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
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.