Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Longer Reading in Matthew 25:13

           A textual variant in Matthew 25:13 may shed some light on a mechanism that elicited some expansions in the Byzantine Text.  In the EOB-NT, Matthew 25:13 reads, “Watch, therefore, for you do not know the day or the hour that the Son of Man is coming.”  The words “that the Son of Man is coming” are framed by “<” and “>.”  The WEB, based on the Majority Text, says similarly, “Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”  The KJV reads similarly, and the Textus Receptus agrees with the Byzantine Textform at this point.  In the EHV, Matthew 25:13 only says, “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  There is no footnote in the EHV to indicate the existence of the longer Byzantine reading. 

          The ESV, CSB, NIV, and NASB all end the verse at the word “hour.”  The NLT, apparently abandoning its base-text, continues with “of my return.”

          What’s going on here?  Did Matthew write the words ν υἱὸς το νθρπου ερχεται or not?

          Short answer:  Not.

          The Byzantine/Majority Text supports the inclusion of “in which the Son of Man is coming,” but the Peshitta does not.  Codices A, D, L, W, Δ, and Σ end the verse with ραν (hour).  So do some minuscules, including 33, the first hand of 157, 892, and the first hand of 1424.   The Alexandrian codices À and B weigh in for the shorter reading, and so do P35 and Codex D, and patristic witnesses such as Chrysostom, Athanasius, and Augustine.  The Vulgate and the Old Latin also solidly support the shorter reading here.

          To perceive what has happened here, it is helpful to know that Matthew 25:1-13 was the lection assigned to the 17th Saturday after Pentecost in the Byzantine lectionary.  (It is also a lection in Lectionary 846, to be read in honor of female virgins and martyrs.)  When this segment is read separately from the rest of the chapter, the final sentence was expanded to tell listeners what day and hour were referred to (perhaps using Mt. 24:42 and 24:44 as a model). 

          This expansion can be seen happening in Byzantine manuscripts.  In Codex Y (034), the verse ends ραν in the text, but someone – apparently the same person who supplemented the manuscript for lection-reading – added in the margin, “εν η υς του ανου ερχεται.”  There’s the longer variant.

          Bruce Metzger’s dismissal of the longer reading is correct, but his explanation for its existence (as a “pedantic addition”) seems to show little appreciation for the influence of the lectionary on the Byzantine Text.  When Metzger wrote his Textual Commentary, he was all-in on Hort’s now-defunct theory of the Lucianic Recension.   A more mature Metzger would probably adjust his wording, acknowledging the longer reading as having been made under the influence of lectionary-usage.

          When was the longer reading introduced?  Probably sometime after Codex A (400s), and before 017 (Cyprius) (800s) and the marginalia in 034 (800s, if the marginalia is of the same date as the main text).  [Update:  Andy Vogan has observed that 07, assigned to the 700s, also has the longer reading.]  Someone influenced by a lectionary, wishing to benignly introduce an expansion at the end of Mt. 25:13 to wrap up a lection, created the longer reading, and it was so edifying that so many scribes adopted it that it eventually became the majority reading.  The removal of such intrusions into the text can be achieved relatively easily by filtering the majority text against the Alexandrian Text, the Western Text, and the text of family Π.



Demian said...

Thank you James! Tatian's Diatessaron (section 43:21) and Jerome in his commentary on Matthew have both the short version, too.

Richard Fellows said...

Interesting. Is there a way to quantify how quickly additions like this spread by mixture? I am thinking that it should be possible to get a sense of the relationship between the date of an addition, its popularity in the mss, and its usefulness to the readers. Should additions be treated differently from other types of variants by CBGM, because they often do not indicate genealogical descent? Are they?

Do you think the addition entered the text via a margin?

Is there any other evidence that codex Y used two exemplars?