Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Kloha-Montgomery Debate - Some Thoughts

          On October 15, John Warwick Montgomery and Jeffrey Kloha engaged in a debate about the theological implications of the text-critical method known as thoroughgoing eclecticism.  However, while Dr. Kloha seems to have intended to describe thoroughgoing eclecticism and explain how it is consistent with conservative Lutheran theology (including the doctrine of inerrancy, which Dr. Kloha specifically affirmed), Dr, Montgomery seems to have approached the debate with the goal of questioning Dr. Kloha’s role as a Lutheran professor, asking, “How realistic is it that someone with his biblical orientation teach future pastors of that church body?”
Dr. Jeffrey Kloha
(Concordia Seminary, St. Louis)
            Inasmuch as Kloha affirms the doctrine of inerrancy, and is, as far as I can tell, doctrinally a Lutheran’s Lutheran, what is it that caused Montgomery to accuse Kloha of promoting a text-critical approach that is “deadly,” and which poses “great dangers” for the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy”?  My impression is that Montgomery’s accusations are completely based on Montgomery’s misunderstanding of Kloha’s positions, Montgomery's misunderstanding of thoroughgoing eclecticism, and Montgomery's inaccurate ideas about text-critical praxis in general.      
            Montgomery’s misunderstanding of text-critical praxis in general is evident in the first of four recommendations that he made:  “Refuse to tolerate textual philosophies that employ internal (stylistic) criteria as the preferred standard for the choice of readings.”  At the debate, Montgomery insisted that he does not object to the utilization of internal evidence – as long as the external evidence is primary.  But one might as well say that one does not object to data as long as one does not analyze it. 
            Let’s take a closer look at two of Kloha’s treatments of the New Testament text which Montgomery found objectionable.  It is not easy to find actual critiques of Kloha’s work in the first six pages of Montgomery’s paper; there are multiple warnings, but not until page 7 do we get a glimpse of a sample of what is being warned against:
            ● Kloha rejects the Alexandrian reading of First Corinthians 7:33-34, which, Montgomery states, is “based on the foundational MSS P15 B P.”  Bruce Metzger, in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1971), noted that the variant-unit at the beginning of I Cor. 7:34 had a “D” ranking – meaning that the United Bible Societies’ compilation-committee acknowledged “a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text.”  When you observe that the compilers themselves harbor “a very high degree of doubt” about this passage, you might wonder why Montgomery has not accused them of falling into a methodological ditch, as he has accused Kloha.  Montgomery’s approach causes the copyist of Papyrus 46, and the copyists of over 95% of the Greek manuscripts of First Corinthians, to join Kloha in that ditch; they, too, do not have the same text of I Cor. 7:33-34 that is in the NA/UBS compilation.              
            Furthermore, when one consults these three “foundational MSS” in I Cor. 7:33-34 – as Kloha did in painstaking detail in his dissertation, reviewing not just one, or four, but eight Greek variant-units within these two verses – one observes that they disagree with each other in these two verses.  Codex B, for example, does not have the words τα του κοσμου (“of the world”).  So which one of these three disagreeing manuscripts does Montgomery consider “foundational” in this two-verse passage?  And how does he intend, I wonder, to make a case that its readings are “archetypal” without giving internal evidence a decisive role in his considerations? 
            ● Kloha advocates a view which, if accepted, would mean that “no pastor should preach I Corinthians 8:6 as if it were the Word of God,” or so Montgomery claimed.  In real life, however, Montgomery has misquoted and densely misunderstood Kloha’s statement (in his dissertation, Part Two, p. 717), “only after a highly-developed Trinitarian theology took hold could the addition at 8:6 have been made.”  Montgomery misquoted this sentence by replacing the word “at” with the word “of.”  Compounding his error, he then concluded (which he would never have done if he had carefully read Kloha’s comments about I Cor. 8:6 in the section in Part One that focuses upon the passage) that Kloha meant that I Cor. 8:6 is not an original part of the text.          
Dr. John Warwick Montgomery
          Montgomery then stated:  “It is clear that Kloha agrees here with Bart Ehrman:  “As Ehrman has argued, at least some passages of the NT manuscripts have been altered in light of the christological controversites with which the scribes presumably, would have been familiar.”  Montgomery also agrees with Ehrman, at least a little; he just did not realize it at the debate.  For the “addition at [not “of”] 8:6” refers to an interpolation, found in a handful of manuscripts, adding a reference to the Holy Spirit (και εν Πνευμα Αγιον εν ω τα παντα και ημεις εν αυτω).  Nobody, including Montgomery, regards this variant as part of the original text of First Corinthians 8:6.  Clearly, Montgomery is barking up the wrong tree.           
            But what about Kloha’s analysis of Luke 1:46?  Kloha has offered a text-critical case that the original text of Luke 1:46 had no proper name after “And said” (Και ειπεν), which would mean, (1) all the known Greek manuscripts of Luke contain a scribal corruption at this point, and (2) it was Elizabeth, rather than Mary, who spoke the Magnificat.  Somehow this single variant-unit became the focus of much of the Kloha-Montgomery debate.  I intend to take a closer look at that, and at thoroughgoing eclecticism, in my next post.


elderdxc said...

Nice article, sir. I think we have communicated before. Where else do you write?

Unknown said...

Thank you for this!! Excellent comments & helpful references. Looking forward to your thoughts on thoroughgoing eclecticism. Blessings from the God of all grace.

Unknown said...

Here is an archived version of the debate:

Unknown said...

So appreciate your evaluation and attention to this debate!

Daniel Buck said...

This approach to textual criticism is problematic in that it opens a Pandora's box of possible emendations. What if we didn't have these few ancient Latin mss? Suddenly support for Elizabeth would be restricted to patristic evidence. Are we willing to conclude that a reading current in the 2nd or 3rd century, that has gone completely extinct in every NT ms of every language, could be original? If so, we have several to choose from, such as a nontrinitarian Matthew 28:19.

But where do we stop?

James Snapp Jr said...

Daniel Buck,
Would you say that thoroughgoing eclecticism is problematic even when practiced with a guideline in place that precludes the adoption of readings that do not have Greek manuscript support?

Daniel Buck said...

Yes, I would still say it is problematic; less so, to the degree that such a restriction limits the possibilities. But any approach to textual criticism has its problems. I prefer to take the larger view, and consider how each perspective would approach a problem. Take Luke 1:46 for example. It's impossible to make a informed decision about this variant without taking into account at least two demonstrated tendencies of the early church:

1) Scribes tended to make the implicit or ambiguous explicit by adding names. This is well demonstrated by singular readings, not even taking into account the alleged tendency of Byzantine scribes to do this with divine names. Thus the presence of a name here could well be attributed to this tendency.

2) A veneration of Mary took hold very early on, and this had an effect on the transmission of the text. This can be seen in variants such as those in Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:22. This veneration could have driven the specific insertion of Mary's name in order to attribute this eloquent magnificat directly to the Theotokos.

These two tendencies work together to make a strong case for the original omission of 'Mary'. At this particular variant, the thoroughgoing eclectics may well have the strongest case, able as they are to seriously consider evidence from outside the Greek corpus.