The Basis for a Positive h.t. Identification

The following is culled and developed from a recent discussion at Fighting Fundamental Forums, which resulted in a useful exchange and explanation of the methodology and procedure for identifying probable homoeoteleuton, homoeoarcton and other similar accidental errors.

Q:   Aren't the so-called errors simply presumptions made by those who have a preference for the Textus Receptus (TR) and Byzantine manuscripts?

 The question speaks as if the "deductions" were simply opinions or fashions, and that the decisions about the nature of the variants were made on the basis of some predisposition or preference for the TR.

This is certainly not the case for the 75 homoeoteleuton cases examined in the Aleph/B text. Here's the simple reason why:

You can't turn these 75 homoeoteleuton cases inside-out on the basis of another opinion or some other preference, and have any kind of coherent explanation for the omissions/additions, or equally plausible explanations for the other variants. One of the most basic 'canons' of TC is a preference for the reading that explains the arising of the other variants.   That is, the explanation and temporal sequence is preferred which accounts best for the physical features of the whole Variation Unit.

These cases are judged to be homoeoteleuton cases on the basis of their physical features alone, not predetermined preferences for, or predisposition to favour a given view or text-type.

Homoeoteleuton cases in the Byzantine text-type are also in the same boat.

No preferences or opinions can change their physical features.  Its these physical features that class them as possible homoeoteleuton errors, and nothing else.

Q:   What is the standard text which makes these cases errors?  For an error to be deducted, a strong standard needs to be established.  Haven't you erected the Traditional Text as the standard against which you judge the Alexandrian?

If this really were the case, then one could claim a methodological weakness, or at least a presumption.  But that is not how textual criticism is legitimately being done here.

(1) Textual Evidence: Legitimate Use

The texts themselves can't speak or recommend readings.

The textual evidence (External Evidence) can only be used legitimately in certain ways: Textual witnesses are used to establish areas of variation (Variation Units), and the variants themselves.

The manuscripts (MSS), 'versions" - early translations (ETs), early Christian writers (ECWs), these witnesses are collated in order to find the boundaries where a variation exists, and list support for each variant reading.  The apparatus so generated establishes each reading's geographical and temporal extent, and its earliest appearance. That is pretty much all textual evidence can do.

Next it is up to textual critics to evaluate and interpret these variants, using rational and impartial scientific methods and principles, to create a plausible and probable history that can explain how the variants arose, and what the original text was.

Possible homoeoteleuton errors are identified by using a combination of textual evidence and internal evidence, using the following methodologies:

(2) Internal Evidence: Legitimate Use

The Internal Evidence is a different kind of evidence entirely. It breaks down into two basic categories:

(a) Transcriptional Evidence (Scribal Habits):  Since we look at the lost originals through the lens of copyists, we must understand thoroughly how the coloring of this lens affects the text.   This first of all comes from examinations of individual manuscripts, the work of the scribes themselves.

(1)  Singular Readings:   For maximum reliability of findings, singular readings (unique readings not found in other manuscripts) are used to evaluate copyists.   These have the highest probability of being accidental errors or quirky edits by the actual copyist of the manuscript.

(2)  Accidental Readings:   Additionally, singular readings are sorted into probable accidents (where the unique reading makes no sense, or less sense, and where an accident best explains the alternatives), and possible deliberate edits (readings which make sense, have theological or historical value, and cannot be explained as accidents).

By concentrating on probable errors, we can identify patterns and probable causes, as well as general habits and tendencies of copyists.  This in turn helps to identify other variants which don't have the appearance or probability of being mistakes.

(3)  Transcriptional Probabilities:   From examining hundreds of MSS and the copying habits displayed therein, the features of and general probabilities for various types of errors (and scribal modifications) are established.

Please note: The knowledge of transcriptional errors is not established by comparing text-types or groups to one another. 
The features and probabilites of transcriptional errors are instead established by collecting unambiguous instances of each type of error in individual manuscripts, not those in text-types or groups.  By this approach, the common features that all instances share can be noted, the common causes of the errors understood, and reliable statistics generated.

The effect of scribal habits upon text-types or groups is based on the accumulation of individual scribal habits in the process of transmission.  Thus our knowledge of groups or text-types can only come from understanding the effects of the individual copyists and editors on the text.   We must first study individual copyists to understand text-types. 

This is why individual manuscripts are studied first, and the most general habits and tendencies are established, to build a solid foundation for the study of transmission and text-types.

