Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dan Wallace responds on (formerly) ‘First-century Mark’

Over on his blog, Dan Wallace has just written a post about his involvement with the fragment formerly known as “First-century Mark.” We now know, thanks in part to this post by Dan, that P. Oxy. 5345 is the fragment formerly known as “first-century Mark” and that it is not, therefore, first-century. Instead, the editors, Dirk Obbink and Daniela Colomo, date it to the 2nd/3rd century (see Elijah’s post). This is important because we have known for quite some time that the first-century date was based on the expertise of Dirk Obbink. Apparently he changed his mind before Dan even made the initial announcement, but Dan didn’t know. So, why was it ever dated first century? I don’t know.

In any case, here is the first part of Dan’s post.
There has been a flurry of announcements and comments on the internet about the “First-Century Mark Fragment” (FCM) ever since Elijah Hixson posted a blog on Evangelical Textual Criticism this morning. As many know, I signed a non-disclosure agreement about this manuscript in 2012 sometime after I made an announcement about it in my third debate with Bart Ehrman at North Carolina, Chapel Hill (February 1, 2012). I was told in the non-disclosure agreement not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published. Consequently, I am now free to speak about it.

The first thing to mention is that yes, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5345, published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 83 (2018), is the same manuscript that I spoke about in the debate and blogged about afterward. In that volume the editors date it to the second or third century. And this now is what has created quite a stir.

In my debate with Bart, I mentioned that I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. So, I must first apologize to Bart Ehrman, and to everyone else, for giving misleading information about this discovery. While I am sorry for publicly announcing inaccurate facts, at no time in the public statements (either in the debate or on my blogsite) did I knowingly do this. But I should have been more careful about trusting any sources without my personal verification, a lesson I have since learned.
 Do read the rest of his post for his personal history with the fragment. 

“First-Century Mark,” Published at Last? [Updated]

It looks like we are finally getting that First-Century Mark (henceforth, FCM) fragment everyone has been talking about for years. (By the designation “FCM” I am not implying that it actually dates to the first century. I don’t know the date yet. I only mean that “FCM” is probably the actual papyrus that has been reported to be the first-century Mark fragment.)

I have not yet seen the latest volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The Egypt Exploration Society’s website shows vol. LXXXII as the most current volume, at least as of today. However, Amazon informs me that volume LXXXIII was published last month. When I first saw it, there was only one copy available. It has since been sold. The description begins:
Volume LXXXIII of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri continues our publication of biblical texts, including what is only the second Egyptian witness to the Epistle of Philemon as well as further early witnesses to the text of Mark and Luke, and an amateur copy of excerpts from Ezekiel’s Exagoge.
Though it is also exciting for NT textual criticism that we will see fragments of Luke and Philemon, the key thing to notice here is that the description mentions an early fragment of Mark.

We can get a bit more information from the Oxford Faculty of Classics publications page:

Both the Mark (P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345) and the Luke (P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5346) fragments are being edited by Daniela Colomo and Dirk Obbink. The reported publication date of 2017 is probably just a delay in publication, which would not be the first time we’ve encountered such a delay with this fragment. I can’t see a date assigned to the papyri yet (UPDATE: see below), but we can piece together a trail of breadcrumbs and arrive at the conclusion that P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 is probably the infamous First-Century Mark—even if the date is not given as first-century. Here is the trail:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Siker’s Liquid Scripture

A recent book from Jeffrey Siker may interest readers here. It’s called Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World (Fortress, 2017). Claire Clivaz has recently given it a nice review in RBL and she ends with this:
Lastly, it is worth considering an important point enlightened by Siker: “the ready availability of so many translations in digital form results in a certain destabilizing of the biblical text” (5). In each chapter Siker tries to figure out what will become of the Bible online; for example, “The unbound Bible on a screen does not lend itself to an immediate awareness of any particular shape of the Bible, canonical or otherwise. From this perspective skimming the Bible on screens would necessarily seem to undermine understanding the Bible in its canonical frame” (69). This situation could still be strengthened by the audio Bible (171–74). In this “Fast Times and Slow Times” situation (242), a last chapter could have been added on the growing diversification of the Greek editions of the New Testament, with the newest one, the Tyndale House Greek New Testament. The flexibility of the Greek New Testament text itself is surely one of the clearer features of the digital Bible era.
One thing I’d like to see is a study that compares people who read the Bible primarily or exclusively digitally and those whose digital reading is used only to supplement their reading of a physical book. Maybe that’s in Siker’s book. But I didn’t catch it in Clivaz’s review.

