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[textualcriticism] Fenton Hort, western non-interpolations, the pure (true) text and the neutral text

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  • schmuel
    Hi Folks, While I was involved in some studies on the Lukan verses (placed on a Fighting Fundamental forum :) ), and checking out the Western non-interps, I
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13, 2011
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      Hi Folks,

      While I was involved in some studies on the Lukan verses (placed on a Fighting Fundamental forum :) ), and checking out the Western non-interps, I noticed that there seems to be a basic misunderstanding as to what means the Hortian term --> "neutral text".

      Especially as to whether this neutral text includes western non-interpolations.

      The principle purpose of this study will be to examine the relationship between Hort's neutral text and western non-interpolations.

      Fenton Hort - (1828-1892)
      Brooke Foss Westcott - (1825–1901)

      Note #1:
      In this post I do not plan to get into the use of
      <<double brackets>> in their text, and the attendant sense of vacillation (including on Matthew 27:49). James Rendal Harris has a good section on this (Side-lights on New Testament research: Seven lectures delivered in 1908, p. 83-85). Overall it is clear that Hort's theory, in his writings, considered the non-interpolations, the omissions, as autographic scripture.

      Note #2:
      My purpose here is also not to discuss the
      "neutral text" as a myth (see the textualcriticism thread below).  It is to show the actual Hortian usage contra the different ways it has been addressed by writers for over a century.   Personally, I believe "myth" is a reasonably good term (and I believe it is very relevant to textual studies as a whole that a myth was elevated to a text-type on one hand while hundreds of manuscripts and references ("Syrian") could be discarded with the other as non-relevant). Dean John Burgon used the phrase "weak fable" (Revision Revised p. 396) and the text-type category breakdown (including using neutral text) as "a fiction" (p. 301).  Nor is the point here to look at term as "question-begging" , accurate logically as that phrase can be.

      However none of that is really relevant to this study, which is about what Hort meant .. contra what people say he meant.



      The first group is closer to the times, so more interesting to study, one by one.


      Philip Schaff

      A companion to the Greek Testament and the English version (1883)
      Philip Schaff
      genealogical method .. "Western non-interpolations" ... Matt xxvii.49 .. The significance of snch exceptions as the one under discussion is simply this; in a few rare cases the stem from which the classes diverge received corruption after the Western divergence, and before the Neutral or Alexandrian divergence; in other words, between z and k on the diagram.   

      (pic of diagram from p. 216)
      Although this chart is a bit unusual, it would in fact show the Neutral text as not the True Text and as having the corruption of the western non-interpolations.   Even though Schaaf was close to Hort, and this chart was done early, and possibly in consultation with Hort ..  the problem, we will see, is that the chart does not fit the words of Hort. 

      This chart does however, give a good picture of the idea of 3 lines, "Neutral, Alexandrian, an Western", with the mass of "Syrian" evidence unto virtual irrelevance.

      Also from Schaaf.

      Here,  lience we are justified in dividing the authorities into different families, and to speak of an Alexandrian or Egyptian, a Constantinopolitan or Byzantine (also called Antiochan or Syrian), a Western, and a neutral text (chiefly represented by B and next by Aleph, and presumably the oldest extant).   

      (4.) The Neutral text. This is most free from later corruption and mixture, and comes nearest the autographs. It is best represented by B (which is complete except the Pastoral Epistles, the Apocalypse, and the last four chapters of Hebrews), and next by Aleph (which contains the whole New Testament without a gap).   

      If there is a major counterpoint to this whole study, it is Schaff above. 
      What has to be done is compare his representation to the words of Hort (see below).

      And two contradictory representations of the basic theory, can go a long way to explaining the century long and more confusions.

      Benjamin Warfield

      An introduction to the textual criticism of the New Testament (1887)
      Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield
      Matt. xxvii:49 .. thus forces us to decide against the combination of the Neutral and Alexandrian and for the Western standing alone. 

