October 23, 2008

Gadara & Gerasa: Text & Geography

I discovered tonight that Zondervan's Archaeological Study Bible has a pretty good article (on page 1635 called "Gergesenes, Gerasenes or Gadarenes?") about the geography surrounding certain textual differences in Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26 & Matt 8:28. Yeah, it's an ancient manuscript thing... but the Geography is solid. So I'm thinking: "Why don't the translation committee's give way to that context and put "Gadarenes" (or maybe "Gergasenes"?) into the main text, leaving the more common but least likely "Gerasenes" for the footnotes?" Except that just shows you how out of touch I am with some scholars' mindset: The text is all there is!

Okay, maybe the word "Gerasenes" shows up in more manuscripts of Luke and Mark. But if you believe the account is factual (which I assume most translation committees do) then it seems silly to go with the word that's by far the least likely to be accurate IN FACT! From all I can tell, Biblical scholars agree on the geography, but it seems the translators go with the textual critics for their text and leave the practical scholarship for their footnotes. And all I'm saying is, why can't that be the other way around? (partial hat tip to jps on the footnote reversal idea) Oh, well. The rest of the Biblio-world can argue about translations. I'll just keep doing my Synopsis! :)

Oddly enough, classical scholarship once had it's own controversy over Gadara & Gerasa. Josephus said Aretas the Nabatean attacked Herod Antipas at "Gamala". Many scholars thought that didn't work, and suggested emending the text to "Ga"-something. Gadara & Gerasa were leading candidates until Glen Bowersock pointed out that Gamala was actually the most likely situation to have happened IN FACT... for reasons which previous scholars had apparently overlooked. That's almost a fairly similar situation. But, to be fair, I don't recall if there was much manuscript divergence on the Josephus text.

(Hat Tip to Michael Halcomb for nudging me into "Gerasene" waters tonight!)

1 comment:

jps said...


Its the old silo effect. If it isn't in my area of specialization, I can't trust it. Happens all the time in academia and business—usually to the detriment of all involved.


Recent Posts
Recent Posts Widget
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton