Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Evangelical Textual Criticism

Those whose blood pressure rises at the mere mention of conjectural emendations should avoid the article by J. Rist in the latest JTS (56.2): 'Luke 2:2: Making Sense of the Date of Jesus' Birth' . He suggests two emendations in the course of the verse: first that "Quirinius" should in fact read "Quintilius", and then that "oikoumenen" should read "eparchian" ("province"). Hmm. Furthermore, neither of these are actually designed to remove the main problems attending the verse; the fact remains for Rist that (a) Luke or his source confused the two Q's, and (b) Luke or his source blended the tradition of Jesus' birth in the time of Quintilius Varus with a knowledge of a census in the governorship of Quirinius. So if you thought that there were historical problems before this revelation of the true text, you ain't seen nothing yet.

1 comment

  1. The records of the 1890 US Census, the first to use computers to calculate the results, were completely lost in a fire only a few decades later. No copies survived.

    So what is so radical about supposing that the only surviving mention of the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and the names of 2 of the people enumerated--2000 years and multiple sackings of government records later--are the thousand or so manuscripts of Luke's Gospel?