Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scenes from the 2014 Keach Conference

Image:  New to this year's conference:  t-shirts!

The Thirteenth Annual Keach Conference was held last Friday evening and Saturday morning (September 26-27, 2014) at Covenant RBC in Warrenton.  Here are a few scenes from the meeting:

Image:  2014 speakers:  Jim Savastio (left) and Earl Blackburn (right)

Image: Bret Vincent leads worship.

Image:  Friday evening fellowship

Image:  Fellowship

Image:  Conversations

Image:  Youth fellowship

Image:  Saturday am session

Image:  Earl Blackburn preaching on Saturday am

Image: Saturday am break

Image:  Pew conversations

Image:  After session conversation with Jim Savastio

Image:  Q and A session

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Vision (9.25.14): Keach Conference 2014 Theme: Of Christ the Mediator

Note:  Looking forward to the 13th annual Keach Conference this weekend at Covenant RBC in Warrenton, VA.  As many know, this will be the eighth consecutive year we have taken a succeeding chapter in the  Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) as our theme.  The year's theme will be Chapter 8:  "Of Christ the Mediator":

1._____ It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. 

2._____ The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man. 

3._____ The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety; which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who also put all power and judgement in his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same. 

4._____ This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world. 

5._____ The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him. 

6._____ Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever. 

7._____ Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. 

8._____ To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them; uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it. 

9._____ This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other. 

10.____ This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office; and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God; and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. 

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Geldenhuys on Luke's restraint in describing Christ's physical sufferings

I introduced last Sunday's sermon on Luke 23:34-38 with another reflection on the simplicity and brevity of Luke's description of the crucifixion in Luke 23:33:  "And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, they crucified him, and the malefactors, one of the right hand, and the other on the left." Again, the crucifixion of Jesus is described with great restraint and with little distracting detail as to the pain and suffering that Jesus endured humanly speaking.  Norval Geldenhuys offers these comments:

Crucifixion was the most agonizing and shameful form of execution ever devised (the Romans confined this form of punishment to slaves and criminals of the lowest type), and yet the physical agony which Jesus had to endure was but the faintest reflection of the spiritual suffering He had to undergo as the Bearer of the sin of lost mankind.  For this reason the Gospels give practically no details of His physical suffering, so that the reader’s attention should not be concentrated upon outward things and thus overlook the deepest essence of His suffering.  What a pity that in so much Christian art His physical sufferings have been brought so greatly into prominence (Luke [Eerdmans, 1951]:  p. 608).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blue Ridge Christian School Chapel Message: I Believe in God (Prayer) Apostles' Creed

Last week I was invited to give a chapel message for high school students at Blue Ridge Christian School in Dayton Virginia (near Harrisonburg) by the school chaplain.  They are doing a semester study on the Apostles' Creed and I was asked to speak on God as Father, so I gave a short message on Luke 11:1-13, which addresses how Jesus described God as Father in his teaching on prayer. Chaplain McCaskill did a video of the message and has posted it to his chapel blog site and to youtube.com.  Seeing this reminds me of why I prefer audio to video (since I have a face made for radio, I'd much prefer to be heard rather than seen), but here it is:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Word Magazine # 27: Rejoinder: James White and 2 Peter 3:10

Image:  Various editions of the NA lining someone's bookshelf (sadly, not mine!)

I recorded and posted yesterday Word Magazine # 27:  Rejoinder:  James White and 2 Peter 3:10.

This is now the third in a series interacting with apologist James White on the text of Scripture (see WM # 25 and WM # 26).  In particular, I respond to segments of two James White videos which address conjectural emendations in the modern critical text at Acts 16:12 and 2 Peter 3:10.  Since 2 Peter 3:10 is a much more complicated textual problem I focused on this verse.

Here are some aids for following the WM # 27:

1.  Here is my blog post:  Text Note:  2 Peter 3:10 in which I survey the textual issues with 2 Peter 3:10 noting the differences between the traditional text reading (will be burned up), the NA 27 reading (will be laid bare), and the NA 28 reading which introduces a conjectural emendation to the modern critical text (will not be laid bare).

2.  Here is WM # 25 where I made my original comments regarding conjectural emendations at Acts 16:12 and 2 Peter 3:10 in the modern critical text (begin listening at the 1:04:29 mark).

3.  Here is a link to James White’s August 25, 2014 screen flow video presentation titled, The CJ, Reformed Baptists, and Doing Apologetics in which he offers an initial response to the conjectural emendations at Acts 16:12 and 2 Peter 3:10 and misunderstands that the main issue with 2 Peter 3:10 has to do with the insertion of the negative particle ouch in the NA 28 text.

4.  Here is the comment that James White posted on the ConfessingBaptist.com site (you can read the post and all comments here) in response to WM # 25 and the comment made by James Snapp which pointed out the mistakes James White made in understanding 2 Peter 3:10 and responding to my argument concerning it:

James White commented (references to conjectural emendations in bold):

Very, very, VERY disappointed here. I just listened to Riddle's comments, and, well, I had wished for fair treatment from a fellow Reformed Baptist pastor! Why not refer to a book I wrote on this topic that has been in print since 1995? Why refer only to my answers to quick questions from Todd Friel rather than the substance of my presentation itself? Why the repeated assertions that I am trying to "undermine" this or that (rather than honestly allowing my own clearly stated purposes to speak)? So many things to address! One that is a bit humorous, I suppose: Pastor Riddle makes the claim that the NA28 offers "conjectural emendations" that have no manuscript support as part of his criticism of my comments on the Comma Johanneum, a text that, if it is original, destroys all hope of an accurate NT manuscript tradition, I might add. Anyway, he says that I and others like me are being inconsistent to promote the NA28 for its cj's (as they were noted in the earlier apparati). Two problems: 1) the cj's are never put in the text, and hence are not translated by any translation; 2) these cj's, which appeared in earlier editions of the NA text, have been REMOVED from the NA28. They are gone from the apparatus. See, for example, the Bradshaw cj noted for "agra" in 2 Peter 3:10 in NA27, but gone in NA28.
James Snapp’s rejoinder comment:

Regarding the "humorous" item that you mentioned:
Jeff Riddle claimed that the NA28 has readings in its text that have zero extant Greek manuscript support. You reply here by saying:
"1) the cj's are never put in the text."
That is simply incorrect. Readings with no Greek manuscript support are adopted by NA28 in Acts 16:12 and in Second Peter 3:10.
You continue:
"They are gone from the apparatus. See, for example, the Bradshaw cj noted for "agra" in 2 Peter 3:10 in NA27, but gone in NA28."
That has nothing to do with what Jeff Riddle was talking about. The reading in Second Peter 3:10 that has no Greek manuscript support, but has been adopted in the text of NA28, is not Bradshaw's conjecture (that ERGA should be followed by "ARGA"). Riddle was referring, instead, to the variant-unit at the very end of the verse. The compilers of NA28 adopted "OUC EUREQHSETAI" ("shall not be found"), adding "OUC" without any Greek manuscript support.
The name of the person who made the humorous mistake about the NA28's adoption of a reading in Second Peter 3:10 that has no Greek manuscript support is not Jeff Riddle.

Here is another comment Snapp posted on the ConfessingBaptist.com site in response to James White’s August 25 screenflow video (see comment here):

Regarding the 18th-20th minute of James White's response: White seems to have not gotten a secure grip on the issue regarding Second Peter 3:10. The focus of the controversy is not the conjecture "ARGA" (although that is what he seemed to think). The controversy involves the end of the verse: the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland GNT adopts, in the text, the words "OUC EUREQHSETAI," (i.e., "shall not be found"), a reading which has zero support among Greek manuscripts. And, already in NA-27, the text of Acts 16:12 contained a reading which has zero support among Greek manuscripts.
Riddle's point was simple: if it is wrong to reject the Comma Johanneum on the grounds that its Greek support is relatively late and sparse, why is it right to accept the text in NA28 at Acts 16:12 and Second Peter 3:10, where the adopted reading has no Greek support at all? Whatever one thinks of the genuineness or non-genuineness of the CJ, Riddle's basic point is valid. White was in over his head, and it shows in his video.
And it does not salvage his case at all to divert viewers' attention to the Textus Receptus' reading in Revelation 16:5 (where the TR reading has no extant Greek support). Whether advocates of the Textus Receptus and/or KJV accept some conjectural emendations is not the question. The thing to see is that once one adopts any conjectural emendations in the New Testament text, one forfeits the right to use the "The Greek support for your favored reading is late and sparse" line as if it is absolutely decisive, because it if were /absolutely/ decisive, then the same principle would preclude the adoption of the NA28's readings in Acts 16:12 and at the end of Second Peter 3:10. Except it would carry even more force, inasmuch as the "late and sparse" Greek support for the CJ is still /something,/ whereas the Greek support for these two readings in the text of NA28 is non-existent.

5.  Finally, here is a link to James White’s August 28, 2014 Dividing Line titled Three Main Topics in which he revisits Acts 16:12 and, in particular, 2 Peter 3:10 after James Snapp pointed out the mistakes he made in interpreting the passage in his August 25 screenflow video (begin listening at the 49:32 and 1:07:42 marks).


Friday, September 19, 2014

Text Note: 2 Peter 3:10

I.  The Issue:

There is dispute about the ending of 2 Peter 3:10.

The traditional text (as reflected in the KJV below) reads (I have put in bold the English words for which I have supplied a transliteration of the Greek):

KJV 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up [kai ge kai ta en aute erga katakaesetai].”

The NA 27th edition of the modern critical text (as reflected in the NIV) reads (again, I have put in bold the English words for which I have supplied a transliteration in Greek):

NIV 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare [kai ge kai ta en aute erga eurethesetai].

The difference between the two texts regards the final verb.  Should it read, as the traditional text does, that the works in the earth “shall be burned [katakaesetai, the third person singular, future passive of katakaio, to burn up or to consume]” or should it read, as the NA 27th does, that the works of the earth “will be laid bare [eurethesetai, the third person singular, future passive form of heurisko, to discover or to find]?

There is, however, yet another major issue that emerges from this text which relates to the matter of conjectural emendation.  This issue, in fact, led to a change in the NA 28th edition of the critical text.

The conjectural emendation is the insertion of the negative particle ouch.  The insertion of ouch is listed in the critical apparatus of the NA27 (see external evidence below) as a conjecture based on versional evidence.  In NA28, however, the conjecture moves from the apparatus to the text, so that a potential translation based upon the NA 28 would read (translation based on NIV; changes from NA 28 in bold and underlined):

2 Peter 3:10:  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will not be laid bare [kai ge kai ta en aute erga ouch eurethesetai].

II.  External Evidence:

Here I will draw on the critical apparatus of both the NA27 and NA 28.

The traditional text is supported by the following:  A, 048, 33, 1739 (varia lectio), 2464 (with minor differences), and the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts.  In addition, this reading is also reflected in the following versions:  The Clementine Vulgate, the Harklean Syriac, and the Bohairic Coptic.

The NA 27 reading is supported by:  Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, K, P, 0156 (possibly), 323, 1241, 1739 (as one alternative).  It is also found in a few Philoxenian Syriac manuscripts and a marginal reading in some Harklean Syriac manuscripts.

The NA 28 reading, which conjectures the inclusion of the negative particle ouch is not, of course, found in any extant Greek manuscripts.  It is, however, found only in the Sahidic Coptic, some manuscripts of the Philoxenian Syriac, and perhaps  in Dialect V of the Coptic (only probable coming from a citation from a Father).

There are also several other independent readings:

Eurethesetai luomena (will be found dissolved):  p72

Aphanisthesantai (will be ruined or destroyed):  C

katakaesontai (they will be burned):  5, 1243, 1735, 2492 [note:  This would apparently be a grammatical error, however, since the neuter plural would not take a plural verb.] 

Additional Note:  The NA27 also lists a number of other conjectures that have been made by various scholars for understanding the ending of v.10:

Bradschaw suggests that the adjective arga [the neuter nominative plural adjective from argos, -e, -on, meaning idle or useless) be inserted after the word erga in v. 10 so that the ending would read:  “the earth and the things in it will be found useless.”

Other references in the NA 27 apparatus simply suggest a change for the final word:

rhysetai (to be saved or delivered):  Westcott/Hort

syrryesetai (to be swept away):  Naber

ekpyrothesetai (to be burn up):  Olivier

arthesetai (to be removed):  Mayor

krithesetai (to be judged):  E. Nestle

Metzger in his Textual Commentary notes these and a few others (see pp. 705-706).

