Re: [textualcriticism] tabulating variants
- Hi Folks,
Several others have already given some good technical explanations about how different editors count variants, but I thought I would state the obvious to help clarify. No one has ever "tabulated" the 400,000 variants. :) No reasonable person would devote his or her life to such a colossal waste of time. :) It's really more of a guess based on a limited pool of data, so you might perhaps more accurately say they "extrapolated" the 400,000 variants. :)
If they extrapolate to get the number, they should be able to give a sample verse so we could see the methodology that was used. 400,000 variants is about 50 per verse, so could they give an example of a verse and show how they count the 50 (or 25 or 100) variants ?
If they can not do that, does such a number have any value whatsoever ?
And shouldn't an example using a small, comprehensible unit be a given part of any process of claiming global numbers ?
And I asked some similar questions here, and I believe Stephen is asking similar with his Acts 5:31 question below.
[textualcriticism] "Evangelical Miscalculation" by Daniel Wallace, textual variants and textual problems
Steven Avery - June 22, 2012
WHAT IS A VARIANT ?
Another major problem is the need to define variants. Simple example: how many variants are involved in the Pericope Adultera sections ? Absolutely no idea. And thus we also cannot say what percent are translatable (thus that versional section has its own difficulties). What if the variants of Acts 8:37 or 1 John 5:7 are largely in Latin manuscripts ? How do they count ? How many variants are involved in the dozens of verses and phrases that are in Codex Bezae and some supporting witnesses that are not in 99.9% of the Greek ms ? Absolutely no idea. In inclusion/omission, is the count per letter, per word, per phrase, per verse or per section ? The answer for a section could range from 1 to 100s. Similarly word order and spelling differences can have very differing calculation. To talk about a total number of variants, without a definitional base, is simply far too loose.
From: Stephen Lord <endeomenos@...>
Might list members forgive a likely obvious and stupid question from a non-specialist? I've searched the list archives, a couple books on textual criticism, and read Wallace's paper, "The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation," and it is still not clear to me how variants are tabulated in order to reach the oft quoted 400,000 number. Would any informed list member care to educate me, using mostly one syllable words, either off list or on? Is it that we start with a base text, say a single mss (Sinaiticus) or text-type (Alexandrian), and then any time we encounter a difference between the base text and other mss (i.e. metathesis, etc.), does that count as a "variant"? And if that exact same variant shows up in 10 mss, does that count as but 1 variant or 10?
Using English versions to illustrate (bad idea?), my KJV NT reads "to be a Prince and a Saviour" in Acts 5:31. (Let's pretend the KJV is my base text.) My NIV reads, "as Prince and Savior". How many "variants" do I have in this one phrase as a textual critic would count them? Pretending "Saviour" and "Savior" is a variant, if I have 10 NIV copies, does that count as 10 variants or 1? If I have 10 KJV mss and 10 NIV mss is that still 1 variant, or 10, or 100 in this one place? My thanks to whoever is willing to enlighten this ignorant fellow.
Respectfully, Stephen Lord