Category Archives: Textual Criticism

Influence of One Bible Translation

The Influence of the Good News for Modern Man translation on other translations of Acts 9:25

The longer I have been observing textual variants in the Greek New Testament, the more I am convinced that the cause of some corruptions in the Greek text, was back-flow from the early important translations into other languages, and from the writings and commentaries of the Fathers.  Because if you lived in a region where the Greek text was not your native language, and the New Testament text you were familiar with was in another language, (Syriac, Coptic, Latin, etc.) but you were charged with re-copying or reproducing the foundational Greek text your church had received, when you did produce it, you would be highly influenced by the memories in your mind of your native language text, which is what you heard repeated all the time, and not the Greek text.  Much of this back-flow could happen unconsciously and not deliberately.  However, some of this could have happened deliberately, for the sake of uniformity of the text among all your churches.

I have a current-day example of this, not of back-editing of the Greek text, but of the influence of one important English translation onto many new translations into other languages.  The principle is the same.  The translators and editors were conscious of the fact that they were deliberately departing from their main source text, in order to effect uniformity of the NT text among all the regional churches.

My example occurred in Papua New Guinea, where I was born and raised.  I discovered this while translating the Acts of the Apostles from Greek to English.  I found that an alarmingly high number of English translations in Acts 9:25 add words to the text that are not in the Greek, any Greek source text; they are not in the Textus Receptus, not in the Nestle-Aland text, and not in the Majority Text, not in any Greek manuscript.  They add the words “an opening in.”  That is, “they lowered him down through “an opening in” the wall.”

The Greek text is straight-forward.  The enemies of Saul were watching the city gates day and night in order to capture Saul and kill him.  So, λαβόντες δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ νυκτὸς διὰ τοῦ τείχους καθῆκαν αὐτὸν χαλάσαντες ἐν σπυρίδι.  So, “the disciples took him at night by way of the wall instead.  They lowered him down in a basket.”

It is not hard to understand.  The gates were not an option, therefore they used the wall to escape.  It says nothing about a hole in the wall, or a window in the wall.  The point was simply that they did not use the gates, but used the wall.  They lowered him down from it in a basket.  The preposition δια here means “by way of”  or “by means of.”  They took him out of the city by way of the wall.  It does not even say they lowered him by means of the wall as some of the translations say.  The verb involved is λαβόντες, they TOOK him by way of the wall.  They lowered him by means of a basket.

I called my father Tom Palmer to find out how he rendered Acts 9:25 in his translation into the Hamtai language of Papua New Guinea.  He said they went with the same addition I mentioned, something about letting Saul down through a window in the wall.  I asked him why in the world the Hamtai translation says a window, when that is not in the Greek, and that is not in the King James Version?  His answer is what I am talking about: back-flow from one very important, early, influential translation used in Papua New Guinea: the Good News for Modern Man.  You see, the country of Papua New Guinea has 700 different languages; not dialects, but 700 languages, with different dialects among those.  But the official language of Papua New Guinea is English, since it was at first a British colony then an Australian colony (though the NE part where I was born was a German colony prior to WW1.)  Many New Guineans therefore can speak some English.  So pretty much all churches in Papua New Guinea, whether Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, SDA, etc., they all were influenced by the same Bible, the Good News for Modern Man, which was produced by the United Bible Societies (UBS).

When I was a child growing up in Papua New Guinea, I read mainly the King James Bible, but for more modern English, I also read the Berkeley version, and the Good News for Modern Man.  The latter was produced by the United Bible Societies, and quickly became the most influential modern English translation in the entire world, including in Papua New Guinea.

So also, for all the indigenous Christians in New Guinea, no matter what denomination, their church was highly influenced by this Bratcher/UBS work, which says in Acts 9:25 there was a hole or opening or window in the wall of the city of Damascus.  So, when my father, or any other translator, was producing a translation into one of the tribal languages there, they had to keep this in mind, that the Bible which the people already had, and had always had in the history of their church, no matter what denomination, was this UBS-produced Good News Bible.  Therefore, for the sake of uniformity, and not disturbing the people too much with too large a departure from what they were familiar with, the wording of the Good News for Modern Man was retained.  Including this corruption of there being a hole in the wall of the city of Damascus.  (Though the Tok Pisin Bible, the translation done by the UBS into the Pidgin English spoken in New Guinea, reads “Tasol ol disaipel bilong Sol i kisim em long nait na ol i bringim em i go antap long bikpela banis i raunim taun. Na ol i tokim em long sindaun long wanpela bikpela basket, na ol i slekim basket i go daun long ausait bilong taun.”  This does not add the words about an opening or window.)

One of the acknowledged causes of corruption in the text of the Greek New Testament is the phenomenon of “harmonization to the familiar.”  This goes hand in hand with the example I gave, but some translations of Acts 9:25 may also be influenced by the account of Rahab helping the spies escape in Joshua 2:15: “Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.”

Typos in Mark?

My son Jacob sent me a list of what he thought might be typos in my translation of Mark:

2:16 – “Torah scholars of the Pharisees” instead of “Torah scholars and the Pharisees”

This is a Greek textual variant between the Nestle/Aland, United Bible Societies’ text, versus the Textus Receptus.  The text as I have it is referring to the Torah scholars belonging to the sect of the Pharisees; there were Torah scholars belonging to other sects as well.  This is not the only place we find this variant; it is in other passages and other gospels too.

2:23 – The heading is “Man Over the Sabbath”. I was wondering if you meant “Lord Over the Sabbath”?

Well, I have it purposely ambiguous, because not only is there a man who is Lord over the Sabbath, Jesus Christ, but also it means man is more important than the Sabbath.  Judaism made the Sabbath the most important thing in the Jewish universe, far more important than people, or any other part of the Torah, even more important than an actual walk with God.

5:35 – “Why inconvenience the teacher any farther?” Farther is used for physical distances. If it is figurative, it should be further. I think it’s a stretch to call it a physical distance.

Yes, further is for abstracts, and farther is for physical distance, but in fact, if you look at it, physical distance is actually what is being talking about.  Jesus had not yet traveled all the way to him, so they are saying, why make Jesus come all the way.  Why make the Rabbi go even farther out of his way.  I do remember thinking about that a long time when I translated it. Maybe I will make a footnote about it.  BTW, people are losing that distinction these days, I have heard even news anchors use the words wrongly.

9:23 – Jesus said to him, “‘If I can’?…” First, shouldn’t the single quote mark be after the question mark? Secondly, why is it necessary, since Jesus is paraphrasing the father?

Yeah, the Greek actually says, quoting the father directly “What is this ‘If you can’ you are saying.”  I’ll have to think about what to do there. But you are right, the quotation marks are not necessary for an indirect quotation.

14:22 – “taking a loaf of bread and blessing” Should there be an it after blessing to indicate that the bread was being blessed?

Here, the Greek word for blessing is also the Greek word often used to mean “giving thanks,” or “praising.”  Jesus was actually blessing God, not the food particularly, but blessing in the sense of praising God for it.  The lesson is, you bless the food by praising God for it. I remember making it deliberately ambiguous so that people would stop and think.  Catholics would have an easier time understanding it, since they use those words more interchangeably than Protestants do.  I guess I should make a footnote explaining it.

Dad

Accidental Scribal Addition

An Accidental Scribal Addition in DRP translation of Revelation

I finished translating the Apocalypse of John in April, 2006.  And now in August 2016, as I am making my TR and RP editions, I discovered a scribal error on my part.  In Rev. 16:11, I wrote in English “they reviled the name of the God of heaven.”  But the Greek only says ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸν θεὸν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, they reviled the God of heaven.  So, I made a scribal addition of the words “the name of.”  Even though my exemplar had the correct text.  Why did I accidentally do this?  Because two verses prior, the same word ἐβλασφήμησαν was followed by τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ, “they reviled the name of God,” and I was familiar with that phrase from just having translated that verse.  See immediately below my translation as it stood from April 2006 to August 2016.

16:9 καὶ ἐκαυματίσθησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι καῦμα μέγα, καὶ ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἔχοντος τὴν ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ τὰς πληγὰς ταύτας, καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν δοῦναι αὐτῷ δόξαν.
⁹And the people were burned a very bad burn, and they reviled the name of God, the one having authority over these plagues; yet they did not repent to give him glory.

16:11 καὶ ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸν θεὸν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐκ τῶν πόνων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑλκῶν αὐτῶν, καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν.
¹¹and they reviled the name of the God of heaven, because of their pains and because of their ulcers, yet they did not repent of their works.

I looked in Hoskier’s apparatus to find out if any ancient scribes made the same mistake which I did, and lo, two of them did indeed make the same addition.

The minuscule 1957 reads in v. 11, ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ, an exact duplication of the previous phrase in v. 9, even without the τοῦ οὐρανοῦ of v. 11.

The Philoxenian Syriac in v. 11 reads ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.  My translation was an exact translation of the Philoxenian Syriac, without my knowledge or intent.

So, when you see the UBS Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament speculate that a phrase found in the BYZ text but not found in the UBS text, and they say it was added because of scribal familiarity with that phrase a couple verses prior, I can personally attest how that can and does happen.

Greek Cursive Ligatures

Quick-Reference Greek Ligature Guide

Many of us read printed editions or transcriptions of New Testament Greek frequently. But unless you are collating or reading minuscules often, you can forget the “ligatures” used in cursive manuscripts. Ligatures are the shorthand mergings or combinations of Greek letters that are found in cursive minuscule Greek manuscripts. I myself was reading minuscules often in the early 2000’s, but then after I stopped doing that, I have been forgetting the ligatures. So I use this guide myself when reading minuscules.

Here I offer free download of a quick-reference Greek ligature guide in PDF.  It has two narrow columns. So narrow, that you can make it a sliver on one side of your screen or monitor, and still have plenty of room for your mains documents. The first column is the more familiar form of a Greek letter or number, and on the right of that, a column showing various ligatures for that letter alone or ligatures for combinations of letters that start with that letter. It mostly uses Dr. Vernon Kooy’s character set, but also some others. I know that this will be useful to people in this group. The download is free, but you can also order a printed and bound edition from Lulu. Also, if someone has made a font or knows of a font that includes one or more ligatures than I have included in this document, please let me know, and I will add it to the document.

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Textual Variant Revelation 11:10

In Revelation 11:10, the Byzantine text says people will “give gifts” to each other, whereas the TR and NA28 says they will “send gifts.”  Which turns out to be the more accurate prediction of gifting in the future?

Revelation 11:10- txt πέμψουσιν ℵ² A C ƒ052 922 1006 1841 2040 2053txt vg it-gig Tyc1,3 Prim Ps-Ambr syriac coptic-bohairic arab TR SBL NA28 {\} πεμπουσιν ℵ* P coptic-sahidic arm2,3,4 Tyc2 Beat πεμψωσιν 2329 π̣[εμψου]σιν 𝔓⁴⁷ ‖ π̣[εμψουσιν] 𝔓¹¹⁵  πεμπειν 2053com  δώσουσιν 046 1828 eth RP hiat 051 2050 2062.  Both Papyrus 47 and Papyrus 115 read words that start with π, so they are some form of the word “send.” To download my document that contains this:  http://bibletranslation.ws/trans/revwgrk.pdf

Revelation 8:7 Homoioteleuton

A case of homoioteleuton in the Textus Receptus

Will one third of the earth be burned up or not?  Revelation 8:7.  This is a variant between Bible versions based on the Textus Receptus, and all others.  The Textus Receptus and the King James Version omit the first of the three phrases below, which means, “and one third of the earth will be burned up.”

καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῆς γῆς κατεκάη
καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν δένδρων κατεκάη
καὶ πᾶς χόρτος χλωρὸς κατεκάη

Only three late Greek manuscripts (out of 300+-) omit the first phrase, and it is a clear case of “homoioteleuton” that happened in the Greek copying process.  That means, the lines end the same, so a copyist, having left off his work for a break, then resumed doing his work, and he remembers, “I resume, at the line ending with κατεκάη,” but he resumed with the wrong line ending with κατεκάη.  Skipped one line by accident.  Homoioteleuton.

Or, it could have been a case of “homoioarcton,” that is, all three lines BEGIN the same, with καὶ, and the scribe having left off, resumed, thinking, “I resume with the line beginning with καὶ, but he picked the wrong line beginning with καὶ.

Interestingly, the scribe of manuscript 620 wrote the phrase in question two times, which is another kind of parablepsis from homoioteleuton.

As long as I am on this verse, let’s look at a Bible version.  As you can see, the word κατεκάη is used 3 times, the exact same word and same form of the word, and it means “burned up.”

NLT:  One-third of the earth was set on fire, one-third of the trees were burned, and all the green grass was burned.

So why does the New Living Translation render one of the occurrences of κατεκάη as “set on fire”?  This is simply unacceptable.  Just one of thousands of translation errors in the NLT.  I would never recommend the NLT, or the Message.  If you want a paraphrase, the Philips NT is much better, or the NIV.  I consider the NIV a mild paraphrase.

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