Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Richard Bauckham on "The Gospels as Histories" (2013 Julius Brown Gay Lectures at SBTS)

I recently finished listening (grabbing a few moments when traveling here and there) to the four-part Julius Brown Gay lectures which NT scholar Richard Bauckham presented in April 2013 at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  The series was titled "The Gospels as Histories:  What Sort of History Are They?"
In the first lecture, Bauckham rehearses a lot of the material from his celebrated book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses:  The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Eerdmans, 2006), which challenged the assumptions of modern form criticism and argued that the canonical Gospels are reliant on eyewitness testimony.    He notes in particular the ancient literary use of the testimony of eyewitnesses who were contemporary participants in the events described.  This was part of the "best practices" of ancient historiography.  He notes that he would still classify the Gospels as being of the genre of ancient biography but that they are close to ancient historiography especially in their use of "testimony" (listen starting c. 40.00 for his discussion of this).
In the second and third lectures, Bauckham discusses the Gospels as "History from Below," making application of the contemporary historical "history from below" ("people's history") method popularized in the 1960s by E. P. Thompson and others.  Here he notes, in particular, how unlike most works of ancient biography (like Apollonius of Tyana) and history the Gospels give great attention to characters from the lower classes and common people.
In the final lecture, "The Gospels as Micro-History and Perspectival History," he applies another modern historical method (the "micro-history") to the Gospels, noting again the tendency of the Gospels to focus on the lives of ordinary people, rather than on macro-events.  He also interacts in this lecture with post-modern approaches to the Gospels.
Worth hearing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Text Note: Luke 23:17

Image:  Screenshot of online Codex Sinaiticus of Luke 23:17 (with first word "anagken" in red box; notice its similarity to the first word in v. 18 "anekragon" and you see how an error of homoeoarchton could easily have occurred in other copies). This 4th century manuscript provides one of the earliest witnesses for the inclusion of Luke 23:17 in the text of Scripture.  This is unusual, since Sinaiticus does not typically support the traditional text. Also interesting is the fact that the verse in Sinaiticus ends with the conjunction "hina" rather than the masculine accusative adjective "hena," a variant that is not noted either by Metzger in his Textual Commentary or in the critical apparatus of the NA 28.

Here is another text issue I ran across last week when preparing to preach on Luke 23:13-25.

I.  The Issue:

KJV Luke 23:17 (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

Should Luke 23:17 be included as part of the text of Scripture?  It is included in the traditional text and omitted in the modern critical text.

II.  External Evidence:

The traditional text is supported by the following:   Sinaiticus, W, Gamma, Delta, family 1, family 13, 565, 700, 2542, and in the vast majority of extant manuscripts.

The verse also appears with minor variations in:  N, Theta, Psi, 579, and the margin of 892.

Finally, the verse appears in D but after v. 19.

The modern critical text is supported by the following:  p75, A, Vaticanus, K, L, T, 070, 892 (txt), 1241.

Comments:  Here is an example where the witnesses divide on unusual lines.  Sinaiticus, which normally supports the modern critical text, includes the verse.  Alexandrinus, which normally supports the Byzantine text, omits it.

III.  Internal Evidence:

Metzger, in his Textual Commentary, begins:  “The secondary character of the verse is disclosed not only by its omission from such early witnesses as p75 A B ….but also by its insertion in slightly different forms , either here or after ver. 19 (where codex Bezae agrees in wording with the reading of Theta Psi)” (p. 179).  His conclusion:  “The verse is a gloss, apparently based on Mt. 27:15 and Mk 15:6” (p. 180).  So, for Metzger, the verse is a harmonization to its Synoptic parallels.

Metzger does, however, acknowledge the possibility that the omission of the verse came through the scribal error of homoeoarcton (an error due to a similar beginning).  The first word in v. 17 is anagken and of v. 18 is anekragon.  Thus, one can easily see how the verse might have been accidentally omitted or even omitted and replaced after a later verse (as in D).  Metzger dismisses this possibility, however, as “unable to explain its widespread omission and its presence at two different place” (pp. 179-180).  In response, however, one might observe that if it was possible for scribal error to occur in one family of witnesses it is also possible that it occurred in others as well, and thus appear widespread.  In addition, Metzger seems to overplay the variations.  It occurs after v. 19 in only one witness (D).  According to NA 28 the variations in Theta and Psi are minor (the exact wording of the variant is not cited either by Metzger or NA 28).  Also, NA 28 does not record that the variant in D is the same as the variant in Theta and Psi, as Metzger suggests.

It might also be observed that if there was a scribal assimilation of Luke to Matthew and Mark, it is not an exact verbal parallel to either.  Compare:

KJV Matthew 27:15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

Kata de heorten eithei ho hegemon apoluein hena to ochlo desmion hon ethelon

KJV Mark 15:6 Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

Kata de heorten apeluen autois hena desmion hon paretounto

KJV Luke 23:17 (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

Anagken de eichen apoluein autois kata heorten hena.

If Luke 23:17 was a harmonization to Matthew and Mark, why does it not begin as the others do with Kata de heorten?  Why does it not mention, as Matthew and Mark do, that the released prisoner was given up at the will of the people?  The Lukan passage is also different in that it introduces the concept of the necessity of Pilate releasing a prisoner.  Rather than being a textual harmonization, it appears that the mention of Pilate releasing a prisoner at the feast was a deeply imbedded part of the early Christian tradition which Luke conveys in a typically distinctive manner.

III.  Conclusion:

The external support for Luke 23:17 is early and weighty.  It is even included in Codex Sinaiticus, an authority normally appealed to for support of the modern critical text.  It is entirely plausible that the verse was accidentally omitted in some witnesses due to its similar beginning with v. 18.

It is interesting to note how even a very able exegete like Leon Morris seems to have adapted the assessment of the modern text critics in his commentary on this verse:

In some mss. the words which appear in AV as verse 17 are found, but they are inadequately attested and appear to be an importation from Mark 16:5.  Such an insertion would be favoroured by the fact that verse 18 does not follow very smoothly from verse 16 and a scribe might well to improve the connection (Luke, Tyndale Commentaries, p. 323).

As shown above, the external evidence for v. 17 is hardly “inadequately attested.”  The speculation that a scribe attempted to “improve the connection” between vv. 16 and 18 is speculative and subjective. 

At what price is this verse removed?  To remove the verse would deny that Luke was aware of an important early Christian tradition relating to the trial of Jesus before Pilate which he conveys in a manner that is both compatible with the Synoptics but also distinct.  We lose the insight not only that Pilate chose to offer the release of a prisoner at the feast but that he was compelled to do so.  Luke 23:17 should, therefore, be retained.   


Friday, September 12, 2014

Text Note: Luke 23:15

Image:  This decorative title "euangelion kataloukan [The Gospel According to Luke]" appears at the end of the Third Gospel in Codex A or Codex Alexandrinus (f.41.v), a 5th century Greek majuscule manuscript that provides one of the earliest witnesses for the Byzantine text of the NT.  

Here are some notes on a textual issue in Luke 23:15 which I ran across when preparing to preach last Sunday on Luke 23:13-25.

I.  The issue:

The question here concerns Pilate’s words to the chief priests, rulers, and people regarding his previously sending Jesus for an interview before Herod.

The traditional text reads:  “No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him [anapempsa gar humas pros auton]….” (KJV).

The modern critical text, however, reads:  “No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us [anapempsen gar auton pros hemas]….” (NASB).

So, did Pilate tell them that he had sent them (presumably along with Jesus as his accusers) to Herod, as in the traditional text?  Or, did Pilate say that Herod had sent Jesus back to him (presumably after finding no fault worthy of condemnation in him), as in the modern critical text?

II.  External Evidence:

The traditional text reading is supported by the following:  A, D, N, W, Gamma, Delta, Psi, family 1, 565, 700, 1424, 2542, and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.  It is also found in the Old Latin and in the Haraklean Syriac versions.

The modern critical text reading is supported by the following:  p75, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, K, L, T, Theta, 892, 1241. Among the versions it is found in some Vulgate mss and in the Coptic.

The apparatus of the NA 28 also indicates several other variations, such as:

“For he sent him to you”:  family 13, some Vulgate mss;
“He sent him to you”:  579;
“For they sent him to us”:  070, a marginal reading in the Syriac Harklean.

III.  Internal Evidence:

 In his Textual Commentary, Metzger begins his discussion of this verse by saying, “In the transmission of this clause copyists became hopelessly confused….” (p. 179).  He describes the reading of the Textus Receptus as “utterly banal.”  Though he describes the modern critical reading as the “best attested” and “most appropriate in the context,” he gives it only a “C” reading.

Here is the question Metzger does not address:  If the modern critical reading was original, how and why did the reading in the traditional text emerge?  In fact, it is the reading of the traditional text that is the more difficult.  If it originally read that Pilate said, “For I sent you to him….”, we can see how some readers might have been confused.  The statement could be misread as if Pilate was saying he had sent the Jewish leaders to be tried by Herod.  In the previous description of Jesus’ interview before Pilate, it says, “he sent him [Jesus] to Herod” (v. 7).  However, Luke also indicates that the chief priests and scribes were there vehemently to accuse Jesus (v. 10).  If the traditional text is original we can see how some scribes might have tried to correct any misunderstanding by changing the text to have Pilate say that Herod had sent Jesus back to him.  If the modern critical reading is original it is harder to understand how the traditional reading would have appeared.  With all due respect to Metzger, the preservers of the traditional text did not find this reading to be “utterly banal,” but, instead, they saw it as accurately reflecting Luke’s record of Pilate’s words.  No matter how open that statement was to confusion, the tradition resisted efforts to correct, clarify, or smooth out the reading.

IV.  Conclusion:

The traditional text of Luke 23:15 has ancient and wide external support.  It was the reading retained by the majority.  In fact, it preserves a more difficult reading.  The modern critical reading does indeed have early support, but perhaps this only indicates that there were efforts to smooth out a difficult reading early on in transmission.  There is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Vision (9.11.14): Jesus or Barabbas?

Note:  Here are some edited notes from the introduction and conclusion from last Sunday’s sermon on Luke 23:13-25:

What would you think of a person who went to London but who stayed in his room the whole time and never ventured out to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, of the Tower of London?

Or someone who went to Paris, but who never saw the Eifel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, or the Louvre?

We would say, “Well you were there but you didn’t really see the city.”

Now, what would you say to the person who says, “I know the Bible,” or “I know Christianity.  I’ve been there.”  But he has no understanding of the gospel narratives, their inspired accounts of the suffering and death of the Lord on the cross, and the central doctrines which they proclaim.  We’d say, “Well maybe you have read the Bible but you haven’t really seen it.”

Today we look again at Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.  We look, in particular, at the scene in which the Roman governor offered the people a choice of releasing Jesus (the sinless Son of God) or Barabbas (an insurrectionist and murderer) (Luke 23:13-25).  Notice three things about the narrative:

1.  Pilate’s repeated declaration that Jesus has done nothing worthy of death (see vv. 14-15; 22a; cf. his earlier declaration in v. 4).

Why do men die?  They die, because they are sinners.  This goes back to the fall and the curse given to Adam:

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Get as much plastic surgery as you want (as some celebrities do), but you cannot fool death.

Eat as healthy and organic as you can (as many rightly do since we should be good stewards of our health) but your body will one day break down and collapse in death.

Even innocent babies die.  Why?  Though they may not live long enough to commit actual transgression they are sinners by nature.

We deserve death.  People were outraged—and rightly so—at the recent deaths of those journalists at the hands of Islamic terrorists.  But in another sense, they were only reaping the wages of sin, which is death (cf. Paul in Romans 6:23).  In truth, no one can say at the death of any man—no matter how brutal that death might have been—that it was unjust that he died.  We may protest the manner and timing of a person’s death but not that he died.  He died, because he earned death by his sin.

But Luke here reminds us that there was a man who was perfectly just and righteous, who was born of a virgin, and who did nothing that warranted his death.  He had no sin, and so he had no wages of sin which is death.  Look again at Pilate’s question in v. 22:  “Why, what evil hath he done?” and his own reply:  “I have found no cause of death in him.”

