Acts 15 _Early Christians

Edward D. Andrews

There is evidence of universality in the early orthodox Christian manuscripts. While the elite of the Roman society preferred the roll or scroll for their pagan literature, the Christian preferred the codex book form. This is even the case with the roll or scroll THE EARLY CHRISTIAN COPYISTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENTbeing preferred for apocryphal apostate Christian literature as opposed to the codex. With the exception of P22,[1] all of the third/fourth-century canonical gospel manuscripts were papyrus codices. Going back to the second/third centuries, we also find that the Gospel codices were given some kind of special status, as they were all produced in standard sizes that were smaller than the other canonical NT books. The gospels were 11.5–14 cm in width and height at least 3 cm higher than width, while other NT books were 12–14 cm in width and height not quite twice that.  Even so, while the other NT books might have been a little taller, they all were easily carried. (Hill and Kruger 2012, 38) The codex came to be used toward the end of the first century, and the Christians were commonly using it after the first century.[2] The evidence for such a conclusion comes from our earliest Christian manuscripts that are still in existence, which were produced in codex form. The manuscripts include the Old Testament that was used by the Christians and the New Testament texts, as well as the Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, and other early Church Fathers.

THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENTAnother piece of evidence of universality in the early orthodox Christian manuscripts was the nomina sacra (Lat. “sacred names”), which were contractions and abbreviations of several frequently occurring divine names or titles in the early texts, the Greek counterparts of God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Son, Spirit, David, Cross, Mother, Father, Israel, Savior, Man, Jerusalem, and Heaven. (Metzger 1981, 36-37) Early on there was universality with the four divine names or titles God, Jesus, Christ, and Lord, to which were later added the other sacred names above. Even how the sacred names were to be contracted in the manuscripts was standardized and universal. It was decided early that regardless of whether sacred names were used in a sacred or mundane way, they were to be contracted. For example, whether the Greek kurios (Lord) was used in reference to the Son Jesus (sacred) as opposed to the master of a household (mundane/non-sacred), it was to be contracted. Another example of whether the Greek pater (Father/father) was used in reference to the Father (sacred) or a father in some narrative or parable (mundane/non-sacred), it was to be contracted. For example, in P66 (c. 200 C.E.),[3] kurios (“Lord”) is contracted through the entire manuscript whether it was sacred or mundane in its use. We have the same situation with pneuma (spirit) in P75 (c. 175-225 C.E.),[4] even when it is a reference to an evil or unclean spirit. This is evidence of a universal, systematic approach to the Christian canonical books, which shows a concern for the accuracy of the content and the handiness, convenience, and portability of the New Testament books in the latter half of the second-century C.E.[5]

The Reading Culture of Early Christianity

Textual scholar Larry Hurtado (Hill and Kruger 2012, 49) borrows an approach from William A. Johnson in his book Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire: A Study of Elite Communities, and I would like to take the liberty of borrowing this concept as well. Johnson, under the heading, CONTEXTUALIZING READING COMMUNITIES, writes, “The more proper goal, as I [Johnson] have argued, is to understand the particular reading cultures that obtained in antiquity, rather than to try to answer decontextualized questions that assume in ‘reading’ a clarity and simplicity it manifestly does not have.” (Johnson 2012 (Reprint), 14) Johnson focuses his reading culture on “‘the reading of Greek literary prose texts by the educated elite during the early empire (first and second centuries AD)’” (Hill and Kruger 2012, 49), just one of many surrounding reading cultures of the time. We are going to focus our attention on the reading culture of early Christianity, namely, the first three centuries. Just as the manuscript evidence above gave us proof of a universal approach of early Christianity to the publication of their canonical books, showing concern for the accuracy of the content, this will be an extension of that.

MISREPRESENTING JESUS_Third EditionWhat made Johnson’s work so appetizing for Hurtado is the Roman elite reading culture and how he demonstrated that their approach was actually designed to keep out anyone who could not handle the difficulty with which their reading community functioned. The Roman literary world had long had word separation within their texts, but the elite reading culture of the Roman world in the second and third centuries returned to scriptio continua (Lat. for “continuous script”), a style of writing without spaces or other marks between the words and sentences. This choice of writing style over others that were current and common, with spaces between words and sentences as well as punctuation, diacritical marks that indicate how words are to be pronounced, and distinguished letter case, is evidence that they were putting up roadblocks to keep the uneducated out of their elite reading culture.

This is even further evidenced when we consider that they ignored the codex and stayed with the rolls or scrolls that were held horizontally, with the text being read vertically. The text was in “columns ranging from 4.5 to 7.0 centimetres in width, about 15–25 letters per line, left and right justification, and about 15–25 centimetres in height, with about 1.5–2.5 centimetres spacing between columns. The letters were carefully written, calligraphic in better quality manuscripts, but with no spacing between words, little or no punctuation, and no demarcation of larger sense-units. The strict right-hand justification was achieved by ‘wrapping’ lines (to use a computer term), ending each line either with a given word or a syllable, and continuing with the next word or syllable on the next line, the column ‘organized as a tight phalanx of clear, distinct letters, each marching one after the other to form an impression of continuous flow, the letters forming a solid, narrow rectangle of written text, alternating with narrower bands of white space’.” (Hill and Kruger 2012, 50)

Another feature of this elite reading culture was the fact that they cared deeply about the elegant and beautiful or artistic handwriting that was pleasing to the eyes, but not as reader-friendly as the rounded, unadorned writing in the Christian texts. Certainly, the elite reading culture cared about the accuracy of the content in their texts as well, but it took a backseat to visually stimulating handwriting. The reader had the task of bringing to life this text with no sense breaks or punctuation.

The Early Christian Reading Culture

The early codex manuscripts present us a picture of early Christianity that was a book-buying, book-reading, and book-publishing culture unlike no other, as they turned to the book form, i.e. the codex, finding it handy, convenient, and portable. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude were moved along by the Holy Spirit, penning their books. The writings were then delivered and distributed by a trusted traveling companion, who then read it aloud to the Christian congregation(s).

Paul in his final greeting to the Ephesians writes, “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.” (Eph. 6:21-22, ESV) Paul tells the Christians in Colossae, “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.” (Col. 4:7-8, ESV) The first Christians were encouraged to read the Scriptures during their religious services and to discuss them. (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13; See Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14; Rev. 1:3)

S0-Called Agnostic Bible Scholars writes in Opposition to Christianity

The members of these early Christian congregations were from a wide-ranging spectrum; the poor, slaves, freedman (emancipated from slavery), male and female, old and young, children, workers, business owners, landowners, and even some from the wealthy segment of society. Generally, the powerful political leaders of the day and the very wealthy were missing from these Christian meetings. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Tim 4:13, UASV) Writing about 155 C.E., Justin Martyr says of the weekly Christian meetings, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.[6]

Gamble says that Justin Martyr’s words suggest what was typical in mid-second century weekly Christian meetings in Asia Minor and Rome; scholars agree that the reading of Scripture at Christian meetings, offering an exposition of what had been read, was common and likely universal in Justin’s day, the practice originating with the first-century Christians. (Gamble 1995, 151-152) By the end of the first century, it is likely that every Christian community in the then-known world had as many of the New Testament books as were available (excluding the Gospel of John, his three epistles, and the book of Revelation, since they were written between 95-98 C.E.). In addition, they would have had Old Testament books as well. These congregations would have had a number of readers who were responsible for the congregation’s library. Further, it is highly likely that many Christians themselves could read. In addition, it is likely that these assigned readers were also serving as scribes. These readers/scribes would likely have had the same training as the Jewish Sopherim (scribes), meaning that they possessed excellent reading, copying, translating, and interpreting skills. It might even have been that these were Jewish converts to Christianity, very familiar with the synagogue practice of copying manuscripts, studying the texts, and reading and interpreting the texts. As Comfort points out, ‘the relationship between scribes and readers is found in the subscription to 1 Peter and to 2 Peter in P72, wherein both places it says, “Peace to the one having written [i.e., the scribe] and to the one having read [i.e., the lector].’ As such, the scribe of P72 was asking for a blessing of God’s peace on the scribe [presumably himself] and on the lector. As such, the scribe knew that the publication of 1 Peter and 2 Peter was dependent on the twofold process–the copying of the text and the oral reading of it.”[7]

When we look at the evidence for the first three centuries of Christianity, we find that most early Christians were from a lower social stratum, a minority from the middle level, and a minute few from the upper levels of society. (Hill and Kruger 2012, 55) It would seem that the early Christian manuscripts were prepared for the early Christian reading culture. We have already spoken at length about the book form of the codex, as opposed to the roll or scroll with its continuous text. Unlike the elite reading culture that Johnson surveyed, the Christian reading culture was not aiming for what was pleasing to the eyes, i.e., elegant handwriting. The highest priority was creating a text that was accurate in content and reader-friendly. While the elite reading culture during this same period was creating texts designed to keep the uneducated out (too overwhelming for the average reader), the Christian texts were prepared in such a way that they placed fewer demands on the reader (more Christians could reach out to be readers), so as to bring this to a more diverse audience. If we are to understand fully early Christianity, the early reading culture, and their view of their text, we need to look to the early papyri and scribal activity, the patristic quotations, and any early attitudes that have been expressed about textual transmission.

The Early Cristian View of the Originals

Paul was the author of fourteen letters within the Greek New Testament.[8] Paul’s earliest letters were 1 Thessalonians (50 C.E.), 2 Thessalonians (51 C.E.), Galatians (50-52 C.E.), 1&2 Corinthians (55 C.E.), Romans (56 C.E.), Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (60-61 C.E.), Hebrews (61 C.E.), 1 Timothy, and Titus (61-64 C.E.). 2 Timothy was penned last, about 65 C.E. This means that the apostle Peter could have been aware of at least thirteen out of fourteen Pauline letters at the time of his penning 2 Peter in 64 C.E., in which he writes,

2 Peter 3:15-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. [bold is mine]

Notice that Peter speaks of Paul’s letters, referring to them as a collection. Thus, Peter is our earliest reference to Paul’s letters being gathered together as a collection. Peter also states that the letters were viewed as being on equal footing with the Hebrew Scriptures when he says that “the untaught and unstable distort” Paul’s letters as they do “the rest of the Scriptures.” Günther Zuntz was certain that there were a full collection Pauline letters by 100 C.E. (Zuntz 1953, 271-272) In 65 C.E.[9] Peter could say of Paul, “in all his letters,” and his readers would know who Paul was and of Paul’s many letters, as well as accept the idea that they were equal to the Hebrew Scriptures, which indicates that they were being collected among the churches.

1 Timothy 5:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” [bold is mine]

Notice that Paul says, “the Scripture says” (λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή), just before he quotes from two different Scriptures. The first half of the quote, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The Second half, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” seems to be from Luke 10:7. Here Paul is doing exactly what Peter did in the above at 2 Peter 3:16, placing the Gospel of Luke on par with the Hebrew Scriptures.

Some have tried to dismiss 1 Timothy 5:8 by saying that Paul was just quoting oral tradition, but that can hardly be the case when he says, “the Scripture says,” which requires a written source and it happens that we have such a source: the Gospel of Luke. Luke was written about 56-58 C.E. in Caesarea, and First Timothy was written about 61-64 C.E. in Macedonia. Then, there is the fact that Luke was a faithful traveling companion and co-worker of the apostle Paul. Luke was one of Paul’s closest traveling companions from about 49 C.E. until the time of Paul’s martyrdom. The Gospel of Luke was written just after the two of them returned from Paul’s third missionary journey, while Paul was imprisoned for two years at Caesarea, after which Paul was transferred to Rome in about 58 C.E. Other “scholars believe Luke wrote his Gospel and the book of Acts while in Rome with Paul during the apostle’s first Roman imprisonment. Apparently, Luke remained nearby or with Paul also during the apostle’s second Roman imprisonment. Shortly before his martyrdom, Paul wrote that ‘only Luke is with me’ (2 Tim. 4:11).”[10] Either way, Luke was a very close co-worker with Paul for almost twenty years. In fact, Luke’s writing shows evidence of Paul’s influence (Lu 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). We must remember that Luke was a first-rate historian, as well as being inspired. He says that he “investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out” (Lu 1:3). Regardless, the apostle Paul had access to Luke’s Gospel for many years before penning 1 Timothy, where it appears that he made a direct quote from what we know now as Luke 10:7, referring to it as Scripture.

The authority of the New Testament books is further confirmed by the use of the well-known phrase, “it is written.” So that we understand that when this phrase is used, it is a reference to the Scriptures of God, the inspired Word of God, it should be noted that the gospel writers themselves use the phrase “it is written” some forty times when referring to the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

The Epistle of Barnabas dates after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., but it dates before the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132 C.E. At Barn 4:14, we read, “let us be on guard lest we should be found to be, as it is written, ‘many called, but few chosen.’”[11] Immediately after using the phrase “it is written,” Barnabas quotes Jesus’ words found in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians dates to about 110 C.E. Poly 12:1 reads, “For I am convinced that you are all well trained in the sacred Scriptures and that nothing is hidden from you (something not granted to me). Only, as it is said in these Scriptures, ‘be angry but do not sin,’ and ‘do not let the sun set on your anger.’ Blessed is the one who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you.”[12] The first phrase “be angry but do not sin” is a quotation from Ephesians 4:26, where Paul is quoting Psalm 4:5. However, the latter part of the quote, “do not let the sun set on your anger” is Paul’s words alone. It is clear here that Polycarp is referring to both the Psalm and the book of Ephesians when he writes, “it is said in these Scriptures.”

Clement of Rome (c. 30-100 C.E.) penned two books: we focus on the second, An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), which dates to about 98-100 C.E. II Clement 2:4 reads, “And another Scripture says, ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”[13] Here Clement is quoting Mark 2:17 or Matt. 9:13, which is likely the earliest quotation of a New Testament passage as Scripture. In the Gospel of Mark and Matthew, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (ESV). II Clement 14:2 reads, “But if we do not do the will of the Lord, we will belong to those of whom the Scripture says, ‘My house has become a robbers’ den’” which is a quote from Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, and Luke 19:46, where Jesus himself is quoting Jeremiah 7:11 after cleansing the temple of greedy merchants.

Certainly, we can garner from this brief look at early Christianity’s view of Scriptures that the New Testament books were placed on the same footing as the Hebrew Scriptures quite early, starting with the words of Peter about the apostle Paul’s letters. Again, Justin Martyr tells us that at the early Christian meetings “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things” (1 Apology 67).[14] Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-108 C.E.), Theophilus of Antioch (d. 182 C.E.), and Tertullian (c. 155-240 C.E.) also spoke of the Prophets, the Law, and the Gospels as equally authoritative.

The Early Christian View of the Integrity of the Greek New Testament Originals

If the early Christians’ view of the New Testament books were on the same footing as the Hebrew Scriptures, then we would see them guarding the integrity of the New Testament in the same way the Old Testament authors and the scribes in ancient Israel guarded the Hebrew Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 4:2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

32 “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

There certainly were severe consequences, even death to some, if scribes or copyists were to add to or take away from God’s Word, disregarding these warnings. Eugene H. Merrill observes, “There is a principle of canonization here as well in that nothing is to be added to or subtracted from the word. This testifies to the fact that God himself is the originator of the covenant text and only he is capable of determining its content and extent.”[15]

Proverbs 30:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Do not add to His words,
Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

Duane A. Garrett tells us that “Verse 6 is an injunction against adding to God’s words similar to the injunctions found in Deut. 12:32 and Rev 22:18. It is noteworthy that this text does not warn the reader not to reject or take away from divine revelation; it is more concerned that no one supplements it. This is therefore not a warning to the unbelieving interpreter but rather to the believer. The temptation is to improve on the text if not by actually adding new material then by interpreting it in ways that make more of a passage’s teaching than is really there. It is what Paul called “going beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).[16]

The attitude of the Jewish people and their Hebrew Scriptures can be summed up in the words of Josephus, the first-century (37 – c.100 C.E.) Jewish historian, who wrote, “We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them.”[17] The longstanding view of the Jews toward the Hebrew Scriptures is very important, especially in view of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christian congregation. The apostle says, the Jews “were entrusted with the sayings[18] of God” (Rom. 3:1-2).

Galatians 3:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Brothers, I speak according to man:[19] even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

The letter from Paul to Galatians was penned about 50-52 C.E. Here Paul’s words in dealing with the covenant to Abraham and his descendants echo the words from the Law of Moses at Deuteronomy 4:2, when he says, “no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it,” i.e., “not add to… nor take away.” The covenant word of God was not to be altered.

Revelation 22:18-19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

The letter from John to the seven congregations was penned about 95 C.E. Kistemaker and Hendriksen write, “The solemn warning not to add to or detract from the words of this book is common in ancient literature. For instance, Moses warns the Israelites not to add to or subtract from the decrees and laws God gave them (Deut. 4:2; 12:32). This formula was attached to documents much the same as modern manuscripts are protected by copyright laws. In addition, curses were added in the form of a conditional sentence, ‘If anyone adds or takes away anything from this book, a curse will rest upon him.’ Paul wrote a similar condemnation when he told the Galatians that if anyone preached a gospel which was not the gospel of Christ, ‘let him be eternally condemned’ (Gal. 1:6–8). Now Jesus pronounces a curse on anyone who distorts his message.”[20]

The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) dates to about 100 C.E. At 4:13, it reads, “You must not forsake the Lord’s commandments, but must guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything.”[21] This author is drawing on the command in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32.[22] The point here is that while the author makes use of “the Lord” (i.e., Jehovah, that is, the Father) in Deut. 4:2, 12:32, he is actually referring to Jesus’ teaching found in the Gospels. Therefore, the Gospels and more specifically Jesus’ teaching are equal to the Hebrew Scriptures.

Papias of Hierapolis about 135 C.E. records what he had to tell about the details surrounding the personal life and ministry of each of the apostles. Papias 3:3-4 says, “I will not hesitate to set down … everything I carefully learned then from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else’s commandments, but those who remember the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the truth itself. And if by chance someone who had been a follower of the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders—what Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples.”[23]

Papias says of Mark’s Gospel: “Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered.” Further confirming the Gospel’s accuracy, Papias continues: “Consequently Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his one concern not to omit anything which he heard or to make any false statement in them.”[24] This is a clear reference to Deuteronomy 4:2 while referencing Mark’s Gospel, again showing that Christians viewed the New Testament books as being equal to the Hebrew Scriptures. Papias offers testimony that Matthew initially penned his Gospel in the Hebrew language. Papias says, “So Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each person interpreted them as best he could.”[25] As the overseer of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, Papias was in a position to enquire and carefully learn from the elders throughout the church at the time, establishing the authenticity and divine inspiration of the New Testament. Sadly, though, only scanty fragments of the writings of Papias survived.

 The Epistle of Barnabas, dated about 130 C.E., declares, “You shall guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything” (Barn 19:11).[26] Here again, Barnabas is drawing on Deuteronomy 4:2 as he expresses his concern about the Word of God, as he speaks about “the way of light” in chapter 19 of his letter, making multiple references to New Testament teachings and principles.

Dionysius of Corinth wrote in about 170 C.E. about those who had dared to alter his own writings. He writes, “For I wrote letters when the brethren requested me to write. And these letters the apostles of the devil have filled with tares [false information], taking away some things and adding others, for whom a woe is in store. It is not wonderful, then, if some have attempted to adulterate the Lord’s writings when they have formed designs against those which are not such.”[27] Here Dionysius is referring to Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, noting the curse or a woe that is in store for altering his own writings, and all the more so for daring to alter the Scriptures themselves. The reference to adulterating “the Lord’s writings” is a reference to the New Testament writings– “A probable, though not exclusive, reference to Marcion, for he was by no means the only one of that age that interpolated and mutilated the works of the apostles to fit his theories. Apostolic works—true and false—circulated in great numbers, and were made the basis for the speculations and moral requirements of many of the heretical schools of the second century.”[28]

If there were no big concern over the integrity of the New Testament originals, we would not see early church leaders showing such concern. The principle of not adding nor taking away found in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 can be applied to just one word, or even a single number in the case of Irenaeus in about 180 C.E., who complained about the number 666 found in Revelation 13:18 being changed to 616. Irenaeus wrote, “Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies [of the Apocalypse], and those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony [to it]; while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, [if reckoned] according to the Greek mode of calculation by [the value of] the letters contained in it, will amount to six hundred and sixty and six.”[29] The passage ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς σπουδαίοις καὶ ἀρχαἰοις ἀντιγράφοις (“in all the most approved and ancient copies”) shows that by then the autographs of the New Testament were not available, with various readings creeping into the manuscripts of the canonical books.

Irenaeus went on to let those guilty of willfully adding to or taking away from the Scriptures know that there will be a severe punishment. He wrote, “Now, as regards those who have done this in simplicity, and without evil intent, we are at liberty to assume that pardon will be granted them by God. But as for those who, for the sake of vainglory, lay it down for certain that names containing the spurious number are to be accepted, and affirm that this name, hit upon by themselves, is that of him who is to come; such persons shall not come forth without loss, because they have led into error both themselves and those who confided in them. Now, in the first place, it is loss to wander from the truth, and to imagine that as being the case which is not; then again, as there shall be no light punishment [inflicted] upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture.”[30] Here Irenaeus is referring to John’s warning in Revelation 22:18.

Again, the Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, dating to about 110 C.E., reads at 7:1, “For everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist [cf. 1 John 4:2-3]; and whoever does not acknowledge the testimony of the cross is of the devil [cf. 1 John 3:8]; and whoever twists the sayings of the Lord to suit his own sinful desires and claims that there is neither resurrection nor judgment—well, that person is the first-born of Satan.”[31] Of course, “the sayings of the Lord” come from the Gospels. Therefore, Polycarp was declaring a warning to anyone who would alter the Gospels. Some would argue that Polycarp was referring to oral traditions when he used the term “the sayings of the Lord” (τὰ λόγια τοῦ κυρίου), but this simply is not the case, since in the next verse he refers to these “sayings” (κυρίου) again and then quotes Matthew 6:13 and 26:41, where we find Matthew recording Jesus’ sayings.

We could cite much more quotations from early church leaders about their concern for the integrity of the New Testament originals being preserved. However, we can see from our limited look at early Christianity’s view of the Scriptures that the New Testament books were placed on the same footing as the Hebrew Scriptures from the very beginning. When we look at the first three centuries of Christianity, we find that the manuscripts were prepared for the reading culture of Christians, who placed the highest priority on disseminating a text that was accurate in content and reader-friendly. The Christian texts were prepared in such a way as to place the least demand on the reader, in order to bring the Scriptures to a more diverse audience.

Clearly, both Paul and Peter showed concern for their writings, as well as equating NT books other than their own with the Hebrew Scriptures in authority. Early on, the church leaders were very concerned about preserving the integrity of the original, down to the individual words. The papyri of the first three centuries after Christ provides evidence that most scribes (copyists) also cared about preserving the integrity of their exemplars, and did not seek to change or alter the wording. On the other hand, we would be misleading others and ourselves if we were to deny that a small minority of the copyists did freely choose to make alterations–as Colwell said for example, that the scribe of P45 worked “without any intention of exactly reproducing his source. He writes with great freedom, harmonizing, smoothing out, substituting almost whimsically.” However, the scribe who worked on P75 was a “disciplined scribe who writes with the intention of being careful and accurate.” Then again, Colwell said that P66 reflects “a scribe working with the intention of making a good copy, falling into careless errors, … but also under the control of some other person, or second standard, … It shows the supervision of a foreman, or a scribe turned proofreader.”[32]

Generally speaking, the early scribes were very concerned about the accuracy of their copying, but while some were more successful than others, every one of them–due to human imperfection–made some transcriptional errors at times which were unintentional (Matt. 27:11; Mark 6:51; 10:40; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 1:15; 1 Thess. 2:7; Heb. 12:15). We can also attribute human imperfection to intentional changes, purposeful scribal alterations, such as conflation (Luke 24:53; John 1:34; Rom. 3:32), interpolation (Mark 9:29; Lu 23:19, 34; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 15:51), and attempts to clarify the meaning of a text (1 Cor. 3:3) or to enhance a doctrinal position (1 John 5:7).

We can say that on a whole, the early church leaders valued the integrity of the original and the scribes valued the integrity of the exemplars which they were copying. In fact, the high value placed on the integrity of the original ironically led to some erroneous changes because scribes were prone at times to correct what they believed to be mistakes within the sacred text. Many modern textual scholars will tell their readers that the early copying period was “‘free’, ‘wild’, ‘in a state of flux’, ‘chaotic’, ‘a turbid textual morass.” (Hill and Kruger 2012, 10) The truth was actually the opposite. The church leaders valued the originals above all else, and the scribes saw their exemplars as master copies of those originals and reverentially feared to make any mistakes.

The goal of textual scholarship since the days of Erasmus in the sixteenth century has been to get back to the original, preserving the exact wording of the original twenty-seven New Testament books penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Jude, Peter, and Paul. However, this has not always proved to be the case with recent scholarship. Philip W. Comfort has been one of the leading outspoken proponents of the traditional goal of reconstructing the exact wording of the originals, and I quote the following observation by Comfort at length:

The time gap between the autographs and the earliest extant copies is quite close—no more than 100 years for most of the books of the New Testament. Thus, we are in a good position to recover most of the original wording of the Greek New Testament. Such optimism was held by the well-known textual critics of the nineteenth century—most notably, Samuel Tregelles, B. F. Westcott, and F. J. A. Hort, who, although acknowledging that we may never recover all of the original text of the New Testament books with absolute certainty, believed that the careful work of textual criticism could bring us extremely close. In the twentieth century, two eminent textual critics, Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland, affirmed this same purpose, and were instrumental in the production of the two critical editions of the Greek New Testament that are widely used today.

Tregelles, Hort, Metzger, and Aland, as well as Constantine von Tischendorf, the nineteenth-century scholar who famously discovered Codex Sinaiticus, all provided histories of the transmission of the New Testament text and methodologies for recovering the original wording. Their views of textual criticism were derived from their actual experience of working with manuscripts and doing textual criticism in preparing critical editions of the Greek New Testament. Successive generations of scholars, working with ever-increasing quantities of manuscripts (especially earlier ones) and refining their methodologies, have continued with the task of recovering the original wording of the Greek New Testament.

By contrast, a certain number of textual critics in recent years have abandoned the notion that the original wording of the Greek New Testament can ever be recovered. Let us take, for example, Bart Ehrman (author of The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture) and David Parker (author of The Living Text of the Gospels). Having analyzed their positions, J. K. Elliott writes, “Both [men] emphasize the living and therefore changing text of the New Testament and the needlessness and inappropriateness of trying to establish one immutable original text. The changeable text in all its variety is what we textual critics should be displaying” (1999, 17). Elliott then speaks for himself on the matter: “Despite my own published work in trying to prove the originality of the text in selected areas of textual variation, … I agree that the task of trying to establish the original words of the original authors with 100% certainty is impossible. More dominant in text critics’ thinking now is the need to plot the changes in the history of the text” (1999, 18).

Not one textual critic could or would ever say that any of the critical editions of the Greek New Testament replicates the original wording with 100 percent accuracy. But an accurate reconstruction has to be the goal of those who practice textual criticism as classically defined. To veer from this is to stray from the essential task of textual criticism. It is an illuminating exercise “to plot the changes in the history of the text,” but this assumes a known starting point. And what can that starting point be if not the original text? In analyzing Ehrman’s book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Silva notes this same paradox: “Although this book is appealed to in support of blurring the notion of an original text, there is hardly a page in that book that does not in fact mention such a text or assume its accessibility …. Ehrman’s book is unimaginable unless he can identify an initial form of the text that can be differentiated from a later alteration” (2002, 149). In short, one cannot speak about the text being corrupted if there is not an original text to be corrupted.

I am not against reconstructing the history of the text. In fact, I devoted many years to studying all the early Greek New Testament manuscripts (those dated before A.D. 300) and compiling a fresh edition of them in The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (coedited with David Barrett). This work provides a representative sampling of New Testament books that were actually read by Christians in the earliest centuries of the church. But whatever historical insights we may gain by studying the varying manuscript traditions as texts unto themselves, this is no reason to abandon the goal of producing the best critical edition possible, one that most likely replicates the original wording. Thus, I echo Silva’s comments entirely, when he says: “I would like to affirm—not only with Hort, but with practically all students of ancient documents—that the recovery of the original text (i.e., the text in its initial form, prior to the alterations produced in the copying process) remains the primary task of textual criticism” (2002, 149).[33]

Both authors of this work would echo the words of Silva and Comfort, in that the primary task of a textual scholar is determining the exact wording of the original text that was published by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Jude, Peter, and Paul. Even if we acknowledge that we can never say with absolute certainty that we have established the original wording one hundred percent, this should always be the goal. Imagine any other field in life–the certainty of a successful heart transplant by a surgeon, the certainty of astronauts going to the moon and back, or just the certainty that our automobile will get us to our destination, and the like. Do we want a heart surgeon who aims for eighty-percent certainty in a successful operation on us? Most objective textual scholars would agree that between the 1881 Westcott and Hort text and the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies Greek text, we are in the very high nineties, if not ninety-nine percent, as to the percentage of text reproducing the original wording of the twenty-seven New Testament books. Of course, the ongoing objective is to reach one hundred percent.

Literacy in the Roman Empire and the Early Church

The question of reading, writing, and literacy levels in the Roman Empire and the early Church is not as settled or decided as secular scholarship might like us to believe. We can start by noting that there is a difference between what we deem literate today, and what the situation was in the Roman Empire and the first three centuries of the Church. Being literate today means having the ability to read and write, while literacy in the Roman Empire mainly applied to those who could read. The ability to write was not necessarily assumed.[34] Secular sources suggest that the literacy level in the Greco-Roman world was rarely if ever more than twenty percent. Scholars argue that the average was possibly not much more than ten percent in the Roman Empire. They point out that it varied within different regions, which however would be true for any period. They further argue that in the western provinces literacy never rose above five percent.[35]

Some Bible scholars are unfamiliar with the reading culture of early Christianity. In many cases, they fail to mention the overabundance of evidence for a literate culture between 50 B.C.E. and 325 C.E. What is more; there is considerable evidence that the early Christians’ literacy rates were higher than those of the Roman Empire in general. Bible scholar Christopher D. Stanley offers us the commonly accepted misconception about the literacy level among the early Christians:

Literacy levels were low in antiquity, access to books was limited, and most non-Jews had little or no prior knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures. Of course, Gentile Christians who had been Jewish sympathizers (Luke’s “God-fearers”) would have been exposed to the Jewish Scriptures, but we have no reason to think that their literacy levels differed appreciably from their contemporaries.[36]

In the Greco-Roman world, education was voluntary. Nevertheless, we do know that elementary schools were widespread. The archaeological evidence, especially the papyri, actually point to a literacy rate in the Hellenistic-Roman world that was higher than at any other time outside modern history. We will touch on the literacy level of early Christianity numerous times throughout this book, and will briefly look at more evidence here in this chapter.



From the days of Gaius Octavius, who became the first emperor of Rome (thereafter known as Caesar Augustus), to almost two centuries after the execution of Christ (59 B.C.E. to 222 C.E.), the Roman Empire published and distributed a regular news publication for the city of Rome. The Latin phrase Acta Diurna (Daily Acts/Events or Daily Public Records) were the official notices from Rome, a sort of Daily Roman Times. Much of the news out of the city of Rome was also published broadly across the Empire as well.[37] Acta Diurna introduced the expression “publicare et propagare,” meaning, “Make public and propagate.” The expression was placed at the end of the news release, which was to both Roman citizens and non-citizens. There was a daily papyrus newspaper, which informed all who could read of the daily events. It was distributed throughout Rome, in such places as the public bathhouses,[38] as well as message boards.

Pliny the Elder (23 C.E. – 79 C.E.) was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as a naval and army commander. Pliny informs us that there were different grades of papyrus, such as the low-grade Saitic paper, so called from the city of that name in Lower Egypt, as well as the taeniotic paper, possibly from Alexandria.[39] These low-grade papyruses were likely used for the public notices, which would also explain why we have never discovered a single piece of the Acta Diurna (Daily Events). This Daily Newspaper of Rome covered such important information as royal or senatorial decrees and events, military and political news, deaths, crimes, trials, as well as economic insights. It also offered social information like wedding and divorces, births, festivals, astrology, human-interest stories, and even gossip. On this, Brian J. Wright writes,

The Latin term Acta in its broadest sense means ‘the things that have been done,’[40] or more simply, ‘events’. Without any additional qualifiers, these events could – and did – include public and private activities; secular and sacred matters; government and civilian affairs. With additional qualifiers, these events had a narrower and even more specialized meaning. The Acta Militaria refers to published military events,[41] the Acta Senatus indicates published senatorial events,[42] and the Acta Triumphorum denotes the published triumphs of emperors.[43] The main qualifier for the purposes of this study is diurna, which simply means ‘daily’. Thus, the Acta Diurna represents published ‘daily events’.[44] Though there are no authentic fragments of these specific kinds of acta,[45] and thus no physical features to discuss, there are ample references to them in ancient authors (again, by various nomenclature). Both Tacitus and Suetonius used these Acta as sources for information about the Empire’s earlier emperors when they were writing their histories of Rome.[46] (Wright 2016)[47]

Moreover, it should be noted that the Roman Acta Diurna (Daily Acts/Events or Daily Public Records) was not the only newspaper of its kind during this period of 59 B.C.E. to about 222 C.E. Around 225 C.E., we find a Roman official ordering several mayors in the Hermopolite region of Egypt to post copies of his letter ‘in well-known places so that all may be aware of his pronouncements’ (P. Oxy. 2705). When we consider these things on face value, they indicate that notices were being written so that the populace could be updated about current affairs by reading them, not having them read to them.

We can conclude from these facts that reading, writing, and the dissemination of information was far wider than has long been held, with a much higher basic literacy level, which then adds to our understanding of the writing, publication, and distribution of the Greek New Testament letters that were read in the Christian congregations throughout the Roman Empire (Col. 4:46; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13; Jam. 1:1; Rev. 1:3). Evidence indicates a far higher level of basic literacy throughout the Roman Empire than thought, as well as Christians who originated primarily as Jewish converts who prided themselves on their ability to read and write, coupled with a message that they were commanded to evangelize to the whole inhabited earth (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8). As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that Christians were able to take over the Roman power that had a military unlike any other up to that time, by growing the faith in a pagan world. They went from 120 disciples at Pentecost in 33 C.E. to over one million disciples a century later.

Jewish education under this same period was significantly different as to the content, though in some respects they had stages similar to Greco-Roman education. The primary objective of Jewish education was knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. The parents were the first and primary educators of their Jewish children, especially their earlier elementary education in reading, writing, and understanding the Torah (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14-15). We read briefly of young Jesus as he grew up in Nazareth. He would have received his education from three sources: Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, would have played a major role in his education. Paul said that young Timothy was trained in “the sacred writings” by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Certainly, if Timothy received education in the Scriptures from his mother though his Father was a Greek (Acts 16:1), no doubt Jesus did as well from Joseph during his childhood. Jesus would have also received education in the Scriptures from the attendant at the synagogue, which was a place of instruction.

We know that another source of knowledge and wisdom for Jesus was the divine Father. Jesus said, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me,” i.e., the Father (John 7:16, UASV). Mark 1:22 reads, “And they were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (UASV).

The third century Rabbi Judah b. Tema outlines the stages of Jewish education. “At five years old one is fit for the Scripture, at ten years for Mishnah, at thirteen for the commandments, at fifteen for Talmud, at eighteen for marriage, at twenty for retribution (a vocation).”[48] Again, the home was the primary place of Jewish education in reading, writing, and the memorization of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the first century, there were a number of primary schools in Jerusalem but it was not until the second century C.E. that they grew more numerous outside of Jerusalem. Children began their studies as early as age 4-5 in primary school Beth Sefer (“house of reading”). Both boys and girls could attend the class in the synagogue, or in an adjoining room. (Ferguson 2003, 112)

First-century Jewish historian Josephus (30-100 C.E.) said of the Jewish life, “Our principle care of all is this, to educate our children well.”[49] In speaking of what the Mosaic Law commands, he wrote, “It also commands us to bring those children up in learning and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with the acts of their predecessors, in order to their imitation of them, and that they may be nourished up in the laws from their infancy, and might neither transgress them, nor yet have any pretense for their ignorance of them.”[50] We have even more texts, especially from the later Rabbis, which make similar statements. If we take these comments at face value, it is evidence of a reading culture among the Jews that is surely higher than that of the Roman Empire, which was certainly higher than the secular sources claim.

Five hundred years from now, what if we were to ask the historian, “how well could the Amish in America read and write?” It would be difficult to be accurate because they teach themselves. It is 2017, and they have one-room county schoolhouses with chalkboards, which remind us of the pioneer days in America, or some Laura Ingalls Wilder novels. The historian might find slate chalkboards and tablets that are blank, so they could only guess at the level of the reading and writing. Would it surprise anyone that this highly religious community, who value the ability to read their religious books, very similar to the first-century Jewish community, can speak two to three languages (Dutch or German and English), as well as read and write well?

When we see signs of a reading environment, it suggests a populace with at least a basic reading level. In the first-century Roman Empire, there were hundreds of public inscriptions of dedications, imperial decrees, lists of names, laws, and regulation, and even directions. Even the gravestones of the time were meant to do more than mark the name of the person. Some had lines of poetry; others had threats and curses for any who even thought of robbing the graves. The painstaking time taken to publish these things indicates the expectation that the public is able to read them, even lowly grave robbers.

We have over a half million papyrus documents (likely there were millions more that did not survive) in garbage dumps in the dry sands of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. This is but one city in the entirety of the Roman Empire. Are we to believe that Oxyrhynchus is the exception, and some of the biggest cities, such as Rome, Corinth, Athens, Pergamum, Ephesus, Smyrna, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage, which numbered anywhere from one hundred thousand to over a million in their population, did not have equal or greater writings discarded in their dumps? Then we should consider the temples and the libraries that boasted of tens of thousands of books. Reportedly, by the first century C.E., the Alexandrian library housed one million scrolls. In fact, Mark Antony took 200,000 scrolls from the library at Pergamum to replenish the Alexandrian library for Cleopatra. Because of moisture damage and they’re being written on perishable material, we cannot discover the documents of these centers of education as we have in the dry sands of Egypt. Yet, should we for a moment believe that their garbage dumps saw any fewer books than were discovered at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt?

