Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Augustine on God's Eternality and Time

In Book XI of the Confessions, Augustine meditates on the eternality of God and his relation to time. He answers skeptics who scornfully ask: What did God do before the creation of the word? Augustine’s answer is that God is eternal. He created time and is not within it. Every moment in time is equally accessible to him.

He cites the skeptics in chapter X:

Now, are not those still full of their old carnal nature who ask us: “What was God doing before he made the heavens and earth? For if he was idle” they say, “and doing nothing, then why did he not continue in that state forever—doing nothing, as he had always done?”

Augustine recognizes this as a challenge to the immutability of God, continuing to quote the skeptic:

“If any new motion has arisen in God, and a new will to form a creature, which he had never before formed, how can that be a true eternity in which an act of will occurs that was not there before?”

Augustine’s defense of God’s immutability is in his affirmation of God’s eternality. Of the skeptics, he says:

They endeavor to comprehend eternal things, but their heart still flies about in the past and future motions of created things, and is still unstable.

If the skeptics would rightly understand God and his creation of time, then they must distinguish between divine eternality and the temporal process. If they would make this distinction:

They would see that a long time does not become long, except from the many separate events that occur in its passage, which cannot be simultaneous. In the Eternal, on the other hand, nothing passes away, but the whole is simultaneously present….

Who will hold the heart of man that it may stand still and see how the eternity which always stands still is itself neither future nor past but expresses itself in the times that are future and past?

As for the skeptic who scornfully asks, “What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?” Augustine suggests one might answer: “He was preparing hell … for those who pry too deep.”!

In chapter XIII, he continues the theme:

For thou madest that very time itself, and periods could not pass by before thou madest the whole temporal procession. But if there was no time before heaven and earth, how, then, can it be asked, “What wast thou doing then?” For there was no “then” when there was no time….

In the eminence of thy ever-present eternity, thou precedest all times past, and extendest beyond all future times, for they are still to come—and when they have come, they will be past….

Thy years neither go nor come; but ours both go and come in order that all separate moments may come to pass….

Thy “today” is eternity…. Thou madest all time and before all times thou art, and there was never a time when there was not time.

And in chapter XIV:

There was no time, therefore, when thou hadst not made anything, because thou hadst made time itself. And there are not times coeternal with thee, because thou dost abide forever….


Monday, January 29, 2018

Christianity in the slave culture of ancient Rome

Image: Roman era mosaic from Tunisia, depicting slaves, c. AD second century

I’ve been reading aloud William Stearns Davis’ A Day in Old Rome (Allyn and Bacon, 1925, 1966) at the Latin table with my boys on Mondays. We recently covered a section on slavery in ancient Rome.

Davis notes that Roman farming handbooks solemnly classified farm implements in three categories (125):

I.                Dumb tools—plows, mattocks, shovels, etc.;
II.              Semi-speaking tools—oxen, asses, etc. that can bellow or bray;
III.            Speaking tools—slaves useful as farm hands.

He notes that under the emperor Hadrian an edict was issued “that a slave could not be killed outright by his master without some kind of consent by a magistrate,” a law which made “every owner of human bipeds” grumble. The edict, however, provided slaves “little practical help,” considering that a master could still order “a punishment so brutal that death is certain, and if he should murder a servant, slave witnesses can given no valid testimony, and almost no citizen will turn traitor to his class and prosecute. Half of Rome, therefore, continues in the absolute power and possession of the other half” (125).

Davis describes an imagined upper-class household (of the Calvus family). He notes that while the master and mistress might act kindly toward a few personal slaves, they ordinarily treat their servants “absolutely impersonally.” He says: “their presence is taken for granted like articles of furniture, and their personal problems are ignored” (132). And he adds that it is considered “good breeding to speak to ordinary slaves as seldom and then as curtly as possible, just as one should not waste words addressing a yoke of oxen” (133).

Reading this I thought of how strange the early churches must have appeared in such an environment.

Consider the household codes of Paul in Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22—4:1, which assumes slaves and masters worship Christ together.  Not only does Paul exhort slaves to “obey in all things your masters according to the flesh” but also masters to give to their servants “what is just and equal; knowing that ye have a Master in heaven” (Col 3:22; 4:1).

What of Paul’s admonition to Christians slaves to remember that whatever their outward estate they are “the Lord’s freeman” (1 Cor 7:22)? Or of his meditation in Galatians 3:28 that in Christ “there is neither bond nor free”? Or of his reminder to Philemon that the newly converted runaway slave Onesimus returned to him “not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved” (Philemon 1:16)?

It is no wonder then in Acts when Luke records an occasion when a Christian named Jason and other brethren were brought before the city fathers in Thessalonika, and their accusers cried out, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6).


Friday, January 26, 2018

The Vision (1.26.18): The World's Hatred of Christ

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 7:1-13.

John 7:7: The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

Notice three points here in Christ’s words to his unbelieving brethren:

First: The world cannot hate his brethren. Why? They were unconverted. The world’s wrath is not wasted on its own. Its true hostility is reserved for Christ and those who love him.

John has already given us this frank assessment of the spiritual state of Christ’s brethren: “For neither did his brethren believe him” (7:5).

Calvin notes that Christ’s experience with his brethren anticipates what will often happen in the daily experience of believers, “that the children of God suffer under greater annoyance from their nearer relations than from strangers; for they are instruments of Satan which tempt, sometimes to ambition, and sometimes to [greed], those who desire to serve God purely and faithfully.”

Second: The world hates Christ: “but me it hateth.” The world does not take a neutral stance toward Christ. It does not mildly dislike him but is filled with animus against him. And because it hates Christ, it hates those who are his own (his body). Consider Christ’s words to his disciples in John 15:19: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

Calvin says that the world (kosmos) here “denotes men who are not born again, who retain their natural disposition; and accordingly he declares that all who have not yet been regenerated by the Spirit are Christ’s adversaries.”

Third: The world’s hatred of Christ comes, because he testifies of it that its works are evil. The world hates Christ, because he exposes their sinful hearts. Consider Christ’s words in John 3:19: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Unconverted men love darkness rather than light. They love to have their sin covered up and covered over, even from their own consciences.

We should not, therefore, expect that Christ will receive universal adoration among men, nor should we expect the same. The world is hostile to Christ.
We are left to ask: With whom am I going to align myself? Who is going to be my ally? Whose opinion am I going to value?
Am I going to seek the world’s approval or Christ’s? Is my stance going to gain me the world’s friendship or its enmity?
Let the world stand against him, but we will stand with Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 25, 2018

WM 90: Revew: The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns

I just posted WM 90: Review: The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns (find it here).

This is an audio version of a review I’ve written on this work:

Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs (New York: HarperCollins, 2016): 230 pp.

At the end, I suggest that this book illustrates at least three significant challenges within modern “evangelicalism”:

1.   The problem of inerrancy as a theological concept to the define the nature and authority of Scripture.

Many modern evangelicals have either stretched the term “inerrancy” so broadly or twisted it so perversely that it hardly means what earlier men meant by it.

2.    The dangers of the desire for academic respectability.

3.    The problem of epistemology.

Enns elevates uncertainty, doubt, and mysticism, rather than certainty, faith, and reason.

I hear the same sentiments expressed in Biblical studies by those who want a canon of books but not canonical texts, who want Bibles with multiple suggested variants but no certain text. Is the quest for certainty necessarily sinful?


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Augustine on Ambrose's Practice of Pastoral Care

In the last post, I noted Augustine’s high esteem for Ambrose, expressed in his Confessions, Book V, Chapter XIII.

He returns to Ambrose in Book VI, Chapter III, noting that he esteemed him to be “a happy man, as the world counts happiness, because great personages held him in honor.” He adds: “Only his celibacy appeared to me to be a painful burden.”

Augustine also describes, however, how the great pastor seemed sometimes to be aloof, indifferent to him and others, or too busy to bother with him.

So he writes of Ambrose:

But what hope he cherished, what stuggles he had against the temptations that beset his high station, what solace in adversity, and what savory joys thy bread possessed for the hidden mouth of his heart when feeding on it, I could neither conjecture nor experience.

Nor did he know my own frustrations, nor the pit of my danger. For I could not request of him what I wanted as I wanted it, because I was debarred from hearing and speaking to him by crowds of busy people to whose infirmities he devoted himself. And when he was not engaged with them—which was never for long at a time—he was either refreshing his body with necessary food or his mind with reading.

Augustine notes how Ambrose (apparently strange for the times) would often sit and read in silence (as opposed to reading aloud): “Now, as he read, his eyes glanced over the pages and his heart searched out the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent.”

