Who Saved the People Out of Egypt: Ιησους or κυριος

Out of the several textual variants present in Jude 5, there is one which stands out as a significant variant with quite a significant impact on the text. I am, of course, talking about whether the subject of απωλεσεν is κυριος or Ιησους.

The majority of English Bible translations have opted to place κυριος in the text instead of Ιησους (e.g. NASB, NIV, KJV, HCSB), whereas only a few of the more recent translations have chosen Ιησους (e.g. NET, ESV, NLT). The Greek text of the UBS/NA editions have [o] κυριος, whereas the Editio Critica Maior hasΙησους.

A Brief Critical Apparatus

The following list is the textual variants together with a few of the more important manuscripts that attest to them:

  • o κυριος – 018, 020, 049, 056, 0142, 18, 35, 1175, 1836, 1837, Majority text
  • κυριος – 01, 044, 1875
  • o Ιησους – 88, 915 (the only witnesses to the articular)
  • Ιησους – 02, 03, 33C, 81, 322, 323, 665, 1739, 1881
  • o θεος – 04C2V (original reading illegible), 442, 621, 623T, 1845
  • o θεος χριστος – P72 (a singular reading in the mss. tradition)
  • κυριος Ιησους – 1735 and a few lectionaries

The unique reading of P72 is undoubtedly not original. It is not a conflation of θεος and χριστος as no manuscript witnesses to the latter. Due to the other “orthodox corruptions” made elsewhere by the scribe of P72 (e.g. 1 Pet 2.3), it is perhaps safe to say that the reading of o θεος χριστος was also a deliberate alteration by the scribe (perhaps his exemplar read θεος and he added χριστος to it).

Interestingly, the apparatuses of both NA27 and ECM have Ιησους as the reading for manuscript 33, yet it is actually 33C which has that reading (the original reading is o [...] according to Wasserman).

The Patristic and versional evidence is as follows:

  • [o] Ιησους – Vulgate, Coptic (Sa, Bo), Ethiopic, Cyril of Alexandria (†ca. 444), Jerome (†ca. 420),  Didymus (†ca. 395), Bede (ca. 735), and Origen [(ca. 235) according to the 1739mg]
  • [o] κυριος – Syriac (Ha), Pseudo-Oecumenius (ca. VI), Ephraem (†ca. 373), Theolphylus (†ca. 412)
  • o θεος – Syriac (Ph), Clement (†ca. 215)

A Survey of the Literature on Jude 5

Jarl Fossum asserts that the subject of απωλεσεν is Ιησους who is acting as the “deputy of God possessing the Divine Name”,[1] and is “an intermediary figure whose basic constituent is the Angel of the Lord.”[2] Whereas, Wikgren and Osburn have proposed that ιησους is actually meant as a referent to Joshua (the same name in Greek),[3] though this theory fails considering that the action of v. 7 is also ascribed to the same subject of v. 5, and so while it could be possible to attribute the saving of the people out of Egypt to Joshua,[4] it is impossible to attribute the imprisonment of the angels to him as well. In fact, Bauckham believes that the popular use of the Joshua-Jesus typology in the early church writings is what led to the introduction of Ιησους in the textual tradition of Jude.[5] That is to say, a scribe replaced κυριος with Ιησους due to seeing the Joshua-Jesus typology in v. 5 but did not notice that the typology failed to work in vv. 6-7. Yet,  I think that a scribe who is attentive enough to spot the opportunity to use the Jesus-Joshua typology in v. 5 would certainly notice that it doesn’t work in vv. 6-7.

In Bruce Metzger’s acclaimed textual commentary, he says that the reading of Ιησους “is deemed too hard by several scholars, since it involves the notion of Jesus acting in the early history of the nation Israel.”[6] Metzger preferred ιησους over κυριος, but the committee of the NA27 ended up choosing [o] κυριος (Metzger and Wikgren voted for ιησους). The uncertainty of the original reading, however, is noted by the D-rating the committee placed upon the variant.

Philip Comfort discusses the variant in his textual commentary. He asserts that ιησους is easier to argue for because “scribes were not known for fabricating difficult readings.”[7] Furthermore, he claims that “Jesus is here being seen as Yahweh the Savior.”[8]  While ιησους is undoubtedly the harder reading, I do not think it is merely a matter of whether scribes were in the habit of making the text more difficult; instead, it is whether they were also in the habit of making the text conform to a desired theological view (in this case, to a higher Christology by unambiguously attributing the salvation of the Israelites from Egypt to the pre-existent Jesus).[9]

Charles Landon favored κυριος in his monograph on Jude from a rigorous eclectic method.[10] Likewise, in his magisterial monograph on Jude done from the reasoned eclectic method, Tommy Wasserman also preferred κυριος.[11] One reason as to why Landon believes κυριος to be original is that the author of Jude never uses ιησους as a stand alone name but always adds χριστος and/or κυριος to it (see vv. 1, 4, 17, 21, 25). An original and more compelling internal reason for κυριος is provided by Wasserman. He explains that in quoting 1 Enoch 1.9 in Jude 14-15, the author of Jude changes the subject of the quotation from θεος to  κυριος. This is quite significant considering that no other witness to 1 Enoch 1.9 has κυριος as the subject, thus giving a strong precedent for Jude having used the anarthrous κυριος again in verse 5 which is similarly set in a context of judgment like vv. 14-15.

Alternatively, Klaus Watchel, using the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, analyzed the manuscripts and variants at Jude 5 and determined ιησους to be the original reading.[12] On top of that, two recent articles both argue for ιησους. The first article is by Philipp Bartholomä.[13] He approaches the variant from a reasoned eclectic viewpoint and finds the external evidence favoring Ιησους and that the internal evidence “in no way precludes” it. In the second article, Timo Flink argues that while the internal evidence does favor κυριος, the external evidence “overrules” that and so the reading should be Ιησους.[14] Interestingly, Flink asserts that there is a geographical distinction between κυριος and Ιησους, with the former being an almost exclusive Eastern reading and the latter being a predominantly Western one. For Flink, the widespread geographical occurrence of Ιησους (Egypt, Rome, Ethiopia) is what gives it the “slight edge” over κυριος (Egypt and Syria) as being the better reading (externally speaking).

