Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Majority Text versus Byzantine Priority

Erasmus retranslating the Latin NT

Here are my comments on the recent exchange between Steven Avery and James Snapp Jr. over on TC-Alt List:

Steven: "The irony here is that this one-dimensional aspect of the
Byzantine Priority position is precisely what is addressed in the scholarship of the Reformation Bible, the superb handiwork of
Desiderius Erasmus & Robert Estienne (Stephanus) & Theodore Beza."

Translation: 'Editors occasionally adopted minority readings
on the basis of internal evidence, over and against majority readings,
because they suspected some corruption in the Byzantine text.'

James: "That is actually a pretty good point against the Byzantine Priority position:  even in the 1500's, thoughtful analysis of the available evidence led scholars such as Erasmus to favor some minority readings."

Adjustment:  ''That is actually a point against an exclusive Majority Text position:  other evidence naturally allows the possibility that the Majority Text will not be a perfect reproduction of the original.'

Nazaroo:  "But this scores no points against Byzantine Priority,
because the Majority Text Probability Model (MTP, Hodges etc.)
already allows for a minority of early readings to attain false positives. 
The internal evidence therefore actually supports the Majority Text model,
because only a small minority of majority readings can be tagged false on internal grounds.   The data gives the expected results for the Majority Text Probability Model.  This model remains intact, because it does not claim the Majority Text is perfect. The MTP position is necessarily a 'softer' claim, because it is based on probability arguments.
Majority Texters:

Moderate Majority Text proponents would simply insist upon the Majority text as a base, because the Majority Text will still be correct most of the time, and no other choice of base can guarantee a higher percent-score of probable correctness.
Extreme Majority Text proponents would insist on the Majority Text as the main text, with the few minority readings that have other strong support (i.e., versions, ECW, internal evid.) being left in footnotes or an apparatus .
Both proponents would have to use other evidence to settle the few split-readings having approx. 50/50 support in terms of relatively equal witness-counts.

 Byzantine Priorists:

Byzantine Priority (BP) is a distinct position, also making use of the MTP Model.  It is similar to the Greek Priority model, (GP) in that it would insist on giving one part of the evidence priority over other parts.  It is more specific than simple Greek Priority, but less so than the MTP position.
Byzantine Priorists would likely be open to credible non-Majority readings that had strong secondary support, (i.e., versions, ECW, internal ev.) and might occasionally include them in the text as preferred readings. Byzantine Priorists will hardly be disturbed by Reformer-editors choosing occasional minority readings, since their own position is very similar, and yet softer than Majority Text proponents are expected to be.  If the Majority Text position is not seriously affected by the choices of early editors (since the MTP position is based on probability, not reputations), the milder Byzantine Priorist position is affected even less so.

James Snapp Jr.'s perception of a significant point against Byzantine Priority seems a tad misdirected, and perhaps he really means a point against the Majority Text position.  Yet even here I think the point is based more upon James' own respect for the editing abilities of Reformers, and not based upon real views shared by Majority Texters.  These people after all, base their position on probability arguments, not on the opinions of editors from any group or era.

James also makes the following clarification of his own position:
"Well, I like Nazaroo's diagram of Hort's text-type genealogy. But nothing he says in that post undoes anything I wrote; he just says that he disagrees with my idea and that my description of disruptions is not specific -- which is true, since there should be no reason to dredge up a long list of events and dates to readers who should already be familiar with them; it would just make the discussion verbose.

What I was arguing for is not a "majority-minority flip," as such, but simply the nullification of the idea that a majority of extant MSS necessarily attests to the original text."
Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

In this case, those who still advocate for a reversal of majority/minority readings "still have some splainin' to do, Lucy!"   At the moment there is no credible mechanism which could cause minority and majority readings to switch places en masse.



1 comment:

  1. Hi Folks,

    Just one obvious adjustment:

    Translation: 'Editors occasionally adopted minority readings on the basis of internal evidence, over and against majority readings,
    because they suspected some corruption in the Byzantine text.'

    As indicated later in the post, not just internal evidence.

    Take Acts 8:37 ..

    One major evidence is internal, the jump from 36 to 38 is awkward and highly unlikely without 37, or something like 37.

    Another major evidence is external, Irenaeus, Cyprian and other ECW.

    Another is external, the strong Old Latin and Vulgate latin support.

    Another is external, the versional support.

    The doctrinal issue is another, one can easily see the dropping if e.g. infants are being baptized. However, doctrinal issues will generally have a flip side as well.

    Then we have the general paradigms, and the ease of dropping text (no one tells you what's missing, shes not there) compared to the glare of an insertion. Is a more sensible paradigm of the text internal ?

    The wide flux of significance, verse by verse, is one reason why the whole idea of a 70-30 cutoff, or any such cutoff, is a methodological disaster. It is all based on an overestimation of the Greek manuscript lines.

    Steven Avery