Friday, September 22, 2017

More Payne, no gain on the distigmai

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Supposed distigmai-obeli in 03
In the latest NTS, Philip Payne has published an expanded form of his 2015 ETS paper on Vaticanus and its supposed use of “distigme-obelos” symbols to mark additions in the text. Payne has also summarized his “groundbreaking discoveries” for Scot McKight’s blog here. The full article is generously open access and can be read here.

I heard Payne give this argument in 2015 and wrote about my reaction to it back then. Here I thought I would add just a little to that.

The crux of the argument is that certain NT paragraphoi are longer than others and occur alongside distigmai (double dots). These “distigme-obelos” marks are then said to mark textual additions which Payne identifies, as before, using the NA apparatus. Payne does concede this time around that seven of his eight “distigme-obelos” symbols might also mark paragraph breaks, but he is quite confident that they are more than that. The upshot in all this for Payne is that 1 Cor 14.34–35 is not Pauline and the apparent inconsistency with 1 Cor 11 is thereby removed.

As before, I find the manuscript argument nearly impossible to believe.

All of Payne’s supposed obeli happen at natural breaks in the text, none of them are actual obeli like we find in the OT portion of Vaticanus (or in other MSS), and all look just like the other paragraphoi to the naked eye. The fact that Payne has to measure them in millimeters to show their distinctiveness only proves the point, in my mind. How could any ancient reader be expected to identify them without measurement?

Add to this the fact that seven of his eight “obeli-distigmai” texts do not actually include the supposed “added text” and the problems are just too much. The ancient reader would have no idea what text these marks were actually marking. The whole point of using an obelos, of course, was that you leave the questionable text in but mark it so that the reader knows what it is. In Payne’s system, the reader is left with no way to know what the symbols mark in 87% (seven of eight) of their cases. Payne’s system, as he envisions it, would never work in practice.

With scholars like Niccum and Miller, then, we should conclude that there is no semantic connection between these distigmai and paragraphoi.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

“Daniel” in Select Codices

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I have written elsewhere on the (in)significance of the codex for determining the boundaries of an ancient’s canon of Scripture. Probably, historical anachronism has occurred, and we have foisted the significance of our modern, printed Bible on to the ancient codex. So what is the value of the MSS for such studies? They do help in determining a wide range of contents of religious literature as well as provide context for the various orders of books, neither of these aiding in determining a canon.

Though the MSS probably did not help the ancients concretize the canon, they do visualize for us what an ancient scribe or church father meant or conceptualized by the title of a certain book. This may not be a big deal for New Testament studies, but for the Greek Old Testament, we need to take this point to heart. The contents of books such as Jeremiah, 1-2 Esdras, Esther, and Daniel are not very straightforward. Let’s use “Daniel” as a test case by touring some select MS images of the book to see whether our vision of the contents improves. As is well-known, the book of Daniel in Greek was transmitted in quite a different form from the Protestant Bible, taking the form of Susanna-Daniel-Bel and the Dragon in most of the early MSS. We will consider briefly Daniel in Codex Vaticanus (IV), Codex Marchalianus (VI), and Codex Syro-hexaplaris (VIII/IX).

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Problem of P38 and the ‘Western’ Text in Acts

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In his published dissertation, Eldon Epp was interested in theological tendencies in Acts. In particular, he was interested in theological tendencies in the “Western” text. (From here on, I’ll forgo the quotation marks because they get tedious.) His method, however, was to study one particular witness of the Western text, namely, Codex Bezae.

The problem for Epp is that Codex Bezae could not be treated as a simple proxy for the earlier Western text. The reason is that Bezae sometimes reflected various accretions to the Western text. In order to address the problem, he compared Bezae “with those witnesses which, along with D, are recognized as the best ‘Western’ evidence” (p. 28). In this way, Epp could confirm where Bezae was or wasn’t likely preserving the earlier Western text-type.

Setting aside for a moment the risk of circularity here, I want to point out a serious problem with one of Epp’s key control manuscripts, namely, P38.

In discussing the proper use of D as a witness to the Western text, Epp cites P38 as a key reference point for determining whether a reading in D is, in fact, Western. He writes:
If P38, because of its earlier date, is ipso facto assumed more accurately to preserve the early “Western” text, then a comparison of D with this papyrus shows, as H. A. Sanders concluded, that “D is a very imperfect source for the ‘Western’, or second-century, text’. Granting this, however, it must also be emphasized that D and P38 show such a degree of agreement over against the B-text that the papyrus can be used, at the same time, to show that ‘the D text existed in Egypt shortly after A.D. 300’; A. C. Clark could call P38 ‘a text almost identical with that of D’. Codex Bezae, then, at many points is an imperfect witness to the ‘Western’ text, and yet on this account it does not lose its leading place among those witnesses.
Later, Epp cites D, P38, and the Harklean Syriac margin as “the outstanding ‘Western’ sources for Acts” and they form, with the (then) recently discovered Coptic G67 as an “élite group” (p. 31). Epp cites Clark approvingly that P38 has a text “almost identical with D” and Epp says this agreement is especially prominent “over against the B-text.”

The problem is that this isn’t the case when one compares these manuscripts in more detail. Here are the results from the recently-released ECM for Acts:

P38 03/B 05/D
P38 69.4% (43/62) 59.0% (36/61)
03/B 69.4% (43/62) 68.4% (3,514/5,140)
05/D 59.0% (36/61) 68.4% (3,514/5,140)

P38 is, of course, fragmentary, containing only Acts 18.27–19.6, 19.12–16. This means that there is far less text to compare with B and D. But the problem for Epp’s Western text should be obvious. Far from P38 showing strong agreement with D “over against the B-text,” P38 actually agrees more with B than with D! And yet, Epp says that P38 is a member of the “élite group” of Western witnesses.

Now, perhaps Epp would argue that these texts shouldn’t be compared in all these places in our effort to identify the Western text. But until we can agree what variant points should be used and why, we cannot agree on whether or not P38 should assigned to the same text-type as D. If it should not be, then it obviously cannot be used to confirm that D’s readings are early Western readings and Epp’s thesis will need some revision.

Perhaps the issue of definition will move toward some resolution at this year’s SBL meeting in the ECM sessions. We shall see. But those in attendance will certainly want to read the ECM’s article (which I haven’t seen yet) on the Western text along with Epp’s recent, data-filled argument in NovT for its existence there.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where are they now? New Testament text-critics’ libraries

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Eb. Nestle’s library (photo credit)
Occasionally, one buys a book on Amazon or at a used book store and discovers with delight that it was owned by a famous scholar from times past. When I was at Tyndale I managed to get a copy formerly owned by F. F. Bruce, many of which float around the stacks there.

Much better than a one-off copy, however, is to discover a past scholar’s entire library. Aside from the insight this can give of a scholar’s interests and abilities (for example), there are often many hidden gems to be found either in correspondences, in the margins of the books, or simply in the books themselves if they are rare.

To further this benefit, I thought it might be worth trying to compile a list of New Testament textual critics’ libraries. Here is what I have come up with so far, with the help of a few of my fellow bloggers. I would like to add to this, so if you know of any corrections or additions, please let me know.
  • Richard Bentley – Trinity College CB (per P. M. Head)
  • J. J. Wettstein – scattered across Europe (see Jan Krans here)
  • S. P. Tregelles ­– papers and correspondence at various British libraries (see here)
  • C. von Tischendorf University of Glasgow
  • B. F. Westcott – Some at Westcott House (Cambridge), some with Bible Society in the CUL. A PDF catalogue from the British National Archives is here
  • F. J. A. Hort – Sold at auction. See here. PMH mentions Hort’s books here.
  • Hermann Hoskier – some books at Duke Divinity School Library
  • Caspar René Gregory – papers at Harvard Divinity School (see here)
  • Eberhard Nestle – Sold to Cambridge after 1913, now with the Van Kampen collection at the Scriptorium; papers, letters, and other memorobilia of Eberhard and Erwin are at FTH Giessen (see here)
  • Kirsopp and Silva Lake – ?
  • J. Rendel Harris – Woodbrooke Study Center in Birmingham, UK (see PDF here) and some at University of Birmingham library
  • E. C. Colwell – Library sold by his son (per Maurice Robinson)
  • Kenneth W. Clark – Duke Divinity School Library, mixed among the main collection
  • Alands – INTF?
  • Neville Birdsall – University of Birmingham (info)
  • Bruce M. Metzger – Sold on the internet if my memory is right
  • Gordon Fee – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (info)
  • Jacob Geerlings – CSNTM (see here)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Press of the Text: Festschrift for James W. Voelz

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Back in May a Festschrift was published in honor of James Voelz who has worked across many topics in his career including Mark’s Gospel, Greek grammar, and occasionally matters of text-critical interest. Sometimes the three came together as in his NovT essay “The Greek of Codex Vaticanus in the Second Gospel and Marcan Greek,” which I remember reading with interest in seminary.

