Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Hand to Hand Combat: 1690 vs. 1691

          1690 and 1691 are both medieval Gospels-manuscripts that were photographed by CSNTM personnel in Athens in 2016-2017 at the National Library of Greece.  Both manuscripts are fully indexed at the CSNTM website.  1690 is assigned to the 1200s or 1300s.  The text on the last page of Mark in 1690 is written in a cruciform pattern.  1691 is older, assigned to the  1000s.  Its text is written in two columns per page.  Let’s see which manuscript has the more accurate text in a sample passage, using the Solid Rock GNT as the standard of comparison.  In the spirit of the season, I have selected Luke 2:1-20 as today’s textual arena.   As usual, sacred-name contractions and other abbreviations, and minor orthographic variants, are noted, but are not counted in the final tallies.

1691 in Luke 2:1-20:

1 – no -ν, just εζηλθε (-1)

2 – no variants

3 – no variants

4 – no variants

5 – no variants

6 – no variants

7 – no variants

8 – no variants

9 – no variants

10 – πεν instead of ειπεν (-2) (This might just be an unusual writing-style.)

11 – no -ν, just εστι (-1)

12 – has τη before φάτνη (+2)

13 – no variants, but the scribe apparently momentarily skipped the phrase εις τον ουρανον, which is in the margin (in the main scribe’s handwriting), correcting his mistake before the manuscript was completed.

14 – no variants

15 – has δει instead of δη (-1, +2,)

16 – no variants

17 – no variants

18 – has περι instead of προς before αυτους (+3, -3)

19 – no variants

20 – no variants

Thus, Luke 2:1-20 in 1691 has a total of 7 non-original letters, and is missing 8 original letters, for a total of 15 letters’ worth of corruption.  Setting trivial orthographic variants aside, Luke 2:1-20 in 1691 has 5 non-original letters, and is missing 5 original letters, for a total of 10 letters’ worth of corruption.  Or, with that weird “πεν” in verse 10 removed from the picture (did candle-wax hurt the text??), Luke 2:1-20 in 1691 is missing 3 letters and has 5 non-original letters, for a total of eight letters’ worth of corruption.

Now let’s see how 1690 does.

Luke 2:1-20 in 1690:

1 – no -ν, just εζηλθε (-1)

2 – no variants

3 – no variants

4 – no variants

5 – no variants

6 – no variants

7 – (has τη written in superscript before φατνη)

8 – no variants

9 – no variants

10 – no variants

11 – no -ν, just εστι (-1)

12 – no variants

13 – no variants

14 – no variants

15 – no variants

16 – does not have τη before φάτνη (-2)

17 – no variants

18 – no variants

19 – no variants

20 – no variants

Luke 2:1-20 in GA 1690 thus has no non-original letters, and is missing 4 original letters, for a total of 4 letters’ worth of corruption.  Setting aside trivial orthographic variants, 1690 has only 2 letters’ worth of corruption (the missing τη in v. 16) in Luke 2:1-20.  

Thus, today's winner is 1690, with only two letters’ worth of corruption,.  But 1691, which has only ten letters’ worth of corruption, showed its quality too, and the contest was very close. 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Patristic Presents

         Here are some presents for Christmas 2022:  online patristic resources in English - volumes of the old Ante-Nicene Church Library series, and a significant number of other materials, all accessible for free.  (Some materials may be duplicated; I made this post in a hurry to get it done before Christmas.)

 ANF Vol. 1

ANF Vol. 2

ANF Vol. 3

ANF Vol. 4

ANF Vol. 5

ANF Vol. 6

ANF Vol. 7  

ANF Vol. 8

ANF Vol. 9

ANF Vol. 10 (Bibliographical Synopsis and Index)

Irenaeus - Proof of the Apostolic Preaching (1952)

Origen (mainly) - Philocalia

Eusebius – Ecclesiastical History (1865)

Eusebius – Ecclesiastical History (again)

Eusebius - Ad Marinum (This is Roger Pearse's book, which contains the definitive Greek text with English translation.  He also has done some interesting research about the early Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, which is summarized here.)

Eusebius - Against Hierocles

Sozomen – More Ecclesiastical History (1865)

Aphrahat – Homilies (1869)

Didascalia Apostolorum (1903)

Fortunatianus of Aquileia

Phoebadius of Agen (Against the Arians)

Marcellus of Ancyra

Teachings of the Twelve Apostles (Apostolic Constitutions)

Gregory Thamaturgus - On the Mother of God 

Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus

Hippolytus & Callistus

Eusebius – Ecclesiastical History, Life of Constantine, & In Praise of Constantine

Jerome – Letters & Other Works

Augustine – Confessions & Letters

Socrates, Sozomen – More Ecclesiastical History

Augustine – City of God and On Christian Doctrine 

Augustine – On the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises 

Augustine – Against Manichaeans & Against Donatists 

Athanasius – Select Works & Letters 

Augustine – Anti-Pelagian Writings and Other Works

Gregory of Nyssa

Jerome – Letters & Select Works (links embedded on-site)

Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzus

Augustine – Expositions on Psalms

Basil of Caesarea – Letters & Select Works

Chrysostom – On the Priesthood and Other Works  

Hilary of Poitiers and John of Damascus

Ambrose:  Select Works & Letters 

Chrysostom:  Homilies on Acts and Romans        

Chrysostom:  Homilies on I & II Corinthians

Leo the Great & Gregory the Great

Gregory, Ephrem Syrus, and Aphrahat

Chrysostom:  Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

Chrysostom – Homilies on John and Hebrews

Seven Ecumenical Councils

New Advent's Collection (Fathers of the Church)

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Glitches in Christ's Genealogy

          The genealogy of Jesus Christ, which appears in Matthew 1:1-17 and the genealogy of Jesus Christ which appears in Luke 3:23-38, may both be skipped by casual Bible-readers, but they are both interesting passages to both the textual critic and the Christian apologist.  Today, let’s look at some of the ways in which copyists treated – and mistreated – parts of these two portions of Scripture.

          Perhaps the most famous variations within the genealogy in Matthew appear at the end of verse 7 and in verse 10.  These were the first two variant-units to be commented upon by the late Bruce Metzger in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.  The Alexandrian text reads Ἀσάφ instead of the Byzantine Ἀσὰ in verse 7, and it reads Ἀμώς instead of Ἀμών in verse 10.    Neither Asaph the psalmist nor Amos the prophet was ever a king of Judah, so the presence of their names in the genealogy is surprising.  If the canon prefer the more difficult reading is applied, in both cases the Alexandrian reading will be adopted.  This was the course taken by Elijah Hixson in 2019, and it has been for over a century the usual decision.   (Hixson briefly described the main external evidence, so in the interest of brevity I will not review that here.)

          I argued in 2012, and again in 2016, however, in favor of Ἀσὰ and Ἀμών, proposing that lectio difficilior potior has been applied here too mechanically. As I showed in 2016, there was quite a bit of orthographic variety in the spelling of names by early Alexandrian copyists.  And I still propose that these erroneous readings originated as an attempt by an early copyist (one with “Western” proclivities) to “pad the resume” of Jesus, by including prophets in his genealogy. 

          Less famous, but no less interesting, is the treatment of Jesus’ genealogy in Luke in Codex Bezae (D, 05).  (Matthew 1 is not extant in D.)  The text in D omits Luke 3:24-31, and has instead the names of the ancestors listed in Matthew 1:6-16, in reverse order (Zadok’s name is not included), and there are other aberrations, including the names Ασαφ and Αμως) before resuming Luke’s list of Jesus’ ancestors in verse 31b.

          In Codex W (032), the genealogy in Luke is missing.  After Joseph’s name in Luke 3:23, the text of 032 simply jumps to chapter 4.  Perhaps this reflects a scribe’s awareness that the genealogies were absent in Tatian’s Diatessaron, or it could conceivably be a deletion by a recklessly bold scribe who did not want to transcribe anything that could be construed as a contradiction of the genealogy in Matthew 1.

          A small cluster of manuscripts (including M U Θ 1 1582 33, and over 150 minuscules) reflects a reading that was known to Epiphanius (in the late 300s):  somebody inserted, between Josiah and Jeconiah, a reference to Jehoiakim (Ἰωακείμ).  This is a harmonization to First Chronicles 3:15.  Some copyists, it appears, were not averse to attempting to correct their exemplars, even if it meant disrupting the total in one of Matthew’s groups of fourteen generations.  (Matthew probably intended foe this 14x structure to bring to his readers’ minds the memory of the numerical value of David’s name).

          Other glitch-readings occur in other manuscripts.  A notable error by the scribe of GA 109 was mentioned by Metzger (Text of the New Testament, p. 195):  the copyist mechanically copied the text of his exemplar, in which the individuals in the genealogy in Luke were formatted in two columns, as if they were one continuous piece, thus making a garbled mess of things.  A detailed analysis of how this occurred can be found near the entry of an entry at CSNTM’s “From the Library” blog from 2018.  
The beginning of the genealogy in Luke in GA 1273.

           The copyist of GA 1273 (the George Grey Gospels) also was discombobulated when formatting the genealogy in Luke.  Putting the names of Jesus’ ancestors in three columns, he mixed up the whole series of names, concluding with “of Adam, of Serug, of God.”  A little detective work (which Daniel Buck has done) can reveal the format of the genealogy in Luke in the exemplar used by the scribe of GA 1273.  It might be interesting to compare the format in 1273’s reconstructed exemplar with the three-names-per-line format in GA 2. 

The end of the genealogy in Luke in 1273.
Other treatments of Luke’s genealogy have been identified by Daniel Buck; he has noticed that glitchy treatments in Luke’s genealogy seem to arise especially in verse 33, and that GA 1305, 1424, 2563, 2658, 2661, 2756, and 2882 all have glitches of one kind or another.  GA 28 also has some unusual readings, such as the insertion of τοῦ Ἀρὰμ in verse 33.

          Quite a few scribes, when listing the names in Luke’s genealogy, gave each name a single line.  These include the copyist of Sinaiticus (À) and Codex Vaticanus (B, 03) – mostly.  In B, near the end of the last column on a page, the copyist wrote Ιωσηφ του Ηλει (“Joseph, of Heli”) on one line, as long as his normal lines, with a space between “Ιωσηφ” and “του Ηλει”, but on the next line (the last line on the page), του Ματθατ gets a line all its own, and on the next page, each ancestor’s name, preceded by του, gets its own line.

          One glitch that has received special attention is the omission of τοῦ Καϊναν (or τοῦ Καϊναμ) at the beginning of Luke 3:36 in P75vid and Codex Bezae (D, 05).  Kainan’s name is not in Genesis 10:24 in the Masoretic Text, or in the Samaritan Pentateuch.  It may be that due to its absence in Genesis in these witnesses, a scribe deliberately removed it from the Western text as it appears in D.  A question arises:  the texts of P75 (early Alexandrian) and D (Western) are so different from each other, how could they share this reading if it is not original?

          But do they?  In 2019, Henry B Smith Jr. and Kris J. Udd published a 46-page essay in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, On the Authenticity of Kainan, Son of Arpachshad, in which this variant-unit was minutely examined.  A reconstruction of the relevant part of P75 (the MS is extremely fragmentary in this portion) was made by Smith and Udd in which “The inclusion of -Α TOΥ KAINAN at the beginning of line 5 would only increase its line length to 26 letters, fitting the context well.”  This reconstruction helps clear up some inaccurate records of P75’s text in Luke 3:36.  It also demonstrates that P75 never lacked Καϊναμ, though the question is open as to whether P75 read Καϊναμ or Καϊναν. 

          Thus the only manuscript that omits Kainan’s name in Luke 3:36 is Codex D.  Finding Kainan’s name absent in the early Alexandrian text and in a relatively early Western manuscript such as Codex D would have been remarkable.  But finding Kainan’s name omitted only in in the Western text of Luke attested by D is like finding a hamburger at McDonald’s; it is not remarkable at all, considering the other liberties that have been taken in Luke’s genealogy in D.

          While some readers might be taken aback by how some scribes messed up the genealogy of Jesus Christ, one should remember that the bulk of manuscripts in different transmission-streams maintain the original text of the genealogies very well.  A blizzard of scribal errors does not make the sun stop shining.



(Thanks to Kris Udd and Daniel Buck for their help obtaining some of the data in this post.)


Thursday, December 8, 2022

Considering the Claims of the "Preserved Word" Website

            At the PreservedWord website, some material has been circulated that provides some insight regarding the basis for the motivation of some KJV-Onlyists.  Today, let’s evaluate the claims of the website.

l “Bible scholarship of the past 150 years has placed much attention on a very small number of manuscripts.”

This is not quite true, since attention has been given to newly discovered manuscripts such as Codex W and Codex Y, and the hundreds of minuscule manuscripts which have been catalogued in the past 150 years.   But the writer of the Preserved Word site is partly right:  special attention has been given to a small number of manuscripts, particularly Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (À), which, as the writer noted, have been described in Bible-footnotes as the “oldest and best” manuscripts.    Meanwhile, manuscripts which support the Byzantine Text have been treated as if they are “all irrelevant for textual criticism, at least for establishing the original form of the text and its development in the early centuries,” as Kurt & Barbara Aland dismissively acknowledged on p. 142 of The Text of the New Testament (Ó  1987 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

l “The public needs to know the truth about these manuscripts [À and B].”

This is certainly true; when NIV (1984) readers were told “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20,” it would have been helpful if, somewhere in the heading or footnote (unlikely to be seen by readers of digital Bibles), reader had been told that the “earliest manuscripts” was limited to two manuscripts, and that over 99.8% of the rest of the Greek manuscripts support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 (as does earlier testimony from the 100s in Epistula Apostolorum, Preaching of Peter, Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus).  Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, for the most part, represent the Alexandrian Text, a form which was used in the early centuries of Christendom in Egypt, but which never dominated the Greek copying-centers where the Byzantine Text was used instead.

l “Contrary to what has been taught in most seminaries, these two manuscripts are worthless, and hopelessly corrupt.”

That is not quite true.  “Corruption” is a technical term in textual criticism; any manuscript that contains non-original material, or which fails to include material which was in the original text, is corrupt.  No doubt the texts found in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are corrupt – but not hopelessly.


l  “It has been speculated by some scholars that one or both were produced by Eusebius of Caesarea on orders of Emperor Constantine. If this is true, then these manuscripts are linked to Eusibus’s teacher Origen of Alexandria, both known for interpreting Scripture allegorically as opposed to literally.”

This is not quite true either.  The late T.C. Skeat (an erudite scholar)  did indeed suspect that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were among the 50 copies of Scripture prepared by Eusebius of Constantinople for the Emperor Constantine.  But there is no evidence that Origen (d. 254) originated or edited the  Alexandrian Text; Origen appears to have used whatever text was already in use in the location he happened to be in.  


l   “Scholars have designated these manuscripts as Alexandrian, linking them with Alexandria, Egypt, the region responsible for early heresies such as Gnosticism and Arianism.”

This is not quite true either.  The Alexandrian Text was popular in Egypt, but there is little textual evidence that Gnostics or Arians were responsible for more than a smattering of readings in the Alexandrian Text.


l  “Vaticanus adds to the Old Testament the apocryphal books of Baruch, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Tobit, and the Epistle of Jeremiah.”

That is not quite true either.  Codex Vaticanus does indeed contain these books, but in this respect its scribes were simply perpetuating the canon of the Septuagint, which is also found in Codex Alexandrinus.


l  Vaticanus omits Mark 16:9-20, yet there is a significant blank space here for these verses. Sinaiticus also lacks these verses, but has a blank space for them.

That is not quite true either.  Vaticanus has a blank space following Mark 16:8 that is sufficient to hold verses 9-20 (in slightly compressed lettering).  But Sinaiticus, which contains replacement-pages for Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56, displays no special blank space after Mark 16:8; after Mark 16:8 in À there is an especially emphatic coronis, and the book’s closing-title, after which is the same blank space which the scribe normally would leave blank after the end of a book.  It is not sufficient for verses 9-20.  The Gospel of Luke begin in the next column.

l Tischendorf “found it [Codex Sinaiticus] in a trash can, waiting to be burnt!”

That is not quite true either.  Tischendorf did claim to have encountered pages of Sinaiticus in a basket, but he never described it as a “trash basket.”  It was simply a basket, of the sort which J. R. Harris (who visited St. Catherine’s Monastery) confirmed was used by the monks of the monastery to transport manuscripts. 


l  “Why would the monks of St. Catherine’s thrown out such a valuable manuscript?”

Why indeed?  It appears that the monks had no intention of throwing it out, or of burning it.  Tischendorf either concocted the story about what he was told (that “two heaps of papers like these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames”), or he misunderstood what he was told.  He may have happened to serendipitously encounter, in 1844, pages of Sinaiticus at the same time the monks were undertaking a fresh re-binding of its pages. 


l [Quoting John Burgon] “Tregelles has freely pronounced that “the state of the text, as proceeding from the first scribe, may be regarded as very rough.”


That is true.  Tregelles’ observation, however, should be complemented by an understanding of how the New Testament portion of À was made:  there was the main copyist, and there was also the proofreader, or diorthotēs; the main copyist was truly a terrible speller, and frequently inattentive, but much of his carelessness was undone by the proof-reader, so, before the manuscript left the scriptorium, many of the main copyist’s mistakes had already been corrected.

l  “Sinaiticus has also been corrected by “…at least ten revisers between the IVth and XIIth centuries…”

That is true, but all this means is that, in addition to the corrections made by the diorthotēs,
À features readings drawn from manuscripts besides its exemplar. The “corrections” are not all true corrections (i.e., they do not all bring the text in the manuscript closer to the original text), but testify to the contents of manuscripts valued by the correctors. 


l Codex Sinaiticus “looks like a much-corrected rough draft.”

That is true – but looks can be deceiving.  What is shown in the image presented at the PreservedWord website is part of a page of Codex Sinaiticus that contains the Greek text from Second Esdras 21 and 22, and a variety of corrections, all of which can be seen at the website. 

l “Sinaiticus also includes spurious, uninspired, apocryphal books, including 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, 1 & 4 Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach in the Old Testament.”

That is true, but, again, the scribes of the manuscript were simply perpetuating the (unfixed) canon of the Septuagint handed down to them. 


l Sinaiticus includes the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. “These two false writings (Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas) promote New Age and Satanism.”

This statement springs from a profound misunderstanding of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.  Neither composition supports the doctrines of the “New Age,” and neither one supports Satanism.  They were both generally regarded as orthodox in the early church, but their authors were not considered equal in authority to the authors of the New Testament books.

l “Burgon had personally examined these two manuscripts, and noted that their text differed greatly form that of 95% of all manuscripts.”

Another way of saying that their text differed greatly from the form of text found in 95% of all manuscripts is that the Alexandrian Text (of which
À and B are the fullest Greek representatives) differs greatly from the Byzantine Text, which is attested by the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.  The Alexandrian Text, though supported by early manuscripts such as Papyrus 75, circulated mainly in Egypt, and when the dominant language in Egypt shifted away from Greek, the Greek Alexandrian Text gradually was supplanted by manuscripts written in the local dialects (Sahidic, Bohairic, etc.).


l “When examining the Gospels as found in Vaticanus, Burgon found 7578 deviations from the majority, with 2370 of them being serious. In the Gospels of Sinaiticus, he found 8972 deviations, with 3392 serious ones.”


Four thousand deviations are indeed serious, but the simple fact that the text of manuscript #1 disagrees with the text of manuscript #2 four thousand times does not automatically settle any specific textual variant.  Those 3,392 variants counted by Burgon only show that the majority of manuscripts disagree with the text of À in 3,392 places; they do not mean that the reading in Sinaiticus is non-original every time (nor does it mean that the reading of the majority of manuscripts is non-original every time). 


l Burgon found that “In the Gospels alone, Vaticanus has 197 particular readings, while Sinaiticus has 443.” 

The number of singular readings in B, and in
À, does not say a lot for the carefulness of their scribes.  On the other hand, quite a few of the singular readings in B are orthographic and do not affect translation.  Meanwhile, many of the singular readings in À are the effects of (a) the main scribe’s carelessness and abysmal spelling, and (b) the use, in the first seven chapters of John, of a different exemplar. 


l “Manuscripts repeatedly proven to have incorrect readings loose respectability.”

This is not quite true.   The singular readings in B and
À are not indicative of unreliable exemplars (except, perhaps, in the opening chapters of John in À); they are indicative of the shortcomings of the manuscripts’ scribes.  Other early manuscripts have comparable rates of singular readings in the Gospels. 


l “These two manuscript witnesses constantly disagree with the majority of the manuscript evidence, showing them to be suspect witnesses.”


That is not quite true.  The primary reason why the text of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus disagrees with the majority of the manuscript evidence is that Vatican and Sinaiticus display the Alexandrian Text, which dominated a different locale (Egypt) (as opposed to the Byzantine Text, which was dominant in Byzantium, Syria, etc.).   It was natural for John Burgon to regard their text with suspicion in the 1870s – but a few decades later, Grenfell and Hunt made excavations at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt which uncovered manuscripts (including some papyrus manuscripts older than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) that also supported the Alexandrian Text.  These were not nearly as numerous as the manuscripts that support the Byzantine Text, but they were earlier, and thus provide a window upon the text of the New Testament that was used in Egypt in the first few centuries of Christendom.    


l “The telling sign of false witnesses is a disagreement in their testimony. It will be seen that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not pass the false witness test.”

