Friday, December 28, 2007

TC Discussion List Inflation?

Recently I was invited to yet another "TC-list", i.e. a discussion list focusing on textual criticism of the OT and NT. Once upon a time there was one TC-list run by James Adair and Tim Finney. This list died out, and now there are three (to my knowledge):

Textual criticism, founded April 23, 2004
496 members; 23 messages in Dec 2007
Excerpts from the description: posts must be on-topic. contributors should be familiar with the contents of the web pages given in the Links section; moderated by Wieland Willker

TC-Alternate-list founded July 31, 2006
51 members; 51 messages in Dec 2007
Excerpt from the description: for people with a wider set of views; less formal atmosphere; "more freedom to discuss many related issues of interest (theology, doctrine, humour, politics); anonymity allowed; credentials not required or desired.

83 members; 90 messages in Dec 2007
Excerpt from the description: as little moderation as possible; discussion of the King James Version Only (or TR Only) viewpoint not tolerated; Each list member should be identified by given and last name

The first list, started by Wieland, filled the gap after the old TC-list. My guess is that the second list started because some people wanted to discuss Textus Receptus Only, KJV-only, or "wider issues" (e.g. doctrinal, etc). Perhaps some also felt surpressed because of lack of academic credentials (as judging from the list description). The third list, I suspect, also has to do with the moderation on the first list, but there is now an avoidance of KVJ-Only/TR-Onlyism and strict focus on academic discussion (which is good).

This is my highly subjective interpretation (full of guesses) of a development that is rather sad. Now we have three lists (and some seem to contribute to more than one). Time will tell if we have reached the peak.

Update: the second list, TC-Alternate-list, has been discussed on this blog here


  1. The good old days of the old tclist was before the advent of the blogs. Nowadays a good blog post on a blog with a robust comment section (like this one) performs much of the same functions the old tclist used to do.

  2. Stephen, I agree that the advent of blogs also comes into play and must affect discussion lists, but there are major differences between a blog and a discussion list. I come to think of two: First, only the blogger/s can initiate a discussion (if there is a comment section). Secondly, a discussion list is very good for making all sorts of inquiries, some of which I personally would perhaps not post on a blog (like this one). There are probably other differences. What are your own experiences, since I know you have been active in both spheres?

  3. I think you're right about your two points, though the team blogging aspect of ETC can ameliorate your first point somewhat (and to a certain extent, the second), if at least one of the team members is good at starting discussions based on comments in the discussion section.

  4. About the TC-Alternate list: probably no one here at ETC would like it. It fills a niche for relatively unrestricted discussion -- a sort of "Speaker's Corner" about (mainly NT) textual criticism. As co-moderator there, I operate as a sort of policeman -- just keeping things focused and civil, not necessarily sensible and well-informed (though I try to do that sometimes, too, as a participant).

    TC-Alternate is very different from the textualcriticism list, because at TC-Alternate anyone can propose almost anything. This means that all sorts of bad and bizarre ideas can be hawked there -- which can be a good thing, allowing naked emperors to have their grand parade. It also gives pioneering ideas -- as well as challenges to "assured results" -- a fair playing field on which to be expressed and defended.

    TC-Alternate is not an academic list, and quite a few of the conversations there are only worthwhile for one or two people. But think about some of the great pioneering textual critics of yesteryear: Scrivener, Hoskier, J. Rendel Harris, A.C. Clark. If they were to be transported to today, TC-Alternate might be the only current online discussion-list that would provide a platform for all their ideas.

    Anyway, I suspect that a niche exists for the new tclist: it is almost sure to be more scholarly than TC-Alternate, while allowing much more investigation (and promotion) of the Byzantine Priority view than the textualcriticism list.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Curtisville Christian Church
    Tipton, Indiana (USA)

  5. Quoting from Message #1 on Wieland Willker's textualcriticism group:

    Wieland says:

    "[This discussion group] is meant as a temporary replacement for the TC-list, which is not working properly anymore. . . . To make thinks short, there will be only one rule: If something escalates I will intervene."

    I posted something on cladistics in 2004 when the list started and I've been banned ever since. In my own experience, at least, Wieland has broken his one and only rule. (Obviously he has many others that he has failed to mention but enforces, nevertheless.)

    The new list has an actual rationale and guidelines and seeks to enforce them.

    I hope that those who faithfully contribute to the great discussions here at ETC will consider contributing to the new tclist. Without the participation and interaction of academic professionals with students and laymen (like myself), the new tclist will not be profitable.

    Discussion groups have a unique function (as Tommy has already mentioned). They allow discussion to be initiated by any member.

    Also, it is hoped that a moderator consortium may be established for the new tclist before the end of January, consisting of those with credentials in the field of OT and NT TC. They will help guide discussion and keep the list informative.

    Jonathan C. Borland
    Owner, tclist

  6. Personally I think some rules and moderation are necessary. I remember on the old list that one after the other left the list when the moderators became less active and the list-server broke down occasionally. The reasons why they left (that I can think of) were:

    a) too much endless apologetic discussions about TR-only, Matthew written in Hebrew, and similar subjects, with arguments on a low level (I do not count scholarly defence of the Byzantine priority position). This is not a big problem for me, because I simply don't read the messages (but I know a lot of folks that got tired and left);
    b) very heated debates turning into ad hominem attacks allowed because of lack of moderation during the latter days of the list. For example, I remember one guy stubbornly (and singularly) defending Comfort and Barrett's flawed edition causing a lot of angry reactions until he left the list for good (today he is very active on his biblioblog);

    c) technical problems with bouncing messages, etc. (I have this problem today with Wieland's list. I frequently become unsubscribed after a while, because messages to my e-mail bounce off)

  7. In my experience, I've found Wieland Wilker to be very short-leashed on arguments based on larger context and flow of the text, making me wish for some more leeway.

    However, I really like his textual commentary on the gospels.

    issues such as how one reading or another fits contextually