Tag: textual criticism

A Little Roundup on the Authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

This question can get technical very quickly, so I recommend easing into the subject this way:

1. Two articles, with pictures, from Tom Verenna

2. Move on to the brief post from Paul Barford

3. Dive into the deep end with the scholars at Evangelical Textual Criticism (read the comments section)


4. Put on your protective gear and read this from Francis Watson

A Simple Demo of a Cause of Variation in New Testament Manuscripts

As we stood in the bow of the ship, my beau, dressed in a colorful bow, knocked an arrow to his bow while I put my bow to my violin and played as our teacher bow and leaned on his bo made from a single beau.

What’s a Few Zeros between Friends?

Tommy Wasserman, NT textual critic, suspects the 1500 year old Bible in the news recently is actually FROM 1500 AD. Check out the latest ETC post.

Hat tip to Tommie Wasserman’s tweet. (Yes, that’s where I’m getting all my news these days, it seems.)

It’s That Time of Year Again: Luke 2:14

Luk 2:14 NKJV “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luk 2:14 HCSB Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

The second translation is how it was presented in church Sunday, but I and I suspect a vast part of the assembled believers heard the first from long repetition.

The NET Bible kindly explains:”

Most witnesses (א2  B2 L Θ Ξ Ψ Ë1,13  Ï sy bo) have ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία (en anthrōpois eudokia, “good will among people”) instead of ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας (en anthrōpois eudokias, “among people with whom he is pleased”), a reading attested by א* A B* D W pc (sa). Most of the Itala witnesses and some other versional witnesses reflect a Greek text which has the genitive εὐδοκίας but drops the preposition ἐν. Not only is the genitive reading better attested, but it is more difficult than the nominative. “The meaning seems to be, not that divine peace can be bestowed only where human good will is already present, but that at the birth of the Saviour God’s peace rests on those whom he has chosen in accord with his good pleasure” (TCGNT 111).”

R. B. Terry summarizes it so:

“Luke 2:14

TEXT: “on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
EVIDENCE: S* A B* D W lat vg cop(south)

NOTES: “on earth peace, good will among men!”

EVIDENCE: Sc B3 K L P Delta Theta Xi Psi f1 f13 28 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect syr(s,h,pal) syr(p) (“good hope to men”) cop(north)


COMMENTS: The text reading can also be translated “on earth peace among men of good will,” but the sense seems to be “men of [God’s] good pleasure.” This is a Semitic expression found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The difference between the two readings is only one of one letter, the Greek letter “sigma” or “s” at the end of the word. Where the word occurs at the end of a line, the letter “sigma” is written as a little raised “c” which it would be possible for a copyist to overlook. Therefore, the change from “among men of good pleasure” to “good pleasure among men” may have happened either accidently (when the “sigma” was overlooked) or deliberately (by copyists who did not understand that in the Semitic expression “men of good pleasure” the good pleasure was God’s).”

What’s not explained in either one is that sigla with raised numbers after them usualy refer to correctors of a text, which are later than sigla with a star after it, which is the original reading. Thus B2 is later than B*, and a less convincing reading usually.

The sigla found in NA27/UBS4 Greek New Testament is one of the hardest things for the general public to wrap their head around. It’s very similar to talking to your doctor. Still, Textual Criticism: There’s just no escaping it.

Another Reason Biblical Textual Criticism is Important

I know, we all say because Bart Ehrman has made it so fashionable, but there is a more serious reason that will affect even conservative Christians who won’t touch a Bart Ehrman book:

Electronic Bibles.

Think about it. With more and more portable devices available with e-bibles or some form of bible software, and many of those with parallel bible functions, it SHOULD become more and more obvious to people who never read printed bible footnotes’ “other manuscripts read” that there are major diffrences in certain bibles’ translations wording, beyond reading levels.  This means that those of us with an interest or responsibility to teach within the church need to be up to speed on textual criticism.

Textual Criticism has always been in bibles, but now it’s peeking its head from behind the curtain.

I Have a Confession to Make….

I recently examined several study bibles in the area (can’t say local) B&N and discovered I preferred the Saint Benedict Press’ study edition of the NABRE.

Why, you ask, when the HCSB Study Bible won the Christianity Today award, and is a fairly hefty volume of the kind bible geeks love?

New Testament Textual Criticism is why.  I compared the footnotes and reference notes in these several study bibles, and the NABRE was consistently the best in handling and explaining textual variants like the ending of Mark, the Woman Caught in Adultery, some of those pesky Western readings in Luke, and even some Dead Sea Scroll changes in the Old Testament.

The other study bibles either ignored the variants, barely noted them, or tried to explain them away in a completely nonsensical way (I’m looking at you NKJV Study Bible!).

Yes, it’s a small criteria to judge massive tomes, but with the growing explosion of interest in textual criticism (Copies of copies of copies of copies*) among skeptics, Muslims, and others, it’s something that needs to be better addressed than study bibles currently do.

