Wednesday, May 31, 2017

James Leonard and the Byzantine Text

The Byzantine Text
of Philippians 1.
            Recently Dr. James Leonard, an administrator of a discussion-group on Facebook that occasionally looks into questions about the text of the New Testament, asserted there that many or most readings from the Byzantine Text which differ from the Nestle-Aland compilation are often unattested by the Greek manuscript tradition prior to the ninth century.  That assertion was met with an invitation from a member of the discussion-group:  list all of the Byzantine readings in Matthew and Mark that are unattested before the ninth century.
            Dr. Leonard’s response was twofold:  first, he quickly ejected the invitation-maker from the discussion-group.  And second, responding to the invitation, he presented a list of Byzantine readings from Philippians chapter 1.
           Such a response is insufficient – not only because it restricts legitimate discussion, and does not involve the text of Matthew and Mark, but also, as it turns out, because Leonard’s data from Philippians 1 does not come remotely close to vindicating the idea that many or most readings in the Byzantine Text are unsupported before the 800’s.  
           As a convenient (but problematic) method of data-collection, Leonard consulted the Nestle-Aland apparatus, and after finding 31 variant-units in that chapter, he promptly acknowledged that in 19 of those 31 variant-units, the Byzantine Text and the Alexandrian Text agree.  That left him with only 12 variants capable of being examples of Byzantine readings that have no support before the year 800.  Six of them, however, he admits to be attested before then. 
            To show the amount of text involved in this analysis, here are three pictures.  The first one shows the Byzantine Text of Philippians chapter 1.  The second one shows the six Byzantine readings which fit Leonard’s description; they differ from modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament and are not attested in Greek manuscripts prior to the ninth century.  (The variant that is highlighted in yellow is a transposition-variant; the variant concerns the order in which the verses appear.)  The third picture shows the Byzantine readings in Philippians 1 which a cursory investigation indicates are unattested in witnesses from earlier than the 800’s. 
Byzantine readings
in Philippians 1
not supported in
Greek MSS
made before 800.
            Here are the six non-Alexandrian Byzantine variants in Philippians 1 which Leonard affirmed to be supported in Greek manuscripts before the 800’s:  [bold print added] 

(1)  1:5 – Byz does not have της after απο.  Leonard:  “The earliest attestation for the Majority Reading comes from the 6th century D-Text witness 06.” 
(2)  1:8 – Byz has εστιν after μου.  Leonard:  “The earliest attestation for the Maj Reading comes from the 5th century B-Text witness 02.”
(3)  1:18 – Byz does not have οτι after Πλην.  Leonard:  “The earliest attestation for the Majority Reading is the 6th century D-Text witness 06.” 
(4)  1:23 – Byz does not have γαρ after πολλω.  Leonard:  “The earliest attestation for the Majority Reading is the 4th century B-text witness 01.”
(5)  1:24 – Byz has εν after επιμενειν.  Leonard:  “The earliest attestation for the Majority Reading are from 4th and 5th century B-Text witnesses.”  However, Leonard is mistaken.  Papyrus 46 (from the late 100’s or early 200’s) also supports the Byzantine reading here.  The text of Philippians 1:24 in Papyrus 46 agrees 100% with the Byzantine Text, while disagreeing with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  I have supplied here a picture of this part of Papyrus 46, with the words of Philippians 1:24 individually underlined.  
(6)  1:27 – Byz reads ακουσω instead of ακουω.  Leonard:  “The earliest attestation for the Majority Reading are from 4th and 5th century B-Text readings.”

            Thus, after listing 12 readings as examples of Byzantine readings that show that Byzantine readings do not have manuscript-support until the 800’s, Leonard acknowledged that half of his examples have manuscript-support before the 800’s

Philippians 1:24 in Papyrus 46.
            Now let’s take a closer look at the six readings in Philippians 1 which, Leonard maintained, have no manuscript-support before the 800’s: 

● (1) 1:11 – Byz has καρπων δικαιοσύνης των (“fruits of righteousness”) instead of καρπον δικαιοσύνης τον (fruit of righteousness). 
● (2) 1:16-17 – Byz has these two verses in the opposite order.
● (3) 1:17 – Byz has επιφερειν instead of εγείρειν.
● (4) 1:25 – Byz has συμπαραμενω instead of παραμενω. 
● (5) 1:28 – Byz has αυτοις μεν εστιν instead of εστιν αυτοις.
● (6) 1:28 – Byz has υμιν instead of υμων.

 
Byzantine readings
in Philippians 1
not supported
by any witnesses
before 800.
           Let’s look for pre-800 attestation of these readings from all sources, not only Greek manuscripts.  Leonard himself, after all, has stated that if all existing Greek manuscripts suddenly disappeared, “We could reconstruct the New Testament from the early versions with considerable confidence.”  What do we see about the text of Philippians 1 in the versional evidence, when we look?  We see that the Peshitta supports the Byzantine reading in 1:11; the Harklean Syriac supports the Byzantine order of verses 16 and 17 (and so does Chrysostom;  see his 
Homily 2 on Philippians); the Peshitta supports επιφερειν in verse 17, and the Byzantine reading υμιν in verse 28 is supported by the Vulgate, as well as by Coptic, Gothic, and Ethiopic witnesses, carrying its support back to the 300’s.        
            The idea that Byzantine readings in Philippians 1 typically lack attestation before the 800’s dies a quick death in every case except two:  the Byzantine readings συμπαραμενω in verse 25 and αυτοις μεν εστιν in Philippians 1:28 (where NA reads εστιν αυτοις) appear to have no support from witnesses earlier than the 800’s.    
            None of this analysis shows that any of these Byzantine readings in Philippians 1 are original.  Nor does it show that readings that lack early support should automatically be rejected.  What this analysis shows is that the idea that Byzantine readings in Philippians 1 have no support before the 800’s is opposed by 29 out of 31 readings.  
            And this was in a passage selected by Leonard!  Will he continue to promote the idea that Byzantine readings typically or frequently lack attestation from before the 800’s, after being shown that 93.5% of his own Exhibit A refutes that assertion?  Probably.


(P.S.  My conclusion that  the Byzantine readings συμπαραμενω in verse 25 and αυτοις μεν εστιν in Philippians 1:28 lack support before 800 is provisional; I did not investigate this further after it was clear that the evidence opposed Leonard’s claim so thoroughly.  If anyone wishes to add more data about this, feel free to do so in the comments.)

15 comments:

Robert Truelove said...

To defend the antiquity of the Byzantine Text is to touch the sacred cow of modern textual criticism. Scholarship has for generations shut down, ignored, or even grossly misrepresented any scholarship in favor of the Byzantine Text.

The dynamic you are touching on here among Critical Text proponents has gone on so long that it is starting to backfire. It is now painfully obvious to anyone looking into both sides of this subject what is really going on here. We are seeing a growing upsurge of interest in this subject, and with that, a return to the Traditional Text of the sacred Scriptures.

Peter Gurry said...

James, a question: Which comes first, the Byz text or a Byz reading? The answer has important implications, for this whole issue, does it not? If we have five readings (a, b, c, d, e) attested almost unanimously by the minuscules and I find each of these same five readings isolated in a different pre-9th-century witness, do I have the Byz text before the 9th century? I would say no, but your method here suggests that you would say yes and I wonder why. For my take, it seems that "the Byz text" is not a group of readings combined by an editor but rather a group of readings combined in a particular witness and attested to by other witnesses as well. In that case, I'm not sure I see the evidence for an early Byz text as such in Phil 1.

But correct me if I'm wrong.

The Oracle said...

Philippians 1:25

St. John Chrysostom in his homily concerning lowliness of mind written about the year 390, quotes Philippians 1:24-25 according to the translation of Philip Schaff, as it appears in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Father.

"By way of declaring this very thing at least Paul said, 'But the continuing in the flesh is the more necessary for your sake; and this I confidently know, that I shall continue and remain in company with you all.'"

Source: See section 10: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf109.viii.iii.html


.

Timothy Joseph said...

James,
The question raised by Peter Gurry is basically the primary one that came to my mind as I read your post. A Byzantine reading is surely one that is unique to the Byzantine text form. This is true as it relates to any text form. A reading which is supported by the Byzantine and the Alexandrian and or the Western text form may be the majority text but should not be considered as an example of any particular text form.

Tim

James Snapp said...

Peter Gurry.

PG: "If we have five readings (a, b, c, d, e) attested almost unanimously by the minuscules and I find each of these same five readings isolated in a different pre-9th-century witness, do I have the Byz text before the 9th century? I would say no . . ."

In this post, though, my purpose was not to address the larger question of the point at which the Byzantine Text is discernible as a fully-developed thing from Matthew to Revelation. I was just addressing Leonard's claim about whether or not distinctly Byzantine readings are typically only attested in Greek manuscripts after the 800's.

Not only is Leonard's statement fuzzy ("many or most"? Which is it? "Often"? That can be anything) but it is 93% false, as far as Philippians 1 is concerned; my cursory investigation shows that only two distinctly Byzantine readings in Philippians 1 lack attestation before 800. Plus, Leonard's approach involves arbitrary blinder-wearing: why focus on Greek MSS and ignore the versions and patristic evidence? Do you think that it is a legitimate method, Peter, to ignore versional and patristic evidence?

Peter Gurry said...

James, no, I would not leave versions out but nor would I use them as you have here if I wanted to address the real issue behind Leonard's question. If Leonard used imprecise terms in his initial question, that does not mean you should follow him.

The point is this: the question is not whether Byzantine readings can be found at some particular date but whether the Byzantine text can be. Those are two very different questions. Finding five witnesses that attest one Byz reading each does not provide any evidence for the Byz text as such. I have no trouble believing that Byz readings can and are very early. But that is not the same thing as saying that the Byz text itself is early.

James Snapp said...

Peter,

PG: "No, I would not leave versions."

That is good. So, you agree that to use Leonard's parameters to search for confirmation of the existence of Byzantine readings before 800 would be to put on blinders, metaphorically speaking, right?


PG: "Nor would I use them as you have here if I wanted to address the real issue behind Leonard's question."

I'm not addressing the real issue behind Leonard's claim; I am just addressing his claim. If I wanted to look for an early cohesive essentially Byzantine Text, consulting essentially Alexandrian and essentially Western texts would not be my Plan A. But here (i.e., above, in the post) I am (first) testing Leonard's claim, and (second) the validity of the parameters he used as the basis for it.

PG: "The question is not whether Byzantine readings can be found at some particular date but whether the Byzantine text can be."

No; while that is a fine question, the question at hand is: is Leonard's claim true, or is Leonard's claim false? -- and, secondarily, when versional evidence and patristic evidence are not arbitrarily kicked out of the equation, does the basis for Leonard's claim become stronger, or weaker? That's all I am doing here; far be it from me to use Leonard's flawed method -- ignoring patristic evidence, ignoring versional evidence, using the NA apparatus to effectively pre-select his database, focusing on one chapter of Philippians, failing to check data against the oldest Greek MS, etc. -- to find what it seems to have been designed to avoid finding.

James Snapp said...

Oracle,
Please identify yourself. I appreciate the data about Chrysostom, but anonymous comments are not allowed here.

The Oracle said...

Christian Nash

Peter Gurry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Gurry said...

Ok. I see no real point in responding to Leonard’s claim as stated here, so I assumed you were trying to address the real issue behind it. So never mind.

Daniel Buck said...

To be fair to Dr. Leonard, when he writes (following a string of weasel words), "unattested by the Greek manuscript tradition prior to the ninth century," we should use his own timescale for comparison. Yes, medieval manuscripts of versions and fathers support the readings of medieval manuscripts of the New Testament; but if the bar to be crossed is set at 800 A.D., then that bar must be crossed by every manuscript admitted into evidence; be it of the GNT, a version, or a father.

Daniel Buck said...

Dr. Leonard did rig the game in weaseling his way out of answering Pastor Snapp's question, the simple fact being that there's a lot more pre-800 A.D. evidence available for Matthew and Mark than for Philippians. So it really is rather fitting that he was hoist with his own petard on such an uneven field, using such an ancient ms of Philippians.

Daniel Buck said...

James, still waiting on you to update your post with the alleged early support for Phil 1:25.
But regarding my 'to be fair' suggestion, I'm sure that no serious scholar would accept such a restriction. For example, excluding post-800 manuscripts and all versions from consideration in the field of Old Testament studies would deprive us any knowledge whatsoever of most of the Hebrew Scriptures.
And were the field of patristic studies to be brought under the same restriction, we would be at a loss to determine the authenticity of the many epistles attributed to Ignatius. It's simply an unreasonable restriction, and smacks of selectively setting up the question to produce a predetermined answer.
That's not scholarship.

James Snapp said...

Daniel Buck,
Stay tuned; I intend to follow up with a supplemental post.