Wednesday, September 16, 2009

'the sceptre of his kingdom' (Heb 1.8 in P46 et al)

Here is a very interesting variant reading, and a place where one might certainly question (at least at first sight) whether the NA26=27 text has it right. In the citation of Ps 44.7-8LXX at Hebrews 1.8-9, P46, 01 and 03 read AUTOU: 'and the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of his kingdom'.
In favour of this reading we could immediately suggest:
a) it has outstanding early manuscript support;
b) it is unassimilated to any known LXX reading (hence transcriptional probability suggests the movement to harmonise the reading to the LXX); and
c) it is the harder reading (since it is not clear to whom the pronoun refers).
The main difficulty with AUTOU seems to be internal. Hebrews introduces the citation as God's address to the son (1.8), and this fits the pronouns, including three definite occurrences of SOU and one SE. The AUTOU reading interrupts this pattern, whereas the alternative reading SOU maintains the pattern ('your throne ... your kingdom ... your God ... your fellows'). AUTOU disrupts the pattern in two ways: it introduces a third person pronoun without any clear antecedent (whose kingdom is 'his kingdom' in this context?); and secondly the only logical answer is that AUTOU refers to God, but since the whole citation is presented as a declaration of God directed to the Son, a reference to 'his kingdom' doesn't really fit.

So I would prefer to read SOU here, but I think perhaps I should actually read AUTOU. What do you think?

Here is P46 (just for interest):


  1. The words are a quotation of Ps (44)45:7, which has SOU, too.
    AUTOU would make sense, if one takes hO QEOS as nominative here:
    "Thy throne is God,
    forever and ever,
    a scepter of righteousness
    is the scepter of his kingdom."

    Or, perhaps, if a scribe took only the first part as a quotation:
    But unto the Son he said,
    "Thy throne, O God,
    is forever and ever."
    A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of his (i.e. the son's) kingdom.

    Even if AUTOU is original, SOU is right.

  2. It seems to me an over-zealous scribe thought he could show his enemies that Jesus is God. And, since vs 8 omits LEGEI, what better chance than to have AUTOU refer to QEOS (this is its clear antecedent). I say over-zealous since the SOU is a stronger reading for the Son's deity, but the scribe just wasn't paying close attention. Scribes often got very emotional with such passages as these.

  3. Anonymous, you forgot the appropriate emoticons ;-) after every sentence of your funny comment.

    Although you wouldn't believe it, but there are always some reader who do not get the joke and take such comments at face value.

    Ulrich Schmid

  4. a) it has outstanding early manuscript support;

    How many manuscripts have been collated for this passage?

    What is the early patristic evidence for this reading?

    b) it is unassimilated to any known LXX reading (hence transcriptional probability suggests the movement to harmonise the reading to the LXX);

    How many LXX mss have been collated for the source of this quotation?

    What other readings exist in the LXX at this juncture?

    c) it is the harder reading (since it is not clear to whom the pronoun refers).

    What other readings exist at this juncture?

    Are any of them ambiguous as to antecedent?

  5. Hey White Man,
    I was assuming most readers would have NA27 or something similar in front of them. The other reading is SOU.
    Your other questions are too hard. I only looked at P46. I am confident that 01 and 03 support AUTOU as well (with my general confidence in the accuracy of the NA27 apparatus). I could check them too but it would take five minutes. I haven't checked the Goettingen LXX (only Rahlfs), nor Holmes and Parsons, nor collated all LXX mss myself at this point; I haven't looked for patristic citations; I haven't checked Text und Textwert; I recall Alan Cadwallader's article on harmonisation to LXX in Hebrews but haven't checked it on this verse. Nor have I looked at many commentaries, bibliographies, Metzger, Zuntz, or Wikipedia on this issue.
    My gut feeling is that none of these would add any evidence of substance; but some might have interesting arguments as to the direction of variation. I was hoping my learned readers might have something to offer.

  6. Cadwallader thinks the passage remains problematic. He says on p. 260 n 21:

    "Aland's first rule for textual criticism is a little too neat (280); but every effort has been given to achieve a decision. In the table, 1:8 αυτου / σου is
    clearly problematic (see B.M. Metzger, A Textual
    Commentary on the Greek New Testament (U.B.S., 1971) 662)."

    When he subsequently presents the critical text and attestation for 1:8 in a table on p. 262 he adds this note (n. 31):

    "The decision for αυτου is clearly influenced by a decision to take o θεος as a nominative just as Metzger (663) acknowledged. However, he and the majority of the committee opted for the vocative."

  7. Which way did you go in your commentary Tommy?

  8. Gert Steyn apparently discusses two examples from Hebrews in his. "Which 'LXX' Are We Talking about in NT Scholarship? Two Examples from Hebrews." In Die Septuaginta: Texte, Kontexte, Lebenswelten. Internationale Fachtagung veranstaltet von Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D), Wuppertal 20.-23. Juli 2006, ed. Martin Karrer and Wolfgang Kraus, 697-707. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 219. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

    The chance is very small that Heb 1:8 should be one of the two examples since there are loads of LXX citations in Hebrews, but it should at least be checked.

  9. Peter, as you know I commented on the text of Hebrews in the official Swedish translation Bibel2000 reflecting σου in this passage. In general, I had little opportunity to discuss text-critical issues.

  10. Yeah, but surely in your own background research ...! Only teasing!

  11. It is interesting to compare the situation in 1.12 with WS IMATION. This is read here by P46 01 02 03 1739 and is omitted by everyone else (presumably due to harmonisation to the LXX which lacks it here).

  12. Peter, don't tease me, I might publish some fabulous photos from my grand collection ;-)

  13. OK. So I got round to checking Metzger's Textual Commentary. First point: the committee was divided on this one. Second point: the internal considerations are decisive. Third point: makes no attempt to explain how AUTOU arose from SOU. Fourth point: if you read AUTOU then it must follow that O QEOS is not vocative. Not much of an argument actually (imho).

  14. I couldn't find this discussed in Zuntz (although it seems like it should be, maybe I missed it, Mike?); but I did find a note that he thinks the SOU in the fifth line of the photo is a correction (of a mere slip) (p. 256). I don't think this is right by the way.

  15. Ah, I found it in Zuntz on p. 63. It is in a list of passages where he thinks P46 and Alexandrian witnesses preserve the correct reading over against the bulk of other evidence, and attributes the other reading to harmonisation to LXX (by identifying SOU as ex LXX). So Zuntz is def. in favour of AUTOU; as were some member(s) of the editorial committee for UBS/NA.

  16. It is not discussed in F.F. Bruce, “Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” David Alan Black, ed., Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honour of J Harold Greenlee. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns,
    1992. Hbk. ISBN: 0931464706. pp.27-39.

  17. Ehrman takes SOU as original and the AUTOU as somehow oriented to Anti-patripassianist corruptions (not in my opinion the most convincing section of his book): Christ is no longer identified as God but made subordinate. (Orthodox Corruption, 265). Methinks looking at this from the other way around may be more helpful.

  18. Are there any decent arguments in favour of the text as printed?

  19. Seven comments in a row ... are you trying to break that record again?

  20. REB, NJB and NASB all read "his" (and all continue to take QEOS as vocative [NJB is perhaps a little ambiguous]). Up till NA25 this was the Nestle reading so there may be others too.

  21. Hmm. Just a minute here. At ETC, there is a focused discussion of a specific textual variant.

    . . .

    What have you done with Dr. Head, alien?

    SOU seems to be the more probable reading. AUTOU is a scribe's attempt at clarification; the hope being that it would be clear that the kingdom = the Son's kingdom. Even though this is already obvious when one takes in the entire passage.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  22. JS: "a focused discussion of a specific textual variant"

    Therefore I think the author of the main post should add it to our "index locorum" in the right sidebar where Jim and others will find ETC discussions of specific passages. I admit that I am a bit too lazy to do this sometimes. There are many more discussions in our archive than these. It is of course possible to use the search facility in the top left corner.

  23. It would be a strange clarification to use AUTOU to make clear that the kingdom = the Son's kingdom when that is precisely what SOU already indicates and AUTOU obscures.
    An Alien inhabiting PMH

  24. While you're at it, take his avatar too.

  25. There is a discussion of this variant in M.J. Harris, 'HO THEOS in Hebrews 1:8-9' Tyndale Bulletin 36 (1985), 136-138. He opts for SOU (without any good argument) - interestingly he explains AUTOU as possibly arising because THEOS was taken as nominative. It is interesting because this would make this reading very early evidence for the non-vocative reading of THEOS (which Harris is arguing against).

  26. So basically if TC has any rigourous method based on the manuscripts we ought to read AUTOU here. Prefering SOU is basically the same as prefering conjecture - a nice smooth reading which is what we wish Hebrews had written.

  27. Hort believed that any confluence of 01 and 03 was nearly always the original reading. Does adding a papyrus to that formula result in a removal of the "nearly?"

  28. Peter,

    I don't have the Tyndale Bulletin 36, but M.J. Harris give a fairly complete weighing of the evidence in Jesus as God, 1992. He lists all the issues you have mentioned. He reads SOU but admits that the evidence is fairly evenly balanced.

    From the perspective text linguistics, there is presupposition in favor of textual coherence and cohesion and it would seem that the third person pronoun is a very glaring violation of the readers expectations in this regard. I know that this sort of reasoning is goes contrary to the canons of TC (more difficult reading).

  29. ... of course, if we were to push the coherence and cohesion requirement up against Paul's epistles we would run into big trouble very quickly. Paul regularly raises the "the cost of processing" way over and beyond the expectation of rewards for reading him. One might be tempted to ask, is it worth the trouble to read Paul? But that isn't a TC issue.

  30. With respect to Hebrews 1.8 in P46, all of you have been led astray by this "copy" of the original. The error is not so much the words, nor the appearance of AUTOU at 1.8, but rather the *arrangement* of the words and the lack of an ability to rightly divide the text.

    Having said that, to the credit of P46 it does preserve of the original reading, but the arrangement of the words is skewed because the scribe of P46 was unable to produce a "root reading" (he had no ROOT in himself). NA 27 is of no help to you either.

    The lines you speak of read as follows:

    "The scepter 6 he placed (there) rules, and that of himself," i.e., it was of his own doing.

    Where and when the syntax forces a root reading in the Scripture, the scribes will always miss it. This is how you know what is the original autograph and what is just a wanna-be scroll.

    Even Judas knew which scroll to kiss!


    Mark Thunderson

  31. Dear Tommy & Peter,
    as with some other OT Quotations in Hebrews, the text quoted in the NT might actually have been around in some LXX manuscript. Have you checked the LXX Psalms papyrus Bodmer XXIV (ed. Kasser / Testuz), which is not in Rahlfs' edition? Cf. the article by S.Docherty published in NTS 2009.
    The reading "God is thy throne" is, by the way, watchtower society's reading.
    Some mss of the Syriac OT has actually in Ps 45 "the throne of God is forever"
    (ܟܘܪܣܝܗ ܕܐܠܗܐ ܠܥܠܡ ܥܠܡܝܢ), but it was corrected in later mss to the normal reading ܟܘܪܣܝܟ ܐܠܗܐ "thy throne, oh God ...".

  32. RE: LXX variants.

    None are listed in the CCAT list of variants at Penn state.

    ( search for ~x44y7 to get Psalms 44:7. The section in question is listed under ~z2)

    This may not mean much, since it's based on Ralphs. My copy of Benton reads sou, though Benton seldom includes many variants.

  33. While AUTOU [with p46 Aleph B] is indeed early, it also seems to be extremely localized, indicating perhaps a secondary origin. It is possible that AUTOU arose from the third-person vantage point of an observer like that of a scribe, although one could argue that Paul wrote AUTOU with the same reasoning. See John 4:51, where a scribe viewing the event from a later time may have been more likely to have introduced AUTOU, although John certainly could have written AUTOU by the same reasoning.

    Certainly when an author deviates from the LXX (which apparently happened if AUTOU is original), it is reasonable that some scribes would have taken notice and "corrected" the author. But all mss but three? And those three very much related? Such seems a little too improbable to me.

    While it is possible that the Byzantines perfectly redacted the rest of Heb 1:8 to the LXX, it is also possible that the author of Hebrews actually quoted the LXX more accurately than generally assumed (cf. the rest of Heb 1:9-13 with the LXX). Also, if the Byzantines were so concerned with perfect alignment with the LXX, why did they not correct ELIXEIS in 1:12 to the generally received LXX's ALLAXEIS? Why do a few deviate from the generally received LXX's ANOMIAN in 1:9, where their apparently non-harmonized ADIKIAN is generally rejected? Just as deviation from the LXX does not always indicate authenticity, alignment with the LXX should not necessarily indicate spuriousness.

  34. I would be very happy with SOU if I could easily understand the change from SOU to AUTOU.

  35. Influence of 2 Sam 7:16, with a number of related catchwords?

    Influence of 'his kingdom' from any other NT text?

    Scribe with a lisp, βασιλειας σου will sound similar to βασιλειας /af/του?

    Take your pick.

  36. I would think that 2 Sam 7.16 might explain the presence of AUTOU at the level of authorial text.

  37. I would love to read a paper on the impact on lisping and other speech idiosyncracies on the scribal tradition.

  38. Perhaps an original text lacking any pronoun would explain the divergence.

  39. Here's Hort's view:

  40. What other readings exist in the LXX at this juncture?

    Hort lists two right off the bat:

    (1) LXX39 with p46 ‭א A B D* 0243 33 1739 pc it vg has kai before the second clause of v. 6;

    (2) LXX142 "wholly or partly agrees" with p46 ‭א1 A B 0243 33 1739 pc in the interchange of subject and predicate.

    Let's look at the implications.

    (1). The LXX generally does not have kai, but the reading was not unknown.
    Ψ Byz it(t) vg(cl) syr don't have kai either, but p46 ‭א A B D* do (a corrector struck it from D). So while the 'big three' can't be accused of assimilating to the LXX generally, the possibility that they were affected by LXX39 should be investigated. As should the reading of d.

    (2). Here is another place where the 'big three' could possibly be guilty of assimilation to the LXX, if the same standards apply. p46 ‭א1 A B 0243 33 1739 pc all agree to some extent with LXX142 in reading ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος, while D Ψ Byz are assimilated to the rest of the LXX.

    So, to conclude:

    1. There are four cited variants in this quotation from the Greek OT; in all four, B is on the other side of the question from the majority of mss. One might wonder if this was the sole criterion for listing a variant in NA (apparently the WH text was the first to include all 4 of B's readings, at least as alternates).

    2. Support for the reading of B varies between the four variants. IOW, not a single mss reads as does B for this quotation--and we are only talking so far about the first of the two verses. The two ms that come the closest (75%) are p46 and 33 (diverging only once, but on different variants). Since 33 alone of cited mss stays with B in reading whatever it reads for εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος (Hort doesn't agree with NA27 here), I doubt it can be blamed on a Byzantine corrector. But this should at any rate be looked into.

    3. I fail to notice any ms that actually quotes verbatim from the LXX here--although I don't have a critical text of the LXX available. This much is evident, that Vaticanus does not even quote itself verbatim. Sinaiticus would also be worth looking into in this regard, especially as it has a major deletion that was corrected at 1:8.

    The LXX reads εἰς αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, but the majority reading in the NT mss is εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, with only the exception of B reading (according to Hort) εἰς αἰῶνα αἰῶνος or (according to LaParola, joined by 33; also, according to Münster, by P114, although it's beyond me how one could prove an omission from such a tattered fragment) εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. So the charge of assimilation to the LXX falls rather flat, just with the limited information brought forward so far.

    Transliteration: Ψ=Psi ‭א=Aleph εἰς=eis τ=t ὸ=o ν=n ῦ=u αἰῶνα=aiwna -ος=-os

    Finally, here is how the 'big three' translate for the LXX quotation in Hebrews 1:8, as well as I can reconstruct them from LaParola (differences in caps):

    Aleph: The throne of yours, O God, is to the age OF THE AGE, and the scepter of the righteousness a scepter of his.

    B: The throne of yours, O God, is to the age, and the scepter of the righteousness a scepter of THE KINGDOM of his.

    p46: The throne of yours, O God, is to the age OF THE AGE, and the scepter of the righteousness a scepter of the kingdom of his.

    Now, NA27 actually reads with p46 throughout this verse, but here are two differences from the rest of the quote in v. 9 that I was able to detect from the image.

    p46 vs NA27

    It looks like we are going to hit 50 comments on this one, Peter. I had a feeling you were heading in that direction a while earlier.

  41. Where do people get this obsession with 50 comments from?

  42. The number of comments don't define the importance of the post.

  43. Anyway, 45 comments is quite respectable.

  44. I should invent a sock-poppet to do this job for me.

  45. Daniel,
    I think re KAI and LXX39 it would look more likely that this late minuscule was itself assimilated to the form of the text in the NT (and probably similar with LXX142 - later influence of the NT citation on the transmission of the LXX).

    Thus w.r.t. KAI, H RABDOS THS EUQUTHTOS, and AUTOU, P46 is always on the unharmonised side of the equation.

  46. "His kingdom" is doubtlessly the correct reading.

    The sense of verse 8 is that God is the source of the Messiah's everlasting throne, which he has not granted to angels.

    The speaker throughout Hebrews 1 is not God, but the Scriptures.

    The reading 'your kingdom' is either an orthodox textual corruption or an assimilation to the LXX.

  47. If a reading is found later in the mss tradition, is an assimilation to the LXX, is the easier reading, and is the more theologically attractive reading, it is most undoubtedly spurious.

    In his textual commentary, Metzger sides with the later variant and gives it a "B." Personally, I give Metzger an "F."