Archive for the ‘NT Textual Criticism’ Category

In the story in Acts 27:33-35, after everyone on the wildly drifting boat has fasted for 14 days, Paul assures everyone that salvation is at hand; he then takes bread, gives thank to God “in front of everyone“, and after breaking the bread, starts eating.

Civilized folk (and communists) will be glad to know that in some ancient manuscripts (e.g. 614 and 2147), Paul did this “after also giving to us” (επιδιδους και ημιν).


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After reading this post on the authority of scripture by a friend of mine, I thought it might be a good idea to get all geeky scientific and stuff and write the following post.

In the general context of reading the Bible, the small print is generally forgotten. And with small print I of course refer to the host of information in any critical edition of the Greek text, most notably the Nestle-Aland. (So even if you are reading a translation, this information applies to you!) The small print should warn us against reading the Bible “literally” and “word for word”; in any case, that’s what I’ve learned from being busy with textual criticism (i.e. the science of trying to understand how the text of the NT was delivered to us; trying to trace the traditions and see how people in different ages thought about the text)*.

There’s even a small print behind the small print: shall we call it the smaller print? The Nestle-Aland gives only a small (but informed) selection of the manuscript readings available to us. As an example, I will use Luke 23:34. (The example is well known among textual critics.) The words “And Jesus said: ‘Father, forgive them, since they don’t know what they are doing‘” are present in some manuscripts, but some not.** In fact, the editors of the Nestle-Aland (27) placed it in double square brackets, thereby indicating that they don’t think it is part of the “original text”, but that it is extremely old and important. Like I said, this is well known among scholars.

Now for the smaller print part. The reading is indicated in NA27 as not present in Codex Bezae (also known as D), a manuscript written about 400CE. On the other hand, D2 is indicated as having this reading. D2 would normally mean that a second corrector to the manuscript (i.e., someone who made changes to the text originally written on the manuscript). This is only half the story. There were a number of correctors to the text of D, many of them quite early and with a text very similar to D’s. The one responsible for adding these words to D was not the second one to make corrections to the manuscript; in fact, this corrector (we shall call him “L“, as all correctors in manuscripts are, according to true NT TC fashion, deserving of a descriptive and personal name) was a very late one (about the 9th century). Poor L was actually going through the manuscript to add the Ammonian Sections, a helpful system of cross-reference between the Gospels. Coming to Luke 23:34, L was probably pretty confused – the whole section was missing in this manuscript! The only thing L could do was to first add the text, and then get on with giving it a number.*** So the evidence of NA27 should be given an even further nuance – the reason why the beginning words of Luke 23:34 was added to the text.

The point I’m trying to make? To be honest, I just wanted to tell this awesome story of L. But, as I hinted at in my introduction, at least being aware of the “smaller details” of reading the Bible – most notably that there is a lively tradition of manuscripts, interaction with manuscripts, and different ways of reading, using and understanding the Bible in different centuries. This should warn us against reading the Bible as being “the truth” and being the EXACT words of God.



* This is not an attempt to give a definition of textual criticism. For some definitions, and a somewhat different discussion in the comments on the inspiration of scripture, look here. I should point out, my “definition” here is different from the traditional view, which would be trying to get at the “original text”. Yes, that is an important aim still, it’s just that I’m interested in something else, at present.

** Quite a number of manuscripts are listed; if you’re interested, you could of course go look them up. An easy way to do this online would be to visit the NTTranscripts. For the more visually inclined, it might be interesting to look at Luke 23:34 in Codex Sinaiticus, as it was present, a corrector deleted the text, and then another corrector added it again. Some more manuscripts are available at the very useful page of the CSNTM or likewise at the Virtual Manuscript Room.

*** This is the view expressed by Scrivener, who originally transcribed the manuscript (this edition is available for download here), and David Parker, who wrote an excellent monograph on the manuscript.

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A lot has been written on the New Orleans SBL conference – especially since I’m so late in reporting my attendance. (In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything!) Summaries of papers abound, which is quite easy to find – thanks to Google!

Nevertheless, I thought I’d post some of my highlights – which is hardly all of them – even if just to remind myself why attending conferences is always a good idea (albeit expensive).

First off, meeting people in person is always a great experience. Especially if you’ve read some of their work. This time around, meeting Karen Jobes, even though only for a fleeting moment, was a real privilege. After reading Invitation to the Septuagint, which I highly recommend, I’ve always wanted to meet her. I also had an interesting discussion about the social dimensions of textual criticism and possible research avenues with Dietmar Neufeld after being invited to the Context Group’s social event one night by Ernest van Eck. Perhaps it might be better not to name anyone else, for fear of leaving someone out. Although I would like to add that meeting some textual critics – Prof Holger Strutwolf of Münster, and a number of people from the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing.

