Friday, April 24, 2020

Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism - Lecture 1

At YouTube - NTTC Lecture 1
Some time ago, I pictured a series of lectures on New Testament textual criticism.  The first lecture in that series is now online:  Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism - Lecture 1.

Other titles in the planned series:
2.  What is a New Testament Witness?
3.  How to Make a Codex
4.  Major Patristic Writers and Early Versions
5.  25 Important Witnesses
6.  25 Weird Witnesses
7.  What Is a Lectionary?
8.  The Diatessaron
9.  The Stuff in the Margin
10.  Text-types:  Why Numbers Do Not Matter Much
11.  The Textus Receptus
12.  Textual Criticism Before Westcott & Hort (Part 1)
13.  Textual Criticism Before Westcott & Hort (Part 2)        
14.  Hort’s Theory of the Lucianic Recension
15.  The Revised Version:  Breaking the Rules
16.  Grenfell & Hunt Accidentally Eviscerate Hort’s Theory
17.  “What About Killing a Man?”
18.  Will English Bible Wars Solve Everything?    
19.  Misinformation Is Everywhere
20.  The Ending of Mark
21.  The Story of the Adulteress
22.  The Angel in the Garden
23.  (Students Pick Variant-Units to Examine)
24.  Close Contests (and Conjectural Emendation)
25.  Revisiting the Byzantine Text

This might take a while!

Here is an outline of Lecture 1:

1.  New Testament Textual Criticism:  What and Why?

 What is textual criticism?

The attempt to reconstruct the original contents of an ancient text.

This is a specialized field, with specialized terminology – jargon.

Some things that are just mentioned today will be covered in more detail in future lectures.

“Lower criticism” = focused on events which occurred after the production of the original document that contained the text.

"Higher criticism” = focused on events which occurred before the production of the original document that contained the text.

 “Criticism” = careful analysis.  

 Steps in the New Testament text-critical enterprise:

First, collect witnesses to the text:

Manuscripts:  New Testaments, Gospels, Praxapostolos – Acts + Epistles, Revelation



wuncials/majuscules (big letters)

wminuscules (small letters),

Versions:  Coptic, Old Latin, Syriac, etc.

Patristic writings:  quotations, allusions

Lectionaries:  text arranged in segments for reading one segment at a time in church-services, throughout the year

Synaxarion:  church year, beginning on Easter, movable dates

Menologion, immovable, fixed dates (like, July 4th).

 Talismans and inscriptions (amulets, grave-stones, etc.)

 Second, compare the witnesses.

          Shared error often indicates shared origin. 

          (Shared rare readings often indicate shared origin)

          Witnesses with shared errors can be collected into groups.

 Third, compare groups of witnesses, to do two things:

          Reconstruct the ancestor of all groups (and of all witnesses)

          An ancestor of a single group is a sub-archetype.

          Identify general scribal tendencies of each group.

          What are the predominant characteristics of each group’s text?

          Reconstruct a history of readings.  (When and where does a specific reading first appear in the extant evidence?)

 The ancestor of all witnesses in all groups is the archetype.

           Up to this point, textual criticism is a “soft science.”  It is not the kind of science that does not involve probabilities.  Textual criticism deals with observations – but because these are observations about the activities of copyists in past generations, these observations can only convey degrees of probability about the causes of what is observed in the evidence.  Up to this point textual criticism is nevertheless a science, not an art, because art involves construction, or creation, whereas on the path to the archetype, the textual critic who reaches the correct conclusions is engaged in reconstruction; he is not creating something that was not found in the evidence.

Fourth, make all necessary conjectural emendations to the archetype.   A conjectural emendation is a reading that is not found in the physical evidence, but which seems warranted by internal evidence.

Kirsopp Lake:  in New Testament textual criticism, “the work of conjectural emendation is very light, rarely necessary, and scarcely ever possible.”

Rarely necessary – or:  some would say that it is never necessary to introduce a conjectural emendation into the New Testament text.  This is not something assumed on the way toward the evidence; it is something observed on the way from the evidence.  There are some rare passages where there are understandable differences in the degree of confidence with which this idea is, or isn’t, maintained.

After all four stages are completed, as far as the evidence warrants, the result is the reconstructed autographic text, the text of the autograph:  the text as it appeared in the original documents.

If we aim for the archetype, then the text-critical enterprise will initially and mainly involve a study of scribal errors, and their causes, contrasted with rival readings, which are either the original reading, or else other scribal errors. 

All non-original readings fall into two categories:

Thoughtful/Intentional changes: 

Motivated by:

● A desire to augment/clarify the meaning of the original text.

         Rare vocabulary.  Rare è Easy

         Potential doctrinal complexity èSimplicity

                   Non-specific/vague è specific

                  ● Awareness of a different meaning in a version.

                  ● Gospels:  Awareness of a different meaning in a Harmony.

                             Justin Martyr:  three-gospel harmony.

                             Tatian:  the Diatessaron.

                  ● Liturgical clarity.

                              Who is speaking to whom?

                              Adaptations of passages used on special occasions

                 ● A desire to obscure the meaning of the original text.

                             The bad guys:  Marcion – M-a-r-c-i-o-n.  Adoptionists.     


          Thoughtless/Careless/Accidental changes.

                   Spelling - Orthography.

                   Word-division.  The original Greek text was written in continuous uncial script, for the most part there were no spaces between words.

                   Dittography – writing twice what should be written once.

                   Haplography – writing once what should be written twice.

                   Periblepsis – skipping material because of homoeoarcton        (same beginnings) or homoeoteleuton (same endings) –  could involve a word, a phrase, a sentence, or even a small segment of text. 

                   Metathesis – reversals of letters

                   Confusion – mistaking similarly shaped letters. (Λ-Α-Δ, Γ-Π)


 Reading assignment: 

Æ Kirsopp Lake, The Text of the New Testament, chapter 1.  The Object and Method of Textual Criticism.

Æ Glossary of New Testament Textual Criticism (All three parts)

1 comment:

OrangeHunter said...

Do you intend to include in the series a discussion on the meaning of the term "original text" of the NT and whether its restoration really is an achievable goal? It seems to me that this is becoming bigger and bigger issue in contemporary textual criticism.