Re: The dating of GJohn
- In a message dated 98-06-30 03:13:17 EDT, mahlonh.smith@...
There you go again, Ryan, repeating yourself & ignoring what an elder
just told you. Whether you think it or not, physical mss. are important
for dating documents because they help establish the date *post quam
non* that a work could have been composed. You cannot date the
composition of GJohn *after* 125 CE if a piece of a ms. other than the
original autograph (p52) is correctly assigned to that date. Of course
one can date the composition of the work decades, centuries or even
millennia earlier providing there are cogent reasons for doing so. So,
your citation of the huge gap between the probable composition of
classical & OT texts & their earliest surviving mss. is a red herring.
The point of my argument was precisely the reverse of how you
>>I should have been more clear. As there is a large gap between the composition
of those other documents and the earliest fragments of them, this should not
be all too surprising in the case of the synoptics either. This argument is
not to place Jn/Thm later, but that Mk/Mt/Lk could be significantly earlier
than their first fragments. (And yes, I agree, obviously we have to date the
documents earlier than their earliest fragments!)
The issue was not whether a gospel can be dated earlier
than its extant mss. but whether the ms. evidence confirms the
traditional opinion that GJohn & GThom were composed after the
synoptics. Not only does it not, the relative dating & frequency of mss.
points in precisely the opposite direction than traditional theories
lead one to expect. In any field of scientific investigation, when the
results of a test contradict a hypothesis the normal procedure is to
revise or abandon the hypothesis, not disregard the evidence.
Beg to differ. This "Christian ThinkTank" website is an apologetical
cribsheet filled with inaccurate historical information & questionable
interpretations designed to contradict current scholarship: e.g.
Miller sure enough holds his share of minority positions. Paradoxically(?), he
warns that apologists are too quick to accept minority positions without
criticism. OTOH, he does sport a rather long list of reference books, so I
wouldn't just dismiss him too quickly. If you wish to challenge (significance
of) the gaps between these documents and their papyrii, bring on the numbers,
please do. I do not have enough books to go searching. But if you do go
searching for yourself, I am skeptical as to whether you'll surprise me with
many numbers comparable to the NT/GThom with these other classical documents.
(Actually, I thought the scarcity of classical mss. was common knowledge, but
I guess that's 'on hold' for now.) e.g. indirectly, in the case of Josephus,
First of all, unlike the passage about Jesus in the Slavonic _Jewish War_, the
Testimonium is present in all the Greek manuscripts and in all the numerous
manuscripts of the Latin translation, made by the school of Cassiodorus in the
6th century; variant versions in Arabic and Syriac have recently been added to
the large inventory of indirect witnesses. These facts must be balanced,
however, by the sobering realization that we have only three Greek manuscripts
of Book 18 of _The Antiquities_, the earliest of which dates from the 11th
century. [_A Marginal Jew_, vol. 1, p. 62)
My point is simply that we often don't have much in the way of mss. to aid us
a great deal in the dating of the composition.
If you wish your arguments to be respected by scholars trained in
historical research, you would be wise to double-check any info you get
from such sites against information in print publications that are
subject to scholarly peer review.
>>Certainly. You're plenty free to challenge them. These challenges are perhaps
my primary method of quickly learning/correcting myself on these matters.
Good choice. From a scholarly perspective Carr's info is much more
reliable than the previous site (note that he cites his sources, so you
could check them out if you wanted to).
>>I could have given you roughly the same info from Miller, but I thought you'd
be a bit dismissive. Carr is pretty knowledgeable on mss.--on other positions,
I have my doubts about his accuracy in other fields (e.g., the resurrection).
But note: of the seven mss. Carr
assigns to the 2nd c. CE, only 4 are from gospels. Moreover, the two
containing excerpts from Matt (p64 & p67) are 3 tiny fragments from a
single copy of Matt & scholars disagree over attempts to date them prior
to 200 CE. Orthography is one issue; the other is the question of
whether p4 (containing bits of Luke) is from the same codex (see Graham
Stanton's essay on p64-67 in Gospel Truth). If so, then it is highly
unlikely that the codex containing p64, p67 & p4 was composed before 200
CE, since multi-gospel codices were not composed during the 2nd c. CE.
(p75 is likewise probably from the 3rd c. because it contained copies of
both Luke + John). This leaves only 2 canonical gospel fragments datable
prior to 200: p 52 & p90, both from GJohn. Moreover, since Carr's
webpage it devoted to the question of the reliability of the NT,
>>I would state that his webpages are devoted to attacking the reliability of
the NT (as well as theism in general), not necessarily to an open
'question'--not to say that we should not take his positions seriously. We can
no more 'debunk' him by calling him an anti-apologist than we can debunk
Miller by calling him an apologist. Point being, let's look at the data
he omits the 3 Oxyrhynchus fragments of GThom, which BTW come from 3
different copies of GThom generally dated 200-225 CE. Thus, the exact
tally of gospel mss. datable prior to 225 CE is:
John - 4 copies (p52, p66, p75, & p90)
Thom - 3 copies (pOxy 1, pOxy 655 & pOxy 654)
Luke - 2 copies (p4 & p75)
Matt - 1 copy (p64 & p67)
Mark - 0 copies
Sort of stands traditional source theories on their heads, doesn't it.
While admittedly this does not invalidate the conclusion of scholarly
analysis that Mark was recorded prior to other narrative gospels,
neither does it support it.
>>You're right that it stands the theories on their heads. Which is exactly why
I don't think your citing the GThom mss. lends a terrible deal of support to
your position. I don't think anyone on the list would be altogether willing to
apply these arguments consistently and get the order of Jn > Thm > Lk > Mt >
No disagreement here. My only disagreement is with theories that claim
GThom or GJohn were composed later than the synoptics & are dependent
upon them. While such hypotheses may sound plausible, they have no
strong footing in the textual or redactional or form critical evidence.
>>This is an entirely separate question. I doubt scholars like Meier could
appreciate such dismissive remarks. As for GJn, on the question of dependence
you likely stand with the majority, but on priority, it's been nearly
unanimous that he came after the synoptics. I don't have the experience to
really take this into detail, but that's the impression I get.