Saturday, December 09, 2006

A NOTE FROM LINGUIST FRIEND ON LUKE 2:14 "PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN" IN RESPONSE TO THE SOCINIAN

The Socinian takes issue with my comments on the text of Luke 2:14, comments in which I point out the general scholarly opinion for the last nearly 140 years on the reading and meaning of the original Greek text of Luke 2:14. The Socinian rejects this consensus, and adduces besides a Latin version, many examples from older English translations of the Bible to bolster an argument that the Authorized Version text reflects the original Greek reading in this passage. A basic problem in this procedure is that early English translations are as irrelevant to the establishment of the original Greek text of the NT as the study of Schlegel and Tieck's German translations of Shakespeare's plays would be for the establishment of Shakespeare's original English text.

The NT is an anthology of Greek texts. Modern scholarly editions of it have been created by textual criticism on the basis of some 5,700 Greek NT manuscripts, with secondary input from translations and quotations of the NT (B.M.Metzger and B.D. Ehrman "The Text of the New Testament", 2005). Textual criticism is partly a technical field, partly a historical one. From the technical aspect, it has a deductive basis comparable to mathematical logic, computer programming, and formal and historical linguistics. From the historical aspect, textual criticism requires reference to a large mass of material which reflects many aspects of history. This material is quite varied, and it is hard to predict which aspect will be crucial in a given case. Only part of the job is technical, and theology certainly has its role in textual criticism, as Bart Ehrman has emphasized in his book on "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" (1993).

Now let me expand on what I mean in saying that textual criticism is at some stages a technical field. For a parallel example, if one wants to be prepared to make a qualified argument about heat conduction in solids or diffusion, one must learn to use the relevant mathematics of parabolic differential equations. By way of contrast, the Socinian displays such varied learning, enthusiasm for his subject, and commitment to his views, that the reader could easily overlook the basic question as to whether one who makes no use of Greek texts is prepared to establish the correct reading of a Greek text. For comparison, I have written two papers during the present year in which I had to make use of the collaboration of a competent Arab scholar in a study of a fascinating scientific text in classical Arabic (which I do not read) from a thousand years ago. Even in the case of very concrete subject matter with which I am well acquainted, with highly qualified collaboration, such a procedure is risky and difficult, and I have misgivings over what I have been able to accomplish with this procedure.

I work very differently in the case of a Greek NT text such as the present one, for which I am much better prepared, since Greek is the language in which I ordinarily read the NT. I ask first what is the early attestation of the Greek passage in question in the first three centuries, which means especially in the texts of the Greek papyri, most of which were unavailable to the 19th century scholars. Then I see what is the information in the latest Nestle-Aland edition, which gives selected variants of the Greek text for a wide range of NT passages, and the latest edition of the United Bible Societies, which gives a wider set of variants for each of a smaller set of Greek passages. I look at the older classic edition by Tischendorf (1869-1872), which is still of much use. Issues of the relation to one another of gospel passages of which there are multiple versions in different gospels are treated in works such as Aland's grand synopis of the gospels. Then I look into grammatical issues: the grammars of NT Greek by F.Blass and A.Debrunner, J.H.Moulton and Nigel Turner, and A.T.Robertson, and E.Mayser's grammar of the Greek papyri are all great works, and their number grows continually. Some of the Greek words in the NT are not obvious, and it is always worthwhile to check what the various editions of Bauer's wonderful NT lexicon and Kittel's theological lexicon say about an important word. The commentaries add further analysis and illumination from related material; for Luke, that of I. Howard Marshall is remarkably good. Once this preliminary work has been done, one can consider a theological question.

To be clear, I am not a practicing specialist in New Testament studies, but rather a user of them. I was forced to become familiar with the (especially Byzantine) textual variants of the Greek New Testament, especially the gospels, in other research, and I have maintained and expanded that familiarity over several decades. My role here is simply that of a philologically trained linguist. My only published contribution to biblical studies concerned the intertestamental literature.

To follow the present argument, there are fine books to use such as E.J.Goodspeed's "Problems of N.T. Translation" (1945), which successfully bridges between nonspecialist readers and the special information on which textual criticism is based. Goodspeed's commentary on the passage in question is readable and excellent. So is Bruce Metzger's treatment in his "Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament" (1994), but it is more technical and perhaps has a trace of Calvinist orientation.

The Socinian argues that the text in question is universalist (small u) in orientation. He believes that it is not restrictive to a particular Jewish or Christian group as I have argued. I believe that the restrictive interpretation is quite characteristic of Hellenistic Judaism and its transition into Jewish Christianity. I feel that his interpretation is very attractive, and that it would be a desirable modern modification of the text. I do not believe that his establishment of the reading and interpretation of the passage is accurate for early Christianity, which is my focus in such studies. He projects a modern interpretation into an ancient world in which it is out of place. I leave the argument in terms of the content of the passage there, because I believe that the argument on the basis of the manuscript evidence is capable of more systematic demonstration than is the theological argument. Once the text is established, the argument in terms of the content of the passage must follow the manuscript evidence.

The Socinian refers repeatedly to a "lost original verse", "lost Greek phrase", "lost phrase", "now-lost original words" of the passage in Luke 2:14. However, the Greek text of this passage which, as I have already pointed out in my preceding post, is supported by current scholarship, and is rejected by the Socinian in its translated form, is not only a preserved Greek variant, it is preserved in all of the most important early uncial manuscripts of the Greek NT. It is the original reading in Codex Sinaiticus (Sin.), is found in Codex Alexandrinus (A), is the original reading in Codex Vaticanus (B), and is found in Codex Bezae (D) and the Freer Codex (W). For any Greek NT reading to be attested by this set of manuscripts, representing the Alexandrian text (Sin., B, W in this section), the Western text (D), and the oldest form of the Byzantine text (A), constitutes an extremely strong argument for the originality of the text. The text is marked with the letter A in the edition of the United Bible Societies and in Metzger's commentary; this is explained "The letter A indicates that the text is certain". (One must distinguish, of course, between the evaluative "A" and the symbol "A" for Codex Alexandrinus.) This is a relatively straightforward argument in terms of external evidence (in F.J.A.Hort's term) which is accepted by competent scholars; theological interpretations must be adapted to it.

The Socinian gives an interesting reference in a comment to his own reply, to a discussion of this passage by T.L. Hubeart, Jr., as supporting his views. Hubeart concludes that "On balance, then, it seems more likely that the passage in this gospel of Luke would extend "good will" to all, rather than reflecting a restriction on the gift of Christ to those "in whom he is well pleased" which accords with the hyper-predestination of some theologies." His argument is in the spirit of those who wish to preserve the readings underlying the Authorized Version, disregarding the fact that at least 80,000 textual changes reflected in modern printings were made in the AV by the revisor Benjamin Blayney in his edition of 1769 (E.J.Goodspeed "As I Remember", p.169). Hubeart also attacks the work of A.T.Robertson, a very distinguished Baptist scholar of the NT, arguably the most outstanding specialist in the world on the language of the NT in his generation at the beginning of the 20th century. In particular, he attacks Robertson's treatment of this passage in Robertson's still valuable six-volume commentary on the NT with the awkward title "Word Pictures in the NT" (1930). Hubeart gives priority to what is called "the majority text" of the NT, the widely attested late Byzantine Greek text on which the early editions of the NT were based. So it is inevitable that he prefers the readings of a translation based on the early NT editions based on the Byzantine Greek text. However, the available information on the Greek text and its interpretation have expanded so greatly since the issuance of the AV in 1611 that this is a risky approach. Fortunately, this view is waning: the second edition of the "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology " (ed. Walter Elwell, 2001) has a good article on textual criticism and theology of the NT by Philip W. Comfort, the primary editor of a very useful collection (2001) of the readings of the NT papyri for the first three centuries of the common era.

LinguistFriend

I love it when they do this. -CC

16 comments:

ms. kitty said...

Me too, CC. I want to holler "Take that, varlet!", but since they aren't really fighting, it wouldn't be appropriate. I love it when people argue without hurting each other.

LinguistFriend said...

I had to appeal to the shorter OED to remind myself exactly what a varlet was in case the subject came up.
You could propose the
Luke 2:14 passage as a subject for discussion by your ministers' group. Since you will be well primed for the event, it might be entertaining.
LinguistFriend

ms. kitty said...

I might just do that, LF. They would be impressed, I'm sure, if I were to offer such an erudite exegesis of that text.

kim said...

so, all that said, what difference does it make? How does it affect us today?
I had heard many years ago that it really said "Peace on earth to men of good will."
How does it affect your theology?

fausto said...

