Using the NA28 Apparatus as a Part of Bible Study
By Olive Tree Staff: Matthew Jonas
I teach a weekly Bible study, and recently we were reading through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This has always been one of my favorite passages in the Scriptures and I was especially excited to get to the section on prayer and specifically to discuss the Lord’s Prayer. I began by reading over the text of the passage itself. I generally prepare my notes working from the Greek and Hebrew, but I then read from a number of different English translations in the study itself. For this particular passage, I was reading from the ESV. As soon as I had finished reading, someone pointed out that there was a line “missing” from the ESV at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. She was using the NKJV, which adds the line “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” at the end of verse 13. This question led to a discussion about why that line is in some translations but not others.
Since I started working for Olive Tree, I’ve transitioned to using almost entirely electronic texts of the Bible. I had my notes and my Bibles there on my tablet, so I was able to quickly look up this addition in the NA28 critical apparatus.
The first thing that I noticed was a T-shaped symbol at the end of verse 13 in the main text. If you consult section three in the introduction (“THE CRITICAL APPARATUS”), it is explained that this symbol means that one or more words is inserted by the manuscripts listed. If you are unfamiliar with the apparatus, I would recommend that you simply memorize the list of symbols used. I believe that there are only eight of them, and they indicate what is going on. For example, a T-shaped symbol is used to indicate an addition, an O-shaped symbol is used to indicate an omission, an S-shaped symbol with a dot in it is used to indicate a transposition, and so on. It should be kept in mind as well that “additions” and “omissions” are relative to the main text of the NA28. An addition is material that the editors of the NA28 chose not to include in the main text, but that some manuscripts contain. An omission is material that the editors of the NA28 included, but that some manuscripts do not contain.
Clicking on the symbol in the text will open a popup. If you wish to open this in the split window, tap on the “tear out” icon in the top corner. The first addition listed is simply the word αμην, which is found only in a few manuscripts. As far as the abbreviations for manuscripts go, a Fraktur letter P followed by a superscript number is used to indicate papyri, uppercase Latin and Greek letters (and the Hebrew Alef) are used to indicate the different uncial manuscripts, and numbers are used for the miniscules. There are also additional special abbreviations for medieval cursive manuscripts, lectionaries, the different versions (e.g. the Vulgate, the Peshitta, etc.), and citations in the Church Fathers. These abbreviations are explained in the introduction, and more complete information about each of the manuscripts is given in Appendix I in the end matter. The star next to 288 indicates an original reading that was subsequently corrected. “Vg” stands for Vulgate and the abbreviation “cl” indicates that this reading is found specific in the Clementine Vulgate. The take away here is that there is not much manuscript evidence for adding just the word αμην to the end verse 13.
The broken line that comes next indicates a variant of the same reading. An unbroken line would indicate the start of an entirely different reading. In this case, it is the addition of the phrase οτι σου εστιν η βασιλεια και η δυναμις και δοξα εις τους αιωνας αμην. This is the familiar ending of the Lord’s Prayer found in the KJV and a few other English translations. The reference to 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 is an indication by the editor that this variant may be based on this passage. If you were to look this up, you would find that while there is not an exact verbal parallel, that the structure of the prayer in the cited passage is the same as this clause. The manuscripts that have this reading are listed after it. The first set of symbols (uppercase Latin and Greek letters) represents uncial manuscripts. Once again, if you want specific information about each of these, it can be found in Appendix I. The cursive f with the number 13 superscripted after it is the symbol for the Ferrar Group. (I realize Wikipedia is not a scholarly source, but if you are completely unfamiliar with the Ferrar Group, you might read over the summary here). As I mentioned before, the numbers that follow represent minuscules. The only thing different here is the letter c next to 288, which means that this reading was a correction to the manuscript in question. The cursive L followed by 844 is a lectionary. The Fraktur letter M is used to indicate the Majority text tradition. This symbol can be a little deceiving. It is only one letter, but it represents thousands of manuscripts. However, since most of these manuscripts are later in date and obviously copied from one another, they are thought of as a single witness. The “a” and “q” that come next are individual Old Latin manuscripts. The last set of abbreviations is for the different versions that have this same reading. The meaning of each of these can also be found in the introduction.
This reading is followed by another broken line and yet another variant. This one is the same as the last one but omits η βασιλεια και and the word αμην at the end. This reading is only found in the Didache.
The next variant contains an interesting Trinitarian formula: οτι σου εστιν η βασιλεια του πατρος και του υιου και του αγιου πνευματος εις τους αιωνας αμην. This reading is only found in a single miniscule manuscript.
The italic txt at the beginning of the last variant means that the manuscripts that follow support the reading given in the main text of the NA28. If you are familiar with the meanings of the symbols and the history of some of the manuscripts, you’ll recognize right away that the first few listed are some of the oldest and best uncial manuscripts that we have. There is also a family of minuscules that contain this reading, known sometimes as the Lake Family. If you’re unfamiliar with this family, you may want to read this summary.
So what does this all mean? If you are already familiar with some of the manuscripts, you may have noticed that the reading chosen in the main text is supported by several early manuscripts coming from both the Alexandrian and Western manuscript traditions. The familiar line from the KJV, on the other hand, has at least three different variant forms. (Actually, if you look up this passage in Metzger’s “Textual Commentary”, he mentions a couple more additional slight variations). This sort of variation indicates that it was probably a later addition. The process that I outlined above is not something that I would share in a typical Bible study, but the conclusion that I just gave is, and since I had my NA28 with me on my tablet, I was able to look this up on the spot.
A couple of things are necessary to be able to use the apparatus well:
1. You need to be familiar with the symbols used in the main text. As I mentioned before, there are only eight of them, so memorizing them is not a huge task.
2. It pays to become familiar with the different manuscripts. There is a lot of information given in Appendix I, but it is in tabular form and very hard to take in. When I was first starting to delve into the critical apparatus, I found it helpful to learn a little bit about the manuscripts that I saw mentioned frequently. I would read up on how they when and where they were originally copied, how they were discovered, and where they resided currently. I would try to find out about any unusual features or readings. This gave me something to associate the number of symbol with. If you haven’t yet, you should read through a book or two on this subject. If you are a poor student or just an armchair scholar and don’t want to spend any additional money, there are some good online resources. Even Wikipedia has articles on nearly all of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.
3. Get Metzger’s “Textual Commentary”! It explains why the editor’s chose the readings that they did and is EXTREMELY helpful in understanding the readings. It’s available here in the Olive Tree store.
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