A distinction must be made between false readings (which can be as simple as bad spelling - something of which the PreservedWord website is sometimes guilty) and false statements.  Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus do share some readings which are also false statements (most notably at Matthew 27:49), but such cases do not occur as often as the PreservedWord website’s author suggests. 


l “Herman Hoskier did a full collation of these two manuscripts in the Gospels, and counted the following disagreements” which yield a total of 3,036 disagreements between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.


That is true, and yet it should be observed that this is a comparison of the text in Vaticanus to the text written by the main scribe of Codex Sinaiticus, not to the text of Sinaiticus as it existed after passing inspection by its scriptorium’s diorthotēs.  And it should be noted that many of À’s disagreements with B, when they are not the effects of scribal carelessness, are clustered in the opening chapters of the Gospel of John, for which a different exemplar (with a form of the Western text) was used.


l “Therefore, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are worthless manuscripts.”

That is not true.  The quality of the performance of the scribes of Sinaiticus left much to be desired, and both manuscripts have undergone some damage (Vaticanus lacks the text of Hebrews after 9:14, the Pastoral Epistles, and Revelation).  But the Alexandrian Text, although it contains its fair share of disagreements with the Byzantine Text, is not worthless.  It simply lacks the level of scribal thoughtfulness (good and bad) which the Byzantine scribes displayed.  

l “They display horrible penmanship, and have been subject to many correctors.”

That is not quite true.  The penmanship of the main scribes of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus is usually quite neat
.  And it is no automatic point against a manuscript that it has been “corrected” on multiple occasions; this was a side-effect of its use in locales where there were manuscripts that disagreed (rightly or wrongly) with its exemplar.


l “They are false witnesses of the Word of God.”

That is not quite true.  Granted, there are some readings in Vaticanus that are scribal blunders (such as its reading in John 17:15, “I am not praying that you protect then from the evil one”), and the problem is worse in the text of Sinaiticus (such as its attribution of Psalm 78:2 to Isaiah, in Matthew 13:35).  But scribal blunders are by no means unique to these two manuscripts.  As a whole, the Alexandrian Text is almost as accurate as the Byzantine Text, and the Alexandrian Text frequently preserves the original form of the text where it has been benignly modified in the Byzantine Text (via the substitution of a proper name where originally there was only a pronoun, or via a harmonization to a parallel-passage, or via a lectionary-related expansion).


l The PreservedWord website presents a long quotation from John Burgon:  “I am utterly unable to believe, in short, that God’s promise [of preservation] has so entirely failed, that at the end of 1800 years much of the text of the Gospel had in point of fact to be picked by a German critic out of a waste-paper basket in the convent of St. Catherine; and that the entire text had to be remodelled after the pattern set by a couple of copies which had remained in neglect during fifteen centuries, and had probably owed their survival to that neglect; whilst hundreds of others had been thumbed to pieces, and had bequeathed their witness to copies made from them.”

Burgon’s criticism of the text of Westcott and Hort, who relied extremely heavily upon
À and B, has much to commend it.  Westcott and Hort favored the Alexandrian Text far too much, and this has been granted by most modern textual critics (although one could hardly notice from the current compilations of Nestle-Aland and UBS).  Hort described the mostly Byzantine Textus Receptus – the base-text of the New Testament in the King James Version – as “villainous” in 1851, and his mind does not seem to have changed at all from 1851 to 1881, when the Westcott-Hort revision of the text (titled “The New Testament in the Original Greek”) was printed.

            But Burgon’s other statements should be considered as well.  Burgon insisted that the Textus Receptus needed to be revised, writing in 1883 in The Revision Revised, p. 21, “Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text.  We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject.  Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g., at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction.”
            Burgon lamented that his generation lacked sufficient materials to undertake such a revision.  But nowadays, in 2022, when the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text and the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform have been produced, as well as the Patriarchal Text (which is primarily Byzantine), what was envisioned by Burgon is obtainable – and the textual adjustments/corrections involved in such an undertaking, giving readers an accurate reconstruction of the original text of the books of the New Testament, should take readings from the Alexandrian Text into consideration; i.e., if an Alexandrian reading is to be rejected, it should be rejected on the basis of internal or external evidence (or both), not merely because the manuscripts that support it are in a minority.

l “As Sinaiticus has been exalted in the public’s eye by the Codex Sinaiticus Project, I would not be surprised if Vaticanus is also exalted and placed online for all to see and venerate.”

