24 Comments

Snoopy Seminar coming on Feb 22–23, 2013

On February 22 and 23, I will be conducting a “Snoopy Seminar” at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas (2001 W. Plano Parkway). This seminar is a fun, interactive, and challenging exercise about textual criticism. Enrollment is limited to 60 people. Intended audience: motivated laypeople, though we are not limiting it to them (seminary students may also come, for example).

Here’s the basic idea: On Friday night I will teach some of the basics of New Testament textual criticism. Then, I ask for 22 people to volunteer to be scribes. They go into a separate room and copy out a short text (in English), each with specific instructions designed to increase errors in the copying process and corrupt the text. The text goes through six generations of copying. Meanwhile, the rest of the people (the “textual critics”) are trying to reconstruct the genealogy of the transmission of the text (namely, which scribe copied from whom) and think through what kinds of skills and biases the scribes would have brought to their tasks.

On Saturday morning, we will all get together and the textual critics get busy working on the remaining manuscripts that the scribes produced. Unfortunately, most of the earliest manuscripts have strangely disappeared overnight (including all first-generation copies). The textual critics do the best they can with the manuscripts they’ve got to work with.

They record all the variants and there are always more variants than words in the original text. But unlike New Testament textual criticism, the variants are usually meaningful (the vast bulk of New Testament textual variants are not). The textual critics work in small groups for about three hours. They debate, wrestle with a variety of possibilities about corruption (and which manuscripts are more corrupt than others; all of them are corrupt to some degree), and try to determine the wording of the original “Gospel According to Snoopy.”

Then, all the groups get together and I function as secretary. I write down the major variants on a white board and list what the whole group thinks is the original wording in each place. When I get done posting the variants, the white board is a mess! No one is confident that they have reconstructed the text of Snoopy exactly. Then, a miracle happens: The original text of Snoopy is discovered and they can compare how they did. How close do they get? Well, I’ll leave that for the seminar. I’ve done this 70 times since 1979—in churches, seminaries, colleges, etc. It takes concentrated brain power, a desire to engage verbally with others, and a Sherlock Holmes mindset.

Once we’re finished with the exercise, I show the relevance to New Testament textual criticism. The Snoopy manuscripts and groups of manuscripts actually correspond to known New Testament manuscripts and groups. And this year, we are adding a packet of materials that has notes on some of the most important textual problems in the New Testament.

If you’re interested in joining us, please visit the website for more information or contact Dana Cooper at danacooper@csntm.org —and soon! It’s a great confidence-builder about scripture, suitable for high school students on up. We hope to do this a couple of times a year at the Hope Center, so if you miss out on this one there’s always another one coming down the pike.

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24 comments on “Snoopy Seminar coming on Feb 22–23, 2013

  1. I would trade in all my Bart Ehrman books just to hear you speak!! :) Hopefully you will one day make it close to the east coast – like Pittsburgh!

  2. This sounds great! I would love to do attend and even do this at my church but I don’t live close – I’m in Pittsburgh PA. Is this something you could put into a package and make it available to purchase on your website?

    • It’s so interactive that it can’t really be packaged (at least not yet); it has to be experienced. But I still do the seminar in churches. If your church may be interested, let me know and send me your email address.

  3. Hey Dan, Brian Poad here in Wyoming, I hope all is well with you and your family! I have a question for you on a certain issue I have been studying. The ending of Marks gospel 16: 9,20. In your personal opinion when do you think this extended ending was added? One book I read claimed it was added as early as the middle of the second century? The author was very helpful however in pointing out that this part of Mark was descriptive rather than prescriptive, no need to handle snakes to prove our faith lol. Any insight you would give me on this topic would be very helpful, thank you. Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2013 04:11:15 +0000 To: mee7moot@msn.com

    • Brian, so good to hear from you! How’s your church doing? Still in the movie theater?

      As for Mark 16, I suspect it was added earlier than the middle of the second century. But I do not consider it to be authentic, written by Mark. You might want to check the NET Bible notes on the passage, available at bible.org.

      • Dr. Wallace, Is that really advisable, considering that the NET’s note about Mark 16:9-20 has so many mistakes, and neglects to mention major pieces of evidence?

        These include (1) the presentation of 083 and 0112 as separate witnesses, (2) the treatment of Jerome’s testimony as if it is independent of Eusebius, (3) the description of the Freer Logion as “a different shorter ending”), (4) the listing of 2427 as a legitimate manuscript, instead of as a forgery, (5) the non-mention of Codex B’s blank space, (6) the non-mention of the testimony of Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus (who specifically quoted Mark 16:19 in Against Heresies Book 3, around 184, over a century before the production-date of the earliest existing copy of Mark 16), and (7) the claim, a la Metzger, that non-annotated manuscripts “mark the text with asterisks or obeli” to indicate that it was spurious.

        Are there any plans to improve the NET’s footnotes?

        Yours in Christ,

        James Snapp, Jr.

      • James, if the errors in the note are still there (some of which are not errors, but differences of opinion; but I do acknowledge some errors in the original note in the NET at Mark 16.9-20), it is out of my hands.

  4. Would love to attend this to hear and see this experiment. I can imagine how fun and enlighting this will be. Dr. Wallace, I wish you could present this in Kansas City, MO some day. Will you be taping this or something to share in the future?

    Thanks

  5. Wow, this sounds like an amazing seminar! Would love to go. Maybe this will come to the Chicago area one day?

  6. Can I be a little bit random please? Could you please give us an update of the Brill publications coming up?

  7. This was one of my top three memorable/significant exercises at Grace Theological Seminary back in the 1980’s. Thank you! Would love to participate again … and perhaps I’ll get to some time.

    • Hey Wesley,

      Good to hear from you! I think you also took my course on NT textual criticism during the winter term in c. 1992, when I visited the school, right?

      • A great experience (that terrific winterim course), although I was underprepared and overwhelmed. Not a model student, other than my desire to learn. It was wonderful having you over for dinner that week twenty (!) years ago. A difficult time for you, as you were doing a crash course in cancer at the time. I love following your ministry!

  8. “each with specific instructions designed to increase errors in the copying process and corrupt the text.” – do you think, that the writers of the new testament did work like you do with this instructions? They did risk much, if others could show that they have no integrity. If the problems of the differences between the four gospels would cause in “instructions to increase errors”, no one in the first and second generation would risk his life for such – but in Rome there were many christians ready to be killed by the roman empire for their faith….

    • Doro (2/13/13—926a)

      Perhaps you misunderstood the intent of “instructions designed to increase errors”?

      The intent is to replicate in an expedited, controlled, yet random way the kinds of errors actually found in actual text families—a sort of forced simulation of how/when/where certain errors found their way into the transmission of the text.

      Then, the textual critiques (in the seminar) get to solve the very kinds of errors in their [seminar's] parchments/fascicles/et al of Snoopy that parallel errors biblical textual critiques encounter.

      Everyone learns so much about the science, in an enjoyable, participatory way! As I posted earlier, this was one of the educational highlights of my seminary career.

      • Wesley, i understand the intention and it may be a good way to teach students the methods. My question is: What is the connection between this controled experiment and the history of christianity and the cirumstances, where the new testament was written? Could you give an example, what the results of your controlled experiment are and how they are transferable to a specific text-criticism-example in Nestle-Aland? Thanks!

      • Your questions probably outrun my expertise, and certainly don’t readily lie in my memory bank.

        But I do recall having a strong sense (after this Snoopy exercise) that I understood families of text better (because of certain traits peculiar to one family or another) and that I understood [better] the evaluation process in order to (1) distinguish the parent from the child and (2) recognize the introduction of human error and thus reclaim [closer to] the original.

        My sense of [improved, though still somewhat poor] understanding was confirmed by … a Professor Wallace exam. (!) That, I take it, is the goal of the Snoopy exercise, and perhaps your questions fall outside/beyond that purpose?

        Beyond that, someone with more expertise would be better qualified to tackle your questions. Best wishes in your studies!

  9. Hi Daniel.

    I am a Mexican theologian and love the New Testament study. I know it’s very difficult to you to visit Mexico, but … could you please sell us the instructions and texts to practice the snoopy seminar about NT textual criticism? We are truly interested.

  10. Dan: you could record in video the seminar you will offer in Texas this coming 22 and February 23, and sell it to support the CSNTM. Also, you could attach to that video the instructions and texts for exercises.

    • Enrique, I wish I could do that. But it takes so much time to train someone else to use the materials and instruct the crowd that it would not be practical to do this. Alternatively, I could always visit Mexico; after all, I’ve done the Snoopy Seminar in more than the U.S.

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