Today as we continue the interview with Dr. Maurice Robinson, we investigate how the Byzantine Priority position deals with one specific textual variant-unit.
Q: Could you provide an example of your text-critical approach by walking me through why you favor the Byzantine reading of Luke 6:1, instead of the Alexandrian reading?
Robinson: I addressed this particular unit in a 1993 article (in Faith and Mission 11), and somewhat repeat myself here.
I regard the shorter Alexandrian reading as possibly due to homoioteleuton in the Alexandrian archetype, even while suggesting other proximate causes of variation also to exist. A primary principle of internal evidence should be to presume accidental error as more likely than intentional alteration, especially where omission might result from transcriptional failure and yet still produce a “sensible” reading — one that then would be less likely to receive correction in subsequent copies within its particular transmissional line.
As for a short walk-through, the external evidence is basically clear: the dominant united Byzantine Textform reads en sabbatw deuteroprwtw diaporeuesqai, while a small minority made up of predominantly Alexandrian-type manuscripts, along with several versional witnesses, omits deuteroprwtw. Assuming the originality of the more dominant Byzantine reading, the presence of deuteroprwtw appears best to explain the alternative than vice versa, and that on two grounds:
1. Accidental omission. The transcriptional factor is fairly obvious: the shorter reading lacks deuteroprwtw; this easily could have occurred — particularly in a small number of manuscripts — due to haplography, skipping from -tw d- to -tw d- in the phrase sabbatw deuteroprwtw diap-. Such readily could have been the proximate cause of the Alexandrian archetypal reading underlying its omitting manuscripts at this point, and also for those otherwise unrelated minuscules that likely reflect independent error. But this is not the only possible factor, since intentional removal of a difficulty cannot be ruled out.
2. Intentional omission. Due to the problematic nature of the longer reading (i.e., what does deuteroprwtw actually mean?), intentional excision of a questionable word equally may have occurred in the Alexandrian archetype or otherwise unrelated witnesses. Certainly, whatever significance deuteroprwtw may have had to first-century readers remains unclear (I suggest “second chief sabbath” — but even this is open to interpretation).
Interestingly, similar problematic designations appear in the Septuagint: Psalm 23’s title speaks of “the first of the sabbaths” (ths mias sabbatwn). Psalm 47’s title mentions “the second sabbath” (deutera sabbatou); and Psalm 93’s title reads “the fourth of the sabbaths” (tetradi sabbatwn) — even though today we have no knowledge of what these designations might mean, despite their unquestioned presence in the Septuagint. Also, Meyer (In Vol. 2, pages 47-50 of his Handbook to the Gospels of Mark and Luke) notes the similar deuteroescatos (penultimate, next to last) and deuterodekath (“the second tenth”; Jerome, ad Ez. 45). There thus is no reason why sabbatw deuteroprwtw may not have been understood by the original first-century recipients of the Lukan narrative, even if we today are uncertain.
In contrast, Metzger (in his Textual Commentary) claims to defend the Alexandrian omission of deuteroprwtw by suggesting “transcriptional blunder” to have caused the rise of the Byzantine deuteroprwtw reading. Yet Metzger’s convoluted explanation of such (taken from Westcott & Hort and Meyer) is highly problematic:
● Step 1: “Perhaps some copyist introduced prwtw as a correlative of en eterw sabbatw in ver. 6, and”
● Step 2: “a second copyist, in view of [Lk] 4.31, wrote deuterw, deleting prwtw by using dots over the letters — which was the customary way of cancelling a word.”
● Step 3: “A subsequent transcriber, not noticing the dots, mistakenly combined the two words into one, which he [then] introduced into the text.”
● Step 4 (required, but not mentioned by Metzger): further adjusting the orthography from the two-word form deuterw prwtw into the single-word form deuteroprwtw;
● Step 5 (also required but not mentioned by Metzger): this highly problematic reading then would not only be accepted as valid, but also perpetuated without removal or correction among nearly all remaining manuscripts over the centuries of manual transmission.
In addition to the above, the second edition of Metzger’s Textual Commentary offers an alternative but even more convoluted explanation, “as Skeat has suggested” in his “Final Solution” article:
● Step 1: “by dittography the letters batw were added to sabbatw.”
● Step 2: “A later copyist interpreted the b as deuterw and the a as prwtw, and”
● Step 3: “took tw as an indication that the adjective was to agree with sabbatw.”
Step 4 (not stated, but obviously required): In a resultant copy the presumably abbreviated b and a would have to be written in full form as deuterw and prwtw;
● Step 5: (also not stated but required): the extraneous tw would have to be removed;
● Step 6: (similarly): the two words then would be combined into one, with the orthography corrected (as noted above in Metzger’s Step 4); and then
● Step 7 (Metzger’s Step 5): almost all remaining manuscripts then would accept this highly problematic reading and perpetuate it without removal or correction over the centuries of manual transmission].
(Notice that Skeat’s third step simply makes no sense, since the result would have been en sabbatw deuterw prwtw tw diaporeuesqai auton — a construction occurring nowhere else in the New Testament or Septuagint (the usual expression requires en tw [or 2x in the LXX ama tw] + infinitive + accusative subject of the infinitive). Yet Skeat boldly claims that “Once it has been accepted that deuteroprwtw is a feasible expansion of BATW” everything else will follow without complication.”)
Metzger’s explanation represents a noble attempt to explain the rise of the more difficult deuteroprwtw by means of compounded transcriptional errors — yet according to his or even Skeat’s hypotheses all initial steps somehow would have to occur in a single exemplar manuscript, with a resultant copy then containing a “clean” form of that “more difficult” reading. That manuscript then becomes the progenitor of that which appears among almost all other manuscripts throughout copying history without subsequent correction.
As I stated in 1993, “the logic simply does not follow.” Unless there were some sort of formal revision process based upon that one particular resultant manuscript, the odds against the massive perpetuation of presumably a “nonsense” reading would be utterly overwhelming — especially since under normal transmissional circumstances such a supposedly egregious error should have been systematically and speedily corrected by the usual scribal diligence, and thus lack perpetuation among most subsequent copies.
In essence, the Metzger/Hort/Meyer explanations offer a perfect example for Occam’s Razor: is it easier to accept a highly convoluted 5- or 7-step process that requires a complex and problematic transmissional history? Or is an assumption of either accidental haplography (skipping from -tw d- to -tw d-) or deliberate removal of a single problematic word the simpler solution? The answer would seem obvious to anyone not overly enthralled with the Alexandrian text-type.
(More of this interview coming soon!)
(More of this interview coming soon!)