Saturday, November 03, 2012

Text Note: Luke 4:4

The issue:

The question is with the citation of Deuteronomy 8:3.  In the modern critical text, the verse ends, “for it is written that man does not live by bread alone.”  The traditional text, however, adds, after this statement, “by by every word of God [all' epi panti rhemati theou.”

External evidence:

The traditional text has wide and ancient support, including codices Alexandrinus, Theta, Psi, family 1, family 13, and the vast majority of manuscripts.

The modern critical reading is supported by the heavyweight codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and three others.

Internal evidence:

 The modern critical text follows, as usual, the lectio brevior praeferenda (the shortest reading is to be preferred) criteria.   Thus, Metzger axiomatically pronounces, “The shortest reading, which has good and early support, must be original; the longer forms of text have been assimilated by copyists of the Matthean parallel (Mt. 4:4) or to the Septuagint of Dt. 8:3, either verbatim or according to the general sense.”  He adds that if the longer form were original its omission from Sinaiticus and Vaticanus “would be unaccountable” (Textual Commentary, p. 137).

The question here is why the “shorter reading" criteria is accepted as axiomatic?  Even Griesbach, one of those who worked out the text critical canons, argued that the shorter reading is to be preferred “unless it stands completely without the support of ancient and important witnesses.”  In this case the longer reading clearly has ancient and respected textual support.  It was obviously the reading preferred by ancient churches, given its inclusion in the ecclesiastical text.  Is it possible that some scribes might have had a tendency to abbreviate either through intention or error (like parablepsis)?


The traditional reading has both external and internal support.  The fact that it agrees with Matthew need not be a reason for its lack of authenticity but might, just as well, be taken as evidence for its originality.  There is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text.

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