Monday, September 26, 2011

Esther, Star of the OT: Part 12: Sources

The most remarkable and yet obvious explanation for the Book of Esther is of course its historicity.  This also accounts better than any other theory for its form and content, as well as its national, unanimous and unhesitating embracement by Jews for millenia, stretching back beyond pre-Christian times.

Yet these observations were well known and discussed in Europe and the West as early as the first half of the 19th century.  The famous Biblical Handbook by T.H. Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (9 editions between 1822 and 1852),  all of them sporting the following concise but quite adequate and detailed account of the book:

SECTION X. (pp. 64-67)

I. Title. — II. Author. — III. Argument. — IV. Synopsis of its Contents.

I. This book, which derives its name from the person whose history it chiefly relates, is by the Jews termed Megillah Esther, or the volume of Esther. The history it contains comes in between the sixth and seventh chapters of Ezra: its authenticity was questioned by some of the fathers, in consequence of the name of God being omitted throughout (1), but it has always been received as canonical by the Jews, who hold this book in the highest estimation, placing it on the same level with the law of Moses. They believe that whatever destruction may attend the other Sacred Writings, the Pentateuch and the book of Esther will always be preserved by a special providence. (2).

II. Concerning the author of this book, the opinions of biblical critics are so greatly divided, that it is difficult to determine by whom it was written. Augustine and some of the fathers of the Christian church ascribe it to Ezra. By other writers it is ascribed to the joint labours of the great synagogue, who, from the time of Ezra to Simon the Just, superintended the edition and canon of Scripture. Philo the Jew assigns it to Joachin, the son of Joshua the high priest, who returned with Zerubbabel : others think it was composed by Mordecai; and others, again, attribute it to Esther and Mordecai jointly. The two latter conjectures are grounded on the following declaration in Esther 9:20-23: —
'And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that tvere in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus; and the Jeisos undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them.' 
- But the context of the passage clearly shows that these words do not relate to the book itself, but to the circular letters which Mordecai sent to the Jews in all the provinces of the Persian empire, announcing the mighty deliverance from their enemies which had been vouchsafed to them, and instituting a perpetual anniversary in commemoration of such deliverance. (3)
The institution of this festival, and its continued observance to the present time, is a convincing evidence of the reality of the history of Esther, and of the genuineness of the book which bears her name: since it is impossible, and, in fact, inconceivable, that a nation should institute, and afterwards continue to celebrate, through a long succession of ages, this solemn annual festival, merely because a certain man among them had written an agreeable fable or romance.  
A more probable opinion (and which will enable us satisfactorily to account for the omission of the name of God in this book) is, that it is a translated extract from the memoirs of the reign of the Persian monarch Ahasuerus. The Asiatic sovereigns, it is well known, caused annals of their reigns to be kept: numerous passages in the books of Kings and Chronicles prove that the kings of Israel and Judah had such annals; and the book of Esther itself attests that Ahasuerus had similar historical records, (ii. 23. vi. 1. x. 2.)
It was indispensably necessary that the Jews should have a faithful narrative of their history under Queen Esther. Now, from what more certain source could they derive such history than from the memoirs of the king her consort?  Either Ezra, or Mordecai, had authority or credit enough to obtain such an extract. In this case, we can better account for the retaining of the Persian word Purim, as well as for the details which we read concerning the empire of Ahasuerus, and (which could otherwise be of no use whatever for the history of Esther) for the exactness with which the names of his ministers and of Haman's sons are recorded. The circumstance of this history being an extract from the Persian annals will also account for the Jews being mentioned only in the third person, and why Esther is so frequently designated by the title of queen, and Mordecai by the epithet of "the Jew". It will also account for those numerous parentheses which interrupt the narrative, in order to subjoin the illustrations which were necessary for a Jewish reader; and by the abrupt termination of the narrative by one sentence relative to the power of Ahasuerus, and another concerning Mordecai's greatness.
Finally, it is evident that the author of this extract, whoever he was, wished to make a final appeal to the source whence he derived it. (Esth 10:2) This very plausible conjecture, we apprehend, will satisfactorily answer the objection that this book contains nothing peculiar to the Israelites, except Mordecai's genealogy. There is, unquestionably, no mention made of Divine Providence, or of the name of God, in these memoirs or chronicles of Ahasuerus; and if the author of the extract had given it a more Jewish complexion, — if he had spoken of the God of Israel, — instead of rendering his narrative more credible, he would have deprived it of an internal character of truth. (4)

III. The transactions recorded in this book relate to the time of Artaxerxes Longimanus, (5) the same who reigned during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  They commence about the year of the world 3544, and continue through a period not exceeding eighteen or twenty years. The book of Esther relates the elevation of a Jewish captive to the throne of Persia, and the providential deliverance of herself and people from the machinations of the cruel Haman and his associates, whose intended mischief recoiled upon themselves : thus affording a practical comment on the declaration of the royal sage: — " Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished : but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered." (Prov. xi. 21.)

