Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Textual Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:2

Image:  Ruins of the Agora (marketplace) in ancient Thessalonika

Last Sunday's sermon on Peter's defense of Christian eschatology in the face of the "scoffers" (see 2 Peter 3:3-4), led to a look at 2 Thessalonians 2:2 where another intriguing textual issue arises.  The matter here is Paul’s eschatological reference to “the day of Christ” (traditional text). The modern critical text offers the reading, “the day of the Lord,” conforming the phrase to the typical Old Testament prophetic form.

On external grounds, this is an example where we find stark contrast. The traditional reading “the day of Christ” is supported by the majority Byzantine manuscripts while the modern critical text is supported by all the codices so highly valued by modern scholarship (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus). Perhaps for this reason (considering it to be a “slam dunk” for the eclectic text), Metzger does not even bother to discuss this variation in his Textual Commentary.

When we consider this text on internal grounds, however, the traditional reading gains traction. First, it seems very likely that Paul would have used the creative phrase “the day of Christ” as a Christo-centric twist on the prophetic motif. We can compare here his similar use of the phrase “the day of the Lord Jesus” in 2 Corinthians 1:14. In addition, it also appears plausible that scribes might have attempted to conform Paul’s words to the typical OT phrase “the day of the Lord,” familiar from the Septuagint.

Conclusion: The traditional reading might well be considered the more difficult, and therefore the more likely, here. It retains Paul’s creative Christian reinterpretation of eschatology. The day of the Lord is “the day of Christ.”


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