Friday, March 23, 2018

‘Father Forgive Them’ – The Variant in Luke 23:34a

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (6)

This is the last of a series of blog post [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. The series discusses the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

The previous variant that we discussed (Lk 22:43-44) was substantial and important. It makes quite a difference how Jesus is portrayed by Luke whether or not the episode of the strengthening angel and the sweat like drops of blood is present. The final variant of this series is, in my view, even more important and one with considerable theological ramifications. Come to think of it, I am not sure if there are many variants that have a bigger impact on New Testament Christology than Luke 23:34a.

It concerns the presence or absence of the following words

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν· πάτερ, ἄφες αὐτοῖς· οὐ γὰρ οἴδασιν τί ποιοῦσιν.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

None of the other evangelists has any reference to Jesus prayer of forgiveness for those who are crucifying him; the presence of these words make a unique contribution, their omission changes Luke’s narrative considerably. And just to draw the modern battle lines: the THGNT has these words as part of the main text, though signalling the problems with a diamond in the apparatus. NA26-28 has these words in white square brackets, claiming that these words are certainly not part of the original text of the gospel but have been inserted at an early stage.

Here is the Greek evidence, and as far as the omission goes I believe it is complete:

omit P75 ℵ2a B D* W Θ 070 579 1241
text ℵ* ℵ2b A C D3 K L N Q Δ Ψ 0211 f1 f13 33 158 700 713 892 1071 l844 Maj

[IGNTP-Luke mentions 0124, but that witness is now combined with 070.]

There are at least two similarities between this textual variant and Lk 22:43-44, the angel and the sweat like drops of blood.
The first is found in the supporting evidence. This was the evidence for the omission of Lk 22:43-44

omit 22:43-44 P75 ℵ2a A B N R T W 0211 f13(but adds after Mt 26:39, as does a later corrector of C) 158 579 713 1071* l844.

The witnesses that omit at both places are P75 ℵ2a B W 579. The ones that omit in 22:43-44 and not at 23:34a are A N 0211 f13 158 713 1071 l844 (R and T are only extant at the first place) and those that omit 23:34a but not 22:43-44 are D Θ 1241 (070 only extant at 23:34a). The five witnesses that omit at both places form something of a solid core, it is not remarkable to see P75 B W 579 together (and on their combined testimony alone I am prepared to consider any reading quite seriously).

A second similarity is the nature of the longer reading. Neither in 23:43a or in 22:43-44 is there a clear source of influence. Yet there are plenty of thematic links with the Lukan corpus. Stephen’s words in Acts 7:60 (κύριε, μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς ταύτην τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’) convey a similar sentiment as 23:34a but the wording is quite different. We have a shared theme rather than a source of harmonisation. The same is true for the shared notion of ‘not knowing what they are doing’ in 23:34a and Acts 3:17 (κατὰ ἄγνοιαν πράξατε ‘you acted in ignorance’). One could even argue that Acts 3:17 presupposes something like Luke 23:34a. Yet again, it seems unlikely that Acts 3:17 provided the wording that we find in our passage.

So what are the arguments for or against?
  • The main argument against the originality of 23:34a is that it is left out in a part of the earliest evidence.
  • If these words were original, there does not seem to be a good motivation for leaving it out.
  • A reconstructed background is that the words in question may be an agraphon (Metzger’s Commentary) which is subsequently made part of the gospel-tradition for numerological reasons as it brings the number of sayings on the cross up to seven (Whitlark and Parsons).
The arguments in favour of printing the passage are:
  • The shorter text can be explained as a harmonization, this time by omission. And there are parallels elsewhere in the early manuscripts, and especially so in the Passion narratives. We have seen harmonization in the early witnesses in Matthew 27:49, and harmonization by omission in the variants in Mark 14, and I believe also in the two earlier discussed variants in Luke 22. And for those who accept the reading ‘Jesus Barabbas’ in Matthew 27:16, 17 (which I don’t) there is another example of harmonization by omission.
  • Thematically and theologically it fits the Lukan writings.
  • Metzger in his Textual Commentary mentions the destruction of Jerusalem as an event that seems in contradiction to Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness. One could go one step further and suggest that the omission is an anti-Jewish variant (in the sense that they should not be forgiven). However, as with many attempts to find a social or theological background to a textual variant, such reconstruction is rather speculative and perhaps more indicative of our desire to have a story behind a textual variant than that it provides us with a real argument. Admittedly, anti-judaism is not a strange sentiment in early Christianity (see Eubank who unpacks this line of argument).
For these reasons the Tyndale House Edition presents the text ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ as part of the original text of Luke. There seems to be enough going on in the P75 B-03 group to throw some doubt over their testimony in the big variants in the Passion narratives. The omission has – what I would call – strong external support. But this is exactly why textual criticism cannot be reduced to choosing an algorithm or preferred group of manuscripts. The reality of historical transmission is more complex and messier than any simple solution.

Some literature

Nathan Eubank, “A Disconcerting Prayer: On the Originality of Luke 23:34a”, Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010): 521-36

Jason A. Whitlark, and Mikeal C. Parsons, “The ‘Seven’ Last Words: A Numerical Motivation for the Insertion of Luke 23.34a”, New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 188-204 (see a discussion of this article on the ETC blog here)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Panel on the Christian Biblical Canon at Southeastern

Southeastern Seminary has a series of Library Talks, which apparently take different forms. For this ‘Library Talk’, they asked me to be part of a panel with two of their faculty members, Steve McKinion and Scott Kellum, to discuss the formation of the Christian Canon. The event is free and open to the public. I’m told seating is limited, so register today. If you can't attend the event, it will be recorded, and the video will be posted about two weeks after the event.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Book in the Pipeline: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament

Image from the colloquium by
Ian Nelson Mills (can you see me?).
Another new book on New Testament textual criticism is in the making: Liturgy and the Living Text of the New Testament: Papers from the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament edited by H. A. G. Houghton, Text and Studies 3.16 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018).

Publisher’s description:
The textual history of the New Testament is a dynamic tradition, reflecting differing readings, interpretations and uses of its canonical writings. Twenty years after the publication of D.C. Parker’s celebrated volume The Living Text of the Gospels, the papers in this collection provide further insight into the lives of the New Testament text. One especially important focus for the New Testament as “living text” is its use in Christian worship: individual chapters examine the importance of liturgical manuscripts in Coptic and Greek traditions, alongside consideration of broader themes related to the lectionary text. Several famous biblical passages are the subject of extended treatment, including the Pericope de Adultera, Jesus’ teaching on the Temple in Mark, and the Lukan genealogy. The contributions represent original research by an international range of scholars, first presented at the Tenth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.
I am very pleased to have received proofs a few days ago of my chapter which will open the volume, “Was There and Alexandrian Recension of the Living Text of the Gospels?,” in which I interact with Parker’s Living Text as well as the question of an Alexandrian textual recension, an issue that has received some attention after Brent Nongbri’s recent redating of Papyrus 75.

A few other blogposts related to the topic of my article here, here and here 

Here you can read all about the wonderful colloquium organized by Hugh Houghton who is also the editor of the volume.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Book: The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context

Below is the editors’ overview of the new Festschrift for John Nolland: The Earliest Perceptions of Jesus in Context: Essays in Honour of John Nolland. Thanks to Aaron White for providing it.

These essays have been written by a number of friends, colleagues and students, to mark John Nolland’s 70th birthday and to express, on our own behalf and on behalf of many others, our appreciation of John and of his work. They were presented to John Nolland at a meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research in Cambridge in July 2017.

The essays range widely over John’s own range of interests. Some essays are very much related to the context of Jesus and of the Gospels: Rainer Riesner’s discussion of the latest archaeological and historical evidence surrounding Nazareth falls very clearly into this category. Craig Evans describes the importance of Livia Julia August, the second wife of the emperor Augustus, not least in the estimation of Philip the tetrarch, and suggests that Philip’s controversial plan to build a temple to Julia in Bethsaida may be the context of Jesus’ famous promise to Peter ‘On this rock I will build my church’.

The Gospels themselves are obviously among the earliest perceptions of Jesus to which we have access,  and Armin Baum considers the much debated question of the genre of the gospels, concluding that they are closest generically to Old Testament and Jewish narratology, though with slight influence from Graeco-Roman biography. Thomas Hatina writes of the importance of Social Memory perspectives for an appreciation of the gospels, considering particularly Jesus’ quotations of Scripture and relating these to the culture and context of the evangelists.

Most of our essays are studies of the perception of Jesus within the New Testament. Tom Wright argues that Psalm 8 is a key Christological text in the gospels, and in a wide ranging article explores the text in relation to a range of themes from Adam to Davidic Messianism to the Son of man, to priesthood and temple, concluding with reflection on the coming of Yahweh and the divine identity of Jesus.

Others focus on particular gospels, notably on Luke-Acts and on Matthew,  as is appropriate in a volume dedicated to John Nolland. Darrell Bock explores one particular part of Luke’s Central Section, namely 11:24–13:9, pointing out the themes of authority and accountability running through those verses. Robert Brawley looks at the characterization of the Pharisees in Luke-Acts, finding the Lukan portrayal of their relations with Jesus to be more positive and less confrontational than has often been recognized. Yongbom Lee looks at Jesus as Son of Adam and Son of God in Luke-Acts, identifying places where Adamic Christology is important to Luke. Steve Walton focuses on the Ascension theme in Acts, showing its importance with significant implications for the divine identity of Jesus. Christoph Stenschke looks at the missionary speeches of Acts, and notices how Luke, for all his interest in the Gentile world, brings out the Jewish context of Jesus.

Daniel Gurtner takes in both Luke and Matthew,  examining the theme of the temple in both gospels, finding a rather positive view. Douglas O’Donnell looks just at  Matthew, examining the vocative kyrie as it is used in addressing Jesus, and concludes that it has divine resonances and it is not just respectful address. Roland Deines offers a rather comprehensive and insightful discussion of the generally neglected subject of the Holy Spirit in Matthew. David Wenham supports those who see the Matthean beatitudes as having a very coherent almost poetic shape, related to its Matthean context.

Of course, the rest of the New Testament apart from the gospels and Acts gives us insight into the earliest perceptions of Jesus. Craig Smith explores the theme of rest, sabbatismos, in Hebrews and relates it to Matthew 11:28–12:14. Peter Davids looks at James and 1 Peter,  noting many echoes of the traditions of Jesus in both letters, but explaining how their use of the traditions reflects their particular contexts.

John Nolland’s interests range much more widely than just the gospels, and indeed than the New Testament. He has been involved for many years in ministerial training, and it is good to have an article by former colleague Dr Eeva John on ministerial training, relating it to Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as teacher. It is also appropriate to have Eduard Schnabel’s article on  Romans 12:1, the point in Romans where Paul moves from doctrine into ethics; the article explores the meaning of  worship that is logikē. Schnabel recognizes the strength of the traditional translations ‘reasonable’ or ‘spiritual’, but prefers to look towards the ‘word’ sense of logos, suggesting that Paul is exhorting the Romans to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice that speaks and communicates with the world. This is an appropriate conclusion to our volume of essays both because John Nolland  has done so much to  help  students to engage with detailed and responsible study of the Greek text (especially in his class on ‘Advanced Greek’ on 2 Corinthians), and because his interests have included both a concern for mission – for communication – but also for Christian life and  ethics.

In bringing these essays together we honour John as someone who has’ investigated  things accurately’, so that we may ‘know the reliability of the things we have been taught’ (Lk. 1:3–4), and as a teacher, ‘discipled for the kingdom of heaven, who is like a man bringing out of his treasure things old and new’ (Matt 13:52). He is also a humble and self-effacing Christian scholar who would want to say ‘we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’ (2 Cor 4:5). We are grateful for all his service to us and to many others.

