Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Are We Trying to Recover?

The recent discussions of Romans 5:1 and of Ulrich Schmid’s (very good) proposals about the textual history of Romans raise an issue worth thinking about a bit more: precisely what is it that we are attempting to recover? The traditional answer of the discipline is, of course, “the original.” But in giving this answer, I don’t think the discipline has given sufficient attention to the matter of how we envision the path from the original to the textual tradition. Let me illustrate the issue I am trying to raise with an example from 1 Corinthians, in light of the work of E. Randolph Richards (e.g., Paul and First-Century Letter Writing [IVP, 2004] 218-221), who proposes that Paul retained copies of (some of his) letters, and this personal collection is the source of the Pauline corpus. If one grants for the sake of argument Richard’s point, this means that the Corpus has as its source copies of the individual Pauline letters, the original in each case having been sent off to the designated church. Given the realities of the copying process, it is highly unlikely that the retained copy was identical to the letter sent. If so, then it is possible that the “earliest recoverable stage of the manuscript tradition” is one (or possibly more) stage short of the letter sent to the church—and preserves the errors of that first copy. Perhaps this explains 1 Cor. 6:5, “to judge between (ana meson) his brother”, where two parties, not just one, ought to be mentioned; Zuntz terms this phrase “an unexampled and unbelievable way of speaking; in short, a corruption” (Text of the Epistles, 15).
In short, I think the tendency has been to assume that “original” = “archetype”, and it is this assumption that I wish to question. It may be in some cases that the two are identical, but such a conclusion ought to be argued, rather than simply assumed. And if there are (as I think) cases where the two are not identical, then it may be necessary to rethink the role and place for emendation in the process for recovering the original.

31 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Clearly an important question. But why is it that evangelical text critics always seem to suppose the default position to be a Pauline letter? Things immediately get a great deal messier if you take as your default something like John, Acts or Revelation, let alone a classic OT case like Jeremiah or 1 Samuel. Granted that the Pauline case is easy, even if not perhaps trivial, does it really make sense for the majority of other cases to speak of an archetype -- and if it does and you could get hold of it, would you really want it, at least for the purpose of establishing a text that was still recognizably Scripture?

P J Williams said...

Anon wrote: "Things immediately get a great deal messier if you take as your default something like John, Acts or Revelation, let alone a classic OT case like Jeremiah or 1 Samuel."

I'm not sure why you should think this is the case. John has more/earlier witnesses than Paul; there is only a lot of uncertainty about Acts if you think that the Western text has a serious claim to primacy; Revelation has fewer mss than Paul, but is it in a significantly worse shape textually?

Granted there is plenty of dispute about the text of 1 Samuel and Jeremiah, but are you sure that no order can be brought to this? Ted Herbert has done some very profitable work on 4QSam-a and on its unique readings. Stephen Pisano and David Tsumura also have come to a fairly positive view of the textual position.

Jeremiah is an interesting case, because we know so little. The LXX seems to be a literal translation, but of what? Here follows the abstract of Jack R. Lundbom's paper at the SBL congress of 2004.

'Haplography in the Hebrew Vorlage of Septuagint Jeremiah'

Program Unit: Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

'The paper will argue that LXX Jeremiah results from translation of a flawed Hebrew Text containing more than 300 cases of haplography, which accounts for 64% of its word loss.'

This could have interesting implications for 4QJer-b.

So, yes, there are many questions to explore, but it is surely premature to say that it does not make sense to speak of an archetype.

P J Williams said...

Mike, nice points. Some members of this blog are quite positive about conjectural emendation, but I'm more than sceptical. I don't have so much problem with positing an unattested combination of things from extant mss as the original, but if 'conjecture' is to involve putting words in that are in no witnesses I do not see that it can lead you anywhere. In the case of 1 Cor. 6:5 how would you decide how to complete what was missing? Would you need to repeat ανα μεσον as in Ezek. 34:20, or not as in Ezek. 34:17; or could you use προς as the preposition in the second element as Ezek. 34:22? Even if you fortuitously got the right combination, how would anyone know? How could it function as authoritative for anyone? It might be useful for you to record in your memoirs of your original ideas, but would it be able to play the function of scripture to anyone?

