Monday, July 25, 2011

Text Note: Romans 10:1

1. The issue:

Is Paul’s prayer “for Israel [huper tou Israel],” as in the traditional text, or “for them [huper auton],” as in the modern critical text?

2. Comparison of English translations (underline added):

Based on the traditional text:

KJV Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

Based on the modern critical text:

NASB Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

The unique dynamic equivalent reading of the NIV which follows neither the traditional nor the modern critical text by reading “for the Israelites”:

NIV Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

3. External evidence:

There are three textual variations:

a. The traditional reading (note: which includes the third persons singular of the verb “to be”): huper tou Israel estin

This reading is supported by the vast majority of manuscripts.

b. The modern critical reading: huper auton

This reading is supported by p46, the corrected hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus.

c. A slight variation on the modern critical reading (including estin): huper auton estin

This reading is supported by the second corrector of Sinaiticus, P, and Psi

4. Internal evidence:

The modern critical text choice seems to have been made purely on the assumption that the manuscripts bearing this reading are oldest and best. The Textual Commentary note on the traditional reading is particularly speculative, as Metzger conjectures that it “may have occurred when this verse was made the beginning of a lesson read in church services (cf. the reference to Israel in 9:31) (p. 524). John Murray is more reasonable in his support of the modern critical reading: “It is easy to understand how in the course of transmission the longer reading would have been substituted for the simple auton in order to make specific the reference which is unquestionably clear from the context” (Romans, Vol. 2, p. 47, n. 1). With all due respect to Murray, however, if the reference in context is “unquestionably clear” it also seems just as likely that one might have abbreviated “for Israel” to “for them.” Paul clearly is fond of explicit reference to Israel in Romans 9-11 (cf. Rom 9:6, 27, 31; 10:19, 21; 11:2, 7, 25, 26). The traditional reading, in fact, sounds very Pauline.

5.  Conclusion:

I see no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text of Romans 10:1.  It reflects a typical Pauline expression, and one can easy see how an effort to abbreviate could have entered into the transmission process.


Chris Kelly said...

Jeff, I think I like where you're going, but didn't find a very clear conclusion in your post.

On a side topic: I've noticed that using what I consider a superior translation (NKJV) than others in my fellowship (who use the NIV) has at the same time deepened my love for the scriptures, but also made me feel a little superior. Bad sign! Gotta watch out for the old demon Pride. Pray for me to be humble, bearing others in love, and building up, without losing the child-like faith and wonder that I have in the Scriptures.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Thanks for the comment. As usual, my conclusion is to retain the traditional text reading (here "for Israel"). I say this so often in these text posts, I was trying not to be redundant. Your comment, however, reminds me that it is well worth saying explicitly. If you were wondering about my conclusion here, surely others might as well. I will add a conclusion after "internal evidence."

I hear you on pride. Obviously, all things are to be approached with humility. I would not, however, suggest holding back on influencing others to consider the translation they are using and (significantly) the text upon wich those translations are based for fear of being labelled "arrogant" or "prideful." Sin-sniffers, it seems, can always pick up the scent of sin (in someone else, that is).


Chris Kelly said...

I only ever seem to smell my pride.

BTW, your conclusion is still confusing. Did you mean "no" or "now"?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Thanks Chris,

Yes "now" is now "no."