There Were Giants in Those Days: Codex Robertsonianus (Gregory-Aland 2358), Part 1

In 1927, Adolf Deissmann began a correspondence with A. T. Robertson that led to the purchase of a Greek Gospels manuscript by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of the story of this manuscript’s travels and text is told by John W. Bowman in his 23-page booklet (with four plates), The Robertson Codex (Allahabad, India: Mission Press, 1928). The booklet was a reprinting of articles in The Indian Standard 139, nos. 8 and 9 (August and September, 1928). Bowman had been a student of Robertson’s at Southern and later became professor of New Testament and Church History at North India United Theological College in Saharanpur, India.

In Bowman’s booklet are two chapters, which correspond to the two articles in The Indian Standard. The first chapter addresses the process of photographing the manuscript, and is a window on the difficulties that attended such labors in the 1920s. It took the author nearly three months to photograph it! Today, with digital photography, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts normally photographs a 350-page manuscript (the size of Codex Robertsonianus) in less than a day. In this chapter he mentions the rarity of photographs of New Testament manuscripts: “Very few complete MSS of the N.T. or portions thereof have hitherto been photographed: I am personally aware of only five such” (5). Bowman’s second chapter discusses many fascinating details of the manuscript.

One thing is largely missing, however, from the book: except for small snippets here and there, the correspondence between Deissmann and Robertson is not mentioned. This blog thus supplements Bowman’s pamphlet with Deissmann’s letters to Robertson concerning the codex (I do not have access to Robertson’s responses to Deissmann).

Below are photographs of the first letter (along with the text printed beneath each one), which was obtained from Southern Baptist Seminary. In later blogs, I will post the rest of the letters and text. These letters constitute the A. T. Robertson Papers, Box 7, Folder 3, Archives and Special Collections, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. I am grateful to Adam Winters, archivist at SBTS, who provided the photographs. They are used with permission of the SBTS Archives & Special Collections.

Deissmann to Robertson_2 Mar 1927_page 1 of 2

Professor Dr. Adolf Deissmann
Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Prinzregentenstrasse 6., March 2nd, 1927.

My dear Dr. Robertson:

Accept please my thanks for your kind letter of Jan. 13, 1927. It is not possible for me now to say an other time for an American tour of mine; but I hope it may be possible at a later date. To-day I should like to tell you some words about a Greek Tetra-Euangelion which I had the opportunity to find in the hands of a Turkish dealer and which I saved immediately. It is a parchment codex, dated by our excellent Berlin expert Dr. Schubart (the papyrologist) in the 11. century A.D. It contains 175 leaves (15 x 11 centimeters), the leaves containing the four Gospels and the following passages being lost: Mt 11–932; 1114–157; 2671–2731; Mr 11–31; 42–36; 616–30; Luk 38–25; Joh 723–41; 1231–2125. The hand-writing is very nice and easily decipherable; the κεφάλαια etc. are added. The codex came from the area of Trapezunt (Asia Minor). It is not known to v. Soden, Gregory etc. and I think it turned up during or after that horrible expulsio[n] of the Greeks in 1922. and adds an unknown new number to the series of extant N.T. manuscripts. The form of the text is not yet explored, I could make only some specimen investigation, e.g. the μοιχαλίς-Pericope is peculiar in some readings and seems to have a type not noted by von Soden.

Concerning the fact that the number of N.T. codic[es] is very small in American libraries (Gregory only mentions 13 codices or small fragments of the Greek Gospels existing in the States) I suppose you may perhaps be interested to acquire the newly discovered codex for the library of your Seminary[.]

Deissmann to Robertson_2 Mar 1927_page 2

I should like of course to acquire it for my N.T. Seminar, but I have had the chance in 1910 by a generous patron to buy a Greek Gospel codex (Gregory’s Nr. 2308), and now I must take care to save money for my Ephesus work. Therefore I cannot buy it for my Seminar. The price is $700.—a modern binding included (it was necessary to bind the venerable leaves). It is of course very helpful for the students to see and to study original manuscripts of the N.T., and I think the opportunities to acquire something like that Trapezunt-Codex are very rare. Next fall I shall try to find other new N.T. fragments in Asia Minor, but I am not very full of hope for a success.

I did not offer the Codex to anybody else; you are the first whom I informed about this chance. If you are interested I suppose you may find some patronage as I found in 1910.

If you should like to see the codex before I could send it to you, but of course this way is rather prolix.

Believe me, dear colleague,

Yours very sincerely

Adolf Deissmann.

Advertisement

Review of Trobisch’s User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28

users_guide

Review of David Trobisch, A User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament,
SBLTC 9 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013). Pp. viii + 69; $25.95.

The much-anticipated publication of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, in December 2012, instantly created a need for a user’s guide similar to what Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland’s The Text of the New Testament, 2nd edition (Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 232–60 and passim, did for the Nestle-Aland 26th edition. David Trobisch answered the call with his User’s Guide to the 28th edition, which appeared in November of 2013.

This User’s Guide however, is significantly different from the material in Aland-Aland’s Text. Whereas the latter is a scholarly introduction to (and unashamedly a promotion of) the NA26, Trobisch’s User’s Guide is significantly simpler and has only 14 pages devoted to the scholarly use of this handbook edition of the NT. The User’s Guide has three chapters (1–54) and three sections of supporting material at the end (55–69). The chapters progress in intended readership from those who have had little or no Greek (chapter 1: “Structure and Intention of the Edition,” 1–25), to graduate students who have learned Greek and have some comprehension of biblical studies (chapter 2: “Exercises and Learning Aids,” 27–39), to a brief chapter intended for use by “researchers and teachers who interpret the New Testament professionally” (viii), presumably including professors and advanced students (chapter 3: “NA28 as an Edition for Scholars,” 41–54).

Although the second chapter is useful for students, the rationale for the first chapter is puzzling. Why would someone without knowledge of Greek want to use a Greek text at all, especially one as concise (due to the myriad abbreviations, sigla, etc.) and scholarly as the Nestle-Aland? And this being the longest of the three chapters, complete with the Greek alphabet, diphthongs, and other elementary material needed to pronounce ancient Greek, it seems to be a waste of space to some degree. Even in this introductory chapter, Trobisch got some facts wrong. For example, he says that γχ is pronounced ‘nch’ as in ‘anchovies’ (9); the text of the NA28 was produced by “an international editorial committee” (2 [italics added]; see also 49), when the title page indicates only that the Münster institute produced this particular edition; and the canon of the shorter reading or lectio brevior “only applies to two readings that are superficially combined” (24), when the consensus among textual critics is that this rule applies to those variants that have more words than the alternative, whether they are a combination of older readings or not (cf. the variants in John 3:13 and Rom 8:1, for example). Nevertheless, some of the material in the first chapter is helpful for students of Greek. I would recommend eliminating this chapter and combining the best features with what is already in chapter 2.

The second chapter includes helpful information about some of the changes between NA27 and NA28, including the dropping of consistently cited witnesses of the second order, how to use the distinct apparatus for the Catholic Epistles, and a discussion on the Eusebian Canons for the Gospels. On this last item, it should be noted that the Nestle-Aland tradition continues to list the numbers in the Canons as Arabic and Roman numbers. Although this is useful as a tool for the modern student in comparing the Gospels, it is unhelpful for those who spend time on the actual manuscripts, since the Eusebian Canons are found in manuscripts entirely by Greek letters (see https://danielbwallace.com/2014/04/13/conversion-table-for-the-eusebian-canons to download the PDF of a conversion table). This chapter takes the student through the NA28 Introduction, Apparatus, marginalia, and various other features of the book, with exercises sprinkled throughout.

Chapter 3 is a useful introduction to a behind-the-scenes look at the decisions made in Münster concerning the format, text-critical decisions and approach, and differences from the previous edition of the Nestle-Aland text. But Trobisch overstates things when he calls this new edition a “thoroughly revised edition” (vii). To be sure, the apparatus has been thoroughly updated, but the only textual differences are in the Catholic Epistles. Trobisch makes both commendations and criticisms of the 28th edition. In the first section which systematically goes through differences between this and NA27, some of the negative features of the 28th come to light—even though Trobisch explicitly addresses limitations of this new edition in the second section, “Limitations of the NA28.”

Gone are any explicit conjectural emendations, whereas the NA27 listed over 100 of them (one of which was followed [Acts 16:12], though both Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland disagreed with the rest of the committee), and NA28 adds one more to the text (2 Peter 3:10). (At the same time, neither of the variants in these two passages is a true conjecture since there are versions that have these readings. Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament, 4th ed. [Oxford: OUP, 2005] 230, implicitly define a conjecture as having no support in Greek manuscripts, versions, or fathers: the need for conjectural emendation for the New Testament is “reduced to the smallest dimensions” because “the amount of evidence for the text of the New Testament, whether derived from manuscripts, early versions, or patristic quotations, is so much greater than that available for any ancient classical author…”)

NA28 also eliminated the useful subscriptions for the NT books found in previous editions, a most unfortunate decision. They have however retained the inscriptions, though Trobisch says that these, too, got the ax (43).

