Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, September 07, 2012

Inaugural meeting of editorial committee

Yesterday felt like a historic occasion when the editorial committee of the Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament (THEGNT) had its first meeting to review the Pauline corpus. Tyndale House plans to release the electronic text of THEGNT freely in late 2013 to accompany its forthcoming interlinears of the Scripture Tools for Every Person (STEP) programme. At first the text, and only the text, will be available electronically. We are hoping to release the text in hard copy with apparatus and commentary in 2016.

THEGNT presents a revised text based on the edition of Tregelles and following documentary principles. The meaning of this phrase will be expounded later. Dirk Jongkind is primarily responsible for the initial revision and his editorial decisions are then being reviewed by Peter Head and Peter Williams. The three of us form the editorial committee.

One of the exciting features of THEGNT will be the presence of words not found in Greek dictionaries, concordances, or grammars. One could be provocative and say that this is because these sources have spelled them wrongly, but one might perhaps say that the standards of spelling used in the earliest manuscripts sometimes consistently differ from those used by modern editors, and that the documentary evidence suggests that the 'non-standard' spellings are not scribal innovations.

Whatever else one may say, sitting down to discuss the text of the New Testament with learned colleagues is incredibly enjoyable. I look forward to next month's meeting.

39 comments:

  1. Do you plan on including punctuation, accents, breathing marks, or nomina sacra?

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  2. As I'm interested in paratextual elements we are going to present original material on these matters. Unfortunately because of timescale the 2013 electronic edition will have to retain punctuation and accents close to those of Tregelles. Tregelles' text is, to my view, rather overpunctuated. So there is room for improvement here and that is what we plan (DV) to do in the 2016 printing. We will not have any information on neumes.

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  3. Interesting. Also like how the acronym forms the definite article, like a subtle way of establishing your definitude!

    question: is the edition open to including conjectures, either in the text or apparatus?

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  4. Ryan, we're only going to present what is in documents. We won't be claiming to present the autographic text, but the text from extant documents.

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  5. I look forward to this with interest!

    Any particular reason you are starting with the Pauline corpus rather than, say, the gospels?

    Julie

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  6. That's interesting to see you make the distinction between an autographic text and an earliest attested text.

    Am I right to assume, though, that at most points you would consider the two to be one and the same?

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  7. A question. Since you are aiming at the spelling used in textual witnesses, what about the Koine/Attic variations?

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  8. Julie, we reckon Paul is easier.

    Ryan, yes, we believe that in most places it is rational to believe that they are identical. Of course, there are things in life which it is rational to believe which you cannot prove.

    You cannot prove that the text hasn't changed because that would be to prove a negative. Thus it is really a question of having no reason to think that the text has changed.

    I have to say that this is the case in 'most place'. However, there are places where the earliest attested text might be a nomen sacrum and there are grounds to believe that the author/amanuensis did not use one.

    Even aside from that we would not assume that the totality of what we print is the autographic text. It is simply that we see our role as editors as to present the text on the basis of the documentary evidence we have and we choose to restrict ourselves to that.

    Timo, yes, Attic/Koine variants are most interesting. It's not possible to generalize on our decision. We wouldn't want to reject an Attic reading if it has the overwhelming support of the documents. So it comes down to decisions about scribal habit and several factors may be at play.

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  9. P.J. Thanks for the info. You may then want to take a look at my doctoral work completed a few years ago, in which I argued for the "originality" of several Koine readings in some textual units, AND the "originality" of some Attic readings elsewhere. I concluded that the decisions must be made on case by case basis, and in light of what can be known of the general Greek usage of the first two centuries.

    Well, I am looking forward to see this version.

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  10. "One of the exciting features ..."

    I don't know what is so exciting about spelling variants. Well ...

    But I welcome every new Greek text. I hope you'll spend most of your precious time on the *important* variants. I am looking forward to your treatment of "documentary evidence".

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  11. Thanks PJ,

    I agree with you that, at the vast majority of points, the earliest attested text (herein "the eat", since I'm so fond of food analogies) would be identical to the autographic text.

    My thoughts are about those points, however, where they are not the same (and while I think we differ on quantity of those points, in the grand scheme I don't think we're actually very far apart on the theory of this).

    Let's put it this way, when you say you're going to reconstruct the eat, what are you really saying but that you're going to reconstruct the text as it was found in around the second century, yes? And that's a fine thing to do.

    But, to be hypothetical here for a minute, why should we reconstruct and publish the second century text instead of, say, the fifth century text? Or the 14th century text? After all, the fifth century text could probably be considered more powerful (in a political sense) than the second century text and was certainly read by more people than the second century text. The 14th century text arguably influenced modern society more, through its eventual manifestation as the KJV. So why would we choose the second century text?

    I'd guess that your answer would be the same as mine: we go for the second century text because we believe it has the strongest relationship to the autographic text. In fact, as we already agreed, at most points they are one and the same. So we pick the second century text over, say, the fifth or 14th century text because the metric we're using is not political power, popularity or cultural influence but the relationship to the autographic text.

    But if that relationship is the rationale for privileging (and printing) the eat, then wouldn't it seem necessary to be upfront and open about those points where we think that relationship might not exist to the same degree?

    You may not want to go as far as offering conjectured solutions to those points, but shouldn't we at least mark them, identify them, and say that "hey, at this point here, we think the eat might have diverged from the autographic text"?

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  12. Wieland, people may well have different interests from my own and judge rather differently what an 'important' variant is. We're not going to focus merely on semantically important variants.

    Ryan, I suppose it depends what you see as an editor's job. We're not aiming for a 2nd century text, because in those places where 2nd century papyri do not survive it's easier to know a 1st century text than a 2nd, because one is seeking to discover archetypes.

    I suppose I'd say that we would seek to print the archetypal readings, rather than the readings of the (singular) archetype. In other words, in each variant unit one reading normally is the archetype of the others. So we seek to move from documents to archetypal readings.

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  13. I see what you're saying, PJ, but I think the thrust of my question would still apply.

    Why, for example, would we privilege the archetype of a tradition? A latter form in the tradition may have been more popular, sacred, etc., so why would we privilege the archetype? Isn't the answer the same as before? That we privilege the archetype because of the perceived relationship between it and the autographic text?

    And I think that is a good reason to privilege the archetypal text, but that still leaves me concerned about those places in the text where we think that relationship does not exist.

    Unless we are upfront about those places, I think the reader will get the wrong impression about the nature of the text they are reading.

    Interestingly enough, just finishing an overdue book review today, and came upon this line from barbara aland:
    "The initial text is a hypothetical, reconstructed text, as it presumably and hypothetically existed, before beginning its journey throughout history to be copied over and over again. The initial text corresponds to a hypothetical witness (A=Ausganstext). The initial text is not identical with the original text, the text of the author. Between the autograph and the initial text considerable changes may have taken place for which there may not be a single trace in the surviving textual tradition" (Translating the New Testament, p. 17).

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  14. Ryan, there's always the offchance that people will read the preface and thereby understand the nature of the text presented!

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  15. A problem with different spelling is that if you do text comparisons in Bibleworks or other programs you will get many hits for differences, which are simply spelling differences. I am not sure if this is helpful. I suggest to create at least as an alternative a version using the standard orthography.

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  16. Of course, though in a properly tagged text you can "search on lemma". I'm afraid that our own tagging will probably come much later, so others will be welcome to beat us to it.

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  17. It occurs to me to mention that if you release an electronic edition of the text with tags, I hope you have decided to use XML rather than some original tagging method. Being able to query an XML document like this would be immensely helpful!

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  18. Aye, but that will be a decision for much later.

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  19. I wouldn't bet on that PJ!

    All the same, I would wonder what the point is.

    Sure, at each point of variation you print the archetype of the ms tradition. But unless you are also convinced that the archetype is, at that point, the same as the autographic text, then what is the point of it? It may be the archetype of the tradition (NB. the *surviving* tradition) but if it is not the same as the autographic text, then it is simply a scribal reading. Why should we privilege a secondary scribal reading over the authorial text? (even a conjectured reconstruction of the authorial text)

    That question is even more salient, I think, for evangelicals, since we tend to invest a lot of theological importance in that autographic text.

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  20. Ryan wrote:

    "But unless you are also convinced that the archetype is, at that point, the same as the autographic text, then what is the point of it?"

    This is the default epistemology of many on the original text. Unless you 'know' for certain that something is the original then you should not think of it as the original.

    Folks like Matthew Henry in the past saw the original as in a contrastive relationship with a translated text and presumed that what they didn't know was secondary was original.

    I think that there's no reason to insist that unless you are certain that something is original that it is wrong to have the working assumption (i.e. presumption) that it is.

    Bart Ehrman likes to ask for proof that something hasn't changed (thereby asking his audiences to prove a negative) but this already shifts the burden of evidence towards a presumption of non-identity. I simply don't buy that. I hold that it is rational to presume certain things to be original which one cannot prove to be such.

    Many beliefs in life are rational, evidence based and unprovable.

    Now obviously one would not want to print something when one knew of an extant text which showed an earlier form.

    I don't suppose NT authors wrote with nomina sacra, but I don't think that the fact that manuscripts contain these and the authorial text probably didn't leads to saying that one is presenting a conjectural text.

    Evangelicals are interested in the autographic text, but for some reason some of them are gripped by an irrational Angst that if they are not able to prove its every particular that the very idea of authoritative autographic wording is problematic.

    Second Temple Jews both believed in authoritative writings and knew of the problems in copying. Belief in one does not logically reduce belief in the other.

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  21. PJ,

    "This is the default epistemology of many on the original text. Unless you 'know' for certain that something is the original then you should not think of it as the original."

    I think we might be starting to talk past each other, or I'm mumbling again, one of the two, because that is, I think, the opposite of what I am trying to get at.

    I'm not talking about knowing the autograph with some existential certainty, and I don't think that's even possible.

    A great many things, most things maybe, we will not be able to know with much of any certainty, but there comes a time when we go with it and move on -- not because we're certain about the premise, but because we can't dither any more, we need to move on. So we settle for close enough. That is, I think, a necessary part of human epistemology.

    And reconstructing the autograph is certainly one of those things. We'll never know for certain that "this" or "that" is exactly what Paul or John said, but at some point we have to settle for close enough, because we have to print some text, and we have to preach on some text.

    But even conceding all that, our goal - that proverbial reach that surpasses our grasp - is to reconstruct that autograph as closely humanly possible.

    That quest starts with evaluating the surviving mss and arriving at the archetype of the tradition. And once we have settled on that a-text, if our feel of it is that it is close enough, then fine, let's print it and move on.

    But if we discover some good reasons to think that our a-text is not close enough - that there's a problem with it - then should we really be moving on then? Or should we be at least trying to see what we can do about that.

    I hope it's clear that personally I think the latter, which is why I push for conjectures at those points where I think I've found reason to suspect all surviving mss of corruption.

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  22. Make sure you consider Stephen Carlson's case for "he came" at Gal 2:12. See pages 162-164 in his dissertation here: http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/10161/5597/Carlson_duke_0066D_11426.pdf?sequence=1

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  23. "But if we discover some good reasons to think that our a-text is not close enough - that there's a problem with it - then should we really be moving on then? Or should we be at least trying to see what we can do about that."

    First, I don't see it as necessarily an editor's (or my own) responsibility to present the world with the autographic text. If God has seen fit to give us the materials to do so, fine. If not, it may be a good indication he's not calling us to do it.

    Secondly, the protestant (and consequently classic evangelical) cry of Sola Scriptura implies the need for written tradition. It is not that prots reject all tradition, but that they reject the claim to absolute authority of all tradition outside the scriptural tradition.

    Now the problem with conjectural emendations which are known to be such is that by definition they are known not to have come to us from another tradent. A prot's conscience might be bound by the wording found in an early papyrus because it is external to her. But it is difficult for one's conscience to be bound by something which one has created.

    Finally, under the old UBS scheme I guess a conjecture would get a [D]. It's hard to imagine one's confidence arising even towards 50% that this was 'the original text'. So here again the questions of conscience, authority and method raise themselves. An authority to which one submits must be external. One can submit one's conscience to a reading which looks less than 50% probable but which is attested in manuscripts because one submits to an external control or method, which dictates that you take the most probable attested reading. I don't see how that could work with a conjecture.

    So coming back to your original question -- and here I paraphrase -- what's the point of printing a text if you think it is probably not the original (i.e. probability <0.5)?

    I don't think my own level of certainty decides the authority question. Humans are uncertain of all sorts of things which are themselves (from God's perspective) absolutely certain. So I'm not looking for a text of which I personally am certain, so much as committing myself to partake in the passing on of wording which I have received (in manuscripts).

