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RE: [textualcriticism] Alexandrian Copyists, Didymus, and De Trinitate

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  • Ehrman, Bart D
    Why don t you just read the book? Bart D. Ehrman James A. Gray Professor Department of Religious Studies University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Message 1 of 37 , Dec 1, 2011

            Why don’t you just read the book?


      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 schmuel
      Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2011 9:00 AM
      To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [textualcriticism] Alexandrian Copyists, Didymus, and De Trinitate



      Hi Folks,

      As a reminder, a lot of the original question can be summarized by simply comparing these two quotes. And also understanding how Daniel Wallace used the first quote as a fulcrum for his overall position on Alexandrian superiority.

      Bart Ehrman's positions on papyri scribal skills

      Bart Ehrman

      >  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.

      Bart Ehrman
      > 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.

      Background from Kurt Aland, Wilbur Pickering, Scott Charlesworth and Daniel Wallace given (pics in your in-box) :

      [textualcriticism] those "particularly scrupulous" Alexandrian scribes - Nov 26,
      [textualcriticism] The Text(s?) Used by Didymus - Nov 28,
      Daniel Wallace section at bottom

      James Snapp

      I think the differences in the statements you've cited can be reconciled if one interprets them to mean that although copyists in the region of Alexandria, in general, were more committed to preserve what they saw as the /sense/ of the text instead of strictly reproducing the text itself, there was a group of contemporary copyists in the same region who aspired to copy the text more precisely and mechanically.  Perhaps these copyists' awareness, in the 100's and 200's, that Egypt had so many heretics was a motivating factor to be meticulous, the way a man might hold his wallet more tightly when he is aware that he is in a crowd of pickpockets.

      Thank you James for returning to the actual recent original question
      Earlier touched on only by Daniel Buck.

      However, where is the evidence of this meticulousness, outside of Alexandrian circularity ?
      By Alex-circularity I mean the following:

      Alexandrian Circularity Claiming Papyri Scribal Excellence (Scrupulousity)
      a) the Egyptian papyri provide us with, generally, significantly more an Alexandrian text-form than Western or Byzantine
      b) the ultra-minority Alexandrian text-form is the one most highly prized in much modern textual theory
      c) ergo ... the papyri must be meticulous and accurate, as they generally represent the superior text-form.

      Now .. is it really necessary to spend time explaining how this is circular to certain Alexandrian presupposition ? Especially when Daniel Wallace used this supposed scribal scrupulosity and accuracy as a major argument FOR the Alex textual position ! The real issue is whether, outside of preferred textual theories, the papyri (or Sinaiticus) should actually be described as "particularly scrupulous" scribal endeavors.  So far, all the evidence is in the opposite direction.

      And if, outside of circularity and P75, the first Bart Ehrman statement above is simply false ... why can't the following be simply acknowledged as an error of circularity that is against the actual known history (e.g Aland and gnosticism and Royse and scribal habits) ?

      Bart Ehrman
      >  Modern scholars have come to recognize that the scribes in Alexandria ...were particularly scrupulous, even in these early centuries.... decade after  decade, by dedicated and relatively skilled Christian scribes

      And then move on.  Is the above statement really current scholarship ?
      It has been given absolutely zero support here, other than the implied circularity described above.

      James Snapp

      The statement that the Alexandrian Text is generally superior to other text-types is based on altogether different grounds that the observation that Didymus used a form of the Alexandrian Text; it's not as if any text-critical question can be settled simply by consulting Didymus.  But, as Dr. Ehrman said, it can have a confirmatory role when evaluating other witnesses to the Alexandrian Text. 

      Well, it was Bart Ehrman who seemed to be emphasizing the importance of Didymus, in almost a tipping of evidence fashion.

      > Bart Ehrman
      > There is substantial evidence about the text in Alexandria.  You might want to look at my book on Didymus, esp. the Conclusion.

      Although this could be more a boiler-plate traditional style defense of the Alexandrian-Vaticanus view embedded in the Didymus book conclusion.
      Note that the context was broadened.

      > Bart Ehrman
      > Yes, the judgment about the accuracy of the Alexandrian tradition is not rooted simply in agreements of B and Didymus.   You may want to read up on the evidence. 
      ...  This judgment is based on numerous factors and collocations of data,

      It is surely quite proper to point out that nobody had claimed that the Alexandrian position was simply Vaticanus and Didymus.  The Didymus issue was simply raised by Bart Ehrman in the quote above this one, generally it is virtually a non-issue.  My question was more the reverse, why would anyone consider Didymus as particularly salient evidence ? That question remains unanswered.

