I’m not a New Testament textual scholar and have no aspirations to being one. Let’s make that clear from the get-go. I’ve got both NA27 and Robinson & Pierpont 2005 on my shelf because the former is the academic standard, and the latter is what my church actually uses (more or less). I’ve no particular academic interest in the technical minutiae of which is “better”.
That said, I encountered an example over the weekend of a tiny difference which is still fascinating. I was looking up the Greek of Acts 2:42 — some variant of “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” being how it is usually rendered. The key point I was looking up was the presence of the definite article with the word “prayers” (“ταῖς προσευχαῖς”, sure enough), but I found something even more interesting. Here’s the whole verse as it appears in NA27:
Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ, τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς.
Which, as shown, literally means something like “And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship/communion (that is, that of the apostles), and in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.”
However, let’s just for a moment remember that all commas represent editorial choices; they would not have been in the manuscripts. Take out the comma after κοινωνίᾳ, and it looks like this:
Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς.
Now, without the comma, my eye immediately goes to the conjunctions to figure out what sets things off, and here we have two. This seems to break it up into three units: τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων, τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου, and ταῖς προσευχαῖς. Read this way, τῇ κοινωνίᾳ is in apposition to τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου rather than being linked to τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων as the editorial comma suggests. In addition, καὶ… καὶ can have a “both… and” connotation. Translating it that way, it reads “And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles, (which is) both the fellowship/communion, (namely) the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.” This would seem to be a rather important difference in meaning with some interesting connotations.
However — and this is where things get interesting — if you open up Robinson & Pierpont 2005 to the same verse, there’s a conjunction which NA27 doesn’t have:
Ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ καὶ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. (emphasis mine)
So, here, τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου is explicitly set off as a separate idea from τῇ κοινωνίᾳ and cannot be understood as being in apposition to it. “And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles, and the fellowship/communion, and the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.”
Even for somebody who isn’t a textual scholar, I have to say, that’s a really fascinating difference.
(By the way, I promise promise promise to have the notes for the next Hansen & Quinn chapter posted this week.)