A Computer-Aided Textual Commentary on the Book of Philippians -- By: James D. Price

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 08:2 (Fall 1987)
Article: A Computer-Aided Textual Commentary on the Book of Philippians
Author: James D. Price


A Computer-Aided Textual Commentary
on the Book of Philippians

James D. Price

A genealogical tree diagram of the textual history of Philippians may be constructed on the basis of a computer program used to analyze the variant readings. The resultant diagram suggests the development of four ancient text-types for Philippians and an early but gradual degradation of the text. Comparing the probabilities of the readings—based on the analysis of Philippians generated by the program—with the choices of the editors of UBSGNT3 reveals that seven of the readings in UBSGNT3 may not be correct. Although the results are tentative and more research on genealogical theory is needed, the performance of the program seems to justify further work in the field of computer-aided textual criticism.

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Introduction

An experimental computer program was recently developed that attempts to discover genealogical relationships among manuscripts, to construct a theoretical tree diagram of an approximate genealogical history of the text, and to identify the most likely readings of the original text based upon this reconstruction.1 The program attempts to provide textual scholars with an objective method for evaluating external genealogical probabilities. The method requires less subjectivity on the part of the scholar and may eventually provide greater confidence in the final results. The program has been used on a select set of variants from Philippians; this article is a report of the results.

The results reported are tentative; no claim is made that they represent final conclusions. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the potential of computer aids for textual criticism and to

suggest possible ways to interpret the results. The genealogical theory upon which the program is based is still under development. Use of the program will bring about refinements in the theory and its implementation.

Textual Apparatus

Ideally the best body of textual data would be a large number of manuscript witnesses distributed throughout the history of the text, a full list of significant alternate readings, together with a list of the manuscripts supporting these readings—that is, a complete textual apparatus. However, for purposes of testing the program, a complete apparatus was not deemed necessary. A choice then had to be made between the apparatus in the Nestle-Aland twenty-sixth edition and that in the UBSGNT3. The Nestle-Aland apparatus lists a greater number of variation units (about seventy for Philippians), but the number of manuscript wit...

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