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Critical Arguments against the Byzantine Text
This is where we return to Hort. Despite a century of further research and discoveries,
despite a general turning away from Hort's near-absolute acceptance of the Alexandrian
text, despite refusal to accept other parts of Hort's theory, his rejection of the Byzantine
text is still widely considered ?nal and convincing. What were Hort's arguments, and
how well have they stood the test of time?
Hort offered three basic arguments against the Byzantine text (which he called the
Syrian text):
Posterity of Syrian (d) to ?Western' (ß) and other (neutral, a) readings shown
by analysis of con?ate readings (Hort's §132–151)
by Ante-Nicene Patristic Evidence (§152–162)
by Internal Evidence of Syrian readings (§163–168)
(This rather simpli?es Hort's list, as he uses other arguments in addition. Not all his
arguments, however, are actually directed against the Byzantine text. Hort, e.g., has
been accused of using genealogy against the Byzantine text, and it has been argued
that this use is improper. If Hort had indeed done so, this would be a valid charge
against him — but Hort did not direct genealogy against the Byzantine text; he directed
it against the Fallacy of Number. For this purpose, his hypothetical use of genealogy is
perfectly valid; it's just that it's not an argument against the Byzantine text. It is simply
an argument against the methods used by certain pro-Byzantine scholars. So we are
left with the three basic arguments against the Byzantine text, which are also the most
decisive if valid.)
These arguments are of varying degrees of strength.
The argument based on con?ations must be rejected. Hort listed only eight con?ations
in the Byzantine text — by no means a suf?cient sample to prove his point. And yet,
these seem to be the only true instances of the Byzantine text con?ating two other
readings. (This should come as no surprise; even if one accepts the view that the
Byzantine text is a deliberate creation — and few would still maintain this point — it still
worked primarily by picking and choosing between points of variation, not con?ating
them.) What's more, we ?nd con?ations in many manuscripts. The con?ations may be a
black mark against the Byzantine text, but they are not proof of anything.
The argument about the age of the Byzantine witnesses has somewhat more validity.
The earliest (almost-)purely-Byzantine manuscript of the Gospels is A, of the ?fth
century; outside the Gospels, we have to turn to ?, from the eighth century or later. The
The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism