Aug 21, 2010
Weiss on Omissions
Excerpt from: B. Weiss, (A Manual of) Introduction to the NT, (London, 1873,1887) quoted in Whitney, Revisers'Greek Text..., (London, 1892), p. 18,20 fwd,
(as quoted in Whitney, p. 18,20 fwd)
To the same effect is the testimony of Weiss. He says:
"The purity of the original text was vitiated from the first by copies which could easily be disfigured by every kind of careless and arbitrary procedure, in the absence of all official control, since careful adherence to the letter was completely unknown at that time. ... It was not until a much later period . . . that doctrinal alterations were really attempted; and they could be removed easily enough from the original text, because the latter was preserved in so many manuscripts.
But, along with this, complaints were made about the differences in the copies already noticed by Irenaeus (in his work Against Heresies, vi 30, i), which Origen refers partly to the carelessness of transcribers, partly to the audacity of improvers. . . . That Origen himself undertook a formal critical recension of the New Testament, he expressly denies. Something of this nature, however, certainly appears to have been done by the Egyptian Bishop Hesychius and the Alexandrian Presbyter Lucian in the 3rd century, respecting which Jerome complains in his Epistle to Damasus; but we know nothing of the method and results of their endeavors, which were entirely rejected in the West.
On the other hand, the traces of various correcting hands in our manuscripts show that the latter were often compared with others and corrected by them, so that many errors caused by carelessness were removed. How many of our manuscripts rest upon such corrected copies is shown by the mixed readings and half alterations which they contain. It was not until the 7th and 8th centuries, when Constantinople became the chief seat of transcribers, that a more equable and correct but much emended text was restored to the younger manuscripts." 1
(as quoted in Whitney, p. 18,20 fwd)
As to the nature of the errors introduced in those early days, the reader will bear with us if we quote still further from Weiss, and give his comprehensive summary of them :
" The commonest mistakes are in the omission of letters, syllables, words, and clauses in cases where the like or same followed, and the eye of the copyist wandered from one to the other by homoioteleuion [i.e. in consequence of a sameness of endings].
The instances in which letters or syllables were doubled [Dittography] are much less frequent.
[Similar Appearance] Many letters in the square character like one another were readily interchanged [as the last four of "Magdala," for example, in Matt. 15:39, transforming the word into "Magadan"].
[Similar Sound] In dictating, consonants of like sound were very often exchanged [hence, in all probability, the reading καυχησωμαι for καυθησωμαι in 1st Cor. 13:3]; while vowels and diphthongs similarly pronounced, chiefly in consequence of itacism [or the mistaking of one for the other] were also confounded.
[Smoothing] The expression was often involuntarily conformed in words to the context, even to senselessness in the endings of words. [An example of this appears in the transformation of αυτου, "his," in connection with "kinsmen," in Acts 10:24, into αυτους, " them," a reading given only by the scribe of the Vatican, the oldest extant Greek, manuscript; — the s having been involuntarily added through the influence of the preceding words (one of which is αυτους) ending in the same letter.]
Many transpositions arose merely from the fact that a word was omitted by mistake [as δυναμεις, "powers," for example, in Rom. 8:38]; and, since the omission was soon observed, it was rectified by the first transcriber putting the word in a later place; or, after the corrector had marked the error, the word was introduced into a wrong place by a later copyist.
Abbreviations also were sometimes read incorrectly [as in Rom. 12:11], original glosses erroneously put into the text [as in 1st Pet. 5:2], a word altered or supplied after New Testament parallels or (in citation) after the Septuagint either unconsciously or on the presupposition of the text's being necessarily wrong, because it does not agree with the parallels passing through the mind of the copyist. . . .
The text has suffered much greater injury from intentional emendations. In this respect, there is naturally a superabundance of additions consisting of subject and object, copula and verb, genitives (especially pronouns) and adjectives or pronouns, of articles and appositions, of conjunctions, adverbs, and prepositional additions, even amounting to glosses of all kinds which serve the purpose of elucidation.
[Stylistic 'improvements'] Synonyms and pronouns, simple and compound words (especially verbs), conjunctions and prepositions, moods and conjugations, cases and persons, word-forms and flexions are here exchanged one with another ; sometimes to make the expression more correct or to beautify it, sometimes to make it more emphatic or more conformable to the context. To this head belong the majority of [intentional] word-transpositions serving the purpose of emphasis or elucidation.
Occasionally, real difficulties are removed; at other times, there is an intentional conforming to parallels. Many emendations are meant to facilitate the sense, or to obviate the misunderstanding of it; they also express the exegetical mind of the transcribers.
But no consistency should be looked for in these emendations, 2 especially as they have passed over into later copies only partially, or have been partially corrected again by means of an older text." 3
1. Weiss, Introduction to the New Testament, American edition, Vol. ii., pp. 405, 406.
2. [That is, no hard and fast rule or 'canon' is of real use. See Shipley's further comments as to the confused state of TC in the 1890s, ibid., pp. 47-48, 51-53]
3. Weiss, Introduction, Vol II, pp.406-7.
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