Errors caused by memory.
2. Errors caused by faulty memory or the mind.
We first had a look at errors caused by faulty sight of the scribe. Now we look at errors that happened during the second part of his work. After the scribe had read a sentence, he had to store it in his mind while he went over to the copy he was busy writing. Then he had to dictate it to himself while writing it down. If ever you had done some copying, you would relate to the errors that could happen unintentionally. We look at a few.
(a) In the process of recalling what the scribe had read in his source manuscript, he could easily substitute a word with a synonym.
In Mat.20:34 the older manuscripts use the word “ommaton” =sight, and by implication “eyes” when they report on Jesus’ healing of the two blind men. Therefore the older manuscripts relate that “they received their sight”.
Later manuscripts substituted the word “ommaton“ with “ofthalmon” =eyes. Therefore the later manuscripts mention that “there eyes received their sight”.
This addition of “their eyes” does not appear in the Vulgate, Arabic or Ethiopic translations.
MKJV: “So Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight …”
NIV: “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight …”
This difference between the versions might be trivial, but the facts behind the differences prove that scribes as human beings did make mistakes. It also proves that variations are based of facts, that had been carefully weighed.
(b) In some cases the sequence of words had been changed.
In Mark 1:5 three variations are found in Greek manuscript due to the sequence of the words “all”, “and”, “were baptized”.
One version reads: “…all the people of Jerusalem went out, and were baptized. “
Another version: “…the people of Jerusalem went out and all were baptized “
Third version: “… the people of Jerusalem went out and they were baptized, all by him …” (John)
MKJV (Version 2) “…those of Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River…”
NIV (Version 1) “…all the people of Jerusalem went out to him …(and) they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”
(c) In some cases the sequence of the letters in a word had been changed, as was illustrated in a previous post.
(d) Another typical error is the following: The scribe could remember the words in a report on the same incident in another gospel and write down those words. That is the explanation for the replacement of the words in Mat.19:16-17 with words from Mark 10:17-18 in some late manuscripts.
MKJV: Mat.19:16-17 “And behold, one came and said to Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? 17 And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. (Manuscripts up to 8th century: =2 ; 9th – 12th centuries: =15.)
NIV: Mat.19:16-17 “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 Why do you ask me about what is good? Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Manuscripts up to 8th century: =4; 9th – 12th centuries: =3)
(Compare Mark 10:17-18 in the NIV: “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.”)
It is conspicuous that the later manuscripts usually favor the “altered” or “adjusted” texts. This usually is due to the making of many copies for the Greek Orthodox Church from sources coming from the Byzantine Text Type. This will be explained in more detail later.
In the study of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, one has to bear in mind that mere numbers of manuscripts do not authenticate the originality of a specific version, especially if many are from the same area, or time slot, of originated within the same denomination. On the other hand, the earlier a version is documented, and if supported by a wide geographical area of origin, the more likely it is to represent the original autograph.
It is also important that each gospel maintain its uniqueness in placing emphasis on certain events or proclamations of Jesus. Authenticity does not require identical reports, but uniqueness!
May you also enjoy this journey into discerning the original words God intended to be written to us!