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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
SBLGNT: 2010 Greek New Testament
THGNT: 2017 The Greek New Testament by Tyndale House
GENTI: 2020 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear
Explore a scholarly, textual commentary and exegetical analysis of James 1:17, focusing on textual variants and manuscript support. Gain insights into how these variants impact our understanding of God’s unchanging, steadfast nature. A comprehensive look at the TR, WH, NU readings, and other variants.
James 1:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17 is a pivotal verse that underscores the unchanging nature of God, serving as an anchor to the theme of divine consistency and goodness. While doing textual commentary, we need to focus on the textual variants and manuscript evidence that supports each reading.
TR WH NU: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” [CE]
- Greek: οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα
- Manuscript Support: This reading is supported by א2 (Aleph 2), A, C, and 1739 as well as the Majority Text (Maj).
Variant 1: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation which consists in the turning of the shadow.”
- Greek: ουκ ενι παραλλαγη η τροπης αποσκιασματος
- Manuscript Support: Supported by א* (Sinaiticus original) and B. This variant adds a specific clarifying detail (“which consists in”).
Variant 2: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or turning of the shadow.”
- Greek: ουκ ενι παραλλαγης η τροπης αποσκιασματος
- Manuscript Support: This is found in 𝔓23. Here the text varies slightly with the addition of the word for ‘of the shadow,’ but otherwise seems to match the meaning carried in the main text.
Variant 3: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning, not even the least suspicion of a shadow.”
- Greek: ουκ ενι παραλλαγη η τροπης αποσκιασμα ουδε μεχρι υπονοιας τινος υποβολη αποσκιασματος
- Manuscript Support: 1832 and 2138, which are late manuscripts. This reading seems to be a gloss or an attempt to elucidate what is meant by “shadow of turning.”
The TR/WH/NU reading appears to be the most straightforward in portraying God’s unchanging nature and is supported by a broad base of manuscripts, including Aleph 2, A, C, and the Majority Text. It is less interpretive than the other variants and stays closer to what might have been the original wording. The variant found in 𝔓23, although an early witness, doesn’t change the sense significantly and may be an attempt to clarify. The third variant, found in late manuscripts, appears to be a gloss or commentary embedded in the text and is thus less likely to be original.
The TR/WH/NU reading is the most likely to be original and best represents the intended message of the text: God’s unchanging, steadfast nature. The focus is not on celestial phenomena or timekeeping instruments like sundials but rather on the consistent and unchanging character of God. Hence, it seems reasonable that modern translations should follow the TR/WH/NU reading, but a textual note concerning the reading in 𝔓23 could be warranted due to its early witness.
Exegetical Analysis of James 1:17: The Immutable Source of All Good Gifts
The Epistle of James is renowned for its practical wisdom and guidance on living a godly life. One verse that often stands out in this context is James 1:17, which encapsulates a fundamental tenet of Christian faith—that every good and perfect gift comes from Jehovah, the immutable “Father of lights.” This section will delve into an exegetical analysis of this verse, examining its grammatical structure, historical context, and theological implications.
Textual and Grammatical Analysis
Every Good Gift and Every Perfect Gift
The Greek words for “good” and “perfect” used here are “agathos” and “teleios” respectively. “Agathos” signifies what is good in nature, while “teleios” indicates what is complete or serves its purpose effectively. Here, James seems to be saying that both the inherently good gifts and the ones that fulfill a perfect purpose in our lives come from Jehovah.
From Above, Coming Down
The phrase “from above, coming down” is deeply rooted in the Greek “anothen katabainon,” indicating not just the origin but also the trajectory of these gifts. They are both heavenly in origin and descending in nature, reaching us in our earthly existence.
The Father of Lights
The title “Father of lights” refers to Jehovah as the creator of the celestial bodies (Genesis 1:14-18), but it also metaphorically signifies Him as the source of all wisdom and truth.
No Variation or Shifting Shadow
The Greek “parallage,” translated as variation, and “trope tes skias” or shifting shadow, attest to the unchangeable nature of Jehovah. Unlike celestial bodies that change their appearance and position, Jehovah is unchanging and consistent.
Historical and Cultural Context
In a society rife with polytheism and dualism, James’ message refutes the belief that good and bad come from different sources. By pointing to Jehovah as the unchanging source of all good things, James is also subtly contrasting Him with mutable gods of Greek mythology, who were notoriously fickle and untrustworthy.
Divine Source of All Good
James 1:17 confirms that Jehovah is the ultimate source of every good and perfect gift. This stands in opposition to the worldly idea that human effort or chance are responsible for the good things that happen in life.
Immutable Nature of Jehovah
Jehovah is consistent in His nature and actions. There’s no fickleness in Him, only consistent goodness and unwavering purpose. This provides immense comfort and assurance for believers.
Gratitude and Stewardship
Recognizing Jehovah as the source of all good gifts necessitates a grateful and responsible attitude towards what we have been given.
Understanding that every good thing comes from Jehovah leads to a life filled with gratitude.
Trust in Jehovah’s Consistency
In times of change and uncertainty, believers can find solace in the unchanging nature of Jehovah.
Be Good Stewards
Acknowledging Jehovah as the source of all good things carries with it the responsibility of stewardship. We are called to utilize these gifts wisely for His glory and the benefit of others.
James 1:17 offers profound wisdom, comfort, and guidance. It tells us that Jehovah, the Father of lights, is the consistent source of all that is good and perfect in our lives. This truth has practical implications for how we live our lives and interact with others. By delving into the grammatical, historical, and theological aspects of this verse, we can appreciate more deeply the richness of what James is communicating and apply it to our lives in meaningful ways.
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 it. It 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.
Copyists made some additions to their Greek text at times. They were more inclined to do this than to omit material. One must always carry out careful research of the external and internal evidence to uncover such scribal interpolations. Hence, the most dependable witnesses are from the Alexandrian family of manuscripts found to be the most condensed. On the other hand, the Byzantine family is the most drawn out and extended from scribes taking liberties with the text.
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.
- Edward D. Andrews, FROM SPOKEN WORDS TO SACRED TEXTS: Introduction-Intermediate New Testament Textual Studies (Cambridge, Ohio), 2021.
- B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882)
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006)
- 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),
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012)
- 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 Manuscripts: Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, 2 Volume Set The (English and Greek Edition) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019)
- Rick Brannan and Israel Loken, The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
- Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).
- 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