Sunday, August 7, 2011

Textual Variants

The following are thoughts that I have been dwelling on recently.  I came across the concept of studying the human influences on the Bible during my last year at college from a wonderful professor.  It should come as no surprise that there were insertions and deletions, often politically and socially motivated, that changed and distorted the text that has been handed down to us.  Joseph Smith (also a student of Greek and Hebrew) in Article of Faith 8 stated, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly..."  Additionally, 1 Nephi 13:28-29 references the Biblical dilemma:  "Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.  And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles: and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, though seest-because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God-because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them."

The silence in the Church Education System in addressing textual variations is deafening.  Faulty texts taken as authoritative Scripture is a big deal and yet I have never heard a lesson on which might be the erroneous passages of the Bible. Except for the occasional reference to 1 Nephi 13 and when it makes a teacher's point convenient, I have found that Church members resist the idea that the Bible has any errors at all even though it is built into our theology!  

And now let me introduce you to...My Thoughts.

The oldest complete manuscripts that we have of the Bible are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus.  They date to the middle of the 4th century AD.  The most recent discovery of the invaluable Sinaiticus text occured well after the publication of Erasmus' Greek text which is the father of the English and German translations from Tyndale and Luther.  If Erasmus had had access to these ancient Greek texts, the KJV would likely appear very differently than it does now.  I want to highlight a few of the differences not to show the inferiority of the KJV, but to demonstrate the stagnation that comes from revering too strongly a text.  I don't think our generation could possibly foster the mind of Tyndale and his ability to mold language into a musical cadence and yet I am sure he would praise the work of modern scholars to come closer to the Savior's words and intent by wading through the 600,000 textual variations in the manuscripts at our disposal.  

Woman taken in adultery

This is a wonderful story where Jesus shows both mercy and justice.  Christ refuses to condemn the woman, but neither does He forgive her.  His admonition is simply to "sin no more."  Future forgiveness will be decided on how well she followed the command.  However, this story is not in our oldest and best manuscripts.  Almost all of the modern translations include the story where it is placed, but include asterisks or note that the oldest manuscripts don't contain it.

John chapters 7 and 8 even make more sense without the insertion.  It takes place during the feast of the Tabernacles and James E. Talmage wrote, "As part of the temple service incident to the feast, the people went in procession to the Pool of Siloam where a priest filled a golden ewer, which he then carried to the altar and there poured out the water to the accompaniment of trumpet blasts and the acclamations of the assembled hosts."  The water drawing ceremony occurs in the morning during the preparation of the morning sacrifices.  There is also a lighting ceremony where 4 huge candelabra 50 cubits tall are set on fire.  This occurs about sunset and we know from John 7:37 that it is the last day of the feast already.  We don't know whether they were lit each night or left illuminated for the entire 7 day period, but certainly they were no longer lit when the feast was over.  So if 7:53-8:2 (Every man went unto his own house.  Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, etc) were originally part of the Gospel of John, then the light of the world sermon would take place in the temple without the illuminated candelabra.  Possible, but it seems to makes more sense with John's especially confrontational Christ disrupt the temple ceremonies one right after the other.  As much as I despise anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, given the fact that there is already doubt on the placement of the story here, the two sermons seem to flow better without the insertion of the woman taken in adultery.

I don't dispute that the story occured.  On the contrary, the persistence of the story despite the obvious parenthesis is an even stronger testament of its veracity.  More than likely, the story happened as chronicled and it was circulated and published and liked so much that a scribe inserted it in its present form around the 4th or early 5th century AD.  There are references to the story being inserted in Hebrews as early as the 2nd century AD and also in various placements within John's Gospel.

Codex Sinaiticus

7:52  τι ποιει · απεκριθη ϲαν και ειπον αυτω · μη και ϲυ εκ τηϲ γαλιλαιαϲ ει · εραυ
νηϲον και ϊδε · ο τι προφητηϲ εκ τηϲ γαλιλαιαϲ ου (52 They answered and said to him: Art thou also of Galilee? Search and see that out of Galilee a prophet arises not.)

8:12 κ εγειρεται · παλι ουν αυτοιϲ ελαλη ϲεν ο ιϲ λεγων · ε γω φωϲ ειμι του 
κοϲμου ο ακολου θων εμοι · ου μη περιπατηϲη εν τη ϲκοτια αλλ εχει το φωϲ τηϲ ζωηϲ ·  (8:12 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the Light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.) 

7:51 Does our law condemn the, man unless it first hear from him and know what he does?
52 They answered and said to him: Art thou also of Galilee? Search and see that out of Galilee a prophet arises not.
8:12 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the Light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
13 The Pharisees therefore said to him: Thou testifiest of thyself: thy testimony is not true.

Last 12 verses of Mark

Totally made up.  They add a nice ending that is familiar to us, but they are not in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts. Verses 9-20 seem to be a synthesis of the endings of all the other Gospels and includes verse-long versions of Christ's appearance to Mary Magdalene, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the charge to preach to all the world, and everybody living happily ever after.  Because of patristic evidence from the late 2nd century for the existence of copies of Mark with the "Longer Ending," it is contended by a majority of scholars that the "Longer Ending" must have been written and attached no later than the early 2nd century. Scholars are divided on the question of whether the "Longer Ending" was created deliberately to finish the Gospel of Mark (as contended by James Kelhoffer) or if it began its existence as a freestanding text which was used to "patch" the otherwise abruptly ending text of Mark. Its failure to smoothly pick up the narrative from the scene at the end of 16:8 is a point in favor of the latter option. There is disagreement among scholars as to whether Mark originally stopped writing at 16:8 -- and if he did so, if it was deliberate or not—or if he continued writing an ending which is now lost. Allusions to a future meeting in Galilee between Jesus and the disciples (in Mark 14:28 and 16:7) seem to suggest that Mark intended to write beyond 16:8.
The Council of Trent, reacting to Protestant criticism, defined the portions which are the Roman Catholic biblical canon, and Mark 16:9-20 was accepted as canonical. It is part of the Kings James and other influential translations. In most modern-day translations it is included but is accompanied by brackets or by special notes, or both.

Codex Sinaiticus

16:1 And when the sabbath had passed, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And very early on the first of the week they came to the sepulcher, the sun having risen.
And they said among themselves: Who shall roll away for us the stone from the door of the sepulcher?
And looking up they see that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very great.
And they entered the sepulcher and saw a young man, sitting at the right side, clothed in a white robe; and they were amazed.
But he says to them: Be not amazed. You seek Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified; he has risen, he is not here: see the place where they laid him.
But go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he goes before you into Galilee: there you shall see him, as he said to you.
And going out they fled from the sepulcher; for trembling and astonishment had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

Mark 16:7 seems to indicate that the author meant to continue, but all I can come up with is that textual scholars have noted the great irony in ending the book of Mark this way.  Often throughout Mark, healings were followed by an admonition to tell no one (Mark 1:44, 3:12, 5:43, 7:36).  In every case, the healed does the exact opposite and "the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;" (7:36).  Here the women are commanded to go tell the disciples that Jesus has risen, and they don't.  Drop curtains and exeunt. Too bad for the Appalachian snake-charmers whose members test their faith by picking up poisonous snakes and seeing if the members die.  Their doctrine was based on Mark 16:18 (possibly with elements of the story of Paul arriving on Melita receiving a vipers bite and remaining unharmed.  Idiots are rather ingenious.)

This is a gem from National Geographic:

"It's a misconception that these people believe they won't get hurt," Hood explains. "The Bible says to take up serpents, not that they won't be bitten. If they're bit, that's up to God. The issue is obedience to God. There's no magic power type of stuff. They know the reality of it because so many families have had people hurt and killed."
Junior McCormick has seen many serpent-handling bites, and experienced them himself. None of those experiences have deterred him from answering his calling. "Some people were bit, and I believe God was ready for them and their time had come," he said. "I was bit 14 times, by rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and I never used anti venom—all I had was just Jesus. I've been bitten badly, but I'll go back the next week and take them out [serpents] again."

Johanein Comma  1 John 5:7-8 Codex Sinaiticus 
5:7 θεια οτι οι τρειϲ ει ϲιν οι μαρτυρου (For they that testify are three,)
5:8 τεϲ το πνα και το ϋ δωρ και το αιμα και οι τρειϲ ειϲ το  (the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and the three are one.)

KJV 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three 
are one. 5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these 
three agree in one.

Erasmus had been unable to find those verses in any Greek manuscript, but one was supplied to him during production of the 3rd edition.  Those who thought he was not firmly enough entrenched in Catholic doctrine feared he would not include the Johannin Comma which is the only place in the New Testament that unequivocally declares the doctrine of the Trinity.  Erasmus told them that he would include if he could find a Greek manuscript that included it.  They sent him one made to order. That manuscript is now thought to be a 1520 creation from the Latin Vulgate, which likely got the verses from a fifth-century marginal gloss in a Latin copy of I John. The Roman Catholic Church decreed that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute (June 2, 1927), and it is rarely included in modern translations.

Last six verses of Revelation

Erasmus used what was available to him, fragile manuscripts being prohibitively expensive to distribute and transport in those days, and what was available to him did not include the last six verses of the book of Revelation.  Not to worry, he took the Latin Vulgate, translated it back into Greek and this is the Greek that Tyndale and Luther both used in their translations which became the foundation for our English KJV.  Fortunately, the difference is rather innocuous and so I didn't include the translation.

Erasmus's hurried effort (Erasmus said it was "rushed into print rather than edited") was published by his friend Johann Froben of Basel in 1516 and thence became the first published Greek New Testament.  Erasmus used several Greek manuscript sources because he did not have access to a single complete manuscript. Most of the manuscripts were, however, late Greek manuscripts of the Byzantine textual family and Erasmus used the oldest manuscript the least because "he was afraid of its supposedly erratic text."  He also ignored much older and better manuscripts that were at his disposal.

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