Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Birmingham day 1

Tommy has already mentioned this, but the main evening presentation on the first day was from Ulrich Schmid, ‘Scribes and Variants: Towards a Sociology/Typology of Both’

It was a good paper, quite long to summarise, within some visual help and outline on a powerpoint. Here are some notes.

In the Introduction UBS started with Paul Maas' definition of textual criticism, noting that scribes themselves received relatively little attention (other than as the source of variants). More recently attention has been given to scribal habits (e.g. Colwell, Royse), and to the theological intentionality behind supposed scribal choices (Ehrman, Kannaday etc.)

1. Scribes as Authors
UBS argued that with Ehrman, and his student Kannaday, a new concept emerges: "scribe as author", a concept that is central to their work, but not really controlled. Epp's work on Bezae, a complete book on one manuscript dealing with one NT book and discussing a tendency – anti-Judaic bias of scribe/text - which could be illustrated by 40% of variants. But by contrast with such a controlled examination Ehrman in Orthodox Corruption attempted to discuss evidence from 22/27 NT books, and dealt with a complex issue - ‘Effect of Early Christological Controversies on text of NT’ – across the whole NT. So the discussion of anti-adoptionist variants deals with 59 passages of variation from 18 books of NT.
UBS noted that this discussion is based on a very general harvest of variants; with no interest in detectable tendencies in actual witnesses; with over-confident claims about conscious scribal tendencies, and a frequent appeal to the idea that ‘some scribes modified’ things (although classical method suggests that agreement in reading implies agreement in ancestry not agreement in scribal choice).
The problem is even more evident in W. Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse, p65ff re Mark 1.2f. He refers to a variety of ‘some scribes’ in his list of witnesses to thereading ‘the prophets’, but we know (TuT) that there are 1,515 witnesses for this reading – can’t be intentional for all scribes.
For Kannaday (and Ehrman) scribal activity is likened to editorial activities (Matt & Luke cf. scribes of Mark) and even authorial activity. Cf. cover illustration about author from 15th C miniature – any books on display, process of writing a book – excerpting geographical information from many sources.

But no evidence has actually been deduced from mss themselves. The new method of scribes as authors is the product of discussing only variants (not at all mss or classical background).

2. Who does what and when to a manuscript? Towards a typology of literary production/reproduction
In dialogue with Kim Haines-Eitzen UBS proposed a basic typology:

1. Authorial stage
2. Editorial stage: desire to get material out to the public, selection, sub-division, re-working material for audience etc.
3. Manufacturing stage: sheets, pens, ink, ruling, transcribing etc.
4. User’s stage – reading, correcting, sharing, loaning etc. makes content popular and produces demand for more copies – new audiences etc.

But KHE has a kind of 'Scribes only' view of things: the scribes who copied were also the users and they formed networks of usage for the literature: implies that scribes responsible for stages 2-4. This ‘Scribes Only’ perspective does not correspond to the evidence. Church Fathers (users) were not responsible for the scribal production.
Initiative for early Xn book production lies with interested early Xns. Perhaps some were Xn scribes; others hired scribes, sponsorship of some wealthy individuals (same people more likely to be predominant users as well)

E.g. Marcion of Sinope
Wealthy; donor to churches; 200,000 sestertius (handed back from church in Rome); responsible for an edition; many copies from the start – the restored edition of the true Pauline Gospel etc. This provides motivation for Marcion to spread these copies about as quickly and as far as he was able. Text fairly stable between Tertullian and Epiphanius: titles, order of letters, same text: this presumes a jump-start of a large number of copies AND a degree of editorial control over the process.

3. Kinds of Variants – a case for redactional variants and readers’ notes
Here UBS made a case for the idea that readers' notes could have been incorporated in to the text of the NT in some mss. He looked at the situation of the End of Romans: Aland – 14 diff endings in the mss tradition and discussed 16.25-27. This passage must be the product of "Purposeful creation" – not created by a scribe ‘on the fly’ – reasoning, resources, preparation, judgement. It was created by a reader/editor. Via appeal to Dahl, Krans, Holmes and Tetzel he proposed that redactional variants do exist within the NT textual tradition. They can be identified particularly by the use of a different hand: Readers’ notes ought to be composed in a distinct type of hand (documentary cf. book hand) For an example he looked at P75 a note on the lower margin for Luke 17.14 – different hand: using phrasing from Mark 1.42f//Matt 8.3.
This is an interesting use of the parallel passage; some other similar tendencies (e.g. in Bezae, without inter-textual referencing). Perhaps also Matt 27.49: spear incident in some ancient witnesses (01, 03 04), mostly treated as harmonisation to John 19.34 at this point – marginal note crept into the text at precisely this point.

Are there passages where readers’ notes have impacted entire textual tradition?

Not everything we find in the mss is the mere product of scribes
It is useful to distinguish various stages in the process of literary production/reproduction (editorial, manufacturing, user stages)
Conceptualise the mechanics of transmission
Do not separate the variants you are studying from the actual evidence of the mss.


  1. It's been great to have Peter's and Tommy's summaries of papers I was unable to attend. Also useful to have summaries of the Last 12 vss of Mark conference. Bloggers who take such detailed notes on papers are doing a public service.

  2. The issue of scribes as authors is a major topic in OT studies, and one that naturally makes a big impression on understandings of Textual Criticism among OT scholars. I think Fishbane's Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel was a watershed book in this regard. Obviously to extend the discussion too far into this territory would be asking too much from UBS in a conference paper like this. But, given the topic, I would expect to see some nod given to the discussion that's been going on in OT studies for some time now.

  3. Yes Eric, fair point, and one that did come up in questions and discussion (re van Seters, The Edited Bible: