Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What goes around comes around

Sometimes we need to know the history of our discipline better. In his brief bio of Kirsopp Lake in the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, J. K. Elliott writes,
The link between textual criticism and interpretation was one already made by Lake as early as 1904 with his study The Influence of Textual Criticism on the Exegesis of the New Testament. This was based on the inaugural lecture he gave on January 27, 1904, at the University of Leiden, and it shows how he made that theme pivotal for this professorial appointment. It has taken nearly a century for his general thesis that textual variants must be used as an invaluable source for our study of the history of the church to bear fruit in a determined way. B. D. Ehrman, following Lake’s example, published The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture in 1993... That book was justifiably well reviewed, but for many readers it was as if such opinions were new. Lake had already been preaching some ninety years earlier that text critics had a duty to do more than establish a supposed original text. According to Lake, exegetes must expound the meaning not only of one printed text but also of the ecclesiastical Bible in use at different times, and to see textual variants as a window on the exegesis of the church. To do that, they need to keep a close eye on the critical apparatus (pp. 637–638).
Here is a taste of Lake on this point:
In the first place, he will need to expound the meaning, not of Westcott and Hort’s text, but of the ecclesiastical Bibles in use at different times; for I take it that to explain what a passage in the Gospels ought philologically to mean, or what it probably did mean originally, is only the beginning of exegesis: we need to know what the early Church thought it meant and how it altered its wording in order to emphasize its meaning (pp. 11–12).

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