Cc: GPG, WSW, Synoptic
In Response To: Rick Hubbard
On: Dating Texts
Rick's recent and cautious note on GThos 17 seems to me reasonable on
present evidence. Just one methodological point right at the end:
RICK: It is impossible, ISTM, to imagine that the text as we have it
did not undergo substantial revision and updating to accommodate "new
information" consistent with changed
understandings about Jesus and what he said (here I like to quote what
I call the Jack Kilmon Dictum: "Don't forget these texts have been
highly screwed around with"). To try to assign a "date" to a text that
is likely to have been so heavily redacted is the height of bravery.
BRUCE: Sounds like we are completely stuck and helpless if a text has
passed through more than one constitutive stage. I think it's not
quite that bad. I reason as follows:
If a text was at one point updated by its proprietor (to "accommodate
new information" or whatever, but that is one of the standard
reasons), then we simply have two texts, not one. We can in principle
use evidence from each portion to date (or otherwise locate) that
If there were two points at which such changes happened, then we have
the original state plus two later states; that is, three texts to
locate. There is no new theoretical problem, just a little more to
keep track of.
What is important is not to attempt to date a text that has not first
been examined for signs of this kind of update (or extension, or
whatever). This is to avoid using evidence from one part (say, a usage
known only after Y year) to date another part, or the whole text. That
leads to unsound results. The various textual states, insofar as
identifiable, must be treated separately.
Give you a classical example: the Analects of Confucius. Lyou
Dzung-ywaen, a poet and philosopher of the late Tang Dynasty, noticed
that in one Analects passage people referred to the disciple Dzvngdz
precisely as "Dzvngdz," that is, "Master Dzvng." This usage is
possible only as from Dzvngdz's own students: not his teacher
Confucius, not his contemporaries. Then that passage, and thus the
whole Analects, must date from the second disciple generation.
This conclusion was admired for several centuries. It wasn't until the
Sung Dynasty, a few centuries later, that someone else noticed a break
in the text: certain usages were different on both sides of the
division Analects 1-10 and Analects 11-20. So there were two strata,
not just one, and the Lyou Dzung-ywaen example only affects one of
them. This required reconsideration.
This kind of scrutiny continued over the next thousand years,
accumulating many more observations on the text, and leading, about a
dozen years ago, to a stratification that seems to account for all the
internal usage differences. Don't even ask me how many strata were
finally found in the text; you don't want to know. But he principle
remains, as I think, unavoidable: first stratify (if the signs so
indicate), then date.
Remember too the children's riddle:
Q: How old was Napoleon?
A: Well, he was different ages at different times.
So was the Gospel of Mark, and the Jung Yung, and any number of
seemingly familiar texts.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst