Sunday, December 27, 2020

One Tiny Adverb and the Synoptic Problem

The synoptic problem, simply stated, is how does one describe the relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The consensus of New Testament scholarship is that a literary relationship exists between them, and that Mark was written first and then was used independently as a source by Matthew and Luke.1 An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb by describing degree or manner. A characteristic, or signature expression in Mark is εὐθύς (euthus), a word that Mark uses forty-one times. On the other hand, this word is only used in Matthew five times and in Luke once. Euthus, classified as an adverb in Greek, is generally translated as immediately or at once.

Since euthus appears so few times in Matthew and Luke, one might conclude that they did not use Mark as a source. One could argue that since Luke uses none of the Markan instances of euthus, and since his one use of euthus (6:49) appears in a story that does not appear in Mark, Luke could not have acquired the word from Mark. Matthew's use of euthus corresponds to Mark's use in the following five instances: Matt 3:16 (Mk 1:10); 13:20 (Mk 4:16); Matt 13:21 (Mk 4:17); Matt 14:27 (Mk 6:50); Matt 21:3 (Mk 11:3). If Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, the probability is that this Markan expression should have occurred more often in Matthew and Luke. Is there a reason why that might not have happened based on the consensus view for explaining the relationship between the three gospels? To check my data using Mark as the key for checking the uses in the other two gospels, it will be easier if one uses a gospel synopsis that provides the parallel passages between the three gospels side by side.2

By comparing Matthew to the Markan passages containing euthus, here is what I found:

1.  In one instance Matthew reads tote (at that time, then, thereupon) not euthus.

2.  In several instances Matthew reads eutheōs (at once, immediately), which the Greek lexicon describes as a more common expression than euthus.

3.  Matthew omits the entire passage in which euthus appears.

4.  Matthew omits the word euthus.

5.  Matthew omits the verse in which euthus appears.

6.  Matthew abbreviates the sentence and omits euthus.

7.  Matthew expands the sentence and omits euthus.

Here is what I found in Luke:

1.  Luke writes the sentence differently and omits euthus.

2.  Luke omits the entire passage in which euthus appears.

3.  Luke omits the word euthus.

4.  Luke omits the verse in which euthus appears.

5.  Luke's text is different and omits euthus.

6.  Luke reads eutheōs instead of euthus.

7.  Luke's text is different and uses paraxrēma (at once, immediately). This word is found in the New Testament only in Luke and Acts, which are both written by the same author.

8.  Luke reads paraxrēma.

In my view this data seems to support the idea that Matthew and Luke have edited Mark rather than attesting to Mark's revision of Matthew and Luke.

            A possible reason for the avoidance of euthus by Matthew and Luke may be found in what the Greek lexicon3 calls a weakening of euthus to a meaning of then or so then. The lexicon offers the following examples of this weakened use in Mark 1:21, 23, 29. In these verses the word euthus becomes little more than a correlative particle indicating a sequential relationship between preceding and following material, much as Matthew saw in Mark when s/he replaces euthus in Mark 1:10 (=Matt 3:16) with tote.4

Why does the literary relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke matter? Because the literary sequence of these three texts establishes the history of the early Christian movement in the first century. With Mark as the earliest gospel and John as the latest, the historical process moves in a logical manner. Displacing Mark from the position of first gospel in effect renders Mark a reactionary gospel that rejects much of the early Christian tradition. For example, if Mark had Matthew and Luke in front of him when s/he wrote, s/he deliberately rejected the birth narratives and the special Matthean and Lukan parables tradition (some 18 parables that appear only in Matthew and Luke). Mark also rejected the sermons on the mount (Matthew) and plain (Luke) and the special sayings tradition that Matthew and Luke share (such as the Lord's Prayer, for example).

How do you see the relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1On the synoptic problem, see Hedrick, When History and Faith Collide. Studying Jesus (Wipf & Stock, reprint 2013), 76-109.

2Here are the appearances of euthus in Mark: 1:10, 12, 18, 20, 21, 23, 28, 29, 30, 42, 43; 2:8, 12; 3:6; 4:5, 15, 16, 17, 29; 5:2, 29, 30, 42 (bis); 6:25, 27, 45, 50, 54; 7:25; 8:10; 9:15, 20, 24; 10:52; 11:2, 3; 14:43, 45, 72; 15:1.

3F. W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed.; Chicago, 2000), 406.

4Compare the translations of Mark 1:21, 23, 29 in New Revised Standard Version and the Revised English Bible.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Advent, the Gospels, and the Nature of Christ

By the middle of the 4th century Christians were celebrating the nativity of Jesus on December 25 (the birth of Mithras), and as early as the end of the 5th century they were celebrating an Advent Season. In America today Advent is a month-long period of celebration leading up to the Nativity (birth of Jesus Christ). The birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity, and includes, among other things, the lighting of four Advent candles through the four weeks of the season. The candles emphasize the four themes of Christmas: hope, peace, love, and joy.

            Oddly, two of the canonical gospels, Mark and John, do not even acknowledge a birth of Jesus. Mark begins the narrative with Jesus as an adult disciple of John the Baptizer (1:9-14), and simply assumes that he was born—after all he had a mother, brothers, and sisters (6:3). There is no mention of a father or stepfather. The life of Jesus before his association with John the Baptist is cloaked in obscurity, with the exception that Mark describes him as a carpenter (6:3); presumably it was his occupation before joining John’s movement. He was assumed to be a human being of anonymous birth on whom the Spirit of God descended at his baptism by John (1:9-11).  If there was going to be any subsequent Christian celebration based on Mark’s narrative about Jesus, one would have expected that it would have focused on his baptism, death, and resurrection, since that is what Mark himself stresses (1:9-11; 14:22-28; 16:1-7; 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34).

            The Gospel of John also is out of step with the contemporary Christian celebration of Advent. There is no mention of a birth of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Instead John begins with a poetic section (1:1-18): “the Word,” who was pre-existing with the Father (1:1-5). In this Word was Life (1:4) and this Life was the “Light” of human beings. It shines unextinguished in the darkness (1:5). The Light was “True Light,” coming into the world and enlightening all people (1:5). The Word/Life/Light in the world (1:5) became enfleshed and dwelled among us (1:14). Whatever the poet may have had in mind, this is clearly not a nativity story. This poetically described “figure” has no point of beginning and comes from beyond an earthen vale. He only temporarily pitched his tent amongst us (1:14)—that is (if one may borrow a line from Paul), he was not human but came in human likeness by taking the form of a slave (Phil 2:6-7). More prosaically, John recognized that Jesus was the son of Joseph (1:45; 6:42) by an unnamed mother (2:1; 19:25) and he had brothers, also unnamed (2:12; 7:5). Nevertheless, he was not one of us but came “from above, from heaven” (3:31; 8:23). The family attachments were merely part of his human disguise. From John’s perspective one should celebrate his “lifting up” (3:14; 8:28; 12:32-34) and his “rising up” (2:22; 20:9; 21:14).

            The birth and infancy narratives in Matthew (1:1-2:23 and Luke (1:5-2:52) are completely different, with the exception that they feature the same main characters (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph).1 The principal disagreements are as follows: the announcement of Jesus’ birth is made to Joseph in a dream in Matthew (1:20-24), but to Mary while awake in Luke (1:26-37); In Matthew Joseph plays a major role in events (1:18-25; 2:13-14, 19-23), but in Luke a minor role (named, 2:4, 16; alluded to,2:5, 22, 27, 33, 39, 41, 43, 48); Matthew has the story of the Magi (2:1-12) but Luke does not. Luke has the story of the shepherds in the field (2:8-20), but Matthew does not. In Matthew Jesus was apparently born in a house (2:11), but in Luke he was born in a stable (2:7, 12, 16). Matthew has the massacre of the children (2:16-18) with the House of Herod playing a prominent role, but this account plays no role in Luke; In Matthew Bethlehem in Judea is the home of Mary and Joseph, they flee to Egypt and do not return to Bethlehem (2:1, 19-23), but in Luke Nazareth in Galilee is the home of Mary and Joseph, they travel to Bethlehem because of the Roman census, they return to Jerusalem and return home to Nazareth (1:26; 2:4-6, 22-24, 39-40).2

            The actual conception of Jesus in Matthew and Luke is more like that in John than what one might infer from Mark. In Matthew Mary conceived “like this”: before Mary and Joseph “came together,” she was impregnated “by the Holy Spirit” (1:18, 20). Luke is very similar: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (1:35). He was not the issue of human sperm but in both cases, conception occurred by divine insemination (Matt 1:24-25; Luke 1:34-35). The child to be born will be “the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32), or “God with us” (Matt 1:23). In other words, he is not human but divine.

            This trajectory in the gospels of the nature of Jesus/Christ from a human being of anonymous birth (Mark), to a figure conceived by divine insemination (Matthew and Luke) to a figure “from above, from heaven” who is enfleshed for the purposes of an earthly career reveals a fundamental confusion in early Christianity as to how explain the nature of Jesus/Christ. The trajectory anticipates the Christological debates of the 4th/5th centuries and raises the question of which model of Jesus’ coming-to-be in the world should Christians be celebrating during Advent.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See Hedrick, When History and Faith Collide. Studying Jesus (Wipf & Stock, 1999), 22-63.

2Ibid, pages 61-62.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Named Characters in the Gospel of Mark

Mark is an author and not just a transmitter of tradition. Such a judgment means that the author we call Mark is responsible for everything that appears in the narrative, the order in which it appears, and the cast of characters that live in the pages of the narrative, as well as their names.1 In contemporary and ancient narrative fiction it is the general rule that authors must invent the names of their characters, unless the narrative is historical fiction or the author includes historical figures in the narrative. A name personalizes the characters and helps the reader follow the progress of the narrative easier. If the narrative is narrated history there should be no invented names, but if the narrative is quasi-historical, as Mark is, the odds are increased that some characters and names may be invented.

Later so-called “apocryphal gospels,” for example, add characters to the gospel narratives known from the first century, while expanding aspects of the traditional story. For example, the middle second-century Infancy Gospel of James draws from, and in part rewrites, the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. It also expands their narratives by focusing on the pregnancy of Mary and in so doing increases the cast of characters by inventing several minor characters, such as Rubel (1:5), Juhine (2:6), Samuel (17:5). The author of the Gospel of James even invents major characters, such as Ana (2:1) and Joachim (1:5) and develops the character of Joseph, who “is now turned into an old man, a widower with grown sons.”2 If this information is correct with regard to the Infancy Gospel of James, it suggests that Matthew and Luke may have filled in information on the origins of Jesus for theological and “historical” reasons by inventing certain named characters for their different infancy narratives, which they added to material they took from Mark.3

The named characters in Mark’s gospel can be classified under three types:

1. There are named characters confirmed by extra-Biblical sources (in this case, Josephus, The Antiquities) as actual historical figures who played roles in the affairs of first-century Judean history: Jesus, Pilate, Herod, Herodias (married to Herod), John the Baptist. These characters in Mark were actual historical figures, although it is uncertain if they played in life the role to which Mark assigned them in his narrative about the tragic career of Jesus of Nazareth.

2. There are named characters in Mark known only from Christian tradition, but their names can be confirmed as not being invented by Mark, since they are named characters in other independent early Christian sources. In the Gospel of John: Simon/Peter/Cephas, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, Mary of Magdala, Barabbas, Zebedee, Thomas (one of the twelve, called the twin), Judas, Joseph of Arimathea. On the theory that John has not utilized Mark as a source, most of these characters are confirmed as not being invented by Mark. A few characters are confirmed as not invented by Mark, since they appear in one of Paul’s letters: James and John (two of the twelve, Gal 2:9), James (the brother of Jesus, Gal 1:19).4

3. There are also named characters in Mark that cannot be confirmed from another independent source: Bartholomew, Jairus, Bartimaeus, Levi, Matthew, Mary (the mother of Jesus), Joses (the brother of Jesus), Judas (the brother of Jesus), Simon (the brother of Jesus), Simon, the leper, Simon of Cyrene, Mary (the mother of James [the younger], Joses, and Salome), Joses, Salome. Of those in this category seven names can be confirmed as having been used in Israelite history and were names of real persons at one time, but the names are not of those persons in Mark’s narrative: Mary, Judas, Simon, James, Salome.

One interesting aspect of the named characters in Mark is what is revealed about the nuclear family of Jesus. Mary is named as Jesus’ mother only once (6:3). Mark usually refers to the matriarch of the family as “his” (Jesus) mother and always in connection with “his brothers,” who are unnamed (3:31-35). Joseph is not a named character in Mark. On the other hand, the mother of Jesus is never named in the Gospel of John. She is designated as “the mother of Jesus” (like a title) or “his”/“your” mother (2:1, 3, 12; 19:25-27). John, however, specifically names Joseph, as the “father” of Jesus (6:42). Paul refers to the mother of Jesus even more obliquely as simply: a “woman” who gave birth to Jesus (Gal 4:4). Paul either did not know Mary’s name or did not regard it as significant, or both. She is named in Acts 1:14 but Acts is written by the same author who wrote Luke and used the Gospel of Mark as a source.

            Did Mark invent the names of any of his characters? One can never certain, but here is an example of one name that may hold that dubious distinction: the name Levi (Mark 2:14), which in the Christian tradition is only known in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:24, 29). In Mark the call of Levi, a tax collector, appears as a solitary incident although one may infer that the call of Levi is related to the story that follows by assuming that the obscure “his house” in 2:15 is Levi’s house. Luke makes that assumption and has Levi throw Jesus a great feast (Luke 5:29); the occasion of the feast introduces the logia in 5:31-32. Matthew, on the other hand changes “his house” to “the house” (9:10), and also changes the name of Levi to Matthew (9:9). It is popularly thought that Matthew and Levi are the same person. Likely because if one did not do so, one would then be forced to entertain the idea that either Mark has invented the name Levi or the author we think of as “Matthew” has invented the name Matthew.5

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1For a brief sketch of Mark’s literary method, see Hedrick, “Comparing Two Productions: Mark and Lincoln.”

2Robert J. Miller, ed., The Complete Gospels (4th ed; Polebridge Press, 1992), 363.

3The infancy narratives are Matt 1:2-2:23 and Luke 1:5-2:52.

4The brothers of the Lord are mentioned in 1 Cor 9:5 but not by name. In Mark the names of the brothers of the Lord are James, Joses, Judas, and Simon; his sisters are unnamed.

5See the entry by Stanley Porter (“Levi,” ABD, 4:295), who gives a brief discussion of the problem. Porter notes that there are several scholarly explanations. Porter sides with none of them.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Does God do Bad Things to People?

My question falls under the rubric of theodicy, which is “the defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.”1 God’s goodness clashes with God’s omnipotence when bad things happen to people. That is, if God were good and all-powerful, bad things could never happen to people. But bad things do happen to people. Hence, one of these two propositions is untrue. Religious people, however, need for both propositions to be true; they want to maintain that God is both “good” and “in control of the world” in the face of common human experience that denies the truth of one of these two propositions. The obvious clash between the propositions has led some to attempt a resolution of the dissonance between them in the following two ways:

1.               By arguing that “learning to view bad things as good things in disguise are disciplines God wants his children to develop as they mature spiritually”;

2.               By arguing that “God will not allow anything to happen to you without his permission. He will not allow any ‘bad thing’ to happen that will not ultimately bring you more good than destruction.”2

The first argument cites 1 Cor 2:14 and Rom 8:1-17 in support. This solution, however, requires self-delusion, since one must convince oneself that bad is actually good. The second argument cites 1 Pet 4:12-13, Rom 9:14-24, Isa 55:8-9, Job 1:6-12, and Gen 50:20 in support. (In neither instance does the scriptural support seem to be on point.) This second argument also requires self-delusion, since it asserts that bad is not actually bad but rather only bad on the surface, for the belief is that it will ultimately bring a situation that is more good than bad.

I simply cannot lie to myself that bad things are not bad but rather they are good things. With respect to my own life I know the difference between good and bad, as most people do. I agree, however, that sometimes good comes out of bad, but statistically it does not happen that often. Bad remains bad even though we may eventually get our lives back in order. In 1979 in a tight academic job market, I was fired from Wagner College along with 24 other members of the faculty because of a financial exigency crisis at the college. It so happened that after sending out what seemed to me hundreds of job applications, I was hired to the faculty of Missouri State University. In my case the situation worked out, but the good (a new job) never has completely eradicated the bad (a painful memory of a being fired and without a future in academia).

In response to my question, it is unfortunately true that the Bible specifically depicts God doing bad things to some people and allowing bad things to happen to others. Here are two examples: God does bad things: 1 Sam 15:1-3, 7-9; Isa 45:7. God allows bad things to happen: the classic instance is depicted in the prose introduction to Job 1:1-2:22.

            The question of theodicy “why does God do what s/he does?” continues to plague me like a tiny unfindable pebble in my shoe. I have addressed it obliquely in a number of essays, and this year published two other essays specifically on the question of theodicy.3 The reason it bothers me is because the lack of resolution to the clash between God’s goodness and omnipotence ultimately challenges the very concept of God for a rational person. How does it seem to you?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1990), s.v. “theodicy.”

2Institute of Basic Life Principles, “Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen,”

3“A Conundrum: Two incompatible Propositions,” April 27, 2020: and “Did God Cause (Or Allow) the Covid-19 Pandemic?” April 12, 2020:

Monday, November 2, 2020

Was Jesus a Martyr?

