Category Archives: Citations and Allusions

A Textual Variant That Was Not

Not every textual variant of the Greek New Testament shows up in the MSS of the NT. The case I have in mind is Origen’s citations of Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 (cf. also Mark 2:7 and Matthew 19:16). In his Commentary on Matthew (15,10; loc. in comm. not the Gospel of Matthew), written late in Origen’s life, he notes that Mark and Luke quotes the Savior as saying τι με λεγεις αγαθον; ουδεις αγαθος ει μη εις ο θεος (“Why do you call me good? None is good except one: God”). This is one of those places where Origen has to be clear about what his text reads as he is saying that both Gospels read the same. Based on our critical text today, he is correct.

However, Origen had earlier cited this text six times in his extant writings, but in each of these occurrences he added ο πατηρ after ο θεος, so the text now reads, “…no one is good except one God the Father.” Thus, the citation in the Matthew commentary is singular among Origen’s references to this text. This addition of “the Father” occurs in four different works. His first and second books of his commentary on John, written while he still lived in Alexandria (before 231), contains the citation twice (Commentary on John 1,254, 2,96). This reading is retained in the sixth book of his commentary on John (6,245) completed after his move to Caesarea (c. 231-3). The longer citation also occurs in Origen’s apology of the Christian faith against Celsus (Contra Celsum 5,11). Finally, the longer text occurs in two of Origen’s hortatory works, Exhortation to Martyrdom (7; ca. 235) and On Prayer (7; ca. 233-4).

Kirsopp Lake and company (“The Caesarean text of the Gospel of Mark,” Harvard Theological Review 21:4 [1928], 207-404), argued that the addition of ο πατηρ was a “characteristic Alexandrian variant” based apparently on the fact that Clement of Alexandria had used it, though no NT MSS support exists for the longer reading. (I got this last point from Fiona Thompson’s “The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Writings of Origen” (Ph.D. diss; University of Leeds, 2005), 415.

Origen’s use of an alternate text not found in the Greek MSS of the NT raises the interesting question about what to do with his reading in terms of the transmission of the NT. Just because this reading does not match any known NT MSS does not make it any less a textual variant.

Personally, I think it, and other variants of this nature, should be included in future textual apparatuses of the NT that include the Church Fathers. The evidence here from Origen points in the direction that the longer form of the text is how he knew it in Alexandria. One wonders if his exposure to other MSS as he built his library in Caesarea caused Origen to change his view on the text by the time he wrote his Commentary on Matthew.

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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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Reading the Minor Prophets, the BOOK of the Twelve, as One Book

While working on a paper on “The Minor Prophets in Luke’s Acts” for a course in “Biblical Intertextuality,” I have been made aware that there are good reasons to see the Minor Prophets (MP) as one book instead of twelve isolated ones. Additionally, to see the MP as a single collection has implications not only for the reading the prophets themselves, but also for understanding how NT writers used them, particularly if it can be shown that the NT writers have the larger context in mind for the text they cite.

Luke seems to understand what I’m talking about here. In Acts 7.42, in Stephen’s speech, Luke cites Amos 5.25-27 from “the book of the prophets.” In Acts 13.40, Luke’s Paul cites Hab 1.5 as “what the prophets said. Finally, in James’ speech at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15.15), Luke has James cite Amos 9.11-12 from the “words of the prophets.” Josephus knows this, too. Josephus in Contra Apion (1.39-41) is a bit confusing but what he says shows that he counted the MP as one book.

Sirach seems to know of the MP as a single collection:

“May the bones of the Twelve Prophets send forth new life from where they lie, for they comforted the people of Jacob and delivered them with confident hope.” (Sirach 49:10 NRSV)

It would seem then that the MP circulated in a single scroll. Evidence for this includes Qumran scrolls, a Greek MP Scroll which has parts of Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Zechariah, and a MP scroll from the Judean desert. Also every list of canonical books, such as Jerome’s or the Babylonian Talmud—from the first to sixth century count the MP as one book.

The most telling sign, in my opinion, is the work of the famous (but anonymous) scribes of the Masorectic Text who meticulously transcribed the OT text with all kinds of notes and markings to help in the reading of the OT. They would mark the mid-point of each biblical book. The mid-point of the MP was Micah 3.12 for the entire collection. The individual books were not so marked.

Not only is this clear evidence that the MP were considered by the ancients one book, it makes the next point I’m making more plausible. What has come down to us, then, is an “edited” or “redacted” collection of prophetic material generated from about the eighth century BCE onward to the post exilic period. Furthermore, the collection, as we now have it, show considerable skill in the bringing the material together into one book.

Let me share just a few of the compositional seams that show the work of the final redactor’s hand. Again, the unity of this collection points to a single redactor.

Hosea 3.4-5 may serves as the thematic center for the collection:

“For the Israelites shall remain many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the Israelites shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4–5 NRSV)

This text ends the opening scenes of Hosea and opens up the more traditionally prophetic material of the rest of the Hosea. It’s amazing how many times the MP refers back to the contents of this text.

The end of Hosea (14.9) and the opening of Joel (1.2-3) use the same wisdom language, contrasting the good and the wicked (as in Prov 10 and following) and the need to pass on the faith to the younger generation (as in Prov 1-9).

A quote from the end of Joel (3.16) recurs in the opening of Amos (1.2). Both share similar views on the Day of the Lord (Joel 2.2; Amos 5.18-20). This “Day of the Lord” shares two parts from the Hosea 3.4-5 cited above: judgement and restoration at the “end of the days.”

Amos 9.12 uses Edom as a representative nation incorporated into the future Davidic kingdom. Obadiah is about God’s judgment on Edom. Both Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, though dealing with different foreign powers, all have room for God’s work among the Gentiles at the end of time.

The closing of Micah (7.18-20) and the opening of Nahum (1.2-3) depend on Ex 43.6-7 for their description of God.

The theophanies (appearances of God) in Nahum 1.2-8 and Hab 3.3-15 “bookend” each of those works.

The end of Hab 2.20 and 3.16 share with the beginning of Zephaniah 1. 7 and 15 “Day of the Lord” language.

The restoration materials in Zeph 3.9-20 connects with the subject matter of Haggai.

Haggai and Zechariah are connected by a similar dating of their prophetic ministries. Zechariah also uses the same messianic language as in Haggai’s presentation of Zerubbabel (see Hag 2.23) which ties back to Hosea’s future king (see text above).

Finally, the phrase “the oracle of the word of the LORD” occurs only in Zech 9.1; 12.1 and  Mal. 1.1 in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, making Malachi a continuation of Zechariah; furthermore, “my messenger” (or Malachi) of Mal 1.1 prepares for the introduction of God’s message Elijah in Mal 3.1 and 4.25.

In conclusion these and other factors point to a very intentional process in the final redaction of the MP and further evidence that the MP as we have them now was intended to be read as one book.

As much as I would like to say that I found all of this on my own, I’m indebted to Michael B. Shepherd, The Twelve Prophets in the New Testament (Studies in Biblical Literature 140; New York: Peter Lang, 2011), 2-4, for much of this information.

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Indices for Finding Quotations in Other Works

At the end of standard critical texts of the Greek New Testament, the editor have conveniently add several indices that allow a person to find a OT citation in the NT or find where an OT citation in the NT originates.

These indices are very helpful and they can save one a lot of time. For example if I wanted to find where Josephus quotes the OT, where would I go?

Answer: H. B. McLean, Citations and Allusions to the Jewish Scripture in Early Christian and Jewish Writings through 180 CE (Lewiston, NT Mellen Press, 1992).

Or what if I wanted to find the Scriptures cited or use by a Church Father?

Biblia patristica: index des citations et allusions bibliques dans la littérature patristique.

Don’t let the French title keep you away, it is quite useful with just a little orientation; and the best news! It’s available in a very useful online interface: http://www.biblindex.mom.fr/. For serious work, though, be sure to consult the paper edition and if you do find an error in the online database, be sure to report it.

Are there other indices like these that you know of?

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Filed under Citations and Allusions, Early Church, Index; Indices, Judaism, New Testament, Old Testament