Who axed Acts 8:37?

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gmx
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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by gmx » Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:37 pm

Ulan wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:44 am
I don't think we need to invoke Origen in order to understand that changing the text of gospels was done deliberately many times. In the beginning, those texts had nothing holy to them. They were just stories.
What about the use of nomina sacra in the earliest surviving manuscripts? Does that not suggest the texts were considered holy from the beginning (or very close to it) ?
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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by Ulan » Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:38 am

gmx wrote:
Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:37 pm
Ulan wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:44 am
I don't think we need to invoke Origen in order to understand that changing the text of gospels was done deliberately many times. In the beginning, those texts had nothing holy to them. They were just stories.
What about the use of nomina sacra in the earliest surviving manuscripts? Does that not suggest the texts were considered holy from the beginning (or very close to it) ?
I think we have to distinguish between the text itself and the subject matter. The figures the text talks about were certainly considered holy, thus the nomina sacra. However, there's a reason why the Jewish custom to write holy texts anonymously (and sometimes attribute them later to some larger-than-life figures) exists. If a text was just written, even worse, if you know the author, it's hard to see the text itself as something worth being venerated. It's the poster child of TMI. If you know some "colleague" of yours wrote something about a matter dear to your heart, it's only today's idea of copyright that prevents us from fixing a few things we see as "off" or needing better explanations when we use the text for our purposes. Or we just write commentaries in the margins, which also happened in those times. I'm sure that different kinds of edits with different motivations were what happened to all these texts in the beginning.

This idea that you couldn't change texts happened later, when people had lost contact to the roots of the texts. You can see how this works in the writings of Irenaeus.

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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by gmx » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:16 am

Ulan wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:38 am
gmx wrote:
Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:37 pm
Ulan wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:44 am
I don't think we need to invoke Origen in order to understand that changing the text of gospels was done deliberately many times. In the beginning, those texts had nothing holy to them. They were just stories.
What about the use of nomina sacra in the earliest surviving manuscripts? Does that not suggest the texts were considered holy from the beginning (or very close to it) ?
I think we have to distinguish between the text itself and the subject matter. The figures the text talks about were certainly considered holy, thus the nomina sacra. However, there's a reason why the Jewish custom to write holy texts anonymously (and sometimes attribute them later to some larger-than-life figures) exists. If a text was just written, even worse, if you know the author, it's hard to see the text itself as something worth being venerated. It's the poster child of TMI. If you know some "colleague" of yours wrote something about a matter dear to your heart, it's only today's idea of copyright that prevents us from fixing a few things we see as "off" or needing better explanations when we use the text for our purposes. Or we just write commentaries in the margins, which also happened in those times. I'm sure that different kinds of edits with different motivations were what happened to all these texts in the beginning.
Yes, the texts were massaged, and source texts were amalgamated and borrowed from to produce new anonymous texts. Clearly that happened.

However, from the surviving ancient manuscript evidence of the NT, given the number of copies of each document likely to have been in circulation by 400 CE (arbitrarily chosen), and given the length of the major NT documents, does the manuscript record indicate a "free for all" attitude to adding / modifying the source material, or does the manuscript record indicate a high degree of reverence for the text itself and a reluctance to modify it en masse?

I am genuinely interested in that question.
Ulan wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:38 am
This idea that you couldn't change texts happened later, when people had lost contact to the roots of the texts. You can see how this works in the writings of Irenaeus.
My ignorance. Can you explain "how this works in Irenaeus"?
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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by Ulan » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:12 am

gmx wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:16 am
Ulan wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:38 am
gmx wrote:
Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:37 pm
Ulan wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:44 am
I don't think we need to invoke Origen in order to understand that changing the text of gospels was done deliberately many times. In the beginning, those texts had nothing holy to them. They were just stories.
What about the use of nomina sacra in the earliest surviving manuscripts? Does that not suggest the texts were considered holy from the beginning (or very close to it) ?
I think we have to distinguish between the text itself and the subject matter. The figures the text talks about were certainly considered holy, thus the nomina sacra. However, there's a reason why the Jewish custom to write holy texts anonymously (and sometimes attribute them later to some larger-than-life figures) exists. If a text was just written, even worse, if you know the author, it's hard to see the text itself as something worth being venerated. It's the poster child of TMI. If you know some "colleague" of yours wrote something about a matter dear to your heart, it's only today's idea of copyright that prevents us from fixing a few things we see as "off" or needing better explanations when we use the text for our purposes. Or we just write commentaries in the margins, which also happened in those times. I'm sure that different kinds of edits with different motivations were what happened to all these texts in the beginning.
Yes, the texts were massaged, and source texts were amalgamated and borrowed from to produce new anonymous texts. Clearly that happened.

However, from the surviving ancient manuscript evidence of the NT, given the number of copies of each document likely to have been in circulation by 400 CE (arbitrarily chosen), and given the length of the major NT documents, does the manuscript record indicate a "free for all" attitude to adding / modifying the source material, or does the manuscript record indicate a high degree of reverence for the text itself and a reluctance to modify it en masse?

I am genuinely interested in that question.
Ulan wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:38 am
This idea that you couldn't change texts happened later, when people had lost contact to the roots of the texts. You can see how this works in the writings of Irenaeus.
My ignorance. Can you explain "how this works in Irenaeus"?
I think those questions are closely related. I see Irenaeus as turning point for a reason. That's the point where we turn from a kind of nebulous early Christianity that didn't bother much with record keeping or exact quotations (disclaimer: if Justin did indeed use exact quotations, he used different texts, which I consider a non-zero probability) to a real attempt at trying to get a grasp on church history (whether real, fabricated or a mix of both doesn't matter for the argument). He is basically the first to define the fourfold gospel canon, give them the traditional names, and he is treating the texts as sacred enough that they should not be changed anymore. According to David Trobisch, the 4 gospel collection must have been already published at that point, and this assumption seems reasonable to me. This also means that radical text shuffling with huge edits, like we see in the synoptic gospels and the text that is described to having been used by Marcion, must have come to a close around that time in the line of tradition that led to extant Christianity. The formative years of Christianity must have been before 160 CE or so, and I guess you know that the manuscript evidence for that time is pretty much non-existent. We have to use extant texts and the writings of the church fathers to dig into this.

Regarding the topic of this thread, I think the synoptic gospels are evidence enough for major edits, as are the surviving text traditions of Acts. As Ben noted, 8.4% difference in length constitutes a rather substantial edit of the text. We also see later edits of NT texts, like in Codex Fuldensis, a Latin New Testament that still uses a gospel harmony in the 6th century, even though the text itself had been changed to the Vulgate verse versions by the copyist who produced the manuscript, which again marks a tendency towards standardization.

Irenaeus has no direct access anymore to anyone who knew the history of the gospel texts. He has to rely on a rather obscure quote from Papias who in turn didn't even know that gLuke existed. Here history is born from a leap of faith. And faith comes with reverence, which is why Irenaeus heaped so much scorn on Marcion for using a different version of the gospel than the one he had. Contrast that with how similar "Marcion's" gospel seems to have been to gLuke and gMatthew, compared to the general differences between the synoptics. We witness a shift in opinions happen here.

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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:02 am

gmx wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:16 am
However, from the surviving ancient manuscript evidence of the NT, given the number of copies of each document likely to have been in circulation by 400 CE (arbitrarily chosen), and given the length of the major NT documents, does the manuscript record indicate a "free for all" attitude to adding / modifying the source material, or does the manuscript record indicate a high degree of reverence for the text itself and a reluctance to modify it en masse?
I agree pretty much point for point with what Ulan wrote. I have been working intermittently on this issue, and I have on my hard drive a text file full of apparent gospel quotations both from the so-called Apostolic Fathers and from the NT epistles which one day I may whip into shape as a post for this forum. Each quotation I give a grade of 0, 1, or 2, based on how close they are to the gospel texts that we know and love. 0 = quotation not found in our extant texts; 1 = quotation found, but in a different form or order or with added material; 2 = quotation found pretty much as written in at least one of our extant gospels. Obviously there is some degree of subjectivity here, but once I have all the data laid out the reader will be free to give his or her own grades to each quotation and see how it all comes out.

Here are examples of all three grades, just for reference, from the epistle of Barnabas:

0. Barnabas 7.11: 11 But why do they place the wool in the midst of the thorns? This is a type of Jesus established for the church, because whoever wishes to remove the scarlet wool must suffer greatly, since the thorn is a fearful thing, and a person can retrieve the wool only by experiencing pain. And so he says, "Those who wish to see me and touch my kingdom must take hold of me through oppression and suffering."

1. Barnabas 5.9: 9 But when He chose His own apostles who here to preach His Gospel, He did so from among those who were sinners above all sin, that He might show He came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Then He manifested Himself to be the Son of God.

2. Barnabas 4.14: 14 And still, my brothers, consider: when you observe that Israel was abandoned even after such signs and wonders had occurred in it, we too should pay close attention, lest we be found, as it is written, "many called, but few chosen."

Nobody knows for certain what text Barnabas 7.11 is purporting to quote; Barnabas 5.9 seems to refer to something like Matthew 9.13 = Mark 2.17 = Luke 5.32, but adds that note about the apostles themselves having been sinners "above all sin," in agreement with Celsus, who says that Jesus gathered around him "ten or eleven persons of notorious character, the very wickedest of publicans and sailors," according to Origen; and of course Barnabas 4.14 is very close to Matthew 22.14.

The tallies that I have so far in this exercise are:

Paul: 2, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1.
Barnabas: 2, 1, 0, 0.
1 Clement: 1, 1.
2 Clement: 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 0, 2, 0.
Papias: 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2.
Ignatius: 0, 1, 1.
Polycarp: 2, 1.
Didache: 1, 2, 1, 1.

7 0's.
21 1's.
12 2's.

On the one hand, there are twelve grades of 2 and only seven of 0, but on the other there are twenty-one grades of 1! (I have been rather picky about what counts as a quotation, by the way. There has to be some kind of indication that another source or at least the life story of Jesus is being quoted or referred to. Mere allusions do not count here.) These numbers would at least superficially indicate that many of the materials which went into our extant gospels (and I am counting Thomas and Peter and other noncanonical gospels, as well) existed during the time period in which the apostolic fathers wrote, but they do not inspire confidence that they existed in the same form. As Ulan noted, a similar trend can be found in Justin Martyr, a similar analysis of which I have only barely started: most (but not all) of what we find Justin attributing to the "memoirs of the apostles" can be found in our extant gospels, but not always in the same forms or combinations. Same goes for the materials that Celsus apparently used: often they are recognizable, but sometimes they make one scratch one's head.

These variations have to mean something no matter which way they are interpreted. If the authors were quoting texts, then those texts were not exactly our extant texts; if they were paraphrasing texts, they were doing so more often than quoting, thus hinting that such texts were not viewed as sacrosanct or inviolable. Also, if they were paraphrasing so much, how would we know that the gospel authors did not also paraphrase materials which came before them?

Add into all of this the oral traditions from which Papias and Hegesippus are said to have drawn, and the fact that already, from the time of our earliest extant manuscript and textual evidence, there is a split between the so-called Western text and (at the very least) the Alexandrian text, and I think that the idea that there was a lot of textual variation early on deserves a very serious hearing. As you pointed out, gmx, the nomina sacra permeate our extant manuscripts; but, at the same time, variation also permeates our manuscripts:
  • The manuscripts do not agree on which Marcan ending to include. After Mark 16.14, W adds the Freer logion: "And they replied, saying: 'This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who through unclean spirits does not allow the true power of God to be comprehended. For this reason, reveal your righteousness now.' They were speaking to Christ, and Christ said to them: 'The limit of the years of the authority of Satan has been fulfilled, but other terrible things are approaching, even for those sinners on whose account I was handed over to death, in order that they might turn to the truth and sin no more, in order that they might inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness in heaven.'" (Jerome writes of this variant in Against the Pelagians 2.15, as well.)
  • The manuscripts do not agree on whether or not to include the pericope de adultera, or on whether it belongs in John or in Luke.
  • Codex Vercellensis, for example, says at Matthew 3.17 that "when he was baptized an immense light flashed round from the water, so that all who had come were fearful." Codex Sangermanensis agrees.
  • Codices Bezae and Φ have, after Matthew 20.28, "But you, seek to grow from the small and to be lesser from the greater. And when you go in and have been called upon to dine, do not recline in the conspicuous places, lest one more glorified than you should come and the one who called the dinner should come to you and say, 'Your spot is still lower,' and you should be ashamed. But if you sit down at the lesser place and one lesser than you should come, the one who called the dinner will say to you, 'Go still higher,' and this will be more profitable for you." (This passage parallels Luke 14.8-10, but the actual verbal similarities are few.)
  • Codex Bezae also, in place of Luke 6.5 (which it postpones to after 6.10!), has the following: "On the same day he saw a certain man working on the sabbath and said to him, 'Man, if you know what you are doing, you are blessed. But, if you do not know, you are accursed, and a trespasser of the law.'"
  • Codex Bezae adds after Luke 9.55 the following line, supported also by Epiphanius, Chrysostom, and Theodoret: "And he said: You do not know of what kind of spirit you are." At this same point K, Θ, and both ƒ1 and ƒ13, along with a few miniscules, have a more developed variant: "And he said: 'You do not know what kind of spirit you are. For the son of man did not come to destroy the souls of men but to save them.'"
  • Codex Bobbiensis adds at Mark 16.3: "But suddenly at the third hour of the day there came darkness through the entire orb of the earth, and angels descended from heaven, and, [as he was] rising in the brightness of the living God, at once they ascended with him, and immediately there was light. Then [the women] went to the tomb."
  • Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1 recto bears, with relation to the Coptic version of the gospel of Thomas, the end of saying 29, all of saying 30, then saying 77b, and then sayings 31-32 and part of 33. Somebody has rearranged the order of the sayings. Internal evidence indicates that this may have happened elsewhere in Thomas; for example, in saying 6 the disciples ask Jesus, "Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?" But it is not until saying 14, after much intervening and irrelevant material, that Jesus finally answers the question, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits. When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them."
  • Papyrus Vindobonensis 2325 (the Fayyum fragment) follows Mark 14.26-30 in the main, but contains agreements with Matthew 26.30-34 against Mark; it also omits the Galilee prediction of Matthew 26.32 = Mark 14.28.
  • Dura-Europos 0212 bears something resembling a harmony text of part of the synoptic passion narrative. It was once thought to derive from the Diatessaron, but arguments have been mounted against that identification, making this just one more in a longish list of so-called harmony texts of the gospels. It becomes more and more difficult to draw a line between a new edition of the gospel story and a true harmony text, so often and so drastically were the materials reworked.
If this kind of variation can be found in texts which already contain the nomina sacra and thus, on your interpretation, already bear signs of being treated as authoritative, what kind of variation might there have been before our manuscript evidence kicks in? (That said, as Ulan noted, the nomina sacra do not necessarily indicate that the text itself was considered sacred.)

And then there are the two editions of Acts (call them Eastern and Western, if you will), the two or more editions of Luke and the Pauline epistles (Marcionite and canonical), the clear internal evidence that John has been reworked, the multiple lost Jewish-Christian gospels, and so on, and so on, and so on.
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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:29 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:02 am

0. Barnabas 7.11: 11 ... This is a type of Jesus established for the church ...

lol [how many Jesuses were established for how many churches? /rhetorical]

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:02 am
... most (but not all) of what we find Justin attributing to the "memoirs of the apostles" can be found in our extant gospels, but not always in the same forms or combinations ...
There is a comprehensive 150 page+ 1967 manuscript by AJ Bellinzoni, titled The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, Brill; Leiden), available via Scribd, at least.

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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:39 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:29 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:02 am

0. Barnabas 7.11: 11 ... This is a type of Jesus established for the church ...

lol [how many Jesuses were established for how many churches? /rhetorical]

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:02 am
... most (but not all) of what we find Justin attributing to the "memoirs of the apostles" can be found in our extant gospels, but not always in the same forms or combinations ...
There is a comprehensive 150 page+ 1967 manuscript by AJ Bellinzoni, titled The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, Brill; Leiden), available via Scribd, at least.
I am familiar. I have another text file chock full of cross references between Justin and the gospels from that book. Every so often I do some work to organize them all, but it is verrrrry slow and tedious going.
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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:31 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:39 pm
I am familiar. I have another text file chock full of cross references between Justin and the gospels from that book. Every so often I do some work to organize them all, but it is verrrrry slow and tedious going.
I bet it's tedious, but good on you for doing it as Justin's texts would seem to be important in discerning the transmission of early Christian theology and it's 'gateways', especially now the roles of the plethora of texts (and the directions of their various passages and theologies) in the formation of the eventual NT is less certain.

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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by gmx » Thu Sep 06, 2018 4:22 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:02 am
gmx wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:16 am
However, from the surviving ancient manuscript evidence of the NT, given the number of copies of each document likely to have been in circulation by 400 CE (arbitrarily chosen), and given the length of the major NT documents, does the manuscript record indicate a "free for all" attitude to adding / modifying the source material, or does the manuscript record indicate a high degree of reverence for the text itself and a reluctance to modify it en masse?
Add into all of this the oral traditions from which Papias and Hegesippus are said to have drawn, and the fact that already, from the time of our earliest extant manuscript and textual evidence, there is a split between the so-called Western text and (at the very least) the Alexandrian text, and I think that the idea that there was a lot of textual variation early on deserves a very serious hearing. As you pointed out, gmx, the nomina sacra permeate our extant manuscripts; but, at the same time, variation also permeates our manuscripts:
Thanks Ben for your brilliant post.

So, in our earliest manuscript evidence, we have at least two established text types, which are now essentially stable, and which exhibit a pervasive use of nomina sacra. What are we thinking the year is? 300 CE?

Irenaeus (180 CE) names the four gospels. Has the Western / Alexandrian schism occurred yet?

Justin (140 CE) refers to memoirs of the apostles, and possibly (interpolation?) refers to them as Gospels. He seems primarily familiar with Matthew or its sources.

Papias (95 CE) refers to "the oracles" and says:
  • The Elder also said this, “Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he remembered...
  • Concerning Matthew these other things were said, “Therefore, Matthew set in order the logia (“divine oracles”) in a Hebrew dialect, and...
So, what possibilities exist that make sense describing a transition from 95 CE -> 140 CE -> 180 CE -> 300 CE ?
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Re: Who axed Acts 8:37?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Sep 06, 2018 5:49 am

refers to them as Gospels
Unless I am mistaken he refers to his text as 'gospel' for the most part and once or rarely 'gospels.'
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