>> The various criticisms of multiple independent attestation can also be
>> directed at its application to text families in textual criticism, yet
>> the identification of text families is still regarded as crucial in
>> textual criticism.
Eric Eve replied:
>I confess have a couple of problems with your analogy here, Ron. First,
>you're surely not suggesting that the arrangement of texts into families and
>the reconstruction of the most primitive text form relies solely or mainly
>on 'multiple independent attestation', at least, not in the sense of simply
>counting documents that witness to a certain reading? I must be missing your
>point here. Perhaps your point concerns the existence of a reading in
>several different text families, but then the point is surely that they are
>not independent but witnesses to a common archetype.
In textual criticism, each family represents a relatively independent
witness to the document's archetype. In assessing the historical
testimony of documents relating the deeds or words of Jesus, each
"independent" document represents a relatively independent witness to
the historical Jesus. In neither case do we necessarily get back to the
original by the simple agreement of two relatively independent
witnesses. But this does probably get us *nearer* to the original.
> ..... In any case, multiple
>attestation is hardly used in text criticism is isolation from several other
>criteria, is it (though I have no expertise in this discipline)?
But if there happens to be no other criterion applicable in making
historical assessments, then we may have to make do with multiple
independent attestation, though it will give us some degree of
confidence rather than certainty.
> Second, I'm
>not so sure that the problem of reconstructing a textual archetype from a
>whole host of manuscripts is so isomorphic with that of reconstructing the
>historical Jesus from the fragmentary evidence available that methods
>appropriate to the former are automatically appropriate to the latter.
It is surely common sense that just as in textual criticism the
combination of Alexandrian readings and Western readings is regarded as
better evidence (other things being equal) than simply Alexandrian
readings, so in making historical assessments the testimony of two
independent documents should be regarded as better evidence (other
things being equal) than that of a single document.
> ..... nor was I advocating scrapping the
>criterion of multiple attestation. What I was doing was querying what it
It doesn't "prove" anything. If you want proofs you should be in maths
or science. In historical investigations the best we can expect is to be
able to demonstrate that occurrence X is likely, highly likely or
Let's give an example which should clarify my meaning.
I take the early sayings source as I reconstruct it (see my Web site)
to have been independent of the letters of Paul. In both the early
sayings source and Paul's letters we find several references to "the
kingdom of God". Therefore this concept was in use before Paul and long
before Mark's gospel, and therefore was presumably in use by the
earliest disciples of Jesus. As there is no reason to suspect that these
earliest disciples introduced the concept, we can be fairly confident
that it goes back to Jesus. As it happens in this case, the belief that
Jesus used the term "kingdom of God" is also supported by the criterion
of dissimilarity, for it was not in common use before Jesus, nor was it
a key part of the later churches' Christology.
> The fact that hard evidence is such a rarity cannot justify
>the claim to have manufactured more of it through a method that is logically
>flawed, even if it is one of the few methods available.
True. But now I really am baffled. If you think the method is
logically flawed, surely you *should* be advocating scrapping it ?!
Weston-on-Trent, Derby, UK
Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm