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Variants in Greek Codices: An Illustration

Peter M. Head’s discussion on Luke’s Genealogy: how many names? over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, provides a nice test case that comes to prove my previous point on the importance of digitizing Greek codices. He observes the many variants that appear in the extant manuscripts and codices, and the widely differing number of names that appear in Luke 3:23-38, depending on which witness we read.

Peter quotes Irenaeus, who apparently knew a text of Luke’s Gospel containing 72 names, and adds:

But I can’t locate a manuscript reflecting that number, although there are lots of possibilities: e.g. Bezae has 65 names; 1071 has 73 names; Vaticanus has 76 names; Sinaiticus has 77 names; Alexandrinus has 74 names (W and 579 omit the whole thing).

Apart from the two minuscules he cites (1071 and 579, which are collated, among many others, in the CNTTS Apparatus, but have no morphological tagging), I was able to check the other witnesses (except for Alexandrinus, which is not available yet in Accordance). I decided to use the search syntax [NOUN proper] AND [RANGE Luke 3:23-38] (although I could have easily created a custom range in the Range pop-up menu). As expected, Bezae turned up only 65 hits (names). The reason is that Luke 3:28 is missing altogether. As for Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, Accordance found 77 hits (I’m not sure why Peter came up with 76). Finally, it is true that W (Washingtonensis) only includes Luke 3:23 (so, technically, there are 3 names but no full genealogy).

Not only could I check the numbers, but also compare different codices, display the search details and break down the results according to different parameters, contrast the lemmas and inflected forms by means of the [HITS] command, and a lot more. It was nice to play around, er… I mean explore the different ways of finding and sorting out the data. All this shows how useful and powerful it is to be able to work with digital and morphologically-tagged biblical manuscripts.

The post ends explaining that NA27 includes the somewhat arbitrary number of 77 names. In fact, Accordance showed that Tischendorf also includes 77 names, whereas Westcott-Hort has 76 and Stephanus’ Textus Receptus, 75 (as does Maurice-Pierpont’s Byzantine text). To reiterate what I’ve said before, with these tools we can now go one or two steps beyond the reading found in the critical texts currently available.

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