Tuesday, August 02, 2016

How far can a textbook go? The case of Metzger’s Text of the New Testament

This afternoon I was reading in Leonard Whibley, ed., A Companion to Greek Studies (Cambridge: University Press, 11905), and more in particular R. C. Jebb’s contribution, “Textual Criticism,” (pp. 610–623). When I came to p. 621, § 695, “Modern use of conjecture,” I was in for an unpleasant surprise, for parts of the text were already familiar to me.

It turns out that Metzger, in his The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford: Clarendon, 11964), pp. 182–183, took over key sentences from Jebb's section, as can be seen below (in blue and green). I do not think this practice was acceptable or common in 1964, so I suspect something went wrong here. The general question is how much borrowing can be expected and accepted in introductory texts.

Two further points are of interest as well: (1) in between stands a paragraph on Bentley, for which Metzger refers to another publication by the same Jebb; Jebb’s section itself is listed on p. 156 (n. 1); (2) in the example of conjectures on Shakespeare, a footnote does warn the reader that the “example is taken nearly verbatim” from another source (see the grey passages below for an impression of what verbatim means). Here at least is a disclaimer, and though I do not think we would like to accept such use of other sources, it demonstrates how problematic the use of Jebb’s words actually is.

Finally, the passages are still found in the same form in the fourth edition by Metzger and Ehrman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 42005, pp. 226–228). I would suggest a revision for the fifth edition, and perhaps a more thorough check of various other passages as well.

Metzger, Text, 11964 (= Metzger & Ehrman, 42005)
Source: Jebb in Whibley, Companion, 11905, p. 621
182 Modern Methods of Textual Criticism
VII. CONJECTURAL EMENDATION
The classical method of textual criticism regularly involves, as was mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the exercise of conjectural emendation. If the only reading, or each of several variant readings, which the documents of a text supply is impossible or incomprehensible, the editor’s only remaining resource is to conjecture what the original reading must have been.
A typical emendation involves the removal of an anomaly. It must not be overlooked, however, that though some anomalies are the result of corruption in the transmission of the text, other anomalies may have been either intended or tolerated by the author himself.1 Before resorting to conjectural emendation, therefore, the critic must be so thoroughly acquainted with the style and thought of his author that he cannot but judge a certain anomaly to be foreign to the author’s intention.
This aspect of criticism has at times been carried to absurd extremes. In his later work Richard Bentley, for example, largely disregarded the evidence of manuscripts in determining the correct readings, and depended chiefly upon his own instinctive feeling as to what an author must have written. He justified such a procedure in the magisterial phrase, nobis et ratio et res ipsa centum codicibus potiores sunt, which may be rendered ‘for me both reason and the subject-matter are worth more than a hundred manuscripts’. In following this bold principle he did much that was rash and indefensible as well as much that is brilliant and convincing. The reductio ad absurdum of such a subjective method is found in Bentley’s edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which he offers more than 800 emendations, restoring what in his opinion Milton must have really said (or meant to say) while dictating the poem to his daughters.2




695. If the only reading, or each of several readings, which our documents supply is seen to be impossible, then the remaining resource is conjectural emendation.





























Before a conjecture can be regarded as even probable, it must satisfy the two primary tests which are customarily applied in evaluating variant readings in manuscripts: (1) it must be intrinsically suitable, and (2) it must be such as to account for the corrupt reading or readings in the transmitted text. There
1 For a discussion of the paradoxical possibility of a textual critic’s ‘improving’ on the original, see G. Zuntz’s article on 1 Cor. vi. 5 entitled ‘The Critic Correcting the Author’, Philologus, xcix (1955), pp. 295–303.
2 See James Henry Monk, The Life of Richard Bentley, D.D. , 2nd ed., ii (London, 1833), pp. 309–23, and Richard C. Jebb, Bentley (London, 1889), pp. 18o–91.
Before a conjecture can be regarded as even probable, it must satisfy the two primary tests which we apply to doubtful readings of mss.: (1) it must be intrinsically suitable: (2) it must be such as to account for the corrupt reading or readings in the transmitted text. There
Modern Methods of Textual Criticism 183
is, however, an important difference between the method of applying these tests to a conjectural emendation, and that of applying them to variants in manuscripts. We accept the variant which best satisfies the tests; but we require of a successful conjecture that it shall satisfy them absolutely well. The conjecture does not rise from a certain level of probability (‘a happy guess’) to the level of certainty, or approximate certainty, unless its fitness is exact and perfect. The only criterion of a successful conjecture is that it shall approve itself as inevitable. Lacking inevitability, it remains doubtful.


is, however, one important difference between the method of applying these tests to a conjectural emendation, and that of applying them to variants in mss. We accept the variant which best satisfies the tests; but we require that the conjectural emendation shall satisfy them absolutely well. The conjecture does not rise from probability to certainty, or approximate certainty, unless its fitness is exact and perfect.

Source: Gow, Companion, pp. 65–66
An example from English literature will illustrate the wide differences of merit among proposed conjectures.1 Since the early printers in England were often foreigners, who made quite as bad mistakes as their predecessors the scribes, the text of Shakespeare contains almost as many problem passages as that of Aeschylus. In the folio editions of Henry V, Act ii, scene iii, the hostess says of the dying Falstaff, ‘his nose was as sharp as a pen and a table of Green Fields’. The wordsa table of Green Fields’, which appear with trifling variations of spelling in the folio editions but which are omitted in the quarto editions, have been the subject of numerous conjectural emendations. Pope suggested (perhaps ironically) that this was a stage direction to bring in one of Greenfield’s tables, Greenfield being supposed to be the furniture-dealer who supplied props for Shakespeare’s theatre. Collier proposed ‘on a table of green frieze’, and another critic suggested ‘or as stubble on shorn fields’. The conjecture which today is adopted by editors is ‘and a’ babbled of green fields’, being a modification by Theobald of a happy proposal made by an anonymous annotator who corrected ‘a table’ to ‘a’ talked’.2
The fault most often committed in the use of conjectural
1 This example is taken nearly verbatim from James Gow’s Companion to School Classics, 2nd ed. (London, 1889), pp. 65 f.
2 Several passages in Shakespeare are corrupt beyond the ingenuity of palaeographer and textual critic to propose a cure. Apart from lucky coincidence, what lay behind the hodgepodge of nonsense set by the compositor of the first quarto of King Lear in iii. iv. 118 ff. is probably unattainable: ‘swithald footed thrice the old a nellthu night more and her nine fold bid her, O light and her troth plight and arint thee, with arint thee.’ On the special problems involved in the textual criticism of Shakespeare’s works, see Madeleine Doran, ‘An Evaluation of Evidence in Shakespearean Textual Criticism', English Institute Annual, 1941 (New York, 1942), pp. 95-114, and F. P. Wilson, ‘Shakespeare and the “New Bibliography” ’, in The Bibliographical Society, 1892–1942, Studies in Retrospect (London, 1945), pp. 133–4.
In England also the early printers, who were mostly foreigners, made quite as bad mistakes as their predecessors the scribes, and the text of Shakspere contains almost as many hopeless difficulties as that of Aeschylus. One example will suffice to illustrate this fact and to show the wide difference of merit in conjectures. In Henry V., act ii. sc. 3, the hostess says of the dying Falstaff, ‘his nose was as sharp as a pen and a’ babbled of green fields.The words italicised are omitted in the quarto editions, but are printed in the folios (with trifling variations of spelling) ‘and a table of Green Fields.’ Pope suggested (perhaps ironically) that this was a stage direction to bring in one of Greenfield’s tables, Greenfield being supposed to be the furniture-dealer who supplied Shakspere’s theatre. Mr. Collier proposed “on a table of green frieze,” another
critic suggested “or as stubble on shorn fields.” The reading “a’ babbled,” which is now universally adopted, is Theobald’s, but it was first suggested by an anonymous annotator, who corrected “a table” to “a’ talked.” The emendation is a very beautiful example of the critical art.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stendahl and the End of Romans 7

While preparing a course, I came across Stendahl’s complaint (in 1963) that the Nestle editions treat Rom 7:25b as belonging to Rom 8. Which made me wonder how that looks on the page, and whether all Nestle editions do so. Stendahl of course used NA25 (1963) or an earlier edition, not NA26 (1979) or later.

It turns out the subdivision was introduced in the 10th Nestle edition (1914), as the bottom of p. 405 may show:


For comparison the same portion in the 9th edition (1912):


Interestingly, NA26 and NA27 (1993) have a major division between 7:25 and 8:1, but still set 7:25b apart as a subparagraph.

In doing so, these two editions draw even more attention to the conjecture according to which 7:25b is an interpolation. This conjecture was first mentioned in the 16th edition (1936), and attributed to the Dutch pastor Michelsen (1879), but there happens to be an earlier author, namely Peter Aloys Gratz in 1814. It has found support among a good deal of Pauline scholars.

In NA28 (2012), the conjecture is no longer mentioned, and there is no subdivision any more between 7:25a and 7:25b. The only trace still left of these typographical wanderings is the capital letter of the first word of 25b, Ἄρα.

See Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” HTR 56 (1963): pp. 199–215, p. 213 n. 30 (= “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” in Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1976], pp. 78–96, p. 94 n. 20).

Friday, March 18, 2016

A slightly different wording

As happy owner of a first edition of Metzger's The Text of the New Testament (1964), I sometimes come across text-critical phenomena in the book itself.

A few years ago, at the ETC blog, Tommy already mentioned the beautiful error "electric" for "eclectic," in "Its text … is curiously electric, …" (p. 103).

Today I spotted another intriguing error, on p. 193: "The assimilation of the wording of one passage to the slightly different wording form in a parallel passage, …"

Obviously "form" is wrong here (though English is a strange language), but what is the correct reading? I must be a lousy conjectural critic, for I guessed "wording found in." After all, what did compositors not do?

The true reading emerged in the second edition (1968): "wording in," simply omitting "form." So "form" must have been a gloss on "wording," that should never have been part of the text. In conclusion, the 1964 sentence offers an nice example of conflation.

Friday, June 19, 2015

... humanum est

Checking a citation in my dissertation this morning I noticed a scribal error in one of the footnotes. Perhaps a good moment then to share the list of errata to my Beyond What Is Written (2006), in the vainglorious hope that I am not the only one who consults the book occasionally.

p. 133 (Patricius) Junius ] Junius {or: (Petrus) Junius}
p. 145 ὀμμά ] ὄμμα (4x)
p. 161 μηδένος ] μηδενός (also n. 34 [3x])
p. 196 bloque ] bloc {ht Keith Elliott}
p. 201 n. 18 Τιμάιου ] Τιμαίου
p. 209 Patricius Junius ] Junius (Peter Young) {also n. 45}
p. 261 reflect a different text ] reflects a different text
p. 268 n 3 (l. 4) illud ] istud
p. 271 ἐδιέστησαν ] διέστησαν
p. 285 naming only Isaiah’s ] naming only Isaiah
p. 289 πάντας ] πάντες {also n. 75}
p. 314 n. 166 an remarkable ] a remarkable
p. 333 testament ] Testament
p. 344 [Reeve] Dickworth ] Duckworth
p. 345 gerontodidaskali ] gerontodidascali
p. 373 Junius, Patricius ] Junius, Petrus
p. 381 [Acts 27:40] 169-170 ] 168-169

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Straatman and 1 Cor 14:33-35 at SBL Atlanta 2015

As part of our project on New Testament conjectural emendation, Karin Neutel (University of Groningen/VU University Amsterdam) will present an important paper at the SBL annual meeting in November 2015. Title and abstract below should easily convince you to book a flight and attend the session:

Silencing Women, Raising the Dead: The Curious Origins of a Controversial Conjectural Emendation

The question whether Paul really instructed women to be silent in community gatherings or whether this text is in fact a later interpolation (1 Cor. 14:33b/34-35), is one of the most hotly debated text critical issues. Controversies over the past century surrounding the role of women in Christian communities have made the status of these verses especially significant. This paper will clarify the curious origins of this particular conjectural emendation and the context in which it arose. In doing so, it contributes to the ‘historical turn’ in textual criticism and illustrates the historical value of studying textual conjectures. The emendation will be shown to predate debates on women in the ministry and to have its background in another long-running dispute, that of the nature of the resurrection. The Dutch scholar Jan Willem Straatman was the first to argue for the inauthenticity of this passage, in 1863, as part of a broader case about the corrupted make-up of 1 Corinthians. His argument culminates in a rejection of Pauline authorship of statements about the appearance of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-11). Even though Straatman was thus not primarily motivated by a concern for the position of women in the church, the passage still struck him as one of the most obviously inauthentic texts in the New Testament. The arguments put forward by him are those that have remained significant in subsequent discussions: in addition to textual variations, Straatman highlights the apparent contradiction with the acceptance of women’s speech in 1 Cor. 11, and with the equality between men and women suggested by Gal. 3:28, that in Christ there is ‘no male and female’. In Straatman’s view, a text that urges women to be obedient and silent declares them to be inferior to men, and should therefore be rejected as un-Pauline. As part of the project 'New Testament Conjectural Emendation: A Comprehensive Enquiry' (at VU University, Amsterdam), this analysis of the origins of Straatman’s emendation highlights the historical insights that the study of textual conjecture yields. The case of Straatman shows that already in the mid-19th century, attitudes towards women were such that this passage could present itself as problematic for a critical reader. This analysis also illustrates the particular religious environment in which such a critical reading could originate. In supporting his rejection of bodily resurrection with the claim that the command for women to be silent is a later interpolation, Straatman raised an issue that has continued to plague Pauline scholarship until the present day.

