Thursday, February 19, 2009

Textual Criticism and Theology Redux

I was about to post the following within the soon-to-disappear "Comment from Greenlee" thread that I initiated, but -- in view of all the vitriol that seems to have affected the ETC blog recently -- it perhaps is best to post this more prominently.

On the Greenlee blog comments, one Bryan asked, "Isn't the problem modern text critics ... have with Greenlee's book is that it is interpreted and presented in light of Biblical Theism and Inspiration"?

Indeed -- that was my original point in referencing Elliott's severe review. Apart from that issue (as one J.C.B. also had commented), virtually everything otherwise appearing in Greenlee's book is no different than what was asserted by Westcott/Hort, Tregelles, or most other textual critics of the past generations.

From an evangelical standpoint, there should be no problem with the theological assertions of a respected evangelical text-critical scholar (which Greenlee most certainly is) in relation to the revelation, inspiration, or even providential preservation of the bulk of the NT text -- so long as that scholar does not use his theological beliefs to force a particular choice of text in those places where significant variants occur.

Greenlee as an evangelical text-critical scholar clearly favors the NA/UBS critical text; as an evangelical text-critical scholar, I differ widely from that perspective. Yet Greenlee and I both hold similar theological positions relative to the overall nature of the NT Greek text, including all of the above-mentioned factors. One would think that a proper interrelation of theological belief and NT textual criticism position would be heartily embraced and endorsed by (at least) evangelical scholars rather than criticized so severely in what supposedly is a house filled with friends.

41 Comments:

Josh Walker said...

If I read you right, you do not prefer the UBS text. Which text to you prefer?

Anonymous said...

Heh. Josh, ever hear of the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine/Majority Text? ;-) If not, note the blog entry's author and do a quick google.

Josh Walker said...

I am new, the past year, to NTCT. I am aware of the Majority text. The TR is an example of this. Are you suggesting that Maurice a Robinson prefers the majority text?

I was looking up some information on the "Byzantine/Majority Text" and noticed that Robinson wrote a chapter on the Byzantine text in a text book I have to read later in this semester. I look forward to reading in. I skimmed the chapter to find an answer to my next question, but I did not see it. Could you (or anyone) explain the relationship between Byzantine text type and the Majority Text?

I want to say thanks for your help. Like I said above, I am new to TC and am very grateful for all/any help you offer.

Anonymous said...

Josh wrote: "I am new, the past year, to NTCT."

No problem. I apologize if I came across unfriendly. Your question, in light of this blog entry's author, just gave me a chuckle. You've come to the right place if you want to learn more about NT textual criticism, though! Welcome!

Josh wrote: "I am aware of the Majority text. The TR is an example of this."

The "Majority Text" underlies the Textus Receptus, but there are differences.

Josh wrote: "Are you suggesting that Maurice a Robinson prefers the majority text?"

Yes. However, I'll let him explain the "why".

Josh wrote: "Could you (or anyone) explain the relationship between Byzantine text type and the Majority Text?"

I believe they are more-or-less synonymous.

Josh wrote: "I want to say thanks for your help. Like I said above, I am new to TC and am very grateful for all/any help you offer."

Again, no problem. You have discovered a highly interesting field of study (at least in my opinion), and I hope you enjoy it!

-c-

maurice a robinson said...

Josh: "Could you (or anyone) explain the relationship between Byzantine text type and the Majority Text?"

To state matters very simply: from my perspective, the presumed archetype of the Byzantine Textform is not necessarily in the numerical majority at all points of textual variation (although the archetypal reading would still have the support of a substantial number of MS witnesses within the body of MSS comprising the Byzantine Textform proper).

The "majority text" (at least as established by Hodges and Farstad) incorporates the numerical majority of all MSS from all texttypes. Thus, in some places the result is a numerical majority reading that may not concur with a Byzantine archetype.

Also: no Textus Receptus edition is wholly supported by either the Byzantine Textform or the "majority text", due to numerous readings that derive from unrelated sources.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to elaborate on my answer about the Byzantine/Majority text. in case it helps clarify things for you a bit more...

The "Majority Text" is so-named because this textform is found in the majority of NT manuscripts.

It is also referred to as the "Byzantine Text" because it is thought to be the form of the NT text around the time that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under the Emperor Constantine. Constantine moved the capitol of the Roman Empire to Byzantium/Constantinople...the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire.

As one might imagine, the text of the NT was copied many times over from this point on in comparison with years previous to this.

Thus...the "Byzantine/Majority Text".

With that, I'll let the real text critics step in and correct any of blunders I may have made or insert further nuances.

-c-

goulablogger said...

Or as a joke would put it, Dr. Robinson has reached the highest level of textual criticism:

"No critical edition is satisfactory; I'll just have to make my own."

Chuck Grantham

Peter M. Head said...

A couple of thoughts on this:
a) I think the review reveals as much about Keith Elliott as it does about Greenlee.
b) In particular it is pretty clear that Keith thinks Greenlee's book is supposed to be a response to Ehrman and he thus finds its avoidance of particular passages and themes rather amazing and basically duplicitous. I think on this that Keith is basically wrong in his conception of what Greenlee's small book is trying to do (by the way on at least one point Elliott refers to this as a 'monograph' - a slim popular paperback with 120 pages of text and 12 end-notes!).
c) Elliott is perhaps more broadly correct in depicting this book as not alerting readers to areas of contemporary debate (as Maurice also admits in saying that "virtually everything otherwise appearing in Greenlee's book is no different than what was asserted by Westcott/Hort, Tregelles, or most other textual critics of the past generations"), but if that is not the purpose of the book using this as a major point of criticism is inappropriate.
d) Elliott cites somewhat selectively what Greenlee actually says and affirms about the Holy Spirit's protection of the text. And indeed, why should it be appropriate (as Elliott affirms on page 3) that living text variations can be credited to the Holy Spirit, while the original text should not be?
e) Elliott misses the discussion of Mark 1.1 (which is present and does treat the theology - albeit briefly).
f) I found some typos in Elliott's review: there is a space missing in the second line of the second paragraph; the opening quotation marks are missing at page 3 line 9; on page 5 para 2 line 8 we are introduced to an English translation called RED with which I am not familiar; "Ephaem" appears on page 6 (while criticising Greenlee's typos).

Peter M. Head said...

In Greenlee's book Ehrman is referred to once (on p121 in a note). In Elliott's review Ehrman is named nine times.

Anonymous said...

Peter wrote: "And indeed, why should it be appropriate (as Elliott affirms on page 3) that living text variations can be credited to the Holy Spirit, while the original text should not be?"

I need to read the new revision, but I would be very surprised if Greenlee was crediting the Holy Spirit with "living variations", a la Parker. This was one of the more incredible parts of the review, to me, that Elliot could really believe this could be Greenlee's theology.

Perhaps I am very wrong, but I can't imagine Greenlee crediting the Holy Spirit with "living variations" and then calling Marcion a heretic.

Evangelical theology, as I understand it (and would imagine he does as well...though I wish he could speak to it himself), is that the autographs were inspired and God-breathed while the variants were predominantly the work of heretics.

Otherwise, I thought your thoughts were right on the mark.

-c-

Anonymous said...

Elliot wrote: "Chapter 10 has a further list of bland
and unexceptional variants to demonstrate that most variae lectiones are “insignificant”
and of no theological significance. If Greenlee wants to promote that message, then he
must expect the response: Why bother with text-critical study? Why trouble oneself with
the complicated analyses of manuscript allegiances, with text-types, with matters of
authors’ styles and the other minutiae of the discipline?”"

Greenlee's book actually answered Elliot's question!

"Someone might ask, then, why we should bother at all if no important truths are at stake. The answer is that the New Testament is of such supreme importance that if careful study will enable us to make our text even slightly closer to what the New Testament writers wrote, or if it will enable us to see that our New Testament is already as nearly identical with the original text as it can be made, it will be worth the effort." - page 56, Chapter 7, "Scribes, Scrolls, & Scripture".

Peter is right. Elliot's review says as much (or more) about Elliot than about Greenlee.

Anonymous said...

Elliot wrote: "On page 37 we do find: “we believe that the Holy Spirit guided the authors of the New Testament books so that their message would be protected
from error” and “We likewise believe that the Holy Spirit operated providentially in the
copying and preservation of the MSS through the centuries.” Oh! That is not the sort of
presupposition one would find in works of textual criticism of the Greek or Latin classics
or of other ancient literature."

By omitting words, does Elliot not leave the impression that Greenlee's "we" refers to all text critical scholars??

Here is what Greenlee actually wrote (note the "As Christians..." which Elliot inexplicably left out of his quote! This also clues us in as to the intended audience.):

"As Christians, we believe that the Holy Spirit guided the authors of the New Testament books so that their message would be protected from error. As 2 Peter 1:21 puts it, "as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God." We likewise believe that the Holy Spirit operated providentially in the copying and preservation of the manuscripts through the centuries. At the same time, we should not think that it was only by supernatural preservation that the New Testament was kept from being lost or hopelessly confused during those centuries. Many other ancient books were copied and recopied down through the years, and although some of them have been lost, many others have come down to us in reliable form. Even on merely human presuppositions there is no reason to believe that the New Testament as we have it today is not fully reliable, accurately representing the original text." - page 36, Chapter 4, "Scribes, Scrolls, & Scripture".

-c-

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on Greenlee's words:

"We likewise believe that the Holy Spirit operated providentially in the copying and preservation of the manuscripts through the centuries."