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  24. What approach is being used to decide the text (i.e. CBGM, Reasoned Eclecticism, etc)?

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  25. Thanks for your response, PJ, and I should say how much I am enjoying this exchange with you.

    To your points,

    My first thought is that I think it is our job to present the world with (our best approximation of) the autographic text.

    I think that on two levels.

    First, academically, I think that is simply the primary goal of the field of textual criticism. As Holger Strutwolf said in toronto a few years ago, "The most important task of textual criticism is to reconstruct the original text." There are other tasks within the field of textual criticism, and I think one of the most valuable corrections that have been provided to the field in recent years is to establish the value of those secondary tasks. Exploring the practices of scribes, or the social/theological backgrounds of the groups who read and used the scriptures, and so on. Those are all important jobs, and they show that a variant reading's value does not vanish when it is declared secondary. But all those tasks are nevertheless still secondary to and depend on the primary task of the field, which is to establish as best as we can the autographic text.

    But second, I also think this to be true theologically. It is interesting to hear you say "If God has seen fit to give us the materials to do so, fine. If not, it may be a good indication he's not calling us to do it." In my dissertation, I look at the same premise (the state of the modern mss base) and conclude that the implication is the opposite: that rather than dropping down to us a text fait accompli, he has left it for us and intended for us to do it. I'll quote myself here:

    "While text critical scholarship has been able to demonstrate that at most points of variation the authorial text has probably survived, as this present project will show there are nevertheless some points of the text where this is likely not the case. At these points both the deficient nature of the text and the uncertainty of its interpreters points to the fact that the possibility of loss has there become a probability. All of this means that if we assume that God did inspire the text, the truth must be that he subsequently chose to let it sink into a sea of variation and loss. Rather than denying this, a constructive theology would seize the opportunity to ask why God would choose to allow this state of affairs to arise, and what it might indicate about his intentions. What does it show about his intent for the New Testament text, and how he intended that text to be manifested among its readers? One natural conclusion could be that he intended to have it recovered by textual critics, and at points where the original has been lost, through the art of conjectural emendation."

    All this to say, I don't think that this new edition should be satisfied with, at each point, the archetypal text of the manuscripts that happened to have survived. I think it should stand up to a higher calling, even if that means being less certain in the results.

    I have some other thoughts on authority, but I'll type those up later.

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  26. "One natural conclusion could be that he
    intended to have it recovered by textual critics, and at points where the
    original has been lost, through the art of conjectural emendation."

    Ha, ha, ha ...
    This can only be the "natural conclusion" of a textual critic!

    I don't know what the "real" natural conclusion exactly is, we have to draw, but I have some ideas ...

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  27. Ok, I lied, I won't wait till later, I'll post them now!

    I like how you zero in on the issue of authority, and I agree that it is a central matter here.

    I do not agree though that the measure of authority should be externality.

    As Toronto mayor Rob Ford is currently learning, if the law is the law, then it is the law, even if you are the one who helped make it!

    And following that, what is it that makes the law authoritative? Is that it came from outside of me? No. What makes it authoritative is the power structure that stands behind it. In this case, the courts and the police.

    Similarly with scripture, it's authority comes not from its externality but from the empowering it receives through the Holy Spirit that stands behind it.

    That is why, of course, the authority of scripture transcends any written form of it, and why, broadly speaking, the written form is somewhat secondary anyway. Jesus did not write, but preached. The apostles primarily preached, and when they wrote, I'm not convinced they thought they were writing scripture. Their primary m.o. was the spoken word, and the church only turned to the written form of that as a practical necessity.

    But even then, the shortage of written copies (compared to today) and the dominant illiteracy ensured that for most of human history most humans have encountered scripture's authority through the spoken word. What we have counted on for authority, then, is not the written form of the scriptures, but the Spirit that can work through them.

    It's no wonder then that Paul emphasizes the task of preaching. And preaching is perhaps a good analog for our task as textual critics. The preacher never deludes himself that he will offer the single, definitive and most certain interpretation of his text, yet he preaches his best approximation anyway, and counts on the Spirit to empower that in the lives of the hearers. Can't we regard the quest to recover the original text in a similar manner?

    Moving on, I am a little confused though by what you actually mean by "external"? Do you mean external to me personally, or external to humankind? If the former, then I'm not sure in what way a conjecture is any less external. Yes, a conjecture was made by a human. But if the archetype of the mss is original, then the author wrote it. If it is secondary, then a scribe or reader wrote it. Either way, a human wrote it. And if a human made it, then how is it any different than a conjecture which a human made?

    You mention having confidence in a conjecture, and that is a valid point, but I wonder why you would have so much more confidence in the archetype of the mss? At a point of variation there are usually numerous ms options, and it is only through an exercise of your own scholarly ability that you write down which one you think represents the archetypal text. That written text, then, is not directly the archetypal text or even a ms text, but rather is a text mediated by your scholarly work. And that's not a bad thing (remember, I think that's the way God intended it) but it is what it is.

    I think I have a reasonable amount of confidence in our scholarly ability. I don't think I trust it too much, nor do I trust it too little. But I think I trust it the same amount and have about the same amount of confidence in it whether it is choosing one of a few existing variants, or choosing none of them and declaring the original to be lost.

    And in either case, my final trust cannot be in my scholarly conclusion, but in the Spirit that may or may not work through my scholarly work, yes?

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  28. Wieland,

    "Ha, ha, ha ...
    This can only be the "natural conclusion" of a textual critic! "

    Yes, I got a good laugh out of that too!

    P.J. and I are both of a similar belief, similar culture, similar education, and yet we can both look at the same facts and draw not just different, but 100% opposite conclusions! I don't know if that says more about us or about the enterprise of theological inference, but it was good for a smile either way.

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  29. Three posts in one day, I'm on a roll!

    Not trying to blow you away with my longwindedness, PJ, but I was just now working through some notes and came across an interesting quote from Bentley. Despite his extensive use of conjecture in his classical work, he declares that when it comes to the sacred Scriptures, he will stick to extant mss:

    "The author is very sensible, that in the sacred writings there is no place for conjectures or emendations… He declares, therefore, that he does not alter one letter in the text without the authorities subjoined in the notes"

    - Bentleii critica sacra, xviii.

    I think that's really interesting, that though he approves of conjectures in textual criticism in general, when it comes to the scriptures he appears to think there is something intrinsic to the authority of the scripture demands that he confine himself to written witnesses.

    It seems to be similar to your position, really.

    But I still think that it misses the source of the scriptures' authority, which is not in the fact that they are written, but that they are supported and empowered by the Spirit. And unlike Bentley, that Spirit is not confined to written sources, but can work through something as subjective as a preached sermon. And arguing to the stronger, if through a preached sermon, then surely a well researched conjecture.

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  30. Ryan said:

    My first thought is that I think it is our job to present the world with (our best approximation of) the autographic text.

    I agree. But we seem to differ on our criteria for judging what would be our best approximation of the autographic text. I believe that the probability that any specific conjecture for the NT is correct is less than 0.5, even though I concede that in the abstract the proposition that some conjectures somewhere are correct may have a probability of more than 0.5. Thus IMHO a specific conjecture is always more likely than not to take you further away from the autographic text of the NT.

    Therefore I basically agree with your quotation from Strutwolf.

    Ryan again:

    While text critical scholarship has been able to demonstrate that at most points of variation the authorial text has probably survived, as this present project will show there are nevertheless some points of the text where this is likely not the case. At these points both the deficient nature of the text and the uncertainty of its interpreters points to the fact that the possibility of loss has there become a probability.

    Demonstrating that it is likely that the text has been lost in some cases is quite different from demonstrating that it is likely that it can be restored.

    All of this means that if we assume that God did inspire the text, the truth must be that he subsequently chose to let it sink into a sea of variation and loss.

    I’m not sure what a “sea of variation and loss” is and what it means for a text to sink in one. It sounds bad. I don’t see why any choice of God would have to be “subsequent”. I also hold that it is possible for God to allow something to be “lost” (meaning unavailable to some or all humans) and then “found” (as when a manuscript is “discovered”).

    Rather than denying this, a constructive theology would seize the opportunity to ask why God would choose to allow this state of affairs to arise, and what it might indicate about his intentions.

    The term “a constructive theology” is obviously a case of providing a nice name for something one likes. However, one would need more evidence that it is theologically necessary or desirable to make this move.

    What does it show about his intent for the New Testament text, and how he intended that text to be manifested among its readers?

    We would also need to establish that this was going about the right way to establish Divine intent and whether there are any other means of deducing it.

    TBC

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  31. Part II:

    Ryan said:

    One natural conclusion could be that he intended to have it recovered by textual critics, and at points where the original has been lost, through the art of conjectural emendation.

    You assert a possibility. But you give no grounds for embracing the conclusion. So I’m awaiting evidence that we have reason to believe that it is God’s intention that we should use conjectural emendation in editions of the Greek New Testament.

    I recognise that I have not yet provided evidence that it is God’s intention that we should not use conjecture. That might be to argue too much. God gives freedom, and so a lot depends on what you are trying to achieve and what you claim about your edition. Rather than phrase things in terms of Divine intent, I would put it that the concept of ‘witness’ and ‘tradition’ (1 Cor. 15) are important within the NT, and that it is legitimate to wish to present an edition which is confined solely to what comes from witnesses which have been handed down.

    The case of a mayor who makes a law and then falls foul of it, is rather different from that of someone placing a conjecture in the text and then having their conscience bound (or not) by that conjecture. A mayor making a law may be a duly constituted authority with a right to make certain laws. For the analogy to work we would need to establish that the conjecturer was an authority properly authorized to place wording in the text.

    “Similarly with scripture, its authority comes not from its externality but from the empowering it receives through the Holy Spirit that stands behind it.”

    Actually, depending on what is meant by authority, it could come from both. The Holy Spirit can, of course, give authority (such as effectiveness) to words other than scripture. One’s conscience can also be bound by a belief that is wrong (Rom. 14:23). So one’s conscience might be bound by a wrong variant which one believed to be original but was not. This would be authoritative subjectively. My argument is that it is rather difficult subjectively to feel bound by one’s own creation in the case of conjectures placed in the NT because there is a question of authority. A manuscript might be deemed an authority because it is held to be a ‘witness’ to something earlier. We also speak of scholars, including conjecturers, as ‘authorities’, but this is really in the sense of ‘experts’. Whereas a manuscript can tell us something about the past on its own authority, a scholar cannot do so on his/her own authority alone, nor can a scholar declare some new fact to be a fact apart from evidence.

    So I’m not saying that for something to be subjectively authoritative it must be external to humanity, but that for it to be authoritative to me it must be external to me unless I have the ability to make something I’ve created into an authority (as a mayor making laws) or the ability to forget that I (or someone else) made the conjecture in the first place.

    I agree that one should trust the Holy Spirit’s work. The question is what means we should use to discern what that work is.

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  32. PJ wrote,

    "I’m not sure what a “sea of variation and loss” is and what it means for a text to sink in one."

    eh, just a rhetorical flourish. It's meant to make it sound bad.

    PJ again:
    "It sounds bad."

    mission accomplished! :)

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  33. PJ again:

    " I would put it that the concept of ‘witness’ and ‘tradition’ (1 Cor. 15) are important within the NT, and that it is legitimate to wish to present an edition which is confined solely to what comes from witnesses which have been handed down."

    you touched on this theme earlier, and I wanted to hit on it, but I thought my post was already too long! But here's another chance.

    I'm open to persuasion, but right now don't think the connection works.

    yes, we talk about manuscripts as "witnesses" and we even talk about the "paradosis," and so yes, there's a direct linguistic connection between what we talk about and the common NT theme of "witnesses" and the paradosis that Paul handed on which was handed down to him in 1 Cor 15, but I think that linguistic co-incidence is where the connection ends.

    First, it's worth noting that much of the NT talk about witnesses and tradition is likely referring to spoken tradition, not written.

    I did my masters thesis on this topic, actually, and in that I desperately and embarrassingly pressed the case for written tradition well past the breaking point, arguing for the existence of what I called "preformed confessional texts" under every rock and in every crevice (not literally, that's just another rhetorical flourish). All that to say, if anyone would be open to seeing NT paradosis as a precedent for the importance of written tradition, it would be me. Yet I don't think that precedent is there for you. These things were passed on, as were most things, primarily verbally. That's why they had to be pithy, poetic and memorable.

    But the fact that they were not written is, I think, only the less important difference between witnesses and tradition in the NT and the witnesses and tradition of our field of textual criticism. The more important difference is substantive. That is, the paradosis that Paul hands down in 1 Cor 15, what is that? It's a carefully crafted statement full of confession and theology. It has obviously been well thought out, and consecrated - so to speak - through use in the community. It is, in fact, those features which, in my judgement, give us reason to think that such paradosis was more than just the work of the men writing it, but was also the work of the Spirit.

    But are secondary manuscript readings in any way comparable to that? I don't see how. Rather than being deliberated and well crafted, many of them were mistakes and blunders. And if they were deliberated, they were only deliberated on by a single scribe (or reader) who either thought he was correcting a blunder, or was seeking to alter the text ideologically. Subsequently, that reading may have been used in a community, but not in the sense that Paul's paradosis was consecrated by one, but only in the sense that they wanted to read the scriptures and this ms over here was the only copy they had. In short, a secondary ms reading is simply the incidental work of a human scribe, and not likely the work of the Spirit. (I suppose, of course, that in some cases it may be, but that's a whole separate discussion).

    The bottom line there is that I see a big difference between the paradosis of 1 Cor 15 and the paradosis we talk about in textual criticism. One is the testimony of the Spirit, the other is just the surviving words of a scribe. The two are the same in name only.

    I don't see how then the existence of the former establishes a preference for the external written form of the latter.

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  34. ... continued:

    We are known as people of the book, and so we have a strong preference for things written. And while there's some good in that, I think it can also mislead us. Erasmus and the johannine comma is perhaps a good example. He knew it was a secondary reading, but when they miraculously presented him with a "witness" to it, he bowed to the written word. It may have been written, but it was no witness in the NT sense. It was just was some guy wrote.

    Getting back to conjectures, you are right that even the best conjecture will have a low percentage of confidence (though I think I would be willing to grant a much higher number than 0.5, but really I'd just be quibbling over degree). But you have to place that in context, and in the context of a scribal reading that I am 99.9% sure is secondary, then even 0.5% is a big improvement, and thus a step in the right direction.

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  35. One more thought (really, I'm just trying to compete with Peter Head's 50 comment record!)

    PJ wrote:

    "Therefore I basically agree with your quotation from Strutwolf."

    And yet, the ECM prints a conjecture at 2 Pet 3:10 precisely because the written archetype appeared to be secondary. That move is in accordance with what Strutwolf says his goal is, but you would disagree with it?

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  36. Ryan,

    I will leave it to you to work out how I can agree with what Holger said, like the ECM, and still choose to be involved in an edition which operates on somewhat different principles.

    I am interested to hear that during your Masters degree you were interested in non-extant text forms, just as you are now. I was interested in extant text forms during my Masters degree, and this interest remains.

    My appeal to the NT discussion of witnesses was an analogy, not a claim of identity.

    Any secondary reading has no absolute authority derived from divine inspiration. A secondary reading, when it is known to be secondary, also loses the subjective impression of authority it might have had for original-text-protestants before they knew it to be secondary. Consequently their consciences would not be bound by it. To my mind it is quite a serious thing if something does not have subjective authority, since it makes it hard for it to function as subjectively authoritative scripture.

    The Johannine Comma is a good example. It never had absolute authority, but for those who didn’t know it to be secondary but held themselves to be bound by the authority of scripture, it would have been wrong (in the Romans 14:23 sense) for them to have rejected it.

    Even when you're wrong, you still have to do what you believe to be right. This is where the Puritan insight of following your conscience is helpful.

    I would be interested to know what NT conjecture you believe has a greater probability that 0.5 of being the original.

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  37. "I am interested to hear that during your Masters degree you were interested in non-extant text forms, just as you are now. I was interested in extant text forms during my Masters degree, and this interest remains."

    I'm not quite sure how to take this line.

    But all the same, yes, I guess I have always enjoyed running out onto the limb.

    Technically speaking, though, my interest is not in "non-extant" text forms, but rather "no-longer extant" text forms. They are no longer written, but - if I'm correct - they once were.

    And in that sense, most textual critics, in history and still today, share my interest in no-longer extant text forms, since that category includes the original text itself.

    In any case - and this is where I will be coy - if you'd like to know which conjectures I think have a greater probability of being original, I'm afraid you'll have to wait and buy my book! ;)

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