A revised version of a text;
particularly editions based on critical
comparison of sources. In biblical scholarship the term used to designate
families of mss. that display similar
The technology of copying texts
by hand invites mutation from the prototype at just about any point.
Significant scribal changes include:
- grammatical corrections
- substituted wording
- repeated phrases or clauses
- omitted words & passages
- interpolated material
- altered sequence
Once a mutation is introduced
in a text, it tends to be reproduced in later copies. Thus, by comparing mss.
& studying their patterns of variation, textual critics
are able to group them into
general types & subtypes, and even retrace their relationship.
In the early 18th c. J. A. Bengel
began the modern scientific
study of Greek NT
recensions by identifying two distinct patterns:
the "Asian" (Byzantine) & the "African." The
Byzantine text was the version used by the Orthodox church centered at
Constantinople. The African text represented variant readings in mss. from
Egypt & further west in north Africa.
A generation later J. J. Griesbach
isolated traits that justified division of Bengel's African group into
two distinct recensions: the "Alexandrine" & the
"Western." Because the western text contained many non-standard readings that later scribes
corrected, Griesbach regarded it as older than the Alexandrine. Since
Griesbach, however, earlier mss. of the Alexandrine type, such as codex
have been discovered.
The 19th c. British scholars,
B.F. Westcott & F. J. A. Hort,
isolated a fourth major recension, which favored longer readings in a number
of passages. This was dubbed the
Later, a German scholar,
H. von Soden, developed a
symbolic code for three recensions:
- H: Hesychian ( = Alexandrine
- I : Jerusalemite ( = Syrian)
- K: koiné ( = Byzantine)
The first & third letters
are still used to refer to readings characteristic of those recensions in the
of 20th c. editions of the Greek NT. Since von Soden's texts were originally
published in German, the symbols H
(Egyptian) & K (Byzantine) are
generally printed in classic Gothic script, as H
[For details see M. M. Parvis'
article "Text, NT" in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
vol. 4 (NY/Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), pp. 594-614].