Friday, November 28, 2014

Text Note: Luke 24:42

The Issue:

The question here is whether or not the phrase “and of a honeycomb [kai apo melissiou keriou]” should be included.  The traditional text includes the phrase, while the modern critical text omits it.  Compare (emphasis added):

KJV Luke 24:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

NIV Luke 24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,

External evidence:

The traditional text is supported by the following Greek manuscripts:  K, N, Gamma, Delta, Psi, family 1, 33, 565, 700, 892, 1241, 1424, and Lectionary 2211.  It also is the reading if the majority of extant Greek manuscripts.  In addition, the close alternate traditional reading with the final noun in the accusative rather than the genitive case [kai apo melissiou kerion] is found in Theta, family 13, and Lectionary 844.

As for the versions, it appears in the Vulgate and some Old Latin mss., the Syriac (Curetonian, Peshitta, Harklean * *).  In addition, the reading is found in the Church Fathers Cyril of Jerusalem and Epiphanius of Contantia.

The modern critical text, on the other hand, is supported by the following seven Greek manuscripts: p75, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, D, L, W, and 579.   It is also found in the following versions:  Latin manuscript e (5th century), Syriac Sinaiticus, Coptic Sahidic, and some Coptic Bohairic.  It is also the reading found in Clement of Alexandria.

Internal evidence:

In his Textual Commentary, Metzger concludes that the witnesses for the traditional text, occurring in the “later manuscripts,” are “an obvious interpolation, for it is not likely that they would have fallen out of so many of the best representatives of the earlier text-types” (pp. 187-188).  He then adds the speculation that the phrase might have been included due to the use of honey “in parts of the ancient church” in its Eucharistic and baptismal liturgy, adding, “copyists may have added the reference here in order to provide scriptural sanction for liturgical practices” (p. 188).  Again, Metzger is a master of introducing speculative possibilities which “may” have happened and which justify the editorial decisions of the modern critical text.

There are, however, at least two other credible possibilities:

First, the omission could have occurred due to an unintentional parablepsis as the eye of the copyist skipped from the kai of the opening phrase in question to the kai which begins b. 43:  kai labon enopion auton ephagen (“And taking before them he ate”).

Second, the omission might have occurred due to the unique mention of honey.  This might have come from docetic tendencies to minimize the risen Jesus’ eating of food or from an effort to harmonize the text with John 21:9, 13, which describes the risen Jesus eating fish and bread, but not honey.  One might also turn Metzger’s speculation on its ear and suggest the phrase was removed by those in the ancient church who did not use honey in their Eucharistic and baptismal liturgy.


The phrase “and of honey” is omitted in seven Greek manuscripts, including codex A, which typically supports the Majority reading.  It clearly has origins in ancient times, however, and became the dominant reading in the Greek manuscripts and in the versions.

There is no conclusive, non-speculative internal evidence that rules out inclusion and many reasonable, though speculative, reasons to explain how and why omission might have occurred.

The fuller reading of Luke 24:42 was accepted as the authoritative reading of the traditional text, as reflected in its appearance in the majority of Greek manuscripts.  There is no compelling or convincing reason to remove it.

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