Sunday, December 17, 2023

Christmas Gifts and Stocking Stuffers for Textual Critics (and their kids)

 It's almost Christmas 2023 - 

the only such Christmas there will ever be - 

So why not give your seminary friend

a book he/she can read and lend?

     I have three volumes available on Amazon, for the Kindle e-reader (or Kindle app) and also available in paperback: (click the link to go to Amazon for more information)

Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 (Fourth Edition)

The Epistle of James - English Translation, Commentary, and Greek Text

A Word to John MacArthur Regarding His False Claims About Mark 16:9-20. (Large Print)

And don't forget:  I am available to speak about the reliability of the New Testament text at any church, anywhere (okay, not in North Korea yet, but almost anywhere) that can pay for my travel expenses and room and board.  (Yes, this includes Apologia Church.)

Have a joyous Advent season and a happy new year 2024 (and please buy my books)!

Coming soon:  A Word to James R. White About His False Claims About the Text of the Gospels.

And if you want something for the youngsters, I have also published (with very little direct application to New Testament textual criticism) these two little gems:

Saint Brigid and the Fairy Gates (Youth Edition)

The Enormous Dragon (co-authored with my elder son Peregrine Kirk Snapp) - a book about an orphan, for orphans and other earthling children.

As of December 14, 2023, Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 (Fourth Edition) is ranked 1,752 in the Christian Reference section.  

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Improvement: BAR's Updated Article on Codex Sinaiticus

          At the Biblical Archaelogy website, an article titled “What’s Missing from Codex Sinaiticus, the Oldest New Testament?” originally published by “Biblical Archaeology Society staff” on August 12, 2015, contained several false statements. 

          A heading in the article still refers to “Mark 16:1-14.”  That is false.  (In real life, Mark 16 continues to verse 20, as the verse-numbers in BAS’ article further down the page plainly show.)

           In general however the article has been greatly improved.    

          Those who want to get some idea of the differences between Codex Sinaiticus and the text of most manuscripts of the Gospels may explore the comparisons I have made in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

        Thank you, BAS staff, for improving this article.

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Interpolation in Matthew 27:49: Why?

             “Two suppositions alone are compatible with the whole evidence.   First, the words ἄλλος δὲ κ. τ. λ. may belong to the genuine text of the extant form of Mt, and have been early omitted (originally by the Western text) on account of the obvioous difficulty.  Or, secondly, they may be a very early interpolation, absent in the first instance from the Western text only, and thus resembling the Non-Western interpolations in Luke xxii xxiv except in its failure to to obtain admission into the prevalent texts of the third and fourth centuries. 

            “The prima facie difficulty of the second supposition is lightened by the absence of the words from all the earlier versions, though the defectiveness of African Latin, Old Syriac, and Thebaic evidence somewhat weakens the force of this consideration.  We have thought it on the whole right to give expression to this view by including the words in double brackets, though we did not feel justified in removing them from the text, and are not prepared to reject altogether the alternative supposition.”

            (Hort, Notes on Select Readings, p. 22)

             What was F.J.A. Hort talking about?  Most Americans who are acquainted with the NIV, ESV, CSB, and NASB have no clue, because these versions have no footnote at Matthew 27:49.  The Tyndale House Greek New Testament does not have an apparatus-listing at Matthew 27:49.  (Dr. Dirk Jongkind, Tyndale House GNT editor, discussed it in February 2018 at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog).  

            The CSB is particularly strange in this regard, because it features a textual footnote pointing out trivial textual variants nearby, but not for this one which involves a drastic change in meaning and in doctrine.

            Let us take a closer today.


From Westcott & Hort's 1881 Greek text
ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα is supported by Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, C L U Γ and by about 35 minuscules MSS (specifically, 5 26 48 67 115 127 160 175 364 782 871 1010 1011 1057 1300 1392 1416 1448 1555 1566 1701 1780 2117 2126 2139 2283 2585 2586 2622 2680 2766 2787).  The first hand of minuscule 2437 (previously examined here in 2018) should be included in this list, despite having had the words erased by a corrector.

            Also supporting the inclusion of these words (in some cases with ὕδωρ and αἷμα transposed) are Palestinian Aramaic copies, the Ethiopic version, Middle Egyptian, quite a few Irish Vulgate and Old Latin copies (the list includes the Book of Mulling and the Book of Kells and the Book of Dimma).
            I will not review the details of what Hort, in 1881, and more recently, Willker has written regarding Macedonius and Chrysostom and Severus and the ancient (alleged) autograph of the Gospel of Matthew found on Cyprus in the late 400s.
            The Revision Committee in 1881 heeded Hort’s advice somewhat, and as a result the 1881 RV featured a margin-note linked to Matthew 27:49 which stated, “Many ancient authorities add And another took a spear and pierced his side, and there came out water and blood.   See John xix. 34.
                   If the men who translated and edited the 1984 NIV had done what they did 99% of the time – i.e., follow the Nestle-Aland compilation – then the NIV, too, would say “And someone else, taking a spear, pierced his side and there came out water and blood” in Matthew 27:49.  The same can be said regarding the creators of the NASB, ESV, NNIV (that’s how I refer to the 2011 NIV, which varies drastically from the 1984 NIV), and CSB.   I cannot of course judge their motives but they seem awfully fickle at this particular point.