This has already happened.  The Polonsky Foundation Digitalization Project has financed the digitalization of not only Codex Vaticanus, but many other manuscripts as well (including Papyrus 72, Papyrus 75, Codex S, and many minuscules, several of which are described here).  But the online images do not encourage idolatry; they are simply digital pictures.


l “These manuscripts may be the driving force to get “Protestants” to accept the Apocrypha as well as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, books so heretical that even the Roman Catholic Church does not accept them as Scripture.”

The issue of whether or not to accept the Apocrypha will not be settled by the introduction of À and B into the equation; the issue, rather, is a matter of respecting the Hebrew Bible (in 24 books, or 39 as Protestants usually divide them) or the longer canon of the Septuagint.


l “We need to be alert, and not fall for these manuscript idols.”


While it is incontestable that Christians should be alert, as First Corinthians 16:13 says, it does not follow that Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, or any other New Testament manuscript, is an idol.  This is a touch of pejorative language from the writer at the PreservedWord website.


l “We also need to be aware that most Bible versions, other than the KJV, rely heavily on these manuscripts.”

In the case of the NIV, ESV, NLT, CSB, and NRSV, this is certainly true, but there are also translations which are based on the Textus Receptus (such as the MEV) and translations which are based on the Byzantine Text (such as the World English Bible) and the Patriarchal Text (such as the Eastern Orthodox Bible’s New Testament).


l “The NKJV, while using the correct text, includes “alternate readings” from Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the margin. (Such as “The oldest MSS. say…”) We need to reject these for the tried and true King James Version.”

The NKJV’s margin also includes some “M” readings – “M” as in “majority.”  The KJV’s base-text contains about 1,000 minority readings which impact translation.  If Burgon’s hope – for a competently-made revision of the Textus Receptus – is to ever be achieved, it will involve acknowledging what Burgon knew very well:   “The Textus Receptus needs correction.”  Such correction will never take place as long as those who could contribute to it instead choose to demonize the Alexandrian Text, and set the Textus Receptus in concrete, so to speak, pretending that it is as close as we can come to the original text. 

            The PreservedWord website states, on another page, “The Word of God is found in the Byzantine text-type.”  If its writer, Luke Mounsey, ever wants to see the original text of the New Testament, he should engage in textual criticism, and consider all the available evidence, not just the relatively late manuscripts upon which the Textus Receptus was based.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Debate: Is Sinaiticus A Fake? Absolutely Not.

             Yesterday, I had the opportunity to debate Steven Avery on the subject of the genuineness of Codex Sinaiticus.  He alleged that it was produced in the 1800s; I maintained that it was produced in the 300s.  Our host was L. J. Thriepland, on the YouTube channel FollowInTruth LJ.  The debate lasted almost two hours.  (Those pressed for time may want to set the playback speed to x2.)

        Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth."  So I welcome viewers/readers to watch the video, and ask themselves if there is any basis whatsoever for the claims about Sinaiticus that have been spread by Steven Avery, David Daniels, Chris Pinto, Bill Cooper, and David Sorenson.   I think that the evidence I have presented make it absolutely clear that the only motive for their support of Simonides' demonstrably false claims is linked to their KJV-Onlyism.

Constantine Simonides

     Simonides' claims are proven to be false by the same evidence, and more, that Constantine Tischendorf pointed out in a one-page note on page 478 of the 1863 Journal of Sacred Literature:  

       the NT text in Sinaiticus "differs essentially (principiell) in several thousand places from all the Moscow editions [the primary source Simonides said was used], and all the manuscripts which have been written for the past thousand years; occasionally it stands quite alone in its readings; sometimes it agrees only with the Vatican or the Cambridge manuscripts, and contains many readings which must appear gross heresies in a copy destined as a present to the orthodox emperor."  

       Sinaiticus "in the Old Testament, the text of Judith and Tobit "are of quite a different recension - a recension still preserved principally in old Latin and old Syriac documents."

       In addition to such proofs of Sinaiticus' antiquity, readers/viewers may consider the features of the manuscript that I pointed out in the debate:

       l Multiple scribes worked in the manuscript's production, shown by their different spelling, use of space-fillers, and replacement-pages.  This collides with Simonides' claim to have written the entire manuscript himself.

       l The manuscript was used for centuries, as shown by layers of correction and annotations (some in Arabic).

       l Reinforced lettering on multiple pages (in a manuscript that Simonides said was new in 1841).

       l Extensive damage to the manuscript in the books on the Pentateuch (in a manuscript that Simonides said was new in 1841).

       But I think the plainest evidence the Simonides lied habitually about the manuscript is his claim that after writing the Greek text of the Old and New Testaments, and the book of Barnabas, and the first part of Hermas, "the supply of parchment ran short."  He stated this in print in the 1863 For the 1975 New Finds included pages from Hermas from near the end of the book.  Simonides obviously did not know any more about the manuscript in 1863 than what he had read in Tischendorf's descriptions of it.

       People might ask, "Why would Simonides make such a claim?"  The answer is simple:  his motive was simple revenge; he hoped to besmirch Tischendorf because earlier, in 1856, Tischendorf had exposed his attempt to con German scholars into buying one of his forgeries.  

       It is no wonder that Tischendorf called Simonides' claims an "insane fancy."  He concluded his brief note in 1863 by saying, "Sound eyes and ordinary common sense are quite sufficient for the purpose of seeing the absurdity of the Simonides tale" - but, "mundus vulti decepi," and "volent[i] non fit injuria."

       (These two Latin phrase may be paraphrased as "The world wants to be fooled"  and "to a willing person, injury is not done" - a way of saying that those who listen to Simonides, knowing he was a seller of forgeries, have only themselves to blame for being deceived.  - A principle similar to, "You knew there was a risk of getting hit by a baseball when you went to the baseball game.")  

       Here are links to four earlier blog-posts in which I go into more detail on this subject:  One, Two, Three, Four.




Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Tennessee Bible Museum

    In Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (specifically at 135 East Wears Valley Road, Suite 1), near the Ammo Outlet store) there is a nice little place called the Tennessee Bible Museum. where curator Gene Albert  Jr. offers tours of assorted antiquities and other items that teach how people in America got their Bible.  There is also a store where old Bibles, and books about the Bible (plus various knick-knacks) can be purchased (including Larry Stone's excellent The Story of the Bible).

    Here is a brief photo-gallery showing a little of what tour-takers and store-explorers at the Tennessee Bible Museum can expect to encounter.

A replica of the ancient means of turning a piece of animal-skin into a piece of parchment.  Also in the picture:  jars modeled after the jars in which some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and reeds of the papyrus plant.

A handwritten Torah scroll.

Curator Gene Albert Jr. shows an example of the workspace of a medieval scribe, with several related items.  Jan Hus is pictured on the desk, with a quote:  "Therefore, faithful Christian, seek the truth, listen to the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, tell the truth, learn the truth, defend the truth even to death."
(You might wonder, "Why is "learn the truth" in there twice?"  I think the quotation, as written by Hus in Opera Omnia, uses two different words; the second one can also be rendered as "adhere to the truth.")

The Tennessee Bible Museum has an collection of many facsimiles of editions of the Bible that have had historical significance.  I'm sure I saw a facsimile of Codex Sinaiticus in the store, as well as a multi-volume facsimile of the Complutensian Polyglot, and a facsimile of the 1611 King James Bible.  Not a facsimile:  this copy of Living Oracles, from 1826.

This facsimile of an illuminated Latin manuscript from the 1400s shows the artistic craftmanship that could be invested in their illustrations and marginal flourishes.  Much (but not all) of the kind of art shown here gradually became a lost art after Gutenburg invented the printing press.

One of the oldest manuscripts in the exhibit is a Latin antiphonary (songbook).  The lyrics of many of the songs it contains are from the Bible.
Modern-day Bibles and Bible-related items are also in the Tennessee Bible Museum, including the "Nano Bible" - a very small Bible on microfilm - and the Lunar Bible, the first Scriptures to ever be taken to the moon.  There are also Bibles that were owned by famous individuals, such as Billy Sunday, George Bush, and Donald Trump. 

The Tennessee Bible Museum is worth a visit if you're ever traveling to Pigeon Forge, TN!