Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A New Word from a Non-word in Your NA28?

At 2 Peter 2.14, the majority of Greek witnesses describe a group of people “having eyes full of an adulteress” (ὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντες μεστοὺς μοιχαλίδος). Charles Bigg concluded in his ICC commentary that the majority of manuscripts “are certainly wrong” since the sense “absolutely requires μοιχείας [adultery]” (p. 283). I suspect that some scribes agreed with Bigg and that explains why we find μοιχείας in 044 and 2344. “Adulteress” (μοιχαλίδος) is certainly the lectio difficilior and should be preferred as it is in most editions (NA28, SBLGNT, WH, Tischendorf).

This is all straightforward enough. But there is a third reading involved here which is μοιχαλίας, a reading which Metzger’s commentary will tell you is unknown elsewhere. A look at LSJ and a search of TLG basically confirm this. LSJ has nothing and, aside from two quotes of this verse from Ephrem, TLG only turns up a single example of μοιχαλίας which is from a first century copy of an astronomical text. Surprisingly, this unattested word has some hefty manuscript support in 01, 02, 33 and about half a dozen minuscules.

What I can’t figure out is why the NA28/UBS5 have changed the spelling from the NA27/UBS4 so that it now reads μοιχαλείας. We know the ECM doesn’t list spelling differences involving ει-ι interchanges (p. 27*), but this appears to be a case where they have changed the spelling as it is found in our extant witnesses. I checked about half of those cited in the ECM and they all attest μοιχαλίας (see below).

I can’t figure out any rationale for this change. Any ideas?

2 Peter 2.14 in 01, 02, 33, 436, and 621


  1. If the word is thought to be a blend of μοιχαλίς and μοιχείας, then the μοιχαλείας spelling would be appropriate. These two endings are often confused in the manuscripts, see BDF § 23 for a general and compact discussion. Orthography in our critical texts is editorial, so the manuscripts' spelling is not decisive over other considerations.

    1. Or maybe it was μοιχείας that was read as μοιχίας (-ιας for -ειας) and that was confused with μοιχαλίς = μοιχαλίας. That makes more sense since it produces the spelling we actually have. This is basically Bigg's suggestion. He notes a similar type of error in 01 in 2 Pet 2.18 where the scribe has written μαθηταιοτητος for ματαιοτητος probably because he had μαθητης in mind.

  2. One would think that the "editorial" regularization of orthography should be limited to what appears in the main text, and not include standardization of variant forms relating to particular manuscripts cited in the apparatus. Are not some other words in the NA28 apparatus retained in various states of misspelling as they were in NA27? Certainly such appears to be the case in relation to many proper name variations.

    In this regard, Swanson's material offers a better solution, one that at times may help (in light of certain misspellings) determine the cause of several other variants that might appear within the same unit.

  3. I can't figure out any rationale for English translations, regardless of their text base, consistently rendering μοιχείας. Textual critics go to all this work, and the translators just go ahead and pick the easier reading anyway?

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  5. "Eyes full of an adulteress," makes much more sense than "eyes full of adultery." The lustful eye desires to gaze upon the figure of an attractive woman (i.e., an adulteress) but does not desire to gaze upon the act of adultery.