IV. The book consists of two parts ; detailing, Part I. The Promotion of Esther ; and the essential Service rendered to the King by Mordecai, in detecting a Plot against his Life. (i. ii.) Part II. The Advancement of Haman; his Designs against the Jews, and their Frustration.

Sect. 1. The promotion of Haman, and the occasion of which he availed himself to obtain an edict for massacring the Jews, (iii.)
Sect. 2. The consequent affliction of the Jews, and the measures pursued by them, (iv.)
Sect. 3. The defeat of Haman's particular plot against the life of Mordecai. (v. vi. vii.)
Sect. 4. The defeat of his general plot against the Jews, (viii.ix. 1 — 16.)
Sect. 5. The institution of the festival of Purim, to commemorate their deliverance (ix. 17 — 32.) ; and the advancement of Mordecai. (x.)
In our copies the book of Esther terminates with the third verse of the tenth chapter: but in the Greek and Vulgate Bibles, there are ten more verses annexed to it, together with six additional chapters which the Greek and Romish churches account to be canonical. As, however, they are not extant in Hebrew, they are expunged from the sacred canon by Protestants, and are supposed to have been compiled by some Hellenistic Jew.'

 Original Footnotes  (with addition)

1.  On this account, Professor De Wette, who objects to all the other books of the Old Testament, their theocratico-mythological spirit, condemns this for its want of religion! (Prof. Turner's Translation of Jahn, p. 289.) Such is the consistency of neologian critics!

2. [ - an idea traceable to Maimonides?]

3. For an account of this festival, called the feast of Purim, see Vol. III. Pt III. Ch IV. Para 8.

4. Coquerel, Biographie Sacree, tom. i. pp. 361 — 363. (Amsterdam, 1825.)

5.  Chronologers are greatly divided in opinion who was the Ahasuerus of the sacred historian. Scaliger, who has been followed by Jahn, has advanced many ingenious arguments to show that it was Xerxes who was intended ; Archbishop Usher supposes it to have been Darius the son of Hystaspes. The most probable opinion is that of Dr. Prideaux, (Connexion, sub anno 458, vol. i. pp. 270. et seq.) ; who, after a very minute discussion, maintains that the Ahasuerus of Esther was Artaxerxes Longimanus, agreeably to the account of Josephus, (Antiq. Jud. lib. xi. c. 6.) of the Septuagint version, and of the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther. The opinion of Prideaux is adopted by Bishops Tomline and Gray, and the very accurate chronologer. Dr. Hales. (See Gray's Key, p. 227. Tomline's Elements, vol. i. p. 93. Dr. Hales's Analysis, vol. 11. book i. pp. 524. et seq.) We may therefore conclude, that the permission given to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was owing to the Influence of Esther and Mordecai, and that the emancipation of the Jews from the Persian yoke was gradually, though silently, effected by the same influence. It is not improbable that the pious reason, assigned by Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:23.) for the regulations given to Ezra, originated in the correct views of religion which were communicated to him by his queen Esther.

All in all, the combination of arguments carries a probability that appears overwhelming.  This book is composed largely of Babylonian court records, with very early annotations by Jewish historians, to explain to other Israelites of the Diaspora what had happened.  


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Juggling of Certainty vs. Science

Click to Enlarge
One obvious problem which has been a repeated barrier to both correction and progress in the field of Textual Criticism of the NT has been a basic ideological and fundamental conflict, not just between parties, but influencing individuals attempting to practice TC.

The conflict is this:

Fundamentally, the Scientific Method is tentative and agnostic.  In order to remain truly scientific, it must deal in probabilities, and ever hold the door open to new discoveries which can not only modify current ideas, but completely overthrow them.  Diagrammed as above, one can see that it forms an Endless Loop, without ever establishing any permanent, universal truth. 

Those engaged in Textual Criticism on the other hand, while desperately desiring to garner the support and also credibility of scientific method, nonetheless cling to ideas which at base are in fundamental opposition to science.  First, is the idea of a fundamental Objective Reality, a non-changing universal truth applicable to every situation, and second is the idea that science 'progresses' inevitably toward greater and greater accuracy and surety in regard to believed facts.

Neither of these ideas is really a part of Scientific Method, or a necessary ingredient of Scientific philosophy, even though both ideas have been around as long as science, and have been more often than not inextricably bound up with scientific investigation.

The growth of science in the 19th century, also saw advancing alongside it the field of mathematics.  In this field, especially the concepts of Convergence, developing from Calculus, led men to believe that almost any problem could be solved by honing and improving the appropriate method of approximation, which would naturally and result in more and more accurate statements about the world.

The New Testament Text was regarded no differently: It was believed to be only a matter of time before textual-critical methods would tighten up and produce a more and more accurate 'original text', finally as sharp and accurate as a photograph, or a scientific measurement of light-speed to 8 decimal places.

Eureka! - Hort's Innovation

Surprisingly, F.J.A. Hort was instrumental in forwarding this ideology.  Contrary to current historians and various opponents, Hort's real innovation in Textual Criticism was not "the genealogical method", or the advancement in the evaluation of various sources.  It was the innovation of what is now called in modern mathematics and computing as "iteration".

Iteration is the application of a set of instructions, a 'program' or algorithm,
 repeatedly, usually to refine or home in on a result.  Imagine for instance, a lathe that shapes table-legs.  It shapes the wood by repeated cutting away of waste, leaving the desired pattern behind. 

An Algorithm is usually fixed, but sometimes having optional paths or choices built in.  The flexibility comes through a testing, measurement or decision process (as in the flowchart above, where the 'diamond' shapes mark points in the flow where choices will be made).  

Some objects in mathematics are better and more efficiently expressed as algorithms - a group of ordered steps or instructions, meant to be applied like a recipe or prescription, and often actually acting as a description of a process or phenomenon.  Other objects can ONLY be described by algorithms.  Unfortunately, some objects cannot be expressed by algorithms at all.

When mathematicians began to notice algorithms, they discovered other sometimes disturbing properties of said 'objects', such as the fact that some mathematical objects and ideas have no algorithm at all.  (the calculation of PI or the search for Prime Numbers are examples of things that must be calculated by 'brute force' and crude testing rather than elegant formulas).

When mathematicians noticed that some problems and ideas cannot be expressed by algorithms, it became clear that some problems were by their very nature "unsolvable".

On a simpler level, it was clear that some  'formulas' simply did not and could not 'converge'; that is could not settle down and spit out one single numerical answer.   Likewise, algorithms simply did not always produce a useful or reliable result, nor could they even come to an end.  They were like run-away processes, and if left to themselves would get stuck in endless loops, or randomly wander the universe of numbers.

Hort's assumption was that by using the novel idea of "iteration", meaning the repeated application of textual-critical principles and techniques, to further and further refine the content and certainty of the text, one could arrive as close as possible to the original text as the extant data and the scientific process allowed.

Unfortunately, Hort was wrong on this entire idea:

(1)  There was nothing in the realm of science that indicated that discovering the 'original text' was even possible let alone probable.

(2)  There was nothing that suggested that text-critical methods could or should converge toward any fixed text, let alone the true original text.

(3)  Iteration itself had no magical power to force the textual variants to converge into a 'near certain' text, in spite of its allure and mathematical usefulness in certain situations.  If the applied method was flawed, or ill-defined, the opposite result was inevitable.

(4)  The success of iterative methods in other areas of science had no bearing on iteration as an intelligent or useful technique in textual criticism.   In order for iteratiion to work, the techniques to be iterated must first be sound.

Later, when men of religion attempted to apply mathematical and scientific concepts and techniques to the problem, they were inevitably biased and their work tainted by their own conviction that these methods would converge to an absolutely certain 'original text', and that this was the way God intended us to acquire this certainly established, authoritative, original text.

Nobody thought to inquire and investigate thoroughly what methods that God Himself chose to preserve and deliver the text, and what this meant for the credibility of textual criticism of the NT as a historical science.

As it turned out, God did not use the historical-critical techniques of NT Textual Criticism to preserve and supply the NT text.  God chose simpler, and quite apparently, more reliable methods than those proposed and used by modern Textual Critics to 'reconstruct' the NT text.

