Evangelical Textual Criticism

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Website for Coptic Bible

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Prof. Karlheinz Schüssler has just announced his website:

http://www.k-schuessler.com/

He is editor of the Journal of Coptic Studies and of Biblia Coptica, a series which lists all the Coptic biblical mss. He is involved with the IGNTP in producing the Coptic of John. Now you can see transcriptions of various manuscripts of the Gospel of John.

Prof. Schüssler is a testimony to the fact that you can have both a successful business career and make a contribution to textual criticism.

[Website announced on NTEditions]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DSS to go on web

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Details of a plan to put Israel's DSS on the web are to be found here. [via Justin Taylor]

Münster Colloquium, Images, and CBGM Software and Database

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Recently, I have written some reports from the Münster Colloquium zur Textgeschichte des Neuen Testaments, 3-6 August. On the homepage of the INTF, there are now also pictures available from the conference, including a nice group photo in front of the city hall of the town (check out the tall guy in the back row, and his short friend on his left side). In the inner room of this city hall (and in a neighbouring town, Osnabrück), piece negotionations took place for some years (1644-1648), and one part of the piece treaty after the Thirty Years' War was signed here, resulting in the Peace of Westphalia. The interior of that inner room is still intact (but it was temporarily moved during the Second World War). On the wall, several portraits of kings and delegates were hanging. A local and very skilled guide explained who they were (though, I had to find the Swedish king for myself...) and gave us exciting glimpses from this part of history. Although I have been to Münster five times, I have never been inside this room. It was apparently a great privilege to be let in there. In fact, during these days the organizers of the conference made us text-critics feel almost as important as these delegates on the portraits.

On the last day of the conference, Gerd Mink demonstrated the Coherence Based Genealogical Method with practical examples, using the software and database that he and the INTF have developed. A prototype is now also available here, "loaded" with the database of the Catholic Epistles and the textual decisions and stemmata in 3046 variation-units. Researchers are encouraged to try out the software for themselves. This prototype, however, is not the whole software package. It is just the part, "Genealogical Queries," that was used for the demonstration at the colloquium. It is useful to get an overview of what the software can do, in order to learn more. (Unfortunately, there is no English guide, only German.) At this point, one can check and change an individual decision (in the light of the total data from 3045 other decisions made, or in the light of the data in an individual book). It is not possible to go through the text and make independent textual decisions and local stemmata from scratch.

Update: Klaus Wachtel from the INTF announces in the comment section, that a guide in English to the online application of the CBGM will be available in the course of next week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Ἕλληνές as Jews? : Textual Criticism in a Social-science Commentary

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In a post on the collective blog Thoughts on Antiquity, Chris Zeichmann refers to a radical proposal to the Ioudaios debate, made by Bruce Malina and John Pilch in their Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. Malina and Pilch think Paul used “Israelite” as an implicit antecedent in every use of Ἕλληνές and Ἰουδαῖοι, the former, then, referring to Israelites whose lives were “Hellenistic” and not “Judean."

This interpretation is particularly problematic in the passage in 1 Cor 1:18–31, particularly v. 23, cited by Zeichmann: ἡμείς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐvσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον, ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν…, where Ἰουδαίοις is parallelled with ἔθνεσιν, i.e., Ἕλληνές is equivalent to ἔθνη. However, Malina and Pilch instead defend the variant reading consistent with their hypothesis, Ἕλλησι for ἔθνεσιν, which is found in "a number of good manuscripts" (Malina and Pilch, 67).

Zeichmann complains about the appeal to a number of good MSS on the part of Malina and Pilch, since the reading Ἕλλησι is supported mostly by later minuscules. (He cites minuscule 6 being the earliest, but at the same time he neglects to mention the important witness 1739). Among the majuscules, Zeichmann points out that the reading is attested only by later hands in C (04) and D (06); he does not note that it is also present in 049 and 056 (so Swanson). The reading is also attested in Clement of Alexandria, and seems to be earlier than Zeichmann thinks. Nevertheless, ἔθνεσιν has best manuscript support (Aleph, A, B, C*, D*, F, G, L, P, Psi, 33, 1836, alii). P46 is lacunose at this point.

As for internal criteria, Zeichmann rightly criticizes Malina and Pilch's suggestion that “[T]he coupling ‘Jews and Gentiles’ disturbs the parallelism of the next sentence speaking of ‘Jews and Greeks.’"(Malina & Pilch, 67) Zeichmann says, "To start, suggesting that parallelism was lost in transmission goes against almost every principle behind the practice of textual criticism. The scribal tendency to create parallelism and to harmonize passages – especially with roughly synonymous words – is as demonstrable a fact as one can find in current biblical studies."

I largely agree with Zeichmann when he sums up by saying that "if Paul believed ἔθνη and Ἕλλην to be totally synonymous – as a text-critically conscious reading of this text might suggest – , then such a reading [the interpretation of Malina and Pilch] becomes completely untenable."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Textual Criticism and Provenance

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Every now and then textual criticism plays a significant role in determing the addressees of a certain document. The most well known examples are the discussions related to the absence of "Rome" from some manuscripts on Rom. 1.7 and of "Ephesus" from Eph. 1.1, which of course impacts the question of who were the original addressees and what happened during the subsequent circulation of the letters. But in the case of Colossians, it is not the addressees but the provenance of the letter that contains some interesting evidence. The provenance of Colossians, assuming Pauline authorship, is an intriguing debate and it is hard to split the Rome or Ephesus options (Dunn seems 55% in favour of Rome, whereas Wright and Martin are convinced of an Ephesian place for writing). According to Metzger (p. 627), some majuscules contend that Colossians was written from Rome, whereas the Marcionite prologue to Colossians maintains that the letter was written from Ephesus. Is this evidence of early speculation about the provenance of Colossians or can we give some weight to these statements? Does the Marcionite prologue have anything particularly invested in an Ephesian provenance or is it just earlier guess work?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Münster Colloquium on the Textual History of the Greek New Testament Day 1-2

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Unfortunately, I am now under time pressure, since I have a train to catch, and it will take me over 20 hours to get home, so I will not be able to give extensive reviews of the other papers at this point. [PMH: I shall add some comments in brackets]

The next session treated "Causes and forms of variation" and two papers were presented by David Trobisch and Ulrich Schmid. In Trobish's paper, "What is there in a picture? Analyzing scribal practices of structuring the text," he mainly pointed out that the documentation of the evidence has to come first, not the authoritative interpretation.

[He also argued that manuscripts are produced not only by scribes, but by a combination of author, scribe, editor, publisher and reader/corrector. Variants can originate at any of these levels - but they ought to be carefully distinguished, especially in the construction of stemma. He argued that a critical edition ought to facilitate the reconstruction of 'the text of the first edition' (other methods would be required for determining the 'authorial' text). He urged that transparency, of method, display and evaluation of material was very important so that errors would not be hidden, but would be identifiable. He began to ask the question: what if there is more than one textual archetype, e.g. the DFG text in Paul alongside the 01 ABC text - how should a critical edition handle this? But unfortunately he ran out of time and we never heard the answer.]

He posed a number of critical questions and heartily welcomed the new initiative of the Virtual Manuscript Room under development at the INTF in Münster (in fact, I think Trobisch was involved in the idea of the VMR). Read more on the INTF homepage.

Then it was time for Ulrich Schmid, ”Conceptualising 'scribal' performances.” Schimd started with describing the default assumption: was we physically find in a MS is the work of a scribe. Everything can be used to describe the scribe. Everything is a kind of scribal performance. The variants produced are the most obvious traces of scribal performance. However, not everyone who left prints in the MS were acting as scribe. There are other roles. Schmid pointed to the need for criteria for distinguishing scribal and non-scribal activity. One important criteria is to distinguish between different scripts, book-hand (readability, regular letter forms, few abbreviations) vs. documentary hand (speed of writing, effective use of space, varying letter forms and ligatures, more abbreviations). Marginal comments and readers' notes would probably be written by a more casual informal hand. Then Schmid presented some compelling examples of readers' notes. This phenomenon would also provide some explanation for the introduction of certain variants into the textual tradition, which may have been interpreted as theological interpretations and creations of the scribes (e.g., acting as "orthodox corruptors" - my remark).

[So Ulrich also outlined the process of literary production/reproduction in antiquity:
1. the authorial stage
2. the editorial stage (which places authored material into the public domain)
3. the manufacturing stage (the primary scribal stage)
4. the users stage]

[Some of this material is also covered in Ulrich's paper at the 2007 Birmingham Colloquium, for our report, see here]

The next two papers were presented by Michael Holmes: ”Working with an open textual tradition: Challenges in theory and practice.” Holmes described the nature of an closed textual tradition (without contamination due to cross-colonization) and an open tradition. The Greek New Testament textual tradition is an open tradition. Then Gerd Mink read his paper, ”What does coherence tell us about contamination and coincidental emergence of variants." This was a description of the CBGM method. Here I may refer the readers to a detailed account available on-line here. There is also a discussion about the concepts of "initial text" as opposed to archetype and the original text.

In the final session there were two more papers treating the criteria used in textual criticism; Eldon J. Epp, ”Traditional 'canons' of New Testament textual criticism: Their value, validity, and viability (or the lack thereof)” and J. K. Elliott: ”What should be in the apparatus criticus to a Greek New Testament?” [Epp ran through a survey of the development of lists of criteria and then distributed a sheet with his proposed summary of the key criteria. In his paper he did propose that in the final analysis, exegesis would be the final arbiter, citing a study of Rom 11.31 which dealt with Paul's logic throughout the passage as a vital contribution to the old textual problem of the NUN there.] I will only cite Elliott's opening sentences, "We text-critics are greedy people. We want all evidence in an apparatus criticus. That is the ideal." [The selectivity of the NA edition could be misleading, e.g. you can't reconstruct the reading of a particular manuscript through a passage; some types of variants, e.g. spelling, are excluded, and rigorous eclecticism needs more variants -- since they tend to think that the genuine reading could be preserved in any manuscript.]

I am sorry that I have no time to summarize all the papers from the first day (perhaps some of my co-bloggers could help out?). Let me just say that the conference was of major interest and importance, and very well organized. One of the most important objectives was to present the CBGM method, developed by Gerd Mink. This was the main event of day two, and I think that this presentation was successful, although many questions of course remain. Unfortunately, there was little time or opportunity for me to take notes during day two, because all my braincells were very busy trying to understanding more about the method.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Münster Colloquium on the Textual History of the Greek New Testament, Day 1 Continued

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The second paper was delivered by Holger Strutwolf, "Original text and textual history?"

In Klaus Wachtel's introduction of Holger Strutwolf, who is now the director of the INTF, he described him as conservative in the sense that he still thinks the goal of textual criticism is to reconstruct the original text. Strutwolf began his paper with a brief overview of the history of textual criticism. One of the conclusions were that the contempt towards MSS on the part of some scholars, who see them as mere reservoirs of readings, is not acceptable. Strutwolf then stated that the quest for the original text, in spite of the alleged "multivalence" of the term (so Epp), is not obsolete. On the contrary, the concept of the author's text is still useful in textual criticism.

It turned out that Strutwolf by chance happened to have chosen the same example as did Parker, i.e., the passage in the Lord's prayer in the Lukan version, Luke 11:2-4. He concluded that the shorter form was clearly the older, and that other witnesses had assimilated the passage to Matthew; D (05) to the highest degree. Moreover, he could not detect a theological motivation for the omission because of an anti-marcionite reason. If one agrees that the short form is older, then the hypothesis that we have reconstructed the oldest form of Luke in this passage is plausible. In the same passage another reading appears which some scholars think Marcion was behind, ELQETW TO PNEUMA SOU TO hAGION EF hHMAS KAI KAQARISATW hHMAS, attested in 162, 700 Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus Confessor. Several scholars have argued for the authenticity of this addition, because it is anti-harmonistic. Strutwolf points out that scholars agree in one point, that it is a reinterpretation of ”Thy kingdom come,” but a less apocalyptic interpretation. Where and when did this phrase originate? Does it stem from the author or is it a reinterpretation by later scribes/editors? Strutwolf thinks the substitution was not made by the author, but that it was introduced later.

As we can see in P75 and B, they are almost free of harmonization of Luke to Matthew. This is confirmed in general, so it is plausible to assume that the issue here is not about harmonization. Moreover, there can be suspected theological reasons for the substitution as well as the omission. For example, Tertullian and Origen seem to be at unease with the apocalyptic, realistic way that God's reign is coming. Origen says in interpreting, ”Thy kingdom come” that it does not come observably, but that the kingdom of God is within us, referring to Jesus. In the thought of Origen the dwelling can only come by the indwelling of God by his spirit. This interpretation may have occurred, first as a gloss in a manuscript, and then it moved into the text. This latter explanation actually tied in neatly with a later presentation by Ulrich Schmid on the conceptualizing of scribal practices, and the need to distinguish between scribes and readers. Some variants (like this one) may have arisen due to reader's notes. One basic assumption for both Schmid and Strutwolf (and many others, including the scholars working at the INTF) is that the default scribal activity is to copy one's Vorlage. (In fact, this is a basic assumption in the CBGM.)

