Leaving the Gospels momentarily, today we explore a textual variant in the Pauline Epistles: in First Corinthians 10:9, did the text originally say “Nor let us tempt Christ” (Χριστόν) or “Nor let us tempt the Lord” (Κύριον) or “Nor let us tempt God” (Θεόν)? All three readings are nomina sacra (sacred names, usually written in contracted form), and thus, with the nomina sacra in play, amount to the difference between ΧΝ, ΚΝ, and ΘΝ.
|Erasmus' text of I Cor. 10:9 (1522)|
English Bibles in use today with “Christ” in First Corinthians 10:9 include the KJV, NKJV, EOB (Eastern Orthodox Bible), WEB, EHV, and also the CSB, ESV, NET, NIV 2011, NLT, NCV (New Century Version), and NRSV.
|I Cor. 10:9 (Nicolaus Gerbel, 1521)|
|I Cor. 10:9 (Fell, 1675)|
Now let’s look at some text-critical data:
|Fell's footnote (1675)|
|I Cor. 10:9 in Codex Sinaiticus|
Osburn’s thorough list extends to two other readings:
Codex A, 2 81 1127 1595 and 14 other minuscules (and 2815 which Osburn did not list, but Swanson does) read Θεόν.
Nothing appears between ἐκπειράζωμεν and καθως in 97 1729* 1985 and 2659.
earliest support for Χριστόν is Marcion (the arch-heretic from
Also in support of Χριστόν are Ambrosiaster, Ephraem Syrus, Pelagius, Augustine, Pseudo-Oecumenius, and Theophylact. Chrysostom also cites I Cor. 10:9 with Χριστόν three times.
Κύριον is supported by Epiphanius, Theodoret of Cyrrhus (in a substantial quotation in his commentary on the Pauline Epistles), Cassiodorus, John of Damascus, and Sedulius Scotus. Chrysostom is cited as using κύριον once.
Now let’s analyze this evidence and reach a conclusion.
|I Cor. 10:9 in Tregelles' text.|
Χριστόν has in its favor the support of very early and geographically diverse patristic witnesses. The discovery of P46 with Χριστόν (written as ΧΡΝ - see BP II f.49 in the online Chester Beatty Papyrus Collection on the fourth line from the bottom) probably should have instantly elicited a change in the critical text here, inasmuch as with its discovery, Χριστόν scores high on multiple metrics: it is the reading of the oldest manuscript; it is the reading of the most manuscripts (by far); it is the reading of the most diverse array of manuscripts; it is the reading favored by a strong combination of early patristic writers. About the only counter-argument that favors Κύριον is the internal consideration that Paul would be unlikely to have written that the Hebrews in the wilderness tempted Christ – but as indicated in a note in the NET, Osburn built an effective cumulative argument that the case against Χριστόν driven by this internal evidence is weak. I cannot think of any reason but haste, and perhaps over-reliance on the work of Tregelles (who had no access to P46) to elicit the Tyndale House GNT’s adoption of κύριον. It was due to over-reliance upon À and B that κύριον was ever adopted in printed Greek New Testaments; hopefully the days of such over-reliance, repeatedly shown to be merely a disguised bias, are behind us.
Χριστόν merits confident inclusion in the text.