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.”
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.
While we are at mentioning instabilities in the Alexandrian text, we should note that χριστου is unstable in the Byzantine text at 5:21.
θεου is actually a minority reading.
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