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Re: Textual Criticism Theories

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  • Robert B. Waltz
    ... What a subject to start on right before I go to bed. Oh well, here goes.... [ ... ] ... I would say that the WH *text* has now been replaced by UBS/GNT,
    Message 1 of 1714 , Oct 21, 1996
      On Mon, 21 Oct 1996, KHGrenier@... wrote:

      >Dear all,
      >I have been a lurker on this list for some time now and have enjoyed the many
      >exchanges of ideas--this summer especially. Things have calmed down recently,
      >however, so this seems like a good time to come out of hiding and stir things

      What a subject to start on right before I go to bed. Oh well, here goes....

      [ ... ]

      >Textual criticism is a relatively new field of study in NT circles. While tc
      >has been performed since the Church fathers (as demonstrated by Origin's),
      >there was no widespread systematic approach to its practice until Wescott &
      >Hort in 1881. Prior to that time, many had posited arguments against mere
      >acceptance of the TR, but it wasn't until W&H that a methodology for a
      >different selection was proposed.
      >Since then, the entire tc world has lived in the shadow of W&H, either
      >supporting them or fighting them. However, even though there are some severe
      >weaknesses with W&H, no one has yet to dethrone their view, primarily, it
      >seems, because no one has been able to come up with a theoretical framework
      >to replace it that has met with wide acceptance.

      I would say that the WH *text* has now been replaced by UBS/GNT, although
      this is largely a "Hortian" text.

      >The most recent attempt past the logjam has been the eclectic movement,
      >which, it seems, everyone tries to lump everyone but themselves into.


      Actually, most people except those who believe in Byzantine priority
      are eclectics. (This includes even W&H.) They're just different *types*
      of eclectics. Some stress manuscripts (W&H), some internal criteria
      (Elliot), some a mixture of the two.

      And so everyone tries to "grab hold" of the word eclectic, or label
      someone else with the term, because our language is not precise enough.

      [ ... ]
      >Therefore, in the tc world today, we conduct our affairs generally within the
      >W&H paradigm whether we agree with it or not. However, there are still some
      >very divergent views of the nature of NT textual criticism. I'm sure I do not
      >know them all and I've probably missed the mark in some cases. I do know that
      >very few people seem to fit well in any category except in cases where their
      >view defines the category. Here are the ones I can think of off the top of my
      >1. KJV only - the TR was shepherded by God to us through the centuries and we
      >should not deviate from it based on what passes for "human wisdom."

      This isn't really a theory of textual criticism, just a theory about the
      text. As Daniel B. Wallace points out, there has never been a legitimate
      textual scholar who has held *this* point of view.

      >2. Byzantine priority - While the Byzantine text is not present significantly
      >prior to 500 (?) CE, it does reflect the autographs better than the other
      >text types. Maurice Robinson would say (correct me if I'm wrong) that the
      >process of copying and cross-checking would generally bring most deviant
      >texts back into line with the autographs.

      This is actually a complicated area, with at least three major sub-groups.

      1. The followers of Dean Burgon. Maurice Robinson is a modern example.
      They believe that the majority text is always "original."

      2. The followers of Hodges & Farstad, e.g. Pickering. They believe that
      the Byzantine text is original, but use more complex methods (at times
      smacking of internal criticism) to determine the "original" text.

      There is also a third group exemplified by Harry Sturz. This group does not
      claim Byzantine priority, but rather Byzantine *equality* -- that is, they
      deny Hort's claim that the Byzantine text is secondary. They consider it one
      of the original text-types, and reconstruct the text on this basis.

      This is actually close to the views of Von Soden, although Sturz values
      the Byuzantine text above all others while Soden considered it the least
      of the text-types.

      >3. Alexandrian priority - Although there are far more Byzantine witnesses
      >than any other type, the earlier witnesses must be given priority by virtue
      >of their date and quality.

      I would be inclined to call this category "Single text-type priority."
      For W&H, the Alexandrian text was the best -- but, as someone has already
      noted, there are scholars (e.g. Vaganay, Amphoux, also Clark) who consider
      the "Western" text the best. For that matter, Streeter apparently regarded
      the "Caesarean" text as best. The crucial point is that all of these
      people choose *one* text type as "best" and follow that.

      Of course, most of them have chosen the Alexandrian text as best, but this
      is not universal. It should also be noted that what was considered Alexandrian
      in Hort's time now appears (at least in Paul, the Catholics, and the
      Apocalypse) to break down into multiple text-types (e.g. in Paul we have
      p46-B verses Aleph-A-C-33; so Zuntz, and I independently verified this).

      >4. Eclectic - The best way to determine the nature of the autographs is
      >through an eclectic process examining each significant issue on its own
      >merits. The decision for which reading is best is based on the internal
      >evidence and the external evidence, however, it is up to the textual critic
      >to determine in each instance which evidence has the most weight in each

      Again there are at least three schools here. Various terminologies have
      been applied to this; I'll use my own (influenced by Epp)

      1. Internal eclecticists (Kilpatrick; Elliot; earlier Weiss and Lagrange).
      These stress the internal evidence of readings. Manuscripts carry
      relatively little weight.

      2. Generalists -- those who use internal and external evidence. Most
      editors of critical editions fall into this group, though their
      rules and historical reconstructions vary widely. The UBS committee,
      for instance, gave great weight to the Alexandrian text; the editors
      of the New English Bible applies more internal criteria.

      3. External eclecticists. This is a relatively rare breed these days.
      I'm one, but I don't count. I understand that Deering is one. People
      in this classification always take external (manuscript) evidence
      first. So in Paul, for example, if a reading is attested by p46 Aleph
      A B C D F G 33 1739, I *must* adopt it no matter what internal
      evidence says. Only if the text-types (p46-B-sa, Aleph-A-C-33-bo,
      D-F-G-latt, 1739-0243-1881-424**-6) divide am I even *allowed*
      to look at internal evidence.

      >The Difficulty of the Task
      >Part of the difficulty of the task is that we do not understand with
      >certainty how we ended up with the texts that we have. Most agree that the
      >majority of variants probably occurred prior to 325 CE., certainly before 500
      >(?) CE. During this time, people did not understand the writings as scripture
      >and there was little opportunity for comparison of MSS.
      >One of the main problems facing the textual critic is that there are no truly
      >satisfactory ways to place the different MSS into their place in the family
      >tree. First, we don't have enough MSS to really trace out the branches and
      >second the nature of the variants is of little help.

      Debatable. It is true that we cannot, for the most part, construct stemma
      (exact family trees). But we *do* find text-types. Everyone concedes the
      existence of the Alexandrian and Byzantine texts. Most will concede at
      least one or two others (e.g. I find four or five in the Gospels; five
      in Paul; four in the Catholics. Zuntz finds four in Paul. Schmidt finds
      four in the Apocalypse). Within these text-types we can find sub-text-types
      (e.g. in the Gospels, the Alexandrian text has a p75-B-T subtype and an
      Aleph-Z subtype). Within these we can possibly find clans, and within these,
      at times, families.

      However, most eclectic scholars make little use of this information. It
      is, obviously, my opinion that we should make *more* use of this data.

      Of course, if two early text-types disagree, we still have the same old
      problem: Deciding which one preserves the original reading. But at least
      we have more tools at our disposal.

      >Variants may be categorized in general into 2 categories - intentional and
      >accidental. The intentional variants are those made on purpose by the scribe
      >for a variety of reasons. i.e., to correct a "bad" reading, to make it more
      >understandable, to harmonize texts, to correct grammar, to push a theological
      >point, ad nauseam. Accidental variants include the whole range of scribal
      >errors that may occur.

      In principle this is true. But I would stress that it can be *very* hard
      to tell which type is which, and we should not place much stress on
      which variants are "intentional" and which "accidental." Indeed, an
      variant may be both -- an accidental error caused a scribe to attempt
      a deliberate correction. See, for example, 1 Cor. 13:3. The original reading
      is probably KAUCHSWMAI (p46 Aleph A B 33 1739* pc). An error converted this
      to KAUQHSWMAI (K Psi Byz). This is impossible, so scribes "corrected" it
      to KAUQHSOMAI (D F G L al).

      [ ... ]

      >Dumb Thoughts from a Novice
      >While the most significant battles in tc will be fought over the
      >theologically significant variants, it seems that those are precisely the
      >wrong places to understand tc. Just like in Greek we want to learn the
      >grammar from the mundane areas so that we can apply it accurately to the more
      >theological ones, so perhaps the same is true in tc.

      No argument there -- although we must be careful to distinguish between
      variants that are textually significant and those which are not.

      >It seems to me that our critical apparati all seem to focus our attention on
      >the significant variants and ignore the large mass of minor variants to
      >include slight misspellings and other obvious issues. Maybe we need to start
      >grouping readings based on their insignificant variant readings and their
      >date. If we do that, the four text types (Alexandrian, Byzantine, Western,
      >Whatever) will probably fade away, while the basic principles of W&H would

      I could be sarcastic here, and say that W&H's basic principle was "Prefer
      the Alexandrian reading." Suffice it to say that here I disagree with
      you, and agree with W&H. Text-types are not insignificant; they are
      our basic tools. (IMHO.)

      >I'm sure I have said much wrong, much over-generalized, but occasionally a
      >few things right. I'd appreciate any comments from others on my
      >misconceptions and any thoughts on what type of paradigm, if any, should
      >replace W&H.

      I think I've covered that above. If I haven't -- well, there's always
      the eight thousand words or so I hope to slip into the Textual Criticism
      Encyclopedia. :-)

      Bob Waltz
    • Julian Goldberg
      The complete Hebrew Scriptures (Hebrew Bible) or TANAKH (Torah-Law, Neviim-Prophets, Ketuvim-Writings) based on the Masoretic Hebrew text with vowels and
      Message 1714 of 1714 , Feb 4, 1997
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