A Sad Home-Going for Three Saints

Autumn, for me, has been over many decades a time of adrenalin rushes, über-busyness, and frantic logistical outworkings. The cause of all this? The beginning of a new school year. This year was no exception, yet right out of the gate one biblical/theological giant after another departed this sphere for his eternal home. All died this month.

In different ways these three men all influenced me. Stanley Toussaint was a colleague at Dallas Seminary, a man who taught the Bible for forty-two years at DTS. He was one of the last of the luminaries of the 1970s (my time in the ThM program)—John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Haddon Robinson, Harold Hoehner, Zane Hodges—who have all gone beyond the sufferings of the present time. Stan taught in the Bible Exposition Department (which is different from the Old Testament and New Testament Departments). He lectured from his Greek New Testament and had a down-home wit, pastoral heart, and penetrating insights into the text.

Stan was always cheerful in spite of having a severe limp from polio that struck him down when he was just a child. I never had the privilege of taking a course from Stan, however: I came in to DTS with plenty of English Bible and was permitted to pass on my English NT courses as long as I filled up the units with courses from the Biblical Studies Division; I loaded up on Hebrew. We agreed on much, but we also disagreed on some things. For example, he tenaciously held to Matthean priority, a position my own department chairman, Harold Hoehner, also embraced. I came to the position of Markan priority in 1987, a dozen years after following in Hoehner’s train.

Robert L. Thomas, professor of NT at Master’s Seminary, 1987–2008, also died just a few days ago. He was a professor at Talbot Seminary when I was a student at Biola University. I heard him speak in chapel a few times and learned that he would frequently invite my Greek professor, Harry Sturz, to his Greek classes to introduce students to Sturz’s perspective on NT textual criticism. Afterward, Thomas would refute Sturz’s position.

Bob and I had a few tangles over the years. In his school’s journal, he critiqued my Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics in the article, “The Principle of Single Meaning” (TMSJ 12/1 [2001] 33–47). He claimed that the book has some interesting points, but it also was “extremely dangerous.” Why? Because I had presumably imbibed Roman Catholic hermeneutics with my category of plenary genitive. Ironically, what Bob did not know was that I learned of that category of usage (though not by that name) by one of his revered theology professors, Charles Ryrie—a man who could hardly be accused of following Roman Catholic hermeneutics.

Bob also didn’t care much for ideas with theologically liberal roots, especially the historical-critical method—this in spite of responses by my colleague, Darrell Bock, and many other evangelical exegetes who argued that method and presupposition are not the same thing.

I suspect that Bob and I would probably have agreed more on many points of Reformed theology than I did with Stan Toussaint. Regardless of what one thinks of how Thomas dealt with other evangelicals, I confess that I admire the man for his faithfulness to scripture and to studying the original languages his whole life.

This past Thursday, September 21, I drove down to Houston with my good friend, Ed Komoszewski, to the funeral of another good friend, Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August 2016 and succumbed to the disease on Saturday, September 16. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and their young daughter, Ayah. Nabeel came to faith in Christ dramatically through the instrumentality of his college roommate David Wood and through visions of Christ, about a dozen years ago. He became a champion for the gospel. His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, has been a huge success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Nabeel died too soon. He was only 34.
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Nabeel and I had our differences, too. He didn’t care much for Calvinism especially. We would have vigorous, passionate discussions about God’s sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility/free will, but these never harmed our friendship.

His interest was in the Gospels and he would be on the opposite end of the spectrum from Bob Thomas when it came to evangelical historical criticism. He was an internationally-known evangelist, especially to Muslims.

And his brain-power was legendary. He had read the entire Qur’an in Arabic (the only true Qur’an) by the age of five. Nabeel was a medical doctor who then went on to earn three master’s degrees—one from Biola, one from Duke, and one from Oxford. He was working on his Oxford DPhil when he died. When Nabeel came to Dallas, we would get together to discuss the Gospels. He was a sponge! He soaked up everything I said, then wrung it out and gently refuted many of my points! He had great respect for me—far greater than I deserved. I have known few people with such an insatiable desire to learn or with such an incredible impact for the sake of Christ.

Many believers throughout the world are grieving for each of these men right now. All three will be missed. They are saints of the Lord who now know the glory that will some day be revealed to all of God’s sons and daughters.


NT Syntax video lectures on sale this week

My video lecture set Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Video Lectures is 55% off in this Video Lecture sale: http://bit.ly/2pe1E2S. The deal ends April 20.

Although it is based on my grammar, four things especially are new: (1)  greater discussion of a few key exegetical passages and the impact syntax makes on them; (2) interaction with the recent view among some linguists and grammarians that deponency is a myth; (3) more arguments and evidence against the view that the Greek verb system does not grammaticalize time; and (4) an updated discussion of reasons for the historical present’s usage. In short, there are some things in this video lecture set that cannot be found in my grammar.

