What Does “We are God’s fellow-workers” in 1 Corinthians 3.9 Really Mean?

Translations and Commentaries

The King James Version in 1 Cor 3.9 reads, “we are labourers together with God…” This unambiguously suggests that Paul and Apollos were considered in some sense on the same level with God. Of course, ‘in some sense’ covers a multitude of possibilities, but there nevertheless seems to be an underlying tone of synergism and mutual credit. (A similar translation is in the French Nouvelle Version2: “nous sommes ouvriers avec Dieu,” and in La Sacra Bibbia: “Noi siamo infatti collaboratori di Dio.”)

Most modern translations take a more neutral stance, translating 1 Cor 3.9a as “we are God’s fellow workers” (ASV [‘fellow-workers’], RSV, NASB and NASB 1995, NKJV, ESV, NIV), “we are God’s coworkers (HCSB, TNIV, and NAB2 [‘co-workers’; 2010]), “we do share in God’s work” (NJB), “wir sind Gottes Mitarbeiter” (Luther 1985), or “nosotros somos colaboradores de Dios” (Reina Valera2).

But some translations take a different interpretation. The NET Bible has, “we are coworkers belonging to God”; the REB says, “we are fellow-workers in God’s service”; the NIV 2011 reads, “we are coworkers in God’s service”; the TEV has, “we are partners together working for God”; the NRSV reads, “we are God’s servants, working together”; and “we are both God’s workers” is in the NLT2.

Thus, we see in the translations three different views: (1) Paul and Apollos are co-workers with God; (2) the statement is ambiguous, though tending toward the first view; and (3) Paul and Apollos are co-workers with each other in service to God.

Commentaries overwhelmingly fall into the third group, with some supporting the first interpretation. In the first group belong Theodore of Mopsuestia, Calvin, and Robertson and Plummer (ICC). In the third are Findlay (Expositors), Moffatt (Moffatt NTC), Barrett (BNT), Héring, Fee (NICNT), Kistemaker, Furnish (JBL 80 [1961]), Wolff (THKNT), Horsley (Abingdon), Collins (SP), Thiselton (NIGTC), and Keener (NCBC).

Significantly, if we were to chart out the translations and commentaries chronologically, we would see a tendency toward the neutral view (translations) and especially toward the third view (commentaries).

Table of Interpretations and Translations of 1 Cor 3.9


with God

God’s co-workers


for God

Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428)

Calvin (1546)

KJV (1611, 1769)

Findlay (1900)

ASV (1901)

Robertson and Plummer (19142)

Moffatt (1938)

RSV (1952, 1971; slight variation)

Reina Valera (19602)

NASB (1960–1977)

Furnish (1961)

Héring (1962)

TEV (1968–1992)

Barrett (19712)

Nouvelle Version2 (1978)

NKJV (1982)

NIV (1984)

Luther2 (1985)

Fee (1987)

NRSV (1989)

REB (1989)

NJB (1990)

Kistemaker (1993)

La Sacra Bibbia (1994)

NASB 1995

Wolff (1996)

Horsley (1998)

HCSB (1999)

Collins (1999)

Thiselton (2000)

ESV (2001)

TNIV (2001)

NLT2 (2004)

NET (2005)

Keener (2005)

NAB2 (2010)





Thus, of the 38 works perused, half see Paul and Apollos as co-servants only with each other, both working for God. The latest authority that sees them as co-workers with God was in 1978, a French translation of the Bible. The latest source for this view in English was the ICC commentary by Robertson and Plummer in 1914. From 1938 on, every commentary consulted regarded Paul and Apollos to be in the service of God. To be sure, this is hardly a representative sampling; it represents only the works I have at hand in my personal library. I understand that Weiss (1910), Davies (1972), and H. D. Betz (1986) all adopted the first view (according to John G. Lewis [DPhil, Oxford, 2003] who also takes this position), but I have not verified it yet. See also Victor Paul Furnish, “Fellow Workers in God’s Service,” JBL 80 (1961) 364 (whole article, 364–70), who adds Lightfoot and Wendland as supporters of the first interpretation, and Heinrici and Parry as supporters of the third.

