New Discoveries on Every Page: P45, P46, P47

Nearly nine decades ago, three of the earliest and most extensive New Testament papyri were made available to scholars through color photographs. These facsimiles, together with their authoritative transcriptions, have remained the primary access that biblical scholars and papyrologists have had to them. Until now. With the multi-volume publication of New Testament Papyri 𝔓45, 𝔓46, 𝔓47 coming out later this year, new, exquisite, exact-size images will become available in print. After digitizing these priceless manuscripts at the Chester Beatty in Dublin and the University of Michigan, CSNTM has collaborated with Hendrickson Academic in the endeavor to offer fresh, library-quality images of these third-century copies of large portions of the New Testament.

P45 cover

The facsimiles will be published both with a white background and a black background, each of which offers different views of the texts. Perhaps surprisingly to many, the black background images were found to be much more helpful for creating accurate transcriptions.

For this initial offering, the transcription of just 𝔓47 will be included with the images of all the manuscripts. 𝔓45 and 𝔓46 will follow in coming years, as the task of transcription still continues. The process of transcribing, however, which has been done in large part on the other two papyri, should yield far more precise results than Sir Frederic Kenyon’s editio princeps of the 1930s. It is no exaggeration to say that thousands of corrections to Kenyon’s transcriptions are in the offing. To be sure, most of these are quite minor, but some are fairly stunning. But every correction to Kenyon’s brilliant but somewhat rushed efforts bring us one step closer to understanding the text of the New Testament in third-century Egypt.

By the use of careful measurements, rigorous comparisons with multiple close-ups of individual letters and ligatures, and intense arguments (!), the editors (Stratton Ladewig, Robert Marcello, and Dan Wallace) are able to offer a new standard transcription of each papyrus. In this short blog, I offer but one animation that lays out our procedure. (Thanks go to my son, Andrew Jon Wallace, for producing this illustration.)

The 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland text in Mark 8:22 reads Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Βηθσαϊδάν. Καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτῷ τυφλὸν καὶ παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα αὐτοῦ ἅψηται. One variant is listed—Βηθανιαν for Βηθσαιδαν in D and a couple other witnesses. What is not mentioned is the variant for ερχονται. The majority of manuscripts here, along with the key majuscules א* and A, have the singular ερχεται. Kenyon reconstructed the wording of 𝔓45 as having the plural, though underdotting every letter as dubious. But this identification is almost surely incorrect. The space for the word and the shape of the letter fragments fits like a glove for ερχεται. Due to the difficulty of making out the letters in the old plates, one can understand the wrong guess. But with better photographs coupled with the comparisons that digital images readily afford, the CSNTM editors have concluded that 𝔓45 here has ερχεται.

Such may not seem terribly significant. Yet every small decision, every correction, every change to the identification of the text in question gives us a better sense of what these scribes wrote eighteen centuries ago. Further, the singular here does offer a slightly different interpretation on the passage. Although it is true that Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, whether Mark wrote “they came” or “he came” has some significance. On occasion the evangelists use a singular verb with a compound subject. This throws the spotlight on the first-named subject. And frequently, that subject is Jesus (see John 2:2; 3:22; cf. also Matt 13:55; Acts 5.29; 16:31). Mark concludes his pericope on the healing of the blind man with this idiom (Mark 8:27: Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ). It is a distinct possibility that he would begin the pericope the same way. Such would be a subtle and fitting inclusio in one of Mark’s better-crafted stories. And 𝔓45 might just tip the scales for us to see it.

In the midst of a global pandemic, we still need to save Scripture

 

This coming Saturday, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM.org) had scheduled to have its annual Dallas Fundraising Banquet. Some weeks ago we pulled the plug on that. The coronavirus has spread exponentially since then.

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The world is facing a pandemic right now, and we are all sheltering at home. People are losing jobs, facing personal isolation, depression, and genuine crises. Many are dying, communities are dissolving, and a new normal may be emerging. We are praying that this is not the new normal for very long though!

In the midst of this global scenario, there are some things I am sure of. The sun will come up tomorrow, people need to eat, and our time on this planet is limited. CSNTM was founded 18 years ago because of another thing I am sure of: ancient, handwritten copies of the Bible are deteriorating. They are all written on organic material (papyrus, parchment, or paper), and because of this they are not permanent. Our initial task is to save Scripture. Each manuscript is unique. Every one has a story to tell. These are not books rolling off a printing press; they are individual works of love, gifts to future generations of people, written by men and women whose only thanks is from their Lord. The task of saving Scripture remains, and its necessity is underscored in light of the fragility of life that the whole world is now coming face to face with. Life has always been fragile, but sometimes it takes a crisis to bring this out of the shadows and put it front and center.

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Our mission is still the same. And our need is still the same. When this pathogen runs its course, CSNTM will be back at our preservation work throughout the world. There are more than 250 locales where these manuscripts are housed; our mission is to make sure they are digitally preserved, cover to cover and everything in between, with state-of-the-art equipment, allowing us to post the images on line and make them accessible to all. These images have always been free for all, and free for all time. We are ready to traverse the globe to save these Scriptures; we will pack up our equipment and fly out as soon as we are allowed.

This week, instead of a physical banquet, CSNTM is having its first-ever (and hopefully, only) VIRTUAL banquet! Please follow along this week, enjoy the testimonies, and watch the short videos, on the significant and exciting work that CSNTM is doing. Every day you will see new videos. In the least, you can watch these shorts and learn something about the Bible, its heritage, and the faithful, mostly anonymous scribes who labored in abysmal conditions to bring the Scriptures to generations of people they would never know.

Sometimes scribes penned a personal note at the end of a manuscript they were copying. One of them, Andrew, wrote this note to conclude the copy of the New Testament he had worked on for many months: “The hand that wrote this is rotting in the grave, but what is written will last until the fulness of times.” Andrew penned this note in AD 1079. The manuscript is not in great shape, but CSNTM was able to photograph it and preserve it digitally. Like Andrew, some day all of us will be rotting in the grave. Wouldn’t it be an incredible gift to  our descendants a thousand years from now to be able to read these manuscripts with the same clarity we have today?

Please join us for this virtual banquet. And please partner with us in a mission that is bigger than any of us; it’s an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.

 

Ed Komoszewski: A Man of God, a Man in Need

I announced on Facebook at the beginning of December a new GoFundMe campaign for Ed Komoszewski. Many generous folks responded–it was, in fact, overwhelming! For all of you, a big THANK YOU! The gifts rolled in even into the new year. We are over half way there! Let’s see this to the end. Below is what I wrote in December:

Dear friends, I resurrected a GoFundMe campaign for Ed Komoszewski at the beginning of December. The first five weeks were, frankly, incredible. The body of Christ has come through in a huge way. But we still have some distance to go. Below is what I wrote then. Please consider how you can help.

My very good friend, Ed Komoszewski, is a man who constantly thanks God—and this in the midst of his own body fighting against itself, tearing him apart.

At this time of year, I am hoping to resurrect the donations to Ed’s health account. The GoFundMe campaign launched two years ago came up short. Ed’s medically-related debt has increased far beyond the original goal which we failed to meet. So many of you contributed generously to Ed’s account. He would be in incalculably worse shape without your help. But now he’s in a new season of his life, and with it comes more debt.

Ed has been deemed disabled by his doctors and the federal government; he’s been unable to earn a regular income since 2015. He has been hospitalized for extensive stays four times in the past three or so years. Debt has accelerated; bills are piling up. Some have gone unpaid and have been turned over to collection agencies. The need is urgent.

I have personally witnessed his humble lifestyle. Your gifts help pay the bills. Some friends help out with specific needs, allowing him to attend a crucial academic conference each year. But he lives a ridiculously frugal life. Not only does he need funds for the medical bills, but the family car limps along, the AC unit (NOT a luxury in Texas) has problems working, and his oldest daughter is heading to college in the fall.

Because Ed is a “medical mystery” (as his doctors at Mayo said of him for the past two decades), he has exhausted many traditional therapies for his various conditions. This means he must experiment with non-traditional treatments often recommended by his doctors but not covered by insurance.

Even though Ed cannot earn a sufficient salary, he continues to work on researching and writing as God gives him strength. Long-term projects with distant deadlines are necessary because of his health. This means income is sporadic and small; authors and editors know that academic writing projects pay meagerly. The revenues are not an adequate reflection of the impact.

 Jesus, Skepticism, and the Problem of History is a book co-edited by Ed, with several notable authors defending historicity in the Gospels. It was just released a few weeks ago. Ed conceived of the project and worked with Darrell Bock in editing it. A three-hour session was dedicated to discussing it at the recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting—it’s that important.

Ed is working now with Rob Bowman on a second edition of Putting Jesus in His Place. This book has already had a huge influence. It was endorsed by a veritable Who’s Who of biblical scholars and theologians. The acronym used in the book to show that the New Testament affirms Christ’s deity has been widely used by theologians, preachers, and apologists. The publisher gets a steady flow of requests by such folks to use the HANDS acronym in their own publications. What does “HANDS” stand for? You’ll just have to get the book to find out!

It is likely that Ed and I will be revising Reinventing Jesus, too. He is trying to remain as productive as possible, as long as he draws breath, in spite of his limitations.

Besides the influence of his writings, Ed has a massive ministry behind the scenes. I have seen him share the gospel with strangers, pray with people he’s just met, counsel friends and friends of friends. God has given him wisdom borne of suffering and it draws people to Ed like a magnet.

Please consider giving as well as sharing this campaign with your circle of friends. Facebook algorithms in particular limit exposure, so sharing multiple times and asking friends to do the same is the best way to get the word out.

For his current expenses and for the near future, Ed needs $40,000. Yes, that’s a lot of money—and it shows how desperate the situation is. Let’s get Ed to “ground zero” for the first time in many years.

 

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.

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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:]

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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.

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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:

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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.