Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Angels and Shepherds

Luke 2:15

Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἀπῆλθον ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν οἱ ἄγγελοι, καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οἱ ποιμένες ἐλάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους• διέλθωμεν κτλ.

Though the text as printed above (καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οἱ ποιμένες ἐλάλουν) receives a D rating in the first edition of Metzger's Commentary, and though I can see how καί makes sense in Luke's way of handling these sentences, I keep on struggling with the double nouns. The 'shepherd-people' is an awkward construction as it stands, and I still need to be convinced that it fits Luke. Metzger's explanation of how the words 'καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι' got left out, is, well, unfortunate (I would have gone for something like smoothing out the syntax rather than homoioteleuton). But then, weirder things happen without a viable explanation and I would not place too much worth on the need for a proper reason to explain why the text stands as it does. Still, on the other hand, there are a zillion possible explanations that could explain its insertion.
This would be a case where the discovery of an early manuscript with the reading καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι but without οἱ ποιμένες would solve all my problems. Sometimes evidence just gets in the way, doesn't it? Nothing left, then, to settle for simply 'οἱ ποιμένες'.


Peter M. Head said...

I think the shorter reading with only OI POIMENES was the prefered text (with D rating).

Dirk Jongkind said...

Peter, of course your right, and my confusion arose because I thought at one point during writing: why not have the variant text to start with rather than the NA text (without changing the phrase 'as printed above').
Still, my main point remains: a minority on the committee preferred the text I printed - and I can see where the difficulties in deciding this variant come from.

Jan Krans said...

In a different universe, I would have spotted Dirk as actually proposing a conjectural emendation ...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know what some of the zillion reasons are why a copyist might have inserted KAI OI ANQRWPOI. Looks more like a good candidate for excision, given that the subject of the previous clause comes at the end of it and is linked by KAI to OI POIMENES. Must have caused confusion in public reading more than once.

I suspect the minority on the committee must have been Matthew Black for one: see post #850 over on the tclist (27.8.09).

Anonymous said...

Commentators for yonks have been troubled by the similar Lukan construction hoi presubteroi adelphoi in Acts 15.23 - it also apparently (if it's original) raised problems for some scribes, who wanted to add in kai hoi before adelphoi.

Simon G.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

I like the longer reading here. It's much more likely that KAI OI ANQRWPOI would be lost via a parableptic error, or excised as superfluous, than that some copyist would think, "No; no; 'the shepherds' is not sufficiently clear; we need to add a new phrase here."

In other news, there's a discussion of a major early witness to the text of the Quran at


The discussion drifts, but the text-critical parts remain interesting.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Timo Flink said...

How about the possibility that both are "original" i.e. AlefB point to one version of the text and ADByz to a different version of the same text? These kinds of tc problems seems to be relatively common in Luke, so why not two versions, by Luke himself? Just a thought.

jonathancborland said...

Forgive me for quoting Burgon's The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels (ed. Edward Miller; London, George Bell & Sons, 1896), 36, where he begins chapter three, "Accidental Causes of Corruption: Homoeoteleuton," in this way:

No one who finds the syllable OI recurring six times over in about as many words -- e.g. kai egeneto ws aphlqon . . . OI angelOI, kai OI anqrwpOI OI pOImenes eipon, -- is surprised to learn that MSS. of a certain type exhibit serious perturbation in that place. Accordingly, BLXi leave out the words kai oi anqrwpoi; and in that mutilated form the modern critical editors are contended to exhibit St. Luke ii. 15. One would have supposed that Tischendorf's eyes would have been opened when he noticed that in his own Codex (Aleph) one word more (oi) is dropped, -- whereby nonsense is made of the passage (viz. oi aggeloi poimenes). Self-evident it is that a line with a 'like-ending' has been omitted by the copyist of some very early codex of St. Luke's Gospel; which either read, --


or else


Yet in addition to this, it is at least possible that the words KAI OI ANQRWPOI were removed either because (1) they were thought unnecessary, or (2) they were thought to burden the sentence or cause the possibility of a nonsense reading, i.e., the angels AND THE MEN went away from them into heaven!

Jonathan C. Borland

jonathancborland said...

The last paragraph is mine, not Burgon's. Sorry for not indicating such.

Jonathan C. Borland

The White Man said...

Maybe Luke put OI ANQRWPOI in the text to distinguish between the human shepherds and their dogs (sheep dogs being often called Shepherds, especially in America).

This could explain how the human shepherds could be free to leave their flocks and go visit the stable. The canine shepherds were left behind to watch the flocks, there being no room for a dog in the manger.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

I'm rather surprised / disappointed that this {D} rated variant got dropped from the UBS4 and 2d edition of Metzger's TC Commentary.

maurice a robinson said...

Although KAI OI ANOI could have been omitted accidentally by a scribal leap from OI^OI, I suspect the omission was deliberate, for reasons of style in order to create a smoothness of reading. I doubt that any scribes would have inserted KAI OI ANOI, thereby to make the text more complicated and difficult.

On the other hand, the mention by Simon G. [Gaithercole, I presume?] of the Ac 15:23 case smacks strongly of a scribal leap from OI^OI, producing a problematic near-nonsense reading that hardly could have been original (this as opposed to either intentional omission or a later intentional insertion of KAI OI).

Justin Kerk said...

FWIW, the correct character to use for άνω τελεία is ·, not • (which looks rather too big in most fonts).