The number of witnesses cited in the apparatus is significantly reduced, and any comparison with previous editions of the Greek NT by Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, and others is eliminated.

The lack of such valuable features means that students and scholars will need to continue using their NA27 in conjunction with NA28. Trobisch notes that 33 textual changes occurred in the Catholic Epistles (44), though there are actually 34 (see NA28, 50*–51* for the list). A brief discussion of the sea-change in Münster from the “local-genealogical method” (which Barbara Aland once told me was not within the bounds of reasoned eclecticism) to the “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method” or CBGM concludes the chapter.

A final criticism of this booklet is that although the author provides links to several sites which host images of NT manuscripts, he overlooks the website for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org), which has one of the largest collections of high-resolution digital images of Greek NT manuscripts on the Internet, most of which have been photographed by CSNTM in the last twelve years. Included on this site are images of the Chester Beatty papyri, which CSNTM digitized in the summer of 2013, working with the papyri at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

In sum, I anticipated that this work would be useful for students learning the ropes of NT textual criticism, but the gaps, errata, and proportion leave me somewhat disappointed. Even though there are many helpful features, the work is overall quite uneven. I hope that a second edition which corrects these deficiencies will soon be forthcoming (some of these deficiencies have been corrected in the second German edition of this book), since such a volume is needed for anyone using the Nestle-Aland 28th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece.

Daniel B. Wallace

Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog Dinner

This year at the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Textual Criticism folks from Tyndale House, Cambridge University hosted a dinner at Baltimore’s Hard Rock Café. The dinner was on Sunday, Nov 24, shortly after the last session on New Testament textual criticism at SBL. It seemed strange to have a dinner for Greek geeks at a restaurant that is intentionally loud (even if the music is awesome!), since all of us would rather debate, “Is it an and or an or?” than discuss human trafficking, world peace, or the central message of the New Testament. Greek geeks—who know how to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t.’ In other words, anal people.

That’s what made the printed menu so ironic. Each one of us had a little card at each place setting. Here’s a picture of the card:

menu

Notice the spelling of ‘Criticism’: the ‘ic’ is missing! A case of haplography due to parablepsis.

The evening was great. Peter Head of Tyndale House spoke about the blogs on the ETC website and the impact the ETC is making on the discipline. The ETC is the best place to go to get up-to-date news on biblical textual criticism.

ETC group

Peter Head speaking at ETC Dinner, Hard Rock Café, Baltimore

A good number of evangelical textual critics were there, along with students, interested parties, and other textual critics. I didn’t do a head count but it seemed like over fifty people were present. There were stimulating conversations taking place at every table (“Is it an and or an or?” and even a few more significant than that). Jerry Pattengale of the Green Scholars Initiative announced at the beginning of the evening that the Greens had offered to buy everyone’s dinner. Thank you, Greens, for your generosity!

I look forward to next year’s dinner and the update on the discipline that the boys at Tyndale House have a bead on.

Press Release from CSNTM

Press Release (8 Nov 2013):

Debut of Chester Beatty Papyri and New User Tools at CSNTM

IMG_5770

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org) is well known for digitizing ancient biblical manuscripts. But the Center is not well known for having a user-friendly website. Because of a generous donation, the Center is giving a much-needed face-lift to its site. Phase I includes the following new features:

  • A basic search function now allows users to look at manuscripts by date, material, content, etc. You will notice a new search bar at the top of the manuscripts page. Simply enter in the data you’re looking for, and only those manuscripts that meet the criteria will be displayed.
  • Viewing technology has been added, allowing users to see thumbnail images instead of just a link. Simply click on the thumbnail and the high-resolution image is displayed in the viewer below. Users can now zoom in and examine manuscripts without having to open individual pages. This feature is currently available only for manuscripts digitized on the last five expeditions (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence; Gennadius Library in Athens; University of Athens Historical Museum; City Historical Library of Zagora, Greece; and the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin). More to come!
  • The website also provides links to the images of 29 (and growing!) significant manuscripts in various libraries throughout the world.
  • CSNTM currently has over 450 manuscripts listed in its manuscript page, with more than 1100 manuscripts in our archives. We are working on getting all 1100+ manuscripts listed on the site. As always, when the Center gets permission, the images of manuscripts become accessible to all.

The most exciting new additions to the CSNTM website are the Chester Beatty biblical manuscripts (which we digitized in the summer of 2013). These include all Old and New Testament Greek papyri, apocryphal texts, and all Greek New Testament manuscripts housed at the CBL in Dublin. Best of all, these can now be viewed on the manuscripts page. Using state-of-the-art digital equipment, the Center photographed each manuscript against white and black backgrounds. The result was stunning. The photographs reveal some text that has not been seen before.

CSNTM is grateful to the CBL for the privilege of digitizing these priceless treasures. The staff were extremely competent and a joy to work with. We are grateful to Dr. Fionnuala Croke, Director of CBL, for the opportunity to digitize their biblical texts. And we wish to thank Dr. Larry Hurtado, Edinburgh University, and the late Dr. Sean Freyne, Trinity College, Dublin, for recommending CSNTM for this important undertaking.

Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director of CSNTM

Robert D. Marcello, Research Manager of CSNTM

The Five Countries Called Greece

I go to Greece every year, with several others from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org), to photograph biblical manuscripts. And every year, we ‘discover’ manuscripts too—that is, we inform the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster about New Testament manuscripts that they were unaware of, and give them the details so that they can give these manuscripts a new Gregory-Aland number.

We always spend some time in Athens, but also try to get to other places as well. In the process of canvassing the countryside, I have come to realize that Greece is five different countries, all connected by the same language, government, and the ubiquitous old men sipping their Greek καφές in outdoor cafés.

There is Athens, a typical big city with more graffiti per square kilometer than any other city in western Europe. Typical—except for the Parthenon, Areopagus, other archeological sites, and magnificent museums and libraries.

Then there is the Peloponnese—the lower half of Greece, which boasts Corinth, Olympia, Sparta, and many other historic and beautiful sites. The Mediterranean Sea outside of Corinth is as clear and blue as the Caribbean. I’ve been told that the Peloponnesians are not as friendly as the rest of the Greeks, but this tidbit came from someone far north of Athens. I’ve not experienced it for myself.

The small islands—including Patmos, Samos, Icaria, Andros, and nearly 3000 other islands—make up the third country. These are always enjoyable sites and usually out of the way places. Cruise ships port at Skala harbor in Patmos every day, with the eager travelers scurrying off the vessels to board big buses and go up the mountain to see the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse. These folks only stay for two or three hours before they are whisked away to another island, checking off their bucket list this island famous for its connection to the Bible; we usually stay for two or three weeks.

We don’t take a cruise ship to get there, but an overnight ferry. There are only 3000 residents on Patmos during the summer months; we know almost all of them. Only four are not friendly, two of whom are not Greeks (I’d tell you their nationality but they would find me out!). We’ve eaten at nearly every restaurant and traversed every dirt road. This is the “Holy Island of the Aegean” because this is where John penned the Apocalypse and therefore it is the only island in all of Greece that does not allow nude sunbathing. It may well be my favorite place in all of Greece–and certainly the one my wife approves me visiting!

The fourth country consists of big islands and famous islands—like Rhodes, Cos, Lesbos, Santorini, and Mikonos. Amazing sites, but very expensive. They know what they’ve got. I’ve never been to Santorini or Mikonos for the simple reason that they are not known to have biblical manuscripts.

Finally, there is the Greek countryside. Villages that have no names. Access lanes still not paved that lead to major highways. Mountain roads that are dotted with crosses where people have driven over the edge and lost their lives because guardrails are often non-existent in this country that is 80% mountainous. Pathways that drive the GPS crazy. And people so friendly they turn the American value-system on its head.

At first, I was taken aback by their friendliness. It seemed to be a used-car-salesman kind of friendliness. That was ten years ago. People that friendly in the States are likely to take you to the cleaners. But in Greece, money is not the driving principle, and genuine friendships are prized like fat bank accounts are in the U.S. Most rural Greeks are poor—dirt poor. Yet they share what they have with strangers and live to show hospitality to visitors. Some of the best lamb and pork chops anywhere on the planet. And a gaggle of friends we’ve made along the way. I truly love Greece and the Greek people. And I pray that this country with its rich heritage in politics, conquest, art, sports, medicine, and, of course, biblical manuscripts, will survive its current financial crisis.

In my next post I will tell about driving up to Meteora from Athens, and of a particularly interesting manuscript we examined in one of the monasteries of Meteora in 2011 and 2012. For now, I’ll simply close with this: If you ever get the opportunity to visit Greece, check out all five countries. Athens and Santorini are not the whole experience! And get to know the people. It just might change your value system.