Kitty and CC, no, of course it's not personal, and I hope LF and I are both "men of good will". But I do enjoy a meaty debate, and LF has raised some meaty points that I think deserve serious responses.

Kim, you ask in effect, "What's the diff"? The significance is twofold: First, should we as UUs, standing within a Protestant heritage, continue to read and interpret Scripture as a living, breathing body of wisdom and inspiration as opposed to merely an archaic curiosity? I think we should. If so, then we have to engage the text and grapple with its meaning and application. Second, if we do so, then Luke 2:14 is one of the most significant passages in the whole Bible, even for us UUs, because it introduces a radical change in the way God relates to all humanity -- or at least, it has traditionally been understood to do so. To interpret this verse in a way that suggests that God's favor is withheld from most of humanity, and to take it seriously, has profound implications that are directly opposed to the traditional understanding of all Protestants except strict Dort Calvinists, including that of Unitarians and Universalists.

LF, I'll respond point by point:

The Socinian takes issue with my comments on the text of Luke 2:14, comments in which I point out the general scholarly opinion for the last nearly 140 years on the reading and meaning of the original Greek text of Luke 2:14.

I’m in agreement with your characterization of the debate up until the point where you say “original”. We do not know what the “original Greek text” said, because it does not survive, so the “general scholarly opinion” is not an opinion as to how to interpret the meaning of an original text, but a speculation as to how the original text might have been worded.

The Socinian rejects this consensus, and adduces besides a Latin version, many examples from older English translations of the Bible to bolster an argument that the Authorized Version text reflects the original Greek reading in this passage.

I think you misunderstand the thrust of my argument. I argued that the meaning of the Vulgate, the oldest suviving MS, is ambiguous and supportive of alternative interpretations, but that the oldest English and German translations offer a witness as to the consensus Protestant understanding at the time of the Reformation.

A basic problem in this procedure is that early English translations are as irrelevant to the establishment of the original Greek text of the NT as the study of Schlegel and Tieck's German translations of Shakespeare's plays would be for the establishment of Shakespeare's original English text.

Agreed, but I am not trying to reconstruct the Greek original from the later English (or Latin) traslations, even though that may well be what textual critics have tried to do. I am arguing that text criticism has not supplied a definitive answer, so it is an appropriate area of inquiry to discern also the consensus understanding of the body of believers who thought of themselves as “the Church”.

the Socinian displays such varied learning, enthusiasm for his subject, and commitment to his views, that the reader could easily overlook the basic question as to whether one who makes no use of Greek texts is prepared to establish the correct reading of a Greek text.

How can you establish the correct reading of a Greek text that no longer exists? That is the task of textual critics, who despite their 140 years of “general scholarly opinion” are no closer to truly knowing the “correct” Greek text than Erasmus was -- as demonstrated by the footnotes on 2:14 in the very recent and scholarly NRSV, NEB, and NJB translations, for example, which offer alternate meanings alongside the preferred ones for this very reason. What I am trying to do is reconcile the ambiguous sense of the text with orthodox Christian (and in this case, also Unitarian and Universalist) doctrine, which is a different task entirely.

I ask first what is the early attestation of the Greek passage in question in the first three centuries, which means especially in the texts of the Greek papyri, most of which were unavailable to the 19th century scholars. Then I see what is the information in the latest Nestle-Aland edition, which gives selected variants of the Greek text for a wide range of NT passages, and the latest edition of the United Bible Societies, which gives a wider set of variants for each of a smaller set of Greek passages. I look at the older classic edition by Tischendorf (1869-1872), which is still of much use. Issues of the relation to one another of gospel passages of which there are multiple versions in different gospels are treated in works such as Aland's grand synopis of the gospels. Then I look into grammatical issues: the grammars of NT Greek by F.Blass and A.Debrunner, J.H.Moulton and Nigel Turner, and A.T.Robertson, and E.Mayser's grammar of the Greek papyri are all great works, and their number grows continually. Some of the Greek words in the NT are not obvious, and it is always worthwhile to check what the various editions of Bauer's wonderful NT lexicon and Kittel's theological lexicon say about an important word. The commentaries add further analysis and illumination from related material; for Luke, that of I. Howard Marshall is remarkably good. …

… It is the original reading in Codex Sinaiticus (Sin.), is found in Codex Alexandrinus (A), is the original reading in Codex Vaticanus (B), and is found in Codex Bezae (D) and the Freer Codex (W). For any Greek NT reading to be attested by this set of manuscripts, representing the Alexandrian text (Sin., B, W in this section), the Western text (D), and the oldest form of the Byzantine text (A), constitutes an extremely strong argument for the originality of the text. The text is marked with the letter A in the edition of the United Bible Societies and in Metzger's commentary; this is explained "The letter A indicates that the text is certain". (One must distinguish, of course, between the evaluative "A" and the symbol "A" for Codex Alexandrinus.) This is a relatively straightforward argument in terms of external evidence (in F.J.A.Hort's term) which is accepted by competent scholars; theological interpretations must be adapted to it. …


Okay, but in spite of the scholarly group hug, my argument would be that none of these sources and scholars can determine beyond doubt that the “correct” grammar of the original autograph was the genitive case, eudokias (which could support an interpretation meaning either “on earth peace to men who are in his favor”) rather than the nominative case, eudokia (which would support an interpretation meaning “peace on earth, goodwill toward men”). Neither can thay conclusively establish that the genitive construction should correctly be interpreted as “on earth peace to [only those] men who are in his favor” rather than “on earth peace to [all] mankind, who are in his favor”.

From the standpoint of textual criticism, this question is the hub of the matter. My understanding is that the surviving ancient MSS and the ancient secondary witnesses are not consistent, but rather, that some in the nominative and some in the genitive each survive; and further, that even in the genitive MSS no punctuation is supplied to help differentiate which of the two alternative senses is appropriate. In that situation, I don’t think it can reliably be determined that only one interpretation is “correct”, even if there are more or older texts using the genitive case, or even if the consensus of scholars prefers them to the nominative ones.

The Socinian argues that the text in question is universalist (small u) in orientation.

No, I did not. Moreover, my argument would be that Luke, as a disciple and companion of Paul, presumably wrote from an orientation of Pauline theology.

In any event, I believe you are using the term “universalist” imprecisely. Orthodox (small “o”) Christian doctrine holds that through the atoning work of Christ, God’s grace and forgiveness for the stain of Original Sin is extended to all mankind; God’s favor is no longer reserved exclusively to the people of the Mosaic covenant. Paul’s teaching lies firmly within this orbit. Where Universalism moves beyond the orthodox position is in stipulating, as the Dort Calvinists did, that such grace is not only universally available but also irresistable. “Peace on earth, goodwill toward mankind” is consistent with the orthodox belief in the universal availability of grace, but is silent as to its irresistability; so strictly speaking, it is orthodox but not necessarily Universalist. “Peace on earth only toward those men in whom God is pleased”, on the other hand, is consistent with the Dort position on limited atonement, which I would argue is not representative of the orthodox Christian consensus, either in ancient times, or during the Reformation, or today, but is instead sharply heterodox.

He believes that it is not restrictive to a particular Jewish or Christian group as I have argued. I believe that the restrictive interpretation is quite characteristic of Hellenistic Judaism and its transition into Jewish Christianity.

Just so, but this is precisely why I think your interpretation is inappropriate when applied to Luke. Among the leaders of the early Church in the first decades after Jesus’ death, Paul was the missionary to the Gentiles, and a strident opponent of what we now call “Jewish Christianity”. Luke was Greek, not Jewish, and one of Paul’s closest associates. To suppose a “Jewish Christian” orientation when resolving ambiguities in Luke is, I think, a mistake, especially if other sensible alternatives are available.

I feel that his interpretation is very attractive, and that it would be a desirable modern modification of the text. I do not believe that his establishment of the reading and interpretation of the passage is accurate for early Christianity, which is my focus in such studies. He projects a modern interpretation into an ancient world in which it is out of place.

I think your misplaced perception that I am attempting to insert an eisegetical Universalist gloss throws you off course here. What I am searching for is not a textual justification for a modern doctrinal innovation, but the frame of mind that Luke brought to his work, and the early orthodox (and later Protestant) Christian theological sensibility through which Luke’s work was received, filtered, and preserved. If there are two alternative renderings of the verse, each ancient and authentic, one in the genitive case and one in the nominative case, what we know about the contextual issues can be at least as informative as what we know about the number and age of the surviving MSS, and perhaps more so. To prefer a “Jewish” Christian interpretation over a Gentile-friendly Christian interpretation, when we know that the author was a Gentile and his mentor was a missionary to Gentiles, seems more strained than the alternative.

I leave the argument in terms of the content of the passage there, because I believe that the argument on the basis of the manuscript evidence is capable of more systematic demonstration than is the theological argument. Once the text is established, the argument in terms of the content of the passage must follow the manuscript evidence.

Nevertheless, you and I seem to disagree whether the form and meaning of the original can in fact be dispositively established. I am not persuaded that it can. If it cannot, then we find ourselves on the boundary between the authority of textual criticism and the authority of the religious tradition within which the text is interpreted, as I previously observed in my post on my blog. In that circumstance, the witness of ancient, authentic, and consistently held theological doctrines can and should inform any critical speculation. The doctrines of Luke’s teacher Paul are consistent with those of the Orthodox and Roman churches, and of Martin Luther, in upholding a universally available rather than limited view of the atonement, the advent of which the herald angels of Luke 2:14 proclaim. Thus, it was safe and reliable for the Reformation-era English translators, despite their ignorance of both ancient papyri and subsequent 19th- and 20th-century textual scholarship, to interpret an ambiguous phrase written by Paul’s disciple Luke in a way that was consistent with Paul’s theology, the witness of the centuries, and their own Protestant right of private discernment under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit within the gathered community of faith.

Anonymous said...

Is the underlying argument here that because we can't be sure what it says, it means what we think it means?

fausto said...

Sort of.

But there's also an issue of whether translators, in rendering an obscure phrase from the original Greek into English, ought to try to clarify or preserve the original ambiguity. Either choice is justifiable, and perhaps the answer depends on the context. There's also the issue, if you believe in the Holy Spirit as the users of the Bible have down through the centuries (although modern text critics like Bart Ehrman are honest enough to admit that they may not), whether it is the HS or only a personal preference that motivates a choice in rendering a translation.

In this instance, most of the Protestant translators of 400-500 years ago, including Martin Luther himself at the front of the line, agreed that the sense of the passage was that "peace on earth" was independent of "goodwill to men". They uniformly chose to insert clarity into the translation rather than preserve ambiguity. What are we to say about that today: were they in error because they made personal judgments despite not having access to some of the oldest manuscripts, or were they guided by the reliable inspiration of the HS despite their inferior scholarship?

In recent translations, aided by the additional hindsight of newly discovered manuscripts and scholarly thought, the opposite meaning is usually chosen -- that "to men of good will" is a dependent prepositional phrase, just like "on earth", that modifies the object noun "peace". However, the modern translators are making the same decision that the earlier translators did, to insert clarity into the translation rather than preserve ambiguity. So the same question applies: Are they in error because they made personal judgments in order to be able to ignore inconsistencies in some of the oldest manuscripts, or were they guided by the reliable inspiration of the HS?

It sounds to me as though LF is arguing for a restrictive interpretation, that the phrase probably means "peace on earth toward only those men in whom God is pleased", which may have been consistent with the sensibilities of those earliest Christians who opposed taking the gospel out of the confines of the Jewish tradition and proselytzing the Gentiles. I'm arguing for a more inclusive reading -- either "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" in keeping with a nominative eudokia and most of the early Protestant translations and the orthodox Christian understanding of grace, or else "peace on earth to mankind, in whom he is well pleased", in keeping with a genitive eudokias and the similar sense of Matthew 3:17 (where John baptizes Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and a voice from the heavens says. "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased").

But both LP and I seem to be arguing for a clarification in translating the ambiguity in the original. There is another valid approach, which would be to try to translate in such a way as to preserve the ambiguity of the original. Some careful recent translations like the NRSV and the NEB have taken a "both-and" approach, choosing the genitive sense in the main body of the text, without clarifying whether God favors all men or fewer, but offering the alternative nominative sense in a footnote.

fausto said...

I should clarify one of my own points. When I wrote,

Agreed, but I am not trying to reconstruct the Greek original from the later English (or Latin) traslations, even though that may well be what textual critics have tried to do,

I did not mean that textual critics try to reconstruct authentic older texts from later translations. I only meant that they try to reconstruct or reclaim the authentic meaning of older texts, if those older texts are lost or corrupted, from whatever the most reliable sources seem to be.

ms. kitty said...

