Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Text Notes: Jude 22-23

The text of Jude 22-23 is much disputed. The degree of diversity in the transmission of these verses can be measured by the fact that Metzger devotes no less than three pages to them in his Textual Commentary (pp. 725-727). This is about the same amount of space given to discussion of the pericope adulterae (pp. 219-222)!

What are the issues?

A comparison of English translations, the KJV following the traditional text and the NIV following the modern critical text, will be helpful here (emphasis added):

KJV Jude 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

NIV Jude 1:22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

We can highlight two major issues:

1. In v. 22 one issue is whether the participle from the verb diakrino (which can mean both “to make a difference” [to discern or to doubt] should be in the nominative form (diakrinomenoi, as it is in the traditional text), thereby modifying the subjects of the imperative verb, have compassion (BTW, which is written in the traditional text as eleeite and in the modern critical text as eleate), or in the accusative form (diakrinomenous, as in the modern critical text), thereby serving as the object of the imperative verb. Are the recipients of the letter to be discerning as they dispense mercy (no KJV) or are they being urged to have compassion on those who doubt (so NIV)?

External evidence divides as one might expect. The modern text is supported by p72 Sinaiticus A and B. The traditional text is supported by K P and the Majority Text. Metzger dismisses the traditional reading as “obviously a secondary development” introduced by copyists to agree with two nominative participles in v. 23 (harpozontes and misountes). The strongest internal evidence for the traditional reading, however, is the fact that Jude is a book that focuses on discernment (cf. v. 3).

2. In v. 23 the issue is whether there is one imperative verb in this verse (“save” sozete; traditional) or two (plus “have mercy” eleate; modern). The external evidence again divides along typical lines. The modern critical reading is supported by Sinaiticus A and B. The traditional reading, however, by the vast majority of extant manuscripts. Metzger concludes that the modern critical text “appears to be superior to any of the other readings.” He does not address, however, the possibility that the eleate in v. 23 was assimilated (either intentionally or by error) from v. 22.


The texual issues in this verse illustrate the fact that textual concerns in the NT do not have to do with a one or two isolated cases. There are issues that arise in nearly every verse. How do we sort through these issues? Do we receive the traditional text that became the basis of the Reformation era print editions of the Bible in its original languages and the Protestant translations or do we abandon this text for the modern critical one? Jude 22-23 illustrates again that there is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text and good reason to keep it.


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