May 31, 2006

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

HCSB Review at This LAMP

Rich Mansfield of This LAMP has finally begun his long awaited series on his top ten Bible versions with a thoughtful and detailed review of the Holmann Christian Standard Bible. It's a good read. Something I didn't know: the HCSB began as a personal project of Arthur Farstad, who was involved in two of my other favorite Bible projects, the New King James Version and The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. (A digression on the majority text: most of the textual criticism articles I've seen have been from a pro-Byzantine perspective, and I got the impression that the Alexandrian texts were generally accepted only because they were the oldest and for no other reason - given the enormous number of scholars who accept the Alexandrian text family as the correct New Testament, it is quite probable that I'm wrong and that there are better reasons to favor the Alexandrian. That said, I still think the arguments of Hodges and Farstad are pretty compelling).

At any rate, the review is highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!

(HT: Better Bibles Blog)

Posted by Kenny at May 31, 2006 7:31 AM
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It's not just that they're the oldest, though that seems to me to be a very good reason to give them priority. Another main reason is that there are several diverse textual strains of textual tradition that tend to agree with each other more than with the later Byzantine texts, and I believe there's also more agreement with earlier church fathers than the Byzantine texts have.

The main idea is that mere raw numbers of manuscrips mean very little if they're all manuscripts of one type. All that means is that whoever had that manuscript strain made lots of copies. But if diverse types agree, then it says something. So text critics tend to pay more attention to multiple manuscript traditions to see which readings are most common and which readings come from manuscript traditions that are temporally closest to the original.

Some of the deciding issues aren't about manuscripts, though. Some readings would make sense as alterations because a scribe might have thought the text he was copying had a mistake in it. Others wouldn't. There are possible variations that can be explained in this way or by a copyist error, when the other direction would make no sense. Often the text critical decision, then, is to go with the reading that someone wouldn't add in later. I believe there are far more of these with the older manuscripts and more of the understandable changes in the Byzantine tradition.

I haven't read much on this stuff in a long time, so I don't remember a lot of the arguments, but that's the sense of what I remember.

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce at June 6, 2006 9:51 PM

An argument often given for the superiority of the Alexandrian text-type is that the kinds of variants usually present in the Byzantine/Majority text are judged to be of a more secondary character (thus indicating a secondary text) than those usually found in the Alexandrian text. Some variants of a secondary character would be harmonization (making parallel passages read the same . . . especially in the synoptic gospels) and conflation (combining two variants to form a third variant . . . for example, rather than choosing "grace" or "peace" the scribe wrote "grace and peace").

There is one main weakness that is often pointed out in Hodges and Farstad's arguments. A large part of their argument is that given a normal transmission history the best readings will be preserved in the majority of manuscripts. This is a fairly persuasive argument (I have heard that the math involved has been questioned, but I'm a seminary student not a mathemetician so I couldn't give an intelligent analysis of that side of it). The weakness that I have most often seen argued (including in a textual criticism class I took in the last year)is that there was NOT a normal transmission history. That is, there are a number of historical factors that can adequately explain the prominance of the Byzantine/Majority text-type and/or decline of the Alexandrian text-type. Probably the biggest one is that fairly early on Greek ceased to be the lingua franca in the Western Roman Empire fairly early in the history of the textual transmission of the NT (I apologize for not remembering exactly how soon . . . been a little while since I took the class). Latin became the spoken language of the Western Empire while Greek remained the spoken language of the Eastern Empire (aka Byzantium). Thus, the argument goes, there was a much higher demand for copies of the Greek Bible in the Eastern Empire so more copies were made of the Byzantine text. Other historical factors that would have affected the transmission of the text (so that it would not progress in a neatly mathematical manner) are empirewide persecutions (the Diocletian persecution specifically targetted Christian manuscripts) and the Muslim invasions (known to have completed the destruction of what was left of the Great Library of Alexandria among other things).

Of course, there are other arguments and counterarguments from both sides, but I thought that one was at least interesting (and I probably haven't presented it nearly as well as I should have, but there it is)

Posted by: Joel at July 10, 2006 2:21 PM

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