New Manuscript Discoveries in Athens!

I recently returned from two weeks in Athens, working at the National Library of Greece. My student and former intern, Max Berti, joined me. We discovered a surprising number of New Testament manuscripts. But I’ll have to tell you all about that later. Follow the link to the CSNTM website below, where you’ll see info on several discoveries from 2015.

A Note on Romans 4.20: Paul and the ordo sanctificationis

In Romans 4, the apostle Paul gave a midrash on Genesis 15.6, showing that Abraham’s faith preceded his good deeds, and thus God’s declaration of Abraham as ‘righteous’ was not based on works. In this way, Abraham becomes the father of both Jews and Gentiles who place their faith in Christ.

In verse 20 Paul says, “And he did not waver in unbelief in the promise of God, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” The last clause, which involves an adverbial participle (δοὺς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ), has been variously translated:

“giving glory to God” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV, NET; see also NEG [“donnant gloire à Dieu”]; RVR [“dando gloria a Dios”]; Vulgate [“dans gloriam Deo”])

“and gave glory to God” (TNIV, NIV 2011, HCSB, REB, NJB, NABR; see also Lutherbibel 1984 [“und gab Gott die Ehre”] and SEGR [“il donna gloire à Dieu”])

“he gave glory to God (REB)

“as he gave glory to God” (RSV, NRSV, ESV)

“he brought glory to God” (NLT2)

This survey of 21 translations shows that the participle δούς has been translated essentially two different ways: as a finite verb (“and gave glory to God”/“he gave glory to God”/“he brought glory to God”) or as an adverbial participle (“giving glory to God”/“as he gave glory to God”). Ten translations take the first approach, eleven the second.

Linking these versions with Greek grammatical categories, the first view treats δούς as attendant circumstance, while the second treats it as a contemporaneous participle. There are problems with each approach.

Regarding attendant circumstance participles, they (almost) always precede the main verb (here, ἐνεδυναμώθη); in this instance, the main verb comes first. Second, attendant circumstance participles are rare in didactic literature, common in narrative. Now it is probable that the translators of these various versions did not really regard δούς as attendant circumstance but were instead trying to give a more informal translation which is also less cumbersome. Nevertheless, this sort of translation is often misleading. In particular, those participles that follow the main verb and have been labeled as attendant circumstance usually belong to the category of result participle. And this, of course, would be a natural understanding of the translations that render the participle as a finite verb connected to ἐνεδυναμώθη by ‘and.’ But, as we will see below, that is problematic here.

Regarding the contemporaneous adverbial participle (“giving glory to God”), although this does occur with aorist participles connected to an aorist main verb, the sense of the passage is a bit awkward. Further, and more importantly, ‘giving’ is both contemporaneous and continuous. A contemporaneous δούς should normally be rendered ‘when he gave.’

So, are there better options? It can hardly be a result participle (“with the result that he gave glory to God”) since it is aorist (see D. B. Wallace, Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 637–39). An instrumental participle fits the structural requirements of an aorist participle after an aorist main verb, but not the semantics: “he grew strong in faith by giving glory to God.” The problem with this is that an instrumental participle is really an epexegetical participle; that is, it defines the action of the main verb. It is used with main verbs that beg for clarification. That is not the case in this passage.

The most likely intended meaning is probably causal. Aorist adverbial participles are routinely causal. And although they normally precede the main verb, very frequently they follow, often to bring the point to a climax. If so, there may be a subtle hint here on how to grow in faith: “he became strong in faith, because he gave glory to God.” Our faith and our hope grow as we praise and worship God.

And this brings us to the title of this blog. Anselm spoke of the Christian (intellectual) life as “faith seeking understanding.” Contrary to popular opinion, although this aphorism has been attributed to Augustine he apparently did not use these exact words. He said crede ut intelligas (“believe that you may understand” [Sermon 43.7, 9]). Centuries later Anselm made this more personal: “I believe in order that I might understand” (credo ut intelligam, in Proslogium 1), and in the preface to his Proslogium he indeed speaks of ‘faith seeking understanding’ (Fides quaerens intellectum). Nevertheless, conceptually and almost verbally we can regard this mantra as findings its roots in Augustine. The opposite approach is found in much theological education today: unbelief seeking excuses.

Paul seems to have a similar, even prior, approach: glorify God in order that you might grow in faith. In keeping with the Latin expressions of Augustine and Anselm, this might be rendered honora ut credere (“glorify in order to believe”). But since Paul spoke Greek, it might be better rendered δόξασον εἰς τὸ πιστεύειν.

If our understanding of δούς in Rom 4.20 is correct, then the ordo sanctificationis (‘order of sanctification,’ akin to ordo salutis or ‘order of salvation’) is: glorify in order to believe in order to understand. (This is broadly just the opposite of what humanity did in Rom 1.21: They did not glorify God and this resulted in their lack of understanding: “they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened” [NET]).

Thus, we see in Paul the ordo sanctificationis as glorify→believe→understand. His view, then, is not just faith seeking understanding but glorifying God, which brings about faith, which leads to understanding. Augustine and Anselm were on to something that is genuinely biblical, but they didn’t take it far enough. Giving God glory actually precedes faith, which precedes understanding. And as we already mentioned, this view is just the opposite of so much theological education today: not glorifying God leads to unbelief which leads to finding excuses for this unbelief.

Surprise! Much-Deserved Festschrift for Dr. Michael W. Holmes

Years in the making, with a stellar lineup of contributors, a 700-page Festschrift was recently presented to Dr. Michael Holmes at SBL in Atlanta.

A little background: SBL—or Society of Biblical Literature—is the largest society of biblical scholars in the world. Nearly 10,000 people converge on a North American city every November, to meet for scholarly debate, lectures, and to see new books that scores of publishers bring to the conference. (Many of these folks are also or only members of the AAR—the American Academy of Religion, which is much broader in its compass.) The conference takes place every year over an extended weekend (Saturday through Tuesday) just before Thanksgiving. Last year the annual meeting occurred in San Diego, spread out over several hotels (as always). This year it was in Atlanta, next year in San Antonio, in 2017 in Boston. Hundreds of papers are read to small groups of scholars in parallel sessions on a variety of topics. These range from covering virtually every book of the Bible, to Jewish backgrounds, Greco-Roman backgrounds, hermeneutical methods, linguistics, grammar, textual criticism, historical-critical studies, and just about every imaginable approach to the Bible (and many unimaginable approaches!). The program is hundreds of pages long, and finding two or three sessions that one is interested in attending that take place at the same time (a common occurrence) makes the conference both tantalizing and frustrating.

Scores of publishers display thousands of books in an area that seems to be about half the size of a football field. One simply can’t go through the book area in the four days of the conference with any depth of examination. The publishers sell the books at a steep discount (as much as 50% off), which means that the annual SBL conference is the time and place for many professors, students, and pastors to add significantly to their libraries. Christmas comes early for Christian bibliophiles! For my interests, I focus on the publishing houses that regularly offer high-quality works, including New Testament commentaries, textual criticism, canon criticism, Greek grammar, linguistics, hermeneutics, backgrounds, biblical theology, historical studies, Coptic, patristics, and church history. Some of the more academic publishers, which unfortunately do not typically offer big discounts, include E. J. Brill (Holland), Peter Lang (Switzerland), Walter de Gruyter (Germany), and Gorgias (New Jersey).

