Monday, May 27, 2019


            “So do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” – Hebrews 10:35 (EHV)

            When one version of the New Testament has a verse that is not in another version, that is something worth looking into.  When one version of the New Testament has 40 verses that another version doesn’t have, that’s definitely something worth looking into.  Textual criticism involves the investigation of those differences.  There are also hundreds of differences in manuscripts that do not involve entire verses, but involve important phrases and words.  (There are also hundreds of thousands of trivial differences which involve word-order and spelling, but non-synonymous differences in the wording of the text are the ones that tend to get the most attention.)    
            How can ordinary Christians maintain confidence that the New Testament they hold in their hands conveys the same authoritative message that was conveyed by the original documents of the New Testament books?  To an extent, that is something taken on faith:  even if there were zero variations in a reconstruction based on all external evidence, there would still be no way to scientifically prove that the earliest archetype does not vary from the contents of the autographs.  But that does not mean that one’s position about specific readings should be selected at random.  There is evidence – external evidence, and internal evidence – to carefully consider.    
            After the evidence has been carefully analysed, though, what should one do with one’s conclusions?  You might think that after scribal corruptions have been filtered out, the obvious thing for Christians to do would be to treat the reconstructed text as the Word of God, a text uniquely imbued with divine authority.  However, if one is to do something with one’s conclusions, one must first have conclusions.  
            And here we have a problem, because there is no sign that the Nestle-Aland compilation of the Greek New Testament will ever be more than provisional and tentative.  As the Introduction to its 27th edition states:  “It should naturally be understood that this text is a working text (in the sense of the century-long Nestle tradition):  it is not to be considered as definitive.”
            Anyone who wants a definitive text of the New Testament should abandon all hope of such a thing emerging from the team of scholars who produce the Nestle-Aland compilation. 
            The built-in instability of the Nestle-Aland text is understandable.  Nobody wants to say, “We are resolved to ignore any new evidence that may be discovered in the future.”  But it is also problematic:  it has caused some apologists, such as James White, to effectively nullify the authority of some parts of the New Testament.  Christians are being told that they should not have confidence about a particular verse, or a particular phrase, or a particular word, on the grounds that its presence in the Nestle-Aland compilation is tenuous.  The reading is in the text today, but the compilers might change their minds about it tomorrow, and therefore, it has been proposed, readers should not put much weight on such readings.
            For example, James White said this regarding the passage where Jesus says, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – “In Luke 23:34, there is a major textual variant.  And, as a result, you should be very careful about making large theological points based upon what is truly a highly questionable text.”  In another video, White said this, referring to the same passage:
            “When you have a serious textual variant, you should not, in an apologetic context, place a tremendous amount of theological weight upon a text that could be properly and fairly questioned as to its specific reading.  And so, I don’t think that you should build a theology based upon this text.”
Notice the reasoning:  it’s not, “This verse is not original, so don’t use it.”  It’s “There is a textual variant here, so do not depend on it.”  There is a clear danger in such an approach:  the danger of effectively relegating parts of genuine Scripture to a non-authoritative status merely because they have been questioned by textual critics.
Is James White aware of how much of the New Testament has been questioned by textual critics?  I could easily list over a hundred passages in the Gospels where the interpretation of a passage changes, depending on which textual variant is in the text.  I will settle for listing twenty-five:

1.  In Mt. 12:47, did someone tell Jesus His mother and brothers were outside?
2.  In Mt. 13:35, did Matthew erroneously say that Isaiah wrote Psalm 72?
3.  In Mt. 17:21, did Jesus say that prayer and fasting were needed prior to casting out a particular kind of demon?)
4.  In Mt. 19:9, is remarriage permitted after divorce?
5.  In Mt. 27:16, was the criminal Barabbas also named Jesus?
6.  In Mt. 27:49, was Jesus pierced with a spear before He died, contradicting the account in the Gospel of John?
7.  In Mark 1:1, did Mark introduce Jesus as the Son of God?
8.  In Mk. 1:41, when Jesus was asked to heal the leper, was Jesus angry, or was He filled with compassion?
9.  In Mk. 6:22, was the dancer at Herod’s court the daughter of Herodias, or the daughter of Herod?
            10.  In Mk. 10:24, did Jesus say that it is hard to enter into the kingdom of God, or that it is hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God?
            11.  At the end of the Gospel of Mark, do the verses which mention Jesus’ bodily post-resurrection appearances, and His command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and His ascension into heaven, belong in the Bible, or not?
            12.  In Lk. 2:14, did the angels say “Peace on earth, goodwill to men,” or “Peace on earth to men who are favored by God”?
            13.  In Lk. 14:5, did Jesus refer to a donkey, or to a son, or to a sheep?
            14.  In Lk. 11:13, did Jesus refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit, or to gifts in general?
            15.  In Lk. 22:43-44, did Jesus’ body exude drops of sweat like blood?  And did an angel appear to Him in Gethsemane, strengthening Him?
            16.  In Lk. 23:34a, did Jesus ask the Father to forgive those who were responsible for crucifying Him?
            17.  In Lk. 24:6, did Luke state that the men said to the women at the tomb, “He is not here, but is risen”?
            18.  In Lk. 24:40, did the risen Jesus show His disciples His hands and His feet?)
            19.  In Lk. 24:51, did Luke say specifically that Jesus “was carried up into heaven”?
            20.  In Jn. 1:18, did John call Jesus “only begotten God” or “the only begotten Son”?
            21.  In Jn. 1:34, did John the Baptist call Jesus the Son of God, or the chosen one of God?
            22.  Did Jn. 3:13 originally end with the phrase, “the Son of Man who is in heaven”?)
            23.  Does the story about the woman caught in adultery, in Jn. 7:53-8:11, belong in the New New Testament, or not?
            24.  In John 9:38-39, did Jesus receive worship from the formerly blind man, or not?   
            25.  In John 14:14, did John depict Jesus referring to prayers offered to Him, or not?

