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Can absence of evidence ever be evidence of absence (or even presence)?

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  • David Inglis
    It is generally taken that you cannot state that something doesn’t exist because you haven’t found one yet. Black (or any non-white) swans are a case in
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 13, 2012
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      It is generally taken that you cannot state that something doesn�t exist because you haven�t found one yet. Black (or
      any non-white) swans are a case in point (see
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability#Inductive_categorical_inference ): However many white swans you find says
      nothing about black swans, but finding only one black swan proves they exist. However, suppose you found a letter from
      someone stating that they had seen a bird that looked like a swan, but was black. Under what circumstances would you
      accept this as evidence that black swans exist?



      A similar problem exists with Marcion�s �Gospel of the Lord� (Mcg). Despite having no mss of Mcg, there is enough
      evidence (particularly from Tertullian and Epiphanius) that it did exist. However, the evidence is not sufficient for us
      to be definitive regarding the contents of Mcg. For example, most reconstructions state that Mcg contains the Majority
      Text variant of Lk 22:17-20. However, as far as I can see this is an unwarranted extrapolation from what Tertullian
      actually writes about this passage (Epiphanius says nothing about it).



      Tertullian mentions (translated from the Latin original) that �He so earnestly expressed His desire to eat the Passover�
      (Lk 22:15), and then writes:

      Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, "This is my body," that
      is, the figure of my body�

      He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the covenant to be sealed "in His blood," affirms the reality of His
      body.

      He then refers to wine several times, for example:

      In order, however, that you may discover how anciently wine is used as a figure for blood, turn to Isaiah�

      � Thus did He now consecrate His blood in wine, who then (by the patriarch) used the figure of wine to describe His
      blood.



      At first sight Tertullian appears to refer to all the important elements that we see in the Majority Text variant. He
      refers to bread, the cup, and wine, quotes �This is my body� (v. 22:19a), and mentions the covenant to be sealed in His
      blood (v. 22:20b), and it is these references that has led to the view that Mcg contained all of vv. 22:17-20. However,
      as Lietzmann & Richardson (Mass and Lord's Supper: A Study in the History of the Liturgy, Volume 1, p239) remark:

      ��in any inquiry into the genuineness of a disputed text, and especially in the case of the earliest witnesses, the
      evidence cited on its behalf cannot be assumed to testify to more than the actual words quoted.�



      They later make various points regarding Tertullian�s account:

      � Tertullian�s only definite quote is that Christ �made it his own body by saying �This is my body.��

      � Tertullian uses the word �distributum� regarding the bread instead of �eklasen kai ed�ken� (broke
      it and gave it), leaving doubt as to whether he saw �eklasen,� or whether it was just �an example of Tertullian�s free
      method of quotation.�

      � Tertullian does not mention that the bread is �given for you.�

      � From Tertullian;s words: �Sic et in calicis mentione testamentum constituens sanguine suo
      obsignatum� it is likely that he saw Mark�s form of Lk 22:20.

      � �It is moreover unlikely that Tertullian, who has so much to say of the old and new covenants,
      himself omitted the �kain�� [new] inadvertently.�



      From these points they �conclude that the maximum reconstruction of Marcion�s text that can be reached with any degree
      of probability is:�

      �Having taken the bread and � it to his disciples, (he said) [v. 22:19a]

      This is my body [? Which is given for you].

      And in like manner the cup, (saying)
      [v. 22:17]

      This cup is the covenant in my blood [or This is my blood of the covenant]. [v. 22:20b]

      (We cannot infer any mention of �Do this in remembrance of me.)�



      Note that Tertullian�s later mention of wine being �used as a figure for blood� would be very unusual if he had not seen
      wine mentioned in Mcg, so the above all suggests that what Tertullian saw read in the order vv. 22:19a, 17, 20b, 18, and
      that he did not see vv. 19b, 20a, and 20c. The question that really arises here is how much value can we place on this
      evidence? Much of what we know as Lk 22:17-20 is not mentioned by Tertullian, and what he does mention is not in in the
      same order as we see today. However, interestingly, and (in my opinion significantly) what Tertullian writes appears to
      be a much closer match for Mk 14:22-25. So, two questions arise out of this:

      1. Can Tertullian�s evidence support the view that Mcg contained what we see as Lk 22:17-20?

      2. Can Tertullian�s evidence support the view that Mcg contained what we see as Mk 14:22-25?



      It appears to me that Tertullian�s words provide stronger support for Mk 14:22-25 than Lk 22:17-20, but how much
      stronger? Is there really enough evidence here to defend either view, or is the �absence of evidence� too great to make
      any determination?



