Monday, August 04, 2008

Münster Colloquium on the Textual History of the Greek New Testament, Day 1

First I should say that the organization of the conference is excellent thus far. And I doubt that anyone have seen so many textcritics gathered together in one and the same place. Someone made the funny remark that if the roof fell in, textual criticism would be back in the 19th century. Anyway, most of the scholars working in the field are here.

In the first session two papers by David Parker and Holger Strutwolf were presented on the topic of ”the initial text: construction or reconstruction?”

David Parker delivered the first paper titled, ”Is ‘Living Text’ compatible with ‘Initial Text’? Editing the Gospel of John”

Parker described his own involvement in the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP), and the changes the project had undergone in recent times. In 1997 at the SBL in San Fransisco the IGNTP started to co-operate with the INTF in Münster in order to produce the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) of John and some other related studies in the Principio Project. This meant that the old outline of the IGNTP edition (see the edition of Luke) was abandoned. Parker’s work as a critical editor during this time has posed new challenges to think through his views about the text of the Gospels, outlined earlier on in his monograph The Living Text of the Gospels. Would the result of the employed Coherence Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) show flaws in his living text theory? During the presentation it seemed clear that Parker’s view of the “Living Text” has not been altered in any significant way, and he thinks it is compatible with the idea of an initial text (Ausgangstext), which is the text to be reconstruced in the ECM.

He described the initial text as a kind of snapshot of the textual transmission at a certain point in time. Parker defined the initial text as ”the text from which the readings in the extant MSS are genealogically descended.” It is not an authorial text. Issues like, for example, the literary history of the fourth gospel and issues like whether chapter 21 was added later are not significant for the reconstruction of the initial text.

Then Parker developed his ideas about the living text. There is a significant body of variation in the gospels, which represent interpretations of the gospel in the early church. The variants are there, and the notion of the ”living text” is an attempt to account for them. He emphasized that textual and oral transmission worked in a double interaction during the early period of transmission. Many variants originated very early. For example, Parker discussed the passage in Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer where we have the reading ”Thy holy spirit come upon us and cleanse us.” Parker thinks there is a ”pre-second century gulf” that prevents us to say much about the text in earlier times. Our reconstruction of an initial text then, in Parker’s view, seems to be a reconstruction of an archetype dated to some time in the second century.

We may find ”pre-genealogical evidence”, for example in John 7:53-8:11, but this should be left out from the initial text. After the reconstruction we can always pose historical questions about previous and, particularly later stages in the development of the text. He thinks the new CBGM method and other methods (e.g., phylogenetic analysis) provides tools for dealing with problems like contamination in the tradition and that we now will be able to observe the textual history of the NT throughout the ages in the ECM.

Note that this is my rephrased summary. I hope I have made justice to the contents of the presentation.

In the time for questions I brought up the issue of intrinsic evidence. In a paper at the SNTS in Halle 2005 (I think it was), Parker and Wachtel described the initial text as something more than he archetype but something less than the autograph. (This distinction is also found in Mink’s works.) Since we are appealing to intrinsic evidence when we ask ourselves what the author most likely wrote in light of his style and theology we are moving beyond the archetype of the textual tradition, and trying to reconstruct what the author wrote. But I wonder if Parker’s living text theory permits us to do this, since we cannot be certain at all what the author wrote. If Parker is right, we only know the snapshot from around 200 C.E. and cannot tell what had happened to the text by then. I am afraid I received no answer to my question about the appeal to intrinsic evidence in relation to the living text theory.

Next was Holger Strutwolf on ”Original text and textual history,” but since it is now after midnight that will have to wait.


  1. Thx Tommy for your descriptions. I do not personally agree with Parker. His theory makes the textual tradition too fluid. Taken to its logical conclusion there was no text. The initial text would only be an artificial reconstruction of oral traditions. I do not think that's true.

  2. Thanks Tommy. A couple of extra notes on this:
    a) on the snapshot idea: the initial text is a moment of time within the development of the living text.
    b) the initial text is a late 2nd century text
    c) He also said that someone should do a PhD on John in P75 and Vaticanus (analogous to C.M. Martini on Luke).
    d) In the Gospels he observed that the sayings of Jesus have more variation that the narrative, while in Acts the sermons of the apostles have less variation that the surrounding narrative (crediting Jenny Heimerdinger).

  3. PMH: "He also said that someone should do a PhD on John in P75 and Vaticanus (analogous to C.M. Martini on Luke)."

    However, C.M. Martini himself now spends about 8 months/year in Jerusalem working on Codex Vaticanus again, so it may be that Martini (who made the suggestion to Parker) is working on this himself!