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A New Gospel Manuscript in Athens?

In my last post I mentioned a newly discovered apostolos manuscript, found glued to the inside of the front and back covers of a codex (NLG 2676). This blog is about another manuscript inside another codex. This time the codex is Lectionary 1816, a 12th century parchment manuscript of the Gospels with 154 leaves. The National Library of Greece in Athens assigns it the shelf number 2711.

The new discovery, however, is not a couple of leaves glued to inside of the covers; rather, it is several reinforcing strips glued to the inner margin of bifolia (double-leaves) near the beginning of the codex.

The reinforcing strips are from a parchment manuscript which was a two-column text. It was probably written in the 12th or 13th century. The strips are found on bifolio 2a–5b, leaves 2b–3a, leaf 4a, leaves 4b–5a, and leaf 6a.

Some of the strips have only one or two letters of material per line, while others have as many as six letters per line. One of the strips is at the beginning of the line, revealing the initial letters on each line of the column.

So far, sections from Luke 1 have been identified. One section is apparently from Luke 1.57–61. The image is below.

NLG 2711_new MS strip_Luke 1

Binding strip in NLG 2711

(iPhone picture)

The text of this strip is as follows:

γει

ννη

σαν

ηση

τι ε

ελ

κα

κα

δοη

πε

ον

τω

το

ρι

σα

οὐ

ιω

αυ

εν

κα

Reconstructed with the surrounding text (with the number of letters in brackets), we get:

1) πλησθη ο χρονος του τε- [18]                                    Luke 1.57

γειν αυτην, και εγε- [15]

ννησεν υιον. Και ηκου- [17]

σαν οι περιοικοι και [17]                                            Luke 1.58

5) ηση [??]………….ο-

τι εμεγαλυνεν κς το [16]

ελεος αυτου μετ αυτης, [18]

και συνεχαιρον αυτη. [17]

και εγενετο εν τη ογ- [16]                                          Luke 1.59

10) δοη ημερα, ηλθον [13?]

περιτεμειν το παιδι- [17]

ον· και εκαλουν αυτο επι [19]

τω ονοματι του πρς αυ- [17]

του Ζαχα- [7??]

15) ριαν. και αποκριθει- [16]                                            Luke 1.60

σα η μηρ αυτου ειπεν [16]

οὐχι αλλα κληθησεται [18]

ιωαννης. και ειπον προς [19]                                     Luke 1.61

αυτην οτι ουδεις εστιν [19]

20) εν τη συγγενεια σου ος [18]

καλειται τω ονοματι του- [—]

Please excuse the formatting of the above reconstruction. I think you can get the idea though, especially since these letters are at the beginning of a new line.

For 17 of the 21 lines, the text is clearly from Luke 1.57–61. And there is no other text that even comes close. It surely must be that this is that passage throughout the strip. The average line (not counting lines 5, 14, or 21 since their quantities are unknown) is 17 letters long, running between as low as possibly 13 up to 19 letters. But four lines are a puzzle.

Problems for Identification

First, line 2 has γειν for κειν(?)—in τεκειν, an unattested reading.

Second, line 5 begins with ἠση. Whether this is one word or two is not known, but either way it does not fit in with Luke 1.58 at all. What should be on this line is οι συγγενεις αυτης ο-. The smooth breathing (ἠ) indicates the beginning of a word, which eliminates the possibility (remote as it was anyway) that the scribe’s eye skipped over a column or two of the manuscript of his exemplar and wrote ηση (the end of κληθηση in Luke 1.76). Further, whatever he is doing, he seems to pick back up with the οτι of 1.58, since it is split over two lines with the τι beginning line 6. Another possibility that should be ruled out is a spelling change: although οι and η sounded alike in this era, as did υ and η, it would be both completely unattested and not in character with the rest of this strip for the scribe to have written ἠ σηγγενεις instead of οἱ συγγενεις—a double misspelling! This solution simply looks too convenient to be convincing. The breathing, however, is not a problem since medieval scribes routinely mixed up the smooth and rough breathings.

Third, line 10 is unusually short, with only 13 letters. Now, it is just possible that the scribe wrote εν τη ογδοη τη ημερα over the two lines. This is both unattested and a nonsense reading, but the repetition of eta in four words successively might have caused a kind of dittography. This would bring the line to 15 letters. Alternatively, the scribe might have added εις το before the infinitive on this line, thus creating an 18-letter line. But this, too, is unattested.

Fourth, the 14th line seems to have had only του Ζαχα- on it, for the ρι that begins line 15 has the acute accent, indicating that it is part of Ζαχαρίαν rather than αποκριθεισα—which in any event is unlikely both because of the disruption this would cause to the surrounding lines and because of the very unnatural word break. But if line 14 only has του Ζαχα-, it is a seven-letter line. Why so short? One could understand line 14 ending with Ζαχαριαν, since the next verse could begin a new section. But why break the last word of v. 59 over two lines?

For these four problems, I have no ready solution. I hope that one or two of the readers of this blog will be able to offer an explanation to these conundrums.

Conclusion

There are 29 extant double-column Greek New Testament manuscripts from the 12th to the 14th century with Luke in them, only five of which are lectionaries. Most likely, this is the 30th such manuscript and probably a minuscule rather than a lectionary (based strictly on statistical probability). When all the photographs of the strips in NLG 2711 are made available, surely more text will come to light. Perhaps the other strips will also resolve some of the issues we have already mentioned, and help us come to firmer conclusions about what, exactly, this manuscript is, and why especially it deviates from Luke 1.58 so radically at one point.

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Update from Athens: New Apostolos Manuscript

8 June 2015: There are eight of us from CSNTM in Athens right now. We’ve begun the process of digitizing New Testament manuscripts at the National Library of Greece this summer. CSNTM has a contract with the NLG to digitize all their NT manuscripts—over 300 manuscripts altogether! The director of the NLG, Dr. Philippos Tsimpoglou, is a visionary with energy, drive, innovation, and desire to bring the NLG into much greater prominence in the international discussions about ancient texts. CSNTM is very grateful to Dr. Tsimpoglou for this key partnership in digitally preserving and making accessible 150,000 pages of biblical manuscripts.

I have spent more time in Athens than in America this year, preparing manuscripts for the photographing teams. In the process of documenting each manuscript, I have come across some exciting discoveries—many of which were already known to the library, but not all. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, Germany is the official cataloguer of Greek NT MSS. And until INTF has catalogued a manuscript, it is generally not known to New Testament scholars. To date, we have found at least ten manuscripts that are not yet catalogued by INTF. In this blog, I want to discuss an apostolos (Acts and Catholic Epistles) manuscript that is glued to the inside front and back covers of a lectionary.

NLG 2676—known to biblical scholars as Lectionary 1813—is a 12th century Gospel lectionary, written on beautiful vellum, with 240 leaves still extant. It has ornate headpieces for each of the Gospels, produced by a true craftsman. Glued to the inside of the front cover is a manuscript leaf of a decidedly different character. Written in a professional but rather utilitarian hand is a two-column paper leaf. A leaf from the same manuscript is glued to the back inside cover.

front_inside_cover_NLG_2676

Front Inside Cover of NLG 2676

(picture taken with iPhone)

 

1 John 3, 5

This paper manuscript is written in a later hand, 13th or perhaps 14th century. On the front inside cover three columns are visible. There is a vertical crease after the first column, which is our first clue that what is extant is a bifolio (or double leaf). The left column begins with 1 John 2.29 and ends at 1 John 3.3a.

 

The text is as follows:

] ην εξ αυτου γεγε-            [2.29]

] ιδετε ποταπην α-             [3.1]

]δωκεν ημιν ο π̅η̅ρ̅,

θ̅υ̅ κληθωμεν.

] . ο κοσμος ου γινω-

] αγαπητοι. νυν τε               [3.2]

] . . μεν. και ουπω

]ρωθη τι εσομεθα

]μεν δε οτι εαν φανε-

] ομοιοι αυτω εσομε-

] οτι οψομεθα αυτον,

]… και πας ο εχων                 [3.3]

]πιδα ταυτη επ

 

The next two columns are from the same page; the text is 1 John 5.11b–15 in the first column and 1 John 5.18b–21 in the second. The left column of this page gives us the full lines so that we have firm evidence of how much text would be written on each line (they average 19.5 letters). The gap between 1 John 3.3 and 1 John 5.11 tells us that the bifolio is not the middle double-leaf of the quire, but is the bifolio prior to the midpoint. This is due to the fact that (1) there are approximately 30–31 lines per column (only 17 of which are extant), (2) there are approximately 600 letters per column, with two columns per page (and four per leaf), and (3) 1 John 3.3b–5.11a would involve approximately 250 lines or 8 columns. Thus, the gap would involve two columns per page, four per leaf, eight per bifolio. Therefore, this is the bifolio just before the midpoint of the quire.

 

The text of 1 John 5.11b–15 in this fragment is as follows:

η, εν                                                 [5.11]

ο εχων τον υιον …. τη ζω-           [5.12]

ην. ο μη εχων τον υιον του

θ̅υ̅, την ζωην ουκ εχει. ταυ-   [5.13]

τα εγραψα υμιν τοις πι-

στευουσιν εις το ονομα του

υιου του θ̅υ̅. ινα ειδητε ο-

τι ζωη αιωνιον εχετε. και ι-

να πιστευσητε, εις το ονο-

μα του υιου του θ̅υ̅. και αυ-      [5.14]

τη εστιν η παρρησια ην ε-

χομεν προς αυτον. οτι εαν

τι αιτωμεθα κατα το θελημα

αυτου, ακουει ημων, ο εαν           [5.15]

αιτωμεθα, οιδαμεν οτι ε-

χομεν τα αιτηματα α

ητοικαμεν ……

 

Although this MS follows the Byzantine text, it has a rare variant of the aorist subjunctive πιστευσητε (049 218 945 1751 2374) instead of the present subjunctive πιστευητε in v. 13. It also has what may be a unique variant in v. 15, ητοικαμεν instead of ητηκαμεν. In the era in which this manuscript was written, the pronunciation of οι and η would have been identical. But the spelling alteration is most likely due to the scribe’s faulty memory as he repeated to himself the word he saw in his exemplar before writing it down.

