Thursday, June 23, 2011

Majority Text: (XV): MSS Destruction and Text-types

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Back in the previous installments on the question of "disruptions" to the normal textual transmission, Hort, Sanday, Fee, Epp, Wallace, and James Snapp Jr. proposed that historical disruptions had catastrophic effects which account fully for the preponderance of the Byzantine Text-type over all rivals.   
James stated;

" 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. ..."

We on the contrary however, feel that any support-claims regarding the favoring of one text-type, specifically the Byzantine, need to be tested, not assumed.

Nor should readers be expected to be masters of early Roman and Byzantine history.  That expectation is both absurd and unfair.   The cards must be placed on the table, and claims left to stand or fall on the historical basis found.

For this purpose, we fully acknowledge that there were destructive forces at work, which targeted copies of the NT; forces more severe than those suffered by ordinary books.   We will give a point-form chronology of the important events here:

68-130 A.D. - The Jewish/Roman Wars:  Romans systematically destroyed cities, towns, populations, and just about everything and anything Jewish, and this would include New Testament scriptures, identified at this time as simply offshoots of Jewish sects.

250-300 A.D.  - The Last State Persecution of Christians by the Romans.  In this last desperate outbreak of hostility, the Romans specifically targeted Christian books for burning, torturing Christians to reveal their whereabouts.  This was so severe that survivors were disfigured and crippled, and the Church had to deal with the question of whether or not to forgive and restore those who had betrayed their bretheren and handed over manuscripts. 
c. 300-340 A.D.  - Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian, had over 3000 Christians executed because their interpretation of the Bible did not agree with his. That is more than the number of Christians who died at the hands of the Romans during the well known 1st century "Christians to the lions" persecutions. [Manchester, 7-8]
304 A.D.  - Pope Marcellus I is not mentioned in Eusebius' History of the Church. Annuario Pontifico, the Vatican's official directory of the popes gives his dates in office as 308-309. The New American Bible gives them as 304-309. Upon becoming pope, Marcellus persecuted Christian backsliders so viciously that the Roman Emperor Maxentius banned him from the city to avoid public disorder. Marcellus was later made a saint. [Curran, 16-18, McBrien, 55]

310 A.D.   - Pope Eusebius, like his predecessor Marcellus, was involved in the dispute over the treatment of backsliders. Also like Marcellus, the dispute was so disruptive to civil order that he was deported by Emperor Maxentius. He was also made a saint. [McBrien, 55-56]

325 A.D.   - at the Council of Nicaea,  a majority of bishops  favored the Arian position. They were overruled by Emperor Constantine. In a letter to the churches, Constantine wrote that "any one who conceals a work of Arius shall be punished with death." State interference in church affairs resulted in politics causing some falsification of the Gospels' message. The church became more important than religion, to the detriment of Christianity. [De Rosa, 44; Richardson, Chapter III, "Writings," 23]

c.326 A.D.   - Constantine denied "heretics and schismatics" the right of assembly in public or private, confiscated their property and gave it to the Catholic church. His edict specifically names "Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are called Cataphrygians." Constantine also had their homes searched and confiscated any heretical books. [Eusebius, L.C., Book III, Chapter LXIV, LXV, & LXVI; "Edict against the heretics. In Eusebius, V.C., 3. 64-5." Cited by Richardson, Chapter III, "Writings," 32.]

330-380 A.D. In the eastern part of the empire, "orthodox" Christians killed large numbers of "heretical" Christians.   Vestal Virgins, Arians, Athanasians, Donatists, and Novatians were killed by other Christians. The death toll between 330 and 380 A.D. was many times more than had been killed by pagan persecution in two and half centuries. [McCabe, 1939, 55]

341-342 A.D.   - Constantius II passed the first major anti-pagan law in 341 and [the] next year ordered that 'all superstitions must be completely eradicated.'" [Johnson, 1976, 97]

372 A.D.   A law ordered the confiscation of Manichaean meeting places and books, and punishment for Manichaean teachers. [Engh, 93]

379 A.D. [St.] Ambrose persuaded Roman Emperor Gratian to outlaw Arianism in the west. [Delaney, 33]

380 A.D. Roman emperor Theodosius I ("The Great"),

        * made Christianity the official state religion.
        * began enacting repressive laws to punish non-Christians.
        * made paganism and pagan rites illegal, and abolished the pagan priesthood.
        * granted privileges to Christian clergy, banned activities on Sunday,
        * made Christmas and Easter legal holidays.
        * confiscated Arian Christian churches and banned their meetings.
        * removed Arian-leaning bishops from their offices or forced them to conform,
        * and systematically banished Arian believers (many in Constantinople).
        * forbade Apollonarians to call their leaders "bishop" or "clergy."
        * He also decreed the death penalty for Manichaean monks.
        * defined Christians as believers in the Trinity
        * declared non-Christians insane and subject to divine / imperial vengeance.
        * burned the books of the heretics.

[Bokenkotter, 62; Engh, 97; Grant, 272-273; Jenkins, 122-123; Wikipedia, "Timeline of Christian Missions"; ]

381 A.D.  - Emperor Theodosius I,

        * "made 'heresy' a crime against the state." [Pagels, 1988, 62]
        * "made it illegal to disagree with the Church." [Ellerbe, 28]
        * "ordered that no Manichaean of either sex should be able
           to bequeath or inherit any property." [Freeman, 2009, 104; Engh, 93]
        * decreed that the Holy Spirit was divine,
          thus creating the Holy Trinity and expanding the Nicene Creed.
        * He declared Homoeans, Homoiousians, and Arians heretical and
        * ordered their churches handed over to Trinitarians.
          He probably did this for political reasons,
         because there was no consensus on the nature of the Holy Spirit.
        * Like Constantine before him, Theodosius wanted to put a stop to
          endless disputes, and just as before, he failed at this. [Freeman, 2005, 193]
        * called a council of pro-Nicene bishops, the First Council of Constantinople.

The council apparently affirmed Theodosius' decree regarding the Holy Spirit, but no record of that exists. The council also decreed that Christians who lapsed into paganism forfeited their right to make a will. [Freeman, 2005, 193; ]

        * Theodosius' edicts "confirmed emperor as the definer/enforcer of orthodoxy." [Freeman, 2005, 194]

382 A.D.  - Theodosius made membership in some Manichaean sects a capital crime, and made it illegal to support Manichaean monks.  He also used a system of informers to police the pagans. [Freeman, 2009, 104; ; Engh, 93-94; Jenkins, 123]

383 A.D.  Emperor Theodosius I decreed that Eunomians and other kinds of "heretical" congregations were forbidden to assemble or to build places of worship.  Another decree six months later confiscated their property and expelled all Eunomian clergy. [Freeman, 2009, 140]


c.400 A.D.    - Pope St. Anastasius condemned the writings of Origen, the Church's first great theologian, even though he was not familiar with them. Anastasius was also the father of his successor, Pope St. Innocent I. [McBrien, 65]

405 A.D.  - Emperor Honorius had published the Edict of Unity, "which ordered the dissolution of the Donatist [Christian] Church." [Bokenkotter, 79; Valantasis, 270]

407 A.D.  A law criminalized Donatists / Manichaeans'   beliefs. Punishment was confiscation of all their property. They were barred from inheritance. Convicted heretics were also barred from buying, selling, or making a contract. [Valantasis, 270]

409 A.D.  A law was passed requiring the burning of all books possessed by heretics. Failure to hand over a heretical book was made a capital crime. [Freeman, 2009, 143]  Astrologers were also deported if they refused to burn their books. [Valantasis, 273]

427 A.D.  A law forbade anyone to make an image of Jesus in any medium. [Valantasis, 266]

428 A.D.  The prohibitions against any and all heresies (35 were specifically named) was renewed. In addition, the law decreed that "they shall also be deprived of all aid, whether military or civil, of the law courts, the defenders and judges...." [Valantasis, 270]

448 A.D.  - Theodosius II passed another law which required the burning of all heretical books. [Freeman, 2009, 150]

457 A.D.   A law forbade Eutychians and Apollonarians to assemble, promote their religions, or to publish anything against the "holy Chalcedonian Synod." All their writings were to be burned. Violators were banished forever. [Valantasis, 271]

484 A.D.  - Arian Christian Huneric, king of the Vandals, declared Catholic Christians heretics and persecuted them as Catholics had persecuted Arians previously. Catholic churches were closed and their property confiscated. Catholic clergy were executed, exiled, or enslaved. Those who resisted conversion to Arianism were sometimes tortured. (North Africa, from Morocco to Carthage) [Engh, 103]

517 A.D.  Christians closed the university at Alexandria. [Johnson, 1976, 112] 

524 A.D.  Catholic philosopher Boethius was tried and executed by Arian Christians at Pavia. [Johnson, 1976, 153]

529 A.D.   - Emperor Justinian closed the school of Athens founded by Plato, located in a pagan temple. [Freeman, 2009, 154; Johnson, 1976, 112]

532 A.D.   - Encouraged by his wife Theodora, Christian Emperor Justinian ordered soldiers to massacre more than 30,000 non-conformist residents in Constantinople to impose his version Christian orthodoxy. Apparently,  Justinian did not see it as murder if the victims did not share his own beliefs.  The Old Testament of the Christian Bible has many examples of violent punishment by God. As God's representative on earth, Justinian thought himself justified in using his absolute power to punish Christians as well as non-believers, if those Christians refused to accept the canons of the Council of Chalcedon. [Frank Mortyn, "Blood on the Ground, Churches All Around," reprinted in Leedom, 237-240; Freeman, 2003, 253; Haught, 1990, 53-54; Jenkins, 235; Johnson, 1987, 166]

533  A.D.   - General Belisarius, sent by the Catholic Eastern emperor Justinian, defeated the Vandals and made Arianism heretical again. (in Western North Africa) [Engh, 104]

553  A.D.  - The Council of Constantinople condemned Origen as a heretic even though he had been dead for 300 years. "This conflict had only occurred because an orthodoxy had been proclaimed to which earlier thinkers, long since dead, were now expected to conform.
"Origen was the first major exegetist, or interpreter, of the Bible. In one the finest intellectual achievements of the third century, he began by putting together the HEXAPLA,  Hebrew & different Greek versions of the O.T. in parallel columns for comparison.
"The condemnation of Origen was thus a profound loss to Christianity. Not only did Augustine's extreme theology make nonsense of the concept of a loving and forgiving God, but the threat of hell was used to manipulate obedience." [Freeman, 2009, 133, 137, 139]

590-604  A.D.    - Pope [St.] Gregory I ("The Great") objected to grammatical study, condemned education for all but the clergy, forbade laymen to even read the Bible, and had the library of the Palatine Apollo burned.  [Ellerbe, 48, 50]

653-561   A.D.   - Lombard king Aripert I, a Catholic, outlawed Arianism. [Engh, 105]

It is clear from the chronological list that on many occasions, copies of the NT in possession of various parties and groups (Arian, Trinitarian, etc.) were confiscated and destroyed in many locations throughout the Empire.

But it is equally clear that many of these large and catastrophic events hit entirely different text-types, like the Arian copies, and the Western texts, and the Alexandrian etc.   While the destruction of copying lines was certainly rampant all over the Empire, and it may be admitted that many of these attempts were targeted, there is nothing here that consistently and uniformly favors the Byzantine text.  

The operation of the Arian parties within the Empire, and with Emperor-support, were as destructive as the Trinitarian attacks upon competing copies and their supporters.

The closer the real history is examined, the less likely it appears that events 'magically favored' the Byzantine text, over all others.  Such a large portion of destructive campaigns were targeted at such widely diverse groups, including Trinitarians and Byzantines, that a catastrophe of the kind which would transpose minority and majority readings en masse remains utterly implausible.


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