Text-Critical Witnesses and Methodology for Isolating a Distinctive D-Text in Acts

In: Novum Testamentum

Within the past decade, a few leading New Testament textual critics have challenged two major, long-standing convictions by urging that we should speak no longer (1) of “text-types” or (2) of two textual streams in the Acts of the Apostles. Certainly the term “type” is too rigid and definitive to describe our textual groups, and “textual clusters” is more appropriate. The present essay concerns whether dual texts can be identified certifiably in Acts, thereby distinguishing a “D-Textual Cluster” from an alternate cluster headed by Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus ( א). It is clear that all D-Text Primary witnesses are mixed texts that, over time in various ways, have been conformed and assimilated to the increasingly dominant B-Cluster, as well as to the ascending Byzantine text.

A fresh method, however, is proposed and illustrated at length (1) to identify a tightly cohesive group of Primary witnesses to a D-Textual Cluster, which (2) reveals that these D-Text readings virtually always are opposed by the א-B-Cluster. The result is a strong testimony to the early existence of dual textual streams in Acts that stand firmly over against one another.

The fresh aspect of the method involves, for each variation -unit, (1) identifying the Primary witnesses available for a given reading; (2) counting the number supporting a presumptive D-Text reading; (3) counting those that do not; and (4) calculating the percentages of witnesses agreeing and not agreeing to the readings in question. Three or more Primary witnesses must be present in a variation-unit to be included. The global figures show that available Primary D-Text witnesses agree with one another 88% of the time on readings in 425 variation-units, while 97% of the time these readings are opposed by both א and B together.

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  • 1

    David C. Parker, An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 174: “… it is now possible to move on, abandoning the concept of the text-type and, with the new tools and methods now available, retelling the history of the text”: see 165-74; 286-301. On abandoning the dual text concept, 297-298; d.c. Parker and S.R. Pickering (eds.), “4968. Acta Apostolorum 10-12. 15-17,” The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume lxxiv (Graeco-Roman Memoirs, 95; London: Egypt Exploration Society; British Academy, 2009) 6-8. Cf. Eldon Jay Epp, “Textual Clusters: Their Past and Future in New Testament Textual Criticism,” The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (ed. B.D. Ehrman and M.W. Holmes; 2nd ed.; nttsd 42; Leiden: Brill, 2013) 556-58. Earlier suggestions to abandon text-types came from Holger Strutwolf and Klaus Wachtel: Wachtel, “Towards a Redefinition of External Criteria: The Role of Coherence in Assessing the Origin of Variants,” Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies? Papers from the Fifth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (ed. D.C. Parker and H.A.G. Houghton; ts, Third Series 5; Piscataway, nj: Gorgias, 2008) 114: “The decisive change that is brought about by the cbgm [Coherence Based Genealogical Method at the Münster Institute for New Testament Textual Research] relates to the external criteria, because we now are no longer dependent on descriptions which use the old terminology of text-types . . .”; Strutwolf in two unpublished papers: one from the 2006 sbl Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., “Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine? The Theory of Local Text Types—A Plea for a Paradigm Shift in New Testament Text Research”; the other from the 2009 sbl Meeting in New Orleans, “The Making of the Text-Type Theory,” which called for abandoning the “text type paradigm.”

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  • 3

    Semler, in 1765 and 1767, renamed J.A. Bengel’s African Family the “Western” or “Egypto-Palestinian” Family: Casper René Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testamentes (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1909) 909, 1,002.

  • 4

    Parker, Introduction, 298.

  • 6

    J. Keith Elliott, “Codex Bezae and the Earliest Greek Papyri,” in Codex Bezae: Studies from the Lunel Colloquium, June 1994 (ed. D.C. Parker and C.-B. Amphoux; ntts 42; Leiden: Brill, 1996) 161-182, who, in this valuable study, compares all papyri earlier than the 5th century to Codex D only, though occasionally including additional witnesses. He is well aware that the Old Latin, Old Syriac, and Irenaeus’s citations are important for any assessment of the D text-type, but that was not congenial to his purpose in that study (161). Stanley E. Porter, “Developments in the Text of Acts before the Major Codices,” The Book of Acts as Church History: Text, Textual Traditions and Ancient Interpretations / Apostelgeschichte als Kirchengeschichte: Text, Texttraditionen und antike Auslegungen (ed. T. Nicklas and M. Tilly; bznw 120; Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 2003) 31-67, offers an important analysis of readings in P8, P29, P38, P45, P48, P53, P91, 057, and 0189, all dating before א, B, and D, where D is taken as “the major true representative of that [i.e., Western] tradition” (37).

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  • 7

    Parker and Pickering, “4968. Acta Apostolorum,” 8. They compare P127 with Dd(8-14); then further and mainly with D, but also P45, P74, 01, 02, 03, 04, 1739, some Old Latin manuscripts, vg, syp, syh, syhmg, syh*, copG67, some patristic writings, and profusely with “other [unnamed] witnesses” (31-45). Georg Gäbel, “The Text of P127 (P.Oxy. 4968) and Its Relationship with the Text of Codex Bezae,” NovT 53 (2011) 107-152, where Codex D clearly is central in comparisons with P127; he also brings in majuscules (e.g., 04, 08, 014, 0142), minuscules (especially the 614 group of eight and a few dozen others), some lectionaries, occasional Old Latin manuscripts, and syp, syh*, and syhmg. See also Münster Institute for New Testament Textual Research, “A Critical Apparatus for Acts 10:32-12:9; 15:29-17:10,” Online: http://intf.uni-muenster.de/P127/, 135 pp.

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  • 9

    Aland and Aland, Text, 69.

  • 10

    Aland and Aland, Text, 325. Barbara Aland wrote this chapter of the book.

  • 11

    Aland and Aland, Text, 335.

  • 15

    M.-É. Boismard, O.P., Le texte occidental des Actes des Apôtres (new ed.; Étude Bibliques n.s. 40; Paris: Gabalda, 2000) 14; 28-29, lists only four “major witnesses”: Codex Bezae (D Greek and dLatin) Old Latin h; syhmg and syh*; and copG67, though actually they amount to six. He assigns P29, P38, and P48 to his “minor witnesses, though he offers no simple list of major and minor witnesses. P127 was not published until 2009. Ropes, Text of Acts, ccxv-ccxvi, listed three “chief witnesses”: D, syhmg, syh*, and Old (“African”) Latin h, along with Cyprian and Augustine, and “with them” (the three chief witnesses) Ephrem of Syria. As with Boismard, these (including d) amount to five (copG67, of course, was not known).

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  • 19

    E.J. Epp, “Early Christian Attitudes toward ‘Things Jewish’ as Narrated by Textual Variants in Acts: A Case Study of the D-Textual Cluster,” Bridging between Sister Religions: Studies of Jewish and Christian Scriptures Offered in Honor of Prof. John T. Townsend (ed. Isaac Kalimi; Brill Reference Library of Judaism; Leiden: Brill, 2016) 141-171. Brill kindly granted permission to reprint in the present article our Tables 1, 2 and 6 (from pages 142-143; 146-147; 168-170 in the original article) with minor revisions, and also to utilize the methodological procedures first developed there.

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  • 21

    Bonifatius Fischer, “Ein neuer Zeuge zum westlichen Text der Apostelgeschichte,” Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey (ed. J.N. Birdsall and R.W. Thomson: Freiburg/New York: Herder, 1963) 33-63; see 55: Old Latin: Acts 8:27-11:13; 15:6-12; 15:26-38; Vulgate: Acts 14:21-15:5; 15:13-25; 15:39-17:25.

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  • 24

    Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (4th ed.; New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 91.

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