Sunday, January 13, 2013

First Peter 2:2 - Growing Into Salvation

Today, let’s venture outside the Gospels to explore a couple of questions involving First Peter 2:2.  One question is translational and the other is text-critical. 

The translational issue is this:  how should the word LOGIKON be represented in English?  Did Peter mean “of the word,” or did he mean something else, like “spiritual” or “reasonable?”  In Romans 12:1, LOGIKHN is represented as "reasonable" (or an equivalent term) in most versions, and so the idea that LOGIKON means “reasonable” here in First Peter is not altogether groundless. However, Peter has deliberately given his readers cause to focus upon the Word, in 1:23-25, and that focus seems to continue into the second chapter.

Although new translations, such as the HCSB and the CEB, have represented LOGIKON as “spiritual,” even Daniel Wallace has acknowledged that “of the word” is probably a better rendering, in light of the context.  See his article about this at http://bible.org/article/1-peter-22-pure-spiritual-milk-or-pure-milk-word .  He thus opposes the rendering that is found in the RSV, ESV, NIV 2011, and, somewhat surprisingly, the NET.

The text-critical issue is this:  did Peter write EIS SWTHRIAN (“into salvation”) or not?  The UBS Greek New Testament does not indicate the existence of a textual variant at First Peter 2:2.  This should bother its users, inasmuch as the variant here is not only translatable, but is much more significant than some other variants which have been given space in the apparatus. The UBS editors should feel embarrassed that at this point, their apparatus provides less guidance than he footnotes in English translations such as the HCSB and NKJV.

As a translatable variant that affects the meaning of the text, this reading has a status that ought to demand our attention.  It was one of the first non-Byzantine readings to be adopted into the text by textual critics. In 1742 (226 years after Erasmus’ Greek New Testament was published, and 131 years after the KJV was published), Bengel included the words EIS SWTHRIAN in his text.  He defended this reading, stating (according to the 1858 English translation of Gnomon, Volume 5, page 53), “The copies of greatest authority have long read, EIS SWTHRIAN.  In the recent ones, an hiatus has been introduced, the eye of one or two copyists having glided from EIS to EIPER in the next verse.”    

Matthaei, in 1804, also adopted this reading; he mentioned that he had found the words in Codex Mosquensis [Codex 018, from the 800’s], and that it was also in a quotation made by John Chrysostom, and in Book 1 of Clement of Alexandria’s composition The Instructor.  Griesbach and Lachmann also accepted it.  Tischendorf had EIS SWTHRIAN in his seventh edition (1859) of the Greek New Testament, and listed as its support A, B, C, K (= 018, Codex Mosquensis, the one mentioned by Matthaei), over 50 unspecified minuscules, Clement, Cyril (I’m not sure if he meant Cyril of Alexandria or Cyril of Jerusalem), “Dam” (John of Damascus?), Augustine, and Rufinus.

However, a doctrinal objection has been raised against the reading EIS SWTHRIAN:  this reading can be construed as support for the idea of performance-based salvation.  The charge is that someone has attempted to dilute the New Testament’s message about God’s grace by inserting EIS SWTHRIAN and thus conveying that salvation is based on an individual’s performance:  by setting aside malice, guile, etc., and by desiring the pure milk of the Word, a person who is already a believer in Christ may thus become saved.  The translators of the HCSB and NASB may have been pricked by this consideration, and for that reason, although the HCSB has EIS SWTHRIAN in its base-text, it does not render this in a literal sense (“into salvation”) but says instead, “in your salvation,” and the NASB says, “in respect to salvation.”  Such renderings carry a different meaning than some other versions of the very same base text:  Abner Kneeland’s 1823 translation rendered First Peter 2:2b as, “that ye may grow thereby to salvation,” and the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation says “grow to salvation,” and even the NET, a translation produced by evangelicals, says, “grow up to salvation.”

Concern and caution about a textual variant which thus seems to promote a false doctrine is understandable.  However, these words do not promote the false doctrine that our salvation is not an accomplished result of what Jesus Christ has already done for His people.  The problem resides in how these words have been misinterpreted, not in the words themselves.  Paul told the Philippians, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” and that has been misconstrued by some readers.  But when properly interpreted, it does not mean that Paul taught that one must work to receive salvation.  

What we have here in First Peter 2:2, with EIS SWTHRIAN included, is a statement comparable to what one says of a small child who has been given a large shirt; a bystander might say, “He will grow into it.”  The idea is not that the child, by growing, will own the shirt more.  It is already his shirt, given as a free gift.  Instead, the idea is that as he grows, he will come closer and closer to fitting the shirt.  And likewise as Christians become more and more mature, and more Christ-like, nourished on the pure milk of the Word, they will come closer and closer to fitting into the shirt.  This consideration does not make EIS SWTHRIAN original, but I think it deflects the doctrinally-based objection that they cannot be original.

Now let’s consider the case for EIS SWTHRIAN:  it is very well attested; the NA-27 apparatus lists the Majority Text against inclusion, and then lists P72, Sinaiticus, A, B, C, K, P, Psi, 33, 69, 81, 323, 614, 630, 945, 1241, 1505, 1739, al (that is, and more) latt sy co; and Clement.  In addition, there is a doctrinally benign explanation for its loss:  an early copyist’s line of sight drifted from the EI of EIS to the EI that appears after SWTHRIAN (whether the following word was EI or EIPER), thus skipping everything in between. Frequently when copyists make such parableptic errors, the resultant sentence is nonsensical. But in cases such as this one, when the text remains coherent after the mistake has been made, the mistake is more difficult to detect.  Thus the shortened text was brought into existence in an early copy that had a major influence on the Byzantine Text.  

If we were to consider EIS SWTHRIAN to be non-original, we would have to grant that it must be a scribal insertion which was undertaken at a very early date, to affect so many branches of the transmission-stream.  Several branches of the transmission-stream (represented by the Old Latins, the Vulgate, and the Armenian version, for example) support the inclusion of EIS SWTHRIAN, and it seems very improbable that this reading would spontaneously emerge three times. More probable is a scenario in which these witnesses support this reading because it was in the base-texts from which each of these witnesses was made.  When these diverse and relatively early witnesses are aligned with the Alexandrian Text, and when we also see that 50 minuscules (including members of family-2138, which, in the General Epistles, represents a text-form that existed before the production of Sinaiticus), it is clear that all these witnesses are echoing a reading which is older than any one of its individual witnesses.

So I conclude that EIS SWTHRIAN is original, and that it does not pose a real doctrinal difficulty, and that it was accidentally lost in the Byzantine text-stream via an early parableptic error.  In this passage, a precious little genuine jewel has been recovered from outside the main Byzantine text-stream.  May we all be nourished by the pure milk of the word, and being nourished, may we grow into the gift of salvation which the Lord has given.

No comments: