Friday, February 12, 2010

Contemporary editorial corruption

Contemporary examples of the sort of scribal phenomena we find in ancient MSS sometimes offer interesting points of comparison. Herewith a recent example I experienced. In an essay for a composite volume I had written:
“In addition, nearly the whole New Testament could be reconstructed on the basis of quotations by ancient writers.”
Somewhere in the process between submission and page proofs, an anonymous editor, presumably educated and experienced, re-wrote it to read:
“In addition, nearly ancient writers could reconstruct the whole New Testament on the basis of quotations.”
Almost certainly a deliberate change--to recast the sentence from a passive to active form--and certainly nonsensical and amusing.


  1. That would form an interesting canon. It certainly wouldn't contain much of the Apocalypse.

  2. Andrew Wilson2/13/2010 10:08 am

    If that were a NT textual variant, I'm not sure how it could be classified as nonsensical. 'Nearly ancient' is neither grammatically, syntactically or even logically nonsensical. It makes LESS sense, and is therefore a lectio difficilior.

    If it was a deliberate change, then how is it possible for a deliberate alteration to the text to produce a more difficult reading?

    Such questionings, I know, are anathema, for the whole edifice of tc would collapse (tongue in cheek).

    I think that anyone copying (or editing) pieces of work makes these sorts of 'dumb alterations' every now and again, and that it is silly (no, naive in the extreme) to think otherwise. The same thing happened in the copying of the NT text more than people imagine. I have been copying out parts of the GNT (and translating them) recently, and I find myself often doing things that editors of the GNT rule out with language like, 'there is no good reason to explain why a copyist would have produced this'. I know I'm really hopeless at lots of things, but I didn't imagine I was as error-prone in simply copying text. Just possibly, some scribes were as hopeless as me?

  3. Fascinating. It changed the implication itself, not to mention, as already pointed out, making it sound rhetoric...

  4. Anon:
    "It certainly wouldn't contain much of the Apocalypse."

    This raises an interesting question: What constitutes a quotation? Andreas commented on the entire Apocalypse, and a substantial portion of extant r mss are actually his commentaries--and some of his commentary did make it into the canon, at least for those who grant the Textus Receptus, or any of its translations, canonical status.

    I often hear that such-and-such minuscule is a commentary ms, but seldom is there any information on the commentary, such as who it is attributed to, or how ancient it was at the time the ms was copied, or how it relates textually to the commentary in other mss.

    Methinks this is an area of investigation still waiting to be explored.

  5. Buck: "Methinks this is an area of investigation still waiting to be explored."

    Actually, most commentary MSS have been identified as to the commentator. See von Soden's list, Kommentarcodices zu den Evangelien (I:1.249-289), where he identifies individual MSS containing the various commentaries, whether surrounding or interspersed with NT text.

    Specifically noted therein are MSS containing the commentaries or catenae from Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Victor of Antioch, Titus of Bostra, Euthymius Zigabenus, Theophylact, Oecumenius, Andreas, Niketas, Theodoret, John of Damascus, Arethas, Maximus, as well as various anonymous commentaries, catenae, or hermeneia.

  6. Andrew Wilson2/18/2010 2:59 am

    Another way to catch dumb mistakes being made is to read the Bible out loud with someone.

    I read the Bible with my wife, and although (I assure you) it is usually my wife who makes the clangers (she made a funny mistake a week ago that I can't remember now), yet a few nights ago, I misread Psalm 83:17 as 'Let them be dumbfounded and dismayed' instead of 'Let them be confounded and dismayed'.

    I suppose I notice these sort of reading mistakes because it is quite common for people to skip lines when reading out loud (and I particularly notice that one because of an eccentric interest I have in HT errors). People don't make so many errors when reading publicly in church because they are concentrating hard, but when they are reading in a relaxed environment, or particularly if they are tired at the end of the day, dumb things happen.

  7. This is exactly the kind of corruption offered by Microsoft Word's grammar checker feature. One reason I always have grammar checker disabled. Word apparently wants to commit voicicide, eliminating the passive voice from our planet.