Evangelical Textual Criticism

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Westcott and Hort as Manuscript Scholars

In his interesting but rather unsatisfactory book, A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition, and the Interpretation of the Gospels (Doubleday, 1999), David Laird Dungan misjudges the contribution of textual criticism to the synoptic problem in a number of different ways. He also makes several extraordinarily incorrect statements about Westcott and Hort. I'd like to focus here on his assertion of 'the fact that neither Westcott nor Hort ever personally examined a single ancient manuscript. Working entirely from previous editions (e.g. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf), where the task of comparison had been done for them, Westcott-Hort's contribution came in the application of a systematic approach to the mass of data others had collected.’ (p. 295).

Dungan here misunderstands and exaggerates the rather misleading if not equally incorrect statement in the Aland's description of Westcott and Hort's method ('neither Westcott nor Hort ever actually collated a single manuscript but worked completely from published material, i.e. critical editions (viz., Tischendorf)' (Aland & Aland, The Text of the New Testament, p. 18).

It is certainly true that Westcott & Hort depended on the work of other scholars, but this does not preclude first-hand examination of manuscripts (easily documented in e.g. Hort's comments on his own claim that F, a codex located in his own college library, was a copy of G in 'On the End of the Epistle to the Romans' in Journal of Philology III(1871), 51-80, here in a note at pp. 67-68, Codex F was (and still is) located in Trinity College Cambridge), nor was the work dependent on editions. The primary resources were published collations and complete texts and facsimiles (as is detailed in the chart on p. 15 of their Introduction; although without notes), a number of which were in Hort's personal library as can be demonstrated in the catalogue of Hort's library (Catalogue of the Valuable Library of Books Cambridge: John Swan & Son, 1893). Further confirmation, if such is needed (!) of Hort's interest in the actual manuscript resources can be found in his published letters. At an early stage of planning for the edition Hort wrote to J. Ellerton: 'Lachmann and Tischendorf will supply rich materials, but not nearly enough' (19.4.1853); he later enthusiastically discussed Tregelles work on Zacynthius: 'It is inferior to B, but scarcely, if at all, inferior to C and L' (letter to J.B. Lightfoot 18.2.1859) and indeed finished the editorial work for Tregelles edition of the Greek New Testament with its very complete apparatus (for these letters (see A.F. Hort, Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (London: Macmillan & Co., 1896; 2 vols); I.250 and I.404 - the unpublished letters further document Hort's interest in particular manuscripts, not least in visits to foreign libraries while on vacation).

Hort's intimate knowledge of the important manuscript witnesses is demonstrated in his spectacular observation about the exemplar of Ephraimi Rescriptus in Revelation: ‘In the MS of the Apocalypse from which C was taken some leaves had been displaced, and the scribe of C did not discover the displacement. It thus becomes easy to compute that each leaf of the exemplar contained only about as much as 10 lines of the text of the present edition; so that this one book must have made up nearly 120 small leaves of parchment, and accordingly formed a volume either to itself or without considerable additions.’ Westcott & Hort, Introduction, 268.

As far as I can tell there is no evidence that Hort (or Westcott) ever travelled to Paris to see this manuscript; but a moment's thought (or a look at the fuller discussion of this displacement in H.H. Oliver, 'A Textual Transposition in Codex C (Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus)' JBL 76(1957), pp. 233-236) reveals something of the detailed work on the manuscript witnesses that underlies this brief comment.

Are writers supposed to know what they are talking about or not?

Up-date:
Maurice Robinson offered more published evidence for Hort's acquaintance with manuscripts in a comment, which I have (with his permission) added here:

For the record, regarding Hort and collation of MSS, cf. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, 2nd ed (1874), 432:

"So far as it appears from their Preface [circulated privately to members of the ERV Committee], the editors [W-H] have not made any great additions of their own to the mass of collated materials for the revision of the sacred text. Those which exist ready at hand have been verified as far as possible, and the whole mass of evidence, both documentary and internal, has been thoroughly and deliberately weighed by them, separately and in conference, with an amount of care and diligence that have been hitherto unexampled."

Within the same volume, Scrivener speaks regarding Hort's direct examination of MS 339 while in Turin:

"Found by Mr Hort to contain John, Luke (with Titus of Bostra's commentary), Matthew, hoc ordine" (p. 68).

"Mr Hort informs me that on examining this copy he found it written in three several and minute hands" (p. 200n1).

As to the Apocalypse in MS 339: "Much like Cod B [046] and other common-place copies, as Mr Hort reports, who collated five chapters in 1864, and sent his papers to Tregelles" (p. 248).

Regarding MS 133 of Acts [Gtreg.-Al. 611]: "Mr Hort noticed good readings in the Catholic Epistles" (p. 231).

Regarding a Vulgate MS (B. x. 5)at Trinity College, Cambridge, containing 1Co-1Thess, "readings [were] sent by the Rev. F. J. A. Hort to Tregelles" (p. 314)

So Hort, at least, was to some extent engaged in direct manuscript examination and collation.

[End of Maurice Robinson's comment]

23 comments:

  1. Negatives are notoriously hard to prove, but as a writer I understand the compelling urge to use them for effect. Better to say that "There is no evidence that. . ." and better yet to admit "I've seen nothing to indicate that. . ."

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  2. According to Harold H. Oliver (JBL v. 79 n. 3), the transpostion was clearly evident in Tischendorf's 1843 transcription of C (Codex Ephraemi Syrí Rescriptus sive Fragmenta Novi Testamenti e codici graeco-parisiensi celeberrimo quinti ut videtur post christum saeculi erint alque editit C. T.)

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  3. Since Dungan footnoted that passage from Aland & Aland, he must have misunderstood it.

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  4. Direct examination of manuscript originals is not a prerequisite for high achievement in textual criticism. Even if the charge were true, it wouldn't on its own impugn the text-critical work of either Wetcott or Hort. Certainly their influential work was primarily in systematizing and applying TC principles and can only be judged quite highly for what it was regardless of what it wasn't.

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  5. maurice a robinson11:26 pm, March 29, 2006

    For the record, regarding Hort and collation of MSS, cf. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, 2nd ed (1874), 432:

    "So far as it appears from their Preface [circulated privately to members of the ERV Committee], the editors [W-H] have not made any great additions of their own to the mass of collated materials for the revision of the sacred text. Those which exist ready at hand have been verified as far as possible, and the whole mass of evidence, both documentary and internal, has been thoroughly and deliberately weighed by them, separately and in conference, with an amount of care and diligence that have been hitherto unexampled."

    Within the same volume, Scrivener speaks regarding Hort's direct examination of MS 339 while in Turin:

    "Found by Mr Hort to contain John, Luke (with Titus of Bostra's commentary), Matthew, hoc ordine" (p. 68).

    "Mr Hort informs me that on examining this copy he found it written in three several and minute hands" (p. 200n1).

    As to the Apocalypse in MS 339: "Much like Cod B [046] and other common-place copies, as Mr Hort reports, who collated five chapters in 1864, and sent his papers to Tregelles" (p. 248).

    Regarding MS 133 of Acts [Gtreg.-Al. 611]: "Mr Hort noticed good readings in the Catholic Epistles" (p. 231).

    Regarding a Vulgate MS (B. x. 5)at Trinity College, Cambridge, containing 1Co-1Thess, "readings [were] sent by the Rev. F. J. A. Hort to Tregelles" (p. 314)

    So Hort, at least, was to some extent engaged in direct manuscript examination and collation.

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  6. Thanks Maurice for the notes from Scrivener, many of which correspond to items in Hort's unpublished correspondence. Hort was in regular correspondence with Tregelles about manuscripts.

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  7. Daniel said: 'According to Harold H. Oliver (JBL v. 79 n. 3), the transpostion was clearly evident in Tischendorf's 1843 transcription of C'. That is right, W&H's Introduction refers to this transcription on p15 as their source for the continuous text of C. Doubtless it was in studying this that Hort figured out the significance of the transposition. Note that Oliver also said that Tischendorf 'makes no special reference to it nor elaborates upon its implications.'

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  8. Stephen said: 'Since Dungan footnoted that passage from Aland & Aland, he must have misunderstood it.'

    The statement in Aland & Aland is already formally incorrect. It is based on a false dichotomy (between making your own collation and working with published material). It is incorrect in that W&H worked extensively not (only) with critical editions, but (more importantly) with transcriptions and facsimiles of manuscripts (as they were available). It is also incorrect since W&H also worked with unpublished and manuscript material, as has already been documented.

    Dungan picks up and exaggerates the pejorative element already (wrongly) present in Aland & Aland and without apparently understanding much about W&H proceeds to describe their work incorrectly.

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  9. Eric said: 'Direct examination of manuscript originals is not a prerequisite for high achievement in textual criticism.'

    I don't think I would tell my students that! And Hort at least had a good range of experience in the direct examination of original manuscripts. He also had a keen appreciation for the individuality and particularity of the witness of manuscripts (and was encouraged in this by Tregelles). But of course he had (and developed in collaboration with Westcott) a brilliant synthesis which managed to draw together the wisdom of the earlier generations and the witness of the newly discovered manuscript materials.

    Who was the better textual critic: Tischendorf or Hort?

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  10. Anonymous said: Negatives are notoriously hard to prove, but as a writer I understand the compelling urge to use them for effect. Better to say that "There is no evidence that. . ." and better yet to admit "I've seen nothing to indicate that. . ."

    At least 'I've seen nothing to indicate that ...' places the explanation on the author's lack of research into the subject!

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  11. I would say that Tischendorf and Hort made different kinds of contributions to the field. I certainly didn't intend to underrate the importance of scholars who make great contributions by way of examining originals. But, the usefulness of text critical work that primarily comes from analysis of the data given in published editions, together with facsimiles and transcriptions, should also not be demeaned.

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  12. Is the German for the Aland & Aland passage any better or worse?

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  13. "Who was the better textual critic: Tischendorf or Hort?"

    Which is the better manuscript:
    Sinaiticus or Vaticanus?

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  14. Stephen asked: 'Is the German for the Aland & Aland passage any better or worse?'

    Good point, benefit of the doubt and all that. But, no excuse there.

    p28: ' ... Westcott/Hort kein einzige Handschrift im Original kollationiert haben, sondern lediglich von gedrucht vorliegenden Resultaten ausgegangen sind, d.h. praktisch doch wohl weithin von Editionen (sprich Tischendorf)'

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  15. Daniel asked: 'Which is the better manuscript: Sinaiticus or Vaticanus?'

    Vaticanus obviously.

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  16. Note that there are going to be presentations at SBL this year on the 125th anniversary of the publication of Westcott and Hort.

    I am going to give a paper on Hort's relationship with Tregelles; not really subtitled: 'what that objectionable evangelical taught me about NT manuscripts'.

    I don't know any other papers for this session yet.

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  17. I just realised that some of the photos of manuscripts, which are generally pretty poor in the ET and the Alandx2 Text, are quite a bit clearer in the German edition. It is certainly related to the quality of the paper (presumably among other things).

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  18. Rather wickedly, considering this is ETC and we therefore take God very seriously, I went along to have a chat with iGod (like several other bloggers), and tried out some text-critical questions on him. I won't bore you with the whole conversation, only the text-critical highlights:

    Me:
    Can we talk about New Testament manuscripts?
    God:
    Do you mean you and me? Sure I can talk about it. New Testament manuscripts is quite an interesting topic.

    ...
    Me:
    Which New Testament manuscript is the best one?
    God:
    The large one, I think.
    Me:
    Which large New Testament manuscript is the best one?
    God:
    The first one, I think.
    Me:
    Yes, but which one is the first one?
    God:
    That's interesting. The first one is usually the best one.
    Me:
    Yes, but how do we identify the first one among the many we now have?
    God:
    Whoa. Just keep talking to me as long as you can.

    ...
    Me:
    Which was the best text critic Hort or Tischendorf?
    God:
    The first one, I think.
    Me:
    Hort you mean! The Cambridge man.
    God:
    What were we talking about again?


    http://www.titane.ca/concordia/dfar251/igod/main.html (for the brave)

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  19. ETC Doctrinal Scrutiny Committee1:36 pm, March 31, 2006

    The last comment contains very questionable theology attributed to 'God'. Frivolity and textual criticism are not truly compatible, harmonisable or reconcilable.

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  20. Thanks for posting the original German, Peter.

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  21. Peter, I'll try to slip in some references to W & H in my SBL paper: 'Spelling Matters: A New Source of Information for New Testament Textual Criticism'.

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  22. Pete, it'll have to be Hort for that definitely. It is obvious from the correspondence that Westcott had no patience for the endless Hortian deliberations over how to spell NT words.

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  23. Here, apparently, is the text of Srivener's copy of the privately circulated 1870 W-H preface, as quoted in Burgon's Revision Revised:

    "[the editors] have deliberately chosen on the whole to rely for documentary evidence on the stores accumulated by their predecessors, and to confine themselves to their proper work of editing the text itself."

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