Monday, June 21, 2004

The Future of Electronic Synopses

In a useful post on Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez asks about the future of electronic synopses of the Gospels, quoting a little section of my The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze (London & New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001) and commenting:
Now, as critical apparatuses become available in electronic format, I hope we'll be able to take advantage of that fact and go at least one or two steps further. Ideally, I'd like to be able to reconstruct each one of the main witnesses (uncials, papyri and so on), and display them in parallel columns. This would be extremely useful for text-critical issues (of which, I must say, I'm very fond of). In other words, one should be able to search for all the variant readings of any of the witnesses consistently cited in the Gospels, say B (03), for example, and build a whole B - Vaticanus - column alongside the standard critical text, Textus Receptus, Alexandrinus or whatever. These readings would have to be inserted at the appropriate point in the text, while the rest would read the same as the base text. This would match exactly the table that appears after Mark Goodacre's quote above (in Greek, of course!)
Yes, this is just the kind of thing I was referring to. In fact, I have often discussed the possibility of creating an electronic synopsis of the Gospels with my colleague here in Birmingham, Prof. David Parker, who is particularly interested in this from the text-critical side. You can see him beginning to think along these lines in his Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). We have also been discussing this with Catherine Smith, a post graduate student here in Birmingham. What we are interested in is the possibility of producing a synopsis that could be genuinely interactive, i.e. in which the user chooses which parallels to view and how to view them, i.e. whether to place Matthew, Mark or Luke in the middle. We also feel that a good electronic synopsis would enable one to choose which texts to view alongside which texts, whether Vaticanus, Bezae, Sinaiticus or whatever. It's something that could really open up study of the Synoptic Problem, textual criticsm and New Testament studies in general.

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