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Barbara Aland and Joël Delobel, eds. New Testament Textual Criticism, Exegesis and Church History: A Discussion of Methods. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology, no. 7. Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1994. ISBN: 90-390-0105-7. Pp. 152. US $31.75.
1. This volume grew out of the proceedings of the New Testament Textual Criticism seminar at the 1993 International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Münster. Four of the articles published here reflect papers presented at the meeting; one of the editors, Joël Delobel, contributed the fifth. Unbeknownst to those attending the conference, Kurt Aland, whose contributions to the field of New Testament textual criticism are surpassed by no one, was attending his final conference with many of the scholars, for he died less than a year later. The editors dedicated this book to his life and scholarly contributions.
2. The authors of these articles hail from a variety of countries--South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the USA--and the articles themselves reflect differences in approach and opinions. However, certain unifying themes underlie all of the articles. First, rational (or modified) eclecticism, the dominant approach to textual criticism in New Testament circles, is accepted by all of the authors, although clear differences in application emerge in the papers. Second, all of the authors see the recovery of the original text as one of the goals (and perhaps the main goal) of the textual criticism of the New Testament (but see the remarks on the subject by Petzer and Petersen, below, pars. 6 and 26). A final unifying theme is the belief that textual criticism has contributions to make to other fields of study, including theology, exegesis, and church history.
3. Jacobus Petzer's article in this collection is entitled "The History of the New Testament Text: Its Reconstruction, Significance and Use in New Testament Textual Criticism." He defines the history of the New Testament text as "the attempt to identify and explain the different forms of text in the extant witnesses to the New Testament by means of relating them to each other, with the purpose of identifying the most trustworthy witness(es), which can be used as the basis of the reconstructed text of the New Testament" (p. 11). Although it probably describes the purpose for which most scholars have investigated the textual history of the New Testament, this definition ignores other legitimate goals that lie behind the historical reconstruction of the development of the text: illuminating the social setting of the Christian community in a specific region at a particular time, studying the correlation between the development of the text and the development of Christian theology, and investigating the impact of one version on another over time, just to name a few (see also the comments on Ehrman's article, par. 20). However, with the common text-critical focus on reconstructing the original text in mind, Petzer undertakes to take stock of the current state of scholarly affairs: "What has been established beyond considerable doubt? Which questions and problems are still unsolved?" (p. 14).
4. One area in which Petzer sees general agreement among New Testament textual critics is in the acceptance of three major text-types: Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine (though he notes some dispute concerning these text-types in Paul, the Catholic epistles, and Revelation). Concerning the Byzantine text, Petzer notes that despite the work of Harry Sturz, who has demonstrated that a few Byzantine readings appear in early papyri, attempts to promote the primacy of the Byzantine text have received little support. (Petzer occasionally uses the term "Textus Receptus" when "Byzantine text-type" or "Majority Text" would be preferable [pp. 12, 14]. These three terms, though they represent texts that are very close, are not identical; for a helpful discussion of these terms, see Daniel B. Wallace, "The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique," in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, ed. Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes, 297-320, Studies and Documents, vol. 46 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans].) The case for the primacy of the Western text is stronger, since Western readings proliferate in second and third century fathers, in the Old Syriac and Old Latin versions, and in several early papyri. However, Petzer argues, the internal characteristics of the Western text argue against its priority as a whole. He notes that it is the Alexandrian text which most scholars champion as closest to the original text: it is favored by internal considerations, and it is present, to some extent at least, in almost all of the early papyri.
5. Despite scholarly consensus concerning the text-types, how to classify the second and third century papyri remains problematic. The problem is that the major text-types seem to have attained their present shape in the fourth century (or perhaps later in the case of the Byzantine text). So how can the early papyri be fit into this model? On this question text critics divide into two camps. Traditional scholars see a historical impasse in the fourth century, when the major text-types originated, so they must resort to internal evidence to attain a text earlier than the fourth century. The Münster school, on the other hand, views the Alexandrian text not strictly as a text-type but rather as an approximation of the original text itself. The Alexandrian text in turn is related to the papyri that the Alands call "strict," that is, texts which reflect a tradition of careful copying going back perhaps to the autographs themselves. Although scholars from these two schools of thought are at present largely in agreement with regard to the reconstruction of the original text (as reflected in UBS4/NA27), Petzer believes that taking these methods to their logical conclusions will result in a Münster text that is almost exclusively Alexandrian in character and a text reconstructed by the traditional camp that reflects a mixture of Alexandrian and Western readings.
6. Petzer concludes his article by listing three problems that stand in the way of reconstructing the text of the second century: the origin of the Western text, the status of the text-types in general and the Alexandrian text in particular, and the text of the papyri. Another important consideration that is emerging among scholars is the recognition that what New Testament textual critics are reconstructing is not the autograph, since the concept of the autograph is much more complex than it has traditionally been considered. This recognition that the "original text" might not refer to a single, well-defined entity (a fact also noted by Old Testament textual critics of their text) is a revelation that has the potential to alter the goals and methodologies of New Testament textual criticism significantly, and it is one that is addressed in greater depth in Petersen's article (see below, par. 26).
7. The second article in the present collection is entitled "What Kind of Critical Apparatus for the New Testament Do We Need? The Case of Luke 23:48," by Tjitze Baarda. This article, which comprises forty percent of the book, is a detailed analysis of the critical apparatus of The New Testament in Greek (NTG), the work of the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP). Baarda divides his presentation into two main parts: (1) a discussion of the variants in Lk 23:48 and proposals for a different critical apparatus and (2) observations on an addition to Luke's text present in a few witnesses. He follows these two major sections with some general observations.
8. Baarda begins by expressing his admiration for the job done by the scholars of the IGNTP, then he quickly proceeds to a masterful analysis of the manuscript evidence. Noting that the minuscules chosen for inclusion in the NTG were culled from the mass of manuscripts by the Claremont Profile Method, Baarda suggests that they be supplemented by including all of the manuscripts that have been cited in earlier critical editions in order to resolve discrepancies between these editions and the NTG. Furthermore, he harbors doubts regarding the reliability of some of the minuscule evidence in the NTG, since the evidence presented in the NTG apparatus disagrees in some cases with the editio princeps (e.g., ms 124, a member of the Ferrar group, whose reading in the apparatus of the NTG in Lk 23:48 differs from that attested in the edition of Ferrar and Abbott).
9. Baarda suggests restructuring the critical apparatus of the NTG into four separate apparatuses: (1) Greek manuscripts, (2) patristic evidence, (3) conjectural emendations, and (4) versional evidence. Having already discussed the Greek evidence, he moves to the patristic witnesses. For Lk 23:48 only Apollinaris, Cyril of Alexandria, and Chrysostom are cited, so Baarda restricts his comments to these fathers. Because of the difficulties surrounding the citation of patristic evidence (citation vs. allusion, working from a manuscript vs. relying on memory, alteration of the citation for the sake of the point being made, etc.), Baarda recommends that the patristic apparatus contain citations in full, similar to the way in which Tischendorf and Legg dealt with patristic evidence. Furthermore, he also states that a companion volume including comments on the patristic citations should accompany the apparatus.
10. Perhaps the most helpful, and certainly the most controversial, of Baarda's proposals concerning the critical apparatus involves the presentation of versional evidence. Few scholars would argue with him that critical editions of the versions are a necessity if the evidence is to be used productively. But how should that evidence be used, and how should it be presented in an apparatus? Baarda points out that versional evidence must be used with care, since matters such as word order, the presence or absence of articles, and the addition of personal pronouns may be characteristic of a particular language rather than an indication of a variant in the Greek Vorlage. While this statement is true as far as it goes, Baarda could have gone further and insisted on a thorough examination of the translation technique of each version. For example, he notes that the position of possessive pronouns is often idiomatically determined by the language in question. However, it is also true that one aspect of the translation technique for a version may be strict adherence to the word order of the Vorlage, wherever the grammar of the target language allows it. In such a case, word order could be text-critically significant.
11. The most puzzling of Baarda's suggestions concerns the presentation of versional evidence in the critical apparatus. While he notes that the most appropriate way to quote such evidence is in the original script, he argues that evidence presented in this manner would be inaccessible to those who do not read the script, so the evidence should be cited in Latin! To cite the evidence in Greek might lead to the faulty supposition on the part of some readers that such a Greek reading once existed, even if it is evident that it did not, he says. However, at least three arguments can be made in opposition: (1) Latin (like any other language) has limitations in representing other languages; (2) those who would use a critical apparatus would almost surely be scholars who should be aware of the risks of assuming too much about a retroverted reading (and the editors could highlight the dangers in the introduction to the volume); and (3) since Greek is the original language of the text, versional evidence would be far more helpful if it were retroverted into Greek rather than any other language. An alternative to Baarda's proposal for the presentation of versional evidence would be to cite each reading in both the original script and in retroverted form (in Greek!).
12. Baarda concludes his discussion of the versional evidence by offering a number of additional valuable suggestions. First, a clear method for choosing which versional evidence is presented in the apparatus needs to be established. The NTG selection, he believes, is uneven, almost random. Second, the relationship among the versions should be studied in order to clarify any connections that might exist between specific readings. The data gleaned from such a study would enable scholars to avoid wrongly associating a reading in one version with a Greek variant, when the history of the text suggests that it should rather be attributed to contact with another version. Third, inner-versional developments should be thoroughly investigated. Finally, like the patristic evidence, the versional evidence should be explained in a textual commentary that accompanies the apparatus.
13. In his discussion of the addition to Lk 23:48, Baarda contends that the NTG, like earlier editions, gives incomplete and sometimes incorrect information. For instance, while the NTG cites only the Old Syriac and Old Latin witnesses to the addition (and these not entirely reliably), a number of other witnesses to the addition, including Ephrem Syrus, Aphrahat, the Gospel of Peter, and the Doctrine of Addai, could also be mentioned. Since the original reading of the Diatessaron is impossible to determine in most cases, Baarda does not think that the reconstructed Diatessaron should appear in the apparatus, even though it is likely that it lies behind many of the witnesses he cites.
14. In a final note, Baarda says that the editors of the NTG should take another step and include their reconstruction of the original text in the volume. The reconstruction of texts is, after all, the purpose for marshaling all of the evidence in the apparatus. Baarda's painstaking analysis and insightful suggestions make this article one that is likely to have a lasting impact on text-critical scholarship.
15. The third article in the book is a contribution by one of the editors, Joël Delobel, and is entitled "Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Siamese Twins?" Noting that the practices of textual criticism and exegesis are often separated from one another because of "over-specialisation," Delobel believes that "the two methods need each other's specific contribution to assure a sound methodology" (p. 98). He illustrates his thesis by elaborating upon four ways in which the two disciplines are related.
16. First, the critical approach to biblical study began with textual criticism. The text-critical observations of Richard Simon concerning the ending of Mark paved the way for later scholars to use historical methods to investigate both the development of the Markan text and the comparison of Mark with the other synoptic gospels. Similarly, J. J. Wettstein's critical edition of the New Testament demanded of its readers a new, more questioning attitude toward the text.
17. Second, the examination of intrinsic probability in textual criticism requires exegesis. While many text critics, because of uneasiness concerning their exegetical skills, prefer to make decisions on the basis of external factors, exegetes often give greater prominence to intrinsic probability when evaluating sets of variants. In an analysis of the second clause of 1 Cor 8:8, Delobel examines both external and internal evidence for each of the three readings presented in NA27. Both types of evidence, Delobel concludes, favor the third reading, oute ean mh fagwmen usteroumeqa, oute ean fagwmen perisseuomen, the one also present in the NA27 text. Although his evaluation of both the external and the internal evidence could be debated, his conclusion is certainly reasonable. However, the reader is left wishing that he had chosen a more forceful example with which to make his case (Jn 1:18 and Lk 23:34 are cases where exegesis should play an important role in the text-critical decision).
18. Delobel's third illustration of the relationship between textual criticism and exegesis is the fact that intentional textual changes are part of the history of exegesis. Scribes would sometimes purposely alter the text in order to correct what they considered a doctrinal problem, to update an outdated text, or to correct an apparent inconsistency. Possible examples abound, but Delobel focuses on two: the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:20, 29) and the passage instructing women to keep silent in the church (1 Cor 14:33b-36). The changes present in some of the witnesses, Delobel contends, are actually examples of early Christian exegesis at work.
19. Finally, Delobel notes that conjectural emendations are the result of exegetical reflection. He believes that the practice of emending the text was practiced frequently by copyists of the first three centuries, but the growing authoritative control over the text from the fourth century on lessened the freedom copyists felt to "correct" their text.
20. Delobel's presentation of the relationship between textual criticism and exegesis is a needed reminder of the valuable contribution that textual criticism can make to other disciplines (and vice versa), and it provides a good segue to the following article by Bart Ehrman, "The Use and Significance of Patristic Evidence for NT Textual Criticism." In this article, Ehrman discusses the importance of patristic citations in various goals of textual criticism, some of which overlap with other disciplines.
21. Ehrman begins by talking about the value of patristic evidence in the effort to recover the original text. Though the evidence of the papyri is early (second and third centuries), it is limited to Egypt, he notes, whereas the fathers, many of whom are equally early, are much more diverse geographically, covering the entirety of the Roman Empire. He chooses Lk 3:22 as an example of the importance of looking at patristic evidence when making text-critical decisions. Many of the fathers substitute "today I have begotten you" for "in whom I am well pleased" in the words of the voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism. Ehrman points out that this reading of the fathers is both older and more geographically widespread that the other reading; furthermore, part of the motivation for the change might have been the desire to avoid the apparently adoptionistic statement of the text. Thus, patristic evidence provides strong support for what might very well be the original reading of a passage.
22. Patristic evidence also has much to contribute to the reconstruction of the history of the transmission of the New Testament text. Whereas early manuscripts can be neither dated nor located geographically with great precision (and the same is also true of the versions), the writings of particular church fathers can often be dated quite precisely, and their provenance can generally be narrowed down to a single city. It is informative, then, to see what kind of text the fathers cited. The prevalence of the Western text among the early fathers is particularly striking, Ehrman notes. For example, the text of the Gnostic Heracleon, as preserved in Origen (who himself usually presents an Alexandrian text), is often western, similar to Codex Bezae. Surveying the patristic evidence, Ehrman finds that the Western textual tradition, which was apparently strongly represented in Rome, was coterminous with the generally Alexandrian Egyptian papyri.
23. Ehrman, like Delobel, points out that textual evidence and the history of exegesis overlap, particularly, Ehrman notes, in the fathers. He makes the interesting and important point that almost no one read the texts in their original form. "The history of exegesis is the history of readers interpreting different forms of the text. For the historian of Christianity, it is important to know which form of the text was available to Christians in different times and places" (p. 127). Drawing again on Origen's commentary on John and his differences with Heracleon's interpretation, Ehrman says that many of Origen's disagreements with his opponent reflect a different text rather than merely a difference of interpretation (cf. Jn 1:3, 18, 21).
24. A fourth way in which patristic testimony can assist the text critic is by illuminating the causes of textual corruption. The writings of a particular father taken as a whole (i.e., not just scriptural quotations) often provide a context for some of the variant readings that occur in the manuscript tradition. For example, in the light of a strong anti-Judaic bias evident in several church fathers, Eldon Epp points out that forty percent of the variants in Codex Bezae can be attributed to the same bias, as can other variants in the New Testament, Ehrman says (e.g., Mt 1:21; Jn 4:22; Lk 23:34). Other causes of disturbance in the textual tradition that appear as major themes in patristic writings include Christian apologetics against pagan attacks and inter-Christian conflicts, such as the opposition by certain early fathers to the prominent role of women in some churches (cf. Gordon Fee's analysis of 1 Cor 14:34-35).
25. Ehrman's article, which builds on some of his earlier works and especially on his book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, is a welcome contribution in at least two regards. First, it illustrates the light that textual criticism can shed on other areas of scholarly endeavor, including exegesis and the history of interpretation. Second, it counteracts to some extent the negative evaluation of some in the Münster school concerning the worth of the fathers as witnesses to the "original text" of the New Testament.
26. Without a doubt the most provocative article in the present book is the final one by William Petersen, "What Text Can New Testament Textual Criticism Ultimately Reach?" Petersen begins by pointing out that the definition of the "original text" is elusive, particularly in a book like Mark, which quite possibly underwent some type of development before it began to be disseminated widely. Not only is the concept of the "original text" hard to define, but the sheer number of witnesses to the New Testament text makes it hard to determine even the oldest reading in many cases.
27. Petersen points out several weaknesses in the way textual criticism is usually practiced. First of all, he says, text critics must beware of the danger of "falling in love" with a particular manuscript or recension: "A textual critic evaluates individual readings, and, as everyone knows, the most ancient readings are scattered through the sources" (p. 138, italics original). It is debatable whether everyone really knows or accepts this contention, but Petersen provides evidence to support his claim in the rest of the article.
28. Another weakness in the typical practice of textual criticism is the "profound ambivalence" that most text critics have toward early evidence: "It is eagerly sought, but when it confounds the prevailing wisdom then it is viewed with suspicion" (p. 138), as, for example, in the cases of the papyri and patristic citations. Although early readings that conflict with the modern notion of the "standard text" (a largely Alexandrian text) are often rejected on the grounds that they are isolated or spontaneous creations of a patristic witness, Petersen shows that many early readings found either exclusively or primarily in the fathers are both widespread and traditional.
29. For example, Justin Martyr's citation of Mt 19:17 as "one is good, my Father in the heavens" is also reflected in seven other early witnesses: Tatian's Diatessaron (as preserved in the commentary of Ephrem Syrus), Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, and the Old Latin manuscripts d and e. This form of the text, Petersen argues, is the earliest attested form, and it has a place in the reconstructed text of the New Testament. Other examples which Petersen presents include the reading "bodiless phantom" rather than "spirit" in Lk 24:39 (reflected in Ignatius, Origen, Jerome, Tertullian, and others) and the two-fold Shema in Justin Martyr, the Old Latin manuscript k, and the Curetonian Syriac.
30. Even Westcott recognized that certain combinations of early witnesses, such as syrsin and k, should be preferred even over the combined testimony of ) and B, Petersen says. Thus, rather than relying on the testimony of a particular text-type, the textual critic in many cases has an alternative. Petersen says, "By using multiple sources we can both readily and reliably triangulate readings from the second century" (p. 148). Several comments may be offered regarding this statement. First, many scholars will argue that versional evidence and especially patristic testimony are unreliable because of the problems surrounding retroversion into Greek, loose citations of scripture, and conflicting citations in the same father. Second, since the eight witnesses to the variant Petersen mentions in Mt 19:17 do not have identical texts, one must question whether the method of triangulation can yield the definitive text that lies behind all of the readings rather than suggest that a reading similar to all of them, but not conclusively determined, must be presupposed. Petersen anticipates some of these objections, and he argues his case convincingly.
31. Finally, it is important to note what Petersen is not saying. He is not saying that the original text can be reconstructed reliably in the manner he proposes. In fact, he says that scholars lack the evidence to retrieve even the entire mid-second century text of the New Testament, and that if his method is followed, then the resulting text will be uneven both stylistically and theologically, since some parts will be older than others. However, this text will be as close as possible to the original, based on the extant evidence.
32. Petersen concludes his article by answering the question posed by his title: textual critics can construct a text that in places reaches back to the first decades of the second century. The real question, however, is not "How far back can we go?" but rather "How far back do we wish to go?" (p. 151). The older the reconstructed text is, Petersen argues, the more likely it is to contain elements of Christian theology such as adoptionism or subordinationism that were rejected by the ecumenical councils of the fourth century and beyond. Be that as it may, if the goal of New Testament textual criticism is really to reach the earliest text possible, then theological concerns should not influence the text critic's judgment, Petersen says.
33. A few concluding remarks regarding the book as a whole may now be offered. The biggest negative of the book is the extraordinary number of grammatical, spelling, and typographic errors that can be found in every article. Sentence fragments, nonsensical sentences, comma faults and splices, errors in tense and number, inconsistent citation style in footnotes, and, most egregious of all, the consistent misspelling of Ehrman as "Ehrmann" in the running head throughout his article all detract from the overall quality of the content.
34. All of the contributors see textual criticism as a discipline with much to commend itself to other biblical fields of study. As noted earlier, they all espouse some form of eclectic methodology. However, a number of significant points of disagreement emerge. One such disagreement is over the value of the Western text. Whereas Petzer and Delobel downplay the significance of the "Western" text (note the quotation marks), Ehrman and especially Petersen believe that many of the earliest Western readings offer valuable evidence in the reconstruction of the earliest possible text. And what does this earliest possible text look like? Petzer predicts a dissolution of the truce between the traditional eclectics and those of the Münster school that will result in two proposed texts, the one with more Western elements and the other almost purely Alexandrian in character. Ehrman believes that the text reflected in the UBS4/NA27 editions will probably not need to be altered significantly, since only a few hundred readings scattered throughout the tradition need to be considered. On the other hand, Petersen's approach would seem to leave the door open for a more radical change to the currently accepted text. Finally, the idea of the "original text" seems destined for intense scrutiny and debate over the next several years as scholars lay aside simplistic notions and recognize the complex nature of the concept. The articles in this book are well worth reading, and one or two may prove to have a considerable, lasting impact on the field of New Testament textual criticism.
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1996.
James R. Adair, Jr. Scholars Press