“Two suppositions alone are compatible with the whole evidence. First, the words ἄλλος δὲ κ. τ. λ. may belong to the genuine text of the extant form of Mt, and have been early omitted (originally by the Western text) on account of the obvioous difficulty. Or, secondly, they may be a very early interpolation, absent in the first instance from the Western text only, and thus resembling the Non-Western interpolations in Luke xxii xxiv except in its failure to to obtain admission into the prevalent texts of the third and fourth centuries.
“The prima facie difficulty of the second supposition is lightened by the absence of the words from all the earlier versions, though the defectiveness of African Latin, Old Syriac, and Thebaic evidence somewhat weakens the force of this consideration. We have thought it on the whole right to give expression to this view by including the words in double brackets, though we did not feel justified in removing them from the text, and are not prepared to reject altogether the alternative supposition.”
(Hort, Notes on Select Readings, p. 22)
The CSB is particularly strange in this regard, because it features a textual footnote pointing out trivial textual variants nearby, but not for this one which involves a drastic change in meaning and in doctrine.
Let us take a closer today.
|From Westcott & Hort's 1881 Greek text|
Also supporting the inclusion of
these words (in some cases with ὕδωρ and αἷμα transposed) are Palestinian
Aramaic copies, the Ethiopic version, Middle Egyptian, quite a few Irish Vulgate
and Old Latin copies (the list includes the Book
of Mulling and the Book
of Kells and the Book
I will not review the details of what Hort, in 1881, and more recently, Willker has written regarding Macedonius and Chrysostom and Severus and the ancient (alleged) autograph of the Gospel of Matthew found on
The Revision Committee in 1881 heeded Hort’s advice somewhat, and as a result the 1881 RV featured a margin-note linked to Matthew 27:49 which stated, “Many ancient authorities add And another took a spear and pierced his side, and there came out water and blood. See John xix. 34.” If the men who translated and edited the 1984 NIV had done what they did 99% of the time – i.e., follow the Nestle-Aland compilation – then the NIV, too, would say “And someone else, taking a spear, pierced his side and there came out water and blood” in Matthew 27:49. The same can be said regarding the creators of the NASB, ESV, NNIV (that’s how I refer to the 2011 NIV, which varies drastically from the 1984 NIV), and CSB. I cannot of course judge their motives but they seem awfully fickle at this particular point.
Perhaps their fickleness is due to reluctance to admit into the text, even in double brackets or in a footnote, a textual variant which would destroy the doctrine of inerrrancy (which I have already discussed here). Philip Comfort acknowledgd in Encountering the Manuscripts (2005) that the inclusion of ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα would appear to create “a jarring contradiction.”
(Notice, by the way, that there is no distigmai in Vaticanus here – because Sepulveda would not have pointed out to Erasmus such an erroneous reading in his (Sepulveda’s) prized ancient codex.)
Operating on the premise that editors of the NIV, ESV, CSB, etc., have held (that it is an interpolation), what would motivate an early scribe to create and into the text these words?
A desire to show that some Romans, or some Jews, were merciful to Jesus as he was dying on the cross. Crucifixion is a painful experience. It can last for days. A person who ended Jesus’ torture would be understood by his contemporaries to be acting mercifully.
There is a slight anti-Judaic tendency in the Western text of Acts. I propose that there was a slight pro-Jewish tendency at work in the Alexandrian Greek transmission-line, which carried over into the Old Latin transmission-line that is represented in some Irish Old Latin copies of the Gospel of Matthew.
Before the four Gospels were collected together, our interpolator could point to his interpolation and say “Look! Not all of the Jews on the scene were bad. Sure, God destroyed Jerusalem forty years later, but there was a remnant there on Calvary; there was at least one noble Jew who defied the Romans and showed mercy to Jesus on the cross – not giving him a drink to prolong his suffering, but spearing him, in defiance of the Roman soldiers, in order to end his suffering.”
Or, the interpolation might have been made by an early pro-Roman scribe, who wished to convey that the Romans who crucified Jesus were just following orders, and had no personal vendetta against Jesus (something most first-century readers of Matthew would naturally assume), and that one of them, in an act of insubordination, speared Jesus, causing his immediate death and an end to his sufferings.
|Picture from the Rabbula Gospels|