Friday, September 23, 2005
Cicero somewhere has written of the scientia iuris: res enim sunt parvae, prope in singulis litteris atque interpunctionibus verborum occupatae. Delete the prope and you have a fair description of the matter of textual criticism. Whether Euripides wrote δεῖ or χρή in a given passage is hardly of metaphysical import. But we must assume that he made a choice between them. This is sufficient justification for concerning ourselves with the problem. It made a difference to the poet; it should make a difference to us. This planet, I do not doubt, shall never want for people to despise such problems and those who try to resolve them. Such contempt is founded upon the remarkable premise that one who manifests a concern for minutiae must of necessity be both indifferent to and unequal to profound problems. The Greeks, on the contrary, in their simplicity had contrived a word to express this reverence before even the smallest truth; and that word is φιλαλήθεια. The sacred writer speaks not idly when he reminds us that ὁ ἐξουθενῶν τὰ ὀλίγα κατὰ σμικρὸν πεσεῖται.
- Scientia iuris = knowledge of the law
- The Cicero quotation is from Pro Murena 25 (tr. C.D. Yonge): For they are but small matters, conversant chiefly about single letters and punctuation between words.
- Prope = chiefly
- δεῖ (deî) = one ought
- χρή (chré) = one must
- φιλαλήθεια (philalétheia) = love of truth
- The sacred writer is Sirach 19.1: He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little.