Monday, January 01, 2007

What's Special about Evangelical Textual Criticism?

To start the New Year we have the following contribution by James E. Snapp, Jr., on a subject that is of central concern to this blog.

Textual criticism, like most branches of science, resists theological classification. The term "evangelical textual criticism," used to describe the analytical task of reconstructing the original text of the Old Testament and New Testament books, may seem like merely a secondary name for the textual criticism of the books upheld as holy Scripture by evangelicals. However, four distinct features of the text-critical approach used by evangelicals, taken together, separate evangelical textual criticism of the books of the Bible from some other kinds of textual criticism.

1. An evangelical textual critic approaches the text with a sense of religious reverence. He understands his task as a basic exegetical step, establishing and confirming words which God, through human agents, provided for the guidance of the church.

2. An evangelical textual critic approaches his task as a restorative enterprise rather than a creative one. He aspires to add nothing to the original text, and subtract nothing from it. Evangelical textual criticism is a science, not an art. Conjectural emendations are entertained only where the extant readings are manifestly unoriginal. The evangelical textual critic, when presenting Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Biblical texts intended to represent the original text, formats any conjectural emendations in the margin or apparatus-notes. He never places a conjectural emendation within the text.

3. An evangelical textual critic defines the original text of a document -- that is, in normal language, the original text of book or book-set -- as the contents of the document in the form in which it was first issued (as something distinct from whatever sources it may have had). He acknowledges that authors, revisors, editors, and arrangers may have contributed to the production of a document, while also acknowledging that whatever textual alterations occurred subsequent to the initial issuance of the book as a distinct document constitute unoriginal, uninspired, and unauthoritative material.

He also accepts the possibility that the initial issuance of some documents involved multiple autographs, and regards the contents of each autograph as original, inspired, and authoritative, even where differences of sense among the multiple autographs occurred. He may, when reconstructing the archetype of such a document, present closely contested readings within a variant-unit not as rivals but as brothers, both of which may be regarded as part of the initially produced message.

4. An evangelical textual critic harbors the belief or expectation that the doctrinal message of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts through which God has communicated to the church in many places, and for many years, is not materially different from the doctrinal message of the autographs. This belief or expectation accompanies, but should not interfere with, the text-critical task.

17 comments:

  1. I'm grateful to Jim for raising this significant topic again. There are many things that one could discuss about this posting. The one, however, that is most on my mind is whether there are any true 'distinctives' at all.

    I think Jim may agree, for he says that the 'distinct features..., taken together, separate evangelical textual criticism ... from some other kinds of textual criticism'. In other words there are no features that distinguish ETC from other approaches on their own and not even the grouping of all four of the suggested distinctives separates ETC from 'all' other approaches.

    The more I've thought about it the more I've become persuaded that ETC cannot be defined just by distinctives any more than evangelicalism can be defined by distinctives (contra Bebbington). After all, some of the most central things to evangelical theology, e.g. doctrine of Trinity, belief in verbal inspiration of scripture, are simply common elements in all major historic branches of Christian theology. Even in soteriology evangelicals might claim a huge amount in common with a figure like Augustine. If evangelical belief really is the best approximation to apostolic belief then we should hope that there are no elements in it that entirely separate it from the way people have received the apostolic teaching through history.

    I hope it is the same with textual criticism: that no virtue I could assign to evangelical textual criticism would be unique to it.

    Of course it might be that evangelicals have become the main group that tend to offer alternatives to secular ways of carrying out textual criticism. But even if this be so, it is only a tendency.

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  2. Why should a SET of characteristics (none of which individually are distinctive) be not considered distinctive collectively?

    For example, each letter of the word 'blog' is not, in itself, distinctive (the four letters occur in hundreds of thousands of other words). But taken together, the word blog has a fairly distinctive and well-defined meaning.

    For evangelicalism itself, I find it hard to argue against Bebbington's four distinctives together making a pretty good definition of what it means to be an evangelical.

