Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the ‘idle boast’ of having so many New Testament manuscripts

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My post on the topic of the comparative argument for trusting our modern texts of the New Testament produced some good discussion. But one issue that got passed over in the ensuing comments deserves more attention and that is what I want to give it here.

A slide from Wallace’s presentation at Biola
The issue is whether apologists like James White or Dan Wallace, for example, are being inconsistent for practicing reasoned eclecticism and for appealing to the vast number of Greek NT manuscripts. Wallace, for example, likes to refer to our “embarrassment of riches” for recovering the original text of the New Testament. But his practice of reasoned eclecticism seems to suggest that he is “embarrassed” in quite a different way by these riches because he doesn’t actually use them (see, e.g., the NET Bible). Apologetically he wants to have his embarrassingly-rich cake, but text-critically he has already eaten it. That is the charge anyway and it is one I have heard Bart Ehrman use in debate against Wallace.

But Ehrman is not the only one to use it. He finds himself a strange bedfellow with Maurice Robinson on this who puts the problem this way:
The resources of the pre-fourth century era unfortunately remain meager, restricted to a limited body of witnesses. Even if the text-critical evidence is extended through the eighth century, there would be only 424 documents, mostly fragmentary. In contrast to this meager total,the oft-repeated apologetic appeal to the value and restorative significance of the 5000+ remaining Greek NT MSS becomes an idle boast in the writings of modern eclectics when those numerous MSS are not utilized to restore the original text.*
Robinson again:
Granting that a working presumption of most eclectic scholars (including Ehrman) is that the vast bulk of NT MSS basically should be excluded as irrelevant for the primary establishment of the text, Ehrman’s statement [against the comparative argument] makes perfect sense. Rather than claiming some sort of text-critical superiority to the classics based on the sheer quantity of extant MSS, modern eclectics perhaps should acknowledge that their actual preferred witnesses for establishing the best approximation to the “original” NT text number only in the few dozens, as opposed to the several thousands otherwise set aside from serious consideration.
I’d like to open this up to discussion again. Can reasoned eclectics make any apologetic appeal to the abundance of our NT witnesses without being inconsistent? If so, how?

———
* “Appendix: The Case for Byzantine Priority” in The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, p. 568.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What is a Catena Manuscript and Why should we Care?

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In the course of my research on the hexaplaric fragments of Job, I became immersed in its catena tradition. I also became aware that most handbooks and introductions to the Septuagint that mention these MSS did not describe them well, and they usually assumed too much knowledge on the part of the reader, especially the beginner, or worse, the specialist did not understand catena MSS either. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a visual of these MSS allows one to understand commentary on them and what the “C“ symbolizes in a critical text’s apparatus. Knowledge of their material layout aids in understanding their contents.

“Catena” is the Latin word for “chain,” and it will become evident below why these MSS were named as such. The details of the textual tradition of the Job catena need not detain us here. See my article on this topic for details, but one does not need to wade through it to appreciate the content of this post. There are two types of catenae MSS: Marginal and Text.

Tregelles and Tyndale House contra mundum: Reconsidering the Text of Rev 5:9

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It is common knowledge that, at at several places in the book of Revelation, the main text of our standard Handausgabe (i.e. Nestle-Aland, 28th ed.) follows a singular reading of Codex Alexandrinus (GA 02; LDAB 3481). In principle, this is not inadmissible: a reading that is singular now needn’t have been so 1,500 years ago. Generally, though, some might find singular readings prima facie suspect, especially if they can be adequately accounted for on internal grounds.

Now, for quite some time I’ve been fascinated about ways in which various facets of the copying process affect the rise of variant readings. At one level, copying seems like a simple and rather straightforward procedure: dip, look back (at the exemplar), write (a unit of text, whatever its length), look back, complete a line and start a new one, write, look back, write, look back, start a new column, write, look back, dip ... you get the idea. Seemingly uneventful. Or is it? All one need do is to browse through a few pages of Louis Havet’s Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris: Hachette, 1911) to see that, in between these few rudimentary processes, all manner of things may occur which can make it to our apparatus critici as variant readings.

One such reading occurs at Rev 5:9. The main text of NA28 reads as follows:

καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες· ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας  τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους.

The only one variation-unit recorded for this verse concerns the addition/omission and the placement of ἡμᾶς. All the Greek witnesses but 02 contain ἡμᾶς before or after τῷ θεῷ. On the one hand, I could see why the editors would prefer the omission here, as the first-person pronoun makes for a somewhat awkward transition to v. 10 (καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς κτλ.). Personally, however, I find this explanation unimpressive. To begin with, the scribe of 02 may have followed the same logic and so drop the pronoun under the influence of the ensuing context (a very common scribal tendency). Another possible scenario has to do with the aforementioned mechanics of the scribal process. Given that the last line of a column 1 on the given page 02 ends with τω θ̅ω̅, it seems quite likely (to my mind at least) that the pronoun may have been dropped accidentally as the scribe was traversing to another column (again, a well-documented tendency).


In short, I think we’d better print here what is a better-attested and more difficult reading whose origin is not easily accounted for by a scribal error. If you’re interested to read about this in greater detail, see my recent note: ‘“And You Purchased [Whom?]”: Reconsidering the Text of Rev 5,9’, ZNW 108 (2017) 306–12.

P.S. If you don’t have access to the article and/or don’t read footnotes, you’ll miss that, amongst NT editions, there are two that do not favour the singular reading of 02 at this point, namely Tregelles and the forthcoming Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament (THEGNT).

Friday, August 11, 2017

ETC Interview with Paolo Trovato: Part 2

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Here is Part 2 of my interview with Paolo Trovato. Read Part 1 here.





For someone who isn’t an editor or working on an edition of a text, what do think is the main value of your book for them?

Being able to easily detect the typos in a newspaper or a brand-new book. I am not kidding. This means realizing that, even in our time, any work hides or can hide within its pages a number of textual problems, born during the transmission, that is, the journey of the text from the author (via printing house or Xerox copies or internet) to the reader.

Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

Well, it is a rather long “moment”. Since 2007 I am working with a small team on a critical edition of Dante’s Commedia. The classification of the 600 extant MSS not reduced to small fragments took almost ten years, but now, thank God, we find ourselves in the more amusing and creative phase of fixing the text, for which we use 12 MSS only, the highest and most conservative in our stemma. In these very days I am working on Inferno, IV, but I already published provisional editions of Inferno, XXIII and Inferno, XXXIV on the web where I am getting precious feedback (see here and here). I have also completed some other cantos.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Poll: Pick your favorite book cover

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Tommy and I are finishing up our introduction to the CBGM right now. It will be jointly published by SBL and the German Bible Society and they are hoping to have it out at the SBL meeting in November. There are some details for the book over on Amazon. But you’ll notice that there’s no book cover, which brings us to the point of this post. One of the fun things about this project is that SBL is letting us design the cover ourselves and we need some feedback on our final two. Which do you like better?

A.

B.

Which is better?



(Both manuscript images were taken on an expedition with CSNTM at the National Library of Greece and will be used by permission.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Lecture: Lee Irons on the the ‘Righteousness of God’ in Paul

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This October, Charles Lee Irons will be speaking at Phoenix Seminary on what Paul meant by the “righteousness of God” (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ). This was the topic of his book The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation (Mohr, 2015). His thesis challenges the interpretation of this term which has been crucial in the interpretation of Paul by scholars like N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, and others. For a positive review of Irons’s book, see Tom Schreiner’s here; for a strong critique, see John Frederick’s in JBTS (vol. 1)  with a response from Irons.

If you’re in the area, come join us. It’s free and open to the public. No registration needed. Register here.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Cutting and Pasting P66 in Jn 18:34

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One of the advantages of images being available:
The NT.VMR transcription of the first words of Jn 18:34 is απεκρινα̣[τ]ο ι̅ς, and the image looks like this (start at the beginning of the first line):



There is not much of the alpha present, and I was wondering how strong the case for the absence of the article with ιησους is. In line 3 there is the sequence ατο and a simple copy and paste gives this image:


It is still possible that there is a correction in the gap in the shape of the addition of an extra ο, but I am fine to cite P66vid for the absence of the article.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

