Tuesday, December 09, 2008

5. To Touch or Not to Touch: Lepsius on John 20:17

This is the fifth instalment of the series on conjectures in the Nestle editions. See the sidebar for earlier posts.

In the Biblical Studies Carnaval XXXVI, Jim West says that the text-critical matter presented in the previous instalment of this series (Camerarius on John 19:29), is “really fascinating stuff ..., but not for the faint of heart”. Well then, it gets even worse today (for the faint-of-heart, that is), for today’s conjecture, if accepted, would render obsolete beautiful paintings such as this one by Titian. (Not that art ceases to be art when it is discovered to be based on textual misunderstandings - perhaps a nice idea for a new series.)

In John 20:17, the risen Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Touch me not (μή μου ἅπτου); for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (KJV). At the surface, the connection between the two phrases seems to be awkward, especially because of the word ‘for’ (γάρ). The current Nestle edition (NA27), as did NA26, records a conjecture by ‘Lipsius’, ἅπτου μου instead of μή μου ἅπτου. That is, Jesus asks (commands) Mary to touch him, apparently while it is still possible!

Somewhat surprisingly, earlier Nestle editions, from N13 to NA25, give ‘Lepsius’, not ‘Lipsius’ as the author of this conjecture, and ‘Lepsius’ turns out to be correct. So, in your copy of NA27, please take a pencil (not a ballpoint pen) and correct the ‘i’ into an ‘e’ (or strike the entire conjecture, see below; or supply a different author, see below). The error was easily made, for there is a conjecture by Lipsius recorded on Luke 16:17.1

As customary in this series, let us go to the sources and ask who Lepsius was and what he proposed.

Lepsius and his conjecture
Johannes Lepsius (1858-1926) was the son of Carl Richard Lepsius, a famous Egyptologist. The son was a missionary; he is especially known for his work for the Armenian cause.

From 1898 to 1911 he edited a journal, Das Reich Christi. It is in this journal that his conjecture can be found, in a series of articles on John’s gospel.2 First some context, therefore, derived from these articles.

In general, Lepsius’ approach must be characterised as harmonistic, that is, he tries to reconcile the differences between the resurrection stories as found in the four New Testament gospels. He follows for instance the idea according to which ‘Galilee’ in the resurrection stories in Mark and Matthew is actually found on the Mount of Olives.

In his remarks on Mary Magdalen in John 20, one also detects an interest related to harmonisation, namely to consider the story not as fiction (or narrative elaboration of a rather vague tradition), but as eyewitness report, with a reasoning that I do not entirely understand:
... entweder war der Verfasser Augenzeuge oder ein Romanschriftsteller ersten Ranges. Die unmittelbare sittliche Empfindung entscheidet für das erstere. (p. 31)

Perhaps someone can explain what ‘unmittelbare sittliche Empfindung’ is exactly, but I fail to see how such directness can be a criterion for historical authenticity.

The conjecture itself is introduced in rather simple terms, but theses words contain some surprises for those who know the conjecture only from secondary sources (the Nestle apparatus):
Daß in den Worten: Rühre mich (nicht) an – das “nicht” als Dittographie (im aramäischen Grundtexte des Evangeliums) zu streichen und “Rühre mich an” zu lesen ist, legt schon der Vergleich mit Joh. 20,19 [sic; probably John 20:20 is meant]; 20,27; Luk. 24,39-40 nahe. Alle Gründe, die die Kommentare für das noli me tangere geltend machen, offenbaren nur die Verlegenheit der Ausleger. (p. 31)

The last remark is to the point: the commentators betray many difficulties in explaining the verse in particular and the meaning of ‘Do not touch me’ in particular. All commentators tend to regard their solution as definitive, but the multiplicity of solutions, in this case, is telling.3

Lepsius’ conjecture is a literary one, that is, prompted by the comparison with other texts. Had Lepsius only referred to John 20:20 and 20:27, his would be a valid, if debatable, argument. With the inclusion of Luke 24, however, his harmonistic interest makes itself to be felt again. Such an approach almost automatically disqualifies the resulting conjecture, just as harmonistic variants, other things being equal, are not considered as original.

Even more problematic than the harmonistic approach is another aspect of Lepsius’ method, if it can be called thus. He appeals, albeit between brackets, to an original Aramaic source or version of the Gospel. Such conjectures, however, are not conjectures on the Greek text. Lepsius assumes a dittography in the original Aramaic, not even a dittography in an Aramaic copy or a translation error made when the Greek text was prepared.

There is no reference, and no elaboration on the Aramaic words Lepsius has in mind. If one (unscholarly) takes the Peshitta wording as a starting point, a dittography seems not very likely.

In general, I do not find such translation hypotheses very convincing, and the methods used for them are shaky, but I know that nineteenth- and twentieth-century research is full of such theories. In Lepsius’ case, the Aramaic source theory is not applied in order to better understand linguistic and other idiosyncrasies of John’s gospel, but to take away an inconcinnity as perceived by him.

In any case, Lepsius does not assume an error in the Greek transmission. Therefore, his opinion on this text does not belong to the realm of textual criticism, but to source criticism. Interesting though it may be, with Lepsius’ argumentation it has no place in the Nestle-Aland apparatus.

Yet the conjecture can perhaps remain in the apparatus, as an apt reminder of the exegetical difficulties of this verse, but if so, a different author should be indicated: Christoph Gotthelf Gersdorf (1763-1834). This German pastor wrote a single influential book (and even only vol. I of it), namely Beiträge zur Sprach-Characteristik der Schriftsteller des Neuen Testaments. Eine Sammlung meist neuer Bemerkungen, Erster Theil, Leipzig, Weidmann, 1816. Gersdorf is mentioned in older German commentaries (though mostly without a proper reference), making it somewhat strange that only Lepsius’ name appears in the Nestle editions.

Moreover, Gersdorf’s proposal clearly differs from Lepsius’, for it really qualifies as a conjecture (found in the long footnote on pp. 79-80 of the xxxvi+579-page book). His reasoning is as follows (in my words). Exegetically, the verse is both strange in itself, and odd compared with John 20:27. Textcritically, the concurrence of the variant readings μή μου ἅπτου, μὴ ἅπτου μου and even the difficult μὴ ἅπτου may suggest that an original μου ἅπτου was miscopied as μὴ ἅπτου, to which subsequently μου was supplied in two different ways, as ἅπτου evidently needs an object. One can also imagine ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ corruption alike, for a text in which the risen Jesus asks a woman to touch him may not be to everyone’s taste. Finally, from a psychological point of view, one would more readily imagine fear to be the first reaction of someone confronted with a friend who is risen from the dead.4

Other conjectures
There are other conjectures known to the same words, the most popular of which is μὴ πτόου (‘don’t be terrified!’), addressing precisely the psychological point made by Gersdorf. However this post is already getting too long. Once again, it feels like I have only scratched the surface of this intriguing verse.

1. Lipsius, in this case, is the nineteenth-century theologian Richard Adelbert Lipsius, not the sixteenth-century classical scholar Justus Lipsius.
2. See ‘Das Johannes-Evangelium. I. Der Text’, in Das Reich Christi 5 (1902), issues 2-5 (February-May), and ‘Die Auferstehungsberichte’, in issues 7-8 (July-August). From the latter, a separate publication exists, entitled Reden und Abhandlungen von Johannes Lepsius. 4. Die Auferstehungsberichte, Berlin, Reich Christi-Verlag, 1902, which will be quoted here.
3. Lepsius may have had Bernard Weiss’ commentary (KEK II, 81893) in mind. There, I easily count 12 different opinions mentioned in the footnotes on pp. 611-612, which makes at least 13 together with Weiss’ own solution, and all that more than a century ago.
4. Compare Gersdorf’s own words (pp. 79-80 footnote): ‘Für μη μου ἁπτου hat aber B. (Vat. 1209.) μη ἁπτου μου, und Mt. B. (b. Wetst. auch D. codd. lat.?) bloss μη ἁπτου. Durch diese Weglassung oder Versetzung des μου, das, wenn ἁπτου echt ist, nie gefehlt haben kann, dürfte man vielleicht auf die Vermuthung geführt werden, dass die Negation μη in diesem μου auf eine oder die andere Weise bereits früherhin ihren Ursprung fand, und es anfänglich bloss hiess: ἁπτου μου, oder auch μου ἁπτου, das aber mit der Heiligkeit des Erstandenen nicht ganz verträglich schien, und den Freunden des Docetismus anstössig seyn mochte. Denn wenn gleich v. 16. Μαρια eine freundliche Zusprache des Herrn und sanfte Ankündigung seiner Persönlichkeit war; so wird doch gewiss Maria ihr Ραββουνι jetzt, bei einer so unerwarteten Totenerscheinung (v. 15.), nur mit Graus und Schrecken, gleich einem Angstschrei, erwiedert, und sich wahrscheinlich mehr entfernt als genähert haben. Auch scheint v. 16. στραφεισα, und v. 14. ἐστραφη εἰς τα ὀπισω eher an die Flucht als an eine Annäherung zu erinnern, und v. 5. οὐ μεντοι εἰσηλθεν (vgl. v. 11.) offenbar an ihre Furchtsamkeit, so dass aus dem Munde Jesu zunächst zu erwarten war: “fürchte dich nicht, tritt näher, rühre mich an; ich bin noch derselbe und in eurer Mitte; habe mich noch nicht zu meinem Vater erheben!” (vgl. Luc. 24,37-40.).’ For the reading μὴ ἅπτου, Gersdorf depends on Griesbach's edition; Griesbach in turn refers to Matthaei for it (hence ‘Mt’).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Exit Live Search Books - Enter Internet Archive

