Saturday, December 02, 2017

Red skies in Matt 16.2–3: original or not?

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What do folks think about the long variant in Matt 16.2–3? NA28 along with Tischendorf and WH have it in brackets. SBLGNT, THGNT (and Tregelles), and RP include it. UBS4 gives it a “C” rating.

Here is the text:
Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς. 2 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· [ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε· εὐδία, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός· 3 καὶ πρωΐ· σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁ οὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε;] 4 γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν.
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
Westcott and Hort write that “both documentary evidence and the impossibility of accounting for omission prove these words to be no part of the text of Mt. They can hardly have been an altered repetition of the || in Lc 12.54, 55, but were apparently derived from an extraneous source, written or oral, and inserted in the Western text at a very early time” (Appendix, p. 13).

Without the disputed text, the text flows quite naturally from the question to the direct answer. France thinks the switch from second to third person between vv. 3 and 4 also makes the disputed text “seem out of place” (604 n. 1), but I’m not so sure about that.

According to Metzger (Commentary, p. 33), Scrivener and Lagrange argue that scribes removed the text because they lived in climates like Egypt where the meteorological observation doesn’t work. Even if true, this seems like special pleading. But if it’s not original, where did it come from?

26 comments :

  1. I wonder if the more natural flow of the shorter reading should be considered a transcriptional argument in favor of the longer reading's priority. A very early scribe could have excised what seemed like a superfluous statement to improve the passage stylistically. Meanwhile, on intrinsic grounds, we can see a more subtle reason for the author's inclusion of the longer reading: There are already obvious signs that come from "heaven" (ουρανος, translated "sky" in the English), and for all their success in reading these signs, the Pharisees and Sadducees fail to read the signs that are more important.

    Willker's extensive commentary (http://www.willker.de/wie/TCG/TC-Matthew.pdf) offers other details on manuscript data and scholarship for this variant. I'm most compelled by the argument of Weiss and Tregelles that the omission is an assimilation to Matt 12:38-39.

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  2. Being an advocate of early documentary TC, I believe this to be an addition to the text. I realize that the THGNT is also an early documentary edition which includes these verses. THGNT demonstrates what I see to be a penchant for the longer reading,especially when 01 and 03 are joined in the omission. I am waiting for the Textual Commentary to see if this is based on scribal habits or?
    As to where the addition comes from, though not as relevant to a documentary hypothesis, it seems likely that the scribe(s) indeed had Luke 12:54-55 in mind. Not only are these passages similar, but the Pharisees are prominent in both Luke 12, though more remote, and Matt 16.

    Tim

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  3. Non-inclusion is a harmonization to Mt. 12:38-39. Next.

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  4. Thanks all! I had missed the parallel in Matt 12.38-39. This is also a good reminder to me not to post on the Gospels without first reading Willker's commentary. It does seem like an odd harmonization given the length of it, but it does explain the omission nicely.

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    1. This is an example of internal evidence, which of course is always subjective, being given priority over external evidence. The idea that a scribe has deleted a portion of scripture because their is another remote passage that lacks that addition, when the 2 earliest manuscripts for that portion of scripture lack the addition only makes sense in a through-going eclecticism. Of course the longer reading would be accepted in a Majority Text position, but not based on internal considerations.

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    2. The other possibility is that one doesn't consider the 2 earliest manuscripts for that portion of scripture to be decisive as external evidence.

      Consider that contemporary with the time those two manuscripts were written, Basil of Caesarea quoted the verse they omit in his Homilies on the Hexaemeron 6.4. Patristic quotations are sometimes problematic, but as you can see from the quote, this one is clear.
      http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/32016.htm

      According to Biblia Patristica, Hilaryof Poitiers also comments on this verse in his commentary on Matthew (to which I don't have access at the moment), written in the mid-4th century.

      UBS gives a lengthy list of Old Latin manuscripts attesting to the longer reading, with none for the omission. I would assume these attest to one or more translations made from Greek texts older than the two manuscripts you mention.

      Add to this the Peshitta, also translated from Greek texts at least as old.

      Plus, among Greek manuscripts, several only slightly less old than those two (C, D, and W) favor the longer reading.

      So it seems to me that the external evidence, including when one gives due consideration to the age of the witnesses, is not so strongly in favor of the omission.

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    3. ERIC,
      First, for some, myself included, Greek manuscripts are what we mean by external evidence. Other sources can at best, serve a confirming role. In this case, there is also confirming other sources, see NA.
      Tim

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    4. It may be that that's true for some. But it still isn't the case that counting quotations and versions as external evidence makes someone a thoroughgoing eclectic.

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    5. Timothy, I think my rejoinder would be to the first line of your response, "internal evidence, which of course is always subjective"

      Your point there, I'm sure, is that external evidence is objective and solid - good and reliable even - whereas internal evidence is subjective - wishy-washy and soft, pliable to our preferences, bending to our whims like the loose woman Proverbs warned us about!

      That characterization is fairly standard within a certain school of text critical education, so a lot of people are raised to believe that.

      And let me be clear: it's not entirely wrong. It may even be mostly right. But it's certainly not all right.

      External evidence simply isn't some bastion of modernist objectivity. It quite frequently is quite subjective. Sometimes it's, arguably, just as subjective as any internal evidence.

      For starters, there can be the actual deciphering of the manuscript. They are not always clear. Sometimes even the experts cannot agree on what words are attested.

      Other times the words are clear, but the significance is in question: if a manuscript has a marginal correction, for example, which version should be given more weight? The scribe's original blunder, or the carefully checked correction? But wait, some corrections were made in error! All questions of this nature necessarily become a matter of the scholars judgement - their subjective judgement.

      Then there's the issue of ms characterization. Just being early isn't good enough. We have lost the majority of the manuscripts that were ever produced. The historical forces that caused one copy to survive while another perished were quite random. Survival, therefore, is no virtue. We can take up a given 3rd century ms because it's the one that happened to have survived, but should we therefore trust it an accord it great weight? If we could go back in time to the day of its creation and compare it with ten of its peers, would it judged good, bad, or somewhere in the middle? And if it were a bad or middling witness's, why should we suddenly accord it undue weight now just because it happened to survive? CBGM is, I should note, helping us to better make such judgements, but I think there will always be a significant number of known unknowns.

      On a broader level, all of external evidence will always still be subject to our own private interpretation. The basic, Kantian point is true, that we don't have access to the thing itself, merely our perception of it. Collaboration within our community allows us, of course, to check and confirm our perceptions, which allows us to make some progress, but our perceptions can still be wrong, and as the last American election showed, if you are only ever checking your perceptions within your own likeminded community, then your errors will never be revealed to you.

      Bottom line, I think your faith in the objectivity of external evidence needs some tempering.

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    6. Ryan,
      Absolutely nothing in an external evidence theory implies ‘only checking perceptions in a likeminded community, in fact, even reading the ETC blog demonstrates
      that. You may not believe it, but someone can be convinced of a particular view and have read and continue to read differing viewpoints and even be persuaded at times by those other views. The manuscripts that ‘just happened to survive’ are the only ones we have! You also seem to suppose, without any physical evidence, that if we had the missing early manuscripts, they would be different. You seem to propose that we neither have or can obtain the original text, or if less offensive ‘the authorial text’. I believe we have the ‘ausgangstext’ within the manuscripts of the early centuries. I grant that I limit internal evidence to a confirming role only when the early manuscripts are not clear. Like many before me, I am not convinced that internal evidence should outweigh the manuscript evidence, yes for me, the early evidence. I am also convinced, like all documentary critics, that God is able and has preserved His Word; yes for me in the early manuscripts.
      Tim


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    7. //You [Ryan] also seem to suppose, without any physical evidence, that if we had the missing early manuscripts, they would be different. //

      In the case of the variant under discussion, we have vey strong evidence (I don't see why the qualification "physical" is used) that some of those missing manuscripts from earlier than the two earliest extant ones you mentioned did include the text they omit.

      It's hard for me to see why we should ignore external evidence that we know about and treat those two manuscripts as though, whenever they agree and we lack earlier papyri, they trump everything else.

      Even in an approach that prioritizes external evidence over internal evidence, so as to consider internal evidence only in cases where the external evidence is not clear, the variant under discussion here is precisely such a case.

      Reaching the conclusion that the editors of the THGNT reached didn't require them to abandon their usual approach. Much less would it require others who take patristic and versional evidence into account to do so.

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    8. Timothy - you missed an important "if" there. I said "if" you are only checking your perceptions within a likeminded community. If you believe that you are in fact successfully checking your perceptions against a diverse range of counter opinions, then great, more power to you. Most people, however, tend to dislike conflict, and tend to gravitate naturally to like minds.

      As for manuscripts, I'd say the physical evidence is the existing mss themselves: if they were all carbon copies, then we could more safely conclude that the lost mss were just more of the same. But given the range of diversity of readings in the extant base, it seems safer to conclude that the lost ones continued that trajectory of variation, and thus took many unique readings along with them when they left this world.

      Last note: yes, I too believe that God was able to preserve the original text. But the (physical) evidence implies to me that he chose not to.

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    9. ERIC,
      The THGNT did not have to change their approach nor did I indicate they did! Their approach,based on Intro and comment previously included here, included using scribal habits based on particular scribes and PJW acknowledged that in Mark the THGNT did more often choose the longer variant when 01& 03 omit together. I have seen this same decision making in Matthew, here for instance, as well
      Tim

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    10. Tim,
      Didn't you say that going against the two oldest manuscripts here only makes sense in thoroughgoing eclecticism?

      I infer from that that not only would the THGNT editors have to have abandoned their usual principles in this case, but that so must have Westcott and Hort, Holmes, and Tregelles.

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    11. ERIC,
      The editors of THGNT made their decision based on the manuscripts and not on remote parallels, the THGNT is as it claims, an early documentary text. They have shown a tendency to choose the longer reading particularly when 01 and 03 together omit,
      My comment about thoroughgoing eclecticism had to do with choosing the longer reading based on internal evidence, the remote passage.
      Tim

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  5. P Gurry: "Scrivener and Lagrange argue that scribes removed the text because they lived in climates like Egypt where the meteorological observation doesn’t work. Even if true, this seems like special pleading."

    Could you please explain what you mean when you say it seems to you like special pleading?

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    1. Yeah, I mean that it seems like an appeal to a type of evidence they wouldn't use anywhere else.

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  6. Timothy Joseph,
    << For some, myself included, Greek manuscripts are what we mean by external evidence. Other sources can at best, serve a confirming role. >>

    Surely that is nonsensical. You didn't mean that, as written, did you? Of course versional and patristic evidence are external evidence (even though they are ignored by the apparatus in the THEGNT, that doesn't mean they were not consulted; it just means the THEGNT apparatus in the first edition is rather useless for anything other than confirming that the readings adopted in the text in Matthew-Jude are supported by at least two early manuscripts) -- often very important external evidence. What were the versions based on, if not on Greek manuscripts, and what were the patristic writers quoting, if not manuscripts?

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  7. James, I did mean it exactly as it’s written. I realize that you hold the versions and patristic sources as equal or usually more important. However, Versions seldom translate to Greek in a direct enough fashion to be useful as a source in the church fathers it is often Impossible to tell what the source of the quotation is and if they are quoting from memory or from a written text.
    Obviously, both of these sources are external evidence, but in context it should’ve been obvious that I was talking about primary decision-making sources, hence the Confirmatory role of these other sources.

    Tim

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  8. Timothy Joseph,

    << Versions seldom translate to Greek in a direct enough fashion to be useful as a source in the church fathers it is often Impossible to tell what the source of the quotation is and if they are quoting from memory or from a written text. >>

    I hope you agree that it would be a doomed method that would treat such imprecise generalizations as an excuse to ignore whole classes of evidence.

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    1. Oh yes, very true! I often hear that from people - that my comments are too short! People are always asking me if I couldn't keep prattling on for longer, especially my wife! So not to worry, from now on I'll make sure to bloviate at even greater length!

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  10. Paolo Trovato12/09/2017 9:51 am

    Dear all,
    many thanks to all of you for this very interesting discussion.

    I take the liberty to add two unwanted comments: the first of a very narrow-minded genre (like all my remarks), the other more general.

    1. “if a manuscript has a marginal correction, for example, which version should be given more weight? The scribe's original blunder, or the carefully checked correction? But wait, some corrections were made in error! All questions of this nature necessarily become a matter of the scholars judgement - their subjective judgement”.

    If the siglum of the MS is, say, A, I would call A1 the original blunder, A2 the marginal correction. No need to say that in most case marginal corrections reflect different textual version, as you call them (I would call them exemplars). Thus A1 can or cannot depend on the exemplar (it could depend on the scribe as well), but A2 depends in 99% of the cases on the educated reader of the MS (with a systematic research we can even try to decide whether it is emendatio ope codicum or emendatio ope ingenii).

    2. A feature of the phrases omitted is the often occurring word ὁ οὐρανός: γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός…· ὁ οὐρανός… τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ... Repetitions of this kind often favor omissions by homoioteleuton. If such an omission occurred at an early stage of the transmission, it is possible that a scribe removed the remains of a nonsensical sequence, giving origin to the shorter reading under examination. (I don’t have a critical edition of Greek NT at home, so I cannot check apparatuses myself).

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    1. Dr. Trovato
      Thanks for your insightful thoughts. A multi-layered omission is something to consider in general. I am sure it is standard practice among scholars, but while I am aware it happens, in practice I often forget😎. I am on my way to check to see if this is even a possibility here.
      Tim

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    2. Regardless of how one handles this particular variation unit, Trovato's second point makes for an interesting discussion: Under what conditions, if any, ought we to explain a given reading as being dependent on an intermediate state of the text unattested in the witnesses?

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    3. Paolo Trovato12/10/2017 7:16 am

      Thanks to Tim.

      As regards Stephen's question, I don't think that if my hypothesis remains unattested it is wortwhile to keep it alive unless there is, e.g.., a clear trend in Matth.'s answers of Jesus according to which the conclusion is always "prepared" by "easy" examples based on everyday life.

      Nevertheless, Contini, considering again the concept of "lectio difficilior" elaborated a very subtle notion, that is, diffraction. Difraction can be in praesentia (the "difficult"reading is preserved in a generally little part of the tradition) or in absentia (you have to conjecture a "difficult" reading which can explain the origin of all the attested readings). To my knowledge the only English "coverage" of this notion is in my handbook Everything You Always Wanted to Know etc. etc., 119-124,

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