Tuesday, August 05, 2008

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

The second paper was delivered by Holger Strutwolf, “Original text and textual history?”

In Klaus Wachtel’s introduction of Holger Strutwolf, who is now the director of the INTF, he described him as conservative in the sense that he still thinks the goal of textual criticism is to reconstruct the original text. Strutwolf began his paper with a brief overview of the history of textual criticism. One of the conclusions were that the contempt towards MSS on the part of some scholars, who see them as mere reservoirs of readings, is not acceptable. Strutwolf then stated that the quest for the original text, in spite of the alleged “multivalence” of the term (so Epp), is not obsolete. On the contrary, the concept of the author’s text is still useful in textual criticism.

It turned out that Strutwolf by chance happened to have chosen the same example as did Parker, i.e., the passage in the Lord’s prayer in the Lukan version, Luke 11:2-4. He concluded that the shorter form was clearly the older, and that other witnesses had assimilated the passage to Matthew; D (05) to the highest degree. Moreover, he could not detect a theological motivation for the omission because of an anti-marcionite reason. If one agrees that the short form is older, then the hypothesis that we have reconstructed the oldest form of Luke in this passage is plausible. In the same passage another reading appears which some scholars think Marcion was behind, ELQETW TO PNEUMA SOU TO hAGION EF hHMAS KAI KAQARISATW hHMAS, attested in 162, 700 Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus Confessor. Several scholars have argued for the authenticity of this addition, because it is anti-harmonistic. Strutwolf points out that scholars agree in one point, that it is a reinterpretation of ”Thy kingdom come,” but a less apocalyptic interpretation. Where and when did this phrase originate? Does it stem from the author or is it a reinterpretation by later scribes/editors? Strutwolf thinks the substitution was not made by the author, but that it was introduced later.

As we can see in P75 and B, they are almost free of harmonization of Luke to Matthew. This is confirmed in general, so it is plausible to assume that the issue here is not about harmonization. Moreover, there can be suspected theological reasons for the substitution as well as the omission. For example, Tertullian and Origen seem to be at unease with the apocalyptic, realistic way that God’s reign is coming. Origen says in interpreting, ”Thy kingdom come” that it does not come observably, but that the kingdom of God is within us, referring to Jesus. In the thought of Origen the dwelling can only come by the indwelling of God by his spirit. This interpretation may have occurred, first as a gloss in a manuscript, and then it moved into the text. This latter explanation actually tied in neatly with a later presentation by Ulrich Schmid on the conceptualizing of scribal practices, and the need to distinguish between scribes and readers. Some variants (like this one) may have arisen due to reader’s notes. One basic assumption for both Schmid and Strutwolf (and many others, including the scholars working at the INTF) is that the default scribal activity is to copy one’s Vorlage. (In fact, this is a basic assumption in the CBGM.)

To summarize Strutwolf’s first part, ”The concept of an original text is not obsolete, but a necessary one. The quest of the original remains a vital task.”

In the second part a more general description of the CBGM was offered (developed later by Mink both on the first and second day of the conference). I will not summarize that part here.

The bottom line of the whole presentation in relation to what Parker had said was that as long as we have no evidence for a major break between the original and initial text, the hypothesis that the initial text is approximate to the original stands. [Here is where the interpretation of other material comes in, e.g., patristic witnesses which have a text not attested in the Greek manuscript tradition – my remark.] Strutwolf, then, was prepared to admit that the initial text may not be the original where there is some evidence of uncertainty. In such cases we can also leave the question to literary criticism, etc., but otherwise we may assume that the initial text is equal to the original.

Then there was a very friendly but lively and interesting discussion between Strutwolf and Parker. Parker responded by pointing out somewhat enigmatically, at least in my view, that ”an author is never an individual but a process,” i.e., the text emerges out of a number of people (if I got that right). In any case, he thought there were immense difficulties with a single authorial text. Instead there is a process of construction. For Parker, Strutwolf’s statement, ”We want to know what Paul wrote”, does not mean that the question is possible to answer. Parker referred to their common coincidental example from the Lord’s prayer in Luke saying that we just do not know what Luke’s original gospel was.

To me it seemed as if Parker denied, or was very sceptic of the use of internal criteria, i.e., the intrinsic evidence. Before we can say that this or that is Lukan, or Pauline, we have to be aware of the fact that we are reconstructing not what the author wrote, but a collection, a snapshot later on, removed from the author. Strutwolf (and I) was not happy with this over-scepticism to leave everything open. Instead he thought we need positive reasons for doubt. On the one hand there was much variation, but on the other hand there was a strong tenacity in the tradition. One should start with the positive one (the tenacity), instead of the negative (the manifold variation). I totally agree, and I return to the question that the initial text is really a reconstructed collection of a corpus of the NT, e.g., the fourfold gospels collection. I think it is not. In fact, at one point, Parker seemed to anticipate that the results of the work in John pointed to the fact that this gospel had a distinct textual history to other gospels. The same is apparent in the Catholic epistles, where it seems, judging from the results of the CBGM, that the individual books have a distinct textual history.

It turned out that most scholars who expressed their opinions sided up with Strutwolf. For example, Tjitze Baarda urged that we should really try to get somewhere. He told us a remark about a liberal scholar in Leiden in the 18th century. He started reading in Roman 1:1, and immediately asked, ”Did Paul ever wrote a letter to the Romans? Did not Markion write this...?” We do not know that Paul ever wrote Romans, but we take it for granted that he did. So we take it for granted that the initial text is the original. If we return to scepticism we might as well go back to the 18th century.


  1. TW:

    "...original and initial text..."

    If I may use Romans only as an example, would the "original" text be the final text Paul puts his final stamp (signature?) of approval on and has it delivered to Rome?

    But, what is the definition of an "initial" text? Which precedes which chronologically in time, the original or initial?


  2. well, what if Paul himself wrote two versions of his letter, one draft, one final, and both were copied and circulated. Which one then is the original text? This is the problem some of us are thinking too.

    What happens to the initial text? Is it a conglomerate of the two 'coz we do not know how to separate them?

    Just a thought.

  3. This is great stuff - thank you for giving this ongoing report. I do wonder, with others in these comments, whether there might be multiple possibilities for what we call "initial" - Perhaps the longer and shorter versions of Romans reflect two "originals" - one being the dispatched letter (i.e. including chapter 16) and another being Paul's own professionally-made copy (for whatever reason lacking the chapter of greetings): Perhaps both ended up in circulation, and both could be called 'original'. Of course, this is speculative - but simply illustrates the possibility that there could be more than one "original".

  4. Thanks Tommy,
    A couple of things to add here:
    a) Re the lack of harmonisation in P75 and Vaticanus HS refered to a forthcoming book from the INTF on this subject which demonstrates that some manuscripts are less liable to (reproduce?) harmonised readings than others.
    b) In discussion Parker refered to the possibility/probability that 100s of readings have been lost to us because all the witnesses have been influenced. HS observed (in tension with this) that variant readings have a kind of tenacity within the tradition - they were preserved within the textual flow somewhere.

  5. PMH: "HS refered to a forthcoming book from the INTF on this subject which demonstrates that some manuscripts are less liable to (reproduce?) harmonised readings than others."

    I have mentioned this forthcoming publication on the blog before. It will come out in the ANTF series (de Gruyter = unfortunately expensive). It is based on the Text und Textwert data presented in the parallell passages in the Gospels. There will be an introduction, and apparently both Klaus Wachtel and Holger Strutwolf are working on it. (I knew that Klaus was writing an introduction, but it seems they are now doing it together.) We all look forward to this tool. I had hoped to have been able to use it for my paper in Århus, but it has been delayed.

  6. From their web-site:
    Die frühe Überlieferungsgeschichte der Synoptischen Evangelien
    Aufgrund vollständiger Kollationen von über 150 textgeschichtlich wichtigen Handschriften in 41 Parallelperikopen werden die Ergebnisse der Teststellenkollationen (Text und Textwert) überprüft und ergänzt. Variantenspektren einzelner Handschriften und Gruppen werden detailliert untersucht. Dabei gilt besondere Aufmerksamkeit der Bedeutung textlicher Harmonisierung für die Variantenbildung in den Synoptischen Evangelien.

  7. Regarding the Lord's Prayer, Tommy cited Holger Strutwolf as saying that "other witnesses had assimilated the passage to Matthew; D (05) to the highest degree".

    If this quote is exact (and I would have to check my notes), I find it peculiar that, in the supposed widespread assimilation from the Matthean form into Luke, all the claimed assimilating witnesses were very good at their task except for assimilation of the Matthean doxology.

    Even if one holds that the Matthean doxology was derived later, it becomes a major mystery within the Byzantine era as to why those same MSS that so easily assimilated all other Matthean portions nevertheless chose not to assimilate the otherwise Byzantine-prevalent doxology when copying Luke.

  8. Professor Robinson,

    Yours is a primary question that, to my knowledge, has never been answered satisfactorily. If the doxology in Matthew is late, one must show that it is later than all the Byzantine "additions" in Luke's version of the LP. But when all the MSS that have the longer edition of the Lord's Prayer in Luke 11 are also those that have the doxology in Matthew (except D [!]), the traces of the "process of expansion" in the Byzantine witnesses are, for all intents and purposes, obliterated. In scientific study, such results would generally lead one to doubt the hypothesis of the "process of expansion" in the Byzantine witnesses.

    Jonathan C. Borland

  9. Right after the Lord's prayer in Luke, Jesus says that since a father will not give his son a stone instead of bread the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him. This could show the "let thy Holy Spirit come and cleanse us" phrase is original, or it could explain where it comes from. Those reading that latter could have assumed that a prayer to receive the spirit belonged above. Or maybe there used to be one?