As editors we are grateful to Bloomsbury T&T Clark for their willingness to publish these essays and for all their help in doing so.

Aaron W. White, Craig A. Evans, David Wenham

We have a winner!

Congrats to Miguel M. who won our latest ETC blog giveaway. His copy of A New Approach to Textual Criticism is in the mail. For those that didn’t win, Amazon now has the paperback for just $13.28 $15.94 which is 33% 20% off. With free shipping, that’s cheaper than Tommy and I can get it with our author discount! Very good used copies can be had for even less.

Monday, March 19, 2018

‘The copy is the original’

John Meade, who is currently gallivanting around North Carolina, alerted me to an article over at aeon which is relevant to this blog. It is about the different conception of “original” and “copy” in China. I’m not sure what I think honestly, but I’ve ordered the author’s book out of curiosity and maybe that will help.

(Mini) Terracotta Army. (photo credit)
The distinction between original vs. copy is, of course, of central importance and sometimes a matter of debate in textual criticism (for example, and note our previous discussion about altering valuable art and artifacts). Here’s a snippet from the article:
The Chinese have two different concepts of a copy. Fangzhipin (仿製品) are imitations where the difference from the original is obvious. These are small models or copies that can be purchased in a museum shop, for example. The second concept for a copy is fuzhipin (複製品). They are exact reproductions of the original, which, for the Chinese, are of equal value to the original. It has absolutely no negative connotations. The discrepancy with regard to the understanding of what a copy is has often led to misunderstandings and arguments between China and Western museums. The Chinese often send copies abroad instead of originals, in the firm belief that they are not essentially different from the originals. The rejection that then comes from the Western museums is perceived by the Chinese as an insult.
I asked a relative who’s lived in China for over a decade about this quote and she sent me the following:
We had three friends over when I read your email so I asked them. They immediately described the first concept, Fangzhipin, and then had a hard time describing the second, fuzhipin, especially in a way that answered the question of “do you see it as the same as the original?” I’d probably want to ask a few more people but my feeling from them was that the description [above] is accurate.
Read the whole article here

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Alan Taylor Farnes on Scribal Habits in Copies with Extant Exemplars

We are delighted to feature the newly baked Dr. Alan Taylor Farnes in this guest blogpost where he summarizes his work on scribal habits in copies where the exemplar is preserved. Well done Dr. Farnes!

Scribal Habits in New Testament Copies with Extant Exemplars

As many of you may know, I have recently completed my dissertation at the University of Birmingham. The following is a summary with some conclusions, ramifications, and next steps to take.

In 2007, James R. Royse published his exceptional study on the scribal habits of six early New Testament papyri. In his work, Royse revolutionized text critics’ understanding of the text critical canon lectio brevior potior or, “the shorter reading is preferred”[1] by demonstrating that the scribes he studied tended to omit more than they added. In its place he coined a new canon which he called lectio longior potior or, “the longer reading is preferred.”

One disadvantage of Royse’s method is, because the papyri he studies had no known exemplar. he was forced to reconstrcut what the hypothetical exemplar probably said and then determine how the scribe copied the hypothetical exemplar. This is obviously a completely normal procedure in textual criticism. Royse admitted that his method had flaws and called for an examination of another set of manuscripts—those with surviving exemplars. Royse wrote: “there has been (it seems) a failure to explore the problem of scribal habits for the text of the New Testament in the best possible case, namely where the Vorlage of an extant manuscript is also known to be extant. In such a situation we can virtually look over the scribe’s shoulder and compare the text he is copying with his result.”[2]

My research has attempted to support or disprove Royse’s new text critical canon that, in fact, the longer reading is preferred. Rather than analyzing early papyri for which no exemplar remains, I chose to identify and analyze manuscripts which have a known exemplar.

I have therefore identified twenty-two New Testament manuscripts which have known extant exemplars (see Table here). Of these twenty-two I chose four manuscripts, which are italicized in the Table, and their copies to transcribe, collate, and analyze to determine how well the scribes copied the text of their exemplar.