      So, to move the discussion along, does anybody want to share the salient points from the Didymus book ?

      Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels (1986)

      Any conclusion that, presumably, helps along and broadens the traditionally reed-thin Hortian-Alexandrian arguments ?
      Perhaps giving the Alexandrian-Vaticanus textual superiority a bit more pizazz than was given by the early Horticuli.

      James Snapp

      However, the presence or absence of De Trinitate in the equation could alter the complexion of Didymus' text.  Does anyone know if R. P. C. Hanson ever expressed an opinion about the authorship of De Trinitate?

      Discussion on the forum back in 2007, when James went over the R. P. C. Hanson arguments carefully.

      [textualcriticism] Didymus, Trinitate II:12, and Mk. 16:15-16
      James Snapp - Aug 19, 2007
      summary of points from Hanson by James
      Hanson's "Search for the Christian Doctrine of God.".....Here are the problems with a Didymian (Didymite? Didymusian?) authorship of De Trinitate, which are mentioned on pp. 653-658 (most of which seem to have been formulated by a Franch-writing scholar named Doutreleau; Hanson sums up Doutreleau's points), accompanied by some thoughts about possible problems with the problems.


      Douterleau and Hanson on Didymus - De Trinitate

      Here is a bit of the summary of Louis Doutreleau (1909-2005) changing the earlier view.

      the Greek Manuscript Tradition of Basil's Adversus Eunomium (1970)
      Walter Martin Hayes
      (pic of paragraph with "However" and footnotes)
      Description: Emacs!
      In terms of the current overall discussion:

      > "De Trinitate is a witness to the NT text used in Egypt in the late 4th century whether or not it is by Didymus". - Andrew Criddle (post #3348)
      Also, Andrew today:
      > Hanson doubted authenticity: see pps 653-658 of "Search for the Christian Doctrine of God" see also your old post in this group; message number 3352 August 22nd 2007

      Two pages of Richard Patrick Crosland Hanson (1916-1988) are online, in an interesting book.

      The search for the Christian doctrine of God: the Arian controversy 318-381 (2005) "first published in 1988"
      Richard Patrick Crosland Hanson
      The strong weight of evidence, then, is against the identification of the author of Mingarelli's De Trinitate with Didymus the Blind. 

      Although as James points out, this is basically the Doutreleau position, for which there is lots of counterpoint, both in dismissing weak arguments and remembering the strong arguments for Didymus authorship.  So let us go to the more recent scholarship.


      Alasdair Heron paper on Didymus - De Trinitate

      The 1989 paper James was looking for  ("I wonder how Alasdair Heron tackled these objections.") is now online.

      The Making of Orthodoxy: Essays in Honour of Henry Chadwick
      Some sources used in the De Trinitate ascribed to Didymus the Blind (1989)
      Alasdair Iain Campbell Heron (b.1942)
      p. 173-181
      p. 175 (the table continues) and 179-181 is google-missing and can be seen in Amazon under "Look Inside" - 181 is footnotes

      (i) The De Trinitate seems beyond all reasonable doubt to date from late fourth-century Alexandria. If Didymus is not the author, it is hard to imagine who else could have been. There is, quite simply, no other known Alexandrian theologian of that period who would have been able to produce a work of this calibre. (p. 173)

      (pic of above text - for emphasis - the Heron positive position in a nutshell, supported by in depth analysis)
      Description: Emacs!

      It does look like Heron is more interested in making the positive arguments for the Didymus identification than answering the Doutreleau/Hanson negatives.
      Here is his conclusion.

      (2) The current fashion for interpreting Didymus solely through the lens of the Toura commentaries with their penchant for Origenist allegory is in danger of forgetting Jerome's evidence that Didymus was indeed Origenist in his exegesis - but catholic in his teaching on the Trinity. It also tends to ignore the De Spiritu Sancto, and with it, Didymus' concern to defend Trinitarian orthodoxy. The author of the De Spiritu Sancto could certainly have been capable in later years (and with access to numerous additional sources) of compiling the De Trinitate. Future research on Didymus would perhaps do well to include the De Spiritu Sancto within its purview instead of concentrating so one-sidedly on the Toura commentaries as has recently been the practice. That in turn might lead to a surprising new consensus that Mingarelli was right after all.

