Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Pro-Byzantine Textual Commentary

A textual commentary on passages that differs between the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (28th ed.) and the Robinson-Pierpont The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (2005) is in the making.

The editors are Jonathan Borland and Mike Arcieri. According to Borland, "the commentary intends to supplement Metzger's by offering alternative views of the manuscript evidence held by various major editors of or commentators on the GNT over the last three centuries."

Thus far passages in Matt 1-7 have been treated.

Update: Maurice Robinson have explained that he is not contributing to the commentary so I removed his name.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Dr. Wasserman!

  2. A while ago there was a poll regarding openness to conjectural emendation. I know it wasn't scientific, but the results were nevertheless surprising to me, as it indicated a much higher openness to the method than I expected.

    I think it would be very interesting to see a similar poll here regarding openness to Byzantine priority.

    options could be something like:

    How open are you to Byzantine priority?

    A. Not open at all, the Byzantine text is inherently corrupt.
    B. A little bit open: In theory I'm perfectly happy to support a Byzantine reading if the evidence supports it, but in practice I have accepted very few.
    C. Neutral: I'm a thorough eclectic, I will accept any reading that best explains the others, I do not give much, or any, weight to what family it is from.
    D. I am mostly open: I tend to err on the side of caution, so I try to keep as many Byzantine readings as I can, and only drop one when the evidence against it is overwhelming.
    E. I am dedicated Pro-Byzantine; it may have a few errors, but over all it is the best preserved manuscript tradition and our single best bet for the text of the New Testament.

    Or something like that. We could play with the options a bit. But I for one would love to see the results.

    So what do you say, any of the powers that be feel like posting something like that?

  3. Although not very intuitive to the reader, there is a "page" devoted to an Index of the passages discussed on the blog A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.

    On Ryan's suggested poll, I think the results would not be very surprising.

  4. Jonathan: what exactly do you mean? That the results wouldn't be surprising means only that they would align with your expectations, but what are those expectations?

  5. Ryan,

    While results in certain Western academic circles would not be that high, I believe if the results from our and websites are an indication attitudes regarding the pro-Byzantine text position are rapidly changing. Thanks to God, nearly 100 regular viewing nations visit our "pro-Byzantine" text websites on a monthly basis. We are constantly hearing from academic scholars and generally interested people in the pro-Byzantine text position. Being that we take as an organization a broad pro-Byzantine/Traditional text position this is encouraging.

  6. I'd expect an inverted bell curve, with the A side much larger than the E side. Maybe an active Facebook group could facilitate such a poll?

  7. See, I would have said I expected very few A's or E's, with most of the responses being B and the second largest share being C's.

  8. I would agree with Ryan that a B response would be the most common among the various practicing textual critics. Among non-specialist biblical expositors or exegetical writers, however, I suspect A would be their most likely response.

    Those of us within the scholarly perspective that work from an E side perspective tend to be relatively few and somewhat isolated within the discipline (not that we are overly concerned.

  9. Maurice, good to hear from you. I hope you are well.
    Although probably B is where I'm meant to be, I'm not happy with the wording of B (even less with A) (nor C, D or E). You couldn't really say "in practice I have accepted very few", unless what you mean are distinctive Byzantine readings.

  10. I'm more of a C kinda guy myself, though I too am not totally happy with the wording: it's not that I don't give any weight, or little weight, to external arguments, it's just that I will reliably be swayed by a strong internal argument 99% of the time. External arguments to me are roughly comparable to the use of statistics to predict how an athlete will do in tonight's game: sure, he's hit a grand slam the last 9 games, and so he may do so tonight, but you never know when the slump is starting. Actually, given the happenstance of history that governed - or better, didn't govern - the development, transmission and preservation of a ms family, relying on an athlete's record to decide future calls is probably a surer bet.
    That said, if there's no stronger argument to the contrary, I'm perfectly happy to give external arguments full weight. What else could you do?

  11. Peter Head: "You couldn't really say "in practice I have accepted very few", unless what you mean are distinctive Byzantine readings."

    Somewhat off-topic, but you raise a serious question: what exactly are "distinctive Byzantine readings"? Do you mean a pattern of readings that would characterize a particular block of text as Byzantine (as opposed to the pattern of readings that might characterize the same block as Alexandrian, Caesarean, Western or the like)? Or do you mean readings found within individual variant units?

    If the latter, then would you concur with the Westcott-Hort definition of "distinctive" Byzantine (for W-H = "Syrian") readings, namely readings that do not appear among MSS predating ca. AD 350, and which also lack pre-4th century patristic or versional support? (that definition is is what Sturz was addressing in his examination of the papyri, for example, but most reviewers seem to have missed the point). And if that definition is followed, how long or short a list do you really think there would be of such?

    1. I wasn't doing any great global thinking I'm afraid Maurice, I was thinking about Col 4.8. I have argued in a chapter of Keith Elliott's Festschrift for the Byzantine text reading here, but not because it is a Byzantine reading (the same reading is also supported by P46 C 1739). So I suppose I wouldn't think of this one as a 'distinctive Byzantine reading'. ‘Tychicus and the Colossian Christians: A Reconsideration of the text of Colossians 4.8’ Texts and Traditions: Essays in Honour of J Keith Elliott (ed. J. Kloha & P. Doble; NTTSD 47; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 303-315.(available here:

  12. Peter,

    No, the Col 4.8 unit would not qualify as a "distinctive" Byzantine reading, not only because of the p46 C 1739 et al. support, but also because of the early versional (and to some degree patristic) support.