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Month 4:23, Week 4:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year:Day 5936:112 AM
7 Sabbaths + Omer Count Day #45
Gregorian Calendar: Thursday 12 July 2012
Scriptural Tidbits
The Case of Found & Missing Verses

    The story of our Bible and how it came into existence is just the sort of subject matter that should interest those of you who fancy yourselves as sleuths or detectives. I find its history and evolution fascinating. And one theme that interests me concerns verses that have gone missing or sometimes have been added. Since I can't possibly do a thorough study of this today I thought I would just select a few areas that I find particularly interesting.

    1. More on the Masoretes and Other Tanakh Versions

    As many of you know, I am not a great fan of the Masoretes who in the 6th Century AD created the Babylonian Edition of the Tanakh (Old Testament) which is almost universally used in English language Bible translations. They added the vocalisation, enunciation and pronunciation, previously transmitted only orally, to the purely consonantal text. But they also mutilated it with an anti-messianic agenda. Indeed, this version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) was the only one around until the discovery in 1947 of the far older and more reliable Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) in Qumran.

    Other Tanakh (Old Testament) versions have come into existence, of course, since the Masoretes such as the Hebrew University Bible Project based on a 10th Century AD manuscript from a synagogue in Aleppo in northern Syria (though missing the Pentateuch). There's Kittel's Hebrew Bible based on the AD 916 Codex from Leningrad (now St.Petersburg) that was used by the Jewish scholar Maimonides (1135-1204) which found its way to Russia vi‚ the Masortic family of Ben Asher of Tiberias, came into the possession of the Kairites and thence moved to Cairo where Maimonides picked it up. But these are later versions and not of much interest in my view because they are simply recycled versions of the Masoretic text. Even the word 'Masorete' ought to be a warning to us, coming as it does from the Hebrew masorah meaning 'tradition'.

    The Samaritan Pentateuch is certainly older and very interesting but it has been modified by them to fit in with their traditions.

    2. Codex Sinaticus

    Those interested in Johannine studies will know that there are some oddities in his writing that have caused scholars to dispute their authenticity. The last verse of his Gospel has been alleged by many to be a scribal addition:

      "And there are also many other things that Yah'shua (Jesus) did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen" (John 21:25, NKJV).

    This piece of Hebraic hyperbole is indeed a scribal addition as it proved by a scientific study of the Codex Sinaticus using ultraviolent photography which shows that the scribe ended the gospel at v.24 and then added v.25 as an afterthought. Indeed v.24 itself may be an addition by an even earlier scribe since it is written not in the first but third person. Interestingly, the Codex Sinaticus also contained the Epistle of Barnabas and about three-quarters of the Shepherd of Hermas alongside the traditionally accepted canon of books.

    3. Codex Alexandricus

    This collection contains Clement's letter to the Corinthians which was widely circulated and regarded as authoritative in the first century along with the 2nd century homily wrongly called 2 Clement. But what is most interesting about both the Codex Alexandricus and the Codex Sinaticus is that they leave out what many believe to be a 2nd century summary of the resurrection experiences at the end of Mark's Gospel (Mark 16:9-20) which otherwise ends abruptly at v.8, suggesting that the gospel writer may have died or otherwise been forced to end his account before he had the chance to finish it. My own view is that this 'supplement' is inspired but that Mark was not it's author, but someone like Clement at a later period. However, I certainly don't put the spin on it that the snake-handlers and charismatics do.

    4. Codex Bezae

    One addition, in the Codex Bezae of the 5th Century AD, which has not survived into our modern Bibles because it is of uncertain authorship, provides an additional snippet of historical information about Jerusalem:

      "When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and they descended seven steps, and immediately the angel departed from him" (Acts 12:10, NKJV).

    An interesting detail, of which there are several others in this Codex in other passages, but one of the most interesting is an apparent expansion of a passage in Luke, or else it is the original until some scribe later blotted it out when making a fresh copy:

      "But Yah'shua (Jesus) answering them said, 'Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of Elohim (God), took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the cohenim (priests) to eat? Man, if indeed you know what you are doing, you are blessed; but if you do not know, you are accursed, and a transgressor of the Torah (Law).' And He said to them, 'The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath'" (Luke 6:3-5, NKJV).

    The questions that have to be asked are:

    • 1. Why would anyone want to remove this sentence? or
    • 2. Why would anyone want to insert it?

    Who benefits from an insertion or a deletion, and why? And what theological content does this sentence contain that would make it contentious or desirable enough to remove or insert it, respectively?

    Well an obvious detractor would be somone who didn't like the Hebrew sabbath. This statement would not have been to the advantage of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice which was anti-sabbath and anti-Hebrew calendar so its removal would have been to them an advantage. We know it was around during the Protestant period because the document was owned by a French Reformer and the Reformers would have had as much reason to remove a pro-sabbath statement as the Catholics, though for differenmt reasons: they were dysnomian or antinomian, that is, anti-Torah though both Catholics and Protestants believed - and still believe - the day of rest was the Roman Sunday.

    Though it can't be proved, it is possible that this statement was in the original Gospel of Luke and was later removed. Why anyone would want to insert it I cannot fathom.

    5. Codex Laudianus

    The Codex Laudianus, which is to be found in the Bodlean Library in my home town of Oxford, is a 6th Century manuscript of the Acts According to the Apostles and as such is the oldest known manuscript of that Bible book which makes it especially interesting. It is not distinguished by the fact that it contains extra text (though many Greek and Aramaic manuscripts do omit it for some reason) but by the fact that it is the oldest known confession of faith of any believer known, and therefore priceless:

      "And as they went on their way, they arrived at a certain place in which there was water, and that [Ethiopian] believer [1] said, Behold, water. What is the obstacle so that I may be immersed (baptised)? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said: I believe that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the Son of Elohim (God)" (Ac.8:36-37, HRV).

    6. Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS)

    One of the interesting discoveries made when the DSS were found was an additional psalm missing from the Masoretic text:

      1 I was small among my brothers, and the youngest in my fatherís house; I tended my fatherís sheep.

      2 My hands made a harp; my fingers fashioned a lyre.

      3 And who will tell my Yahweh (Lord)? Yahweh (the Lord) himself; it is He who hears.

      4 It was he who sent his messenger (Samuel) and took me from my fatherís sheep, and anointed me with his anointing-oil.

      5 My brothers were handsome and tall, but Yahweh (the Lord) was not pleased with them.

      6 I went out to meet the Philistine (Goliath), and he cursed me by his idols.

      7 But I drew his own sword; I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel

    This psalm appears in only three modern versions that I know of, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New English Translation (NET) and the Restoration Scriptures True Names Edition (RSTNE). I don't have the slightest doubt it is authentic and belongs in the canon of the Tanakh.

    7. The Sonnini Manuscript

    Finally, my last offering in this collection of 'lost' or 'added' scriptures is the missing 29th chapter of the Book of Acts which, like the original Gospel of Mark, ends somewhat abruptly at the end of the 28th chapter, as though it were unfinished. Describing as it does a journey of the Apostle Paul to Spain and Britain, it remains very controversial and is only published, to my knowledge, in one Bible version, the RSTNE. Acquired originally by Louis XVI of France in the late 1700's as a gift from the Sultan of Constantinople, Abdul Achmet, it was first published in English in 1871 by George J. Stevenson. Unquestionably a very ancient text, there are eight good grounds for accepting it as authentic as originally proposed by Stevenson:

    • (a) It has all the appearance of being of ancient date;
    • (b) It is written in Greek, and in the style of the Acts;
    • (c) The places and peoples mentioned are called by their ancient or Roman names;
    • (d) Its tone is dignified and spiritual;
    • (e) Its scriptural brevity;
    • (f) The remarkable character of its prophetic expressions;
    • (g) Its being preserved in the Archives of Constantinople; and
    • (h) Its pure gospel character and generous conception of the Divine purpose and plan.

    As this will doubtless be of considerable interest to our readers, I will include the whole text in tomorrow's devotional. As to whether Luke or someone else wrote it, I cannot say.

    Conclusion

    The Bible yields treats to those who are willing to examine it carefully and not just a single version or in a single language. There is doubtless more to be discovered in terms of lost manuscripts that may not only contain original material before it was doctored but likely missing epistles of Paul and other books named in the Tanakh (Old Testament) which have yet to be recovered. One wonders what, in particular, is locked away in the Vatican Library that the Roman Church does not want us to see.

    In the meantime, we should be content with what we do have, having the assurance that what Yahweh has providentially preserved in the form of the Protestant Canon is more than sufficient for salvation. Nevertheless, we must never be so close-minded as to refuse to consider other material nor be so careless as to simply accept it uncritically simply because others claim it to be authentic. We are to be careful Bereans and so make ourselves approved of Heaven. Amen.

    Continued in Part 2

    Endnotes

    [1] Almost every English translation perpetrates the error found in the Greek translations of Luke that the Ethiopian was a 'eunuch', an error caused by the fact that the Hebrew or Aramaic (m'haimna) word rendered here can mean either 'believer'/'faithful one' or 'eunuch'. The Ethiopian Yahweh-believer was travelling up for one of the mandatory feasts from which he would have been automatically excluded, as well as being denied citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel, had he been a eunuch (Dt.23:1ff). This kind of translation error is not uncommon in the rendering of Hebrew or Aramaic to Greek, another glaring one being Yah'shua's (Jesus') commentary in the near impossibility of a rich man entering the Kingdom of Heavean, which He likened to trying to thread a rope through the eye of a needle. Unfortunately the Aramaic for 'rope' is also the same as for 'camel' from which has come the silly idea of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, an illustration which makes no sense that has resulted in some exegetical acrobatics on the part of some commentators in search of a camel gate in the Jerusalem wall.

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