Monday, July 17, 2017

Précis: "The Greek Minuscules of the New Testament" by Barbara Aland and Klaus Wachtel, pp. 69-91.

A Précis of
Chapter three of Ehrman, Bart and Michael Holmes, Editors, 2014 The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, Second Edition, Brill.

This volume is an updating and expansion on the first edition of 1995. The volume contains 28 articles to cover the current status of research on many basic areas in NT TC. The first 16 chapters survey the sources of the NT text available to us. The 12 chapters making up the second main part of the book focus on NTTC Theory and Method.

Chapter Three: The Greek Minuscules of the New Testament” by Barbara Aland and Klaus Wachtel, pp. 69-91.

The authors divide the topic into five subsections, noting that “the invention of this new form of writing fundamentally altered the circumstances under which all literature was transmitted.” In their
discussion they address many of the physical aspects of the new style, but they do not address the semantic, pragmatic, or social aspects to any significant degree.

The first part describes the rise of the minuscule script during the 7th century as an economic choice “to save space and expensive writing materials” as well as making the process of writing more useful. By the 8th century the style had matured into a full quadrilinear script which also facilitated reading through the use of breathing marks and accents. At  Constantinople the Byzantine renaissance from the early 9th century saw the recovery of and transcription of not only NT mss, but of a wide body of Greek literature. During this period the Koine text-type gained preeminence in the Greek mss tradition. The oldest dated mss is the Uspenski Gospels from A.D. 835. Written in a mature book hand and a “pure form of the Koine.” Though there is evidence of text critical work in the copying of other literature, there does not appear to be with respect to the NT. The authors discuss the relationship of the minuscule NT mss to earlier non minuscule. The evidence of MS 2464 demonstrates that non-Koine text types were also transcribed. Footnote 7 explains why the Lucianic recension theory is no longer tenable. The authors discuss possible causes for the preeminence of the Koine text.

Part 2 looks at reasons the minuscules should be considered significant to NTTC for establishing a critical or an initial text. There are more than 2,800 minuscule mss and more than 2,000 minuscule lectionaries, many of which are provenanced. Many are very similar, which provides a good data pool to test methodologies intended to reveal genealogical ties between the texts the mss contain. The authors assert “that these genealogies can be reliably traced back into the time of the majuscules. Thus they allow us to draw lines of development that reach into the early period and that help us to understand how the solitary representatives of the earlier traditions are related to one another.”  The aim of this is to “improve significantly the external criteria used to establish the initial text.” They outline three principal tasks for TC involving minuscules for this purpose.

Part 3 focuses on efforts to gain and provide access to the mss and how they might be profitably organized for TC purposes. The authors highlight the efforts of Kurt Aland resulting in Text und Textwert, the degree of objectivity and subjectivity in collating by means of a group of test/sample passages, and addressing how the mss can then be used after the collation.

Part 4 then moves into the classification of minuscule mss. They describe the efforts of von Soden and what can be learned. They move on to the Claremont Profile Method of F. Wise, the goal of which is “to find groups of MSS that are close enough in text so that an entire group can be represented by a few of its members in an apparatus criticus.” The method involved a group of test passages to determine variation and relationship. From these collations “group readings” were derived. The Claremont Profile Method is discussed in more detail along with some of the limitations the method presents.

In part 5 the authors bring their focus upon particular tasks they believe need to take front place in TC research with respect to minuscules. Their first directive is to develop a “comprehensive description of the history of the text so as to improve the external criteria that are used to assess readings.” They discuss some of the implications, methods, and perceived benefits of such a history. The main method or tool they place confidence in is Gerd Mink’s Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM). This method removes the inherent bias of the regional text recension theories that TC inherited from Hort. The CBGM deals with texts, not manuscripts. The idea is to produce small results at first based on a few textual witnesses, build these up in number over time, and thus, establish a wider and more objective map of potential inter-textual genealogical relationships which may better reveal actual textual transmission history.


The authors make a puzzling statement in the closing paragraph: “No theory of the New Testament textual tradition deserves the label ‘scientific’ if it fails to incorporate, and ultimately to explain, all of the evidence in its entirety.” This is an odd caricature of what ‘scientific’ means. I do agree with the closing sentiment: “the external criteria of textual criticism must be improved. That is the pressing task of our discipline.” Indeed, with the dissolution of genealogical text recensions at the close of the 20th century, New Testament Textual Criticism only began to recognize that it had no actual external criteria to begin with.  

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