Saturday, July 26, 2008

Report from Århus Conference II

Below I will summarize or provide an abstract of just some of the papers from the conference, including of course my own paper and that of Barbara Aland, dealing with the text-critical perspective. This is as far as I have had time to summarize the many papers offered (fifteen).

Day 1
Cilliers Breytenbach, ”Mark”
Breytenbach delivered a very broad overview of Marcan research under the headings ”Methodological issues;” ”Traditions in Mark's gospel;” ”On the text of Mark;” ”The date and origin of Mark's gospel”; ”Topics of Marcan research;” ”Resumé.” His handout included a long bibliography of post 2000 publications (Andreas Lindemann had reviewed earlier material in ThR), but the paper covered a broader range of material. Under the heading of my particular interest, ”On the text of Mark” he very briefly mentioned two or three works, Larry Hurtado's work on P45, James Voeltz' study of Marcan style in Codex Vaticanus. I pointed out that he could add James Kelhoffer's study, Miracle and Mission (not the full title) on the Longer ending of Mark published in the WUNT series. I think one should also add the Text und Textwert volumes, and the new tool from the INTF in Münster for examining Synoptic parallels (based on the work in connection with Text und Textwert) soon to be published in the ANTF series, which I think will be important on a broad level. Moreover, Stephen Carlson's recent exposures of archaic Mark and the Secret Gospel of Mark could be added to the list.

David Sim, ”Matthew and Mark: The Current State of Research”
In his stimulating paper, Sim mostly defended the minority view that Matthew was anti-pauline, especially Jesus' teaching on the Torah reflected opposition to Paul and his teaching, whereas Mark was positive to Paul. Sim argued that Matthew was written to replace Mark and to let it into oblivion, but it eventually survived due to its connection to the apostle Peter.

Barbara Aland, ”Textcritical Problems in Mark and Matthew. Recent Developments”
Barbara Aland's paper was the only one delivered in German. But since the full paper was distributed among the audience and she read it slowly, I think most of us could follow. Aland first reviewed the goals, possibilities and limits of textual criticism. She emphasized that we cannot like literary criticism go beyond the initial text, i.e., stages which are not possible to detect in the manuscript tradition. Moreover, she stressed the consistency of the text in the witnesses. They all witness to one single initial text (including aberrant witnesses representing the D-text). The transmission of the text is accurate in principe, but full of distinctive variants that nevertheless do no violence to the meaning of the text. Then she described the transmission in the earliest period and the larger tolerance in relation to textual variation, e.g., reflected in witnesses like P45. However, the textual variants originated from the scribes, who were not working on the text as redactors, interpreters or theologians, but as scribes taking pride in doing their job – copying their exemplar.

In the next section, Aland described the method of textual criticism, and stressed the need for refinement of method when it comes to the evaluation of the minuscules. This work is now of course being done at the INTF with the help of the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. In the Catholic Epistles, for example, the new results have revealed some nine witnesses bearing witness to as good a text as Codex Vaticanus. During the time for questions I asked Aland whether she saw any problem of circularity with the first stage of the CBGM method when local stemmata are worked out in individual places on the basis of external and internal criteria, in terms of a bias towards Vaticanus already from the outset, implying that the method, although useful for identifying witnesses with an akin text, is unuseful for an objective evaluation of the quality of the text. (Cf. Aland's formulation in the English summary, ”Thereby [by the CBGM] new manuscripts of the mass of the minuscules can be gained which are near to the initial text and are to be compared with the quality of 03 (B).” She replied that the large number of cases serve as a control on the method. I basically agree, and I see this initial stage as similar to the Westcott-Hort procedure in proving that the ”neutral” text reflected in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus was superior. However, I am still curious of how this first stage in the CBGM method works in practice. What is the explanation for the high degree of similarity between the printed text of ECM for which the new method has been applied and NA27? Perhaps I will have some answers in two weeks when I go to the conference in Münster.