These facts strongly suggest that those who wish to establish, secure, or restore the NT text ought to imitate the methods used historically by God Himself for the last 2000 years.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Lachmann (3) - The "Illiad Theory" and Acts

F.N. Peloubet, in The Teacher's commentary on the Acts (1903, Oxford) deals with Lachmann's multiple author theory in passing, in the context of the composition of Acts.
Peloubet (Introduction, xxxv fwd) states:

"VI. THE SOURCES OF ACTS.   As Luke expressly says in the preface to his Gospel that he derived his information from the records of eye-witnesses, with which he was perfectly familiar, the same is doubtless true of his treatise on the Acts of the Apostles. ...
...there is no reason for thinking, a priori, that the speeches cannot be historical. . . . The speeches of the leading apostles would impress themselves on the growing community, and would be remembered as the words of the Lord were remembered.
There are some interesting comparisons of the discussion of the composite nature of the Acts with other literature in  A. H. Strong's The Great Poets and their Theology
"The German Lachmann resolved the Iliad into sixteen distinct and clearly defined layers.  Paley has compared the Iliad and the Odyssey to pictures of stained glass made up by an artistic combination of handsome bits of older windows which fortune and time had shivered." 
The combatants [textual critics] are more and more arraying themselves on the side of the traditional view that both poems are by the same author, and that this author is Homer. But Homer himself may have taken many years for the elaboration of his poems, revising and improving them as he repeated them again and again, so that during those years versions of various degrees of perfection may have been set in circulation.  
Goethe in one of his letters to Schiller cites different versions of his own poems, in connection with the theory we have been considering. He had at various times amended and enlarged them; but he did not on that account prove that there was a second Goethe, or many Goethes. "
What all this tells us is that subsequent critics and investigators  cioming after Lachmann have found that all such naive theories of 'many detectable layers' and 'multiple authors' are at best precarious conjectures and near-worthless.   Even, and perhaps especially, reconstructed 'genealogies', based on the alleged identification of various 'interpolations' and layers are simply academic fantasies, their proliferation and variations providing the best evidence of their spuriousness.


Lachmann (2) - The "Illiad" Problem

The following excerpt from Homer and His Poems, by N. M. Cohen summarizes nicely the background to Lachmann's theory regarding the Illiad:
"The first study of Homer that can really be called critical was made in the Alexandrian Age. Then arose a school of Separatists (about 170 B. C.) who believed that the Iliad and the Odyssey were by different authors. Zenodotus, the first chief of the great museum, was also the first critic of the Homeric text, and he was soon followed by Aristarchus, the greatest of ancient critics, to whom is ascribed the present division of Homer into books. Aristarchus discovered a number of spurious passages in the poems, but he had no doubt that Homer was virtually their author. 

At the end of the 18th century there was found in Venice, in the library of St. Mark, a manuscript of the Iliad, dating from the 10th century.  Around this transcription were marginal notes, called "scholia." These were textual criticisms by  Aristarchus and other learned grammarians.   The finding of the "scholia" gave a new impulse to Homeric criticism, and led to the famous Recension of the Iliad by the German scholar, Frederick Augustus Wolf, in 1795. 
Previous to Wolf, the idea that Homer was not the sole author of epics ascribed to him had been suggested by Bentley, Rousseau, and others in modern times, and, it is said, by Josephus, Cicero, and others in ancient times. But no serious attempt at proof had ever been made until Wolf, in his revolutionary Prolegomena (preface to his edition of the Iliad), shook the literary world to its foundations, and inaugurated a new era of literary criticism. 

