Wednesday, February 27, 2019

James White and Codex Sinaiticus

            In 1995, James White wrote The King James Only Controversy, and in 2009, a second edition appeared.  In both editions, White badly misrepresents the means by which Constantine von Tischendorf acquired Codex Sinaiticus at Saint Catherine’s monastery.  This is something that should be sorted out, lest readers of White’s book continue to be misinformed about this. 
            Tischendorf’s own report of his encounters with the manuscript is accessible; he has left us his account in a section of his little book When Were Our Gospels Written? – With a Narrative of the Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript.  On page 28 of that book, Tischendorf affirms that in May of 1844, at St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, “I discovered the pearl of all my researches.”  It may be easier to simply present Tischendorf’s statements rather than summarize them:
            “I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of paper like this, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames.  What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen.  The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-five sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire.  But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder.”
            Tischendorf related that after returning to Europe, he named the pages he had gotten at St. Catherine’s monastery Codex Frederico-Augustus, and they were deposited at Leipzig University, where they remain to this day.  He also says that years later, in 1853, he visited Saint Catherine’s monastery again, but found only “a little fragment” of the manuscript which he had previously seen, in dismantled form, in the basket.
            On page 32, Tischendorf described his third visit to Saint Catherine’s monastery, in January and February of 1859.  He writes that on February 4, he encountered substantially more pages of the manuscript that he had encountered in 1844:  in the course of a conversation with the steward of the monastery,
            “As we returned toward sunset, he begged me to take some refreshment with him in his cell.  Scarcely had he entered the room when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he said, “And I too have read a Septuagint, i.e., a copy of the Greek translation made by the Seventy;” and so saying, he took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me.  I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas.”
            That is enough from Tischendorf for our present purpose.  It should be noticed that we only have Tischendorf’s word for the details involved.  Now let us turn to James White’s version of events, from the second edition of The King James Only Controversy, pages 56-58: 
            “Tischendorf embarked on a journey to the Middle East in 1844, searching for Biblical manuscripts.  While visiting St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, he noticed some parchment scraps in a basket that was to be used to stoke the fires in the monastery’s oven.”
            Here White has placed a footnote:  “If you’re wondering why these scraps would be in a trash can, the answer is that ancient books, be they made of papyrus or vellum, decay over time.  Bits of pages, the final or initial pages of a codex, were very subject to loss; they would, over time, find their way to the floor and need to be picked up to avoid a real fire hazard.”
            White continues:  “Upon examining them he discovered they contained part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  This was exactly what he was looking for, so he asked if he could take the scraps to his room for further examination, warning the monks not to be burning such items.”
            White then briefly describes Tischendorf’s third visit to Saint Catherine’s monastery (in 1859), when he encountered the steward’s manuscript:  “From the closet in his cell he produced a manuscript, wrapped in a red cloth.  The monk had no idea of the treasure in his hands, for this was none other than Codex Sinaiticus, which at that time was at least fifteen hundred years old!”
            Up to this point, one might think that White’s version of events is not much different from Tischendorf’s account.  But then we reach White’s footnote on page 58, where – after reporting that D. A. Waite claimed that some individuals “just about worship” Codex Sinaiticus – White states, “This, after alleging, inaccurately, that before being found À was about to be burned (one will note that that the steward at St. Catherine’s kept the manuscript in his cell, wrapped in a red cloth, hardly the way one treats trash.”
            
            Did White fail to perceive that the “parchment scraps in a basket” that Tischendorf encountered in 1844 were pages of Codex Sinaiticus?  That is exactly what happened.  White’s imaginative footnote demonstrates that when he wrote, he pictured those “scraps” as if they were “bits of pages” or pages from the beginning and end of codices, rather than the full pages from Old Testament books which constitute what used to be called Codex Frederico-Augustus, that is, those pages are the portion of Codex Sinaiticus (quires 35.1 – 37.3 and 47-49, to be precise) which bear the library-stamp of Leipzig University.  You can see them (and the Leipzig University library-stamp upon them) at the Codex Sinaiticus website.         
            In 2006, White demonstrated a complete unawareness that the pages in the basket in 1844 were part of Codex Sinaiticus, stating, “Sinaiticus was not found in a trash can.  It was clearly prized by its owner, and well cared for.”   White still did not realize that what was presented to Tischendorf on 1859 was affirmed by Tischendorf himself to include “those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket.”  The monks (as T. C. Skeat pointed out in his essay The Last Chapter in the History of the Codex Sinaiticus) had rebound the pages sometime after 1844 and before 1859.   
            (It is possible that the monks were simply rebinding the pages when Tischendorf saw the unbound pages in a basket in 1844.  This may be a good place to mention that David Parker, like J. Rendel Harris before him, has expressed strong suspicions about the veracity of Tischendorf’s description of the monks’ activities during his first visit to Saint Catherine’s.  Harris (who himself was a visitor to St. Catherine’s) pointed out that the monks there use baskets simply as baskets, to carry things, and have never been in the habit of burning books.  Parker (p. 131) suggests that Tischendorf misapprehended both why the pages were in the basket, and what he was told about what the monks were doing with the pages.  He concludes, “Although there are no grounds for believing it to be deliberately misleading, one cannot take Tischendorf’s account at face value.”  The correctness of this verdict is augmented by the discovery of pages from Codex Sinaiticus among the 1975 “new finds” which indicate that the monks at Saint Catherine’s respectfully consigned damaged codex-pages to a genizah, rather than to an oven.  The entire notion that the monks at Saint Catherine’s monastery in the 1800s were burning manuscripts in a stove appears to be completely fictitious.)
            White clearly says in an online lecture (listen to the audio here) that Tischendorf found scraps of parchment “in a trash can” and, in the same lecture, denies that Codex Sinaiticus was found in a trash can.  He was so confident in his misunderstanding of events that when addressing claims that Codex Sinaiticus had been found in a trash can – which is essentially where Tischendorf, rightly or wrongly, claimed to have first seen its pages, and which is where White affirms that Tischendorf found “scraps of parchment” in 1844 – he wrote, “I’m sorry, but any “scholar” who can’t even get this story straight is not really worth reading, to be honest.”
            No doubt if there is a third edition of The King James Only Controversy in the future, this shortcoming will be rectified.  In the meantime, owners of the second edition are encouraged to add notes in the margin of page 57 to explain that the “parchment scraps” which White says that Tischendorf found in 1844 in a basket were actually pages of Codex Sinaiticus, and that the claim about the monks burning manuscripts in an oven is a dubious claim by Tischendorf.  



(Readers are invited to check the data in this post, and to explore the embedded links to additional resources, and this short video from 2011.) 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bible Footnotes and the Byzantine Text


             Do the text-related footnotes in the NIV, CSB, NLT, and NKJV give an accurate picture of the differences between the Byzantine Text and the Alexandrian Text?  No, they do not.  Readers should not treat the text-related footnotes in those Bibles as if they fully denote the differences between the Byzantine Text and the primarily Alexandrian Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies compilation.  To illustrate this, let’s look into the textual disagreements between the Byzantine Text and the Nestle-Aland compilation in the book of Ephesians.  
             If one were to take in hand the NIV, one might say, “Hmm; only one footnote in Ephesians mentions a difference in manuscripts; that must be the only textual variant in this book. Those copyists were phenomenally accurate.”
            A reader of the ESV might say, "Hmm; only two footnotes in Ephesians mention a disagreement in the manuscripts; those copyists were extremely accurate.”
            Reading the CSB or NLT, one might conclude, “Hmm; eight footnotes in Ephesians mention a difference in manuscripts.  I guess the manuscripts of Ephesians are all alike except for that.”
            Reading, instead, the NKJV, readers could understandably think, “Hmm; fifteen footnotes in Ephesians refer to differences in the manuscripts.  That’s remarkably uniform considering how long the text was transmitted in handwritten copies.”

            The NKJV’s text-related footnotes point out three differences between the Textus Receptus and the Majority (Byzantine) Text, and 12 differences between the Byzantine Text (including the Textus Receptus) and the primarily Alexandrian Nestle-Aland compilation.  Thus, readers who get their idea of the contents of Greek New Testament manuscripts from footnotes in major English translations could understandably conclude that there are only 12 differences in Ephesians between the Nestle-Aland compilation and the Byzantine Textform. 
            Readers who look into the text in more detail by studying the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament could also conclude that there are only 23 significant variant-units in Ephesians, because only 23 variant-units are in the UBS apparatus.  If, instead, they read the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament,they might think that there are only 21 significant variant-units in Ephesians (because only 21 variant-units are covered in Ephesians its apparatus).    
            Here are the textual variant-units that the NKJV tells its readers about: 
            ● 1:14 – Byz reads “who” while NA reads “which.”
            ● 3:9 – NA does not include the phrase “through Jesus Christ.”
            ● 3:14 – NA does not include the phrase “of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
            ● 4:6 – At the end of the verse, NA does not include “us” before “all.”  (The Textus Receptus reads “you all.”)
            ● 4:9 – NA does not include “first” before “descended.”
            ● 4:17 – NA does not include “the rest of.”
            ● 5:5 – NA reads “For know this” instead of “For this you know.”
            ● 5:9 – NA reads “fruit of the light.”  Byz and the Textus Receptus (supported here by Papyrus 46) read “fruit of the Spirit.”
            ● 5:21 – NA reads “fear of Christ.”  Byz reads “fear of God.”
            ● 5:30 – NA does not include “of His flesh, and of His bones.”
             6:9 – NA reads “He who is both their Master and yours” instead of “your own Master also.”
            ● 6:12 – NA reads “rulers of this darkness” instead of “rulers of the darkness of this age.”

            It would require a deliberate effort on the part of an interpreter to perceive a significant difference of meaning in some of these twelve cases of different wording.  In other cases, though – especially 3:9b and 3:14 and 5:9 and 5:30 – I would say that the differences in wording are likely to yield some differences of exegesis; preachers are not likely to treat the different readings in those four passages as if they are saying the same thing. 

            The NKJV’s footnotes, however, do not inform readers of the full extent of the significant differences between the Byzantine Text and the primarily Alexandrian Nestle-Aland compilation.  Not even close.  When one takes in hand the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform and consults its text-related footnotes, it becomes obvious that there are more than 12 passages where the Byzantine Textform and the Nestle-Aland compilation diverge.  The actual number of differences between the Byzantine text and the Nestle-Aland text in Ephesians is 93.
            If we start with that 93 and consider bracketed readings in the Nestle-Aland compilation to be merely unstable, but still in the text, and if we set aside the variants in 3:2 and 4:21 which are a matter of different divisions of letters into words (in both places, Byz = εἴγε, NA = εἴ γε), then 11 differences can be removed from consideration, thus lowering the number of differences to 82.
            If we further eliminate from consideration transpositions of words which, while changing the wording, do not materially affect the meaning – such as the transposition in 1:1 where the Byzantine Text says “Jesus Christ” and the N-A compilation says “Christ Jesus” – then another nine differences may be set aside as trivial, yielding now a total of 73.
            Continuing to filter out trivial variants, if we collect differences which are matter of orthography (spelling), such as αλλα versus αλλ’ in 4:29 and 5:29 and 6:4, we can set aside variants in 3:13 (εκκακειν versus εγκακειν), 3:16 (δωη versus δῷ), 4:2 (πραότητος versus πραΰτητος), 6:6 (οφθαλμοδουλείαν versus οφθαλμοδουλίαν), and even 6:17 (δέξασθαι versus δέξασθε), reducing the number of non-trivial disagreements to 65.

            Some of those 65 disagreements are too minor to have an impact on the meaning of the text, but the following do have such an impact:
            ● 1:6 – the small difference here (εν η versus ης) is the difference between “in which He made us accepted” and “which He lavished upon us.”
            ● 1:14 – the difference between ος and ο is the difference between “who is” and “which is.”  (This variant is not stable in the N-A compilation.)
            ● 1:16 – The Byzantine reading υμων makes explicit what is implied in the N-A text.
            ● 1:18 – The Byzantine Text has “and” after “calling.”
            ● 1:20 – The difference here is the difference between “seated” and “having seated.”
            ● 2:1 – The longer Alexandrian reading here ends the verse with “your sins.”
            ● 2:17 – The longer Alexandrian reading here consists of a repetition of the word “peace,” so as to read, “Peace to you [who are] far off and peace to those [who are] near.”
            ● 2:19 – The longer Alexandrian reading consists of a repetition of the word “are,” so as to read, “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but are fellow citizens . . . .”
            ● 3:3 – The Byzantine reading means “He made known to me,” whereas the Alexandrian reading means “was made known to me.”
            ● 3:6 – The Byzantine text says “His promise.”  The Alexandrian text does not say “His.”
            ● 3:6 – The longer Alexandrian reading says “in Christ Jesus” instead of “in Christ.”
            ● 3:8 – The Byzantine reading means “among the nations,” the Alexandrian reading, without εν, means “to the nations.”
            ● 3:9 – The Byzantine reading affirms that God created all things through Jesus Christ.  The Alexandrian reading only says that God created all things.
            ● 3:14 – The Byzantine text has the phrase “of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The Alexandrian text does not.
            ● 3:21 – The longer Alexandrian reading adds “and” between “church” and “Christ Jesus,” whereas the Byzantine reading, without και, means “in the church by Christ Jesus.”
            ● 4:6 – The Byzantine Text means “us all.”  The Alexandrian Text only says “all.”
            ● 4:8 – The Byzantine Text has “and” before “He gave gifts to men.”
            ● 4:9 – The Byzantine Text says that He descended first.
            ● 4:17 – The Byzantine Text says “as the rest of the Gentiles.”  The Alexandrian Text only says “as the Gentiles.”
            ● 4:28 – The longer Alexandrian reading, besides changing the word-order, includes “own,” so as to say, “producing with his own hands what is good.”
            ● 4:32 – The Byzantine Text says “us.”  The Alexandrian Text (and the Textus Receptus) says “you.”
            ● 5:5 – The Byzantine Text says “For this you know.”  The Alexandrian Text says “For know this.” (Byz:  εστε.  Alex.:  ιστε)
            ● 5:9 – The Byzantine Text (henceforth “Byz”) says “fruit of the Spirit.”  The Alexandrian Text says “fruit of the light.” 
            ● 5:17 – Byz says “understanding,” whereas the Alexandrian reading is a command, “understand.”
            ● 5:19 – The longer Alexandrian reading includes εν (“in”) before “psalms.”
            ● 5:22 – Byz says “submit yourselves.”  The Alexandrian text does not (implying a re-application of the same verb from the previous verse).
            ● 5:24 – Byz says “Husbands, love your own wives.”
            ● 5:28 – The longer Alexandrian reading includes “also” before “husbands.”  
            ● 5:29 – Byz says “even as the Lord does for the church.”  The Alexandrian Text says “even as Christ does for the church.”
            5:30 – Byz includes the phrase, “of His flesh, and of His bones.”  The Alexandrian Text does not.
            ● 5:31 – Byz says “his” after “father.”  The Alexandrian text does not.
            ● 6:9 – The longer Alexandrian reading says “both their Master and yours.”  Byz says “your own Master” (the “your” is plural).
            ● 6:10 – Byz includes the words “my brothers.”  The Alexandrian text does not.  
            ● 6:12 – Byz refers to “the rulers of the darkness of this age.”  The Alexandrian reading refers to “the cosmic powers of darkness.” (Cf. CSB.)
            ● 6:16 – The Alexandrian text begins the verse with εν, so as to say “In all circumstances.”  Byz begins the verse with επι, so as to say, “Above all.”
            ● 6:24 – Byz closes the book with “Amen.”
           
            Thus, in terms of differences in the Greek base-text that have an impact on the wording in English, there are 36 textual disagreements between the Byzantine Text and the Alexandrian Text that have an impact on English wording.  It may be safely concluded that the 15 textual footnotes in Ephesians in the NKJV (and the eight textual footnotes in the CSB and NLT, and the two in the ESV, and the one textual footnote in the NIV) do not remotely approach a full presentation of the significant differences between the Alexandrian and Byzantine Texts. 
What about the textual apparatus in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece?   James White, in 1993 (in the 29th minute of this audio), claimed the following:   “I wish people would take the time, even if you don’t buy it, to go by a Christian bookstore and pick up the Nestle-Aland text, the UBS, now fourth edition that just came out.  Look at the text, and look at the bottom of the page.  Anyone who has these critical texts has all the readings of the manuscripts right there in front of them.  When I look at a passage, I can tell you exactly what any of the manuscripts in the various manuscript – all through the Byzantine tradition, so on and so forth – what they read, due to the tremendously advanced, very wisely put together textual apparatus at the bottom.  And any reading that is in any of these traditions is found either in the text or in the footnotes.” (emphasis added)
            Sadly, that is not true.  The textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland compilation fails to report the Byzantine reading in Ephesians 1:20, 2:3, 2:11, 2:12, 2:13, 2:20, 3:6, 3:7, 3:8 (twice), 3:11, 3:12, 3:16 (twice), 4:2, 4:29, 5:3, 5:4, 5:5, 5:24 (twice), 5:27, 5:29, 6:4, 6:6 (twice), 6:8, 6:9 (twice), 6:17, and 6:18.  To restate:  in the Nestle-Aland apparatus, the reading found in the majority of manuscripts of Ephesians is not reported in 30 out of 93 places where the two compilations diverge.   
            White’s comment should be tempered by his subsequent statement in The King James Only Controversy, regarding a Byzantine reading at the end of Acts 22:16 (another reading not reported in the Nestle-Aland apparatus):  “Surely such a reading, despite it probably being secondary, should at least be noted for the sake of all those who wish to do textual studies.”
             Daniel Wallace has also exaggerated the situation, stating, “It is certain that the original wording is found either in the text or in the apparatus.”  But (to give just one example) is it certain that a copyist added the word ἰδίοις in Ephesians 5:24, and utterly inconceivable that a copyist accidentally omitted the word ἰδίοις when his line of sight drifted from the letters οις in the preceding word (τοις) to the same letters at the end of ἰδίοις?  (The NET’s footnotes, by the way, cover 18 variant-units in Ephesians.)   More recently, Wallace wrote (as Maurice Robinson has observed),  “Pragmatically, the wording of the original is to be found either in the text or the apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. We have the original in front of us; we’re just not sure at all times whether it is above the line or below it.”  This is difficult to take seriously in a world in which nearly one out of three readings that are supported by the majority of Greek manuscripts (in Ephesians) are absent from the Nestle-Aland apparatus.
            The textual footnotes in major English translations of the New Testament only provide mere samples of the differences between the Byzantine/Majority manuscripts and the Alexandrian manuscripts.  Furthermore, even the Nestle-Aland apparatus badly fails to report Byzantine readings.  The only convenient and reliable way to identify the Byzantine-versus-Alexandrian readings is to consult the footnotes in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, also known as The New Testament in the Original Greek (2005).



Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Short Western Readings in Mark 1-4


 
Codex Bezae, the main Greek manuscript
of the Western Text
of the Gospels and Acts
.
           “The Western text is so inclined to addition that, if it omits any reading found elsewhere, the probability is that it does so because the omission is primitive.”  (emphasis added)  So claimed Kirsopp Lake.
            “Generally speaking, it [the Western Text] is characterized by harmonistic tendencies and additions.”  (emphasis added)  So said David Alan Black (in New Testament Textual Criticism:  A Concise Guide, page 33.)
            The Western Text “is usually considered to be the result of an undisciplined and ‘wild’ growth of manuscript tradition and translational activity.” (emphasis added)  So wrote Bruce Metzger.
           
            These statements, and others like them, do not give an accurate picture of the nature of the Western Text.  Some researchers seem to have assumed that because the Western text of Acts is about 8% longer than the Alexandrian text of Acts, the same tendency toward expansion typifies the Western Text throughout the Gospels.  However, this is not really the case.  Although the primary Greek manuscript representative of the Western Text, Codex Bezae, does have some interpolations (most famously at Matthew 20:28 and Luke 6:4), it regularly contains readings which are shorter than their Alexandrian and Byzantine rivals.
            To illustrate this, let’s look into some Western readings in the first four chapters of the Gospel of Mark, as found in Codex Bezae, that are shorter than their Alexandrian and Byzantine rivals.  To simplify things for non-specialists, I will present these readings in English.

CHAPTER 1  (14 Shorter Readings)

1:4 – D doesn’t have the word “river.”
1:6 – D doesn’t have the phrase “and a leather belt around his waist.” (probable h.t. error)
1:7 – D doesn’t say “he preached.”
1:10 – D doesn’t say “immediately.”
1:11 – D doesn’t say “came.”
1:15 – D doesn’t say “And.”
1:16 – D doesn’t use Simon’s name twice, only once.
1:18 – D says that Andrew and Simon left “all,” instead of “their nets.”
1:25 – D doesn’t use Jesus’ name.
1:27 – D doesn’t include the words “What is this?”
1:35 – D doesn’t say “having risen.”
1:44 – D doesn’t say “nothing.”
1:45 – D doesn’t say “freely” (or “much”).
1:45 – D doesn’t say “he” was no longer able to openly enter a city.

CHAPTER 2  (17 Shorter Readings)

2:2 – D doesn’t say “the” before “word.”
2:4 – D doesn’t say “Him” after “they could not come near.”
[2:4 – D includes Jesus’ name, so as to say “where Jesus was.”]
2:4 – D doesn’t say “uncovered” (or “dismantled”).
2:7 – D doesn’t say “alone.”
2:8 – D doesn’t say “immediately.”
2:13 – D doesn’t say “again.”
2:15 – D doesn’t say “that” (or “and”) after “house.”
2:17 – D doesn’t say “to them.”
2:19 – D doesn’t say “Jesus.”
2:20 – D doesn’t say “As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.” (probable h.t. error)
2:21 – D doesn’t say “from it” or “its” (not αφ’ αυτου, not απ’ αυτου, and not αυτου).
2:22 – D doesn’t say “But new wine for new wineskins.”
2:23 – D doesn’t say “his.”
2:23 – D doesn’t say “as they went.”
2:24 – D doesn’t say “to Him.”
2:26 – D doesn’t mention Abiathar the high priest.
2:27-28 – D doesn’t say “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  Therefore.”

CHAPTER 3  (8 Shorter Readings)

3:2 – D doesn’t say “him” after “heal.”
3:6 – D doesn’t say “immediately.”
3:7 – D doesn’t say “followed” or “followed Him.”
3:11 – D doesn’t say “the” before “unclean spirits.”
[3:14 – D doesn’t say “whom He named apostles.”  (The Byzantine Text also does not have this phrase here.)]
[3:16 – D doesn’t say “And He appointed the twelve.”  (The Byzantine Text also does not have this phrase here.)]
3:20 – D doesn’t say “they.” 
[3:23 – D says “the Lord Jesus” said to them, etc.]
3:27 – D doesn’t describe the house as “his.”
3:29 – D doesn’t say “against.”
3:29 – D doesn’t say “never” (i.e., “does not” is there, but not “never”).

CHAPTER 4  (10 Shorter Readings)

4:1 – D doesn’t say “on the land.”
4:3 – D doesn’t say “to sow.”
[4:4 – D says “of heaven.”  This phrase, rendered as “of the air,” is in the Textus Receptus, though not in the Byzantine Text.]
[4:9 – D closes the verse with, “And the one with understanding, let him understand.”]
4:10 – D says “His disciples” instead of “those around Him with the twelve.”
4:16 – D doesn’t say “likewise.”
[4:17 – D says “and” instead of “or.”]
4:19 – D doesn’t say “and the desires for other things.”
4:24 – D doesn’t say “and more will be given to you” or “and to you who hear, more will be given.” (probable h.t. error)
4:32 – D doesn’t say “And when it has been sown, it grows up.” (probable h.a. error)   
4:33 – D doesn’t say “to them.”
4:38 – D doesn’t say “and” before “said to Him.”
4:41 – D doesn’t say “Him” after “obey.”

            That’s not all the short readings that Codex D has in these four chapters.  But it is abundantly enough to demonstrate a few things:

First:  The compilers of the Nestle-Aland text applied the (obsolete and wrong) principle of  lectio brevior potior (prefer the shorter reading) extremely selectively.  They did not adopt the shorter reading in any of the 49 instances I just listed.  “Prefer the shorter reading if it’s Alexandrian is the real principle that was employed.
           
Second:  Footnotes that are limited to descriptions of the Byzantine/Majority Text, and the “NU” Text (the heavily Alexandrian Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies compilation) do not supply the whole story; there’s a whole text-type that is being pushed out of the picture.  The textual footnotes in the NKJV in Mark 1-4 cover only 15 variant-units (never mentioning the Western reading as such).  The apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament in Mark 1-4 (in the fourth edition) covers a total of only 28 variant-units.  Clearly neither of these resources is sufficient to get more than a sketch of the history of the text’s transmission. 
 
Third:  Although it may be tempting to simplify pictures of the history of the New Testament text as a contest between the Byzantine and Alexandrian forms of the text, it should be emphasized that the Western Text is very early and merits the attention of researchers. 

Fourth:  The Byzantine Text, in defiance of the oversimplified theory that Hort proposed to account for its origin, frequently attests to readings which are neither Alexandrian nor Western.   Consider just the first chapter of Mark:  the Byzantine Text has readings in verses 2 (x2), 5 (x2), 7, 8 (x3), 10 (x2), 13, 14, 16 (x2), 18, 19, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 (x2), 35 (x2), 36, 37 (x2), 39, 40 (x2), 41, 42, 43, and 45 which disagree with both Vaticanus and Bezae.  Does anyone, even at Dallas Theological Seminary, seriously think that these 40 non-Alexandrian, non-Western readings were the result of an editorial effort to create a compilation via the selection of readings from Alexandrian and Western exemplars?  (And yet as recently as 2015, Dan Wallace was still attempting to salvage the doomed and untenable Lucianic Recension theory as the explanation for the origin of the Byzantine Text.  And how can Moises Silva look at this data and still say he is “an unrepentant and unshaken Hortian”?)  
            This high number of distinct readings in the Byzantine Text should make one wonder what evidence Metzger and Ehrman were thinking of when they claimed that “Byzantine editors formed their text by taking over elements of the earlier extant traditions, choosing variant readings from among those already available rather than creating new ones that fit their sense of an improved text.”  (See The Text of the New Testament, fourth edition, page 279.)  For if the many non-Western, non-Alexandrian, non-conflate readings in the Byzantine Text are not the instant creations of editors, then they must echo an ancient non-Western and non-Alexandrian form of the text, and this is tantamount to an admission that a very Byzantine-like form of the text (distinct enough to contain 40 distinct readings in Mark 1’s 45 verses) existed in the 200s. 



(Readers are invited to check the data in this post.)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Erasmus' Manuscript of Revelation


            Erasmus’ first edition of the printed Greek New Testament – it was released by the printer Johann Froben in 1516 – has several famous features.  One of them involves the way Erasmus treated the last six verses of Revelation.  Erasmus had only one Greek manuscript of Revelation when he compiled the text for his Novum Instrumentum (the official name of the first edition):  GA 2814, which had been loaned to Erasmus by Johann Reuchlin.  (For a long time, this manuscript was simply referred to as manuscript 1r.)
            Page-views of the entire manuscript can be now accessed at the website of the library of the University of Augsburg.  (You may need to reload the page once or twice to get to the page-views.)  
A page (31v) of the manuscript
of Revelation used by Erasmus,
now at the University of Augsburg.
            (Shown:  part of Andreas of Caesarea’s commentary, followed by Rev. 8:13, followed by some commentary and a heading (in red), followed by Rev. 9:1-5a.  (The text is accompanied in the margin by red > marks.)  Notice the textual variant in 8:13:  this manuscript reads αγγελου (“angel”) although the Byzantine text (and the Nestle-Aland compilation) reads αετου (“eagle”).  Oikoumenios (keep reading for more information about him) also used the reading “eagle” in his commentary on Revelation, stating, “The eagle in midheaven, looking sadly at the misfortunes of those on earth, you will understand is a kind of divine angel sympathizing with the plight of human beings.” (Cf. John N. Suggit’s translation.)   
            If you consult the final pages of the manuscript, you can see that at the foot of fol. 92v, most of the text of Rev. 22:16 appears, interrupted by, and followed by, Andreas’ commentary – and on the next extant page (93r), we find ourselves in the summary of the contents of Revelation with which Andreas ended his commentary.  On 93v, Andreas’ review of the contents of Revelation continues, and then on 94r, in entirely different handwriting (as if someone had noticed that the manuscript had been damaged, and made this replacement-page, although the entire loss was not detected), we find the last words of Andreas’ commentary.   There are a few more pages, but they are blank.  (It looks like 95v may have been prepared to hold a framed illustration which was never added.)    
           
            This fits the description that was supplied by Erasmus regarding the manuscript that he used as the main basis for his compilation of the text of Revelation.  Erasmus mentioned that he used a Greek manuscript which was deficient at the end:  in the course of correspondence with Edward Lee, Erasmus wrote: 
            In calce Apocalypsis in exemplari, quod tum nobis erat unicum, nam is liber apud Graecos rarus est inventu, deerat unus atque alter versus.  Eos nos addidimus secuti Latinos codices.  Et erant ejusmodi, ut ex his quae praecesserant possent reponi. 
            That is, in English:  “At the end of my exemplar of Revelation – of which I had only one, because Greek copies of this book are rare – a few lines were missing.  I added them, using Latin copies as the basis.  These lines were of the sort that could be reconstructed [in Greek] by consulting the preceding text.” 
            This accounts for the very unusual Greek text of Revelation 22:16b-21 in Erasmus’ compilation.  For these verses, Erasmus took in hand a copy of the Vulgate, and translated its Latin text of Revelation 22:16b-21 into Greek (beginning with ὁ ἀστήρ). 
            Erasmus’ reconstruction of this passage, however, does not match up with any Greek manuscripts at several points (at least, not with any Greek manuscripts made prior to his compilation).  Although the Textus Receptus went through several revisions in the 1500s, Erasmus’ retro-translation of Revelation 22:16b-21 survived the process; as a result, the Textus Receptus continues to perpetuate some Greek readings in this passage that originated with Erasmus.  Bruce Metzger (in a footnote on page 100 of The Text of the New Testament, third edition) wrote about some of them: 
            “For example ἀκαθάρτητος (Rev. xvii. 4; there is, however, no such word in the Greek language as ἀκαθάρτης, meaning ‘uncleanness’); ὀρθρινός (xxii. 16); ἐλθέ twice, ἐλθέτω (xxii. 17); συμμαρτυροῦμαι γάρ . . . ἐπιτιθῇ πρὸς ταῦτα (xxii. 18); ἀφαιρῇ βίβλου . . . ἀφαιρήσει (future for ἀφελεῖ!!), βίβλου (second occurrence) (xxii. 19); ὑμῶν (xxii. 21).”
            How significant are these variations?  Almost all of them are trivial.  If one takes in hand the KJV and the NASB, and compares the two, it appears that the most of the new readings invented by Erasmus made no difference in translation: 
            v. 18:  KJV:  “For” / NASB does not have “For.”
            v. 19:  KJV:  “the book of life” / NASB:  “the tree of life”
            v. 19:  KJV:  “and from the things which are written” / NASB:  “which are written.”  (That is, in the KJV, three things are referred to:  the book of life, the holy city, and the things written in this book.  Whereas in the NASB, two things are referred to:  the book of life and the holy city, which are written about in this book.)
            v. 20:  KJV:  Even so, come” / NASB:  does not have “Even so.”      
            v. 21:  KJV:  our Lord Jesus Christ” / NASB:  “the Lord Jesus.” 
            v. 21:  KJV:  you all” / NASB:  “all.”

            Only the difference between “tree of life” and “book of life” yields a significant change to the meaning of the text.  Metzger, in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (albeit not in all editions), proposed a theory to account for this:  “The corruption of “tree” into “book” had occurred earlier in the transmission of the Latin text when a scribe accidentally miscopied the correct word ligno (“tree”) as libro (“book”).” 
           If Metzger’s theory is true, the confusion between ligno and libro may have occurred much earlier – early enough to affect some early Latin texts and the Bohairic version.  All Greek manuscripts of Revelation, however – at least, all Greek manuscripts prior to Erasmus’ printed text – support the reading “tree of life.”
           
            Some more information about Erasmus’ manuscript of Revelation may be helpful.  For many years after Erasmus used it, its location was not publicly know, and there was some concern that it had been lost.  In 1861, however, it turned up, and the scholar who discovered it – Franz Delitsch – wrote a detailed essay (in German) describing its readings, and showing how tightly its contents match up with Erasmus’ compilation, leaving no doubt that it was indeed Codex Reuchlins, the manuscript used by Erasmus.  It was later given a new identification-number (GA 2814).  

           Accompanying the text of Revelation in 2814 is a commentary which was composed by archbishop Andreas of Caesarea in 611.  Contrary to a recent claim made by James White, this commentary is not written in Latin; it is Greek.  Prior to Andreas of Caesarea (this Caesarea is the same place as Kayseri in Turkey, not the Caesarea on the coast of Israel), a writer named Oikoumenios had also written a commentary on Revelation, in the late 500s.  The work of Oikoumenios was known to Andreas; he refers to it repeatedly.  There is not a lot of data about the setting in which Oikoumenios wrote, but one of his statements indicates the time when he wrote:  he stated specifically that more than 500 years had passed since John wrote the book of Revelation.  The time between the composition of Oikoumenios’ commentary, and the commentary by Andreas, cannot have been great. 
            Andreas’ commentary became something of a standard work. (Meanwhile the Latin commentary on Revelation by the fourth-century writer Tyconius similarly was widely used, despite Tyconius’ Donatist views.)  It was often copied with the text of Revelation itself, in a specialized format, which Metzger described in The Text of the New Testament:  “He divided the book into twenty-four λόγοι, or discourses, because of the twenty-four elders sitting on thrones about the throne of God (Rev. iv. 4).  He further reflected that the nature of each of the twenty-four elders was tripartite (σῶμα, ψυχή, and πνεῦμα), and therefore divided each λόγος into three κεφάλαια, making a total of seventy-two chapters for the entire book.”
            An English translation of Andreas’ commentary on Revelation, with an insightful introduction, was recently completed by Eugenia Constantinou.  It can be downloaded for free – although you might have to spend a few minutes tracking it down from a large collection of academic papers.  It is also available to purchase as a paper book.   The Greek text of Andreas’ commentary, extracted from Volume 106 of Migne’s Patrologia Graece series, is also online.                   
      

   
Post-script

            Some writers who tend to defend the Textus Receptus, such as Thomas Holland and Chris Thomas, have insisted that Erasmus did not reconstruct Revelation 22:16-21 from Latin, or at least that there is little evidence for such a reconstruction.  Jan Krans has issued a detailed and remarkably effective reply, and his general conclusions are confirmed beyond all doubt by the examination of the online page-views of 2814.

Friday, February 15, 2019

James White and the NA/UBS Compilation


            “So do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” – Hebrews 10:35 (EHV)

            When one version of the New Testament has a verse, and another version does not have it, that’s something worth looking into.  When one version of the New Testament has 40 verses that another version doesn’t have, that’s definitely something worth looking into.  Textual criticism involves the investigation of those differences, and more:  not only are there some differences in manuscripts that involve the inclusion or non-inclusion of entire verses, but also hundreds of differences in manuscripts that involve important phrases and words.  (There are hundreds of thousands of trivial differences in the manuscripts, involving word-order and spelling, but the ones that involve non-synonymous differences in the wording of the text are the ones that tend to get the most attention.)    
            How can ordinary Christians confidently maintain confidence that the New Testament they hold in their hands conveys the same authoritative message that was conveyed by the original documents of the New Testament books?  To an extent, this is something one takes on faith, since there is no way to scientifically prove that the reconstructed archetype of the text of all witnesses is the same as the text of the autographs.  But that does not mean that one’s position about specific readings should be selected at random, rather than via careful consideration of the evidence.    
            When that careful consideration has been made, though, what should one do with one’s conclusions?  You might think that after scribal corruptions have been filtered out via text-critical analysis, the obvious thing for Christians to do would be to treat the reconstructed text as the Word of God, a text uniquely imbued with divine authority.  However, if one is to do something with one’s conclusions, one must first have conclusions – and here we have a problem, because there is no sign of the Nestle-Aland and UBS compilations of the Greek New Testament (both of which present the same text) ever being more than provisional and tentative.  As the Introduction to the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece states:  “It should naturally be understood that this text is a working text (in the sense of the century-long Nestle tradition):  it is not to be considered as definitive.”
            Anyone who wants a definitive text of the New Testament should abandon all hope of such a thing emerging from the team of scholars who produce the Nestle-Aland and UBS compilations. 
            The built-in instability of the NA/UBS compilation is understandable – nobody wants to say, “We are resolved to ignore any new evidence that may be discovered in the future” – but it is also somewhat problematic:  it has caused some apologists, such as James White, to effectively nullify the authority of some parts of the New Testament.  Christians are being told that they should not regard a particular verse, or a particular phrase, or a particular word, as authoritative, on the grounds that the compilers of the NA/UBS compilation have declared it questionable.  Even if a reading is included in the text today, the compilers might change their minds about it tomorrow, and therefore, it has been proposed, readers should not put much weight on such readings.
            Instead of producing a compilation in which every textual contest is won, the NA/UBS compilers often advise readers to treat a contested passage as if its original contents cannot be known – in which case, none of the rival readings can be safely treated as Scripture.
            For example, James White said this regarding Luke 23:34a (“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”):  “In Luke 23:34, there is a major textual variant.  And, as a result, you should be very careful about making large theological points based upon what is truly a highly questionable text.”  In another video, White stated the following, referring again to Luke 23:34a:
            “When you have a serious textual variant, you should not, in an apologetic context, place a tremendous amount of theological weight upon a text that could be properly and fairly questioned as to its specific reading.  And so, I don’t think that you should build a theology based upon this text.”
Speaking for myself, I think the original text of the New Testament ought to be the basis for Christian theology, whether it was perfectly perpetuated by scribes or not.  While there are textual contests which are extremely close (close enough to justify a footnote providing the alternative reading), the number of such cases is not as high as the compilers of the NA/UBS text make it out to be.  There is a clear danger and weakness in the approach being advocated by White and by whoever else proposes that “We shouldn’t build theology upon a disputed text”:  the danger of relegating parts of genuine Scripture to a non-authoritative status merely because they have been questioned by textual critics.
Is White aware of how much of the New Testament has been questioned by textual critics?  Here are some passages in the Gospels which, if White’s approach were used consistently, would go into a “Do Not Use for Theological Purposes” category, and their subjects: 
Mt.  1:7-8 (Was Jesus descended from Asaph and Amos?  Or, were the names of Asa and Amon spelled the same as the names of Asaph and Amos?)
Mt. 1:16 (Was Joseph the father of Jesus?)
Mt. 1:18 (Was Jesus already Christ when he was born?)
Mt. 1:25 (Did Mary have other children besides Jesus?)
Mt. 9:34 (Did Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons?)
Mt. 12:47 (Did someone tell Jesus His mother and brothers were outside?)
Mt. 13:35 (Did Matthew say that Isaiah wrote Psalm 72, which is ascribed to Asaph?)  (Or to put it another way:  Did Matthew err?)
Mt. 16:2-3 (Did Jesus say this?)
Mt. 17:21 (Did Jesus say that prayer and fasting were needed prior to casting out a particular kind of demon?)
            Mt. 18:11 (Why did Jesus come?)
Mt. 18:15 (Is the subject about any sin, or about when one is personally wronged?)
Mt. 19:9 (Is remarriage permitted after divorce?)
Mt. 21:31 (What did the crowd say to Jesus?)
Mt. 21:44 (Is this verse original?)
Mt. 23:14 (Is this verse original?)
Mt. 26:28 (Did Jesus say “new covenant” or just “covenant”?)
Mt. 27:16 (Was Barabbas also named Jesus?)
Mt. 27:35b (Is this verse original?)
Mt. 27:49 (Was Jesus pierced with a spear before He died?)  (Or to put it another way:  Do Matthew and John contradict each other?)
Mt. 28:19 (Did Jesus advocate baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”?)
Mk. 1:1-3 (Are these verses original?)
Mk. 1:1 (Did Mark consider Jesus to be inherently the Son of God?)
Mk. 1:2 (Did Mark blend together two passages, one from Isaiah and one from Malachi, and introduce them as having been written by Isaiah?)      
Mk. 1:40 (Did the man with leprosy kneel to Jesus?)
Mk. 1:41 (When requested to heal the leper, was Jesus angry, or was He filled with compassion?)
Mk. 6:22 (Was the dancer at Herod’s court the daughter of Herodias, or the daughter of Herod?)
Mk. 7:4 (Did Mark refer here to immersion, or to pouring?) 
            Mk. 7:16 (Is this verse original?)
            Mk. 7:19 (Did Jesus declare all foods to be fit to eat, or did He describe what happens to food after digestion?)
            Mk. 8:38 (Did Jesus refer to His words, or to His followers?)
            Mk. 9:29 (Did Jesus say that fasting was needed prior to casting out a particular kind of demon?)
            Mk. 9:44 and 9:46 (Did Jesus emphasize the eternal nature of suffering in hell?)
            Mk. 10:24 (Did Jesus say that it is hard to enter into the kingdom of God, or that it is hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God?)
            Mk. 11:26 (Is it necessary to forgive those who have sinned against us?)
            Mk. 13:14 (Did Jesus affirm that Daniel was a historical character?)
Mk. 14:24 (Did Jesus say “new covenant” or just “covenant”?)
            Mk. 15:28 (Is this verse original?)
            Mk. 16:9-20 (Are these 12 verses, including their record of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and His command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, original?)
            Lk. 1:46 (Was it Mary, or Elizabeth, who sang the Magnificat?)
            Lk. 2:14 (Did the angels say “Peace on earth, goodwill to men,” or “Peace on earth upon those favored by God”?)
            Lk. 3:22 (Did Luke describe the Father’s voice as if Jesus had become His Son at His baptism?)
            Lk. 4:44 (Was Jesus preaching in the synagogues in Galilee, or in the synagogues of Judea?)
            Lk. 5:39 (Is this verse original?)
            Lk. 6:48 (Is the final phrase in this verse original?)
            Lk. 8:26 (To what region did Jesus and His disciples go?)
            Lk. 8:43 (Is part of this verse a scribal corruption?)
            Lk. 9:26 (Did Jesus refer to His words, or to His followers?)
            Lk. 10:1 and 10:17 (Did Jesus send 70 individuals, or 72?)
            Lk. 10:42 (What did Jesus say to Martha?)   
            Lk. 11:13 (Did Jesus refer to gifts in general, or to the gift of the Holy Spirit?)
            Lk. 11:42 (Did Jesus affirm the regulations of the Law of Moses?)
            Lk. 14:5 (Did Jesus refer to a donkey, or to a son, or to a sheep?)
            Lk. 17:36 (Did Jesus emphasize that one shall be taken, and another shall be left?)
            Lk. 18:11 (Was the Pharisee praying “with himself”?)
            Lk. 18:24 (Was Jesus very sorrowful when the rich young ruler did not accept His offer?)
            Lk. 19:25 (Is this verse original?)
            Lk. 22:43-44 (Did Jesus’ body produce drops of sweat like blood?  And did an angel appear to Him in Gethsemane, strengthening Him?)
            Lk. 22:62 (After denying Jesus three times, did Peter depart and weep bitterly?)
            Lk. 23:17 (Is this verse original?)
            Lk. 23:34a (Did Jesus ask the Father to forgive those who were responsible for crucifying Him?)
            Lk. 24:3 (Did Luke specify that the women visiting the tomb did not find the body “of the Lord Jesus”?)
            Lk. 24:6 (Did Luke state that the men said to the women at the tomb, “He is not here, but is risen”?)
            Lk. 24:12 (Did Luke write this verse, which reports that Peter ran to the tomb and saw the linen cloths?)
            Lk. 24:36 (Did Jesus greet His disciples by saying “Peace unto you”?)
            Lk. 24:40 (Did Jesus show His disciples His hands and His feet?)
            Lk. 24:42 (Was Jesus given a piece of honeycomb to eat, as well as fish?)
            Lk. 24:51 (Did Luke say specifically that Jesus “was carried up into heaven”?)
            Jn. 1:18 (Did John call Jesus “only begotten God” or “the only begotten Son”?)
            Jn. 1:34 (Did John the Baptist affirm that Jesus was the Son of God, or that Jesus was the chosen one of God?)
            Jn. 3:13 (Did the verse originally end with the phrase, “the Son of Man who is in heaven”?)
            Jn. 4:9 (Did the verse originally end with the phrase, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”?)
            Jn. 5:3-4 (Did John write an explanation of why sick and infirm people were gathered at the pool called Bethesda?)
            Jn. 6:23 (Did John write the final phrase of this verse, mentioning that the Lord gave thanks for the bread?)
            Jn. 6:36 (Did Jesus say that whoever comes to Him will never hunger and that whoever believes in Him will never thirst?) 
            Jn. 6:47 (Did Jesus say that whoever believes on Him has eternal life?”)
            Jn. 7:8 (Did Jesus say He was not going to the feast, or that He was not yet going?)
            Jn. 7:39 (Did John say that the Holy Spirit was not yet given?)
            Jn. 7:53-8:11 (Are these 12 verses – the story about the adulteress – original?)
            Jn. 8:59 (Did Jesus go through the midst of the people, and so pass by?)
            Jn. 9:38-39 (Did the man who had received his sight say, “Lord, I believe,” and worship Jesus?)
            Jn. 10:8 (Did Jesus say that all who came before Him are thieves and robbers?)
            Jn. 12:8 (Is this verse original?)
            Jn. 12:32 (Did Jesus say that He would draw all people to Himself, or that He would draw everything to Himself?)
            Jn. 14:14 (Is this verse original, and if it is original, does it depict Jesus referring to prayers offered to Him?)
            Jn. 17:11 (Did Jesus refer to the elect – “those whom You have given Me” – in this verse?)
            Jn. 19:29 (Was a hyssop-branch, or a javelin, used to offer wine to Jesus?)
            Jn. 20:31 (Did the Gospel of John originally end at the end of 20:31?
           
            If I were to delve into the rest of the New Testament, more such passages could be listed, such as Acts 20:28 (did God purchase the church with His own blood?), First Corinthians 14:34-35 (Did Paul say that women are to be silent in the churches and are not permitted to speak?), Galatians 2:20 (Did Paul say that he lived by faith in the Son of God?), Galatians 4:25 (Is the first part of the verse a scribal corruption?), First Timothy 3:16 (Did Paul state that in Jesus, God was manifest in the flesh?), Hebrews 2:9 (Did Jesus taste death “apart from God”?), and Revelation 13:18 (Is the number of the beast 616 or 666?). 
  
            Does anyone think that this is how the Holy Spirit wanted these passages to be treated when He inspired the writers of the New Testament?   Christians confidently believe (or ought to confidently believe) that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine – but it can’t be profitable for doctrine if its authority is not recognized.  Few are moved by the declaration, “Thus saith the Lord, maybe.”  
            An objection might be raised:   “But it is not as if those readings have been arbitrarily declared dubious; the passages you listed have been properly and fairly questioned.”
            Who says?  Does anyone have transcripts of the conversations that led the NA/UBS compilers to almost habitually reject the reading of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts where it diverges from the Alexandrian Text (usually in the Gospels, the Byzantine Text is favored by a majority of over 85% of the Greek manuscripts, frequently over 95%, and sometimes over 99.5%), and to regularly prefer the readings of Codex Vaticanus even where it stands in a very small minority and disagrees with the oldest evidence?  James White does not think the BA/UBS compilers were correct when they introduced a conjectural emendation (that is, a reading with no Greek manuscript support) into the text of Second Peter 3:10.  But clearly the previously accepted reading of Second Peter 3:10 is now disputed; White, if he consistently refrains from using disputed passages for theological purposes, will stop using it.  Does anyone not see a problem here?  Almost anything – the disagreement of a single Greek manuscript, or the opacity of a reading to the compilers – has been used to justify disputing readings that are supported by evidence that is early and abundant and widespread.
            The NA/UBS compilation is unstable and it is very likely to become more unstable.  And if anyone optimistically imagines that only readings that the UBS compilation-committee previously assigned a “D” rating are unstable, think again:  in the 28th edition, the editors reversed what had been assigned an “A” rating in Second Peter 2:18.  That is, it is not only readings which the compilers regard with “a very high degree of doubt” which are now considered questionable; readings which in previous editions of the NA/UBS compilation were considered “virtually certain” are also vulnerable to change.      
            It is not my intention here to defend every one of the inspired readings which James White regards as unsafe to use as Scripture.  I merely observe that the approach he currently endorses – in which all that is needed to justify voiding the authority of a passage is for some textual critics to declare that after properly and fairly exploring the issue, their verdict is a shrug – is bound to introduce more and more instability into the text, and to consequently encourage readers to lose confidence in more and more passages – not because the passages have been shown to be non-original, but merely because they have been disputed.  This is not as large a problem as the Nestle-Aland compilation’s rejection of many original readings.  But it is a problem.