Dr. Maurice Robinson — Recent Interview on Evangelical Textual Criticism blog

Discussion in 'Translations and Manuscripts' started by Robert Truelove, Sep 2, 2015.

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  1. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    Excellent stuff. Thank you for sharing.
     
  3. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    A very enjoyable read, thank you.
     
  4. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Fascinating.
     
  5. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Having not read much by Robinson, I hunted around and found a few articles, a good three-parter is here:



    And then of course his "Case for Byzantine Priority", which I found fascinating. He makes a lot of good points and criticisms about the Critical Text, but also will be quick to point out faults in the Textus Receptus family as well (in this he reminds me of Scrivener). He has a lot of good things to say and this is an area of study that I would love to see more work being done in. I have a lot of sympathy for his position.
     
  6. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thanks for the interview, Robert, very interesting. And thanks to you also, Logan, for the interview you posted a link to. I've found Dr. Robinson—with whom I've corresponded a few times—a real gentleman, and gracious to those he disagrees with. I think of him as the foremost textual scholar of our time.

    This article is the Introduction to his and Pierpont's Byzantine Greek Textform: http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/RobPier.html.
     
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    What is Dr. Robinson's take on the Comma?
     
  8. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    He argues that the textual evidence for the Comma just isn't there, and so doesn't belong. From what I've read though, he does argue for the Pericope Adulterae, though I haven't looked into his reasoning.

    I don't know what his position is on the ending of Mark.

    Overall, I find his approach very common-sensical. 'The Case for Byzantine Priority' is a good read, as he talks about some of the assumptions text critics make and why he disagrees on certain points. He is very much a "show me the evidence" guy.
     
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's interesting. The reason I ask is that he takes a position on "Church use" that has, in my mind, a sensible factor in textual decisions but he also sticks to Greek manuscripts. It seems his position would be in fundamental tension with a TR perspective because he doesn't give sufficient weight to a particular period of Church history to accept Vulgate readings into the manuscript tradition. In other words, if the Byzantine tradition is trustworthy due to its regular Church use then readings that cannot be found in the byzantine manuscript family then the argument for Vulgate readings seem to fundamentally undermine the stability of the Byzantine argument.
     
  10. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, but it is true that Dr Robinson is not a "TR man". I'm pretty certain he wouldn't accept Vulgate readings and isn't so much an "ecclesiastical text" person (i.e., favoring those texts in use by the church) as he is a textual critic who collates all texts (Alexandrian included) but believes the Byzantine family to be the most accurate in the main.

    Ecclesiastical Text
    Majority Text
    Byzantine Priority
    Textus Receptus

    The terms seem to have some distinctions but also some overlap :p
     
  11. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    His reasoning is that it is present in over 900 manuscripts, while the Comma is only present in 4. This is not to say that this makes the Comma invalid, just that this is his reasoning.
     
  12. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    To expand on that a little, he eschews just counting noses. If I recall correctly, he just doesn't believe, like Hills, that it would have been "lost"; that a true reading would be persistent. That's my understanding at least.
     
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    If you read the intro to his Byzantine textual work he does make some sort of an Ecclesiastical text argument that the readings that are in use by the Church are to be preferred to some sort of cobbling together of words in an ad hoc fashion.
     
  14. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    One of his main issues with the CT is the excessive eclecticism that has resulted in hundreds of readings that have no textual basis in any manuscript anywhere. This is not to suggest that these readings are completely out of left field, just that the exact word order they have chosen cannot be found in any manuscript, which is rather odd considering the CT's claim to be a reconstruction of the original Greek.
     
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I agree Bill...

    The point is that he is making sort of a "here's what is actually in use..." position. It assumes the Church has transmitted the original readings through the Scribes. It's not an Ecclesiastical Text position per se but the underlying assumption is that what is in regular use is what is original.

    He notes also in his conclusion:

    So his view rejects both the CT and TR theories. In the former case he finds the CT approach ad hoc in how they sort of make a "Frankenstein" out of certain pericopes. In the case of the TR, he is not persuaded that readings could have dropped out of the Greek manuscript tradition.
     
  16. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  17. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, very perceptive. The theory claims an empirical basis but fails to establish itself by means of an impartial empirical observation of the manuscripts; it also requires a "providential" interpretation of the manuscripts which simply guesses that the Byzantine stream must be the most pure. At the same time I can appreciate that the Byzantine approach is giving this stream of mss. the attention it deserves and shows that there is a stable transmission history behind the so-called "majority" readings.
     
