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Re: [textualcriticism] 70,000 significant variants and the NA text

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  • Mitch Larramore
    Dr. Jongkind: (phonetically, how do you pronounce your name? Yawn ken ??) I think the NA lists only variants the committee deems to be of some significance,
    Message 1 of 13 , Apr 7, 2009
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      Dr. Jongkind: (phonetically, how do you pronounce your name? Yawn ken ??)

      I think the NA lists only variants the committee deems to be "of some significance," or thereabouts. Dr. Dan Wallace of DTS states there are about 1,400 "significant" variants (what he calls meaningful and viable -- see his article on bible.org. Yet, he also says there are about 400,000 non-repeating variants if all the manuscripts are considered.). Something seems odd since yours and Dr. Willker's numbers are not really that close as far as counting a fixed number of variants listed in one medium-size book. The total number of variants, in all the manuscripts, is in all probability in the millions (keep in mind, just the number of Translations/Version alone is over 20,000; you are going to find quite a few variants in such a large set of documents. I still have no idea how they determine a variant in a tranlsation/version, but, from what I understand, they do.). However, if the now infamous number of 400,000 is under discussion, these variants are non-repeating (unique) variants in all the available sources (manuscripts and Church fathers). So, I think the number of variants listed by the NA must reflect some criteria the committee uses to identify variants they consider to be of at least some significance, since there are surely far more than 70,000 variants (to use Dr. Funk's number) among all the 5,500+ Greek manuscripts. Once I read your post and Dr. Willker's, I realized that the NA must be using some criterion to select which variants, of the estimated 400,000, that they thought important enough to put in the apparatus. Please let me know where my thinking and numbers are off. I think if I just take another 50 years or so, I should finally figure out what all these numbers mean : )

      Mitch Larramore
      Sugar Land, Texas

      --- On Tue, 4/7/09, Dirk Jongkind <dj214@...> wrote:

      From: Dirk Jongkind <dj214@...>
      Subject: Re: [textualcriticism] 70,000 significant variants and the NA text
      To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2009, 4:41 AM

      There is a simple way to approximate the total number of recorded
      variants (which will be higher than the number of variant units). I
      counted a couple of pages and found that they contained between 21 and
      42 (page 319) variants. I include MSS in brackets (xx) as a separate
      variant, even though the apparatus does not mention in which detail they
      deviate from the others.
      Some will have more (page 512, page 529), many will have something in
      the lower regions.

      Say we go for an upper limit: 45 variants/page * 680 pages = 30.600 variants
      Lower limit: 25 variants/page * 680 pages = 17.000 variants

      The total number of variant units would be much lower (when the evidence
      for and against is given, it should be counted as two variants in one
      unit), probably half of it or less.
      Wieland's 4.000 for the gospels would indeed extrapolate to the same
      number of between eight or nine thousand variant units (lower limit);
      upper limit would be not higher than 16 thousand.

      If this estimation has some value, it would be safe to say that there
      are between 7 and 16 thousand variant units in NA27 (whether NA27
      contains only significant variant units, or all the significant variant
      units is a different question).

      Cheers
      dirk

      >I quote him from his article, The Once and Future New Testament:
      >
      > "Which edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament with its catalogue
      of more
      > than seventy thousand significant variants is canonical?"

      There are not 70.000 variants in the NA.
      I once counted the variants in the Gospels of NA. These are about 4.000. You
      can extrapolate yourself.

      Best wishes
      Wieland
      <><

      --
      Dirk Jongkind, PhD
      Fellow and Tutor, St. Edmund's College
      Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language
      Tyndale House
      36 Selwyn Gardens
      Cambridge, CB3 9BA Phone:(UK) 01223 566603
      United Kingdom Fax: (UK) 01223 566608


    • Dirk Jongkind
      Dear Mitch, Let me explain my reasoning a little clearer. First, in whatever way you are going to count variants, there will remain a lot of interpretation
      Message 2 of 13 , Apr 8, 2009
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        Dear Mitch,

        Let me explain my reasoning a little clearer.

        First, in whatever way you are going to count variants, there will remain a lot of interpretation involved as to what counts and what not. Epp and Fee have done some useful work in connection with the definitions and it is worthwhile reading them. I am not going to be very precise here, the examples just serve to get an intuitive understanding of what is going on.