I believe this comment should be understand as the providential preservation of God's message (i.e., God's message to us is understandable given the text we have received).

I do not believe that Greenlee is saying that the Holy Spirit inspired the variants (which is blasphemy and potentially bordering on the unforgivable sin, in my own opinion).

"Preservation" is a rather subjective term. Elliot apparently believes that preservation means faultless texts. Greenlee does not.

Greenlee wrote: "Even on merely human presuppositions there is no reason to believe that the New Testament as we have it today is not fully reliable, accurately representing the original text."

Greenlee's statement above may be tough for many textual critics to swallow, but if God's message survived (as I believe), then the text is fully reliable (as is) and represents (another rather subjective term) the original text (which, according to evangelicals was inspired by God).

Does this clarify things? Does anyone believe I have misrepresented Greenlee's views? Does anyone still believe Greenlee was way out in left field as does Elliot, because I do not.

Anonymous said...

Again, I have not read the new revision, but Elliot appears to be incorrect with his remark:

"Or why is there no help on the variants at Mark 1:1..."

Greenlee addresses Mark 1:1 on pages 83 & 84 of Chapter 8 of "Scribes, Scrolls, & Scripture"! It's even found in the index which Elliot so decries! (Shouldn't we feel lucky that there is any index at all in a book intended for the layperson?)

I think I'll stop checking Elliot now...it is irritating to see all the misrepresentation.


or 6:3? Help on Acts 20:28 is sought in vain in this book."

maurice a robinson said...

Anonymous "-c-" wrote: "Evangelical theology, as I understand it ... is that the autographs were inspired and God-breathed while the variants were predominantly the work of heretics."

I know of no one within evangelical textual criticism who would claim that the variants were "predominantly the work of heretics." Most variants -- as even Greenlee states -- reflect simple scribal error, unconscious or deliberate harmonizing, or attempts at stylistic improvement.

There are definitely far fewer variants (i.e., almost none) that could be alleged as corruption by the heretics as opposed to those reflecting alteration by the orthodox (Bart now owes me one).

Anonymous said...

I think we may need to define some terms here (regarding the preservation strain of this discussion).

First, we seem to be talking around two different ideas of preservation: preservation of the message, and preservation of the text.

Preservation of the message, or what I'll arbitrarily call "general preservation," would argue that God supernaturally ensured that despite textual corruption the message was still adequately conveyed. I suppose we could further subdivide general preservation into those who say that God accomplished this by ensuring that no single text was corrupted beyond its ability to convey its message, and those who say that God simply ensured that the message was supported by a redundant array of texts, so that even if one was corrupted beyond its ability to convey the message, other texts would still remain to do so.

Preservation of the text, however, which I will equally arbitrarily designate "strict preservation," would argue that the text itself has been supernaturally preserved: not one of the original words was lost. This position, it seems to me, is not concerned with the message per se, but rather with the exact original words behind that message, and how none of those original words have ever been lost. There may be thousands of points of variation, but at every single one of those points, the original text can be found as one of the variant options, preserved in one ms or another.

Second then, working with those definitions, which type of preservation does Greenlee espouse? On p. 36 of his new book he writes "It would be very dangerous to say as some people do that in certain passages the MSS agree but the original text must have been different and was lost in the process of copying. Such proposals open the door to changing the scriptural text virtually anywhere it does not agree with the reader's prejudices. We must trust that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the original text was able to protect it through the centuries of hand-written copying."
It seems very clear to me from that passage that Greenlee is espousing a position of strict preservation: at every given point of variation the Holy Spirit has ensured that the original text survives in at least one ms.

Third then, what do I think of this? In the original Greenlee discussion I called it an "imaginative notion" and while I admit that was provocative, I stand by it. While I could get behind some version of general preservation, strict preservation is an idea that is, I think, demonstrably false.

If the claim is that the Spirit has protected the text so that the original words have survived somewhere at every point of variation, then really that is a claim that could be falsified by simply providing a single point of variation where the original text has not survived.

Now, in the other discussion someone posted that the only way to prove that the original had not survived at some variation point would be to produce the autographs for comparison, and while that argument is delightfully cheeky, I don't think it is correct. Surely we can adequately demonstrate that the original text has not survived at certain points simply by showing how the text that has survived at those points does not make enough sense.

Because I like to over-use illustrations, if you find the sentence "I am hungry so I will eat a meatball sub" then you will have no problem making sense of it.
But if you were to find the sentence "I am hungry so I will a meatball sub" you would immediately conclude that some corruption or typo has occurred, not because you have the original for comparison, but because the sentence as it stands obviously makes no sense: it has no verb.
Similarly if you found "I am hungry so I will fat a meatball sub" then you would also conclude that some corruption has taken place, because even though there is a verb, the verb that is there makes no sense: how do you "fat" a meatball sub? On further reflection, you would probably conclude that the original text read "eat" a sub, but that some copyist had accidentally substituted "f" for "e" due to their close proximty on the keyboard. (of course, bart ehrman would argue that "eat" had been deliberately changed to "fat" by a vegetarian scribe during the nutrition debates of the late fourth century in order to protest against the high caloric content of the average meatball sub).

Bottom line then, if we assume that the original text was sensible (which I beleive we can) then it necessarily follows that we can demonstrate that at some points the original text did not survive simply by showing how the surviving text at those points does not make sense.

There is, I believe, good evidence to believe that there are several such points. I won't belabour the discussion with multiple examples and my long drawn out arguments for them, but I will point out that the NA committee has concluded that 2 Pet 3:10 is such a place, and in the forthcoming NA28 there will be a conjectural reading in the body of the text with no greek ms support in the apparatus (there is a syriac ms.)

So what's my point?

That strict preservation is (1) theologically unnecessary (some form of general preservation will suffice) and (2) factually incorrect. Given that, I think it is certainly fair to criticise Greenlee for his espousement of it - though, I should stress, the way Elliot did it was thoroughly indefensible.

Ryan

Peter M. Head said...

Maurice,

I agree. And it is good for you to agree with Bart on some things.

It is a bit of a red herring to all this, but the accusation that heretics were involved in the corruption of Scripture does have a place in the history of the disciple. I tend to agree that the available evidence doesn't really bear this out as far as I can tell.

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks Ryan,

Of course we might disagree as to what we regard as a lack of sensibleness in the surviving witnesses - that seems pretty subjective.
Equally a strict preservationist (which in this context seems to be equated with those who deny that we ever need conjectural emendation*) might either simply disagree with NA28 on 2 Peter 3 or find that the versional witnesses manifest precisely the providential provision that he is thinking of.

* Strangely enough wouldn't Keith Elliott end up in this category?

Anonymous said...

Maurice wrote: "I know of no one within evangelical textual criticism who would claim that the variants were "predominantly the work of heretics.""

You are entirely correct. That was certainly a mistatement on my part. My apologies.

-c-

Anonymous said...

My thinking was along the lines of Marcion and such instances with respect to some variants (if it helps clarify my mistake), but what I wrote was completely incorrect about the variants being "predominantly the work of heretics".

Anonymous said...

Thanks Peter, I meant to point that out, but as you can see I was already running a little long on that post so I dropped it, but I do think it is funny that Elliot actually does support a strict preservationist position - I have a greate quote from him summing it up quite plainly (paraphrasing) "we may safely assume that the correct reading has survived somewhere among the extant manuscripts."

Of course, when he signs up for strict preservation, he does not do it from the theological premise that Greenlee does, i.e. the Holy Spirit ensures that the original is there somewhere, but rather from a non-theological premise that depends upon the sheere size of the extant ms base.

Because I just happened to be reading a review of Kran's book in NT, I'll quote Jeffrey Kloha who summarises "Perhaps the mass of witnesses available to us today provides a false comfort that the original reading must have survived everywhere in every case." (p. 94)

Of course, I think this non-theological version of strict preservation is just as erroneous as its theological cousin, and in that chapter of my dissertation I spend quite a while taking Elliot et al to task for it. I think I as nicer to Elliot though than Elliot was to Greenlee.

Ryan

Anonymous said...

Ryan wrote: "It seems very clear to me from that passage that Greenlee is espousing a position of strict preservation: at every given point of variation the Holy Spirit has ensured that the original text survives in at least one ms."

Forgive me, but I don't think that is what he is saying at all. First, he is addressing "certain passages". Second, he appears to be referring to scholars who suggest emending text where there is no difference at all among existing manuscripts (not actual places of manifest variance among manuscripts). And, he is correct, doing such a thing will "open the door to changing the scriptural text virtually anywhere it does not agree with the reader's prejudices".

I believe that he would likely espouse your "general preservation", as I think many evangelical textual scholars would.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon,

I'm sorry, but I don't think you have it.

Greenlee said

"It would be very dangerous to say as some people do that in certain passages the MSS agree but the original text must have been different and was lost in the process of copying."

Notice he says there "the MSS agree". Points of variation are where the mss disagree.

Conjectures can be offered in two places: 1) where there is existing variation (i.e. disagreement among the mss) yet it seems that none of the variant options results in a text that makes sense, then you can offer a conjecture that does, or 2) where all the surviving mss agree and there is no extant variation, but the surviving text makes so little sense that you cannot help but conclude that even though it survives in every manuscript, the survivng text is not the original text.

That second type is what Greenlee has in his targets when he condemns offering conjectures at places where "the MSS agree."

From the perspective of strict preservation though, there really is no difference, since what good would it do for God to preserve the original text at points of existing variation but not preserve it in parts where there is no extant variation, or vice versa?

