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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 an interpolation? Part II, Are there interpolations in the Bible?

Remember our guidelines for identifying interpolations? We'll continue to refer to these as we go along.

1. - abrupt changes in the subject matter;
2. - interruptions in an otherwise continuous train of thought;
3. - seeming inconsistencies or even contradictions that conflict with other material in the document;
4. - the presence of certain formulae in supposedly inappropriate or uncustomary contexts
5. - repetition of redundant elements ;
6. - perceived changes in tone or style;
7. - the assumption by the writer of different circumstances on the part of the intended audience.

First, we must address the question, Are there interpolations in the Bible? Some people will answer in the negative, but even they will be forced to agree that there are interpolations in the manuscripts of the Bible--at least in some of them. Among the most famous of these is the following:

ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευράν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα.
allos de labwn logchn enuxen autou thn pleuran, kai exhlqen
hudwr kai haima.
another and taking a lance, pierced of him the side, and emerged water and blood.

This verse is found following Matthew 27:49 in the following manuscripts (with about half of the Greek manuscripts inverting the order of the last two nouns):‭
א B C L U Γ 5 26 48 67 115 127 160 175 364 782 871 1010 1011 1057 1293? 1300 1392 1416 1448 1555 1566 1701 1780 2117 2126 2139 2283 2328 2437 2585 2586 2622 2680 2766* 2787 vgmss (dubl eptmarg kenan lich mac-regol mull) syrpal(mss) copmae ethro ethms slav

Wow, what an impressive lineup. This should be one of the best attested alleged interpolations in the entire New Testament. I mean, there it is, in all the oldest and best manuscripts! But there's one problem--no one accepts it as genuine. No one. Even Westcott and Hort--who considered any agreement between א and B to be equivalent to the original text in almost every possible instance--drew the line at this one, and bracketed the verse as an interpolation.

But why? Well, without going into all the details of their reasons, there's one big problem with where the report of this incident is located--in John 19:34, it's after Jesus was dead, but in Matthew 27:49½, it's right before he died. Medical science has known for some time that plasma doesn't separate out of the blood until after death, so it's scientifically impossible for Matthew 27:49½ to have happened. Obviously, they say, this verse was lifted out of John and inserted into Matthew: a common enough occurrence in the textual universe of Westcott and Hort--just not in their favorite manuscripts.

John 19:34 reads:
ἀλλ' εἷς τῶν στρατιωτῶν λόγχῃ αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν ἔνυξεν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν εὐθὺς αἷμα καὶ ὕδωρ.
all eis twn stratiwtwn logchn autou thn pleuran enuxen, kai exhlqen
haima kai hudwr.
but one of the soldiers with a lance of him the side pierced, and emerged blood and water.

Time to run this alleged interpolation through our checklist and see how it scores. Note: I haven't thoroughly investigated the matter enough to solidly guarantee every single one of these "No's." I welcome further input, but I doubt it would change my final point any.

1. Yes. Context is bystanders talking about Jesus; no soldiers in view.
2. No. There's an interchange between something being said, then something being done. This fits the latter.
3. Yes. This is the strongest argument; the order is unscientifically inconsistent with that in the parallel passage.
4. No.
5. No.
6. No.
7. No.

As you can see, it doesn't take all seven an interpolation to make. Any two of these is enough to indicate an alleged interpolation; the strength of the argument must then rest on how strong each individual point is. And for Westcott and Hort, the fact that certain documents didn't have the interpolation was as strong an argument as any of these. Another interpolation alleged by this duo exists in 99.9% of extant Greek manuscripts--but not in their favourite two. We'll take a look at that one in the next installment.

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