Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘scrolls’

A large number of the posts in this blog have dealt with textual variations in one form or another, especially in the text of the New Testament. I have concentrated so much on this topic, because opponents of the Bible frequently charge that the variations among the manuscripts demonstrates that the text of the Bible has become so hopelessly corrupted that we cannot know whether it reflects the documents as originally written. I have attempted to face the issues as honestly as possible.

Most recently I concluded a series of posts, concentrating on the most serious textual problems we find in the New Testament. I thought about doing one or two more, but I feel the point has been made. Some of my readers questioned my interpretation of the evidence for some of these passages, and with good reason. While a huge proportion of the variations can be determined with virtual certainty, there are passages for which the evidence is more subjective and which do make a real difference in how we read certain books. That is precisely why I chose these passages to examine. I wanted to bring out into the open the most serious textual problems we find.

I have attempted to demonstrate that the most significant textual problems we find have more to do with favorite stories than with real doctrinal or theological issues. Let me mention three that reflect what I have been trying to say.

The story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8 has no doctrinal or theological significance. Removing this story from the text may take away a favorite story (and it is one of my favorites), but it does no damage to anything taught in the New Testament.

The baptismal confession in Acts 8 describes a doctrinal practice within the heritage in which I was raised, but once again, only reflects a simple ritual that very few people would see as significant in any real sense.

Finally, the heavenly witnesses found in 1 John 5 provides a specific reference to what came to be known as the Trinity. At the same time, there are a number of other passages that teach essentially the same thing about which there is no question textually. So, once again, no theological teaching is in question.

And these passages are truly representative of the most serious kinds of textual problems we find in the New Testament. Those who suggest that the text of the Bible has become so corrupted that we cannot have any confidence in what it teaches have the burden of proof to back up such assertions. From my study there is simply no substantial evidence to support such charges. On the contrary, with over 5,800 Greek manuscripts dating back to the second and third centuries, we have a wealth of evidence that should cause us to feel confident that when we read the Bible, we are reading what the authors originally wrote. I remain convinced that is where the evidence should lead us.

Read Full Post »

I have said that there are no textual variants that affect doctrine or theology. Actually, the one I wish to discuss today does have doctrinal implications, but primarily in the religious tradition of which I am a part. My heritage practices adult baptism by immersion and almost exclusively asks the person being baptized, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Most people today would be hard pressed to state where that confession comes from. The reality is that it comes from Acts 8:37 which is routinely footnoted in most translations except the King James. The question today is why do most modern translations not include verse 37 in the body of the text?

The simplest answer to that question is that the most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include it. The manuscripts that do not have verse 37 include—p45 (3rd century), and the big three codices, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (4th century),and  Alexandrinus (5th century), along with other manuscripts.

Verse 37 is included in Codex E which dates from the 6th century and in many of the later cursive manuscripts. It is also included in the Old Latin. Irenaeus quotes part of it, which shows that the passage was in existence at least in the latter part of the second century, perhaps earlier. Bruce Metzger provides an interesting perspective when he writes in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, “Although the passage does not appear in the late medieval manuscript on which Erasmus chiefly depended for his edition (ms. 2), it stands in the margin of another (ms. 4), from which he inserted it into his text because he ‘judged that it had been omitted by the carelessness of scribes.’”

All of this is probably more detail than most of my readers care about. The bottom line is that we should be able to see that the passage is certainly questionable. Possibly it was inserted as a possible answer to the Eunuch’s question in verse 36, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (ESV). Certainly the passage retains perhaps the most ancient baptismal confessional handed down to us. I like it because of its simplicity and its emphasis on the primacy of faith in Jesus as the Christ. I can think of nothing with which I would want to replace it.

At the same time, it probably was not originally part of the text of Acts. As I said earlier, this may disturb some people within my religious heritage, but I am first of all interested in truth, not in preserving what I was taught to believe. This is the lesson I would like for my readers to get from this post. We should not come to the Bible seeking to validate what we already believe. Nor should we bring our preconceptions to it. I have always attempted simply to accept what I find there, and I feel comfortable doing so.

Read Full Post »

The ending of Mark is perhaps the most significant textual question in the New Testament. It is important for two reasons. First, there is real doubt as to how the gospel originally ended. Also, it is a significant message. This is the type of issue that troubles people. Let’s look at it.

Most modern translations raise some kind of question about Mark 16:9-20. They may also include what is referred to as the shorter ending, which reads in the NAS Revised Edition, “And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”

So, there are four possibilities:

  1. Mark originally ended with the shorter ending.
  2. Mark originally ended with the longer ending (vv. 9-20).
  3. Mark originally contained another ending which was lost before it could be copied.
  4. Mark originally ended after verse 8.

Let’s eliminate the first possibility immediately. It isn’t natural. It even sounds like something tacked on, because a scribe did not find the ending satisfactory. Greek manuscripts that contain it date from the 7th to the 9th centuries or later, although an Old Latin and other less significant versions (translations) include it. But, overall, this shorter ending has very little to support it.

Could the gospel have ended as we have it with verses 9-20? Yes, that is a possibility, although I have to admit I don’t think it likely, even though there are a very large number of manuscripts and versions that support it.  Several 5th century manuscripts include it, along with virtually all the later manuscripts, as well as the earliest manuscript of the Old Latin, Latin Vulgate, one Old Syriac Version, the Syriac Peshitta, and a number of other versions. Irenaeus, one of the church Fathers, refers to the longer ending, which shows that it existed in the 2nd century and that Mark was believed to be the author. That sounds impressive, so what’s the problem?

In an earlier post, we talked about the three most significant manuscripts we have of the New Testament. Two of these, the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus date from AD 325-350). Whenever these manuscripts agree scholars consider that to be significant. And neither of these manuscripts includes verses 9-20. These verses are also absent from the earliest Old Latin manuscripts, about 100 Armenian manuscripts, the two oldest Georgian manuscripts, as well as other versions.

Among the church fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses. Eusebius and Jerome acknowledge that it was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. Finally, many of the manuscripts that do contain verses 9-20 are marked with notations indicating that it was questionable as to whether the passage should be included.

Finally, we must consider the possibility that the original ending of Mark was lost before it could be copied. While that is a real possibility, it is somewhat unlikely. The original was probably written on a scroll, rather than a codex. While the last leaf of a codex could be torn off, the ending of a scroll is harder to lose.

One quick message of reassurance. If we eliminate verses 9-20, we have not lost what is commonly referred to as “the Great Commission.” It is contained in virtually the same words in Matthew 28, and there are no textual issues relating to Matthew’s version at all.

I tend toward believing that Mark ended his gospel with verse 8. While that may seem to be an unusual ending, it has literary value. The rest of the story would likely have been known by most of Mark’s readers, but by ending it abruptly at verse 8, Mark forces us to ask ourselves the question, “How will I write the ending for myself? How will I respond to the events as described? Will I respond with faith or with doubt and confusion? I can’t say whether Mark deliberately set out to pose these questions, but they are there, nonetheless, and I must admit that I am intrigued by the literary value of this ending. Mark leaves us with an empty tomb, but with the disciples afraid and not sure what to do. I can identify with that. Can’t you?

Read Full Post »

Before beginning a series of posts dealing with some of the more significant textual variations, I felt it would be profitable to step back and indulge in a little humor. Yes, the subject of textual variations can be serious, but I believe we should be able to have a little fun at our own expense. I have seen the story below in a variety of forms, and I have no idea where it originated. But for those who have been following my posts about the text of the Bible, I hope this will provide a good laugh. It is all intended in good fun, and I hope no one is offended, because that is certainly not my intention. The story takes place in the Middle Ages.

A new monk arrived at the monastery. He was assigned to help the other monks in copying the old texts by hand. He noticed, however, that they were copying copies, not the original books. The new monk went to the head monk to ask him about this. He pointed out that if there were an error in the first copy, that error would be continued in all of the other copies.

The head monk said, “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.” The head monk went down into the cellar with one of the copies to check it against the original.

Hours later, nobody had seen him, so one of the monks went downstairs to look for him. He heard a sobbing coming from the back of the cellar and found the old monk leaning over one of the original books, crying.

He asked what was wrong.

“The word is ‘celebrate,’ not ‘celibate’!” sobbed the head monk.

Read Full Post »

I suspect most of you have seen pictures of beautifully illuminated manuscripts. Certainly that added to the cost of producing ancient books, including the Bible; however, that is only part of the story. Sometimes the illustrations were added, because the cost of just the book itself was so great that anyone who could afford that cost could also afford the extra cost of illuminations.

Below is a link to a video showing how parchment is made and how that was used to create a book in the ancient world. We take so much for granted in our technological world. Take a few minutes and appreciate how much we owe to scribes in ancient times who spent their lives preserving the Bible, as well as other books, for us to enjoy today.

Here is the link.

http://biblemanuscripts.org/how-manuscripts-were-made.html

Read Full Post »

You can hardly escape watching programs or seeing in books (such as The DaVinci Code) which imply that certain books were banned from being included in the New Testament. The whole question of the formation of the canon of the New Testament is very complex and needs to be addressed carefully and methodically. With that warning I am sharing a link below to an article that discusses this question.

http://www.timothypauljones.com/2012/12/31/why-some-books-made-it-into-the-new-testament-and-others-didnt/

Actually, I found the main value in the article not in what it said about the canon, but in how it described what books churches from the second century on might have had available to them. This is found in the first half of the article, and I would encourage you to read it. It provides some good information about what early Christians may have read at a time when the canon was still being decided upon. Christians today often have difficulty understanding how different churches were in the first three centuries before Christianity became a legal religion. This article paints a word picture that simplifies that understanding.

