Wednesday, August 03, 2022

BLQ Article: "In Defense of the Traditional Text of Philippians 4:13"

Note: My article "In Defense of the Traditional Text of Philippians 4:13" is in the July-September 2022 issue of the Bible League Quarterly and is also posted to the Bible League Trust website. Here's the beginning to the article below and a link to the whole at the end:

If I knew of the textual variant at Philippians 4:13, I had apparently forgotten about it. My memory was jogged, however, by some students in an online New Testament course I was teaching. One of the course’s early discussion board assignments asked students to choose a New Testament passage and compare it in various translations to discover any significant differences between the versions. Two students wrote on Philippians 4:13, pointing out a slight but significant variation found in some translations of this verse. Their discovery led me to write this article.

What is the issue with the text of Philippians 4:13?

Philippians 4:13 is a classic Christian text, one that is often memorized by believers as children or youth who grow up in Christian homes and in faithful churches. I remember a time when my daughter was of elementary school age and was facing a particular difficulty in her schooling. Our family was driving in the car when my wife and I heard her in the back seat repeating over and again, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I can do all things through Christ….”  We were sorry that she was facing this momentary difficulty but very pleased to hear that she was recalling this verse from memory and using it as a resource for comfort and encouragement. This verse is also one that I cite or paraphrase nearly every Sunday in my church at the conclusion of our afternoon service. I typically say in prayer, something like, “Lord, if we face any unexpected trials this week, help us to remember what the apostle Paul taught us, that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” I have also very often used this verse in pastoral care, personally sharing or texting it to friends and fellow church members going through various hardships.

What, then, is the issue that my students found in this verse? One can easily discover the variant by comparing the classic English translation, the King James Version (KJV), based on the traditional Greek text, with a modern translation, like the popular English Standard Version (ESV), based on the modern critical text. Here is the verse in both translations (emphasis added): 

Philippians 4:13 KJV: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Philippians 4:13 ESV: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

You can find the entire article here.


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