Biblical studies: May 2005 Archives

Jesus' Reasoning

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Joe Carter hosted a project I call Jesus' Reasoning a little while ago, and I never managed to put together a post with links to all the entries I contributed. Here is that post. Joe explains the project here, and the entries are all here.

In Jesus the Logician? I express why I don't like Joe's name and insist on calling it Jesus' Reasoning. Since Joe organizes the posts by passage, I'll put them in the order I wrote them:

1. John 9:1-3
2. Mark 7:1-23
3. Matthew 10:40-42
4. Luke 21:1-4
5. Mark 11:27-33; Matt 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8
6. Matthew 21:28-32
7. Mark 12:18-27; Matt 22:23-34; Luke 20:27-40

A thorny problem in the interpretation of the book of Samuel is the chronology of chapters 16ff. As most commentators look at this section of the book, Saul gets rejected as king in ch.15 (as he had in ch.13), Samuel arrives in Bethlehem to anoint David in the first half of ch.16, David gets called to Saul's side to play soothing music to calm him, a David unknown to Saul shows up to fight Goliath in ch.17, and then Saul rewards David at the end of the chapter. Then early in ch.18, Saul keeps David in his court, which he'd already done at the end of ch.16.

Some people try to avoid the problem simply by saying there are multiple accounts that conflict with each other that were all spliced together by some complete idiot who didn't know how to compile a book to save his life. The problem with such a view is that the author of Samuel is extremely careful, with an overwhelming number of subtle hints here and there and with a fairly consistent unity of style. The sections of the narrative are constructed in clear patterns throughout, with thematic progression and careful literary skill on a much more global level than just with the details within each chunk. There may have been multiple sources for the book, but the author made them his own. He wouldn't have left things so ridiculously conflicting, all within a few chapters, that the common picture you get from modern scholars would result, with this haphazard arrangement of contradictory reports that some editor just threw together because he didn't know what to do with them otherwise. So what's going on in this section of the book?

616

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People are saying some strange things about the discovery of an early Revelation manuscript that has 616 as the" number of man" or "number of a man" in Rev 13:18, strange enough to make me look around at the NT blogs for more info on the find, and they've confirmed my suspicions. Here are the facts: We've known for a long time that some manuscripts of Revelation have 616 instead of 666. There are multiple explanations of why this would have come about, more than one of them fairly plausible, but I'm not going to bother with that now, mostly because I'm on campus and don't have my Revelation commentaries with me. Suffice it to say that this is a late development in the manuscript tradition, and there's no reason to think 616 was original.

All that's new is that this find is a manuscript that's older than the other ones we know of that have 616. It's a good deal older than the ones we knew about, but it's not at all the oldest manuscript we know of for the book, and there's no reason to think as a result of this that it's the most likely reading. The number 666 is overwhelmingly represented in multiple text traditions, in the earliest manuscripts, and just plain overall as the dominant reading. See Ralph the Sacred River for a nice summary of the important points. [Hat tip: NT Gateway Weblog] Some of the reports going around on this are treating it as if the 666 texts have been disproved. Hardly. This isn't that significant a discovery for the study of copyist errors in text criticism, for which it's a very interesting find. It hasn't affected what scholars think the original manuscript said.

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