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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

New Discoveries on Every Page: P45, P46, P47

By: Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director

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.


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.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Godspeed, Andy Patton!

By: Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director

Andy Patton, CSNTM’s Development Manager, was hired six years ago. He had just come to Dallas to work on his Master of Theology degree. He saw the posting for an assistant to the Development Manager, and we hired him virtually on the spot. Andy has been a key player in the work of CSNTM since 2014, even while he was working on his ThM degree and getting adjusted to Texas weather. He earned his degree in 2019 and has grown in knowledge, maturity, and leadership skills. And now, after six years, he is saying goodbye. Andy will be working on his PhD in New Testament textual studies at Birmingham University in the UK, one of the best schools on the planet for such studies. He leaves a legacy of faithfulness in all aspects of CSNTM’s mission.

Many Hats

Early on at the Center, Andy had to wear several hats. He learned how to digitize and joined the staff and volunteers on missions to the National Library of Greece in Athens, where we digitized the Library’s entire collection of Greek New Testament manuscripts. And he has continued to digitize, even learning how to use the Multispectral Imaging camera in some intensive training sessions—equipment for which Andy had the largest role in raising the funds.

Significantly, during the years we were in Athens, the development team had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the work. Andy was crucial to this endeavor, and I’m sure he did much more than I’ll ever know about. The man has no ego. He is selfless, steady, disciplined, intelligent, and creative. What an amazing gift it was for CSNTM to get such a person on our staff! Andy later took on the role of Development Manager. He learned what this entailed by diving into the deep end of fundraising, helping the Center to significantly increase its annual budget.

Along with Andrew Bobo, Andy created the From the Library series for our newsletter. Always fascinating, always well researched, the blogs in FTL have become many patrons’ favorite essays to read. Mine, too.

The Embodiment of Joyful Discipline

There are too many things to say about Andy Patton; I am sure that in the coming years the list will grow exponentially. His potential as a genuine, passionate, sincere, insightful scholar-mentor is greater than any of us know. I look forward to the the detailed studies, the surprises, and the discoveries that will come from his keyboard. 

On a personal note, I think of Andy Patton as the embodiment of joyful discipline. He has been thoroughly dedicated to his tasks, he has grown significantly in innovation and creativity, and he has consistently focused on the welfare of the Center. Andy has also become a wise counselor, and as gentle a contrarian as I’ve ever known. Certainly no Yes Man, he has pushed back—and pushed forward—with knowledge and grace. We have had a number of disagreements over the years, but Andy was never disagreeable. He has not sought the limelight; instead, he has helped to shine the light on CSNTM’s mission in countless ways.

Andy, you leave a huge hole at the Center. When the University of Birmingham contacted me for a recommendation, I wrote that I wanted to make some negative comments about you. Not because I could come up with anything, but because I didn’t want to lose you! Our loss is Birmingham’s gain. I look forward to seeing you become one of the rising stars in New Testament textual studies.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

From the Library: GA 785 and GA 2933

By: Andrew J. Patton

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) Digital Library contains hundreds of Greek NT manuscripts, each with its own story to tell. In our “From the Library” series, we feature individual manuscripts from our collection in order to showcase their unique beauty and importance. This aligns with CSNTM’s mission to make NT manuscripts accessible for everyone.

While working in the reading room at the National Library of Greece in Athens, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace noticed something unusual in one of their Gospels manuscripts. He turned to the Gospel of Luke and found two copies of the beginning of the Gospel, each clearly written by two different scribes. Wallace found a manuscript within a manuscript! After sending a description of what we discovered and images of the document to the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany, they confirmed our findings. This second copy of Luke 1 was a bona fide New Testament manuscript and deserved a Gregory-Aland number. So this one codex—a form of bookmaking very similar to modern printed books—technically contains two unique New Testament manuscripts, though one is only a single page. This From the Library series piece features GA 785 and GA 2933 and how the beginning of Luke appeared twice within the same codex.  

How did this manuscript end up with two copies of the beginning of Luke? In this case, a second copy of Luke was added to the manuscript sometime after the text was written. But the text was not added as an intentional replacement for what the manuscript already contained, as the portion in the added leaf contained material already in the codex. In fact, the two copies of the Greek text agree completely. The second copy of Luke was added inadvertently. 

We can see evidence that this leaf was added later by looking at the final pages of Mark and the beginning of Luke in order.

The Gospel of Mark in this manuscript is immediately followed by the kephalaia for Luke. Kephalaia are the chapters within each book according to early tradition. At first these were numbered and then eventually titles were added. It’s common to find a table at the beginning of the Gospel listing the kephalaia. If you were reading the chapter titles in Luke and knew how many there were supposed to be, something would seem wrong. The icon of Luke was added before the end of the kephalaia.

Turning the page with the icon, you see that the back has Luke 1:1–6. Then the kephalaia for Luke continues where it left off two pages ago. After that comes the beginning of Luke, marked by a headpiece, with the same handwriting as the rest of the manuscript.

Without the inserted page, the kephalaia pages would face one another and immediately be followed by Luke. Most often we find that the portrait of the Evangelist faces the beginning of his Gospel. That’s what you can see below from this manuscript where the Gospel of Matthew begins with the icon on the left page and the text on the right. Since Luke began on the back of a page, the person who wanted the icon included in the manuscript had to add it one page before, consequently breaking up the kephalaia pages. In GA 785, all four evangelist portraits were added after the text was written. Matthew and Mark both face the beginning of their Gospel, but Luke and John’s icons were added between the kephalaia. So the inserted text of Luke 1:1–6 was not done intentionally, but only because it accompanied the icon. Likewise, the inserted icons of Mark and John also contain textual remnants from the codex in which they originally belonged. These, however, were not included in the new Gregory-Aland number because they do not contain New Testament writings.

These two medieval Gospels manuscripts, GA 785 and GA 2933, now merged together into a single book, reveal the life biblical manuscripts had before they became artifacts on a library shelf. At some point in history, a person or community wanted to add beautiful icons of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to their copy of the four Gospels that were rather simply adorned. Instead of creating new pages, they reused the older portraits from another manuscript—never mind the text on the back. Or perhaps it was the other way around and the full book to which the four portraits belonged was falling into disrepair and the owner(s) sought to produce a new copy to replace it that still incorporated the four icons from the older manuscript. Regardless of how exactly it happened in history, this story gives us a glimpse into the life of Greek New Testament manuscripts. These documents were read, corrected, decorated, and treasured. Sometimes when we look at them closely after a long time, we are surprised to find the handiwork of the past. This is one of the reasons every New Testament manuscript should be carefully examined. Even when we aren’t given intriguing textual clues, the documents themselves provide a window into the past.

We are grateful to the National Library of Greece for the opportunity to digitize their collection five years ago and for their ongoing care for their collection. Additionally, we are grateful for the work of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research for evaluating whether this manuscript leaf belonged to the official list of New Testament manuscripts.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

August 2020 Digital Library Additions

The CSNTM Library grows each month as new digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts housed in institutions all over the world are added to our website.  As we attempt to make our manuscript library more convenient, comprehensive, and accessible, we provide access to manuscripts digitized by others who permit access to their images in CSNTM’s library or by providing links to the holding institution’s digital images if we cannot post them ourselves. Since July, we have added the following manuscripts to our digital library:

P23—Digital images of the papyrus from the Suprlock Museum of World Cultures, University of Illinois.

GA 022—Digital images of the majuscule from The Morgan Library & Museum (New York).

GA 076—Digital images of the majuscule from The Morgan Library & Museum (New York).

GA 678—Digital images of the minuscule from Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Museum Repository (Wahshington, D.C.).

GA 705—Digital images of the minuscule from Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Museum Repository (Wahshington, D.C.).

GA Lect 1788—Digital images of the minuscule from The Cleveland Museum of Art.

GA Lect 1962—Digital images of the minuscule from the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, University of Chicago Library.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Interviews With the Authors: Myths and Mistakes—John Meade

Introduction: Leigh Ann Thompson | Interview: Madi Cannon and John Meade

Soon after the release of Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, we had the opportunity to ask John Meade, one of the authors of the book, a few questions about his contribution. This book aims to offer clarification and helpful information about manuscript data and how it influences our understanding of the reliability of the text of the New Testament.

John Meade is an associate professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary and Co-Director of the Text & Canon Institute. His research interests include textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, the canon of Scripture, biblical theology, Origen’s Hexapla, and the Septuagint. He recently was a co-author of the book The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis.

Meade writes a chapter called “Myths about Canon: What the Codex Can and Can’t Tell Us,” in which he challenges the misconception that there is a connection between the codex, a precursor to the modern book form, and the canon, which is the list of books accepted in the New Testament.

What made you interested in studying textual criticism and the biblical canon?

I’ve always had an interest in history and when people lived and how key events took place. When I became a Christian, I was immediately interested in the history that the Bible tells. But it wasn’t until later that I became fascinated in the history of the Book itself. My first exposure to the differences in the manuscripts occurred while reading the English Bible, since I paid attention to the italicized notes at the bottom of the page and learned there were variants. While reading the Gospel according to Mark as a new Christian, I first encountered the note “these verses do not appear in the earliest manuscripts,” and was not a little puzzled and perplexed. These readings began to kindle a search for the truth of how and when we got the Bible. In part, this pursuit took me to Bible college and seminary where I began to learn the biblical languages and textual criticism for exegesis. In these courses, I finally learned how to think about the text and its variants and eventually went on to edit the hexaplaric materials for Job 22–42 as part of my doctoral dissertation. The issue of the biblical canon chose me. For some reason, younger students began to ask me how our Bible has the books it does. The search for that answer took me from reading classic works of scholarship on the canon to the primary Jewish and Christian sources themselves. My interest in these topics continues to grow with every research and writing project on them.

Many people think there is a connection between the codex and the concept of canon. Why is it important to correct people’s misconceptions about a perceived relationship between codex and canon?

Well, you’re right that many people think there is a connection between the material codex and the conceptual canon. I also thought this connection existed at one time. But as one studies early Christian comments on the canon and what books they considered to be “in” and which books they considered to be “out,” I realized that we cannot simplistically conclude that “codex equals canon” or even speculate about how the codex may have contributed to the development of the canon. For example, the famous Codex Sinaiticus contains the traditional 27 books of our New Testament plus the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. Both of these works, especially the Shepherd, were important, early Christian works, but no church father who drafted a canon list ever included the book in it. But if the codex is thought to be a representation of the canon or to have a direct influence on the canonical shape of the New Testament, then one might conclude that at least the one who ordered the codex considered these two other books as part of the canon. The problem with this conclusion, of course, is that we have no explicit comment from the same time period that these extra books were in the canon, but we do have explicit comment that they were useful and were read by early Christians. In my chapter, I concluded that we should let the canon lists define the canon, and we should let the evidence of codices show us what books early Christians were reading.

You explain that canon lists provide the contents and boundaries of canonical Scripture. How can people benefit from understanding the process of canon formation and how canonical Scripture was defined?

Well, the challenge here for us is imagining that the Bible did not usually come with a list of its contents nor did it regularly include only all of the books of the New Testament. Furthermore, there were many other books that Christians were reading as I mentioned above, but they were not recognized as canon. Thus, the biblical canon did not fall out of heaven on a sheet. Divine providence guided ecclesiastical processes towards the recognition of the biblical canon. The Four Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline Letter collection were all well recognized from the second century. After a much longer time, the General Epistles came together in the fourth century (cf. Cyril of Jerusalem in 350 AD). Revelation was well received in the second century but then disputed in the third century only to become recognized as canonical in the Greek and Latin churches again in the fourth century. Therefore, the appearance of canon lists is the final phase of canon formation. When Athanasius, for example, sat down and listed all the books of the Old and New Testaments, he did not invent the canon but was the first to list all of the books of the traditional New Testament without dispute.

You mention that early Christians would place two types of Scripture in codices, but they were conceptually distinct. What are these two types of scripture and what do canon lists reveal about their use in the early church? How do we know they were conceptually distinct?

Since early Christians used graphe (usually translated “Scripture”) to designate writings in their lists and writings not in their lists and use the verb form gegraptai, “it has been written,” to cite passages from books in their lists and from books not in their lists, their conception of “Scripture” was wider than their conception of the canon. This observation is interesting, but we are not left to wonder about it too long. Several early Christians like Athanasius and Rufinus list the canonical books first, and then they list books like the Shepherd of Hermas in a secondary list of books only to be read and that were not considered of the same status as the canonical books. The books to be read, we might call “useful scripture,” while the former books were called “canonical scripture.” On the one hand, the canon lists reveal that early Christians had a firm canon upon which to establish authoritative doctrine, and on the other hand, the lists also show that they read other books like Clement’s Letters or the Shepherd of Hermas with great benefit but these books were not to be used to establish doctrine. Thus, once we understand their own biblical theory with its tiers of religious literature, we can then see why early Christians would not have a problem putting the two kinds of books together in the same codex as long as their conceptual distinctions between the two kinds of books were maintained.

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