Friday, February 25, 2011
Textual Note: Romans 7:25
Image: Scene from the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum
The question regards the thanksgiving in Romans 7:25a. The traditional text begins with the first person finite verb, eucharisto. Thus, it is translated, “I thank God….” (KJV; NKJV).
The modern critical text, however, begins, charis de. Thus, it is translated, “Thanks be to God….” (NIV; NASB).
The traditional reading (eucharisto) is supported by the original hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and the vast majority of other texts.
The reading preferred by the modern critical text (charis de) is supported by the first editor of Sinaiticus, Codex Psi, and a handful of other codices. Codex Vaticanus also agrees, except that it omits the postpositive conjunction de. The Western reading represented by D becomes he charis tou theou (“the grace of God”) apparently in answer to the question, “who shall deliver me….” (v. 24b).
Note that once again Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not agree against the traditional text.
Metzger concludes that the charis de reading “seems best to account for the rise of the others” while the traditional reading “seems to have arisen through transcriptional error involving the doubling of several letter” (citing the ending of v. 24 with the pronoun toutou) (Textual Commentary, p. 515). The key word here is “seems.” His conclusion is strikingly speculative.
More importantly, it ignores the fact that the charis de reading, like the Western one represented by D, might have come about in an effort to provide an answer to the rhetorical question in v. 24b: “who shall deliver me….” The traditional reading is, then, the more difficult, and, according to the canons of contemporary criticism, the one to be preferred.
With strong external attestation, no significant internal evidence against it, and one persuasive internal explanation for the alternative reading, there is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text.