He recalls how he and some friends often went to Ambrose’s room “for no one was forbidden to enter” only to find the esteemed bishop reading to himself in silence. He then says:

After we had sat a long time in silence—for who would dare interrupt one so intent?—we would then depart, realizing that he was unwilling to be distracted in the little time he could gain from for the recruiting of his mind, free from the clamor of other men’s business.

Augustine confides: “But actually I could find no opportunity of putting the questions I desired to that holy oracle of thine in his heart, unless it could be dealt with briefly. However, those surgings in me required that he should give me his full leisure so that I might pour them out to him; but I never found him so.”

Though he did not get the personal, pastoral attention he desired, Augustine notes that still, “I heard him, indeed, every Lord’s Day, ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ among the people.” This proved adequate slowly to unravel “all those knots of crafty calumnies” which the Manicheans “had knit together against the divine books.”

Though one might not necessarily commend Ambrose’s pastoral care methods, one can at least perhaps surmise that while there might not always be adequate time or opportunity for personal work, the public ministry of the Word can still prove effective.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Augustine on Ambrose: Friendly and Eloquent

In his Confessions, Augustine describes how, as a young man, he bounced from Carthage to Rome to Milan, picking up work teaching rhetoric along the way and dabbling in philosophy and Manichean theology.

In Milan he encountered the preaching ministry of Ambrose (c. 340-397), which eventually led to his conversion. Here is Augustine’s first description of Ambrose in Book V, Chapter XIII:

And to Milan I came, to Ambrose the bishop, famed through the whole world as one of the best of men, thy devoted servant. His eloquent discourse in those times abundantly provided thy people with the flour of thy wheat, the gladness of thy oil, and the sober intoxication of thy wine. To him I was led by thee without my knowledge, that by him I might be led to thee in full knowledge. The man of God received me as a father would, and welcomed my coming as a good bishop should. And I began to love him, of course, not at the first as a teacher of the truth, for I had entirely despaired of finding that in thy Church—but as a friendly man. And I studiously listened to him—though not with the right motive—as he preached to the people. I was trying to discover whether his eloquence came up to his reputation, and whether it flowed fuller or thinner than others said it did. And thus I hung on his words intently, but, as to his subject matter, I was only a careless and contemptuous listener.

This is a reminder to Christian preachers to strive for friendliness and eloquence as we conduct our public ministry. We never know how God might be pleased to be working among our hearers.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

WM 89: Review: White and Kruger on Canon and Text @ G3

I just posted WM 89: Review: White and Kruger on Canon and Text @ G3 (listen here).

In this episode I offer some ex tempore comments on a few segments from a dialogue between RB apologist James White and NT scholar Dr. Michael J. Kruger on the topic of Canon. This dialogue was held on Friday, January 19, 2018 as part of the recent G3 Conference held in Atlanta, GA.

I begin by citing a quotation from Carl E. Amerding which I used in my recent paper on the ending of Mark: "Moreover, the development of an authoritative text is a natural corollary to an authoritative list of books."

White and Kruger argue that we must not conflate canon and text, but I try to point out that canon and text must necessarily be correlated to one another.

What good is accomplished if we affirm an authoritative canon of books but do not, in correlation, also affirm an authoritative text for those books?

Episode corrections/clarifications (One of the dangers of an ex tempore episode is getting a name, date, or fact incorrect.): Dr Kruger has a PhD from the University of Edinburgh (not Aberdeen; at least they're both in Scotland!); The 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius which listed the 27 canonical NT books, was written in 367, so it is from the fourth century, not the fifth.


Friday, January 19, 2018

The Vision (1.19.18): Lord, to whom shall we go?

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 6:59-71.

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more (John 6:66).

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

Reading this, you are left to ask: Which kind of “disciple” are you going to be?

Are you going to be the type who follows for a season, looking to get your stomach filled, but who then turns back when you don’t get everything you thought you were going to get from Jesus?

Or, are you going to be the type who says, Lord, if we did not have you, to whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.

The false disciples say, Jesus we can’t follow you!

The true disciples, however, say, Jesus we can’t NOT follow you. We have no other choice. We have no other option. We have no one else to whom we can turn. You are not one option among many for us. You are the only option for us.

The skeptic asks: How can you possibly follow Jesus? We say: How can we NOT follow him?

There is a saying among those called to ministry: If you can do anything else, do it.

This statement can be modified and applied to all believers: If you can follow anyone other than Jesus, follow him. But if you see in the Lord Jesus Christ the only one you could possibly follow, if you can’t NOT follow him, then follow him.

Profess your faith in him among men as Peter did: “And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). Profess your faith in obedience in baptism as the Ethiopian Eunuch did: “And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Finally, live for him who died for you.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Reviews: Currid on Ecclesiastes; Poh on The Fundamentals of Our Faith

I just posted my two short book reviews which appear in the new issue of Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1 (January 2018). I also recorded an audio version of each review and posted them to Here is the info:

Book Review of John D. Currid, Ecclesiastes: A Quest for Meaning. Find the pdf here on my site or here on Listen to the review here.

Book Review of Boon Sing Poh, Fundamentals of Our Faith: Studies in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. Find the pdf here on my site or here on Listen to the review here.

I read Currid's book while preaching through Ecclesiastes last year and found it to be helpful.

I also read Poh's boook last year and have found it useful during my current Sunday pm series through the 1689 Baptist Confession.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Interactions with Dr. Peter J. Gurry on "The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis"

Image: Phoenix Seminary campus

When I presented my paper on “The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis” at Houston Baptist University back in March, I shared a draft copy of it with Dr. Peter J. Gurry of Phoenix Seminary, whose PS colleague John Meade had also presented a paper at the HBU conference.

When my article based on this paper came out in the PRJ (see this blog post), I sent a copy to Peter. He then kindly sent me some thoughtful comments and questions on the paper yesterday (1.16.18), I responded, and then he sent me some further points of clarification today (1.17.18), to which I also responded.

With his permission, I am going to share my two interactions with Peter, relating to my article (which also include his comments, questions, and points of clarification):

Comments and questions (1.16.18):


Many thanks for reading the paper and offering these valuable comments and questions. I wish I had had them earlier. They will be useful if I revise the paper and use it in another format.

Let me offer a few replies (with your comments in italic):

You wrote:

I noticed there is no mention of the Sinaitic Syriac. Was this intentional? Its text is, per Metzger, as early as late 2nd/early 3rd century and it lacks the Longer Ending. This is a problem for you claim on p. 39 that there is no “inkling of controversy” in this period. I note this manuscript is also missing from the extended quote of Lunn at the end. I also noticed there was no mention of the Sahidic Coptic or 308 cited in NA28.

Response: My main focus was to survey the Greek mss. evidence for the traditional ending, so I did not give much focus to the versional evidence, which is extremely scanty pre-300.

If I revise the paper I will try to add something on the Sinaitic Syriac. Of this, notice two things:

1.    Metzger/Ehrman say the work was copied in the fourth century (so it would be post-300), though they speculate that it preserves “the form of the text” from the “beginning of the third century” (p. 96). No footnote or source is cited.  This seems speculative to me at best, so I did not include this as a sure pre-300 witness to the ending of Mark.

2.    Metzger/Ehrman also note that the Sinaitic Syriac (a palimpsest) was not discovered at St. Catherine’s on Mt. Sinai till 1892 (p. 96). This means that it had no bearing in WH’s decision to end Mark at Mark 16:8 in their 1881 Greek NT. This decision by WH was based on the evidence of Sinaiticus and Vatincanus, not the Sinaitic Syriac.

As for the Sahidic Coptic, the NA28 apparatus notes two or more mss. ending at 16:8 but does not identify or date them. In the discussion in Metzger/Ehrman no specific Sahidic mss. are cited which are pre-300 (see pp. 110-112).

As for 304 (I assume this is what you meant rather than 308) my understanding, drawn from J. Snapp, was that the ending of this ms. is damaged, so that it is not a valid witness for the ending. Also, according to the NA28 it is dated to the XII century so it is not relevant for the pre-300 discussion.

I tried to stress my overall focus on the Greek mss. in the first line of the second paragraph on p. 35 when I wrote (emphasis added): “Upon examination of the early Greek manuscript evidence for the ending of Mark, one can tentatively suggest at least three distinct periods or phases in the early transmission of the ending of Mark.”

