Is what we have now what they wrote then?

Dr. Daniel Wallace is one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world today. He is a native Californian, a pastor, and a former surfer. He transplanted to Texas and has taught for more than 28 years at Dallas Theological Seminary, where he is the professor of New Testament Studies. Dr. Wallace is also the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts. He earned his B.A. at Biola University and went on to earn a ThM degree and PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary. His postdoctoral studies have taken him around the world from Australia to Africa. He has been part of writing, editing, or contributing to more than 24 books. He married his wife, Pati, 40 years ago and they have four sons and two granddaughters.

Speaking at Mars Hill (August 3, 2014) he shares important teaching on the origin of the New Testament and whether or not what we read in our Bible translations today is the same as what was written in the original manuscripts. If you or a friend have ever had doubts or questions about the validity of the New Testament, or the Bible in general, this is the sermon to watch.

New Testament Greek Manuscripts

Greek03“Today we know of more than 5600 Greek New Testament manuscripts. Among these, 800 Pauline manuscripts, 700 manuscripts of Acts and the general letters, and about 325 manuscripts of Revelation. These numbers do not include the lectionaries, over 2000 of them, that are mostly of the Gospels. At the same time, not all the manuscripts are complete copies. The earlier manuscripts are fragmentary, sometimes covering only a few verses. The later manuscripts, however, generally include at least all four Gospels or Acts and the general letters or Paul’s letters or Revelation.”

– Dr. Dan Wallace (from the article “The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation“)

Q Manuscripts?

Dr. Daniel Wallace three come to mind: (1) If Matthew and Luke swallowed up Q in their writings, why would we expect to find any copies of Q? Or to put this another way, Luke says that he used more than one source, presumably more than one written source. If so, why haven’t we found it/them? The fact that we haven’t surely doesn’t mean that Luke was not shooting straight with us, does it? (2) Even the Gospel of Mark has few copies in the early centuries, yet it was endorsed as an official Gospel by Ireneaus. Yet this is a canonical Gospel, which apparently was regarded in some sense as authoritative before the end of the first century, or at the latest in the first decade or two of the second century, because of its association with Peter. Yet if there are only two copies of Mark in Greek before the fourth century still in existence (at least as far as what has been published to date), what chance do we have of finding a non-canonical gospel-source in the early centuries? And as the centuries roll on, the likelihood that such a document would continue to be copied becomes increasingly remote. (3) Apart from having the text of Q, as it has been reconstructed, what other criteria should scholars demand of such an alleged discovery? Do they expect the document to have a title such as “The Gospel according to Q”? That neologism won’t wash. Perhaps just such manuscripts have been discovered but were mislabeled. The burden of this short essay is to examine that possibility.
Continue reading

The New NA28 and the Preservation of Scripture

Eberhard Nestle

From wikipedia: The first edition published by Eberhard Nestle in 1898 combined the readings of the editions of Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort and Weymouth, placing the majority reading of these in the text and the third reading in the apparatus. In 1901, he replaced the Weymouth New Testament with Bernhard Weiss’s text. In later editions, Nestle began noting the attestation of certain important manuscripts in his apparatus.

Eberhard’s son Erwin Nestle took over after his father’s death and issued the 13th edition in 1927. This edition introduced a separate critical apparatus and began to abandon the majority reading principle.

Kurt Aland
Kurt Aland became the associate editor of the 21st edition in 1952. At Erwin Nestle’s request, he reviewed and expanded the critical apparatus, adding many more manuscripts. This eventually led to the 25th edition of 1963. The great manuscript discoveries of the 20th century had also made a revision of the text necessary and, with Nestle’s permission, Aland set out to revise the text of Novum Testamentum Graece. Aland submitted his work on NA to the editorial committee of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament (of which he was also a member) and it became the basic text of their third edition (UBS3) in 1975, four years before it was published as the 26th edition of Nestle-Aland.

The NA27 edition was published in 1993, and now Dr. James White explains why the newly published edition of the Greek New Testament (the Nestle Aland 28th Edition) is a VERY good thing:

For those interested, the new edition is available to purchase here.

Gospel of Mark Discovery

On Friday, February 24, 2012 Hugh Hewitt interviewed Professor Dan Wallace (pictured) concerning the announcement of a discovery of a first century papyri of the Gospel of Mark. Here is a transcript of the interview:

HH: I’m so pleased to begin with a conversation with Professor Daniel Wallace. He’s a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He’s a graduate of our wonderful friend up the road at Biola University, and Professor Wallace, welcome, thanks for making some time for us tonight.

DW: Well, thank you so much. It’s an honor to be on your show.

HH: I’ve got to tell you, Professor, you turned a lot of heads when you alluded in your recent debate with Bart Ehrman to a new manuscript, or fragment of a manuscript concerning the Gospel of Mark. I know you’ve got scholarly restrictions on what you can and cannot say, but can you tell the audience what you’re allowed to disclose about that?