I agree that the text is awkward, but unparalleled does not necessarily mean corrupt.
ανα μεσον can occur with a single entity after it (Josh. 8:22; 16:9; 17:9; Judges 5:16a; Ezek. 40:7), though these examples are basically spatial.

I'd prefer just to say that the elliptical expression goes back to Paul.

What is the likelihood that we have mss descended both from Paul's personal copies and the ones he sent to the churches? If for the 13(14) surviving letters in the Corpus Paulinum there is a greater number of Pauline letters that have not survived then it may be right to conclude that even if there were two authorial copies of a work each one of them had a probability of of survival of < 0.5.

Mike Holmes said...

anon said,
"does it really make sense for the majority of other cases to speak of an archetype -- and if it does and you could get hold of it, would you really want it, at least for the purpose of establishing a text that was still recognizably Scripture?"
--I think anon may be using "archetype" in a diff. sense than I do. By "archetype" I mean essentially "the earliest recoverable form of the text" on the basis of the textual witnesses that have survived--a stage posterior to the "public presentation" of a document.
--as for the Pauline letter as a "default position," sorry, not in my case--I simply picked 1 Cor as a clear and less complicated example from with to raise the question of the goal of NT textual criticism.

maurice a robinson said...

MH: precisely what is it that we are attempting to recover? The traditional answer of the discipline is, of course, “the original.” But in giving this answer, I don’t think the discipline has given sufficient attention to the matter of how we envision the path from the original to the textual tradition.

One might speculate endlessly regarding matters such as authorial intent; a dictated "original"; the effect of scribal error or accident on that "original"; later authorial or other revision and editing, etc. If so, Ehrman's position would apply not merely to the scribally transmitted text, but to whatever vicissitudes it underwent at any point(s) prior to actual transmission history.

At best, the text-critical "quest for the autograph" can only work backward from the extant evidence to what might be termed the earliest regularly transmitted form of the text (the NA27/ECM Ausgangstext concept).

Brevard Childs -- perhaps anachronistically -- would consider such to be the "canonically transmitted form" of the text; David Trobisch might well concur with that assessment. Others would simply call that earliest transmitted form of the text the "autograph", and rest reasonably content with such as the ultimate goal of NT textual criticism

Mike Holmes said...

re PJ Williams' comments: a number of questions come to mind; permit me simply to list them for now.
1) "Even if you fortuitously got the right combination, how would anyone know?" Granted; there is always an element of uncertainty re an emendation--but is the uncertainty about the resulting text any greater than that involved in some of the decisions carrying a "D" rating in the UBS text?
2)"How could it function as authoritative for anyone? ... would it be able to play the function of scripture to anyone?"
a) should a theological question stop an historical investigation?
b) re "authoritative": I just looked at several English translations: "between his brethren" (KJV; NASB95); "between his brothers" (HCSB); "between the brothers" (ESV); "between brothers" (NAB); "between believers" (NIV); "between one believer and another" (NRSV). None of these translations actually translate the text, but are essentially presenting a conjecture that is taken as authoritative/functioning as scripture by millions of readers. Not sure I see the problem.
3)"What is the likelihood that we have mss descended both from Paul's personal copies and the ones he sent to the churches?" An excellent and interesting question! But one that arises only when we question the traditional equation of archetype and original--which was my point in the first place.

Mike Holmes said...

Maurice Robinson wrote,
“At best, the text-critical "quest for the autograph" can only work backward from the extant evidence to what might be termed the earliest regularly transmitted form of the text (the NA27/ECM Ausgangstext concept).”

Yes, exactly—well said. My interest revolves around the question as to what do we do next? In classical textual criticism, recensio involved establishing the ‘earliest regularly transmitted form of the text’—but it was only the second of 3 or if necessary 4 stages of textual criticism, the others being examinatio—testing the soundness of the ‘earliest recoverable text’—and, if necessary, repairing any identifiable faults, when possible, by means of emendatio. But NT textual criticism has always stopped at step 2. My question is, on what methodological or historical grounds do we justify stopping at step 2? There may be such grounds; if so, we ought to specify them. However, the claim that “there are so many surviving witnesses that the original reading must have survived somewhere amongst them” represents an assumption, not a methodological or historical ground, and is, I suggest, an insufficient basis to justify stopping at step 2.
In none of this am I claiming that in the case of the NT there is any need for large scale emendation (we may, I believe, “rest reasonably content” [Maurice’s nice phrase] that the “earliest transmitted form of the text” is very very near the "autograph"). But “low need” for emendation is not the same as “no need,” and we may be robbing ourselves of clues to the history of the transmission of the text by stopping at step 2 and not pressing on further. Hence my interest is raising the question as to why we don’t press further: do we have good methodological and/or historical reasons for doing so, or have we simply been lazy?

Eric Rowe said...

MR wrote: "At best, the text-critical "quest for the autograph" can only work backward from the extant evidence to what might be termed the earliest regularly transmitted form of the text (the NA27/ECM Ausgangstext concept)."

Isn't every extant form of the text necessarily one that was regularly transmitted, at least in the opinions of the scribes who made them? Thus, this qualification doesn't affect anything practically in the discipline. We still must discern whether the phenomena of the mss result ultimately from one "original" or more than one. If it is one, then to recover the earliest regularly transmitted form is to recover the original. If it is more than one, then the questions raised in this thread are not solved by subjectively identifying one stream as the regularly transmitted one over against the others.

P J Williams said...

MH: 'should a theological question stop an historical investigation?'

No. Theological and historical questions can be pursued independently, but we would also hope that the methods can be integrated. I find conjectures historically interesting, and agree that they might be more probable than some things that occur in mss. They might even, as you suggest, be a key to uncovering more of the history of a text.

However, I have no evidence to suggest this. Moreover, (1) there is still much work to be done with actual mss and (2) it is hard to give a single example of a conjecture that is more probable than what is found in any of the mss. If this is so, why should be we be optimistic about the promise of conjecture?

I would say that the translations you listed of 1 Cor. 6:5 are only textual conjectures if they are in translations that claim to be literally or formally equivalent. However, the translators may have simply seen Paul's expression as elliptical and therefore translated by filling in the ellipsis. Is this significantly different from the way translations fill in the ellipsis in John 1:8?

Since there is no evidence that any Greek mss had anything other than what NA27 prints for 1 Cor. 6:5, we can assume that what they print is the archetype of our textual tradition. We cannot prove that this archetype derives from the author, nor can we disprove that it does. Yet it doesn't strike me as particularly more likely that Paul's scribe wrote an additional phrase that we lost than that the text as we have it is what Paul's scribe wrote.

Ulrich Schmid said...

mike holmes:

In classical textual criticism, recensio involved establishing the ‘earliest regularly transmitted form of the text’—but it was only the second of 3 or if necessary 4 stages of textual criticism, the others being examinatio—testing the soundness of the ‘earliest recoverable text’—and, if necessary, repairing any identifiable faults, when possible, by means of emendatio. But NT textual criticism has always stopped at step 2. My question is, on what methodological or historical grounds do we justify stopping at step 2?

Excellent question! Yet, I would even go back to the concept of ‘earliest regularly transmitted form of the text’ first. In my view NT textual criticism usually ignores one of the basic characteristics of our material, i.e. its Corpus structure (Gospel Corpus, Pauline Corpus, Apostolos Corpus [Acts+Catholic Epistles] and Revelation). We tend to assume that this is just an accidental aspect. Maybe this is, because we Protestants are so used to reshuffle the NT writings in our printed Bibles for theological reasons (Luther started that).

In historical perspective - and that's what TC is about - we might be ignoring one of the basic mechanics of the transmission that we need to understand and explore first, before we eventually identify what the ‘earliest regularly transmitted form of the text’ actually is. That, then could inform our recensio as well as potential emendatio.

Just to give a simple example: As long as we print "(Gospel) according to Matthew" as titles in our editions, and we use manuscript evidence to support this or that form of the title, we are NOT aiming at Matthew's Gospel properly, but at it's "Canonical" version. Recensio tells us that Matthew's Gospel as a reasonably self-containing literary entitys must have had a seperate life prior to being incorporated into a "Canonical" edition, that would include three more writings of the same type, thus necessitating the redactional and in that case very delicate task to distinguish and relate the four writings of the Gospel Corpus. Emendatio tells us: If you want the text of the seperate Gospels, get first of all rid of the "Canonical" titles.

Eric Rowe said...

MH wrote: "should a theological question stop an historical investigation?"

I don't know about the impact theologicial questions should have on historical investigations. But certainly theological belief invariably does impact one's pursuits in all areas, including history. The rightness of the outcome of all intellectual pursuits is determined by the truth or falsehood of the theological beliefs that guide them.

We all hold certain dogmas at the axiomatic level, dogmas involving the regularity of nature, the veracity of the laws of logic, the trustworthiness of human senses, etc. These presuppositions are ultimately purely religious. To those listed could be added the dogmas of the trustworthiness of the Creator and the existence of His verbal revelation. As an evangelical I am commited a priori to trust that God has given us the verbal revelation He wants us to have, and that it is wholly true. To set aside such a basic dogma in any intellectual pursuit is to guarantee a false conclusion.

What TC needs, and what all historical-critical study needs, is biblical scholars who will bring into our fields the same attitudes that Creationists bring to the physical sciences.

Daniel Buck said...

"What TC needs, and what all historical-critical study needs, is biblical scholars who will bring into our fields the same attitudes that Creationists bring to the physical sciences."

I'm in the early research stages of a book or article on the effect of Darwinism on Textual Criticism. What I've found so far could be pretty unsettling to a creationist textual critic.

I've distilled the differences between Evolutionism and Creationism to a simple paradox, and field-testing on Evolutionists shows that it's about as airtight as could be. It's as follows:

*A Creationist is never going to agree that the Bible must conform to Evolutionary Theory, and an Evolutionist is never going to agree that Science must conform to the Bible.*

Evolutionists use "Science" and "Evolutionary Theory" synonymously, but I had to separate them in this way in order for Evolutionists to recognize the paradox.

I haven't put much thought into it yet, but when I do I expect that a similar paradox will separate the two approaches to textual criticism.

maurice a robinson said...

MH: recensio .. was only the second of 3 or if necessary 4 stages of textual criticism, the others being examinatio—testing the soundness of the ‘earliest recoverable text’—and, if necessary, repairing any identifiable faults, when possible, by means of emendatio.

Granted, certainly. But the question, e.g., with 1Cor 6:5 as the example, is whether examinatio is capable of determining that the reading ANA MESON TOU ADELFOU AUTOU is actually incorrect.

I would suggest not, for some fairly obvious text-critical reasons: (1) This is not a reading localized to a small group of MSS or a particular family or texttype, but is found in virtually the entire transmissional tradition; (2) Had any scribe perceived a syntactical or interpretative problem here, the data should demonstrate various attempts at correcttion, which simply do not appear (many claim that the Byzantine scribes were particularly sensitive to problematic readings and would take great pains to remove perceived difficulties; neither Byzantine nor any other scribes did so here).

In view of both those particulars, I would say that examinatio properly should conclude that no problem existed within transmissional or scribal-interpretative history, and that therefore the text must have been acceptable as it stood. Thus, any modern interpretative difficulties are likely more in the minds of contemporary critics than in the minds of those who were the ancient “guardians of letters”.

Were I to consider conjecture as a valid text-restorational procedure within NT textual criticism (which I do not), the simplest conjecture to resolve the difficulty would be a change to the plural: DIAKRINAI ANA MESON TWN ADELFWN AUTOU. This would be far easier than presuming a loss of some words. However, even this conjecture is negated by the lack of any supporting evidence within the Greek manuscript tradition, so I reject it as well as any others that might be suggested at this point.

What probably needs to be performed is more grammatical/syntactical research regarding the use of ANA MESON.

In another matter, Eric Rowe wrote:

ER: Isn't every extant form of the text necessarily one that was regularly transmitted, at least in the opinions of the scribes who made them? Thus, this qualification doesn't affect anything practically in the discipline.

This makes the definition mean something quite different (e.g. Parker's view that every MS represents a "living text"). That is not my intent. When I wrote "earliest regularly transmitted form of the text" the intent was the "transmissional Ausgangstext", and nothing more.

P J Williams said...

Daniel: "I haven't put much thought into it yet, but when I do I expect that a similar paradox will separate the two approaches to textual criticism."

Which two approaches?

P J Williams said...

I find much to agree with in Prof. Robinson's latest. How do we move from the knowledge that a text is difficult to us to know that it would have been so problematic in antiquity that it cannot be authorial?

The Buck Stops said...

Daniel, not yet thinking carefully here:

There seem to only two fundamental approaches to textual criticism, each with its own consequences.

