NTTC MATTHEW 9:14: Is It “the Pharisees fast often” or “the Pharisees fast”

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 120 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

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
GENTI: 2019 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear

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MATTHEW 9:14 2019 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI WH)  [CE]
14 ΤότεThen προσέρχονταιare coming toward αὐτῷhim οἱthe μαθηταὶdisciples Ἰωάνουof John λέγοντεςsaying ΔιὰThrough    τίwhat ἡμεῖςwe καὶand οἱthe ΦαρισαῖοιPharisees νηστεύομεν,we are fasting, οἱthe δὲbut μαθηταὶdisciples σοῦof you οὐnot νηστεύουσιν;are fasting? 

MATTHEW 9:14 2012 Nestle-Aland / Stephanus New Testament (TR NU TGNT SBLGNT) [P]
14 ΤότεThen προσέρχονταιare coming toward αὐτῷhim οἱthe μαθηταὶdisciples Ἰωάνουof John λέγοντεςsaying ΔιὰThrough    τίwhat ἡμεῖςwe καὶand οἱthe ΦαρισαῖοιPharisees[πολλά] νηστεύομεν,[many] we are fasting, οἱthe δὲbut μαθηταὶdisciples σοῦof you οὐnot νηστεύουσιν;are fasting? 

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Matthew 9:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”NASB Same
Matthew 9:14 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
14 Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
Matthew 9:14 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
14 Then the disciples of John approached him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

GENTI TGNT SBLGNT WH οι Φαρισαιοι νηστευομεν
“the Pharisees fast”
א* B 0281

Variant 1  οι Φαρισαιοι νηστευομεν πυκνα
“the Pharisees fast frequently
א1

Variant 2/TR NU TGNT SBLGNT οἱ Φαρισαῖοι νηστεύομεν [πολλά]
“the Pharisees fast often
א2 C D L W Θ 0233 f,13 33 Maj

NOTE: When there is a superscript א* This siglum refers to the original before it has been corrected. The superscript א1 This siglum refers to the corrector who worked on the manuscript before it left the scriptorium. The superscript א2 refers to correctors in the 6th and 7th century C.E., who altered the text to conform more with the Byzantine text.

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What are the original words, what is the correct translation, and what is the correct meaning? The original wording in Matthew 9:14 is “the Pharisees fast” (οι Φαρισαιοι νηστευομεν), which is found in the earliest significant manuscripts (א* B 0281) and GENTI WH. We have a variant, “the Pharisees fast frequently” (οι Φαρισαιοι νηστευομεν πυκνα) that is found in (א1) and a second variant “the Pharisees fast often” (οἱ Φαρισαῖοι νηστεύομεν [πολλά]) that is found in (א2 C D L W Θ 0233 f,13 33 Maj) and TR NU TGNT SBLGNT, both variants being a scribal interpolation attempting to make more of a contrast, emphasizing the fasting of the Pharisees and John’s disciples as opposed to fasting less often on the part of Jesus’ disciples.

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The Greek adverb in variant 1 (א1) and 2 (א2) was likely a scribal interpolation (an insertion), which could have been taken from Luke 5:33, “The disciples of John fast often …” (οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου ⸂νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰ). This seems to be a scribal interpolation attempting to make more of a contrast, emphasizing the fasting of the Pharisees and John’s disciples as opposed to fasting less often on the part of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus did not fast as the Mosaic Law required, the record of the Gospels does not show him being known for fasting. However, neither Jesus nor the apostles commanded that the disciples had to fast. (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14) Jesus did say that his disciples would fast after his death (Matthew 9:15), but this was not a command, it was his foreknowledge of what would result from their great sorrow. There are a few accounts of first-century Christians fasting. (Acts 13:2, 3; 14:23) However, early Christians were under no obligation to fast.

Nevertheless, after the death of the last apostle, John, in 100 C.E., emphasis on fasting changed. A writer and apologist, Tertullian (155-220 C.E.), in the late second and early third century C.E. was attracted to the greater extremism of fasting. He had the greatest impact on the church doctrines and virtually every aspect of religious life in his day. Thus, with fasting, the growing tendency was toward asceticism, severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, including fasting. Therefore, we can see how many later copyists would not want to give the impression that Jesus was entirely against fasting. Codex Sinaiticus had three scribes (A B & D). The original scribe A for this section of Codex Sinaiticus (א*) copied οι Φαρισαιοι νηστευομεν “the Pharisees fast” from his exemplar. The corrector (א1) who worked on Codex Sinaiticus (330-360 C.E.) before it left the scriptorium may have added the addition πυκνα (frequently); while the next corrector (א2) of Codex Sinaiticus between the 6th-7th centuries C.E. changed πυκνα to πολλα. Almost all modern translations (e.g., ESV, NASB, NIV, NJB, NLT) do not accept the critical texts TR NU TGNT & SBLGNT, but a few do, (LEB CSB).

The preferred method of getting at the original words of the original text is the documentary method, which considers internal and external evidence, as well as all manuscripts, yet giving the greater weight to the trusted documents (dates of the manuscripts supporting a reading, the geographical distribution of the manuscripts, and the overall quality both of the individual manuscripts and textual “families.”), and so, it is Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus that are the deciding factor in going against the NU text.

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Variant Reading(s): differing versions of a word or phrase found in two or more manuscripts within a variation unit (see below). Variant readings are also called alternate readings.

Variation Unit: any portion of text that exhibits variations in its reading between two or more different manuscripts. It is important to distinguish variation units from variant readings. Variation units are the places in the text where manuscripts disagree, and each variation unit has at least two variant readings. Setting the limits and range of a variation unit is sometimes difficult or even controversial because some variant readings affect others nearby. Such variations may be considered individually, or as elements of a single reading. One should also note that the terms “manuscript” and “witness” may appear to be used interchangeably in this context. Strictly speaking “witness” (see below) will only refer to the content of a given manuscript or fragment, which it predates to a greater or lesser extent. However, the only way to reference the “witness” is by referring to the manuscript or fragment that contains it. In this book, we have sometimes used the terminology “witness of x or y manuscript” to distinguish the content in this way.

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TERMS AS TO HOW WE SHOULD OBJECTIVELY VIEW THE DEGREE OF CERTAINTY FOR THE READING ACCEPTED AS THE ORIGINAL

The modal verbs are might have been (30%), may have been (40%), could have been (55%), would have been (80%), must have been (95%), which are used to show that we believe the originality of a reading is certain, probable or possible.

The letter [WP] stands for Weak Possibility (30%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading might have been original in that it is enough evidence to accept that the variant might have been possible, but it is improbable. We can say the reading might have been original, as there is some evidence that is derived from manuscripts that carry very little weight, early versions, or patristic quotations.

The letter [P] stands for Plausible (40%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading may have been original in that it is enough to accept a variant to be original and we have enough evidence for our belief. The reading may have been original but it is not probably so.

The letter [PE] stands for Preponderance of Evidence (55%), which indicates that this is a higher-level proof that the reading could have been original in that it is enough to accept as such unless another reading emerges as more probable.

The letter [CE] stands for Convincing Evidence (80%), which indicates that the evidence is an even higher-level proof that the reading surely was the original in that the evidence is enough to accept it as substantially certain unless proven otherwise.

The letter [BRD] stands for Beyond Reasonable Doubt (95%), which indicates that this is the highest level of proof: the reading must have been original in that there is no reason to doubt itIt must be understood that feeling as though we have no reason to doubt is not the same as one hundred percent absolute certainty.

NOTE: This system is borrowed from the criminal just legal terms of the United States of America, the level of certainty involved in the use of modal verbs, and Bruce Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), who borrowed his system from Johann Albrecht Bengel in his edition of the Greek New Testament (Tübingen, 1734). In addition, the percentages are in no way attempting to be explicit but rather they are nothing more than a tool to give the non-textual scholar a sense of the degree of certainty. However, this does not mean the percentages are not reflective of certainty.

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SOURCES

  • B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882)
  • 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),
  • Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).
  • Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament: Apparatus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
  • Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), Matt. 6:8.
  • Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012)
  • The NET Bible. Garland, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 2006
  • Philip Wesley Comfort, A COMMENTARY ON THE MANUSCRIPTS AND TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015).
  • 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).
  • Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001)
  • Wallace B., Daniel (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://csntm.org/
  • Wilker, Wieland (n.d.). Retrieved from An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels: http://www.willker.de/wie/TCG/index.html

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