III.  Internal evidence:

Metzger observes:  “In view of the difficulty of extracting any acceptable sense from the passage, it is not strange that copyists and translators introduced a variety of modifications” (p. 706).

It is not altogether clear, however, why the traditional text would not be considered just as legitimate as the others.  In fact, it seems likely from the alternative suggestions that they are theologically motivated, attempting to offer an alternative to a reading suggesting that the earth will be burned or destroyed at the end of the ages.

IV.  Conclusion:

The traditional text rendering has ancient support.  It was the reading eventually adopted by the majority.  Even though the NA27 reading is supported by the twin heavyweight of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, Metzger gives it only a “D” rating and despairs that none of the existing readings “seems to be original” (p. 705).

The NA 28 editors simply followed Metzger’s trajectory by offering a conjecturally emended reading which inserts the negative particle ouch, even though it is found in no extant Greek manuscripts and only weakly attested in the versional witnesses.

This variant demonstrates that the modern critical text editors are willing to make conjectural emendations to supply what they believe to be the best readings.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Vision (9.18.14): The place, which is called Calvary

Image:  This rocky hillside in Jerusalem is known as "Gordon's Calvary" (because a man named Charles G. Gordon popularized this as the site of the crucifixion in the 19th century) and is thought by many to be the place where Jesus was crucified.  In the end, however, it is uncertain where precisely in Jerusalem the crucifixion took place.

Note:  Here are some notes from the exposition of Luke 23:33 from last Sunday morning’s sermon.

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left (Luke 23:33).

In v. 33 we have this brief, restrained picture of the crucifixion itself, which begins:  “And when they were come to the place called Calvary….”  The Greek word underlying “Calvary” is kranion, meaning skull.  The other Gospels call it by its Hebrew or Aramaic name which is Golgotha.  Compare:

John 19:17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

The English word “Calvary” appears only in Luke 23:33 in the NT, the KJV translators (as in the Geneva Bible) following Tyndale’s first English translation of the NT, taking it from the Latin word Calvaria

We do not know for certain how it got the name of the “skull.”  Did its topography make it look like a skull at a distance?  Did it get this name because it was a place of death?  It was most likely not off in a corner but in a busy, well traveled place.  Again, the Romans wanted the Jews to see this.

Then, Luke simply says:  “there they crucified him.”  It is interesting that the beloved physician shows little clinical interest in describing what happened physically to Jesus.  This is the problem with those graphic portrayals of Jesus’ suffering, whether in medieval art or in modern film.  The point is not to feel sorrow for Jesus’ physical sufferings.  It is not to say, “Poor Jesus.”  It is, instead, to understand that it was on the cross that Jesus took upon himself the wrath of God for sin, so that those who trust in him would not be crushed by God’s wrath but that their lives might be hidden with Christ.
The historian Martin Hengel called crucifixion “the ‘slaves’ punishment’” of the Roman world.  When the Romans crushed the slave rebellion of Spartacus over 6,000 slaves were nailed to crosses along the Appian Way leading into Rome (Crucifixion, p. 55).
The Roman orator Cicero once compiled a list of the worst punishments.  In third place, he listed decollatio (beheading).  In second place, he listed crematio (burning).  And in first place, the summum supplicium (the penalty of penalties), he listed crux (the cross) (p. 33).

Hengel said that “crucifixion was a punishment in which the caprices and sadism of the executioners were given full reign” (p. 25).

The Roman philosopher and teacher Seneca wrote:

Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all?  Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly weals on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony?  He would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the cross (pp. 30-31).

Seneca was making reference to the fact that the victim was usually beaten to a pulp before he ever made it to the cross.  This was a severe “mercy” extended to him.

Luke does not tell us the shape of the cross, whether a T or X or the conventional cross we usually think of today.  That is not important for us to know.  From John’s Gospel and his description of the disciples seeing the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet we know he was nailed to the cross.  One died in crucifixion by suffocation, exhaustion, and loss of blood.  The body was not far off the ground so passers-by might look the accused in the face.  But again Luke shows little interest in these details. This is not Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. The only thing Luke adds in v. 33 is that the malefactors were crucified on his right and on his left.  Compare:

John 19:18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

Indeed, Jesus must be in the center at this place called Calvary.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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.