Friday, February 16, 2018

Matthew 27:16,17 Was Barabbas Called ‘Jesus Barabbas’?

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (1)

This is the first of a series of blog post on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

Only in Matthew is there some confusion about the exact form of the name Barabbas, as a small section of the evidence has Jesus Barabbas instead of just Barabbas. The variant is interesting as it may have been discussed explicitly by Origen, back in the first half of the third century.

16 εἶχον δὲ τότε δέσμιον ἐπίσημον λεγόμενον Βαραββᾶν. 17 συνηγμένων οὖν αὐτῶν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Πειλᾶτος· τίνα θέλετε ἀπολύσω ὑμῖν; Βαραββᾶν ἢ Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον χριστόν;

The two readings are visible in two popular modern translations:

ESV: 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?"

NIV 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?"

The manuscript support:

Jesus Barabbas
v16 ιησουν βαραββαν Θ f1 700* l844, Sinaitic Syriac
v17 ιησουν τον βαραββαν f1, Sinaitic Syriac
ιησουν βαραββαν Θ 700* l844

v16 βαραββαν ℵ A B D K L W Γ Δ f13 all other minuscules, Latin, Syriac – Peshitta and Harkleian, Coptic
v17 βαραββαν ℵ A D K L W Γ Δ f13 all other minuscules, Latin, Syriac – Peshitta and Harkleian, Coptic
τον βαραββαν B 1010 1012
I do not think that the Latin is of much help to decide between βαραββαν and τον βαραββαν in v17, but at least the Latin is helpful in that it does not have ‘Jesus Barabbas’.

The external evidence for (16) ιησουν βαραββαν and (17) ιησουν τον βαραββαν is limited, though this is the text given in NA26 – NA28, yet with the first part in brackets.

In Metzger’s commentary, the longer reading is granted much weight because of the supposed discussion in Origen. Having read what Donaldson has written on this Origen (387-90), I am much less sure that we have Origen’s words in the discussion. According to Donaldson (388 FN 28) there is only one manuscript that attributes the relevant scholion to Origen. Of course, it may still be by him as his star fell rather dramatically in later centuries, but there is a serious question mark about the attribution. There is also an interesting difference between the Latin and Greek version of the scholion in question. The Latin states that ‘in many copies it is not included that Barabbas is also called Jesus’, whilst the Greek says, ‘But in many old copies I have encountered, I found also Barabbas himself called Jesus’. There is a difference in perspective, in the Latin the reading assumed is Jesus Barabbas with the alternative being just Barabbas, in the Greek it is the other way around (incidentally, Streeter in his The Four Gospels, 94-95 knows only the Latin version – and yes, Jesus Barabbas is of course a ‘Caesarean reading’ in his eyes).

Are there any scribal explanations for the rise of the two readings?
• The omission of ιησουν in ιησουν βαραββαν can be explained as ridding the text of a confusing repetition of the name Jesus. The same name cannot be used for the Saviour and for the murderer.
• Metzger points to the second of this pair of variants and notes the sequence υμιντονβαραββαν. The nomen sacrum for Jesus would be ι̅ν, which is the same as the final letters of υμιν. If this is indeed the origin of the longer reading, then the first instance was corrected to bring it in line with the accidentally longer second instance. Alternatively, of course, a haplography of -ιν- within υμινι̅ντονβαραββαν would be an argument the other way around. Either way, this is the most mechanical explanation available, and for that reason attractive.

In this case, perhaps, the origin should be sought in manuscript tendencies. There is a cluster of readings that show up in a select group of manuscripts. Though I would not talk about Caesarean manuscripts or a Caesarean text, this group of readings found in a specific part of the tradition can be called ‘Caesarean readings’. Please note that I am more interested in the set of readings than in the question what the appropriate label should be. Our variant is one of these readings and should be studied as part of the whole cluster of Caesarean readings. We might then learn more about what these readings have in common and possible even find a historical context. For the sake of the argument here it suffices to acknowledge that this group of readings exists and that there is no strong argument to accept any of their unique readings as original. So in this case the main argument for rejecting the readings ‘Jesus Barabbas’ is that it is found mainly in a small group of witnesses that have a shared set of unique, but suspect readings.

Metzger note that the decision to accept [ιησουν] βαραββαν was a majority decision. I think that the majority of the committee was mistaken.

Donaldson, Amy M. "Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin Church Fathers." Dissertation, Notre Dame 2009.

Streeter, B.H. The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. 4th ed. London: Macmillan, 1930.

Worshipping Weird Things in Rev 14:9

One of the treats of working on the ECM is the sheer exposure to a wide array of manuscripts from a variety of periods. Normally, you’re simply assigned manuscripts you’d be working on, not necessarily on the basis of your preference. Coming from more of a papyrological background myself, I don’t think I would have looked at most manuscripts that I’ve had to deal with over the past 8 months or so. But in most cases it’s been fun and very enriching.

Most recently, I enjoyed working through GA 69, a 15th-century minuscule manuscript housed, of all places, in Leicestershire Record Office, Leicester. (But let us not be derailed by a reference to the city of Sir David Attenborough.) GA 69 is a rare instance of a Greek manuscript that contains the entire New Testament, though with a few lacunae. In Revelation, its text may be broadly classified as belonging to the ‘Koine’ group (siglum 𝔐K) in NA28). As such, then, 69 will yield few surprises if you’re acquainted with this type of text. Until, that is, you get to Rev 14:9.

In this passage, the third angel flying in midheaven pronounces the promise of a bitter drink of the ‘wine of God’s wrath’ to the worshippers of the beast. At least that’s what one would expect based on the their Nestle-Aland text, which (rightly) follows the majority of witnesses in reading το θηριον.
The only variant reading cited NA28 apparatus is offered by Codex Alexandrinus, which, oddly, reads θυσιαστηριον. Thus, the angel pronounces God’s wrath on all the worshippers of the ‘tabernacle and its image’ and those who receives the mark on their foreheads or hands. The reading θυσιαστηριον, as Weiss suggested, is most likely to be a ‘pure scribal error’, possibly occasioned by the phonetic and/or visual similarity (Die Johannes-Apokalypse [TU 7.1; Leipzig, 1891], 60). The closest occurrence of the word is at Rev 14:18, which might be a bit too far to have triggered a harmonisation to the immediate context. Incidentally, Hernández classifies this reading as ‘nonsense in context’ (Scribal Habits [WUNT II.218; Tübingen, 2006], 106), which I could see on exegetical grounds, even though it wouldn’t fly with the ECM where nonsense readings are defined rather more strictly.

But Alexandrinus is not the only manuscript where weird things receive divine honours. In the aforementioned GA 69, we read that the cup of God’s wrath is to be drunk by anyone who worships the ‘cup (ποτηριον) and its image’:

(Note that this reading is not to be found in the apparatus critics of NA28, because 69 is not one of the relatively few ‘consistently cited witnesses’.) Interestingly, 69 slightly re-structures the flow of the sentence too, such that there is a minor break, signified by a raised dot, between the ending of v. 9 and v. 10: ει τις προσκυνει το ποτηριον και την εικονα αυτου, λαμβανει χαραγμα επι του μετωπου, η επι την χειρα αυτου· (punctuation original). Thus, v. 9b outlines the first consequence of worshipping the cup and its image, namely receipt of the mark on the worshipper’s forehead or his hand. V. 10 then adds the unwelcome drink of the wine of the divine wrath.

What may have occasioned this variant reading? Unlike with Alexandrinus, I think here we have really good grounds for a  (probably inadvertent) harmonisation to the immediate context. The closes occurrence of ποτηριον is in v. 10; and I wonder, too, whether the idea of ‘drinking’ in v. 10 couldn’t have reinforced this confusion in the moment of copying. That this is an error and not some sort of clever exegesis or allusion to pagan libations seems clear from the fact that the manuscript has the standard reading θηριον in v. 11.