We have such great quantities of written material as to suggest a much higher literacy level than most are willing to accept. Only ten percent of the Oxyrhynchus papyri have been investigated, but they offer insight that indicates a more literate society, not less. Many men and women who wrote had scribes pen their words, indicating that they were literate by what they said, while their signatures at the end of letters show only that some of them had poor penmanship. We should not judge their literacy level by the limitations of their penmanship. We must remember, in that period, that it was reading that dictated one’s level of literacy.

We also have the Vindolanda Writing Tablets. “The writing tablets are perhaps Vindolanda’s greatest discovery and have been previously voted by experts and the public alike as ‘Britain’s Top Treasure’. Delicate, wafer-thin slivers of wood covered in spidery ink writing, the tablets were found in the oxygen-free deposits on and around the floors of the deeply buried early wooden forts at Vindolanda and are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain. Like postcards from the past, the tablets allow a rare insight into the real lives of people living and working at Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall nearly 2000 years ago. They provide a fascinating and compelling insight into private and military lives from a very different time but are hauntingly familiar, covering matters from birthdays through to underpants! Have we changed that much in two millennia?”[51]

The Vindolanda Writing Tablets, like the papyri in the dry sands of Oxyrhynchus, offer us insights into the literacy of the Roman officers who we would expect to be literate, but also indicate the literacy of the low-ranking soldiers, wives, friends, and servants. The handwriting of these tablets ranges from writing that is barely legible, to the professional hand. We have to ask ourselves the same question: if these common soldiers had some basic writing skills, some even to the document hand level, and even a few at the professional hand, what are we to think of the literacy level of the Roman Empire?[52] Must we keep disputing the obvious? If the evidence suggests, as it does, a far higher literacy level than a mere twenty percent throughout the Roman Empire, what are we to expect from the Christian community that grew out of the Jewish populace that so valued reading, writing, and memorization, that was commissioned with evangelizing the entire inhabited earth?





Christian Living

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Waging War is a guide to start the youth with the most basic information and work pages to the culmination of all of the facts, scripture, and their newly gained insight to offer a more clear picture of where they are and how to change their lives for the better. Every chapter will have …


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Christian Apologetics


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Translation and Textual Criticism

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Journey with Jesus through the Message of Mark is an insightful and engaging survey of Mark‘s Gospel, exploring each major section of the text along with key themes. It is a work that can be enjoyed by laypersons as well as pastors and teachers. Pastors will find the abundant use …

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Christian Fiction

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Rachael Garrison knows all the shrewd ways to successfully close multi-million-dollar real estate deals with her father’s famous New York real estate enterprise. But beyond her savvy to rake in huge deals is her premonition that an impending global takeover of the world’s financial wealth is on the horizon by evil leaders of The Great Ten Nations. From New York City to the Irish Hills of Michigan, and into the streets of Detroit her life takes on enormous purpose as

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[1] CONTENTS: John 15:25–16:2, 21–32

[2] T. C. Skeat, Zeitschrift für Papyrus und Epigraphic 102 (1994): 263–68.

[3] CONTENTS: John 1:1–6:11; 6:35–14:26, 29–30; 15:2–26; 16:2–4, 6–7; 16:10–20:20, 22–23; 20:25–21:9, 12, 17.

[4] CONTENTS: Luke 3:18–22; 3:33–4:2; 4:34–5:10; 5:37–6:4; 6:10–7:32, 35–39, 41–43; 7:46–9:2; 9:4–17:15; 17:19–18:18; 22:4–24:53; John 1:1–11:45, 48–57; 12:3–13:1, 8–10; 14:8–29; 15:7–8.

[5] What we have learned here and in the whole of THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT undermine what secular scholars such as Walter Bauer, Robert A. Kraft, and agnostic Bart D. Ehrman maintain. These argue that Gnosticism (a false philosophy, speculation, and pagan mysticism of apostate Christianity), Montanism (a heresy based on the teachings of the charismatic prophet Montanus), and Marcionism (condemned as a Christian heresy that rejected the Old Testament) were just alternative forms of Christianity, just as organized and fast-growing if not faster. They have maintained, moreover, that the form of Christianity in Rome prevailed in the fourth century and became the standard, causing these groups and others to be seen as apostate forms of Christianity. This is not the case. First, the early evidence is that these groups were only tiny apostate offshoots of true Christianity, who broke away, abandoning the truth. Second, they were busy arguing amongst themselves over doctrine, as opposed to making disciples. Third, the apocryphal non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, the so-called Egerton Gospel, and the Gospel of Judas were composed in the second century C.E. by no apostle or anyone associating directly with Jesus, not to mention that they all indicate that they were private manuscripts, having no earmarks that they were meant to be universal. Finally, if these heresies and their apocryphal writings were just as far-reaching as Orthodox Christianity, why are there no citations of them in the second/third century apostolic fathers? Only the Gospel of Thomas has two early third-century citations. If they were as impactful as the canonical gospels, they should have been cited as much. The early papyri do not support Walter Bauer, Robert A. Kraft, and Bart D. Ehrman’s in their views of early Christianity.

[6] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 186.

[7] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 52.

[8] This author accepts that Paul is the author of the book of Hebrews. For further information see the CPH Blog article, Who Authored the Book of Hebrews: A Defense for Pauline Authorship

(Wilkins) I disagree, mainly because of the Greek style of Hebrews. Nevertheless I respect Mr. Andrew’s position and note that he is in good company.

