Thursday, November 18, 2021

A New Referee - Hand to Hand Combat in Mark 8:27-38


        GA 2370 is a medieval minuscule manuscript of the Gospels that resides in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.  It was produced in the late 1000s.  Some readers may recollect that 2370 went head-to-head against Codex D in 2019, winning a contest about which of the two manuscripts has the better text of Luke 2:1-18.  (Using NA27’s text as the standard of comparison, Codex D has 162 letters’ worth of corruption, while 2370 has 65 letters’ worth of corruption.)  2370 is fully indexed at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. 

          Today, 2370 once again goes up against a famous ancient manuscript:  Codex Sinaiticus.  Instead of using the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland as the only standard of comparison, considering that its editors have adopted readings which have zero Greek manuscripts in their favor, I shall use instead a less famous compilation:  the Solid Rock Greek New Testament, which was edited by James (Joey) McCollum and Stephen  L. Brown.  The Scholars Edition of the Solid Rock GNT is available at Amazon and pre-orders for its digital form are being taken at Logos. 

         The text of the Solid Rock GNT is also available for free at Joey McCollum’s GitHub page.  Most readers will probably want a bit more than just the text, though, because the apparatus of the Scholar’s Edition of the Solid Rock GNT is remarkably thorough.  As Dr. Paul A. Himes has suggested, it “has a higher probability of having preserved all the original words of the apostles somewhere in its text than any other version/edition in existence.” 

Joey McCollum and Stephen Brown,
at the Museum of the Bible
in Washington, D.C.
          Its text – released into the public domain in 2018 – is very, very similar to what can be found in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform.  Its apparatus, though, makes comparisons to Stephanus 1550, Wilbur Pickering’s family-35 archetype, Westcott & Hort’s 1881 edition, the 25th, 27th (=26th), and 28th editions of the Nestle-Aland compilation, Michael Holmes’ SBL-GNT, the base-text of the NIV (1984 and 2011 editions, which are different from one another) and, for select books, the text supported in Eadies commentaries on some of the Pauline epistles, the compilation of Galatians made by Stephen C. Carlson, the compilation of Philemon made by Matthew Solomon, and the compilation of Jude made by Tommy Wasserman.  Thus while the text of the Solid Rock GNT Scholar’s Edition is Byzantine, its apparatus is eclectic and up-to-date.

            Stephen Brown began his text-critical research with a reasoned eclectic approach, but he went on to favor a Byzantine Priority model.  Joey McCollum, meanwhile, respects the Byzantine Priority position but in his research he has gained an appreciation for classical stemmatic approaches, augmented by an appreciation for internal evidence.

          Now that today’s referee has been introduced, let’s see how the two combatants compare, in a famous segment of the Gospel of Mark 8:27-38.  This textual arena is famous for containing Simon Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, and also Jesus’ declaration, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

          2370 has a lot of contractions and abbreviations in its text, but when they are unraveled, it looks like this:

Mark 8:27-38 – 2370 compared to the Solid Rock GNT

Mark 8:37-9:5 in 2370.

27 – no variations

28 – does not have και after βαπτιστήν (-3)

29 – no variations

30 – has λέγουσι  instead of λέγουσιν (-1)

31 – no variations

32 – no variations

33 – has ἐπετίμησε instead of ἐπετίμησεν (-1)

34 – has εἶπε instead of εἶπεν (-1)

34 – has ελθειν instead of ἀκολουθεῖν (+2, -6)

35 – no variations

36 – no variations

37 – no variations

38 – no variations

Thus 2370 has, in Mark 8:27-38, a total of 14 letters’ worth of deviation from SRGNT – but three of those letters involve movable-ν and are thus very trivial. 

Let’s see how À does:

Mark 8:27-38 – Sinaiticus compared to the Solid Rock GNT

27 – has Καισαριας instead of Καισαρειας (-1)

27 – has αυτους instead of αυτοiς (+1, -1)

28 – has ειπαν αυτω λεγοντες οτι instead of απεκρίθησαν (+19, -9)

28 – has Ηλειαν instead of Ηλιαν (+1)

29 – has οτι εις instead of ενα (+6, -3)

29 – has επηρωτα instead of λέγει (+7, -5)

29 – has αυτους instead of αυτοiς (+1, -1)

29 – has λεγεται instead of λεγετε (+2, -1)

29 – has εινε instead of ειναι (+2, -1) 

29 – has ο υιος του Θεου after Χριστος (+12) 

30 – no variations

31 – has διδασκιν  instead of διδασκειν (-1)

31 – has αποδοκιμασθηνε instead of αποδοκιμασθηναι (+1, -2) 

31 – has υπο instead of απο (+1, -1)

32 – no variations

33 – has επιστραφις instead of επιστραφεις (-1)

33 – does not have τω before Πετρω (-2)

33 – has και after Πετρω (+3)

33 – has λεγει instead of λεγων (+2, -2)

33 – has φρονις instead of φρονεις (-1)

34 – has μαθητες instead of μαθηταις (+1, -2) 

34 – has ει τις instead of οστις (+1, -1)

34 – has ελθειν instead of ἀκολουθεῖν (+2, -6)

34 – has εαυτον instead of αυτον after σταυρον (+1)

34 – has ακολουθιτω instead of ακολουθειτω  (-1)

35 – has εαν instead of αν (+1)

36 – has ωφελι instead of ωφελησει after γαρ (+1, -4)

36 – has τον before ανθρωπον (+3)

36 – does not have εαν before κερδηση (-3)

36 – has κερδησαι instead of κερδηση (+2, -1)

36 – has ζημιωθηναι instead of ζημιωθη (+3)

37 – has δοι instead of δωσει (+2, -4)

38 – has επαισχυνθησετε instead of επαισχυνθησεται (+1, -2)

           Thus, À has 77 non-original letters, and is missing 56 original letters, for a total of 133 letters’ worth of corruptions.  If we remove from consideration the trivial orthographic variants, and errors that were probably corrected during Sinaiticus’ production, À still has 125 letters’ worth of corruption.

