RE: [textualcriticism] Question for BART D. EHRMAN
- No, we don't, as it turns out. Need I point out the obvious case of Josephus?-- BBart D. EhrmanJames A. Gray ProfessorDepartment of Religious StudiesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Larry Swain
Sent: Sunday, November 02, 2008 4:10 PM
Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] Question for BART D. EHRMAN
Bart Ehrman wrote:
>Livy, and Josephus. In fact we have
> I quite disagree on Plato, Caesar,
> no way of knowing how close we areto the actual wordings of these authors.
We don't? Seriously? You really want to believe that scribes in the ancient world consistently went about making changes willy nilly in every text? Further, that they did so with such felicity and skill as to make their changes appear as though they were in fact the actual words of the author? And since some of these texts were widely read, and some used as school texts, that no one noticed these changes and said anything about it?
Certainty? No, especially not in the absolute sense. We don't have the autographs of course. And I would eschew talking about percentages since we don't have the 100% video/audio recording showing Josephus or Vergil writing the very words on papyrus, so we have no idea what the percentage actually is. But we do have tools, text critical, linguistic, and literary critical plus what we know of ancient scribal practices and goals, to be fairly certain of where we stand in each individual case. Did scribes make mistakes? Of course. Did scribes sometimes even make deliberate changes or forgeries? Sure. But none of that means that Tacitus really wrote a positive image of Nero or Plato really hated Socrates or that someone rewrote Mark to have Jesus risen from the dead instead of buried in the tomb, end of story. We're on pretty safe ground overall.
University of Illinois-Chicago
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- Bart Ehrman wrote:
Well, I don't find this kind of polemical shotgun back and forth (he said / she said, on multiple fronts) to be all that useful as a mode of discourse.<<
Nor do I and I wish you'd cease from engaging in it. I made 2 points. That's all. In both, you've been quite defensive and even petulant.
Nor is this present a mere "he said/she said" disagreement: its a "Bart said vs. Bart said" disagreement that you keep attempting to slide past. The best thing it seems to me to do would be either clarify the apparent contradiction, or just simply admit that your response to my comment responding to Tommy Wasserman was a bit overstated and in need of qualification. Easily done. In such a format, everyone makes statements that need qualification.
>> But if you have a specific issue you'd like me to address, I'd be happy to.<<
I believe I've already raised them. And let's recall that it was *you* who responded to my response to Tommy Wasserman regarding ancient and medieval scribal practices.
>> I will, though, deal with the final question you raise. Just to recount the conversation up to this point, to make sure we're on the same page. You indicated that I claimed that there had been a "wholesale, seamless rewriting of the original" somewhere in the manuscript tradition; I asked you what gave you the idea that that was something I claimed, and your reply (below) is that you got the idea from me. And you would like me to clarify.<<Good so far.
>> So to clarify: I don't know where you are getting the idea from that I think there was a wholesale seamless rewriting of the original;<<In hind sight, perhaps I overstated it. Are you not introducing the possibility that such happened when you claim that our ignorance is such that we have no inkling what happened after the autograph was made. Further you stated: "If someone can explain to me the logic of appealing to an author's style when you don't think you can get back to his words (hence his style), I'll eat my Westcott and Hort!"
This suggests that it the author's text is unrecoverable in any real sense: i. e. that it was changed, that we can not recover it, and that such change is undetectable since we can not make appeals to the author's style etc. Now you state that "seamless rewriting" is not what you had in mind, ok, fair enough. But it doesn't let you off the hook. Your statements that you can't get back to the author's words and so therefore can't appeal to an author's style suggest that a) the process of reconstructing a text can not get back to the author and b) if we can not get back to the author, its suggests a stage or stages of more than mere interpolation and a few changes. If we take seriously the notion that in the period between author's copy and initial text considerable changes may have taken place that left no trace in the textual tradition, then we have to apply other tools, such as authorial style. If that isn't applicable, however, then we have to posit that those changes between authorial copy and initial copy were so thorough and complete as to be indistinguishable on close study of style, syntax, vocabulary etc. Possible, but given again what we know about ancient scribal practices (and even those making personal copies), is this likely on anything except a theoretical level?
>> I don't recall ever saying such a thing, and don't recall ever thinking such a thing, and so I don't know what you're referring to. If I *did* say this, I guess I'll have to defend it!<<That's illogical. There are many other responses possible besides defense.
>> I just don't remember ever being certain that we know what happened in the early stages of the tradition. So does that clarify it?<<It does somewhat, but not entirely. Certitude, however, was not what I was suggesting or after. Certitude isn't possible. Probabilities however are.
>> I don't *know* what happened in the earliest decades when the text was being copied (I certainly don't know that their was a wholesale seamless rewriting of the autographs; and I equally don't know that there wasn't). And I don't believe you know either! *Do* you think you know? If so, how do you know?<<
Do I know? Of course not. But I don't know that the planet on which I dwell will continue to rotate on its axis in the same motion and the same speed so that the sun will give the appearance of "rising" in the morning over what is to me my eastern horizon. But based on the current evidence available to me, I can make a probable prediction that no appreciable change will occur between now and then as to change the nature of that rotation. Likewise, given what we know, we can speak in probabilities about textual reconstructions too. With Dr. Wasserman, I think the best and simplest explanation is that there is no significant difference between authorial copy and initial copy, and that it is more likely that redactional activity between authorial copy and initial copy are detectable...and hence appeal to an author's style remains a valid tool.
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