Peter J. Williams Profile picture
Bible & ancient languages. Principal @Tyndale_House Cambridge. Tweets personal.
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Oct 18, 2022 12 tweets 3 min read
Apparently I discovered something in a manuscript.… Technical co-authored article here.…
Feb 15, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
THREAD: The Samson narrative has a brilliant false ending at Judges 15:20--then the story continues for another chapter:

'And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines 20 years'.

It's the happy ending to the Samson story, wherein he gets away with doing what he likes. To support this false ending, we have a progression of numbers from 30 men killed (14:19) to 300 foxes caught (15:4) to 3,000 men of Judah who come to him (15:11).

Conflict has escalated from a party riddle gone wrong, to destruction of crops, burning a family, and then battle.
Jan 24, 2021 4 tweets 3 min read
Today I visited the grave of William Fiddian Moulton (1835-98) Biblical scholar, on the committee of the Revised Version New Testament, concordance maker, father of grammarian JH Moulton & first headmaster of @LeysCambridge 1/4… I had not expected to find on the same grave the 7 year-old-daughter of James Hope Moulton, whose grammar I will never read quite the same way again.
Jan 3, 2021 15 tweets 7 min read
THREAD: Why do English Bible translations often have different poetic stanzas? (inspired by @JennGuenther)

Psalm 1 is divided by the NIV into verses 1-3, 4-5, & 6, but by the ESV into 1-2, 3-4, & 5-6. Whichever of these is better (or neither), it’s worth knowing that translations usually aren’t following ancient manuscripts.

There are some ancient paragraph divisions in Hebrew manuscripts (look up petucha פְּתוּחָה ‘open’ and stuma סְתוּמָה ‘closed’ paragraphs).
Nov 11, 2020 14 tweets 5 min read
THREAD: The parable of the Lost Sheep, and punctuation.

I've been struggling with Jesus's story of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-6 // Matthew 18:12-14).

In both gospels it's set in the form of a question.

In ESV/THGNT/NA28 Matthew 18:12 has 2 questions & 18:13-14 are statement. These versions have Luke 15:4 as question & 15:5-7 as statement.

I've been struggling to understand the question 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost until he find it? (Luke 15:4)
Aug 1, 2020 15 tweets 15 min read
New INDEX of my significant threads & tweets:

Genesis 1-3 (coherence of)

Genesis 2-3 (careful composition)

Genesis 4:9-24 (bigamy) Genesis 9 (Noah & wine)

Genesis 12 (blessing of Abraham)

Genesis 12, 20, 26 (wife-sister narratives)

Genesis 29:10-13 (wordplay)
Jul 4, 2020 18 tweets 9 min read
THREAD: Learning Greek to read the New Testament.

For anyone interested in the NT I recommend learning Greek to help you follow details more closely.

This thread reviews some of the ways you can do that.

Others are welcome to use it to advertise their favourite Greek links. I'm a pedagogical pluralist, which means that I'm happy to encourage many different ways of learning.

The key ingredients for a course or teacher are:

(1) competence
(2) ability to inspire

The order in which you learn topics, or the pronunciation you use matter far less.
Jun 26, 2020 20 tweets 3 min read
THREAD: Wife-Sister narratives in Genesis.

3x in Genesis a patriarch claims his beautiful wife is his sister, from fear of being killed by locals out to get her (chs 12, 20, 26).

Stories are united by the word הָרַג ‘kill’ which does not occur in the intervening narratives. Image The narratives are also united by the rebuke of the pagan king to the patriarch:

12:18 ‘What is this you’ve done to us?’ מַה־זֹּ֖את עָשִׂ֣יתָ לִּ֑י

20:9 ‘What have you done to us?’ מֶֽה־עָשִׂ֤יתָ לָּ֙נוּ֙

26:10 ‘What is this you have done to us?’ מַה־זֹּ֖את עָשִׂ֣יתָ לָּ֑נוּ
Jun 18, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
Careful composition in Genesis 2-3.

The 4 rivers of Genesis 2 are progressively easier to locate.

So descriptions get progressively shorter.

Pishon, far, otherwise unknown: 20 words.

Gihon, far, but name known from near Jerusalem: 10.

Tigris, far: 8.

Euphrates, known: 4. Image River 1 has 2x the words of River 2.

River 3 has 2x the words of River 4.

Only River 4 is introduced as a known name.

River 1 is the only one connected with exotic precious materials.

So don't be surprised if you struggle to find River 1.

Treasure is not so easy to find now.
Jun 16, 2020 12 tweets 3 min read
The Bible’s most gory story is probably even more gory than I realised.

The chilling account of the rape & dissection of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19) contains at its heart an ambiguity: When exactly did she die?

No one knows, because no one at the time cared.

I commented in an earlier thread about the absence of the conventional biblical statement of the point of death.
May 3, 2020 9 tweets 3 min read
A thread on 'finally' in Paul's letters.

(Thanks to @jeremytreat5 who inspired me to dig)

This usage occurs 6x: 2 Cor 13:11; Eph 6:10; Phil 3:1; 4:8; 1 Thess 4:1; 2 Thess 3:1.

