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Re: number of NT MSS.

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  • William L. Petersen
    Re Ron Minton s query about the precise number of NT MSS: I doubt if anyone knows the exact number, for it is constantly changing. For example, among the
    Message 1 of 32 , Sep 9, 1997
      Re Ron Minton's query about the precise number of NT MSS:

      I doubt if anyone knows the exact number, for it is constantly changing.

      For example, among the Oxyrhynchus papyri, about 10 small fragments have
      just been identified as perserving parts of the gospels (all are *small*
      and will be released in October, as I recall [they were viewed and
      discussed in the textual criticism seminar of the SNTS, meeting in
      Birmingham in August]). While it may be that one or two of these papryi
      belong to known (and, therefore, numbered) papyri, some appear to be
      "new"--or are at least tought to "stand on their own" (as opposed to being
      parts of another papyrus).

      Further, research often is known only to those working on the find (e.g.,
      the editor of these Oxyrhynchus fragments knew of them, as did selected
      experts he consulted in the UK), until it is announced. Therefore, even if
      one could stipulate the number *publicly* known at noon today, that number
      would be inaccurate, for somewhere in the world, someone is probably
      working on preparing an edition of fragments or manuscripts which will
      change this number.

      Additionally, the number changes as MSS are reconsidered: an example given
      me by Tjitze Baarda is MS 372, which Hatch dates to the XV or XVI cent. It
      may well be, however, that MS 372 is actually a *manuscript* copy of a
      *printed edition*--that is, a *BOOK*--of the gospels, perhaps one of the
      early editions of Erasmus. Variant readings suggest this, as does
      Gregory's remark that it "sieht wie ein gedrucktes Buch aus." The question
      then arises: Is this a "manuscript" of the NT? Or is it simply, from a
      text-critical perspective, worthless, with no textual tradition behind it
      at all, but simply a copy by a scribe from a *printed* edition? Depending
      on how one decides this matter, the number of NT MSS will be one MS greater
      or lesser.

      It is because of this sort of constant discovery--and sometimes
      reappraisal (these two papryi, now numbered separately, are actully from
      the same MS; this is not a MS from antiquity, but a copy from a printed
      edition)--that fixing the *exact* number of witnesses is impossible.

      Having said this, I cannot imagine what possible value there could be to
      knowing (or wanting to know) the *exact* number of extant NT MSS...

      --Petersen, Penn State University,
      Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies
    • Maurice Robinson
      I will not be replying in detail to the diatribe regarding my own position (even though I could provide answers, which, if not persuasive to all concerned,
      Message 32 of 32 , Sep 14, 1997
        I will not be replying in detail to the diatribe regarding my own position
        (even though I could provide answers, which, if not persuasive to all
        concerned, would at least reflect a reasonable application of praxis
        within the "normal" parameters of NT textual criticism in a manner which
        Evensen's non-logical faith-position does not attempt to do).

        My non-reply comes about for various reasons, some of which should sound
        quite familiar to the regular readers of the tc-list:

        (a) I was requested to provide a one-word comment rather than discuss the
        issues. I did precisely that.

        (b) "It would take me more than a month of research to prepare an adequate
        response", and I certainly would not want to be speaking off the top of my
        head, or I might make other typos like leaving the -um off "argumentum"
        (the hyphens were there to keep the Latin terms together).

        (c) "We textual scholars have better things to do with our time".

        (d) I leave for my sabbatical in Muenster next Wednesday and will be
        occupied with more pressing and significant matters of research beyond
        rehashing points of my theory to those who really do not care an iota
        about such; also my current occupation with packing luggage for such an
        extended stay precludes much more time to be spent on the computer.

        Yet for the record, I happen to _agree_ with Petersen on the following
        items (written to Waltz), even if Petersen might not think I do:

        >The textual critic should have *no* personal investment in whether the
        >"original" is "veil" or "power" in I Cor. 11:10; nor should the textual
        >critic care (from a personal or theological point of view) whether the
        >"Great Commission" is part of the original text of Matthew or not.
        > .......................
        >A textual critic, however, begins with "I don't know what is going on;
        >let me assemble the evidence and see if it points in a direction; it
        >may, or it may not." And if the evidence points in a particular
        >direction, that direction should have *no* relevance for the critic's
        >life (otherwise he/she will be tempted to shape the evidence to fit
        >his/her beliefs).

        Those who at least attempt to understand my theory of Byzantine-priority
        will also realize that the "personal faith" issue has NO bearing on which
        text I support (and I freely acknowledged that my position originally was
        within the "reasoned eclectic" model, which similarly was unrelated
        text-critically to my own personal faith).

        In the same manner, the theory regarding Byzantine-priority and a history
        of transmission model was first developed before engaging in praxis with
        the data of the variant units and modifying the theory whenever the data
        required. There was _no_ "patent cutting of the evidence to fit
        pre-conceived theories of textual transmission", whether one prefers to
        think so or not.

        It is true that, once the theory became established and was set into
        place, the evaluation of data did take place within the framework and
        perspective of that theory; but the theory itself did not depend on a
        preliminary "cutting of the evidence".

        I, along with many of the eclectic critics, happen _not_ to think that a
        versional or patristic reading standing alone without Greek MS support is
        likely to be original. This is no reason for objection regarding bias in
        methodology, but the method instead reflects a reasonable conclusion held
        by many different textual theorists and practitioners.

        So even if one considers "veil" to have been in the actual main text of
        some now non-extant Greek MS which found its way into the main text of a
        number of Latin MSS, this still does not overturn the point that no known
        Greek MS extant today (or even mentioned patristically) seems ever to have
        had such a reading in its main text. Similarly, there is no reason why a
        true marginal gloss in a now-lost Greek MS may have been the source of the
        reading in the Latin copies.

        The argumentum-ex-silentio (correct this time, but still with my favored
        misplaced hyphens) is just as severe regarding the speculation that one,
        some, or many Greek MSS "must" have had such a reading for it to have
        spread among the Latins, when in fact the alteration may have been made
        directly into the first Latin copy bearing it by a scribe who asked
        someone "what is this _exousia_ supposed to mean?".

        Merely because one does not choose to accept certain degrees of evidence
        within his own approach to NT textual criticism does not invalidate the
        method. (Seems like some time ago the discussion went this very direction
        in regard to conjectural emendation, which many of us similarly reject due
        to the amount of evidence preserved to us).

        I will acknowledge that my response regarding Helge's (admittedly)
        non-scientific, non-logical views regarding the text are strong, but
        "absurd", "ridiculous" and "non-sensical" are correct terms to use when
        describing non-logical positions. ("Crock" I will grant may be
        pejorative, though any offense taken should be from Helge, who has not
        complained either publicly or privately to me about that post; if so, I
        will recant).

        For those who have not seen the type of language which normally comes from
        the TR/KJV-only crowd, my comments come out as tame indeed, especially
        regarding an illogical, absurdist "faith-based" position claiming some
        affinity with legitimate textual criticism. Such a position I utterly
        reject. Helge, to his credit, does _not_ write like a Waite, a Riplinger,
        or a Ruckman (names which to those in normal text-critical circles are
        unknown), and this at least is to the good; if he wrote like them, I would
        wager not one person on this list would bother replying.

        Petersen further asks:

        >Should I note this vocabulary, and use it the next time I hear the
        >Byzantine text being projected back into the early centuries, *without
        >any manuscript, versional, or patristic support*?

        Feel free, since it seems this objection previously was stated fairly
        strongly, but without the same words (which perhaps you wanted to say in
        the first place). My answers will remain the same in any case.

        One point of final agreement:

        >I am a very dumb man, and--esp. on this list--have never been sure who is
        >a textual critics and who is not.

        I confess I fit the first part of that statement quite well, and am in
        agreement with the second part.

        >against Evensen: "With absolutely NO evidence regarding the supposed
        >'thousands of MSS' which perished"; but is this not the same argument I
        >used against Robinson, pointing out the empirical dearth of evidence for
        >the Byzantine text before the fourth century?

        As stated in my one word response: NOT. But as promised at the beginning
        of this post, I am not going to bother with the detailed response for the
        reasons stated.

        Maurice A. Robinson, Ph.D. Professor of Greek and New Testament
        Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Wake Forest, North Carolina
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