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Do Later Manuscript Discoveries Ever Support Proposed Interpolations?

It is fine, I think, for a post on the blog every now and then to get technical and into the nitty-gritty of scholarship.  And so I have no qualms about the following.

Yesterday I posted a response to a question about “textual emendation” by Jan Krans, a New Testament textual expert who teaches in the Netherlands.  The same blog reader had a second question that I have also directed to Jan, and here I give both the question and the answer.

The question has to do with my claim that there are some words/passages in the New Testament that *look* like they were added after the original was published, but for which we have NO manuscripts that lack the words/passage (so that there is no hard evidence that they were added after the text was originally published).   But has it ever happened that after a scholar suggested such a thing, a manuscript has turned up that provides actual evidence?  Here’s the interesting question about that, and Jan’s intriguing response.


Do you know of any case where an interpolation has become a corruption, i.e. a part of the text that many scholars believed was not “original,” but was not missing from any of the known manuscripts, was found to be missing from a subsequently discovered manuscript?


This question asks for conjectures for which attestation has been discovered after their publication, and then specifically conjectures that involve an omission (when the corruption is an interpolation, the conjecture is an omission). Whether interpolation has to involve a larger omission is left out of consideration. The issue of wider support for the conjectures will be addressed later.

If some less interesting cases are excluded, as well as those where the critic should or could have known about manuscript attestation, but did not bother looking for any—Friedrich Blass is known for this practice—, the following can be listed (in almost all cases, more information can be found by entering the cj numbers in the Amsterdam Database at NTVMR):

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Are There Passages Where *Every* NT Manuscript Gives the “Wrong” Reading?



  1. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  August 22, 2017

    So, if I understand, there is predictive value to the methods by which (at least some) scholars propose emendations to the available mss. In other words, textual criticism can rightly be called a science.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 24, 2017

      Practitioners often call it both a science and an art.

  2. Avatar
    Seeker1952  August 22, 2017

    In broad terms is it accurate to say that the synoptics preserve the historical Jesus’s apocalypticism but put even more emphasis on salvation coming from his death and resurrection? To briefly summarize how the synoptics integrate these two major themes, would it be accurate to say that, in the gospels, faith in Jesus largely replaces the historical Jesus’s emphasis on the love commandments as the way to gain entry into the imminent kingdom of God? The kingdom is still the ultimate goal/hope in the synoptics but Jesus’s death and resurrection, and faith therein, are necessary steps to gain entry to it when Jesus returns?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 24, 2017

      I don’t think these authors distinguished between Jesus’ apocalyptic message and his own death and resurrection for salvation. For them, these were parts of the same thing, not two different things.

      • Avatar
        Seeker1952  August 24, 2017

        Ok, I guess I’m looking for continuity between the historical Jesus’s own apocalypticism and the tremendous significance of his death and resurrection for his followers. Are you saying perhaps that by the time the oral traditions started and/or the synoptic evangelists wrote them down, Jesus’s death/resurrection and the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom in its fullness were already integrated into a single apocalyptic story/event.? My point is that it seems like the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom in its fullness was still an essential part of the apocalyptic belief and the ultimate hope/goal of Jesus’s followers. In very broad terms, the difference was that his followers also saw forgiveness of sins through Jesus’s death (except maybe Luke), and faith therein, to be necessary for his followers to gain entry into the kingdom. And even if love commandment compliance was still an essential qualification for entry (as it was for the historical Jesus), faith in Jesus somehow overshadowed or supplemented that qualification.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 25, 2017

          Ah, right, that feeds into one of the most basic questions: is the religion that emerged after Jesus’ death among his followers the same that he himself advocated? In my New Testament undergraduate class, the students stage a formal debate on one aspect of the topic, with the resolution: Resolve: Paul and Jesus Represented Fundamentally Different REligions. (Some students have to argue affirmative, and others negative)

          • Avatar
            brandon284  December 9, 2017

            What is your opinion Dr. Ehrman? Do you think they represented different religions? What a fantastic, classroom exercise.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 10, 2017

            They are certainly different — even if they have a lot of similarities as well.

      • Avatar
        llamensdor  August 27, 2017

        I thought there was some question whether what Paul meant was “faith in Jesus” or “faith in the faith of Jesus.” That’s what Bernard Brandon Scott proposes in his book “The Real Paul.” do you have any thoughts on this?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 28, 2017

          Are you sure you have that right? I haven’t read his book, but the option is *normally* given as “faith in Jesus” or “faith that Jesus had.” (The term “faith of Jesus” could mean either one, depending on whether it is an objective genitive or a subjective genitive)

  3. Avatar
    Tony  August 22, 2017

    The only name I recognize is “van Manen”. Please tell Jan his work is nice and safe and will offend no one.

    Unfortunately, the last real questioning Dutch scholarly movement died with Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga. The rest is “wit brood”.The same will happen to the Mythicism movement.

  4. John4
    John4  August 23, 2017

    Jan has been *very* generous to us, hasn’t he! As, always, are you, Bart.

    Many thanks to you both! 🙂

  5. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  August 25, 2017

    Mark 12:25 says in the resurrection, we shall be “like the angels.” Does that suggest that the angels have some corporeal existence, or is Jesus/Mark only referring to the absence of sexual differentiation?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 25, 2017

      Being like the angels in this case means not having sex or marriage; but yes, the understanding is that they are indeed physical beings.

  6. Avatar
    Evan  August 27, 2017

    Bart, as I read Mark, ch. 13 stands out as an independent composition that disrupts the intended literary structure of the gospel. It does not appear to have been written by the author of Mark. A critical reader might wonder whether Mark was initially composed in the mid-60’s without the eschatological discourse, and was then updated in the early 70’s to make the gospel appear more relevant in the post-70 era. Clearly Matt and Luke use copies of Mark with the discourse in place, so it would have been an early addition. Do you think it is reasonable to interpret ch. 13 as a later interpolation despite the lack of mss evidence?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 28, 2017

      It may indeed have been a separate composition, but it appears to embody one of the most primitive views — and so Mark may have been picking it up from an earlier source. There’s nothing to suggest an interpolation really: many of the themes are Markan.

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