Category Archives: Textual Criticism

Gospel of Matthew Printed Editions

I have published on Amazon two editions of my translation of the gospel of Matthew. They alternate verse by verse between the Greek text and my English translation. They have 671 footnotes each. I have footnoted with critical apparatus most all the meaningful variants between the NA28 text and the Robinson-Pierpont Greek text.

Eclectic Edition of the Gospel of Matthew, with my Greek text being unique. I follow more Byzantine readings than does the Tyndale House GNT, but on the other hand there are a few times the TH follows the Byz where I do not. I have a couple readings not found in any of the above.

The Robinson-Pierpont edition, the Gospel According to Matthew.

Hannah’s Three Bulls and the LXX

Here is an example of a change that has happened in Bible translations since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the year 1947. I will first quote the ASV, American Standard Version, which was made in 1901.

1 Samuel 1:24,25
24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of Jehovah in Shiloh: and the child was young.
25 And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli.

Wait, what? She took 3 bullocks, and they slew “the” bullock?

Well, the Dead Sea Scrolls had Hebrew text of 1 Samuel that agreed with the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which read, she took a “3-year-old bullock” rather than three bullocks.

So then the Revised Standard Version read:
And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine; and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young.

The Hebrew scrolls found in 1947 at Khirbet Qumran pre-date the Hebrew manuscripts that were used at the time, called the Masoretic Text. The Masoretic text had been standardized by the Masoretes. That is, they had agreed on final readings where there had been variants in the text, and then eliminated and destroyed any manuscripts that did not agree with their final edition. (This is called a recension.)

But all this time, we have had the Septuagint, also known as the LXX for short, which was translated from the Hebrew into Greek a couple hundred years before Christ. That means that those translators had access to Hebrew manuscripts that predated the recension done by the Masoretes. All this time, the Septuagint has read that she went ἐν μόσχῳ τριετίζοντι “with a three-year-old bull.” This is why you should not despise the Septuagint when its reading differs from the Hebrew text. Nor should you despise a translation for choosing a reading of the Septuagint over what the Hebrew Masoretic Text says.

Neuter Plurals Singular Verb

This post discusses a textual variant in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 26, verse 31, as follows:

διασκορπισθησεται 𝔓³⁷ 𝔓⁴⁵ D E F K U V W Γ Δ Θ Π Φ ƒ¹ 2 28 565 579 1424 pm Eus Chrys Or-pt TR RP διασκορπισθησονται 𝔓⁵³ ℵ A B C G H L M S Σ 067 0281 ƒ¹³ 33 157 700 892 1071 1241 pm Or-pt SBL TH ΝΑ28 {\} lac 𝔓⁶⁴ N P Q Ζ 0233 346

The nominative substantive, the subject of our sentence here, is τα προβατα, “the sheep,” a neuter plural subject. But the BYZ text couples with it a singular verb, διασκορπισθησεται, while the NA28 text uses a plural verb, διασκορπισθησονται.

Classical, Attic, Greek had a grammar rule that broke the grammar rules.  Usually, verbs must agree in gender, number and case with the subject noun.  This is called concord.  But there was a rule that neuter plural subjects usually took a singular verb.

BDF §133: “This is because neuter plurals were originally in part feminine singular collectives: Schwyzer ɪ 581 f.). The rule appears to have been most strictly followed in the Attic dialect (Schwyzer ɪɪ 607); Homer and Koine are less consistent, while the plural is used exclusively in MGr.  In the NT (as in the LXX and pap.: Mayser ɪɪ 3, 28 ff.) there is marked diversity, and often in individual instances the MSS diverge.  The plural is used for the most part in Herm. (1) The plural is used especially with neuters designating persons (also class., K.-G. ɪ 65), most frequently with ἔθνη, less often wth τέκνα and δαιμόνια. (2) The singular, on the contrary, preponderates with words having non-personal meaning (even when a numeral is inserted: ἐὰν γένηται…ἑκατὸν πρόβατα Mt 18:12), (3) and even more so with abstracts and pronouns (ταῦτα, ἅ etc.).—For stereotyped ἴδε, ἰδού, ἄγε used in spite of a plural subject, s. §144.”