            Perhaps their fickleness is due to reluctance to admit into the text, even in double brackets or in a footnote, a textual variant which would destroy the doctrine of inerrrancy (which I have already discussed here).  Philip Comfort acknowledgd  in Encountering the Manuscripts (2005) that the inclusion of ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα would appear to create “a jarring contradiction.”

            (Notice, by the way, that there is no distigmai in Vaticanus here – because Sepulveda would not have pointed out to Erasmus such an erroneous reading in his (Sepulveda’s) prized ancient codex.)

            Operating on the premise that editors of the NIV, ESV, CSB, etc., have held (that it is an interpolation), what would motivate an early scribe to create and into the text these words?

            A desire to show that some Romans, or some Jews, were merciful to Jesus as he was dying on the cross.  Crucifixion is a painful experience.  It can last for days.  A person who ended Jesus’ torture would be understood by his contemporaries to be acting mercifully.

            There is a slight anti-Judaic tendency in the Western text of Acts.  I propose that there was a slight pro-Jewish tendency at work in the Alexandrian Greek transmission-line, which carried over into the Old Latin transmission-line that is represented in some Irish Old Latin copies of the Gospel of Matthew.  

            Before the four Gospels were collected together, our interpolator could point to his interpolation and say “Look!  Not all of the Jews on the scene were bad.  Sure, God destroyed Jerusalem forty years later, but there was a remnant there on Calvary; there was at least one noble Jew who defied the Romans and showed mercy to Jesus on the cross – not giving him a drink to prolong his suffering, but spearing him, in defiance of the Roman soldiers, in order to end his suffering.”

            Or, the interpolation might have been made by an early pro-Roman scribe, who wished to convey that the Romans who crucified Jesus were just following orders, and had no personal vendetta against Jesus (something most first-century readers of Matthew would naturally assume), and that one of them, in an act of insubordination, speared Jesus, causing his immediate death and an end to his sufferings.


Picture from the Rabbula Gospels

         The traditions about Saint Longinus may thus become more relevant – was he Roman, or Jewish?  Or both?

             The earliest traditions about Longinus consistently portray him as a Roman centurion, as far as I can tell.  On that premise, the interpolation in the Alexandrian text of Matthew 27:49 was created in order to excuse the Romans.  The Romans could argue that as legitimate agents of the Roman Empire, they should be forgiven for crucifying Jesus – and, with this interpolation, offer an extra consideration:  they didn’t even allow Jesus to suffer on the cross longer than what was required to carry out the orders of Pontius Pilate – barely enough time to crucify Jesus, and enough time to allow all the bystanders to read the inscription Pilate ordered them to post on the cross, and enough time to finish gambling.

             (As it turned out, it only took Jesus six hours to suffer and die for the sins of the whole world, but the Roman soldiers couldn’t have known that.)

             I consider it very likely that John, when he wrote the fourth Gospel in Ephesus, was aware of this interpolation and either read it, or heard about it.

             Notice the explicit words of John 19:35  - “The one who saw it [i.e., John] has testified , and his testimony is true.  He knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.”  What could be the motivation for such explicitness, except to respond to an interpolation that John detected in his own copy of the Gospel of Matthew, or a copy that someone had told him about?

              So:  after walking through the external and internal evidence carefully and slowly, I conclude that the words ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα in the Alexandrian text (and whatever other texts) are an interpolation, and may confidently be treated as the interpolation they are.  That is, they are an interesting display of an early scribe’s concern, but as a representation of the autograph of the Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew, they should be entirely ignored.


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

John 5:3b-4: Original or Not?

            Metzger’s observation that 5:3b contains two “non-Johannine” words is lightweight, considering that John had few other occasions to use either ἐκδέχεσθαι or κίνησις.

            (I commend to readers both the article written by Zane Hodges in 1979 in Bibliotheca Sacra 136, pp. 25-39, and the article by Gordon Fee which appeared in Evangelical Quarterly 54 (pp. 207-218.)              

            Before reaching a conclusion about John 5:3b, let’s investigate 5:4.  Dr. Bill Mounce addressed this variant briefly, but his treatment is extremely oversimplified.  More is required.  First, we must get an idea of how much textual variation there is within this verse.  In A K L Y Δ Π, κυρίου (ΚΥ) appears after αγγελος γαρ (or, in L, αγγελος δε).  And instead of κατέβεινεν, A K Π Ψ 579 have ἐλούετο.  And A (supported by some Bohairic manuscripts) has ουν between δήποτ’ and κατείχετο.  Instead of δήποτε, K and Π have δ’ αν.  In Cc H M U Y Δ Λ Π 078 and at least 17 lectionaries, instead of ἐτάρασσεν, the text reads ἐταράσσετο.  The Ethiopic version also supports ἐταράσσετο.   Swanson erroneously lists Δ as if it reads ἐταράσσετο and ἐτάρασσεν; a check of the manuscript show that it supports ἐταράσσε το (the το being the το before ὕδωρ).  

            Plus, in S Λ Π 047, and 72 minuscules, the passage is marked with asterisks.  The Harklean Syriac also features the verse marked with asterisks.

             The external evidence mostly aligns with the external evidence for 5:3b – but not quite. D Wsupp 33, 2718, and the Armenian and Georgian versions, which include 4:3b, do not imclude 5:4.  5:4 is supported by Tatian’s Diatessaron (as demonstrated by a comment by Ephrem in his commentary ), by Ambrose, by Tertullian, by Chrysostom (who was listed in UBS1 as a witness for both inclusion and non-inclusion), and Cyril.  

            Tertullian, in De Baptismo 5, near the end of the chapter, wrote, “If it seems an unheard-of thing that an angel should interfere with water, there was a precedent for that which was to be. The pool of Bethsaida ‘was stirred’ by the intervention of ‘an angel.’  Those who complained of their health used to watch for him. For anyone who had first descended there ceased to complain after a bath. This picture of bodily cure was prophetic of spiritual cure, according to the practice by which things carnal always precede, being a picture of things spiritual. As, therefore, the grace of God spread among men, greater power was added to the waters and the angel.”

            Tertullian goes on to say, “Those who healed bodily defects now heal the spirit.  Those who worked temporal salvation now restore for us everlasting salvation.  Those who freed one once a year, [this indicates how Tertullian understood κατά καιρόν] now daily save communities, death being destroyed by the washing away of sins.”  Tertullian clearly had no problem reading this verse and applying it to the life of the church.

            Chrysostom commented on 5:3b-4 in detail in his commentary on John, perceiving in the paralytic’s healing a thematic template of baptism and salvation. 

            Tertullian, in Latin, and Chrysostom, in Greek, demonstrate the antiquity of the passage in the text, as early as two papyri from c. 200 and c. 400 would.  Chrysostom also shows that John 5:4 was read in the text of the church in Byzantium during his bishopric.  Amphilochius of Iconium (340-403; bishop after 374) – cousin of Gregory of Nazianzus – does not include 5:4 in the text he used.  Both the non-inclusion and inclusion of 5:4 are very early readings.

            What phenomenon, occurring sometime between 90 (when the Gospel of John was written – unless John Robinson’s redating to pre-70 – in light of (among other things) 5:2 – is adopted) and 200, could elicit one transmission-stream to include John 5:4 (in the case of Tertullian’s text of John), and another transmission-stream to not include John 5:4 (in the case of P75, À, and B)? 

            I am willing to posit that an anomaly in the autograph of the Gospel of John itself elicited different treatments of John 5:3b-4.  Picture John reading chapter 5 to his listeners from the autograph for the very first time – without 5:3b-4.  Inevitably, someone would ask, “John, why were these sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed people waiting near the pool instead of swimming in its water?”  And I can imagine that John added an explanatory note in the margin, “waiting for the moving of the waters.”

            And then someone asked, “What agitated the pool’s water?”.  And John, realizing that his listeners in Ephesus were oblivious to the background of the pool at Bethesda, added another note – and thus verse 4 came into existence as a second marginal note.  When John died, the autograph was entrusted to the Christian community at Ephesus – and they treated the annotations in three different ways in the next generation:

            In the ancestor of Byzantine manuscripts, the notes were either blended into the main text (as John 21 has been), or else copies just the way they appeared in the autograph, in the margin with symbols to connect them to John 5:3-5.  In the ancestor of Alexandrian manuscripts, receiving the text of the autograph slightly later (being in Egypt, not Ephesus), the notes were assumed to have originated with someone other than John, and were therefore not considered worthy to be included in either the main text or in the margin. 

            Another consideration might have been in play in the mind of the early Alexandrian scribe who decided not to include verse 4:  a desire to protect John from the charge of promoting superstition.  A scribe who thought he knew that water in the pool of Bethesda was agitated by entirely natural forces could easily persuade himself that the marginal note in his exemplar, stating that an angel of the Lord bathed in the pool of Bethesda, could not have been written by an inspired author; in addition, he did not wish to appear to commend Asklepieions.

            The testimony of P and its relatives which have John 5:4 with asterisks commends family P as an excellent representative of the autograph of the text of the Gospels.  The form of verse 4 that appears in Codex P is the form which should be adopted, instead of the readings found in the majority of manuscripts.

            An addition question is sure to be asked:  what should English Bible editors do with John 5:3-4?  I have no objection to the inclusion of 5:3-4 in the main text, or in the margin, with a note stating that the passage appears in the margin, or not at all, in a few early manuscripts.  But to omit it entirely would guarantee that English readers would perpetually ask, as John’s first listeners did, “Why weren’t they all swimming?” or, “Who or what stirred up the waters?”

            Another question may be on the minds of some readers:  Would an inspired author expand on his own narrative in this way, adding marginalia?  I see no reason why not.  Many a Spirit-led preacher reading from a manuscript he wrote has spontaneously clarified himself mid-sermon.  Even Saint Paul, in First Corinthians 1:16, clarified that he had baptized the household of Stephanas (who, according to tradition, was the jailor in Acts 16), right after saying, “I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.”  I Cor. 1:16 may have originally been a note in the margin added by Paul as he proof-read the letter; no one at Corinth, however, would have doubted its veracity.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Looking into the Alexandrian Text at John 12:12

            War – what is it good for?  “Absolutely nothing,” many have answered.

            And when the question is asked, “What is the Alexandrian text good for?”, quite a few people have responded with the same answer.  Independent Fundamentalist Baptists tend to insistently subscribe to the Textus Receptus, and some KJV-Onlyists even make it a formal condition of church fellowship to use the KJV or versions in languages other than English that conform to the meaning of the KJV New Testament.

            Simultaneously you might think, listening to other folks, that the Alexandrian text is the greatest invention since sliced bread.  The text of the New Testament portion of the ESV, NIV, CSB, and NRSV are all based primarily on the Alexandrian Text – the “critical text” that is published in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the UBS Greek New Testament.  (And why is this compilation referred to as the critical text?  Weren’t all compilations critical, i.e., thoughtfully compiled?  Are we supposed to be given the impression that other compilations are not critical, and merely reproduce the text found in a particular manuscript??) 

            I reckon that 99% of American preachers who promote English versions based on the NA/UBS compilation(s) still get their justification for using it, at any given point of variation, from Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament – apparently never realizing that Metzger’s Textual Commentary was made with the intention of promoting the UBS compilation.  (So if you’re looking for an objective textual commentary, Metzger-readers, or for one written by an author who wasn’t writing under the influence of the Lucianic recension delusion, you’re digging in the wrong place.)

            Meanwhile, advocates of the Byzantine Text tend to reject the Alexandrian text as a matter of course; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be majority-text advocates. 

            I would argue, though, that the Alexandrian text excels in at least one area:  the preservation of the original grammar.  For example:  there’s a little variation-unit in John 12:12 that doesn’t get attention often, because its effect on translation is so slight:  between τη επαύριον and ἐλθὼν, did John write ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ or ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς or simply ὄχλος πολὺς?  The Byzantine text has ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ, and its allies include Codex Alexandrinus, D K W X Π Ψ f1 579 700 1424 (etc.) plus the Peshitta, the Sahidic version, and the Gothic version.  Even Origen is cited in the UBS GNT as support for ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ – apparently the only patristic reference the editors considered worth mentioning.  Papyrus 2vid, assigned to the 500s, also supports ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ.

            Codex Sinaiticus initially read ὄχλος πολὺς but a corrector has conformed its text to the  Byzantine/Western/Caesarean reading.  D 565 892 and 1195 agree with À’s initial reading.  But that’s not the true Alexandrian reading.   The Alexandrian reading here is what Vaticanus has:  ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ.  And Codex B is allied with P75 P66vid B L 1241, the Sinaitic Syriac, and the Bohairic version.  (The UBS apparatus listed f13 as if it supports ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ; Swanson lists f13 as support for ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ).

            Bruce Metzger, a few verses earlier, treated support from multiple transmission-streams as a strong indicator of a reading’s genuineness (“the overwhelming manuscript support for the verse seemed to a majority of the Committee to justify retaining it in the text,” wrote Metzger).  That’s a general principle with which I enthusiastically agree.  But in this case, despite the shallowness of the external evidence in favor of the minority reading, there’s a valid reason for favoring it:  the internal evidence.  It’s the reading more likely to have been written by John, and it’s the reading more likely to have been altered by scribes.    

            Metzger’s colleagues seem to have had some misgivings about the Alexandrian reading here, giving their decision a “C” rating.  Metzger wrote, “The expression ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς serving as the subject of a verb [in verse 9] is such unusual Greek (with πολὺς in the predicate position) that serious doubts arise whether the evangelist could have written it thus.”  The counter-argument should be obvious:  are later scribes likely to have changed the text from ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ to ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ?

            Granting that some Alexandrian scribes were not particularly attentive in the vicinity of this variant-unit (P75’s scribe skipped the second part of verse 8), I am content to accept the Alexandrian reading, not on the grounds that its external support is stronger, but on the grounds than internal considerations are in its favor.  There are many other examples that could be selected to show the Alexandrian tendency to preserve original grammatical quirks – not errors; just grammatical quirks, like when a baseball umpire correctly says, “That ain’t a strike” – but this one may suffice for today.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Mark 13:14 - Who Said What?

          "But when ye see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains."  Thus read the words of Jesus in Mark 13:14 in the Revised Version (1881). But in the KJV, NKJV, EOB-NT, MEV, and WEB, the verse is a bit longer:  before the word "then" is the phrase, "spoken of by Daniel the prophet," based on the words τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου, which appears in the Textus Receptus and in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts (including A K M U Y Γ Δ Θ Π 157), as well as in the Peshitta, the Harklean Syriac, and six Old Latin copies (aur, c, e, k, l, q).   

          The basis for "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is not supported by À (Sinaiticus) B D L W Ψ and  565 700 892.  Nor are the words found in the Old Latin copies d, ff2, i, n, and r1,  or the Vulgate (though the phrase is included in some copies of the Vulgate), or in the Sahidic version, the Armenian version, and the Old Georgian version (according to Wieland Willker, who covered this variant-unit in his Textual Commentary on the Gospels).

Codex Macedonianus (Y/034), shown here,
includes the words in Mark 13:14 that are
not included in the Alexandrian Text
    Neither the UBS Greek New Testament (4th edition) nor the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (27th edition) mention this six-word variant.  That's right:  a six-word Byzantine variant goes entirely uncovered in the GNT and NTG, as if it never existed.

          What has happened here in Mark 13:14?  The editors of the Greek New Testament apparently felt that the Byzantine reading is a harmonization to Matthew 24:15.  The phrase in Matthew is similar; Matthew 24:15 has διὰ instead of ὑπὸ.  Some members of f1 read διὰ, and so do 28 579 and 1424.  It seems to me the theory that a harmonizer added τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου is not very tenable, partly because a harmonizer would be unlikely to be so picky as to change διὰ into ὑπὸ.

          But how can the omission of τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου be explained, especially considering that it missing not only in the Alexandrian?  Therein lies a tale:

          In the 200s, the authorship of certain portion of Daniel and Susanna in the Septuagint (LXX) were debated; Origen and his colleague Julius Africanus exchanged letters about Susanna.  In addition, the third-century pagan author Porphyry argued (as many interpreters still argue today) that the entire book of Daniel was composed in intertestamental times, during the reign of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes.  No Christians seem to have objected to Christ's reference to Daniel in Matthew 24:15 as the source of Daniel 9:27.  But in the first centuries of Christianity, when copies of the Gospels were being circulated individually, a thoughtful copyist of the Gospel of Mark, seeing a reference to the book of Daniel coming from the mouth of Jesus, may have thought that source of the words τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου was a marginal note that an earlier copyist, or an individual who supervised copyists, had inserted into the text ‒ and, satisfied with the thought that the phrase was not original, declined to include it in subsequent copies.  

          That this happened, and happened early enough to influence some Old Latin copies, the text of the Sinaitic Syriac, and the text of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, is more probable than the idea that someone creating the Byzantine text, selecting readings from the Alexandrian and Western copies, threw τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου into Mark 13:14, especially considering that the words are not in Mark 13:14 in the earliest representatives of the Alexandrian or Western Greek text.

          This implies that the Alexandrian Text of the Gospel of Mark was not mechanically copied by scribes.  It implies that the Alexandrian Text of the Gospel of Mark was (slightly) edited by an editor who  removed features that appeared to him to run the risk of inviting objections from outsiders.  Lest this might seem to be a conspiracy theory, I leave you with the words of Bruce Metzger (from The Text of the New Testament, 4th edition, p. 312) that the Alexandrian Text is considered "on the whole the best ancient recension."


Sunday, June 25, 2023

Matthew 26:28: My Blood of the New Covenant

            In Matthew 26:28, did Jesus say, "This is my blood of the new covenant"?  Or did he say, "This is my blood of the covenant'?  The contest, in Greek, is between τὸ τῆς καινῆς and τῆς.  The external evidence - as presented in the apparatus of Wayne Mitchell's The Greek New Testament, 4th edition - shows that representatives of multiple text-types support τὸ τῆς καινῆς or τῆς καινῆς:  the Byzantine text finds allies in A, C, D (without the τὸ), E, F, G. H. K, M, S, U, W, Γ, Δ, Π Ω 074vid f1  f13 28 205 565 579 597 700 892 1006 1071 1241 1243 1342 1505 1582 Lect  the Old Latin and Vulgate, the Peshitta, Palestinian Aramaic, Sahidic and Bohairic versions (except for one Bohairic copy, and Schenke's Middle Egyptian), Armenian, Ethiopic, and part of the Old Georgian version. The Byzantine reading also has support from Irenaeus (in Latin), Origen (in Latin), Theophilus of Alexandria, Theodoret, Jerome, and Augustine.

           P45 (damaged, but with space-considerations taken into account) and P37 agree with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (and 019 035 038 33) on the shorter reading.  Irenaeus (as preserved in Armenian) agrees with the shorter reading, and so do Cyprian and Cyril.
           Both readings are clearly ancient.
           Looking at the parallel in Mark 14:24, the longer reading is paralleled word for word in the Byzantine Text.  Meanwhile, the passage without "new" is supported by Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and L D P W Z Θ Ψ and Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis.  

          Metzger proposed that the longer reading in Mt. 26:28 originated via a harmonization to Luke 22:20.  I propose, however, that something else has affected the text of Matthew 26:28. And it wasn't Marcionism.  It could be imagined that Marcion or a Marcionite created the shorter reading because to Marcion, Jesus Christ did not introduce a new covenant; to Marcion, the one true God had nothing to do with the covenant of the Law. 
           Metzger asserted that if καινῆς had been present in the original text of Matthew 26:28, "there is no good reason why anyone would have deleted it."  Some might insist that a Marcionite's theology would be, to him, a reason to delete it.  But can a Marcionite's influence upon the Alexandrian text of Matthew have been so strong?  Marcion himself only accepted his own edited text of the Gospel of Luke.  So the idea that Marcionism was a factor seems unlikely. 
           But the flimsiness of an arrow thrown at the shorter reading does not really prove the strength of the shorter reading.  If the shorter reading is regarded as original, then the text of Matthew 26:28 must have been harmonized to Luke 22:20 in multiple transmission-streams (affecting the Byzantine Text, the Old Latin and Vulgate, the Sahidic, the Sinaitic Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Slavic versions).  Neither Lachman nor Tregelles seems to have thought that was a plausible option.

            A less sinister mechanism than Marcionism seems to have been at work in the Alexandrian text of Matthew 26:28:  simple parablepsis.  A scribe beginning with τῆς καινῆς before διαθήκης could skip καινῆς by accidentally jumping from the -ῆς in τῆς to the -ῆς at the end of καινῆς.  Perhaps slightly facilitating the omission of καινῆς was the influence of scribes' recollection of Exodus 24:8 as written in the Septuagint, where Moses "took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.'"  There is no καινῆς in Exodus 24:8, the passage that Christ's words in Matthew 26 reflect.  Contrary to Metzger's assertion that "there is no good reason" for a deletion in Matthew 26:28, it is easy to see that a mechanism of deliberate harmonization (to Exodus 24:8) and a mechanism of accidental omission could both contribute to the creation of the shorter reading.  (Whenever an accidental omission occurs,  aren't observations about the lack of motive superfluous?)

          A wild card should not be overlooked:  the word τὸ before τῆς καινῆς in the Byzantine Text.  Non-Greek scribes might not have bothered with this; Greek scribes may have naturally added τὸ, regarding the resultant reading to be a slight stylistic improvement not affecting the meaning of the text.  (Conversely, Alexandrian scribes might have considered it unnecessary.)  This detail need not be resolved to maintain the conclusion that καινῆς was part of the original text of Matthew 26:28.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Mark 16:9-20 - Why Egyptian Scribes Removed It

             The last 12 verses of Mark are attested in over 1,650 Greek manuscripts, early and abundant patristic evidence, and in multiple transmission-streams.  It is not a Byzantine reading which fell into its neighbors, as shown by the following features in the Western, Caesarean, and Alexandrian texts:

            Western (represented by Codex Bezae, D/05):
            εφανερωσεν πρωτοις instead of εφανη πρωτον in 16:9,

            αυτοις after απηγγειλεν in 16:10,

            και ουκ επιστευσαν αυτω instead of ηπιστησαν in 16:11,

            και at the beginning of 16:12,

            προς αυτους instead of αυτοις in 16:15,

            the omission of απαντα in 16:15, and

            και before κηρυξατε in 16:15.



            family-13 omits δε and inserts the contracted name “Jesus” after Αναστας in 16:9.  (A lectionary-influenced reading)

            Codex Θ (038) has μαθηταις in 16:10 instead of μετ’ .

            Codex Θ (038) has εφανη instead of εφανερωθη in 16:12.

            Codex Θ (038) has πορευθεντες instead of απελθοντες in 16:13.

            Family-1, family-13, 28, and 565 (and A, Δ, and C) add εκ νεκρων after

εγηγερμενον in 16:14.  (This reading may be supported by Justin Martyr in First Apology ch. 50 as well.)



            C*, L, 33, 579, and 892 (and D and W) have παρ’ instead of αφ after

Μαρια τη Μαγδαληνη in 16:9.

            C*, L, Δ, and Ψ (044) omit καιναις at the end of 16:17. 099 also

omits γλωσσαις λαλησουσιν, probably due to accidental lineskipping.

            This implies that 099’s exemplar read:

                        δαιμονια εκβαλουσιν

                        γλωσσαις λαλησουσιν

                        και εν ταις χερσιν etc.

            C, L, Δ, Ψ (044), 099, 579, and 892 have και εν ταις χερσιν at the beginning of 16:18.


            Why, then, are some influential scholars still insisting that Mark 16:9-20 is not original, or is somehow, despite having plenty of distinct features, a “pastiche”?  This is due, I suspect, because of dependence on outdated materials, and because of an inability to satisfactorily answer the question, “Why would scribes omit these 12 verses if they were original?”
            But this is not a difficult question.  Egyptian scribes did not excise vv. 9-20 in their capacity as scribes.  They excised vv. 9-20 in their capacity as framers of the apostolic text.

             It ought to be remembered that Eusebius of Caesarea, in Church History Book Three, chapter 39, preserves Papias’ statement that “The Elder” reported the following: “Mark, who had been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of those who listened to him, but with no intent to give a sequential account of the Lord’s discourses. So that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing: not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.”

            In Church History Book Five, chapter 8:1-3, Eusebius quotes from the beginning of the third book of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (where Irenaeus seems to rely on Papias’ writings): “Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. After their departure (έξοδον), Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter also transmitted to us in writing those things which Peter had preached.”

            In addition, in Church History Book Six, 14:5-7, Eusebius presents a statement that he attributes to Clement of Alexandria:  “Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner: the Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion: as Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”

            The accounts of Irenaeus and Clement seem to conflict: Irenaeus states that Mark wrote after the departure of Peter and Paul, but Clement states that Mark was distributing the Gospel while Peter was still alive. This should be compared to what Jerome, recollecting earlier compositions, wrote in the eighth chapter of De Viris Illustribus:

            “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote a short gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome, embodying what he had heard Peter tell. When Peter heard this, he approved it and published it to the churches to be read by his authority, as Clement in Book 6 of his Hypotyposes, and Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, record. Peter also mentions this Mark in his first epistle, figuratively indicating Rome under the name of Babylon: “She who is in Babylon elect together with you salutes you, and so does Mark my son.”

            “So, taking the gospel which he himself composed, he [Mark] went to Egypt. And first preaching Christ at Alexandria, he formed a church so admirable in doctrine and continence of living that he constrained all followers of Christ to his example. Philo –  most learned of the Jews – seeing the first church at Alexandria still Jewish in a degree, wrote a book on their manner of life as something creditable to his nation, telling how, as Luke says, the believers had all things in common at Jerusalem, so he recorded what he saw was done at Alexandria under the learned Mark. He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.”

            Jerome was clearly relying on earlier accounts, including Eusebius’ Church History; the statement about the year of Mark’s death seems to be drawn directly from Eusebius’ Church History, Book Two, chapter 24: “When Nero was in the eighth year of his reign, Annianus succeeded Mark the evangelist in the administration of the parish of Alexandria.”   Eusebius provides a second affirmation of the year of the beginning of the bishopric of Annianus in Church History, Book Three, chapter 14: “In the fourth year of Domitian, Annianus, the first bishop of the parish of Alexandria, died after holding office twenty-two years, and was succeeded by Abilius, the second bishop.”   Figuring that Domitian’s reign began in September of 81, adding four years brings us to September of 85. By subtracting 22 from 85, we arrive at the year 63. If Annianus served as bishop for a bit more than 22 years but less than 23 full years, Eusebius’ two statements agree.

