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
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.
Luke 22.44 has Jesus in agony, his sweat like “clots of blood.” When this was included it helped to counter the view that Jesus was not flesh and blood, as some groups thought. I am reasonably certain it was not in either the book the Marcionites used nor the “closer to orthodox” version Tertullian used against the Marcionites. Chapters 40-42 in Tertullian’s “Against Marcion,” is about the events of the Passion and didn’t mention this passage, though to a great extent these chapters make a great deal out of Jesus and his body and blood being real, which apparently Marcionites and other groups did not believe. It is improbable Tertullian would have not have used this little tidbit, had it been in the copy of either Tertullian or Marcion about his intense agony and sweat. The writer was combatting Docetism in those chapters. Indeed, Docetism was one of several “theological” views of the Marcionites Tertullian was attacking. Had Tertullian’s copy contained it and the Marcionites not contained it, the typical charge would be that Marcion “expunged” it. Had both copies contained it, it would be yet another “Aha” moment for Tertullian, as when in chapter 50 he used the Lord’s Supper for a proof (earlier in Luke/Evangelion 22) or in chapter 52, when he used Jesus dying (spirit leaving him) and remaining on the cross (a body), from Luke 23.46-55. Using the surrounding passages to refute Marcion and missing this one tells me he probably didn’t have it in either his or Marcion’s copy. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t in other copies.
Justin is probably the earliest attestation, from Trypho, 103, when he used it in relation to, 'All my bones are poured out and dispersed like water; my heart has become like wax, melting in the midst of my belly,” from Ps. 22.14 or 15 (depending on translation), to call Luke 22.44 a prophecy realized. Seems like a stretch. Irenaeus used it in Against Heresies, book 2, as a proof text against Docetists. Bear with me for a second. Tertullian is associated with Carthage, Irenaeus with France, and I believe Justin was active in Asia Minor before ending up in Rome. I would have to believe that, since each copy of “authoritative” writings was “handmade,” to some extent there would be differences in copies from different areas.) I’m not even sure if, when vss. 43-44 were added, it had anything to do with Docetism, but instead to incorporate a messenger from heaven to provide him a sign of strength a “spirit person” might receive from God.
It seems to me like it was added, though it makes a great simile. I wonder if that’s where the idiom “sweating blood” derives or whether it was in use during the time.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
That was book four of Against Marcion. (I inadvertently left it out. I've spent so much time with books 4 & 5 I sometimes assume...)
Help me think through the matter of verbal memory vs. behavioral imitation and their relative contributions to historical accuracy about Jesus?
It seems to me that three factors work against the theory that we have accurate verbal memories:
1. Only 3% or so of the population was literate. The Jesus Seminar estimated that as many as 20 years went by before memories were written down.
2. Even in Romans we can see that 20-25 years after Jesus' death, his followers still had intense expectations of the soon coming of the Christ.
3. Your article indicates that we only have have preserved, even as late as the second century, a few manuscript verses from a synoptic gospel (all Matthew).
The great scholar Crossan has written that he is often not sure how to compare memory and imitation (e.g., "Blessed are the poor!"), but he is sure that imitation was a very strong force from the earliest times. He concludes that The continuity between Jesus and his first companions is less verbal memory and more imitation of attitudes.(The Essential Jesus, 22).
My question: Do you think that your article contributes to this line of reasoning? Do you think that the "virtual" result of scholarly pursuit contributes more to verbal memory theory or imitation of attitudes theory, or is it simply a neutral activity looking on over the fray?
Good afternoon Gene,
With respect to your #3 I think that one cannot rule out that other manuscripts were written in the early period but they simply did not survive for one reason or another.
Crossan's Idea: I have enormous respect for Dom as a scholar, but must respectfully disagree. It seems to me that "imitation of attitudes" must include the memory. How does one know what to imitate unless one remembers things he said, his attitude about things and how he acted (his behaviors).
With respect to my essay: hopefully it was a dispassionate sifting of the evidence while looking back neutrally over what probably transpired.
Thank you for the observations. I didn't mean to suggest that memory is ruled out, and I don't think Crossan did either. Memory becomes involved in the recall of a pattern which is named attitude; the memory of a certain type is formed by side by side living which may or may not include specific verbal recall. For example, I know that my mother encouraged my brother and I to obtain a higher education, but I would be at a loss to name any specific comment; as a matter of fact, I don't actually remember any specific comment. but the money was there, the encouragement was there, filling out the college application was there, etc. So, if I wanted to write a story about this, I might say that I found a letter from my mother saying, "I want you and your brother to go to college." The story would be false, but the attitude found therein would be an accurate picture of a lot of things she said and did.
I tend to think that this type of analysis can be applied fruitfully to the Jesus story.
The section “Orality and Translation” in the book “The Essential Jesus” points out that memory for precise sayings likely doesn’t happen, which is what contemporary studies of memory (since the late nineteenth century) have found, but the “deeper continuity” he attributes to imitation I feel goes a bit awry, from what I studied about group dynamics (primarily in Psy. of Leadership, Industrial Psy, and a ULI course and from what I have noticed, being in a variety of groups when the “leader of the pack” so to speak changes). There is a convergence to the goals and aspirations of the one who leads the group at any specific time. Whilst it may have been Jesus for a short length of time, unless one attributes supernatural leadership abilities to Jesus (or a succession of “holy ones” who have maintained without blemish his attitude), I see the subsequent leaders adding, subtracting and mutating their views into what eventually became known as the sayings or deeds, the “gospels” of Jesus. Certainly this is true of the Paulines and the Gospel of John. Even in primarily oral cultures, sociologists who have studied their stories for over a generation or more have seen changes in the stories over time, to fit the zeitgeist. (That is from Joanna Dewey, either from “The First Century Oral-Written World: Some Implications for Understanding the Gospel of John.” Seminar Paper from Spring 2006, from Jesus in the Johannine Tradition. Westminster John Knox. 2001 p. 439-52, or “Mark, A Really Good Story, same Papers. I can’t find the notebook with those papers right now.) While Crossan is accurate concerning memory, I think he might go a tad past evidence, especially if the gospels were written between forty and eighty years later, with a devastating war in the middle that surely destroyed continuity.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Good Evening Charlie and Gene and Dennis,
1) What year did a copy of what we'd recognize as the "GNT" emerge? Was it the King James bible in 1611? Before then, common lay people had no access to a GNT, did they?
2) What manuscript did the early Catholic popes use to study the Greek scriptures? Also- did the Catholic church recognize the validity of the King James bible?
3) Someone, somewhere, at some point decided that the GNT is in fact the word of God... And this decree has been shoved down the throats of millions of "believers" all over the globe. Did this decree originate in Rome?
4) From reading your discussion about memory and precise sayings and oral translation... There can be no doubt that the divine being you and I were taught to seek, revere, obey, and worship is based solely upon someone's memory. So we basically worship a memory. (and not upon real time eye witness accounts)
How much stock do you put in your own memory- how reliable and trustworthy is it? I'm not comfortable basing my religious beliefs upon other people's memories- am I being unreasonable? Elizabeth
Good Morning Elizabeth,
1. According to Bruce Metzger the first printed Greek New Testament was part of a Polyglot Bible by Ximenes de Cisneros in 1514. The first Greek NT to be published was by Erasmus. It was the Textus Receptus published in 1516 and is the Greek text from which the King James Version was made in 1611, (Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 95ff.
2 I would imagine that they would have used Jerome's Latin Vulgate.
3. When did the Bible become the Word of God? See Hedrick, Unmasking Biblical Faiths, 87-97. From what I found it did not originate at Rome, rather it was a protestant invention.
Your conclusion: I generally trust my memory, but I keep extensive notes, and a calendar, because I am occasionally/frequently wrong. But in the case of Jesus of Nazareth everything we have is based on memory.
The kind of memory I'm talking about is perhaps more like muscle memory. One spends time with someone else and has a considerable number of experiences across time which create a consistent impression called an attitude, which later on when spoken or written down probably only contains a "core/gist" interpretation of the original event. The Jesus Seminar used the words "core" and "gist" when voting (Funk, The Acts of Jesus, 26).
I have a two questions pertaining to imitation of attitudes:
How does the relatively low correlation between attitudes and behavior factor into imitation?
Where is there evidence that “Many of Jesus’ early companions adopted a lifestyle like his own. They dressed as he did, like destitute beggars, but rather than begging, they brought free healing to the homes and hamlets of Galilee (etc) and “...they continued to do so after his execution.” (Crossan, p. 22). Galilee is rarely mentioned biblically after the gospels, not at all in the Paulines and only briefly in Acts of the Apostles, I think.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Thanks for pushing me on this matter.
The gospels are what they are. The two broad possibilities in my view are a fictional story grounded in the imaginings of a religiously needy group or a delayed report of the experience of persons who were uniquely influenced by a driven and compelling personality.
I think looking at the interpersonal experiences of one's own life are valuable for evidence that attitudes define a person. But it's always a mixed bag. If ten people ask me for money and I give ten times then my attitude is clear, but suppose I give six, five, or four times; when does "generosity" stop being my attitude? It seems like the biblical writers don't really report that kind of thinking. Attitudes like "love you enemy" aren't neatly defined in terms of situations, conditions, and severity. Perhaps the overarching attitude here is " engage in frustrating exaggeration and ambiguity that drives your neighbor crazy."
The gospels are in a unique form and are their own evidence. I'm not sure that any admired person has followers who completely adopt his/her attitudes. What we find in the gospels, simply by the fact they exist, is probably a sampling of imitated attitudes that had a certain kind of lasting power. But there is a considerable amount of consistency, word and deed, in thinking about Jesus as a driven person with some type of transformational agenda, both social and religious. I've spelled that out the best I could in a manuscript that I previously forwarded to several members of this group.
One reason I was asking is because I was looking closely at Mt. 5. 3-10. To me it seems to echo other lists, in particular Psalm 146 with a few echoes of Job 29.12-17 or 5.10-15. (Ancient Near East inscriptions also attribute this transcendent peace, shalom, to the actions of kings are also found.) Is this the attitude of a specific historical person or is Jewish or ancient Near East theme that permeates the cultures? It is rewrapped in wonderful lyric construction I think in Matthew, but had it not its Greek lyrical qualities, would it be unique to one individual? Job is soliloquizing his theme of why bad happens to good people who have helped the poor, helped the orphan, gladdened the heart of the widow, the sick and the stranger. In the story he is God’s unique “blameless and upright man,” like Jesus. Psalm 146 (cf. Job 5.10-15) tends to have a similar list attributed to God (justice, feeding the hungry, setting prisoners free, healing, helping the orphan, widow and stranger). The difference in the two examples and Mt. 5.3-10 is the response to those who persecute in verse 10, which seems to be the opposite of the retaliation in the other examples. It is, however, the attitude of the Cynic of the time. (“A nice part of being a Cynic comes when you have to be beaten like an ass, and throughout the beating you have to love those who are beating you as though you were father or brother to them,” attributed to Epictetus.) Verse 10 reflects an understanding of non-retaliation similar to the Cynic, which I would think would be one of self-preservation in a land occupied by some real sticklers for order. (As a former slave, Epictetus would also understand this.) The attitude toward helping the oppressed seems similar to me in both Testaments. This helps me determine that some people had this attitude, but it doesn’t reflect one unique individual. It seems a part of the milieu, or at least the literature purporting to.
Another thought relating to those passages. There is no motivation for an “apocalypse” when stomachs are full and no impetus to believe “the day of the Lord” will come if there is no hope.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
My current view follows:
I don't know of any "historical" material where Jesus is described as talking about "transcendent peace" or why bad things happen to good people. There is nothing about setting prisoners free or helping the orphan, widow or stranger unless they were among the street folks invited for dinner. In his story about a widow her role was trying to manipulate the law. Although the cynics had their way of loving an enemy through self-denial, Jesus is not described as a self-denial person. He may have been a person with goal-oriented passion, as per his stories, but the kingdom seemed to be associated more with the potential of the present than a future event. There are passages about ditching anxiety, but I don't remember anything specifically about hope which seems to be silently understood.
There is no way to "prove" Jesus, but what we know is sufficiently unique to make me pay attention.
The initial "sermon" of Jesus in Luke's gospel was about the aforementioned, from Isaiah 61. One can pick at nits and argue about whether orphan, widow or stranger were terms used or whether the words were blind, lame, lepers, deaf, dead or poor (Mt. 11.5), i.e., which were better words for the disenfranchised, but to argue that thematically these didn’t suffer the same plight in the world, is something with which I would argue.
I was, of course, thinking of the "criterion of dissimilarity," about the variance from emphases of Palestinian Judaism and about how that doesn't seem to make much sense in quite a bit of the gospels. "We" actually know nothing about a historical Jesus. It is all a matter of what certain criteria consider "probable." And, that isn't as sure as those who thought the world flat must've realized when they didn't fall off the other side.
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Dennis, for some reason my initial response didn't go through!
I'm sitting here smiling because we've had a version of this discussion many times since we became internet friends in 2002 in groups formed to discuss the Jesus Seminar.
You wrote: "It is all a matter of what certain criteria consider probable."
My reply: Yes! And the criteria I've outlined make sense to me at the "probable" level. Others no doubt will have a "possible" or "no way" response.
By the way, do you still hold to the theory that Paul wrote mythology of the Christ first and that the gospels are derived therefrom. (I Hope I haven't misremembered, though I am grazing the edge of senility.)
I think you have misremembered. That is the so-called "mythicist" view I have always disagreed with. I see what I have read from those quarters as pseudo-scholarship. I see and have the complete millennium all the Paulines as written after the Jewish Roman War of the first century, a view based at first - in those days - largely on writings of the Dutch Radicals like Van Manen, as well as Romans 9-11, the figure of Paul as a "legend," especially in Phil and the Corinthians, and other reasons far too numerous to mention.
Maybe this will pique your memory. I saw (and see) the Jesus movement beginning with the gospel of Mark as an attempt to both give a reason and to give hope to a population devastated from the war. I might be the only person in the world who has come to that conclusion, but nothing in the last twenty years has compelled me, though I have read a myriad of "Q" books, Paul "biographies," etc. that has changed those basic views. It just "makes sense" to me!
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Gene, to finish,
My present computer has quite a bit of what I wrote from the early ‘00’s. 2005 stands out. I do remember I changed my views on certain matters, like existence of “Q,” Thomas as early and the dating of the Paulines. (I’m looking at an 80,000 word book I wrote in 2005 that examines these changes and the rationale for them in my thought.) But, I have never thought the mythicist view was credible... It seemed the other way around. The mythicist view has the Paulines as preceding the gospels, and that just doesn’t make sense to me. I need to try to boot up my old computer, on which I saved both my JS and Hodos responses to refresh my memory about when I changed my views on the dating of the Paulines, but it was prior to 2005. In 2005 I said I had formerly accepted some of the “Pauline” text as early, but whether this millennium or the last I am not sure. I now think I was mistaken about priority. I’ll send you my essay “What the Paulines Are,” if you’d like, along with the criteria I used to assess it, looking at every "blessed" (pun intended) word, Greek and translation, of the “authentic” Paulines. It is part of a book I’ve been working on for some years that probably runs over 1000 pages at present. (It is in sections that I’ll probably never finish.)
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Thanks Dennis. There always needs to be a check on memory to keep a conversation accurate. I do now remember your theory of Mark's goal to provide hope by means of the Jesus story with Paul coming afterward.
Good Morning Gene,
I understand that you have just published a new book. Would you be willing to tell our readers a little about the book?
Thanks for this opportunity. The book puts into practice some of the principles of approaching the gospel material that I've talked about in this blog. The book can be found and browsed at the Amazon.com Book Store.
Title: Man With an Attitude: A Handbook of Life Challenges from the Jesus Story
Subtitle: A Personal Growth and Parenting Guide
Formatted for both individual use and group education settings
Origin: Seems to be the result in retirement of life long preparation as a pastor and psychologist.
Surprise length may be attractive: 88 pages. I'm hoping that the brevity will increase accessibility to the human Jesus.
Dedicated to those who pay attention to the humanity of Jesus
Summary: The book gathers together the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar (Words of Jesus, 1993: Acts of Jesus, 1998) regarding what is historically authentic, organizes them into eight basic attitudes, and challenges the reader to apply them to his/her own life.
I see the book as a life tool for both the religious and the non-religious!
Attitudes: Make your life count, Practice goal-oriented passion, Put others first in all behavioral decisions, Give encouragement to the hopeless, Give money with extreme generously to those in need, Be flexible in the use of tradition, Replace anxiety with trust, Implement a plan for the future.
Good Evening All,
Since Charlie aptly stated in his last sentence "But in the case of Jesus of Nazareth everything we have is based on memory"... I highly recommend Gene's timely and easy to read book which is based upon the general attitudes of Jesus- not rule and regulations and commandments from on high. In other words- since there are no eyewitness accounts, all we have to document Jesus's teachings are gathered from the ethers of someone's distant, scattered memory. And we all know how reliable our memories are... Which is why I enjoyed Gene's book because it focuses upon general, relatable, and relevant attiudes that we can apply in our lives in a personal way. (It's not a bunch of do's and don'ts.) In today's terms- we get the overall "vibe" of Jesus, while leaving the doctrinal details to be debated and hashed out by scholars and theologians. Still, it's very well sourced and scripturally documented in a way that simple folk like me can understand.
Charlie thank you for mentioning Gene's book! You and Gene write very conversationally and use a tone that does not talk "down" to your readers but speaks to them as equals. (even though we're not!) And we appreciate that. Elizabeth
Thank you Elizabeth,
I hope the mention helps some. As to who is an equal, the only advantage Gene and I may have is having read a little more than others. That situation is rapidly reversed if we are talking about an area in which we have not had time to read more extensively.
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