Friday, September 30, 2016

On the disappearance of accented indefinite τις

Nowadays students are routinely informed that there's only one accent which matters in Greek: τίς, τί and related forms  mean 'who' and 'what', while τις, τι etc. mean 'a certain'.

That's probably true as far as the texts which modern students read, but it's wrong from a manuscript perspective, wrong historically, and wrong if you care about how the NT was pronounced.

Two passages to illustrate:

Matthew 11:27 where modern editions tend to print οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα τις ἐπιγινώσκει 'nor does anyone know the father'

However, this is not what the manuscripts contain and we can see how the accent has dropped out during the history of printed editions:

GA 03

GA 560

GA 757

GA 788

GA 1424

Erasmus 1516

Stephanus 1550

Mill 1707

John 13:29 where modern editions tend to print ἵνα τι δῷ 'that he [Judas] might give something'

GA 560

GA 771

GA 788

GA 1424

GA 2907

Erasmus 1516

Stephanus 1550

Mill 1707

Grave accents marking indefinites are also found in manuscripts, but they are much rarer than acute ones. The strong distinction between accented forms for a question and unaccented for an indefinite is artificial. It all depends how much emphasis there is on the indefinite. Manuscripts do not always agree on this, but on many occasions they present wide agreement against modern editions in seeing an indefinite form as marked. I say, let's bring back the accent.

[Copious thanks should be given to the CSNTM for providing images used here and to Peter Montoro for his work in reviewing enclitic vs non-enclitic accents for the Greek New Testament in preparation at Tyndale House, Cambridge, under the editorship of Dirk Jongkind.]

New Article by Roberta Mazza on P39 (among other things)

Roberta Mazza, ‘Papyri, Ethics, and Economics: A Biography of P.Oxy. 15.1780 (P 39)’, Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologysts, 52 (2015), 113-142.

Abstract: Discussion of the retrieval, distribution, and sale of P.Oxy. 15.1780, a fragment of the Gospel of John (𝔓39), currently in the Green Collection, and the ethical issues involved. An appendix publishes early correspondence about the acquisition of the Rylands papyri.

PMH: This is an interesting article which traces the history (a.k.a. cultural biography) of P39 within the wider context of movements of money and manuscripts in recent years. If you’ve lived through it, this account will refresh your memory; if you haven’t, then you’ll probably find it an interesting and informative read. Our blog plays a (small) part in the story, as does the Green Collection / Museum of the Bible (the current owners of P39). 

The ethical dimension could be brought right up to date by comparison with the (new) SBL Policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts.

The ESV Reverses Course

After announcing last month that they were not going to make any more changes to the ESV ever, Crossway publishers has reversed their decision. The original post has been removed, but it contained some very odd language about the new text being a “permanent text edition” which would remain “unchanged forever, in perpetuity.”

So much for that.

Apparently, they got enough negative feedback (see here and here, for example) that they have reversed course. This seems like a good decision. I didn’t really see the point of the original one. I generally prefer the ESV and use it when I can.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Question from Mike Holmes on the NRSV and UBS3


Mike Holmes sends this note for readers of the blog:
In the preface to the NRSV, the Committee states that the NRSV is based on UBS3, and that “Only in very rare instances have we replaced the text ... by an alternative.” I know of two, at Luke 11:33 and Acts 16:12, but am wondering if there is a comprehensive list. So, here’s my question: does anyone on the ETC Blog have or know of a list of UBS3—NRSV textual differences?
Any help for Mike? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Spirit Testimony

When Hoskier in his Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse talks about Spirit testimony, he means something different from what Peter Gurry was talking about (here).

The following is taken from page xxxviii in Hoskier:

Monday, September 26, 2016

How long will it take to completely revise the Nestle edition?

We all know that the revisions to the Catholic Epistles were printed in the NA28 and that the revisions for Acts, John, and Revelation are underway as I write. But how long will it take to have a completely revised edition of Nestle? Writing in 2000, here is what Klaus Wachtel said:
A simple calculation shows how important this aspect [of collaboration] is. The first instalment of the Editio Critica Maior comprising the Letter of James was published in 1997. We sent the second instalment (the Letters of Peter, sixteen of 670 pages in the Nestle-Aland pocket edition, without the ten pages of James) to the publisher in 1999. This means that 654 Nestle-Aland pages remain to be edited and that would take another 82 years for the edition to be completed, if we keep working on our own, provided that funding will be available to about the same extent overt whole time. One does not have to be a prophet to see that it is unlikely that we will reach our goal under these condition. This means that it is an urgent task to establish an effective infrastructure for cooperation with editors and other collaborators from outside the Münster institute.*
So we need more places like Münster, Birmingham (UK), and Wuppertal. Perhaps it's time that a US institute joined the labor force.

*From Klaus Wachtel, “Editing the Greek New Testament on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century,” Literary and Linguistic Computing 15, no. 1 (2000): 43–50 (48 n. 2).

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation is online

Over on τον βιβλιον του προσοπου, Jan Krans announces the public arrival of the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation. It has now been added to the NT.VMR. This is a fantastic resource many years in the making. Huge congrats to Jan and crew for getting to this stage. Go check it out.

You can learn lots of fascinating things. For example, Alexandros Pallis once proposed removing all of Rom 3.21-26! They should have heeded Bengel’s words: “No conjecture is ever to be regarded. It is far safer to bracket any portion of the text, which may seem inexplicable.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Bounty of Text Critical Reviews in the Latest NovT

Roughly the number of books
J. K. Elliott reviews in a year.
Here is a list of what is reviewed in the latest issue of Novum Testamentum with some snippets that caught my eye. All but one of these are reviewed by J. K. Elliott with his characteristic flare for spotting misstatements and typos.

(In the spirit of the latter, I might mention that the ECM for the Catholic Epistles does not restrict itself to manuscripts from before A.D. 1000 as claimed on p. 420. Rather it gives evidence for the transmission history up to A.D. 1000 but it does so using many manuscripts from well after that cut off.)

Anyway, enjoy!

Marcus Sigismund, Martin Karrer and Ulrich Schmid (eds.) Studien zum Text der Apokalypse (Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter, 2015)
This rich array of well-documented facts and figures in the volume makes it a worthy research tool to sit along other long-lasting volumes in this prestige series. We congratulate Martin Karrer, his Mitarbeiter and other colleagues for their steadfast progress towards the goal of publishing the definitive 21st-century edition of Revelation.
J.K. Elliott, A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts. Third Edition. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 160.
Information about manuscript families is missing from the third edition. There are no longer cross-references to 07 or 041 for manuscripts which are treated in studies of Family E or Family Π. Even though Family 1 and Family 13 have separate entries at the beginning of the section on Minuscules, the list of members is now absent: similarly, the indication has been dropped from the entries for manuscripts such as 118, 131, 205 and 209 that they also feature in publications on the whole family. No doubt this can quickly be put right in the electronic version, but those who prefer printed books will once again have to return to the second edition.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Does Scripture’s Self-Attestation Apply to Textual Criticism?

The Reformed tradition has long held that one of the means by which Christians are convinced of Scripture’s divine origin is through the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit is essentially one in which he removes the blinders from our eyes to see the truth and beauty of the Bible. Both these qualities were there before, but it takes the work of the Spirit to help us appreciate them (in both senses of the word). As the Westminster Confession puts it, “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (§1.5). This quality is also sometimes also referred to as Scripture’s self-attestation. Scripture impresses its own nature and authority upon us, we might say. Many Christians can attest to this feature of the Bible in their own experience.

In this post, I don’t intend to defend this particular doctrine; I take its truth for granted. Instead, I want to ask those of us who hold to this doctrine to reflect on the level to which it applies. In particular, I want to ask if (a) the doctrine applies to canonicity, does it also (b) apply to textual variants? If the Spirit attests to the divine qualities of Genesis or Jude, does he also attest to the divine ending of Mark’s Gospel or to the right form of Jeremiah?

Friday, September 09, 2016

Textual Criticism on the Moon

Just to show that some of us are not the only ones procrastinating about the absence or presence of a single letter.

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Read here

Thursday, September 08, 2016

A Newly Customized VMR

Last week Troy Griffitts was in town and he showed me how to make a custom VMR. In the meantime he’s helped me do some extra editing as well and the result is that I’ve put together my own public version of the VMR. You can use it at

The basic functionality is the same. But I’ve changed the layout a bit and tried to clean up the interface. Specifically, I’ve kept the Liste from popping in and out from the left side and made the image viewer much wider. I also tried to clean up the Full Search quite a bit. I find it much easier to use now. By the way, did you know you can search for things like MS features by page? I did not. It’s handy.

The new interface. Hopefully a bit easier on the eyes.

Full search before (left) and after (right)
A few issues I’m aware of:
  • My version does not list Elliott’s bibliography. For that you need to use INTF’s Liste.
  • Some transcriptions look bad because of the narrower column.
  • Not all the blue buttons in the MS viewer are what they should be.
Otherwise, I’d be grateful for any feedback from people. Troy is quite happy to let me play around with things which has been great. Ultimately, I’d like to make the three columns re-sizable and maybe simplify the functionality of the Liste Catalog if possible.

