Unfortunately I arrived too late to hear Ulrich Schmid's opening paper, "Scribes and variants - towards a typology/sociology of both," which I heard was excellent. Also I haven't been able to upload my paper on www.evangelicaltextualcriticism.com for some technical reasons.
Anyway, the first paper was read by Richard Goode, "King or God? Towards an Anthropology of Texts," and the summary below is from my notes (so please remember that it represents my understanding of the paper and not exactly what was said).
Goode first described the recent development in TC for the last 30 years with new data and, significantly, new ways of interpreting data. Then he went on to a test case, the Papyrus Egerton 2 and the tribute dispute, which has parallells in the canonical Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas.
The question is: Who should we give tribute to? The Synoptics and Thomas suggests "Caesar" (as counterpoint to God), whereas Pap. Eg.has "kings." Several scholars have commented on this reading. Pickering, e.g., says that it represents a kind of generalizing, because the Church is negotiating its message to a wider environment (different social and ethnic contexts), for which "kings" makes more sense.Other scholars suggest that "kings" was used in the east. This suggests an impact of a sociocultural context, even if the initial point is retained.
However, Goode pointed to an interesting feature in the MS, namely that the word "kings" is actually a nomen sacrum (BALEUS = overstrike). There is a number of other common NS in this fragment, but this unique example involving BASILEUS has been dismissed as abberrant. Goode pointed to the fact that in another part of the MS, PATERA is contracted as NS at one point where it refers to the heavenly father, but uncontracted in a later context, i.e., this (same) scribe knew what he was doing all the time. So why was BASILEUS treated as nomina sacra? Does it represent an attempt to ascribe divinity to kings? Should we give tribute to the Christian God or to the former god (assuming two competing theocracies). Then the reading suggests a theological influence.
Goode admitted that this might be too speculative, and he threw it out not to persuade anyone, just to prove the point that it is important to look at the social aspect, to throw more light on it. This variant reading highlights the problem to identify and classify "theological" / "social" influence on readings. Much variation has to do with social factors. The environment of the text is intrinsically social and theological. The scribe is increasingly being described as HUMAN not as a copying machine. Each MS is a fingerprint of a HUMAN. Here an anthropological understanding can help us with the frame, the context to textual variation. Early Christian textuality is rooted within a social/symbolical universe. Any MS copy is the product of its textuality. We need to penetrate this symbolic universe. A community's textuality will provide the boundaries and norms by which a manuscript is produced. This is a negotiation between the text and textuality.
This is to give you a taste from my first actual day. After several other papers read by Klaus Wachtel, Bill Warren and Peter Head (the latter may perhaps blog something for us). A catalogue with abstracts is available here.
In the afternoon we went to an excursion to Hereford Cathedral to see some amazing manuscripts and the Mappa Mundi (a medieval world-map). The ancient cathedral library proved to be one of two surviving chained books library in Britain (and that other one had actually been moved to the same location in Hereford, into the cathedral museum). In the evening the party stopped at a nice restaurant, the Fox Inn to have a nice meal. I had an "Aberdeen Angus Steak." I wonder whether Pete Williams have tasted those up in Aberdeen.