Friday, December 10, 2010

Engineering 101: Differences in Transmission Quality

Referring back to my first post (Dec 6), Lets look closer at the two main transmission lines, or text-types:

The Byzantine Transmission

The Byzantine is represented in full only by the vast majority of later copies, of various origins, ranging from the 4th century to the 14th century, and also with partial support from early writers and versions, but with little or partial support from the earliest surviving manuscripts.

The very existance of this tight, coherent Byzantine text-type points to a clean, relatively error-free transmission process.

The Alexandrian Transmission

The Alexandrian is represented by a handful of 3rd and 4th century manuscripts, and partially supported by readings from early NT writers and versions.

It is this loose and wild Alexandrian cluster of manuscripts and readings that suggests a 'dirty transmission'.

From a transmission process point of view, the Westcott/Hort position goes against common sense, and the agreed-upon state of the manuscript evidence. Based on the transmission evidence, the Byzantine is the purer signal transmission, and the Alexandrian clusters and other groups are the relatively error-prone and 'dirty' signals.

To overcome this basic scientific observation, some kind of 'special pleading' is necessary.

Hort's followers propose a 'catastrophic event', namely an early recension, to explain how the clean transmission-line could have the most distorted signal. Its essentially a "pre-emptive strike" upon the message (circa 300 A.D.), before the 'clean signal' transmission begins. They make a complimentary claim that the 'true readings' can be easily recovered from the 'dirty signal', in spite of the widespread errors in the Alexandrian manuscripts, because of a few "oldest and best" copies (Aleph/B).

The Defenders of the Traditional Text reject the idea of any wholesale and successful recension, pointing to very real attempts like those of Jerome (the Latin Vulgate, c. 400 A.D.), which were based on good early exemplars (older than Aleph/B), or even earlier ones like Lucian, Hesychius, and Origen, which were simply unsuccessful in dominating the many independent copying streams. They would accept the transmission-line evidence at face-value, granting the Byzantine text greater likelihood of reaching back earlier to the original, and assuming the agreements between Aleph/B are simply "agreements in error" pointing to a common (corrupt) early 2nd century ancestor.

Only a careful examination of the key significant differences between the two texts (Traditional and Aleph/B) can determine which view, if either, is the more accurate model of what really must have happened.

This is precisely where Nazaroo's 70 homoeoteleuton examples (or even the 50 best of them) come to bear on the problem. These constitute at least a third of the significant differences (some 200 omissions) between them. They suggest that certainly in these cases, the Aleph/B text is severely corrupted. The plain conclusion is that in the other cases also, the corruption of the Alexandrian text must be strongly suspected.

- The Engineer

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