           The reading of 2370 in Mark 8:34 – ελθειν – is notable, since this reading agrees with À, B, A, K, Γ and Π, a formidable array of majuscules.  Meanwhile P45, D, W, Θ, family 1, and the usual Byzantine Text support ἀκολουθεῖν, as do the Peshitta, the Gothic version, the Sahidic version, and the Vulgate (Δ combines both variants with ελθειν και ακολουθιν; some Sahidic copies read similarly).  The SBLGNT reads ελθειν, as did the 1881 edition of Westcott & Hort.  But ελθειν could be a harmonization  in the midst of a passage subject to harmonization in all transmission-lines  to Matthew 16:24.

           No doubt some readers might suspect that 2370 owes its overwhelming victory over Sinaiticus to the choice of referee  and that is correct.  Using NA27 as the standard of comparison, in Mark 8:27-38, 2370 has 49 non-original letters, and is missing 66 original letters, for a total of 155 letters’ worth of corruption.  Meanwhile, Codex Sinaiticus, using NA27 as the standard of comparison, has 26 non-original letters, and is missing 21 original letters, for a total of 47 letters’ worth of corruption.

           One might suspect that in some contests in the Gospels between a manuscript that is strongly Byzantine, and a manuscript that is strongly Alexandrian, the winner is chosen when the referee is selected.


(Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.)


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Why Is James White Still Spreading a Myth?

           James R. White, the director of Alpha & Omega Ministries, continues to spread a false version of how Codex Sinaiticus was initially encountered by Constantine Tischendorf - and it looks likes his colleagues in/around Phoenix, Arizona are doing nothing to prevent him from doing so.  As far back as 1995, when the first edition of The KJV-Only Controversy was published, White claimed that in 1844, Constantine Tischendorf visited St. Catherine's monastery and saw "some parchment scraps" in a basket.  White went on to say that on a subsequent visit in 1853, Tischendorf's incessant search for manuscripts was "of no avail," but on another visit six years later, the steward of St Catherine's monastery showed him Codex Sinaiticus, have produced it from the close of his cell, "wrapped in a red cloth."
            This version of how Tischendorf first encountered Codex Sinaiticus was repeated in 2009, when the second edition of The KJV-Only Controversy was released.  Earlier, in March of 2006 (in material that is still online at Alpha & Omega Ministries' website), James White appealed to his own account in The King James Only Controversy in an attempt to refute the claim by Douglas Stauffer (currently a preacher in Niceville, FL) that Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in a trash can.  White writes:

            "So as you can see, Sinaiticus was not found in a trash can.  It was clearly prized by its owner, and well cared for.  The only reason Stauffer and those like him continue to repeat this story is for its impact upon those ignorant of history and unlikely to actually look into it for themselves.  But for anyone serious about the subject, such dishonesty destroys one's credibility."

            James R. White thus accused Dr. Stauffer of falsely saying that Codex Sinaiticus was found in a trash can ‒ and I'd say that he also appears to have accused Dr. Stauffer of dishonesty.  But it is James R. White who is telling a tale here, with help from Richard Pierce and from Bethany House Publishers (which has spread White's remarkably misleading version of events for over 20 years, in addition to many other inaccurate claims James White has made).

           Tischendorf's account of his first encounter with part of Codex Sinaiticus ‒ an account which is itself highly suspect in some respects ‒ can be found, in English, in his 1867 essay, verbosely titled, When Were Our Gospels Written?  An Argument by Constantine Tischendorf.  With a Narrative of the Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript - Translated and Published by the Religious Tract Society in London, Under an Arrangement with the Author.  Happily this document can be found online at Google Books and at among other places.

            When we open that text, we find that what White described as "parchment scraps" found by Constantine Tischendorf on his first visit to St. Catherine's Monastery (in 1844) were pages of Codex Sinaiticus, which at the time Tischendorf called Codex Frederico-Augustanus, in honor of one of his chief European benefactors, Frederick Augustus II of Saxony.  Tischendorf makes this perfectly clear, beginning in his description of his first encounter with pages of Codex Sinaiticus:

           "It was at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the convent of St. Catherine, that I discovered the pearl of all my researches.  In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like this, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen.  The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-five sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire.  But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder. The too lively satisfaction which I had displayed, had aroused their suspicions as to the value of this manuscript.  I transcribed a page of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and enjoined on the monks to take religious care of all such remains which might fall in their way."

              The reason why Doug Stauffer and D. A. Waite and various other individuals have spread the report that Tischendorf found pages of Codex Sinaiticus in a basket, about to be burned, is obvious:  they have rephrased the same thing that James White rephrased when he wrote that in 1844 Tischendorf was presented with "parchment scraps in a basket that was to be used to stoke the fires in the monastery's oven." (see The KJV-Only Controversy, p. 56, 2nd ed.).  The difference is that they grasped that Tischendorf was referring to pages of Codex Sinaiticus:  Tischendorf himself claimed to have found pages of Codex Sinaiticus in "a large and wide basket" which seemed in danger of being disposed of by the monks.  The "about forty-five sheets" of Codex Sinaiticus that Tischendorf took to Leipzig were stamped with the stamp of the Library of Leipzig University, which can still be seen to this day at the Codex Sinaiticus website, for instance in Lamentations.

            White went on to say that in 1853, "Tischendorf tried to find more manuscripts at the monastery in 1853 but to no avail."  This is very different from Tischendorf's own account:  "Having set out from Leipzig in January, 1853, I embarked at Trieste for Egypt, and in the month of February I stood, for the second time, in the convent of Sinai.  This second journey was more successful even than the first, from the discoveries that I made of rare Biblical manuscripts." 

            Only as James White describes Tischendorf's third visit to St. Catherine's Monastery, in 1859, does his version of events begin to converge with Tischendorf's.  In 1859, according to Tischendorf, the steward of the convent "took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me.  I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas."

           How James White has managed to repeat the detail about Codex Sinaiticus being wrapped in a red cloth (in a footnote on page 58 of The KJV-Only Controversy, 2nd ed.) and yet fail to realize that pages of Codex Sinaiticus  not mere "parchment scraps in a basket that was to be used to stoke the fires in the monastery's oven" (KJV-Only Controversy, p. 56)  were what Tischendorf encountered in 1844, is mind-boggling.  Nevertheless that is exactly what seems to have happened, and White's contorted version of events has been spread far and wide (with the endorsement of Craig Blomberg and D.A. Carson!) for over two decades.

            I recommend to those in charge at Bethany House Publishers (a division of Baker Publishing Group), and to whoever has any control over what Alpha & Omega Ministries produces, and to the leadership of Apologia Church including Jeff Durbin, Luke Pierson, and Zack Morgan in Mesa, Arizona (where James White is currently an elder), to arrange for a retraction of James White's false report about Codex Sinaiticus, and an apology from James White to those he has insulted and/or misrepresented in this regard, including Doug Stauffer.  James White wrote (at Alpha & Omega Ministries' blog), "Any "scholar" who can't even get this story straight is not really worth reading, to be honest."   Ten years ago when I made a short video attempting to prod James White to revise his distorted claims, I disagreed:  surely the gracious option is to think that although someone has made an inexplicable blunder, he can still be worth listening to.  But now, after ten years have passed in which James White has not retracted his version of the story, I agree.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

GA 34: The Manuscript with (Almost) Everything

             GA 34 doesn’t usually get much attention these days, even though in past generations it was seen by giants of the field of textual criticism such as Wettstein, Scholz, Tischendorf, and Gregory.  Its Gospels-text is generally considered normal and unremarkable.  It was produced in the 900s, possibly as one of the first manuscripts made on Mount Athos at the Stavronikita Monastery.  Currently it resides at the National Library of France, as Coislin Grec. 195.

            Its text is a very good example of the Byzantine Gospels-text that was circulated in the Middle Ages (while not being a member of f 35).  Physically, the manuscript is in good condition.  It has almost all the supplements to the Gospels-text that one could expect – there are even several pages of extra comments between Matthew and Mark, and between Mark and Luke.  There are beautiful full-page portraits of each evangelist, Eusebian canon-tables, Section-numbers alongside the text, Chapter-headings (titloi) and numbers written in crimson, and a commentary in the margins drawn from the writings of such patristic giants as Irenaeus, Origen, Apolinarius, Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, Titus of Bostra (the main commentator in Luke), Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria, Hesychius of Jerusalem, and others (including, in Mark, Victor of Antioch).  A few pages from Michael Psellos’ Homilien precede the Gospels-text.

            The copyist’s script is very legible.  Toward the end of the Gospel of John, the Gospels-text has been reinforced on some pages by a copyist whose script was not so good, but this should not distract from the generally excellent condition of the manuscript.

            GA 34 includes Mark 16:9-20, but does not include John 7:53-8:11.  In Matthew 16, it has 16:2 up to αυτοις and then (on the same line) begins 16:4.  It includes Luke 22:42-44, Jesus’ prayer from the cross in Luke 23:34, and “who is in heaven” in John 3:13.

            Greek numerals and various symbols written above the line within the Gospels-text correspond to Greek numerals designating sections of text in the catena.  In at least one instance (in the text at Mt. 10:17, and in the corresponding commentary), a comet-mark is used, like the comet-mark that occasionally appears in the Zelada Gospels (GA 2812).

            On some pages, (secondary) comments are written beyond their usual area on the page; this happens especially in Matthew 13, 24-25:13, the opening verses of Luke, Luke 3:1-22, Luke 8 (one page), Luke 10, Luke 12:48-13:17, Luke 20, John 1:48-2:12, John 10:22-42, and John 20:11-23.  At Luke 24:27 the main commentary for Luke concludes; on the next page the commentary-material (from some other source?) is very full and has been crammed onto the pages to the end of Luke (and a little beyond).

            There tends to be more Gospels-text per page in Matthew, and especially in Mark and Luke, than there is in John.   

            Here are some interesting readings of GA 34, as well as some example of corrections which appear (often in the side-margin in uncial letters). 


3:7 – αυτοις is in upper margin.

5:9 – θυ is missing at a page-break.

5:19 – τη is missing at a page-break.

5:22 – supports εικη.

5:24 – does not have εκει after αφες.

7:19 – does not have ουν before δενδρον.

9:4 – has ιδων instead of ειδως.

9:13 – includes εις μετανοιαν.

9:19 – does not have γε after μη.

9:30 – has εαυτοις in the side-margin, not in the text.

9:35 – does not have εν τω λαω.

9:36 – correction with overdots – εσκυλμενοι.

10:41 – The sentence inexplicably ends on one page with δικαιου although it continues with ληψεται on the next page.

12:25 – αυτης instead of εαυτης.

12:49 – has μαθητας added in the margin.

14:22 – does not have ο Ιησους.

14:22- does not have αυτου.

15:8 – does not have και τοις χειλεσι με τιμα in the main text; a secondary hand has added it in the side-margin.

16:2-3 – has 16:2 up to αυτοις and then (on the same line) begins 16:4.

17:4 – δε is added above the line.

17:14 – ειπεν αυτοις was initially skipped; the words are added in the side-margin.  There is a break in the line between Ιωαννου and του βαπτιστου.

17:20 – γαρ is added above the line.

18:34 – εαυτω is added at the end of the verse.

18:35 – On this page the commentary is sparse; there is no commentary to the side of the text.  

19:4 – there is a space between ποιησας and απ’ αρχης; there was an erasure here.

19:7 – There is no commentary to the side of the text.  

19:13 – και προσευηται is added in the margin.

20:3 – does not have εν τη αγορα.

22:29 – δε is added above the line.

22:43 – some sort of erasure has been made, but with no loss of text.

23:23 – δε is added above the line above ταυτα.

25:13 – does not have εν η υιος του ανθρωπου ερχεται.

25:22 – has ιδε αλλα δυο εκερδησα in the text (without ταλαντα), but an abbreviation ταντ is added above the line.

26:25 – δε is added above the line.

26:53 – a gap appears between λεγεωνας and αγγελον; probably there was an erasure here.

26:62 – does not have αυτω.

27:23 – has λεγοντες added in the side-margin.

28:2 – there is a blank space (cause:  erasure) after θυρας.

28:3 – has ως instead of ωσει at the end of a page.



2:17 – does not have εις μετανοιαν.

2:21 – has ρακκους instead of ρακους.

4:34 – has μετρηθησεται instead of αντιμετρηθησεται.

5:11 – has μεγάλη added in the margin.

5:20 – has και ην παρα τὴν θάλασσαν added in the side-margin.

7:10 – has εντολην added above the line.

8:34 – has ελθειν instead of ακολουθειν.

9:42 – has τουτων instead of των.

10:25 – does not have γαρ at a page-break.

10:29 – has η αγρους written in the side-margin.

10:29 – does not have the second ενεκεν.

13:1 – has των twice at a page-break.

15:7 – has στασιατων instead of συστασιατων.

15:19 – has αυτου in the side-margin.



1:19 – has σοι in the side-margin.

1:32 – has ο ΘΣ in the side-margin.

2:15 – has εις τον ουνον in the side-margin.

2:27 – has τους γονεις in the side-margin.

4:1 – has different word-order:  ΙΣ δε ΠΝΣ αγιου πληρης.

4:4 – has γεγραπται οτι in the side-margin.

4:9 – has εντευθεν in the side-margin.

5:33 – has οι (before των Φαρισαίων) in the side-margin.

5:37 – has ρη in the text; has ΖΕΙ in the side margin, and has ΣΣΕΙ above the line.

6:10 – has ωσ η αλλη in the side-margin.

7:8 – has τασσόμενος in the side-margin.

8:40 – has ᾡ in the side-margin.

10:22 – has εστιν in the side-margin.

10:23 – has ειπε in the side-margin.

12:41 – has Κε in the side-margin.

14:9 – has σοι instead of συ.

16:8 – has εαυτ- in the margin; an erasure is in the text where apparently ταυτων had been initially written.

17:28 – has ημέραις Λωτ in the side-margin.

17:31 – has αυτου in the side-margin.

17:34 – has word-order εσονται δυο.

17:35 – does not have verse 36.

18:7 – has των εκλεκτων αυτου in the side-margin.

18:8 – has αρα in the side-margin.

19:36 – does not have αυτων.

20:28 – does not have ὁ αδελφος αυτου.

23:7 – has εν ταυταις τοις ημεραις in the side-margin.

23:50 – has a cross-shape made of dots before verse 50.



4:46 – does not have ὁ Ις.

7:40 – has ουτός εστιν αληθως ὁ προφητης αλλοι ελεγον in the side-margin; this is the result of a parableptic mistake by the copyist.

11:52 – has τα διεσκορπισμενα in the side-margin.

13:22 – has ουν after εβλεπτον at the beginning of the verse.


Page-views of GA 34 can be downloaded from the Gallica website, and the entire manuscript has been indexed at CSNTM.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Lecture 24: Conjectural Emendation

Lecture 24 

 The ongoing series of lectures "Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism" continues with Lecture 24, at , about conjectural emendations.  I had a stroke on June 14, and you may notice in this video that I am speaking more slowly than before.  Also for some reason I repeatedly didn't say "chi" correctly.  Oh well; hopefully improvement will continue.  I covered some of the passages mentioned in this lecture back in 2017 (in the "Cracks in the Text posts, part 1 and part 2).  Here is a transcript of the video!

Welcome to the twenty-fourth lecture in the series, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism.  Let’s begin with prayer.

Heavenly Father,

          Thank You for giving Your people the fruit of Your Spirit.  Influence us to long to be more loving, modeling your love.  Make us more joyful as we remember Your promises to us.  Make us peaceful, in light of the peace you have provided.  Make us patient, kind, and good, seeking to conform to the image of your Son.  Make us gentle, seeking to represent Your kingdom in every circumstance.  And give us self-control, that all our actions may be guided by our awareness of Your presence. Through Your Son Christ our Lord, Amen.

