Wednesday, February 28, 2018

John 3:13: The Son of Man Who is in Heaven

            Today we shall look into the question of whether or not the phrase “who is in heaven” was in the original text of John 3:13.
            In two recently published translations of the New Testament – the Evangelical Heritage Version and the Modern English Version – John 3:13 ends with the phrase, “who is in heaven.”  This is also the reading of the King James Version.  It is supported by the vast majority (over 95%) of Greek manuscripts, as well as the Old Latin, the Vulgate, the Peshitta, the Ethiopic version, and a wide variety of early patristic writers. 
Manuscript 0141, in which the text of John is
interspersed with extracts from patristic commentaries, has
an unusual difficulty-relieving variant in John 3:13.
            The NIV and ESV, however, do not include this phrase, following instead the shorter Alexandrian text that is displayed in Papyrus 66, Papyrus 75, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, some Egyptian versions, and some patristic writers. 
            The late Bruce Metzger, in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, defended the decision of the compilers of the United Bible Societies’ printed Greek New Testament to reject this phrase:  “The majority of the Committee, impressed by the quality of the external attestation supporting the shorter reading, regarded the words ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ as an interpretive gloss, reflecting later Christological development.” 
            Against this theory of “later” – but earlier than Hippolytus, who cited John 3:13 with the phrase “who is in heaven” in Against Noetus – expansion, Wieland Willker responded effectively:  “Internally the longer reading is clearly the harder reading and there is no reason why the words should have been added.  Metzger says it could be an “interpretive gloss, reflecting later Christological development”, but is this probable?  It seems more probable that scribes omitted the difficult words or changed them as 0141, Sy-S [the Sinaitic Syriac] and e [Old Latin codex Palatinus, from the mid-400s], Sy-C [the Curetonian Syriac] did.” 
            Willker was referring to alterations in the text of Old Latin codex Palatinus (from the mid-400s) and the Curetonian Syriac that yield the meaning of “was in heaven” and in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript that yields the meaning of “is from heaven.”
            This textual variant overlaps with an interpretive question:  writing in ancient Greek with no (or only minimal) punctuation, did John intend to report that Jesus told Nicodemus, at the time of their conversation, that the Son of Man was in heaven?  Or, if the phrase is assumed to be original, was it intended to be understood, not as part of Jesus’ words, but as a parenthetical phrase made by John? 
            As Willker noticed, it is not hard to see why early copyists would consider the phrase puzzling:  if the phrase is not understood as a parenthetical comment by John, then Jesus seems to say that the Son of Man is in heaven, while He is right there on the scene talking to Nicodemus.  Internal considerations thus weigh in heavily against the shorter reading:  to remove this phrase would be to reduce the risk of misinterpretation, whereas a copyist who added this phrase would be adding an interpretive difficulty where there previously was none.    
The phrase “ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ” is far more likely to be part of the original text, excised in the Alexandrian text-stream by a copyist prone to relieve perceived difficulties, that it is to have originated as a scribal expansion.  The absence of this phrase in the fifth edition of the UBS/Biblica Greek New Testament, and in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testatementum Graece, is an echo of previous compilers’ reliance upon poorly represented data combined with a preference for manuscripts that happened to be stored in a dry climate.  In the Sinaitic Syriac and the Curetonian Syriac and the Old Latin Codex Palatinus (and in the uncial 0141, in which the closing phrase states that the Son of Man is from heaven) we see copyists surrendering to the temptation to alter the text in order to resolve a perceived difficulty; the manuscripts that lack the phrase echo the work of an early scribe who took things a little further.  
(Those who would object, “But we should follow the oldest manuscripts” are advised to notice that Papyrus 75 reads πιστεύετε (not πιστεύσετε) at the end of 3:12, and in nearby 3:31, the scribe of papyrus 66 initially omitted the word ἐρχόμενος, and also in 3:31, the scribes of Papyrus 75 and Sinaiticus both did not include the final phrase ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν; the compilers of the UBS/NA texts obviously felt no obligation to follow the oldest manuscripts unthinkingly.  Nor should we.)

The recently published Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament likewise omits the phrase; the pitiable brevity of its apparatus prevents the reader from seeing the early patristic evidence.  Had the editors accepted the judgment of Samuel Tregelles, the scholar from the 1800s whose work laid the foundation for the THEGNT, this phrase would have been retained.  (But at least they mention the variant; the New American Standard does not even do that.)
Those who wish to read more about this variant-unit may wish to consult Dr. David Alan Blacks article (from Grace Theological Journal, 1985) on the subject.

P.S.  A comparison of the treatment of John 3:13 in different editions of the UBS Greek New Testament does not build confidence in the reliability of the resources upon which the Committee-members depended, or in the consistency of their presentations of the evidence.  In the first edition (1966), the Ethiopic version was listed as a witness for the non-inclusion of “who is in heaven.”  The Arabic Diatessaron was listed as a witness for the inclusion of the phrase.  The Georgian version was listed in support of the longer reading.  Didymus was listed as a witness for both readings.  In the fourth edition (1993), part of the Georgian evidence was listed as support for the shorter reading, the Diatessaron was only listed for the shorter reading, Didymus was listed only as support for the shorter reading, and the Ethiopic version switched sides, favoring the inclusion of the phrase.  And the certainty-rate varied from A (“the text is certain”) to C (“the Committee had difficulty”) to B (“the text is almost certain”).   

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


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hand to Hand Combat: P46 versus GA 384

Let’s have some hand-to-hand combat!  Today’s arena is the first eleven verses of chapter 15 of First Corinthians, in which Paul describes some of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ.  Our competitors are Papyrus 46 (the earliest substantial Greek manuscript of Paul’s epistles – estimated to have been made around the year 200) and medieval minuscule 384, made (as far as can be deduced from the script) in the 1200’s. 
Papyrus 46 is also known as P. Chester Beatty II and P. Michigan Inv. 6238; the two names are an effect of having two parts of the manuscript residing in two collections (one at the Chester Beatty Library, and one at the University of Michigan).  
Let’s see which one has the better-preserved text, using the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece as the standard of comparison.
To those who are new to the hand-to-hand contests (the hands in view being the hands of copyists), here’s what they involve:  two manuscripts are compared to see which one has the more accurate text, on the basis of a simple count of non-original letters that are present, and of original letters that are absent; these quantities are combined to yield a total of how much corruption is present in the passage in each manuscript.  Transpositions, if there are any, are mentioned, but a simple transposition is not considered a gain or loss of text.  Abbreviations and sacred-name contractions are not considered variants.  Readings in the text of Nestle-Aland are used as the standard of comparison even if they are bracketed.

Here are the readings of Papyrus 46 in I Cor. 15:1-11 that disagree with NA27:  

1 – P46 has υμειν instead of υμιν (after ευηγγελισαμην) (+1)
2 – P46 has υμειν instead of υμιν (after ευηγγελισαμην) (+1)
2 – P46 has κατέχειν immediately following υμειν (+8)
3 – P46 has υμειν instead of υμιν (after γαρ) (+1)
[The text of part of verses 5 and 6 are unrecoverable in P46; part of the page is badly damaged.]
7 – P46 has επειτα (after Ιακωβω) instead of ειτα (+2)
8 – no variation
9 – P46 does not include του (-3)
10 – P46 reads κενη ουκ instead of ου κενη (+1)
10 – P46 reads αλ instead of αλλα (-2)  [Thanks, Daniel Buck, for catching this one!] (-2)
10 – P46 reads εις εμε instead of συν εμοι (+4, -5)
11 – no variation.

Thus, in First Corinthians 15:1-11, Papyrus 46 has 18 non-original letters, and is missing 10 original letters, yielding a total of 28 letters’ worth of corruption.  In three cases, however, the difference is only itacistic (in all three cases involving the vowels in υμειν/υμιν), and in one case (αλ instead of αλλα in v. 10) essentially the same word is represented.  With those orthographic cases set aside, Papyrus 46 has 23 letters’ worth of corruption in this passage.  Also, someone has put a line of dots above the word κατέχειν in verse 8, thus conveying that it is a scribal mistake and should not be read. If we assume that the copyist himself did this, then the total amount of non-orthographic corruption in this passage is only 15 letters’ worth.   

Now let’s look at minuscule 384.  This entire manuscript can be viewed at the British Library’s website; it is Harley MS 5588.  It contains 264 pages, and contains the Greek text of Acts, the General Epistles, and the Epistles of Paul, written in black ink with red initials regular appearing at chapter-breaks. Quotations from the Old Testament are indicated by diple-marks in the margin, usually in black.  Some corrections have been added in the margin (at Acts 2:17, for example), in red.  Occasionally in the margin, Latin notes appear (cf. fol. 24r, for example, and 51v, near First John 5:7).  In the margin of 24v, a note is written vertically in the margin of the page in what appears to be Armenian.
 Here are the readings in 384 in First Corinthians 15:1-11 that disagree with NA27:

1 – 384 transposes Αδελφοι to the beginning of the verse.
2 – no variation.
3 – no variation.
4 – 384 has τη τριτη ημερα instead of τη ημερα τη τριτη (-2)
5 – no variation.
6 – 384 reads πλειους instead of πλεινες (+2, -2)
6 – 384 reads και before εκοιμηθησαν (+3)  
7 – no variation.
8 – 384 has an extra, larger letter tau in τω before εκτρωματι (+1)
9 – no variation.
10 – 384 reads αλλ instead of αλλα (-1)
11 – no variation.

(It may be noted that 384’s readings in verse four (τη τριτη ημερα) and verse six (πλειους and και) are the typical Byzantine readings; if we had used the RP2005 Byzantine Textform as the standard of comparison, minuscule 384 would differ from it only due to the transposition in verse 1, and a couple of spelling-differences.) 
Compared to NA27, minuscule 384 has six non-original letters in First Corinthians 15:1-11, and is missing five original letters, yielding a total of 11 letters’ worth of corruption.  The absence of the final α in αλλα is a minor orthographic variant, as is the extra tau in verse 8; if these two very minor variants are set aside, 384 has nine letters’ worth of difference from the Nestle-Aland compilation of First Corinthians 15:1-11. 
This means that if we do not assume that the removal of κατέχειν  in verse 8 in Papyrus 46 was made before the manuscript was released, then the transmission-line of minuscule 384 perpetuated these eleven verses with fewer than half as much corruption as the transmission-line of Papyrus 46.  This is even more impressive on the part of the copyists of minuscule 384’s text (or, unimpressive on the part of the copyists of Papyrus 46’s text) when one considers that minuscule 384’s text was handed down for over 1,100 years; in comparison, Papyrus 46’s text was only handed down for about 170 years. 
In this particular passage, then, in minuscule 384’s transmission-line (within the Byzantine text-stream), scribes added about one letter’s worth of corruption to these eleven verses every century, on average.  Meanwhile, if P46 is assigned to the year 225, and if we assume that the copyist corrected verse 8 before finishing the manuscript, and also assume that he made no mistakes in the non-extant part of verses five and six, then in the transmission-stream of P46 (within the Alexandrian text-stream), scribes added about one letter’s worth of corruption to these eleven verses about every 12 years.

For those who might like to take a closer look at the winner of this contest, here is a basic index of minuscule 384:

1r – Summary of the book of Acts of the Apostles
2r – Prologue to the Acts of the Apostles
4r – Acts, with a red headpiece.  Chapter-numbers appear in the margin (in red, enclosed at the top and bottom by red lines).  Lectionary-notes appear at the ends of chapters, in red.
40v – After the end of Acts 28, there is a brief composition describing the martyrdom of Paul.
42r – James
45r – First Peter
48v – Hypothesis (summary and introduction) of Second Peter
49r – Second Peter
51v – First John
55r – Second John
55v – Hypothesis of Third John, and Third John
56r – Hypothesis of Jude
56v – Jude
57v – Prologue to the Pauline Epistles
61r – Romans, with a red headpiece.
74v – First Corinthians
82r – There’s a lot of material in the outer margin; it seems to be a quotation from Basil, added before the manuscript was trimmed.
87r – Second Corinthians
95r – Note with stichometry for Second Corinthians.  Galatians
99r – Note with stichometry for Galatians
99v – Ephesians (Decorative red line for headpiece)
103v – Note with stichometry for Ephesians (312)
104r – Philippians
106v – Note with stichometry for Philippians (208)
107r – Colossians
110r – First Thessalonians
112v – Second Thessalonians (Latin marginalia on 113r)
114r – First Timothy
117v – Note with stichometry for First Timothy (230).  Second Timothy.
120r – Note with stichometry for Second Timothy (172).  Titus.
121v – Note with stichometry for Titus (97).  Philemon.
122r – Note with stichometry for Philemon (37).  Hebrews.

[Readers are welcome to explore the embedded links for additional resources.]

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Date of Easter and Early Lection-Cycles

In the year 325, Roman Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea.  This council, attended by 318 bishops from all over the empire, focused on the subject of the nature of Christ. (The number 318, drawn from Genesis 14:14, was considered to have a special meaning, since in Greek gematria the letters ΤΙΗ (tau, iota, eta) have a total value of 318, and are also, visually, the shape of a cross plus the first two letters in Jesus’ name.) 
The result of this council was the Nicene Creed, which declared, among other things, that Jesus was “very God of very God, begotten, not made.”  This meant that Arius – the Egyptian cleric whose controversial teachings had elicited the council – was wrong in his insistence that there was a time when the Logos did not exist.
            Something else was also addressed at the Council of Nicea.  It was not the New Testament canon, contrary to the fictitious gobbledegook that has been spread by The Da Vinci Code and similar books.  It was the date of Easter.
            When the early church first celebrated the resurrection of Christ, their celebration coincided with the Jewish Passover.  A vestige of this arrangement can still be found in the King James Version in Acts12:4:  the Passover-festival is referred to as Easter.  In this passage the KJV’s translators did not intend to convey that the Jewish ruler Herod was celebrating the Christian holy day of Easter or that he was celebrating some pagan holiday.  They simply retained the rendering that had been made almost 90 years earlier by William Tyndale, who also coined the term “Passover,” a term which eventually caught on and facilitated the recognition of the two holidays as separate events.  (Tyndale’s English version repeatedly refers to the Passover as “Easter,” even in episodes in the Gospels that precede the death and resurrection of Christ.)  
            Some Christians had a special annual celebration of the Lord’s resurrection on the same day as the Jewish Passover.  Others, though, celebrated Holy Week annually with the Lord’s resurrection always observed on a Sunday.  This difference had persisted for a long time – ever since the days of the students of the apostles.  In Ignatius’ closing comments in his Letter to the Philippians, he stated that whoever observes the Passover with the Jews or receives the emblems of their feast is a partaker with those who killed the Lord and His apostles - quite a heavy denunciation, though it is unclear if Ignatius was referring to merely celebrating the Lord’s resurrection at the same time the Jews celebrated Passover, or to participating in the Judaic Passover observance itself. 
            Hippolytus, in Book 8 of his lengthy composition Refutation of All Heresies, firmly opposed those who celebrated Easter on the 14th of the month; yet even though he called them heretics, he acknowledged that in other regards they kept the apostolic faith and traditions. 
            Eusebius of Caesarea (a participant in the Council of Nicea who tended to sympathize with Arius, but not too vocally) described the controversy that arose in the 100’s, in his Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, chapters 24-25.
            Congregations in Asia (i.e., western Turkey), Eusebius reported, customarily observed a tradition that the resurrection of Christ corresponded annually with the Jewish Passover (the 14th day of the month Nisan), whether it was a Sunday or not.   But in other places, including Jerusalem and Rome, it was customary to always celebrate the resurrection of Christ on a Sunday – and the leaders of those places wrote to the churches in Asia, appealing to them to alter their custom.
               Polycrates, a leader in the Asian churches, responded with a letter – Eusebius cited it specifically and presented its contents – in which he stated that Philip the evangelist, John the apostle, Polycarp the martyr, Melito of Sardis, and others (including relatives of Polycrates) had all observed the resurrection of Christ on the 14th of the month – and he had no intention of deviating from that tradition. 
             In 193, Victor, bishop of Rome, initially resolved to excommunicate Polycrates and everyone who agreed with him.  This course of action was averted, though, by advice given by several other bishops – one of whom was none other than the renowned Irenaeus of Lyons. 
            Eusebius presented a snippet of Irenaeus’ letter, which has a remarkably conciliatory tone.  Irenaeus advised Victor of Rome that the disagreement involved not only the annual date, but also details about the length of the fast that preceded it.  To excommunicate people over such details would not look good.  In addition, Irenaeus pointed out, earlier generations of Christians had not condemned one another over this issue; their inactivity implied that they did not consider it something worth separating about:
            “This variety in its observance,” Irenaeus wrote, “has not originated in our time, but long before in that of our ancestors.  It is likely that they did not hold to strict accuracy, and thus formed a custom for their posterity according to their own simplicity and peculiar mode.  Yet all of these lived nonetheless in peace, and we also live in peace with one another.”
            And there is more.  In the composition by Irenaeus presented by Eusebius, Irenaeus mentions that Polycarp, when he was at Rome, disagreed with Anicetus (apparently about when to celebrate Easter), and neither could persuade the other – so they agreed to disagree.
              The agreement to disagree effectively ended, though, at Nicea.  The Quartodecimanians – those who observed Easter on the 14th of the month – were summarily denounced.  The exact wording of the decree at Nicea about this is unknown, but in 341 at the the Council of Antioch, a decree was issued which, in the course of affirming the Council of Nicea, stated that bishops who observed the Lord’s resurrection at the same time as the Jews (that is, on the 14th of Nisan) were to be relieved of duty. 
            With the Quartodeciman tradition thus rejected, a consensus emerged that Easter was to be observed annually on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.  The details of this approach were probably based on the Paschal Canon of Anatolius of Alexandria (from A.D. 270).  Alas, even this objective calculation has not resulted in uniformity among all churches, due to the effects of the different calendars that have been retained as the basis for the calculation.  This year (2018), Passover-week is March 31- April 6, and Easter Sunday is April 1 (although for the Orthodox Churches it is April 8).  (Panos Antsalkis of the University of Notre Dame explains it all in a detailed essay.)
            “Fascinating,” you may be thinking, “but what does all that have to do with the text of the New Testament?”
            The thing to see is that an annual cycle of Easter-observance emerged very early, and became entrenched very quickly, in the first half of the 100s.  It seems very likely that other annual observances spread at the same time and that this elicited the early emergence of lection-cycles.  In the case of the annual feast of Pentecost, Christian observance of Pentecost is mentioned not only in the New Testament book of Acts, but also in the anonymous second-century composition Epistula Apostolorum (which also mentions the Easter celebration). 
Tertullian, writing in Latin in North Africa in the late 100’s or early 200’s, mentioned Christians’ observance of Pentecost in chapter 23 of his composition On Prayer:  “We, however – just as we have received – only on the day of the Lord’s resurrection ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every posture and office of solicitude; deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil.  Similarly, to, in the period of Pentecost, which period we distinguish by the same solemnity of exultation.”
Not only was the Day of Pentecost a special occasion from the sub-apostolic era onward, but the whole fifty-day period from Eastertime to Pentecost was considered a special period of celebration.  Evidence of this is provided in Tertullian’s allusion to Pentecost in the third chapter of his composition On the Soldier’s Crown, in the course of referring to activities which in his time were already regarded as traditional practices:  “We consider fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s Day to be unlawful.  We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Pentecost.” 
Slightly later, Origen mentioned Christians’ annual observance of Pentecost too, in Against Celsus, Book 8, chapter 22:
“If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord’s Day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer that to the perfect Christian, who is constantly in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord’s, and he is always keeping the Lord’s Day.”
He continued in chapter 23:  “But the majority of those who are accounted believers are not of this advanced class; but because they are either unable or unwilling to keep every day in this manner, they require some sensible memorials to prevent spiritual things from passing altogether away from their minds.”
The early establishment of annual Christian festivals provided a setting in which it was almost inevitable that specific passages were assigned to be read on specific days.  This established the basic building-blocks of what eventually became annual cycles of lectionary-readings – reading-cycles that were initially independent and localized (like the manner in which Easter was observed), but which gradually became more uniform.
John Burgon, in his 1871 book The Last Twelve Verses of Mark Vindicated, pointed out some readings in early manuscripts which, he proposed, are early adaptations of the text made at the beginning or ends of lections to either introduce, or to round off, the episode.  Not all of his examples seem persuasive, but the following are interesting and suggestive:    
Matthew 8:13.  A small assortment of manuscripts has an extra sentence attached to this verse:  “And the centurion returned to his house, and in that hour the servant was made whole.”  If these manuscripts were all medieval, this reading would likely be dismissed as a harmonization to the parallel in Luke 7:10, intended to round off a lection.  And, indeed, this verse concludes the lection for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost in the Byzantine lectionary-cycle.  But that small assortment of manuscripts includes Codex Sinaiticus (from the mid-300s) and several other uncials. 
Mark 14:3.  Codex D (05, Codex Bezae) inserts Jesus’ name.  Codex Bezae’s text includes so many little expansions that one might argue that it is a mere coincidence that this one occurs at the beginning of the lection for the seventeenth Friday after Easter.  
● Luke 7:1.  Codex D basically rewrites the verse, which happens to begin the lection for the fifth Saturday after Pentecost.
● Luke 4:16.  Codex D (and F and G and 579) insert Jesus’ name in the first part the verse; this happens to be the beginning of the lection for first Thursday after Pentecost. 
 Luke 5:17.  Codex D rewrites the verse, which happens to begin the lection for the second Saturday after Pentecost.
Luke 16:19.  Codex D reads “And He spoke another parable,” which could be an arbitrarily made harmonization, but which interlocks snugly with Burgon’s idea that the purpose for the harmonization at this particular point was to serve as a lection-incipit, that is, one of the brief phrases with which lectors introduced the daily reading.
● John 14:1.  Codex D begins the verse with “And He said to His disciples,” which looks very much like an lection-incipit, that is, one of the brief phrases with which lectors introduced the daily reading.  As it turns out, a lection does indeed begin at this exact point; in the Byzantine lectionary John 14:1-10 is the lection for the sixth Friday after Easter.      

Lectionary 152,
       from the 900s.
Burgon also proposed, in the same book, an interesting theory about Codex Bezae’s unusual reading in Mark 14:41, το τέλος και (between ἀπέχει and ηωρα):  “Nothing else has happened here,” Burgon proposed, “but that a marginal note, designed originally to indicate the end (το τέλος) of the lesson for the third day of the second week of the Carnival, has lost its way from the end of verse 42, and got thrust into the text of verse 41.”  Burgon noted that this reading is supported by the Peshitta, by the Old Latin, and by the Philoxenian version – which would mean that this quarter of witnesses echoes a yet-earlier ancestor; Burgon proposed that such an ancestral text came from the 100s.
Willker’s Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels confirms that το τέλος Or its non-Greek counterparts) is in the text of Mark 14:41 not only in Codex D but also in Codex W (ἀπέχει το τέλος ἰδου ηλθεν) and Codex Θ (ἀπέχητο· το τέλος ηλθεν), as well as 0233, family 13 (a small cluster of MSS that share an earlier ancestor-copy), 565, 713, 1071, lectionary 844, and the Armenian version and one Georgian copy, and that it is not only supported by the Peshitta but also by the Siniatic Syriac and the Harklean Syriac – plus several Old Latin manuscripts including Codex Vercellensis (which probably was produced in the 370s). 
Willker also observes that in the margin of Codex Vaticanus at this point there is a distigme (that is, a symbo resembling an umlaut which conveys that the person who added it was aware of a textual variant in the line of text that it accompanies – though there is some debate about the date at which this person worked) and that not only Burgon, but also Scrivener advocated the theory that το τέλος had first entered the margin to signal the end of a lection before being blended into the text of Mark 14:41, and that later copyists and translators tackled it in their own ways. 
A consultation of a footnote on page 76 of the first volume of the 1894 edition of Scrivener’s Plain Introduction confirms that Scrivener regarded Codex D’s readings in Luke 16:19 and John 14:1 as lection-incipits, and he also says that the το τέλος in Mark 14:41 “probably has the same origin.”  Yet Burgon, in chapter 12 of Causes of Corruption (written some time after his defense of Mark 16:9-20), explained the presence of το τέλος as a slight expansion, rather than as an insertion of stray marginalia, stating in a footnote that he retracted unreservedly what he had proposed in The Last Twelve Verses of Mark regarding this variant.      
Hort, in his 1881 Notes on Select Readings, proposed that το τέλος was added not as a lost lection-ending note, but as an attempted harmonization drawn from Luke 22:37, where Jesus – still in the upper room – states that the prophecies about Him are being fulfilled, that is, reaching their end (καὶ γαρ το περι εμου τελος εχει).  This seems unlikely, inasmuch as a harmonizer would have no motive to be so frugal.
Metzger resorted to the guess that a copyist was puzzled by the somewhat rare ἀπέχει (or thought that the readers of their manuscripts would be puzzled) and added το τέλος to add clarity – but it seems to me that this would be far down any clarity-prioritizing copyist’s list of options. 
The presence of such phenomena in Codex Bezae and in the Old Latin copies is especially interesting because these particular witnesses tend to echo the Western text that circulated widely in the latter half of the 100s.  The case that the variants in the list just given show the influence of early lection-cycles might not be irresistible, but it is strong, and the inference from this is that the influence of basic lection-cycles involving the main annual Christian feasts should not be casually dismissed as a possible cause of textual variants that emerged as early as the 100s, when the bishop of Rome, until cooler heads prevailed, was willing to excommunicate fellow Christians because they would not celebrate Easter at the same time he did. 
            C. R. Gregory  the scholar whose name is recalled whenever textual critics refer to manuscripts by their Gregory-Aland numbers  theorized that specific passages were assigned for Sundays at an extremely early date.”  Although it was a matter of centuries before lections were collected into  separate volumes, nothing precludes the idea that on the major Christian feasts, and particularly for the period from the beginning of Easter-week to Pentecost, specific passages were assigned to specific days.  (This may have even been the custom in the time of Justin Martyr, who mentioned in the 67th chapter of his First Apology that Christians gathered on the day called Sunday and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets were read, as long as time permitted, before a sermon and the observance of the Lords Supper.)    
This factor – the influence of lection-cycles – should be considered not only when evaluating the variant-units mentioned earlier, but also some other variant-units, including Luke 22:43-44 and John 7:53-8:11.

