Today we venture beyond the four Gospels again to briefly investigate seven interesting variants in the one-chapter book of Jude. The Greek text of Jude has been studied with exceptional thoroughness: 2006 saw the publication of Dr. Tommy Wasserman’s book The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission (still available on Amazon for $50), in which one can find a list of 560 manuscripts of Jude – each of which was collated in the course of Wasserman’s research, plus his compilation of the text of Jude, a phenomenally detailed textual apparatus, and a meticulously detailed textual commentary (105 pages; compare to 4 pages covering Jude in Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the GNT for UBS).
● In Jude verse 3, there is a contest, mainly between κοινῆς σωτηρίας (favored by a majority of manuscripts) and κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας. Although the latter was adopted in Nestle-Aland (and by Tregelles and Souter – but not by Scholz,), it is not easy to discern why any scribe whose exemplar had the longer reading here would omit ἡμῶν. The sentence is easier to understand with ἡμῶν included – which is a point in favor of the shorter reading.
But there are couple of other horses in the race. Κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας has the support of P72, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, 1739, 2200 et al; κοινῆς σωτηρίας is supported by 018 020 025 049 and hundreds of minuscules, but what does À say? Something very different: κοινῆς ἡμῶν σωτηρίας και ζωης – that is, “our common salvation and life.” (This reading also turns up in 044!) And nestled in the text of some members of the cluster of manuscripts known as the Harklean Group (a.k.a. family 2138 – MSS 206, 429, 522, 614, 630, 1292, 1505, 1611, 1799, 1890, 2138, 2200, 2412, and 2495 – but especially 2138) are the readings κοινῆς ἡμῶν ζωης (1611 2138) and κοινῆς υμῶν ζωης (1505 2495). Putting À’s reading alongside the others, it looks very, very much like a conflation of the readings in B and in family 2138.
In which case, in order for the conflation to have been made in À’s text, the Harklean Group’s text of this passage had to already exist before À was made, even though the Greek manuscripts which attest to it are medieval. This is an instructive demonstration of how precarious it is to assume that the readings in later manuscripts must themselves be later.
● In Jude verse 4, after δεσπότην, most manuscripts (including 018 020 044 049) include the word θεον, or ΘΝ. The major Alexandrian MSS, and 1739, and the Vulgate, support the non-inclusion of this word. θεον could be omitted accidentally, via simple parablepsis (see the Comment-section for some data about this from Matthew Rose!) but it is easy to see why it would be added: without the word θεον, there is one individual who is being denied by the false teachers Jude is opposing: “our only Ruler and Lord Jesus Christ.” With θεον included, two persons are being denied, as it says in the KJV: “our only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (δεσπότην has been translated as the “Lord” before “God;” κύριον is the “Lord” before “Jesus Christ”). The reading with θεον, despite its majority support, looks very much like a scribal tweak of what was initially intended to refer to a single person – “the only Ruler, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ.” The decision to reject θεον here as non-original goes back, among textual critics, as least as far back as J. A. Bengel (in Gnomon V, p. 164).
● In Jude verse 5, there is
an ongoing debate about whether Jude said that Jesus saved the people out of
Contracted as nomina sacra, the competing variants are ΚΣ (“Lord”) and Ὁ ΙΣ (“Jesus”), or, if the article is considered secondary, ΚΣ and ΙΣ. Setting aside a question about the arrangement of the phrases in this verse (a question which is extraordinarily complex), and focusing on the simpler question of which word at this point is original, it is initially difficult to resist the appeal of Ἰησοῠς. Not only is it supported by Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, 1739, 1881, the Vulgate and the Sahidic version, but, from a utilitarian perspective, it conveys an apologetically convenient point about the pre-existence of Jesus. (This doctrine is also expressed in what is probably the earliest manuscript of Jude, P72, which reads ΘΣ ΧΡΣ (“God Christ”), but nobody seems to find this singular reading plausible.)
Ἰησοῠς was the reading in the 1966 edition of the UBS GNT, and a note in Metzger’s Textual Commentary shows that he and Allen Wikgren pressed for its adoption. Years ago, I too favored the reading ΙΣ – but upon further consideration, ΚΣ commends itself as original. I would argue that an early scribe felt that κύριος was too ambiguous (does it refer to the Father, or to the Son?) and, prompted by a tendency to see a typological pattern of the pre-existent Christ in the career of Joshua (expressed, for example, in the early composition The Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 12), replaced ΚΣ with ΙΣ – the same kind of interpretive scribal change seen in P72. Also, it would be extraordinary for Jude, coming from the same household as Jesus of Nazareth, to attribute His actions in the days of Moses to “Jesus.”
●● Two variants in Jude verse 22, though not as famous as the one in verse 5, have an interesting history: Tregelles, back in 1865, read the verse as καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγχετε διακρινομένους. This yields a meaning that is different from what is found in almost all English versions in print today: instead of something like “and have mercy on those who are doubting,” Tregelles’ text of verse 22 (followed perfectly here in the Tyndale House GNT) means something more like, “And refute those who cause disputes.” Tregelles rejected ἐλεατε and ελεειτε – the first of which has early attestation (À B), and the second of which is supported by very many copies (including 020 049 056 1175) – in favor of ἐλέγχετε, which is attested by A C* 33, 1739 1611 1739 1881, the Vulgate, and the Harklean Syriac version.
Tregelles (along with Hort, Souter, and the editors of Nestle-Aland/UBS) also rejected the Byzantine reading διακρινομένοι in favor of διακρινομένους, which seems to fit Jude better stylistically, although it is rather difficult to define a writer’s style with a single chapter as the only basis of comparison.
If Tregelles was correct, then most English New Testaments are based on a form of verse 22 that renders a sense that the original text did not convey. (In the ASV, CSB, CEV, EHV, ESV, KJV, MEV, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and NRSV, the verse refers to having compassion.) This is a difficult variant, or set of variants, but I think the balance of evidence favors both of Tregelles’ decisions here – and this ought to be considered a bright bold star in the Tyndale House GNT.
A counter-argument in favor of the majority reading, though, consists of three points: (1) σοφῶ could be accidentally dropped via parablepsis, (2) μόνω σοφῶ Θεῷ is the more difficult reading, capable of raising the question of whether there is another deity who is not wise (Θεῷ is omitted in Romans in a smattering of copies, and transposed in Claromontanus), and (3) it seems unlikely that a scribe copying the book of Jude would think there was a need to harmonize Jude’s final verse here with Romans 14:26 (which is where μόνω σοφῶ Θεῷ appears in most copies of Romans) but not continue the harmonization by adding something about Jesus Christ – which bring us to today’s last variant under consideration.
● Near the end of Jude verse 25, the phrase διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν (“through Jesus Christ our Lord”) – or, with contracted nomina sacra, διὰ ΙΥ ΧΥ τοῦ ΚΥ ἡμῶν – is not included in most manuscripts. Its inclusion, however, is supported by À B A C and an array of less weighty witnesses including 020 044 33 81 323 1505 1611 1881 and the Vulgate and the Harklean Syriac. The phrase was accidentally omitted by an early scribe whose line of sight drifted from the ἡμῶν that appears immediately before this phrase to the ἡμῶν at the end of the phrase.