Tag Archives: Textual Criticism

Wallace-Ehrman debate on the reliability of the text of the New Testament

The following announcement comes from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts web site here:

On October 1, 2011 Dr. Bart D. Ehrman and CSNTM’s Executive Director, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, debated the reliability of the text of the New Testament at Southern Methodist University. This was the largest debate over the text of the New Testament in history. A professional film crew recorded the debate, which is now available to you. In this exciting dialogue you have the opportunity to listen to two leading scholars talk about this issue from opposing viewpoints. Can we trust the text of the New Testament? You decide.

The DVD is priced at only $15.50 plus shipping and handling. Currently only the USA format (NTSC) is available. Pick yours up today.

The DVD is copyrighted by CSNTM; please do not replicate or distribute it.

Click here to order the DVD.

“Tischendorf was an honorable man and not a thief!”

If you have an interest in learning the “other side” of the Tischendorf-Sinaiticus matter, I suggest you read the English article from The Art Newspaper here.

What follows below is the comment left by Alexander Schick yesterday. I found it in my spam this morning and have marked it as approved. So far it has not shown up among the comments. I wanted to share this info with our readers, so I have elevated it to a blog entry. I knew there was controversy over the matter. Schick’s mother tongue is German. I have corrected spelling of a few words, but otherwise left the comment as I received it. In my post of yesterday I was telling about the letter posted at Saint Catherine’s. Here is the “other side” of the story. Our thanks to Schick for this information.

— • —

Alexander Schick (responsible for the edition of the Tischendof letters still in posession of the Tischendorf-family)

Your comment about Tischendorf”s letter at St. Catherine monastery. The letter and the explanation of the monks must be seen in a total new light!

The new discovery of the documents related to the Codex Sinaiticus in the archives of the Russian foreign ministry was a big surprise! Scholars hoped, that these documents could appear [be]cause of the international digital-project. A scholar-dream comes true! These donation documents which show, that the Codex Sinaticus was given by the monks as a gift to Alexander II. you can find online with pictures and translations http://www.nlr.ru/eng/exib/CodexSinaiticus/zah/

Worth to study! Everyone can now see, that Tischendorf was an honorable man and not a thief!

You can also find inline the letter of guarantee by Prince A. B. Lobanov-Rostovsky to Archbishop and the community of Mt Sinai Monastery,
from 10th September 1859, which was part of the agreement in Tischendorf’s receipt. See here the picture:

Working on the letters of Tischendorf (still in the possession of the Tischendorf-Family) shows also: it was a difficult donation but it was correct done! Hopefully all the letters of Tischendorf can be published in the near future for the scholarly world. Alexander Schick

See the section about Tischendorf here:
Read also this article:

— • —

The photo below is from a slide I made at the British Museum in 1976. It shows Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus in a display case at the Museum. The manuscripts are now in the new British Library near the King’s Cross tube station.

Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus displayed in the British Museum in 1976. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Codex Sinaiticus (left) and Codex Alexandrinus (right) displayed in the British Museum in 1976. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The number of New Testament textual variants

This note is not about travel, but it is about an extremely important subject. Sometime during 2008 Daniel Wallace wrote a series of articles on the subject of Textual Variants. Due to a crash these articles were lost. Recently the one on “The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation” was recovered and posted at Parchment and Pen. Go directly to the post here.

At the bottom of his post you will see links to several Related Posts.

Earlier I posted a note about two recent lectures by Dr. Daniel Wallace here.

Jerome in Bethlehem

Recently I was reading a manuscript written by a friend on the general subject of how we got the Bible. Of course, he mentioned Jerome and his work of translating the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be called the Latin Vulgate.

The earliest English versions of the Bible were translated from the Latin Vulgate. Even though the translations of today rely mostly on the Hebrew and Greek texts, we are still indebted to the work of Jerome.

Jerome lived in Bethlehem from about 384 A.D. to 420 A.D. In the front of the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem there is a modern statue of Jerome showing him in the act of writing. Everyone always asks about the skull at the foot of the statue. Some have suggested that Jerome kept a skull on his desk to remind him of his mortality. That would do it for me!

Statue of Jerome in front of St. Catherine's Church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Jerome in front of the church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Underneath the Church of the Nativity there are a series of grottoes or caves. One of these is said to have been the place where Jerome did his work of translation and writing. This sign presently marks the place where he once lived.

The place where Jerome once lived. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The place where Jerome once lived. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reliability of the New Testament Manuscripts

Earlier I mentioned hearing Dr. Daniel Wallace speak on New Testament Textual Criticism at the annual ETS meeting. Dan is NT editor of the NET Bible and a respected textual critic. He has a DVD video of this lecture and of another one (“Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?”) available for the small sum of $15.00 plus $3 S&H. This is good, up-to-date, material on this subject. I ordered my copies this morning. Here is the info about the DVDs:

“Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?”
A lecture at an apologetics conference in Providence, Rhode Island, 2008, about whether our printed New Testaments today accurately represent the original text.

“Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the 21st Century”
A plenary lecture at the annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, 2008, on current issues in NT textual criticism.

Use this link to get to the order page: Wallace DVDs. To read a bit more about the DVDs and see comments by readers, click here.

Information about The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, which is headed by Wallace, is available here.

Text and Canon in Providence, RI

For the past few days I have been in Providence, RI, attending meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS). The theme for the ETS annual meeting was Text and Canon. I attended the four plenary session papers. These were extremely worthwhile. Here are the topics and speakers:

  • Old Testament Text – Peter J. Gentry
  • Old Testament Canon – Stephen Dempster
  • New Testament Text – Daniel B. Wallace
  • New Testament Canon – Charles E. Hill

Current, scholarly, material on these topics are needed among God’s people today.

I also attend several sessions of the NEAS. I heard Bryant Wood present evidence suggesting that Mount Sinai possibly should be identified with Gebel Khashm et-Tarif, and calling for more research in the area. This site is located about 22 miles north-northwest of the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat in the Wilderness of Paran on the current Egyptian side of the border. For more information check the Associates for Biblical Research website here.

In one session I heard Rex Geissler present some of the historical evidence for the area of ancient Urartu as the place associated with Noah’s Ark. Rex is president of Archaeological Imaging Research Consortium (ArcImaging). Over at the Biblical Studies Info Page I have several links to good photos by Rex in various parts of the world. You can get to his material at the ArcImaging page.

Bill Crouse presented material to bolster the case for an identification of the landing place of the ark with Mount Cudi in southereastern Turkey. I think Gordan Franz presented material in defense of this view also, but I was unable to be present.

There were two reports on the excavations this year at Tel Gezer in Israel.

Crossway, publisher of the English Standard Version of the Bible, has been sponsoring a special lecture for the past few years. The lecture this year featured Gregory K. Beale of Wheaton College on The Authority of Scripture: A Biblical Theology According to John’s Apocalypse. This was a great paper. Beale is author of The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary). I had heard Beale speak before, but it was a pleasure to hear him again and visit for a few moments. I am honored that my The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation is mentioned in a footnote of this commentary.

Ferrell Jenkins and Gregory K. Beale at ETS Annual Meeting. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Ferrell Jenkins and Gregory K. Beale at ETS Annual Meeting. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The book display at ETS has grown substantially over the years I have been attending the annual meetings(since 1975). The professors and others who attend get an opportunity to buy the recent publications in biblical studies at a sizable discount. I buy very few these days, but I have taken advantage of this opportunity over the years.

Well, its on to Boston for more meetings.

For a Florida guy, I must say that it is cold up here.

Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo

As the term implies, Old Cairo is the oldest section of Cairo, Egypt. It is sometimes called Coptic Cairo. Visitors may see the Coptic Museum where some of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts are displayed. The last time I was in Cairo, in 2005, the museum was closed for some restoration. I am hopeful this will not be the case the next time.

The Church of St. Sergius is located in the Coptic area. Legend has it that Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus stayed here when they fled from Herod the Great. The New Testament records all we really know about their stay in Egypt.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15 ESV)

The Romans built a fortress in the area of Old Cairo called Babylon. Some remnants of the fortress can be seen.

Of special interest is the Ben Ezra Synagogue. It was here that the 140,000 Cairo Geniza fragments of Hebrew and Jewish literature were found. The collection of material dating back to as early as the 9th and 10th century A.D. is now housed in Cambridge, England. This link will take you to some good information about the collection. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls these biblical fragments represented our oldest examples of the Hebrew biblical text.

This photo shows the interior of the restored Synagogue. Of course, few Jews live in Egypt now.

Ben Ezra Synagogue after restoration. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ben Ezra Synagogue after restoration. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The historical credibility of the Gospel of John

Over at Parchment and Pen, Dan Wallace has written on “The Gospel of John and Historical Realibility – Part 1. Already I am looking forward to Part 2+. Wallace says,

In 1844, the Tübinger Jahrbuch published an essay by F. C. Baur to the effect that John’s Gospel should be dated no earlier than AD 160, and probably closer to 170.