Ryan

Anonymous said...

I should further add too that not liking the consequence of something does not make that thing false.

It may open the door to prejudicial change, but that alone does not give us sufficent grounds to call it false (it just means we would have to find ways to control against that).

That the original text was lost at some points is a historical claim, and it must stand or fall on the basis of evidence, not our opinion of the consequences.

Ryan

Anonymous said...

Ryan wrote: "That second type is what Greenlee has in his targets when he condemns offering conjectures at places where "the MSS agree."

We are in violent agreement it seems. :-) What you wrote rephrased what I wrote quite well.

Ryan wrote: "From the perspective of strict preservation though, there really is no difference, since what good would it do for God to preserve the original text at points of existing variation but not preserve it in parts where there is no extant variation, or vice versa?"

In my opinion, the quoted Greenlee text does not display Greenlee's so-called "strict preservationism", especially in any gereral sense since he is referring only to "certain passages" and since those passages do not even involve existing variants.

Just because a text does not make sense to us, I completely agree with Greenlee that it is "dangerous" to assume that it is faulty or that it wasn't preserved accurately.

But, to me, the quoted text does not support the idea that Greenlee is necessarily a "strict preservationist".

Anonymous said...

Just a question:

Has anyone read the following and care to comment? ;-)

Manuscripts and the Text of the New Testament: An Introduction for English Readers, by Keith Elliott and Ian Moir (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995) ISBN 0567292983

Anonymous said...

How much does J.K. Elliot's 'thorough-going eclectisicm' play into his review?

maurice a robinson said...

As an "Anon" noted, both Greenlee and Elliott basically agree that "we may safely assume that the correct reading has survived somewhere among the extant manuscripts." I also consider this position valid, simply on the basis noted regarding "the sheer size of the extant MS base".

Such a position should not be interpreted as "strict preservation" as apparently defined (whether theologically or non-theologically).

Only if one could guarantee in every place of variant location that the original could infallibly be determined would any real "strict preservation" model properly function.

So long as a position merely holds that it is more likely that the original reading has been preserved among extant witnesses in view of the quantity of MSS preserved to this day, the level of preservation claimed is somewhere between "strict" and "non-existent";

I would suggest that "reasonably secure" might be a better term -- reserving "strict" only for those who would claim either eclectic perfection of results, one particular MS, or a certain early printed edition as being 100% definitive.

Standing outside of that type of arena, neither Greenlee, nor Elliott, nor myself would likely consider our respective postions as "strict" in any such manner.

Hodge said...

Ryan,
I'm not sure what to make of your analogy. Are you giving an explanation of your view or refuting mine? I offered an argument based on the self refuting claim of negative propositions from silence and you seem to have sought to refute that with an analogy. I think there may be a confusion of what is logic and what is opinion just as there is still confusion between what is data and what is interpretation. Analogy isn't an argument.
You stated, "That strict preservation is (1) theologically unnecessary (some form of general preservation will suffice) and (2) factually incorrect."

I would agree with the first statement(although you haven't disproven what your designating as "the strict view),that it is not necessary, but it is still a viable option.

The second statement of course is not proven by your analogies. Your entire argument is spun around what appears to be intelligible to the reader. This is going to vary depending on who is reading it. For you, the strict view is not an option, so these are examples of lost readings (these examples give credence to the view of non-preservation in your mind largely because you are geared to think that way-hence our previous discussion concerning Naturalistic presupps).
To those whose ideology excludes this option, these texts must be grappled with based on the idea that they ARE the original readings.
As by way of my own analogy, one in your school of thought might read Gen 3:22 as a lost reading, since it makes no sense. One in the "strict" view, however, would accept the text and see it as an example of aposeopesis, indicating that the apodosis is so severe it can only be conveyed by omission of words. Other examples that explain your lack of words or meaning could be ellipsis or other literary devices, or they could just be a device in the original language or author's mind currently misunderstood or unknown. The context could be misunderstood, and when fully understood could give rise to an acceptance of the received reading, etc.

My only point is that your claim that the "strict" view is factually incorrect is factually incorrect. You can't make that claim. When you state that it can be "adequately demonstrated" that we don't have the original text in certain instances, and to go against this is against the facts, is to claim that you have proven a fact using an argument from silence; and facts are not substantiated by arguments from silence. They're pure conjecture based on one's beliefs. The real fact is that you NEED the original text if it's going to be a fact. You might find it "cheeky," but that's logic for you. You may be able to argue well within your framework and presuppositions that a reading no longer exists, and have that as a consistency within your system. You may be, when all things are known, correct. But you cannot say before that time that it is a fact. It is your opinion of the facts, based not on what we have, but on what you speculate with your presupps about what we don't have.
In fact, I'll show you how your presupps are playing in from another direction. You assume any error or omission made is from copyists because you don't want to attribute error to the original authors, according to your theology. Maybe Peter just made a mistake. I could then say that we have the original text. Where is your argument then? That, of course, is not an option for those of us who are Evangelical, but it shows that our preconceived beliefs only allow certain options to us, and the data is therefore only being seen within that light. We ought to tread more lightly when making claims about what the original text did not say then when, in fact, we don't have it. Numerous options exist and there will be as many viable explanations as there are beliefs about the text.

Hodge said...

BTW, I would argue that emendation in 2 Pet 3:10 is just such a case of the committee misunderstanding the reading due to misunderstanding of the context.

The whole letter is refuting heretics who make their arguments based on what things appear to be from a temporal human perspective. The fire melting the temporal universe will reveal what these things really are in light of the eternal.
As Neyrey concludes, "in light of forensic procedure, 'being found' is a plausible and contextually appropriate term. Evidently it implies that something will be revealed, uncovered and brought to light...In the context of judgment, rewards, and punishments, then, 'being found' suggests forensic investigation of the heart" (2 Pet 243-44).

He offers Danker's study (ZNW 53) of the parallels in Ps Sol 17:10 and 1 Sam 26:18 as support of the reading as it stands.

I could also conclude a more non-Evangelical reading and say that it is perfect 2d Cent eschatological phraseology, and hence this 2d Cent text retains its original meaning.

All this to simply say that the data is read according to the presupps of the reader. I say again, data says nothing. We put the story to the data, and our story stems from our preconceived beliefs attempting to explain the data within the framework of those beliefs.

BTW, I hold the former view of preservation, not the latter. I actually emend the text in places where there are no variants. My only attempt here is to show that other positions our viable, and no view has the corner market on "fact." My attempt is only to the hopes of unshackling you from being too harsh on others who are simply doing the exact same thing that you are doing when you approach a text.

Peter M. Head said...

For what it is worth I agree with Greenlee on this: in a passage with no variants (i.e. where all the manuscripts agree) I don't think there is any basis for conjectural emendation. Several reasons for this: a) it was not thought difficult by scribes - so there is no problem to be solved; b) conjectural emendations in these situations would be subject to the accusation of subjectivism and an attempt to improve on Scripture; c) no conjectural emendation in this situation is likely to commend itself to the scholarly crowd.

It is a different matter when there are variants and an obvious problem to be solved.

Anonymous said...

Maurice wrote,

"Such a position should not be interpreted as "strict preservation" as apparently defined (whether theologically or non-theologically).

Only if one could guarantee in every place of variant location that the original could infallibly be determined would any real "strict preservation" model properly function."

Maurice I do think that is a great point, and I see it having significance for any theological formulation of preservation.

For that matter, I think it also shows the importance of remembering the distinction between a theological formulation of it and a non-theological one, or what I'll designate as historical preservation.

If I think that the original survives (or most likely survives) at every point simply because of the quantity of extant mss, then fine, that is one type of argument that I might comment more on later.

But if we have a strict theological formulation of preservation, then it seems to me that the very existence of variants at all - whether or not the original is likely to be found in one of the variant options - raises striking theological questions. As you point out, unless we also have some accompanying doctrine that somehow establishes God's divine guidance in the evaluation of those variants, then a strict theological doctrine of preservation becomes effectively moot - since what good is it to aver that the original is strictly preserved if we can't know for sure what it is?

Now some sort of less strict formulation, or reasonable preservation as you termed it, allows a lot more flexibility. On a theological level, it might suggest something like that yes, God permitted the text to become corrupted with variation, but just as God chooses to work through preachers to proclaim that word, he chooses to work through textual critics to recover that word. In that sense, the ingenuity of textual critics would become, in the best of times, a tool of God. If we took that stance though then we would come right back to what Peter Head already noted is the corollary issue: doctrines of preservation are usually invoked in order to dismiss the use of conjectural emendation, but if we are assuming that God works through the ingenuity of textual critics in order to recover the text, then why couldn't that ingenuity include conjectural arguments?

Ryan

Anonymous said...

Hodge,

Thanks for a thoughtful responses. I appreciate that, and let me apologise if I came on a bit strong – consider me chastened. I do agree with you that we always need to maintain a degree of humility on our scholarly conclusions. My problem though, besides finding it easy to be carried away by the rhetoric of my own argument, is that one of the things I struggle to balance with that humility is the practical need sometimes just to move on. That is, often there comes a point where you have to say, “yes, I know I can't know this for certain, but I need to move on in my thinking and I think I know it certain enough to do that.” It reminds me of a session a few years ago at SBL. Richard Hays was delivering a paper discussing Matt or Luke's use of some psalm text. Come question time someone in the audience asked him something like “I noticed that you kept saying Matthew's use of that psalm, but don't your really mean Q's use of that psalm? The gospel text in question is normally concluded to be a Q text, so shouldn't we be talking about Q's appropriation of that Psalm?” And Hays response was a memorable (or not perhaps, since the best I can do is paraphrase it) “You know, I just don't buy that. All that Q stuff, I just don't buy that, so I'm not going to waste time dealing with that any more, I'm going to move on and talk about Matthew's use of that psalm...”

In the same way, the majority (probably) of NTTC would argue some non-theological doctrine of reasonable preservation: a historical claim that the original text likely survives at all points. They conclude this largely because of the quantity of the extant ms base: they look at the sheer number of mss that have survived and interpret that to mean that it is more likely than not that the original survives in there somewhere. I, on the other hand, interpret it differently. I look at the extant ms base and, yes, see a large quantity, but what catches my attention more is the much larger quantity of manuscripts that have been lost, and that among the lost are almost all of the mss from the second century when so many variants were occurring. That fact, taken with what I see as the deficient character of the surviving text at some select points, leads me to the opposite conclusion: that while the original text has surely survived at many points, it is more likely than not that it has not survived at all points.

So on one hand you are right: we are just offering our own interpretations of what facts we have. On the other hand, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I find my interpretation to be the most compelling – I mean, I simply do, that's why I hold it – and practically speaking don't you think that there just comes a time when even though I can't know for certain that my conclusion is a fact, I have to start treating it like it is simply so that, like Hays, I can move on to the next level of my work? I mean, I am asking you there: don't you think?

I'll try to come back and comment on the rest of your thoughtful post later, but one quick question: you seem to be arguing that my claim that the original text has not been preserved at some points could only be proven through comparison with the original text itself, but if that were true, wouldn't that same standard of evidence apply to those who argue that the original has been preserved?

Ryan

Anonymous said...

Peter wrote,

"For what it is worth I agree with Greenlee on this: in a passage with no variants (i.e. where all the manuscripts agree) I don't think there is any basis for conjectural emendation. Several reasons for this: a) it was not thought difficult by scribes - so there is no problem to be solved..."

Thanks Peter, I have two questions for you though relating to this first point: 1) given that we have lost the larger number (and indeed I think likely the majority) of mss, how can you know that it was not thought difficult by the scribes? Since we do not have the mss that have perished, wouldn't any statement about them - i.e. either they did or did not contain variants at points where our extant ms base does not - be an argument from ignorance? And given that, do you have any more grounds for saying that the scribes did not have a problem than I would have for saying that they did? It seems to me the only thing we can say for sure is that the scribes we know of did not have a problem at those points, but do we really have any way of knowing to what degree the scribes we know of are representative of the scribes as a whole?

2) Even if we set the scribes aside for a moment, why should we privilege scribes over interpreters? And in this I would also make a distinction between modern interpreters and ancient ones. I'll quote Kloha again, since that review is still sitting in front of me, "Fresh study of the fathers and the versions suggests that some readings have disappeared from the Greek manuscript tradition" (94).

Especially given that many scribes were not trained interpreters (as Greenlee notes) and that many of the problems (that are in my opinion) in need of conjecture were likely the result of accidental scribal blunder not a deliberate scribal attempt to solve a perceived problem, given both of those I think I would tend towards privileging trained interpreters who find a problem in the text over scribes who did not. What do you think? (that is to say, most of the preceding is suggested for consideration, not asserted).

Ryan

Anonymous said...

Peter and Tommy, just a quick thought: have you guy ever considered setting this up as a forum rather than a blog? I wonder if the latter wouldn't be more conducive to these types of conversation.

Ryan

Hodge said...

Ryan,
thank you for your post. I've enjoyed our discussion thus far, so no apologies necessary.

You stated: "So on one hand you are right: we are just offering our own interpretations of what facts we have. On the other hand, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I find my interpretation to be the most compelling – I mean, I simply do, that's why I hold it – and practically speaking don't you think that there just comes a time when even though I can't know for certain that my conclusion is a fact, I have to start treating it like it is simply so that, like Hays, I can move on to the next level of my work? I mean, I am asking you there: don't you think?"

Absolutely. We all have to do this, and we all do it already. We function off of the belief that our beliefs are the correct ones and the others are wrong. My issue only comes to play when someone, like Ehrman for instance, confuses his interpretation of the facts with the facts themselves. Many think that this is due to Ehrman's snobbery, but I don't think this is true. I think he is simply a product of our academic community, which historically has difficulties distinguishing what data is versus my logically worked out presentation of that data based on my beliefs. So as long as we understand that our certainty is from belief instead of data, then I think we're good to move forward. I think it's also fine to attempt to persuade one to your beliefs because you believe they are the correct ones. It's only when others are chided, as Ehrman often does, for being biased in their mistrust of facts (when in fact it is only their mistrust in Ehrman's interpretation of those facts and the worldview with which he presents them)that I take issue with such misguided dogmatism. If Ehrman were to change his tone and language and present these things as his belief about these things (as occasionally he'll admit on a few issues, but not most), then I would have no problem with him.

So all that to say, forge ahead, believing that you have the right interpretation of the data. All historical scholarship would cease to be if we didn't. In fact, all thinking might come to an end for that matter. We just always need to remember that much of our conclusions, right or wrong, are assumed first in our presupps. If Ehrman realized this to the degree that I think he should, I think he would desist in his derogatory comments toward those who are either trained or teach in evangelical schools regarding their bias. If all scholars have bias, then such rhetoric becomes pot and kettle.


You also asked: "you seem to be arguing that my claim that the original text has not been preserved at some points could only be proven through comparison with the original text itself, but if that were true, wouldn't that same standard of evidence apply to those who argue that the original has been preserved?"

Yes and no. The standard of evidence would have to be that evidence exists. In the case of the negative claim, the argument is based on conjecture. In the case of the positive, the argument is based on data which exists.

Now if you mean that both must trust in presupps in order to conclude whether we do or do not have the original text, that is true. The difference, however, is that one is a positive claim, which believes the data we have (in a cumulative sense) is accurate. So it is a belief that the only data/witnesses received is/are correct.
The negative position, however, is also belief, but less probable because it is based on conjecture (i.e., it argues from something we don't have/something that does not exist). There is no witness indicating that we don't have the original text, and if there were it would be self-refuting as stated before.
Now this does not mean that a conjecture from the negative is automatically wrong and the positive right. It will depend upon the belief, other arguments given, etc. It's just that the burden of proof is on the negative when positive evidence is presented, and that makes it less probable when the negative is from silence. So conjectural arguments and arguments which believe the witnesses are reliable are both according to belief, but not in the same category of probability.
Hence, the originals are needed if one is to "prove" either position (only the negative would be disproven if we had it); but one can justifiably argue within his respective view either way.

I'll give two examples from the Hebrew Bible. I emend Gen 3:8 from "belonging to the wind of the day" to "against the spirit/breath of life," changing the he to a heth and the waw to a yod in hayom. I do this based on a few factors, none of which have support in the mss or translations. I truly believe that this is far more the case than the extent reading. I think there is good cause to believe it; but I also have to realize that the weight of the evidence is against me because I am arguing against what the witnesses say without a witness of my own.

Case in point, Kittle famously emended the second word of the Bible from bara' to bero' because he (as well as 20th Cent scholarship with him) could not make sense of the construct-looking form of bereshit in front of it. This view was held with the greatest amount of certainty by scholars (especially with the analogy of other works like Enuma elish), so much so that some still believe it today. Yet we now know that it is not only improbable, but due to verbal aspect theory, it is an impossible reading. That gives me, as one who used to believe it, a great amount of humility in understanding that conjectures are but well reasoned suggestions offered up to those who wish to believe them, but can never be seen as factually final.

So all of that to say that emendations have a more difficult load to haul than options based on data received. Both have elements of belief because they both assume something, but the former often assumes more than the latter.

Tommy Wasserman said...

Ryan: "Peter and Tommy, just a quick thought: have you guy ever considered setting this up as a forum rather than a blog? I wonder if the latter wouldn't be more conducive to these types of conversation."

THanks Ryan, that is possible. However, Wieland Willker has a TC forum, but I must admit that I don't have time to read things there. I even think a discussion list and a blog is difficult to keep up with. In addition, we are not the most technical people (at least not I). We have had a website, www.evangelicaltextualcriticism.com for some time, but it has stood still for years now ("under construction"). I think we need someone to help us out with the construction of that site in terms of html and that stuff.

Tommy Wasserman said...

Ryan W, Can you contact me off-blog at tomwas@spray.se. I don't have your e-mailaddress.

Anonymous said...

just noticed I spelled Kittel as in kittle and bits. Hope he doesn't mind from the hereafter.

Bryan

Peter M. Head said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter M. Head said...

Ryan,

On your second question, yes fair enough. I would be happy to include into this type of discussion patristic testimony, and especially explicit patristic discussion of problematic passages and the weight of manuscript support for different readings. [Granted a variety of standard caveats about the tendencies of patristic "citations" in general and in particular] - For example (although not a conjecture and in danger of the red herring) I happen to think that Origen's discussion about Heb 2.9 is pretty significant. Ultimately I suppose I'd be willing to hear arguments on this sort of basis (e.g. Luke 1.46 where we lack Greek variants but patristic sources show that the "Elizabeth" variant was present in Greek manuscripts). I suppose I would be pretty cautious though.

On the first question I think it is more appropriate, given our ignorance of the manuscripts we are ignorant of, not to assume anything about them. I do happen to imagine that what we have is broadly representative of the lost tradition.