Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Luke 2:14 - Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

The Latin phrase on the angel's banner in this 
stained-glass window means, "Glory to God 
in the highest, and on earth peace."
          “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  The  words of Luke 2:14 have encircled the world as an echo of the angelic chorus proclaimed to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.  Few passages of Scripture have had wider circulation in Western culture, traveling from the Bible to the majestic compositions of Handel and Vivaldi,  “Glory to God,to Christmas cards, to stained-glass windows.   
          Even these clear, plain words, however, have been changed in modern Bible versions.  Most of the major new versions do more than change “on earth peace” into “peace on earth.”  There is a different meaning in their versions’ rendering of the final phrase.  Unlike the KJV, NKJV, and MEV, which all retain the phrase, “good will toward men,” the New Living Translation reads, “and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  The New International Version reads, “and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  The Holman Christian Standard Bible reads, “and peace on earth to people He favors!”  Thus we have two sets of Bibles which mean two different things in Luke 2:14:  in one set, the angels proclaim goodwill toward people in general, without expressing any particular conditions or parameters or limitations.  In the other set, the angels proclaim God’s peace specifically, as the English StandardVersion says, “among those with whom he is pleased.
          According to a note in the MacArthur Study Bible, the angelic declaration in Luke 2:14 “is not to be taken as a universal declaration of peace toward all humanity.”  This may seem difficult for some readers to swallow, especially since the angel declares in verse 10 that his promise of good news is for everybody.  But the translators of the ESV, NLT, NIV, and HCSB have not taken it upon themselves to rewrite the angelic song of goodwill toward men.  These versions render the last phrase of Luke 2:14 differently because in  Luke 2:14, the Byzantine Text (and the Textus Receptus, the compilation on which the KJV and NKJV are based) disagrees with the Alexandrian Text, which is the main base-text of the ESV, NLT, NIV, and HCSB.   
          The difference between the Byzantine Text (eudokia, eudokia) and the Alexandrian text (eudokiaV, eudokias) consists of only one letter, but the difference in meaning is drastic.  Consider the renderings of Luke 2:14b in The VoiceTM (based on the Alexandrian Text) and the World English Bible (based on the Byzantine Text):
               The VoiceTM:    “And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!”
               WEB:    “On earth peace, good will toward men.”
          One letter in Greek has produced an extra phase in English.

          Now we arrive at the key question:  which reading is original:  eudokia or eudokiaV?  Researchers have offered different solutions to this question.
Codex Vaticanus once read EUDOKIAS but the
final sigma (at the end of the fifth line) was erased.
          In the late 1800’s, John Burgon proposed that an early copyist inadvertently omitted the word en in the phrase kai epi ghV eirhnh en anqrwpoiV eudokia, resulting in kai epi ghV eirhnh anqrwpoiV eudokia.  (A similar error, he pointed out, occurred in Acts 4:12 in Codex Bezae, one of the few manuscripts that support eudokiaV.  In addition, according to James Brooks, in manuscripts of works of the fourth-century writer Gregory of Nyssa, Luke 2:14 is utilized with eudokiaV and without en.  According to Wieland Willker’s Textual Commentary on the Gospels, a few minuscules also omit en.)  From this shortened text, the early Latin version of the phrase is accounted for, which instead of meaning “And on earth peace, good will toward men,” means, “And on earth peace to men of good will” – which does not necessarily mean that divine favor has been dispensed to them, but can also mean that they are favorably disposed toward God:  in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Codex Sinaiticus once read EUDOKIAS but the final
sigma (at the end of line six) was erased in it, too.
          In an appendix of his 1871 book The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, Burgon used this variant-unit in Luke 2:14 to illustrate the importance of patristic testimony.  Confronted with the testimony of Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Bezae, and Codex Alexandrinus in favor of eudokiaV, Burgon cited 17 early patristic writers whose manuscripts of Luke 2:14 supported eudokia.  The supporters of the reading eudokia include:    
● Eusebius (c. 320, in Caesarea),
● Aphrahat (330’s, in Syria),
● Titus of Bostra (c. 350, in Syria),
● Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 360, in central Turkey and then Constantinople),
● Epiphanius of Salamis (375, on Cyprus),
● Philo of Carpasia (late 300’s, on Cyprus),
● Didymus (380, in Egypt),
Codex Bezae reads EUDOKIAS (fourth line).
● Apostolic Constitutions (380),
● Chrysostom (c. 400, in Antioch and then Constantinople),
● Cyril of Alexandria (c. 420, in northern Egypt),
● Theodotus of Ancyra (c. 430, in central Turkey), and
● Marcus Eremita (435, in Israel).

Codex Alexandrinus reads EUDOKIAS (fourth line)
in its text of Luke.  But in a hymn at the end of the
book of Psalms (Ode 14 - Morning Hymn),
the text of Luke 2:14 is used with EUDOKIA.
          These witnesses, and others, demonstrate that ευδοκία was such a widespread reading – not just in the Middle Ages, but already in the 300’s and early 400’s – that even with some patristic writers on the other side of the equation (including Gregory of Nyssa, who is not listed in the UBS apparatus), it is not easy to explain how, if it is not original, it managed to come from behind, overtake the original text, and leave it far behind.   The evidence from the Armenian version, the Bohairic version, the Syriac Peshitta version and the Harklean Syriac version add their weight to this consideration; they support eudokia.  
          F. H. A. Scrivener, another text-critical scholar of the 1800’s, concurred with Burgon’s conclusion, but argued that eudokiaV originated by a simple “transcriptional blunder,” which was subsequently meticulously perpetuated.  Scrivener also emphasized that the internal evidence is against eudokiaV on the grounds that the same thought could be expressed in much clearer terms. 
          Bruce Metzger, in his widely circulated and influential Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, favored the reading in Vaticanus (what a surprise!), and offered the explanation that a copyist might have considered eudokiatoo difficult, or may have misread his exemplar – which would be particularly easy to do if, in the exemplar, the word eudokiaV was written at the end of a line, with the final letter superscripted instead of at its normal size.  However, Metzger’s imaginative proposal can easily be reversed if one imagines, instead, an exemplar in which a punctuation-mark was mistaken for a sigma.
James Hardy Ropes
          James Hardy Ropes, a minister and Harvard professor in the early 1900’s, favored the reading eudokia.  Ropes usually advocated Alexandrian readings in his textual research – as he spectacularly demonstrated in his commentary on the epistle of James – but he concluded, in an article which appeared in Harvard Theological Review in 1917, that eudokiaV originated when an early copyist read the angelic hymn as a distich, that is, as two poetic lines, the first of which was, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth.”  The copyist, having gotten that far, would come to eudokia and sense a disruption in the poetic balance of the two-line proclamation; thinking that this was due to an error in his exemplar, he changed eudokia to eudokiaV.              
          Thirty-six years earlier, Hort had approved eudokiaV, the reading which was in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus when they were made – even though in both of those fourth-century manuscripts, the final sigma was erased so as to bring their text into conformity to the usual reading.  (It is difficult to tell at what point these erasures were carried out.  For all we know, it might have been when the manuscripts were proof-read in the scriptorium, before their pages were bound together.)  Hort argued in his 1881 Introduction that the angelic hymn was indeed meant to consist of two parallel statements:  (1) Glory to God in heaven and on earth, and (2)  Peace to men of His favor.  Hort accounted for the grammatical harshness of this rendering as an effect of its nature as a Hebraism.  
          This line of reasoning, however, did not satisfy Ropes, who countered that Hort’s proposal turns the angelic proclamation into an irregular distich, but “With eudokia, the verse is a tristich, and is easily translatable into three lines of formal poetry in either Hebrew or Aramaic.”  Matthew Black confirmed, regarding the text of Lk. 2:14 with eudokia, “When rendered into Aramaic it falls naturally into rhythmic structure, and, with the earlier words for poimhn, poimnh, gh, preceding ευδοκία, there is an example of paronomasia.”  [p. 125, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts.]
          Ropes and I disagree with Hort’s conclusion, but Hort did get one thing right:  he stated that if eudokiaV is not original, “it must be Western.”  The reason is that eudokiaV is read by Codex Bezae, and seems to be the basis of the Old Latin rendering:  hominibus bonae voluntatis is accounted for by en anqrwpois eudokiaV more naturally than by en anqrwpois eudokia (unless, as Burgon thought, en was omitted).  (The author of the NET’s note at Luke 2:14 seems to take for granted that Burgon’s guess is correct, stating that the Old Latin witnesses “reflect a Greek text which has the genitive eudokiaV but drops the preposition en.”)   
Codex Regius (L, 019), an Alexandrian manuscript
from the 700's, reads EUDOKIA in Lk. 2:14.
          But are there any other reasons why – other than by sheer accident (as Burgon thought), or due to a misunderstanding of the phrase-division of the sentence (as Ropes thought) – an early copyist whose exemplar read eudokia might change it to eudokiaV?  
          To answer this question it maybe helpful to take a closer look at something written by Origen (a prolific writer in the first half of the 200’s).  Origen quoted Luke 2:14 with eudokia in Against Celsus 1:60, and in Book One of his Commentary on John (according to the 1989 edition by Ronald E. Heine, page 49) but he is thought to have used a different form of the text when he wrote Homily #13 on Luke in the 230’s.     
          Origen’s Homily #13 on Luke, written in the 230’s, is extant only in a Latin translation prepared by Jerome, and so it is not perfectly clear what text Origen cited.  Commenting on the angels’ statement from Luke 2:14, Origen said that a careful reader of Scripture might wonder how, inasmuch as Jesus said (in Matthew 10:34) that He did not come to bring peace on earth, the angels could chant “Peace on earth.”  Origen’s solution to this problem runs as follows (based on the English translation made by Joseph Lienhard, pages 53-54):           
MS 892 reads EUDOKIA in Lk. 2:14.
          “If Scripture said, ‘Peace on earth,’ and the sentence ended there, then the objection would be valid.  But something is added.  After ‘peace,” Scripture says, ‘among men of good will.’ [Latin:  in hominibus bonae voluntatis]  This answers the objection.  The peace on earth that the Lord does not give is not the peace ‘of good will.’ [Without the double-negative, that’s “The peace on earth that the Lord gives is the peace of good will.”]  For he did not say simply [in Mt. 10:34], “I have not come to spread peace.”  He added [still in Mt. 10:34], ‘Upon earth.’” 
Minuscule 700, known for its unusual and ancient
variants, reads EUDOKIA in Luke 2:14.
          Hort argued that Origen “manifestly reads ευδοκίας, combining it in construction with eirhnh, not with anqrwpoiV.”  It seems to me that Origen’s resolution still works with eudokia, but in the interest of brevity I won’t argue that point here.  The thing to see is that Origen was concerned that readers might sense an inconsistency between Mt. 10:34 and Luke 2:14.  And here we may have an explanation for both the creation of eudokiaV in the Western text-stream and for its preference by a copyist or copyists in the ancestry of Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus:  by specifying that peace is extended to a particular group of people, an objection about the appearance of inconsistency between Matthew 10:34 and Luke 2:14 is nullified.  
The Covel Lectionary (L-150), produced in 995,
reads EUDOKIA in Lk. 2:14.
           For more than 100 years, textual critics have allowed an apologetically motivated Western reading which contaminated part of the Alexandrian Text’s transmission-stream to stand in the text of Luke 2:14.  This should have changed a long time ago.  Not only was Ropes’ appeal to internal evidence sufficiently strong, but we have external evidence of which Hort knew nothing.  The minuscule 892 (a manuscript of the Gospels from the 800’s, with strong Alexandrian affinities – more than any other minuscule) supports eudokia; had Hort known this, he might have given further consideration to the idea that eudokiaV is a Western attempt to prevent the perception of an inconsistency. 
          In addition, Ephraem Syrus’ commentary on the Diatessaron is much better-known than it was in 1881.  In Ephraem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron, Ephraem cites Luke 2:14 as follows:  “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth” – not to the animals or beasts, but, “Good hope for human beings.”   [p. 67, Carmel McCarthy, Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 with Introduction and Notes, Copyright Oxford Univ. Press 1993]  On the premise that Ephraem was quoting from the same text upon which he was commenting – and this seems a very reasonable premise – we have here an echo of Tatian’s Diatessaron, that is, a composition made around 172.
Agnes Smith Lewis
          Besides the testimony of Tatian and minuscule 892, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript – discovered at St. Catherine’s monastery in 1892 – also provides early support for en anqrwpoiV eudokia.   After Agnes Smith Lewis and her sister Margaret Gibson obtained access to this manuscript (which was produced around 400), she translated it into English in 1894, and in that translation she rendered the angelic hymn as, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace upon earth, and good-will to men.”  According to Matthew Black, the Sinaitic Syriac has the Syriac word ‘ar‘utha, which is different from the Peshitta’s term, sabhra tabha; both are paraphrastic but clearly support eudokia.    
           
Codex Seidelianus (G, 011), from the 800's,
reads EUDOKIA in Lk. 2:14 at the end of 
the seventh line.  Codex G is one of hundreds 
of Byzantine manuscripts with this reading.
          To sum up:  ever since 1881, most new English translations of Luke 2:14 have been based on eudokiaV, even though the external evidence in favor of its rival eudokia has grown stronger and stronger, and the rationale for ευδοκίας based on internal considerations has been effectively countered.  If the textual critics who are currently preparing base-texts for translators of the New Testament do not feel compelled to adopt eudokia – the reading with more widespread patristic support, the reading with overwhelming more abundant attestation, the reading that is more stylistically appropriate to the author, the reading that fits the context better (considering 2:10b), and the reading that is more difficult (from an apologetic perspective) – then this confirms what many readers have long suspected:  despite the text-critically significant discoveries that have been made in the past 135 years, the pro-Alexandrian compilers of the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies’ texts have not progressed very much beyond Westcott and Hort, and have no intention of doing so.     



1 comment:

Daniel Buck said...

Interesting how each of the first four ancient witnesses to the Alexandrian reading also offer some support to the Byzantine reading. It would be interesting to closely examine W to see if it could be added to that number.