Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, March 10, 2006

Twenty-four thrones in heaven (Rev 4.4)

We had several puzzles in our text-criticism class today; but perhaps the most puzzling one was in Rev 4.4 - the first variant on the twenty-four thrones (thronous eikosi tessares).

The first puzzle was what on earth 0273 is doing in the NA27 apparatus, when this is a fragment of a ninth century majuscule of John's Gospel! [Answer ... sadly ... a typo for 2073; but this emerged only after class when I checked a couple of other sources]

The second puzzle, for which I don't yet have an answer, is why the reading supported by 2073 was supported by earlier editors (notably Tischendorf and Nestle)? The external evidence and transcriptional probability seems so strongly to favour the text reading I can't see any reason for the uncertainty which the cross normally suggests.

Any thoughts? What am I missing here?

19 comments:

  1. A typo? I was under the impression that God was guiding the hand of every translator of the bible to insure that every word was His.

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  2. Fortunately the typo is only in the apparatus. It is possible that it has been corrected in later printings of NA27, can anyone check?

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  3. David Aune (in his Word commentary on Revelation, vol. 1, pp. 270-1) adopts the Byzantine reading and has overall a nice discussion of the different options (apologies for not summarizing it now, but it's time to head home for the evening).

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  4. Just to be clear, 'the uncertainty which the cross normally suggests' refers to the cross in the apparatus of NA27.

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  5. Peter,
    Interesting observations! In my view, it is the grouping of two small (one-word) variant readings that is responsable for the issue here. NA25 had (1) QRONOUS which is still in NA27 (as lectio difficilior, grammatically) and (2) TESSARAS which it inherited from Tischendorf's octava (and probably Weiss' Neue Testament, for WH read TESSARES). NA25 (and earlier Nestle editions) have two separate variant readings here. But when the apparatus of NA26 (and 27) was made, the two readings were taken together and had to be assigned some attestation (without typo: 2073 pc). Cf. what happens in the very interesting NA27 apparatus to John 7:46.
    But Tischendorf did not establish his text this way, for he chose QRONOUS and TESSARAS independently. So the real question here is why Ti8 adopted TESSARAS (against his own 7th ed.). Perhaps the inconsistency with the following TESSARAS was to much to bear, or he wanted (even) the writer of Rev to respect some rules of congruency (TESSARES officially being nominative case).

    BTW1, I would not necessarily say that the "dagger" that indicates a different reading in NA25 suggests uncertainty. It indicates a piece of information on the earlier NA text. But the "new" NA text can differ from the "old" one for widely divergent reasons.

    BTW2, the typo has not yet been corrected in the latest printing. Congratulations.

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  6. I'm totally unsure what the controversy is here (though I'd greatly appreciate being informed), so at the risk of sounding irelevant let me note, for whatever it may be worth, that WH has QRONOI in the text and QRONOUS in the margin, while my 1958 Nestle interlinear reads QRONOUS.

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  7. Mike refered to Aune's view in favour of the Byzantine reading, but I can't really figure his view out:
    a) he makes a mistake in his opening argumentative sentence: 'the pl. masc. acc. QRONOUS in reading (1)' .... In Aune's layout this can only be readings (2) or (3)!
    b) he introduces the theory that the whole verse is a later addition which has no obvious relevance to the textual question.
    c) he refers to the Andreas and Byzantine text traditions as containing 'the correction QRONOI' - but why label it a correction unless you are assuming that the accusative is original?
    d) he says that reading (1) [the Byzantine reading in his layout] is probably the lectio originalis on the basis of an argument concerning only TESSARES/TESSARAS and appealing to Schmid (2.74) in support.
    e) he then writes: 'However, the sudden shift to the acc. suggests that the author might be intending the string of accs., including QRONOUS in readings (2) and (3), to be objects of EIDON in v1 ...'

    Granted he is doing a fair bit in a long paragraph, I didn't find this as clear as it might be. Nor did it incline me to prefer the Byz text.

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  8. Jan said: 'NA25 (and earlier Nestle editions) have two separate variant readings here.'

    So NA 27 gives quite a misleading impression of that state of scholarship. Interesting.

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  9. Jan said: 'BTW1, I would not necessarily say that the "dagger" that indicates a different reading in NA25 suggests uncertainty. It indicates a piece of information on the earlier NA text. But the "new" NA text can differ from the "old" one for widely divergent reasons.'

    Two points:
    a) I use "cross" rather than "dagger" because that is the word used in NA27 introduction (15*: Ein Kreuz; 57*: a cross).

    b) In teaching contexts I tell students to look out for these as they indicate a change of mind between the 25th edition and the 26/27. In the words of the introduction: 'These passages always represent very difficult textual decisions.' (p. 57*)
    In this case we've been a little misled because of a change in formatting and variant delimitation between the two editions.

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  10. Jan also said: 'BTW2, the typo has not yet been corrected in the latest printing. Congratulations.'

    Well I've emailed Munster. I'll tell the students that we found an error in the Bible. Pretty cool if that comes up in the exam and they can correct the apparatus.

    [That will give this year's group something to be proud of. I'm not sure how that will compare with last year's group who had a special lecture from Barbara Aland after which they got her to sign the title page of their NA27s. I don't know what she said, I don't suppose it was 'with best wishes from the author'!]

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  11. Daniel said: 'I'm totally unsure what the controversy is here (though I'd greatly appreciate being informed)...'

    I don't think there is any great controversy. Only an interesting passage with a couple of problems that came up in class.

    My initial thinking was fairly simple, that in Rev 01 and A form a powerful combination. That the NA27 text reading (which follows 01 and A) has lack of concord (between QRONOUS - acc. pl. and TESSARES - nom. pl.) which looked to me like it was corrected in two different ways, either by changing the case of the first word to QRONOI (Byz) or by changing the case of the third word to TESSARAS (2073). The more difficult reading is the one which lacked concord and it has better external evidence.

    A bit of reading in Aune and Schmid and WH reveals a few other relevant considerations, but nothing yet to shift my basic view.

    The fundamental question was that I couldn't really see a lot in favour of QRONOUS EIKOSI TESSARAS (labelled in NA27 with a cross as the reading of NA25); I still can't and think of this, following Jan (without checking NA25 myself yet) as a category shift rather than a seriously competetive variant.

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  12. I know I invite scholastic belittlement for not owning that Textus Receptus of Textual Criticism (NA27), but my distrust of it is only strengthened by discoveries such as these.

    But I still don't understand why this is controversial; perhaps I'm not clear on the rules of the game.

    Printed Greek Texts are-- apparently for the ease of the modern reader--printed in standard font with word spacings, diacriticals, sentence and name capitalization, and even verse numberings (for that one I'm eternally grateful). It is taken for granted that moveable nu's will be standardized, NS will be spelled out, and in general the printed text will be a whole lot easier on the student of Greek than its autograph would have been on the autolector.

    So what's the fuss? In my (BFBS?) copy of Nestle's I read 'qronous eikosi tessaras'; not only is it the spellchecked version, it even has textual support (bully for the scribe of 2073)! Why shouldn't all hand editions of the GNT read the same? It hardly seems to fall in the category of the 1% of all variants worth mentioning in a CA.

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  13. maurice a robinson10:48 pm, March 13, 2006

    Two observations, speaking as a fool:

    (1) For the record, Hoskier's relatively complete collation data indicates that MS 2073 [= Hosk. 169] indeed reads QRONOUS EIKOSITESSARAS.

    However, the "pc" appended in NA27 appears to indicate *only* the single additional MS 2254 [= Hosk. 216]. That MS is claimed by Hoskier (with evidence provided) either to have been copied from MS 2073 or that both were dependent on the same immediate archetype.

    (2) As regards the "more difficult" accusative reading as opposed to the "grammatically correct" Byzantine nominative:

    Perhaps it is merely a matter of my own theory-based perception (obviously favoring the Byzantine reading), but it seems to me that the various accusative forms found in some few MSS in this particular variant unit (whether the partial form in Aleph A 2053 pc or the complete form in 2073 2254) reflect simple contextual assimilation ("attraction") to the many accusative forms which follow in close context (i.e., continuing within the same verse one finds QRONOUS, TESSARAS, PRESBUTEROUS, KAQHMENOUS, and PERIBEBLHMENOUS).

    Attraction and harmonization to the immediate context remains a far simpler explanation than various convoluted attempts to explain the presumed originality of an otherwise "more difficult" reading. I'm not persuaded, however, that those who favor a different type of text will concur with what appears to be the simplest explanation.

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  14. Daniel said: 'So what's the fuss?'

    I am not trying to raise a fuss, merely to get a sense of the evidence and arguments about the readings at this point.

    I would say that NA27 is pretty indispensible, especially in, as here, we have variants where there is no appreciable difference in meaning and no great theological issues involved. Surely it is helpful to get our methods worked out on these passages than to spend all our time on controversial ones. This is one reason why I don't like UBS4 for students.

