Re: Text critical question in Matt 11:9 (longish)


I thank you for reading through my lengthy posting of last Friday.  Let 
me try to explain why I think we might choose not to separate 
reconstruction of Q and reconstruction of Matthew (which is, after all, 
what text criticism is).

I think that our categories of "scribe" and "author" have got fuzzy 
edges.  There are times when Matt and Luke are "scribes"--they copy 
Mark and Q verbatim.  There are times when the later "scribes" were 
authors--or, at least, editors.  The fact that we can have monographs 
about theological tendencies in Codex Beza shows the fuzziness.  I'm not 
saying that "scribe" and "author" are always the same, just that there 
is some slippage in the terminology.

In this section of Q, Matthew and Luke are functioning as scribes.  The 
amount of editorial intervention is rather small, and most of the 
problems are pretty easy to solve.  So I think it is quite appropriate to 
ask, Which reading is oldest?  Then, what did Matthew do with it, and 
what did Luke do with it?  Then, what did their copyists do with it?  
We have two possibilities for which reading is oldest-- IDEIN PROFHTHN 
or PROFHTHN IDEIN.  The former has better external attestation--it is 
clearly in Luke's text, and it is in the majority of witnesses to 
Matthew's text.  Concerning the latter, though, you rightly ask: "Why 
does it exist at all if it is not `original'?"  I don't know if that's really 
a question about "external" evidence, though, since it's not about 
numbers, reliability, age, and geographic spread of witnesses.

So why would it exist at all, if it is not "original" to Matthew's text?  
Here we cannot avoid the question of "preferences," which I know that 
you are very cautious about, although I've not been satisfied yet with 
the depth of our discussions on this topic at the International Q Project 
meetings.  We certainly cannot ignore "preferences" in our deliberations.  
You are right that no authors always write according to their 
preferences.  All that I infer from that, though, is that we will never be 
able to reconstruct Q--or Matthew or Luke, for that matter!--perfectly.  
Any reconstruction that we have will contain flaws.  If we know that 
80% of the instances of a construction in Matthew's use of Mark are due 
to his changing his source, but 20% are copied directly from Mark, then 
when we turn to Q and see that construction in Matthew diff. Luke we 
will tend to reconstruct with Luke (barring other objections), but we 
know that there is a 20% chance that our reconstruction will be wrong 
since this might be one of those one-in-five times that Matthew is 
copying his source.  That's life.  Perfection is impossible, but that does 
not exclude the need for methodological rigour.  As long as we admit 
that our error rate in these circumstances will be 20%, that's the best 
that we can do.  Unless other evidence comes to light, of course.

So back to the case at hand.  Whence does this "minority reading" 
arise?  My claim is that it arises from a small number of scribes of 
Matthew's gospel attempting to erase the ambiguity.  Or maybe it even 
arose by accident--it is poorly attested in the Greek manuscripts.  The 
objections are--why don't we see them making the change in the 
previous instances?  Answer:  Sinaiticus does in 11:8, at least.  And 
here I don't know how much to trust the apparatus critici, how much 
they *don't* tell us, how many variants are not recorded because they 
are deemed "unimportant."  The app crit in UBS3 and N26 were designed 
for exegetes, not text critics, who would like to see all the information 
about every existing variant.  I don't have a copy of von Soden to 
check, even if I could trust his apparatus.  End soapbox.  Of course, 
the existence of the variant in 11:8 in Sinaiticus reduces the chance 
that this was an accident for him, at least, but does not eliminate the 
possibilities of an accident in W, Z, 892.  So that's where this variant 
could have come from.

It seems less likely to me that Matthew read PROFHTHN IDEIN and then 
the vast majority of scribes changed it.  Why would they change it?  
Because they wanted to continue the parallel construction?  So many of 
them wanted to do that??  Even less likely is interference from Luke's 
gospel.  It is well known that Matthew's was the best loved of the 
gospels, and the vast majority of cases of synoptic interference are when 
texts of Mark and Luke are conformed to Matthew.  That's why it 
surprises me so that we have no evidence that scribes accommodated 
Luke's text to the minority text of Matthew, PROFHTHN IDEIN.  Or maybe 
we do have such evidence but Aland hasn't seen fit to inform us of this, 
and I am stuck here in the boondocks with no way to check any other 
critical edition.  Maybe a holiday in Muenster is in order, so I can 
check the microfilms.  ;-)

No, it seems less likely that many scribes were entranced by the poetry 
of the passage (making the change from PROFHTHN IDEIN to IDEIN 
PROFHTHN) than that a few were bothered by the ambiguity and so 
eliminated it at the expense of parallelism (IDEIN PROFHTHN to PROFHTHN 
IDEIN).  Sure, this is a matter of "preference," but isn't it the more 
probable scenario?

There, in the last three paragraphs I've managed to try to make the 
case without recourse to Q.  :-)  I still think, though, that it's an 
interesting exercise to imagine Q starting with each of the readings and 
then imagining who would have introduced the alternative reading first.  
If Q had read IDEIN PROFHTHN, Matthew would most probably have kept 
it, since he likes parallel constructions.  If the ambiguity didn't bother 
Q, it probably wouldn't have bothered him.  Therefore it's unlikely that 
he would be responsible for the change to PROFHTHN IDEIN.  On the 
other hand, if Q had read PROFHTHN IDEIN, we have Luke going against 
his tendency and creating ambiguity and parallelism--this is so 
improbable as to be unbelievable, in my opinion.  We also have either 
Matthew copying Q and the majority of his scribes creating ambiguity 
and conforming his text to Luke--very, very improbable--or Matthew 
changing Q to IDEIN PROFHTHN because he likes parallel constructions 
and doesn't mind ambiguity, but a minority of his scribes accidentally 
re-create the Q text out of thin air.  Harumph.

It's all based on preference.  As Dirk Gently would say, the improbable 
is... well... improbable.