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Re: [textualcriticism] Variants in comparison to other Variants

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  • Larry Swain
    Steve, as usual, makes some very good points on the issue that bear thinking about. I d like to address what I think is a more fundamental issue on this
    Message 1 of 19 , Jun 18, 2008
      Steve, as usual, makes some very good points on the issue that bear thinking about.

      I'd like to address what I think is a more fundamental issue on this question. I suspect the questioner is thinking about or arguing with someone who has made the point, perhaps based on Ehrman's disservice to the field, about the number of "variants" in the NT. But there are some key assumptions about pre-print papyri, manuscripts, epigraphy etc that are implicit here, but erroneous.

      A great deal of textual criticism in the last 2 centuries for example has focused on reconstructing an "UR-text" that represents what the author actually wrote, or as close to it as possible. Then different readings from the reconstructed Ur-text are labeled as "variants." Those of us who practice in the field are of course aware of our construct and our assumptions, but those outside the field I don't think are and believe that these "variants" have some sort of indication about the quality of the transmission. Most of the time they don't, and of course most variants are insignificant: kai or te? imperfect or aorist? maqhton? maqhton autou? autou maqhton? Are the differences between these 3 significant?

      Again, those of us who work in the field know that there is no such thing as a "stable" text in the sense that there is one standard from which copies deviate. We know that once a work leaves the author's hand and begins to get copied by someone else, or in some cases the author's mouth, that immediately "variants" are going to be introduced into the text.

      A case like Homer multiplies the problem ten-fold. The oldest complete manuscript of Homer is 10th century. 1600 years of transmission in both oral and written form before a complete copy survives. If we look at the activities on various papyri of Homer in Alexandria, we note that the librarians attempted to establish an official text and attempted to standardize, which illustrates that problem: after just 600 years of transmission, not only were there differences in words and forms in various places, but whole new episodes invented and added in, and other episodes left out! And that process certainly continued well into the Christian period in spite of the librarian's efforts.

      Trying to compare the number of variants of any given set of texts is fraught with difficulties and really means nothing at all. Even counting the "variants" in a single manuscript really indicates nothing. Each variant needs to be assessed on its own for any significance, and so comparing how many variants in the NT vs. Homer tells us nothing at all.

      But to answer the question: far more in Homer than the NT. Why? Well, Homer is around far longer and is MUCH LONGER and even more than the Christian documents straddles both oral and written transmission and cross polinates between those two so that every performance, whether in writing or oral, is different than every other performance of Homer. What does that mean? It means that Homeric variants are legion. Significance is in the eye of the beholder. But in the end, it doesn't tell us anything about scribal transmission of either Homer or the NT.

      Larry Swain

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    • gregsah
      Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not been collated, does anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each collated
      Message 2 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
        Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not been collated, does
        anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each collated manuscript? Also,
        when variants are counted, which manuscript(s) is/are used as the standard by which
        variants are considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to get a handle on the
        number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to 400,000 textual variants (if
        memory serves correctly). Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000 (which are older
        numbers based on a much smaller number of collated manuscripts). But many of the more
        recently discovered or more recently collated manuscripts are just fragments, and so may
        not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer manuscripts (like Sinaiticus and
        Vaticanus).

        Greg

        --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Eric Sowell" <eric.sowell@...> wrote:
        >
        > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we would have had to
        > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have not. Unless I missed something,
        > we are not even close.
        >
        > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah <gs@...> wrote:
        >
        > > Where might one find information on the number of textual variants
        > > contributed by each extant New Testament? Is there any such resource?
        > >
        > > Greg
        > >
        > > __.
        > >
        > > .
        > >
        > >
        > >
        >
        >
        >
        > --
        > Eric Sowell, ThM, MCTS
        > eric.sowell@...
        > http://www.archaicchristianity.com
        > http://www.thecodinghumanist.com
        >
      • Peter M. Head
        ... Nobody knows this number of known variants . Nobody sensible has ever before wanted to know this. Whatever the number is, it won t matter to anyone, since
        Message 3 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
          At 12:03 19/06/2008, Greg wrote:
          >Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not
          >been collated, does
          >anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each
          >collated manuscript? Also,
          >when variants are counted, which manuscript(s) is/are used as the
          >standard by which
          >variants are considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to
          >get a handle on the
          >number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to 400,000
          >textual variants (if
          >memory serves correctly). Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000
          >(which are older
          >numbers based on a much smaller number of collated
          >manuscripts). But many of the more
          >recently discovered or more recently collated manuscripts are just
          >fragments, and so may
          >not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer manuscripts
          >(like Sinaiticus and
          >Vaticanus).

          Nobody knows this 'number of known variants'. Nobody sensible has
          ever before wanted to know this. Whatever the number is, it won't
          matter to anyone, since it won't actually mean anything.

          Peter


          >Greg
          >
          >--- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Eric Sowell"
          ><eric.sowell@...> wrote:
          > >
          > > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we would have had to
          > > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have not. Unless I missed something,
          > > we are not even close.
          > >
          > > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah <gs@...> wrote:
          > >
          > > > Where might one find information on the number of textual variants
          > > > contributed by each extant New Testament? Is there any such resource?
          > > >
          > > > Greg
          > > >
          > > > __.
          > > >
          > > > .
          > > >
          > > >
          > > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > --
          > > Eric Sowell, ThM, MCTS
          > > eric.sowell@...
          > > http://www.archaicchristianity.com
          > > http://www.thecodinghumanist.com
          > >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >------------------------------------
          >
          >Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          Peter M. Head, PhD
          Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
          Tyndale House
          36 Selwyn Gardens
          Cambridge CB3 9BA
          01223 566601
        • Peter M. Head
          I generally agree with Larry s remarks about the pointlessness of comparing the NT with Homer: in the end, it doesn t tell us anything about scribal
          Message 4 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
            I generally agree with Larry's remarks about the pointlessness of
            comparing the NT with Homer: "in the end, it doesn't tell us anything
            about scribal transmission of either Homer or the NT."

            The point about significance, though, is relative not absolute:

            Larry: re "variants":
            'Most of the time they don't [i.e. have some sort of indication about
            the quality of the transmission], and of course most variants are
            insignificant: kai or te? imperfect or aorist? maqhton? maqhton
            autou? autou maqhton? Are the differences between these 3 significant?'

            It seems to me that these variants are significant for some purposes
            and insignificant for other purposes. Do you want to know about
            Luke's style? Then KAI, DE, TE variants are going to be significant.
            Do you want to know about synoptic comparisons between Matthew and
            Luke compared with Mark (or about verb use in general, verbal aspect,
            temporal deixis etc.)? Then the imperfect/aorist variant will be
            significant. Do you want to know about word order, genitive pronouns,
            possessive markedness? Then the MAQHTON variants will be significant.
            There may be more wide-ranging significances too, in terms of mss
            groupings etc.

            Pete



            Peter M. Head, PhD
            Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
            Tyndale House
            36 Selwyn Gardens
            Cambridge CB3 9BA
            01223 566601
          • gregsah
            Pete, My request for information indicates that at least one person does want to know. Since current estimates are based on John Mill s 30,000 variants from
            Message 5 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
              Pete,

              My request for information indicates that at least one person does want to know. Since
              current estimates are based on John Mill's 30,000 variants from 1707, after 301 years an
              update is certainly due. If they could do it then, with computers it could be done now.
              And there is a sensible reason: as a response to Bart Ehrman and others who worry people
              with large guesses and without explaining that the large numbers are really not a problem,
              but rather an indication of the large numbers of manuscripts. Information is not the
              enemy.

              Greg

              --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Peter M. Head" <pmh15@...> wrote:

              >Nobody knows this 'number of known variants'. Nobody sensible has
              > ever before wanted to know this. Whatever the number is, it won't
              > matter to anyone, since it won't actually mean anything.

              >
              > Peter>

              > At 12:03 19/06/2008, Greg wrote:
              > >Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not
              > >been collated, does
              > >anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each
              > >collated manuscript? Also,
              > >when variants are counted, which manuscript(s) is/are used as the
              > >standard by which
              > >variants are considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to
              > >get a handle on the
              > >number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to 400,000
              > >textual variants (if
              > >memory serves correctly). Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000
              > >(which are older
              > >numbers based on a much smaller number of collated
              > >manuscripts). But many of the more
              > >recently discovered or more recently collated manuscripts are just
              > >fragments, and so may
              > >not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer manuscripts
              > >(like Sinaiticus and
              > >Vaticanus).
              >
              > >Greg
              > >
              > >--- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Eric Sowell"
              > ><eric.sowell@> wrote:
              > > >
              > > > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we would have had to
              > > > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have not. Unless I missed something,
              > > > we are not even close.
              > > >
              > > > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah <gs@> wrote:
              > > >
              > > > > Where might one find information on the number of textual variants
              > > > > contributed by each extant New Testament? Is there any such resource?
              > > > >
              > > > > Greg
              > > > >
              > > > > __.
              > > > >
              > > > > .
              > > > >
              > > > >
              > > > >
              > > >
              > > >
              > > >
              > > > --
              > > > Eric Sowell, ThM, MCTS
              > > > eric.sowell@
              > > > http://www.archaicchristianity.com
              > > > http://www.thecodinghumanist.com
              > > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >------------------------------------
              > >
              > >Yahoo! Groups Links
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > Peter M. Head, PhD
              > Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
              > Tyndale House
              > 36 Selwyn Gardens
              > Cambridge CB3 9BA
              > 01223 566601
              >
            • Bart Ehrman
              I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant, immaterial, and unimportant for anything other than
              Message 6 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
                     I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant, immaterial, and unimportant for anything other than showing that scribes in antiquity could spell no better than most people can today.  What's worrisome is not the number of variants so much as the fact that we don't have any extensive early mss and that the text is so uncertain in places (some of which we will never know *are* uncertain) that many scholars have started insisting that we cannot even *speak* about the original text, let alone hope ever to get to it.
                 
                    I would agree, though, that it would be interesting to know how many variants exist, just as it's interesting to know how many verses are in the New Testament, or how many words are in the Gospel of John, or how many scholars actually care about such things.  It's a number -- probably of no real significance outside of itself.
                 
                -- Bart Ehrman
                 
                Bart D. Ehrman
                James A. Gray Professor
                Department of Religious Studies
                University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
                 


                From: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com [mailto:textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of gregsah
                Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:27 AM
                To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [textualcriticism] Re: Variants in comparison to other Variants

                Pete,

                My request for information indicates that at least one person does want to know. Since
                current estimates are based on John Mill's 30,000 variants from 1707, after 301 years an
                update is certainly due. If they could do it then, with computers it could be done now.
                And there is a sensible reason: as a response to Bart Ehrman and others who worry people
                with large guesses and without explaining that the large numbers are really not a problem,
                but rather an indication of the large numbers of manuscripts. Information is not the
                enemy.

                Greg

                --- In textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com, "Peter M. Head" <pmh15@...> wrote:

                >Nobody knows this 'number of
                known variants'. Nobody sensible has
                > ever before wanted to know this.
                Whatever the number is, it won't
                > matter to anyone, since it won't
                actually mean anything.

                >
                > Peter>

                > At 12:03
                19/06/2008, Greg wrote:
                > >Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many
                manuscripts have not
                > >been collated, does
                > >anyone know if
                there is any record of textual variants for each
                > >collated
                manuscript? Also,
                > >when variants are counted, which manuscript(s)
                is/are used as the
                > >standard by which
                > >variants are
                considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to
                > >get a handle
                on the
                > >number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to
                400,000
                > >textual variants (if
                > >memory serves correctly).
                Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000
                > >(which are older
                > >numbers based on a much smaller number of collated
                > >manuscripts) . But many of the more
                > >recently discovered or
                more recently collated manuscripts are just
                > >fragments, and so
                may
                > >not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer
                manuscripts
                > >(like Sinaiticus and
                > >Vaticanus).
                >
                > >Greg
                > >
                > >--- In
                href="mailto:textualcriticism%40yahoogroups.com">textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com, "Eric Sowell"
                > ><eric.sowell@ > wrote:
                > > >
                > > > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we
                would have had to
                > > > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have
                not. Unless I missed something,
                > > > we are not even close.
                > > >
                > > > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah
                <gs@> wrote:
                > > >
                > > > > Where might one find
                information on the number of textual variants
                > > > > contributed
                by each extant New Testament? Is there any such resource?
                > > > >
                > > > > Greg
                > > > >
                > > > >
                __.
                > > > >
                > > > > .
                > > > >
                > > > >
                > > > >
                > > >
                > > >
                > > >
                > > > --
                > > > Eric Sowell,
                ThM, MCTS
                > > > eric.sowell@
                > > >
                href="http://www.archaicchristianity.com">http://www.archaicc hristianity. com
                > > >
                href="http://www.thecodinghumanist.com">http://www.thecodin ghumanist. com
                > > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > >----------- --------- --------- -------
                > >
                > >Yahoo! Groups Links
                > >
                > >
                > >
                > Peter M.
                Head, PhD
                > Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                >
                Tyndale House
                > 36 Selwyn Gardens
                > Cambridge CB3 9BA
                > 01223
                566601
                >

              • Larry Swain
                ... Pete, Thanks for the corrective, and I should have been clearer. When I was talking about significance, I was addressing not their significance as
                Message 7 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
                  >
                  >
                  > I generally agree with Larry's remarks about the pointlessness of
                  > comparing the NT with Homer: "in the end, it doesn't tell us anything
                  > about scribal transmission of either Homer or the NT."
                  >
                  > The point about significance, though, is relative not absolute:
                  >
                  > Larry: re "variants":
                  > 'Most of the time they don't [i.e. have some sort of indication about
                  > the quality of the transmission], and of course most variants are
                  > insignificant: kai or te? imperfect or aorist? maqhton? maqhton
                  > autou? autou maqhton? Are the differences between these 3 significant?'
                  >
                  > It seems to me that these variants are significant for some purposes
                  > and insignificant for other purposes. Do you want to know about
                  > Luke's style? Then KAI, DE, TE variants are going to be significant.
                  > Do you want to know about synoptic comparisons between Matthew and
                  > Luke compared with Mark (or about verb use in general, verbal aspect,
                  > temporal deixis etc.)? Then the imperfect/aorist variant will be
                  > significant. Do you want to know about word order, genitive pronouns,
                  > possessive markedness? Then the MAQHTON variants will be significant.
                  > There may be more wide-ranging significances too, in terms of mss
                  > groupings etc.
                  >

                  Pete,

                  Thanks for the corrective, and I should have been clearer. When I was talking about significance, I was addressing not their significance as variants to a text or literary critic, but significance to what I perceive, perhaps erroneously, is behind the question: that the number of variants somehow indicates something about "truth" or the validity of the text of the New Testament.