κυριος or Ιησους

In summary, while the reading of Ιησους does have slightly better external manuscript support, considering that two early and important witnesses to Jude have different readings (01, 03) the corruption to the text must have occurred quite early in the manuscript tradition, thus making internal evidence a more decisive factor. The internal evidence persuasively points towards κυριος. This reading was perhaps ambiguous enough to induce the need for a scribe to elucidate it further, thus the two main variants to it (ιησους and θεος) demonstrate that some scribes believed κυριος to be in reference to God, while others thought it was describing the pre-existent activity of Jesus.[15] How was ιησους introduced into the manuscript tradition? Perhaps its was through a scribe who wanted to use a Joshua-Jesus typology, or it may have been an attempt to unambiguously attribute pre-existence to Jesus; or it may simply have been a case of  transcriptional oversight which mistook a nomina sacra KC for IC. Regardless, there are miniscules (e.g. 93, 1501), which have ιησους despite the fact that none of their closest manuscript ancestors contain that reading, thus showing that ιησους could have emerged independently throughout the manuscript tradition.


1. Jarl Fossum, ‘Kyrios Jesus as the Angel of the Lord in Jude 5-7′, New Testament Studies 33 (1987), pp. 226-43.

2. Ibid., pg. 237.

3. See A. Wikgren, ‘Some Problems in Jude 5′, in B.L. Daniels and M.J. Suggs (eds.), Studies in the History and Text of the New Testament in Honour of K.W. Clark (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah University Press, 1967), pp. 147-52; Carroll Osburn, ‘The Text of Jude 5′, Biblica 62 (1981), pp. 107-15

4. Ibid., pg. 148

5. Richard Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1990), pg. 309

6. Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), pg. 657

7. Philip Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale House, 2008), pg. 802

8. Ibid.

9. Surprisingly, Bart Ehrman only briefly skims over Jude 5 in his book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scriptures (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 85-86

10. Charles Landon, A Text-Critical Study of the Epistle of Jude (Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series, 35; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), pp. 70-75

11. Tommy Wasserman, The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission (Coniectanea Biblica New Testament, 43; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2006), pp. 262-66

12. See his essay in Hugh Houghton and D.C. Parker (ed’s). Textual Variation: Theological and Social Tendencies? (Texts and Studies, Third Series, Vol. 6. Gorgias Press, 2008), pp. 109-27

13. Bartholomä, Philipp F., ‘Did Jesus Save the People Out of Egypt? A Re-examination of a Textual Problem in Jude 5′, Novum Testamentum 50 (2008): 143-58.

14. Timo Flink, ‘Rethinking the Text of Jude 5, 13, 15 and 18’, Filologia Neotestamentaria 20 (2007): 95-125

15. 1 Cor 10.4 and 10.9 are often cited as New Testament parallels which also ascribe activity to a pre-existent Jesus.

1 Cor 13.3 – Boasting (καυχησωμαι) or Burning (καυθησομαι)

Despite the abundance of literature published on it, there is no scholarly consensus yet reached concerning the textual variant in 1 Corinthians 13:3. While there are actually several readings present in the Greek manuscript tradition of this verse, they can all be reduced down to the verbs καυχαομαι, “I boast”, and καιω, “I burn.” The specific readings of καυχησωμαι, “I may boast”, and καυθησομαι, “I may be burned”, will be the focus of this study.[1]

The reading of καυθησομαι has typically been regarded as the original text. This can be seen in that all the earlier critical Greek editions of the New Testament prefer it,[2] it is found in most English translations,[3] and that it is chosen by the majority of commentators and interpreters of this verse.[4] Alternatively, there has been an increasingly prevalent trend towards selecting καυχησωμαι as the original reading, a decision which is seen in recent critical editions,[5] commentaries,[6] and English translations.[7]

Here I will attempt to provide a brief overview of the problem and give my own arbitration on the matter by utilizing a reasoned eclectic methodology, examining the external evidence of manuscripts, versions, and patristic attestation, followed by the internal evidence of transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities.

The External Evidence

There are three readings that have noteworthy support in the Greek manuscript tradition: καυχησωμαι (aorist middle subjunctive of καυχαομαι), καυθησομαι (future indicative passive of καιω), and καυθησωμαι (future subjunctive passive of καιω).[8] While this study only focuses upon the viability of the first two readings, the external support for καυθησωμαι will also be called upon due to the fact that it supports καυθησομαι.[9] The focus of this study precludes an in-depth look at how the future subjunctive reading arose but suffice to say it is likely due to the fact that the indicative is seldom found in a ινα clause.[10]

The following brief apparatus lists the support for each reading:[11]


  • Manuscripts: P46, 01, 02, 03, 048,[12] 0150, 33, 1739*
  • Versions: Coptic(Sa, Bo)
  • Patristics: Origen, Didymus, Jerome


  • Manuscripts: 04, 06, 010, 012, 020, 81, 104, 263, 1175, 1881*
  • Versions: Old Latin, Italian, Vulgate, Syriac, Ethopic, Slavonic
  • Patristics: Tertullian, Ambrosiaster, Jerome


  • Manuscripts: 044, 6, 256, 365, 424, 1739c, Byzantine
  • Versions: None
  • Patristics: Tertullian, Origen, Basil, Gregory-Nyssa, Chrysostom, Cyril, Cyprian, Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, Augustine

The reading καυχησωμαι is revealed to be a primarily Alexandrian reading due to being found only in a wide range of Alexandrian witnesses: papyrus (P46), uncials (01, 02, 03, 048, 0150), minuscules (33, 1739), and versions (both the Sahidic and Boharic forms of the Coptic). The earliest patristic attestation to this reading is also from Alexandrian witnesses (Origen and Didymus). While this reading is isolated to a fairly limited geographical area, with little attestation elsewhere, it must be noted that some of the uncials and minuscules which attest to it are generally considered to be some of the most significant extant manuscripts for arriving at the original text.[13]

Kαυθησομαι is supported by the uncial 048, many late minuscules of Egyptian provenance, the second-century translations of the Syriac,[14] Coptic, and Itala,[15] as well as the second-century writings of Tertullian, Clement,[16] and Origen (who was aware of both main readings).  This is noteworthy since it demonstrates the reading existed in the Greek manuscript tradition by at least the mid-second century. So despite the fact that the reading is not found in any early papyri, but is instead found only in later uncials and minuscules, the support supplied by the patristic and versional evidence effectively puts it on par with the external support for καυχησωμαι.

Perera (2005, 114) summarizes the external evidence as favoring καυχησωμαι in terms of both age and categories of manuscripts, yet this is not an accurate assessment of the data considering that both readings can actually be dated back to the second-century. To sum up, both variants have early external evidence but the limited geographical distribution of καυχησωμαι as an Alexandrian reading gives the upper hand to καυθησομαι.

Internal Evidence

The criterion of transcriptional probabilities deals with such matters as scribal habits and paleographical features of a text. It attempts to answer the question as to which textual variant a scribe would have more likely been responsible for introducing into the manuscript tradition. Due to the similarity of the two readings of καυχησωμαι  and καυθησομαι both phonetically and graphically, the variant could have easily arisen from a hearing error in dictation or a visual blemish in an exemplar.

Perera (2005, 120) and Comfort (2008, 515) have suggested that since καυθησομαι is evocative of martyrdom, it is possible a scribal change occurred in an attempt to assimilate the verse to Dan. 3 and its depiction of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. However, it could easily be argued that instead of a scribe changing the text to provide an allusion to Daniel, it was actually Paul himself who intended that allusion in the first place. It is also regularly pointed out that during the time in which this epistle was written, martyrdom by burning had not yet become a widespread phenomenon, for death would have most likely be meted out by other means. Death by burning did become a popular form of execution later on, thus providing the impetus leading to the introduction of καυθησομαι into the manuscript tradition.

Turning now to intrinsic probabilities we approach the variants by examining the vocabulary of the author throughout the text of 1 Corinthians, as well as the larger corpus of Pauline writings. The root verb καυχαομαι is found thirty-five times in the Pauline corpus and can rightly be described as a preferred Pauline term, whereas the root verb καιω is found nowhere else in Paul’s writings.[17] Though this alone cannot be used to decisively adjudicate this variant as there is nothing prohibiting a unique occurrence of a word here by Paul. In fact, one can legitimately argue that a unique occurrence of a word here by Paul could have led a scribe to change it to a more common word that Paul used.[18]

From a contextual perspective, καυχησωμαι is undoubtedly the harder reading and by applying the text-critical principle of lectio difficilior potior, “the more difficult reading is stronger”, it would support the notion that the text was changed to καυθησομαι by a confused scribe. However, various scholars have proposed arguments endorsing the contextual validity of καυχησωμαι. For example, Petzer (1989, 235) proposes that in 1 Cor. 13:1-3 Paul is using parallel argumentation that grows progressively more hyperbolic and climaxes in the use of boasting in the final verse. To elaborate, in each verse Paul speaks of a possible action obtainable by the Corinthians (13:1 – speaking in the tongues of men; 13:2 – prophesying and having faith), which is then followed by an absurd hyperbolic exaggeration of the action (13:1 – speaking in the tongues of angels; 13:2 – knowing and comprehending all mysteries and having faith to move mountains), and finally the usefulness of such an action without love (αγαπην δε μη εχω) is elucidated. In 1 Cor. 13:3, the possible action attainable by the audience is the giving away of one’s possessions, but Petzer does not believe that the reading of καυθησομαι logically follows through with this pattern, as the burning of one’s body is not an unattainable hyperbolic exaggeration of giving away one’s possessions.[19] While this is a salient observation, the alternative reading of καυχησωμαι does not seem to keep this pattern intact either, as boasting about giving up one’s body is hardly an absurd hyperbolic exaggeration.

A structural look at 1 Cor. 13:1-3 reveals that each verse uses the same congruency of imagery in its makeup. Each verse is comprised of two conditional protases, the negative clause αγαπην δε μη εχω, and then an apodosis. The protases in verse 1 reference the “tongues of men and of angels”. These actions, without love, are then described in the apodosis as noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, where the imagery of noise is continuous between the protases and the apodosis. In verse 2, the protases speak of “prophesying” and having “all knowledge and all faith.” These virtues, without love, are described by Paul in the apodosis as “nothing”, which again is continuous with the protases in that “nothing” is the antithesis of “all”. Finally, the first protasis of verse 3 speaks of giving away “all I have” and the second protasis speaks of handing over “my body.” Regardless as to whether the second protasis contains the reading of καυθησομαι or καυχησωμαι, they are both in continuity with the apodosis (“I gain nothing”) by being antithetical to it (i.e. the contrast between “all” and “nothing” again). Yet, καυχησωμαι (“if I deliver up my body that I may boast”) spoils this pattern of continuity by adding a pejorative element which is not found in the previous verses.

Conversely, Petzer (1989, 235) and Fee (1987, 633-35) anticipate this argument and assert that the boasting in this verse carries positive connotations. In particular, Fee says that Paul is speaking of his own bodily sufferings that lead to the positive boasting of the salvation of the Corinthians. Though contra to Fee and Petzer, one can argue that the reading of καυχησωμαι should rightly be seen in a pejorative manner due to how boasting is portrayed this way earlier in the epistle (1 Cor. 1:29, 31; 3:21; and 4:7). Thus if one grants the originality of καυθησομαι, then the giving up of one’s body to be burned conserves the positive aspect of the protases and so preserves the full stylistic pattern of this pericope.


There is no obvious answer to this textual dilemma in 1 Cor. 13:3 as both the external and internal evidence can be marshaled to support either reading. With that said, it is the conclusion of this short study that the reading of καυθησομαι is to be slightly favored due to its widespread early attestation, together with the internal coherence it can bring to the larger pericope of 1 Cor. 13:1-3. The variant of καυχησωμαι no doubt entered the Alexandrian textual tradition quite early, possibly either as the result of an inadvertent scribal mishap, or as a deliberate attempt to correct what was thought to be an erroneous reading of an indicative καυθησομαι in a ινα clause.


