Friday, November 10, 2017

If In Doubt, Sort It Out

Curious incidents
in the Byzantine Text
          “If in doubt, don’t throw it out.”
  That is the way in which Dan Wallace has asserted that Byzantine copyists handled the text of the New Testament when they had two exemplars that said two different things.  That is essentially a restatement of the claim made by J. J. Griesbach over 200 years ago:  “Scribes were much more prone to add than to omit.  They hardly ever leave out anything on purpose, but they added much.” 
            That idea – one of the fundamental principles used by textual critics throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s – was effectively erased by the data and analysis which was published by James Royse in 2010 in Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri.  Royse observed that the rate at which the copyists of some early papyri made omissions is higher than the rate at which those copyists made additions; the ratio works out to about 3:2.  This means that scribes were more prone to omit than to add.  Griesbach had it backwards, and everyone who has relied on the validity of the axiom, “Prefer the shorter reading” has had it backwards – including Bruce Metzger.
            It shouldn’t have taken until 2010 for researchers to acknowledge that Griesbach’s claim was standing on thin ice.  (And some already did; in each generation at least a few scholars maintained that the New Testament text’s transmission-history resembled the clothes in a traveling salesman’s suitcase, losing a sock at every hotel.)  To researchers equipped with (mostly) accurate transcripts of Codices Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Bezae, and Sinaiticus, it should have been clear that if the Byzantine Text originated as an amalgamation of Alexandrian and Western readings, its creators must have frequently rejected the readings in their exemplars.  That is, one can believe Hort’s theory of the Lucianic recension, or one can believe that scribes using more than one exemplar typically expanded the text, but not both. 
            The following readings, all taken from the first five chapters of the Gospel of John, demonstrate this with particular force.  In each case, the Byzantine reading is shorter than a reading found in leading Alexandrian and/or Western witnesses. 
            ● 1:6 – Byz does not read ἦν
            ● 1:19 – Byz does not read πρὸς αὐτον after ἀπέστειλαν
            ● 1:21 – Byz does not read πάλιν after αὐτὸν (cf. Codex Wsupp)
            ● 1:28 – Byz does not read ὁ before Ἰωἀννης
            ● 1:38 – Byz does not prefix μεθ- to ἐρμηνευόμενον
            ● 1:39 – Byz does not read οὖν after ἦλθον
            ● 1:46 – Byz does not read ὁ before Φίλιππος
            ● 1:50 – Byz does not read ὄτι
            ● 2:4 – Byz does not read Καὶ before λέγει
            ● 2:17 – Byz does not read ὄτι after ἐστίν
            ● 3:5 – Byz does not read ὁ before Ἰησοῦς
            ● 3:28 – Byz does not read ὄτι after εἶπον
            ● 4:3 – Byz does not read γῆν before καὶ
            ● 4:3 – Byz does not read πάλιν before εἰς (Bc, À, P66, P75, D, and L all read πάλιν)
            ● 4:5 – Byz does not read τῷ after Ἰακὼβ
            ● 4:14 – Byz does not read ἐγὼ before δώσω (cf. Codex Wsupp) 
            ● 4:15 – Byz does not prefix δι- to έρχομαι
            ● 4:27 – Byz does not read αὐτῷ after εἶπεν
            ● 5:5 – Byz does not read αὐτοῦ after ἀσθενείᾳ
            ● 5:9 – Byz does not read ἐγερθεὶς
            ● 5:10 – Byz does not read καὶ after ἐστιν
            ● 5:10 – Byz does not read σου after κράβαττόν
            ● 5:15 – Byz does not read οὖν after ἀπῆλθεν
            ● 5:19 – Byz does not read τοῦ ἀνθρώπου after υἱὸς
            ● 5:26 – Byz does not read ὁ ζῶν before ἒχει
            ● 5:40 – Byz does not read αἰώνιον after ζωὴν
            That’s 26 non-expansions in five chapters, an average of five non-expansions per chapter.  Extrapolating, we might find over 100 such non-expansions in the entire text of John, and over 400 such non-expansions in all four Gospels.  
            (In addition, one might profit from considering all the Byzantine readings that are not significantly longer than their Alexandrian and Western rivals, but are simply different – variants such as the reading ὡσεὶ (instead of ὡς) in John 4:7, and the transposition at the end of John 4:20, and the reading Βηθεσδὰ in John 5:2 (where Vaticanus reads Βηθσαιδὰ, Sinaiticus reads Βηθζαθὰ, and D reads Βελζεθὰ).  
            How can one say that the Alexandrian and Western readings in the listed passages have not been thrown out?  And how can the Byzantine Text, at these points, be considered derivative of text-forms whose readings are rejected?
            Hort’s eight conflations have been used as proof that Byzantine scribes applied the principle, “If in doubt, don’t throw it out.”  Meanwhile, a tour through just the first five chapters of John reveals three times as many instances where, if Byzantine copyists accessed Alexandrian and Western exemplars (as advocates of the Lucianic recension believe that they did) – they must have thrown out Alexandrian or Western readings. 
            This does not mean that as more and more non-Byzantine manuscripts (with non-Byzantine readings) were encountered in the areas now known as Syria, Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece in the 300’s, they had no effect whatsoever on the local text.  This data does not refute the idea that in some passages of the Byzantine Text (I am thinking specifically of some of Hort’s alleged conflations), an early local reading, which once agreed exclusively with either the Alexandrian or Western reading, has been completely supplanted by an expansion that was elicited by the arrival, from another locale, of an attractive rival reading.  (Something similar happened occasionally in the Alexandrian transmission-stream, as Wilbur Pickering has demonstrated; see, for examples, Mark 1:28, John 7:39, Ephesians 2:5, and Colossians 1:12.)  But it does imply that to describe Byzantine scribes as if they never met an expansion they didn’t like is to spread an essentially false characterization.
            The evidence supports instead the position that the typical attitude of Byzantine scribes, when and where they encountered unfamiliar readings from non-local exemplars, was one of caution:  “If in doubt, sort it out.”  Otherwise these 26 short Byzantine readings in John chapters 1-5 would be longer.          


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Tyndale House Greek New Testament

             The newly published Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament (THEGNT) is a primarily Alexandrian text, with some cautious deviations from the Nestle-Aland compilation, and with improved spelling.  Before describing its text in more detail, let’s look at its physical features.  The volume published by Crossway is five and a half inches wide, eight inches tall, and slightly more than one inch thick.  That’s practically identical to the dimensions of the ESV Reader’s Gospels (also published by Crossway).  The THEGNT is a Smyth-sewn black hardcover with a single ribbon, and comes in a slip-case.  It rests well-balanced in one hand.
            The brief preface – in which Dirk Jongkind and Peter J. Williams, unlike the authors of the Foreword of the Nestle-Aland-27 edition, did not forget to mention God – is followed immediately by the beginning of Matthew.  (A more detailed Introduction is at the end of the book.)  The text is printed in a legible Greek font, in one column per page, on pages of no more than 36 lines (usually less, depending on how much space is occupied by the apparatus).    
            As the editors explain in the Introduction, they desired to arrange the text in a format somewhat reminiscent of ancient Greek manuscripts.  This is why, instead of indenting paragraphs, the first letter of each paragraph is drawn into the left margin (a feature called ekthesis).  Although accents are present, capitalization and punctuation are significantly less than in the NA/UBS texts.  The precedent of (most) Greek manuscripts that contain all 27 books of the New Testament, regarding the order of the books, has been mostly followed:  Gospels, Acts, General Epistles, Pauline Letters, and Revelation.  Hebrews, however, has been placed at the end of the Pauline Epistles.   
            Unlike the format in Papyrus 75 (in which John follows Luke on the same page), each book in the THEGNT begins at the top of the recto of a page (the recto, when a Greek book is opened and lying flat, is the page to the right); consequently there are several blank pages where the preceding book ended on a recto-page.  
            The text is mercifully free of clutter:  there are no English headings, no punctuation-related footnotes, no special treatment of Old Testament quotations, and no cross-references.  On the other hand, there are no indications of the beginnings of ancient chapter-divisions (kephalaia); in the Gospels the Eusebian Sections are not indicated, and the Euthalian Apparatus is absent in Acts and the Epistles.  Yet modern chapter-divisions and verse-divisions are present.  Unlike what is observed in ancient manuscripts, the nomina sacra (sacred names such as God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Son, and Spirit) are not contracted.  Brackets have been eschewed, although black diamonds (♦) in the apparatus convey that a textual contest is especially close.
            The simple format (and good quality paper) contributes to an appealing reading experience for those who wish to read a Greek New Testament that is slightly less Alexandrian than the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilations.
            As a study-tool, however, the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament is only minimally useful to those who already have a Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, a United Bible Societies/Biblica Greek New Testament, or a New Testament in the Original Greek – Byzantine Textform.  Very many significant textual variants have been overlooked, and very many important witnesses receive no attention:  no versional evidence is cited and no patristic evidence is cited.  It is not infrequent to meet a small and trivial contest in the apparatus near an important and translation-impacting variant-unit that is not covered at all.  In First John, eight lines of the apparatus are spent on the Comma Johanneum; meanwhile no notice is taken of the Byzantine non-inclusion of καί ἐσμεν in John 3:1, or of the contest between ποιῶμεν and τηρῶμεν in 5:2.      
            A few examples may convey how the textual apparatus invites frustration: 
            ● Matthew 17:21 is not included in the text, and the apparatus lists only ﬡ* B Θ as the basis for non-inclusion.  The witnesses listed for inclusion are “À2 (εκβαλλεται for εκπορευεται) C D K L W Δ 1424.”  The earliest witnesses (patristic writings, including Origen’s Commentary on Matthew) are thus ignored.  It is as if the editors have embraced the advances that have been made since the days of Tregelles where manuscript discoveries are concerned, but deliberately avoided making use of the progress that has been made in versional and patristic studies – not necessarily when they themselves made text-critical decisions, but certainly when showing readers the basis for those decisions.
            ● At the end of Mark 9:29, the words καὶ νηστείᾳ (“and fasting”) are included in the text.  (The adoption of this reading collides with the UBS editors’ judgment, even accompanied by a black diamond.)  The apparatus lists ÀA C D K L W Δ (και τη) Θ Ψ 69 1424 as support for the inclusion of the words, and, for non-inclusion, ﬡ* Β 0274.  Where is Papyrus 45vid?!  
            ● Luke 17:36 is not in the text – and there is no footnote about it.         
            ● At Luke 22:43-44, the verses are included in the text (again colliding with the UBS editors’ judgment, and again with a black diamond in the apparatus).  The evidence for non-inclusion is listed as P75 À2a A B W 69(and insert after Matthew 26:39).  Minuscule 69 (produced in the 1400’s) is listed for non-inclusion in the same apparatus in which 0171 (produced c. 300) is not listed for inclusion?!  That seems downright negligent.
            ● At John 7:52, the entire pericope adulterae is relegated to the apparatus, where the witnesses listed for its inclusion are D K 1424marg.  Yet the text of the pericope adulterae in the apparatus does not correspond to the contents of any of those three manuscripts. The confirmatory note in 1424’s margin is not mentioned.  An apparatus this incomplete and imprecise is worse than no apparatus at all. 
            ● At Romans 1:16, there is an apparatus-entry mentioning Codex B’s non-inclusion of πρῶτον, but nothing to explain the non-inclusion of τοῦ Χριστοῦ earlier in the verse.
            ● At Ephesians 3:9, there is an apparatus-entry mentioning the non-inclusion of πάντας by ﬡ* A, but the other variant-units in the verse are not addressed.
            ● In First Peter 5:7, Papyrus 72, 020, 1241, 1505 1739 et al include οτι, but the word is not in the text, and its absence is not addressed in the apparatus.

            The text of the Gospels in the THEGNT is generally Alexandrian, but the editors seem to have put Vaticanus on a diet, so to speak, allowing other Alexandrian manuscripts to tip the scales when they disagree with B.  The editors also maintained (except in Revelation) a principle that every reading in the text must be supported by at least two early manuscripts. 
            As a result, compared to NA28, the THEGNT has fewer readings with uber-meager support:  Mathew 12:47 is in the text; Matthew 13:35 does not receive any attention in the apparatus; Matthew 16:2-3 is in the text (without Ὑποκριταί); in Matthew 27:16-17 Barabbas is simply Barabbas; the interpolation of ﬡ and B in Matthew 27:49 is not even mentioned in the apparatus; Mark 1:41 reads σπλαγχνισθεὶς (not ὀργισθεὶς); Mark 13:33 includes καὶ προσεύχεσθε; Mark 16:9-20 is included in the text (with an annotation found in the core members of family-1 interrupting the text between Mark 16:8 and 16:9); Luke 23:34a is in the text; John 1:18 reads ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς (“the only-begotten Son”), John 7:8 reads οὔπω instead of οὐκ, and Luke 24:47 reads καί instead of εἰς (“repentance and forgiveness”). 
            The apparatus in Luke 24 offers a clear view of its inconsistency:  an entry is given in verse 19 about a relatively minor variant-unit; meanwhile the short readings of Codex D in verses 3, 6, 12, 17, 36, and 40 are not mentioned.  There is no mention of the reading of Sinaiticus in 24:13 either.          
            Turning to the General Epistles (the only part of the Nestle-Aland compilation that has been re-compiled in the past 40 years), it must be observed that the THEGNT fails to consistently cite 1739 and 1505 (both representatives of ancient text-forms) in its apparatus.  (1739 is only cited at Hebrews 2:9.  Why not at Acts 8:37? Why not throughout Acts and the Epistles?)  This is inexplicable, especially considering that 1424 and 69 are abundantly cited.  
            Even where the editors have made an impressive textual decision (as in Jude verse 22, where Tregelles’ text is retained), the miserly selection of witnesses very often prevents readers from obtaining a sense of the reasons for the decision.  In addition, it is not rare to encounter readings in the text that are not in NA27, nor in RP2005, which receive no attention in the apparatus.  The best thing about this textual apparatus is that it can be easily ignored; the text contains no footnote-numbers or text-critical symbols.
            As an example of the quality of the THEGNT’s text and apparatus, consider the treatment of the Epistle of Jude.  The Tyndale House text disagrees with RP2005 in 17 textual contests, five of which the reader is informed about in the apparatus.  (The Byzantine non-inclusion of the phrase “through Jesus Christ our Lord” in verse 24 is not covered in the apparatus.  To give you some idea of how sparse the apparatus is:  the Christian Standard Bible has more textual footnotes in Jude than the Tyndale House GNT has apparatus-entries.)  Yet there are also four disagreements with NA28:     
            v. 5 – ἃπαξ πάντα instead of ὑμᾶς ἃπαξ πάντα,
            v. 15 – πάντας τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς instead of πᾶσαν ψυχὴν,
            v. 16 – αὐτῶν instead of αυτῶν after ἐπιθυμίας (agreeing with RP2005),
            v. 22 – ἐλέγχετε instead of ἐλεᾶτε (yielding “Refute” rather than “Have mercy on”).
Of these four disagreements, the one in verse 16 is not mentioned in the apparatus.  Byzantine readings are not the only ones overlooked in the apparatus; some readings in the Nestle-Aland compilation are also silently rejected. 

            The Introduction at the end of the book includes a list of the witnesses which were used by the compilers.  Sixty-nine papyri are listed; a note states that “all available papyri” were consulted but does not specify how many that was.  No amulets or talismans are in the list.  Sixty-six other manuscripts are also listed (not including 021, 022, 023, 034, 043, et al) as cited witnesses.  Nine other manuscripts were used exclusively at Hebrews 2:9 or First John 5:7.  In addition, 65 other manuscripts were consulted.  Thus one could say that 209 manuscripts were used to make the Tyndale House text, of which 144 are cited at least once.           
            In conclusion:  I am glad to see this ten-year project come to fruition.  I admire the devout intentions of its creators – not just Jongkind and Williams, but a team of scholars (named in an Acknowledgements section after the Introduction at the back of the book).  The Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament has some features which can only be regarded as advances.  Yet it could have been much better if the editors had accepted the sensible advice given long ago (by Scrivener, I think) to the effect that text-compilers ought to seek help wherever it can be found. 
            By insisting on selecting readings exclusively from ancient Greek manuscripts (but strangely overlooking the purple uncials N O Σ Φ), the editors have amplified the voices of manuscripts stored in Egypt (where the low humidity-level allows papyrus to survive longer than elsewhere), while muting the voices of early patristic writers, early versions, and later manuscripts, as if later manuscripts (not only of hundreds of Byzantine copies but also 700, 1582, et al) came full-grown from scriptoriums like soldiers from dragon’s teeth, rather than as echoes of their ancestors.  The resultant presentation is simple – but far too simple to be useful for much more than reading.  Fortunately, reading the Word of God, even a localized Egyptian form of it, is a blessing.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Matthew 12:47 and Homoioteleuton

Matthew 12:45b-50 in the
ESV Reader's Gospels.
Where's verse 47?
           In the English Standard Version, in the passage about the visit of Jesus’ mother and brothers in Matthew 12:46-50, there is a strange feature:  there is no verse 47; it is in the footnotes rather than in the text.  The ESV’s footnote says, “Some manuscripts insert verse 47:  Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you” – except in the ESV Reader’s Gospels, which has neither verse-numbers nor footnotes; its text goes directly from the end of verse 46 to the beginning of verse 47.
            In the Christian Standard Bible, meanwhile, Matthew 12:47 is included in the text, and a footnote says, “Other mss omit this verse.”  Before examining the text-critical reasons for the disagreement among these English versions, let’s first consider how inconsistently the CSB describes the manuscripts in its footnotes and headings.  For where its text retains Matthew 12:47, the CSB describes the manuscripts that disagree as merely “Other,” but following Mark 16:8, its editors have added a line (as if to tell the readers where to aim their scissors), and interrupted the text with a heading, “[Some of the earliest mss conclude with 16:8]” – but both notes refer to essentially the same small cluster of manuscripts.

            What manuscripts omit Matthew 12:47?  Primarily Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Regius (L, 019), Codex Tischendorfianus IV (036, from the 900’s), and minuscule 579, allied with the Sahidic version, the Sinaitic Syriac and the Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis.  A few other copies lack Matthew 12:47, but if those four had contained it, their testimony would be considered trivia.

            And of the over 1,600 Greek manuscripts of Mark, two uncials omit Mark 16:9-20:  Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (and both show signs of their copyists’ awareness of the absent verses, as I have shown already, here and here).  Codex L echoes a later stage of a text used in Egypt; it has the “Shorter Ending” after Mark 16:8, and then verses 9-20), and minuscule 579 also has the “Shorter Ending” between Mark 16:8 and 9 (though, unlike Codex L, without short notes to introduce each ending).  And in the versions, the text of the Sinaitic Syriac stops at 16:8, and the copyist of Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis, after mauling verse 8, included the Shorter Ending, poorly transcribed. 

            The same cluster of witnesses is in view in both cases – but the unsuspecting reader of the Christian Standard Version meets them masked as “Other mss” where their testimony is rejected, and as “Some of the earliest mss” where the passage is bracketed. 

            Now let’s turn back to Matthew 12:47, and see why it is missing not only in the ESV but also in that cluster of manuscripts in which the best Greek uncials and worst Syriac and Latin copies appear to keep close company.  What we have here is a simple case of homoioteleuton (also spelled homoeoteleuton).  Verse 46 ends with the Greek words ζητοῦντες αὐτῷ λαλῆσαι (“seeking to him to speak”), and verse 47 ends with the words ζητοῦντες σοι λαλῆσαι (“seeking to you to speak”).  An early copyist – working at a point in the transmission-stream early enough to be echoed by the Alexandrian branch represented by ﬡ, B, and L, on the one hand, and by the Western branch represented by the Old Syriac and Codex Bobbiensis, on the other – accidentally skipped verse 47 when his line of sight drifted down from the λαλῆσαι at the end of verse 46 to the λαλῆσαι at the end of verse 47.
            It is not hard to see how this happened.  Meanwhile, consider what the ESV’s editors must believe about the transmission of this passage.  If the ESV’s non-inclusion is correct, then the copyists of virtually all other Greek manuscripts – C D W Z Δ Θ 28 33 157 892 (which adds προς αὐτον; see Willker’s comments for details), 1424, the family-1 group, the family-13 group, and well over 1,500 minuscules, and hundreds of lectionaries – and over 10 Old Latin copies (including Codex Vercellensis, from the 370’s), the Vulgate, the Peshitta, the Armenian, Georgian, and Ethiopic versions, and copies cited by patristic writers including Jerome and Augustine (and Augustine cited the verse in two different forms, echoing two different Old Latin transmission-lines), were all using the wrong exemplars at this point.
Another plain case of
homoioteleuton in Codex B.
            I hope my readers will understand by this last paragraph that I am not arguing for the majority reading merely because it is the majority.  Today we know of one early Middle Egyptian manuscript – Mae-2, that is, Codex Schøyen 2650, from the early 300’s – which agrees with ﬡ and B in non-inclusion of Matthew 12:47.  But if we had 50 copies in the same transmission-line, the argument would not vary, just as the discovery of 50 more copies of the Vulgate would not make much of an impact.  It is not a matter of number, but of the relative plausibility of the competing models of the text’s transmission-history. 
            The evidence demands that the scribal error that caused the loss of this verse happened very early – early enough to echo in a limited part of the Alexandrian transmission-line, and in a limited part of the Old Latin and Syriac transmission-lines.  But early parablepsis is parablepsis nonetheless.  Matthew 12:47 should be included in the text, and if there is a footnote, let it tell the reader why the verse was lost in the transmission-line of ﬡ and B, instead of just giving enough information to perpetuate confusion.

The English Standard Version is © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

The Christian Standard Bible® is Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers.  Used by permission.  Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® is Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  ESV Text edition:  2011.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mark 2:16 and Homoioteleuton

            At the end of Mark 2:16, there is a textual contest:  do the scribes and Pharisees ask why Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, or do they ask why Jesus eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?
            The Greek manuscript support for the non-inclusion of “and drinks” is rather thin:  B, D, and W (that is, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Bezae, and Codex Washingtonianus).  They are joined by six Old Latin copies.  That, at least, is all the support listed in the textual apparatus of the fourth edition of the UBS Greek New Testament, once one removes the forgery 2427 (“Archaic Mark”) from the picture.  Metzger laid the spin on pretty thick in his Textual Commentary, claiming that the shorter reading was thus “strongly supported.”  This is quite an exaggeration, inasmuch as there is only one non-Western witness in the bunch.
            Meanwhile, the external support for the inclusion of “and drinks” is massive:  it includes not only the hundreds of manuscripts stacked up behind the apparatus’ reference to the Byzantine Text, but also Papyrus 88 (from the 300’s), Codex A, family 1, 33, 157, 892, three Old Latin copies, the Peshitta, the Gothic version, and one Sahidic manuscript. The Armenian and Georgian versions also include a reference to drinking.  This array of witnesses is widespread, both geographically and in terms of textual groups.      
Codex W has Western
affinities in this part of Mark.
            But what about the text-critical axiom lectio brevior potior – the shorter reading is to be favored?  That is simply not a well-grounded premise, and the damage that it has done needs to be undone.  As Juan Hernández Jr. has acknowledged, “The pioneering studies of Colwell and Royse on the papyri demonstrated that the general tendency during the earliest period of textual transmission was to omit.”  The Alexandrian text should thus be compared to a ship which reaches its port lighter than when it embarked because the weight of the barnacles that attached themselves to the hull during the voyage was less than the weight of things that the crewmen dropped overboard. 
            It may seem reasonable to suppose that copyists operated on the principle of “When in doubt, don’t leave it out,” but that idea is not observationally grounded.  Furthermore, even when Griesbach advocated a preference for the shorter reading over 200 years ago, he included a qualification which is relevant to the contest in Mark 2:16:  we should prefer the fuller reading before the shorter (unless the latter is seen in many notable witnesses) if homoioteleuton [that is, the occurrence of words or phrases with similar endings, in close proximity to one another] might have provided an opportunity for an omission.
            Here is the Byzantine text at the end of Mark 2:16 and the beginning of 2:17. . . Τί ὅτι μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει; Καὶ ἀκούσας ὁ Ἰησους λέγει αὐτοῖς . . . . 
            Notice the homoioteleuton:  the letters ει καὶ occur near the end of verse 16 and again at the beginning of verse 17.  No theory of a semi-harmonization to the parallel-passage in Luke is needed to account for the difference between the Byzantine reading and the reading in Codex Vaticanus; the simple explanation is that a copyist in the transmission-line of B’s text accidentally skipped from the first occurrence of -ει καὶ to the second occurrence of -ει καὶ.  Thus, in this case, the shorter reading is explained by the longer reading. 
            Harmonization did occur in this verse in some manuscripts.  In Codex Sinaiticus, the end of Mark 2:16 is conformed to Matthew 9:11, so as to rephrase the question not as “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners” but instead as “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners.”  Thus we observe not just one, but two mechanisms by which the reference to drinking could be lost:  accidental parablepsis, and deliberate harmonization to the parallel in Matthew.
            In over 70 manuscripts (including Codices C, L, and Δ) the reference to “your Teacher” has been inserted from Matthew – but the reference to drinking has not been removed; nor was the Greek text adjusted to match the words in Luke 5:30.  Either the copyists who created this reading were simultaneously harmonizing and unharmonizing – making the text resemble Matthew 9:11, and then making it different – or else the reference to drinking was there to begin with in their exemplars.  Their Alexandrian exemplars.
            What about the parallel in Luke 5:30?  If Byzantine copyists had wished to conform the words at the end of Mark 2:16 to the parallel in Luke 5:30, the natural way to do so would be to write ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε – for those are the words in Luke 5:30.  This was indeed done in a relatively small number of manuscripts (including, notably, Codex Σ and minuscules 565, 700, and 1241), but it is not the Byzantine reading.        
            In addition, if harmonization is to be suspected, then one may observe that it was not necessary for copyists to interrupt their copying and consult the parallel-passages in Matthew and Luke in order to have a basis on which to make a textual adjustment.  A basis for conformation-via-shortening is built into Mark 2:16, inasmuch as the beginning of the verse mentions Jesus eating, but not drinking. 

            In conclusion:  the reading with καὶ πίνει explains its rivals.  What we have here is a simple case of the loss of two words due to homoioteleuton.  This loss probably occurred in the Western Text, and then influenced the text of a single Alexandrian manuscript (Codex Vaticanus). 
(a)  the reading that explains its rival in an uncomplicated way,
(b) attested in manuscripts representing different text-types,
(c) attested in multiple versions, and
(d) attested in a papyrus (P88, from the 300’s). 
           So:  the reading καὶ πίνει
            With this internal and external evidence pointing in favor of the inclusion of καὶ πίνει in Mark 2:16, it is tempting to suspect the survival of the shorter reading in Mark 2:16 in modern compilations (including the new Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament) is due to two factors:  an overestimation of Codex Vaticanus’ resistance to Western readings, and an unscientific reluctance to acknowledge Byzantine readings as original.    

            Finally, a couple of small details noted by Wieland Willker may add something to the case; he mentioned that in Codex K, in Luke 5:30, the words καὶ πίνετε are absent.  This illustrates the same mechanism which caused the loss of the words καὶ πίνει in Mark 2:16; the only difference is that the homoioteleuton in Luke 5:30-31 involves different letters (-ετε καὶ).  He also mentioned that seven medieval Byzantine manuscripts lack καὶ πίνει in Mark 2:16.  Here one of the canons of equitable eclecticism may be effectively applied:   If a variant occurs sporadically in witnesses greatly separated by age and textual character, this may indicate that the variant was liable to be spontaneously created by copyists, rather than that it was transmitted by distant transmission-streams.

A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 
© 1971 by the United Bible Societies, Stuttgart, Germany.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

John 4:17 - Prefer the Shorter Reading, Unless . . .

John 4:16ff.
in Codex L.
          Today, let’s take a look at the text of John 4:17.  This verse is not exactly at the epicenter of text-critical debates, but the evidence pertaining to it is nevertheless interesting.  In all English versions, in a discussion between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, after Jesus tells the woman, “Go call your husband, and come here,” John 4:17 runs along the following lines:
            The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”  Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband.’”  
            The Greek text: 
            Ἀπεκρίθη ἡ γυνὴ καὶ εἶπεν, Οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα.  Λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Καλῶς εἶπας ὅτι Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχω·
            That, at least, is the text that is found in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John, and in most editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  In the 26th, 27th, and 28th editions, though, the word αὐτῷ (“to him”) appears after εἶπεν (supported by Papyrus 66, Papyrus 75, and by B, C, N, et al).  Nevertheless several modern versions – including the CSB, NIV, NLT, and NASB – do not show any sign that αὐτῷ is in their base-text. 
            So, already, we have found something interesting in John 4:17:  although the Byzantine Text is often described as a text full of expansions, perpetuated by copyists who worked on the principle, “When in doubt, don’t leave it out,” in this case, the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilers must think that the Byzantine copyists did leave something out, because the Alexandrian form is longer.  One might get the impression that the compilers employed here the principle, “Prefer the shorter reading, unless it is Byzantine.” 
            Another interesting feature, with interesting implications, appears in the text of John 4:17 in Papyrus 75.  The copyist of P75, it is alleged, was meticulous and precise.  Yet in this verse the copyist wrote λεγει instead of εἶπεν – an arbitrary change, since both words mean the same thing.  This hurts the theory that the copyists of the early Alexandrian transmission-stream were immune from the temptation to attempt to “improve” the text. 
            The copyist of P75, however, was a model of discipline compared to the copyist or copyists responsible for the text that was written in Codex Sinaiticus (ﬡ).  In the text that was written by the main copyist in Codex Sinaiticus, the copyist apparently considered the words “καὶ εἶπεν” (“and said”) to be superfluous, and left them out.  Next, we see in ﬡ (and in Codices C*, D and L) a change in the order of the three words in the woman’s response:  Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχω rather than Οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα. 
            What elicited this change?  Probably not scribal piety, as if the copyists thought that the woman’s words should be conformed to Jesus’ response later in the verse, for in ﬡ and D, Jesus’ words are altered to Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχεις and thus there is no close conformity.  A more likely explanation is that this reading originated earlier in the Western transmission-stream, and was an attempt to simplify the Greek text for readers whose first language was Latin.
Jacob's well
(in a modern enclosure)
            A final observation may be made about the text of John 4:17 as it exists in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece:  when we compare John 4:17 in Byzantine manuscripts to John 4:17 in Alexandrian manuscripts, the Byzantine transmission-line appears much more stable.  According to Reuben Swanson’s horizontal-line comparison, the uncials A Y K M S U Δ Λ Π Ψ Ω all read the same way.  Consider, in contrast, the fluctuation displayed among the “earliest and best” manuscripts: 
            Papyrus 75 reads λεγει instead of εἶπεν.          
            Codex B* reads εἶπες instead of εἶπας.
            Codex ﬡ* omits καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, reverses the word-order of the woman’s words to Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχω, reads εἶπες instead of εἶπας, and changes the last word of the verse to ἔχεις.
            Codex ﬡ’s corrector added καὶ εἶπεν (without αὐτῷ).  
            Codex C* changes the word-order of the woman’s words to Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχω.
            Codex D does not include αὐτῷ, changes the word-order of the woman’s words to Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχω, and changes the last word of the verse to ἔχεις. 
            Codex L does not include αὐτῷ, and changes the word-order of the woman’s words to Ἄνδρα οῦκ ἔχω.
            Codex W (in a supplemental portion) does not include αὐτῷ. 

            Thus, it appears that only one manuscript – Papyrus 66 – agrees with the Nestle-Aland compilation letter-for-letter throughout the entire verse, without corrections.  A question about probability seems appropriate:  how likely is it that in two short and uncomplicated sentences, only one extant manuscript would preserve the original text?      

Friday, October 27, 2017

Equitable Eclecticism - Part 2

(Continuing the presentation of a slightly updated version of my 2010 essay Equitable Eclecticism:  The Future of New Testament Textual Criticism)

Competing Analytical Approaches

In the Byzantine Priority view, Greek manuscripts which display the Byzantine Text are considered superior witnesses on the grounds that their text has a plausible transmission-history.  Pick any series of readings in the Byzantine Text, and it can be shown to have considerable manuscript support.  The Nestle-Aland compilation, meanwhile, is considered a “test-tube text,” because it often combines readings in a series that is unattested in any Greek manuscript.  And although it has been argued that this is unavoidably what one gets when selecting variants from among different text-types, the point remains that a heavy burden of proof should be upon the compiler whose work implies a transmission-history in which no copyists have preserved the original combination of readings in hundreds of passages.
On the other end of the spectrum, the approach used by Hort may seem like something very different from Byzantine Priority, but in terms of methodology the two approaches are similar:  Hort regarded a specific set of manuscripts as superior to all others (in this case, Codex Vaticanus and whatever allies Hort could find for it), and he built a transmission-model that vindicated its readings.  Having established Vaticanus as the best overall witness in a relatively small series of contests, Hort gave it enormous weight, with the result that its text just kept getting better and better, as more and more contests were decided by “the weight of the witnesses” – to the point that long segments of Hort’s compilation resemble transcripts of Codex Vaticanus.      
Two other approaches were developed by textual critics in the 1900’s by scholars aspiring to produce an eclectic text (that is, a text obtained via the utilization of a variety of sources).
Thoroughgoing Eclecticism (also known as Rigorous Eclecticism) values the relative intrinsic qualities of rival variants as the best means to determine their relationships, effectively rejecting Hort’s axiom.  In this approach, even if a reading appears exclusively in late witnesses, if its intrinsic qualities are judged to be better than its rivals, it is adopted, on the premise that its young supporters echo an older text – the autograph – at that point. 
Building on the theory that text-types did not stabilize until the 200’s or later, thoroughgoing eclectics resort to the only sort of reconstruction which can be undertaken without appealing to the relationships of text-types:  the relationships of rival variants.  Advocates of this approach tend to be more willing to introduce conjectural emendations, if an emendation possesses superior intrinsic qualities to its rival extant variants. 
Reasoned Eclecticism (also known as Rational Eclecticism), in theory, considers the relative intrinsic qualities of rival variants, but also considers the quality of each variant’s sources, their date, and their scope.  The text of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament was compiled using a form of reasoned eclecticism.  However, in its companion-volume, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce Metzger’s comments show that the quality of sources tended to be measured according to Hort’s model of transmission-history.  In The Text of the New Testament, Metzger wrote, “Theoretically it is possible that the Koine text” – that is, the Byzantine Text – “may preserve an early reading which was lost from the other types of text, but such instances are extremely rare.”  This anti-Byzantine bias is pervasive.  It is no surprise, therefore, that the UBS text varies only slightly from Hort’s text, even though more evidence in favor of Byzantine readings is available to researchers than ever before.  (For more on this subject seem my four-part essay, The Text of Reasoned Eclecticism:  Is it Reasonable and Eclectic?)
An alternative is Equitable Eclecticism, in which the relative intrinsic qualities of rival variants are considered, and each variant’s sources, their date, and their scope are also considered.  Equitable Eclecticism begins by developing a generalized model of transmission-history, and estimates of the relative values of the readings of groups, through a five-step process:

            ● First, the witnesses are organized into groups which share distinctive variants.
            ● Second, variant-units involving variants distinct to each group are analyzed according to text-critical principles, or canons.   
            ● Third, a tentative model of transmission-history is developed, cumulatively explaining the relationships of the competing groups to one another by explaining the relationships of their component-parts where distinctive variants are involved.  This model of transmission-history utilizes the premise that the earliest stratum of the Byzantine Text of the Gospels (echoed by Family Π, the Peshitta, Codex A, part of Codex W, the Gothic version, and the Purple Codices N-O-Σ-Φ) arose without the involvement of witnesses that contained the Alexandrian, Western, or Caesarean texts.  Even readings supported by a higher stratum of the Byzantine Text and not by the lowest one are not rejected automatically. 
            ● Fourth, values are assigned to groups rather than to individual witnesses.  Less dependence by one group upon another group, as implied cumulatively by the relationship of its variants to the rival variants in other groups, yields a higher assigned value.
            ● Fifth, all reasonably significant variant-units (those which make a translatable difference) are analyzed according to text-critical canons, using all potentially helpful materials, including readings that are not characteristic of groups.  When internal considerations are finely balanced and a decision is difficult, special consideration is given to readings attested by whatever group appears to be the least dependent upon the others in the proximity of the difficult variant-unit.       
This will yield the archetype of all groups, albeit with some points of instability (at especially difficult variant-units) and with a degree of instability in regard to orthography.
Additional Principles

Equitable Eclecticism, besides rejecting the theory that the Byzantine Text was formed entirely via a consultation of manuscripts containing Alexandrian and Western readings, utilizes some additional principles which set it apart from the kinds of textual criticism which produced the revised text and its modern-day representatives:

1.  Textual criticism is a science, not an art.  It is an enterprise of reconstruction, not creation.
2.  The text of the New Testament should be reconstructed in its component-parts:  the Gospels, and Acts, and the General Epistles, and the Pauline Epistles, and Revelation. 
3.  Relationships shown by patterns of readings in one part of the New Testament should not be assumed to exist in the others.
4.  The genealogical descent of a group of manuscripts from an ancestor-manuscript other than the autograph is not assumed without actual evidence that establishes links among specific manuscripts (such as shared formats, shared marginalia, shared miniatures, or readings which conclusively show a historical connection).
5.  Variants involving nomina sacra are placed in a special class, and receive special attention.
6.  The assumption of preference for the shorter reading is rejected.
7.  If a variant has very sporadic support from witnesses greatly separated by age and textual character, this may indicate that the variant was liable to be spontaneously created by copyists, rather than that it was transmitted by distant transmission-streams.
8.  Exceptional intrinsic merit is required for the adoption of variants attested exclusively or nearly exclusively by bilingual manuscripts in which a Greek variant may have originated via retro-translation.
9.  Conjectural emendations are not to be placed in the text. 
Equitable Eclecticism also utilizes principles shared by other approaches.  These principles are all superseded by Principle Zero:  no principle should be applied mechanically.

1.  A variant which explains its rivals with greater elegance and force than it is explained by any of them is more likely to be original.
2.  A variant supported by witnesses representing two or more locales of early Christendom is more likely to be original than a variant supported by witnesses that represent only one locale.
3.  A variant which can be shown to have had, in the course of the transmission of the text, the appearance of difficulty (either real or imagined), and which is rivaled by variants without such difficulty, is more likely than its rivals to be original.
4.  A variant supported by early attestation is more likely to be original than a rival variant supported exclusively by late attestation.
5.  A variant which conforms a statement to the form of a similar statement in a similar document, or in the same document, is less likely to be original than a rival variant that does not exhibit conformity.
6.  A variant which involves a rare, obscure, or ambiguous term or expression is more likely to be original than a rival variant which involves an ordinary or specific term or expression.
7.  A variant which is consistent with the author's discernible style and vocabulary is more likely to be original than a rival variant which deviates from the author's usual style and vocabulary and the vocabulary which he may naturally be expected to have been capable of using.
8.  A variant which is fully explained as a liturgical adjustment is less likely to be original than a rival variant which cannot be thus explained.
9.  A variant which is capable of expressing anti-Judaic sentiment is less likely to be original than a rival variant which is less capable of such expression.
10.  A variant which can be explained as an easy transcriptional error is less likely to be original than a rival variant which cannot be explained as an easy transcriptional error or as one which would be less easily made.     
11.  A variant which can be explained as a deliberate alteration is less likely to be original than a rival variant which is less capable of originating in the same way.
12Ceteris paribus, in the Synoptic Gospels, a variant which does not result in a Minor Agreement is more likely to be original than a rival variant which results in a Minor Agreement.

Closing Thoughts

Christian readers may feel intimidated or exasperated at the realization that the original text of the New Testament can only be fully reconstructed by a careful analysis of the witnesses – a massive and intricate task which currently involves no less than 135 papyri, about 320 uncials, about 2,900 minuscules, and about 2,450 lectionaries, plus versional and patristic materials.  The feeling may be increased when one also realizes that even the most erudite textual critics have reached divergent conclusions, and that their conclusions must be subject to the implications of future discoveries.
This may lead some readers to decline to investigate the text, deciding instead to hopefully adhere to whatever text (or texts) they already use.  Such an expedient response is understandable, especially in light of the often-repeated (but false) claim that textual variants have no significant doctrinal impact.  Nevertheless, for those few who are not content to place their confidence in textual critics, or to posit providential favor upon a particular set of variants on account of its popularity or for other reasons, the best option is to become textual critics.
Becoming acquainted with the contents of the manuscripts and other witnesses gives additional responsibility, but also additional confidence, somewhat like the confidence of a traveler who knows his maps, as opposed to one who does not and must trust his guides.  
Knowing the message of the map that we have – and being aware of which parts are still questioned, and why, concerning how closely their form corresponds to the form of the original – makes one a confident traveler where one should be confident, and cautious where one should be cautious.  But after we have done our best to conduct research with scientific detachment, it will do us little good if we only possess the map.  Let us walk in the path that the Holy Spirit reveals to us through the Word.  With that thought I leave the reader to consider the words of J. A. Bengel, one of the pioneers of New Testament textual criticism:
Te totum applica ad textum:
rem totam applica ad te.

Apply all of yourself to the text,
Apply it all to yourself.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Equitable Eclecticism - Part 1

            In 2010, I wrote an essay called Equitable Eclecticism:  The Future of New Testament Textual Criticism, and included it in the Kindle e-book Assorted Essays on New Testament Textual Criticism.  Since then, I have frequently been asked about how my text-critical approach differs from the Byzantine Priority approach and Reasoned Eclecticism.  So, as a convenient reference, here is the essay on Equitable Eclecticism, presented in two parts (with some improvements).

Equitable Eclecticism: 
The Future of New Testament Textual Criticism

Textual Criticism:  Its Goals and Risks 

The textual criticism of the Gospels is a scientific task which has two goals.  The primary goal is the reconstruction of the text of each Gospel in its original form, that is, the form in which it was initially received by the church.  The secondary goal is the reconstruction of the transmission-history of the text.  This involves both the evaluation of rival readings in specific variant-units, and the evaluation of the documents in which the readings are found.  Hort, in his 1881 Introduction, argued that if superior readings are consistently found in a particular document or set of documents, in cases that seem easy to decide, then the character of the documents should be a factor when considering harder cases. 
            Hort expressed this principle as an axiom:  “Knowledge of documents should precede final judgment upon readings.”  The consideration of individual variant-units should never be completely detached from the question of the relative quality of the witnesses, or from the question of how groups of variants became characteristic readings of text-types.  Accurate text-critical judgments will assist in the estimation of the relative values of witnesses, and in the reconstruction of the text’s transmission-history; simultaneously, accurate assignments of relative value to the witnesses, combined with accurate reconstructions of the text’s transmission-history, will assist specific text-critical decisions.     
The textual critic who engages this method should vigilantly avoid circularity; the adoption of a reading because “the best manuscripts support it ought to be a last resort.  After observing, on analytical grounds, that certain witnesses seem to consistently contain the best readings, a textual critic might then be tempted to abandon the initial approach which led to that premise, and proceed to use the premise itself to justify a tendency to adopt the readings of those witnesses.  Similarly, a textual critic who notices that a group of witnesses tends to contain the worst readings might be tempted to reject the remainder of the testimony of that group of witnesses.  If a textual critic proceeds to build on both such premises, the premises will virtually determine the results of the rest of the analysis. The “best manuscripts” will seemingly get better and better.  