            On the question of whether Mark wrote his Gospel before Peter’s death, or afterward, the accounts are divided. Their discord may decrease a little if Jerome’s statement is understood as an incorrect deduction based on Eusebius’ statement that Annianus succeeded Mark in the eighth year of Nero’s reign. If Eusebius’ statement means that Mark, instead of dying in that year, departed from Alexandria to go to Rome, then if Nero’s eighth year is calculated to be 62 (since his reign began on October 13, in the year 54), the emerging picture is that Mark established a Christian community in Alexandria, and then went to Rome, possibly at the urging of Timothy (see Second Timothy 4:11). According to this hypothesis, Peter and Mark were both ministering in Rome in the year 62.

            In the mid-60s, severe persecution against Christians arose in the city of Rome, and Paul and Peter were martyred. What then happened to Mark? He apparently did not remain in Rome; as Peter’s assistant he would have been a natural choice to lead the congregation there; yet a man named Linus is reported by Eusebius (in Church History Book Three, 3:2) to have been the first bishop of Rome after the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter. A detailed tradition is found in the medieval composition History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria by Severus of Al-Ushmunain (in the mid-900s), who stated that he accessed source-materials from the monastery of St. Macarius and other monasteries in Egypt, and from Alexandria. Severus of Al-Ushmunain states that Mark was martyred in Alexandria.  

            When this is compared to the report from Irenaeus that Mark composed his Gospel-account after the departure – that is, the martyrdoms – of Peter and Paul, the situation becomes more clear: after assisting Barnabas and Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey (as related in Acts 12:25-13;13, and after assisting Barnabas in Cyprus (as related in Acts 15:36-39), Mark established churches in Egypt in the 50s, and traveled from there to Rome in 62, leaving behind Annianus in Egypt. Immediately after the deaths of Paul and Peter, Mark left Rome and returned to Egypt.

            The martyrdoms of Paul and Peter are generally assigned to the year 67. Eusebius of Caesarean, in Book Two, chapter 25 of Church History, states that Paul was beheaded in Rome, and that Peter was crucified in the reign of Nero. He also reports that they were both martyred at the same time, and cites as his source for this information a man named Dionysius of Corinth.  Dionysius of Corinth is a fairly early source.  Eusebius reports that he served the church in the early 170s. Jerome, in the first and fifth chapters of De Viris Illustribus, echoes Eusebius’ information, stating that Peter and Paul were both martyred “in the fourteen year of the reign of Nero, which is the 37th year after the Lord’s Sufferings.”  

            The account preserved by Severus of Al-Ushmunain specifically states that Mark was seized by unbelievers in Alexandria on Easter, when one of their religious festivals, dedicated to the deity Serapis, occurred, on the 29th day of the month called Barmudah (the eighth month of the Egyptian calendar), and that he died the next day.   Although this is a late document, its author states that he relied upon earlier sources. One such earlier text, although it does not say anything about the specific date of Mark’s martyrdom, agrees regarding the location: the author of The Martyrdom of Peter of Alexandria (a bishop who was martyred in 311) states, “They took him up and brought him to the place called Bucolia, where the holy St. Mark underwent martyrdom for Christ.” The same author states that Peter of Alexandria entreated his persecutors “to allow him to go to the tomb of St. Mark.”  

            Only in certain years would Easter coincide on the calendar with the festival of Serapis, and the year 68 is one of those years. Thus, it appears Mark was martyred in 68, in Alexandria, less than a year after Paul and Peter were martyred in 67 in Rome. If the gist of the tradition preserved by Irenaeus is followed, then Mark must have had only a small window of opportunity, if any, after the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter to finish his Gospel-account.

            This does not mean that the tradition reported by Clement of Alexandria is entirely untrue.  After Mark had been in Rome long enough to be recognized as Peter’s assistant and interpreter, he would have had opportunities to respond to requests for copies of collections of Peter’s sayings. These collections, though, may have been shorter than the final form of the Gospel of Mark. A definitive collection of all of Peter’s remembrances would not be feasible until after Peter stopped recollecting.

            The tradition preserved by Irenaeus is not likely to be a later invention; creative tradition inventors would tend to emphasize the apostolic authority of the text. Clement’s tradition, by stating that Peter neither approved nor disapproved Mark’s undertaking, certainly does not seem to have been designed to ensure that readers would regard the Gospel of Mark as apostolically approved, but Irenaeus’ tradition, by stating that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark after Peter had departed (that is, died), is even less positive, inasmuch as the martyred apostle Peter cannot even acquiesce to the text’s contents.

            If we thus accept Irenaeus’ basic version of events, and assign a date in 67 for the martyrdom of Peter in Rome, and a date in 68 for the martyrdom of Mark in Alexandria, then the date for the composition of the Gospel of Mark must be somewhere in between.

            All this provides the background for the following hypothesis:

            In the second half of the year 67, following the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, as Mark was almost finished writing his Gospel-account, he was in imminent danger and had to suddenly stop writing his nearly-complete text, leaving it, and whatever else he had written, in the hands of his colleagues. Thus, when Mark left Rome, his definitive collection of Peter’s remembrances was unfinished and unpublished.

            Mark’s Roman colleagues were thus entrusted with an incomplete and unfinished text. They had no desire to insert material of their own invention into Mark’s text, but they also had no desire to publish a composition which they all knew was not only unfinished, but which would be recognized as unfinished by everyone who was familiar with Peter’s preaching – indeed, by everyone acquainted at all with the message about Jesus. Therefore, rather than publish the Gospel of Mark without an ending (that is, with the abrupt ending), they completed it by supplementing it with a short text which Mark, at an earlier time, had composed about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. Only after this supplement was added did the Roman church begin to make copies of the Gospel of Mark.

            Now let us turn to the subject of scribes in Egypt as canon-framers.

            B. H. Streeter, in his influential book The Four Gospels, made an insightful surmise about Mark 16:9-20: “The hypothesis that Mark 16:9-20 was originally a separate document has the additional advantage of making it somewhat easier to account for the supplement in the text of W known as the “Freer logion.” A catechetical summary is a document which lends itself to expansion; the fact that a copy of it had been added to Mark would not at once put out of existence all other copies or prevent them suffering expansion. No doubt as soon as the addition became thoroughly established in the Roman text of Mark, it would cease to be copied as a separate document. But supposing that a hundred years later an old copy of it in the expanded version turned up. It would then be mistaken for a fragment of a very ancient manuscript of Mark, and the fortunate discoverer would hasten to add to his copy of Mark – which, of course, he would suppose to be defective – the addition preserved in this ancient witness.”  

            That seems to me a very plausible origin for the Freer Logion. Slightly adapted, Streeter’s theory implies that the Freer Logion did not originate as an expansion in the Gospel of Mark, but as an expansion of the freestanding Marcan summary of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances which Mark’s colleagues incorporated into the text of the Gospel of Mark.

            But what was such a text doing in Egypt?  It is possible that Mark composed it earlier, during the period in the 50s-62 when he was in Egypt – the only locale in which the Freer Logion is known to have existed.  (Jerome may have seen the Freer Logion in Didymus’ church’s copies.)

            If Mark’s brief summary of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances was already used in Egypt as a freestanding composition, then when the Gospel of Mark arrived from Rome in the late 60s, it would not be difficult for them to compare it to their copies of the Marcan composition about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and immediately see that the final portion of the text from Rome was not, and could not be, part of the Petrine Memoirs.

            Some of the first individuals in Alexandria to read the Gospel of Mark would thus be inclined to regard 16:9-20 as a distinct Marcan composition which, though valuable as a Marcan text, simply did not belong in the memoirs of the apostle Peter. As a result, they declined to perpetuate it in their copies of the Gospel of Mark, thinking that it lacked apostolic approval.   Everywhere else, the verses were accepted as part of Mark’s Gospel.


Replica based on an image in a booklet
from the British Museum.

            P.S.  The tendency to apply a sort of higher criticism to justify the excision of verses that did not seem to come from the primary author was apparently shared by one of the copyists of Codex Sinaiticus. At the end of John, Scribe A finished the text at the end of 21:24, and followed this with the decorative coronis and the subscription. Then he had second thoughts, erased the decorative design and subscription, and added 21:25, followed by a new decorative design and a new subscription. Tischendorf had detected this in the 1800s, but it was not until the page was exposed to ultraviolet light in research overseen by Milne and Skeat that the evidence of what the copyist had done literally came to light.

            The initial excision of John 21:25 in Sinaiticus was probably not an altogether isolated case; Theodore of Mopsuestia (350 to 428), in a statement preserved in Ishodad of Merv’s Commentary on the Gospels, claimed that the extra material in the Septuagint version of Job, and the sentence about the angel moving the waters in John 5:4, and this verse, John 21:25, are “Not the text of Scripture, but were put above in the margin, in the place of some exposition; and afterwards, he says, they were introduced into the text by some lovers of knowledge.”  Theodoret may have been repeating a theory of an earlier writer which was also known to Scribe A of Sinaiticus.


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Other Samson

           Another Samson?  Yes; today we shall look into the life of Samson of Dol, a Welsh saint (from Dyfed) who was known as one of the seven founder-saints of Brittany (in France).  His biography is preserved in Vita Sancti Samsonis, composed sometime in 610-820.

Samson of Dol
          After growing up as a child of Amon of Demetia and Anna of Gwent, Samson was raised by Illtud, the abbot in Llantwit Fawr, Wales.    When Pyr, abbot of a monastery on Caldey Island, died after falling into a well – being very drunk –  Samson, who abstained from alcoholic drinks, temporarily took on himself the responsibilities of abbot there, but resigned because the monks of the place had become ungovernable under Pyr’s guidance (or misguidance).  Samson then traveled to Ireland.

          In 521, Samson was ordained a bishop, and his industry in evangelism was remarkable.  Samson founded monastic communities in Cornwall, and in the Scilly Isles, and in Guernsey, at Dol (for which he is named, and where he was buried).

         More information about Samson of Dol can be found at Wikipedia.  But I want to zoom in now on a little incident that is recorded about him in Book 1, ch. 16 of his biography:  the author states that Samson, aware that a cup set before him had been poisoned, remembered the word of the Gospel where Christ says concerning his faithful who trust in him, “If they shall drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them,” and so Samson happily entered the refectory, made the sign of the cross over his own vessel, drank it dry without any wavering of mind, and never felt the slightest heartache from it.

          I do not recommend Samson’s decision to others.  This little incident is mentioned as yet another example of the full acceptance of Mark 16:9-20 in the Latin text used in Western Europe.