Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Musing about the New Testament

People sometimes wonder whether 'The New Testament' is a New Testament concept. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments. But I've been musing on this.

The basic shape of the New Testament as a Trinitarian text oriented around the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the preaching of his apostles is laid out in John 14.26: 'the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything [i.e. inspire the apostolic output], and remind you of all that I have said to you [i.e. inspire the euaggelic output].'

Hebrews 2.3b-4 offers a bit more (including a Trinitarian framework) in describing our 'so great salvation' as: a) declared through the Lord [i.e. represented in the Gospels]; b) attested by those who heard him [i.e. represented in the epistles]; and c) confirmed by God's miraculous accompanying testimony [i.e. the book of Acts].

Galatians 2.9 in speaking of the pillar apostles alongside Paul fills in some of the details of the apostolic output as originating in James, Peter, John, and Paul (as many in the early church recognised). The four missions associated with these four pillars may also explain the four-fold gospel as representing (more or less?) the gospel teaching associated with each of the pillars (James - Matthew; Peter - Mark; John - John; Paul - Luke) [almost with E.E. Ellis].

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Greek Text of the English Bible between 1611 and 1881

Two of the most significant English translations as far as the text of the New Testament is concerned are the Authorized or King James Version of 1611 and its revision, the Revised Version, published in 1881 (NT; OT in 1885).

The KJV is obviously significant given its widespread adoption and use. Even today, it usually ranks as the second or third bestselling English translation. The RV marks another watershed in that it is the only officially sanctioned revision of the KJV. As far as textual criticism is concerned, it is even more important because it marks the first major English Bible to move away from the Textus Receptus and its lineage. After that, almost all English translations follow suit, right down to the present.

Because of their historical significance, it is worth asking how different the Greek text is behind these two translations. For the RV, we are lucky to have the Greek text used by the revisers and published by F. H. A. Scrivener, himself a member of the New Testament committee for the RV. For the KJV, it’s a bit trickier because the translators did not say exactly what Greek text they followed. By most accounts, however, they generally followed Beza’s fifth edition (1598) with occasional preference for Stephanus or even the Vulgate (for details, see here and here).

For his part, John W. Burgon said that the RV diverged from the traditional Greek text “nearly 6000 times.” Since this is Burgon we’re talking about, he naturally adds that these were “almost invariably for the worse.” But Burgon himself did not have access to the Greek text of the revisers as far as I know. Presumably he must have used Westcott and Hort for his estimate, assuming that it was close enough. If so, he was right to do so as his estimate is not far from the truth.

But for a better comparison, we can turn to Scrivener’s Parallel New Testament: Greek and English (Cambridge, 1882) which lays out the Greek behind the KJV and the Greek text adopted by the RV committee. Helpfully, Scrivener marks any place where he thinks the KJV translators diverged from Beza and any place where the RV’s Greek text differs from the KJV’s. In this way, his book gives a nice view of how the text used for the English Bible changed between 1611 and 1881.

In all Scrivener tells us there are 190 places where the Greek text behind the KJV diverges from Beza. More relevant, I counted a total of 5,614 differences between the KJV and RV Greek texts. That makes for a rate of about 0.7 differences per verse or one every 1.5 verses. The lowest rate is 0.4 in Matthew and Galatians. The highest is in Revelation with 1.6 differences per verse. That’s quite a lot more than I expected, to be honest. For some reason I assumed there were only a few thousand at most.

Of course, bare numbers only tell you so much. Many of these differences are untranslated and untranslatable. But many others do affect the translation and that is one reason why the RV was criticized. Had the changes been fewer, it might not have raised the ire of critics like Burgon the way it did. It would be useful to have more precise numbers on how many changes did not actually affect the translation, but that would take a good deal more work.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Value of Knowing the Bible’s Transmission History (Westcott)

