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998Re: [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: Text History
      From: Bruce

      CHUCK: Are you suggesting that there was development of these texts other
      than that which is documented in variant readings in the ancient MSS?

      BRUCE: That is exactly what I am suggesting.

      And there are two kinds. First, consider Lachmann's NT reconstruction; the
      first really modern one. He very correctly said that he was aiming, not to
      reconstruct the author's original, but only the most accurate text that was
      exemplified by his manuscripts, which themselves did not go back further
      than the 4th century. Lachmann even insisted on leaving in his text what
      looked to him like scribal errors *in the text that his earliest copyists
      were looking at,* since they went back earlier than he could generally
      follow. That left 3 centuries for scribal corruptions to have happened, to
      which the available manuscripts in the nature of things could not witness.
      That long gap has been narrowed somewhat by the subsequent discovery of
      earlier manuscripts, but nobody would say it is reduced to zero. I hold,
      with Metzger and a few others, that the so-called Western Non-Interpolations
      are passages which, for liturgical reasons, were added by some very early
      scribe to the common ancestor of both Bezae and Vaticanus (etc). These are
      scribal corruptions of the kind that text criticism can catch, if it has
      early enough manuscripts or their uncontaminated descendants. From them we
      can posit a copy which had features that are directly attested by *no*
      surviving manuscript; the early copy is entirely inferential. This is
      pushing about as hard as one can, on the manuscript evidence. What if we had
      no Bezae? Then there would be an even larger gap between the "author's final
      text" and the earliest point that can be reached by comparison of extant
      manuscripts. We must thus always reckon with the possibility that there is a
      substantial gap between the author's final text (the archetype) and the
      earliest point we can reach through manuscript comparison. That inability
      is just chance; we might possess a verifiable author's holograph, but
      usually we don't. This is a familiar situation with Latin secular texts, for
      example, and people just make the best of it. They are well experienced in
      making the best of it, thanks to the text critics of this and earlier
      centuries. The error, as it seems to me, lies in thinking that *all*
      manuscript changes are scribal corruptions, of the kind that manuscript
      comparison is well adapted to handle.

      2. Suppose we possessed the author's holograph; the archetype. But there is
      also textual evolution that may *precede* the archetype, the text as it was
      handed over to the copyists. How could this be so? Consider modern
      parallels: What author among us has never had a second thought about the
      content or arrangement of a book, an SBL paper, or a Synoptic E-mail
      message? Who has not used a plane trip to interlineate last-minute
      felicities into the draft of a lecture? Or crossed out the lead paragraph
      and substituted a whole new page? I think we need to allow the same sort of
      possibility for the Gospel texts, during the period when they were being
      composed, or perhaps more often, in these and comparable cases, while they
      were still closely held. My best guess is that Mark (for example) was not
      written simply for general publication, like some modern book, but rather
      for the guidance of a particular early congregation. Its intended hearers
      were built into the conditions of its emergence as a set of pastoral notes.
      And as it was used that way, and time passed, and conditions changed (one
      well-known change is that people were losing heart about the Second Coming),
      additions might be made to that house text in order to deal with them. There
      are a couple of places in Mark where Jesus is made to say specifically (and
      to underline his assurance with the pregnant term "verily") that not
      *everybody* will die before he comes, and that the original promise will, at
      least technically, be kept *within the generation of his original hearers.*
      It helps this supposition that most of the Markan "verily" passages in
      question meet all the texts of an interpolation. But these are probably not
      scribal corruption interpolations, such as the liturgically motivated
      addenda to Luke, of which we *barely* know through manuscript comparison;
      they are more likely to be authorial patches or improvements; shoring up a
      functional text *while it was still functioning* in its original context of
      addressing the needs of a particular group of converts. (I will be
      addressing this question in more detail in a paper at next month's SBL/NE
      meeting, and is it all that far from Atlanta GA to Newton MA? Surely not).

      Meanwhile, as matter for reflection, consider how works of music in our own
      time remain fluid under their composer's hand long after they were first
      "finished" in the sense of being consecutively performable. Mozart adapted
      or inserted arias during opera rehearsals to meet the needs of a given
      soprano, or the substitution of the lead tenor. Rachmaninoff, after
      observing audience reactions, cut his Second Piano Sonata considerably, so
      much so that later on Horowitz, thinking he had cut too much, got permission
      to restore some of the cuts. (Rachmaninoff also cut his Second Symphony
      after audiences found it too long, and having heard both versions, I find
      that the audiences were right). Here is audience interaction at a very high
      level. But there are all sorts of levels. I think that anybody who has ever
      performed in public will probably agree that one readily senses whether the
      thing is going over or not, and spontaneously adjusts to close the gap
      between the presentation and the audience's receptivity to the
      presentation - or for that matter, expands to accommodate audience
      enthusiasm. All this is common knowledge and experience. For a systematic
      look at the ways texts can grow in the course of becoming complete in the
      library cataloguer's sense of complete, I venture to suggest the Text
      Typology pages at


      The idea of those pages is that if we get used to what we really already
      know, so as to bring it up fully into our analytical consciousness, we may
      be better set to consider alternatives for texts whose history, including
      their pre-publication compositional history, we do not directly know.

      Respectfully suggested,


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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