[9] 2 Peter generally is wrongly dated to about 100-125 C.E. (e.g. J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude: Introduction and Commentary; J. D. Mayor, the Epistle of St. Jude and the Epistle of Second Peter; D. J. Harrington, Jude and 2 Peter). Other Bible scholars date 2 Peter to 80-90 C.E. (e.g., R. Bauckham Jude, 2 Peter; B. Reicke, The Epistle of James, Peter and Jude). We should begin with a date of about 64 C.E. for 2 Peter. Then, the Greek makes it apparent that the author is a contemporary of the apostle Paul because it suggests that Paul is speaking to the churches at the time of this writing. The Greek ἐν πάσαις ἐπιστολαῖς λαλῶν (“in all letters [he] speaking”) strongly implies such. The author of the document says that he is “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:1, NASB). He refers to this as “the second letter I am writing to you” (2 Pet. 3:1, NASB). The author clearly states that he was an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, at which only Peter, James, and John were present (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13; Lu 9:28–36; See 2 Pet. 1:16-21). The author mentions that Jesus foretold his death, “knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me” (2 Pet. 1:14; John 21:18, 19.). The argument that the style is different from 1 Peter is moot because the subject and the purpose in writing were different. The implication of the phrases “in all his letters” and “the rest of the Scriptures” is that many of Paul’s letters (thirteen of them) were viewed as “Scripture” by the first-century Christian congregation and should not be “twisted” or “distorted.” In addition, Second Peter was regarded as canonical by a number of authorities prior to the Third Council of Carthage (i.e., Irenaeus of Asia Minor c. 180 C.E., Origen of Alexandria c. 230 C.E., Eusebius of Palestine c. 320 C.E., Cyril of Jerusalem c. 348 C.E., Athanasius of Alexandria c. 367 C.E., Epiphanius of Palestine c. 368 C.E., Gregory Nazianzus of Asia Minor c. 370 C.E., Philaster of Italy c. 383 C.E., Jerome of Italy c. 394 C.E., and Augustine of N. Africa c. 397 C.E.).

[10] T. R. McNeal, “Luke,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1056–1057.

[11] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 373.

[12] Ibid., 294.

[13] Ibid., 141.

[14] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 186.

[15] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 229.

[16] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 237.

[17] Josephus, The Life/Against Apion, vol. 1, LCL, ed. by H. St. J. Thackeray (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 177–181.

[18] Sayings: (Gr. logia, on [only in the plural]) A saying or message, usually short, especially divine, gathered into a collection–Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11.

[19] Or in terms of human relations; or according to a human perspective; or using a human illustration

[20] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Book of Revelation, vol. 20, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 594.

[21] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 351.

[22] (LXX 13:1.)

[23] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 735.

[24] Ibid, 739-40.

[25] Ibid, 741.

[26] Ibid, 437.

[27] Dionysius of Corinth, “Fragments from a Letter to the Roman Church,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. B. P. Pratten, vol. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 765.

[28] Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890).

[29] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 558.

[30] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 559.

[31] Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 289.

[32] Ernest Colwell, “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75,” in Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament, New Testament Tools and Studies 9 (Leiden: Brill, 1969), 114–21.

[33] Philip Comfort, NEW TESTAMENT TEXT AND TRANSLATUION COMMENTARY: Commentary on the variant readings of the ancient New Testament manuscripts and how they relate to the major English translations (Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), Page xi.

[34] See Eric A. Havelock, The Literate Revolution in Greece and its Cultural Consequences (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982), 38-59.

[35] William V. Harris, Ancient literacy (Harvard University Press, 1989) 328.

[36] Christopher D. Stanley, Arguing with Scripture: The Rhetoric of Quotations in the Letters of Paul (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 3.

[37] Propertius 2.7.17–18; Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia 35.2.11; Epigrams 7.17; Epigrams 5.5; Tristia 4.9.20-25; Tristia 4.10.130.

[38] The largest of these was the Baths of Diocletian, which could hold up to 3,000 bathers.

[39] Pliny, Natural History, book 13, ch, 23

[40] John Percy Vyvian Dacre and Andrew William Lintott, ‘Acta’, in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th ed., ed. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford: UP, 2012), 10.

[41] The first-century papyrus PSI 13.1307 is one example. For further details, see J. F. Gilliam, ‘Notes on PSI 1307 and 1308’, Classical Philology 47.1 (1952), 29-31. Cf. Sergio Daris, ‘Osservazioni AD alcuni papyri di carattere militare’, Aegyptus 38 (1958), 151-58, esp. 157-58; Sergio Daris, ‘Note di lessico e di onomastica militare’, Aegyptus 44 (1964), 47-51. For other examples from inscriptions and ancient authors see M. Léon Renier, Inscriptions Romaines de l’Algérie (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1855); J. F. Gilliam, ‘Some Military Papyri from Dura’, in Yale Classical Studies: Volume 11, ed. Harry M. Hubbell (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1950), 171-252, esp. 209–252.

[42] The bulletin of daily news was almost exclusively a private affair before Julius Caesar made it regular and official in 59 BC. Although private publications continued, he ordered that these occasionally published Acta were to be published daily for mass consumption under the authority of the government from the court reporters’ notes (e.g. Seneca the Younger Apocolocyntosis 9). After Julius Caesar’s death, a custom arose that future emperors (and their magistrates every January) were to swear to keep and respect all previous Acta Senatus from their predecessors (e.g. Dio Cassius 47.48; cf. 37.20); with a few exceptions (e.g. Dio Cassius 56.33). For inscriptional evidence of how emperors dealt with the acta of their predecessors, see Benjamin Wesley Kicks, ‘The Process of Imperial Decision-Making from Augustus to Trajan’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers, 2011), 86-91, the case study regarding the Epistula Domitiani ad Falerienses. For additional details and texts, see, among others, William Smith, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin, eds., A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1890); Harry Thurston Peck, ed., Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities (New York: Cooper Square, 1965), 14-15.

[43] Pliny, Naturalis historia.  37.6.

[44] Too much emphasis should not be placed on the word ‘daily’ since it is possible that it could mean ‘everyday’ events, as in ‘current events.’

[45] I say ‘authentic’ here because some forgeries have been published. For example, eleven fragments of the Acta Diurna were published in 1615 by Pighius, and defended by Dodwell. Though the fragments were exposed as a fifteenth century forgery (by Wesseling, Ernesti et al.), some scholars still attempted to defend their authenticity at least as far as 1844; with Lieberkühn. For more details and background to this story, see Wilhelm Sigismund Teuffel, A History of Roman Literature: Volume One, The Republican Period, trans. Wilhelm Wagner (London: George Bell and Sons, 1873), 381. Cf. Hermann L. G. Heinze, ‘ De Spuriis Actorum Diurnorum Fragmentis Undecim: Fasciculus Prior’ (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Greifswald, 1860), 11-24; Andrew Lintott, ‘Acta Antiquissima: A Week in the History of the Roman Republic,’ Papers of the British School at Rome 54 (1986), 213-28.

[46] A. W. Mosley, ‘Historical Reporting in the Ancient World’, NTS 12.1 (1965), 10-26.

[47] COMING FALL 2017

Brian J. Wright, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into
Early Christian Reading Practices
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017).

[48] Robert Henry Charles, ed., Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 710.

[49] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).

[50] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).

[51] Vindolanda Writing Tablets – Roman Vindolanda and Roman .., (accessed March 23, 2017).

[52] (Bowman 1998, 82-99)