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[textualcriticism] when does particularly scrupulous == extraordinarily careless ? - Egyptian papyri scribes ! (James Royse summary)

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  • schmuel
    Hi Folks, Bart Ehrman ... particularly scrupulous, ... early centuries ... in Alexandria ... decade after decade - (per Bart Ehrman) ... Ronald Royse . the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 12, 2011
      Hi Folks,

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

      > Steven
      > 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...

      Today, new, please note the following from James Ronald Royse, particularly about the early Egyptian papyri scribes.

      "extraordinarily careless scribes of P47 and P46 ... careless scribes of P75, P72 and P45 ... comparatively careful scribe of P66"

      We will just mention en passant the "many obvious blunders" (Tischendorf) that especially stand out in Codex Sinaiticus, since our focus is really on the period up to about 300 AD, where we have many Egypian papyri.


      Here is the most direct section from James Ronald Royse, who can be considered the world's foremost expert on this topic.

      Scribal habits in early Greek New Testament Papyri (2008)
      The Shorter Reading ?
      James Ronald Royse

      The scribes thus differ considerably in their rate of loss of text, ranging from the extraordinarily careless scribes of P47 and P46 (who lose more than one word per two errors) and the careless scribes of P75, P72 and P45 (who lose roughly one word per three errors), to the comparatively careful scribe of P66. If we look at the ratio of omissions to additions, we find they range from P75 and P46 and (who omit about 3 times as often as they add), and P47 and P45 (who omit more than twice as often as they add), to P72 (who omits rather more often than he adds) and P66 (who omits only slightly more often than he adds). The reader will doubtless find yet other ways to compare our scribes. 

      And, of course, these scribes differ greatly among themselves with respect to other patterns of error. Indeed, precisely because the six scribes differ in so many ways, are copying different portions of the NT, and are utilizing texts of different sorts, it would seem that their common habit of shortening the text is a general habit, and not an anomalous feature of one or two particular scribes.  To be sure, one could contend that all six scribes are anomalous, but, given their many differences, such a view would seem highly implausible, and to be based on no evidence.  Naturally, we might eventually discover other early papyri that would force us to revise these conclusions, but we have to work with the available evidence.

      And there seems in fact to be no reason to suppose that we just happened to have found manuscripts from the six scribes of antiquity who tended to shorten their text. On the contrary, it would seem that these six manuscripts should represent a fair sample (in so far as any sample of six could be fair ) of the scribal activity involved in the copying of the NT in Egypt in the years from say, 175 to 300.  (p. 719)


      So why is it so difficult to correct the error of Bart Ehrman, an error that is specifically quoted as authority by Daniel Wallace (earlier post) ?

      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, Misquoting Jesus: the story behind who changed the Bible and why, p. 72 2007)

      > M. M. R.
      > [This at best is a weak (and somewhat circular) argument. The whole
      argument is built (basically) upon opinion and coat-tail riding. The only scientific evidence is his mentioning that Alexandria was "a major intellectual center". Im sorry but you cannot float this wopper on that small innertube of facts. "AND" even if it were true that the scribes of Alexandria excelled all others, the reply is, so what! What has that to do with the purity of the manuscripts they used to copy and multiply. _M.M.R.]

      And I submit the difficulty is simply that the textual leaders are not expected to give the lay-reader quotes that are simply opposite the historical truth.  So various excused have been made for the error above.  My question .. why not just acknowledge the error, make the necessary corrections, and move on ?

      What does it say about modern textual science when gross misinformation is pawned off as fact ? 
      Just for a textual agenda ?


      Which reminds us .. the Codex Sinaiticus Project is still deceiving readers every day about the "English translation" of Codex Sinaiticus. And Daniel Wallace, noting this on this forum, would not even send out to the British Library a request for correction.  Only James Snapp, afaik, has been willing to make a public declaration that takes the position that deceiving the English speaking public is not proper.  (Thank you, James.)

      Is there a pattern here ?
      Does agenda trump truth and real scholarship and integrity ?


      Why are scribal habits the all-important factor for attaining the original text? Unless scribes all made the same mistakes in all the same places, why can't reasoned eclecticism help sort out mistakes from non-mistakes?

      All reasonable questions. 
      However, if we can't even get our basic facts straight, what good are the theories ?

      Steven Avery
      Queens, NY


      Earlier references:

      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 ...


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

      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 instructive­what 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.


      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


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