        1)
        a. The dog bites the cat.
        b. The dog bit the cat.

        This one is simple: One variant unit (bites, bit) with two variant readings.
        Wieland in his number (and I mentioned a similar number too) would count this as one variant, I prefer the term one variant unit with two variant readings (and it is irrelevant how many manuscripts support either option).

        2)
        a. The dog bites the cat.
        b. The dog bit the cat.
        c. The dog bit the cat yesterday.
        d. The dog has bitten the cat.

        This one is trickier. There are the variants with the verb (bites, bit, has bitten), and one of these has the variant 'yesterday', a variant that would normally not occur with the reading of 2.a. as the verb there is the present tense 'bites'. Do we have one complicated variant unit with four variant readings, or do we have two variant units, one with three readings (bites, bit, bitten), the other with two (add/omit 'yesterday'). Depending on the side you choose, you end up with different totals (and this is not a clear-cut 'Wrong'/'False' situation):
        1 variant unit; 4 variant readings
        2 variant units; 5 variant readings

        Personally I admire the way in which the apparatus of NA27 is written, it has an efficiency and elegance that is not praised often enough (yes, it may not be perfect, but so often it is able to give a maximum amount of info in a minimal amount of space). One could count the number of variant units which the committee has chosen to include and accept their choice of the boundaries of these units. Wieland and I agree that this number would be in the order of 8.000 (possibly higher, but not triple this number).
        As for the number of variant readings recorded, this must be at least double (if only the rejected variant reading is mentioned with its supporting manuscripts, then the assumption still is that the preferred variant is printed in the text, even though it is not printed in the apparatus), but more likely three or four times this number. And that leads to a much higher number in the order of 30.000 variant readings (with a larger margin of uncertainty).

        Does NA27 contain all the variant units that are 'viable' and more besides, or not? I don't think, though they have a very good selection. There are quite a number of places in which I disagree with NA27 in orthographic matters and in which the variant readings are not mentioned in the apparatus. Yet I cannot see any point in blaming the committee for this: NA27 is a pocket edition and not a full scale exhaustive work such as the Editio Critica Maior or the John project. I would also expect that quite a few variants are included for their importance for the subsequent textual history of the NT rather than for the fact that they have a claim to be original.

        Best
        dirk






        Mitch Larramore wrote:

        Dr. Jongkind: (phonetically, how do you pronounce your name? Yawn ken ??)

        I think the NA lists only variants the committee deems to be "of some significance, " or thereabouts. Dr. Dan Wallace of DTS states there are about 1,400 "significant" variants (what he calls meaningful and viable -- see his article on bible.org. Yet, he also says there are about 400,000 non-repeating variants if all the manuscripts are considered.) . Something seems odd since yours and Dr. Willker's numbers are not really that close as far as counting a fixed number of variants listed in one medium-size book. The total number of variants, in all the manuscripts, is in all probability in the millions (keep in mind, just the number of Translations/ Version alone is over 20,000; you are going to find quite a few variants in such a large set of documents. I still have no idea how they determine a variant in a tranlsation/ version, but, from what I understand, they do.). However, if the now infamous number of 400,000 is under discussion, these variants are non-repeating (unique) variants in all the available sources (manuscripts and Church fathers). So, I think the number of variants listed by the NA must reflect some criteria the committee uses to identify variants they consider to be of at least some significance, since there are surely far more than 70,000 variants (to use Dr. Funk's number) among all the 5,500+ Greek manuscripts. Once I read your post and Dr. Willker's, I realized that the NA must be using some criterion to select which variants, of the estimated 400,000, that they thought important enough to put in the apparatus. Please let me know where my thinking and numbers are off. I think if I just take another 50 years or so, I should finally figure out what all these numbers mean : )

        Mitch Larramore
        Sugar Land, Texas

        --- On Tue, 4/7/09, Dirk Jongkind <dj214@.... uk> wrote:

        From: Dirk Jongkind <dj214@.... uk>
        Subject: Re: [textualcriticism] 70,000 significant variants and the NA text
        To: textualcriticism@ yahoogroups. com
        Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2009, 4:41 AM

        There is a simple way to approximate the total number of recorded
        variants (which will be higher than the number of variant units). I
        counted a couple of pages and found that they contained between 21 and
        42 (page 319) variants. I include MSS in brackets (xx) as a separate
        variant, even though the apparatus does not mention in which detail they
        deviate from the others.
        Some will have more (page 512, page 529), many will have something in
        the lower regions.

        Say we go for an upper limit: 45 variants/page * 680 pages = 30.600 variants
        Lower limit: 25 variants/page * 680 pages = 17.000 variants

        The total number of variant units would be much lower (when the evidence
        for and against is given, it should be counted as two variants in one
        unit), probably half of it or less.
        Wieland's 4.000 for the gospels would indeed extrapolate to the same
        number of between eight or nine thousand variant units (lower limit);
        upper limit would be not higher than 16 thousand.

        If this estimation has some value, it would be safe to say that there
        are between 7 and 16 thousand variant units in NA27 (whether NA27
        contains only significant variant units, or all the significant variant
        units is a different question).

        Cheers
        dirk

        >I quote him from his article, The Once and Future New Testament:
        >
        > "Which edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament with its catalogue
        of more
        > than seventy thousand significant variants is canonical?"

        There are not 70.000 variants in the NA.
        I once counted the variants in the Gospels of NA. These are about 4.000. You
        can extrapolate yourself.

        Best wishes
        Wieland
        <><

        --
        Dirk Jongkind, PhD
        Fellow and Tutor, St. Edmund's College
        Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language
        Tyndale House
        36 Selwyn Gardens
        Cambridge, CB3 9BA Phone:(UK) 01223 566603
        United Kingdom Fax: (UK) 01223 566608



        -- 
        Dirk Jongkind, PhD
        Fellow and Tutor, St. Edmund's College
        Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language
        Tyndale House
        36 Selwyn Gardens
        Cambridge, CB3 9BA		Phone:(UK) 01223 566603
        United Kingdom			Fax:  (UK) 01223 566608
        
        
      • James Snapp, Jr.
        Mitch Larramore: I don t see any way to understand Dr. Funk s allusion to the NA-text s catalogue of more than seventy thousand significant variants as a
        Message 3 of 13 , Apr 8, 2009
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          Mitch Larramore:

          I don't see any way to understand Dr. Funk's allusion to the NA-text's "catalogue of more than seventy thousand significant variants" as a realistic statement. My guess is that he was thinking of Tischendorf's work, not NA. Or perhaps he mis-recollected "7,000."

          Also, Wieland wrote: "8.500 variation units in the GNT (NA) may seem a lot. But only a minority of them is translatable. Perhaps 20%? And of these only a *very* small percentage will prompt Joe Average in the street to raise an eyebrow at all. In the Gospels, I would say, less than 20 variants."

          I partly disagree. When I compared the text of Mark in the Alexandrian, "Western," Byzantine, and Caesarean text-types, I found 1,111 translatable variants. This is a small percentage of the total number of variants in Mark; many more variants are orthographic. Still, that is much more than 20, and more than the 181 variants in Mark covered by Metzger in his Textual Commentary. The average theologian would probably be interested at least 27 (a little over 2%) of them:

          (1) 1:2 – Is the quotation from Isaiah or from the prophets?
          (2) 1:10 – Did Mark write that the Holy Spirit descended to Jesus, or could Mark's statement be capable of meaning that the Holy Spirit descended into Jesus?
          (3) 1:41 – Was Jesus filled with compassion, or was Jesus angry?
          (4) 2:26 – Did Jesus refer to the high-priesthood of Abiathar, or to high-ranking priest Abiathar, or to Abiathar the high priest (or to nobody)?
          (5) 3:29 – Did Jesus say "forever" or not? And did Jesus refer to an eternal sin, or eternal judgment?
          (6) 5:1 – Did Mark write that Jesus met the demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, or Gergesenes, or Gerasenes?
          (7) 6:11 – Is the comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah (the second half of the verse) authentic to the Gospel of Mark, or not?
          (8) 6:22 – Did Mark refer to the daughter of Herodias as if she were Herod's daughter?
          (9) 7:16 – Is this verse authentic to the Gospel of Mark, or not?
          (10) 7:19 – Did Jesus declare all foods clean, or was He merely describing a digestive function?
          (11) 9:23 – Exactly what was Jesus' response to the boy's father?
          (12) 9:24 – Was the boy's father shedding tears, or not?
          (13) 9:29 – Did Jesus mention fasting, or not?
          (14) 9:44 – Is this verse (cf. 9:48) authentic to the Gospel of Mark, or not?
          (15) 9:46 – Is this verse (cf. 9:48) authentic to the Gospel of Mark, or not?
          (16) 10:21 – Did Jesus invite the man to take up the cross, or not?
          (17) 10:24 – Did Jesus make this statement about those who trust in riches, or about everyone?
          (18) 11:3 – Did Jesus say that the colt's owner would immediately send the colt, or was He telling His two disciples to say that the Lord would immediately return the colt?
          (19) 11:26 – Is this verse authentic to the Gospel of Mark?
          (20) 13:2 – Did Jesus prophesy that He would raise up another temple made without hands?
          (21) 13:14 – Did Jesus cite Daniel the prophet by name?
          (22) 14:62 – Did Jesus say, "I am," or (in the Caesarean text) "You say that I am"?
          (23) 14:65 – Is this a spectacular Minor Agreement, or (in the Caesarean text) not?
          (24) 14:68 – Did the rooster crow at this point, or not?
          (25) 15:3 – Did Mark record that Jesus made no answer at this point?
          (26) 15:28 – Is this verse authentic to the Gospel of Mark, or not?
          (27) 16:9-20 – Are these 12 verses authentic to the Gospel of Mark, or not?

          And that's just Mark.

          Regarding the question of the NA's criteria for inclusion: it's sometimes hard to tell, and at times the selection-choices seem arbitrary. But for the most part, the variants that are listed in NA-27 seem to have been included because they are translatable, or because they illustrate the differences between text-types, or because they have a potential impact on source-critical studies, or because they illustrate perceived scribal tendencies, or because they are particularly difficult, or because they seem especially capable of contributing to a reconstruction of the history of the transmission of the text, or simply because they are interesting. Whereas most orthographic variants are/do none of those things, at least not to the extent that the selected-for-inclusion variants are.

          ML: "I still have no idea how they determine a variant in a translation/version, but, from what I understand, they do."

          I think I can briefly explain that. The safest course, with versions, is to retro-translate the version into Greek, as literally and formally as possible, and look for variants involving the simple presence or absence of material. When a version simply does not have a verse, or an entire phrase, that is clearly a variant. The variants involving presence-vs.-absence can be used to sketch the version's textual affinities. (For instance, if someone tomorrow discovered, say, an ancient Numidian copy of Mark, a spot-check of 6:11, 7:16, 9:24, 9:29, 9:44, 9:46, 10:21, 10:24, 11:26, 13:14, and 15:28 would give some idea of its textual affinities (i.e., whether its base-text was Byzantine, "Western," Alexandrian, Caesarean, or something else).) Then, with the initial impression of the textual affinities of the version's base-text in mind, the variants involving substitutions should be considered, and held up to the collection of variants already acquired.

          Throughout that process, one should filter results through an awareness of the limits of the versional language to convey subtleties of Greek syntax. (For instance, if a language (such as modern English) has no special pronoun for the plural "you," we should not consider it a variant when a modern English translation uses "you" to represent the Greek plural as well as the Greek singular.) One should also filter results through an awareness of one's impression of how literally or non-literally the translator(s) translated the text. (And there is no guarantee that this will be the same from one book to another of the same version.)

          That is the ideal; unfortunately as a recent study on the NA'27's citations of the Peshitta in Romans has shown, the NA-27's representation of versional evidence is sometimes seriously inaccurate.

          Yours in Christ,

          James Snapp, Jr.
        • ron minton
          NA 26 and 27 have 15,291 by a count we made ten years ago. His 70,000 may include all variants within those 15291 variation units. Ron Minton On Tue, Apr 7,
          Message 4 of 13 , Apr 8, 2009
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            NA 26 and 27 have 15,291 by a count we made ten years ago.
            His 70,000 may include all variants within those 15291 variation units.
            Ron Minton


            On Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 12:56 AM, Mitch Larramore <mitchlarramore@...> wrote:


            Can someone help me figure out what Robert W. Funk is saying and what the answer to his question is (ignoring the reference to the canonical issue).