Competing Models of Transmission-History

The model of transmission-history adopted by a textual critic has a strong effect upon the values which a textual critic assigns to the testimony of groups of witnesses, and therefore also upon the final evaluation of variants.  In this respect, the approach which I advocate – Equitable Eclecticism – resembles the approach used by Hort.  However, Equitable Eclecticism yields an archetype which is significantly different from the Revised Text produced by Westcott & Hort, and from the modern descendants of the Revised Text (such as the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece).  This is because research and discoveries subsequent to Westcott & Hort have required the adoption of a transmission-model significantly different from the one used by Hort. 
Hort, building on premises developed by previous investigators, reasoned that the Byzantine Text was essentially the result of a recension that consisted of readings drawn from manuscripts with Alexandrian or Western readings; Byzantine variants were derived from the Alexandrian Text, or the Western Text, or both, or, in some cases, came into being during the recension.  Hort therefore rejected all distinctive Byzantine variants.  After dismissing the Western Text as the result of scribal creativity, embellishment, and a general lack of discipline (with the exception of a smattering of readings), Hort declared the Alexandrian Text (which he called the “Neutral” text) the only text-type which could possibly be regarded as the depository of the original text of the Gospels. 
Hort’s endorsement of the Alexandrian Text was not absolute, but it was so strong that he openly stated that variants shared by the Alexandrian Text’s two flagship codices (B and À) “should be accepted as the true readings until strong internal evidence is found to the contrary,” and “No readings of ÀB can safely be rejected absolutely,” while “All distinctively Syrian” – that is, Byzantine – “readings must be at once rejected.”
Thus, in the approach used by Hort, the degree of favor that was given to the Alexandrian Text was matched only by the degree of disregard that was given to the Byzantine Text.  The categorical rejection of Byzantine readings was a natural implications of Hort’s model of transmission-history in which the Western Text was derived from the Alexandrian Text, and the Byzantine Text was derived from both the Alexandrian Text and the Western Text. 
However, Hort acknowledged that such a clear-cut genealogical model would be out of place if a transmission-model persistently involved readings which all had some clearly ancient attestation.  [See Hort’s Introduction, page 286, § 373.]
This very thing, or something very close to it, was subsequently proposed by textual critics in the 1900’s.  Eminent scholars such as E. C. Colwell, G. D. Kilpatrick, and Kurt and Barbara Aland maintained, respectively, that “The overwhelming majority of readings,” “almost all variants,” and “practically all the substantive variants in the text of the New Testament” existed before the year 200.  Nevertheless the Hortian text has not been overthrown.  Only slightly changed, it has become entrenched in NA-28 and UBS-5 as the primary, and nearly exclusive, Greek New Testament used in seminaries. 
With the discovery and publication of Egyptian New Testament papyri in the 1900’s – beginning with Grenfell and Hunt’s work at Oxyrhynchus – Hort’s  claim that the Alexandrian readings have a demonstrably greater antiquity than their rivals has eroded.  Harry A. Sturz collected and categorized dozens of distinctive Byzantine variants which were supported by at least one early papyrus.  Sturz’s data does not vindicate the entire Byzantine Text (and we should not expect it to do so).  What it does do is demonstrate that Hort’s main reason for rejecting distinctive Byzantine readings was unsound.  According to Hort’s transmission-model, none of the early distinctive Byzantine readings listed by Sturz should exist.  The fact that they obviously did exist, even in papyri found in Egypt, demonstrates that the Byzantine Text may, at any given point, attest to an ancient distinctive reading.  Hort’s theory of the origin of distinct Byzantine readings was wrong.
In addition, discoveries about the texts in the papyri, in early versions, and in early parchment codices have contributed to the erosion of one of the building-blocks of Hort’s approach:  the proposal that conflations in the Byzantine Text demonstrate that it is later than the Alexandrian Text and the Western Text.  As Edward Miller objected in 1897, eight conflations cannot justify the rejection of the entire Byzantine Text.  They may be comparable to recently minted coins dropped in an ancient well. 
Dr. Wilbur Pickering, in Appendix D of his book The Identity of the New Testament Text, showed that an apparent conflation exists in Codex Sinaiticus at John 13:24 (where the Alexandrian Text has και λεγει αυτω ειπε τις εστιν, the Byzantine Text has πυθεσθαι τις αν ειη, and Sinaiticus reads πυθεσθαι τις αν ειη περι ου ελεγεν, και λεγει αυτω ειπε τις εστιν).  A conflation appears to occur in B at Ephesians 2:5 and at Colossians 1:12 (where the Western Text has καλεσαντι, the Byzantine Text has ικανωσαντι, and B has καλεσαντι και ικανωσαντι).  In D, a conflation appears to occur at Acts 10:48 and John 5:37 (where the Alexandrian Text – supported by P75 – has εκεινος μεμαρτυρηκεν, the Byzantine Text – supported by P66 - has αυτος μεμαρτυρηκεν, and D has εκεινος αυτος μεμαρτυρηκεν).                
In the world according to Hort,
this should not happen.
The papyri have supplied direct evidence against Hort’s belief that apparent conflations imply that the text in which they are found must be late.  In P53, the text of Matthew 26:36 seems to read ου αν, where the Byzantine text has ου and the Alexandrian Text and Western Text have αν.  Papyrus 66 reads σχισμα ουν παλιν at John 10:19 (agreeing with the Byzantine Text), where the Alexandrian Text has σχισμα παλιν and the Western Text has σχισμα ουν.  Similarly, P66 reads εβαστασαν ουν παλιν at John 10:31 (again agreeing with the Byzantine Text), where the Alexandrian Text has εβαστασαν παλιν and the Western Text has εβαστασαν ουν.  
The appearance of such readings in very early manuscripts forces the concession that they do not imply that the text in which they appear is late.  Instead, they prove that an early text can appear to include conflations.  Nevertheless some modern-day textual critics still appeal to Hort’s list of eight Byzantine conflations as if it demonstrated that the entire Byzantine Text was secondary. [See for example Dan Wallace’s treatment of the data in his online essay The Conspiracy Behind the New Bible Translations.]    
Ironically, as the papyri-discoveries took away the pedestal upon which Hort’s transmission-model had stood, they also tended to exonerate Hort’s favored text of the Gospels, the Alexandrian Text, by demonstrating the high antiquity of the Alexandrian text of Luke and John.  Papyrus 75, in particular, possesses a remarkably high rate of agreement with B.  This shows that the Alexandrian Text of Luke and John was carefully preserved in the 200’s, and this has tended to alleviate the suspicions of some earlier scholars that the Alexandrian Text was the result of editorial activity in the 200’s.
The correspondence between Papyrus 75 and Codex B was interpreted by some textual critics as a demonstration of the antiquity and superiority of the entire Alexandrian Text.  Kurt Aland compared the situation to sampling a jar of jelly or jam:  a mere spoonful is enough to show what is in the rest of the jar.  However, although the agreement between P75 and B proves that the Alexandrian Text of Luke and John is not the result of scribal editing conducted in the 200’s, it did not prove that Alexandrian readings are not results of earlier scribal editing.  
Theoretically, if the Western Text could develop in the period prior to the production of P75, so could the Alexandrian Text.  Papyrus 75 proved that the Alexandrian Text of Luke and John is very early; it did not prove that Alexandrian readings are not the result of very early editorial activity.  (As late as 1992, Bruce Metzger maintained that most scholars “are still inclined to regard the Alexandrian text as on the whole the best ancient recension,” on page 216 of The Text of the New Testament, third edition (1992), emphasis added.)
Nor did Papyrus 75 prove that the Byzantine Text is less ancient than the Alexandrian Text.  It shows what kind of Gospels-text (or at least, major parts of the Gospels-text) was in use in Upper Egypt in the early 200’s.  It does not constitute evidence about what form of text was used, or was not used, in other places.  
The most significant evidence for the absence of the Byzantine Text prior to the 300’s is the lack of patristic testimony for its use, but this is largely an argument from silence.  The natural destructive effects of humidity upon papyrus-material, allied with Roman persecutors who sought to destroy Christian literature, silenced a large proportion of the Christian communities of the first three centuries of Christendom.  According to Hort’s theories, when these communities adopted the Byzantine Text in the 300’s and 400’s, they embraced a new, imported text of the Gospels, setting aside whatever they had used previously.  A more plausible alternative is that they simply continued to use their own local texts which consisted primarily of Byzantine readings.  (For additional thoughts on this subject see my post Byzantine Manuscripts:  Where Were They Before the 300's?.)         
The discovery of the papyri led some textual critics to advocate an undue emphasis upon the ages of witnesses, resulting in a lack of equity toward variants with no support in Egypt.  Because the Egyptian climate allowed the preservation of papyrus, the oldest copies will almost always be copies from Egypt.  To favor the variant with the oldest attestation is to tilt the playing-field, so to speak, in favor of whatever readings are found in whatever manuscripts were stored in the gentlest climate.  But this is no more reasonable than favoring the variants of a manuscript because it was found closer to the equator than other manuscripts.  Certainly when two rival variants are evaluated, and the first is uniformly attested in early witnesses, while the second is found exclusively in very late witnesses, the case for the first one is enhanced.  But to assign values to witnesses according to their ages without considering factors such as climate is to introduce a lack of equity into one’s analysis.  
The papyri-discoveries elicited another interesting development.  Before Hort, pioneering scholars such as Griesbach had organized witnesses into three main groups – Western, Byzantine, and Alexandrian.  Each group, characterized by consistent patterns of readings, was considered a text-type, and manuscripts sharing those special patterns of readings were viewed as relatives of one another.  Hort then divided the Alexandrian group into two text-types, calling its earlier stratum the “Neutral” text, supported by Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.  Then, following analysis by Kirsopp Lake, the Caesarean text of the Gospels was added.  But the evidence from the papyri indicates that even in a single locale (Egypt), the text existed in forms other than those four. 
Consider Papyrus 45, a fragmentary copy of the Gospels and Acts from the early 200’s (or slightly earlier).  In Mark 7:25-37, when P45 disagrees with either B or the Byzantine Text or both, P45 agrees with B 22% of the time, it agrees with the Byzantine Text 30% of the time, and 48% of the time it disagrees with them both.  Such departures from the usual profiles of text-types has led some textual critics to reconsider the existence of early text-types, arguing instead that the text in the 100’s and 200’s was in a state of fluctuation.  A plausible alternative is that some of the papyri attest to the existence of localized text-forms which became extinct, without implying that the Western, Byzantine, and Caesarean forms did not exist prior to the 300’s.

Competing Greek New Testaments

In the late 1800’s, Westcott & Hort’s Greek text of the New Testament faced several obstacles.  First was the popularity of the Textus Receptus, which, as the base-text of the King James Version, had the status of an ancient landmark in English-speaking countries, regardless of how carefully attempts were made to demonstrate that its Reformation-era compilers, or some stealthy editors in ancient times, were the real landmark-movers.   
In 1898, the Würrtemburg Bible Society published the first edition of Novum Testamentum Graece, an inexpensive Greek New Testament which closely resembled the Westcott-Hort compilation, and which was designed to compete with the edition of the Textus Receptus which was being widely disseminated by the British and Foreign Bible Society.  (The leaders of BFBS apparently had not found Hort’s 1881 case for his compilation irresistible.)  
Eberhard Nestle wrote an enthusiastic recommendation of this handy Greek New Testament; his brief review appeared in the Expository Times in June of 1898.  He pointed out how “disgraceful” it would be to continue to circulate Erasmus’ errors in Rev. 17:8 and Rev. 22:19-21.  He invited the British and Foreign Bible Society to begin to circulate Novum Testamentum Graece instead of the Textus Receptus.  In 1904 the British and Foreign Bible Society began circulating the fourth edition of Novum Testamentum Graece.  Its editor:  Eberhard Nestle. 
While that was happening, a scholar named Hermann von Soden was in the process of compiling an edition of the Greek New Testament which textual scholars expected to become definitive, superseding all previous editions.  But when von Soden’s Greek New Testament was released in 1902-1911, it was found to be extremely cumbersome, and it was flawed in various ways.  Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece was on hand to meet the need of seminarians and other textual researchers, and it has done so ever since – and it eventually was adopted, in later editions, as the primary base-text for new translations.
But should that be the case?  According to Kurt and Barbara Aland, the 27th edition of NTG differs from the text compiled by Eberhard Nestle “in merely 700 passages.”  Considering the high number of variant-units involved, this implies that the text of the Gospels in NA-27 and UBS-4 is essentially the same text that was published by Eberhard Nestle in the early 1900’s.  (See page 20 of The Text of the New Testament:  “In its 657 printed pages the early Nestle differs from the new text in merely seven hundred passages.”  Consider that in the Gospels alone, the 25th and 27th editions of NTG disagree at over 400 places.)
It is as if the papyri (and the research into early versions, and the revisions of patristic writings, and other significant discoveries and research undertaken in the 1900’s) have scarcely had an impact, whereas in reality they cracked the transmission-model that was a large part of the foundation of the Westcott-Hort compilation.

The marketplace for Greek New Testaments in the early 1900’s rapidly became crowded:  Bernard Weiss, Alexander Souter, and J. M. S. Baljon made compilations which rivaled Nestle’s.  F. H. A. Scrivener’s editions of the Textus Receptus remained in circulation. Thomas Newberry’s 1870 Englishman’s Greek New Testament – an interlinear edition of the Textus Receptus which featured a presentation of variants adopted by textual critics prior to Westcott & Hort (Griesbach, Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf, Alford, and Wordsworth) – also remained in print.  The public generally had to choose between either a Greek text similar to the 1881 revision of Westcott & Hort, or the Textus Receptus.  
That changed in 1982, when Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad published a compilation called The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.  As its name implies, this text was intended to consist of the readings shared by the majority of Greek manuscripts.  Hodges and Farstad proposed that the Alexandrian Text is a heavily edited, pruned form of the text, and that the Majority Text is much better, inasmuch as “In any tradition where there are not major disruptions in the transmissional history, the individual reading which has the earliest beginning is the one most likely to survive in a majority of documents.”  The work of Hodges and Farstad was the basis for many text-critical footnotes in the New Testament in the New King James Version, which was published around the same time under Dr. Farstad’s supervision. 
A similar work was released in 1991 by Maurice Robinson and William Pierpont, called The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Byzantine/Majority Textform.  A second edition was published in 2005.  Rejecting any notion of defending the Textus Receptus (which differs from the Byzantine Text at over 1,800 points, about 1,000 of which are translatable), Robinson and Pierpont regarded the Byzantine Text as virtually congruent to the original text.  The Byzantine Textform consists of a series of majority readings, wherever majority readings clearly exist.  Outside the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) and the book of Revelation, almost no analytical attempts to reconstruct the relationships of variants within the Byzantine tradition seems evident, since the question is usually settled by a numerical count (or, by a consultation of representative manuscripts, using data from von Soden’s work).
In some respects, Hodges & Farstad and Robinson & Pierpont have paved a trail that was blazed in the 1800’s by John Burgon, who opposed the theories of Westcott & Hort.  Burgon’s aggressive writing-style sometimes overshadowed his argumentation; nevertheless some of his views have been vindicated by subsequent research.  
For example, Hort asserted that “even among the numerous unquestionably spurious readings of the New Testament there are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes,” but Burgon insisted that the opposite was true.  Burgon’s posthumously published Causes of Corruption (1896) even included a sub-chapter titled “Corruption by the Orthodox.”  Almost a century later in 1993, a variation on Burgon’s theme was upheld by Bart Ehrman in the similarly titled book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.  As a result, although Ehrman exaggerated his case in many respects, no textual critics now consider Hort’s assertion to be correct. 
Many scholars and interested bystanders, noticing that the weaknesses of several of Hort’s key premises and assertions have been exposed, have been willing to consider the model of transmission-history proposed by the supporters of the Byzantine Textform.  Others have irresponsibly attempted to associate it with the fundamentalist doctrine of King James Onlyism.  
Others have rejected it because, despite detailed lists of principles of internal and external evidence in Dr. Robinson’s essay The Case for Byzantine Priority, the factor that usually determines the adoption of a variant in the approach advocated by Robinson is its attestation in over 80% of the Greek manuscripts.  Patristic evidence and the testimony of early versions are not included in the equation of what constitutes the majority reading.  Distinctive Alexandrian variants, Western variants, Caesarean variants, and even minority readings attested by the oldest Byzantine witnesses (such as parts of Codices A and W) have no chance of being adopted; generally, if a variant is supported by over 80% of the Greek manuscripts, it is adopted.  

The validity of such an approach depends upon the validity of the premise that the transmission of the text of the Gospels was free from “major disruptions.”  However, major disruptions have had enormous impacts upon the transmission of the text.  Roman persecutions – followed by Roman sponsorship  wartime and peacetime, dark ages and golden ages – all these things, plus innovations and inventions related to the copying of manuscripts, drastically changed the circumstances in which the text was transmitted, and while all text-types were affected by them, they were not all affected to the same extent.  It is no more scientifically valid to adopt a reading because it was favored in Byzantine scriptoriums than it is to adopt a reading because the manuscripts that support it were kept in an area with low humidity (namely Egypt) and thus lasted longer than the manuscripts in other places.        

[Continued in Part 2]