Friday, March 09, 2018

‘And the Lord said’ – A Variant in Luke 22:31

THGNT Blog: Variants in the Passion Narrative (4)

This post is part of a series [2018] on some of the textual variants found in the Passion narratives. We will discuss the rationale behind the text adopted in the Greek New Testament as Produced at Tyndale House in (1) Mt 27:16,17, (2) Mt 27:49, (3) Mk 14:30, 49, 72a, 72b, (4) Lk 22:31, (5) Lk 22:43-44, (6) Lk 23:34.

A variant is a variant, but not all variants have the same effect on our understanding of the text. Today’s variant has only limited effect; it will not change anything within Luke’s narrative. It concerns the introduction to direct speech that we (do not) find in Luke 22:31:

Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος· Σίμων Σίμων, ἰδοὺ ὁ σατανᾶς ἐξῃτήσατο ὑμᾶς τοῦ σεινιάσαι ὡς τὸν σῖτον.

Are the word εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος part of the text or not? And to me this is quite a thorny problem that I haven’t been able to resolve yet. Its impact on the text is not big, but if the text adopted in the THGNT is correct, we may have a pattern in a group of early manuscripts that is relevant for the two big variants later in Luke’s passion narrative.

First the Greek external evidence.

Omit: P75 B L T 1241 2542c l1231
Text: ℵ A D K N Q W Γ Δ Θ Ψ, all minuscules

Obviously the support for the shorter text is early and, barring any counter-arguments, my first inclination would be to go with it. And this is what almost everyone since Westcott-Hort till NA28 has done. However, the longer reading (in critical editions adopted only by Vogels and in brackets by Tregelles) has early witnesses at its side, from the fourth century onwards.

Before looking at any further arguments, what is the context of our passage? From 22:25 onwards Jesus is talking, first addressing the issue of who is the greatest (22:25-27), then moving to the promise of eating at the table in the Kingdom and judging the twelve tribes, which is introduced with stating that the disciples have stayed with him in his trials. From there it is a relatively small move to addressing Simon Peter and warning him about the trials Peter is about to face.
Our variant provides a separate, explicit, framing of the warning to Simon Peter that starts with the address ‘Simon, Simon’.

For what reasons could the introduction be a secondary development?
  • The abrupt change of addressee called for a marker to signal this change, the variant supplied this.
  • A new kephalaion starts at 22:31 and expansions such as ‘and the Lord said’ occur frequently at these breaks, especially at the start of a lectionary.
  • In light of the synoptic parallels it seems that the whole of Jesus’ speech comes from two occasions, and therefore the variant is introduced to separate these out.
  • The reference to Jesus as κυριος betrays it secondary origin; it is the language of the introduction to lections more than how the evangelists describe Jesus in narrative.

What about regarding the words as original?
  • The introduction to Jesus’ direct speech is superfluous, he is already speaking, and therefore the words provide an unnecessary disturbance which led to their removal.
  • Though it is true that the start of a kephalaion is a strong argument against originality of the longer reading, ℵ-01 has it, and there is no indication that the kephalaia were already part of the textual tradition in the fourth century.
  • The reference to Jesus as κυριος within authorial narrative (so, not in quoted speech) is found elsewhere in Luke: 7:13; 10:1, 41; 11:39; 13:15 etc.

For me this is a real tricky variant. If someone could demonstrate to me that kephalaia were around by the time ℵ-01 was produced and could have influenced its text, the case for switching around the text and variant gets stronger. As things stand now, I would not put it past the P75 B-03 cluster to give us a text that is a bit too clean, and therefore the Tyndale House Edition prints the words in the main text, though the variant has the ‘diamond of uncertainty’.


  1. Interesting discussion! I don't know much about the kephalia. Are there other examples in Luke-Acts of a similar formula where the speaker had not changed. I vaguely recall a discussion of that phenomenon somewhere in print... Runge's Discourse Grammar of the NT maybe?

  2. Are there any other minor variants for this verse, where it only says "ειπεν δε" or "ειπεν και ο κυριος?" As I look at the NA it does not mention those, but know that not every variant is mentioned, only those that look like good possibilities for the original. Jesus goes from speaking to the 12 to speaking to Peter, which is a change which a narrator might want to signal by introducing that direct speech with "ειπεν δε ο κυριος." I do second Mr. Brown's question of whether or not there are other examples where Luke writes does this.

    I do see this best described as a scribal insertion though. The kephalia argument makes good sense, but it does need historical verification that there were recognized kephalia prior to 4th CE. Would it be accurate to say that the omission of "ειπεν δε ο κυριος" is a lectio difficilior due to the change in recipient of the speech (the 12 to being Peter)?

    1. Or the long reading could be the harder reading, inasmuch as Jesus is already speaking.

      In any case the strong external support for the long reading, the habits of Vaticanus elsewhere, and the Lukan character of the long reading all make the case for the long reading strong in my view.

  3. Willker's commentary notes a similar variant in Luke 7:31, but in that case, the words are interrupted by narrative, so it isn't exactly another instance of the same scenario. No other variants of this type are noted in his commentary.

    A quick search for ειπεν δε ο κυριος yielded several results where this phrase is used as part of the narrative in Luke. I only found one other case where the phrase occurs while Jesus is already speaking: Luke 18:6. Unfortunately, no variants on this phrase are noted in NA28.

    I checked in Acts, as well, but I did not see any occurrences of the phrase in a similar context.

  4. Dirk: "expansions such as ‘and the Lord said’ occur frequently at these breaks, especially at the start of a lectionary."

    Except in this case, the lectionary readings involving this phrase place that verse in the middle and not at the beginning of a lection (either Lk 22:1-39 or Lk 18.19, 29-40; 22.7-39). Also, in both lections the text still includes ειπε δε ο κυριος at this verse.

    In addition, one should consider the need not only to shift the discourse from general to personal, but that the direct statement to Peter (ειπεν δε ο κυριος) is further balanced by Peter's follow-up response (22.33,ο δε ειπεν αυτω), then by Jesus' reply (22.34, ο δε ειπεν), and only after this interechange does the discourse move from individual back to general in 22.35 (και ειπεν αυτοις). That alone seems sufficient reason for the inclusion of the phrase at 22.31.

    In addition, it should be recognized that ειπεν δε ο κυριος is exclusively Lukan (Lk 11.39; 12.42 Byz; 17.6; 18.6; 20.13; Ac 18.9), with the only (non-exact) near-parallel being ειπεν ο κυριος in the NA text of Mk 12.36 (where Byz reads λεγει ο κυριος).

    1. I'm glad to recognize that. To round out the picture a bit, ειπεν ο κυριος is also in Matthew 22:44 as well as Luke 20:42 and Acts 2:34. ειπεν δε αυτω ο κυριος is in Acts 7:33. ο δε κυριος ειπεν is in Acts 9:5.

  5. It seems the omission fits under the category of a variant with the "appearance of improvement with the absence of its reality" (WH 1:27) since the phrase appears unecessary but actually serves the function of chunking the discourse and slowing the reader down before the significance comment to Peter.

    Isn't it true to say that the author would know this but likely a scribe wouldn't?

  6. Kephalaia? Lections, rather.

    If D echoes a feature from a second-century form of the Western text in Lk 16:19 ("And He spoke another parable”) and Jn 14:1 ("And He said to His disciples,” I don't see why the possibility should be mechanically ruled out that this reading, too, if it did not originate as an early incipit in some early local lection-cycle, survived because it was used as one -- and this by the mid-300s.