Tuesday, March 01, 2016

HBU Erasmus Conference Notes: Lecture 2: Craig A. Evans on Erasmus and "Textual Fundamentalism" (2.26.16 AM)

Image:  Craig A. Evans speaks at the HBU Erasmus Conference.

Session II: Craig A. Evans:  Erasmus and the Beginnings of Textual Fundamentalism.

CE notes that Erasmus used seven mss. to create his NT.  His focus initially seems to be on the Latin and later shifted to the Greek.

The influence of the text of Eramsus:  The editions of Stephus and Beza.  The second edition of the Elzevirs gave us the textus receptus.  The KJV translators depended on TR.

CE suggests that with the TR began textual fundamentalism.  It laid a foundation for a new form of fundamentalism.  The idea of a text with no errors arrives in this period with the standard printed text.  He draws a parallel with the quest for the ipsissima verba Jesu.  He says we have autographa of ancient works and copies always vary.  With printing of identical texts the view emerged of an error-free original text.

He cites the discovery of new mss. including papyri, the discovery of new variants, and a harmonizing tendency in the Byzantine texts.  Fundamentalists tried to defend the text and were threatened by a crisis of faith.

CE draws a parallel to differences among the Synoptic Gospels. Evans assumes Markan priority.  He says that most traditional Christians are not aware of the fact that the Gospels were edited and that the sayings of Jesus were edited.  Pastors should teach this to their people, he says.

He surveys Jewish and Greco-Roman views on history and rhetoric and says they overlapped. He cites the classic study Hellenism in Jewish Palestine by Saul Lieberman, which argued that Jewish scholarship was heavily indebted to Hellenism.  More recently Jaffe has come to the same conclusions.

CE says that the discrepancies in the Gospels begin with Jesus himself.  How do we know this?  We have the handbooks from antiquity.  Young Greeks began by memorizing brief anecdotes (chreia).  As the student progressed he began to assert these in his argument and to string together several.  He learned how to introduce them.  He was permitted to edit these and was indeed required to by necessity.  Change in wording was not prohibited nor was expansion or abbreviation.  The focus was on clarity.  CE is dismayed that most traditional Christians are unaware of this.

He says this view was also present in the pre-print culture up to the time of the TR.  A change takes place with Guttenberg.

We see this comfort with variety in the ancient historians.  He cites various accounts of the Roman Emperor Otho.  CE says the Gospel writers were not tape recorders but disciples.  He cites Matt 13:32 describing scribes bringing out treasures old and new. CE says Jesus did not expect his disciples simply to repeat his words verbatim.

He cites Dale Martin who said Bart Ehrman let text study ruin his faith because he had an inadequate theology of the Bible.  CE recommends Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible:  Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture.

JTR Analysis:

There was more than a little which I found unsettling about this presentation. CE represents the assumptions and approach of a classic evangelical “restorationist” approach.  There was, for example, no mention of the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture.  Those who seek stability in the Biblical text are “textual fundamentalists.”

I also have questions about some of the historical statements.  Examples:  He stressed how Jewish scholarship was affected by Hellenism, but does not tell us how it was also different.  If ancient Jews, like ancient Greeks, were as comfortable with differences in texts, variants, etc., as CE suggests, and did not expect precision in transmission why were the Masoretes so meticulous in their care for the OT text?

In the discussion period I raised a related question about the early Christians.  If they were so comfortable with diversity in the NT text and in supposed differences in the Synoptic accounts of Jesus due to the chreia pedagogy, why was there such an early effort to harmonize the Gospel accounts (see, e.g., Tatian’s Diatessaron)?  As regards the Church Fathers, what about Augustine’s efforts to harmonize the Gospels?  And in later church history, why did Calvin harmonize the Pentateuch in his OT commentaries and the Synoptic Gospels in his NT commentaries?  Can it be that desire for harmony, agreement, and uniformity existed prior to the printing press (and the TR)?

I also asked about another seeming logical inconsistency.  On one hand, CE says there is a harmonizing tendency in the textual tradition.  On the other hand, he then tells us that the ancients were comfortable with differences and variants among texts!  If they were so comfortable with these variants, why did they supposedly harmonize them?

One valuable thing I gained from this lecture: The realization of parallel issues regarding modern text criticism and modern “Synoptic Problem” criticism.

I also could not help thinking that what Protestant liberals suggested in the nineteenth century, modern evangelicals have thoroughly embraced in the twenty-first century (e.g., Markan priority, Q, rational eclecticism, etc.).

Friday AM Breakout Sessions

Gregory Barnhill and Natalie R. Webb, “Tolle Lege:  Reader’s Aids and Nomina Sacra in Early Christian Mss.”

First half:  Readers’ aids developed in Christian texts as they were read.  Presenters say there was a shift in 2-3 century with emergence of the office of lector.  Some have suggested that the letter carrier was the reader.  Reading aloud was an act of interpretation that needed to be done correctly.

They showed images of Codex B with paragraph division lines with raised dot and over-lining.  There are a variety of dots in the text, which they interpret as reading notes:  raised dots (end of complete thought; major pause); middle dot (take a breath); lower dot (shorter break).

Hurtado and others have suggested early origins for these reading helps.

Second half:  Nomina sacra.  Why these 15 words?  Unknown.  They focused on Israel as nomina sacra. Was it one way Christians staked their claim on this term?  They note that the Church Fathers’ use of Israel as a term in Barnabas, Justin Martyr (church as the true Israel), Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.

This paper shows shift of interpretative traditions in text.

Timothy Bartel, When Virgil met St. Simeon:  Luke’s Canticle in Juvenicus.

Juvencus used Virgil’s hexameter verse style to paraphrase the Nunc Dimitis in Luke 2.

Stanley Helton, Origen and the Endings of Mark’s Gospel.

Metzger said Origen did not know the end of Mark’s Gospel.  But it has been pointed out that Origen also shows no evidence of knowing Mark 2 or 5 or even 16:1-8 at all.  Rather we have to learn about Origen’s approach to texts generally.

In Origen’s neglect of Mark generally, we see the church’s preference for Matthew over Mark.

Thompson showed Origen’s Mark was closest to Codex L (019), a ms. Similar to Vaticanus.  Helton suggests Origen would have known a tradition that Mark ended at 16:8.  See also Eusebius’ citation on the ending of Mark that most trace to Origen.

If you include Origen’s early work, his text of NT is closer to L.  In later years he shifted more to the so-called Caesarean text (so like Theta, 565, 700).

We know Irenaeus used the ending of Mark, and it is likely Origen would have read it.

Helton’s conclusion:  Origen would have known Mark ending at 16:8; the shorter ending, and the longer ending.

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