DW: I’ll be happy to. First of all, there is a fragment of Mark, and it’s a very small fragment, not too many verses, but it’s definitely from Mark. And the most amazing thing about this is that it’s from the 1st Century. We don’t have any other New Testament manuscripts that are written within the same century that the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament were written in. This is the first. And it’s dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers, whose name I’m not allowed to reveal yet. It will be published in a book with six other manuscripts that are either probably or definitely from the 2nd Century in about a year from now. And this is very, very exciting news, frankly. To have a fragment from one of the Gospels that’s written during the lifetime of some of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection is just astounding.

HH: Now when you say verses, can you tell us how many verses are in the fragment?

DW: Well, not really. I can say we have fragments, some of our fragments are so small that it might be part of one verse. This is bigger than that. And we have some of these early papyri, this is on papyrus, that are as much as, well, P-46, which is our oldest manuscript, or was our oldest manuscript for Paul’s letters, has nine of Paul’s letters in it almost intact. That’s a pretty large papyrus. So all of our papyri are fragmentary because of the nature of the material, and because of the age of the material. There’s leaves that just got eaten away or just eroded. But this is one leaf, I should say, or part of one leaf. So it can’t be very many verses on it.

HH: Now in terms of what you know about it, does it correspond with the translations that have come down to us? In other words, will it confirm that the translations have integrity through the centuries?

DW: I think that yes, all of these fragments will do that. And here’s how they do it. It’s not a straight answer you can give to this, but I think it’s a very important answer to note. And that is that some of our earlier manuscripts are written by unprofessional scribes. And sometimes, those unprofessional scribes are sloppy in their spelling, or something like that. Others are written by professionally trained scribes, and they’re concerned with making pretty letters, and they often leave out words or add words by accident. But none of those places, in the last 135 years when we’ve been discovering New Testament papyri, there’s not a single place where any manuscript discovery of the last 135 years has introduced new wording to a passage that was not found in any other manuscripts before, that now scholars say this is authentic.

HH: Now why is it taking so long, Professor Wallace? And is there a threat of the repeat of the Dead Sea Scrolls fiasco, where it took forever to get the scrolls out?

DW: That’s a great question, but no, that is not the situation we’re facing here. Of course, you’re dealing with hundreds and hundreds of scrolls among the Dead Sea manuscripts. Here, we’re dealing with seven. It’s a matter of getting various scholars to be doing the work on it. And to do the work of paleography, which is dating the manuscript, and we need to get more than one scholar who has done this, even though the paleographer who has done it has a remarkable reputation, we need to get several paleographers to date it. And the manuscript needs to be truly vetted, or fully vetted. Once it gets published, you’ll get a number of discussions all over the scholarly world about it. But just to prepare a manuscript for publication that is this significant, the scholar has to measure each letter, and compare them to all the other letters. So if you have alpha or beta, you have to look at all of the betas and see how tall they are, how wide they are, and are they written the same way. That gives us information about the date, and it gives us information about the hand, whether it’s a professional hand or what’s called a documentary hand, somebody who’s not trained as a professional, but at least can write this stuff out accurately. All those things are very, very important. And it helps us with a number of things on that manuscript. Not just that, but we have to look the fibers of the papyrus, and sometimes, they’re not easy to see. You have fibers on one side, because papyrus leaves were laid out horizontally, and then the back side, they put more leaves that were stamped out vertically. And then they would naturally adhere to each other. And our New Testament manuscripts, which I think is really interesting, these early papyri were written on both sides, both the horizontal lines or the horizontal fibers, and the vertical fibers. And that was not what we find in the rest of the ancient world.

HH: I’m talking with Professor Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary. Professor, has your paleographer been able to date it within a decade? I know it has to go through additional confirmation, additional scholarly comparison and contrasting, but the original paleographer, has he come up with it’s the 80 AD, or 70 AD?

DW: If he did, he would be a miracle worker. Paleography is not that precise unless you have a manuscript that says this scribe wrote this in the third year of Augustus, you know. Then, you can be pretty sure when he wrote it. But paleography, you can get these earlier manuscripts dated to within about 50 years, and that’s actually better than what you can do for many of the later manuscripts. We actually have better evidence for the earlier ones, because the changes in the handwriting were more rapid in the ancient world than they were in the medieval world. And so he can date it within 50 years.

HH: And that will put it in the 1st Century, though?

DW: Not only that it will possibly do so, but his understanding is it definitely is.

HH: So it can’t be any later than 51. All right, let me ask you about the other manuscripts, the other six manuscripts in addition to the fragment from Mark. Are they other Biblical transcriptions?

DW: Yes. All six of them are Biblical, but one is not exactly a Biblical text, which is really, in some respects, the most interesting. It’s a homily on Hebrews, Chapter 11, a sermon on Hebrews 11.

HH: That is fascinating.

DW: What makes that so interesting is the ancient church understood by about AD 180 in what’s called the Muratorian Fragment, or the Muratorian Canon, that the only books that could be read in churches must be those that are authoritative. To have a homily or a sermon on Hebrews means that whoever wrote that sermon considered Hebrews to be authoritative, and therefore, it could be read in the churches.
Continue reading

616, the Number of the Beast?

Daniel B. Wallace, Ph.D writes:

There has been a flurry of interest in the number of the Beast in Canadian and American newspapers of late. The reason for the interest is that the Beast’s number might not be 666.

A few years ago, a papyrus of Revelation was discovered. It was badly damaged, having only about twenty fragments that spanned nine chapters. One fragment, in particular, is of interest. About the size of a postage stamp, it includes part of Revelation 13.18. There we read, “This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is man’s number, and his number is 666” (NET Bible). But the papyrus (known as P115) has a different number here: 616.

I saw the fragment four years ago at the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University. It was published over six years ago; just now it is making its way into popular literature as though it were a new discovery. When I looked at the fragment, the curator had to slice open its case because the verse in question was on the backside. He told me that no one had asked to see the fragment since it had been published. I looked at it under a microscope to make sure that the wording had not been tampered with. But even with the naked eye, it was quite legible. I am inclined to the view that the original wording here was 616, but a lot of work is needed to determine this. Although this is the earliest fragment for this portion of Revelation (third or fourth century), the fragment’s textual affinities and general reliability still need to be examined fully.

Further, the number 616 was known in antiquity and was discarded in the second century. Irenaeus, the patristsic commentator, wrote a chapter on the number of the beast, arguing that in the better manuscripts of Revelation that he had seen the number was 666 instead of 616. To be sure, his perspective was theologically motivated (he gave the interpretation of 666 as striving for perfection [represented by the number 7] but never able to achieve it). But the fact that he was writing in the second century tells us that BOTH numbers existed at that time. It may well have been Irenaeus’ input that caused scribes to alter the text to 666 if 616 was in the exemplar that they used.

Indeed, we know of one other manuscript (Codex C, from the fifth century) that has 616, and two others used to exist (codices 5 and 11) that had this number. But the point here is that one cannot simply appeal to the earliest manuscript and assume that the case is settled. Textual criticism is not done in such a simplistic manner. Date is indeed important, but there are several other factors involved. The Center for the Study of New TestamentManuscripts has begun to investigate whether this is the authentic number of Revelation. It will take scores of hours of research, and the results will not be certain. But if 616 is indeed the number of the beast, it will certainly have interesting implications. In the least, it will send seven tons of popular Christian literature to the flames!

Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered?

Dr. Dan Wallace writes:

On 1 February 2012, and it was before a crowd of more than 1000 people. I mentioned that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of them probably from the second century and one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year.

These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.

It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.

Not only this, but the first-century fragment is from Mark’s Gospel. Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.

How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say? We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts. As an illustration: Suppose a papyrus had the word “the Lord” in one verse while all other manuscripts had the word “Jesus.” New Testament scholars would not adopt, and have not adopted, such a reading as authentic, precisely because we have such abundant evidence for the original wording in other manuscripts. But if an early papyrus had in another place “Simon” instead of “Peter,” and “Simon” was also found in other early and reliable manuscripts, it might persuade scholars that “Simon” is the authentic reading. In other words, the papyri have confirmed various readings as authentic in the past 116 years, but have not introduced new authentic readings. The original New Testament text is found somewhere in the manuscripts that have been known for quite some time.

These new papyri will no doubt continue that trend. But, if this Mark fragment is confirmed as from the first century, what a thrill it will be to have a manuscript that is dated within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection!

Is the New Testament Reliable?

Years ago, it was not very important for most Christians to be aware of the issues when it comes to textual criticism of the New Testament. The debate took place mainly in the halls of academia and the vast majority of people had no idea of the issues and they would hardly ever come up in conversation with neighbors. That is certainly not the case today. When Christians share their faith, it is very often the case (if not the norm) that they are immediately confronted with mis-information from people who have heard certain things attacking the trustworthiness and reliability of the Bible. The attacks have gone mainstream.

1 Peter 3:15 commands Christians to always be ready with an answer for the hope the lies within us. The technical term for this is “apologetics” – a defense of the Christian faith. All Christians are to engage in apologetics, though of course, some people will be more highly trained in this discipline than others. I believe it would be a right application of this Scripture to say that part of a Pastor’s job is to help God’s people know how to defend their faith.

With this in mind, and seeking to provide an answer to the skeptics, I post this lecture by my friend Dr. James White. I recommend it highly.

New Evidence that the Gospels Were Based on Eyewitness Testimony

Joe Carter writes: Last night I stumbled across an example that shows how, when used creatively, such techniques can expand our knowledge and appreciation of a text. a Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, has conducted what I’d call an “algorithm-enhanced close reading” of the canonical gospels and compared them to the apocryphal testimonies about Jesus.

Normally, my attention span for videos on the web is limited to about 2 minutes. But when I started watching this video last night I got sucked in by Dr. Williams engaging style and watched the entire lecture. As Evangel blogger Tom Gilson says, it’s a “talk on apologetics like you’ve never heard before.”