      David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA



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    • David Mealand
      David Inglis posted a longish item on this with an absence of evidence heading. But my system garbled the output. The version on the Synoptic-L web page is
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 14, 2012
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        David Inglis posted a longish item on this
        with an "absence of evidence" heading. But
        my system garbled the output. The version on the
        Synoptic-L web page is fine and can be seen there.

        His conclusion is that Tertullian provides stronger
        support for a text like Mk 14.22-25 at this point than
        what is in Lk.22.17-20 (longer text).

        i.e. T found in Marcion part of 22.15 then parts of
        19a, 17, 20b and 18 but _not_ 19b 20 and 20c

        I would tend to agree with David Inglis (following
        Lietzmann) that the evidence of T is firm only for
        Marcion having some parts of Luke 17-20 similar to
        Mark.

        That would give something like the shorter text but
        not exactly so, as T gives the cup-bread sequence.
        What David Inglis arrives at is more like a shorter
        version of the text in the Sinaitic Syriac, or as he
        says, something like the text of Mark at this point.

        My reservation about this is that it would be hard to
        see the text of D and allies as arising from this.
        Also one might expect T to keep to the sequence
        familiar to him even if the sequence was originally
        more like that known to us from D etc.

        But maybe I am incurably inclined towards the D text
        here as far as explaining Luke is concerned.

        David M.


        ---------
        David Mealand, University of Edinburgh




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        The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
        Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
      • David Inglis
        David, thanks for the comments. Apologies for the ‘garbling,’ but as I’ve found in the past, emails that are nicely formatted when they leave here can
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 14, 2012
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          David, thanks for the comments. Apologies for the ‘garbling,’ but as I’ve found in the past, emails that are nicely formatted when they leave here can end up terrible once they’ve been returned by yahoogroups. Even the version here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Synoptic/message/4556 , while readable, isn’t laid out the way I sent it. Anyway, I’m gratified that you agree with me that what Tertullian writes doesn’t really support Marcion having the long form (the Majority Text variant) of Lk 22:17-20, and instead has something more akin to what we see in Mk.



          From my perspective I think it’s quite easy to see how the Old Latins would have developed from this. The first point is that I don’t think that what was in Marcion’s gospel was exactly the same as in Mk. Instead, I think that although based on Mk, the wording was more likely to be close to what we see in Lk today, so perhaps reading:



          And he took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body. [22:19a]

          And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: [22:17]

          And he said unto them, This is my blood of the covenant. [22:20b]

          For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, [22:18a]

          until the kingdom of God shall come. [22:18b]



          From here it is easy to see that the variant found in b and e simply omits 22:20b (perhaps to avoid any reference to blood), while D and the other Old Latins also omit 22:20b, but put 22:19a after 17-18. Why the swap? I have no proof, but it seems likely to me that this was done to match the order in what was by then the Majority Text, i.e. the D form is late by comparison. It is perhaps noting that there’s no mention of the atonement doctrine here (no 22:20c), and Tertullian does not mention this important absence, so providing support for the view that an early version of Lk (perhaps Bruce’s Luke A) did not include it.



          David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA



          From: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Synoptic@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of David Mealand
          Sent: Friday, September 14, 2012 3:38 AM
          To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Lk22.17-20 and Tertullian on Marcion

          David Inglis posted a longish item on this with an "absence of evidence" heading. But my system garbled the output. The version on the Synoptic-L web page is fine and can be seen there.

          His conclusion is that Tertullian provides stronger support for a text like Mk 14.22-25 at this point than what is in Lk.22.17-20 (longer text).

          i.e. T found in Marcion part of 22.15 then parts of 19a, 17, 20b and 18 but _not_ 19b 20 and 20c

          I would tend to agree with David Inglis (following Lietzmann) that the evidence of T is firm only for Marcion having some parts of Luke 17-20 similar to Mark.

          That would give something like the shorter text but not exactly so, as T gives the cup-bread sequence. What David Inglis arrives at is more like a shorter version of the text in the Sinaitic Syriac, or as he
          says, something like the text of Mark at this point.

          My reservation about this is that it would be hard to see the text of D and allies as arising from this. Also one might expect T to keep to the sequence familiar to him even if the sequence was originally
          more like that known to us from D etc.

          But maybe I am incurably inclined towards the D text here as far as explaining Luke is concerned.

          David M.

          ---------
          David Mealand, University of Edinburgh



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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