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Textual Variants

This article shall cover some of the variations between Bible manuscripts in both Old and New Testaments.

Textual Variants in Old Testament manuscripts

Old Testament manuscripts vary widely between each other. One of the main points of variation is the genealogies where Albert Barnes made a table comparing between the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, comparing between the Hebrew, the Septuagint, the Samaritan and the writings of Josephus, the four sources are widely varied, Hebrew refers the time between Adam and Abraham as 2078 years, the Septuagint as 3564, the Samaritan as 2379 and Josephus as 2678 years. There is a wide variety between manuscripts. (Source here)

Albert Barnes of course prefers the Hebrew, but actually I see that the Hebrew is the most far one from the truth, since this means that the age of humanity will be 2078 years+ age between Abraham and Jesus (about 2400 years maximum)+2017 years= 6495 years, the age of humanity, which is not scientifically true where many sources tell that life existed on Earth much before that time.

New Testament manuscripts:

Textual variants are widely present in NT manuscripts, for example, Herman Hoskier says:

The Differences Between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the Four Gospels:

Matthew 656+ Mark 567+ Luke 791+ John 1022+ Total 3036 in the Gospels alone.” Hoskier. Codex B., Vol. 2, P.1 (Source here)

And this is widely known, Christians say that these differences are considered to be trivial and has no effect on Christian faith. This may be accepted with most of these variations, however there are still very critical variations that were intentional due to theological purposes, let’s see some here, you can see this site as a source for textual variants:

Matthew 24:36:

TEXT: “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” EVIDENCE: S*,b B D Theta f13 28 1195 1230* most lat syr(pal) some cop TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV RANK: C

NOTES: “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but the Father only.” EVIDENCE: SaK L W Delta Pi f1 33 565 700 892 1010 1241 Byz Lect two lat vg syr(s,p,h) most cop TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASVn RSVn NIVn TEVn

COMMENTS: It is possible that the words were added here by copyists to make the text read like the parallel passage in Mark 13:32. On the other hand, it is possible that they were omitted to avoid the theological problem of the Son of God not knowing something. The same thing happened with a few manuscripts in Mark 13:32 (including manuscripts X and 983). They are included here since they are found in early manuscripts of several kinds of ancient text. (Source here)

1 Timothy 3:16

TEXT: “He was made apparent in the flesh” EVIDENCE: S* A* C* G 33 syr(pal) syr(p,h)? cop? TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV RANK: B

NOTES: “God was made apparent in the flesh” EVIDENCE: Se A2 C2 Dc K L P Psi 81 104 614 630 1241 1739 1881 2495 Byz Lect TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASVn RSVn NASVn NIVn

NOTES: “Which was made apparent in the flesh” EVIDENCE: D* lat vg syr(p,h)? cop? TRANSLATIONS: ASVn RSVn

COMMENTS: The word “who” was changed to “which” by some copyists to refer to “mystery.” In an older manuscript that does not have accents and breathing marks, all that is required to change the Greek word for “who” (OS) to the abbreviation for “God” (OS) is to add two marks. This happened to several manuscripts, apparently to give a definite subject to the following verbs.

It seems also that this verse was changed to be a theological evidence for the deity of Jesus.

We can also see the story of the adulterer in Gospel John 7:53-8:11, and the end of Gospel Mark 16:9-20, which both have much importance, as the first is used as an evidence for the Christians so that they are not restricted to the law, and the other one talks about the resurrection of Jesus and his sitting on the right of the Father. Many scholars admit that these two stories are not present in the early manuscripts. Moreover, Augustine of Hippo mentioned an interesting reason for omitting the story of the adulterer:

“Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, Sin no more, had granted permission to sin.” (Source here)

So is it easy that people omit stories from manuscripts to that extent that led to a dispute among Christians?