Here’s the publisher’s description.
The electronic Bible is here to stay‒‒packaged in software on personal computers, available as apps on tablets and cell phones. Increasingly, students look at glowing screens to consult the Bible in class, and congregants do the same in Bible study and worship. Jeffrey S. Siker asks, what difference does it make to our experience of Scripture if we no longer hold a book in our hands, if we again “scroll” through Scripture? How does the “flow” of electronic Scripture change our perception of the Bible’s authority and significance? Siker discusses the difference made when early Christians adopted the codex rather than the scroll and Gutenberg began the mass production of printed Bibles. He also reviews the latest research on how the reading brain processes digital texts and how churches use digital Bibles, including American Bible Society research and his own surveys of church leaders. Siker asks, does the proliferation of electronic translations reduce the perceived seriousness of Scripture? Does it promote an individualistic response to the Bible? How does the change from a physical Bible affect liturgical practice? His synthesis of the advantages and risks of the digitized Bible merit serious reflection in classrooms and churches alike.
Remember our recent discussion about how present technology affects our view of past technology. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Meade on Canon on Camera

My sources tell me that John Meade is currently hiding out in the outer banks, camping or some such thing. Lucky for you, he was recently captured on camera talking about all things canon with several faculty from Southeastern. Take a watch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

4th Annual Textual Criticism Summer School in Italy

Ferrara in 2016
Paolo Trovato is once again putting on his Summer School in Textual Criticism in Ferrara, Italy. The dates are July 2nd–July 7th. I attended a few years ago and can recommend it as a great opportunity. And this year there appears to be an online option.

Particularly for those doing Biblical textual criticism, the chance to learn from people working deeply in the textual criticism of other texts can be particularly stimulating. Some of my most helpful conversations during my PhD were had with text critics who didn’t work on the Bible. Their outside perspective can be invaluable. I still try to read beyond Biblical textual criticism to see how scholars in other fields approach similar problems. And did I mention this is in Italy?
The Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara will offer an intensive six-day summer school in Textual Criticism. The course is designed for both graduate and PhD students (max. 20 people) from different disciplines who would like to improve their knowledge in the field of Textual Criticism and discuss their research topics with instructors and colleagues. An introduction to current theories as well as the presentation of individual research subjects will be covered in the first 3 days. The final days will be spent delving more deeply into particular aspects of Textual Criticism, both in modern and classical languages, featuring more recent developments, and discussing individual research. A free guided visit to Ferrara medieval and Renaissance Art Collections is scheduled.

Online option. The classroom meetings are live streamed for registered students ( ). They will receive an email with the link and a personalized username and pw to login.

Among the programme instructors you will find Dàniel Kiss (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Federico Marchetti (Ferrara), Roberto Rosselli Del Turco (Pisa), Francesco Stella (Siena), Elisabetta Tonello (e.Campus), Luciano Formisano (Bologna) and Paolo Trovato (Ferrara). The enrolment dead-line is on 11th June.

For further information and application forms see our website: or contact the Director of the Summer School: Professor Paolo Trovato, Department of Humanities, University of Ferrara, Italy, with the subject line: SUMMER SCHOOL
The full program is available here

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lectures: A material history of the Bible in England 1200–1600

If you happen to be in Cambridge for the summer, Cambridge University Library is hosting a series on the Bible in England that looks good.

From the rise of mass-produced Vulgates in the thirteenth century to the proliferation of innovative vernacular prints in the sixteenth, five lectures will chart the history of the Bible in England across print and reform. Manuscript and early printed bibles from the collections of Cambridge University Library will support a new history of the Bible in England, one which blurs the boundaries between reform and conservatism, and between the Church and heresy. Among their pages we will encounter a hidden portrait of Jane Seymour, the marks of scholars, children and crooks, and the discovery of America.

Each lecture will be accompanied by a display of manuscripts and books from the Library’s collections and will be followed by a discussion led by a respondent.
  • 22 May — The Late Medieval Bible: Beyond Innovation
  • 29 May — Wycliffite Bibles and the Limits of Orthodoxy
  • 5 June — 1535 and the First Two English Bibles
  • 12 June — The Great Bible as a Useless Book
  • 19 June — The Bibles of Edward VI and Beyond: Moving Fast Forward
Each lecture will take place at 5:30pm in the Milstein Room at Cambridge University Library. Lectures are free and open to everyone.

HT: CUL Special Collections 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Where did the Byzantine text come from?

In my occasional interactions with Byzantine-text-preferring folks, I have been puzzled by how many of them are unaware of modern research on the Byzantine text and its development. Some of these folks sincerely seem to think that Westcott and Hort’s views of the matter are still what modern textual critics believe. This is not the case. I know of no text critic today who would argue that the Byzantine text as we find it promulgated in the minuscules is the result of a concerted fourth-century recension.  

So, what do scholars think? The most serious work on the Byzantine text’s development has been done by Klaus Wachtel, especially in his 1995 dissertation. But few Byzantine advocates seem aware of it, probably because it remains untranslated into English (sadly).

Fortunately, a number of Wachtel’s papers from over the years are easily accessible online—and in English. So, I thought I would point out just one of the places where he has explained his view. This is in the hope that those who hold to a Byzantine priority position, a Majority text position, or an Ecclesiastical text position (I realize there are differences in these views) will see that modern eclecticism has developed since 1881 on the question of the Byzantine text. In fact, Wachtel’s animating goal in his dissertation was refuting the view of a fourth-century recension.

In any case, here is Wachtel talking about the Gospels:
The term “text-type”, however, still carries along relics of the old division of the New Testament manuscript tradition into three or four “recensions”. If we take the whole evidence into account, a picture emerges that is far more complex. The external criteria applied when variants are assessed have to be re-defined accordingly. To this end we have to focus on individual manuscripts and explore their relationships with other manuscripts. Assigning them to text-types has become obsolete.

You may ask, why then I am still referring to the “Byzantine text” myself. I am doing so, because the term aptly denominates the mainstream text form in the Byzantine empire. This mainstream has its headwaters in pre-Byzantine times, in fact in the very first phase of our manuscript tradition, and it underwent a long process of development and standardization. The final phase began with the introduction of the minuscule script in the 9th century and ended up in a largely uniform text characterized by readings attested by the majority of all Greek manuscripts from the 13th - 15th centuries counted by hundreds and thousands.

Standardization means editorial activity, and in fact, a text form so similar to the late majority text as represented by Codex Alexandrinus cannot have emerged from a linear copying process without conscious editing. It is indeed likely that the text in Codex Alexandrinus is the result of editorial activity which may have been carried out in one or, more likely, several steps. Likewise, the text of the 6th century purple codices N 022 and Σ 042 certainly was not just copied from some manuscript picked at random. Diorthosis, correction, was an integral part of the copying process. Yet the assumption that a recension stood at the beginning of the formation of the Byzantine text and then penetrated the whole manuscript tradition reflects a categorically different view of the transmission history. I am going to focus on the differences between five manuscript texts to show that despite intense editorial activity the Byzantine majority text is the result of a process of reconciliation between different strands of transmission.*
I myself have found this view persuasive at least as far as the Catholic Letters are concerned (though I have tweaked it just slightly). You, of course, may or may not agree with this view, but it is the most detailed and substantiated view of the Byzantine text’s origin on offer. And it is now cited as such in both the major introductions to the field (Metzger-Ehrman’s, and Parker’s).

Kirsopp Lake’s diagram of WH’s view of textual history. He rejected this too.

No major textual critic, to my knowledge, holds to Westcott and Hort’s fourth-century revision view anymore though it may well linger among those in the wider NT guild. My point here is only to say that Byzantine prioritists (of whatever stripe) need to address Wachtel’s arguments not Westcott and Hort’s.

Here ends my public service announcement.

* Klaus Wachtel, “The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?” paper delivered at SBL in 2009, online here.