Early Christian Docetism

I can now, at long last, start talking about the kinds of textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament that I covered in my 1993 book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (I did a second edition, updating the discussion with a new Afterword in 2011).   From the surviving documents of the period, there appear to have been five major competing Christologies (= understandings of who Christ was) throughout the Christian church, and I will devote a post ...

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On Falsification and Forgery

On Friday I will be giving a talk at a symposium at York University in Toronto that will be focusing on the use of forgery in the early Christian apocrypha, sponsored by Tony Burke of York U. and Brent Landau at the University of Texas.  Website is here: http://tonyburke.ca/conference/  I thought it might be interesting to excerpt a portion of my talk here, as it covers some ground that I recently have gone over on the blog, but from ...

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Magic and Manuscripts

In my post yesterday I mentioned something about the importance of our surviving manuscripts for understanding practices of magic in the early Christian tradition.  Several people have asked me about it, so I thought I would follow it up.

There’s been a lot written about magic over the years.  When talking about antiquity, “magic” is not what we think of today: we think of illusion artists who do tricks in order to make think something has happened which in fact has ...

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Why Intentional Changes of the Text Might Matter

In doing the research that led up to my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, I came to see that the variations of our manuscripts were important not only because they could tell us what the original writers said in the books that later became the New Testament, but also because they could tell us about what was influencing the anonymous and otherwise unknown scribes who produced the copies of these books in later times.

As I pointed out in a ...

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Why Bother With Anything *Except* the “Original” Text??

In this post I would like to tie a couple of strings together that have been more or less hanging.  In a couple of earlier posts I asserted my view that we were probably as “close to the originals” of the New Testament writings as we are ever likely to get, that barring some spectacular new discoveries (such as the original themselves!) or some fantastic changes in method, we simply are not going to be able to know whether we ...

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My Focus on Christology in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture

In the last couple of posts I have talked about the basic thesis that lay behind my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.   After doing my dissertation I became interested in seeing how theological disputes in early Christianity may have affected the scribes who were copying the texts that later came to be collected into the canon of the New Testament.  Rarely had a study of this sort been pursued before, and never thoroughly and rigorously.

Here let me provide a ...

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Irrelevant Arguments and the So-called Tenacity of the Tradition

A couple of posts ago I promised to deal with an argument sometimes used by those who believe we can know with good certainty what the original text of the New Testament books said.  This is the argument called the “tenacity of the tradition.”  If you recall, the argument is prefaced on the very interesting phenomenon that whenever papyri manuscripts are discovered – say from the third or fourth Christian century – they almost *never* contain new variant readings that ...

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Did Scribes Add the Passage of the Bloody Sweat?

In my previous posts I’ve been puzzling over the textual problem of Luke 22:43-44, the so-called “bloody sweat” passage, where Jesus, before his arrest, is said to have been in such deep agony that he sweat drops “as if of blood,” so that an angel came down from heaven to minister to him.  These verses are found in some manuscripts of Luke, but not others.    So which text is “original”?  The version of Luke with the verses or the version ...

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The Bloody Sweat and the Scribes Who Changed It

I have been talking about the famous passage in Luke 22:43-44, the account of the so-called “bloody sweat,” where we are told that prior to his arrest, Jesus went into deep agony and began to sweat great drops “as if of blood,” and to be so deeply disturbed that an angel had to come down from heaven to support him.

These verses can be found in a lot of manuscripts, including those used by the translators of the King James Bible, ...

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Patristic Evidence for the New Testament

Yesterday I discussed very briefly the benefits and difficulties of versional evidence for establishing the text of the New Testament.   As it turns out, it is a very big and complex issue, or rather sets of issues.   There are large and difficult books written on very small aspects of the versions.   One, still authoritative, treatment of the whole shooting match, with extensive bibliography (which is now, of course, out of date), is one of the magna opera of my mentor, ...

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