P.S. A massive thanks to Troy and others for all their work on the VMR over the years. It’s hard to imagine doing NTTC these days without it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

In Praise of Westcott and Hort’s Uncertainty

It’s not uncommon today to read criticisms of past textual scholars for their overconfidence. First among the guilty in this regard is often Westcott and Hort who titled their edition The New Testament in the Original Greek. So, for example, Eldon Epp recently referred to this title as “arrogant” and one that, along with their term “Neutral” text were “soon considered overstatements and have been abandoned.”*

Of course, Westcott and Hort did not think they could always attain the original Greek text of the NT and this fact explains many of their marginal readings, especially those discussed in the Appendix.

What I find interesting is that the charge of overconfidence seems to be of recent vintage. Closer to their own time, the much maligned editors were actually praised on occasion for their hesitance and uncertainty about attaining the original text. Here is Edward A. Hutton, for example, writing in 1911:
Our final text must therefore often be difficult of determination, and here Drs Westcott and Hort have shown their wisdom in giving a much larger number of alternative readings than any other critic, and thus better representing the present state of New Testament criticism. In other words, while the principles of criticism are satisfactory enough, the paucity of authorities makes it unsafe to be too confident in all cases. Hesitation is the truest wisdom, and in the New Testament best represents the present state of the case. Infallibility is the mark of the ignoramus, or of the charlatan. (An Atlas of Textual Criticism, p. 9).
So which is it? Were Westcott and Hort arrogant and overstated in their edition or wise and rightfully hesitant? Whatever your answer, it can't be because they thought they could always identify the original text.

*Eldon J. Epp, “Critical Editions and the Development of Text-critical Methods, Part 2: From Lachmann (1831) to the Present,” in The New Cambridge History of the Bible: From 1750 to the Present, edited by John Riches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 27.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Happy First Day to Pete Head!

Happy first day to Pete Head who starts his new post today! When I left his new office yesterday it was... still a bit of a mess. But I have every confidence that at some point this week it will be neat and tidy. (How long that lasts I will not predict.) Pete, maybe you can post a pic once the boxes are moved and you can reach the computer.

Anyway, wish Pete good luck and congrats on the new post.

Update: photo courtesy of the Facebook:

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Conference: Act of the Scribe: Interfaces between scribal work and language use

Act of the Scribe: Interfaces between scribal work and language use. A Workshop

Date: April 6–8, 2017 (+ excursion on Sunday, April 9, to be informed later)
Venue: The Finnish Institute at Athens (Zitrou 16, GR-117 42 Athens)

Finnish Institute
The project Act of the Scribe (Academy of Finland) organises a workshop for scholars discussing various aspects of scribal work and how these relate to language use and language change in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Currently, we see a growing interest on scribal practices and their role in language change, and an on-going tradition of (socio)linguistic studies has been established in the field of Classical languages. However, some fields of study are still under-represented and hinder the ability to form a comprehensive general picture of the linguistic situation at hand; for example, studying the multilingual situation in especially Egypt from the Ptolemaic to the Byzantine times continues to be challenging due to a gap between the disciplines of Greek and Latin on the one hand, and Demotic and Coptic research on the other. One of the aims of this workshop is to promote dialogue between the various written languages in Antiquity to be able to enhance the picture of ancient scribal practices. The general focus of the workshop lies in studying the interface between scribal work, including its technical properties, and language use.
Confirmed speakers with provisional titles include
  • Rodney Ast (Heidelberg): Professional Literacy in Late Antiquity
  • Klaas Bentein (Ghent): Documentary papyri as “multimodal” texts: Some observations on the interrelationship between language choice, linguistic register and handwriting in the Nepheros archive (III – IV AD)
  • Jenny Cromwell (Copenhagen): Terminological and palaeographic innovations among scribes in the administration of early Islamic Egypt
  • Katherine McDonald (Cambridge): The goddess Reitia and learning to write in the Veneto
  • Timo Korkiakangas (Oslo): Relationship between spelling correctness and morphosyntactic conservativeness – a corpus study of early medieval Italian charters
  • Tonio Sebastian Richter: TBA
  • MariaChiara Scappaticcio (Naples): A Babrius’ Latin translation (P.Amh. 26): authors, scribes, and ‘mistakes of mistakes’
  • Joanne Stolk (Oslo/Ghent): Scribal corrections in Greek papyri from Egypt
  • Nicholas Zair (Cambridge): Old-fashioned spelling and sub-elite education in the Roman Empire
We invite interested scholars to submit abstracts (max. one page) by October 31, 2016 at the latest (actofscribe-athens2017 [at] Topics that are of interest to the workshop include, but are not limited to, e.g.
  • scribal education in Graeco-Roman Antiquity
  • writing and copying methods affecting linguistic output
  • written standards, substandard and register
  • cross-cultural effect on second language use: transfer of linguistic elements, scribal practices and orthographic conventions
  • the role of the scribe in language change and development
  • the varying treatment of loanwords in contact situations
Organizing committee : Martti Leiwo – Sonja Dahlgren – Hilla Halla-aho – Marja Vierros