This knowledge is carefully built up before any further application of Transcriptional Evidence can be applied to Variation Units or text-types.
Important examples of such preliminary studies are given below:
E.C. Colwell (1969): Haplography - & P45, P66, P75
Jongkind (2005): א - tests Singular Readings Method!
J. Hernandez (2006): Errors of א in Rev - singular OMs
J. Royse (2008): Scribal Habits - P45,46,47,66,72,75
J. Royse (2008) homoeoteleuton - singular omissions
From such studies, more reliable observations, and solid canons can be established, as in the following discussions:
H. Gamble (1977): Interpolation - Identifying Marks
L. Haines (2008): Scribal Habits - 'Shorter Reading'?
J.Royse (2008) Shorter Reading? - & Griesbach

When a given Variation Unit is examined, the text-types involved and their textual support are not relevant for discovering and evaluating generalized transcriptional features.

Remember that Transcriptional Evidence has to do with the kinds of errors and changes that ALL copyists are vulnerable to, independent of time-period, location, or text-type. Text-types are not internal evidence.
When we identify a Variation Unit as a possible instance of homoeoteleuton, we don't do this on the basis of text-type, nor by comparing a given variant inside the Unit to another variant as if one were a standard and the other a mistake.

We identify whole Variation Units as homoeoteleuton instances by the features that the whole Variation Unit presents, regardless of text-type or opinion regarding individual variants within the Variation Unit.

It is not the variants that are identified as homoeoteleuton, but the entire Variation Unit itself which is classified as possible homoeoteleuton. This is done on the basis of its intrinsic features, which are independent of text-type or manuscript support, and its not done on the basis of favoring a specific text-type within the Variation Unit.

 The Classification 'homoeoteleuton' (h.t.) belongs to the Variation Unit, not the individual variants in it.  The Classification of 'text-type' belongs to individual readings, not the Variation Unit, which is an over-arching structure involving all text-types and groups.

Variation Units identified as possible or probable homoeoteleuton cases occur in all text-types, and in all manuscripts and witnesses. They are not 'text-type' specific, and they are not defined or determined by choosing any text-type as a standard. That is just nonsense.

All the probable homoeoteleuton cases we have identified have been identified on the basis of their own intrinsic features as shown, and not on the basis of their agreement or disagreement with the Textus Receptus or the UBS text (or any other text). The only subsequent process imposed upon the full group of homoeoteleuton cases was this:

On certain occasions we chose to talk about those cases mistakenly adopted by the UBS text, and this necessarily involved selecting those cases as a sub-set of the complete list.   

We can certainly provide other lists of probable homoeoteleuton cases in the TR, or the Western Text, or the critical texts of Griesbach, Lachmann, Tregelles, or Tischendorf, or Hodges/Farstad if you like. But again all of these examples will be established by their actual features, not by evaluating textual support or favoring text-types.

We can group homoeoteleuton errors according to text-type or geographical extent only AFTER we have already found them.

(b) Intrinsic Probability (Author's Intent):  This is another category of evidence discussed by Hort and others.  It refers to what it was that the author was most likely to have written.

Intrinsic Probability involves grammatical evidence (vocabulary and syntax), literary evidence (content and structure), and sometimes theological evidence (what the author believed or knew, based on what he shows elsewhere and what is historically known or plausible) But AGAIN it is not based on text-types or favoring one form or source over another. It is also a kind of INTERNAL evidence, not TEXTUAL per se.   But that is another subject.

Q: seems that Nazaroo's text-critical philosophy is a thoroughgoing eclecticism. If all that external evidence can do is give you various readings, with geneaological & geographical aspects concerning those readings, then you fall very much in line with J. K. Elliott.

This is really a basic misunderstanding.  We are not advocating any particular philosophy or method of Textual Criticism.  We can find flaws with all of them.    The point is rather that certain specific tasks in TC require solid techniques.  These do not then become the 'only method', or a generalized philosophy.  They remain limited specialized techniques, only justifiable with clear and specific applications in view.

Q:    In order to identify the cases in question as specific examples of probable homoeoteleuton, with resultant dropout of text, isn't an actual exemplar containing the "missing" text presumed to exist or have existed?

Again the question assumes we are creating hypothetical entities, when in actual fact we are limiting ourselves to previously documented textual variants found within Variation Units.   It is well-recognized that almost all variants are 'old', and stem from the early centuries (1st - 3rd cent. A.D.)
The variants themselves are already attested, although in some cases by later manuscripts, or appear as minority readings.   We don't postulate any new archetypes or lost exemplars.  We simply stick to known units in the standard apparatus and give all well-attested variants the possibility of being an original reading.
That is the natural starting point for all textual criticism.  We assume that we don't know the original reading with absolute certainty, and evaluate variants based on textual and transcriptional evidences we find.

(1) Since we start with textual evidence, compiling Variation Units from variants actually found among real manuscripts, we don't need to conjecture any texts out of thin air, and in fact we reject entirely any conjectures which lack actual manuscript support. We limit ourselves to variants supported by good textual evidence.

(2) The only 'conjecture' or 'presumption' involved is the openmindedness to consider any well-attested variants as possible cases, and check to see if the Variation Units involved have the physical features required.

(3) The evaluation is conducted on the basis of the most generalized and well-known scribal habits and tendencies (the most reliable kind), and is not dependent upon text-types or peculiar local practices, or temporary trends found in particular eras, such as "Alexandrian editng techniques" or 'Western tendencies of conflation'.

(3) At this stage, no preference for text-types or geographical/temporal witnesses need be considered, nor should it be. It would be far more 'presumptive' in that sense if we pre-selected and favoured text-types like the Alexandrian as more probably "original".

(4) Remember that we are investigating all text-types, and all eras, and the only focus or 'bias' will be our attention upon the earliest and most reliable textual evidences. The Variation Units we use are composed and filled out utilizing data from all text-types, and will often naturally group the evidence largely by text-type in many cases. But that is not a free choice or preference on the part of those collating manuscripts for the apparatus. That is just the way the evidence naturally falls, and organizes itself.

(5) We ourselves have no hesitation in using for instance the good data collected and organized in the UBS4 apparatus, or that found in any other good critical apparatus, like Tregelles, Tischendorf, or von Soden.

(6) It would be far more biased to focus only on the errors of a certain preselected text-type or group of manuscripts, and thereby imply or give the impression that other text-types were superior, or focus on a supposed superior text-type, and presume others were inferior.

(7) But what we really have done is to look at all text-types and witnesses, and to use independent data and evaluations of scribal habits, to categorize Variation Units found in all text-types and manuscripts.

Again we recap, that we don't use conjectural reconstructions of non-existant texts, but instead restrict ourselves to known and well-attested textual variants supported by real manuscripts, versions and text-types.

Nor do we begin with presumptions or preferences for text-types or manuscripts. We deliberately put those aside and appeal to independent data on scribal habits and errors, culled first of all from hard textual evidence, such as the singular readings and corrections found in individual manuscripts of all types.

We apply already accumulated knowledge about scribal errors, knowledge which has stood the test of time, passed peer review, and has been accepted by textual critics of all viewpoints. We stick to the most well-understood, well-known and reliable data on scribal habits, such as the mechanisms of omission and dittography due to homoeoteleuton and homoeoarcton features of the texts.

We have investigated homoeoteleuton in both the reconstructed archetypes of manuscripts like Aleph/B, and actual singular errors found in individual manuscripts.

It should be understood that WE did not reconstruct the archetypes of Aleph/B, but that other textual critics (Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf, Hort, Nestle, Aland etc.) reconstructed Aleph/B on the direct basis of "agreement in text", independent of and regardless of the mechanisms for changes.

We do not dispute at all that the UBS4 text substantially represents the archetype of Aleph/B, and that textual critics have done a relatively good job at reconstructing that archetype. We don't doubt the essential genealogical tree or the fact that the UBS text is an Alexandrian text which circulated earlier than either Aleph or B.

The point is, WE did not create or conjecture an ancestor for Aleph/B. It definitely exists and conforms to the UBS text. This is not in serious dispute by any textual critic, and this reconstructed text is NOT considered "conjectural" or a mere "presumption".

But nor is the existance of the 2nd century Western text in serious dispute, or the 4th century Byzantine, or the 3rd century Old Latin or the 4th century Vulgate. These texts are as real as the manuscripts that support them, and they all reach back into the 2nd century.

The texts and readings we are using and the Variation Units are well-known, documented and accepted by textual critics of all persuasions, and are all found in the UBS4 Apparatus.

We avoid entirely any conjectural texts proposed by others, or any emendations of our own to the Variation Units.

 Q:    Wouldn't your resultant or corrected text be a lengthier, "fuller" text than that of any Critical Text (CT), or probably even than the Traditional Text (TT)?

This is not actually true, and logically incorrect.

Any text corrected from a subset of probable homoeoteleuton errors would only put back some of the omissions found among Variation Units, and even if these were removed from texts and apparatus, a substantial part of the basic differences between the UBS4 text and the Majority Text would remain: Some 120 omissions/additions would still be in dispute.

The text created from my data would not make a longer text than the Majority Text.