‘First-Century’ Mark Fragment: Second Update

A Note about Comments
I have been moderating the comments on my blogs and have been, up until now, responsible for approving all that are posted. On more than one occasion the comments take on a life of their own. They go down rabbit trails not related to the blog, or simply repeat the same comments over and over again. This distracts from the content of the blogs and has taken far too much time to moderate. So, for the foreseeable future, this site will not allow any comments on blogs.

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Egypt Exploration Society Statement on P.Oxy 5345
On June 4, the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) posted a statement about the ‘First-Century’ Mark fragment (a.k.a. FCM, P.Oxy. 5345, P137). The statement offered some backstory on the manuscript and the controversy that has surrounded it. Inter alia, the EES claimed the following:

  1. The papyrus fragment was most likely dug up by Grenfell and Hunt in 1903.
  2. In the early 1980s, the fragment was provisionally dated ‘I/II’ by Dr. Revel A. Coles, though it was not at that time identified as from Mark’s Gospel.
  3. A researcher working for Professor Dirk Obbink of Oxford University identified it as from Mark in 2011; Obbink decided that he would be the one to edit and publish it.
  4. The EES noted that editors of its papyri are allowed at times to remove certain papyri from the collection for study or teaching purposes. The conditions for such a privilege were not mentioned.
  5. The EES claimed more than once in this statement that the manuscript was never for sale.
  6. “The EES has no knowledge of, and has never seen, the NDA which Professor Daniel Wallace says someone required him to sign about the unpublished Mark fragment. Professor Obbink too says he has no knowledge of it.

Response and Update
In light of the fact that I am named in this statement, some clarification and response is needed. A few of these points are simply giving more details on my previous blog and not necessarily related to the EES statement.

  1. It was news to me that this fragment had most likely been excavated over a century ago, not to mention that it was provisionally dated to the first or second century about 35 years ago. My previous (incorrect) understanding, which was also that of key individuals, was that Obbink was the one who dated it to the first century.
  2. It is true that I never signed an NDA with the EES. The NDA I signed was with Jerry Pattengale, who represented a major collection that was interested in purchasing the papyrus.
  3. Pattengale was not the representative of this collection whom I had met just prior to my debate with Bart Ehrman. That representative was the one who assured me that the fragment was definitely dated to the first century. Had I known that the first-century date was not certain, I never would have said that it was in the debate.
  4. That first representative indicated that Dirk Obbink was certain of the date. Further, the representative had credentials of their own regarding the dating of papyri. Had I known that it would take years to publish this papyrus, I never would have mentioned it in the debate. So, it wasn’t hearsay or merely the statement of an acquisitions person, but on the basis of good authority that the dating was right. The date of the fragment, the date of the publication, and the publishing house were represented as certain. All three turned out to be wrong. As I admitted in my first update on the FCM, I naïvely accepted as facts things that I needed to personally vet. This has been a hard lesson but one I’ve learned.
  5. I signed the NDA in early October 2012; I still possess my copy of it along with the email it was attached to—an email that explicitly speaks of the purchase as the reason for the NDA.
  6. So far as I know, the fragment was most certainly for sale in 2012. This was confirmed to me by several individuals, Dr. Pattengale included.
  7. Pattengale relayed to me that the reason for me signing the NDA was that it was requested by the seller before I could see the images of the manuscript.
  8. I was asked by the collection that Pattengale represented to assess the fragment for two things. First, was this a continuous text? Second, was it likely to be a first-century fragment? My assessment was directly related to the purchase of the manuscript. I confirmed that it was a continuous text, but I refrained from offering any date for the fragment. With just a few minutes to examine it, and without access to my standard tools on paleography, I was unable to say anything more than that it was early. I did not, so far as I remember, even suggest any date range.

Some Questions about the EES Statement
I have a few questions myself about the backstory on the FCM. Some things are not adding up. If I were an outsider, I would most certainly trust the statement of an established, revered, and significant organization such as the Egypt Exploration Society over that of an individual. Hence, the need for this blog. I have some questions for the EES, too.

  1. Why would I be asked to sign an NDA on the request of the seller if the document was never for sale?
  2. Why would I be asked by the potential purchaser to evaluate the content and date of the fragment if the document was never for sale?
  3. My understanding was that the fragment was for sale not only in 2012, but for some years afterward. Why would the fragment be presented as for sale—and over a lengthy period of time?
  4. I was told that the condition of the sale was that the seller of the manuscript would be free to choose who would edit it. How could this be the case if there was no seller?
  5. If the content of this fragment was known in 2011, why did it take nearly seven years to publish the papyrus? Although it certainly takes some time to properly edit such a fragment, why would it take this long to get it published if there’s a straight line between discovery and publication?
  6. If the EES, according to their own statement on June 4, 2018, knew in the spring of 2016 that they possessed the so-called First-Century Mark, why did they not tell the rest of us? Further, why did they not announce its publication, in light of the “social media debate” (their expression), when Oxyrhynchus Papyri volume LXXXIII was published? This publication was stumbled upon by Elijah Hixson. His announcement at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog on May 23 says:

I have not yet seen the latest volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The Egypt Exploration Society’s website shows vol. LXXXII as the most current volume, at least as of today. However, Amazon informs me that volume LXXXIII was published last month. – Elijah Hixon

Why was the publication not widely announced for such a significant, newsworthy, highly-rumored, and mysterious find—especially if the “social media debate” is what prompted their review of their NT fragments? This papyrus already received more international attention than any other NT papyrus in decades, yet it gets published without even a tweet. Why was it significant enough for the EES to do a review of their collection, but not significant enough to announce its publication?

Some answers, some more questions. P137 still is mysterious, and the backstory still needs clarification. I must leave that to others who know the details to fill them in.

First-Century Mark Fragment Update

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There has been a flurry of announcements and comments on the internet about the “First-Century Mark Fragment” (FCM) ever since Elijah Hixson posted a blog on Evangelical Textual Criticism this morning. As many know, I signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 sometime after I made an announcement about it in my third debate with Bart Ehrman at North Carolina, Chapel Hill (February 1, 2012). I was told in the non-disclosure agreement not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published. Consequently, I am now free to speak about it.

Confirmation
The first thing to mention is that yes, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345, published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 (2018), is the same manuscript that I spoke about in the debate and blogged about afterward. In that volume the editors date it to the second or third century. And this now is what has created quite a stir.

Apology
In my debate with Bart, I mentioned that I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. So, I must first apologize to Bart Ehrman, and to everyone else, for giving misleading information about this discovery. While I am sorry for publicly announcing inaccurate facts, at no time in the public statements (either in the debate or on my blogsite) did I knowingly do this. But I should have been more careful about trusting any sources without my personal verification, a lesson I have since learned.

Personal History

Prior to the Debate
Just prior to the debate, this representative discussed with me the discovery of FCM. It was my understanding that their group had purchased the papyrus; had I known otherwise, I never would have made the public announcement. I was urged—and authorized—to make the announcement at the debate. I was also told that a high-ranking papyrologist had confirmed that FCM was definitely a first-century manuscript. On that basis, I made the announcement.

Post-Debate
After the debate I posted a blog entitled, First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found!?, which came online March 22, 2012. Hundreds of comments were made on that blog, all the way up to the end of 2017. Many of them were negative, asking me why I didn’t say more. I have been accused of dissemblage or incompetence or both. But I could not say more. The reason was simple: I was asked not to say more.

Some thought that I was the one who discovered the fragment or that I was the one editing it for publication. Whenever this was suggested, I denied both. I had not even seen the fragment!