I am not sure what is at stake in the above question, but it has become an issue of current interest in some scholarly circles. For example, some have claimed that the early Christian gospels have been modeled on martyr stories in antiquity.1 The modern definition of martyr (the Greek word so translated is martus) is as follows:

1.  One who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce his religion.

2.  One who sacrifices his life or something of great value for the sake of principle.2

James Tabor, however, argues that the word “martyr” is nevertheless plagued by definitional problems but “simply put, martyrdom refers to the act of choosing death rather than renouncing one’s religious principles.”3 Marianne Blickenstaff, on the other hand, answers the question in my title by saying “in the New Testament (NT) the most noble martyrdom was that of Jesus whose resurrection became a symbol of God’s vindication of his righteousness and a promise of reward to those who remained faithful to his message.”4 It appears that the authorities cited above do not resolve the issue as to whether or not martus in the 1st century NT should be translated as an equivalent to the 2nd century act of Christian martyrdom (marturion).5

Oddly, in the NT the Greek word martus is rarely translated as martyr. Its usual translation is “witness.” Martus is used some 35 times in the New Testament in three different senses: a martus is one who bears witness in legal matters (Acts 7:58; Matt 18:16); or is one who affirms or attests, or testifies; that is, is a witness to something (Rom 1:9, Phil 1:8, 1 Thess 2:5); or is one who gives witness at the cost of one’s life (Acts 22:20, Rev 2:13, Rev 17:6). In the NT passages cited in this paragraph martus is translated as “witness” in the New Revised Standard Version and the Revised English Bible. On the other hand, in the Revised Standard Version out of all 35 instances only Rev 17:6 is translated as martyr. The rest are translated witness. In the New International Version, of the verses listed above only Acts 22:20 is translated as martyr. But they all translate Rev 1:5 (where martus is applied to Jesus) as “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness” (martus), rather than “Jesus Christ, the faithful martyr.”

            One way to address the question is to ask: How does Jesus appear in the Gospel of Mark? In Mark, Jesus is not depicted as a Christian, but rather he is depicted as a Galilean exorcist, thaumaturge, and healer, whose popularity with the masses (3:7-10) and his laxity in following the traditions of the elders (7:1-13) ran him afoul of the Judean religious leaders (3:6; 11:15-18; 14:1). He was arrested and tried by the temple priests who found him guilty of blasphemy (14:60-64) and they turned him over to the Roman authorities (15:1). Pilate had him crucified for political/religious reasons (15:26).6 He was not given an opportunity to bear a witness or recant before the authorities, as happened in the case of the Christian martyrs of the second century.7 Before the religious authority (the High Priest) he admitted that he believed himself to be the messiah, the Son of the Blessed One (14:61-62), a claim he did not make before the Roman authority (Pilate, 15:1-5). Mark seems to regard his death as predetermined (10:45; 14:33-36, 49), rather than as something he could avoid.

            He preached the good news of God that the Reign of God was imminent and that everyone should repent and believe his message (1:14-15), which announced the imminent end of the age (13:29-31). What he preached did not even come up in his trials.

            Was Jesus a martyr? It depends on how one understands and translates martus. Mark, however, does not depict him as a martyr in the traditional sense. What do you think?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


2Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1990), s.v. “martyr.”

3Tabor, “Martyr, Martyrdom,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, 4:574.

4Blickenstaff, “Martyr,” New Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible, 3:822.

5Marturion in the NT is translated as testimony, witness, or proof, but in 2nd century Christian texts it tends to be translated as “martyrdom” and martus as “martyr.” See “The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna,” 2:312-45 in Kirsopp Lake, Apostolic Fathers (Harvard, 1965).

6Pilate, himself, raised the issue of Jesus claiming to be King, an idea that does not occur in the Gospel of Mark, except in 15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32. It is however a theme in the Gospel of John (1:49; 6:15; 12:12-15). It appears that the Kingship of Jesus is introduced into Mark by Pilate, but he attributes it to the Judeans (15:12). Hence, “the inscription of the charge against him read: the King of the Judeans.” On the part of Pilate, sarcastically political; on the part of the Judeans, religious. The real reason for his crucifixion was the hatred of the Judeans that was enabled by the compliance of Pilate (15:15).

7For example, “Martyrdom of Polycarp,” IX-XI. The Roman Pro-counsel gave Polycarp the opportunity to recant his position: “Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent and say, away with the atheists.” “Take the oath and I let you go, revile Christ.” “Swear by the genius of Caesar.” But Polycarp declines every offer to recant.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Comparing Two Productions: Mark and Lincoln

Several nights before beginning this essay I watched the 2012 television production “Lincoln.” The film was well received in the media world and numerous awards were given to the film and to Daniel Day Lewis, who played Lincoln. Available to the writers, production staff, and actors were many artifacts, histories, photographs, and other video productions from which data could be drawn to develop the production. In fact, the historical events themselves are so well known that the sheer amount of data available no doubt frustrated the creative process of producing the film. The known facts of Mr. Lincoln’s presidency limited what the writers might have included in the script. It is nevertheless a work of creative fiction that is historically accurate—but not in every detail.1

            Mark’s essay, on the other hand, is also a creative work, whose overall historical accuracy is dubious, but which, in part, is surely historically accurate. Very little was available to Mark from which to develop the narrative that he entitled: “Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (1:1). Mark’s story about Jesus narrates how the gospel (euaggellion, euaggelizomai) of the Markan community in the latter half of the first century began. Paul succinctly described the content of the gospel (“good news”) of the apostolic age in First Corinthians 15:1, 3-5. The natural context of “gospel” in Mark seems to be this later apostolic preaching of the church rather than the public career of Jesus.2 Its appearance in Mark’s story about the itinerant Galilean, Jesus the Anointed, strikes me as an anachronism. What Mark wishes to echo in the reader’s mind when he places “gospel” on the lips of Jesus is the apostolic message preached by his own community of faith.3

            The anonymous author we call Mark wrote shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE) and he had at his disposal very little historical data about the public career of Jesus the Galilean, who was crucified by the Romans around 30CE, some forty years earlier. Mark lived in a world of Greek language and culture while the subject of his essay lived in Galilee of Judea, as the Romans called it, a world of Aramaic language and culture. Mark had neither material artifacts nor written sources4 available to him to inform his narrative. What was available to him were anonymous oral reports, church tradition and beliefs, and liturgy.5

            Mark’s literary product, therefore, is a narrative of his own creative imagination and fashioning. Perhaps it is better to say Mark’s Gospel is “fiction” (from the Latin fictio, a making or fashioning). Mark was responsible for imagining the whole and for weaving into his narrative what little information was available to him. He had no known curriculum vitae (course of life) of Jesus that had to be followed. Hence, he had to decide the sequence of things. He strung together independent episodes that he composed and other sub-groupings of material into an overall geographical frame6 through the use of summary statements, which were intended to expand the activities of Jesus well beyond the few typical episodic incidents described more fully in the narrative. These statements “summarize new activities over broad general geographic areas and indefinite periods of time.”7 It was a technique Mark hoped would overcome the impression of how little information he actually did know.

            As an author, Mark was a child of his day. If one judges by the criterion of literary realism, Mark’s narrative is more akin to modern romance than to historical narrative.8 That is, “it is an idealistic tale with supernatural and marvelous features,” more like legends of King Arthur and Harry Potter than Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War.9

Mark employs certain techniques of modern narrative fiction. As an author he is omniscient and knows everything that happens even to the extent of knowing what the characters are thinking. Throughout the narrative he provides the reader interior views of characters. That is, he reveals to readers what characters are thinking. “This shift in a reader’s point of view from seeing events from the narrator’s perspective to seeing the situation from within a paper-character’s mind is a primary feature of the rhetoric of fiction by which a flesh-and-blood author develops characters and furthers the plot of a novel.”10

            What I take away from Mark’s essay is a vague image, a silhouette of a life devoted to the welfare of the faceless multitudes of his people, a life that ended in tragedy. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude hearing all that he did came to him (Mark 1:7-8). According to Mark, Jesus told his disciples: Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


2The word “Gospel” appears in every NT book except John, Jude, James, 1-3 John, and 2 Peter.

3See Hedrick, “Parable and Kingdom. A Survey of the Evidence in Mark,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 27.2 (2000), 182.

4Dominick Crossan argued that Mark developed his story in part by reliance on the Gospel of Peter. See the brief reference in Paul Mirecki, “Peter Gospel of” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary 5:279-81. From my reading of the evidence it appeared that Crossan’s evidence could cut either way. In other words, the author of the Gospel of Peter could also have borrowed from Mark.

5For example, with respect to the Passover meal, compare Mark 14:22-24, 1 Cor 11:23-25, and Didache 9:1-5 for the similar format.

6Hedrick, “What is a Gospel? Geography, Time, and Narrative Structure,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 10.3 (1983), 255-68.

7Hedrick, “The Role of ‘Summary Statements’ in the composition of the Gospel of Mark: A Dialogue with Karl Schmidt and Norman Perrin,” Novum Testamentum 26 (1984), 289-311.

8Hedrick, “Realism in Western Narrative and the Gospel of Mark: A Prolegomenon,” Journal of Biblical Literature 126.2 (2007), 345-59.

9Hedrick, “Realism,” 353; for a description of the supernatural and marvelous features see 358.

10Hedrick, “The Problem of History in Mark,” pp. 140-42 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Humanizing the Lesser Human

On June 5, 2017 I published a blog entitled: "On Becoming and Being Human."1 The essay closed with this statement, "Being human is not an accident of birth, but a matter of behavior." We modern humans are called Homo sapiens (intelligent man). There was a time when Homo sapiens existed at the same time as others of its genus. They are now extinct. Our nearest "relatives" in the genus Homo were: heidelbergensis, neanderthalensis, erectus, and floresiensis. If I am correct, there is a spectrum, or range, to human behavior, ranging from what is less human to more human. Since archaic Homo sapiens was inferior as a species when compared to modern Homo sapiens, the obvious conclusion is that there is always room for improvement in the humanity of the species. I will describe the lesser human as reflecting the archaic traits of the primitive still surviving in our species. The spectrum raises the question, how do we fully humanize the lesser human? The question seems reasonable, since there are those living among us who have behaved less human than humanity at its ideal best.

            Modern society has developed institutional "treatments" for lesser human behavior in our species. For example, the penal system supposedly aims at the rehabilitation of inmates, those whose criminal behavior has necessitated their incarceration away from Homo sapiens' society at large. The goal of incarceration is to return them to society fully capable of following society's rules—in other words to "humanize" them, since their behavior previously was less than what we think of as ideally human. Society also recognizes that children need to be educated; that is, they should learn how to function and behave in human society. The public-school system in America is dedicated to the purpose of producing well-rounded human beings who will assume their places in society as responsible citizens. Both these institutions in modern society have the full support of Christian Churches as being necessary to society's wellbeing. In other words, the modern Christian Church, as a societal institution, has a vested interest in the humanization of society in the sense I have described it above. What the institutional church does in its religious educational programs is as much for the purpose of humanizing its members as it is for the purpose of religionizing them, since the ideal church member is also expected to be a responsible member of human society.

            It might be surprising to learn that the idea of humanizing society had not occurred to Christians before the fourth century. The early Christians thought of themselves as already belonging to the "household of God" (Eph 2:12) rather than belonging to the present world, for that world was passing away (1 Cor 7:31). The time remaining to them had grown very short (1 Cor 7:29). They stood, they believed, at the very end of time, and hence the usual conventions of first-century society were no longer applicable (1 Cor 7:1-38). The end of the world was coming in their own lifetime (1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 10:11). Hence, they were not concerned with the betterment of human society. In fact, the Apostle Paul thought that even the created universe would need to be transformed to "be freed from its shackles of mortality" in order to "enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:19-25, Revised English Bible).

The New Testament writers used a collective adjective to describe aspects of being human. A human being (a person) was an anthrōpos, and the adjective used to describe our species was anthrōpinos, "human" (1 Cor 2:13, 4:3, 10:13, Rom 6:19, James 3:7, Acts 17:25, 1 Pet 2:13). They never wrote, however, about humanizing an anthropos. In fact, their ancient texts do not even contain a word for "humanizing." The ancient Greeks, however, did have such a word. The word "to humanize" (exanthrōpizō) is used, for example, by Plutarch in a slightly different way than I have used it above. Plutarch described a humanizing of the divine: that is "degrading things divine to a human level."2 On the other hand, I am describing degrees in the quality of human behavior and am arguing for the need to humanize the lesser human as revealed by their negative behavior.

The earliest Christians, on the other hand, were primarily interested in divinizing the human. Here is how the author of 2 Peter puts it:

[God's] divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4 NRSV).

The Revised English Bible translates the italicized phrase above this way "and may come to share in the very being of God."

Only the most conservative of religious groups have retained the intense end-time expectation. The more moderate have adjusted to life in this world and explain the delay in the end as the author of Second Peter does: the end is delayed because of the "forbearance of the Lord, not wishing that any should perish" (2 Pet 3:3-10). Folks, this little blue and white planet so far as anyone knows is the only place in the universe that can sustain life, we had better get serious in caring for it and helping the lesser humans among us to achieve their full potential as human beings. This planet is all we have. And in my view a planet in the hand is worth two heavens in the mind.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Hedrick, "From the Jesus Tradition: On Becoming and Being Human," Unmasking Biblical Faiths. The Marginal Relevance of the Bible for Contemporary Religious Faith (Cascade: Eugene, OR, 2019), 57-58; see also, "On Being Human in the Contemporary World," ibid., 55-56.

2"Isis and Osiris" in F. C. Babbit, Plutarch's Moralia (Loeb Classical Library, 1962), 5.55-56 (360). Plutarch (AD 46 to after 119) was a philosopher and priest of Apollo at the God's cult center in Delphi, Greece.

Monday, September 21, 2020

We are Citizen-Soldiers, Mr. Trump!*

We consider ourselves winners rather than “losers” and “suckers.”2 Although I will admit that from the perspective of a man alleged to have inherited millions from his father, I might have looked like a loser in 1953. After one year at a Baptist college in Mississippi,3 I enlisted in the U. S. Army in May of 1953 as a Pvt E-1 during the hostilities of the Korean Conflict. Some months later (July 1953), while I was in Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, military leaders signed a “cease-fire” order at Panmunjom. A few months later as the honor graduate of an Army Leadership School at Ft Lee, Virginia, I was given my choice of area of assignment. I chose the European Theater, where I served the rest of my initial three years of military obligation in Germany at Headquarters Southern Area Command (with five years reserve duty remaining to my enlistment). The rest of my class was assigned to the Far East Command (Korea). I returned from Europe in 1956 with the GI Bill in hand and a wife (now of 65 years), who was pregnant with our first child and we headed back to college. Supported by the GI Bill I completed college in 1958 (B. A.) and Theological Seminary in 1962 (B. D.) in California. While serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Needles, California (1962-65), I applied for and received a direct commission from the President as a Reserve Commissioned Officer (Chaplain) on the 8th of September 1964. Why did I join the Army again? I wanted to serve my country—and besides I liked the professionalism and camaraderie of military life.

Volunteers who choose to continue their military service as soldiers in the active reserve force think of themselves as citizen-soldiers. They work in their civilian occupations or careers, but one weekend each month they put on the uniform and train in their MOS.4 At least two weeks every year they serve a tour of active duty working at the military job they trained to do. Citizen-soldiers are required to take additional time away from civilian jobs to go through military schools to qualify for promotion and retention in the service, which again takes them away from family and civilian jobs. In addition, they may also be called up to active duty for special tours anywhere in the world where the military needs their skills. They are paid commensurate with their rank and if they elect to continue this demanding schedule for at least 20 years, upon retirement they are paid a retirement stipend, receive medical coverage for life for them and their spouse, and all the other benefits that active duty soldiers receive. In the event of a national emergency, like the Roman farmer, Cincinnatus,5 they are subject to “activation” to serve wherever the military assigns them for the duration of the war or the duration of the emergency. I was activated for Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and served 7 months as a Colonel (Chaplain) in the Personnel Office of the Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon (Washington), to which I was assigned as a Mobilization Designee in reserve status. This meant leaving my family and civilian occupation abruptly in the middle of the academic year. I was a tenured faculty member at Missouri State University, and the university had to cover my classes at the last moment. My salary and benefits at the university stopped and I and my family were completely dependent on the Army for salary and medical benefits. My service to the country came at the cost of a disruption to my academic career and to my family (I left behind a wife with a severely broken ankle). When hostilities began, I had no idea how long the war and separation from home would last.

Citizen-soldiers are members of the National Guard and the U. S. Military Reserve that serve as a ready reserve force for the U. S. Military in times of National emergency.6 To understand why they do it, Mr. Trump, one must first understand patriotism. I have found that career soldiers, both Regulars and Reserve, are motivated to choose a profession of arms out of a sense of patriotism; they continue patriotically serving their country from a sense of professionalism. Still don’t get it? Ask a soldier!

Charles W. Hedrick
Chaplain (Colonel), USAR, retired

*This essay is one of those rare occasions where a current issue has motivated me to stray into politics. It has nothing to do with religion except that the author is a retired U. S. Army Chaplain with thirty years’ service.

2It has been confirmed by several different media outlets that President Trump referred to members of the military who are killed in the course of their service as “losers” and “suckers.” This is the article that started the flap:

3Since I had no financial resources to continue my education the next fall, I enlisted in the Army to secure the educational benefits of the GI Bill—an excellent choice for me.

4MOS, Military Occupational Specialty.