A question that has popped into my mind, reading through Fausto's learned exposition on LinguistFriend's scholarly treatise, is "Is this a situation where a Christian is debating a non-Christian and therefore each is speaking out of a loyalty to a credo that supercedes scholarship?" I.e., is there an assumption beneath the words that guides the thinking?

I would be interested to hear what each of these two scholars thinks about that question.

fausto said...

I'm not a scholar, just a dilettante, at least when it comes to this kind of stuff.

I don't think a Christian is debating a non-Christian here, either. At least, it's difficult for me to pass as Christian anywhere outside of UUism. But I do think the Bible needs to be read and understood within the context of the Christian community whose scripture it is. We UUs, with one foot within the Christian community and one outside, or to put it another way with our roots planted within it and our wings spread beyond it, still owe a great deal of our moral and ethical orientation to our predecessors' understanding of the Bible. And our venturesome predecessors shared with most of their more orthodox brothers and sisters through the ages a theology that rejected the premise that the availability of atonement remains limited by God's intention.

We UUs today, even our non-Christian ones, still speak in unison with our Christian predecessors when we affirm the "inherent worth and dignity of every person". This very verse, Luke 2:17 (the KJV version of which is inscribed on the walls of my own UU sanctuary, by the way), and others like it, represents an important part of the reason why we do. So, even if some or even most of us no longer consider ourselves Christian, construing passages like this with a different meaning than our predecessors did cuts us off from our roots and challenges the validity of our present system of ethics.

That does not necessarily answer the question whether LF and I each "speaking out of a loyalty to a credo that supercedes scholarship", though. On that score, it may be that we are. I suspect that LF is speaking exclusively from the point of view of textual reconstruction, without concern for the implications of a reconstructed text that contradicts the consensus theological understanding and doctrine of the community of the faithful. I am saying that textual criticism has stong probative value, but once it ventures beyond the boundary of dispositive proof into the realm of informed speculation (as I think it does in this instance), such speculation must also take into account the context and witness of the faith community.

For UUs in particular, the notion that the text itself is not necessarily authoritative, but that personal and communal conscience also play a role in discerning meaning that can be progressively revealed over time, has always been a bedrock foundation for us. Rev. John Robinson, pastor to our oldest UU congregation, the First Parish Church in Plymouth, Mass., preached a farewell semon to them before they left Europe to cross the Atlantic, in which he said, "God hath yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy Word", and those words are now inscribed beside the pulpit in the Plymouth sanctuary. First Church (Unitarian) in Salem drew up its covenant in 1629 and still recites it every week: "We covenant with the Lord, and one with another, and do bind ourselves in the presence of God, to walk together in all His ways, according as He is pleased to reveal Himself unto us in his blessed Word of truth". These are not historical curiosities, but living premises that we in our day still express in our contemporary vocabularies.

At a very basic level, our premise of the authority of progressive revelation as discerned by the individual and collective conscience is in direct opposition to the premise that authority is vested solely in the original text. Ultimately, that's the basis for my disagreement with LF.

fausto said...

Oops, did I say Luke 2:17? I meant 2:14, of course.

ms. kitty said...

Oops, did I write "supercede"? I meant "supersede".

LinguistFriend said...

I have spent the day up in Frogtown listening to a sermon, and later to a lecture, both by Bill Schulz, retiring head of Amnesty International, former head of the UUA, etc. The time was well spent, and time when I was blissfully unaware of what transpired on CC's blog after the early AM.
Re Ms. Kitty's question: I have not thought for a moment that what makes Fausto and me disagree might be religious commitments. When I want to understand Christianity I look first at the NT; when I want to understand later Judaism, I look to the Talmud; when I want to understand early Indian religion, I read in the Rig Veda. My first loyalty in such cases is to systematic analysis of the texts and their cultural and historic contexts, which make it possible for me to assume the persona of a historian; history of science is much of what I write, and it is not a bad point of view for the history of religion. One needs to allow Luke, so to speak, to speak for himself; that is an important objective of textual scholarship.
I am afraid that what I see now as the basis of the diagreement is mainly that I have not succeeded in conveying the logic of stemmatic analysis in textual criticism intelligibly, but rather taken it for granted. While waiting for Schulz's lecture, I was browsing through the new ed. of one of my very favorite books, Bruce Metzger's "The Text of the New Testament". I realized that towards the end there is a systematic analysis of the textual evidence for L 2:14, 95% in agreement with how I see the textual problem, but to follow it one must have read what comes before it in the book. It also does not mention a detail noted in Metzger's commentary, that there is a likely paleographic explanation for the text with eudokia without the -s. To anyone like me who has studied Greek and Byzantine paleography, that is clear, otherwise not. Metzger's book is a wonderful one, and I warmly recommend it, but it takes some thinking about, and I do not know how much of it would come through to someone who does not read Greek. I suspect that if Fausto someday absorbs Metzger's book, this disagreement will evaporate, and we can get on to more substantial ones.
Fausto and I share a passionate belief in the importance of Christianity, of course. Every now and then I am introduced as a Unitarian Christian, but I never do so myself, and like him I find less acceptance in that sense outside of UUism. (I admit it, I read through the Koran when I was 14, but I did not read through the NT until I was 17.) I am much more focussed on the point of view that, starting from where most Unitarians do, one needs to get straight on the origins and development of Christianity. That provides some objectivity on one's religious past, whether one chooses to move on away from it or not. It would be fun to teach out of L.Michael White's fine "From Jesus to Christianity", but I probably will never get to do so. For me there is more excitement among the liberal Christians (whom CC has made me more aware of) than among the UU Christians, so far, but among the Christians, of course, I am an outsider.
I suspect that both Fausto and I have missed details of each other's argument, and I have thought further on details of my own in the course of this discussion, but I retain the main view on the text in question with which I began. It was not casually stated. To my mind it is a general problem that few UUs have deep exposure to the Christian texts, as well as to Jewish ones. They are the foundations of our thought, and without strong foundations the edifice is shaky. LinguistFriend

fausto said...

I suspect that if Fausto someday absorbs Metzger's book, this disagreement will evaporate, and we can get on to more substantial ones.

Or else discover that none remain!

Fausto and I share a passionate belief in the importance of Christianity, of course. Every now and then I am introduced as a Unitarian Christian, but I never do so myself, and like him I find less acceptance in that sense outside of UUism.

Word.

I am much more focussed on the point of view that, starting from where most Unitarians do, one needs to get straight on the origins and development of Christianity. That provides some objectivity on one's religious past, whether one chooses to move on away from it or not.

Word again.

I suspect that both Fausto and I have missed details of each other's argument

No doubt.

To my mind it is a general problem that few UUs have deep exposure to the Christian texts, as well as to Jewish ones. They are the foundations of our thought,

It is astonishing to me how many UUs fail to appreciate this!

and without strong foundations the edifice is shaky.

Yeah, what he said.

fausto said...

By the way, LF, if I did read Metzger's book, we might still disagree.

I suspect that we really have been asking and answering different questions here: you are asking primarily what Luke's original words must have been, and what he must have meant when he wrote them; while I am asking how the Christian tradition, and particularly the Protestant branch of it of which our own U and U traditions are offshoots, has generally understood them. Thus, you can accurately say that text criticism points to a probable use of the genitive case in the original, and that a restrictive rather than broad interpretation of the genitive case that limits God's favor is in keeping with similar Jewish usage appearing in other texts, while I can just as accurately say that Luther and the English translators of the Reformation era give a reliable witness that within our own tradition the meaning of the verse has almost always been understood to be far less restrictive.

Where we might still disagree is in our respective answers to a different question: if there occurs a conflict between ancient textual authenticity and the witness of the living faith community, where does the superior authority lie? For us, in our own lives and our own personal and collective walk in faith?

LinguistFriend said...

It is necessary to do our best to know and understand the early witnesses to our religions. It is equally necessary to be able to look back and say that whereas much of the general matrix of (e.g.) Jewish and Christian tradition is important
and fundamental to our lives, some parts of it are destructive and have to go. For instance, a couple of years back I reviewed the textual sources for Jewish and Christian negative attitudes towards homosexuality, in the OT, NT and Talmud. Even once one eliminates from consideration the parts that Paul did not write, those views need to be abandoned. It is part of the tragedy of contemporary Catholicism, part of Anglicanism, etc., that they are not able to do this. I suspect that there would be fewer UUs if the mainline religions chose to revise religious views in this way. Progressive Christianity does this quietly and sometimes tries to avoid admitting it.
"Peace on earth, good will toward men." Have a good Christmas.
LinguistFriend