Last Updated:

Feb 11, 2011

Hurtado: pre-Caesarean Text

Excerpt for Review: Dr. Larry Hurtado, Text-critical methodology and the pre-Caesarean text: Codex W in the Gospel, The pre-Caesarean Text, (Eerdmans, 1981)

Page Index

The Pre-Caesarean Text - Dr. Larry Hurtado (short exerpt for review) Text-critical methodology and the pre-Caesarean text: Codex W in the Gospel By Larry W. Hurtado

The "Pre-Caesarean" Text

The third result of this study is a conclusion about the so-called pre-Caesarean text, of which W is supposed to be a leading representative. While this study confirms the close relationship of W with P45, and shows that Family 13 is a secondary witness to the W / P45 text, it also shows that these three witnesses are not related to the Caesarean text represented by 565 or Θ. Further, the agreements that do connect W or P45 with 565 or Θ are basically readings resulting from the varying amounts of Western readings in these MSS. 3 The quantity of Western readings in Θ and its allies (565, 700) is so great that the present writer would suggest that perhaps the text represented by these MSS is a form of Western text as it was shaped in the East. The Old Syr, which agrees often with these witnesses, seems to be another such witness to the Western text. The "pre-Caesarean" witnesses are, then, not Caesarean at all.

The W / P45 text does not belong to any major text-type. The free scribal activity documented and elaborated in this study was the process that created this distinctive text. Thus it is less than accurate to describe W and P45 as "mixed text" MSS, if by that term one means MSS which were reproduced by some sort of weaving together of readings from various textual witnesses. Rather, the readings peculiar to W show an editorial treatment of the text of Mark that relied as much on the personal tastes of the scribe as it did upon readings in MSS known to the scribe.

As Burkitt said long ago,

"What I doubt is that such correction was always made by means of another roll or codex: I think there were early Christians who thought themselves quite capable of making such corrections by mere instinct, i.e., conjecture, and by their general memory of what the text ought to be." ("W and Θ", 7.)

It is pertinent to ask what the W / P45 text was like in the period prior to these witnesses. In the absence of documents from the pre-P45 stage of this text one must try to extrapolate intelligently on the basis of available data. We noted in Ch. V of this study that P45 is a little closer to B than is W. This evidence can be interpreted to mean (1) that the textual tradition represented by W and P45 is basically Neutral, and (2) that this tradition had a stronger Neutral flavor in its earlier stages. If this is a reasonable theory of the origin of the W / P45 text, what was the course of its further development beyond W?

It is argued here that Family 13 possibly represents a later development of the text of the W / P45 text. The latter two witnesses show editorial tendencies making Mark more appealing to the popular reader. Family 13 shows the same editorial tendencies carried to such a point that the text of this witness has comparatively slight agreement with the Neutral witnesses - usually less agreement with them than with the other textual witnesses selected for this study. The W / P45 text as represented by Family 13 not only went farther away from Neutral affiliation but appears to have become a text very similar to the early stages of the Byzantine text.

This study concludes that the designation "pre-Caesarean" should be abandoned as a valid description of W / P45. Codex W and P45 do not have a significant relationship with the so-called Ceasarean text represented in Θ, and they are in no way an early stage of this text.

Furthermore, the evidence here presented shows that the so-called pre-Caesarean group, the "unrevised" text favour by Ayuso along with the Western text as more original in textual quality, will not furnish the best sources in which to find original Markan readings. Scholars who argue to the contrary must reckon with the imposing evidence that the distinguishing marks of one of the leading witnesses to this "unrevised" text, Codex W in Mark, are readings resulting from free scribal creation. The best source for original Markan readings is the textual tradition that shows greater fidelity to the less elegant Markan expressions. Although they are not flawless, the Neutral textual witnesses appear to be comparatively more reliablel as sources for reconstructing the Markan text. (See similar evaluations of the Neutral text by Turner, "Marcan Usage", JTS 28 (1927) 19, and by Burkitt, "W and Θ", 149-50.

3. Lawrence Allen Eldridge (The Gospel Text of Epiphanius of Salamis [SD 41: Salt Lake City: U. of Utah, 1969] 124-5) showed that the agreements of the Gospel quotations in Epiphanius with the Caesarean MSS (mainly 28, 565, 700) are in readings by a majority of Western witnesses, and he wondered if this Western element has not been underestimated in the previous attempts to analyze the Caesarean group.

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