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Conclusions Drawn from My Study of Didymus

Once I had solved the textual problems presented by the quotations of the New Testament in the writings of Didymus I could get to work on my project. It was painstaking. Very painstaking. One needs to be able to handle massive doses of boredom in order to do a project like this, many, many long hours looking at and dealing with mounds of textual minutia, day and week and month after day week and month. I don’t recommend it generally, unless you’re passionate for this kind of thing, as I was.

The many volumes of Didymus’s newly discovered writings had been very carefully produced and indexed. I could look up every quotation or paraphrase of the Gospels in all his writings. For each one I made an index card (this was before any of us had computers). Hundreds of these cards, obviously. And once I had made up a card for every quotation or paraphrase, then the real fun began.


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Who Cares?
Problems with the Textual Evidence from Didymus



  1. Robertus
    Robertus  August 22, 2013

    Yes, PTS has an exceptionally good library. In fact, that’s why I ended up in Princeton when I moved back from Europe. The current renovations are shaping up nicely as well.

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    RonaldTaska  August 22, 2013

    Looks like a hell of a lot of work to me.

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    RonaldTaska  August 22, 2013

    P.S. Did the Didymus quotations change your views about the Bible or the historical Jesus or change your personal theology in any significant ways?

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    RonaldTaska  August 23, 2013

    Did your Didymus work lead to any changes in any translation of the Bible?

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    James Chalmers  August 23, 2013

    A lot of drudgery, and what from perspective of the anti-scholar looks like the dullest, least important, most obscure topic imaginable. But then people do care (and if Jesus saves, they really must, and those who think he doesn’t should remember he founded the world’s greatest religion) exactly what the Bible says and how to get closest to the originals. And through all this tedium and scut work it emerges: the Alexandrian is confirmed to be the most reliable family, and the supposed early and late traditions merge into one–further reason, I guess, for relying on it. And Vaticanus is the very best of all–even Sinaiticus/P75 don’t quite come up to it.
    So when the editors of the RSV meet and haggle, this young Ehrman’s findings should be referred to. And we should all be grateful for those months or years of slogging through documents before they could be digitized.

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    JamesFouassier  August 23, 2013

    Do you subscribe to the theory that both Sinaticus and Vaticanus were a part of the 50 manuscripts ordered by Constantine to be produced by Eusibius (I think that;s who it was; or was it Athanasius?). If so, why would Vaticanus and Sinaticus differ enough for you to conclude that one was the “purer” Alexandrian text ?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 23, 2013

      No, I’ve never thought there was much reason to think these two just happened to be two of the fifty….

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    James Dowden  August 24, 2013

    So did Didymus have any particularly peculiar readings?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 24, 2013

      The most striking feature of his text is that he knew a story of the woman taken in adultery, which he says could be found in “some gospels” (not in several manuscripts of a Gospel). This is striking because the story — found in most manuscripts of John — is not in our earliest manuscripts of the fourth century, and is not part of the Alexandrian text. In an article I wrote about this long ago, I argued that Didymus knew the story in a different form from that found in later Bibles (based on his paraphrase of what was in the story).

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        LoganM76  August 27, 2013

        Sounds fascinating! I’d bet most of us here would like to hear more on that topic. In fact, perhaps a post just on the story of the woman taken in adultery? I’ve been curious to get a clear picture of how the story got into the NT. My understanding was that it wasn’t in the Greek texts, and got added as marginal note? But the fact that Didymus knew the story is really interesting. It must have been widely known before being brought into the NT. Any chance it could’ve been part of a lost and otherwise unknown gospel?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 27, 2013

          Yes, it would take a very long and detailed set of posts to explain what I think about it! But yes, I think it was in non-canonical gospels before it was in John. And in two different versions.

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