Saturday, June 27, 2020

The CBGM: Critically Biased?

Our guest today is Dr. Stephen Carlson of Australian Catholic University.  He is perhaps best-known to some readers due to his 2012 dissertation (at Duke University) that featured a very detailed compilation of the book of Galatians.   Dr. Carlson, thank you for joining us.

SCC: Thank you, Jim, for your interest.

JSJ:  You wrote a recent article that appeared in the Journal of Biblical Literature with a provocative title:  “A Bias at the Heart of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method.”  Before we get to the article’s substance, could you briefly explain the claims that advocates of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method have made about it?  What is the CBGM supposed to provide that we did not have before, and how?

SCC: The basic claim of the advocates of the CGBM is that they have a “more rigorous” way to evaluate external evidence in the textual criticism of the New Testament. External evidence, your readers may recall, is the weight we put on a particular variant reading due to the manuscripts that record it. Prior to the CBGM, the usual way to deal with external evidence is to sort them into text types like Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine, and then evaluate the external evidence based on how well the text types support a particular variant reading. And the CBGM folks are right that his approach is not sufficiently rigorous. Indeed, a big problem with this traditional approach is contamination, where a manuscript may obtain its readings from multiple sources. This makes it difficult to define the various text types (the rise and fall of the “Caesarean” text type in Mark is a good case in point) and hard to assign some manuscript to a particular type when it has the characteristic readings of more than one text type. In essence, the CBGM proposes to be more rigorous than this by eschewing text types altogether and looking at relations between “potential ancestors” of various manuscripts. In my article, I argue that the way that potential ancestors are identified and even defined is fundamentally flawed and we should look for other ways for evaluating the external evidence.

JSJ:  The CBGM has a reputation for being complex and inaccessible.  But in your recent article, you state that you have been able to implement its algorithms, and that as a result, you noticed a problem.  Would it be accurate to say that you detected a built-in bias in the “genealogical coherence” aspect of the C.B.G.M. as it currently exists?  

SCC: Yes, I detected a bias in how they identify genealogical coherence. In the CBGM genealogical coherence comes from manuscripts having a common, extant “potential ancestor” in their textual flows, and potential ancestors are identified on how much they differ from the initial text. But distance from the initial text is not a valid genealogical criterion and it can be misled by genealogically irrelevant data. As a result, the CBGM is biased against bad copies of earlier texts and in favor of good copies of later texts. Bias is a problem of course because it distorts our ability to evaluate the external evidence and it gives more weight to certain manuscripts (or less weight to others) than we would if we knew the actual history of the text. The worst that can happen is that the CBGM would give apparently strong support to a late, non-initial reading, especially where the internal evidence is not decisive enough to countermand the misleading impression of the CBGM.

JSJ:  Generally, it’s understandable to assume parsimony, but random things sometimes happen that affect the text, such as having the same scribal accident occasionally occur independently in different transmission-streams.  How are these things handled?  How many “accidental agreements” have to occur before one says, “These agreements are not accidental”?  Or to put it another way:  could you explain the concept of coherence and non-coherence?

SCC: Accidental coincidence is a major problem. In fact, I think it is the most underappreciated problem among New Testament textual critics (who tend to be more worried about contamination). The CBGM does have an approach to accidental coincidence, which its proponents tend to call “multiple emergence.” Basically, you look at all the manuscripts attesting a particular reading and sort them to groups, so that each group is coherent (that is, having a textual flow that goes through a common, potential ancestor). When the manuscripts are not coherent, they’ll be in their own group. If you have multiple groups of such manuscripts, then you have multiple emergence of the variant. Of course, if the CBGM is not able to identify correctly that a group of manuscripts attesting the same reading is actually coherent because of some bias, then the CBGM will wrongly subdivide them into several groups and suggest that some readings are coincidental when they are in fact not.

JSJ:  Here’s a diagram [resembling Figure 4 in your article] reconstructing a simple transmission-stream.  In your article the flow is from left to right; here, it is from top to bottom, waterfall-style.  Can you tell us what this diagram is saying, and what is wrong with this picture?

SCC: This diagram is a simple stemma of a hypothetical history textual transmission. The story here begins at the top with A, the initial text. Two copies, B and X, are made of it, and B has one error, while X has two. (This is represented in the diagram with a length between A and X being twice the length of the branch between A and B.) Likewise, two copies, C and Y, are made of X, with C being more error prone than Y. Similarly, two copies of made of Y, E and D, with D more error prone than E. If we lose A, X, and Y, can we reconstruct the true history of the text based on B, C, D, and E?
            It turns out that if we assume no contamination or coincidences, we can reconstruct the history on the traditional “common-error” principle, but under the same assumptions we cannot under the CBGM. The reason that the CBGM cannot reconstruct the true history of the text under these very ideal condition is that it has a bias that makes accidental coincidences between B and E look coherent when they are not. And it suggests that the variants that B and E carry are better than the ones carried by C and D. For 1 John, these relations actually hold if you translate B to the fourth-century 03 (B/Vaticanus), C to the fourth-century 01 (ℵ/Sinaiticus), D to the fifth-century 02 (A/Alexandrinus), and E to the tenth-century 1739 (but a very good copy of a much earlier text). So this simple stemma does not point to a merely theoretical problem but an actual one in the transmission of 1 John.

JSJ:  How realistic is it, in your opinion, to use real-life manuscripts’ texts as proxies for potential ancestors of other manuscripts’ text?   Especially considering that we have a relatively small representation of surviving manuscripts, and also considering that no versional evidence and no patristic evidence is used in the  CBGM?

SCC: It’s only realistic within the Byzantine text and only if we look at a lot of them. Otherwise, it’s not realistic at all. Outside of the Byzantine text, the manuscripts are too few and too divergent from each other to be good proxies for potential ancestors. Due to the bias at the heart of the CBGM, the extent of these divergences are enough to make many of them appear to be potential descendants of more carefully copied text, when they are in fact cousins to varying degrees. Indeed the big problem with the potential ancestor notion in the CBGM is that it assumes that all relations between manuscripts can be characterized in terms of ancestors and descendants, instead of siblings and cousins, which is vastly more common on the historical record we actually possess. As for versional and patristic evidence, the CBGM does not even look at them, and even if they did, they may be so incomplete that it could yield nonsensical results (imagine if an Old Latin manuscript is a potential ancestor of a Greek one?).

JSJ:  Toward the end of your article, you pointed out that the CBGM gives an unjustifiable level of weight to a combination of witnesses – a combination that includes 1739 – in First John 1:7, where δε is not included in the text of Nestle-Aland 28 even though its support is both ancient and vast.  Again:  what’s wrong with this picture?

This is the bias in action. The CBGM really likes 1739 due to its relatively short distance to the initial text. This means that every reading it has—including its singular readings—is potentially the initial reading even when every earlier text disagrees with it. This means that the critic has to establish the text based solely on internal evidence, which is notoriously difficult in cases involving “particles and articles” that don’t really affect the propositional meaning or translation of the text. In the past, textual critics didn’t think this external evidence was good enough to warrant serious consideration; with the CBGM now they apparently do. I can only hope that our ability to evaluate the internal evidence for more substantive variant readings is good enough to overcome the CBGM’s bias.

JSJ:  Let’s look at another textual variant that was adopted in Nestle-Aland 28:  the Byzantine reading Πρεσβυτέρους τους at the beginning of First Peter 5:1.  Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, P72 and 2412 read Πρεσβυτέρους οὖν, Sinaiticus, Y, 623, and 1611 read Πρεσβυτέρους οὐν τους, and 1505 simply supports Πρεσβυτέρους.  I can see how internal arguments could lead to the adoption of τους, but how does the CBGM get there?  And how can one tell when the CBGM has had a decisive role in decision-making in NA28, and when it was not a factor?

SCC: This variation unit is one of those where the editors of the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) changed their mind. In the first edition of the ECM for 1 Peter in 2000, they went with Πρεσβυτέρους οὖν with 03 (B, Vaticanus); but in the second edition of the ECM in 2013, they went with Πρεσβυτέρους τοὺς with 1739 instead. Now, 03 and 1739 are the two closest manuscripts to the initial text for the CBGM, so their readings are always going to look good for the CBGM, particularly when the Byzantine text agrees with them. Moreover, all the variants are coherent, so there is little guidance on that front. Apparently, what happened is that that the editors changed their mind on the internal evidence between the two editions. Why they did so is unclear, and I cannot find any documentation or commentary on this variant. The only clue I have are the local genealogies published on Muenster’s institute’s website ( ), and they differ between the two editions. In any case, the external evidence is effectively neutralized here under the CBGM and plays no important role.

JSJ:  Do you think that the recent decision to adopt μέρει in First Peter 4:16 was made primarily due to a rethinking of internal considerations, and the CBGM was simply along for the ride?  Mink’s argument (see p. 72 of Wasserman & Gurry’s New Approach) sure sounds like it was driven by internal evidence.

SCC:  This variant gets a bit outside the scope of my paper but it shows a different way that the bias at the heart of the CBGM can pop up, but it takes some explaining. There are two readings in 1 Pet 4:16. The older reading of the NA27 is “in this name” (ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ) and is supported by an all-star cast of P72, 01 (ℵ/Sinaiticus), 02 (A/Alexandrinus), 03 (B/Vaticanus), 044 (Ψ), 33, 81, 1611, 1739, Old Latins, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Gothic, Ethiopian, and Cyril. The testimony of the earliest and most widespread witnesses is unanimously in favor of “in this name.” And it makes good sense in light of our knowledge of the earliest persecutions against Christians. The newer reading in the NA28 is “in this respect” (ἐν τῷ μέρει τούτῳ) is entirely Byzantine (049, P, 104, 180, etc.).
            It is important to note that the Byzantine text is not monolithically in favor of the second reading: there are also quite a few Byzantine manuscripts that have the “in this name” reading. In my research, this is the result of contamination, because I have ways of connecting the Byzantine manuscripts with this reading to older, non-Byzantine texts, but the bias of the CBGM can’t find this contamination because its potential ancestor formula is flawed. In fact, it gets the source relationships backwards, and is unable to recognize the actual sources of the contamination. As a result, the user of the CBGM is misled into thinking that going from “in this respect” to “in this name” is a common, independent change, when in fact the opposite was actually more common, to correct an older manuscript with “in this name” to “in this respect” in conformance with the more common, contemporary Byzantine reading. As a result, I strongly suspect that the CBGM results in this case have colored the editors’ reassessment of the internal evidence, causing them to favor a different sense of the transcriptional probabilities than their predecessors. For a good internal analysis on the merits of the previous NA27 reading (“in this name”) see Jarrett Knight’s article in JBL last year.

JSJ:  I’ve gotten the impression that the more rival readings there are in a particular variant-unit, the less useful the CBGM becomes – downright chaotic – and the more unstable the Nestle-Aland compilation is likely to become at those points.  Have you gotten this impression, and if so, why does this seem to be the case?

SCC: There is a big issue over the size and scope of variation units that is largely ignored in our discussions to date, so there isn’t much to go on. I suspect that, as in the case of 1 Pet 5:1, when all the variants are coherent (which seems to be easier to happen when there are more of them), then the CBGM does not have much to offer the textual critic for decision. But I’ll need to look at a lot more of them to be more confident.

JSJ:  When I look at things like the diagram of the textual flow for Second Peter 3:10 (on page 76 of Wasserman & Gurry’s A New Approach to Textual Criticism, about the CBGM), it looks like the CBGM began by building a line of descent for each set of rival variants in a specific variation-unit, and somewhere along the line its focus shifted, from being about relationships of readings, to something more concrete, involving relationships of manuscripts (or, manuscripts’ texts).  (See the diagrams on pages 89-91, and then, on p. 105, “The global stemma for the Harklean Group in the Catholic Letters.)  I still don’t quite grasp how that was done – how the global stemma was made without simply ignoring some of the data.  Could you explain that in a little more detail? 

SCC:  The key thing to know about the global stemma is that, aside from a few toy examples, it was never published or used to edit the text in the ECM. I spent a lot of time trying to understand it and how it relates to the textual flows, only to learn that it is still under development and irrelevant to the text of the NA28. I recommend ignoring it until it is actually implemented because it is still under development and who knows how it can change. All I can say is that the portion of the global stemma published in Wasserman & Gurry defies easy historical interpretation.

JSJ:  Are there any other reasons to approach the CBGM with caution?

SCC: Let me enumerate some of them.
(1) In addition to its bias, we mentioned that the CBGM does not take into account versional and patristic evidence, an important set of evidence for the early periods of the text.
(2) The behavior of the “connectivity parameter,” which we have not discussed, seems to be affected by the sampling bias, so the number would have to be different in the well-sampled Byzantine text than outside of it, but the CBGM has no provision for this.
(3) Another issue is that the method may be too beholden to what the editors think is the initial text. For the ECM/NA28, the editors started with a subset of the NA27 for all intents and purposes, but what if they started with the Byzantine or Codex Bezae? At this point, it’s an open question.
(4) Further, I suspect that the CBGM is not even finding contamination correctly (see above for 1 Pet 4:16), but that is something under active research and a matter for a different time.
(5) Finally, the major problem I have with the ECM and the NA28 is that the editors have not adequately explained their reasoning in all the places where they changed the text. This is particularly important because the CBGM’s problems mean that the external evidence will appear less decisive than it used to and put a lot more pressure on getting the internal arguments right. Yet, when the internal arguments are not documented, it forces people to assume it was the CBGM that caused the change when it could have been something else. Fortunately, the decisions leading to the Acts is better documented that the Catholics, but even then I still want something even more thorough.

