Monday, June 01, 2009

SBL Boston, Book Review of James Royse Scribal Habits in Early Greek NT Papyri, pt. 6


Dirk Jongkind
SBL24-129 New Testament Textual Criticism

In the series of summaries from SBL in Boston, we have arrived at the last reviewer who is our co-blogger, Dirk Jongkind.

The dutch people are known for their cheese, tulips and chocolates, but I have also read somewhere that they are known for being direct, open and honest. This is of course a cliché, but, in this case, the description (save the cheese, tulips and chocolates) did fit well with Jongkind’s presentation.

J. started with an apology for maybe being too harsh (I didn't think he was; and the friendly tone characterized all of the four presentations as well as responses). Then he proeceeded, first, with the many good things to be said of this book. After briefly mentioning a number of positive aspects, from which he has benefitted a lot he proceeded with the criticism. “Royse’s book,” he said, “is easy to criticize not because it has errors, but because, given its sheer volume it must contain some inconsistencies.” Examples of negative features that J. mentioned include the rather prolonged genesis of the book; too many footnotes commenting on too much, using too heavy prose. Too extended discussions and too many references to modern authors. After all these footnotes and the extensive treatment, the conclusions of a chapter amount to a single page. At the same time, many good observations are hidden in the footnotes. Royse could have provided better access to these observations.

Then J. turned to an example on p. 51ff where Royse defends Colwell’s approach to study singular readings. J asked a critical question whether we study the scribe or the manuscript? What does Royse say of those who study a group of readings that include non-singulars too, as Barbara Aland does? [Royse reviews her method on p. 60ff]. J. said that if studying the scribe, then it is warranted to study the singular readings, but if we study the tendency of the manuscript, there is no need to exclude non-singular (one studies the accumulated errors). Even when studying non-singular readings, one can often discern that a reading derives from a scribe’s mistake (regardless whether it is an earlier scribe or not).

Junack’s Abschreibspraktiken also appeared in 1981, and is an extremely important essay. There are nine references to this study in Royse. In none of the nine places is there a reference to Junack’s point where he attacks some of Colwell’s conclusions about how the scribes of P45, P66 and P75 had copied. Junack completely disagrees with Colwell and J. thinks rightly so, whereas Royse repeats Colwell’s conclusions. Scribal habits, J. said, is also about how the scribe copies and Royse fails here.

[Colwell had concluded that “In general, P75 copies letters one by one; P66 copies syllables, usually two letters in length. P45 copies phrases and clauses” (Colwell, “Scribal Habits,” 380). Junack pointed out that this position, that the scribes of P66 and P75 were copying text without attention to the mening, is untenable. Junack thought it more plausible to ascribe the particular features and errors of these scribes, not to the way they copied the letters, but to the action of the hands; cf. D. Jongkind, “Singular Readings in Sinaiticus” in Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies? (eds. H.A.G. Houghton & D.C. Parker; Gorgias Press, 2008), 48-49.]

The next point that J. brought up concerned Griesbach’s canon of preferring the shorter reading. Royse does not gives attention to Griesbach’s several exceptions to the rule. Most of the omissions fall under Griesbach’s exceptions. Griesbach was talking about the substantial readings.

J. pointed out that in a correction phase much more is added than removed, so in Sinaiticus.

[TW: One must not forget the “additional reading”-aspect; perhaps some corrections in Sinaiticus, for example, are to be seen not as alternative readings but additional readings...]

James Royse´s reponse will follow...


  1. A smart looking photo of Dirk!

  2. Whilst textual critics look as schmick as Dirk, many will be attracted to the discipline thinking it's not that geeky after all! When is the DJ fan club (and website) going to be founded?

  3. Dirk:

    Could you provide me (us?) with a good example of a scribe's habit of, say, writing 2 letters at a time, rather than a phrase at a time, such that this knowledge can better help us to reconstruct the text more accurately?

    Mitch L.

  4. Mitch,

    The point of Junack's criticism is precisely that it is unlikely that a scribe copied anything other than meaningful units (say a word or a phrase). Transposition of two letters, or a habit of doubling these, is not necessarily an indication of the length of the unit of copying, but only an illustration of a particular weakness of that scribe. So, I do not believe that I can give you examples of a scribe who copies two letters at a time, but there are manuscripts that have two-letter confusions more than other manuscripts (as Colwell demonstrated with P66).