Thursday, September 6, 2018

Matthew 14:24 - In the Middle of the Sea

Matthew 14:24 in Codex L.
In Matthew 14:24, as Matthew sets the stage for Jesus’ miraculous walk upon the Sea of Galilee, there is a clear difference between the Byzantine Text and the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation.  NA27 (followed by the CSB, ESV, NET, NIV, and NASB) reads σταδίους πολλοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἀπεῖχεν, that is, the ship already “was many stadia from the land.”    
            The Byzantine reading is μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης ἦν, that is, the ship already “was in middle of the sea.”  This reading is supported not only by the vast majority of Greek manuscripts but also by Codex Sinaiticus and a strong array of uncials including Codices C, E, F, G, L, W, Δ, K, M, Π, P, Σ, Φ, S, U, V, X, 073, and 0106.  A singular reading in Codex D – ἦν εἰς μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης – agrees far more closely with the Byzantine reading than with NA27’s reading; the text of D simply transposes the word ἦν and adds εἰς.  A similar reading in the important minuscule 1424 has the same reading as D except without the word εἰς.  
             Strong Old Latin support favors “was in middle of the sea.” The Latin witnesses for this reading include not only the Vulgate text but also Codex Vercellensis – VL 3, which is thought to have been produced in the 370s by, or under the supervision of, Saint Eusebius of Vercelli – and Codex Aureus – VL 15, from the 600s – and Codex Veronensis – VL 4, from the 400s – and Codex Brixianus – VL 10, from the 500s – and Codex Corbiensis – VL 8, from the 400s – and Codex Sangermanensis – VL 7, from the 700s or 800s – and Codex Claromontanus – VL 12, from the 400s (not to be confused with the identically named Greek codex of the epistles of Paul) – and Codex Rehdigeranus – VL 11, from the 700s – and Codex Monacensis – VL 13, from the 500s or 600s. 
The Peshitta, on the other hand, agrees with Codex Vaticanus, the only uncial that reads in Matthew 14:24 exactly like the text in NA27.  So does the Curetonian Syriac manuscript and the main members of the small cluster of Greek manuscripts known as f13.   The Middle Egyptian evidence is interestingly divided:  mae2 (Schøyen MS 2650 – one of the few versional MSS that supports À and B in Mt. 27:49, where they both have a substantial interpolation based on John 19:34), which is assigned to the 300s, agrees in Matthew 14:24 with the reading in B.  Mae1 (the Scheide Codex, assigned to the late 300s or early 400s), meanwhile, has a reading which says that the ship was about 25 stadia from the land, which is clearly a harmonization to John 6:19.
The Diatessaron (a popular composition made by Tatian around 172, combining the contents of all four Gospels into one continuous report) blended details from Matthew, Mark, and John at the end of Section 18 and the beginning of Section 19; the Arabic Diatessaron runs as follows:  “And when the nightfall was near, His disciples went down unto the sea, and sat in a boat, and came to the side of Capernaum.  And the darkness came on, and Jesus had not come to them.  And the sea was stirred up against them by reason of a violent wind that blew.  And the boat was distant from the land many furlongs, and they were much damaged by the waves, and the wind was against them.  And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came unto them, walking upon the water, after they had rowed with difficulty about 25 or 30 furlongs.”  The segment, “the boat was distant from the land many furlongs” clearly supports the reading of B, but it is an open question as to whether this echoes the work of Tatian in the second century, or the Peshitta, to which the Syriac ancestor of the Arabic Diatessaron was conformed.
            An anomaly seems to exist in the reporting of the Palestinian Aramaic (formerly called Palestinian Syriac or Jerusalem Syriac) version; the UBS apparatus lists the Palestinian Syriac text as support for the reading of B; however, a consultation of the List of Variants portion of Agnes Smith Lewis’ and Margaret Dunlop Gibson’s The Palestinian Syriac Lectionary of the Gospels (1899) reveals this comment about the three manuscripts used for their compilation:  “All add μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης before βασανιζόμενον.”
Matthew 14:24 in Codex X.
Turning to patristic testimony, we find that Origen, in his Commentary on Matthew, Book XI, chapter 6, refers to this occasion “when they had got as far as the middle of the sea, and the boat was distressed because the wind was contrary to them,” and a little later he mentions that “they were not able to advance farther than the middle of the sea.”  Consulting Erich Klostermann’s edition of the Greek text of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, one may extract from page 43, line 10, Origen’s description of the disciples:  ἰσχυροτέρους καὶ δυναμένους ἐπὶ τὸ μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης φθάσαι (they were “stronger and capable of reaching the middle of the sea”), and from page 44, lines 1-2, as Origen draws a spiritual application, he states:  λογιζώμεθα ὅτι πλοῖον ἡμῶν μέσον ἐστὶ τῆς θαλάσσης τότε, βασανιζόμενον ὑπὸ τῶν κυμάτων, that is, “Let us consider that our boat is in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves.”   This does not leave room for a reasonable doubt about the text of Matthew 14:24 that Origen read in the 200s; his copies clearly agreed with the Byzantine text at this point.
            Other patristic evidence comes from John Chrysostom (in Homily 50 on Matthew); not only does the cited text agree with the Byzantine text, but in the course of the homily on this passage Chrysostom mentions that the disciples were “mid-sea.”  And Chrysostom’s Greek copies in Antioch and Constantinople are allied with Augustine’s Latin copies in North Africa; Augustine’s Sermon 25 has this reading in its sub-title.  Notably Augustine began this sermon by referring to “The lesson of the Gospel which we have just heard,” the “lesson” being the lection for that day.  The UBS apparatus includes Chromatius and Jerome as support for ἦν εἰς μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης, too – but not a single patristic writer, it seems, can be found anywhere who used the reading in the Nestle-Aland compilation.
Matthew 14:24 in GA 2373.
All things considered, then, the external evidence shows that μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης ἦν, and not the reading of Vaticanus, is the reading with the oldest, the most abundant, and the most diverse support.  Now let’s consider internal evidence:
● First, it should be noted that the term σταδίους does not appear anywhere (else) in the Gospel of Matthew. 
● Second, against Metzger’s theory that the text of Matthew 14:24 has been harmonized to Mark 6:47, it should be observed that scribal tendencies were strongly in the opposite direction, that is, Matthew’s Gospel tended to be the one that influenced the others, rather than the other way around.  Also, a direct comparison of the two passages shows that such an alteration would be a harmonization that does not harmonize; Matthew’s wording is μέσον; Mark’s is ἐν μέσῳ.  Also, a harmonizer who attempted to bring the text of Matthew into closer agreement with the text of Mark would be likely to have also tweaked Matthew’s text to say, like Mark, that the disciples were distressed, rather than that the ship was distressed.    
● Thirdly, we see in some Egyptian versional evidence (Mae1 and the Bohairic version (see Horner’s 1898 edition of the Bohairic version, Vol. 1, p. 123; Horner mentions that Bohairic MS E1 features an Arabic note which states that the Greek text says, “And the boat was in the middle of the sea”)) a reading in Matthew 14:24 that harmonizes Matthew 14:24 to John 6:19, mentioning that the boat was specifically 25 stadia from land.  This indicates shows that in Egypt, the text of Matthew 14:24 was affected by the text in John, rather than by the text in Mark.
            ● Fourthly, while there is nothing about the reading σταδίους πολλοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἀπεῖχεν that seems capable of being misunderstood, a scribe may have been concerned that readers might momentarily misconstrue the phrase μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης as if it meant that the ship was already submerged under the water.  An easy way to reduce such a perceived risk would be to describe the distance in a different way.  (In a manuscript mentioned, but not identified, by Adam Clarke, the text reads βαπτιζόμενον rather than βασανιζόμενον, which would suggest just this understanding.  [Update:  this manuscript is the late minuscule 70.  Thanks, Daniel Gan, for tracking down this detail.])  This factor shows that between “in the middle of the sea,” and “many stadia from the land,” the first reading is more difficult inasmuch as it has (or was thought to have) a higher risk of being misconstrued.  As the more difficult reading, it explains the rise of its rival. 
                The internal evidence thus points in the same direction as the external evidence, and leads to the conclusion that the reading in Codex B did not originate with Matthew, but with an early copyist who prioritized the meaning of the text over a strict perpetuation of its exact form. 

As an addendum it may be noted that if the Byzantine Text were used as the standard of comparison, the texts of B and À would have to be classified as inaccurate and heavily edited forms of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ walk on the Sea of Galilee – but even using NA27’s text as the standard of comparison, the following deviations do not inspire confidence in the reliability of Alexandrian scribes:
14:22:  À initially omitted εὐθέως and B added αὐτοῦ and B omitted τὸ.
14:23:  À initially omitted ἀπολύσας τοὺς ὄχλους.
14:26:  À initially transposed the opening phrase and did not include οἱ or μαθηταὶ.
14:27:  À initially omitted ὀ Ἰησοῦς.
14:28:  B transposed to ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ, and À transposed to εἰ σὺ εἶ, Κε.
14:29:  À initially read ελθιν ηλθεν ουν after υδατα.
14:30:  B and À both omitted ἰσχυρὸν.


Joey McCollum said...

Great discussion! Looking at this variant reading and the one in Matt 27:49, I'm starting to wonder if early Alexandrian scribes had a particular tendency to harmonize Matthew towards John's gospel. (As you point out, the usual direction of harmonization seems to be from Mark and Luke towards Matthew, with not as much happening in Matthew.)

Nathaniel Bunog said...