Monday, August 22, 2011
Text Note: Romans 10:17: "word of God" or "word of Christ"?
Here's a text issue I ran across while preparing to preach yesterday's sermon I have stretched forth my hands (Romans 10:16-21):
Romans 10:17 is a well known verse on the centrality of preaching: “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (AV). The textual question is whether the last phrase should read “by the word of God [dia rhematos theou],” as in the traditional text, or “by the word of Christ [dia rhematos christou],” as in the modern critical text.
The traditional text reading is supported by the first corrector of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, the first corrector of D, K, P, Psi, 33, 614, 1241, 1881, and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. It is also found in Clement.
The modern critical text reading is supported by the original hand of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, among a few others. According to the critical apparatus it also appears (“vid”) to be supported by p46, but apparently the reading is uncertain.
Metzger only gives christou a “B” reading in his Textual Commentary (p. 525). He notes that the phrase rhema christou appears only here in the NT, whereas rhema theou is “a more familiar expression” (cf. Luke 3:2; John 3:34; Eph 6:17; Heb 6:5; 11:3). Modern text critics prefer the christou reading as the more difficult, due to its rarity, and therefore the more preferred. On the other hand, there could clearly be an argument for theou based on its regularity. One could easily also see how a scribe could have inadvertently substituted “Christ” for “God.” One might also ask if there could have been a theological motivation for the Christou reading, specifically related to Christology. Perhaps this is a point or nuance now lost on modern interpreters, but it might have been significant during the Christological controversies of the third and fourth centuries (when the earliest clear readings for christou first appear).
For modern readers this change may appear immaterial with regard to doctrine (i.e., whether the text reads “God” or “Christ” makes little difference for interpretation). The reading that came to dominate, however, among the orthodox was clearly “the word of God.” There is no compelling reason to abandon this reading and good reason to preserve it.