Saturday, June 11, 2011

Majority Text: (XIV): Source of the "major disruptions" Theory

Of course the theories and explanations for the magical reversal of the mass of majority and minority readings sketched by D.A. Carson and elaborated by James Snapp Jr., did not originate with Daniel Wallace, or even G.D. Fee or Epp.
In fact, this cluster of arguments reached its highest and clearest articulation way back in 1897, by the mouth of Sanday, at the great Oxford Debate on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament!

In the final printed report of the Oxford Debate, Professor Sanday (p. 25 fwd) states:
" is true there is a tendency for the Text which ultimately represented in the Received Text, for the Traditional Text as it is called, to gain ground in the latter part of the 4th century, and you would no doubt find it to a considerable extent in Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa.  

Of course, according to Dr. Hort, the home of this Text really is Antioch, whence it spread.  The way in which Dr. Hort accounts for its prevalence in later ages is not by the fact that it was regarded as in any way authoritative, but simply because of the great influence which Antioch exercised upon Constantinople at the end of the century [c. 400]. 
You have St. Chrysostom transferred from Antioch to Constantinople as Patriarch, and there are a good many other points tending in the same direction.  Its prevalence, therefore, is accounted for partly in that way, and partly also by the fact that the Church very soon afterwards lost its other great provinces. 
You have the wave of Mahommedan invasion in the 7th century.   First Syria and Palestine were lost, and then Egypt and Africa.  Almost all the Christian provinces were blotted out from the map, not entirely or absolutely, but still to a very large extent. 
Constantinople became the centre of the Christian world, and the Text which prevailed there prevailed all over the Greek-speaking world, because by that time, you will see, the West was purely Latin [4th cent.?], and Constantinople was I have no doubt a great centre for the manufacture of MSS.  That is the way in which Dr. Hort would account for this set of facts.  

To the prevalence of the Antiochene Text towards the end of the century there are very large and important exceptions.  St. Jerome, does not take that Text. [!]  Mr. White and Bishop Wordsworth have been investigating the character of the Greek MSS used by Jerome in his revision of the Greek Testament.   I will not anticipate Mr. White's answer to this question, but I do not think you will find it is Antiochene.  
I will end by venturing to do what Dr. Hort has never done.  It constantly seems as if his argument was leading up to it, but he never lets the name pass his lips.  He thinks there was a revision of some kind;  that is simply a way of describing the phenomena of the MSS on what appears to be the easiest hypothesis as to their origin.  He thinks that a kind of revision took place at that time, and was a more or less continuous revision.   I confess it has always seemed to me that that revision was probably connected with Lucian of Antioch and his school, which exercised great influence all through the 4th century.  This type of text is prominent in his disciples, most prominent indeed in Theodore of Mopsuestia, where it reaches its culmination.  The school was in close contact with the Syriac-speaking Churches and writers;
and I have always suspected, although I cannot prove it, that this Traditional Text, of which Mr. Miller is so fond, owes its origin ultimately to Lucian of Antioch. (Sanday, p. 25-29)

One can see easily that all the main points listed by Carson and Snapp are found right here.

Again however, the fatal flaws remain the same.  The loss of other copying centres may account for a preponderance of the Byzantine Text, but this cannot possibly account for its origin

These factors do nothing to explain why the Byzantine Text should be wrong, and the Alexandrian Text (if it even existed) should be right.  These factors might explain why a few local readings could become dominant, but not why the majority of readings should be all the wrong ones, while the all the minority readings found in Aleph/B and Egyptian papyri should be the right ones.

But what is missing is any kind of plausible mechanism that would cause minority and majority readings en masse to switch places.  And the reason for the lack is that this Hortian reconstructed history is demanding the impossible.  There is no mechanism whereby minority and majority readings could switch places in the bulk of cases, through any known copying procedures, controlled or uncontrolled. 

When Sanday was theorizing, no one had done any mathematical modeling of textual transmission nor had anyone discussed the Majority Text Probability Model.  So he can be excused for not knowing that the claims he was making were logically fallacious and historically impossible.

But textual critics don't have the luxury of such ignorance today.  Probability Theory is well-understood and the consequences of copying trees are well known.   Furthermore, the general tendencies of copyists in surviving documents are also well known.  There can be no excuse for the type of subjective and arbitrary 'textual criticism' that was practiced in Hort's day.


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