Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dr. Robinson and Colwell on accidental vs. deliberate omissions

Nazaroo's response to Dr. Maurice Robinson's critique of his claim of over 75-80 homoeoteleuton errors has been posted on the homoioteleuton blog.

Dr. Maurice Robinson on homoeoteleuton in Aleph/B

I wanted to respond to one point made there regarding the question of the number of accidental vs. deliberate (theological) changes supposed to have been made in the Alexandrian text.

(Dr. Robinson claimed that most of the omissions, both h.t. and non-h.t. under question were deliberate edits, rather than accidents, as a counter-claim to Nazaroo's count. So the homoeoteleuton features were mere coincidences in some large or at least significant number of cases.)

Here is a quote from Everett Harrison, (1971):
"Re: Doctrinal Alterations: There is considerable divergence of opinion on this matter. Are there places where the text has been changed in the interest of doctrinal viewpoint? E.C. Colwell goes so far as to say, "The majority of the variant readings in the NT were created for theological or dogmatic reasons."  He surely cannot mean by this the actual majority, for the vast majority are devoid of all theological significance, being matters of orthography, synonyms, easily confused words, etc. A recent work by C.S.C. Williams, Alterations to the Text of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts (1951), deals with this problem. Even if all his contentions are admitted, the amount of such alteration is not great."

- E.F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT,(Eerdmans, 1971) p.86.

  Harrison is doubtless right about Colwell's sloppy claim here. Most variants are indeed accidental or at least grammatical, not deliberate theological edits at all.

The question that remains is, what about the specific 200 omissions in the WH text? Are the majority of those accidental or deliberate?

If 40% of them have homoeoteleuton features, then 60% don't. But that doesn't mean that the majority of non-h.t. omissions are deliberate.

I have shown some serious evidence that exposes the patterns of line-length, which is spread across both groups of readings (ht. and non ht.).

Colwell himself showed that (significant) singular readings are mostly accidental haplography omissions across all early MSS. But there is no reason not to extend such results to non-singular readings, since these are often simply errors that were not caught until they were copied for a few generations and proliferated.

We should apply what we know about immediate scribal habits (1st generation errors) to more distant variants (2nd/3rd generation errors). There is no good reason not to assume that the immediate predecessors of extant scribal work did not have the very same common faults.


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