Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Text Criticism and Luke 4:18

I left the text critical issue of Luke 4:18 just hanging there unresolved in my last post. Basically, there are three possible variants for Isaiah 61:1 based on the witnesses of the MT, LXX, and NT. Each possible variant is individually supported by two witnesses. The phrase about the blind is found in the Greek witnesses, not in Hebrew. The phrase about the brokenhearted is found in Hebrew and in the LXX but is not in the NT. The ending phrase about freeing the oppressed is found in the Hebrew and the NT, not the LXX. I should point out that if you're using the KJV, everything is there. The Byzantine text type for the NT has restored the missing phrase about the brokenhearted. I've broken down the verse into phrases to more easily discuss what's there in each witness.

A. The Spirit of the LORD is upon me

B. because the LORD/he has anointed me

C. to bring good news to the poor

D. he has sent me

E. to bind up / heal the brokenhearted (missing from earliest NT mss, found in Byzantine-type)

F. to proclaim freedom to the captives

G. and recovery of sight to the blind (missing from MT)

H. and liberty to the prisoners/oppressed. (missing from LXX)

As noted above there are three text-critical issues here:

1. Line G: "Recovery of sight to the blind" could reflect a Hebrew variant derived from Isa 42:7. There is a thematic connection between 42:7 and 61:1 including some shared vocabulary.

2. The Greek versions are almost identical except for the oldest NT mss missing line E. Therefore, the NT isn't reflecting a completely different Greek translation.

3. LXX is missing line H which is found in NT.

I lined up the four versions in the original Greek and Hebrew and compared them closely. Here are my conclusions on how to best explain the variants.

1. Line G in the Greek versions probably comes from a real Hebrew variant inserted because of the influence of the similar subject matter of Isa. 42:7.
2. Line H likely reflects an early Greek marginal gloss correcting toward MT.
3. The LXX is the primary source of the NT quote.
4. The absence of line E from the oldest NT mss must reflect some type of scribal error. There is no reason to think it was deliberately omitted because it would have fit the context fine.
5. The uniformity of the various Greek versions suggests that the NT is not a homiletical quote or paraphrase.
6. The Byzantine text type restores line E which is expected following the general pattern of later mss to harmonize variants and "fix" the text.

So in this case, the later mss of the NT probably reflect the original text for line E but the Hebrew preserves the original when it comes to line G which was likely an insertion.

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