Congratulations Dr. Wettlaufer!
This dissertation is a study of conjectural emendation as it relates to the text of the New Testament. Unlike many other ancient documents upon which textual criticism must be practiced, the New Testament has a rich and full textual history. Over the last two millennia it has inspired thousands of generations of copies, through which an astonishing amount of corruption has accumulated. Many counts suppose the total number of variants to be over 350,000. At most points it appears that the correct reading can be found in one of the close to 6000 manuscript copies that survive to this day. At a not-insignificant number of other points, however, none of the extant readings appears to be authentic. Such cases therefore call for resolution by conjecture, but in the history of New Testament scholarship the method has often been rejected, and modern printings of the text usually settle for the least inferior of the surviving readings. Why has this situation developed, and what should be done about it?
This dissertation will answer these questions by looking more closely at a number of different subjects. In chapter one it will engage in a more theoretical study of conjectural emendation. It will describe the nature and practice of the method in more detail, survey the history of its use and abuse within New Testament studies, and discuss its use by textual critics in other classical fields. It will then delve into three common reasons why New Testament critics have often rejected the method: 1) the hypothesis that the large number of surviving manuscript copies ensures that the correct reading necessarily survives somewhere among them; 2) the theological belief that God has providentially preserved the original text in one or more of the surviving manuscripts; 3) the philosophical position that textual critics should not privilege any one “original text,” by conjecture or otherwise, but should value instead the narrative revealed in the history of variation. It will then conclude with more practical instructions on when and how to make conjectures. The remaining chapters will move the discussion into concrete terms by engaging in several case studies from the epistle of James. In chapter two it will look at Jas 3:1 with its curious command that μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε. and subsequently argue that the text should be emended to read μὴ πολύλαλοι διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε. Chapter three will turn to the famous conjecture of Erasmus, who proposed that the text of 4:2 be emended to read φθονεῖτε instead of φονεύετε. Chapter four explores how a long lost scriptural quotation can be rediscovered by emending πρὸς φθόνον to πρὸς τὸν θεόν. Finally, chapter five will look at what not to do by examining a farreaching conjectural proposal that would omit as interpolations the references to Christ in 1:1 and 2:1. Through these case studies, many of the ideas and truths that were explained in chapter one only in abstract will be seen to flow naturally from the texts themselves. In the end, all of this should work to restore in New Testament studies the place of conjectural emendation, and in so doing work to restore the text of the New Testament itself.