The Corruption of Scripture in the Second Century

John Gee, Ph.D.
August 1999

The Corruption of Scripture in the Second Century

Nephi, at the beginning of his ministry, received a marvelous vision of future events.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book? And I said unto him: I know not.

And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fullness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth, which is in God.

And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.” (1 Nephi 13:20-27).

While Latter-day Saints have often discussed the removal of plain and precious things from scripture, sometimes our ideas about the process whereby this occurs have suffered from a lack of clarity and of historical knowledge. Sometimes we think that the medieval monks changed the text of scripture. They may have, somewhat, but not drastically. The changes came long before. We neither need to nor should look later than the second century for these changes. By the early second century, Christianity had fragmented into dozens of splinter groups1 with each group charging that the other possessed both forged and corrupted texts.2 I shall limit this discussion to documenting changes and corruptions of scripture during the second century.

The Scriptures of the Early Second Century

The scriptures that the Christians had at the beginning of the second century were different from those that they had at the end of the second century. By the end of the second century, the scriptures of the Christians were very close to those we have at present. Tertullian, writing at the end of the second century, cites every book in the New Testament except Philemon. Irenaeus, also writing at the end of the second century, cites every book in the current New Testament except the tiny books of Philemon, 3 John and Jude. Of course, lrenaeus also cites a few apocryphal books as authoritative.

Christian writers at the beginning of the second century have a different set of scriptures than the Christian writers at the end of the second century. Clement of Rome is generally seen as the earliest of the Christian authors after the New Testament. Clement quotes from many books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 Samuel, 2 I Chronicles, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Malachi), and the New Testament books Matthew, Mark, Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, and 1 Peter. But Clement also quotes from the apocryphal books of the Wisdom of Solomon and Judith. Furthermore, Clement quotes from other scriptural passages, passages that are not known from any writings. We will list these in roughly the order they might have been found in our current Bibles if they contained them. For example, Clement quotes Moses as saying: “I am smoke from a vessel,”3 a quotation that is not found in any known biblical or apocryphal work.4 Clement further cites a passage from Psalms 28:5 “Thou shalt raise me up and I shall acknowledge thee.”6 This reading of the Psalm, however, is not attested in any extant manuscript. Clement also quotes from a passage attributed to Ezekiel7 but not in our text:

Repent, O house of Israel, from your sins from the earth to heaven, and though they be red like scarlet and black as ashes, and you turn to me with your whole soul and say: I Father, hearken to us as to the holy people.8

Clement quotes the following passage as scripture, although its source is currently unknown:9

Wretched are the double-minded, who doubt in their soul, who say: This we have heard against our fathers and behold, we have grown old and none of them have happened even to us. O fools, compare yourselves to a tree-take the vine-first it sheds the leaf, then the bud comes, then the leaf, then the blossom, and after that the sour grape, then comes forth the ripened grape.10

Finally, Clement cites as scripture “Cleave to the saints, for those who cleave to them shall be sanctified,”11 though this is not found in any body of scripture:12

The homily known as 2 Clement also contains variations in quotations of the scriptures. Consider the following passage, which comes from a gospel but is not found in any of the gospels known to us:

Ye shall be as sheep in the midst of wolves. And Peter answering, said to him: What if: the wolves should scatter the sheep? Jesus saith to Peter: The sheep shall not fear the wolves after they kill them; ye also shall not fear those who shall kill you and cannot do anything against you, but ye shall fear him who hath power after your death to cast soul and body into the hell of fire.13

The sentiments are generally found in gospels but not as they are here. 2 Clement attributes the following saying to Jesus also:

“If ye are gathered to me in my bosom and do not my commandments, I shall cast you out and shall say to you: Depart from me, workers of iniquity; I know not whence ye are.”14

Of course, this passage resembles the Sermon on the Mount, but if the passage is from Matthew, it is a different form of Matthew than what we now have.