Westcott’s words to clergy-in-training from his Lessons from Work (1901):
2. The study [of the Bible] must be systematic, and again it must be thorough. Even the external history of the Sacred books illustrates the action of the Spirit in the Christian Society, and gives a personal reality to the past. It cannot be a matter of indifference to know how the New Testament — to limit myself to that — has come down to us; to look at the Manuscripts from which our fathers drew words of life, to trace the stirring history of the version through which the teaching of Apostles has been made accessible to men of other tongues. Almost every great Library has some touching memorial of biblical labour before which it is well for us to pause. Every Oxford man here has, I trust, looked with deep questionings of heart, on the very copy of the Acts which our own Bede read and quoted, turning from the familiar Latin to the original Greek, and so laying the foundation of biblical scholarship for his countrymen: every Cambridge man on the precious copy of the Gospels and Acts which Beza offered as his choicest gift to the University, and many, I hope, have read on the open page the memorable saying found only there, which seems to mark the distinction between popular tradition and apostolic record : every visitor to the British Museum, on the copy of the Latin Gospel, which was once carried about with Cuthbert’s body, and noticed its leaves, stained with sea water, a testimony to the perils which his followers endured in their wanderings. In such treasures the Diocese of Durham has a large share. We claim as our own three Manuscripts of the Vulgate of unsurpassed interest, the most authoritative copy of the whole Bible, written at Jarrow, under the direction of Bede’s Master, and sent as a present to the Pope, the most exquisite copy of a single Gospel, St John, which was placed in the coffin of Cuthbert when he was laid to rest; and the Lindisfarne Gospels, written in his honour, to which I have already referred, to which was added at Chester-le-Street, one of the first, if not the very first, translation of the Gospels into an English dialect. The three are strangely different in form, in writing, in ornament, yet alike in the general character of their text. We may then well be proud of these works of the leaders of our Northern Church; and for my own part, I delight to remember that our English Version is marked as no other version is marked, by a double and in some sense a fourfold seal of martyrdom. The great scholar who laid its sure foundations and the brave pastor who first brought the fragments together which completed its original structure died simply for their faith; and so too, though less purely, the statesman and the prelate who first procured its authoritative publication.  
Such details have, I think, far more than a literary interest. They help us to feel the value of our heritage. They make the past live again for us, live with the life which is truly life. 
So touched with a grateful sense of the care which our own fathers have lavished on the books which we have received, we approach their interpretation. And here I counsel you most earnestly to do two things habitually, to read the original Greek, and in reading the English version to strive to recall the Greek. In doing this question each word in the apostolic text, and in your imperfect recollection of it, till it has told its lesson: till each apostolic word has rendered its peculiar meaning: till each error in your own version has revealed the loss which it entailed. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie’s Bible Collection to be Auctioned

NEW YORK, 6 October 2016—Sotheby’s is honored to announce the sale of one of the greatest private collections of printed and manuscript Bibles formed since the 19th century, The Bible Collection of Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, which will be held in New York on 5 December 2016. Dr. Ryrie (1925–2016) was best known for his eponymous Study Bible, which contains 10,000 concise and cogent explanatory notes and has sold more than 2,600,000 copies. But while the Study Bible was directed towards the general reader, Dr. Ryrie was a titan among theological and Biblical scholars, and the author of numerous academic books and articles. The leading proponent of dispensationalism of our times, Dr. Ryrie influenced generations of students, teaching at Calvary Bible College, Westmont College, Dallas Theological Seminary and Philadelphia College of Bible (now Cairn University).

The New York sale on 5 December will include some 200 lots of manuscript and printed Bibles, ranging from the tenth-century “Benton” Gospels in Greek (estimate $50/$80,000) to a beautifully illuminated thirteenth-century Italian manuscript Bible in Latin (estimate $150/250,000) to two leaves surviving from the Gutenberg Bible, printed in Mainz about 1454 (estimate $50/70,000 each). But the core of the Ryrie Collection is the remarkable run of early English translations of the Bible, including multiple very rare early editions of the versions prepared by Myles Coverdale and William Tyndale, the latter of whom was martyred. Most remarkably, the Ryrie Collection includes a manuscript of John Wycliffe’s New Testament, produced in England about 1430 (estimate $500/800,000). The Authorized, or King James version is also well represented, including the tallest copy known of the first edition, from the celebrated library of Louis Silver (estimate $400/600,000). First and other early editions in many other vernacular languages are represented as well, including German, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Welsh, and the Indian Massachusett language.

Following November exhibitions of selected highlights in London and Chicago, the New York exhibition of the full Ryrie Collection will open on 1 December 2016, alongside the seasonal offerings of Fine Books and Manuscripts.

Selby Kiffer, International Senior Specialist, Books & Manuscripts remarked: “It is a testament to Charles Ryrie’s personal modesty that, despite his myriad accomplishments, he was not widely known as a book collector. The wider world first learned of the remarkable collecting achievement of Dr. Ryrie through the 1998-99 exhibition, Formatting the Word of God, at the Bridwell Library of Southern Methodist University. But that exhibition, remarkable as it was, featured fewer than half of the volumes in Dr. Ryrie’s collection and none of his extraordinary letters and documents signed by theological figures such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John and Charles Wesley. When the full extent of his collection—astutely gathered over the course of more than five decades—is revealed, it will surely be acknowledged as a string of bibliographical pearls of great price.”