Acts 3

The paper glued to the inside of the back cover is also a two-column bifolio, with the first two columns on the left side, followed by a vertical reinforcement strip, with text (which would have been used to strengthen the joint between the two leaves), then one column on the right. This bifolio is in worse condition, with the residue of ink from another leaf, along with the intrusive reinforcement strip, covering a large section of the text. Further, the original script has been written on top of in certain places, making the task of positive identification a bit tricky at times.

 

back_inside_cover_NLG_2676

Back Inside Cover of NLG 2676

(picture taken with iPhone)

The text begins at Acts 3.1; χω]λος εκ κοιλιας (Acts 3.2) is visible on the what appears to be the third or fourth line in the far left column. This goes through Acts 3.5a (ο δε επειχεν αυ–). The second column picks up at v. 8 (the second line reads αλλομενος και αινων) and continues through v. 10. After this, it gets confusing. The next line appears to begin with a rubricated and enlarged epsilon. That would normally indicate a new section of material, whether it be the next paragraph in Acts, a new lection (if this is a lectionary), or perhaps the beginning of a commentary section. The word looks like εξομολογ…, so we should expect it to say something about confession. The string of letters doesn’t seem to match anything in the NT, nor is it the beginning of a lection. Further, the letters look as though they are written on top of others—yet there’s a mismatch between the under-text and upper-text. The whole thing is a puzzle. I invite any readers who may have access to better tools than I do while away from my library to offer their solutions to this conundrum. It’s probably an easy solution that is simply escaping me at the moment.

There are 57 known apostolos minuscules from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries that have both 1 John and Acts in them. Tentatively, this manuscript is the 58th, but we will most likely need to resolve what comes after Acts 3.10 on the backside to make that a definite assertion. Nevertheless, it’s always a thrill to find another manuscript of the New Testament. It is not uncommon to see manuscripts carved up and used as binding leaves in other codices. Obviously, it is unfortunate that a manuscript would be cannibalized, but many such manuscripts have been partially preserved by gluing them to wood-and-leather covers. Without such treatment, they might not have been preserved at all!

 

For Further Reading

The following tools are helpful for those who are fascinated by Greek New Testament manuscripts but are not sure how even to begin studying them—either online or in the flesh. This is a very basic bibliography (we didn’t want to overwhelm you right from the beginning). This is not a bibliography for New Testament textual criticism per se; rather, it is intended to be a primer on examining the manuscripts.

Aland, Kurt, et al., eds. Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, 2nd ed. Volume 1 of the Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung (ANTF). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994.

Since 1963, the K-Liste has been the standard tool for comprehensive knowledge about Greek New Testament manuscripts. It lists every extant manuscript with content, date, dimensions, columns, material, leaves, and location. It also has a convenient section of conversions between Tischendorf’s and Gregory’s systems, and Gregory’s and von Soden’s. In the back of the book is a list of all the sites that have Greek NT manuscripts, listed by city and library, along with the shelf number. For those who wish to see actual manuscripts, this is the indispensable bible on Bibles. It has been and continues to be updated as an online version, which has many useful search features.

Cavallo, Guglielmo, and Herwig Maehler. Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period: AD 300–800. London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.

The standard resource on the professional scribal writing of manuscripts in the early Byzantine period.

Cavallo, Guglielmo, and Herwig Maehler. Hellenistic Bookhands. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008.

The standard resource on the professional scribal writing of papyrus manuscripts in the Hellenistic period.

Elliott, J. K. A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts, 3rd ed. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

This is the standard first-stop for a comprehensive treatment of what has been written on the various Greek NT manuscripts known to exist. Written by a meticulous scholar, who leaves no stone unturned, Professor Elliott’s Bibliography is must reading for going deeper with each manuscript. Perhaps what is most surprising in the volume is how many manuscripts don’t even have a paragraph written on them yet—about 80%! But if there’s a publication, dissertation, or obscure journal article about a given manuscript, Elliott includes it. That so many have nothing on them indicates that there is much, much more work to be done.

Gardthausen, V. Griechische Palaeographie, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1913.

Another classic that has stood the test of time.

Hatch, W. H. P. The Principal Uncial Manuscripts of the New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939.

Another classical text that set the standard for dating Greek majuscule manuscripts of the New Testament.

Lake, Kirsopp and Silva. Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200. 10 volumes(!). Boston: 1934–1939; Index (Boston, 1945).

For getting the scripts of dated manuscripts up to the beginning of the thirteenth century, there is nothing that compares to Lake and Lake’s 10-volume set. It’s also extremely difficult to come by. If you can find it, let me know—I’ll buy it!

Metzger, Bruce M. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography. Oxford: OUP, 1981.

This is the best primer on getting into Greek biblical manuscripts (both New Testament and Old Testament). It’s a classic text, with several plates and characteristically Metzgerian detailed discussions. Help is also found in dating manuscripts and collating them.

Parker, David C. An Introduction to New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts. Cambridge: CUP, 2008.

A breathtaking array of secondary literature and primary insights on NT manuscript study from Great Britain’s leading active NT textual critic.

Roberts, C. H., and T. C. Skeat. The Birth of the Codex. Oxford, 1983.

The standard introduction to when and why the codex book-form came into existence and later become the standard book-form in late antiquity and the middle ages.

Thompson, E. M. An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography. Oxford, 1912.

A standard introduction which, though dated, still has much useful material.

Turner, E. G. The Typology of the Early Codex. Philadelphia, 1977.

Eric Turner was one of the great scholars of paleography, papyrology, and codicology. His opinion is always sober and never to be treated lightly.

Turner, E. G. Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

The long-time standard against which all other works on ancient book-making have been measured.

van Groningen, B. Short Manual of Greek Palaeography, 4th ed. Leipzig, 1967.

And a third classic that is quite useful for dating manuscripts.

These ought to be enough to get any bibliophile started down a path of rich discovery and illumination.

Several other important volumes could have been listed as well. These are intended for those whose interests are not just in the texts of the biblical manuscripts but in all aspects of those manuscripts.

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Pro-Life: The Right Side of History

Guest blog by Dr. Justin Bass

“One of the chief features of the state of Peace we now enjoy is the killing of a considerable number of harmless human beings.” —GK Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows

When it comes to the controversial issue of gay marriage, we regularly hear the statement from gay marriage advocates, ‘You’re on the wrong side of history.’ They mean by this that those who believe that marriage has been definitively defined by God (Gen 2:24) and Christ (Mark 10:5-9) as the union of one man and one woman are behind the times, draconian, and need to join with the rest of humanity progressing towards a marriage defined by the culture trends of the moment. The fickle winds of the culture do happen to be blowing towards gay marriage at the moment and if the Supreme Court redefines marriage later this year, we will in coming years witness the cultural winds blowing towards polyamorous marriages and same-sex ‘thruple’ marriages and even new ideas for ‘marriage’ our culture’s imagination has yet to invent. This is the slippery slope that even the Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito asked about because if there is no limiting principle by which we define marriage, then there is no legal reason to deny polygamous, polyamorous and even couples in various forms of incest the right to marry.

The situation in the early 1970s is very instructive here in the case of abortion. Soon after the case of Roe vs. Wade, the culture was also saying in so many words to those who were pro-life ‘You’re on the wrong side of history.’ And yet over 40 years later, we see that the pro-life movement is stronger than ever and the majority of the people you will find at 40 Days for Life or praying outside of abortion clinics are millennials. In fact, Gallup recently found that the number of Americans who identify as pro-choice is at a record low (41%). Wendy Davis led a campaign last year with the mantra she was fighting for Texas women’s reproductive rights, but when Texas women went to the polls, they voted overwhelmingly against her. Texas women did have a choice and they chose Life.

Moreover, just as Ryan T. Anderson, in his early 30s, is one of the leading voices defending traditional marriage, so too are the leading voices rescuing babies from destruction; young men and women using their gifts, talents, backgrounds and influence to stop our modern day holocaust (around 55 million babies murdered and counting since Roe). Lila Rose, in her late 20s, is the president of Live Action devoted to ending abortion and building a culture of life. Lila was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for more “creative extremists.” She is definitely a creative extremist as she has gone undercover to many abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood organizations exposing sexual abuse, racism, assistance to sex traffickers, sex-selective abortion, and infanticide. She has even been responsible for a number of workers being fired, clinics shutting down, and countless women choosing Life.

In addition, we have seen abortion clinic after abortion clinic close down over the last decade all across America. In 1991, there were 2,176 surgical abortion clinics in America which is the highest number of clinics since Roe. As of 2014, there are only 582 left! 87 clinics closed in 2013 alone and I have personally witnessed since 2011 the abortion clinics in Texas drop from 42 to less than 20! In the states Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming — just one clinic remains. The abortion rate even hit an all-time low in 2011 since Roe. Every state that has seen this significant decrease in abortion clinics has seen a corresponding decrease in the number of abortions annually.

Why has the majority of our culture, especially the younger generation (who are no doubt moving more in favor of gay marriage), been moving more towards a culture of Life and against abortion? Here are some contributing factors.