The epistle of Barnabas purports to be written by Barnabas, normally presumed to be Paul’s missionary companion, to his sons and daughters in the Gospel. Most scholars date the epistle to the early second century rather than the first century. The epistle of Barnabas: largely a pastiche of scriptural quotations; he simply strings one scripture after another. Among these quotations is the following attributed to the prophets but not found in the scriptures: “and they shall eat from the goat offered by fasting on behalf of the sinners. . . . And the priests only shall eat the innards, unwashed with vinegar”15 The epistle also includes the following as part of the law of Moses as part of the scapegoat rite: “And all you shall spit and pierce it, and encircle its head with scarlet wool, and let it be driven into the wilderness”16 Leviticus, however, does not contain this rite. The epistle of Barnabas also includes the following as part of the words of the prophets, but which we do not find in our scriptures: “The parable of the Lord, who shall understand it except the wise and learned who also loves his lord?”17 The following, the epistle attributes to the prophets but it is absent from our scriptures: “And when shall these things come to pass? Saith the Lord: When the tree shall bend and arise, and when blood shall flow from the wood”18 The epistle also included the following attributed to the Lord but not found in the scriptures: “Behold, I make the last as the first.”19

In all of these instances, Christian authors quote from scriptures that are not in the canon, but even quotations that they make from scriptures that we presently have, the quotations do not match the manuscripts. The standard explanation is that these passages found in writers of the beginning of the second century but not elsewhere “are sometimes loosely and inaccurately cited from memory . . . .Indeed they are so unlike anything to be found in the known books of the Bible that despairing critics are reduced to supposing that Clement has taken them from some lost apocryphal source.”20 But this theory assumes that the text of the Bible was essentially the same for the early second century Christians as it is for us today and that no major corruption of the text has occurred. This assumption, however, is not supported by the evidence of the second century Christian writers.

Accusations of Corruption

If comparison between the beginning of the second century and its end shows that scripture has changed, a closer look at the Christian authors of the second century shows that they were aware of this change. Peter noted that the process of corruption had started in apostolic times:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The most sacred teachings of Jesus were not committed to writing (3 John 13-14) but reserved for a close few.21 Indicative of this are the fifty-three parables of Jesus preserved in the Gospels, of which only three have interpretations, all of the interpretations being given behind closed doors to a chosen few.22 Those so privileged to receive this hidden treasure of knowledge prized it most highly23 but shared it with few if any others.24 The situation is most poignantly explained by one of John’s disciples, Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. 110)25 as he was lead off to his death:

Could I not write you the celestial matters? But I fear lest I might set harm before you, since you are but babes; so pardon me, lest, if you are unable to make room, you be suffocated; for although I am bound and am able to comprehend the celestial matters and the angelic orders and the principle revelations,26 seen and unseen, nonetheless I am not yet a disciple.27

Justin Martyr, a philosopher who lived in the middle of the second century, leveled the following accusation against the Jews: “from the ninety-fifth (ninety-sixth) Psalm they have taken away this short saying of the words of David: ‘From the wood.’ For when the passage said, ‘Tell ye among the nations, the Lord hath reigned from the wood,’ they have left, ‘Tell ye among the nations, the Lord hath reigned.'”,28 Justin’s antagonist, Trypho downplayed the accusation by saying “Whether [or not] the rulers of the people have erased any portion of the Scriptures, as you affirm, God knows; but it seems incredible.”29

Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215) describes the corruption of the gospel of Mark by Carpocrates:

Now then, Mark during Peter’s stay in Rome wrote down the acts of the Lord, nevertheless not telling all, nor even hinting at the sacred ones (tas mystikas), but selecting those which he thought most useful for the growth of the investigators’ faith. When Peter was martyred, Mark came to Alexandria; polishing both his own and Peter’s notes, from which by transferring into his first book those things appropriate for those progressing in the testimony (gn_sis), he compiled a more spiritual gospel for the use of those being perfected (t_n teleioumen_n). In no way, however, did he betray those things not discussed, nor did he write down the initiatory teaching (hierophantik_n didaskalian)30of the Lord. But adding to the previously written acts yet others, he still added certain sayings thereto, the explanation of which would be capable of initiating (mystag_g_sein) their hearers into the holy of holies (adytan) of the truth veiled seven times. Wherefore he prepared it thus-neither corruptly nor unprecautiously-so I deem it. And when he died he left his compilation at the church which is in Alexandria, where it is kept very safe and secure to this day, being read only to those who are initiated into the great mysteries (taus myaumenous ta megala myst_ria).

But Carpocrates who was taught by the defiled demons who continually plot destruction for the children of men, having even used the arts of deception, thus enslaved a certain elder of the church in Alexandria so that he prepared a copy of the secret gospel (tou mystikou euangeliou). And he explained it according to his own blasphemous and carnal thought. But still he defiled it by mixing into the immaculate and holy words the most abominable lies. From this tincture he extracted the Carpocratian doctrine.31

Irenaeus claims that the Valentinians changed the scriptures “by transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another.”32 Irenaeus notes that among some biblical manuscripts circulating in his day, the number of the beast in Revelations was not 666 but 616.33 Irenaeus reveals that accusations of corruption of scripture were also applied to the orthodox church as well, for the so-called heretics “turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct.”34

Tertullian was a lawyer who lived at the end of the second century. He was a prolific author and the first Christian father to write in Latin. Tertullian wrote against many of the Christian sects in his day and eventually switched from what we today call the “orthodox” Christian sect to the Montanist Christian sect because the Montanists still believed in continuing revelation, whereas the other Christian sects did not. He claimed there was “proof of the Gospel. . . having become meanwhile adulterated.”35 Tertullian notes that a Christian sect of his day “does not receive certain Scriptures; and whichever of them it does receive, it perverts by means of additions and diminutions, for the accomplishment of it[s] own purpose; and such as it does receive, it receives not in their entirety; but even when it does receive any up to a certain point as entire, it nevertheless perverts even these by the contrivance of diverse Interpretations.”36 One of the sects that Tertullian deals with is that of Marcion, a Christian leader in the early second century who accepted Paul and a modified form of Luke, but rejected all other Christian scriptures. Tertullian specifically claims that “Marcion expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the Scriptures as suited his own subject matter,”37 and that “Marcion seems to have singled Luke for his mutilating process.”38 Another sect that Tertullian writes about is the Valentinians, named after Valentinus, a mid-second century Christian leader who almost became bishop of Rome. Tertullian also claims that although Valentinus “seems to use the entire volume, he has none the less laid violent hands on the truth only with a more cunning mind and skill than Marcion,”39 for although he “abstained from such excision, because he did not invent Scriptures to square with his own subject-matter, but adapted his subject matter to the Scriptures; and yet he took away more, and added more, by removing the proper meaning of every particular word, and adding fantastic arrangements of things which have no real existence.”40 Tertullian discusses “writings which wrongly go under Paul’s name” but instead were composed by a presbyter in Asia.41 Each of these leaders, Marcion, Valentinus, etc., had his own Christian sect. Tertullian acknowledges that these other sects “go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves [meaning Tertullian’s sect, the one that later became orthodox], inasmuch as they, no less than we maintain that truth is on their side.”42

Methods of Corruption

We learn about some of the types of changes made in the Christian texts because, ironically, they are clearly enumerated by the very people responsible for preserving them. For example Rufinus (fourth century) says of the earlier Christian texts he is copying: Wherever, therefore, we have found in his [in this case Origen’s] books anything contrary to that which was piously established by him about the Trinity in other places, either we have omitted it as corrupt and interpolated, or edited it according to that pattern that we often find asserted by himself. If, however, speaking to the trained and learned, he writes obscurely because he desires to briefly pass over something, we, to make the passage plainer, have added those things that we have read on the same subject openly in his other booksÖ.All who shall copy or read thisÖshall neither add anything to this writing, nor remove anything, nor insert anything, nor change anything.43

In this Rufinus simultaneously and almost hypocritically pleads that others not do to him what he has done to them. Rufinus is explicitly following the example of his predecessors, specifically the example of Macarius “who when he translated over seventy works of Origen, which are called homilies and also several of his writings on the apostle into Latin in which are found several offensive passages, therefore he removed or cleaned up all of these when he translated, so that a Latin reader would find nothing in them that disagrees with our belief. This, therefore, we follow even if we are not so eloquent, nevertheless as much as we can, by the same rules, watching to be sure not to reveal those passages in the books of Origen that disagree and contradict with himself.”44 Deleting,45 altering, and even adding to works have been problems in antiquity,46 in the Renaissance,47 and even in the present day.48 But other types of corruptions also affect the text. One is the process by which the texts are reinterpreted in a non-literal or allegorical framework.49 Another is the changing of the meanings of words, such as occurred during the second sophistic period.50 Between the time of writing the New Testament and the end of the second century, the meanings of several of the words changed. Examples included the change of the principle meanings of pistis from “collateral, guarantee” to “belief,51 of homologein from “to agree to terms, accept an agreement, enter into a legal contract, promise” to “to confess;”52 of myst_rion from “(initation) rite” to “secret,”53 Because the New Testament is usually read with meanings of the second sophistic period and later-meanings which have often changed-the understanding of the text can be drastically changed. Unfortunately, many books by New Testament scholars will not help the average reader remove this obfuscation because the scholars who write many of the books, have read little in Greek other than the New Testament or occasionally philosophical writings and thus, by training, reflect the viewpoint after the second sophistic period. All of the methods of changing the text that we have just discussed occur in the second century.

Removal is the easiest textual corruption to introduce, and the most frequent form of scribal error. Justin Martyr accuses the Jews of removing small phrases from the scriptures.54 Tertullian makes the same accusation of using “the knife, not the pen,” in making “such an excision of the Scriptures” against Marcion.55

Addition is also a textual corruption, though less frequent than deletion: Tertullian discusses entire forged “writings, which wrongly go under Paul’s name” and which circulated in his day.56

Irenaeus accuses Valentinus of acting much like modern biblical critics and dividing “the prophecies [into different classes], maintaining that one portion was uttered by the mother, a second by her seed, and a third by the Demiurge. In like manner, they hold that Jesus uttered some things under the influence of the Saviour, others under that of the mother, and others still under that of the Demiurge.”57 The Valentinians believed, in line with the best Neo-Platonic thinking of their day, that God did not create the world, but rather a junior god who created a more junior god, and so on until one of these junior gods created a devil, called the Demiurge, who created the world.

They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.58

Tertullian makes the accusation that Marcion “ascribes no author to his Gospel, as if it could not be allowed him to affix a title to that from which it was no crime (in his eyes) to subvert the very body.”59

Motivations for Manipulating the Text

What motives did second century individuals and groups have to change scripture? Clement of Rome wrote his epistle at the beginning of the second century at the request of leaders in Corinth to settle a dispute they were having. Clement accuses individuals at Corinth of “pride and sedition” and as setting themselves up as “leaders” and usurping the authority that was not theirs.60 Toward the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria notes that the Carpocratians changed scripture to sanction their own homosexual and other immoral practices. Irenaeus claims that the Valentinians “endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support.”61 Tertullian says that “writings which wrongly go under Paul’s name” were forged by a presbyter in Asia to give “a license for women’s teaching and baptizing.”62 Changes in the texts and the motivations to alter the text of scriptures both canonical and non-canonical,63 in general, match those Nephi gave:

After the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book (1 Nephi 13:28).

Behold the gold, and the silver and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church (1 Nephi 13:8).

While not all second century Christians were consumed by these desires, some clearly were.64

Manuscript Evidence

Some modern individuals, like the second century Trypho,65 deny the change in scripture by making statements like “We have today over 25,000 handwritten manuscripts of the New Testament alone, and over 5,000 of these are written in Greek, the original language of the New Testament.”66 Or “Any number of scholarly works have proven that the Bible has not been corrupted-it has by far the best manuscript attestation and textual preservation of any ancient book.”67 With all the respect due to these three individuals who appear to have four mail-order doctorates between them, I would like to suggest that it is they who are “in ignorance of the history of the canon.”68 We have been discussing evidence from the second century, but it is only fair that we look at Greek biblical manuscripts.

This supposed assemblage of five thousand Greek biblical manuscripts includes the entire Bible, and most of these manuscripts are late cursive manuscripts. If we consider only those of the New Testament, we have about 341 uncial manuscripts (which are generally earlier than the cursive manuscripts).69 Of these, about 10% date before the time of Constantine, and only one dates to the second century. This second century manuscript (P52 = Rylands 458) is about the size of a postage stamp and contains only ten complete words. (Peter Thiede’s redating of the Magdalen College fragments to the first century70 would be wonderful if true, but his arguments have been demonstrated wrong.)71 Ninety-nine point seven percent of Greek uncial New Testament manuscripts come after the time period when accusations of textual corruption are rampant. If we included the cursive manuscripts as well the percentage of second century manuscripts would become even smaller. But further consider that only ten complete words of the New Testament are attested in manuscript form during the time of textual corruption, and not a single one is attested before that time. If we assemble all the manuscripts from the second and third centuries and just note those chapters where even a part of a verse is attested, we find that entire books are missing, including 1-2 Timothy, 1-2 Peter, 2-3 John and Jude. Of the twenty-eight chapters in the gospel of Matthew, there is no manuscript containing even a single verse of sixteen of these chapters before the end of the third century.


What we have been looking at for these few moments is the state of Christian scripture in the second century. We have not, generally, had to rely on scholarly interpretation or writers outside the second century to detect a large shift in the concept of scripture in the second century. The books that were considered scripture and some of the content of those books changed from the beginning to the end of the century. During the second century various fragmentary groups of Christians accused other groups of having changed the texts to fit their own ideas. These changes took the form of deletions, some additions, and the redefining of the text. What the angel told Nephi is largely supported by what remains of second century Christian literature. To the second century, if not before, we may place the corruption of scripture and the loss of the plain and precious things, and it is worth noting that none of the Greek manuscripts date before that time period. Like Humpty Dumpty, all the kings horses and all the kings men cannot put our text together again. We cannot look to scholarship to restore the plain and precious portions of the text that were lost. We must look to the Restoration.


1 Tertullian, Scorpiace 1; Irenaeus, Contra Haereses 1.28.1, 29.1 describes them as popping up like mushrooms; more poignantly, M_r_t_, the bishop of Maipherqat says that there was only one ear of wheat left in all the tares, see M_r _t_- Against the Canons from the Synod of 318, 5, in Arthur Voobus, The Canons Ascribed to M_r _t- of Maipherqat and related sources, 2 vols., CSCO 439-40 (series Scriptores Syri 191-92) (Lovanii: E. Peeters, 1982), 1 :22. See also Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1967), 34; W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 201-203; Pagels, Gnostic Gospels, 7-8.

2 Acts 20:30 (Paul prophesying the corning corruption of the teachings; cf. Kent P. Jackson, “‘Watch and Remember’: The New Testament and the Great Apostasy,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also By Faith, 1:85.); 2 Peter 3:15-16 (showing the process starting in apostolic times); Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone 73 (accusing the Jews); lrenaeus, Contra Haereses 1.7.3,8.1,9.4,18.1,19.1,20.1-2,22.1-3,26.2,27.2,4;’ V.30.1 (accusing various groups); 111.2.1 (for the counter charges); Tertullian, De Baptismo 17 (discussing well- intentioned but nonetheless misguided tampering with Paul); Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem IV.2.2-5 (charging, Marcion with corrupting Luke); Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 16-19, 38-40 (the charges run both , ways); M_r_t_, Against the Canons from the Synod of 318,5, in V60bus, Canons Ascribed to M_r_t- ofMaipherqa, 1 :22-23,25-26 (with a long list of groups); M_r_t_, The Seventy Three Canons 1, in ibid., 1:57-58, cf. 135; The Apocalypse of Peter VII. 76.24- 78.31 (no specific sect specified); The Apocalypse of Adam V. 77.18-82.25 lists thirteen different views of Christ, twelve of which-including the “orthodox” one-are labeled as being in error; see also NTA 1:31-34; Pagels, Gnostic Gospels, 20-21. Though from the fourth century, Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.1, 14.1; 42.9.1-2 accuses the second century figures Ebion, Cerinthus, Carpocrates, and Marcion of corrupting the text of the Gospel of Matthew; Epiphanius, however, is not necessarily a reliable source.

3 1 Clement 17:6.

4 See Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1.2:64-65

5 See Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1.2:89.

6 1 Clement 26:2.

7 See Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1.2:39-41.

8 1 Clement 8:3.

9 See Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1.2:80-81.

10 1 Clement 23:3-4.

11 1 Clement 46:2.

12 ‘This quotation is no where [sic] found in the Old Testament.” Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1.2:139-10.

13 2 Clement 5:2-4.

14 2 Clement 4:5.

15 Barnabas 7:4.

16 Barnabas 7:8.

17 Barnabas 6:10.

18 Barnabas 12:1.

19 Barnabas 6:13.

20 Maxwell Staniforth, Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (New York: Dorset, 1986), 22.

21Matthew 13:11-16; 19:11; Mark 4:2,33; Luke 18:34; 22:67; John 3:12; 6:60-61; 8:43; 10:27; 16:12, 18, 25; Acts 10:41. See also William J. Hamblin, “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” in John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also By Faith, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret and Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1990),204-207

22 This was noted in ancient times in the Apocryphon of James 1.8.4-10 listing some previously unknown parables as well.

23 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 20-22.

24 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Colossians 1:26; Hebrews 5:11; 2 John 1:12. See also Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), 17-18; Hamblin, “Aspects of and Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” 208-210.

25 J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 2 parts in 5 vols. (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1989), 2.1:29-30.

26 Greek tas systaseis tas archontikas. Though Ignatius does use the word systasis in other senses (see Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans, 5), here it seems to be used in a more technical sense of oracular inquiry, the equivalent of the Demotic ph-ntr; see Janet H. Johnson, “Louvre E3229: A Demotic Magical Text,” Enchoria 7 (1977): 90-91; Robert K. Ritner, “Gleanings from Magical Texts,” Enchoria 14 (1986): 95; Robert K. Ritner, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, SAOC 54 (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1993), 214-220.

27 Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians 5. Unless specified, all translations are the author’s own. This list of characteristics of the secret teachings makes its way into the magic tradition eventually to end up in an English fairy tale as the content of the magician’s “one big book bound in black calf and clasped with iron, and with iron comers;” see “The Master and his Pupil,” in Joseph Jacobs, coll., English Fairy Tales (London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons and David Nutt, 1898, reprint New York: Dover, 1967), 73-74. These matters are also the principle subject of the books of 1 Jeu and 2 Jeu as well as much of the Jewish Hekalot literature.

28 Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone 73, in The Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:235.

29 Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone 73, in The Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:235 (brackets in source).

30 For a discussion of other ways this phrase has been taken, see Werner Jaeger’s comments in Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1973), 38; John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1990), 59; and the response of Todd Compton, review of Welch, Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, in RBBM 3 (1991): 322; Hamblin, “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” 209.

31 Clement of Alexandria, Letter to Theodore, 1.15-2.10, in Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, 448-51, Plates I-II; cf. Hamblin, “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” 210-211.

32 Irenaeus, Contra Haereses 1.8.1, in The Ante-Nicean Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. (reprint Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 1:326.

33 Irenaeus, Contra Haereses V .30.1, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1 :558-559.

34 Irenaeus, Contra Haereses 111.2.1, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:415.

35 Tertullian, Contra Marcionem IV.2, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:347

36 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 17, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:251.

37 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 38, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:262.

38 Tertullian, Contra Marcionem IV.2, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:347.

39 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 38, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:262.

40 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 38, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:262.

41 Tertullian, De Baptismo 17, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:677.

42 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 18, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:251

43 Rufinus, preface to Origen, Peri Archon, 2-4, in Patrologiae Graecae 11: 113-114; cf. G. W. Butterworth, trans., Origen On First Principles (Goucester, Massechusetts: Peter Smith, 1973), lxiii-ixiv. This particular work of Origen’s is preserved only through Rufinus’ Latin translation and a few fragments quoted by Greek authors. Rufinus’ unreliable translations of this and other works were known both to his contemporaries and to modern scholars as “vitiated and confused” if not “very hasty and careless” since “he frequently paraphrases and misinterprets his original,” see Quasten, Patrology, 1:61, 170; 2:37,49,58, 146; 3:172, 240, 315, 341, 533.

44 Rufinus, preface to Origen, Peri Archon, 2, in PG 11: 112-113, italics added.

45 See Rufinus’ preface to pseudo-Clement, Recognitiones, in Alexander Roberts, and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, and Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986),8:75, and n. 3. “The most common scribal error (I think) is haplography, that is, reading two identical sequences of letters as one and omitting whatever intervenes;” P. Kyle McCarter, Textual Criticism: Recovering the Text of the Hebrew Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 17.

46 An excellent introduction to the problems involved may be found in Hugh Nibley, “The Way of the Church,” CWHN 4:209-63. An awareness of the problems of textual tampering appears very early in human history; see, for example, Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 B.C.), the first king of the Ur III Dynasty: l˙ mu-sar-ra-ba öu bÌ-Ìb-˙r-a dBÌl-ga-mes-e nam ha-ba-da-ku5-e “may Gilgamesh curse whosoever alters this inscription;” Urnammu 41, in Ilmari K‰rki, Die Konigsinshriften der dritten Dynastie von Ur, vol. 58 of Studia Orentalia (Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society, 1986), 26; similar imprecations spanning the length of Babylonian history may be found in Hermann Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, vol. 2 of Alter Orient und Altes Testament (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1968); for the spread of this curse formula into Hittite culture at the beginning of its written history, see O. R. Gurney, The Hittites 4th ed. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1990), 141 (1st ed., 1952), 170.

47 See A. E. Housman, M. Manilii Astonomicon, 5 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937), 1 :xiv-xxii; for an estimate of Renaissance and previous Byzantine textual work, see Alexander Hugh McDonald, “Textual Criticism,” OCD 1049.

48 0n the modern rewriting of Polybius, see Robert K. Ritner, “Implicit Models of Cross-Cultural Interaction: A Question of Noses, Soap and Prejudice,” in Janet H. Johnson, ed., Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine and Beyond, SAOC 51 (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1992), 287-88. This central point in Ritner’s argument was itself omitted in the original published version and the errata sheet must be checked. Another egregious example of rewriting the sources is Morton Smith’s Jesus the Magician (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978): On p. 53, Smith claims to take Pliny’s Epistulae X.96 ”as it is usually taken, at face value” and then proceeds to introduce magical spells, demons, and cannibalism into a text which actually lacks all of these elements.

49 See Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1983),376-77; Layton; Gnostic Scriptures, 317. For an exhaustive analysis of the switch in interpretation in one passage of scripture, see Thomas W. Mackay, “Early Christian Millenarianist Interpretation of the Two Witnesses in John’s Apocalypse. 11:2-13,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also By Faith, 1 :222-331. For the use of the allegorical approach in Rabbinic Judaism, see Jacob Neusner, “The Case of Leviticus Rabbah,” in Lundquist and Ricks, eds., By Study and Also By Faith, 1 :366-370. For a historical discussion of allegory, see C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1936), 44-111. For recent attempts to bring about a similar switch in interpretation among the Latter-day Saints, see Louis Midgley, “More Revisionist Legerdemain and the Book of Mormon,” RBBM 3 (1991): 261-311; Stephen E. Robinson, review of Dan Vogel, ed., The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, in RBBM 3 (1991): 312-318; Daniel C. Peterson, “Questions to Legal Answers,” RBBM 4 (1992): xl-lxxiii.

50 In general, this topic has not received the treatment it deserves. Preliminary steps in this direction are Nibley, “Evangelium Quadriginta Dierum,” 33 n. 61; Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, 88. For analysis of some of the dynamics involved, see Hugh Nibley, “Victoriosa Loquacitas: The Rise of Rhetoric and the Decline of Everything Else,” CWHN 10:243-286. The list of meanings of charis in John Gee, review of Robert L. Millet, By Grace Are We Saved, in RBBM 2 (1990): 101-106 gives an indication of some of the problems but it does not further refine the analysis by chronological arguments. Another example of work recently done in this direction is John W. Welch, “New Testament Word Studies,” Ensign 23/4 (April 1993): 28-30.

51 LSJ 1408.

52 LSJ 1226.

53 LSJ 1156.

54 Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone 73, in The Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:235.

55 Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 38, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:262.

56 Tertullian, De Baptismo 17, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:677.

57 Irenaeus, Contra Haereses 1.7.3, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:326.

58 Irenaeus, Contra Haereses 1.8.1, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:326.

59 Terullian, Contra Marcionem IV.2, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:347.

60 1 Clement 14.

61 Irenaeus, Contra Haereses 1.8.1, in The Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1 :326.

62 Tertullian, De Baptismo 17, in Ante-Nicean Fathers, 3:677.

63 Also Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haereticorum 38-40; other categories and examples given in Robinson, “Lying for God,” 144-46.

64 1 Clement 44: 1; Hegesippus, quoted in Eusebius, Historiae Ecclesiasticae III.32.7; Second Treatise of the Great Seth VII.59.19-61.24. The urge to usurp authority might have been the cause of the anonymous accusations attested in Pliny, Epistulae X.96.5.

65 Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone 73, in The Ante-Nicean Fathers, 1:235.

66 James R. White, Letters to a Mormon Elder (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1993), 26.

67 John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mormonism (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1992), 379-380. While it is true that the Bible has better manuscript attestation than any ancient book, we might consider the second runner up: there are almost five hundred copies (498) of the Iliad from Egypt alone; P.W. Pestman, The New Payrological Primer, Second edition (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 71.

68 Ankerberg and Weldon, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know, 377.

69 The information in this section was compiled from Kurt Aland, et. al., Novum Testamentum Graecae, 26th ed., 7th corrected printing (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1983), 684-702.

70 Carsten Peter Thiede, “Papyrus Magdalen Greek 17 (Gregory-Aland P64) A Reappraisal,” Zeitschrift f¸r Papyrologie und Epigraphik 105 (1995): 13-20.

71 Klaus Wachtel, “P64/67: Fragmente des Matth‰usevangeliums aus dem 1. Jahrhundert?” Zeitschrift f¸r Papyrologie und Epigraphik 107 (1995): 73-80. Thiede appears to be the papyrological equivalent of D. J. Nelson; Harald Vocke, “Papyrus Magdalen 17-weitere Argumente gegen die Fr¸hdatierung des angeblichen Jesus-Papyrus,” Zeitschrift f¸r Papyrologie und Epigraphik 113 (1996): 153-157.

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