It is sometimes claimed by apologists who dabble in New Testament textual criticism that textual variants do not have an impact on Christian doctrine. They should abandon that claim, and instead state that no basic Christian doctrine depends on any single text-critical contest, with the exception of the doctrine of inerrancy. In just the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament, there are five variant-units that have a potential impact on Christian doctrine, depending on which variant is selected.
|Matthew 1:18 in Lectionary 150.
We now turn to the second textual contest in Matthew 1:18: did Matthew write “Jesus,” or “Christ,” or “Christ Jesus,” or “Jesus Christ”? The reading of Vaticanus, “Christ Jesus,” is rejected even by Hort, in consideration of Vaticanus’ tendency to transpose the words “Jesus Christ” into “Christ Jesus” in the Pauline Epistles. The NA/UBS compilers and the Byzantine Text agree here; they read Ιησου Χριστου. This reading is supported by a wide variety of patristic and versional witnesses.
|The ornate Lindisfarne Gospels (digitally altered here,
without the interlinear Old English) supports the usual
Vulgate reading of Matt. 1:18, "Christ."
Meanwhile Codex W, along with the composition The Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila (from the 500’s), support the reading Ιησου. One could propose (using the method by which Hort identified conflations in the Byzantine Text) that practically all Greek manuscripts (including Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) display a conflation here in Matthew 1:18, echoing the decision of an early copyist who found Ιησου in one exemplar, and Χριστου in another, and combined them – in which case, the question would arise, between the readings Ιησου and Χριστου, which one is authentic, and how did the other one originate?
|Matthew 1:18 in minuscule 2396
(The Exoteicho Gospels).
In passing, I note that even though the Latin evidence squarely favors Χριστου, and the Greek evidence squarely favors Ιησου Χριστου, the hyper-paraphrase known as The Message begins Matthew 1:18 with the sentence, “The birth of Jesus took place like this.” Surely Irenaeus would consider such a text to be vandalized. I wonder why others do not.