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  3. I find Bebbington's definition both too narrow and too broad. Too broad: Open theists often fit Bebbington's definition and yet the theological differences between them and between classic evangelicals are arguably more profound than those between classic evangelicals and Catholic or Eastern Orthodox theologians since the differences pertain to divine attributes. Too narrow: it tends to stress discontinuity between recent evangelicals and the early church.

    However, I hope that this is not a distraction from Jim's original post, which deserves discussion.

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  4. I enjoyed this post as I have others on this topic. However, the second portion of point 3 struck me as perhaps too idiosyncratic to be part of a list of characteristics of ETC. I would rather say that the options that paragraph presents are within the realm of ways that evangelical text critics might deal with some of the phenomena of our extant mss. But it is not the only option; and I would guess that it is not the majority opinion in ETC (isn't it more likely that most still pursue a single autographic text?).

    Also, I couldn't help trying to fit Jim's take on the long ending of Mark into this definition. And, honestly, I'm not quite sure how it does. My understanding of what I've read from Jim before is that the long ending was not original, but that it is inspired. Provided I have correctly represented his position, then I don't see it as incompatible with ETC. But how does it fit his 4-point description? Is it a case of a book with 2 autographa? If so, it doesn't quite fit his wording, where the existence of multiple autographa were at "the initial issuance of some documents."

    If I am right about Jim's position (and even if I'm wrong it is still a postion held by some evangelical text critics), then (hypothetically speaking) the inspired and secondary long ending of Mark (should I say long version of Mark?) is better thought of as an inspired revision or an inspired ammendment rather than 1 out of 2 inspired autographa. And at any rate, as long as Jim's presentation of ETC is going to include a caveat such as his 2nd paragraph in point 3, it may as well include other similar caveats such as the potential for inspired revisions and additions to Scripture.

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  5. maurice a robinson8:26 pm, January 02, 2007

    I agree with Eric Rowe that the latter portion of Jim Snapp’s third point likely does overreach.

    Certainly, I for one do not assume that an “evangelical text-critic” necessarily should “accept the possibility . . . [of] multiple autographs” of a given NT book, nor that he should regard “the contents of each [multiple] autograph as original, inspired, and authoritative.” Even when (as Snapp suggests) the MS tradition is closely divided (and from my perspective this implies the Byzantine tradition, but will apply to other methods mutatis mutandis), this should not lead one to the conclusion that “closely contested readings within a variant-unit” should be viewed “not as rivals but as brothers, both of which may be regarded as part of the initially produced message.”

    From my perspective, in any given instance a reading is either that of the (original individual) autograph, or it is not — even if the alternate reading does not otherwise affect the translational or theological sense of a passage or when theory and method lead to no secure determination of originality.

    Also, in agreement with Pete Williams, I yet have to see how our evangelical identity intrinsically affects our text-critical theory or methodology in such a way as to separate such from that which is practiced in varying degrees by non-evangelical textual critics. I fully realize that there is a theological construct placed upon how we view the NT documents, and also to the extent that (for most of us) there is a tendency to reject conjectural emendation — but is that a matter of evangelical identity, or merely a recognition such as could be shared by non-evangelical critics?

    It generally would appear to evangelical and non-evangelical alike that the sheer quantity of material produced and preserved over the centuries, coupled with the known habits of scribes in the transmission of such documents, aided by a regard for these documents as sacred texts by those who transmitted them, should result in a body of textual evidence that — in contrast to the limited data available for other works of antiquity — should preclude all or nearly all cases of conjectural emendation from the outset. But if so, then even this is not an “evangelical text-critical distinctive.”

    While the faith-based presuppositions cited by Snapp certainly do surround the evangelical textual critic in a manner absent from the work of non-evangelical textual scholars, I still fail to see in particular how our faith presuppositions impact NT textual criticism in a distinctive manner. Far better, it seems, to view “evangelical textual criticism” as more of a predominant mindset rather than some external necessity that drives either theory or method within the field.

    The same applies to Jim Snapp’s second point: “An evangelical textual critic approaches his task as a restorative enterprise rather than a creative one. He aspires to add nothing to the original text, and subtract nothing from it” — is this not equally what non-evangelical textual critics would declare (whether WH or the NA/UBS committees, for example), even when they admit conjecture into their “restored” texts? If so, then once again the “evangelical” approach to NT textual criticism is not as distinct as one might wish in terms of theory, method, or application, even if it does retain a useful theological perspective.

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  6. What would an example of a book with 2 autographa look like? I think even in a case where Paul (or his amenuensis) penned a letter to send and a copy of it to keep, only one of those two would be the autograph, with the second one being copied from it--and probably not by Paul himself. If such did occur, and if both of those first 2 copies of a letter were later copied and have descendants (is this the right technical tc term?) among our extant mss, then the possibility of recovering the very readings of the single autograph should not be abandoned. After all, even in that very first instance of copying an epistle whereby one copy could be sent and a second kept, there was a likelihood of the copyist making mistakes such as haplography. And the text critic who finds a case of haplography in any given variant will reject the shorter reading regardless of how early it was made in the transmission history. Although I must admit, this example probably doesn't fit the approach that would be taken by a byzantine prioritist--I'm not sure how a hypothetical situation like this would impact Robinson's view of TC; and I certainly think it's problematic for the Hodges-Farstad approach.

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  7. MAR:

    "I agree with Eric Rowe that the latter portion of Jim Snapp’s third point likely does overreach."

    We must not forget that Jim was formulating his points with both testaments in view. Personally, I think it is most challenging to struggle with the notion of an "original text" in view of the complex literary and textual tradition of the Old Testament books.

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  8. In response to Dr. Robinson's thought that ETC should not differ in practice from any other TC, I beg to differ.

    It may be the case that a given evangelical text critic does not consciously conform his approach to TC to his doctrinal convictions. But TC is ultimately a historical enterprise. And a believer's (evangelical and otherwise) reconstruction of events at the earliest stage of Christianity will necessarily differ from a nonbeliever's.

    An evangelical may go along with Dr. Ehrman's application of TC criteria to each of his examples in Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. But underlying Ehrman's entire approach is an understanding of Christian origins where the forms of Christianity that became orthodoxy have no claim of historical precedence to those that were judged heretical. And this assumption is incompatible with the picture of Christian origins painted in the Bible itself. Certain historical judgments can't be divorced from theology. And, ultimately, at least some of these historical judgments impact TC even if we don't always notice it. I should also point out that this cuts both ways--neither believer nor unbeliever is going to approach the task of TC (or anything else) from a theologically neutral position.

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  9. Dr. Wasserman,
    I agree with your point about the need to refine our understanding of "original text" more when it comes to the OT than we do with the NT. But I'm not sure that the words in question in Jim's post really apply to this caveat. At least as I read it, his idea of multiple autographa that came at the time of "the initial issuance of some documents" doesn't accomodate the kind of complexity I think you probably have in mind for the OT.

    On the other hand, modern evangelicals have for a long time been more nuanced in the goal of OTTC than they have for that of NTTC. See, for example, Dr. Waltke's essay in the Expositor's Bible Commentary.

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  10. maurice a robinson10:01 pm, January 02, 2007

    Rowe: "But TC is ultimately a historical enterprise. And a believer's (evangelical and otherwise) reconstruction of events at the earliest stage of Christianity will necessarily differ from a nonbeliever's."

    I fully agree, and would readily acknowledge that one's understanding and/or interpretation of the underlying history and historical transmission of the NT text will affect how the critic approaches that text, and perhaps also affect one's willingness freely to alter that text according to his own inclinations. But if such willingness exists, then what is being practiced by the non-evangelical in such cases is no longer "textual criticism" but "textual creativity", and this moves outside the area of which I was speaking (i.e. the otherwise commonly shared canons of NT textual criticism, applied in different ways in relation to the underlying text-critical theory and method espoused).

    What I still want to see is a compelling case made that somehow an "evangelical" approach to NT textual criticism necessarily will result in a theory or methodology regarding a text being established that somehow differs distinctly from that which might impel a non-evangelical textual critic who functions within the proper limits of the discipline. So long as one can readily observe, for example, clearly "evangelical" textual critics or commentators favoring a text that is identical (or almost so) with that favored by non-evangelical critics or commentators, any claimed "evangelical distinctive" simply appears to be lacking in theory, methodology, and results.

    It appears to me that, unless one brings in an overriding theological construct that declares some particular text, MS, or texttype to be the "only" text that has been "preserved by God" via direct supervision, that no such "evangelical construct" can exist with any clear certainty or definition. I for one do not want to open that Pandora's Box or go down that type of text-critical road.

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  11. Addressing some questions about the second portion of point 3 ~

    When I mentioned that the evangelical textual critic “accepts the possibility that the initial issuance of some documents involved multiple autographs, and regards the contents of each autograph as original, inspired, and authoritative, even where differences of sense among the multiple autographs occurred,” I didn’t mean that evangelical textual critics are required to affirm that such a scenario has occurred. The hypothesis of multiple autographs was intended mainly to draw the outer limits of the definition of “original text.”

    Also, when thinking of multiple autographs, I didn’t have the Gospel of Mark in mind (at least, not consciously). I was thinking about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and the book of Revelation. I don’t anticipate that the “at Ephesus” variant is going to stabilize any time soon. But if Ephesians was an encyclical letter, and Paul sent one letter to Ephesus with “in Ephesus,” and (at least) one otherwise identical letter to some other city without “in Ephesus,” it might not need to stabilize. Maybe it /shouldn’t/ stabilize. The inclusion of “in Ephesus” (in the copy sent to Ephesus) *and* the omission of “in Ephesus” (in a copy that was not sent to Ephesus) may both be considered original, inspired, and authoritative, *if* they were both part of the original, inspired, and authoritative message which Paul produced.

    Eric Rowe wrote, “I couldn't help trying to fit Jim's take on the long ending of Mark into this definition. And, honestly, I'm not quite sure how it does.”

    Just to make it clear, my take on the Long Ending of Mark is that Mark unintentionally stopped writing at the end of 16:8, and his surviving colleagues released his book. They did so after attaching to 16:8 a short freestanding summary of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances which Mark had either written or approved -- a summary which we know as the Long Ending. The result was a two-piece autograph of the Gospel of Mark. Early in the transmission-stream, either the second piece of the autograph (containing the Long Ending) was lost or someone rejected it. (Further details: it’s possible that Mark 1:1-16:8 reached Ephesus without 16:9-20 -- or accompanied by someone who told the Ephesians that 16:9-20 was an attachment not authorized by Peter -- and that a Johannine Ending was composed to take up the thread of Mark’s narrative from 16:8. But when it came to light that 16:9-20 was accepted at Rome, the Ephesians accepted it, too, and the Johannine Ending was attached to the (just-being-completed) Gospel of John. Someone who viewed 16:9-20 as superfluous -- since the Johannine Ending was, to him, the proper continuation of, and conclusion to, Mark’s account -- removed 16:9-20 when making a four-Gospel codex in the second century, since in his view it was a textual patch, superceded in value by the Johannine Ending. But he kept the Johannine Ending where he found it, as part of the end of the Gospel of John. Shortly thereafter, someone else (who was unaware that John 21 should be read as the continuation of Mark’s narrative-thread) composed the Short Ending. Egyptian copies of Mark without 16:9-20 were taken to Caesarea; meanwhile in Egypt the Short Ending and the Long Ending competed. About everywhere else, the Long Ending was considered part of the Gospel of Mark.)

    So essentially my approach to the Gospel of Mark is that the original text of the Gospel of Mark is a composite text. I don’t posit two autographs for Mark, just two stages in the production-process (with Mark’s death or departure happening in between). Or three, if one counts the (early) stage at which the Long Ending itself was composed.

    Eric Rowe wrote, “And at any rate, as long as Jim's presentation of ETC is going to include a caveat such as his 2nd paragraph in point 3, it may as well include other similar caveats such as the potential for inspired revisions and additions to Scripture.”