The celebrated Wolfian theory, is in the main, as follows: 
(1)  Alphabetic writing, according to Wolf, was not known to the Greeks until about 600 B. C. There is no evidence that the laws were written until that time, and certainly a prose literature, which calls for writing, was not in existence previously. It is true that many verses were older, but verse was the original form of extemporaneous oratory or chanting, and the profession of rhapsodist was that of one who recites from memory. 
(2)  In Homer himself, there is but a single mention of a message by characters, [i.e., letters] and that is the case of Bellerophon, "who bore tokens of woe, graven on a folded tablet, many deadly things," to the King of Lydia. This was in some form a written message to the king, in which the writer requests him to slay Bellerophon, and it was not until the tenth day of Bellerophon's visit that the king asked to see "what token he bore." Now, this token on the folded tablet does not by any means imply alphabetic writing, and throughout the rest of the poems we hear of no communication as passing between any of the chiefs in Troy and their families at home. 
(3)  Even if letters were known, nobody read, and wooden or leaden tablets were unable to contain lengthy works. If the poems were not written, it is impossible that the text could have been preserved from corruption during several centuries. 
(4)  Besides, there are manifest discrepancies in the poems themselves. In one case a chief, who has been killed in an early book, is made to attend the funeral of his son in a later book, and there are other discrepancies of time, place and style. 
(5)  Then, too, the exploits of all the chiefs have nothing to do with the story of the Wrath of Achilles, and are manifestly inserted to glorify local heroes. These are the main grounds of the Wolfian theory. 
The conclusion is that the Iliad is a series of short songs put together in a later age. In regard to the Odyssey, the opinion of the Wolfian school is that it is of different authorship altogether from the Iliad. 

Wolf's theory has been violently attacked, learnedly defended, and largely elaborated. Grote, the historian of Greece, makes two distinct works of the Iliad: One he calls the Wrath of Achilles, mainly by Homer; the other the Iliad composed of floating songs. Lachmann, a celebrated German scholar, finds in the Iliad all the joints of sixteen small works. 
Mr. Walter Leaf has recently issued his edition of the Iliad, compiled by getting together twenty-six passages from different books of the poems. He, of course, has scholarly reasons for considering all the rest spurious. "The Nation," in reviewing this work, declares that 
 "in a century after the promulgation of the Wolfian idea (that is, in 1895), the number who believe in the theory of genuineness of Homer's works as traditionally received, will be so small that first-class scholars will not consider it worth while to waste time in endeavoring to convince them of its untenableness."
A singular feature in all these later criticisms is the fact that the very noblest portions of the poem are considered not Homeric. The embassy to Achilles, containing the finest eloquence of the poem; the meeting of Achilles and Priam, containing the noblest pathos–these and other passages of like significance are relegated to floating songs of unknown poets, and the Iliad becomes to the layman a Hamlet without the Prince. 

But the Wolfian theory and its progeny have not gone unchallenged by eminent scholars. The English critics are its choicest defenders. The answers to the theory are mainly these:
First. Writing may have existed at the time of Homer, for the Greeks were in close communication with the Phoenicians as early as 1100 B. C. The Phoenicians were skilled in writing, and the quick-witted Greeks would not be slow to imitate so useful an art.
Second. Even if writing were unknown, transmission by memory was not at all impossible. Rhapsodists were a professional class, trained purely for the purpose of memorizing, and the public recitations in which each might criticise the other, insured the integrity of the text. Extraordinary feats of memory are not unknown in our own times. Macaulay could, without effort, recite half of "Paradise Lost;" Dr. Bathurst is said to have known the whole Iliad in Greek when a boy. If such performances are possible by non-professional reciters in an era when writing has weakened the power of memory, they certainly were not impossible in a trained and picked class of memorizers who could not depend on writing.
Third. There are discrepancies, it is true; but they are only such as might occur in long poems by a single author, especially if not written; and while some interpolations may be granted, they are not sufficient to disturb the general integrity of the text.
Fourth. The plots are essentially bound together by an underlying unity; the style and turn of language and thought in both poems are those of the one master; and if the author of the Iliad and he of the Odyssey are not the same, then nature must have produced bountifully the supreme poetic inspiration when the world was young.
This is, in very small mold, the modern Homeric question; its bibliography is enormous, although the controversy is really in its incipiency. ..."
- N.M. Cohen, Homer And His Poems, (Chicago, 1893) p 120-121

Lachmann - exaggerater of the "Genealogical Method"

Lachmann, Karl Konrad Friedrich Wilhelm,
(1973-1851) German philologist.

Educational Background and Training

Lachmann studied at Leipzig and Gottingen, mainly philological studies.

1816 - assistant master in the Friedrichswerder gymnasium (Berlin)
         - privatdozent at the University (of Berlin?)
         - principal master in Friedrichs-Gymnasium of Konigsberg
1818 - assisted Germanist Friedrich Karl Kopke
         - professor extraordinarius of classical philosophy (U. of Konigsberg)
1818 - 1825 - devoted to studying Old German Grammar & Middle High German poetry
1825 - leave of absence to search libraries for German materials
         - nom. Extraordinary Professor of German philology (Humboldt U., Berlin)
1827 - professor (Humbolt U., Berlin)
1830 - member of academy of sciences

Up until about 1827, Lachmann had hardly spent any time on New Testament studies or NT Greek, but had devoted all his effort toward German languages and literature, although he also translated the first volume of PE Müller's Sagabibliothek des skandinavischen Altertums (1816).   A look at his publications shows his interest and focus of study:

 Published Works and Area of Study

Early Work before engaging in Greek NT:

Lachmann edited Propertius (1816); Catullus (1829); Tibullus (1829);
He also translated Shakespeare's sonnets (1820) and Macbeth (1829).