JSJ:  Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

SCC: You’re welcome. I hope my explanations are helpful to your readers.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Video Lecture: How To Use the Nestle-Aland Apparatus

            Now on YouTube:  the seventh lecture in the series Introduction to NT Textual Criticism!  In this 23-minute lecture, I discuss the textual apparatus in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament, and explain many of the symbols and features found therein.

(At around the 5:43 mark, the slide that refers to letters should refer instead to numbers.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Video Lecture 06: Some Important Manuscripts

Now at YouTube:

Lecture 06 - Some Important Manuscripts - in the series Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. (24 minutes, but viewers are expected to explore the links and thus take longer)

Subtitles provide a basic outline and links to supplemental materials.

An excerpt:

            We are about to meet some manuscripts.  Some of these, you might encounter very often in the apparatus of the Greek New Testament.  Others are relatively small, but they are among the earliest witnesses to the readings they support.  

            In the course of this lecture, I will mention links to supplemental materials as we go. I hope that you will pause this video when a link appears, explore each resource, and then return to the lecture.   These resources include images of manuscripts that can be viewed in fine detail.

            Today I am going to refer to the Alexandrian Text, the Western Text, and the Byzantine Text.  Hopefully in a future lecture I will go into more detail about these terms.  For now, you can generally picture them as three forms of the text:  the Alexandrian Text was used in Egypt, and influenced the Sahidic version there.  The Western Text was used mainly but not exclusively in the Western part of the Roman Empire, and influenced the Old Latin text.  The Byzantine Text  was used in the vicinity of Constantinople, and is generally supported by the majority of Greek manuscripts.

 ● We begin with Papyrus 52.  This is perhaps the oldest manuscript that contains text from the New Testament.  It is small, about the size of a playing card.  It contains text from John 18:31-33 on one side, and on the other side it contains text from John 18:37-38.  Which is not a lot of text.  It was brought to light by Colin H. Roberts in 1935.  

The importance of Papyrus 52, which is at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, is its age:  it is probably from about the first half of the 100s.   There is a nice description of Papyrus 52 (and other papyri fragments) by Robert Waltz at the Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism. In addition, Dirk Jongkind has a brief video about P52 on YouTube. 

Papyrus 104 is another early papyrus fragment that is a top contender for the title “earliest New Testament manuscript.”  It was excavated at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt by Grenfell and Hunt, and was brought to light in 1997 by J. D. Thomas.  If Papyrus 52 is the earliest manuscript of John, Papyrus 104 is the earliest manuscript of Matthew.  The handwriting used for P104 was executed in a fancier style than what is seen in most other manuscripts; similar handwriting appears in some non-Biblical manuscripts excavated at Oxyrhynchus, including one in which a specific date, from the year 204 or 211, has survived. 

            Papyrus 104 contains text from Matthew 21:34-37 on one side.  The text on the other side is very extremely badly damaged.  But the surviving damaged text there probably contains text from Matthew 21:43 and 45.  This would mean that Papyrus 104 is both the earliest manuscript of Matthew 21 and also the earliest witness for the non-inclusion of Matthew 21:44. 

            Greg Lanier’s detailed analysis of Papyrus 104 can be found online in Volume 21 of the TC-Journal, for 2016.

Papyrus 23 is a fragment of the Epistle of James, probably made in the early 200s.  It contains text from part of James chapter 1. 

            You can get a very good look at Papyrus 23 by visiting the website of its present home, the Spurlock Museum in Urbana, Illinois.

 Papyrus 137 received some fame, before its official publication, by being heralded as if it was from the first century; it was called “First Century Mark.”  It turned out to be not from the first century.  However, this manuscript – a very small fragment containing text from Mark 1:7-9 and Mark 1:16-18 – is the oldest copy of the text it preserves.  Like several other early fragments, it has made no impact on the compilation of the text of the New Testament.

Papyrus 45 is much more substantial – but it is still very fragmentary.  When it was made in the first half of the 200s, Papyrus 45 contained the four Gospels and Acts.  The order of books, when the manuscript was made, is unknown.  Its surviving pages at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin contain text from Matthew 20 and 21,  Mark 4-9, Mark 11-12, Luke 6-7, Luke 9-14, John 4-5, John 10-11, and Acts 4-17.  A leaf in Vienna contains text from Matthew 25-26.  This is the earliest known manuscript that contains text from all four Gospels.

            Papyrus 45 has several readings that are especially interesting due to the impact they have on Hort’s Theory of the Lucianic Recension.  Hopefully we will take a closer look at this in a future lecture, but for now, we can just sum it up as the theory that the Byzantine Text – the text in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts – originated as the result of an editorial effort by someone in the late 200s – possibly Lucian of Antioch – who was combining readings from two earlier forms of the text:  the Alexandrian Text, and the Western Text.  Based on this theory, Hort rejected readings in the Byzantine Text that were neither Alexandrian nor Western, reckoning that they did not exist before the Byzantine Text was made.

But in Papyrus 45, which is assigned to the early 200s, there are some readings that are not supported by the flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text or the Western Text.  Readings in Mark 7:35, Acts 15:40, and many other passages show that it is hazardous to assume that non-Alexandrian, non-Western readings should be rejected.

             The text of Papyrus 45 does not agree particularly strongly with Codex Vaticanus, and it does not agree particularly strongly with Codex Bezae either.  In the parts of Mark where Papyrus 45 is extant, its closest textual relative is Codex W – but Codex W’s text in those parts of Mark is not particularly Alexandrian or Western either.

            When Papyrus 45 was first studied, after it was brought to light in the 1930s, there was a tendency to call its text Caesarean, like the text of family-1.  But the late Larry Hurtado showed that whatever Papyrus 45’s text is, it is not closely related to the Caesarean Text.  And while it repeatedly agrees with the Byzantine Text, it is not consistently Byzantine either.

Papyrus 46 is the earliest substantial copy of most of the Epistles of Paul, basically arranged in order according to their length, with Hebrews between Romans and First Corinthians.  There is some uncertainty about how many epistles the copyist intended to include in the codex.  Part of this manuscript is at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, and part of it is at the University of Michigan.  Its most likely production-date is around 200, give or take 50 years.  The text of Papyrus 46 tends to agree with Codex Vaticanus, but not as strictly as one might expect. For example, in Ephesians 5:9, Papyrus 46 agrees with the Byzantine Text, reading “the fruit of the Spirit” instead of “the fruit of the light.”

Papyrus 66 contains most of the Gospel of John, with some gaps due to incidental damage.  It was found in Egypt in the early 1950s, and was published in 1956.  Its production-date was initially assigned to around 200, but a wider range is possible.  The copyist who wrote the text in Papyrus 66 made over 400 corrections of what he had initially written. 

Papyrus 75 is also assigned to around 200.  It is a damaged but substantial codex that contains text from Luke and John.  Its surviving text of Luke begins in chapter 3; its surviving text of John ends in chapter 15.  The text of Papyrus 75 is close to the text found in Codex Vaticanus, but the two manuscripts are not related in a grandfather-and-grandson kind of relationship.  Page-views of Papyrus 75 can be found online at the website of the Vatican Library.

Each of the next three manuscripts was designed as a pandect, that is, a large one-volume collection of the entire Bible.  We tend to assume that it is not unusual to have a single volume that contains all of the books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  But that is because we are part of a post-printing-press generation.   In the world of manuscripts, Greek pandects of the Bible are rare.

● Codex Vaticanus is a very important manuscript of the Bible, housed, along with many other manuscripts, at the Vatican Library in Rome.  Its New Testament portion was not the subject of scholarly study until the early 1800s, and since then its reputation has grown.  Today it is generally regarded as the most important manuscript of the New Testament.

 Textually, Codex Vaticanus is the paramount representative of the Alexandrian Text.

Vaticanus was produced in the early 300s.  Its text, in the New Testament, is formatted in three columns per page.  This is usually its format in the Old Testament books too, although in the books of poetry the format is two columns per page.  Codex Vaticanus does not contain the entire New Testament; it has no text from First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, or the book of Revelation; a text of Revelation is in the codex, written in minuscule lettering, but it is not really the same codex. 

Vaticanus also does not contain the text of the book of Hebrews after Hebrews 9:14.     

            The lettering in Codex Vaticanus has been extensively reinforced; that is, someone, long after the codex was made, traced over the lettering, except where, rightly or wrongly, he thought that the text was inaccurate.  The exact date when this was done is a matter of debate.  I suspect that Codex Vaticanus, before it ended up at the Vatican Library, was previously in the hands of an important character in the 1400s named Bessarion, and scribes working for Bessarion may have been responsible for sprucing it up a bit.  This did not materially affect its text.

The entire manuscript can be viewed page by page at the website of the Vatican Library.

● Codex Sinaiticus is the wingman of Codex Vaticanus.  Its text is not as good, but it is more complete.  The New Testament text of Codex Sinaiticus has survived in more or less the same form in which it left its scriptorium in the mid-300s.  “More or less,” that is, because a few centuries after its production, someone attempted to adjust many of its readings, but those attempts can be detected.  In addition to containing the text of every book of the New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus also contains the Epistle of Barnabas and part of the Shepherd of Hermas.

Most of the text of Codex Sinaiticus is Alexandrian.  However, in the first eight chapters of John, more or less, its text tends to be more like the Western Text.  It is as if the copyists were working from an exemplar of the Gospels that was Alexandrian, but in these opening chapters of John, their main exemplar was damaged, and so they used a drastically different exemplar as their back-up.

That would be consistent with a historical scenario that is mentioned by Jerome, who states that Acacius and Euzoius, at Caesarea in the mid-300s, labored to replace texts written on decaying papyrus in the library there with more durable parchment copies.  Whereas Codex Vaticanus does not have the Eusebian Section-numbers in its margins in the Gospels, Codex Sinaiticus does – but in a somewhat mangled form. 

            This indicates that Eusebius of Caesarea was not involved in the production of Codex Sinaiticus, because it is extremely unlikely that he would have allowed his own cross-reference system to be presented so carelessly.  At the same time, as the place where Eusebius was bishop until his death, Caesarea was one of the first places where the Eusebian Canons were used.

In addition, there are several clues embedded in the text of Codex Sinaiticus that suggest that it was made at Caesarea, during the time when Acacius, an Arian, was bishop there.  I think it is very probable that this is when and where it was made.

Details about the origin of Codex Sinaiticus, and the quality of its text, have tended to be overshadowed by stories about its discovery in the 1800s by Constantine Tischendorf at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.  In this lecture I will not go into detail about all that, except to say, first, that the most generous interpretation of Tischendorf’s account of his first encounter with pages from Codex Sinaiticus is that he did not understand what he was being shown and what he was being told, and, second, all of the pages that Tischendorf took should be returned to the monastery from which they came.   

Codex Sinaiticus has a secondary set of section-numbers in its margin in Acts that is, for the most part, shared by Codex Vaticanus.  This indicates that when these numbers were added, probably in the 600s, these two manuscripts were at the same place.

Codex Sinaiticus has its own website, , and there one can find not only good photographs of the manuscript but also some interesting information about its background and how it was made.

● Next is Codex Alexandrinus.  This codex, from the early 400s, has undergone significant damage:  it is missing the first 24 chapters of Matthew.  The surviving Gospels-text of Alexandrinus is particularly important because it tends to support the Byzantine Text, unlike Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  In Acts and the Epistles, its text agrees much more often with the two flagship Alexandrian codices, but this is a tendency, definitely not a two-peas-in-a-pod level of agreement.  For Revelation, Codex A is the best manuscript we have. The entire New Testament portion of Codex Alexandrinus can be viewed page by page at the British Library’s website.     

● The worst Greek manuscript we have is Codex Bezae, a diglot manuscript, with alternating pages in Latin, which was produced in the 400s.  It has undergone some damage, but it still contains most of the four Gospels, in the order Matthew – John – Luke – Mark, part of Third John in Latin, and most of the book of Acts.

More important than its production-date is the date of the readings that it supports:  many of them are supported by Old Latin witnesses, and by early patristic writers who used what is called the Western Text. 

 The high level of textual corruption in Codex Bezae makes the text found in relatively young manuscripts look excellent in comparison.  Codex D’s text demonstrates that what really matters is not the age of a manuscript, as much as how well the copyists in the transmission-line of a manuscript did their job. 

Once one comes to terms with the awful quality of Codex Bezae’s text, though, many of its readings are awfully interesting.  It echoes a time in the text’s history when copyists prioritized conveying the meaning of the text – or what they thought was its meaning – above the form of the text found in their exemplars.

 Codex Bezae can be viewed online page by page at the University of Cambridge’s Digital Library.

● Also from the 400s, and probably earlier than Codex Bezae, is Codex Washingtonianus.  Codex W was acquired by the American businessman Charles Freer in 1906.  It is the most important Greek Gospels-manuscript in the United States.  Part of what makes Codex W important is not only its age, but its attestation to different forms of the text collected in a single volume:  its text in Matthew is strongly Byzantine.  Its text in Mark 1:1 to Mark 1-5 is similar to Western Text.  Its text in the rest of Mark tends to agree with the surviving text of Papyrus 45, at least in the parts where P45 is extant.   In Luke, up to chapter 8, its text is Alexandrian, but the rest of Luke tends to agree with the Byzantine Text.  In the first four chapters of John, Codex W has supplemental pages, copied from a different exemplar than the rest.  In the rest of John, it tends to agree with the Alexandrian Text.

This has led some researchers to suspect that although most of Codex W appears to have been made in the 400s, it may be a copy of an earlier codex that was based on exemplars that had been partly destroyed in the Diocletian persecution, in the very early 300s, just before Codex Vaticanus was made.  Page-views of Codex W can be accessed at the website of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Codex Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus, also known as Codex C, is a palimpsest.  Its surviving pages contain text from almost every book of the New Testament, as well as pages from some of the books of Poetry in the Old Testament, and two apocryphal books.  It was made some time in the 400s.  Its text is somewhat Alexandrian, with significant Byzantine mixture.  It is one of the few Greek manuscripts that support the reading “six hundred and sixteen” as the number of the beast in Revelation 13:18.

The parchment of Codex C was recycled to provide material on which some of the works of Ephraem the Syrian were written; this accounts for the name of the manuscript.  Its Biblical text was established in the 1840s, after much effort, by Constantine Tischendorf, the same individual who brought Codex Sinaiticus to the attention of European scholars.   The text has undergone extensive correction.

0176 is a fragment, probably produced in the 400s, that contains text from Galatians 3:16-24.  This manuscript was excavated from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, which is somewhat intriguing, because the text of this fragment is thoroughly Byzantine, not Alexandrian.

● The Purple Triplets is my pet name for three uncial manuscripts from the mid-500s:  Codex N, Codex O, and Codex Σ.      Codex N is also known as 022, Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus.  Codex O is also known as 023, Codex Sinopensis.  It contains text from the Gospel of Matthew.  And Codex Σ is also known as 042, Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, or the Rossano Gospels.  It contains text from Matthew and Mark.

            These are not the only Greek uncial manuscripts written on purple parchment.  What is especially interesting about these three is that they are related to each other like siblings, copies of the same master-copy.  Codex Σ is known not only for its mainly Byzantine text, but also for its illustrations, which can be viewed at .

Codex Regius, also known as Codex L, contains most of the text of the four Gospels.  It was probably made in the 700s, probably by an Egyptian copyist.  Codex L is one of six Greek manuscripts that attest to both the Shorter Ending and the Longer Ending of Mark.  Codex L also has a large distinct blank space in the Gospel of John where most manuscripts have John 7:53-8:11, the story of the adulteress.    

Codex Pi, also known as Codex Petropolitanus, is a Gospels-manuscript assigned to the 800s.  Its text is a very early form of the Byzantine Text.

Codex K, also known as Codex Cyprius, is another Gospels-manuscript that was also probably produced in the 800s.  In the first 20 verses of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, compared to the text in Codex Sinaiticus, the text of Codex Cyprius is much closer to the original text.

Minuscule 2474, the Elfleda Bond Goodspeed Gospels, from the 900s, contains an example of the text of the Gospels that dominated Greek manuscript-production in the Byzantine Empire.  This manuscript can be viewed page by page at the website of the Goodspeed Manuscript Library of the University of Chicago.

            There are also several clusters, or groups, of manuscripts, that share readings that indicate that they share the same general line of descent: 

            In the Gospels, the text of some members of a group of manuscripts that display a note called the Jerusalem Colophon is above average importance.

            Readings shared by the main members of Family 1 in the Gospels, best represented by minuscule manuscripts 1, 1582, and 2193, probably echo an ancestor-manuscript from the 400s.

            Members of Family 13 in the Gospels tend to echo an ancestor-manuscript with many reading that diverge from the Byzantine standard.

            Also, in the General Epistles, members of the Harklean Group echo a form of the text that has some unusual readings that are earlier than Codex Sinaiticus.

            Some other minuscules, such as minuscules 6, 157, 700, 892, and 1739, are as important as some of the uncials.  Their existence should remind us that when we ask how much weight ought to be given to a particular manuscript, the primary consideration should not be “How old is it”, but “How well did the copyists in its transmission-stream do their job?”. 

            No manuscript sprang into being out of nothing, and any manuscript, early or late, if it is independent from another known manuscript, has the potential to contribute something to a reconstruction of the text of the New Testament.

             To get some idea of the appearance of New Testament manuscripts, I encourage you to explore the online presentations of manuscripts at the following institutions:

            Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, the Vatican Library, the British Library, the National Library of Francethe Walters Art Museumthe Goodspeed Manuscript Collection at the University of Chicago, the Kenneth W. Clark Collection at Duke University, and the  Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.


Friday, June 5, 2020

Video Lecture: Patristic Evidence

Lecture 05 - Patristic Evidence
         Now on YouTube:  the fifth lecture in the series Introduction to NT Textual Criticism is up at YouTube!  In this 30-minute lecture, I discuss the value of patristic evidence and explain some of the precautions that should be taken in its use.  I also briefly review 50 important patristic writers.
         Subtitles/captions provide a basic outline of the lecture.
An excerpt:

            Today, we are about to investigate one of the most neglected subjects in the field of New Testament textual criticism:  the study of patristic evidence.  The term “Patristic evidence” refers to the writings of early Christians and their contemporaries when using the New Testament text.

             The patristic era overlaps the end of the apostolic age in the late first century, and continues in the east to the death of John of Damascus, in 749, or, in the west, to the death of the Venerable Bede in 735.

            It will be easier to digest the patristic era if we divide it into four parts. 

            ● The Sub-Apostolic Age begins in the late first century and includes part of the second century.   The writings of this early period are among the earliest witnesses to the text of the New Testament.

            ● The AnteNicene Age runs from the mid-100s to the Council of Nicea in 325.  Technically, every writer before the Council of Nicea was “AnteNicene.”

            ● The Nicene Generation includes the writings of those who attended the Council of Nicea in 325, and their contemporaries.

            The Imperial Age covers the writings of Christians from 379, when Emperor Theodosius I began to reign, until 749.


            Let’s take these one by one, briefly mentioning some of the most important writers in each period.  This might be a little tedious, but it is important to frame these writers in their historical context, and not see than as just a list of names.  This is not an attempt to present all the patristic writers, or even half of them – just some that were more influential than others, and some who provided significant materials that are used in textual criticism.


The Sub-Apostolic Age


           Clement of Rome might be the same Clement who is mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3.  He presided at the congregation in Rome in the last decade of the first century.  He wrote one letter to the church at Corinth, which is known as First Clement

            There is another early writing, from another source, that has come to be known as Second Clement.  Here we meet one of the challenges in patristic studies:  it is not rare to find that some compositions attributed to a popular writer are not really his work, and it is not rare to find that an early author’s genuine work has been embellished by a later writer.  In the second century, many compositions were written in the names of earlier writers.  Sometimes this was a gesture of respect, but sometimes it was subterfuge to give authority to what would otherwise be a non-authoritative composition.

             Ignatius was a leader in the church at Antioch.  In the early second century, the 100s, he was martyred in the city of Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan.  On the way from Antioch to Rome, he wrote six letters to congregations in Asia Minor – southwest Turkey – and to one individual, Polycarp.  His writings do not contain very many direct quotations from the New Testament, but they are important indicators of the concerns that were harbored by a Christian leader at that time.    

            Ignatius was concerned about the false teaching known as docetism – a belief that Jesus merely appeared to have a physical body.  As a safeguard against false teachings, Ignatius promoted the idea that an individual bishop, instead of a group of elders, should oversee each congregation.

             The Epistle of Barnabas was written sometime after the year 70 and before the year 132.  Its author may or may not have had the same name as Paul’s fellow missionary Barnabas.  He had a heavily allegorical method of interpreting the Old Testament.  This writing was considered authoritative in some parts of the early church.

             The Epistle of Barnabas is unrelated to the text known as the Gospel of Barnabas, which is a very late forgery.

             Papias was bishop of Hierapolis, in Asia Minor.  The best estimate of when he wrote is  somewhere around 110, no later than 120.  Papias wrote a five-book series called Expositions on the Sayings of the Lord – but no copies of this text are extant; it is only preserved in extracts made by later writers.  Some later writers considered him a student of the apostle John.

          The Didache [Did-uh-`kay] is a relatively brief early catechism, or teaching-text, composed to represent the teachings of the apostles.  It is not impossible that it was composed in the late first century, but the early second century is probably a better estimate.

           The Shepherd of Hermas is a much longer book, consisting of three main parts:  Visions, Mandates, and Similitudes.  This was a very popular text in the early church.  Parts of the Shepherd of Hermas are preserved in Codex Sinaiticus. 

 Now we come to the AnteNicene Age. 

           Marcion was the son of a Christian bishop in the city of Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea.  In the 130s, he travelled to Rome, and taught that the God who created the physical universe, and who gave the Law to Moses, was an entirely different heavenly being from the God who sent Jesus. 

             Marcion developed his own collection of authoritative books:  a drastically edited form of the Gospel of Luke, and ten edited letters of Paul.  The orthodox reaction was to say that God the Father almighty is the Creator of heaven and earth.  Marcion was declared a heretic in 144.  His edition of authoritative books was thoroughly rejected, and the church more aggresively promoted the four Gospels as the canonical core of the New Testament.   Marcion’s main work, Antithesis, is not extant, but extracts from it were made by some other writers later in the early church. 

            Polycarp, who was martyred in about 160, had once met Marcion.  Later writers report that on that occasion, when Marcion asked Polycarp, “Do you know who I am?”, Polycarp had replied, “Yes; you are the firstborn of Satan.”  Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, and he had been taught by John.  He left behind a letter to the church at Philippi.

            Justin Martyr got his surname by being martyred.  That probably happened around 165, or slightly earlier.  Justin left behind mainly three works that have survived:  the First Apology, the Dialogue With Trypho, and the Second Apology

            In this context, an “apology” is not a statement of regret like “I am sorry.” It is a defense, απολογία, like what is referred to in First Peter 3:15 – a systematic explanation of what Christians believe, why they believe it, and the positive effects of their beliefs upon their lives.

            Justin used material from the Gospels a lot – but he did not say which Gospel he was using; he simply says that he refers to the remembrances of the apostles.  It is possible – I would say probable – that Justin used a harmonized account of Matthew, Mark, and Luke – the Synoptic Gospels – and that this inspired one of his students to produce a similar text, in which all four Gospels are combined.

            The name of that student was Tatian, and his four-Gospel Harmony was the Diatessaron.   Tatian was an Assyrian who resided in Rome for a while, and then returned to Assyria.  Probably.  He probably made the Diatessaron around 170, and he probably made it in Syriac.  Tatian’s Diatessaron was very popular in Syria for more than two centuries, but Tatian was suspected of heresy – partly because he had not included the genealogies in the Diatessaron – and his work was eventually suppressed.    

             Melito of Sardis, like Justin Martyr, was an apologist.  He composed a written defense of Christianity around 170.  He also wrote a composition called Peri Pascha, offering a Christ-centered interpretation of the Passover.     

             Irenaeus was also from Asia Minor, and he had heard Polycarp, before moving west, to what is now the city of Lyons, in Gaul, or France.  Irenaeus not only defended Christianity, but also counter-attacked false teachings, such as the heresies taught by Marcion and by a group generally known as Gnostics.  Around the year 180, he wrote a five-book composition commonly known as Against Heresies.

            Some of the Gnostic doctrines that Irenaeus described are so unusual that some readers questioned whether Irenaeus was representing them accurately.  But beginning in the late 1940s, Gnostic literature was found, from a site in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, which tended to confirm that Gnostic theology was as strange as Irenaeus had said.

            Irenaeus made an abundant use of the books of the New Testament.  One of his most famous and influential statements is his affirmation that the church recognizes four Gospels, no more and no less:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.       

            Except for fragments and extracts from later Greek writers, most of Against Heresies is not extant in Greek; it is preserved in an early Latin translation.  Irenaeus also wrote a text called the Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching, which is preserved in an Armenian translation.   

           Athenagoras was another apologist in the second half of the second century.  He is remembered for two works:  Embassy on Behalf of Christians, and On the Resurrection of the Dead.  A later writer reports that Athenagoras began studying Christian writings in order to oppose them, but became a believer in the course of studying them further.     

           Clement of Alexandria, an influential writer in the late 100s, and on into the early 200s, could be re-named Clement of the Open Road, because he traveled a lot.  He is best known for six compositions, one of which is the Stro-`ma-teis.

            Clement’s Gospels-text is interesting, because it appears to change from one book to another.  His text of John is Alexandrian, but his text of Luke is more Western; he used Mark only sparingly, and his text of Matthew agrees with the Textus Receptus – which we will look at in a future lecture, I hope – as often as it agrees with Codex Vaticanus. 

           Meanwhile, further west, a Latin apologist named Tertullian, based in the city of Carthage in North Africa, produced many works between 198 and 220 – sometimes targeting heretics, but also addressing what he saw as moral compromises by fellow believers.  He wrote very many doctrinal compositions.    

            Hippolytus, who lived at about the same time as Tertullian, inherited the tradition of apologetics handed down from Irenaeus.  In the extensive composition Phil-o-soph-uʹ-mena [Phil-o-soph-u-men-a], Hippolytus critiqued ancient religions and philosophies, especially the beliefs of the group known as Gnostics. 

           Our next witness, Origen, was extremely productive.  Origen was born in Alexandria to a Christian family.  His father Leontius was martyred in the year 202.   

           When persecution became less intense, Origen did some traveling; he visited Rome, Antioch, Greece, and other places, before focusing on writing at Alexandria, where he studied under Clement and produced many works, including First Principles

            Around 232, Origen moved to Caesarea.  He continued to write until, as a result of physical suffering endured during the Decian persecution, he died in 254. 

            Although Origen had written against heretics – most notably in his work Against Celsus – some of his own teachings were considered highly questionable.  Centuries later, his teachings were condemned as heretical at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, in the reign of Emperor Justinian.  As a result, most of his works have been lost.    Besides First Principles, many more of Origen’s works have survived, including Discussion With Heraclides, On Prayer, and several commentaries.  An edited collection of extracts from Origen’s writings was released in the 300s as Philocalia.

          Turning back to Carthage, we meet Cyprian, who presided there in 249-258.  Cyprian had the difficult task of guiding the church through  two waves of persecution:  the persecution under Emperor Decius, and the persecution under Emperor Valerian.  Cyprian was martyred in 258.  But before his departure, he wrote some books, including Three Books of Testimonies, and On the Unity of the Church.  Cyprian was a big fan of Tertullian.   

          We are indebted to Pontius the Deacon, an associate of Cyprian, for composing a biography of Cyprian shortly after he was martyred.

        In the city of Rome, a church leader named Novatian was also martyred in 258.  Novatian was involved in a power struggle in Rome, and took a very harsh attitude not only against believers who fell away under persecution, but also against fellow clerics who forgave them.  His most important surviving work is a Treatise on the Trinity.

        In the second half of the 200s, a philosopher named Porphyry wrote a book called Against the Christians.  A substantial portion of it, including some objections that involve textual variants, can be reconstructed from citations made by Christian authors responding to his work. 

             Methodius was a Christian bishop who responded to his contemporary Porphyry.  Methodius was also very critical of some of Origen’s teachings.  His refutation of Porphyry has not survived, but his composition The Banquet has survived.

            Gregory Thaumaturgus was a student of Origen and wrote a lengthy composition to honor his teacher.  Writing 50 years before the Council of Nicea, he maintained Trinitarian theology in Exposition of the Faith and other works.


The next group represents the generation of writers who either attended the Council of Nicea in 325, or were the contemporaries of those who did so. 

             Eusebius of Caesarea was the first Christian historian.  He worked mainly in the early 300s, and wrote Ecclesiastical History, in which he preserved excerpts of earlier source-materials which are now lost.  With his mentor Pamphilius, he wrote a composition In Defense of Origen.  He also made the Eusebian Canons, a cross-reference system for the Four Gospels, which is included in many manuscripts of the four Gospels. 

             Aphrahat, a Syriac author, wrote a series of compositions called the Demonstrations in the 330’s and 340s.  Aphrahat’s main Gospels-text was the Diatessaron. 

             Athanasius of Alexandria was the most vocal opponent of Arius at the Council of Nicea.  He ardently defended orthodox Trinitarian theology, especially the point that there was never a time when the Word did not exist.  Athanasius composed many influential theologican works, including Orations Against the Arians, Against the Heathen, and his 39th Festal Letter, in 367, in which he listed the books of authoritative Scripture.

             Ephrem of Syria was trained by Jacob of Nisibis, one of the signatories to the Council of Nicea.  Ephrem wrote many hymns and commentaries, including a commentary on the Diatessaron.  He died in 363.

            Near the western end of the Roman Empire, in what is now France, Hilary of Poitiers was known for enthusiastically opposing Arianism, even when the Emperor was an Arian, and Hilary was in exile.  His compositions include On the Trinity.

          At about the same time, Fortunatianus, in northern Italy, wrote a Latin commentary on the four Gospels, either quoting or alluding to many New Testament passages.   


           Lucifer of Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, wrote in Latin.  He was a vigorous and verbose defender of Trinitarian theology, and took a hard line against Arianism.  He died around 370.

 Now we approach the Imperial Age, when things get a little crowded.  You could say that this era begins when Theodosius I becomes Emperor in 379, or two years later at the Council of Constantinople – or that it began with the converging careers of several remarkable leaders in the church.

             Basil of Caesarea, his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their fellow-worker Gregory of Nazianzus are known as the Cappadocian Fathers.  Basil’s “Caesarea” is not Eusebius’s Caesarea on the coast of Israel; it is another city with the same name, in central Turkey

             These three men consistently maintained Nicene theology.  Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus were fellow students at Athens, and one of their classmates was the future Emperor Julian the Apostate.

            When Basil was not opposing Arianism, he made efforts to help the poor and the sick.  He wrote many letters and books on practical ministry as well as doctrine. 

            Gregory of Nazianzus was influential in solidifying Constantinople as a center of Trinitation theology.  He died in 390, after writing many theological discourses.

            Gregory of Nyssa outlived the other two Cappadocian Fathers.  He was not disposed to aggression in doctrinal disputes, but he could frame the orthodox position effectively.  Gregory of Nyssa is suspected of favoring Origen’s concept of apokatastasis, that is, the idea that eventually, everybody will be restored to harmony with God.  

             In the late 300s, Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, on the island of Cyprus, took it upon himself to take up the task of opposing heresies, using the writings of earlier apologists as his model.  He presented his most important work, Panarion, as a medicine-chest, full of antidotes against the poisons of a variety of animals, which were metaphors for various heresies and heretics, including Origen.  He also wrote Anchoratus.

             Meanwhile, Diodore of Tarsus, who met Basil while they were both exiled in Armenia, organized a school at Antioch, where his students included a promising young man named John, who had started his service in the church as a lector, or Scripture-reader. 

             Meanwhile meanwhile, Cyril of Jerusalem had to deal with accusations of unlawfully selling church property.  His accuser was a nearby rival bishop, Acacius of Caesarea, who was an Arian.  Despite being exiled three times, Cyril of Jerusalem composed a substantial series of Catechetical Lectures, which has survived.   He died in 386.

           Meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile, in the city of Milan – which was politically more important than Rome at the time – a man named Ambrose was recruited to be the bishop in 374.  He was phenomenally successful.  On one occasion he obligated Emperor Theodosius I to openly express repentance after ordering Roman troops to massacre rebellious citizens in the city of Thessalonica.  He wrote On the Faith, On the Holy Spirit, and many other works.

              Meanwhile meanwhile, meanwhile meanwhile, a scholar named Didymus composed many doctrinal works in Alexandria in the 300s.  These works, like the works of Origen, were condemned in 553, even though Didymus’ theology was strongly Trinitarian.  Some of his compositions were preserved nevertheless, and some were discovered on papyrus in the 1940s in Egypt, including his Commentary on Psalms.  Didymus’ ability to produce many theological writings is rendered more impressive when one appreciates that he was blind from early childhood.