[Readers are encouraged to explore the embedded links in this essay which lead to additional resources.]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Josh Buice and the Ending of Mark

Josh Buice
            Lots of preachers are misinformed about Mark 16:9-20, and Josh Buice is one of them.  In 2016 when he announced to the congregation of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church that he was going to end his sermon-series on Mark at 16:8, he helpfully explained why he was doing so.  Here are his reasons, and my responses.

Buice:  “Below I’ve included the three main reasons why I will not be preaching the longer ending of Mark.”

(1)  The Textual Evidence

Buice:  “The disputed longer ending of the Gospel of Mark does not appear in the two oldest manuscripts of the Bible — the codex Vaticanus (B) and codex Sinaiticus (א).  Many of the Latin, Syrian, Georgian, and Armenian manuscripts likewise end with Mark 16:8.”

            Buice appears to be partly underinformed and partly misinformed.  The first thing to notice about the evidence he describes is that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are from the 300’s.  They are the oldest two Greek manuscripts of Mark 16, but they are both younger than the testimony of Justin, Tatian, the unknown author of Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus, from the 100’s – all of whom utilized the contents of Mark 16:9-20 in one way or another.
Also, Codex Vaticanus’ copyist left a distinct blank space after Mark 16:8, indicating his awareness of the absent verses.  And in Codex Sinaiticus, there are other anomalous features at this point; the four-page parchment sheet containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:76 was not made by the main copyist.
As for Buice’s claim about the Latin and Syriac (not Syrian) manuscripts, it is false.  No undamaged Latin manuscript of Mark end the text at 16:8.  And only one Syriac manuscript ends the text at 16:8.  Lots of Armenian manuscripts (all medieval) end the text there (although even more include the passage), and since the Old Georgian version was translated from Armenian, two Old Georgian manuscripts also do so.  But none of those manuscripts are remotely close to the time of Eznik of Golb, an Armenian scholar in the 400’s who used Mark 16:17-18 in his writings.

Buice:  “If the oldest (earliest) manuscripts don’t have the longer ending, it points to a later addition by some scribe who might have considered the Mark 16:8 a strange way to end John Mark’s work.”

            The manuscripts used by Justin, Tatian, the unknown author of Epistula Apostolorum, and by Irenaeus were much older than the two manuscripts from the 300’s (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) to which Josh refers.  Furthermore, why focus on those two old copies and not mention the other ancient manuscripts of Mark that support the inclusion of 16:9-20:  Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephrem Rescriptus, Codex Bezae, Codex Washingtoniensis, and all the other uncial manuscripts of Mark?  Over 99% of the Greek manuscripts support the passage, and they did not spring from the ground; they had ancestor-manuscripts, and it is remiss to ignore – to hide – their testimony from the man in the pew, particularly if one is going to promote the idea (as Buice does) that the more manuscripts one has, the better the text is preserved.

Buice:  “In addition, the longer ending of Mark (16:9-20) contains at least 14 different words that are not found anywhere else in the Gospel of Mark.  Considering the fact that John Mark is ending his work on Jesus’ life and ministry, it would be rather odd to start inserting new vocabulary in the last 12 verses of his work.”

            This all sounds good until one notices that Mark uses 20 words in 15:40-16:4 (12 verses) that are not found anywhere else in the Gospel of Mark.  Then Buice’s vocabulary-based argument is exposed as a hollow shell that is only persuasive when used on listeners who are uninformed about the evidence. 

Buice:  “This points to the fact that someone added it to the Gospel of Mark and was not an original ending from John Mark himself.”

            Except (a) calling it a “fact” in the course of the argument is loaded language, and (b) if the use of 14 new words in Mark 16:9-20 “points to the fact” that Mark didn’t write those verses, then the use of 20 new words in Mark 15:40-16:4 “points to the fact” that Mark didn’t write those 12 verses either.  The real facts that Buice needs to fathom are that (a) in a relatively brief work such as the Gospel of Mark, every 12-verse segment is likely to have some unique vocabulary, and (b)  if Buice were to apply his vocabulary-based approach to other parts of Mark (and to other parts of the New Testament), he would draw them into question too.