In these 25 passages (and many more), the decisions made on a text-critical level will decide how the text is approached at an interpretive level.   And this sort of thing is not confined to the Gospels:  it also occurs elsewhere, for example, in Acts 20:28, and First Corinthians 14:34-35, and First Timothy 3:16. 
            Does anyone think that the Holy Spirit wants Christians to answer these questions with, “Only God knows”?  All Scripture is profitable for doctrine – but it can’t be profitable for doctrine if its authority is not recognized.  And its authority cannot be recognized as long as its content is not recognized. 

            An objection might be raised:   “It is not as if those readings have been arbitrarily declared dubious; the passages you listed have been properly and fairly questioned.”
            Who says?  A horde of seminary professors who know only what they vaguely recall reading 30 years ago in Metzger’s Textual Commentary?  Didn’t Metzger routinely house his arguments in the now-demolished prefer-the-shorter-reading principle?  Didn’t most of the editors of the Nestle-Aland compilation adhere to Hort’s defunct and untenable Lucianic recension theory?  If you have read Aland & Aland’s Text of the New Testament, then you know:  that is almost exactly what they did, and they almost invariably rejected Byzantine readings accordingly. 
            But James White, instead of stepping back from their obsolete theories and biased methodology – a methodology which starkly defies the “multi-focality” that he seems to imagine that it favors – still supports their results. 
           Instability is built into their results in hundreds of passages.  Over and over and over, the advocates of the Nestle-Aland text are obligated to say, “Maybe the original reading is this, and maybe it is that, and so we cannot confidently use either one as authoritative Scripture.”  Furthermore, the direction that the Nestle-Aland compilers (and, by extension, James White) are taking the text is not toward stability; it is toward perpetual instability, and more of it.
            In the approach that James White currently endorses, whether he realizes it or not, the authority of a passage can be nullified if a particular group of researchers declares that they are not confident about what the original reading was.  More and more of the text will inevitably be declared unstable – and thus, unsafe to use for theological purposes – as long as this approach is used.       
           Of course it seems reasonable to say, “Don’t build theology on disputed passages.”  But it is an invitation to chaos when no one establishes parameters to answer the question, “What is the proper basis on which to dispute a passage?”.  Is a suspicion of corruption all it takes?  Is the testimony of a single manuscript, or two manuscripts, a sufficient basis to throw a reading onto James White’s Disputed-And-Thus-Not-To-Be-Used pile?  Shouldn’t researchers resolve textual contests instead of merely observe them?  
            We may think that indecision is merited when Bible-footnotes tell us that “Some” manuscripts say one thing, and “Others” say something else.  But what would we think if the evidence were brought into focus, and we saw that behind the “Some” are a few witnesses, all representing the same transmission-line, and that behind the “Others” are thousands of witnesses, including the most ancient testimony, representing a wide variety of locales and transmission-lines?  
            We might conclude that it is preposterous, or even immoral, to continue to regard readings with excellent and abundant attestation as unstable.  But as long as the Nestle-Aland editors are the ones who get to answer the question, “Should this reading be disputed?” and as long as individuals such as James White say the equivalent of, “If it’s disputed, do not treat it like Scripture,” the door will inevitably open wider and wider for more and more passages to be disputed.  And that will result in having less and less Scripture on which to build theology – that is, less and less Scripture to treat at Scripture.  
            As far as the tasks of interpreting and applying the Scriptures are concerned, the situation will be no different than if those disputed passages were not there at all.  So I feel justified when saying, in conclusion that James White’s approach to these passages, while less shocking than erasing them, will have the same effect in the long run.  If you don’t want more and more of the Bible to be thrown onto the Do-Not-Use-for-Theology pile in the future, maybe you should stop using the new Nestle-Aland compilation, and stop supporting James White’s Alpha and Omega “Ministry.”

Thursday, May 23, 2019

How to Read a Greek Gospels Manuscript

            Today, let’s look into how to read a Greek manuscript of the Gospels – an important skill that every New Testament textual critic should have.  If you do not already know some New Testament Greek, use This List of Free Resources for Learning New Testament Greek, and after a year or so you should have enough skill to understand everything that I am about to describe.
            Now let’s explore an important medieval Greek manuscript of the Gospels:  minuscule 9.  All Greek manuscripts are important, but this one is especially significant historically, because it was used by the scholar Robert Stephanus in his compilation of the Greek New Testament in 1550.  That is, out of the hundreds of Greek Gospels-manuscripts that exist, this is one that was studied and used the most in the 1500s, as the Textus Receptus – the base-text for the King James Version – was developed. Minuscule 9 – called witness ιβ′ (i.e., #12) by Stephanus – is kept at the National Library of France.  It was produced in 1168.  You can download page-views of the entire manuscript from the Gallica website – just select “Manuscripts” from the options in the first sub-menu there, and then search for Grec 83, and use the menu on the far left of the page to complete the download.  (You will need to agree to Gallica’s Terms & Conditions.)
            After opening the manuscript, the first thing we find is a summary of the manuscript’s contents, written relatively recently.  Most manuscripts that are kept in library-collections have this sort of note, and if we pay attention to their contents, we may save some time; these notes often tell readers a little about the manuscript’s history, and list the page-numbers on which each Gospel begins, and also tell about whatever sections might be missing or out of order.  We can deduce from the information on this page that minuscule 9 was once known as Regius 83 (when it was in the library of the king of France), a useful data-nugget if one ever wishes to look for references to this manuscript in books written before its Gregory-Aland inventory number became the standard nomenclature by which it was known.
            Next, we encounter in minuscule 9 a one-page Prologue to the Four Gospels.  It looks like someone had intended to draw the symbols of the Evangelists in the four corners of the page, surrounding the semi-cruciform text – if you look closely you can see the sketched outline of Mark’s lion in the northwest corner – but this task was never completed.  The Prologue explains the symbolic connection between the Gospels and their symbols (man, lion, ox, and eagle).
            On the next page, framed within a red border, is Eusebius of Caesarea’s letter To Carpian (Ad Carpianus), which provides brief instruction on how to use the Eusebian Canons, Eusebius’ cross-reference system for the Gospels.  The title appears in uncial letters, the outlines of which were drawn, and then filled with red pigment.  There is an elaborate initial “A” in which blue, red, and yellow pigment has been used.  Within the text, the letter omicron and a few other letters are sporadically filled in or outlined in red.  (This feature appears frequently in the Gospels-text as well.)  An English translation of Eusebius’ letter to Carpian is online, and so is a table of the Canons themselves.
            Next, several pages are filled by the Eusebian Canons.  The canon-lists are framed by decorative columns, resembling rounded doorways at the entrance to a temple.  At the end of the canons, two columns have been left blank.  Then comes the Kephalaia, or chapter-list, for the Gospel of Matthew, filling a page and a half. 
            After a blank page, the text of the Gospel of Matthew begins, after its title, which is written in large red letters.  A huge initial “B,” somewhat reminiscent of the initials in the Bury Bible, but not quite as ornate, fills most of the page; the rest of the text on the page is written in uncials.
            On the next page, the text of Matthew continues.  The Greek book-title has been written at the top of the page, and at some point this was supplemented by the Latin book-title as well. 
            Continuing to the following page, readers may notice small Greek letters beta and gamma in the outer margin.  These are section-numbers, corresponding to the section-numbers that appear in the Eusebian Canon-tables.  Within the text, one can detect small breaks where one section ends and another begins; the first letter of the new chapter is written in red. Also, you can see at the beginning of the chapter a small “+” symbol.  Often (as we see here in minuscule 9 at the third section), this “+” is accompanied by another symbol that represents the word arche, “beginning/”  This means that at this point, a daily reading begins.  Often the arche-symbols are supplements by telos-symbols, signifying the ends of the segment for the daily reading.   (If we turn ahead to page 11, at the end of Matthew 2:12 we can see a telos-symbol at the end of a line, and alongside the next line, the arche-symbol is in the margin.)
            By the way, if you have learned your Greek numerals, you can easily follow along with the section-numbers that are in the inner margin of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  Sometimes, a manuscript’s section-numbers will not correspond exactly to the Nestle-Aland arrangement, but they usually do.
            In minuscule 9, ordinary page-numbers have been added in the upper right corner of the page – although it is more precise to call the numbers in this manuscript leaf-numbers rather than page-numbers, because they appear on every other page, denoting the individual leaf, on which there is (a) a front page, and (b) a back page.  If we turn to page 10a, we will see in the left margin a stack of four symbols (each looking like “├”).  Sometimes such marks appear in the form of little arrow-markers (>).  They are there to indicate that in the lines of text that they accompany, there is a quotation from the Old Testament.