Post-Non-disclosure Agreement
Later in 2012 I did get the opportunity to see the manuscript. I was allowed to see it only after I signed a non-disclosure agreement. From that point on, I have essentially kept my mouth shut (though I was also asked not to take the blog down, since that would only raise more questions). What struck me about the fragment especially was that in Mark 1.17 instead of αυτοις ο Ιησους the papyrus did not have ο Ιησους. I thought at the time that, if this really was a first-century fragment (which I was not prepared, with my limited knowledge of papyrology and paleography, to claim), it most likely was due to ο Ιησους existing as a nomen sacrum already in the first century. I surmised that the exemplar that the scribe was copying from most likely read αυτοιςοις (no spacing, and Ιησους written with just the first and last letters with a supralinear bar over them). The scribe of FCM then could have easily and accidentally skipped over the duplicated οις. Alternatively, it was possible that the scribe’s exemplar did not have ο Ιησους, but this seemed far less likely.

Nomina sacra are a well-known phenomenon in New Testament manuscripts from the earliest papyri, although the reasons for their creation are not altogether clear. (For a recent discussion, see Larry Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006], 95–134.) To find a first-century fragment whose exemplar most likely had this nomen sacrum was truly exciting! But was it really from the first century? With only a few minutes looking at the papyrus, and no permission to take pictures, I too had to wait, like everyone else, to see the publication.

In virtually every speaking engagement I have had since then, the question inevitably comes up: “What can you tell us about the first-century Mark fragment?” The answer is always the same: I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that the world-class papyrologist who dated the fragment to the first century had already, prior to my debate with Ehrman, adjusted his views. He was not so certain about the date (perhaps it was early second century). I learned that the rep knew, two weeks prior to the debate, that the papyrologist had changed his views. But I was told none of this. Regrettably, even when I made the announcement in Chapel Hill, I was giving misinformation. Even more regrettable, I have not been able to reveal the papyrologist’s uncertainty until now.

Further, I did not know that FCM was dated to the second/third century until I saw Elijah Hixson’s blog. The reasons for my silence had to do exclusively with the fact that I signed a non-disclosure agreement. Journalists, authors, newspaper editors, and many, many others have asked for information about it. But I was not allowed to say anything. Some have accused me of being silent to protect my reputation; just the opposite is the case. I was silent because I gave my word to be, even if it would hurt my reputation.

Final Reflections
One of the lessons my wife and I drilled into our four sons was that their integrity would be in question unless there were times when being honest hurt them. When they repeatedly told us they were telling the truth, but the consequences were always to their advantage, we couldn’t trust them. In short, integrity sometimes hurts. I am glad that this fragment has finally been published, so that I can get past the accusations and condemnations. To be sure, there is much to criticize me for, in particular that I did not personally verify the information I received about this manuscript before announcing it to the world. But the speculations about my character otherwise I would hope have been resolved.

Honoring loved ones in your life this Christmas

Friends, I wanted to share a link with you all about a unique Christmas present opportunity. It’s a way you can both honor friends, family, or those who have influenced you and preserve unique, handwritten pages of the New Testament at the same time. I’ve done this for my parents. Mom went to be with the Lord last January and Dad doesn’t want any more stuff in his life. This is a way to give him a Christmas present that doesn’t clutter his home. (I’m sure he won’t know about this until I tell him.) You may wish to honor a beloved teacher, parent, child, friend, or even an author/speaker who has shown you the importance of the word of God.

Click on the link below to find out how to put the honoree’s name on a special Internet page; the honorees will be listed on Christmas Eve.

11×12 Donation honoring someone in your life

 

Pope Francis, The Lord’s Prayer, and Bible Translation

Pope Francis recently suggested on Italian television that the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matt 6.13; Luke 11.4), “is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” He added, “It is Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.” He argued that the verse should be rendered, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

A myriad of implications arise from the pontiff’s statement. Among them I list just three: (1) Have translations of the Bible gotten this verse wrong for 2000 years, only now to be corrected? (2) What is the nature of translation? (3) Do we have the right to change the wording of the original because it seems to contradict what Scripture says elsewhere?

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Matthew 6 in Codex Sinaiticus

(1)       Have translations of the Bible gotten this verse wrong for 2000 years?

