“It is certain that the original wording is found either in the text or in the apparatus” – the apparatus being the collection of rejected variants found at the foot of the page in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. So wrote Daniel Wallace in 2004.
The creators of what Wallace has called “the new standard in critical texts of the Greek New Testament” seem to disagree.
The textual apparatus in the 27th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece fails to mention the reading that is found in the vast majority of manuscripts on many occasions. Maurice Robinson, in an essay published as chapter six of Getting Into the Text – New Testament Essays in Honor of David Alan Black , demonstrates the shortcomings of the Nestle-Aland apparatus by listing its non-inclusions of Byzantine readings in sample chapters of the New Testament. Robinson showed (among other things) that the Nestle-Aland apparatus fails to mention the reading found in the majority of manuscripts four times in Matthew 3, fourteen times in Mark 3, eleven times Luke 3, eight times in Acts 3, and, incredibly, thirty-three times in Mark chapter 9. Some of the neglected Byzantine readings are mere transpositions, but this does not explain their non-inclusion, for many of the variants included in the Nestle-Aland apparatus are also transpositions.
Allow me to offer a few examples of the non-trivial readings in the Byzantine Text which might as well be non-existent to readers who depend solely on the Nestle-Aland compilation. Why did the same editors who included all sorts of trivial and untranslatable readings leave readers unaware of the following Byzantine readings?
● Matthew – the Byzantine text’s non-inclusion of και πυρι (“and fire”)
● Mark 3:5 – the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of ὑγιὴς ὡς ἡ ἄλλη (“as whole as the other”), supported by Codices L, Y, M, et al.
● Mark 3:31 – φωνοῦντες (instead of καλοῦντες), supported by Codices D, K, Π, M, et al.
● Mark 9:3 – the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of ὡς χιὼν (“like snow”), supported by Codices A, D, M, N, et al, and secondarily (as ὡςεί χιὼν) by Codices K, Π, Y, et al.
● Mark – the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of τοὺς γραμματεις (“the scribes,” instead of αὐτους, “them”), supported by Codices A, G, C, N, K, U, Π, M, et al.
● Mark 9:18 – the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of αὐτου (“his,” instead of non-inclusion) after ὀδόντας, supported by Codices A, K, M, N, U, Θ, Π, et al.
● Mark 9:24 – the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of Κύριε (“Lord,” instead of non-inclusion), supported by Codices Δ, K, M, N, Π, et al.
● Mark – the Byzantine Text’s inclusion of πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς (“among yourselves,” instead of non-inclusion), supported by Codices A, W, K, Π, M, N, Θ, et al.
● Luke 3:4 – The Byzantine Text’s inclusion of λέγοντος (“saying,” versus non-inclusion), supported by Codices A, C, K, M, N, U, Θ, Λ, Π, Ψ, et al.
● Luke 3:22 – The Byzantine Text’s inclusion of λέγουσαν (“saying,” versus non-inclusion), supported by Codices A, E, F, H, Γ, Δ, Ψ, Y, K, M, N, S, U, Θ, Π, Λ, et al.
● Acts 3:26 – The Byzantine Text’s inclusion of Ἰησοῦν (“Jesus,” versus non-inclusion).
● Second Timothy 4:1 – The Byzantine Text’s inclusion of τοῦ Κυρίου (“the Lord,” versus non-inclusion).
It is bad enough that the Nestle-Aland apparatus routinely hides the testimony of multitudes of manuscripts beneath a single reference-symbol, or siglum (essentially treating all those Greek manuscripts as the equivalents of copies of an early version), while listing Alexandrian and Western witnesses individually. It is bad enough that the Nestle-Aland apparatus uses some witnesses selectively, citing them when they bolster the testimony of Vaticanus but ignoring them if they disagree with Vaticanus. So when it is clear that the Nestle-Aland editors’ pro-Alexandrian bias is so severe that they frequently fail to even mention Byzantine readings, who can be blamed if readers conclude that they must look elsewhere if they want an equitable treatment of the evidence?
In light of the absence of any mention of these Byzantine readings in the Nestle-Aland compilation, how should we regard claims such as James White’s assertion that “Anyone who has these critical texts has all the readings of the manuscripts right there in front of him” and his claim that “Any reading that is in any of the tradition is found either in the text, or in the footnote”? As nothing but misinformation spread by the misinformed.
This flaw in the Nestle-Aland compilation stands out all the more clearly when one notices that not only does the Nestle-Aland compilation repeatedly completely fail to mention the reading attested by the majority of Greek manuscripts, but its text, in the 28th edition, includes readings that are not found in any Greek manuscripts. In Acts 16:12, the editors retained the reading that was in the preceding edition: πρώτη[ς] μερίδος τῆς, which (as Bruce Metzger explained in his Textual Commentary) is not found in any manuscript; a majority of the
The 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation has another conjectural emendation in Second Peter 3:10; the last two words of the verse in NA-28 are οὐχ εὑρεθήσεται (“shall not be found”). However, while the last word – εὑρεθήσεται – is supported by ﬡ B K P 1739 et al, there is no Greek manuscript support for οὐχ. Daniel Wallace has argued against this conjectural emendation, and Aaron K. Tresham has written a brief paper against it. Nevertheless, there it is.
It may be difficult for some readers to understand the reasoning that simultaneously removes conjectural emendations from the apparatus while adopting them in the text. Nevertheless, that is the approach that one may fairly expect to influence the Nestle-Aland compilation for decades to come: a dismissal of the contents of the majority of manuscripts (to the extent that their contents are not even covered in the textual apparatus), in favor of the imaginations of textual critics as a source of Greek readings to be included in the text.
Daniel Wallace has assured us that “There is no place for conjectural emendation for the NT because of the great wealth, diversity, and age of the materials that we have to work with.” The Nestle-Aland compilers (secularist David Trobisch among them) obviously disagree (but this does not seem to matter to Wallace, who welcomed NA28 in 2012, calling it “a new standard”), ignoring readings found in the majority of Greek manuscripts while accepting readings that are not found in any Greek manuscripts. So, what might a future edition of the Greek New Testament look like if such an approach were fully engaged? I hope to consider that question in more detail in the near future.