Work published while working on Greek NT:

Genesius (1834); Terentianus Maurus (1836); Homer's Illiad (1837-41)
Babrius (1845); Avianus (1845); Gaius (1841-1842); the Agrimensores Romani (1848-1852);  Lucretius (1850).
Lachmann also apparently edited Lucilius (re--edited after his death by Vahlen, 1876).

Although this is a substantial body of work, very little of it bears upon the task of NT Textual Criticism.  Lachmann's own textual-critical skills were all based on classical works, which pose a much different and far simpler problem:  Most classical works were not the target of religious or political attack, and the NT was written and copied under unique and exceptional circumstances.

Lachmann's Greek New Testament

Between 1831 and 1850 Lachmann now turned to the Greek NT.

  The plan of Lachmann's edition, which he explained in his Studia Krit. of 1830, is a modification of the unaccomplished project of Richard Bentley. Lachmann was the first major editor to break from the Textus Receptus, seeking to restore the most ancient reading current in manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type, using the agreement of the Western authorities (Old Latin and Greek Western Uncials) as the main proof of antiquity of a reading where the oldest Alexandrian authorities differ.

1831 - published his smaller edition of the New Testament
1842 - the larger second edition, in two volumes (1842-1850).
1846 -  the 3rd edition 

Lachmann's 'Crowning Achievement'

Lachmann then immediately went back to other classical interests.  According to Wikipedia, 
"Lachmann's edition of Lucretius (1850),  was the principal occupation of his life from 1845, and perhaps his greatest achievement of scholarship. 
 He demonstrated how the three main manuscripts all derived from one archetype, containing 302 pages of 26 lines to a page. Further, he was able to show that this archetype was a copy of a manuscript written in a minuscule hand, which in itself was a copy of a manuscript of the 4th or 5th centuries written in rustic capitals. To say his recreation of the text was accepted is anticlimactic..."
 However, this itself is some kind of fudging of the actual truth regarding Lachmann's work.  Qwiki tells a quite different story about the evaluation of Lachmann's work regarding Homer's Illiad (1837-1841):
"in it he sought to show that the Illiad consists of eighteen independent layers, variously enlarged and interpolated, had considerable influence on 19th century Homeric scholarship, although his views are no longer accepted."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Later dates for MSS: Codex W = 700 CE, P52 = II-III cent

H. Houghton has reported in  "Recent Developments in NT TC (2011, Early Christianity 2.2, p. 245-268:

"...There have also been developments in the dating of certain manuscripts. The Freer Gospels (032, W), famous for their unique text in the Longer Ending of Mark, were initially assigned to the fourth or fifth century. However, following the redating of the manuscripts used for the original comparison and the subsequent discovery of similar material, including the Cologne Mani Codex, Schmid has suggested that it may have been copied at least a century later. [29]  Parker and Birdsall's consideration of the palaeography and catena of Codex Zacynthius (040, Ξ) prompt them to propose a date of around 700 for the majuscule underwriting, rather than Hatch's suggestion of the sixth century. [30]   The date of the earliest surviving fragment of the New Testament, P52, has also been the subject of a recent review by Nongbri. [31]  This cautions against the uncritical adoption of the earliest suggested date of 125 CE and demonstrates that a date in the late second or early third centuries remains palaeographically possible. As more and more comparative material becomes available online, it will not be surprising if the dating of other manuscripts is reassessed. ...

29. Ulrich Schmid, "Reassessing the Palaeography and Codicology of the Freer Gospel Manuscript," in The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: Fresh Studies of an American Treasure Trove ed. Larry W. Hurtado (SBLTCS 6. Atlanta GA: SBL, 2006), 227–49.

30. D.C. Parker and J. Neville Birdsall, "The Date of Codex Zacynthius (Ξ): A New Proposal," JTS 55.1 (2004): 117–31 (reprinted in Parker, Manuscripts, Texts, Theology, 113–20).

