Greek 202
Study in Textual Criticism 
last revised: 1/08/06
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Week 1 Week 2
1.0 Learning about Textual Criticism 2.0 Introduction to a Text Critical Methodology
1.1  The Purpose of Textual Criticism 2.1 Rational Eclecticism
1.2  The Copying of Ancient Manuscripts 2.1.1. Evaluating External Witnesses 
1.2.1. The Greek manuscripts Date Papyri Geographical Distribution Uncials Textual Relationships Minuscules 2.1.2. Evaluating Internal Evidence
1.2.2 The Greek Lectionaries Transcriptional Probabilities
1.2.3 The Versions Shorter/Longer Reading
1.2.4 The Church Fathers Reading Different from Parallel
1.3 The Printed Greek Texts More Difficult Reading
1.3.1. Early work: Reading Which Best Explains Origin of Other(s) Erasmus Intrinsic Probabilities Textus Receptus
1.3.2. Nineteenth Century/Early Twentieth Century Westcott-Hort (English speaking world) Nestle (non-English speaking world)
1.3.3. Second half of the Twentieth Century United Bible Socities 4th (English speaking world) Nestle-Aland 26th & 27th (Non-English speaking world) British and Foreign Bible Society text (British English speaking world)
1.4 The Critical Apparatus of the UBS 4th rev ed

1.0 Week 1 of Study:
Learning about Textual Criticism
The Greek New Testament, pp. 1-52

The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism

         -Discussion of textual criticism during the 20th century----Discussion of textual criticism in Catholic encyclopedia.----Major URL on aspects of textual criticism. Click on various icons on home page for topics.----

        "Analysis of various copies of a literary work to determine the original form of the text. Textual criticism is a painstaking but crucial task in restoring the oldest version of compositions like the gospels that were hand copied for many centuries before the printing press made standard editions possible.
        "Textual critics study variations in mss. to determine the probable lines of transmission as in a genealogical family tree: what early ms. is the archetype from which later mss. were derived. The family tree is composed of the archetype & several recensions: groups of mss. that share common features that distinguish them from other mss. of the same work. The original reading of a passage is not determined by the number of textual witnesses but by the antiquity of mss. in a recension."

Cited from Mahlon H. Smith, "Text Criticism"
1.1  The Purpose of Textual Criticism

        "The description at left is my definition of textual criticism: Determining, as best we can, the original text of the document. In recent years, with this post-modern tendency to think that methods matter more than results, there has been a certain tendency to argue that the phases in the history of the document are the point of textual criticism. I'll say flat-out that, as far as I'm concerned, this is pure bunk. Such historical criticism is useful and interesting -- but it's not textual criticism, which should always have its eyes fixed firmly and solely on the original text. Only that and nothing more."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism,"
1.2  The Copying of Ancient Manuscripts
1.2.1. The Greek manuscripts
Introduction to types of ancient NT manuscripts Papyri
Illustrations of papyri manuscripts----Explanation of papyrii texts Uncials
Illustrations of uncial manuscripts----Explanation of Codex Sinaiticus----Codex Sinaticus
        "Ancient script in which letters (all capitals) are formed by simple rounded strokes rather than the several strokes required to form each letter in classical square script. P64 & P67, the oldest fragments of a synoptic gospel, are excellent examples of this transition. Uncial Greek & Latin scripts emerged in the2nd c. CE due to the increased demand for books. The shift from papyrus to smoother writing surfaces of parchment & vellum in the 3rd-4th c. made uncial the dominant script form for centuries, until the development of more compact minuscule scripts after 800 CE. The earliest gospel mss. are written in uncial Greek, except for the few papyrus fragments that can be dated before 200 CE."
Cited from Mahlon H. Smith, "Uncial" Minuscules
Illustrations of minuscule manuscripts
1.2.2 The Greek Lectionaries

1.2.3 The Versions

1.2.4 The Church Fathers

1.3 The Printed Greek Texts

1.3.1. Early work: Erasmus

        "Pioneering humanistic Dutch scholar who edited the first printed edition of a Greek NT (1516). The 5th edition of Erasmus' version (1535) became the standard Greek biblical text in England & western Europe.
        "The illegitimate son of a parish priest at Rotterdam (or Gouda), Erasmus joined an Augustinian monastic order & was himself ordained as priest in 1492. But he left the monastery 2 years later to begin a long career as an itinerant scholar that took him to many of the leading universities in western Europe: Paris (France), Oxford & Cambridge (England), Louvain (Belgium), Basel (Switzerland) & Freiburg (Germany).
        "Erasmus' eloquent Latin earned him early distinction as a classicist. Recognizing the potential of the printing press to produce a "library without limits," he produced the first printed editions of the works of early Christian fathers (including Irenaeus, Origen, Jerome & Augustine). His own Latin translation of the NT was recognized by scholars as superior to the traditional Vulgate.
        "His greatest influence, however, was as editor of the Greek NT. For more than 200 years, Erasmus' work was uncritically accepted as the 'received text' (textus receptus) of the NT by publishers & scholars alike, until J. A. Bengel & later textual critics produced more accurate editions based on older & better Greek mss.
        "The 16th century's preeminent classical scholar was hardly an elitist. His roots in the popular 'modern devotion' of the Netherlands dedicated him to the cause of public education. He wanted to make the gospels part of the everyday life of the common person.

        "I wish that every woman could read the Gospel and the letters of St. Paul. I want these translated into each and every language so that they might be read & understood not only by Scots & Irishmen, but also by Turks & Saracens... I want the farmer to sing bits of scripture at his plow & the weaver to hum scriptural phrases to the tune of his shuttle & the traveler to lighten his journey with stories from scripture. [from preface to first edition of the Greek NT (1516)]."
        "This dream of seeing the NT translated into every vernacular set the agenda for later missionary Bible societies.
        "Erasmus himself remained a visionary scholar rather than an activist. While he was sharply critical of abuses by clergy & church policies of his day, he was alienated by the crude tactics of more politically minded radical reformers. Yet, he sympathized with many of the goals of leading Protestants (& corresponded with them). As a pacifistic imperial councilor, he tried to mediate between the Reformers & Roman church authorities, even though the latter were just as suspicious of him as they were of the Protestants. But his ineffective moderation only made him the object of Protestant attacks. Ironically, however, less than a century after his death his last edition of the Greek NT was adopted as the basis of the English translation authorized by James I --- the so-called King James Version, which became the standard Bible of English-speaking Protestants for more than 300 years.
        "[For a fuller account of the editorial history of Erasmus' Greek NT see M. M. Parvis' article on the NT Text (Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible 4. New York/Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), pp. 599-601]."
Cited from Mahlon H. Smith, "Erasmus" Textus Receptus

        "Term coined by 17th c. French publishers, B. & A. Elzevir, for their 1633 edition of the Greek NT based on the version produced by Erasmus (1516): 'So you have the text that is now received by everybody.' At the time, this description was apt, since Erasmus' work, with only minor alterations, had been accepted as the standard NT text by every publisher in western Europe for more than a century. And it remained such for another century. Its position was secured by two factors:

        "In the popular imagination it was equated with the original text of the NT itself & was regarded by many as divinely inspired.
        "Yet, Erasmus actually produced this text under conditions that did not favor his scholarly abilities:         "Erasmus himself later quipped that the text he produced had been 'precipitated rather than edited.' Nevertheless, it sold more copies than all mss. of the Greek NT then in existence. The three revised editions released in Erasmus' lifetime corrected typographical errors & added a parallel Latin translation but did not involve further research in the primary texts.
        "This was the Greek text that was used as the basis of the King James Version & early translations of the NT into other languages. The English version generally follows editions produced by French scholars Theodore Beza & Robert Étienne (Stephanus) after Erasmus' death. But which edition(s) of Erasmus' work the translators of the KJV used is still not totally clear.
        "By the early 18th c. some biblical scholars were aware that many readings of the printed textus receptus were not supported by the earliest & best Greek mss. J. A. Bengel produced the first corrected version. New critical editions were produced by J. J. Griesbach & later textual critics. Yet it was not until the middle of the 20th c. that, faced with mountains of mss. evidence, conservative scholars began to abandon their preference for the 'received text' that had been the popular standard for more than 400 years.
        "[for more details on the creation & history of the transmission of textus receptus see the article by M. M. Parvis on the NT Text in Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible 4 (Nashville/New York: Abingdon Press, 1962) pp. 509-602].
Cited from Mahlon H. Smith, "Textus Receptus"

1.3.2. Nineteenth Century/Early Twentieth Century Westcott-Hort (English speaking world) Nestle (non-English speaking world)

1.3.3. Second half of the Twentieth Century United Bible Socities 4th (English speaking world) Nestle-Aland 26th & 27th (Non-English speaking world) British and Foreign Bible Society text (British English speaking world)

1.4 The Critical Apparatus of the UBS 4th rev ed

2.0 Week 2 of Study:
Introduction to a Text Critical Methodology
Textual Critical Analysis Guidelines---

Textual Critical Analysis Worksheet
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Church Fathers Locations and Dates---

Map of Church Fathers Locations---

A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, by Bruce M. Metzger

2.1 Rational Eclecticism

2.1.1. Evaluating External Witnesses

        "Evidence based on the readings found in the manuscripts (as opposed to internal evidence, which based on the nature of the readings). External evidence is based on the number and nature of the witnesses supporting a particular reading. For further details see External Critical Rules under Canons of Criticism."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "External Evidence,"

        "That reading is best which is supported by the best manuscripts. This was the fundamental tenet of Hort, and has been followed by many others -- including even Lagrange and Weiss, who in theory explicitly rejected it. This is a good rule if all the best manuscripts support a single reading (i.e. if all the leading manuscripts of all the early text-types agree), but should not be applied by itself if there is disagreement among the text-types. Still, this rule may be the final arbiter if all other criteria fail. Also, to apply this rule, one must have a precise definition of the 'best' manuscripts. Unless one is Hort, and prepared to follow B/03 blindly, this rule can be hard to apply."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "External Critical Rules,"
at Date

        "That reading is best which is supported by the earliest manuscripts. This was the basis of Lachman's text; he used only the earliest manuscripts. Today, it finds support from Aland (who has referred to the papyri as "the original [text]") and also Philip Wesley Comfort, who has the tendency to treat all papyrus-supported readings as accurate. It is, of course, true that the papyri are valuable witnesses, and that the support of early manuscripts increases the likelihood that a reading is original. But other criteria must take precedence. This is a rule of last resort, not a rule of first resort."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "External Critical Rules,"
at Geographical Distribution

        "The geographically superior reading is best. I deliberately state this criterion vaguely, because geography has been used in various ways by various critics. The usual sense used in New Testament criticism is Streeter's, who argued that the reading supported by the most diverse sets of "local texts" is best. I.e. his criterion is That reading is best which is supported by the most geographically diverse manuscripts. That is, if reading X is supported by manuscripts from Rome, Carthage, and Alexandria, while reading Y is supported only by witnesses from Byzantium, reading X is to be preferred. This was stated most forcefully by Streeter (although the rule goes back to Bengel). All things being equal, this is a good rule, but there are two limitations. First, good readings may be preserved in almost any text (e.g. there are many instances where scholars read the text of B/03, perhaps supported by a papyrus or two, against all comers). Second, this rule can only be applied if one truly knows the provenance of manuscripts. (For additional detail, see the entry on Local Texts.)
       " There is, however, another rule based on geography, more commonly encountered in classical criticism but with some application to New Testament criticism, especially in studies of text-types and smaller textual groupings: The more remote reading is best. That is, isolated sites are more likely to preserve good readings, because manuscripts preserved there are more likely to be free from generations of errors and editorial work. This criterion, of course, cuts two ways: While a remote site will not develop the errors of the texts of the major centres, it is more likely to preserve any peculiar errors of its own. Remote texts may well be older (that is, preserve the readings of an older archetype); they are not automatically more accurate."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "External Critical Rules,"
at Textual Relationships

        "Textual critics study variations in mss. to determine the probable lines of transmission as in a genealogical family tree: what early ms. is the archetype from which later mss. were derived. The family tree is composed of the archetype & several recensions: groups of mss. that share common features that distinguish them from other mss. of the same work. The original reading of a passage is not determined by the number of textual witnesses but by theantiquity of mss. in a recension."

Cited from Mahlon H. Smith, "Text Criticism,"

         "Considered to be the method practiced by F. J. A. Hort in the preparation of the Westcott & Hort edition of the New Testament. (Though in fact Hort did not use genealogy, just the presuppositions of genealogy.) In theory, the basic procedure resembles that of Non-Biblical Textual Criticism performed in a sort of an abstract way: Examine the witnesses and group them into text-types, then examine the text-types. This evidence then can be used to determine the original text. (It should be noted, however, that if Hort ever really did quantitative study of text-types, he left no evidence of this. He simply assumed the types, without examining them in detail.) Hort's use of the genealogical method led him to the theory of "Neutral," Alexandrian, "Syrian" (Byzantine), and "Western" texts which formed the basis of the Westcott-Hort edition. This textual theory has been modified in some instances, with the result that the "genealogical method" is now rather in dispute. This is rather unfair; although Hort's results cannot stand, and his description of his method is too theoretical (and was not, in fact, the entire basis of his text), the principle of grouping and editing by text-types has by no means been disproved. See, e.g., the section on The Use of Text-Types in the article on Text-Types."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "The Genealogical Method,"
2.1.2. Evaluating Internal Evidence Transcriptional Probabilities

        "Evidence based on the logic of readings (as opposed to external evidence, which is based on the readings of manuscripts). Also called 'transcriptional probability' or the like. It is based on determining which reading most likely gave rise to the others -- e.g. which reading a scribe would be more likely to change by accident or on purpose; which reading the original author is most likely to have written. For further details see Internal Critical Rules under Canons of Criticism."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "Internal Evidence,"
at Shorter/Longer Reading

        "The shorter reading is best (Lectio brevior praeferenda). This rule is found in most manuals, beginning with Griesbach, and certainly has its place. There were scribes who liked glosses, and there were scribes who would always prefer the longer reading (on the principle that it was better to have an extraneous word in scripture than to risk leaving something out). However, this rule must be applied with extreme caution (as Griesbach himself noted, adding exceptions for scribal errors and for minor omissions that do not affect the sense). The most common sorts of scribal errors (haplography) result in a shortening of the text. Also, there is a strong tendency among copyists to omit short words. (These first two errors are both characteristic of , for example.) In addition, there were scribes (the scribe of P45 is perhaps the most extreme) who freely shortened the text. Finally, despite Boismard, the short reading should not be adopted based only on arguments from silence (Boismard adopts a number of short readings in John on the grounds that patristic sources omit the words. This is not good evidence; the phrases in question may simply not have been relevant to the commentator's argument). Therefore the rule of the "shortest reading" should be applied only if the manuscripts with the short reading are reliable and if there is no evident reason why scribes might have deliberately or accidentally shortened the text. As a general rule, if a scribe makes a deliberate change, it will usually result in a longer text; if a scribe makes an error, it w illmore often result in a shorter text.
        "At this point it might be worthwhile to quote G. D. Kilpatrick: 'There are passages where reasons can be found for preferring the longer text and there are others where we can find reasons for preferring the shorter. There is a third category where there does not seem to be any reason for deciding one way or the other. How do we decide between longer and shorter readings in this third category? On reflection we do not seem able to find any good reason for thinking that the maxim lectio brevior potior really holds good.' ("The Greek New Testament of Today and the Textus Receptus," in Anderson & Barclay, The New Testament in Historical and Contemporary Perspective," 1965, p. 196.)
        "Still, there are cases where this rule is accurate, though usually for other reasons than simple brevity. An obvious example of the use of this rule is the several additions of "fasting" with "prayer," e.g. in 1 Cor. 7:5 (Mark 9:29 is also an example of this type, although it is perhaps a questionable instance since the external support for "and fasting" is very strong, and the words are found in all manuscripts which insert the sentence in Matthew. This implies that those who added the words to Matthew must have known them in Mark)."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "Internal Critical Rules,"
at Reading Different from Parallel

        "The disharmonious reading is best. This rule is usually applied in the gospels, where assimilation of parallels is common. If one reading matches the text of another gospel, and the other reading does not, then the assumption is that the unique reading is best. (Von Soden noted a special instance of this: All things being equal, scribes tended to assimilate to Matthew as the "strongest" of the gospels. If no other rule resolves a variant involving parallels, The reading which does not match Matthew is best.) This is a good rule, but must be applied with caution. As Colwell has shown, the most common sort of assimilation is assimilation to the immediate context. Also, scribes would sometimes assimilate to other, unrelated sources (e.g. hymns or other writings that sounded similar to the scripture being copied). So this rule should really be altered to read..."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "Internal Critical Rules,"
at More Difficult Reading

        "The hardest reading is best (Difficilior lectio potior or Proclivi scriptioni praestat ardua). First offered by Bengel (for whom it was the basic rule), this is a good criterion; scribes were generally more likely to make texts simpler rather than harder. But some caution must be applied; scribes were capable of making errors that led to prodigiously difficult readings. (A good example of this is the peculiar readings that litter P66.) One should prefer the harder reading only when it is adequately attested and does not appear to be the result of error. Or, perhaps, the rule should be rephrased: Among readings which are possible, the hardest reading is to be preferred."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "Internal Critical Rules,"
at Reading Which Best Explains Origin of Other(s)

        "The reading which could most easily have given rise to the other readings is best. This approximates Tischendorf's formulation of the general rule "That reading is best which best explains the others." It is a direct corollary of the basic rule, and has much the same force as the preceding rule."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "Internal Critical Rules,"
at Intrinsic Probabilities

        "The less familiar reading is best. That is, if one reading is what you would expect a scribe to write, and the other is unusual or surprising, the latter is probably the correct reading. This is what Hort called "Transcriptional Probability." The only problem is guessing what was going on in the scribe's head as he wrote....
        "We can illustrate this with an example from the LXX. Consider Ezek. 38:13. The Hebrew text refers to "Tarshish." The translators of LXX glossed this to the more familiar "Carchedon" (Carthage). But the scribe of A was confused even by that, and converted it to "Chalcedon." We see this identical error in some classical texts, from the period when every Byzantine scribe knew the Council of Chalcedon but when Carthage was a forgotten city in the west: In Aristophanes, Knights 1303, manuscripts R V F refer to Carchedonians/Carthaginians, but G2 and some scholia mention Chalcedonians.
        "The reading which best fits the context or the author's theology is best. If we were absolutely sure of how the author thought, this would be a good rule. As it is, it is awfully subjective....
        "The reading which has the truest sense is best. Hort said that the best readings are those which, on the surface, don't make sense, but which, on reflection, show themselves more reasonable. Hence this criterion. Perhaps the best example of its application is the reading of UBS/GNT in 2 Cor. 5:3, where (following D* (F G) a d f** g) that text reads "'f indeed, when we take it off, we will not be found naked.' All other witnesses, starting with P46, read '...when we put it on, we will not be found naked.' The UBS editors accept the reading 'take it off' on the grounds that the other reading simply doesn't make sense.
        "The reading which avoids Atticism is best. With the Attic Greek revival of the early Christian centuries, Attic forms began to be used after some centuries of disuetitude. Kilpatrick, in particular, called attention to Atticising tendencies. The caution with this rule is to determine what is a truly Attic reading and what is legitimate koine. Parallel to this rule are the three which follow:
        "The reading which is characteristic of Hellenistic usage is best. Since the koine used a number of unclassical and uncouth forms, later scribes with more classical education might be tempted to correct such "barbarisms." This is another of the stylistic criteria of Kilpatrick and Elliot. Fee, on the other hand, denies it; scribes seem often to have conformed readings to the koine and Septuagint idiom.
        "The reading which resembles Semitic usage is best. Since most of the New Testament authors were native speakers of Aramaic, they would tend to use Semitic idiom in violation of Greek usage. Copyists, as native Greeks, might be expected to correct such readings. This is again the argument of the thoroughgoing eclectic school (compare the preceding rules), and again there are those who argue that scribes would be more likely to prefer Septuagintal usage.
        "Parallel to the two preceding is The reading which is less like the Septuagint is best. This is another of those tricky rules, though. It's certainly true that some scribes would tend to conform to the Septuagint. But this has even more than the usual complications. It must be remembered, for instance, that most copies of LXX were made by Christians, and they might often conform LXX to the New Testament usage more familiar to them -- meaning that the harmonization, rather than being in the NT, is in LXX! And then, too, NT authors often deliberately used LXX language which scribes might mistake.
        "That reading which seems to preserve an ungrammatical form is best. A trivial example is Mark 6:29 (hlqan/hlqon), where first and second aorist stems are interchanged. Most applications of this rule are to equally trivial matters -- although sometimes they may reveal something about the scribe who produced the manuscripts.
        "If one reading appears to be an intentional correction, the reading which invited such a correction is best. Alternately, That reading which is most likely to have suffered change by copyists is best. Proposed by Tischendorf. This is fundamentally the same as preferring the harder reading. If a reading calls out for correction, of course some scribes will correct it. They are hardly likely to deliberately create a reading which requires such correction. An obvious example is Mark 1:2. Here a B (D) L D (Q) (f1) 33 565 (700) 892 1241 2427 it arm geo read 'As is written in Isaiah the Prophet,' while A W family 13 579 Byz read 'As is written in the prophets.' The citation which follows is, of course, from several sources, only one of which is Isaiah. While it is possible that scribes corrected 'in the prophets' to 'in Isaiah the Prophet' based on parallels (since so many NT citations are from Isaiah), it is much more likely that scribes corrected 'in Isaiah the prophet' to 'in the prophets' to eliminate the errant reference."

Cited from Rich Elliott, "Internal Critical Rules,"

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