Evangelical theologians may therefore have good reason to wonder whythe
|Codex K (Cyprianus) displays the Byzantine reading.|
In 1:7, note the interesting proximity of Ασα
to the letters σαφ in the next line.
It is for that very reason that Ασαφ and Αμως were preferred by the editors of the
The late Bruce Metzger, in his argument for Ασαφ, mentioned a statement from Lagrange (an earlier scholar) to the effect that inasmuch as anyone making this genealogy-list would have to consult the Old Testament, and anyone reading the Old Testament would see the kings’ correct names, “It is necessary, therefore, to suppose that Ασαφ is a very ancient [scribal] error.” Metzger dismissed that line of reasoning via the supposition that “the evangelist may have derived material for the genealogy, not from the Old Testament directly, but from subsequent genealogical lists, in which the erroneous spelling occurred.”
Metzger attempted to present Ασαφ and Αμως as if the evangelist merely had a strange way of spelling Ασα and Αμων. Footnotes in the
1:2 – ﬡ (Sinaiticus) reads Ισακ instead of Ισαακ.
I am not persuaded by Harris’ theory; the occurrence of two such mistakes so close together seems unlikely. However, I am also not persuaded by proponents of the idea that Matthew would risk confusing his readers by listing Asaph and Amos as kings of
What has happened, I suspect, is that an early Western scribe, unfamiliar with Old Testament chronology, introduced the names of Asaph and Amos as a primitive attempt to pad Jesus’ Messianic résumé, so to speak, by adding prophets among his ancestry. The tampering of this scribe influenced the Western transmission-line represented by some Old Latin copies. When these Western readings intersected with the Alexandrian transmission-line, they blended into a crowd of orthographic variations – that is, in some Western Old Latin copies, and in Egypt, the names of Asaph and Amos were assumed to be variant-spellings referring to Asa and Amon, and for that reason, they were not corrected. Elsewhere, though, these readings were either never encountered, or were almost always rejected as variants which Matthew had not written and which he had been highly motivated not to write.
Among the passages in the
Lectio difficilior potior has its limits. However difficult it may be to picture a scribe introducing the names of Asaph and Amos into the text of Matthew 1:7-10, whether accidentally or deliberately, it is much more difficult to picture Matthew (or any first-century author familiar with the contents of the Old Testament) doing so.