Friday, June 11, 2021

Longer-Shorter, Difficult-Easy Readings

Random stuff
The strange and sometimes contradictory views about longer and shorter, easier and more difficult readings. These Latin expressions are used to indicate the principles some hold in textual criticism:
  • lectio difficilior potior, or lectio difficilior lectio potior – the more difficult reading is the stronger
  • lectio longior potior, or lectio longior lectio potior – the longer reading is the stronger/more probable
  • lectio brevior potior, or lectio brevior lectio potior – the shorter reading is the more probable reading
In general, the more difficult reading is to be preferred, particularly when the sense, on the surface, appears to be erroneous but, on more mature consideration, proves to be correct. (Here, “more difficult” means “more difficult to the scribe,” who would be tempted to make an emendation. The characteristic of most scribal emendations is their superficiality, often combining “the appearance of improvement with the absence of its reality.” Obviously, the category “more difficult reading” is relative, and a point is sometimes reached when a reading must be judged to be so difficult that it can have arisen only by accident in transcription.)
“The shorter reading, if not wholly lacking the support of old and weighty witnesses, is to be preferred over the more verbose.”
Found in Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament; Bruce Metzger, in The Text of New Testament, and A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament; Johann Jakob Griesbach (Originally Latin, quoted by Alford in the introduction of his Greek Testament, London, 1849, and found quoted in numerous sources).

In a study of “Lectio Brevior Potior and New Testament Textual Criticism,” Jeff Miller concluded “that the maxim lectio brevior potior not only should not be, but in fact is not, a factor in the current practice of the textual criticism of the New Testament.”

Maurice Robinson, in his article “The Case for Byzantine Priority” writes, “Neither the shorter nor longer reading is to be preferred. The reasoned eclectic principle here omitted is the familiar lectio brevior potior, or giving preference to the shorter reading, assuming all other matters to be equala principle which has come under fire even from modern eclectics. Not only can its legitimacy be called into question, but its rejection as a working principle can readily be justified.”

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