Friday, May 22, 2020

Video Lecture: Early Versions of the New Testament

Lecture 4:  Early Versions of the NT
The lecture-series Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism continues at YouTube:

Lecture 04: Early Versions of the New Testament

(20 minutes) With captions!

An outline:

Alexander Souter: “The history of the New Testament text cannot be understood without a knowledge of the history of the church.”

          Part of that history is the history of the early translations of the New Testament text.  Today we are taking a closer look at some of the early versions of the New Testament – especially early translations of the Gospels. 

This involves mainly the study of early translations into Latin, Coptic, and Syriac, but there are other important versions of the New Testament too.

The Old Latin, also called the Vetus Latine:

          Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs (180) - A transcript of a trial during a persecution in Carthageduring the trial:

          Saturninus the governor:   “What sort of things do you have in that case of yours?”

          Speratus (Christian):  “Books and letters of Paul, a righteous man.”

The Old Latin” might be a misleading term.

Different Latin transmission-lines:      African, European, Italian, & Spanish.       

Do they go back to one Latin text?    Or to one Greek text?              

Mark 9:15 – gaudentes, “rejoicing” instead of “running”  

Two Christian writers around the late 300s and early 400s – Jerome and Augustine – said that there were many Latin versions, with a range of quality.

Once-used Greek words – translated the same way?

The earliest Latin Gospels-text tends to be “Western.”    

Text types –

Western:  tweaked to increase clarity in a particular way, like the text of the Gospels and Acts in Codex Bezae.

Byzantine:  agreeing with the text that was in dominant use in the vicinity of Byzantium (Constantinople).

Alexandrianagreeing with the text of Codex Vaticanus (and allies).

Caesarean (Gospels):  agreeing with the text of family-1

In witnesses with a Western form of the text, the Gospels often appear in this order:      Mt – Jn – Lk – Mk.

Vulgate:  Gospels:  by Jerome.               

        Gregory the Great (590 to 604):  still the “new” version.          

But it’s not as if we can pick up any Vulgate manuscript and expect to see every reading that Jerome adopted. Some Old Latin readings were mixed into Vulgate texts.

There were later revisions:   Alcuin.  Theodulf. Others.

The representation of Old Latin witnesses: 

Old identification-method: witnesses are represented by lower case letters, by lower case letters with superscripted numerals, and by short abbreviations.

New identification-method: Beuron numbers, so-called because this method was developed by members of the Vetus Latina Institut in Europe.

Gospels manuscripts have numbers 1-49;    Acts/Catholics/Revelation are 50-74;

Pauline Epistles are 75-99.

A lot of Old Latin witnesses are only partly Old Latin, side-by-side with Vulgate texts. 

Production-dates don’t always mean anything.

Coptic:  different transmission-lines in different dialects.

SahidicBarcelona codices. –                

Alexandrian Gospels    

Sahidic version in Acts 27:37 – agrees w/B. 

(Suggests a close relationship.)          

Codex T:  “diglot” – Sahidic and Greek side by side.               

The Western text was also in Egypt:

          G67:  Acts in “Middle Egyptian.”

Middle Egyptian:  basically three manuscripts:

          G67, Codex Schoyen 2650 (Matthew), and the Schiede Codex (Matthew)

Lycopolitan:  the Qua Codex (300s).

Proto-Bohairic:  Papyrus Bodmer III (300s).   Includes the Gospel of John.  Alexandrian. 

          Strange treatment of sacred names in John 1:1 & 1:18.

BohairicHuntington MS 17 (from 1174)

Achmimic: incomplete.  Mt, Lk,  Jn, Romans, Gal., James, Jude.

Fayyumic:  fragmentary

Syriac:  different transmission-lines.

          Tatian’s Diatessaron. In Syria, this appears to have been the dominant Gospels-based text until the Peshitta emerged (late 300s?).  The Diatessaron did not have the

genealogies. But Aphrahat apparently has something else, with genealogies.

Old Syriac:  Sinaitic Syriac.  Curetonian Syriac.  Codex at St. Catherine’s, Syriac 37.

Peshitta:  usually agrees with the Byzantine Text.

         Not included:  Second Peter, Second John, Third John, Jude, and Revelation.