            I quote him from his article, The Once and Future New Testament:

            "Which edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament with its catalogue of more than seventy thousand significant variants is canonical?"

            To what is the Nestle-Aland compared in order to yield 70,000 significant variants? I am mystified by this number. There are probably some issues in this quote that are off-topic for this site, so please remember that I am only asking how this number 70,000 was attained.

            Mitch Larramore
            Sugar Land, Texas




            --
            Grace be with you,
            Ron Minton - Ukraine
            from USA: 240-949-2653
            Ukraine cell: 8.067.580.02.56
            www.ron.minton.name
          • Mitch Larramore
            Ron: Can you give me an example or two of variants that you did not count that you think Funk may have counted? I think this will clear things up for many of
            Message 5 of 13 , Apr 9, 2009
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              Ron:

              Can you give me an example or two of variants that you did not count that you think Funk may have counted? I think this will clear things up for many of us struggling with variant units vs variant readings. And if it was a (different) variant, why did you not count it?

              Mitch Larramore
              Sugar Land, Texas

              --- On Wed, 4/8/09, ron minton <ronminton@...> wrote:

              From: ron minton <ronminton@...>
              Subject: Re: [textualcriticism] 70,000 significant variants and the NA text
              To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 3:35 PM

              NA 26 and 27 have 15,291 by a count we made ten years ago.
              His 70,000 may include all variants within those 15291 variation units.
              Ron Minton


              On Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 12:56 AM, Mitch Larramore <mitchlarramore@ yahoo.com> wrote:


              Can someone help me figure out what Robert W. Funk is saying and what the answer to his question is (ignoring the reference to the canonical issue).

              I quote him from his article, The Once and Future New Testament:

              "Which edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament with its catalogue of more than seventy thousand significant variants is canonical?"

              To what is the Nestle-Aland compared in order to yield 70,000 significant variants? I am mystified by this number. There are probably some issues in this quote that are off-topic for this site, so please remember that I am only asking how this number 70,000 was attained.

              Mitch Larramore
              Sugar Land, Texas




              --
              Grace be with you,
              Ron Minton - Ukraine
              from USA: 240-949-2653
              Ukraine cell: 8.067.580.02. 56
              www.ron.minton. name

            • kanakawatut
              The number 70,000 significant variants in the Greek New Testament sounds about right to me. And that number does not arise from a full accounting and
              Message 6 of 13 , Apr 11, 2009
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                The number 70,000 significant variants in the Greek New Testament sounds about right to me. And that number does not arise from a full accounting and collation of all Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

                One need only look at Hoskier's collation of 300 Apocalypse of John manuscripts, and see what a full collation of all available manuscripts looks like. Basically, every new paragraph in Hoskier's volume No. 2 is a variant, and there are additional variants within most of the larger of the paragraphs. It is conservative to say that there are 15,000 variants in Revelation alone. Are they significant variants? Yes, many more of them than listed in the NA27 are significant for purposes of TC and genealogy, etc. Not all are significant for establishment of doctrine, true enough, and most of them are not translatable into English. But they are variants.

                Revelation I think has more variants to its text as a percentage of words than some other NT books, but if someone declared that there are 250,000 textual variants in the Greek New Testament, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow or object at all.

                David Robert Palmer

                --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, Mitch Larramore <mitchlarramore@...> wrote:

                > To what is the Nestle-Aland compared in order to yield 70,000 significant variants? I am mystified by this number. There are probably some issues in this quote that are off-topic for this site, so please remember that I am only asking how this number 70,000 was attained.
                >
              • kanakawatut
                I have Tommy Wasserman s complete collation of all Greek manuscripts of the epistle of Jude, and it shows a little less than 1,300 variants in the 25 verses of
                Message 7 of 13 , Apr 12, 2009
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                  I have Tommy Wasserman's complete collation of all Greek manuscripts of the epistle of Jude, and it shows a little less than 1,300 variants in the 25 verses of Jude.

                  That comes to at least 51 variants per verse.

                  If extrapolated to the 7,950 verses of the entire Greek New Testament, that comes to 405,450 variants.

                  This I am sure is not exact, but it gives one a good estimate to start with.

                  I think it is safe to say there are at least 200,000 variants in the Greek New Testament.

                  David Robert Palmer
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