Friday, August 19, 2011

Marvin Vincent (1903) on Burgon vs Abbot

In his book, A History of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Macmillan, 1903), Marvin Vincent attempts to bolster the Westcott/Hort position, in part by dismissing opponents.

Vincent on Burgon:

An example of how badly Vincent handles even the tasks of propagandizing, is given in his discussion of the dispute between Dean Burgon, and Ezra Abbot, over the dating of Codex Aleph and B.   Here (on p. 119-121), Vincent quotes Burgon for a page and a half.  Then only notes "Burgon was answered by Ezra the Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1872, X, 189-200, 602."
Although attempting to ridicule Burgon, he seems to help his cause more than hinder it.

An actual examination of both Burgon's full arguments re: dating and Abbot's disagreement is revealing, because Abbot often agrees with Burgon, and although bringing new information to light, hardly refutes him.   One can fruitfully compare the two by reading their own words below:
Burgon on Dating Aleph/B

Abbot on Burgon's Dating Arguments
A good discussion of the question of who actually comes out better in this debate was given by Mr. Scrivener on TC-Alt list over a year ago:

Nazaroo has promised to comment shortly on Abbot's and Burgon's debate,
regarding subsequent analysis and fallout.

My own take is that Abbot correctly restrained Burgon's exhuberance, but made about as many mistakes in method as Burgon:


(1) Abbot's rejoinder is based upon the shoddy 2nd-hand info in Tischendorf and the Vatican's published transcripts (lets not call them facsimiles), while Burgon's descriptions are based on his many years of handling MSS himself, and his personal inspection of Vaticanus for a few hours (in those days a miraculous priviledge).

1a.] Abbot admits to the problem of the descrepancies between Tisch. and Rome at least three times...

1b.] Burgon is still best at describing the physical condition and appearance of the MSS. He saw and handled them, applying his many years of experience. Abbot was in America, with only published transcriptions at his disposal.

(2) Abbot rightly notes Burgon's personal interest (and bias?) in defending the Markan Ending, but doesn't really address Burgon's arguments directly. He restricts himself to attacking the premise of Burgon's appendix, but tries to leave the impression that he has "refuted" Burgon's main thesis on the Authenticity of MarkEnd.

2a.] Abbot's own enthusiasm for Tregelles and Hort stands out like a sore thumb (he was on the American Revision committee and uses Tregelles, Hort, and Scrivener as authorities).

(3) Abbot correctly exposes the weakness of several points by Burgon regarding the relative age of Sinaiticus, but when the dust settles, Sinaiticus remains significantly different in execution and style than Vaticanus,

3a.] ...and the differences are still best explained by a "generational" change in how things were done in the Caesarean scriptorium.

3b.] It doesn't matter that key features of the differences are in fact not
original to the 4th cent. A.D. or are found in other contexts. Its the
combination that counts. What matters is what was practised in the Caesarean scriptorium itself at different times, not what inspired their habits, or where stylisms were borrowed.

(4) Abbot brings up the already outdated opinion of Scrivener connecting both MSS to the order of 50 Bibles by Constantine to Eusebius. But that is not credible, given the content and form of both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Skeat suggests probably only one, Vaticanus, was a dud from such an order, which was never delivered, but got used somewhere else.

(5) Abbot uses Tregelles' observations twice, but he only remarks that the script looks the same, and Aleph looks older than a 500 A.D. MS, and this is already pretty much conceded (although unproven). Its not relevant to the argument any more than some of Burgon's points are, in isolation.

5a.] All this simply shows the difficulty of nailing down any MS within +-100 years.

(6) Perhaps most "devastating and fatal" to ABBOT's argument, is his appeal to the "well-known tendency of copyists and possessors of MSS to add rather than to omit", an 'observation' now known by careful studies of scribal habits to be pure crap.

6a.] Whats worse, he actually applies this canon to the Ending of Mark, a massive absurdity. Its as if a 'copyist' accidentally or by 'tendency to
conflate' or incorporate marginal notes added an entire 12 verse ending to Mark without really noticing!

Is that really more plausible than Burgon's proposal that it was a lectionary pericope that was left out of service books, and/or was avoided because of doctrinal squabbles?

To put it in perspective, it would be like being assigned to paint a copy of the famous Mona Lisa, and while daydreaming, adding a large red barn to the background.

Suffice it to say, Abbot's rebuttal is hardly devastating, but does contribute to toning down Burgon's rhetoric somewhat.

I don't know what Nazaroo will say, but he was snickering at Abbot's poopooing of Scrivener, over the Eusebian Canons. It does seem silly to claim the absence of them in the prima manu could support Eusebius' connection to these MSS in any way.


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