Smyth §958: “A neuter plural subject is regarded as a collective (996), and has its verb in the singular: καλὰ ἦν τὰ σφάγια the sacrifices were propitious X.A.4.3.19.  Here, sheep are a herd, a collective, so take a singular verb, the herd is scattered.  But Smyth then says in §959, “A plural verb may be used when stress is laid on the fact that the neuter plural subject is composed of persons or of several parts: τὰ τέλη τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων αὐτὸν ἐξέπεμψαν the Lacedaemonian magistrates despatched him (Thuc. 4.88), φανερὰ ἦσαν καὶ ἵππων καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἴχνη πολλά many traces both of horses and of men were plain X.A.1.7.17. (a.) With the above exception Attic regularly uses the singular verb.  Homer uses the singular three times as often as the plural, and the plural less frequently with neuter adjectives and pronouns than with substantives.  In some cases (B 135) the metre decides the choice.” 

Here in Mt 26:31 the sheep are persons, so one cannot declare with absolute certainly which reading in this variant is grammatically correct for classical Greek.  Now, there are many other examples of this category of variant in Matthew, but I am showing this one because so many papyri are extant.  The testimony is equally early for both readings.  Each has a III century papyrus in support, 𝔓⁴⁵ and 𝔓⁵³.  The Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, does not pertain here, as Zech 13:7 in the LXX does not have the same sentence structure, that is, there is no neuter plural subject.  Rather it says, “Strike the shepherds, and remove the sheep…” 

Now a question for us is, was Matthew (or his translator, if he wrote his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic) bound to follow Attic rules, or even familiar with Attic rules?  Possibly editors or copyists of Matthew corrected what they thought was incorrect grammar, to follow the Attic rule.  But in this variant we probably have a legitimate exception to the Attic rule since the sheep are persons.  This explanatory note, and many like it, can be read in my translation of the gospel of Matthew, downloadable here.

Matthew chapter 25 verse 6 variant

There is a variant in the Greek manuscripts of the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 verse 6, where the Majority text reads, “Look! The bridegroom is coming,” while the NA28 reads, “Look! The bridegroom.”  So the NA28 text lacks the word ερχεται, “is coming.”  Then after that, in both texts, the next Greek word is also a form of the word “come,” εξερχεσθε, and says “Come out to meet him.”

νυμφιος ερχεται C³ E W Σ Φ latt syr-p,h arm Chrys TR RP νυμφιος ℵ B C* D L Z cop-sa Cyr SBL TH NA28 {\} lac A N P 0233 0281

What I found that is significant, is that the scribe of Codex D, Codex Bezae, first wrote εξερχεται, which is only two letters different than ερχεται, just adding εξ to it, “out,” but then he omitted εξερχεσθε that is supposed to follow that according to all manuscripts.  He seems to have gotten confused by the similarity of the two words.  Here is a snip from the image of Codex D.

Matthew 25:6 in Codex D

So in view of the problem the scribe of Codex D had, I changed my Greek text to that of the Majority text, adding ερχεται, “the bridegroom is coming.”  Because I find this to be an explanation as to how the variant arose, how ερχεται dropped out of text streams.  In other words, the most important question in textual criticism is, which variant best explains the rise of the others?

Where Swanson is Correct

I have pointed out lately a few places where Reuben Swanson’s apparatus has been incorrect, so now I will be fair and point out a place where I think Swanson is correct and the NA28 apparatus is not.

In Matthew chapter 22 verse 30 there is a variant where most manuscripts say “are like the angels of God in heaven,” but some mss. say only “are like the angels in heaven.” (As does the parallel passage in Mark 12:25.) It is the difference between:
ὡς ἀγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ εν ουρανῶ εισιν and
ὡς ἀγγελοι εν ουρανῶ εισιν.

Swanson’s apparatus says the original reading of Codex E (07) did not have the words τοῦ θεοῦ “of God” and then a corrector (possibly the original scribe himself) rubbed out the original writing and added those words. The NA28 apparatus, however, does not indicate that the manuscript has been corrected there. I think Swanson is right here. Here is a snip of the manuscript:

Note that in the second half of the second line, the words ΤΟΥ ΘY̅ ƐΝ ΟY̅ΝW̅ ƐΙCΙΝ are smaller and fainter than all the other letters. This means the scribe had to shrink the rest of the words on the line in order to fit ΤΟΥ ΘY̅ in the line without having to correct the next line as well. As long as we are here, if you have not seen “nomina sacra” before, here we have two of them. The genitive form of the word θΕΟΣ, ΘΕΟΥ is shortened to ΘY̅ with a line above it. And the dative form for the word for heaven, ΟΥΡΑΝΟΣ, ΟΥΡΑΝW, is shortened to ΟY̅ΝW̅ with two overlines. These are called “nomina sacra” and they did this also for the words Jesus, Christ, David, Holy Spirit, and sometimes for Jerusalem and other words.

Good Repentant Pharisees in Codex Bezae

In the gospel of Matthew chapter 21, verse 32, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and scribes, and tells them,

“For John came to you with the way of righteousness, and you did not believe in him.  The revenue agents and prostitutes, however, did believe in him.  And you, when you saw that, did not subsequently have a change of heart and believe in him.”

However, some manuscripts say that the Pharisees DID subsequently have a change of heart and believe in him, that is, they omit the word “not” or “neither”:

21:32 txt ου “not” ℵ C E L W 𝔐 Or Chrys TR RP ουδε “not even; neither” B Σ Φ 0102 0233 lat syr-c,p,h eth Hil SBL TH NA28 omit D it-e,ff¹* syr-s  lac A N P Z 0281. 

I looked at the image of Codex D, and found several interesting things, and I made a snip of the manuscript, posted here.

First, the scribe of Codex D appears to have accidentally omitted the negative particle because of the fact that the two words before it and after it were the last word in the line in the column and then the first word in the next line: ιδοντες <> μετεμεληθητε. In this image, EΙΔΟΝΤΕC “when you saw,” is on the 4th line as the last word. Then next is where the negative particle ου was supposed to be. Then the 5th line at the left side of the column picks up with ΜΕΤΕΜΕΛΗΘΗΤΕ. So the scribe overlooked the small word ου because of the line break. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the Greek New Testament. This accidental error is a type of “parablepsis.”

I also noticed that our scribe changed the length of his lines so that he could start 5 lines in a row with the word ΚΑΙ, which you can see on lines 9-13. He also seems to have lengthened a couple lines above that, so that he could end 2 lines with the same words, EPISTEΥCATAIAUTW.

Matthw 21:30-35 approximately

Change of Reading to Byz

As I am making my Robinson-Pierpont edition of the gospel of Matthew, I am editing my eclectic edition here and there. During this process I found a Byzantine reading that I think is the original text rather than what I previously had in my eclectic text and is found in the NA28.

Matt 21:25 παρ εαυτοις ℵ C D E W Σ Φ 0102 0233 𝔐 TR RP TH εν εαυτοις B L Z Cyr SBL NA28 {\} lac A N P 0281.

The reading with παρ has strong support.  I immediately thought that since εν εαυτοις is a very common phrase in the gospels, and παρ εαυτοις is not, it is far more likely that scribes would write εν εαυτοις automatically unconsciously, than the other way around.  So I changed my text to the παρ εαυτοις reading, and this was before I looked up the Tyndale House reading and saw that they follow that reading.  The preposition παρα with the dative case answers the question “where.”  They were “by” themselves, which implies separation for privacy; thus, “away by themselves.” You can download my eclectic edition of Matthew’s gospel here.

Codex Basilensis in Swanson

The New Testament Greek Manuscripts series by Reuben Swanson is a very valuable work, and an amazing one. What a huge task he did! I am grateful for it. In such a large and complex work, there are bound to be errors.

The uncial E (07), Codex Basilensis, is a 6th century Greek manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament. Because it is complete for those books, and relatively ancient, makes it important. However, it is not cited in the critical apparatus of the NA28. It is cited in Swanson, but only when it differs from the BYZ group.

Because of this lack of citation, this manuscript is one whose reading I often look up personally on the Uni-Münster site images. No transcription is available; I look at the photographs of the manuscript itself and find the readings in it.

I should probably keep a log of the errors I find in Swanson’s work touching Codex E. The latest is in Matthew chapter 20 verse 21. The mother of James and John, wife of Zebedee, is asking Jesus that he decree that her two sons sit one on his right and one on his left in his kingdom. The possessive pronoun σου, “your,” is not found in every manuscript following both right and left, ie., “on your right and your left.” Swanson’s apparatus says that Codex E omits the second σου, joining the Textus Receptus against the majority and the NA28. However, this is not correct. Codex E contains both instances of σου, as can be seen in this snip from the image of the manuscript.

Matthew 20:21 in Codex Basilensis (E, 07)