Wednesday, April 04, 2012

B.J. Burkholder on John 1:18

In a recent article in Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, ZNW 103 (2012, pp. 64-83), Benjamin J. Burkholder is "Considering the Possibility of a Theological Corruption in Joh 1,18 in Light of its Early Reception". Citing Fenton J.A. Hort as a motto - "The always questionable suggestion of dogmatic alteration is peculiarly out of place here”, which has been challenged most notably by Bart D. Ehrman - he finally draws the conclusion that "when μονογενὴς θεός does become a litmus test for orthodoxy, it occurs at such a late date that it cannot aid in determining how the reading came into existence ... the extant evidence from early Alexandria does not provide any conclusive evidence that the variant in Joh 1,18 would have arisen from theological motives... the evidence suggests that a theological corruption is an unlikely explanation for the extant readings of Joh 1,18" (p.83).

4 comments:

  1. Probably true, unless we simply lack the evidence for a dogmatic blunder, because it has not survived to us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Martin,

    It is certainly worth reading this article. It has some useful discussions of the early reception. I certainly accept the negative strand of his conclusion: "the extant evidence from early Alexandria does not provide any conclusive evidence that the variant in Joh 1,18 would have arisen from theological motives". I would question the next step though: "the evidence suggests that a theological corruption is an unlikely explanation for the extant readings of Joh 1,18", since this would depend on having some other explanation as having more explanatory power than a theologically motivated corruption (which he has not shown).

    I also think that we can helpfully distinguish the origin of a variant from its later desirability/preferability among scribes who may have known two readings.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,

    There is a critical point that I would like to know if Burkholder addresses.

    The initial corruption (I believe from "Son" to "God", yet either way is good for the discussion)can be accidental, yet the maintenance as a minority reading could have doctrinal (e.g. gnostic) motivations.

    Once a textline is split, clearly doctrinal preferences (which may be seen simply as textual consistency) will be one factor in the scribal choice as to which variant to choose.

    Does Burkholder make a clear distinction between "initial corruption" and "ability for variant to maintain viability in the textline" ?

    This is absolutely critical to an informed discussion of such issues, and often I see writings that only conjecture what caused the initial variant.

    Thanks.

    Steven Avery
    Bayside, NY

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi,

    There is a critical point that I would like to know if Burkholder addresses.

    The initial corruption (I believe from "Son" to "God", yet either way is good for the discussion)can be accidental, yet the maintenance as a minority reading could have doctrinal (e.g. gnostic) motivations.

    Once a textline is split, clearly doctrinal preferences (which may be seen simply as textual consistency) will be one factor in the scribal choice as to which variant to choose.

    Does Burkholder make a clear distinction between "initial corruption" and "ability for variant to maintain viability in the textline" ?

    This is absolutely critical to an informed discussion of such issues, and often I see writings that only conjecture what caused the initial variant.

    Thanks.

    Steven Avery
    Bayside, NY

    ReplyDelete