Monday, October 04, 2010

Textual Note: 2 Peter 1:21

I preached Sunday from 2 Peter 1:19-21, a classic text on the doctrine of Scripture.   There is a textual issue at the ending of v. 21. Here are the variations:

1. Traditional Text (Textus Receptus): “holy men of God [hagioi theou anthropoi] spoke”; the reading is supported by codices Theta, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus (which adds the definite article tou before theou), and Psi, in addition to the vast majority of all extant Greek manuscripts. In addition, this is the reading of many important early versions, including the Vulgate.

2. Codex C reads, apo theou hagioi (“holy men from God”).

3. Codex 431 reads, hoi hagioi (“the holy men”).

4. The modern critical text: “men from God [apo theou anthropoi] spoke.” This reading is supported by p72 and codex Vaticanus. It is also found in some Vulgate manuscripts and in the Syriac Heraclean.

The textual variation is then reflected in modern translations. Examples:

NKJV (following traditional text): “but holy men of God spoke as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit.”

ESV (following the modern critical text): “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Analysis: This is yet another case where the so-called earliest manuscripts present a divided witness. Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus support the traditional reading, while p72 and Vaticanus agree in omitting the adjective hagioi to describe the men who wrote the Scriptures and including the preposition apo. One could speculate, on internal grounds, as to why the change might have taken place. There could have been a simple accidental omission of the adjective “holy.” A scribe might have wanted to omit hagioi in description of the men who wrote the Bible to avoid confusion with the description of the work of the pneumatos hagiou. This could have been a change motivated by piety (even if misguided). On the darker side, there might have been an effort to downplay the Biblical authors as “holy men.” On the other hand, it is hard to understand why there would have been an effort to insert hagioi and omit apo. Metzger’s speculations regarding possible emandation or paleographical confusion are not convincing (see Textual Commentary, p. 701). In the end, there appears to be no compelling reason to abandon the traditional reading.


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