Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Footnotes and Formatting

I am taking a step back from my post yesterday on the Holman Christian Standard Bible. This is not the first time that I have been taken by surprise by the influence which the critical text has on translation. I did not realize that the UBS text took a paragraph break in the middle of verse 34 and between verse 36 and 37. I simply didn't check. I wrote from class notes. I also often read the Greek text of an 1899 Greek NT, the TR, for sentimental reasons, but I should have checked the UBS 1966 text (which is the only other one that I have) before posting.

I want to face head on a couple of issues which have come up on this blog at different times in the past.

First of all there is the matter of footnotes. In the UBS text, the placement of verses 34-35 is given a B rating. This indicates that "there is some degree of doubt." However, few Bibles footnote this. For example, in the HCSB, verse 38, with a B rating, is footnoted, but verses 34 and 35 also with a B rating, are not. Now, especially in a matter of such significance to half the human race, surely, they are worth a footnote! But I have not previously put much emphasis on footnotes. I am guilty of giving this issue too little attention.

Second, there is the significant potential for paragraph formatting to impact on meaning. There is some, but not much, formatting in the original manuscripts. However, the formatting of the UBS text is extremely influential at this point - and it is surprising as well, since it seems to completely contradict the manuscript evidence. I am baffled. I feel like I just have to start over again and look at this issue in more depth.

I want to thank Peter and Iyov for their long and significant contributions in comment threads to my thinking on these matters. I know that some of the longer discussions may look daunting, but sometimes very valuable principles are established. This is one of the things that I was referring to when I posted about dialogue. I hope that there is a strong enough sense of affection, respect, trust and appreciation here, that disagreements have the potential to become learning points.

I also want to say that Bryan and Peter seem to have better notes in the books they own by Fee than I am making in class. So, dollar for dollar, I guess a book is better. However, Fee is a great speaker, Waltke too.

One of the funny things about Fee's lectures is that he often refers to "Gordon's commentary". He says things like, "Well, you can disagree with Gordon's commentary if you like." It took me a few minutes to realize that he was talking about himself! He also presented 1 Cor. 11 today, but explained that he was only presenting the questions, not the answers.

I won't post about 1 Cor. 11 unless anyone has a specific question because we have written about it at length here before. There are not that many translation points. I guess everyone here knows by now, that in 1 Cor. 11:10, there is no evidence supporting the authority on a woman's head being someone else's authority. That's about it.


At Wed Jul 25, 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I did not realize that the UBS text took a paragraph break in the middle of verse 34 and between verse 36 and 37.

Not verse 34 but verse 33.

TNIV does footnote that "In some manuscripts these verses come after verse 40."

By the way, I have found an error in "Gordon's commentary", p.700. He claims in the text that these verses are unlikely to have been moved because "displacements of this kind do not occur elsewhere in the NT". In footnote 9 he accepts that the story of the woman caught in adultery is an exception, but claims that such transpositions did not happen in the Epistles. But in fact there are at least two examples of displacements or transpositions in the Paul's letters. Philippians 1:16,17 are transposed in the Byzantine majority text, relative to almost all earlier MSS; and Romans 16:25-27 appears at the end of chapter 14 in the Byzantine text, and at the end of chapter 15 in p46 (as Suzanne mentioned recently). If these kinds of changes could be made (and presuming they are not also to be explained as marginal comments), there is no reason why 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 could not also be displaced.

At Wed Jul 25, 11:55:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I see clearly that Phil 1:16, 17 has been transposed in the Textus Receptus but I can't see any manuscript evidence for this.

In Romans the doxology does appear in more than one place. Fee did mention this in class, with a reason why it is different from 1 Cor. 14. However, he didn't go into details on it. I will ask him about that.

This may be one of the things he will add when he redoes his 1 Cor. commentary.

I think there is an explanation for both of these, and I do think Fee is aware of them. I consider that the NET Bible support for the marginal position of 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 to be significant.

I don't think there is enough evidence to call Fee's book in error at this point. What does he mean by "displacements of this kind." One has to read the counter argument. That is why the complementarian NET Bible notes are so valuable.

At Wed Jul 25, 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

From the NET Bible on Romans 16:25-27

Because the textual disruption of the doxology is so early, TCGNT 472 suggests two possibilities: either (1) that Paul may have sent two different copies of Romans – a copy lacking chapter 16 and a copy with the full text of the epistle as we now have it, or (2) Marcion or some of his followers circulated a shortened form of the epistle that lacked chapters 15 and 16. Those mss that lacked chapters 15-16 would naturally conclude with some kind of doxology after chapter 14. On the other hand, H. Gamble (The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans [SD], 123-32) argues for the position of the doxology at 14:23, since to put the doxology at 16:25 would violate Paul’s normal pattern of a grace-benediction at the close of the letter. Gamble further argues for the inclusion of 16:24, since the mss that put the doxology after chapter 14 almost always present 16:24 as the letter’s closing, whereas most of the mss that put the doxology at its traditional position drop 16:24, perhaps because it would be redundant before 16:25-27. A decision is difficult, but the weight of external evidence, since it is both early and geographically widespread, suggests that the doxology belongs here after 16:23. For a full discussion, see TCGNT 470-73.

As I said, Fee did bring this up and he does not consider that it is the same issue as in 1 Cor. 14. It is not a displacement of text within a book, but a question as to where a book ends.

At Wed Jul 25, 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The NET Bible does not mention Phil 1:16, 17 and personally I couldn't see how it was a manuscript variant, but a variant in the TR, for some other reason.

At Wed Jul 25, 02:58:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The variant in Philippians 1:16-17 is mentioned in Nestle-Aland 27th edition as being found in Greek MSS D¹ and Ψ as well as the Byzantine majority MSS, also the Harklean Syriac. All this evidence is rather late, but it is manuscript evidence. The UBS text does not mention this because it does not include readings for which there is only such late evidence.

Fee may say that this transposition is of a completely different kind from the one in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, more like the ones he notes in the gospels (which are not in fact all harmonistic, which is how he explains them). His explanation of this point and of the Romans doxology displacement may be quite adequate. But his failure to mention them and his apparent claim that there are no displacements of text in the Epistles is still a formal error in his commentary. Of course no commentary is perfect, and despite such small flaws this commentary is one of the best. I mention this as much as anything to deflect Iyov from claiming that I am taking this commentary as inspired and infallible!

At Wed Jul 25, 03:41:00 PM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

Suzanne wrote: there is the significant potential for paragraph formatting to impact on meaning.

Paragraph formatting will impact meaning!!


Because the smallest interpretive unit of meaning is the paragraph. This is so because the paragraph is the smallest block of communication. In other words, the author has a paragraph sized concept in his or her head and chooses the words to put in the paragraph, and chooses the syntax to relate those words, in order to form the same concept within the mind of the reader.

Or, to put it succinctly, it is the meaning of the paragraph that determines the meaning of the words. I'm sure there are exceptions to this; but, exceptions are exceptional.

Lastly, Dr. Cindy Westfall (see conducted a class on Hebrews. She experimented with differing paragraph breaks to see how the students would interpret the text. She found that paragraph breaks have a profound impact on interpretation.

The issue with our English Bibles is the fact that paragraph breaks are a relatively recent phenomenon. But, much of the theological "proofs" are verse (ie. clause) based. That's not to say that our theology is wrong. The point of John chapter 1 is to state the charge that Jesus is God, for example. It is to say, however, that there is an upward battle to be had when one says that paragraph breaks are extremely important.

At Wed Jul 25, 04:33:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am really coming late to the table on the importance of paragraph breaks and other kinds of formatting. I thought about it quite a bit when I was working on the Sappho poem. I know people thought I had lost it there.

She experimented with differing paragraph breaks to see how the students would interpret the text. She found that paragraph breaks have a profound impact on interpretation.

Thanks for sharing this. It is significant because it shows that a translator can seriously manipulate interpretation by changing the paragraph breaks. I will be keeping this much more in view from here in.


Fee is rewriting his commentary and indicated in his lecture that he is aware of the other cases you bring up.

My sense is that if the NET Bible with an opposing theological position to Fee's, still agrees more or less with his exegesis, then we have a good starting position in terms of text criticism. That is still narrow, but at least not a partisan stance.

Of course, there are probably many articles which argue against Fee's position, but obviously these are not accepted by the NET annotator, except that he/she supports the authenticity of Pauline authorship for 1 Cor. 14:34 and 35.

At Wed Jul 25, 07:59:00 PM, Blogger Bryan L said...


Regarding the passage in John, Fee claims that it appeared first in the margins and then made it’s way into the text, not that it was original to John and then got moved to these other places.

I think another extended quote from Fee might be helpful in seeing how he might view the verses you brought up:

“But it is also precisely because one can make an equally good case both for and against either reading that interpolation is the more viable option. That is, one can scarcely find a viable reason for such a total disruption of Paul’s argument, if either of the early texts were original; by the same token, one can give perfectly good reasons for the double interpolations, since the argument can be made to work quite well when this material is in either location.
(2) To argue that either the Western text or the standard text is a transposition of the other is to use the word “transposition” in a way that is otherwise unknown in NT textual criticism. Transposition ordinarily refers to changing the position of items that are either (a) contiguous, as in letters, words, phrases, or sentences, or (b) in the case of words, sometimes noncontiguous, but still within their own phrases or sentences. To call the present textual phenomenon a transposition therefore, is to press the meaning of that word quite beyond its ordinary sense.
If original to either location, what will have happened in this case is not a simple transposition of adjoining sentences, but a radical rewriting of Paul’s argument. The problem here is not whether such could or could not have been done, but that such a total disruption of an author’s argument on the part of a scribe has no precedent in the entire NT textual tradition.” (GEP p.276)

I think the key lies in his reference to transposition, which he doesn’t see 1 Cor 14:34-35 as as being a case of. Regarding Phil 1:16,17 he views this as a transposition and it’s easy to see why (see his Philippians commentary). And as far as Romans 16:25-27 that’s a weird one since many consider it to be an interpolation (Jewett just argued for it being an interpolation in his recent Romans commentary), and it’s missing from F and G. If Fee doesn’t consider it to be an interpolation, I imagine he’d probably consider it (I of course don’t know for sure) to be a transposition like Phil 1:16,17 and unlike what he considers 1 Cor 14:34-35 to be.

Also I don’t know if you saw this but there was an interesting discussion concerning a paper that was presented at SBL from someone claiming to have found evidence of displacement like what Fee argues 1 Cor 14:34-35 is. It's on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. If the link doesn't work just search on Fee.

A side note; I think it’s interesting that Larry Hurtado who wrote an article defending the authenticity of Rom 16:25-27 was at this presentation and apparently active in the discussion, and according to the comments, Rom 16:25-27 does seem to be brought in as evidence for displacement. This is what makes me think text critics probably don’t see it fitting into the same mold as 1 Cor 14:34-35.

Anyway, sorry that was so long. Thanks.

Bryan L

At Thu Jul 26, 02:43:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Bryan, thanks for the link to the Evangelical Textual Criticism post, which is here. (Warning: the dreaded Junia gets a mention in the comments!) I note that "Dr. Fee ... thanked Kloha for correcting his "obvious" overlooking of these examples." In other words, Fee has already accepted that he was in error on the point I found him to be. As chair of the session, he was not in a position to answer Kloha in more detail on the spot, but no doubt he will deal with any significant points in his revised commentary.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home