Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Text of Romans 1:29-31: 23 vices or only 21?

One of the most common arguments for the modern critical Greek text is that it really does not involve that many significant changes to the Bible. Apart from John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20, they say, there really are no major differences. When one reads through the text of Scripture closely, however, one finds that there is rarely a string of verses that does not provide some significant changes and alterations in the modern text.

Last Sunday, for example, I preached through Paul’s vice list in Romans 1:29-31. The traditional text lists 23 items. The modern critical text, however, lists only 21. The modern text omits "fornication" (porneia) in Romans 1:29 and "implacable" (aspondous) in 1:31.

Metzger’s Commentary (pp. 506-507) addresses the omission of porneia in v. 29 but only gives it a "C" reading. He notes that "The Textus Receptus, following L Psi 88 326 330 614" and the Majority include the word before poneria ("wickedness"). He admits that one might well argue that porneia fell out accidentally in transcription given its similarity to poneria, but he concludes, "it is more likely that the word is an intrusion into the text…." No substantial reason is provided as to why this conclusion is more likely.

Metzger’s Commentary does not address the omission in v. 31, even though it too has significant attestation in the corrected hand of Sinaiticus, C, Psi, 33, the Vulgate, and the Majority. Given that all the other words in v. 31 also begin with the negative prefix alpha one could easily see how it might have been accidentally omitted in transmission.

Conclusion: There seems to be no outstanding reason not to maintain the traditional-ecclesiastical text and affirm 23 items in Paul’s catalogue of vices. Most modern translations simply omit the two items with no reference or footnote (cf. NIV, RSV, RNRSV, ESV).

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