tisdag 30 maj 2017

Defending Papias on Matthew and Authencity of LXX

Lita Cosner a few days ago:

The Church Father Papias said that Matthew wrote a Hebrew version of his Gospel first. However, Matthew's Gospel as we have it now is not a translation from Hebrew. We know this because we know what Hebrew translated into Greek 'looks like', because we have the Septuagint (the Old Testament translated into Greek). Matthew's Gospel does not read like translated Hebrew.

Do we know what Latin translated into English looks like?

Latin Vulgate, Luke 24:1, here:
Una autem sabbati valde diluculo venerunt ad monumentum, portantes quae paraverant aromata

My word for word translation of it:
But on the one of the sabbath very in the morning twilight they came to the monument, carrying which they had prepared spices.

A little less slavish:
But on the first of the sabbath very early in the morning they came to the monument, carrying the spices which they had prepared.

The Douai Rheims version:
And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared.

So, from my two slavish versions we know what Latin translated to English looks like, therefore the Douai Rheims version is not in fact translated from Latin?

It sounds like English. It doesn't sound like "Latin translated to English". So, is it not a translation?

There are two options regarding this tradition 1) Someone recognized the 'Jewishness' of Matthew's Gospel and embellished that to say he originally wrote it in Hebrew (because tradition is not inspired, and we know of other places where the church fathers got it wrong)

  • Tradition preserves the originally inspired revelation. It is protected, like the Church Christ founded is protected. It is not inerrant as inspired, but infallible as protected. As is the Church which St Paul called the "pillar and ground of truth" [1 Timothy 3:15].

  • Apart from tradition we would not know the names of the Gospellers anyway. Or that the Gospels were accounts of a life which happened rather than results of a contest in fiction.

  • You have no case whatsoever where all Church Fathers got it wrong.

    You may have a case where one or other of them got it wrong. St Augustine thought God created all things "at once" rather than the correct "together", because St Jerome had not dared to use the Classical and no longer used "iunctim". St Augustine thought there were no "antipodes" (people living at the antipodes), which while literally probably true of the exact antipodes of Milan (45° 28′ 00″ sud, 170° 50' 00" ouest seems to be no land and therefore have no inhabitants, just Ocean water) is taken in a more general way false, and he had reasoned as a civilised man and a land crab, counting neither on people going to Americas as permanent exiles from Europe or Africa, nor on difference between getting West by the Canary and North Equatorial currents and getting back East without finding the Equatorial countercurrent or the Gulf stream. And St Jerome was (according to modern scholarship, though Petrus Comestor considered those manuscripts viciated, individually wrong (against the bishops of his time) on his wanting to to exclude Judith from the canon. But you find simply no instance where all Church Fathers were wrong, that was a Lutheran lie.

Here is one of your alternatives:

Matthew wrote an early version in his native Hebrew before composing the final version in Greek.

Would you consider, apart from language choice, that "And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared." is another text than Vulgate?

Just because you "know" from my translation what Latin translated into English looks like?

I hope not!

Now, if we do accept that Gospel of St Matthew in Greek is St Matthew's idiomatic translation to Greek, and LXX a more slavish one, why would the LXX translators have preferred a slavish one?

Well, if they really were 6 Levites from [the territory of] each of the tribes* and were told to translate independently of each other the Scriptures, as tradition has it, then while the exact identity of the resulting Greek text is still a miracle, it also makes sense that they made some human effort on arriving at an identic text as well, and fearing that slight divergences of wording** might be exploited by the Egyptian Ptolemaic and somewhat capricious*** captor, they would have tried to at least minimise such things by sticking as close to the Hebrew text as possible.

On the other hand, St Matthew was under no such constraint, was probably more familiar with Greek than many of his ancestors among the LXX (yes, he was a Levite too!), since having extensively used it as a tax collector, and could therefore afford an idiomatic translation.

There is such a thing as a difference in latitude between what a Protestant would consider "liberal" and what a Catholic would consider "modernist". For a Catholic, many things are modernist, not by agreeing in detail or principle with Protestant liberals, which would very often be modernist too, but simply by agreeing even with Conservative Protestants in detail in such a way as to admit by a backdoor a Protestant principle, even those originally espoused by the Reformers. This comes through in Lita's self assessment:

Finally, I have to stress that none of this has to do with theological liberalism, though I can understand why people can become suspicious as many people use these issues as an excuse to disbelieve what is recorded in Scripture. Christians who are enthusiastically inerrantist (as I am) have even more reason to look into these issues because we believe the answers actually matter.

It may no longer be theologically liberal to the taste of a Protestant, but it is modernist to that of a Catholic to deny that St Matthew originally wrote his same self Gospel in Hebrew, rather than another one. If it does not immediately attack Scriptural inerrantism, it certainly does attack infallibility of Tradition. Less bad, but bad enough, since contradicting in effect 1 Timothy 3:15.

Here is a debate with a Catholic I assess as a Modernist on Theologyweb:

Marcan Priority a Protestant Thing, acc. to Duncan Graham Reid

The "Farmer" referred to (I did not find previous occasion where we had spoken about him, and therefore had to search the link) is this text:

1870 - 1914
by Professor William R. Farmer

I am at least happy Lita did not deny Matthean priority. This is a huge plus in today's world. See these decisions from Pontifical Bible Commission:

  • 4) On the Author and the Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel, 1907. There is sufficient evidence that John the Apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Commission stated, to uphold this opinion against adverse critics. We may not say that the discourses of Our Lord that are reported therein are not really the words of Jesus but theological compositions of the authors.

  • 8) On the Author, Date of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1911. Matthew, the Commission said, is in truth the author of the Gospel published under his name. The Gospel was originally written in Hebrew, sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem. We cannot accept the idea that the book was merely a collection of sayings compiled by an anonymous author. While the book was first written in Hebrew, the Greek is regarded as canonical, and is to be regarded as historically true, including the infancy narratives, and passages relating to the primacy of Peter (16:17-19) and to the Apostles' profession of faith in the divinity of Christ (14:33).

  • 9) On the Author, Time of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospels According to St. Mark and St. Luke, 1912. The Commission upheld the authorship of these books by Mark and Luke, their historicity, and their having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem. It cannot prudently be called into question, the Commission said, that Mark wrote according to the preaching of Peter, or that Luke followed the preaching of Paul. Both of them told what they had learned from "eminently trustworthy witnesses."

  • 10) On the Synoptic Question, or the Mutual Relations Between the First Three Gospels, 1912. It is lawful, the Commission said, for exegetes to discuss varying opinions about similarities and dissimilarities in the first three Gospels, and about hypotheses of oral or written tradition, or the dependence of one on another; but they are not to freely advocate unproven theories.

  • 11) On the Author, Time of Composition, and Historical Character of Acts, 1913. Luke, the Commission said, is certainly to be regarded as the author of Acts, and complete historical authority may be claimed for him.

What Does The Church Really Say About The Bible?
by Edith Myers

I am citing, obviously, decisions from the time of Pope St Pius X, under whom the commission was so examplary that as he said it would be seriously sinful to contest its rulings.

When it came to later decisions, it had degraded. The 1948 decision in response to Cardinal Suhard (numbered as 18) was so misleading that Pius XII actually in Humani Generis, while horribly soft on other questions, except of procedure, was forced, at first, in 1950 to reprehend° this response.

So, since the decisions leave me free between Augustinian and Clementine theories of the Synoptics, what if St Luke was one of the sources of St Mark instead of the reverse? The Clementine theory. Here is what Lita has to say against it:

And Luke himself says other gospels were written before his.

Would this necessarily mean Matthew and Mark? Not really, since if one was certainly St Matthew, there are also two non-canonic but still orthodox Gospels, those known as Gospel to Hebrews and Gospel to Egyptians, and the probably genuine Proto-Gospel of St James, there is even a certainty he was talking about more Gospels than we know about, that several were suppressed after his and other canonical ones replaced them as better written and with more authority.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Tuesday in Pentecost Novena

PS the link I gave contains a secnd part which is entirely laudable./HGL


* Levites, while also a tribe, were not given own territory, but were divided among the territories of the other tribes : so six Levites from Judah could have come from Bethlehem, six Levites from Ephraim could have come from Samaria and six Levites of Dan could have come from Gaza and so on.

** Like between "on the first of the sabbath" and "on the first day of the week".

*** Like Lita Cosner would be if refusing to recognise the Douai Rheims as being a translation from Vulgate.

° In Humani Generis : If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents. See my quote here: One group member promoted Hutchison

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