Text agree with NA27 against Codex A at all four points).    
          Two other things may be learned from 2425:
          ● Considering the textual stability implied by a comparison of 2425 and the Byzantine Text, the often-repeated claim that “no two New Testament manuscripts agree exactly” is almost certainly wrong.  At least one book of the New Testament – perhaps Second Timothy or Titus or Jude – was very probably reproduced in a form that is shared exactly by more than one manuscript.
The STEP-Bible:  better than NA27.
          ● In the course of collating the text of 2425, I noticed a significant variant-unit in Second Timothy 4:1 that is not in the Nestle-Aland apparatus.  The words “the Lord” – του Κυριου in Greek – are not in the Alexandrian Text, but the word Κυριου is supported by 2425 (in which Κυριου, being a sacred name, is contracted as Κυ and overlined).  The reading του Κυριου is included in the Byzantine Text (and is supported by the Peshitta).  To put this another way:  a variant in Second Timothy 4:1 that has an impact on translation, and which is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts, is not in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece at all.  It’s not in the text of NA-27 and it’s not in the apparatus.  You won’t find it in the UBS Greek New Testament anywhere either.  It’s not mentioned in the NET either.  The Byzantine reading is, however, listed in the footnotes of the SBL-GNT, and it is also included in the apparatus of the STEP-Bible prepared at Tyndale House, although the specific variant attested by 2425, in which Κυριου is in the text but is not preceded by του, is not mentioned.  I conclude that the claim that “it is certain that the original wording is found either in the text or in the apparatus” may be an overly optimistic assessment when applied to the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.