On p. 39 I made this statement regarding the pre-300 evidence for the ending of Mark: “If we had only the evidence from this period we would hardly have any inkling of controversy over the text of Mark, but would assume the Traditional Ending as the undisputed conclusion of the second Gospel.” In light of the evidence, I think this statement is accurate. We do not, for example, have any patristic evidence of any dispute about the ending, which we do find (in Eusebius, et al) post-300.

Did you intend not to give your own view as to the originality of the Longer Ending? Even if not decisive to the issue of canonicity, do you think it pertinent?

Response: I believe that 16:9-20 is original and by the hand of Mark. However, I also think that one can believe it was not written by Mark and still hold that is canonical (as Metzger, David Alan Black, and you hold). I did not address this, since the issue of originality was not my main concern to defend in this article, but I see how it might be helpful to make my view plain if I revise it.

I thought it a bit odd that the silence of Origen et al. was rejected as an argument from silence but the codicology of 01 and 03 wasn’t. In any case, the notion that 03 left space for the Longer Ending and still left it out has always seemed like a point against authenticity.

Response: I’m not sure I follow you here. Origen does not explicitly address the ending of Mark, so it is assumed by some that he did not know the ending. This is an argument from silence (assuming he is a witness against the LE, because he does not address it). I’d consider the absence of the LE from 01 and 03 not to be an argument from silence but another matter altogether. Clearly, the LE was rejected by them. The strange ending markers, however, show that they knew of a longer ending and were apparently suppressing it. These are two different kinds of arguments.

You may know this, but codex W has recently been re-dated to sixth century by Ulrich Schmid (see The Free Biblical Manuscripts book). This would affect your statement on p. 45 that it is one of the earliest witnesses to the Longer Ending so you may want to cite this.

Response: Suggested re-dating of W: I did not know this. I will look for the source and cite it if I ever revise the paper. As noted in the table I was relying on the 2012 dates in the NA28, the most recent edition of the critical text. Do you think this date will be altered in NA29, based on this research?

Though many critics of reasoned eclecticism have latched onto comment by Parker and a few others about the goal of NTTC, it is not true that Vincent’s 1899 goal has “largely been abandoned by academic text critics.” I’ve attached a list I put together for Dan Wallace not long ago showing many who still affirm the traditional goal. I could add myself—if that wouldn’t be too presumptuous of me—and the editors of the new THGNT to the list as well.

Response: Though I agree that some scholars still hold to Vincent’s goal, and many of them would be evangelicals of one stripe or another, it seems clear that a shift has taken place from the modern twentieth century goal of reconstructing the original autograph to a postmodern twenty-first century goal of reconstructing the earliest “Initial Text.” Note that even several of those in your list are from the later twentieth century or early 2000s. I am guessing that I could compile a substantial list of quotes on the other side, and not just from Parker.  And it seems, the ones of the other side are the ones who are the real “gatekeepers” with regard to the critical text. Even among evangelicals, as I point out in my article, look at the way the NLT presents the ending of Mark with multiple options (not to mention mainline Protestant translations like the NRSV). I think this represents a new paradigm.

Just for interest, have you seen the article by Elijah Hixson on Spurgeon’s view of textual criticism? You may find it interesting. It’s attached.

Response: I was not aware of this article by Hixon. Look forward to reading it. Though I make the point in my article that Spurgeon upheld the authenticity of the LE, I am not surprised to see that he is inconsistent with dealing with the issue of text. I have seen other compilations of him making contradictory statements about translations (and thereby upon the underlying texts of the translations), at some points praising the KJV and at others extolling the REV. I’m not sure if Hixon did so, but it would be interesting to notice the dates when the comments on text were made and if there were fluctuations. My guess is that his position evolved in response to the publication of the REV in 1881, 1885. I also would not be surprised to find that his view swung back to the KJV in light of the “downgrade controversy” near the conclusion of his ministry. I’ve heard it said that Spurgeon is often hard to pin down on some matters, like eschatology, where evidence can be found in various sermons for just about every millennial position. His views on text, no doubt, reflect the shifts created by the rise of modern text criticism and the work of WH in his day. As for the theme of this article, however, he appeared, at least, to uphold the LE of Mark. I drew attention to Spurgeon, in part, due to irony of the fact that MacArthur, in particular, so admires Spurgeon and is often compared to him. I think most would agree that Spurgeon’s strength was as a preacher and not as a textual scholar.