Ryrie’s Bibles and Manuscripts Auctioned off

On 5 December 2016, Sotheby’s had an auction of one of the world’s largest private collections of Bibles and manuscripts. The collection was Charles Ryrie’s, former professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary. For many years I would take my students to visit his home and see the treasures in his collection. Every year he would bring out new marvels that astonished me. I never saw the whole collection, but he was always generous in bringing out scores of volumes.

Ryrie died earlier this year. He was just a month shy of his 92nd birthday. I had been keeping a close eye on his collection and had discussed it with him many times over the years. Among other things, he owned three Greek New Testament manuscripts, one of only eleven vellum Luther Bibles in the world, and the finest copy of the 1611 King James Bible anywhere. He also owned several of Erasmus and Stephanus editions of the Greek New Testament, a couple of leaves of the Gutenberg Bible, and virtually every major English Bible from Wycliffe to the KJV. Altogether, nearly 200 items were auctioned.


Benton Gospels—Codex 669

His Wycliffe Bible sold for $1.4 million, which was way over the anticipated price. The KJV sold way under its expectations—only $320,000. The Greek New Testament manuscripts were auctioned for $140,000 to $250,000. Codex 669, the Benton Gospels manuscript, was the most important (and most expensive) of these.

Sotheby’s does not let one know who the bidders are. We’re all given a paddle number and we bid with that, protecting our identities. But clearly someone was buying up a lot of these treasures, and the desire to get them no matter the cost (or so it seemed) certainly brought the price up. I bid on two small items, which quickly escalated out of my price range.

Ryrie did not own junk. His printed books were in excellent condition. The selling price reflected this. The very first published Greek New Testament, Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum (1516), sold for $24,000. The third edition (1522)—the first one to have the comma Johanneum in it—was a bargain at $5500.


Erasmus’s Novum Instrumentum (1516)

A second edition of Tyndale’s New Testament (Ryrie owned nearly a dozen of these!) sold for $75,000. There were also several copies of the Matthew’s Bible ($22,000), Coverdale Bible ($11,000–$21,000), Great Bible ($4,000–$28,000), Geneva New Testament ($30,000), Bishops Bible ($48,000), Douay-Rheims Bible ($18,000), a rare copy of the KJV ‘Wicked Bible’ (1631; so-called because the printer left out the ‘not’ in the seventh commandment; thus, “Thou shalt commit adultery”!) for $38,000.

The Luther vellum Bible sold for $260,000. It is probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen. This was more than double the expected sale price.

A rare Complutensian Polyglot (only 600 were printed) came in under expectations at $70,000. This included actually the first printed Greek New Testament, though it was not published until six years after Erasmus’s work was out. The Textus Receptus—the Greek that stands behind the KJV—was essentially Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, with some wording from the CP as well as later editions of the Greek New Testament that were largely based on Erasmus.

A very rare certificate of ordination signed by Luther brought $60,000. And the third edition of Pilgrim’s Progress netted $75,000—as much as three times the expected sale price. Finally, the Gutenberg leaves each garnered only $38,000, way under what was anticipated.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts owns a 10th–11th century Greek copy of Luke’s Gospel that was appraised at a price that is significantly lower than any of these Greek New Testament manuscripts. Now we have more recent comparisons and the value of such a manuscript can be weighed in light of these other manuscripts. I think we need to up the insurance value!

I hope that these books and manuscripts have found decent homes, and that the new owners will take the best possible care of them. And I also hope that the owners will reveal who they are and make known their remarkable volumes to others. I especially would like to see them digitally preserved and the images posted on the Internet—in particular, the Greek NT manuscripts. CSNTM would be more than happy to digitize these manuscripts. It’s a good time of year to express such hopes. This is more than my bucket list—it’s my Christmas list! Owners, please do not hide your light under a bushel, but let the world see these historical items that all of us may be enriched by Ryrie’s collection.



Μονογενής = ‘only begotten’?

So says Charles Lee Irons, “Let’s Go Back to ‘Only Begotten,’” Gospel Coalition website, 23 Nov 2016: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/lets-go-back-to-only-begotten#_ftn3

Irons begins by noting that in the KJV there are five Johannine passages that speak of the “only begotten” Son of God (John 1.14, 18; 3.16, 18; 1 John 4.9). He then notes that in the modern era there has been a broad scholarly consensus that μονογενής means ‘one of a kind.’ He then accurately represents the rationale for this consensus: “Scholars have argued that the compound Greek adjective is not derived from monos (‘only’) + gennao (‘beget’) but from monos (‘only’) + genos (‘kind’). Thus, they argue, the term shouldn’t be translated ‘only begotten’ but ‘only one of his kind’ or ‘unique.’”

