Tuesday, May 15, 2018

N-A in 2018 and W-H in 1881: How Similar?

Eldon Jay Epp

Eldon Jay Epp, in his 1974 essay, The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism (published in the Journal of Biblical Literature), mentioned the result of a comparison made by Kurt Aland between the compilation of the Greek New Testament that was produced by Westcott and Hort in 1881, and the compilation in the 25th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece published in 1963:  Aland detected that the difference between the 1881 text and the 1963 text amounted to 558 variants.  Epp concluded from this that “None of the currently popular hand-editions of the Greek NT takes us beyond Westcott-Hort in any substantive way as far as textual character is concerned.”
Epp observed the differences between the materials used by Westcott and Hort and the materials that subsequently became available.  Westcott and Hort did not use any papyri when making their compilation; they utilized no more than 45 uncial manuscripts; they used only about 150 minuscules; they cited only a small number of lectionaries.  In comparison, the modern textual critic in 1974 had the ability to consult over 80 papyri and 270 uncials.  Almost 2,800 minuscules were catalogued, along with 2,100 lectionaries.  (These quantities have grown significantly since 1974.)  Versional evidence and patristic research has “advanced significantly” – particularly where Syriac, Old Latin, and Armenian studies are concerned.
Yet in 1980, Epp acknowledged – in a sort of sequel-article, A Continuing Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism? (in Harvard Theological Review) – that the multitude of discoveries made after 1881 have not had much impact on the text, even though they have not vindicated the model of the text’s transmission-history that was assumed by Hort:  “What have our vastly increased manuscript discoveries and analysis done for us?” Epp asked.  “Do they confirm the methods and theories that produced the text of a hundred years ago?  All of us would quickly answer ‘Certainly not!’”
The thing to see is that the text of 100 years ago (i.e., in 1980, the text of 1881, Hort’s compilation) is barely different from the text being published as the 28th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece.  To offer up-to-date evidence of this point, I have made a fresh comparison of the 1881 compilation and the current edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation, in the following way:  first, I noted the 34 changes that were introduced between the 27th and 28th editions in the General Epistles.  (These have already been individually listed and described.)  I then proceeded to sift through Wieland Willker’s online presentation of the Greek New Testament in which he denotes differences between the Nestle-Aland NTG and Hort’s 1881 text.  Throughout the comparison, I noted all disagreements, but also assigned a special category to points in the text where one compilation or the other compilation has bracketed readings – that is, points where the difference between the two compilations is either (a) a matter of adding or subtracting brackets around variants, or (b) a matter of adding a bracketed word or words.
Here are the results, book by book: 

[Book: Disagreements / Disagreements that involve brackets]
Matthew: 188 / 95.  Full disagreements = 93.
Mark: 145 / 86.  Full disagreements = 59.
Luke: 156 / 84.  Full disagreements = 72.
John: 202 / 115.  Full disagreements = 87.
Subtotal:  Gospels: 691 / 380. Full disagreements = 311.
Acts: 204 / 89. Full disagreements = 115.
Romans: 65 / 36. Full disagreements = 29.
First Corinthians: 62 / 33. Full disagreements = 29.
Second Corinthians: 34 / 16. Full disagreements = 18.
Galatians: 23 / 10. Full disagreements = 13.
Ephesians: 16 / 11. Full disagreements = 5.
Philippians: 14 / 6. Full disagreements = 8.
Colossians: 14 / 10. Full disagreements = 4.
First Thessalonians: 17 / 11. Full disagreements = 6.
Second Thessalonians: 7 / 4. Full disagreements = 3.
First Timothy: 6 / 5. Full disagreements = 1.
Second Timothy: 8 / 3. Full disagreements = 5.
Titus: 6 / 2. Full disagreements = 4.
Philemon: 3 / 2. Full disagreements = 1.
Hebrews: 34 / 18. Full disagreements = 16.

Subtotal: Pauline Epistles: 309 / 167. Full disagreements = 142.
Papyri?  Who needs 'em?
James: 20 / 4. Full disagreements: 16.
First Peter: 26 / 13. Full disagreements: 13.
Second Peter: 12 / 5. Full disagreements: 7.
First John: 18 / 11. Full disagreements: 7.
Second John: 2 / 0. Full disagreements: 2.
Third John: 1 / 0. Full disagreements: 1.
Jude: 8 / 4. Full disagreements: 4.

Subtotal:  General Epistles: 87 / 37. Full disagreements = 50.
Revelation: 81 / 38. Full disagreements = 43.
Total Disagreements:  1,372
Total Full Disagreements:  661.
            Adding to this the 34 new readings in NA28, the total number of full disagreements in the 28th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece against WH1881 is 695.
            This is particularly interesting when one turns to the Editionum Differentiae (Appendix III) in the 27th edition of NTG, which lists (among other things) the differences between NA27 and NA25.  (The text was essentially unchanged in the intervening 26th edition, which had essentially the same text as the third edition of the UBS Greek New Testament.)  There one can observe that between NA25 and NA27, there were 397 changes in the Gospels, 119 in Acts, 149 in the Pauline Epistles, 46 in the General Epistles, and 29 in Revelation, for a total of 740.  
            Thus, setting aside cases of bracketed words, it seems that if one were to start with WH1881 and change it until it matched up with NA28, one would need to make 695 changes, whereas using the same approach, if one were to start with the 1963 NA25, and change it until it matched up with NA28, one would need to make 774 changes.  It seems that the compilers of NA28 must think that the WH1881 compilation – made without the benefit of papyri, and based on a transmission-model which no serious textual critics still advocate (at least, none known to Dr. Peter Gurry, as he mentioned in a recent post at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog) – was closer to the original text than the 1963 compilation was. 

(Readers are invited to double-check the statistics in this post.)


gwnfan said...

How does the WH1881 compare to the THGNT?

Peter Gurry said...

One correction: I claimed that no one I know of follows their view of the origin of the Byzantine text. That’s only one part of their larger view of textual history (they do not use the term “transmission model”). It is probably fair to say that no one follows their larger view of textual history completely either. But certainly, in their judgment on 01 and 03, many have and still do follow them, if not to the same degree. They were quite right to privilege those two manuscripts over the later Byzantine manuscripts, Codex Bezae, etc.

But it is striking how many of their decisions have been confirmed or supported by the papyri. As for Epp, his approach to evaluating textual criticism based on the number of changes from WH is a non sequitur as far as I’m concerned. How many changes do we need before we can claim progress? Why isn’t 600+ enough? To even ask the question is to realize that the approach is wrong-headed.

That said, these are very useful stats to have. So, thanks.

James Snapp said...

Peter Gurry,
My reference to Hort's transmission-model is meant to refer to a theory of transmission that involves the Lucianic recension, which (istm) is the same thing you refer to when you describe their (i.e., Hort's) theory of the origin of the Byzantine Text. Without this theory to account for 85% of the Greek MS-evidence, and to justify their dismissal of it, Hort's larger view would not be Hort's larger view; it would be something else. The Lucianic Recension is so integral to Hort's approach that it seems fitting to picture their relationship like that of an arch (the larger theory) and its capstone (the Lucianic recension).

Ben Murray said...

Curious, how much of this do you discuss with your congregation? I've had mixed results when trying to discuss this type of material. By mixed, I mean, a mixture of confusion, boredom, and slight shock. I would love to have this discussion with more of my congregation's leadership, but I do not know how to do it in a manner that is incredibly academic and requiring a lot of base understanding.

Daniel Buck said...

I gave a one-hour sermon at my church on the topic of the preservation of Scripture. I posed the question, is our present Bible more like Rat Poison (99.5% corn, 0.5% active ingredient) or a silver dollar (92.5% silver, 7.5% added content)? It held their attention.