Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Conjecturing the Initial Text Where the Original Text Is Extant

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While pondering the relationship of the initial text and the original text (as one does), a thought experiment occurred to me. I shared it with a friend who was asking about the difference between the initial text and the original text. This caused my friend to groan—whether at my scenario or the distinction itself I’m not sure. See what you think.

First, definitions: (1) the “initial text” is that text which is the starting point for the extant textual tradition; and (2) the “original text” is that text which was written by the author. Given these definitions, it is possible that the initial text may need conjectural emendation at a point where the original text itself is extant.*

Let’s give a concrete example. It is possible that at 2 Peter 3.10, the conjecture† οὐχ εὑρεθήσεται is the best candidate for explaining the witnesses of the extant readings and that εὑρεθήσεται is the original text. This would require something like the following scenario, where O = the original text and A = the initial text:

Filled circles = extant witnesses; hollow circles = non-extant witnesses.

Now I readily admit that I can’t imagine how to convincingly argue for such a scenario. But I also can’t imagine any way to argue against it. And this makes me wonder whether there is any sense in distinguishing the initial text from the original text, at least in places where the initial text is conjectured.

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*Perhaps one caveat is necessary here. The thought experiment may only work in the context of a method like the CBGM where the relationships of entire witnesses are used to help judge the relationships of particular readings in those same witnesses.

†For the sake of argument we’ll define a “conjecture” as a reading with no Greek support.

20 comments :

  1. It's not really clear how you understand the initial text, but it looks like you're equating the initial text with the archetype, and I don't think that's right.

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  2. As Stephen says, your definition of "initial text" is not congruent with that of Mink & Co.

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  3. Mink (2011): "Initial text—The reconstructed form of text from which the manuscript transmission started. Different objectives of reconstruction are possible: [1] authorial text, [2] redactor’s text, or [3] the archetype of the tradition as preserved" (p. 143). Obviously #1 wouldn't work with my thought experiment, but #2 and #3 would, wouldn't they?

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    1. Why not just call it the "archetype" to make it clear? This is a clear case of scholars trying to change the meaning of common words to confuse people. 99.9% of people hearing "initial text" are going to think "original text."

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    2. Yep, exactly my thoughts! No wonder the average pastor/exegete seems to believe academia is only interested in reaching itself!

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  4. I know I will cause some backlash over this comment ;-) ...the splitting of hairs over the "initial text" and the "original text" is rather a moot point. Where there is no significant variation in the textual tradition, most theologians and scholars treat the extant text as the original text.

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  5. Peter, I've read your post again and I realize that I earlier misread your assignment of the readings to O and A. Unfortunately, I'm still confused by your question.

    The problem lies in your phrase "where the initial text is conjectured". There are two possible referent of the initial text. One is an actual text in history from which the manuscript tradition started. The other is the result of our critical operations, including conjecture, that is intended to reach the text of the former. The scenario sounds like the former, but the statement that there is a conjecture in it sounds like the latter. Who's doing the conjecture? The scribe of the initial text? Us?

    If it's the scribe of the initial text, I suppose it's possible for a later scribe to reverse the change. Maybe 2 Pet 3:10 wouldn't be a good example due to the difficulty of one of the readings in question, but you can imagine a scenario where Paul wrote "Christ Jesus", the scribe of the initial text wrote "Jesus Christ," and some later scribe reversed it again to "Christ Jesus."

    If the answer is us (or Muenster, or anyone else applying the CBGM), then it is certainly possible that we can be wrong in making that conjecture or any other textual decision for that matter.

    Or maybe you're thinking of something else?

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    1. Yeah, I meant “A” as a scholarly not a scribal conjecture. So "O" → "A" → "a" is the kind of textual reversal you describe.

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  6. The initial text should not be confused with the archetype of the extant tradition, neither wit the authorial text.

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    1. ECM2: "The term 'initial text' can be defined in several ways. The reconstructed text can be a hypothesis about (a) the text of the author, (b) the text of a redaction ..., or (c) the text of the archetype of the tradition of a writing or corpus.... Following the most simple assumption we claim that the present reconstruction is a hypothesis about the texts of the authors" (p. 30*). Confused yet? ;)

      Interestingly, this same page makes the point that conjectures are allowed for where the aim of the editor's reconstruction is the author's text. In this post I'm simply saying the reverse: where the initial text is conjectured, it makes little sense to define it as anything other than the author's text. Otherwise why bother conjecturing?

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    2. The act of conjectural emendation generally implies that the goal is the restoration of an authorial reading, especially to the extent the argument appeals to intrinsic probabilities, so if done accurately it does not make much sense see much difference between an initial text emended by conjecture and the author's text. I say "generally," because there is a certain kind of conjecture whose sole goal is to explain the extant readings by appeal to simple transcriptional probabilities.

      This kind of conjecture is mentioned in Krans et al.'s article on classifying conjectures. I can give an example from Galatians. At Gal 2:20, J. C. O'Neill, faced with τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ and τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ in the paradosis, conjectured that both are corruptions of an earlier unattested τοῦ θεοῦ. But it is far from clear that this a reading Paul would have actually written.

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    3. "The initial text should not be confused with the archetype of the extant tradition, neither wit the authorial text."

      So you're arguing that initial text is the "redactor's text"...why not call it that then? The phrase "initial text" should be banned, period. It just generated confusion.

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    4. No the term initial text seems to be used because it's a scholarly reconstruction of a text and we don't know if it's a redactor's text, an archetype text, an original text (what ever that means), or an authorial text. It's chosen because there is confusion and the term retains that confusion. I think Mike Holms article "From original text to initial text" sort of sums things up.

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    5. I do not think the term was not chosen to retain confusion.

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    6. Seems to me, after reading the paper referenced below that, at least for the author, the initial text, the Ausgangstext and the critical edidition are all the same!! In fact, it
      appears that Watchel would describe the critical text as representing something more than the Archetype as well. At the least, it appears that the goal of the critical edition is
      to represent the initial or Ausgangstext as closely as possible. It also appears that the
      real distinction is between the Authorial text which the author seems to believe is unknowable and the initial text which is earlier than the manuscript tradition which evolves from it.
      All of this, at least for the non-specialist, seems like it could be remedied if the experts would use a single term, Ausgangstext seems like the term that carries the least baggage.

      Tim

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    7. So, it appears to me that Gurry's original diagram makes good sense if we assume that in this case the Initial text is equal to the the Archetype, while acknowledging that the initial text is not itself the archetype!

      Tim

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    8. Dear Tim, Ausgangstext is the German equivalent of English "initial text"! Of course the critical text (of the ECM edition) is that text which the editors consider the initial text (or Ausgangstext if you prefer German).

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  7. This paper for the SNTS 2005 in Halle by Wachtel and Parker may be helpful for these distinctions: http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/754/

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  8. John, the term has been largely accepted, and presupposes that New testament textual criticism must deal with so-called contamination and therefore can not draw up a stemma of manuscripts in lachmannian sense in order to reach an archetype. The paper I mentioned provides more information.

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  9. Dr Wasserman,
    Thanks for your reply. I am aware that Ausgangstext is Deutsche for initial text. My point intended that the lack of uniformity in what initial, archetype and critical text mean could be clarified by use of a common term to describe initial and critical text. Since ausgangstext is mostly a "new" word for non-specialist and non-German speakers which actually means initial text it would seem to fit this bill.
    Of course, this word may well already have it own problems in definition.

    I appreciate the opportunity to hear what is going on in the scholarly world through ETC blog.
    Tim

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