          Today we are investigating one of the most controversial areas in the field of New Testament textual criticism:  the creation and adoption of conjectural  emendations.  A conjectural emendation is a reading that is not directly supported by any witnesses.  Conjectural emendations are driven by the premise that on some rare occasions, the reading that accounts for all other readings is a reading that is not extant.

          Even in the earliest days of the printed text of the Greek New Testament, some conjectural emendations were proposed:   in James 4:2, Erasmus did not think that it was plausible that the readers of James’ letter would kill, so he introduced the idea that James originally wrote that his letters’ recipients were envious.  Erasmus’ conjecture influenced some future translations, including Martin Luther’s translation, and the 1557 Geneva Translation.

          By the late 1700s, so many conjectural emendations had been proposed that a printer named William Bowyer collected them in a book in 1772 that was over 600 pages long, titled Critical Conjectures and Observations on the New Testament.  Many of the conjectures were apologetically driven and resolved historical questions rather than textual ones, and many others implied a magical stupidity on the part of copyists. 

          But in 1881, when Westcott and Hort printed their Greek New Testament, they were willing to grant the possibility that 60 passages in the New Testament contain a primitive corruption, where only by conjecture could the original reading be recovered.  Other scholars have seriously argued for the adoption of non-extant readings in a few other places.

          We’re not going to look into each and every one of those 60 passages today, but we will look into some of them, especially the ones that have affected some English translations.         

Mark 15:25 – One of the earliest conjectural emendations is from Ammonius of Alexandria, from the 200s, whose proposal was passed along by Eusebius of Caesarea and others.  Ammonius suggested a conjectural emendation that could harmonize Mark’s statement (in Mark 15:25) that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, and John’s statement (in John 19:14) that Jesus was being sentenced by Pilate at the sixth hour.  Rather than imagine that different methods of hour-reckoning are involved, Ammonius proposed that the text of John 19:14 contains an ancient error, and that the Greek numeral Γ,  which stands for “3,” was misread as if it was the obsolete letter digamma, which stands for “6”).   Some copyists apparently thought that this idea must be correct, and wrote the Greek equivalent of “sixth” in Mark 15:25; a few others (including the copyists of Codex L and Codex Δ) wrote the equivalent of “third” in John 19:14.  

 John 1:13 – Another early church writer, Tertullian, proposed that the extant reading of John 1:13 is not the original reading.  In chapter 19 of his composition On the Flesh of Christ, he insisted that the reading that is found in our New Testaments is the result of heretical tampering, and that the verse initially referred specifically to Christ.  Not only Tertullian but also Irenaeus and the author of the little-known Epistula Apostolorum appear to cite John 1:13  with a singular subject rather than a plural one.          

John 7:52 – No reading that is supported exclusively by papyri has been adopted in place of readings that were already extant.  But a reading of Papyrus 66 comes very close to doing so.   William Bowyer’s 1772 book included a theory that had been expressed by Dr. Henry Owen about John 7:52:  Owen had written, “The Greek text, I apprehend, is not perfectly right:  and our English Version has carried it still farther from the true meaning.  Is it possible the Jews could say, “that out of Galilee hath arisen no prophet;” when several (no less perhaps than six) of their own prophets were natives of that country?  . . . I conclude, that what they really said, and what the reading ought to be, was … That the prophet is not to arise out of Galilee:  from whence they supposed Jesus to have sprung.”   

            The key component of Owen’s proposal was vindicated by the discovery of Papyrus 66, which has the Greek equivalent of “the” before the word “prophet” – just what Owen thought was the original reading. 

Some commentators have considered it implausible that John would report, in John 19:29, that the soldiers at the crucifixion would offer to Jesus a sponge filled with sour wine upon a stick of hyssop.  In 1572, Joachim Camerarius the Elder proposed that originally John had written about  a javelin, or spear, and that after this had been expressed by the words ὑσσῷ προπεριθέντες, scribes mangled the text so as to produce the reference to hyssop.  This conjecture, which was modified by Beza, was adopted by the scholars who made the New English Bible New Testament in 1961.

In Acts 7:46, textual critics have to choose between the reading of most manuscripts, which is the statement that David asked to be allowed to find a dwelling-place for the God of Jacob, and the statement that David asked to be allowed to find a dwelling-place for the house of Jacob (which is the reading in the Nestle-Aland compilation). 

            The second reading is more difficult, because it seems to say that David asked to build a house for a house.  Even when the second “house” is understood to refer to the nation descended from Jacob, the problem does not go away, since the temple was for God, not for the people, who were not looking for a new place to reside in the days of David.  In 1881, Hort proposed that “οἴκω can hardly be genuine,” but instead of accepting the Byzantine reading, he conjectured that neither reading is original, and that the original text was τω Κυριω (“the Lord”), which was contracted, and then inattentive copyists misread it as ΤΩ ΟΙΚΩ.         

In Acts 16:12, Bruce Metzger was overruled by the other editors of the United Bible Societies’ Committee, and an imaginary reading was adopted into the UBS compilation:  πρώτης was adopted, instead of πρώτης της μερίδος, so as to mean that Philippi was a “first city” of the district of Macedonia.  Metzger insisted that the extant text was capable of being translated as “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.”   

● Acts 20:28 – Bruce Metzger dedicated two full pages of his Textual Commentary to consider the variants in Acts 20:28.  Did the original text refer to “the church of God,” or to “the church of the Lord,” or to “the church of the Lord and God”?  The contest between “God” and “Lord” amounts to the difference of a single letter:  if we set  aside the Byzantine reading, once the sacred names are contracted, it’s a contest between ΘΥ, and ΚΥ.    If the contest is decided in favor of ΘΥ, then a second question arises:  did Luke report that Paul stated that God purchased the church with His own blood? 

           Many apologists have used this verse to demonstrate Paul’s advocacy of the divinity of Christ.  Hort, however, expressed echoed the suspicion of an earlier scholar, Georg Christian Knapp, that at the end of the verse, after the words “through His own blood”, there was originally the word υἱοῦ (“Son”).      

            The Contemporary English Version, advertised as “an accurate and faithful translation of the original manuscripts,” seems to adopt this conjecture.  It has the word “Son” in its text of Acts 20:28b:  “Be like shepherds to God’s church.  It is the flock that he bought with the blood of his own Son.” 

The Greek evidence is in agreement about how First Corinthians 6:5 ends.  But the Peshitta disagrees.  The reading in the Peshitta implies that its Greek base-text included the phrase καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ (“and a brother”). 

           The first part of Paul’s statement in this verse is something to the effect of, “Is there not even one person among you – just one! – who shall be able to judge between” – and that’s where the difficulty appears.  The Greek text just mentions one brother, whereas the idea of judgment between two parties seems to demand that more than one brother should be mentioned. 

            Although the Textus Receptus has the equivalent of between his brother” – which is clearly singular – the KJV’s translators concluded the verse with “between his brethren” (which is clearly plural).  The CSB, the NIV, and the NASB likewise render the text as if the verse ends with a plural word rather than a singular one.  All such treatments of the text make the problem all the obvious:  the first part of the sentence, in Greek, anticipates two brothers, while the second part of the sentence mentions only one.          

            In light of such strong internal evidence, Michael Holmes, the compiler of the SBLGNT, recommended the adoption of a conjectural emendation at this point, so that καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ (“and the brother”) appears at the very end of the verse. 

             A fairly recent development in textual criticism is the tendency to regard First Corinthians 14:34-35 as non-original even though the words are in every manuscript of First Corinthians.  In a few copies they appear after verse 40.  The usual form of this conjecture is that the words began as a marginal note and were gradually adopted into the text.  

          Gordon Fee advocated this view in his commentary on First Corinthians and it has grown in popularity since then, especially among interpreters who favor an egalitarian view on the question of gender roles in the church.  One of the interesting aspects of this  issue is the impact of the double-dots, or distigme, that appear in the margin of Codex Vaticanus to signify a variation between the text of that manuscript and the text in another document.

 ● A much older scholarly debate has orbited the phrase “Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia” in Galatians 4:25.  This sentence is included the Nestle-Aland compilation; however, it has been proposed that the entire phrase originated as a marginal note.  This conjecture goes back at least to the early 1700s, with Richard Bentley.  More recently, Stephen Carlson has argued in favor of the same idea. 

In Hebrews 11:37, as the sufferings endured by spiritual heroes are listed, one of those things is not like the others:  they are all somewhat unusual experiences, except for “they were tempted.”  Some textual critics have suspected that the word ἐπειράσθησαν originated when a copyist committed dittography – writing twice what should be written once; in this case, the preceding word the means “they were sawn in two” – and that subsequent copyists changed it into something meaningful.  Others have thought that this relatively common term replaced one that was less common – perhaps another word that meant “they were pierced,” or “they were sold”. 

            Presently the Nestle-Aland compilation, deviating from the 25th edition, simply does not include ἐπειράσθησαν  in the text, following Papyrus 46.  But Papyrus 13  appears to support the inclusion of ἐπειράσθησαν and it has a very impressive array of allies.  I would advise readers to not get used to the current form of this verse in the critical text, for it seems to be merely a place-holder that might be blown away by the appearance of new evidence or slightly different analysis.    

● First Peter 3:19 – The most popular conjectural emendation of all time was favored by the textual expert J. Rendel Harris, who encountered a very brief form of it in William Bowyer’s book.  The extant text of First Peter 3:19 says, “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.”  Verse 18 refers to Christ, and nobody else is introduced into the text, so verse 19 has been understood to mean that during the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection, He visited the realm of the dead, and visited the spirits of those who had been disobedient in the days of Noah, prior to the great flood – and delivered a message to them. 

            However, Harris, proposed that the original text was different.  He thought that Peter had in mind a scene that is related in the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch. In this text, Enoch is depicted delivering a message of condemnation to the fallen spirits who corrupted human beings so thoroughly that the great flood was introduced as the means of amputating the moral infection they had induced.

            Harris proposed that the opening words of the original text of 3:19 were ἐν ᾧ καὶ Ἐνώχ (“in which also Enoch”), assigning the subsequent action not to Christ, but to Enoch.   There are two ways in which the name “Enoch” could have fallen out of the sentence.              

          1.  If the original text were simply Ἐνώχ (without ἐν ᾧ καὶ), then, in majuscule script, the chi was susceptible to being misread as an abbreviation for the word και (“and”) [a kai-compendium].  A copyist could easily decide to write the whole word instead of the abbreviation, and thus Enoch’s name would become ἐν ᾧ καὶ.

            2.  Or, if the original text were ἐν ᾧ καὶ Ἐνώχ, a copyist could read the chi as an abbreviation for και [again, a kai-compendium], and assume that the scribe who made his exemplar had inadvertently repeated three words. Attempting a correction, he would remove “Ἐνώχ.”

            Against the charge that the introduction of Enoch’s name “disturbs the otherwise smooth context,” the answer is that a reference to Enoch is not out of place, inasmuch as Enoch’s story sets the stage for the story of Noah and his family, whose deliverance through water Peter frames as a pattern of salvation.

