Sunday, September 13, 2009

Matthew II

Reading through Matthew, again. I noticed right there at the beginning that the Angel never speaks to Mary, only to Joseph. The angels only appear in dreams, as well.


James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Scott F.,

Yes, that is true.

Meanwhile, I want to follow up on a comment you made at Parchment & Pen a while ago, regarding a blog-entry by C. Michael Patton. Some corrections and clarifications are in order regarding "Textual Criticism in a Nutshell," which he posted on Oct. 7, 2009. (The blog-entry is at ). I figured that you might not regularly sift through the comments-section there so this might be the easiest way to bring these things to your attention.

CMP: "There are approximately 6000 handwritten copies of the New Testament in Greek ...."

Copies of material from the NT? Yes. Copies of the whole NT? No. The manuscripts’ contents can vary from a complete NT, to a copy of the four Gospels, to a small fragment containing a few verses.

CMP: "There are, in the New Testament alone, somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 variants."

This is probably a bit of an underestimate, but since, as CMP indicates later, this statistic is of minor importance, that's no big deal. It is a big deal, though, when this claim is combined with another statement:

CMP: "There is approximately only one-percent of variants that in fact make any theological difference."

This would mean that 3,000 or 4,000 variants make a theological difference! This is not the case.

CMP: "The two most significant variants are John 8 (which contains the story of the woman caught in adultery) and the longer ending of Mark 16 (where snake handling and drinking poison seem to be encouraged). Both of these passages are very late additions and, in the opinion of most scholars, should not be in the Bible."

The description of these two passages as "very late additions" is false. Mk 16:9-20 was used by Tatian in about 172, and Mk 16:19 was quoted by Irenaeus in about 184. This is quite early evidence – substantially earlier than the production-date of the earliest extant manuscript of Mark 16! The “Pericope of the Adulteress,” Jn 7:53-8:11, was affirmed by Jerome (c. 383) to be present in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin. Whatever one may think about the authenticity or non-authenticity of these passages, there is no way that the description, "very late additions" is valid.

Also, I challenge the claim that most scholars hold the opinion that Mk 16:9-20 should not be in the Bible. Is Patton claiming that most Roman Catholic scholars, and most Orthodox scholars, deny that this passage belongs in the Bible? Is Patton assuming that all commentators who say that Mark 16:9-20 was not written by Mark also say that the passage does not belong in the Bible? (That would not be correct; Metzger denied that these 12 verses were added by Mark, but he regarded them as part of canonical Scripture.) Or is Patton just making stuff up?

CMP: "If the two most significant variants don’t change the faith, none of the others will either."

That's like saying, "If the lion and tiger don’t hurt you, neither will the elephants, vipers, ticks, and so forth." There are other significant variants with sharp theological edges: Mt. 5:22, Mt. 27:16-17, 27:49, Mk. 1:1, 1:2, 1:41, 2:26, 6:22, Lk. 22:43-44, 23:34, Jn. 7:39, etc.

CMP: “The shorter reading is usually closer to the original.”

In theory, this seems reasonable, but someone forgot to tell the copyists. Research by Royse, conducted on the texts of important papyri witnesses, has shown that copyists tended to omit more than they tended to add.

If you're interested in the evidence about Mark 16:9-20, I welcome you to visit for a multi-page presentation about it.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Anonymous said...

Hi James.

I thought that Michael's presentation was pretty even handed. Of course there are going to be disagreements especially on matters of emphasis. The claim that no matters of doctrine are affected by textual variants is especially subjective.

As to the Pericope of the Adulteress, the issue is not how early we have witnesses for the story but how those witnesses treat it. What gives away the fact that it is not original to John's Gospel is that the passage appears in different places in different copies. It is as if the copiests had heard that it belonged in there somewhere but had no original to tell them where. One theory holds that it was a popular story from another, lost gospel that was inserted in to John perhaps as the result of a gloss in the margin of certain scrolls (papyri?)

Thanks for commenting on my blog which, I hate to admit, I have been having trouble keeping up with. I do read the comments om CMP's blog when I get a chance to read it. Have you posted these comments there? I avoid posting especially confrontational comments there as I feel like I am a guest and try to keep my blood pressure down anyway :)

blu said...

So what are you? A man of god or a man of judgment and gossip.