    He added: 'In my (BFBS?) copy of Nestle's I read 'qronous eikosi tessaras'; not only is it the spellchecked version, it even has textual support (bully for the scribe of 2073)! Why shouldn't all hand editions of the GNT read the same?'

    The basic answer to this is that this reading is extremely poorly attested in the manuscripts (only one Greek ms, maybe another copy of that ms). There are well-attested readings out there.

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  15. Thanks Maurice for the information re 2073 and 2254.

    He further noted: 'the various accusative forms found in some few MSS in this particular variant unit ... reflect simple contextual assimilation ("attraction") to the many accusative forms which follow in close context...Attraction and harmonization to the immediate context remains a far simpler explanation than various convoluted attempts to explain the presumed originality of an otherwise "more difficult" reading.'

    I think it is a fair comment that we are looking at things from within a larger framework. If I was looking for a way ahead it might be to ask, granted that both explanations are initially reasonable (that scribes will create grammatical concord and that scribes will harmonise to context); then is there any way to analyse the predominance of scribal behaviour in this connection and in relation to the different types of text-group. E.g. does the Byz text in Revelation create grammatical concord? Does Alexandrinus harmonise to the future grammatical context?

    Answering these questions would require a fair bit of work, but could be useful beyond this passage.

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  16. maurice a robinson9:01 pm, March 14, 2006

    PMH: I think it is a fair comment that we are looking at things from within a larger framework. If I was looking for a way ahead it might be to ask, granted that both explanations are initially reasonable (that scribes will create grammatical concord and that scribes will harmonise to context); then is there any way to analyse the predominance of scribal behaviour in this connection and in relation to the different types of text-group.

    This makes one seek far too strongly for justification of “original” grammatical irregularity in this particular variant unit. The obvious solution remains simple error of attraction and contextual harmonization as previously noted. The MSS that read the accusative QRONOUS are barely involved with the supposed “larger framework”; rather, they represent a scattered and very limited array of thirteen MSS ranging from the 9th-16th centuries (using Greg-Aland numbers according to Hoskier’s order of citation: 424 2032 1828 1862 616 2053 2073 2080 1888 2084 1778 1678 2254, the nine italicized being commentary-based and likely more prone to error in reproducing the main text). [Hoskier’s numbers for the above, in order of citation, are 34 68 124 132 156 146 169 178 181 188 203 240 216].

    For whatever reason, Hoskier does not cite MS A for QRONOUS reading (as per NA27), but A indeed does read QRONOUS, as verified from the photographs.

    Aleph, however, is highly questionable here. As the NA27 apparatus notes (supplementing with Hoskier’s data), Aleph (along with the unrelated 2017 2436) omits by hom. the phrase KAI EPI TOUS QRONOUS EIKOSI TESSARAS. This immediately suggests that Aleph really did not read QRONOUS for QRONOI, but instead skipped by homoioarcton from QRONoi to the later QRONous. If so, then this also explains the accusative TESSARAS in Aleph. In this light, the value of Aleph is minimal or simply nil.

    Given these factors, PMH’s final questions (“does the Byz text in Revelation create grammatical concord? Does Alexandrinus harmonise to the future grammatical context?”) become irrelevant, since a detailed examination of all the evidence in the present context leaves the “ungrammatical” QRONOUS reading looking very precarious.

    PMH: Answering these questions would require a fair bit of work, but could be useful beyond this passage.

    Indeed — the above analysis took a bit of time to compile, but in the end it seems to show the primary line of argumentation favoring grammatical irregularity to be an exaggerated tempest in a teapot.

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  17. Backtrack: I was considering the accusative TRESSARAS of 2073, but Aleph reads TESSARES....

    Therefore, strike the sentence "If so, then this also explains the accusative TESSARAS in Aleph."

    Such does not negate the likelihood of homoioarcton in Aleph, given that TESSARES appears in place of TESSARAS(2) at least in MSS 2436 2351 (teste Hoskier), and such confusion may equally have affected the archetype or scribe of Aleph.

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  18. "The basic answer to this is that this reading is extremely poorly attested in the manuscripts (only one Greek ms). There are well-attested readings out there."

    A well-put argument for the inclusion of HMAS in Rev. 5:9. Only after the NA/UBS editors have demoted such poorly attested readings from the their present position in the text with an A rating, will I find their product indispensible.

    Interestingly, this is another place where the Greek in the base text can't supply enough content for a cogent translation into English. If the translator inserts "I saw" just before the 24 thrones in 4:4 (as does my Nestle's interlinear), the readings should rightly be both accusative. But if he were to insert "there were", they should both be nominiative. Interestingly, all versions appear to insert "were", thus implying that their base text was nominative (as TR & WH).

