Silent women and dotty manuscripts

Many people seem to think that every interesting question about the Bible has been answered long ago. After all, it has been studied in depth for nearly 2000 years (more, of course, for the Hebrew Bible). For some of these people the best answers were given by their favourite Church Fathers, popes or Reformers. For others, the answers have come from 19th or 20th century biblical scholarship. Yet, it turns out, there are many questions still unanswered, and not just ones which cannot be answered for lack of data.

So the discipline of biblical studies is still alive and fairly well. Last week it had its annual jamboree in New Orleans, a double whammy of ETS and SBL, attended by many of my blogging buddies. I’m sure a lot of what was presented there was speculation on the basis of old evidence, or of no evidence at all. But at least a few really new things seem to have come up. And they are not all about purely academic matters; some actually have practical implications.

One of the latter, amazingly enough, has to do with some dots in an ancient biblical manuscript. These dots, occurring in pairs and so known as umlauts or distigmai (Greek for “two dots”), are in Codex Vaticanus, which is one of the oldest known manuscripts of the New Testament. They were (at least according to textual critic and Evangelical Textual Criticism blogger Tommy Wasserman) discovered by the biblical scholar Philip Payne. Payne himself blogged last month about his discovery and analysis of these dots, at Zondervan’s Koinonia blog, where he wrote:

The paper I will read at the ETS Annual Meeting at 8:30 AM, Thursday Nov. 19 in the Waterbury Ballroom on the 2nd floor of the Sheraton will establish with conclusive statistical evidence that the distigmai in Codex Vaticanus are marks of textual variants.

Now this might appear to be of little interest to anyone much except for the textual critics. But not so! These dots turn out to be major supporting evidence for the theory that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation, not an original part of Paul’s letter. This is the notorious passage in which the apostle allegedly tells women to be silent in church. It is hardly surprising that egalitarian evangelicals, most notably the well known exegete and commentator Gordon Fee, have tended to conclude that this passage is not original. The evidence for this which Fee gives in his NICNT commentary on 1 Corinthians has not convinced everyone. So of course it was of great interest to many people when Payne claimed to have found further evidence of the passage being an interpolation.

Move on from ETS to SBL, still in New Orleans, probably in the same Sheraton hotel, and just two days later on Saturday 21st. A new scholar, Peter Head, who also blogs at Evangelical Textual Criticism, has arrived from England during the night, having put the finishing touches to his presentation on the plane. So he wasn’t at Payne’s presentation. Had he seen a report of it? I’m sure he had at least seen the kind of summary of arguments which Payne had already posted. But, as Wasserman reports, Payne was in the front row when Head presented his paper, and so witnessed his argument being thoroughly demolished – at least if Wasserman’s account (which continues here) is fair.

Payne dated the distigmai to the 4th century. Head turned this theory on its head by dating them a full 1200 years later, to the 16th century, and even suggested the name of the person responsible for adding them to the manuscript: Juan Ginés de Sepulveda (UPDATE: this name was first put froward by Curt Niccum, as Tommy Wasserman points out in a comment below). Part of Head’s argument was in the positioning of the dots, avoiding other marks dated to as late as the 15th century. But his main argument related to which textual variants are marked. Payne apparently claimed a 60-70% match between the locations of the distigmai and the locations of textual variants known to date back to the 4th century. Head claimed a 98% match between distigmai and textual variants known to Erasmus in the 16th century. And it is known that Erasmus corresponded with Sepulveda about the text of Vaticanus at these very locations. If Head’s findings can be confirmed (and analysis of the ink of the dots might allow this), it seems that the mystery of the distigmai has been solved.

So, does this undermine Payne’s argument? It certainly undermines his dating of the distigmai to the 4th century. Therefore he no longer has clear evidence that the textual variant in 1 Corinthians 14 was known as early as that. However, he has found evidence that this textual variant was known at some time, perhaps in the 16th century. Quite probably this relates to the fact, probably well known to Erasmus and Sepulveda as it is to modern scholars, that the passage in question, 1 Corinthians 14:34-45, is displaced to after 14:40 in many manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate as well as in the so-called Western Text of the Greek; in one Vulgate manuscript, Codex Fuldensis, the passage is actually a later addition. This is basically the same evidence which Fee used to claim that these two verses are an interpolation into the original letter. And Fee’s argument, even without added evidence from the distigmai, is a strong one.

However, even if the passage is not an interpolation, it should not be concluded that the apostle Paul was a misogynist or that the Bible teaches that women should not be allowed to say anything in gatherings of Christians. Paul cannot have written that because it would be in direct contradiction to what he had written in 11:5, that women may pray or prophesy (the latter at least must be out loud in a gathering) as long as their heads are covered. If he did write 14:34-35, his meaning must have been that women were not to disrupt meetings by chattering or asking questions.

So is this a case of the apparent complementarian Peter Head, formerly of Oak Hill College, winning an argument over the egalitarian Philip Payne? No, that would be a caricature. I’m sure Peter’s motivations for presenting his paper were entirely scholarly, concerning his field of textual criticism, and nothing to do with proving a point about women. Perhaps one speculative piece of support for the egalitarian position has been found wanting, but  the position as a whole has not been compromised at all. Certainly no one should use Peter’s SBL presentation as grounds for silencing women in their churches.

30 thoughts on “Silent women and dotty manuscripts

  1. Thanks Peter for this summary. I just want to remark that it was not Peter Head that came up with Sepulveda, that was Curt Niccum in a publication some years ago, a suggestion that Head now confirms. Niccum, by the way, responded in one of the comments on our blog.

  2. Thanks for the enlightment, but I must concur, looking at the Codex Sinaiticus at this very moment that the three dots are above the letters ΑΝ in the word ΜΑΝΘΑΝΕΙΝ.

    However you said in 1Co 14:34 The word silence meant not to CHATTER in church, perhaps you can explain to me why you said chatter?
    I find the word for chatter is Ουσ. λακριντί, κουβεντούλα and as Ρημ. κάνω μικρή συζήτηση, λακριντεύω, “χαζοκου βεντιάζω”,
    Strong’s Concordance says 1Co 14:34 is as well as 14:28 and Acts 15:12 which is σιγαω silent, quiesce, σιγή stillness
    σιγώ To be silent, to have no sound
    Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

    Paul also teaches the same in 1 Timothy, so perhaps it was added to coincide with timothy?

    1Ti 2:12 But I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be quiet.ήσυχος quiesce quiet hush
    1Co 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    1Co 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
    Ac 15:12 Then all the multitude kept silence , and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

    1Th 4:11 To be quiet and to be ambitious and to work with your own hands, ήσυχος ησυχάζω quiesce quiet hush

    Thanks in advance, may the God of us bless,

  3. LeRoy, are you blogging from inside the British Library, where I viewed Sinaiticus earlier this year? But we are not talking about Sinaiticus, but about Vaticanus, which is at the Vatican, but not I think on public view so I won’t be able to see it when I go to Italy next week.

    I made no claim that “chatter” is part of a literal translation of 1 Corinthians 14:34, but I would suggest that in context it is a reasonable rendering of the Greek word lalein used there.

    I suggest you get yourself a better Greek-English lexicon than the one found in Strong’s Concordance, especially if you want to be taken seriously in discussions with people who read this and have far more Greek expertise than you or I have.

  4. I do not know why you are discussing lalein or why you suggest Perseus is not better Greek-English lexicon? The word in question is σιγατωσαν (σιγατωσαν) (σιγαω) keep silence, used by Hom. only in imper. σιγα, hush! be still! Il.14.90, Od.17.393; “σιγαν” h.Merc.93, Hdt.8.61,110; but Pi., Trag., and Att., as Pi.N.10.29, A.Pr.200, etc.
    II. [select] trans., hold silent, keep secret΄ Pass., to be kept silent or secret see

    The Greek for chatter is Ουσ. λακριντί, κουβεντούλα
    Ρημ. κάνω μικρή συζήτηση, λακριντεύω, “χαζοκουβεντιάζω”

    So why are you being so argumentative and disconcerting?
    There is no difference of opinion on that they speak λαλεω Ac.4:17 tell, say, divulge, utter
    the accusative το λαλειν μη κωλύετε(1 Cor. 14:39; cf. Ac. 25:11),
    In Mt. 12:34, πως δύνασθε αγαθα λαλειν to speak evil
    απειλησώμεθα αυτοις μηκέτι λαλειν, (Gal. 5:7)
    We may note also Ac.4:20, ου δυνάμεθα μη λαλειν,cannot but speak
    ου τολμήσω τι λαλειν ων ου κατειργάσατο Χριστός (Ro. 15:18); dare to speak
    I speak with tongues 1Co. 14:18

  5. This is very curious. Eldon J. Epp’s book on Junia reports this entire exchange with the further information that the ink has already been analysed and has been shown to be original to the 4th century. page 18-19. You may be able to read it in google books.

  6. Wayne, I can understand why you wish to make λελειν a chattering sound rather than a sound of speech in light of your blog, “Why Arguments against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical”, but you have neglected to consider 2 Timothy 2:12 But I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be quiet.ήσυχος quiesce quiet hush. That is preceded by 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    1Co 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

    35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. KJV

    The (adj.) λαλος, αθυροστομος V; talkative would have been the more likely choice of words if that had been the intent.

    I call your attention to Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon
    II. [select] chatter, opp. articulate speech, as of locusts, chirp, Theoc.5.34; μεσημβρίας λαλεῖν τέττιξ (sc. εἰμί), a very grasshopper to chirp at midday, Aristopho 10.6; “ἀνθρωπίνως λ.” Strato Com.1.46.
    to chatter, is sometimes opp. to articulate speech, AS OF MONKEYS, λαλοῦσι μὲν φράζουσι δὲ οὔ Plut.; of locusts, to chirp, Theocr.
    3. any articulate sound, opp. inarticulate noise ( [psophos]), ph. kôkumatôn S. Ant. 1206; hôsper … II. faculty of speech, discourse, ei phônên laboi S. El. 548; paresche phônên tois …

    But the passage is explained by λαλεω/ια speak, talk, say; preach, proclaim; tell; be able to speak; address, converse (with); promise (of God); sound (of thunder) and what is said; accent, manner of speech.
    λεγω (fut. ερω; aor. ειπον and ειπα, inf. ειπειν; pf. ειρηκα; plpf. 3 sg. ειρηκει pf. pass. ειρημαι; aor. pass. ερρεθην, ptc. ρηθεις) say speak tell ( λεγων in discourse is often redundant); You can compare this in “The Greek New Testament”, 4th Edition 2007 by Arland, B.; Arland, K; Karavidopoulos; Martini, Metzger, (Pages 106-107)

    See also: Page 30 Chattering αδολεσχης m, P, λαλημα n, V; (adj.) λαλος, αθυροστομος V; (subst.) φλυαρια f, P, λεσχηνεια f, P;

    The usage in the Old Testament:
    Zech 1:9 και ειπα · τι ουτοι κε̣ · κ(αι) ειπεν προς με ο αγγελος ο λαλω εν εμοι ˙ εγω διξω σοι · τι ετιν ταυτα :
    Zec 1:9 Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked (λαλω) with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.

    Ar. Fr. 685; καινὴν δ. λαλῶν Antiph. 171; δ. ἀμνίου, opp. τὰ ἔνδον δράκοντος, Hermipp. 3; articulate speech, language,

    lalia, a speaking, from lalein, to speak, of echoic origin.] lalia (meaning ‘what is said, accent, manner of speech’ [UBSGNT] a form of speech, dialect.” [L&S] “to speak, to employ the organ of utterance, to utter words of any language, independently of any reason why they are uttered, (not, to speak inconsiderately or imprudently, but) to use the human voice with words; hence, to talk; and with another, to hold colloquy.” [Bullinger]

    NOTE: The Protoindoeuropean root for laleô is *lâ- which means “Echoic root. 1. Middle Dutch lollen, to mutter, akin to Low German source of Middle English lollen, to loll: loll. 2. Middle Low German lollen, to lull, akin to the Low German source of Middle English lullen, to lull: lull. 3. Old Norse lômr, loon: loon. 4. Latin lâmentum, expression of sorrow: lament. 5. Greek lalos, talkative: echolalia. 6. Greek lalein, to talk. [AHDofIER]

  7. LeRoy, I think you may be confusing me with Wayne. But I’m glad you have realised why the discussion relating to “chatter” referred to the Greek lalein, not sigatosan.

    Sue, that’s interesting. But I can’t find online the text of Epp’s book, which is Junia: The First Woman Apostle ( Augsburg, 2005, ISBN 0800637712). If you can find any details of the tests on the ink I would be interested. But perhaps Peter Head has a response to the evidence quoted by Epp.

  8. I know that google books allows different access in different countries, so I guess you can’t see it. Okay, I will type out those paragraphs tonight.

    It is an interesting discussion about viewing the original ink, which is apricot in colour, with a laser light, to see if the diereses are original. The conclusion was that they were.

    Perhaps Peter Head has some subsequent information to refute this, I don’t know.

  9. The original paper regarding whether the umlauts are original or not is here.

    Peter Head must be familiar with this work and has some response to it, don’t you think. It was written in 2000.

  10. Peter, a couple of thoughts:
    a) my “main argument” concerned the interference patterns between the dot pairs and other marginal material (hence the title of the paper!), the other stuff was just a teaser;
    b) I did hear from my good friend Philip a bit about his ETS paper (although I was not present there), and in fact I do not disagree about its fundamental point (which was in any case the same as his paper at SBL 2008): the dot pairs signal textual variation;
    c) We disagree about the date and thus also to some extent the purpose of the dot pairs (judging by his questions after my presentation he didn’t think my paper ‘demolished’ his view);
    d) perhaps we might disagree on whether the dot pairs are throughout Vaticanus part of the same unified system (Philip hinted in this direction);
    e) Yes, Epp has supported Philip’s work very strongly and I am well aware of that support in arguing for a different position;
    f) I am not sure how you came up with the label ‘apparent complementarian’ based on a single comment saying something perfectly unexceptional. Nothing in my presentation addressed individual passages; so I am glad that you are confident that “Peter’s motivations for presenting his paper were entirely scholarly, concerning his field of textual criticism, and nothing to do with proving a point about women”. How you can be so confident, given the fact that I was associated with Oak Hill College, I do not know.

  11. Peter, thanks for your comment, and for clarification on some of the issues. I appreciate your argument about the positioning of the dots, but can’t help thinking that the correlation with Erasmus’ work is potentially a stronger argument. Anyway I think between you and Payne you have convincingly shown that the dots do mark textual variants.

    My tongue was a bit in cheek of course in saying that this was not a complementatian vs. egalitarian issue. I really don’t know your position on this question, although one or two of your comments, not just the one I linked to, as well as your Oak Hill connection suggest that you are not egalitarian. But my point really was that your position is irrelevant, that you were simply seeking the truth about these interesting dots.

    Sue, thanks for the link to the Payne and Canart paper. This seems to prove that at least the 11 apricot distigmai date back to the original hand, and suggests also that the others do but were later traced over with darker ink – indeed this seems to be proved for the distigme at 1 Corinthians 14:33, which is of course the most interesting one for this discussion – and which has a surviving trace of apricot ink. I note also that the paper concludes that “the umlaut at the end of v. 33 is far less likely to represent the Western dislocation than a text that omitted 1 Cor. 14:34-35”, i.e. that whoever wrote this distigme in apricot coloured ink probably had to hand a manuscript completely omitting this passage.

    Peter, what do you make of this evidence? Even if the distigmai are not all part of a unified system, it seems that there was an original apricot coloured distigme at 1 Corinthians 14:33. What could that have signified, if not a textual variant?

  12. I think my view is that:
    a) observed similarity of colour is not particularly decisive for dating dots;
    b) the marginal interference patterns are not consistent with the originality of the dots but suggests that the dots are added at a very late stage (post-fifteenth century);
    c) the pattern of textual agreements seems to fit the sixteenth century rather better than the fourth century;
    d) we know a man who compared Vaticanus with other manuscripts (and with Erasmus’ edition) in the sixteenth century.

  13. Everyone seems to agree that SOME dots were added later, and the sixteenth century seems like a good candidate.

    However, I understand that there are two colours of ink, one appears to be the original from the 4th century and the other darker added later. Some dots are in the original colour.

    You argue that colour is not decisive in dating the dots. Are you suggesting that in the sixteenth century one set of dots were added in a colour which matched the 4th century ink colour and another set of dots were added in a darker colour? Or did you have another theory?

    I will have to read the Payne and Canart paper over again, but my impression at this point is that you have not prepared a scholary response to their paper. I have not read your SBL presentation, however, and would love to. Can you send it to me? My email is in my blog profile. Thanks.

  14. I accept that I am slightly out on a limb here but I do resent the polarity on the issue of the role of women to be described as complementarity vs egalitarian. The following scholars are all prepared to be associated with complementarity but would all be described as egalitarian.
    Rebecca Groothhuis, Ronald Pierce, Ruth Tucker, Janette Hassey, Richard Hess, Linda Belleville, Aida Spencer, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, Howard Marshall, Peter Davids, Walter Liefield, Stanley Genz, Mc Gregor Wright, Kevin Giles, Roger Nicole, William Webb, Sulia Mason, Karen Mason, Joan Winfrey, Judith Balswick, Jack Balswick, Cynthia Kimball, Mimi Haddad, Alvera Mickelson and Alice Mathews. The real divide in not over complementarity but over hierarchy and egalitarianism and it is not a simple matter of a polarity but of seeking a nuanced synthesis of the two. The objections that those above would have to the views of say, Wayne Grudem and John Piper, are not that they complementarians but that they fail to carry that through to recognise the equality between men and women that complementarity at first sight assumes. Thus if one was to be unkind the polarity would be better expressed as hierarchy versus complementarity, with the likes of Grudem in the former group, and I assume Peter Kirk in the latter.

  15. Sue (n. 16): quite right, that is not what I was doing (see my previous comment, the title of my talk expresses what I was attempting to investigate). There are quite full notes on the ETC blog; most of the presentation was visual though. I will be working on a published version which should move the debate forwards.

  16. Sorry, I forgot to say that my view for what it is worth and as argued/assumed in my presentation is that all the dots are sixteenth century. YMMV

  17. Peter, thanks for continuing to interact with us. It will be good to see your published paper when it is ready.

    TC, I take your point. I think almost everyone, including myself, is “complementarian” in the sense of accepting that men and women have some complementary roles, most clearly in sex and childbirth. People differ over how much further, if at all, that complementarity extends. But some of them use “complementarian” as a bit of a euphemism for “hierarchical”, the position which I completely reject, in which all authority is invested in males and, even if there are protestations about equality, women are always subordinate.

  18. Perhaps the debate on the roles of women is exactly what Genesis 3 was talking about. Maybe that’s what the punishment is is the confusion and headache that this brings.

    Fortunately, there’s been no name-calling or animosity here. A breath of fresh air, that.

  19. Peter H.

    You have built a fascinating model and theory. Many will want to view the data or try to reproduce your results. You have given a description of a possible chronology for the dots.

    However, you have not provided any explanation for why the dots are different colours, or why some are reinforced and others not. If they were all part of a unigfied chronology, why would some of the apricot dots be reinforced?

    I have to say this seems like a model which might be right, but leaves other things unexplained.

    This model building would be quite fascinating, but, of course, for me with my Brethren background these verses relegated women to a totally different existence than the men. Its about time we just stopped applying obscure verses to our own life and those of others. It is a roller coaster ride for women. They are a pawn of the text.

    I think this kind of study moves the text from being a rule of faith to an ancient curiosity. Probably all the better. Thanks.

  20. Sue, in principle I agree with you. There is a lot more to be explained about these dots. But don’t put Peter Head under too much pressure. He is obviously trying to publish what he can about this.

    And bear in mind what I said at the end: these verses, even if genuine, do not teach complementarianism, but only good order in churches i.e. the same as the undisputed verses 33 and 40. Yes, they also teach a very strange non-Pauline idea of the law, but that’s a separate issue except as another reason for doubting their genuineness.

  21. I certainly understand the desire to publish and this is a fascinating study – as long as there is no whiff of attaching this to opinions on treating women as “different but equal.”

    In other words, as long as this is not another Junia study! 😉

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