31. Brent Nongbri, "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel," HTR 98.1 (2005): 23–48.

 It seems what has long been suspected by outsiders is turning out to have some substance and basis, namely that manuscripts generally have been dated too early, and more revisions are in the works, either by their over-enthusiastic discoverers, or else apologists. 


Sunday, September 4, 2011

The 'Schools' of Alexandria and Antioch (4th-5th c. A.D.)

Here is a short discussion of the so-called 'schools' of Antioch and Alexandria, culled from the Orthodox site  Monachos

With regard to the Christological discussions of our period (the later fourth and early fifth centuries), reference made in modern scholarship to the 'Alexandrian' and 'Antiochene' schools attempts to homogenise under two relatively coherent umbrellas two general approaches to Christological reflection centred round these great cities and sees. The Alexandrine 'school' is seen most often as the older, dating back at least to Arius, and including such notable figures as the sainted bishop Athanasius of that city, as well as the anathematised Apollinarius. The insistence of all three writers, as well as others of their converging tradition, upon the divinity of the Logos in the 'becoming' of the incarnation, and a tendency in each to see that incarnation as a 'taking on of flesh' by the Logos, has earned their 'school' the reputation of fostering another scholarly category: a 'Logos/sarx Christology'.
Those referred to as 'Antiochene'-for example Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorius of Constantinople, John of Antioch-are often referred to as preferring a 'Logos/anthropos Christology'; namely, one in which the Logos is united to man, or even 'a man'. A dominant insistence upon the full humanity of the incarnate Christ characterises all those shuffled under this umbrella.
The classification of these 'schools' is rather rough-and-ready. While some cases are clear-cut (e.g. Nestorius, who is evidently a theological descendent of Theodore), others are more difficult. St Cyril is a notable example. As bishop of Alexandria and strongly influenced by the theology of his predecessor, Athanasius, the temptation is certainly to call him a member of the Alexandrian 'school'. Yet one is hard-pressed to consider Cyril's Christology of hypostatic union conformable to any definition of the Logos/sarx 'model' by which that 'school' is so often characterised. And while such a figure as John of Antioch is almost universally considered a member of the Antiochene 'school', his later Christological dialogues with Cyril, most pointedly their joint 'formula of reunion', addresses the incarnational becoming in a manner that hardly fits within the broad categories of Theodore's reflection, taken by most as the standard for Antiochene Christology.
So we must take care not to read these 'schools' not schools in any strict sense. Rather, they represent loci of converging approaches to Christological reflection centred around two great strongholds of theological activity in the fourth and fifth centuries. And despite the dangers of generalisation, which in historical analysis leads too often to a false-homogenisation, certain common characteristics of these converging traditions can be ascertained, and prove helpful in our reading of doctrinal reflection in its historical progression. In a general sense, these trends and tendencies are as follows:
Alexandrian 'school' Antiochene 'school'
Tendency toward Platonic metaphysical approach; a desire to move beyond appearances to the 'truly real'. Tendency toward Aristotelian stress on concrete realities, factual historicity and its analysis, and the discernable characteristics of concrete reality.
Favours an allegorical reading of scripture, first proffered in a notable way by Origen; driven here by a desire to 'get to the real meaning' of given biblical passages. Favours an historical/factual, 'literal', reading of scripture.
With regard to Christ, a tendency to focus on inner, metaphysical composition and activity. A tendency to focus upon the factual/historical aspects of the human life of Christ-what he did, said, accomplished, etc. Cf. Theodore's exegetical interest in the 'historical Jesus'.
Soteriological convictions driven most often by notions of sanctification/divinisation, mystical relation, etc. Soteriological convictions driven by corrective agency of divinity on humanity.
Generally: stress laid upon the ontological oneness of Christ-the divinity and humanity form one being-wrought most often by reference to the Logos/sarx framework (though not always; cf. Cyril of Alexandria). Generally: stress laid upon the distinction between God and man in Christ-these not only distinct in discernable attributes, but in substantive reality. Preservation of full reality and integrity of both natures. Logos/anthropos model predominates.
Key weakness lies in the routine jeopardy into which the persistent distinction of natures is cast in the maintenance of the single ontological reality of the incarnate Christ. Key weakness lies in the difficulty in expressing the genuine union of the two natures, and indeed the true oneness or singular subjectivity of the incarnate Christ.

Our thanks to the anonymous author of that useful overview.