Technology

The Ultrasound and even 3D/4D imaging has allowed an entire generation of mothers (and fathers) to watch their baby grow within their womb even to the point of seeing them smile and even clap! Just hearing that strong, on average 150bpm, heartbeat has saved many lives. A famous example is Governor (running for president) Chris Christie who converted from Pro-choice to Pro-life after hearing his daughter’s heartbeat. Despite all the debates about personhood, it is an undeniable fact that all 327,653 abortions Planned Parenthood performed in 2014 stopped a strong, healthy beating heart.

Education

The more our culture is educated on the science of embryology and what actually happens during an abortion procedure the more likely they will be pro-life. Even the late great atheist Christopher Hitchens said: “I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept ‘unborn child’ is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well-conceived human baby, one that isn’t going to be critically deformed (or even some that are) will be able to survive outside the womb earlier and earlier and earlier, and I see that date only being pushed back. I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one.”

And as far as the brutal nature of the procedure, read how a former abortion doctor testifying before congress described a late term abortion. “The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you.” 55 million little faces are staring back at all of us.

When is the Baby a Baby?

In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial birth abortion that involved cutting the baby’s head in two, sucking his or her brains out and now in 2015 at least one state has stopped the procedure that dismembers a baby inside the womb during a second trimester abortion. You’d think all 50 states would be against dismembering babies wouldn’t you? Apparently only one is.

79% of pro-choice advocates believe abortions during the third trimester should be illegal.

But why? Why is it nothing but a medical procedure (even “women’s health”) to abort a baby at 15 weeks, but it is murder that should be illegal at 30 weeks? What is different about a baby at 15 weeks vs. a baby at 30 weeks? If viability is the dividing line then all abortion should be illegal after 20 weeks as we have record of babies surviving even at 21 weeks outside the womb. But the vast majority of pro-choice advocates still want abortion legal during the second trimester (13-28 weeks). The fact is there is no clear dividing line (like conception) for the pro-choice advocate and so they inevitably have to argue that the women’s choice must trump the baby’s right to life.

This irrational line was made even more abundantly clear in the case of Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor, who put babies to death minutes after they exited the womb. Gosnell was found guilty of 3 counts of first degree murder as he snipped the spines of 3 babies minutes after they were born. Gosnell also performed numerous third trimester abortions and parts of those babies were found all over his clinic. But in all these cases the law said he did nothing but perform “a medical procedure on fetuses” because they were still inside the womb. Madness!

A young atheist mother named Jennifer Fulwiler was staring at her newborn baby one day and realized in that moment the bankruptcy of the atheistic worldview, and gave her life to Christ. We need the culture to see these babies’ faces. Sometimes they do need to see dead faces looking back at them like the former abortion doctor mentioned that still haunts him, but we must constantly be putting the beautiful living, smiling faces before them as well. Being for Life, especially for the lives of precious children, is always the right side of history.

May God give us more “Creative extremists” to fight for them.

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Ladies, You’ve Been Duped! The Myth about Abortion Giving You More Freedom

It seems to me that Mother’s Day is an appropriate time to talk about abortion (at least, that’s when I started writing this blog). We honor our mothers because they bore us for nine months, brought us into this world, nurtured us, trained us, disciplined us, and loved us unselfishly. On this day, I say, “Mom, I love you! You have been a magnificent mother! You have imparted wisdom, encouraged me to be strong in the faith, and prayed for me diligently—especially that I would marry a wonderful, godly woman (your prayers have been answered far beyond what you ever dreamt, Mom!).”

I wish that all mothers were half as good as my own mother or my children’s mother. The most horrific tragedy in America is that since Roe v. Wade over 58 million babies have been aborted in the United States. Statistics on women through the age of 45 are shocking: three in ten of them have had an abortion. This is nearly ten times the number of deaths that occurred in the Nazi gas chambers, and is almost equal to all the deaths that occurred during WWII. In the next few years, we will pass the statistic of the carnage of that most unspeakable war of all time.

What seems to be really tragic is that the one person who, by her very nature, is designed to be a giving, nurturing, unconditionally loving individual (have you ever heard someone say, “Only a face a father could love!”) is a mother. Thirty percent of them are going against their own natural inclination by aborting their children.

Now, this blog could be a rant against the women who have had an abortion. Some may think I’ve already done that. But that’s not the focus of this piece. A surprisingly high number of women who have had an abortion simply don’t know the facts. They need to be loved, counseled, and gently guided—not hated! Instead, I want to offer two theses that seem to me are not normally part of the discussion about abortion.

Thesis 1: Abortions Contradict the Physician’s Basic Principles

“First, do no harm” has been claimed as a part of the Hippocratic Oath for a long time. Actually, Hippocrates did not quite say this in his Oath, but he did make the promise “to abstain from doing harm.” What is not well known is that the Hippocratic Oath also specifically spoke against abortion: “I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroying the child.”

Almost thirty years ago, I witnessed a debate between Kerby Anderson (now president of Probe Ministries) and one of the most notorious abortion doctors in Arkansas. The debate was held on the campus of the University of Arkansas. Kerby, who has degrees in zoology, science, and bioethics, used one basic argument that blind-sided the physician. Rather than use the Bible at all in his argument, he argued from the physician’s handbook: “First, do no harm.” His basic thesis was that a physician is required to save life, not destroy it. As the moment when a zygote is considered a human being was (and is) being hotly debated, Kerby pointed out that physicians are required to give the benefit of the doubt to life.

The physician began to throw out pages and pages of notes that he was going to use in the debate—all presumably against a would-be Bible-thumper. But Kerby argued instead from the realm that the physician knew well.

One of the great ironies of our time is that so many physicians are calloused to this basic principle. What did it take for them to decide to perform abortions? During WWII, the Nazis began to kill Jews and other undesirables by firing squads. But the soldiers soon chafed at the horror of what they were doing. A new plan needed to be into place. Doctors were brought in. They started by giving these undesirables lethal injections. They were required to wear their white gowns, and do the job in an antiseptic environment that resembled a medical clinic. This was intended both to make the ‘patients’ less suspicious and to ease the conscience of the physicians. Also, the propaganda machine of the Nazis went all out to speak of the Jews as a “cancer” on Europe that needed to be cut out. This change in the method of execution worked to some degree, because the government knew that physicians would be naturally reticent to murder. The question I have is, What has happened in the years since WWII that has created an environment in which physicians who perform abortions no longer need to pretend that their actions are some sort of noble act—as that which cuts out a ‘cancer’ to save the mother’s life? The collective moral compass in western society seems to have broken.

Thesis 2: Abortions Empower Men, not Women

The main thesis of this blog—and the one that is hinted at in the title—is that abortions empower men, not women. In many respects, it has actually shackled women. The cliché, “Why buy the cow when you can get milk for free?” has been mothers’ advice to their daughters for years against premarital sex. Those with the Y chromosome know this adage instinctively. But until Roe v. Wade, there was always a second argument: “You don’t want to get pregnant before you’re married!” That second argument kept many girls from going all the way before their wedding day. With improved birth control methods, things changed. But even if such were not used, or if they didn’t do their job, after Roe v. Wade the second argument has become increasingly muted. Girls began to think that if they got pregnant they could just have an abortion. Problem solved. Or so it seemed.

Upon closer reflection, the sexual revolution and Roe v. Wade have put in bold relief mothers’ first argument—“Why buy the cow when you can get milk for free?” More than any technological advance, the Supreme Court’s pronouncement has granted men greater freedom to use women as they saw fit. If their girlfriend gets pregnant, the mantra now is, “Just get an abortion!” Rather than abortion being pro-choice for women, it is really con-responsibility for men. The pressure to have sex before marriage—which almost always comes from the guy rather than the girl—has gained incredible momentum since 1973. In short, Ladies, you’ve been duped! The dissolution of a man’s responsibility hardly translates into greater freedom for you. You’ve been used. And you need to stand up and say, “No more!” Your dignity as a human being depends on it.

For further reading:

Randy Alcorn, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments Expanded & Updated (Multnomah Books, 2000)

The first review of this book on Amazon is written by “Groovy Vegan”—a woman who descries herself as “a non-Christian, non-religious, feminist liberal.” Her praise of the book shows that Alcorn uses science, rather than the Bible, as his principal argument. It’s a good read for anyone who is considering having an abortion.

Randy Alcorn, Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers, revised edition (Hendrickson, 2012)

Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway, 2009)

Peter Kreeft, The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 1983)

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Athens Expedition to Digitize Biblical Manuscripts

Friends, many of you know that the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts has signed a contract with the National Library of Greece in Athens to digitize their entire collection of New Testament manuscripts. I have already spent more time in Athens this year than in America, preparing the manuscripts for digitization. The NLG is one of the five largest repositories in the world for Greek NT manuscripts. They have over 300 of these, coming to about 150,000 pages of text. CSNTM will shoot all of these pages over the next two years. Rob-Filippos-dbw With the troubles in the world today, especially with ISIS and other groups trying to destroy Christian artifacts, the importance of our work has never been more urgent. And this upcoming expedition will cost CSNTM about $835,000! We need your help. Below are some key items that we will need to pay for. If you believe in the importance of scripture, or even if you are simply interested in making sure that our world heritage is preserved, you need to be involved with CSNTM’s efforts. National_Lib Already in my time in Athens this year, several discoveries have been made. At least half a dozen NT manuscripts—unknown to western scholars—have been discovered. And within other manuscripts, which have been known for well over a century, a number of new and exciting discoveries have been made. CSNTM will have 7–8 people in Athens this summer for over 90 days straight. And we will continue digitizing the manuscripts in 2016. Just some of the equipment costs for this, the largest expedition CSNTM has ever undertaken, are as follows: 1. Four new computers, complete with specialized software, lengthy warranty (we are hard on computers), and fast processors: $18,000 2. Five new cameras, with 50 megapixel imaging capability (each TIFF image will be as many as 300 MB!): $21,000 3. Other equipment needs (including hard drives, onsite RAID system, Graz Travellers Conservation Copy Stand, etc.): $41,000 Total for this equipment: $80,000 On top of this there are housing costs, salaries, training costs, airfare, meals, etc. (I didn’t itemize these because I didn’t want to scare you!) CSNTM will be posting all of the images online so that anyone can see them. The images will be free for all and free for all time.IMG_1062 Another way to look at our costs is to think in terms of digitizing a manuscript. The average NT manuscript will cost CSNTM about $2500 to digitize. That’s about $5.50 per page. Some of you may be able to preserve a few pages; others will be able to preserve a whole manuscript. Every gift counts! And each person who contributes $2500 or more will receive a certificate that specifies how many manuscripts they have digitally preserved. Finally, another way everybody can help is to spread the word. Talk to your friends and family members, link to this blog on your Facebook or other social media, or link to this blog on your own blogsite.

All donations are tax-deductible. Please consider how you can help. 

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Thank Heaven for Little Girls

In the 1958 movie, “Gigi,” Maurice Chevalier sings the memorable song, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” I admit, I’m a hopeless romantic, and growing up I always liked that song. But I thought of it strictly in terms of romance. Most recently, I have begun to get a glimpse of how Chevalier must have meant it.

I became a grandfather over four years ago. I now have two granddaughters and another on the way. With four sons and a family line that is overwhelmingly strong in producing offspring with the Y chromosome, I didn’t know if I’d ever have any lineage of the female persuasion. To get two granddaughters already, and another soon to take her first gulp of air and join in the sweet, wailing chorus of all newborns, has been a great surprise and an even greater joy.

My bride and I recently celebrated our 40th anniversary by visiting our son and daughter-in-law, the parents of two girls. They live quite a distance from us, requiring us to save up for some time to make the trek (our 40th anniversary was actually last year…). We spent about two weeks with them and their little heart-breakers. This blog offers some reflections on what I have learned first-hand from logging scores of hours over a sustained period with my granddaughters.

For the sake of their privacy, I will use pseudonyms. Claire is four and a half; Mary is two years old. The last time I saw the girls was shortly after Mary breathed her first. She was a helpless little newborn with the biggest eyes I have ever seen. Though of course all the subjective accolades that grandparents and parents lavish on their offspring are entirely true in her case, she nevertheless had not developed much of a personality. She was clingy, smiley, and demanding. Her sister Claire, however, had become a charmer, and she knew it.

So, my first surprise on this trip was to see how Mary’s personality was coming sharply into focus. And the contrast between the two girls stunned me. I’m not sure why it did. Pati and I raised four boys, and our twins are almost as different as Jack Sprat and his wife. I suppose I assumed that girls would be, well, girly. I didn’t expect to see Mary have such an adventurous, daredevil, and task-oriented outlook.

Mary inspecting Grandpa's mouth

Claire is chatty. She’s constantly telling stories—some related to life, others created ex nihilo, all engaging, and few understood. Even when her words make no sense, she’s entertaining, with a flair for the hammy. And her Italian side, which she inherited from her mother, comes out in these little performances: she not only cannot talk without her hands, she can hardly talk without her feet! Claire is creative, strongly right-brained, fun-loving, and friendly—as in Will Rogers friendly.

She told us one day: “I have Claire teeth today; yesterday I had banana teeth.” What she meant was that her mouth had tasted of banana, since that was its recent guest. But ‘today’ her teeth were back to being her own. Another time she pushed the dining room chairs together to form a train. Then she sat on the front seat and asked me to push. “Is this a game your daddy plays with you?” I inquired, disbelieving a four-year-old’s ingenuity. “No, just my grandpa!” she shot back drolly. She loves to color and cares very little for rules about lines. Rebellious little devil. She has trouble saying the letter ‘l’; when I was teaching her what her last name was, she kept saying ‘Wawrus’! I’m not sure I cared for that implied comparison. And she can be a tad bit narcissistic: I asked her if she knew who my favorite granddaughter was. Her answer, as it is to every question, was ‘yes.’ But then I said, pointing to Claire and Mary simultaneously, “it’s both of you!” “Both of me?” she beamed. Still, she really loves Mary. They play so much better together than our four hoodlums ever did! I taught her some new words like ‘whiskers.’ And every time she pulled on mine, I blurted out a different word. But each pull was as gentle as a feather duster. Claire is a charmer to the core and as feminine as she could be.

Then along came Mary. She is deliberate, focused on whatever task she deems important at the moment (and it’s not easy to distract her), and hard headed—literally. We took the girls to a discovery center one day, and they played in the castle. Claire met a couple and decided to fix them a nice, plastic, medieval meal. She brought out various treats and told them not to eat the eggs yet, but to wait for them to hatch. (She didn’t explain why it would be OK to eat a new chick!) She was at her thespian best, never breaking character, for nearly twenty minutes. (Claire often stays in character at length during her impromptu performances.) Meanwhile, Mary systematically put together a wooden structure, then just as systematically took it apart. She next grabbed plastic vegetables growing in a plastic garden and brought them right past her flesh-and-blood grandmother and gave them to me. Repeatedly. Grandma couldn’t get her attention until she had a bargaining chip—plastic vegetables that I clandestinely passed on to her without Mary seeing the transaction. There was intention in Mary’s steps, and her steps were not elegant, graceful, or delicate (of course, she’s only two!). They were the steps of one who would not be deterred in her mission to organize the world. Mary calls me “Haha”—an appropriate name judging by our interactions. She banged her head one day on the choo-choo that Claire had constructed, causing a quick swell on her forehead. I was concerned as the bump immediately protruded, deforming one of the cutest profiles on planet earth (objectively speaking, of course!). She started to cry, but in less than a minute she was off on another adventure, with nary a whimper. She pulled hard on my whiskers as though yanking out the roots would produce sugary delights. And her way of showing affection was to suddenly, without warning, get in my face and promptly do some serious head-butts! During my semi-debilitation from the inevitable headache, Mary would be busy reorganizing a book-shelf. Her mom taught her to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” shortly before we visited. Mary’s barely-audible super-soprano voice cracked me up when I was trying to teach her when to say “thank you.” All too often the coaxing lesson backfired when she would squeak out, “you’re welcome.” Mary is going to be as tough as nails. She will know what she wants out of life and go after it. She may end up being a sky-diver or an architect, but whatever she does during her adulthood she will be making the world a better, less frightful, and more organized place. A force of nature combined with a force of logic is a lethal combination. Retiring, complacent individuals beware!

Mary excited over what she found!

What truly astounded me were several things about these cheerful cherubs. Every day for them is filled with new adventures, many of their own making. They are constantly learning. The world is still anew and there are so many things they have yet to experience. They trust without question those whom their parents implicitly approve of. They can produce crocodile tears at the drop of a hat, and just as quickly rebound with a boisterous cackle. If they don’t get their way, they can be as obstinate as a hinny. And a traumatic experience can mark them for life.

Right brain, left brain. Two little girls, different in so many ways. But both of them orchestrated—so consumately it seemed almost intentional—an indelible impression on this crusty old fellow. They made me young again in ways that not too long ago I would have been embarrassed to admit. Are they perfect? Of course not. They have inherited the dark, rebellious, selfish, and manipulative nature that the train of humanity tracking back to the first Adam has passed on. In each of us there is a beauty and a beast—the imago Dei and the sin nature. But at this age, they have not learned adult ways. Their dark-side skills are still poorly formed, poorly executed. I suppose I didn’t fully expect them to be so, well, human. At times, I was as fascinated with Claire and Mary as I am by a rich theological discussion with one of my mentors in the faith. The increasing depth of their personalities, the complex tapestries of their outlooks, and the ‘serendipitiness’ of their words and deeds, stole my heart. I fully expected to enjoy them, but I had no idea how much.

Children are such an incredible blessing from the Lord. And their earliest years are unspeakably significant. I wish that I knew thirty-five years ago what I know now about raising children. I don’t think mine came out too badly, but, regrettably, I did miss way too many special moments in their lives because I was too busy with ‘higher’ priorities.

I suppose one lesson I learned from this holiday, if I may wax philosophic for a moment, was that I’m glad modernism is virtually dead. Those whose lives are measured only by what takes place in their cranial port-side are missing out on so much of life! The emphasis placed on authenticity over mere truth by post-moderns is a necessary, a human, corrective, to a centuries-old, grand experiment that has stripped us of all that we could be. I am not saying that postmodernism is the ideal, much less that it is perfect. Far from it! Of course, these tiny tots know nothing of world-shaping philosophical constructs. They simply are. And what they are is human—as human as the little girl who cried out that the emperor had denuded himself! And it’s that connection with humanity, through my own flesh-and-blood descendants, that reminds me of who and what I really am and gives me hope for the next generation. Grandma and I are already starting to save up for another dose of humanity and our own slice of heaven on earth.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls


Here’s a brief bibliography that may be of service to helping you raise godly, well-developed children in an ungodly world, as well as a couple of resources on creative ways to teach kids how to learn:

John Trent, Kurt Bruner, and Rick Osborne, Teaching Kids about God: An Age by Age Plan for Parents of Children from Birth to Age Twelve.

John Trent and Gary Smalley, The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance.

John Trent, Eric Tooker, and Rodney Cox, Parenting from Your Strengths: Understanding Strengths and Valuing Differences in Your Home.

LeapFrog: Letter Factory (DVD), and other DVDs from ‘Leap Frog’.

Melissa & Doug USA Map 51 pcs Floor Puzzle.

Any Dr. Seuss books (which are excellent for teaching children to read and see the world creatively).

The Growth and Giggles website, with many resources on parenting young children.

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Biblical Manuscripts and their Commentaries

Matt_headpiece _commentary

See my latest blog at CSNTM on Biblical Manuscripts and their Commentaries.

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