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!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Mark's Double Ending: Two New Greek Witnesses

            For decades, commentators on the Gospel of Mark have mentioned that there is an alternative ending to the Gospel of Mark (that is, an alternate after verse 8 that does not involve verses 9-20).  The ESV presents this alternative ending, which is known as the “Shorter Ending,” in a footnote, attributing it to “some manuscripts” – “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told.  And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and inperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”

          The ESV’s “Some manuscripts” was, until recently, a total of six continuous-text Greek manuscripts, plus one bilingual Greek-Sahidic lectionary (lectionary 1602):  019, 044, 083 (a.k.a. 0112), 099, 279, and 274mg.  

           The Double Ending is also attested in quite a few versional copies:

          Sahidic copies (for example, Pierpont Morgan Manuscript 11 (c. 700), Pierpont Morgan Manuscript 4 (c. 800), Vienna 9075 and 9076 (700s), and British Museum Oriental Manuscript 7029 (900s) – and a Sahidic fragment in the collection of Duke University (P. Duke Inv. 814), from the 700s).

          The Armenian MS Etchmiadzin 303 (1200s).

          The Bohairic MS known as Huntington 17 (1174), and

          Many Ethiopic copies (at least 131 – as described by Bruce Metzger in 1980 in “The Gospel of St. Mark in Ethiopic Manuscripts,” in New Testament Tools and Studies, Vol. 10; in the course of this study Metzger withdrew the well-circulated claim that a number of Ethiopic copies conclude Mark’s text at 16:8 – although the false claim can still be found in some sources, including p. 322 of the fourth edition (2005) of Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament, of which Bart Ehrman is named as a co-author).  (The corrected description of the Ethiopic evidence is on p. 120 of the same book.)  

        The Double Ending has also been found in a few representatives of the Harklean Syriac version (such as DFM 00829, a witness from the 1200s-1300s discovered by Mina Monier), and even in a copy of the Peshitta (British Library MS Add. 14456, as David Taylor has shown).

The third-to-last and last page of Mark
in Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis (VL 1, k)
     Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis (VL 1)  is the only witness to the Shorter Ending in which the Shorter Ending is not accompanied by at least part of the usual twelve verses 9-20 (which are supported by at least 1,650 Greek manuscripts, plus the non-extant manuscripts used by many patristic writers such as Tatian and Irenaeus in the 100s). (VL 1 also attests to an interesting interpolation between Mark 16:3 and 16:4, and does not attest to the final phrase of 16:8.  Its scribe also made various errors in the course of writing the Shorter Ending.)

         There are slight variations in the text of these witnesses – mainly the presence or absence of the explicit reference to Jesus’ appearance (ο Ις εφανη in 044 and 274mg and Greek-Sahidic lectionary 1602, and Ις εφανη αυτοις in 099) and the presence or absence of a final Amen.  But today I shall overlook the interesting implications of these variants to focus on a recent discovery made by Mina Monier:  there are now eight Greek manuscripts (plus Greek-Sahidic lectionary 1602) that support the Double Ending (i.e., the Shorter Ending followed by verses 9-20):  the newly confirmed manuscripts are GA 1422 and GA 2937 .  GA 1422 is assigned to the 900s-1000s; GA 2937 is assigned to the 900s.

          These two new witnesses for the Double Ending, via their agreements in shared format and shared annotations with several of the other known Greek witnesses for the Double Ending, convey more clearly than ever before that as a Greek reading, the Shorter Ending’s early circulation had a very limited geographic range, in one specific area in Egypt. 

          On folio 178v of GA 1422, alongside the text of the Gospel of Mark 16:7 (beginning with ὄτι προάγει) to 16:13 (up to and including λοιποῖς), the catena-commentary that frames the text on three sides refers to, and includes, the Shorter Ending.   Variants within the Shorter Ending in 1422’s commentary are: (1) the non-inclusion of ὁ before Ἰς), (2) the non-inclusion of ἐφάνη or ἐφάνη αὐτοῖς after Ἰς, and (3) ἀπ, rather than ἀπό, before ἀνατολῆς.     

          (One might suspect that the Shorter Ending that appears in the lower margin of GA 274 (below the text of Mark 16:6b-15, up to and including ἃπαντα κη-) was extracted from a commentary-manuscript such as 1422 or 2937, rather than from a commentary-free continuous-text manuscript.)

Mina Monier

Following the Shorter Ending, 1422’s commentary has a note:  Εστι[ν] δε κ[αι] ταυτα φερόμενα μετα τὸ ἐφοβοῦντο γαρ.  This is the same note that introduces verse 9 in 019 (Codex L), 044 (Codex Ψ), 083, and Sahidic-Greek lectionary 1602.  Each member of this small cluster of manuscripts must be connected to the same transmission-stream from which this note emanated.

          Mark 16:8 in GA 2937, meanwhile, is followed by – according to Mina Monier’s transcription – “ειχεν δε αυτας τρομος and several lines of commentary, concluding with Αυτη η υποθεσις οπιθεν εστι εις τοεφοβουντο γαρ:”  This is followed by the Shorter Ending, in a form which is nigh-identical to what is in 274mg.  And this is followed by – again following Monier’s transcription – “Eστι δε και ταυτα φερομενα μετα το εφοβουντο γαρ” (the same note that is in  019, 044, 083, 1422, and Greek-Sahidic lectionary 1602) – followed by “αναστας δε πρωϊ πρωτῃ σαββατον και τα εξης.”  More commentary-material (from Gregory of Nyssa, according to a rubric in the margin), which makes use of Mark 16:9-20, follows.

A page from Sahidic-Greek
lectionary 1602.
          Notice that in 2937, ειχεν δε αυτας τρομος (that is, the second half of 16:8, with δε instead of γαρ) follows 16:8.  2937 shares this “rewound” feature with 099 and Sahidic-Greek lectionary 1602.  Thus, by sharing the note “Εστι[ν] δε κ[αι] ταυτα φερόμενα μετα τὸ ἐφοβοῦντο γαρ,” or by restarting Mark 16:8b before continuing with 16:9 (or both), all these witnesses to the Shorter Ending show that they belong to the same narrow transmission-line – which, by virtue of including Sahidic-Greek lectionary 1602, must have been in Egypt.    

          More information about GA 2937 can be found in the article Greek Manuscripts in Alexandria, by H.A.G. Houghton and Mina Monier, which appeared in Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 71, Issue 1, April 2020, pp. 119-133.

[Readers are encouraged to explore the embedded links in this post.]


Sunday, October 30, 2022

Codex Vaticanus: From Where?

           The provenance of a manuscript, when it can be ascertained, is an important thing to know.  For instance, when Codex W came to light in Egypt, the discovery of its essentially Byzantine text of Matthew and most of Luke (alongside the mainly Alexandrian text of the opening chapters of Luke and most of John) shows that before the mid-400s (working on the premise that Codex W has been correctly dated to the early 400s), showed that a well-developed Byzantine Text of the Gospels existed in Egypt by the time Codex W was made.

          Many textual critics consider no manuscript more valuable than Codex Vaticanus.  But what is Codex Vaticanus’ (Codex B, 03) provenance?   It has been at the Vatican Library ever since the Vatican Library was founded in 1475 (using earlier library-collections) under Sixtus IV.   There is no record of Codex Vaticanus’ presence in Rome prior to that time.  Sepulveda drew attention to Codex Vaticanus in the 1530s, and informed Erasmus of some of its readings. 

Basil Bessarion
          Is there anything we can say about where Codex Vaticanus was before that?  Perhaps.  It may have been in the possession of Basil Bessarion (1403-1472), who lived a very interesting life in the 1400s.  Born in Trebizond (modern Trabzon on the Black Sea), he became a monk and worked his way up through the ranks, so to speak, becoming metropolitan of Nicea in 1437.  In the same year, Bessarion traveled to Italy to take part in the Council of Ferrara-Florence.  By 1440, Bessarion had become a Cardinal and had even composed and signed a statement of unity (Oratio dogmatica de unione) which was perhaps the strongest formal expression of a desire for the reunion of the Western Roman Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church church since the earlier schism about the filioque clause.   After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the fall of Trebizond in 1461, Bessarion’s efforts to promote a formal ecclesiastical reunion foundered, but his influence in the West continued to rise.  He nearly became pope, but apparently some bishops were averse to giving such a position to a man who was from the East. 

          In 1468, Bessarion donated his personal library (which included more Greek manuscripts than any other library at the time) to the Republic of Venice, and this became the core of the Biblioteca Marciana (a.k.a. the Sansovino Library).  Among the volumes which can now be found at the Biblioteca Marciana is the manuscript known as Codex Venetus Marc. Gr. 6 (Old Testament Manuscript 122), in which, according to T.C. Skeat (in the essay “The Codex Vaticanus in the Fifteenth Century”), the text of Esther, Sirach, Judith, and Tobit was copied from Codex Vaticanus.  Skeat goes on to say that Codex Venetus Marc. Gr. 6 was among the manuscripts that had been owned by Bessarion. 

          If Bessarion was responsible for bringing Codex Vaticanus to Rome, this elicits another question:  where was Codex Vaticanus before that?  If we look at the data in Euthaliana, by Joseph Armitage Robinson, published in 1895 as Text & Studies, Vol. 3, (beginning on digital page 448 of the download) we will see proof, in a sub-chapter titled “Chapters of the Acts in À and B,” that the chapter-numbers in part of the book of Acts in Codex Sinaiticus (up to 15:40) are the same as the chapter-numbers in the book of Acts in Codex Vaticanus.  

          Robinson reasoned:  “Where did this system of numbers, common to À and B, come from?  The two codices have got hold of it quite independently of one another.  It cannot have been copied from B into À, for À has one number (M) [i.e., 40] which is not found in B : nor can it have been copied from À into B, for nearly a third of the numbers (from MB onwards) are not found in À.  We must go back to a common source – some MS which gave its numeration to them both :  and this seems to imply that the À and B were at an early stage of their history lying side by side in the same library.”

          What library?  Probably the library at Caesarea.  Sinaiticus was probably made there (not by Eusebius, but slightly later when Acacius was bishop).  J. R. Harris argued for a connection between Sinaiticus and Caesarea in 1893 in his composition “Stichometry” in the chapter “The Origin of Codices À and B,” on the basis of a small detail in Sinaiticus text.

    In Matthew 13:54, the scribe of À initially wrote ντιπατρίδα instead of πατρίδα.  Antipatris (mentioned in Acts 23:31) was not far from the city of Caesarea, and the scribe’s thoughts may have wandered a bit, eliciting this blunder in À.  Harris put his suspicion this way:  “It is to my mind much the same as if a printed text of Shakespeare should put into Mark Antony's speech the line “I come to Banbury Caesar, not to praise him.”  Such a text would probably be the work of Oxford printers.”  (Harris’ meaning may be better appreciated if one understands that the town of Banbury is about 20 miles northwest of Oxford, and Antipatris is about 25 miles from Caesarea.)          

          One could augment Harris’ argument by pointing out two other readings in À: 

            In Luke 24:13, Codex À says that the distance between Emmaus and Jerusalem was 160, rather than sixty, stadia.  (I go into detail about this reading in the blog-post here.)  This reading almost certainly originated after Nicopolis was recognized (incorrectly) as being the same place as Emmaus, as Eusebius mentioned in his composition Onomasticon. 

          In Acts 8:5, the scribe wrote Καισαριας where he should have written Σαμαριας.

          If Caesarea was the place where Sinaiticus was made, what evidence is there that Vaticanus (which supports none of À’s readings in Matthew 13:54, Luke 14:13, and Acts 8:5) was also produced there?  One item may point in this direction:  One of Bessarion’s better-known manuscripts, known as minuscule 205, was made for Bessarion in the 1400s by John Rhosus.  Its Gospels-text is Caesarean, agreeing at many points with the Armenian version.  205 was copied from 2886 (formerly called 205abs); re-numbering was called for after Alison Sarah Welsby showed in 2011 that earlier scholars who had stated that 205abs was copied from 205 had gotten it backwards (at least, as far as the text of the Gospel of John is concerned).

          But there is another possibility.  Codex Vaticanus’ nearly unique format (having most of its text, other than the books of poetry in the Old Testament) written in three columns of text per page.  And B. H. Streeter wrote (on p. 113 of The Four Gospels – A Study of Origins, 1924 ed.), “It is stated in the Menologies – short accounts of a Saint for reading on his day – that Lucian bequeathed his pupils a copy of the Old and New Testaments written in three columns in his own hand.”  (The day assigned to Saint Lucian is either January 7 or October 15.)  Bruce Metzger (in Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism, in the chapter The Lucianic Recension of the Greek Bible, p. 6) refers to the same report, and adds the detail that the Menaeon states this three-column manuscript written in three columns per page ended up at a church in Nicomedia.   And prior to becoming cardinal of Nicea, Bessarion may have encountered it (and obtained it) there, and took it to Italy. 

          It is not impossible, considering that the three-column format is nearly unique to Vaticanus and the manuscript attributed to Lucian – that they are one and the same.  This would imply that Lucian of Antioch, rather than being the initiator of a recension that begat the Byzantine Text of the New Testament, perpetuated the mainly Alexandrian text he found in exemplars at Caesarea which had been taken there from Egypt about a hundred years earlier by Origen.  If these MSS were also the ancestors of Codex Sinaiticus, then the genealogical connection between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus does not go back to the second century (as Hort seems to have thought) but to the third century. 

          To review the steps in Vaticanus’ history that have been suggested:
          (1)  Vaticanus was produced at Caesarea under the supervision of Lucian of Antioch, no later than 312 (when Lucian was martyred), using as exemplars manuscripts that had been brought to Caesarea by Origen in 230-231.

          (2)  Before Vaticanus was taken from Caesarea to Nicomedia, its text in Acts was supplemented with chapter-numbers from the same non-extant source which supplied the chapter-numbers to Acts in Codex À.  

           (3) Vaticanus was taken to Nicomedia.  (Meanwhile, Codex Sinaiticus was taken to St. Catherine's monastery.)  Much later, in the 1400s, Bessarion acquired it and took it with him to Italy, where, via means unknown, it was placed in the collection in the Vatican Library.   


Monday, October 10, 2022

Goodbye, NRSVue


          The latest edition of the New Revised Standard Version is a compromised text that should not be considered a complete Bible.  It is, instead, an example of the products made by those who St. Paul mentioned in Second Corinthians 2:17 who were “peddling the word of God.” (WEB).

          The term translated as “peddling” is καπηλεύοντες.  This term has also been rendered in English as “adulterating” (Rheims, Young’s, LSV).  The KJV simply refers to those who “corrupt the word of God” and the ASV likewise refers to those who are “corrupting the word of God.”   Tyndale’s translation, made in 1526, is rather lively, referring to those who “choppe and chaunge with the worde of God.”

          If you can picture a dishonest merchant in the marketplace who waters down the liquor he sells, or a butcher who adds gristle to the meat that he advertises as the finest cut, then you may picture the sort of thing that Paul is talking about.  And the NRSVue’s translators, in First Corinthians 6:9, are guilty of committing precisely that sort of adulteration.  

          In First Corinthians 6:9-11, the NRSVue reads as follows:  “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes,[a] men who engage in illicit sex,[b] 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ[c] and in the Spirit of our God.” 

          The problem is the rendering at the end of verse 9:  “men who engage in illicit sex.”  A footnote in the NRSVue says “meaning of Gk uncertain.” The thing is, in real life, the Greek term here is not of uncertain meaning. The Greek term that the NRSVue renders “men who engage in illicit sex” is ρσενοκοται.  The NIV renders the same term as “men who have sex with men” and the NIV’s footnote here spells out what the term means:  “The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”

          The NIV is not translated literally, for its English text has blurred together two words – μαλακοί and ρσενοκοται – as if they both refer to the same act, but at least the footnote sorts out the distinction.  The Christian Standard Bible is similar; it renders the end of I Cor. 6:9 as “males who have sex with males” and its footnote here says “Both passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”  Likewise the Evangelical Heritage Version renders the end of I Cor. 6:9 as “males who have sex with males” and its footnote says, “The Greek text here has two distinct terms to identify passive partners and active partners in a homosexual relationship.”  The rendering in the New American Standard Bible at the end of I Cor. 6:9 is unfocused; its text says “homosexuals,” and only by reading the footnote (“Two Gr words in the text, prob. submissive and dominant male homosexuals”) may NASB-readers appreciate that Paul is not here saying that those with same-sex attraction are disqualified from the kingdom of God; Paul has in mind those who participate in homosexual acts.  Some idea of the sort of activity that Paul had in mind may be obtained by considering the root-words of ρσενοκοται:   ρσεν refers to men; κοται refers to coitus.

          Whether the words μαλακοί and ρσενοκοται are translated as one word, or as two words, they certainly do not mean “men who engage in illicit sex.”  The NRSVue’s rendering is inexcusably imprecise - and the NRSVue removes from First Corinthians 6:9 the meaning of the original text.  The NRSVue, in other words, does exactly what Paul warned against in Second Corinthians 2:17 – watering down the word of God.

          I know not how this outrageous error happened, but I suspect the involvement of Dr. Jennifer Knust in the making of the NRSVue had something to do with it.   You can watch a 2014 video ( at ) – that Dr. Knust gave when she was at Boston University  in which she argues that the Bible “says nothing at all about homosexuality” and that “there are simply no straightforward sayings either condemning or promoting same-sex love in the Bible.”  Dr. Knust is listed on the Friendship Press website as “General Editor” of the NRSVue.  

          Dr. Robert Gagnon has discussed the NRSVue’s mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9 in 2022 in a six-minute video here, and in a 52-minute video with Joe Dallas at and he has written on the subject at .  Dr. Gagnon speaks very clearly about what led to the NRSVue’s mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9:  it is the result of “ideological motivation.” 

          The NRSV, before the recent update, was already somewhat tainted in First Timothy 3:2, where its English text rendered the Greek words μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα as “married only once,” which removed the explicit gender that is super-obvious in the Greek text; a footnote in the NRSV salvages the the NRSV’s English mistranslation by saying, “Gk the husband of one wife.”  But the NRSVue’s footnote does not salvage or clarify the NRSVue’s mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9; the translators at this point have been derelict of duty, abandoning the meaning of the original text.  They have done the sort of thing that Paul warned against in II Cor. 2:17 – adulterating the word of God.  

           If you desire, like Paul, to be able to tell people that you did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (see Acts 20:27), then avoid the NRSVue.  From time to time I protest inaccuracies in the 1611 KJV that are echoes of inaccuracies in the KJV’s New Testament base-text (the Textus Receptus).  But it is no exaggeration to say that all of them put together are not as deceptive as this mistranslation in I Cor. 6:9 in the NRSVue.  


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Hand to Hand Combat: GA 1691 vs. Sinaiticus in Matthew 7:26-8:5

          Earlier this month, we looked at a page in GA 1691 that contained most of Matthew 7:26-8:5.  GA 1691 is one of many manuscripts featured at the CSNTM website.  More than one reader of that post had a question:  is GA 1691 really more accurate than Codex Sinaiticus?  Today we shall investigate this question, as far as Matthew 7:26-8:5 is concerned, via a quick round of hand-to-hand combat – that is, a comparison of the text of both manuscripts.  The standard of comparison shall be the Nestle-Aland NTG (28th edition), although the Solid Rock Greek New Testament (third edition) will also be consulted.  The passage in which both manuscripts will be compared is Matthew 7:26-8:5, the same passage featured in the previous post (slightly expanded to include the entirety of the verses on the page of 1691).  

          As usual, the comparison is scored as follows:  every extra letter earns the manuscript a point, and every missing letter earns the manuscript a point.  Word-order differences that do not change the meaning and which do not result in any loss of text do not receive a score.  Contractions of nomina sacra (sacred names) and other contractions are not counted as variants.  The number of points = the total amount of corruptions, so the lower score wins.

GA 1691 compared to NA28:

26 – 1691 transposes to τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ instead of αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν

27 – no variants

28 – 1691 has συνετέλεσεν instead of ετέλεσεν (+3)

29 – 1691 does not have αυτων at the end of the verse (-5)

1 – 1691 has Καταβαντι δε αυτω instead of Καταβαντος δε αυτου (+2, -4)

2 – 1691 has ελθων instead of προσελθων (-4)

3 – 1691 has ο Ις after αυτου (+7, uncontracting the n.s.)

4 – 1691 has εκαθερισθη instead of εκαθαρισθη (+1, -1)

4 – 1691 has προσενεγκε instead of προσενεγκον (+1, -2)

5 – 1691 has Εισελθοντι instead of Εισελθοντος (+1, -2)

5 – 1691 has αυτω instead of αυτου (+1, -2)

5 – 1691 has Καπερναουμ instead of Καφαρναουμ (+2, -2)

Thus, using NA28 as the standard of comparison, GA 1691 has 17 non-original letters and is missing 20 original letters, for a total of 37 letters’ worth of corruption.

          Now let’s see how the scribe who copied the Gospels in Codex Sinaiticus did in Matthew 7:26-8:5, compared to NA28.

À compared to NA28:

(from Codex Sinaiticus)

26 – no variants

27 – À has ελθαν instead of ελθον (+1, -1)

27 – À does not have καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι (-19)

27 – À has εκινη instead of εκεινη (-1)

28 – À has ἐξεπλήττοντο instead of ἐξεπλήσσοντο (+2, -2)

28 – À transposes to επι τη διδαχη αυτου οι οχλοι instead of οι οχλοι επι τη διδαχη αυτου

1 – À has Καταβαντι δε αυτω instead of Καταβαντος δε αυτου (+2, -4) (A corrector has erased the ω but it is noted in the trnscription)

2 – no variants

3 – À has εκτινες instead of εκτεινες (-1)

3 – À has αυτου after χειρα (+5)

3 – À does not have ευθεως (-6)

4 – À has ειπεν instead of λέγει (+5, -5)

4 – À has αλλα instead of αλλ՚ (+1)

4 – À has διξον instead of δειξον (-1)

4 – À has προσενεγκε instead of προσενεγκον (+1, -2)

5 – À has εκατοναρχης instead of εκατοναρχος (+1, -1)

            Thus, the text of Codex Sinaiticus, uncorrected, has 18 non-original letters and is missing 42 original letters, for a total of 60 letters’ worth of corruption in Matthew 7:26-8:5.  Even if we remove from the equation all the minor (and not-so-minor) orthographic variants in 7:27, 8:3, 8:4, and 8:5, that still leaves 44 letters’ worth of corruption. 

            Want to see how both manuscripts compare to the Solid Rock Greek New Testament?  Well, GA 1691 reads exactly like the Solid Rock Greek New Testament (third edition) throughout Matthew 7:26-8:5 except for two little orthographic variants in Matthew 8:4 (where 1691 has εκαθερισθη instead of εκαθαρισθη, and Μωϋσης instead of Μωσης).  There is no need, considering the variants in À noted above, to ask which manuscript agrees more with the Solid Rock GNT.   

            GA 1691 is the clear winner of this round of hand-to-hand combat.  

            Side-note:  an Alexandrian reading in NA28 in 8:1 (προσελθων instead of the Byzantine ελθων) is questionable.  ελθων is supported not only by the Byzantine text but also by C K L S U V W X  Γ Π 33.  Scholz and Griesbach and Knapp (1797)  read ελθων.  The προς in the immediately preceding λεπρος may have been accidentally repeated. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Happy 20th Birthday, CSNTM!

            On September 13, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts will celebrate its 20th year.  In honor of this occasion, let’s look at one of the manuscripts that CSNTM has brought to the public eye:  GA 1691, a Gospels-manuscript from the 1000s which resides in Athens, Greece, at the National Library of Greece.  Page-views of GA 1691 were digitized by CSNTM personnel (as reported here) and can be viewed at the CSNTM website.  The entire manuscript is indexed, making it possible for viewers to search its pages for specific passages.  

            Let’s look at a single page of GA 1691 and see what it tells us about its text and how it was used.  On the page containing Matthew 7:26b-8:5a, the following features can be seen:

(1)  Written across the top of the page is the chapter-number and chapter-title of a chapter that begins on this page:   Seven – ζ:  pe[ri] tou ekatontarch[ou] –  About the centurion (who had someone who was sick) –

(2)    A lectionary-related note, identifying the reading for the Fourth Sunday [after Pentecost].

(3)    The lection’s incipit-phrase (At that time there came to Jesus . . . ).  This is how the lector (the person who read the Scripture-passages in church-services) would begin the reading.

(4)  The chapter-number (6, represented by ϛ) and title “About the Leper” (abbreviated)

(5)  A Eusebian Section-number (63)

(6)  The chapter-number (6)

(7)  in light blue ovals:  the quick way to write “και” (“and”)

(8)  in a yellow circle:  a sacred name contraction for “Lord” (Κυριε)

(9)  in a green circle:  a τελος (telos) symbol, indicating the end of a lection

(10)  in purple cornerless rectangles:  An initial 

(11)  A sacred name contraction for “Jesus” (Iησους) 

(12) An αρχη (archē) symbol, indicating the beginning of a lection

(13) A τελος (telos) symbol, indicating the end of a lection

(14)  A Eusebian section-number (64)

And in red rectangles:  textual variants, all of which agree with the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.

             Some may call GA 1691’s text ordinary – it is one of hundreds of representatives of the dominant Greek Gospels-text used in the Middle Ages.  But those who might yawn at 1691 should take note:  the text you see on this page is much more accurate than the text of the same passage in the ancient Codex Sinaiticus, regardless of whether one uses the Nestle-Aland NTG or the Solid Rock GNT as the basis of comparison.

            In commemoration of its 20th birthday, CSNTM has a special offer for those who join its Circle of Friends (more information about that here):  new registrants will receive free copies of the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, signed by co-editor (and CSNTM research fellow) Elijah Hixson.



Friday, September 9, 2022

How We Got the New Testament (in 22 minutes)

           A new video that I've prepared is at YouTube:  How We Got the New Testament.  It's  a slide-show presentation that covers the basics of the history of the transmission of the books of the New Testament from their initial distribution to the present day.  Viewers are introduced to papyrus copies, parchment copies, majuscule (uncial) script, and minuscule script.  They are also informed of a few developments the New Testament went through in the Middle Ages.   

          Pages of Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Bezae. and Codex Cyprius are shown, and early versions are also featured, such as the Vulgate and the Peshitta.   Viewers are then informed of a few developments the New Testament text went through in the Middle Ages, such as the recycling of parchment, and illumination.

Tyndale at the stake
         When a person asks, "How did we get the New Testament?" the identity of the "we" affects the answer.  After all, some people-groups still don't have the New Testament in their native language.  After the first nine minutes, the focus is on how the English-speaking church got the New Testament.  Viewers are briefly introduced to Lorenzo Valla, Desiderius Erasmus, William Tyndale, and other individuals from the Renaissance and Reformation era.   Early English versions are described, up to and including the King James Version, before the era of modern textual criticism is covered:  the contributions of Bengel, Griesbach, Scholz, Tregelles, Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort are briefly described.

          The last five minutes focus on the spread of the New Testament in what is (for better or worse) English as it is spoken today. and developments subsequent to Westcott and Hort (such as the papyrus discoveries at Oxyrhynchus.  

        How We Got the New Testament is suitable for church-viewing and Bible-study groups.  


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Tatian and Mark 16:9-20

           Recently the website of the Text & Canon Institute featured a case for Mark 16:9-20, by me, and a case against Mark 16:9-20, by Dr. Peter Head.   My attention in this post is focused on Dr. Head’s reluctance to admit that Tatian knew Mark 16:9-20 and used material from Mark 16:9-20 in the Diatessaron.

          Dr. Head wrote about coming to  more cautious conclusions about Tatian’s Diatessaron” because “Snapp’s evidence for this second-century harmony actually comes from a sixth-century Latin manuscript and a fourth-century Syriac commentary.”  The sixth-century Latin manuscript to which he referred is Codex Fuldensis.  The fourth-century Syriac commentary to which he referred is the commentary by Ephrem Syrus (d. 373). 

          Before looking into Ephrem’s commentary and Codex Fuldensis further, two things should be pointed out. 

          (1) Dr. Head’s own footnote for the above quotation runs as follows:   “Within this Syriac commentary, the only evidence for the Longer Ending of Mark comes in the form of Jesus’ commission:  ‘Go forth into the whole world, and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit.”  This admittedly, does seem like a conflation of Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19.  But that is the only direct evidence.  Quoted from C. McCarthy, Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 with Introduction and Notes (JSSS 2; Oxford: OUP, 1993), 289.”  Notice the line, “This admittedly, does seem like a conflation of Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19.”  What else does Dr. Head imagine that it could be?         

          (2) Contrary to Dr. Head’s footnote, the passage on page 289 of McCarthy’s book is notthe only direct evidence.”  On page 145, near the beginning of Part VIII of Ephrem’s commentary as preserved in Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 (made in 480-500; see pp. 138-139 of Michelle Brown’s In the Beginning:  Bibles Before the Year 1000 for a picture), McCarthy provides the part of the commentary in which Ephrem’s main focus is on the occasion of the sending of the disciples (in Matthew 10 and Luke 10).  After noting that on this occasion, Jesus “restrained his disciples, lest they preach to the Gentiles,” Ephrem wrote,  “After they had crucified him, he commanded his disciples, ‘Go out into the whole world and proclaim my Gospel to the whole of creation, and baptize all the Gentiles.” (Comm. VIII  §1b in McCarthy 1993).  This was indexed as a reference to Matthew 29:19, but it is clearly based on Mark 16:15. McCarthy notes that §1b “is absent from the Armenian version.

         Now let’s review some developments in the study of the Diatessaron.  In 1880, in Institute Lectures, Ezra Abbot speculated that the Armenian version of Ephrem’s commentary was “made, it is supposed, in the fifth century” (Institute Lectures p. 173).  (The Armenian manuscripts themselves were from 1195.)  A Latin translation of the Armenian text that had been prepared by J. P. Aucher (using one Armenian manuscript) and edited by George Moesinger (using another Armenian manuscript) was published in 1876, and, Abbot reported, it went “almost unnoticed by scholars.”  

James Rendel Harris 
          J. Rendel Harris, in The Diatessaron of Tatian:  A Preliminary Study, (1890) offered a few more details about this Armenian text of Ephrem’s commentary, beginning on page 22, pointing out that Paul de Lagarde was an exception to Abbot’s generalization.   Harris then described the 1881 work of Theodor Zahn, in Forschungen zur Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen Kanons, Theil. 1, “Tatian’s Diatessaron, as “a skillful combination of this work of Ephrem with the earlier Syriac writers” that provides the means to “very nearly judge without the Arabic Harmony, what sequence Tatian followed, what passages he omitted, and what additions his text shews when compared with later texts.”

          Zahn’s work was eclipsed in 1888 by the publication of Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae Arabice by Agostino Ciasca, in which Ciasca presented the Arabic text of the Diatessaron as found in two manuscripts, from the 1100s and 1300s.   Harris reported (on page 8) that in the manuscript from the 1300s, a colophon states that it was translated from Syriac into Arabic by Abu-l-Faraj Abdullah Ben-at-tîb, and that its Syriac basis had been made by ʻIsa ben Ali Almottabbeb, a disciple of Abu Zaid Honain ben Ishaq.

          Harris went on to say that Abu Zaid Honain ben Ishaq was “a famous Syrian physician and writer in medicine, who died in the year 873, and whose headquarters were at Bagdad.”  He also mentions that Bar-hebraeus, a later writer, gives the date of the death of Abdulfarag as A.D. 1043.

          Harris wrote, “The Diatessaron had seen 700 years of Syriac life before its translation into Arabic; and we can readily infer that the Syriac at the time of translation must have been in many points altered from its original cast.  Still, the comparison with the collateral evidence is sufficient to justify us in our belief that we have here substantially the work of Tatian.”

          Mark 16:9-20 is plainly incorporated into the text of the Arabic Diatessaron that was published by Ciasca.  We should ask, then, (1) Is the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic Diatessaron a result of an expansion based on the Peshitta (the Syriac text), and (2) Is the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis a result of an expansion based on the Vulgate?” 

          To find the answer to this question, we must compare the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic (Syriac-based) Diatessaron (an Eastern witness) and the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis (a Western witness).    

          I should first briefly introduce Codex Fuldensis.  This manuscript was produced in 541-546, under the supervision of bishop Victor of Capua (in Italy).  The Gospels-text in Codex Fuldensis is a Vulgate text, but Victor reported that its arrangement in Codex Fuldensis was based on the arrangement of an older Latin text which Victor suspected of being a translation of Tatian’s Diatessaron.  It is described a little more by J. M. Harden in Some Manuscripts of the Vulgate New Testament.  

          By comparing the arrangement of the material from Mark 16:9–20 in the Arabic Diatessaron, and the arrangement of the material from Mark 16:9–20 and Codex Fuldensis, we can discern whether their arrangements can be reasonably attributed to two independent harmonists, or if they are so similar as to demand to be recognized as a trait derived from Tatian’s Diatessaron.

          Using, for convenience, J. Hamlyn Hill’s 1894 English translation of the Arabic Diatessaron and the presentation of the Latin text of Codex Fuldensis made by Ernestus Ranke (1868), a comparison can be made of eleven aspects of their arrangements of Mark 16:9–20. (“Arab D” represents the Arabic Diatessaron, and “Fuld” represents Codex Fuldensis.)

1►    Arab D 53 has Mk 16:9 after Jn 20:2–17.

1►    Fuld 174 has part of Mk 16:9 between Jn 20:2–10 and 20:11–17.


2►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:10 after Lk 24:9.

2►    Fuld 176 uses Mk 16:10 after Lk 24:9.


3►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:11 between Lk 24:10 and 24:11.

3►    Fuld 176 uses Mk 16:11 between Lk 24:9 and 24:11.


4►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:12 between Lk 24:11 and 24:13.

4►    Fuld 177 uses Mk 16:12 between Lk 24:11 and 24:13.


5►    Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:13b between Lk 24:13b–35 and part of Lk 24:36.

5►    Fuld 178 uses Mk 16:13b between Lk 24:13–35 and part of Lk 24:36.


6►    Arab D 55 uses Mk 16:14 between Mt 28:17 and 28:18.

6►    Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:14 between Mt 28:17 and 28:18.


7►    Arab D 55 uses Mk 16:15 between Mt 28:18 and Mt 28:19.

7►    Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:15 between Mt 28:18 and 28:19.

          (The Arabic text also includes “For even as my Father sent me, so I also send you,” which is normally found in Jn 20:21 but is also in the Peshitta in Mt 28:18.  The Syriac text translated into Arabic was probably conformed to the Peshitta to this extent.)

8►    Arab D uses Mk 16:16–18 between Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.

8►    Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:16–18 between Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.


9►    Arab D blends “And our Lord Jesus,” from Mk 16:19 with Lk 24:50.

9►    Fuld 182 does not.


10►  Arab D uses “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mk 16:19) between Lk 24:51 and 24:52.

10►  Fuld 182 uses “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mk 16:19) between Lk 24:51 and 24:52.


11►  Arab D uses Mk 16:20 between Lk 24:53 and Jn 21:25.

11►  Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:20 after Lk 24:53 and ends there with “Amen.” (In Codex Fuldensis, Jn 21:25 appears at the end of 181.)

           So:  there are small differences, but the arrangement of the contents of Mark 16:9–20 in Codex Fuldensis, and the arrangement of the contents of Mark 16:9–20 in the Arabic Diatessaron, are essentially the same. (By the way, this evidence was presented by me in 2012 in The Heroic Age.)

          The agreement between Codex Fuldensis and the Arabic Diatessaron, as evidence that Tatian’s Diatessaron included Mark 16:9-20, has  corroborative witnesses besides Ephrem’s commentary.  One of them is Aphrahat, a Syriac writer who used the Diatessaron.  According to Harris, Aphrahat’s “first 22 homilies are based upon the text of the Diatessaron.”  Harris says that these homilies “were written about the year 336 A.D., and a supplementary 23rd homily was added in the year 345.”

           In Aphrahat’s first homily, also called “Demonstration One:  Of Faith,” he wrote in chapter 17, “When our Lord gave the sacrament of baptism to his apostles, he said thus to them: Whosoever believes and is baptized shall live, and whosoever believes not shall be condemned,” and, “Again he said thus: ‘This shall be the sign for those that believe; they shall speak with new tongues and shall cast out demons, and they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall be made whole’” (See John Gwynn’s 1898 Selections, Translated into English, from the Hymns and Homilies of Ephrem, and from the Demonstrations of Aphrahat the Persian Sage, on page 351).

          (Aphrahat’s Demonstration One was misidentified in the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament (1966) as a work of Jacob of Nisibis, even though John Burgon had corrected such misidentification in 1871 on page 258 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark.)

          In conclusion:  there is no real justification for Dr. Head’s caution, and there should be no doubt at all that Mark 16:9-20 was in Tatian’s Diatessaron.