Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Nestle-Aland Text in Galatians 1: Alexandrian or Eclectic?

       It is sometimes claimed that the text in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament was compiled via a process that rejects the contents of over 90% of the existing manuscripts of the New Testament, strongly preferring the contents of two manuscripts:  Vaticanus (B, 03) and Sinaiticus (À, 01).  Is that true?  Lets find out – or at least, lets use a sample to get some idea about how accurate that claim is  by comparing the text of the first chapter of Galatians in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece to the text in Codex Vaticanus, the text in Codex Sinaiticus, and to the Byzantine Text.  (In Galatians, the text in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation is the same as the 26th and 27th edition, going back to 1979; the same text is in the fourth and fifth editions of the UBS Greek New Testament.)  In Matthew-Jude, the Byzantine Text usually represents the contents of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts.       
          In Galatians chapter 1, there are only nine differences between the  Nestle-Aland compilation and the Byzantine Text, and in three of those cases, the text in NA27 is bracketed, indicating that the NA compilation is unstable at those three points.  Here are the differences:   

● 1:3 – NA rejects the word-order in B and Byz, adopting À’s reading instead.
● 1:4a – NA rejects the reading of Byz and À and Papyrus 46 (περι), adopting instead the reading in B (υπερ).
● 1:4b – NA rejects the shorter reading found in Byz (ενεστωτος αιωνος), agreeing instead with B and  (αιωνος του ενεστωτος), 
● 1:6 – NA has Χριστου (supported by B, Byz, and À) in the text, but it is bracketed.
● 1:8 – NA has υμιν (supported by Byz), but bracketed.
● 1:8 – NA has ευαγγελίζηται where Byz also has ευαγγελίζηται.  The Byzantine Text, however, is divided here:  the text of the Hodges-Farstad Majority Text, and the margin of RP2005, read ευαγγελίζεται.  B agrees with RP2005 at this point in the verse, but disagrees earlier, reading καν instead of και εαν. 
● 1:10 – NA rejects the Byzantine reading γαρ before ετι, thus agreeing with B and À.
● 1:11a – NA rejects δε (thus disagreeing with Byz and ), and accepts γαρ (thus agreeing with B).  (And, in 1:11b, NA rejects the extra two occurrences of το ευαγγελιον in B, agreeing instead with Byz and À.)
● 1:15 – NA has ο θεος (agreeing with Byz and À) in the text, but it is in brackets.  (The words are not in B.)  [The ESV, by the way, does not translate these words, deviating from the NA text.]
● 1:18 – NA rejects the Byzantine reading Πετρον in favor of Κηφαν (which is supported by B and À).

        Another comparison may be considered.  Using the late scholar Reuben Swanson’s volume of line-by-line comparisons of the contents of various manuscripts, let’s investigate line-by-line to see whether the NA compilation looks like it depends heavily upon B and , or if it looks like an eclectic text, in terms of its results.  

The result:  out of 44 lines of text in Galatians in Swanson, 35 lines match the text of B without variation.  Out of the remaining nine lines, which in NA do not agree with B, five of them agree with À.  So when one reads Galatians 1 in the Nestle-Aland compilation, one is reading a text that is in either B or  roughly 91% of the time, if one divides the text into the comparison-lines in Swanson.

          Does this mean that NA is Byzantine in the 11% of comparison-lines where it is not Alexandrian?  No.  Out of the remaining four lines in Swanson where NA does not agree with B and does not agree with À:
■ At the beginning of verse 8, NA disagrees with B and with  and agrees with the text in RP2005.
■ Near the end of verse 8, NA disagrees with B and with  and agrees with Byz. (The word υμιν is, however, bracketed in NA27.)
■ At the beginning of verse 11, NA disagrees with B (due to B’s weird triple occurrence of το ευαγγελιον) and with À and Byz (which both read δε instead of γαρ early in the verse). This sequence of readings adopted by NA is found as a correction in B, a correction in , and in G and 33.
■ At the beginning of verse 19, where B has ουχ ειδον and À has ουκ ιδον, NA agrees with Byz (and a correction in B), reading ουκ ειδον.

          So: in Galatians 1, if we divide the text into Swanson’s 44 lines (as a convenient reference):  35 lines agree with B.  Five of the 9 remaining lines that do not agree with B, agree with .  Three of the four remaining lines that do not agree with B, nor with À, agree with Byz.  Thus, in Galatians 1, in terms of how many full lines in Swanson’s comparison agree with either B, À, or both, the Nestle-Aland compilation is roughly 91% Alexandrian, 7% Byzantine, and 2% something else.
          If we zoom in for a closer look at those three lines in which NA agrees with Byz against B and , we see how small the impact of the Byzantine Text is:  
(1) The difference at the beginning of verse 8 amounts to καν (in B) versus και εαν, which is read by ﬡ as well as by Byz.
(2) The contest near the end of verse 8 is between the absence (in B and ) or presence (in Byz) of υμιν.  Inasmuch as the word is bracketed in NA27, this should not be considered a stable portion of the NA compilation. And,
(3) The difference near the beginning of verse 19 is a matter of two letters in two words.  Treated as separate variants, each word adopted in NA is supported by either B or ﬡ:   B has ειδον and ﬡ has ουκ.

          Thus, one can produce a compilation of Galatians 1 that is identical to the text of NA by picking and choosing exclusively from first-hand readings in B and ﬡ, with one exception:  the Byzantine Text has contributed one bracketed word (consisting of four letters) in verse 8.  (B also has υμιν, but before ευαγγελίζηται instead of after it.)   It seems to me that the presence of a single word (constituting a little less than one-third of one percent of the text of Galatians 1) does not justify calling the NA compilation of Galatians 1 an eclectic text.  Whatever has been said about the eclecticism of the method used to compile the Nestle-Aland text, the compilation itself in Galatians 1 is more than 99% Alexandrian.  

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