Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Majority Text: (XIII): More on James Snapp Jr.s "major disruptions"

James gives a vague list of events supposed to have created the potential circumstances for minority and majority readings to reverse themselves. Lets look at them again:
(1) Roman persecutions
(2) Roman sponsorship
(3) wartime and peacetime
(4) Dark Ages and Golden Ages
(5) Innovations and inventions re: copying methods
(6) Disuse of Greek language
(7) Constantinople becomes center of Eastern Empire
(8) Islamic Conquests destroy textual lines
(9) Copying efficiency significantly improves
This is list is James' supposed "magic bullet" that inverts majority and minority readings. The problem is, none of these separately or even all together create a any kind of plausible mechanism whereby the majority of majority readings could become minority readings, and the majority of minority readings could become majority readings.

Lets note right away that #5 and #9 are almost repetative, and could be grouped as a single idea:

(5) "Copying methods changed and correction procedures developed, resulting in better accuracy and more efficiency."

Although this seems to suggest the possibility that a later text would somehow gain an 'edge' over an earlier, purer text, in fact it is nothing new, and offers no special mechanism at all.  The statement breaks down into the following components:

(1) Later copies will obviously outnumber earlier copies,  because copies were multiplying faster than they were being destroyed, and earlier copies wore out.  But this is just a universal truism, and is independent of the quality of copying, or any changes in the quality of copies.  We may have to devise an appropriate 'weighing' procedure to accommodate for this natural imbalance, but this would be true of any transmission stream, and is not at all special.

(2) Any special procedures that developed would be irrelevant, unless they actually drastically increased the introduction of errors into the text.  All actual improvements in copying and correction would only stabilize the correct (majority) text.  Thus innovations and improved copying methods work against James Snapp's argument.

(3)  The text actually did stabilize and become nearly uniform, suggesting the real original (majority) text was entrenched by improvements, not that an artificial text imposed over and against the original text.  Overall, this point only erodes further any claims for Alexandrian texts.

James' #2, #7, #6 we can take together in proper sequence:

(2)  "The Roman Emperor sponsored the Greek text, moved his capital to Constantinople in the East, and the Greek language's area of influence gradually shrank geographically."
Can this series of events have caused the inversion of majority and minority readings?

(1)  Constantine did not create the Byzantine Text-type.  Yes Constantine adopted Christianity, but he also carefully balanced his powers as emperor against the judgment and wishes of some 1,200 bishops across the empire, already with copies of the NT in their hands.  There must have been at least 2,000 copies of the NT in various forms and languages existing, even after the destruction of some manuscripts by the previous emperor in the West.   Many areas in the Far East, such as Syria, Alexandria, and Armenia, never really came under Constantine's control.  These large church groups (Coptic, Jacobite, Armenian) went their own way, yet their copies still support many Byzantine (majority) readings.

(2)  Moving the Capital did not favor a specific text-type It merely put the Western Old Latin translations in some jeopardy through the abandonment of the Western half of the empire.  But these wild copies were already in disarray by the 4th century, requiring Jerome's remaking of a standard version.  Most Western/Byzantine readings were already a part of the Latin tradition.  As it turned out, the Latin survived, and spread all over Europe. 

(3)  Any disadvantage for the Latin text was balanced by the shrinking influence of the Greek
The collapse of the Greek language in the West did not result in any losses for the Alexandrian text-type.  The Western text was already established there, and continued in an unbroken transmission, being absorbed into Jerome's Latin Vulgate.   There is nothing here that could cause minority and majority readings to reverse themselves.

Again, James #1, #4, #8 may be sensibly grouped together:
 (1) "Roman persecutions, the Dark Ages, Islamic Conquests destroy textual lines."
It is certainly true that these three items probably had the most impact on the textual transmission of the Greek New Testament.  However, again, there is no mechanism to cause a reversal of majority and minority readings.  Lets see why:

(1) The Minority Readings are only in the Alexandrian text-type.  But most of the persecutions however, took place in the Far East during the Roman/Jewish Wars (Palestine, 60 - 130 A.D.), and perhaps in some Eastern Roman provinces (Asia Minor).  The Alexandrian text spread up the Nile Southward into isolated monastery-type settlements, away from the main cities of Egypt (Alexandria).  It is most likely that the Eastern Byzantine manuscripts were hit as hard or harder as any other text-type was.

(2)  The Dark Ages took place in the West, far away from Alexandria. (c. 420-700 A.D.) These times of unrest and ignorance had their greatest impact on the Western Latin textual tradition, not the Alexandrian text in Egypt.

(3)  The Islamic Invasions hit mostly Armenia, Syria, and North Africa in the 7th century, (630-750 A.D.), far too late to give the Byzantine text-type any special advantage.  It was already the dominant text-type by the end of the 4th century.

Again, there is nothing here which could have created the Byzantine text-type out of nowhere, or caused a false text to have suddenly become the dominant text in the very heart of the Greek-speaking Byzantine empire.   

Everything points to a single conclusion.  The Greek lines of textual transmission were essentially normal, and reflect the original text as well as, or better than, any other branch of transmission. 

There is simply nothing else in the historical evidences to indicate any other likely scenario.

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