Major Critical Texts of the New Testament
Byz RP: 2005 Byzantine Greek New Testament, Robinson & Pierpont
TR1550: 1550 Stephanus New Testament
Maj: The Majority Text (thousands of minuscules which display a similar text)
Gries: 1774-1775 Johann Jakob Griesbach Greek New Testament
Treg: 1857-1879 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Greek New Testament
Tisch: 1872 Tischendorf’s Greek New Testament
WH: 1881 Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament
NA28: 2012 Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament
UBS5: 2014 Greek New Testament
NU: Both Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society
TGNT: 2017 The Greek New Testament by Tyndale House
Matthew 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
[ … ] The square brackets below in P1 are a reconstruction of the letters or words that were likely original.
While this entry into the CPH New Testament Textual Commentary is not about the nomina sacra, it does not hurt to mention the phenomena as well, as it is within our textual issues. Nomina Sacra (singular: nomen sacrum from Latin sacred name): In early Christian scribal practices, there was the abbreviation of several frequently occurring divine names or titles within the Greek manuscripts. In the divine names Jesus, Christ, and Spirit are written in nomen sacrum in the earliest manuscripts (P1 א B W) The earliest of these is 𝔓1, which dates to about 250 C.E., and is similar to 𝔓69, having the same date. This is, but a mere 200 years after Matthew penned his Gospel and only 150 years after John penned his Gospel, three epistles and the book of Revelation.
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 1:18 1550 Stephanus New Testament (TR1550)
18 του δε ιησου χριστου η γεννησις ουτως ην μνηστευθεισης γαρ της μητρος αυτου μαριας τω ιωσηφ πριν η συνελθειν αυτους ευρεθη εν γαστρι εχουσα εκ πνευματος αγιου
[CE] MATTHEW 1:18 ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 1:18 Westcott-Hort New Testament (WHNU)
1:18 Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. Μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου.
(𝔓1 א C (L) Z (f1, 33)
MATTHEW 1:18 PAPYRUS 1 – P. Oxy. 2 (𝔓1)
18 Τοῦ δὲ ι̅υ̅ χ̅υ̅ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. Μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μ[αρ]ία[ς] τῷ Ἰω]σήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺ[ς εὑ]ρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ [π̅ν̅ς̅ ]ἁ[γίου.
VARIANT 1 “the birth of the Christ” (it syr,s)
VARIANT 2 του δε Χριστου Ιησου η γενεσις
“the birth of the Christ Jesus” (B)
VARIANT 3 του δε Ιησου η γενεσις
“the birth of [the] Jesus” (W)
Generally speaking, if either Ἰησοῦς or Χριστός was alone in a reading, the scribal tendency was to expand either of them by adding the other. It would seem that this is not the case with this verse, as we do not have variants 1, 2, or 3 as the original reading and an overzealous scribe adding Ἰησοῦς or Χριστός sometime later. The expression of variant 2 του δε Χριστου Ιησου (the Christ Jesus) would likely not have moved scribes to make alterations if it were the original. The expression of variant 3 του δε Ιησου (the Jesus) would likely not have motivated scribes to make alterations if it were the original, for we have the name Ἰησοῦ in 1:16. The more difficult reading, the more uncommon reading is τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (the Jesus Christ).
The external manuscript evidence in support of τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ of the TR WH NU is overwhelming. However, as was stated, the reading is more difficult to explain, and it would seem to be slightly less probable because it literally reads “the birth of the Jesus Christ.” In the Greek New Testament, it is very rare that we find the definite article before the full divine name “Jesus Christ.” This only takes place in a few inferior manuscripts, Acts 8:37; 1 John 4:3; and Revelation 12:17. (Westcott and Hort 1882, 7; Metzger 1994, 6-7; Comfort 2008, 4) This extremely unique phrase could explain why the copyists were moved to make the above changes. We can see that Variant 1 was a straightforward change. Variant 2 is very common in the Pauline epistles, and the copyist of variant 3 simply removed Χριστοῦ (Christ), which removed the highly uncommon phrase. Therefore, the harder reading that provoked the copyists to alter the text with the very strong external manuscript evidence that was “current in many parts of the early church” (Metzger 1994, 7) was original.
In trying to understand why Matthew used the definite article before the full divine name “Jesus Christ,” we only need to look back at 1:16, which reads, “Jacob became the father of Joseph, of whom Jesus was born, [the one] who is called Christ.” So, Matthew says, in essence, in verse 18, “the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way, a reference back to the importance of verse 16.
- B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882), 7.
- Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 6–7.
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 4.
- Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), Mt 1:18.
- Wallace B., Daniel (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://csntm.org/
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