In any case, in Aland's second major part she treated practical examples of textual problems in Matthew in relation to his source in Mark (presupposing Marcan priority). In this part she referred to the evidence provided in the Text und Textwert volumes (of which we got extracts) where available, i.e., in the Teststellen. I cannot go into all of her examples (and she did not have time to do it either), but the treatment did imply that the new results of the CBGM will be important in several difficult passages. For example in passages like Mt 14:30 and 15:4 we have no complete documentation, without which a decision is hardly possible at this point. It seemed to be particularly important in passages where B (03) now stands quite alone and where we are unaware of further minuscule witnesses. ”Ceterum censeo: Wir brauchen die Kenntnis von mehr ursprungsnahen Handschriften.” On the other hand, in a passage like Mt 13:35 where we now have full documentation (Teststelle 40), she thinks the bracket around KOSMOU should now be removed in light of the evidence.

Tommy Wasserman, ”Implications of Textual Criticism for Understanding the 'Original Text'”
My presentation went very well, from my perspective and judging from the response. I summarize it by citing my conclusion below:

”Any serious study of the Gospels has to begin with the manuscripts and take into account the factor of textual transmission. Recently, a number of scholars in the field of textual criticism have challenged every assurance of certainty in establishing an original text of the New Testament, by questioning the value of the extant textual evidence. The archetype of the textual tradition in their view is still at least 100 years removed from the authors, and during the earliest period there was such a great fluidity and freedom in handling the text that the extant manuscripts are unreliable for the purpose. On the other hand, the same scholars are in effect occupied with the reconstruction of a text beyond the hypothetical archetype of the tradition, not least by appealing to internal evidence such as what the original author would likely have written.

One of the basic assumptions of this minimalistic view is the notion that witnesses like P75 and Vaticanus, traditionally labeled Alexandrian, reflect an attempt to establish a controlled text at the end of the second century when the text had developed freely. I have attempted to show that the available material, including newly published papyri, show that the situation in the second century was not so chaotic. A significant majority of the earliest papyri witness to the Alexandrian text. If there was a major recension of the Gospel texts at the end of the second century, one would have expected clear evidence from the manuscripts themselves. I have pointed to several problems of using early patristic sources in isolation from the manuscripts, in order to draw firm conclusions about the state of the early text and its transmission.

As for a second-century recension, the candidates capable of such an undertaking are indeed hard to find, more so if the recension was based upon a collation of largely corrupted MSS. I think our best extant MSS reflect a concern for careful copying present in some circles from the earliest time, rather than the result of text-critical scholarship and ecclesiastical control. Nevertheless, they are not faultless in spite of their general superior quality, proven time and time again.

We shall not committ the mistake to think that the text chosen by the editors of our current standard editions is virtually certain at every point, and that we can ignore the foot of the page showing significant variants. In fact, the text-critical task will never be finished, but the rich and growing body of textual evidence, the tenacity of the textual tradition, and the refined methods of textual criticism may ensure us that the goal is in reach. The reconstruction of the original text remains an 'impossible possibility'."

Stanley Porter, ”Linguistics and Semantics in Mark and Matthew”

John Kloppenborg, ”The Hermeneutics of Violence in Mark and Matthew”

Lorenzo Scornaienchi, ”Polemics in Mark”