I haven’t seen the book in person, but thought I would let our readers know about it. You can see the table of contents below with articles on TC by Elliott and Kloha that will be of interest.



Wednesday, September 06, 2017

‘Held in Honor’: The Roman Catholic View of Textual Criticism

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While doing some reading tonight on Roman Catholic theology, I rediscovered my copy of Pope Pius XII’s 1943 encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu on the promotion of Biblical studies. There is much of interest in this document, especially in its robust defense of Scripture’s inerrancy and its explanations on the role of the Latin Vulgate in Catholic theology. 

What most caught my attention, however, was the material on textual criticism. Near the very the beginning, the document turns to Augustine to set the stage. In clarifying the nature of inerrancy, the encyclical quotes Augustine as follows:
Nor is the sacred writer to be taxed with error, if “copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible,” or, “if the real meaning of a passage remains ambiguous.”
This qualification about scribal errors is, of course, stock-in-trade for Evangelicals and Augustine is often who we turn to for early support for it. Then later, the document becomes more explicit on the importance of textual criticism for the proper study of the Bible when it says this:
17. The great importance which should be attached to this kind of criticism was aptly pointed out by Augustine, when, among the precepts to be recommended to the student of the Sacred Books, he put in the first place the care to possess a corrected text. “The correction of the codices” – so says this most distinguished Doctor of the Church – “should first of all engage the attention of those who wish to know the Divine Scripture so that the uncorrected may give place to the corrected.” In the present day indeed this art, which is called textual criticism and which is used with great and praiseworthy results in the editions of profane writings, is also quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books, because of that very reverence which is due to the Divine Oracles. For its very purpose is to insure that the sacred text be restored, as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruptions due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, from the interchange and repetition of words and from all other kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries.

18. It is scarcely necessary to observe that this criticism, which some fifty years ago not a few made use of quite arbitrarily and often in such wise that one would say they did so to introduce into the sacred text their own preconceived ideas, today has rules so firmly established and secure, that it has become a most valuable aid to the purer and more accurate editing of the sacred text and that any abuse can easily be discovered. Nor is it necessary here to call to mind – since it is doubtless familiar and evident to all students of Sacred Scripture – to what extent namely the Church has held in honor these studies in textual criticism from the earliest centuries down even to the present day.

19. Today therefore, since this branch of science has attained to such high perfection, it is the honorable, though not always easy, task of students of the Bible to procure by every means that as soon as possible may be duly published by Catholics editions of the Sacred Books and of ancient versions, brought out in accordance with these standards, which, that is to say, unite the greatest reverence for the sacred text with an exact observance of all the rules of criticism. And let all know that this prolonged labor is not only necessary for the right understanding of the divinely-given writings, but also is urgently demanded by that piety by which it behooves us to be grateful to the God of all providence, Who from the throne of His majesty has sent these books as so many paternal letters to His own children.
I haven’t read any further than this encyclical to know whether this view has changed since the momentous Vatican II council. But I thought it interesting, not least because of how it overlaps with Evangelical views of the importance of textual criticism.

Monday, September 04, 2017

What are text-types?

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Do text-types exists or not? Tregelles and others thought not, CBGM folk don’t like the term either, but most scholars in the 20th century were perfectly fine with it.

Martini (1977) surprised me with the following analysis of what text-types are:

“(a) A distinctive text-type is primarily not a group of manuscripts, but a set of readings.

(b) This set is limited; it does not cover all the readings of the NT. This view is entirely different from the silent presupposition which seems to be common today in textual treatments of the New Testament.”

And what surprised me more is that Martini is analysing Westcott-Hort at this point.

Martini, Carlo M. “Is There a Late Alexandrian Text of the Gospels?”. New Testament Studies 24 (1977-78): 289.