Friday, December 24, 2010

New Stories of Byzantine 'Recensions' from Bible.Org

An anonymous poster (identified as "Admin", i.e., 'administrator') who authoritatively answers questions at Bible.Org has begun propounding a whole new set of theories about the Byzantine Text.  In answer to a recent question about the problematic existence of thousands of discrepancies between the 'Alexandrian' manuscripts (Aleph, B,  C etc.).   Those who push the modern critical text, reconstructed mainly from Aleph/B are of course constrained to explain them.

The latest fantasy story from these parties is that there were two more definitive 'recensions' of the Byzantine text, one in the 9th and one in the 11th century!  To quote our anonymous 'expert':

"... Ironically, it is the Byzantine witnesses that, as time goes on, agree more and more. Two great periods of close agreement show strong evidence of a recension, one in the ninth century and one in the eleventh. By the time we get to the fifteenth century, the manuscripts are 98% in agreement with the printed Majority Text. The most likely explanation of this is that there was collusion—an intentional recension. It is in fact the only explanation that is based on evidence (Timothy Ralston’s doctoral dissertation at Dallas Seminary demonstrated this rather ably)." 

What evidence are we talking about?  Apparently "Timothy Ralston's doctoral dissertation", whatever that is.

Who is this anonymous 'expert'?

Well, elsewhere in the same post,  he says something else quite remarkable:
"when Aleph and B agree, their combined testimony must go back quite far. Westcott and Hort estimated that their agreement went back ten generations and must be located near the beginning of the second century."
Again in another 'expert answer':

"I would concur with Westcott and Hort that the common ancestor between these two MSS must be at least ten generations back. I hope this point is clear."
 Since Daniel Wallace personally responds to many of these inquiries with authored articles, we strongly suspect that "Admin" is simply Wallace incognito. 

Wallace himself doesn't apparently attach his name to such exact figures, for a good reason.  When his moniker is on the line, we find a much more subdued text, as in the recent book co-authored by Wallace,
"Many scholars believe that since both manuscripts belong to the same text-type yet have so many differences, their common ancestor must have been copied several generations before. ... Aleph and B are distant cousins from long after their common ancestor, which itself must go back several generations. Indeed, when they agree, their common reading usually is from the early 2nd century." (Wallace, Komoszewski, Sawyer, Reinventing Jesus (Kregel, 2006) p. 78.
Now to get to the early 2nd century, we only need an unspecified  "several generations"

This kind of grandstanding is however extremely suspect.  TEN generations implies that someone has actually found evidence for TEN generations.  That is, they have found at least TEN identifiable layers among the differences collated between Aleph and B.  Of course if this were actually true, not only would it be published, but it would be front page textual-critical news.

The obvious elephant in the room is that this work has never been done, nobody has discovered "ten layers" or any other number of layers, in the conjectured and reconstructed line of ancestors between Aleph/B and their ancient common archetype.

Its another case of anonymous propaganda mascarading as  scientific and historical "fact". 

What about the "strong evidence of recension" claimed in the first post?  Don't hold your breath waiting for a demonstration of such an important, but so far unsubstantiated claim by the Hortian puppet-masters.



The White Man said...

In related news, Dr. Ryan Wettlaufer has identified "thousands of generations" of corrupted manuscripts:

This dissertation is a study of conjectural emendation as it relates to the text of the New Testament. Unlike many other ancient documents upon which textual criticism must be practiced, the New Testament has a rich and full textual history. Over the last two millennia it has inspired thousands of generations of copies, through which an astonishing amount of corruption has accumulated."

Nazaroo said...

Wow, great gem of a quote.

What the heck are those guys smoking?

Given that a typical parchment/vellum manuscript could easily last a few hundred years even in heavy use, it would surprise me that "copying-generations" amounted to more than a few dozen over the entire Byzantine period from 400-1400 A.D.

Once a MS has been chosen as a master-copy and has passed the tests of correction/approval, it could be used over and over again, perhaps hundreds of times.

One would reasonably assume that a given monastery or scriptorium would have a regular set of master-copies, carefully preserved and only rarely replaced, perhaps outliving the copyists and extending several human generations.

The likely scenario for "many generations" of copies in the 'telephone-game' analogy would only seem to have occurred in the very earliest centuries, i.e., 80-180 A.D.