Is the Nestle-Aland compilation basically a slightly tweaked presentation of the Alexandrian Text, relying very heavily on Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus? Or is it an eclectic text based on thousands of manuscripts? In the previous post, I investigated Galatians chapter 1 and found that the text in NA27 can be almost completely derived from readings in Vaticanus and/or Sinaiticus. The Byzantine Text’s unique contribution to Galatians 1 amounts to .3% of the text. What about the text in the Gospels? Let’s investigate, using Luke 15 as a sample-passage – a chapter known for its parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.
Sifting through the horizontal-line comparison prepared by Reuben Swanson for the text of the Gospel of Luke, we find that out of 51 lines of text, Swanson reports that NA and B agree in 39 of them. Out of the remaining 12 lines of text in which NA and B do not agree, the NA compilation agrees with Sinaiticus in six of them. This leaves six text-lines in Luke 15 in which NA does not consist of the contents of either B or À. Here are those six deviations:
● In a line in which verse 10 begins, NA reads γίνεται χαρα, adopting the word-order found in B and À but not adopting their spelling. (They both read γεινεται χαρα.) Apparently, only one manuscript used by Swanson (minuscule 579) has this reading; the Byzantine Text reads χαρα γίνεται instead.
● At the beginning of verse 14, NA reads λιμος ισχυρα, adopting the second word in agreement with B and À but rejecting their spelling of the first word (λειμος). The occurrence of λιμος and ισχυρα side-by-side here appears to be attested in only a few manuscripts, one of which is Codex L. The Byzantine Text reads λιμος ισχυρος instead.
● In the middle of verse 15, NA rejects the spelling of B and À (where both read πολειτων), adopting instead the spelling used in Codex L and in the Byzantine Text (πολιτων).
● Near the end of verse 17, NA rejects the reading found in Papyrus 75, B and À (λειμω ωδε) and the shorter reading found in the Byzantine Text (λιμω), and the transposition supported by other manuscripts (including Codices D, N, and Θ), adopting instead the reading found in Codex L (λιμω ωδε). (The transposed reading, whether ωδε λειμω or ωδε λιμω, explains its rivals: when ωδε was accidentally skipped after the preceding word δε, it was lost in the Byzantine Text, and in the Alexandrian Text, after the loss was detected, the word ωδε was moved, as a practical preventative measure, to the other side of λειμω or λιμω.)
● At the end of verse 21, NA rejects the reading found in B and À (and in Codex D and a minority of minuscules including 700), ποίησόν με ως ενα των μισθίων σου (that is, “Make me as one of your hired servants,” the same phrase found in verse 19), adopting the shorter reading supported by almost all other Greek manuscripts, including Papyrus 75, Codex L, and the Byzantine Text. (More Greek manuscripts support the variant in B and À here than support the non-inclusion of Mark 16:9-20; yet this variant does not even receive a footnote in translations such as the
HCSB, NIV, and NASB.)
● At the beginning of verse 25, NA adopts the word-order in B (ουτος ο υιος μου), and then adopts the next variant from À (ανέζησεν, instead of B’s εζησεν) – a combination found in only a few manuscripts, including Papyrus 75 and Codex L. NA also rejects the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of the word και.
Thus, out of the six text-lines in Luke 16 that do not agree with either Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, Novum Testamentum Graece adopts a reading found in the Byzantine Text in two of them. The effect of the Byzantine Text upon the text in Luke 16 thus amounts to the removal of one letter in the À-B text in verse 15, and the removal of seven words at the end of verse 21.
One could argue that the real impetus for these deviations was Codex L – a strongly Alexandrian witness in Luke – rather than the Byzantine Text, inasmuch as Codex L’s readings were adopted in both of these places and in verses 14 and 25. Nevertheless, presuming the maximum discernible impact of the Byzantine Text, out of Luke 16’s 2,703 letters in the Nestle-Aland compilation, had the Byzantine Text not been consulted, the text in verse 15 would be one letter longer, and the text in verse 21 would be 27 letters (that is, seven words) longer, yielding a total of 2,731 letters. Thus, the impact of the Byzantine Text upon the text of Luke 15 in the Nestle-Aland compilation may be said to be discernible in 1% of the text.