Friday, December 22, 2017

The Text of Phoebadius

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

My Favorite Passage About an Adulteress in the Bible

            Dan Wallace’s research on John 7:53-8:11 is unreliable.  Let’s take a few minutes today to see where this professor at Dallas Theological Seminary has gotten things wrong about John 7:53-8:11 in his Credo Course on New Testament textual criticism, and at the wrong conclusion that his mistreatment of the evidence has led him.

Actually, we have a lot more than that:
half the majuscules of John 7-8,
and about 1,500 minuscules.
(1)  Wallace:  “We have three majuscule manuscripts, out of the 322 that we have, that actually have this passage.  That’s it.”

This statement is wrong in two ways.  First, the metric is unfair, since most of the 322 uncial manuscripts that he cited (a number which has risen slightly since then) do not have any text from the Gospel of John whatsoever.  It would be unfair to say, “The Dallas Cowboys have failed to win 308 out of 316 football games this season” if the team only played 16 football games, won seven times, and had one tie.  To include 300 games that the team could not participate in serves only one purpose:  to convey a false impression. 
            Second, more than three majuscule manuscripts have the story of the adulteress!  The uncials E, G, H, K, M, U, S, G, Ω, 047, and 0233 support the passage, and Codex F included it when the manuscript was in pristine condition.  Wallace’s statement of the number of uncials (i.e., majuscules) that contain the pericope adulterae is off by a factor of four.
            In addition, it is no secret that Codices Δ and L, while they do not contain John 7:53-8:11, contain blank space between John 7:52 and John 8:12, which is obvious testimony to their copyist’s awareness of the absent passage, and there is no good reason to neglect to mention this feature of these two manuscripts when presenting them as evidence for the non-inclusion of the passage.

The Latin chapter-titles (capitula)
and chapter-summaries (breves)
tell a different story.
(2)  Wallace:  “When the Syriac, and the Coptic, and the Latin versions, along those lines, don’t have it, when they were begun in the second and third century, their manuscripts that they used didn’t have it.”

Wallace’s statement is unobjectionable regarding the Syriac and Coptic copies – setting aside the Syriac Didascalia’s statement about Jesus’ statement, “Neither do I condemn you” in the interest of brevity, since it is not a manuscript – but the Latin evidence is quite a different story.  In an early form of the Latin chapter-divisions of John, considered to have originated in the mid-200’s or slightly thereafter (and for this reason called “Type Cy,” the “Cy” representing Cyprian and his era), the thirtieth chapter-title, or summary, begins with the phrase, “Ubi adulteram dimisit et se dixit lumen saeculi,” that is, “Wherein he dismissed the adulteress, and said that he was the light of the world.” 
            Another form of the Latin chapter-divisions in John, Type I, from the 300’s, divides the text differently; its sixteenth chapter-title, or summary, says, “Adducunt ad eum mulierem ‘in adulterio deprehensam,’” and in one form of this chapter-summary, the text continues, “in moechatione ut eam iudicaret,” and this phrase – with the loanword moechatione – is also found in another form of the Latin chapter-divisions, Type D.  All in all, twelve different forms of Latin chapter-divisions include the story of the adulteress, all in the usual location after John 7:52. 
            Among Old Latin manuscripts of John, while the early Latin support for John 7:53-8:11 is not unanimous, Jonathan Clark Borland has shown that the story of the adulteress circulated in not just one, but three localized forms within the Old Latin tradition.  Clearly, there is Dr. Wallace’s claim, and then on the other hand there is the real world.
Except 20 or so.  Obscure writers
such as Ambrose and Augustine.

(3) Wallace:  “We have a lack of patristic comments on this passage until the twelfth century.   Not until the 1100’s do you get somebody who takes any time to really comment on this text.” 

           For those who are familiar with the comments on this passage made by Pacian of Barcelona (mid-300’s – same era as Codex Sinaiticus’ copyists), Ambrose of Milan, Ambrosiaster, Jerome (whose testimony is strangely absent from the NET’s note on the passage), Augustine, Prosper of Aquitaine, and others, the gracious reaction will be to assume that the speaker was rephrasing Bruce Metzger’s outdated Textual Commentary, and forgot to include the word “Greek” to describe the patristic comments to which he referred.  But this cannot be the entire explanation, because Wallace proceeded to assert that “You don’t see it in any fathers of the first millennium.” [bold print added]

(4) Wallace:  “There are several [manuscripts] that have an asterisk in the margin.” 

            The number of manuscripts with an asterisk or asterisks (or similar marks, such as a column of squiggly lines) is something more like 270, not just “several.”  But in 130 of these manuscripts, the asterisks do not accompany all of John 7:53-8:11; they only accompany John 8:3-11.  Maurice Robinson has helpfully demonstrated that in these cases, the asterisks constitute part of the lectionary-apparatus, conveying to the lector where to find the lection for Saint Pelagia’s Day (October 8) embedded within the lection for Pentecost.  Wallace, however, instead of accepting what should be obvious – for why would copyists put asterisks only by 8:3-11, and not 7:53-8:2 as well, if their intent was to mark the passage as spurious? – has insisted that these asterisks were inserted to convey scribal doubt.  
            Part of the reason why he has insisted that these asterisks convey scribal doubt, he claimed, has something to do with the presence of an asterisk in Codex Claromontanus.  If anyone can make sense of the line of reasoning Dr. Wallace has employed about this, please let me know, for it seems to me that showing that one copyist used an asterisk for one purpose does not mean that other copyists cannot use it for an entirely different purpose.

(5) Wallace:  “Codex D’s text is not at all like the Byzantine MSS’ version of the story.  Lots of corruption in this passage.  Some manuscripts tell us what He wrote.  This indicates that this was “may well be a floating oral story that got spread about in different forms for quite some time.”

            Another explanation is that, as Eusebius of Caesarea reported, there was another form of the story in the once-popular writings of Papias, and details from one form of the story were occasionally blended into the other.  Of course for students to perceive this alternative explanation, they would first have to be informed about the existence of Eusebius’ report of Papias’ form of the incident.
Diagnosis:  Metzgerius Regurgitatis.
Study the lectionary cycle, professor.

(6) Wallace:  “It is a floating text as far as the New Testament is concerned.  Let me show you some of the places this passage has shown up, and let’s wrestle with what the implications of that are.  It appears in three different places in John 7 – not just John 7:53 but a couple of places earlier.”

            Ah, the Fable of the Floating Anecdote.  Since I have already refuted, in an earlier series of posts beginning at , the theory that the dislocations of the story of the adulteress indicate that it was a freestanding narrative that floated around like a restless butterfly, I will not replow plowed ground here, except to expose how selective Dr. Wallace’s descriptions of the evidence are.

(7) Wallace:  “In some manuscripts, it appears as a separate pericope at the end of all four Gospels, just tacked on at the very end.”
Tell us, please, about the note that
accompanies it in minuscule 1582. 
The note that says it was taken from
the location after John 7:52.

As if someone took a separate composition and added it on to the Gospels.  Except when one learns – as Dr. Wallace’s students, sadly, do not learn in his classroom – that these manuscripts belong to a tightly-related group, family-1, and that the core members of this group (minuscules 1 and 1582) preface the story of the adulteress with a note which specifically says “The chapter about the adulteress:  in the Gospel according to John, this does not appear in the majority of copies; nor is it commented upon by the divine fathers whose interpretations have been preserved – specifically, by John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria; nor is it taken up by Theodore of Mopsuestia and the others.  For this reason, it was not kept in the place where it is found in a few copies, at the beginning of the 86th chapter [that is, the 86th Eusebian section], following, ‘Search and see that a prophet does not arise out of Galilee.’”
            If Dr. Wallace’s students were told about the contents of this prefatory note, they would not leave him classroom ready to confidently tell their future flocks that the story about the adulteress was “tacked on at the very end” from someplace other than from within the Gospel of John.  They would know about the note which specifically says that the story of the adulteress was transplanted to the end of John from its usual location after John 7:52.
Some?  I think you mean one.
And it's not independent. 
It's the lection for Saint Pelagia's
Day, with a heading, "From John."

(8) Wallace:  “In some manuscripts, it stands as an independent pericope between Luke and John.”

This is not the case.  The manuscript that comes the closest to fitting Dr. Wallace’s description is minuscule 1333, in which the lection for Saint Pelagia’s day (John 8:3-11) is added between the end of Luke and the beginning of John, on what had been a filler-page.  But John 8:3-11 is accompanied on this page in 1333 by headings which identify it as the lection for Saint Pelagia’s day, and as a lection from the Gospel of John.  Once again when the details of the evidence are not locked away, the same thing that was treated as evidence that the story of the adulteress was a floating text is seen to be just the opposite. 

(9) Wallace:  “What does all this tell us?  Is it stable in its place?  No; it’s not stable.  That suggests that here’s a passage that’s trying to get into the Bible, and it’s tried several different places to get in, if you can personify this.  And finally it landed on John 7:52, right after that seemed to be the most logical, the most coherent place, it seems; fits into the text pretty well, and yet there are still some real serious issues there.”

            That is the conclusion that Dr. Wallace wants his students to reach.  Throughout his lectures on this subject – not only in the Credo Course but also in other online presentations – he demonstrates an utter lack of consideration of the impact of the lection-cycle upon the text.  One is tempted to even call it a lack of awareness of the lection-cycle altogether, for as far as I can tell, he never brings up the point that the lection for Saint Pelagia was embedded within the lection for Pentecost.  Nor, as far as I can tell, does he ever indicate that he understands that copyists sometimes simplified the lector’s task on Pentecost (where the lection jumped from the end of John 7:52, leapfrogged John 7:53-8:11, and landed on 8:12) by removing the elided verses to another location.
            Rather, here is how he described the format of the passage in minuscule 115; I give an extensive quote in order to show the extent of his misunderstanding: 

(10) Wallace:  “And it also occurs, in one manuscript, after John 8:12; this is fascinating:  it’s codex 115, and it’s one that Griesbach actually was one of the very first guys to collate; I collated it several years ago, and what I noticed was – here’s a manuscript, it shears off at John 11, right in the middle of John 11 – but, the scribe copying out this manuscript gets to this pericope, and – he’s copying from another manuscript – he writes out John 7:52; then he continues copying from this other manuscript, and writes out John 8:12. 
            “The manuscript that he’s copying from . . . all of a sudden, it skips the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This scribe doesn’t catch it until he writes the verse after this pericope.  And so, he catches it:  he goes, “Oh!  Wait a minute; that’s not right.  This story is supposed to go here.”  So he goes and puts that manuscript down, picks up another one that has the story of the woman caught in adultery, and writes it out.  This is the only manuscript I know of where you have the story of the woman caught in adultery after John 8:12, and then John 8:12 is again repeated after it.  And you can see how it came about.”

            Except that’s not how it came about.  The copyist of 115 was merely trying to make the lector’s job a little easier by putting 8:12 alongside the rest of the lection for Pentecost.  Minuscule 115 is not the only manuscript like this; the same thing is found in minuscules 1050, 1349, and 2620, and in minuscule 476, John 8:12 is written in the margin alongside 7:52 for the same purpose.  Dr. Wallace guides his students to conclude that the passage is a floating text, but what the evidence that he is presenting really shows – if its details would be allowed to speak in Dr. Wallace’s classrooms – is that the copyists of these manuscripts expected John 7:37-52+8:12 to be read at Pentecost, and they also expected John 8:3-11 to be read on October 8 in honor of Saint Pelagia (or in some cases, Mary of Egypt).  In no way does these transplantations of the passage support the idea that it was moved from anywhere except from its usual location after John 7:52
            Regarding the other case of transplantation that Wallace mentioned (to the end of Luke 21), and others that he did not mention, I have elsewhere already explained how they originated because of adjustments to the lection-cycle, and do not support the idea of a “floating text,” unless one means that some copyists, in attempts to simplify the task of the lector, floated the passage from its usual location after John 7:52 to other locations that they considered more convenient.

(11) Wallace:  “I told you that some of these manuscripts have an asterisk there, and the asterisk is indicating that the text is not authentic.  Here in Codex 1424 we see asterisks in the margin down here, of this text.  So you’ve got the text actually written out, but then you’ve got the asterisks saying it’s not actually authentic, or that they have doubts about it.  This is a manuscript at the Lutheran School of Theology that we photographed a few years ago, a very important manuscript.  But, significantly, those asterisks say, the scribe is telling us he has doubts about the authenticity.”
What about the note in 1424 that
says that the entire passage is in
the ancient manuscripts and that
the church should use it?

            Let’s take a closer look at minuscule 1424’s treatment of the story of the adulteress.  Its main text does not include the passage; the account is crammed into the outer and lower margin of the page.  The readings within the passage as written in the margin of 1424 are similar to the text of the passage in Codex Λ.  In addition to the asterisks, it is accompanied by a note.  Nearly identical notes also appear in Codex Λ (as a scholium), and in minuscule 262, and in minuscule 20 (in which the passage is transplanted to the end of the Gospel of John).  Here is the note:  This is not in certain copies, and it was not in those used by Apollinaris.  In the old ones, it is all there.  And this pericope is referenced by the apostles, affirming that it is for the edification of the church.”  (The last sentence is referring to the use of the story about the adulteress in the composition known as Apostolic Constitutions, Book 2, chapter 24, which is modeled upon an older work, the Didascalia, at this point.)
The format of the text in 1349:
Red line with green arrow (twice) = 8:12
Yellow line = 7:53-8:11
Blue rectangle = heading, "The Adulteress"
Green square:  movable date for the next lection
            Thus, when closer scrutiny is applied to the margin of 1424, we do not have to resort to guesswork to see the purpose of the asterisks:  they draw attention to the passage that the note is about – a note which affirms that the passage, though not in some copies, was found in ancient manuscripts, and which appeals to Apostolic Constitutions as confirmation that it is for the edification of the church.  Not quite the same impression now, is it?

(12) Wallace:  “I really think the passage needs to be relegated to the footnotes.”

            So would I, if my grasp of the evidence were as poor as his, or if I were a student at Dallas Theological Seminary (or at the Credo Course) without the means to test the accuracy of what I was being taught on this subject.  But having taken an unfiltered look into the evidence (and there is much more I could critique, but have not, in the interest of brevity), my view is that the story about the adulteress was originally in the text of the Gospel of John, and that it was lost in an early and influential transmission-line when a copyist misunderstood marginal instructions intended for a lector as if they were meant for the copyist.  It should be revered by everyone as inspired Scripture.  
            Some might claim that my position is the effect of an attachment to tradition, or “emotional baggage.”  What could I do against such suspicions except insist that this is not the case, and that it is those who reject the pericope adulterae who are promoting an obsolete tradition – namely, the “floating anecdote” myth that is no longer sustainable.  Against all attempts at dismissal, I bask in my confidence that even those who have traveled down that dead-end road will soon learn the facts of the case, and stop spreading their inaccurate claims about the story of the adulteress.
Also available
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            I take this opportunity to remind readers that my Kindle e-book A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11 is available to purchase at Amazon for 99 cents – and readers (especially seminary professors and Bible teachers) are welcome to contact me at and request a free copy.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Meet Lectionary 261

          In 1753, a French ambassador whose last name was Desalleurs – and who had been stationed at Constantinople – presented a gift to King Louis XV:  a Greek Gospels-lectionary, now known as Lectionary 261.  (At the National Library of France, where it resides, it is known as Supplemental Greek manuscript 37.)  This is no ordinary lectionary; it is finely illustrated, not only with headpieces for each Evangelist, but with many other small illustrations in the margins.  It contains Gospels-lections for both the Synaxarion – the calendar that is annually reset at Easter – and for the Menologion – the feast-days that are affixed to specific unchanging days of the calendar.  According to Scrivener’s Plain Introduction, fourth edition (1894), its pages measure 13 inches high and 10 and 7/8ths inches wide.
A headpiece in Lectionary 261,
featuring the Evangelist Luke.
            Lectionary 261 has been assigned a production-date in the 1000’s or 1100’s (see, however, the detail about its colophon).  Its text, written in two columns on each page, appears to be an excellent representative of the Byzantine Text.  To give some idea of the quality of its text, let’s have a quick round of hand-to-hand combat! – Lectionary 261 versus Papyrus 75 in John 2:14-22; go! 

Papyrus 75 deviates from the Nestle-Aland compilation at the following points in Luke 2:14-22:

2:14 – P75 has τας before βοας (+3)
2:15 – P75 has ως after ποιησας (+2)
2:15 – P75 has τα κερματα instead of το κερμα (+3, -1)
2:15  P75 has ανεστρεψεν (+1)
● 2:  P75 has οτι (+3)
● 2:  P75 does not have υμιν (-4)
● 2:  P75 uses an underlined μ as a numeral instead of writing out τεσσερακοντα.

            Setting aside the use of a numeral, that means that in John 2:14-22, Papyrus 75 has 12 non-original letters, and is missing 5 original letters, for a total of 17 letters’ worth of textual corruption.  (If we were to penalize P75 for using a numeral, its total deviation from NA27’s text would consist of 30 letters’ worth of corruption.  But we won’t.) 
            In comparison, the text of Lectionary 261 has the following deviations from NA27:

2:15 – Lect 261 has ανεστρεψεν (+1)
2:16 – Lect 261 has πολουσι instead of πολουσιν (-1)
2:16 – Lect 261 has ποιητε instead of ποιετε (+1, -1)
2:17 – Lect 261 has δε after εμνήσθησαν (+2)
2:18 – Lect 261 has ειπον instead of ειπαν (+1, -1)
2:20 – Lect 261 has ειπον instead of ειπαν (+1, -1)
2:20 – Lect 261 has τεσσαρακοντα instead of τεσσερακοντα (+1, -1)
2:20 – Lect 261 has ωικοδομήθη instead of οικοδομήθη (+1, -1)
2:22 – Lect 261 has ω instead of ον (+1, -2)

            Thus Lectionary 261 has 9 non-original letters in John 2:14-22, and is missing 8 original letters, for a total of 17 letters’ worth of textual corruption – even when the orthographic variation involving τεσσαρακοντα is included (which isn’t quite fair to Lectionary 261, because P75’s scribe did not spell out the word).  This means that in this particular passage, the text of Lectionary 261 is as accurate as the text of Papyrus 75.  In addition, while in Lectionary 261’s transmission-line the word δε was added in verse 17, and ω was substituted for ον in verse 22, the alterations in the text of Papyrus 75 included the insertion of three words, and the omission of one word.  Or to put it another way:  based on this small sample, the text from the ancient Egyptian papyrus looks like it has been edited, whereas the text from the medieval lectionary looks like it has only been subjected to very minor orthographical and grammatical tweaking.          
In John 2:15, P75 agrees
with the Byzantine Text and
disagrees with Codex Vaticanus
            Another thing worth noticing:  the Byzantine reading at the end of verse 15 – ανεστρεψεν – is supported not only by Lectionary 261 but also by Papyrus 75.  Is this ancient vindication of the Byzantine reading making an impact on critically edited texts of the New Testament?  A little:  ἀνέστρεψεν was adopted by Michael Holmes for the SBLGNT, but the recently released Tyndale House GNT still reads ἀνέτρεψεν, and this must have been deliberate, since the starting-point for the Tyndale House edition was the compilation made in the 1800’s by Samuel Tregelles, who adopted ἀνέστρεψεν. 
            Lectionary 261 does not have the story of the adulteress in its Synaxarion-section; the lection for Pentecost flows without interruption from the end of John 7:53 to the beginning of John 8:12, with which it concludes.  That is not unusual.  In the Menologion-section, however, the lection for Saint Pelagia’s day (October 8) is present, as John 8:3-11, with κατείληπται in verse 4, and with Και at the beginning of verse 5, and with ειπον εκπειράζοντες and εγραφεν in verse 6, and other unusual readings.  Mark 16:9-20 is included as the third of eleven readings in the Heothina-series, pertaining to Christ’s resurrection.  Luke 22:43-44 is not only included but is accompanied by a small illustration depicting Christ praying and being visited by the angel.
            After the last page of the Menologion, which is sloppily expanded by a later hand, a different scribe has added a lection from Matthew 14:1-13.  This is followed by several lines of some sort of colophon, with a date which someone seems to have calculated as 1232.
In a passage from Matthew 25,
Christ teaches about readiness.
          Lectionary 261’s text is by no means its only noteworthy feature.  Artistically, it is far above average.  Its copyist’s minuscule script is a model of efficiency and neatness; corrections in the margin are rare (one occurs in the text of Luke 8:47 where the copyist accidentally skipped from one αὐτῷ to the same word further along in the verse).  Occasionally (and especially in titles in the Menologion) a half-uncial script is used.  Many of the lection-headings appear to be written in gold, and in the first lection after the lection for Pentecost, following a large headpiece featuring the Evangelist Matthew, Matthew 18:10, 8:11, and 8:12a are written in gold before the rest of the lection continues on the next page.
            The Samaritan woman, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, the wise and foolish virgins, and the rich young ruler are among the many characters who appear in small illustrations in the margins throughout the Synaxarion-portion.  Occasionally the colorful initials are transformed into portraits of Christ.  Some Bible-readers prefer their text to be unadorned, and yet these bright initials brings to mind a happy closing thought – that what began as letters on a page may, when welcomed, implanted, and applied, end up as Christ in you. 

[A PDF of Lectionary 261 can be downloaded at the Gallica website.]  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Evidence That Demands a Rewrite

            Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, has been a major handbook for Christian apologetics ever since its initial release in 1972.  It was recently updated and expanded, with new material that encourages believers to ensure that their faith is intelligent, informed, and defensible, in keeping with the instructions given in First Peter 3:15 – “Be ready always to offer a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 
            Certainly this is a worthwhile task – and yet it was disconcerting to find, in a book that the author has had over 40 years to revise, numerous inaccuracies where text-critical subjects are involved.  I will focus here only upon the second and third chapters, the titles of which tell their subjects:  How We Got the Bible and Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?.  I will simply present selected statements, in the order in which they appear, and explain why they are problematic.  Some of the mistakes are minor; others are not so minor; all should be corrected.

● “The oldest papyrus fragment known dates back to 2400 B.C.” (p. 22) – This statement is somewhat obsolete, inasmuch as texts on papyrus from 2550 B.C. were discovered in 2013.

● In a section titled The Canon Classified, the writer states, “Early manuscripts organized the books differently as well as having a different number of books.  For example, Codex Sinaiticus’ organization first listed the Gospels, then Paul’s epistles, including Hebrews, Acts, and the General Epistles, and finally Revelation.” (p. 32)
            This should be reworded to account for the fact that the book of Revelation is not the final book in Codex Sinaiticus.  In Codex Sinaiticus, Revelation is followed by the non-canonical books Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas.

● In a section titled Examples of Catechetical Writings, the author lists “Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas (AD 70-79).” (p. 33)
            Those parameters for this text’s composition-date are too narrow; it should extend from AD 70 to about 120.

● In a section titled Number of MSS:  c. 5,856, the author lists how many Greek manuscripts we possess:  using data from January 2017 which, according to a footnote, reflects statistics in Dan Wallace’s forthcoming book Laying a Foundation:  A Handbook on New Testament Textual Criticism, these totals are as follows:  131 papyri, 323 majuscules (uncials), 2,937 minuscules, and 2,465 lectionaries, for a total of 5,856.  
            The consistent problem with the presentation of these figures is not that they are somewhat fluid; the author makes it clear that freshly discovered manuscripts are being added to the total, and that sometimes two separately cataloged manuscripts are found to be sections of what was, when produced, a single manuscript.  The problem is that the sheer quantity of materials is presented in Evidence That Demands a Verdict as if it is a guarantee of the accuracy and reliability of the text in those manuscripts.  
● In the course of describing versional evidence, in a section titled 6. Latin translations, the Vetus Latina Register is twice called the “Vestus” Latina on page 50. 

● In a section titled 7. Syriac, continuing to describe versional evidence, the author wrote, “Syriac Peshitta.  The basic meaning of peshitta is “simple.”  It was the standard version, produced around A.D. 150-250.  There are more than three hundred and fifty MSS from the fifth century extant.” (p. 50)
            The Peshitta was not produced around 150-250; the author provides a better description on the very next page which says, “The New Testament portion was probably written before AD 400.”  It is more accurate to picture the Peshitta’s initial development in the late 300’s, with further refinement and standardization in the 400’s (not unlike the development of the English New Testament from Tyndale’s 1526 work to the KJV in 1611). 
            It is flatly wrong to claim that there are more than 350 copies of the Peshitta from the fifth century.  There are a few copies of portions of New Testament in the Peshitta version that can be plausibly dated to the 400’s, and some can be dated to the 500’s (the most famous example being the Rabbula Gospels), but most of them are later than that.
            In addition, it should have been mentioned that in the Peshitta, the “New Testament” has only 22 books (without Second Peter, Second John, Third John, Jude, and Revelation), not the usual 27 books that most readers of Evidence That Demands a Verdict will picture when they read about the New Testament.      

● In the same section (7. Syriac), the author wrote, “Number of MSS:  350+.  Old Syriac:  Two MSS.  There are around sixty in the fifth and sixth centuries alone.” (p. 50)
            This is simply not true.  There are two important copies of the Old Syriac text of the Gospels:  the Sinaitic Syriac, and the Curetonian Syriac.  There are fewer than a dozen Syriac manuscripts that contain books of the New Testament and can be plausibly dated to the 400’s and 500’s.  In addition, they represent, in most cases, the Peshitta, not the Old Syriac.   

● In the same section (7. Syriac), the author wrote, “The earliest known translation of the Greek New Testament is in the Peshitta, the official Bible of the Syriac-speaking church. (Cairns, DTT, 330) The New Testament portion was probably written before AD 400, making it a significant witness to the original Greek text. (Cross and Livingstone, ODCC, 1268)” (p. 51)
            The Peshitta is not “the earliest known translation of the Greek New Testament,” inasmuch as Coptic, Old Latin, and Gothic versions were made before it.      

● In a section titled Visualizing the Number of Biblical Manuscripts, the author wrote, “A stack of extant manuscripts for the average classical writer would measure about four feet high; this just cannot compare to the more than one mile of New Testament manuscripts and two-and-a-half miles for the entire Bible. (Wallace, lecture at Discover the Evidence, Dec. 6, 2013)” (p. 53)
            Here, again, Evidence That Demands a Verdict presents the quantity of manuscripts as if the more manuscripts we have, the more verification we have of the accuracy of the text.  But even the source used for this quotation – Dan Wallace – has argued that when the vast majority of manuscripts disagree with the Alexandrian Text, they are almost always wrong.  He has even argued that all of the Greek manuscripts are erroneous, except one, in Mark 1:41.  In almost all cases where 85%-95% of the manuscripts support a Byzantine reading and thus disagree with the much smaller cluster of Greek manuscripts that support an Alexandrian reading, Wallace favors the Alexandrian reading.            
● In a section titled 3. The Diatessaron (c. AD 170), part of a section on “Important New Testament Manuscripts,” the author wrote, “This early harmony of the Gospels was published in Syria. It has significance as an early manuscript because the remaining copies, even though they are later translations from it, bear witness to the earliest gospels.” (p. 61)
            Something like that, but not quite.  The Diatessaron is, as described, a “harmony of the Gospels” – that is, it combines the contents of the four Gospels into one non-repeating narrative.  As such, it should be categorized among patristic works, not among manuscripts.  It is not extant in any Greek manuscripts; the small fragment 0212 was once thought to be a fragment of the Diatessaron but Mark Goodacre and others have argued persuasively against that identification. 

● In a section titled 6. Codex Sinaiticus (AD 350), in the course of describing some important manuscripts, the author reproduced Bruce Metzger’s summary of Constantine Tischendorf’s first encounter with pages from Codex Sinaiticus:  “While visiting the monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai, he chanced to see some leaves of parchment in a waste-basket full of papers destined to light the oven of the monastery.” (p. 62)
            While that is the version of events claimed by Tischendorf, the monks of the monastery have persistently denied it. Tischendorf’s contemporary J. Rendel Harris considered the story impossible to take seriously.  The discovery, in 1975, of additional pages of Codex Sinaiticus in a previously sealed-off room, effectively shows that the monks were not in the habit of burning manuscript-pages, even damaged ones; but instead practices the ancient custom of retiring damaged materials to a genizah.  The chance that Tischendorf misconstrued what his hosts at the monastery were saying about the parchment pages in the basket, or that he made up the story as a pretext for its removal from the monastery, seems very high.

● In the section F. Important New Testament Manuscripts, there is a problem not of error but of brevity.  The descriptions of Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Bezae, and Codex Washingtonensis are excessively frugal; in addition, no minuscule manuscripts are described.  This somewhat collides with the first sentence of the following section:  “All told, the sheer number of New Testament manuscripts and the earliness of the extant manuscripts gives us great reason to believe that the New Testament accurately transmits the content of the autographs.” (p. 63) 
            In very many passages, the few early uncials that receive a modicum of attention on pages 62-63 support Alexandrian or Western readings (and in some cases, anomalous readings that correspond to no major manuscript-family), and thus disagree with a rival reading that is supported by the vast majority of manuscripts (typically over 85% but occasionally over 99%).  One could easily get the impression that the “sheer number” of manuscripts in favor or a particular variant ensures that it is genuine; however, it is practically an axiom among textual critics that manuscripts ought to be weighed rather than counted.     

● In a section titled Patristic Quotations from the New Testament, the author presents an often-repeated claim:  “Indeed, so extensive are these citations that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament.” (p. 63) 
            This quotation is taken from Metzger & Ehrman’s The Text of the New Testament, but descends from a statement made long ago by Walter Buchanan which referred to the results of research conducted by David Dalrymple in the 1780’s – and it is not vindicated by the data collected by Dalrymple.  It is essentially a phantom claim which sounds reasonable but for which a verifiable foundation has not been built.  Now, if one were to extract quotations from patristic writers from the sub-apostolic age on into the 400’s, one probably could reconstruct every verse of the Gospels, either in Latin or in Greek or both.  But this is not the same as showing that the resultant reconstruction accurately represents the original text; after all, the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament routinely lists patristic writers whose quotations disagree with one other; sometimes even the same writer cites the same passage in two different ways, prioritizing its message rather than its exact form.                  

