Monday, September 2, 2019

The Text & Canon Institute - News and Views

Dr. Peter Gurry

            Special guests are here today:  Dr. John Meade and Dr. Peter Gurry, of Phoenix Seminary in Arizona.  They are here to share some information about the Text & Canon Institute, which was officially founded in January of 2019.  Thanks for joining us.

JM/PG: Our pleasure.

TTotG: A profile of the Text & Canon Institute is already online.  Have there been any changes since then?

PG: Since we launched, we have started two major initiatives.  The first is a scholarship and mentoring program for Phoenix Seminary ThM students who are interested in doing doctoral work in areas related to the text and canon of the Bible.  TCI Fellowship provides a scholarship of up to $10,000 toward the ThM degree and gives opportunity to work closely with me and Dr. Meade as we direct the Institute and carry out its mission.  Our first fellow is Clark Bates who is working with New Testament minuscules.
            We also announced a major conference that I’ll say more about below.  We’ll have another major announcement this fall that will be of particular interest to scholars across a range of sub-disciplines. So, stay tuned and sign up for our newsletter.

Dr. John Meade
TTotG:  I noticed that in in the announcement of the founding of the Institute, Phoenix Seminary’s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Bingham Hunter, said, “The Institute is well positioned to defend the reliability of the biblical text and foster the church’s confidence in the books of sacred Scripture.”  Would one be correct in assuming that the Text & Canon Institute approaches textual criticism from a conservative perspective, taking for granted that the original text is divinely inspired and inerrant?

PG: Yes, although I wouldn’t just call it the conservative perspective, but rather the historic perspective of the church.  Also, we try not to take anything for granted around here!  From our vantage, the historic view of the Bible’s inspiration is not a hindrance to good, historical work but a strong motivation for it.  We believe that God can and certainly does work apart from human agency, but he often works through it.  Just as Scripture’s inspiration is God’s word given through human languages and words, so we should not be surprised to see both divine and human elements in the Bible’s subsequent transmission and canonization.

TTotG: There’s not a lot of online data about Phoenix Seminary.  Could you tell us more about it? – How many professors are there on campus; what is the average class-size; that sort of thing?

PG: I don’t know what the official average class size is, but in my experience it’s around 15.  We have a resident faculty of nine that we supplement with various visiting professors and adjuncts. Historically, the seminary began its life as an extension of Western Seminary in Portland and in the 1990s, became independent.  We have had several campuses over the years but recently moved into our permanent home here in Scottsdale.  
            Theologically, we are interdenominational but on the conservative side of the big tent of American evangelicalism. Our faculty is definitely “baptistic” but many of us are not Baptists.  Largely, we grew out of the Bible church movement that sprung up in the early part of the last century.  Phoenix itself is interesting in that it has never been dominated by one major Protestant denomination in the way places in the South or Northeast have been.  So, we are not a hotbed of Methodists, Baptists, or anything else.  In fact, the religion with the single biggest footprint here is probably Mormonism due, in large part, to our proximity to Utah.

TTotG: I’m unfamiliar with the geography involved:  technically, is Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, rather than Phoenix?  Or are Scottsdale and Phoenix the same place?

PG: It can be confusing.  The seminary is in Maricopa County which includes Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, etc.  The county as a whole is quite large and is the fastest growing in the U.S., with a population of over 4 million.  Technically, the seminary is in Scottsdale which is next door to the city of Phoenix.  Because many people outside the area think of all of Maricopa County as being Phoenix, we often talk about the seminary as being in Phoenix even though locals know we are located in Scottsdale.

TT: Does the Text & Canon Institute have any on-campus territory of its own?  If a patron were to donate, say, a Megillah-scroll, or a Book of Hours, or a lectionary-page to the Institute, would there be a place to store it or to put it on display?

PG: Sure. As part of Phoenix Seminary, we have full access to the seminary’s Biblical Research Center which houses the largest, privately-owned, theological library in Arizona.  If anyone wants to make such a donation, get in touch!

TTotG: Considering that Wayne Grudem teaches at Phoenix Seminary, would it be fair to say that Phoenix Seminary is the center of the ESV universe?

PG: No. I think the center, if there is such a universe, is in Wheaton, IL at the headquarters of Crossway Bibles, the publisher of the ESV.  We do tend to be fans of the ESV around here — but not uncritical ones.

TTotG: What’s happening at the Text & Canon Institute in February of 2020?  A conference of some sort?  Is the program all arranged?

PG: Sacred Words is the Text & Canon Institute’s inaugural church oriented conference, happening Feb 21–22, 2020 in Phoenix. (Phoenix is lovely in February!) It’s an opportunity to learn from internationally known speakers about how the Bible has been copied, collected, and confessed as God’s word.  Somewhat uniquely, we have speakers covering the text and canon of the whole Bible rather than just the NT as is often the case in these types of events.  To do that, we’ve brought together a great lineup of North American Evangelical scholars to help the church understand how she got her (Protestant) Bible.  The speakers are Dan Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary), Peter Gentry (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Stephen Dempster (Crandall University), Jeff Cate (California Baptist University), Darian Lockett (BIOLA University), Anthony Ferguson (Gateway Seminary), and Tim Mitchell (University of Birmingham, UK).  In several cases, I know that speakers will be presenting the results of very recent research. So, it’s not to be missed if you can make it.

TTotG: Has any new research been completed on the text of the Harklean Group?  How far back do you think it goes?

PG: I think the text of the Harklean Group goes back to Thomas of Harkel and his translation finished in 616.  Obviously, it has to go back before that since that text came from the Greek manuscripts he had available near Alexandria.  But how much earlier, we can’t say.  As for new research, the most recent is my own in relation to the Catholic Letters, the edition of Mark  completed by Samer Yohanna, and the edition of Revelation by Martin Heide.  Personally, I think it’s about time we started a project on a critical edition of the entire Harklean New Testament.

TTotG: You are probably best-known to our readers on account of your work in New Testament textual criticism, but the Text & Canon Institute also focuses on Old Testament textual issues. Will the Institute address some of those issues – for instance, [turning to John Meade], if the apostles regarded the Septuagint’s form of the book of Jeremiah as canonical, why shouldn’t we?

JM: Yes, the TCI focuses on matters related to Old Testament textual criticism also.  We hope to dedicate a colloquium to the topic of Jeremiah’s text and the apostles’ and early church’s reception of that book.

TTotG: In terms of specific passages, what three New Testament textual contests that are currently unsettled would you most want to be firmly resolved? (Top three?)

PG: Luke 23:34; Mark 16:9-20; and the one I’m currently working on:  Ephesians 5.22.

TTotG: And in the Old Testament?

JM: The David and Goliath Narrative (I Samuel 16-18); Isaiah 53:8; the tabernacle instructions (Exodus 35-40).

TTotG: Turning to Old Testament textual issues: at what point would you say the text of the Torah ceased to be produced in transit, from redactor to redactor, and became sacrosanct, traveling strictly from scribe to scribe?  Was it sacrosanct as soon as the ink was dry, or did each generation that transmitted it feel free to adjust and expand it, or something in between?

JM: There’s little doubt that later redactors edited the books of Moses, since it’s pretty clear that Moses did not record the story of his own death (Deut. 34).  Probably, scribes still recognized the sacrosanct character of the Torah, even as they were finalizing its form.  When this happened is difficult to pinpoint, although I think the references in Chronicles (ca. 400 BC) to the Torah of Moses strongly suggest a long-standing collection similar to the one we possess.  The Greek translation of the Torah (ca. 280 BC) shows a stable work (though see the major differences in Exodus 35-40). The books of Jubilees and Reworked Pentateuch from Qumran could possibly be interpreted as “rival Pentateuchs,” but more likely is the case that these works were viewed as commentaries, rewritten bibles, or revelatory exegeses on the already established Torah of Moses.

TTotG: How do you feel about some of the large numbers in the Old Testament?  For example, when we see references to 600,000 Hebrew men in the days of Moses, should we reckon that this was literally the case?  Or should we assume that the historical quantity has been miscopied by scribes and was originally 60,000?  Or something else?  

JM: I’m not sure I understand the full import of your question.  Perhaps, there’s miscopying.  But a better solution is that Hebrew ’elep in these contexts probably means something like a “military company” or “clan” in the sense of a subgroup within tribes.  The word can indicate the number 1,000 especially when referring to a unit of weight (cf. I Samuel 17:5 with Goliath’s coat weighing some 5,000 shekels of bronze), but in some contexts like I Samuel 17:18, Jesse is simply asking David to take supplies to the captain of his brothers’ troop or military company, maybe 10 or more men — not 1,000 fighting men.  
            In several military scenes in the OT, this meaning is far better than 1,000s.  One finds it difficult to imagine Joshua leading a stealth ambush at night of 30,000 against an already much smaller Ai (Joshua 7:3) in Joshua 8.  Probably, Joshua’s 30,000 warrior men of valor should be understood as 30 troops, perhaps containing 10 to 12 men in each for a total of around 300 men.  So, Moses is probably leading out 600 troops of ten or so men for a total of 6,000 men with somewhere between 12,000-24,000 women, children, and others, totaling 24,000-48,000 slaves leaving Egypt.  This fits other descriptions that Israel was a small and insignificant people as Deut. 7 says.

TTotG: Dr. Gurry, I don’t know your text-critical approach to conjectural emendations, but, if you were making a compilation of the Greek New Testament, and you could put one or two or three conjectural emendations in the apparatus, what would they be?

PG: Oh goodness, I don’t know offhand.  I can say that I am open to conjecture in principle but in practice I haven’t come across any that finally convince me.  Although the NA28’s conjecture in II Peter 3:10 has its charms.

TTorG: Dr. Meade – Same question, but in regard to the Old Testament text.

JM: I don’t have a list of conjectures that I like.  Generally, I think the original wording is found in our manuscripts.

TTotG: Finally, while the “text” part of “Text & Canon Institute” is justified in light of emerging public awareness of the field of textual criticism, is “Canon” a real concern?  I’m not getting a sense that American evangelicals are clamoring for reevaluations of the Biblical canon.  What am I missing?

PG/JM: If by “reevaluation,” you mean are evangelicals open to removing books from the Protestant canon, I would say no.  But our experience is that many evangelicals have little or no knowledge about the history of the Bible they trust.  When they realize that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (and other ecclesial bodies) have different books in their Bibles, they naturally have questions.  When you add popular conspiratorial understandings of the process of canonization to that mix, then I would say that the “canon” of Text & Canon is easily justified from the perspective of the person in the pew.  Of course, at the academic level, all sorts of questions about canonization are in need of pursuit.  A further point goes back to an earlier question about different textual forms of Jeremiah and whether there was a canonical form(s) of the book.  So, yes, text and canon are more closely linked conceptually, historically, and theologically than most people realize.

TTotG: Thanks for sharing your insights and news.

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