Peshitta MSS of special interest:                 

Codex Phillips 1388               

        B.L. Add MS 14470               

        Rabbula Gospels           

Philoxenian – includes the books not in the Peshitta

Harklean Syriac:    Echoes an ancient Greek text in the General

Epistles.      Extremely literal. Finished in 616 – using ancient MSS near Alexandria.

Has its own limited apparatus in the margin.

Palestinian Aramaic – mainly extant in lectionaries. Has the story of the adulteress at the end of John.

Other Versions:

Gothic:  mid-300s. 

Main witness:  Codex Argenteus.  Wulfilas – an Arian.  Was he an Arian when he did the translation-work?  We don’t know.

Armenian and Georgian

         Armenia:  first Christian nation (early 300s)         

         Mesrop:  made the Armenian alphabet, and translated the Bible.

         Thought to have a basis in a Syriac text.  (Maybe some Diatessaron influence?)

         First edition – finished c. 411.

Revision – 430s.  Based on a Greek codex from Constantinople.

800s and 900s = Old for Armenian.           

Late revisions (esp. in Cilician Armenia) toward the Byz. Text (Nerses of Lambron) and toward the Vulgate (1100/1200s).

There are different kinds of script used for writing Armenian:

          erkat’agir = iron letters (because of the ink?) – has a better chance of not

being a medieval revision.
          bolorgir = rounder and smaller

          notrgir = cursive (later)

         shghagir = modern slanted cursive

The older an Armenian Gospels MS is, the more likely it appears to be based on a text that was like the text of f1.             

The same is true of Old Georgian Gospels-MSS’ textual character.

Georgian:  translated from Armenian. But some Georgian witnesses are older than most  Armenian witnesses.

         Oldest substantial Gospels-MS: Adysh MS:  897 A.D.

         The Old Georgian is an echo of an echo, but the voice is old.

         The Old Georgian also goes back to the 400s.

         George of Athos:  early 1000s – revision of the Gospels in     Georgian.  His revision made the Georgian text more Byzantine.

         Revelation may have a different kind of base-text than the rest.

Armenian and Georgian copyists went all over the place – Egypt, Jerusalem, etc.

Some quirk-readings may have been acquired from a particular locale.

Ethiopic (Ge’ez)

                   Christianity in Ethiopia:          

                   Beta Samati site – church in the early 300s.

                   Chrysostom (380s) – mentioned that the Gospel of John had been translated into Ethiopic.

                   Consistently translated from Greek.

Garima Gospels:  produced in the 500s.  And it’s fancy.

Most Ethiopic MSS:  1300s or later.           

          Tends to match up with the Peshitta – mainly Byzantine.         

          Does not have the PA.

          There are over 500 Ethiopic NT MSS.

          John seems less Byzantine.


          First layer:  600s or even earlier.

         Najran, in southern Arabia:  a Christian center in the 400s.

Base-texts of Arabic versions echo families of texts.

Some families echo the Peshitta, but at least two echo Greek texts.

0136/0137 – Greek-Arabic diglot (frag., Mt)

Sinai Arabic MSS 8 and 28 = Codex Sinaiticus Arabicus (CSA)

Families A and C echo Greek texts (more than 70% Byzantine).

Family B in Lk. 16:19:  the rich man's name:  Nineveh (comp. Sahidic and P75)

Old Church Slavonic - 800s. 

Glagolithic alphabet, and Cyrillic alphabet.

Nubian - A Christmastime lectionary and assorted inscriptions.         

Caucasian Albanian - New Finds (1975) at Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Takeaway #1:       

Early versions can be extremely valuable to track the scope of readings and groups of readings. 

Q:  What was the early range of rival readings?

Takeaway #2:

Early versions shouldn’t be asked to do things that they can’t do.  Sometimes, articles are not transferable.  Sometimes word-order cannot be expected to reflect the Greek word-order.  Some languages don’t have exact parallels for the nuances of Greek.

Takeaway #3:

Early versions should be considered with an awareness of stages in their histories. 

Early versions’ testimonies should generally be boiled down to reflect the history of the text of the version, keeping in mind when and where the versional text was revised, in cases where this can be observed.

Takeaway #4:

Instead of thinking of the versions uniformly as “Versions “of the New Testament,”      early versions should generally be separated into Gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, General Epistles, and Revelation.



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