Tag Archives: new testament

Teaching a Greek Christian the Truth About the Greek New Testament

While in Speakers Corner about two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss the New Testament (and a few of its variants) along with the historicity of the Crucifixion narrative using my Nestle-Aland 28th Edition Greek New Testament…with a Greek Christian. This proved very opportune, as he could openly correct me had I lied or made a mistake about what the Greek New Testament said! I was excited to be put to the test and suffice it to say, I think the discussion went quite well.

We earlier tried to have the same discussion but an older missionary gentleman was listening in (as others do), and while this was not a problem, the moment I raised a problematic question he reacted in an absurd way that led to the conversation ending. Thankfully my Greek colleague was up for round two, where we summarized the first discussion and had a full length discussion on the above mentioned topics. It’s decidedly worth the watch, many thanks to the EFDawah YouTube channel for recording and uploading the dialogue with excellent quality!

and God knows best.

Early New Testament Papyri Now Given Later Dates

Two very early and important manuscripts of the New Testament, p66 and p75 have effectively with growing consensus by authoritative scholars, been given later date ranges extending into the 4th century CE. This is a problem.

Brief Introduction

Early New Testament documents were written on papyrus (pl. papyri), which in and of itself is a very fragile material. Summarily, it means they are difficult to preserve and quick to be destroyed (by accident). Due to so few documents existing, we cannot know much to be certain about the early New Testaments in circulation (we cannot speak of a New Testament until Marcion in the 2nd century).

Two important manuscripts, p66 and p75 have traditionally been given very early dates, somewhere around the 2nd century CE. To put this into perspective, we generally have had only roughly 7 or so manuscripts from this time period that are distinctively New Testament texts, so that 2 of them (which is 28.5%) have been given later dates by almost up to two hundreds years more is nothing to scoff at. These later datings will reshape how we view the early New Testament, its invention, development, transmission and general history.

The Problem

The early New Testament documents are dated palaeographically, that is by the way in which they were written (their textual-graphical features). This means that there is almost no early New Testament document that can be said to have been written in a specific year. I have seen some uninformed Christian apologists claiming that specific New Testament papyri date to the year 125 CE, such as p52, or that p66 and p75 are from the year 200 CE. This is incorrect from an elementary standpoint. Palaeographic datings refer to a date range not a date year (even if colophonic). This means whenever someone speaks about early New Testament papyri and they only provide a date year instead of a range, they are being misleading (if one re-reads my first paragraph I allude to a date range and not date year by saying “around the 2nd century CE”). Generally a date range can begin with a few decades and extend into a few centuries (as is common with most New Testament papyri).

Due to these previously very early datings of around the 2nd century CE, many Christian apologists were quick to point out that much of what survives from the most reliable manuscripts is in the form of the 4th century Uncials (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), with p75 said to be an ancestor text to Codex Vaticanus. This allowed them to claim that there was extant (still surviving) proof that the New Testament, contrary to competing claims, was transmitted faithfully. In this, they boasted that if there were minimal changes between two texts that were related to each other, this meant that the New Testament had been reliably copied over the centuries and thus it could be argued that if there are 200 years between p75 and Codex Vaticanus, then the 200 years between Christ Jesus and p75 should allow Christians to argue that the New Testament has effectively been preserved. Foregoing an overly long analysis as to why this reasoning is both poor and apologetic, it should be noted that p75 and Codex Vaticanus are now no longer seen as having a Father-Son relationship (as in Vaticanus was copied from p75 or a manuscript similar to it in terms of age and reliability) but that they are now sibling texts (that they both descend from a common ancestor text).

This changes things.

Summary Conclusions

This means that they cannot be used to argue for 400 years of reliable transmission, this means that they cannot be used to demonstrate that they were copied from each other. It effectively allows us to dismiss much of what has been argued in the past due to the very existence of these papyri. What one will notice however is the overwhelming silence on behalf of Christian apologists about the severity of the issue that stands before them, what they once boasted with glee (much like with the sham that was First Century Mark) is now being quietly swept under the rugs.

These redatings are not new, Dr. Brent Nongbri has for several years now already published research claiming as much and the Evangelical world has been silent. Their common response was that this was one man with one dating (which itself is a ridiculous argument) but now that Dr. Orsini (who is a top scholar of the field) is saying the same (though their arguments for why differ), we are looking at an effective consensus building and being accepted by some of the best minds in the field. There does not seem to be anything but silence and subsequent acceptance of the once “invincible” early New Testament documents now being resigned to later date ranges, thus placing even more questions on the reliability of the New Testament’s documents itself.

It should also be noted that the Coherence Based Genealogical Method that is being used today to develop the next edition of the New Testament heavily relies on these early papyri being dated accurately, so that a genealogical/ family tree can be drawn up to make sense of how the texts were transmitted. I will not get into how the CBGM works here, but that these dates are changing with consensus should worry some of our Evangelical friends.

and God knows best.

Recommended Reading:

 

Debate Review: Are the New Testament Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony?

On Saturday 20th October, Attorney Yusuf Ismail debated a UK-based Biologist, Jonathan McLatchie on the topic of, “Are the New Testament Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony?”. Presented here is an amended review of the initial review posted on our Facebook page.

Roughly one year ago, the same Christian, UK-based Biologist was called out by this website for plagiarizing during another debate with Attorney Yusuf Ismail. We initially published a video detailing one instance of plagiarism:

Consequently, the Christian speaker issued a statement indicating that this was a one-off occurrence that did not happen throughout the rest of that debate or any debate previously. Contrary to this, we then published another video detailing multiple instances of plagiarism:

What followed was a tale of abject dishonesty and personal hostility on the part of the Christian speaker who became incensed due to our expose, we ignored this behaviour. He eventually conceded that he had in fact, had his opening statement (presentation) for that debate, written by another Christian speaker. This was not surprising given the evidence we had published. This year we had hoped that he learned his lesson and would be professional at this event. This was not the case (information forthcoming), but for a large part, his opening statement this year was largely written by him and consisted of a lecture he had been delivering in various Churches on “undesigned coincidences” in the Gospel narratives.

Jonathan McLatchie’s main and only argument was that the Gospels corroborate each other in some minor details therefore they must be based on eyewitness testimony. This approach is problematic because the manuscript record actually shows that the gospel authors and editors had a tendency to harmonize details between the gospels to make their stories more coherent:

“Colwell and Royse both recognize a tendency to harmonize readings with remote parallels in other Gospels (Colwell, 112-114; Royse, 536-544).”

This is as stated by the conservative New Testament British textual critic, Timothy Mitchell citing:

  • Royse, James R., “Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri.” NTTSD 36. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
  • Colwell, Ernest C., “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75,” pages 106-124 in “Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament.” NTTS 9. Leiden: Brill, 1969.

This fundamentally undermines the Christian’s claims during the debate. In fact, I, myself lost count of the verses he quoted from the Gospel attributed to John where papyrus 66 (a manuscript of the gospel of John that is dated between 150 – 399), does not confirm what the modern English versions were saying. He was effectively quoting the gospel attributed to John where the initial author’s writing was changed by later correctors to match/ harmonize what the other gospels said by later editors. A simple review of basic textual critical resources would have easily indicated to him that this was both a bad line of reasoning and counter-evidential to his position.

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(Left) Attorney Yusuf Ismail, (Right) Jonathan McLatchie

At the start of the debate the Christian speaker claimed his beliefs in Christianity were based on evidence, however when challenged on his views on the dead rising in the gospel attributed to Matthew he claimed he believed in a literal rising miracle of the dead in Jerusalem (back to life) without any evidence, thus proving himself wrong. At this point he also became hostile and in a raised voice, demanded to know why such a question was relevant in the first place, it is possible that he had a memory lapse at this point or had become plainly aware of his earlier statement, thus his reaction was largely based on embarrassment.

He also conceded during a rebuttal period that several verses in the gospel attributed to John were written by anonymous authors and therefore they were not authored by eyewitnesses thus conceding the debate to Attorney Yusuf Ismail.

On the other hand, I was duly impressed by Attorney Yusuf Ismail who is currently pursuing theological studies. I found his presentation and citation of classical Christian authorities on the anonymity of the Gospels to both be stringently academic and quite diverse. Meaning then, that he did not isolate these statements from “liberal” scholarship, nor did he quote-mine. In fact, during their cross-examination section, Attorney Yusuf Ismail produced a brilliant quote by Richard Bauckham which justified his position on the Gospels being anonymous in authorship. In addition to this, it was his opponent that had cited Bauckham as an authority in the first place, thus adding to the strength of Attorney Yusuf Ismail’s position. When reminded of this, the Christian speaker decried the reference, stating that he did not agree with everything Bauckham said, while this is a reasonable position, the Christian speaker did not clarify on what well-researched basis he made this distinction of agreeing and disagreeing with the author.

Surprisingly, Yusuf Ismail did not end there, he was on a roll. McLatchie was asked if he accepted Matthaean Priority (that is, the view that Matthew was authored first, followed by Mark and Luke). McLatchie (the Christian speaker) acknowledged that this was the position he was leaning towards. This is where I believe Yusuf Ismail showed his brilliance, he asked McLatchie if he accepted Papias’ (an unreliable early Church Father, as per Eusebius) claim that the gospel attributed to Matthew was initially written in Hebrew (and then translated into Koine Greek). McLatchie confusingly stated he did not study this position on the gospel attributed to Matthew. It therefore is problematic that he in one instance claims that he can lean towards one view on the original authorship of the gospel and then in another state he had not studied it at all. If he had not studied the genesis of Matthew’s gospel, how then can he lean to its position in authorship? This effectively summarized what was an overall brilliant evening for Yusuf and a disaster for McLatchie.

The debate can be viewed here on Facebook:

and Allah knows best.

 

Is Part of the New Testament Lost?

Most believers in the tenacity of the New Testament would tell you the answer is absolutely “no”, but there is reason to disagree once one takes a look at the manuscript evidence. Today we’ll be taking a look at Mark 16, but not in the way you’re usually accustomed. As a quick recap, Mark 16 in the earliest Greek manuscripts, ends presumably at verse 8. Later manuscripts in Latin extend the ending up to verse 20. Let’s take a quick look at what these look like in the English language:

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Trans.: NIV, verse 8).

and…

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Trans.: NIV, verses 9-20).

Both codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) date from the 4th century CE, roughly 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. They both end at verse 8. However, verses 9-20 can be found in codices Alexandrinus (A, 5th century CE), Ephraemi-Rescriptus (C, 5th century CE), Bezae (D, 6th century CE) and Washingtonianus (W, 5th century CE). You may be familiar with the claim of a longer ending, but there are actually five endings. In one of those five endings there is the case where the women then proceed from the tomb to a group of people who were with the disciple Peter. This ending can be found more notably in the Latin Codex Bobbiensis from the 5th century CE.

There is also another version where an addition is at Mark 16:14 which can be found in Codex Washingtonianus (circa 5th century CE) where it speaks of a more apocalyptic ending. In this ending Satan rules the world and the manuscript quite oddly says that due to Satan, God cannot rule the world…:

“This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits.”

The text in Koine Greek reads as follows:

οτι ο αιων ουτος της ανομιαϛ και της απιστιας υπο τον σαταναν εστιν ο μη εων τα υπο των πνευματων ακαθαρτα την αληθειαν του θεου καταλαβεσθαι δυναμιν

Moving on, the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament (the Greek text used for most of today’s modern translations) renders verse 8 as follows:

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ

It uses codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as the basis for the above Greek version. Do note that the sentence ends with the word “gar” (γάρ), I’ll explain more on the significance of that word shortly. So what do the manuscripts read? We are looking at the ending of verse 8. Codex Sinaiticus reads as follows (here’s the link to view page online):

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Folio 228 of Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus ends verse (and by extension the Gospel of Mark) 8 with the word “gar” (γάρ – do note the text is written in majuscule not minuscule Koine Greek so while the words appear to be different, they’re exactly the same). In majuscule Greek as we find in Codex Sinaiticus we will see γάρ written as ΓΑΡ. Codex Vaticanus reads as follows (here’s the link to view the page online):

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Folio 1303 of Codex Vaticanus

Verse 8 once again ends with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”), and by extension the Gospel of Mark ends with this word. So what is the significance of the word “ΓΑΡ” (gar)? The word “ΓΑΡ” (gar) is a conjunctive. A conjunction is a word that combines two clauses, phrases or sentences. HELPS Word-studies states on the use of the word:

1063 gár (a conjunction) – for. While “for” is usually the best translation of 1063 (gár), its sense is shaped by the preceding statement – the “A” statement which precedes the 1063 (gár) statement in the “A-B” unit.

Do note, the Strong’s number for this word is 1063 and can be read here. In other words, ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is a word that combines two phrases, for example in the English we can understand it to operate like the word “and” or like the terms “because”, “therefore”, “due to”, “hence”, “henceforth”, etc. This means that the verse is essentially incomplete if it ends with a conjunction. Normally in a sentence when you read the word “because”, you expect something to be written afterwards.

  • they were afraid because…what?
  • they were afraid therefore…what?
  • they were afraid due to…what?
  • they were afraid hence..what?

When you end a sentence abruptly with any of the terms above, you necessarily expect a word or phrase to follow. Grammatically this is known as an anacoluthon (see the definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary):

syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence; especially : a shift in an unfinished sentence from one syntactic construction to another

In other words, verse 8 is an unfinished sentence. This explains why there were additional endings that were later developed and added to the text, because the way the verse ends is incorrect and suggests that something is missing. This ultimately brings us to our question, if the verse is grammatically incorrect and unfinished, it possibly means that something followed from the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”) and is now no longer evidenced by the earliest surviving Greek manuscripts some 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. One may argue apologetically that perhaps the verse was phrased this way for rhetorical effect. That is possible but unlikely due to the authors of Mark never having done this previously in the entire gospel. In fact, I’m not aware of any other instance in the New Testament where ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is used to end a sentence where nothing follows after it. Such an argument is also implausible because it is clearly grammatically incorrect to the point we have multiple endings having been added to it thus showing that readers correctly noted an error has been made.

