From the Library: Decorated Letters in Greek New Testament Manuscripts

Two of my colleagues at CSNTM, Leigh Ann Thompson and Andy Patton, have co-authored a brief essay on decorated letters in New Testament manuscripts. This is in the series “From the Library” that Andy Patton and Andrew Bobo started some time ago for CSNTM’s newsletter. I’ve included a link to this latest offering here.

ColorfulEkthesis

This is really fascinating stuff. The ancient and medieval scribes went to some lengths to encourage people to engage with Scripture. If you’d like to keep up with these articles, the best way to do it is to sign up  for CSNTM’s free newsletter. It comes to your inbox about 10 times a year and it offers not only interesting essays but updates on our expeditions to digitize manuscripts. You want this! I know you do. Click here to sign up and be among the first to know the latest sites CSNTM is visiting to preserve ancient Scripture for a modern world.

Thanks, Leigh Ann and Andy, for a terrific piece on scribal practices, giving us a small glimpse of how they viewed Scripture.

CSNTM’s Mission: Urgent and Significant

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts has recently hired a professional videographer to produce a four-minute video of our mission. Although I am the talking head, the whole staff of CSNTM worked very hard to make this film a reality. It’s short and communicates well what CSNTM is all about. Please take a look!

As we point out in the video, our work is urgent and significant. Manuscripts are deteriorating, some at an alarming rate. What is not mentioned is that CSNTM is funded solely by donations. Although hundreds of thousands of manuscript images can be viewed for free, they are costly to produce and archive. To digitize a single manuscript costs the Center $7500. Our job is a long way from being completed. And all these projects require funding. I’m asking you to consider making a donation to the Center.

We need more people to become part of the “Circle of Friends”—those who partner with us by donating monthly to our mission. Even more pressing is the need to fund projects that are waiting in the wings. Would you consider helping the Center in its mission to preserve unique, handwritten copies of the Christian Scriptures?

As I mention in the video, a thousand years ago a monk named Andrew wrote a personal note at the end of the manuscript he was copying: “The hand that wrote this is rotting in the grave, but the words that are written will last until the fullness of times.” His words have become our mission statement. Won’t you join us?

Doing Internal Evidence First in Textual Criticism (Using Accordance)

For much of the history of the discipline of New Testament textual criticism, practitioners have overwhelmingly favored beginning with the external evidence before looking at the internal evidence. This has been largely a necessity because one could not determine by simply looking at the text the type of textual variant that would be found in the apparatus. Tischendorf’s magisterial Editio octava critica maior, with its extensive list of textual variants, nevertheless did not indicate in the text what kind of reading one would meet in the apparatus. Von Soden’s magnum opus also lacks any such pointers. The UBS text fares better in that it at least gives a footnote number after a word. But it still does not hint at what sort the variation is.

Perhaps this is why external evidence has been the first step in solving a textual problem: there was simply no other way to do it. Once someone glanced at the apparatus and saw their favored witnesses—whether they be א B, D F G, 𝔐, or any number after 𝔓—all too often the textual problem was considered solved. Second-year Greek students, regardless of instructions otherwise, tend to use internal evidence only as confirmation on the decision already arrived at on an external basis. Internal considerations are merely an afterthought, certainly not given equal weight with the external.

The Nestle tradition, however, gives sigla in the text to indicate what kind of variant one might expect to see in the apparatus, as follows:

⸆       insertion
⸀       substitution of one word
⸂ ⸃      substitution of more than one word between these two symbols
o       omission of one word
⸋ ⸌    omission of more than one word between symbols
⸉ ⸊   transposition between symbols
[ ]     word(s) in brackets omitted in witnesses listed in apparatus

At least the Nestle-Aland text gives some clues to the user as to the kind of variation one can expect to find. These symbols were not in the early editions of the Nestle but have been included for many decades.

This is fortuitous for the approach I take to solving textual problems. First, I ask the student to start with the Nestle-Aland text and refrain from looking at the apparatus. Second, I ask the student to come up with some guesses as to what the variant(s) might be. This is of course not necessary for omissions, simple transpositions, and bracketed words; the variants can be deduced from the sigla. But substitutions and insertions require some guesswork. And if the student can guess what the variant is, this reveals a predictable reading. If the modern student can come up with it, then scribes whose work has no genetic connection to each other’s could have come up with it on their own. But even when there is a genetic connection, working this way helps the student to create a more level playing field between external and internal evidence.

Take, for example, Phil 1.14. The Nestle text reads: καὶ τοὺς πλείονας τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἐν κυρίῳ πεποιθότας τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου περισσοτέρως τολμᾶν ἀφόβως τὸν λόγον ⸆ λαλεῖν. There is an addition after λόγον. Obviously, some adjunct, probably a genitive modifier. What is the ‘word’ that these Christ-followers might dare to speak? Typical student answers are the word ‘of God’ or the word ‘of the Lord.’ And this is exactly what we find in the apparatus: του θεου or κυριου.

This is where things get a bit muddled, however. Students notice immediately the pedigree of the longer readings: του θεου is found in major Alexandrian witnesses, along with several significant witnesses of other types (ℵ A B [⸉ D*] P Ψ 048vid. 075. 0278. 33. 81. 104. 326. 365. 629. 1175. 1241s. 2464 al lat syp.h** co; Cl); κυριου is found in F G, two leading Western MSS. The Nestle text reading is found in 𝔓46 D1739. 1881 𝔐 r vgms; McionT. Even with the papyrus and 1739 the evidence is not nearly as impressive as the ‘word of God’ reading. If students begin with the external evidence, as has been the customary practice, they may well be prejudiced against the shorter reading from the get-go because of its lack of credentials. This, in fact, seems to be the case with the third edition of the UBS text: the shorter reading garnered only a ‘D’ rating; the fourth and fifth editions elevated it to ‘B’ status.

What if students could look at the internal evidence without bias? What if they could ignore the witnesses in the apparatus and work out the problem before listening to the external voices? As we have noted, students can do this with certain kinds of variants with the Nestle-Aland text. But I did not know of any way to assist students in not letting their left hand know what their right hand was doing. Until now.

 

Feature in Accordance

During the spring semester of 2019, while teaching an elective on NT textual criticism at Dallas Seminary, I wrote to Helen and Roy Brown of Accordance to see if they could create a module that would enable students to do internal evidence first and without prejudice. As is typical with Accordance, I received a quick reply. They worked on this problem and soon realized that the software already could do just what I was asking for!

Here is what Helen wrote:

The illustration below shows a tab with the apparatus where the Witness field is apparently hidden, while the tab behind it has the regular display. Both are tied to the text so the user can consult whichever version he wants.

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.19.54 PM

You can do this in a separate tab (not a parallel pane), searching the Witness field for *? to highlight all the contents of that field. Then go to Set Tool Display.

[You go to Tool Display by clicking “command,”; this window will pop up:]

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.20.40 PM

You click the Customize button, and choose White as the Search Highlighting color (or whatever color your background is set to). This effectively hides all your hits. DO NOT click Use as Default as this will apply to all new views of the tool. You can however, save the workspace and the tab will retain its characteristics when it is reopened.

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.21.40 PM

Sincerely,
Helen

See what we have done For BibleWorks Users.

*********************************
Dr. Helen A. Brown
Chief Administrative Officer
Accordance/OakTree Software, Inc.
http://www.accordancebible.com/

 

I would also recommend saving the session so that you can return to it any time you’re working with the apparatus. I called mine “NO MSS.accord.” And here is what that shows for Phil 1.14:

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.22.11 PM

Conclusion

I wonder if textual critics have for a long time made a virtue out of a necessity. Of course, since the days of Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Hort, the emphasis in most schools of thought has been on the external evidence. But more and more, textual scholars are recognizing that internal evidence must have its say, and it needs to do so with blinders on (as much as is possible) about what the external evidence reveals. Perhaps now that day has come.

 

I wish to thank Helen Brown of Accordance for help in seeing yet another potential use of this outstanding Bible software program.

 

 

One-of-a-kind trip to Greece

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts is offering a one-of-a-kind trip to Greece next spring. We’re calling it the “Insider’s Expedition.” The trip will take place on March 7–16, 2020. It will feature sites in Athens—including an insider’s look at the National Library of Greece, the other-worldly monasteries of Meteora, select islands, and ancient Corinth.

MeteoraMonastery

We can only take twenty couples for this unique adventure. Thanks to Rob Marcello for working hard the last several months to make this expedition come to fruition! Details are on CSNTM’s website. Tickets are going fast!

Mike Justice: Now he sees Jesus!

Mike Justice was one of my students at Dallas Seminary in the late 80s/early 90s. He passed into the Lord’s presence on March 8, 2019, at 63 years old. His memorial service was held today, March 23, at Lake Ridge Bible Church in Mesquite, TX. He died of heart failure, after two kidney transplants, multiple surgeries, procedures, and health problems for many years.

Michael Justice portrait-150x150  I’ve taught hundreds of students the rudiments of Hellenistic Greek in thirty-five years of graduate school instruction. Many have gone on for their doctorates; several are teaching at various institutes throughout the world and are truly exceptional scholars in their own right. Some of these students struggled with the elements of Greek; for others it came more naturally. For Mike, it was anything but easy. Yet, of this vast array of students, I would rank Mike among my top three.

Mike took his first four semesters of Greek from me. By the time first-year Greek was underway, Mike had already memorized the textbook—a serious tome called The Language of the New Testament by Eugene Van Ness Goetchius. He could cite not only what Goetchius said but where he said it—both page and section number. His Greek was impeccable. He would often go up to the board to help other students with their paradigms (and the students had to learn all the paradigms, including optatives, pluperfects, μι verbs, etc). Yet he had never studied Greek before. There were times in class when he would correct me, always very gently: “Professor Wallace, I believe that is on page 53, not page 55—and it’s the last paragraph on the page.” He was always right, too!

His sweet wife, Terri, has been in charge of the print shop at DTS for decades. It was good to see her and so many friends at the memorial service today (I had some difficulty finding a parking spot!). Their marriage was rock-solid, their love for the Lord inspiring. And in spite of Mike’s health issues, he never complained. In fact, he had a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Once when he got an ablation for his arrhythmia, in the recovery room he was told that the arrhythmia was now a thing of the past. He responded, “I’ve got rhythm? Who could ask for anything more!” (For you youngsters, that’s a line from the Gershwins’ hit song in 1930.)

Did I mention that Mike never complained? Well, he had reason to. Besides having a legion of health problems, Mike Justice was blind.

Adolescent diabetes was the ultimate cause; Mike’s eyesight began to degenerate during his college years and was gone by the time he got to seminary. He was the third blind student ever to get a Master of Theology degree at Dallas Seminary. (I’ve had the privilege of teaching Greek to two more blind students since then.) He made no excuses and buckled down to learn the material, memorizing it as he went along.

In second year Greek, the students had to diagram a portion of Philippians. Being without sight, Mike of course couldn’t do this. I told him it wouldn’t be fair to the other students for him to get a pass on this, but he couldn’t do this exact assignment. So, instead, I added hundreds of vocabulary words to his workload. He took on the challenge eagerly, cheerfully, and exceptionally.

Micah 6.8 was perhaps Mike’s favorite verse: “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Mike was the poster child for this verse. And he wanted to make sure that everyone in his world knew that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and rose from the dead as a guarantee of God’s acceptance of all who put their trust in him. For Mike, that trust has finally become sight. Well done, good and faithful servant!