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.

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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.

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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.

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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

NIV Application Commentaries on Sale Now

For a short time only, every NIV Application Commentary eBook is on sale for $4.99 apiece. Some may wonder whether a commentary with the name ‘application’ in it is really worth it. After all, aren’t commentaries supposed to deal with interpretation?

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Commentaries can be grouped broadly into two categories: critical and popular. The critical (or exegetical) ones focus on the original language text and give detailed interpretation, drawing out the meaning of the text for seminary students, pastors, and others with training in Greek and Hebrew. Popular commentaries tend to be on the lighter side of interpretation but are usually strong on drawing out principles for living out the Christian faith for the layperson.

Too often popular commentaries are written by pastors who do not have the training, time, or tools to investigate the biblical text in depth. And critical commentaries hardly relate to the person in the pew. What is unusual about the NIV Application commentary series is that the same scholars who wrote exegetical works now bring such insights to all Christ-followers.

Take Doug Moo’s commentary on Romans for example. He has written a massive work on this great epistle (over 1000 pages!), definitely not something for the faint of heart. But he’s also written the NIV Application Commentary on Romans. One can be confident that this superb scholar’s insights are also to be found in the more accessible commentary in the Zondervan series. Further, Moo frequently packages things in a way that is memorable, pithy, even at times inspiring. And the reader can be sure that the commentator has done his homework.

The commentaries by the other scholars in this series are of the same ilk. It’s a great opportunity to get any one of these excellent tools as an eBook. The sale is from November through November 13. See the details here.

Finally, an Awesome Backgrounds Bible!

One of the great publishing delights of 2016 is the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Zondervan, of course, is the publishing house. The NIV 2011 is the translation employed, one that is faithful to the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew and communicates clearly to English-speakers of the 21st century. This is truly a landmark publication; the subtitle says it all: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. The dense, nearly 2400-page Bible is packed with notes, graphs, photographs, sidebars, tables, charts, maps, and cross-references. It would be difficult to find two more qualified general editors than John Walton and Craig Keener. These two scholars live this stuff. They are giants in the field. Kudos to Zondervan for signing them on for this project. Their names alone are a solid recommendation of this Bible.

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Virtually every page brings fresh illumination to the text of Holy Writ. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible makes accessible the best of evangelical biblical scholarship.

This should make a terrific Christmas present for just about anyone on your list. You can order your copies here: http://media.harpercollinschristian.com/page/cultural-backgrounds-study-bible.