Eve-Marie Becker, ”Dating Mark and Matthew as Ancient Literature”
This was the last paper of the first day, and people were probably rather tired, but the paper was very good and stimulated perhaps the liveliest discussion of all. Becker discussed the methodology of dating ancient literature, and then went on with a comparative study of selected relevant texts in Mark and Matthew trying to find a post quem (she left the question of an ad quem due to time restraint) and a relative chronology between the two gospels. The specific texts were treated under different headings: ”Level of reference:” Mk 10:39-Matt 20:23 (referring to James' martyrdom?); Mk 12:9-Mt 21:41; Mk 13:”-Mt 24:2; Mk 13:14-23-Mt 24:15-28 and Mt 22:7 (absent from Mk); ”The narrator's perspective:” Mk 1:1-[Mt 1:1] – in brackets because it is only in Mk 1:1 that the narrator reveals his perspective as theologian (messenger of the gospel?); Mk 7:19c (in Mt not this interpretation); Mk 13:14-[Mt 24:15], Becker calls this a ”Leserappell. Does it go back to Mark or to his source?; Mk 9:1-Mt 16:28; Mk 13:30-Mt 24:34. Becker concluded that: (1) Matthew is later than Mark; (2) there is no evidence in the texts that Mk and Mt must be dated post 70 C.E. and definitely not to ”safely” date Mk before and Mt after 70. Most of the subsequent discussion revolved around Mt 12:9 and Matt 22:7 and that the latter is ex eventu, i.e., that it must have been written after the destruction of the temple. Becker, who shared Rengstorff's interpretation of the passage thought the passage had been overestimated for dating. Becker personally thinks that the two gospels should be dated post 70 C.E., but her point was that the textual evidence is inconclusive.

Day 2
Linden Youngqvist, ”Locating Mark and Matthew”

This paper explored the relationship between the community that stands behind Mark and the community that stands behind Matthew by adding a third text, Q, into the discussion. Youngqvist's thesis is that Matthew had a special connection to Q, a distant one with Mark, and that, therefore, Matthew's and Q's community were genetically related. He compared Mark's, Q's and Matthew's portrayals of the Disciples, Jerusalem and the Law.

David E. Aune, ”Mark and Matthew: Genre and Structure”
Aune started by an overview of research on the issue of genre. He especially commended Adela Collin's, who was present at the conference, for her forty-three pages introductory section on genre of Mark in her Hermenia commentary.

In his paper, Aune challenged one of the presupposition of the academy, that the four gospels share the same genre, sometimes seen as a revolutionary genre, or as sharing generic profile with one or more ancient Jewish or Graeco-Roman genres. He also questioned the view that Mark must be based on a single model. First, however, he gave an overview of the development of genre criticism.

Form criticism, implicating that the gospels were unique and that the evangelists were not authors but editors, hampered the development of literary study of the gospels during the 20th century. However, genre criticism began to flourish in the 1970's, and began to affect biblical studies. Since then, genre criticism have developed from a focus on the descriptive task of classification to explaining the social-rhetorical function of genre. Modern genre theory in general is characterized by: (1) classification of groups of literary works which share content, function, formal features (example Hellholm's study of generic traits of apocalyptic works); (2) all human discourse is universally genre bound; (3) genres are structured categories with a hardcore of prototypical members (the categories are, however, not clearly defined); (4) genres are dynamic rather than static entities that can transform (through new texts) over time – genre is process and the categories are open; (5) the transformation of genre occurs in many ways. A new genre is a transformation of one or more previous ones (cf. Jenett's Palimpsest on transformation/imitation); (6) writing and speaking are socially determined models of communication that always occur in a community, a social context (the early Christian community used several models in their discource community). Each person in the discource community participate in literary socialization: (7) individual texts contain textual clues that signal to the reader how to interpret the text. [I missed the final eight point.]

