Posts Tagged Textual Criticism
In preparation for Sunday’s sermon, I encountered difficulty translating and interpreting the term πνεῦμα in John 4:23–24:
“ἀλλ᾿ ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν, ὅτε οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν τῷ πατρὶ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· καὶ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν. πνεῦμα ὁ θεός, καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτὸν ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν” (John 4:23-24 GNT28-T). https://accordance.bible/link/read/GNT28-T#John_4:23
Regarding the first and the third usages, Leon Morris concludes that the term references the human spirit, that is, the inner being (The Gospel According to John, 270–71). Andreas Köstenberger seems confused in his attempt to interpret the term. He jostles back and forth between the Holy Spirit and the inner person (“the heart”). He understands the syntax of ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ to function epexegetically, “in spirit, that is, in truth.” For this reason, he sees an allusion to the Spirit of truth revealed later in John’s Gospel, but Köstenberger feels that such a clear reference to the Holy Spirit may have been “too advanced” for the Samaritan woman (John in the BECNT, 156–57).
BDAG concurs with Morris, identifying πνεύματι as “the source and seat of insight, feeling, and will . . . the representative part of the inner life . . . The pure, inner worship of God that has nothing to do with holy times, places, appurtenances, or ceremonies.”
The human Spirit or the Holy Spirit? With these two contradictory interpretations in mind, I decided to investigate primary sources for interpretive insights. Specifically, I wanted to discover whether the early Christian use of nomina sacra may shed any light on what the early scribes thought about the term. Here are my findings thus far:
- πνι, πνα, πνι in P66, P75, 01, 032S, 13, 33, 1424
- πνι, Πνα, πνι in 02, 04
- No NS for πνεῦμα or πμεύματι in 03
- πνι, πνεῦμα, πνι in 05
In the first pattern, the scribes made ready use of the NS for πνεῦμα; however, I am not well enough read on the range of meaning for this particular NS to know if usage = Holy Spirit every time. The second pattern includes Codices Alexandrinus (02) and Ephraemi Rescriptus (04) and the distinct capital pi at the beginning of verse 24.
The scribe of Vaticanus (and therefore, the scribe of P75 too) may have provided some interpretative insight, as it is thought to share a heritage with P75 (see The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, Second Edition, by Ehrman & Holmes, 19, n. 52). If it is true that these two mss are related, then why did one scribe continue or create the NS for πνεῦμα (i.e., P75) and the other scribe continued the absence of the NS or discontinued the NS for πνεῦμα? On the one hand, we may have a case of scribal interpretative decision, and on the other hand, we may have a scribe who abstained from such scribal interpretation.
I find the pattern of 05 most interesting! The NS is specifically (strategically?) used for the first and third, but not used for πνεῦμα ὅ θς in 4:24. Perhaps, it is possible to say that the scribe understood the Holy Spirit to be the referent of each use of πνι, but not at the beginning of 4:24.
In conclusion, if the use of NS for the term πνεῦμα always implies the Holy Spirit, then the majority of mss, which I searched, conclude that we are to worship the Father in Spirit (not spirit) and truth. Codex Vaticanus alone is the aberration from the pattern. However, before this conclusion can be too firm, I need to understand the full range of use in these mss of the NS for the term πνεῦμα. For example, is the NS used when there is no doubt that the human spirit is the referent?
Until further research is completed . . . thanks for reading!
*UPDATED 06.25.2018: It appears I made an error in the initial posting of this article. I had the GA numbers of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus mixed up! Forgive me! It is corrected above.
Moreover, even the oracles are not only words put by God into the prophet’s mouth (Jer. 1:9), but also words carefully shaped and reshaped to convey a total message. The word of God with which these words are identified is, ultimately, the final message of the book as a whole (Andrew G. Shead in A Mouth Full of Fire: The Words of God in the Words of Jeremiah, 52.)
Interesting, I am still unsatisfied with the large gap between text critical approaches between the OT and the NT. Should varying quantities (and qualities) of manuscripts create such vast differences in approach to TC in the two testaments?
E.g., the traditional approach to NTTC focuses on the original text; the majority approach to OTTC focuses on the final form of the text received into the canon. These are vastly different approaches.
In chapter three, Bagnall discusses The Economics of Book Production in the ancient world. The chapter opens with Bagnall mentioning something he “remarked briefly” about in chapter one—the difference between the audiences and uses of classical and Christian literature in the second and third centuries. He goes on to emphasize, “The most important difference was of course that Christian books had no role in the traditional Greek educational system of these centuries” (50). It is not difficult to see that such an observation is important for the presence (and therefore the discovery) of Christian books in Egypt from the second and third centuries. Without the support and use of such literature in the education system, teachers and schools would not be purchasing nor promoting such works. The spiral continues because the educated Alexandrian would not be familiar with the Christian writings, and it is the educated Alexandrian who had moolah, that is cash money (ha—only those who are acquainted with late 1990’s and early 2000’s hip hop will get this reference :)). In the ancient world, the wealthy had the finances to buy, copy, and produce books.
Bagnall next goes on to display very, very detailed work on the economics involved in the manufacturing, selling, and buying of the ancient book. We are most indebted to his tedious work here, as well as to those whom he references. However, I would like to challenge an assumption that I see in the argument from the previous paragraph. Admittedly, I am a novice in the area of the education of the ancients, and in no way am I suggesting a perfect correlation between education systems today and those of antiquity. However, I feel like there is some bit of timeless truth to the nature of young pupils. My first challenge is this: how many of us leave elementary, high school, and even college with an allegiance to certain works of literature? Is Bagnall’s assumption that educated individuals had a desire to purchase the books of their youth accurate? Perhaps, but I feel like the question is worth asking. Second, is it a fair assumption then that educated individuals would not have purchased new or unfamiliar works of literature, such as writings from a curious and developing Christian movement? Just some thoughts.
Bagnall’s book is worth its weight in gold because he has gathered so much information from the most current research regarding the economics of ancient book production. His bibliography and research on the primary sources available are priceless. He is precise and to the point—such a technical discussion could…effectively…bog down…the…reader, but Bagnall shares the necessary information and moves on to make his point. For the sake of not simply repeating what he has so perfectly summarized, allow me to simply give you some bullet points on ancient book economics:
- Ancient book prices are rarely preserved, so the database of information with which to work is limited.
- Apophthegmata Patrum owned by Abba Gelasios is a complete parchment Bible priced at 18 gold solidi, or 72 Roman grams of gold [1 solidus = 4 grams of gold from Constantine (272–337) onward].
- John Moschus (Pratum sprituale, PG 87/3.2997) values a New Testament at 3 solidi. A New Testament is about 19% of the total Bible; thus, implying a value of 15.6 solidi for an entire Bible—not differing greatly from Gelasios’ Bible (18 solidi).
- These prices should be accepted only with caution; however, the consistency of the two witnesses is encouraging.
- Testimony from the ostraka found in the Theban West Bank (credit given to Anne Boud’hors) informs us of prices that, at first, appear a bit cheaper; however, two important factors raise questions about such “door-buster” prices: (1) it is uncertain that the prices listed included binding, which typically doubled the price, and (2) it is uncertain that such affordable prices would have applied to complete Bibles.
- Bagnall has a very helpful section on the prices of parchment and papyrus (54–56).
- For the sake of space, several other factors come into play when researching the economics of ancient book production: (1) material: parchment or papyrus, (2) the cost of labor, (3) accuracy of the ancient records that provide us with testimony about the prices of ancient book production, (4) the size/format of the sheet chosen for the production of a book, (5) the quality of copying desired (6) the practice of recycling writing materials—palimpsests, stuffing for binding and the Panopolis practice of gluing written sides of papyrus together in order to create one, new, thicker, “blank” leaf—and (7) the possible low cost of monastic labor (but see page 60).
- On page 57, Bagnall provides readers with a helpful table (3.1) that illustrates the “Cost Estimates (in Solidi) for One Bible” based upon the style of the desired handwriting, the material chosen for production, and the cost of labor.
- Bagnall proposes that the savings one would retain from choosing papyrus over parchment is correlated to the style of hand desired in the copying of the Bible.
The bullet points do not do justice to the thorough discussion of Bagnall, but hopefully, you feel a little more acquainted with factors one must consider when thinking about ancient book production. So, just how expensive were books? This is a key turning point in Bagnall’s argument in chapter three. Who would have owned Christian books? Bagnall insists that the prices of books were expensive enough that copies of the Scriptures would have been possessed, in most cases, only by churches and monasteries. Churches were concerned with charity and financial support for their clergy—thus making clergymen the most likely owners of Christian books. Listen to this quote from Bagnall,
At the lower end, let us imagine a reader who received 10 solidi per year. A complete Bible would cost him half a year’s income. Such a purchase would have been entirely out of reach. Even an unbound short book, a single gospel on papyrus of the sort that cost a third of a solidus in the ostraka cited by Anne Boud’hors, would amount to one-thirtieth of a year’s income—in proportionate terms (although not in purchasing power) the equivalent of $1,000 today, let us say, for someone earning $35,000. People at that sort of income level do not buy books at that price. Even the best-paid of academics do not buy books at that price (62).
Further, it is most likely that we must look to the high clergy (e.g., the office of bishop) for those who may have been able to purchase books in ancient Egypt. Thus, Bagnall returns to his thesis: with this in mind, how many Christian books should we expect to find in and around Alexandria? Three factors immediately come to the forefront: (1) the number of high clergy Christian communities in the region, (2) the salary of high clergy, such as bishops, in the region, and (3) the presence of other, well-educated (and therefore, wealthy) Alexandrian Christians in the second century. These factors coupled with Bagnall’s view that the Church as an institution was underdeveloped reinforce that the “probability of finding many Christian books truly datable to the second century is very low” (65).
Prior to ending the chapter, Bagnall takes time to “redeem” the third century. A considerable amount manuscripts have come to us from the third century. Apart from the influence of Demetrios’ bishopric, Bagnall proposes another interesting explanation for the apparent increase in Christian book production—some among the urban elite became interested. He offers two examples: (1) well-educated, Alexandrian Christian like Origen and Clement most likely did not live in isolation and (2) even more intriguing is the testimony of a bilingual, book-owning, experienced writer about whom we learn via Chester Beatty Papyrus VII, which is a Greek codex of Isaiah that contains marginal glosses written in Coptic.
Thus, for Bagnall, the second century Christians in Egypt simply did not possess the Church structure or finances needed to establish a respectable library. However, the third century saw the development of the Church as an institution and the growing interest among the urban elite which led to an increase in Christian book production. Speculations abound in certain areas of his argumentation; however, he is quick to recognize this. Yet, his reasoning is convincing. Some counter arguments are swirling around in my head, but I’ll save these for later.
Today in my New Testament Textual Criticism class at Dallas Theological Seminary, I had the opportunity to view not only a few significant manuscript facsimiles but also an actual manuscript (GA 2882), courtesy of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org). Check out the photos below and enjoy! Big thanks to DTS and to CSNTM. It was a pleasure to look at these documents!
There has been a lot going on in the world of TC in recent days: new discoveries, additions to the Gregory-Aland catalogue of manuscripts, a manuscript forgery, and Phil Payne strikes back at Peter Head on the distigmai in Codex Vaticanus. Check out the following links to get caught up!
Evangelical Textual Criticism: http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://www.csntm.com/
Philip B. Payne’s Site: http://www.pbpayne.com/
Below, I have recorded my summaries and comments on the lectures I attended at the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in New Orleans, LA. It was a pleasure to be an attender of both this conference and the ETS conference. Enjoy!
Peter M. Head
Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament (University of Cambridge)
Head’s paper was a response to Philip Payne who presented a lecture at last year’s annual meeting. Payne suggested that the distigmai (‘umlauts’ or ‘double-dots’) found in the margins of Codex Vaticanus were used by the original scribe as a method of noting textual variation. Head rejects Payne’s conclusion that the dots date back to the 4th century hand of the codex, rather he suggests that they were the last observable addition to the pages of the codex—having a 16th century origin, weakening their usefulness for NT TC. Head demonstrated that the distigmai consistently take a ‘back-seat’ to other marginal notations (eg, the diple which note OT citations, chapter markings, and others) throughout the codex. He also brought to light a connection between Juan Ginés de Sepulveda and Desiderius Erasmus. As a result, Head compared the Greek text of the Gospels in Codex Vaticanus with that of Erasmus, and 98% agreement was found between the two. Head concluded that the inferiority (as opposed to priority) of the distigmai to other marginal notation and the plausible setting with Erasmus (as well as the lack of any known distigmai system in antiquity) demonstrate that the distigmai are part of a unified system of notation completed during the 16th century.
University of Torino
“Where There Is No Male and Female”: The D-Text of Colossians and Women
The textual insertion (ἄρσεν και θῆλυ) suggested by some D-type witnesses in Colossians 3:11 has often thought to have been influenced by the inclusion of the phrase in Galatians 3:28. Grosso challenged such an explanation and posits another: those behind the D-type tradition were influenced by an anti-female bias. Therefore, the insertion of ἄρσεν και θῆλυ in Colossians 3:11, to Grosso, expresses such a bias. Further, Grosso argued that the variant in 4:15 concerning the gender of Νύμφαν [αὐτῆς (txt) or αὐτοῦ (D-type) ἐκκλησίαν] supports his assertion.
Gregory S. Paulson
University of Edinburgh
Singular Readings: Harmonizations in Codex D in Matthew
Paulson argued that the scribe responsible for producing Codex Bezae (D) exercised a tendency of harmonizing the text of Matthew with that of Mark (especially, but also) Luke, and John. Paulson suggested stylistic rather than theological reasons for the harmonizations. The scribe “intended to make a smoother, more readable copy of Matthew.” He noted that the scribe did not habitually shorten the text, but consistently harmonizes, and in most cases, only a single word is the subject of alteration. I found Paulson’s suggestion that the scribe of D most often harmonized with Mark to be interesting; Ulrich Schmid (INTF) noted that the Lukan version in Bezae is also influenced by Mark. What is up with this scribe’s preference for Mark? Perhaps more research needs to be done here.
Bill Warren & Stephen Whatley
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Just Spell It Like It Sounds! Case Studies on the Spelling Tendencies of Scribes
Warren and Whatley presented the results of their statistical study on the orthographic (ie, spelling) shifts and their significance for TC and exegesis. The data used for their analysis included 1) 3rd–15th century mss witnesses from the New Testament Textual Apparatus created by the Center for New Testament Textual Studies; 2) non-biblical, non-Christian documentary data (1st–8th centuries from Francis Gignac’s Phonology); and 3) non-biblical, non-Christian literary data (1st–6th centuries from collations of 70 mss). It was suggested that such a pool of data would be helpful in determining whether an NT scribe followed a literary or documentary tendency in relation to orthographic shifts. Nomina sacra, ellisions, and movable ν were not included in the study.
James M. Leonard
University of Cambridge
Codex Schøyen as an Alternative Gospel of Matthew: A Consideration of Schenke’s Retroversion of Matthew 12:2-14
Codex Schøyen has a number of significant changes that do not appear in any other manuscript. Shenke has lobbied for Codex Schøyen to be included in the Nestle-Aland; however, up to this point, it has been rejected. Leonard demonstrated that the codex is not another version of Matthew, but rather it is the result of a strictly literal Coptic translation that, due to its literalness and crossover between languages, resembles another Matthew version different from its Vorlage. Leonard offered examples of the scribe’s literalistic-tendencies, one of which is found in Matthew 12:4: ἔφαγον is changed to ἔφαγεν so that the reference clearly points to Δαυίδ.
University of Edinburgh
John S. Kloppenborg
University of Toronto
(Other panel members were unavailable)
Panel Discussion: James and Q
Foster delivered a fine review of positions taken on the source-critical relationship between James and Q. He concluded that James seems to have been influenced by Q; however, demonstrating this relationship is quite the conundrum. Kloppenborg made three observations and three conclusions. First, he observed that 1) James has numerous conceptual parallels to Matthew and Luke, and commentators have proposed an average of 18 conceptual parallels between James and Q, 2) relatively few verbal parallels exist (5:12 being the strongest), and 3) are Jesus’ sayings distinguished in James? He concluded that with some possibilities to consider: 1) Could James be a superficially Christianized document: a 2nd temple document that was Christianized? 2) Perhaps James was so familiar with Jesus speech that it naturally was incorporated (but this doesn’t answer some objections). 3) Out earliest manuscripts of James are 3rd century and then Origin in CE 230. A late James could have been familiar with the Matthew and Luke. One last thought mentioned by Kloppenborg was that maybe James didn’t cite Jesus because he had not yet attained the authoritative place held by the Jewish Scriptures.
Giovanni Battista Bazzana
University of Toronto
Knock and It Will Be Opened: The Contribution of Documentary Papyri to New Testament Exegesis
Bazzana attempted to demonstrate that the use of the Greek verb κρούω in select documentary papyri [PLond 7, 2009 (Philadelphia, BCE 245/244), UPZ 1, 79, 5–9 (Memphis, BCE 159), and BGU 3, 1007 (BCE 243/218)], in a literary papyri of Plato’s Protagoras (310b and 314d) and in LXX Judges 19:22 is accompanied with a sense of aggressive pounding, possibly with violent motives or as a result of annoyance. The verb is used in the NT in Matthew 7:7–8; Luke 11:9–10; 12:36; 13:25; Acts 12:13, 16; and Revelation 3:20. Certainly, the concept of urgency can accompany the sense of the verb in these texts, but aggression is questionable. Of note, the Plato text adds the adverb σφόδρα in order for the verb to have an aggressive or violent nuance—perhaps suggesting that the verb does not carry this sense on its own. Also, while one LXX reference was considered, the term is also used in Song of Songs 5:2, “φωνὴ ἀδελφιδοῦ μου, κρούει ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν.” It is also used in Judith 14:14 where κρούω seems to indicate a gentle, non-startling knock. Therefore, while the nuance of aggression or violence possibly accompanies κρούω in some instances, it isn’t required to accompany it. Knocking with passion or knocking with urgency is just as plausible.
Christina M. Kreinecker & Peter Arzt-Grabner
Transferring Jesus: Papyrological Observations on the Passion Narratives
Arzt-Grabner began the lecture by noting that while there are no passion narratives in documentary papyri, could it be suggested that a study of juridical papyri may shed light on terminology used in the trial(s) of Jesus? Kreinecker noted that in chapter 23 of his Gospel, Luke uses the term ἀναπέμπω in verses 7, 11, and 15. She proceeded to investigate the use of the term in several juridical papyri. The discovery of a usage of the term in the Oxyrhyncus papyri (P. Oxy LX 4060) overturned the previously held notion that the term was restricted to regional usage. Further, Kreinecker concluded that the term is not a terminus technicus.
Edwin Judge & Rachel Yuen-Collingridge
with the PCE Team: Don Barker, Malcolm Choat, & Alanna Nobbs
The Lord’s Prayer in the Workbook of an Early Fourth-Century Christian Public Official
The first 31 pages of the codex were used for business. On pages 51–52, the first line of the Lord’s Prayer is written at the top and across the fold! Later, the codex was turned upside down and further used for business documentation (CE 311–314). When the scribe/recorder came to the page(s) containing the first line of the Lord’s Prayer, the space under it (ie, on top of it) was left blank. Thus, the documentary codex is a 4th century witness to the Lord’s Prayer and evidence of Christians in social context.
Thomas J. Kraus
Reconstructing Fragmentary Manuscripts: Chances and Limitations
This lecture was profitable for those just “getting their feet wet” in the field of Papyrology. Kraus began by urging listeners to ascribe to a uniform method and to remember liabilities and limits. He proceeded to give case studies of reconstructions; most notable was that of C. H. Roberts on P52. He concluded with a note to remember that reconstructing is a snapshot—others should and will participate in the process—and a note to refrain from reconstructing too fragmentary of a text.
A Lady Who’s Identity Escapes Me (She replaced Dave Nielson)
Princeton Theological University/Princeton University (?)
A New Isaiah Papyrus
The Library of Congress possesses a fragment which contains Isaiah 23:4–7 and 23:10–13. The speaker presented a Princeton papyrus containing Isaiah 23:8–10 and 14–15. One particular letter in the papyrus appears to have Coptic influence, and the handwriting closely resembles P. Oxy. LXIX 4705. With the addition of this second fragment to the manuscript, codicological features are able to be more precise: 1) page dimensions of 12.4 cm x 16.4–17.2 cm; 2) single column; 3) verso column is 8.6 cm wide, 18 lines, 23 letters per line; 4) recto column is 9.5 cm wide, and 5) ^ precedes >, but the data doesn’t allow a precise decision on quire formation. Perhaps, it fell close to the middle of the quire. If so, then it contained roughly 320 pages (but caution should be exercised here, as the speaker noted). The nomina sacra form of κύριος is employed; thus, projections were made that this codex may have been written by a Christian hand. Other features include the writing out of the number 70 and a peculiar apostrophe over the term for σαβαωθ.
New Oxyrhyncus Papyrus of Mark 1:1–2 (This was different than his proposed paper)
I found this lecture to be the most exciting! This new papyrus will be published (most likely by Smith) in P. Oxy vol. 76. In English, the text of the papyrus reads, “Read the beginning of the gospel and see ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ: As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before you, who will prepare…”’” The papyrus omits “Son of God in verse 1, but Χριστοῦ is accompanied by the article, which is a singular reading. It is thought to be a 3rd century witness; however, Smith proposed that the papyrus is an amulet. If this is the case, it will not be included in the Nestle-Aland list. It should be noted that not everyone listening was convinced of such identification. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this little fragment!
Reformed Theological Seminary
Diplai Sacra? The Scribal “Quotation Marks” in P. Oxy 3.405
Hill noted that P. Oxy 3.405 contains a quotation from Irenaeus that includes the text of Matthew 3:16–17, “You (not “This”) are my beloved Son” (parentheses mine). C. H. Roberts commented that it was written with a “handsome, professional hand” in the late 2nd century. Peculiar to the text is that the marginal notation known as diple is found next to the Matthew citation. Hill thoroughly documented the use of the diple in several codices (and might I add that photos taken by the CSNTM served his presentation well). He proposed a question (in my mind) that causes thoughtful ramifications: do the diplai mark any quotation or only what was considered to be Scripture (ie, diplai sacra)? Hill wrapped things up by adding that he found no conclusive evidence that the diplai marked anything other than what was considered to be Scripture; therefore, Irenaeus himself or a scribe in proximity to him accompanied the Matthew citation with the diple because it was considered to be Scripture.
I have a growing interest in the textual criticism in the New Testament, and I have hopes of pursuing this interest at the doctoral level. However, I realize that some of my readers may be unfamiliar with what exactly textual criticism is – sounds a bit scary to associate the term “criticism” with the Bible, eh?! Don’t be scared. This field of study is very important to maintaining and trusting in the reliability of the New Testament.
Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen has written a good blog post that helps to introduce the beginner into the TC (textual criticism) world. Check out the link below to read the post which was posted using ShareThis.
Enjoy! Let me know your questions and/or comments about TC. Thank you all for reading and for your support.
Where Many Paths Are Crossing: A Reflection on “An Elephant in the Room: Historical-Critical and Postmodern Interpretations of the Bible” Part 3
In this post, I will finish my thoughts on the five areas “An Elephant in the Room” would like historical critics and postmodernists to discuss: 3) Ideology and Translation, 4) the Author and Her or His Intentions, and 5) the Semiotics (Signs) of Canon. Next week, I will finish my four part series with an interaction with a recent article in JETS by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, which I believe has some helpful insights for this discussion.
In regard to Ideology and Translation, the authors discuss method of translation (i.e., dynamic equivalence vs. word-for-word, etc.), vehicles of translation, and ideological roles/effects upon translation. The authors view dynamic equivalence in a negative light by suggesting that postmodernists have done much to “awaken modernists from the dogmatic slumbers of ‘dynamic equivalence.'” Perhaps this stems from the postmodern challenge to the romantic idea that we can truly know the author’s original thought or intention. Instead, an implied postmodern approach seems to be interested in the methods that have guided the Church in the history of the translation of the Bible. Next, what has been the impact upon the word of God as the vehicles of translation change from oral to written to printed to digitization? I must admit that I am not well read here; however, the authors mention that much dialogue has taken place regarding these shifts. Do any of you have any knowledge in this area and thoughts concerning how both historical and postmodern critics would benefit from such dialogue? Lastly, the authors close this section with this statement:
Finally, we have only begun to explore the role of the texts (and their translations) in constructing gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and social class.
I’m not entirely sure what is being suggested here. Do they mean we should consider ideologies behind texts and translations and such things may help us construct our understandings of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and social class? For example, do we need to discuss the ideologies behind the KJV and the TNIV, the NET and the LGBT Study NT and their use of texts in their translations? Or are they suggesting that we need to examine more closely the role texts and translations have had in developing certain mindsets and ideologies regarding gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and social class? I think the latter is what is intended. How have translations of the Bible influenced your ideologies on such issues?
Regarding the Author and Her or His Intentions, a stalemate currently exists between historical critics and postmodernists on this issue:
For postmodernists, the historical author is inaccessible and we can at best know only the ‘implied author,’ which is a function of the reader’s interaction with the text. The author is an ‘intention’ of the reader.
For the postmodernist, the intention of the author cannot be known. We cannot step back into time and ask Paul what he intended to mean by 1 Corinthians 3:23; however, the historical critic would counter that we can get pretty dang close. The historical critic places the focus on getting back to the historical intention of the author while the postmodernist believes any proposed authorial intent is rather something that is the result of the reader’s interaction with the text. Is there any reconciliation possible here? One helpful question may be – how has the Church handled authorial intent from the earliest centuries onward (assuming we can know what they intended for us to know about what they thought about authorial intent ;))?
This transitions nicely into our last area of consideration: the Semiotics (Signs) of Canon. I have had some interesting discussion recently with Rob Kashow over at Tolle Lege! about this topic. The authors are clear that the work of biblical theologians and canonical critics is interwoven with this discussion. I am becoming more and more interested in the influence of canonical thinking upon the text, the field of textual criticism and upon our understanding of inerrancy. I have reserved discussion about how canonical criticism may influence matters already mentioned until now. For example, in a previous post, I discussed physical vehicles of the text, and the use of the scroll versus the codex. Movement to the use of the codex allowed the Church to confine its texts into one vehicle. It is also apparent that a particular order was established. Canonical critics would also be able to agree (for the most part) with the postmodern emphasis on both the readers’ relation to intertextual references and to the intention of the author (inaccessibility of the historic author). Some further questions I have deal with TC and inerrancy. What does a canonical approach to TC look like? What is the goal? Can the canon continue to be an evolving canon as textual disruptions enter into the manuscripts if they are received by community(ies)? Or do canonical critics follow a romantic ideology which leads to “the canon” and is more dependent upon historical considerations when it comes to the text? How might a canonical approach assist the text critic in making decisions regarding variants? Related to this, what does a canonical doctrine of inerrancy look like? How can canonical thinking contribute to the needed discussion between historical and postmodern critics?
The authors close this final area of discussion with a warning concerning the toll secularization and pluralism is having on the idea of canon. The influence of canon to this discussion is thus becoming “more important and more problematic.”
As you can see, this “Elephant in the Arena” of historical and postmodern discussion is a place Where Many Paths Are Crossing. This post is entirely too long – but I wanted to finish this part of the series prior to heading off on a mission trip with some of my beloved friends from the Scofield Student Ministry. Feel free to check out our blog at http://ssmissions.wordpress.com if you’re interested in what we’ll be doing. I look forward to hearing from you on some of these issues!
Where Many Paths Are Crossing: A Reflection on “An Elephant in the Room: Historical-Critical and Postmodern Interpretations of the Bible” Part 2
If you have not read Part 1 of this series, please refer to my post on July 11, 2009 entitled,
Where Many Paths Are Crossing: A Reflection on “An Elephant in the Room: Historical-Critical and Postmodern Interpretations of the Bible” by George Aichele, Peter Miscall, and Richard Walsh in JBL, vol. 128, no. 2.
I will pick up here where I left off – discussing the five areas in which the authors call for a discussion between historical critics and postmodern critics: 1) Physical Aspects of the Text, 2) Intertextuality, 3) Ideology and Translation, 4) the Author and Her or His Intentions, and 5) the Semiotics (Signs) of Canon.
In regard to physical aspects of the text, the authors call for discussion surrounding (what I call) both the physical content and the physical vehicle of the text. The physical content of the text is the written text itself. The physical vehicle is the instrument through which the text has been recorded (e.g., scroll vs. codex, printing and the movement toward digitization, etc). Regarding the written text, the authors note that similarities, differences and nomina sacra are all of interest to both historical critics and postmodern critics; however, while the historical critic interprets these features in such a way that helps him or her repair or recover the original text, the postmodern critic focuses on the “textual disruption of meaning,” questioning the unity of the text, and causes one to hesitate with regard to the romantic idea of an original text. In regard to the physical vehicle(s) of the text, I am not entirely sure what the authors hope to accomplish by discussion of these things (probably due to my own lack of knowledge). Thoughts? What significance does the use of the scroll versus the use of the codex, the printing of the handwritten text and the present digitization of the text bring to the discussion between historical and postmodern critics? Also, is the historical critic’s quest for an original text legit? Is the postmodernist’s lack of concern (not necessarily denial) for an original text qualified? Does the postmodern focus on the disruption and disunity of the text need to be reconciled with/to the historical approach or does it serve the historical critic by causing careful and honest criticism?
Regarding intertextuality, both historical critics and postmodernists agree that earlier inner-biblical and extra-biblical texts have historical influence on later biblical texts [e.g., the influence of Genesis 15 and 17 on Romans 4, the influence of hymnic material in Philippians 2, and the influence of 1 Enoch (whether oral or written) on Jude 14-16]. However, the authors state that the postmodernist is more interested in the relationships “that readers (not writers) establish between texts (of whatever chronological order).” So, while historical influence is accepted, the postmodernist concerns himself or herself with how the readers interpreted the relationship of the two texts. One clarifying question might be what are the basic differences between how a writer views relations between texts compared to how a reader views relations between texts. The writers also mention,
The reader always understands the text as embedded in a world of texts through its use of language and literary form.
Therefore, does this mean that in addition to the emphasis historical critics place on historical influences of earlier texts on later texts, the postmodernist understands the language and literary form of a referenced text to influence the language and literary form of the text? If so, is this observable in the New Testament? What is a quality example?
Let’s stop here, and wrestle with these issues. In the next few days, I’ll continue examining the remaining three areas of discussion proposed by the authors of “An Elephant in the Room.”