Tag Archives: Textual Criticism

Summary of “The Text of Acts in the Writings of Origen”

My thanks to Adam Harwood for posting a summary of my research on Origen on his site at http://www.adamharwood.com/?p=74.


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New Readings in the NA28: Report on Jude


5  παντα οτι [ο] κυριος απαξ ➽  απαξ παντα οτι Ιησους

This may well be one of the most significant changes of all in the transition from the NA27 to the NA28. The NA27’s reading was “you all know that the Lord once saved [his/the] people from the land of Egypt.” The NA28 reading would now be something like “you once knew all things that Jesus saved [his/the] people from the land of Egypt”

My professor Carroll D. Osburn once argued that this “new” reading of NA28 was original in  “The Text of Jude 5.” Biblica 62.1 (1981): 107-15. The MSS offer some 11 possibilities here showing that from the beginning this text caused scribes problems, involving not only word order but also the choice between various options for who did the saving: the Lord, Lord, Jesus, God, and in one MS, Lord Jesus. The reading of “Jesus” is supported by the important MSS Alexandrinus and Vaticanus (as well as 33 81 and 2344). See also the Latin Vulgate, and thus also the Douay-Rheims Bible, which preserved the reading now in the NA28.

18 Omit [οτι] and [του]

These omissions remove bracketed, thus uncertain, words from the NA27 text. The net effect is the change from “Because they were saying to you that ‘at the end of the time there will be mockers …'” to “Because they were saying to you:  ‘at the last of  times there will be mockers …'”

This now concludes the discussion of the individual new readings in the NA28. I hope that this has been helpful to those interested in this kind of thing.


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New Readings in the NA28: Report on 1, 2, and 3 John

In this continuing series on the changes introduced in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, this scholia looks at the changed in the Johannine Epistles, commonly, known as 1, 2, and 3 John.

1 John

1.7 Omits δε

The omission of this word remove a conjunctive “but.” So the text goes from “But If we walk in the light …” to “If we walk …” This omission restore the sense of parallelism in verse 6-10 which all begin with “if we say,” “if we walk,” “if we say,” “if confess,” and finally “if we say” again. The presence of “but” tended to make v. 7 dependent on v. 6. The text reads more consistent to take v. 5 as the topic and then each of the following verses from v. 6 to v. 10 as a illustrative series of if … then statements. Anyway, no great loss of meaning here by the change.

3.7  τεκνια ➽  παιδια

These are two synonymous terms for “children.” John uses both. The first word is found in 1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21; the second in 1 John 2:14, and 18 (and now in 3:7).

5.10  εν εαυτω ➽  εν αυτω

The NA27 phrase can be translated as “in himself”; the new reading removed the reflexive nation of himself to merely him. The text would now read “The one who believes in the son of God has the witness in him (instead of “in himself”)

5.18  αυτον ➽  εαυτον

Unlike the change in 5.10, this change is in the opposite direction. It changes the personal pronoun “him,” to the reflexive pronoun “himself.” The text now would read something like: “The one born of God keeps himself …”

2 John

5  καινην γραφων σοι ➽  γραφων σοι καινην

This editorial change represent a different order for the Greek words involved. Since Greek is not as dependent on word order as English, this change does virtually nothing to meaning. Whatever an original audience would have heard here in terms of emphasis will be lost in translation anyway.

12  πεπληρωμενη η ➽  η πεπληρωμενη

Another word order thing: again, no change when translated into English.

3 John

4  τη αληθεια  ➽  αληθεια

This change represent the omission of the article (“the”) before the word truth. So the translation shifts from “the truth” to “truth.” Thus, the sense of the first option would have been “the brothers testify of you in the truth,” which is probably correct in the NIV: “testified about your faithfulness to the truth.” The sense now would be more like “testified truly  [about] you.” While it is possible that John has a view of Christian doctrine as a body of teaching which he can call “the truth,” it makes more since  in the full context of the Johannine writings to view truth” as personal and referred to the way of living consistent with the way of Jesus. Furthermore, the presence of the article in Greek does not always make something definitive in the way the article works in English.

My next scholia will look at the changes made in the epistles of Jude.

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New Readings in the NA28: Report on 2 Peter

This continues my series of scholia on the changes introduced in the text of the Greek New Testament from the Nestle-Aland 27th edition to the recently published 28th edition. In this scholia, we look at the changes introduced in 2 Peter.

2 Peter

2.6 ασεβε[σ]ιν ➽ ασεβειν

Again brackets in the NA27 indicate uncertainty regarding the presence and placement of the item within the brackets. Here the presence of the sigma [σ] makes this word a noun meaning the “ungodly.” Without the letter, the word becomes the Greek infinitive: “to act ungodly.

This change reverses the explanation of Bruce Metzger in his textual commentary on this passage: “From the point of view of transcriptional probability, after μελλοντων [those about to do or act] copyists would be more likely to change the noun to the infinitive than the reverse. From the point of view of intrinsic probability, the noun gives better sense (“an example [or warning] to ungodly persons of things in store for them”) than the verb (“an example [or warning] to those about to do wrong [act impiously]“). In order to represent the balance of probabilities, it was decided to enclose the sigma within square brackets.”

Neither reading is far off from the other. However, in favor of the change to the infinitive, the reading now sounds as if it is referring not to the ungodly in general, but the to the ungodly with whom Peter’s community is dealing. However, the other reading align more readily with the parallel text in Jude 7 which I believe the author of 2 Peter had in hand or memory.

2.11 παρα κυριου ➽ παρα κυριω

The NRSV rendered this text: “Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgment from the Lord” (2 Peter 2:10–11). The pertinent phrase is italicized. The NIV went with the alternative reading (and translation): “in the presence of the Lord,” which the NA28 now supports. Metzger in his textual commentary on this passage that some scribes may have sought to avoid the notion that “blasphemy” or “slanderous judgements” would come from the Lord.

2.15 καταλειποντες ➽ καταλιποντες

This change represents a tense change. From present to the Greek aorist tense (which does not have a real English counterpart, but might be thought of as just the verb itself without time).

An English translation might help show the difference: From “In leaving the right path, they have wandered…” to “They have left the right path and wandered …” The meaning has not been greatly affected here.

2.18 ολιγως ➽ οντως

The editors of the UBS4 Greek New Testament text (identical with the NA27’s text) was certain of the reading now being replaced by the NA28. The editorial committee of that UBS4 text gave its certainty level of “A” or very certain.

For comparative purposes, the NRSV translates this portion of the verse: “… they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” (2 Peter 2:18). The new reading would translate: “… who are really escaping …” Again, not a big change in overall meaning, but I believe Metzger is correct in noting the tension that now exist: “οντως [really] seems to involve a self–contradiction after δελεαζουσιν [they deceive].” Nonetheless, it is not hard to comprehend why the editors of the NA28 would favor this as the harder reading among the MSS.

2.20 Omit [ημων]

This change drops the possessive pronoun [our] before “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

3.6 δι ων ➽ δι ον

Here the editors of NA28 oddly went with the easier reading, though previously thought to be supported by only one MS (69; a 15th century member of family 13). The apparatus of NA28 now adds P along with 1175 and the Latin t and MSS of the Vulgate. This change is inexplicable based on the evidence of the MSS themselves. Neither of these reading make for comfortable Greek and so scholars have offered conjectures on the correct reading: δι ου (Windisch) and δη ων (Wohlenberg).

In final analysis, English translations will still look much like the old ASV of 1901: “by which means [referring back to the “word” of the previous clause] the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

3.10 ευρεθησεται ➽ ουχ ευρεθησεται

In text critical terms, this is one of the most challenging text to reconstruct from the available MSS evidence. Again using the NRSV, the text reads “and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed (or “found”).” The options here among the MSS also includes: [it/they] will be burned up, found dissolved, and hidden/darkened. In light of this, scholars have offered several emendations, none of which have been widely accepted. (See Metzger’s textual commentary for an explanation of all these options).