Everyone who has studied New Testament introduction knows that this view was dominant for nearly a century. Wallace tells what rocked Baur’s view:

Ninety years after Baur first published his thesis on John, a young doctoral student studying at Manchester University came across a scrap of papyrus in the John Rylands Library. Colin H. Roberts was intrigued by the papyrus fragment, which had been excavated decades earlier from rubbish heaps in Egypt. It was only 2 & ½ inches by 3 & ½ inches, but its importance far outweighed its size. Roberts immediately recognized it as a fragment of John’s Gospel—chapter 18, verses 31 to 33 on one side, and chapter 18, verses 37 and 38 on the other, to be exact. He sent the photographs of the fragment to three of the leading papyrologists in Europe. Each one reported independently that this fragment should be dated, on paleographical grounds, between AD 100 and AD 150. A fourth scholar disagreed, arguing that the fragment should be dated in the 90s of the first century!

This tiny fragment of John’s Gospel rocked the scholarly near-consensus on the date of John, for it is impossible for a copy to be written before the original text is produced. It effectively sent two tons of German scholarship to the flames. As one wag put it, “This manuscript must have been written when the ink on the original text was barely dry.”

A number of years ago, while leading a tour of the British Isles, I called the Rylands Library at the University of Manchester to ask if I could see the Rylands Fragment. After being assured that I could, I took the train from York to Manchester. At the time, the little fragment was between two pieces of glass taped around the edge. There is only one piece of the fragment, but the image below (from a library slide) shows both sides.

We think the Gospel of John was written by John in Ephesus sometime during the 80s, but this manuscript is thought to have originated in Egypt between A.D. 100 and 150 (or earlier?). This is a small illustration of the rapid spread and copying of the Gospel.

The John Rylands Library has a page devoted to the fragment here.

Greek NT Manuscripts Discovered in Albania

Daniel B. Wallace reports on the discovery of what is being called a “treasure trove” of Greek New Testament manuscripts. Wallace heads up the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org). Last summer a team went to the National Archive in Tirana, Albania, to photograph some manuscripts.

According to Wallace, there are now 5752 New Testament manuscripts known and catalogued. These range from the small John Rylands fragment of the Gospel of John to complete manuscripts of the New Testament.

Seventeen formerly lost manuscripts were found to be in the Albanian archive. This was not the most exciting part of the discovery in Albania. Wallace explains,

This was not the only good news of the day, nor even the most momentous. The catalog revealed several other Greek New Testament manuscripts that had never been catalogued by western scholars. Simple arithmetic told us this: There were forty-seven Greek New Testament manuscripts listed in the National Archive catalog, while the K-Liste noted only thirty in Albania (thirteen plus the seventeen that had been presumed lost). Thus, Tirana was housing at least seventeen manuscripts unknown to western scholarship and as many as thirty-four! Since the dawn of the 21st century, an average of two or three Greek New Testament manuscripts is brought to light each year. A cache of 17 to 34 manuscripts is a remarkable find, regardless of the age and pedigree of the manuscripts.

Codex Beratinus from the 6th century was the oldest manuscript in the Archive.

The oldest manuscript in the collection is Codex Beratinus, a codex that had been dyed in purple, with silver and gold letters written on it. Containing only Matthew and Mark today, this codex, written in the sixth century, is very rare because it is a royal codex. Only a handful of purple biblical codices still exist.

You may read the complete account here.

Wallace mentions one of the manuscripts that does not contain the account of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). He gives us a good discussion of how textual critics deal with this question.

The Parchment and Pen blog has carried a series of articles on textual criticism. To find all of these worthwhile articles scroll down and look for Dan Wallace Contra Mundane in the left column. Click here and look for these good articles.

Back to travel. The whole issue of determining the original text of the New Testament comes down to some practical issues. A visit to Israel and Jordan might include the following places:

  • Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28). Or should it be Bethabara?
  • The Pool of Betheda (John 5:2). Or should it be Bethzatha, Bethsaida, or Belzetha? And should that verse (4) about the stirring of the water even be in the text?
  • The country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28). Or should it be Gergesenes or Gerasenes?

A news release about the Albanian manuscript discovery may be read here. A PDF copy is available here.

Added Note: Video report. WFAA, Dallas, aired a brief report about Dr. Wallace and the Albanian discovery. I could not get it to work in Firefox, but it is o.k. in Explorer. Click here. I wish TV and newspaper reporters could think of something better than “a modern Indiana Jones!”