Lecture 28: Reasoned Eclecticism (Part 3)
Course: Textual Criticism
Lecture: Reasoned Eclecticism (Part 3)
A. Basic Approaches for Choice
So, now we are good at putting reasoned eclecticism together which includes internal evidence and external evidence with thinking through some of the same textual problems that we have previously considered as well as a new one. The basic principle as we have pointed out in textual criticism is to choose the reading that best explains the rise of the others. The basic approach toward solving problems is to first examine the internal evidence; if a variant is predictable then some scribe somewhere probably tempted to create it. So, I look at my nestle text which has symbols in the text to tell me what kind of a variant there is without having to look at the apparatus, I can tell whether it is an addition, omission, a substitution or word order change. If I can predict a textual variant and I look in the Apparatus; I am about seventy-five percent accurate on that. I’m predicting a variant and most of the time I can see that some scribe has already done that. That tells me the variant is surely not authentic. In going to the whole examination of internal evidence, I give a letter grade to the preferred reading from the internal examination. The letter grade is an A, B, C or D only to the reading that I think is authentic. I don’t give a grade to the other readings. This is how certain I am that this reading is authentic on the basis of internal examination. An A means that I am morally certain where B means that I am fairly sure and then C means that there is some evidence to it. Then with D, it is uncertain and a guess. The UBS text, the Greek New Testament which is the same as the Nestle text, but it is a different apparatus with different textual problems to deal with. It has a letter grade as to what they consider to be the original text. It originally had A, B, C or D; they have now dispensed with D because there were very few places that used the D, however, I still have a D in my approach. There are some places that are very difficult to tell, but that is on the basis of just internal evidence.
Then I look at the external evidence without regard to my tentative conclusion from the internal considerations. It is as if to say that I just shut that out of my mind. I start with internal evidence first because most people give a preference to external evidence. It is as if to say, yes, but the manuscripts say this and therefore I have to go with this reading. Most reasoned eclectics do, but I try to give an equal weight to both. Starting with the internal evidence, I know that I will be persuaded when I look at the external evidence and think this is what I would consider to be authentic. I then give a letter grade to the preferred reading from the external examination where I go through all three elements. Once I have done that, I combine the two grades, keeping in mind my basic principles to choose the reading that best explained the rise of the others. When I think about that combination, at first it sounds like it is thoroughly mechanical. For example, if I have an A rating for reading X from the internal evidence and I have a C rating for reading X from the external evidence; combining those two grades means that I have overall a B rating from my level of certainty about that particular reading. That would be accurate for that is how I would do it. Sometimes I will have a B rating for reading X from the internal evidence and a B rating for reading Y from the external evidence which tend to cancel each other out. This causes me to think through the fundamental principle of how best I can explain which reading must have come from the others. We will look at a problem where I gave an A internally to one reading and an A externally to the other reading. This is a hermeneutical spiral; it isn’t something that we just say let’s just combine this and do it mechanically because these two influence one another and sometimes I have to probe further to see how to deal with it.
What I have chosen for this lesson is one very easy problem and three very difficult problems that will illustrate the whole process. This illustration will show that textual criticism is both a science and an art. Later, I will illustrate the process with textual problems that are easier to solve but they are famous problems which are extremely significant. Please keep in mind that all of the problems that I am using include variants that are both meaningful and viable. This means they belong to that very small percentage of all textual problems; one-fourth of one percent of all textual problems are meaningful
and viable. Most of those are meaningful in the sense of whether it is Lord or is it Jesus, like in John 4:1. These are meaningful in a much more significant way and so they belong to the stratosphere of importance of the one-fourth of one percent. And yet, no cardinal doctrine is jeopardized by any of these textual variants. What Bangle said in the seventeen hundreds is still true today: we don’t have these cardinal doctrines that are in jeopardy because of the textual variance.
1. Revelation 1:4 – From he Who Is
The first illustration in Revelation 1:4; the Net Bible translate it, from John to the seven churches that are in a province of Asia; grace and peace to you from he who is. In the Net Bible it reads, ‘from he who is’ is actually in quotes, ‘and who was and still to come; and from the seven spirits who are before his throne.’ The form, he who is, is there in quotes because it is bad grammar. If you don’t put it in quotes, then it would then be, ‘him who is’ being the correct form in English. But this isn’t what the Greek says. From he is very bad English as any English teacher will tell you and yet that is the equivalent to what we have in Greek. The textual variant is ‘from God, who is.’ The difference in Greek between these two is the term “God” (θεοῦ, qeou) between “from” (ἀπό, apo) and “he who is” (ὁ ὤν, Jo wn.) So, if you know Greek you can study this. God is put in the genitive case which is the only case after this prepositional form can take. You have to have the genitive case with Apo. Anybody who has had literally three weeks of Greek will know. How could John write the Book of Revelation where he runs sentences together that make any sense and blundered over a huge mistake like this? Well, perhaps it isn’t a mistake; some scholars have said that if this is a mistake in the Greek New Testament, it is by far the worst grammatical blunder in the entire text. It is the kind of a school boy mistake we would have. However, virtually no body thinks that it is a mistake and there are good reasons for this. Yet, the scribes try to correct the text because they think there is a mistake. So we have ‘he, who is’ vs ‘God, who is’. The internal evidence; a transcriptional probability, what would a scribe do. They would see this as a grammatical error, ‘he who is’ is significantly softened with ‘God, who is,’ because God is in the genitive case coming after the Greek apo.
The intrinsic probability, what would the author likely to have written? We will address this at the end. I would give an A for ‘he who is.’ That is the one I think is authentic on the basis of internal evidence, some of which is intrinsic of which I will address later. But when I look at the external evidence, I discover that there is no Western text for the Book of Revelation. The Western text doesn’t appear in this particular book. The reasons have to do with the canonical process for the Book of Revelation. We still have many of those same manuscripts that belong to the Western-type elsewhere. In Revelation, the Latin witnesses have, ‘he who is’ although they wouldn’t be called Western text. The Alexandrian manuscripts are solid for ‘he who is’; it is only the byzantine that have ‘God, who is,’ and yet the Byzantine manuscripts are split where the majority having ‘God who is’. A very strong minority have ‘he who is.’ So, I would say that it is fairly definite that the reading should be, ‘he, who is.’ This is what would be in the original text on the external evidence. So that tells us that ‘he who is’ is authentic. Now I want to look at combining these two and ask the question as to why would scribes be willing to change this? What would John have meant by this in the first place? This is the intrinsic evidence that I want to talk about now. When you look at intrinsic probability, you really want to examine the context and you actually do exegesis on the text to see what is going on.
In Revelation 1:3, John starts this book by saying, ‘blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it.’ He is giving his audience a statement that says to pay careful attention to his words for you will be blessed. Their immediately reaction after coming to the next verse makes them wonder why he didn’t pay attention to his own words and grammar. But then they would have realized that John did something there on purpose, so they would know to pay careful attention to his words. John’s exile on the island of Patmos wasn’t a prison island just having people that were there and Romans would bring in water and perhaps be couriers for their mail. They were far enough away from Asia Minor where they could not have built their own boats to sail there. In that historical situation, the couriers for the letters are going to be Romans. So how did he get this message to the churches and what does he say? Will they leave it untapped or open it up and see what he is saying to the churches. First, Emperor Domitian isn’t mentioned and the words: ‘Roman Emperor’ is never mentioned in this letter for it is a letter. Rome isn’t even mentioned explicitly. But John is trying to get his audience to understand what he is saying, so, how does he do it? He does it by using bad grammar, for it sends up a red flag of attention. Note that ancient Greek did not have quotation marks. So, if you are going to quote from something, you do it by putting it in the original form that it was in. So, what we have in this instant, this is the very first grammatical mistake we have in Revelation, that is, if you want to call it a mistake. It is the worst blunder if you want to call it a blunder. Or rather, John is quoting from Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, I Am that I Am. And he said, you must say this to the Israelites; I Am sent me to you. This is equivalent to John 3:16 today. It would be the verse that a Gentile who comes to faith in Jesus to ask who this God is that I am going to be worshipping. He uses this (ὁ ὤν, Jo wn) twenty-five times in John’s Gospel and eight times in Revelation.
