Saturday, March 28, 2020

Hand to Hand Combat: D versus 505 in Mark 5

            Today, let’s compare the accuracy of Codex Bezae (D, 05) to medieval minuscule 505 (Harley MS 5538 at the British Library, from the 1100s).  Bart Ehrman has heralded Codex Bezae as “one of our oldest manuscripts” and D. C. Parker has given it a production date around the year 400 (although previous researched gave it a production-date somewhat later).  If a production-date around 400 or 500 is accepted, it ought to have the more accurate text, compared to a manuscript made 500 years later, right?  Nope.  The Gospels-text in Codex Bezae is one of the most inaccurate transcriptions that can be found in any Greek manuscript. 
           The main reason for this is that Codex Bezae’s text is “Western.”  The Western text is a paraphrastic text that developed in the second century.  The individuals who made it were more concerned with conveying the meaning of the text than with preserving its original form – possibly because they were transmitting not only the Greek text of the Gospels, but also the Latin text of the Gospels.   It should be understood that “Western” does not mean that this form of the text originated in the West.  The use of the term “Western” is only meant to convey that it became more popular in the West (especially in the Old Latin Gospels) than elsewhere.
            Codex Bezae is a Greek-Latin manuscript – each page with Greek text is followed by approximately the same passage in Latin on the following page – and occasionally, the Western text has been paraphrased.  (Paraphrasing could be done not only by the scribe of this particular manuscript, but by scribes much earlier in the transmission of its text.)  For example, in Mark 7:19b, the Latin text in Codex Bezae says (after the spelling is tidied up), “Sed in uentrem, et in secessum exit, purgans omnes escas.”  This is not unusual; the Vulgate text edited by Wordsworth and White says the same thing.  But on the accompanying page of Codex Bezae with Greek text, where most manuscripts (including B A L Π K M) read ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται, Codex D’s text reads instead ὀχετὸν ἐξέρχεται (and 7:19 begins Mark 7:19 with οὐ γὰρ εἰσέρχεται).  That is, excrement doesn’t just go into a latrine; it goes into the sewer (an ὀχετὸν is a sewer-drain).
            One might speculate that the Western paraphraser lived in a city with sewers, rather than in the countryside with latrines (or that he made the paraphrase for people who did so); the thing to see is that the Western Text has been paraphrased.
            Now let’s see who made the more accurate text:  the early Western paraphraser, whose work is echoed in Codex Bezae, or Byzantine copyists who transmitted the text found in GA 505.  (And along the way, we might ask ourselves, “Does it look like the Byzantine Text had the Western text as a source?)  The arena for today’s comparison is Mark 5:25-34 – the account of Jesus healing the woman (known traditionally as Saint Veronica) who had been afflicted with a bloody hemorrhage for 12 years.
            The usual rules for hand-to-hand combat apply:  nomina sacra contractions are not counted as variants; transpositions are merely noted; additions, deletions, and substitutions are counted letter-by-letter, and the standard of comparison is the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  However, I will make an adjustment due to one especially questionable reading in the N-A compilation (near the end of the analysis).

Mark 5:25-34 in Codex Bezae

25 – D has τις after γυνη (+3)
25 – D transposes to ετη ιβ
26 – D had η instead of και at the beginning (+1, -3)
26 – D does not have παρ before εαυτης (-3)
26 – D reads ωφελιθεισα instead of ωφεληθεισα (+1, -1)
26 – D reads επι instead of εις (+2, -2)
26 – D does not have ελθουσα (-7)
27 – D reads πε instead of περι.  The missing letters have been supplied by a corrector.  (-2)
27 – D, in the course of a transposition, reads οπισθεν instead of οπιθεν (+1)
27 – D, in the course of a transposition, has και before ηψατο (+3).  A corrector has overdotted the word.  
27 – D transposes εν τω οχλω to the end of the verse
28 – D begins the verse with λεγουσα εν εαυτη instead of ελεγεν γὰρ (+14, -9)
28 – D transposes after οτι to καν του ιματίων εαυτου αψωμαι (see next two variants)
28 – D reads του instead of των (+2, -2)
28 – D reads εαυτου instead of αυτου (+1)
28 – D reads ειαται instead of ιαται (+1)
29 – D reads ευθέως instead of ευθυς (+2, -1)
30 – D transposes and adds και between επιγνους and ὁ Ιης (+3)
30 – D does not have εν εαυτω (-7)
30 – D does not have εξ αυτου (-7)
30 – D reads απ αυτου και before επιστραφεὶς (+10) 
30 – D reads ειπεν instead of ελεγεν (+4, -5)
30 – D transposes at the end of the verse to ηψατο των ιματίων μου
31 – D, in the course of a transposition, reads δε instead of και (+2, -3)
31 – D, in the course of a transposition, reads λεγουσιν instead of ελεγον (+8, -6)
31 – D reads συνθλειβοντά instead of συνθλιβοντά (+1)
32 – D reads ειδειν instead of ιδειν (+1)
33 – D reads φοβηθισα instead of φοβηθεισα (-1)
33 – D reads διο πεποιήκει λάθρα after τρέμουσα (+17)
34 – D reads Ιης after ὁ δε (+3) 
34 – D reads σθι instead of ισθι (or κα instead of και) (-1)

TOTAL:  In Codex Bezae’s text of Mark 5:25-34, there are 80 non-original letters present, and 60 original letters are missing, for a total of 140 letters’ worth of corruption.

Now let’s look at GA 505.

Mark 5:25-34 in GA 505

25 – 505 has τις after γυνη (+3)
25 – 505 transposes to ετη δώδεκα
26 – no variations
27 – no variations
28 – 505 has ελεγε instead of ελεγεν (-1)
28 – 505 does not include εαν after οτι (-3)
28 – 505 transposes after οτι to καν των ιματίων αυτου αψωμαι  
29 – 505 has ευθέως instead of ευθυς (+2, -1)
30 – 505 has ευθέως instead of ευθυς (+2, -1)
[30 – part of the page is obscured, but 505 probably does not have ὁ before Ις] (-1)
30 – 505 has ελεγε instead of ελεγεν (-1)
31 – no variations
32 – no variations
33 – 505 has επ before αυτη (+2)
34 – 505 has θύγατερ instead of θύγατηρ (+1, -1)
34 – 505 has σέσωκ- but the ending seems abnormally contracted.  I’m going to treat this as a fluke reading.  (-2)

TOTAL:  In Mark 5:25-34, GA 505 has 9 non-original letters, and is missing 11 original letters, for a total of 20 letters’ worth of corruption.

Using this passage as a sample of the accuracy of the Greek text in D, and the accuracy of the text in 505, there are 140 letters’ worth of corruption in D for every 20 letters’ worth of corruption in 505.  To put it another way:  using the Nestle-Aland compilation as our basis of comparison, Codex D’s text of Mark 5:25-34 contains seven times as much corruption as the text in GA 505.  If the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform were used as our basis of comparison, 505’s text would be essential congruent to it:  the only differences between the two texts in this passage involve movable ν, the obscured portion of the page in verse 30, and that word-ending in v. 34. 

Now let’s consider how the word “daughter” should be spelled in verse 34.  Codex D and Codex W agree with Codex B, reading θύγατηρ.  So does GA 474 (Scrivener’s “e,” Lambeth MS 1179).  However, most other manuscripts read θύγατερ, including ℵ A K L N Θ Π Δ 33 700 1424 1582.  This was the reading adopted in the past by Bengel, by Griesbach, by Scholz, and by Tischendorf (in 1872), and even after θύγατηρ was adopted in the Westcott-Hort 1881 compilation, θύγατερ was preferred by Baljon and Souter. 
            One might try to defend the reading θύγατηρ by proposing that a change to θύγατερ was introduced to bring Mark 5:34 into closer harmony with the parallel-account in Matthew 9:22.  However, when we look at Matthew 9:22, we see that two of the three uncial witnesses for θύγατηρ in Mark 5:34 (D and W) also have θύγατηρ in Matthew 9:22.  Furthermore, L N and Θ read θύγατερ in Mark 5:34 and read θύγατηρ in Matthew 9:22.  Another consideration is that it seems unlikely that a harmonizer would fine-tune spelling but not add Θάρσει from the Matthean parallel.  The lonely testimony of B for θύγατερ in Matthew and θύγατηρ in Mark, where θύγατηρ appears in the following verse, is not as strong, on a point of orthography, as the extremely broad support that θύγατερ enjoys in both passages.  The reading θύγατερ should be adopted in Mark 5:34 – as it already has been in the Tyndale House Greek New Testament.
            With this adjustment in the picture, the accuracy of the text of Mark 5:35-34 in 505 (assigned to the 1100s) is more than seven times better than the text in Codex Bezae (assigned to the 400s).
            Before we leave Mark’s account of the healing of Saint Veronica, there is a variant in Mark 5:27 worth examining.  In the Byzantine Text and in the Nestle-Aland compilation this verse is exactly the same, but after the word ηψατο, in a smattering of witnesses – M f1 33 579 1071 and the Ethiopic version – the words του κρασπέδου (the hem of) are included here.  In Matthew 9:20, after ηψατο, we encounter this full phrase, του κρασπέδου του ἱματίου αυτου (“the hem of His garment”).  In the next verse in f13, κρασπέδου has usurped ἱματίου.  Turning to the parallel-passage in Luke 8:44, we find the same phrase after ηψατο:  του κρασπέδου του ἱματίου αυτου. 
            The puzzle that this data presents is this:  if Matthew and Luke both depended on Mark, how is it that they both have του κρασπέδου and Mark does not?  If we reject the reading of f1 and its allies in Mark 5:27, then we have here a “Minor Agreement” – a passage where Matthew and Luke share a reading with each other but not with Mark. 
            Making things a bit more interesting, Codex D has του κρασπέδου in Matthew 9:20 but not in Luke 8:44 (in which case, the Minor Agreement goes poof in the Western Text.)  Furthermore, Codex D is allied in this respect with a few Old Latin copies:  Old Latin codices a (Codex Vercellensis, probably from the 370s, a.k.a. VL 3), ff2 (Codex Corbeiensis secundus, a.k.a. VL 8) and r1 (Codex  Usserianus primus, a.k.a. VL 14) also do not have these words in Luke 8:44.      
            Without exploring this puzzle further today, I note that this particular array of readings may pose some problems for researchers who want to preserve the Two-Source Hypothesis as a solution to the Synoptic Problem while maintaining the Alexandrian readings in all three Synoptic Gospels.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Clement's Byzantine Text of First Thessalonians

            Clement of Alexandria is one of the best-known writers of early Christianity; although we lack details of his birth and death, an estimate of 150-215 is probably not far off.  He was trained at Alexandria by Pantaenus, and after Pantaenus died, Clement began to lead the catechetical school at Alexandria, around A.D. 200.
            Clement of Alexandria left behind several compositions in which he quoted, referred to, or otherwise used many passages from the New Testament.  By putting together these Scripture-utilizations, we may get a picture of the New Testament text that Clement used.  By working through Clement’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks and Paidagogus and Stromateis and Hypotyposeis and What Rich Man Can Be Saved?, and other compositions, it is possible to isolate Clement’s Scripture-utilizations and tentatively reconstruct the text he used. 
            One might expect to find that Clement used a New Testament with strong Alexandrian affinities – after all, he was located in Alexandria.  But back in 2008, Carl Cosaert analyzed Clement’s Gospels-text and acknowledged that “Clement fails to meet the 65% rate of agreement necessary for classification as an Alexandrian witness in the Gospels.”
            In Matthew, Cosaert’s analysis indicated that although Clement’s text agrees with Sinaiticus more than with any other manuscript – at 73 out of 116 units of variation – Codex Π was a very close second, at 68 out of 109, and Codex Ω was a very close third, at 72 out of 118.  This is statistically a tie.  But it is not just a tie between these three witnesses.  Cosaert also compared Clement’s text of Matthew to the Textus Receptus – and it performed as well as Codex Vaticanus (B):  the Textus Receptus agreed with Clement’s text of Matthew 73 times out of 118 units of variation (61.9%); Codex B agreed with Clement’s text of Matthew 71 out of 117 units of variation (60.7%).
            In Mark, Cosaert’s analysis indicated that Clement’s text agrees more with the Textus Receptus – 29 times, out of 47 units of variation – than with À (21/42) or B (25/47).  The data from Clement’s utilizations from Mark is, however, rather sparse:  fewer than 50 units of variation, stretched over 16 chapters, are extant to consider. 
            In Luke, Cosaert’s analysis indicated that Clement’s text agrees more with Codex D than with any other Greek manuscript – 89 agreements out of 134 units of variation. In comparison, Codex Ω agreed with Clement’s text 77 out of 143 units of variation; P75 agreed with Clement’s text 62 out of 116 units of variation, and Codex Π agreed with Clement’s text at 74 out of 140 units of variation. 
            In John, Cosaert’s analysis indicated that Clement’s text agrees more with Codex L than with any other witness – 54 agreements out of 72 units of variation.  Manuscripts 33, B, and P75 (all between with a 70-75% agreement-rate) also agree with Clement’s text of John more than Π, Ω, and the Textus Receptus (which all hover around 60%).  Codex À does even worse, though, with an agreement-rate of only 54.3%.
            Cosaert’s data instructively illustrates two things.  First, it shows that it is precarious to draw conclusions based on sporadic sampling:  we cannot know the textual affinities of Clement’s text of Matthew by looking at his text of John, and we cannot know Clement’s text of Luke by looking at his text of Matthew.  Analyzing a patristic writer’s text is not always as simple as putting one knife into one jar one time and concluding that the whole jar contains peanut butter.   Clement’s Gospels-text is not comparable to a horserace in which one horse wins; it is more like four horse-races in which the outcome is different in every race:  In Mark, the Byzantine text seems to win; in Luke, the Western text comes out ahead; in John, the Alexandrian text wins, and in Matthew, the race is close and ends in a cloud of dust.
            Second, it shows that there is not much basis for the idea that the text of Clement’s compositions has been corrupted (toward a Byzantine standard).  Had this been the case, we would not see Western affinities in Clement’s text of Luke, or such strong Alexandrian affinities in Clement’s text of John.
            With all that in mind, let’s turn to another piece of research on the text used by Clement:  Maegan Gilliland’s 2016 doctoral thesis at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity:  The Text of the Pauline Epistles and Hebrews in Clement of Alexandria.  (Use the link to download the thesis!)  This is a very detailed piece of research; Gilliland presents a book-by-book apparatus of Clement’s utilizations of each of Paul’s epistles, collated against representative witnesses of each text-type.  Although neither the Robinson-PierpontByzantine Textform nor the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text was included in the comparison, the Byzantine Text is well represented by minuscule 2423, a manuscript housed at Duke University.
            Although it would be worthwhile to take a leisurely tour of Gilliland’s thesis book-by-book, today I want to zero in on the data it contains about Clement’s text of First Thessalonians.  First Thessalonians is a rather small book, containing only five chapters; in these five chapters Gilliland has identified 32 variant-units utilized by Clement.   
            Before proceeding further, let’s briefly revisit  Cosaert’s data for the Gospel of John:  72 variation-units are stretched across 21 chapters.  The witness with the strongest agreement with Clement was Codex L (54/72) and after also observing that Clement’s text of John agrees with 33, B, and P75 about 70-75% of the time, Cosaert concluded, “Clement’s strong levels of agreement with the Alexandrian tradition clearly identify his text as Alexandrian.”   I want to make sure that it has registered that with one Alexandrian witness agreeing with Clement’s text 75% of the time over 21 chapters, and with three Alexandrian witnesses agreeing slightly less, Clement’s text of John was clearly identified as Alexandrian. 
            Now let’s look at Gilliland’s data about Clement’s text of First Thessalonians:  Gilliland compared Clement’s use of readings in 32 passages:  1:5, 2:4, 2:5, 2:6, 2:7, 2:12, 4:3, 4:4, 4:5, 4:6, 4:7, 4:8, 4:9, 4:17, 5:2, 5:4, 5:5, 5:6, 5:7, 5:8, 5:13, 5:14, 5:15, 5:17, 5:19, 5:20, 5:21, 5:22, 5:23, and 5:26.
            No utilizations were detected from chapter 3, and only one utilization – the use of a single word, δυνάμει in Str. 1.99.1 – was detected in 1:5 (and it seems to me that this could be a utilization of First Corinthians 4:20 instead).  If we set that aside, then Clement’s references to First Thessalonians cover only 2:4-12, 4:3-4:9, 4:17-5:8, and 5:13-5:26.  The existence of 30 utilizations concentrated in four segments, consisting of 11 verses, 7 verses, 10 verses, and 14 verses – a total of 42 verses – ought to be a plentiful basis on which to form an impression of the form of Clement’s text of First Thessalonians.  This is especially true when we remember that 72 utilizations, stretched over 879 or 866 verses (depending on which compilation one is using), were considered sufficient to tell us about Clement’s text of John.  (A rough-and-ready picture of the situation may be gained by considering that in these four segments of text from First Thessalonians, Clement gives us no data about 12 verses, in the Gospel of John Clement gives us no data about 794 verses (at least).

            Gilliland found that the medieval Byzantine minuscule 2423 agrees with Clement’s utilizations in First Thessalonians in 29 of the 32 variation-units – yielding an agreement-rate of 91%. 
            This justifies Gilliland’s statement (on p. 542 of her thesis) that “A glance at the individual manuscripts reveals a strong association between Clement’s text of 1 Thessalonians with the Byzantine manuscripts,” and (on p. 543), that Clement’s text of First Thessalonians “exhibits a text that is strongly aligned with the Byzantine tradition.”
            However, in the fifth chapter of Gilliland’s thesis, on p. 567, she states, “Perhaps the unusually high agreement with the Byzantine text is only a fluke resulting from a small data set.”  One page later, she states less tentatively, “There simply are not enough variation units for 1 Thessalonians to come to any conclusion about its textual nature,” and suddenly, “Clement’s text of I Thessalonians cannot be labeled as Byzantine.”
            The apparent reason for this sudden shift:  an “Inter-Group Profile” shows that Clement agrees with no Byzantine readings in First Thessalonians that are distinctly Byzantine; it also shows that Clement agrees with no Western readings that are distinctly Western, and it also shows that Clement agrees with one distinctly Alexandrian reading. 
             But let’s take a close look at the differences between the text of First Thessalonians in the Byzantine Text, in Clement’s text, and in Codex Vaticanus, to see if this reasoning is sound.  First, we should notice that in First Thessalonians 2:6, the Byzantine Text (Robinson-Pierpont) reads ἀπό rather than ἀπ’.  (The Textus Receptus there reads ἀπ’, agreeing with 2423 and Clement.)  Second, we should notice that in First Thessalonians 5:8, where 2423 appears to includes ὑιοι, the Byzantine Text does not.  Compared to 2423, the Byzantine Text thus loses one agreement in 2:6 and gains one agreement on 5:8; its net rate of agreement is thus the same as that of 2423:  out of 32 opportunities to agree with Clement, the Byzantine Text agrees 29 times.  The Textus Receptus agrees with Clement even more:  30 agreements out of 32 opportunities to agree. 
            Besides the Byzantine Text’s reading ἀπό instead of ἀπ’ in 2:6, the Byzantine Text also disagrees with Clement’s text at three points:
            ● 4:5 – Byz has θεόν where Clement has κυριον, but because all of the flagship-witnesses disagree with Clement, this variation-unit was set aside.
            ● 5:5 – Byz does not have γὰρ after πάντες
            ● 5:6 – Byz has καὶ before οἱ λοιποί
            ● 5:8 – Byz has σωτηρίας at the end of the verse, where Clement has σωτηριου, but because all of the flagship-witnesses disagree with Clement, this variation-unit was set aside.

            Codex Vaticanus, in comparison, disagrees with Clement’s text of First Thessalonians at
            ● 2:5 – B does not include ἐν before προφάσει
            ● 2:7 – B (and À) has ἀλλα instead of ἀλλ’
            ● 2:7 – B (and À* and P65 and C*) has νήπιοι instead of ἤπιοι
            ● 2:7 – B (and C and 1739) has ἐὰν instead of ἂν
            ● 4:5 – Byz has θεόν where Clement has κυριον, but because all of the flagship-witnesses disagree with Clement, this variation-unit was set aside.
            ● 4:6 – B (and À* and A and 33 and 1739) does not include ὁ before κύριος
            ● 4:7 – B has ἀλλα instead of ἀλλ’
            ● 4:8 – B (and A and 33 and 1739*) does not include καὶ
            ● 4:8 – B (and À*) reads διδόντα instead δόντα
            ● 5:7 – B has μεθυοντες where all other flagship-manuscripts have μεθυσκόμενοι,  However, Clement does not agree with Clement at this point:  in Paed. 2.80.1, Clement uses μεθυοντες, while in Strom. 4.140.3 μεθυσκόμενοι is used.
            ● 5:8 – Byz has σωτηρίας at the end of the verse, where Clement has σωτηριου, but because all of the flagship-witnesses disagree with Clement, this variation-unit was set aside.
            ● 5:19 – B has ζβέννυτε instead of σβέννυτε
            B has important Alexandrian support in six of these readings; in four cases B and À* agree.  It thus seems undeniable that no amount of spin can prevent the conclusion that Clement’s text of First Thessalonians really is much more Byzantine than Alexandrian.

Two Translation-Impacting Variants in First Thessalonians

            First Thessalonians 2:7 contains a textual variant that has a potentially drastic effect on the meaning of the verse:  does Paul say “we were gentle (ἤπιοι) among you” (as in the KJV, NKJV, ESV and CSB), or does he say “we were like young children (νήπιοι) among you” (as in the NIV and NLT; the NLT does not have the word “young”)?
First Thessalonians 4:8-10
in GA 1022
            Bruce Metzger, from the first edition of his handbook The Text of the New Testament, used this textual variant-unit to illustrate a contrast of external and internal evidence to his students.  “Gentle” (ἤπιοι) has broad support from witnesses such as A K L P 33 the Peshitta, the Sahidic version, Clement, and Chrysostom; “infants” (νήπιοι) also has diverse support from P65, À* B C Old Latin, the Vulgate, the Bohairic and Ethiopic versions, and patristic writers such as Cyril and Augustine.
            Metzger explained that because the preceding word, ἐγενήθημεν (“we were”), ends with the letter ν, it would be easy for the letter ν to be added to ηπιοι, creating “νήπιοι” – and it would also be easy for the letter ν to be phonetically dropped from νήπιοι, creating ἤπιοι.  After presenting both sides of the issue, Metzger gave a verdict in favor of ἤπιοι, appealing to Daniel Mace’s axiom that no manuscript is as old as common sense – that is, considering that the transcriptional probabilities seem about equal, one should consider what the author is likely to have written, and this consideration favors ἤπιοι.  It is intrinsically unlikely that Paul would suddenly drop the idea, like lightning from a clear sky, that he and his associates had behaved like babies, and in the next breath say that they had been like a nursing mother cherishing her children.           
            Nevertheless, despite Metzger’s lucid argument – which he later restated in a protest-note in his Textual Commentary – he was outvoted by his colleagues.  Today, the reading in the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation is (incorrectly) νήπιοι.   

            First Thessalonians 4:8 contains two overlapping textual variants:  (1)  the inclusion or non-inclusion of καὶ followed immediately by (2) a contest between διδόντα and δόντα.  The reading καὶ δόντα (supported by Clement and the Byzantine Text) may account for the rise of καὶ διδόντα and διδόντα:  an early copyist whose uncial-writing was less than ideal wrote KAIDONTA but the first A was mistaken for a Δ, as if he had written  KΔIDONTA.  Subsequently, the letter K was regarded either as a stray letter and removed (leaving what was then understood as διδόντα (found in Codex B), or else it was regarded as a kai-compendium, which was then expanded into καὶ before διδόντα (read by À*).
            One may see a progression from καὶ δόντα to διδόντα in sync with progression from Clement to Origen.  For reference:  Griesbach and Scholz had καὶ δόντα; Tregelles and Westcott-Hort and Nestle (1899) and Souter adopted διδόντα (without καὶ); Holmes’ SBL-GNT reads καὶ διδόντα; one wonders by what reasoning this longer reading was preferred.  The Tyndale House Greek New Testament correctly reads καὶ δόντα.

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

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Testing the Hark Chart

            It is not rare to find, among advocates of the Textus Receptus, the promotion of a chart titled Providential Preservation of the Text of the New Testament.  The central portion of the chart depicts two transmission-lines of the text; brief comments to the left and right of the chart summarize what the chart proposes:  basically, that the text of Antioch is the good text – handed down in its completely pristine form from the apostles to the KJV – while the text of Alexandria is the bad text – corrupted by Gnostics and Arians before being compiled by apostates.
            Let’s test the accuracy of some of the claims that are made in this material.   

Q #1:  Does the early text of the New Testament neatly fall into two forms?
A:  No.  This arrangement describes the base-texts of English versions of the New Testament; the KJV, NKJV, and MEV are basically Byzantine, and the NIV, ESV, NLT, and CSB are basically Alexandrian.  But the texts in Greek New Testament manuscripts and early versions fall into more than two categories:  besides the Byzantine Text (called the Antiochan text in the chart) and the Alexandrian Text, there was also the widespread Western Text, and the more limited Caesarean Text of the Gospels, and mixed texts (in which readings from more than one of the other four forms appear).

Q #2:  Was the city of Alexandria “a place where every deviant sect was represented” and where “Religious corruption and false doctrines were prevalent including Gnosticism, Arianism, pagan philosophy, etc.”?
A:  There is almost no evidence from the 100s to support the idea that the theology of residents of Alexandria was better or worse than the theology of residents of most major cities in the Roman Empire.  Egypt certainly had its share of heretics – Basilides, for example, and the Gnostics of Nag Hammadi.  However, Nag Hammadi is 450 miles to the south of Alexandria – further than the distance from Chicago, Illinois to Cleveland, Ohio.  It would be an enormous assumption to suppose that because Alexandria and Nag Hammadi are both in Egypt, the same heresies were spread in both places to the same extent. 
            Alexandria was not the only city to harbor false teachers.  Valentinus, an infamous heretic, resided at Rome for 30 years.  Marcion was from Pontus (northern Turkey).  Heracleon’s headquarters were probably in Italy.  Porphyry of Tyre, an opponent of Christianity in the 200s, worked in Rome and Sicily.  Mani, founder of Manichaeism, came from what is now central Iraq.  Bardaisan worked in Syria and Armenia.  In the mid-200s, the false teacher Paul of Samosata was bishop of Antioch for eight years.  Nestorius, after being trained in Antioch, was briefly archbishop of Constantinople, c. 430, before being denounced as a heretic by Cyril of Alexandria.  In addition, the book of Acts and the letters of Paul demonstrate that false teachers were active in Greece and Turkey and Israel in the first century of Christianity.  Alexandria, as the second-largest city in the Roman Empire, was exceptionally big, not exceptionally bad.  In addition, the contributions to orthodoxy by people from Alexandria such as Athanasius, and the piety of Pachomian monks in Egypt, should not be overlooked.
Q #3:  Is it an essential doctrine to believe that God has preserved every word of the original text “through the ages in the church”? 
A:  Adherents to the manmade creed known as the Westminster Confession of 1646 affirm that the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, “being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.”  The Greek texts used by the formulators of the Westminster Confession were essentially Byzantine – specific, they were the printed editions made in the 1500s – and thus, while disputes might conceivably occur regarding differences at certain points in those printed editions – an appreciation of the historical context of this statement in the Westminster Confession might preclude an embrace of a compilation that relies fundamentally on a different form of the text:  two Greek New Testaments that differ at a thousand points affecting translation cannot, strictly speaking, both be considered “pure” forms of the text; both cannot be the original form of the text. 
            On the other hand, the term “pure” may be understood to refer to the retention of the authentic meaning of the original text, not necessarily its exact form.  Many medieval Christians who encountered the Greek New Testament did so when reading lectionaries – books in which the text was divided into segments, for which introductory phrases were added, and in which proper names were also added to identify the characters in the separated passages, and in which parallel-passages were at various points also introduced. 
            Few if any clergymen of the 1500s and 1600s would have denounced lectionaries as if they contained an “impure” form of the text, inasmuch as their meaning was no different than what could normally be found in the unsegmented, continuous text.  Yet, strictly speaking, the segmented and supplemented form of a lectionary is obviously not the original form of the text.  My point here is that a general affirmation that a specific form of the text is “pure,” inasmuch as it retains the didactic content of the original text – that is, it teaches the same thing – is not the same as a statement that a specific form of the text is the original text.
            In addition, I see no reason why anyone should feel obligated to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith merely because a previous generation did so.  Its formulators did not intend to make the creed itself a rival to the New Testament’s authority.  I suspect that if they were to have at their disposal the materials that are available today, they would use different words to affirm their allegiance to God’s revelation in the original text of the Old Testament and New Testament – without giving the impression that the foundation for their understanding of the original form of the New Testament (the compilations made in the 1500s, and the evidence upon which they were based) ought to be locked in place forever as the Greek New Testament and become the basis for a new “essential doctrine.”

Q #4 and #5:  Does Psalm 12:7 contain a promise that God will make all of the words of the original text available to Christians on earth in every generation?  And is such a promise fulfilled by the Textus Receptus?
A:  Those who set the KJV and the NIV or ESV side-by-side will notice that this verse has been translated very differently:  in the KJV, when Psalm 12:7 says, “ Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever,” the natural understanding is that the author is referring to the words of the Lord mentioned in verse 6 – “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
            In the NIV (2011), however, verse 7 refers to the needy individuals describes in verse 5 – “You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,” and verse 6 is presented as something parenthetical.   Likewise the ESV says, “You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever.”  The NLT seems designed to preclude the interpretation that verse 7 refers to the words of the Lord:   “Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation.”  
            I leave it to others to consider the arguments for both renderings – Kent Brandenburg engaged Doug Kutilek’s interpretation in 2010; Jon Rehurek argued for the NIV’s rendering in 2008; in 2017 Bryan Ross engaged the approach that had been promoted by William Combs in 2000.  Other passages – Proverbs 30:5, Isaiah 40:7-8, Matthew 24:35, etc. – do not leave much room for the idea that the inspired words of the original text of Scripture have passed away.  At the same time, I see nothing in any of those passages that suggests that God is obligated to make all of those words available to any particular believer, or group of believers, in every generation.  To put it another way:  the veracity of these promises is granted but there are three very different ways they can be interpreted:  it is one thing to propose (a) that every word of the original text is perfectly known by our omniscient God.  It is something else to propose (b) that every word of the original text is preserved intact in some extant witness, somewhere.  And it is something else to propose (c) that every word of the original text of the New Testament has been preserved intact in the Textus Receptus in every generation.
            It is that third proposal that the Hark Chart (so called because it was prepared by H. N. Arkell of Hark Ministries) advocates.  However, there is not much evidence that this is the case – and there is plentiful evidence that this is not the case.  Hundreds of reading in the Textus Receptus are not supported by the majority of Greek manuscripts.  For some readings in the Textus Receptus, Greek manuscript-support is very sparse.  And for some readings in the Textus Receptus, there is no Greek manuscript-support at all.  Acts 9:5-6, for example, is part of the Textus Receptus, but, as far as I can tell, it is not in the Greek text of any manuscript made before the 1500s.  
            Although the Hark Chart gives its readers the impression that 5,210 manuscripts stand behind the KJV’s New Testament base-text, this is untrue at hundreds of points where the Textus Receptus has a reading that is not in the Byzantine Textform.   Here are 10 examples of readings in the Textus Receptus that are not supported by the majority of manuscripts in the Byzantine (Antiochan) Text, drawn from the Gospel of Matthew:
            3:8 – most MSS support “fruit,” not “fruits”         
            3:11 – most MSS do not have “and fire” at the end of the verse  
            5:27 – most MSS do not support “by them of old time”   
            5:47 – most MSS support “friends” instead of “brethren”
            6:18 – most MSS do not have “openly” at the end of this verse   
            8:5 – most MSS do not specifically name Jesus here
            8:25 – most MSS do not refer to the disciples here as “His” (αυτου)
            10:8 – most MSS do not have “raise the dead” after “cleanse the lepers”
            12:35 – most MSS do not have “of the heart” here
            26:38 – most MSS specifically name Jesus near the beginning of this verse

            Many other translation-impacting textual contests in which most manuscripts disagree with the base-text of the KJV can be found in a 2018 article by Luke Wayne at the CARM website.   My point here is not to defend all of these majority-readings, but rather to make clear that the KJV’s base-text and the Byzantine (Antiochan) Text are two different things.  The Hark Chart’s claim that “every word” has been passed down from the original New Testament documents, to the Textus Receptus, with the support of 5,210 manuscripts, is not true.

Q #6:  Did Clement of Alexandria and Origen have a strong impact on the New Testament text?
A:  Although Origen, in the first half of the 200s, did some thorough research on the text of the Old Testament – compiling his Hexapla, for example – his comments about textual variants in the New Testament are rather mild; he mentions relatively few textual variants, and occasionally emphasizes how each rival reading can be edifying.
            Clement of Alexandria does not appear to have attempted to standardize the New Testament text either.  He certainly does not appear to have strictly followed the Alexandrian form of the text:  Carl Cosaert, in his 2008 research-book The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria, acknowledged that in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), “no single text-type played a dominant influence on Clement’s text.”          
Q #7:  Do Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus contain corruptions due to the influence of false teachers such as Origen?
A:   In Codex Sinaiticus (À), in the first seven chapters of the Gospel of John, the text is rather more Western than Alexandrian.  It is as if the copyists who made À relied on a damaged Gospels-manuscript as the basis for most of the Gospels, but for these chapters, a different exemplar was used.  Bart Ehrman has shown that in this portion of John, À has some affinities with the text of John used by the second-century heretic Heracleon (who was answered, in the 200s, by Origen).  It does not seem improbable to me that the copyists who made À were working at Caesarea, at the same library which Origen had accessed a century earlier.  If that were the case, they might have used the same text of John that Heracleon used (and possibly edited).  In addition, if À were made at Caesarea in the mid-300s, then it seems likely that its copyists worked for bishops Acacius and Euzoius, both of whom were Arian.  That could have had an effect on some decisions about which readings to adopt when encountering different readings in different copies of New Testament books – but this is a difficult scene to bring into focus from such a chronological distance.
            In Codex Vaticanus (B), there are a few readings that suggest Marcionite influence; in Romans 1:16, for example, the word “first” is strangely absent.  However, in the Alexandrian Text as a whole – setting aside readings peculiar to individual manuscripts – while there are some readings that are unquestionably errors (seen, for example, in Matthew 27:49 and Acts 27:37), almost all of them can be explained as having arise by scribal carelessness (for instance, via the confusion of sacred-name contractions) rather than as the result of a doctrinal agenda.  Another interesting feature of Codex B is that its copyists tended not to contract references to the Holy Spirit; this may reflect Binitarian, rather than Trinitarian, theology.  However this does not reduce the importance or value of the Alexandrian Text itself, which is extant in other witnesses.
            To summarize:  while both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus may have emerged from less-than-orthodox backgrounds, relatively few readings in the Alexandrian Text pose any sort of obstacle to Christian orthodoxy.     
Q #7:  Did Westcott and Hort, who were responsible for a heavily Alexandrian revision of the New Testament text released in 1881, undertake that revision with a pro-Roman-Catholic, pro-evolution agenda?
A:  Hort said some things in his many letters that are the basis for valid concerns; he was rather racist; he opposed democracy; he expressed sympathy with Roman Catholicism to an extent, and he was far from conservative.  At the same time, there is not much evidence that any of that had an effect on his text-critical research.  Many elements of Hort’s approach were already expressed – before European scholars were aware of Codex Sinaiticus – by J. J. Griesbach (d. 1812) and by Granville Penn (d. 1844).  In addition, Samuel Tregelles (d. 1875), whose theological school of thought tended to be much more conservative than Hort’s, issued a multi-volume compilation of the Greek New Testament which anticipated in many respects the compilation later issued by Westcott and Hort. 
            In short, while we cannot read the minds of Westcott and Hort, it seems precarious to attribute a doctrinal agenda to their text-critical decisions when we can observe advocates of other doctrinal schools of thought making the same, or very similar, decisions.

