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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Thu May 11, 2017 6:18 am
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Historia and Zzyzx

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Historia and I contemplate debating "Has the Bible been significantly altered since the Fourth Century Bibles?"

Laying the ground work --

1. Identify what fourth century Bibles are to be considered

2. Identify modern Bibles for comparison: which of 50 versions can be used to show change? King James / New King James? New Jerusalem Bible? New American Bible? New World Translation?

3. Identify 'Significant change': What determines if a change or difference is significant?


My suggestions:

1.Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus (Other?)

2. I don't know. No version of the Bible is acceptable throughout Christendom.

3. Omissions, inclusions, word differences that change meaning, 'textual variants'

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Mon May 22, 2017 1:24 am
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Re: Historia and Zzyzx

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Apology for the delay, and thanks to Zzyzx both for his patience and for setting up the discussion.

Zzyzx wrote:


Has the Bible been significantly altered since the Fourth Century Bibles?



How one answers this question, it seems to me, depends heavily on what we mean by "Fourth Century Bibles" and "significantly" altered.

The question is complicated by a couple of issues:

First, the 4th Century was itself a period of significant change in the formation of the Christian canon, with the state of affairs at the beginning of the century rather different from that at the end. At the beginning of the 4th Century, the status of the catholic epistles, Revelation, and a number of other texts was in dispute. By the end of the century, the community had reached near universal consensus on these texts, with councils at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) affirming the New Testament canon as we know it today.

Second, there was no single, uniform text of the New Testament in the 4th Century. Rather, there were three major recensions: the 'Western', 'Alexandrian', and the then-newly emerging 'Byzantine' text-type.

All of that is to say that, depending on when and where they were transcribed, two Bibles from the 4th Century might themselves contain important differences between each other, let alone in contrast to a modern version. But, by the end of the 4th Century, the text and canon appear to have stabilized.

With that in mind, let's turn to the questions above:

Zzyzx wrote:


1. Identify what fourth century Bibles are to be considered



Sinaiticus is a good choice, in my opinion, if for no other reason than because it is available online, and thus easily consulted.

I would offer two import caveats, however:

First, Sinaiticus, which was produced in the early to mid-4th Century, includes two books at the end of the New Testament (almost as an appendix), the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, which the orthodox community eventually excluded from the canon. I suggest we exclude them from our analysis as well.

Second, Sinaiticus includes mostly Alexandrian readings, and so might differ in some respects from other 4th Century Bibles that would have conformed to the 'Western' text-type. There are not many extant manuscripts of the 'Western' type from the 4th Century, but the text can be reconstructed from quotations from contemporary Church Fathers and later manuscripts.

So, while Sinaiticus is a useful example of a 4th Century Bible, it's not necessarily representative of all 4th Century Bibles.

Zzyzx wrote:


2. Identify modern Bibles for comparison: which of 50 versions can be used to show change? King James / New King James? New Jerusalem Bible? New American Bible? New World Translation?



Here, I'm afraid, we're comparing apples to oranges. Rather than compare an ancient Greek text, like Sinaiticus, to a modern English translation of the Bible, it would be better to compare this ancient Greek text to the modern Greek text from which those translations are made.

UBS 5 is the latest version of the modern, critical Greek text of the New Testament. Virtually all modern translations (into English or otherwise) are based on this text and its predecessors. It is widely accepted by Christian scholars and translators of virtually all denominations. It is also online, so can be easily compared to Sinaiticus.

The Old Testament is a different matter altogether, however, which unfortunately complicates our discussion further. Sinaiticus includes a Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX), while modern Bibles are translated from a modern, critical Hebrew text (BHS). Here again we are back to comparing translations, and thus apples and oranges. I suggest we exclude the OT from our analysis for that reason.

Zzyzx wrote:


3. Identify 'Significant change': What determines if a change or difference is significant?



I agree that textual variants reflect changes to the text. The question then centers on what constitutes significant textual variants.

For example, at Matthew 7:22, one of the original Sinaiticus scribes included the word "δεμονια πολλα εξεβαλλομεν," or "cast out many demons." As I understand it, no other NT manuscript shares this reading. Does that constitute a significant alteration? If so, then every New Testament manuscript is "significantly altered" from every other, as minor differences like this abound in the manuscript tradition.

I would suggest that only textual variants that meaningfully impact Christian doctrine should be deemed "significant."

In summary:

My suggestion is to compare Sinaiticus to UBS 5, focusing on the canonical books of the New Testament, assessing whether any of the differences between them impact Christian doctrine, and thus can be deemed significant.

Would such an analysis get at the issues you were hoping to discuss?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Thu Jun 01, 2017 8:30 pm
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Re: Historia and Zzyzx

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[Replying to post 2 by historia]

With the suggestions in mind, it appears as though reasoned debate will require that we both be fluent in Greek.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Sat Jun 03, 2017 6:05 pm
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[Replying to Zzyzx]

I don't think it necessarily requires being fluent in Greek. This is where English translations, interlinear bibles, and the secondary literature can be useful aids.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Sat Jun 03, 2017 9:20 pm
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[Replying to post 4 by historia]

It seems reasonable to use the Codex Sinaiticus as an early Bible. However, since we debate in the English language and at least one of us is not fluent in Greek, we should use a mutually agreeable 'best available translation' of that Bible into English. What would that be?

For the modern Bible to be compared, I suggest we use the English language version in greatest use by US Christians.

Quote:
When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV), according to a new study advised by respected historian Mark Noll.

The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV). And the percentages drop into the single digits for competitors such as the New Revised Standard Version, New America Bible, and the Living Bible.

So concludes "The Bible in American Life," a lengthy report by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Funded by the Lilly Foundation, researchers asked questions on what David Briggs of the ARDA, which first reported the results, calls "two of the most highly respected data sources for American religion"—the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2014/march/most-popular-and-fastest-growin...

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:46 pm
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Zzyzx wrote:


It seems reasonable to use the Codex Sinaiticus as an early Bible.



Sounds good. Do you agree to my caveats in post #2, though? Those essentially touch on the scope of the original question, which is ambiguous, and which we haven't properly discussed.

Zzyzx wrote:


However, since we debate in the English language and at least one of us is not fluent in Greek, we should use a mutually agreeable 'best available translation' of that Bible into English.

For the modern Bible to be compared, I suggest we use the English language version in greatest use by US Christians.



Again, I want to be clear on this point: If we want to compare the text of the fourth century to a "modern" New Testament, then we have to compare the respective Greek texts.

Neither of us needs to be fluent in Greek to make such a comparison. Allow me to illustrate:

Here is the same verse from Sinaiticus and UBS 5:

Sinaiticus wrote:


εν αρχη ην ο λογοϲ και ο λογοϲ ην προϲ τον θν και θϲ ην ο λογοϲ


UBS 5 wrote:


Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.



There are a couple of cosmetic differences between the two: (a) the UBS 5 text includes accents, breathing marks, and punctuation, while Sinaiticus does not, and (b) the Sinaiticus text abbreviates the word God (theos) twice, using a common scribal practice known as nomina sacra. Otherwise, the texts are identical.

You don't need to know much about Greek to see that the two texts are the same; they have the exact same words in the exact same order.

Now, if you want to know what this particular verse means, you can consult any number of English translations. But that is a secondary concern to the question of whether the texts are different. In this case, at least, they are not.

So we can use English translations as aids to both texts, but only as such.

For Sinaiticus: The website includes an English translation by Henry Tompkins Anderson. As the site notes, this is not a literal translation of the manuscript, and is only provided as a "navigational aid," which is again why we cannot rely solely on translations.

For UBS 5: Any number of modern translations can serve as a navigational aid. I would suggest the NRSV, as that is the translation most often used by scholars.

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