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tc-list Re: Word Frequency as a Textual Tool

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  • Vincent Broman
    ... Let s try to keep straight how style can be used in text criticism. If, say, you show me two sentences differing only in that one contains KAI LEGEI TW
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 12, 1997
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      schmiul@... wrote:
      > Is there one good reason to suppose that
      > we modern critics are the only ones to assume a writer being consistent in
      > choosing "complex words" instead of simple words (or the reverse)? Later
      > copyists might as well have fealt the same, thus "making" a text much more
      > consistent as it "originally" was. ...

      > ... Others, of course, have argued that someone
      > rewriting a text quite naturally tries to immitate his model.

      > To sum up: Stylistic arguments in textual decisions are notoriously
      > circular.

      Let's try to keep straight how style can be used in text criticism.

      If, say, you show me two sentences differing only in that one contains
      "KAI LEGEI TW <dative> ..." and the other "EIPEN DE PROS TON <accusative> ...",
      and you tell me one was written by Matthew, one by Luke, and you ask:
      which is by Luke? Then, knowing something of the evangelists' preferences,
      I can predict that the latter was Luke's with confidence 'way above 50%.
      Not with certainty, but the odds will favor me heavily.

      Now, if you told me one was Luke and the other was an anonymous Hellenist,
      then my confidence would diminish, but I would make the same choice,
      since I _have_ looked at a small sample of 1st century greek writers (the NT).

      But, if you told me that one was by Luke and the other was written
      by a copyist who had the Lukan text in his exemplar, then I have a different
      kind of problem identifying which is which. Remember, the question is not
      just: which text is Luke more likely to have written? (the easier part),
      but also: which direction of change would be more attractive to the copyist?
      The given variant doesn't look like a blunder or a tendentious change, just
      a stylistic choice, so the possibilities for what the copyist was
      doing seem to be four:

      1. He "improved" the style fitting it to his own preferences, and those
      preferences were not unusual.
      2. He conformed the text to his own preferences, but his preferences
      happened to be more Lukan than Luke, i.e. a concentrated, caricatured
      elixir of Luke.
      3. He was an eagle-eyed text critic, and knowing what we now know about
      style, vocabulary, etc, without the benefit of our exhaustive
      concordances, our doctorates in source criticism, etc, he either fixed
      a suspected corruption, or he improved the evangelist's consistency.
      4. He harmonized this text to its context, accidentally making it
      conform better to the author's style.

      Case 1 is the normal case. Case 2 is possible but unlikely; if it were
      _likely_, the features involved could not be called Lukan. Case 3 is also
      possible, but unlikely. Origens and Jeromes were scarce enough in the
      early church. I am surrounded by devout people who read the Bible all
      their life and to whom it never occurred (nie in den Kopf eingefallen)
      that the four Gospel writers _write_ differently (except perhaps for noticing
      that John is more "spiritual"). Case 4 _is_ likely but it can be checked for
      separately, and the amount of context relevant to the check would be small.
      (BTW, Cadbury wrote about Luke's preference for _varying_ his choice of
      words, so 4 might not apply here anyway!)

      It's not fair at all to call a stylistic argument circular, just because
      Cases 2,3,4 exist. We're dealing with probabilities in any case,
      and some bets are better bets than others.
      Other considerations being equal, I'll bet on 1 and 4.


      Vincent Broman San Diego, California, USA
      Email: broman at sd.znet.com (home) or spawar.navy.mil or nosc.mil (work)
      Phone: +1 619 284 3775 Starship: 32d42m22s N 117d14m13s W
      === PGP protected mail preferred. For public key finger me at np.nosc.mil ===

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