Category Archives: Bible Translation

No Church in Acts 2:47?

Growing up with the KJV, I learned Acts 2:47 as

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Later in life, I moved to the NIV, which reads,

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Where did the church go? One explanation is that the evil NIV hated the church and thus remove mention of it from this text. However, that explanation would be wrong.

The answer to which translation is correct comes down to the matter of how the manuscripts of the NT were preserved and eventually came down to us.

Actually the NT manuscripts (MSS) contain some variations. The “best” reading is ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό (to thier group/number) instead of τῇ ἐκκλησία (to the church). That is, some MSS of the NT have the first reading while the majority of MSS have a variation of the latter.

The first reading (ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό) is supported by 01 02 03 04 81 1175.

However regarding the addition of “church,” the following readings are attested in the MSS:

  1. τη εκκλησια 08 014sup1 025 044 049 056 1 33 69 88 226 323 330 440 547 614 618 927 1241 1245 1270 1505 1611 1646 1828 1837 1854 2147 2344 2412 2492

  2. τη εκκλησια επι το αυτο 35 945 1739 1891

  3. εν τη εκκλησια 104 1243

  4. + εν τη εκκλησια 05

  5. της εκκλησιας επι το αυτο 2495

Metzger, in his Textual Commentary, offer the following explanation for the rise of the jumbled secondary readings:

The phrase ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, which is common enough in classical Greek and in the Septuagint, acquired a quasi–technical meaning in the early church. This meaning, which is required in 1.15; 2.1, 47; 1Cor 11.20; 14.23, signifies the union of the Christian body, and perhaps could be rendered “in church fellowship.”91 Not perceiving this special usage of the word in ver. 47, scribes attempted to rearrange the text, either by moving the phrase to the following sentence (3.1) or by glossing it with an equivalent phrase, ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ.

This being the case, therefore, the first time Luke uses the word “church” (εκκλησια) is Acts 5:11 (followed by Acts 7:38; 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3-4, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39-40; 20:17, 28).

While I’m certain the Lord adds people to the church, I’m also certain Luke did not use the word church here–now those later scribes . . . well, that’s a different matter and another topic.


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We are ALL Sons (Gal. 3:28)

This text cannot mean “separate but equal” and still end up with  “one in Christ.”  Forgive the Greek, but the balance of the text is rhetorically beautiful and the parallelism important.

οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην,

οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος,

οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ

[There is]

neither Jew nor Greek,

neither slave nor free,

neither male and female (Gal. 3:28)

The logic is as beautiful as the rhetoric. Just previously, in v. 26, the apostle states that all believers in Jesus are now “sons of God” though their trust in Jesus. Given where Paul is going with this text, that would mean that Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, and female should all consider themselves “sons.” They are now all the “sons” of God. Of course, there is a lot of reasons why Paul would uses the masculine plural collective noun for God’s people. First, the ancient people of Israel were known in Scripture as the “sons” of Israel. Secondly, Paul has already played with the notion of adoption and that word is rooted in the notion of being made a son (cf. Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). Thirdly, Paul is also working the Old Testament notion that the first born son was to received the largest portion of the inheritance. And Paul is certainly of the mind that Jesus is this “firstborn” Son of God. So when it comes to being a “son,” there is a lot to work with. And he wants all of us to be “sons.”

Now this in important: Those who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ—irrespective of other identity-markers to be named in the v. 28. Every believer is to be counted as if they were the Son. They have identified with Jesus, the Son and as such now stand in line to receive the full inheritance of the Son. The interpretation of the text become ludicrous if we begin to qualify—really we all know, this passage really only deals with salvation and not real life (wink, wink). You know, really Greek believers are second-class citizens in the kingdom of God and slaves can’t lead free people in the church because, well, they are slaves. If Paul is not radically “re-assigning” the typical and expected place of all of these categories, then the text doesn’t really make sense.

Significantly, if you think about it, the addition of “male and female” is unnecessary to Paul’s overall argument. The Jew-Greek distinction is at the heart of Paul’s ministry to include non-Jews. The slave-free split fits Paul’s discussion of “freedom” in Galatians. So why throw in male and female? Because, I think, Paul wants to show how radical the new creation really is (see Gal. 6:15).

Paul intentionally chooses words of gender-identity. Here we don’t have the normal word for man and woman (which can also be translated respectively husband and wife in some contexts). We have here a clear echo of Gen 1:27: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς in the Greek translation of the OT; cf. Gen 1:27; 5:2; 6:19–20; 7:2–3, 9, 16). Paul goes from “nor,” “nor,” to “and.” “Nor” would have worked one more time but “male and female” preserves the echo of Gen. 1:27. Thus, the level of “no difference” between Jews and Greeks, between slave and free, has also to be between “male” and “female.”

Finally, the punchline of this text is “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). The point is clear. All of us, whether Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Male or Female—if we are in Christ—are full heirs to God’s promise.

And that is Good News!


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Codex Bezae Online

Cambridge University has made Codex Bezae available online with an easy to use interface and high-quality images.

See at

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New Readings in the NA28: Report on Jude


5  παντα οτι [ο] κυριος απαξ ➽  απαξ παντα οτι Ιησους

This may well be one of the most significant changes of all in the transition from the NA27 to the NA28. The NA27’s reading was “you all know that the Lord once saved [his/the] people from the land of Egypt.” The NA28 reading would now be something like “you once knew all things that Jesus saved [his/the] people from the land of Egypt”

My professor Carroll D. Osburn once argued that this “new” reading of NA28 was original in  “The Text of Jude 5.” Biblica 62.1 (1981): 107-15. The MSS offer some 11 possibilities here showing that from the beginning this text caused scribes problems, involving not only word order but also the choice between various options for who did the saving: the Lord, Lord, Jesus, God, and in one MS, Lord Jesus. The reading of “Jesus” is supported by the important MSS Alexandrinus and Vaticanus (as well as 33 81 and 2344). See also the Latin Vulgate, and thus also the Douay-Rheims Bible, which preserved the reading now in the NA28.

18 Omit [οτι] and [του]

These omissions remove bracketed, thus uncertain, words from the NA27 text. The net effect is the change from “Because they were saying to you that ‘at the end of the time there will be mockers …'” to “Because they were saying to you:  ‘at the last of  times there will be mockers …'”

This now concludes the discussion of the individual new readings in the NA28. I hope that this has been helpful to those interested in this kind of thing.


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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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