Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Variants on Forgiveness: Matt 18, Mark 11, and the Longer Reading

One of the positives of reading a Greek New Testament that lists variants but not the manuscripts that attest them is that it makes you pay more attention to internal evidence. I’ve been reading Scrivener’s edition of Stephanus (1550) which lists differences with a number of other editions including Lachmman, Tregelles, and Westcott-Hort.

‘The Unmerciful Servant’ by Willem Drost
One of the things I’m reading for are places where the traditional text has a longer reading and the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis. We looked at one in Eph 5.30 not long ago and there is another lengthy example at Matt 23.14. Two that caught my attention recently are in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matt 18. Here is Matt 18.29:
πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων· μακροθύμησον ἐπʼ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι.
The highlighted phrase “at his feet” is found in C2 W f13 33 Byz f q syp.h mae whereas the shorter reading is found in א B C* D L Θ 058 f1 579 1424 al lat sys.c sa bo.

Scrivener’s 4th edition
Then at the end of the parable, we have another longer/shorter reading involving almost the same witnesses on each side. This is Matt 18.35:
οὕτως καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν.
The longer reading is again found in C W f13 33 Byz f h sy(p).h and the shorter in א B D L Θ f1 700 892* pc lat sys.c co.

Finally, a third text that is relevant here is the parallel in Mark 11.25–26 which reads:
25 Καὶ ὅταν στήκητε προσευχόμενοι, ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος· ἵνα καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφῇ ὑμῖν τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν. 26 Εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
In this case, all of verse 26 is read by A (C, D) Θ (f1.13 33) Byz lat syp.h bo(pt); Cyp and omitted by א B L W Δ Ψ 565 700 pc k l sys sa bo(pt).

Besides being about forgiveness, what all these have in common is that the shorter reading is easily explained by parablepsis, homeoteleuton in particular. In Matt 18.29 the culprit could be αὐτοῦ, in Matt 18.35, -ῶν, and in Mark 18.26, τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.

What about the evidence in favor of the shorter readings? In the first case, there is no simple parallel in the context to easily explain the origin of the longer reading. In the second case, however, the longer reading could be influenced by Matt 6.14–15. Note especially the additional τὰ παραπτώματα in Byz in Matt 6.15. Although it doesn’t explain the somewhat awkward shift from singular ἀδελφῷ to plural αὐτῶν. Finally, Matt 6 could also explain the longer reading in Mark 11.25–26, but here too, as W. Willker points out in his online commentary, the harmonization would not be word-for-word. Compare:
Matt 6.15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
Mark 11.26 εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς οὖκ ἀφίετε, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
None of the differences is radical. The ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖ is found in the preceding verse and maybe τοῖς ἀνθρώποις was left out because Mark 11.25 uses τις for the generic reference. But the change in mood is a bit harder to explain unless this is only a rough harmonization. As it is, the differences make parablepsis—and the longer reading with it—appealing.

If not for the strong, early manuscript evidence in favor of the shorter reading in all three cases, the longer readings would be easy choices on transcriptional grounds. But the external evidence being what it is, I am torn.

So my question: with the shift in opinion about the value of the Byzantine text, will future NA editions follow the transcriptional evidence here against the earliest witnesses like they have in, say, 1 Pet 4.16? More importantly, should they? Should Byz be set on par with the earliest evidence, thereby letting the transcriptional evidence tip the scales in these cases?


  1. One of the things which a certain scribal habits scholar once criticised me severely for was interpreting as a scribal leap/parablesis such omissions that solely involved the same ending but didn't result by the scribe's skipping over an omitted element. In other words, when you have the typical 'saut du même au même' it is the first element in the chain that gets omitted precisely because it is 'overlooked' or 'leapt over'. This is not to say that other omissions cannot have happened which involve the same ending, but some would believe that it involves different mechanics and shouldn't be regarded as a leap/parablesis. By the way, Tommy, this also applies to Mark 1.1.

    1. What you're saying sounds interesting but I'm not sure I understand it yet, can you try saying that again?

    2. Original: I am a misbehaving *student*, a misbehaving type of *student* who deserves scorn.
      Leap: I am a misbehaving type of student who deserves scorn
      Not a leap: I am a misbehaving student who student who deserves scorn.

    3. Btw, in this vein I'd bring to our learned readers' attention the following article:
      J. R. Royse, 'The Treatment of Scribal Leaps in Metzger’s Textual Commentary', NTS 29 (1983) 539–51.

    4. Pete, are you saying one of my examples is not a leap? Which one?

    5. If the person who criticised me is correct, then Matt 18.29, 18:35 and Mark 11:25–6 would not involve scribal leaps proper.

    6. Okay, I think I see what he means. It's not a skip over words in the course of a single gaze, but rather that the scribe's eyes returned to the wrong (repeated) word. Is that right? It seems to me that such a case still falls under parablepsis if we define it as something like "a circumstance in which a scribe omits text due to looking (βελεπω) to the side (παρα) of his exemplar while copying."

    7. Yes, it is definitely an ‘oversight’ but I’m not sure how exactly the homoeoteleuton would have occasioned it. If we take Mt 18.29 as an example, if the scribe was mislead by αυτου in the exemplar he’d logically copy what follows, wouldn’t he? This is not to say that the places you note couldn’t have been mere mechanical errors; perhaps in such instances we could have omissions of a line where two consecutive lines in the exemplar ended with the identical word (here αυτου). Sorry for being anal about it—it’s just that parablepsis is often used synonymously with a leap from the same to the same, and so it might be better not to use the term for errors such as those discussed above. It would also mean, however, that we lose a neater explanation.

    8. I'm imagining that the scribe copied the first αυτου from the exemplar but then returned to the second thinking that was the one he just copied. He then copies what follows thereby omitting what's between the two αυτουs in his exemplar.

      Are you saying that does not constitute a case of parablepsis? (And don't worry, being anal is okay around here!)

    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    10. In view of our private correspondence, I changed my mind. As far as the mechanics go, I think it's more likely that the scribe looked back at the Vorlage before he copied αυτου remembering it and then when he tracked it down in the exemplar he leapt ahead. Makes sense?

  2. Thoughtful post, Peter. Thank you.

  3. It should be noted that there is an another large addition in a couple dozen medieval mss beyond Mark 11:26... but it's usually overlooked because it's not listed in UBS or NA. In a couple dozen medieval mss (the earliest being 021/M from IX cent), Mt 7.7-8 is added after Mk 11.26. You can see it noted in Legg's collations of Mark. I describe the variant in my recent essay on mss 792 & 2643 (Book of Seven Seals, ed. by Thomas Kraus and Michael Sommer, Mohr Siebeck, 2016, p. 88 & nn. 72-73). Essentially, it represents an addition (Mt 7.7-8) to an addition (Mt 6.15 as Mk 11.26) to a text (Mk 11.22-25) which is often considered a string of originally independent statements anyway.

    1. Jeff: "In a couple dozen medieval mss (the earliest being 021/M from IX cent), Mt 7.7-8 is added after Mk 11.26."

      I don't know if in your essay you mention it, but the latter placement is a direct result of lectionary influence; such in fact is the precise scope of the lection for the fourth evening within the Παννυχιδες (Mk 11.22-26; Mt 7.7-8; see Gregory, Textkritik 1:361).

    2. MAR,
      Clearly, Matthew 7:7-8 was therefore a floating tradition, an independent saying looking for a home.

    3. Some of us might suspect the irony inherent in that statement would not be lost.

    4. Thank you, Prof. Robinson, for your helpful correspondence about this. I should've consulted Gregory for further information on this rather than lectionary info based on Scrivener. Fascinating aspect about that otherwise odd addition. Thanks again.