Monday, June 28, 2010

"A Scribal Solution to a Problematic Measurement in the Apocalypse"

In the recent issue of New Testament Studies Juan Hernandez of Bethel University offers “A Scribal Solution to a Problematic Measurement in the Apocalypse” [Rev 21:17].

Orthographic variation within the manuscripts of the Greek NT is seldom a cause célèbre beyond the ranks of diehard textual critics. Even among these most will concede that orthographic irregularities amount to little more than evidence of scribal incompetency or inconsistency in their spelling practices. To find the same word both spelled correctly and misspelled within a single manuscript by the same scribe is not uncommon. It approaches the norm. The critical editions of our Greek NTs have therefore opted, on good grounds, to exclude textual variants displaying non-standardized spelling. To include them would make it impossible for anyone to use the critical apparatuses in a meaningful way. The deluge of senseless errors would drown out variants of demonstrable textual significance.

This “abstract” that appears online is in reality, however, only the introduction to this short study, and to give you a sense of what Hernandez’ contribution is about, I must cite the next paragraph:
On occasion orthographic variations are more than spelling errors. They are meaningful textual variants. Their appearance in the guise of misspelled words, however, causes them to be overlooked. Their exclusion from the critical apparatus of the Greek NT leads to their exclusion from text-critical discussions and from contributing to the advance of scholarship. The singular reading χιλος, appearing in codex Sinaiticus’ text of Rev 21.17, is one such variant.
Juan is one of our habitual readers – he tells me checking the blog is one of his morning rituals. Last month we featured an interview with him, “How Can You Be a Textual Critic and Not Lose Your Faith?”


  1. This comment is not meant to be published. I just spotted two "scribal" errors. :) "We feautred" = "we featured" and "loose" = "lose".

    There is one mistake in my previous comment (stauroun, not satauroun).

  2. Thanks Emanuel for the corrections. They are welcome also as comments!

  3. Juan sounds as if he is very uncertain of just what is what. He seems to be searching. He will not find the "rapture" in the Apocalypse because it is/was not for the Jewish Apostle John to teach about it, the rapture is part of Paul's revelations. It is not a part of Israel's hope. Which of course, one does not learn in most Universities or in Pentacostalism.
    G.S. Dykes

  4. So what's his theory on CILOS? It doesn't fit the context grammatically, that's for sure. And it hardly seems to be a 'misspelling' of TEICOS. Was this covered in "Scribal Habits in the Apocalypse"?

  5. We now only need go the next logical step and apply Juan's insights to haplographic errors as well as spelling errors.

    The logic is the same and just as compelling. Removing the some 60 haplographic errors of the lost exemplar of Aleph/B should clear up the apparatus considerably, and would best be left in a critical edition of that ancestor only, along with peculiar spelling errors.


  6. Well, TEICOS means "wall", CILOS "forage". In my view, Aleph contains a nonsense reading unfit for the context. How it came about one can wonder with Juan :)

  7. David Robert Palmer7/23/2010 5:29 am

    I agree with Daniel that this could not be mistaken for merely an orthographic variant. And I don't think it is nonsensical that a city might have "pasturage" around it. However there is a slight exegetical difficulty in this passage. A casual reader might be confused, because v. 16 had already said that the height of the city (and presumably of the wall) was 1,600 stadia. But now here v. 17 says the wall was measured at 144 cubits. Perhaps someone thought the wall could not be both 1,600 stadia and 144 cubits, and this change of wall to pasturage was their solution.