      Warfield is saying that Matthew 27:49 would not be in the neutral text.  (Matthew 27:49 is a special case within the special cases, the omission is well supported, so it is a bit of a fudge for Warfield to use that as his verse example. The same applies to Schaaf)

      Since Warfield was early, at least he understood that in the Hortian terminology, the Neutral and Alexandrian texts are different lines, referring to
      "the Neutro-Alexandrian descent" and "the combination of the Neutral and Alexandrian" (above).  This distinction quickly vanished in most textcrit writings.


      Kirsopp Lake

      The text of the New Testament (1900)
      Kirsopp Lake
      suggests that there is a considerable class of Neutral interpolations (or Western non-interpolations as WH call them) which have affected every text
      At present it has scarcely been touched, and it would be out of place to say anything at length on the point; but the present writer cannot help thinking that the solution of the origin of the Western interpolations, or Neutral interpolations, is connected somehow with the sources of the New Testament rather than with its text.   

      Like many, even as early as 1900, Lake thinks that Hort defines the Neutral text as the Vaticanus or Alexandrian text. 

      On a technical level, he places the Hortian distinctions as follows, without giving any specific references.

      (pic of chart on p. 66 of Neutral, Western, Alexandrian, Syrian)
       Neutral = Aleph, B. bohairic, and Origen
       Alexandrian = CL. Origen and traces in other mss.

      Here Lake attempts to place this in graph form

      (pic from p. 67)

      Thus, Kirsopp Lake defines the Hort neutral text as deficient, since it is basically the Aleph-B text, per Lake. 
      Notice that his graph places the interpolations into the Neutral Text
      Without any supporting words from Hort.

      The Neutral text therefore (which is best preserved in Aleph-B., esp. B.) is W.H.'s idea of the true authentic text. But they make one exception. If the Western omits anything, they consider that such omission deserves great consideration, because the genius of the
      Western text is so inclined to addition that, if it omits any reading found elsewhere, the probability is that it does so because the omission is primitive; in other words, they regard Western omissions as not omissions so much as non-interpolations, and consider that these
      passages are to be regarded as corruptions which have affected all texts except the Western.


      George Kenyon

      Handbook to the textual criticism of the New Testament (1901)
      Sir Frederic George Kenyon
      " Neutral "  .... Hort finds this text pre-eminently in the Codex Vaticanus (B); indeed one may almost define his "Neutral" text as the
      text of B (scribe's blunders excluded), and of other MSS. so far as they agree with B. The most notable exception to this rule occurs in the case of certain verses (mostly in the latter chapters of St. Luke) which are found in B and the great majority of MSS., but are omitted in D and other authorities of the Emacs!. These verses Hort believes not to have formed part of the original text, and designates as "Western non-interpolations."

      Kenyon is careful with his words, using "almost define" and then getting into the western non-interpolations. He does not directly say the position of the neutral text with those verses, but the implication is that the neutral text is the perfect text, per Hort.


      Various - 1910-2005 - (Including Metzger, Parsons, Parker, Martin)

      You will see that the general rule became to write as if the neutral text actually would have the "interpolations".

      Encyclopedia Britannica (1910)
      They might be called Neutral interpolations, but WH preferred the rather clumsy expression " Western non-interpolations."

      The Historicity of the Apostolic Decree (1912)
      Conrad H. Moehlmann
      Hort ... neglected the readings of the "Western" text, except in a few instances which he described as "Western non-interpolations" or
      "Neutral interpolations."   

      The text of the New Testament: its transmission, corruption, and restoration (1968)
      Bruce Metzger
      The exceptions to their preferences for the Neutral text are several passages that they term "Western non-interpolations." They doubtless chose this cumbersome nomenclature simply because they could not bring themselves to refer to "Neutral interpolations," which is exactly what, on their own reconstruction, is involved in these readings.

