Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Variants on Forgiveness: Matt 18, Mark 11, and the Longer Reading

One of the positives of reading a Greek New Testament that lists variants but not the manuscripts that attest them is that it makes you pay more attention to internal evidence. I’ve been reading Scrivener’s edition of Stephanus (1550) which lists differences with a number of other editions including Lachmman, Tregelles, and Westcott-Hort.

‘The Unmerciful Servant’ by Willem Drost
One of the things I’m reading for are places where the traditional text has a longer reading and the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis. We looked at one in Eph 5.30 not long ago and there is another lengthy example at Matt 23.14. Two that caught my attention recently are in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matt 18. Here is Matt 18.29:
πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων· μακροθύμησον ἐπʼ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι.
The highlighted phrase “at his feet” is found in C2 W f13 33 Byz f q syp.h mae whereas the shorter reading is found in א B C* D L Θ 058 f1 579 1424 al lat sys.c sa bo.

Scrivener’s 4th edition
Then at the end of the parable, we have another longer/shorter reading involving almost the same witnesses on each side. This is Matt 18.35:
οὕτως καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν.
The longer reading is again found in C W f13 33 Byz f h sy(p).h and the shorter in א B D L Θ f1 700 892* pc lat sys.c co.

Finally, a third text that is relevant here is the parallel in Mark 11.25–26 which reads:
25 Καὶ ὅταν στήκητε προσευχόμενοι, ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος· ἵνα καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφῇ ὑμῖν τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν. 26 Εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
In this case, all of verse 26 is read by A (C, D) Θ (f1.13 33) Byz lat syp.h bo(pt); Cyp and omitted by א B L W Δ Ψ 565 700 pc k l sys sa bo(pt).

Besides being about forgiveness, what all these have in common is that the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis, homeoteleuton in particular. In Matt 18.29 the culprit could be αὐτοῦ, in Matt 18.35, -ῶν, and in Mark 18.26, τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.

What about the evidence in favor of the shorter readings? In the first case, there is no simple parallel in the context to easily explain the origin of the longer reading. In the second case, however, the longer reading could be influenced by Matt 6.14–15. Note especially the additional τὰ παραπτώματα in Byz in Matt 6.15. Although it doesn’t explain the somewhat awkward shift from singular ἀδελφῷ to plural αὐτῶν. Finally, Matt 6 could also explain the longer reading in Mark 11.25–26, but here too, as W. Willker points out in his online commentary, the harmonization would not be word-for-word. Compare:
Matt 6.15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
Mark 11.26 εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
None of the differences is radical. The ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖ is found in the preceding verse and maybe τοῖς ἀνθρώποις was left out because Mark 11.25 uses τις for the generic reference. But the change in mood is a bit harder to explain unless this is only a rough harmonization. As it is, the differences make parablepsis—and the longer reading with it—appealing.

If not for the strong, early manuscript evidence in favor of the shorter reading in all three cases, the longer readings would be easy choices on transcriptional grounds. But the external evidence being what it is, I am torn.

So my question: with the shift in opinion about the value of the Byzantine text, will future NA editions follow the transcriptional evidence here against the earliest witnesses like they have in, say, 1 Pet 4.16? More importantly, should they? Should Byz be set on par with the earliest evidence, thereby letting the transcriptional evidence tip the scales in these cases?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The New Christian Standard Bible and the NA28

Attendees to last year’s ETS meeting were given nicely bound copies of the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation which releases in March of this year. The CSB is basically a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), now without the “H.” I have always thought of the HCSB as basically “the Southern Baptist Bible.” I think others did too and the CSB looks to be an attempt to move the translation away from that identification.

The website explains that the Holman Christian Standard Bible was updated “with the goals of increased fidelity to the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts and increased clarity for today’s readers.” Specific changes mentioned are the non-capitalization of pronouns referring to God, the use of “tongues” rather than “languages” to translate λαλειν γλωσσα, The use of “LORD” rather than “Yahweh,” etc.

In light of our earlier discussion about what translators will do with the NA28/UBS5 changes, I should point out that the “pastoral FAQ” page says:
The textual base for the New Testament is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 5th corrected edition.... Where there are significant differences among Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek manuscripts, the translators follow what they believe is the original reading and indicate the main alternative(s) in footnotes.
Given this, I wondered what the translators did at 2 Peter 3.10 where the NA28 has changed quite noticeably. In particular, I wondered if they followed the NA28’s conjecture. The answer? No, they did not. The CSB text is exactly the same as it was in the HCSB (my emphasis):
But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.
So the new editors have not been bound to the NA28 text just as the website says. But this does not mean they have ignored the NA28’s change altogether. It’s just that you have to look at the footnotes to see the change. Whereas the HCSB includes a single note saying, “Other mss read will be burned up,” the new CSB adds a second footnote immediately after this which reads, “Or will not be found.” This is almost certainly a reference to the conjecture found in NA28: ουχ ευρεθησεται.

What I find unhelpful is the sequence of notes in the CSB. Since both notes are given back-to-back, I think most people will naturally read them together as “some manuscripts read ‘will be burned up’ and some manuscripts read ‘will not be found.’” This is not what the second note explicitly says, of course, but how else are people expected to read it?

The problem is that the two alternate readings are here presented to the English reader as if they are on par with one another when they really aren’t. The reading of NA28 is attest by a few Syriac and Coptic witnesses which means this note breaks the translation’s own policy that “the Christian Standard Bible uses textual footnotes to show important differences among Hebrew manuscripts and other texts such as the Septuagint and the Vulgate for the Old Testament and between various Greek manuscripts for the New Testament.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not expect translation footnotes to do full justice to the external evidence. They can’t; that’s what critical editions are for. But I don’t see how the CSB’s current note can do anything other than mislead its readers here. It either needs to be revised to something like “some Coptic and Syriac manuscripts read...” or be taken out altogether. As it is, it’s counterproductive.

One other new reading in the CSB was pointed out to me by Maurice Robinson. John 1.18 reads:
No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
Notice anything odd?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Textual Criticism as Rhetoric

From Richard Tarrant’s new book Texts, Editors, and Readers: Methods and Problems in Latin Textual Criticism (reviewed in BMCR here):
To classify textual criticism as a form of rhetoric is a way of highlighting the fact that its arguments depend on persuasion rather than demonstration. Textual critics cannot prove that their choices are correct; the most they can hope to do is lead their readers to believe that those choices are the best available ones.
Facts do, of course, play an important part of textual criticism. But in the end the facts cannot yield a definitive answer, only a relative probability, which is where the critic needs to employ rhetorical argument.
This point is not, of course, unique to textual criticism. All study of the past, certainly the ancient past, trades in probabilities and textual criticism is nothing if not a historical endeavor. So long as we are okay with probabilities, there is little here to really fuss about. Where the debate can be had is about just how probable any of our particular text critical judgments are. That, however, takes us beyond mere rhetoric since some judgments are better than others. Still, I take Tarrant’s quote as a welcome reminder that judgment is always involved.

For more along the same lines, see Gary Taylor, “The Rhetoric of Textual Criticism,” Text 4 (1988): 39–57.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

50 Years of INTF’s Reports Online

For the past 50 years, INTF, the institute that produces the NA and now UBS editions, has published “reports” (Berichte) on their text-critical work. I came across these by accident one day at Tyndale House and discovered that they are a treasure trove of information about the Institute’s work. For those interested in the recent history of our discipline, they are often essentially reading.

The Institute always gave these away free, but sadly they couldn’t find any extra copies when I was last there. I had actually hoped to scan all these before leaving Cambridge, but I ran out of time. Now someone else has done it for me. Klaus Wachtel has just send word that the full set is now online at INTF’s website.

Many, many thanks to whoever was responsible for scanning these!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Way to Travel in Oxford

Word has just reached the Americas of a new form of transit for getting around Britain’s oldest and second greatest university.

Media outlets have reported that this new way of traveling is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and a even a good form of exercise.

A photo released by the BBC shows one particularly keen user of the new service.

Call for Papers: Horizons in Textual Criticism


Pete Williams sends word of the following:


Conveners: Jan Joosten and John Screnock

On 10-11 May, 2017, the University of Oxford will host a colloquium devoted to methodologically new and unique work in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and related texts.

We invite papers from scholars whose work goes beyond conventional approaches; early-career scholars and recent PhDs are especially encouraged to submit. Proposals of 1,000-2,000 words, based on projects that are well under way, should be sent to John Screnock (john.screnock@orinst.ox.ac.uk).

The deadline for paper proposals has been extended to 22 January, 2017.

More detail: http://www.ochjs.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/horizons_call_for_papers.pdf

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The CBGM in One (!) Sentence

The discussion from the post last week on Greg Lanier’s thoughts on the CBGM was helpful I thought. In particular, it made me think again about how best to present the CBGM to those who find themselves mystified and or even frustrated by its complexity.

In my experience, the most common reaction to the method is still mistrust and a kind of anxiety. Some of that is not surprising. We don’t like people messing with our New Testament text in ways we don’t understand. I get that. I get it because it was a major motivation for my own research. I wanted to know why my Greek New Testament was changing and whether the changes were any good. At its most basic, that was the reason for my dissertation.

In light of that, and in light of some of the feedback I’ve received from my JETS article, I wanted to follow up with a new attempt to explain the method. In particular, I want to take a stab at defining it in a way that is not only accurate and clear, but also somewhat less intimidating.

So here is my one-sentence description: the CBGM is a new set of computer-based tools for studying a new set of text-critical evidence based on a new principle for relating texts. (Notice that I have not used any of the words in the name “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method” to define it. My English teachers would be proud.)

I think that does a good job of covering all the bases. But it is still a mouthful, so let me try to explain each part in turn. I’ll start at the end and work my way back.

Monday, January 09, 2017

What Greek-Latin Edition Did Jefferson Use for His Famous Bible?

Here’s a question for our American history buffs. I’ve looked in the usual places online and can’t find anything on this, but maybe some of our readers know. I’m curious as to what Greek NT Thomas Jefferson used to create is famous “Jefferson Bible.” If this is the first you’ve heard of that, here is how the Smithsonian explains its construction:
Wingrave (1794)
At seventy-seven years of age, Thomas Jefferson constructed his book by cutting excerpts from six printed volumes published in English, French, Latin, and Greek of the Gospels of the New Testament. He arranged them to tell a chronological and edited story of Jesus’s life, parables, and moral teaching. Left behind in the source material were those elements that he could not support through reason or that he believed were later embellishments, such as the miracles and the Resurrection. 
The act of cutting and rearranging passages from the New Testament to create something fresh was an ambitious, even audacious initiative, but not an act of disrespect. Through this distillation Jefferson sought to clarify Jesus’s teachings, which he believed provided “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”
From the online facsimile, it looks pretty clear that he used a Greek-Latin diglot. Any ideas?

Update: it is an edition of Wingrave (London, 1794). Thanks to Stephen Goranson for the tip.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Thinking about the Implications of the CBGM with Greg Lanier

Greg Lanier, a former compatriot at Cambridge, has two recent essays in the journal Reformed Faith & Practice (part 1 and part 2)  doing one of the things he does best: explaining what’s happening in NT scholarship to students and pastors. Here his focus is mostly on Greek grammar and lexicography, but he also touches on textual criticism in part two.

What I want to highlight here are Greg’s closing comments on the CBGM. (I’ve added the numbering and clipped these slightly.) I’m especially interested in helping to address Greg’s fourth point in future work because seminarians are going to need a lot of help using the CBGM. I hope we can give it to them. But he asks other questions about method and theology which seminary teachers will want to think about as they teach their students about the CBGM.