                  Larry Swain

                  --
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                • Eddie Mishoe
                  Dr. Ehrman: You wrote: I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant, immaterial... I m not so
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
                    Dr. Ehrman:

                    You wrote:

                    "I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant, immaterial..."

                    I'm not so sure I'd use the word "stresses" in this context. See below.

                    I would think that the number of variants in other ancient works would be of more than passing interest, since the impression even within some of your books seems to be that the number of variants in the GNT is high, "more than the number of words in the New Testament itself" (paraphrase). You have not compared the 400,000 variants to something comparable to assess the number 400,000. For all we know, it could turn out that 400,000 (in over 25,000 mostly fragmented mss) could be miraculous low!

                    Surely you know that anyone untrained in Textual Criticism simply can not walk away from your statements without confirmation from Dr. Ehrman that the Bible can scarcely be reliable with this many variants.

                    If we remove the insignificant variants, and we are left with 95% (your number) of the GNT intact, how does this percentage stack up against Homer or other ancient authors. If the GNT is no different, then either all ancient documents are not very reliable, or the GNT is as reliable as any other ancient document. Seems to me it has to be one or the other.

                    And as you know, we've interacted on this issue before in a prior email exchange.

                    We need to find someone trained in Classical Greek of course to undertake this. Any upcoming Ph.D. students you are working with that could undertake this?

                    Eddie Mishoe





                    --- On Thu, 6/19/08, Bart Ehrman <behrman@...> wrote:

                    > From: Bart Ehrman <behrman@...>
                    > Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] Re: Variants in comparison to other Variants
                    > To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
                    > Date: Thursday, June 19, 2008, 10:01 AM

                    > I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast
                    > majority of
                    > textual variants are insignificant, immaterial, and
                    > unimportant for anything
                    > other than showing that scribes in antiquity could spell no
                    > better than most
                    > people can today. What's worrisome is not the number
                    > of variants so much as
                    > the fact that we don't have any extensive early mss and
                    > that the text is so
                    > uncertain in places (some of which we will never know *are*
                    > uncertain) that
                    > many scholars have started insisting that we cannot even
                    > *speak* about the
                    > original text, let alone hope ever to get to it.
                    >
                    > I would agree, though, that it would be interesting to
                    > know how many
                    > variants exist, just as it's interesting to know how
                    > many verses are in the
                    > New Testament, or how many words are in the Gospel of John,
                    > or how many
                    > scholars actually care about such things. It's a
                    > number -- probably of no
                    > real significance outside of itself.
                    >
                    > -- Bart Ehrman
                    >
                    > Bart D. Ehrman
                    > James A. Gray Professor
                    > Department of Religious Studies
                    > University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
                    >
                  • Eddie Mishoe
                    Larry: Your assumption was correct. The reason for understanding the percent of GNT variants is to determine if the number is high or low. When this is
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
                      Larry:

                      Your assumption was correct. The reason for understanding the percent of GNT variants is to determine if the number is "high" or "low." When this is ascertained, then we can go the next step, in the direction of your correct assumption.

                      I left my friend's email stand as it did by virtue of the generally perceived idea that "textual criticism" is trying to reconstruct some autograph.

                      Eddie Mishoe
                      Pastor

                      >
                      > Pete,
                      >
                      > Thanks for the corrective, and I should have been clearer.
                      > When I was talking about significance, I was addressing not
                      > their significance as variants to a text or literary
                      > critic, but significance to what I perceive, perhaps
                      > erroneously, is behind the question: that the number of
                      > variants somehow indicates something about
                      > "truth" or the validity of the text of the New
                      > Testament.
                      >
                      > Larry Swain
                    • Larry Swain
                      ... Well, I don t think Homeric text critics bother with counting the variants, to be honest. And there is an interesting new project underway that wants to
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
                        Eddie wrote:

                        >
                        > We need to find someone trained in Classical Greek of course to
                        > undertake this. Any upcoming Ph.D. students you are working with
                        > that could undertake this?

                        Well, I don't think Homeric text critics bother with counting the variants, to be honest. And there is an interesting new project underway that wants to treat all variants (at a certain level, obvious scribal error for example excepted) on an equal basis rather than choosing one as the "right" one and calling all others "variants."

                        Anyway, it really in a big way is like comparing apples and oranges because the transmission history of NT text is sufficiently different from the transmission history of the Homeric texts for much (though not all) of their history that merely comparing variant numbers is less than meaningless, and would actually be misleading.

                        Larry Swain

                        --
                        _______________________________________________
                        Surf the Web in a faster, safer and easier way:
                        Download Opera 9 at http://www.opera.com

                        Powered by Outblaze
                      • gregsah
                        Bart, Thank you for your affirmation that the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant, immaterial, and unimportant... I appreciate that. I m
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jun 19, 2008
                          Bart,

                          Thank you for your affirmation that "the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant,
                          immaterial, and unimportant..." I appreciate that. I'm trying to remember a place in "The
                          Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" or "Misquoting Jesus" where you say that as clearly as
                          you just did in your email. Did I miss something? Certainly most variants are insignificant
                          and are cancelled out by other manuscripts where the same errors were not made in the
                          same places. Thus, as you are aware, the plethora of variants (however many) is evidence
                          of the tremendous number of manuscripts.

                          But from your books, people might get the impression that the New Testament contains a
                          significant number of deliberate falsifications that materially alter the content. For
                          example, on page 275 of "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" you write:

                          "I nonetheless take my overarchig thesis to be established: proto-orthodox scribes of the
                          second and third centuries occasionally modified their texts of Scripture in order to make
                          them coincide more closely with the christological views embraced by the party that would
                          seal its victory at Nicea and Chalcedon."

                          Yes, apparently a word here and there may have been modified, but the reason that we
                          can raise such questions is that we have so many manuscripts that we can compare. It is
                          not, as in the case of Islam, where one standardized edition was made, and all others
                          destroyed.

                          Similarly, you write in your email:

                          "... the text is so uncertain in places ... that many scholars have started insisting that we
                          cannot even *speak* about the original text, let alone hope ever to get to it."

                          But this is to emphasize the negative. While it is unlikely that we will ever have complete
                          certainty about the original text, we do seem to be getting closer. As can be seen from
                          comparing the textual apparatus of the UBS 4 text with that of UBSX 3, the number of "C"
                          and "D" variants have been greatly reduced and many more are considered to be either "A"
                          or "B" variants. Where uncertainty continues, most variants do not materially impact
                          doctrine and in the small number that do, we have lots of manuscripts so that we can
                          weigh the evidence. Additionally, we often have more than one Bible passage that
                          addresses the same topic. In the case of the Trinity, we have over a thousand Bible
                          passages that affirm one or another aspect of that doctrine. We can face many textual
                          errors and have many hundreds left over.

                          Thank you for affirming the value of knowing how many variants or words. Knowing that
                          the NA27 has 138,020 words is helpful when faced with huge estimates of variants. When
                          you write (on page 89 of "Misquoting Jesus") that "... some say there are 200,000 variants
                          known, some say 300,000, some say 400,000 or more!" people may get concerned and
                          lose confidence in the reliability of the BIble.

                          They may not realize that this isn't the number of textual errors in the New Testament, but
                          of places where one manuscript differs from another, and that many of the same errors are
                          counted over and over again, since the same errors appear in various manuscripts. I
                          haven't noticed your mentioning that in your books, but I may have missed it. (Feel free to
                          email me a page number, and I'll look it up.) Without counting the number of words in the
                          New Testament, it might not occur to people that there can't be three times as many textual errors in the New Testament as there are words.

                          I would still like to know how many textual errors the are in the various manuscripts that
                          have been discovered and collated, if in an age of computers anyone decide to find out.

