Tuesday, September 16, 2008

1. Seven or Eight Beatitudes: Wellhausen on Mt 5:5

This is the first of a series of short posts on conjectural emendations found in the Nestle editions (mostly in the apparatus only). In each post, I will give the source of the conjecture, and a short evaluation. Some other aspects can be discussed as well, such as its transmission history, within the Nestle editions or elsewhere.
Needless to say, comments, suggestions and questions to the series are welcome.
See the sidebar for other posts in the series.

In its apparatus NA27 mentions a conjecture on Mt 5:5: the omission of the entire verse is proposed by Wellhausen.

Why would Wellhausen want to rob us of the Beatitude of the meek (μακάριοι οἱ πραεῖς, ὅτι αὐτοὶ κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν)? In order to understand what Wellhausen intended with his conjecture, one has to know where he proposed it. In this case, the source is not hard to find: Julius Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Matthaei übersetzt und erklärt, Berlin, Reimer, 1904. There, on p. 15, he writes:
5,10 wäre die achte Seligpreisung. Mt vermehrt aber die drei Seligpreisungen bei Lc nicht deshalb, um sie auf acht, sondern um sie auf sieben zu bringen; ebenso wie er es bei den Bitten des Vaterunsers macht. Er hat auch sieben Gleichnisse in Kap. 13 und sieben Weherufe in Kap. 23. Eingeschoben ist nun nicht der allerdings inhaltlich leicht wiegende Vers 10; denn er soll den Übergang zu den beiden volgenden Versen machen. Sondern vielmehr Vers 4, denn er ist mit Haut und Haar (τὴν γῆν) aus Ps. 37,11 übernommen, und er hat in den Hss. eine schwankende Stellung – was öfters ein Zeichen der Interpolation ist.
It is clear from this citation that verse 4, in Wellhausen’s text, is the Beatitude of the meek, verse 5 in the modern critical text. Wellhausen follows the numbering of the Vulgate, in which verses 4 and 5 are transposed. This already shows the ‘schwankende Stellung’ mentioned by Wellhausen. The verses are also found transposed in D (05) and 33 (see NA27).
The reasoning that leads to the conjecture is typical. Wellhausen detects a rule according to which Matthew prefers the number seven in literary composition. This rule is then made so important that it leads to emendation of places where it is not found to be confirmed. Wellhausen’s sample, however, seems to be rather small. One may therefore ask how firm his rule was in the first place, if emendation has to be applied to make it work.
Moreover, the conjecture suggests that the Beatitudes in their current form do not betray a balanced composition, an idea that does not hold water when careful exegesis is done.

In conclusion: Wellhausen’s conjecture is completely unnecessary, and should not even have been mentioned in the Nestle editions. Its only interesting aspect is to remind us that Matthew does not hesitate to recast a line from the Psalms in order to compose the Beatitudes. It reflects a time in which scholars tended to find glosses at the most unexpected places (which of course does not mean that interpolations never occurred ...).

One more aspect of the conjecture deserves some attention: in NA26 it was indicated as to be applied to verse 6. It is hard to see why such an error was made. Perhaps the above-mentioned frequent transposition of verses 4 and 5 played a role. Interestingly, we have here one of the few cases in which NA26 introduced a fresh conjecture in its apparatus, compared to NA25.
The error has been corrected in NA27, though initially not in its Introduction, in which Wellhausen’s conjecture is used as an example (pp. 12*.54*).
Finally, Bowyer (Critical Conjectures, 41812, p. 62) records (Johannes) Piscator’s opinion, according to which verses 5 and 6 should be inverted.


Peter M. Head said...

It is interesting to see when the theory (Matthew constructs things in sevens) comes to be imposed upon the evidence of the text.
Although they don't get to textual emendation, Davies & Allison could be accused of an analogous problem: Matthew's supposed use of triads is appealed to in considering both the structure/paragraphing and the tradition-history of the beatitudes (Matt 5.3-12). I.e. v11-12 must be considered with the others so that it comes to nine in total (never mind change in structure, person, imperatival address etc.); and Matthew's redactional insertion of v10 can be explained as simply due to Matthew's desire to get to nine!

Jan Krans said...

Well yes, Davies and Allison (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew; Vol. 1: Introduction and Commentary on Matthew I-VII, Edinburgh: Clark, 1988, esp. pp. 429-431) have such a detailed source-critical view on the Beatitudes that it comes as a surprise that in a few instances they still confess not to know exactly to which layer of the tradition a saying should be contributed. That part of their work is full of conjectures indeed, though not on the text of Matthew's gospel, but on Q (notably QMt) and Jesus. To me, the simplest solution remains to assume a Matthean composition of eight Beatitudes, the last of which (vs. 10) repeats the general theme of the Kingdom of Heaven (vs. 3), at the same time, by means of the persecution motive, preparing the transition from the third to the second person.

Peter M. Head said...

Yes, somehow conjectures in textual criticism are frowned upon, while conjectures in source criticism are quite encouraged.