Friday, September 19, 2014

Text Note: 2 Peter 3:10

I.  The Issue:

There is dispute about the ending of 2 Peter 3:10.

The traditional text (as reflected in the KJV below) reads (I have put in bold the English words for which I have supplied a transliteration of the Greek):

KJV 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up [kai ge kai ta en aute erga katakaesetai].”

The NA 27th edition of the modern critical text (as reflected in the NIV) reads (again, I have put in bold the English words for which I have supplied a transliteration in Greek):

NIV 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare [kai ge kai ta en aute erga eurethesetai].

The difference between the two texts regards the final verb.  Should it read, as the traditional text does, that the works in the earth “shall be burned [katakaesetai, the third person singular, future passive of katakaio, to burn up or to consume]” or should it read, as the NA 27th does, that the works of the earth “will be laid bare [eurethesetai, the third person sinfular, future passive form of heurisko, to discover or to find]?

There is, however, yet another major issue that emerges from this text which relates to the matter of conjectural emendation.  This issue, in fact, led to a change in the NA 28th edition of the critical text.

The conjectural emendation is the insertion of the negative particle ouch.  The insertion of ouch is listed in the critical apparatus of the NA27 (see external evidence below) as a conjecture based on versional evidence.  In NA28, however, the conjecture moves from the apparatus to the text, so that a potential translation based upon the NA 28 would read (translation based on NIV; changes from NA 28 in bold and underlined):

2 Peter 3:10:  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will not be laid bare [kai ge kai ta en aute erga ouch eurethesetai].

II.  External Evidence:

Here I will draw on the critical apparatus of both the NA27 and NA 28.

The traditional text is supported by the following:  A, 048, 33, 1739 (varia lectio), 2464 (with minor differences), and the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts.  In addition, this reading is also reflected in the following versions:  The Clementine Vulgate, the Harklean Syriac, and the Bohairic Coptic.

The NA 27 reading is supported by:  Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, K, P, 0156 (possibly), 323, 1241, 1739 (as one alternative).  It is also found in a few Philoxenian Syriac manuscripts and a marginal reading in some Harklean Syriac manuscripts.

The NA 28 reading, which conjectures the inclusion of the negative particle ouch is not, of course, found in any extant Greek manuscripts.  It is, however, found only in the Sahidic Coptic, some manuscripts of the Philoxenian Syriac, and perhaps  in Dialect V of the Coptic (only probable coming from a citation from a Father).

There are also several other independent readings:

Eurethesetai luomena (will be found dissolved):  p72

Aphanisthesantai (will be ruined or destroyed):  C

katakaesontai (they will be burned):  5, 1243, 1735, 2492 [note:  This would apparently be a grammatical error, however, since the neuter plural would not take a plural verb.] 

Additional Note:  The NA27 also lists a number of other conjectures that have been made by various scholars for understanding the ending of v.10:

Bradschaw suggests that the adjective arga [the neuter nominative plural adjective from argos, -e, -on, meaning idle or useless) be inserted after the word erga in v. 10 so that the ending would read:  “the earth and the things in it will be found useless.”

Other references in the NA 27 apparatus simply suggest a change for the final word:

rhysetai (to be saved or delivered):  Westcott/Hort

syrryesetai (to be swept away):  Naber

ekpyrothesetai (to be burn up):  Olivier

arthesetai (to be removed):  Mayor

krithesetai (to be judged):  E. Nestle

Metzger in his Textual Commentary notes these and a few others (see pp. 705-706).

III.  Internal evidence:

Metzger observes:  “In view of the difficulty of extracting any acceptable sense from the passage, it is not strange that copyists and translators introduced a variety of modifications” (p. 706).

It is not altogether clear, however, why the traditional text would not be considered just as legitimate as the others.  In fact, it seems likely from the alternative suggestions that they are theologically motivated, attempting to offer an alternative to a reading suggesting that the earth will be burned or destroyed at the end of the ages.

IV.  Conclusion:

The traditional text rendering has ancient support.  It was the reading eventually adopted by the majority.  Even though the NA27 reading is supported by the twin heavyweight of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, Metzger gives it only a “D” rating and despairs that none of the existing readings “seems to be original” (p. 705).

The NA 28 editors simply followed Metzger’s trajectory by offering a conjecturally emended reading which inserts the negative particle ouch, even though it is found in no extant Greek manuscripts and only weakly attested in the versional witnesses.

This variant demonstrates that the modern critical text editors are willing to make conjectural emendations to supply what they believe to be the best readings.


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