Mt. 27:49: A Typological Impetus for the Alexandrian Reading
- What's the harder reading in Mt. 27:49? Obviously the reading with the part about Jesus being speared before He was dead, right? I mean, just look at it: it collides with the parallel in John 19:33-35; John says Jesus was speared after He died, while the Alexandrian reading in Mt. 27:49 says that Jesus was speared before He died. Surely no scribe would deliberately create such a contradiction.
Or would they? The typological comparison of Jesus to the rock in the wilderness struck by Moses is perhaps second in fame, among all typological parallels, only to the comparison of Christ to the Passover Lamb. Paul himself equates Christ with the struck rock, in I Cor. 10.
And regarding that rock: how many times was it struck?
Perhaps to someone in the early church who liked his typologies to be tidy, it was was very difficult to accept the typological parallel between Christ and the struck rock as long as the number of rock-strikings was not also parallel. With the question in his mind, "How can Jesus be the struck rock if He was only struck once?" he might have figured that Jesus *must* have been struck twice. And so he made sure that it was understood that Jesus was struck twice -- by inserting a statement to that effect into the text of Mt. 27:49.
Once this reading had a foothold, miscellaneous copyists (even copyists of some Byzantine manuscripts) found the reading attractive because of its typological elegance, and introduced it into various Vulgate MSS and other MSS. The insertion at Mt. 27:49 and not after 27:50 was deliberate: the insertion was not intended to repeat what John wrote about a piercing after Christ's death; it was intended to strengthen typological parallelism by adding a striking prior to Christ's death.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.