Friday, August 05, 2016

Three Interesting Variants at Rev. 2.13 Not in Nestle

While doing some sermon prep last week I came across some interesting variants in Rev. 2.13. The NA28 reads:
οἶδα ποῦ κατοικεῖς, ὅπου ὁ θρόνος τοῦ σατανᾶ, καὶ κρατεῖς τὸ ὄνομά μου καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὴν πίστιν μου καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἀντιπᾶς ὁ μάρτυς μου ὁ πιστός μου, ὃς ἀπεκτάνθη παρʼ ὑμῖν, ὅπου ὁ σατανᾶς κατοικεῖ. 
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (ESV)
The trickiest part here is grammatical—what should we do with the nominative after ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις when we expect genitives? The commentators will tell you that scribes tried to smooth this by adding αἷς before Ἀντιπᾶς and that’s what we find in the Byzantine text. The syntax still isn’t great since we’re left with a verbless clause, but some have suggested that it is implied.

Others have followed Lachmann’s conjecture of Ἀντιπᾶ (the “proper” genitive of the name) suggesting that the sigma arose from dittography involving the article: αντιπα ο μαρτυϲ → αντιπαο ο μαρτυϲ → αντιπαϲ ο μαρτυϲ. That is one too many steps for my liking though.

Where things get more interesting is in the Syriac. Here is what we find in the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) edition which is also the basis for the recent Gorgias edition. I’ve highlighted the main differences with the Greek:
ܝܳܕ݂ܰܥ ܐ̱ܢܳܐ ܐܱܝܟܴ݁ܐ ܥܳܡܰܪܬ݁ ܂ ܐܱܬ݂ܱܪ ܕ݁ܟ݂ܽܘܪܣܝܶܗ ܕ݁ܣܳܛܴܢܳܐ ܂ ܘܰܐܚܺܝܕ݂ ܐܱܢ̄ܬ݁ ܒ݁ܫܶܡܝ ܂ ܘܰܒ݂ܗܰܝܡܳܢܽܘܬ݂ܝ ܠܴܐ ܟ݁ܦ݂ܰܪܬ݁ ܂ ܘܰܒ݂ܝܱ̈ܘܡܳܬ݂ܴܐ ܐܷܬ݂ܚܪܻܝܬ݁ ܘܣܳܗܕܴ݁ܐ ܕܻ݁ܝܠܝ ܂ ܡܗܰܝܡܢܳܐ ܂ ܡܶܛܾܠ ܕ݁ܟ݂ܽܠ ܣܳܗܕܴ݁ܐ ܕܻ݁ܝܠܝ ܡܗܰܝܡܢܳܐ ܂ ܐܱܝܢܳܐ ܕ݁ܡܶܢܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܐܷܬ݂ܩܛܷܠ ܂
I know where you dwell, the place of Satan’s throne, and you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days when you contended, even my faithful witness, because every witness of mine is faithful, the one who was killed among you [omit].
So we have (1) the verb “you contended” substituted for the name “Antipas,” (2) the long addition of the phrase “because every witness of mine is faithful,” and (3) the omission of the final clause “where Satan dwells”—none of which you will find in the NA/UBS editions. You have to go to all the way to Hoskier (or at least a footnote in Beale) to find the addition.

The first variant has a good explanation in that Ἀντιπᾶς is sometimes spelled αντειπας and this could be read as an Aorist form of ἀντιλέγω. Hence we get ܚܪܐ in Syriac which means “resist, dispute, contend,” etc. in the ethpeal. Tischendorf tries to explain the Syriac as a translator’s failed attempt to render the name. But explaining it as a different way to read the Greek is much more viable especially because Hoskier lists several Greek minuscules that seem to accent it as the verb (ἀντεἶπας rather than ἀντειππᾶς).

The third variant, the omission of the last phrase, is a bit easier to explain in Syriac than in Greek. In Syriac, it looks like a case of homoioteleuton involving ܐܠܐ at the beginning of v. 14. The phrase is included in the Harklean Syriac manuscripts, so, apparently, it didn’t last long. It’s only attested by two minuscules in Greek perhaps just by accident.

The second variant, the addition, is the most surprising of the three. It is also not unique to the Syriac, being found in over a dozen Greek minuscules. This suggests that the Syriac is not innovating but rather reflecting its Greek Vorlage. In his edition, Gwynn argues the same but still calls the longer reading an “interpolation.” What he doesn’t mention but should have is that its omission has an obvious explanation by way of homoioteleution, the scribe’s eye jumping from πιστός to πιστός (cf. GA 2028).

Rev 2.13 in GA 2028 (15th cent.) showing the longer reading.
What’s important is that the Syriac shows that this reading has much earlier support than the Greek evidence alone would suggest. It goes back at least to AD 616 when the Harklean Syriac was completed and probably earlier since the Crawford MS (the basis for the BFBS and Gorgias editions) likely predates the Harklean. This is thus a good example of late Greek manuscripts preserving much earlier readings. It also illustrates the benefit of keeping an eye on the versions.

None of this made it into the sermon, you’ll be relieved to know. But I wonder if some of these readings shouldn’t make it into the Nestle apparatus. The longer reading in particular belongs there not only for its exegetical significance, but because, at least transcriptionally, it can explain the shorter reading.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I've been working through Revelation for Sunday School (translating each passage as I go) and I didn't catch this. Good work!

  2. Gurry: "The commentators will tell you that scribes tried to smooth this by adding αἷς before Ἀντιπᾶς and that’s what we find in the Byzantine text."

    Rather than an intentional insertion for smoothing purposes, the critical reading ημεραις Αντιπας of A C 2053 pc easily could have resulted by means of haplography from the Byzantine ημεραις εν αις Αντιπας (with or without εν present as per the Ma and Mk branches of the Byzantine reading).

    (Not that this has any particular impact on the Syriac issues being discussed).

  3. "the textual problem is far more complex than indicated in N. app..."--BDAG under Αντιπας. Indeed. :-).

  4. Thanks, Peter. I hadn't checked BDAG. Nice to know that WH had written about all this over 100 years ago.

  5. Peter, what do you think about David Lincicum's suggestion that Antipas is a symbolic name and that this explains the nominative? See here.

  6. Richard, thanks for pointing that out. I seem to remember others making the same suggestion as David. It seems possible all though still more likely that αντιπας is simply short for αντιπατρος. I would only quibble with David that there are names in this letter that aren't sybmolic, namely Νικολαιτων.

  7. That's true, but note that the courageous leaders of the church, such as martyrs, were often given new names. The martyrs were Simon-Peter, the Boanerges brothers, James-Oblias, Ignatius-Theophorus, who had new names, and Stephen whose name is suspicious too.