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(Fwd) from Robert Shedinger: Re: [Synoptic-L] Approaches to Diatessaron

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  • Mark Goodacre
    ... Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 22:02:58 -0400 From: Robert Shedinger Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Approaches to Diatessaron Yuri: I
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 25, 2000
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      Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 22:02:58 -0400
      From: Robert Shedinger <rsheding@...>
      Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Approaches to Diatessaron

      Yuri:

      I find your discussion of the Diatessaron interesting and generally
      on the
      mark. Having just completed a dissertation in which I worked back
      through
      all the sources to reconstruct the Diatessaronic form of Old
      Testament
      citations, I am convinced that there was a greater amount of textual
      fluidity at work on the Gospel texts during the first three centuries of
      their transmission than is usually allowed for. It seems to me that
      just
      because the Gospels existed by 100 does not guarantee the fixity
      of their
      texts by that date. Textual fixity seems to go hand in hand with
      canonicity, and it would be hard to argue for canonical status for the
      Gospels before the early fourth century. This, of course, means Tatian was
      working firmly in the period of textual fluidity, making the DT the
      premier, and perhaps only, source for very early Gospel readings apart
      from a very few extremely fragmentary papyri.

      One reason I think that NT scholars have generally not embraced the DT is
      because of the extreme difficulty in working with it. Few have the
      inclination (or are crazy enough) to wade through texts in Syriac, Arabic,
      Persian, Latin, Old High German, Middle High German, Middle Dutch, Middle
      Italian, and Middle English to mention only the most prominent. As someone
      who has done this, I must say it is very hard work, but work that I think
      has much to teach us about the eary transmission of the Gospel text.

      Regards,

      Robert Shedinger
      Luther College

      Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:

      > Greetings, all,
      >
      > In this message I'm examining the general assumptions many scholars make
      > about Tatian's Diatessaron today.
      >
      > Yuri.
      >
      > *************
      >
      > The puzzle of Tatian
      >
      > Distinguished biblical scholar Louis Leloir expressed the following
      > opinion in regards to the Diatessaron,
      >
      > "D'un patient travail comparatif jaillit la conclusion evidente: pour
      > retrouver les plus anciennes lecons evangeliques, la connaissance de
      > l'oeuvre de Tatien est d'une importance primordiale." (as quoted by
      > Boismard in his LE DIATESSARON, p. 10)
      >
      > "As a result of diligent comparative work [as outlined previously in
      > this passage], a clear conclusion emerges: in order to rediscover the
      > most ancient gospel readings, the knowledge of the work of Tatian is of
      > primordial importance."
      >
      > And also, in his EARLY VERSIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Stockholm, 1954,
      > Arthur Voobus writes,
      >
      > "In the history of the versions, as well as in the early phase of
      > textual developments of the New Testament as a whole, there is no
      > greater and more important name than Tatian. This is not an
      > overstatement."
      >
      > Surely then the study of DT should be of central importance for
      > resolving the Synoptic problem, if one takes these views seriously?
      >
      > But in spite of such strong recommendations from Professors Leloir and
      > Voobus, and from quite a few others, there are still many NT scholars
      > who are reluctant to accept the idea that Diatessaronic studies have
      > anything of significance to offer them. Indeed, this opinion appears to
      > be quite common. However it may be, it certainly looks like, compared to
      > other fields of biblical scholarship, the number of those who work in
      > the Diatessaronic area is still rather small, and their research does
      > not seem to travel much outside of a small circle of specialists. And
      > this is also reflected in the fact that, with the exception of August
      > Merk's edition, no standard critical edition of NT includes variant
      > readings from DT.
      >
      > There certainly appears to be a discontinuity of some sort in scholarly
      > opinions in this area in need of an explanation. Is this just the old
      > "canonical bias" at play, or is there something more to it, perhaps?
      > There does seem to be some sort of a puzzle hanging about DT, creating a
      > general air of controversy. So here are four possible reasons for why
      > this may be so.
      >
      > 1. in the past, Tatian had a "heretical" reputation
      >
      > 2. a belief, quite common in the past (cf. Irenaeus), that any reduction
      > of 4 gospels into 1 is unacceptable
      >
      > 3. possibly some unorthodox ideas or sources included into DT (such as
      > various hypothetical Jewish-Christian gospels or sources)
      >
      > 4. because DT is believed to have been compiled so late, i.e. ca 170 CE,
      > therefore it simply could not include any genuine early pre-canonical
      > traditions
      >
      > The first three of these items have to do more with personal faith than
      > with text criticism, and therefore one would think it unlikely that they
      > should play a significant role in forming opinions of today's NT
      > scholars (except perhaps on a subconscious level?). Certainly, most NT
      > scholars today are not confessional scholars, so how could they be
      > adversely influenced in any significant way by the heretical status of
      > Tatian, or by any scruples about the idea, itself, of a gospel harmony?
      > And why would Tatian's unorthodox Jewish-Christian sources be of concern
      > to a secular commentator? So perhaps the answer lies elsewhere.
      >
      > But the fourth item above is indeed quite relevant, and presents
      > something of a real puzzle in need of a solution. So, in my view, the
      > real puzzle of Tatian, what still seems to make him quite unpalatable to
      > so many of today's biblical scholars, may be the very idea that DT can
      > preserve some early pre-canonical traditions, as expressed above by
      > Leloir and Voobus.
      >
      > Indeed, how could a gospels harmony reputedly compiled ca 170 CE be
      > preserving any early pre-canonical traditions? Isn't this the key
      > question here? Because it is generally believed today that the canonical
      > gospels were all completed by 100 at the very latest, and thereupon more
      > or less textually frozen. Indeed, this is an assumption that is normally
      > shared by all major schools of Synoptic research today. 2SH, 2GH, and
      > FGM, all agree that all the gospels were completed before 100, and that
      > thereupon there was no further textual development. (From this point of
      > view, it is interesting that those few advocates today of more complex
      > solutions to the Synoptic problem, scholars such as Koester and
      > Boismard, who suggest that there was some significant mutual
      > intracanonical cross-pollination or borrowing among gospels, are also
      > strong advocates of expanding the canonical boundaries to include the
      > consideration of DT.)
      >
      > So then why do Baumstark, Plooij, Leloir, Quispel, and Boismard, and
      > quite a few other eminent biblical textual authorities still think that
      > somehow DT is very important for understanding NT textual history? A
      > real difficulty lies here, because the very difficult question of the
      > dating of gospel texts seems to be raised.
      >
      > So how can this dilemma be resolved then? Two basic solutions appear to
      > be possible. If indeed DT preserves some early pre-canonical gospel
      > traditions, as so many eminent textual scholars insist, then (1) either
      > it, or parts of it were produced considerably earlier than 170, or,
      > conversely, (2) the solution will require that some of the gospel
      > traditions were in fact still not frozen in stone even as late as 170.
      > Or, perhaps there can be some combination of these two factors that will
      > provide us with an answer to our problem.
      >
      > In regard to #2, it is true that some biblical scholars like Alfred
      > Loisy are known as "late daters". For his part, Loisy thought that in
      > fact none of the canonical gospels were completed as early as 100. Among
      > other things, he argued that a major re-editing of the canonicals was
      > done around 140, as the canon was first being created under the great
      > pressure created in Rome by Marcion, yet another notorious ancient
      > "heretic". And some even later re-editings were also possible, according
      > to Loisy. All this needs to be considered carefully.
      >
      > And, as to #1, quite a few scholars believe that Tatian incorporated
      > into his DT some much earlier materials from the gospel harmony that his
      > teacher Justin used. Indeed, the prototype of Justin's harmony may go
      > back to as early as 100 CE.
      >
      > So it does seem like some combination of the above two arguments can
      > provide a solution to our problem that can cast light on this last
      > "heresy of Tatian" that still appears to make him unpalatable to so many
      > NT scholars today.
      >
      > All comments are appreciated.
      >
      > Best wishes,
      >
      > Yuri.
      >
      > Yuri Kuchinsky | Toronto | http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/bbl/bbl.htm
      >
      > Biblical history list http://www.egroups.com/group/loisy
      >
      > "It is so much easier to assume than to prove; it is so much less
      > painful to believe than to doubt; there is such a charm in the repose of
      > prejudice, when no discordant voice jars upon the harmony of belief;
      > there is such a thrilling pang when cherished dreams are scattered, and
      > old creeds abandoned, that it is not surprising that men close their
      > eyes to the unwelcome light" -- W.E.H. Lecky (A History of Rationalism)


      ---------------------------
      Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
      Dept of Theology
      University of Birmingham Fax.: +44 (0)121 414 6866
      Birmingham B15 2TT Tel.: +44 (0)121 414 7512

      http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
      Homepage
      http://www.ntgateway.com
      The New Testament Gateway
    • Mark Goodacre
      The following message did not get through to the list because the software was not recognising a minor variant in Robert s Email address; this has now been
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 26, 2000
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        The following message did not get through to the list because the
        software was not recognising a minor variant in Robert's Email
        address; this has now been fixed (Bear in mind that I have to keep a
        "subscribers only" policy to block the spam etc.). Mark.

        ---------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 23:06:34 -0400
        From: Robert Shedinger <rsheding@...>
        Reply-To: rsheding@...
        Organization: Temple University
        Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Approaches to Diatessaron

        I certainly do not disagree with most of what Larry says here. But it
        seems to me that textual critics normally assume that the earliest or
        best reading in a particular text can always be found among the
        variants documented in the usual textual sources (Greek Mss, versions,
        patristic citations, etc.). But is it not possible that some original
        readings may have disappeared from the textual tradition so early that
        they no longer exist in these later witnesses? Moreover, it is very
        unusual for a critical edition to adopt any reading into its text that
        has no Greek support. But why do we assume that the best reading
        necessarily must survive in the Greek Mss tradition to which the early
        versions and patristic citations give only secondary support? My gut
        instinct (and at this point it is only a gut instinct, not a fully
        worked out thesis) is that the original text of the Gospels diverged
        more from our critical editions than many scholars allow for. And not
        just textual scholars, but literary critics as well who frequently
        talk about what Matthew or Mark wrote in a certain place as if our
        critical editions always preserve precisely what they wrote. Our
        critical editions can probably do no better than get us a late third
        century text, but the Diatessaron and the versional traditions related
        to it (Old Syriac, Old Latin) may be able to get us back to the
        mid-second century. I cannot take credit for this idea. William
        Petersen has made the argument in several places, and even Helmut
        Koester has commented on the naivety of textual criticism in this
        regard (See his "The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Second
        Century" in Gospel Traditions in the Second Century: Origins,
        Recensions, Text, and Transmission, ed. W. L. Petersen (University of
        Notre Dame Press, 1989), 20.

        Robert Shedinger
        Luther College

        ------- End of forwarded message -------
        --------------------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
        Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
        Homepage
        http://www.ntgateway.com
        The New Testament Gateway
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