            If we look at the bottom of page 10a, we will see a chapter-number – α – and the chapter-title (περι των μαγων, that is, About the Wise Men).  At the top of leaf 12, the next chapter-number and chapter-title (titloi – the same as the Kephalaia, except they appear here one at a time) are supplied at the top of the page, and the chapter-title also appears in the outer margin alongside the exact point where the chapter begins – in this case, at Matthew 2:16.  (For more information about the Kephalaia, see the post Kephalaia:  The Ancient Chapters of the Gospels.)  Sometimes, the titloi appear at the foot of the page.
            Occasionally, one will encounter a hole in the parchment, such as the one in minuscule 9 on leaf 17.  Almost always, these holes were made during the preparation of the parchment, and scribes simply wrote around them. 
            Also in minuscule 9, one will occasionally find little notes written in Latin in the margin.  Four such notes can be seen on the front of leaf 20.
            On leaf 22, some damage has occurred to the manuscript, and a repair has been attempted: part of the lower portion of the leaf has been ripped away.  Newer parchment has been glued to the old parchment, and the small portion of the text that was lost has been supplied in different handwriting.  Technically, this small bit of writing (less than four full lines) on the younger parchment qualifies as a supplement.
            On leaf 24, we see the effect of a recurring problem in medieval manuscripts:  when manuscripts were bound or rebound, sometimes their pages were also recut, and sometimes this was carelessly done, resulting in over-trimming.  Fortunately in this case, no Gospels-text was lost, but the book-title at the top of the page has been cut.  (Also notice on this page the Latin translations of the chapter-numbers and chapter-titles.)
            On the back of leaf 27, there is something interesting:  in the text, Matthew 9:26 ought to read, και εξηλθεν η φημη αυτη εις ολην την γην εκεινην.  However, the copyist skipped the words η φημη.  When this scribal error was detected, the missing words were added in the margin, accompanied by a triangular set of red dots (\), and the same symbol was added in the text at the point where the words η φημη should be read.
            On leaf 28b, we encounter two more interesting features:  first, at Matthew 10:4, there is a short margin-note about Judas.  And in the text of Matthew 10:5, the copyist momentarily omitted the word εθνων but caught his mistake and added the word above the line at the place where it belongs.
            On leaf 29a, there is another \ mark in the margin, but in this case it is not in red, and there is no identical mark in the text; instead, in the outer margin, there is a Latin note accompanied by two dots – – a distigma, or umlaut-like symbol.
            Moving along to leaf 37, we can see that somebody added red “<” marks in the outer margin, to acknowledge the quotation from Isaiah 42 that Matthew makes in 12:18-21.  These marks are not as neat as some others, though, so it is possible that a different scribe is responsible.
            On 37b and 38a, the original book-title that had been at the top of the page, apparently trimmed away, has been replaced in very different handwriting.
            In the margin of 53a, alongside Matthew 19:27, there is a lectionary-related symbol in the margin:  in addition to arche and telos, here we see arcou – that is, “resume.”  Sometimes a lection consisted of more than one segment of text, and this symbol introduced the second segment.           
            On 59a , there is another example of the use of the mark.  In this case, the appears directly above the telos symbol that follows the end of Matthew 21:43, and another appears in the margin, accompanying the note του ορθρου.  This indicates that this passage was a morning-time reading in the lection-cycle.   If this echoes the treatment of this passage in some otherwise unknown early lection-cycle, it might have something to do with the absence of Matthew 21:44 in a few early witnesses – but such a lection-cycle would have to be extremely early, inasmuch as one of the witnesses in which Matthew 21:44 appears to be missing is Papyrus 104, which competes with Papyrus 52 for the title of the earliest extant fragment of the New Testament text.
             On 67a, in the margin alongside the end of Matthew 24:37, we encounter another lectionary-related mark:  υπ, written with the υ below the π.  This abbreviation stands for hyperbale, or, “jump ahead, signifying that the rest of the lection consisted was somewhere other than the immediately-following text.  In this case, we find arcou “resume”) just a little further down the page, alongside Matthew 24:43. 
            On page 80a, there is a textual variant in the margin:  νυκτος is added to Mt. 27:64, between αυτου and κλέψωσιν.  This reading is supported by L M 565 700 892 1424 and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, and a correction in 1582.
            At the end of Matthew, on 81b, only slightly separated from the end of 28:20, there is a colophon, that is, a closing-note by the scribe:  the end of the words of Matthew, from the Gospel according to Matthew, which Matthew wrote in Hebrew in Palestine, in the eighth year after the ascension of Lord.  Written in 2,522 remata, 2,560 stichoi.    This is followed by what appears to be the name of the scribe, Solomon, in stylized lettering.
            On the very next page, 82a, the Kephalaia are listed for the Gospel of Mark, below a braided heading-marker, for which red, blue, yellow, and green pigments were used.   
            A few pages appear to be missing – the last page of the Kephalaia-list has been replaced – but the Gospel of Mark begins intact, with a very large initial “A” on 85a.  The opening title, drawn in red hollow uncials, is rather unusual.           
Getting crazy with the flourishes.
            On several of the pages of Mark which follow, one may notice an idiosyncrasy of the scribe: when the word και appeared in the last line on a page, he often wrote it as a και-compendium, i.e., an abbreviation, and extended the final stroke in a fancy design below the line.  Sometimes the flourish is reinforced with red ink (as on page 111.)  The stalks of the letters φ and ψ on the last line of a page are sometimes similarly embellished.
            The Gospel of Mark ends on 131b, and a nice little headpiece introduced the Kephalaia-list for Luke, with a red cross in the margin.
            On 133b, in the space left after the end of Luke Kephalaia-list, someone has added a portrait of Luke the Evangelist, writing his Gospel at a desk, framed within a heavy green background on three sides.  What appears to be a blue easel with clawed legs sits nearby.
            On 134a, the text of the Gospel of Luke begins, below the unusual title and alongside a large initial “E.”  On the next page, the book restarts at verse 5 (which is not unusual in medieval manuscripts) and there is another large initial “E,” very different in style from the first one.
            On 137b, the copyist made an embarrassing mistake:  he completely skipped Luke 1:51, right in the middle of the Magnificat.  The missing verse has been added in the margin.  A smaller mistake was made in 2:15; the words το γεγονος are missing in the text; they have been supplied in the margin.
            On 144b, the genealogy begins, and the format is unusual:  numbers are assigned to each individual, and the numbers continue on the next page, on which the text is arranged in three columns.  On 145b, the scribe returns to a single-column format, but the numbers continue, all the way up to the reference to God, at the end, who is numbered 77.
            On leaf 179 there is a small patch at the bottom.
            On 183b, in Luke 13:28, there is an initial omicron that is shaped like a fish.  Another fish-initial is on 214a.  Similar initials occur in some lectionaries. 
            In the first line of 187b, the initial in Luke 15:11 is unusually large.
            On 199a, the scribe skipped the words εν ποια in Luke 20:2.  They are added in the margin.
            The Kephalaia-list for the Gospel of John is on 215a, with a red and green braided headpiece.  On the opposite side of the page there is a full-page portrait of John, composing his Gospel, framed on three sides by a thick green border. 
            The next leaf is clearly a supplement, the original opening page containing the text of John 1:1-14a, is lost. 
            On 237a, there is a “jump ahead” symbol alongside the line where John 7:53 begins, instructing the lector to move ahead to 8:12 on the next page, where an αρξου (“Resume”) symbol appears.  (This neatly illustrates a hypothesis regarding the early loss of John 7:53-8:11: an early copyist, unfamiliar with the local lectionary in which John 7:53-8:11 was skipped in the lection for Pentecost-Day, possessed an exemplar in which he saw instructions to “Jump ahead” at the end of John 7:52, and to “Resume” at 8:12, and, thinking the instructions were meant for him rather than for the lector, omitted the intervening verses.  (See for more information my e-book, A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11).
             On 239a, a distigma () appears in the margin of John 8:36, where the copyist left out the word ουν.  Another distigma appears in the text to indicate where the word belongs.
The full-page colophon
after the end of John.
The text of John concludes on 241a.  241b contains a cruciform-framed colophon that includes stichiometric information.  
            Beginning on 272a below a decorative headpiece, there is a lection-calendar for Sunday lections, beginning with the lection for Easter.  Incipit-phrases (the opening words of a lection as read in the church-service) are included.  This is the normal annual Synaxarion calendar.  An interesting minor detail in these pages is the assorted knot-like designs which occasionally appear, apparently serving no practical purpose – they seem to be doodles. Similar knots appear in a wide range of manuscripts.
            On 280a, a braided headpiece precedes another part of the lection-calendar. 
            Another headpiece is on 285b; yet another one begins 287a, which has as part of its design a “Jesus Christ, Victor” cross.  The incipit-phrases for Easter-week lections follow.
            On 288a, after another headpiece, the Heothina-series of lections is covered, even though no special marks accompany the text of these lections in the Gospels-text.    
On 288b, there is another headpiece.  The heading introduces the Menologion-readings for the month of September. That is, unlike the first part of the lection-calendar, in which all dates are arranged in relation to Easter, these feast-days are assigned to dates on the calendar.
            On 289b, another headpiece introduces incipit-phrases for the Menologion-readings for the month of October.  On 290a, we see that Sergius and Bacchus’ feast-day is commemorated on October 7, and Pelagia’s feast-day is commemorated on October 8.  This is consistent with the designation of John 8:3-11 as the lection in the Menologion for October 8. 
            At the top of 290b, another headpiece introduces incipit-phrases for the Menologion-readings for the month of November.
            At the top of 291b, there is another headpiece – better executed than some of the others.  The list that follows provides incipit-phrases for the lections read in December.
            More headpieces and more monthly lection-lists, with more knot-doodles in the margins, along with simple pictures of the symbols of the Evangelists, continue, to the end of the manuscript’s text on 248b.  Then after a few blank pages, the back cover is reached.

