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Variants and Variance

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines what do the variants we have in the extant manuscripts amount to? Traditionally they have been regarded as mostly accidental error arising out of frequent copying. The chapter focuses the variation in the manuscripts as evidence for a particular attitude to written texts within early Christianity, in which the focus was on the transmission of the spirit rather than the letter of the texts. It deals with different classes of variants, such as stylistic traits and developments. The chapter considers two theories: first, that much variation does indeed predate our extant witnesses and second, that the extent of variation is related to the frequency of copying. It also considers the question as to how far scribes were the textually conscious beings which the text-critic tends to consider them.

Keywords: Christianity; manuscripts; scribes; variants



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