Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On the ‘idle boast’ of having so many New Testament manuscripts

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My post on the topic of the comparative argument for trusting our modern texts of the New Testament produced some good discussion. But one issue that got passed over in the ensuing comments deserves more attention and that is what I want to give it here.

A slide from Wallace’s presentation at Biola
The issue is whether apologists like James White or Dan Wallace, for example, are being inconsistent for practicing reasoned eclecticism and for appealing to the vast number of Greek NT manuscripts. Wallace, for example, likes to refer to our “embarrassment of riches” for recovering the original text of the New Testament. But his practice of reasoned eclecticism seems to suggest that he is “embarrassed” in quite a different way by these riches because he doesn’t actually use them (see, e.g., the NET Bible). Apologetically he wants to have his embarrassingly-rich cake, but text-critically he has already eaten it. That is the charge anyway and it is one I have heard Bart Ehrman use in debate against Wallace.

But Ehrman is not the only one to use it. He finds himself a strange bedfellow with Maurice Robinson on this who puts the problem this way:
The resources of the pre-fourth century era unfortunately remain meager, restricted to a limited body of witnesses. Even if the text-critical evidence is extended through the eighth century, there would be only 424 documents, mostly fragmentary. In contrast to this meager total,the oft-repeated apologetic appeal to the value and restorative significance of the 5000+ remaining Greek NT MSS becomes an idle boast in the writings of modern eclectics when those numerous MSS are not utilized to restore the original text.*
Robinson again:
Granting that a working presumption of most eclectic scholars (including Ehrman) is that the vast bulk of NT MSS basically should be excluded as irrelevant for the primary establishment of the text, Ehrman’s statement [against the comparative argument] makes perfect sense. Rather than claiming some sort of text-critical superiority to the classics based on the sheer quantity of extant MSS, modern eclectics perhaps should acknowledge that their actual preferred witnesses for establishing the best approximation to the “original” NT text number only in the few dozens, as opposed to the several thousands otherwise set aside from serious consideration.
I’d like to open this up to discussion again. Can reasoned eclectics make any apologetic appeal to the abundance of our NT witnesses without being inconsistent? If so, how?

———
* “Appendix: The Case for Byzantine Priority” in The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, p. 568.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What is a Catena Manuscript and Why should we Care?

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In the course of my research on the hexaplaric fragments of Job, I became immersed in its catena tradition. I also became aware that most handbooks and introductions to the Septuagint that mention these MSS did not describe them well, and they usually assumed too much knowledge on the part of the reader, especially the beginner, or worse, the specialist did not understand catena MSS either. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a visual of these MSS allows one to understand commentary on them and what the “C“ symbolizes in a critical text’s apparatus. Knowledge of their material layout aids in understanding their contents.

“Catena” is the Latin word for “chain,” and it will become evident below why these MSS were named as such. The details of the textual tradition of the Job catena need not detain us here. See my article on this topic for details, but one does not need to wade through it to appreciate the content of this post. There are two types of catenae MSS: Marginal and Text.

Marginal Catena

The layout of the marginal catena MS is probably how the name “catena” obtained. The comments of church fathers are chained around the bible text.

Tyrnavos 25 (10th)

A 10th century MS, Tyrnavos 25 represents the earliest text tradition of the catena of Job. This may not mean that it represents the earliest material layout. Our earliest MS artifacts of the Job catena are from the eighth century. They have a similar layout but their text has already been revised and updated. This MS has some of the features of their layout but an earlier text.
Part of Job 2
Prominently displayed in the center of the folio is part of the bible text of Job 2. One can then see how various notes and comments are chained around this text. There is an intricate system of notation next to the left of the bible text with corresponding notation to the notes and comments on that part of the text in the margins. The larger comments at the top, left, and bottom are usually from church fathers (Olympiodorus, Chrysostom, Didymus the Blind etc.). In the right margin, there is a hexaplaric note (unattributed) to Symmachus as well as other exegetical notes (many times anonymous though there is a note to Iulian [the Arian] in the right margin of this folio). In this catena MS, these four elements are usually found: (1) bible text, (2) catena/patristic comments on the text, (3) hexaplaric notes (places where one or more of the Three’s readings contrasted interestingly with the bible text of the Seventy), and (4) anonymous exegetical scholia on the text.

