Thursday, 8 January 2015

Kurt Eichenwald makes rash claims in Newsweek

So much for prepublication review. Some might want to have me believe I can't get my works printed before it has been extra carefully reviewed by professionals so far above me they are really my judges rather than my peers. It may be the case for Newsweek or media with similar ownership. At least them thinking they are so far above me etc.

But though I have not excluded such media according to my terms, they are not my main hope for publication - I am aware where their prejudices lie. And unless Lita Cosner misquotes, it has just been confirmed.

However, though I have seen her mistaken on theological issues, I have never seen her dishonest so as to actually misquote anyone, so I'll take her word about Newsweek.

Eichenwald makes the strange claim:

“No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations or hand-copied copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”

From: CMI : Newsweek attacks belief in Scripture
by Lita Cosner Published: 8 January 2015 (GMT+10)

Which is her response. Here is mine, given well before I heard of Kurt Eichenwald (a German name, surname means oakwood). My reason for answering same hoax in advance was hearing it in advance on a youtube, by a former Mormon girl now Atheist. Laci Green.

Then, Eichenwald also demonstrates he knows nothing of the history of text criticism.

[In margin: He is criticizing a view that almost no one in Church history has ever held.]

“None of this [differences in the text] mattered for centuries, because Christians were certain God had guided the hand not only of the original authors but also all the copyists.”

He obviously wants to hide from us that textual criticism is a discipline with very much better claims to be scientific than Higher Criticism. Or he may have attributed to Christians a view that belonged to Jewish or Muslim claims for their scriptures, rather than to Christian ones.

A German name can have two ethnicities - German or Yiddish. In the latter case, sometimes but not always, a Polish respelling of it has occurred. I had an "employer" (ok - work director, boss, foreman ...) called Bajtner. In German properly spelled it would have been Baytner or Beitner or sth. And Jews disaffected with Judaism sometimes miss that the Catholic faith which as Jews they despised has assets other than the one which in Judaism left them disaffected.

But back to my own response to his earlier claim, see my answer to Laci Green:

somewhere else : Laci Green likes strawmen?

somewhere else : Variation on the Scriptoria Game

I made my answer in 2011 to a video now private, so I can no longer check how long before that Laci Green made it.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Lucian of Beauvais
with Maximian and Julian

Update: I was not rash to trust the quotes by Lita Cosner. I have seen the article online. Here is one more quote with my reply (not sure whether it is from an update not marked after he read Lita's words, or whether she missed it):

Back then, writings from one era could be passed to the next only by copying them by hand. While there were professional scribes whose lives were dedicated to this grueling work, they did not start copying the letters and testaments about Jesus’s time until centuries after they were written. Prior to that, amateurs handled the job.

In the modern world, the difference between a professional and an amateur, though slightly blurred in the edges, is that or is supposed to be that a professional gets a pay (wages or fees) and does a good job, but if he doesn't whoever pays him gets a better professional. An amateur goes unchecked and can therefore be considered as risking to do a bad job.

I don't quite agree with the idea that people do better what they do for the sake of keeping material comforts than what they do for the sake of doing what they like. On the contrary, Aristotle said people do best what they get a pleasure out of doing. A professional can be ill placed due to social constraints, an amateur can hardly be forced to social services to take up a particular hobby as he can be forced to take up a particular job on pain of losing the dole.

But leaving modern conditions aside, this distinction which vaguely evokes to many readers one between an adult who knows his profession inside and out and a teen geek who is trying to know all about his hobby and failing, is not quite as easily to project backwards to Roman Antiquity.

Amateurs back then were usually free men - slaves were kept strictly professional and their pastimes were (at least supposed to be) drinking and fucking. And poking fun at other slaves, and perhaps aiding intrigues between Senior master and Junior master. Sorry to be gross at one word, but that is how slaves were seen (apart from a brief episode around Spartacus which one was very eager to forget by ridiculing slaves as much as possible) until Christian slaves showed other mettle. At best, for amateurism, a house slave might be the assistant of his master's amateurism. And this of course meant that an amateur free man often enough had slaves to help his amateurism get to levels which are these days more often expected of professionals - or of the geeks of the most conspicuous geek "cults", like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Some Tolkien fans had been doing Quenya and Sindarin long enough and well enough to be allowed to write the Sindarin dialogue in Peter Jackson's films. For a huge pay. Some Star Wars fans are authorised to write books about characters in Revenge of the Sith. One Narnia fan has written a fan fiction which C. S. Lewis estate has authorised for print - these days copyright holders (did not exist back then) can stop someone from making money on fandom - and it's called The Giant Surprise and is about a young marshwiggle girl. Not in Puddleglum's time, but rather, as I recall, back when Peter was fighting giants in the North during the action of The Horse and His Boy taking place further south. Have not read it yet. If we want to know what could be expected of an amateur back in antiquity, these fandom geeks or reenactors like people building a castle in Medieval architecture or like reenacting Battle of Alesia in France or Battle of Gettysburgh in US, those are the kinds of amateurs you should take a look at.

As to copying by hand being a "gruelling work" or even (US spelling) "grueling work", I have no reason to believe someone doing it considered it such. Colophones testify to fatigue after long work passes, but so would sportsmen and authors (who often enough write their books by hand and sometimes even - to modern publishers - retype them) feel. A work does not have to be gruelling for it to cause fatigue when work pass has been added to work pass.

So, even going by general probabilities the remark of Eichenwald is pretty disingenious. But let's be a bit more specific than that.

St Matthew was before converting a tax collector. But he was also a Levite, meaning that he had a Jewish education qualifying for professional scribe. One work item was notarial, but another one was copying the Torah. Which as a tax collectr he could not do, his job making him unpure, but then he converted to a disciple of Jesus (paying back fourfold, as thieves were required by the law), and had another training as a disciple. He wrote the first Gospel and obviously was capable of training scribes.

But suppose the scribes St Matthew trained were not available somewhere in a Christian community? "Several" solutions. At least two that is.

One is that other scribes than St Matthew converted - since often earliest Christians in any place were of Jewish origin.

Another is that professional Pagan scribes converted.

A third is that a rich convert bought a slave trained in copying. Suppose Atticus' bookshop was still around in Rome (where Cicero got hs writings published) - Atticus the possible grandson of Cicero's Atticus would certainly not be doing all the work himself, he would have slaves doing it. And a rich Christian needing copyists for the Gospel would of course be buying a slave - if not from this hypothetic grandson of the known Atticus, at least from a colleague.

The scenario Eichenwald tries to paint of Christians only having incompetent scribes falls to the ground as impossible.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
Next day

New update same day: Eichenwald tries to paint it out as if stories had been added by creative scribes. The fullblown example he takes is the adulterous woman. It is missing in some very old manuscripts preserved to us. Eichenwald tries to make it out that somehow later a creative scribe added it and this error somehow crept into all manuscript traditions from later on, or most of them at least.

Here is a likelier scenario: one Puritan scribe avoids copying it. He thinks the story can't be true. He thinks - about like Eichwald - it has been added by a creative scribe. He is not accessing all other contemporary to him manuscripts, so he can't know how well established it is. He leaves it out.

His bishop looks at the work. Uh, no. Let's put this faulty copy aside. It is the word of God - in its extant parts - so it can't be destroyed. It is also not the word of God - since lacking parts that should be there. So it can't be used either. When Sinaiticus was found, the English scholars asked the monks and got the answer "we don't know what it is". Oh, are they so ignorant they don't even know it is a Bible? The monastery made no effort to keep the manuscript from him. My guess is they knew it was a faulty copy and their words meant "we don't know whether it shall be considered as word of God or not, when it is missing a piece of text".

The correct manuscripts from the same time as Sinaiticus were by contrast not preserved, since used over and over both for reading in Church and for "exemplar" for further copying - and so they were not preserved.

As to his other example, an "added" phrase, I think a similar explanation is possible too.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Saint Julian and Basilissa
white marriage couple and him martyr

Antiochiae, sub Diocletiano et Maximiano, natalis sanctorum Juliani Martyris, et Basilissae Virginis, ipsius Juliani uxoris. Haec, virginitate cum viro suo servata, in pace vitam finivit; Julianus vero (postquam multitudo Sacerdotum et Ministrorum Ecclesiae Christi, quae, propter immanitatem persecutionis, ad eos confugerat, igne cremata est), Marciani Praesidis jussu, plurimis tormentis cruciatus, capitalem sententiam accepit. Cum ipso etiam Antonius Presbyter, et Anastasius, quem idem Julianus, a morte suscitatum, gratiae Christi participem fecerat, et Celsus puer cum hujus matre Marcionilla, ac septem fratres, aliique plurimi passi sunt.

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