Types and examples of scribal errors
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27-08-2015, 12:07 PM (This post was last modified: 27-08-2015 02:30 PM by docskeptic.)
Types and examples of scribal errors
Inspired by a recent thread by GWG, I'd like to try something new, specifically, being serious for a change. There is a rich vein of material dealing with scribal errors that has been untapped so far on this forum. The text of the Bible has a very complex history. For the vast majority of the time that it has existed, the text was transmitted verbally and then manually, before printing was discovered in the relative recent past. In the time that the text was transmitted verbally or manually, scribal errors were common and have led to a variety of readings, some of which materially alter the meaning of the text.

I thought it might be useful to look at the sources of some of these errors and to give some examples. By necessity, we can only examine written texts and only a small portion of those have survived to the present day. Many classifications of these errors have been published in the past. I amalgamated those of Scrivener, Metzger and Rendel Harris and added one or two of my own to come up with the following:

A. ANCIENT ERRORS (prior to the invention of printing):

a. Unintentional errors:
1. Errors due to faulty eyesight. Scribes often did their work in scriptoria which could be badly lit. Age could have caused poor eyesight as well. This led to errors like:
1a. Mistaking one letter for another in a word or phrase (for example, θ and ο look alike).
1b. Parablepsis 1 (lit., looking by the side): Omitting passages lying between lines that end with the same word or phrase (homoeoteleuton). This results in an error called haplography
1c. Parablepsis 2: Duplicating passages that end with the same word or phrase (dittography). Errors 1b and 1c are right to left errors (i.e., errors made while reading or writing from right to left or vice vesa).
1d. Up and down errors: Omitting or duplicating passages or even pages that begin with the same word or phrase (these errors are made when scanning texts from top to bottom).
1e. Bookbinding errors: Caused by the bookbinder transposing pages that begin with the same word or phrase

2. Errors due to faulty hearing. Sometimes, scribes transcribed copies while listening to the text read aloud by a reader.
2a. Homophony. It was easy to confuse homophones, like the Greek versions of 'their' and 'there'.
2b. Itacisms. Greek vowels like η, ι, υ and diphthongs like ει, οι, and υι all came to be pronounced similarly, like 'ee' in feet. One vowel or diphthong could then be substituted for another, sometimes changing the meaning of the word.
2c. Breathing errors: Greek words could be pronounced with rough or smooth breathing and these had distinctive accent marks. The scribe could mis-hear the pronunciation and put down the wrong accent mark, sometimes changing the meaning of the word.
2d. Wrong consonants 1: Sometimes similar sounding consonants could be mixed up, like κ and ξ.
2e. Wrong consonants 2: Sometimes single consonants like λ could be mistaken for double consonants like λλ and vice versa.

3. Errors of memory. Sometimes the scribe would make a mistake while holding a word or phrase in his mind between the time he looked at it and the time he transcribed it.
3a. Synonyms: The Greek versions of 'help' and 'aid' or 'bad' and 'evil' could be interchanged.
3b. Letter sequences: Individual letters within words could be interchanged, like ελαβον (receive) or εβαλον (thrust away).
3c. Word sequences: Phrases like 'Jesus Christ' or 'Christ Jesus' are common.
3d. Familiar passages: Sometimes, scribes would substitute or add passages with which they were more familiar (or may have learned by heart) for the actual passage, especially those that dealt with the same subject.

4. Errors of judgment:
4a. Extra-biblical words: Marginal notes, headings and reading helps from earlier editors were sometimes incorporated into the text.
4b. Ignorance: Since many scribes could not actually read Hebrew, Greek or Latin but were mechanically copying what they saw, numerous errors have crept into the text.
4c. Mistaking letters for numbers and vice versa: After the 2nd century CE, letters of the Greek alphabet also served as numerals leaving ample room for errors, eg. ά=1, β'=2, ί=10, ρ'=100 and so on.
4d. Spacing errors. Many early manuscripts were written with no space in between letters or words. Later scribes sometimes made arbitrary splits between letters and words, sometimes changing the meaning of the text. For example, how would you read “GODISNOWHERE”?

b. Intentional errors: These were changes intentionally inflicted on the text to serve a specific doctrinal purpose. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses changed John 1:1 from “The Word was God” to “The Word was a god” because they don't believe in the full deity of Jesus.

B. MODERN ERRORS (after the invention of printing): The same categories as above hold true for this sub-heading with the obvious consequence that many copies transmitted the error instead of one. For example, the “Wicked Bible” of 1631, published in London, inadvertently left out the “not” in Exodus 20:14 so that it read “Thou shalt commit adultery”!

This is not an exhaustive list and I will try to add to it as things come up. I will also try and expand each category and provide specific examples in the future as time permits.

Doc
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27-08-2015, 12:10 PM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
Looking forward to more, Doc.

We have enough youth. How about looking for the Fountain of Smart?
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27-08-2015, 05:29 PM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
(27-08-2015 12:07 PM)docskeptic Wrote:  B. MODERN ERRORS (after the invention of printing): The same categories as above hold true for this sub-heading with the obvious consequence that many copies transmitted the error instead of one. For example, the “Wicked Bible” of 1631, published in London, inadvertently left out the “not” in Exodus 20:14 so that it read “Thou shalt commit adultery”!

Uhoh! How many people went to hell over that one? Does Yhwh give mulligans to those poor saps that read that? Laugh out load

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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27-08-2015, 06:31 PM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
(27-08-2015 12:07 PM)docskeptic Wrote:  ... This is not an exhaustive list ...

Don't worry, Doc, it's exhausting enough!

Excellent compendium. Given the span of time over which all this occurred and the quantities of error-ridden source material it's remarkable that any given sentence in the bible retains any coherence at all. Of the few that do, that is.

Then again, our anazing brains do a lot of valid error checking we're not even aware of, so whatever is sensible in the bible may not be all that surprising, particularly if it's a rehash of some ancient engraved in human culture aphorism.
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27-08-2015, 07:42 PM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
But...but...what about the inerrant word of fucking god? Surely that must come into play, right?

Atheism is NOT a Religion. It's A Personal Relationship With Reality!
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27-08-2015, 07:57 PM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
(27-08-2015 07:42 PM)Minimalist Wrote:  ... what about the inerrant word of fucking god ...

My but the errors are rife! It isn't "word" it's "act"! Sheesh!
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27-08-2015, 09:57 PM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
Luckily today we have the book of Mormon which contains no errors at all.Drooling
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28-08-2015, 04:54 AM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
Is 666 another deliberate alteration because it sounds better than 616?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/thi...26779.html

What do you mean Life is short. It's the longest thing you're going to do.
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28-08-2015, 05:19 AM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
(28-08-2015 04:54 AM)stevec Wrote:  ... 666 another deliberate alteration because it sounds better than 616 ...

From the article:

" ... part of a hoard of previously unintelligible manuscripts discovered in historic dumps outside Oxyrhynchus in Egypt ... "

Apparently knowing the sensible thing to do with bibles goes back a long way. Makes one wonder if we're really any smarter than our ancestors.
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28-08-2015, 08:04 AM
RE: Types and examples of scribal errors
(27-08-2015 09:57 PM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  Luckily today we have the book of Mormon which contains no errors at all.Drooling

Well, yeah. They used a different method than the ones mentioned in the OP. Reading tablets with magic stones while shielding your face in a hat is far more reliable.
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