Thursday, December 13, 2018

New Review of THGNT

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In the latest Puritan Reformed Journal, Jeffrey Riddle has a review of the THGNT which he has uploaded to Academia. I believe Jeff is a proponent of either the Majority Text or the Received Text (not sure which exactly) and that pokes through at various points, notably in this latest sentence: “Despite all the scholarly erudition reflected in this work, however, the question remains as to whether modern text critical methodology will ever be able to offer a scholarly approximation of the text.” It’s pretty clear that Jeff’s answer to that question would be no. But the review is quite fair and evenhanded. For more on his view of the THGNT, he has a podcast episode on it here.

I’ll leave you with this snippet:
In the final analysis, the THGNT is a visually attractive printed edition of the Greek New Testament. It is inspired by the text-critical approach of Tregelles and focuses on the earliest extant Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (papyri and uncials). It reflects the modern “reconstructionist” method of text criticism, which emerged in the nineteenth century and eventually led to the toppling of the Textus Receptus as the standard text among most Protestants including evangelicals. It also departs at points, however, from the current trends manifest in the application of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) in the Editio Critica Maior and in the most recent critical handbooks produced by the Institute für Neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster and the United Bible Societies. As noted, this reflects an effort “to constrain editorial choice” as “a check on editorial fallibility and eccentricity” (505) and appears to be in keeping with a long history of both Anglo adaptation and dissent from German higher criticism.
I don’t know if Dirk and the Petes saw themselves as dissenting from German higher criticism or not, but there we are.

20 comments :

  1. Not sure what a more restrained approach to eclecticism has to do with 'Anglo adaptation' (to/of what?) or 'German higher criticism'.

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    1. PM,
      When I read the article the other day, those were my questions as well, plus I wondered as PG did what the statement on “despite...scholarly approximation of the text” was trying to say.

      Tim

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    2. Peter, thanks for calling attention to the review.

      As for the sentence in the excerpt from my review, stating that the THGNT “appears to be in keeping with a long history of both Anglo adaptation and dissent from German higher criticism,” here are some clarifications on what I intended to convey but apparently did not do very well in the confinements of this book review:

      First: The statement cited above is meant to refer back to comments made in an earlier paragraph of the review (330):

      “This method necessarily means that the THGNT contains no conjectural emendations. The editors note their desire “to constrain editorial choice” as “a check on editorial fallibility and eccentricity” (505). This appears to stand in contrast to the recent development of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM), primarily among German scholars, and its application in 2012 to the catholic epistles in the Nestle-Aland 28th edition (NA-28), which sometimes reflects preference for readings based on later witnesses but also offers a notable conjecture in one verse (2 Peter 3:10).”

      Second: I was meaning to ask/speculate about the significance of the difference between the methodology and theological outlook of the CBGM with its origins in Germany (see Wasserman and Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, on “History of the Method, pp. 17-23: “The story starts in Münster, Germany…”) and the THGNT with its origins among English-speaking evangelicals in Cambridge. Perhaps I should have added the adjective “evangelical” before “Anglo.”

      I was thinking of a tradition where English-speaking evangelicals have tended to embrace and use critical methods with origins in Germany (e.g., source criticism, Markan Priority, Redaction Criticism, etc.) while still holding to more traditional theological perspectives and maintaining a high view of Scripture. For a negative assessment of the success of this strategy, see Iain H. Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided.

      I admit that I do not fully understand the CBGM, but it seems clear enough that the THGNT is not embracing that method but providing an alternative to it. Rather than rely on a database that analyzes the “text” and not the manuscripts (see Wasserman and Gurry, p. 3), as the CBGM apparently does, thus leading to occasional conjectural emendation as at 2 Peter 3:10, the THGNT editors, following Tregelles’ method, required each reading to be supported by two extant witnesses, one of which had to date to the fifth century or earlier. My sense also was that the THGNT editors would have more confidence in saying that their text approximated the original autograph, as opposed to the CBGM, which would say it only approximates the “initial text.”

      My apologies if this observation is off base.

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    3. Thanks for clarifying, Jeff. One minor note: the ECM volumes are clear they don't think there is any reason to think there are differences between their initial text and the original. So, the difference is hypothetical more than real in their case.

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    4. Tim,

      For some fleshing out of my question about the modern text critical "scholarly approximation of the text" see this blog post and podcast:

      http://www.jeffriddle.net/2017/02/word-magazine-69-epistemology-and-text.html

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    5. but 'conjectural emendation' has nothing to do with 'higher criticism' – German or otherwise. It's a basic method of 'lower criticism' and as such has had many practitioners and proponents in the Anglo-saxon scholarship. What I'm conjecturing is that we're dealing with a prejudice against critical scholarship which is hidden by less than careful use of scholarly-sounding language. But, as with any conjecture, this one too must remain tentative until we get a proper witness which would attest it directly.

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    6. PM, thanks for your feedback.

      My point, of course, was not related to the old distinction between “lower” and “higher” criticism. By “higher criticism” I simply meant the “modern historical-critical method” or, in this case, “modern text criticism.” Sorry if this was unclear or sounded like pseudo-scholarship. Again, the point was simply to ask/speculate about the differences in perspective reflected in the CBGM method and the method used in the THGNT. That question did not seem to me to be an inappropriate one to ponder in writing this review.

      And yes, no need to “conjecture.” I do have a bias. I am indeed skeptical about the results of modern text criticism relating to the authority of the Bible.

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    7. I actually would consider "conjecture" to be a component of higher criticism, given that it has to proceed under the assumption that one has to move beyond the existing data into what amounts to a type of speculative source criticism.

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    8. The ECM volumes? I think it is better to say that the editors (of the INTF) think that the initial text they present is the best hypothesis of the original. On the other hand, other editors in the series (e.g., Parker) have a different view and believe the initial text is a snapshot of a text around 200 CE.

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    9. The published ECM volumes is all I meant. Other ECM editors have different views, yes.

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  2. " I believe Jeff is a proponent of either the Majority Text or the Received Text (not sure which exactly)"

    Riddle is definitely a proponent of the Textus Receptus over against the Majority Text. To be precise, Riddle would describe himself as holding The "Reformed Confessional Text" position:

    http://www.jeffriddle.net/2015/12/word-magazine-43-definitions-and.html

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    1. It's not always easy for outsiders to distinguish these, so thanks for the clarification.

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  3. A good thing about the review is the irenic tone, not always to be found in pro-Textus Receptus writings.

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    1. Agreed, Stephen. I have met Jeff in person, and he is a delight to hold conversation with on these matters, even though we do not agree with one another's perspectives. I'm thankful that he brings more light than heat.

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    2. Thanks for you kind words John. I'll now have to try to live up to that!

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    3. And you'll always be welcome at Tyndale House, Jeff!

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    4. I agree, I met him at the Pericope of the Adulteress symposium at SEBTS a few years ago. I was impressed by his review of the conference on his blog, but, at the same time it is a mystery to me how he can hold the Textus Receptus priority position which I think is idiosyncratic and untenable.

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  4. In terms of attempting to establish the original text (or the Ausgangstext if one is so inclined), a "TR-priority" position indeed is illogical, as Mr Spock would say.

    However, within the "Confessional Bibliology" or "Ecclesiastical Text" framework, holding such a position actually appears quite reasonable to its practitioners, much in the same way that the Greek Orthodox church remains quite content to use a form of the 1904/1912 Antoniades text for all their practical purposes, even though from a more scientific text-critical standpoint (including my own) their position is equally defective.

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  5. The relationship between Dirk and "Anglo adaptation" is complex.

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  6. Thanks for this, Peter.

    I suppose my only musing is whether or not a "modern text critical methodology" could do anything other than produce a "scholarly approximation of the text."

    Surely approximation is the best anyone can do. And in turn, the extent to which it is "scholarly" is predicated solely on the degree to which the method itself is scholarly.

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