      (Also Metzger and Ehrman)

      The departure of Jesus in Luke-Acts: the Ascension narratives in context
      Mikeal Carl Parsons - (1987) ..
      Unable to bring themselves to identify these textual problems as Neutral interpolations, they instead preferred the clumsy nomenclature Western non-interpolations

      Mikeal Carl Parsons has a paper specifically supporting the western non-interps.

      Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (1992)
      Wolfgang Hasse
      the two scholars, perceiving perhaps the logical problem inherent in saying that a neutral text had been interpolated, preferred to emphasize that at these points the 'Western' text had not been subject to interpolation, and to describe these longer readings coined the phrase 'Western non-interpolations'

      The living text of the Gospels (1997)
      David C. Parker
      It would have been simpler to describe the passages as 'Neutral interpolations'. This, out of trust in the Neutral tradition as a whole, Hort declined to do. Moreover, he and Westcott did not remove the doubtful verses from their text. All that they did was to print them within double square brackets  .... But Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were their Neutral Text, that which they considered to be original (p. 149)

      Luke: an introduction and commentary (1998)
      Leon Morris
      Westcott and Hort called them 'Western non-interpolations', a curious name for interpolations into their beloved 'neutral'  text

      Defending the "Western Non-Interpolations":
      The Case for an Anti-Separationist Tendenz in the Longer Alexandrian Readings (2005)
      Michael Wade Martin
      Whereas B. F. Westcott and F. J, A. Hort on the basis of internal evidence had relegated to double brackets nine verses or partial verses judged to be rare "Neutral" interpolations lacking in the Western text 

      TODAY'S INTERNET STUDIES - Waltz, Wilker and others

      Nine "Western Non-Interpolations"
      But they could not bear to admit that the "Western" Bezae was in these places more authoritative than their "Neutral" text

      Robert Waltz
      If Hort's theory is to be believed, the "Western Non-interpolations" are in fact places in which readings have been interpolated into the
      Neutral text (and usually the Byzantine text as well). Although Hort usually rejects "Western" readings, in this case he regards them as original…”

      A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels
      Wieland Willker
      Wester non-interpolations
      Westcott and Hort identified 27 instances in the text of the Gospels where, contrary to normal behavior, the Western text has a shorter text which, on internal considerations, has some merit to be original. They called them "Western non-interpolations", possibly to avoid the inescapable term "Neutral interpolations". Compare WH Intro § 240-42 and 383:

      Alands’ Basic Rule 3 for Textual Criticism
      Hypotyposeis - Stephen C. Carlson
      This rule shows the Alands’ emphasis on external evidence over internal, an emphasis which can be contrasted with that of Hort who sometimes turned to internal criteria to overturn “Neutral” readings (e.g., the so-called “Western Non-Interpolations”).

      The above group all make the assertion that the neutral text would have the interpolation, and would be corrected by then omitting.



      Howvever, Fenton Hort never says the "neutral text" has these non-interpolation verses and phrases, since, as far as anyone can tell, the "neutral text" is shorthand for the Westcott and Hort text.  Working backwards, since it is never defined, this would be largely Vaticanus plus western non-interpolations + fill-in (often Sinaiticus, where Vaticanus does not speak, or speaks too weirdly).

      Now, it is clear that Hort considers Vaticanus and Sinaiticus as impure, since they have these interpolations, even with the funny name given by Hort (western non-interpolation).

      The New Testament in the original Greek, the text revised by B.F. Westcott  (1881)
      303. That absolute purity cannot be ascribed to all readings attested by Aleph-B is implied in the existence of the Western non-interpolations (§ 240).  

      Notice that Hort is willing to say that Vaticanus is not absolutely pure, Hort never says this about the neutral text.
      When we go back to (§ 240).

      Western Non-interpolations
      241- These exceptional instances of the preservation of the original text in exclusively Western readings are likely to have had an exceptional origin. They are easily reconciled with the other phenomena if we suppose, first, that the text which became fixed at Alexandria, and in due time was partially adulterated by Alexandrian corruptions, was an offshoot from the text which we have called the neutral text, and which had parted company from the earliest special ancestry of the Western text at a yet earlier date;  and secondly, that the interpolations which give rise to the appearance of Western omissions took place in the interval, if not at the actual divergence, and thus stand in all Non-Western texts, whether derived through Alexandria or not.