The family of Charles Ryrie has expressed their hope that his books and manuscripts will go to other collectors who will treasure them as much as he did: “While our father’s collecting was largely a private endeavor, he keenly enjoyed sharing his books and knowledge with a small group of collectors, libraries, and dealers. We are sure that he would be pleased to know that his collection will now go to other collectors just as dedicated and as passionate he was.”

The Bible Collection of Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie will offer collectors, both individual and institutional, the opportunity to compete for a great variety of Biblical treasures, many of which have not been available on the market for decades.

  • New Testament in English. Manuscript on vellum, England, ca. 1430, of the version inspired by and traditionally attributed to John Wycliffe (ca. 1330-1384).
    Estimate $500/800,000
  • Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God Naneeswe Nukkone Testament kah wonk Wusku Testament. Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1661-63. The first Bible printed in America, translated into the Massachusett Indian language by John Eliot.
    Estimate $200/300,000
  • The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New. London: Robert Barker, 1611. The largest known copy of the first edition of the King James Bible, “the only literary masterpiece ever to have been produced by a committee.”
    Estimate $400/600,000
  • The Holy Bible. London: Robert Barker, 1631. A detail from the “Wicked Bible,” which, due to error or mischief, omitted the “not” from the Seventh Commandment (Exodus 20:14).
    Estimate $15/20,000

HT: Fine Books Magazine

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Brill Series on Digital Biblical Studies

The first volume of a new series on Digital Biblical Studies has just appeared from Brill. It’s edited by Claire Clivaz, Paul Dilley and David Hamidović. Table of contents is here.

I’ve only looked at the chapters that piqued my interest.

The chapter by Houghton and Smith gives a nice overview of the process of producing the ECM. This article is free, by the way.

Chapter four gives a nice summary of what materials are available for Syriac studies and it’s also free. If you haven’t used, it’s a great resource.

Chapter nine gives a look at spectral imaging and may be of interest to ETC readers but I’ve only skimmed it myself.

I’m not sure what the plan is beyond edited volumes, but this might be a series to watch.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mark 16 on a Roll

Many New Testament scholars consider Mark 16.8 to be the original ending of the gospel. Others regard the original ending as now lost. For those who think it’s lost, the most frequent explanation is that it was lost at some point given that the beginning and ends of books are particularly liable to damage and loss. Those who think that Mark 16.8 is the original ending sometimes argue against this by pointing out that, because Mark was most likely written on a roll, a loss at the end is actually very unlikely.

Dan Wallace makes this argument in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark (2008). After saying that it is very unlikely that Mark wrote his gospel as a codex, he says
However, if Mark’s Gospel is earlier than this [end of the first century]—as virtually all scholars acknowledge, regardless of their view of the synoptic problem—then he would have written his Gospel on a roll, and the first generation of copies would also have been on rolls. And if the Gospel was written on a roll, then the most protected section would be the end, because when someone rolled the book back up, the end would be on the inside. To be sure, some lazy readers might not rewind the book when finished—of course, they would get fined a denarius at their local Blockbuster for such an infraction! But the reality is that this sort of thing was the rare exception, not the rule. Consequently, if Mark was originally written on a roll, it is hard to imagine how the ending could have gotten lost before any copies were made. (pp. 35–36)
Appeal has also been made to the placement of the title in a scroll in this debate. F. G. Kenyon actually changed his mind on whether the end was liable to loss. He felt that the position of the title at the end of the roll would mean that “the reader of a roll would not want to wait till he had read to the end in order to know the name of the author and the title of the work; and an intending reader would not want to unroll the entire roll in order to ascertain these facts.” Because of that, Kenyon takes the opposite view of Wallace on whether a scroll might account for the loss of Mark’s original ending.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Principles for Revising the KJV

I spent the morning today looking through some of the minutes and papers from the revisers of the English Bible (i.e., the Revised Version). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the minutes on the New Testament. But I did come across some interesting collateral material. For example, the funding put up by the University of Oxford and Cambridge was £20,000 and they retained the profits from printing. Also, the NT committee, at least from what I saw, took detailed notes for each verse whereas the OT minutes were essentially a record of attendance and a note on the point in the text reached in each meeting. All the meetings opened with prayer. I also didn’t realize that Charles Hodge was on the committee for the American edition.

Here are the general principles for the revision for both the Old and New Testament committees:

From MS Add. 6924