Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Text Note: Romans 11:6

The issue:

The second half of v. 6 is omitted in the modern critical text. The omitted phrase: ei de ex ergon ouketi esti charis epei to ergon ouketi esti ergon. The omission is made clear by comparing translations based on the traditional text and those based on the modern critical text:

Traditional text (emphasis added):

KJV Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

NKJV Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Modern critical text:

NIV (1984) Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

NASB Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

External Evidence:

The traditional reading is supported by a corrector of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus (with variation; it omits the first esti and reads charis for the final ergon), L, Psi, and the vast majority of manuscripts.

The modern critical reading is supported by p46, the original hand of Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus, among others. It also appears in several Church Fathers, including Origen and Augustine.

Here is another instance where “the big two” diverge, with Vaticanus supporting the traditional reading and the original hand of Sinaiticus the modern critical reading.

Internal Evidence:

Metzger gives the modern critical reading an “A” rating. This is apparently based on the preference of the shorter reading being the more original. He notes: “There appears to be no reason why, if the words were original, they should have been deleted. The existence of several forms of the addition likewise throws doubt upon the originality of any of them” (Textual Commentary, p. 526).

Contrary to Metzger, however, it seems very possible that v. 6b could have been omitted due to parablepsis. The two sentences in v. 6 are grammatically parallel with multiple vocabulary duplications, making it easier for a scribe to become confused. As noted above, Vaticanus has two variations, including using charis for the final word, rather than ergon. This means in Vaticanus the final word in both v. 6a and v. 6b is charis. In such a construction one can easily see how a scribe could have written the charis in v. 6a then had his eye return to the final charis in v. 6b and move on to v. 7, thus omitting v. 6b. Was scribal error in copying Vaticanus, its examplar, or its progeny the root of this omission?

Metzger also makes reference to “the existence of several forms of the addition” which “likewise throws doubts upon the originality of any of them.” This is a bit misleading. Aside from the Vaticanus variation, the Nestle-Aland notes list no other major variations. The UBS apparatus lists a slight variation in lectionary 603 and one Slavic manuscript, omitting the phrase ei de ex ergon ouketi esti charis, but otherwise supporting the traditional reading. It also lists a slight variation in codex 1962 which reads he charis for esti charis and ouk rather than ouketi and in lectionary 1178 which reads ouk estin ergon. This hardly seems as significant as Metzger’s note makes it sound.


External evidence for the traditional reading is early and strong (even supported by Vaticanus). There are plausible explanations for how v. 6b might have been omitted by parablepsis. The segment in question appears authentically Pauline in vocabulary and style, offering a complementary parallel to v. 6a. If not original why would it have been added? In my view the text would be significantly diminished if v. 6b were omitted. There is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text.

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