5Cincinnatus was a Roman patrician, statesman, and military leader of the early Roman Republic who was called from his plow to serve the Roman State. At the end of the crisis he returned to his plow.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Is "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself" Something Jesus taught?

It seems likely to me that Jesus knew the Scripture “love your neighbor as yourself.” It was part of the legal code of ancient Israelite religion (Lev 19:18), and other Judeans familiar with the Scriptures surely would have known it. In ancient Israel, however, the neighbor was a fellow-Israelite (Deut 15:1-3; Lev 19:17-18). This definition of neighbor was expanded in Leviticus to include foreigners who came to dwell with the Israelites (Lev 19:33-34). It seems likely that Jesus was aware that the obligation of “loving the neighbor” also included foreigners in their midst. The issue, however, should not be decided on whether he knew the Scripture, but on how well it fitted his ideas and attitudes. Is it something he might have taught?

The Jesus Seminar voted several times on the saying and gave it a weighted average of gray,1 which meant “Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own.”2 Unfortunately the Seminar did not vote on the saying Lev 19:18 by itself, but rather they considered it as a package with Deut 6:4-5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut 6:5) as one of the two chief commandments of the law. There was a mail-in vote in 1989 on two of the three occurrences of the “chief commandments” appearing in the gospels: for Matt 22:37-40 and Luke 10:27 (Red, 0; Pink, 33; Gray, 60; Black, 7). At the University of Redlands in 1986 there was a vote on Mark 12:28-34 (Red, 11; Pink, 28; Gray, 22; Black, 39). At the University of Notre Dame also in 1986 there was again a vote on Mark 12:28-34 (Red, 4; Pink, 32; Gray, 28; Black, 36).

Paul (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:9, 10) and James (2:8) knew the saying, “love your neighbor as yourself,” but they do not cite Jesus as their source. It seems more likely that they were familiar with the saying through the Israelite Scriptures. Luke, however, seems to think that the saying fitted the attitudes of Jesus by associating it (Luke 10:25-29, 36-37) with the story Jesus told about a robbery and assault on the Jericho road (Luke 10:30-35). From my perspective Luke’s reading of the story is simply misguided. The story is an exaggeration of what it meant to be a righteous man in late Judaism: “a righteous man risks his life and living for the nobodies of the world.”3 The story has little to do with loving neighbors. But from Luke’s perspective the story reflected an attitude toward others similar with that found in the saying about loving the neighbor.

Surely it is not a wrong thing to love one’s neighbor, even defined as one’s “own people.” Paul even thought that loving the neighbor fulfilled the whole law (Rom 13:8-10)! But loving the neighbor, however defined, does not go far enough. Thus Paul (Rom 13:8a: “owe no one anything except to love one another”) and James (Jas 2:1-9: “show no partiality”) expanded the horizon of the saying “love one’s neighbor” to include one’s fellow human being (an attitude also shared by Jesus in Luke 6:32, which implies that love must be extended beyond one’s own kind); and Jesus expanded the horizon of the saying even further to include love for enemies (Luke 6:27b and Matt 5:43-44).4 Thus, these three ideas, loving one’s neighbor (narrowly defined), loving one’s fellow human being (broadly defined), and loving one’s enemy come together under the obligation to love others. It seems inevitable that Jesus would have taught all three concepts.

While the saying “love your neighbor as yourself” fails to meet the criteria of dissimilarity and multiple attestation, it may be considered a saying of Jesus under the criterion of coherence.5 “Love your neighbor as yourself” is an idea that is consistent with Jesus’ attitudes on love of others, and as such deserves a pink rating; that is to say: “Jesus probably taught something like this.”

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1The weighted averages ranged from a high of 0.42 to a low of 0.35: The Jesus Seminar, “Voting Records. Sorted by Group Parallels by Weighted Averages,” Forum 6.3-4 (September/December,1990), 299-352 (319).

2Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 36; Jesus Seminar, “Voting Records. Sorted by Gospels, by Weighted Averages,” Forum 6.3-4, 319.

3Hedrick, Parables as Poetic Fictions. The Creative Voice of Jesus (Peabody. MA: Hendrickson, 1994; reprint, Wipf and Stock, 2005), 116 (93-116).

4Hedrick, The Wisdom of Jesus. Between the Sages of Israel and the Apostles of the Church (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2014), 87-88.

5The Criterion of Coherence states: “material from the earliest stratum of the Jesus tradition may be original, provided it coheres with material established as original by means of the criterion of dissimilarity.” For a short discussion of the criteria for determining authenticity see Hedrick, When History and Faith Collide. Studying Jesus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999; reprint, Wipf and Stock, 2013), 135-52 (143-44).

Sunday, August 23, 2020

What is the Meaning of Life?

Who among us, at one time or another, has not pondered what the meaning of life is, or asked: Why am I here? What’s life all about? These latter two questions are asking about the life of the individual. This essay, however, looks primarily at the issue from the “perspective” of Life itself.

The dictionary gives two definitions for “mean” used as a verb: (1) to mean is to have in mind as a purpose, to intend; (2) to mean is to intend to convey, to show or indicate, to signify. These definitions lead me to the question: what does Life intend or signify, if anything? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question. Here is what I think.

According to scientists, the first stirrings of Life on earth were humble:

In those early days lightning and ultraviolet light from the sun were breaking apart the simple hydrogen-rich molecules of the primitive atmosphere, the fragments spontaneously recombining into more and more complex molecules. The products of this early chemistry were dissolved in the ocean, forming a kind of organic soup of gradually increasing complexity, until one day, quite by accident, a molecule arose that was able to make crude copies of itself, using as building blocks other molecules in the soup.1

This description of origin distantly echoes elements of the Genesis account of creation:

The earth was without form and void, darkness was upon the face of the deep…a firmament in the midst of the waters…separate the waters from the waters…earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed…waters bring forth swarms of living creatures… (Gen 1:2, 6, 11, 20 RSV) 

When no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up…a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground…formed man of dust from the ground. (Gen 2:4-7 RSV)

The biblical account of creation is a hypothesis and the scientific account is a theory. A hypothesis is a “working hunch or single tentative guess”; a theory is “a broader, more definitely established conceptual scheme. The difference between theory and hypothesis is a matter of degree.”2

However Life on earth may have happened, from inception it must have been self-programmed to survive, continue, and progress—judging by the fact that our earth continues to thrive with Life of all kinds. We Homo sapiens joined this great stream of Life millions of years later.3 Our species emerged from the great stream of Life without being consulted and I doubt we will be consulted about life’s ending or the fading away of our species.

