Friday, April 22, 2016

A Reminder About Verifying Data In Scholarly Research

TWH: I had the privilege of meeting Ignacio Garía Pinilla (Professor at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo) when I attended the conference on the Complutensian Polyglot in Alcalá de Henares. The conference was exceptional. The presentations from that conference are being published (I think very soon), and I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of that volume. Well, Ignacio sent me a copy of his chapter in a multi-author work on Erasmus' Novum instrumentum. The bibliographic information is as follows:
Ignacio J. García Pinilla, “Reconsidering the relationship between the Complutensian Polyglot Bible and Erasmus’ Novum Testamentum”, in Basel 1516. Erasmus’ Edition of the New Testament, ed. Kaspar von Greyerz et al. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 59-77. (*The book is available for pre-order here.)
His chapter is excellent. I enjoyed every page. I especially appreciated Ignacio's discussion about Diego López de Zúñiga and whether he was actually involved in the Latin interlinear translation of the Septuagint. You'll find a statement about Zúñiga being responsible for the Latin translation in nearly every single discussion about the editors of the Complutensian Polyglot. Where is the support for saying that this was all or part of Zúñiga's role in the Complutensian project? Well it all goes back to Álvar Gómez de Castro's De rebus gestis Francisci Ximenii, the first biography on the life of the cardinal. The things is, as Ignacio points out, there's good reason to doubt the accuracy of statements that Zúñiga was the one responsible for this portion of the polyglot. You can read Ignacio's chapter to get the details. It's very interesting. Anyways, Ignacio's comments reminded me about how we need to be very careful when we do our research.

I appreciate his reminder about how research on the Complutensian Polyglot continues to circulate incorrect information about the production of this philological milestone—for example, this comment about Gómez’s reference to Zúñiga’s participation or focus on the Latin interlinear translation of the LXX. We have to be careful with information like this. It made me remember Bart Ehrman’s comments in Whose Word Is It? The Story Behind Who Changed the New Testament and Why, in which he reproduces the story of how some manuscripts used for the Complutensian Polyglot are no longer at the Complutense University because they were sold off by the university librarian as scrap paper (and later made for fireworks):
“Suspecting that the library must have had some such manuscripts at some point, he made persistent inquiries until he was finally told by the librarian that the library had indeed previously contained ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, but that in 1749 all of them had been sold to a rocket maker named Toryo ‘as useless parchments’ (but suitable for making fireworks).” (77)
Ehrman goes on to say the following: “Later scholars have tried to discredit this account. At the very least, though, it shows that the study of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament is not rocket science.” I actually think this story has been sufficiently disproved. It’s simply a rumor, in my opinion, and totally inaccurate. John Canon Dalton provided a thorough discussion of this claim in his translation of von Hefele’s Der cardinal Ximenes. While I appreciate that he mentions how later scholars “have tried to discredit this account,” this is just another example of how incorrect data just keeps circulating in the literature. I guess Ehrman just couldn’t resist the easy punchline (“not rocket science”). One of the harder things to do when researching the polyglot is to be on guard against information that has been disproven yet reproduced a million times since. My hope is Ignacio's chapter will remind other researchers, just as it has reminded me, that we need to verify the data we present in our research and not just take the easy way out by just reproducing something we found somewhere in some book.

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