Monday, December 10, 2007

Lecture on "Christology and Textual Transmission" in Norway

Yesterday evening I arrived here in Kristiansand in Norway. I am here as a guestlecturer as part of the Erasmus “Lifelong learning program” for exchange of teachers, staff and students and I will be teaching for two days at Ansgarskolen.

Today I taught on Paul’s theology in the Bachelor program. Tomorrow I will lecture for three hours on “Christology and Textual Transmission” in their master program for Biblical Studies, and among the texts I have read by way of preparation there is a particular article, “Christology and Textual Transmission: Reverential Alterations in the Synoptic Gospels” published in Novum Testamentum XXXV, 2 (1993) by a certain Peter M. Head (then London). Interestingly, this article came out the same year as Ehrman’s “Orthodox Corruption.”

I think the article is balanced and well written (some minor details need revision, e.g. the date for P72, on p. 113 “ca 200” which should rather be ca. 300).

In the conclusion of the article (pp. 128-29) the author says:
“It is noteworthy that in the scribal tradition this ‘adaptation’ [as observed in the article] is much more conservative than in the production of apocryphal gospels. The scribes were interested in ‘transmission’ of texts, rather than in the creation of new texts. Nevertheless the transmission of gospel texts should not be seen as a neutral activity. The scribe of the NT was a participant in the life of the church, and this life and faith clearly influenced the processs of transmission. . . . It is to their [the early scribes] credit that, with some exceptions, most of them withstood the temptation to ‘improve’ the Gospel texts. The ‘improvements’ examined here have not affected the general reliability of the transmission of the text in any significant matter; they do, however, point to the scribe’s involvement in his work as an act of devotion to the divine Christ.”
Now, it would of course be interesting for me (and the readers) if the author could comment very briefly on how he regards this subject in general and his article in particular in retrospect after almost 15 years. Is there something he would modify, etc?


  1. This sounds like a fishing expedition.

  2. Yes, since I am in Norway, famous as they are mainly for two things, oil and fishing.

    In regard to the article, the issues have of course been brought up on the blog regularly, not least since Ehrman released his popular book on the subject. Personally I find myself in agreement with most of the contents of your article. Yes, I was perhaps "fishing"... This was probably one of your first publications? How did you become interested in the topic in the first place?

  3. I think that some parts of the article stand up pretty well. The historical survey at the start is pretty thorough; the section which discusses particular manuscripts could be up-dated (although I doubt there are any compelling examples some more have been proposed in the meantime); the broad survey of evidential material still stands.
    As regards the conclusion I confess that even when I wrote that paragraph I wasn't completely sure that all of it arose equally from the evidence surveyed.

    I actually got interested in the subject in connection with my PhD on the Synoptic Problem. In thinking about different approaches to christological development and synoptic relationships I was led into looking at the way in which christological factors related to scribal (/redactional) behaviour as a possible point of comparison.

  4. I caught the fish.

    My lectures went very well, and the students stayed for another 15 minutes discussion, and that is a good sign.

    Tonight I will have dinner with an OT professor who will come to our seminary in Spring, and another Swedish scholar who is here on a visit to lecture in a homiletics course.

  5. And what will you have for dinner?