[b-hebrew] The New Testament

Schmuel schmuel at nyc.rr.com
Sat Oct 21 22:50:27 EDT 2006

Hi Folks,

Peter Kirk - 
> Schmuel who made unqualified claims like "Texts full of scribal blunders" which could be 
> taken as suggesting significant unreliability in the New Testament.

> This is by taking the quotes from Dean John Burgon  ....

sujata - 
>Is there a complete list of scribal error somewhere on the Internet?

Nope.. however here is a quote from Dean John Burgon that gives some numbers and 
a few verses.  I have never seen these numbers of blunders contested.  Please note
that he is not talking about textual variants or doctrinal tamperings or questions -
but simply scribal blunderama.

Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark 
Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established

More recently, a claim to co-ordinate primacy has been set up on behalf of the Codex Sinaiticus ... the Codex in question abounds with “errors of the eye and pen, to an extent not unparalleled, but happily rather unusual in documents of first-rate importance.” On many occasions, 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness.  In this way 14 words have been omitted from Cod. in S. Mark xv. 47-xvi. 1:­19 words in S. Mark i. 32-4:­20 words in S. John xx. 5, 6:­39 words in S. John xix. 20, 21. . “Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately cancelled: while that gross blunder ... whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament 

And here is some more commentary about the number of revisors.

From Stewarton Bible School 
On nearly every page of the manuscript there are corrections and revisions, done by 10 different people. Some of these corrections were made about the same time that it was copied, but most of them were made in the 6th and 7th century. (snip) 

The great Greek scholar, Dr Scrivener, points this out in his historic work A Full Collation of the Codex Sinaiticus. He speaks of correctional alterations made to the MS: 'The Codex is covered with such alterations... brought in by at least ten different revisers, some of them systematically spread over every page, others occasional or limited to separated portions of the MS, many of these being contemporaneous with the first writer, but the greater part belonging to the sixth or seventh century.' "

The following is a more general discussion and has a bit more of the opinions and conclusions of Dean John Burgon.  Some of this covers the issues raised in the post by Karl Randolph about why old manuscripts might be preserved not used much. 

To put a bluntly ... an early manuscript .. oddball and scribally corrupt .. stashed away in the desert
   =  junque.

From Cecil Carter 

John William Burgon -(Vaticanus). 

Concerning the manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, Burgon said; 

"I am utterly disinclined to believe," continues Dean Burgon, "so grossly improbable does it seem - that at the end of 1800 years 995 copies out of every thousand, suppose, will prove untrustworthy; and that the one, two, three, four or five which remain, whose contents were till yesterday as good as unknown, will be found to have retained the secret of what the Holy Spirit originally inspired." 

"I am utterly unable to believe, in short, that God's promise has so entirely failed, that at the end of 1800 years, much of the text of the Gospel had in point of fact to be picked by a German critic out of a wastepaper basket in the convent of St. Catherine; and that the entire text has to be remodeled after the pattern set by a couple of copies which had remained in neglect during fifteen centuries, and had probably owed their survival to that neglect; whilst hundreds of others had been thumbed to pieces, and had bequeathed their witness to copies made from them..." 

Concerning B and ALEPH his remarks are as follows. 

"As for the origin of these two curiosities, it can perforce only be divined from their contents. That they exhibit fabricated texts is demonstrable. No amount of honest copying - persevered in for any number of centuries - could by possibility have resulted in two such documents. Separated from one another in actual date by 50, perhaps by 100 years, they must needs have branched off from a common corrupt ancestor, and straightway become exposed to fresh depraving influences." 
Rev. Revised P. 318 

"If they had been good manuscripts, they would have been read to pieces long ago. We suspect that these two manuscripts are indebted for their preservation, solely to their ascertained evil character; which has occasioned that the one eventually found its way, four centuries ago, to a forgotten shelf in the Vatican Library; while the other, after exercising the ingenuity of several generations of critical Correctors, eventually (viz. in A.D. 1844) got deposited in the wastepaper basket of the Convent at the foot of Mount Sinai. Had B and ALEPH been copies of average purity, they must long since have shared the inevitable fate of books which are freely used and highly prized; namely, they would have fallen into decadence and disappeared from sight, but in the meantime, behold their very antiquity has come to be reckoned to their advantage; and (strange to relate) is even considered to constitute a sufficient reason why they should enjoy not merely extra-ordinary consideration, but the actual surrender of the critical judgment." (Revision Revised P.319) (snip) 

With regard to Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. 

"We are able to show -- that the readings they jointly embody afford the strongest presumption that the Mss. which contain them are nothing else but specimens of those 'corrected', i.e. corrupted copies, which are known to have abounded in the earliest ages of the church." (Dean Burgon) (snip) 

"These are two of the least trustworthy documents in existence. So far from allowing Dr. Hort's position that--'A text formed' by 'taking Codex B as the sole authority', 'would be incomparably nearer the Truth than a Text similarly taken from any other Greek or other single document' (p.251), -- we venture to assert that it would be, on the contrary, by far the foulest Text that had ever seen the light: worse, that is to say, even than the Text of Drs. Westcott and Hort. And that is saying a great deal." 
(Revision Revised p. 316) 

This illustrious scholar so greatly feared by Westcott and Hort, that after a few feeble rebuttals, they tended to ignore the battering ram criticisms of their attack on the Word of God; now calls for testimony from one of the Westcott and Hort demolition team of "revisers" of the pure English Bible. 


I will point out that such manuscripts would never be of interest for scholarship regarding the Hebrew Bible.  In that realm careful scribal activity is the norm and a grossly deficient manuscript would have been long defunctified.  Perhaps pointing that out will help keep us from getting to far off topic :-) 

Steven Avery
Queens, NY

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