Issues in Greek Grammar

Fee, Thiselton, and Furnish give some of the strongest arguments for taking the genitive θεοῦ as possessive or purpose (‘for God’) here, which center on the flow of argument in the context. But not one of the works examined gives any grammatical parallels to this understanding of the text. The normal Greek rule is that a genitive attached to a συν-prefixed noun/substantive will be a genitive of association, and thus translated ‘with.’ In order for the third view to gain some traction, at least some clear examples need to be produced of a genitive dependent on a συν-prefixed noun which is other than associative. Otherwise, it is just wishful thinking. So, are there any instances of such a genitive?

(Excursus: The Role of Syntax in Exegesis)

The role that Greek syntax plays in exegesis is often neglected in exegetical literature. I would say, in fact, that for most exegetes, any meaningful discussion of syntax seems to be wrenched out of them, if discussed at all. Too frequently, commentators will appeal to the “context,” almost as though just uttering that word magically settles all issues. It’s as if the first one to utter this incantation wins the argument! But context is not a given; it must be construed. And if no syntactical parallels can be found to support an interpretation which may seem probable from the context, then the interpretation cannot be certain. Exegetes have long seen this when it comes to lexical studies. They know they can’t simply invent a meaning for a word that it never has elsewhere just because the context seems to favor it. They know they are on much more solid footing if they can find some parallels lexically, especially if they are in Hellenistic Greek. It would seem that syntax should play the same role, but curiously it almost never does. In this brief paper, my purpose is to illustrate, with parallels as close as I can determine, of συν-prefixed substantives with non-associative genitive modifiers. Only if such parallels can be produced can one then bring in the contextual arguments for 1 Cor 3.9.

Genitive of Association in Hellenistic Greek

New Testament

(All parallel references are in bold for ease in locating them.) In Rom 11.17, Paul speaks of the Gentiles as συγκοινωνὸς τῆς ῥίζης (“fellow-partakers of the root”). The Gentiles are seen as fellow-partaker with their Jewish counterparts of the root. The genitive is objective (‘partake of the root’). In 1 Cor 1.20 we read ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; (“where is the debater of this age?”). The word ‘debater’ means, loosely, dialogue partner. The genitive is temporal. In 1 Cor 9.23 we read ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι (“so that I may become a participant in [the gospel]”). Again, an objective genitive. In 2 Cor 1.24 again the associative genitive is implied (συνεργοί ἐσμεν τῆς χαρᾶς ὑμῶν: “we are fellow-workers [with you] for your joy”). In Eph 3.6 the head noun takes an objective genitive once again: εἶναι τὰ ἔθνη … συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας (“in order that the Gentiles might become … fellow partakers [with the Jewish believers] of the gospel”). In Acts 21.30 we read that the whole town was in an uproar and ἐγένετο συνδρομὴ τοῦ λαοῦ (lit., “there became a rushing together of the people”). The idea here is most likely subjective (“the people rushed together”). In 1 Peter 3.7 the men are instructed to treat their wives with all due respect because they are “fellow-heirs [with their wives] of the grace of life” (συγκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς).

In 1 Thess 3.2 we have a very interesting illustration. There Paul declares that Timothy is τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ. This passage, like 1 Cor 3.9, has been understood in two different ways. Some take τοῦ θεοῦ as a genitive of association (“fellow-worker with God”), while others see it as possessive/purpose (“fellow-worker [with us], belonging to God/for God”). Many important witnesses read διάκονον τοῦ θεοῦ (“servant of God”) instead of συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ; others have διάκονον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ συνεργὸν ἡμῶν (“servant of God and our fellow-worker”); both of these would eliminate the possibility of θεοῦ being an associative genitive. Assuming that the Nestle-Aland28’s text is autographic (in spite of it being poorly attested), the variants may have come about because of a desire to clarify the meaning while simultaneously eliminating one possible interpretation. In spite of the argument of some exegetes, it seems to be saying too much to argue that the variants arose because scribes were offended at the idea that Paul put himself and his colleagues on the same plane with God. An equally plausible interpretation is that here the scribes wanted to clarify that this was not Paul’s meaning, since the context was more ambiguous than 1 Cor 3.9’s context, and the scribes there saw clearly that Paul did not see a synergism between God and men. Since there are no variants listed there in the NA28 apparatus, scribes may well have seen Paul’s meaning here, as well, to be clearly against a divine-associative view.

Now, except for Acts 21.30 and 1 Thess 3.2 (both of which could possibly be construed otherwise), none of these is an illustration of a συν-prefixed noun with a personal dependent genitive. Yet this is precisely what we see in 1 Cor 3.9, which begs the question as to whether θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί really can mean “we are fellow-workers [with each other] for God.” But at least what the parallels have shown is that the genitive of association may, at times, be implied rather than stated, even when another genitive is related to the συν-prefixed noun. And this would be in line with seeing θεοῦ in 1 Cor 3.9 as non-associative. But are there any unambiguous illustrations of a συν-prefixed noun with a non-associative personal dependent genitive? Most of the illustrations used in the previous paragraph are all found in my book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (130). But more are needed, especially those that are closer parallels.

Consider the following:


Antiquities of the Jews 8.133 (8.5.2): σύνοδον ἀνθρώπων (“a gathering of people”). σύνοδος is translated ‘fellow-traveler’ or ‘traveling companion’ in Ignatius, Ephesians 9.2, but such a meaning will not work here. The genitive ἀνθρώπων probably is a genitive of apposition/content (“a gathering made up of people”).

Antiquities of the Jews 16.351 (16.10.9): συνθῆκαι τῶν δανείων (“covenant [between the two men] concerning the debt”). Here the implied genitive is personal, while the genitive stated is a genitive of reference.

Antiquities of the Jews 17.51 (17.3.1): εἰς τὴν σύνοδον τῆς Ἀντιπάτρου μητρός (“for the meeting [arranged] by Antipater’s mother”). One might normally assume that after σύνοδος the genitive would indicate association. In this instance, however, Antipater’s mother arranged the meeting between others. Similarly, Josephus, Vita 311 (60), and Josephus, Vita 368 (66).

Antiquities of the Jews 19.107 (19.1.14): τοῖς συνωμόταις κινδύνων (“to [his] co-conspirators in the risk”). The implied genitive is personal while the stated genitive is a genitive of reference.

Jewish War 4.148 (4.3.6): συνεργοὺς τῶν ἀσεβημάτων (“fellow-workers for their ungodly acts”). The implied genitive is personal while the stated genitive is a genitive of purpose.

Jewish War 4.240 (4.4.3): τὴν σύνταξιν ὑμῶν (“your army” in the sense of “the army in service to you”).


Philo, Somniis 1.193: πρὸς τὸ τῶν φίλων ἔλθῃ συνέδριον (“when he comes into the assembly of friends”).

Philo, Specialibus 1.29: συνεργοὺς τῆς ἀπάτης (“co-workers [with each other] in deception”). Same word as is found in 1 Cor 3.9. The implied genitive is personal and associative, while the stated genitive is reference.

Philo, Contemplativa 40: τὰς κοινὰς συνόδους αὐτῶν (“their common assemblies”). The common assemblies which consists of them; thus, a genitive of apposition or content.

Greek Pseudepigrapha:

Rechabites 11.7: συνηθείᾳ τοῦ γάμου (“companionship [between them] of marriage”). Not personal, but the personal is implied.

Psalms of Solomon 4.1: συνεδρίῳ ὁσίων (“council of holy men”—that is, council comprising holy men, not a council in association with holy men).

Justin Martyr:

1.63 (27): τοῖς Μωσέως συντάγμασι (“the collected writings of Moses”—i.e., Moses wrote these collected writings).


It seems to be sufficiently established that a genitive dependent on a συν-prefixed substantive can indeed be other than a genitive of association in Hellenistic Greek. And this is even found in some instances in which (a) either a genitive of association is not stated or in which (b) the genitive that is present is personal. In the first category are the following texts: Rom 11.17; 1 Cor 1.20 (possibly); 1 Cor 9.23; 2 Cor 1.24; Eph 3.6; 1 Peter 3.7; Josephus, Ant. 16.351; Josephus, Ant. 17.51; Josephus, Ant. 19.107; Josephus, Jewish War 4.148; Philo, Specialibus 1.29; and Rechabites 11.7. (Both 1 Cor 3.9 and 1 Thess 3.2 may belong here, too, but since the former is our target passage and the latter is equally disputed, they should not be counted.) In the second category are Acts 21.30; Josephus, Ant. 8.133; Josephus, Ant. 17.51; Josephus, Jewish War 4.240; Philo, Somniis 1.193; Philo, Contemplativa 40; Psalms of Solomon 4.1; and Justin Martyr 1.63. One text in particular is doubly parallel: Josephus, Ant. 17.51. All of this paves the way for both 1 Cor 3.9 and 1 Thess 3.2 to indicate association between men in the service of God.

Having established the syntactical parallels, we now need to proceed to look at the context of 1 Cor 3.9. Fee succinctly states the argument: “In the Greek text, the emphasis is altogether on God: ‘God’s we are, being fellow workers; God’s field, God’s building, you are.’ Some have suggested that Paul here intends, as the KJV has it, ‘we are laborers together with God.’ But everything in the context speaks against it: the emphatic position of the genitive (‘God’s’) suggests possession, as do the following, equally emphatic, genitives, which are unambiguously possessive; the argument of the whole paragraph emphasizes their unity in fellow labor under God, an argument that would be undercut considerably if he were now emphasizing that they worked with God in Corinth; and finally, these new ‘slogans’ serve as the climax of the whole paragraph, in which the emphasis is decidedly on God’s ownership, not on Paul’s and Apollos’s working with him in Corinth” (G. D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987] 134).

To sum up, the translation of 1 Cor 3.9 as “we are co-workers belonging to God” (NET) or the like is strongly justified in light of the most probable construal of the context, and is legitimate in light of the syntactical parallels.

Some Notes on the Earliest Manuscript of Paul’s Letters

The publication of P46 in 1935–37––then, and now, the oldest extant manuscript of Paul’s epistles––has not ceased to pique the interest of biblical scholars. Beginning with the plates and text published by Kenyon (1936, 1937), and continuing with the virtual birth of reasoned eclecticism with Zuntz’s magisterial The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition on the Corpus Paulinum (1953), and reconsiderations of its date (Young Kyu Kim, “Palaeographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century,” Biblica 69 [1988] 248–57), this priceless document has made its way to the front lines of biblical scholarship for a long time. Though Kim’s suggestion that Chester Beatty Biblical Papyrus II was written before the reign of Domitian (81–96 CE) has been refuted, the consensus continues that it was produced c. 200 CE.

Where Are the Pastoral Epistles?
One curiosity of this papyrus is that, in its current state, it lacks the pastoral letters. With 86 of the original 104 leaves still extant, scholars have a good amount of material to work with as to whether it would have originally contained the pastorals.

How do they know that it originally contained 104 leaves? Two features are used to infer this. First, the manuscript is a single quire codex. This means that all the double leaves (or bifolia) were laid down on top of each other, then folded and sewn into the binding. The fact that it was a single-quire codex can be detected by size of the pages: moving from the beginning to leaf 52, the pages get increasingly narrower. Then, from leaf 53 to the end, the pages get increasingly wider. This can only mean that all the bifolia were laid down in one stack, folded, then trimmed on the outside so that all the leaves were relatively flush. (The later, standard quire was eight leaves [or four double leaves], used throughout the early to middle ages.)

Second, each page is numbered by the original scribe. This is unusual for manuscripts of any age. Usually the quires are numbered, and frequently the leaves were numbered (on the front page), but not the pages. Since the first extant page is numbered 17 (folio 8), and starts with Romans 5.17, we can extrapolate that the manuscript began with Romans 1 and is missing the outer seven double leaves.

What is extant are nine ‘Pauline’ letters: Romans, Hebrews (almost always included in the Pauline corpus as far as ancient manuscripts are concerned), 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. Missing are 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, and the pastoral letters.

Almost surely 2 Thessalonians followed 1 Thessalonians, as it does in all other manuscripts which have both letters. But what about Philemon? Most scholars are of the opinion that Philemon was also included in this codex.

But the pastorals? This is where opinions have varied. Kenyon started the ball rolling with the suggestion that the last five leaves were left blank and did not include the pastorals. The argument is that there was simply not enough room to include the pastorals and Philemon, which would require about twice as many leaves. Why would this be the case? Was the scribe unaware of them? If he was, this might suggest that they are not authentic.

Although Kenyon’s view held sway for many decades, and is even now occasionally affirmed, Jeremy Duff’s article in New Testament Studies 44 (1998), “P46 and the Pastorals: A Misleading Consensus?” challenged this hypothesis.

One of the points made by Duff is that the letters are more compressed at the end of the codex than in the middle. He noted that there are half again as many letters per page in the last leaves than in the middle leaves. But this is partially due to the fact that the outer leaves are wider than the inner leaves. Nevertheless, there are more letters in the back outer leaves than the front outer leaves, showing that at least some compression did take place. And this seems to suggest that the scribe was aware of the problem he had created for including the pastorals and he began to compensate upon realizing his mistake.

There are problems with Duff’s analysis, however. The scribe seemed to understand to some extent how much space it would require to produce his codex. This is seen in his notes at the end of each book of how many lines he wrote. This was customary for professional scribes; it was in essence a bill for services, since they were paid by the line. He may have been working from a manuscript that had already indicated the number of lines, and thus would have known how many leaves he needed for his manuscript. Of course, the fact that his words were more compressed at the end of the codex seems to show that as careful as he was in his calligraphy (and he was), this tells us nothing about his math skills.

A Fresh Examination of the Codex
This week I had the privilege of examining P46 in the flesh. Fifty-six of the 86 leaves are housed at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. I have spent the last three days examining them in some detail, comparing them to the editio princeps by Kenyon. Sir Frederic Kenyon produced the plates of this famous papyrus in 1937. Each image has been assumed to be exactly the same size as the actual leaf it represents. I measured each leaf against Kenyon’s plates and noticed some interesting phenomena.

Of the 88 plates (44 leaves) I was able to measure, the plates in Kenyon’s volume are off at least 61 times. Most of these are within 1 mm or so, but a few are fairly significant. At least three are off by 3 mm, and one is off by as much as 5 mm.

In addition, I noticed a curiosity: some of the plates in Kenyon’s volume were photographed without the lens plane exactly parallel to the leaf. For example, the photograph of folio 39 verso (1 Cor 1.14–23) is slightly wider than the actual leaf on the bottom, while the top of the leaf is the same size in both the photograph and actual manuscript. And leaves 49 recto (1 Cor 10.1–10), 50 recto (1 Cor 10.21–30), and 51 verso (1 Cor 10.31–11.6) are also somewhat trapezoidal. This suggests that the camera got cocked, or the tape around the plates (for Kenyon’s photographs were of the papyrus under glass) got doubled up, creating the trapezoidal effect.

How much the incorrect sizes of the leaves in Kenyon’s volume impact the discussion of whether P46 originally contained the pastorals is yet to be seen. But in the least, this anomaly needs to be factored into the discussion. Much can still be learned from this renowned papyrus.

Paul and Justification by Faith: The Real Jewish Evidence

The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has argued that Paul didn’t really disagree with Judaism in terms of what it meant to be justified by God, but rather disagreed on whether Gentiles were included in that justification. NPPers have charged the ‘old perspective’ folks (viz., the Reformers) with misreading the Judaism of Paul’s day.

At the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Milwaukee last November, I heard a very stimulating paper by Preston Sprinkle (a recent PhD grad from Aberdeen) contesting this view. Entitled, “Way Outside the Box: Why Paul’s Doctrine of Justification Was Risky, Offensive, and Unparalleled in Early Judaism,” Sprinkle argued, like his title suggests, that “Paul’s assertion that ‘God justifies the wicked’ would have been seen as risky, offensive, and is actually unparalleled in the world of early Judaism—yes, even among the Dead Sea Scrolls.” What a bold statement! He backs it up with some impressive evidence, too.

The paper that Sprinkle read is part of his forthcoming book, Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study in Divine and Human Agency (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013).

Among his many points, Sprinkle notes that in the OT God did not justify wicked people, citing, inter alia, Exod 23.7 and Isa 5.23. In my class on the exegesis of Romans, which I have taught at Dallas Seminary for the past seven years, I have argued that these two texts are key to Paul’s thinking and that the Jews of his day would have realized this. Exodus 23.7 clearly involves legal language. It is this language which lies behind Paul’s points in Rom 3.23–24 and 4.4–5. In v. 7 we see δικαιόω used with ἀσεβής: ‘you shall not justify the ungodly for a bribe’ (οὐ δικαιώσεις τὸν ἀσεβῆ ἕνεκεν δώρων). This can only mean ‘you shall not declare innocent the ungodly for a bribe.’ Three things are significant here: (1) δικαιόω means, in this legal context, ‘declare righteous/innocent’; it does not mean ‘make righteous.’ (2) The person who might be declared innocent is in fact guilty (ἀσεβῆ), precisely the situation we have in Rom 3:23–24. (3) The word for bribe is δῶρον, a cognate of δωρεάν found in Rom 3:24. It would of course not do for Paul to say that God declares sinners righteous ‘for a bribe,’ so an appropriate substitute is needed—one that is a cognate of δῶρον, but does not use ἕνεκεν or imply anything except that God acts freely when he justifies sinners. δωρεάν is the accusative singular of δωρεά; as such, it is adverbial (always so in the NT) and means ‘freely.’ It is not insignificant that we again see in the LXX of Isa 5.23 the collocation of δικαιόω with ἀσεβής and δῶρον. And again, we see that δικαιόω must almost surely mean ‘declare innocent’ since the pronouncement is made on the ungodly who do not deserve it.