             By the time Didymus the Blind died in 398, John, the student of Diodore, had become an extremely popular preacher in Antioch, and he was known as John Chrysostom, that is, John the golden-mouthed.  He was so popular that when he was called to serve as archbishop of Constantinople, he left in secret to avoid an uproar. 

            In Constantinople, Chrysostom preached an abundance of sermons. He preached not only about theological intangibles but also about helping the poor, the dangers of luxury, and the responsibility of the clergy to live exemplary lives.  Eventually he was exiled, and died in exile in 407.  But Chrysostom’s legacy was enduring, and hundreds of his sermons have survived.

             One of Chrysostom’s friends, Theodore of Mopsuestia, outlived Chrysostom by 20 years.  Whereas Chrysostom departed from Antioch to serve at Constantinople, Theodore remained at Antioch a while longer before relocating to Mopsuestia, which is now Adana, Turkey.  He died in 428, leaving behind many works, including a commentary on the Minor Prophets and a commentary on most of the Epistles of Paul.

              At about the same time Ambrose became bishop of Milan, a man named Jerome had a dream, in which he was accused of being a follower of the Roman writer Cicero, instead of a follower of Christ.  This began a very productive career.  In 383, Jerome produced the Vulgate Gospels.  The Vulgate eventually became the standard Latin text of the Western church.  Jerome traveled widely, and wrote on an even wider variety of topics, including the history of the church from the days of Eusebius of Caesarea up to his own time.  He wrote very many letters and commentaries, some of which were modeled on the work of earlier writers, including Origen.   

           One of the targets of Jerome’s criticisms was a monk named Pelagius.  Pelagius was probably originally from Britain, and moved from Rome to Carthage to Jerusalem, where he died in 418.  He was known for advocating a doctrine of free will.   Pelagius was eventually condemned as a heretic; nevertheless, some of his writings have survived.   

            Besides Jerome, another individual who energetically opposed the teachings of Pelagius was Augustine of Hippo, who had been converted by Ambrose.  Hippo was a city in what is now the northeastern coast of Algeria.  Pelagius raised some interesting questions, like, “Does God hold people accountable for failing to obey commands that are impossible to obey?”. 

            By the time Augustine was done answering them, he impacted church doctrine more significantly than any other writer of his time.  Among Augustine’s many surviving works, Confessions, City of God, and the Enchiridion are among the most important.  He also wrote many letters.  Augustine died in 430.

            Shortly after the death of Pelagius, Nestorius, who had been trained at Antioch, promoted some controversial teachings.  After he became archbishop of Constantinople, his orthodoxy, especially regarding the nature of Christ, was openly challenged.  He was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431, and was sent back to Antioch, and from there to Egypt, where he died in 450.

            Nestorius’ most energetic opponent was Cyril of Alexandria, and while almost none of Nestorius’ works have survived, Cyril of Alexandria is admired for his many theological works.  However, he was probably one of the most ruthless archbishops ever. 

            Shenoute was already an experienced leader in the church in Egypt when he attended the Council of Ephesus.  In Upper Egypt, Shenoute promoted a strict form of monasticism, encouraging and exemplifying not only dedication to the study of Scripture, but also to acts of charity.  When he died in 466 after living 118 years, he left behind many writings.

            Researcher W. E. Crum observed in 1904 that “Students of the New Testament will find in Shenoute’s endless quotations a highly valuable witness, as yet wholly unexplored, to the text of the most important of the Egyptian versions.”

             Theodoret of Cyrrhus was not a fan of Cyril of Alexandria.  Like John Chrysostom, early in his career he was a lector at Antioch.  By 423, Theodoret was put in charge of Cyrrhus in northwestern Syria, which gave him plenty to do, not only in terms of correcting false doctrines, but also in terms of practical ministry.  It was Theodoret of Cyrrhus who mentioned that in 800 congregations in the area, he found 200 copies of the Diatessaron, which he replaced with copies of the four Gospels.   

            Theodoret of Cyrrhus died in the 460s.  Although he was eventually declared a heretic, many of his compositions and letters have survived.  Theodoret’s career in the east overlapped the career of Leo the Great in the west.  Leo was invited by Cyril of Alexandria to intervene in his dispute against Nestorius.  His writings had a heavy influence at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

            In the next century, while Emperor Justinian ruled in the East, a scholar named Cassiodorus founded the Vivarium in southern Italy.  It was partly a monastery, partly an educational center, and partly a scriptorium.  Cassiodorus left behind several important works, including Institutiones, and various letters.       

           Finally, the Venerable Bede, in the late 600s and early 700s, had the sort of broad knowledge of history, theology, and science that Cassiodorus had hoped to inspire.  Bede left behind several important works.

 . . . 

Nine questions should be asked about an author’s testimony regarding a specific passage of the New Testament. 

● First, has the reference been accurately reconstructed using all helpful materials? 

● Second, has it been verified that a particular text attributed to a specific author really is the work of that author?    For a variety of reasons, many works have been attributed to some writers who cannot be their actual source. 

● Third, is the reference preserved in the language in which it was originally written by the author?  Many patristic references are versional, and the same limitations that apply to versions, ought to be applied to versional patristic writings.  This applies not only to works that were composed in languages other than Greek, but also to works that are preserved in languages other than Greek.

● Fourth, does the writer make a quotation, or an allusion, to a discernible New Testament passage?    

● Fifth, does the writer explicitly comment on a contested reading, or does he simply use it without comment? 

 ● Sixth, has the writer borrowed or adapted material from another writer?  If this has occurred, then in the borrowed material, we might encounter the text of the source-material’s author.

● Seventh, does the text used by the writer change in accord with changes in the location of the writer?  A mobile writer might use whatever New Testament manuscripts happened to be on hand.

● Eighth, is a particular quotation from the New Testament made in a composition engaging an opposing view, or in a composition written to a friendly reader or readers unlikely to challenge a loose paraphrase? 

Ninth, does a writer repeatedly use and comment upon the same form of the same New Testament passage?

When all this is taken into consideration, patristic evidence constitutes a major source of data about what forms of the text were used where, and when, and by whom, in the early church.  Many of the echoes, the extant copies of patristic compositions, are late, but the voices are early. 

To an extent, this evidence counter-balances the inordinate weight that has been put on manuscripts that tend to represent one particular locale that was blessed with low humidity.  It facilitates a more panoramic view of the text in the early church.

In closing, I encourage viewers to watch four cartoon videos, at the Extra Credits channel, called

Early Christian Schisms – Before Imperium:  

Early Christian Schisms – The Woes of Constantine:

Early Christian Schisms:  The Council of Nicea:

Early Christian Schisms:  Ephesus, the Robber Council. And Chalcedon

Early Christian Schisms:  Lies

             I also recommend visiting and downloading and reading Hort’s Six Lectures on Early Patristic Writers.

             Thank you.