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[A Few Thoughts on Textual Methodology]

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Frank Jacks Cc: GPG; WSW; Synoptic [On second thought, this initially private response has wandered into matters of possible theoretical interest, and so I
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 10, 2008
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      To: Frank Jacks
      Cc: GPG; WSW; Synoptic

      [On second thought, this initially private response has wandered into
      matters of possible theoretical interest, and so I am sharing my remarks
      accordingly, for any comment or correction they may attract. / Bruce]

      Frank,

      I have Knox's Marcion; thanks for mention of the Philemon. For reasons
      earlier mentioned, I have to doubt that the collection of Paul's letters was
      a single process, with a single editor. I suspect instead that the file
      expanded more gradually, since there seem to be witnesses (including some of
      the spuria themselves) who know some, but not all, of the spuria. But I will
      be glad to see what Knox has to say. It seems to me that he was part of a
      critical mass of pretty smart people, who were operating in a reasonably
      conducive environment. I think of Grant (b1891), Enslin (b1897), Knox
      (b1900), Sherman Johnson (b1908) and that crowd, some of them literal
      friends and collaborators, whose work somehow peaked more or less just after
      the War. Philology as such was a casualty of the War (its terminus ad quem
      was 7 July 1937, or so I read the signs), but there was still enough impetus
      left as of c1950 that interesting stuff could be done and published, and I
      see Grant and company as making good use of that opportunity. The Long
      Twilight.

      By the way, it's not quite true to say that Knox 1950 has had no effect on
      Pauline scholarship; apart from the symposium, whose date eludes me at this
      moment, the one which Knox himself was not quite able to attend, and of
      course Luedemann 1984, whom you mentioned, Akenson [Saint Saul] 2000 openly
      takes Knox's standpoint, and from it demolishes our supposed knowledge of
      Paul. He finds that most scholars accept Knox's preference for Epistle
      evidence over Acts evidence; the crunch still comes over whether one is
      willing to jettison Acts evidence unsupported by Epistle evidence. We have
      the same thing in early Chinese history; the only authoritative text for the
      08th through 06th centuries is the contemporary Lu chronicle Chun/Chyou;
      there is also a splashy and dramatic expanded version of the 04c called Dzwo
      Jwan. My position here is like Knox's: the evidence of the CC is to be
      preferred wherever it conflicts with DJ, and still stands even if DJ has
      nothing. People are reluctant to take the further step, and reject stories
      supported only by DJ, despite the fact that all the provable anachronisms
      and literary interferences in DJ occur precisely in areas unparalleled in
      CC. So also Acts.

      Akenson makes a much louder noise about the implications of Knox than had
      Knox himself; the current decade is not notable for its reticence. It will
      be amusing (I do not guarantee edifying) to see if that louder noise has a
      wider effect on thinking in the field.

      TEXT GROWTH AND MODIFICATION

      Speed of modification of texts: There is no constant. It depends on many
      factors in the environment. It is in fact the environment that produces
      those results. If I am on the plane to SBL, I will tend to use the time to
      rewrite the first or last page of my talk. On the other hand, I still have
      MSS in the file which have been untouched since they were typed out (sic!)
      with a vanished technology, in the middle of a previous and unregretted
      century. Linguists sometimes think that there is a constant rate of
      vocabulary replacement glottochronology). Not true, the rate depends on
      exposure vs isolation, and a bunch of other variables. Speed of a chemical
      reaction depends on temperature (also on pressure), not solely on the nature
      of the substances reacting with each other. Speed of that reaction, other
      things being equal, doubles with every 10 degrees C rise in temperature.
      Etc. Life is simple, but not THAT simple.

      TEXT PARADIGMS

      No, I don't think of myself as transferring Chinese patterns to NT. I think
      of myself as applying basic principles of text understanding to Chinese,
      Indian, Latin, and in parts of my spare time, also to Greek texts. The
      sounds are different, but the canon of probable scribal errors is pretty
      much the same. Chinese has no sigma, but it does have homoeoteleuton. And
      that includes text events as well as word events. John is later "framed" by
      the addition of Jn 21, which borrows from something like the Gospel of Peter
      to add to its eyewitness claims. The Warring States Chinese statecraft text
      Shang-jywn Shu gets "framed" in Han by the addition of material adapted from
      the Jan-gwo Tsv story tradition (itself of Han date), in order to round it
      off with a more appealing picture of its supposed author. The Sundz "Art of
      War" later receives an addition of spurious matter, amounting to several
      times its original bulk, including diagrams. Some of the stuff is militarily
      useful, but that does not make it Sundz, it just makes it useful. The corpus
      of Vergil's works has some things later added to it (before the time of
      Suetonius, since he quotes some of the addenda as genuine); some of the
      things (eg Copa Surisca) are charming, but that does not make them Vergil,
      it just makes them charming (if offered a choice between preserving for
      posterity the Copa or the Aeneid, I would unhesitatingly choose the former).

      Great authors, almost by definition, are those whom the public (however
      defined) is unwilling to let die. The "Confucius" sayings that make up the
      bulk of the Analects, some of them more than two centuries after the death
      of Confucius, the Epistles of "Paul" which demonstrably deal with heresies
      and administrative advancements that arose after the death of Paul, The
      school-propaganda "Epistles" of Plato, including the Seventh, the plays of
      "Plautus," the "Diaries" of Emily Dickinson and Hitler, the later mysteries
      of "Erle Stanley Gardner" and "Rex Stout," the latest Nancy Drew - pick your
      century, and examples will be ready to hand. The principle is universal, and
      it is no surprise to find it continually exemplified. There is really only
      one paradigm, or set of paradigms. The laws of physics do not change when
      our train crosses from the Netherlands into Belgium. On which side has the
      better beer, well, that I will leave to individual judgement.

      HISTORY

      So what with one thing and another, text events are largely intelligible, or
      become the more so, the more we observe what texts actually do. It is just
      that their specifics are not predictable. Nor do intelligible events always
      happen. Sometimes they both happen AND not happen. The crucified criminal
      Barabbas was relabeled "Jesus Barabbas" through a scribal slip at Caesarea,
      and this name spread somewhat within texts of the Caesarean persuasion, eg
      Koridethi, but not in other text families and affiliations. Acts was
      extended in the Bezae tradition (to give it a different theological slant),
      but this did not affect the Vaticanus tradition. The Yi Jing divination text
      was rearranged and at key points renamed at Mawangdwei, but without
      affecting the order of the mainline text, and indeed without affecting all
      the Mawangdwei materials themselves. The Sundz "Art of War" was not only
      rearranged but extended by the date of the Yinchyweshan tomb, but without
      affecting the received Sundz, or the Yinchyweshan materials themselves,
      which still, with charming naivete, refer to the classical "13 chapters," or
      the first Sundz commentator, the famous general and indeed Emperor, Tsau
      Tsau, for whom the Sundz still consisted of those same "13 chapters."

      We don't know, in history, if anything will happen, or if it does, what it
      will be like. History is not predictable, no matter how big a computer we
      may be using. There are however some known lines of likely development, and
      if something DOES happen, the result, whatever it is, tends to be somehow
      intelligible. A coin falling Heads or Tails is perfectly unsurprising, we
      just don't know in advance which it is to be. It is historical (or
      philological, or in the latter example statistical) experience that makes
      these results intelligible, without at the same time rendering them
      predictable.

      The bottom line, as I see it, is that experience gained in any corner of the
      world's literacies tends to apply to other corners too. The several literate
      civilizations are no more separate entities, with different gravitational
      systems, than the four corners of a towel define four towels.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachussetts at Amherst
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