            All in all, minuscule 9 is a pretty good manuscript to use to get acquainted with the standard format of medieval Greek Gospels-manuscripts.  It does not have an overwhelming amount of marginalia; its script is reasonably neat; its appearance is not marred by incessant corrections. I hope this review of minuscule 9 has been informative and instructive. 

Readers are invited to double-check and supplement the data in this post.

Friday, May 17, 2019

First Century Mark: Better Pictures

            Several months have passed since the publication of the small papyrus fragment that was called “First-Century Mark” prior to its release.  This small two-sided fragment, which contains text from Mark 1:7-9 and Mark 1:18-19, is now regarded as the remains of a codex which was produced in the late 100s or early 200s, which would imply that it is about as old as Papyrus 45.
            Shortly after the official publication of the-fragment-formerly-known-as-First-Century-Mark (a.k.a. P. Oxy 5345), the Egypt Exploration Society kindly released their analysis of the fragment’s text, including images of the fragment.   Recently, it came to my attention that other images of the fragment have been online for a while:  almost a year ago (on June 6, 2018, to be precise), Eternity News published a news article by Kaley Payne, reporting about John Dickson’s encounter with the fragment.  This report included two photographs of the fragment.
            Almost a year has gone by, and it seems that no one has objected to the publication of the photographs in Eternity News.  When P. Oxy 5345 was initially published, there seemed to be some protectiveness about the EES’ images.  But since the photographs at the Eternity News website are distinct from the EES’ black-and-white plates, and since it seems that the EES’ own pictures are unlikely to lose their usefulness, I went through the effort of digitally enhancing the images in the Eternity News report for those who might want full-color images of the manuscript.  The pictures on which these digitally enhanced images are based remain online at the Eternity News website.
            The result is shown here; in the second picture, the contrast has been digitally altered so as to show the text a little more clearly.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

John 7:8: Not, Not Yet, or Nothing?

            Perhaps there is no textual contest anywhere in the New Testament in which the internal evidence and external evidence point more strongly to opposite conclusions than in John 7:8.  In the vast majority of manuscripts, when Jesus’ unbelieving brothers invite Jesus to show Himself to the world and go with them to the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, Jesus replies, “You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
            In a small group of manuscripts that includes Papyrus 75, Codex Vaticanus, and codices L, N, and W, Jesus’ statement is similar, but the first occurrence of the word “this” is absent, yielding the statement, “You go up to the feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
             In another small group of manuscripts, including Codex Sinaiticus, Jesus’ statement is, “You go up to this feast.  I am not going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
            In yet another small group of manuscripts (33 565 579 664 2193 – mostly members of f1 – the phrase “I am not going up to this feast” is absent, yielding the statement, “You go up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
            And in minuscule 69 (Codex Leicestrensis), the second occurrence of “to this feast” is absent, yielding the statement, “You go up to the feast.  I am not yet going, for My time has not yet fully come.”

            We may set aside the reading in 69 as the symptom of a scribe’s dislike of what he perceived to be superfluous repetition.  Similarly, the reading in 33 565 579 664 2193 may be set aside as either the result of parableptic error – when a scribe’s line of sight drifted from either the end of εορτην (“feast”) or the end of ταύτην (“this”) to the end of εορτην ταύτην further along in the verse, accidentally omitting the letters in between – or an early copyist’s ruthless attempt to avoid a perceived difficulty.
            The contest between the presence, or absence, of ταύτην in the first part of the verse is more difficult, because while its absence is attributable to haplography (from the –την at the end of εορτην to the -την at the end of ταύτην), such an error would either have to be extremely early, or would have to occur independently in more than one transmission-line, in order to show up, as it does, in manuscripts as diverse as Papyrus 75, Codex D, Codex N, Codex Π, Codex W, and 1424.  Yet it appears in Codex À, and in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, and was likely in the ancestry of 33 565 579 664 2193.  It is also supported by the Peshitta.  

           The variant-unit that gets the most attention in this verse is the contest between οuκ (“not”) and οupw (“not yet”).  Part of the reason for this is that the reading οuκ is capable of giving readers the impression that Jesus misled His brothers by first saying that He was not going to the Feast, and then went.  To restate the problem:  if the reading οuκ is original, then it appears that Jesus says that He is not going to the feast, but then decides to go.  The note-writer of the NET Bible considered this difficulty a point in favor of οuκ as the original reading:  “It is more likely,” the NET’s note says, “that οupw was introduced early on to harmonize with what is said two verses later.”
            However, harmonistic considerations seem to have not affected the scribes of codices K, M, and Π here; all three read οuκ.  It may be helpful to step back and look at the external evidence for each reading:

οuκ:  À D K M Π 1071 1241, with versional support from the Vulgate, the Sinaitic Syriac and Curetonian Syriac, the Armenian version, the Ethiopic version, several Old Latin copies (including a, aur, b, c, d, e, ff2), and with patristic support from Epiphanius (in Panarion, Book 2, 25:4), Chrysostom (Homily 48 on John), Cyril  of Alexandria (Comm. John 4:5), Ambrosiaster (Question 78 in his Questions on the Old and New Testaments), and Augustine (in Sermon 83) – plus a comment from Jerome (in Against the Pelagians Book 2, part 17) which implies that Porphyry – a heathen critic of the Gospels in the third century – used the text with οuκ as evidence that Jesus displayed fickleness and therefore was not divine:  “Jesus said that He would not go up, and then did what He had previously said He would not do.  Porphyry rants and accuses Him of inconsistency and indecisiveness, not knowing that all scandals must be imputed to the flesh.” (By this last phrase, Jerome seems to mean that if a passage seems problematic or puzzling to a reader, the problem is not in the text, but in the reader’s lack of illumination.)
            The UBS apparatus also lists a few lectionaries that read οuκ here:   lectionaries 672 (an uncial lectionary from the 800s), 673, 813 (from the 900s), 950, and 1223.