    No; this is where the evangelical textual critic’s approach is distinct from some other approaches. The initial production of the text defines the target for reconstruction-efforts; this is the case even if the initial production was more complicated than a one-producer equation or a one-product equation. (How complicated could that get and still be the initial production? That’s what all those qualifiers and hypothetical production-scenarios were about.)

    Maurice Robinson wrote that he does not assume that an evangelical textual critic should regard “the contents of each [multiple] autograph as original inspired, and authoritative.” But if John produced more than one scroll of Revelation, and, say, in one scroll the numerical amounts were written out, and in another scroll, gematria-numerals were used, would one be more original, more inspired, or more authoritative than the other? What if John produced more than one scroll of Revelation, and small orthographic differences existed between the two? What if John produced more than one scroll of Revelation, and one scroll contained some words that another scroll did not contain? In each case, it seems to me, both scrolls would be autographic, and both readings would be authoritative and inspired. I know I’m saying “What if” here, but in order to draw the original-text borders somewhere, it seems reasonable to draw the multiple productions of such a scenario /within/ the border rather than outside it -- even if one doesn’t grant that such a scenario ever happened.

    Maurice R. wrote, “From my perspective, in any given instance a reading is either that of the (original individual) autograph, or it is not — even if the alternate reading does not otherwise affect the translational or theological sense of a passage or when theory and method lead to no secure determination of originality.”

    That approach works fine as long as there is one and only one autograph.

    Maurice R. wrote, “Snapp’s second point: “An evangelical textual critic approaches his task as a restorative enterprise rather than a creative one. He aspires to add nothing to the original text, and subtract nothing from it” — is this not equally what non-evangelical textual critics would declare (whether WH or the NA/UBS committees, for example), even when they admit conjecture into their “restored” texts?”

    Yes, but the aspiration is expressed very differently. A non-evangelical textual critic replaces extant readings with non-extant readings. An evangelical textual critic preserves the extant reading or readings (so as to hand down what was handed down to him). It’s the difference between a curator who displays an ancient Greek statue with truncated limbs, alongside a picture or model of what he thinks the complete statue originally looked like, and a curator who sculpts new limbs for the statue, attaches them to the ancient material, and says that he has recovered the statue’s lost limbs.

    Eric Rowe wrote, “As I read it, his idea of multiple autographa that came at the time of "the initial issuance of some documents" doesn't accomodate the kind of complexity I think you probably have in mind for the OT.””

    I wasn’t thinking of OT books when mentioning the possibility of multiple autographs, but the complexity of the production-process of OT books is covered, I think, in the part of the statement that says “authors, revisors, editors, and arrangers may have contributed to the production of a document.” (Again, one doesn’t have to accept a particular theory about a particular book’s revision or arrangement; it’s the border-drawing that matters.)

    Maurice R. wrote, “So long as one can readily observe, for example, clearly "evangelical" textual critics or commentators favoring a text that is identical (or almost so) with that favored by non-evangelical critics or commentators, any claimed "evangelical distinctive" simply appears to be lacking in theory, methodology, and results.”

    In results, perhaps -- though it may be that a lot of evangelicals favor a text that closely resembles the Nestle-Aland text because they do not realize that they have alternatives -- or because they think that rejecting the New Testament text-base of their favored English translation would disturb their students and churchmembers. In cases of evangelicals who truly do accept the same, or nearly-same, text as non-evangelicals, well, it’s possible for different travelers taking different paths at different speeds in different modes of transportation to reach the same, or nearly-same, city.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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  12. maurice a robinson5:53 pm, January 03, 2007

    Snapp: “Maurice Robinson wrote that he does not assume that an evangelical textual critic should regard ‘the contents of each [multiple] autograph as original inspired, and authoritative.’”