The ultimate sense of the passage, despite these little oddities in transmission, remains the same, however: whatever the object—be it the beast, the tabernacle, or the cup (which is, by analogy, pertinent during the Olympic season)—it ain’t worth worshipping it!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Suppressing the Female Apostle?

It’s probably fair to say that Junia has never been more popular. At least four books have been written about her in the last 20 years and she remains—I can’t help it—well known among those debating the role of women in the church.

The Junia Project website, for example, says, “Though widely accepted as a woman apostle throughout early Church history, in later translations an ‘s’ was added to the end of her name, making it into a masculine form, Junias. What was the reasoning behind this – was it a scribe’s mistake? Or could it have been something more political, like an attempt to deny that women could be apostles? We don’t know.”

In a recent blog post, Scot McKnight went further, claiming that Ἰουνιαν in Rom 16.7 was recovered as a female name only in the last quarter of the 20th century. He wrote:
Just in case you think an interpretation of Scripture can [sic] be wrong early and stay wrong for centuries, think about Romans 16:7 and the story of Junia. She was a woman whose name was changed to Junias because, so it was believed, the person was an apostle and an apostle can’t be a woman. So some males changed the woman into a man and, presto, we got a man named Junias. The problem is that there is no evidence for a male name “Junias” in the 1st Century. The deed was done, and that’s not our point: Junia remained Junias until, truth be told, the last quarter of the 20th Century when scholars realized the truth, admitted the mistaken history of interpretation, and acted on their convictions to restore the woman.

Knocking off non-existent males is no moral problem, and raising a woman from the dead is a good thing. Junia is now inscribed in the best translations.
After some back and forth with Scot, it turns out his first sentence got garbled by his editors and he’s now fixed it. (Yes, some blogs have editors.)

The issue at hand, as you may know, is the accenting. If you provide the name with a circumflex (Ἰουνιᾶν) as in NA27 then the name is said to be the masculine Junias; apply an acute (Ἰουνιάν), however, as in NA28, and it’s the feminine Junias. And, presto, we have what looks like a patriarchal conspiracy on our hands. Or do we?

Yes, it’s true that Luther is the first major translator to use the masculine and it is true that some influential scholars in the 20th century also argued for a masculine and that the Nestle 13 through the NA27 printed the masculine. All this is well documented in Epp’s book. For Epp, cultural bias is the culprit. It was the “sociocultural environment, one imbued with a view of a limited role for women in the church” that “could influence some editors of the Greek New Testament in the mid-1990s” (p. 57). McKnight sees this as part of a much larger conspiracy by those he elsewhere calls “the silencers and erasers.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rabbi Joseph on Origen’s Book and Jerome

In David Kimhi: The Man and the Commentaries by Frank Ephraim Talmage (Harvard, 1975), we read the following assessment of Origen’s Book and Jerome’s Vulgate from R. Joseph Kimhi (1105-1170; father of David):
[Jerome’s text was based on] the Book of Origen, the most ancient and authoritative [text and the one] from which your text was translated. Everything is dependent upon it. For it was dictated by the prophets, and Jerome the translator relied upon it, translated from it, and trusted it, with the exception of a few words which he did not understand or which were contrary to his belief and which he altered, changing the root of the faith to wormwood (pp. 87-8).
This is an interesting text, and I want to look into it more. I would not think this “Book of Origen” could be the Hexapla since that book had long disappeared. But could it refer to another Greek text still in circulation that was associated with Origen’s textual work? Perhaps. Or is it somehow an historical evaluation that claims Jerome based his work on Origen’s Hexapla? I don’t know. Still, the assessment that Jerome based his Vulgate on this book is an overstatement, since the Vulgate appears to go its own way regularly, even if it did make some use of Origen’s work.

HT: Twitter

Monday, February 12, 2018

Paul’s Bible Version in 2 Corinthians 11:3?

The New Testament books were written at a significant time in Jewish Greek literary history. Most of the Hebrew Scriptures had been translated at various times and in various places by 132 BC (cf. the Prologue to Sirach’s reference to the Law and the Prophets and the other ancestral books as translated into Greek) with a book or two perhaps translated in the first century AD. To complicate matters, before the turn of the era, some Jews began to revise older Greek translations to bring them into greater alignment with what is now known as the proto-MT or the conservatively copied text and also these same Jews undertook new translations of some books (Lamentations, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and perhaps Ruth). This literary event has been called the kaige tradition (it was also called the kaige revision/recension, but that name is passing away) because the revisions and new translations often times translated Hebrew גם/וגם with καίγε (e.g. 8HevXII). Really, the hallmark of the tradition was greater fidelity to the proto-MT than their predecessors (shown in greater quantitative alignment and isomorphic renderings). This tradition culminated in the ultra-literal translation of Aquila (flourished ca. 130). Origen then incorporated Theodotion, Aquila, and Symmachus into his Hexapla along with the Hebrew and the Seventy.

But before the Hexapla, the NT authors were caught in the midst of this grand transition. Not only did they cite, allude to, and use the language of the Old Greek (commonly called the Septuagint), they also used other Greek versions of the Hebrew Scriptures circulating during the first century. Since the kaige tradition had commenced by the first century, we should expect to see some evidence of it in the NT. Formerly, scholars would refer to the kaige-Theodotion version or a Proto-Theodotion to explain this phenomenon. But these terms were introduced to explain the alleged discrepancy between a presumed historical Theodotion of the second century AD and a Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures that was extant in the first century. A better way forward is to suggest that historical Theodotion actually lived and worked in the early part of the first century and reinterpret the patristic statements that presumably locate him in the second century, but I can’t defend that thesis in this post. But what happens when we make this shift? Let’s look at Paul’s allusion to Genesis 3:1 (see edition by Field for the texts given below) in 2 Corinthians 11:3.

2 Corinthians 11:3: φοβοῦμαι δὲ μή πως, ὡς ὁ ὄφις ἐξηπάτησεν Εὕαν ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτοῦ...
But I fear lest somehow, like the serpent deceived Eve with his cunning, your thoughts might be led astray...

Genesis 3:1 (Old Greek): ῾Ο δὲ ὄφις ἦν φρονιμώτατος πάντων τῶν θηρίων τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς...
Now the serpent was most sagacious of all the beasts upon the earth...

Genesis 3:1 (Aquila): καὶ ὁ ὄφις ἦν πανοῦργος (Theodotion: πανοῦργος; Symmachus: πανουργότερος) ἀπὸ παντὸς ζώου τῆς χώρας...
And the serpent was crafty from every living creature of the field...

Clearly, Paul’s word choice more closely parallels the language of the Three revisers in Genesis 3:1 than the LXX. That is, Paul used the NKJV, not the KJV. The Three chose a word that was a bit more negative than the OG’s “most sagacious” to render Hebrew עָרוּם. Since the version of Theodotion was extant in the early part of the first century, Paul probably knew of it and alluded to it when making the comparison between the serpent’s craftiness and the teaching of the false apostles. 

At 2 Corinthians 11:3, NA 27/28 notes the allusion to Genesis 3:1 but not the specific version. Should NA indicate to which version the NT author alludes? It seems this could be helpful to the reader so that we don’t assume the NT author is always referring to the Hebrew or the Old Greek. What do you think?

Furthermore, we should continue to pay attention to the hexaplaric remains when we interpret the citations, allusions to, and language of the Greek scriptures in the New Testament. Dirk Jongkind has made a similar point on Matthew 2:15 here.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Book Note: Apocalypse Illuminated


A new book is out which may be of interest to our readers, Apocalypse Illuminated: The Visual Exegesis of Revelation in Medieval Illustrated Manuscripts by Richard K. Emmerson published by Penn State University Press.

A description and preview is available here.

Jim Spinti at PSU Press offers ETC-blog readers a 30% discount with the code RKE18.