Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The School of Funk

J.S. Phillimore (1873-1926), The Revival of Criticism. A Paper Read at the Meeting of the Classical Association at Oxford on May 17th, 1919 (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1919), pp. 16-17:
What is the true reading of a given text in Latin?

Not what the author just possibly might have said, received on the sole faith of a scribe's word; but what all the probabilities of the case, weighed together, each for what it is worth; the scribe's report and all the available checks upon that report—commonsense, Latinity in general, Latinity of the given date, Latinity of the given author, the recognized rules of the art in which he worked,—what all these give as total result.

That is a rough expression of the general principles of Textual Criticism as practised by the great masters in the great days. What are the principles which have usurped their place since the Disintegration? Allow me to quote an example.

In a celebrated passage of a Patristic author,* where the text has considerable historic interest and importance, the change of a letter brings the reading into agreement with all the above-mentioned tests—(only substituting Greek for Latin). The learned German editor** thus observes: 'Even a mediocre sense,' extracted from the misreading, 'is better than the most plausible emendation.' On this I ventured to observe that on these principles texts might be edited by an office boy. Or, if you prefer it: collators become ipso facto editors. A mediocre sense! What a delicacy in characterizing nonsense, short of arrant nonsense. Such then is criticism. A judge means one who takes down depositions.

* Ignatius ad Romanos titulus.—See Journal of Theol. Studies, Vol. XIX, p. 272.
** Dr. F.X. Funk: Patres Apostolici, ed. Tubing. 1881.
Id., p. 21:
Great is überlieferungsgeschichte and Traube is its prophet. But Traube has no more abolished human error in all copyists of every age, than the great Debrett has abolished Original Sin among Persons of Quality.
Id., p. 23:
If we could Socratically force the school of Funk to tell us what they think and not what they want to think that they think, would they not say something like this: 'You appeal to Latinity and stylistic criticism? What do we know about Latinity? You call solecisms what are just exceptions, material for most interesting monographs. Do you mean to tell us that it is impossible for an ancient writer to write nonsense'—I beg pardon, 'mediocre sense'; I thank thee, Funk, for teaching me that word—'make lopsided constructions and lame rhythms?'

No, it is not impossible; there are possibilities both ways. But probability is our guide; it is more probable that some one copyist somewhere in the tradition has blundered, than that the classical poet lapsed...
See J.S. Phillimore, "Ignatius ad Romanos titulus," Journal of Theological Studies 19 (1918) 272-276, where he conjectures Χριστοῦ for χωρίου in the heading of Ignatius' Letter to the Romans:
Ἰγνάτιος ... τῇ ἠλεημένῃ ... ἐκκλησίᾳ ἠγαπημένῃ καὶ πεφωτισμένῃ ... ἥτις καὶ προκάθηται ἐν τόπῳ χωρίου ῾Ρωμαίων ...
Without Phillimore's conjecture (tr. J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, rev. Michael W. Holmes):
Ignatius ... to the church that has found mercy ... beloved and enlightened ... which also presides in the place of the district of the Romans ...
With Phillimore's conjecture:
Ignatius ... to the church that has found mercy ... beloved and enlightened ... which also presides over the Romans in Christ's stead ...

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