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Textual editing and self-description (long)

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  • ehub035
    [from Geoff Riggs; not Liz H., my better half] Part I I used to be guilty of charging whatever research I could attempt with considerably hefty sleights of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 20, 2010
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      [from Geoff Riggs; not Liz H., my better half]

      Part I

      I used to be guilty of charging whatever research I could attempt with considerably hefty sleights of "convenience". What do I mean by that? Well, I used to be guilty of making rash assumptions based on content alone (whether it was looking at variant editions of Shak[e]speare or variant scores of various operas, or whatever) at the expense of orthographical style or bibliographical/textual context, which are far more objective yardsticks. If I felt the content was inconvenient, or implausible, or uncomfortable, I would allow that perception to overtake whatever rigor I eventually learned while studying textual scholarship in graduate school. There are numerous shades of subjectivity involved in textual criticism and textual scholarship in every field. The trained specialist learns (sometimes painfully) which yardsticks have a certain degree of subjectivity entailed and which ones are relatively less perilous and relatively more objective in their application. One also learns the painful lesson that very, very, very rarely is one ever going to be dealing with anything that is capable of proof!

      Now, I don't pretend to be a specialist, since life circumstances compelled me to leave off after getting my M.A., thus never managing to go back and get my Ph.D. Still, certain habits of caution have, I suppose, become inbred in me as a result of whatever portion of training I did manage to complete. That training has now made me very leery of assuming certain hypotheses once a certain foundation respecting a textual tree is more or less arrived at by consensus.

      For example, consensus now pretty much agrees that because of certain characteristic spellings in a tiny clutch of manuscript leaves from an Elizabethan play called Sir Thomas More, that single scene is most probably written by the same William Shak[e]speare who is behind the Quarto texts of Merchant of Venice, Much Ado, Romeo and Juliet (the Second Quarto), and so on. By a process of different sequences of research coming from different angles, the consensus respecting the ms. leaves from Sir Thomas More can then be complemented with different research concentrating instead on, say, the generally casual tone of the stage-directions in these apparently authoritative Quartos as against the more specific, but less discursive nature of stage-directions found in the very few players' prompt-books of the period that have survived.

      In addition, since these Quartos are among the few Quarto texts where the lines seem to flow relatively cleanly, it would therefore appear likely that the source behind these Quartos may -- may -- have very few layers behind it and Shak[e]speare's original manuscript. When we couple that with the odd coincidence that these Quartos all share some extremely eccentric spelling patterns and habits (spelling is much more varied and personal in Elizabethan and Jacobean times than it is now), the likelihood grows that the only plausible reason for such a common orthographical style throughout these very few Quartos is that they are among the very select and few editions of Shak[e]speare's lifetime lucky enough to have had the original manuscript, or a very faithful transcript thereof, as their source. Ultimately, one couples that startling, though provisional, conclusion with the oddly casual nature of the stage-directions in the Quartos, and an important pattern seems to be forming. Looking again at the stage-directions, they take on even higher significance, because on top of all else, certain verbal patterns in them seem to oddly reflect, now and then, the verbal patterns in the spoken text. A possibility is there that these directions, so unlike the cut-and-dried prompt-books, may also come from the author himself. From this, the same discursive casual nature in the stage-directions found in the ms. leaves of Thomas More(!) serves to reinforce a mere consensus that here we have a scene that is not only by Shak[e]speare but may be extant in his own hand as well.

      At this stage, the conclusions with respect to the More fragment then assume greater importance for the editorial treatment of these Quartos as a whole. The concurrent lines of inquiry reinforce each other to the point where once a consensus develops that the More fragment comes from Shak[e]speare's own hand, the likelihood grows that the Second Quarto of Romeo, say, is at least as close a simulacrum as one can hope for of a Shak[e]speare manuscript short of being one itself (which as a printed book, it can never really be, of course). This means that in a responsible modern edition of Romeo and Juliet, the editorial treatment of the text will of necessity be far more cautious in questioning certain knotty passages in the text than would be the case in many another Shak[e]speare play where the general consensus might be that its textual "picture" is frankly a mess -- like, let's say, his Pericles. Consequently, content in the case of Romeo ultimately takes a second place, although an important one, to bibliographical and textual context, because scholarly consensus has in fact reposed a great deal of authority in the Romeo Second Quarto by dint of this painstaking mesh of interrelated analyses that I've described. On the other hand, matters relating purely to content can be allowed to sway editorial choice far more, and considerably more than bibliographical/textual context, in a case like Pericles, where the only available text seems plainly corrupted from the get-go.