● In a section about early citations of the New Testament by the church fathers, under the heading j. Others, one finds the following statement on page 65:  “Other early church fathers who quoted from the New Testament include Barnabas (c. AD 70), Hernias (c. AD 95), Tatian (c. AD 170), and Irenaeus (c. AD 170).” 
            “Hernias” must be a reference to “Hermas,” that is, the composition known as the Shepherd of Hermas, which is usually assigned a composition date not around AD 70 but at least a few decades later.  (I suspect that a digital scanner is to thank for the creation of the writer Hernias.)  

● Also in the section titled j. Others, on page 65, the author writes, “To all of the above we could add the later church fathers: Augustine, Amabius, Laitantius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Gaius Romanus, Athanasius, Ambrose of Milan, Cyril of Alexandria, Ephraem the Syrian, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory of Nyssa, and many others.”
            Instead of “Amabius” the reference should be to “Arnobius,” a writer who lived in Sicca, in Africa, southwest of Carthage, in the opening years of the 300’s.
            Instead of “Laitantius” the reference should be to “Lactantius,” who wrote only slightly later than Arnobius. (Again I suspect that a digital scanner is to blame.)

            It is not my intention to belittle the authors of Evidence That Demands a Verdict by pointing out these mistakes.  The book is huge, and as Proverbs 10:19 indicates, where there are many words, there are mistakes.  I encourage everyone to read it discerningly; eat the corn and leave the cob.  Fortunately corrections for future editions should be easy to make, and in the meantime, Sean McDowell’s blog is well situated to provide, as a courtesy to his readers, an errata-list.  I must say, though, that authors such as Darrell Bock, William Lane Craig, Craig Evans, Michael Licona, Lee Strobel, and Ravi Zacharias should have noticed these errors and encouraged the author to correct them, before writing their glowing endorsements of the book. 

[Readers are invited to look into the embedded links for additional resources and documentation.]


Saturday, November 11, 2017

If In Doubt, Sort It Out

Curious incidents
in the Byzantine Text
          “If in doubt, don’t throw it out.”
  That is the way in which Dan Wallace has asserted that Byzantine copyists handled the text of the New Testament when they had two exemplars that said two different things.  That is essentially a restatement of the claim made by J. J. Griesbach over 200 years ago:  “Scribes were much more prone to add than to omit.  They hardly ever leave out anything on purpose, but they added much.” 
            That idea – one of the fundamental principles used by textual critics throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s – was effectively erased by the data and analysis which was published by James Royse in 2010 in Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri.  Royse observed that the rate at which the copyists of some early papyri made omissions is higher than the rate at which those copyists made additions; the ratio works out to about 3:2.  This means that scribes were more prone to omit than to add.  Griesbach had it backwards, and everyone who has relied on the validity of the axiom, “Prefer the shorter reading” has had it backwards – including Bruce Metzger.
            It shouldn’t have taken until 2010 for researchers to acknowledge that Griesbach’s claim was standing on thin ice.  (And some already did; in each generation at least a few scholars maintained that the New Testament text’s transmission-history resembled the clothes in a traveling salesman’s suitcase, losing a sock at every hotel.)  To researchers equipped with (mostly) accurate transcripts of Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Bezae, and Sinaiticus, it should have been clear that if the Byzantine Text originated as an amalgamation of Alexandrian and Western readings, its creators must have frequently rejected the readings in their exemplars.  That is, one can believe Hort’s theory of the Lucianic recension, or one can believe that scribes using more than one exemplar typically expanded the text, but not both. 
            The following readings, all taken from the first five chapters of the Gospel of John, demonstrate this with particular force.  In each case, the Byzantine reading is shorter than a reading found in leading Alexandrian and/or Western witnesses. 
            ● 1:6 – Byz does not read ἦν
            ● 1:19 – Byz does not read πρὸς αὐτον after ἀπέστειλαν
            ● 1:21 – Byz does not read πάλιν after αὐτὸν (cf. Codex Wsupp)
            ● 1:28 – Byz does not read ὁ before Ἰωἀννης
            ● 1:38 – Byz does not prefix μεθ- to ἐρμηνευόμενον
            ● 1:39 – Byz does not read οὖν after ἦλθον
            ● 1:46 – Byz does not read ὁ before Φίλιππος
            ● 1:50 – Byz does not read ὄτι
            ● 2:4 – Byz does not read Καὶ before λέγει
            ● 2:17 – Byz does not read ὄτι after ἐστίν
            ● 3:5 – Byz does not read ὁ before Ἰησοῦς
            ● 3:28 – Byz does not read ὄτι after εἶπον
            ● 4:3 – Byz does not read γῆν before καὶ
            ● 4:3 – Byz does not read πάλιν before εἰς (Bc, À, P66, P75, D, and L all read πάλιν)
            ● 4:5 – Byz does not read τῷ after Ἰακὼβ
            ● 4:14 – Byz does not read ἐγὼ before δώσω (cf. Codex Wsupp) 
            ● 4:15 – Byz does not prefix δι- to έρχομαι
            ● 4:27 – Byz does not read αὐτῷ after εἶπεν
            ● 5:5 – Byz does not read αὐτοῦ after ἀσθενείᾳ
            ● 5:9 – Byz does not read ἐγερθεὶς
            ● 5:10 – Byz does not read καὶ after ἐστιν
            ● 5:10 – Byz does not read σου after κράβαττόν
            ● 5:15 – Byz does not read οὖν after ἀπῆλθεν
            ● 5:19 – Byz does not read τοῦ ἀνθρώπου after υἱὸς
            ● 5:26 – Byz does not read ὁ ζῶν before ἒχει
            ● 5:40 – Byz does not read αἰώνιον after ζωὴν
            That’s 26 non-expansions in five chapters, an average of five non-expansions per chapter.  Extrapolating, we might find over 100 such non-expansions in the entire text of John, and over 400 such non-expansions in all four Gospels.  
            (In addition, one might profit from considering all the Byzantine readings that are not significantly longer than their Alexandrian and Western rivals, but are simply different – variants such as the reading ὡσεὶ (instead of ὡς) in John 4:7, and the transposition at the end of John 4:20, and the reading Βηθεσδὰ in John 5:2 (where Vaticanus reads Βηθσαιδὰ, Sinaiticus reads Βηθζαθὰ, and D reads Βελζεθὰ).  
            How can one say that the Alexandrian and Western readings in the listed passages have not been thrown out?  And how can the Byzantine Text, at these points, be considered derivative of text-forms whose readings are rejected?
            Hort’s eight conflations have been used as proof that Byzantine scribes applied the principle, “If in doubt, don’t throw it out.”  Meanwhile, a tour through just the first five chapters of John reveals three times as many instances where, if Byzantine copyists accessed Alexandrian and Western exemplars (as advocates of the Lucianic recension believe that they did) – they must have thrown out Alexandrian or Western readings. 
            This does not mean that as more and more non-Byzantine manuscripts (with non-Byzantine readings) were encountered in the areas now known as Syria, Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece in the 300’s, they had no effect whatsoever on the local text.  This data does not refute the idea that in some passages of the Byzantine Text (I am thinking specifically of some of Hort’s alleged conflations), an early local reading, which once agreed exclusively with either the Alexandrian or Western reading, has been completely supplanted by an expansion that was elicited by the arrival, from another locale, of an attractive rival reading.  (Something similar happened occasionally in the Alexandrian transmission-stream, as Wilbur Pickering has demonstrated; see, for examples, Mark 1:28, John 7:39, Ephesians 2:5, and Colossians 1:12.)  But it does imply that to describe Byzantine scribes as if they never met an expansion they didn’t like is to spread an essentially false characterization.
            The evidence supports instead the position that the typical attitude of Byzantine scribes, when and where they encountered unfamiliar readings from non-local exemplars, was one of caution:  “If in doubt, sort it out.”  Otherwise these 26 short Byzantine readings in John chapters 1-5 would be longer.          


