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.
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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.