Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The 2014 Pericope Adulterae Symposium: Part 5: Robinson: Removal Elicited by Early Lectionary Usage

Maurice Robinson, the last presenter at the conference, argued that the PA is an original part of the Gospel of John, and that it was excised in the second century as a consequence of lectionary-influence.  Robinson’s presentation seemed to have been carefully composed, like a symphony, starting slowly and building to a crescendo.  At first he described how, following a suggestion from William Pierpont, he began investigating the PA.  Then he introduced an impressive army of data, drawn from his collations of the manuscripts that contain the PA (a printed copy of which he showed at the conference):  267 Greek manuscripts do not contain the PA; 1,476 MSS contain it; 2,285 lectionaries do not contain it (because it’s assigned to saints’ feast-days, not the main calendar-cycle), and 495 lectionaries contain John 8:3-11.  He also insisted that the question about whether or not the PA is Scripture is a technical issue, not a doctrinal one. 
The gist of Robinson’s theory goes like this:  in the 100’s, lections were assigned to the major feast-days of the church-calendar, such as Christmas, Easter-time, and Pentecost.  The lection for Pentecost consisted, as it does today, of John 7:37-52 plus 8:12.  The reasons for this unusual combination were (1) the subject-matter of the PA did not fit the general theme of Pentecost, but (2) the uplifting statement in 8:12 was added so as to not end the lection on the negative note that would otherwise conclude the lection at the end of 7:52 – the statement that no prophet arises from Galilee.  An early copyist, either deliberately adjusting the text to make the lector’s job easier, or accidentally misinterpreting lectionary-related marginalia that told the lector to skip from the end of 7:52 to the beginning of 8:12, omitted the PA.  A copy in which the PA was thus dropped from the text – not due to squeamishness, but as a conformation to the form of the text as used in a rudimentary lectionary-system – subsequently influenced the text in Egypt from which most of the early manuscripts (p66, p75, Aleph, B, T) are descended.
In the course of arguing his case for the genuineness of the PA, Robinson emphasized various internal features, describing the PA as part of a verbal tapestry which is inextricably linked to the surrounding text.  He listed direct links and indirect links.  Even if half of them are sheer coincidence (and some of them definitely are), this is something worth careful consideration.  His argument against the existence of the PA (in all its extant forms) as a “floating” story was efficient and devastating:  how does the PA start?  “And everyone went to his own house.”  Does anyone begin a story like that?  Imagine it:  “Once upon a time, everyone went home.”
Robinson also pointed out that Chris Keith, in his earlier work on the PA, had incorrectly claimed that kategrafein is the majority-reading in John 8:6.  Keith has already commented about this on his blog (at ), acknowledging that the majority-reading, by a score of 1,220 to 207, is egrafen.  (Keith wondered why he ever thought otherwise.  Perhaps as he read the RP-2005 Byzantine Textform, his line of sight drifted to the katÄ“- of katÄ“gorein on the preceding line, above egrafen.)  Aside from this relatively minor point, though, Robinson had high praise for Keith’s research, describing it, ironically, as the best defense of the genuineness of the PA based on internal evidence, if readers ignore the word “interpolation.”


Some thoughts: 
Robinson showed how his theory works, but he did not show real evidence, aside from the elegance of his theory, that a rudimentary lectionary-system for major feast-days existed in the second century, or that its lection for Pentecost consisted of John 7:37-52 + 8:12.  Inasmuch as the Pentecost-lection goes without a pause from 7:52 to 8:12, why isn’t this evidence that the lectionary was based on a text of John that did the same thing? 

Robinson pre-answered that question (if I recall correctly) by pointing out that had the PA been adopted sometime after John 7:37-8:12 (without the PA) was assigned to Pentecost, nobody would dump the PA into the middle of the Pentecost-lection.  However, this assumes a very simple series of events.  If instead, the PA was inserted between 7:52 and 8:12 in a location where the Pentecost-lection was unknown, and this expanded text proceeded to infiltrate the locale where the Pentecost-lection had originated as a natural unit consisting of John 7:37-8:12 (without the PA), then as the expanded text prevailed, the logical reaction by copyists who wished to denote lection-readings in the margins of continuous-text manuscripts of the Gospels would be to add the symbol that precedes the PA in various manuscripts, instructing the lector to skip from the end of 7:52 to the beginning of 8:12.  Clearly, something happened here, but the lectionary-related evidence presented by Robinson does not say clearly that what happened was an excision, rather than an expansion.   
Also, I would like to know, since Robinson pointed out that Jonathan Borland, in his thesis on the Old Latin treatment of the PA, identified the form of the PA preserved in family-1 as being congruent to the earliest form supported by the Old Latin evidence (especially Codex Palatinus), whether or not Robinson regards the family-1 form of the PA as the original form, instead of the text read by the majority of MSS.

And, figuring that Luke 22:43-44 is another passage which is omitted from a lection (and which is placed in Matthew in family-13 in a way comparable to the way that the PA is similar to the way the PA is placed at the end of Luke 21 in family-13), and figuring that Burgon proposed that Luke 9:54-56 could be lost via lectionary-influence, it occurs to me that it might be worthwhile to investigate the possibility that early lectionary-influence elicited the early loss of several passages besides the PA.  An early copyist’s misinterpretation of marginalia in a lector’s copy could account for several short (or shortened) variants.     


No comments: