A famous list is found in the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians, in verses 22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These nine qualities are introduced as the fruit of the Spirit. Just a few verses earlier, a very different list is provided. Just as the Spirit-led life produces Christ-like virtues, a life centered on selfish desires produces bad fruit of various kinds – and those vices are listed in verses 19-21: the works of the flesh.
When Paul wrote this, how many items did he include in that list of vices? A comparison of the
and the MLV (Modern Literal Version) shows that the MLV’s list is slightly longer:
“Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, unbridled-lusts, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, selfish ambitions, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revelings and things similar to these.”
Adultery and murders are included in the MLV’s list, but neither one is in the
list. This is due to a difference in the
Greek compilations that were used for each version: the MLV’s base-text, the Byzantine Text – which represents the vast majority of Greek manuscripts – includes them both in
the list (as does the Textus Receptus, the base-text of the KJV, NKJV, and MEV). The Nestle-Aland/ UBS compilation
However, it would be incorrect to think that the ancient witnesses fall into just two groups, in which one group has both words, and the other one has neither. It would be easy to get that impression if we only looked at Greek manuscripts, but the patristic evidence suggests something more complicated.
In the early Latin translation of Book 5 of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, chapter 11, Irenaeus quoted this list with “adultery” but without “murders” – “Manifesta autem sunt opera carnis, quae sunt: adulteria, fornicationes, immunditia, luxuria, idololatria, veneficia, inimicitiae, contentiones, zeli, irae, aemulationes, animositates, irritationes, dissensiones, haereses, invidiae, [here one would expect “homicidia,”] ebrietates, comissationes, et hic similia.” Eighteen vices are named in this list.
Jerome wrote his Commentary on Galatians in 386 (about 200 years after Irenaeus wrote), but Jerome frequently consulted (and borrowed from) earlier sources, including the commentaries of Origen (fl. 230-250) and Eusebius of Emesa (a student of the more famous Eusebius of Caesarea, earlier in the 300’s). Jerome commented in detail about the list of vices in Galatians 5:19-21. His list, containing 15 vices, was as follows: fornication, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, discord, jealousy, rage, quarrels, dissensions, heresies, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.
After commenting in some detail about these vices, he wrote, “In Latinis codicibus adulterium quoque et impudicitia et homicidia in hoc catalogi uitiorum scripta referuntur. Sed sciendum non plus quam quindecim carnis opera nominata, de quibus et disseruimus.” That is: “In the Latin codices, adultery and immodesty and murder are written in this list of vices. But we understand that no more than 15 works of the flesh are named, and I have covered them above.”
Thus, although Latin manuscripts known to Jerome included adultery, immodesty (impudicitia), and murder in the list, Jerome did not include them. It would appear that either the Latin translation of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 5, has been conformed to an early Latin text that contained an expansion (the inclusion of “adultery” at the beginning of the list), or else the translation is accurate, in which case Irenaeus had access to a form of the Greek text which Jerome did not.
When considering whether copyists, in verse 19 and in verse 21, were likely to enlarge the list, or to shrink it, we should first be aware of the phenomenon known as colometric formatting. In some manuscripts, when the copyists encountered lists of names or other quantities which tended to begin or end in similar ways, they stopped aligning the right edge of the text-column, and used a verse-like format instead.
In some manuscripts, the entire text is written in sense-lines, like poetic verse (each measure is called a cola). (The stichoi-count in such manuscripts was not intended to represent the total number of lines, but of 16-syllable clusters, or something like that.) As a result, much of the space in the right half of the column or columns of text is empty. There are not very many such manuscripts, probably because this format wasted so much space. The format was used more frequently in the genealogies (in Matthew 1 and Luke 3), in the Beatitudes, and in lists such as this one in Galatians 5.
in Codex Claromontanus (06)
Let’s take a look at one of the few surviving manuscripts in which the entire text is written in colometric format: Codex Claromontanus, from the mid-400’s. In Codex Claromontanus, in Galatians 5, sometimes a line is occupied by just one, two, or three words. In the text of Galatians in Codex Claromontanus, the term “adultery” (μοιχια, usually spelled μοιχεία) appears on the same line as the preceding words. This format could elicit the loss of the word, if a scriptorium-master, after reading aloud to the copyists, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are” jumped to the first indented item. In two minuscule manuscripts that have a somewhat special text of the Pauline Epistles, 330 and 2400, μοιχεία was initially omitted but was re-inserted after ἀκαθαρσία (uncleanness) as the third item in the list, as if such a mistake was made, but was almost immediately detected.
in Codex Claromontanus (06)
The colometric format had the advantage of making lists easy to read, if one could follow along with one’s finger or with a bookmark. On the other hand, if a copyist skipped a line – which could easily happen, when several terms in a list ended in the same combination of letters – it would be difficult to detect, since the text of a list, though shorter, would still make sense.
In Codex Sinaiticus (ﬡ, Aleph), most of the text of Galatians is written in neat columns, but here in Galatians 5:19-21, the copyist resorted to a colometric format, giving each vice its own line of text.
The copyist of Codex Vaticanus (B) was less generous with his use of parchment, and wrote in the entire column, but he conveyed that in his exemplar, the text of the list in Galatians 5:19-21 was written in a colometric format, by adding distinct dots and spaces between the words.
|Galatians 5:20-21a in Latin|
in Codex Claromontanus (VL 75).
A comparison of Codex ﬡ and Codex Claromontanus, separated by about a century, suggests that in an ancient ancestor-manuscript, the text was written colometrically, and μοιχια was written to the right of ατινα εστιν (μοιχια was not written by the copyist of ﬡ, but the word was added there by a later corrector), and in which, in verse 21, the word φθόνοι (envies, or envyings) was followed on the next line by the very similar word φόνοι (murders) – the second word being lost early in a transmission-line in Egypt, but preserved in Codex Claromontanus (in Greek and in Latin – homicidiae appears on the opposite page where the passage is written in Latin), thanks perhaps to a cautious copyist’s observation that it would be a good idea to write both words on a single line to avoid an accidental loss.
In minuscule 1739, μοιχεία is not in the text but is added in the margin; 1739 has both φθόνοι and φόνοι in verse 21.
|The passage in minuscule 6.|
Generally, the Greek manuscripts with an Egyptian line of descent do not have “adultery” (though we cannot be sure about Papyrus 46; damage has claimed its text from Galatians 5:17b-20a), and almost all others do.
Occasionally, the accumulation of so many words with similar endings got the better of a copyist: in minuscules 614 and 2412, for example, after the copyist wrote ερις, ζηλοι, θυμοι, in verse 20, his line of sight jumped forward to the –οι before μέθαι in verse 21, thus skipping all the words in between. (The mistake apparently was never caught by a proof-reader, even though minuscule 2412 was equipped for lection-reading.)
|Minuscule 2412's copyist|
skipped some text.
Moving to versional evidence: the inclusion of “adultery” at the beginning of the list in verse 19 is not supported by the Peshitta, but envy and murder are both listed in verse 21. And, as Jerome mentioned, the Old Latin includes adultery and murder. Detailed information about the versional evidence in verse 19 is not easy to come by (
did not even acknowledge the existence of this variant-unit!), but if the UBS-4
apparatus is to be trusted, then the Vulgate, the Harklean Syriac, the
Bohairic, Armenian, and Ethiopic versions all support the longer reading in verse 21. The Old Georgian version is divided, but the
Georgian evidence for the shorter reading is so late, and is such a branch of a
branch, that I suspect that it may display a relatively late omission rather than
echo its ancestral text, as seems to be the case in some Greek
We already covered some patristic evidence, but there are a few other early writers whose comments on this passage are particularly notable.
Clement of Alexandria, in Book 4, chapter 8 of Stromata, quoted the list, without “adultery,” and without “murder.”
John Chrysostom (c. 400), in his Fifth Homily on Galatians, used a text with “adultery” at the beginning of the list.
Epiphanius, who was a bishop of
Salamis on the in the late 300’s, wrote an immense composition opposing various heresies, called the Panarion, and in Book 42 of this work,
Epiphanius’ target is the second-century heretic Marcion and his followers. Marcion, according to Epiphanius, not only
butchered the Gospel of Luke, but also made numerous alterations even to the ten
Epistles of Paul that he accepted – and Epiphanius even cites numerous detailed
examples, as if he himself has sifted through a copy of Marcion’s text. island
Galatians 5:19-21 is among the passages listed by Epiphanius as having been altered by Marcion; Epiphanius states in Panarion, Book 42, part 11:8, that Marcion’s list ran as follows: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings.” Notably, adultery is present, and murder is absent.
This list is repeated in part 12:3 of the same book. Some researchers have noted a slight difference in the two quotations; in at least one manuscript of Epiphanius, “murder” is present and not “envy.” However, that may be a mere mistake by a copyist of Panarion. It seems doubtful that Epiphanius would present two different versions of the same citation from Marcion’s text without making a note about the difference.
The reading of Galatians 5:19-21 with “adultery,” and without “murders,” is thus associated with Marcion – either as a feature of the text that he found and adopted, or which he initiated, for whatever reason. It is unlikely that Marcion, whose opponents one and all accused him of fornication early in life, and who later practiced celibacy, would invent the addition of “adultery.” In addition, in the course of his retort against the long-dead Marcion, Epiphanius stated, “How can the holy Mary not inherit the kingdom of heaven, flesh and all, when she did not commit fornication or uncleanness or adultery or do any of the intolerable deeds of the flesh, but remained undefiled?” This indicates that “adultery” was also included in Epiphanius’ own text of Galatians 5:19.
|The list of the works of the flesh|
in minuscule 604.
There is another passage with an interesting history involving the similarity of the Greek words for envy and murder which I wanted to mention today, but it will have to wait for another time. In the meantime, whether you accept the complete form of the list of vices, or the shorter one, let us acknowledge that the Scriptures elsewhere oppose both adultery and murder. And, for those who would like to look into the text of Galatians more closely, I commend to you two online resources: Stephen Carlson’s dissertation, and a new compilation of Galatians by Robert Waltz, whose Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism was recently updated and expanded.
May we all avoid the works of the flesh, and instead bear the fruit of the Spirit!
Thanks, James. Studies like this demonstrate the vital importance of codicology: "Knowledge of (the paratextual features of) Documents should precede Final Judgments upon Readings"
Thanks for writing this! I found it fascinating and encouraging.
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