    I thought I had provided my proper perspective by stating, “In any given instance a reading is either that of the (original individual) autograph, or it is not.” The point is simple: unless I find compelling documentary evidence regarding multiple autographs, I consider the concept of a single autograph to be more persuasive. This position appears even more clear when one considers the repeated hypotheticals that have to be maintained in order to present the opposing view, e.g.,

    Snapp: “But if ....What if....What if....[then] in each case...both scrolls would be autographic, and both readings would be authoritative and inspired.... I know I’m saying ‘What if’ here, but in order to draw the original-text borders somewhere, it seems reasonable to draw the multiple productions of such a scenario /within/ the border rather than outside it -- even if one doesn’t grant that such a scenario ever happened.”

    Well, of course: “if” almost anything, “then” something else might necessarily follow. This does not mean that we have to admit a multiplicity of hypothetical scenarios merely for the sake of “inclusive potentiality.” If this door begins to open, then in theory all possible scenarios should be included without distinction. Perhaps we should hypothesize with Elliott that there once was a “lost beginning” of Mark; with Linnemann that the lost ending of Mark can be “rediscovered” in Matthew; with Ehrman that “maybe Mark just got it wrong,” etc..

    The point I am making (following Occam’s Razor) revolves around how many “ifs” must it take before one realizes that — in the absence of some compelling documentary evidence — the simpler solution should take preference over the multiple hypotheticals. Since such evidence does not appear forthcoming as regards the hypothesis of multiple autographs, I choose to side with Occam.

    Snapp has well noted that my “approach works fine as long as there is one and only one autograph.” Very good; I take comfort in that. And unless some convincing evidence to the contrary can be shown, I prefer to retain a minimalist approach.

    One other issue raised by Snapp: “A non-evangelical textual critic replaces extant readings with non-extant readings.” Again, I seriously question whether such indeed is the case. Despite the fact that I regard many passages in NA27/UBS4 to reflect de facto conjecture, in virtually all cases there exists some Greek manuscript support for every Greek word appearing in the main text (Ac 16:12 PRWTOS is a notable exception: a purely conjectural reading with no Greek support, but apparently helped by some Vulgate MSS).

    If Snapp himself does not rule out conjecture (“Conjectural emendations are entertained only where the extant readings are manifestly unoriginal”), then even that matter should present no theoretical problem within his multiple hypothetical range of scenaria for "evangelical textual criticism," even if it should do so for me. Thus, even this claim (from Snapp's perspective) does not appear to make any real distinction between evangelical and non-evangelical approaches.

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  13. Maurice Robinson wrote:

    "What I still want to see is a compelling case made that somehow an "evangelical" approach to NT textual criticism necessarily will result in a theory or methodology regarding a text being established that somehow differs distinctly from that which might impel a non-evangelical textual critic who functions within the proper limits of the discipline."

    Members of this blog represent a variety of approaches by evangelicals, and that's how it should be. There are various possible interpretations of the evidence that are compatible with historic evangelical theology. However, there are also some approaches that do not sit well with such theology (and scholars will therefore either challenge the approaches or the theology, or both). Thus we may at least define our approaches negatively: they are not X, Y, or Z. For instance, Von Soden's preference for 'Joseph begot Jesus' in Matthew 1:16 on the basis of the Sinaitic Syriac was wrong philologically, but even before a demonstration of its philological error was available, it looked wrong-headed to evangelical (and other) theology.

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  14. maurice a robinson11:32 pm, January 03, 2007

    pjw: "Von Soden's preference for 'Joseph begot Jesus' in Matthew 1:16 on the basis of the Sinaitic Syriac was wrong philologically, but even before a demonstration of its philological error was available, it looked wrong-headed to evangelical (and other) theology."

    Is this not precisely my point? Both evangelical and non-evangelical textual critics seem to have little or no problem in rejecting the extravagant claims of one aberrant critic at such a point, so there would seem to be nothing "distinctively evangelical" in our praxis at this juncture.

    Yet on the other hand, many (if not most) blatantly "evangelical" textual scholars seem to have no problem in accepting within the same Matthean genealogy the erroneous ASAF and AMON as original in Mt 1:7,10 -- two readings which at least some of us consider equally aberrant.