Jerome’s Vulgate—the version that has been the official Bible of the Catholic Church for centuries—reads here ne inducas nos in temptationem: “Do not lead us into temptation.” Perhaps intentionally, but certainly ironically, the pope said in his interview, “ti induce alla tentazione satana è quello ufficio di satana.” That is, Satan is the one who induces or leads us into temptation, not God. He used the Italian equivalent to Jerome’s Latin (‘inducas’ means ‘lead’ or even ‘induce,’ as the English cognate suggests), but seems to deny what the Vulgate plainly says.

In 1979, the Nova Vulgata became the official Catholic translation (after Vatican II, it follows the Greek and Hebrew more closely), yet it too says ne inducas nos. So, the pontiff is not only going against modern translations but even his own Vulgate.

Other translations also read “do not lead us into temptation” or the like (e.g., “lead us not”): KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV, HCSB, NET, WEB, Lutherbibel, Nouvelle Edition de Genève, Reina Valera. Others have “do not put us to the test,” “do not bring us into hard testing,” or “do not subject us to the final test” (NJB, TEV, REB, NABR; the NJB and NABR are Catholic translations).

It may be surprising, however, to discover that a few modern translations come close to Pope Francis’s version. The New Living Translation (2nd edition), a Protestant Bible, has “don’t let us yield to temptation.” The Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée, another Protestant translation, has “ne nous laisse pas entrer dans la tentation” (“do not allow us to enter temptation”). The Nuova Riveduta of the Sacra Bibbia, an Italian Protestant work, reads “non ci esporre alla tentazione” (“do not expose us to temptation”). The NLT and SEGR both accent what might be called the passive or permissive will of God (i.e., “don’t let us”) rather than the active (“don’t lead us”); the Nuova Riveduta seems to be halfway between ‘lead’ of the standard translations and ‘let’ of the outliers.

Nevertheless, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that “do not lead us” or the like is how the text should be rendered. (We will examine the Greek shortly.) But the few that have gone against the grain—and have been on the market for many years—have not created nearly the reaction of Pope Francis’s latest provocation. Perhaps this is due both to the fact that the pontiff said this and that it stands in direct contradiction to the Vulgate and other Catholic versions. But this leads us into the question of translation philosophy.

 

(2)       What is the nature of translation?

There are two broad theories of translation today—formal equivalence and functional equivalence. Formal equivalence means that the translation attempts to retain the wording and syntax of the original language as much as possible. Functional equivalence means that the translation gives a higher priority to the semantics of the original, bringing out the force of original text regardless of how it is worded.

Brief history of English translations

Both of these have pros and cons. On the one hand, it is a myth that a so-called “literal” translation is more accurate. Many believe that the King James Bible is the most literal translation available. But even the original preface of the KJV noted that the translators’ objective was as much literary quality as it was accuracy. The Authorized Version is probably the only literary masterpiece ever produced by a committee—and it’s a translation no less! If it were extremely literal, this accolade would never have been made about the KJV.

In fact, the Revised Version of 1885—the first English translation done by a committee since the KJV (or AV) appeared in 1611—was done by a committee of British and American scholars who wanted to replace the King James with “King Truth.” But the translation was not palatable because it was too stiff, hardly readable, downright ugly. Ironically, the RV was difficult to read not because of archaisms as much as because of slavish literalism. The sales were awful, and the American Standard Version of 1901 was something of a reaction to it by the Americans on the RV committee. This is still wooden English, though an improvement over the RV. (The NASB has followed in the train of the RV and ASV.)

But in 1952, the Revised Standard Version appeared. Its understated elegance and good English made it memorable. It truly was a revision in the line of the King James Bible. The ESV and the NRSV have continued this formal equivalence philosophy with simplicity, understated elegance, memorability, and accuracy. As Bruce Metzger, the chairman of the NRSV translation committee, stated, the objective followed by the NRSV translators was to “be as literal as possible, as free as necessary.”

