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In John 1:25, the Textus Receptus has εἶπον, while the NA28 has εἶπαν. Apparently both are conjugated in the aorist tense and in the same voice (active) and number (plural). While they therefore have the same meaning, which variant is more likely to have been written in the original manuscript [of the Gospel of John] circa the 1st century A.D.?

Impetus for asking: If one variant occurred in later Greek, perhaps of the 3rd century A.D., or even in a different region (e.g., Alexandria v. Judea), it may give some insight into which is the likelier variant.

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    Just to have the statistics: the NA28 has 26/42 instances of the 3p AAI within John as εἶπαν; TR has 42/42 εἶπον. That said, the diachronic shift as I understood it was toward 'regularizing' second aorists by using first aorist endings. TR may be 'correcting' toward the classical form. But AFAIK this is purely an orthographic issue; does it help us get at some interpretive issue, or are you just interested in spelling for its own sake?
    – Susan
    May 30 '16 at 2:38
  • @Susan Not an interpretive issue since they mean the same thing. Just curious if one of those particular spellings gives a clue on the weight of a manuscript that contains it. Thank you for the statistics.
    – user862
    May 30 '16 at 2:53
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I agree with Susan that this is not an interpretative issue, but I do not agree with the statement that it is merely an orthographic (spelling) issue. Rather it is a grammatical (morphological) issue. The suppletive strong aorist of the verb “to say” occurs both as εἶπον (1st pers. sing. and 3rd pers. pl.), and εἶπα (3rd pers. pl. εἶπαν). The former is more common in Attic, the latter is more common in Ionic, and it is found occasionally already in Homer. The koine, which is basically Attic with elements of other dialects, has both, without any difference in meaning. Although it is probably correct to say that εἶπα is a “secondary” form, formed by analogy to the endings of the sigmatic aorist, it is so old that it was certainly not considered “secondary” or “non-classical” by the time when the NT was written.

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