Monthly Archives: November 2012

New Readings in the NA28: Report on 1, 2, and 3 John

In this continuing series on the changes introduced in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, this scholia looks at the changed in the Johannine Epistles, commonly, known as 1, 2, and 3 John.

1 John

1.7 Omits δε

The omission of this word remove a conjunctive “but.” So the text goes from “But If we walk in the light …” to “If we walk …” This omission restore the sense of parallelism in verse 6-10 which all begin with “if we say,” “if we walk,” “if we say,” “if confess,” and finally “if we say” again. The presence of “but” tended to make v. 7 dependent on v. 6. The text reads more consistent to take v. 5 as the topic and then each of the following verses from v. 6 to v. 10 as a illustrative series of if … then statements. Anyway, no great loss of meaning here by the change.

3.7  τεκνια ➽  παιδια

These are two synonymous terms for “children.” John uses both. The first word is found in 1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21; the second in 1 John 2:14, and 18 (and now in 3:7).

5.10  εν εαυτω ➽  εν αυτω

The NA27 phrase can be translated as “in himself”; the new reading removed the reflexive nation of himself to merely him. The text would now read “The one who believes in the son of God has the witness in him (instead of “in himself”)

5.18  αυτον ➽  εαυτον

Unlike the change in 5.10, this change is in the opposite direction. It changes the personal pronoun “him,” to the reflexive pronoun “himself.” The text now would read something like: “The one born of God keeps himself …”

2 John

5  καινην γραφων σοι ➽  γραφων σοι καινην

This editorial change represent a different order for the Greek words involved. Since Greek is not as dependent on word order as English, this change does virtually nothing to meaning. Whatever an original audience would have heard here in terms of emphasis will be lost in translation anyway.

12  πεπληρωμενη η ➽  η πεπληρωμενη

Another word order thing: again, no change when translated into English.

3 John

4  τη αληθεια  ➽  αληθεια

This change represent the omission of the article (“the”) before the word truth. So the translation shifts from “the truth” to “truth.” Thus, the sense of the first option would have been “the brothers testify of you in the truth,” which is probably correct in the NIV: “testified about your faithfulness to the truth.” The sense now would be more like “testified truly  [about] you.” While it is possible that John has a view of Christian doctrine as a body of teaching which he can call “the truth,” it makes more since  in the full context of the Johannine writings to view truth” as personal and referred to the way of living consistent with the way of Jesus. Furthermore, the presence of the article in Greek does not always make something definitive in the way the article works in English.

My next scholia will look at the changes made in the epistles of Jude.


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New Readings in the NA28: Report on 2 Peter

This continues my series of scholia on the changes introduced in the text of the Greek New Testament from the Nestle-Aland 27th edition to the recently published 28th edition. In this scholia, we look at the changes introduced in 2 Peter.

2 Peter

2.6 ασεβε[σ]ιν ➽ ασεβειν

Again brackets in the NA27 indicate uncertainty regarding the presence and placement of the item within the brackets. Here the presence of the sigma [σ] makes this word a noun meaning the “ungodly.” Without the letter, the word becomes the Greek infinitive: “to act ungodly.

This change reverses the explanation of Bruce Metzger in his textual commentary on this passage: “From the point of view of transcriptional probability, after μελλοντων [those about to do or act] copyists would be more likely to change the noun to the infinitive than the reverse. From the point of view of intrinsic probability, the noun gives better sense (“an example [or warning] to ungodly persons of things in store for them”) than the verb (“an example [or warning] to those about to do wrong [act impiously]“). In order to represent the balance of probabilities, it was decided to enclose the sigma within square brackets.”

Neither reading is far off from the other. However, in favor of the change to the infinitive, the reading now sounds as if it is referring not to the ungodly in general, but the to the ungodly with whom Peter’s community is dealing. However, the other reading align more readily with the parallel text in Jude 7 which I believe the author of 2 Peter had in hand or memory.

2.11 παρα κυριου ➽ παρα κυριω

The NRSV rendered this text: “Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgment from the Lord” (2 Peter 2:10–11). The pertinent phrase is italicized. The NIV went with the alternative reading (and translation): “in the presence of the Lord,” which the NA28 now supports. Metzger in his textual commentary on this passage that some scribes may have sought to avoid the notion that “blasphemy” or “slanderous judgements” would come from the Lord.

2.15 καταλειποντες ➽ καταλιποντες

This change represents a tense change. From present to the Greek aorist tense (which does not have a real English counterpart, but might be thought of as just the verb itself without time).

An English translation might help show the difference: From “In leaving the right path, they have wandered…” to “They have left the right path and wandered …” The meaning has not been greatly affected here.

2.18 ολιγως ➽ οντως

The editors of the UBS4 Greek New Testament text (identical with the NA27’s text) was certain of the reading now being replaced by the NA28. The editorial committee of that UBS4 text gave its certainty level of “A” or very certain.

