Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Conjectural Emendation Quiz

In collaboration with Evangelical Textual Criticism, a small quotation quiz was organized. Here are the answers in chronological order, with some remarks.

#2 is indeed by Scrivener, in 1861:
It is now agreed among competent judges that Conjectural Emendation must never be resorted to, even in passages of acknowledged difficulty, ...
Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of Biblical Students, Cambridge etc.: Deighton, Bell, and Co etc., 11861, 369.

Note the typical term ‘resorting to’. In later editions the quotation continues as follows:
... difficulty; the absence of proof that a reading proposed to be substituted for the common one is actually supported by some trustworthy document being of itself a fatal objection to our receiving it.
Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of Biblical Students, 2 vols, London etc.: Bell, 41894, II p. 244 (already 21874, p. 433).

This complex sentence - to me at least - seems to mean that conjectures are unacceptable because they are conjectures. The interesting point is that Scrivener maintains all this, knowing about William Linwood’s support of conjectural emendation of the New Testament. By implication, Linwood would not belong to the select class of ‘competent judges’.

#1 is indeed by Eb. Nestle, in 1901, at least in the English translation:
Not long ago philologists evinced such a fondness for conjectural emendation that the question might not unreasonably be asked why they did not rather themselves write the text that they took in hand to explain.
Eberhard Nestle, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament. London: Williams and Norgate, 1901, p. 167.

The German original is from 1899, and sounds even better:
Für’s Konjekturen-machen hatten viele Philologen vor noch nicht langer Zeit eine so grosse Vorliebe, dass man nicht ohne Grund fragen konnte, warum sie die Texte, die sie zu erklären vorgaben, nicht lieber selbst schrieben; ...
Eberhard Nestle, Einführung in das Griechische Neue Testament. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 21899, p. 134 (not in 11897). (The title of the English translation makes explicit what Nestle took for granted ...)

The Nestle quotation continues, however, on a more positive note:
At the same time, the aversion to this method of criticism which till recently prevailed and still to some extent prevails, especially in the matter of the New Testament text, is just as unreasonable.
In German:
... ebenso unbegründet aber war und ist die Abneigung, die namentlich auf dem Gebiet der nt.lichen Textkritik bis in die jüngste Zeit gegen sie herrschte, zum Teil noch herrscht.
Perhaps ‘unfounded’ would have been a better translation of ‘unbegründet’ than ‘unreasonable’, but the idea is clear. Did Nestle have Scrivener (et al.) in mind? In any case, Nestle himself is known for a number of conjectures on the NT text.

#5 is by Kenyon:
No authority could be attached to words which rested upon conjecture; and a critic who should devote himself to editing the Scriptures on conjectural lines would be merely wasting his time.
Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. London: Macmillan11901, 15 (21926), p. 17.

Kenyon’s position becomes even clearer if the quotation is taken a bit larger:
It is universally agreed ... that the sphere of conjecture in the case of the New Testament is infinitesimal; and it may further be added that for practical purposes it must be treated as non-existent. No authority could be attached to words which rested upon conjecture; and a critic who should devote himself to editing the Scriptures on conjectural lines would be merely wasting his time. Where nothing but questions of literary style are involved, we may be willing to accept a reading upon conjecture, if no better evidence is to be had; but where it is a question of the Word of Life, some surer foundation is required.
The same agreement, now even universal, as found with Scrivener. To me, Kenyon exemplifies two aspects: (1) the opinion that the wealth of evidence in manuscripts, versions, and citations, almost precludes conjectural emendation, and (2) a theology-driven protest against it; hence ‘authority’, and the need of ‘some surer foundation’.
BTW, the particular use of the semicolon in Kenyon’s prose was once common even in British English, but has been abolished from civilised writing ever since; presumably it survives in certain areas of Australia only.

#3 is indeed by me (thanks Christian), in 2006:
Knowledge of authors should precede judgement of their conjectures.
Jan Krans, Beyond What Is Written. Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament (NTTS 35), Leiden etc.: Brill, 2006, p. 3 (cf. p. 333).

It is my short formula for the ‘historical turn’ in the study of NT conjectural emendation. HT to Hort, of course; he was the one who was ‘clever with words’ (PH).

#4 is by Georg Luck, in 2009:
It is a sobering experience to observe what flights of fancy Biblical scholars indulge in order to discredit a conjecture.
Georg Luck, ‘Conjectural Emendation in the Greek New Testament’. In Verae Lectiones. Estudios de Crítica Textual y Edición de Textos Griegos. Eds. M. Sanz Morales and M. Librán Moreno. Cáceres: Huelva, 2009, 169-202, 183.

The entire article is not (yet) very well known, but it nicely shows a current-day classical scholar’s take on NT conjectural emendation. For members of the Textual Criticism Group, a scan of it is available under ‘files’.
The context of this remark is actually Kilpatrick’s defence of the transmitted reading ὑσσώπῳ (‘on hyssop’) against the conjecture ὑσσῷ (‘on a javelin’) in John 19:29.
Peter Head (in the comments on the ETC post) deduced an 18th-century date for the quotation, because it reflects a period in which biblical scholars were still remembered to discuss (and reject) specific conjectures, instead of them simply rejecting conjectural emendation in principle. Perhaps then, in the eyes of Luck, Kilpatrick becomes a biblical scholar instead of a textual critic, just because he deals with conjectures the way he does.

This concludes the quiz; there could easily be made a second one, with quotations just as interesting. Maybe next year.

4 comments:

Nazaroo said...

Kenyon was easy to I.D...

I made the mistake of thinking this was from Hort somewhere:

"Knowledge of authors should precede judgement of their conjectures."

It is so Hortian as to be embarrassing. What is deliciously devious about it is its glaring ambiguity when one reads it twice with a twinkle...

At first I read "authors" as authors of the NT documents, naturally enough, but then follows the jarring second half with the possessive "their conjectures".

If one is awake for that, alarm-bells ring.

Then comes the realisation that "authors" is just NT textual critics themselves, who can be safely ignored.

Then comes gag #2: It parallels the argument against materialistic atheism that goes...

"If your thoughts are just random molecules bouncing around, then I can safely ignore your argument for materialism. Its just random noise."

peace
Nazaroo

Bob Relyea said...

Rats, I was looking in Kenyon, But in chapter VII not Chapter I.

Peter M. Head said...

You have two #2s.

thanks for this.

Jan Krans said...

Thanks Peter; correction is made. Nestle comes first.