Finally, I found your comparison of modern evangelicals and influential proponents of TC from the late 19th–20th centuries. WH, of course, left the longer ending in their main text because they felt it should not be removed altogether. What’s more, S. P. Tregelles thought it was not original but still canonical thereby sharing your view. And he, of course, included it in his edition. So, it would seem that modern evangelicals are following this tradition when they continue to print it in the text, thereby letting the reader decide what to do with it. Have I perhaps misunderstood your point of the comparison I wonder?

Response: Yes, modern evangelicals seem to be following in the nineteenth/twentieth century pattern of leaving the ending of Mark open to the judgment of the reader. I am saying that I do not think this is good decision. I would prefer we follow the pattern of the confessional Reformers who embraced the traditional ending and included it in the text without brackets, comments on mss. that omit it, or reference to spurious, very late additions (like the Shorter Ending or the Freer Logion), etc. I would rather follow the pattern of Tyndale, Calvin, the Geneva Bible, the KJV, Owen, Poole, and Henry, etc., rather than Westcott and Hort or Metzger, and simply include 16:9-20 as the ending without distinction or comment.

Many thanks for sending the paper and for your work on it. I happen to think 16.9-20 is not original and that 16.8 is not the original ending. But like you, I think of the traditional ending as Scripture, something like an ancient appendix.

Response: Thanks again for the time you took to read the article and for your helpful comments. I see 16:9-20 as original, based on the arguments from both external and internal evidence (which I find convincing) and also on confessional/theological grounds. I know that questions have been raised about the Biblical books and editorial process (e.g. the final form of the torah, the conclusion to Ecclesiastes [12:9-14], the conclusion of John [21:24-25], or a suggested composite nature for some of Paul’s letters [like 2 Corinthians], etc.). It seems that most of these ideas, however, have only emerged in the post-Enlightenment, modern period with the rise of “source criticism.” IMHO, I think there is an inherent challenge to the integrity and thus the authority of the Gospel of Mark if we conclude that the ancient ending is only an appendix. There is also a matter of integrity. If the ancient Christians gave it the title “The Gospel According to Mark” my sense would be that they took Mark 16:9-20 not as a non-Markan appendix but as the authentic and original ending to the Gospel, from the hand of Mark.

Grace, JTR

Points of Clarification (1.17.18):

Thanks again Peter. Follow ups to your points of clarification (in italic):

On the Sinaitic Syriac, yes there is uncertainty about the date, but everyone seems to agree that it is 4th cent. at the latest and 2nd cent. at the earliest. NA28 itself gives 3/4 on p. 70*. So if you’re going to follow NA28 dates, it seems worth mentioning. Pete Williams discusses the dating a bit in his article on the Syriac in The Text of the NT, p. 146. Of course, there is the issue of whether Sinaitic or Curetonian MS represents the original text of the translation for Mark 16, but it still seems important to mention.

Response: Again, I have not yet been able to find any firm evidence that dates the Sinaitic Syriac to pre-300.

Regarding the argument from silence, my point was just that the interpretation offered for empty space in 03 is one from silence. It may be that the space is because the scribe knew the longer ending, but we have no way to know this positively; the codicological evidence is entirely negative. What’s more, since the end of Tobit in 03 also ends half-way down the middle column with Hosea starting on the next page, the spacing at the end of Mark is not anomalous as said on p. 43. As for the ending of Mark in 01, you may want to consult Dirk Jongkind’s work on this (Scribal Habits, p. 45). He notes, citing Milne and Skeat, that the sheet containing the end of Mark was rewritten and that the longer ending of Mark “could never have fit on this sheet.” It may be that the rubricated coronis that ends Mark has to do with the rewriting of this sheet and not with a known alternate ending. As for examples where the diple fills the end of a line, Jongkind notes that it happens in this same replacement sheet at the very end of BL f. 227r [= leaf 227 in the manuscript’s numeration]. So perhaps that shape was already on the brain, if I can put it that way. Things to consider at least.

Response: Thanks for the information. Obviously, we agree that 01 and 03 are certainly witnesses against the inclusion of the LE in Mark. It is less certain as to how to interpret the scribal notations. Given the pre-300 evidence from Patristic sources, I think we can assume that the LE was known by the scribes, and so it seems reasonable to assume an attempt at suppression, and not just omission, is, at the very least, possible, and, perhaps, even probable.

