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.


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.



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.


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.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Majority Text: (XII): James Snapp Jr. on "major disruptions"

Hort's Artificial Genealogy

Previously, we looked at D. A. Carson's arguments against the Majority text Probability model.  These ideas I think originally came from G.D. Fee or Epp, but have also recently been restated by Daniel Wallace.

These arguments still seem to have a psychological hold on various textual critics today, even defenders of traditional readings.   For instance, James Snapp Jr. offers a variation on D.A. Carson's argument in his proposal for an "Equitable Criticism".  Here is his statement from Part 3:
"Many scholars and interested bystanders, noticing that the weaknesses of several of Hort’s key premises and assertions have been exposed, have been willing to consider the model of transmission-history proposed by the supporters of the Byzantine Textform – but not many have decided to embrace it. Some have irresponsibly associated it with the novel American fundamentalist doctrine of King James Onlyism.
Others have rejected it because, despite detailed lists of principles of internal and external evidence in Dr. Robinson’s essay The Case for Byzantine Priority,15 the quality which usually determines the adoption of a variant in the approach advocated by Robinson is its attestation in over 80% of the Greek MSS. Patristic evidence and the testimony of early versions are not included in the equation of what constitutes the majority reading. Distinctive Alexandrian variants, Western variants, Caesarean variants, and even minority readings attested by the oldest Byzantine witnesses (such as parts of Codices A and W) have no chance of being adopted; generally, whenever a variant is supported by over 80% of the Greek MSS, it is adopted.
The validity of such an approach depends upon the validity of the premise that the transmission of the text of the Gospels was free from “major disruptions.However, major disruptions have had enormous impacts upon the transmission of the text. Roman persecutions and Roman sponsorship, wartime and peacetime, dark ages and golden ages – all these things, plus innovations and inventions related to the copying of MSS, drastically changed the circumstances in which the text was transmitted, and while all text-types were affected by them, they were not all affected to the same extent, as a review of history will show.16
Greek fell into relative disuse in Western Europe; Constantinople became the center of eastern Greek-speaking Christendom; Islamic conquests squelched the vitality of the transmission-streams in regions where Islamic rule was imposed; copyists in or near Constantinople invented more efficient ways to copy the text. Such historical events completely invalidate results that are based on a transmission-model that assumes the non-existence of such disruptions." 
( - James Snapp Jr. , Equitable Eclecticism, Pt 3)

As much as we like James' clarity and integrity regarding many issues, we feel that here he has dropped the ball: 

In fact, not only does the Majority Reading Probability Model survive the impact of transmission anomalies, the model itself invalidates these very objections.  We have previously demonstrated that imbalances in the copying quantities of various transmission lines and master-copies has no real effect on the essential outcome.  We only want to underline again here, that there is no plausible mechanism or genealogical stemma that can reverse the majority of readings, causing them to switch places. 

Again, the point is,  yes: one very specific and unique "major disruption" could cause the majority of majority readings to be false.   We have shown precisely the model stemma required.  But there is no known point in the history of the text where this could have taken place.  This is because of the very evidence which survives.   Two things are required:
(1)  All previous copies would have had to have been all but wiped out for a 'false' text to usurp the real text.
 (2)  A deliberately false or bad text would have to have been substituted.  A mere sample text from one or another textual line will not do.  That would only favour a few errors from that line, but it could not create a significantly different text than the true one, or one based on some other impoverished but random sample. 
But this is demonstrably false.  Not only are both circumstances required, but both can be shown to have never occurred.

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 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.

On the face of it, and in the deepest analysis, the list is a demonstrable failure, because it neither provides a mechanism, nor coincides with the known history of the text.    We must stress this last point: its not enough, even if one can create a plausible historical mechanism that could supplant the true for the false: we ourselves have done that.  You must also show that it could plausibly have happened at some specific and unique point in history, supportable by historical evidence of a very unambiguous and specific kind.

The onus must remain on the person claiming that any of these factors, (or combination) could reverse minority and majority readings, to show how it could happen. 

