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> There is not even a clearly specified numbering convention for PUC Lua versions

Sure there is. The numbering is x.y.z, where x.y is the version and z is
the release. Different releases for the same version are binary compatible
(ABI). In particular, they have the same VM. Different versions are
really different. The API is likely to be a little different (but with
compatibility switches), but there is no ABI compatibility and applications
must be recompiled. The VM is also very likely to be different in a new
version. Also, different releases for the same version correspond stricily
to bug fixes; there are no new features. Note how the manual is for the
version, not for the release.