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[textualcriticism] those "particularly scrupulous" Alexandrian scribes

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  • schmuel
    Hi Folks, Here is Bart Ehrman, and he is quoted by Daniel Wallace approvingly when Daniel is discussing the significance of the papyri. (bold added) Misquoting
    Message 1 of 37 , Nov 25, 2011
      Hi Folks,

      Here is Bart Ehrman, and he is quoted by Daniel Wallace approvingly when Daniel is discussing the significance of the papyri. (bold added)

      Misquoting Jesus: the story behind who changed the Bible and why (2007)
      Bart D. Ehrman
      Moreover, in the early centuries of the church, some locales had better scribes than others. Modern scholars have come to recognize that the scribes in Alexandria—which was a major intellectual center in the ancient world—were particularly scrupulous, even in these early centuries, and that there, in Alexandria, a very pure form or the text of the early Christian writings was preserved, decade after  decade, by dedicated and relatively skilled Christian scribes.

      Yet, Kurt Aland on the papyri warns of their limited geography and the gnostic influence in the region.
      And makes no bold claims about their scribal fealty and accuracy.

      The text of the New Testament: an introduction to the critical editions and to the theory and practice of modern textual criticism (1987)
      Kurt and Barbara Aland
      We should not forget that apart from 0212 (found at Dura Europus) all the early witnesses listed above on p. 57 are from Egypt, where the hot, dry sands preserved the papyri through the centuries (similar climatic conditions are found in the Judaean desert where papyri have also been discovered). From other major centers of the early Christian church nothing has survived. This raises the question whether and to what extent we can generalize from the Egyptian situation. Egypt was distinguished from other provinces of the Church, so far as we can judge, by the early dominance of gnosticism; this was not broken until about A.D. 200. when Bishop Demetrius succeeded in reorganizing the diocese and establishing communications with the other churches. Not until then do we have documentary evidence of the church in Egypt ...

      So who are the modern scholars who see the Alexandrian scribes as particularly scrupulous ?
      And what is their evidence ?


      Wilbur Pickering gives us the Aland info and more.
      The part in
      gray was "...." in Pickering and I placed it in for completeness.

      I am including the whole section from Wilbur Pickering, but the emphasis is really meant to be on the Alexandrian overall scribal reliability.

      The Identity of the New Testament Text - Chapter 5
      Wilbur Pickering

            What about Egypt? C.H. Roberts, in a scholarly treatment of the Christian literary papyri of the first three centuries, seems to favor the conclusion that the Alexandrian church was weak and insignificant to the Greek Christian world in the second century
      .25 Aland states: "Egypt was distinguished from other provinces of the Church, so far as we can judge, by the early dominance of gnosticism."26 He further informs us that "at the close of the 2nd century" the Egyptian church was "dominantly gnostic" and then
      goes on to say: "The copies existing in the gnostic communities could not be used, because they were under suspicion of being corrupt."
      27 Now this is all very instructive—what Aland is telling us, in other words, is that up to A.D. 200 the textual tradition in Egypt could not be trusted. Aland's assessment here is most
      probably correct. Notice what Bruce Metzger says about the early church in Egypt:
      Among the Christian documents which during the second century either originated in Egypt or circulated there among both the orthodox and the Gnostics are numerous apocryphal gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses..
      Some of the more noteworthy are the Gospel according to the Egyptians, the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Kerygma of Peter, the Acts of John, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of the Apostles, and the Apocalypse of Peter.. There are also fragments of exegetical and dogmatic works composed by Alexandrian Christians, chiefly Gnostics, during the second century.  We know, for example, of such teachers as Basilides and his son lsidore, and of Valentinus, Ptolemaeus, Heracleon, and Pantaenus. All but the last-mentioned were unorthodox in one respect or another. In fact, to judge by the comments made by Clement of Alexandria, almost every deviant Christian sect was represented in Egypt during the second century; Clement mentions the Valentinians, the Basilidians, the Marcionites, the Peratae, the Encratites, the Docetists, the Haimetites, the Cainites, the Ophites, the Simonians, and the Eutychites. What proportion of Christians in Egypt during the second century were orthodox is not known. 28     It is almost enough to make one wonder whether Isaiah 30:1-3 might not be a prophecy about NT. textual criticism!

          But we need to pause to reflect on the implications of Aland's statements. He is a champion of the Egyptian ("Alexandrian") text-type, and yet he himself informs us that up to A.D. 200 the textual tradition in Egypt could not be trusted and that by 200 the use of Greek had virtually died out there. So on what basis can he argue that the Egyptian text subsequently became the best? Aland also states that in the 2nd century, 3rd century, and into the 4th century Asia Minor continued to be "the heartland of the Church." This means that the superior qualifications of the Aegean area to protect, transmit and attest the NT Text carry over into the 4th century! It happens that Hort, Metzger and Aland {along with many others) have linked the "Byzantine" text-type to Lucian of Antioch, who died in 311. Now really, wouldn't a text produced by a leader in "the heartland of the Church" be better than whatever evolved in Egypt? (p. 63-64)

      25 Roberts. pp. 42-43. 54-58.- Colin Henderson Roberts is Manuscript, Society, and Belief in Early Christian Egypt (1979)
      26 K. and B. Aland, p. 59.
      27 K. Aland. "The Text of the Church?". Trinity Journal, 1937. 8NS:138.
      28 Metzger. Early Versions, p. 101.


      So we are having a hard time finding those Ehrman scholars, unnamed, who describe the very excellent, scrupulous Alexandrian scribal activity.
      Modern scholars, seconded, yet still unnamed, by Daniel Wallace.  (Unless Wallace and Ehrman are quoting are actually referencing one another ?)

      Time prevents me at the moment getting into the James Ronald Royse studies, which will also be very difficult for the Ehrman-Wallace scholarship claim.
      Scribal habits in early Greek New Testament papyri (2008).
      Or we could look at various studies by Peter Head, Juan Hernandez, C. C. Tarelli and others.

      As an example here is the full paragraph from Scott D. Charlesworth directly on the topic,
      please see if you can find anything about "particularly scrupulous" Alexandrian scribes.

      And I will include one footnote to this section from Ernest Cadman Colwell.

      The Content and the Setting of the Gospel Tradition (2010)
      The Gospel Manuscript Tradition
      Scott D. Charlesworth
      (pic will not be in archive, read in web- page the paragraph with "The scribe of.P45" ..)

      Hort Redivivus: A Plea and a Program (1968)
      Ernest C. Colwell

      Colwell as well does not mention these precise, scrupulous scribes :) .
      To be fair, Colwells, context is largely the diffusion of various texts.
      Notice that Colwell is quoted by ....

      Bart Ehrman ! - And Ehrman uses the quote in the context of the papyri.

      The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (1995)
      Scribal Tendencies in the The Transmission of the Text
      ... the case of P75 shows clearly that at least some scribes were capable of care. Nonetheless,
      the other substantial early papyri show just as clearly that as a rule early scribes did not exercise the care evidenced in later transcriptions.

      So now we have, Ehrman vs. Ehrman, with Daniel Wallace agreeing with one of the Ehrmans.



      The Extremely Narrow Basis of the Papyri
      The following is a map showing all the major archaeological sites where papyri have been discovered:

      [TC-Alternate-list] Alands, Metzger, Fee - papyri and text types, Egypt isolation and gnosticism
      Steven Avery - January 28.2011

      [TC-Alternate-list] papyri geographical limitation & the gnostic influence question
      Steven Avery - March 31, 2011


      Steven Avery
      Queens, NY

    • james_snapp_jr
      Dear Joe: Regarding the attempt to illustrate scribal tendencies by examining Matthew s use of Mark: as I said already, this is not a legitimate comparison,
      Message 37 of 37 , Jan 1, 2012
        Dear Joe:

        Regarding the attempt to illustrate scribal tendencies by examining Matthew's use of Mark: as I said already, this is not a legitimate comparison, because Matthew was an author, consciously using Marcan material as source-material; Matthew was not operating as a copyist. This should be obvious.

        cJW: "Where intent is limited to copying, I would agree that omission is more likely than addition."

        Great; we agree. (I'd say /generally/ more likely -- the ratios are not overwhelmingly one-sided. And I'd say that one of the very points where scribes got into trouble was when they veered from their strict duty to duplicate the contents of their exemplars. But /generally,/ yes.)

        JW: "Regarding "Matthew" tending to shorten "Mark's" stories, I hear that but I don't see it."

        That's because you've just looked in Mark chapter 1. And even there, you've overlooked places where Matthew moved Marcan material to other parts of his account (instead of conveniently keeping it all in sequence).

        Try the presentation at http://www.textexcavation.com/synopticlistedinventory.html , which will allow you to see out-of-sequence parallels, as well as verbal similarities in the Greek text -- things that you just can't do at the Five Gospels comparison-site you mentioned. Select 10 or 12 places throughout Matthew where Matthew's account is paralleled in Mark, and see whether it is Matthew or Mark who has more words within that episode.

        Here are a few episodes to consider:
        The Healing of a Leper: http://www.textexcavation.com/synhealleper.html
        The Healing of a Paralytic: http://www.textexcavation.com/synhealparalytic.html
        The Gadarene Demoniac: http://www.textexcavation.com/synexorcismgadarene.html

        Of course three other episodes could be cherry-picked that would show the opposite results. But if you go all the way through the parallels between Matthew and Mark, and look at the word-counts (which are listed at the site, episode-by-episode), you will see that although Matthew's episode is sometimes longer (especially when he adds material from another source), usually the longer episode is in Mark. Which implies that when Matthew is using Marcan material, Matthew is usually condensing Marcan material, even though he sometimes supplements the material he has condensed. This should be indisputable, since it is a simple matter of counting words.

        JW: "Is this directly relevant to Scribal editing of source texts? Yes it is."

        No; it isn't. Writing a book using source-materials is a different task than reproducing an already-written text.

        Getting back to Mark 16:9-20 --

        JW: "Since "Matthew" is longer than "Mark" anyway you look at it and preferred, the tendency would be to edit "Mark", the shorter text, to "Matthew", the longer text, and therefore addition here would be more likely than subtraction."

        And thus the tendency would be not to make just any addition, but an addition that looks like what we see in Matthew: an ending in which the frightened women are met by Jesus, and recover their resolve to report to the disciples, who believe the women and therefore proceed to Galilee. But that's not what we have in Mark 16:9-20, is it. We have, instead, a sudden restart in 16:9, followed by scenes in or near Jerusalem, even though this creative editor/composer you posit (or, rather, Kelhoffer posited) had the means, motive, and opportunity to use Matthew to create a harmonious and smoothly-transitioning conclusion. Do you really not see the difficulty?

        Yours in Christ,

        James Snapp, Jr.
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