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Re: 70,000 variants, the NA text, and Versions

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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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