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RE: [textualcriticism] 99.5% Reliability and the "Dark Age" of the Text

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  • David Hindley
    Professor Ehrman, How would you say the work of David Trobisch would fit into this discussion of authorial text, and an initial/archetype text? He grew up with
    Message 1 of 104 , Nov 14, 2008
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      Professor Ehrman,
       
      How would you say the work of David Trobisch would fit into this discussion of authorial text, and an initial/archetype text?
       
      He grew up with an understanding that closely resembles that expressed by Mr.. Andrews. However, his examination of a large number of NT mss collections has lead him to conclude that they all derive from a single archetype (circulated as smaller collections e,a, p,r).
       
      He explains this by resort to the idea that these collections passed through editors in the process of one or more formal publication processes. So, what was published was not necessarily what the original authors wrote, but rather what was edited for publication.
       
      He would allow, however, that original authors could have contributed to some of this editing (e.g., Romans - Galatians, by Paul himself, but not Eph-2 Thes, or the Pastorals, which were put together by other editors, and combined into the Pauline corpus by yet another).
       

      Respectfully,

      Dave Hindley
      Warren, Ohio USA

       


      From: sentto-12544309-4208-1225982797-dhindley=compuserve.com@... [mailto:sentto-12544309-4208-1225982797-dhindley=compuserve.com@...] On Behalf Of Bart Ehrman
      Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2008 8:31 AM
      To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] 99.5% Reliability and the "Dark Age" of the Text

           Sorry not to reply earlier: too many balls in the air on this thread.
       
           On your arguments: I think the evidence suggests the contrary, that the earliest copyists were not people trained to do the work.  The early papyri certainly don't show evidence of having been done by professionals trained to copy literary works.  Just look at the enormous differences among them and the sloppy mistakes in some of them. 
       
          My approach is not to assume that a Christian congregation would do x, y, or z when having a text copied, but to look at the actual evidence of what survives.  The thinking behind the analogy you use, to what a modern congregation would do, is, I think, precisely the problem with your approach to the question.  Ancient groups of Christians were *not* like modern ones in the ways they looked at the world or the ways they functioned in the world; you can't assume that if we would do it a certain way, so would ancient Christians (see all the literature on non-literary societies!).  The evidence shows just the opposite, and that's what is key: we have to see what kinds of manuscripts actually exist and infer from them (not from our own common sense) how ancient communities passed on their texts.
       
          With regard to your specific questions, I think you can find solid answers in the literature on early textual transmission.   I'd urge you to read C. H. Roberts and Eric Turner, and for a competent summary of where scholarship stands (e.g., on the early hands being reformed documentary), Larry Hurtado's recent book on Earliest Christain Artefacts.  P75 probably is not the exemplar of B, as studies such as Gordon Fee's have convincingly shown.  Were intentional changes made early?  Again, it's not a matter of guesswork or common sense; I deal with this at length in my book on Orthodox Corruption.  Anyway, you have very good questions, but I'd urge you to read in the field before making up your mind about the answers!
       
          Thanks for the posting,
       
      -- Bart
       
      Bart D. Ehrman
      James A. Gray Professor
      Department of Religious Studies
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
       


      From: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com [mailto:textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Edward Andrews
      Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 4:32 PM
      To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] 99.5% Reliability and the "Dark Age" of the Text

      Bart:

      I sent this post by way of another one you had commented on; but it did not get addressed; but I understand you are defending yourself against several persons. Maybe you might have time to address it this time around.

      I understand the point you have been making. Also, I agree to an extent. In considering the Western, Byzantine and Cesarean; I will say that I agree that most scribal errors come within the first 200 years after 100 C.E. What are the factors for this?
      • The copies were very likely copied by the Christians and certainly not a professional scribe.
      • These texts were considered personal and not classics.
      • Also, very unlikely that there was a corrector being used.
      • This being the result of persecution on Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.
      However, I would argue that the congregations would likely use a member that was literate and had some experience with documents; maybe, even experience with copying literature if they were available. If not available; one could seek such a person out in a very cautious manner.

      I would argue a bit different for Alexandrian; which likely viewed the texts as literature from the start; being they had a different take on their perception of any writings and; they were far enough removed that they could use professional scribes. Also, almost all of the papyri reflect this to be true.

      However, my question(s) to you are these; what does the papyri reflect: 1) Common, Documentary, Reformed documentary, or professional? Also, can P75 be an exemplar for B? Could P75 (175-225) and P66 (200 or earlier) and others of such early dates be copies of an original, or at least second removed? If they are copies of, if even one or two times removed; I cannot see that much of a change taking place. What of intentional doctrinal changes to strengthen? I do not see this being the case so early. What of changes that reflect a change in spelling grammar, or syntax? This is more likely; but not to a great extent. What about straight scribal errors (unintentional) . This would be minute; being the place they came from and; the fact they are not so far removed from the originals that it could be so compounded. If they used a copyist that was just illiterate, or even extremely unskilled; it would be evident, would it not?

      I have an additional question; try and place our day in the first century. If some small Baptist Church received a visit from Daniel Wallace and two months after he wrote them a short letter; what would be the response to the visit and that letter by the congregation; but especially by the pastors/overseers?

      Edward D Andrews
      Liberty University
      Lynchburg, Virginia
      ____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _____
      Luther's famous statement: Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason . . . , I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.


      --- On Wed, 11/5/08, Bart Ehrman <behrman@email. unc.edu> wrote:
      From: Bart Ehrman <behrman@email. unc.edu>
      Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] 99.5% Reliability and the "Dark Age" of the Text
      To: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com
      Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 9:11 PM

          OK, thanks..  I stand corrected.
       
          Now, 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!  I'm afraid the theoretical basis for this move is rooted in nothing more than assertion (i..e., that it can be done: but what's the logical *basis* for it?  You can see the logical basis for Hort's view and hence the appeal to intrinsic evidence; and you can see the logical basis for a Lachmannian archetype based on stemmatics.  But what's the logical basis for an initial text that is not the author's text that is established to some extent on the author's preferences? ???)  Parker saying it's so don't make it so!).
       
          The entire proceeding needs considerably more theoretical sophistication than it's receiving.  Someone needs to work out a coherent theory, 'cause this ain't it.
       
      -- Bart Ehrman
       
      Bart D. Ehrman
      James A. Gray Professor
      Department of Religious Studies
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
       


      From: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. . com [mailto:textualcrit icism@yahoogroup s.com] On Behalf Of Tommy Wasserman
      Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 1:03 PM
      To: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com
      Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] 99.5% Reliability and the "Dark Age" of the Text

      Bart wrote: "because it was *that* (the authorial text) that he [Hort] wanted to establish, not the initial text.  This is precisely where he parts company with Lachmann.  For Lachmann's text, intrinsic probabilities cannot come into view.  It's simply a matter of logic.  If you aren't after the author's actual words, then his verbal (and theological and stylistic) tendencies are irrelevant."

      Just a clarification: Neither Lachmann was after the "initial text," but the archetype of the tradition. The initial text is something less than the autograph, but something more than the archetype of the tradition. Hence, D.. C. Parker and Klaus Wachtel, two of the editors of the ECM in John state in a joint paper (SNTS, Halle 2005):

      "The reconstruction of an authorial text is not the editor’s brief. Nevertheless, the fact that we insist on speaking about "initial text" and not "archetype" is significant. In traditional Lachmannian stemmatics, what happened to the text before the archetype was written was not the editor’s business. But if we use text-critical arguments derived from the supposed intention of the author, we have already gone beyond merely reconstructing the first manuscript of the tradition. After all, we use arguments based on style. If we were to restrict our work to the application of transcriptional probability, this and similar arguments based on intrinsic probability would be inadmissible. We are therefore both insisting that the Initial Text is different from both the authorial text and the archetype, that we cannot reconstruct the former and that what we can reconstruct is more than the latter."

      They also say: "The simplest theory which one can present is that there is a single Initial Text which was a single archetype presenting a single form of the text. A more complicated hypothesis would be that different literary states of the text were preserved, either in two or more Initial Texts or through the textual character of a single archetype."

      This is what I said I *believe* too in an earlier post.

      The SNTS paper is available here: http://www.itsee. bham.ac.uk/ online/2005_ SNTS_WachtelPark er.pdf

      Tommy Wasserman




         Yes, Hort was one confident fellow.  Note what he entitled his book!  He was right on most things, but not this one -- as later investigators have almost unanimously agreed.
       
         And he would have scoffed at the entire idea of trying to establish something other than the authorial text, and devised his intrinsic probabilities precisely because it was *that* (the authorial text) that he wanted to establish, not the initial text.  This is precisely where he parts company with Lachmann.  For Lachmann's text, intrinsic probabilities cannot come into view.  It's simply a matter of logic.  If you aren't after the author's actual words, then his verbal (and theological and stylistic) tendencies are irrelevant.
       
      -- Bart Ehrman
       
      Bart D. Ehrman
      James A. Gray Professor
      Department of Religious Studies
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
       


      From: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com [mailto:textualcrit icism@yahoogroup s.com] On Behalf Of James Snapp, Jr.
      Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 3:21 PM
      To: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com
      Subject: [textualcriticism] 99.5% Reliability and the "Dark Age" of the Text

      Dr. Ehrman:

      The claim that the revised text securely preserves 99.9% of the
      original text can be traced to F.J.A. Hort, who wrote in 1881, "The
      books of the New Testament as preserved in extant documents
      assuredly speak to us in every important respect in language
      identical with that in which they spoke to those for whom they were
      originally written," and, "The proportion of words virtually
      accepted on all hands as raised above doubt is very great, not less,
      on a rough computation, than seven eighths of the whole. The
      remaining eighth therefore, formed in great part by changes of order
      and other comparative trivialities, constitutes the whole area of
      criticism," and, "The amount of what can in any sense be called
      substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary
      variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the
      entire text."

      You asked how Fadie came up with the claim about 99.5% number.
      Well, how did Hort come up with the claim about 99.9%? By
      conducting textual criticism upon the extant witnesses and drawing
      conclusions about how much of the text could be securely
      reconstructed (99.9%) and how much of the text could not be securely
      reconstructed (.1%). The possibility that the recoverable archetype
      of a NT book may not be identical to the original text as originally
      received by the church from the person or persons who produced the
      text has never been denied in NTTC. Of course it is theoretically
      possible that the earliest recoverable text will not contain exactly
      the same contents as the autograph, and will not even convey the
      sense of the original contents.

      But a theoretical possibility is not the same as a realistic
      possibility.

      You embrace the canon that the variant most likely to be original is
      the variant that best explains the rise of its rivals, right? Such
      a variant is almost always extant. So, when you ask how a
      reconstructed text can be considered 99% identical to the original
      text, I answer that the grounds for such a statement are established
      a bit at a time, as each variant-unit is sorted out.

      BDE: "To say that the early transmission of the text is pristine is
      really a blind leap of faith."

      But that's a straw man, isn't it. The early transmission of the
      text was not pristine; that's not news. The issue is not whether or
      not it was less than perfect; the issue is whether or not it was so
      bad that the original words were so incompetently transmitted that
      they became non-extant. And if one wants to say, "Yes, they were,"
      without being accused of making a blind leap of faith, then he
      should offer a conjectural emendation, where he proposes that this
      has occurred, and compose a case, driven by internal considerations,
      that a non-extant variant is original.

      Hort had a list of 60 passages where he suspected primitive
      corruption; he also suspected that the original ending of the Gospel
      of Mark was lost. The NA apparatus includes some feasible
      conjectural emendations. One could add to that list those places
      where sacred names are contracted in all extant witnesses, although
      in those cases the recovery of the original text is just a matter of
      uncontracting the NS. Aside from those places, though, where do you
      think the original text of the books of the New Testament has
      actually been lost? Where do you think the sense of the original
      text has actually been lost?

      (Qualification: I think Hort was very optimistic about the accuracy
      and stability of the revised text. He's probably the main culprit
      behind the "99.9% accurate" claim. But as an answer to Fadie's
      question about the percentage of the NT text which contains no sense-
      affecting variant in known Greek witnesses, Hort's rough estimate of
      7/8ths, or 87%, still seems about right.)

      On another point:

      BDE: "The "initial text" is not the author's text, but the text
      that is the archetype for the entire tradition. This initial text is
      a text that has been *changed* to a greater or lesser degree (we
      have no way of knowing how much, as you pointed out earlier) from
      the authorial text. (If it hadn't been changed, you wouldn't be
      able to or need to distinguish it from the authorial text)."

      Let's look at a couple of NT books where the "initial text" may be
      different from the text as it proceeded from the primary author:
      the Gospel of John and Second Corinthians. Possibly John 1-20
      briefly circulated without John 21. And possibly Second Corinthians
      originally consisted of two epistles rather than one. If that were
      the case, it may be a matter of perspective whether we call the 20-
      chapter John the original form of the Gospel of John, or if we say
      that the Gospel of John was put together in stages and that in one
      of the last stages – but not the very last stage – it was 20
      chapters long. Similarly, inasmuch as the only form of II
      Corinthians that can be verified to have been received by the church
      is the 13-chapter form, the hypothetical earlier forms, in which
      chapters 1-9 and chapters 10-13 circulated as two distinct epistles,
      may be regarded as having existed before the final production-
      stage. This requires the abandonment of the notion that a single
      book must be the product of a single author – but Biblical scholars
      have for a long time abandoned that notion regarding some OT books,
      so there is nothing theologically controversial about that; the only
      debate is whether or not such hypothetical stages of the text ever
      existed.

      Authorial style, vocabulary, theology, etc. are still important in
      the approach which defines the original text as something other than
      the product of a single author; those considerations do not become
      irrelevant; other considerations are added.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.

      Yahoo! News

      Get it all here

      Breaking news to

      entertainment news


    • Larry Swain
      ...       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
      Message 104 of 104 , Nov 30, 2008
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        Bart Ehrman wrote:


        >>Larry,
         
            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.

        Larry Swain
        UIC

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