Another example with an analogy to think about; in the preamble of the constitution, it says we the people of the United States of America in order to form a more perfect union, etc. If I said to you, do you believe in ‘we the people’? You would know what I am talking about. Technically, the grammar is bad. I should say, do you believe in ‘us, the people’? However, you don’t catch the elusion if I used us. So, I have to use that grammar that is bad or put in in quotes which I can do in English but you couldn’t do that in ancient Greek. This is exactly what John is doing in this passage. He is saying, ‘this is from the
unchangeable one’ and the ‘immutable one.’ The one God who is there, the God of Exodus 3:14, the God who spoke to Moses at the burning bush; the God who is still in charge of whole world. What you have in Revelation is approximately 250 quotations from the Old Testament. It quotes from the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book there is; yet, not once does it say that it stand written or God said or Moses said or David said. It doesn’t say this once. It quotes more from the Old Testament and yet never in a formal way with an introduction. Almost always there is a matchup between quoting the Old Testament and bad grammar. So, what John is saying, when you see that the grammar is off, you look into the Old Testament to what I am talking about. When I took the Revelation course at Dallas Seminary years ago, one of the first things that were said was that you don’t need a commentary for Revelation, you already have that commentary; it is the Old Testament. As you consider these textual problems and thinking through the intrinsic evidence, it opens up a whole new vista, a new world of what is going on. The scribes almost never really wrestled deeply with the text. They dealt with on a much more surface level. So, changing this from God who is, they missed a fundamental point that John was raising. It didn’t affect things theologically; the richness to what he is saying theologically wasn’t there as much.
2. Mark 1:1 – The Son of God
The one in Mark 1:1 is a very difficult problem admittedly. It begins with, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; so in considering the internal evidence both transcriptional and intrinsic. Transcriptionally, the shorter reading omits the words, ‘the Son of God.’ So, either the Son of God is authentic or it isn’t authentic, but the shorter reading in it is also the hard reading. It doesn’t affirm as much; the Son of God looks like a strong statement about the deity of Christ. So, transcriptionally, the Son of God isn’t authentic, but I look at it intrinsically; Mark’s style and his context suggest that the Son of God is authentic. So, how does it do that? In considering the intrinsic evidence, Mark 1:1 would have served as the title of the book. Very frequently, the very first line in these ancient books would be considered the title. We will return to this when we look at the end of Mark’s Gospel. It is fascinating to think about this; the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. What does this tell us? If Mark intended to end his Gospel at 16:8, then all he is giving us is the beginning of the Gospel. He isn’t telling us the end of the Gospel which is what Christians are supposed to do with the Gospel from that point on. It is fascinating to see what he is trying to accomplish here. So, Mark 1:1 would serve as a title to the Book and as you go through this book, the Son of God comes at very crucial junctures. In 1:11, Jesus was baptized by John and you get the heavenly voice that says, ‘you are my beloved Son.’ The day of his baptism was the launch into his public ministry where the father says from heaven, ‘you are my beloved Son.’ You are the Son of God. In 3:11, we see that the demons declare that he is the Son of God and then later on, we see it in other places. They knew who he was so Jesus commanded them to be quiet. So, you have God declaring that Jesus is the Son of God, and then demons declared that he is the Son of God.
Now, at his transfiguration the heavenly voice in 9:11 speaking directly to Jesus and speaking so that James, John, and Peter could hear it; this is my Beloved it Son. The Transfiguration is the key moment before Jesus goes to back to Jerusalem to face the Cross. At this point, it is a confirmation of who he is before he faces his trial and it is a confirmation of who he is before these three disciples as well. So, these are crucial junctures with the final one that comes at the end of the book in chapter 15:39. We have what is called an inclusio; this is when you have a statement or a phrase or a theme at the beginning of a section and at the end of a section. In 15:39 when Jesus dies, ‘now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said this man was God’s Son!’ This is the same wording in Greek. So, you get this being punctuated at key times: demons recognized who he is, the Father recognized who he is and a centurion recognized who he is. Those who don’t are his disciples! Isn’t that remarkable; they are the ones who seemed to be on the outside and that is one of the themes that Mark is presenting in his Gospel. So, what are you going to do with Jesus? Are you going to be the way these disciples were? So, how are you going to deal with Jesus? The Christians that he was writing to were facing persecution. So, it is a remarkable way in which he juxtaposes all of this. What is also significant; most scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel was the very first one that was written, whereas Matthew and Luke maybe even John patterned their Gospels to some degree after Mark. In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 1:23, you have the angel saying that his name shall be called Emmanuel which means God with us. Then the very last verse of Matthew’s Gospel, 28:20, the Lord says, behold, I am with you always. God with us and I am with you. What does this tell us? It is an inclusio; affirming the deity of Christ.
