Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hebrews 1:1-6, Papyrus 46, and the Byzantine Text

Heb. 1:1-7a in Papyrus 46.
            Which contains the more accurate text of Hebrews 1:1-6:  the Byzantine Text (which some pro-Alexandrian scholars say emerged as late as the 800’s), or Papyrus 46, the earliest substantial Greek manuscript of the book of Hebrews? 
            Using the text of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece as the basis of comparison, here are the disagreements in the Byzantine Text:

2 – Byz has a transposition (τοὺς αιωνας ἐποίησεν instead of ἐποίησεν τοὺς αιωνας).
3 – Byz has δι’ εαυτου before καθαρισμὸν but NTG does not.
3 – Byz has a transposition and the word ημων after ἁμαρτιων in the middle of the verse. 

            That’s it:  the addition of 12 letters, and two transpositions.  For the rest of Hebrews 1:1-6, the Byzantine Text and Novum Testamentum Graece are identical. 
            Here are the disagreements between Papyrus 46 and Novum Testamentum Graece:  

1 – P46 has ημων added above the text-line after πατράσιν.  (+4, but since this is a correction, and may have been added after the initial production of the manuscript, it will not be counted in the total.)
2 – P46 has ημειν instead of ημιν. (+1)
2 – P46 does not have και. (-3)
3 – P46 does not have αὐτου after δυνάμεως.  (-5)
3 – P46 has δι’ αυτου before καθαρισμὸν.  (+7)
4 – P46 has τοσούτων instead of τοσούτω.  (+1)
4 – P46 has κριττων instead of κρειττων.  (-1)
4 – P6 does not have των before ἀγγέλων.  (-3)

            When numerical values are assigned to the variants – nothing for benign transpositions, +1 for the presence of a non-original letter, and -1 for the absence of an original letter – this data yields the following results:  in Hebrews 1:1-6, the Byzantine Text deviates from the original text by two transpositions and 12 letters’ worth of corruption (all additions).  Papyrus 46’ text, meanwhile, deviates from the original text by 21 letters’ worth of corruption (9 non-original letters added; 12 original letters omitted).
            What does this tell us? 
            First, it demonstrates that the Nestle-Aland compilers did not adopt the reading with the oldest manuscript-support several times in this passage, particularly in verse 3, where P46 has δι’ αυτου and the Byzantine Text virtually concurs by reading δι’ εαυτου.  The KJV, MEV, and NKJV read “by Himself” in this verse – following the sense given by the oldest manuscript and by the majority of manuscripts – and the CSB, NIV, NASB, and ESV do not.  Readers of the ESV and NASB are not given a footnote at Hebrews 1:3 to inform them that their English translation disagrees with the oldest and most widely attested reading there – succinctly refuting the idea that their footnotes always point out where manuscript-differences affect translation. 
            Thus they have no reason to look into the variant and see that the Alexandrian reading – the lack of δι’ εαυτου (or δι’ αυτου) – is easily explained as a parableptic error, caused when an early copyist’s line of sight wandered from the end of αυτου or εαυτου to the identical letters in the next phrase.  Notably, Michael Holmes, the compiler of the SBL-GNT, did look into this variant-unit, and included δι’ αυτου in the text.  He has not been accused of holding an idiosyncratic view because of this – so far.
            Second, it tells us that if the Byzantine text of Hebrews 1:1-6 did not achieve a stable form until the 800’s, then the scribes who perpetuated it before then exercised a remarkably high level of precision and discipline:  in 736 years (assigning the production of the book of Hebrews to the year 64), collectively they introduced 12 letters’ worth of corruption – or, if δι’ αυτου is the original reading in verse 3, only five letters’ worth of corruption – plus two benign transpositions.  Meanwhile in the Alexandrian transmission-stream, it took 161 years (putting the production of P45 at 225) before a professional copyist produced a manuscript in which Hebrews 1:1-6 contained 21 (or 14, if δι’ αυτου is accepted as original) letters’ worth of corruption. 
            If, like the editors of the New Living Translation, one rejects δι’ αυτου, and, like the NLT’s Coordinating Editor for the New Testament (Philip Wesley Comfort), one accepts a very early production-date for Papyrus 46 – during the reign of Hadrian (117-138) – then it follows that the scribes in the transmission-stream of P46 required 74 years to introduce 21 letters’ worth of corruption into the text of Hebrews 1:1-6.  (Let’s express this as an annual corruption ratio:  74:21, or .284 letters’ worth of corruption per year.) 
            If one were to assume that the Byzantine Text did not emerge until 800, this would imply that the scribes in its transmission-stream up to that point (with a corruption-ratio in Hebrews 1:1-6 of 736:12, or .0163 letters’ worth of corruption per year) were more than seventeen times as accurate, year for year, as the scribes in the transmission-stream of Papyrus 46. 
            On the other hand, if one theorizes that the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 achieved a relatively stable form no later than A.D. 400, then – still using the NTG as the basis for the comparison – the Byzantine copyists would have a theoretical corruption-ratio of 336:12, or .0357, in Hebrews 1:1-6.  This would mean that the Byzantine copyists were eight times as careful as the ones in Papyrus 46’s transmission-stream, but at least this is not as implausible as the first theoretical scenario.

And now, a statistical excursion. 

If one were to posit
            (a) the NTG’s text of Hebrews 1:1-6 as the original text, and
            (b) the existence of the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 in a manuscript made in 225, and
            (c) the existence of Papyrus 46 in the same year, then one could estimate that Byzantine copyists produced .0533 letters’ worth of corruption annually in Hebrews 1:1-6, and that the copyists in Papyrus 46’ transmission-line meanwhile produced approximately .093 letters’ worth of corruption annually in Hebrews 1:1-6.  If one were to picture copyists with the annual corruption-rate displayed in the transmission-stream of Papyrus 46, but producing instead the Byzantine text of Hebrews 1:1-6, then at a rate of .093 letters’ worth of corruption in this passage annually, beginning in A.D. 64 and working for 129 years, they would produce the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 by the year 194. 

            If the first premise in this hypothetical scenario were slightly adjusted, so that δι’ αυτου is accepted as part of the original text in verse 3, then if the copyists who produced the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 introduced corruption at the same rate as the scribes in the transmission-stream of Papyrus 46, then the Byzantine scribes would require 53 years to produce the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6, and their work would be identical to the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 by the year 117.  Toss on another 20 years – a decade for each transposition – and the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 emerges, not by 800, but before 150. 

            If one were to ignore P46’s three itacistic corruptions, and assign its production to 225, then its corruption-rate would be 18 letters over 161 years; that is, .112 letters’ worth of corruption annually – or, if δι’ αυτου is accepted as part of the original text in verse 3, then the rate is 11 letters over 161 years, that is, .068 letters’ worth of corruption annually.  Byzantine scribes working at the same rate would produce the Byzantine text of Hebrews 1:1-6 (with 12 letters’ worth of corruption) by the year 240 (working over 176 years) – or, if δι’ αυτου is accepted as part of the original text in verse 3, then if they had the same corruption-rate as the scribes in the transmission-line of P46, they would create five letters’ worth of corruption in 74 years, and the Byzantine Text of Hebrews 1:1-6 would thus emerge around the year 140, or, with two decades for the two transpositions, around 160.  I build nothing on this statistical comparison, but I find it interesting.

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