Textual Criticism Quiz

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by jonathan.borland, Jul 13, 2010.

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Which reading was considered more difficult and thus altered by a scribe/editor?

  1. The reading reflected in the NASB was considered more difficult and thus is more likely original.

    7 vote(s)
    53.8%
  2. The reading reflected in the NKJV was considered more difficult and thus is more likely original.

    5 vote(s)
    38.5%
  3. I'm not sure/I don't know.

    1 vote(s)
    7.7%
  1. jonathan.borland

    jonathan.borland
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    The goal of NT textual criticism is to identify scribal errors in the witnesses of the NT text in order to present the text in its original form. Scribal errors may be identified through a number of canons, no one of which, by itself, should be given super priority against all others. One of the rules is called "the more difficult reading" rule. The idea is that scribes and editors were likely to remove words that they thought were more difficult or to replace them with something less difficult, rather than to add difficulties into the text. One example that comes to mind appears in Matt 17:20.

    Matt 17:20 (NASB): "And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith . . . ."

    Matt 17:20 (NKJV): "So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief . . . ."

    In light of verses like Matt 17:17, which appears three verses earlier, and Luke 12:46, etc., and in light of the high veneration of the apostles by early Christians, which reading above appeared more difficult, attracted the attention of an early scribe or editor, and prompted its alteration into less severe terminology?

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
    #1 jonathan.borland, Jul 13, 2010
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  2. jonathan.borland

    jonathan.borland
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    Please give the rationale, if any, for your vote.

    I voted that the reading reflected in the NKJV was considered by an early scribe or editor to be more difficult and thus was altered into the reading reflected in the NASB. My rationale, as one might guess from the OP, was that a scribe thought it too harsh for the apostles to be reckoned as those who had no faith; it sounded easier for them to be of little faith rather than faithless. This editor/scribe sought to prevent the holy apostles from being reckoned through inaccurate exegesis as part of that faithless and perverted generation just mentioned (17:17). Those without faith, after all, are bound for hell. Jesus' words seemed just a little too harsh. By the same rationale, moreover, why would anyone have changed "little faith" to "no faith" or "unbelief" with regard to the holy apostles?

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  3. Deacon

    Deacon
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    Just a quick cursory comment Jonathan, I’ve been terribly busy of late.

    Personally I look at the rest of the verse for difficulty.
    Matthew contrasts the little faith of the disciples to the “little” seed of the mustard plant.

    I’d lean towards the Nestle text as translated by the NASB

    The Greek word used for “little” is used only once, here in Matthew.

    It’s not even a common word in other Greek literature.

    It’s very unlikely that a scribe would insert it into the text.

    Rob
     
  4. jonathan.borland

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    Hi Deacon,

    Thanks for posting. I still don't understand why scribes would have changed the noun form of an adjective that is not too uncommon in Matthew (cf. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8), seeing, as you point out, that it presents no difficulty to the meaning of the text, whereas, on the other hand, the reading "unbelief" seems more difficult by orders of magnitude. In fact, as the verses I mention are all relatively well-known in relation to the disciples or followers, it seems that a scribe would be drawn to substitute a well-known description of the disciples as "of little faith" for the relatively unheard of description of the them as "faithless." Why would a scribe change "of little faith," were it original?

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  5. dawilson8655

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    The word in the NKJV follows the KJV with the Majority text (although I do not know if the M is the main reason for following the KJV). It uses the word apistian. The NASB follows the reading of the Nestle-Aland (27th) and uses the word oligopistian.

    The sources (according to the NA27) for apistian are C, D, L, W, Majority text, and a number of the Syriac. The sources for oligopistian are the Sinaiticus, B, Theta, manuscript 0281, 33, 579, 700, 892, Family 1 and 13, and a Syriac source.

    The reason for selecting oligopistian over apistian is that it is easier to lose 5 letters and gain 1 verses losing 1 and gaining 5 different ones.

    Therefore, I vote NASB in this instance.
     
  6. jonathan.borland

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    Hi dawilson! Thanks for you post. Technically, the difference between the two variants in this variation unit is one not of omission but of alteration. It is possible, but to me unlikely, that "little" was omitted accidentally and then corrected to "no," but if this happened there is no evidence in the manuscript tradition that suggests it did. I could just as easily claim that it would have been easier for a single letter to have been omitted accidentally and then for five easier letters to have been added than vice versa! Rather, it is more likely that either "little faith" was altered to "faithlessness" or that "faithlessness" was altered to "little faith." So my question is, which of the two would have been more difficult to the scribe and thus more likely to have been altered to the other easier reading? Do you have reasons why "little faith" is harder than "faithlessness?"

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
    #6 jonathan.borland, Jul 25, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2010
  7. dawilson8655

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    Here are a few reasons why oligopistian seems to me more likely to be altered.

    First, if you ever got the chance to read an any of the manuscripts, esp. the codices, you will see that when words wrap around to the next line, there is (to my knowledge) little indication of the word being wrapped around. But if you were used to it, you could easily adapt.

    Second, omicron (o) could easily be misread as alpha (a) [wishing I had Greek fonts...] when handwritten.

    Third, oligopistian is only found here in the entire NT. Apistia is found 11 times. However, it is only found in Mat. 1 time (13:58). It would make more sense that a copyist would accidentally use the more common apistia instead of oligopistian (assuming oligopistian).

    Fourth, I still see the ease of dropping the letters off over the addition of the letters in the Greek. I frankly see no reason why oligo would be added into the text of the NT only once by mistake unless one would argue that the copyist may have seen it/copied it in another text such as the church fathers or other Greek texts.

    Concluding, I'd be very interested in seeing exactly how far back we can trace both words. But all in all, apistia can be understood as a lack of faith and not strictly the complete lack of faith

    Very good post. Really making me think!
     
  8. jonathan.borland

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    Dawilson,

    I understand your argument, yet the alteration appears more intentional than accidental, and scribes, familiar with the attribution of the disciples as of little faith elsewhere in Matthew (cf. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8), decided to alter the more difficult and almost unheard of attribution of them as having "unbelief" into simply having "little belief." I agree that apistia does not mean the complete lack of faith here, but as happens 100 times elsewhere, a single scribe misread the text or thought others would misread it and thus corrected it for everyone's benefit. Therefore the scribal gloss of oligopistian ("little faith") must be rejected.

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  9. dawilson8655

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    If the single scribe altered the text here from apistia to oligopistian, then why not the other passage in chapter 13, just a few chapters prior? The only argument would be that perhaps the one who changed it here did not translate the previous verse but that seems unlikely. I cannot say much definitively here because I do not have as wide a knowledge as I'd like to have in manuscript history nor do I think we could fully know the extent of "who did what where" in the Bible. But, like I said, changing one word intentionally and ignoring it in a nearby verse seems unlikely.
     
  10. jonathan.borland

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    While we cannot always know the motive of scribes, in this case it is easy. In Matt 13:58 the word was attributed to the unbelievers in Jesus' hometown, whereas in 17:20 it was attributed directly to the disciples themselves, and for this reason was altered to something less harsh. This is a classic rule of NT textual criticism in action: the reading more difficult to the scribe should be preferred (since he would have been apt to change it to an easier reading).

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  11. dawilson8655

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    While that is true, the reading of oligopistian is located in writings within a century earlier that apistian. I recognize that this may lead to arguments from silence, but it does have some value. Also, another rule of textual criticism says that the text that reveals parallelism or alliteration is the preferred text to be labeled corrupt. Now, which rules trump the others, I do not know. I do indeed enjoy this discussion. I will have to buy a book on textual criticism soon! Thanks! - David
     
  12. jonathan.borland

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    David,

    If one looks only at the copies of the Bible, then the Byzantine reading is at least contemporary with the Alexandrian, since it is included in the fouth-century Sinaitic Old Syriac manuscript and the fourth-century Old Latin codex Vercellensis. It is also included in the fifth-century OL codices Veronensis, Palatinus, Corbeiensis, and Sangallensis. Considering only the Greek manuscripts, the Alexandrian reading is found only in two manuscripts before the ninth century (ℵ B), whereas the Byzantine reading is present in five manuscripts from the sixth century and earlier (C D O Σ W).

    It is true that some diatessaronic witnesses and Origen, reflecting second- and third-century testimonies, respectively, have the Alexandrian reading, yet internal evidence is decidedly against the Alexandrian reading, and the powerful influence of the Diatessaron may have influenced some manuscripts in that direction; we know this to be the case with the two Old Syriac manuscripts at least. I readily concede that the Alexandrian reading derives from the mid-second-century, but the original reading, of course, derives from much earlier than that and manifests itself through its ring of genuineness and the multiplicity of witnesses and kinds of witnesses that support it.

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
    #12 jonathan.borland, Jul 28, 2010
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  13. jonathan.borland

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    Thanks to everyone who has voted. I find the poll results very instructive. Please remember to post reasons, if any, for your vote.
     
  14. dawilson8655

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    Yes, I did find that your dating is correct. I failed to go far enough into the Syriac. Do you mind if I ask you where you are getting your information for the dating of the texts and text-types? I found a few online resources but all failed to be complete in my opinion.

    I feel like you have made a very good case although I still do not believe it to be correct in its conclusion thus far. However, if I get caught up in my studies, perhaps I can venture further in this discussion. I've really enjoyed this and hopefully someone else can chime in with some additional input.
    - David
     
  15. jonathan.borland

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    David,

    A handy reference is the insert that comes with both the UBS The Greek New Testament and the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum graece, but the same information is found in the appendix of the NA27 and in the Introduction to the UBSGNT. Also helpful are The Text of the New Testament by Aland and Aland, the book with the same title by Metzger, and Metzger's The Early Versions of the New Testament. I also did a Master's thesis on an aspect of the Old Latin tradition and picked up some first hand knowledge of that unique version through that exercise.

    It appears that the sixth-century Greek Codex Beratinus (Φ/043) also has "unbelief," since it is extant in the passage and not listed by von Soden as having the other. In this case there are actually six manuscripts from the sixth century and earlier that preserve this more difficult and likely original reading, as opposed to merely two manuscripts from before the ninth century (ℵ B) that do not.

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  16. jonathan.borland

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    Tischendorf, whose opinion I always respect, received "unbelief" in his 7th edition but "little faith" in his 8th edition, where he writes:

    As I have tried to demonstrate, it cannot be said with confidence based on the evidence that ολιγοπιστιαν ("little faith") was the "most common in earliest antiquity." Tischendorf's statement, "It is easy to say that the criticism was softened by the substitution of ολιγοπιστιαν in place of απιστιαν," still makes the most sense in my mind, and his final sentence seems to suggest that his judgment actually prefers "unbelief," though his preference for Vaticanus and especially Sinaiticus could not allow him to part from following his better judgment. His other arguments I have already answered earlier in this thread.

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  17. jonathan.borland

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    It should also be considered that Johann Jakob Griesbach, who is still revered as the father and really the Mac-daddy of NT textual criticism, wrote with regard to the variation we are discussing in Matt 17:20 (Commentarius criticus in textum graecum Novi Testamenti [2 vol.; J. C. G. Goepferdt, 1798, 1811], 1:146):

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  18. dawilson8655

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    One last question, could the addition of verse 21 in the later texts have some bearing on which word to choose? I'm just seeking your opinion. Thanks,
    - David

    Also, how do you post the Greek fonts here and the symbols for Sinaiticus and the Majority Text?
     
  19. jonathan.borland

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    David,

    I'm confident that Matt 17:21, the inclusion of which is attested far earlier than its omission, is in fact original. You may see this thread for my preliminary investigation: Matt 17:21 - Is it original?. I do believe the origin for both variants is the same, namely, Alexandria.

    For inputing symbols, all you need to do is input the Unicode into your message, since the Baptist Board is now unicode compliant.

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  20. jonathan.borland

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    Tischendorf, whose opinion I always respect, received "unbelief" in his 7th edition but "little faith" in his 8th edition, where he writes:

    I just happened to catch a mistake in my translation. For "But one might rather expect such a criticism . . . ," read "At least one might rather expect such a lessening [of criticism] from the later witnesses that exhibit απιστιαν with great agreement."

    Jonathan C. Borland
     

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