      In fact, all modern Shak[e]speare scholarship accordingly treats texts like Much Ado and the Second Quarto of Romeo with far more caution and respect than it does more questionable texts like Pericles, or the final scenes of battle in Richard III, and so on. Hypotheses of random unauthorized interpolations, or of high-handed switches in sequence, or of mis-assignments of various speeches, etc., are far more common in modern editions of these corrupted texts -- and far more plausible -- than similar suppositions for more authoritative texts like Much Ado or the Romeo Second Quarto. Above all, the application of similar suppositions for any _perceived_ tangles in a Romeo or a Much Ado are simply going to be far rarer and more exceptional in any modern edition than you'll find in modern editions of a more corrupted Merry Wives or a Pericles. Finding content odd or relatively unintelligible is not an automatic ticket to editorial emendation in the case of a Romeo. The likelihood is simply higher here that it is more worthwhile in most cases like Romeo to take the extra mile and try to make sense of what one has in front of one first, before questioning what one has in front of one too precipitately, as if one were dealing with a Pericles instead.

      Part II

      In a way, there is a parallel -- of sorts -- between the highly corrupt texts of Pericles and/or the final scenes in Richard III, etc., and the highly derivative nature of the so-called Paulines and/or the possibly derivative (?) Gospel of John. To suppose that one is reading Pericles exactly as it was first written is pretty much as naive (unfortunately so, even though the Pericles/Marina reunion is already heartbreaking and overpowering enough in the corrupt version we have) as supposing that we are reading Jesus's remarks precisely as they were spoken in John. Re most modern scholars, we probably aren't.

      What's necessary here, though, is a degree of discrimination in the way we treat texts like the inauthentic Pauline letters and John versus the way we treat earlier strata like Thomas, the so-called "Q" (an extrapolated textual layer seemingly preserved in parallel sayings material common to Matthew and Luke), and Mark (generally reckoned the earliest extant canonized Gospel). Just as the extent of hypotheses that modern scholars apply to knotty passages in a Romeo is different and more cautious than the same process when applied to a Pericles, the same calibration of greater or lesser caution should, in my view, be applied to the huge range of Jesus materials that we have both within the NT and non-canonically outside it (like the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Judas, and so on). Content necessarily bulks larger as a consideration when it comes to careful scholarly evaluation of seemingly derivative material like John. But once we've put aside such material, textual context and orthographical style (both the Q sayings and the Thomas ones are very conversational) start to count a great deal more than just content as a part of any final analysis. Q and Thomas may not represent as close an image of an original "voice" as a Romeo (happily) does. But they come a great deal closer to that level than anything else in the extant Jesus records and ought to be viewed in that light.

      Now, of course, the Romeo text is hardly pristine any more than the record reflected in Q, Thomas and Mark is pristine. Even modern scholars do allow a tiny handful of emendations in the Romeo text, after all. The thing is, though, such instances are now few and far between. Just as pertinently, the very few emendations that are now in the most modern Romeo editions presuppose a certain modest degree of human error rather than the large-scale or even deliberate distortion or corruption, such as well may be behind the self-evidently worst tangles in Pericles!

      Actually, modern scholarship has helped -- to a degree -- in refining the extent, for instance, to which we may guess how early in the tradition the notion of Jesus's divinity, or lack thereof, was first mooted. It's the most modern studies of the textual traditions that may even affirm how Jesus of Nazareth himself viewed what/who he was.

      Apparently, fairly recent analyses of the various strata in both canonical and non-canonical Gospels appear to indicate that certain layers in Mark, certain parallel sayings in Matthew and Luke and much (though not all) in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas all adopt a highly distinct but more colloquial form of Koine Greek than is in much of the surrounding text (the surrounding text in Matthew and Luke particularly). And since the more colloquial layers in the canonical Gospels appear to coincide with late 19th-century analysis of other aspects of these textual strata in the canonical Gospels sifted from other vantage points than colloquial/non-colloquial, in terms of which layers were coincidentally(?) highlighted as seeming earlier, the two sets of analyses from a century apart appear to reinforce each other's chronological conclusions.

      More recently, three distinct theories have emerged, one placing Thomas as earliest, another placing Mark as earliest and a third placing the parallel sayings in Matt./Luke as earliest. Placing any of these three as earliest arguably ends up placing a number of aspects of the Jesus accounts as coming later in the textual history. Examples like the Virgin Birth or the physical appearances following the disappearance from the tomb, and so on, all appear in the more self-consciously literary strata generally viewed as later in the textual tradition than these three more colloquial strata.

      At the same time, sifting moments like these in the textual record with concurrent sifting of other aspects that were apparently there from the start, and are in all three of these earliest possible layers, yields a number of striking patterns. Among the most striking is the early appearance of the most profoundly countercultural sayings of all. Sayings like "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you", "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season" and "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" appear to be there from the very start -- if the methodology of textual analysis of the most recent scholarship is applied. Is it a coincidence that these are all the typical kinds of insights that seem to support most strongly of all the high level of selflessness and intelligence that Jesus may have had? It is possible from such early(?) appearances of these sayings that they may have made the deepest impact of all, since they were very possibly preserved first of all?

      Now let's take a look at Q. In fact, for Q, we even have two different authors, Matthew and Luke, using (and, yes, adapting) the sayings to their own (admittedly possibly biased) ends. It's lucky we have two different authors doing this, though. One can be used as a check on the other. That being the case, it probably makes sense for us -- in those cases where Matthew and Luke versions are identical -- to proceed very cautiously before treating these passages the way we might justifiably treat anything in John. John is very, very different from Q, in terms of textual derivation, just as Pericles is very, very different from Romeo. The proper treatment of a Romeo is probably a safer model for the proper treatment of a Q -- or a Thomas -- than the proper treatment of a Pericles.

      Grouping Thomas, Q and Mark together doesn't really bother me. Heck, I lump Much Ado and Romeo together! But lumping a whole nexus of certain Thomas/Q/Mark sayings together -- no matter how small a nexus -- as if all were interpolations purely because of their content -- as some recent scholars whom I've read do -- does bother me, because it reminds me of myself when I was still quite green as a textual scholar and often ignored bibliographical/textual context.

      Part III

      It occurred to me, then, that it might be worthwhile to look at all of the Jesus self-descriptions in Q, Thomas and Mark that might possibly link up to questions of divine paternity or the lack thereof. I've assembled here all the examples that could possibly be of relevance to any kind of analysis as to Jesus's divinity or lack thereof.

      In Thomas 61, we have --

      [Jesus] "Two will rest on a bed: the one will die, and other will live."
      Salome said to him, "Who are You, man, that You, as though from the One, have come up on my couch and eaten from my table?"
      Jesus said to her, "I am He who exists from the Undivided. I was given some of the things of my Father."
      "I am Your disciple."
      "Therefore I say, if he is , he will be filled with light, but if he is divided, he will be filled with darkness."

      The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar were apparently careful here in discriminating various "tones" throughout this passage rather than accepting or rejecting it wholesale. Good. So long as we understand that it behooves one to approach such discriminations with greater caution than in a more derivative text like a John, I have no problem with some of the careful conclusions they reached. Essentially, the opening exchange here was judged as more authentic than the lower two thirds, with its strange talk of the undivided, etc.

      In Thomas: 99 --

      The disciples said to Him, "Your brothers and Your mother are standing outside."
      He said to them, "Those here who do the will of My Father are My brothers and My mother. It is they who will enter the Kingdom of My Father."

      While I do associate myself with the guess that this passage references a time when Jesus's family wanted him virtually locked up (see the more detailed account of this incident in Mark), the Seminar Fellows are not entirely clear if they are concluding that Jesus really said this or not. Equally pertinently, if he really did say this, how should one take the reference to "Kingdom of My Father"? Is he merely speaking generally, in that "Kingdom of Our Father" could have expressed what he was saying just as well? Or is there some significance to the "My"? And even if there is, could he really be meant by the author to be saying that God is his fleshly father? Or is it more likely that he is merely calling God his spiritual father? Or is there yet another interpretation?