Once begins with the nature of the text as it is found in the manuscripts at hand, and uses it in such a way as to come to conclusions about the nature of its apparent author.

The other begins with a basic understanding of God's nature, and uses it in such a way as to draw conclusions about the nature of the text which He has promised to preserve, as it is apparently found in the manuscripts at hand.

If most of you don't find yourself fitting into the latter category, it's probably because I haven't defined the paradox well enough yet.

I say 'paradox' because if it is rightly framed, no one can utilize both approaches, despite any neutrality he might otherwise bring to the issue.

P J Williams said...

However, Daniel, in historic evangelical belief revelation of God is mediated through the manuscripts since they are what have brought the special revelation to us. Sola scriptura necessitates that we start with the manuscripts. That is why I think that we must be both theological and historical in our thinking about manuscripts.

Mike Holmes said...

Prof. Robinson wrote:
"I would suggest not, for some fairly obvious text-critical reasons: (1) This is not a reading localized to a small group of MSS or a particular family or texttype, but is found in virtually the entire transmissional tradition;"
--I'll stipulate, for the sake of argument, that it is the "reading" of the entire tradition (the Peshitta reading I take to be translational, as also the English translations). But this is exactly the case one would expect to find if the slip were in the archetype, and I don't see how this can count against the likelihood of a conjecture (which is, by definition, something w/o support in the MSS tradition).

Again, Robinson:
"(2) Had any scribe perceived a syntactical or interpretative problem here, the data should demonstrate various attempts at correcttion, which simply do not appear (many claim that the Byzantine scribes were particularly sensitive to problematic readings and would take great pains to remove perceived difficulties; neither Byzantine nor any other scribes did so here)."
--unlike the nameless "many" of Robinson's comment, I find the claim of Zuntz more compelling: that (chronologically) Byzantine editors seem not to have made changes w/o manuscript support. So I take the absence of evidence of attempts to 'fix' the matter as indication of faithful transmission subsequent to the initial slip.
Robinson offers (what he considers to be an unnecessary and hypothetical) conjecture--changing the singular to the plural. Zuntz thought that the error was the result of homoiarkton, with ANAMESON ADELPHOU KAI having been accidentally omitted in the MS that became the archetype of the surviving tradition.

PJ Williams asked,
"How do we move from the knowledge that a text is difficult to us to know that it would have been so problematic in antiquity that it cannot be authorial?"
Robinson's comment ("What probably needs to be performed is more grammatical/syntactical research regarding the use of ANA MESON") implies the answer: study of ancient usage and style. Here is Zuntz's comment in full: "It is too lenient to call the latter [i.e., the reading ANAMESON TOU ADELPHOU AUTOU], with Lietzmann, a 'laxity of expression'. It is an unexampled and unbelievable way of speaking; in short, a corruption, due to homoiarkton." [Text, 15].

"Unbelievable" expresses a judgment about Paul as a writer; "unexampled" is a claim regarding evidence (which one would now wish to check with the TLG, of course). Even when we are evaluating readings, rather than conjectures, what else to we have to work with, other than judgment and evidence?

Mike Holmes said...

Fearing misunderstanding, permit me to expand a sentence near the end of my last post, namely: "'Unbelievable' expresses a judgment about Paul as a writer". What Zuntz means is that in his judgment Paul is a writer of such skill that it is unbelievable that he would have expressed himself in such a way.

maurice a robinson said...

MH (quoting Zuntz): ""It is too lenient to call [ANAMESON TOU ADELPHOU AUTOU]... a 'laxity of expression'. It is an unexampled and unbelievable way of speaking; in short, a corruption, due to homoiarkton."

MH: what else to we have to work with, other than judgment and evidence?

Precisely my point. Judgment and evidence by their very nature should exclude conjecture, particularly when the transmissional evidence is self-consistent.

As for Zuntz' "unexampled and unbelievable way of speaking" [for Paul], I suggest that Zuntz overreaches when calling a universally attested reading "a corruption".

BAG cites as a parallel LXX Sir 25:18 (per B Aleph A) as equally problematic: ANA MESON TOU PLHSION AUTOU (BAG s.v. ANA, 1.b.). Given that Rahlf's main text follows MS V in the equally problematic TWN PLHSION [sic] (cf. LXX Sir 25:1, Ps 27:3; 121:8), should one suspect homoioarcton in the B Aleph A reading of Sir 25:18? I think not, and am willing to grant the same courtesy to Paul in his particular case.

P J Williams said...

Prof. Robinson, thanks very much for the great Sir. 25:18 ref. However, I don't see the problem with των πλησιον.

Even if 'unexampled' were true, 'unbelievable' is somewhat subjective.

P J Williams said...

Ulrich, obviously I agree that there is a certain corpus structure to our material. However, there is also much material from the early centuries that does not follow this structure. Many of the Coptic mss show individual books (Gospels and letters mixed). Burton has shown that there were two independent European recensions of the Old Latin of John—suggesting that people worked on just a single Gospel. The fact that so many of our early Greek papyri are of John (or Matthew) and so few of Mark presumably shows that in Egypt the John mss were not generally part of a fourfold Gospel collection. Even if a fourfold collection existed early on, some mss (P52, P90) may come from before it. If we follow Hengel in saying that Gospels never circulated anonymously then it may be that the title 'Gospel according to X' was appended to Mark before it formed part of a fourfold collection and spread by analogy to the other Gospels prior to the fourfold collection, or along with other historical events that brought the fourfold collection about. We know that nomina sacra spread by analogy (to works like Thomas or LXX mss) and cannot simply be used to suggest common editorship. Why should Gospel titles not similarly spread apart from a fourfold Gospel collection?

Surely the fact that the divergencies of Codex Bezae and allies from other witnesses are most significant in Luke-Acts suggests that the divergencies go back to a time when these two books were circulating together (not necessarily in the same ms) and when Luke was not part of a fourfold Gospel corpus.

I don't know enough about the Pauline corpus. The case for its primitive integrity as a corpus may be stronger.

The Apocalypse was never part of a collection.

The Catholic epistles are also rather dubious as a collection. It seems that the relationship between Cyprian's citations and Codex Floriacensis
is not sufficiently uniform across the Catholic Epistles for us to conclude that the Catholic epistles circulated as a collection in the Latin speaking area at any early date. It is also interesting that we have no 'Western' text of the Catholic epistles (thus Carroll Osburn). As the unpublished dissertation of David Nienhuis has asked, what evidence do we have for placing the Catholic Epistle collection before AD 180?

I thus conclude that, except for the Pauline corpus, we do have witnesses that show aspects of the state of the text prior to the time when the first collection of the four Gospels or the Catholic epistles was made.

Eric Rowe said...

I wonder if a collection of the best-ever threads on this blog might be put together in an index that might be linked in the sidebar on the main page. I'm sure I can't be the only one here who has found the contributions in this discussion by Holmes, Williams, Schmid, and Robinson to be a great read. I doubt that there is any better discussion of this TC topic available in any printed publication with the same level of attention to the mindset brought by evangelicals, and written by such eminently qualified scholars. There was another, similarly great, recent thread that Dave Black had assigned as required reading for one of his courses, and many earlier ones as well.
So, any chance of someone arranging a BOEvTC collection (Best of Evangelical Textual Criticism)?

Ulrich schmid said...

pj williams:
"Ulrich, obviously I agree that there is a certain corpus structure to our material. However, there is also much material from the early centuries that does not follow this structure."

Re. Coptic material: How many complete mss from early centuries do we have?

Re. versional evidence in general: Let me refer to modern analogies when it comes to Bible translations into hiterto "untranslated" languages. It is my understanding that the translators usually would not start with all four Gospels at once, but with one Gospel (preferably Matthew, as I was told).
I can imagine that this was also true in earlier times.

Evidence from the Greek Gospel manuscript tradition is notoriously difficult to interprete, because we have only tiny bits and pieces from earlier times. No doubt, it is important to recontruct the format of P 52, P 90 etc. But it involves a great deal of conjecture to conclude, whether or not the respective items go back to a four (three, two, one) Gospel ms. And even in cases where we might be reasonably confindent (which I am not, btw) to say, e.g., P 52 originally represented a ms with just the Gospel of John, how are we to infer that such a one Gospel Codex is a direct witness to the pre-Corpus state of transmission?

David Trobisch has argued that the mere fact of the Codex form in itself points to the existence of the Corpus. [I'm away from my books, so I can only comment from memory] Especially with regard to the Gospels circulation prior to the Corpus, we would have to expect the scroll as the default format. Recall the scroll is the default format in the first century CE for anything written that comes close to a literary text.

pj williams:
"If we follow Hengel in saying that Gospels never circulated anonymously then it may be that the title 'Gospel according to X' was appended to Mark before it formed part of a fourfold collection and spread by analogy to the other Gospels prior to the fourfold collection, or along with other historical events that brought the fourfold collection about."

There is a huge leap between 'Gospels never circulated anonimously' and the precise and surprisingly stable basic form of the title(s): 'Gospel according to X' for every single Gospel. It starts with the amazing transformation of 'euaggelion' to eventially denote a literary genre. And it does not stop with the question: Why are the Gospel titles so stable both in form and content, not just for Matthew or/or/or but Matthew and/and/and?

pj williams:
"We know that nomina sacra spread by analogy (to works like Thomas or LXX mss) and cannot simply be used to suggest common editorship. Why should Gospel titles not similarly spread apart from a fourfold Gospel collection?"

The very form of the Canonical Gospel titles actually spread to non-Canonical Gospels as well, c.f. e.g., the manuscripts of GThomas, Protevangelium Jacobi. But the fact that nomina sacra and Gospel titles are said to have spread does not prevent from identifying, where and why they might have originated.

P J Williams said...

Eric, I'm not sure how to achieve a 'best of ETC'. Any advice gratefully received. Of course blogs mix ephemeral news with things of longer interest. I think that if there is anything of longer term interest it should go on a fixed website, but in an edited form. I've bought the rights to www.evangelicaltextualcriticism.com, but so far have done nothing with it. However, it would be a location where permanent resources could be hosted, for instance multiple reviews of significant books, overviews of issues, tools for study. If people want to submit material to be hosted there I will willingly set up a system of peer review to ensure that there are quality controls.

P J Williams said...

Ulrich, I agree that uniformity of the Gospel titles (as of other sections of the canon) is rather striking. This suggests that there has been shaping of the canon as uniform editions of it (or parts of it) were produced in the second century. However, there may also have been a tendency to unify titles prior to what may be called the first edition of the fourfold Gospel (whenever that was).

Obviously for most papyri we cannot tell what was part of a fourfold collection or not. However, even though we cannot say of many individual mss whether they were part of a fourfold collection we surely have to say that in Egypt at least most papyri weren't part of a fourfold collection, unless we're going to say that the elements have some amazing way of destroying copies of Mark's Gospel (on the inside pages of the fourfold Gospel in the Western order) while leaving remains of mss of John. There is therefore every reason to suppose that we will have substantial witnesses to the text of John (at least) that are independent of any fourfold collection. I am willing to concede that the matter is rather harder with Mark.

P J Williams said...

PW: 'the fourfold Gospel in the Western order'. For 'Western' read 'Eastern'.

maurice a robinson said...

PJW: I don't see the problem with των πλησιον.

Nor do I....but this is the type of reading which could lead scribes to create either TWN PLHSIWN [sic] or the B Aleph A TOU PLHSION, in either case without the necessity to presuppose an homoioarcton-based omission.

Daniel Buck said...

Ulrich:
"It is my understanding that the translators usually would not start with all four Gospels at once, but with one Gospel (preferably Matthew, as I was told)."

As of about 1970 there were 1000 languages with scriptures in print. By far the most translated document was the Gospel of Mark (shortest, easiest Greek, simplest vocabulary & grammar). John was a distant second.

There are now over 2290 languages with a book of the Bible in print. I believe Mark is still the favourite, although the trend now is to postpone work on Mark to first translate a summary of the OT, especially the book of Genesis, to give context to the Gospel.
Luke is the chosen gospel of the Jesus Film Project, with an accompanying audio tape of Luke in many of the 900+ languages in which it is now available.

In Medieval times, it would appear that the Lord's Prayer was often the first portion of Scripture to be printed in the vernacular.

Peter M. Head said...

PJW said: 'Obviously for most papyri we cannot tell what was part of a fourfold collection or not.'

I don't think this is true. I think you can show that none of the 29 early gospel papyrus fragments from Oxyrhycnhus came from a fourfold gospel collection.

P J Williams said...

How?