            If this conjectural emendation were adopted, it would have at least a little doctrinal impact, by diminishing the Biblical basis for the phrase “He descended into hell” found in the Apostles’ Creed. 

Finally, in First Peter 3:10, we encounter an imaginary Greek reading that has been adopted into the text of the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament.  Rejecting the assortment of contending variant offered by the Greek manuscripts, the editors have preferred the reading that is implied by a reading for which the external support is only extant in Coptic and Syriac.  However, the judgment of the scholars who gave up on the extant Greek readings may have been premature.

 The text is sufficiently clear with the reading, “will be found,” while it is also puzzling enough to provoke attempts at simplification.

         Only two of these conjectural emendations are mentioned in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament; the 27th edition was the last one to list include conjectural emendations in its textual apparatus.   

          Some readers may be taken aback by the idea that some of the inspired words in the Word of God can only be reconstructed in the imaginations of scholars.  A realistic pushback against the idea of adopting any conjectural emendation is the question, “Does it really seem feasible that every scribe in every transmission-stream got it wrong?”  If scholars reject singular readings simply because they are singular, then non-existent readings should be even more disqualified, as a point of consistency.  It also seems very inconsistent to criticize advocates of poorly attested readings only to turn around and advocate readings with zero external support.

              It has been said by some very influential textual critics that New Testament textual criticism is both an art and a science.  But it should be all science, and not art, because it is an enterprise of reconstruction, not construction.  Its methods may validly be creative and inventive, and even intuitive, but not its product.  Conjectural emendation is the only aspect of textual criticism that potentially involves the researcher’s artistic or creative skill. 

            In my view, no conjectural emendation should ever be placed in a compilation of the text of the Greek New Testament.  At the same time, the task of proposing conjectural emendations as possible readings which account for their rivals serves a valuable purpose:  to demonstrate the heavy weight of the internal evidence in favor of such readings in the event that they are discovered in an actual Greek manuscript. 

            Thank you.           




Saturday, July 10, 2021

Scrivener: Principles of Comparative Criticism (Part 5)


F. H. A. Scrivener
   Those who have followed me through this prolonged investigation (which I knew not how to abridge without sacrificing perspicuity to conciseness) will readily anticipate my reply to Dr. Tregelles’ “statement of his case,” comprehended in the following emphatic words:  “It is claimed that the united testimony of versions, fathers, and the oldest MSS should be preferred to that of the mass of modern copies; and farther, that the character of the few ancient MSS which agree with versions and fathers, must be such (from that very circumstance) as to make their general evidence the more trustworthy” (p. 141).  Unquestionably, I rejoin, your claim is reasonable, it is irresistible.  If you show us all, or nearly all, the uncials you prize so deservedly, maintaining a variation from the common text which is recommended by all the best versions and most ancient Fathers, depend upon it we will not urge against such overwhelming testimony the mere number of the cursive copies, be they ever so unanimous on the other side.

But are we not discussing a purely abstract proposition?  Do we ever find the “united” testimony of the ancients drawing us one way, that of the juniors another?  I will not assert that such instances may not occur, though at this moment I can hardly remember one.  It is enough to say that principles broad as those laid down by Tregelles must be designed to meet the rule, not the exception.  In the seven texts we have been reviewing, in the sixty-five that remain on his list, in the yet more numerous cases he tells us he has passed over, the uncial MSS are not unequally divided; or where there is a preponderance, it is not often in our adversary’s favor.  The elder authorities being thus at variance, common sense seems to dictate an appeal to those later authorities, respecting which one thing is clear, that they were not copied immediately from the uncials still extant.  Such later codices thus become the representatives of others that have perished, as old, and (to borrow Davidson’s suggestion, p. viii) not improbably more old than any now remaining.  These views appear so reasonable and sober, that they have approved themselves to the judgment even of Dr. Tregelles: for he does not by any means disdain the aid of the few cursive copies (e. g. 1. 33. 69. etc.) which “preserve an ancient text,” whereby of course is implied one coinciding with his preconceived opinion of what an ancient text ought to be.

[1 – Dean Alford had constructed the text of his first volume of the Greek Testament (1st edition) on nearly the same plan as Tregelles would, and thoroughly was he dissatisfied with the result.  “The adoption of that test,” he writes with admirable frankness, “was, I do not hesitate to confess, a great mistake.  It proceeded on altogether too high an estimate of the most ancient existing MSS, and too low an one of the importance of internal evidence.” (N. T. Vol. II. Proleg. p. 58.)]


      Perhaps I shall be expected to say a few words respecting the scheme devised by Bentley for settling the sacred text on a firmer basis, since both Tregelles and his precursor Lachmann (N. T. Proleg. Vol. I. p. xxx) have sheltered their practice of recurring exclusively to the most ancient extant documents beneath the shadow of that great name.  We shall all agree on one point, that no authority, however imposing, can supply the place of argument in enquiries of this kind; nor do I scruple to confess that were I disposed to swear allegiance to any earthly teacher, it would be to that illustrious scholar, whose learning and genius shed a bright ray across the darkness of his evil generation.  It is painful to say of the most highly gifted man that ever devoted himself to the study of Biblical criticism, that his leading principle was taken up hastily and on precarious grounds.  Yet if the fact be so, why need we hesitate to avow it?  

Bentley’s theory, as most of my readers will remember, was built on the idea, that the oldest MSS of the Greek original and of Jerome’s Latin version, resemble each other so marvelously, even in the very order of the words, that by means of this agreement he could restore the text as it stood in the fourth century, “so that there shall not be twenty words, or even particles, difference!”  “By taking two thousand errors out of the Pope’s [Clementine] Vulgate, and as many out of the Protestant Pope Stephens’s [1550], I can set out an edition of each in columns, without using any book under nine hundred years old, that shall so exactly agree word for word, and, what at first amazed me, order for order, that no two tallies, nor two indentures, can agree better.”  Thus wrote Bentley to Archbishop Wake in 1716; the tone of his “Proposals,” in 1720, after considerable progress had been made in the work of collation, is not materially less confident.

Yet to those who have calmly examined the subject, the wonder is not the closeness of agreement between the Greek and Latin Codices, but that a man of so vast erudition and ability should have imagined that he perceived it, to any thing approaching the extent the lowest sense of his words demands.  Accordingly when his collations came to be examined, and compared, and weighed, keen indeed must have been the disappointment of our English Aristarchus.  With characteristic fearlessness he had been at no trouble to select his materials (at least I trace no indication of such choice in his surviving papers), and thus the truth would burst upon him all the sooner, that the theory on which he had staked a noble reputation, in the face of watchful enemies, must either be abandoned or extensively modified.  We can well ‘understand the struggle which silently agitated that proud spirit.  Had the subject of his labors been Terence or Milton, it would be easy to conjecture the course he would have adopted: if MSS refused to support his system, they must have been forced to yield to it.  

But Bentley, with all his faults of temper, was an honest and a pious man; he dared not make the text of Holy Scripture the victim of his sportive ingenuity; and so, soon after the year 1721, we come to hear less and less of his projected Greek Testament.  Though he lived till 1742, it does not appear that he ever made serious progress in arranging the stores collected by himself and his coadjutors.  As I have turned over his papers in the Library of Trinity College, with a heart saddened by the spectacle of so much labor lost, I could not persuade myself that the wretched dissensions which embittered his declining days had, of themselves, power enough over Bentley’s mind to break off in the midst a work that he had once regarded as his best passport to undying fame.


From the facts we have been discussing I feel entitled to draw two or three practical inferences.

(a).  That the true readings of the Greek New Testament cannot safely be derived from any one set of authorities, whether MSS, versions, or Fathers, but ought to be the result of a patient comparison and careful estimate of the evidence given by them all.

(b).  That where there is a real agreement between all the documents prior to the tenth century, the testimony of later MSS, though not to be rejected unheard, is to be regarded with much suspicion, and, unless supported by strong internal evidence,1 can hardly be adopted.

(c).  That in the far more numerous cases where the most ancient documents are at variance with each other, the later or cursive copies are of great importance, as the surviving representatives of other codices, very probably as early, possibly even earlier, than any now extant.2

I do not lay down these propositions as any new discovery of my own, but as being (even the second of them) the principles on which all reasonable defenders of the Textus Receptus have upheld its GENERAL INTEGRITY.


[1 – If I have hitherto said nothing on the important head of internal evidence, it is from no wish to disparage its temperate and legitimate use.  Yet how difficult it is to hinder its degenerating, even in skillful hands, into vague and arbitrary conjecture!]


[2 – Even Mr. Green, from whom I fear I differ widely on some of the topics discussed in this chapter, does not shrink from saying, “In a review of authorities special regard will reasonably be paid to antiquity; but this must not be over-strained into a summary neglect of more recent witnesses, as offering nothing worthy of notice,” finally adding, “The critic should not suffer himself to be encumbered by prepossessions or assumptions, nor bind himself to the routine of a mechanical method of procedure.  If he allows himself to be thus warped and trammelled, instead of ever maintaining the free employment of a watchful, calm, and unfettered mind, he abandons his duty and mars his work” (Course of Developed Criticism, Introduction, p. x.).]


IV. I have a good hope that the foregoing investigation of the laws of Comparative Criticism will have convinced an impartial reader, that the cursive or junior copies of the Greek New Testament have, in their proper place and due subordination, a real and appreciable influence in questions relating to doubtful readings.  If I have succeeded thus far, it results that the time and pains I have bestowed on studying them have not been wasted: the collations I have accumulated cannot fail to be of some service to the Biblical critic, even though he may think I have a little exaggerated their value and importance.  I am not so sanguine as to the degree of popular acceptance my views may obtain, nor (without affecting absolute indifference on the subject) am I by any means so anxious on this head.  I have always thought that the researches and labors of the scholar – of the theological scholar above all others – are their own highest and purest reward.1  Let me plead guilty to having read with sensations akin to scorn, the manuscript note appended by Caesar de Missy (a person who might have known better) to the copy of Hearne’s scarce edition of the Codex Laudianus (published in 1715), now preserved in the British Museum.  To Hearne’s miserable list of just forty-one subscribers to his book, De Missy subjoins the sarcastic comment “Après cela, Docteur, va pâlir sur la Bible!”  Yet why should he not have grown pale in the study of God’s Word?  Why not have handed down to happier times a treasure of sacred learning which the princes and prelates of George the First’s reign (that nadir-point of public virtue and intellectual cultivation in England) were too slothful to appreciate, too negligent even to despise?  The pursuits of Scriptural criticism are so quiet, so laborious, that they can have few charms for the votary of fame, or the courtier of preferment: they always have been, perhaps they always must be, the choice employment mainly of those, who, feeling conscious (it may be) of having but one talent committed to their keeping, ‘seek nothing so earnestly as TO USE THAT ONE TALENT WELL.



[1 – I should have wished to add some noble sentiments of Dr. Dobbin (Codex Montfortianus, Preface, p. xx.) on this point, but that I trust they are known to my readers, as they well deserve to be.]