      This is written with a bit of Hortian denseness, so you have to take out your Ginsu word-parsing knife, you will notice that the neutral text left the Western before the interpolations, (or at the time of the interpolations, but not after). Thus, in Hortian theory, the original neutral text would not have the interpolations, since the Western text is non-interpolated.  And  It is easy to see that there is nothing here about the neutral text being tainted, it existed before the interpolation.


      NOTE ! - the words above do not match the Philip Schaff chart.

      neutral text ... had parted company from the earliest special ancestry of the Western text at a yet earlier date (than the Alexandrian text)

      In the Schaff chart, the departure from the Western text is way before any Alexandrian-Neutral departue.


      Ironcially its seems, through the verbal denseness, that Hort then claims the interpolations that are not western-non-interpolations have a western character (perhaps in a style sense). All that is Fenton Hort at work and play, and not the point of this post (for details, read further down on p. 176).  Hort looks for a way to minmize these Alexandrian interpolations, so they are described as something like ... western character non-western interpolations.

      You might notice that Kirsopp Lake, for all his graphs and such, does not represent this accurately.

      To be fair, Hort is not particularly consistent.

      The main line of neutral and comparatively pure text was from an early time surrounded and overshadowed by two powerful lines containing much aberration, the 'Western' being by far the most licentious and the most widely spread, and the Alexandrian being
      formed by skilful but mostly petty corrections which left the neutral text untouched, at all events in the Gospels and Pauline Epistles, except in a very small proportion of its words.   (p. 178)

      As usual, Hort makes a definite distinction between the Alexandrian and the Neutral, however here he uses "comparatively pure", a term which would allow some errors.

      On page 220 Hort says that the
      "common original of Aleph B ..  had a very ancient and very pure text".  While on p. 251 he describes B as having "a very ancient text, but a very pure line of very ancient text, and that with comparatively small depravation either by scattered ancient corruptions otherwise attested or by individualisms of the scribe himself."

      Here Hort says that the primary Greek MSS together give a "specially pure text;"

      263. Now if each of the Greek MSS singled out as primary is individually entitled to this exceptional distinction as a representative of Pre-Syrian texts, we should naturally expect the complete combinations of them to attest a specially pure text; the text thus attested being certified by the concurrence of all the great lines of transmission known to have existed in the earliest times, since undoubtedly all known Pre-Syrian forms of text are sufficiently represented among the primary MSS except the Western texts of the Catholic Epistles (in so
      far as they have a Western text) and of part of the Acts ... (continues) (p. 193)

      When Hort discusses primary Greek MSS, you can see they include D, the Old Syriac and the Old Latin. (p. 187, also p. 189 and page 192 also shows D as one of these primary Greek MSS).  On page 193-194 he discusses the splits that can include the non-interpolations.

      certain peculiar omissions excepted, the Western text is probably always corrupt as compared with the Non-Western text. (p. 194)

      However, our verses are the peculiar omissions. Hort will grant that the Non-Western text is corrupt, he does not remotely mention the neutral text.  Similarly he will say that the Western text, in these verses, has "incorrupt transmission" (p. 294).  These have "exceptional claim to adoption". (p. 121).  They could have been caused by "textual events unknown to us" (p. 179).


      Here you have it simpler, the "Neutral" text does not have to be Alexandrian or B, simply right .. ie. - the Westcott-Hort text, the proposed original or autographic text.


      HORT - Neutral Text == True text

      the neutral or true reading

      The neutral text is the pure and perfect text, in Hortian theory == Westcott and Hort reconstruction.

      the ancient or neutral element is larger.



      234- If then a Pre-Syrian text exists which is neutral, that is, neither Western nor Alexandrian, the phenomena of attestation provide two resources for learning in what documents we may expect to find such a text preserved, comparison of the two fundamental types of
      binary variations, and direct inspection of the ternary or yet more complex variations last mentioned.

      We learn next that B very far exceeds all other documents in neutrality of text as measured by the above tests, being in fact always or
      nearly always neutral, with the exception of the Western element already mentioned (§ 204) as virtually confined to the Pauline Epistles.   

      We can have no security in these cases that B derived its reading from its neutral element: and, if it derived it from its Western element ...

      Also pages 240-242 and 294-295.



      Note: This idea that Hort's neutral text is essentially Aleph and B that we saw in Kirsopp Lake (above) is common in secondary sources, and comes up on our forum.  Here are three posts, there are more, so read the section, please, for the full discussion.

      When Is A Neutral Reading Not Neutral? 

      James Snapp - 2005-07-28
      Hort ... the Neutral Text as he defined it (as the text of Aleph and B)

      Malcolm Robertson - 2005-07-28
      Neutral is indicative of the characteristics of this text type.  It has been the least susceptible to corruption.  Does that mean that
      it as a text type is at points not corrupted?  Of course not.

      Dave Washburn - 2005-07-29
      According to his own writings, Hort called it "Neutral" precisely because he thought it most faithfully represented the text of the autographs and *wasn't* "corrupted."

      My point here is that David is 100% correct, and when talking about Hort's terminology, we should do so in the context of his own ideas first.

      His definitions and meanings should not be changed, without a specific disclaimer.



      May I suggest that it has been a century long and more misunderstanding  of the Hortian writings to claim that the western non-interpolations are opposed to his neutral text.

      Granted, this may say more about the dense and turgid and convoluted aspects of Hortian writing than about the interpreters, however the question was rather obvious .. :

      Why would Hort posit have an impure neutral text ?  Where does he say that ?
      The answer .. he does not.



      Here is one writer who understood that the Hortian "Neutral" text would not have the non-interpolations.
      In the earlier years, the scholars may have been more attentive.

      Essays on some Biblical questions of the day (1909)
      Henry Barclay Swete
      the Sinaitic Syriac, while it is clearly differentiated from the Neutral text by the Western non-interpolations and other readings

      Thus the neutral text would omit the verses.

      And William Peterson used a more precise phrasing than those above ... "Alexandrian interpolations"

      New Testament textual criticism, exegesis, and early church history (1994)
      What Text can NT Textual Criticism  Ultimately Reach ?
      William L. Peterson
      "Western non-interpolations".  This question-begging designation ...
      The changes are not "Western non-interpolations," but "Alexandrian interpolations".

      Even though the "neutral text" as the perfect text is the prima facie understanding of Hort, Philip Comfort, like David Washburn on our forum, is one of the few who stated this directly.

      Encountering the manuscripts: an introduction to New Testament paleography (2005)
      Philip Comfort
      They called this text the Neutral Text. (According to their studies, the Neutral Text described certain manuscripts that had the least amount of textual corruption.) This is the text that Westcott and Hort sought to reproduce in their edition called The New Testament in the Original Greek. 


      There is a 5-page section on Western non-interpolations in Ehrman's "Orthodox Corruption, 1996" (p. 223-227).   I have not yet had an opportunity to review that section.  Note: on a technical level this Ehrman article has been criticized for not addressing the Aland position and in specific Lukan verses for not addressing the arguments of John Muddiman and Frans Neirynck.  However, all of that is not directly relevant to the purpose of this study.


      As an interesting note, my belief for the Hortian embrace of non-interpolations is rather simple.

      1) Omissions are more original
      2) Significant separation, even in the Gospels, of Vaticanus from the Neutral text.

      While (1) is normally given, (2) is my theory.  This theory worked as a counterweight to what would be an expected objection of circular construction based solely on Vaticanus.


      Steven Avery
      Queens, NY

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