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RE: [textualcriticism] Bart Ehrman --> early scribes of Alexandria, gnostic Egypt, Rhodes, Antioch and Athens

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  • Ehrman, Bart D
    I think all this talk about Alexandrian scribes needs to be put into the context of the actual scholarship. When scholars talk about Alexandrian scribes being
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 12, 2011
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           I think all this talk about Alexandrian scribes needs to be put into the context of the actual scholarship.  When scholars talk about Alexandrian scribes being particularly good, their evidence is typically something like the clear line of consistent copying between P75 and B.    That, at least, is what I mean.   What evidence is there that the scribes before P75 were of this quality though?   I can’t think of any manuscript evidence, so if anyone has some, I’d like to know what it is.


           What we *can* say, I think, is that scribes in Alexandria starting in the late second century were often very good.  


            If what we want to know (a different set of questions) is whether (a) scribes in Alexandria earlier than that were very good or (b) that the Alexandrian scribes at any time had reliable exemplars, which came from somewhere else – Rome? Antioch? Ephesus? – were highly accurate, we need other evidence.  What exactly is that evidence?


            My view is that the only way to come to a conclusion about such meaty matters is to turn away from the external evidence (the point everyone is arguing) and turn to the intrinsic evidence of readings.  As Hort long ago realized.   The side benefit is that that makes for (not only more relevant but also) a much more interesting set of arguments.


      -          Bart Ehrman


      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: Sunday, December 11, 2011 6:04 PM
      To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [textualcriticism] Bart Ehrman --> early scribes of Alexandria, gnostic Egypt, Rhodes, Antioch and Athens



      Hi Folks,

      George Somsel

      By your dichotomy into earlier and later copies, you entirely miss the point. 

      This was not my dichotomy. That was the dichotomy given by Bart Ehrman.  If anyone "misses the point" in that regard, it would be Bart, since he (plus Daniel Wallace) is the one who defended his position with the errant and historically nonsensical claim:

      Bart Ehrman
      > Modern scholars recognize.... the scribes in Alexandria ... particularly scrupulous, ... early centuries ... in Alexandria ... decade after decade - (per Bart Ehrman)

      In addition to this being simply refuted by the scholarship of James Ronald Royse .  the burden of proof of this statement is on Bart, and Bart himself argues against this position in the debate with James White, which I pointed out the other day:

      Bart Ehrman exposes James White’s bogus argumentation
      P75 (late 2nd /early third century) and codex Vaticanus are very similar so White claims there was no primitive corruptions. Ehrman tells us this is a bogus argument!
      Ehrman tells us the fuller picture; there are manuscripts of similar dates as P75 which differ significantly from codex Vaticanus!

      If they were so scrupulous, then why is their handiwork often full of errors, omissions, blunders .. and "all over the textual map" ?
      No answer yet.

      George Somsel

      The question is not whether later scribes were more proficient in copying the texts they had at their disposal as opposed to earlier scribes.  The question is whether the earlier scribes from the Alexandrian region were more proficent that scribes from other areas of the same time. 

      Since we do not have the handiwork of the scribes of Antioch or Athens, except for the Dura parchment, a Diatessaron piece, the scribal skill comparison question is simply conjecture and guess.

      The Dura parchment is given scribal praise:

      The text is written in a good book-hand, not without some grace and vigour.  (A Greek Fragment of Tatian's Diatessaron, from Dura, Carl H. Kraeling, 1935)

      Bart Ehrman

      Since Alexandria was the Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Heidelburg, etc of the time all rolled into one, one would expect that the scribes of that area were somewhat more proficient that scribes of other regions who may have been barely literate.

      This is rather wild conjecture, that scribes in Athens (a scribal center) and Rome and Constantinople were "barely literate".

      Other Greek cultural centers arose or persisted in Hellenistic times  where books undoubtedly were published: Rhodes, Antioch, and Athens - Scribes, Script, and Books by Leila Avrin (2010, p. 156) 

      So you must be joking to talk of the labourers in the cultural and printing centers of being barely literate.

      And this is all very strange considering the poor scribal state of the extant papyri. 

      The facts on the ground (the actual extant papyri) supplies compelling evidence against this now very vague claim of Alexandrian scribal expertise and scrupulosity.

      And did you miss the simple fact that even Kurt Aland refers to the large gnostic element in Alexandria ?
      In precisely this early period, before 200 AD .. which would thus not have a high scribal fealty quotient.

      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;  (The Text of the New Testament, 1987, p. 59)

      The carelessness of scribes who did not hold the words of scripture as particularly accurate and inspired could easily contribute to the abbreviated nature of the alexandrian manuscripts, along with their "many obvious blunders" (Tischendorf on Sinaiticus).

      Steven Avery


      George Somsel

       This says nothing regarding the exteem which they may have had for the documents themselves.  It was a practical matter—the churchees of the area wanted their own copies and used whatever talent (however limited that talent may have been) to acquire their copies.  By the time a few centuries rolled around there may have been more talented scribes in the churches, but they still had to work with the copies which were available to them and which by then had become corrupted.  Sorry, Charlie, but we want copies that are good, not copies which look good (Something of a take-off on the Starkist Tuna ad).  


      From: schmuel <schmuel@...>

      Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2011 3:38 PM

      Subject: [textualcriticism] Bart Ehrman: early scribes, particularly scrupulous, decade after decade


      Hi Folks,

      Bart Ehrman

            What we *can* say with some confidence is that our earliest manuscripts are precisely the ones that appear to have been copied, as a rule, less carefully than the later ones.  They vary the most from later manuscripts *and* (this is the really important point) from each other.  (Anyone who has collated lots of manuscripts knows this full well.)   If our earliest scribes were less than careful, how were the scribes before them, who provided them with the exemplars that they used?  And the scribes before those scribes?  How were the scribes in, say, the first five years of the transmission of the Gospel of Mark? ....      If someone has a different opinion -- for example, that in the first twenty years the Gospels were copied meticulously by highly trained specialists who were experts in manuscript transmission -- I would like to know what evidence they have.  Or even what logic they are using.

      While we all understand that there was considerable corruption in the first two centuries (although we differ as to where was the greatest problem) ... your question about the logic is precisely the question I asked you a few times, without a response, about your claim in Orthodox Corruption:

      Bart Ehrman

      Modern scholars have come to recognize that the scribes in Alexandria — which was a major intellectual center in the ancieent world—were particularly scrupulous, even in these early centturies, 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, Misquoting Jesus: the story behind who changed the Bible and why, p. 72 2007

      Modern scholars recognize.... the scribes in Alexandria ,,, particularly scrupulous, ... early centuries ... in Alexandria ... decade after decade - (per Bart Ehrman)

      Are you now saying, above, now that the difference boils down to:    "the first 20 years"

      And after those 20 years, the scribes in Alexandria became:           "particularly scrupulous .. decade after decade" 

      If so, which 20 years do you believe are the period of textual uncertainty ?

      Please try, this time, to answer directly to the question.

      And feel free to use the material quoted from James Ronald Royse and Kurt Aland in the earlier posts for context.

      those "particularly scrupulous" Alexandrian scribes 

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