Luke does the same thing but not in his Gospel but instead in the Book of Acts. John does it in John 1:1. In the beginning, was the Word of God and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Then in John 20:28, Thomas confesses My Lord and My God. There is an inclusion in all four Gospels and it comes back to Mark 1:1 and Mark 15:39. So, in terms of micro exegesis, it goes far beyond the way these scribes were typically thinking. Externally, the Alexandrian is split and Sinaiticus lacks it. The Vaticanus and others have it. The Western and Byzantines are solid for the Son of God. When I say that Sinaiticus lacks it, I could say it lacks for it was corrected by someone else; perhaps the same scribe before it left the Scriptorium. It is called Aleph 1 in our apparatus which means it is the first group of correctors. We will see how this helps us to understand this. One of the questions; we have codex Sinaiticus, a very important manuscript and it lacks the wording and so the transcription argument would go very much in favor of that. The first corrector adds, ‘the Son of God’. At the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel in Codex Sinaiticus, it is a nominal sacrum where you are dealing with an abbreviation word typically having the first and last words. Jesus Christ, the Son of God was added between the lines. You have five words in a row that end with an upsilon and there is only one letter before that. Is it possible that the first scribe of codex Sinaiticus somehow made a mistake here? While virtually all the rest of the witnesses have the words (A 33 M also have τοῦ [tou] before θεοῦ), so the evidence seems to argue for the authenticity of the words. Most likely, the words were omitted by accident in some witnesses, since the last four words of v. 1, in uncial script, would have looked like this: I̅Y̅Χ̅Ρ̅Υ̅Υ̅Υ̅Θ̅Υ̅. With all the successive upsilons an accidental deletion is likely. Further, the inclusion of υἱοῦ θεοῦ here finds its complement in 15:39, where the centurion claims that Jesus was υἱὸς θεοῦ (huios theou, “son of God”).
When you have these genitive strings having words with similar endings; we have a number of places where we have a genitive string of at least five words in a row with what is called the second sequence genitive ending. I found eighty-three places where it occurs. In this text, you have got words in a row that end in an upsilon. It would be very easy for a scribe to skip over something in there. So, does the scribe of Sinaiticus elsewhere skip such strings? Yes, indeed; there are ten times where the scribe skips over words where scholars would say that is wasn’t authentic and the scribe made a mistake. There is a good chance that the scribe did that here also. So, when you compare all the evidence and see that the external evidence is fairly strong against it, so that is fairly compelling to say that the Son of God if authentic. So, the internal and external evidence, combined, suggest that the Son of Man is indeed
authentic in Mark’s Gospel. Norman Parent, who was a ridiculously liberal scholar, made a comment, ‘if the title wasn’t part of the original superscription, it should have been. The scribe who first added it was Mark on purpose and if not in name. He was not a textual critic but I would say that he supports the Book of Mark in purpose and in name. So I think Mark wrote, ‘the Son of God.’ So, it is an extraordinary problem to deal with.
3. John 14:17 – The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You
We have looked at this before also. I want to show you how we deal with this as a package, not just internally and not just externally. When Jesus says the Spirit resides with you and will be in you; the transcriptional probability is that the harder reading is he resides with you and is within you. Why? We know that John’s Gospel says that the Holy Spirit hasn’t yet come upon them. This is where you have intrinsic probability fighting against transcriptional probability. It is very strong that ‘will be’ is authentic instead of is in this passage. John 6:63, now he said this about the Spirit from whom those who believed in him were going to receive for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. All the way through John 14:17, you see this very strongly said, I go away and the Spirit is coming kind of a thing. We get that in John 14:17. It seems to be crystal clear as in John 20:22 and Acts 1:8 and Acts 2:4. Here the Spirit is coming later but he hasn’t come yet. I would give it a ‘B’ for ‘will be’ because the intrinsic evidence is very strong while the transcriptional evidence goes in a different direction. Even if it is a single word; the intrinsic evidence is fairly objective in this case.
Then, I look at the external evidence and I have some serious witnesses for ‘is’. P66, a manuscript that we have talked about before and with this text the wording was changed, most likely by that same scribe. Virtually all witnesses read ‘will be’ including codex Sinaiticus. P75, a more important witness than P66; the corrector in P66 is probably the original scribe. Both P66 and B are still excellent Alexandrian witnesses, especially B and D is the best Western witness. So, how do I go? I would give a slight preference for ‘will be’ and consequently I would give it a D rating which isn’t very strong. Then I look at the external evidence and even if it isn’t compelling and where the intrinsic evidence is ‘will be’ is almost surely what John wrote. The external evidence is not as strong as the internal evidence. So, you choose the reading that best explains the rise of the others seems to suggest that ‘will be’ is authentic. The intrinsic evidence there, to me, is the strongest that I look at.