For comparative purposes, the NRSV translates this portion of the verse: “… they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” (2 Peter 2:18). The new reading would translate: “… who are really escaping …” Again, not a big change in overall meaning, but I believe Metzger is correct in noting the tension that now exist: “οντως [really] seems to involve a self–contradiction after δελεαζουσιν [they deceive].” Nonetheless, it is not hard to comprehend why the editors of the NA28 would favor this as the harder reading among the MSS.

2.20 Omit [ημων]

This change drops the possessive pronoun [our] before “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

3.6 δι ων ➽ δι ον

Here the editors of NA28 oddly went with the easier reading, though previously thought to be supported by only one MS (69; a 15th century member of family 13). The apparatus of NA28 now adds P along with 1175 and the Latin t and MSS of the Vulgate. This change is inexplicable based on the evidence of the MSS themselves. Neither of these reading make for comfortable Greek and so scholars have offered conjectures on the correct reading: δι ου (Windisch) and δη ων (Wohlenberg).

In final analysis, English translations will still look much like the old ASV of 1901: “by which means [referring back to the “word” of the previous clause] the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

3.10 ευρεθησεται ➽ ουχ ευρεθησεται

In text critical terms, this is one of the most challenging text to reconstruct from the available MSS evidence. Again using the NRSV, the text reads “and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed (or “found”).” The options here among the MSS also includes: [it/they] will be burned up, found dissolved, and hidden/darkened. In light of this, scholars have offered several emendations, none of which have been widely accepted. (See Metzger’s textual commentary for an explanation of all these options).

However, not one Greek MSS supports the reading of the new NA28: will not be disclosed/found. This reading is supported by one of the ancient versions of the NT, the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, a Hellenized Egyptian language.

Without substantive textual support for their reading, the NA28 editors have chosen to go with what seems to make the most sense of the passage without resorting to emendation.

3.16 επιστολαις ➽ ταις επιστολαις

This change add the article before the word “epistles,” thus, all the epistles. Nothing to see here folk, keep moving.

3.16 στρεβλουσιν ➽ στρεβλωσουσιν

This word belongs to the larger phrase: “… which the unschooled and unstable twist—as [they do] the other writings—to their own destruction.” The change would make the “twisting” less certain: “they might/will twist.” J. K. Elliott’s question is apropos: “Is our author aware of the reality of Paul’s letter being misinterpreted, or merely anticipating such a possibility?” (See J. K. Elliott, New Testament Textual Criticism:The Application of Thoroughgoing Principles: Essays on Manuscripts and Textual Variation (Supplements to Novum Testamentum [Leiden: Brill, 2010], 527. While I believe the NA27 reading makes good sense, the NA28 reading is supported by 𝖕72 (3rd/4th cent.) which shows it was an early option in the transmission of the Greek New Testament.

3.18 Omit [αμην]

The scribal addition of a final “amen” became customary following the doxologies and prayers in the NT documents. Partly, no doubt, this was encouraged by the recitation of these texts in church where the natural conclusion in that context would be to add a final “amen.” This addition while natural to liturgy would have been odd in the original epistle. The NA28 editors are correct in omitting it.


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New Readings in the NA28: Report on 1 Peter

As I promised in my last scholia, I continue in this one with a list and description of the changes to the text of Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament from the 27th to the new 28th edition.

1 Peter

1.6 λυπηθεντες ➽ λυπηθεντας

In terms of Greek grammar this is a case change from the nominative (subject case) to the accusative (object case). The difference, as noted by J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, (Word Biblical Commentary 49), 25, on 1 Peter, would be something like changing from “You, grieving as necessary,” to “since it is necessary [for you] to grieve.” Change in translation would therefore be negligible

1.16 Omits [οτι] and [ειμι]

In the case of the first, οτι is often used to introduce direct address and quotations, as it does here; its omission changes the translation from “it is written that …” to “it is written …” which is immediately followed with the citation from Lev 11.44.

The second case refers to the omission of the “to be” verb meaning “I am.” Verbs of being are often omitted in Greek where the meaning is clear. Again, here there is no appreciable change in meaning as “because I holy” in the Greek still means “because I am holy.” The brackets around the items in NA27 indicated doubt as to their inclusion and so this change is not unexpected.

2.5 Omits [τω]

This change omits the article before God at the end of the verse. In English there will be no difference in translation. Thus, “acceptable to the God” would still be rendered “acceptable to God.”

2.25 αλλα ➽ αλλ’

This is the same word either way. Certain smaller words in Greek often lose their last vowel if the preceding word begins with one.

Curiously, though, the NA28 does not give the textual data in the apparatus for this change in the text. For those interested though. The longer form is attested in 𝖕72 A B C 69 218 945 1563 1739 1751; while the shorter one is followed in ℵ Ψ 049 1 33 489 927 999 1241 1243 1244 1251 1315.

4.16 ονοματι ➽ μερει

Exegetically, at first glance, this change looks bigger than it is. With these two options, the text reads: But if anyone [suffers (picking up verb from previous sentence) as a Christian, let him not be ashamed [but] glorify God in this ~name (or) case/part~. No doubt “case” is the harder reading which makes it hard to explain its persistence in later witnesses. However, “name” is supported by such good witnesses as 𝖕72 ℵ A B and Ψ; the other reading has only P and the Byzantine text. While I’m not convinced on this one, this change does not alter the basic meaning of the text, since the name “Christian” is explicit in the preceding text, the meaning is much the same either way.

5.1 ουν ➽ τους

The conjunction “therefore,” following the word “elders,” now becomes the article “the” which can also function in Greek as a pronoun. Thus the translation of the text changes from “Elders, therefore, among you …” to “Elders who are among you.” This change does not alter the meaning of the sentence it is in, but does loosen it from the previous context which “therefore” maintained.

5.9 Omits [τω]

This change would make “in the world” become “in world,” but would not alter English translation.

5.10 Omits [Ιησου]

This change drops the name “Jesus” after Christ. Again the brackets in NA27 indicated uncertainty regarding the reading. One of the most common textual variant in the Greek New Testament is the various ways of writing Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Jesus the Christ, etc. Therefore, it is not uncommon to observe scribes altering, transposing, or expanding the text when it has only one item. Nothing changes here since “Christ” is clearly in the text.

My next scholia will deal with the changes introduced into the text of 2 Peter in the new NA28.

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New Readings in the NA28: Report on James

At the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Chicago this past weekend, the Dutsche Bibelgesellschaft publicly unveiled the 28th edition of the Neste-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece ( Holger Strutwolf and team did a good job of walking scholars and others through some of the important changes, most of which, I would call improvements. The most significant changes occur in the Catholic epistles where the NA text has been brought in line with the latest research and methods used in the Editio Critica Maior (ECM; for more information, see As the ECM completes work on others portions of the NT, these results will appear in future editions of the NA text.

This scholia begins to answer the bottom-line question for those who are not interested in the more tedious details of textual criticism: How has the text of NA28 been changed from NA27?

These changes are limited to the Catholic epistles (James through Jude) and so they will be taken up below in biblical order. The NA27 reading is given first; the NA 28 reading follows the ➽. A brief commentary will follow explaining the significance of each change.


1.20 ουκ εργαζεται ➽ ου κατεργαζεται

This is not a big change: “does not work” to “does not work out.”

2.3 εκει η καθου ➽ η καθου εκει

Greek word order can vary. While word order can vary emphasis, there is little or no shift in the meaning of the text; here the text would change from “[stand] there or sit …” to “[stand] or sit there ….

2.4 ου διεκριθητε ➽ και ου διεκριθητε

From “Do you not judge…” to “And do you not judge…”

2.15 λειπομενοι ➽ λειπομενοι ωσιν

This change add a “to be” verb: from “lacking” to “being without,” thus creating better balanced with “being naked” previously.

4.10 κυριου ➽ του κυριου

In this text, the articles was added before the word “Lord.” This will not change English translations as English nearly always requires “the” before “Lord,” even when the article is absent in the Greek.

My next scholia will pick up with the changes in 1 Peter.

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Give God what is God’s

 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s

and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

Mark 12.17

This is the answer Jesus gave the religious leaders and politicians who attempted to trap him into admitting that Jews should pay tribute to Caesar. Believers today tend to understand Jesus’ answers to be, “Of course, good Christians pay their taxes.” However, that understanding does not arise from a historical and contextual reading of this text.

First, if Jesus had answered clearly and unambiguously—that Jews should pay taxes to Caesar—then his adversaries could have revealed Jesus as the false Messiah they believed him to be.  Since no true King of Israel would concede that tribute should be paid a pagan overlord like Caesar.

Secondly, if Jesus had answered clearly and unambiguously that Jews should not pay taxes to Caesar, then his adversaries could have handed him over to Rome as a subversive and be done with him.

So what did Jesus’ response mean?  How did Jesus avoid both of these trap doors?

By reviewing the image on the coinage, Jesus underscored the religious leaders and politicians’ hypocrisy in using “Caesar’s” money in the first place. Though the Jews strongly detested images of any kind as in keeping with the first of the Ten Commandments (not to make graven images), they had, in this case, capitulated. Now they had to admit how dependent they really were on Rome; and consequently—if they thought more deeply about it, how little they actually trusted God. “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19.15) was truer than any of them would have admitted.

What amazed the people is not that Jesus said believers should pay their taxes without actually saying believers should pay their taxes; but that Jesus had been able to bypassed totally the either/or mentality of his opponents (as well as most Christian interpreters today).

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s || and to God what is God’s.”

Using the common poetic device of parallelism Jesus crafted a conundrum (a riddle or parable designed to tease and puzzle one into a deeper levels of understanding).  Thus when we read this saying along the lines of “Pay your taxes and don’t forget your tithes” we greatly miss the point; most of us give Caesar more money than we do the church anyway.

The wonder of the statement is that once we give God his due, what is left for Caesar?  Nothing!  This was the beauty of the statement!  It rested in the eye of the beholder!  One inclined to trust Caesar would hear it one way; while those inclined to trust God would hear it another.

He who has an ear to hear…

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