In the second part, Aune proceeded to treat the function of genre in Mark and Matthew. It turned out, however, that he did not have more than some minutes left over for Matthew, so the focus was really on Mark. Unfortunately, I have not had time to edit my loose notes, but when it comes to genre, Aune stressed that Mark was not based on a single previous model (and there was no Ur-Mark). The evangelist included various material and transformed the sources he used by enlarging the scale. Mark is composed of various genres. It has a didactic function. There are several differences as compared to Graeco-Roman biography (here Aune referred to E. Boring), e.g., Jesus is depicted as divine. He will appear again in the end of history. He stills speaks to his community. The drama is episodic not anecdotal. Jesus had communicated God's message, not least through parables, calling for a decision. This level of communication is included in Mark. Aune adds that Graeco-Roman biography was written for the well-educated members of society, the higher strata of the population, whereas Mark was written at a much lower registry than most of the biographies. It reflects the opposition of early Christian's to the dominant social values. The ideological features must have appealed to a core of values for the discource community. On the other hand some features that Boring thought was absent from the gospel, Aune thinks are present, e.g. various acknowledgements, e.g., in genealogies (Matthew, Luke) and at the baptism. Aune ended up designating the genre of Mark as a ”parody” of Graeco-Roman biography. In the subsequent discussion, Adela Collins was not entirely happy about this designation. She rather sees Mark as a transformation of Graeco-Roman biography. She thought perhaps one could term it a ”mimicry” (a term used in colonial discource). Eva-Marie Becker referred to Umberto Eco's description of the tension between creation and repetition; In the connection of creating a new genre, there is always something familiar (continuity) and something new (discontinuity) in it. Becker wanted to see gospel as a development of biography to historiography. This, I believe, is Samuel Byrskog's position (cf. Story as History – History as Story).

There were a lot of other papers the second day, but right now it is after midnight so this will be enough. I will hopefully return with more material, perhaps some photos. I can just say that we had a wonderful festive dinner sponsored by the publisher Mohr-Siebeck, just outside of Århus where there was an old mill and a restaurant. Some of us had a guided tour at this mill, and we all thought it was a fantastic experience.

My thanks goes to Eve-Marie Becker and Anders Runesson for organizing this conference. I look forward to the second phase of the conference which will take place at McMaster University in Canada next year.

Tomorrow I head back to Sweden for the next conference, and after that to Münster. It turned out that Barbara Aland and John Kloppenborg were also attending all three conferences in a row.


  1. Thanks Tommy,
    These summaries are much appreciated.

  2. TW: You wrote:
    "I have attempted to show that the available material, including newly published papyri, show that the situation in the second century was not so chaotic. A significant majority of the earliest papyri witness to the Alexandrian text."

    For the life of me I can't understand why this is not generally held.

    Where can we get a hold of your paper?


  3. Mitch,

    the paper will eventually be published in more developed form by Mohr-Siebeck in a chapter in a conference volume. Our deadline is in February 2009.

  4. Well, it is possible that the reason why the majority of the early papyri are Alexandrian is that they are from the vicinity of Alexandria. This tells us nothing of the early papyri elsewhere and now lost. However, I do agree with Tommy that the situation was probably not so chaotic, but I am going to argue in my dissertation that it was chaotic enough to cast serious doubts for the usability of the Coherence-based Genealogical Method in terms of reaching back to the second century text.

  5. Timo:

    You wrote:

    "Well, it is possible that the reason why the majority of the early papyri are Alexandrian is that they are from the vicinity of Alexandria."

    The issue as to where papyri eventually end up (in this example, Eqypt) is a different issue than where these papyri originated or were first composed/copied. And I know you've read, to name just three, Metzger, Hengel and Epp on this very issue.

    Your argument is two assumptions removed from the evidence, and this is why I have a hard time embracing it. I'm not saying I disagree with your point entirely, but I am saying you are going about establishing the more critical point on a historically speculative previous and necessary point.

    Your first assumption (the papyri ORIGINATED in Egypt) becomes the foundation upon which your next assumption must be constructed. This is always ill-advised in logic, is it not?

    You need to come in the back door with this approach, but I am just not convinced that the more secure historical evidence should be so quickly pushed aside.

    I may very well have misunderstood your point, and if so, SIG'NOMI.


  6. Hi Mitch,

    Yes. It is possible some of them are not from the vicinity of Alexandria, but the problem is that we do not know that with certainty. It is a possibility, but only a possibility. That's why I said it is POSSIBLE that Alexandrian papyri are just Alexandrian with no bearing on papyri elsewhere (excuse my bad wording in the previous attempt :))

    Even if some of the papyri known from Alexandria are not original to that location, it still does not tell us much about the now lost papyri elsewhere. One can only speculate.

    What can be known, however, is that the early papyri presents us a plethora of variant readings in contradiction to each other, and even within themselves. Take P66. It has Byz-type variants corrected to Alex-type variants and vice versa. Who decided what it should read and why? For what purpose? A different exemplar? A theological or social motive or something else, perhaps on the basis of a change in location? And so and so one :)

    Tommy, could you please let me see your article. I'd be interested in seeing how you argue your case.

  7. Timo:

    I too have apparently misspoken. You said:

    "It is possible some of them are not from the vicinity of Alexandria, but the problem is that we do not know that with certainty."

    I can demonstrate the polar opposite of this to be equally valid. My removal of ONE word from your statement is equally valid.

    It is possible some of them are from the vicinity of Alexandria, but the problem is that we do not know that with certainty.

    Your default is that these papyri ARE FROM Alexandria, and I'm saying that is as speculative as they ARE NOT FROM Alexandria. That they were preserved/discovered in Egypt tells me absolutely nothing about their origin. What I see is scholars giving more weight to these papyri originating from Egypt. There is no evidence to that fact. To make such a conclusion based on where they were discovered is not an interesting construct to me.

    Surely we know that millions of documents originating all over the empire ended up in Alexandria.

    Most arguments use the Ehrman method. Make a huge assumption and then from that starting point, build your case.

    My fear is that many scholars will stop after identifying your speculative starting point. Haven't we read enough of these kind of hypotheses?

    Please don't think I am trying to discourage you. I am just selfish and am looking for more scholars to worry themselves with what we do know.


  8. Mitch,

    Well, I have no problem with your point of view. My point is simply that the papyri were found in Egypt. This we know. Whether their origin is there or not is speculation. We do not know what sort of other papyri were in existence that are now lost. To argue that the papyri we do have presents a picture that encompasses the whole Mediterranean area is speculation. We do not know this (or that they are Egyption for that matter) and after years and years of research by different scholars it seems that we might never know. I hope to be wrong.

    To me the value of the papyri depends on their text, not their location, and the text is the problem. If you compare P66 with P75 on John, there is a relatively large number of differences. That is a fact. The question "why" is a subjective speculation and open for a debate.

    Don't get me wrong. The papyri are important and have great value, but sometimes they are overrated as witnesses. This has taken place even in the UBS/NA tradition. The scholars working on the ECM series now recognise this and hopefully offer a more balanced treatment of the papyri.

    My contention with them is their genealogical method. The early papyri do not cope well with the assumptions behind their method. I suppose it is a matter of opinion whether one wants to call the disagreements between the papyri a chaotic situation or not, but the fact is that the genealogical method has problems (well, which method doesn't?-)).

    In any case, thx for your opinions. They are appreciated.

  9. Timo

    Thanks for the interaction. I'll close with one final observation.

    You wrote:
    "If you compare P66 with P75 on John, there is a relatively large number of differences."

    I'm assuming you've collated these as probably everyone on this list has. A "large number" of differences is to be expected, right? There is a "large number" of differences when our inspired Apostles quote/copy the SAME LXX passage.

    I'm just not sure why some scholars assume that the preserving of the Apostolic Teachings (rule of faith) in the first two centuries "differs" from later copyists. They had access to two different sources (oral and written). Both sources being considered equally valid.

    These papyri show the same characteristics as the apostolic quotations of LXX passages. As time moved on, copying had to change since one of the main sources (oral teachings of Apostles: rule of faith) was waning.

    Try producing a document that takes into consideration oral and written sources (second century), and then produce a document that only has one, written source (fourth century) to use. Do you find anything historically unusual about these papyri's "differences" among each other, as well as to later mss?