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The Ds Commentary on Books #1

  • Semitica Language Academy


This academic bulletin examines critical texts and volumes in the biblical and classical disciplines.
A Forum for Passionate Polemic,
which is
Academically Described
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Dissent Discussion
Discovery Delight
Executive Editor/Reviewer
ISSN: 2376-4627
Issue #1, Autumn/Fall 2014
1. Studies in Ancient Judaism and Early
Christianity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 1
2. Novum Testamentum Graece 28th
Edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 7
3. The Early Textual History of Lucretius
De Rerum Natura . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 16
Pieter W. van der Horst, Studies in Ancient Judaism
and Early Christianity. Volume 87, Leiden/Boston:
Brill (2014), Pp. 397. ISBN 978 90 04 27104 3.
$163.00 (hb)
The book under review is the tenth in a series of
volumes of essays by Pieter W. van der Horst.
Representing the best of the Dutch-European
tradition of scholarship, his application of
Altertumswissenschaft (the science of the study of
antiquity) to sacred texts is distinctive. His con-
tributions to the study of ancient Judaism and
early Christianity are wide ranging, and display
critical acumen that is rare, but not utterly
unusual in this genre of studies. Proper exami-
nations of ancient Jewish writings and early
Christian texts should stem from an author’s
expert facility with linguistic nuances and
dialects, usually requiring years of acquisition.
Oriental and Classical languages have no mean
price attached to them. Their acquirement is not
without complications. Textual relations of Old
and New Testament passages, and their glosses
in various languages, must be read closely. Dr.
van der Horst’s arguments and conclusions are
instantiated by careful research, and attains to
the highest ideal.
There is much to love about this volume, its
virtues are many. The indices are full, and there
is a bibliography of the author’s publications
encompassing 2006-2013. The papers in the
table of contents are listed as follows: #1 The
Site of Adam’s Tomb; #2 Bitenosh’s Orgasm
(1QapGen 2:9-15); #3 At Abraham’s Table:
Early Jewish Interpretations of Genesis 18:8; #4
Moses’ Father Speaks out; #5 Philo and the
Problem of God’s Emotions; #6 Two Short
Notes on Philo; #7 Philosophia epeisaktos: Some
Notes on Josephus, Ant. 18:9; #8 Biblical
This is a new project, one of restricted design. Published reviews are in abundance today, some online and others on library book-
shelves, and there are a few privately circulated pamphlets whose essays enjoy the merit of a large circulation; even if not an inter-
disciplinary readership whose concerns regard the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome and of the region of the Fertile Crescent.
Generally, specialized investigations of ancient texts taken up by Biblicists, Classicists, Orientalists and Theologians, forego
academic interaction with textual transcriptions which fall outside their own fields of study. The enormous amount of research
conducted along precise lines of work, and later issued for public consumption, means that the price of attainment in these spheres
of genius is prohibitive.
The following review-essays are distributed for professional Divines, issued in order to exhibit decisive ideas to human reason,
and to fill up an obvious gap in studies involving the control of two or more disciplines. As an assemblage of occasional papers,
at times various critical texts, and volumes and/or extended articles will be discussed. It is my hope that some measurable contri-
bution to the pursuit of knowledge may be had from the following appraisals.
Executive Editor/Reviewer: D. Antoine Sutton:
contact info: PO Box 362 Red Cloud, NE
68970 or
Details Debate
Dissent Discussion
Discovery Delight
A Forum for Passionate
Polemic, which is Academically Described
ISSN: 2376-4627
Quotations in Judaeo-Greek Inscriptions; #9
Did the Gentiles Know Who Abraham Was?; #10
The Provenance of 2 Enoch 69-73: Jewish or
Christian?; #11 Greek Philosophical Elements
in Some Judaeo-Christian Prayers; #12 Mystical
Motifs in a Greek Synagogal Prayer?; #13 A
Qedushat ha-Yom in Greek; #14 The Jews of
Ancient Phrygia; #15 Judaism in Asia Minor;
#16 Samaritan Origins according to the
Paralipomena Jermiae; #17 The Myth of Jewish
Cannibalism: A Chapter in the History of
Antisemitism; #18 Porphyry on Judaism: Some
Observations; #19 A Short Note on the Doctrina
Jacobi nuper baptizati; #20 Consolation from
Prison: Mara bar Sarapion and Boethius; #21
Cyrus: A Forgotten Christian Poet; #22 ‘Without
God’: Some Notes on a Greek Expression; #23
The Omen of Sneezing in Pagan Antiquity; #24
Pious Long-Sleepers in Pagan, Jewish and
Christian Antiquity.
In the paragraphs below I will refer to the essays
by number [e.g. #12], and I will remark on an
assortment of exegetical matters which are of
interest to me. The objections raised by me in no
way detract from the overall scholarship of the
book. In essay #1 he reconstructs how the term
Adam’ was misunderstood by the earliest
exegetes, thereby leading to misattribution. On
page 2 Dr. Pieter W. van der Horst (henceforth
PW) remarks on Jerome’s translation and inter-
pretation of Joshua 14:15, stating “it is Jewish
exegesis.” Jewish in what sense?
Its Jewish-ness is not so clear from the argument
made by the author or from the conclusion
derived. On the other hand, one must ask: what
other exegesis could have been used by Jerome?
Aside from typological studies of Old Testament
texts, at the time there was no purely Christian
form of exegesis of hexateuchal texts. Burial tra-
ditions typically are based on religious consider-
ations, as are their interpretations. Centuries
later, Muslim scholars even would claim Jeddah,
Saudi Arabia as a burial site for Adam and Eve.
Essay #3 treats the non-kosher meal of milk and
meat served together to angels at Abraham’s
tent. In Exodus 23:19 Israelites were command-
ed not to boil a kid (young goat) in its mother’s
milk, a commandment which led later exegetes
to assume that the two, meat and milk, should
not be served together. On Page 28 PW believes
the Exodus text to be a prohibition “directed
against specifically Canaanite religious ritual…”.
He cites Ugaritic texts to demonstrate this activ-
ity at the time. But I hasten to add that every
biblical precept requiring restrictive behavior
should not be taken to denote its existence in a
surrounding culture or the possibility of Israel's
adaptation of it. No less plausible is it to assume
the uniqueness of certain facets of the revelation
given to Israel. Jehovah/Yahweh may not have
wanted Israelites to mingle the young goat and
its mother’s milk because he did not want that
which had been born to be poached in a sub-
stance which would normally be used to provide
its nourishment. Moreover, as precious as milk
was to agrarian people, it might have also pre-
vented the waste of an important beverage.
Essay #5, contains some redundancies. As wide-
ranging as the author tends to be, gaps in his
knowledge do appear. One instance of this is in
his statements on an ancient Latin text. On page
40 he writes that Lucretius wrote the De Rerum
Natura to dispel “the fear of the wrath of the
gods”. That explanation is a rather simplistic
way to regard it. Lucretius did want to chase
away the unrefined dread of the gods exhibited
by his contemporaries; but Lucretius’ agnosti-
cism is present in his poem (2. 167-183; 5. 156-
199). He wrote it for artistic purposes, to outline
Epicurean ideas of physics, and to set aside any
notion of a need for gods or for a need to trust
in them in order to understand the creation of
the world, which is an entirely different argu-
ment from the author’s own thesis. It is a theory
that might put a reader immediately on the
wrong track if he or she ever took up the poem.
Moreover, Robert Kaster’s volume Emotion,
Restraint and Community in Ancient Rome (2005)
would have aided him immensely in his descrip-
tions of sentiments of a divine nature.
Several papers seem to be above reproach. PW
pronounces with vigor and fervor on numerous
issues of primary and secondary significance.
Still, a differing view should be recorded here:
the notes on Philo suggest much remains to be
said in regard to Bible interpretations in antiq-
uity. Although not noted in essay #6, page 48,
where the discussion revolves around forms of
first-person speech in Greek, Philo could have
used any number of grammatical variations.
Direct speech affords many valuable options:
PW does not inform the reader of this important
point. Essay #7 is of lexical relevance, and is a
fine example of the proper modes of investiga-
tive researches. Defining the semantic ranges of
‘Philosophia Epeisaktos’ he denies the existence of
an early meaning of philosophy as “(systematic,
rational, and critical thinking)”; although on the
preceding page he cites Diodorus Siculus, a ref-
erence which emphatically affirms philosophy’s
use as a form of “(…critical thinking) as we use
it in our time” [sic].
PW’s superb essay (#8) on ancient Judaeo-Greek
funerary inscriptions is an important contribu-
tion, providing useful evidences for those whose
comparative studies of the Masoretic Text,
Samaritan Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls and the
Septuagint require varied attestation. The
inscription uncovered on many ancient grave-
stones ‘May your soul rest in the bundle of life’
(I Sam. 25:29) is said to have been the earliest
attestation of a phrase soon to be popular in the
Middle Ages. I still wonder about the date, since
none was provided. Also Prov. 10:7 appears in
Late Antiquity, becoming popular in the Middle
Ages too. More than a paragraph could have
been given to early Christian inscriptions, and I
wished for more than a single citation (p.67) of
Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae Palaestinae (CIIP),
even so it was helpful to learn of the many uses
Jesus’ followers made of the Psalms and book of
Isaiah in the formative years of Christianity.
In essay #9 on Abraham’s fame in ancient times
PW surveys magical papyri and various non-
magical literary sources. He presumes the
Babylonian priest Berossus is speaking of
Abraham when he wrote: “In the tenth century
after the Flood among the Chaldeans there was
a certain man, just and great and expert in heav-
enly matters.” Several elements in his argument
are unpersuasive. Undoubtedly that statement
could have referred to numerous individuals.
Delineating the manner by which Berossus
defined “just” is a necessary correlative to
identifying to whom he may be referring; but
nothing in scripture alerts us to an expertise
Abraham might have possessed in celestial
matters;1less than a handful of exegetes who
lived centuries later seemed to believe in his
astronomical genius; though reasons for his
popularity remain debatable, his critics often
did assimilate myth and mishandled facts.
The second half of the volume moves along
entirely different historical lines: essays #14 &
15 supply original material and uncover habits
and habitations of ancient Jews through inscrip-
tions and epigraphy. It was beneficial to my own
researches to learn that Jews of that day wor-
shipped in a synagogue built by the local pagan
priestess, Julia Severa. In essay #16 the uncon-
vincing theories of modern scholars who argue
against the traditionally stated origins of the
Samaritans come into focus. If 2 Kings 17:24-41
does not refer to the Samaritans, Talmudic texts
and medieval commentaries are all wrong.
The Judaeophobia remarks outlined in #17,
which is his expurgated retirement lecture (cf.
p.187, fn.51) from the University of Utrecht, was
at one time the core of a major controversy
regarding his references to the intensity of cur-
rent Islamic Jew-hatred, but is now a somewhat
artificial documentary. Anti-Jewish factions in
modern and ancient times are now well noted;
still, the author seems to be unaware of those
times in history when ancient Jews reacted in
hostile fashion toward non-Jews, goyim. PW’s
piece should be read as an addendum to David
Flusser’s (1917-2000) earlier article ‘Anti-Jewish
“Blood Libels” in Light of Hellenistic
Worldviews,’2which coordinates many anti-
Jewish witnesses.
The supposedly revisionist tale of the Jews in
Manetho’s history of Egypt is not unique.
Religious fervor and devotion is to be found in
ancient texts of all types where non-citizens and
non-adherents are negatively displayed. Surely
ancient folk knew themselves to be perniciously
illustrated in such ways in Jewish lore: oral and
scribal commonalities were observable, revealing
the usual stereotypical designations. These are
discernible in ancient Egyptian texts too. When
this is taken into consideration, any accusations
1 Although late Midrashic texts attach to Abraham some sort of astronomical skill, no canonical text of ancient Jews supports such a view.The
2 See Judaism of the Second Temple Period: Vol. 2: The Jewish Sages and Their Literature (Eerdmans: 2009), pp.309-325.
regarding the Jews active participation in canni-
balism is not unusual.
PW has hitherto taken New Testament texts as
legitimate documents, credible in most respects.
Yet in ‘The Aftermath’ section on page 185 he
notes the distinction between ‘medieval anti-
Jewish discourse’ and that of ‘pre-Christian
antiquity,’ saying “Christianity introduced as a
new and dominant motif that of deicide: the
Jews have killed Jesus, who is God, and they are
for that reason a doomed nation.” That seems a
bizarre way to articulate the issue. To be exact,
the crucifixion “motif ” or event was not intro-
duced by Christianity, it occurred when Jewish
leaders of various types surrendered Jesus to
Roman authorities who too became complicit in
his death. If acknowledgement of such facts
makes one anti-Semitic then it must also make
one anti-Indo-European. Reactions to that event
have been improperly handled from time to
time, but the deicide motif, i.e., Jesus’ death, was
not transmitted solely through Christian inter-
The anti-Semitic detectives of this post-modern
era of scholarship are rampant. In fact the
author assumes Mara bar Sarapion is Christian
because he alleged the Jews were punished by
God “for their killing of Jesus” (p. 218). One
must remember that the ancient Jewish princi-
ple of penal retribution is consistent throughout
the Hebrew Scriptures. The assumption that fur-
ther chastisement at the hand of their God is
prohibited, is so only to those who disapprove of
an ancient concept now currently deemed offen-
sive. If the Jewish writers of the New Testament
believed this to be true of their own kin, it is
small wonder that this conviction continued
down through the generations of believers who
accepted the canonical status of these Jewish
texts (e.g. 1 Thess. 2:14-16).
Essay #18 continues the author’s researches into
how a few ancient persons regarded the Jews.
Porphry's comments on Jews and Christians are
informed by his firm pagan views. The article is
expansive, attempts to do too much. Indeed
without supplying brief surveys of Greco-Roman
deities (e.g. Apollo) and their cults, the mass of
material seems disorganized. Fortunately time
was found to discuss M.L. Frede’s arguments for
ancient Greek monotheism (Cf. article,
‘Monotheism and Pagan Philosophy in Later
Antiquity,’ in Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity)
on pages 199-201. But since the paper is con-
trasting Greek views with Jewish habits of belief,
I find it incredible to assume there was any type
of monotheism among ancient Greeks of the
Hellenistic age.
The final six papers are of varied import. Each
one possesses its own merits, readers of good
judgment will not think otherwise.
Let us now pass on to some specific points of detail: it is
unjust criticism to impeach a writer for oversights.
Limitations at times apply to proficiency as well as to
an author's specific aims. But there are a few places
where lapses occur; there are philological problems
where episodes of uncontrolled brilliance are period-
ically dramatized. E.g., in essay #2 he explicates the
Dead Sea Scroll fragment (1QapGen 2:9-15) the
Genesis Apocryphon that recalls a discussion between
Noah’s parents Bitenosh and Lamech. In the passage
Lamech suspects his wife of having committed adul-
tery with the sons of God; pleading with Lamech she,
Bitenosh, replies “Oh my brother and Lord, remem-
ber my sexual pleasure!...” [underlining is mine]. The
essay seeks to draw oblique meanings from ‘sexual
pleasure’ through the use of the Hebrew term
‘tazria/?????.’ He assumes it reflects female seminal
emission. The Aramaic word for pleasure ‘adinti,’
noted only at Gen. 18:2 as does not patently sig-
nify ‘sexual’ pleasure. In Genesis, Sarah’s use is the
cognate form, a description of joy, with non-carnal
associations; one should not assume that she had not
previously experienced ‘sexual’ pleasure during times
of intimacy with her husband.
PW argues that “ancient Greek theories of spermato-
genesis and embryogenesis may shed light upon this
curious utterance…”. He ultimately concludes that
Aristotle’s theory of the katamênia as one of the two
components of embryogenesis was known in Jewish
circles (p.13) in view of Wisdom 7:1-2, “In my moth-
er’s womb I was sculpted into flesh during a ten
months space, curdled in blood by virile seed and the
pleasure that is joined with sleep.” Tazria is known to
mean, literally, ‘to sow or plant,’ but in conceptive
nuance ‘to give birth,’ and its designation in the
Levitical context of an infusion of female sperm is not
lexically correct.
The writer of the Genesis Apocryphon indeed may have
been aware of Greek theories of spermogenesis, but
the texts cited do not support PW’s view, nor does it
affect a new or original reading of the biblical text.
The New American Bible, (Rev. Ed.) reads “giving
birth,” and from a survey of Bibles in 10 different lan-
guages this general idea is reflective of tazria’s main
sense; the play on M. Jastrow’s Hifil-form (hizriia) def-
inition: “… used of women emitting secretion at
coition” is abused by the author; why is a causative
sense noted, when a durative would be more appro-
priate but less likely? There is the misunderstood
notion that whenever the form zr‘ appears it invari-
ably means “to become pregnant, to be made preg-
nant, it is always the Niphal form that is used” cf.
Num. 5:28; Nah 1:14 (p.12). Even Leviticus 12:2 con-
tradicts his linguistic rule of ‘crosswise sex determina-
tion’ (p.16).
In several other cases as well, his evidences:
Empedocles, Democritus, Parmenides and Aristotle
have little to do with his argument, as when he cites a
passage from Genesis, but writes: “I doubt whether
Gen. 18:12 implies the same as what I will argue for
in the passage in IQapGen under discussion” (p.18).
PW believes “there can be little doubt that the word
adinti’ refers to Bitenosh’s sexual pleasure, more
specifically to her orgasm.” But I beg to differ. It is
hard to conceive that anyone can identify Abraham’s
and Sarah’s simultaneous orgasmic reactions through
the phrases treated. The author does so; but so far as
I am able to judge, the interpretations seem unwar-
Another of the volume’s defects is visible in the select
essays on prayer amid The Apostolic Constitutions.
