the weaknesses and absurdities of the margin note (gloss) interpolation theories

Steven Avery


We have this covered in a couple of places, but it needs its own page.
(search Linkman .. e.g. margin note theory .. interpolation .. gloss)

Steven Avery

An adjunct of this was Elijah Hixson mentioning two Ulrich Schmid papers, with the idea that they support the interpolation idea.

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Elijah Hixson
"See Ulrich Schmid's articles on reader's notes for examples of marginal notes that were not supposed to be brought into the main text."

Steven Avery
Do you have the specific reference? Can you give some examples?
Remember, if Ulrich Schmid is presupposing the originality of the short Critical Text, his argument will tend to be circular. So specifics are needed.
Beyond that, there are incredible difficulties with the theory that heavenly witnesses was a Latin note that came into the text. To start, it is essentially more Johannine than John as in its usage of the Word, it develops a beautiful parallelism, it fixes a textual redundancy of v. 6 and 8, and, most incredibly, the supposedly interpolated Latin fixes the Greek grammar when translated over.
Whew! All that from a margin note from an unknown Clunk the Interpolator.
Also how did this take over the line so completely and so quickly? Look at the Council of Carthage. And how did it get in before Cyprian? Without his noticing?


Schmid, Ulrich. “Conceptualizing ‘Scribal’ Performances: Reader’s Notes.” In The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research, edited by Klaus Wachtel and Michael W. Holmes, 49–64. TCSt 8. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

Schmid, Ulrich. “Scribes and Variants – Sociology and Typology.” In Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies? Papers from the Fifth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, edited by H. A. G. Houghton and D. C. Parker, 1–23. TS, Third Series 6. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2008.

Starting with Scrbies and Variants, it is fun watching Schmid shred the non-methodology of Ehrman. p. 4-5. Acts 20:28 is discussed, this paragraph points out some of the problems.

Wayne Campbell Kannaday is also put through the wringer, with the focus on the Mark 1:2-3 variant. "Scribes as authors" as an interpretation of variants is shown to be way overdone.

Next is Kim Haines-Eitzen, (strong on Beza and the Western text) an interesting discussion.

Then there is a Marcion of Sinope section on p. 12-13, very informative.

Next an ancient papyri discussion P46 and P66 which then moves to the Romans doxology in Romans 16:25-26, but again no discussion of margin notes. Until we get to p. 16
Readers’ notes
It has long been suspected that users of early Christian literature have left their traces in the textual tradition. In fact scholars who engage in
conjectural emendation quite routinely appeal to marginal notes of readers as possible sources of material which appears to them to be wrongly placed in the text.43 Today, conjectural emendation is a largely neglected exercise, not least because Kurt and Barbara Aland strongly opposed it with reference to the textual tradition of the New Testament: (German quote)

The question of readers’ notes or marginal comments, however, has come to the fore from a different angle, that of Latin textual criticism in antiquity. Several articles by Michael Holmes have brought to my attention the work of James Zetzel,45 who has the following to say about classical manuscripts from this period:

Our manuscripts are those of amateurs and wealthy book-lovers; and like modern readers, they wrote comments in the margins, made corrections of errors where they noticed them, and generally created a book that was of service to themselves. (Latin Textual Criticism, 238).

Holmes thinks this might not only be a useful analogy but actually apply to the New Testament as well. p. 17

43 For a very fine study of sixteenth century conjectural emendations see Jan Krans, Beyond What is Written - Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament (NTTSD 35) Leiden: Brill, 2006. In modern times the issue of marginalia that might have intruded into the text at a later stage is discussed most prominently with Paul’s letters: see for example F. Müller, “Zwei Marginalien im Brief des Paulus an die Römer” ZNW 40 (1941) 249-254; W. Schmitthals, “Zwei gnostische Glossen im Zweiten Korintherbrief” EvTh 18 (1958) 552ff. (= Die Gnosis in Korinth, third ed. 1969, 286ff.). There is also recent discussion of the famous mulier taceat passage at 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in G.D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987, and P.B. Payne, “Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus and 1Cor 14:34-5” NTS 41 (1995) 240-262.

44 K. and B. Aland, Der Text des Neuen Testaments, second ed., Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1989, 284.

45 J.E.G. Zetzel, Latin Textual Criticism in Antiquity, New York: Arno Press, 1981; the most recent article of Holmes is Michael W. Holmes, “The Text of P46: Evidence of the Earliest ‘Commentary’ on Romans?” In New Testament Manuscripts - Their Texts and Their World (TENTS 2), ed. T.J. Kraus and T. Nicklas. Leiden: Brill, 2006, 189-206.

(intertextual harmonisation)

As far as I know, however, nobody has pointed to a manuscript and spotted a marginal reading that might legitimately be called a candidate for a reader’s note ... A page of the famous Papyrus Bodmer XIV recently transferred to the Vatican Library, better known to us as !75, provides what appears to be a perfect illustration of a reader’s note.47 ... As far as I can see, this marginal note did not make it into the main text of Luke 17:14 in any of the manuscripts explored for the IGNTP edition of Luke.49

As a matter of fact, this example serves as a very good illustration of what has probably happened at a famous place of variation at Matthew
27:49. Jesus has just received the vinegar on the cross and some have expressed their curiosity: .... It has therefore long been suspected that a marginal note has crept into the text at that point.50 I certainly second that notion. ....

Would it be possible to envisage other places in the text of the New Testament where the entire tradition goes back to a marginal reader’s note
with no hint left to raise suspicion?


If we pause a moment and consider the implications of Ehrman’s
“some scribes modified”, we might arrive at rather startling conclusions for
one of the foundational principles of classical textual criticism. The famous
Lachmannian principle “agreement in error is agreement in ancestry”19
would not apply for readings that can be associated with a theological/
ideological agenda. Moreover, the genealogical method by which
manuscripts are grouped according to the number of readings they have in
common, firmly established on this Lachmannian principle, would collapse
if it were constructed of theologically-motivated readings, because scribes
are more likely than not to have produced such readings independently.
Perhaps Ehrman does not want to be pressed that far. One could argue that
his wording “some scribes modified” owes a lot to a colloquial style and is
not meant to question the Lachmannian principle. The problem, at least in
my view, is that the manner of speaking of “some scribes modified” easily
enters our mind. After being stated and read many, many times, it captures
our imagination to the effect that we are inclined to envisage every single
scribe who penned such a potentially orthodox corruption as effectively
executing that job (or “corruption”) right on the spot. We do not see just
one scribe, who once created the variant that has subsequently been copied.
We see “some scribes”, as many as there are witnesses to that reading, who
willingly authored the corruption several times.

Scribes as authors! Am I unfair in pressing that point? Consider the
following example from Wayne Kannaday’s book Apologetic Discourse and the
Scribal Tradition.20 Of the famous textual problem of Mark 1:2-3, where a
combined Old Testament citation taken from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 is

19 “Lachmann did not formulate a method himself. Several text genealogists
have worked out some of his fundamental ideas, which they called the method of
Lachmann” (B. Salemans, “Building Stemmas with the Computer in a Cladistic,
Neo-Lachmannian, Way. The Case of Fourteen Text Versions of Lanseloet van
Denemerken.” Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, 2000,
19); see also S. Timpanaro, La genesi del metodo del Lachmann, second ed., Turin 1981
(1963), German translation: Die Entstehung der Lachmannschen Methode, second revised
and augmented ed., translated by D. Irmer. Hamburg: Buske, 1971, English
translation: The Genesis of Lachmann’s Method. Edited and translated
by G.W. Most.
Chicago & London: Chichago UP, 2005.

20 Cf. note 10 above.
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Steven Avery

Hi Elijah,

The Ulrich Schmid papers:

Scribes and Variants

Conceptualizing Scribal Variants

are fun, especially his shredding of the Ehrman non-methodology, in Scribes and Variants.

Schmid's Marcion page was very informative, albeit irrelevant to our discussion here.

Clearly there is a circularity problem, look at the section on the Mark ending in Conceptualizing. At least Schmid recognizes that scribal creation there would involve a rather "serious and conscious rewriting".

Overall, there is little to do with our heavenly witnesses verse, any attempted analogies are thin.

The closest consideration is theorizing how Matthew 27:49 got into Vaticanus and Ephraemi, and the theory that it might have been a margin note involving John 19:34 (without any hard textual evidence.) Reasonable speculation, but only speculation.

Plus Schmid goes into the Fee-Payne Corinthians interpolation theory (sans textual evidence) and Romans doxology variants. Hard to relate to our Johannine heavenly witnesses.


My Cyprian reference was deliberate, to allow you to counter-challenge on circularity. Since I believe that anyone who sincerely looks at his references, including Unity of the Church, will reach the same conclusion as Scrivener (contra) and Franz Pieper (pro-authenticity) .. the heavenly witnesses verse was in the Bible of Cyprian.

(Note to Lee Van Cliff above: my Bible position was sharply changed by this Cyprian heavenly witnesses discussion c. 20 years ago, when I was leaving critical text usage.)

Btw, I have been fighting the Greek manuscripts issue on the heavenly witnesses for a decade plus. The Drexler double-counting error as put in Michael Maynard's book, the Stephanus crochet misplacement, errors by David Martin, John Gill and especially George Travers. And the overall importance of only putting the extant mss as part of the restoration that began at the Lateran Council, not trying to paint them as ancient transmission.

On the other hand, there are few early Greek mss with 1 John so our church writer evidences are far more significant, in order to get a window into the 50 AD to 700 AD era.

Your paper was overall fine, and helpful. Makes it easier for me to place issues in balance with heavenly witnesses supporters who do not know well the history.

Except for some major lacks that I have indicated in other posts, such as not including the Latin and Greek in the Lateran Council, clearly a precursor to 629, Codex Ottobonianus. And your not including Joseph Bryennius and Emanuel Calecas, all before Erasmus. And the ms. 635 history, which I helped unravel above and really should be part of the paper, or at least any future editions.


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