Monthly Archives: March 2012

Codex Bezae Online

Increasingly New Testament manurscripts are becoming available in digital formats. This makes it possible for more people to study them at any time and anywhere.

Explore it here:


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More Scholia, Literally!

For some fun examples of marginal notes see:

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Was Jesus Short?

Today at our Lenten Service I’m bringing a message on Zacchaeus’ penitence as a model for our own need to repent. So as I was taking a closer look at Luke 19.1-10, I notice that the text is actually ambiguous about who is actually short: Zacchaeus or Jesus?

Of course, the VBS ditty had indoctrinated me to believe that Zacchaeus was a “wee little man” who climbed the sycamore fig tree so he could see Jesus over the crowd. But this same need, to climb the tree, would still be true had Zachaeus been at the back of the crowd and he could not see Jesus because Jesus was the short one.

“And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.” (Luke 19:3 NASB)

“καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν τίς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου, ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν” (Luke 19:3 GNT)

While there is no great theological points to be made here, it does demonstrate that a careful reading of the original text can surface ambiguities that English readers will probably miss.

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Searching for Allusions (Wis 7.1 and Acts 10.26)

Allusions from earlier literature is often hard to spot. I have an index that says that there is allusion of Wis 7.1 in Acts 10.28; this is particularly interesting because Wisdom of Solomon comes from the Greek OT (also called the Septuagint), but more importantly, because Wisdom of Solomon is classed las either Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical.

What do you think? Are these two texts related?

Εἰμὶ μὲν κἀγὼ θνητὸς ἄνθρωπος ἴσος ἅπασιν καὶ γηγενοῦς ἀπόγονος πρωτοπλάστου· καὶ ἐν κοιλίᾳ μητρὸς ἐγλύφην σὰρξ (Wisdom 7:1 LXX)

I also am mortal, like everyone else, a descendant of the first-formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh (Wisdom 7:1 NRSV)

And here is the text from Acts:

ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν λέγων· ἀνάστηθι· καὶ ἐγὼ αὐτὸς ἄνθρωπός εἰμι. (Acts 10:26 GNT-T)

But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal. (Acts 10:26 NRSV)

I’m going to say similiarity of ideas here; no allusion. What say ye?

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Filed under Citations and Allusions, Judaism, New Testament

The Spirit Fell on the Eunuch? (Textual Variant in Acts 8:39)

I have long known about the Eunuch’s missing confession in modern translations. Acts 8:37 is “missing” in most modern translations of the New Testament.

“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37 KJV)

The secondary nature of this reading is clear from it not being in the earliest witnesses; it does not show up until the sixth century. Additionally, it has several minor variants within the text itself in the manuscripts that contain it–a telltale sign for a shaky history of transmission. Metzger’s Textual Commentary offers the following explanation:

There is no reason why scribes should have omitted the material, if it had originally stood in the text. It should be noted too that τὸν Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν is not a Lukan expression.

The formula πιστεύω … Χριστόν was doubtless used by the early church in baptismal ceremonies, and may have been written in the margin of a copy of Acts. Its insertion into the text seems to have been due to the feeling that Philip would not have baptized the Ethiopian without securing a confession of faith, which needed to be expressed in the narrative. Although the earliest known New Testament manuscript that contains the words dates from the sixth century (ms. E), the tradition of the Ethiopian’s confession of faith in Christ was current as early as the latter part of the second century, for Irenaeus quotes part of it (Against Heresies, iii.xii.8).

Although the passage does not appear in the late medieval manuscript on which Erasmus chiefly depended for his edition (ms. 2), it stands in the margin of another (ms. 4), from which he inserted it into his text because he “judged that it had been omitted by the carelessness of scribes (arbitror omissum librariorum incuria).”

The last paragraph explains how the verse got into the manuscripts used in the earliest English translations. Erasmus is largely responsible for creating a text erroneously known later as the Textus Receptus. (The verse is even lacking in the Latin Vulgate).

Of course, as I said, this variant is well known by text critics. Yet in verse 39 there is another rather interesting variant that never showed up in any English translation. The text with the variation (marked in red) reads,

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit Holy fell on the Eunuch and the angel of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39 NRSV).

The adjective “holy” in normal Greek fashion comes after the noun.

While most of the witnesses are late; one is important and early. In Codex Alexandrinus the first hand scribe entered it as a correction. While I’m not arguing for its originality, it does show how the scribe—who first added the text—read the text. The scribe, probably based of how Luke presents the Holy Spirit in Acts (e. g., Acts 10:44; 11:15), found it to be a reasonable expectation that the Eunuch visibly received the the Holy Spirit. Without this addition, the text of Acts 8 is silent on the Eunuch’s reception of the Holy Spirit.


Filed under New Testament, Textual Criticism, Uncategorized

At This Time? (Acts 1.6-7)

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:6–7 NRSV)

It remains commonplace that the apostles are still anticipating an earthly kingdom with an earthly king. However to read the text in this way misses some very important interpretive clues.

For example, Luke had just informed the reader that these men—those asking this question—had just spent forty days with Jesus who was “speaking to them about the kingdom of God.” Furthermore, Jesus does not correct their supposed misunderstanding, but only reminds them that such matters belong to God’s timing.

There are good reasons to understand the apostle’s as asking just the right question.

Luke is very clear in his “former treatise,” that is the Gospel of Luke that Jesus would “turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God and that this God remains the God of Israel (Luke 1:16. 68). When Jesus began his ministry, he appeared publicly to Israel (1:80). Luke leaves little doubt of God’s continued care for his people Israel.

When the family of Jesus encounters the prophet Simeon, who is “looking forward to the consolation of Israel (2:25), he predicts that Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:32). Furthermore, the prophet continues, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel (2:34).

Even after the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus himself promises his Apostles that “you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (22:30). After the resurrection, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, sighed, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21).

Against this backdrop, the question “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” does not seems so far-fetched.

So did God restore the kingdom of Israel? How does Acts read on this?

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Righteousness that Exceeds

Craig Keener in this massive commentary on Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) stresses that the writer of this Gospel was intent on teaching people the way of Jesus, that is, the writer saw one of his main roles as that of teacher. One place where Keener taught me was about what Jesus meant when he challenged his hearers:

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NRSV)

This is easily heard as a call to do more than the scribes and Pharisees, which would be impossible for most of us today. What Jesus is inviting his hearers into is something qualitatively different about how one might think about righteousness. Remember when Matthew edits Mark, he supplies two citations of Hos 6:6 (at Matt 9:13; 12:7): “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,” (Hosea 6:6 NRSV).

So what is this righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees? Keener believes that Matthew has already modeled that kind of righteousness in the person of Joseph.

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:18–25 NRSV)

Joseph, described by Matthew, as righteous, modeled the kind of righteousness Jesus sought. Though Joseph did not understand or accept at first the conditions under which Mary became pregnant, Joseph did not seek a public divorce or separation from the betrothal arrangement, though it was his right, to spare Mary any public shame. Joseph’s righteousness was demonstrated in what he was willing NOT to do, than what he did. Furthermore, Joseph’s character was shown to be righteous in accepting the Lord’s will for his life, even if that meant, his own personal needs were placed on hold for a season.

I want to be righteous like that!


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