    One point that really should be made is that in many mss the '24'(KD) isn't even spelled out, so a scribe transcribing an ancient Byz uncial into a more fully-spelled minuscule would have to decide that case based on its antecedent. As would the editor of any printed edition; little wonder that there is such variation & confusion.

    Is this not a matter for text editors, rather than for textual critics?

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  19. In the three years since this post went up, it's drawn more lasting attention than any other one on which I've commented. So, having read it over some half a dozen times, I think I finally understand what it's all about. Indeed, it was a puzzle:

    "We had several puzzles in our text-criticism class today; but perhaps the most puzzling one was in Rev 4.4 - the first variant on the twenty-four thrones (thronous eikosi tessares)."

    What was so puzzling for Dr. Head's class was not so much the variants, but how the critical editors have handled them:

    "The first puzzle was what on earth 0273 is doing in the NA27 apparatus, when this is a fragment of a ninth century majuscule of John's Gospel! [Answer ... sadly ... a typo for 2073; but this emerged only after class when I checked a couple of other sources]"

    It could be a fascinating journey of textual criticism to trace this '0273' reading back to its source (potential PhD students, take note). Did the editors include this ms thinking that it was an uncial, when they wouldn't have even mentioned it had they realized it was only a minuscule (NA27 being known for citing only the 'most important' sources)? Does that account for them failing to point out that 'pc' signified no more than a sister minuscule? If one would delve into the motivations behind the perpetuation of scribal variants, here is a trail that is still fresh!

    "The second puzzle, for which I don't yet have an answer, is why the reading supported by 2073 was supported by earlier editors (notably Tischendorf and Nestle)?"

    What puzzled the TC class investigating this passage was that a critical editor would choose the easier (grammatically concordant) reading. "Lectio difficilior potior" has been so pounded into the heads of TC students that they could hardly fathom such giants of TC as Tischendorf and Nestle disregarding it in favour of a reading that actually made sense.

    "The external evidence and transcriptional probability seems so strongly to favour the text reading I can't see any reason for the uncertainty which the cross normally suggests."

    Again, we have to ask ourselves, would Tischendorf's reading ever made it as far as the 25th edition of Nestle had the editors realised that it was only two "cursive manuscripts of no critical value" that supported the reading they overturned with such care and introspection?

    To summarise the evidence for those who may still be puzzled:

    The phrase in question is
    QRONO(I/US) EIOSITESSAR(E/A)S,
    i.e. THRONES TWENTY-FOUR

    The first option is masculine plural nominative, answering to the unexpressed nominative form, "There were."

    The second option is masculine plural accusative, answering to the unexpressed predicate form, "I saw."

    The first option is that of the majority of manuscripts, whether they be straight-text or commentaries. It is also the text behind at least most translations from the Greek, including all recent English translations (I haven't found *any* that use the accusative).

    The second option is found in only two late, closely related mss, 2073 and 2054. This is probably the only reading in NA25 that follows such evidence, and it goes back all the way to Tischendorf's last edition (and, by operation of Neslte's modus operandi, presumably to Weiss also). No one can figure out why they would do such a thing, as it goes against at least 3 principles of textual criticism. The other puzzlement is how such a reading stood in every edition of Nestle up to the 25th. A third puzzlement which I could add, is why the editors of English Bibles all the way down to the TNIV in this century would follow the implications of the first reading--one not found in their base text since before WH fell out of favour.

    The third option is the reading of the modern critical text (NA26 and 27, UBS3 and 4). It is a discordant conflation of the other two readings--taking the accusative of THRONES and the nominative of TWENTY-FOUR.

    It is based on the theory that Dr. Head alluded to: Anywhere 01 and 02 disagree, feel free to disregard 01, it being a rather wild text in Revelation anyway. Indeed, in 5:9 every available ms joins 01 in disagreeing with 02, but 02's reading still stands, ridiculous as it is.

    On the other hand, if 01 and 02 join forces in a reading, that reading is unassailable, how so ever ridiculous it may be. Thus NA27, true to theory, follows, maugre the example of both Westcott/Hort and Tischendorf/Weiss, the collusion of 01 and 02 (and a few otherwise insignificant minuscules).

    "Any thoughts? What am I missing here?"

    I trust I have helped to answer that question, or at least directed it toward an answer. I would only add that, while we are at checking the accuracy of NA27's CA, someone should take a look at Weiss to see if he really ought to share the blame with Tischendorf for the Nestle reading.

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