Absent from the excellent commentary and analysis is
any theological discussion. It is difficult to compre-
hend how such minute investigations of the history of
liturgical motifs could be substantiated apart from
brief reviews of ancient theologies. This is even more
astounding when one considers that at certain points
they were required.
On page 102, fn. 7, the opening sentence of the
prayer is not distinctly Jewish, as stated by the author.
Although it is certainly Near Eastern, a multitude of
Ugaritic and Akaddian and Sumerian prayers begin
their invocations with words akin to “Blessed art
thou, O Lord, King of the ages…”, cf. Reading
Akkadian Prayers & Hymns: An Introduction (2011).
Later on page 143, fn. 3 he writes of “striking
similarities between the pagan and the Jewish epi-
graphic habit…”. If the scribal habits were similar, as
I alluded to above, could not there exist a liturgical
likeness also? Therefore the language of a theology
of supplication should have been definitively
Without providing attestation, on pages 113-114, fn.
7 & 13, it is inexplicable that the notices of the
“inherent goodness” of God’s nature and his “infi-
nite” being are depicted as non-biblical traits, but
markedly Greek concepts. That contention is defec-
tive in every respect, illustrating the author’s theolog-
ical method throughout the volume. And that tech-
nique in this instance indicates an inadequate grasp
of the Judaeo-Christian system of divinity, and an
inadequate grasp of the chronological origins of the-
ologies of Classical Greece. Taking an uncritical view
of Greek philosophical texts, his stance does not fair-
ly represent the opinions expressed by ancient Jews,
or those Diaspora readers of the Septuagint.
Hebrew narratives predate Greek accounts by more
than a millennium. Of the ‘perfections’ of God so
noted in the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures,
innate goodness far exceeds native attributes of
power in that it generally subsumes other traits,
including love. This type of inborn decency is miss-
ing among the gods of ancient Greece. One might
inquire at this point, which ancient readers would
have considered the gods of Homer’s Odyssey to be of
blameless dispositions? The word ‘good,’ indeed may
be used in a number of ways, but in adjectival terms
for the biblical God it always signifies moral goodness
of the intrinsic kind; conversely we describe some
persons as ‘good-at-what-they-do’ who may be ethi-
cally depraved. This is portrayed in many ancient
Greek tales, e.g., Hesiod’s Theogony in no way
accounts for gods who were possessed of congenital
Of the Biblical God’s ‘infinity’ we need only refer to
one pre-Classical Greek text, Ps. 147:5: “Great is our
Lord and of great power: his understanding is infi-
nite (KJV)” and “Great is our Lord, and abundant in
power; his understanding is beyond measure”
(NRSV) where God’s infinitude is in relation to his
comprehension. Among the ancient Greek philoso-
phers a deity’s transcendence, when used negatively
or positively, was indescribable, and as such, Greek
ideas are alien to theological discussions of the God
of the Jews, and for these reasons: the perfections of
God are without flaw, he is unrestricted, and tran-
scends all limitations so imposed by him upon
humanity, his creation. Even his aseity is at odds with
Greek concepts of divine immutability.
Contrary to PW’s claim, the Doctrina Jacobi may not
be a “wishful Christian presentation… that certainly
never took place in that form” (p.205). The argument
is grounded, even based on the means by which the
author constructs his defense; parallel texts are cited.
Allusions to other texts are not indications of a text’s
falsity, only of an author’s awareness of other read-
ings. The apology indeed may be based on an actual
event from the life of a converted Christian Jew. All
Jewish persons did not convert to the Christian faith
under duress.
In essay #20 An examination is made of Boethius’
knowledge of Mara Bar Sarapion’s writings. PW dis-
avows Boethius acquaintance with its Syriac version.
But regarding statements on page 214, we must
inquire, is it really true that “there were no Latin or
Greek translations of Syriac literature in the Latin
West at the time of Boethius”? It might be proper to
suppose this of Syriac poetry, but one cannot be so
strident in one’s remarks in regard to Syriac lec-
tionary material.
Antioch was one of the larger cities of the ancient
Roman Empire. It was a center of Syriac Christians.
Religious ideas and texts were carried far from home.
Ancient sects of Christendom, in all directions, were
attentive to the writings of their brethren; a polymath
speaker easily could have translated the words of
Mara Bar Sarapion during a homily. Existing inscrip-
tions disabuse students of PW’s claim: cf. Religions of
Late Antiquity in Practice (2000) edited by Richard
Valantasis. Although Boethius may not have read
Sarapion’s Syriac text firsthand, his Theological
Tractates treat, inter alia, those Nestorian divergences
from orthodoxy in his sections on the Father and the
Son in De Trinitate.
The discussion on pp.23ff regarding the proper
English translation of
Matthew 10:29 is closely argued. Citing 25 authors
(e.g. Hom. Il. 5.185-186; Pind. Nem. 7.1-6; Aesch.
Suppl. 823-824; Eur. Bacch. 764; Sept. Gen. 41.16;
Dio. Sic. 1.90.3; Lucr. DRN 1.21-23; Hor. Carm.
3.4.20), he attempts to define the Greek phrase as ‘in
the absence of ’ with the idea that “knowledge is not
to be inferred in the Greek form at all.” Ultimately
PW sides with the RSV translation (‘without your
father’s will’ p.239), assuming the KJV gloss “apart
from your father” to be in error. Yet the contexts of all
the classical authors of Greek and Latin to which he
refers connote the sense “apart from’ or ‘without’.
By means of eisegesis, PW inserts a lexical nuance,
stating that a predestinarian meaning is embedded
in the biblical Greek phrase. If so, then why cite all
the classical authors whose texts do not overtly favor
pre-determinate ideas? Further inquiry leads me to
ask how the author knows that Matthew derives from
Q? From the argument given, I was unable to find the
pathway toward this conclusion; there is a method-
ological problem here. The elusive “Q” never has
been securely reconstructed or even evidenced in
antiquity, but able attempts have been made.3Nor
does it seem probable to me - as stated by the author
- that Luke was Matthew’s first interpreter. For Luke’s
Gospel is a vastly different document.
Setting aside the many protestations recorded
above, a confession is in order: It was an extreme
delight of mine to be able to scan this learned
treatise. If more scholars of ancient biblical texts
could follow in PW’s footsteps, and continue this
specific scholastic tradition of research, textual
studies of ancient Hebrew and Greek texts would
not stagnate, but would receive fresh impulsions
for the furtherance of our understanding of
these texts.
The vast field of Biblical studies is stabler than
some other related disciplines. Like Indic,
Ancient Near East and Classical studies, the
main texts are well known: with parallel data
providing interesting sidelights. Material treas-
ures are incessantly in process of publication,
advancements are frequently made with new dis-
coveries spurring the revision of previous theses.
All these ancillary evidences can be tools for the
study of the Old Testament and New Testament.
When suitably used they constitute literary/theo-
retical perspectives without which it might be
impossible to view the biblical past accurately.
Thus the researcher, whose interests concern
ancient Judaism or early Christianity, will find
this volume to be a worthwhile addition to his or
her personal library.
Editorial matter: the volume is suitably edited, but
on p.3, ln. 2: read “eighth to ninth century”. On
p.72, ln.8, “thisworldly” is printed, but in the
same essay on p.78, ln.9, the correct form “this-
worldly” appears.
3 For an erudite summary of the history of the fluctuating theses which prompted the burgeoning reconstructions of the original text of Q,
see the critical introduction (pp.11-72) by James Robinson in The Sayings Gospel of Q in Greek and English with Parallels from the Gospels of Mark
and Thomas, edd. J.M. Robinson, P. Hoffmann, J.S. Kloppenborg, (Peeters: 2001)
Remarks on the Nestle/Aland Novum
Testamentum Graece, 28th Ed.
In Memoriam Georg Luck
“The greatest book written in Greek
is the New Testament…”
G.P. Goold5
Holger Strutwolf et al., Novum Testamentum
Graece (Nestle-Aland), Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft
(German Bible Society: 2012), pp. 94 + 890,
ISBN: 978-3-438-05159-2, $59.99 (hb)
In general, scholars who specialize in ancient
texts and their transmission, particularly those
who painstakingly toil over the texts of the New
Testament, usually keep an eye on transactions
occurring within their discipline. Its develop-
ment since late Middle Ages has been docu-
mented with good grace. Through successive
centuries a special artistry attached itself to quite
a few critics; sometimes this was for good; at
other times the originality was badly managed.
As a field of science, in both lexis and applied
method, textual criticism has not attracted
scores of critics of anecdotal genius. Therefore
many able critics in past times have tested and
proven their unique gifts. But times do change,
and in this new era Nestle/Aland’s 28th edition
of the New Testament6is being hailed as a
scientific production, a product of impeccable
scholarship, surpassing all previously edited edi-
tions. The praises have been immoderate to say
the least; critical reviews are in short supply.7
Much more needs to be said since it now will
become the prevailing text for a large number of
The volume itself is beautifully bound, with gold
embossed lettering. My copy has the blue flexi-
cover; the number 28 is covertly stamped just
right of center on the cover, easily visible on the
book's spine. Just inside the front cover are two
maps: one of ‘Palestine in Old Testament Times’
and ‘Palestine in New Testament Times.’ Two
more maps accent the final pages inside the rear
cover: ‘The Ancient Near east in Old Testament
Times’ and ‘The Journeys of The Apostle Paul.’
Each of them is exceptional. Edited by the
Institute for New Testament Textual Research,
and published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft,
this newest edition is accompanied by two small
6 page English and German fold-outs, both of
which contain data for reading the apparatus
criticus: i.e. witnesses, signs and abbreviations. It
runs to 890 pages. The ‘Forewords’ (unnum-
bered) and two ‘Introductions’ (pp. 1-88) appear
in German language followed by a proper
English rendering. This is followed by ‘Eusebii
Epistula ad Carpianum et Canones I-X’ (pp. 89-
94). Aside from the 789 pages of the New
Testament text, there are four sections of back
matter: {1} Codices Graeci et Latini (pp. 792-
819), {2} Variae lectiones Minores (pp. 820-
835), {3} Loci Citati vel Allegati (pp. 836-878),
and {4} Signa et Abbreviationes (pp. 879-890).
This edition is an object lesson. Impressive are
its new features. The typeface is a lighter shade
of ink; side by side with the former edition the
Greek text font size of N/A 28 is less captivating,
but remarkably its appearance is no less pleasing
to the eye. The lettering in the apparatus
appears to be slightly larger than in N/A 27. The
effects of which give the impression that the text
and critical apparatus are in balanced propor-
tion one to the other, and warrant an equal
amount of attention. There is a limited but accu-
rate reporting of the manuscript readings; some
formerly abbreviated variants increase in length;
alternate versions are noted and lectionaries are
not fully utilized, nor are long-standing variants
4 Caveat emptor - ‘let the buyer beware.’ I am grateful to J.T. Ramsey, Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois at Chicago,
and also to G.L. Huxley, Honorary Professor of Greek at Trinity Dublin College, who both read this review-essay with care, and provided me
with valuable suggestions and criticisms, but I would like to make plain at the beginning that I believe the two codices, Vaticanus B and
Sinaiticus to have been discarded with intent soon after their creation, the manner of whose employment in antiquity still has not been
scientifically verified. Therefore any conventional uses of them should serve only to indicate the early existence of modifications later extant
in so-called Traditional Texts.
5 Cf. ‘Richard Bentley: A Tercentenary Commemoration,’ p.296, in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. 67 (1963), pp. 285-302.
6 Henceforth I shall refer to it as N/A.
7 For less extravagant laudation see P.J. Williams review ‘The NA28 is Here. But Don’t Scrap Your 27th Just Yet,’ in The Marginalia Review of
Books, Jan 29, 2013. There are other purported reviews online, the whole of which are uncritical and written without due regard for the theo-
retical purposes of, and application of textual criticism to ancient texts.
in non-Greek ancient language texts admitted.
There is much to mend and explicate. This is
regarded by some to be an eclectic text. The edi-
tors’ preferences are sober, more likely than not
they show good judgment. Clearly there is prof-
it to be made from an investment made in read-
ing N/A 28.
Although its issuance merits our thanks, its
faults, too, are outstanding, and solicit censure.
There are several: however, one remark in pass-
ing needs to be made in order to situate these
arguments properly. The late Georg Luck (1926-
2013) and I sent off a proposal to the editor of
Loeb Classical Library in January 2013 regard-
ing the possible production of a pioneering, but
critical edition of the New Testament, utilizing
Erasmus’ 1516 or so-called traditional text for
our base; such a project also would have
required the editing of the Greek Septuagint on
a new critical basis. In due course we were
informed by the General Editor that the Loeb
Foundation had decided long ago not to take on
any innovative projects, but to continue to repro-
duce the current inventory.8
The reasons for undertaking the production of a
new, critical edition of the NT were clear to us. A
preservationist mindset hampers the develop-
ment of New Testament textual scholarship.9
This is clearly seen in the Nestle/Aland’s latest
edition. The “critical” introduction tells the tale.
Although I focus on a handful below, there is lit-
tle need to treat the numerous places where the
text remains static. Text-critical objectives have
modified over time. Indeed no longer do the
majority of New Testament critics aspire to the
critical reconstruction of the earliest form of the
original text. This seems to be now an antiquat-
ed procedure, running aground at every turn.
E.J. Kenney’s admission about the New
Testament dilemma in his article ‘Textual
Criticism’ in the Encyclopedia Britannica
appears to have gone unnoticed, in which he
states: “…it is commonly held that the essential
task of the critic is not to try to reconstruct the
“original” but to isolate those forms of the text
that were current in particular centres in the
ancient world.” That is a judicious assessment
based on reality, but is it far more feasible and
Indeed some modern critics have taken too far
their cynicism toward the traditional aims of tex-
tual criticism.10 In addition to the limited use
made of R.F. Weymouth (1822-1902) and B.
Weiss’s (1827-1918) texts, Eberhard Nestle’s
(henceforth EN) critical text was constructed in
effect largely on the foundation of Westcott &
Hort’s 1881 edition. Theirs was based primarily
8 A copy of the letter and design of our proposed edition is available upon request. It provides a useful starting point for developing what we
believe would be a truly critical edition.
9 Admittedly the reasons for this are clear. For starters, devoted adherents to a particular faith have little desire for the allowance which may
be given to purportedly impious or broadminded persons who seek to shape their text according to the latest critical theories or whims.
Moreover those textual critics who style themselves orthodox believers, rightly understand, that although the intentions may be good, it still
is possible to reconstruct wrongly a text, dispense with right readings and falsify evidences in a text whose ancient readings benefit from
international and trans-millennial distinction. There are discursive remarks on this matter in Darrell Sutton’s review of A.E. Housman:
Classical Scholar, edd, D.J. Butterfield and C. Stray, entitled ‘A Reader’s Notes and Marginalia’ in the International Journal of the Classical
Tradition, 19, (2012) pp. 8-30; see p. 27, fn. 65. However, the idea posed there is that The Traditional Texts within a religious community are
so because it is held deeply and inherently that the texts have been faithfully passed down in antiquity. No such claim is made for a modern
critical text, so if an analytical edition remains static, the result indicates a drift towards deficient textual theories. The objective of editors of
critical texts, whether the texts are held to be secular or sacred, should be to recover and to present what the author wrote. If there is uncer-
tainty or corruption there is always the possibility of resort to obeli. If obeli are likely to confuse the faithful, then at least attention should be
drawn to uncertainties in the apparatus.
10 One may read of many odd and newly contrived explanations of textual criticism in D. Wallace’s enlightening article ‘Challenges in the
New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century,’ in Journal of the Evangelical Society (2009) 52/1, pp. 79-100. He surveys the
New Testament text-critical field, presenting statements, among others, by D.C. Parker, E.J. Epp and B. Ehrman, men who are more or less
esteemed in those circles; the recovery of any “original” wording seems to be no longer a viable option to them. It remains to be said on
behalf of more optimistic critical scholars that it is not an impossible objective because New Testament critics aver it is impossible. But it is
impossible to those who hold an impracticable view by which their ideals are impossibly conceived. In general, New Testament critics lack the
intuitive wit and requisite skills for conjecture, and this all but ensures that a re-conceptualization of a New Testament critic’s task will follow.
This much is affirmed by J.K. Elliot’s dismissive view on the use of conjectural emendation. In ‘Recent Trends in the Textual Criticism of the
New Testament: A New Millennium, a New Beginning?’, he says “I still remain skeptical that we should ever really ever need to succumb to
such inspired guesswork when trying to establish our initial text,” (p. 130) in BABELAO, Bulletin de l’Académie Belge pour l’Etude des
Langues Anciennes et Orientales (2012), pp. 117-136. Despite this obsolete notion, the important task of the recovery of the author’s word-
ing of the earliest textual form - which is the primary task of the textual critic - does not depreciate in value, and this holds true even if one
notices that oscitancy has infirmed one's critical views.
on two MSS: Codex Vaticanus B (Vat. Gr. 1209)
and Codex Sinaiticus (London, BL, Add,
43725).11 Therefrom descends the critical schol-
ars’ revisionary text which has been inundated
with over one century of scholarship, including
minute investigations of ‘Introduction to NT,’
and of researches into histories of transmission.
Yet in the editors’ latest conception of their task,
conjectural emendation is set aside and dis-
placed from the apparatus criticus - MSS are taken
on trust - and the results of this new initiative are
presented as a new model of critical scholarship;
but the innovation is not introduced with splen-
did effect. In all other fields requiring study of
literary matter: i.e. inscriptions, papyri, monu-
ments, deeds and so on, to hold such a view in
all likelihood would depreciate a volume’s value.