Sprinkle does not develop the points of contact between these two OT passages and Romans, but he does bring in other significant texts from Second Temple Judaism to show that the OT view has continuity into the time of Paul. In particular, he interacts with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the texts he discusses are CD 1.18–21; 4.6–7 (the Damascus Document), 4QMMT 26–32 (the Halakhic Letter), and 1QS 10–11 (Community Rule). It is this latter passage that is sometimes seen as in line with Paul’s view of justification. Sprinkle gives a penetrating analysis of the text, noting major differences that have been overlooked. In particular, Paul focuses on initial justification while 1QS focuses on final justification. It is a point not to be missed. Sprinkle began the section on 1QS by asking, “does Qumran anywhere affirm that God’s initial declaration of righteousness is unilateral—based on no measure of human goodness, obedience, or godly potential?” He answers with a resounding no.

In the conclusion to Sprinkle’s paper he states plainly: “The assertion that ‘Paul’s doctrine has exactly the same shape as that of MMT’ or other documents from Qumran, as N.T. Wright thinks, simply cannot be sustained.”

It will be interesting to see the responses to Sprinkle’s forthcoming book. The debate will surely continue for some time. Meanwhile, N. T. Wright is busy producing yet another work on Paul’s understanding of justification (Paul and the Faithfulness of God). Whether evangelicals need to jettison the old perspective on Paul in toto, as if the Reformation got it all wrong as Wright seems to affirm, is still an open question for many. But Sprinkle’s treatment of the Jewish materials will surely have to be wrestled with. Perhaps Luther and the Reformers got it right after all.

The Demise of Codex 1799

A graduate of Princeton University in the early nineteenth century, Robert Garrett, acquired a medieval copy of Paul’s letters, Hebrews, Acts, and the Catholic letters from Mt. Athos in 1830. His estate later donated this manuscript to Princeton University. The manuscript was produced in the twelfth or thirteenth century on parchment. It was meant as something of a pocket Bible, measuring only 13.9 x 10.3 centimeters. The leaves are very fine vellum, extraordinarily thin. Housed in the Special Collections room of the Princeton University’s Firestone Library with the shelf number Garrett 8, it had only briefly been mentioned in works dealing with New Testament manuscripts.

According to J. K. Elliott’s Bibliography of New Testament Manuscripts, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 2005), the latest published discussions of this manuscript was in Kenneth W. Clark’s Eight American Praxapostoloi in 1941.

Kurt Aland’s Kurzgefasste Liste des griechischen Handschriften der Neuen Testaments, 2nd edition (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), the standard tool that indicates the location, contents, date, and other pertinent information of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts, put the location in parentheses and said that the manuscript was “verbrannt” or burnt. The Internet update to the Kurzgefasste Liste claims that the manuscript is now “zerstört”—destroyed. But just as when Mark Twain presumably proclaimed, after reading his obituary in a newspaper, “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” so too the demise of codex 1799 is exaggerated. (Twain actually wrote, “This report of my death was an exaggeration.”)

I examined the manuscript on Thursday, 16 August 2012 for about an hour. It is true that the manuscript has been burned. It is also true that many of the leaves stick together, most likely from the heat melting the ink. But it is still completely intact. It needs to be restored, but it is not gone forever—not by a long shot. In fact, it is mentioned in some detail in Greek Manuscripts at Princeton: Sixth to Nineteenth Century, by Sofia Kotzabassi and Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, with the collaboration of Don Skemer (Princeton University Press, 2010). Mr. Skemer in fact wrote to me and said he had no idea why anyone would ever think the manuscript had been destroyed.

I am grateful to Mr. Skemer, the Curator of Manuscripts at the Firestone Library, and his assistant, Charles Greene, for granting us access to this and other manuscripts in the Special Collection. And I am thrilled that a presumably dead manuscript has come back to life!