Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conjectural Emendations in Nestle Editions

In a series of recent posts at the Amsterdam NT Weblog, Jan Krans has been offering comments on conjectural emendations found in the Nestle editions (mostly in the apparatus only).

Three posts have appeared so far:

Conjectures in the Nestle Editions (1): Wellhausen on Mt 5:5

Conjectures in the Nestle Editions (2): Ritschl on 1 Thes 2:16

and, stimulated by a comment from Peter Head:

Conjectures in the Nestle editions (3): a note on method

25 comments:

  1. Re the # 3 method suggested by P. Head, one might be advised not to forget J. Peter Lange's commentaries.

    I'm sure the older periodicals will be helpful at points as well -esp from the German quarter.

    Malcolm

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  2. If I may ask, what is the relationship between "Conjectural Emendation" and the manuscript evidence? One seems to start from a presupposition about an author and then, contrary to the manuscript evidence, seeks to explain why there is no evidence for their emendation.

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  3. Thanks Anon,

    'Conjectural emendation' begins when (in someone's opinion) the manuscript evidence fails to take us back to the most primitive/original text. So yes it is a process that works 'contrary to the manuscript evidence' at one level. On the other hand a mass of variation within the manuscript evidence may signal a place where a conjecture could be attempted.

    2 Peter 3.10 would be a good example of this with massive problems in the manuscripts, five different CEs noted in NA27, and another one now printed as the text in ECM.

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  4. The ECM reading in 2Pet 3:10 is found in Coptic and Syriac manuscripts, so it is not a conjecture.

    Personally I would avoid conjectures altogether. I don't consider them a good practice at all. If the local stemma is really problematic, the least unsatisfactory variant reading should be chosen (IMO). Further discoveries could then later change the decisions if necessary.

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  5. Yes, perhaps 2 Peter 3.10 is a bit of a grey area. Certainly at the Munster Conference, in the context of the CBGM, it was described as basically a conjecture (since the versions are not factored in to the CBGM, it is a conjecture as to the Greek mss tradition).

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  6. Thx Peter for the input. I think it is problematic in its own right to call a versional reading a conjecture. Admittedly this is a bit of a grey area, but I believe the word 'conjecture' should be reserved for those suggestions that have no factual basis in *any* source: Greek, versions, or fathers. Otherwise we end up with a typical postmodern problem of multiple (and at times contradictory) definitions. What do you think?-)

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  7. Re. Timo Flink's opinion that versional attestation of a reading precludes its being a conjecture: the issue is a bit more complicated, as a simple question demonstrates.

    How should one explain the presence of the negative in 2 Pt 3:10 in the Sahidic and another Coptic dialect, and in 10 mss. of the Syriac Philoxeniana (see ECM)? There are essentially two possibilities: (1) the reading really goes back to a Greek manuscript with a negative; (2) the negative was somehow added in the translation process (or even later), presumably in order to produce an intelligible text. The latter scenario is far more likely (though it cannot be proven, hence Peter's "grey area"). The important point is that if that second scenario is correct, the ECM reading is a conjecture after all, and its versional "attestation" is only an early anticipation of it.

    If 2 Pt 3:10 does not make this point convincingly enough, one could take a look at Acts 16:12 in the UBS editions, especially the third or earlier.

    By the way, such anticipations of modern conjectures also occur in late medieval Greek manuscripts. In that case as well, I would still consider such readings, when proposed by modern critics, as conjectures.

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  8. to Jan:

    I would be curious to know why the second scenario should be "far more likely"? We don't know that. It is a possibility, I grant that, but is it not an argument from silence to argue one way or another? To say that 2Pet 3:10 is a conjecture is to say that it is a translator's gloss without there being a proof for it, especially when Coptic and Syriac, as far as I know, do not share a source whence they have been translated. Or I am wrong? The second scenario would imply that *two* independent translators made the exact same gloss. Again, that is a possibility, but how is this "far more likely"? As I said, this is a bit of a grey area, which is why I think we should use our terminology with precision. Well, that's my five cents, anyway. Thx Jan for raising the issue.

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  9. Timo: "I believe the word 'conjecture' should be reserved for those suggestions that have no factual basis in *any* source."
    Don't you think this is too extreme? On this basis taking "in Laodicea" at Eph 1.1 would not be a conjecture.

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  10. to Peter,

    No I don't. "in Laodicea" may have been a genuine address at one point in Eph 1.1, if the letter was intended as an encyclical sent to many destinations, perhaps by Paul himself. We do not know this for any certainty of course. It may well be a gloss, but I would not call a gloss a conjecture.

    well, it is just that I have grown dissatisfied with the lack of precision text-critical scholars use their own terminology.

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  11. Timo: "I believe the word 'conjecture' should be reserved for those suggestions that have no factual basis in *any* source."

    Just want to say that I agree with this. There is no need to call versional evidence a conjecture. It is just that, versional evidence.

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  12. While it is certainly correct to label versional evidence as "just that", there remains the wider question -- particularly when there are no Greek MSS supporting such versional evidence:

    Might not the versional evidence itself in such a case be a conjecture made by the composer(s) of that particular version?

    There is no necessary requirement that one should assume a lost Greek Vorlage in regard to such rare cases, and a versional conjecture might be the more likely explanation for most of these situations.

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  13. The differing uses of the word conjecture in this thread have confused me. Previously I always used 'conjecture' to refer to something done textual critics, working since the printing press was invented. I have always used 'conjecture' as shorthand for 'conjectural emendation.' However it is plausible that the composer of a version made a conjecture.

    Perhaps it would help to use the terms 'modern conjecture' and 'versional conjecture' to clarify how we are using the word conjecture?

    Also, to Peter Head - What does CBGM stand for?

    CPC

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  14. Emendations to the original text are nothing unusual in the English versions, and some even appear to have been anticipated in ancient versions. These even can include the insertion of a negative.

    Example--Proverbs 5:16.

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  15. There is something to be said for the Hebrew scribes who saw the error in 2 Samuel 21:19 and did not correct it. There apparently is no surviving Hebrew manuscript that "fixes" the obvious oversight (Elhanen kills Goliath, not David). To me, that respect for the "original" text is needed, and I'm not so sure that conjectural emendation does not cross a line when someone introduces a "fix" to the less than perfect transmission process. In the end, I think we should learn to accept some errors in the transmission process rather than trying to "fix" them. Scribes were human just like us and made mistakes. Is my thinking too rigid?

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  16. Maurice: "Might not the versional evidence itself in such a case be a conjecture made by the composer(s) of that particular version?"

    Of course, this may be so.
    But this is, as Timo rightly pointed out, a question of definition and terminology.

    And in TC a conjecture was always a reading not supported by any ancient source. And I think this makes most sense. You have the Greek, the Versions, the Fathers and you have conjectures.
    Everything else leads to misunderstandings IMO. This definition applies to the strict TC usage only.

    The coolest thing happens when a conjecture actually surfaces in a MS, like hO PROFHTHS in Jo 7:52 of P66. That's the crowning.

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  17. Well, I think this thread now aptly demonstrates why I am dissatisfied by the current use of our terminology. I do not marvel why the "uninitiated" find it (us?-)) confusing.

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  18. While I agree with Maurice that there is a wider question, may I point out that a versional reading with no Greek mss support does not mean that such a reading has to be an anticipated "conjecture". It is equally possible that the Greek mss support has been lost. Since there is no way of knowing this with certainty one way or another, I maintain that, like Wieland pointed out, in strict TC usage we should speak about Greek readings, Versional readings, readings in Fathers, and conjectures. Otherwise we are going to need an interpreter who tells us who is using what terminology in what way. Hence the confusion.

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  19. In my view the reason for the confusion about the correct meaning and application of the terms "conjecture" and "conjectural emendation" is not the terminology itself, but (1) the uncertain status of the various evidence for variant readings and (2) the historicity of textual criticism as a scholarly discipline. A clear-cut, imposed definition such as the one proposed by Timo and Wieland may be a nice starting-point, but it will not be able to set boundaries when in the real world these boundaries do not exist. The more one studies the field of conjectural emendation, the more complicated (and rich) the phenomenon turns out to be. Hence some confusion, perhaps, for (relative) outsiders. The latter is the common situation in any field of study.

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  20. Anon, CBGM = Coherence Based Genealogical Method. See further http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/search?q=CBGM

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  21. I think there is a clear-cut boundary for mine and Wieland's proposal. That boundary is simple: no ancient source -> a conjecture. a source found -> not a conjecture. Whether a versional reading then is an invention or not, is not at issue. We simply would not call it a conjecture. How's that?-)

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  22. Well, a problem should be apparent now if we do go with the following definition:

    no ancient source -> a conjecture. a source found -> not a conjecture.

    Should we consider just about every second and third century Greek papyri conjecture, since there is no prior "source" upon which they are based?

    What is the difference between P46 and a later versional witness that has no Greek antecedent? Both lack Greek antecedents, right?

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  23. Timo Flink
    I think there is a clear-cut boundary for mine and Wieland's proposal. That boundary is simple: no ancient source -> a conjecture. a source found -> not a conjecture. Whether a versional reading then is an invention or not, is not at issue. We simply would not call it a conjecture. How's that?-)

    Ulrich Schmid
    Great discussion! What does "ancient" mean in your proposal?

    Back in the good old days of Diatessaronic scholarship (Rendell Harris, Plooij) quite some eccentric readings have been proposed to go back to Tatians's Diatessaron (2nd c.), while in reality they have been digested and solely accounted for from 13-15th c. (Dutch) sources. We now know that these reading belong to medieval exegetical traditions, partly harking back to earlier models. But that's not the point.

    In my opinion early and late do not mean too much. What really makes a difference is language border. Copiists not necessarilly need to think. Translators do, however. Therefore I am personally not much impressed by versional evidence that solves a crux in the source language. That's what translators are expected to be doing. Hence, all things being equal, I consider two (eveen ancient) translations more likely to be involved in conjectural emendation on their part, than testifying to a lost, even more ancient Greek version.

    Simplicity (definiton wise) in this case might not be the most appropriate way to go about the evidence.

    Conjectural emendation, by the way, is a nasty thing to grasp. Quite a number of conjectural emendations from the past have been "vindicated" by comparatively recent mss findings (not just in NT). But what does such a solitary ancient witness taken in isolation really mean? Does the 18-early 20th c. conjectural emendation cease to be such, only because a truely ancient, but solitary witnes appears?

    Perhaps, these are two independant conjectural emendations haphazardly arriving at the same result.

    In order to sort issues like that, I think, the Coherence based Genealogical Method has to contribute some genuine insights into the assessment of witnesses. Witnesses that cannot account for "aberrant" individual readings in an overall perspective are more likely to be involved in conjectural emendaiton, no matter how old they are, than not.

    Beware: conjectural emendation is not something just recently invented. It may go back to the earliest times, since it invests in creating an intelligible text.

    Ulrich Schmid

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  24. OK, so I'd like to see examples of this 'conjectural emendation that is later vindicated by manuscript evidence'.

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  25. PH: OK, so I'd like to see examples of this 'conjectural emendation that is later vindicated by manuscript evidence'.

    The obvious one that comes to mind is the hyssop of Jn 19:29. It was conjectured that surely this was a soldier's javelin (hyssos). A late ms, subsequently discovered, actually has hyssos, and even though there is only one late ms to have this reading, the NEB adopts it.

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