Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Some Shortcomings of the Nestle-Aland Apparatus

          “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 3:11 – 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 9:16 – 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 9:33 – 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 UBS compilation-committee decided to “adopt the conjecture” made by earlier scholars. 
          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.


Peter Gurry said...

Thanks, James. I agree that it would be good to have more Byz readings in the NA apparatus. But I see some issues with what you’ve said here about the problem.

I don’t follow the conjecture at 2 Pet 3.10 and I get that it’s your favorite example of the NA28’s supposed incompetence. Still, in a post about missing information, it’s worth noting that the reading is found in some Coptic and Syriac manuscripts.

The main issue is that you say, “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.” But the only portion of the NA28 that actually shows the approach that is influencing them “for decades to come” is the one you don’t give any example from : the Catholic Epistles.

I have generally found that the NA28 apparatus in the Catholic Letters is better at citing Byz readings than it is elsewhere. The reason, of course, is because of the editors’ changing appreciation for the Byz text overall. When Acts comes out, it will show the same trend toward the Byz text.

Yes, yes, I know they have not moved far enough to satisfy you or any other Byz advocate. But that is beside the point. I am here only commenting on what we can expect from them in the future. It is quite the opposite of what you say it is here.

By the way, what work did David Trobisch do in “compiling” the NA28?

James Snapp Jr said...

Peter Gurry,

Second Peter 3:10 is within the Catholic Epistles.

The NA editors' "changing appreciation" for the Byzantine Text seems minimal; as I showed in an earlier post ( ), the number of times that NA disagrees with the Byzantine Text in the Catholic Epistles has dropped from 279 in NA27 to 272 in NA28. Woohoo.

Re: David Trobisch: I am not privy to details about who did what in the compilation of NA28, but Trobisch wrote the User's Guide, and is listed at as a UBS committee member since 2011.

(And I'm not a "Byz advocate" in the blanket-endorsement-of-all-Byzantine-readings sense; anyone familiar with my work should discern easily that I reject some Byzantine readings.)

Peter Gurry said...

Do you include writing an introduction as “compiling”? The UBS committee works on the UBS obviously and not the NA. So his participation there is irrelevant.

2 Pet 3.10 is not an example of the NA28 failing to cite a Byz reading (which is the type of “example” your comment about the NA’s trajectory is based on). The Byz reading is clearly cited there. I.e., it does exactly what you criticize the edition for not doing. Maybe just update the post to reflect that.

James Snapp Jr said...

Peter G,
At the link I provided, you should see very plainly the 2011 announcement that lists David Trobisch as a member of a new editorial committee "that will prepare future editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece as well as of the Greek New Testament."

So your statement that "The UBS committee works on the UBS obviously and not the NA" seems wrong. At the very least, such a scenario is not what that page describes. Does it seem to describe two separate committees, working separately, to you?

Regarding 2 Pet 3:10: I would think it obvious that Second Peter 3:10 is not an example of the NA apparatus failing to mention the Byzantine reading; the purpose of bringing it up (besides as a way of introducing the next planned post) was to illustrate that in addition to the NA-apparatus' failure to list some translation-impacting variants that are found in the majority of MSS, the NA-text also adopts readings, at the two places mentioned, which are not attested in any Greek MSS. I don't see how this point could be misunderstood, inasmuch as nowhere do I list the Byzantine reading in 2 Peter 3:10 among those which are not cited in the NA apparatus.

Maurice A. Robinson said...

Two comments:

1. Does the basic membership differ between the NA and UBS committees (recognizing that many others also work behind the scenes)? If not, then this is a non-issue.

2. The "dismissal of the contents of the majority of manuscripts (to the extent that their contents are not even covered in the textual apparatus)" is not exactly some new innovation in the more recent NA or UBS editions; rather such has been the general practice since the later 19th century. The ECM, on the other hand, deserves great credit for displaying a far more inclusive citation of Byzantine readings.

Peter Gurry said...

James, you are right to point out that link about the NA/UBS committee. It's not clear, however, what their actual role will be going forward. In any case, Trobisch had no role in the NA28 as far as I know.

Re: 2 Pet 3.10, it is neither here nor there as concerns its conjecture. The issue with your post remains the fact that you criticize the new edition while ignoring the very part that is new! This is a problem because one of the things that is new is a set of Byz manuscripts (5, 81, 307, 436, 442 etc.) that is now consistently cited in the apparatus there (see pp. 65*-66*). In other words, they're doing exactly what you want them to. I would think you would be happy about this.

Daniel Buck said...

It is difficult to see what James could write to please you, unless it reinforces your preconceived ideas.

The title of this blog, you will notice, is "The Text of the Gospels." Thus a complaint that it focuses on the text of the Gospels, to the detriment of other texts, is unhelpful. It reminds me of a friend who previewed my exhaustive study of biblical marriage, and his main objection was that it didn't cover other kinds of marriage.

Secondly, I keep getting the idea that you aren't actually reading what James writes before rushing to interact with it. James has repeatedly said the then NA28 conjecture 'ouk' in 2 Peter 3:10 does note exist in any Greek manuscript. Not only is that true, it's even true that it doesn't exist in any Coptic or Syriac manuscript either--I hope you can figure that out.
And finally, please put to rest the charges that James is some sort of gung-ho apologist for the Byzantine text. He is an apologist for the truth. If that bothers some people, so be it.

Peter Gurry said...

What I want is pretty simple actually: a fair representation of the NA28's changes in citing Byz. I don't care if James agrees or disagrees with their editorial text. But in this post he is criticizing a straw man.

As I said in my first comment, I fully agree with James that more Byz citations are to be desired. And that is precisely what we are getting in the NA28 and what we can expect to get as the edition is further revised in accordance with the ECM. (See MAR's comment above.) Why is this so hard to see?

Unknown said...

Suggestions for an alternative to NA28? Seems to be the best that we have, but I could be wrong.

Maurice A. Robinson said...

DB: " 'ouk' in 2 Peter 3:10 ... doesn't exist in any Coptic or Syriac manuscript either"

NA28 states some MSS of the Philoxenian Syriac as well as the Coptic Sahidic version plus Coptic dialect "V" have the negative -- are they wrong?

Daniel Buck said...

No, they are not wrong. But ouk is not a Coptic or a Syriac word. The actual word ouk, printed in NA28, does not exist any any manuscript.

Maurice A. Robinson said...

I hardly think that is what the apparatus is claiming; only that a negative is clearly present in the cited versional data of those respective languages and that this therefore supports a presumed negative in some Greek archetype underlying those versional witnesses.

One certainly would not claim that if the Russians say "no" to something that such is untrue because they actually said "Nyet" (Нет).

Daniel Buck said...

Translators are famous for putting things in their translations that aren't supported by the original. The originators of this conjecture were Syriac and Coptic scribes, but it is no less a conjecture because the Editors of NA28 translated it into Greek.
If a translator told me that the Russian intelligence report says evidence of collusion in the last American election was not found, based on reading an American TV show's take on the topic, when in fact the report said that it was found, I'd accuse him of perpetuating a conjecture, even if he didn't come up with it himself.

Maurice A. Robinson said...

The conjecture remains a conjecture, specifically due to its absence among existing Greek MSS.

However, although the presence of the negative may reflect a conjecture on the part of the Coptic or Syriac scribes involved, such equally may reflect the particular Greek MSS or MSS used as the basis for their translation.

Given the extremely difficult ευρεθησεται reading of the extant Alexandrian MSS, I suspect the negative originally was present in that particular archetype, and that such was used as the Vorlage of the Sahidic and Philoxenian, the reason being that it would be far more likely for a negative to drop out of later Greek copies than that scribes of two remotely separated translations conjecturally would have added such.

Peter Gurry said...

MAR, I don't doubt that the Philoxenian may have derived its negative in 2 Pet 3.10 from a Greek source, but since it is only a few of the 10 or so Philoxenian witnesses of 2 Pet and since the others are not especially Alexandrian in character, I think it's difficult to use them as evidence for a putative Alexandrian archetype. The Coptic I can't really speak to though and that may be the more pertinent of the two versions.