Saturday, April 18, 2020
WM 163: Follow Up: Gurry, Parker, Text, & Postmodernism
Image: Dedication page: Jennifer Knust & Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone (Princeton, 2019).
I have posted WM 163: Follow Up: Gurry, Parker, Text, & Postmodernism. Listen here. Notes for WM 163:
In this episode I want to follow up to the interaction I had with Dr. Peter Gurry (PG) and James Snapp (JS) back on January 29, 2020 (in the pre-covid days!) on Josh Gibbs’s Talking Christianity podcast. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a moderated conversation between our three positions turned out to be something of a disorderly disaster. See my follow up blog post here. Still, I think some have profited from it, and I continue to hear from folk every now and then whose interest in the confessional text was piqued by the conversation.
There were a number of things that made the interaction difficult, from my perspective. For one thing, my co-participants wanted to make the conversation about reconstructing the external evidence, and did not seem to grasp or respond to my argument that such a method is futile given the paucity of evidence and its scattered and fragmented condition. For another thing, with regard to PG, in particular, I was frustrated with the unwillingness to acknowledge or respond to what I consider to be some basic factual realities with regard to contemporary text criticism in the modern academy.
First, PG dismissed as altogether insignificant the postmodern shift that has taken place in contemporary text criticism and the abandonment of any certainty with respect to the reconstruction of the autograph.
Second, oddly enough, he denied the influence of D. C. Parker as a “gatekeeper,” an influential thinker, who has greatly shaped the approach to modern text criticism in the academy.
So, in this WM I want to do four things:
First, I want to play a clip from the Josh Gibbs’s podcast in which I interacted with PG.
Second, I want to talk a little about DC Parker and his views: Why is he significant?
Third, I want to read a book review I wrote of DC Parker’s Textual Scholarship and the Making of the NT (Oxford, 2012), so that you can judge for yourself the influence of Parker.
Fourth, I want to offer some brief concluding thoughts.
First: the clip from the discussion with PG. You can find it here (from c. 35-48 minute mark).
Second: Is DC Parker a gatekeeper?
Let’s begin with Dr. Parker’s webpage at the University of Birmingham, where he is Professor of Digital Philology in the Department of Theology and Religion.
His introductory blurb:
My main current work is editions of the Gospel of John funded by the AHRC. One is a critical edition of the Greek text in the series Novum Testamentum Graece. Editio critica maior, in partnership with the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung, Münster, Germany. Another is an edition of the Gospel of John in Latin in the Vetus Latina series.
I read Theology at St. Andrews, specialising in New Testament and Church History. From there I went to Cambridge, where I completed a postgraduate degree and trained for the Anglican priesthood. After eight years in parochial ministry in North London and Oxfordshire, I moved to Birmingham in 1985, teaching at Queen’s College until 1993, when I joined the department. I have a doctorate from the University of Leiden, The Netherlands.
I have been Executive Editor of the International Greek New Testament Project since 1987. I am editor of the series Texts and Studies. Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature (published by Gorgias Press) and Arbeiten zur neutestamentliche Textforschung (published by De Gruyter).
In 2012 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. From the 2017-18 academic year, I have taken stepped retirement and will not be accepting any more postgraduate students.
My main current work is editions of the Gospel of John funded by the AHRC. One is a critical edition of the Greek text in the series Novum Testamentum Graece. Editio critica maior, in partnership with the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung, Münster, Germany. Another is an edition of the Gospel of John in Latin in the Vetus Latina series. I also contributed to the COMPAUL Project directed by Dr Hugh Houghton. I am co-editor of the monograph series Arbeiten zur neutestamentliche Textforschung and am on the editorial board of the journal Filologia Neotestamentaria.
Other research contributions in recent years include online editions of two early Christian manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Bezae, and the Society of Antiquaries of London’s three copies of Magna Carta. My most recent book (Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. The Lyell Lectures 2011, Oxford: Oxford University Press, paperback edition 2014) describes many aspects of my current thinking and ITSEE projects.
His publications: Here are some key works:
Codex Bezae. An Early Christian Manuscript and Its Text, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
The Living Text of the Gospels, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament, Oxford University Press, October 2012.
Codex Sinaiticus. The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible, British Library and Peabody MA: Hendrickson, 2010. German translation, German Bible Society, 2012.
Of these works, Parker’s Living Text of the Gospels is considered by many to have been groundbreaking. In the opening chapter on “The theory” Parker states a key thesis: “There is no original text. There are just different texts from different stages of production” (4).
Third: My book review of DC Parker’s Textual Scholarship and the Making of the NT (Oxford, 2012) [from American Theological Inquiry Vol. 7 No. 1 (2014): pp. 81-84]:
There has been a momentous postmodern shift in the contemporary academic NT text criticism.
DC Parker has exerted enormous influence in the field of contemporary NT Text Criticism.
For just one final piece of evidence of this, look at the dedication to Jennifer Knust & Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of A Gospel Story (Princeton, 2019) which reads: “For D. C. Parker on the occasion of his retirement.”
The concluding paragraph of the Acknowledgements: “Finally, in recognition of his long service to our discipline and his profound influence upon us, we have chosen to dedicate this book to David C. Parker. His living texts, vibrant scholarship, overwhelming openness, and noble example, give us much to admire. We wish him the best for his retirement and would like to express our sincerest thanks for everything he has taught us. Thank you David!” (xviii).
So, why was PG so intent in our conversation to deny the shift that has taken place in contemporary text criticism? Why deny the influence of DC Parker as a gatekeeper in (post) modern text criticism? I do not know.
I think it would be burying one’s head in the sand to deny that a postmodern shift has taken place in contemporary text criticism, and that this shift is a challenge to the authority of Scripture as the basis for faith and practice in traditional Christianity.