Digitally Reuniting Fragments of an Ancient Gospels Manuscript

Guest post by Stratton L. Ladewig

In November, New Testament Papyri 𝔓45, 𝔓46, 𝔓47: Facsimiles (NTP) will be released—a collaboration between Hendrickson and CSNTM. This publication is the culmination of a project started in 2013 when CSNTM digitized the collection at the Chester Beatty (formerly known as the Chester Beatty Library). The following year, the portion of P46 that is housed at the University of Michigan was digitized. There will be two facsimile volumes: one with papyrus images against a black background and the other with a white background. We are excited about the developments in these manuscripts’ presentation. Four advancements in P45’s textual history are presented in NTP and are highlighted here: (1) digital reunification of the multiple fragments with their larger papyrus leaves, (2) the in-print release of a new plate containing twelve fragments, (3) the identification of a previously unknown leaf, and (4) a fuller presentation of folio 8.

The development of technology facilitated the opportunity to reassemble the fragmentary pieces of P45’s papyrus. Almost every leaf of the manuscript could rightfully be considered a fragment. Of its 30 known leaves, most are “mutilated”—to quote Frederic G. Kenyon (General Introduction, p. 6). However, several smaller pieces have been discovered since the manuscript was initially placed in glass, and it is these fragments that are addressed here. These smaller fragments are found in separate plates of glass from the larger portions to which they belong. In NTP, these later discoveries are reunited digitally and presented as they once were. The result is that a fuller testimony is recorded. At times, letters were split in half, each being found on separate portions of the papyrus in multiple plates of glass. It is stunning to see these fragments united in a full color, high resolution reproduction.

(Image caption: Left: a portion of P45 folio 16, Middle:
a portion of fragment #4; Right: a portion of fragment #5)

The second advancement in the presentation of P45 is the release of twelve fragments that are in print for the first time. These fragments are located in a single plate at the Chester Beatty. This release supplements the knowledge base of this witness to the NT. The contents of six of the fragments have been identified. As such, in the facsimiles, these are placed with their respective leaves—as mentioned above—giving a more complete record of the manuscript’s contents. On occasion, two fragments were found to belong to the same leaf. It is thrilling to realize that research on P45, as vast as the literature has been in the past 86 years, still has room for discovery.

Third, two of the fragments, which were identified by T. C. Skeat and B. C. McGing in 1991, belong to the same P45 leaf. These two are currently found in the same plate, but they are mixed with other fragments from a manuscript of Numbers and Deuteronomy, not P45. Nevertheless, because they originally came from a single papyrus leaf, they were arranged as such in the facsimiles. Their alignment relative to one another is tentative, but the text contained on them makes it clear that they form a new leaf that comes between folio 15 and folio 16. Although this is not a new discovery, the placement of these fragments together gives the reader a glimpse of the text that has not been available for hundreds of years.

Finally, the fragments of folio 8 were assembled into a composite P45 leaf. This leaf is composed of five fragments with a complex history. The fragments were inconsistently presented in Kenyon’s initial publication of the manuscript. At first, none of the five fragments were known to belong to P45, leaving some additional fragments of this leaf to be discovered after his transcription volume was typeset. However, not all the fragments made it into his facsimile volume or his transcription volume. NTP unites the portions of folio 8 into a composite presentation.

NTP highlights the work of the Center in capturing images of P45, P46, and P47. Yet, the presentation in the facsimiles brings four advancements in P45’s textual history. Together, they bring together rich images and reunification of fragments to give the reader a greater understanding of this manuscript’s witness to the wording of the NT.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.19.54 PM

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:]

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.20.40 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.21.40 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2019-05-23 at 8.22.11 PM

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.

 

 

A Sad Home-Going for Three Saints

Autumn, for me, has been over many decades a time of adrenalin rushes, über-busyness, and frantic logistical outworkings. The cause of all this? The beginning of a new school year. This year was no exception, yet right out of the gate one biblical/theological giant after another departed this sphere for his eternal home. All died this month.