The further onus must remain on that same person, also to show how it could have happened historically, either in harmony with existing evidence, or unobserved in spite of normal existing evidences.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Majority Text: (XI): What Jerome described

Jerome (c. 390 A.D.) described succinctly the textual situation and the state of the Greek NT text in his time:

"...when Jerome is comparing his own work as reviser of the Old Latin text with similar work by others in Greek, he is rather severe in his judgment of Lucian. Thus in his Preface to the Four Gospels, which takes the form of an open letter addressed to Pope Damasus and which was composed perhaps about the year 383, he refers somewhat contemptuously to the "manuscripts which are associated with the names of Lucian and Hesychius, the authority of which is perversely maintained by a few disputatious persons."  
Continuing in the same vein Jerome condemns the work of Lucian and Hesychius as infelicitous:  
"It is obvious that these writers could not emend anything in the Old Testament after the labors of the Seventy; and it was useless to correct the New, for versions of Scripture already exist in the languages of many nations which show that their additions are false." (1a)
 Subsequently, in the Preface to his translation of the books of Chronicles, Jerome makes a more temperate allusion to the work of Lucian and other Biblical scholars. In referring to the diversity of the editions of the Greek Old Testament, he declares that three are current in various parts of the Empire:
"Alexandria and Egypt in their [copies of the] Septuagint praise Hesychius as author; Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies [containing the text] of Lucian the martyr; the middle provinces between these read the Palestinian codices edited by Origen, which Eusebius and Pamphilus published."(1)
(Metzger, Chapters in the History of NT TC,
"The Lucianic Recension" (1963) p. 3 - 8)

In the diagram below, we illustrate the situation Jerome has described.  The three popular regional texts probably came into existence around 300 A.D. -- their authors seem to have lived at this time.  These "recensions" or corrected, standardized texts referred to by Jerome are whole Bibles (including the O.T.), so the editing/correcting and the differences for the most part probably refer  to the O.T. text, which in the 2nd century A.D. suffered a series of disputes and revisions (see Origen etc.).
It is likely that the NT portions of these three popular regional texts did not differ as much as the most extreme texts do today.   Their editors had the same basic goals, i.e., correcting errors and restoring the best possible text.   Already these recensions would present "mixed texts", with readings taken from various sources.
  There are some key observations that can be extracted from Jerome's testimony:
(1)  There was no single dominant text, even at the beginning of the 5th century.   Rather, there were various popular regional texts. 

(2)   Jerome tells us that the Old Latin translations were in a similar state, with many variations and errors having accumulated between copies.  (Hence the need for a new standardized translation into Latin).

(3)  Jerome specifically tells us he avoided all three of these popular Greek recensions, when making his fresh Latin translation.  He went to the East,  (Constantinople etc.) to secure the oldest and most reliable manuscripts he could.

Just as importantly, we can add several other observations and historical facts to the picture subsequent to Jerome:
(1)  Jerome's text was not based on any later recension, but rather on early independent texts closer to the originals.

(2)  Jerome's Latin Vulgate was later corrected from the Old Latin (older readings were restored), because many preferred the established text and older readings.   The final result was a mixed text but with both of its sources predating Greek recensions (c. 300 A.D.).

(3)  The Greek text in the East was never corrected using Western Latin copies, but was a regional text independently copied at the core of the Greek speaking center of the Eastern Empire.

(4)  Most of the later Greek copies originated in the East.  The Greek copies and Greek-speaking monks did not flee West until very late, at the fall of the Eastern Byzantine empire.  

(5)  The divergences and mixture present in the later Greek copies shows they were not the result of an official text-type imposed upon the copyists.  The close conformity of the Byzantine copies is a result of random processes and careful copying.
(6)  It is unlikely that all the later independent Greek copies descended exclusively from the recension of Lucian.   Rather, the obvious mixture and divergence suggests multiple lines of descent. 

In this wide and diverse transmission path, there is no physical mechanism or plausible process by which minority readings and majority readings could switch places and reverse themselves.   No single text or recension could be imposed by individuals or groups upon the textual stream.

The argument that the decrease of the spread and influence of the Greek language allowed a late and erroneous text to become dominant is a logical fallacy: 
(1)  The decrease in influence of the Greek language did allow for its replacement by the Latin texts, but the so-called "Western" text (the Latin) is older than the Byzantine text and actually more primitive.   The majority of  "Byzantine readings" finding support from the Latin must themselves be primitive and original, and not distinctively "Byzantine" (i.e., 'late').

(2)  The Muslim and Arabic hordes certainly did destroy some lines of transmission in Egypt, Palestine and Turkey, but these churches were Monophysites (Coptic, Jacobite, Armenian), and their textual traditions are known.   They did not use the Alexandrian text-type, and their destruction cannot account for the dominance of the Byzantine text.

(3)  Alexandria and its texts were abandoned within the Empire, and this may simply have been as a result of the adoption of more accurate texts from the Byzantine and Palestinian traditions.

(4)  The Syriac texts often support Byzantine readings, and show the antiquity and purity and preference of that text-type.

When all is said and done, there remains no mechanical possibility, nor any historical force, which could cause the majority and minority readings to switch places.