Thursday, April 7, 2011

Matthew 5:44 - When Good h.t. Errors go Bad...

A quick look at the surrounding text explains easily how this early pair of omissions arose:

Matthew 5:44-45 - Double Homoeoteleuton Blunder

Click to enlarge

.........................................εγω  δε  λεγω   5:44
υμιν  αγαπατε  τους   εχθρους  υμων 
ευλογειτε τους καταρωμενους υμας 
καλως ποιειτε τους μισουντας υμας   (29-30 cpl)
και προσευχεσθε υπερ των 
επηρεαζοντων υμας 
καιδιωκοντων υμας  (15-16 cpl)  5:45 
οπως γενησθε υιοι του
πατρος υμων του εν ου-
ρανοις οτι τον ηλιον
αυτου ανατελλει επι πο-
νηρους και αγαθους και
βρεχει επι δικαιους και

It appears likely that these two early omissions occurred separately, but close together in the copying stream.   The width of the master-copy was probably about 29-30 cpl for the first omission to pop up, with both a similar ending and an unfortunate similar beginning of the next line, either of which alone could have caused an omission, but with both could have doubled the probability.  Interestingly, seven different letter alignments with the same column width would generate the exact same omission.

The close proximity may be a coincidence,  and one omission may have reinforced the credibility of the other as an original reading.  

"But I say to you, love your enemies, 
bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you
and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,"

The real problem here is not accounting for the omission, but accounting for its perpetuation.  But the difficulty of the message with the included phrases is more than enough to create a powerful attraction for the shorter reading, especially in manuscripts prepared for public reading.  Why give possible eavesdropping spies and enemies fodder for further abuse or accusations?

The inclusion of the material, by any sensible standard is "the more difficult reading" in terms of the criterion of embarrassment etc. 

This is a classic case of errors which arose by accident receiving an undeserved circulation in the name of later, more sophisticated expediency by orthodox editors consciously striving to produce the most 'appropriate' text under early circumstances of persecution and outsider hostility.


Omit Both Phrases: אB f1 it-k syr-c/s cop-sa/bo Origen

Include Both: D* D-cor K L W Δ Θ Π f13 28 33 565 700 892 1009 1010 1079 1195 1216 1241 1242-c 1365 1546 1646 2148 2174 Byz/Maj  (Majority of MSS) Lect. it-c/d/f/h Syr-h/pal Goth arm eth geoA(B) Apost. Const., Chrysost.  etc.

Steven Avery notes the following:

Dean John Burgon (by posthumous editor Edward Miller) wrote quite a bit about Matthew 5:44 here:

The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text (1896) p. 144-153

Burgon is mostly discussing the external evidences, emphasizing the massive Greek support, and a lot of detail on the early church writers.

Steven Avery

1 comment:

  1. hvonsoden has observed on TC-Alt-list:

    "I rather think the omissions were intentional, either to temper what was
    thought too extreme or to remove what was thought tautological."

    I really agree that this particular V.U. looks strongly like it was on purpose.

    And secondly, you have given two different probable scenarios which explain well why it happened, however stupid the editors.

    In both of these explanations, the direction however is the same:

    omissions/excisions. That means that all three main possibilities coincide in direction of evolution: The text got shorter.

    On the other hand, both omissions have homoeoteleuton features too.

    But there is a rub:

    a) We have observed previously that some percentage of accidental omissions
    will by coincidence or misfortune look like deliberate edits, because they will
    result in a text that still makes sense, and the material omitted will have some
    doctrinal relevance. Even if the percentage of such cases is very low, this
    could be one of those cases.

    b) We have also seen in the past that accidental errors can often have a complex
    subsequent history, as correctors attempt to fix the variation that has arisen.
    It is also possible that one of the two omissions, say the second one, was
    either created to 'correct' the text further (i.e. 'harmonize' its message), or
    received added credibility because of the previously circulating error (i.e.,
    one error compounded doubt regarding the other).

    In that case, the coincidence that the witnesses are the same for both omissions
    (giving them the appearance of a single Variation Unit) would be at least
    partially explained as a case where variants were collected and assessed
    similarly by an editor (the shorter reading was preferred in both cases).

    I don't say this to claim the case is solved, but only to try to cover the most
    plausible scenarios and sequences of events, for consideration.