In different ways these three men all influenced me. Stanley Toussaint was a colleague at Dallas Seminary, a man who taught the Bible for forty-two years at DTS. He was one of the last of the luminaries of the 1970s (my time in the ThM program)—John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Haddon Robinson, Harold Hoehner, Zane Hodges—who have all gone beyond the sufferings of the present time. Stan taught in the Bible Exposition Department (which is different from the Old Testament and New Testament Departments). He lectured from his Greek New Testament and had a down-home wit, pastoral heart, and penetrating insights into the text.

Stan was always cheerful in spite of having a severe limp from polio that struck him down when he was just a child. I never had the privilege of taking a course from Stan, however: I came in to DTS with plenty of English Bible and was permitted to pass on my English NT courses as long as I filled up the units with courses from the Biblical Studies Division; I loaded up on Hebrew. We agreed on much, but we also disagreed on some things. For example, he tenaciously held to Matthean priority, a position my own department chairman, Harold Hoehner, also embraced. I came to the position of Markan priority in 1987, a dozen years after following in Hoehner’s train.

Robert L. Thomas, professor of NT at Master’s Seminary, 1987–2008, also died just a few days ago. He was a professor at Talbot Seminary when I was a student at Biola University. I heard him speak in chapel a few times and learned that he would frequently invite my Greek professor, Harry Sturz, to his Greek classes to introduce students to Sturz’s perspective on NT textual criticism. Afterward, Thomas would refute Sturz’s position.

Bob and I had a few tangles over the years. In his school’s journal, he critiqued my Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics in the article, “The Principle of Single Meaning” (TMSJ 12/1 [2001] 33–47). He claimed that the book has some interesting points, but it also was “extremely dangerous.” Why? Because I had presumably imbibed Roman Catholic hermeneutics with my category of plenary genitive. Ironically, what Bob did not know was that I learned of that category of usage (though not by that name) by one of his revered theology professors, Charles Ryrie—a man who could hardly be accused of following Roman Catholic hermeneutics.

Bob also didn’t care much for ideas with theologically liberal roots, especially the historical-critical method—this in spite of responses by my colleague, Darrell Bock, and many other evangelical exegetes who argued that method and presupposition are not the same thing.

I suspect that Bob and I would probably have agreed more on many points of Reformed theology than I did with Stan Toussaint. Regardless of what one thinks of how Thomas dealt with other evangelicals, I confess that I admire the man for his faithfulness to scripture and to studying the original languages his whole life.

This past Thursday, September 21, I drove down to Houston with my good friend, Ed Komoszewski, to the funeral of another good friend, Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August 2016 and succumbed to the disease on Saturday, September 16. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and their young daughter, Ayah. Nabeel came to faith in Christ dramatically through the instrumentality of his college roommate David Wood and through visions of Christ, about a dozen years ago. He became a champion for the gospel. His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, has been a huge success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Nabeel died too soon. He was only 34.
Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 12.41.36 PM.png

Nabeel and I had our differences, too. He didn’t care much for Calvinism especially. We would have vigorous, passionate discussions about God’s sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility/free will, but these never harmed our friendship.

His interest was in the Gospels and he would be on the opposite end of the spectrum from Bob Thomas when it came to evangelical historical criticism. He was an internationally-known evangelist, especially to Muslims.

And his brain-power was legendary. He had read the entire Qur’an in Arabic (the only true Qur’an) by the age of five. Nabeel was a medical doctor who then went on to earn three master’s degrees—one from Biola, one from Duke, and one from Oxford. He was working on his Oxford DPhil when he died. When Nabeel came to Dallas, we would get together to discuss the Gospels. He was a sponge! He soaked up everything I said, then wrung it out and gently refuted many of my points! He had great respect for me—far greater than I deserved. I have known few people with such an insatiable desire to learn or with such an incredible impact for the sake of Christ.

Many believers throughout the world are grieving for each of these men right now. All three will be missed. They are saints of the Lord who now know the glory that will some day be revealed to all of God’s sons and daughters.

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 CSNTM.org