In the middle of John 7:39, there are two significant units of textual variation, both of which impact translation. Jesus’ statement here is translated as follows in nine English versions:
“for the Holy Ghost was not yet given.” – King James Version
“for the Holy Spirit was not yet given.” – New King James Version – with a footnote: “NU omits Holy.”
“For the Holy Spirit was not yet given.” – World English Bible (digital edition)
“For the Holy Spirit had not yet come.” – Evangelical Heritage Version – with a footnote: “Some witnesses to the text omit Holy.
“for the Spirit had not yet been given.” – Christian Standard Version – with two footnotes: “Other mss read Holy Spirit” and “Lit the Spirit was not yet.”
“for as yet the Spirit had not been given.” – English Standard Version
“for the Spirit was not yet given.” – New American Standard Version
“Up to that time the Spirit had not been given.” – New International Version
“But the Spirit had not yet been given.” – New Living Translation – with a footnote: “some manuscripts read But as yet there was no [Holy] Spirit.”
“for as yet there was no Spirit.” – New Revised Standard Version – with a footnote: “Other ancient authorities read for as yet the Spirit (others, Holy Spirit) had not been given.”
The renderings in these versions, if considered apart from the rest of Scripture, allow starkly different impressions of the meaning of the phrase: readers of the NRSV’s “for as yet there was no Spirit” might think that there are here grounds for imagining that John is saying that the Holy Spirit did not yet exist. Meanwhile, readers of the ESV and NIV might think that nothing here could conceivably suggest such a thing.
Let’s investigate the first variation-unit first: some MSS say “Holy Spirit” while others simply say “Spirit.” “Holy Spirit” is quite an early reading, and quite widespread – found in Papyrus 66, B. L, W, N (as a correction), S, X, Y, Δ, 0105, 0141, f1, 33, 565, 700, 1241, 1424, and in the very many manuscripts (both continuous-text and lectionaries) representing the Byzantine Text, as well as most Old Latin copies, the Gothic version, and patristic writers such as Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodoret, and, Hugh Houghton has observed (in Augustine’s Text of John, 2008), the Old Latin text in Palatinus, Veronensis, Bezae, Brixianus, and Monacensis. (The Greek text of Codex D also reads πνα ἄγιον, with το added above the line between πνα and ἄγιον.) The non-inclusion of “Holy” (ἄγιον) is supported by P75, a correction in P66, À, K, N (as the initial reading), T, Θ, Π, and Ψ, as well as the Sinaitic Syriac, the Curetonian Syriac, the Peshitta, the Armenian version and the Ethiopic version.
If one uses the principle lectio difficilior potior as a sort of filter, it ought to be pretty clear, although “Holy” is found in a diverse array of evidence, that “Holy” (ἄγιον) originated as a benign scribal addition, added in order to convey precisely that the Holy Spirit was being referenced. Nevertheless, the editors of the Tyndale House GNT have, somewhat incredibly, adopted ἄγιον after πνεῦμα – dissenting from the “A” rating (conveying, as the Introduction to the UBS GNT explains near its outset, “that the text is certain”) given to the shorter reading in the UBS compilation.
Now let’s investigate the pertinent evidence regarding John 7:39’s second variation-unit.
|John 7:39 in GA 114|
Notice the margin-note!
The diversity of renderings in modern English versions is nothing new: ancient manuscripts and ancient versions also varied. Although some copies of the Vulgate support δεδόμενον (reading “erat spiritus datus”), the shorter reading appears to be the Vulgate’s initial reading. Codex D includes, after ἄγιον, ἐπ’ ἀυτοῖς, which was cleverly corrected to ἐπ’ ἀυτους by turning the “I” into the trunk of a large “Υ.” The text of Gothic Codex Argenteus appears to correspond to D’s initial Greek reading; according to Willker it supports “but not yet was the Holy Spirit upon him” (in the word-order “but not yet was spirit the holy on him”).
The resistance of the
transmission-line of K and Π against scribal expansion here in John 7:39 ought
to be contrasted with Codex Vaticanus: B
has ἄγιον, and B has δεδόμενον. Κ and Π support
neither of these readings, and Codex Macedonianus
(Y) has ἄγιον but not δεδόμενον. 2474,
like most Byzantine MSS, also have ἄγιον but not δεδόμενον. 114
(a manuscript in which the majuscule text of Eusebius of Caesarea’s guide to
the Eusebian Canons, Ad Carpianus, is framed within a quatrefoil) agree
with K and Π, lacking both ἄγιον and δεδόμενον.
Some members of Family Π certainly deserve more attention than they have
received from the editors of the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation.
John 7:39 in GA 265
The text of Κ and Π is very much commended by its reading in John 7:39. There is no discernible reason why the scribes of K, Π, 114, 265, et al (or a scribe of an ancestor-MS shared by all three) would omit ἄγιον and δεδόμενον, while there are very clear motives for the addition of ἄγιον and δεδόμενον.
The NET has the following interesting footnote to John 7:39: “Grk for the Spirit was not yet.” “Although only B and a handful of other NT MSS supply the participle δεδομένον (dedomenon), this is followed in the translation to avoid misunderstanding by the modern English reader that prior to this time the Spirit did not exist. John’s phrase is expressed from a human standpoint and has nothing to do with the preexistence of the third Person of the Godhead. The meaning is that the era of the Holy Spirit had not yet arrived; the Spirit was not yet at work in a way he later would be because Jesus had not yet returned to his Father. Cf. also Acts 19:2.” (NET Copyright Ó 1996-2005 Biblical Studies Press)
The NET’s editors’ candid preference for the inclusion of δεδομένον on grounds of its clarity – colliding with lectio difficilior potior – is probably illustrative of the motivations of many translators, ancient and modern, in their treatment of the second half of John 7:39.