Friday, November 20, 2015

Evangelical Theological Society 2015

The Evangelical Theological Society held its annual meeting in Atlanta from 17-19 November, and I thought I would summarize some of the text-critically relevant papers for those who did not attend.

Russell Fuller and Richard McDonald argued that the study and teaching of Hebrew should be based on the use of Arabic grammatical categories, since it is the closest living language with a long history of grammatical analysis. They suggested that modern linguistic approaches have led to more confusion than insight, and that the use of native Semitic grammatical analyses better explains many phenomena. I must admit that the idea that we even need a paradigm language seems to me unnecessarily limiting. Neither does native Arabic grammar seem to me necessarily to be the best tool for studying Hebrew grammar. Nevertheless, it was a good reminder that we stand in a long line of grammatical tradition, and we would do well not to neglect the study of earlier grammarians and cognate languages.

Benjamin Giffone presented a theological paper on the problem for Evangelical bibliologies of defining a single, definitive text in a tradition that was repeatedly edited. He suggested that it is all but inevitable to have to appeal to "Catholic" arguments from community determination. He raised many insightful, probing theological questions, but unfortunately had no particular answer to give.

Eric Tully presented a helpful model for distinguishing between textual variants in a source language text and translation shifts in a target language text. He suggested gradually accumulating a database of tentative conclusions on individual readings, which can then inform later decisions or be corrected by later decisions. This iterative approach is not particularly new, but it was nice to see it clearly laid out.

Chris Stevens compared Titus in P32 and Sinaiticus, showing that the two are almost completely identical. He also used Sinaiticus to reconstruct the lacunae in P32 (rather than the NA text), further showing how close they are based on the near-perfect fit. I personally am a big fan of comparing the early witnesses to each other directly, rather than through intermediary textual witnesses or editions, so I appreciated that part of his paper.

Michael Kruger reevaluated P.Antinoopolis 12 (0232), a miniature codex containing 2 John. He suggested a 5th century date based on the physical features of the codex and the hand. He noted an error in the editio princeps, which led to a major error in the reconstruction of the codex. While admittedly speculative, he suggested that Hebrews may have been included in the codex along with the Catholic epistles, which would fill up the requisite amount of text indicated by the page numbers on the fragment.

Tomas Bokedal reviewed the history of the study of the nomina sacra, suggesting that Jesus was the primary member of the group of five reflecting an early core. He suggests the other names were chosen to line up with Christological creeds, indicating titles attributed to Jesus. This, of course, would imply a Christian origin for the nomina sacra.

Eric Mitchell presented on an unpublished fragment of Deuteronomy located at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I missed the first part of the presentation, but if I understand correctly, it is a late 1st century BCE fragment from Qumran with regular morphologically long 2mp suffixes, but only one (semi-)meaningful difference from the MT. Unfortunately, the fragment reads the broken word י]בחר, so I don't know if it is possible to tell whether it read the perfect (SP) or imperfect (MT) in that important ideological difference, though Eric reconstructed with the MT.

I caught the last part of Peter Gurry's paper on the textual variants in the divorce passages in the Gospels in light of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method. Among other things, he suggested that genealogical coherence suggests a preference for a longer reading in Matt. 19:9.

Nicholas Perrin argued against Watson that P. Egerton 2 does not witness to a pre-Johannine source, but is rather secondary. Among other arguments, he suggests that key stylistic features of the common text are part of broader themes in John that cannot be explained on the basis of P. Egerton 2 alone.

David Yoon looked at the use of ekthesis (putting the first letter of a line in the margin for visual prominence) in Galatians in Sinaiticus, suggesting that the text segments divided by ekthesis cannot be identified as paragraphs according to modern understandings, since they occur too frequently and sometimes even mid-sentence. He did not come to a definitive conclusion as to what exactly was the function of the scribal practice.

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