Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thomas Kraus on Luke 14.5 and What We Need in Our Critical Editions

The March issue of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses has an article from Thomas Kraus exploring what text critics need in their critical editions with an interesting example from Luke 14.5. The article is “Kritische Ausgaben des Neuen Testaments und Textkritik: Anmerkungen anhand von Lk 14,5 als Testfall?” ETL 91.1 (2015): 111-130.

In the first part of the article, Kraus raises the following four questions which are then explored by way of Luke 14.5.
  1. What kind of data and how much do we need in our critical editions? Here he mentions the Internet Greek NT Project which “intends to collate and transcribe all extant manuscripts of the New Testament”—an ambitious goal to be sure!
  2. Must someone working on the text have all available variant readings? What about nonsense readings and how should such be determined?
  3. What role does the plausibility of the origin and development of a reading play in relation to the quantity and quality of witnesses that attest it? 
  4. Will the many possibilities of the internet make these first three questions obsolete? (I’m not sure I grasped how this relates to #3.)
Luke 14.5 is a good choice because Kraus discusses the possibility, suggested by Martin and Kasser in the editio princeps of P75, that the majority reading υἱὸς ἢ βοῦς (“a son or an ox”) was originally ὗς ἢ βοῦς (“a pig or an ox”). Martin and Kasser suggested that the original reading could have been corrupted by way of the supralinear line such that υϲ became the nomen sacrum υ̅ϲ̅. The problem with the reading, as Kraus acknowledges, is that none of our witnesses attest υϲ without the supralinear line.

Luke 14.5 in P75
Luke 14.5 in P75

Regardless of the preferred reading, this serves as a good example for raising questions about the data we need in our critical editions. It would take an astute reader to think of this explanation just from the Nestle apparatus. Kraus himself introduces it by way of Swanson whose preservation of nomina sacra makes it easier to see. Obviously no apparatus can do your textual criticism for you, but how much does it need to do to really serve its purpose? And when does the amount of data outpace its own usefulness? I suspect these questions will keep editors busy for many years to come—internet or not.

Here is the abstract:
The new generation of critical editions of the New Testament – Nestle-Aland 28 and Greek New Testament 5 – are brilliant tools with a selection of variae lectiones and main attestation. At the same time, textual criticism is in danger of becoming obsolete among students and scholars alike and is even sometimes regarded as having become redundant at all. With the help of a famous case study (Luke 14,5: ‘son’, ‘donkey’, ‘sheep’, or ‘pig’) the significance of systematic and methodical textual criticism for the interpretation of the text of the New Testament is demonstrated. The assessment of manuscripts and variants and the plausibility of the genesis of variants are pivotal for subsequent hermeneutics. Consequently, some shortcomings of critical editions with incomplete apparatuses become apparent, which prompts the question how a ‘perfect’ edition of the New Testament should look like. In addition, the exegete gets to know something about the various texts that circulated in early Christianity.
Also I noted in one of Kraus’s footnotes a reference to the work of Lorenza Savignago on eisthesis and ekthesis which looks like it could be interesting (reviewed in BMCR here).


  1. I'd like to see more context for that photo

  2. Isn't it obvious that the word is supposed to be an animal and not a son? I mean the point of the statement is that these guys care more about animals than people, so how could son be right? It surprising looking at the translations on biblegateway.com, how many of them actually say son. Face palm.

  3. The conjectural ὗς seems quite unlikely given the illustrative and exemplary context of the statement, being made to Jewish lawyers and Pharisees (Lk 14.3) -- none of whom would be likely even to own a pig, let alone have any major concern about rescuing such.

    1. And so the lectio difficilior as Kraus suggests (if I'm remembering right).

    2. Yet, isn't this an example where the lectio difficilior so difficult that we should not accept it?


    3. Obviously ὗς would be the lectio difficilior if it ever could be shown to be an actual lectio as opposed to a bald conjecture.

      Even were that the case, such a reading still would not overcome the greater difficulty of historical credibility within a Jewish theological perspective. As it stands, the only reading that truly is "more difficult" in the context is υιος.

  4. There seems to be a multilinear erasure near the end of the line; βου̣ς and ευθεω̣ς are vid. at best.

  5. 02, 03 and 032 all have YIOC fully spelled out. So if YC (pig) was the original, how did it become YIOC, then become YC with the supralinear line?

  6. Answering my own question, I guess they would have to say that at some point those majuscules were copied from an exemplar that displayed YC with the supralinear line, and instead of perpetuating the nomina sacra, they spelled YIOC out fully. Is that likely? I had thought usage of nomen sacrum tended to grow and not shrink throughout the centuries?