      Finally, whether or not the De Trinitate can eventually be reclaimed for Didymus, this kind of comparative analysis of the work and its sources has its own modest contribution to make towards a better understanding of the evolution of orthodoxy in the Nicene and post-Nicene era. It can put us on the track of some trajectories of exegetical and dogmatic argument in the controversial theological literature of the late fourth century; it can help us to see more clearly and precisely how biblical and theological material was developed, applied and adapted in the course of that controversy; and it can assist us in tracing how, alongside and accompanying the contributions of such first-rank theologians as Athanasius and the Cappadocians, others too laboured to build up a rich stock of orthodox biblical and dogmatic argument. The evolution of orthodoxy did not only depend on the insight of theological genius; it was supported and enabled by efforts many times more modest and pedestrian, yet also laborious and deserving of respect. These authors too arc our ancestors in the faith. The study of their writings, the analysis of their sources and their development of them, the detection of the principles and arguments they felt to be of fundamental and decisive importance - all this is part of that ongoing conversation between past and present to which Henry Chadwick has contributed so richly and without which the church today and tomorrow would be the poorer. (p. 180)


      The Ten Points of Alexandrian Superiority - Joe Wallack

      Note, I have not bothered to add any comments to the Joe Wallack Alexandrian superiority presentation, ably answered by
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6760 - Joe Wallack
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6764 - M. M. R.
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6765 - James Snapp

      I will point out the part that is most at issue in the original post:

      Joe Wallack
      (9) "Alexandria had a reputation for Scribal quality."

      James Snapp
      The basis for that seems rather tenuous to me, as far as copyists of Christian texts are concerned. Do you have any evidence that anyone in a Christian community outside  Egypt ever expressed a wish that he could obtain copies from Alexandria, as if there was something especially desirable about copies from there?


      Didymus the Blind

      Note: I do want to mention that we should be slow to think that the blindness of Didymus would make him weaker as an expert-textpert.  Any lessening of manuscripts numbers could be easily outweighed by dedication and special skills developed.

      History of Ophthalmology, 1994, Volume 6, 203-208, DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-1044-0_8
      Didymus the Blind: An unknown precursor of Louis Braille and Helen Keller John Lascaratos and Spyros Marketos (1994)
      The present study presents the case of Didymus the Blind, worthy author, philosopher and theologian of the 4th century AD. Blinded by ophthalmia at the age of four years, Didymus succeeded in achieving great learning in the philosophical and natural sciences. He began his education by using a system which was remarkably like Braille, that is reading letters engraved into the surface of wood by touch and subsequently furthering his knowledge by listening. This learning process of Didymus the Blind appears as the precursor of Louis Braille who invented the educational system of reading embossed dots by touch. Like Didymus, Braille lost his vision in infancy (at three years of age). Another parallel of Didymus’ career and written works is found in the example and achievements of Helen Keller.


      Bart Ehrman
      > Yes, the judgment about the accuracy of the Alexandrian tradition is not rooted simply in agreements of B and Didymus.   You may want to read up on the evidence.  I would change my tune about the early form of the text, here thirty years later.  What we can still say is that the earliest attainable form of the text appears to have been retained in Alexandria over the course of the third and fourth centuries, itself a remarkable feat.   This judgment is based on numerous factors and collocations of data, and is not prejudicial toward the question of whether the very earliest copies (now unavailable and inaccessible) of the various canonical books were altered, significantly or otherwise, prior to our earliest attainable form of the text.

      Steven Avery
      See above. My point in raising these questions was not necessarily to go over the whole question of textual theory.  Although, this is an excellent forum for more in depth discussion, point-to-point, iron sharpeneth :)

      Proverbs 27:17
      Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.


      And, perhaps a more basic and fundamental question, I hope to return to the
      presuppositional early church and NT text doctrinal question. Comparing the positions of Bart Ehrman, "Orthodox Corruption" Philip M. Miller " The least orthodox reading is to be preferred: a new canon for New Testament textual criticism? ", Tony Costa "- Was Adoptionism the Earliest Christology - A response to Bart Ehrman" -- and other salient material.

      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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