Q#8:  Compared to the traditional text, do modern versions such as the NIV and ESV add 306 words that should not be in the New Testament text, and omit 2,987 words (including 20 verses) that should be there?
A:  This claim is based on data in E. W. Fowler’s book Evaluating Versions of the New Testament, which I do not have, so it is not easy at present to discern exactly what words the maker of the Hark Chart had in mind.  An exact and permanent account of the differences between the Textus Receptus and the critical text is not easy to obtain, because the Nestle-Aland edition of the critical text continues to undergo revision.  However, an estimate provided by Jack Moorman, a prominent promoter of the KJV, in 1988, sums up the differences:  the Nestle-Aland text is shorter than the Received Text (i.e., the Textus Receptus) by 2,886 words.  That does not mean that there are only 2,886 differences:  in many places, both the Textus Receptus and the Nestle-Aland compilation have a word, but it is not the same word.   KJV-advocate D. A. Waite offered some more detailed calculations:  using the Textus Receptus as the basis of comparison, there are 5,604 changes in the 1881 revision of Westcott & Hort, of which 1,852 are omissions, 467 are additions, and 3,185 are other changes (such as word-exchanges and transpositions). 
            Thus, there seems to be some incongruity about just how much the Textus Receptus differs from the KJV’s base-text:  Fowler apparently claimed that 2,987 words – just a little less than 3,000 – are omitted; Waite claimed that 1,852 words – fewer than 2,000 – are omitted.  Perhaps different editions of the critical text were used.   No matter which report one favors, the differences are significant.
            A key factor to consider in such statistics is the use of the Textus Receptus as the basis of comparison.  What if, instead, one used the readings favored by the majority of Greek manuscripts as the basis of comparison?  In that case, the Textus Receptus would be found to deviate from the majority-reading in over a thousand places.  (Daniel Wallace has claimed to have found 1,838 differences between the Textus Receptus and the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text; however many differences in his list (such as differences in the spelling of David’s name, which is often contracted in manuscripts) are untranslatable.  Michael Marlowe has offered a better estimate of 1,005 differences.)  
            The Hark Chart gives readers no hint that the Textus Receptus contains 1,005 readings which diverge from the Byzantine (Antiochan) Text.  Instead, it makes it looks as 100% of the Textus Receptus is allied with 5,210 manuscripts, and with the Peshitta, and with the “Old Latin and Syriac of the Originals” and with papyri from 150-400.  Such an impression is far different from what one finds in the Peshitta and the Old Latin and in the papyri when they are studied in detail; they contain many readings that diverge from the Textus Receptus.       
            In conclusion:  the Hark Chart is not an accurate depiction of the transmission of the text of the New Testament.  It is KJV-Only propaganda.

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


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Word of the Day: Apotropaic

            Word of the Day:  Apotropaic (adjective):  designed to turn away evil.
            In the days of the Roman Empire, it was not unusual for pagans to create little charms, marketed with the claim that the people who wore them would be protected from disease.  Sometimes these charms had brief inscriptions, asking one of the Greek or Roman deities for their protection.  And sometimes, such inscriptions were written on papyrus or parchment and folded and/or rolled up into a wearable form, such as a bead, necklace, or bracelet.
            Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is one, 11Q11 (produced in about A.D. 50), that features several charm-inscriptions, and a loosely adapted form of Psalm 91.  This scroll might have been a master-copy used by someone making apotropaic amulets. 
            The inspired author of Psalm 91 begins with an expression of confidence in the Lord’s protection, relying on God’s help in the face of danger:  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
            In the verses that follow, we see an appeal for divine protection:  “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence,” and “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”
            It is no wonder that hundreds of years later, many early Christians found comfort in this psalm.  At Duke University’s Special Collections Library, there is a papyrus (P. Duk. Inv. 778) that has the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) on one side, and Psalm 91 on the other side.   (I offered an analysis of the text of Matthew 6:9-20 in 2015 in this post.)  At the Israel Museum, there is a small amulet (see the “Words of Salvation” in this post) that contains just a snippet from the beginning of Psalm 91.  The Walters Art Gallery, in Baltimore, has a metal armband with an inscription based on Psalm 91:1.
            Other Scripture-passages that were used in amulets and apotropaic inscriptions included Romans 8:31b“If God is for us, who can be against us?” – and the opening verses of the Gospels.  Why the opening verses?  Perhaps there was a superstition that if an inscription just had the first part of each Gospel, that would be enough to invest the whole inscribed object with protective power.  Whatever the reasoning was, excerpts from the opening verses of one or more Gospel have been preserved in several ancient amulets, and on the walls of a crypt in Dongola in Sudan (excavated in 2009).              
            This may raise a theological question:  are such amulets and inscriptions a good thing, or a bad thing?  If danger approaches, and then retreats, will a person wearing an amulet give thanks to God, or will he say, “Whew; it’s a good thing I was wearing that amulet!”?  Will owning a plaque of Psalm 91:1 or Romans 8:31 protect you from COVID-19?  Can such an object become an idol if a believer thinks he is especially protected from harm because of it?
            My answer has two parts:  first, fellow believers facing the danger of COVID-19 should find comfort and confidence in God’s promises.  I encourage you to keep God’s promises and commandments in view, like Deuteronomy 6:9 says:  tie them to your hands and write them on the doorposts of your house.  Visible reminders of God’s promises are a blessing.
            Second, remember that when the devil tempted Jesus, the devil quoted Psalm 91 – and we ought to take that as a lesson that even good things (such as Scripture itself) can be misused for a destructive purpose.  Jesus’ answer to the devil’s temptation was to refuse to put Himself at risk when it was not the Father’s will.  Instead, He answered, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”  God’s promises were not given as a license for anyone to do things against the Father’s will, and it is not the Father’s will for us to engage in activities that involve taking needless risks – actions that are simply irresponsible, unwise, and reckless.  Our God, who gave promises to His people, works through His people to fulfill many of His promises.  When we act responsibly, patiently, soberly, and in obedience to God, we are God’s co-workers doing our part to fulfill His purposes and plans. 
            God does not want His people to imagine that a virus is greater than Him.  Nor does God want His people, if they face a temptation to needlessly put themselves in harm’s way, to say, “Fine, Satan, I’ll jump off the temple; Geronimo!”  We ought to use wisdom and caution – which, in the present situation, for most of us means staying at least six feet away from other people, avoiding crowds, and frequently, thoroughly washing our hands.  
            And when danger has passed, give no thanks to amulets and inscriptions that human hands have made.  Give thanks to God for the gifts He has given – greatest of which is eternal life through His Son, who gives us peace that, unlike viruses, will not pass away. 

            For more information about New Testament materials in amulet-form, see this research by Deniz Sever and this article by Joseph Sanzo.  

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.  And wash your hands!