Wednesday, May 15, 2019

John 7:8: Not, Not Yet, or Nothing?


            Perhaps there is no textual contest anywhere in the New Testament in which the internal evidence and external evidence point more strongly to opposite conclusions than in John 7:8.  In the vast majority of manuscripts, when Jesus’ unbelieving brothers invite Jesus to show Himself to the world and go with them to the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, Jesus replies, “You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
            In a small group of manuscripts that includes Papyrus 75, Codex Vaticanus, and codices L, N, and W, Jesus’ statement is similar, but the first occurrence of the word “this” is absent, yielding the statement, “You go up to the feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
             In another small group of manuscripts, including Codex Sinaiticus, Jesus’ statement is, “You go up to this feast.  I am not going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
            In yet another small group of manuscripts (33 565 579 664 2193 – mostly members of f1 – the phrase “I am not going up to this feast” is absent, yielding the statement, “You go up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.”
            And in minuscule 69 (Codex Leicestrensis), the second occurrence of “to this feast” is absent, yielding the statement, “You go up to the feast.  I am not yet going, for My time has not yet fully come.”

            We may set aside the reading in 69 as the symptom of a scribe’s dislike of what he perceived to be superfluous repetition.  Similarly, the reading in 33 565 579 664 2193 may be set aside as either the result of parableptic error – when a scribe’s line of sight drifted from either the end of εορτην (“feast”) or the end of ταύτην (“this”) to the end of εορτην ταύτην further along in the verse, accidentally omitting the letters in between – or an early copyist’s ruthless attempt to avoid a perceived difficulty.
            The contest between the presence, or absence, of ταύτην in the first part of the verse is more difficult, because while its absence is attributable to haplography (from the –την at the end of εορτην to the -την at the end of ταύτην), such an error would either have to be extremely early, or would have to occur independently in more than one transmission-line, in order to show up, as it does, in manuscripts as diverse as Papyrus 75, Codex D, Codex N, Codex Π, Codex W, and 1424.  Yet it appears in Codex À, and in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, and was likely in the ancestry of 33 565 579 664 2193.  It is also supported by the Peshitta.  

           The variant-unit that gets the most attention in this verse is the contest between οuκ (“not”) and οupw (“not yet”).  Part of the reason for this is that the reading οuκ is capable of giving readers the impression that Jesus misled His brothers by first saying that He was not going to the Feast, and then went.  To restate the problem:  if the reading οuκ is original, then it appears that Jesus says that He is not going to the feast, but then decides to go.  The note-writer of the NET Bible considered this difficulty a point in favor of οuκ as the original reading:  “It is more likely,” the NET’s note says, “that οupw was introduced early on to harmonize with what is said two verses later.”
            However, harmonistic considerations seem to have not affected the scribes of codices K, M, and Π here; all three read οuκ.  It may be helpful to step back and look at the external evidence for each reading:

οuκ:  À D K M Π 1071 1241, with versional support from the Vulgate, the Sinaitic Syriac and Curetonian Syriac, the Armenian version, the Ethiopic version, several Old Latin copies (including a, aur, b, c, d, e, ff2), and with patristic support from Epiphanius (in Panarion, Book 2, 25:4), Chrysostom (Homily 48 on John), Cyril  of Alexandria (Comm. John 4:5), Ambrosiaster (Question 78 in his Questions on the Old and New Testaments), and Augustine (in Sermon 83) – plus a comment from Jerome (in Against the Pelagians Book 2, part 17) which implies that Porphyry – a heathen critic of the Gospels in the third century – used the text with οuκ as evidence that Jesus displayed fickleness and therefore was not divine:  “Jesus said that He would not go up, and then did what He had previous said He would no do.  Porphyry rants and accuses Him of inconsistency and indecisiveness, not knowing that all scandals must be imputed to the flesh.” (By this last phrase, Jerome seems to mean that if a passage seems problematic or puzzling to a reader, the problem is not in the text, but in the reader’s lack of illumination.)
            The UBS apparatus also lists a few lectionaries that read οuκ here:   lectionaries 672 (an uncial lectionary from the 800s), 673, 813 (from the 900s), 950, and 1223.

οupw:  Papyrus 66, Papyrus 75, B E F G H L N T U W Γ Δ Θ Ψ 0105 0141 0250 (Codex Climaci Rescriptus)  Δ f1 f13 157 205 700 892 1424 Byz with versional support from the Peshitta Sahidic and Palestinian Aramaic versions.
              
            Wayne C. Kannaday offers a detailed analysis of this textual contest on pages 90-97 of his 2004 book Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition.  Kannaday concludes that οuκ is probably the original reading, largely on the grounds that when the term οupw is used in the Gospel of John, it is used formulaically to refer to Jesus’ hour, or time, i.e., the time of His passion:      
            ● 2:4:  “My hour has not yet come.”
            ● 7:6:  “My time has not yet come.”
            ● 7:8b:  “My time has not yet fully come.”
            ● 7:30:  “His hour had not yet come.”
            ● 8:20:  “His hour had not yet come.”
If οupw is original, Kannaday argues, then “nowhere else does οupw invade the prefacing remarks of Jesus,” leading to the question, “Is this the only instance in John’s narrative where he violates an otherwise carefully prescribed and consistent use of the term οupw?”
            However, the idea that John deliberately limited his use of οupw to refer to Jesus’ hour, or time, does not survive close scrutiny.  As evidence, one can simply read the following passages (using here, for convenience, the NA/UBS text):
            ● 3:24:  “For John had not yet been thrown into prison.” 
            ● 6:17:  “Jesus had not yet come to them.”
            ● 7:39:  “The Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  (In the NA/UBS text, the term οupw is used for the first “yet” but the term ουδέπω is used for the second “yet.”)
            ● 8:57:  “You are not yet fifty years old.”
            ● 11:30:  “Now Jesus had not yet come into the town.”
            ● 20:17:  “I have not yet ascended to My Father.”

            When all of John’s utilizations of οupw are in view, and there is no cherry-picking, the case that John’s use of οupw is limited in a “carefully prescribed and consistent” manner that refers to Jesus’ hour, or time, fades to dust; there simply is no such unique utilization of the term.


            However, the question remains:  it is easy to posit a reason why a scribe would change οuκ to οupw:  to avoid the appearance of precisely the sort of fickleness that Porphyry accused Jesus of displaying.  But why would anyone change οupw (“not yet”) to οuκ (“not”)? 

            In the search for an answer, we should notice that this is not the only example of a textual contest involving οupw. 
            In Matthew 15:17, the verse begins with οὐ in manuscripts B, D, Z, Θ, 565 33 and 579, and this is supported by Latin, Syriac, and Coptic versions.  In most manuscripts, however, including À C L W (with some Latin and Bohairic support), the verse begins with ουπω.  Here there is no apologetic motive to alter the text; yet it must have been altered, one way or the other.
            In Matthew 16:9, the reading ουπω has overwhelming support, not only from Byzantine manuscripts but also from B À D Δ etc.  Yet in family 13, the verse begins with ου.
            In Mark 4:40, a small but strong array of witnesses (including B À D L Δ f1 f13) supports ουπε before εχετε πίστιν.  In most manuscripts, however (including A C K M Π, supported by the Peshitta and the Gothic version), the question at the end of the verse is πως ουκ εχετε πίστιν.
            In Mark 8:21, Codex B reads ου νοειτε, and the Byzantine Text reads ου συνίετε  – but À A C L D K M N Π W Q support (sometimes with minor orthographic variation) ουπω συνίετε.  (This is a parallel-passage to Mt. 16:9.)                 
            In Mark 11:2, the Byzantine Text, allied with D M Q 157 565 f1 does not include the word ουπω (conveying simply that no man had sat on the colt, rather than that no man had yet sat on the colt).  But in various early manuscripts, the word ουπω is present, either before or after ανθρώπων (“man”) – B L Δ Ψ have ουπω before ανθρώπων; À, C, 579, and f13 have ουπω after ανθρώπων; Y K Π have ουπω before ουδεις ανθρώπων.   Minuscule 1424 rearranges the words so as to read ουδεις ανθρώπων εκάθισεν ουπω.  (Codex A, meanwhile, reads πώποτε ανθρώπων, harmonizing to Luke 19:30.) 
            In Luke 23:53, where Luke mentions that Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was completely unused, Papyrus 75 and Codices B, A, L, 118, and 579 read ουπω – so as to say that no one had yet lain in the tomb.  But they are challenged by a diverse combination of witnesses that includes À C D K M W Q Π 157 f13.which all support ουδέτω – so as to say that never had anyone lain in the tomb.  The Byzantine Text (along with Δ 700 1424 is aligned with the latter group, disagreeing only in word-order (by placing ουδέτω before, rather than after, ουδεις).
            In John 6:17, Papyrus 75 and codices B, À, D, L, N, W and Ψ contain a statement that Jesus had not yet (ουπω) come to the disciples.  In most manuscripts, however, including A K M Δ Θ f1 157 565 700, the verse has ουκ instead of ουπω.  Here we see a disagreement similar to what we see in John 7:8:  ουκ versus ουπω. 
            In John 7:6, where almost all manuscripts read ουπω, À reads ου, and W reads ουδέτω.  Ουδέτω is also the reading of Papyrus 66 in John 7:8b, where the rest of the manuscripts support ουπω.   Likewise in John 7:30, P66 reads ουδέτω where the other manuscripts read ουπω.  This raises a question:  ουπω is clear and unobjectionable; why would anyone change it to ου as the scribe of Sinaiticus did, or change it to ουδέτω as the scribe of P66 did twice?   And why, if ουπω is original in Luke 23:53, does the Byzantine Text and its assorted allies read ουδέτω?
            Briefly leaving the text of the Gospels, for thoroughness’ sake, we find that in First Corinthians 8:2, the reading ουπω is supported by Papyrus 46, B À A 33 1175 1739, but it has rivals; ουδέτω is read by D (i.e., Claromontanus) F G Ψ, ουδεν is read by 68 330 2400, ουδεν ουδέτω is read by 1424, and ουδέτω ουδεν is read by most manuscripts.  In Philippians 3:13, where P46, B, 1739, 1881, the Byzantine Text, and the Peshitta support ου, À A 075 33 81 614 and 1175 support ουπω instead.  Here too, then, is another contest between ου and ουπω.  And in Revelation 17:12, where most copies read ουπω, Codex A and minuscule 57 read ουκ.
           
            Taking all this into consideration, it suggests that some scribes either added ουπω or substituted a different word where ουπω  belonged, not only in John 7:8, but also in Matthew 15:17, Matthew 16:9, Mark 4:40, Luke 23:53, John 6:17, and John 7:6 – plus three passages outside the Gospels (I Cor. 8:2, Phil. 3:13, Rev. 17:12).  If ουκ was introduced in John 7:8, as a substitute for ουπω, it is possible that this was elicited not by mischievousness, but by the same factor (whatever it was) that elicited the scribe of Sinaiticus to introduce ουκ into the text of John 7:6 instead of ουπω – and for the same reason that ουπω was not added to Mark 11:2 by Byzantine scribes, and for the same reason that the Byzantine Text reads ουκ instead of ουπω in John 6:17.
            However, the specific nature of such a factor is difficult to nail down.  The least complicated idea, I think, is that (a) an early Latin translator rendered the relevant phrase as ego non ascendo ad diem festum, imagining that the reference to that particular festival-day would not preclude Jesus’ future attendance, and thus imply “yet.” – and (b) subsequently the Greek text was adjusted slightly (from ουπω to ουκ) to conform to the Latin parallel.
            If Codex Bezae alone supported ουκ, or even if D and À (which has Western affinities in this portion of John) and Old Latin copies supported ουκ, that would be an adequate explanation.  But the external evidence for ουκ, though sparse in our extant manuscripts, is broader and weightier than it may first appear:  besides À (very probably made in Caesarea) and D (provenance unknown), we should posit an ancestor of family Π, and the base-text of the Vulgate, plus the Sinaitic Syriac and Curetonian Syriac, the base-text of the Armenian version, several Old Latin copies, and copies known to Epiphanius in Crete, copies read by Chrysostom in Antioch and/or Constantinople, copies used by Cyril of Alexandria, the Latin text used by Ambrosiaster, the text used by Augustine in North Africa, and the text used by Porphyry.  This is wide-ranging evidence that cannot be cavalierly dismissed.
            Another consideration in favor of ουκ is that orthodox copyists, facing one exemplar with ουκ and another exemplar with ουπω, would naturally prefer ουπω as the reading less likely to elicit misunderstandings of the sort that Porphyry had displayed. 
            In conclusion:  the external evidence in favor of ουπω is so abundant that compilers and translators should maintain a footnote at John 7:8 mentioning this reading, especially in light of the possibility that new evidence might come to light which accounts for interchanges between ουκ and ουπω as merely linguistic phenomena.  However, barring such a development, internal evidence strongly favors ουκ as the reading more likely to elicit ουπω, rather than the other way around, and this consideration is so weighty that even the testimony of two early papyri, Codex Sinaiticus, and over 1,500 Byzantine manuscripts cannot balance it; ουκ demands its place in the text.
            This raises a fresh question:  was Porphyry right?  Many a defender of the traditional text, or of the KJV, has proposed that to adopt the reading ουκ is to turn Jesus into a liar, on the grounds that Jesus says in verse 8 that He is not going to the feast, and yet, two verses later, He goes.  Technically, resolving this perceived difficulty is outside the purview of textual criticism; nevertheless, as an example of how the problem is resolved, with ουκ, readers may consult this video from CIRA International, this essay from Apologetics Press, or simply observe that within those two verses – that is, between Jesus’ statement, “I am not going up to this feast” and John’s record that Jesus went up to the feast – some time has elapsed, and the situation has changed:  it is true that Jesus was not going up when He said that He was not going up, when it would have involved too much publicity.   What more needs to be said?  The sentence is more perspicuous with ουπω, but that does not make the reading with ουκ incorrect, as if “I am not going” must mean “I am never going.”   
            There is an extra takeaway to consider before we leave this variant-unit.  The non-Western uncials K M Π, which read ουκ, must preserve a text here that was remarkably resistant to assimilation from competing texts – more resistant than most representatives of the Alexandrian Text, and more resistant than most representatives of the more popular Byzantine transmission-lines.  This implies that the earliest stratum of family Π, particularly when it diverges from rival Alexandrian and Byzantine readings, is especially important.  



Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.

6 comments:

proEcclesia said...

Hello, what do you think is the good reading of John 14.14

εαν τι αιτησητε με εν τω ονοματι μου τουτο ποιησω
εαν τι αιτησητε εν τω ονοματι μου τουτο ποιησω
?

James Snapp Jr said...

ProEcclessia,
I'd say that the ME is the result of an early haplographic error, elicited when a scribe's line of sight drifted momentarily to the following verse.


Daniel Buck said...

This is how textual criticism is supposed to work: amassing enough evidence to account for the variant, and then following it wherever it leads us. I hope this will be the end of people accusing you of never liking a variant that isn't the Byzantine reading.

John Podgorney said...

Finally I have closure on this text and the real issues involved. I am comfortable with your explanations James. Thanks for the great research. Good work!

Daniel Buck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Buck said...

How much do we know about Porphyry's text?