    In parallel instances (all cited at some previous time on this blog): does any critic of any stripe (beyond WH and their double brackets) seriously consider as original the strongly supported but quite erroneous Alexandrian reading at Mt 27:49? Does any critic of any stripe reject the problematic "Jeremiah" reading at Mt 27:9? Do not most evangelical and non-evangelical critics tend to accept the apparently erroneous "Judea" in Lk 4:44? (I speak as a fool, obviously).

    So again, one must ask whether there really is any distinguishable "evangelical characteristic" in contemporary text-critical theory, method, or praxis -- or can there ever be, and if so, how?

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  15. I'm a bit late coming to this thread (and since dates are not listed in the comment section[!], I'm not sure if it's still an active/live thread or not), but as I read Snap's original post and (esp.) his long collection of responses, it strikes me as ironic that someone who so vigorously rejects conjectural emendation has so many conjectures regarding the history of the text (if ... if ... if ...).

    As to *defining* ETC, that appears to be a difficult task. It is easier, IMHO, to write denials than (definitive) affirmations in this regard. There *are* some proposals that I think most evangelicals would dismiss as outside the pale." These might include a "living text," a denial of the priority (or even the existence/"definability" of an autographa, as well as other items mentioned here (Ehrman's assumptions, etc.). These would be parallel, I suspect, with the theological side of the "evangelical equation" in which PJ (rightly) rejects open theism as evangelical. (My recollection is that Bebbington defines evangelicalism on the basis of sociology and praxis rather than doctrine--a major weakness in such attempts, agian, IMHO!)

    Rod Decker

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  16. Pete, Maurice, and Rod,

    Maurice, your point is well-taken, but so is Peter’s: Von Soden’s adoption of the Sinaitic Syriac’s reading looked wrong-headed to evangelical theology, and *some* other theology, but not to all other theology. The expectation that the doctrinal message of the original NT text will be the same as the doctrinal content traditionally handed down in the Greek NT text used by the church is a trait which separated evangelical textual criticism from *some* other forms of textual criticism.

    MAR: “Yet on the other hand, many (if not most) blatantly "evangelical" textual scholars seem to have no problem in accepting within the same Matthean genealogy the erroneous ASAF and AMON as original in Mt 1:7,10 -- two readings which at least some of us consider equally aberrant.”

    You think AMON is erroneous? You meant AMOS, right?

    Rod D., I mainly brought up the hypotheses about multiple autographs to show where the borders of Original-Text-land should be drawn. Our main task is to reconstruct the text of each individual book (or book-set, in the case of those OT books that are split in the English book-divisions) as it existed after the production-process was complete and before any alterations were introduced by copyists. This is the case even when the production-process was complicated. To show the limits of such complication, a hypothesis was presented in which a book had multiple autographs. In a hypothetical case in which the production-process yielded multiple autographs, each autograph would have to be considered the original text, even where the sense of a statement in one autograph differed from the sense of a statement in another autograph. But the question of whether or not a persuasive case can be made for a hypothesis about multiple autographs of a particular book might have to wait for a discussion with a somewhat different focus.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Curtisville Christian Church
    Indiana (USA)
    January 5, 2007

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  17. maurice a robinson6:36 pm, January 05, 2007

    Snapp: "Von Soden’s adoption of the Sinaitic Syriac’s reading looked wrong-headed to evangelical theology, and *some* other theology, but not to all other theology."

    I prefer to phrase the concept differentrly: that reading appeared wrong-headed to all text-critical editors save von Soden. Opening the doors to any and all forms of "theology" simply widens the theoretical ("what if") scope without necessarily impacting NT textual criticism as generally practiced by evangelical and non-evangelical alike.

    Nor do I see a reason why a non-evangelical critic could not readily allow that "the doctrinal message of the original NT text will be the same as the doctrinal content traditionally handed down in the Greek NT text used by the church" -- that is more a matter of non-falsifiable history and historical theology than textual criticism.

    Snapp: "You think AMON is erroneous? You meant AMOS, right?"

    And of course, yes. As with the ancient scribes, I too have an inherent tendency to write a "correct" reading as found in the dominant textual tradition, even when attempting to state the erroneous.

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