4. Matthew 27:16-17 – Jesus Barabbas
We start with the internal evidence. There is no unintentional reason for adding Jesus before Barabbas. None can be found. The last time Jesus was mentioned was in verse 11 and that is twenty lines above where this occurs in Codex Sinaiticus. In an earlier lecture, we talked about the mistake that Sinaiticus makes in 1st Thessalonians 2 where it repeats verse 13 because of a word found eleven lines up? This is twice as far; the eleven lines are so rare that this is the only place in the New Testament where there is such a bad mistake. It did it here twenty lines above it. We have no evidence that the scribe was that sloppy. Was it an intentional error; there could have been. In the Majuscule capital letters, you have ‘to you’ and then ‘which prisoner shall I release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus (an actual abbreviation for Jesus) and so it would be very easy for a Scribe to skip over one of those. Although the external evidence for the inclusion of “Jesus” before “Barabbas” (in vv. 16 and 17) is rather sparse, being restricted virtually to the Caesarean text, the omission of the Lord’s name in apposition to “Barabbas” is such a strongly motivated reading that it can hardly be original. There is no good explanation for a scribe unintentionally adding ᾿Ιησοῦν (Iēsoun) before Βαραββᾶν (Barabban), especially since Barabbas is mentioned first in each verse. Further, the addition of τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν (ton legomenon Christon, “who is called Christ”) to ᾿Ιησοῦν in v. 17 makes better sense if Barabbas is also called “Jesus” (otherwise, a mere “Jesus” would have been a sufficient appellation to distinguish the two).
I don’t think that an accidental change is the reason for what we have here. I think that we are dealing with an intentional change on the part of the scribe for the entirety of it. In terms of intrinsic probability, the Greek may give a sign that Matthew wrote Jesus Barabbas as in verse 17; whom do you want me to release for you; Jesus the Barabbas or Jesus, the one who is called the Christ? The word ‘the’ with Barabbas and Christ seems to distinguish two different men, both named Jesus. So, internally, the addition of Jesus therefore rates a solid A on my letter scale. I can’t come up with one unintentional reason why a scribe could omit it. I could come up with one intentional reason why they would add it and I could come up with one unintentional reason why they might omit it. However, I could come up with a lot of intentional reasons as to why they would omit it. The simply idea is that they didn’t want someone named Jesus as a robber and murderer. The external evidence of this have most manuscripts omitting Jesus before Barabbas including virtually all of the Alexandrian manuscripts and all the Westerns and also all the Byzantines. Only a few manuscripts have Jesus coming before Barabbas. The oldest goes back to the 9th century. So, this is a stuff problem; externally, the omission rate is a solid A but internally the addition rate is a solid A. So I am required to look a little more deeply at this to discover some additional factors. Origen, writing in the early 3rd century and he was perhaps the best textual critic of the ancient world said that in the whole range of the Scriptures, we know that no one who is a sinner is called Jesus. Well, he is wrong! Joshua is called Jesus in the Old Testament. There is also another person who is called Jesus in the New Testament as well. So, Origen obviously overlooked this apparently. However, he had a huge influence on the manuscripts. So when the scribes see this from Origen, what do you think they are going to do? Well, they would think that Jesus shouldn’t go before the name of Barabbas. His statement revealed that he knew of the Jesus statement in his day; even though our earliest manuscripts for Jesus are 9th century. That pushes it back six hundred years. But there is another factor: in about twenty late manuscripts, 10th century and later, we see a marginal note.
In many ancient copies which I have met with, I found Barabbas himself, likewise called Jesus. That note is attributed sometimes to Chrysostom and even Origen. So now we have these manuscripts with this tension of having the name Jesus before Barabbas. This is one of the most difficult problems in the New Testament to solve, but the fundamental principle gives the nod to the longer reading of Jesus before Barabbas. Both, because of the possibility of accidentally dropping it, but especially the pious motive which Origen articulates; this argues that Matthew originally wrote Jesus Barabbas in verse 16 and 17.