Except of course, for the NET Bible, which hits about half the variants discussed in Metzger’s textual commentary and explains them simply enough (some variants are simply not simple,  and many have evidence that leaves the judgement as to the better reading more art than any preference for manuscripts).

More anon, as they say. And let’s keep my preference for a Roman Catholic study bible just between us, hmm? Otherwise I’ll have to turn in my SBC membership card, and I get free lunches with that card every so often.

* Copyright Bart Ehrman 1996

Manuscript Evidence for the Epistle to the Philippians

From the Anchor Bible Dictionary:

The text of Philippians is preserved in three fragmentary papyri, 18 parchment uncials (of which nine contain the entire text, three are fragmentary, and six are accompanied by commentary), and more than 625 minuscules (cf. Gnilka, 25–27). The earliest is P46, one of the three Chester Beatty papyri of the NT. It dates from about C.E. 200 and contains 1:1, 5–15, 17–28, 30–2:12, 14–27, 29–3:8, 10–21; 4:2–12, 14–23. A second early papyrus is P16, which dates from the 3d or 4th century and contains 3:10–17 and 4:2–8. The three earliest parchment uncials that contain the entire text of Philippians are Codex Sinaiticus (01), Codex Vaticanus (03), and Codex Alexandrinus (02). These five mss, plus three minuscules containing Philippians (33, 1739, and 2427), belong to the text critical “Category I,” which indicates that they are “of a very special quality” and “should always be considered in establishing the original text” (Aland and Aland 1987: 105). There are ten additional manuscripts of Philippians that are of generally high quality and belong to the next class, “Category II” (Schenk 1984: 331). They include three 5th-century fragmentary uncials (04, 016, 048), the bilingual Codex Claromontanus (06, 6th century), P61 (ca. C.E. 700) and 5 minuscules (81, 1175, 1881, 2127, and 2464). On the basis of these and other witnesses, a fairly reliable text of Philippians which involves no major textual problems can be reconstructed.”

John T. Fitzgerald, author, editor Freedman, D. N. (1996). Vol. 5: The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (324). New York: Doubleday.

That makes the text of Philippians sound uncommonly secure. But that’s not to say we don’t have textual problems in Philippians. Philip Comfort spends sixteen pages on Philippians in his New Testament Text and Translation Commentary.

400,000 Differences in the Greek New Testament?!!

From the Ehrman Project, an explanation of the types of variants found in the New Testament from someone other than James White (good YouTube on NT textual criticism being hard to find, actually):


Acts 15:20 Textual Variants

Yes there are some, but the fact is the vast part of bibles in English have taken the same reading forever:

Act 15:20 Wycliffe to be not disesid, but to write to hem, that thei absteyne hem fro defoulingis of maumetis, and fro fornicacioun, and stranglid thingis, and blood.

Act 15:20 Tyndale Rogers Coverdale but that we write unto them, that they abstain themselves from filthiness of images, from fornication, from strangled, and from blood.

Act 15:20 KJVA But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Act 15:20 Douay Rheims But that we write unto them, that they refrain themselves from the pollutions of idols and from fornication and from things strangled and from blood.

Act 15:20 RV but that we write unto them, that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood.

Act 15:20 NJB we should send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from illicit marriages, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.(takes many expanded readings from the Western manuscript tradition)

Act 15:20 ALT _but_ to write instructions to them to be abstaining from the pollutions of the idols and from sexual sin and from the strangled [animal] and from blood.(modern Majority text)

Act 15:20 NET. but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood.(known to go its own way, textually)

The textual support for this reading is early and diverse ( p74 S A B C E P Psi 33 81 614 1241 2495 Byz two lat vg syr cop), and thus when doing notes on this chapter back when, I didn’t bother with the textual variants because they were not likely to come up, nor make a serious contribution to understanding the text.

Random Thoughts :Golden Nuggets or Fools’ Gold

1. Being productive is hard work.

2. It’s not the blogging that takes time, it’s the links.

3. When your pastor uses the NKJV, every Sunday is an adventure in textual criticism.

4. After reading many a blog post on the Historical Jesus, I realize Gorgias’ solipsism is alive and well. Which is great because it means I’m so clever for dreaming all these books, movies, and blogs up, to say nothing of billions of years of universal history and people’s lives . My name is Brahman, and soon I must wake up and applaud myself.

5. Why do Lifeway stores not carry the latest commentaries, even in series they regularly carry?

6. Nick Norelli lends Youtube a new terror. Glad that’s off.

7. It’s hard to take seriously someone only known as N.T. Wrong, especially when he so often doesn’t want to be taken seriously.

8. On Randall Price and Liberty University: The Lord giveth (an actual archaeologist), the Lord taketh away (looking for Noah’s Ark).

9. James White and Bart Ehrman: Thumbwrestling would have settled the debate much more definitely.

10. Yes, one will even blog to avoid doing Sunday School Notes.