I’d like to hear what blog readers think of these. I given some of my own thoughts in brackets.
  1. There are a lot of positives with the CBGM. The data set alone is a substantial improvement over what we had previously. The project has made great strides towards the previously unicorn-like dream of having thousands of manuscripts digitized, collated, and analyzable.... Moreover, the results for the Catholic Epistles indicate just how high-quality prior editions of the GNT (going back to Westcott and Hort and their contemporaries) have been. I would argue that our confidence in the text has, in the end, gone up with the ECM’s findings. [Generally agreed. I would just say that there is greater uncertainty overall in the results, judging by a comparison of brackets to diamonds in NA27 and NA28. But uncertainty can be better than unwarranted confidence.]
  1. The ECM project began with the Catholic Epistles in part due to their relatively more stable textual tradition. [Not actually true from what I’ve read, but many seem to think so. See the essay mentioned here from Aland.] Additionally, one could argue that the implications of modifying the critical text (which had been unchanged for nearly forty years) in this section of the GNT poses the least risk of ruffling feathers. One wonders, however, just how substantial the revisions may be in the ECM for Acts, the Gospels, and Paul — which, for most in the evangelical world, tend to harbor more emotional/theological investment. We can only wait to find out. [True, the Catholics don’t get much attention. Klaus Wachtel said at SBL that there are about 40 changes in Acts so far. Just remember, textual changes may be the easiest way to measure progress in TC, but they are not the only way.]
  1. Most contemporary English translations (outside the KJV-tradition) have used NA-26 or NA-27 as their base text. Presumably at some point the English translation committees will update their volumes, and when they do so, how will they approach the changes made to NA-28 (or NA-29 and beyond)? Will they embrace them? How will they signal the ◆ readings in the English text and footnotes, if at all? [This remains to be seen. Hopefully, they will find that their responsibility includes weighing the NA28’s decisions and rejecting them where appropriate. As for diamonds, we should note how few of them are even given space in the UBS5 apparatus. Clearly the UBS is showing their opinion that most are not relevant to translators.]
  1. How will (or should) students learn to do textual criticism in the future? This issue is particularly challenging. As outlined above, for decades students have been taught a fairly straightforward method for weighing major manuscripts and internal evidence to determine whether they agree with the NA/UBS critical text. However, the CGBM producing the critical text that future Greek students will purchase is operating according to an entirely different method. This method is, as all readily admit, rather complex to understand, let alone teach. More importantly, one would need to have access to significant analytical tools — and abandon a manuscript-focused mentality (and text-types) in favor of the more abstract text-focused mentality — in order to reproduce the thought process behind a given judgment on a textual variant in the ECM/NA-28/UBS-5. Take the 2 Pet 3:10 example shown above. The old-school approach would look at the various options, weight א, B, papyri, minuscules, and Byzantine witnesses (most of which disagree) and come to some conclusion. However, this conclusion is quite unlikely to be that the lone attested witness for +οὐκ (sa in NA-27; the Syriac is not even mentioned) offers the best reading. Yet that is precisely what NA-28/UBS-5 print in the main text! The student is at a loss, then, for explaining why that reading is preferred when, on the traditional approach, it seems to be the least preferred! .... In short, we are facing a situation in which the method currently being taught to students (and taught to scholars/pastors in the past) will no longer correspond to the method underlying the new editions of the critical GNT they are/will be working with! It is encouraging that the total number of changes to the text itself, at least for the Catholic Epistles, was fairly small; however, the underlying method is, nevertheless, changing substantially. [I agree completely that the use of the CBGM will change how we as scholars and students interact with and critique the NA text. No longer can we engage that text on its own methodological terms with just the print edition. You now need a laptop. Pete Head and I discussed this a number of times during our supervisions. As for helping students, see my recent JETS article for a starting point and stay tuned for more.]
  1. Related to the prior point, one wonders what use Metzger’s justly famous Textual Commentary will have in the future. It constitutes, in essence, the editorial committee’s notes from how they decided among variations in the 1970s and 1980s; its A-B-C ratings (in the UBS volumes only) have also been a helpful data point for years. However, as Elliott rightly notes, for those portions of the NA/UBS editions that incorporate the outcome of the CBGM/ECM project, “the tried and trusted vade mecum of old, Metzger’s Commentary … is only partially useful.” It may have helpful things to say about the internal evidence that might have impacted the ECM team’s decision for a given local stemma, but any appeal it makes to specific manuscripts is, now, almost entirely outdated. [For my part, I don’t see this as a bad thing. Metzger is great but he too easily becomes a crutch and an excuse to avoid TC rather than engage in it. But it would be nice to have a commentary on the new changes.]
  1. Finally, how will the shift in goal, from “original” text to “initial” text impact the way Reformed/evangelical folks who hold to biblical inspiration approach the critical GNT? Majority-text/KJV-only debates aside, most inerrantists who make use of the NA/UBS volumes have functionally equated the eclectic text found therein with, for all intents and purposes, the inspired autographs. Yes, we know that the critical edition is not itself inerrant or infallible — thus necessitating the need to make one’s own text-critical judgments — but we have embraced it as the next-best-thing we have (much like our approach to the Masoretic Text). The philosophical shift underlying the ECM project, however, is meaningful. The goal is no longer positioned as “getting back to what Mark wrote” but, rather, “getting back as early as possible, given the extant data, to what the early church received as coming from Mark.” Much effort needs to be devoted to thinking through the epistemological and doctrine-of-Scripture implications of such a change with respect to the GNT text coming out of the project. [I have some thoughts on this but will save them for another time. I would only add that this is a concern that has emerged among some American Lutherans. See the recent debate on TC between Jeff Kloha and John Warwick Montgomery.]
Read the rest here