I ran across a few more interesting textual variations in 1 Peter 5:1-2 while preparing to preach last Lord's Day on this passage (The Duties of Elders [1 Peter 5:1-4]).
First, there are three significant variations on the beginning of v. 1:
1. The traditional text begins, presbyterous tous (“the elders”). Uncials that support this reading include Codices P and Psi.
2. Some manuscripts read presbyterous oun tous, inserting the coordinating conjunction oun (“Therefore, the elders”). This is the reading of Sinaiticus.
3. Others begin presbyterous oun, keeping the conjunction but dropping the article (“Therefore, elders”). This is the reading of p72, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus. It is the reading adopted by the modern critical Greek text.
This provides another example of divergent readings between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. In this case Sinaiticus also tends to support the traditional text by its inclusion of the article tous. The difference in translation is minor. Even some translations (like the NIV) based on the modern critical text do not bother to translate oun. The NASB and ESV, however, include the conjunction. So, the NASB, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you….” And the ESV, “So I exhort the elders among you….”
Second, in v. 1 the phrase “the sufferings of Christ” becomes “the sufferings of God” in p72 alone. This provides some evidence that the scribe who copied p72 might have had a tendency to “improve” the text or to offer “correction” according to his theological perspective. Does this change reflect the influence of patripassianism?
Third, in v. 2 there is variation on the inclusion of the participle episkopountes (“serving as overseers”). It is omitted in the original hand of Sinaiticus and in Vaticanus but included in almost all other manuscripts. Here is a case where p72 and A supports the traditional text. Metzger admits that inclusion “tallies very well with the author’s fondness for participles” but includes the word in brackets “to indicate a certain doubt that it belongs to the text” (Textual Commentary, p. 696).
Fourth, also in v. 2 there is variation on the inclusion of the prepositional phrase kata theon (“according to God”). The original hand of Sinaiticus includes the phrase, as does the modern critical Greek text. It is omitted, however, both by the traditional text and by Vaticanus. Modern translations based on the eclectic text variously render the phrase:
NIV: “as God wants you to be”
NASB : “according to the will of God”
ESV: “as God would have you”
Both the NIV and ESV choose a dynamic equivalent interpretation while the NASB keeps closer to a literal rendering.
It is interesting that in this case, the modern editors do not conclude that the shorter reading is best. Metzger speculates that the phrase was omitted “perhaps because copyists found difficulty in understanding its precise import” (Ibid).
Conclusion: This short study raises some interesting issues. First, it reveals that at times some of the manuscripts that are considered the oldest and most reliable support the traditional text (e.g., p72 and A support the traditional text in v. 2 by including episkopountes). Second, it reveals how the so-called oldest and most reliable manuscripts often do not agree with each other (e. g., Vaticanus omits kata theon in v. 2 while Sinaiticus includes it). Third, we see some possible evidence of the influence of theological views (e.g., p72’s utterly unique change of “the sufferings of Christ” to the “sufferings of God” in v. 1). One of the prime justifications put forward for departing from the traditional text has been the fact that older and more reliable manuscripts (like p72, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus) have been rediscovered. Little mention is made, however, about the fact that these manuscripts often do not agree with one another in their variation from the traditional text and that some will occasionally support the traditional text over against the others. This is one little sample of the results digging into just two verses. My guess is that we would find the same if we were to dip into any other spot in the NT.
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