Friday, May 18, 2007

Some more thoughts on the Editio Critica Maior

The Editio Critica Maior has seen at least two fundamental developments take place within the period of publication of the first four fascicles (1997-2006). These two developments are related, fundamental to the Editio Critica Maior, and important for understanding future plans within NT textual criticism.
Firstly, this relates to the method by which the external witnesses were evaluated prior to the determination of the published text, the A-text (Ausgangstext), the text which stands at the outset of the transmission history. Specifically the edition has come to use a distinctive new method, the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, which has been progressively developed over the last decade or so while work on the ECM was moving forward. We shall explain this method more fully later on, for the moment I simply want to note that it has been progressively applied. The James instalment, published in 1997, states only that ‘the text is established on the basis of all the evidence presented’ (11*), and doesn’t mention any new method at all.
  • Proof that this method was not originally applied to James is provided in the Peter instalment: The text of the Letter of James was critically examined once more in the light of the new findings of external criteria. The earlier textual decisions were mainly confirmed, although sometimes weakened. Yet the new findings did not support a variant reading over the primary line text except in one instance (2:4/2-4), where the d reading (kai\ ou0 diekri/qhte) should be preferred to the a reading (ou0 diekri/qhte). [p. 24* note 4]
The Peter instalment, published in 2000, utilises a new method, without giving it such a clear title, based on ‘coherent groupings of genealogical significance among the witnesses’ (p. 23*). The 1 John instalment (2003) then explicitly appeals to ‘the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method’ (‘Preface’). In the final instalment (2&3 John Jude, 2005) this method is used and even abbreviated to CBGM (e.g. 37*-38*).

Secondly, this relates to the behind-the-scenes mechanisms for storing and manipulating the raw material, the transcriptions of manuscripts which form the ultimate data on which the edition is based. The 1 John instalment (2003) is the first to mention the ‘conversion of manually recorded manuscript collations to completely computerized transcriptions’. These transcriptions ‘were checked for discrepancies with the aid of the Collate program’ (‘Preface’, XVI). Wachtel and Parker explain that is was only after the launch of the first instalment, and at the same SBL meeting in San Francisco, November 1997, that they became acquainted with Peter Robinson’s work on The Canterbury Tales ‘a truly amazing electronic edition in which the user could interact with transcriptions and critical apparatus and images of the manuscripts, along with commentary and interpretative data’ (K. Wachtel & D.C Parker, ‘The Joint IGNTP/INTF Editio Critica Maior of the Gospel of John: Its Goals and their Significance for New Testament Scholarship’ [SNTS 2005; on-line], 1.). The use of the Collate software for the entering and analysing and presenting of the textual data must have been initiated then at some intervening point.

It is obvious from these two points that the ECM project has actually been a project in transition. Initiated using traditional data-handling techniques (i.e. manually recorded manuscript collations) it has become a much more technologically equipped project, with a special commitment to the Collate software and the comparison of complete collations (with promised access to images). From a method perspective as well it was initiated using traditional text-critical method and argument, but has now adopted an innovative new method (CBGM).


  1. While in Salzburg I heard from Klaus Wachtel that there are apparently preliminary plans for a conference on CBGM at Münster. I'm sure there will be a full announcement when dates and speakers are confirmed.

  2. Peter,

    What is this for/from? It doesn't sound like a blog entry. And at one point you say: "We shall explain this method more fully later on, for the moment I simply want to note ..."