Monday, November 19, 2007

SBL in San Diego I - First Session: Towards GNT5

On Friday I arrived well in San Diego and went to bed after 28 hours of traveling, and being awake a few extra hours in order to cope with the jet lag. During the afternoon I found my hotel and went down with a shuttle to the huge San Diego convention center in order to register. Then I met some friends, but I soon went home to sleep.

Saturday morning I went to my first session, "Towards a Fifth Edition of the UBS GNT." In the panel was Jan Bühner (presiding), Roger Omansson, Florian Voss, Ulrich Schmid (in place of Klaus Wachtel). One of the important rationales for this session was the wish not only to lay out the plans for the fifth edition, but also to ask the gathered specialists and/or users for advice on various levels, e.g. in relation to the choice of variant units to include, and what to do with the famous and often criticized letter rating system (A-D).

Bühner first gave some history and introduction of the UBS GNT editions. Already in the mid-50s Eugene Nida had the idea to make a manual edition for Bible translators. After the INTF in Münster was founded in 1959, the work, as we know, became closely connected to the scholarly work undertaken at this institute.

Roger Omansson then continued to sketch in more detail the history and development of the various editions, from the first edition that appeared in 1966 up to the fourth edition. For that fourth edition more manuscripts were cited than ever, and 293 variant units were dropped and 284 were added, on the basis of what was of relevance for Bible translators (and which involved significance in meaning), among some other factors. One way that this significance in meaning was judged was the close examination of 15 actual translations in order to see what variant units really affected the choice of the translators (including also the observation of what textual notes appeared).

Later on Ulrich Schmid read out a paper written by Klaus Wachtel of the INTF, who had problems with his flight connection. Among other things, Wachtel described the basis for the selection of witnesses for the GNT4, for which was the Aland categories I-V where used. For the fifth edition, this has now changed altogether as a result of the work of the institute in Münster, as reflected in the TuT series, and development of newer methods (like the CBGM) which allow for a more correct application of the "codex eliminatio", and the focus on significant witnesses representing a broad spectrum of witnesses and crucial points in the transmission history. Among examples, Wachtel mentioned that 322 is a copy of 323 (and will thus be eliminated); 2464 is a late and bad representative of the Byzantine text; manuscripts 468, 424, 617. 1448 and 429 suffice to represent the Harclean group, etc.

One particular feature that was dwelt upon during the session both in the presentation and the subsequent discussion was the letter rating system. Nida had wanted this system for translators that were not necessarily scholars. This is even more true today, as Omansson pointed out, i.e. many translators have never had a course of textual criticism. So what do the translators think now? Do they need the rating system. Some colleagues say "abandon", other "retain". Many translators read the Greek New Testament, but at the same time (or just because of that) they need a guide, especially when approaching the Nestle-Aland edition. But what about the optimism of the ratings? It may create an impression of a secure text, more than it is. In conclusion: if the rating system is to be retained it has to be revised.

In the discussion, I of course took the opportunity to mention (and promote) my own experiment with a rating system in my edition of Jude, where I use different symbols and definitions. To summarize them briefly:

e+i: external evidence and internal evidence unequivocally support the adapted reading
e [greater than-sign] i: external evidence supports the adapted reading, whereas internal reading is ambiguous
e [smaller than-sign] i: internal evidence unequivocally supports a reading whereas external evidence is ambiguous
e=i external and internal evidence are balanced, or, alternatively, external evidence favors one variant reading, internal evidence another.

I suggested that this type of rating system invites the user to also grapple with the state of the evidence and the concept of "external" and "internal" evidence, which are the criteria used also in the reasoned ecclectic approach of the UBS committee. Omansson apparently showed interest, so I presented him with two copies of my book (he asked for one to be reviewed in the Bible Translator).

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