However, not one Greek MSS supports the reading of the new NA28: will not be disclosed/found. This reading is supported by one of the ancient versions of the NT, the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, a Hellenized Egyptian language.

Without substantive textual support for their reading, the NA28 editors have chosen to go with what seems to make the most sense of the passage without resorting to emendation.

3.16 επιστολαις ➽ ταις επιστολαις

This change add the article before the word “epistles,” thus, all the epistles. Nothing to see here folk, keep moving.

3.16 στρεβλουσιν ➽ στρεβλωσουσιν

This word belongs to the larger phrase: “… which the unschooled and unstable twist—as [they do] the other writings—to their own destruction.” The change would make the “twisting” less certain: “they might/will twist.” J. K. Elliott’s question is apropos: “Is our author aware of the reality of Paul’s letter being misinterpreted, or merely anticipating such a possibility?” (See J. K. Elliott, New Testament Textual Criticism:The Application of Thoroughgoing Principles: Essays on Manuscripts and Textual Variation (Supplements to Novum Testamentum [Leiden: Brill, 2010], 527. While I believe the NA27 reading makes good sense, the NA28 reading is supported by 𝖕72 (3rd/4th cent.) which shows it was an early option in the transmission of the Greek New Testament.

3.18 Omit [αμην]

The scribal addition of a final “amen” became customary following the doxologies and prayers in the NT documents. Partly, no doubt, this was encouraged by the recitation of these texts in church where the natural conclusion in that context would be to add a final “amen.” This addition while natural to liturgy would have been odd in the original epistle. The NA28 editors are correct in omitting it.


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New Readings in the NA28: Report on 1 Peter

As I promised in my last scholia, I continue in this one with a list and description of the changes to the text of Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament from the 27th to the new 28th edition.

1 Peter

1.6 λυπηθεντες ➽ λυπηθεντας

In terms of Greek grammar this is a case change from the nominative (subject case) to the accusative (object case). The difference, as noted by J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, (Word Biblical Commentary 49), 25, on 1 Peter, would be something like changing from “You, grieving as necessary,” to “since it is necessary [for you] to grieve.” Change in translation would therefore be negligible

1.16 Omits [οτι] and [ειμι]

In the case of the first, οτι is often used to introduce direct address and quotations, as it does here; its omission changes the translation from “it is written that …” to “it is written …” which is immediately followed with the citation from Lev 11.44.

The second case refers to the omission of the “to be” verb meaning “I am.” Verbs of being are often omitted in Greek where the meaning is clear. Again, here there is no appreciable change in meaning as “because I holy” in the Greek still means “because I am holy.” The brackets around the items in NA27 indicated doubt as to their inclusion and so this change is not unexpected.

2.5 Omits [τω]

This change omits the article before God at the end of the verse. In English there will be no difference in translation. Thus, “acceptable to the God” would still be rendered “acceptable to God.”

2.25 αλλα ➽ αλλ’

This is the same word either way. Certain smaller words in Greek often lose their last vowel if the preceding word begins with one.

Curiously, though, the NA28 does not give the textual data in the apparatus for this change in the text. For those interested though. The longer form is attested in 𝖕72 A B C 69 218 945 1563 1739 1751; while the shorter one is followed in ℵ Ψ 049 1 33 489 927 999 1241 1243 1244 1251 1315.

