Wednesday, May 20, 2009

North on Negatives

J. Lionel North, ‘Thou Shalt Commit Adultery’ (EXOD. 20:14, AV 1631): A First Survey of Alteration Involving Negatives in the Transmission of the Greek New Testament and of Early Church Responses to it' JTS 60 (2009), 22-69. On-line (previously noted here).

The conceptual heart of this article is a series of lists (pp. 55-68) of some 700 passages of textually unstable negation in the NT (North notes that approximately one-fifth of all negatives in the NT have suffered some textual alteration). The lists themselves (printed as prose, not as list, in various categories) are preceded by a discussion of patristic references to such variations, parallel phenomena in other textual traditions, and a discussion of some of the examples in each of his major categories. There are throughout some interesting and typically learned comments on particular passages and on general matters (such as whether we should treat such variations as "intentional"), but it would be fair to say that I did not find this a particularly easy read (not the sort of article that is easy to read quickly and extract the main points). So here is the official abstract:

Like many words in the New Testament, one-fifth of the 3,542 examples of the negative have suffered alteration, trivial or otherwise, through addition or omission or substitution. But the alteration of negatives is more provocative in that, given their function in logic, it can involve
contradiction. The Church Fathers had to face questions where dogma was at stake: did Paul believe that ‘we all shall not sleep’ or ‘we all shall sleep’, ‘we all shall be changed’ or ‘we all shall not be changed’ (1 Cor. 15:51)? Did death reign even over those who had not sinned like Adam (Rom. 5:14)? The unstable negative was also noted in Jewish, classical, and legal circles. Analysis of over 700 examples may prove useful to textual critics, students of scribal habits, and philologists as well as to dogmaticians and historians.

Jan Krans has some interaction with the article here.

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