A second reason for attending conferences, of course, is seeing people you already know. This is (luckily) too many to list. Many of these people I have met at conferences – and especially the SBL (including the international SBL meeting). The social aspect of conferences can (and should not!) not be denied. For SBL NO, some social highlights included a dinner with the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog (we numbered around 30 people!) and with some of the faculty and alumni of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At both of these dinners, I met new people as well.

Seeing people at the sessions of the conference was great too. Obviously, people attending the same sessions generally have the same interests. In the NT Textual Criticism and LXX sessions, I saw quite a number of familiar faces. These also included some young scholars who are only at the start of their career. This is fertile ground for acquiring life long friendships – which, of course, naturally develops if one shares the same interests. I would venture a guess that online collaboration would not have the same effect as meeting someone – more than once – face to face.

Seeing the giants of the field is, without doubt, pretty amazing. One can keep abreast of what is happening across the globe – hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth (is that an English or an Afrikaans expression? Colourful nonetheless!). Conferences are good places to announce new findings – officially and unofficially. This time around, for instance, some noteworthy evidence was presented for the omission of “Son of God” in Mark 1:1. There was also a lively debate about the usefulness of text types in NT Textual Criticism – and it is clear that the debate is only starting!

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In many contexts and formularies of the church, the Eucharist has been linked with sin and the forgiveness thereof. Being perchance under the spell of the conversation with Scot McKnight a few of us South Africans had the privilege to be part of, I began pondering on this connection. (Professor McKnight’s lecture can be downloaded as an MP3 from Tom Smith’s blog, who also blogged on the conversation.) Prof McKnight pointed out a fourfold “oversimplification” of the Gospel, which might pertain to the overemphasised connection of the Eucharist with sin:


1. God loves you

2. You are a sinner

3. Jesus died for the forgiveness of your sin

4. If you accept Christ as your Saviour, your sins are forgiven (with an emphasis on gaining heaven)


The four highly relevant texts for a discussion of the institution of the Eucharist are Matt 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20 and 1 Cor 11:23-26. (Perhaps one could also add the reference to the Eucharist in 1 Cor 10:16ff, or more veiled references such as Cleopas and his friend in Luke 24. John omits the institution of the Eucharist. Some reference to it might be picked up in chapter 21 – depending on one’s view on that chapter, of course.) 

Only in Matt 26:26-29 is there a direct connection between the Eucharist and sin. Verse 28 reads: τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. “Because this is my blood of the covenant, which for many is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”

Mark 14 does not have “for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 14:24b reads: τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” As can be expected, Mark is harmonised to Matthew, in that some manuscripts add εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (“for the forgiveness of sins”). NA27 lists the following: W, family 13, a few more Greek mss, a single Old Latin Witness (Codex Vercellensis), one ms of the Vulgate (followed by some sahidic manuscripts and the bohairic tradition). Rightly, NA27 does not even give the witnesses for the printed text. Mark is often harmonised to read with Matthew, since Matthew was considered the ‘stronger’ Gospel. (In this verse, some other harmonisations of Mark to Matthew occur – e.g., ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν has been replaced with περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον in A and the Majority of Greek manuscripts (including family 1), and the Harklensian Syriac version.)

Luke, on prima facie evidence, draws on both Mark and some other source. For one thing, Luke adds another cup (verse 17), then the bread (verse 19) and then the institution of the cup “in the same manner” (ὡσαύτως). Some verbal echoes to Mark is apparent, e.g.:

Mark 14:22: … λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

Luke 22:19: … λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων· τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον· 

Luke shows some similarities to Paul, too, e.g.:

1 Cor 11:23b-24: ἔλαβεν ἄρτον καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν· τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν· … 

Luke 22:19: … λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων· τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον· 

These places of comparison can be multiplied. An important overlap between Paul and Luke is that the eucharist is instituted εἰς τὴν … ἀνάμνησιν (“for the remembrance”) of Jesus (1 Cor 11:24,25; Luke 22:19). For Paul, this implies the continuous preaching of the death of the Lord. Luke does not add this detail – one might propose that Luke considers the “remembrance” to point also to the reason of Christ’s death. Following the institution of the Eucharist, while still at the table, the disciples quarrel over which of them is the greatest. Jesus answers that it is the one who serves; after his own example, since he is ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν … ὡς ὁ διακονῶν (“in the midst of you … like a one who serves”). After this, of course, the passion takes its course. 

By no means exhaustive, the excursion above will suffice to indicate that the eucharist can not be reduced to simply the forgiveness of sins. At the very least, it should include the preaching of the death of Christ (and EVERYTHING that entails), as well as a remembrance of his death.


1) Matthew alone explicitly connects the Eucharist with the forgiveness of sins.

2) There are two main traditions of the Eucharist evident in the New Testament – Mark/Matthew and 1 Corinthians/Luke (although Luke draws on Mark, too.) Of course, all four authors of these books add their own emphases.

3) Luke probably made use of both Mark and Paul.

4) The Eucharist should (at least) also be a proclamation of the death of Jesus. This includes the grounds for his death – his life, lived as a servant.

Important CAVEAT: In this study, I’ve assumed that Luke 22:19b-20, one of the so-called “Western non-interpolations”  is part of the early tradition.

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 While reading 1 Corinthians 6, I started wondering about a few things. This is the result – keep in mind that I’ve only grabbed resources I had handy.

The phrase ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (“the kingdom of (the) God”) – both nouns with the article – occurs 64 times in the New Testament, according to the NA27 text. Only 5 of these instances occur outside of the Gospels and Acts (Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 4:20; Col 4:11; 2 Thess 1:5; Rev 12:10). In John, the expression occurs only in 3:3 and 3:5.

1 Thess 2:12 reads very close to the synoptic expression (if one may call it that): ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν (“worthy of (the) God who has called you into (the) his kingdom and glory”). In this instance “God” was substituted by the pronoun.

In 1 Cor 6:9-10, “kingdom of God” forms an inclusio for those who will not inherit it: θεοῦ βασιλείαν … βασιλείαν θεοῦ. This forms an AB – BA pattern (i.e. a chiasm). One could almost think of this pattern as a textual metaphor for the gates of the kingdom – however, that would be more in line with the synoptic way of thinking. In 1 Cor 15:50, Paul also speaks of inheritance, adding no article to the expression (βασιλείαν θεοῦ), as also in Gal 5:21. On the sight of it, Paul prefers not to place definite articles before the two nouns.

In Ephesians 5, the expression is changed to ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ (“has an inheritance in the kingdom of (the) Christ and God”). The last part of the verse has some notable text-critical problems. Papyrus 46 reads τοῦ θεοῦ (as does 1245 2147; also Tertullian (220), according to Ehrman (Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 1993, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 269). This can easily be explained as harmonization to the synoptics. F, G and one Bohairic manucript reads τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ, so does Ambrosiaster (366-384). Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1975, London: UBS) is of the opinion that this too could be due to influence from the Gospels. If anything, the original reading could have been only τοῦ Χριστοῦ (in 2 Tim 4:1, Heb 1:8 and Rev 1:9, too, it is Christ’s kingdom), changed by a scribe to conform to the synoptics (P46, τοῦ θεοῦ). The NA27 reading could then possibly be a conflation between these two. However, the more natural way to conflate these readings would probably be in the order “kingdom of God and Christ”, not the other way around. Although this reading does occur (the original reading of 1739, the Ethiopian tradition, and Theodoret read Χριστοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ), there would be no point in switching the two around (see also Ehrman, p.269). Therefore, the NA27 reading is most probably correct, as it best explains the others. (Note: both Metzger and Tischendorf give some more readings, which is obviously secondary.)

FOOTNOTES: In general, there are four “traditions” of speaking of the kingdom of God.

1) The Gospels talk either of entering the kingdom of God, or of the nearness of the kingdom of God. (Also Rev 12:10?)

2) Mark and Luke sometimes explains the nature of the kingdom of God, e.g. Mark 4:11,26,30; 10:14,15; Luke 8:10; 13:18,20; 18:16 (but see 18:17!)

3) Acts (and sometimes Luke, e.g. 4:43; 8:1; 9:2,11,60; 16:16) generally talks about preaching the kingdom of God. (Except for Acts 14:22).

4) Paul talks about inheriting the kingdom of God. (But see also 1 Cor 15:24!) This tradition, slightly modified, is also visible in Ephesians (5:5) and James (2:5); see also Matt 21:43, Luke 6:20.

I might advance the (very preliminary) hypothesis that by the time of the writing of the Gospels, the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ has become a fixed expression, while this is not so in the time of Paul. Whatever the case may be, “(the) kingdom of (the) God” is part and parcel of the Christian tradition, for sure.


1) I did not check all of these readings text-critically – this needs to be done before any definite conclusions can be reached. It would be interesting to see if there are tendencies in certain manuscripts to change the articles or readings, e.g. to conform to the synoptic tradition.

2) One needs to check the expression in the LXX, which I have not done. Does the phrase occur in a technical sense in the LXX, or perhaps in the Hebrew texts (e.g. MT or Qumran)?

3) Differences in the synoptic tradition should be checked against findings on Q.

4) The four “traditions” that I’ve identified need to be refined and some more categories added!

5) I’m not sure if there are any recent works on the Kingdom of God which concerns itself mainly with the textual level. Is there anything out there?


This post is part of a synchroblog on the theme of The Kingdom of God. You may see other posts on this theme at:

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