DeVining the NT.VMR in 1947

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Writing in 1947, the Catholic scholar Charles DeVine seems to have foreseen the value of the NT.VMR. The only piece missing from his vision is the internet. No one can anticipate everything, I guess.
True, we have critical editions which cite the main codices, but “to err is and the probability of error becomes greater when but a single text is in question. This prompts the thought, how fine it would be if all the principal codices of the New Testament were gathered in one place and could be compared at leisure and systematically. A vain desire! And yet in this age that has seen such tremendous progress made in the use of all forms of photography and electric facsimile, why should it be altogether beyond the realm of practicality to have codices preserved in microfilm or equivalent facsimile at some Catholic educational centre in America? In connection with an up-to-date filing-system, and with the co-operation of scholars, such an arrangement would be of inestimable benefit. It could also serve as the basis for a new and fully complete, Catholic, critical edition of the text of the New Testament.
From Charles F. DeVine, “The ‘Blood of God’ in Acts 20:28,” CBQ 9, no. 4 (1947): 381–408.

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Different Spin on 1 Cor 14:34–5

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The July issue of NTS contains an interesting text-critical offering by Aļesja Lavrinoviča: ‘1 Cor 14.34–5 without ‘in All the Churches of the Saints’: External Evidence’. The abstract goes like this:
The present study of the oldest and most relevant extant manuscripts that contain 1 Cor 14.33b–35 shows that v. 33b (ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων) is not connected with vv. 34–5. Scribes would consider 33b to be a part of 33a. Manuscripts ℵ, A, B, Fuldensis, D, F, G, ms. 88* clearly read 1 Cor 14.34–5 as a separate paragraph. In these manuscripts, where vv. 34–5 are found after v. 40, v. 33b closely follows 33a. P46 and P123 are damaged and require reconstruction. Moreover, Greek New Testament editions that link v. 33b with v. 34 reflect exegetical decisions and are not based on external evidence.
Broadly speaking, it seems that Lavrinoviča has made a plausible cumulative case, even if some of the details adduced seem problematic. For instance, Lavrinoviča mentions ‘slashes’ in P46, which she takes to be indicative of text-division, yet without citing any primary evidence or relevant secondary literature apart from Comfort’s general remarks in his Encountering Manuscripts. Here a reference to Edgar Ebojo’s recent thesis on P46 would have been useful. (By the way, the ‘slashes’ in Chester Beatty Biblical papyri are an interesting phenomenon, not exclusive to P46, and would probably repay some further specialised study.) In a similar vein, what the author does not seem to pay much attention to is that various phenomena listed as indicating text-division often appear inconsistent and sometimes downright iffy (e.g. vacant spaces can occur in the middle of a word; ekthesis occurs where you wouldn’t expect a ‘major’ break in the text’ based on the surrounding occurrences; a ‘slash’ used mid-sentence; etc).

Despite these quibbles, I enjoyed Lavrinoviča’s approach, which sits well with the recent trends in Editionswissenschaft whereby editors increasingly consider the manuscript data in deciding matters such as orthography, punctuation, and text-structuring rather than merely imposing a system of their own or standardising solely according to modern conventions. From a reception-historical standpoint, MSS data such as those adduced by Lavrinoviča can come extremely handy for exegetical purposes. Few of us would doubt that the way the text is laid out considerably impacts one’s reading.  Having said that, appropriating MS evidence to such end needs a healthy dose of critical scrutiny. What does it mean in this particular case? Well, even if one followed the said MSS in dividing the text after v. 33b, that says next to nothing about the (in)authenticity of vv. 34–5. This, of course, is not the line of argument pursued (directly at least) in the article, but it is not difficult to imagine someone jumping the gun here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

ETC Interview with Paolo Trovato: Part 1

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It’s a pleasure for me to introduce our next interviewee in our ETC interviews series. Today I am speaking with Paolo Trovato who is a professor at the Università degli Studi di Ferrara in Italy. Prof. Trovato is best known for his work on Italian philology and particularly his work on Dante. He publishes widely on range of topics. I first encountered his work through his wonderful book on Lachmann’s method (reviewed here). That book has just been released in a revised edition and that provided a good opportunity for an interview. Enjoy!


Textual criticism is not typically a popular pursuit in my experience. What led you to it in your own work? How did you come to it?

When I was a university student in the seventies, I wanted to became a literary critic and I thought that textual criticism was quite boring stuff. Aging, I went sick with all the silly hypotheses that we continuously utter and read about texts of the past and I decided that the most useful thing I could do for the sake of my studies was to repair the damages of the textual transmission or at least try to do so.