Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ETC Interview with John Karavidopoulos

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It is a pleasure for me to introduce our next interview. John (Ioannis) Karavidopoulos (1937–) is Emeritus Professor of the Theological School of Aristotle and is best known among English-speaking scholarship for his membership on the editorial committee of the UBS Greek New Testament. He has written numerous articles and books during his career and it is a real honor to interview him here.


Peter Gurry: Can you tell us about how you came to the academic study of the Bible and, in particular, what led you to textual criticism?

John Karavidopoulos: As you know the Bible is the basis of Christian belief and life. All the other disciplines of Christian theology are based on the Bible. So the academic study of the Bible gives you the opportunity to get into the heart of theology. Personally, as a Greek theologian, I was attracted to textual criticism because I think that the different readings of the manuscripts prove the richness of Christian tradition.

[PG] What is the academic study of the New Testament like in Greek Universities both in your experience and now in view of the current financial situation?

[JK] In both Greek university theological faculties (in Athens and Thessaloniki) as well as in all the ecclesiastical high schools, the academic study of the Bible is a fundamental discipline in which the support of the Orthodox Tradition (Fathers of the Church, liturgical life etc). And, of course, with the knowledge of modern international Biblical scholarship, Greek biblical scholars can be in contact and in dialogue with their colleagues all over the World. Especially in the current difficult financial situation, the Bible gives comfort and support to the Greek people.

Do you have a favorite edition of the Greek New Testament? Do you use a critical text in your study and an ecclesiastical text in church and in prayer? How does that work out?

The academic teaching and the scholarly work are based, of course, on the critical editions of the New Testament (NA28/UBS5) although in the Church and in prayer we use the patriarchal edition of the byzantine text. This causes no problem at all. All modern Greek translations of the New Testament are based on the Byzantine Text because people are familiar with this type of text. The Greek people know the byzantine text type and cite it from memory in everyday speech.

If I’m not mistaken, you joined the UBS editorial committee in 1981 along with Barbara Aland. How did you come to join the committee?

I was invited by the late professor Kurt Aland to join the committee because he and the rest of the editorial committee wanted an Orthodox member. So I accepted, not without some hesitation. In the end, I do think that I contributed to the enrichment of the critical apparatus with many byzantine reading which, in limited cases, were also adopted in the text.

Greek Lecture on Jesus


Dr. Karavidopoulos speaking at the 2nd General Pastoral Assembly of the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias on “What can we really know about the earthly presence of Jesus Christ historically?”

Can you give us any sense for what the committee meetings were like? How long they lasted, how frequently they met, the personalities involved, particular passages you fought over, etc.?

This is a difficult question to answer. The committee did not meet very frequently, but I was given the financial possibility to set up a group of collaborators in the University of Thessaloniki with the purpose of collating a select number of byzantine manuscripts. I fought especially for New Testament verses which are very familiar to the Greek Orthodox audience because of their liturgical use (e.g., Mark 9.29: “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting”). But I did not succeed in many cases.

A few years ago, you met with a team from CSNTM digitizing manuscripts in Zagora, Greece. How do you think such easy access to so many manuscript images will change the discipline of NT textual criticism?

I appreciate very much the work of CSNTM and of professor Dan Wallace and I helped as much as I could to facilitate their task in photographing manuscripts in Greece in spite of the understandable negation of some Greek institutions. I hope that their work will contribute to the discipline of New Testament textual criticism.

Last year, a new UBS committee was announced. Having been part of the previous committee, is there any advice you would give the new members as they begin their work?

The only thing I can say is that some short byzantine Readings could be adopted by the committee of which I am no longer a member.

From your vantage point, what aspects of the NT’s transmission are most in need of serious investigation?

The byzantine text type must be more seriously investigated.

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Many thanks to Dr. Karavidopoulos for his time!

27 comments :

  1. What a timely interview Peter!

    Prof. Karavidopoulos' desire in his ending comment of your interview is exactly what we are doing at CSPMT. In October, immediately following our meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul we will be visiting several monasteries on Mt. Athos. We will also be completing Greek lectionary edition research while in Athens.

    Byzantine text MSS, editions and their various textual nuances are still largely ignored by those inclined to hold a reasoned eclectic position on the text of the NT. However, the Byzantine text continues to be our primary focus of attention at CSPMT.

    We will be posting more on our visitation and findings after our return from Mt. Athos.

    Paul Anderson
    CSPMT

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  2. Who are the members of the new UBS committee?

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  3. The committee consists of:

    Prof. Dr. Christos Karakolis, University of Athens
    Prof. Dr. David Parker, University of Birmingham
    Prof. Dr. Stephen Pisano, Päpstliches Bibelinstitut Rom
    Prof. Dr. Holger Strutwolf, Universität Münster
    Prof. Dr. David Trobisch, Museum of the Bible/Green Collection Oklahoma City
    Dr. Klaus Wachtel, Universität Münster

    http://www.academic-bible.com/en/home/scholarly-editions/greek-new-testament/new-editorial-committee/

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  4. I don't think that the Byzantine tradition is ignored at all: Wachtel's work on the CE; a complete reinvestigation of the Byzantine text(s) of Revelation by Darius Mueller is under way in Wuppertal; and more on the way elsewhere.

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  5. "Ignored" as expressed in Anderson's comment is not really the correct term; I suspect the intended meaning was that Byzantine MSS and their readings are "examined but almost always rejected" within reasoned eclectic praxis.

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  6. I suspect you are correct, Maurice. To my ears though, that's comparable to when you have an discussion with someone, and after words -because you didn't end up agreeing with them - they claim that you "didn't listen to them."

    Sure, most byzantine readings are examined an rejected by eclectic critics (except me of course; my first publication was a defense of a byz reading in Matt 27!), but what does that really say? Does it say that there's some systemic bias? Possibly. But seeing as it's hard to get that many different people to conspire together, i'd tend to think it more likely that those readings - apart from catering towards a pre-existing preference for byz readings - simply have little to commend to them.

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    1. Ryan,

      While I would not call it a conspiracy, I see the general rejection of Byzantine readings among reasoned eclectics as the logical result of following the particular external and internal criteria initially presupposed. Mutatis mutandis, the same applies to those in the opposite camp who prefer the Byzantine readings, and who merely apply similar external and internal criteria in a different direction.

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    2. Dr. Robinson,

      I would still say "ignored" readings as most on the reasoned eclectic side simply do not pay attention to the various nuances inter-Byzantine textual groups (i.e. fam. Π or Λ versus say Kx or Kr). Usually, Byzantine group variation within this spectrum has been grouped together in the critical text editions as K readings regardless whether all the various Byzantine text groups do or do not agree with one another or, even if they have independent readings from one another.

      Also, you mention those of us on the Byzantine text preference side "who merely apply similar external and internal criteria in a different direction" in the same manner those holding a reasoned eclectic position on the text. So, what of those within Eastern Orthodoxy and others on the Byzantine text side who consider the Church and traditional readings as preserved within the Church as a leading factor? Is this not also a major factor on our side regarding preference for the Byzantine text? But, that would not be scientific TC would it? My problem with your comment then is the absence of God and Church preservation of the text in your explanation of Byzantine readings/textual preference from our vantage point. So, I see multiple factors for preference of Byzantine readings preference or rejection of these readings and not merely the presupposed internal/external logical factors as you explained. Byzantine textual preference is therefore a broader perspective and cannot simply be put into a scientific box as other issues as Church and tradition are also involved.

      Paul Anderson
      CSPMT

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    3. Paul, as a thought experiment. Would you say that if one were to do TC solely on the basis of the 'internal/external logical factors' one would reconstruct something like the modern critical text?
      I take your point that once one takes the Church factor and its traditional readings as major factors in getting to the authoritative, than the Byzantine text has the strongest shout of all. But without these, as a thought experiment, where do you think the discipline would take us?

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    4. Read: 'authoritative text' for 'authoritative'

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    5. and read 'then' for 'than' ...

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  7. And why not the Vulgate if we're going for church and tradition as leading criteria.

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    1. Great point. Maybe dislike for all things Western :)

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  8. Dirk,

    A very well worded and kind question. Much appreciated. I would respectfully disagree though that a 'authoritative text' determination based solely upon internal/external grounds leads one necessarily to the "modern critical text" favored by reasoned eclecticism. If one examines carefully and I mean very carefully the various groups/nuances of the Byzantine text solely upon internal/external grounds it does not leave one guessing which groups have the "weight" of internal grounds for proximity to the earliest text. However, we see a combination of factors are involved in the process. Church and tradition cannot be automatically shelved as a side factor either upon internal text even within the Byzantine text position. Certain groups/readings were held in higher regard by the Church for good reason and passed through the transmissional lineage of the Byzantine text-from. But, also understand various Byzantine groups were utilized in worship and liturgy at the same time too that is within a limitation of the textual tradition.

    So, in the end we are confident that a criteria based solely upon external/internal TC factors is not a separate issue from the Church/tradition preservation factor nor inhibits a highly trustworthy solution to the 'authoritative text' based upon a combination of these said factors.

    Regarding Peter's question. I am responding to a question based upon a Byzantine text preferential transmissional lineage and not a translation based transmissional lineage and preservation within the Church. Anyway, the Vulgate today is not the Vulgate of old (i.e. post Vat. II) but, is pretty much a UBS based text as you may know. Your question could extend though to multiple languages/translations. But, we hold to Greek originals of the NT so this is a separate issue as we see things.

    Paul Anderson
    CSPMT

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. In other words, then, you won't give a shot at the thought experiment suggested by Dirk.

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  9. Paul,

    If I read you right, you seem to be depending a great deal on the idea that: 1) God would intervene to preserve the text, and 2) his chosen means of that preservation would be church usage. Correct?

    If I accepted both of those premises, then I agree, your conclusion would follow.

    In my opinion though, I have yet to see reason to accept either premise.

    Regarding the first, many have made scriptural arguments for the doctrine of preservation - so-called "scriptures' self claims". I have not been convinced that the doctrine of preservation, as it's usually presented, results from a responsible reading of any of the texts usually cited. But, even if it was, that would merely prove premise #1, not #2; that is, while you might be able to present a text that could be argued to support a general idea of preservation, there's none that I know of that could even arguably be said to make the specific claim that said preservation would occur through church usage. I could just as easily make the claim that God's intended vehicle of preservation is the modern eclectic method!

    Moving from the testimony of scripture to the testimony of creation, I do not think the concept of preservation accords with the pattern we can see in God's activity in the created world. That is, God doesn't appear to act that way. Supernatural intervention is the exception, not the rule. The incarnation itself was the ultimate intervention; outside of that, intervention for the sake of preservation does not seem to be God's predictable modus operandi. He does not intervene, for example, to preserve missionaries who die - even though they too, like the biblical manuscripts, we're simply carrying his message. He does not intervene to preserve his message from being corrupted in the preaching - preachers across the globe are free to preach whatever heresy they want, and God generally does not intervene to stop them. I'm not bringing these examples up as some sort of "problem-of-evil" critique, but rather only as a description of the pattern we've seen: God generally does not intervene to interrupt the normal course of human actions. Since that is true of almost every sphere of human activity we see, then surely our default must be that it was also true of the human activity of scribal copying and manuscript transmission, and the burden of proof would therefore lie on those who would suggest otherwise.

    Until the extraordinary proof can be offered that would support such an extraordinary claim, accepting the notion of preservation would seem, to me, to be in discord with the Christian obligation to intellectual rigour.

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  10. Peter,

    Thank you for your comments. Determination of the text of the NT through "Intellectual rigor" (if only through human efforts) and "God generally does not intervene to interrupt the normal course of human actions". A couple of arguments we would take issue with in earnest. Our position on the text of the NT has been clearly stated for the purpose of the question. Here we stand.

    Also, "2) his chosen means of that preservation would be church usage. Correct?" Yes, correct but, know also that the Church usage of the Byzantine text is found within several groups found within the Byzantine text-form within a confine of a limited degree of textual variation to a certain degree.

    I hope I have answered your comment sufficiently.

    Paul Anderson
    CSPMT

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    1. I think that was meant for Ryan.

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    2. Paul,

      To be honest, no, that's not a sufficient answer for me (not that I'm the ultimate arbitrator or something, but you asked about me so I answered!).

      You claim again that God has intervened to preserve the text, but I still don't see any reason given why I should accept that. You appear to have a lot of faith that God acted in that way, but it's not enough merely to have faith. I don't think you can just pick a position and stand on it, regardless of how well Luther did it. Rather, you need to be able to give, as the scriptures do say, a reason why it is so.

      That is true generally, I believe, but especially in this case particularly as what you are claiming seems, to me anyway, to go against the demonstrated pattern of God's activity. As I said above, God has generally chosen not to intervene in those ways, so the burden of proof rests even heavier than usual on you to give evidence why the normal pattern should not be expect in this case.

      One of the examples of that pattern which I gave above, preachers, seems more apt to me the more I think about it. The scriptures may be a vehicle of God's message, but in a world where most people are still illiterate (and have been for most of history), a written text is simply not the primary vehicle. The primary vehicle must be the preacher. Blessed, remember, are the feet of those who preach good news - my feet remain as stinky as ever! Seriously though, the fact that God has not and does not intervene to preserve his message in the preaching - i.e. the fact that every preacher has the freedom to make mistakes, mislead, and generally screw up as they see fit - speaks volumes about the pattern of God's activity. The text itself is just one small stop in the journey that God's message makes. If God elects not to intervene in the larger step of preaching, then what makes you think he changed his plan for the smaller step of the text? That's the reason I'd need to hear from you.

      One last thought, you noted "only through human efforts." I should respond that I am a huge fan of human efforts, and I believe God is too. Grace works through nature, they say, and I think that means that God prefers the clay vessels of human agency. I talked above about the pattern of God's activity, and I think the pattern we see is that all of the created world - including our texts - suffers the depraved effects of the fall, and God's pattern of response is to work through human agency to effect redemption. He could make food fall from the sky in front of the hungry, he could cause houses to spring from the ground over the homeless, he could clean the oceans and the air of all their pollution, he could calm the heart of every school yard bully - he could do all of that, but instead he asks us to do it.

      I have always believe that the practice of textual criticism is no different. The text fell into corruption like everything else in this world has, and the restoration of that text will be, like everything else, through the human efforts of textual critics. Eldon Epp famously said that the days of textual criticism being a "safe" discipline were over. I think he was referring to the role of ideology, but I see it as true as well in the sense that, for faithful textual critics, this is as much of as ministry as any other service to the church.

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    3. It seems to me that the difference is not really whether humans were involved. Unless you deny the existence of human scribes, then both the pure text of the NT and its corrupted forms--wherever found--are the result of humans. It seems to me the question is more one of what you think gives the proper authority for distinguishing these two. But I don't see how the parsing of divine providence really plays much role (unless you're a Deist I suppose).

      Also, as much as I like you all, I would just like to go on record as saying that I am thankful that we are not responsible for the restoration of "everything else"! ;)

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    4. "Also, as much as I like you all, I would just like to go on record as saying that I am thankful that we are not responsible for the restoration of “everything else”! ;)"

      Peter! Ha! I noticed that typo after I hit "publish", but I thought it was too funny so I just left it.

      Of course, just in case it wasn't clear, what I *should* have written was something like:

      "The text fell into corruption like everything else in this world has, and the restoration of that text will be, like everything else, through human efforts. In this case, that means the efforts of textual critics"

      But really, I think it's much more glamorous to imagine us textual critics saving the world!

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  11. Ryan: "1) God would intervene to preserve the text, and 2) his chosen means of that preservation would be church usage. Correct? If I accepted both of those premises, then I agree, your conclusion would follow."

    Respectfully, I demur. If one seriously were to appeal to and then accept Greek "church usage" as the basis for establishing the text, the text that necessarily follows would not be the Byzantine as reflected among the continuous-text MSS that normally are utilized to establish a putative form of original text; rather, the result would be a strictly lectionary-based text (which may be considered a subtype of the Byzantine proper, but hardly identical to the general consensus found among the continuous-text MSS).

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    1. Dr. Robinson,

      I demur respectfully as well on your reply to Ryan. Yes, your comments are partially correct but certain issues you mentioned would depend upon which era of the lectionary text transmissional lineage you are addressing. The M7 basis found in over 40-50 Euaggelion MSS is coupled with a Kr/f35 text outside the PA. This Kr/f35 type type was popular in worship/liturgy and personal reading in both the lectionary and continuous text side during the later Byzantine/Paleologue era while the Byzantine group Phi-type dominated the earlier era and not the Kx general consensus you are referring to.

      So, even though the majority Phi-type lectionary dominated the earlier lectionary tradition, at the end of the Empire it was not this type that was mass produced within the Euaggelion/Tetraeuaggelion tradition. However, whether one addresses the earlier Church type or the later Kappa Kr/f35 lectionary type, both of these are clearly Byzantine as Antoniades notes in his Ecumenical Patriarchal edition introduction.

      So, we see no problem of Church usage and textual preservation within the Church as a detriment in maintaing the Byzantine priority and textual preservation of the Greek NT.

      Paul Anderson
      CSPMT

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    2. Maurice, you're right; I suppose I was probably just thinking more conceptually about the idea of a single preserved text, but you're correct, I should have thought more about which specific text would result from that.

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  12. I would note that I was not referring to any particular continuous-text Byzantine line of transmission that may or may not underlie various lectionary traditions. Rather, I mentioned only the general consensus among continuous-text Byzantine MSS as representing the primary basis for establishing the original text. That position requires neither an appeal to Orthodox liturgical usage, nor a need subsequently to filter out lectionary-based Byzantine subtype readings from the general Byzantine consensus that otherwise exists among continuous-text MSS.

    As regards Ryan's comments on the "preservation" issues, I also concur. Liturgical church usage does not necessarily establish an original form of text, as clearly demonstrated by the differences that exist between the lectionary readings found in those MSS and what exists among the Byzantine continuous-text MSS. There is also a methodological and procedural fallacy in allowing theology or particular theological presuppositions to be the primary determiners of the text, as Ryan particularly noted. In this regard, Bengel's motto reflects the proper order of inquiry on these matters: Te totum applica ad textum, rem totam applica ad te.

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  13. Yes. We do have and of course allow for differences of perspectives within the Byzantine/Traditional text priority position. We would disagree with some of what Dr. Robinson has said here but not all of course.

    Research continues on new MSS from Mt. Athos at CSPMT which hopefully in the near future may be shared with others for further study of the Byzantine text of the New Testament.

    Paul Anderson
    CSPMT

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