Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christians as Useful People: Textual Criticism and Wirkungsgeschichte

On Tuesday we had an interesting paper at the NT Seminar from David Horrell (Exeter) on 1 Peter 4.16. I won't go into the paper in general (except to say that it was generally convincing - in the sense that it defended a view of this verse that I already held - usually the reason for recognising the most convincing papers!), nor into the major textual criticism raised regarding the choice between ONOMATI and MEREI in 4.16b.

In the course of the discussion the reading of Sinaiticus at Acts 11.26; 26.28 & 1 Pet 4.16 was raised. Sinaiticus uses the spelling: XRHSTIANOS. Dirk suggested it was a real variant not a mere spelling error. I proposed that the term was itself a deliberate statement that Christians were 'useful people' (XRHSTOS means useful; cf. 1 Peter 2.3 where it is used in 1 Peter from Ps 33LXX [although not without interesting variants there too]), which might be taken as a mark of the impact of 1 Peter as a whole: that those who have tasted the benevolence/usefulness/kindness of God would be a people themselves marked by kindness/usefulness/benevolence towards others (e.g. 2.12 etc.).

So the variant reading might be a window into the reception- or impact- history of 1 Peter.

Crazy theory I know, but I thought I should share it here first.


  1. I knew it was a crazy idea, but I was hoping for some comment.

  2. As far as I can tell the French word for Christian had the 'e' vowel at least as far back as the twelfth century (when it was spelled 'chrestien' according to Le Petit Robert). Is this just an inner-French development, or is it something that shows wider use of the 'e' vowel in pronouncing this name at an earlier stage? I think that the English insult word 'cretin' from Swiss French is quite late.

    Of course I recognise that η could be pronounced /i/.

  3. I think that the i=>e is a French thing.

    lat. primus => premiere

    Can anyone confirm this?

    What about the riots concerning Chrestus that got the Jews thrown out of Rome by Claudius(49/50 CE)? (Suetonius. Claudius)