(2) The Historical Evidence

Buice:  “When we read authors, theologians, preachers, and scholars from church history, it’s apparent that many of them did not have any knowledge of the longer ending of the Gospel of Mark.  For instance, Clement of Alexandria and Origen both show no evidence in their writing that they embraced a longer ending of Mark.”

Buice thus put his ignorance of patristic writers on display.  Besides the four second-century writers already mentioned – Justin, Tatian, the unknown author of Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus – there are numerous early authors, preachers, and scholars who demonstrate their awareness and acceptance of Mark 16:9-20.  These individuals include the author of De rebaptismate (258), the pagan author Hierocles (305), Eusebius of Caesarea (325), Eusebius’ contemporary Marinus, Aphrahat the Syrian (337), the unknown author of Acts of Pilate (300’s), Ambrose of Milan (380’s), Ephrem the Syrian (360’s), Apostolic Constitutions (380), Augustine (late 300’s/early 400’s), Greek manuscripts mentioned by Augustine, Epiphanius of Salamis (late 300s), Patrick, the creators of various forms of the Old Latin chapter-summaries, Jerome, Macarius Magnes, Prosper of Aquitaine, Marius Mercator, Marcus Eremita, Nestorius (as cited by Cyril of Alexandria), Peter Chrysologus, Severus of Antioch, Leontius of Jerusalem, the unknown author of The History of John the Son of Zebedee, and the unknown author of the Coptic composition  The Enthronement of the Archangel Michael.

            But Buice assures us that “Clement of Alexandria and Origen both show no evidence in their writing that they embraced a longer ending of Mark.”  This is nothing but a repetition of the claim passed down from Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament:  “Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses.”  This appeal to Clement is laughable, inasmuch as he scarcely used any of the Gospel of Mark except chapter 10.  Everything in Clement’s writing points to the absence of 16:9-20 as much as everything in Clement’s writing point to the absence of the first seven entire chapters of Mark.  Buice (like many others) has preposterously misrepresented the evidence from Clement.    

Buice:  “Eusebius, the church historian born approximately AD 260, claims that the most accurate copies and “almost all copies” of Mark’s Gospel ended at Mark 16:8.”

            If someone were to pass a law against misrepresenting Eusebius’ statements about Mark 16:9-20, Buice and many other commentators would be imprisoned.  The first thing that should be realized is that Eusebius, writing in the early 300’s following the Diocletian persecution, had no way to survey all manuscripts everywhere; his references to quantities of manuscripts refers to what could be compared in particular places.  
            The second thing that should be realized is that when one looks at Eusebius’ main comments about Mark 16:9-20 in the composition Ad Marinum, he addressed how to harmonize Matthew 28:1-2 and Mark 16:9 and offered two explanations:  one way is to reject the passage on the grounds that it is not in all the manuscripts, or not in the accurate ones, or seldom in any of them – and the other way is to accept the passage and punctuate the opening sentence.  And what option did Eusebius recommend that Marinus take?  The second one.  Eusebius went into verbose detail about how to pronounce Mark 16:9 to resolve the perceived discrepancy with Matthew 28.  He frames the description of manuscripts as something that could be said by someone who rejects the passage, but he does not regard this as some sort of definitive statement, or else he would not have proceeded to tell Marinus how the passages can be harmonized.  Eusebius also cited Mark 16:9 twice elsewhere in the same composition.

Buice:  “Jerome likewise points out that Mark 16:9-20 was absent from the majority of the manuscripts available during his lifetime.”

            Again Buice exposes the shallowness of his research.  For it is obvious that Jerome accepted the passage (he included 16:9-20 in the Vulgate and referred to Mark 16:14 in Against the Pelagians 2:14).  In the composition upon which Buice depends (Ad Hedibiam, Epistle 120), Jerome was abridging and loosely translating into Latin the contents of Eusebius’ earlier composition to Marinus.  Jerome, in the course of answering a broad question about Jesus’ resurrection-appearances, recycled the work of Eusebius, and even included three of the questions that Marinus had asked Eusebius, in the same order.   The statement of Jerome to which Buice refers is essentially Eusebius’ statement, put into Latin by Jerome.   D. C. Parker has written, “Jerome’s work is simply a translation with some slight changes of what Eusebius had written” (Living Text of the Gospels, p. 135).   

Buice:  “The overwhelming historical evidence points to the fact that the earliest witnesses to the apostles viewed the ending of Mark to be 16:8.”

            At this point Buice is just making stuff up, all while failing to inform his congregation about the evidence from the 100’s – the earliest patristic evidence we have – that favors the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.

Buice:  “When reading the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the ancient writings leading up to A.D. 325), it’s apparent that they viewed the ending of the Gospel of Mark to be 16:8 rather than 16:20.”

That statement is manifestly false.  The many utilizations of Mark 16:9-20 by the authors I have already listed, both before the Council of Nicea and afterwards, demonstrate that Buice’s claim is detached from reality.

(3)  Doctrinal Evidence

            Buice sees “troubling doctrines” and in Mark 16:9-20 and uses this as part of his basis for rejecting the passage.  This is a problematic approach, not only because it is not scientific, but because it is inconsistent.  If textual variants can be validly selected according to how well they correspond to one’s doctrine, then why does the ESV, made by people who subscribe to the doctrine of inerrancy, say that Jesus was descended from Asaph and Amos, or that Isaiah wrote Malachi 3:1?  Let’s just select the more doctrinally palatable variant and such things can be efficiently resolved! 
            If such an approach is not valid in those cases then it Is not valid regarding Mark 16:9-20 either.  
            I submit that what Buice sees as “strange doctrines” emanate from interpreters, and not from the text itself.  For the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 is supported not only in 99% of the Greek manuscripts of Mark, and in 99.9% of the Latin manuscripts of Mark, and 99% of the Syriac manuscripts of Mark, but it is also in the Greek lectionaries; yet the Greek and Latin and Syriac churches have somehow avoided advocating snake-handling and poison-drinking and sensationalistic faith-healers.  Martin Luther likewise fully accepted Mark 16:9-20 (as did the formulators of the Westminster Confession of Faith) and yet he is not known for snake-handling.   
          As for “baptismal regeneration” – as if this passage says more about baptism than the New Testament teaches about confession – perhaps Buice should consider whether he is teaching correctly about the purpose of baptism in the New Testament, and ask himself and his fellow Baptists whether the baptisms described in the book of Acts were intrinsically public.  But in any case it is surely a bad methodology to base one’s text on one’s doctrine, and not the other way around.
            If Buice considers the content of Mark 16:17-18 as indicative that the passage is spurious, what is he going to do with the broader declarations in Luke 19:10 and Matthew 17:20 and Mark 11:24-25?  Should we invent a bad interpretation and use that as a reason to reject these passages (the way Buice approaches Mark 16:9-20)?  No passage is safe from such an approach. 

Finally, after mentioning that there are 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, Buice states:  “When we compare that to the 5,839 New Testament manuscripts and approximately 25,000 manuscripts in Latin and other languages — the mountain of evidence rests on the side of the Bible.”

            It should first be noted that Buice’s example is unfair to Homer; Homer is one author; the New Testament includes works by several authors, and different parts of the New Testament are represented by very different quantities of manuscripts.
            But a larger point overshadows Buice’s whole argument:  if it is granted that the more manuscripts we have, the better the text is preserved, then Mark 16:9-20 should be accepted without a second thought, because these verses are supported in over 99% of the Greek manuscripts of the Gospels, and in the Greek lectionaries.  There can be no doubt (unless one has been a victim of sad misrepresentations of the facts of history like the one offered by Buice) that Mark 16:9-20 is part of the text that has been handed down in the churches from generation to generation, century after century, wherever the Greek text has been copied.  The mountain of evidence rests on the side of Mark 16:9-20.
            I note in conclusion that F. F. Bruce, the deceased scholar cited by Buice at the end of his comments on Mark 16:9-20, wrote this about these 12 verses:  “While we cannot regard them as an integral part of the Gospel to which they are now attached, no Christian need have any hesitation in reading them as Holy Scripture.”

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Textus Receptuses

Erasmus of Rotterdam,
a compiler of the
Greek New Testament
The Latin term “Textus Receptus” (“the text that is received”) is often used to refer to the Greek base-text of the King James Version – the English version which, despite the best efforts of the marketers of modern versions, remains by far the most-read English version of the Bible.  The Textus Receptus was published by the Elzevirs in 1624 and in 1633; it was in the preface to the 1633 edition that the term Textus Receptus was introduced.  Much later, in the late 1800s, F. H. A. Scrivener attempted to meticulously retro-translate the KJV’s New Testament’s English text into readings (and, very rarely, conjectures) known to be in circulation at the time of, and available to, the KJV’s translators.
            The term “Textus Receptus” is also used to refer in a general sense to the printed Greek New Testaments which were compiled and published in the 1500’s by the scholars Desiderius Erasmus, Robert Estienne (better-known as Stephanus, who standardized the verse-numbers), and Theodore Beza.
For general purposes, there’s nothing wrong with calling all those printed compilations by the same name, since their basic contents are so similar.  The modern critical text is likewise often referred to simply as “the critical text,” even though there are differences among the various editions.  (Likewise, the edition of the New International Version as it is published today still retains the name of the 1984 edition, even though there are many differences between them.)
            It may be helpful, however, to raise the magnification-level, so to speak, with which the compilations of the 1500s and early 1600s are viewed.  This may reduce the chance that people will get the impression – all too easily obtained from some oversimplifications of the history of the text – that the exact same compilation made by Erasmus that left Froben’s printing-shop in 1516 was the sole Greek resource consulted by the King James Version’s translators in 1604-1611. 
            So, here is a list of some differences between the KJV’s base-text and some of the base-texts of earlier English translations in the 1500’s, drawn from the four Gospels:   

2:11 – KJV:  “saw” (ειδον), not “found” (ευρον)
10:10 – KJV:  “staves” (ραβδους) not “staff” (ραβδον)
21:7 – KJV says “they set him” (επεκάθισαν) instead of “he sat” (επεκάθισεν)
23:13-14 – KJV reverses the order of these verses.

5:38 – KJV includes “and” (και) before “them that wept” (κλαίοντας)
9:40 – KJV says “us” and “our” (ημων) instead of “you” and “your” (υμων)
12:20 – KJV includes “Now” (ουν) in the opening sentence.
15:3 – KJV includes “But he answered nothing.” (αυτος δε ουδε απεκρίνατο)

1:35 – KJV includes “of thee” (εκ σου).  This difference is still echoed in the NKJV, which does not include the phrase.
2:22 – KJV says “her” (αυτης) instead of “their” (αυτων).
6:37 – KJV does not include “and” (και) at the beginning of the verse.
7:45 – KJV says “I came in” (εισηλθον) instead of “she came in” (εισηλθεν)
10:22 – KJV does not include Και στραφεις προς τους μαθητας ειπεν (“And turning to the disciples he said”)
17:36 – KJV includes this verse.
20:31 – KJV includes “also” (και)

8:6 – KJV has “as though he heard them not” (μη προσποιούμενος) at the end of the verse.  (This phrase was not italicized in the 1611 KJV; Scrivener suggested that the italization occurred in the 1769 update of the KJV.) 
8:42 – KJV does not include “therefore” (ουν). 
18:24 – KJV has “Now” (ουν).   

            An especially notable difference between the KJV’s Greek base-text and some of the compilations of the 1500’s occurs in the final phrase of Romans 12:11.  Nowadays, it is taken for granted that the original text read “serving the Lord” (τω Κυριω δουλεύοντες), but in several editions of the Greek text prepared in the 1500’s, the phrase reads “serving the time” (τω καιρω δουλεύοντες).  (Both readings are ancient, having been both mentioned by patristic authors such as Jerome (in Epistle 27, written in 384.) 
            This sample-list should be a sufficient demonstration to those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith that its declaration to the effect that the Greek text of their day was “pure” did not mean that the authors of that creed regarded every text-critical detail to be settled, as if one could answer all text-critical issues merely by pointing to a particular compilation.  In general terms the KJV’s New Testament is based on the Textus Receptus but regarding some details there is not one definitive Textus Receptus, unless one uses the term to refer to compilations (the Elzevir’s compilation of 1633 being the most famous) designed to reconstruct the base-text of the King James Version. 
If these differences between the King James Version and some of the Greek compilations of the 1500’s are kept in mind, this will hopefully reduce the spread of oversimplifications of the history of the text.  For it is sometimes said by the KJV’s promoters that its text agrees with the majority of manuscripts, which is generally true, but not in every case.  Likewise it is sometimes said by the KJV’s detractors that its text is based on merely a handful of manuscripts used by Erasmus, which unfairly minimizes not only Erasmus’ extensive research undertaken before he sat down in Basel to prepare his first edition of the Greek New Testament, but also overlooks the 88 years of additional textual analysis and refinement that commenced between 1516 and 1604, some of which involved ancient manuscripts (Codex Bezae and Codex Claromontanus) and extensive quotations by early patristic sources. 

[Readers are invited to explore the embedded links to find additional resources.]

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Matthew 2:11 and the Westminster Confession of Faith

Mt. 2:11 in the 1611 KJV.
In Matthew 2:11, in the passage where the wise men visit Jesus and present their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, there is a difference between the early English Bibles of the 1500’s and the King James Version:
            William Tyndale made his English translation from a printed Greek compilation that had been made earlier by Desiderius Erasmus.  Since Erasmus’ Greek compilation had the word ευρον (euron) here, Tyndales English text said that the wise men found the child.
            The Coverdale Bible, in 1535, also stated that the wise men found the chylde.
            The Geneva Bible, in 1557, was also based on a Greek base-text with ευρον, so it also said that the wise men found the child.
            The King James (Authorized) Version of 1611 says that the wise men saw the young child.  This implies that ειδον (eidon) was in the KJV’s Greek base-text.
            Neither reading brings the veracity of the text into question (inasmuch as the wise men found and saw the young child Jesus), but the original form of the passage cannot consist of both readings.            
The textual contest is easy, since the support for ειδον is more ancient, more widespread, and more abundant.  Practically everyone accepts ειδον as the original reading:  it is in the  Byzantine Textform; it is in the 1904 Antoniades compilation; it is in Pickering’s family-35 text; it is in the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation
Although ευρον was printed in the 1500’s in Greek New Testaments compiled by Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza (and this reading fits the Vulgate reading, invenerunt), it does not have strong Greek manuscript support. 
Lectionary 1599
supports "saw."
In minuscule 2 – a manuscript used by Erasmus in his initial compilation of the Greek New Testament – a page begins in Matthew 2:11 with the word ειδον.  It has ευρον written in the margin; the word is written in different ink than what was used for the main text; the word ειδον appears to have been underlined with the same ink in which the word in the margin was written. 
This little difference in the Greek base-texts and early printed English New Testaments of the Reformation era may shine some light on how subscribers to the Westminster Confession of Faith should interpret their creed’s statements about the preservation of Scripture – specifically, the part that states that the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, being inspired by God, have been, “by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages.” 
A form of “Confessional Bibliology” has arisen which interprets the WCF’s reference to textual purity as a reference not only to the message of the text but to the exact form of the text, as if all text-critical questions are settled.  Since the Westminster Confession of Faith affirms that the text has been kept pure in all ages, it is proposed that this means that the Textus Receptus must be upheld as the authoritative New Testament text and that this renders investigations of manuscripts and other textual evidence superfluous; the Textus Receptus is the text. 

But this variant in Matthew 2:11 shows that to an extent, there was no “theTextus Receptus in the 1640’s, when the Westminster Confession of Faith was formulated.  There were multiple editions of the New Testament, and their contents varied in small details such as here in Matthew 2:11. 
How could anyone, reading editions of the Greek New Testament prepared by Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza with ευρον in Matthew 2:11, and the Authorized Version that echoes ειδον instead, say that both forms of the verse are pure?  By understanding “pure” as a reference to the general character of the text, and not to every little detail.
The author of the preface to the King James Version, The Translators to the Reader, seems to have had an idea something like that in mind when he wrote the following (slightly modernized): 
“We do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) contains the word of God, nay, is the word of God.”
(Before continuing, I interrupt to explain something:  by “our profession,” the author was referring to the translators’ profession of faith, as opposed to the Roman Catholicism.  The Rheims New Testament, which Roman Catholic scholars had translated from a Latin Vulgate base, had been translated in 1582, but the complete Bible (now known as the Douay-Rheims) had not been read by the author of the KJV’s preface at the time he wrote.  This is the context in which the reference to “profession” should be understood; it is not as if professional butchers and bakers were creating new Bible translations; nor is it as if the author meant that anything with the words “Holy Bible” on the cover is the Word of God; he meant that even the least-esteemed English Bible produced by Protestants, at the time he wrote, was the Word of God.)  
A few sentences later the preface-writer continued:     
A man may be called comely and lovely, though he has some warts upon his hand, and not only freckles upon his face, but also scars.  There is no reason therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it.”
Codex K supports "saw" in Mt. 2:11,
with a spelling-related variant.
Now if a person were to say that regardless of whether an English Bible says “found” or “saw” in Matthew 2:11, it is the Word of God – and the preface-writer affirms this to be the case – then the speaker would have to be referring to the general character of the text, and not its exact form.  Both forms of the text are pure to the extent that neither one teaches an error, even though one of them must be the textual equivalent of a scar left from an injury received from an inattentive or undisciplined copyist. 
The claims of some “Confessional Bibliologists” to the effect that subscribers to the Westminster Confession of Faith are obligated to use the Textus Receptus are therefore not well-grounded.  For although it is convenient to appeal to a “settled” text, the Textus Receptus itself was not 100% settled throughout the 1500s and early 1600s.  Not only in Matthew 2:11, but in some other passages, too, there are variations in the exact form of the Greek text used in that period. 
Minuscule 700, a Gospels-MS
with many unusual readings,

supports "saw" in Mt. 2:11.
Thus, assuming that the formulators of the Westminster Confession wrote from a sufficiently informed position – that they knew about differences in printed editions of the Textus Receptus and about the differences in the English versions based upon it – it seems precarious, presumptive, and arbitrary to assume that they intended for their words to strictly refer to one and only one edition of the Greek text.  Adherents to the Westminster Confession of Faith might feel obligated to refuse to accept Greek variants which convey a meaning opposed to that of the reading of the vast majority of Greek manuscripts – but there are not many such variants.