Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hort on the New Papyri Evidence

It will be seen that these new weightings of the Internal evidence are greatly enhanced and supported by the latest detailed study of the actual papyri.

Hort also would have wholeheartedly approved of using the data gathered in these modern analyses of actual MSS:

"The first effectual security against the uncertainties of Internal Evidence of Readings is found in what may be termed Internal Evidence of Documents, that is, the general characteristics of the texts contained in them as learned directly from [the MSS] themselves by continuous study of the whole or considerable parts." (Introduction, p. 32)

Hort had full confidence in the overwhelming abundance and weight of such data: Regarding the character of individual MSS, Hort continues,
"Readings authenticated by the coincidence of strong Intrinsic and strong Transcriptional Probability, or it may be by one alone of these Probabilities in exceptional strength and clearness and uncontradicted by the other, are almost always to be found sufficiently numerous to supply a solid basis for inference." (ibid. p. 32)

Hort acknowledged that genealogical evidence could only take us back so far. From that point Internal Evidence in the form of Transcriptional and Intrinsic Probability had to take over:

"Where the two ultimate witnesses [i.e., the reconstructed alternate texts] differ, the genealogical method ceases to be applicable, and a comparison of the intrinsic general character of the two texts becomes the only resource." (p. 42)

In such cases, Hort expected to reconstruct the text based on understanding why early copyists chose one reading over another:

"The rational use of Transcriptional Probability as textual evidence depends on the power of distinguishing the grounds of preference implied in an ancient scribe's substitution of one reading for another, from those felt as cogent now after close and deliberate [textual] criticism." (p. 28)

Thus Hort felt that very often for Transcriptional Probability (knowledge of scribal habits) to be valuable, we have to understand the conscious and unconscious mechanisms of copyist mistakes and editor/correctors' choices.

However, even Hort put plain limits on the need and even value of our own understanding in many accidental cases of Transcriptional Probability.

On the one hand, Hort expects the masterful textual critic should be able to "explain" why ANY reading is probably the 'original', putting ourselves inside the mind of those copyists and editors who were making such conscious decisions.

Hort himself was singularly good at arguing in favour of the "worst" readings:
"...I mean [Hort's] extreme cleverness as an advocate; for I have felt as if there were no reading so improbable that he could not give good reasons for thinking it to be the only genuine..." (Dr. Salmon, 'Some Thoughts..." p.33-4)

On the other hand, Hort fully acknowledges that in the case of plain blunders (i.e., Haplography), we don't need to "understand", and there are some in fact that we simply can't:

"What we should naturally expect, ...is that each reading should shew some excellence of its own, apparent or real, provided that we on our part are qualified to recognise it. If any reading fails to do so, clerical errors being of course excepted, the fault must lie in our knowledge, or our perception..." (p. 29)

Hort himself fully approved of the comparison and combination of Intrinsic (what the author intended) and Transcriptional (what the copyist did) Probabilities.

This was Hort's own special category of strong evidence:

"Internal Evidence of Readings attains the highest degree of certainty which its nature admits, this relative trustworthiness being due to the coincidence of the two independant Probabilities, Intrinsic and Transcriptional. Readings thus certified are of the utmost value." (p. 29)

Thus Hort would have approved of the careful and judicious use of both categories of Internal Evidence, for the determination of difficult cases like that of 1st Cor. 10:28 above.

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