Monday, June 22, 2015

The Influence of Atticism on the Textual Transmission of 1 John

A master thesis by P. R. De Lange was presented last year at the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus and has now come under my radar:

“The influence of atticism on the textual transmission of I John with particular reference to the Alexandrian text type”

The main research focus of this study was to determine more clearly to what extent Atticism influenced textual variants that are considered to belong to the Alexandrian text type. Since the time of Westcott and Hort, the Alexandrian text type has been regarded as a manuscript tradition which is representative of relatively high stylistic Greek. This assumption seems likely, especially given the fact that Alexandria and the areas which gave rise to the manuscripts comprising the Alexandrian text type were cultural centres of learning as well as of a newlyfound Hellenistic awareness within the Roman Empire.

One of the movements stemming from this newfound awareness was Atticism, which was, amongst other things, an artificial literary movement which strove towards emulating the classical Attic literary dialect. However, in the last few decades the question of the alleged presence of Atticist influence in the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament has received its share of conflicting scholarly treatment among textual critics, especially since the 1963 publication of G.D. Kilpatrick s influential article, Atticism and the text of the Greek New Testament. On the one hand, there is common assent that Atticism exerted a profound influence on all Greek prose of the first century. On the other hand, some difference of opinion exists as to whether Atticism actually influenced the composition of the New Testament text in any significant way.

The influence on the transmission of the New Testament texts is another question that still needs a fuller treatment in order to proceed from mere scholarly opinion to a more established empirical degree of certainty. The current study is an investigation into the nature of Atticism and its relationship with the classical Attic dialect. The results of this investigation were then used as basis for an evaluation of the alleged Atticisms in the Alexandrian witnesses, taking the witnesses to the text of I John as sample. In the process, thoroughgoing eclecticism as text-critical method is evaluated, and an adapted reasoned eclectic method proposed with which to conduct the investigation of the variants in I John.

The results have shown that in the textual tradition of I John, inconsistencies of correction and scribal usage occur frequently within the Alexandrian text type and that the correction was predominantly not towards Attic, but rather displayed a tendency towards Hellenistic-Koine usage. In summary, the investigation demonstrates that the uniformity of the Alexandrian text type as a whole, if not completely suspect, should at least be judged very critically when it comes to matters of characteristic features which have for decades been accepted as true, such as the Alexandrian text type s reputation as one displaying stylistically polished Greek. The investigation of I John has shed valuable light on the methodological presupposition that categories of text types are fixed above all doubt, and that they display general typical characteristics. This presupposition has been exposed as false and indicates that one follows it at one s methodological peril.

Download the thesis here.


  1. You'll have to stop googling yourself one day Tommy.
    I confess to being a bit confused by this abstract. Hopefully that is because of compression.

  2. In the same search on Google scholar, which I sometimes check to see if anyone is interacting with my research, I also found an interesting article on Jude 22-23 by David Lockett published in CBQ 2015. I recommend using this tool (provided you are interested in reading how other scholars refer to your works).

  3. Interestingly, one would expect Atticism's in "Alexandrian" manuscripts. Yesterday, I was (without knowledge of this blog...) checking some Atticism's from the ancient list of Phrynichos (Eklogè), supposing to find some Atticism's in Alexandrian manuscripts... Happily, I found one, but indeed, it was in the Byzantine tradition. Here it is:

    Luke 24:22
    ὄρθριαι (Attic form) in the Byzantine tradition
    ὀρθριναὶ (Koinè form) in NA28

    Here is the rule of Phrynichos (31): 'Ορθρινὸς οὒ, ἀλλ' ὂρθριος χωρὶς ν.

    I do not know whether the Byzantine tradition is more towards Atticism, but it will be an interesting hypothesis...

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  5. Nice to see someone else is interested in this phenomenon :)

  6. Ernst, check out Timo Flink's dissertation on this topic ( Timo, your work was mentioned in this new master thesis, but I don't think he really engaged with your method and results.

    1. Well, mine was a modest attempt on this issue. What was his method?

  7. Thanks Tommy!

    Timo, can you provide me a pdf of your dissertation please? I will be very interested in it...

    1. Unfortunately I cannot offer any pdf-files, as my dissertation is owned by the University of Eastern Finland with a copyright to it. You can try to purchase one from their library. This is one of the oddities in the Finnish system. I have no rights to my own dissertation, because it was published by the University of Eastern Finland Press :)

    2. Thanks Timo, I will try to find it out...

  8. Is your thesis still available to download Tommy. The link seems to be broken.