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1001Re: [Synoptic-L] Alternating Primitivity (Method)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Mar 24, 2008
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG, WSW
      In Response To: Chuck Jones
      On: Methodology
      From: Bruce

      CHUCK: While you raise an interesting, legitimate point, I am not certain
      how we can proceed in literary analysis based on possibilities for which
      there is no evidence. It seems to me we must analyze the literature we
      have, recognizing it limits our results.

      BRUCE: Evidence in one text is not "no evidence." Let me illustrate.

      (1) As we read the newspaper (to borrow an example from Metzger), we
      spontaneously correct misprints in the newspaper. If we see "thesef" we do
      not need a whole second edition of the paper, identical save that this word
      appears as "these," to judge that the compositor has let her finger rest
      improvidently on the F key (its home key) before thumbing the spacebar. The
      whole layout of the standard keyboard could probably be recovered with a
      fair degree of accuracy by collating fifty thousand errors of this sort.
      It's not as good as salvaging an actual 20th century keyboard, but it's not
      mere speculation either. It has a basis in evidence.

      (2) Suppose we have two manuscripts B and C, containing the same passage,
      but B is longer by a sentence. The existence of the difference focuses our
      attention on this situation, and we therefore are compelled to decide
      between them. C is shorter. Do we follow an "iron rule" and rule it
      preferable? Not if we have read Griesbach, who seems to have formulated the
      "lectio brevior" guideline in great detail. Griesbach does in fact lay it
      down that the shorter reading is better, since (as he says) scribes do
      abbreviate. But he they proceeds to give even more examples of cases where
      scribes do NOT abbreviate, but expand. Whence we get the opposite rule,
      sometimes also cited, that the longer reading is preferable. The truth of
      the matter, fully evident in Griesbach's examples (for which see Metzger
      Text of the New Testament 3ed p120), is that neither the longer nor the
      shorter reading is a priori preferable. We have no recourse, in this or any
      other case, save to examine, on their merits, the two particular passages.

      We might, as one possibility, find that the sentence found only in B is also
      *interruptive* in B; that it does not articulate well with what comes before
      and after it, and that when it is experimentally removed, the material
      before and after it joins together in a satisfactory sequence. Then the line
      standing only in B is very likely to be an interpolation, and we rule in
      favor of C as preserving the original reading.

      Or, to take the opposite possibility, suppose that the line in B makes the
      context work concinnitously, but that the sequence in C is bumpy and
      unsatisfactory. Then text C is somehow defective, and its defect is cured by
      the existence of the B line. In this case, a line has been lost from C and
      can be confidently supplied from B. Here, it is B that preserve the original


      Now suppose we had only text C. If it reads satisfactorily, there is no need
      to pay further attention to it. If it reads problematically, such that the
      connection at one point is faulty, then we can conjecture that a word, or a
      line, or a page, has dropped out, but we have no way to restore the missing
      material, or even to estimate its extent. The cure here is either
      conjectural emendation (and there are famous cases where conjectural
      emendation has succeeded), or simply to indicate a lacuna and move on. We
      recognize a problem by considering the nature of the text, and solve it, or
      mark it, as best we can.

      Or, suppose we had only text B. If it reads satisfactorily, there is no need
      to pay further attention to it, and in all probability, no attention, in
      fact, would ever have been called to it. But if there is an inconcinnity, a
      sense of non sequitur, a feeling of resumption after disturbance, as we read
      the text, we may find on inspection (and inspection is implicitly called
      for) that one sentence is causing all the trouble, and that if we remove it,
      the text is fine. In this case, we judge that we are dealing with an
      interpolation, identify the line in question as such, remove it from our
      idea of the original, and pass on. We do not have the support of an
      independent manuscript containing the text as we have conjectured it, but we
      do have a solution, and a solution based on the evidence in the text.


      Divergent manuscript readings serve to focus attention on passages that may
      be problematic, whether from scribal dropouts or from scribal additions or
      from a host of other things. Divergent readings help to accelerate the
      process of discovery by focusing attention on problem places. But we *solve*
      those passages, once we have been led to consider them, not by the fact of
      the difference, which of itself only identifies that a problem exists. We
      solve them by considering the local merits of each single text. Those
      determinations are such as could also be made (though if a line has dropped
      out, not equally well made) by sufficiently careful attention to the
      evidence within the single text.

      It is the evidence of the single text that decides the problem. That
      evidence is thus not properly "no evidence." It is just this sort of
      evidence that is ultimately relied on by text criticism. Noting the
      attestation of the several readings in other manuscripts merely gives the
      history of dissemination of the correct and/or the incorrect readings. It
      does not of itself say which reading *is* the correct one; at most, it puts
      you in good company. The attestation pattern may itself be used as a
      substitute for local judgement, and if the preferred pattern includes
      Vaticanus, the result may often be successful. But it is ultimately local
      judgement that establishes Vaticanus in the first place as something worth
      betting on, when you have no other ideas in a given case.

      Thus, in effect, Westcott and Hort, or a rule of thumb that derives from
      their colossal labors. But I give them full marks for recognizing that there
      are cases, albeit seemingly few of them, where Vaticanus itself stands a
      little off to one side of the line of descent from the archetype. They did
      this by considering the merits of the local situation. So should we.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      http://www.umass.edu/wsp/philology/typology/index.html (still recommended)
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