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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Gordon Clark on Textual Criticism: Colossians 1:22


A Textual Critical Analysis of Colossians 1:21-22

[Note: To see the Greek text you will need to download the SBL fonts from this link: SBL fonts].

The following is by no means an exhaustive exegesis of Colossians or even of the pericope in which these two verses occur. However, as I was reading Gordon H. Clark's commentary on Colossians I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dr. Clark was extremely well informed on grammatical issues and textual criticism regarding the Koine Greek of the New Testament. This is especially interesting since Clark has been accused of being simply a philosopher. It turns out that his grasp of the original languages and theological issues was exemplary. In fact, he rightly points out that Bruce Metzger sided against the United Bible Societies committee and went with his own opinion in the second edition of the UBS Greek New Testament and most likely erred in doing so. The issue has to do with verse 22 in particular. Let's take a look at the verses in question in Greek and English: 


And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (Colossians 1:21-22 ESV)

Καὶ ὑμᾶς ποτε ὄντας ἀπηλλοτριωμένους καὶ ἐχθροὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς, 22 νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, (Colossians 1:21-22 GNT) (See also: Interlinear GNT).

  
Compare the above verse with the Society of Biblical Literature Greek New Testament: 

καὶ ὑμᾶς ποτε ὄντας ἀπηλλοτριωμένους καὶ ἐχθροὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς - 22 νυνὶ δὲ ⸀ἀποκατηλλάγητε ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ διὰ τοῦ θανάτου - παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, (Colossians 1:21-22 SBL) 

It is to be pointed out here that the modern translations by and large follow the eclectic theory of the critical editions of the Greek New Testament. (See: New Testament Textual Criticism). Textual criticism can be a complicated subject for those not familiar with the technical aspects of the science behind it. Do we go with the majority text or with the eclectic text of the modern editions of the Greek New Testament? That can be a complicated question since sometimes the Textus Receptus gets it right and modern critics get it wrong. The example above is evidence enough of that. However, the mistake has been corrected and the critical editions of the GNT end up affirming the Byzantine or majority text and disagreeing with Bruce Metzger. The word in question is the word for “reconciled” in verse 22. The variant reading is illustrated in the Society for Biblical Literature edition, which is essentially the opinion of one critic, not a committee. The critic in question is Michael Holmes.

So what is the big deal? The Greek lemma for both readings is ἀποκαταλλάσσω. [apokatallasso]. What is at issue is whether or not the right formation of the word is first aorist active indicative, third person singular (ἀποκατήλλαξεν) [apokatellaxen] or second aorist passive indicative, second person plural (ἀποκατηλλάγητε)? [apokatellagete]. Which manuscript evidence is the correct reading? According to Clark, the passive voice would not go with the subject of the sentence:

There is a textual problem here. Since the you [humas or ὑμᾶς plural] at the beginning of the verse is accusative, and in conformity with the subject of the verbs in verses 19 and 20, it makes easier grammar to take the verb here as third person singular, aorist active. This makes it read, “God reconciled you.” But some MSS, and the Aland text, have the second person plural, second aorist passive. This means “you were reconciled.” But although Bruce Metzger defends this reading, it reduces the sentence to nonsense. The word you is accusative and can be neither the subject nor the object of a passive verb. Some commentators try to escape this impasse by putting the first half of verse 22 in parentheses. But this leaves the you dangling. It cannot be transplanted into the parenthesis; and also with the verb inside the parenthesis the sentence is not a sentence, for it would have no finite verb. . . . Gordon H. Clark, Colossians. (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1979). Pp. 53-54.

Apparently the majority of the critics agree with Clark since most modern translations and all the critical editions go with the first aorist active, third person singular as the original reading, although the oldest readings go with the second aorist passive, second person plural. Holmes is the exception and chooses to go with Metzger's opinion which is expressed in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies: 1975).

As Clark says, sometimes the correct reading is preserved in the less ancient manuscripts since second century heretics often manipulated their copies to fit their theology. Textual criticism, like all science, is limited to what can be demonstrated unequivocally. (Ibid., Appendix, pp. 133-136).  Unfortunately that is often a matter for discussion and debate.

Addendum:  The following comment is from the NET Bible:

42 tc Some of the better representatives of the Alexandrian and Western texts have a passive verb here instead of the active ἀποκατήλλαξεν (apokatellaxen, "he has reconciled"): ἀποκατηλλάγητε (apokatellagete) in (î46) B, ἀποκατήλλακται [sic] (apokatellaktai) in 33, and ἀποκαταλλαγέντες (apokatallagentes) in D* F G. Yet the active verb is strongly supported by ‌א‎‏‎ A C D2 Ψ 048 075 [0278] 1739 1881 Û lat sy. Internally, the passive creates an anacoluthon in that it looks back to the accusative ὑμᾶς (humas, "you") of v. Col 1:21 and leaves the following παραστῆσαι (parastesai) dangling ("you were reconciled…to present you"). The passive reading is certainly the harder reading. As such, it may well explain the rise of the other readings. At the same time, it is possible that the passive was produced by scribes who wanted some symmetry between the ποτε (pote, "at one time") of v. Col 1:21 and the νυνὶ δέ (nuni de, "but now") of v. Col 1:22: Since a passive periphrastic participle is used in v. Col 1:21, there may have a temptation to produce a corresponding passive form in v. Col 1:22, handling the ὑμᾶς of v. Col 1:21 by way of constructio ad sensum. Since παραστῆσαι occurs ten words later, it may not have been considered in this scribal modification. Further, the Western reading (ἀποκαταλλαγέντες) hardly seems to have arisen from ἀποκατηλλάγητε (contra TCGNT 555). As difficult as this decision is, the preferred reading is the active form because it is superior externally and seems to explain the rise of all forms of the passive readings.

tn The direct object is omitted in the Greek text, but it is clear from context that "you" (ὑμᾶς, humas) is implied.

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