Other translations have followed a more functional equivalent philosophy. The NIV and New English Bible were the first major English translations in the last three centuries to break completely from the Tyndale-Geneva-King James chain. The New English Bible (now, Revised English Bible [REB]) is much more of a functional equivalent work than the NIV, and it is also much more elegant and memorable than the NIV. But the NIV (and its revision, the NIV 2011) is both very accurate and very readable. It has become the most popular Bible translation in any language in history. And yet, even the NIV reads “do not lead us into temptation” in Matt 6.13.

All translation is interpretation

It is important to recognize, however, that all translation is interpretation. The reason is that the syntax and lexical mapping in one language never match exactly that of another language. The context determines the meaning. A so-called “word-for-word” translation is quite impossible for anything more than a short phrase or sentence. In this passage, for example, the word translated “temptation” is the same word that is elsewhere translated “testing.” Interpretation is required; translators cannot simply leave the word to allow for both meanings since “temptation” has connotations of sin while “testing” does not. However, in this passage there is good reason to see πειρασμός (peirasmos) as bearing the force of temptation, as we will see below. But the point is that an interpretation of the text is already done in even the most formal equivalent translations of this passage. In one sense, the pope’s rendering is an interpretation of an interpretation.

Many on the functional-equivalent side of the translation debate are determined to clear up all ambiguities in the text, to make everything crystal clear. Some of these translators have little training in exegesis. Typically, the less training they have in the original languages and biblical studies, the more they assume that the Bible is perfectly clear everywhere; it just needs to have the proper functional equivalence to bring out its meaning. But this is terribly naïve.

Students in seminary often come into the program thinking that once they get some Greek and Hebrew under their belts the interpretive issues will simply disappear. The reality is that study in the original languages in some places will expand on the interpretive possibilities, in others shrink them. But most importantly, such training will replace a misinformed list of options for one that is better informed and at least has some validity.

Ideally, a translation should give the readers of the Bible in their own language the same interpretive options that a reader of the original will have. And this means that it is important for readers of the Bible to struggle with the same, often intentional, ambiguities found in the original text.

When the NET Bible was in beta-mode, we field-tested it on the Internet. Comments were welcome; hundreds of thousands poured in. Some professional translators committed to functional equivalence argued with our rendering of ἐν Χριστῷ as “in Christ.” They pointed out that this hardly communicated anything in English and that it was difficult to grasp Paul’s meaning of his favorite phrase (he uses it 73 times). They noted correctly that Paul uses ἐν Χριστῷ in a variety of contexts and in a variety of ways. And they wanted us to reflect those nuances in every place. Their view was in line with what Lady Oppenheimer wrote in her book Incarnation and Immanence ([1973], p. 17): “Christians have a great deal to say about the ways in which people can be related to God and to each other, and many of the things they wish to say take for granted the possibility of certain sorts of close relationships which are not on the face of it compatible with common sense.”

We rejected their input on this point and decided to keep the translation “in Christ.” Why? Because we believed that the modern English reader should have the same semantic options as the original reader. Close analogies to this sort of language are not to be found in Greco-Roman literature. This means that Paul’s original readers had to work hard to get at the apostle’s meaning, ultimately coming to see the rich tapestry of “in Christ” as deeper and richer than any functional equivalent could provide. In this instance, we felt that clearing up the ambiguity of the text would rob the modern reader of the joy of discovery and the value of thinking deeply about Scripture.