                          Greg

                          --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Bart Ehrman" <behrman@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast majority of
                          > textual variants are insignificant, immaterial, and unimportant for anything
                          > other than showing that scribes in antiquity could spell no better than most
                          > people can today. What's worrisome is not the number of variants so much as
                          > the fact that we don't have any extensive early mss and that the text is so
                          > uncertain in places (some of which we will never know *are* uncertain) that
                          > many scholars have started insisting that we cannot even *speak* about the
                          > original text, let alone hope ever to get to it.
                          >
                          > I would agree, though, that it would be interesting to know how many
                          > variants exist, just as it's interesting to know how many verses are in the
                          > New Testament, or how many words are in the Gospel of John, or how many
                          > scholars actually care about such things. It's a number -- probably of no
                          > real significance outside of itself.
                          >
                          > -- Bart Ehrman
                          >
                          > Bart D. Ehrman
                          > James A. Gray Professor
                          > Department of Religious Studies
                          > University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
                          >
                          >
                          > _____
                          >
                          > From: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
                          > [mailto:textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of gregsah
                          > Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:27 AM
                          > To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
                          > Subject: [textualcriticism] Re: Variants in comparison to other Variants
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          > Pete,
                          >
                          > My request for information indicates that at least one person does want to
                          > know. Since
                          > current estimates are based on John Mill's 30,000 variants from 1707, after
                          > 301 years an
                          > update is certainly due. If they could do it then, with computers it could
                          > be done now.
                          > And there is a sensible reason: as a response to Bart Ehrman and others who
                          > worry people
                          > with large guesses and without explaining that the large numbers are really
                          > not a problem,
                          > but rather an indication of the large numbers of manuscripts. Information is
                          > not the
                          > enemy.
                          >
                          > Greg
                          >
                          > --- In textualcriticism@ <mailto:textualcriticism%40yahoogroups.com>
                          > yahoogroups.com, "Peter M. Head" <pmh15@> wrote:
                          >
                          > >Nobody knows this 'number of known variants'. Nobody sensible has
                          > > ever before wanted to know this. Whatever the number is, it won't
                          > > matter to anyone, since it won't actually mean anything.
                          >
                          > >
                          > > Peter>
                          >
                          > > At 12:03 19/06/2008, Greg wrote:
                          > > >Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not
                          > > >been collated, does
                          > > >anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each
                          > > >collated manuscript? Also,
                          > > >when variants are counted, which manuscript(s) is/are used as the
                          > > >standard by which
                          > > >variants are considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to
                          > > >get a handle on the
                          > > >number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to 400,000
                          > > >textual variants (if
                          > > >memory serves correctly). Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000
                          > > >(which are older
                          > > >numbers based on a much smaller number of collated
                          > > >manuscripts). But many of the more
                          > > >recently discovered or more recently collated manuscripts are just
                          > > >fragments, and so may
                          > > >not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer manuscripts
                          > > >(like Sinaiticus and
                          > > >Vaticanus).
                          > >
                          > > >Greg
                          > > >
                          > > >--- In textualcriticism@ <mailto:textualcriticism%40yahoogroups.com>
                          > yahoogroups.com, "Eric Sowell"
                          > > ><eric.sowell@> wrote:
                          > > > >
                          > > > > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we would have had
                          > to
                          > > > > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have not. Unless I missed
                          > something,
                          > > > > we are not even close.
                          > > > >
                          > > > > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah <gs@> wrote:
                          > > > >
                          > > > > > Where might one find information on the number of textual variants
                          > > > > > contributed by each extant New Testament? Is there any such
                          > resource?
                          > > > > >
                          > > > > > Greg
                          > > > > >
                          > > > > > __.
                          > > > > >
                          > > > > > .
                          > > > > >
                          > > > > >
                          > > > > >
                          > > > >
                          > > > >
                          > > > >
                          > > > > --
                          > > > > Eric Sowell, ThM, MCTS
                          > > > > eric.sowell@
                          > > > > http://www.archaicc <http://www.archaicchristianity.com>
                          > hristianity.com
                          > > > > http://www.thecodin <http://www.thecodinghumanist.com> ghumanist.com
                          > > > >
                          > > >
                          > > >
                          > > >
                          > > >
                          > > >------------------------------------
                          > > >
                          > > >Yahoo! Groups Links
                          > > >
                          > > >
                          > > >
                          > > Peter M. Head, PhD
                          > > Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                          > > Tyndale House
                          > > 36 Selwyn Gardens
                          > > Cambridge CB3 9BA
                          > > 01223 566601
                          > >
                          >
                        • Peter M. Head
                          Dear Greg, Based on the Mill estimate approach then the definition of variant is a variant reading (supported by any number of manuscripts) sufficiently
                          Message 12 of 19 , Jun 20, 2008
                            Dear Greg,

                            Based on the Mill estimate approach then the definition of variant is
                            a variant reading (supported by any number of manuscripts)
                            sufficiently interesting/important to warrant an editor of a
                            large-scale Greek New Testament to give it a place in his (or her) apparatus.

                            On this definition I doubt there would be much advance on 30,000 for
                            the editions of Tischendorf and von Soden. How many variation units
                            are cited in these two editions? That could easily be counted (by a
                            patient person who wanted to give this a number) - you could start
                            today. Or this could presumably be checked with the folk who are/have
                            digitised these editions recently. If you want a number to compare
                            with Mills this would be the best place to get one.

                            One suspects that the ECM will (eventually) have a large number of
                            variation units.

                            The point would be that whatever this number is it remains the tip of
                            an iceberg, since such editions leave out lots of variants (singular,
                            spelling, itacistic etc.). A completely different definition which
                            counts each manuscript variation from a base text (NB there is
                            nothing to count without a base text) could be closer to 30 million.

                            If you want numbers there are other sets of numbers that we should be
                            able to generate: how many variation units in NA27? (this would give
                            a number of the more interesting variants as determined by one
                            editorial tradition). The number of variation units in UBS4 would be
                            another interesting number (the number of interesting/important
                            variants which are felt to reflect translatable differences).

                            I suppose that if someone counted these different sets of numbers
                            then even I would be a bit interested, and I can see them appearing
                            in an opening lecture.

                            So who can give us these figures?

                            UBS4 variation units:
                            NA27 variation units:
                            ECM variation units for Cath Eps.:
                            NA27 variation units for Cath Eps:
                            [If we have this we could make a scaled-up estimation]
                            von Soden variation units:
                            Tischendorf8 variation units:
                            von Soden & Tischendorf total (non-overlapping) variation units:


                            Pete


                            >Pete,
                            >
                            >My request for information indicates that at least one person does
                            >want to know. Since
                            >current estimates are based on John Mill's 30,000 variants from
                            >1707, after 301 years an
                            >update is certainly due. If they could do it then, with computers
                            >it could be done now.
                            >And there is a sensible reason: as a response to Bart Ehrman and
                            >others who worry people
                            >with large guesses and without explaining that the large numbers are
                            >really not a problem,
                            >but rather an indication of the large numbers of
                            >manuscripts. Information is not the
                            >enemy.
                            >
                            >Greg
                            >
                            >--- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Peter M. Head" <pmh15@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > >Nobody knows this 'number of known variants'. Nobody sensible has
                            > > ever before wanted to know this. Whatever the number is, it won't
                            > > matter to anyone, since it won't actually mean anything.
                            >
                            > >
                            > > Peter>
                            >
                            > > At 12:03 19/06/2008, Greg wrote:
                            > > >Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not
                            > > >been collated, does
                            > > >anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each
                            > > >collated manuscript? Also,
                            > > >when variants are counted, which manuscript(s) is/are used as the
                            > > >standard by which
                            > > >variants are considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to
                            > > >get a handle on the
                            > > >number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to 400,000
                            > > >textual variants (if
                            > > >memory serves correctly). Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000
                            > > >(which are older
                            > > >numbers based on a much smaller number of collated
                            > > >manuscripts). But many of the more
                            > > >recently discovered or more recently collated manuscripts are just
                            > > >fragments, and so may
                            > > >not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer manuscripts
                            > > >(like Sinaiticus and
                            > > >Vaticanus).
                            > >
                            > > >Greg
                            > > >
                            > > >--- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "Eric Sowell"
                            > > ><eric.sowell@> wrote:
                            > > > >
                            > > > > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we would
                            > have had to
                            > > > > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have not. Unless I
                            > missed something,
                            > > > > we are not even close.
                            > > > >
                            > > > > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah <gs@> wrote:
                            > > > >
                            > > > > > Where might one find information on the number of textual variants
                            > > > > > contributed by each extant New Testament? Is there any such resource?
                            > > > > >
                            > > > > > Greg
                            > > > > >
                            > > > > > __.
                            > > > > >
                            > > > > > .
                            > > > > >
                            > > > > >
                            > > > > >
                            > > > >
                            > > > >
                            > > > >
                            > > > > --
                            > > > > Eric Sowell, ThM, MCTS
                            > > > > eric.sowell@
                            > > > > http://www.archaicchristianity.com
                            > > > > http://www.thecodinghumanist.com
                            > > > >
                            > > >
                            > > >
                            > > >
                            > > >
                            > > >------------------------------------
                            > > >
                            > > >Yahoo! Groups Links
                            > > >
                            > > >
                            > > >
                            > > Peter M. Head, PhD
                            > > Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                            > > Tyndale House
                            > > 36 Selwyn Gardens
                            > > Cambridge CB3 9BA
                            > > 01223 566601
                            > >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >------------------------------------
                            >
                            >Yahoo! Groups Links
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            Peter M. Head, PhD
                            Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                            Tyndale House
                            36 Selwyn Gardens
                            Cambridge CB3 9BA
                            01223 566601
                          • Wieland Willker
                            If I remember correctly there are about 4000 variants noted in NA for the Gospels. The online commentary discusses about 1250. Of these I would say only about
                            Message 13 of 19 , Jun 20, 2008
                              If I remember correctly there are about 4000 variants noted in
                              NA for the Gospels.

                              The online commentary discusses about 1250.

                              Of these I would say only about 20 might be interesting enough
                              to arouse some interest among lay people.

                              Best wishes
                              Wieland
                              <><
                              ------------------------------------------------
                              Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany
                              mailto:wie@...
                              http://www.uni-bremen.de/~wie
                              Textcritical commentary:
                              http://www.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/index.html
                            • Jovial
                              There s some value in comparing variants, but one has to keep multiple things in mind, not the least of which is how important did the scribes consider it to
                              Message 14 of 19 , Jun 20, 2008
                                There's some value in comparing variants, but one has to keep multiple things in mind, not the least of which is how important did the scribes consider it to copy things word-for-word versus just copying content.  How important a scribe considers it important to copy EXACTLY the contents of....
                                 
                                (1) Scripture
                                (2) Entertainment (Like Homer)
                                (3) A Court Document or decree from the King/Caesar
                                (4) Historical Journal
                                 
                                will not have the same level of important to them.  Most people would want to record exactly, word-for-word, what the king said because you would not want to get that wrong.  You want the exact wording of a court decree.  But if you're a scribe copying a poem and you think "white" rhymes better with "kite" than the original word chosen, you might not think anything of changing the content to make it more entertaining.  Or in a novel, if you think the lead character SHOULD have said something slightly different than he did, hey, it's just entertainment, who cares about changing it?
                                 
                                A Scribe copying Josephus' accounts might give it almost the same level of importance as a governmental document, but he might be more prone to subconsciously replace a synonym without thinking about the fact that he replaced the word as long as he got the content the same.  I would think most people would expect scribes to give Scripture must the same level of importance as a governmental document.  I would expect Homer to have more variants.
                                 
                                Also, another impact is the effect of scribes who copy something but only speak the language as a second language on a competent, but less than "at the speed of thought" level.  Or only read and write in that language.  A native speaker might be more prone to 'smooth' out the wording to conform to modern speech, regional speech, etc.  Non-native scribes might make more technical mistakes unrelated to content.  Scripture had a lot more non-native scribes than Homer. 
                                 
                                Joe Viel
                                 
                              • Jon
                                I should point out that the vast majority of text variants might not amount to making a theological difference, yet there are examples of redaction that have
                                Message 15 of 19 , Jun 22, 2008

                                  I should point out that "the vast majority" of text variants might not amount to making a theological difference, yet there are examples of redaction that have mattered a great deal; e.g., the OT case of the Curse of Ham, where such changes had some significant and unfortunate consequences.  See Rodney Sadler, Jr.'s Can a Cushite Change His Skin?: An Examination of Race, Ethnicity, And Othering in the Hebrew Bible, pp. 26ff.

                                  I guess it amounts to what one considers significant.

                                  All the best,

                                  Rev. J.J. Meythaler

                                  Charlotte, NC 



                                  ----- Original Message ----
                                  From: Bart Ehrman <behrman@...>
                                  To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
                                  Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 10:01:07 AM
                                  Subject: RE: [textualcriticism] Re: Variants in comparison to other Variants

                                       I should point out that Bart Ehrman stresses that the vast majority of textual variants are insignificant, immaterial, and unimportant for anything other than showing that scribes in antiquity could spell no better than most people can today.  What's worrisome is not the number of variants so much as the fact that we don't have any extensive early mss and that the text is so uncertain in places (some of which we will never know *are* uncertain) that many scholars have started insisting that we cannot even *speak* about the original text, let alone hope ever to get to it.
                                   
                                      I would agree, though, that it would be interesting to know how many variants exist, just as it's interesting to know how many verses are in the New Testament, or how many words are in the Gospel of John, or how many scholars actually care about such things.  It's a number -- probably of no real significance outside of itself.
                                   
                                  -- Bart Ehrman
                                   
                                  Bart D. Ehrman
                                  James A. Gray Professor
                                  Department of Religious Studies
                                  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
                                   


                                  From: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com [mailto:textualcrit icism@yahoogroup s.com] On Behalf Of gregsah
                                  Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:27 AM
                                  To: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com
                                  Subject: [textualcriticism] Re: Variants in comparison to other Variants

                                  Pete,

                                  My request for information indicates that at least one person does want to know. Since
                                  current estimates are based on John Mill's 30,000 variants from 1707, after 301 years an
                                  update is certainly due. If they could do it then, with computers it could be done now.
                                  And there is a sensible reason: as a response to Bart Ehrman and others who worry people
                                  with large guesses and without explaining that the large numbers are really not a problem,
                                  but rather an indication of the large numbers of manuscripts. Information is not the
                                  enemy.

                                  Greg

                                  --- In textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com, "Peter M. Head" <pmh15@...> wrote:

                                  >Nobody knows this 'number of known variants'. Nobody sensible has
                                  > ever before wanted to know this. Whatever the number is, it won't
                                  > matter to anyone, since it won't actually mean anything.

                                  >
                                  > Peter>

                                  > At 12:03 19/06/2008, Greg wrote:
                                  > >Yes, New Testament manuscripts. While many manuscripts have not
                                  > >been collated, does
                                  > >anyone know if there is any record of textual variants for each
                                  > >collated manuscript? Also,
                                  > >when variants are counted, which manuscript(s) is/are used as the
                                  > >standard by which
                                  > >variants are considered to be variants? What I'm trying to do is to
                                  > >get a handle on the
                                  > >number of known variants. Bart Ehrman suggests 300,000 to 400,000
                                  > >textual variants (if
                                  > >memory serves correctly). Many books suggest 150,000 to 200,000
                                  > >(which are older
                                  > >numbers based on a much smaller number of collated
                                  > >manuscripts) . But many of the more
                                  > >recently discovered or more recently collated manuscripts are just
                                  > >fragments, and so may
                                  > >not contribute nearly as many variants as some longer manuscripts
                                  > >(like Sinaiticus and
                                  > >Vaticanus).
                                  >
                                  > >Greg
                                  > >
                                  > >--- In textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com, "Eric Sowell"
                                  > ><eric.sowell@ > wrote:
                                  > > >
                                  > > > I'm assuming you mean each manuscript. To know that we would have had to
                                  > > > collate all of the manuscripts, and we have not. Unless I missed something,
                                  > > > we are not even close.
                                  > > >
                                  > > > On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 10:28 AM, gregsah <gs@> wrote:
                                  > > >
                                  > > > > Where might one find information on the number of textual variants
                                  > > > > contributed by each extant New Testament? Is there any such resource?
                                  > > > >
                                  > > > > Greg
                                  > > > >
                                  > > > > __.
                                  > > > >
                                  > > > > .
                                  > > > >
                                  > > > >
                                  > > > >
                                  > > >
                                  > > >
                                  > > >
                                  > > > --
                                  > > > Eric Sowell, ThM, MCTS
                                  > > > eric.sowell@
                                  > > > http://www.archaicc hristianity. com
                                  > > > http://www.thecodin ghumanist. com
                                  > > >
                                  > >
                                  > >
                                  > >
                                  > >
                                  > >----------- --------- --------- -------
                                  > >
                                  > >Yahoo! Groups Links
                                  > >
                                  > >
                                  > >
                                  > Peter M. Head, PhD
                                  > Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
                                  > Tyndale House
                                  > 36 Selwyn Gardens
                                  > Cambridge CB3 9BA
                                  > 01223 566601
                                  >


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