4.16 ονοματι ➽ μερει

Exegetically, at first glance, this change looks bigger than it is. With these two options, the text reads: But if anyone [suffers (picking up verb from previous sentence) as a Christian, let him not be ashamed [but] glorify God in this ~name (or) case/part~. No doubt “case” is the harder reading which makes it hard to explain its persistence in later witnesses. However, “name” is supported by such good witnesses as 𝖕72 ℵ A B and Ψ; the other reading has only P and the Byzantine text. While I’m not convinced on this one, this change does not alter the basic meaning of the text, since the name “Christian” is explicit in the preceding text, the meaning is much the same either way.

5.1 ουν ➽ τους

The conjunction “therefore,” following the word “elders,” now becomes the article “the” which can also function in Greek as a pronoun. Thus the translation of the text changes from “Elders, therefore, among you …” to “Elders who are among you.” This change does not alter the meaning of the sentence it is in, but does loosen it from the previous context which “therefore” maintained.

5.9 Omits [τω]

This change would make “in the world” become “in world,” but would not alter English translation.

5.10 Omits [Ιησου]

This change drops the name “Jesus” after Christ. Again the brackets in NA27 indicated uncertainty regarding the reading. One of the most common textual variant in the Greek New Testament is the various ways of writing Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Jesus the Christ, etc. Therefore, it is not uncommon to observe scribes altering, transposing, or expanding the text when it has only one item. Nothing changes here since “Christ” is clearly in the text.

My next scholia will deal with the changes introduced into the text of 2 Peter in the new NA28.

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Porter on Wallace’s New MS

“Has Dan Wallace Made a Big Mistake?” Stanley Porter thinks so: see http://stanleyeporter.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/has-dan-wallace-made-a-big-mistake/

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The Spirit Fell on the Eunuch? (Textual Variant in Acts 8:39)

I have long known about the Eunuch’s missing confession in modern translations. Acts 8:37 is “missing” in most modern translations of the New Testament.

“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37 KJV)

The secondary nature of this reading is clear from it not being in the earliest witnesses; it does not show up until the sixth century. Additionally, it has several minor variants within the text itself in the manuscripts that contain it–a telltale sign for a shaky history of transmission. Metzger’s Textual Commentary offers the following explanation:

There is no reason why scribes should have omitted the material, if it had originally stood in the text. It should be noted too that τὸν Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν is not a Lukan expression.

The formula πιστεύω … Χριστόν was doubtless used by the early church in baptismal ceremonies, and may have been written in the margin of a copy of Acts. Its insertion into the text seems to have been due to the feeling that Philip would not have baptized the Ethiopian without securing a confession of faith, which needed to be expressed in the narrative. Although the earliest known New Testament manuscript that contains the words dates from the sixth century (ms. E), the tradition of the Ethiopian’s confession of faith in Christ was current as early as the latter part of the second century, for Irenaeus quotes part of it (Against Heresies, iii.xii.8).

Although the passage does not appear in the late medieval manuscript on which Erasmus chiefly depended for his edition (ms. 2), it stands in the margin of another (ms. 4), from which he inserted it into his text because he “judged that it had been omitted by the carelessness of scribes (arbitror omissum librariorum incuria).”

The last paragraph explains how the verse got into the manuscripts used in the earliest English translations. Erasmus is largely responsible for creating a text erroneously known later as the Textus Receptus. (The verse is even lacking in the Latin Vulgate).

Of course, as I said, this variant is well known by text critics. Yet in verse 39 there is another rather interesting variant that never showed up in any English translation. The text with the variation (marked in red) reads,

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit Holy fell on the Eunuch and the angel of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39 NRSV).

The adjective “holy” in normal Greek fashion comes after the noun.

While most of the witnesses are late; one is important and early. In Codex Alexandrinus the first hand scribe entered it as a correction. While I’m not arguing for its originality, it does show how the scribe—who first added the text—read the text. The scribe, probably based of how Luke presents the Holy Spirit in Acts (e. g., Acts 10:44; 11:15), found it to be a reasonable expectation that the Eunuch visibly received the the Holy Spirit. Without this addition, the text of Acts 8 is silent on the Eunuch’s reception of the Holy Spirit.


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