Re: The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?
- Many thanks for this Wieland.
But I confess to being even more puzzled now than I was before. So far as I can tell, the statistical relationships tabulated by Ralston do not support his major conclusions - and especially do not support his speculation that the Byzantine text-type derives from the Caesarean; and that consequently there was no distinct early Byzantine archetype.
Ralston's paper (I think) demonstrates that late Byzantine uncial witnesses are more similar to one another (and more similar to the Majority Text) than are early Byzantine uncial witnesses. And I agree that this casts doubt on the contention that the Majority text preserves a form close to a Byzantine archetype. But this is a secondary issue.
I do not think that he demonstrates successfully that, as the Byzantine text assumed its eventual form, so it became less Alexandrian, and less Caesarean. So far as I can tell, there is no consistent pattern of decreasing Caesarean and Alexandrian flavour, as the Byzantine uncial witnesses change over time. So the supposition that the Byzantine text started with the Caesarean text does not seem to me to be supported. Equally there seems to be no support to the supposition that the Byzantine text tradition started with something akin to P75/Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, and got steadily less like them over time.
An alternative supposition would appear to be that a 2nd/3d century proto-Byzantine papyrus tradition in Antioch stands behind W (in Luke), in a similar way that the known Egyptian proto-Alexandrian P75 stands behind B (and perhaps a counterpart proto-Western Syrian? papyrus tradition stands behind D). Of course, all three 2nd/3rd century papyrus traditions must derive from the much older autographs, but some other criterion would appear to be needed to determine, for any one variant, which of the texts is more likely to transmit the autograph reading.
Is there any evidence that would clearly count against my supposition above? For instance, can we point to a Father from Antioch (of indeed Byzantium) whom we would expect on this supposition to be quoting the New Testament according to a proto-Byzantine text type; but who actually quotes in a proto-Western or proto-Alexandrian form?
Ralston is correct, I think, in presuming that defenders of the Alexandrian text really need to present a plausible ur-text for the Byzantine tradition - but I do not see that the Caesarean text-type (if indeed it exists) is it. But once such a plausible ur-text has been reconstructed, a second and distinct task would be to show why its readings are to be regarded as less reliable than those of other text types.
Or have I got it completely the wrong way round?
--- In email@example.com, "Wieland Willker" <wie@...> wrote:
> T. J. Ralston, "The 'Majority Text' and Byzantine Origins," NTS 38 (1992)
> I have uploaded the article for a few days here:
> I basically agree with what he wrote.
> Nevertheless it does not answer the question of the sudden accumulation of
> most of all the major Byzantine variants in several early manuscripts. Can
> this happen by chance, as a progress? It still smells like some sort of
> recension to me.
> Best wishes
> Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany
> Textcritical commentary:
> Dear Listers,
> I think that Arie's third point is worth noting.
> There has been a recent tendency to redate Christian manuscripts later. There have been some attempts to redate things earlier, but usually these are forgotten about after a little while (e.g. Kim's redating of P46).
> I'm not sure what is driving the general trend towards later dates. It could be the result of having more data at hand. One thing that may have been influential was Roger Bagnall's paper on Christian names in Egypt as derived from documentary papyri (e.g. tax records). He came to the conclusion that there were not many Christians in Egypt before about 300 AD based on the occurrence of Christian names in official records. Of course there is another explanation for the lack of Christian names which is that you would use your Egyptian name when talking to a tax official as, until 313 AD, being a Christian could be dangerous to your health if officialdom found out.
> These books are a help when considering the possible date of a manuscript:
> E. G. Turner, _Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World_, 2d rev. ed. (ed. P. J. Parsons), Institute of Classical Studies Bulletin Supplement 46, London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.
> G. Cavallo and H. Maehler, _Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period A.D. 300-800_, Institute of Classical Studies Bulletin Supplement 47, London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.
> There is an alternative way to date manuscripts which is seldom if ever used, which is carbon dating. There is an associated margin of error, I'm not sure what, possibly +/- a century. The test destroys the part sampled. I seem to remember hearing that the labs are getting better at dating with quite small samples. So, if we really wanted to know the date of Sinaiticus, which by the way is probably much later than the date of its text, we could cut off a piece and date it.
> The same could be done with some of our early papyri which have some blank spaces (e.g. margins) that no one would miss. If we did this with a few of them then we would have a better idea of their actual dates.
> Tim Finney
the publishers have put the first chapter of Roger Bagnall's book on redating Egyptian papyri on the intenet
the argument here is not based on tax records, but on the absence of any clear examples of Christian correspondence earlier than the episcopate of Demetrios (189 - 231). He then argues that the apparent survival of earlier biblical (and apocryphal) papyri appears inconsistent with the observation that there are no Christian letters.
He suggests that the proposed early Christian papyri largely form a group of their own - that are difficult to date with reference to non-christian dated comparitors, as book-hands changed very little from the 2nd to the late 3rd century.
With reference to P52 he says:
"The first of these is a small bit of the Gospel of John in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, of unknown provenance.28 It is the only fragment dated by Turner to the second century without qualification. More recently, however, one scholar has argued that it should be reassigned to the early third century, on the basis of a comparison with P.Chester Beatty X.29 That may be too definitive, but an exhaustive article by Brent Nongbi (2005) has brought forward a range of palaeographical parallels that undermine confidence in an early date, even if they do not fully establish one in the late second or early third century"
(I am not sure that Bagnall's characterisation of Nongbi's conclusions here is correct; as I recall Nongbi saying that "I have not radically revised Roberts's work", which I take to mean that Nongbi accepts that the preponderance of comparitor hands does indeed indicate that P52 "may with some confidence be dated in the first half of the second century A.D.". Nongbi's expressed concerns relate to the margin of error, rather than to the central estimate of date).
Not having the full text of Bagnall's book, I cannot offer a detailed critque of his approach - although I do note that he regards all the scriptural codices as being written in a book-hand; where Roberts specfically describes p52 as a ".. reformed documentary hand. (One advantage for the paleogapher in such hands is that with their close links to the documents they are somewhat less difficult to date than purely calligraphic hands)."
I would be interested in the perspectives of anyone who knows Roger Bagnall's work rather better.