Irons offers as his first argument that μονογενής means ‘only begotten’ in some passages. This presumably means that there is no noun like ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ in the context to already suggest birth, though he does not say this. It is certainly what I expected in order for his argument to make much sense, however. Otherwise, ‘one and only son/daughter’ makes perfectly good sense, which would defeat his point.

Irons begins by citing one reference from Plato—Critias 113d: μονογενῆ θυγατέρα ἐγεννησάσθην. Here not only is ‘daughter’ mentioned explicitly, but also that she had been ‘born.’ If μονογενής here means ‘only begotten’ then an awkward tautology occurs: “They begot an only-begotten daughter.” (The Attic aorist middle dual is here used.)

Further, I was surprised to read his three biblical examples:
Luke 7.12: μονογενὴς υἱός—here ‘son’ is explicit.

Luke 8.42: θυγάτηρ μονογενής—again, explicit.

Luke 9.38: διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν. But here ‘son’ is already mentioned, so the ‘one and only’ [son] is simply good economical Greek style.

Thus, Irons’s approach so far is simply question begging.

He follows this up with 1 Clement 25.2 [Irons says it is 25.1], which speaks of the Phoenix as ‘one of a kind’ using μονογενής. He also mentions an unidentified text (‘an ancient treatise’) that speaks of trees as ‘in one kind.’ But he adds, “these are uniformly metaphorical extensions of the basic meaning…” That, too, is begging the question, because he is assuming that the essential idea of μονογενής has to do with birth.

Second, he says that “careful examination of the word list of Thesaurus Linguae Graecae reveals at least 145 other words based on the –genēs stem.” This is a more significant argument, but I would need to see his evidence before recognizing its validity. He also adds that “fewer than a dozen have meanings involving the notion of genus or kind.” To argue from other words that have the –γενής stem as though they must inform the meaning of μονογενής may seem to be imbibing etymological fallacy, especially since there are some –γενής words that have the force of ‘kind’ or ‘genus.’ However, if ‘begotten’ is the routine meaning diachronically, and especially synchronically during the Koine period, Irons may well have a point.

He does seem to engage in etymologizing, however, when he says that γενός and γεννάω “both genos and gennao derive from a common Indo-European root, ǵenh (‘beget, arise’).” He finishes his arguments by again claiming that –γενής essentially has to do with birth. The BDAG lexicon allows for the meaning ‘only begotten’ for μονογενής but seems to view this meaning as secondary. In addition, they note that in the Johannine literature “The renderings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here.”

 All in all, Irons is right to focus on the data provided in TLG for this certainly expands our knowledge base of the term. But that he seems to have focused on cognates that have the morpheme –γενής rather than the specific usage of μονογενής, both diachronically and synchronically, is a weakness in his argument.


Medieval Manuscripts and Modern Evangelicals: ETS 2016 in San Antonio

On Wednesday, 16 November 2016, I had the honor of delivering the presidential address at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting in San Antonio. The title of the lecture was “Medieval Manuscripts and Modern Evangelicals: Lessons from the Past, Guidance for the Future.” Essentially I argued that we can learn many things from the paratextual and codicological features of medieval manuscripts.


Codex 800 with wrap-around commentary

The lecture will be published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society next year. I would like to thank all of you who helped in the preparation of this message–especially CSNTM staff and interns–as well as all who responded afterward. The staff and interns need to be singled out here:

Staff: Rob Marcello and Andrew Bobo were especially helpful, as well as Stratton Ladewig, Christina Nations, Andy Patton, and Mark Arvé. Kudos to you all!

Interns: Laura Peisker, Micah Geyman, Colleen Doran, Joshua Smith, David Lopez, and Teddy Jestakom. You all helped immensely and responded quickly over the last few months to the myriad of sources I needed post haste for the paper. Thank you all!

I am very grateful for the privilege of having served as president of this Society, and I hope that its future will be bright. Sam Storms is now the president of the Society. He was responsible for selecting the plenary speakers on this year’s topic, the Trinity. I know that he will give an outstanding address at next year’s meeting. David Dockery will be the program chairman for the 2017 conference. I’m quite confident that it will be a terrific meeting. And Michael Thigpen and his staff (especially his wife, Bonnie) are to be thanked for their tireless efforts and timely communication. Without Mike as the Executive Director, ETS could hardly function. He is in charge of running the Society and he always seems to think four steps ahead of anyone else as to what is needed to make ETS both stronger and function smoothly.

Daniel B. Wallace
ex-president, Evangelical Theological Society