At some point, I wish to add my own thoughts on the canon of both the Old and New Testaments, but for now I would encourage you to read this article. It has some good information.

Read Full Post »

Possible oldest Hebrew writingThe current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review describes what may be the oldest inscription in Hebrew ever discovered. That alone would make the find important, but it is the possible message contained in the inscription which is truly significant. The possibility exists that this inscription may be contemporary confirmation of the end of the period of the Judges and the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel.

So what is so significant about this inscription? Quite simply, it is what the possible translation tells us about the establishment of the monarchy in Israel. The Old Testament describes a period in which Israel was a very loose confederation of tribes ruled by people called “judges.” These were apparently charismatic leaders who emerged, especially during times of crisis. According to 1 Samuel, the prophet Samuel’s sons were corrupt. The resulting instability, along with the need for a more powerful government, able to defend Israel against her enemies, resulted in the desire for a king. Although at first resistant, Samuel is instructed by YHWH to agree to the monarchy, and Saul is chosen to be the first king.

The inscription is referred to as the Qeiyafa Ostracon. It is written on a piece of broken pottery, a common practice in a time when writing material was expensive and precious. It was discovered in 2008 at a site which has been tentatively identified as the Biblical city of Shaarayim (Joshua 15.36; 1 Samuel 17.52). Excavations at the site indicate that it dates from the early Israelite monarchy, and the absence of pig bones suggests that the site was an Israelite, rather than a Philistine or Canaanite fortress.

The same issue of Biblical Archaeology Review contains another article, describing four inscriptions which different scholars consider the oldest Hebrew writing, so we cannot be sure that this inscription is the oldest. It is, however, very ancient, dating to the traditional end of the period of the judges and the beginning of the Israelite monarchy.

As strange as it may appear, scholars apparently cannot be sure that the inscription is Hebrew. Hebrew script would not branch off from Phoenician script until the ninth century BC. We are dealing with a very ancient language that is difficult to pin down. One interesting characteristic is that the inscription is read from left to right, just as English. The Hebrew we know (like most Semitic languages) normally was written from right to left.

The inscription is obviously incomplete and certain of the letters are illegible, so any translation must be considered tentative. At the same time, what has been deciphered is intriguing about what it suggests. Here is the proposed translation given in the article.

“Do not oppress, and serve God …

despoiled him/her

The judge and the widow wept;

He had the power

over the resident alien and the child, he

eliminated them together

The men and the chiefs/officers have

established a king

He marked 60 [?] servants among the

comunities/habitations/generations”

Obviously this translation shows a lot of gaps and problems with the language, so there is much we cannot know about this inscription. But it includes several aspects that correspond to what is recorded in 1 Samuel.

  1.  It seems to describe a new king and was apparently written before the reign of David.
  2. The writing seems to refer to a transition from the judge (to which it refers) to a king.
  3. The message seems intended to be for a governor or tribal leader, explaining that the previous political situation has changed, a new king has been installed, and that the new laws and political reality are expected to be followed.
  4. The inscription also specifically refers to injustices under the judges, especially toward widows, children (perhaps orphans), and resident aliens.  It would appear the new king intended to address these situations specifically.

Obviously, there is more than one possible interpretation of the Qeiyafa Ostracon. But a legitimate case can be made that this is perhaps the earliest Hebrew writing we have and that it is a contemporary reference to the installation of Saul as the first king of Israel. Some Biblical scholars question the very existence of Saul and David, suggesting that they were mythological kings, created by later writers to glorify Israel’s beginnings. This small piece of pottery could provide contemporary evidence that Saul did actually exist and that the Biblical account of the beginning of the Israelite monarchy has some basis in history.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Chris Martin Writes

Sowing seeds for the Kingdom

The Assembling of the Church

the weblog of Alan Knox

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

"be strong in the grace that is ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (in Christ Jesus)"

Daniel B. Wallace

Executive Director of CSNTM & Senior Professor of NT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary

bridgesinindia

Musings from a distant land

The Aspirational Agnostic

Searching for a God who's playing hard to get.

According to Sam

What underlines how we say things cannot itself be said

Baraka

Sharing God's Blessings as Children of Abraham

Youthguyerik's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Faithful Aesthetics

Experiencing divinity through the arts

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: