Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Textus Receptus vs. Byzantine (Majority) Text

On Willker's textual criticism list (Yahoo Groups) James Snapp Jr. recently posted an excellent summary of the relationship between the Textus Receptus (TR) and the Majority Text (Byzantine text-type).

Re: [textualcriticism] Comparing Byz and TR in the Gospels

Msg #6251

 "The Textus Receptus was the collation-base for many collations. The exact identity of which TR (Stephanus or Elzevir), and of which edition, may vary among collators; nevertheless, it's still the TR. And those collations are still useful. The idea has probably occurred to a lot of textual critics, though, that it would be better to compare the text of a specific MS to the Byzantine Text itself, instead of to the TR, so that one can immediately see how Byzantine or non-Byzantine a MS' text is, instead of seeing how similar it is to the TR.
  But are the differences between the TR and the Byzantine Text really so great that remarkably different results will be obtained if one uses Byz, instead of the TR, or the TR instead of Byz, as a gauge of a MS' text's normality?
These are actually pretty good numbers, and I think it makes the case *FOR* using a Byzantine like RP2005.   Here is a summary of the comparison for the Gospels:
  In Matthew, there are 159 differences between RP2005 and Scriv1881. But 109 of those differences are either the kind of mistakes that two copyists could make copying from the same exemplar (involving itacism, orthography, word-division, and parableptic error), or, in four cases, occur where Byz is divided. 46 are distinctive disagreements.
  In Mark, there are 142 differences between RP2005 and Scriv1881. But 69 are either the kind of mistakes that two copyists could make copying from the same exemplar (involving itacism, orthography, word-division, and parableptic error), or, in 11 cases, occur where Byz is divided. 73 are distinctive disagreements.
  In Luke, there are 221 differences between RP2005 and Scriv1881. But 67 are either the kind of mistakes that two copyists could make copying from the same exemplar (involving itacism, orthography, word-division, and parableptic error), or, in 15 cases, occur where Byz is divided. 140 are distinctive disagreements.
 In John, there are 158 differences between RP2005 and Scriv1881. But 51 are either the kind of mistakes that two copyists could make copying from the same exemplar (involving itacisms, orthography, word-division, and parableptic error), or occur where Byz is divided. 107 are distinctive disagreements.
  So in the Gospels as a whole, Scrivener's TR varies from R-P's Byzantine text 680 times, and in 366 of these cases, the TR contains a distinctly non-Byzantine reading (i.e., a reading that implies non-Byzantine ancestry). So when you collate, you are looking at only the differences. If R-P is a good representation of the  typical Byzantine tradition, then your analysis says that the typical Byzantine manuscript will likely have about 700 differences between it and the TR, of which roughly 1/2 will be TR specific.
  How big a difference is that? Well, between NA25 and NA27, there are 115 differences in Mt., 82 differences in Mk., 97 differences in Luke, and 114 differences in Jn. -- 408 in all. But I'm pretty sure that the textual character of any MS could be identified confidently whether it was collated against NA25 or against NA27. So the 680 differences (or, the 366 distinct differences) between Scrivener's TR and R-P's Byz in the Gospels probably are not big enough, collectively, to obscure the textual character of complete Gospels-MSS collated against the TR." 
Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.
"There's no question that the TR is in the Byzantine family, and certainly a TR collation will determine if a given manuscript is Byzantine or not, but that is not always the question we want to answer. For non-Byzantine manuscripts the 360 odd TR specific differences are not likely to be significant (compared to heir differences to the Byzantine base text), but for Byzantine manuscripts, they introduce unnecessary noise into trying to classify manuscripts in their subfamilies."

textualcriticism (Yahoo Groups)
Msg #6261  Feb 6, 2011
The concept of "noise" is apt, in textual transmission.  We have already had an engineer posting here on that subject.   There should actually be a way to quantify the Signal/Noise ratio in accurate engineering terms, for comparison purposes.  How about it, Joe?

Another interesting point here is that these variants may or may not make a difference, depending upon the task at hand, and the type of text being compared.   It is surely worth observing that when doing a more subtle operation, like classifying a manuscript among groups within its own text-type, problems or inaccuracies might arise.

We saw a similar phenomenon when people tried to apply Principle Components Analysis (PCA) techniques to MS grouping.  The methods were unable to focus the picture tightly enough to actually improve the picture or the classification of MSS into sub-groups or families.

Principle Components Analysis Examined  <- - - Click here.



  1. Nazaroo,

    That's not an exact representation of my quote; somehow the comment from another participant in the textualcriticism discussion-board is blended together with my comments in what you presented.

    I should add that I can't think of any direct application of the totals I gave; it just seems like a potentially useful thing to know that in the Gospels, there are just 360 readings that clearly indicate non-Byzantine contamination. (I'm using "contamination" here in a technical sense, not as if to imply that non-Byzantine readings are comparable to some dreaded disease.)

    Bob Relyea's comment is correct that those 366 non-Byz readings create "noise" when collating Byzantine MSS. This noise can be removed, in earlier collations that used the TR as the collation-base, by sorting through the list of non-Byz TR readings (which I provided at Wieland Willker's TC-Forum -- the iphpbb3 site, not the Yahoo group -- and which I would be glad to send to you if you are interested) and replacing them with the reading of Byz.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. Just a quick clarification on Bob's statement. The TR is not IN the Byzantine family. The TR is a form OF the Byzantine manuscripts.

    I know it sounds like semantics, but the TR is a printed, published version of what we now know to be the Byzantine 'type' or stream. It is not a text type of its own.

  3. James: hhmmm...I'll see if I can fix Naz's post here. It might help if you could point to the post you'd prefer he quoted? My guess is he quoted a secondary (edited) copy of your post somehow...

    Unorthodox Faith: Yes, I hope no one thinks the TR is a text-type, when it is really a later printed edition of a pretty good (fortunate) collation of the Byzantine text-type.

    James: Are any of the 366 differences significant, in terms of translation? It would be nice to have a thorough sub-list if this is the case.


  4. The textus receptus was the collation base for the many collation.
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  5. Hi Fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus.

    I have read some of the remarks here and was interested in this topic, seeing how I'm a King James English Bible believer.

    I think here in 2013 the argument over which family of mss are better than some other families of mss when compared side by side is at best interesting. As far as getting to the root of the problems I believe must begin with the character and beliefs of these men of those early text composers. When one makes a list of all these men involved and compare them with each other a certain pattern begins to appear. Which for me gives me a heads up as to which group I will side with. Doing it this way has given me a reassurance as to another reason why I'm pro-King James. It's like going into a Christian book store and looking for some good Bible study material. I will always check to see who the author is and if he uses the King James Bible as his main bible.


  6. Hi,

    this is a very interesting discussion. May I ask a question to this brain trust? Basically, the TR was the state of the Byzantine Majority Text at that time (1500s). Now we have many more texts of the Majority Text. So:

    Should the Textus Receptus be considered the definitive text, or should the Majority Text be considered the definitive text? Sorry if you have already addressed this, need to hear it in layman's terms. Huge thanks

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