  18. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    Yes I believe you are correct. As you said, he doesn't believe in simply counting noses, but he does believe that any workable theory of textual criticism will also take into account the reality of how the text was actually transmitted.
     
  19. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'm glad someone sees my point. :)

    If Dr. Robinson's textual critical approach is correct then we have a Greek manuscript tradition and do not need to appeal to readings found outside that manuscript tradition to find "lost readings" that survived in the Vulgate to reconstruct a pure text. This would clearly mean the loss of the Comma regardless of how much Ecclesiastical tradition surrounds that text.

    In other words, Dr. Robinsons's approach is fatal to the TR position and vice versa.
     
  20. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    "In other words, Dr. Robinsons's approach is fatal to the TR position and vice versa."​

    However valuable Dr. R's (and other Byz scholars') approach to the text critical endeavor, it remains that the two camps fall into either faith-based or reason-based positions. The reason-based disdain the faith-based vehemently, though the faith-based do treasure the Byz reason-based, though not the CT reason-based, yet acknowledging it does have much true value.

    But in our presuppositions, based upon God's word, we—the faith-based—stand. And in good company.
     
  21. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Although you may wish to have a corner on what is "faith based" and what is "reason based" I don't believe you own this designation. Dr. Robinson trusts in the preservation of the text. It his belief in the preservation of the text by Providence that he believes that the Greek manuscript tradition did not lose anything. It is your belief in a particular account of preservation that certain verses were lost to Greek manuscript tradition but were recovered by Erasmus et al in the 16th century.
     
  22. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Agreed. It is fatal to any textual position which does not agree with him. :)

    Seriously, though, his justification for landing on the Byzantine family is a presupposition concerning preservation of manuscripts. From there he begins his empirical observations and these observations confirm his presupposition. No pure empiricist is going to find this an adequate approach for handling text-critical problems (although the pure empiricist is negligent of his own presupppositions). On the other side, I don't see why a believer in God's providence must be bound to think in terms of manuscript preservation which, as vast as it is in archaeological terms, is still a rather small percentage of the actual manuscripts which would have been produced. Having said that, it is good to see work being done on the transmission history of this stream of mss. given its neglect in text-critical studies. I just don't see it as definitive or determinative for faith.
     
  23. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You’re surely right, Rich, I don’t “own this designation”, and right also that Dr. Robinson does have his own view of it, as he elaborates here:

    The other matter — “divine preservation” — seems rarely to have been a major issue until the rise of the so-called “KJV-only” faction during the 1970s and beyond. Those few evangelical writers who made any statement regarding “divine” or “providential” preservation generally accepted that concept as applying to any Greek nt manuscript or text, whether the tr, Westcott-Hort, or any other. The nt textual witnesses in their aggregate were considered to reflect the “providentially preserved” text. As with Biblical inerrancy, one can affirm providential preservation as permeating all biblical documents and editions, with no required limitation of either inerrancy or preservation to a single manuscript, texttype, edition, or translation. The real issue regarding the original Greek text remains a matter of theory and evidence, best served without the imposition of extraneous a priori theological assumptions that predetermine textual decisions and force the adoption of certain variant readings on grounds ultimately theological and not text-critical. (From the Dave Black interview with Maurice Robinson)​

    I gather his view is other than the Reformed, for “divine” or “providential” preservation was indeed an issue for us going back to the Reformation, and codified in the WCF at 1:8:

    The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical . . .​

    So I will not go quietly to the fringe (where many would seek to relegate me), especially seeing as the notorious (in brave new 2015 at least) Johannine Comma was cited a proof text for the Trinity in the following Reformed confessions:

    Westminster Confession of Faith 1646 2.3
    The London Baptist Confession of 1689 2:3
    The Belgic Confession of 1561, Article 9 quotes the passage: “There are three who bear witness in heaven– the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit– and these three are one.”
    The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, Lord’s Day 8, Q&A 25, footnote 5​

    The Reformed back then proclaimed that the texts they held in their hands (which included 1 John 5:7—and these men were not dummies!) were preserved providentially so that they could withstand harlot Rome with the doctrines of sola Scriptura, and the four other mighty solas—and sustain the true faith.

    Five centuries or so later the doctrine of preservation is sometimes given to include all the MSS (including Rome’s), but not everyone goes along with that.
     
  24. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    At the same time, I think we should be careful to not ascribe more to them than they themselves believed. Since they would often point to alternative readings in various manuscripts, or use phrases like "what is missing in one manuscript is supplied in the rest", that leads me to believe that they weren't exactly TR advocates the same way that term is used today. Even the phrase "kept pure" implies a type of "pureness" that continued since ancient times, in which case perhaps Dr Robinson's view actually is Reformed.
     
  25. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You certainly have a flare for the dramatic.

    My point was that your rhetoric pits everyone but your own as being one based on "reason" while yours is based on "faith". I made no comments about it being "fringe" but simply that it's puerile to summarize the positions in the manner you did.
     
  26. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    :lol:

    My point was not to poke the bear on this issue but mostly to note my curiosity that Dr. Robinson's position is sort of seen as more favorable to an Ecclesiastical Text position but that when you scratch it a little bit you realize that one is either all in or all out.
     
  27. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I think you are right, Rich, and I am inclined to think this is probably true of every approach. Technical and sophisticated research goes into textual criticism and findings are built up over time. The presentations of those findings have to be simplified for a popular audience who are not aware of the technicalities. Once the audience begin to look into it for themselves they find it is not so simple as they first thought. And even within a general consensus there are divergent views on individual readings. One who adopts Dr. Robinson's approach might come to different conclusions as individual research is conducted and ultimately might arrive at the need for a paradigm shift. That seems to be the nature of empirical research.
     
  28. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    I only have time for a brief response tonight, but for what it is worth...

    I find Robinson's approach to satisfy my doctrinal presuppositions regarding textual preservation AND provide a consistent dealing with the evidence.

    Having spoken to Dr. Robinson recently, there is no question that he rejects 1 John 5:7 as a reading lacking sufficient textual support. He'd argue we can't make a case for Byzantine priority and then reject it where it isn't convenient to our presuppositions.

    He also would not make the claim that his position is based upon any doctrinal presuppositions but rather a fair weighing of the evidence. He'd then go on to clarify the fact that the Byzantine Priority approach is fully compatible with the doctrine of the preservation of the text in all ages is subsequently "icing on the cake".

    I tend to side with those that begin with acknowledging doctrinal presuppositions and that would be my biggest difference with Dr. Robinson. However, I find his textual approach to be the most compatible with my doctrinal presuppositions. I find it even more-so than trying to force a TR view. The Byzantine Text-form represents the historic text transmitted through the ages. Its particular readings then represents the text, "kept pure in all ages" (for it is the text of all ages). The TR (according to Dr. Robinson) is in 98.5% agreement with the Byzantine Text-form.

    I believe we should revise the TR using the historic Byzantine Text-form, not the other way around.
     
  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    This looks neat and tidy on a theoretical basis, but it gets messy with a text by text analysis; and there are places where one will end up following the Byzantine majority over the Byzantine minority, even though there are other text families which support the Byzantine minority, as in 1 John 2:23. This would be a clear-cut case of ignoring the warning signs because it doesn't fit with the itinerary.

    It is interesting, moreover, to observe from 1 John 2:23, that a reading has been omitted from a majority of mss. which was later proven to have earlier support in the transmission of the text.
     
  30. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here is the trouble I have the the TR position...While it is true that a reading like 1 John 2:23 has early support in Aleph and B, it does not have transmissional support within the historical text stream. A demonstrable line of transmission is part and parcel to a view of the text "kept pure in all ages". When we ascribe this the transmissional history to the Latin Vulgate (or any other translation)in the case of weakly supported readings in the Greek text, we are arguing an authority for a translation that is contrary for the Biblical doctrine of preservation which refers to the original tongues as does the Reformed confessions.

    What I find appealing about Byzantine Priority is 1) it seeks the preserved historical text from an actual view of textual transmission, 2) is thoroughly consistent, not changing the entire paradigm for "how we discern the correct readings" on a case by case basis (the TR position is a form of "text-theory eclecticism" using radically different and contradicting argumentation depending upon the reading in question) and 3) is demonstrably the historical text, transmitted throughout the age of the church and not simply the late 16th century edition with readings (though admittedly very few) that are not in the historic stream.

    For me, Byzantine Priority answers all of the pertinent questions and is unassailable from the typical charges leveled by reasoned eclectics against the other Traditional Text positions.
     
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