In a previous post, I mentioned a number of NTTC (and OTTC) books found on Microsoft’s Live Search Books. The service, however, was discontinued in May 2008. The Wikipedia page on MSN states that it "integrated into regular web search", but this standard phrase appears to be incorrect (also the page on LSB itself).

Fortunately, many of LSB’s out-of-copyright books are now found on the Internet Archive, the best known part of which is the Wayback Machine. The books are available in different formats. For important books, I would recommend to download a copy on your own computer. There are just too many examples of websites taken down or crashed servers. The following list contains the examples given in the previous post mentioned above. As many people do not use the DjVU format, I will provide a link to the PDF alongside the reference to the archive page itself. In many cases, other copies are available (marked with +).

* Friedrich Blass, Philology of the Gospels (1898). (pdf) (+).
* Charles Fox Burney, The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (1922). (pdf) (+)
* Frederick Field, Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt ... (1875) vol. 1. (pdf)
* Frederick Field, Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt ... (1875) vol. 2. (pdf)
* Frederick Field, Notes on the Translation of the New Testament (1899). (pdf) (+)
* Caspar Rene Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament (1907). (pdf)
* James Rendel Harris, Biblical Fragments from Mount Sinai (1890). (pdf)
* James Rendel Harris, Codex Bezae (1891). (pdf)
* George Milligan, Here & There Among the Papyri (1922). (pdf)
* [Eberhard Nestle], Η ΚΑΙΝΗ ΔΙΑΘΗΚΗ. Text with Critical Apparatus [Nestle text with TR and RV variants] (1904). (pdf)
* James Hardy Ropes, The Text of Acts (The Beginnings of Christianity I.3) (1926). (pdf)
* Philip Schaff, A Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version (1883). (pdf) (+)
* Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, Contributions to the Criticism of the Greek New Testament (1859). (pdf) (+)
* Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, Six Lectures on the Text of the New Testament and the Ancient Manuscripts Which Contain It (1875). (pdf)
* Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of Biblical Students. Vol. I (41894). (pdf)
* Alexander Souter, The Text and Canon of the New Testament (1913). (pdf) (+)
* Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek vol. 1 (31901) (pdf); vol. 2 (21896) (pdf); vol. 3 (31905) (pdf). ((+))
* Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament (1854). (pdf) (+)
* Thomas Hunter Weir, A Short History of the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament (1899). (pdf) (+)

Happy hunting!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Manuscripts in Cyberspace - the Virtual Manuscript Room

Suppose you can study the textual complexities of a New Testament verse in an attractive and easy-to-use web-interface, with access to an exhaustive critical edition, which for a start lists all manuscripts together with all readings in this verse (and, as far as I am concerned, even the scholarly conjectures in a different layer, editorial choices and whatever). And what is more, for any manuscript listed you have access to a digital image of the page with the verse you are studying, just one mouse click away. Wouldn’t this be heaven on earth for the textual scholar? Tommy Wasserman could have done his dissertation in one year or less ...

This heaven may well be realised, at least for the New Testament, in the not-too-distant future. Eschatology in the process of realisation. I cannot demonstrate how it will be (it is the future, remember), but I can tell something about a small, essential step being taken right now. It is time then to already learn a new acronym: VMR, the Virtual Manuscript Room, for that is where the manuscripts will be - for as we all know, virtual is just as real as real itself, only different.

As far as every virtual reality has a foothold in our everyday space-time continuum, this one is located in a country known as Germany, more precisely in Münster, at the INTF. The project is managed by Ulrich Schmid and Martin Faßnacht, two persons I know to exist - Ulrich even speaks Dutch.

To begin with, the VMR addresses a very important problem that hampers efficient interaction with the wealth of digital images coming available on the internet: lack of indexes. Normally one does not only want the images, but also to easily find a given passage. It is of course much more, but in its most simple form, the VMR index contains a list of pages with their internet address and contents. Thanks to that index, the VMR promises to be the ideal intermediary between any form of information that uses verse references and the web-based images themselves.

The index can (and will) contain more than just the textual contents; it also records illuminations, decorations, canon tables, kephalaia lists, etc. Some images may not show the manuscript itself, but its binding, or a scale (or the gloved fingers of a Google collaborator). This can be indicated as well. The screenshot here shows the interface I am using right now, as a beta tester, to provide the index information for the Codex Boreelianus (F 09) of the Gospels.

Not much eye candy here, except for the fancy colours, but the interface is effective enough.

A popup-window can be opened with the web-image of the page you are indexing. In this case I am at the beginning of Mark. As said, the indexing allows (demands) me to draw attention to the decoration (the head piece) here.

More important than the interface, of course, is the underlying database technology (MySQL), and the model adopted to describe and index the manuscripts in a unique and complete way. All this guarantees the (re)useability of the data.

Wouldn’t this indexing job be a nice pass-time for a talented undergraduate, as it is just looking up some verse references and filling in some numbers, after all? Partly yes, but mostly no. In the first place, one always underestimates how much background knowledge is taken for granted. How do you know that something is special when you hardly know what is normal? More in particular, part of the beta testing process is to find out how to handle the unexpected. One example is the indexing of pages which are incomplete. And the Boreelianus, a two-column manuscript, definitively has its share of torn and cut pages, in many different ways. The few days of working with the project allowed me once again to realise how useful beta testing can be. It is all a matter of finetuning and making explicit aims, limitations and working procedures.

Once the VMR is up and running, with the data entered by collaborators all over the world, it should become really easy to answer questions such as "how many complete manuscripts of Mark’s gospel are there?" or "which manuscripts contain Rom 1:1-7?". I am convinced that the data, all together, will give textual scholars research possibilities not thought of previously.

The VMR, in my view, would not have to be limited to manuscripts (what’s in a name?). Alongside manuscript study, the history of the printed text and of textual criticism as a scholarly discipline deserves some attention as well. So why not include important editions such as Tischendorf’s Editio Octava? By the way, the TC Ebind site, which contains images of the entire scanned edition, is down at the moment, but I hope it will be back online before long.

Are there possible problems? Of course, and certainly more than I can think of. A first difficulty has to do with the lack of stability of the internet. As the VMR database contains references to images anywhere, it will certainly require frequent maintenance. Another problem may be lack of direct access to images on the web. In many cases, for instance, images are hidden behind (inside, that is) intricate web interfaces which do not allow so-called "deep linking".

Another important issue, from a scholarly point of view, may be data suffocation. Of course we need the data, with speedy access to all we want, but we should keep in mind that wealth of information does not necessarily make us better textual critics. With everything visible at arm’s length, we are almost bound not to have a "grand view". Nothing will replace the hard and intense labour of actually working with the data, but the VMR promises to make our time even more well-spent.

Thanks to Ulrich Schmid and Martin Faßnacht for permitting me to blog on the VMR project while it is still in beta.

Some information on the VMR can be found on the projects page of the INTF website. Stay tuned there for developments. A call for collaboration was issued in December 2007 on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

4. Hyssop or Spear: Camerarius on John 19:29

This is the fourth instalment of a series on conjectures in the Nestle editions. See the sidebar for other posts.

In John 19:29 we read: "... they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth" (RSV). The meaning of "put ... on hyssop" (ὑσσώπῳ περιθέντες) is so problematic that a popular conjecture exists, namely to read ὑσσῷ περιθέντες ("put ... on a spear"). Before presenting the conjecture itself, let me first elaborate the exegetical issue somewhat. It is twofold here.

In the first place, there is a notable difference with Mark 15:36 (and Matthew 27:48), where ‘hyssop’ is not mentioned, but a ‘reed’ (κάλαμος). Perhaps this is not much of a problem, for we can simply assume, as in many other cases, that John, being familiar with the synoptic traditions, changed a detail in order to put his own ‘spin’ on the story.

In the second place, however, comes a more serious problem. Doesn’t the presence of ‘hyssop’ render an essential detail of the scene unimaginable and inconceivable? Hyssop, after all, is a rather small plant, completely unsuited for the function described by John. Please note that I am not interested in "what really happened" and the like, but simply ask whether John's contemporaries would have accepted this part as coherent story-telling.

This second issue is addressed by the conjecture mentioned in the Nestle apparatus, according to which Camerarius proposed υσσω instead of υσσωπω. Let me quote from the source, Joachim Camerarius the Elder’s notes published in 1572. In my provisional translation:
‘Hyssop’ is the name of a herb. What mentioning it here may mean, others have inferred elsewhere through guessing; Matthew mentions a reed. It is perhaps permitted to suspect that to this reed that herb as well had been attached; Nonnus asserts that the vinegar presented to Jesus was mixed with hyssop, for he calls it ὑσσώπῳ κεκερασμένον [mixed with hyssop]. But if there is room left for conjectures, what if it would be permitted to suspect that the archetype had ὑσσῷ προπεριθέντες, so that on top of a spear a sponge, put around there, was presented to Jesus? For the spear of the Roman army, in particular the (throwing) javelin was called ὑσσός by the Greek. From which Matthew perhaps used the common name of spears, ‘reed’. Although also someone else could have taken a reed, drench a sponge with vinegar, and bring it mockingly to Jesus’ mouth. But that I leave undecided, and in my view it cannot be known thus far, notwithstanding the inquiry into the essential truth.1


1. Camerarius is not very explicit on the problem; perhaps the lack of agreement with Matthew (and Mark) is just as important to him.

2. Camerarius' conjecture differs from what is found in the Nestle apparatus, for he lets -ΠΩ of ὑσσώπῳ be the visible trace of ΠΡΟ in προπεριθέντες (instead of περιθέντες). It transpires that the omission of this element is due to Beza, who simply mentions only the first part of the conjecture in his NT editions of 1582 and later. Beza’s form may actually be better than the original proposal by Camerarius, as one can imagine dittography (ΥΣΣΩΠΕΡΙ becoming ΥΣΣΩΠΩΠΕΡΙ), or perhaps even a scribe who nilly-willy introduced hyssop into the text.

3. Some Old Latin manuscripts (to wit b ff2 n v) read ‘perticae’, which means a ‘pole’ or ‘long staff’ (Lewis & Short).2 This reading is alluded to in NA27, where the conjecture comes with the comment ‘cf it’. In my view, however, the origin of this reading is translational; it does not reflect a lost reading in Greek, and ‘pertica’ does not stand for κάλαμος or another word, let alone ὑσσός.

4. Some late minuscules (476* and 1242) have ὑσσῷ. If a scholarly conjecture is found in such a late manuscript, I would not state that the conjecture has ceased to be a conjecture. In this case, the coincidence cannot even be called a confirmation. One would of course have to study the manuscripts themselves, but Metzger’s idea that the reading (in 476*) "seems to have arisen accidentally through haplography" is attractive.3 In short, the agreement between the conjecture and these manuscripts is probably accidental itself.

5. The conjecture has an impressive reception history, more so than almost any other conjecture on the text of the New Testament. A few examples out of an admittedly very complex history: ὑσσῷ was printed by Baljon and Lagrange, and accepted in Moffatt’s translation and the NEB; David Parker supports it (at least, he did so in 1997).4 Many other conjectures on the same problem have been proposed and forgotten, but this one (in Beza’s version) still stands out as a good test case for the viability of the application of conjectural emendation on the NT text. Rest assured, however, that this post merely scratches the surface of the issue of John 19:29.

[6. Update 29 July 2010: Camerarius’ book can be consulted online. The link takes you directy to p. 297.]

1. "Notae herbae nomen est hyssopus. Cuius quid hoc loco mentio sibi velit, alii aliter divinando coniecerunt, Matthaeus arundinis facit mentionem, cui et applicatam herbam illam fuisse fortasse liceat suspicari Nonnus fecit, acetum illud oblatum Iesu mistum fuisse hyssopo, vocat enim ὑσσώπῳ κεκερασμένον. Quod si coniecturis locus relinquitur, quid si liceat suspicari? in archetypo fuisse: ὑσσῷ προπεριθέντες, ut sit supra pilum spongiam ibi circumdatam Iesu fuisse oblatam. Nam pilum Romanae militiae peculiare telum Graeci appellarunt ὑσσόν. De quo fortasse Matthaeus arundinis nomine usus est telorum generali. Cum alius quoque arreptam arundinem madefactamque aceto spongiam, per ludibrium admovere ori Iesu potuerit. Sed haec in medio relinqui, atque adeo, illabefactata veritatis necessariae cognitione, ignorari posse existimo." Cited from Joachim Camerarius (1500-1574), Notatio Figurarum Sermonis in Libris Quatuor Evangeliorum, Leipzig, Vögelin, 1572, pp. 297-298. Camerarius' notes are also printed as part of the 1642 Cambridge edition of Beza's NT. The reference to Nonnus concerns his paraphrase of John's gospel; see e.g. Nonni Panopolitani Paraphrasis S. Evangelii Ioannei (ed. Scheindler), Leipzig, Teubner, 1881, p. 206 l. 154 (ὤρεγεν ὑσσώπῳ κεκερασμένον ὄξος ὀλέθρου).
2. See the ITSEE edition; there two-digit numbers are used, in this case 04 08 16 25.
3. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 21994, p. 217.
4. D.C. Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 176-177. Parker writes: "Here is a conjecture which would have been accepted in such a narrative in any other kind of text. It should be accepted here."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hoskier on Greek scholars

While reading Hoskier's Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, I came across a nice generalization made by Hoskier. Discussing min. 617 (his no. 74), he writes (Vol. I, p. 238):
This MS. is written by a Greek scholar, a thing fatal to the accurate transmission of the sacred text, it would seem.

Which reminds me of a statement once made by Erasmus (against Stunica, ASD IX-2, p. 200):
... no one corrupts books more, or more dangerously, than the half-learned or the learned even when they are for the most part careful. (... nulli magis aut periculosius depravant libros quam semidocti aut docti etiam partim attenti.)

In general, I find that Hoskier's work bristles with emotion, something one would not immediately expect from these hundreds of pages with manuscript descriptions and collations.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

3. How to Track Down a Conjecture - A Note on Method

This is the third instalment of a series on conjectures in the Nestle editions. See the sidebar for other posts.

In a comment on my posting on 1 Thes 2:16, Peter Head asks whether there are any short-cuts in tracking down the source of a given conjecture in the NA apparatus, compared to the following steps:

1. get a basic idea of the era of the person;
2. check the older detailed commentaries that are likely to discuss this sort of thing;
3. locate the original source in a good library.

The discussion is important enough to be given a separate posting. The general problem is the following. The Nestle editions indicate numerous conjectures in their critical apparatus, but the information consists of only two elements: a reading and a name. How does one proceed to find out which author is meant, and what the original source for the conjecture is (assuming that the author proposed it in a written source)?

Well, I agree with Peter’s method, but I do have some preferences and some short-cuts. Most of the following, by the way, applies just as well to conjectures that did not make it into the Nestle apparatus, but which are mentioned without proper references in commentaries and articles.

To begin with, I already have a detailed list of any conjecture’s first appearance in any Nestle edition, which gives me a first terminus ante quem. Besides, in many cases it is not very hard to guess the author (‘Erasmus’; but try e.g. John 20:17 ‘Lepsius’/‘Lipsius’ or 2 Tim 3:10 ‘v. Wyss'), and for many authors, the source is not hard to guess. In the case of Erasmus, for instance, his Annotationes are the obvious place to go, and there indeed his opinion on Col 1:15 (see NA25) and Jas 4:2 is found.

The key term for the most important short-cut is ‘collections’. It may be true that especially older German commentaries (KEK (Meyer), KNT (Zahn), HNT (Holtzmann)) discuss many conjectures, but one fares much better with special sources of collected conjectures.

The first collection to mention is Wettstein. If the conjecture occurs in Wettstein’s 1750-1751 edition (or in the list found in the 1730 Prolegomena), the possible period becomes much shorter, of course, and in most cases, the author can be identified with confidence. The second collection is from the same century, namely Bowyer’s Critical Conjectures (various editions up to 1812), as important as Wettstein, with even the advantage that Bowyer regularly gives a - rudimentary - reference (he actually gives one if he happens to have one).

The other collections are found in the second half of the nineteenth century. Monographs, dissertations, and articles by scholars in the ‘Dutch School’ are very useful. First came the general books by van Manen and van de Sande Bakhuyzen. Later, dissertations by Franssen, van de Beke Callenfels, de Koe and Baljon gave more detailed discussions of conjectures on individual books of the NT. Together with a series of articles by Baljon, these detailed discussions eventually formed a collection covering the entire NT (except Acts and Revelation).

Needless to say, one would have to have some command of the beautiful Dutch language in order to use these sources (just as Latin for Wettstein and English (and German!) for Bowyer). And we all know that references in those times were not always very clear, but in many cases they are just sufficient to track down the source.

For 1 Thes 2:16, for instance, I now notice that I could have used one of the articles by Baljon (or van Manen’s book) as well, but I had already noted Lünemann’s reference in my files.

A good library is indeed essential, or actually several good ones. Luckily, the Netherlands is a small country. The Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung turned out to be available in microform at the Nijmegen Radboud University. Sometimes nowadays one can be even more lucky and find books and articles on Google Books or archive.org, to name just the two most important sites. The future may be bright for this type of research.

Now that the short-cuts are discussed, the necessary roundabout routes should be mentioned as well. The most important problem is that the information on conjectures and their authors in the Nestle editions is not always reliable. Conjectures can have earlier authors (but how could one possibly know that?), they can have been withdrawn, or proposed quite differently by the authors that are mentioned, etc. Besides that, the Nestle editions often mention only one conjecture for a given textual problem, whereas the nature of conjectural emendation (and the scholars’ indépendance d'esprit) more often than not leads to several efforts worthy of attention. Historical research of NT conjectural emendation is intricate, to say the least.

In the end, one of the remarkable results in tracking down conjectures is that most riddles remain for the period after, say, 1890. More recent books and articles are of course easier to find, but the manner in which the conjectures found their way into the Nestle apparatus can at times be very obscure. I sometimes speculate about someone simply writing a letter to Eberhard Nestle, or to Paul Wilhelm Schmiedel who then informed Nestle. In any case, there is still a lot of work to be done here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2. Did God’s Wrath Come? - Ritschl on 1 Thes 2:16

This is the second instalment of a series on conjectures in the Nestle editions. See the sidebar for other posts.

In 1 Thes 2:14-16 we find Paul uttering very harsh words against ‘the Jews’. He writes about ‘... the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved – so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!’ (RSV).

An important part of the historical exegesis of these verses is the assumption made by various commentators, or by historians of early Christianity, that the transmitted text contains an interpolation. Their proposals vary from the end of verse 16 only, to 1 Thes 2:15-16, or even 1 Thes 2:13-16 entirely (if for a moment we exclude those who suggest that the entire epistle is not Pauline).

At 1 Thes 2:16 NA27 mentions two conjectures. The second one, by ‘Rodrigues’, will be discussed at another occasion. The first one concerns the omission of ἔφθασεν δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος in verse 16b, and was proposed, according to Nestle-Aland, by ‘Ritschl’. But which Ritschl is it? The famous theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), his son Otto Ritschl (1860-1944), also theologian, or the classical scholar Friedrich Ritschl (1806-1876)? And where did this Ritschl propose the conjecture? Such questions on authors and sources are frequent indeed for anyone interested in the conjectures mentioned in the Nestle editions.

In this case, the author of the conjecture turns out to be Albrecht Ritschl, and its source is his review of Baur’s Paulus (1845)1, in Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 1847. The extended review is found in no. 124 (June), cc. 985-990; no. 125 (June), 993-100 (the entire issue); no. 126 (June), cc. 1001-1008 (the entire issue); and no. 127 (June), cc. 1015-1016; the conjecture itself occurs on c. 1000.2

Some background is necessary to understand what is going on. Well, Ritschl, in general, finds Baur’s approach to the history of the earliest Christians far too schematic. Baur, says he, has a fixed view of Paul’s opposition against Jewish Christians, and does not distinguish sufficiently between Jews and Jewish Christians. Moreover, in the case of 1 Thessalonians, he denies Paul a really apocalyptic mind-set. Baur declares letters or parts of letters authentic or inauthentic with these criteria only in mind. One by one, Ritschl addresses Baur’s arguments against the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians, such as those derived from 1 Thes 2:15-16:
Dass die folgenden Aeusserungen des Paulus gegen die Juden (V. 15. 16) nicht aus der Apostelgeschichte entnommen sein können, wie der Hr. Vf. [Baur] meint, ist erwähnt, und bei der nachgewiesenen Verschiedenartigkeit der Beurtheilung, welche die Judenchristen von Paulus erfahren, können wir uns über den Ausbruch seines Eifers gegen die Juden nicht wundern, wenn wir bedenken, dass gleichzeitige Erfahrungen in Corinth ihm diese Vorwürfe entlocken konnten. Für den von Hrn. Dr. Bauer [sic] beanstandeten Ausdruck λαλῆσαι ἵνα σωθῶσιν finden sich nicht nur in der Apostelgeschichte, sondern auch 2. Cor. 2, 17; 4, 13; Col. 4, 4 Parallelen.3

There remains one problem, that is, one difficulty felt by Ritschl himself, and in this context his conjecture can be found:
Die einzige Stelle, welche nach meiner Meinung gegen den Ursprung des Briefs Verdacht erwecken könnte, sind die Schlussworte dieses Absatzes, ἔφθασε δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος, welche kaum eine andre natürliche Erklärung zu finden scheinen, als durch ihre Beziehung auf die Zerstörung Jerusalems. Allein weil von diesem Punkte aus der ganze Brief nicht verstanden werden kann, so will ich lieber annehmen, dass die Worte Glossen seyen, als dass ich ihnen ein Gewicht in der Bestimmung der Abfassungszeit gegenüber allen sonstigen Merkmalen der Echtheit im Briefe einräume.

So here it is. The method in this case is clear: there is no reason to assume that the epistle itself was not dictated by Paul, except for one obvious anachronism: 2:16b assumes the destruction of Jerusalem, and can for that simple reason not be Pauline. In this respect, and in this respect only, Baur’s observations were correct.4 The simple solution is the assumption of a gloss, which of course depends on the combination of Pauline authorship at the one hand, and the interpretation of 2:16b as alluding to 70 CE. Note also that Ritschl sees no problems in Paul’s other words in 2:15-16. The general context has to be kept in mind: Ritschl’s defence, against Baur, of the epistle as authentically Pauline.

To my knowing, Ritschl did not repeat his conjecture at a later occasion. Once, decades later, he discussed the same words, but, without any reference to his former conjecture, explained them as entirely Pauline.5

The conjecture has an impressive reception history,6 and in my view deserves serious attention. But that is not the scope of this posting.

1. Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi. Sein Leben und Wirken, seine Briefe und seine Lehre. Ein Beitrag zu einer kritischen Geschichte des Urchristenthums, Stuttgart, Becher & Müller, 11845.
2. The source was found thanks to references in Lünemann’s commentary (KEK 10, 21859, p. 68, referring to ‘Hall. A. Lit. Z. 1847. Nr. 126’) and in Schmiedel’s commentary (HNT 2, 21893, p. 21, referring to ‘Halle’sche allg. Lit.-Ztg. 1847 I 1000’).
3. Ritschl’s reacts to Baur’s ideas on these verses as found in Baur, Paulus, pp. 482-483.
4. Baur, Paulus, p. 483: ‘Und wovon kann, nachdem die Juden fortgehend das Maaß ihrer Sünden voll gemacht haben, ἔφθασε δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος natürlicher verstanden werden, als von dem durch die Zerstörung Jerusalems über sie gekommenen Strafgericht?’
5. See Albrecht Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, vol. 2, Der biblische Stoff der Lehre, Bonn, Adolph Marcus, 21882, p. 142. Ritschl now sees ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος as a prophetic utterance imitating some typical Old Testament prophecies. His conclusion, however, remains somewhat forced: ‘Hiedurch ist erklärt, warum Paulus sich ein Urtheil dieses Inhaltes [‘such a judgement’] für die Gegenwart gestattet, und zugleich ist der eschatologische Sinn des göttlichen Zornes bewahrt.’
6. 1 Thes 2:16c is of course the object of an extensive article by Tjitze Baarda (in Dutch), ‘Maar de toorn is over hen gekomen’, in T. Baarda e.a., Paulus en de andere joden. Exegetische bijdragen en discussie, Delft, Meinema, 1984, pp. 15-74. Baarda mentions James Moffatt, Rudolf Knopf, James Parkes and John W. Bailey as supporters of Ritschl’s conjecture. On pp. 22-30 Baarda discusses all kinds of interpolation proposals, far more than those recorded in the Nestle apparatus, and rejects them all. For Ritschl’s conjecture, Baarda refers to various sources that mention the Allgemeine Literaturzeitung, but in the end (p. 62 n. 47 to p. 23) echos van Manen’s words: ‘Ik kon het blad zelf niet inzien’ (‘I was not able to consult the journal itself’).

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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Project: Beza’s Latin New Testament

These days, I am working very hard on collecting all the data for a critical edition of Beza’s Latin New Testament. This involves analysing the five major editions (1556 (Latin only); 1565; 1582; 1589; 1598 (Latin-Greek diglots)) published during his lifetime, and also the corrected Cambridge 1642 edition.
Here at the left p. 1 of the first part (f. A ir) of the 1589 edition, containing Mt 1:1-6.
Beza called his own translation the "nova interpretatio", the Vulgate of course being the "vetus" one. His "New Version", however, was revised over the decades, though rather unevenly, I must say. Anyhow, it is fascinating to see the changes in Beza's latinity, and his translation choices, at times switching back and forth between the Vulgate and Erasmus. Exegetically remarkable choices can be seen as well, and text-critically the work is important for the history of the Textus Receptus, for close reading of the Latin text shows quite a few instances in which Beza adopted a Greek reading that however was not printed in the Greek column of his diglot.
Stay posted if you want to know how this work will eventually become available to the scholarly community...

The "word cloud" you see here is created with Wordle. Give it a try.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Today, June 16th 2008, was the meeting of a very important society, the Studiosorum Novi Testamenti Conventus (SNTC), not to be confounded with the also famous SNTS. Each year, in June, Dutch-speaking New Testament scholars come together.
This year we had two interesting longer lectures. In the first one, dr. Rieuwerd Buitenwerf used Acts 9:1-25 to demonstrate that Luke (or better: "the author of Acts") knew and used at least a sample of Paul's letters and composed maximum stories based on this minimal information, together with some other traditional elements.
In the second lecture, dr. Istvan Czachesz explored the early christian traditions of Jesus' death and resurrection by using methods developed in cognition sciences.
It was also noticed that for some strange reason, the society's website is not found by Google. It can be found at sntc.nl. Some knowledge of Dutch may come in handy there.