Friday, September 9, 2016

Interview with Maurice Robinson - Part 3

          Today we conclude our interview with Dr. Maurice Robinson, one of the compilers of the Byzantine Textform.

Q:  Dr. Robinson, what would you say to someone who said, “I want to follow the Majority Text, but I want to follow the majority text in manuscripts up to the year 900, and set aside the late manuscripts, most of which are Byzantine”?

Robinson:  Should others desire to adopt a different type of Byzantine preference theory, they certainly are welcome to do so. Clearly, a theory for the Gospels based on a Byzantine uncial consensus (e.g., that of A E F G H K M S U V Ω, and parts of W) would approximate closely the results obtained when the wider minuscule consensus is included.
          The problem would be more severe, however, in the Acts and Epistles, where the available uncial manuscripts are fewer, particularly those of Byzantine type that predate the 9th century.  The consensus base for those New Testament books would seem to require inclusion of later minuscule testimony, else the resultant text of those New Testament books will be less Byzantine than what the similar process might produce among the Gospels.  Further, the situation in Revelation would be far worse, since the competing Byzantine groups there primarily depend upon minuscules made after the 800’s (generally representing the Majority-Andreas and Majority-Koine forms of the text) — leave these out of consideration, and it would be difficult to say what the resultant text might become (most likely quite non-Byzantine in nature).
          For the Gospels, a pre-9th century Byzantine consensus would be as strong and even more viable than portions of the Hodges-Farstad theory where they appealed to less-than-Byzantine minority groups to settle instances of textual division; certainly such a method also would be far more reasonable than adopting a recensional form of text found only among late manuscripts (such as the Family 35 subgroup).  Other possible approaches that would result in a basically Byzantine form of text could include following the archetype of Family Π/Ka or (perhaps with less likelihood of success) von Soden’s K1 group. From my perspective, however, none of these alternatives appear superior to the present Byzantine-priority hypothesis, methodology, and obtainable results.

Q:  Any comments on Nestle-Aland 28?

Robinson:  Particularly I am disappointed with one aspect of the new format, namely the editors’ decision to eliminate mention of fluctuating degrees of minority Greek manuscript support for variant readings (the “pc” and “al” designations). This move leaves users of the NA28 apparatus unclear as to the relative amount of support a given variant reading might have, and  even worse  readers might presume that only the manuscripts cited for a particular NA28 reading actually support such  and this even though the editors explicitly claim the new format supposedly should prevent such.
          Although the editors claim that “pc and al cannot be used in a precisely defined way, because full collation of all the manuscripts would yield more witnesses for known variants,” such special pleading appears peculiar, particularly when the full collation data of Text und Textwert are compared against readings designated pc or al in the former NA27 apparatus.  The Text und Textwert data regularly validate the propriety of the pc and al designations within a concise, more limited apparatus. From my perspective, those designations ought to be reinstated in future NA editions, along with re-inclusion of at least some of the previous consistently cited witnesses from NA26/27 that no longer appear in NA28.
        On a positive note, the new typeface is nice, and the NA28 regularization of some orthographic forms was long overdue. Similarly, I consider the elimination of conjectural suggestions from the apparatus beneficial, although an appendix listing the more important of these could be informative in terms of understanding scholarly views on the matter.

Q:  In the approach you describe in “The Case for Byzantine Priority,” a prohibition on conjectural emendation is Rule #1. What do you think of NA28’s introduction of a conjectural emendation into the text of Second Peter 3:10?

Robinson:  Given that the UBS/NA editions long have had a conjecture at Acts 16:12, the inclusion of a new conjecture at Second Peter 3:10 (dating from at least the time of Tischendorf — see his 8th edition’s apparatus) is unsurprising, particularly since the basic Alexandrian reading in that location — found in the main text of previous critical editions dating back to Tregelles and W-H — simply makes no good sense (kai ta en auth erga eureqhsetai, literally “and the works in her shall be found”). The point is well illustrated in the translational circumlocutions that appear among those English versions based on the critical text.  Consider the following, grouped according to how they render eureqhsetai:

Lexham:     “and the deeds done on it will be disclosed.”
HCSB:       “and the works on it will be disclosed.”
NRSV:       “and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.”
NIV:          “and everything done in it will be laid bare.”
NET:          “and every deed done on it will be laid bare.”
CEB:          “and all the works done on it will be exposed.”
ESV:          “and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
GW:           “and everything that people have done on it will be exposed.”
ISV:           “and everything done on it will be exposed.”
NCV:         “and everything in it will be exposed.”
TEV:          “with everything in it will vanish.”
NIrV:         God will judge the earth and everything done in it.”
Mess:         “and all its works exposed to the scrutiny of Judgment.”
NLT:          “everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.”
Voice:        “and all the works done on it will be seen as they truly are.”
NAB:         “and everything done on it will be found out.”

         Of these, only the Roman Catholic New American Bible comes close to the base meaning of the problematic construction. So certainly, the NA28 conjectural inclusion of ouk before eureqhsetai makes far better sense without requiring alteration of the proper meaning of the word in the process (thus NA28 in conjecture: “shall [not] be found”). The proposed conjecture, therefore, is quite good, and similar in quality to what Rendel Harris suggested for First Peter 3:19, where the main text en w kai should be supplemented by the conjectural addition of Enwc (thereby reading, “in which also Enoch”) — a brilliant conjecture; yet equally without manuscript evidence, and equally recognized by most scholars as non-original, just as they ought to regard the current NA28 conjecture at Second Peter 3:10.
          Put simply, researchers — particularly those involved in the study and use of actual manuscript testimony — should not invent or prefer readings that have no known existence among the Greek manuscript base merely because such might “make better sense” than an otherwise problematic preferred reading (not that I consider eureqhsetai to be original over against the Byzantine katakahsetai, but obviously the critical text editors do so presume). As I recently commented on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog,

The problem I have with conjectural readings is not restricted to a priori concerns related to a Byzantine Priority or majority text position, but rather as ultimately involving transmissional considerations; i.e., any conjectured reading — assuming such supposedly to be more reasonable than what appears among the existing witnesses — would have to explain transmissionally how and why such would utterly disappear from our known transmissional history. Were such conjectures actually superior to all extant alternatives, I would consider their lack of perpetuation to be inexplicable.

Q:  Could you briefly explain how the NA28 has many conjectural emendations if one considers short series of variant-units instead of just single variant-units?

Robinson:  I have already written extensively on the so-called “zero-support” verses in the Nestle-Aland editions, both in a published essay in Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology and in a subsequent ETS presentation in 2012. 
          To summarize: if individual variant support in NA27 is considered in a linear manner (i.e., the stated documentary support for an entire verse containing at least two variant units, when reduced to its combined joint agreement), at least 105 whole verses exist in the critical text that apparently lack any actual existence in the form published, whether from any Greek manuscript, ancient version, or patristic source. In those instances, the result obviously becomes de facto conjecture.
          In my follow-up paper, I examined two-verse segments in NA27 using the same criteria, and found an additional 210 similar portions of text that again as published lack attestation from any known witness (suffice it to say that among the manuscripts comprising the Byzantine Textform, such never occurs in relation to passages of similar length). Note that the same findings apply to the NA28 edition as well, since its main text and apparatus support basically remain the same.

The Greek New Testament
for Beginning Readers
Q:  Could you explain again why Revelation is so different in the Hodges-Farstad compilation?

Robinson:  Although more differences appear between H-F and RP in Revelation than elsewhere in the New Testament, they are not that extensive as when either text is compared against the Old Uncial form of the critical editions. Rather, the primary differences between the Byzantine form of text in H-F and RP mainly involve H-F utilizing a particular stemmatic approach that prefers a minority Byzantine subgroup that they considered original – a group that at times represents less than 30% of the Byzantine manuscripts of that book. In contrast, RP2005 presents a non-stemmatic model representing a general consensus among the two primary Byzantine groups within that book.
          Where these two groups divide, RP generally follow the Majority-Koine group except where a significant number of its manuscripts align with the Majority-Andreas group – this because the Majority-Andreas group appears to reflect a single archetype derived from the Andreas commentary that usually accompanies those particular manuscripts.

Q:  It was recently acknowledged by a textual critic from Dallas Theological Seminary that “many” people subscribe to the Byzantine Priority school.  Besides you, who are these people?

Robinson:  What Dallas critic might have suggested such (I speak as a fool)?  I would prefer to say that many have a preference for a text similar to the Byzantine who might claim to be majority or Byzantine supporters, but who speedily dissent from such whenever the Byzantine Textform departs from their favored Textus Receptus/KJV type of reading.
            Beyond Pierpont and myself, among those who are not TR/KJV partisans but who favor some form of the Byzantine text (not necessarily agreeing with our specific theory or methodology nor resultant form of the text) would include Hodges and Farstad, John Wenham, Jakob van Bruggen, Peter Johnston, Harry Sturz, Wilbur Pickering, Paul Anderson, Thomas Edgar, James Davis, Donald Brake, Timothy Friberg (not all still living) and others, including several more Europeans along with many of my own students.  Not all of these have published in relation to textual matters, and thus some names may be unfamiliar; yet in general they remain pro-Byzantine to some degree.  There also are numerous laypeople that have communicated with me or these others over the years who hold to some sort of Byzantine or majority text position, but I only mention here a few who have published within academia.

Q:  Finally:  in NA28, in Second Peter 2:18, the editors rejected oligws and adopted ontws, even though the adoption of oligws had previously been given an “A” ranking (as if the editors were certain that it was correct).  Any idea how that happened?

Robinson:  The answer apparently is the “wag the dog” influence of CBGM and little else; this particularly in view of Metzger’s previous strong defense of oligws in his Textual Commentary. I also note that in the process UBS5 lowered the rating from “A” to “C” – again without providing any particular reason or justification for such.  Nice that they here adopted a Byzantine reading, but clearly not for the same reason that I would do so.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  end of interview  

Links:  Part One.  Part Two.


Daniel Buck said...

I would add to that last list Jonathan Borland.

maurice a. robinson said...

Jonathan counts as one of the "many of my own students"; but I was remiss in not mentioning his father James Borland, who also has published along these lines.