Saturday, October 6, 2012

Christ's Body: Broken or Given? Part IV

As noted in the previous post, most modern translations reveal that, when handling the textual variations of I Cor. 11:24, the superior reading is "this is my body which is for you." This conclusion has been reached because the other options have been ruled out due to "inferior" qualities. For example, as far as manuscript evidence for I Cor. 11:24 is concerned, there are no Greek manuscripts that are identical with Luke's statement (i.e. "this is my body given for you"). The complete lack of Greek manuscripts automatically qualifies that peculiar textual variation as inferior in the eyes of modern textual critics; and rightly so. It is very difficult to imagine anyone attempting to reconstruct an original Greek translation using only non-Greek                             manuscripts. In theory that is possible, but it's not likely.1

This leaves only two more possible statements by Paul, one of which says "this is my body shattered for you," and the other which says, "this is my body broken for you." The big problem with the first reading is that only one manuscript from the fifth century contains it, and it is not even the primary text on the surface of that manuscript either, but rather is the faded, partially erased handwriting contained alongside the rest of the text. And furthermore, that manuscript in which it is found also happens to be a bilingual manuscript, and the Greek text differs with the corresponding text in the accompanying language! In other words, the Greek text which says "this is my body shattered for you" doesn't even translate properly with the corresponding text within the same manuscript! It doesn't take much imagination to understand why this is considered an inferior reading. The manuscript in question has words which have probably been erased and written over numerous times by various scribes, and the additional word -- "shattered" -- doesn't even correspond with the other language in which the manuscript is translated.

This leaves us with one last option to consider: the phrase, "this is my body broken for you". Much to my own surprise, when I looked into the supporting manuscript evidence for this variation by Paul, I found that there is an overwhelming amount of textual support for it. But as I mentioned at the beginning of the last post, the Greek text which underlies the KJV -- the translation which provides this textual variation -- is "generally regarded as an inferior form" and "the least valuable".2  One of the reasons this textual variation is considered inferior is because it appears to contradict the theology of John's gospel, which says that not one of Jesus' bones would be broken. But besides that apparent theological contradiction (which will be explained in a future post), the only other reason for disregarding the KJV translation is because the modern theory of textual transmission is so radically different than the one used for the KJV.

And so, since the entire widespread transmission of manuscript evidence in support of the King James translation are presumed to be an inferior form and the least valuable of all manuscript traditions, this only leaves one "superior" reading of text from which to choose: "this is my body which is for you"; and that variation of text is found only in modern translations of the Bible.

But what most scholars don't tell you is this: There are only seven copies of Scriptural manuscripts copied with the original Greek language that contain this allegedly "superior" reading. Let me repeat that information just in case it slipped by you unnoticed: there are only seven copies total which contain a Greek reading. Admittedly, one of the seven manuscripts is definitely old, dating to around A.D. 200;and two more manuscripts which also agree are purported to originate in the fourth century.4 But that minuscule amount of early manuscript evidence hardly justifies its "superior" quality. Even if you include the remaining four Greek manuscripts into the equation, two of which come from the fifth century,5 and the remaining two from the 9th century and later,6 the blatantly obvious flaw with this theory is that the presumably "superior" reading is found in only seven copies of the Greek New Testament, and only three of them are very old!

Add to this list only six more references7 mentioned in passing8 by theologians who lived around the south & south-eastern border of the Mediterranean (which also happens to be the same general location from which the three very old Greek manuscripts originated!), and one Armenian translation dated in the 6th century (which, interestingly enough, was also translated from Greek manuscripts located in the south-eastern border of the Mediterranean), and what you find is that the total combined amount of manuscripts in support of the modern "superior" reading is a whopping fourteen, and only one of them is a legitimately older copy of the Greek New Testament (p46) -- that is to say, legitimately older than the copies which support the allegedly "inferior" KJV manuscripts. And remember, all of them originate from the same general south & south-eastern border of the Mediterranean, and no where else in the world. To some seriously invested and hostile critics of the KJV, this might not appear to be enough evidence to place the text of modern translations in a position of inferiority, but this is only what a cursory glance has to offer us.

The manuscript evidence which supports the KJV also has early support ranging all the way back to the 4th century,9 but a lot of scholars instinctively regard those textual variations as unimportant because they presume that entire textual tradition is inferior. But in fact, this can't be the case because, with respect to I Cor. 11:24, two of the manuscripts which contain the "superior" reading also contain the word "broken" (as found in the KJV) on the main page. And one of those manuscripts is even considered to be one of the oldest Greek manuscripts ever discovered! At some point in time, perhaps immediately upon copying those manuscripts, perhaps centuries later, the word "broken" was hand-written on the face of those manuscripts as an alternative rendering.

Consider this evidence also: there is one other "superior" manuscript which contains the "inferior" textual variation underlying the KJV translation, but that inferior text is written in the margin of the manuscript, not the face. The bottom line of what I'm saying is that three of the seven copies of the Greek New Testament which support the "superior" text also contain the inferior text as well, which is evidence that the allegedly inferior text had an early existence alongside other early manuscripts.

If one were to question the modern theory of textual transmission and the alleged "inferiority" of later manuscripts which support the KJV translation, there wouldn't be much evidence remaining in favor of the statement "this is my body which is for you." In fact, apart from the six references made in passing from early theologians (in the 3rd, 4th, & 5th centuries), the manuscript evidence would reduce to only two manuscripts which fairly represent the "superior" reading: one from the 5th century (Codex A) and one from the 9th century (minuscule 33).

