Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ancestors of Aleph/B: Matthew Overlaid

When we turn to Matthew, and place the layers on the same chart, we see immediately that there is a small but significant difference between the line-widths in the first two proposed ancestors, in comparison to Mark.

Click to enlarge and backbutton to return
Had this involved just one or two variants, it could be assumed to be a normal variation from average.  But plainly the average length itself is different, and this suggests different master-copies in these two first steps.   

This is almost precisely what is to be expected.   The copying history of the two Gospels should be different in the first stages, and only should they strongly correlate when they have been combined in a single manuscript, such as a copy of the Four Gospels.   Such a copy, like the typical papyrus P75, would then begin a united line of transmission in which the column widths will converge.

Thus for the final leg of their journey, these two Gospels begin to suffer errors with common widths, generated from the same manuscript which is carrying both, and probably two other Gospels as well.


Ancestors of Aleph/B: Mark Revisited

We posted our analysis of the omissions common to Aleph/B in Mark previously here:
We continue that discussion with a look at the actual formats which generated them, and where we tentatively place them in the textual history with the following diagram:

Click to Enlarge and backbutton to return

If we compare our findings of probable column widths in terms of characters per line with actual manuscripts from the same and earlier periods, we find a startling, but not really surprising agreement.

We may list a few of the more important manuscripts and their column-widths below:

P66  -  (225 A.D.)   23-27 characters per line, typically  25-26.  (left & right justified)
P75  -  (250 A.D.)  28-31 cpl, with the average being 27-30 cpl. (left & right justified)
W     -  (5th cent.)  28-30 cpl, with the average being 28-29 cpl.  (left & right justified)
A      -  (4th cent.) 19-27 cpl, but rigorously 20 cpl exactly for most lines. (left & right justified)
     -  (4th-5th.) 12-38 cpl, with lines fluctuating wildly, but on average 25-28 for a full line.
B      -  (4th cent.) 16-19 cpl,   consistently 16-17 for majority of lines. (left & right justified)
א       -    (Aleph, 4th) 10-15 cpl with a fairly tight average of 16-17 cpl.   (left & right justified)

Codex A:   Remarkably, just as we found an unusual number of omissions in Mark having an exactly 20 chars in length, so we find in Codex Alexandrinus not only a 20 cpl line length, but one rigidly enforced throughout the codex.  This surviving manuscript indicates that this was indeed a standard or popular format in some quarters, with its own rules.  Even with Aleph/B we don't see the letter count so strictly enforced as with Codex A.  Yet this two-column format most likely predates the 3 and 4 column formats that became popular in the late 4th century.  The general trend was to go narrower for readability and error reduction.  Codex A is probably a copy of an early 4th century text, made in the same format as the master.

P66 , P75, and W show the earlier, more primitive format of a single wide column.  This very style led to a large number of errors, and columns were deliberately narrowed in the early 3rd century to combat this problem.   It is easy to imagine an early Caesarean or Egyptian copy of Mark with such a wide format, perhaps slightly narrower, such as we suspect caused the errors grouped with the 'First Ancestor' of Aleph/B.

Codex B's three column format must have been popular in its time, but of course most manuscripts from the late 3rd and early 4th century have been lost or destroyed.   This was possibly a reduction from the format of Sinaiticus,  with a reversion to 3 columns and 15-17 cpl.  Since the largest number of omissions are multiples of this length, we must suspect a similar format in an ancestor of the nearest ancestor to Aleph/B.   These errors, while obviously prior to the divergence of these two texts, cannot then be much older than the time the final common ancestor was produced.

Codex Aleph is important, for it shows that many of the Great Bibles of the 4th century must have had this very narrow, 4-column format.    Such a manuscript again was likely to have been in the copying-line between the early copies of Mark and the last common ancestor of Aleph/B.    This again dates the errors of this length to this intermediary period when 3 and 4 column narrow formats were popular. 

It should be noted that  Aleph and B are hardly the first manuscripts to have been written in 3 or 4 columns, and their own near-ancestors must have had similar formats.  While the texts chosen by the copyists appear to have been old, and eclectically selected, the gospels seem to have come from the same 'nearest common ancestor', that fathered the majority of omissions shared by Aleph and B.

We can see from a comparison of the grouped readings with similar line-lengths, that each matches very closely with known manuscript-formats circulating from the late 2nd to the late 3rd century.   This suggests quite rightly that while many of the omissions in Aleph/B are perhaps more ancient than Aleph and B themselves (even by 100 years or more), they can hardly be older than the formats that generated them.

There is nothing requiring the proposed order of formats in our chart above to be fixed, other than basic probability, and the known development of same.  It is possible that one or two formats in the chain could have been reversed in their historical sequence.   The outcome would have been the same, only the dates of the omissions would be shifted and interchanged by a few decades. 

At the same time, without any good reason to change the sequence, we might as well stick with the most probable order.   When we come to merge our reconstructions for each Gospel in the Alexandrian stream of transmission,   It will be prudent to keep this order unless further evidence suggests otherwise.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Many Ancestors of Aleph/B

With all the many discussions of a 'common ancestor' for Aleph/B, one can be pardoned for beginning to believe there actually was such a thing, in the manner described.

Here we present for the first time a realistic picture of the Ancestor(s) of Aleph and B:

Click to Enlarge this picture

The first problem that confronts us is that Aleph and B are whole Bibles, each having a rather full set of NT books. 

These NT books of course originated from diverse sources.   More importantly for the purposes of Textual Criticism, each of these books had its own textual history and a long period of separate circulation as independent works.

Then came an equally long period, in which the Gospels were collected into a single manuscript, probably post-Marcion (c. 200 A.D.).   Likewise, the letters of Paul circulated first separately, then were early gathered into a collection, which, with a few later additions, also circulated separately for a long time.   Also, it seems likely that Luke/Acts were originally circulated together, then split up, with Luke being gathered with the other Gospels, and Acts being collected with the Catholic Epistles (James, Peter, John etc.).   Revelation seems to have had the longest independent circulation.

Finally, these collections were gathered into a single volume (a New Testament) for the use of churches, sometime in the early 4th century, and that seems to be where Sinaiticus (Aleph) and Vaticanus (B) originate.

Hort himself acknowledged that a single "common ancestor" for Aleph/B was actually an artificial construct, meant more as a convenience in discussing common readings, than as an actual single ancestor:
 "Whatever be the mutual relation of א and B, each of them separately (א in the apocalypse excepted), is be in fact essentially a text of the 2nd century or early 3rd century.  This fact, which is independent of the coincidences of אB, so that it would remain true of  א if B were unknown, and of B if א were unknown, suggest the most natural explanation of their coincidences.   They are the extreme antiquity of the common original from which ...the two MSS have diverged, the date of which cannot be later than the early...2nd century.   ...So high an antiquity would of course be impossible if it were necessary to suppose that the 'common original' was a single archetypal MS comprising all the books as they now stand.    But, ...there is reason to suspect that the great MSS of the Christian empire were directly or indirectly transcribed from smaller exemplars which contained only portions of the NT; so that the general term 'common original', which we have used for the sake of simplicity, must in strictness be understood to denote the several common originals of the different books or groups of books."
(Hort, Introduction, ¶ 301., p. 222-223). 

Many Ancestors:

We know then for a fact that Aleph and B did not have a single ancient ancestor, but several. 

It is acknowledged for instance that the book of Revelation in Sinaiticus is unlike any other version.
 "The Apocalypse in codex Sinaiticus is a striking example of a fourth-century text that differs substantially from modern critical editions. It exhibits dozens of differences at key points, reflecting the concerns, interests, and idiosyncrasies of its earliest copyists and readers. Taken as a whole, Sinaiticus’s text of Revelation may constitute one of our earliest Christian commentaries on the book, disclosing its fourth-century milieu and anticipating the later concerns of Oecumenius and Andrew of Caesarea." (Juan Hernandez Jr., 2009)
   In John 1:1-8:38  (the first 8 chapters) Codex Sinaiticus differs from Vaticanus and all other Alexandrian manuscripts. It is in closer agreement with Codex Bezae (D) in supporting the Western Text-type.  Vaticanus on the other hand, offers a version of the Western Text-type for the Pauline Epistles.

This means that for various books, or collections of books, the two manuscripts have completely different ancestors. (at least three ancestors are involved in just the three sections mentioned).

Common Readings:

On the other hand, the agreements, especially the 'agreements in error', that is unique agreements between Aleph/B against almost all other authorities, does indeed seem to point to common sources. 

This is no surprise in fact, when we know that the Four Gospels began to be collected together and produced as a single book,  beginning sometime in the early 3rd century.   It must have been after this time, that most of the common readings (especially the errors, unusual minority readings) between Aleph and B arose. 

There are however several possible sources for the agreements between Aleph and B, and they must all be carefully considered in any given case:
(a)   readings common to the original copies.  These would be expected to be rather common readings also found elsewhere,  particularly in independent lines of transmission, such as other text-types.

(b)   readings (errors) which arose by coincidence because of an unfortunate feature built into the text, such as multiple instances of homoeoteleuton from varying layouts.

(c)   readings consciously modified by editors attempting to correct or improve the text, including spelling conventions and grammar corrections,  and especially omissions of parts of speech and phrases perceived to be ambiguous, wordy or clumsy.

(d)   readings deliberately chosen among already available variants, popular or preferred readings involving theological or doctrinal issues, or historical perceptions.

(e)    readings due to a mistake or selection made in a previous common ancestor.   Many readings may well be the results of accumulated errors in a common transmission-line.

Striking Differences:

There are also however, many differences between Aleph and B, even within books that are assumed to have a common ancestor (e.g. the Gospels);  Hoskier for instance enumerated some 3036 differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. 

Those who promote the text of Aleph/B draw attention to these differences and claim that this proves the 'ancestor' of Aleph/B goes back "several generations", perhaps as many as "ten" (this however is probably exaggerated).  The purpose of this notice is to drive back the proposed date of this 'ancestor' to the 2nd century:
"..their common ancestor must have been copied several generations before. ... Aleph and B are distant cousins from long after their common ancestor, which itself must go back several generations. Indeed, when they agree, their common reading usually is from the early 2nd century." (Wallace, Komoszewski, Sawyer, Reinventing Jesus (Kregel, 2006) p. 78. 
 However, like the common readings, these differences may also have multiple causes, some of the most obvious being:
(a)   mistakes by the scribes themselves who made Aleph and B.  Each of these (two or more) scribes must have contributed many errors to both manuscripts.  Singular readings are the prime suspects.

(b)    differences in policy or preference regarding grammatical constructions, or how to handle suspicious readings in the master-copy.

(c)   the work of correctors, who may not have left clear traces of their work.  In particular, B has been overwritten and re-inked throughout, and Sinaiticus suffers from the hands of at least 10 correctors.

(d)   inherited differences from previous generations of copying separating either manuscript from the common ancestor or master-copy.

(e)   differing usage of cross-references or secondary sources used for textual comparison.  Both manuscirpts show signs of editorial activity of various kinds in the compilation of their texts.  
From all this, and each possible cause involves real variants, it is clear that neither similarities nor differences can be easily categorized as to how they arose, or dated as to when.  

 Three Important Eras:

Nonetheless, a natural and straightforward procedure presents itself, namely considering the three stages of transmission,
(1)  First EraSeparate Works  -  Individual and independent circulation of the NT books, and the differences arising from varying circumstances between them in their transmission.

(2)   Second Era:   Early Collections  -  Circulation of the groups of books as collections,  and the features they would then share, and the errors arising from this format.

(3)  Third EraWhole NT Volumes  -  Circulation of the groups as complete copies of the NT, and the features and errors arising in this period.

It should be clear that the common readings shared between Aleph and B must belong to the first two periods of transmission, while the readings in which they differ will likely have arisen in the third period of transmission. 

We strongly doubt that "ten generations" of errors can be identified among the differences between these two manuscripts,  and prefer to identify the date of the nearest 'common ancestor' independently, based upon what is known about when these collections were popularized.   It is reasonable then, to date the nearest common ancestor of Aleph/B to about the beginning  or middle of the 3rd century, when it is known that such collections of the Gospels circulated, as P75 demonstrates.  

Consequently, we assign common readings between Aleph/B to this time and earlier, when they would have come together to form a common text spanning all four gospels.

Differences between Aleph and B we will primarily assign to the period from about 250 A.D. (c. P75) to 320 A.D.  (the inside date of manufacture for Aleph/B).

We have already analyzed the pre-history for Mark and Matthew (see our previous posts on this), and shown it to be quite different for each book, as expected.  On the other hand, we can also combine our findings, and propose that there was a common ancestor in the line after the gospels were gathered into a collection, in which the columns were about 15 characters per line.   This narrow width suggests that the copy that generated this large group of shared errors spanning Mark and Matthew was rather recent, since narrow columns were a practice that came much later than the time of P75.    The final result of this analysis will naturally date this large group of errors to this late period, namely the late 3rd century.

We will post a list shortly.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Methodology - No Consensus

Here is a very honest and realistic quotation, which sums up the current state of TC:
"It is strange, and not a little sad, that after nearly two centuries of discussion there should as yet be no general agreement among textual critics on the fundamental principles or even methods of their science." 
  - Hastings Dictionary of the Bible

I think its a given that there is no agreement on methodology, because what methodology that has been applied is simply not up to current scientific standards, even in the fields of historical research.

This can and will only be solved by the invention of a more reliable and scientific method, and a clinching demonstration of its validity.

But even that will make no difference, unless key political components of the current impasse are not addressed, namely, what are the ideological reasons for the division, and what can be done to remove them?


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manuscript Production

I enjoyed Mr. Scrivener's monologue on geneaological charting. It inspired me to create this diagram which attempts to show probable production in rough numbers, the various 'text-types' (more like textual streams, allowing for some mixture).

(Click on image to enlarge it)

As noted, displaying information in a new form can lead to insight, sometimes a profound one.

The first thing one tends to ask on viewing this chart, is "why?". Why did we have a heterogeneous collection of 'text-types', and how did it miraculously come to be under control and dominance of a single type? The answer that there was a "Lucian Recension" is simply inadequate.

Some conscious policy must have been instituted, and it must have been so reasonable and transparent, that it caused no real protests or fuss among the many hundreds of scriptoriums ( manuscript-making centers) spread across the two Empires (East and also West).

We include the West here, although the predominate language and copying centers worked in Latin for the most part of the 4th to 14th centuries, because the Latin text has a strikingly similar pattern: Some mixed texts, followed by an 'official recension' (Jerome's Vulgate, c. 400 A.D.), and rather rapid increase in numbers (finally up to 20,000 copies of later Latin MSS), with inevitable dominance (with some reversions/corrections back to the Old Latin & Greek texts).

The early history of Jerome's Vulgate is somewhat instructive, in that it faced strong opposition in some places over some changes of text (notably his abandoning of the LXX Greek O.T. readings for those of the 4th century Massoretic Hebrew text). Jerome's handling of the NT was not so extreme, although it was plainly well-researched, since to make his Latin translation, he went to Constantinople, the center of the Eastern Greek copying stream, to get good manuscripts. He claims he himself bypassed all three of the then popular Greek recensions, namely Origen's Hesychius' and Lucian's texts, each popular in their own local center of production.

Yet the Greek standardization was not an 'official' text, or imposed from the top-down. There is no record of any official policy among the Greeks, or in the Eastern Empire regarding an official text. What we do know is that in some cases, Constantine and Eusebius proposed special policies of translation into other languages, such as the Gothic, holding back for instance the Books of the Kings, because Constantine felt that the Goths were too warlike already, and this would only encourage them.

The kind of policy which would have a strong impact on the textual stream, and yet go completely unchronicled in the history of the church, must have been a simple policy that could and would be implemented by every scribe without even questioning the logic of it. The policy had to be self-evident and not only draw no resistance, but draw no comment.

It had to be a simple 'copying policy', one that was something trivially mechanical in nature and so self-evident once seen that no scribe would want to do anything else.

To meet these plausibility requirements, the policy had to include the 'oldest and best manuscripts' available at the time, in all areas. It had to include a mechanical procedure that would guarantee a new homogenization of the text to an unprecedented degree.

I suggest some combination of the obvious. Somebody proposed that all scriptoriums from now on, adopt an 'offical master-copy' (or small subset of copies, however created or chosen), and use them and them only for the next 500 years. This would naturally require no great news flashes or raise any eyebrows of protest, because of its innate reasonableness.

This suggestion, or rather adopted practice, quickly transferred from scriptorium to scriptorium, because the idea traveled alongside good copies. It would spread across Europe, at least to the major centers of production, and result in a new order of homogenized text.

While total conformity would not be possible, because of local variations in quality, the end result would indeed be a large quantity of later MSS presenting a tight, uniform text (relative to previous circumstances).

In order to meet the historical criteria of a grassroots, non-discussed trend, it would naturally involve the best available manuscripts, and this suggests that contrary to popular characterizations of the Byzantine text, it was indeed a fairly good, naturally created text based on ancient manuscripts.

Joe Layman

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Hortian Distortion

The basic situation regarding surviving manuscripts can be easily charted. The first observation is that even with the discovery at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries of thousands of papyri, many of them NT, we still have only a few fragments that can be dated prior to about 200 A.D.

All the actual books and letters were written about 50 to 100 years prior to the earliest surviving fragments.

Although the relative dates of various gospels etc. can be moved around a little, the basic picture remains as at the left.

Although physical copies don't survive, some works were quoted by near-contemporary writers such as Clement and Polycarp, who lived before our earliest surviving papyri fragments are dated.

Three types of copies exist: (1) Papyri, (2) Uncials, (3) Miniscules. The first were copied on a crude 'paper' made of papyrus from the Nile and nearby regions (North Africa). The second and third types were written on parchment or vellum, animal hides, and were more durable.

The difference between (2) and (3) is more to do with the style of the writing: Uncials are written in a kind of 'Capital Letters, Miniscules are written in a 'cursive' or connected writing similar to modern handwriting. This came into fashion later, and gradually took over as a popular format.

The time span for each type of copy can be charted too. The use of each type of manuscript actually overlaps for long periods, as one style faded out and another took over. Also, certain types (like papyri) had a smaller geographical area of dominance, and so the different types come from different regions. Papyrus was favored in Egypt, while parchment and vellum was favored in the Eastern part of the Empire (Greece and Palestine).

(Click to Enlarge)

However, surviving groups of these types of manuscripts are not at all direct descendants of each other. Even though for instance, the Uncials were probably copied from earlier papyri, they were not copied from lines of transmission represented by surviving papyri, but rather others now lost. Similarly, the majority of miniscule manuscripts are not descended from surviving Uncial copies, but from others with a completely different text.

Hort oversimplified the real situation by claiming that the miniscule manuscripts were secondary, and that their text (the Byzantine text-type) was created by conflation and mixture of earlier Alexandrian and Western texts (represented by the Uncials):

So Hort makes the different types of manuscripts direct descendants of one another:

But the real story is more complicated and rich, and requires a closer look:

Neither the surviving Uncials, nor the Byzantine Miniscules (cursives) are direct descendants of one another at all:

In fact, the picture is even more complex, because of the developing Lectionary Tradition which grew up alongside the 'continuous-text' manuscript stream. These two mutually influenced one another at times, and caused mixture and cross-correction or 'bleeding'.

Many of the unusual readings in the early surviving Uncials and papyri can be traced to influence from this early Lectionary tradition, which evolved over time as church practices became more sophisticated and standardized.

Unfortunately, current Textual Critical theory and practice does not adequately account for this strong influence and cross-contamination between the two main textual streams.

Instead, modern textual critics treat the continuous-text stream as if it was isolated and independant of the Lectionary stream:

The possible contamination of the early papyri and Uncials by the Lectionary stream is typically ignored, even though it was probably the most intimate and extensive single influence upon the transmission stream of the continuous-text copies, since they were both manufactured in the same scriptoriums by the same ecclesiastical authorities.

Even the Alexandrian genealogical stemma itself is distorted by the Hortians. They try to suggest for instance that P75 is a more or less direct ancestor of Codex Vaticanus (and Aleph), to lend the Vaticanus text more authority and weight. But even though the text is certainly older than the 4th century, the lineage of Aleph/B is not as close as advocates of this theory contend. The real genealogical relationship is more like the following:

..and the surviving manuscripts are not really directly related at all, contrary to claims. Critics actually misrepresent the similarity between the papyri and Aleph/B. They speak of "90% agreement" etc., but have actually fudged the data to make the texts appear more similar than they are.

Click on the following link for documentation of the cheating:

Agreement between B and P75 exaggerated < - - Click here.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Inerrancy Bombshell: Part A

I was going to title this post "What Physicists think", but of course there are many viewpoints in physics, and this post is not about that, but about a lot more.

But physicists have a unique and privileged viewpoint, because of their knowledge and experience in scientific matters. That is the part that I would like to introduce the reader to in this post, before explaining how it applies to the concept of 'inerrancy'.

The World of Perfection

The physicist's world is blessed. Its a world of paradox, but also of perfection. Physicists have no problem with concepts of perfection and purity: they experience it every day. Our world is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of subatomic particles as perfect and pristine as any you can imagine. All electrons and protons are 'perfect' particles, absolutely identical and indistinguishable, according to both theory and measurement; they are ageless and exist forever, dancing in space.

All atoms, elements, compounds, metals; all matter, is built out of these flawless building-blocks. But its even better than that. These particles also behave according to precise and perfect laws of motion and energy exchange. The universe we inhabit is entirely made up of these perfect particles conforming to perfect laws of action.

In this world of physics there is no real 'data loss' or sloppiness, no real 'random' events. Most physicists have absolute faith in this world of measurement. Even what appear to be inexplicable, unexplained events are fully believed to be simply the result of our own over-simplification or ignorance of some powerful but previously unknown Law, soon to be unraveled. Every difficulty is just another mystery to be solved, another complex truth to be discovered. And its the repeated success of such investigations that leads the physicist, compels him to believe in the fundamental order and rule of law in our universe.

19th Century Materialism

So it was a no-brainer that scientists in the 19th century, given the physics current at that time, embraced Materialism. Due to Newton's powerfully successful physical laws, they had a kind of 'billiard-ball' view of the universe, as atoms bouncing off each other continuously in perfectly elastic collisions that lost no energy. Everything could be explained by this model.

There was no room in this model for magical forces, no room even for Dualism of mind and body, or spirit and matter. Anything that couldn't be measured and touched simply didn't exist, and anything unusual was a simply an illusion, misunderstanding, or fraud. It was natural for other researchers and scientists to embrace these same notions. All reports of supernatural events were of course mistaken or fabricated, and 19th century Rationalists went at the Bible with the same skeptical approach.

It was simply assumed that supernatural stories were added to the texts, in a time when superstitious belief ruled men's minds. The idea that the Bible had been interpolated and had accumulated numerous superstitions was taken for granted. It needed to be trimmed down, and the assumed 'interpolations' could be discovered and removed by straightforward comparison of differences among manuscripts.

So the TC Rule, 'Prefer the shorter reading.' was not arbitrary, accidental or even based on manuscript evidence. It actually came out of the 19th century Rationalist worldview, and was based fundamentally upon a skepticism of all superstition and religious belief.

The Crisis in Physics: (1908)

But just as textual critics were getting up to speed and putting into action the consequences of their own worldview (Lachmann, Hort, 1882 etc.), the very scientists who had embraced Materialism and Rationalism were facing the greatest crisis of 'modern science'. And the 19th century worldview was about to completely collapse.

The first problem was inexplicable lack of our ability to measure, see, touch, "the aether", the medium in which it was assumed everything floated. The second embarrassment was in the discrepancy regarding additivity of speeds, and an apparent "speed limit", that of light. The third problem was the 'quantization' of energy: why it always exchanged in discrete packets. There seemed to be a series of disastrous incongruencies that threatened confusion and the collapse of the explanatory power of physics.

All of these panic-causing mysteries were 'solved' when Einstein simply did the unthinkable: he embraced them as the new paradigm of physics: There was no aether, the universe had a built-in speed limit, and energy was transfered via discrete particles called 'quanta'. It would take another 50 years to work out the full impact of the new viewpoint. But by the 1950s we had got our head around the new ideas and had a full size electronics industry, computers and the atom bomb.

But these were not the real revolutionary items. They were only the first wave of discoveries. The real breakthroughs came in unlikely new fields of science and mathematics, Chaos theory, Information Theory, and other obscure investigations into oddball phenomena.

Unfortunately however, the thinking and ideas of ordinary men slid further and further out of sync with the real view of modern science. And, not surprisingly, the field of Textual Criticism, like many other fields, continues even now to flounder with an out-of-date and unworkable philosophical worldview.

I will save the bombshells for the next posts.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breaking out the Ancestors of Aleph/B: Mark

Taking the convenient list of Markan omissions from the last post in hand, one immediately notices that the five largest chunks of text uncannily break into lines with 15 characters per line.  This is a strong correlation, and not likely to be a mere coincidence.  It is further corroborated by other shorter omissions, also breaking down into lines of 14-15 characters.

Five Big OnesClick to Enlarge
In the following fuller list, we mark those with yellow to indicate that they may belong to an ancestor with a different line-width, since the text can be divided up several ways.   Note that the three single lines of 15 chars per line:

Ancestor 3: click to enlarge
For reasons that will shortly become apparent, we call this group of omissions "Ancestor 3".   This long list of 31 lines is a strong indication of line-width, since almost half of these Variation Units can be identified as homoeoteleuton, regardless of what width we select from the likely options.  These omissions were certainly accidental, and so were caused by layout, not content.  The lack of theological, historical, or linguistic reasons for the omissions/additions also corroborates an accidental cause.

This column width is relatively narrow, and so these omissions arose later in the copy-stream, when narrower columns were selected for the very purpose of cutting down on accidental copy-errors, i.e, 3rd century.   It reflects the style of Codex Sinaiticus in terms of page format.

Earlier MSS had wider columns, before it was realised that errors could be minimised by better choices of format.    Other groups of equal-length omissions are also found among the Aleph/B readings.

The following group, which we have labeled "Ancestor 1", conveniently groups line-lengths of 20 - 23 together.  Although the 2nd half-chart may belong to a different (later) exemplar, the wider format is variable enough that all the omissions could have been generated from one master-copy.

Ancestor 1: Click to Enlarge
Again the yellow coding indicates other possible placements for individual variants.   Relatively few omissions would be from the older layers, especially obvious homoeoteleuton, because some would be caught in subsequent generational copying and proofreading.  The omissions without homoeoteleuton features would be most difficult for correctors to find or properly identify.  We should not then be surprised that the early candidates would be fewer in number.

Candidates for Ancestor 2 are more certain, and hence more attractive, by the nature of the numbers, which offer less alternative line-lengths to choose from:

The Green color-coding here indicates more confidence both in the identification as homoeoteleuton, and the proposed line-length in the master-copy.   Although the list is shorter, the existance of the exemplar is more certain.

Ancestor 3 has been glanced at already above.  Ancestor 4 is below:

Ancestor 4Click to Enlarge
As the line-length decreases, the alternative options also decrease, making the identification of column-width more certain.  One or two of these omissions could have been generated in an older, wider-column exemplar, much earlier in the transmission-stream, but more manuscripts would have been manufactured in the narrower format, as copying spread rapidly in the later centuries.  The high line-count here (13 lines) lends probability to an exemplar of this width.

With Ancestor 5, we again have an encouraging number of lines of exact lengths.  With 10 and 20 letters per line, other column widths are unlikely and a poor fit, which increases the confidence level in the choice of 10. 

Ancestor 5Click to Enlarge
With 19 lines of about 10 characters, this seems like a solid choice for an exemplar somewhere in the copying generations, that would have generated these accidental omissions.  Alternately, 20 characters is an option for many of these readings, but would also suggest a vulnerable ancestor, such as Ancestor 1 (or 1b). 

Manuscripts with columns narrower than 10 letters would be very rare, if they existed at all.   Ancestor 6, then, really represents the 'left-overs'.  Smaller omissions that are more likely to have been generated along the same line, or in the process of memorizing a long clause.   They could have taken place at any time or generation of copy, and must be left as 'floating omissions'.

These proposed "Ancestors" must not be taken to imply that Aleph/B (the common ancestor of the two 4th century Uncials) is only a '7th generation copy' of the original Mark.  This is far from likely.

It should be remembered that good copyists and their generations will be almost undetectable, since they will have reproduced their master-copy accurately.   Only "bad" copies will be identifiable in a sorting process like the above.   

What the following shows, in comparison with what we found regarding Matthew, is that Mark has suffered at least "7 bad generations" of copying, whereas Matthew has only seemed to have suffered about 3 or 4

This is precisely what we should expect, since Mark is a much older document, and would have been subjected to more generations of corruption than Matthew.   What we see then, is two different lines of bad copying converging in the 'ancestor' of Aleph/B.  Originally, these gospels would have been copied as separate books, but were then brought together in the 2nd century.

The Omissions have been examined elsewhere (see our Homoioteleuton Blogsite for reconstructed layouts and textual evidences for these Variation Units.).

Our concern at the moment here is to show that:

a) Hort was wrong about the 'purity' of Aleph/B.

b) The textual history of the Aleph/B line of transmission can be reconstructed very adequately, with a proper consideration of all the available evidence and technique.

c) The Omissions of Aleph/B should never be adopted into the Christian NT text, except in certain extremely unusual circumstances. 

This is an isolated, unreliable line of transmission, and all but useless for textual correction.


The new SBL Text and Hort (continued)

We looked at Matthew, now we look at Mark, to compare W/H and the new SBL GNT.

Here we have placed all the omissions of significant portions of Holy Scripture in a chart, that is , all phrases, half-verses, and verses.   These are the common omissions which probably originate in the various ancestors of Aleph/B.

Hort of course, follows them slavishly, even when many are obvious homoeoteleuton errors.  (almost half of them).  The SBL text is in the same column as Hort, and we only note in brackets where SBL has retained a phrase or two that the Westcott-Hort text deletes.

Out of 37 serious omissions of text, the SBL-GNT follows Hort in 34 of them, for a whopping 92% agreement in Mark.

Like Hort, the SBL gives no serious consideration to homoeoteleuton errors.  It really is just the Aleph/B text, with a few minor modifications.

versechrs omissions (varying letters per column) WHTYPE
1:111 (7)υιου του θεου Om(h.t.)
1:1412της βασιλειας Om--
1:4213ειποντος αυτου Om(h.t.)
3:512υγιης ως η αλλη Om--
3:1522 (11)θεραπευειν τ
ας νοσους και
6:1174 6x12 5x15 4x18 3x24αμην λεγω υμιν ανε
κτοτερον εσται σο
δομοις η γομορροι
ς εν ημερα κρισεως
η τη πολει εκεινη
6:3320και συνηλθο
ν προς αυτον
6:3610 (+3)ουκ εχουσιν Om(h.t.)
7:29εμεμψαντο Om--
7:861 6x10 4x15 3x20βαπτισμους ξεστω
ν και ποτηριων και α
λλα παρομοια τοιαυ
τα πολλα ποιειτε
7:1626 2x13ει τις εχει ωτα α
κουειν ακουετω
8:910οι φαγοντες Om--
8:2621μηδε ειπης τ
ινι εν τη κωμη
9:2910και νηστεια Om(h.a.)
9:3818ος ουκ ακολουθει ημιν Om(ed.)
9:4444 4x11 3x15οπου ο σκωληξ αυτ
ων ου τελευτα και τ
ο πυρου σβεννυται
9:45-662 εις το πυρ το ασβεστ
ον οπου ο σκωληξ αυ
των ου τελευτα και
το πυρ ου σβεννυται
9:4926 2x13και πασα θυσια α
λι αλισθησεται
10:738 2x19και προσκολληθησεται
προς την γυναικα αυτου
10:2114αρας τον σταυρον Om--
10:2429 2x15τους πεποιθοτας
επι τοις χρημασιν
11:823 2x12και εστρωννυο
ν εις την οδον
11:1015εν ονοματι κυριου Om--
11:238ο εαν ειπη Om--
11:2670 4x18 5x14ει δε υμεις ουκ αφ
ιετε ουδε ο πατηρ
υμων ο εν τοις ουρ
ανοις αφησει τα π
αραπτωματα υμων
12:2313οταν αναστωσιν (In)--
12:2915πασων των εντολων Om--
12:3015αυτη πρωτη εντολη Om--
12:3317και εξ ολης της ψυχης Om(h.a.)
13:1112μηδε μελετατε Om(h.t.)
13:1427 2x13το ρηθεν υπο δαν
ιηλ του προφητου
14:1915και αλλος μητι εγω Om(h.t.)
14:2720 2x10εν εμοι εν τη
νυκτι ταυτη
14:6818και αλεκτωρ εφωνησεν (In)(h.t.)
14:7020 2x10και η λαλια σ
ου ομοιαζει
15:322 2x11αυτος δε ουδε
ν απεκρινατο
15:2846 3x15και επληρωθη η γραφ
η η λεγουσα και μετ
α ανομων ελογισθη

Of special interest, is the fact that most of the omissions, even of long passages, happen to be multiples of key column-widths, probably reflecting the lost master-copies used to make this text, and create the opportunity for the obvious proliferation of stupid accidental omissions, which went uncorrected in this Alexandrian branch of transmission.

We've listed some of the ways the longer omissions can be divided up into lines.

We can only assume that for some reason the early scribes responsible for these texts just didn't do a very good job proof-reading their own work.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Modern Versions and Jewish Fables

Lets take a look at Leviticus 16:8 (KJV):

The Law commands two goats be offered, a yearly atonement for the people's sins.  One goat is sacrificed on the altar, but interestingly, the other is sent off eastward from the Temple as a scapegoat.  First the King James Version (KJV/AV):

'And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.'
 Although the details of the complex offering are unknown to the average English-speaker, the idea of 'scapegoat', a substitute for sin or blame, is as familiar as apple-pie.  This is because naturally enough, of the powerful and near-endless influence of the King James, or Authorized Version,  on our very way of speaking.

The American KJV follows suit, with  scapegoatas does the  New American Standard (NASV - 1971, 1995),  World English Bible (WEB). 

The Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims edition varies but little, with "emissary goat", not a significant difference, if less popular.

Young's Literal Translation (YLT - 1898) and the Revised Young's Literal Translation (RYLT) give a clear idea, of the meaning of scapegoat, with "goat of departure", which certainly describes its function in the ritual.

Webster's Bible Translation (WBT - ) hyphenates the words, with "scape-goat", leaving the rendering essentially the same.

Even the New International Version (NIV - 1984) gets it right without a fuss: scapegoat.

What can go wrong?

Rather suddenly, with the Revised Version (RV, 1882), we have "Azazel".  A proper name of some kind, capitalized!  

We are told  by the Germans that it refers to some kind of Desert Demon, whom the Israelites sacrificed to under Moses or shortly after,  on an equal par with Jehovah the Exclusive and Jealous God.  One goat for Jehovah, and one for Azazel, just in case. This of course is 'modern scholarship'. 

A 'brilliant innovation' in translation based on the latest research in 1880.  ...

It matters not that the God of Israel, the Old Testament is a Jealous, Monotheistic God, who in His very first commandment banishes all other 'gods' to oblivion.

Because, according to the latest new 'scientific' techniques, context doesn't matter, even if it is an overwhelming doctrine permeating throughout the Torah and a thousand years of history. 

The new 'Canon' is of course, 
(1)    'Prefer the Harder Reading.'  

- Because obviously, (not even the 'scribe' this time, but) every translator and commentator for the last 2,000 years were confused, incompetent to translate the word, and naturally emended every translation to 'smooth over' the difficult text. [/sarcasm]

And so, we find, following suite, and not wishing to appear naive and out-of-date, the Darby Bible Translation (DBT), the American Standard Version (ASV), the Bible in Basic English (BBE), GOD'S WORD  (GWT, 1995), English Standard Version (ESV, 2001) and even the New Living Translation (NLT, 2007).

On what authority is this nonsense actually based?  The reader will be utterly shocked to learn it comes from late speculation by Jews in the Middle Ages, as found in the Book of Enoch:

"the main interpretations have been  (a) a local deity, a wilderness goat-demon:  Later Jewish literature, notably the Book of Enoch, understood Azazel as a demon, one of the fallen angels and brings him into its complex mythology of supernatural angels and demons."
Thats right:  The translators of a whole line of 'modern versions', from the RV , ASV, ESV, right up to the NLT, have introduced a damnable heresy and piece of obvious nonsense from the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, a work from the 1st century A.D. rejected by Jews and Christians alike for 2,000 years.  

Well, there is no denying that the Book of Enoch  is some kind of Jewish Apocalyptic literature from the 1st century.  Fragments of it were found at Qumran, with the Dead Sea Scrolls.   But it is notable that it is nowhere quoted by Jesus, the Apostles, or Paul, and only briefly does it appear to be mentioned by Jude, although this too is disputed.   Obviously Enoch is not in anyone's Canon of Holy Scripture, not the Jews, nor the Catholics, Greek Orthodox,  not even the Muslims, excepting the small Coptic Christian Church in Egypt.

Real scholars however identify Enoch as an obvious pseudonymous forgery, and not written by the Biblical Enoch.  So what were they thinking in the O.T. Committee room of the Revised Version in 1882?  Were they intending to embrace the Coptic Bible?   No one knows, except that this was no decision of scholarship, but rather a bizarre short-circuit of the brain, some kind of mass-hypnosis, with the culprit, an early Houdini-like character, perhaps Aleister Crowley himself, escaping in the confusion.

Does 'Prefer the Harder Reading' really lead inevitably to the Book of Enoch?

  Or are the majority of sensible translators, such as those behind the King James Version and even  the Jewish Talmud correct in rejecting such an assinine piece of foreign drivel?

Lets check the Rabbis:  They too speculated later about this early text:
" Rabbinic interpretation understood Azazel to be a cliff off which the goat was driven to its death.  The Rabbis, interpreting "Azazel" as "Azaz" (rugged), and "el" (strong), refer it to the rugged and rough mountain cliff from which the goat was cast down (Yoma 67b; Sifra, Ahare, ii. 2; Targ. Yer. Lev. xiv. 10, and most medieval commentators)."... (from the Jewish Encyclopedia).
 Whether or not the Rabbis were correct in their speculations about the etymology of this word (which after all is secondary to its actual usage in any case), they hardly embraced the 'modern' view.   Instead, we are told:

"...Most modern scholars, after having for some time indorsed the old view, have accepted the opinion mysteriously hinted at by Ibn Ezra and expressly stated by Nahmanides to Lev. xvi. 8, that Azazel belongs to the class of "se'irim," goat-like demons, jinn haunting the desert, to which the Israelites were wont to offer sacrifice (Lev. xvii. 7 [A. V. "devils"] (from the Jewish Encyclopedia).

Understand the real source here now.  Not the Rabbis.   Not the Talmud itself.  Not Jewish tradition.  But the opinion of the Spanish-born Jewish scholar Nahmanides (1194-1270 A.D.), writing in the Dark Ages at a time of near-illiteracy, even among Jews. 

Thus we have: (a) an apocryphal and pseudonymous work from the 1st century, using the word "Azaziel" or something like it as the name of a fallen angel (not a 'desert-demon',  and (b) we have the opinion of a 13th century Spanish philosopher that it meant 'desert-demon', something impossible to harmonize either with the Book of Enoch or Leviticus. 

And we have 'most modern scholars' (read "idiots") rejecting the context of the entire Bible, and all of Jewish and Christian tradition (including the Coptics who read Enoch as Scripture!), and embracing the opinion of Nahmanides, which turns out to be a Jewish fable

But don't blame the Jews. 
They rejected this horse-poop 800 years ago, and prefer the ordinary and obvious meaning of 'azazel' as defined by the context of 3,000 years of Judaism without Nahmanides, or the book of Enoch.

Now it turns out that even more modern scholarship supports the KJV (who knew?):


"Of course, all of that may be for naught if this Hittite parallel is correct and the term is connected with a type of offering.
“In the Leviticus 16 ritual a crux has always been the term laʿazāʾzēl rendered in the Septuagint and Vulgate by “as a scapegoat” (followed by the English AV), but replaced in more recent English translations by “for Azazel,” sometimes thought to denote a wilderness demon. Appealing to scapegoat rites in the Hurrian language from the Hittite archives, Janowski and Wilhelm would derive the biblical term from a Hurrian offering term, azazḫiya. This is particularly appealing to me. There were two goats used in the Leviticus 16 ritual. One is designated for Yahweh as a “sin offering” (Heb. ḥaṭṭāʾṭ, LXX peri hamartias) (16:9), and the other is “for Azazel,” but is presented alive before Yahweh to make atonement, and is sent away into the wilderness “to/for Azazel.” The contrast is twofold: (1) Yahweh versus Azazel, and (2) sin offering versus Azazel. If one adopts the first, Azazel seems to be a divine being or demon, who must be appeased. But if one adopts the second as primary, the word ʿazāʾzēl represents the goal of the action. In the system of Hurrian offering terms to which Wilhelm’s azazḫiya belongs, the terms represent either a benefit that is sought by the offering (e.g., keldiya “for wellbeing,” cf. Heb. šelāmîm), or the central element offered (e.g., zurgiya “blood”). If Janowski and Wilhelm’s theory is correct, the Hebrew term would not denote a demon as recipient of the goat, but some benefit desired (e.g., removal of the sins and impurities) or the primary method of the offering (e.g. the banishment of the goat).”[1]
Similar rituals are widely attested in the ancient Near East with examples from Ebla and elsewhere. I'm sure much more could be said about the practice and its ancient parallels. Leviticus 16 and the term Azazel provide a fascinating example of how misunderstandings and speculation sometimes spin off into elaborate traditions that fall far from the likely original meaning of the biblical text.

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr., “Hittite-Israelite Cultural Parallels” in Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (2003). Context of Scripture, vol. 3 (xxxii). Leiden; Boston: Brill.

King James Version: 1.  
Modern Versions: 0.

The Dean

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hort's Extremism and Manipulation of the Evidence

While Hort's commitment to producing the shortest possible text wasn't new (Lachmann had tried before him, but was ignored), he was able to popularize his agenda due to a combination of timing and position.  The Revision Committee (for the RV of 1882) was already disposed to embrace his views, and his domination of the Committee and subsequent publication gave his text the promotional kick it needed.

Although successful, Hort's theory was soon abandoned, because it was obviously wrong in so many places.   

The Shorter Reading

Hort's true agenda is obvious in hindsight, because he set out to create the shortest possible text from the early manuscripts, and he did just that.  It was no real secret that Hort elevated Griesbach's 'Canon', 
(1) 'Prefer the Shorter Reading.' 
to Universal Status and prime authority, giving this rule the power to override all other rules, arguments, and evidence. 

Codex Vaticanus 1209

Hort's next main 'Canon' was  
(2)  'Prefer the Readings of Codex Vaticanus (B).'
an invention of his own, and hardly less ludicrous than Tischendorf's fawning adoration of and preference for Codex Sinaiticus  (א) only a decade or so before him.   But Hort 's bias was more acceptable, because he himself made it secondary to his first 'Canon' (above), showing his crafty restraint and ability to learn from the political mistakes of his predecessor. 

Having recognized the difficulty of selling the abberant readings of Codex Sinaiticus (partly because it had already been overdone by Tischendorf), Hort opted to make Vaticanus the centerpiece in his theory. 

When B and א agree

But a lucky accident enabled Hort to formulate a third 'Canon', namely
(3)  'Prefer the reading where B and א agree, even against all others.'

Since the two were so similar in their text, due in no small part from their being manufactured in the same scriptorium, and probably from the same set of master-copies, these two continually reproduced the same omissions, regardless of their individual aberrations.   It was a no-brainer for Hort to insist on the importance of all readings (mostly omissions) in which the two 4th century Uncials agreed.  They were after all, two of the oldest existing manuscripts at that time.  And Hort insisted that all such agreements came from a common even earlier ancestor, and so were the best candidates for the original text, which he called the "Neutral text". 

Western Omissions

One more rule will suffice to reproduce the entire text chosen by Hort.  
(4) 'When the Western Text omits, prefer the Western Reading.'   
This was not a logical or necessary conclusion from the evidence normally preferred by Hort.  (As we will see later, a vast amount of evidence contradicts most of Hort's theory. ) 

Had Hort just opted for the agreements of B and א, he would have reproduced 90% of his favorite readings, namely all the omissions of these two manuscripts.  But when he noticed the handful of further omissions by the Western text, he just had to have them for his own text.  So in these specific cases, he reversed his own rules, rejecting the text of  B and א in favor of the text of Codex Bezae (D, 5th cent.) and a handful of Old Latin witnesses (5th-6th cent).   This is the real reason behind (1) 'Prefer the Shorter Reading.'  It enabled Hort to adopt readings from the Western text, where it suited him.  

In order to sell this idea, Hort had to argue that the text of Codex D was much earlier than its established 5th century date.  Hort argued that it was in fact a 2nd century text, so that he could explain why it omitted passages found in his own favorite manuscripts B and א, which included them.  Hort's argument was the the Western text was as old as the 2nd century, and that these passages were added to the ancestor of  B and א after the Western text was formed.  

All of this however, was just to secure a place for the omissions of the Western text.  In all other readings (for instance where the Western included passages omitted by  B and א), Hort rejected the Western text as secondary, corrupt, and later than the 'Neutral' ( B/א 's ancestor).   Thus again Hort displayed a double-standard when it came to other text-types he himself recognised and legitimized. 

Hort's Genealogical 'Stemma' 

After all the gymnastics and hand-waving, here is the final 'stemma' of textual transmission according to Hort, by which he 'slew the Textus Receptus'.  It must be realised however, that most of the chart is artificial, and has been abandoned by textual critics following after Hort.  

Hort allegedly used "genealogy" or rather the 'genealogical argument' to slay the Textus Receptus according to Colwell.  But Colwell also notes that Hort never actually applied Genealogical methods to real manuscripts.   He only used the idea to construct a generalized 'stemma' for his theory.   As the Alands have noted, Hort never examined any manuscripts at all.  He actually just used the printed collations and critical texts previously published by others.   In fact Hort's text is essentially the text of Lachman, re-published with notes and some embellishments. 

Click to Enlarge, and Backspace to continue

For all of Hort's clever discussion about textual criticism and Scribal Habits, He never properly gives any discussion of the problem of homoeoteleuton when reviewing omissions.   Yet homoeoteleuton was one of the most common scribal errors, and all old Uncial manuscripts are rife with homoeoteleuton errors.  

To suppose that the near-ancestor of B and א was free of homoeoteleuton errors is absurd, especially given the fact that at least 1/3 of all omissions by  B and א have strong and clear homoeoteleuton features.

Hort avoided any proper discussion of homoeoteleuton because it would have exposed that over half of his selections were not likely original at all, but simple homoeoteleuton errors. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 'Christian Academic' view is fatally stupid

In our last post here :Part II: The Modern Academic Position Examined, we saw that modern secular academics stubbornly cling to an unrealistic position, and ply their trade upon the NT with inadequate tools, in an obviously biased fashion. Like king Agrippa, they imagine they are still living in a pagan Roman world, and sit in judgment upon Paul and the Apostles, as if the Advent of Christianity never happened, and it can be safely ignored.

Now we wish to examine the "Christian Academic" position, a hopeless compromise, offering a watered-down gelded gospel of no potency to the world, a poison that drains faith and hope from its hearers. Its a sad case of co-dependency upon secular academia, a shameful addiction to what can only be called 'academic alcoholism'. Like the real alcoholic, Christian Academics constantly seek to proselytize others, drawing them into their weak-ass nonsense, a kind of agnostic purgatory.

Here we briefly recount from our first post on this,
the Christian Academic Compromise
(CAC - its the sound a cat makes when coughing out a disgusting furball):
(1) No important Christian doctrine is affected.

(2) The edited text is as good as the traditional text for salvation etc.

(3) The critical text is sufficient for all religious and doctrinal matters.

(4) The critical text is closer to the original autographs.

(5) Adopting the critical text makes no difference, for practical purposes.

The first thing to observe, is that all five points would simply be a truism for Christians, if only the critical Greek text we were talking about was the Traditional Text used by Christians for the last 1,500 years.

But of course its not. The critical text is a drastically truncated, mutilated text created by academics, using a crude bag of tools designed for and meant to apply to ordinary (secular) works. The approach resulted in what teens today call an "Epic Fail".

We'll get into why secular tools in the 19th century were ludicrously inadequate later. For now we want to focus on the planks in the Christian Academic Compromise (CAC) itself.

(1) No important Christian doctrine is affected...

Where did this absurd notion come from? It comes from the 'Father' of NT Criticism. To quote mr. Scrivener on TC-Alt-list:
"I have mentioned previously the famous 'bet' in which a 19th century
critic [Bentley, 1720] suggested that even if you took the worst possible text, all
the most extreme variants (within sensible reason... e.g., not
counting blank MSS) no fundamental Christian doctrine would be affected.

This bet appeared to have actually been taken up literally by
Westcott/SHort, who produced the world's shortest NT.

This was followed by a century of apologetic nonsense attempting to
prove that the NT text wasn't degraded, degenerated, corrupted by
following the new cropped Greek text."
(scrivener, TC-Alt-List, Yahoo Groups, Msg# 2428, Jan 21, 2009)

Mr. Scrivener actually quotes me, in an even earlier, and more informative post:
"It would be wrong to call these clownish attempts to 'dethrone' the traditional text the acts of 'enemies of the Gospel'. These men are actually better called 'pests of the Gospel'. How is it that their attacks, in spite of such enthusiasm, are so lame?

As Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers comedy would say,
"Mr. Editor, you are merely the 'diet-coke' of evil."

The answer is surprisingly more lame than could have been guessed. The critics are operating under self-contradictory impulses and restraints.

On the one hand, they are determined to remove every possible verse, phrase, or word that a scribe or early editor has inadvertantly or imprudently dropped in the history of copying. On the other, they are determined to *only* use 'legitimate' textual (manuscript) 'evidence' to mutilate the Holy Scriptures. What kind of evil genius ties his own shoes together before falling on his face on his way out of the starting gate?

Bentley's Wager!

The answer is here, in the 'Great Blueprint', the secret agenda of all the textual critics and editors of the Greek N.T.: Bentley's Wager:
'The oft-repeated dictum of Bentley is still valid that "the real text of the sacred writings is competently exact, nor is one article of faith or moral precept either perverted or lost, choose as awkwardly as you will, choose the worst by design, out of the whole lump of readings." '
(UBS text Intro.)

Here we can now see exactly what happened in the mind of Hort and his followers: They set out to actually PROVE that Bentley was right.

And the result is exactly as predicted: They produced a ludicrously inferior NT by choosing the worst readings by design, and have yet shown that even this monstrosity is only marginally heretical and just as vague from a doctrinally simplistic point of view as the Textus Receptus.

And how could it be otherwise? The errors at least, if not the deliberate mutilations, were hardly systematic.

For this incredible accomplishment we can now thank them. Yes even the worst manuscripts are not so substandard that they couldn't be usable on a desert island somewhere to save souls.

But can we please now go back to the traditional text? The point has now been beaten to death. We willingly concede that even the 'vile Codex Vaticanus' can be used to preach a limited form of Gospel, at least in Egypt, or if necessary, it can even be used to get a fire going literally."

( - Nazaroo, PA website article, quoted in Msg # 337, Sept 27 2006)

But why is Bentley's Wager actually wrong?

(1) Bentley's infamous claim was actually a sad and desperate act. It was meant to stave off a whole new round of witchhunts and Inquisition-like dramas. Academics were subjected to prosecution, job loss or worse, for voicing any dissent regarding current Christian views or doctrine in the early 18th century. While he had some good intentions, the proposal was doomed to failure for its ethical compromise, in the same way that Dietrich Bonhoeffer's attempted assassination of Hitler involved a catastrophic failure of ethics. Dishonest compromise cannot be fruitful in the long run.

(2) Secondly, the claim was methodologically fatally flawed. On its face, it is a fundamental claim about the quality of the "worst manuscript", one which was untested, unknown, and blatantly false from what was already known. Of course there were badly flawed copies of the NT books. Of course some copies, like Marcion's were significantly altered theologically. It is utterly foolish to think that the worst possible text one could construct out of existing materials will still be an adequate Gospel text. How patently absurd.

(3) One important doctrine, namely the reliability of the New Testament itself as an accurate message from God is viciously undermined, and so is the authority of the Bible as the revealed word of God. "one article of faith or moral precept is either perverted or lost", namely the doctrine of Divine Preservation of the Scriptures as we actually have them.

To pretend that such a stupid methodology could still result in an adequate text that could inspire any confidence in its contents is an immoral, dishonest farce.

It only remains to be shown whether the current critical Greek NT texts are significantly corrupt, and to all intents and purposes inadvertant fulfillments of Bentley's Wager.

Such a demonstration will in no way affect the quality of the Traditional Text, or the doctrine of Divine Inspiration and Preservation which is claimed for it. What academics print and publish is their own business, and only becomes the problem of Christians, when we naively buy into their weak nonsense, by adopting inferior versions of our own religious documents.

It goes without saying that since the very first plank #(1) of the Christian Academic Compromise (CAC) is an "Epic Fail", the other four planks collapse like the precariously posed house of cards that they are.