οupw:  Papyrus 66, Papyrus 75, B E F G H L N T U W Γ Δ Θ Ψ 0105 0141 0250 (Codex Climaci Rescriptus)  Δ f1 f13 157 205 700 892 1424 Byz with versional support from the Peshitta Sahidic and Palestinian Aramaic versions.
            Wayne C. Kannaday offers a detailed analysis of this textual contest on pages 90-97 of his 2004 book Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition.  Kannaday concludes that οuκ is probably the original reading, largely on the grounds that when the term οupw is used in the Gospel of John, it is used formulaically to refer to Jesus’ hour, or time, i.e., the time of His passion:      
            ● 2:4:  “My hour has not yet come.”
            ● 7:6:  “My time has not yet come.”
            ● 7:8b:  “My time has not yet fully come.”
            ● 7:30:  “His hour had not yet come.”
            ● 8:20:  “His hour had not yet come.”
If οupw is original, Kannaday argues, then “nowhere else does οupw invade the prefacing remarks of Jesus,” leading to the question, “Is this the only instance in John’s narrative where he violates an otherwise carefully prescribed and consistent use of the term οupw?”
            However, the idea that John deliberately limited his use of οupw to refer to Jesus’ hour, or time, does not survive close scrutiny.  As evidence, one can simply read the following passages (using here, for convenience, the NA/UBS text):
            ● 3:24:  “For John had not yet been thrown into prison.” 
            ● 6:17:  “Jesus had not yet come to them.”
            ● 7:39:  “The Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  (In the NA/UBS text, the term οupw is used for the first “yet” but the term ουδέπω is used for the second “yet.”)
            ● 8:57:  “You are not yet fifty years old.”
            ● 11:30:  “Now Jesus had not yet come into the town.”
            ● 20:17:  “I have not yet ascended to My Father.”

            When all of John’s utilizations of οupw are in view, and there is no cherry-picking, the case that John’s use of οupw is limited in a “carefully prescribed and consistent” manner that refers to Jesus’ hour, or time, fades to dust; there simply is no such unique utilization of the term.

            However, the question remains:  it is easy to posit a reason why a scribe would change οuκ to οupw:  to avoid the appearance of precisely the sort of fickleness that Porphyry accused Jesus of displaying.  But why would anyone change οupw (“not yet”) to οuκ (“not”)? 

            In the search for an answer, we should notice that this is not the only example of a textual contest involving οupw. 
            In Matthew 15:17, the verse begins with οὐ in manuscripts B, D, Z, Θ, 565 33 and 579, and this is supported by Latin, Syriac, and Coptic versions.  In most manuscripts, however, including À C L W (with some Latin and Bohairic support), the verse begins with ουπω.  Here there is no apologetic motive to alter the text; yet it must have been altered, one way or the other.
            In Matthew 16:9, the reading ουπω has overwhelming support, not only from Byzantine manuscripts but also from B À D Δ etc.  Yet in family 13, the verse begins with ου.
            In Mark 4:40, a small but strong array of witnesses (including B À D L Δ f1 f13) supports ουπε before εχετε πίστιν.  In most manuscripts, however (including A C K M Π, supported by the Peshitta and the Gothic version), the question at the end of the verse is πως ουκ εχετε πίστιν.
            In Mark 8:21, Codex B reads ου νοειτε, and the Byzantine Text reads ου συνίετε  – but À A C L D K M N Π W Q support (sometimes with minor orthographic variation) ουπω συνίετε.  (This is a parallel-passage to Mt. 16:9.)                 
            In Mark 11:2, the Byzantine Text, allied with D M Q 157 565 f1 does not include the word ουπω (conveying simply that no man had sat on the colt, rather than that no man had yet sat on the colt).  But in various early manuscripts, the word ουπω is present, either before or after ανθρώπων (“man”) – B L Δ Ψ have ουπω before ανθρώπων; À, C, 579, and f13 have ουπω after ανθρώπων; Y K Π have ουπω before ουδεις ανθρώπων.   Minuscule 1424 rearranges the words so as to read ουδεις ανθρώπων εκάθισεν ουπω.  (Codex A, meanwhile, reads πώποτε ανθρώπων, harmonizing to Luke 19:30.) 
            In Luke 23:53, where Luke mentions that Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was completely unused, Papyrus 75 and Codices B, A, L, 118, and 579 read ουπω – so as to say that no one had yet lain in the tomb.  But they are challenged by a diverse combination of witnesses that includes À C D K M W Q Π 157 f13.which all support ουδέτω – so as to say that never had anyone lain in the tomb.  The Byzantine Text (along with Δ 700 1424 is aligned with the latter group, disagreeing only in word-order (by placing ουδέτω before, rather than after, ουδεις).
            In John 6:17, Papyrus 75 and codices B, À, D, L, N, W and Ψ contain a statement that Jesus had not yet (ουπω) come to the disciples.  In most manuscripts, however, including A K M Δ Θ f1 157 565 700, the verse has ουκ instead of ουπω.  Here we see a disagreement similar to what we see in John 7:8:  ουκ versus ουπω. 
            In John 7:6, where almost all manuscripts read ουπω, À reads ου, and W reads ουδέτω.  Ουδέτω is also the reading of Papyrus 66 in John 7:8b, where the rest of the manuscripts support ουπω.   Likewise in John 7:30, P66 reads ουδέτω where the other manuscripts read ουπω.  This raises a question:  ουπω is clear and unobjectionable; why would anyone change it to ου as the scribe of Sinaiticus did, or change it to ουδέτω as the scribe of P66 did twice?   And why, if ουπω is original in Luke 23:53, does the Byzantine Text and its assorted allies read ουδέτω?
            Briefly leaving the text of the Gospels, for thoroughness’ sake, we find that in First Corinthians 8:2, the reading ουπω is supported by Papyrus 46, B À A 33 1175 1739, but it has rivals; ουδέτω is read by D (i.e., Claromontanus) F G Ψ, ουδεν is read by 68 330 2400, ουδεν ουδέτω is read by 1424, and ουδέτω ουδεν is read by most manuscripts.  In Philippians 3:13, where P46, B, 1739, 1881, the Byzantine Text, and the Peshitta support ου, À A 075 33 81 614 and 1175 support ουπω instead.  Here too, then, is another contest between ου and ουπω.  And in Revelation 17:12, where most copies read ουπω, Codex A and minuscule 57 read ουκ.
            Taking all this into consideration, it suggests that some scribes either added ουπω or substituted a different word where ουπω  belonged, not only in John 7:8, but also in Matthew 15:17, Matthew 16:9, Mark 4:40, Luke 23:53, John 6:17, and John 7:6 – plus three passages outside the Gospels (I Cor. 8:2, Phil. 3:13, Rev. 17:12).  If ουκ was introduced in John 7:8, as a substitute for ουπω, it is possible that this was elicited not by mischievousness, but by the same factor (whatever it was) that elicited the scribe of Sinaiticus to introduce ουκ into the text of John 7:6 instead of ουπω – and for the same reason that ουπω was not added to Mark 11:2 by Byzantine scribes, and for the same reason that the Byzantine Text reads ουκ instead of ουπω in John 6:17.
            However, the specific nature of such a factor is difficult to nail down.  The least complicated idea, I think, is that (a) an early Latin translator rendered the relevant phrase as ego non ascendo ad diem festum, imagining that the reference to that particular festival-day would not preclude Jesus’ future attendance, and thus imply “yet.” – and (b) subsequently the Greek text was adjusted slightly (from ουπω to ουκ) to conform to the Latin parallel.
            If Codex Bezae alone supported ουκ, or even if D and À (which has Western affinities in this portion of John) and Old Latin copies supported ουκ, that would be an adequate explanation.  But the external evidence for ουκ, though sparse in our extant manuscripts, is broader and weightier than it may first appear:  besides À (very probably made in Caesarea) and D (provenance unknown), we should posit an ancestor of family Π, and the base-text of the Vulgate, plus the Sinaitic Syriac and Curetonian Syriac, the base-text of the Armenian version, several Old Latin copies, and copies known to Epiphanius in Crete, copies read by Chrysostom in Antioch and/or Constantinople, copies used by Cyril of Alexandria, the Latin text used by Ambrosiaster, the text used by Augustine in North Africa, and the text used by Porphyry.  This is wide-ranging evidence that cannot be cavalierly dismissed.
            Another consideration in favor of ουκ is that orthodox copyists, facing one exemplar with ουκ and another exemplar with ουπω, would naturally prefer ουπω as the reading less likely to elicit misunderstandings of the sort that Porphyry had displayed. 
            In conclusion:  the external evidence in favor of ουπω is so abundant that compilers and translators should maintain a footnote at John 7:8 mentioning this reading, especially in light of the possibility that new evidence might come to light which accounts for interchanges between ουκ and ουπω as merely linguistic phenomena.  However, barring such a development, internal evidence strongly favors ουκ as the reading more likely to elicit ουπω, rather than the other way around, and this consideration is so weighty that even the testimony of two early papyri, Codex Sinaiticus, and over 1,500 Byzantine manuscripts cannot balance it; ουκ demands its place in the text.
            This raises a fresh question:  was Porphyry right?  Many a defender of the traditional text, or of the KJV, has proposed that to adopt the reading ουκ is to turn Jesus into a liar, on the grounds that Jesus says in verse 8 that He is not going to the feast, and yet, two verses later, He goes.  Technically, resolving this perceived difficulty is outside the purview of textual criticism; nevertheless, as an example of how the problem is resolved, with ουκ, readers may consult this video from CIRA International, this essay from Apologetics Press, or simply observe that within those two verses – that is, between Jesus’ statement, “I am not going up to this feast” and John’s record that Jesus went up to the feast – some time has elapsed, and the situation has changed:  it is true that Jesus was not going up when He said that He was not going up, when it would have involved too much publicity.   What more needs to be said?  The sentence is more perspicuous with ουπω, but that does not make the reading with ουκ incorrect, as if “I am not going” must mean “I am never going.”   
            There is an extra takeaway to consider before we leave this variant-unit.  The non-Western uncials K M Π, which read ουκ, must preserve a text here that was remarkably resistant to assimilation from competing texts – more resistant than most representatives of the Alexandrian Text, and more resistant than most representatives of the more popular Byzantine transmission-lines.  This implies that the earliest stratum of family Π, particularly when it diverges from rival Alexandrian and Byzantine readings, is especially important.  

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.