Claim of Oldest Written Find in Jerusalem

Darrell L. Bock's picture

A quick note before I leave to teach in Jordan and Jerusalem for three weeks. Archaeologists claim to have found the oldest written document in Jerusalem.  It is said to come from the 14th century BC. Here is the URL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx66Rmadqr8

Check it out.

Comments

Dr. Bock,

Thanks for the link.  I was aware of this find but had not seen this announcement from Mazar, with its images of the fragment.  FYI, it was quickly published late last year in the Israel Exploration Journal: Mazar, Eilat, Wayne Horowitz, Takayoshi Oshima, and Yuval Goren. "A Cuneiform Tablet from the Ophel in Jerusalem." IEJ 60 (2010): 4-21.

Brian

May I know what is your position concerning the promoting of the so-called, 'Alexandrian' text style, and the downgrading of the Byzantine text style?  Some of my points are as follows.  The followers of Westcott and Hort seem to have given this text type an affluent name relating it to the likes of John Mark and Origen and the famous catechistical school of the Alexandrian Church of ancient church history.  However, what seems to be more accurate is that the manuscripts are simply found in Egypt, not necessarily in Alexandria, Egypt.  Also, the manuscripts that attest to that text type as few of them as there are, compared to the Byzantine, have been shown to disagree with each other in many ways by John William Burgon as early as 1883 in his very thorough critical examination of Westcott-Hort's critical greek text.  

My next point is that though the extant copies attesting to the Byzantine text style are admittedly younger, the geographic locale that testifies to it is significantly larger.  Bible scholars are often not Christian believers, but literary critics, and often critical of Christianity.  Can we as true believers embrace a greek New Testament that is largely based on a few manuscripts found in one country that enjoys a dry desert climate conducive to the preservence of the pulpy material of the ancient codexes?  No wonder they are so old.  Does age automatically mean superior?  The wide variety among their own family shows that there was no authoritative text style even by the time period that the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are believed to have been created.  

To sum up, I think it is foolish to assign the world to a text type that flourished in only one part of the world in only a short period in the church's history.  

Darrell L. Bock's picture

I am not going to debate this with you on this blog. My take is that the Alexandrian family, which simply is a name referring to Egyptian manuscripts, are our earliest texts. The Byzantine family of texts reflects, at least in the gospels, a consistent tendency to harmonize differences between accounts that gives them a secondary feel. It is more likely that a scribe would bring texts together that he is familiar with, than to create differences. This is the harder reading idea. Burgon's point is not impressive because all manuscripts have differences. This is why we do textual criticism. 

Thank you for your answer.  Why may I ask do you not wish to debate this topic?  Is it controversial?  My desire is simply to learn and to grow to a more complete understanding.  I want to know what is the closest to the autographs from which we may rightly interpret scripture and divide the word of truth to disciples.  My concerns are similar to Burgon's beginning with 1Tim 3:16 and then moving on to other things such as the pericope adulterae.  However, in respect to your wishes (this being your blog, of course) I will cordially invite you to visit my blog (as you did say you would not debate this topic on your blog).  If you would be so humble as to join me in a discussion on this topic, I would be very appreciative of your time.  If you click on my name, it should take you to my blog, and there is a post that I created which is devoted to this theme, entitled, "The Alexandrian Text VS the Majority Text."  You will just have to scroll down quite a ways as it is one of my first posts.  There I have given my stance on the textual debate which I think is in harmony with Maurice Robinson's.  I would love to engage in a scholarly discussion with someone as learned as yourself on this topic, so that I could deduce just why so many scholars have embraced this westcott-hort theory of this egyptian text.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

I will not debate the Majority Text on this blog because the choice of the word foolish in your initial blog appeared to shoe less than a willingness to understand the argument against it. There are good reasons to accept the testimony we have from not only the Alexandrian family but the way in which readings distribute across the range of families, versions, and early Fathers. It is important to recall that Latin became the key language for a significant part of the church by the fourth century and that one reason we have so many Byzantine manuscripts is that many of them are very late and the text represents one geographical area where the text continued to be used in Greek. If we simply count texts of witnesses we have relatively early on, we might be open to the readings of the Latin text. But the major reason for questioning this Byzantine family of texts is the way their material looks secondary and harmonistic at so many points. At least that is what my work in the gospels has shown me. The claims about liberalism of Westcott and Hort do not do them justice in terms of their work against real liberalism out of Germany in the 19th Century (with Lightfoot). Maurice Robinson is a good scholar and the best defender of the Byzantine family. I still do not accept his arguments as ultimately persuasive. If you want to understand why in detail, check out work by my colleague, Dan Wallace, who has written much on the NET about the history of the text, including the Byzantine family of texts. 

I humbly request your forgiveness for the antagonizing choice of words (foolish).  I did not mean to choose such crude language.  I understand the reason behind refraining from such language on a scholarly blog or in any place where views may be opposed.  Having said that, I hope that there is some way that we can continue this discussion, as it is a perfectly acceptable means of philosophical discussion, that is for two people with opposing views to discuss their points in a civilized and sober manner with the intent to find the truth.  Why this methodology to truth-seeking is so often avoided is a perplexing question for me, seeing that it dates back to the 5th century BC.  The method is dialectic and it's founding is attributed to Socrates.  And to my knowledge, it is this method that the Wright Bro.'s (whether consciously or not, I do not know) used to learn how to fly.  It seems to me that Christian thinkers of today love to surround themselves with the nurturing safety of agreeing peers who will congratulate them for their defense of their shared philosophies, rather than test their views against others who are well-equipped to argue their opposing views to see who is really truly correct. Should we not learn from Socrates who thought he knew nothing?  Or from Jesus who said that it is the one who thinks he sees who is blind?  Are we so sure that we are right?  I am not .  That is why I will continue to antagonize the status quo thinkers like Socrates, the gadfly.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Do you appreciate how insulting it is to suggest that the only reason a view is embraced is because a colleague holds it or to suggest to hold a view contrary to yours is to be blind, appealing to Jesus no less on a topic not related to what he was discussing-- as if there has  been no serious consideration of the question by those who disagree with you? I told you of my first hand work with the text that I found persuasive (at a time when I was very open to the options). My reason for mentioning Dan Wallace is that he has spent his life working on this question and has written up his reasons for his views. Do not disrespect a reasoned attempt to argue a different case as if a questioner like Socrates had not yet been in the room. Without your willingness to look at what he has said, I simply repeat we will not debate this on this blog. Both Dan and I have engaged Maurice on these matters as well, in the very way you raise as ideal. No need to reinvent the wheel. Look at his arguments. Sorry to be so frank but I really do find your approach in even raising the question full of disrespect, now done twice.

I am sorry for the disrespect.  I was not aware that you had spent such a long time studying this topic.  I do intend to do more research on this, and I do not say that I will not do the reading that you have suggested.  I understand that you will not further this discussion until I have been aquainted with the works of the man you mentioned.  I am sincerely sorry.  I just feel passionate about this topic, and I fear that the Word of God is being changed drastically.  I have simply been persuaded by men from the opposite side of the fence from you.  I admit I have not really begun to do what someone of your degree of education would consider substantial research on this subject, but it seems to me to be highly suspicious that the first discovery of this text type by the western world was of a codex that was reported to have been found in a monastery's waste basket.  I certainly agree that Erasmus' Greek New Testament is deficient, but this is not a close representation of the Byzantine Text as the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Text Form apparently is.  The English Majority Text Version is an english translation of this type of text form which can be downloaded on e-Sword.  This version accounts for the recent discoveries that the earlier codexes do not contain the portion in 1John 5 about the three witnesses, or the lines in Acts 8 by the Ethiopian eunuch.  I just think that the Byzantine Text Type (not the KJV and not the Textus Receptus) represents a tradition of manuscript copying that preserves many things that were lost in the exemplars in Egypt.  Please accept my solemn and sincere apologies for disrespecting you.  It is really my desire to learn from you what are your strongest convictions about this egyptian text that cause you to so eagerly discard the Byzantine Text that apparently bore the test of time and was transmitted down through the ages by a greek-speaking people who, of all people, I suppose would have had the best grasp of the original tongues of the greek New Testament.  It is clear that variants were in existence by the 4th century, and the Egyptian Text represents their decisions to discard some and hold on to others.  The Byzantine Text form represents these greek-speaking scholars' decisions to do the same in their region of the world.  To simply disregard an entire tradition represented by so vast a region seems to me a hasty move.  I will add Dan Wallaces works to my list of works to research on this subject.  Right now I am trying to tackle Burgon's lengthy work (The Revision Revised) as prescribed by Maurice Robinson.  He has much more to say about this subject, by the way, then just that there are many variants among the Egyptian Text Type.  May I just ask if you have read it?  

I accept your sharp rebuke, and I will try to approach you with the respect you deserve as an accomplished biblical scholar.  

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