Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, December 11, 2009

SBL New Orleans: Summaries from SBL Sessions on Textual Criticism

Brief summaries from some SBL session on New Testament textual criticism and papyrology by Rex Howe of Dallas Theological Seminary have been published on the Friends of CSNTM website here. It should be noted that these cover only a part of the many papers that were presented in NT textual criticism (the last session is not covered, and neither the IGNTP session, nor the joint NTTC/LXX session). Moreover the summaries should be read with caution, because some are misleading.

For example, the summary of Matteo Grosso's paper, "'Where There Is No Male and Female': The D-Text of Colossians and Women" says:
The textual insertion (ἄρσεν και θῆλυ) suggested by some D-type witnesses in Colossians 3:11 has often thought to have been influenced by the inclusion of the phrase in Galatians 3:28. Grosso challenged such an explanation and posits another: those behind the D-type tradition were influenced by an anti-female bias.

In fact, I understood Grosso's argument for the reading as the opposite. From the viewpoint of internal evidence, the Western reading here is actually pro-female, and therefore goes against its own anti-female tendency (if there is one), whereas the omission in other MSS may be due to an anti-female tendency. Therefore Grosso suggested that the reading is to be regarded as all the more reliable. Grosso presented an earlier version of this paper at the SBL in Rome and in light of the response there he now presented a more nuanced and cautious argument.

Another paper that Rex found to be the most exciting was Geoffrey Smith's on a "New Oxyrhyncus Papyrus of Mark 1:1–2." According to the programme, Smith was actually supposed to talk about the Bodmer Misc. Codex (in which P72 is found). When I told Peter Head that he had changed topic and was going to present on Mark 1:1, he thought I was joking (how could he think that?). Peter has written an article on Mark 1:1, in which he prefers the shorter reading, excluding the words "Son of God." This new papyrus fragment attests to the shorter reading (you should have seen Peter's happy smile). However, Smith proposed that it is an amulet and I agree with that judgment for several reasons. I will come back to that in my own summary of the paper. In any case, Rex points out that not everyone in the audience were not convinced that this is an amulet (perhaps you can guess who).

Rex has also posted summaries of various ETC papers here including: Daniel B. Wallace, "The Text of the Gospels in the Papyri"; William F. Warren, "The Text of the Gospels in the Apostolic Fathers"; Stanley E. Porter, "The Text of the Gospels in Apocryphal Greek Gospel Papyri"


  1. These summaries should be read with extreme caution.

    For example, Peter Head did not "[compare] the Greek text of the Gospels in Codex Vaticanus with that of Erasmus, and 98% agreement was found between the two" (which would be remarkable indeed!)
    Instead, he observed that 98% of the distigmai in Vaticanus corresponded to a reading in Erasmus' text (and appendix) which differed from Vaticanus.

    Similarly, James Leonard's main point was that Schenke's retroversion of Codex Schøyen into Greek was unduly literal, and there was no reason to see Codex Schøyen as a witness to anything other than a fairly standard Greek text of Matthew.

    Tommy has noted the correction required to Matteo Grosso's paper; perhaps those present at the other sessions could corroborate or correct these reports?

  2. Just to clarify a few items in Rex's brief summary of my paper. His summary in total reads,

    "Codex Schøyen has a number of significant changes that do not appear in any other manuscript. Shenke has lobbied for Codex Schøyen to be included in the Nestle-Aland; however, up to this point, it has been rejected. Leonard demonstrated that the codex is not another version of Matthew, but rather it is the result of a strictly literal Coptic translation that, due to its literalness and crossover between languages, resembles another Matthew version different from its vorlage. Leonard offered examples of the scribe’s literalistic-tendencies, one of which is found in Matthew 12:4: ἔφαγον is changed to ἔφαγεν so that the reference clearly points to Δαυίδ."

    1. I argued that a number of readings which appear unique are merely translational.

    2. Schenke never lobbied for readings in Codex Schoyen to be included in Nestle-Aland. He probably would never have done so since he things it is a non-canonical Matthew. The editors, so far as I know, have not yet considered citing Codex Schoyen in the apparatus.

    3. I don't argue that Codex Schoyen is a strict translation into Coptic; quite the contrary. Thus, there was no argument that its literalness and cross-overness made it appear similar to another version. It was Schenke who thought that the translation was literal.

    4. While the grammar of Matt 12:4 reads as a singular, I argued that the translation method may allow that the Vorlage was a plural.

  3. Thanks a lot. I confess I didn't read careful enough. I have updated the main post.

  4. ἔφαγον is changed to ἔφαγεν so that the reference clearly points to Δαυίδ."

    ἔφαγεν is the reading of the earliest Greek papyrus, and the earliest mss in all the other versions. Why presume that it couldn't have been in the vorlage of Codex Schøyen?

  5. Daniel, Codex Schoyen does use the singular form, against the plural reading of NA-27. However, the translator does not translate with careful attention to individual words or with syntactical precision.

    Rather, the translator is more like someone spontaneously translating a sermon being preached--phrase for phrase, or maybe idea for idea, rather than a careful reproduction of syntax. If so, we can hardly state with confidence that the Vorlage had the singular.

    Given Codex Schoyen's frequent agreement with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus against the majority, I would not be surprised if Codex Schoyen's Vorlage had the plural.

    Here's what I wrote in the paper:

    Usually there is an assumption that the grammatical number of the translation text will correspond to its source text. But this may be an exception, for this is the sort of difference that can be explained through a translation technique which focuses on overall meaning and not on individual words and syntactical units. If the translator was not focusing on the particular verb form, its alteration easily could have happened since the identity of its subject was not provided in the initial phrase, or in the second phrase, or even in the third, but postponed to the fourth phrase. If variance of this sort could happen in the lesser task of manuscript reproduction, it is all the more likely to have happened at the point of translation given this technique. Thus, ascertaining the manuscript’s Vorlage for this passage is fraught with great difficulty. Codex Schøyen’s Vorlage may very well have had the plural, in agreement with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.