Evangelical Textual Criticism

Monday, February 04, 2013

Reading the Earliest Copies of 2 Peter

T. Callan, 'Reading the Earliest Copies of 2 Peter' Biblica 93.3 (2012), 427-450.

Summary: An examination of the three earliest extant copies of 2 Peter (namely those found in Papyrus 72, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) is made in order to determine how the meaning of 2 Peter is affected by differences among the three copies, especially the textual variations among them. These textual variations produce significantly different understandings of Jesus in the three copies of 2 Peter, as well as other less prominent differences in meaning.

Some notes: 
 This is an interesting attempt to read the early manuscripts and detect tendencies within their peculiar readings, especially in relation to Christology. Although it is not very well-informed about text-critical matters, utilises a method I would regard as fundamentally flawed, and misses some significant data, it does raise some interesting questions.

The article contains a number of errors and misleading statements. E.g. that Ehrman and Royse follow the same approach to variants and theological tendencies (p. 427 note 2), that the pages of P72 are half the size of those of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, that Sinaiticus is lacking all of Genesis to 1 Chronicles, that Sinaiticus has 47 lines of text per column. He also adopts disputed positions without considering any alternatives, e.g. that the same scribe wrote Jude and 1&2 Peter in P72, that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are from the same scriptorium. These are a little irritating, but don't impact the overall argument very much.

As for method the intention seems to be to consider what '2 Peter would have meant to the readers of each one [manuscript]. My concern will be the meaning of the manuscripts as they stand.' (p. 428). But attention is only given to variants between the manuscripts readings and the text of UBS4. It is a bit like a severe form of redaction criticism which assumes the reader moved from one "significant" variant reading to the next "significant" variant reading, and doesn't treat the text as a whole. In addition he is rather inconsistent in deciding to treat the corrected text of Sinaiticus (except when a text is dotted for omission). On this basis the corrected text is not as early as he thinks, and since he is reading both original words dotted for omission and other corrections, he would seem to be reading a text that no one in antiquity actually ever read.

As for missed data it is rather striking that no attention is given to matters such as punctuation, paragraphing, ennumerating, and such matters, even to the extent of missing the marginal notes or thematic summaries found at 2 Peter 2.1, 15; 3.3, 14 which would seem to have pretty clear implications for how the text could/would be read (see e.g. T. Nicklas and T. Wasserman, Theologische Linien im Codex Bodmer Miscellani?, New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (ed. T. J. Kraus and T. Nicklas; Leiden: Brill, 2006), 161-188, pp. 183f [have you got this online Tommy?]). He also doesn't make any thing very significant of the attachment of 2 Peter to 1 Peter in these three manuscripts (on which cf. the excellent treatment in R.W. Wall, “The Canonical Function of Second Peter,” Biblical Interpretation 9/1 (2001) 64-81). 

Having said all that by way of disappointment (especially with whatever editorial processes are happening at Biblica at the moment), there are some observations that are definitely worth thinking about. Here I would note: a) the possibility that P72's reading at 2 Peter 1.12 might be integrated into its general interest in divine Christology; b) the possibility that Sinaiticus exhibits the reverse tendency (2 Peter 1.1, 3, 14); and c) whether the proposed ethical distinctives (for P72 and Sinaiticus) are present or really significant


6 comments:

  1. You don't think Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were made at the same scriptorium? I do; the only alternative being, istm, that they were made with the involvement of a copyist who moved from one scriptorium (where Vaticanus was made) to another scriptorium (where Sinaiticus was made).

    How do you account for all the common features, the "signature" designs of the coronis at the ends of books, the shared marginalia in Acts, and all the other things noted by Harris, Lake, and Skeat?

    Does this not all point in the same direction, leaving any other option merely imaginable?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't know. I doubt it. I haven't found the arguments in support convincing so I certainly don't assume it. Similarities have to be balanced with differences.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Peter,

    Can you enlighten us somewhat as to your "disappointment...with whatever editorial processes are happening at Biblica at the moment"?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't mean to sound overemphatic (although I know this is going to), but, have you not found them convincing, or have you just not found them? Have you considered, cumulatively, all the observations about this by Harris and Lake and Skeat, and the comparison of the marginalia in Acts in "Euthaliana"? What differences do you have in mind that could sufficiently counter all that?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Re Maurice's comment: firstly internal to this paper, it would have been helped if an editor with good knowledge of the field had been involved. I have no personal knowledge of the editorial situation, and I would not like to upset anyone. More generally I would say that there was a time when Biblica was one of the top journals in the field, but I doubt it is still there now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Re James' comment: doubtless you are right that I can't recall all the arguments and evidence and have probably never read them all in cumulative order. Doubtless you have a compelling summary to share. Go for it.

    ReplyDelete