One does well to ponder the meaning of Life, even though there is no definitive answer providing insight into our own personal living of Life. Initially, we pick up a little guidance from the influence of parents, and from that beginning we must make do. The simple truth is we live, and Life will become whatever we make of it.

These observations lead me to think of Life as a spectrum; at one end of the spectrum the meaning of Life is simply the living of it; that is to say: staying alive, or simply existing. At the other end of the spectrum the meaning of Life is living it well, or poorly. Within limits we get to decide which of these three options it will be. Living Life well is whatever one decides “well” is. It might be, as many believe, serving God (if God there be) or helping others; or it might be selling more beer than one’s nearest competitor. Living it poorly translates into frustrating the aggressiveness of life. Life aims at constant movement and improvement. Anything that one does to frustrate or block that intention is living Life poorly. Suicide, war, poverty, ignorance, racism, and other anti-life initiatives all frustrate the bountifulness and progress of Life.

For conscious life-forms4 what to do with life becomes an existential choice; non-conscious life-forms5 progress over time, or not, by means of natural selection, the process by which organisms change based on genes provided by “parents” and natural circumstances. Life’s prime directive for both life-forms is staying alive and progressing in the great stream of life. It is interesting to me that this areligious directive is not unlike that reflected in Genesis: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…over every living thing that moves upon the earth (Gen 1:28).6

Perhaps Life’s prime directive will become clearer if one asks oneself what is the meaning of life during a world-wide pandemic? The answer can only be: staying alive!

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 30-31. Here is another description of life’s origins:,and%20are%20classified%20as%20inanimate.

2Louise B. Young, Exploring the Universe (2nd ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 23.


4Conscious life-forms: capable of thought, will, design, or perception.

5Non-conscious life-forms:

6This prime directive is repeated to Noah with some significant differences (Gen 9:3-7). The formula, “Be fruitful and multiply,” is also found at: Gen 28:3; 35:11; 48:4; Lev 26:9; Jer 23:3.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Greek New Testament is a Virtual Text

The word “virtual” means that a thing “is so in essence or effect, although not formally or actually.”1 Thus, the Greek New Testament (GNT) that a scholar pulls off the shelf is a modern construct comprised of readings derived from over 5000 ancient manuscripts, which have been critically compared to each other and evaluated in order to determine what the original author’s copy (the autograph) of an ancient manuscript might have read, according to the scholars who made the GNT. Our modern GNT never existed as such in antiquity in any one gathering of ancient manuscripts. It exists only virtually in that its readings are from different ancient manuscripts. There can be any number of GNT since different groups of scholars evaluate the data differently.

Frequently translations of the GNT used by translators differ from the critical text they are translating. Luke 22:42-45, the prayer of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, is one such example: Verses 43-44, however, are omitted by the Revised Standard Version and an American Translation, both of which read:

“Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will but thine, be done.” And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow. (RSV, Luke 22:42, 45)

The following translations, however, include verses 42-43 in their translations: New International Version, James Moffat translation, New American Bible, The Berkeley Version, the New Living Translation:

“Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. (NIV, Luke 22:42-45)

            The Nestle/Aland text (28th revised edition of the GNT) includes Luke 22:42-43 in the text in double square brackets. Double square brackets indicate that the enclosed words are thought not to be a part of the original text, but they are rather very early insertions into the text. The rationale of the Editorial Committee that established the Nestle/Aland GNT was as follows: The absence of these verses in ancient and widely diversified manuscripts, as well as their being marked with asterisks and obeli (signifying spuriousness) by scribes in other manuscripts, and their having been transferred to Matthew’s Gospel (after 26:39) in a few manuscripts strongly suggests that they were not part of the original text of Luke. The presence of Luke 22:43-44 in many manuscripts, some ancient, and as well as their citation by Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and many other Fathers of the church is proof of their antiquity. The Committee did not think it probable that the two verses were deleted by scribes who felt that the account of Jesus being overwhelmed with human weakness was incompatible with their belief that he shared the divine omnipotence of the Father. The Committee thought it more probable that they were added to Luke from an early source, oral or written, of extra canonical traditions. In view of the evident antiquity of the two verses and their importance to the textual tradition a majority of the committee decided to retain the words in the text but to enclose them in double square brackets.2

            Specifically, how is the GNT a virtual text? The readings of the original author’s copy, the autograph, may exist somewhere among some 5000 Greek manuscripts dating 3rd century3 and later, but the best that scholars can do is make an intelligent guess at what the autograph might be, based on reason and logic. As this instance shows, however, even logic and reason are sometimes unable to achieve a definitive solution. One cannot look at the apparatus4 of the GNT without recognizing the relative value of the scholarly reconstructions and the challenge they present to the popular epithet of the New Testament, that it is the Word of God.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus

Missouri State University

1Oxford English Dictionary, Compact Edition, s.v., virtual (4th definition).

2This description is adapted from Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (4th ed. rev.; United Bible Societies, 2000), 151.

3There are a few manuscripts dated 2nd century: P52 (John 18:31-33. 37-38); P90 (John 18:36-19:1; 19:2-7); P77 (Matt 23:30-39); P98(?) (Rev 1:13-21); P104 (Matt 21:34-37; 21-43-45 [?]); *0189 (Acts 5:3-21). Two of these are dated 2nd/3rd century: P77; *0189.

4The apparatus of the GNT is the data listed at the bottom of the page noting the significant differences in readings between the ancient manuscripts.