The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences

Hardcover | January 4, 2016

byYii-Jan Lin

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Since the New Testament's inception as written text, its manuscripts have been subject to all the dangers of history: scribal error, emendation, injury, and total destruction. The traditional goal of modern textual criticism has been to reconstruct an "original text" from survivingmanuscripts, adjudicating among all the variant texts resulting from the slips, additions, and embellishments of scribal hand-copying. Because of the way manuscripts circulate and give rise to new copies, it can be said that they have an "erotic" life: they mate and breed, bear offspring, and generate families and descendants. New Testament textual critics of the eighteenth century who began to use this language to group texts intofamilies and genealogies were not pioneering new approaches, but rather borrowing the metaphors and methods of natural scientists. Texts began to be classified into "families, tribes, and nations," and later were racialized as "African" or "Asian," with distinguishable "textual physiognomies" and"textual complexions." The Erotic Life of Manuscripts explores this curious relationship between the field of New Testament textual criticism and the biological sciences, beginning with the eighteenth century and extending into the present.While these biological metaphors have been powerful tools for textual critics, they also produce problematic understandings of textual "purity" and agency, with the use of scientific discourse artificially separating the work of textual criticism from literary interpretation. Yii-Jan Lin shows howthe use of biological classification, genealogy, evolutionary theory, and phylogenetics has shaped - and limited-the goals of New Testament textual criticism, the greatest of which is the establishment of an authoritative, original text. She concludes by proposing new metaphors for the field.

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Since the New Testament's inception as written text, its manuscripts have been subject to all the dangers of history: scribal error, emendation, injury, and total destruction. The traditional goal of modern textual criticism has been to reconstruct an "original text" from survivingmanuscripts, adjudicating among all the variant texts r...

Yii-Jan Lin is Assistant Professor of New Testament at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. She received her PhD in religious studies from Yale University and an MA in English literature from the University of Chicago.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9.41 × 6.3 × 0.79 inPublished:January 4, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019027980X

ISBN - 13:9780190279806

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroductionPart I: Collection and Theorization1. Bengel and the Classification and Racializiation of Texts2. Lachmann and the Genealogy and Corruption of TextsPart II: Historicization and Innovation3. Darwin, Streeter, and Narrative Textual Criticism4. Philology and PhylogenyConclusionAppendix 1: Excerpt of Interview with Gerd Mink and Klaus Wachtel, Institut fr Neutestamentliche Textforschung, Mnster, March 10, 2011Appendix 2: "Marcus Niebuhr Tod," by Maurice BowraBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This fascinating book explores the untold story of the relationship between New Testament textual criticism and the life sciences, from Linnaeus and Bengel, through Darwin and Hort, to the use of phylogenetic software today. Written from the standpoint of the history of ideas, it offersinsightful and challenging critiques of the language and conceptual framework of textual scholarship. This book is necessary reading for every philologist." --David Parker, Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham