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Matthew 1:25 - her firstborn son

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  • james_snapp_jr
    In Matthew 1:25, there s a variant-unit; the main rivals are son -- hUION -- and her firstborn son -- TON hUION AUTHS TON PRWTOTOKON. Wieland covers the
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 2, 2010
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      In Matthew 1:25, there's a variant-unit; the main rivals are "son" -- hUION -- and "her firstborn son" -- TON hUION AUTHS TON PRWTOTOKON.

      Wieland covers the external evidence pretty well in his online Textual Commentary. See that for the evidence-lists.

      Now, Metzger claimed that the longer reading here is a harmonization to Luke 2:7,spending three lines to dismiss a reading attested in Byz W Delta 892 Pesh Vulgate and, with sub-variants, L and D.

      The reasoning seems to be, as WW says, "There is no reason to omit this important clause."

      But what if it is a harmonization, not to Lk. 2:7, but to a much closer passage -- a passage that would be in the center of copyists' thoughts, because they had just finished writing it -- namely, Mt. 1:23? The parallels between 1:23 and 1:25 seem much closer, and much more likely to have an effect on copyists' thoughts in 1:25, than the more distant passage in Luke 2:7. An inattentive or overly speedy copyist, anticipating the approaching contents of v. 25, could assume that Matthew would/should describe the fulfillment of the prophecy he had just written about in the same terms in which the prophecy was prophesied.

      Also, in Latin -- at least, in the Vulgate -- we have here
      ET NON COGNOSCEBAT EAM DONEC PEPERIT FILIUM SUUM
      PRIMOGENITUM ET VOCAVIT NOMEN EIUS IESUM
      and those -UMs might make the SUUM PRIMOGENITUM vulnerable to ocular error via h.t.

      Also, there's a possibility of a doctrinally motivated adjustment. A copyist's belief in the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary might motivate him to change the text here. Yes, such a copyist would be motivated to change the text in Luke 2:7, where all text-types refer to "her firstborn son," but perhaps he never got the opportunity -- or perhaps he tried, but the change was undone in Luke by subsequent correctors.

      Now, you might be thinking, "Anything is possible, but what is probable? There's just no reason -- other than speculations about harmonization to 1:23, or Latin h.t., or doctrinal protectiveness -- to omit the reference to "her firstborn" son." What do you do with the reading of Codex W in Luke 2:7, where TON PRWTOTOKON is absent? It looks like there was some motivation to omit the reference to "the firstborn" in Luke 2:7. If there, why not here in Mt. 1:25?

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
    • Jonathan C. Borland
      Dear James (and List), Thanks for your post, and I agree with your analysis. ... Indeed a good observation, but one that might be countered by the
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 4, 2010
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        Dear James (and List),

        Thanks for your post, and I agree with your analysis.

        > What do you do with the reading of Codex W in Luke 2:7, where TON
        > PRWTOTOKON is absent? It looks like there was some motivation to
        > omit the reference to "the firstborn" in Luke 2:7. If there, why not
        > here in Mt. 1:25?
        >

        Indeed a good observation, but one that might be countered by the
        consideration that W in Luke merely reflects harmonization to the
        reading of Aleph B OL OS Coptic at Matt 1:25.

        Jonathan C. Borland

        =======================

        Below are a few notes on the passage by some text critics I admire:

        Johann Albrecht Bengel (Apparatus criticus ad Novum Testamentum [ed.
        Philipp David Burk; 2d ed.; Tubingae: sumtibus Io. Georgii Cottae,
        1763], 93): “For Helvidius and Jerome in a book against him discussed
        among many other things the addition after Matthew’s words, which very
        often in that place are rendered as “until she bore a son,” and they
        immediately claim that the new argument selected from the term
        “firstborn” is only from Luke 2:7. And it indeed appears that the
        clause has been carried from Luke over to Matthew. If Barb. 1. [= ?]
        and Coptic drew this reading from the Greek manuscripts, then they
        have great weight: and conversely if they received it from the Latin,
        then they strongly corroborate the sincere reading of the very old
        Latin interpreter. In some places our judgment proceeds differently
        than before: and still I must say to myself that no one would have
        written it out of capriciousness. For I do not accept those things
        which they had strengthened with a pristine use; but, nevertheless, if
        truth so orders, I do not shun the reading: but I proceed little by
        little into those things which, being broken, they put back together,
        things which must be drawn out from their own situation."

        Johann Jakob Wettstein (Novum Testamentum graecum [2 vols.;
        Amstelaedami: Ex officina Dommeriana, 1751, 1752], 1:239): “They were
        omitted out of diligence, as J. Mill has judged (Comm., 18), lest one
        suppose, as Helvidius, that Mary had given birth to others after she
        had brought forth Jesus into the light."

        Johann Jakob Griesbach (Commentarius criticus in textum graecum Novi
        Testamenti [2 vol.; J. C. G. Goepferdt, 1798, 1811], 1:17): “TON
        before UION and AUTHS TON PRWTOTOKON were deliberately omitted (as
        also PRIN H SUNELQEIN AUTOUS is missing from two manuscripts in 1:18),
        so that it not be believed that Mary gave birth to many babies after
        Christ was born. It appears less probable that it was moved to this
        place from Luke 2:7."

        Karl Friedrich August Fritzsche (Evangelium Matthaei [Lipsiae:
        Sumtibus Frederici Fleischeri, 1826], 55): “Someone cut short this
        expression, which somewhere (see Griesbach) was clearly omitted, not
        absurdly out of diligence, seeing how it appeared clearly superfluous,
        since whatever woman who gives birth brings forth her own children.
        For truly the Evangelist spoke such by a predetermined plan to signify
        that there was no need either for Joseph or for any another mortal to
        intervene with this child of Mary."

        Samuel Thomas Bloomfield (Critical Annotations [London: Longman,
        Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860], 1): “Not only is the authority for
        cancelling AUTHS TON PROF. [sic] very insufficient, but internal
        evidence is quite in favour of the words, from the greater likelihood
        that they should have been omitted (whether, as [Alford] thinks, from
        superstitious veneration for Mary, I would not say) than inserted,
        from what cause soever."

        Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer (Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to
        the Gospel of Matthew [trans. from the 6th German ed. Peter Christie;
        rev. and ed. Frederick Crombie and William Stewart; New York: Funk &
        Wagnalls, 1890], 35): “Certainly (comp. especially Bengel) the
        Received reading has the appearance of having originated from Luke ii.
        7 (where there is no various reading). The witnesses, however, in
        favor of the Recepta greatly preponderate; the virginity of Mary, also
        (against which, according to the testimony of Jerome, doubts were
        raised in consequence of the PRWTOTOKON), certainly more probably
        suggested the removal of the PRWTOTOKON than its insertion. Comp. Mill
        and Wetstein. Finally, had UION merely been the original reading in
        the present passage, the PRWTOTOKON in Luke ii. 7 could scarcely have
        remained unassailed” (35).
      • james_snapp_jr
        As a slight reinforcement of the idea that the Alexandrian Text of Mt. 1:25 reflects a scribal tendency to harmonize to preceding verses, rather than to
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 4, 2010
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          As a slight reinforcement of the idea that the Alexandrian Text of Mt. 1:25 reflects a scribal tendency to harmonize to preceding verses, rather than to parallel-passages in the other Gospels, we may consider B's reading in Mt. 2:13, where "EIS THN CWRAN AUTWN" seems to be clearly drawn from the preceding verse.

          Yours in Christ,

          James Snapp, Jr.
        • Jonathan C. Borland
          Dear List, I notice the note of Christian Friedrich von Matthäi, Evangelium secundum Matthaeum graece et latine (Rigae: Ioann. Frider. Hartknochii, 1788), 36:
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 11, 2010
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            Dear List,

            I notice the note of Christian Friedrich von Matthäi, Evangelium secundum Matthaeum graece et latine (Rigae: Ioann. Frider. Hartknochii, 1788), 36:


            "Chrysostom puts it together thus: 'Though he took her he did not know her." . . . The scholia at this place read thus: hOUTW DEI ANAGNWNAI: KAI OUK EGINWSKEN AUTHN, hEWS hOU ETEKE TON hUION AUTHS. ENTAUQA hUPOSTIKTEON, EITA AORISTWA DEI EPAGAGWN, TON PRWTOTOKON. [He must not have known her thus: 'And he did not know her, until she gave birth to her son.' Here was a comma, then it was necessary to clarify what was uncertain with TON PRWTOTOKON.] Foolishly! . . . ."

            I'm curious when and where this scholion originates. The omission of OUK EGINWSKEN AUTHN hEWS hOU by OL-k and OS-s shows scribal difficulty, as Chrysostom addressed, at Joseph's "taking" but "not knowing" Mary. I tend to agree with Matthäi that the reason behind TON PRWTOTOKON according to the scholion is rather silly. Such reasoning cries out to a critic to expunge the words as superfluous. Fritzsche actually supposed that the words were omitted on such grounds. But perhaps a critic or scribe harmonized with 1:23, as Jim suggested. Jerome's comment more than suggests that the orthodox would have had a reason to omit the words that are clearly very well attested in the Greek ms tradition. Moreover, I agree with Griesbach and others that the words were unlikely to have entered from Luke 2:7, as that place is hardly parallel (cf. Eusebius' canon) and thus likely would not have suggested itself to the mind of a myriad of copyists, unless one suppose that all the mss that have the reading, including C D L W 087 etc., arose from the same source. Indeed, as those many mss that have the words are so diverse, it seems easier to suppose that those few mss that omit the words derive from one and the same secondary source, as they consist mostly (entirely?) of witnesses that frequently align with each other anyway. Assimilation? Orthodox corruption? Deemed superfluous? Take your pick.

            Jonathan C. Borland
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