To summarize Strutwolf's first part, ”The concept of an original text is not obsolete, but a necessary one. The quest of the original remains a vital task.”

In the second part a more general description of the CBGM was offered (developed later by Mink both on the first and second day of the conference). I will not summarize that part here.

The bottom line of the whole presentation in relation to what Parker had said was that as long as we have no evidence for a major break between the original and initial text, the hypothesis that the initial text is approximate to the original stands. [Here is where the interpretation of other material comes in, e.g., patristic witnesses which have a text not attested in the Greek manuscript tradition – my remark.] Strutwolf, then, was prepared to admit that the initial text may not be the original where there is some evidence of uncertainty. In such cases we can also leave the question to literary criticism, etc., but otherwise we may assume that the initial text is equal to the original.

Then there was a very friendly but lively and interesting discussion between Strutwolf and Parker. Parker responded by pointing out somewhat enigmatically, at least in my view, that ”an author is never an individual but a process," i.e., the text emerges out of a number of people (if I got that right). In any case, he thought there were immense difficulties with a single authorial text. Instead there is a process of construction. For Parker, Strutwolf's statement, ”We want to know what Paul wrote”, does not mean that the question is possible to answer. Parker referred to their common coincidental example from the Lord's prayer in Luke saying that we just do not know what Luke's original gospel was.

To me it seemed as if Parker denied, or was very sceptic of the use of internal criteria, i.e., the intrinsic evidence. Before we can say that this or that is Lukan, or Pauline, we have to be aware of the fact that we are reconstructing not what the author wrote, but a collection, a snapshot later on, removed from the author. Strutwolf (and I) was not happy with this over-scepticism to leave everything open. Instead he thought we need positive reasons for doubt. On the one hand there was much variation, but on the other hand there was a strong tenacity in the tradition. One should start with the positive one (the tenacity), instead of the negative (the manifold variation). I totally agree, and I return to the question that the initial text is really a reconstructed collection of a corpus of the NT, e.g., the fourfold gospels collection. I think it is not. In fact, at one point, Parker seemed to anticipate that the results of the work in John pointed to the fact that this gospel had a distinct textual history to other gospels. The same is apparent in the Catholic epistles, where it seems, judging from the results of the CBGM, that the individual books have a distinct textual history.

It turned out that most scholars who expressed their opinions sided up with Strutwolf. For example, Tjitze Baarda urged that we should really try to get somewhere. He told us a remark about a liberal scholar in Leiden in the 18th century. He started reading in Roman 1:1, and immediately asked, ”Did Paul ever wrote a letter to the Romans? Did not Markion write this...?" We do not know that Paul ever wrote Romans, but we take it for granted that he did. So we take it for granted that the initial text is the original. If we return to scepticism we might as well go back to the 18th century.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Münster Colloquium on the Textual History of the Greek New Testament, Day 1

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First I should say that the organization of the conference is excellent thus far. And I doubt that anyone have seen so many textcritics gathered together in one and the same place. Someone made the funny remark that if the roof fell in, textual criticism would be back in the 19th century. Anyway, most of the scholars working in the field are here.

In the first session two papers by David Parker and Holger Strutwolf were presented on the topic of ”the initial text: construction or reconstruction?”

David Parker delivered the first paper titled, ”Is 'Living Text' compatible with 'Initial Text'? Editing the Gospel of John"

Parker described his own involvement in the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP), and the changes the project had undergone in recent times. In 1997 at the SBL in San Fransisco the IGNTP started to co-operate with the INTF in Münster in order to produce the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) of John and some other related studies in the Principio Project. This meant that the old outline of the IGNTP edition (see the edition of Luke) was abandoned. Parker's work as a critical editor during this time has posed new challenges to think through his views about the text of the Gospels, outlined earlier on in his monograph The Living Text of the Gospels. Would the result of the employed Coherence Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) show flaws in his living text theory? During the presentation it seemed clear that Parker's view of the "Living Text" has not been altered in any significant way, and he thinks it is compatible with the idea of an initial text (Ausgangstext), which is the text to be reconstruced in the ECM.

