Monday, August 6, 2018

A Text Without Martha: Implications of an Earlier Textual Layer of John’s Gospel

In a 2017 issue of Harvard Theological Review, Elizabeth Schrader (PhD student at Duke) published an article postulating an earlier textual layer of John’s Gospel that highlighted (to a greater extent than traditionally thought) the sister of Lazarus, Mary, in the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
Elizabeth Schrader, “Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?” Harvard Theological Review 110.3 (2017): 360-392.
"This study examines the text transmission of the figure of Martha of Bethany throughout the Fourth Gospel in over one hundred of our oldest extant Greek and Vetus Latina witnesses. the starting point for this study is instability around Martha in our most ancient witnesses of John 11-12, Papyrus 66. By looking at P66's idiosyncrasies and then comparing them to the Fourth Gospel's greater manuscript transmission, I hope to demonstrate that Martha's presence shows significant textual instability throughout the Lazarus episode, and thus that this Lukan figure may not have been present in a predecessor text form of the Fourth Gospel that circulated in the second century." (Schrader, 360)

As Schrader notes in the introduction to the article, much of the argument depends on the textual idiosyncrasies of P66. In response, this post will focus on just two readings as they are found in P66. At John 11:1 Schrader argues that Mary was the only name originally present in the Lazarus story in this verse. And at John 11:3 it is Mary who allegedly sent word to Jesus and not Mary and Martha.

P66 showing duplication of μαριας and correction to μαρθας (circled in red) at John 11:1
The P66* reading in John 11:1, μαριας και μαριας, could be explained by dittography, or an error caused by a backward leap (as Schrader acknowledges on 362). Royse notes that slips involving a backward leap or dittography are quite common to the scribe of P66 (Schrader only mentions the dittography’s noted by Royse at John 1:17b, 12:26a, and 14:3; Schrader, 362). Royse notes backward leaps at John 3:3, 3:31b, 7:44a, 8:42b, 9:41a, 9:41b, 10:38b, 13:20c (either a backward or a forward leap) 13:32, 14:10b, 14:12a, 14:12c, 16:25 (Royse, 422-432). And this list is not exhaustive.

Schrader acknowledges this, but argues that this scribal slip and correction must be explained in light of “the surrounding reading of P66” (Schrader, 363). I find it interesting that at 10:38, just a few verses before John 11:1, on the recto of the same page, we find a very similar phenomena. The scribe did a backward leap and began to rewrite the same words (εν εμοι ... εν τω πατρι; Royse, 430). Because of the close proximity of these scribal slips (and the frequency of their occurrence throughout), it seems more likely that the repeating of μαριας was due to a backward leap and a repeating of the name, rather than the bleeding through of an earlier text form of John with Martha excluded.

P66 at John 10:38 showing the dittography and correction of εν εμοι ... εν τω πατρι
The changing of the pronoun from masculine to feminine in John 11:1 (αυτου > αυτης) after the dittography of μαριας could again be explained by the scribal peculiarities of P66. The scribe alters the gender of a pronoun at 4:11a, a noun at 15:19a, and the case of several pronouns at 6:7b, 15:13 (this is not an exhaustive list).

The original reading at John 11:3 is unique in that “P66 is the only extant witness that actually transcribes the name of a single sister” (Schrader, 370). The scribe of P66 originally wrote, απεστιλεν ουν μαρ[?]α προς αυτον λεγουσα (Mary/Martha then sent toward him saying). In a complicated series of erasures and corrections, the scribe changed the text to read απεστιλαν ουν αι αδελφαι προς αυτον λεγουσαι (The sisters then sent toward him saying).

Schrader notes that “this reading is crucial” to her thesis that the story of Lazarus originally only included Mary and Martha was added by the scribe of P66. Though Schrader does indicate that scholars are divided as to which name was originally present in this verse, it is very difficult to discern from the images which name was initially written by the scribe (Schrader, 367-368). Though Schrader and other scholars contend for μαρια as the original reading, μαρθα could have just as easily been the initial transcription.

P66 at John 11:3 showing deletion and correction

P66 at John 11:3 showing possible initial reading μαρια

P66 at John 11:3 showing possible initial reading μαρθα
The initial reading of μαρθα can very easily be explained as harmonization. One characteristic noted by Schrader is that “[i]t seems likely that there was an early harmonization of the Johannine Lazarus story to the Lukan story of Mary and Martha” (Schrader, 391). Both Colwell and Royse recognize a tendency to harmonize readings with remote parallels in other Gospels (Colwell, 112-114; Royse, 536-544). It is quite possible that the scribe was harmonizing the story to Luke 10:38-42 where Martha is quite prominent. One does not have to go as far as Luke’s gospel for harmonization parallels. It is also possible that the scribe was harmonizing to a point later in the story where Martha runs out to meet Jesus at John 11:21 (cf. 11:30). I find it interesting that at none of these places does the scribe of P66 attempt to remove the prominence of Martha who takes center stage in the narrative. Complicated and lengthy erasures and corrections are not uncommon for the scribe of P66. A "confusing" series of errors of backward leaps, erasures, and corrections made in scribendo are found at 7:33 (Royse, 422). A very similar occurrence is located at 13:20c (Royse, 431).

I think that, in the case of P66, it is wise to heed the words of Ernest Colwell;
“Wildness in copying is the outstanding characteristic of P66. This makes it very difficult to decide whether particular readings are due to editorializing on the part of the scribe or rather are due to his general laxity and inefficiency.” (Colwell, 121)
In response to these types of allegations, Schrader writes,
“I believe that the changes around Martha in P66 cannot simply be dismissed as scribal mechanical errors, because there are so many strange variants around Martha throughout the text transmission of the Fourth Gospel, as well as patristic quotations and ancient extracanonical texts.” (Schrader, 391)
I think that, at least in the case of P66, a better explanation for the unusual readings are the blunders and slips peculiar to the scribe of P66.

Though I do not wish to comment on the rest of the article content and argument at this time, I do think that Schrader's paper is a detailed and thorough piece of research. She has effectively used the data made available in online editions and other online tools that, I am sure, will be a model for future researchers.

Royse, James R., "Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri." NTTSD 36. Leiden: Brill, 2008.

Colwell, Ernest C., "Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75," pages 106-124 in "Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament." NTTS 9. Leiden: Brill, 1969.


  1. Hi Timothy! I've been meaning to write back to you on this thread for a while. You make some reasonable points here. Let me respond to them individually:

    *Re: the first reading of John 11:1 in P66. Thanks for noting that in P66, a) a dittography is found on the recto of the same page as John 11:1, and b) at John 4:1 αυτη has been changed to αυτω, and at 15:13 αυτω has been changed to αυτου (I see no gender changes at 15:19a or 6:7b, just scribal errors, so I’m not sure what you are referring to there). These are good observations. However I believe you are continuing a trend that I strongly critiqued in my HTR article: “due to the great number of corrections in this manuscript, text critics have perhaps been so focused on cataloguing each individual correction that they have not noticed the themed cluster of variants at the opening of John 11...Thus, in this study P66’s verses containing Martha will be examined on a case-by-case basis, while the greater context of the corrections, including the broader text transmission of the verses in over one hundred Greek and Vetus Latina manuscripts, will be kept in mind" (pg. 362). In your comment above, I believe you are "zooming in" without "zooming out", that is, you are still not looking at the overall context of P66’s corrections in the broader text transmission. For example, both P66 and Codex Alexandrinus change the name μαρια to μαρθα in John 11:1, and both of these initial readings have αδελφης αυτου. These manuscripts are from different "families" (and do not have strong coherence, I believe) so these extraordinarily similar readings should not be quickly dismissed. Moreover, Martha is absent from John 11:1 in 157, 1230, and Vetus Latina 9A - and unlike the pronoun changes at 4:11 and 15:13 in P66, the αδελφης αυτου at John 11:1 is found in several other manuscripts! See minuscule 32, 841, 1009, and 1071. (Also at 11:4, P66*’s dative feminine singular αυτη shows up in 357, 841, 884, 1010, 2193*, 2786, VL 33, and ff2; at 12:2, P66’s singular εποιησεν is found in 295, 579, 841, and Origen. You haven’t addressed these readings...) Here is my point: after looking at the overall text transmission of John 11:1, it is difficult to sustain your suggestion that these corrections are simply scribal habits of P66.

  2. *I concede that the name of the woman split in two at John 11:3 could technically be either μαρια or μαρθα. However when deciding which name is more likely, again we must look at the overall text transmission. My data demonstrates that Martha can blink in and out of literally every verse where she appears in John 11:1-12:2, depending on the manuscript (with the sole exception of John 11:28, a verse that by definition cannot belong to a one-sister textform, since in this verse Martha and Mary interact). The overall text transmission shows a repeated trend for Martha to drop out, so I conclude that μαρια is more likely to be the name crossed out at John 11:3. If you are going to make the case that “the initial reading of μαρθα can very easily be explained as harmonization,” please provide other manuscripts where a similar phenomenon happens. (If you can find other manuscripts where a plural, unnamed subject is both named and made singular, this would strongly support your point)

    *Lastly, I’d like to address this point: “I find it interesting that at none of these places [John 11:21 and 11:30] does the scribe of P66 attempt to remove the prominence of Martha who takes center stage in the narrative.” I should have made it clearer in my HTR article that I believe that one of P66’s exemplars had a textform with Mary only, and the other exemplar had a textform with Martha added. By this hypothesis, the erratic readings we find at John 11:1-5 make very good sense as a scribe trying to reconcile these two differing textforms. I believe the scribe makes a definitive choice to switch exemplars in the middle of John 11:5 (note the odd stop in the transcription of the word η·γαπα): here the scribe realized that reconciling the two textforms was a futile effort, and so decided to continue by copying the exemplar with two sisters. This hypothesis explains why every mention of Martha is fraught with instability until John 11:5a, but becomes quite stable after John 11:5b.

    In sum, I believe your comment: “a better explanation for the unusual readings are the blunders and slips peculiar to the scribe of P66” in unpersuasive. You have taken the first methodological step outlined on page 362 of my article (“P66’s verses containing Martha will be examined on a case-by-case basis”), but you have not taken the second step (“the greater context of the corrections, including the broader text transmission of the verses in over one hundred Greek and Vetus Latina manuscripts, will be kept in mind”). If you have additional thoughts in light of my critiques above, I would be interested to hear them. Thanks for your contribution to this discussion, Timothy!

  3. If a scribe wanted to misrepresent his exemplar with intent to deceive, he might disguise his alteration as an accidental mechanical error so that he could claim innocence if he was accused of unfaithful copying. Such cases are, of course, impossible to detect with certainty. However, while individual cases cannot be proven, we can potentially show, with near certainty, that such a tendency was at play when there is a cluster of alterations that have a common effect. This is Elizabeth's point, of course. A statistical analysis is required.

    There is a strong parallel to the kind of thing that you are proposing, Elizabeth. I did an exhaustive study of the textual variants concerning the Latin names in the NT in the earliest manuscripts. Most of the variants concern just three names in various forms. These names are Prisca/Priscilla/Priscas/Priscus, Julia/Julius, and Junia. I believe that the variants introduced by the scribes served to remove or diminish the evidence for prominent female co-workers of Paul.

    If I have understood you correctly, Elizabeth, you are suggesting that Mary of Bethany was identified, perhaps correctly, as Mary Magdalene and that orthodox scribes tried to diminish her prominence in John 11 to counter those (gnostics?) who appealed to her authority. As you mention, much depends on whether Mary Magdalene was from Magdala of Galilee. Joan Taylor questions it. Richard Bauckham has given a rebuttal of Taylor. I argue that Bauckham's points are weak. My 2016 article in Tyndale Bulletin argues that Paul gave new names with symbolic meanings to the hosts of his churches. This was merely a continuation of the practice of Jesus, who gave a new name to his host (Simon-Peter). Mary Magdalene could be such a case. Mary of Bethany, along with her brother, hosted Jesus, so she may well have been given a new name.

    I doubt that people outside of Palestine knew that Mary was a very very common name there. They might well have tended to equate all Marys where possible.

    Some may object that your theory requires that people believed that the same person was called "Mary" in John 11 and "Mary Magdalene" elsewhere. However, this kind of name switching was common.

    How have people interacted with your article since it was published? How has it been received?

  4. Hi Robert and thanks so much for taking the time to read my article and engage with this question! I would say that yes, you have understood my argument correctly. Thanks also for pointing me to your Tyndale Bulletin article - indeed I think it is quite possible that Jesus could have given Mary of Bethany the title "Magdalene." As for why Mary would not have been clearly identified as "Magdalene" in John 11 - well, perhaps because the author of this story wanted to identify her as the Christological confessor, not unlike Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16. Perhaps the author knew it would be controversial to attribute this confession to Mary Magdalene, so a decision was made to simply refer to her as "Mary" but then to make exact textual parallels between John 11 and John 20 (see my list of these parallels on pp. 387-388).

    Re: whether or not Magdalene means "from Magdala" - to me this is something of a silly question since we simply cannot be certain what the word meant. Jerome and Origen both thought the word was a title (e.g. "Mary the Tower"), whereas Eusebius thought it was a geographical reference. But if very early Church Fathers were divided on this question, why are modern scholars so sure they know what the word means? I've read Taylor's article and I know that Bauckham has given a response, though I haven't read it yet. If you could point me to Bauckham's chapter (article?) I'd appreciate it.

    As for whether the scribe of P66, Codex Alexandrinus, or any of these other strange manuscripts "wanted to misrepresent his exemplar with intent to deceive," I think that is beyond the scope of textual criticism! All we can do is work with the evidence in front of us. And there are big problems with Martha in John 11-12. I find new problems every time I look (as Timothy Mitchell has seen me posting about!).

    Your study sounds very interesting to me. If you're willing, could you e-mail it to me (or send a link) at I'd love to see the patterns that you've found.

    Thanks again for so kindly interacting with my work! Don't hesitate to e-mail me if you have other questions as well.



  5. I'm a lay person.. your coversation is awesome...!!! Love it

  6. Elizabeth, you have shown that there was extensive disruption in John 11:1,5 and that it was well beyond what can be explained by random scribal errors. Why were these two verses the focus of the copyists' discontent (rather than the 12 verses that name Mary Magdalene, for example)? It seems to me that what you have uncovered is an important and early example of misogynist alteration of scripture. These two verses (unlike the others that mention Mary Magdalene or Martha or Mary of Bethany) imply that the women were more important than a man, and that is surely what the copyists found difficult to stomach.

    11:1 reads "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha." This implies that Mary was more important than Lazarus because Martha is defined here as Mary's sister, rather than Lazarus's sister. Misogynist copyists could not tolerate this so they changed the feminine pronoun to a masculine pronoun and even eliminated Martha. Thus, as your analysis shows, there was an early variant that read "of Mary his sister", and (also from your analysis) this variant can have given rise to all the others.

    11:5 reads "Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,". This was troubling to early misogynist interpreters, for it could imply that Jesus loved Martha and her sister more than Lazarus, or that the two women were more prominent than Lazarus (for they are mentioned first). It also defines Mary as Martha's sister rather than as Lazarus's sister, implying that Martha was more important than Lazarus. Thus we have the variants that name Lazarus first and those that say "the sister" or "his sister" instead of "her sister". Compare the change of gender of the pronoun at Col 4:15 and the reversal of the names Priscilla and Aquila in Western texts.

    Now, having eliminated Martha from the verse that introduces here (11:1), a text would then run into difficulty later where reference is made to Martha. Thus "the sisters" at 11:3 makes no sense if only one sister has been mentioned. Thus the copyist that removed Martha from 11:1, or subsequent copyists, might have to change "sisters" at 11:3 to "sister" or "Mary". (Note also that the masculine pronoun "his sisters" in D reflects the perceived need to define the women by their male relative). Your paper mentions occasional hints that Martha was eliminated from some verses after 11:5. Could these variants also have been produced by copyists whose exemplar did not introduce Martha at 11:1 and who felt that it did not make sense for Martha to appear later without introduction?

    In summary, your work is hugely valuable and, for me, it shows that there was misogynist corruption of scripture at a very early stage, for it appeared even in the vorlage of our earliest manuscript.

    1. Thank you so much for your engagement here Richard.

  7. In reply to a question above, Richard Bauckham’s criticism of Joan E. Taylor’s PEQ (2014) 205-233 article on Mary Magdalene appears in Magdala of Galilee: A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period (Baylor UP, 2018), edited by Bauckham, ch. 12, by Bauckham, “Prosopography of Magdala,” pp. 345-361, especially pp. 358-361. Taylor argued for a metaphorical sense of “tower,” though does not dismiss some prior geographic basis.
    In Elizabeth Schrader’s HTR (201) 360-392, page 389 there is a small typo: the rough breathing mark is absent from the Greek for Helene, suggested as perhaps appended to Migdal (rather than as a separate name after Mary; unlikely, in my view). More seriously, Migdal is called there Aramaic, but Magdala is the Aramaic version and Migdal the Hebrew.
    If Mary was from Magdala in Galilee, then she most likely was not Mary of Bethany in Judaea.
    Mariam was, by far, the most common female Jewish name at the time; Martha was the fourth most common. Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I, Palestine 330 BCE- 200 CE (2002), p. 57. No other pair of common names are as easily (one letter different) mis-copied. In the generally well-edited Anchor Bible Dictionary article on Mary Magdalene (Mary no. 2; v. 4. p. 580, col. 2, line 21), Mary is once spelled Mark!
    Ilan, 443-4, has additional observations on Magdalene and similar names.

  8. Thanks to a good question from Elizabeth Schrader, we found a comment on Mary Magdalene’s name by Origen, one apparently not mentioned in the publications mentioned above by Taylor or Bauckham.
    In old sources, such as Wm. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (various editions), it is mentioned (though not quoted accurately) as being in Tractate on Matthew xxxv. In Patr. Gr. xiii, under a different title, it appears, in Latin, in col. 1795, section 141.
    IN CGS Origenes Werke 11 (2) (both editions, second ed., 1976, available at HathiTrust, U Minn copy) it appears on pages 293-294, in Latin and also with a Greek catena fragment.
    In Roland E. Heine, The Commentary of Origen on the Gospel of Matthew (OUP, 2018) translation of the Latin and the Greek are given in Vol. 2 pages 760-761.
    From Latin:
    There were, therefore, many women looking at Jesus at that time, and the principal ones are named, as if they were ‘looking’ more attentively, ‘ministering’ to a greater extent, and ‘following’ in a more excellent way. There was ‘Mary Magdalene’, harmonious in a high degree with the interpretation of the name of her fatherland, which is called Magdala (but is interpreted to mean, ‘that place is greatly praised’). And this ‘Mary Magdalene’ was of the place greatly praised for no other reason than that she had followed ‘Jesus’, ministering ‘to him’, and looked on the mystery of his passion.
    From Greek:
    While there were many other women there, these are named as the principal ones who saw in a greater way and served, and followed more excellently; Mary from the place greatly praised (for Magdala is interpreted to mean ‘a place greatly praised.’)

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful engagement Stephen Goranson in the blog comments. It makes for a much more personal and interesting treatment of the issues involved in high level scholarship such as this.

    2. That's an interesting find, Stephen. Thank you for sharing it. By what etymological theory did Origen suppose that Magdala meant "a place greatly praised"? How can he have that that her ministry caused her to have come from Magdala? Or is he saying here that she was called Madalene (meaning of a place greatly praised) because she had ministered to Jesus.

  9. PS. I made a mistake above. The Commentary translator is Ronald E. Heine, not Roland.

  10. Hello and my apologies for the delayed reply here! To answer Dr. Goranson's last couple of posts:

    I've finally gotten the chance to look at Bauckham's book, and I see several issues with the evidence there. First of all, when Bauckham says there is "no philological basis" for the idea that the name Magdalene is a title (pg. 359), he is making a very bold argument against one of the most gifted philologists in antiquity: St. Jerome, whose position Bauckham acknowledges, but apparently finds irrelevant (see pp. 359-360). Moreover Bauckham does not acknowledge Eusebius of Caesarea's To Marinus 2 - which I believe is the earliest clear attestation of Mary's epithet "Magdalene" as referring to a geographical location. Yet Eusebius apparently thought that "Migdal" refereed to Migdal Gad - in Judaea! (See Onomasticon 130.9). So much for Bauckham's assertion that his Magdala "must have been much the most important and best known of the various places called Migdal or Magdala in first-century Palestine" (pg. 360); or perhaps he thinks Eusebius' fourth-century testimony is too late to be relevant - despite it being the earliest attestation of “Magdalene” clearly referring to a location?

    I admit I'm also a bit confused when Bauckham cites Rav Hisda, who explicitly says that the word "Megaddela" is an epithet for Mary being a hairdresser; Bauckham is oddly certain when he says that this is "undoubtedly a pun on the name of Mary Magdalene's home town." (pg. 349) But hasn't Rav Hisda just clearly stated that the word is a reference to hairdressing?!

    Bauckham also says a few times that there is no reference to "Migdal (Nunayya)" prior to rabbinic literature (since apparently it was referred to as Taricheae by the Romans); he even admits that "we do not know that it existed in the time of Jesus" (pg. 360)! So, if we don't know for certain that the town was referred to as "Migdal" in the time of Jesus, how can we be certain that the word "Magdalene" refers to the hometown of a follower of Jesus?

    Re: Bauckham’s statement that -ηνη was "a common way of creating from the name of a city or village a term referring to inhabitants of that place" (pg. 358), his evidence is quite slim; he only provides one example of the feminine form (Βισαρηνή). He is probably right that "Magdelā’îtā" could only mean "Woman from Magdala" (pg. 359). But that is not Mary's epithet ;)

  11. As Dr. Goranson notes above, I was previously aware of Origen referring to the word "Magdalene" as a title, and he is right that Bauckham and Taylor seem to be unaware of this important fact. Dr. Goranson generously helped track down the work this was from, and I have since looked at the critical edition.

    Although Dr. Goranson is correct that Heine has translated Origen’s Greek text as "Mary from *the place* greatly praised (for Magdala is interpreted to mean '*a place* greatly praised')", Origen does not quite say this! Origen's Greek text is: ἡ ἀπο τοῦ μεγαλοσμοῦ Μαρία (Μάγδαλα γὰρ ΜΕΓΑΛΥΣΜΟΣ ἑρμηνεύται). Although a sixth-century Latin translator later expanded Origen's statement to refer specifically to a place name (the addition of nominis patriae suae to the first phrase, and the addition of the words locus ille after interpretatur autem magnificatio), it must be noted that the word τόπος is nowhere present in Origen's Greek. Heine has apparently assumed it from the phrase ἀπο τοῦ μεγαλοσμοῦ, but one wonders if he is reading a modern scholarly position (that Magdalene refers to a location) into his translation. By contrast, William Smith's reading of the Origen quote seems quite valid: "Origen, lastly, looking to the more common meaning of גָּדִל (gâdal, 'to be great'), sees in her name a prophecy of spiritual greatness as having ministered to the Lord, and been the first witness of his resurrection."[1] To my eye that seems a more straightforward reading of Origen's Greek, though Heine may have other reasons for inferring a place name here (e.g. if I'm overlooking some Greek rule about locative use of ἀπο, please do fill me in).

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Heine and Bauckham; they are far more magisterial scholars than I will likely ever be. Yet I do believe their position on the meaning of Μαγδαληνὴ falls short of the caliber of their generally excellent scholarship. Certainly it appears that Bauckham's hard line position is at odds with the evidence that he himself presents re: the testimony of Jerome and Rav Hisda, and also the testimony of Origen and Eusebius (which he does not mention!). If Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and the rabbis are completely at odds on a subject, it seems rather presumptuous to say that *we* know the answer for certain - especially when our answer accords with none of their positions!! To me it seems so much more charitable, and in line with the evidence, to simply say that we are not certain what the word “Magdalene” meant.

    By the way, Dr. Goranson is right to point out that "Magdala is the Aramaic version and Migdal the Hebrew" (information I have gotten clearer on since writing my master's thesis!), and of course to note that I should have included the breathing mark with Ἑλένη. I disagree on this point though: "No other pair of common names are as easily (one letter different) mis-copied." If this is the case, then why are these names copied always faithfully in the Greek and Latin transmission of Luke 10:38-42? The graphic similarity is not enough to explain the discrepancy between the two Gospels.

    Hope this makes my position clear! And thanks so much Timothy for the opportunity to discuss these subjects on your blog.

    PS: my apologies to Richard Fellows for calling him "Robert" in an earlier post :)

    [1] See William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. II (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1863), 256a.

    1. Thank you Elizabeth for your detailed, thoughtful, and well-researched responses. It makes for a lovely interchange between scholars.

  12. ALSO: I am looking further along in the Heine translation of Origen, and in section 144 this is how he translates Origen's text: "the two Marys, the one from Magdala and the mother of James and Joseph..." (pg. 763). But this again suggests that Heine is reading his own "place-name" view into the translation; although only the Latin is extant here, it does not say "quae ex Magdala." It says "Magdalenae" ("duarum Mariarum, Magdalenae et matris Iacobi et Ioseph"). In other words, I don't think we can cite Origen as believing that Mary's title referred to a place name. The most straightforward reading of the Greek in section 141 is that he understands Μαγδαληνὴ to mean "greatly praised."

    Here is the information on this Origen critical edition: Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der Ersten Drei Jahrhunderte. Origenes: Elfter Band (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1933), pp. 293-294, 297.

    1. So the epithet Magdalene indicates that this Mary was worthy of high praise. This sounds very much like a "benefactor name" similar to those that I identified in my 2016 Tyndale Bulletin paper (e.g. Epaenetus, Stephanas).

  13. I wrote, drawing on Tal Ilan’s name lexicon (cited above), that Mary and Martha are the two relevant common names most easily confused. To deny that claim, one must needs present another relevant pair of names that are more easily confused. Rather, Elizabeth Schrader, in what may be a non-sequitur, countered that a shorter passage in Luke does not display the confusion shown in John. But that may not be a comparable opportunity for confusion, and we do not have a p66-scribe copy of Luke. Confusion of names popped up even in these comments (Roland—I may have had former Duke Prof. Roland Murphy in mind at the time—rather than Ronald; and Robert instead of Richard.) There are many NT mss; to my knowledge, not a single one evidences the version of John that ES proposes and supposes was utterly suppressed. As our host wrote: “I think that, at least in the case of P66, a better explanation for the unusual readings are the blunders and slips peculiar to the scribe of P66.”
    William Smith’s Dictionary--cited above, though the article is actually by Edward Hayes Plumtre--gives four possible explanations for the name Mary Magdalene, including the hair-plaiter one, but does not decisively plump for any. Even if it had, that would not end discussion.
    Ms. Schrader cites what she calls Origen’s Greek text--actually a cantena version of same--and dismisses the Latin translation as having additions that she selects and rejects. Both assertions, presented as if certain, are questionable, as further reading in Heine might suggest. Heine, translator and commenter on many Origen texts, has warned, in more than one publication, that catena texts claiming to be Origen’s text are often unreliable and *shortened*, so the Latin may actually be a closer approximation. J. of Theological Studies 2000, v. 51 no. 2, pages 479-80: “Most of the [Greek catena] fragments [of Origen] are brief, however, and show the common tendency of catenists to abbreviate the text that they excerpt.13”[Footnote 13: “See R. E. Heine, “Can the Catena Fragments of Origen’s Commentary on John Be Trusted?” VC 40 (1986), pp. 118-34. {My synopsis: no.}]
    There is considerable literature on Origen on Hebrew and names (e.g., N. de Lange, Origen and the Jews; RPC Hanson, Vig Ch 1956 103-23; F. Wutz, Onomastica Sacra 1914-15, especially Second Section pp. 739-748 listing names and interpretations in Origen—available at HathiTrust.) Some interpretations (like some in Philo) are bogus.
    One name that comes to my mind is Ebionites (cf. my article in Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992, II:260-1). Though Origen got the Hebrew sense partly right, meaning poor, he added to that what, I say, was not the original sense by supposing Ebionites to be “poor in understanding.” To retroject that inaccurate interpretation of Origen as if historical to the time of Jesus [and Qumran mss] would be misleading. And to retroject it as if certain would be misleading and overstatement.

  14. Firstly, last comment is misleading. I meant to say that "So according to Origen ....".

    Secondly, I looked up Lange (mentioned by Stephen Goranson above). Lange argued that Origen was dependent on the Rabbis for his interpretations of many Hebrew names, and one of his examples is Migdol (p120):

    "Migdol (Exodus xiv.2, Numbers xxxiii.7, etc.)
    Origen: 'tower' or 'magnificence'.
    Rabbis: 'There was the magnificence (gedullah) of Egypt'.

    'Tower is the 'obvious' interpretation of this name. The rabbinic interpretation is found in the Mekilta, which, even if it is not a tannaitic compilation, indubitably contains a great deal of tannaitic material."

    Numbers 33:7 (NRSV) reads, "They set out fro Ethan, and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which faces Baalzephon; and they camped before Migdol."

    Origen's interpretation of Migdol in Numbers 33:7 is found in his Homilies on Numbers XXVII.9 (GCS VII.269.22).

    Here is what he says in the English translation of Thomas Scheck (Ancient Christian Texts: Homilies on Numbers Origen p176-7).
    "Now Iroth is situated opposite "Beelsephon and opposite Magdalum." Beelsephon translates as "the ascent of the watchtower or citadel" So then, the soul ascends from small things to great things, and it is not yet placed in the watchtower itself, but "opposite" the watchtower, that is, in sight of the watchtower. For it begins to watch and to look for the future hope and to contemplate the height of the progressions and little by little one grows, while it is more nourished by hope than fatigued by toils. This camp or stage is "opposite Magdalum," but not yet in Magdalum itself. For Magdalum means "magnificence." So then, since it has in view both the ascent of the watchtower and the magnificence of the things to come, [the soul,] as we have said, is fed and nourished by great hopes.""

    I checked the Latin and it has "Magdalum enim magnificentia dicitur."

    So, it seems to me that Origen's interpretation of Magdalene was in keeping with is interpretation of the Migdol of Num 33:7, which he may have got from the Rabbis. We have no reason to suppose that Origen had special historical knowledge of Mary's epithet. Origen does, however, illustrate that the ancients readily gave symbolic meanings to names. Did Jesus and the disciples, like Origen and Jerome, attribute a symbolic meaning to "Magdalene"? A weakness of Bauckham's work is that he seems to assume that Jesus and his disciples were (in contrast to Origen, Philo, Jerome, and the Rabbis) linguistic purists with no imagination or interest in finding meanings in names.

  15. Of course second names or nicknames are possible during the time of Jesus, and before and after, and sometimes retrojected explanations or folk etymologies (e.g., perhaps, Samaritans as true *keepers* of Torah).
    A mediaeval Latin work about Mary Magdalene was ascribed to Origen, mistakenly. I mention that because scholars revealed the misattribution in part by comparing it to relatively more reliable text by Origen, in particular Origen’s views on the various NT Marys. Apparently, analysis of which Marys Origen identified or did not do not match the proposal by Elizabeth Schrader. E.g., John P. McCall, “Chaucer and the Pseudo Origen De Maria Magdalena: A Preliminary Study,” Speculum 43 (1971) 491-509.
    Who might perceive proposed subtly-urged hints and parallels (as in HTR [2017] 360-92) on a Mary identification in John? Evidently not Origen, one of the most intelligent and interested of Greek readers as well as an expert on and collector of ms variations. Would the Latin Tertullian, a misogynist, “get” this? The scenario seems untenable.

  16. What a great find above from Richard Fellows! That quotation from Homilies on Numbers is quite relevant here.

    To answer Dr. Goranson's points:

    *"But that may not be a comparable opportunity for confusion, and we do not have a p66-scribe copy of Luke." As you know from my article, approximately one in five of the Greek manuscripts has some sort of problem around Martha - it is not just a mixup of the words μαρια and μαρθα. We get dative feminine singulars in John 11:4, a dozen different versions of the name list in John 11:5 (including some where Lazarus is first and neither sister is named), patristic quotations where the same woman is assumed at John 11:32 and 11:39 (even without mentioning the women's names), etc. etc. As I replied above to our blog host, let's not just focus on a single piece of the evidence here (e.g. looking only at P66); mine is an argument made from the global text transmission of John.

    *Thanks for the additional bit of info that Edward Hayes Plumptre wrote the entry in Dr. Smith's dictionary.

    *Thanks also for giving a bit more info on the catena fragments, and Heine's comment that catena fragments are brief and "show the common tendency of catenists to abbreviate the text that they excerpt." You may be right that this knowledge has influenced Heine's translation decision in the Greek fragments of section 141. However in section 144 we also see Heine translating the Latin word Magdalenae as "the one from Magdala" (which misleadingly suggests that the Latin text was rather "quae ex Magdala"). The more straightforward choice would be for Heine to simply translate the Latin as "the two Marys, the Magdalene and the mother of Jacob and Joseph." Thus Heine's tendency to insert his own geographical interpretation into this word must be taken into account when we are looking at his translations. Would it not have been better for Heine to simply translate the Greek catena fragment as is, instead of implying from his English translation that the word τόπος is present in the text?

    *"There are many NT mss; to my knowledge, not a single one evidences the version of John that ES proposes and supposes was utterly suppressed"; that is certainly true, although several important manuscripts do have multiple problems around Martha (P66, A, 579, ff2, c). I am not arguing that I have *proven* that Martha is an interpolation; rather, I am arguing that it is a reasonable position to take considering all of the evidence in front of us. The interpolation would need to have taken place at a very early stage in the text transmission. See the comment of Hugh Houghton in the 2018 Oxford Handbook of Johannine Studies (pg. 15): "The presence of Martha at some point in every witness indicates that any such reworking precedes the earliest consistent text which can be reconstructed. Still, it remains possible that early redactional activity could leave traces of this sort." In other words, I realize that you do not agree with this position; but that does not mean that the position is untenable ;)

  17. *"To retroject that inaccurate interpretation of Origen as if historical to the time of Jesus [and Qumran mss] would be misleading" - of course I don't assume that Origen's interpretation of the word "Magdalene" was historical to the time of Jesus. I don't assume that any of the early interpretations of the word are historical to the time of Jesus. My point is, we do not and cannot know what the word means (other than that it probably had something to do with a tower) and Bauckham has overstated his case.

    *Dr. Goranson is correct that Origen believes Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany to be two different women. However, Origen was not the only interpreter in antiquity! To his question "Who might perceive proposed subtly-urged hints and parallels (as in HTR [2017] 360-92) on a Mary identification in John?" well... lots of people! Such as the Manichaeans, Hippolytus, Gregory the Great (and there are others). Shall we just say that people in antiquity were not as smart as we are? Or can we concede that if such a widespread phenomenon is taking place, there may be a reason for it? Just as with the meaning of the word "Magdalene," there was no consensus on this question in antiquity, and to suggest otherwise is to overlook the breadth of the evidence. That said, text critics do have simultaneous access to more manuscripts today than at any other point in history, and this new vantage point can provide us with valuable new insights. My hope is to have contributed a competitively persuasive hypothesis (which may be confirmed and/or overturned) to explain the many interesting phenomena going on around Martha in John 11.

    *Dr. Goranson is also correct that Origen has carefully read the text of John, and his interpretation of the women's identities makes the most sense if Martha is present in the Lazarus story. However, it's plain from Origen’s Commentary on John that his version of the text does indeed have Martha; moreover the Commentary itself does have at least one relevant textual variant (whether Mary or Martha serves at John 12:2). Origen’s Commentary on John is in fact the terminus ante quem for the presence of Martha in the text. Tertullian, on the other hand, seems not to know Martha in the Gospel of John (whether or not he was a misogynist seems beside the point!).

  18. A few notes, though Elizabeth Schrader has done much more research on these verses than I have.
    On page 15 from which Hugh Houghton was quoted (above), he also recognized the "similarity of the names... is likely to have led to copying errors." I'm not sure how to compare his statement about what can not be "reconstructed" with the "tentative reconstruction" E. S. offered in the HTR 2017 article (p. 381). Perhaps different views about "reconstrucion" are involved. I'm not sure.
    Though we have mss that Origen did not see, I venture to bet that Origen had access to various early mss that we, in fact, do *not* have, and that he was an expert in text criticism, and an avid ms collector, and very smart (even if his type of allegory may go beyond literal text issues here), and that his writings, as far as I know, do not support the thesis of an interpolation intended to demote Mary Magdalene. If Origen had called Magdalene something such as spiritually great, or the like, then that would seem to go in the opposite direction of demoting. And perhaps not cohere with the proposed history.
    As to demoting or elevating M.M., I thought Tertullian's misogyny might be relevant. Is it suggested that he "got" the claimed subtly-urged parallels? Or that he had Greek ms evidence leading to enlisting him in this view>?
    And if there was a movement to demote MM, would the proposed locus be the choice and sole method?
    I do not know much about Mani, but I thought Manichaeans, or some of them, thought he was the Paraclete. Hence I was intrigued but puzzled, Elizabeth Schrader, by your 2019 SBL abstract about a Manichaean text that posited MM as Beloved Disciple and also Paraclete. But I haven't read or heard that paper, so await clarification on that: "Manichaeans" agree?--all, some, or one?
    In sorting out the individual NT women including the Marys, I am surprised by the call for support from Gregory the Great.

  19. According to the most widespread explanation, Mary comes from the region of Magdala, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. But this explanation is most likely incorrect for several reasons. The two main counter-arguments are: firstly, that it was not common usage, at that time and in that place, to name a woman after her place of origin. Secondly, moreover, the way that Luke uses hê kalouménê (ἡ καλουμένη) between ‘Mary’ and Magdalênê (Μαγδαληνή) seems to exclude any reference to a place name. Luke writes (in Luke 8 :2): Maria hê kalouménê Magdalênê (Μαρία ἡ καλουμένη Μαγδαληνή), Mary whose nickname was the Magdalênê. Yet, in the Bible, when the word kalouménos (καλούμενος) – in the feminine in Luke – separates two other terms, and when the first of the terms is a proper noun, the second is never a place name. It is always therefore a nickname that is understood to underline a physical or moral characteristic of the person.
    Going back to the Aramaic, the terms that are translated as ‘Mary of Magdala’ can have many meanings. Notably they can mean Mary ‘the Great one’, even ‘the Tower’(magdela). Or even, in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (megaddela): Mary ‘the Honoured one’, ‘the Exalted one’. Initially, then, it was a eulogistic epithet attributed to Mary, meant to single her out (on average one in four Jewish women was called Mary in Palestine in this period) and to underline her importance. She had been chosen among women: Luke 1:42. In designating her thus, the evangelists would have had no reason to have been more precise: their first audience knew immediately who she was. Once translated into Greek, however, the sense of the semitic root word was lost and it ended up being falsely interpreted as a toponym...

  20. To be clear about my current views (which may change):
    a) The meaning of the second name of Mary Magdalene is an open question, a good question, and one not yet settled. I might like to see a bit more discussion of, say, a town possibly having more than one name, as well as of towns that existed but with names not recorded in available texts until long after their foundings (such as some of the 24 priestly course relocations). And of Nazareth. Or Qumran’s perhaps earlier name. Or of a name possibly having two connotations. If the meaning is recoverable, or the meanings, whatever that may turn out to be is fine with me.
    b) Mary Magdalene was quite important. How much so, compared to other individuals, is more difficult. And zero-sum games may mislead. If one supposes Mary Magdalene was diminished (by some) was then Martha raised? Or Peter? Or if Mary Magdalene was raised was Mother Mary diminished? (A side question, at the time of Jesus, what was the stage of transition from patriarchal to matriarchal lineage, the latter attested in Mishna, for Jewish identity? For example, I recently read a claim that some worried that Titus’ wife Berenice’s children would be Jewish, but is that known?)
    c) I do not think it has been demonstrated that text of the Gospel of John was changed in order to diminish Mary Magdalene.
    d) Origen does not provide help for assuming item c).

  21. Remind me, Elizabeth, do you have an explanation for why someone wanting to diminish Mary would a) name Mary ahead of Martha in 11:1 and define Martha as Mary's sister (rather than as Lazarus's sister), b) list Mary (albeit without naming her) ahead of Lazarus in 11:5? It seems to me that the text in the majority of manuscripts gives Mary more prominence that your conjectured Martha-free text, which defines Mary as Lazarus's sister in 11:1, and places her after Lazarus in 11:5.

    Stephen, matrilineal descent did not appear until the second century. See Shaye Cohen "Was Timothy Jewish (Acts 16:1-3)? Patristic Exegesis, Rabbinic Law, and Matrilineal Descent" JBL 1986.

    Greg, do you have any further information on "Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (megaddela): Mary ‘the Honoured one’, ‘the Exalted one’."? What are your sources for this? It's intriguing.

  22. For what it’s worth, in Journal of Roman Archaeology 32/1 (2019), 390-414, here page 407, in “A Monastery in Magdala (Taricheae)?” by Stefano De Luca and Uzi Leiber:

    Important to our topic is the epithet Mary Magdalene (Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή) for Jesus’ female disciple, which appears in all four canonical Gospels (Matt. 27:56 and 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 15.47; 16:1, 16.9; Luke 8:2, 24:10; John 19:25, 20:1, 20.18). Already in late antiquity this epithet was understood to be indicative of her geographic origin and to be derived from the toponym Magdala (see below). Indeed, Aramaic-, Arabic- and Syriac-speakers com-monly formed ethnic attributes in Greek by adding the suffix -ηνός, feminine -ηνή, to the place of origin. In Syriac, too, the simple meaning of the epithet Māryām Maġdəlāyt�ā, being the feminine of Maġdəlāa ̊/Maġdəlāyā ̊, is an ethnonym and means Mary of Magdala (and not “Mariam the Tower-ess,” as suggested by Taylor50). [note 50: . E. Taylor, “Missing Magdala and the name of Mary ‘Magdalene’,” PEQ 146.3 (2014) 208.]

    1. So they are saying that it could mean "Mary of Magdala" (which no-one disputes). They then leap to the conclusion that it cannot mean anything else.

  23. Hello again, Timothy. In this blog post you wrote:

    "The changing of the pronoun from masculine to feminine in John 11:1 (αυτου > αυτης) after the dittography of μαριας could again be explained by the scribal peculiarities of P66. The scribe alters the gender of a pronoun at 4:11a"

    John 4:11a reads λεγαι αυτω η γυνη (The woman said to him) but P66* changed it to λεγαι αυτη η γυνη, (This woman said). Here I propose that αυτη should be taken as the feminine nominative of οὗτως (otherwise it makes no sense). John 4:11-12 in P66* would then be translated "This woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?"". So, this variant in P66* does not produce a nonsense reading. Might it not be a sexist change, since οὗτως can have "a connotation of contempt" (BDAG).

    So, this change to the pronoun at John 4:11, the change in gender of the pronoun at 11:1, and the omission of the pronoun at 11:5 might all have the effect of reducing the standing of women.

    1. Thanks for your detailed insight. I hadn't looked at these variants in this way before. Perhaps you could be right. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the scribe's motives for these apparent changes

    2. Richard, usually a superscripted asterisk refers to the original hand. When you say that "P66* changed it," to what are you referring?

    3. I am saying that the text of the original hand of P66 is changed from the original.

  24. Great discovery Schrader! Following this conversation

  25. I read this post when it first came out and just realized that I was missing an excellent scholarly give-and-take in the comments. It is amazing that the obscure idea that Magdalene was a pun on Mary's occupation as a hairdresser made it into The Chosen TV series, where this is in fact what she does for a living. They may have used Google Translate for the placards that their literate Mary wrote up, but at least they bothered access to some deep scholarship on her occupation.