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Tyndale House Greek New Testament

             The newly published Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament (THEGNT) is a primarily Alexandrian text, with some cautious deviations from the Nestle-Aland compilation, and with improved spelling.  Before describing its text in more detail, let’s look at its physical features.  The volume published by Crossway is five and a half inches wide, eight inches tall, and slightly more than one inch thick.  That’s practically identical to the dimensions of the ESV Reader’s Gospels (also published by Crossway).  The THEGNT is a Smyth-sewn black hardcover with a single ribbon, and comes in a slip-case.  It rests well-balanced in one hand.
            The brief preface – in which Dirk Jongkind and Peter J. Williams, unlike the authors of the Foreword of the Nestle-Aland-27 edition, did not forget to mention God – is followed immediately by the beginning of Matthew.  (A more detailed Introduction is at the end of the book.)  The text is printed in a legible Greek font, in one column per page, on pages of no more than 36 lines (usually less, depending on how much space is occupied by the apparatus).    
            As the editors explain in the Introduction, they desired to arrange the text in a format somewhat reminiscent of ancient Greek manuscripts.  This is why, instead of indenting paragraphs, the first letter of each paragraph is drawn into the left margin (a feature called ekthesis).  Although accents are present, capitalization and punctuation are significantly less than in the NA/UBS texts.  The precedent of (most) Greek manuscripts that contain all 27 books of the New Testament, regarding the order of the books, has been mostly followed:  Gospels, Acts, General Epistles, Pauline Letters, and Revelation.  Hebrews, however, has been placed at the end of the Pauline Epistles.   
            Unlike the format in Papyrus 75 (in which John follows Luke on the same page), each book in the THEGNT begins at the top of the recto of a page (the recto, when a Greek book is opened and lying flat, is the page to the right); consequently there are several blank pages where the preceding book ended on a recto-page.  
            The text is mercifully free of clutter:  there are no English headings, no punctuation-related footnotes, no special treatment of Old Testament quotations, and no cross-references.  On the other hand, there are no indications of the beginnings of ancient chapter-divisions (kephalaia); in the Gospels the Eusebian Sections are not indicated, and the Euthalian Apparatus is absent in Acts and the Epistles.  Yet modern chapter-divisions and verse-divisions are present.  Unlike what is observed in ancient manuscripts, the nomina sacra (sacred names such as God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Son, and Spirit) are not contracted.  Brackets have been eschewed, although black diamonds (♦) in the apparatus convey that a textual contest is especially close.
            The simple format (and good quality paper) contributes to an appealing reading experience for those who wish to read a Greek New Testament that is slightly less Alexandrian than the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilations.
            As a study-tool, however, the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament is only minimally useful to those who already have a Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, a United Bible Societies/Biblica Greek New Testament, or a New Testament in the Original Greek – Byzantine Textform.  Very many significant textual variants have been overlooked, and very many important witnesses receive no attention:  no versional evidence is cited and no patristic evidence is cited.  It is not infrequent to meet a small and trivial contest in the apparatus near an important and translation-impacting variant-unit that is not covered at all.  In First John, eight lines of the apparatus are spent on the Comma Johanneum; meanwhile no notice is taken of the Byzantine non-inclusion of καί ἐσμεν in John 3:1, or of the contest between ποιῶμεν and τηρῶμεν in 5:2.      
            A few examples may convey how the textual apparatus invites frustration: 
            ● Matthew 17:21 is not included in the text, and the apparatus lists only ﬡ* B Θ as the basis for non-inclusion.  The witnesses listed for inclusion are “À2 (εκβαλλεται for εκπορευεται) C D K L W Δ 1424.”  The earliest witnesses (patristic writings, including Origen’s Commentary on Matthew) are thus ignored.  It is as if the editors have embraced the advances that have been made since the days of Tregelles where manuscript discoveries are concerned, but deliberately avoided making use of the progress that has been made in versional and patristic studies – not necessarily when they themselves made text-critical decisions, but certainly when showing readers the basis for those decisions.
            ● At the end of Mark 9:29, the words καὶ νηστείᾳ (“and fasting”) are included in the text.  (The adoption of this reading collides with the UBS editors’ judgment, even accompanied by a black diamond.)  The apparatus lists ÀA C D K L W Δ (και τη) Θ Ψ 69 1424 as support for the inclusion of the words, and, for non-inclusion, ﬡ* Β 0274.  Where is Papyrus 45vid?!  
            ● Luke 17:36 is not in the text – and there is no footnote about it.         
            ● At Luke 22:43-44, the verses are included in the text (again colliding with the UBS editors’ judgment, and again with a black diamond in the apparatus).  The evidence for non-inclusion is listed as P75 À2a A B W 69(and insert after Matthew 26:39).  Minuscule 69 (produced in the 1400’s) is listed for non-inclusion in the same apparatus in which 0171 (produced c. 300) is not listed for inclusion?!  That seems downright negligent.
            ● At John 7:52, the entire pericope adulterae is relegated to the apparatus, where the witnesses listed for its inclusion are D K 1424marg.  Yet the text of the pericope adulterae in the apparatus does not correspond to the contents of any of those three manuscripts. The confirmatory note in 1424’s margin is not mentioned.  An apparatus this incomplete and imprecise is worse than no apparatus at all. 
            ● At Romans 1:16, there is an apparatus-entry mentioning Codex B’s non-inclusion of πρῶτον, but nothing to explain the non-inclusion of τοῦ Χριστοῦ earlier in the verse.
            ● At Ephesians 3:9, there is an apparatus-entry mentioning the non-inclusion of πάντας by ﬡ* A, but the other variant-units in the verse are not addressed.
            ● In First Peter 5:7, Papyrus 72, 020, 1241, 1505 1739 et al include οτι, but the word is not in the text, and its absence is not addressed in the apparatus.

            The text of the Gospels in the THEGNT is generally Alexandrian, but the editors seem to have put Vaticanus on a diet, so to speak, allowing other Alexandrian manuscripts to tip the scales when they disagree with B.  The editors also maintained (except in Revelation) a principle that every reading in the text must be supported by at least two early manuscripts. 
            As a result, compared to NA28, the THEGNT has fewer readings with uber-meager support:  Mathew 12:47 is in the text; Matthew 13:35 does not receive any attention in the apparatus; Matthew 16:2-3 is in the text (without Ὑποκριταί); in Matthew 27:16-17 Barabbas is simply Barabbas; the interpolation of ﬡ and B in Matthew 27:49 is not even mentioned in the apparatus; Mark 1:41 reads σπλαγχνισθεὶς (not ὀργισθεὶς); Mark 13:33 includes καὶ προσεύχεσθε; Mark 16:9-20 is included in the text (with an annotation found in the core members of family-1 interrupting the text between Mark 16:8 and 16:9); Luke 23:34a is in the text; John 1:18 reads ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς (“the only-begotten Son”), John 7:8 reads οὔπω instead of οὐκ, and Luke 24:47 reads καί instead of εἰς (“repentance and forgiveness”). 
            The apparatus in Luke 24 offers a clear view of its inconsistency:  an entry is given in verse 19 about a relatively minor variant-unit; meanwhile the short readings of Codex D in verses 3, 6, 12, 17, 36, and 40 are not mentioned.  There is no mention of the reading of Sinaiticus in 24:13 either.          
            Turning to the General Epistles (the only part of the Nestle-Aland compilation that has been re-compiled in the past 40 years), it must be observed that the THEGNT fails to consistently cite 1739 and 1505 (both representatives of ancient text-forms) in its apparatus.  (1739 is only cited at Hebrews 2:9.  Why not at Acts 8:37? Why not throughout Acts and the Epistles?)  This is inexplicable, especially considering that 1424 and 69 are abundantly cited.  
            Even where the editors have made an impressive textual decision (as in Jude verse 22, where Tregelles’ text is retained), the miserly selection of witnesses very often prevents readers from obtaining a sense of the reasons for the decision.  In addition, it is not rare to encounter readings in the text that are not in NA27, nor in RP2005, which receive no attention in the apparatus.  The best thing about this textual apparatus is that it can be easily ignored; the text contains no footnote-numbers or text-critical symbols.
            As an example of the quality of the THEGNT’s text and apparatus, consider the treatment of the Epistle of Jude.  The Tyndale House text disagrees with RP2005 in 17 textual contests, five of which the reader is informed about in the apparatus.  (The Byzantine non-inclusion of the phrase “through Jesus Christ our Lord” in verse 24 is not covered in the apparatus.  To give you some idea of how sparse the apparatus is:  the Christian Standard Bible has more textual footnotes in Jude than the Tyndale House GNT has apparatus-entries.)  Yet there are also four disagreements with NA28:     
            v. 5 – ἃπαξ πάντα instead of ὑμᾶς ἃπαξ πάντα,
            v. 15 – πάντας τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς instead of πᾶσαν ψυχὴν,
            v. 16 – αὐτῶν instead of αυτῶν after ἐπιθυμίας (agreeing with RP2005),
            v. 22 – ἐλέγχετε instead of ἐλεᾶτε (yielding “Refute” rather than “Have mercy on”).
Of these four disagreements, the one in verse 16 is not mentioned in the apparatus.  Byzantine readings are not the only ones overlooked in the apparatus; some readings in the Nestle-Aland compilation are also silently rejected. 

            The Introduction at the end of the book includes a list of the witnesses which were used by the compilers.  Sixty-nine papyri are listed; a note states that “all available papyri” were consulted but does not specify how many that was.  No amulets or talismans are in the list.  Sixty-six other manuscripts are also listed (not including 021, 022, 023, 034, 043, et al) as cited witnesses.  Nine other manuscripts were used exclusively at Hebrews 2:9 or First John 5:7.  In addition, 65 other manuscripts were consulted.  Thus one could say that 209 manuscripts were used to make the Tyndale House text, of which 144 are cited at least once.           
            In conclusion:  I am glad to see this ten-year project come to fruition.  I admire the devout intentions of its creators – not just Jongkind and Williams, but a team of scholars (named in an Acknowledgements section after the Introduction at the back of the book).  The Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament has some features which can only be regarded as advances.  Yet it could have been much better if the editors had accepted the sensible advice given long ago (by Scrivener, I think) to the effect that text-compilers ought to seek help wherever it can be found. 
            By insisting on selecting readings exclusively from ancient Greek manuscripts (but strangely overlooking the purple uncials N O Σ Φ), the editors have amplified the voices of manuscripts stored in Egypt (where the low humidity-level allows papyrus to survive longer than elsewhere), while muting the voices of early patristic writers, early versions, and later manuscripts, as if later manuscripts (not only of hundreds of Byzantine copies but also 700, 1582, et al) came full-grown from scriptoriums like soldiers from dragon’s teeth, rather than as echoes of their ancestors.  The resultant presentation is simple – but far too simple to be useful for much more than reading.  Fortunately, reading the Word of God, even a localized Egyptian form of it, is a blessing.