Saturday, October 10, 2015

A question about diamond readings in NA28

There are obviously many great things about NA28, but there are also some ongoing niggles. One thing I’ve come across recently is the situation with some of the “diamond” readings in the Catholic Epistles. These “diamond” readings are those where the editors could not decide between readings, and in the ECM2 the primary text line has both readings (although in some cases other readings are involved, the indecision in each case relates to two readings). For these readings the editors are saying, as I understand it, our use of the normal methods and our use of the CBGM have not been able to resolve the question as to which reading represents the initial text, so as a consequence the decision is left open.

So this is all fair enough within their parameters. The way the initial text is decided, and the way in which the CBGM is the product of these decisions at local stemma level, means that there are only two options: editorial unanimity or editorial impasse. There is no mechanism (as in the previous “Nestle” model) for a majority vote at points of uncertainty. In the ECM approach we are left with editorial impasse.

The NA28 approach is to leave the old text in place within the text (NA26&27, but in many cases reaching back to N1), mark it with a diamond (indicating that the editors leave the decision open), and use the same diamond marker in the apparatus to mark the second (equally viable) reading.

But here is the thing I can’t understand. On a number of occasions the apparatus does not provide the manuscript evidence for the txt reading. I would have thought in situations of such uncertainty, when you are effectively leaving the reader to make his or her own judgement, you would always provide (in summary) the evidence for both (equally viable) readings. But that doesn’t happen. In this mornings reading I came across four examples where there was no indication of the evidence in favour of the txt reading: 1 John 2.4 (whether or not to read OTI), 2.6 (whether or not to read OUTWS), 2.17 (whether or not to read AUTOU), 2.29 (whether to read EIDHTE or IDHTE). You can get a bit more info from NA27 (but only on 1 John 2.6).

There may be an explanation for this, but I have struggled to think of a good one. I would suggest that in the next revision for all diamond readings evidence from both options is provided in the apparatus.


  1. Yes, this is especially true for the pastor/teacher. Being able to see where the scholars behind the NA text came to this impasse is essential if we are going to be able to at the least explain the indecision to those we teach. Two things come to mind as I write this. First, I am sure I could find this information somewhere but one purpose behind a pocket edition is to provide information in just such circumstances as these. Second, if not already obvious in English or other language translations, these diamond marked variants will likely end up in footnotes in future revisions.


  2. Peter, you are right, there should be a positive apparatus for variant passages with a diamond in NA28. We have to apologise for this shortcoming which has its reason in imperfect coordination of apparatus revision and typesetting. Unfortunately the correction has to wait until NA29, because the insertions would affect the page makeup. However, we will publish the lacking entries here shortly:

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  3. There is now an addendum on the INTF website for the lacking entries of the diamond units in the NA28: See the link titled "Text attestation where the primary line is split in the ECM2".

    Greg Paulson