Monday afternoon, November 23, had a session that was not in the program. It was by invitation only, just for the contributors to a Festschrift for Michael Holmes of Bethel University and Seminary. (A Festschrift is a book written by many contributors to honor a scholar, usually on the occasion of his or her 65th birthday, retirement, or some other notable point in the scholar’s life.) Mike was also escorted to the meeting by his long-time friend, Bart Ehrman, although Mike was completely unaware of what was behind the closed doors of Hilton Room 407. A representative from Brill (which published the Festschrift) barely made it to the room with a copy of the volume before Ehrman and Holmes showed up. She literally ran to the room, having been held up at her booth by Mike who was drooling over the recent tomes. Unbeknownst to him, one of those volumes was his own Festschrift!

We all yelled ‘Surprise!’ as he walked in. He admitted total surprise and that he was ‘almost speechless.’ Below is a photo of three of the people present. See if you can tell who is who.

Hernandez, Holmes, and Ehrman

Holmes Reception SBL 2015

The book—Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honour of Michael W. Holmes—was edited by Daniel M. Gurtner (Bethel), Juan Hernández Jr. (Bethel), and Paul Foster (Edinburgh). The twofold theme of textual criticism and patristic studies reflects Dr. Holmes’s twin interests. There are 26 chapters (16 on textual criticism, 10 on patristic studies) by 30 authors. The authors include Amy Anderson, J. K. Elliott, Eldon Epp, Paul Foster, Dan Gurtner, Paul Hartog, Peter Head, Juan Hernández, Charles Hill, Hugh Houghton, Larry Hurtado, Clayton Jefford, Dirk Jongkind, Christina Kreinecker, Harry Maier, Bruce Morrill, Rod Mullen, Tobias Nicklas, J. C. Paget, David Parker, Wilhelm Pratscher, Jean-François Racine, James Royse, Ulrich Schmid, Holger Strutwolf, Christopher Tucket, Joseph Verheyden, Klaus Wachtel, Dan Wallace, and Tommy Wasserman.

I do not yet know the price of the volume, but I am certain it will be in the triple digits (virtually all of Brill’s books are!). I’ll update this blog when the book appears on Amazon.

New Manuscripts Available at CSNTM

Another fantastic new press release from CSNTM:

New manuscripts digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) have just been added to our searchable collection. These include 10 new manuscripts from the National Library of Greece in Athens, the site of our ongoing digitization project for 2015–16.

  • GA 777: From the 12th century, this manuscript (MS) contains the complete Tetraevangelion. The manuscript features 22 beautiful icons, many of which are from the life of Jesus.
  • GA 792: From the 13th century, this is a rare MS in that its New Testament contents include only the Gospels and Revelation. Also included are selected passages from the Old Greek.
  • GA 798: From the 11th century, this MS of the Gospels contains Matthew and Mark. CSNTM had previously digitized the other portion (containing Luke and John) housed at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF), so digital images are now available for the entire MS.
  • GA 800: From the 12th or 13th century, this MS of the Gospels has extensive commentary wrapping around the text on three sides, and some unique textual features.
  • GA 1411: From the 10th or 11th century, this MS of the Gospels contains extensive commentary on John and Luke by Chrysostom and Titus of Bostra.
  • GA 1412: From the 10th or 11th century, this MS of the Gospels interweaves the biblical text with commentary by Chrysostom and Titus of Bostra, using a variety of different methods to distinguish the text from the commentary.
  • GA 1973: From the 13th century, this MS of Paul’s letters contains commentary from Theophylact of Bulgaria.
  • GA Lect 440: Paper lectionary dated to 1504, which was damaged and then repaired with other paper texts with script at some later point in its history.
  • GA Lect 1524: Paper lectionary dated to 1522, a well-used manuscript.
  • GA Lect 2007: Paper lectionary from the 15th century.

We have also added images for 12 manuscripts that are now in our digital library. Many of these are older images from microfilm.

  • GA 08
  • GA 010
  • GA 014
  • GA 015
  • GA 017
  • GA 018
  • GA 019
  • GA 020
  • GA 034
  • GA 035
  • GA 038
  • GA 044

These images have now been added to our growing searchable collection, which gives everyone free access to the best available digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts.

All images are available at the new