I’d like to be able to learn how to honor each other’s contributions, insights, intuitions and processes — without pulling rank of perceived academic authority, etc.
Let’s reflect that the ‘official’ Masoretic Text seems at times less reliable, as the Dead Sea Scrolls establish, than the ‘unofficial’ and long-disregarded LXX—which often has, essentially, another reading of an entire biblical passage and even of the scriptures as a whole. I read When God Spoke Greek rather astonished.
I am also startled as to why the Wisdom of Solomon isn’t included as an accessory to the New Testament, despite its inclusion in the Muratorian Canon. I see it as functioning as an OT summary for early Christians, discussing the key scenes for the New Exodus Theology at the heart of the NT, defining porneia, etc., but later it’s all but unknown? Without even getting to the Gospel of Thomas or Peter, the Odes of Solomon, the Prayer of Thanksgiving, etc., there’s reason to wonder if church officials have exercised wisdom in educating Christians, or even wanting them educated?
It’d be great to work on laying out the canonical NT manuscript problems and concerns that a Christian might wish to reflect on. A few that occur:
- The Bezae Codex. I’m alarmed at the huge numbers of changes it proposes, especially a ‘new’ comment from Jesus- ‘if you know what you are doing’- theology & language that seems deeply woven into biblical narratives, as I noted here. If this comment from Jesus is accurate then a messsianic statement that belongs in the text was removed. One begins to wonder: What other ‘changes’ were made? Then the Bezae Acts clearly shifts the plot violently. The Peter figure undergoes a drastic change, as all the disciples, as Jenny Read-Heimerdinger notes, become simply “fallible human beings who only gradually come to grasp the full extent of the radical nature of Jesus’ message.” This is a quite different reading of Christianity itself- the disciples are not superheroes, and the revelation is, from the start, being given to us all to figure out.
- The Hebrew Gospel, as discussed in James R. Edwards’ book, proposes many shocking manuscript problems. From this lost text, known only in quotation, Jerome translates the Lord’s prayer, for example, as saying “‘Give us today our bread for tomorrow’; that is, the bread that will given to us in your kingdom, give us today.’’ I think this is coherent in the biblical use of manna and frequent mentions of special bread for angels, prophets and believers generally, but I don’t understand why there is now two very different readings of the Lord’s Prayer. I also don’t understand why all the “Q” nonsense was indulged when the Hebrew Gospel suggests, as Edwards discusses, a natural manuscript history.
- Textual misogyny? I think there are many “small” readings that show us there were efforts to trim & tuck the text as needed. Here’s two about women. In Mary Stromer Hanson’s book on Jesus & the Bethany family she discusses how, Luke 10:38, in early manuscripts say that Martha ‘received him’, and later ones say ‘into the house’ — an apparent effort to locate the context to housework. Then in John 4:29, the Samaritan Woman says that Jesus “told me everything I ever did.” There’s apparently early manuscripts that omit “I ever did”; only “told me everything.” The additional words obscure the messianic reference to Deut 18:18, and re-locates the disclosure to her imagined sex life. A major shift. Then there’s a lot of curiosity to the ‘Woman taken in adultery’ scene, where it belongs and why it moves around.
- Mark’s ending. I tried to work through Nicholas P. Lunn’s book on the ending of Mark, but I couldn’t come to any conclusions.
- Secret Mark. After working through all Scott Brown’s work, noting the affirmations of Richard Bauckham, etc., and the clear structural benefits of its inclusion, I found this is a piece of scripture, likely removed for some sensitivity over appearances. (I don’t necessarily believe Clement knew or was telling the truth about its history or Mark himself.)
Then there is Dr. Nyland’s extensive case that many words haven’t been understood until documents published in the late 1970s were studied. It goes on and on.