I will now try to finish my maraton report from the SBL in Boston – I still have some months to do this before the next meeting. You may think it comes a bit late, but it is too important to be passed over. It is time for the final, the review of James Royse, Scribal Habits. Again I want to state that this summary is in my own words, sometimes omitting, sometimes elucidating what was said in the session.
SBL24-129 New Testament Textual Criticism
Theme: Review of James Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (Brill)
AnneMarie Luijendijk, Princeton University, Presiding
Juan Hernandez, Bethel College, Panelist (25 min)
Kim Haines-Eitzen, Cornell University, Panelist (25 min)
Peter M Head, Tyndale House, Panelist (25 min)
Dirk Jongkind, Tyndale House, Panelist (25 min)
James Royse, San Francisco, CA, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)
The first reviewer was Juan Hernandez. He offered a personal reflection of what Royse’s work has meant for him. In his witty introduction he stated, “This is a work of ‘singular importance’. It is an exemplar for all who want to study scribal habits.” What then did Royse’s work mean for a Ph.D. student specifically? In 2003 Hernandez stood as a crossroads. He had to come up with a dissertation proposal. His interest was in textual criticism, but there was no text-critical scholar around. How was he to embark without specialists? He contacted a lot of scholars about what to do. He was interested in the Book of Revelation. The path eventually led to James R. Royse. The approach of Epp (The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae) and Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption) on theological variation aroused his interest. Could this perspective be applied to Revelation? One problem was the fact that there is no Western text of Revelation. Could Ehrman’s method be applied? No. Christological controversies and their bearing upon the transmission seemed rather marginal. Then Hernandez found the work of Royse (i.e., his dissertation).
The undertext was: Scrutinize every claim!; Check everything for yourself! Even Royse’s 1981 dissertation was considered groundbreaking and remained a standard work for twenty-seven years (until it was superseded by the monograph). To put this work into perspective, E.C. Colwell had urged that someone someday would publish a commentary on singular readings (and he was talking about the three papyri he had studied). Royse came along, corrected and updated Colwell’s original work. Royse checked the readings against all available editions. His study was much more nuanced than an attempt to classify the text of these witnesses in broad terms, e.g., according to text-types. Royse goal was to cast light of each scribe’s habits. This was necessary to be able to arrive at canons of criticism applicable to papyri. Hernandez said he was “electrified” by the 1981 study. He was given “access.” It was a gigantic how-to-do manual. It was permeated of transparency. Everything was available for scrutiny. His prior interest was in theological variation. Royse, however, was not a friend of “theologizing.” Royse applied an extreme caution. He singled out only three variants that were theologically motivated (in P72). It was cristall clear for Hernandez that he would have to learn from Royse. He now had to put behind him notions of theological variation and start with the mundane, the facsimiles! Everything that he needed was there in Royse’s work, being the model.
Then Hernandez said some words about the monograph: The current publication superseeds the prior study in a number of ways. It has more chapters, more nuances in classification of singular readings, many new topics, and exhaustive appendices. The only missing thing was P46 in relation to the Ethiopic (a joke!). In the new work Royse has identified sixty-four additional singular readings (I think). The thesis stands concerning the implications for the canons of criticism. The burden of proof still rests with those who will prefer the short reading (in the early papyri). In sum, the monograph is a veritable encyclopedia of scribal habits (surpassing Colwell’s original urge for a commentary).
More to come.
Update: Juan Hernandez has kindly offered his full presentation to our readers. It can be requested from tomwas[at]spray[dot]se. (See also next post.)