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Re: How many Variants per category

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  • yennifmit
    Dear Eddie, I can point you to something that might help get a feel for the extent and nature of variations among NT MSS. For my PhD research, I transcribed
    Message 1 of 12 , Mar 31, 2008
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      Dear Eddie,

      I can point you to something that might help get a feel for the extent
      and nature of variations among NT MSS.

      For my PhD research, I transcribed the papyrus and uncial MSS of
      Hebrews letter by letter. There are about thirty MSS in all, with one
      minuscule thrown in for good measure. I then wrote collation programs
      to compare the transcriptions. An important issue was whether
      orthographic differences (e.g. spelling, punctuation) should be
      counted. To help the computer do that, I classified each variation
      among all thirty or so MSS. You can download the result from here:

      http://alpha.reltech.org/tfinney/PhD/data/Equivalents/Equivalents

      If you put this file into a spread sheet, you will end up with a
      number of columns. Reading left to right, the columns are:

      (1) Actual reading
      (2) Normalised reading
      (3) Category
      (4) Witness (P = papyrus, U = uncial, M = minuscule)
      (5) Location (chapter.verse)
      (6) translation (only for substantive variants)

      By "substantive", I mean differences which actually affect meaning.
      Many of these don't affect the meaning much, e.g. synonyms, a
      participle instead of an infinitive. Others are grammatically correct
      in the immediate context but nevertheless seem to be wrong. (E.g.
      ADELFHN at Heb 8.11.)

      Now some analysis.

      Hebrews has about 5000 words. This list has about 2100 rows, meaning
      that in a 5000 word stretch of the New Testament there are about 2100
      differences among about 30 MSS. So one would not be too wrong in
      saying "If a word can vary, it will vary among the MSS." That is, any
      word that is not extremely simple, like KAI, is likely to vary. (BTW,
      one of the MSS, P12 I think, does have a variation on KAI: KE. Can I
      hear an Egyptian scribe's accent?)

      Digging a bit deeper, about 300/2100 (one in seven) are substantive
      (i.e. column 3 category = "variant"). Thus, there are about 300 real
      textual variations among 5000 words when only 30 MSS are considered. I
      don't know how much this figure would increase if all extant MSS of
      Hebrews were included, but I don't think it would be a great deal.
      Substantive variations among minuscules that are not also found among
      papyri or uncials are not too common. FWIW, my guess is that you would
      be safe to say that including all MSS would not increase the 300 by
      more than a factor of two.

      So, let's say the figure is 500. That would mean that when all words
      of all MSS are examined, you get about 500 substantive variations per
      5000 words, assuming Hebrews is representative. That would mean about
      10,000 over the 100,000 or so words of the New Testament.

      Now to what I think is the most important question. "So what?" If I
      found the two most distant MSS (i.e. the two with the most unlike
      texts among all of the MSS of Hebrews) and gave them to a native
      speaker of KOINE who could read, would that person notice a difference
      in the message conveyed by the two? (This could be tested by a
      suitably designed psychological experiment, although native speakers
      of KOINE might be a bit hard to find.) My guess is that a typical
      reader might notice a few differences but would not regard them as
      significant.

      Best,

      Tim Finney

      --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, Eddie Mishoe <edmishoe@...>
      wrote:
      >
      > I wonder if I could ask those out here to fill in
      > THEIR numbers they believe to be roughly accurate in
      > the chart below.
      >
    • Eddie Mishoe
      Dr. Finney: Thank you for your reply. The more data I can acquire the better. I think I found the origin of the 200,000 to 400,000. It may come from John Mills
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 1, 2008
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        Dr. Finney:

        Thank you for your reply. The more data I can acquire
        the better.

        I think I found the origin of the 200,000 to 400,000.
        It may come from John Mills in 1707 edition of the
        GNT. In his critical apparatus, he has some 30,000
        variants listed, but this includes versions and church
        fathers.

        I also read, but have yet to verify, that the total
        number of "words" in ALL Greek MSS, ALL
        versions/translations, and ALL church father
        quotations approaches 1 billion. Now, are the (worst
        case) 400,000 variants to be compared to 1 billion?

        Also, your numbers seem different than Dr. Daniel
        Wallace's numbers with regard to meaningful variants.
        If I understood you correct, you offer 10,000 such
        variants, whereas Dr. Wallace has 1,400 meaningful and
        viable variants. Of the 1,400, he contends that no
        cardinal doctrine is affected by these.

        Dr. Kruger notes that Dr. Ehrman mentions 400,000
        variants, but is only able to find a handful of
        "significant" variants that change our view of early
        Christianity. Several have responded to his claims of
        these passages, such as Christ being angry, or dying
        "apart from" God.

        Dr. Wallace also gives a pie chart in Reinventing
        Jesus, but it appears his pie chart is not intended to
        be to scale.

        Oh well, off to find more sources. It amazes me how
        many scholars quote the number 200,000 to 400,000
        without knowing its source or validity.

        Eddie Mishoe
        Pastor


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      • yennifmit
        Dear Eddie, ... I don t know how many words there are in all of the witnesses of the New Testament. My figures show that in the ~ 30 papyrus and uncial MSS of
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 1, 2008
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          Dear Eddie,

          --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, Eddie Mishoe <edmishoe@...>
          wrote:

          > I also read, but have yet to verify, that the total
          > number of "words" in ALL Greek MSS, ALL
          > versions/translations, and ALL church father
          > quotations approaches 1 billion. Now, are the (worst
          > case) 400,000 variants to be compared to 1 billion?

          I don't know how many words there are in all of the witnesses of the
          New Testament. My figures show that in the ~ 30 papyrus and uncial MSS
          of Hebrews, there are ~ 300 substantive variations among ~ 5000 words.
          I don't know how this figure scales up as more categories of witnesses
          are added but my guess is not that much, maybe a factor of two. To get
          an answer we would need to collate more and more witnesses. We could
          get an estimate by looking at how the number of substantive variations
          increases with the number of witnesses. I imagine that the curve rises
          quickly at first then levels out.

          >
          > Also, your numbers seem different than Dr. Daniel
          > Wallace's numbers with regard to meaningful variants.
          > If I understood you correct, you offer 10,000 such
          > variants, whereas Dr. Wallace has 1,400 meaningful and
          > viable variants. Of the 1,400, he contends that no
          > cardinal doctrine is affected by these.

          Not all of those 300 have an equal effect on meaning. You could go
          through them and decide which ones you consider significant. I would
          be interested to know what number you arrive at. (This exercise might
          be considered too subjective, but I would still like to know how many
          of the 300 substantive variants others consider significant. You don't
          need Greek to do it as translations of the variants are included in
          the list.)

          Here is something to illustrate the potential difficulty of deciding
          whether a substantive variant (i.e one that actually results in a
          different word once scribal quirks have been smoothed out) is
          significant. Say I have these texts:

          The cat sat on teh mat.
          The kat sat on the mat.
          The manx sat upon the rug.

          Cat/manx, on/upon and mat/rug are all what I call substantive
          variants--the words are actually different. By contrast, cat/kat might
          be called a spelling variation and teh/the an error. Turning to the
          substantive variations, is the cat/manx difference significant? How
          about on/upon? How about mat/rug? I imagine the answer to all three is
          "it depends". The message conveyed by each text is pretty much the
          same: the cat sat on the mat. Whether you think the specific "manx"
          rather than general "cat" is important depends on all kinds of
          factors. Getting others to agree with your view is another matter. For
          a generally acceptable result you could select a random sample of
          people and ask each whether the difference is significant.

          >
          > Dr. Kruger notes that Dr. Ehrman mentions 400,000
          > variants, but is only able to find a handful of
          > "significant" variants that change our view of early
          > Christianity. Several have responded to his claims of
          > these passages, such as Christ being angry, or dying
          > "apart from" God.

          Based on the list, the proportion of substantive variations per word
          is about 300/5000. This is only based on the papyrus and uncial MSS
          (and one minuscule) of Hebrews, so is an underestimate. My guess is
          that the figure might double if all the minuscules were included. If
          it turns out to be 500/5000 variants/word for Hebrews, the figure for
          the whole New Testament would be more like 10,000 substantive variants
          among the Greek manuscript witnesses. How many of those are generally
          regarded as significant would be a lesser number but hard to define.

          BTW, the "apart from God" variant (Heb 2.9) is one of the few in
          Hebrews that strike me as significant. I don't think this variant is
          anything to do with Christ's cry of dereliction--"Why have you
          forsaken me." Instead, it seems to me that XWRIS (apart from) instead
          of XARITI (by the grace of) is a qualification of Christ's "tasting
          death on behalf of all". That is, Christ died on behalf of all, being
          careful to exclude God from "all" because God doesn't need anyone to
          make a sacrifice for Him because He hasn't sinned. Neither variant
          (Christ tasted death for all by the grace of God; Christ tasted death
          for all except God) is telling us anything we don't already know from
          the rest of the New Testament. It seems to me that redundancy in the
          New Testament (i.e. saying the same thing in more than one place and
          in more than one way) makes its message robust against corruption by
          scribes, even orthodox ones.

          Best,

          Tim Finney
        • mydogregae01
          ... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ... ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Mr. Dykes responds, Be careful that one clarifies how the variants are
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 2, 2008
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            --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com,
            +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

            Eddie Mishoe <edmishoe@...> wrote:

            > Thank you for your reply. The more data I can acquire
            > the better.


            > Oh well, off to find more sources. It amazes me how
            > many scholars quote the number 200,000 to 400,000
            > without knowing its source or validity.
            >
            > Eddie Mishoe
            > Pastor

            ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
            Mr. Dykes responds,

            Be careful that one clarifies how the variants are counted!! One
            variation might be the word "Lord" for "God". This should count as one
            variant.....but some folks count all the manuscripts which show this
            variant (perhaps all 65 or whatever number) thus they would show a
            number of 65 instead of one.

            As to your request...this may assist.

            In my work on Corinthians, I collate about 100 Greek MSS. (Fresh
            collations, not copied from previous editions!! Papyri and parchment,
            and all eras before 1450 A.D.).

            In my essay titled: "The Doctrine of Inerrancy and the Manuscript
            Variants", at its end, I give some actual data.

            The essay is on my website (www.Biblical-data.org), in the Textual
            Criticism page.

            Chapter one of I Cor. has 31 verses, I count 156 variants from the 100
            witnesses I use. (this does not include simple phonetic errors, nor
            simple itacism errors, or moveable nu et al). BASED upon this actual
            data, I then figure (estimate) a total of 2200 variants for all of the
            437 verses in I Cor. I further estimate a complete total of about
            3,000 variants if all known (circa 600 MSS) Greek manuscripts were
            collated which contain I Cor. chapter one..

            Rough, but it has some actual basis. Using 3,000 variants for I Cor.
            we can further estimate at total of about 54,000 variants for all of
            the 7,959 verses in the KJV. This averages about 6.8 variants per
            verse for the entire NT.

            Finally, in I Cor. I find that about 60-70 of the 2200 variants affect
            any sort of a doctrine (some major doctrines, some minor). If this is
            a valid estimate, then we ought to expect that 2.9 % of all Greek
            variants (not phonetic or simple mispleelings, [:-)]or moveable nu et

            al) of the 54,000 total to reflect a possible major variation. Using
            my estimates we would see 1,566 variants in the NT which affect
            various religious doctrines (Trinity, resurrection, baptism, laws, et
            cetera).

            At least I base this rough estimate on accurate collations of chapter
            one of I Cor.. When I finish Corinthians, I will have a slightly
            clearer picture.

            Consequently, God-fearing textual critics have a responsibility to
            assist when any of these major variants occur in our Bible studies.
            Kind of an awesome responsibility!! But what an opportuinty to
            illuminate truth and to spread Biblical teachings!!

            Sincerely,
            Mr. Gary S. Dykes
          • mjriii2003
            Eddie Mishoe, According to the sixth edition of Warfield s An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, 1899 (Preface, 1886), Warfield
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 2, 2008
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              Eddie Mishoe,

              According to the sixth edition of Warfield's An Introduction to the
              Textual Criticism of the New Testament, 1899 (Preface, 1886),
              Warfield mentions over 200,000 variants among at that time over 2,000
              known Greek MSS.

              http://books.google.com/books?output=html&id=lSOSAZ3uN44C&jtp=21

              Our present knowledge is based upon over 5,000 known Greek MSS. The
              question of significant/insignificant variants is still negligible
              whether one cites W-H, Metzger, Robinson, or Wallace.

              Malcolm
              ________________


              --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, Eddie Mishoe <edmishoe@...>
              wrote:
              >
              > Dr. Finney:
              >
              > Thank you for your reply. The more data I can acquire
              > the better.
              >
              > I think I found the origin of the 200,000 to 400,000.
              > It may come from John Mills in 1707 edition of the
              > GNT. In his critical apparatus, he has some 30,000
              > variants listed, but this includes versions and church
              > fathers.
              >
              > I also read, but have yet to verify, that the total
              > number of "words" in ALL Greek MSS, ALL
              > versions/translations, and ALL church father
              > quotations approaches 1 billion. Now, are the (worst
              > case) 400,000 variants to be compared to 1 billion?
              >
              > Also, your numbers seem different than Dr. Daniel
              > Wallace's numbers with regard to meaningful variants.
              > If I understood you correct, you offer 10,000 such
              > variants, whereas Dr. Wallace has 1,400 meaningful and
              > viable variants. Of the 1,400, he contends that no
              > cardinal doctrine is affected by these.
              >
              > Dr. Kruger notes that Dr. Ehrman mentions 400,000
              > variants, but is only able to find a handful of
              > "significant" variants that change our view of early
              > Christianity. Several have responded to his claims of
              > these passages, such as Christ being angry, or dying
              > "apart from" God.
              >
              > Dr. Wallace also gives a pie chart in Reinventing
              > Jesus, but it appears his pie chart is not intended to
              > be to scale.
              >
              > Oh well, off to find more sources. It amazes me how
              > many scholars quote the number 200,000 to 400,000
              > without knowing its source or validity.
              >
              > Eddie Mishoe
              > Pastor
              >
              >
              >
              ______________________________________________________________________
              ______________
              > You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of
              Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.
              > http://tc.deals.yahoo.com/tc/blockbuster/text5.com
              >
            • James Snapp, Jr.
              Eddie, Recently at the TC-Alternate list I noted the following: How many variants exist among the Greek manuscripts of the books of the New Testament?
              Message 6 of 12 , Apr 3, 2008
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                Eddie,

                Recently at the TC-Alternate list I noted the following:

                How many variants exist among the Greek manuscripts of the books of
                the New Testament? Estimates have ranged from 30,000 to 50,000 to
                200,000 to 300,000 to 400,000.

                Dr. Tommy Wasserman's book "The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and
                Transmission" meticulously presents the extant Greek attestation of
                Jude's text. Wasserman's reconstructed text of Jude consists of 461
                words. Wasserman lists 1,271 textual variants (I think. Some of
                these are "defective," which means that they cannot be reconstructed
                with certainty.) If we work with the unproven premise that variants
                were created at the same rate in other books that they were created
                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, as cited
                by Metzger on p. 1 of "Lexical Aids for Students of NT Greek"), then
                the total number of variants = 379,067. Or to loosen up the math a
                bit, we could estimate that the number of variants in a given book
                will be 2.75 times the number of words in the book.

                So, it initially looks like the total number of textual variants in
                the Greek NT is in the neighborhood of 380,000. 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.

                Now, 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.

                (Btw, I don't mean to imply that I agree with Morgenthaler's word-
                count; I just used it because it was handy for the calculation.)

                Yours in Christ,

                James Snapp, Jr.
                Minister, Curtisville Christian Church
                Tipton, Indiana
                www.curtisvillechristian.org/BasicTC.html
              • Daniel Buck
                ... Not one doctrine is established or disestablished from the 6-7% in dispute.
                Message 7 of 12 , Apr 3, 2008
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                  "Gene Brooks" <gbrooks@...> wrote:

                  >>92 to 93% of the text is agreed as autograph for everyone.
                  Not one doctrine is established or disestablished from the 6-7% in
                  dispute.<<

                  A couple of considerations here.

                  1. Every time an ancient koine mss of any appreciable size is
                  unearthed, it adds to the number of listed variants; the older the
                  ms, it seems, the more unique it is. Eliminate all pre-5th century
                  mss, and that number of agreement climbs up to the high 90's,
                  approaching 99% by the eighth century.

                  2. How about the doctrine (teaching) of Jesus that certain kinds of
                  demons can only be expelled by prayer and fasting? From being
                  reiterated in the majority of mss, it is eliminated in the eclectic
                  text. This despite the fact that the corpus is divided, with mss of
                  all three textual families and four versions taking opposite sides on
                  the question. Even arm and geo exhibit a rare disagreement here.

                  Daniel
                • Eddie Mishoe
                  Of the approximately 138,000 words in the GNT, it is interesting to note that one can reach the 400,000 variants by using the same 138,000 words. Here is how
                  Message 8 of 12 , Apr 4, 2008
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                    Of the approximately 138,000 words in the GNT, it is
                    interesting to note that one can reach the 400,000
                    variants by using the same 138,000 words. Here is how
                    that would happen visually.

                    Use any base text you like; it is irrelevant, other
                    than it must be a complete GNT. Just to cover all
                    bases, let's do two experiments: one using the
                    Majority Text, the other using the Critical Text.

                    Let's use John 1.1a as an example:

                    EN ARCH HN hO LOGOS (base text)
                    1. ARCH HN hO LOGOS (EN omitted)
                    2. EN ARCH hO LOGOS (HN omitted)
                    3. hO LOGOS HN EN ARCH (word order)
                    4. hO LOGOS EN ARCH HN (word order)
                    5. LOGOS HN EN ARCH (hO omitted)
                    6. HN EN ARCH LOGOS (2 variants, hO omitted, word
                    order)
                    7. ARCH HN hO LOGOS (EN omitted)
                    8. HN hO LOGOS ARCH (2 variants, EN omitted, word
                    order)
                    9. EN ARCH hO LOGOS (HN omitted)
                    10. EN ARC HN hO LOGOS (omitted letter in ARCH)
                    11. EN ACH HN LOGOS (omitted letter in ARCH and
                    omitted hO)
                    etc.

                    As you can see, I can exceed the 400,000 variants
                    without the need to ever use another word other than
                    those in the GNT. By the above permutations, I could
                    exceed millions of variants... all without using any
                    word outside the GNT. Of course, how hard would it be
                    to reconstruct the 'original' text in this instance.

                    Since most variants fall into the categories of
                    "insignificant," I'm wondering if there is a better
                    way to present the data so as to give people an
                    accurate estimate of the reliability of the mss
                    evidence.

                    I think Dr. Daniel Wallace's statement that there are
                    about 1,400 meaningful and viable variants, but not
                    one of these affects any cardinal doctrine, is on the
                    right track. And he also adds that this 1,400 means
                    99% of the original GNT has been reconstructed.




                    Eddie Mishoe
                    Pastor


                    ____________________________________________________________________________________
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                  • Greg Sahlstrom
                    I recently read a 1966 article that estimated New Testament textual variants as perhaps 300,000. More recently estimates of 300,000 to 400,000 appeared in
                    Message 9 of 12 , Apr 4, 2008
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                      I recently read a 1966 article that estimated New Testament textual
                      variants as perhaps 300,000. More recently estimates of 300,000 to
                      400,000 appeared in Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus". Yet, books
                      I've read have largely based their estimates of variants on
                      multiplying estimates that were based on John Mill's listing of
                      variants in 1707. Of the 300,000 - 400,000 variants in manuscripts
                      (or whatever the current total might be), I read that these represent
                      perhaps 10,000 places in the New Testament. Does anyone have sources
                      of newer information that include some sort of verification of the
                      numbers (more than educated guesses)?

                      Greg Sahlstrom
                    • Michael Marlowe
                      ... Eddie, thanks for this. I think it shows how useless this kind of number-crunching can be--especially in a linguistic field of study like TC--and how
                      Message 10 of 12 , Apr 5, 2008
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                        Eddie Mishoe wrote:

                        > Let's use John 1.1a as an example:
                        >
                        > EN ARCH HN hO LOGOS (base text)
                        > 1. ARCH HN hO LOGOS (EN omitted)
                        > 2. EN ARCH hO LOGOS (HN omitted)
                        > 3. hO LOGOS HN EN ARCH (word order)
                        > 4. hO LOGOS EN ARCH HN (word order)
                        > 5. LOGOS HN EN ARCH (hO omitted)
                        > 6. HN EN ARCH LOGOS (2 variants, hO omitted, word
                        > order)
                        > 7. ARCH HN hO LOGOS (EN omitted)
                        > 8. HN hO LOGOS ARCH (2 variants, EN omitted, word
                        > order)
                        > 9. EN ARCH hO LOGOS (HN omitted)
                        > 10. EN ARC HN hO LOGOS (omitted letter in ARCH)
                        > 11. EN ACH HN LOGOS (omitted letter in ARCH and
                        > omitted hO)
                        > etc.
                        >
                        > As you can see, I can exceed the 400,000 variants
                        > without the need to ever use another word other than
                        > those in the GNT. By the above permutations, I could
                        > exceed millions of variants...


                        Eddie, thanks for this. I think it shows how useless this kind of
                        number-crunching can be--especially in a linguistic field of study like
                        TC--and how misleading statistics can be when they are presented without
                        exact and complete information about how they were generated.

                        Michael Marlowe
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