Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Vision (10.30.14): Women Disciples: Unlikely Witnesses to the Empty Tomb

Note:  Sunday before last in my sermon on the resurrection of Christ from Luke 24:1-11, we pondered the significance of the fact that women disciples were the first to visit the empty tomb and the first to announce the resurrection to the other disciples.

Maybe the most astounding lines in this passage are found in v. 11:  “And their words seemed as idle tales [that is, to the apostles, see v. 10], and they believed them not.”  The word for “idle tales” here is leros, meaning nonsense or empty talk.

This is another one of those places where we have to apply the criterion of embarrassment.  If this were not true why would Luke have kept such a seemingly embarrassing detail within the narrative?

Richard Bauckham in his book Jesus:  A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011) observes:

But these eyewitnesses were women!  As almost every scholar notes, in that society women were not trusted to give evidence.  They were thought to be more emotional than men, and especially in religious matters apt to be credulous, too easily swayed by emotion (p. 105).

Bauckham goes on to cite a man named Celsus who was a second century pagan philosopher who despised Christianity and dismissed the testimony of Mary Magdalene, in particular, calling her a “hysterical female” (Ibid).

He adds:

Luke candidly admits that at first even the male disciples did not believe these women’s report.  Not only were women unreliable; it was unsuitable that women should be the first recipients of what was, in effect, a divine revelation.  If Jesus had risen from death, the men ought to have been the first to know (Ibid., p. 106).

Why did the Lord choose these women to be the first to find the empty tomb and to tell the disciples?  In many ways it is completely consistent with how God works.  This is the same God who told Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7 that he had not chosen them “because they were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.”

It is the same God who spoke through Paul to say:

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

And who spoke to Paul to say:  “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

God sovereignly chose those weak women to discover the empty tomb in order to make his praise all the more glorious.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Word Magazine # 29: James White, Luke 23:34, the PA as a "Floating Tradition," and Muslim Apologetics

I recorded and posted yet another new Word Magazine this morning (that makes two WMs, back to back, in two days!).  Word Magazine # 29 comes in response to several people who contacted me over the last week asking if I'd do a response to a Muslim apologetic video which featured clips from apologist James White and Bart Ehrman.  As a supplement to this WM episode I have also added two blog posts that I refer to in the podcast:

You can also view and listen to the video posted by "Muslimbychoice" which is reviewed in the podcast here:

The PA (John 7:53--8:11): A "Floating Tradition"?

It has sometimes been suggested that the Pericope Adulterae (PA; John 7:53—8:11) is merely a “floating tradition” that was never a stable part of the Gospel of John.  This charge is part of the rhetoric aimed at undermining the antiquity, credibility, and authority of the passage.

In Metzger’s Textual Commentary (see p. 221) he surveys a handful of examples of the PA appearing in different places in John and, in one case, in Luke.  Here are the examples he cites:

PA after 7:36                       ms 225

PA after 7:44                       several Georgian mss

PA after 21:25                    (1, 565, 1076, 1570, 1582, several Georgian mss)

PA after Luke 21:38     family 13 [aka the “Ferrar group”; about a dozen mss minuscule mss dating from the 11th to 15th centuries and believed to have descended from a common archetype]

According to Maurice Robinson the PA appears in 1,476 mss of John.  So, there are, in fact, only seven examples (counting family 13 as a single example) where the PA is moved, and all of these examples are in late minuscule mss.
Chris Keith of St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, London is an expert on the PA who published a Brill monograph on the passage in 2009 titled The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus.  When speaking at the PA Conference at SEBTS in April 2014, Dr. Keith said the following:

We can be certain of three things:

1.  Christians were reading the PA by at least the late 4th century at John 7:53—8:11.

2.  Copies of John circulated without the PA.

3.  The only location attested for the PA is John 7:53—8:11 until the ninth century.  It was not a “floating tradition” in early Christianity.

At the same conference Jennifer Knust of Boston University discussed non-textual evidence for the antiquity of the PA including an Egyptian ivory pyxis (small, lidded jar) from the fifth-sixth centuries which depicts the Samaritan Woman at the Well along with the Woman Caught in Adultery. This shows the PA was known early (by at least the sixth century AD), was known in Egypt (i.e., not just in the Western church), and was associated with the Gospel of John (i.e., depiction with the Samaritan woman from John 4 is on the same object with the woman caught in adultery from John 7:53—8:11).

Image:  Ivory pyxis with Samaritan woman at well (left), Jesus with scroll in hand (center), and woman caught in adultery (right); 5-6th century, Egyptian; Current location:  National Museum, Paris.

Image:  Side view of the pyxis, focusing on the the woman caught in adultery.

For a discussion of this object and others (like a similar pyxis now in St. Petersburg, Russia), along with various supporting arguments of the antiquity of the PA, see Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman, “Earth Accuses Earth:  Tracing What Jesus Wrote on the Ground,” Harvard Theological Review 103:4 (2010):  pp. 407-446.

Admittedly, neither Keith nor Knust believe that the PA is original to John; however, they do believe that it became a distinct part of John’s Gospel very early in the tradition and that it was not merely a “floating tradition.”

The time has come to put to rest the perpetuation of the idea that the PA did not have a fixed place in or association with the Gospel of John in early Christianity.


Text Note: Luke 23:34

I.  The Issue:

The question here is the beloved saying of Jesus from the cross:  “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  The phrase appears in the traditional text, but its authenticity is challenged in the modern critical text which encloses the phrase in double brackets.  The Introduction to the NA 28 explains that double brackets “indicate that the enclosed words , generally of some length, are known not to be part of the original text.  These texts derive from a very early stage of the tradition, and have often played a significant role in the history of the church (cf. Jn 7,53-8,11)” (p. 55).

II. External Evidence:

The traditional text is supported the following Greek mss:  The original hand of Sinaiticus and its second corrector [b] (c. 7th century AD), A (using the aorist eipen for “he said” rather than the imperfect elegen), C, third corrector of D, K, L, N, Q, Gamma, Delta, Psi, family 1, family 13 (without the conjunction de), 33, 565, 700, 892, 1424, 2542, Lectionary 844, and the vast majority of extant mss.

Among the versions it is found in the Vulgate and part of the Old Latin, the Syriac (Curetonian, Peshitta, Harklean), some Bohairic Coptic mss, and in the Latin version of Irenaeus (dated to before 395 AD).

The modern critical text is supported by the following Greek mss:  p75, second corrector [a] of Sinaiticus (c. 7th c. AD), B, original hand of D, W, Theta, 070, 579, 1241.

Among the versions it is found in the 4th century Old Latin manuscript “a”, Syriac Sinaiticus, the Sahidic Coptic, and some Bohairic Coptic mss.

III.  Internal Evidence:

Metzger notes that the absence of these words from “such early and diverse witnesses” as those cited above “is most impressive and can scarcely be explained as a deliberative excision by a copyist who, considering the fall of Jerusalem to be proof that God had not forgiven the Jews, could not allow it to appear that a prayer of Jesus had remained unanswered.  At the same time, the logion though probably not a part of the original Gospel of Luke, bears self-evident tokens of its dominical origin, and was retained, within double square brackets, in its traditional place where it had been incorporated by unknown copyists relatively early in the transmission of the Third Gospel” (Textual Commentary, p. 180).

Leon Morris, however, states:  “Early copyists may have been tempted to omit the words by reflection that perhaps God had not forgiven the guilty nation.  The events of 70 AD and afterwards may well have looked like anything but forgiveness.  We should regard the words as genuine” (Luke, p. 327).

In favor of the originality of Luke 23:34a is its relation in context to the words of Jesus in Luke 23:46:  “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  If original, Luke would have the first words of Jesus on the cross be an intercessory prayer addressed to the Father for his persecutors (v. 34) and his last words on the cross be a prayer addressed to the Father before his death (v. 46), thus framing Luke’s discreet description of Jesus’ suffering on the cross (vv. 34-46).

IV.  Conclusion:

The external evidence for Luke 23:34a is strong.  It is even supported by the original hand of Sinaiticus, providing another example of divergence between the twin modern critical heavyweights of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.  Is there a plausible explanation for why the phrase would have been omitted?  Yes.  Some scribes might have believed the prayer of forgiveness was unheeded given the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (an event given special emphasis in Luke; cf. 19:43-44; 21:20-24).  It is unclear how Metzger can declare this as a “scarcely” tenable explanation or on what basis he concludes it is “probably” not part of the original text of Luke.  Furthermore, Metzger, like other modern critical text advocates, acknowledges that the words of Jesus cited here obviously have very early attestation.  He even suggests it is an authentic “dominical” saying, though not original.  Given this, why not simply accept that the 23:34a is not only an early authentic saying of Jesus but an authentic saying that was, from the beginning a part of Luke’s Gospel, demonstrating, along with the prayer of Jesus in 23:46, his communion in prayer with the Father, even while on the cross.  In the end, I agree with Morris:  “We should regard the words as genuine.”


PVCC gets a shout out on Jeopardy!

Piedmont Virginia Community College was included in a clue on Jeopardy back on 10.17.14 (watch this clip).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Word Magazine # 28: The Life and Legacy of Bruce Manning Metzger

Image:  The fourth edition (co-edited with Bart Ehrman) of Metzger's best known and perhaps most influential book, "The Text of the New Testament."

Image: Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007)

Note:  I recorded and posted a new Word Magazine today (# 28).  This episode sketches the life an legacy of longtime Princeton Seminary professor, Bruce Manning Metzger.  Below is the introduction to the podcast.  Listen for the rest.

I was having a discussion recently with two friends and one asked the other two of us this question:  “What are the books which have been the most influential against the traditional text?”

My friend answered:

1.       Bruce Metzger’s Text of the New Testament
2.       Kurt and Barbara Aland’s Text of the New Testament
3.       James White’s The King James Only Controversy           
4.       D. A. Carson’s King James Version Debate:  A Plea for Realism

My response:

I think in the modern context it has been B. N. Metzger's The Text of the New Testament (now in its 4th edition and co-edited by no less than Bart Ehrman).  The subtitle says it all:  "Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration."

For the 19th century, it would likely be Westcott and Hort's Introduction to the NT in the Original Greek.

So, we both put Bruce Manning Metzger's Text of the New Testament at the top of the list.  In some of my recent podcasts reviewing James Whites’ comments on the text of the NT, I noted that White, like most other contemporary pastors and scholars, has been deeply influenced by Metzger in adopting “reasoned eclecticism” and embracing the modern critical text.  White, in particular, and other have also been prone to pass along anecdotes from Metzger without bothering to examine the primary sources (e. g., Erasmian legends).

Who was Bruce Manning Metzger?  In this article I want:

1.  To offer a sketch of Metzger’s life and his considerable academic achievements.

2.  To reflect on Metzger’s ongoing legacy.

I am relying on two primary sources for this study:

First,  Metzger’s autobiography, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (Hendrickson, 1997).

Second, J. Harold Ellens, “Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007),” in  Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, Ed. Donald K. McKim (IVP Academic, 2007):  pp. 728-732.

In addition I also read several online obituaries and tributes from pastors and scholars that were published at Metzger’s death..... 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Vision (10.23.14): Jeremiah Burroughs on the Meaning of the Resurrection

I preached last Sunday morning from Luke 24:1-11 on the resurrection of Christ.  At the close I tried to describe why the resurrection was an essential part of the saving work of Christ.  In conversation after the service a friend mentioned a good verse to add to the list of prooftexts:

Romans 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

He also sent along this helpful quote from the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs (c. 1600-1646) from his treatise titled Hope:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the cause of true lively hope in the hearts of the saints.  By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, God has declared that He is fully satisfied for the sins of man, and that the work of redemption is fully wrought out; otherwise Christ must have been held in the prison of the grave forever.

May we continue to marvel over and to meditate upon the significance of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Audio from 2014 Keach Conference

Image:  Jim Savastio preaching at 2014 Keach Conference

The audio for the 2014 Keach Conference on the theme "Of Christ the Mediator" (Chapter Eight, 2LBCF 1689) has been posted to

Here are the links:

Session I (Friday evening, September 26, 2014):

Jim Savastio:  The Glory of the Mediator (Luke 1:30-35)

Earl Blackburn:  The Exclusivity of Christ (John 3:22-36)

Session II (Saturday morning, September 27, 2014):

Earl Blackburn:  The Work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34)

Jim Savastio:  The Preeminence of the Mediator (Luke 24:44)

Here also are a few memorable quotes from the messages which I jotted down in my notes (see the recordings for exact citations):

JS:  The question is not, "Is he worth it?",  but, "Is he worthy?"

EB:  The Second London Baptist Confession (1689) was the apex of the Protestant Confessions.  All the confessions created after 1689 are considerably weaker.

EB:  God may bury his ministers, but he never buries his work!

JS:  All of the Bible is about Jesus.  A Jewish man once visited Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri Fellowship.  Someone there asked if he could read to him a passage from the Bible and proceeded to read aloud Isaiah 53.  The Jewish man responded angrily:  "You know I'm a Jew, why are you reading to me from the New Testament?"  The man who read the passage responded:  "But that's Isaiah, from the Old Testament." Not long after hearing this passage read, the Jewish man was converted and eventually became a Presbyterian minister.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Vision (10.16.14): Lessons from Joseph of Arimathaea: A good and just man

Note:  The devotion below is drawn from several sections of last Sunday’s sermon on Luke 23:63-71.

And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just (Luke 23:50).

All the Gospel writers agree that the man responsible for taking charge of the remains of Jesus after his crucifixion was Joseph of Arimathaea.  He was part of the Jewish counsel, the elite group of seventy men who formed the Jewish Sanhedrin and who were given limited governing authority by the Romans.  That was his external office.  Luke proceeds, however, to give us an internal profile of this man as well.  He describes his character:  “and he was a good man, and a just [man].”  The word “good [agathos]” implies that he was a sound and morally upright man.  The word “just [dikaios]” implies that he was righteous, fair, and honest.  Luke describes Joseph in the same way that the centurion described Jesus (v. 47).  There was a Christ-like quality to this man.

Earlier in Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial it had seemed as though the whole counsel had been unanimous in condemning Jesus (see 22:70-71; 23:1-2).  They seemed to have spoken with one voice.  But now we learn that the verdict had not been unanimous.  Maybe Joseph had not been present or maybe he had lain low, or his voice had been drowned out.  Still, Luke records:  “The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them” (v. 51a).

Luke adds two more important notes in v. 51b:

First, that Joseph was from the Jewish town of Arimathaea.  Joseph was a popular name, so men were often identified by the places from which they came (cf. Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene).  We might note the providence that at his birth the infant body of Jesus was cared for and protected by Joseph of Nazareth and, at his death, by Joseph of Arimathea.  Both were named for the Biblical Joseph who said to his brothers:  What you meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen 50:20).

Second, Luke says that he “also himself waited for the kingdom of God.”  This is the kingdom that Jesus had announced was present in his life and ministry.  The kingdom he called men to enter into.  The kingdom of which he taught his disciples to pray:  “Thy kingdom come” (Matt 6:10).  But also, the kingdom that Jesus taught would not fully come until the end of the age when the Son of Man came in the clouds in glory to judge the nations (Luke 21:27) and to separate the wheat from the tares (cf. Matt 13:37-43).

Matthew says that this Joseph was “rich man” and that he “also himself was Jesus’ disciple” (Matt 27:57).  John 18:38, likewise, says outright that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, then adds, “but secretly for fear of the Jews.”  He reminds me of some Christians I have heard about especially in some Muslims counties who become believers but they have to do so secretly, for fear of the repercussions which would take place if their faith was found out.  Perhaps Joseph’s conscience had been torn over whether he should publically identify with Jesus or not.

Knowing this makes what Luke says he did not all the more amazing and encouraging:  “This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus” (v. 52).  That took an act of courage on his part.  It put him at risk before Pilate and the Jewish council.  What if there had been an attempt to round up the followers of Jesus and send them to the cross as well?  Despite the risk, Joseph went to Pilate and was granted permission to bury the body of our Lord.

Here is the question we need to ask:  Can it be said of us, as it was by Luke of Joseph, that we are a good and just men? Like Joseph have we been content to lay low, to stand at the back, to blend in?  Have we shown a tendency not to want to stand forward and be publically identified with Christ?  Are we, like Joseph, secret disciples?

Notice that there were some like Peter who boldly promised to follow Christ, but when the rubber met the road, they denied and deserted him.  Thankfully, Peter was, however, finally restored.  On the other hand, here is Joseph who laid low in his faith during Jesus’ life but then courageously stepped forward in his death.  In his commentary on this passage Norval Geldenhuys observed:

In the hour of crisis it is often the Peters who have sworn loyalty to Jesus with big gestures and fullness of self-confidence, that disappoint, and it is the secret and quiet followers of the Master (like Joseph, Nicodemus, and the women) that do not hesitate to serve Him in love—whatever the cost (Luke, pp. 619-620).

Maybe you are like Joseph.  You have not been as vocal, as public in your faith, but you are ready to come into the light when he calls upon you.  Is he calling you for such a time as this?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Index to Text Criticism Resources on Stylos

Note:  A friend recently suggested to me that it would be helpful to provide some navigation tool to help new readers of my blog to find resources on text criticism located on stylos and/or  To that end, I have created this index entry with links to various resources.  There is also a link to it in the sidebar of the blog now under the title "Jeff's Text Criticism Resources."  The index is incomplete.  In particular, it does not yet included blog resources that deal with translation, rather than text, issues.  DV, I also hope to add in the future some of the academic book reviews and articles I have done on text criticism.  Of course, there will also be future posts on text criticism that will need to be added.  Thus, future updates will be forthcoming.