Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Text Note: Luke 22:31

The Issue:

The issue here is what might be considered the relatively minor matter of the introductory phrase, “And the Lord said [eipe de ho kurios].”  It is included in the traditional text and omitted in the modern critical text.  Compare (emphasis added):

NIV Luke 22:31 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.

NKJV Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.”

External evidence:

The traditional text is supported by Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, D, W, Theta, Psi, family 1, family 13, and the vast majority.

The modern critical text is supported by 5 Greek manuscripts (according to NA 27th ed):  p75, Vaticanus, L, T, and 1241.

Internal Evidence: 

This variant is not addressed by Metzger in his Textual Commentary.  It is apparently deemed inconsequential given much more significant textual issues in Luke 22, including vv. 17-20, to which Metzger gives 5 pages (pp. 173-177), and vv.43-44.

No doubt, the introduction “And the Lord said” is viewed by most modern text advocates as an attempt to smooth out the narrative and to make less awkward the transition from Jesus’ words spoken to the disciples, beginning in v. 25 with “and he said to them [ho de eipen autois],” and his words directed specifically to Peter, introduced by the double address, “Simon, Simon” in v. 31.

There are at least three things to be said in favor of the inclusion of the introduction “And the Lord said” in v. 31:

1.  It is consistent with the general narrative flow in which the words of Jesus and the disciples are introduced with “and he said” or “and they said.”  In context of chapter 22 alone, compare Jesus’ words introduced with “and he said”:  vv. 10, 15, 25, 34, 35, 48, 52, 67 (cf. also vv. 17, 19, 36, 40, 46, 51, 70).

2.  It is consistent with Luke’s theology to ascribe to Jesus the title of Lord (kurios; cf. Luke 2:11; 3:4).  It is also consistent with Luke’s narrative style both to have persons refer to Jesus as Lord (5:8, 12; 6:45-46; 7:6; 9:54, 57, 59, 61; 10:17, 40; 11:1; 12:41; 13:23; 17:37; 18:41; 19:8; 22:33, 38, 49; 22:61; 23:42; 24:34) and for the narrator to refer to Jesus as Lord (cf. Luke 7:13, 31 [omitted in modern critical text]; 10:1; 11:39; 12:42; 13:15; 17:5, 6; 18:6; 19:8, 31, 34; 22:61; 24:3).  We should note, in particular, Luke’s specific use of the introduction “And the Lord said [eipe(n) de ho kurios]” in Luke 7:31, 11:39; 12:42 [kai eipen ho kurios]; 17:6; 18:6.  Clearly, this is a typical Lukan usage.

Of course, the modern text critic can appeal to this same evidence to argue that the phrase “And the Lord said” was an intentional effort to smooth out the narrative, consistent with Lukan usage.  This would indeed have been an adept scribe who would have done so!  If this is so, then it is a wonder that some less adept scribe did not insert simpler alternatives like “And Jesus said to Peter” or “And he said,” but such variations are not cited, at least, in the NA apparatus. 

3.  We might ponder why a smoother text is immediately suspect of being secondary.  This is a matter Van Bruggen ponders in his insightful essay “The Ancient Text of the New Testament” (Premier, 1976):  “Moreover, it is methodologically difficult to speak of harmonizing and assimilating deviations in a text, when the original is not known.  Or is it an axiom that the original text in any case was so inharmonious, that every harmonious reading is directly suspect?” (p. 32).

Furthermore, it is certainly conceivable that this short phrase was accidentally omitted in one or more early exemplars and this error was then perpetuated in others.  However, the error was caught and corrected by the majority tradition which retained the phrase.


The external support for the inclusion of “And the Lord said” in Luke 22:31 is ancient and weighty.  Here is another example where even the twin heavyweights so highly prized by modern text criticism are divided.  Sinaiticus includes it, while Vaticanus excludes it.  In fact, only five Greek manuscripts support omission.

There is ample internal evidence that argues in favor of inclusion, including the fact that the phrase is typical of Luke’s distinctive narrative usage.

Thus, there is no compelling reason to depart from the traditional text reading of Luke 22:31.

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