In light of the work being done on classical
Greek and Roman texts at the time, EN’s pro-
cedures - founded on the thesis of an ideal codex
optimus, scarcely could be deemed textual criti-
cism of the highest order; though this method
predominates among New Testament critics
today. The idea that one text should serve as the
standard text for the world-wide communion of
Christians has saddled this edition with all the
faulty presuppositions of the former ones. The
wide variety of texts which were extant in the
ancient world deserve to be studied on a new
basis. The believers who comprised Christen-
dom in ancient times obviously made use of
varying texts; these centers of difference and
divergence need to be evaluated. Until this real-
ization takes hold, various communities naively
will think this new critical text resembles a text
primarily in use in ancient times. To reiterate
the obvious: the two documents, codices Aleph
and Vaticanus B, which are so fundamental to the
reconstruction of the modern critical text, leave
no story behind them except for the report of
their discovery in recent times. In terms of the
antiquity of transmitted readings, I question
whether those of the Byzantine text tradition are
later than those of the others.
It is well known that Codex Aleph was used as a
sort of kindling for fire, and was hurriedly res-
cued from a waste receptacle while pieces of it
burned during cold nights in order to keep men
warm; Vaticanus B rested snugly in a dark, dank
basement until its retrieval when it was foisted
upon the world as an excellent exemplar. Who
used either of these two MSS in antiquity is
something that we cannot know; why they were
written remains a mystery: and this mystery
lends popularity to these two MSS. Their exis-
tence attests their production, their present
form does not make it possible to say whether
they were deemed valuable or reckoned worth-
less12 and then cast aside in the manner of old,
medieval Jewish MSS, banished to a long hiber-
nation in a Geniza. Their worth today stems pri-
marily from their alleged antiquity13 and their
calligraphical felicities.14
11 This MS also is commonly designated codex Aleph, after the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The tendencies of codex Aleph (also
designated: MS Sinaiticus), and other MSS, are apparent in the apparatus. Regarding Aleph though, its semblances of Arianism proliferate,
and a close reader will turn up a variety of editorial predispositions. Such is the case for any MS whose editor is partial to certain readings; all
editors have latent forms of prejudice, and they manifest here and there in the text. However, the N/A ‘Introduction’ neglects this aspect of
scrutiny altogether and does not betray a knowledge of even the slightest possibility of a scribe’s theological bias. J.N. Birdsall decades ago
believed Westcott and Hort “approached their subject for theological reasons.” It is to be remembered that Hegel was able to conceal his
atheism through his use of dialectics. So Birdsall recorded his suspicions of Hegelianism in their text-critical approach, though he was unable
to prove it: stating “so strongly does their dialectic of texts smack of Hegelian analysis of reality as a process in which, at every level, theses,
antithesis and synthesis may be seen as successive stages, that I have sought for evidence of an Hegelian influence upon them - but in vain,”
in his Collected Papers in Greek and Georgian Textual Criticism (Gorgias Press: 2006) p.16.
12 This was not uncommon. In a letter (IX) to Maximus Basil of Caesarea (c.AD329-379) spoke of select books or manuscripts he felt
needed to be marked as exhibitors of impiety. These volumes once belonged to Dionysius of Alexandria (d. AD265). He was a student of
Origen, succeeded to the head of the Alexandrian School and introduced unorthodox opinions. See Sancti patris nostri Basilii, Caesareae
Cappadociae ..., Volume 3, Part 1, (1839), p.127.
13 As stated in the standard volume on this issue in North America, “some scholars believe that these two manuscripts were originally
among the 50 copies of the Scriptures that the Emperor Constantine commissioned Eusebius to have written” (p. 68), The Text of the New
Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, edd., B. Metzger and B. Ehrman (4th ed. Oxford: 2005),. The idea of their creation at
the behest of an emperor is pure conjecture and undergirds their dominance to this day. It defies belief to suppose that an ancient Christian
community at one time revered these texts, yet did not safeguard them for their community’s future liturgical needs and uses.
14 The tendencies of ancient scribes were fluid. Papyrus 52, purportedly the oldest extant fragment of John’s Gospel, is a case in point. A
handful of scholars now busy themselves with whether it represents a late 1st century or early 3rd century text. I maintain on paleographic
grounds that the hypothesis which assumes Vaticanus B and Aleph are 6th century, rather than 4th century MSS, fails to stand up to a close
examination of the MSS themselves, and is an explanation made out of whole cloth.
The divergences of Aleph and Vat. B from com-
patible texts of the day do not downgrade the
value of earlier textual readings, i.e. The Nag
Hammadi Texts. These divergences merely show
that Christian communities used texts which dif-
fered unremarkably from one another in certain
places. This should not be disturbing to various
sects of Christendom. However, to conduct
scholarship as if the critical text should be
regarded as the customary text, or as if it
approximates more closely to the oldest form of
New Testament text, as opposed to the
Traditional Text,15 is an uncritical theory whose
legs are too feeble to bear such weight when crit-
ical thought is applied to this matter.16
Now, regarding some elements in the introduc-
tory matter of the N/A edition, I beg your atten-
tion as well as your patience; desiring to abuse
neither of the two, but certainly I will ask a bit of
them both.
On page 47, the Greek New Testament
(GNT) is designated the model for the use of
“translators, providing a reliable Greek ini-
tial text and a text-critical apparatus showing
variants that are relevant for translation;”
the N/A edition is appointed the version for
“research, academic education and pastoral
practice.” Why the one would not be benefi-
cial to the others I have no idea. There
would not be 100 persons among a 1000
who could read fluently the apparatus of the
GNT, much less the data of N/A’s apparatus.
Practically speaking these intentions operate
in reverse. Translators too need N/A’s mar-
ginal notes and its apparatus: exact transla-
tion is an extension of precise and careful
research. Then again, I believe pastors
might be better served by neglecting the two
of these editions and reaching for an old
stand-by: A. Souter’s Oxford edition of
Novum Testamentum Graece (1947 rev. ed.),
whose critical apparatus reports more useful
variants and data from the writings of the
Church Fathers.
Problems arise here in abundance. On page 52
we are introduced to a novel theory of stemmata
studies soon to overwhelm most areas of New
Testament critical study: The Coherence-Based
Genealogical Method. It requires more explana-
tion than is offered in the N/A introduction, so I
have provided some extended remarks for fur-
ther elucidation.
“The Coherence-Based Genealogical Method is based
on the following assumptions: In a textual tradition
where all the copies have survived and where the
source, or (in case of contamination) the sources, are
also known, as well as the origin of every reading in
every copy, the genealogical interrelationships between
all the variants at any place of variation must appear
in a global stemma of the witnesses as a genealogical
relationship between coherent fields of relationships
between witnesses. ….The Coherence-Based
Genealogical Method does not create stemmata in an
automatic way, but it derives genealogical structures
from findings (the results of collations) and their
assessment in the light of textual criticism, controlled
by means of an iterative process, the rules of which are
oriented on a model of the textual tradition. The
Coherence-Based Genealogical Method makes no tex-
15 Dean John W. Burgon (1813-1888) was much more ardent an opponent of the entire Westcott and Hort textual method than he was an
advocate of all the readings making up the Textus Receptus, and he was one whose inflammatory rhetoric often distracted scholars of good
standing from the brilliance of his Patristic studies. He deplored the use of conjecture on the text of the New Testament; however his unpub-
lished indices of quotations of Traditional Text readings found in the writings of the Church Fathers comprises sixteen thick volumes now
located in the British Museum, extracts of which have yet to show up in any critical introduction or apparatus.
16 But far more pessimistic is the view of one of the field’s foremost New Testament critics, D.C. Parker, who is skeptical of the existence of
any authoritative New Testament text, even doubting that what was written by the New Testament authors is recoverable: see ‘Textual
Criticism and Theology’ in Expository Times (2007) 118, number 12, pp.583-589. Such a statement is amazing for one who has given more
than 4 decades to telling elaborate tales of texts and their transmission, fictitious narratives in which we now know he placed little confidence
and did not believe. Many of his critical essays are now available in Manuscripts, Texts, Theology: Collected Papers 1977-2007, (De Gruyter: 2009).
The aforementioned essay may be found at pp.323-334: see especially his arguments on pp.327-328.
tual decisions. It merely reveals an image of the tradi-
tion which emerges from a text-critical philological
study of all the variants. The iterative process of the
method helps the text-critical philological hypotheses to
confirm their plausibility”. 17
If the CBGM “makes no textual decisions” it cer-
tainly influences them, and the influences derive
from the craftsmanship of those who construct
the elaborate model for each test. It is not easy
to believe this theory increases an editor’s cer-
tainty in reconstructing archetypes or stemma.
Clearly the progress made in reconstructing the
text by means of the theory has been diminutive.
Mixed with all the above are the research proce-
dures of evolutionary biologists and phylogenet-
ic techniques. This is clearly a desideratum
nowadays in German text-critical studies of the
New Testament. At one time the editors of Editio
Critica Maior applied these methods to their
stemmatic studies of the MSS of the epistle of
James. The results encouraged them;18 so charts
of MS families are now in abundance.
The problems inherent in showing the relation-
ships are numerous: (1) family tree associations
routinely scale back the time one normally
would give to evaluating MSS on their own mer-
its. (2) By distributing those with supposedly
similar characteristics to a specific stemma,
readings found in certain MSS are set aside from
further study, but without any proviso on the
inapplicability of this theory to specific diagrams
of literary texts. (3) Since the editor(s) is the only
one or ones invited to these family reunions,
s/he alone sees the distinct features of each text.
(4) And some of these MSS have yet to be collat-
ed, published and/or set forth for a reader’s
Another basic weakness is the blind trust given
to interpretative consensus. This is why the text
today is not markedly different from those pub-
lished one century ago. The methods in practice
now among New Testament critics lag behind
other fields of ancient studies by about seventy-
five years. A close inspection of the N/A text of
Catholic Letters does not attest to the theory’s
invented worth; instead it demonstrates that the
same or better results could have been derived
from theories used by editors of previous edi-
tions (34 textual divergences between N/A 28th
and 27th editions noted on pp.50-51).19
Furthermore if I correctly understand their
argument, based upon their theory Codex A
(Alexandrinus, or MS Royal 1. D. V-VIII, c. 5th
cent.) “has the highest rank among potential
ancestors:” that is to say, e.g., of the various
manuscripts: Aleph, A, B, C, P, 048, 5, 81, 436,
442, 1175, 1243, 1735, 1739, 1852, et al are
“more closely related to A than to any manu-
script text.” Really? Obviously improved read-
ings are less likely to originate; and in the long
run this will be, as it now is in practice: a disillu-
sioning experience.
Critical apparatus: In my own opinion, a criti-
cal edition's value is to be gauged by the degree
to which the necessary tools are made accessible
to the user. The primary function of an appara-
tus should be to provide sources for the editor’s
printed text. Conjectures may be cited, for they
have the advantage of showing there may be dif-
ficulties in the tradition; the merits of MSS also
may be adjudged, but clearly represented is the
editor’s basis for the constitution of his or her
critical text. In light of the number of extant
MSS of the New Testament, this newest design
of N/A’s apparatus criticus appears to be behind
the times. Since the apparatus only reflects
Greek readings, the bias of the apparatus' con-
struction skews obtainable evidence. Not only
Greek readings should be reported, use of the
Vulgate also would aid the reader, and versions
in other languages too. The reporting of the evi-
dences is peculiar. For various texts, the editors
first display adversaria for expressions NOT
printed, repeatedly followed by the notation
“txt,” after which is given the ms support for in-
17 See G. Mink’s article, The Coherence-Based Genealogical Method: What is it all about?, online at http://www.uni-
18 Cf. p. 124 of Klaus Wachtel’s article ‘Coherence-Based Genealogical Method: A New Way to Reconstruct the Text of the Greek New
Testament,’ in Editing the Bible: Assessing the Task Past and Present, edd., J.L. Kloppenburg and J.H. Newman (SBL: 2012), pp.123-138.
Wachtel’s article is full of eccentrically styled charts which are not as helpful to this reader as were intended.
19 The Catholic Letters in N/A 28 reflect the work done in the second edition of the ECM critical text of Catholic Letters.
text variants printed in the passage (e.g., Jn.
7.3,8,14 or Rev. 16:6).
On the face of it non-Greek readings offered in
other manuscripts are indirectly relegated to
second-class status on account of these meas-
ures. One wonders why a bigger and superior
edition cannot be edited which places MS vari-
ants at the foot of the page, but in sections des-
ignated by the ancient language in which they
are found; of the Church Fathers, the editors
had said “an author’s paraphrases, variations, or
sheer allusions have no place in the apparatus of
a critical edition of the New Testament” (p.72 of
27th ed.). Why not?
Regarding the biblical paraphrases of the
Church Fathers, on page 78 of N/A 28 one reads
“… modifications of the New Testament text
that can be attributed to their way of quoting or
to the manuscript tradition of the text contain-
ing the quotation have to be excluded from the
apparatus of a hand edition of the New
Testament” - could not such data be placed in
the inner or outer marginal apparatus? This
statement, made by N/A’s editors, was never up
to date, and apart from the making of a transla-
tion, an editor’s taking into consideration of col-
lections of rewordings, of adaptations and of
intimations of an author, supply one sure way a
reader can know that an editor fully grasps the
meanings of certain passages.
Some questions: (1) Here I advert to an unremit-
ting problem, the accents: why are they missing
from the Greek readings in the apparatus of
every N/A edition? I suggest that this kind of
reductionism should be abolished. Students who
specialize in ancient Greek accent systems would
find the accented variations worthy of research
as well when probing this critical edition. (2) why
must the apparatus be so encumbered; since
6000 or so NT MSS were not exploited, must it
look like they were so used? Some of them good,
some bad, some of them worse, yet they clutter
the bottom half of countless pages (e.g. the app.
crit. for John’s Revelation is filled with irrelevan-
cies). Regarding the Gospels, the better MSS all
contain credits for Matthew, Mark, Luke and
John. They are a part of the Gospels’ literary
history, as are the superscriptions of the Psalms.
There may be slight variations in wording, but
each is ascribed to its proper author by means of
KATA, (3) and at Mat. 4:23 should we not go on
and show courage and insert ? ?????? into the
text in agreement with all the evidences cited in
the app. crit.? It is a stylistic form conventional to
each text of the Gospels.
The changes in the Catholic Letters are purely
cosmetic: to demonstrate that the editors are will-
ing and able to withdraw from the aura of
grandeur of Codex Sinaiticus, even when it possess-
es a better reading than the editors’ corrected
one. And there is an attraction to transposing
words in a line. Considerable substitutions that are
noticeable on sight occur at I Pet. 4:16, ?????
and II Pet. 2: 18, ?????. (4) although it is a
benign fix, and since the change at Ja. 1: 20 is
not a conjecture, but is the result of the CBGM
theory, one must inquire of the purpose of the
evidences listed in the apparatus? Is there an
article or essay which provides a sensible reason
behind the alteration of Ja. 2: 3? I am unable to
appreciate the logic of it all. (5) in light of what
we understand about the apocalyptic belief of
the earliest Christians, will II Pet. 3: 10 make bet-
ter sense than it did before? By the looks of it
Peter’s new world is on the horizon, but will dis-
close little.
Since the decease two hundred and seventy one
years ago of Richard Bentley (1662-1742),20 an
illustrious textual critic of his day who practiced
recensio with emendatio on classical texts, the
criticism of New Testament texts has been ham-
pered by celebrated persons who have felt the
need for specific rules or formulae needed when
editing New Testament texts: i.e. J.A. Bengel’s
(1687-1752) caveat proclivi scriptioni praestat
20 Bentley, in his scholarship, did not stand one whit behind Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), J.J. Scaliger (1540-1609) or I. Casaubon
(1559-1614). But on the topic at hand see his Proposals for a New Greek Testament, published in 1721. Wherein he maintained he could recon-
struct by critical means the Greek exemplar of Origen.
ardua, assumes the predominance of difficult
readings.21 Still the need for specialist knowl-
edge of paleography22 and theological context
does not disappear; it is my belief that critical
editions of each New Testament book should be
individually edited by an editor whose inde-
pendence of mind is visible. Problems of affilia-
tion in religious communities often lead to the
creation of methodologies that may impede pro-
cedures commonly accepted in Classical and
Near Eastern disciplines, especially when one
seeks to firm up the basis of the New
Testament.23 These varying texts do not invari-
ably command assent, but they do show how the
fields are blossoming.
Although the CBGM is applied to the Catholic
Letters alone, the labors of the editors of Editio
Critica Maior soon will form the basis of all future
N/A and GNT editions. On page 54 readers are
told “for all other NT books for which the Editio
Critica Maior is not yet available, there is no new
basis of knowledge. Hence, except for the
Catholic Letters, the text of the 27th edition has
been retained.” At this point one wonders what
was the motive behind issuing an incompletely
edited New Testament text at all. Since the 28th
edition differs little from the 27th edition, and
the critical or “diplomatic” text of the latter does
not differ at all from the 26th edition, it would
have been better to withhold publication of the
28th edition until all the results were in from the
Miscellanea: The following remarks are exploratory
and diagnostic. They stem from years of reading and
research, of proclaiming these texts in public and
from reflecting on them critically. No conceit is
intended by my language, and my disagreements are
not signs of disrespect. Places where I disagree with
the editors I do so with diffidence. Tales of historical
events are fluid, so telling stories about old hand-
written replicas of Bible texts will not end anytime
soon. Entire enterprises of a textual nature survive by
these accounts. It is noteworthy that with the passing
of time ancient manuscripts in due course were
defaced by quite a few scribal hands. Accretions
abound. Consequently, critics with pioneering spirits
are needed to repair the damages. The below pas-
sages are not thematically related, but they are all
Pauline. Therefore I prefix a list of them: I Cor. 14:
33-34; Col. 1: 15-20; 2: 1-3; 3:16; 4:13.
I Corinthians 14:33
N/A editors are classically attentive to foibles and
interpolations. They note them down here and there,
and though they have distinguished much else their
instincts sometimes diverted them from right paths.
This may explain how I Cor. 14: 33-34 was over-
looked. There are issues to be broached. I think it
safe to say we can eliminate à??????????? which is
printed in the text: note the form. The app. crit. gives
no aid; after 2000 years its denotation remains some-
what indistinct, so why attribute this expression to
Paul? Sensing the difficulty the translators of Novum
Testamentum Latine were perturbed by its meaning
and so printed dissensionis, disagreement - as a result
of feelings of antipathy. To transliterate the reading
in the text: stasis, settling; katastasis, settling down.
Then the addition of the a-privative results in the
connotation - ‘not settling down’ -, one that is blurred
and indecorous. For an improvement to the contrast
intended with ?? I propose ????????? as an
anomaly in this context.
One senses rebellious behavior in the church there at
Corinth, some predictive activities that tend toward
21 Although Bengel mentioned several rules of textual criticism in the preface to his Gnomon Novi Testamenti (Tubingen, 1742), far more
influential on New Testament critics have been the reformulated rules of J.J. Griesbach (1745-1812). For these see the introduction to the
2nd edition of his Greek New Testament (Halle, 1796). It should be noted that the eminent British textual critic A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
had little use for the so-called rules of textual criticism and said this of them in his Cambridge Inaugural Lecture of 1911: “They are leading
strings for infants, they are crutches for cripples, and they are strait-waistcoats for maniacs.” See The Confines of Criticism, ed. J. Carter
(Cambridge: 1969), p.39.
22 To learn the details of this field of study one should not turn to Bruce Metzger’s Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek
Paleography (Oxford: 1981). It was reviewed by N.G. Wilson in Speculum, Volume 59, Number 1 (January 1984), pp. 187-189. The review was
not favorable, and he copiously exhibits the volume’s many faults. But see N.G. Wilson’s article ‘Greek Palaeography’ (pp.101-114) in The
Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies), edd., E. Jeffreys, J. Haldon, R. Cormack, (Oxford: 2008).
23 With nearly 6000 Greek MSS and fragments the New Testament deserves to be reconstructed in a manner somewhat akin to those texts
issued from the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, utilizing all ancient literary evidences: mss, inscriptions, and stelae, seals and more. Or least
of all, the critical texts of Holy Scripture should be constructed along the lines of editions published by the Bibliotheca Teubneriana or
Scriptorum Classicorum Bibliotheca Oxoniensis. Smaller individual editions of the Gospels, Pauline and Petrine Epistles, et cetera are needed.
an overthrow of all amity. As for ?????????, see
LSJ: lit. an ‘uprising’ or ‘disturbance.’ It is generally
believed and commonly assumed that
refers strictly to ‘resurrection.’ However, that is only
one of several possible linguistic meanings; and
although this Christian designation finds more than
60 locations in NT passages, it in no way represents
?????????’ many past historical functions. I aver
Paul was making classical use of a commonly used
term. When observed semantically this is not an
inappropriate line of reasoning, especially consider-
ing the evidences. For various meanings, which differ
from the conventional biblical norm, and which
bear wider correspondences, but are nearer to my
usage, see e.g., Dem. De cor. 18.90; Hdt. Hist.
9.106; Aeschy. Ag. 589; Eur. Tro. 364; App. B. Civ.
I Corinthians 14: 34
?? ?? ?????? ???? ?????????? ??? ?????
Moreover the editors, repeatedly, are alert to the
right uses of punctuation and arrangement. So why
bracket the final sentence of v. 33 with the initial por-
tion of v. 34? By deleting the period/full stop after
????? the re-duplication of “in … churches” presents
an unseemly display. If the editors’ reconstruction is
sound, in order to maintain the character of the
Pauline discussion it is needful to deal with a likely
corruption of perseveration: so should we not delete
?? ???? ???????????
Colossians 1: 15-20
?? ????? ????? ??? ???? ??? ???????,
?????????? ????? ???????, ff.
Vis-à-vis the so-called Christ Hymn of Col. 1: 15-20, it
is paraded in choral stanzas. The reasons for this are
unclear. These verses do not exhibit musical features
common to ancient Greek hymnody (for a similar
problem, see N/A’s printing of Phil. 2:6-11) or other
types of ancient hymnody. Are the verses even metri-
cal like an Indo-European poem or Northwest
Semitic psalm? Lofty elements of theological reflec-
tion do not always signify the subsistence of early
Christian lyric. A more plausible choice for reform
would have been the reorganization of Jesus’ rejoic-
ing at Lu. 10:21 into stanzas; but this the editors did
not do; but even the act of rejoicing does not always
signify song. Therefore I find the editors’ strophic
arrangement of the Colossian verses inapt; there is
no metrical arrangement; the verses’ regular assem-
blage as an exegetical segment of a circular letter
should be reintroduced. Nothing has been gained
from the Christ-hymn theory in the way of exposition
other than numerous unfounded, stylistics argu-
ments. And even if an ancient community at one time
sung these verses when they congregated, that is no
indication Paul meant them to be hymnodic, only
that later they were used so, just as contemporary
songwriters set Holy Scripture to music for worship
purposes. In the text of the Old Testament it was
obvious when songs were proposed: (e.g. Moses’
Song: Ex. 15: 1 and Miriam’s reference in v.21 to the
verbiage of v.2; Deborah’s Song: Jud. 5:1; David’s
Song: II Sam. 22:1).
Colossians 2: 1-3
???? ??? ???? ??????? ?????? ????? ??? ???? ????; ??? ???
?? ????????? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ?? ??????
Translation, newly edited and repunctuated: “I wish
you knew the great struggle I have about you; indeed {for}
them in Laodicea, and as great a number of those who have
not seen my face in the flesh whereupon their hearts might
be comforted: being brought together into love and unto all
the richness of the full certainty of understanding in recog-
nition of Christ, the mystery of God: in whom are all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge concealed.”
I retained a bit of the syntactical imprecision I per-
ceive at the end of verse 2. As it is punctuated in the
N/A critical text, there is little chance of redeem-
ing the long sentences. This is why the NRSV short-
ens them significantly. According to the apparatus,
some corrector inadvertently was sober-minded
enough to record an original reading. Paul’s refer-
ence is explicit. He had not visited Colossae, but he
was often accosted by controversy for the sake of the
Gospel. The conflict extends itself all round or in
every respect. He is personally affected by it. The
apparatus displays '????' as a variant {cf. D*²} to ????.
Its meaning is narrower; and the concern follows on
the heels of his notion of the intense labor involved
in proclaiming Christ, which can be accomplished
only by an invisible power dwelling within him (1:
29). So it is doubtful Paul would have been thinking
“substitutionally” as is recorded in modern versions.
Colossians 3: 16
? ????? ??? ??????? ????????? ?? ???? ????????, ?? ????
The apparatus shows there was activity surrounding
this verse. I believe the N/A vulgate is correct: here is
why. Of several MSS. preserving the same Codex ?*
contains ?????? and Codices Aand C*read ????.
"???????" is preferable to ?????? or ???? because the
word '??????' deploys several advantages (cf. 1:19’
2:9). The lection "???????" was the western equiva-
lent to denoting the eastern concept of Messiahship:
one who was supernaturally endowed or indwelt by
deity to do great exploits on behalf of the Jews. The
explicitness of Paul’s theology prohibits enlistment of
scribal terms that modify the force of his powerful
reasoning. Regarding strict definitions in ancient
religion ?????? and ???? are less precise to the ear of
a citizen of Asia Minor than is the word ???????,
unless they were being used as modifiers in a narrow
sense for Israel’s Messiah. The form
accords with ? ?????? ??? ???? ??? of v. 15;
but in v. 17 "????? ???????" needs elevation from
the apparatus into the text. The Word which in-dwells
the believer is now the Word by which he or she per-
forms good deeds.
Colossians 4: 13
??????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ????? ????? ???
The text "????? ?????" is deficient. It is variously and
erratically translated in modern versions. Against this
reading stands the context of Paul’s praise of
Epaphras. The apparatus gives 6 readings. One of
them is ????? ????? - 6. 1739. 1881. Although not
my first choice it could reflect a stylistic feature, re-
inforcing the intensity of the participle ????????????
in v. 12. Though not abundantly attested in the wit-
nesses, it stands better in the text than the printed
reading, and it has Pauline attributes. It is equally
wrong though, for it mistakenly and indirectly
emphasizes - as does ????? ????? - the toil and
labors of prayer, whether or not that is the editors’
intention. Paul, I believe, was accenting the inward
compulsion and drive at the root of the intercessions
of Epaphras. The Erasmian Text (1521) preserves
????? ?????, which heightens but transforms the
meaning of the extended thought so that Epaphras’
enthusiasm is high-lighted. The antiquity of the read-
ing is not dubious. And the relationship of ???? to
????? ?///???? is incongruous. Paul is noting the moral
fervor of the man. Thus the care, concern and eager
desire he had for their well being, and for those at
Laodicea and Hieroplis, is grounded in Epaphras’
enormous passion for their spiritual interests. This
concurs with his affections noted in the preceding
listing of salutations.
Scribal conventions: since the apparatus represents
an editor's selections or the editors’ choices of read-
ings they are to be respected on the grounds of their
individual merits. However the sources annotated in
N/A also uncover consistent patterns and habits of
ancient scribes left to us through MSS. These prefer-
ences have yet to be fully examined in a comparative
way for the purposes of settling the earliest New
Testament text. I have elected to muse about only
one manuscript. In footnote #11 I adverted to the
scribal biases observable in MSS. Below are a few facts
culled from an examination of Codex ? in compari-
son with other readings. On pp.62-67 N/A’s
‘Introduction’ Aleph stands foremost as the most con-
sistently cited witness to the New Testament docu-
ments. In consideration of the earliest extant writings
of the Church Fathers one wonders how each of them
would have understood the deleted and omitted
readings in Aleph. In Matthew’s text the name JESUS
is omitted in these instances: 1:18, 4:12, 18, 23; 8:3,
5, 7, 29; 9:12; 12:25; 13:36, (???????? is deleted in
13:51 and in 28:6); 14:14, 22, 25; 15:16; 16:20 - at
16:21 N/A editors do not follow ? with
????? ?????????; 17:11, 20; 18:2; 22:37 and at 23:8
????????? is deleted. Christian practice might be
affected by the absence of readings from these verses:
Mat. 5:44 “do not bless or do good… despitefully…”;
Mat. 25:13 the return of the Son of Man is deleted.
This would be the case if one only could recur to the
text of Matthew for validity of Jesus’ mission. The
notion of a coming judgment and personal account-
ability in the hereafter is disturbed in N/A’s Matthew
text. The deletion of Jesus’ statement on a ‘baptism
of suffering in which his disciples would be
immersed’ removes a foundation stone that touches
on the distress one might incur as a follower of Jesus.
At Mat. 27:35 the deletion of the ‘casting lots’ dis-
course around the cross disallows the fulfillment of an
Old Testament prophecy. In a text that is historically
known for the attention it gives to reconciling
Hebrew Scriptures to Jesus’ redemptive work the
above remarks are noteworthy. The omission of
JESUS’ name could not have resulted from its infelic-
itous placement in a verse, or for its redundancy. The
design and formation of Matthew’s text has a singu-
lar purpose: to inundate, not merely to acquaint, the
reader with knowledge of the Savior’s name and the
radical character that is bound to that name. Any dis-
sociation misrepresents the disposition of the text
and misdirects readers away from the type of text
which influenced the earliest communities of
Christians. Moreover in Codex ? there are some seri-
ous issues which have been set aside in its synoptic
Gospels. Of these one must regard Jesus’ resurrection
and ascension (see Mat. 16:8 and 28:8; Lk. 24:12, 51.
Note the effect made at Lk. 24:46 with omission of
??? ????? ????, re-moving the inevitability or the
obligatory nature of it all. Cases of morphological
and syntactical alterations are plentiful (see Mat.
11:16; 15:35 and 12:14 respectively). But these need
not cause so much alarm. A brief overview of evi-
dences set out in this way establishes two things: (1)
Aleph may have been an early text, although its usage
is unverifiable; (2) but c. 170 years onward since its
19th century discovery, its scribal tendencies still do
not affirm, critically or in consistent measures, what
may be got from a close reading of a Byzantine Text
of Matthew, especially when one reads the latter while
studying the extant readings of the early and later
Patristic Fathers who published within the perimeters
of the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.
Give Due Regard to
David Butterfield, The Early Textual History of
Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura Volume 87, Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press (2013), Pp.
342. ISBN 978-1- 107-03745-8. $110.00 (hb)
At present, Dr. Butterfield (hereafter DB) is
arguably the premier textual critic of Lucretius’
poetic masterpiece. For nearly a decade he has
proposed numerous conjectural emendations on
passages of DRN (cf. bibliography). His analyses
of the poem certainly have been carried out for
a longer period of time. This volume is a one of
a kind attempt, tracing the manuscript histories
of Lucretius’ classic text down through to the
medieval age. Another aim is stated on page
273: “to provide firmer foundations for the
difficult task of editing DRN”. Taken as a whole
DB embarks on substantial investigations, and
the author’s objectives were achieved notably. It
is a detailed work, for use primarily by those
experts whose studies demand critical examina-
tions of the Latin texts of DRN.
Aside from the introduction, five chapters divide
the main body of researches: (1) A sketch of
extant Lucretian manuscripts; (2) The indirect
tradition of Lucretius; (3) The capitula of De
rerum natura; (4) The correcting hands of O; (5)
The marginal annotations of Q¹; finally a brief
conclusion and five appendices: I Capitula
Lucretiana; II Apparatus fontium Lucreti (ante
a.d. millesimum); III The corrections and annotations
of O; IV The foliation of the Lucretian archetype and
V The fate of OQS in the early modern period. 16
splendid figures and illustrations adorn the
pages. A full bibliography follows and an exten-
sive index is supplied.
He dismisses Jerome’s assertion (p.1, fn.4) that
DRN originally was edited by Cicero. Although it
is not explicitly stated, I think DB assumes the
possibility of M. Valerius Probus’ (c. AD20-105)
editing of the text to be much more likely. The
utility of MS Quadratus is now, I believe, deci-
sively upgraded. If both MSS Oand Qwere writ-
ten in early Carolingian hands, what evidence
demonstrates the latter's younger status? Since
the marginalia of Qdiffers radically from that of
O, if there are signs that it had not been read
before the Renaissance, could not this indicate
an especial esteem at one time given to it? This
may have prevented able readers of Latin from
treating the MS as a working copy, therein
appending large amounts of annotations, et
cetera. As a consequence, they were ensuring the
conservation of an eccentric form of the text
(capitula and all) which could create the base for
future MSS.
Considering the times, the enforced riddance of
MSS during the formerly so-called middle ages
indirectly did help to preserve numerous copies
of ancient texts. But oddly enough, social con-
texts are not adequately defined24. These out-
lines would have aided in situating the many
assertions he makes regarding the manner in
which MSS were transmitted: for example, on
page 9 he writes “Lucretius’ DRN was not a work
that a monastery would necessarily feel comfort-
able in recording publicly…”; but one is not
instructed briefly - or offered a supposition - as
to why monasteries as an institution preserved
so many of these types of MSS.
The stemma provided is probably true, and the
coverage of the indirect transmission of DRN is
riveting. Having carefully read pages 136-202
one wonders why the capitula, which usually note
‘the main subject of the subsequent Lucretian passage’
(p.192), should have been neglected by so many
Lucretian commentators. DB provides extensive
remarks on grammatical issues, programmatic
24 A few lines are inserted on p.56 in regard to the Church Fathers. But a brief treatment of the alleged divergences of beliefs in DRN and
in the Church Fathers’ creationist texts was needed.
method, and the careful delineation of no less
than two hands of learned annotators; although
from a different perspective, it is my belief that
the capitula must not “be annexed to an appen-
dix in an edition” (p.202), but when they are not
inserted into the text should be noted down in
the app. crit. at bottom of the page in every
instance where they occur.
DB concludes the volume with various useful
suggestions to prospective editors: one of which
states: “In constructing the apparatus criticus for
future editions, therefore, one need not cite the
readings of ? or any later corrections in OQS
save those of Dungal; only appealing emenda-
tions from these sources deserve record” [sic]
(p.272). However, regarding what an editor
should or should not cite, I think that the
method of textual criticism is to be left to the
individual editor’s judgment, if indeed it is to be
considered a critical work.
Rev. D. Antoine Sutton completed his doctoral
studies at Knox Theological Seminary (D.Min)
and is Senior Minister of the Tabernacle in the
Great Plains, Red Cloud, Nebraska (USA).
He is a biblicist whose specialisms and read-
ing/research interests include: Semitic pursuits
and Arabic grammar; the poetry and textual
criticism of A. E. Housman; the text and trans-
mission of Manilius’ Astronomica; the origin
and formation of the earliest historical tradi-
tions of Islam; and the use of typology as a
literary and/or theological device in the exegesis
of ancient Greek and Roman poetry and in
expository studies of Old and New Testament
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