Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Books for Your Bookshelf in 2024

            It's still January 31, 2024, and the following text-critical resources are now available on Amazon.  Anyone who finds the price at Amazon prohibitively high is welcome to request a free digital text copy in the comments below or via an email to .

Reviews welcome on Amazon
$9.99 US digital e-book
$19.50 US paperback

New Testament Textual Analysis.  That's what New Testament textual criticism is, minus the "art" that the dearly departed plagiarist Dr. Bruce Manning Metzger tries to smuggle in.  

            In terms of authority in the Christian church on earth, textual analysts rank second to the men and women who produced the contents of the Bible, for it is through the work of Christian textual analysts that the form of the New Testament books' text written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is recognized, verified, and protected from corruption.
            In this volume, written for adults, James Edward Snapp Jr. (that's me) systematically explains the materials and methods that are used to produce and, for lack of a better term, authenticate the text of the books of the New Testament. He also confronts the flawed reasoning that has, in much of academia, weakened many Christians' confidence in the New Testament's accuracy. He also exposes prominent false teachers both within and without church walls who have spread falsehoods about specific passages in the New Testament. Finally he summons aspiring textual analysts to dedicate themselves to this sacred enterprise using the equitable eclectic approach which he has developed.

This 400-page volume is intended to render superfluous Bart D. Ehrman's strategically titled "The Text of the New Testament - Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration" and is an ideal resource for those who prefer not to have an atheist as their guide through the text of the New Testament.

Reviews on Amazon
Are Welcome

Is It Eclectic?
$12.88 Hardcover
$8.88 digital

Is It Eclectic? is a devastating expose of the "reasoned eclectic" text that has been produced via the "reasoned eclectic" approach which has hypnotized/brainwashed (I don't have a word that's just right so those will have to do) so many American seminarians.  The data in the page of this brief volume speaks for itself but I added some commentary to make sure even Wheaton graduates can't miss the point:  the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation in Matthew-Jude is 99% Alexandrian, and about 1% Byzantine.    
The Greek text that is the basis for the ESV, CSB, NRSV, NIV, NLT and other English versions of the New Testament is marketed as an "eclectic" text. But after textual analyst James Edward Snapp Jr. (that's me) examined it, he concluded that the idea that the results of the compilation-method used by the editors of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the UBS Greek New Testament are NOT, by any reasonable definition of the word, eclectic. The empirical evidence that compels this conclusion is presented in this book.

Is It Eclectic? is also available in German, so the folks in Muenster can read it as they wonder why American Christians are beginning to wonder why the Greek base-text of their English Bibles (NIV, CEB, NLT, NRSV, CSB, etc) is being introduced by an ally of secular humanists.  (Yes, in Germany, secular humanism is still a thing.)  

Reviews on Amazon are welcome.
Is It Eclectic?
in German is
$9.80 US
Der Basistext, der die edle deutsche Übersetzung der Heiligen Schriften der 27 Bücher des Neuen Testaments ersetzen wollte, wurde als „eklektische“ Zusammenstellung auf der Grundlage antiker Manuskripte vermarktet.
            Aber wir alle haben schon erlebt, wie alte Fußballspieler von jüngeren Spielern besiegt wurden. Die Qualität des Textes in einem Manuskript hängt nicht vom Alter des Pergaments oder Papyrus ab. Es hängt davon ab, wie gut die Kopisten ihre heilige Pflicht erfüllt haben.
            In diesem Buch untersucht James Edward Schniepf objektiv die neugriechische Zusammenstellung, die als „Nestle-Aland“ und als „Griechisches Neues Testament“ der United Bible Societies beworben wird, und entlarvt ihre Marketingpropaganda als authentische Propaganda. Meister Luther verfügte über jüngere Manuskripte, aber für den größten Teil des Neuen Testaments verfügten sie über einen besseren Text als die „älteren und besten Manuskripte“ als der Text, der wie schlechter Fußball aus Münster stammte. Es lebe der reife Martin Luther und möge seine deutsche Übersetzung wiederbelebt werden und möge auch die gläubige bekennende christliche Kirche in ganz Deutschland wiederbelebt werden.
            Dieses Buch enthält die Daten, die zeigen, dass Münsters „eklektischer Text“ nicht eklektisch ist!

Is It Eclectic? is also available in Portuguese.  Você já ouviu afirmações como essa dos editores do seu novo e moderno Novo Testamento em português? Então você foi enganado. Neste volume, o analista textual James Edward Snapp Jr. oferece uma crítica sincera ao texto base "eclético e fundamentado" sobre o qual vários.

Um exame do texto base "eclético e racional" da Nestlé-Aland do Novo Testamento.

Seu Novo Testamento é baseado no texto grego encontrado em mais de 5.000 manuscritos gregos, todos cuidadosamente considerados pelos maiores especialistas do mundo. Você pode ter certeza de que todas as evidências foram cuidadosamente examinadas antes do início da tradução do seu Novo Testamento em português.

Is It Eclectic? is also available in Indonesian.  (Due in part to a dream I had which involved Indonesian chicken wings.  So delicious.)

            Kompilasi Perjanjian Baru Yunani Nestle-Aland/UBS adalah dasar utama untuk terjemahan Perjanjian Baru di seluruh dunia dan untuk terjemahan bahasa Inggris seperti ESV, NIV, NLT, dan NRSV.
            Ini dipasarkan sebagai kompilasi "eklektik yang beralasan" berdasarkan lebih dari 5.000 manuskrip Yunani.
            Apakah itu deskripsi akurat dari teks Yunani NA/UBS?
Dalam pemeriksaan analitis yang cermat terhadap kompilasi NA/UBS, peneliti James Edward Snapp Jr. menunjukkan bahwa ini BUKAN merupakan deskripsi yang akurat menurut definisi normal istilah "eklektik".

The Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation of the Greek New Testament is the primary basis for translations of the New Testament around the world and for English translations such as the ESV, NIV, NLT, and NRSV.
It is marketed as a "reasoned eclectic" compilation based on over 5,000 Greek manuscripts.
Is that an accurate descriptions of the NA/UBS Greek text?
In this meticulous analytical examination of the NA/UBS compilation, researcher James Edward Snapp Jr. demonstrated that it is NOT an accurate description by any normal definition of the term "eclectic."

Codex Sinaiticus:
Reliable or a Liability?
$8.88 paperback
Reviews on Amazon
are welcome

The World's Oldest Bible:  Reliable or a Liability? is a close (but not exhaustive) look at the message conveyed by the main text of Codex Sinaiticus (called "The World's Oldest Bible" in the title of Dr. D. C. Parker's book "Codex Sinaiticus - The Story of the World's Oldest Bible").  In this concisely worded volume, James Edward Snapp Jr. - citizen of the kingdom of God and specialist in the field of New Testament textual analysis (and definitely NOT a KJV-Onlyist) - tests the claim that the text of one of the "the oldest and best manuscripts" of the Bible means the same thing that a typical medieval Byzantine manuscript of the Gospels means. Collecting 60 translation-affecting variants from Matthew, 60 translation-affecting variants from Mark, 60 translation-impacting variants from Luke, and 100 translation-impacting variants from John, brother James offers an irrefutable answer to the question, "Is Codex Sinaiticus' text as reliable as the Byzantine text in the Gospels?".  James R, White fanboys take note.

A Word to John MacArthur Regarding His False Claims about Mark 16:9-20
is, as the title, suggests, a
 straightforward word to John MacArthur of Grace Community Church (in Sun Valley California USA addressing some of the erroneous claims he has shared (and, as of December 2023) continued to share via the Grace To You organization, pertaining to Mark 16:9-20 - twelve verses of the inspired and inerrant word of God.  This comes in large print so that even someone as blind to the evidence as John MacArthur can easily read the proof that Grace To You has spread, and continues to spread, ridiculous lies (did I say that out loud?) about 12 verses of inspired Scripture.  With the data in this book, the average congregation-member in John MacArthur's congregation will be well-equipped to refute MacArthur's preposterous claims, and to compose a stern rebuke to the Masters Seminary faculty for their failure to inform their boss that he sounded like a braying donkey who has no business attempting to teach textual criticism from the pulpit.

Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 (Fourth Edition)
is also available on Amazon in two formats:  digital e-book($9.99) and paperback ($25.00).
You may have read statements like these from trusted scholars:  
"Mark 16:9-20 is not in many of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.”
"Mark 16:9-20 is not found in any manuscript until the 800s."
"Mark 16:9-20 was added over two centuries after the Gospel of Mark began to circulate.”

"Clement of Alexandria and Origen affirm that the Gospel of Mark ended at 16:8."

                STOP TRUSTING THEM.      

                                                                                  Those are all lies.

          In this book James Edward Snapp Jr. identifies some of the liars who have misled American and European readers, students, and congregations about Mark 16:9-20 - twelve verses of sacred Scripture. He also demonstrates the numerous errors committed by "parrot pseudo-scholars" -- individuals who basically paraphrase Bruce Metzger without conducting their own research -- and shows how incompetent and irresponsible (or just plain dense) authors such as James R White, John MacArthur, Craig Evans, James Edwards, N. T. Wright, Norman Geisler, Bart D. Ehrman and the late Bruce Manning Metzger have been in the course of leading astray (knowingly or unknowingly) many readers, students, and congregations about Mark 16:9-20.
            By thoroughly analyzing the evidence in Greek manuscripts, church writings, and more, James E. Snapp Jr. presents a decisive case for retaining Mark 16:9-20 in the Gospel of Mark, and for interpreting it and applying it reasonably to the lives of all believers, as the Christian church has done since the first century of her existence.

More titles and more translations (French, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and more) editions are planned.  If you would like to write a review - just make sure it's honest, favorable or unfavorable - please contact me for a free text file; be sure to name the book you intend to review.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Memo to Mormons: Your Prophet was a Fake

I love the dedication that many members of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" have.  Even though their ridiculous bogus "revelation" given by the phenomenally false prophet and teacher of lies Joseph Smith Jr. has been debunked and demonstrated to be nothing but a tall tale dreamed up on the basis of a dime-store novel back in the early 1800s, they still insist that they can't be wrong because of a "burning in the bosom" they have.  

That "burning in the bosom" might be indigestion, or heartburn, or a psychosomatic semi-euphoria elicited by a person's desire to belong to the elite members of the family of God.  Your mileage may vary, but I suspect that in very many cases, a Mormon's conversion to Mormonism was elicited by peer pressure from family members or friends or a cute Mormon girl whose modesty and promise of eternal faithfulness were enough to push a brother's brain off a cliff.  Oh the things we do for love.

But I digress:  what I wish to point out here is a little textual detail in the Book of Mormon - supposedly translated by Joseph Smith Jr. from golden plates he dug up in New York state - which bear a suspicious resemblance to the King James Version's text of Mark 16:9-20:  Here's the quotation from the Book of Mormon 9:22-25:
"For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude:  Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; And these signs shall follow them that believe - in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth."

This material (which was the focus of an essay by Jeff Lindsay in the Mormon journal Interpreter - A Journal of Mormon Scripture (Vol. 25 - 2017, pp. 283-321, "The Book of Mormon vs. the Consensus of Scholars:  Surprises from the Disputed Ending of Mark, Part 1")) brings to mind Mark 16:15-18, with a little bit of Joseph Smith Jr.'s sanctimonious and-it-came-to-pass blubbering thrown in.   The two passages are so similar when one compared the King James Version's English rendering to what Joseph Smith Jr. claimed to have translated from golden plates - I seriously doubt if that blatant liar and blasphemer had any idea how heavy a golden plate is - that I personally can attest that the prophecy he gave has come true: the nature of all his words is indeed confirmed to me, and I have no doubt about it whatsoever:  JOSEPH SMITH JR. WAS A FALSE PROPHET and the sooner you realize it, the better.

Zoom in on the part of the Book of Mormon chapter 9 where it says "they shall take up serpents."  This would be a perfectly adequate rendering of the Byzantine text, which is basically what the King James Version was translated from (with about 1,005 reading that are not attested by a majority of Greek manuscripts - technically the KJV's base-text is the printed Textus Receptus).  In the first half of Mark 16:18, the King James Version says, "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them."  Well lo and behold:  the Book of Mormon 9:24 aligns perfectly with the English translation that was available to Joseph Smith Jr.  It's almost as if the English text of the Book of Mormon was derived from the King James Version.

And therein lies a problem for the poor gullible Mormons who think Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were authentic prophets instead of lying manipulators who enjoyed taking other men's wives.  There is a little bit of text that is missing from both the Book of Mormon 9:24, and from the KJV's English rendering of Mark 16:18.  In quite a few manuscripts, there is more text:  the Greek equivalent of "and in their hands" belongs in the text after "they shall take up serpents."

The Greek words that are missing in the Byzantine text are "καί ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν."  The editors of the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation don't seem to have been very sure what to do with this phrase ("And in their hands"); it's in the 27th edition but not in the previous edition.  Perhaps they did not give it much attention and treated it as a matter of trivial importance since they double-bracketed the entire section of Mark 16:9-20.  It wasn't in Griesbach's compilation.    But it is, though not the majority reading (not even close!), very well-attested in the Alexandrian transmission-stream.  

It is super-obvious that Joseph Smith Jr. committed the moral equivalent of plagiarism and fraud when he took the KJV's words and made them part of the narrative of the Book of Mormon.  

More examples of his immoral and dishonest use of the KJV - including the KJV's inaccuracies in its rendering of some fine details in the Hebrew and Greek base-texts - could no doubt be provided; others are welcome to provide them in the comments.  But considering that the only acceptable definition of a true prophet is that all his prophecies come from God, this should serve as a demonstration that Joseph Smith Jr. was not a true prophet.

           (On a pastoral note, watch the video here for more information about the roots of Mormonism.)


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.