As to the date of W, it is not re-dated in NA28 although I’m not sure I would expect them to since most of the work for NA28 was in the Catholic Letters not the Gospels. It will be interesting to see if that changes going forward.

Response: Yes, look forward to looking into this and to seeing how this is dated in NA 29.

As for the goal of TC, I would still contest your read of the situation on several counts. Many of the publications that argue against the traditional goal are also not from the 21st century and, in any case, using that break is fairly arbitrary. More importantly, Holger Strutwolf is certainly not an evangelical and, as the head of INTF, he is very much a “gatekeeper” (if such a thing even exists) and yet he is quite clear that the goal of the original text is both appropriate and desirable. Stephen Carlson is another who is quite clear in defending the traditional goal and, so far as I know, he too is not evangelical. Much confusion has been caused, I’m afraid, by the term “initial text” and some Evangelicals have badly overreacted to it. It is true that the term does not necessarily refer to the author’s text but it is equally true that it can refer to such and, in the case of the ECM, it essentially does. I have written about this at some length though so permit me to avoid repeating myself and I will just attach that. In any case, Evangelicals need to be more careful about claiming that the quest for the original text has been abandoned. It may fit with some larger narrative about the paganism infesting Biblical scholarship, but it is simply overstated and in some forms a false claim. Many in the academic guild of NTTC (in which I include myself) are still happily after the original, authorial text.

Response: I understand that you and other evangelicals in doing NTTC are attempting to hold on to some form of the “classical” goal of text criticism. It seems clear, on the other hand that a shift has taken place and continues to take place, and this has affected and will affect this discipline and those who practice it, even evangelicals. And one can make this observation and point out perceived dangers in it without falling off the deep end.

I was influenced here by the analysis of Robert Hull, Jr. in chapter 8 “New Directions: Expanding the Goals of Textual Criticism” of The Story of the New Testament Text: Movers, Motives, Methods, and Models (SBL, 2010): 151-167. Some quotes:

The sketch above suggests that there has been a major shift of emphasis away from the goal of recovering the original text of the New Testament (p. 156).

Has the search for the original text been surrendered as the major goal of New Testament textual criticism? For some scholars it has, but most textual critics in their papers and articles still write as if they assume there is an original reading (p. 157).

To be sure, the confident and optimistic climate that ushered in Westcott and Hort’s New Testament in the Original Greek has long since vanished. There is considerable doubt about the possibility of reconstructing the original Greek text in all its particulars. Nevertheless, efforts to edit and publish better editions of the Greek New Testament remain a major goal of textual critics (p. 159).

As for Strutwolf and others who have stewardship of the critical text, they may be more cautious than Parker, but they clearly do not have the same confident view of WH or even Bruce Metzger that they can “reconstruct” the original. I look forward to reading the section you sent on initial text. Again thanks.

Grace and peace, JTR

Augustine, the Manicheans, and the Text of Scripture

In Book V, Chapter XI of the Confessions, Augustine describes his pre-conversion days among the heterodox Manicheans. He notes, in particular, that “the things they censured in thy Scriptures I thought impossible to be defended.”

He makes reference to a Christian named Elpidus in Carthage who effectively used Scripture to refute the Manicheans:

For already the words of one Elpidus, who spoke and disputed face to face against these same Manicheans, had begun to impress me, even when I was at Carthage; because he brought things out of the Scriptures that were not easily withstood, to which their answers appeared to me feeble.

This man apparently sowed Scriptural seeds of doubt in Augustine’s mind about the Manichean system.

Augustine also notes how the Manicheans privately claimed that the Christian Scriptures had been corrupted:

One of their answers they did not give forth publicly, but only to us in private—when they said the writings of the New Testament had been tampered with by unknown persons [cum dicerent scripturas novi testamenti falsatas fuisse a nescio quibus] who desired to ingraft the Jewish law into the Christian faith. But they themselves never brought forward any uncorrupted copies [atque ipsi incorrupta exemplaria nulla proferrent].

His comments show that the text of Scripture was an apologetic flashpoint in Augustine’s day and that heterodox sects, like the Manichaeans, claimed not only that the orthodox text was corrupted but also that they had preserved or could reconstruct the “pure text” but, alas, they were never able to present these “uncorrupted copies [incorrupta exemplaria]” to him.