      I'd have to say that since the Fellows have already dismissed the bulk of the previously cited passage as not coming from the J. "voiceprint", I'd feel that we're falling too much for the content/convenience trap outlined above re Shak[e]speare if we suppose that the "Kingdom of My Father" phrase is also not the authentic "voiceprint". One questionable example is fine, but two, especially in an early text like Thomas, would need very, very close arguing. Was it really given it that by the Fellows? Again, with respect, think back to the authoritative Romeo text. I'm bothered by the possibility that some scholars may be too ready to suppose too many coincidences in a case like this that entails such a very early snapshot of the written record, one that could well be (relatively) unfiltered, as early Jesus materials go.

      Part IV

      In the parallel sayings in Matt./Luke sometimes termed Q, Luke: 10:21-22 reads --

      In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

      What I've read of the Fellows on this is summed up, more or less, by "dubious authenticity". O...........K..........., I guess........... Again, within the four corners of this solitary passage, the Fellows make a strong case, and I respect that. It's hard to imagine how any associate could ever be privy to what could well be a private moment here in Jesus's solitary prayer (unless it's barely possible he may have been leading his most intimate associates in a group prayer). On the one hand, the notion of secret sayings really is at odds with 99.99% of the outgoing picture we generally get of Jesus from most of the Thomas and Q sayings. But on the other, there are some indications in Mark, for instance, that Jesus did spend much of his time telling people not to divulge certain things about him at all. Of course, that could be bogus, but if not, moments of possible group prayer like this might not be inconceivable. Personally, I'm split 50/50 on this passage. And BTW, there are, of course, certain tangles in Romeo that I'm split 50/50 on, as well. It's just that there are very few tangles like that, because the modern scholarship has now taught me to approach an authoritative text like Romeo so very cautiously.

      I also respect the fact that the Fellows, mostly scholars themselves, were presumably conversant with the prevailing theories as to varying provenance(s) -- and chronology and level of derivativeness -- for the different Jesus strata out there. So one hopes that these impressions they had of individual passages did take the prevailing scholarly trees of these textual relationships into account. But that old question now starts to nag me, as outlined further up in this post. Essentially, what use are they making of the consensus that they've developed re the scholarly textual tree with Thomas/Q at one end and inauthentic Paulines/John at the other, if they (possibly?) end up effectively treating Thomas or Q the same way they'd treat John or the inauthentic Paulines? Am I giving them a bum rap? Maybe so.

      Now I have no objection to decrying the authenticity of a passage here or a passage there, even if such passages are in Thomas or Q, any more than I have an objection to a fleeting emendation here or there in Romeo. It's the (seeming?) absence of any willingness to give even one such passage the benefit of the doubt, especially if it involves so early a stratum like this, that's starting to trouble me. Its convenience quotient is starting to remind me too uncomfortably of myself when I was young and thought I could always detect every Shak[e]speare corruption with a simple wave of a hand, and automatically know which ones needed fixing without even studying the original Quarto and Folio texts first. It was in graduate school that I eventually learned better.

      Luke (or Q): 22:28-30 reads --

      "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

      And this too has now been queried by the Fellows as possibly dubious. But now frankly, it's no longer a case of this just starting to bother me. Rather, it does bother me, completely and considerably. I am very troubled by such a pat series of suppositions. If only one of the two Thomas passages were queried, no problem. If only one of the two Q passages were queried, no problem. But here we have both Q passages queried, which starts to flirt terribly much with coincidence, in my view. And we may even have some exceptions taken to the authenticity of both(?) Thomas passages as well? Really? Does this truly reflect textual analysis of a sort that has taken into account the conclusions regarding the textual tree? I wonder. I didn't think I'd lose confidence in the Fellows' work on something like this. On the contrary, I've always had enormous respect for their fearless work. Much needed. But what comes from this odd series of coincidences smacks almost of laziness, frankly. Think of it this way: if there were two knotty passages in the Romeo text that were side by side, how likely would it be -- taking into account the probable authenticity of 99.99% of the Romeo text -- that both passages were corrupt rather than us as readers simply having a hard time seeing what the author was trying to say? Viewed this way, perhaps you see the reason for my uneasiness.

      Going purely by content, I can see that the Fellows present, in isolation, sometimes cogent ideas leading to a possible Jesus "voiceprint" that can be extracted from the general tendencies throughout all three of the earliest strata (Q/Thomas/Mark). From that hypothetical "voiceprint", they sometimes view resulting matches or clashes with that "voiceprint" rather convincingly. But that's viewing each passage in isolation. Thus, given the early stratum here as a whole, I'm more wary now. Have the Fellows made these calls purely for convenience? And even if J. did say at least two of these four sayings (which I think more likely, although it's hard for me to select which two), is he necessarily saying that he is Son of God in the way understood by fundamentalists -- and Paul? Perhaps not. What I would have loved from the Fellows instead would have been some sort of analysis showing what Jesus may really be saying in these passages that may effectively contradict(?) -- or not -- Paul and the fundamentalists, rather than a brisk dismissal of all four, which hardly seems thoughtful -- or likely -- or useful.

      Finally, the Fellows also seem to dismiss, in the same way, Mark: 14:61-62, where we have --

      61 But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62 And Jesus said, "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

      Part V

      Coming out of the Jesus Seminar, the Funk & Miller collection of the various canonical and non-canonical Gospels arranged chronologically (although I seem to recall that its hypothetical Q reconstruction may be placed well after the Synoptics?) makes it quite clear that the Jesus Seminar has concluded there is probably a distinct difference between the "Jesus Movement" reflected in the earliest strata of Q/Thomas/Mark, versus the "Pauline Christianity".

      However, no one has yet isolated these particular passages that I isolate here and viewed them cheek by jowl with Paul's relatively rare descriptions of Jesus's "human footprint" here on Earth (descriptions duly excerpted further below), as found in what are generally viewed as the 7 authentic Paulines. In addition, it seems to be that maybe the Fellows' assumption as to consistency of "voiceprint" may have to be revisited. Determining what is consistent could possibly be a two-edged sword. After all, since these self-made allusions to "Son"-ship by Jesus occur in the very earliest textual strata quoting him, any supposition of that as therefore inconsistent in a ministry that only lasts three years at most may land one in a possible contradiction. Since the very earliest strata of quote material shows a consistency in the other direction -- the direction of him indeed talking of himself in terms of "Son"-ship or of something like that -- any inconsistency may therefore lie in examples where he doesn't talk in such terms rather than examples where he does. Let's not forget that one detail quickly scuttled in the later Gospels but present only in Mark -- and a potentially embarrassing detail at that -- concerns J.'s own family's guess, for a while, that J. may have been "beside himself" (i.e., loony-tunes). Talking of "Son"-ship may have been part of that.

      Of course, even characterizing J's talk in this way (as talking of "Son"-ship) is already casting an ad hoc light (perhaps Paul's) on remarks made by J. well before Paul was even in the picture. This is why I'd like to find instead some Fellows who are ready -- now (and I've not been able to contact any) -- to scrutinize only these passages plus the "human footprint" passages in the authentic Paulines, and to scrutinize both "bundles" of passages for ways in which they either contrast or coincide with each other. Talk of "My Father" etc. may or may not translate into Son of God. This is why I think it so important to confine oneself to only the four corners of these two bundles of passages, jettisoning entirely any outside associations, no matter how age-old, that we may have from later (?) understandings of how J. spoke of himself.

      Let's see if reasonably well read people like the posters here might be ready to engage in just such an exercise themselves: View these two bundles in just such a vacuum, and by adopting a clean slate, let's see how we might parse these two bundles by themselves for what each of them may be saying on their own about who/what Jesus is. This means also jettisoning any of one's own life-long conclusions as to Jesus as well. Just what do these two bundles say in your own opinion and in isolation? And that question is addressed to the whole board.

      Here are the Pauline passages in question --

      Galatians 1 - 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.
      19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother.

      Galatians 4 - 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,
      5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

      Romans 1 - 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—
      2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures
      3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,
      4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

      1 Corinthians 2 - 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

      1 Corinthians 7 - 10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.

      1 Corinthians 9 - 5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?

      1 Corinthians 9 - 13 Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?
      14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

      1 Corinthians 11 - 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
      24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
      25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
      26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

      1 Thessalonians 4 - 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

      Phillipians 2 - 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
      6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
      7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
      8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
      9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.

      Look forward to others' thoughts on both this "bundle" and the possible Jesus self-descriptions provided further up.


      Geoff Riggs
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