Thursday, December 01, 2005

More on Conjectures

D.A. Black (dbo) emailed in to report that his article on conjectures (refered to here in relation to the general discussion here - don't forget to read the comments!) was 'Conjectural Emendations in the Gospel of Matthew' in NovT 31 (1) 1989, pp. 1-15.

It is a useful paper and a good resource for what the title says (no mystery here): it discusses seventeen conjectural emendations to Matthew which have been proposed by a number of different contemporary scholars. He argues that only one is at all plausible and that generally we'd be better off looking more closely at the 'transmitted Greek text'.

Perhaps it is inevitable with conjectures that the one Dave Black regarded as 'viable' but not certain, seems a non-starter to me. For 19.4 Sahlin proposed that Matthew originally wrote ARSEN KAI QHLU EPOIHSEN A. This alpha was meant to represent the numeral 1: HEN; but scribes misunderstood this and harmonised it to the LXX.


  1. This is one of the problems with conjectures. We're not back in the time of Beza, or even of Bentley. Even in the hardest NT passages what is transmitted in some ms is still more likely than a conjecture.

    What might be interesting, however, would be to expand this discussion to the Hebrew OT. There we would need to distinguish between conjectures based on versional retroversion and 'pure' conjectures. I know of no cases where the latter are particularly plausible.

  2. 1 Kings 22:28b:
    wayyomer Shim'u 'ammim kullam.
    As the text is missing in the LXX strictly speaking the omission is not a conjectural emendation.
    But as there are no Hebrew authorities for the omission, one could consider leaving it out a cj of the Hebrew text. It seems obvious to me that the Hebrew should be emended here, as suggested in the app. of BHS.
    a. It seems an awkward little tag at the end of Micah's prophecy.
    b. The phrase is found at only one other place in the Hebrew Bible, namely in Micah 1:2, where it is said by another Micah.
    c. The LXX doesn't have it.

  3. Why is it obvious that the Hebrew should be emended? If it is 'awkward' then surely that explains why it was omitted. Why can't Micah 1:2 be dependent on 1 Kings 22:28? Micah is echoing his famed forebear. The LXX for this section of Kings does not really show a better text.
    Overall MT is better than LXX.

  4. Not having David Black's article on hand I spent some time trying to explore the mystery of why anyone would want to emend the text of Matt. 19:4 to read ARSEN KAI QHLU EPOIHSEN A. There seems to be not the slightest justification for this emendation. The text isn't difficult as it stands.There is no confusion in the greek witnesses. The emendation solves no problems and raises new problems.

    This year I have been working on Eur. Iphigenia Aulidensis and Soph. Electra. Conjectural emendation is justified in dealing with texts like these but looking at the evidence for Matt. 19:4 I don't seen any reason at all.

    What am I overlooking?

  5. Pete Williams said "If it is 'awkward' then surely that explains why it was omitted."
    I'm not so sure. Do you have clear examples where the LXX omitted awkward or redundant tags? I agree that "The LXX for this section of Kings does not really show a better text" and that "overall MT is better than LXX", but this kind of omissions doesn't look like the particular LXX editing work.
    PW: "Why can't Micah 1:2 be dependent on 1 Kings 22:28?"
    Do you know of one other example in the book of Micah where influence of 1 Kings is obvious?
    PJ: "Micah is echoing his famed forebear." My problem with this explanation is that the passage fits the Micah context much better than the context in 1 Kings.

  6. As to Mat. 19:4:
    Even if a number of manuscripts would have
    αρσεν και θηλυ εποιησεν A
    αρσεν και θηλυ εν εποιησεν
    αρσεν και θηλυ εποιησεν εν
    I would still consider these readings to be corruptions of the text as we know it. It is a quotation, isn't it:
    ουκ ανεγνωτε οτι ο ποιησας απ αρχης αρσεν ... Where are Jesus' opponents supposed to have read αρσεν και θηλυ εποιησεν εν ???

  7. On 1 Kings 22:28: I'm actually sceptical about the application of the 'harder reading' principle, and have not collated examples where the LXX makes things easier. What I was saying, however, was that I did not see how difficulty was a very good criterion against the originality of a reading. It is entirely subjective. I don't see how subjectivity in textual criticism can lead scholars anywhere, least of all evangelical scholars.

    Without trawling through Micah, I can't think of another use of 1 Kings in Micah, but then this hardly seems relevant. Micah is a short book, and even long books can contain a single case of literary dependence on another book.

    I don't see why the saying is a bad fit to the context. After all there is emphasis in 1 Kings 22:4 on the bringing together of two 'peoples', and there is contextual emphasis on 'hearing' God's word (v. 19). The importance of attending to and rightly recognising God's word is a theme of the passage.

    Besides, Gie, you would have to explain your attitude to the parallel in 2 Chronicles 18:27 (with support in Paralipomena), since the phrase 'hear, all the peoples' occurs there too. Is it really the case that the Hebrew texts of both Kings and Chronicles have been interpolated? If you allow yourself to hypothesise interpolation on this scale it is hard to see what you would have left in the Bible.

    Is this really your best case of an OT conjecture?

  8. The parallel in 2 Chronicles 18:27 is hard to explain if 1 Kings 22:28 is to be emended. Is it possible that the Chronicler used a version of Kings that was glossed already? Not likely...
    I admit this is a weighty argument against cj in Kings.

  9. One thing that it would be interesting to do some calculations on would be the amount of glossing that went on. Both in OT and NT textual criticism there is frequent appeal to the gloss. My impression is that in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in early Greek papyri glosses (as opposed to corrections) are rather rare. Moreover, we must also assume that scribes could generally distinguish between corrections and glosses and therefore did not incorporate glosses routinely into their text. Consequently the idea of scribal glossing as a means by which texts grew in the early stage is somewhat overworked. It would be good, however, to have some numerical data to back up this impression. Anyone out there looking for a PhD topic?

  10. Re Matt 19.4 Black is discussing H. Sahlin, 'Emendationsvorschla/ege zum griechischen Text des Neuen Testaments' Nov T 24 (1982), 160-179 (citation re this verse from p. 165).

    Sahlin argues that it provides a logical reading; and that Act 2.14 provides a parallel occasion where a numeral was mistaken for a word: instead of SUN TOIS ENDEKA, Bezae reads SUN TOIS DEKA APOSTOLOIS: 'Apparently a copyist mistook an IA for DEKA APOSTOLOIS' (Black, 13f).

    Whether this is the best explanation for Acts 2.14 in Bezae I am not so sure.