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[textualcriticism] are textual paradigms neutral?

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  • Steven Avery
    Hi, Jonathan, Briefly, I think the rule known simply as prefer the harder reading is valid with its qualifications (cf., e.g., Griesbach s). It is certainly
    Message 1 of 10 , Sep 26, 2013

      Briefly, I think the rule known simply as "prefer the harder reading" is valid with its qualifications (cf., e.g., Griesbach's). It is certainly one of the most important internal rules in practicing textual criticism. That said, a critic must check his prejudices and weigh the mass of evidence in light of scribal habits and internal canons designed to weed out scribal errors both intentional and unintentional, which, of course, may be "hard."
      Personally, I don't think many "evangelical" textual critics are any more prejudiced than non-evangelical textual critics when it comes to making textual decisions. For example, one sees very few abandoning the less precise "Jeremiah" in Matt 27:9 (even though some witnesses have the more precise Zechariah),

      Matthew 27:9 (AV)
      Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
      And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued,
      whom they of the children of Israel did value;

      The some witnesses are not considered very important in textual criticism circles because the very few Zechariah witnesses do not include Vaticanus. Nor Sinaiticus or early papyri. So the harder reading is not brought strongly to play by those following the Hort --> Nestle-Aland ---> Critical Text lineage, as there is nothing on the other side.

      This is the key point .. selectivity.  The harder reading is raised in significance when it is felt to be needed to support the preferred text. And lectio difficilior is virtually ignored otherwise. Here it is not a factor because it is not needed.

      Even with Origen, Jerome and Augustine discussing the verse difficulty, the scribes, Greek, Latin and Syriac, and other versional, left the text alone.  

      And I would disagree 100% about characterizing Jeremiah as "less precise". In terms of precision Jeremiah and Zechariah are equal, neither is fuzzy. (Perhaps you meant accuracy?. However, I would disagree there as well.  Maybe prima facie Bible consistency. Fine, but prima facie is not always the correct understanding.)

      The question is which one, Jeremiah or Zechariah, is the autographic text, the word of God.  And the recent discovery on the Apocryphon of Jeremiah should help on that question, if you are looking to understand what Matthew wrote.

      Here is one of the posts on this forum discussing the question.

      [textualcriticism] Mt 27:9 Apocryphon of Jeremiah
      Steven Avery - Feb 24, 2013
      - also  5580, 5581 and 5601.
      5580 thanked Wieland and James Miller for information about the Apocryphon, the whole thread is interesting.

      And, ironically, Maurice Robinson has properly used this verse as an example of the faithfulness of scribes, contra the frequent abuse of the lectio difficilior concept.  His Mark 1:2 hard cases answer to Gordon Fee really emphasizes this aspect.

      Similarly John William Burgon, in Treatise for the Pastoral Office, p. 74.
      "—and yet, as a plain matter of fact, the ancients did not alter the text in these places"
      "the four improbable words
      (Abiathar is one of the others) are found standing to this hour, in every cottager's Bible, exactly as the four Evangelists wrote them 1800 years ago."
      few reject the difficult "to Jerusalem" in Acts 12:25 (even though a number of witnesses have "from Jerusalem"),

      Acts 12:25 (AV)
      And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem,
      when they had fulfilled their ministry,
      and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

      As Andrew Wilson wrote:

      Certain of the UBS readings (e.g. Acts 12:25) are so difficult that a defence on inerrancy grounds is virtually impossible.

      The superb archaeologist and Bible historian William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939) wanted to follow the Westcott-Hort text here, but he considered their "to Jerusalem" one of two impossible cases.

      Clearly the learned men who developed the Received Text are a major part of your "few". :-) In fact, historically, they are the many, in terms of hundreds of years of Bibles throughout the world, dozens of languages, and a great many learned and respected commentaries. 

      Maybe an argument could be made that Erasmus and Stephanus and Beza (I have not checked the editions issues on the verse) were overly attune to evangelical Bible consistency and inerrancy issues, in general or on this verse. This would be an interesting discussion.

      Today, the modern textual criticism perspective will bring the "harder reading" to bear as an auxiliary evidence for "to Jerusalem", which is simply the normal Metzger-style way of using lectio difficilior selectively (essentially, for readings of Vaticanus-->Critical Text, no matter the degree of auxiliary ms support).

      No real surprise here, whether the lectio difficilior use is considered fine or wrong, the key point is the inconsistency of selectivity of use.  Lectio difficilior is used and emphasized here precisely because it supports the Vaticanus reading, not directly related to evangelical or inerrancy considerations.

      Jonathan Borland
      few resort to conjecture due to "Abiathar" the high priest in Mark 2:26 (even though it seems that Ahimelech was high priest at the time [1 Sam 22:11]), etc.

      Mark 2:26
      How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest,
      and did eat the shewbread,
      which is not lawful to eat but for the priests,
      and gave also to them which were with him?

      Not resorting to conjecture is barely a reverse argument.  More succinctly, you could say that the "few" do not follow Codex Bezae in omitting the name. (Ehrman might do so, if there was an adoptionist edge, or if Jesus got angry in a dubious and edgy way.)
       Examples like these show (1) that most scribes simply preserved the text in front of them, however difficult, without tampering with it, and

      Agreeing with my point.  This is not the common textual criticism viewpoint, which is ready to make lectio difficilior a major defense of a Vaticanus reading. Ignoring the fact that such tampering is unusual, and the theory is contra what we know from the excellent clear examples like Matthew 27:9.

      (2) that being an evangelical need not be incompatible with the basic science of textual criticism.

      Your examples did not touch on the real issues, they were selected (some by Maurice Robinson in the 2006 interview) looking through a conjectured lens of inerrancy (concerned as being perceived of not having an a priori inerrantist perspective) and its significance, or lack thereof. Which is in a sense a backwards perspective.

      John Gill referenced the Apocryphon of Jeremiah as one possible harmony help, referencing Jerome, long before the recent discovery.  Gill accepted the Reformation Bible text in front of him and then worked through the inerrancy considerations from the Bible text. Without getting flustered. He did not seek to change the text to match the possible apologetic need. (Although he may have slipped a bit on Luke 3:36 in this regard, exceptionally).

      The most significant examples to consider are those where the Greek Byzantine manuscripts have a more harmonious text, and the minority mss,   circled around Vaticanus, have a very difficult reading, even a possible error.  And then, we see the "harder reading" brought to the fore as a primary support to the minority.  Those will be the variants where the potential evangelical <--> skeptic and liberal etc. paradigm divide can be most clearly seen and examined.

      Try synagogues of Judea, which I mentioned in the last post, as a far more helpful example. (There are dozens, let us take one.) This is a geography situation, where the Alexandrian mss have a known tendency to err, as similarly done in Luke 1:26 (Nazareth in Judea, in Sinaiticus) and Mark 1:28 (Sinaiticus, original text error, again of Judea instead of Galilee).

      Luke 4:44 (AV)
      And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

      Yet the minority reading is supported specifically by its being a "harder reading" error, needing correction by scribes helping out poor Matthew.
      "is obviously the more difficult, and copyists have corrected it . . . in accord with the parallels in Mt 4.23 and Mk 1.39." -
      Metzger - A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament 1971, pp. 137-38.
      This lectio difficilior argument, for the errant (allowing tepid attempts at explanations) reading, is at the heart of the modern acceptance of synagogues of Judaea:
      The reading ioudaias , nevertheless gradually gained acceptance, and it is not difficult to see why. It clearly represents the lectio difficilior, since it is difficult to fit into a Galilean ministry that is usually thought to begin in 4,14 and to extend to 9,50. Moreover, the reading galilaias , can be explained as due to the influence of 4,14, or as a harmonization with Mt 4.23 or Mk l,39. - Fearghus Ó Fearghail The Introduction to Luke-Acts: A Study of the Role of Lk 1, 1-4, 44 in the Composition of Luke's Two-volume Work, 1991 p. 26
      (Note:Pickering worked with a number of such verses.)

      The evangelical may look at the typical Metzger style explanation here as a type of special pleading, since scribal errors occur very easily (including scribes far away who simply do not know the geography, a problem throughout the Gospels and Acts in the Alexandrian texts), and the evangelical may prefer the approach mentioned earlier.
      The "Procliviori praestat ardua" is certainly not to be relied upon as a universal rule, and a far sounder result would often be reached by regarding as the foremost of all probabilities that of the Evangelist or Apostle having written an intelligible and fairly constructed sentence. - Alfred Watts, Textual Criticism Illustrated from the Printing Office, 1883 
      And we should be aware that internal evidences and transcriptional probability often have a cup half-full and half-empty analysis aspect:
      Not only is Galilee the scene of the events recorded immediately before and after the present verse, but the passage is manifestly parallel to Mark i. 39. The three Synoptic Gospels are broadly distinguished from that of S. John by their silence respecting the Lord's ministry in Judaea before he went up to Thor last passover. - Scrivener, Plain Introduction
      The absurd reading
      thV ioudaias , which is found in the six principal Alex., should be a caution to blind partisans of this text. Frédéric Louis Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, 1871 p. 162
      The skeptic and atheist (using the far end) textual critic may find the Metzger explanation compelling. Especially if they are sympathetic to the idea of the gospel writers writing many decades after the events, in ignorance and with much geographical and logical error.

      And Maurice Robinson touched on this verse question here:

      Which is an interesting read, all around.

      Steven Avery
      Bayside, NY
    • Jonathan C. Borland
      Dear Steven (and List), In case it was missed, my point is that evangelicals should not accept a reading merely because it best agrees with their
      Message 2 of 10 , Sep 27, 2013
        Dear Steven (and List),

        In case it was missed, my point is that evangelicals should not accept a reading merely because it best agrees with their presuppositions, e.g., on inerrancy, ethics, etc. I think my few examples (Matt 27:9; Mark 2:26; Acts 12:25) speak to that point. By the way, on Acts 12:25, Maurice Robinson does not accept "from Jerusalem" even though he has a high view of Scripture. I do not know any on the "Evangelical Textual Criticism" blog site that favor that reading at all, certainly none that would do so because inerrancy would fail if they didn't. In fact, Robinson wrote a paper defending "to Jerusalem" with many good reasons: "The Conundrum of Acts 12:25" (to be published, I believe, next year in a collection of his papers).


        Jonathan C. Borland
      • David Inglis
        Steven, Thanks for your insights. I think the original is without doubt Galilee, which goes against what (for example) the NET has. As I see it (see
        Message 3 of 10 , Sep 27, 2013



          Thanks for your insights. I think the original is without doubt Galilee, which goes against what (for example) the NET has. As I see it (see https://sites.google.com/site/inglisonmarcion/Home/luke/fame-in-galilee ) for details) Lk 4:14b-15 is an interpolation, added after Nazareth and Capernaum were swapped in Lk, and Galilee was then changed to Judea to avoid Jesus preaching throughout Galilee twice. In this case, as in others, I think that looking just at the verses in question (or even at the immediate context) doesn’t provide anything like sufficient information to be able to decide which variant reading is original.


          David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA


          From: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com [mailto:textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Steven Avery
          Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 7:42 AM
          To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [textualcriticism] are textual paradigms neutral? - Alfred Watts on scribal habits




          There also is a fundamental question as to whether textual paradigms are neutral. 

          Simple example:
          lectio difficilior or "procliviori praestat ardua" or the harder reading.
          is one controversial (at least in application) textual paradigm that is used to determine or approximate the original autographic text.  Yet the more difficult reading can be uncomfortably hard, or even a blunder.  e.g.  It could be a geographical blunder, like Nazareth in Judea.

          (Note: I'm giving an example that is not in the Critical Texts, we only see it in Sinaiticus. I'm doing this deliberately, so that we do not get side-tracked into a debate on the validity of the text in the actual example.)

          An evangelical may look at it in much the same way as Alfred Watts, in his superb analysis of scribal habits (emphasis added):

          Expositor (1885 - originally published 1883)
          Textual Criticism Illustrated from the Printing Office
          Alfred Watts

          And equally free from doubt are my deductions as to the facility with which awkward readings come in by accident, so that I must take upon me to plead with those I am addressing to abandon the paradox that " the unlikeliest reading is the likeliest," and to be content with substituting the more moderate canon, " A difficult reading must be dismissed with more hesitation than an easier one."  The "Procliviori praestat ardua" is certainly not to be relied upon as a universal rule, and a far sounder result would often be reached by regarding as the foremost of all probabilities that of the Evangelist or Apostle having written an intelligible and fairly constructed sentence.

          This paper includes an early scientific study of scribal habits, are area that is popular today. (It also gives some interesting counterpoint to the Burgon view of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus).

          William Thomas Whitley (1861-1947) summarized  the Watts analysis in the Princeton Theological Review:

          Princeton Theological Review
          A Study in Textual Criticism
          William Thomas Whitley
          The three fundamental canons on which the favorite New Testament text of to-day is constructed, do not come out well when tested by the methods of compilers deliberately and leisurely comparing their sources, and utilizing them with the vantage of personal knowledge.

          It may be pleaded on their behalf that for one or two deliberate and leisurely revisions undertaken by Lucian or Euaebius, there have been hundreds of hasty transcriptions as a mere piece of business, and that the canons do apply to such eases. But Mr. Alfred Watts, after his fifteen years' experience in a printing office, asserts without any misgiving that when transcribers go out of their way to make as editors one change for the better,
          they go on in their own way as copyists to make twenty or fifty changes for the worse. He supplies also pages of examples to show the easy occurrence of omission, and the comparative rarity of the opposite vice. He sums up a careful examination of sixty pages of proofs, in which he finds 101 words changed, 256 dropped, eight added and fourteen doubled.

          The paper by Watts, who worked in printing, discusses how certain types of accidental errors are extremely common.

          Let's go back to our analysis of Nazareth in Judea.   Our textual analyst with an evangelical perspective starts from a comparatively high view of the origin of the Bible text.  And he might consider Nazareth in Judea as being unintelligible, at least in the logical, historical, geographical sense.  And he would then lean the variant arising from a mental error of the scribes who formed the minority text,. And consider lectio difficilior as having no application.  This would fit with the Watts scientific analysis.

          Yet, a textual critic from an atheist or skeptic or mythicist background would be very happy to apply the textual canon of the more difficult reading to "Nazareth in Judea".  And offer it as one very significant consideration, perhaps if there was a bit more textual evidence, like Vaticanus, it would be in our versions today, as is the "synagogues of Judea" of Luke 4:44 where the mass of manuscripts have:

          Luke 4:44
          And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

          Just like Luke can be thought of making an error, or imprecision, in Luke 4:44, the textual critic with a low view of scripture origin could very easily think of Luke having erred in Luke 1:26.  And the error was simply picked up later by the scribes who corrected all the errors from the original authors.  The probabilities perspective of Watts would not be accepted.

          Can a textual analyst be truly neutral between the two perspectives on apostolic or original writer error?

          Steven Avery
          Bayside, NY

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