Friday, April 21, 2017

Word Magazine # 73: Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM)


I have posted to sermonaudio.com the audio for Word Magazine # 73: The Coherence-BasedGeneaological Method (CBGM). Below are the notes for this episode:

I.                Introduction

What is the CBGM? It is a new approach in text criticism, which makes use of sophisticated computer technology and databases to provide study and analysis of witnesses to the NT and their relationship to each other, based on comparison of these witnesses and their variants. The method of was developed by Gerd Mink and other scholars at the Institute for New Testament Research at the University of Muenster, Germany. It has been used in the ongoing publication of the Editio Critica Maior (ECM, or “Greater Critical Edition”), a major revision of the modern critical text, meant eventually to update and replace the text which now underlies the text in the popular handbooks (the most recent editions of which are the NA28 and the UBS Fifth editions). The Catholic Epistles of the ECM were published in 1997 and revised in 2013. Volumes on Acts and John, the latter in cooperation with the “International Greek New Testament Project”, are in preparation and the entire ECM NT is projected to be completed by 2030.

The ECM text of the Catholic Epistles was used in the most recent handbook editions: NA28 (2012) and UBS5 (2013). This is explained in the introduction to each work (see NA28, pp. 48-51; UBS5, “Preface”).

We can point to at least three significant changes:

1.    The text is altered in the Catholic Epistles in 33 (34?) places. They are listed in the NA28 pp. 50-51.

Most of these changes are minor but there are two significant changes, at Jude 5 (reading “Jesus” rather than “Lord”) and 2 Peter 3:10 (inclusion of the conjecture “not”).

2.    Rather than brackets, the text uses diamonds for disputed passages. Gurry on the Reformed Forum podcast: “The editors formally refrain from any judgment on which reading is original.” Gurry reports there are about 30 brackets in NA 27 and about 40 diamonds in NA28. So, there is “slightly more uncertainty” about the text.


3.    Rather than use the Gothic “M” for the Majority or Byzantine text, the ECM/NA28/UBS5 uses the designation “Byz” for Majority or Byzantine readings.

II.              Some Positive Developments

1.    The CBGM rejects the traditional text-types

Gurry: “The most significant, and for that reason, controversial [changes ushered in by the CBGM] is that it has convinced the editors of NA28/UBS5 to abandon the longstanding notion of manuscript text-types. This shift alone could be momentous for the discipline” (p. 685).

The abandonment of text-types comes from the CBGM method’s emphasis on “texts” (the actual words) rather than “manuscripts” (physical copies or artifacts that contain the words).

Why is this positive? It unravels the presumption, held since Westcott and Hort, of the superiority of the so-called Alexandrian text.

2.    The CBGM has resulted in “renewed appreciation for the Byzantine text” (Gurry, p. 685).

Up front: If text-types are rejected why are we even talking about a “Byzantine text”? Gurry explains: “We should note that the editors make an exception to their rejection of text-types with regard to the Byzantine text” (p. 685, n. 24).

Gurry: The CBGM has resulted in “a renewed appreciation for the so-called Byzantine text which dominates the Greek NT manuscripts from the ninth century and beyond. The text form has generally been disparaged by NT critics as being late and unreliable…. But the CBGM for the Catholic Epistles shows that a number of Byzantine witnesses are, in fact, very close to the editor’s own reconstructed text” (p. 685).

As a result, about a third of the changes in the NA28/UBS5 are in support of Byzantine readings over readings in witnesses like p72, Alpeh, A, B,  and C (p. 685).

III.            Problems with the CBGM

1.    The use of computer/digital technology to compare witnesses and variants does not preclude human subjectivity in text criticism.

Klaus Wachtel: “The CBGM is a method that helps to control the subjective element in text criticism, but it is clear that other scholars starting from different premises will come to different conclusions” (Editing the Bible, p. 138).

Gurry: “One of the most frequent issues with the CBGM is understanding exactly how much influence it has had on the editors’ text critical judgments. Unfortunately, this question is not one that can be answered by a simple description of the method itself. That is because the results provided by the CBGM, like all text critical data, have to be weighed and interpreted by a human” (p. 686).

2.    The CBGM, like the rest of modern text criticism, is not exempt from the charge of “circular reasoning.”

The problem is that scholars often tend to reach outcomes based on their initial presuppositions. So, Westcott and Hort favored the uncials Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as the basis of the “neutral text.” Thus, any reading that agreed with these mss. they designated as authentic and original, while any reading that deviated from them they designated as inauthentic and spurious.

Though CBGM has abandoned the traditional text families, the scholars using the method have presuppositions.

In his insightful booklet Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism, philosopher Gordon Clark points out some of the problems and inconsistencies with the reasoning used in modern text criticism, noting “much of textual criticism cannot claim immunity from logical analysis” (p. 11).

3.    The CBGM continues the “restorationist” approach to the text of the NT, even though it has abandoned as untenable any possibility of recovering the original text.

It seeks to go back as far as it can to the “Initial text” and to trace the historical development of the text. The method results in giving credence to conjectural emendation (cf. 2 Peter 3:10). It does not have as its goal the achieving a fixed, standard or stable text, which can be used as a firm basis for confessional Christianity.

This method, thus far, has only been applied to the catholic epistles. How will it be applied to the rest of the NT? Will it include more conjectural emendations like that in 2 Peter 3:10?

Will vernacular translation begin to adapt these reading? Some translations, like the ESV and the CSB (Christian Standard Bible) have already adopted “Jesus” rather than “Lord’ at Jude 5. Will the modern critical text of 2 Peter 3:10 be adopted in future translations?

4.    The esoteric CBGM method is being used by only a very small number of scholars, primarily in one German academic institute.

The text of the Bible has been taken out of the hands of the church and placed in the hands of the academy.

As Solomon said, “of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). We might paraphrase, “of making many editions of the new and improved modern critical text” there is no end.
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