Gordon Fee on Burgon, Majority Text, P66 et al - Robert Hull on Hort's neutral text

Steven Avery

[TC-Alternate-list] Gordon Fee flunks logic - transcriptional probability - partial restoration vs Fee double-partial-addition-margin-gloss
September 7, 2012

Hi Folks,

One of the biggest puzzles of incompetence in the deception of modern textcrit occurs in the area of "transcriptional probability". The logical incompetence focus today occurs in inclusion/omission variants, where it is claimed that certain variants would not have likely arisen if inclusion was the initial occurrence. We have seen this in the heavenly witnesses and other variants, but the following is a "classic example".

The problem is that this is "logic" that would be flunked if given by a fifth grader.
The basic problem is very simple.

A = Inclusion
B = Partial inclusion
C = Omission

The crux of this question and argument is variant B, how could it arise ? The claim is made that it would be difficult to arise from Variant A. And that may be true, directly. However, it is very likely that the first variant from an initial autographic A would be C, and from an initial autographic C would be A.

Note the symmetry.
You then you have A and C in the textlines.
Variant B will be created (most likely as an incomplete attempt from C to recreate A, also possibly from simple scribal omission from A).

When variant B is created, it is essentially irrelevant, and even in a sense unknown, as to whether the order was:

A---> C---> B

C---> A---> B

This is very simple


Here is Gordon Donald Fee (b. 1934) flunking elementary logic.

On the Inauthenticity of John 5:3b-4 (1982)
Gordon D. Fee
John 5:1-7
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool,
which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered,

waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool,
and troubled the water:
whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

And a certain man was there,
which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case,
he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The impotent man answered him,
Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool:
but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

In Fee discussing the variants, there are two lightly attested variants that have only :

3) waiting for the moving of the water.


4) For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool,
and troubled the water:
whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

And it is trivially obvious that these variants would likely arise after variants (1) and (5) arose. So the logic is simple, and the method of creation of variants (3) and (4) is actually independent of the question of whether the autographs were inclusion or omission. Here is the Fee graph.


Fee takes the most anti-Ockham approach to the data, an approach which is quite absurd in its unlikeliness.

However, it seems far more likely that we are here dealing with two independent glosses (variants 3 and 4), which had already been joined at an early stage in the West, but which also had a period of independent existence. In any case, a variety of additions of two separate, and then joined, glosses is a historically probable explanation of all the textual phenomena.

Fee supports this convoluted, totally unsupported historically, absurdity ... simply because he does not realize that (3) and (4) are simple occurrences once the textline has (1) and (5). From this point of Fee convolution you get:

On the other hand, neither variant 5 nor 3 and 4 is easily explained if 5:3b-4 had been original to John's Gospel.

Which, as explained above, is simply false. The only scenario that is uneasy is the absurd double-partial-addition-margin-gloss theory of Fee. The addition of partial text of restoration (whatever the autographic text) is very easy.


Note: Fee does not specifically say "margin" as part of the transmission scenario in his explanation. However, that is generally part of the gloss theories, from margin commentary --> text. Often a difficult theory, even more so when you try to piggy-back dual additions, in the Fee manner above.

Here are the super conjectures of James White some how morphing into "classic example" (circularity the jewel).

"This verse is a classic instance of how a marginal note explaining something in the text can end up as part of the text somewhere down the line. John's reference to the pool of Bethesda and the sick lying about it would be confusing to some. A marginal note explaining traditional belief regarding the angel stirring the waters could have easily been accidentally inserted into the text by a later copyist, thinking that it actually was a part of the text that had been accidentally left out and placed in the margin." The King James Only Controversy, 2009, James White p. 200 (earlier edition .. "classic example" .. "traditional belief of the Jews).

Ok, we have an incompetence and logical failure competition here between White and Fee, and White may be using the Fee material. However, Fee is considered a textual scholar, and even worked out and presented a logic of transmission (very flawed) so he gets the emphasis. White similarly makes the Fee blunder of claiming that the additional variants support autographic omission, when all they really show is that at an early stage there were inclusion and omission texts.

And yes, I am only touching on one basic problem of the Fee analysis here. And yes, I am a bit astounded that the textcrits can not get the simplest logic right, when they are in the Hortian Fog.


Matthew, I will try to get to Cainan-land shortly.


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[TC-Alternate-list] Gordon Fee flunks logic - transcriptional probability - partial restoration vs Fee double-partial-addition-margin-gloss

Steven Avery
Bayside, NY


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Steven Avery

[TC-Alternate-list] Gordon Fee's dissertation on P66 and P75
Feb 12, 2013



I was reading Larry Hurtado's blog, and he gave a link to a dissertation by Gordon D. Fee about P66 and P75. ...
I am reading it now; are any of you familiar with it?

Thanks for the heads-up.
This does look to be placed up deliberately, so giving the url again should be ok.

The significance of Papyrus Bodmer II and Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV for methodology in New Testament textual criticism (1966)
Gordon D. Fee


The paper has great strengths and huge weaknesses, including circularities unseen that undermine the circularities professed to be seen. (In this post I will generally pass on the strengths.)

An example, the whole methodology of internal analysis and points like transcriptional probability were rigged by W-H to match the Vaticanus text. So clearly those remnants of the Hortian system still point to the Hortian text even if manuscript analysis moves away from Vaticanus veneration by discarding the rigged genealogical system so-called.

Gordon Fee makes a big point about how such non-manuscript evidences still point to the Hortian text (see the conclusion especially). Yet Fee never discusses directly the circular rigging of concepts, with the gross abuse of lectio brevior and lectio difficilior. A huge blunder of omission, since that is in the literature, and may even be alluded to by comments in the front and back of his paper, given by others.

While Fee mentions Colwell a lot, this quote came two years after his paper, and succinctly gives the point bypassed by Fee.

Hort Redivivus: A Plea and A Program (1968)
Ernest C. Colwell
"Hort organized his entire argument to depose the Textus Receptus"

Although it would be more precise to add: "and to support the Vaticanus text, plus western non-interpolations".

Hort's entire argument is not just external manuscript and genealogical rigging, it is also rigged methodologies and applications of internal evidences. One key was that the corrupt reading could easily be defended as more "difficult", where the scribes improve upon the Apostles and Prophets, in logic, sense, geography, truth, grammar and more. Another key was the nonsense that additions are the norm, omissions hard to explain.

Fee even has a section against this when discussing P66 on p. 169, that is a forerunner to James Ronald Royse
(this is one of the strong points)


There is a huge distortion of Fenton Hort, mostly by omission. Hort made the neutral text as different than the Alexandrian Text, and the word neutral to Hort is de facto close to "pure and autographic", making its use more than ultra-problematic. Yet Fee runs with it as if it is a real phenomenon.

Example, see how neutral and Alexandrian are two texts.

The New Testament in the original Greek (1881)
Westcott Hort
C. 153-162. Posteriority of Syrian' to 'Western' and other {neutral and ' Alexandrian') readings shown (2) by Ante-Nicene Patristic evidence

The creation of a phantom text-line helped overcome the Western concern after Hort rigged his presentation to dismiss the Byzantine text as of no significance (the last part is covered a bit by Fee, en passant, although he missed the "distinctively Byzantine" rigging stuff about the ECW. Note that the Fee singular reading presentations have difficulties too.).

In the big Hortian picture, two against one, Alexandrian and neutral against Western. Even when Alexandrian and neutral combined are just a couple of manuscripts.

[textualcriticism] Fenton Hort, western non-interpolations, the pure (true) text and the neutral text
Steven Avery - March 13, 2011

In the Hortian economy, the Alexandrian text is an offshoot of the neutral as described her:

Notice that in the Hortian economy, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are not part of the Alexandrian text-line, they exist in the neutral text-line. (The hug problem of the gross corruption and differentiation of Sinaiticus is not really addressed by W-H, Hoskier showed all that later. While P75 supports an early Vaticanus exemplar, it virtually destroys the Vaticanus-Sinaticius singular lineage theory of Hort.)

From my studies, Robert F. Hull is the only writer who properly understands and explains the Hortian system in this textual aspect. This is true despite his overall sympathy for the textus corruptus and Ehrman and his stale and hackneyed animus to the Received Text. (The agitprop runs deep, into the seminarian it must creep - Buffalo Textfield.)


Here is Robert F. Hull, who can receive ultra-compliments for this section:

The Story of the New Testament Text: Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods, and Models (2010)
Robert F. Hull

If neither the Syrian, Western, nor Alexandrian text embodied the original, where was it to be found? Here Westcott and Ilort introduced the only real innovation in their theory. They identified a third pre-Syrian text, represented especially by Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), which they described as a neutral text, that is, generally free from the alterations that characterized the other three types of text. This neutral text was, for all practical purposes, the original text (with the exception of several passages in the Gospels, which will be treated in the next chapter). (p. 84)

They describe the Alexandrian text as preserving a relatively incorrupt form of the New Testament, but with grammatical and stylistic editing, which they see as "the work of careful and leisurely hands ... [which] not seldom display a delicate philological tact which unavoidably lends them at first sight a deceptive appearance of originality" (Westcott and Hort 1881, 2:131-32). To this family they assigned Greek witnesses C L 33, the Coptic Sahidic and Bohairic versions, and the quotations of Clement of Alexandria and Origen. (p. 103)

The neutral text is pre-Syrian, but neither Western nor Alexandrian; it is, precisely, neutral, that is, as close to the autographs as we are likely to get.. Vaticanus.. slightly less-pure representative of the neutral is Codex Sinaiticus. p. 103-104

... the original text had escaped editorial corruption in a handful of witnesses, chiefly codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and often only the former. Here was to be found the neutral, that is, unedited, text. (p. 109)

the division or the textual tradition into three groups, Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine (with its alternate names) had gained a firm place in New Testament textual studies, and Westcott and Hort's neutral category was vying tor a seat at the table. (p. 111)

Note Hull's unusual point about W-H deliberately not capitalizing neutral.


Sidenote: on p. 155, Hull notes an astute observation from Colwell, that is akin to many of our discussions about mindreading the scribes:

"Colwell had warned against attributing theological motivation to variant readings unless scholars could first demonstrate a sure knowledge of the history of theology at the time of the witness or witnesses attesting to the variant in question."

It would be nice to see the Colwell primary on this one.

An interesting point:
Apparently to support the charade of "neutral text" being meaningful, and his never telling his readers about the Hortian rigging of an extra text-line, Fee never mentions the Alexandrian text-line directly. This is in the whole paper only once -- and that is because he is quoting Aland:

"Of course, one can speak of an Egyptian or an Alexandrian text-form, as well as of an Antiochian or Byzantine text-form. . . . These are, it seems to me, the only text -types which may be regarded as certain, and that only since the fourth century" (p. 256)


The neutral texttype emphasis throughout the paper, eg.

"The Neutral Texttype as Recension" (p. 247)
"Origen and the Neutral Texttype as Recension" (p. 275)

Is a total disaster. The worst aspects of Hort in the neutral text terminology is followed, yet his "logic" and own usage is not followed. (e.g. Origen is not neutral per Hort, he is Alexandrian. And Hort has to acknowledge that Origin often has Western readings .. which we note are frequently Syrian/Byzantine as well. All this is simply totally absent in Fee). The difficulties here with the "neutral text" tinge the whole paper. This was not 1905, this was in the 1960s, it is hard to fathom what Fee was thinking.


Yes, the paper is technically often quite excellent. Good points are made. Fee is a sharp cookie. Yet, for all his protestations, to put it simply and bluntly, Fee ends up groping around in the Hortian Fog. This is best seen and exposed, first, before anything good can be taken from such writings.


Psalm 119:140
Thy word is very pure:
therefore thy servant loveth it.

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[TC-Alternate-list] Gordon Fee's dissertation on P66 and P75
Steven Avery - Feb 12, 2013

Yours in Jesus,
Steven Avery
Bayside, NY

[TC-Alternate-list] Re: Gordon Fee's dissertation on P66 and P75
Feb 13, 2013



Thank you, Steve. I am taking finals and working on a major paper, so I was relying on your review to help me digest this paper.


Remember, though, that I am really looking at the "why" of the whole paper, the "how" looks quite strong, and, from my limited skills and perusal, can probably be complimented. Plus Fee does think in terms of methodological soundness. And his little apparatus sections could actually be quite helpful.

Now to the why.

Overall, Gordon Fee wants to shore up Hortianism, using the phenomenon of P75-->Vaticanus confluence. In so doing, he needs to respectfully diss P66 (you will find this cleverly done in the paper) as far less relevant. And Fee surely does not want to have to deal much with the messy problems of Sinaiticus corruption, or the lack of Hortian Vaticanus-Sinaiticus convergence, Hortian circular rigging including a phantom textline, the lack of any consistent Alexandrian aspect to any ECW, why the scribes were so bumbling, and problems everywhere you turn,

One deserving special note: easy omissions as he documents in P66 being the root cause behind P75->Vaticanus omissions from Western and Byzantine variants. Not something that he really wants to consider.

Basically the Fee theory boils down to :


1) Hortian genealogy theory is acknowledged as dubious (yet the neutral text is embraced anyway).

2) The Vaticanus text-form is early, because of P75

3) Modern reasoned, and even rigorous, eclectics still generally support the Hortian text (if I remember, there is a quote in there about Vaticanus still being the main text, even from the rigorous eclectic Kirkpatrick).