It's furthest from end in Phil 3:1, but still some way to go in 1 Thess 4:1. Although 5/6 are followed by 'siblings' & mean the same, no two are alike in Greek:

2 Cor 13:11 Λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί
Eph 6:10 Τοῦ λοιποῦ
Phil 3:1 Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί μου
Phil 4:8 Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί
1 Thess 4:1 Λοιπὸν οὖν, ἀδελφοί
2 Thess 3:1 Τὸ λοιπόν, προσεύχεσθε, ἀδελφοί
Apr 1, 2020 64 tweets 10 min read
Thread (2nd expanded edition) on Jesus’s Parable of the Two Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

This remarkable story of <400 words is both stunningly simple & packed with layers of meaning & deep allusions which outwit the most knowledgeable audiences. It’s 3rd in a series of 3 stories about what is lost:

1/100 sheep lost

1/10 coins lost

Then 2 sons, both lost, though 1 is found again, & the fate of the other depends on the audience's response.
Feb 2, 2020 6 tweets 2 min read
I've argued that Judges & Ruth fit together.

Now how Ruth & 1 Samuel fit together.

There are numerous connections, esp. between the last ch. of Ruth & 1 Sam 1.

E.g. unique phrases:

Ruth 4:15 "she is more to you than seven sons"

1 Sam 1:8 "Am I not more to you than ten sons?" Both books begin with Ephrathites/Ephraimites (Ruth 1:1 & 1 Sam 1:1)

Naomi self-describes as Mara 'bitter' (Ruth 1:20)

Hannah is described, by the same root, as 'bitter of soul' marath naphesh (1 Sam 1:10)

Both have 'give seed' in a wish (Ruth 4:12; 1 Sam 1:11)
Jan 13, 2020 100 tweets 18 min read
THREAD: The book of Ruth

Begins as if it's going to be a story about a man:

'In the days when the judges judged there was a famine in the land, and a MAN of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, HE and HIS wife and HIS two sons.' Immediately *famine* & *sojourn* co-occur

as they do in Genesis 12:10--the 1st time either term occurs in the Bible.

So we're in an Abraham-like situation.

A man is on the move, with his family, away from famine, to sojourn in another country.
Jan 3, 2020 8 tweets 2 min read
THREAD: Jeremiah is in Hebrew, except for 10:11, which is in Aramaic.

It addresses those attached to idols in an international language.

‘Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”’ Here are screenshots of the transliteration and parsing of the verse in the BibleHub app (experts may quibble, but it will do for now):

Dec 21, 2019 13 tweets 5 min read
SEASONAL THREAD: in Isaiah 9:6 is the child to be born called ‘Wondeful’, ‘Counsellor’ (2 titles as in the KJV below) or ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ (1 title as in most modern translations)? The 2 title version certainly sticks in the mind after hearing Handel’s beautiful ‘For unto us a child is born’, here with the @londonsymphony
Nov 17, 2019 10 tweets 4 min read
THREAD: on demon possession

The term ‘demon-possessed’ is common in modern Bible translations (eg ESV, HCSB, NIV, NKJV at Matt 8:28) & has become a standard phrase.

It conveys to people that 1 or more demons possess a person.

That’s the problem. We’ll see there’s been a shift. The Greek is usually a single verb daimonizomai, which we might literalistically render as ‘be demonized’.

But earlier translations tended to express that the person had the demon, not the demon, the person.
Oct 30, 2019 24 tweets 7 min read
THREAD: How did Judas Iscariot die?

In a recent debate with @BartEhrman

at 43-52 minutes we fell to discussing the mode of Judas’s death. Bart said that the accounts of Matthew & Acts were irreconcilable (& also reconcilable if you tried hard enough). I made a couple of tactical mistakes:

1. not challenging his substitution of my word ‘headlong’ by ‘headfirst’ at 46:48 & 48:52.

2. focussing on the lexeme in Matthew, not the one in Acts.
Oct 21, 2019 28 tweets 6 min read
Remember: no Church Father ever thought that John 1:1-18 were the Prologue of John’s Gospel.

Pass it on. Sinaiticus has ekthesis at 1:6 and 1:26, but not at 1:19.
Oct 8, 2019 9 tweets 3 min read
THREAD: What happened to Phinehas?

Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron has a celebrated place in history (e.g. Psalm 106:30) for his zeal for God's law.

He famously skewered with his spear a couple caught in flagrante delicto & thus turned away God's indignation from Israel. Interestingly the woman in this couple was Cozbi the woman from Midian.

Her name is probably related to #Akkadian kuzbu which means 'sex appeal':

That's an insight into a biblical story you couldn't get till the 19th century when Akkadian is deciphered.
Oct 5, 2019 24 tweets 4 min read
THREAD: How Judges & Ruth fit together

Of course, Ruth is set in the time of Judges.

It begins, ‘In the days when the judges judged...’

But the connections go deeper... Greek manuscripts Codices Vaticanus (4th century) & Alexandrinus (5th century) have Ruth after Judges

But surviving mediaeval Hebrew manuscripts place Ruth with Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations & Esther in the 5 Megilloth (scrolls).