Hort and Aland warn about gnostic influence on Alexandrian text activity, papyri preserved by hot, dry desert

Steven Avery

Facebook threads (check gnostic and papyri keywords for more Facebook and general net)

Facebook - PureBible - March 25, 2014
The Kurt Aland warning about gnostic influence in Egyptian manuscripts

Facebook - Will Kinney
A discussion of the bumbling James White and the papyriL
willjkinney /posts/10156996675413841

The Hort and Aland Warnings!

From Fenton Hort, a warning:

An interesting point from Hort is on p. 25 where he acknowledges that Alexandria was gnostic till deep into the third century (see Aland on this as well.)


"... there is not a trace of theological activity at Alexandria, except that of the 'Gnostic' chiefs, till the Catechetical School of the Church (Athenagoras, Pantamus, Clement) arose in the last third of the century ... if such existed, some record of it must have been preserved by Eusebius, who had a special interest in Alexandria, and has given us a tolerable roll of contemporary writers from other parts of the East."

Kurt Aland and a similar warning.

The Text of the New Testament (1995)
Kurt and Barbara Aland

We should not forget that apart from 0212 (found at Dura Europus). all the early witnesses listed above on p. 57 are from Egypt, where the hot, dry sands preserved the papyri through the centuries (similar climatic conditions are found in the Judaean desert where papyri have also been discovered). From other major centers of the early Christian church nothing has survived. This raises the question whether and to what extent we can generalize from the Egyptian situation. Egypt was distinguished from other provinces of the Church, so far as we can judge, by the early dominance of gnosticism; this was not broken until about A.D. 200. when Bishop Demetrius succeeded in reorganizing the diocese and establishing communications with the other churches. Not until then do we have documentary evidence of the church in Egypt, although undoubtedly not only the gnostic but also the broader Church was represented there throughout the whole period. At almost the same time the Catechetical School of Alexandria was instituted as the first "Christian university."
These are the papyri on p. 57

aland papyri.jpg

Commentary on the Aland warning

Today we will look at a quote from Kurt Aland about the Egyptian gnosticism and how we should be approach those manuscripts with a special caution.

(see if this Facebook url and the others from New Testament Textual Criticism, works for members)


0212 is a Gospel harmony , arguably a Diatessaron, and is not Alexandrian.

My summary:

1) Only Egyptian mss (1 exception) survived from the Ante-Nicene period, due to the climate

2) Early dominance of gnosticism till 200 AD (implied - isolation from main Christian channels)

3) Gnosticism continues as influential in Egypt though the first centuries


And my discussion continues here:

"The whole period" includes through the first two, and even the first four centuries. From where we get the early papyri and the descendants thereof (e.g. one well-known 4th century manuscript has a textual affinity to a 3rd century papyrus, P75.)

Aland is clearly telling you that gnostic influences can be a factor in the manuscripts that come out of the early Egyptian milieu. And especially that we should be careful about any generalizations from early Egyptian manuscripts, due to the unusual Egyptian spiritual state:

** "distinguished" ** by early gnostic dominance.

The early papyri have hundreds of studied variants, many singular, many lightly supported elsewhere, many close to the dynamic duo. Yet many that support the Byzantine text against the Alexandrian.

Clearly, I can not tell you which ones that Kurt Aland (1915-1994) considered to be most gnostically problematic, ideally for that the person to ask is KA. However, since he has passed away, the next best would be those who worked closely with KA.

Meanwhile, we can read and understand his astute warning.

And the fact that he gave the warning does not mean that he was able to break out of the Hortian box in application.

Even Bruce Metzger was not totally oblivious to this concern, eg.:

".. to judge by the comments made by Clement of Alexandria, almost every deviant Christian sect was represented in Egypt during the second century; Clement mentions the Valentinians, the Basilidians, the Marcionites, the Peratae, the Encratites, the Docetists, the Haimetites, the Cainites, the Ophites, the Simonians, and the Eutychites. What proportion of Christians in Egypt during the second century were orthodox is not known." - The Early Versions of the New Testament, 1977 p. 201

Clearly, their representation would logically include their representation in the manuscript copying process.

Comment pointing here attempt to add to Jeff Riddle on papyri:

On the gnostic influence, see also the Steve Rafalksy post here:

Responding to James White of AOMIN
Steve Rafalsky - Feb, 2009

And a few more quotes can be found and added, to round out Aland and Metzger, including Bart Ehrman, Eldon Epp and Colin Henderson Roberts.

Remember, this is the contras acknowledging the gnostic-Egypt connection, in some cases, especially Aland, in the context of the copying and transmission of the manuscripts.

One important point. Gnostic and Arian influence does not always have to create the original variant, that can be accidental. However, as an example, an Arian will definitely lean toward copying "the only-begotten god" in John 1:18, even if the corruption was originally a scribal faux pas.

And the gnostic influence aspect should not be overdone, the modern versions are simply ultra-corrupt no matter what the specific reasons on particular verses.


sister threads can be or were combined

Hort and Aland warn about gnostic influence on Alexandrian Bible text activity
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