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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Maurice Robinson and the Byzantine Textform

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philologos
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 Re:

“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. Deut 17:18–20 NKJV

This is an oft forgotten instruction to the kings of Israel. I am quoting here because of the phrase"he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests". Now David is approx 300 years after this but presumably he copied from 'the law in a book.. from the one before the priests'. If the kings ever kept this commandment it would mean that there would not be 'successive' generations of the text but each copy would be a 'first generation' copy.

The simplistic assumption of Westcott and Hort is that older is better and this myth is perpetuated in the footnotes of several versions with the phrase 'better mss say...'. By 'better' they mean 'older'. WH and those who have followed them do not even seem to consider the Deut 17 scenario.


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Ron Bailey

 2010/8/11 11:25Profile
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 Re:

How does Robinson compare with John Burgon?

For Burgon also utterly rejected the conclusions of Westcott and Hort, and in Revision Revised puts them and their text to an open shame, in my opinion.

It's interesting, though, that Burgon, while being looked upon as the patron saint of the KJV-Only crew, did not hold that view himself. He saw flaws in the KJV and wished for a more accurate translation.


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Allan Halton

 2010/8/11 13:40Profile
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 Re:

This is from the interview...

2. That leads us to the question, what exactly is the Majority Text (MT)? How would this compare to Dean Burgon’s idea of the “traditional text”?

The precise definition of terms depends on whom you ask. Our term “Byzantine Textform” is specifically distinct from the terms “majority text” or “traditional text,” since it restricts matters to only that Textform, even though the results closely overlap the other theoretical positions. From our perspective, the Byzantine Textform in most cases does represent a “majority text,” and equally should be considered the “traditional text” as transmitted through the centuries. Had there been no question of readings with less than near unanimity in every place of textual variation, no real distinction would exist regarding these terms. However, in many variant units the MSS comprising the Byzantine Textform are divided, so in such cases statements regarding “majority” or “traditional” status necessarily must be qualified. In the end, however, our Byzantine Textform edition agrees more than 99% with the Hodges-Farstad “majority text” edition or Pickering’s electronic “Family 35” edition; the same holds in about the same proportion with readings Burgon or Miller specifically favored as part of their “traditional text” approach.


The last few lines... beginning "However, in many variants...


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Ron Bailey

 2010/8/11 13:45Profile
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 Re:

Thanks, Ron. I had made a mental note a few days ago to read that interview... but then forgot where I put the note. :)

I'll read it now.


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Allan Halton

 2010/8/11 13:59Profile
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 Re:

Hi BeYeDoers...

---> You wrote: "Oh come on, ccchhhrrriiisss, we now you have more to say about this topic! Where's your defense of the Alexandrian texts, or even, *cough *cough, the NIV?? ;-P"

Awww...I don't enter into the discussion until I hear some new KJV-only person enter the forums and publicly proclaim that all other versions of God's Word are from the devil. ;-)

I do appreciate the comments here. I actually shared some of the statements from this thread with my mom today over the phone. Like many of us, my mom was stuck by Brother Ron's comment about KJV-only people levying a similar level of "inspiration" to mere translators that was reserved for the prophets and apostles who initially transcribed the Word of God in the first place.


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Christopher

 2010/8/11 17:15Profile
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 Re:

I have printed Robinson's essay off, and hope to read it soon. But unfortunately, I'm going to have to back out of this conversation. As much as I'd like to dialogue on this subject, I'm pulling 60 hours a week between two jobs right now, and with some other things I have going on in the Church, this subject matter is simply too academic for me to deal with at this time. I must press on to more edifying things. But, Lord willing, I can revisit this topic again in the future.

And yes, to answer somebody's question, I do have some background in this area of study. Not a lot, and I'm by no means an expert. But I did receive a good dose of this stuff in seminary at one point. I've literally read thousands of pages of stuff on textual criticism, and have spent hours using the eclectic method while flipping through a critical Greek edition of the NT, and deciding which variants of a certain text were best. As dull as it can be to do, sometimes it is very exciting. It's definitely not for the faint of heart though.

Many blessings! :-)


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Jimmy H

 2010/8/11 22:55Profile
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 Re:

here is the second part of the Robinson Interview...

This is the second installment of our three part interview with Dr. Maurice Robinson, co-editor of the The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 1991, 2005). Continuing from part 1….

———————————

6. Getting back to the Majority Text, opponents of the Majority Text point out the relative lateness of Byzantine readings compared to older readings in the Alexandrian or other text types. How would you respond to the idea that older readings, all things considered, are necessarily better?

Were this really a true principle, then we should be preferring Western readings over Alexandrian (as even Westcott and Hort acknowledged), since the Western readings clearly have a documented earlier pedigree than the Alexandrian, whether from Old Latin MSS or patristic quotations. Obviously neither Westcott and Hort nor even most eclectically based modern critical texts follow that particular route (a few textual critics mostly in France in fact do advocate Western authenticity). In addition, it is generally recognized among all schools of thought that at least some later MSS in fact do preserve earlier texts. This principle usually is limited by critical text partisans to include only those later MSS that tend to agree with their favored earlier MSS, but the principle should apply equally; and if so, there is no reason why the later Byzantine MSS (or those of even the late 4th and early 5th centuries) should not similarly be considered to have preserved a much earlier form of text with (at least) second-century roots. This becomes a greater issue, given that many non-Byzantine partisans have allowed that virtually all significant readings were in existence during the second century — this in effect reflecting what Sturz and Colwell have claimed. Also — as Sturz has shown — numerous Byzantine readings that were dismissed by Westcott and Hort as “distinctively” Byzantine (maintaining W-H’s definition of such in light of material then available to them) do appear in early papyri that were unknown to W-H. Further, as Burgon and Miller had claimed (confirmed by more precise recent research), a large number of Byzantine readings exist among early fathers in a proportion that does approach 2:1 (cf. Hannah’s tabulation of quotations by Origen in 1 Corinthians). So a case can be made regarding the likely early character of the Byzantine Textform; the desired missing piece yet to be discovered (should such ever occur) is merely an early papyrus with a clearly Byzantine text.

7. On a somewhat related note, would you say a respect for the history of church usage, plays heavily into your decision to opt for a Byzantine priority?

Not that I would give great credence to the particular doctrinal views of the Greek Orthodox Church any more than I would those of the Roman Catholic Church — but I do recognize that it was primarily through each of these channels that the Greek and Latin Vulgate texts of the NT were preserved. Accepting that historical factor, I would suggest that a healthy respect for church-based preservation and transmission of the sacred texts should weigh heavily in relation to text-critical theories and praxis.

8a. Some of us have read a bit of the writings of men like Dean John Burgon, Frederick Scrivener and even Edward Freer Hills. Would you claim such men as forebears of the Majority Text position?

I would not consider anyone whose primary agenda was the defense of KJV exclusivity or primacy to be in any manner a forerunner of the Byzantine-priority or majority text position, but rather to reflect a more recent and less-than-scholarly development. This is the situation with Hills, who — regardless of all his former training and apparently favorable comments regarding the Byzantine or majority text — is never willing absolutely to reject any KJV reading derived from a minority of Greek manuscripts (or even no Greek manuscripts whatever!). Through scholastic sophistry similar to that applied by most other KJVOs, Hills ultimately defends every aspect of the KJV and its underlying text, regardless of where the factual data might point. Like most other KJVOs, Hills also ignores the methodological dichotomy whereby he on the one hand claims Byzantine superiority while on the other hand he denies such in favor of minority or unsupported readings — this demonstrates a KJVO mentality quite clearly. Burgon and Miller, on the other hand, freely critiqued certain translational and textual aspects of the KJV, even while urging its retention for Anglican Church use until such time as various textual and translational matters were more firmly decided (conservative textual criticism in the 19th century was very much undetermined and in flux). Scrivener was even more bold, openly departing much more from the KJV and its underlying text, but not always in the Byzantine direction. Scrivener basically allowed for the originality of various non-Byzantine minority readings taken from other texttypes; such was not the case with Burgon or Miller. Similarly, S. W. Whitney in the 19th century also defended the Byzantine reading in most cases (more so than Scrivener), but here and there even Whitney chose to abandon the Byzantine reading for one found in minority texttypes. In this light, the real forerunners of the current majority text or Byzantine-priority position remain Burgon and Miller and (in his earliest work) J. A. Scholz.

8b. If the Greek text you helped edit were available to these men, would you think they would support your efforts?

I think that for the most part Burgon and Miller would agree heartily, given the evidence from their own writings, especially Burgon’s comments as to places where the TR/KJV text was deficient or erroneous. Such appears not only in his major works, but also as shown in his Textual Commentary on Mt 1-14, where he anticipated both the H-F and R-P texts regarding places of variation away from the TR in more than 95% of the actual cases. Scholz similarly would likely fall into the same category. Scrivener and Whitney, on the other hand, would today continue to hold a differing opinion in some cases.

9. Could you speak to how modern scholarship in general, and evangelical scholarship particularly, has received the Majority Text? Is it helping to further productive debate?

For the most part modern text-critical scholarship remains content with the predominantly Alexandrian-based reasoned eclectic method and its resultant UBS or Nestle text (even though those texts are determined more on external than internal principles). Here and there, of course, eclectic-based journal articles and commentaries occasionally defend some Byzantine as well as other non-Alexandrian readings, but not to a degree that would significantly alter the Alexandrian character of the critical text favored overall. The scholars who have accepted the Byzantine-priority or majority text position remain few, and many of these do not primarily teach or practice in the text-critical arena. In contrast, far more laypeople seem to favor the Byzantine or majority text position than those in academia, although their support continually is clouded by the overly vocal KJVO partisans, who tend to drown out the various voices of reason on this issue.

The very fact that the Byzantine Textform has been published (electronically and in hard copy) helps to spur further inquiry and debate (see, for example, Dan Wallace regarding the likely originality of the Byzantine “shorter readings” as well as the acceptance of some previously rejected Byzantine readings by the INTF in Münster). Overall, however, the Byzantine-priority position remains unconvincing to most scholarly readers (through no fault of my own, I trust). Yet, had the H-F or R-P editions never been published, I wonder whether the greater credence now assigned to some Byzantine readings by eclectic critics really would have occurred.

see
http://kjvonlydebate.com/2010/08/10/kjvodb-interviews-dr-maurice-robinson-pt-2/

for the text of the interview.


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Ron Bailey

 2010/8/15 3:25Profile
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 Re:

here is the third and final part of the Robinson Interview


This is the third and final installment of our interview with Dr. Maurice Robinson, co-editor of the The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing, 1991, 2005). Continuing from part 2….

———————————

10. What would you see as the future for the Majority Text position? What needs to happen for it to have a greater impact on the wider church?

I expect the Byzantine-priority position to maintain itself, at least at the current level of acceptance. I would hope that, over time, more people might become convinced that a thoroughly integrated theory of transmission needs to underlie any text-critical endeavor — and such a theory is severely lacking in current modern eclectic praxis. As for the wider church, the matter depends on God’s people who comprise that body. Should the laypeople become convinced that the modern critical texts, the currently applied praxis of textual eclecticism, and translations based upon such are deficient, then perhaps the popular appeal of the Byzantine or majority text position will grow; if not, matters will continue much as they currently are.

One thing I would like to see (and I mentioned this in a paper presented at the end of May 2010 in Montreal, at a Canadian Bible Society sponsored conference on Text and Translation) is a greater number of footnotes added to modern translations regarding translatable textual variants, and to present these with some real specificity as to the nature of the manuscripts or texttype that support a given variant. Beyond this, I really would like to see existing NT translations (e.g., NASV, ESV, NKJV) appear in two editions: one reflecting the eclectic Alexandrian-based text (as current), and the other reflecting a Byzantine-based text (with text-critical footnotes adjusted to match each situation).

11. Speaking closer to home, would you say the Majority Text should influence students and pastors today? If so, how?

As Günther Zuntz stated in 1942, regardless of acceptance of the Byzantine-priority position, one really should “profitably pause to glance at the only universal Greek text of the New Testament that ever existed” (JTS 43 [1942] 25-30). For more than a millennium, this form of text indeed was the “universal text” of the Greek-speaking world, a circumstance that did not come about without good reason. I suggest the major reason to be transmissional considerations leading to a generally consistent and regular perpetuation of the canonical autographs, with little or no major alteration beyond limited and minor scribal variation occurring sporadically among only a limited number of manuscripts.

12. Along these lines, what Bible translation would you recommend for general church use? Are any good quality English translations available that use the Majority Text?

At the present time no printed English translations of the Byzantine Textform exist, although the KJV and NKJV (both based on the TR) would come close. The NKJV comes closer, assuming that one follows its “M-text” footnotes scattered throughout, although these are by no means totally comprehensive regarding all translatable differences between the TR and the Byzantine Textform. As for unpublished electronic English translations of the majority text, there exist Zeolla’s ALT (Analytical-Literal Translation), Johnson’s WEB (World English Bible), and Esposito’s EMTV (English Majority Text Version), of which the latter remains the most readable without being overly literal.

I personally would welcome a good quality (readable formal-equivalence) printed English translation of the Byzantine Textform. I also would like to see a good interlinear based on the Byzantine Textform (either project of which I would be pleased to work on and/or supervise). The primary obstacle to both projects (at least for me) remains the need for funding and support of such.

13. Thanks again for your interacting with us on these points, Dr. Robinson. Could you help our readers know where we can find a copy of the Majority Text that you edited? And would you speak briefly on how it differs with the Hodges/Farstad edition that preceded it?

The Robinson-Pierpont edition is The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005, available in hardback from various online sources or in case lots of 12 from the publisher (www.chiltonpublishing.com). Individual copies can be obtained from me within the USA at a low cost that covers only publishing plus postage and handling.

As for the differences from Hodges-Farstad: these are relatively minor in nature and in quantity small (somewhere around 220 differences total). Apart from the Revelation and the Pericope Adulterae passage in John, our differences reflect a varying choice where the Byzantine manuscripts are significantly divided. Due to their methodology, H-F in certain instances invoked manuscripts from non-Byzantine texttypes in order to determine their numerical “majority” reading. In Revelation, H-F chose to utilize a genealogical method similar to that of Westcott and Hort, accepting as primary a small subgroup that does not always reflect the more dominant Byzantine Textform (represented by the union of the Byzantine Q and Aν groups). In the Pericope Adulterae, H-F follow the group termed “μ6” by von Soden, primarily on the basis of internal criteria; our text in that pericope follows the “μ5” group, primarily due to the relative antiquity of the μ5 tradition, but also with regard to transmissional probabilities regarding the variants in question.

14. Do you have plans for any future editions?

Glad you asked: the newest edition (a Reader’s Edition) has just appeared: The Greek New Testament for Beginning Readers: Byzantine Textform. This volume contains our 2005 text, but with lexical definitions and parsing information on each page for all NT root forms occurring 50 times or less in the NT. It also has an appendix that covers definitions and parsing information for all forms occurring more than 50 times (the Zondervan and UBS Reader’s editions only cover words occurring 30 times or less, and lack the appendices covering all other definitions and verbal forms). This hardback volume was prepared by Jeffrey Dodson (in consultation with me) over the past five years; it is published in hardcover by VTR (Verlag für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft), Nürnberg, Germany, but is speedily available in the USA and Canada from Amazon and other online marketers with the price (both retail and discounted) being parallel with that of the softcover NIV-based Reader’s Edition from Zondervan.

15. We can find you contributing from time to time over at Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, is there any additional online home where we can read more of your work? And are there any additional resources or websites you’d like to refer interested readers to for more information on the Majority Text?

To the first question, the answer is no, I generally do not post at other sites by deliberate choice. First, I am too busy to blog (and I don’t Tweet, Twitter, or Text either); second, I am generally disappointed by the nature and tone of most online text-critical or translational comment blogs, particularly since the KJVO writers tend to monopolize or hijack virtually all discussions, and I have no interest in dealing with what I consider illogical sophistry, conspiracy theories, and agenda-driven propagandistic blather. I have posted (rarely) on the Yahoo Byzantine Text discussion list, but almost exclusively on the ETC blogsite. I do have a couple of articles and reviews available online through the electronic TC Journal, but that’s about all.

As for other resources, I would recommend that anyone interested in the Byzantine or majority text issue begin historically with the various 19th century authors who defended a greater proportion of Byzantine readings than any others, without having the KJV as some sort of touchstone. These in various degrees include John W. Burgon, Edward Miller, F. H. A. Scrivener, and S. W. Whitney, as well as the French writer J. P. P. Martin. After digesting that material, I would move to reading the more modern authors on the subject such as the various material from Zane Hodges, Wilbur Pickering, Andrew Wilson, and myself. Not to be neglected, however, are the writings of those representing the opposite position, many of whom are addressed within the pages of the writers mentioned above; this particularly includes the Westcott-Hort Introduction volume.

16. Would you have a particular book or two that you would recommend as a good one-book introduction to the Byzantine-Priority position?

There really is no “book” out there on that specific topic (though a collection of my various articles, ETS presentations, and essays is currently in the works, but this won’t be ready for a couple of years). At this point, the best I can recommend is for people to read the Introduction to the 1991 R-P Gk NT edition and also the “Case for Byzantine Priority” appendix to the R-P 2005 edition (available here).

I should also add bibliographically that for a good overview of the “majority text” position, one really needs to read the various articles by Zane Hodges in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that appeared in the late 1970s (Hodges’ other articles in Bibliotheca Sacra in the 60s, 70s, and 80s are also helpful in this regard, although not as precisely to the point as the JETS articles).

And of course, for Pickering’s position, one needs to read his Identity of the New Testament Text (preferably his 3rd edition, available on the internet) as well as his JETS articles from the late 1970s.


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Ron Bailey

 2010/8/15 3:31Profile
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 Re:

How would you feel if you posted a brief explanation of the financial crisis on SermonIndex and then got a reply from the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The equivalent happened to me. I received an email from Maurice Robinson pointing out that my over simplifications had somewhat muddied the waters! I will let you digest the details of the interview and then I have his permission to post our emails here...

You just never know who is going to be reading Sermon Index!!


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Ron Bailey

 2010/8/15 3:34Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
The equivalent happened to me. I received an email from Maurice Robinson pointing out that my over simplifications had somewhat muddied the waters!



Interesting. It took me a long time to get used to your pedantic approach, maybe that was just a foretaste of Maurice Robinson! BTW, I did get his latest book in. It seems to be almost a handbook on how to read the GNT they published previously. Definitions are at the bottom for words used less than 50x.


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Robert Wurtz II

 2010/8/15 8:56Profile





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