There are times, however, when retaining the original ambiguity does not help the modern reader. In such cases, interpretation is required of the translator. In Rom 3.22 the NET translators felt that translating διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ as “by faith of Jesus Christ” was simply too ambiguous. This is exactly what the KJV has here, and it communicates poorly what the meaning of the original is because it does not interpret. Although one or two scholars have suggested that πίστις Χριστοῦ means “faith of Christ”—that is, the faith that Christ himself had—this is not a popular view. The two leading options are either “faith in Christ” or “the faithfulness of Christ.” How could they be so disparate? The reason is due to one lexical and one grammatical problem. πίστις lexically can mean faith or faithfulness. And the genitive Χριστοῦ can be subjective or objective. If objective, Christ is the object of πίστις (and hence, “faith in Christ”); if subjective, Christ is semantically the subject (“the faithfulness of Christ”—that is, that he is faithful). Leaving the text as “faith of Christ” hardly allows for either of these interpretive translations. The ambiguity in English is not the same as it is in Greek. In this case, a more literal translation ends up being the worst translation. The only real choice here is for translators to commit to one interpretation since leaving it neutral actually gives the wrong impression of the meaning to the English reader.

So then, should translation be formally equivalent for functionally equivalent? Neither one is adequate. Faithful equivalence is really required—faithful to the meaning of the original. If this can be accomplished by following a somewhat formal equivalent (since a completely formal equivalent is quite impossible), fine. But Greek and Hebrew are structured so differently that to force both of them into one kind of translation model is a one-size-fits-all mentality that simply won’t work.

On the one hand, there are hundreds of places when formal equivalence simply doesn’t help the English reader understand the interpretive possibilities of the original text. Yet that is the goal of formal equivalence. As we have said, the reality is that every translation is an interpretation. The question is how much we should try to interpret in any given place.

On the other hand, functional equivalence translations often take liberties with the text by offering a less-likely or even an illegitimate rendering, and they frequently make the text clear for a reader who could, in their own native language, figure out what the author is talking about. Some of the most stunning prose in the Bible is full of figurative language that to reduce it to its referential meaning is to destroy its beauty, thought-provoking nature, connotative force, and lingering memorability.

The Lord’s Prayer and translation

The pope’s rendering certainly is on the functional-equivalent side rather than the formal-equivalent side. But does that make it illegitimate?

In this instance, the bishop of Rome has taken many liberties with the text, both linguistically and contextually, thereby robbing the modern reader of seeing the connections that Matthew himself has laid out.

Not only is the Greek in both Matt 6.13 and Luke 11.4 textually certain (variants for “do not lead us into temptation” are trivial amounting to minor spelling differences), but the syntax is clear. The verb in the petition “lead” is an aorist active subjunctive (εἰσενέγκῃς); with the negative particle, “do not lead” is the idea. The pope wants it to mean “allow” which speaks instead of God not permitting something rather than him actively leading us. And the pontiff seems to have assumed that the Greek “lead into temptation” means “permit to fall into temptation.” Several lexical, syntactical, and interpretive shifts are seen here.

The broader context of Matthew’s Gospel may give us a clue as to why the Lord said, “Do not lead us into temptation.” Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, we are told that he “was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4.1). The Greek text indicates that the purpose of the Spirit’s leading Jesus into the wilderness was so that he would be tempted by the devil (“to be tempted” [πειρασθῆναι] is an infinitive of purpose, giving the purpose of the Spirit’s leading). Mark words this even more starkly: “Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness” (Mark 1.13).

Evidently, there is a sense in which Jesus was delivered into the hands of the evil one, by the Holy Spirit himself, to be tempted. But the Greek here makes an interesting point about who is responsible for what. Two passive verbs are used in Matt 4.1— ἀνήχθη (“he was led”) and πειρασθῆναι (“to be tempted”). The agents are listed with identical prepositions: ὑπό. This is the preposition used especially for ultimate agent. It is rare to see ὑπό followed by πνεύματος (“Spirit”) in the NT (only five passages). Doing so here, Matthew shows that the Spirit is not subordinate to the devil but is the agent ultimately responsible for leading Jesus into the wilderness, while the devil is the ultimate agent of the temptation. The Spirit is not responsible for that. The Spirit did not tempt Jesus, but he did lead him to be tempted. The balance is intentional: leading into temptation is not the same as tempting. God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation, but he did not tempt him. Wrestling with the implications of this requires more than a little reflection.

Although Satan’s purpose was to destroy Jesus before he ever went to the cross, God’s purpose in using Satan was painted on a broader canvas. God tests; Satan tempts. The Son of God went through similar testing as the children of Israel in the wilderness. They were there for forty years; he was there for forty days. Where they failed he succeeded.

Further, the temptation that the Lord faced was the ultimate temptation—the offer of the entire world on a platter. Jesus can ask the disciples to pray that the Father would not lead them into temptation and that God would deliver them from the evil one precisely because Jesus himself faced the ultimate temptation by the evil one. Whereas the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted, Jesus asks the Father not to lead his disciples into temptation; whereas Jesus was delivered over to Satan for tempting (testing from the Father’s perspective), Jesus prays that his followers will be delivered from the evil one. It is precisely because of Jesus’ substitutionary death and life that this prayer can be recited today by Christians with the full assurance that God will answer us.

Pope Francis’s translation, however, subverts all this: “do not let us fall into temptation.” The original text speaks clearly of God leading, not permitting. To tamper with the wording misses the connection with the Lord’s temptation.

 

(3)     What does the original text really mean and do we have the right to change it in translation?

 The pope makes a good point that our heavenly Father does not tempt us. And yet, he argues that point from a theological construct derived elsewhere in the Bible (see James 1.13). “Do not lead us into temptation” does not mean that God tempts us; the petition is for God’s protection from the evil one, as the rest of Matt 6.13 says.

 Further, the notion that we can change the wording to fit the meaning that we find somewhere else might actually be doing a disservice to the biblical authors’ intentions. The Bible is full of paradoxes, figurative language, jolting imagery. To simplify and pacify such language cuts off the legs of its literary and even spiritual power.

At bottom, what the pontiff is doing is interpretation—but interpretation that removes the tension and paradox from the text, is not true to the force of the original, and buries the connection to Jesus’ temptation. Better to leave the text alone and allow God’s people to experience the joy of discovery of the meaning of Holy Writ.

Book Notice: A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method

Published by SBL Press, and hot off the presses, is this new work on CBGM. Here’s what the SBL Press website has to say about the book:

An essential introduction for scholars and students of New Testament Greek

With the publication of the widely used twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece and the fifth edition of the United Bible Society Greek New Testament, a computer-assisted method known as the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) was used for the first time to determine the most valuable witnesses and establish the initial text. This book offers the first full-length, student-friendly introduction to this important new method. After setting out the method’s history, separate chapters clarify its key concepts such as genealogical coherence, textual flow diagrams, and the global stemma. Examples from across the New Testament are used to show how the method works in practice. The result is an essential introduction that will be of interest to students, translators, commentators, and anyone else who studies the Greek New Testament.

Features

  • A clear explanation of how and why the text of the Greek New Testament is changing
  • Step-by-step guidance on how to use the CBGM in textual criticism
  • Diagrams, illustrations, and glossary of key terms

And here’s the endorsement by Paul Foster:

For anybody who cares about the text of the New Testament, there will be few books published in biblical studies over the next decade that will be more important than this one. Tommy Wasserman and Peter Gurry describe some of the tectonic shifts that are currently occurring in the way that New Testament text critics are reconstructing the earliest recoverable form of the Greek text of the New Testament. With great care and clarity, the authors explain the intricacies of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method in ways that both scholars and nonspecialists can readily understand. For anybody who wishes to know how the text of latest printed scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament has been determined and why it differs from earlier editions, this is the book to read.

Paul Foster
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

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Writing an introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method for the uninitiated must be akin to trying to teach the Amish how to drive a Ferrari. CBGM is a complex method that Wasserman and Gurry have simplified with a rather humane writing style, but this does not mean that those who have minimal exposure to this method will jump at the chance to understand it. They should, and Wasserman and Gurry are the right guides to gently bring them into the realm of 21st century NT textual criticism. This book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone (not just the neophyte) who wants to understand this arcane, yet foundational, discipline that has grown in intricacies and subtleties in recent years. You can get the paperback version on Amazon for less than $20.