Kopenhagen, Kgl. Bibl., Gamle Kgl. Saml. 6 (10th –11th)

The layout of a marginal catena MS could become quite elaborate as this example shows. 
Part of Job 28
A similar system of notation is used here to indicate on which part of the text is being commented. There are far fewer marginal notes in this MS, though the readings of the Three Jewish revisers were either omitted or sometimes included in the commentary of church fathers (accidentally) or simply included anonymously within the chain.

Text Catena

Although these manuscripts that included bible text with commentary are all usually referred to as catena MSS, it would be a mistake to think they all had the same layout. Many of these MSS had a continuous, linear layout with bible text written first and then immediately below the relevant text the comments were added. Genua, Durazzo-Giustiniani A I 10 (9th–10th) is a good example:

Same part of Job 2 as in Tyrnavos 25 above
The bible text is indented slightly and marked with a straight obelos (at χρονου 10 lines from the top) or lance like index near the middle of the column of text in this folio. There are two lines marked with an ÷. These lines are the beginning of Job’s wife’s extended soliloquy in the Greek tradition, an addition to the Hebrew text probably first noted by Origen. In the right margin is the same anonymous hexaplaric note we observed above that probably should be attributed to Symmachus. In the left margin just below the bible text is ολυμ marking an excerpt from Olympiodorus of Alexandria, who wrote a full length commentary on Job sometime in the first half of the sixth century or late fifth.

Conclusion

So what is a catena MS and why does it matter? Short, marginal notes were added to bible MSS early on, and probably, from the early sixth century (at least for Job), more substantive excerpts of commentaries were added at the relevant places in these MSS. That is, the catenist probably used an existing MS, which already contained the bible text and the shorter scholia, and added the comments from church fathers. Thus these MSS contain (1) a valuable witness to the biblical text in Greek, (2) a fragmentary record of other Greek versions such Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, (3) early exegetical scholia on the text, and (4) excerpts from the more widely read commentaries on a given book. What layer of redaction each of these elements belongs is an interesting and open question.

Alongside the biblical text, they preserve a very important part of its history of interpretation. I have tried to give a basic, elementary description of these important MSS here. I hope the images of them help orient one to their material layout so that one might be able to imagine them when one encounters commentary on them or when the “C“ is spotted in a critical apparatus. For text criticism it is important to realize that catena MSS are very ‘’busy,” and therefore, scribal mistakes between text and margin occurred and often times different readings between commentary and text were preserved side by side as it were.

Credits: The first image was sent to me by Zisis Melissakis, who prepared the digital images of the MS at Tyrnavos. The second and third images were shared with me by Dieter Hagedorn.

Tregelles and Tyndale House contra mundum: Reconsidering the Text of Rev 5:9

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It is common knowledge that, at at several places in the book of Revelation, the main text of our standard Handausgabe (i.e. Nestle-Aland, 28th ed.) follows a singular reading of Codex Alexandrinus (GA 02; LDAB 3481). In principle, this is not inadmissible: a reading that is singular now needn’t have been so 1,500 years ago. Generally, though, some might find singular readings prima facie suspect, especially if they can be adequately accounted for on internal grounds.

Now, for quite some time I’ve been fascinated about ways in which various facets of the copying process affect the rise of variant readings. At one level, copying seems like a simple and rather straightforward procedure: dip, look back (at the exemplar), write (a unit of text, whatever its length), look back, complete a line and start a new one, write, look back, write, look back, start a new column, write, look back, dip ... you get the idea. Seemingly uneventful. Or is it? All one need do is to browse through a few pages of Louis Havet’s Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux textes latins (Paris: Hachette, 1911) to see that, in between these few rudimentary processes, all manner of things may occur which can make it to our apparatus critici as variant readings.

One such reading occurs at Rev 5:9. The main text of NA28 reads as follows:

καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες· ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας  τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους.

The only one variation-unit recorded for this verse concerns the addition/omission and the placement of ἡμᾶς. All the Greek witnesses but 02 contain ἡμᾶς before or after τῷ θεῷ. On the one hand, I could see why the editors would prefer the omission here, as the first-person pronoun makes for a somewhat awkward transition to v. 10 (καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς κτλ.). Personally, however, I find this explanation unimpressive. To begin with, the scribe of 02 may have followed the same logic and so drop the pronoun under the influence of the ensuing context (a very common scribal tendency). Another possible scenario has to do with the aforementioned mechanics of the scribal process. Given that the last line of a column 1 on the given page 02 ends with τω θ̅ω̅, it seems quite likely (to my mind at least) that the pronoun may have been dropped accidentally as the scribe was traversing to another column (again, a well-documented tendency).


In short, I think we’d better print here what is a better-attested and more difficult reading whose origin is not easily accounted for by a scribal error. If you’re interested to read about this in greater detail, see my recent note: ‘“And You Purchased [Whom?]”: Reconsidering the Text of Rev 5,9’, ZNW 108 (2017) 306–12.

P.S. If you don’t have access to the article and/or don’t read footnotes, you’ll miss that, amongst NT editions, there are two that do not favour the singular reading of 02 at this point, namely Tregelles and the forthcoming Tyndale House Edition of the Greek New Testament (THEGNT).

Friday, August 11, 2017

ETC Interview with Paolo Trovato: Part 2

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Here is Part 2 of my interview with Paolo Trovato. Read Part 1 here.





For someone who isn’t an editor or working on an edition of a text, what do think is the main value of your book for them?

Being able to easily detect the typos in a newspaper or a brand-new book. I am not kidding. This means realizing that, even in our time, any work hides or can hide within its pages a number of textual problems, born during the transmission, that is, the journey of the text from the author (via printing house or Xerox copies or internet) to the reader.

Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

Well, it is a rather long “moment”. Since 2007 I am working with a small team on a critical edition of Dante’s Commedia. The classification of the 600 extant MSS not reduced to small fragments took almost ten years, but now, thank God, we find ourselves in the more amusing and creative phase of fixing the text, for which we use 12 MSS only, the highest and most conservative in our stemma. In these very days I am working on Inferno, IV, but I already published provisional editions of Inferno, XXIII and Inferno, XXXIV on the web where I am getting precious feedback (see here and here). I have also completed some other cantos.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Poll: Pick your favorite book cover

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Tommy and I are finishing up our introduction to the CBGM right now. It will be jointly published by SBL and the German Bible Society and they are hoping to have it out at the SBL meeting in November. There are some details for the book over on Amazon. But you’ll notice that there’s no book cover, which brings us to the point of this post. One of the fun things about this project is that SBL is letting us design the cover ourselves and we need some feedback on our final two. Which do you like better?

A.

B.

Which is better?



(Both manuscript images were taken on an expedition with CSNTM at the National Library of Greece and will be used by permission.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Lecture: Lee Irons on the the ‘Righteousness of God’ in Paul

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This October, Charles Lee Irons will be speaking at Phoenix Seminary on what Paul meant by the “righteousness of God” (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ). This was the topic of his book The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation (Mohr, 2015). His thesis challenges the interpretation of this term which has been crucial in the interpretation of Paul by scholars like N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, and others. For a positive review of Irons’s book, see Tom Schreiner’s here; for a strong critique, see John Frederick’s in JBTS (vol. 1)  with a response from Irons.

If you’re in the area, come join us. It’s free and open to the public. No registration needed. Register here.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Cutting and Pasting P66 in Jn 18:34

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One of the advantages of images being available:
The NT.VMR transcription of the first words of Jn 18:34 is απεκρινα̣[τ]ο ι̅ς, and the image looks like this (start at the beginning of the first line):



There is not much of the alpha present, and I was wondering how strong the case for the absence of the article with ιησους is. In line 3 there is the sequence ατο and a simple copy and paste gives this image:


It is still possible that there is a correction in the gap in the shape of the addition of an extra ο, but I am fine to cite P66vid for the absence of the article.