Date of reconstructed texts
- Tim wrote: No, I was not suggesting that the Gospel of Mark postdated
either Matthew or Luke. I was asking if, having better and/or earlier
witnesses to the texts of Matthew and Luke, whether our
reconstructed/critical text of Mark (NA27) more likely reflected a later
text than what we have been able to do for Matthew & Luke. I.e. whether
our reconstruction of Mark gets us, say, a reasonable mid-3rd century
resemblance, while our reconstructions of Mt & Lk push us half a century
or so earlier? Has anyone made use of such an argument before? Perhaps
this is more so a text critical question which would better suit a
Dave: I don't know of anyone publishing anything about this, but I
completely agree with the idea, as I think you know, although it is a
hard question to phrase adequately. What are we asking? You yourself use
"reasonable resemblance" which may be what we are after here, but which
may be too vague to be very helpful.
Assume we are looking at the NA version of Mark, and this differs from
the autograph of Mark. Are we asking about the origin date of the last
change in our NA text when compared to the autograph? This could be a
quite trivial change, and would mean very little. Moreover it would
probably just reflect a place where NA is wrong in its choice of which
surviving text to follow. So I think rather than the actual NA, we have
to refer to a hypothetical "perfect reconstruction", that is one that is
perfect in its choices based on surviving texts, but still presumably
different than the autograph. We would then want the latest date of any
unique feature of this "perfect" text which is not in the autograph.
My own suggestion of how to describe that comes, again, from the
biological analogy. The question is then 'What is the date of the "Last
Common Ancestor" of all surviving copies of the gospel of Mark?' I might
guess that it is mid-to-late second century. This copy of Mark would
have had certain features that are not contained in any previous copy of
Mark. It would then be the case that one way or another this 2nd century
copy of Mark left its unique features in every surviving copy Mark.
There need not have been anything all that exceptional about this text,
just the accidents of history conspired to give it this position.
Again, appealing to the biological analogy, the LCA date for Mark would
quite probably be later than the LCA date for Matthew and/or Luke.
The advantage here is that we are asking about the date of a physical
document rather that the date of a text like NA, which in its exact form
never existed historically.
One problem with this, it that even once an "LCA" is explained, I think
many are convinced that the LCA is the autograph. Whereas I would argue
this is quite unlikely to be the case.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG, WSW; Eldon Epp
In Response To: Dave Gentile
On: Date of Reconstructed Texts
I think Dave's clarifications are very helpful. Just a note to his last
DAVE: One problem with this, it that even once an "LCA" is explained, I
think many are convinced that the LCA is the autograph. Whereas I would
argue this is quite unlikely to be the case.
BRUCE: At least the two are different in principle. I might take the subject
back out of biology and bring it back into the province of the textual
sciences. For LCA, I would suggest substituting A for "Archetype." This
means, the ancestor of the manuscripts we actually have. It is indeed not
the same (though even text critics will sometimes take this shortcut) as the
author's final manuscript, which I would like to call F (for "final").
[Lachmann, very properly as I think, did not claim that his critical edition
represented the authors' autographs. He thought that it represented the
texts as they were at the earliest date to which manuscript comparisons take
us, that is, the archetype in the above sense. This, Lachmann thought, was
the 4th century, not the 1st. It seems that only in certain spots and places
can we say that the 4th century text (by and large, Vaticanus) can be
attested one or two centuries earlier].
We could then ask Tim's question this way: Is the archetype behind Mark the
same as the one behind, say, Luke, and if not, which one is older?
I think Peter (to whom also thanks) has already spoken to this, so
presumably Tim's question has been answered as well as it is going to be at
this date. I note Peter's comment that the century of the papyri hasn't made
all THAT much difference in our sense of the texts in question. Eldon Epp in
1974 (JBL; but see now also the 2004 update notes appended to the reprint in
Epp Perspectives, Brill 2005) pointed to an "interlude" in progress on this
subject; I take it he was referring to the same fact. All in all, it begins
to seem that our sense of the respective archetypes is probably about as
good as it is going to get, and that further progress in Synoptic (or NT)
understanding, if in fact it can be achieved, is going to have to come from
better processing of what we now have.
[Which surely does not include letting the Western Non-Interpolations back
into the text; on this retrograde movement I fully share Metzger's evident
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
I have left uncorrected a scribal, or in this case very probable authorial,
error in Dave's quoted paragraph. For the fifth quoted word [it], read
rather "is." The substitution of t for the intended s is not likely to be a
matter of phonological compatibility; it is in all probability an
anticipation of the next letter scheduled by the authorial mind to be
written by the authorial finger, namely the t of "this." I mention this not
because it is difficult, but because it is possible to reach this conclusion
without a second manuscript of Dave's message which is identical with the
one he sent save for reading "is that" rather than "it that."
Manuscript variants are very helpful to call our attention to problem
places, but the variants of themselves do not solve the problems to which
they point. The problems are solved by the same sort of experienced
judgement that we apply to problem passages where, as in this case,
manuscript variants do NOT exist, and where we become aware of the problem
not by collation, but simply by noticing the irregularity.
Second moral: not all imperfections in a text are the work of later scribes.
The author is also part of the text formation process.