Friday, January 16, 2015

“Sleepy Scribes and Clever Critics”: A lesson in patience



If there is one thing I have learned during my PhD years, it is one has to have patience in scholarship.

In February 2011 I started my PhD in NT conjectural criticism. One of the things that struck me is that though there obviously are different kinds of conjectures, no one had ever come up with a comprehensive classification (neither in classical studies). I decided to give it a try. In the summer of 2011, when I started to register NT conjectures in our database, I labelled every conjecture, continuously changing the labels, grouping, separating, defining and re-defining. By the end of the summer I thought I had it: there were, in sum, eleven conjecture types. I hardly couldn’t wait to present it to the team (Jan Krans, Silvia Castelli and Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte). Fortunately, they were enthusiastic about it.

But in the weeks that followed, I became dissatisfied with the fact that whereas most categories described types of problems conjectures can solve, some categories described causes of corruption undone by conjectures. I remember exactly where we walked in the university building the moment Jan suggested to work with two dimensions in the classification: problems and causes. I immediately knew that was it! But how does that work, a classification with more than one dimension? I started to study the theory of classification, and I realized I had always been restricting myself to a certain form of classification, namely a taxonomy.

In a taxonomy, an object can occupy only one place in a hierarchical system: classifying a dog in a taxonomy of animals means positioning it at one of the branches of a tree, by means of characterizing it according to certain variables which are considered in sequence. However, there is also a more complex form of classification: a typology. An example of a typology would be the characterization of a group of people according to their gender as well as to the colour of their hair. Each individual is not positioned within a hierarchical structure, as in a taxonomy, but characterised according to two variables that are considered in parallel, instead of in sequence. 

We needed a typology! The argumentation for each conjecture necessarily has two dimensions, the detection of a problem (in the transmitted text) and the suggestion of a cause of the supposed corruption (that is, a certain type of scribal error/change). Just like people could be classified according to their gender as well as to the colour of their hair, so conjectures can be classified according to the problem involved and the cause indicated. 

Working with a typology not only allowed us to include both dimensions. It also provided a way out of a dilemma that had been bothering me from the start: what to do with conjectures based on multiple problems? It is impossible to render something like that in a taxonomy, and my initial solution, the idea of an essential problem for each conjecture, is untenable. In a typology, by contrast, things can be characterised by several categories within the same variable at once.

During that season there have been several moments I really thought: now it’s finished. But again and again some conjecture popped up that posed a problem and called for an adjustment of categories or definitions. Interestingly, most of the time such adjustments made the classification more straightforward, often making me wonder why that didn't occur to me earlier.

I think the classification was finalised by the summer of 2012, and shortly after we also finished an article on it. So that first year I had learned that patience was needed when developing such a thing as a classification. The two and a half year that followed I received another lesson in patience: submitting an article, waiting a few months, being told the article is too long, submitting it elsewhere, being told again the article is too long, cutting down the number of words significantly, submitting it again, waiting half a year, being told the article is accepted (with only a few minor comments), waiting for more than a year, having it published, finding out several subscribing institutions are not provided full-text access to the issue concerned, having your librarian contacting the publisher, and then, this week, learning the problem is solved. So here it is: “Sleepy Scribes and Clever Critics: A Classification of Conjectures on the Text of the New Testament.”

In forthcoming publications of our team, such as my dissertation on the NT conjectural criticism of Jan Hendrik Holwerda (1805-1886), the classification will come into action!