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3894Re: Variants again, can you tell I'm frustrated

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  • James Snapp, Jr.
    Aug 2, 2008
      Dear Eddie M.:

      (The "living text" scholar is David Parker.)

      EM: "No two scholars calculate or define "variants" the same way."

      A variant is a difference of content. A variant exists where one
      witness has a reading which another witness does not have. While the
      definition of a "significant" variant may be limited to instances in
      which a whole word is different, any difference -- different word-
      order, different spelling -- is a variant.

      EM: "It gets even worse when you ask, "A variant against what?""

      It would have to: if one uses Textus Receptus as a collating-base,
      any given witness will agree and disagree against the TR in different
      places, and to a different extent, than if one were to use as a
      collating-base the Majority Text or the NA-27 text or the text of
      Vaticanus.

      EM: "The simple fact that we can not produce a list of variants in
      such a way as to confirm or deny the wild numbers thrown around
      (75,000, 100,000, some as high as "a half a million," etc.) is wrong."

      Here's the estimate I mentioned earlier, based on post #1700 on the
      TC-Alternate list.

      Dr. Tommy Wasserman has collected 1,271 variants in the Greek
      witnesses to the book of Jude -- a book which contains 461 words, as
      Wasserman reconstructs it. If we work with the unproven premise that
      variants were created at the same rate in other books that they were
      created at in Jude, then if we apply the ratio of 461-to-1,271 to the
      total number of words in the NT (put at 137,490 by Morgenthaler),
      then the total number of variants = 379,067. Thus the number of
      variants in a given book may be expected to be 2.75 times the number
      of words in the book.

      So 380,000 (and a formula of 2.75 x the # of words in a book) seems
      about right. One thing that I'm not sure about, though, is whether
      or not it's sensible to count the *authentic* readings as variants.
      When most folks talk about variants, they mean variations from the
      original text, even though technically a contested genuine reading is
      also a variant. If we subtract from 380,000 the *authentic* 137,490
      words, with their authentic spelling, in their authentic word-order,
      then the number of inauthentic readings seems to drop to 242,510.

      That unproven premise that I mentioned is probably incorrect. We
      should probably expect the rate of variants in the Gospels to be much
      higher than in Jude, since the Gospels have many more witnesses. So
      let's figure in, oh, another 75,000 variants. Depending on whether
      or not the authentic variants are counted, the total number of
      variants in the Greek witnesses to the NT text might be about 455,000
      or (subtracting the authentic readings) 317,510.

      Imho, that's about the best estimate you will ever need to have.

      Regarding that blog-entry by Dr. Wallace: I think I know the one you
      have in mind (though I couldn't locate it in the P&P archives). The
      statement by Dr. Geisler was incorrect, and Dr. Wallace was right to
      correct it. I wish that he had also pointed out that many variants
      are repetitions of the same orthographic difference (i.e., 100
      occurrences of "euqus" in one witness and 100 matching occurrences
      of "euqews" in another witness = 100 variants, not just one), and
      that if one were to count such differences collectively rather than
      individually then the number of distinct, non-repeated variants would
      not be nearly as intimidating as it may initially seem. I don't know
      what specific mathematical difficulty you detected.

      EM: "I promise never again to bother the members of this list with a
      question on variants again."

      For my part, feel free to take back that promise anytime. Take away
      discussions about variants from a list dedicated to NT TC and there's
      not much left!

      EM: "Just about every known Greek ms is available in a word
      processing software. We don't have to "eye ball" this."

      Even if you were to take the time to sift through the collations and
      count up all the variants, you would still have just an estimate,
      because (a) new MSS continue to be discovered, and (b) there is no
      guarantee that the collations are correct in every respect, and (b)
      many witnesses, such as lectionaries, remain to be collated, and (c)
      some MSS are so illegible at some places that it is impossible to
      confidently say which variant they support at those spots.

      EM: "We just need a person who can align these texts and highlight
      Variants."

      Wasserman took the time to do that with the text of Jude, and while
      it is nice to have the contents of all Greek witnesses systematically
      listed, the exhaustiveness of his list does not make the already-
      known-to-be-significant variants more significant; nor does it make
      the already-known-to-be-insignificant differences appreciably more
      significant. As far as the recovery of the original text is
      concerned, the exhaustive list does not do anything that a list of
      variants in the 50 most important Greek MSS would not do.

      An exhaustive list of variants could be helpful when attempting to
      track the descent of MSS; the possibility exists that some
      orthographic variants -- insignificant, by all initial appearances --
      might show up at a particular point in a text-stream, and be passed
      along to a specific group of witnesses which can be shown to be
      a "family" by virtue of these common orthographic elements. But istm
      that this is an approach which may be carried out book-by-book; it
      need not wait for an exhaustive list of variants for the entire NT
      text.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
      www.curtisvillechristian.org/BasicTC.html
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