Re: The Byzantine Text of the Gospels: Recension or Process?
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Wieland Willker" <wie@...> wrote:
> > Hmm. If I take some random manuscript, and make lots of copies of
> > it such that it becomes regarded as a "text type" and its distinctive
> > readings are spread far and wide
> But you must take a manuscript that has most of all the *major Byzantine
> variants* in it.
> What I ask for is just to explain the existence of Codex A (gospels). How
> did it originate? Process or recension?
> What I mean is that this manuscript, or e.g. the Byzantine parts of W are so
> full of major Byzantine variants that it is difficult to believe that its
> origin is just chance or an evolutionary process.
Indeed, explaining the existence of W must be really difficult, and even more so because the same scribe (? 4th Century ? Egyptian) is creating a text that appears to have substantial blocks of respectively uncorrupted Byzantine, Alexandrian, Western, and (possibly) Caesarean text. It's no good explaining just the major Byzantine variants in Luke; you must also explain the major Alexandrian variants in John, and the major western variants in early Mark. If the text indicates an underly recension in the Byzantine parts, then why should it not indicate an underlying recension in the Alexandrian and Western parts?
I would have thought that the specfic characteristics that differentiate a rececension from a process are two:
- that a recension takes all its readings from prior manuscript sources (i.e. the editor selects, he does not create). Hence, if the early Byzantine text in W and A is recensional, then this indicates that the major Byzantine variants must have existed before the recension was made, although not in a single manuscript source.
- that a recension follows a more or less clearly defined set of principles for discerning the genuine text. Such could be "prefer the harmonised reading", or "prefer the smooth reading"; or even "prefer the reading with the strongest support in the Fathers most revered in my church.
Consequently, if a text is a recension, there should be no readings in it that could theoretically be explained with reference to source manuscripts and editorial principles (assuming that we knew them). Which leaves the question - assuming that the autograph was not prduced in three or four successive versions - of where the observed variants come from? The only general explanation that I can suggest is that the earliest Christian textual tradition (1st and 2nd century) had little regard for exact reproduction of the texts that would eventually come to be regarded as canonical. I think it has been speculated that there may have been more variation in the first 100 years of New Testament tradition, than in all the 19 centuries subsequently.
> 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.