Textual Evidence

Textual Criticism
& John 1:18

Taken from: Mr. Scrivener, (msgs) John 1:18,
TC-Alternate-List, (Yahoo Groups, 2010)

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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2010

Introduction: - Types of Change & Sources

Example: - NETBible & John 1:18
    NETBible Apparatus

The Textual Problem: - John 1:18
    Scrivener on John 1:18
      Textual Evidence - manuscripts & patristic
      Textual Canons - their appropriate application

The Interpretational Problem: - John 1:18
    Linguistic Usage: John 1:18

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One of several still-perpetuated mistakes that continues to obfuscate key readings is the failure by textual critics to distinguish between the common activities and tendencies of *scribes* (i.e., copyists) and 'editors' (those who deliberately emended the text for doctrinal reasons).

For there is no doubt at all that many significantly attested alterations cannot be accounted for by normal mechanisms of innocent error. Between the 2nd and 4th centuries, many church leaders and also their opponents took it upon themselves to oversee and correct the NT texts.

This is admitted by all: On the one hand, we have early complaints by writers and apologists that at least some people tampered with the texts, and on the other hand, we have variant readings that simply cannot be accidental, but involved obvious creative activity.

Specialization of Copying Sub-tasks

That there were distinguishable offices, at least in the 3rd and 4th centuries, e.g. the mere copyist vs. the 'diohortes' (the overseer/corrector/proofreader) is plain from the statements of early fathers like Jerome, Ambrose, etc.

It was natural for the holders of such authoritative offices to 'extend' their work, to activities involving decisions regarding existing textual variants found at that time. Thus 'correctors' sometimes felt compelled to excercise discretionary powers too, sometimes even making conjectural emendations, to improve the sense according to their own understanding.

Yet in this very development, we find also a natural division of labour developing, with two sets of people, and two corresponding and easily distinguishable sets of causes for various phenomenae found among the variants.

Two Sub-Classes of Variation

We may even conveniently divide the variants into two basic classes, Accidental, and Deliberate, corresponding to the activities of the two groups operating on the textual transmission.

Although some critics have objected to "preclassifying" variants based on assumed cause (the accusation is that this constitutes "question begging" regarding the cause of instances of variation), the sorting of variants by cause is actually unavoidable at some point in the analysis.

How else can one talk intelligently of "choosing the reading as original which best explains the arising of the others", if one does not attempt causal classification? Even if this is sometimes only an ideal, and unreachable in many instances which pose confusing features, its still a fundamental part of text-critical activity.

In fact, the insistance of resisting such classification until some analysis is made is a reasonable caution and ought to be a part of any preliminary methodology. But this is no excuse for avoiding the task, and no reliable statement can be made about competing variants until the causes operating among the variants are identified with reasonable assurance.

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and John 1:18

Background: John 1:18

Cases like John 1:18 are a real "acid test" for the quality and credibility of NT textual criticism.

Appallingly, at least two errors continue to be perpetuated regarding this particular variant:

1) On the one hand, critics

Example: - NETBible & John 1:18
object to causal classification, during and even after analysis, which makes any stable and convincing evaluation of variants non-credible, if not impossible. Commitment to probable causes of variation is essential for identification of candidates for the original reading.

2) On the other hand, critics also continue to fail to distinguish between the two separate sources of variation (copyist vs. editor) in their analysis. This confuses the true scope of various scribal habits, and causes observations about trends to be applied to inappropriate cases.

A typical example of the perpetuation of such vagueness, non-commital and confusion is the text-critical footnote found for this variation unit in the online NET-Bible (another example of old wine in new wineskins).

The following is exerpted for review purposes from: NETBIBLE (online textual commentary on the NT)

Headings have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.

NETBible on John 1:18

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The Textual Problem:
John 1:18

Background: John 1:18

Scrivener on John 1:18

Plain Introduction, Vol II. (1886) pp. 358 fwd

18. John 1:18.

Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε: ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
'God no one has seen at any time: The Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, - This One has revealed Him.'...

(-Traditional Text)

This passage exhibits in a few ancient documents of high consideration the remarkable variation Θεός for υἱός, which however, according to the form [short form] of writing universal in the oldest codices (see Vol. I. pp. 15,50), would require but the change of a single letter, ΥΣ or ΘΣ.

Textual Evidence

In behalf of ΘΣ stand Codd. א B C prima manu (1st hand), and L (all wanting the article before μονογενὴς, and omitting the ὁ ὢν that follows), 33 alone among cursive manuscripts (but prefixing to μονογενὴς, as does a later hand of א), of the versions of the Peshitto (not often found in such company), and the margin of the Harkleian (whose affinity with Cod. L is very decided), the Ethiopic, and a host of Fathers, some expressly (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Didymus 'de Trinitate', Epiphanius, Cyril of Alexandria, &c.), others by apparent reference (e.g. Gregory of Nyssa).

The Egyptian versions may have read either Θεός or Θεόὐ, more probably the latter, as Prebendary Malan translates for the Bohairic 1, the Sahidic here being lost. Their testimonies are elaborately set forth by Tregelles, who strenuously maintains Θεός as the true reading, and thinks it much that Arius, though "opposed to the dogma taught", upholds μονογενὴς Θεός.

It may be that the term suits that heretic's system better than it does the Catholic doctrine: it certainly does not confute it.

For the received reading υἱός we can allege A C (tertia manu), E F G H K M S U V X Δ Λ Π (D and the other uncials being defective), every cursive manuscript except 33 (including Tregelles' allies, 1, 69), all the Latin versions, the Curetonian, Harkleian, Jerusalem Syriac, the Georgian and Slavonic, the Armenian and Platt's Ethiopic, the Anglo-Saxon and Arabic.

The array of fathers is less imposing, but includes Athanasius (often), Chrysostom, and the Latin writers down from Tertullian. Origen, Eusebius, and some others have both readings. Cyril of Jerusalem quotes without either Θεός or υἱός, -
ον ανθρωπων μεν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν ὁ μονογενὴς δε μονος ἐξηγήσατο.
(C. 7, l. 27, p. 107, ed Oxon., Pereira)

Textual Canons

Tregelles, who seldom notices internal probabilities in his critical notes, here pleads that an απαξ λεγομενον [hapax legomenon: i.e., a unique occurance] like μονογενὴς Θεός 2 might easily be changed by copyists into the more familiar ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός from John 3:16,18; 1st John 4:9, and he would therefore apply Bengel's Canon (I. see p.247 [i.e., 'prefer the more difficult reading']).

Alford's remark however, is very sound:

'We would be introducing great harshness into the sentence, and a new and (to us moderns) strange term into Scripture, by adopting Θεός: a consequence which ought to have no weight whatever where authority is overpowering, but may fairly be weighted where this is not so. The 'praestat procliviori ardua' finds in this case a legitimate limit.'

- Alford, (N.T., note on John 1:18)

Every one indeed must feel Θεός to be untrue, even though for the sake of consistency he may be forced to uphold it. Westcott and Hort set μονογενὴς Θεός in the text, but concede to ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός a place in their margin.

Those who will resort to 'ancient evidence exclusively' for the recension of the text may well be perplexed in dealing with this passage. The oldest manuscripts, versions, and writers are hopelessly divided, so that we can well understand how some critics (not very unreasonably, perhaps, yet without a shadow of authority worth notice) have come to suspect both Θεός and υἱός to be accretions or spurious additions to μονογενὴς.

If the principles advocated in Vol. II. Ch. X be true, the present is just such a case as calls for the interposition of the more recent uncial and cursive codices; and when we find that they all, with the single exception of Cod.33, defend the reading ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, we feel safe in concluding that for once Codd. א B C and the Peshitto do not approach the autograph of St. John so nearly as Cod. A, the Harkleian Syriac, and Old Latin versions. 2.

Original Footnotes:

1. Gospel acc. to St. John from Eleven versions, (1872), p.8. Dr. Malan also translates in the same way the Peshitto 'the only Son of God' and its satellite the Persic of the Polyglott as 'the only one of God'. With much deference to a profound scholar, I do not see how such a rendering is possible in the Peshitto: it is precisely that which he gives in ch. 3:18, where the Syriac inserts [same Syriac phrase]. Bp. Lightfoot judges Theos the more likely rendering of the Bohairic, though Theou is possible.

2. We are not likely to adopt Tischendorf's latest reading and punctuation in Col. ii.2, του θεου, Χριστου.

F.H.A. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, p.358-359

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