2.  The dreadful and sinful state of those who rejected Christ and demanded his death.

 They had an unholy and irrational hatred of Christ.  They ran in a mob and had a false unity in their sin one with another.  They had what Thomas Boston described as “a crook in the lot.”  They had a crooked or warped disposition in their hearts that made them love sin and hate Christ.  It is evidenced in their preference for Barabbas over Jesus.  Notice Luke’s description:  They got him “whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will” (v. 25).  Biblical theology says not that we have no free will. But it says our free wills are corrupted.  They are in bondage (as Luther said).  Consider Paul’s description of man’s predicament in sin:

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

The only solution is to have our minds and our wills renewed in the knowledge of Christ.

3.  The anticipation of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross:

What is anticipated in this trial scene is the substitutionary death of Christ.  A sinful man, a seditious man, and a murderer is let go, while a righteous man, a peaceful man, a life-giving man is sentenced to death.  Barabbas thus stands for all those who are released, who experience an exodus, because one man stood in our place and took the penalty in himself for our sin (2 Cor 5:21).

If we fail to grasp this, we have been to the Bible, but we have not seen it.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Vision (9.4.14): Christ our Prophet, Priest, and King

Christ as our Redeemer perfectly fills the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King.

In preaching through Luke’s passion account, I have been struck how in his suffering he is mocked for each of these offices.

While in the high priest’s house, he is mocked as a Prophet:

Luke 22:64 And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?

While on the cross, he is mocked as a Priest:

Luke 23:35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

And while before Herod, he is mocked as a King:

Luke 23:11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

The irony, of course, is that he is everything they mock and blaspheme him for not being.  As Prophet, he truly speaks the Word of God.  As Priest, he wholly offers himself to save his people from God’s righteous wrath for their sin.  As King, he rightly rules and reigns.

Christ as our Redeemer perfectly fills the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I find no fault in this man

Image:  The Aztec Great Pyramid of Cholula, Puebla, Mexico

Note: Here are some of my notes from the closing application of last Sunday's sermon titled I find no fault in this man (Luke 23:1-12):

Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man (Luke 23:4).

The phrase that stands out again in my mind is the ironic declaration from an unlikely mouthpiece, the cold and ruthless Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate.  What does he say of Jesus?  More than he might ever have understood:  “I find no fault in this man."

Now, most of us don’t have any problem finding fault.  We can take even the best of men and find some fault with them.  But the Scriptures say of Jesus:  “I find no fault in this man.”

Think of what your stance would be if you had to stand before God and given an account of every thought, word, and deed in your life.  Would anyone say of you:  “I find no fault in this man.”?  Consider Psalm 130:3  “If thou, LORD,, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”  And the intended answer is, NO ONE!  Yet the Psalmist continues:  “But there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:4).

This past week I started reading a book by Charles Van Doren, a man who worked as an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica, titled A History of Knowledge.

In the very beginning, he describes the ancient religions that arose and are recorded in early history.  He has one section where he describes how human sacrifice was an almost universal practice in primitive religions.  In this section he describes the practice among the ancient Aztecs in Mexico:

Among the Aztec, the toll of sacrifice stuns the mind.  In the last years before the Spanish conquest, a thousand of the finest children and young people were offered up each week.  Dressed in splendid robes, they were drugged and then helped up the steps of the high pyramids and held down upon the altars [I omit the grotesque description which follows]….  A thousand a week, many of them captured in raids among the neighboring tribes in the Valley of Mexico.  A thousand a week of the finest among the children and youth, who huddled in prisons before their turn came (p. 12).

We know the ancient Canaanite religions did this as well.  Compare:

Jeremiah 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Van Doren suggests it was probably the Israelites of old who were the first ancient civilization to reject human sacrifice as wrong and as something that God did not require (citing Genesis 22).  Then, this unbelieving scholar makes an interesting observation.  He says, “The Christians never practiced human sacrifice” because “their religion is based on the one supreme sacrifice” (p. 15).

Why did the ancient Aztec practice human sacrifice?  I think it was because they knew of their sin guilt before a holy and righteous God.  They tried to respond to that guilt in awful and detestable ways that God never required.  But despite the sacrifice of thousands of lives, the guilt was never relieved.  Why?  There never could.  There never was one offered up in whom no fault could be found.

Contrast this with the Gospel account of the passion of Christ.  It only took the laying down of the life of the one perfectly righteous and just man to satisfy the wrath of God and to open a way of peace and reconciliation.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Word Magazine # 26: Rejoinder to James White: Erasmus and Apologetics

Image:  Erasmus (1466-1536).  This humanist scholar compiled and edited the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, which formed the basis for the Protestant Textus Receptus (received text) of the New Testament.

Last week’s Word Magazine #25, which reviewed a Wretched TV Interview with apologist James White, drew its fair share of interest.  Most notably, James White himself offered a screen flow video response to my presentation on Monday, August 25, 2014.

I have now recorded and posted a rejoinder to James White:

In the rejoinder I summarize and respond to four points regarding James White’s response:

Image:  Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007).  Metzger taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and wrote extensively on New Testament text criticism.  His work "The Text of the New Testament" (first published in 1964 and appearing in three later editions) has influenced a generation of pastors and scholars in explaining and championing the theories of modern text criticism.

1.  JW took issue with my critique of his comments in the Wretched Video regarding the “Erasumus rushed his Greek NT to print” legend and the as yet unsubstantiated lost ending of Revelation anecdote, suggesting instead that one should consult his written work on these topics.  Therefore, in this rejoinder I point to specific passages in White’s The KJV Only Controversy where he perpetuates the “Erasmus rushed his Greek NT to print” legend and the lost ending of Revelation anecdote.

Image:  Henk Jan De Jonge (b. 1943).  De Jonge is emeritus professor of NT and Early Christianity at the University of Leiden.  His 1980 article "Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum" debunked a long held legend regarding the incorporation of the CJ by Erasmus into the Textus Receptus.

2.  JW attacked my defense of the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8) in the traditional text.  Though this was a rather minor part of my initial review, and, admittedly, one of the most difficult parts of the TR to defend, White gave most attention to it.  In my rejoinder I point to the tenacity of the CJ and its preservation in the Western church.

I also noted here JW’s perpetuation of another Erasmus legend, that of Erasmus having made a rash wager or promise to include the CJ only if a Greek manuscript of it could be produced.  This legend is found in White’s KJV Only Controversy, likely borrowed from Bruce Metzger, and is reflected in his dating of codex 61 as having been created in 1520.  The legend was thoroughly debunked by H. J. De Jonge in a 1980 article, Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum, which even led Metzger to revise his comments on the CJ in the Third Edition of his influential The Text of the New Testament.

Image:  Front cover of David Trobisch's 
"A User's Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek NT" (SBL, 2013)

3.  JW took issue with my challenge of inconsistency in those who attack the traditional text for its inclusion of readings with weaker external support or for conjectural emendations (like that alleged in Beza’s version of the TR at Revelation 16:5), but who make use of the modern critical text which also often  prefers minority readings and suggests conjectural emendations.

In this discussion I noted David Trobisch’s observation in his A User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament (Society of Biblical Literature, 2013) that though the NA 28 editors refrained from noting conjectures in the apparatus, “this does not imply that the editors are principally against conjectures.  Producing an eclectic text always open the possibility that in some cases no manuscript containing the original reading has survived. No matter how many text witnesses exist, the initial text may have been lost.  Noting theoretical reconstructions of the oldest text form is good practice for editors of eclectic editions” (p. 43).

Thus, I reaffirmed my contention that it is inconsistent to critique the TR as an eclectic text for editorial philosophy when that same philosophy is also reflected in the modern critical text.

Image:  Folio from p45, one of the famed Chester Beatty papyri whose discovery in 1930-31 marked the "Period of the Papyri" (1930-1980).

4.  JW contended that one cannot possibly engage in meaningful apologetics regarding the NT if he supports the traditional text.  I challenged this view, describing it as “Modern Critical Text Only-ism.”  I also challenged JW’s rather odd contention that meaningful text criticism only came with the modern papyri discoveries. In response I pointed out that the major challenges to the TR came in the Enlightenment influenced nineteenth century, long before the modern papyri discoveries, citing E. J. Epp’s description of 1930-1980 as the “Period of the Papyri” (“Textual Criticism” in The NT and Its Modern Interpreters [Scholars Press, 1989]:  p. 83).