He described the initial text as a kind of snapshot of the textual transmission at a certain point in time. Parker defined the initial text as ”the text from which the readings in the extant MSS are genealogically descended.” It is not an authorial text. Issues like, for example, the literary history of the fourth gospel and issues like whether chapter 21 was added later are not significant for the reconstruction of the initial text.

Then Parker developed his ideas about the living text. There is a significant body of variation in the gospels, which represent interpretations of the gospel in the early church. The variants are there, and the notion of the ”living text” is an attempt to account for them. He emphasized that textual and oral transmission worked in a double interaction during the early period of transmission. Many variants originated very early. For example, Parker discussed the passage in Luke's version of the Lord's prayer where we have the reading ”Thy holy spirit come upon us and cleanse us.” Parker thinks there is a ”pre-second century gulf” that prevents us to say much about the text in earlier times. Our reconstruction of an initial text then, in Parker's view, seems to be a reconstruction of an archetype dated to some time in the second century.

We may find ”pre-genealogical evidence”, for example in John 7:53-8:11, but this should be left out from the initial text. After the reconstruction we can always pose historical questions about previous and, particularly later stages in the development of the text. He thinks the new CBGM method and other methods (e.g., phylogenetic analysis) provides tools for dealing with problems like contamination in the tradition and that we now will be able to observe the textual history of the NT throughout the ages in the ECM.

Note that this is my rephrased summary. I hope I have made justice to the contents of the presentation.

In the time for questions I brought up the issue of intrinsic evidence. In a paper at the SNTS in Halle 2005 (I think it was), Parker and Wachtel described the initial text as something more than he archetype but something less than the autograph. (This distinction is also found in Mink's works.) Since we are appealing to intrinsic evidence when we ask ourselves what the author most likely wrote in light of his style and theology we are moving beyond the archetype of the textual tradition, and trying to reconstruct what the author wrote. But I wonder if Parker's living text theory permits us to do this, since we cannot be certain at all what the author wrote. If Parker is right, we only know the snapshot from around 200 C.E. and cannot tell what had happened to the text by then. I am afraid I received no answer to my question about the appeal to intrinsic evidence in relation to the living text theory.

Next was Holger Strutwolf on ”Original text and textual history,” but since it is now after midnight that will have to wait.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

From SNTS to Kolloquium in Münster

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I have just arrived in Münster after a long day of travelling from the SNTS in Lund with train together with Michael Holmes. The SNTS turned out to be one of the most well-organized SNTS meetings ever - someone else told me this, I am biassed since I worked in the conference organization. Everything was in reach. The dinners were some of the best I have ever had. The papers were good, etc.

My own paper on the GNT MSS in Sweden with special reference to Greg.-Aland 1049 which I rediscovered in Stockholm went well. I got 90 minutes on the last day of the textcritical seminar. I spent 30 minutes on some of the GNT MSS describing mainly Greg.-Aland 441, 442, 1049, 899 and 1852. MSS 441, 442, 1852 are very important for their texts (excellent texts); MS 1049 is the one I rediscovered and it has a significant text in the PA; MS 899 has some fine illuminations, the Jerusalem colophon and some other features.

The second 30 minutes I presented the Swedish traveller and adventurer Jacob Jonas Björnståhl, whom I have mentioned earlier, focusing on his Thessalian trip that included visits to the Meteora monasteries. Three of the GNT MSS in Uppsala were donated by Björnståhl, including 1852.

The last 30 minutes I went with the group of 10 persons up to Lund University Library (200 meters from the theological faculty where we had our session). I had brought out two Greek MSS from the collection (not GNT MSS), one of which was donated by Adolf Deissmann out of gratitude to his friends in Scandinavia. But the main display was some of the papers of Björnståhl's archive deposited in Lund. These items and the story they told about Björståhl caught the attention of the group, especially a map of parts of Europe including today's Greece and Turkey drawn for Björnståhl by a Greek monk.

The text-critical seminar now ended. Seminars are supposed to last for five years if I remember rightly, but the text-critical has been lasting for 17 years in a row, so it has to rest two or three years now.

It is now one hour before the Kolloquium, "Textual History of the Greek New Testament" begins with a reception at the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster. My hotelroom has a wireless connection so more reports may come.