In the English language, if someone wrote:

There was a boy with a cat. The cat was afraid because…

The cat was afraid because what? The sentence does not continue and so we don’t know. Therefore in either English or Greek, there is a mistake here and so we must ask what did the sentence originally contain and what words did it end with? Were there just a few words more, or many sentences after? How much have we lost? We cannot clearly determine the amount that is lost to us. It is then clear that the last words of the Gospel attributed to Mark are lost to us and therefore a portion of the New Testament is lost to us. Ipso facto, the theological beliefs of tenacity and the preservation of the New Testament are proven to be false.

and God knows best.


Author’s Post Publication Note:

In this article I assumed the A-B unit as the structure of the verse, however given that Mark 16:8 contains two sentences, the first sentence contains this A-B structure (emphasis mine own, taken from the NA 28 GNT online):

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν·

In this first sentence of Mark 16:8, we see this A-B formula in work. In the very next sentence, we do not see it at work:

ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

While this is a correct sentence in and of itself, if we only and absolutely take this sentence into isolation, it would be grammatically correct (there is disagreement on this and it is discussed below). However, when we take it into the context of the author’s normal usage of the term ΓΑΡ (“gar”) within this very verse, then it would break the pattern and thus establish itself as being against the norm and therefore in error.

Furthermore, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (scroll down) argues for a succeeding repetition [with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”)] as the norm (emphasis mine own):

When in successive statements γάρ is repeated twice or thrice, or even four or five times, either a. one and the same thought is confirmed by as many arguments, each having its own force, as there are repetitions of the particle…

There is no argument for the second sentence of the verse, therefore it also breaks this norm. There is one more alternative (emphasis mine own):

b. every succeeding statement contains the reason for its immediate predecessor, so that the statements are subordinate one to another: Mark 6:52…

Again, there is no reason explaining the fear, thus breaking the norm again. Regardless of the apologetic arguments to defend the incompleteness of Mark 16:8, there is no sufficient argument to plainly excuse the break in grammatical norms for this specific verse, though I want to thank at least one individual with knowledge of Greek for trying.

Further Reading

As mentioned above, the same individual raised the point of “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” being a complete sentence and has argued it is perfectly reasonable to end a sentence with such a word. Though I did not argue the point that “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” was the start of a new sentence (as incorrectly stated by the person), they also argued that no Greek scholar would agree with my conclusions. It should be noted though that I am not the person that has made these conclusions. One noted scholar of Greek and the New Testament, Robert Gundry states in his book Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross on page 1009 that verse 8 in the autograph of the Gospel attributed to Mark was not a conclusion but the beginning of a new unit, “the rest of which is now lost.” He also clarifies that while there is at least one possible example for the word “γάρ” in ending a book, which is possibly the case in the thirty second treatise of Plotinus as edited by Porphyry (though many others disagree), it is rather the exception to the norm and he conclusively states that no other book ends with the word “γάρ”. It should also be noted that New Testament scholar N. Clayton Croy in his work, “The Mutilation of Mark’s Gospel”, also argues that the ending of Mark is incomplete at verse 8 and he also argues that this is in part due to the presence of “γάρ” which he notes is extremely rare and thus unlikely the author of Mark intended to end the Gospel with such a word.

As for the use of “ἐφοβοῦντο”, Collins and Attridge in their work, “Mark: A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark”, on page 799 states:

Some opponents of the thesis that v. 8* is the original conclusion of the Gospel have argued that the verb “they were afraid” (ἐφοβοῦντο) is incomplete as it stands and must have been followed originally by an object, an infinitive, or a clause introduced with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”). Apart from 16:8*, the verb “to be afraid” (φοβεῖσθαι) occurs eleven times in Mark. It is used with a personal object four times (6:20*; 11:18*, 32*; 12:12*). Once it is used in the phrase ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν (“they were very fearful”; lit. “they feared a great fear”) (4:41*). On one occasion it is used with the infinitive: “they were afraid to ask him” (ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι) (9:32*). This verb is never used with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”) in Mark. It is used five times absolutely, as in 16:8*.

Post Publication Note dated 29.08.18, with a note for Further Reading on 06.09.18.

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