Did B really drop eremos due to harmonization?
- How do we explain that B L ff2 Syrus Sinaiticus and some miscellaneous
Coptic mss do not have ermos (desolate) in the famously climactic
pronouncement "Your house is left to you desolate" (Matt 23:38)? In
contrast, the rest of the ms tradition (Alexandrian, Western,
Caesarean, Byz) includes eremos.
Metzger and others claim that B dropped it intentionally as being
superflous. Less carefully, others have pointed out Luke's omission
of eremos (13:35), and have suggested that the text behind B was
harmonized to the shorter reading of Luke or to Jer 12:7 LXX.
These explanations are unsatisfying. Of all the mss, B is best known
for not harmonizing and for reflecting a relatively pure text (i.e.,
less subject to the vices of scribal freedom).
If B's omission is explained through harmonization to Luke, there is a
three-fold difficulty. First, B is not prone to harmonization.
Second, B would be harmonizing Matthew to Luke, rather than the normal
direction of Luke to Matthew. Third, B would be harmonizing by
omission. By themselves, every one of these three may be surprising,
but in regard to Matt 23:38, we are asked to believe all three at the
B omitting eremos as superfluous also strikes me as difficult.
Certainly God abandoning the Temple would result in its being eremos.
But eremos, if original, really is the punch line of the
pronouncement. Further, in the shadows of the ruins of the Temple,
how could a scribe resist the opportunity to show the fulfillment of
Jesus' pronouncement? Also, the word really isn't lexically
superflous, since it brings in something of the nuance of destruction.
Perhaps B omitted in as a stylistic improvement. But scribes in
general, and B in particular, normally don't improve style by
omission, especially if the word being omitted is rhetorically
important. Besides, if stylistic improvement was the goal, the scribe
could have harmonized to Jer 22:5 which has the felicitous eis
NA25 preferred the reading of B, along with Weiss, while WH put it in
brackets. I think the rest of our critical editions include eremos in
deference to the overwhelming and disparate mss which include it.
P77 has been cited as supporting the reading of eremos, but Peter
Head's own analysis led him to conclude that P77 omitted it.
If we decide that B is right, then we have to ratchet up B's
reputation several notches, since so many other mss got it wrong.
I have two questions regarding scribal tendencies in B. Can anyone
cite examples of B harmonizing to Luke or to LXX, or of harmonizing by
- The editor of mae-2 has concluded that it represents a text from a
primitive Hebrew version of Matthew. Interestingly, George Howard
makes similar claims about Shem Tob's 14th century Hebrew Matthew.
Neither claim seems to be convincing anyone, despite especially
tenacious efforts by Howard.
I wonder if Howard is analyzing mae-2 to find any commonality with
his Shem Tob :)
But otherwise, mae-2 seems to be an important ms, in that it is
purported to be the oldest extant ms in any language to much of
--- In email@example.com, "feeite_christian"
> Just read with interest the article herein on the relatively new
> Coptic ms of Matthew: mae-2.
> mae-1 supports the inclusion of eremos, and so we would expect, I
> think, that mae-2 would as well. However, this is one of the
> which is not catalogued in the overview article. Would someonekindly
> let me know?
> Jim Leonard
> Southwestern Pennsylvania