Re: Numbers

From: Iain Strachan \(asa\) (
Date: Sat Mar 01 2003 - 16:00:11 EST

  • Next message: gordon brown: "Re: Numbers"


    Thanks for these insights and information.

    In general it is considered that there are less variants in the OT Hebrew
    text than in the NT. In three of the four main Hebrew letter versions,
    there are no more than a handful (less than 10) letter variants in the text
    of the Torah (These are the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Yemenite versions).
    The Samaritan version has around 6,000 variants with the others. This
    information comes from, the
    web-site of Tony Smith, an unorthodox, but highly respected mathematical

    By contrast there are many spelling variations in the NT texts (though none
    that we know of in the John 1:1 text). For example there are three variant
    spellings of "David" in Matthew Chapter 1 among the variants (Dauid, Dabid,
    Daueid). Another point of variation is the notorious 666, which in early
    versions is represented as the Greek numerals for 600,60 and 6. However,
    the letter with the numeric value of 6 (the Greek digamma) became obsolete,
    and later versions of the text give the number in words "hexakosioi
    hexaconta hex". Other versions have the number as 616.

    Hence Don's claim that the NT is known with better certainty than the OT
    appears to be incorrect. I don't doubt that the variations are just trivial
    ones in spelling, that don't alter the meaning; but the exact letter
    sequence needs to be correct for the gematria calculations to work. Hence
    we tend only to work on texts where we can be reasonably certain that there
    are no variations. The OT text may be better preserved because the scribes
    regarded what they were doing as a sacred duty, and were intent on
    preserving the exact copies. If variations were known, then they would be
    carefully noted.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Peter Ruest" <>
    To: "Don Winterstein" <>; "Iain Strachan"
    <>; <>
    Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 8:17 PM
    Subject: Re: Numbers

    > Don Winterstein wrote:
    > > Iain Strachan wrote:
    > > > We're not dealing with translations here, only the agreed Hebrew and =
    > > Greek
    > > > texts. It is harder to do this on the Greek text, where there are =
    > > more
    > > > variations, than on the Hebrew. But also if the original spelling was
    > > > different (i.e. when the author wrote it down), I don't think that
    > > > invalidates the phenomenon, or makes God incompetent. If a spelling
    > > change
    > > > made the patterns appear, then that rules out the idea that the =
    > > original
    > > > human writer did it deliberately.
    > >
    > > Surely a precise rendering of the original is a major issue if you think
    > > God
    > > might have been behind these numerical peculiarities. Or is God also =
    > > behind all the scribal modifications? And if so, does that mean he =
    > > wasn't able to get it right the first time? If one looks into the
    > > matter, one finds that the original Hebrew text (OT) is known with far =
    > > less certainty than
    > > the original Greek (NT). Differences between the Masoretic
    > > version and the Septuagint hint at deep problems lurking but now glossed
    > > over; and there are many reasons for textual uncertainty in the =
    > > Masoretic besides those differences. Talk about weak rods to lean on!
    > >
    > > The Muslims were smarter about this. They got rid of all variations at
    > > a really early stage, so now they can worship their Quran with =
    > > confidence. =20
    > >
    > > Don
    > According to the Greek New Testament (ed. Nestle), there are no variants
    > in John 1:1, i.e. all existing manuscripts are identical. According to
    > the Hebrew Bible (ed. Kittel), there are no variants in the consonants
    > of Gen. 1:1. And that certainly without any Quran-type manipulations,
    > smart or not. (Vowels were added later; they don't count as part of the
    > text proper and are ignored in the number calculations.) Of course, we
    > don't worship the bible, but God who inspired it.
    > According to Robert C. Newman, "The Biblical Narratives of Easter Week:
    > Are They Trustworthy?" (IBRI RR 1, 1985), there are over 5000 full or
    > partial Greek NT manuscripts. Hort estimates that substantial variants
    > make up only about 1/1000 of the text (B.F. Westcott & F.J.A. Hort,
    > eds., "The New Testament in the Original Greek" (New York: Harper &
    > Brothers, 1882)). Sir Frederic Kenyon, "Our Bible and the Ancient
    > Manuscripts" (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941), summarizes the
    > situation: "The number of manuscripts of the New Testament... is so
    > large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every
    > doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient
    > authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world. -
    > Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of
    > the principal Greek and Roman writers whose works have come down to us,
    > of Sophocles, of Thucydides, or Cicero, or Virgil; yet our knowledge
    > depends on a mere handful of manuscripts, whereas the manuscripts of the
    > New Testament are counted by hundreds and even thousands."
    > Peter
    > --
    > Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    > <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    > "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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