Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On The Tools of the Trade

My new Bible Works 9 is already paying exegetical dividends

σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας.
2Ti 2:151

Over the last four years or so, my primary computer-based exegetical tools have been the online helps at Blue Letter Bible and the phenomenal & free Bible software The Word. Both have served me exceedingly well and I’ve been more than satisfied with them. In fact, I simply cannot recommend them highly enough. However, since being turned on to the science of textual criticism (see here), I’ve been coveting a more advanced Bible study platform. In particular, I wanted one with a critical apparatus of the Greek NT.

Well, by the grace of God, I’ve now got one: Bible Works 9.

Now, instead of boring you to bits by describing all the things BW9 can do, I thought it would be better to just embed the demonstration video into this post and let the folks at Bible Works bore you to bits themselves:

I was joking, of course—although I know a few people who would be seriously bored if they watched that (Hi, honey!)—I, myself, was rapt when I saw it for the first time. If you were, too, then you’re going to love what I’m about to do next. If you’re my wife, you’ll probably want to go back to looking at shoes on TradeMe.

Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting and informative to demonstrate how I used the critical apparatus feature of BW9 to examine and verify the contentions I’d made in the previous post regarding the textual variant of John 14:17. When I first prepared and published that post, I didn’t have BW; after I got BW, I went back, examined my evidence, then added footnote #3.

So, by way of reminder, here is John 14:17 in Greek as it appeared in the last post:
τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν, ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτὸ οὐδὲ γινώσκει• ὑμεῖς γινώσκετε αὐτό, ὅτι παρ’ ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται.
And, again, the word in red is the relative pronoun ho, which is translated “whom” in English. The word in yellow is auto, the neuter, accusative form of the 3rd person singular pronoun, which is translated “him”, rather than the more correct “it”, in all the English NT’s.

Now here’s a snip of BW9’s critical apparatus entry for the first auto in the verse:

The first thing to note is that the text at the top is the reading with the most manuscript support (the big list of letters & numbers directly below the Greek verse); which is why, except for the punctuation, it mirrors the NA28 text that I cited. And, just as I said in my post, the pronoun in question is neuter in this reading.

Now notice that first highlighted word half way down on the left. This is the textual variant auton, the Greek masculine pronoun, that I mentioned in footnote 3. The highlighted P66 to the right of auton is the “extremely significant witness”. The asterisk means that auton is “the reading of the original hand of ” P66. Here’s a description of P66 from BW9’s CNTTS:2

The information on that blurb is basically what is conveyed by the chart beneath auton and P66 in the first pic. The “3 c.” means “the third century” and the placement of P66 in Category I means:

As I said, “him” is a textual variant from an extremely significant witness. Furthermore, P66 has auton in place of the second auto, too:

With regards to the significance of the witness to a variant, I hadn’t mentioned it, but there is a variant reading for the relative pronoun, too. Instead of ho, “it whom”, we have hos, “he whom”, in manuscript 579:

Here’s the description of 579 from the CNTTS:

Note when the manuscript was written—in the 13rd Century, a thousand years after P66 and a full 1400 years after the Gospel of John itself was written.

Note also that it’s a Category III manuscript. Here’s the sad truth about Category III manuscripts regarding their relevance to “establishing the original text”:

With that, take another look at that pic of the 579 variant entry. Notice the first manuscript listed in support of the ho reading? That’s right, it's P66!

So, clearly, any challenge against the neuter “whom” in favour of the masculine “whom” would be entirely unsustainable. But, of course, we still have to contend with the mighty P66 with regards to auton.

Well, interestingly enough, many manuscripts had correctors, people who would check the original scribe’s work for errors—both omissions and additions—and then correct the manuscript themselves. In the CNTTS apparatus, a small superscripted “c” is placed beside the manuscript abbreviation wherever the reading was made by a corrector.

And P66 had a corrector.

Look at the first and fourth snips above, the ones showing the auton variants, you can see P66c in support of the auto reading!

Seeing that in BW9’s apparatus made me want to check P66 myself to see if the corrector’s edits were visible. Unfortunately, P66 isn’t one of the searchable manuscripts BW9 has in its database, so I was forced to resort to Google; which came up with the early bible site (This is where I got that picture of P66 that I put up on the blog when I added footnote #3).

Here’s John 14:17 in P66 itself (between the two sets of double red lines). The highlighted words are, of course, HO, AUTON and AUTON (P66 is a majuscule, so all the words are uppercase):

Notice the corrector edited the first AUTON by putting a stroke through the “N”, turning it into AUTO:

He then did the same thing to the second AUTON:

So, thanks in no small part to the exegetical tools of Bible Works 9, we’ve been able to examine the manuscript evidence and see that it overwhelmingly supports the use of the neuter pronouns ho and auto to refer to the Holy Spirit. In other words, we have an airtight case for stating that, in John 14:17 at least, the Holy Spirit can rightly—and Biblically—be called “It”, rather than “He”.

I wonder what James White would make of that.


1. Unless otherwise indicated, all English Scripture text is taken from the ESV2011 (the English Standard Version, 2011). Greek text is from NA28 (28th Edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece).

2. CNTTS refers to the Center for New Testament Textual Studies critical apparatus database used by BW9. It was developed by the H. Milton Haggard CNTTS.


  1. Amazing Stuff Jim. Trouble is ... it would go right over their heads because they refuse to learn.

  2. Thanks for that, Larry. I'm not worried about it going over any sheep's head. Refusing to learn is something God can change any time He likes.