Monday, November 18, 2013

Acts 27:37 - 276 Souls, or About 76?

Let's briefly leave the Gospels to explore an interesting variant in Acts 27:37.  Did the ship on which Paul and his friends were traveling in Acts 27:37 contain 276 souls, or only about 76?

The Byzantine Text says that a total of 276 souls were aboard the ship: 
Codex A says HMEQA DE PASAI YUCAI EN TW PLOIW DIAKOSIAI EBDOMHKONTA PENTE.  (Thus, 275 souls.  The amount is spelled out, not abbreviated.)
According to the apparatus in UBS4, Lectionary 1156 says that the number of souls was 216. 
Vaticanus and the Sahidic version say that a total of “about 76” souls were on board, finishing the verse with WS EBDOMHKONTA EX.

The NET’s editors saw fit to mention this variant, with the note, “One early ms (B) and an early version (sa) read “about seventy-six.”  For discussion of how this variant probably arose, see F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, 465.”

When I take in hand – onscreen – F. F. Bruce’s commentary on Acts, on pages 525-526 (the difference is surely only due to different formatting in different editions) I find: 

“The reading of B could be a miscopying of the larger number; PLOIWWSOF [with the OF overlined] for PLOIWSOF [with the OF overlined – although this is an error; the sigma in PLOIWSOF should have been overlined too].  There is no improbability in the larger number (which included the soldiers under the centurion’s command); the ship on which Josephus was bound for Rome in A.D. 63 had about 600 on board (Vita 15).”

Déjà vu.  I’ve read something like that before, in John Burgon’s 1883 book The Revision Revised, on pages 51-53.  Burgon is more verbose than Bruce, but the solution is exactly the same:  “Some II-century copyist connected the last letter of PLOIW with the next ensuing numeral, which stands for 200 (viz. S)); and made an independent word of it, viz. WS – i.e., ‘about.’  But when S (i.e. 200) has been taken away from SOF (i.e. 276), 76 is perforce all that remains.”  And notice the footnote on p. 52 of the same page:  “The number is not excessive.  There were about 600 persons aboard the ship in which Josephus traverses the same waters.  (Life, c. III).” 

I find five interesting features here:

First, it’s interesting to observe how Bruce happened to reach the same conclusion as Burgon, and even use the same example from Josephus, apparently without reading Burgon (whose name, if my electronic search, courtesy of Amazon, is correct, appears nowhere in Bruce’s commentary).  That’s just incredible!  (Naturally, the NET’s note on Acts 27:37 refers readers to Bruce, not to Burgon.) 

Second, it’s interesting to see the close alignment of the base-text of the Sahidic version of Acts to the text of Acts in B.  The replacement of PLOIW_SOF_ with PLOIWWS_OF_ is not the sort of thing that would happen often; this variant is an important genetic marker.

Third, it’s interesting, inasmuch as the UBS4’s apparatus gives this a “B” rating, that someone on the committee must have favored B’s reading, apparently against all other Greek MSS, despite the ease with which B’s reading is accounted for.

Fourth, it’s interesting to see that Lectionary 1156 (Waltz’s data says that it’s from the 1300’s) was even noticed and cited, considering how often readings with continuous-MS-support are completely ignored in the UBS4 apparatus.          

Fifth, it’s interesting that UBS4 stretched the evidence beyond its breaking point in an attempt to buttress the testimony of B.  Carroll D. Osburn stated the following in The Text of the Apostolos in Epiphanius of Salamis (2004) in a footnote in Appendix II (page 269) – “Epiphanius is listed in UBS4 as reading “WS EBDOMHKONTA EX Epiphanius ½ (Epiphanius ½ om EX).”  This is misleading.  In one quotation, Epiphanius reads WS EBDOMHKONYA, but in the other WS OGDOHKONTA.  So, Epiphanius reads “70” or “80” souls, but in neither reference does he read WS EBDOMHKONTA EX, as UBS4 indicates.” (Osburn’s work does not build confidence in the UBS4-compilers’ database of citations as far as Epiphanius’ testimony to the text of Acts is concerned.  Osburn lists four corrections to UBS4’s citations of Epiphanius in Acts, one useful addition, and only three correct citations.)