16. Causes for variations, (2) Haplography and Dittography.

The “jumping” of the eye.

In this copy of part of the Codex Sinaiticus, I circled in red three lines containing exactly the same letters. In this post we discuss the possibility of a mistake caused by the “jumping” of the eye from the one to the other. This can cause either omitting  the part in between (Haplography), or duplicating it. (Dittography)

Though not many differences between the KJV and the NIV are caused by haplography or dittography, it does explain some of the differences.

This is what happened in 1John 2:23 in the Greek text printed by Erasmus. Because two sentences end with the same words: “…has the Father.” The printer’s eye must have “jumped” to the second sentence when preparing the text for printing. Though this mistake had been correctrd in the KJV, it can still be seen in the Dutch Staten Vertaling (DSV) and the Analytical-Literal Translation: (ALT) “Everyone denying the Son neither has the Father.” The NIV has the full sentence: “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” This type of parablepsis is called haplography.

In the same way a sentence could be duplicated, called dittography.

This type of error can easily be identified and explained. The words lacking can easily be supplemented from another manuscript. In this way a compiled text is created. The United Bible Societies rather use a compiled text as source text for their translations, than a single manuscript.

One of our most important codices, the Sinaiticus, dated ±350 A.D. has many cases of haplography.

The question is how do we judge the value a manuscript where many conspicuous errors are evident? The purpose of any text critical examination is to establish the most possible words of the original autograph. Many errors like spelling mistakes, transposing of letters, haplography, dittography and other conspicuous errors are easily identified. What is important is that the text before us, when conspicuous errors are taken in account, brings us nearer to the document from which it was copied.

The value of a manuscript does not lie in the neatness or excellence of the scribe concerned, but in its value in bringing us nearer to the original autograph. When certain words or phrases are missing, and cannot logically be explained as an error, it proves that the manuscript, from which the present copy was made, did indeed not have such words as part of its text. For instance, since the complete account of the adulterous woman is missing from the codex Sinaiticus, as is also the case with quite a number of ancient manuscripts, it is proof that it had not been part of the manuscript from which this codex was copied. All these bits of evidence bring as nearer to the reconstruction of the original autograph. When all manuscripts before a certain date lack a certain verse, it can be accepted with reasonable certainty that it had not been part of the original, but was added later on. A telling proof is the fact that only one single Greek manuscript of the New Testament, minuscule 629 from the fourteenth century, contains the last part of Acts 9:5. (“…it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”) Minuscule 629 has the Greek on one side, and Latin on the other, yet even in the Latin, these words are missing. It was indeed printed by Erasmus in his version, and from there it is found in most of the older versions of the New Testament, and still in the MKJV. These words were copied from Acts 26:14 where they are authentic. This verse will be handled in more detail later on.

Bruce M. Metzger has many interesting examples in his book, “The Text if the New Testament”, second edition, printed by Oxford at the Clarendon Press, p187.

My prayers for you is that you will be blessed by this discussion of the causes for differences between the versions of the Bible. I stand in awe that God included us humans in His work, even today!

God bless!



About bibledifferencesfacts

I am a retired preacher of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Since my studies at the University of Pretoria I had a keen interest in the reasons for the differences between the translations of the Bible, especially the New Testament. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, two grand sons and one grand daughter. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman
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