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Primary Evidence [was Reading strategy]

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  • Felix Just, S.J.
    ... I beg to differ with Jeff and Pete and others jumping on this bandwagon. Shouldn t the fact that 7:53--8:11 is missing from the oldest manuscripts be
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2000
      "Staley, Jeffrey" wrote:

      > But don't you just worry on those cold autumnal mornings that there is
      > absolutely no primary evidence for different editions of John. There is no
      > manuscript evidence for proto-John, no evidence for Q, no evidence that
      > source criticism is anything but a reconstruction of our own fractured
      > egos?
      > It ain't cold yet here in Seattle, but Iwill add my "Hear Hear!" to Peter's
      > remarks

      I beg to differ with Jeff and Pete and others jumping on this bandwagon.
      Shouldn't the fact that 7:53--8:11 is missing from the oldest manuscripts be
      considered "primary evidence" for the fact that there are "different editions"
      of John? And if this addition happened at a relatively late stage, when the
      Johannine tradition was close to being "fixed", then isn't it even more likely
      that some editting also might have taken place earlier?

      As to the lack of manuscript evidence for proto-John, etc., you are obviously
      right that we don't have any. But I think it would be HIGHLY surprising if we
      had! In addition to the reasons given by others in the past few days, let's
      think about the material culture: Modern pack-rats (or scholars with almost
      unlimited storage capacities on their computers and in their offices) might want
      and be able to save everything, including rough drafts of papers, or first
      editions of books which were later revised and expanded. But consider the
      fragility of papyrus, and it's not surprising that we have so little from the
      earliest centuries. More, importantly, consider the cost of vellum, and it's not
      surprising that we have PALIMPSESTS! Scribes would ERASE older manuscripts so
      as to REUSE the expensive materials! And since they simply did not share our
      modern "historical" mentality, what reason would they have had for saving "first
      editions" of any works which had meanwhile been revised and expanded?

      So on the one hand, I agree that we cannot with certainty "reconstruct" any
      non-extant "proto-" texts, and that every attempt to do so in detail reflects
      the personal assumptions and biases of the scholar. But on the other hand, that
      does not mean that we must conclude that no previous editions ever existed!
      Certain clues or "seams" in the present text (like the transition of
      14:31--15:1, or 20:31--21:1) are good enough evidence in my mind for the fact
      THAT some additions were made to a previously shorter text, even if we can't
      reconstruct the "original" with complete certainty, and even if we still agree
      to use the present text for literary, theological, and canonical purposes.

      And briefly on "Q" - we shouldn't forget that one of the strongest arguments
      people used before 1945 was, paraphrased, "No early Christian would have
      compiled a collection of the sayings of Jesus without also telling about his
      Passion and Death." But the discovery of the complete Gospel of Thomas blew
      that argument out of the water. Even if Q is not the same as GThomas, we now
      have proof of the existence of the genre! {and proof that non-canonical Gospels
      had great difficulty surviving?] So also, the claim of Luke 1:1 that "many"
      others had already written about Jesus is good enough evidence in my opinion for
      the fact THAT other written sources existed in the first century, even if most
      of them are no longer extant.

      So I wonder whether those who would require "manuscript evidence" for the
      sources or previous editions of John are not asking for a level of proof that is
      unreasonably high and inappropriate, given the social and material culture of
      the ancient world.

      Felix Just, S.J. -- Dept. of Theological Studies
      Loyola Marymount University -- 7900 Loyola Blvd.
      Los Angeles, CA 90045-8400 -- (310) 338-5933
      Website: http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/~fjust
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