The question may still be asked, "What is all of this supposed to mean to me?"

Well, when compared with other available manuscripts, there isn't much evidence to lend credibility toward the presumption that the phrase, "this is my body broken for you," is an inferior textual variation; certainly no more credible than the claim of superiority attributed to the statement, "this is my body which is for you." Rather, at best, modern theories of textual transmission tend to provide a more convenient set of choices from which to choose textual variations. In the case of I Cor. 11:24, modern theories make the latter option, "this is my body which is for you", the more convenient choice, not the more authentic choice. The sheer volume and widespread breadth of textual evidence is overwhelmingly in support of the King James translation of I Cor. 11:24 (i.e. "this is my body which is broken for you").10

In the next post of this series I will attempt to tackle the alleged theological contradiction of the KJV translation.

1.  That is to say, it is unlikely apart from the exception of an extremely rare occurrence within the Greek text that necessitates the correction of incomplete syntax, and that incomplete section of syntax can only be fulfilled when an older manuscript of a different language (like Latin) is used. One possibility of this rare occurrence is found in I John 5:7-8.
2.  Bruce Metzger & Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: It's Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration [Oxford University Press: New York, NY; 2005] p. 67, 70
3.  Ibid.,  p. 54; The one genuinely old manuscript containing I Cor. 11:24 is Papyrus 46.
4.  Codices B (Vaticanus) and Aleph* (Sanaiticus)
5.  Codices A (Alexandrinus) and C* (Ephraemi)
6.  Minuscules 33 and 1739*
7.  Cyprian of Carthage (3rd century), Origen of Alexandria (3rd century), Athanasius of Alexandria (4th century), Pelagius of Rome (late 4th century), Cyril of Alexandria (5th century), and Fulgentius of North Africa (late 5th century).
8.  As Jakob Van Bruggen has succinctly noted, "It also often appears that the Church Fathers only quoted in part and freely, so that one can hardly conclude from the form of their quotation the form of the text they read in the New Testament." Jakob Van Bruggen, The Ancient Text of the New Testament [Premier Publishing: Winnipeg; 1994, fifth printing] p. 22. Also, in a critical review of the textual critic, Kurt Aland, the New Testament scholar, Wilbur Pickering, notes that "Something Aland does not explain, but that absolutely demands attention, is the extent to which these early Fathers apparently cited neither the Egyptian nor the Majority texts -- about half the time. Should this be interpreted as evidence against the authenticity of both the Majority and Egyptian texts? Probably not, and for the following reason: a careful distinction must be made between citation, quotation, and transcription. A responsible person transcribing a copy will have the exemplar before him and will try to reproduce it exactly. A person quoting a verse or two from memory is liable to a variety of tricks of the mind and may create new readings which do not come from any textual tradition. A person citing a text in a sermon will predictably vary the turn of phrase for stylistic reasons. All Patristic citation needs to be evaluated with this distinction in mind and must not be pushed beyond its limits." -- Wilbur Pickering ThM PhD, A Review of "The Text of the Church," by Kurt Aland [Trinity Journal, 1987; published in the Spring of 1989] 8NS:131-144
9.  Codex Aleph (Sanaiticus) has been dated as one of the "oldest" Greek manuscripts in existence, and it contains a faded, hand-made correction of the word "broken" in I Cor. 11:24. Also, Basil of Caesarea, Chrysostom of Constantinople, and Pseudo-Ambrose -- all 4th century theologians -- include the word "broken" in their references to I Cor. 11:24. Also, the Byzantine Lectionary (547 A.D.), which originated during the 4th century, contains a reading of I Cor. 11:24 with the word "broken" in it. And finally, the Gothic and Syriac Peshito translations of the 4th century both contain it; most noteworthy about the Peshito translation is that its textual tradition assuredly dates from at least the late 4th century. Some textual critics, such as Frederick Scrivener in his classic work, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, have even suggested that it's regular use in worship can safely be traced back to the 2nd century. The textual critic, Dean Burgon, also contended for the plausibility of the Syriac Peshito translation originating in the 2nd century, although he admits that there is no extant manuscript which can be dated prior to the late 4th century.
10.  The manuscript support for the KJV translation of I Cor. 11:24, which says "this is my body broken for you," can be found in 42 manuscripts, not including many extra copies of Syriac Peshito translation collected over the past few centuries. These 42 manuscripts which support the insertion of the word "broken" in I Cor. 11:24 are: Codex Aleph (4th century, corrected), C3 (5th century), Db (6th century), Codex Athos (8th century), Dc (9th century), G (9th century), K (9th century), P (9th century), minuscules 81 (1044 A.D), 88 (12th century), 104 (1087 A.D.), 181 (11th century), 326 (12th century), 330 (12th century), 436 (11th century), 451 (11th century), 614 (13th century), 629 (14th century), 630 (14th century), 1241 (12th century), 1739 (10th century, marginal note), 1877 (14th century), 1881 (14th century), 1962 (11th century), 1984 (14th century), 1985 (1561 A.D.), 2127 (12th century), 2492 (13th century), 2495 (14th century), the Byzantine Lectionary (547 A.D., but the origins of which trace back to the 4th century), Old Latin manuscripts d (5th century), e (9th century), and g (9th century), Syriac Peshito (4th century or earlier), Syriac Harclean (sixth century), Gothic (4th century), and references from Ambrosiaster (4th century), Basil (379), Chrysostom (407), Euthalius (5th century), Theodoret (466),  and John-Damascus (749). 

No comments:

Post a Comment