(2) and (3) together mean we can rest easy in Hortianism, Vaticanus veneration, as long as we occasionally move away from an ultra-dubious Vaticanus reading, giving each variant a personal decision.


The great fail in the logic is (3). The reason why eclecticism still supports the Vaticanus variant is that there is nothing scientific about it at all. The methodology and application of internal and transcriptional principles were carefully rigged and applied by Hort in order to give backing to the Vaticanus text (you can see 100 examples of this in the Metzger TCGNT if you want to avoid W-H turgid language). Thus the eclectics are groping in the Hortian Fog even while gloating about how they see clearly the circularity in other parts of the Hortian construct. It is, in fact, a bit strained and strange.

Fee uses (3) as his "aha" moment in the conclusion.
Look, there are no problems in Houston, after all. The Hortian shuttle will fly you to the moon. Be not concerned, the system will not blow up.



Do you have any books that you would recommend, on teh level of Metzger's "Text of teh New Testament"? That is the only NTTC book that I own, other than the Textual Commentary to the UBS4.

Well, you have to remember that if you speak too bluntly about this stuff, you might be a 5-year or 6-year or 10-year student. In many places it would be a bit like a creationary individual trying to pass a science curriculum without compromise.

As for books to recommend, there might be some that describe many of the flaws in the science, like Andrew Wilson's: New Testament Textual Criticism: Science, Art or Religion. This used to be online, and could be a worthy counter-point purchase.

Clearly, John William Burgon is still fundamental as well in disassembling the modern TC construct.

To understand the real battle of the Bible alternative, the Greek-fountainhead Latin-traditional ECW-fundamental internal-grammatical faith-consistent eclectic theory (a shorthand name for the Complutensian Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, Geneva, AV-1611 approach) you pretty much have to develop your own curriculum. Although Edward Freer Hills does help a little on the basics.

And I may be missing a few others. For the weaknesses of Vaticanus, there are a number of good articles in the 1850s and 1860s, before both Burgon and the Hortian Fog. So you get to read, crisp, un-politicized analysis. This is actually more fundamental than many realize. If a person understands the weaknesses of Vaticanus, the Hortian system disintegrates.


On the Mark ending post, right before this one, I indicated that Eusebius and Jerome were the ECW who allowed the Mark ending without it buffeting their faith. That likely was incomplete, with one or two others also indicating knowing and considering the abrupt ending. A little late now to do the checking, however I wanted to get the possible mini-correction in.


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[TC-Alternate-list] Re: Gordon Fee's dissertation on P66 and P75

Yours in Jesus,
Steven Avery
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Steven Avery

M. Jack Suggs and Ernst Boogert on Burgon and ECW Citations

M. Jack Suggs (1924-2000)

The Origin of the Byzantine Text: New Perspectives in a Deadlocked Debate (April, 2015)
Ernst Boogert (b. 1989)

In line with Burgon, Sturz asserted that “quotations from early Fathers have been found in support of Byzantine readings.”156 Although such readings are generally considered as assimilations to the later Byzantine standard, he suggested by a quotation from an article of M. Jacob Suggs, that the problem has been exaggerated and that assimilation should be expected less than generally assumed. 157

157 Ibid., 79 (note 4).
Quotes: M. Jacob Suggs.

"The Use of Patristic Evidence in the Search for a Primitive New Testament Text."
New Testament Studies 4. no. 2 (1958): 140. Suggs wrote:

“It is possible to make too much of this aspect of the problem [=scribal revision of Bible quotations: EB]. While modem standards of reproduction were not in effect in the manuscript period, it would be untrue to say that verbal accuracy was not an aim of the ancient scribe—particularly of the trained copyist. There is little evidence of systematic revision of New Testament citations except in translated works, (...).”

I have not the impression that these considerations lead Suggs to a different view of the use of uncritical and critical editions of the Greek Fathers. In the next section, he asserts that scribal revision remains a significant consideration in studying the text of the Patres. especially the improvements conform the Byzantine norm after the fifth century. Subsequently, he stated that good critical editions will lessen this problem considerably, which is wholly in line with the common opinion.
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Steven Avery

Robert Hull section directly on neutral text

The Story of the New Testament Text: Movers, Materials, Motives, Methods (2010)
Robert F. Hull



30.1 have not seen this difference mentioned in other treatments of Westcott and Hort, including that of Metzger, who refers to the “Neutral,” rather than the “neutral,” text (Metzger 1968, 179). I believe Westcott and Hort’s usage is a matter of principle, not simply of typography.
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