Note: I ran across this textual issue while preparing to preach last Sunday's message, "With God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:26-38).
The question here is whether or not the phrase “blessed are you among women” should be included in the text. The traditional text includes the phrase, while the modern critical text excludes it. This difference is seen by comparing English translations based on each text:
Translations based on traditional text (emphasis added):
Tyndale (1536) Luke 1:28: And the angel went in unto her, and said: Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
KJV Luke 1:28: And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Translations based on modern-critical text:
RSV Luke 1:28: And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
ESV Luke 1:28: And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
The traditional reading is supported by A (Alexandrinus), C, D, Theta, family 13, 33, and the vast majority of manuscripts. It is also the reading of the Syriac, and it appears in the Church Father Eusebius. Metzger begrudgingly admits that the traditional reading is supported by “fairly good witnesses” (Textual Commentary, p. 129).
The modern critical reading is supported by the “big two” of modern text criticism: Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. It is also supported by L, W, Psi, and family 1, as well as by the Church Father Epiphanius of Constantia.
Metzger conjectures, “it is probable that copyist inserted [this phrase] here from v. 42, where they are firmly attested.” He adds, “If the clause had been original in the present verse, there is no adequate reason why it should have been omitted from a wide diversity of early witnesses….” (p. 129).
In response, however, one might ask if it is also just as likely to conjecture that some copyist might have attempted to remove the phrase because it already appears in v. 42. In other words, might it reflect an effort to “clean up” the text by removing what some might have perceived as a redundancy?
The traditional reading has significant ancient support, and it was the reading that was adopted in the majority tradition. The conjecture that scribes removed the contested phrase in light of its use in Luke 1:42 is just as likely as the conjecture that scribes might have added it for the same reason. There is, then, good reason to retain the traditional reading.
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