[1] The other variants in this verse – καυθησωμαι, καυθη, καυθησεται, and καυθησηται – all derive from the verb καιομαι. See Perera (2005, 114-15) for reasons as to why they should be rejected as being the original text.

[2] It is found in the critical Greek editions of Tischendorf, Nestle, von Soden, Kilpatrick, Vogels, Merk, Gebhardt, and Nestle-Aland’s 25th edition. The similar reading of καυθησωμαι (see fn. 9 below) was preferred by Tregelles, Weymouth, Souter, Scrivener, and Hodges-Farstad.


[4] E.g., Plummer and Robertson (1911, 291), Morris (1958, 183), Elliott (1971, 297-98), Conzelmann (1975, 217), Collins (2000, 471), Garland (2003, 608), and Caragounis (2006, 547-64).

[5] It is found in the critical Greek editions of Westcott-Hort, the United Bible Societies 3rd-4th editions, and Nestle-Aland 26th-27th editions. It is also found in the recent critical Greek edition of the Society of Biblical Literature by Michael Holmes.

[6] E.g., Petzer (1989, 329-53), Witherington (1995, 258), Fee (1987, 633-35), Thiselton (2000, 1042), Metzger (2002, 497-98), Keener (2005, 106-09), Comfort (2008, 514-15), and Fitzmyer (2008, 494).

[7] E.g., RSV (1971 edition), NRSV, TNIV, NLT, and NET. As Malone (2009, 401) notes, the increase in English translations adopting καυχησωμαι is only due to the fact that it is the preferred reading of UBS3/4.

[8] Metzger (2002, 498) regards the future subjunctive reading as “a grammatical monstrosity that cannot be attributed to Paul.” This sentiment is echoed by Fee (1987, 629). For a response to this claim see Malone (2009, 404-06) and Caragounis (2006, 547-64).

[9] See Caragounis (2006, 553-59) for reasoning as to why the manuscript support for these two readings should be conflated together. Note that Aland-Aland (1995, 289) states that καυθησωμαι does not strengthen καυθησομαι significantly, which is probably because it doesn’t add any Alexandrian “Category I” attestation to the reading.

[10] For further reasoning see Perera (2005, 118-19).

[11] The information in this apparatus is primarily taken from Perera (2005, 126-27), Caragounis, (2006, 549) and Comfort (2008, 514).  Please also note that the uncials will be cited used the Gregory-Aland numbering system. For the patristic citations consult Caragounis (2006, 551).

[12] The reading of 048 is actually καυχησομαι which should be taken as support for καυχησωμαι.

[13] For instance, minuscule 1739 is believed to have been copied from a fourth-century uncial exemplar, which itself is thought to possibly be from a second-century papyrus.

[14] Apart from the Harclean Syriac, the Peshitta Syriac should also be considered a witness to καυθησομαι considering that it contains the reading καυθη.

[15] Aland-Aland (1995, 185) places these translations at about A.D. 180.

[16] Clement uses the perfect verb καυθησηται which should be regarded as attestation to καυθησομαι.

[17] Perera (2005, 121) states that it is found three times, but a search with the Accordance software yields no results, unless one believes Paul wrote Hebrews (as it is found in Heb. 12:18).

[18] Notably, there are five occurrences of words derived from καυχαομαι elsewhere in 1 Corinthians.

[19] For a similar line of argumentation see Smit (1993).

Select Bibliography

Caragounis, C.C.  The Development of Greek and the New Testament: Morphology, Syntax, Phonology, and Textual Transmission. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.

Elliott, J.K. “In Favour of Kauthēsomai in 1 Corinthians 13.3” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 62 (1971): 287-88

Malone, A.S. “Burn of Boast? Keeping the 1 Corinthians 13,3 Debate in Balance”, Biblica 90 (2009): 400-406

Perera, C. “Burn or Boast? A Text Critical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 13:3”, Filologia Neotestamentaria 18 (2005): 111-128

Petzer, J.H., “Contextual Evidence in Favour of KAYXHΣΩMAI in 1 Corinthians 13.3”, New Testament Studies 35 (1989): 229-53

Smit, J.F.M., “Two Puzzles: 1 Corinthians 12.31 and 13.3. A Rhetorical Solution”, New Testament Studies 39 (1993): 246-64

Additional Bibliography

Aland, K. and Aland, B. The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (2nd edition). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

Collins, R.F. First Corinthians. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2000.

Comfort, Philip W. New Testament Text and Translation Commentary. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House, 2008.

Conzelmann, H. 1 Corinthians – A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1975.

Fee, G.D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Fitzmyer, J.A. First Corinthians. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven, CT: Anchor, 2008.

Garland, D.E. 1 Corinthians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.

Keener, C.S. 1-2 Corinthians. The New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Metzger, B.M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd edition). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2002.

Morris, L. The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958.

Plummer, A. and Robertson, A.T. First Corinthians, International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1911.

Thiselton, A.C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

Witherington, B. Conflict and Community in Corinth. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

Peace With God Through Jesus: εχομεν or εχωμεν

Romans 5.1 contains a textual variant that, while being a difference in only one letter, can have a meaningful impact on the theological import of the verse.

δικαιωθεντες ουν εκ πιστεως ειρηνην εχομεν/εχωμεν προς τον θεον δια του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου (Rom 5.1)

Did the original text contain the word εχομεν or εχωμεν? The difference between these two words is only the difference between an omicron (short o) and an omega (long o); the former reading provides us with an indicative that is a statement of fact (“we have peace with God”), whereas the latter provides us with a subjunctive that is an exhortation (“let us have peace with God”).

Some of the times I have seen this textual variant discussed it is in a theological context by people who are approaching it with a theological axe to grind (concerning the issue of justification). In this context, people desire a variant to be correct due to their own theological convictions (generally εχομεν for Protestants and εχωμεν for Catholics), and then a token text critical argument is provided (e.g. some will just cite Metzger’s commentary as if it is the final authority on all text critical matters and settles this issue once and for all, while others will just proclaim that the oldest and best manuscripts support the subjunctive as if antiquity automatically equals originality).

The indicative reading is found in almost all English translations (e.g. NET, ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV) and most commentaries (e.g. Käsemann, Barrett, Cranfield, Fitzmyer, Dunn, Moo, Metzger, Wallace, Aland). The subjunctive is only found in two English translations that I know of (Moffatt and NEB), but is still preferred by a substantial number of commentators and interpreters (e.g. Moule, Lightfoot, Murray, Lenski, Porter, Dodd, Fee, Jewett, Tobin, Hultgren).

An Apparatus for Εχωμεν

Manuscripts: 01*, 02, 03*, 04, 06, 018, 020, 33, 81, 436, 1175, 1739, 1912, 1962

Versional: Latin(Old Latin, Vulgate), Coptic(Bo), Syriac(Pes, Pal), Armenian, Ethiopic

Patristic: Marcion(Acc. to Tertullian), Origen (†254), Gregory-Nyssa (†394), Chrysostom (†407), Cyril of Alexandria(1/5) (†444), Hesychius (†451), Theodoret of Cyrrhus (†466), Ambrosiaster (366-384), Pelagius (†418), Augustine (†430)

Critical Editions: Tischendorf, Westcott & Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk,  Bover, and Tasker

An Apparatus for Εχομεν

Manuscripts: 01(1c), 03(2c), 010, 012, 025, 044, 0220(vid), 6, 104, 256, 263, 365, 424, 459, 1241, 1319, 1506, 1573, 1739(c), 1852, 1881, 2127, 2200, 2464

Versional: Vulgate(mss), Coptic(Sa), Syriac(Ha), Georgian, Slavonic

Patristic: Basil of Caesarea (†379), Gregory-Nyssa(mss) (†394), Didymus of Alexandria (†398), Epiphanius of Constantia (†403), Cyril of Alexandria(4/5) (†444)

Critical Editions: UBS4/NA27, Holmes (SBL-GNT)

While it is unfortunate that the early papyri P46 does not contain this part of Romans, the rest of the manuscripts, as well as the versional evidence, undoubtedly points in favor of εχωμεν. In fact, it is overwhelming. It is the predominant reading in the Alexandrian text (01, 02, 03, 04, 81, and the Bohairic), and is also found in important manuscripts of the Western text (06 and the Old Latin).  It is also the reading of the important miniscules 33 and 1739. The subjunctive also enjoys the status of being the predominant reading of the early Latin and Bohairic versions, as well as the Armenian and Ethiopic versions. Finally, it is the reading found in most of the Greek fathers, who typically understood it as an exhortation to cease from sin.

The earliest witness for εχομεν is 0220(vid), an early 3rd century manuscript which leaves open the possibility that the indicative goes all the way back to the Alexandrian archetype. On the whole, εχομεν is supported by a reasonable range of witnesses, as it features in the Alexandrian (0220, 1881), the Western (010, 012), and the Byzantine text-types. Interestingly, though, the Byzantine text is split roughly 50/50 on this variant between the indicative and subjunctive.

Other than 0220, in the only other significant manuscripts that attest to the indicative (01, 03, 1739), it only appears as a correction to the original reading of the subjunctive. The correction in Sinaiticus (01) is attributed to the first corrector (out of three) who is dated to sometime in the 4th-6th century. The correction in Vaticanus (03) is by the second corrector who is also thought to date from around the 4th-6th century (whereas the first corrector is thought to perhaps be contemporaneous with the original scribe of the manuscript). The dating of the correctors is significant because if they were thought to have done their corrections at a time contemporaneous to the original scribe, it would perhaps suggest that the corrector was comparing the manuscript to its exemplar, which would suggest the exemplar actually contained the subjunctive.

Regarding the versional evidence, εχομεν appears in the Sahidic, Georgian, and Slavonic traditions. It also appears as an independent reading in some individual Vulgate manuscripts. All in all, definitely not as strong external evidence as what the subjunctive enjoys.

If one was to adjudicate this variant simply by external evidence, then εχωμεν would be clearly chosen. Due to the nature of the variant, however, internal evidence definitely needs to be brought under consideration. In fact, it is due to the internal evidence that the UBS4 committee decided upon an “A” rating of the variant εχομεν! This “A” rating (meaning the variant is virtually certain) is far too confident in my opinion and seems strange considering that this variant was not unanimously preferred by the committee.

The nature of the variants indicates that there is a very good possibility that the variant reading was introduced due to an auditory mishap due to the fact that omicron and omega were likely pronounced the same in Koine Greek (though I have seen literature saying otherwise). This does not, of course, indicate which reading is original, but only that the variant probably arose as the result of mistaken hearing. If this is the case, then the internal evidence should play a part in determining which variant was original. Unfortunately, some commentators present the notion that the indicative reading is the only one that makes sense in the context and that a hortatory subjunctive is practically impossible. This is just plain wrong and I suspect it is in part caused by an erroneous notion that the subjunctive represents a theological boogeyman regarding the issue of justification.

An argument commonly marshaled in support of the indicative is that it syncs well with how Paul soon thereafter mentions that we are reconciled with God (5.10), but this seems to mistakenly assume that the subjunctive somehow means we can not  be reconciled to God. Another internal argument put forth is that in v.2 the indicative εσχηκαμεν is said to be a parallel to the indicative εχομεν. However, considering that this word is found in a subordinate secondary clause, it is  more likely that καυχωμεθα, which is used twice 5.2-3, is the parallel to εχωμεν. This is actually the reason why the NEB translation chose to use the subjunctive in 5.1, as the  translation committee saw this trio of subjunctives in 5.1-3 as a series of three hortative clauses. Note, though, that the two instances of καυχωμεθα in vv.2-3 could also be translated as indicatives (“we boast” or “we rejoice”) instead of subjunctives (“let us boast/rejoice”). Though considering Paul’s previous admonition against boasting (2.17, 23; 3.27; 4.2), it would seem strange for him to use the word in an indicative sense, whereas a hortatory subjunctive would suggest a different sort of boasting for the reader and thus not conflict with his previous admonitions.

Another internal argument is that the phrase “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (δια + genitive) makes more sense with the indicative, i.e., that  peace is mediated from God through Christ to us. Whereas the subjunctive reading would suggest mediation from us through Christ to God. There is, though,  nothing to prohibit this sense of the use of δια + genitive, as it is in fact used that way just a little while later in v.11, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

On an interesting aside, Metzger and others have suggested that while the subjunctive is what Paul’s amanuensis Tertius (16.22) originally wrote down, the indicative is actually what Paul said and meant. This is  speculation that only arises from scholars imagining what Paul should have written. Besides, what Paul intended and spoke is not what is important here; what is important is what Tertius actually wrote down.

All in all, the external evidence undeniably points in favor of εχωμεν, and no internal considerations preclude this variant. Indeed, the subjunctive can make perfect sense internally speaking. Considering that εχωμεν is followed by προς and the accusative, I think the following translation of Romans 5.1 is acceptable and fitting:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, let us be at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

How is Jesus Related to God: μονογενης θεος or μονογενης υιος

The difficult textual variant in John 1.18 concerns whether Jesus is described as o μονογενης υιος (“the only begotten Son”) or [o] μονογενης θεος (“the only begotten God”). Some of the important early critical editions (e.g. von Soden, Bover, Tischendorf), preferred the variant o μονογενης υιος. On the other hand, in 1876 Hort authored a paper which discusses the reception of μονογενης θεος in scripture and tradition.[1] Hort believed this variant should be accept on grounds of the documentary evidence, of transcriptional probabilities, and of the intrinsic fitness of the variant. Adjudicating the variant in a similar manner to Hort are the critical editions of Merk, Holmes, and Nestle-Aland.[2]

In English translations of the New Testament, μονογενης θεος  is the preferred reading of the ESV, NASB, (T)NIV, and the NET, whereas o μονογενης  υιος is the reading of KJV, NKJV, RSV, and the HCSB.

A Brief Critical Apparatus

μονογενης θεος

Manuscripts: P66, 01*, 03, 04*, 019, 028*, 423

Versions: Diatessaron, Syriac (Pe and Hamg )

Fathers: Arius (acc. to Epiphanius), Basil, Clement, Cyril, Didymus, Epiphanius, Gregory-Nyssa, Hilary, Irenaeus, Jerome, Origen, Pseudo-Ignatius, Ptolemy, Theodotus (acc. to Clement), the Valentinians (acc. to Irenaeus and Clement), and the author of the Apostolic Constitutions

o μονογενης θεος

Manuscripts: P75, 011, 05, 33

Versions: Coptic (Sa & Bo)

o  μονογενης υιος

Manuscripts: 02, 043, 011, 017, 029, 033, 034, 037,  041, and Majority text

Versions: Vulgate, Syriac (Cu, Ha), Armenian, Ethiopian, Georgian,   Slavonic

Fathers: Alexander, Ambrose, Ambrosiaster, Athanasius, Augustine, Basil, Caesarius, Irenaeus, Clement, Cyril, Chrysostom, Hippolytus, Origen, Eustathius, Eusebius, Serapion, Gregory-Nazaianzus, Theodoret, John Damascus, Tertullian, Hilary, Fulgentius, Jerome, Victorinus

A few things immediately leap out from this data. First, more than a few of the same names appear on lists of patristic witnesses to both variants. This, of course, takes into account the fact that a witness to o μονογενης υιος only counts if it is clear that it is John 1.18 being referenced (considering the phrase appears elsewhere in the Johannine corpus – John 1.14, 18; 3.16, 18; 1 John 4.9). Second, the earliest appearances of μονογενης θεος is found almost exclusively in Alexandrian manuscripts. And third, the anarthrous form of μονογενης θεος is to be preferred over the articular (perhaps the articular was a scribal emendation to the confusing anarthrous).

The Case for μονογενης θεος

In his discussion of this textual variant,[3] Bart Ehrman says that μονογενης θεος is “found almost exclusively in the Alexandrian tradition.”[4] That is probably not entirely accurate considering that Sinaiticus is regarded as a Western text in John 1.1-8.38. But nevertheless, μονογενης θεος is primarily an Alexandrian reading, found in manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type (including the Alexandrian uncials 01, 03, 04, and the papyri P66 and P75), as well as in early Alexandrian Fathers (e.g. Clement of Alexandria witnesses to both variants in his Stromata; Origen likewise has μονογενης θεος in his Against Celsus, but also has o μονογενης υιος in his Commentary on John).

Interesting, though I guess not surprising, is the fact that μονογενης θεος is the exclusive reading in the Coptic tradition. It is also found in some Syriac manuscripts of both the Harklean and Peshitta traditions, which is significant considering the Harklean is associated with the Western text-type and the Peshitta with the Byzantine.

In his text critical commentary on the New Testament, Philip Comfort prefers μονογενης θεος, saying that the papyri P66 and P75 “tip the balance”.[5] Yet, as Ehrman has pointed out, the discovery of these papyri, while not being trivial discoveries, do not actually change the picture regarding this textual variant. An interesting argument Comfort mentions in favor of μονογενης θεος is that Jesus is described as θεος in John 1.1, then μονογενης in 1.14, and then μονογενης θεος in 1.18 (which is typically seen as the end of the prologue of John’s Gospel).

Metzger gives μονογενης θεος a “B” rating in his textual commentary, which signifies that the reading is “almost certain.”[6] He puts o μονογενης υιος down to a scribal assimilation to John 3:16, 18. One member of the USB committee, Allen Wikgren, dissented from the majority’s opinion and opted for o μονογενης υιος. Wikgren notes in Metzger’s commentary that a “D” rating would have been preferable for μονογενης θεος.

The Case for o μονογενης  υιος

As Ehrman notes, virtually every text type (Western, Caesarean, Byzantine, Alexandrian)  all witness to o μονογενης υιος.[7] Additionally, the reading is found in the Greek, Latin, and Syriac traditions, as well as the Armenian, Ethiopian, Georgian and Slavonic traditions. A couple points need to be noted at this juncture. First, despite the fact that secondary witnesses to the Alexandrian text type attest to υιος (e.g. 029, 037, 044), one has to keep in mind that this reading could hardly be claimed to go all the way back to the Alexandrian archetype. And second, it needs to be noted that the Caesarean grouping (e.g. f1, f13) has largely fallen out of favor as being a legitimate text type.

Along with the strong external evidence for this variant is the strong internal evidence. As mentioned earlier, the phrase o μονογενης υιος is used elsewhere in the gospel (John 1.18, 3.16, 18; also, 1 John 4.9). The phrase μονογενης θεος is not found elsewhere in John, or the New Testament. In fact, the term μονογενης is used almost exclusively in the New Testament literature with υιος (the lone exception being Luke 8.42). Theologically speaking, o μονογενης υιος is much more kosher than μονογενης θεος, which could rightly be regarded as an aberration of Johannine thought on God; where else is the concept of a God dwelling alongside another God so readily apparent? Regarding literary style, it could be said that o μονογενης υιος is more elegant considering it meshes nicely with the use of “Father” in the verse (“the only-begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side”). These arguments, of course, also add weight to the superiority of μονογενης θεος due to the fact it makes the principle of lectio difficilior potior apply to that variant.

An Excursus – The Meaning and Rendering of μονογενης θεος

In the New Testament literature μονογενης only occurs only in Luke, John, and Hebrews. Older translations, such as the KJV, render it as “only begotten.” This is due in part to the Latin rendering of μονογενης as uni-genitus, as well as the fact that μονογενης was thought to have be derived from γενναο (“begotten”) instead of γινομαι (“to become”) [which, I think, is now recognized as where μονογενης is actually derived from].[8]

Μονογενης can be used adjectivally, stressing quality, rather than stressing the concept of genealogical descent or derivation. So instead of “only begotten”, the meaning of the word can warrant a translation of  “unique” to convey the properly nuanced meaning. For example, in Hebrews 11.17 Isaac is described as the μονογενης son of Abraham. Was this because Isaac was the only son of Abraham? No (remember Ishmael)! But Isaac is the μονογενης son in the sense of “unique” son because he is the son of the promise.

So if we were to assume that μονογενης θεος was the original reading of the text, how then shall we render it? A couple of examples are:

  • the unique God
  • the Unique One, God

The first example uses μονογενης in an adjectival sense, but if the author intended this meaning, he could have more clearly conveyed it by saying o μονογενης  θεος or o μονογενης o θεος. The second example is the most interesting considering that it sees μονογενης as a substantive. This substantival sense is the most promising rendering of this variant as it sees 1.18 as containing a series of appositions, which could be translated as “the Unique One, [who is] God, [who is] in the bosom of the Father.” Compare to the translation of the NET: “The only one, himself God, who is in the presence of the Father…”

Ehrman, however, claims this proposal is “entirely implausible.”[9] His claim is not that μονογενης can not be used as a substantive (which it is in John 1.14), but that it is not a substantive when followed by a noun that agrees with it in gender, number, and case. He declares, “No Greek reader would construe such a construction as a string of substantives, and no Greek writer, would created such as inconcinnity.”[10] I wonder, though, how thoroughly Ehrman culled through Greek literature of the period (or even the NT) to see whether an adjective attached to a noun of the same case, gender and number has to  necessarily function adjectivally and not substantivally.


A plausible case can be made for the originality of μονογενης θεος. Assuming this was the original reading, it could have caused confusion leading to the definite article being added to give o μονογενης θεος. This, then, could perhaps lead a scribe to think the verse originally said o μονογενης υιος. Another explanation is that the a scribe may have blundered by reading a nomina sacra θεος (ΘΣ) as a nomina sacra υιος (ΥΣ). Yet, even though θεος  was one of the four key words abbreviated as nomina sacra, υιος was not a primary nomina sacra which could raise the question as to why an early scribe would write a ΥΣ instead of a ΘΣ. Regardless, the idea that this textual variation resulted from a nomina sacra mishap makes more sense when arguing for θεος being changed into υιος considering that the former was abbreviated as a nomina sacra from quite early on, whereas the latter wasn’t.

On the other hand, I would have to probably agree with Bart Ehrman that o μονογενης υιος is the superior reading. This leads to the question as to why  μονογενης θεος arose as a variant reading. Some (e.g. Ehrman) would posit that it is a modification to the text that occurred during the adoptionist Christological controversy. That is to say, the variant was created to support a higher Christology by affirming the Son as deity. While I can not claim to know whether this is indeed the reason that the θεος variant was introduced into the textual tradition, I think that the external and internal evidence do point in favor of  υιος. For while neither reading is contained to a particular text type, though μονογενης θεος comes fairly close to be a uniquely Alexandrian reading, it is manifestly clear that o μονογενης υιος enjoys an earlier and clearer geographical distribution.  This reading is also supported better internally, both stylistically and theologically.


[1] Fenton John Anthony Hort, Two Dissertations, (Cambridge: MacMillan and Co., 1867), 1-72

[2] Two important studies on this textual variant are:  Paul McReynolds, “John 1:18 in Textual Variation and Translation,” in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Bruce M. Metzger, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981); D. A. Fennema, ‘John 1:18′, New Testament Studies 31 (1985): 125-26.

[3] Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003): 72-82, 265-66

[4] ibid., 79

[5] Philip Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale House, 2008), 255-56

[6] Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 169-70

[7] Ehrman, op. cit., 79

[8] For support of the traditional “only begotten”, see John Dahms, ‘The Johannine Use of Monogenes Reconsidered,’ New Testament Studies 29 (1983) 222-32. For support of removing the idea of “begotten” from the phrase, see Dale Moody, “God’s Only Son: The Translation of John 3.16 in the Revised Standard Version’, Journal of Biblical Literature 72 (1953): 213-19.

[9] [10] Ehrman, op. cit., 81

How Did Jesus Die: χαριτι θεου or χωρις θεου?

The textual variant in Hebrews 2.9 concerns whether Jesus died χαριτι θεου (“by the grace of God”) or χωρις θεου (“apart from God”). The former reading is generally regarded without question as the original reading of the text, which can be seen in the fact that the latter reading is only found in the margin of a few English translations and never in the main text. Indeed, ever since Tischendorf, the variant of χαριτι θεου has been chosen as the original text in nearly every critical edition of the Greek New Testament. Recently, though, Michael Holmes chose χωρις θεου in his critical edition for the Society of Biblical Literature (SBLGNT).

A  Brief Critical Apparatus

χωρις θεου is found in the manuscripts 0121b, 424c, and 1739*.  It is also found in some manuscripts of the Vulgate, and is attested by Origen (†ca. 254), Ambrose (†ca. 397), Jerome (†ca. 420), and Fulgentius (†ca. 527).

χαριτι θεου is found in P46, Aleph, A, B, C, D, Ψ, 33, 81, 330, 614, 1739c, and the Majority text. It is found in the majority of the Vulgate and Coptic (Sa, Bo) manuscripts, and is also attested by quite a few early church fathers.

The witness of the Syriac is intriguing. Some text-critical apparatuses list the Peshitta as supporting the reading χωρις θεου. Yet the only study done on the Syriac tradition on Hebrews 2:9 actually comes to the opposite conclusion.[1] After examining over thirty Peshitta manuscripts from during the 5th – 13th centuries, Sebastian Brock maintains that χαριτι θεου was the earliest reading of the Peshitta tradition, though the evidence isn’t so clear cut as to prohibit coming to the opposite conclusion. Interestingly enough, χαριτι θεου is the variant that was more favorable in the Maronite and Orthodox churches of West Syria, while χωρις θεου was favorable in the Nestorian church of the East.

The Case for χαριτι θεου

The text-critical edition behind Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece (NA) and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (UBS) opted for the reading of χαριτι θεου. Bruce Metzger reveals that the reading was assigned an ‘A’ rating by the committee, signifying that the variant is certainly the correct one.[2] Metzger lists the favorable external evidence of widespread manuscript support (from both Alexandrian and Western text types) as the main reason for the acceptance of that reading. He does note, though, that a large of number of both Eastern and Western church fathers, along with a couple important manuscripts do support the alternative variant of χωρις θεου. Metzger puts this latter variant down to either a scribal lapse, misreading χαριτι as χωρις, or more likely as a marginal gloss reading explaining that the “everything” of v. 8 does not include God (cf. 1 Cor. 15.27) which was then mistakenly regarded by a scribe as a correction to χαριτι θεου  of the following verse and was then incorporated into the main text.

Philip Comfort presents a similar case as Metzger.[3] He also adds that the change of χαριτι to χωρις could have been intentional, with the motivation behind the change being that Jesus was abandoned by God in his crucifixion (cf. Mark 15.34), and therefore really did die χωρις θεου. Alongside Metzger and Comfort, every exegetical commentary on Hebrews I have checked also favors χαριτι θεου.[4]

The Case for χωρις θεου

As seen in the text-critical apparatus above, the external attestation for the χωρις θεου variant is quite weak. There are no early uncial manuscripts which attest to it, though the 10th century miniscule 1739 does, which is significant considering it was probably copied from a 3rd-4th century uncial exemplar which itself was copied from an even earlier papyri (which would probably be contemporaneous with the witness provided by P46 for χαριτι θεου).[5] That and the fact that Origen knew of manuscripts which had this variant are probably the strongest external arguments in favor of it.

Despite this, the internal evidence is quite favorable for χωρις θεου. The phrase χωρις θεου occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, whereas χαριτι θεου appears twenty times, thus giving credence to the view that a scribe would likely change an unusual phrase for a more common one. Moreover, in Hebrews, χαρις occurs seven times, whereas χωρις occurs thirteen times. This relatively high usage of χωρις could perhaps be indicative that the author may have well indeed coined the unusual phrase χωρις θεου, but on the flip side it could be argued that it reveals that a scribe may have changed an occurrence of χαριτι for the more common χωρις.

Another internal argument in favor of χωρις θεου is that of lectio difficilior potior, which posits that all other things being equal the variant that would be harder to accept is likely going to be the original one. Bart Ehrman claims that χωρις θεου was indeed a hard reading and thus it was changed to χαριτι θεου by a proto-orthodox scribe.[6] He envisages this scribal alteration occurring during the time when proto-orthodox Christians and gnostic Christians were having their disputes concerning the nature of Christ. An original reading of χωρις θεου could have been used by the gnostics in order to boost their claims that Jesus did indeed die χωρις θεου (due to their belief that the divine Christ spirit left Jesus on the cross). Thus, theologically motivated proto-orthodox scribes altered χωρις to χαριτι in order to provide a reading less susceptible to gnostic theology.

An Excursus on Origen and Ehrman

Bart Ehrman has made the following claim concerning χωρις θεου: “Origen tells us that this was the reading of the majority of manuscripts in his own day.”[7] However, while Origen does use the χωρις θεου variant six times (four of which are in Greek manuscripts and two in Latin translations by Rufinus),[8] it is erroneous to say that Origen said the reading is found in the majority of manuscripts of his day. Why? Because Origen simply never does actually say that! The only thing that Origen says that could be mistaken for this is found in his Commentary on John. Here Origen says:

For ‘apart from God he tasted death for all.’ This appears in some copies of the Epistle to the Hebrews as ‘by the grace of God.’

χωρις γαρ θεου υπερ παντος εγευσατο θανατου οπερ εν τισι κειται της προς Έβραιους αντιγραφοις χαριτι θεου

This simply does not support Ehrman’s claims that Origen claims χωρις θεου was found in the majority of manuscripts of his day. Yet, as Paul Garnet suggested, it may imply that Origen favored χωρις θεου as the original reading.[9] One needs to keep in mind, though, that when Origen uses Heb. 2.9, he is more interested in discussing the efficacy of the cross than the relationship between Jesus and God during the crucifixion. In other words, Origen’s emphasis lies on the phrase υπερ παντος rather than χωρις/χαριτι  θεου. Had Origen found a need to quote the verse in a context which required placing emphasis on χωρις/χαριτι, then perhaps we could more decisively say what variant Origen thought of as original. Nevertheless, the fact that Origen provides witness to χωρις θεου multiple times does provide an important witness to the text of Hebrews in the East during the third century.

Towards a Solution

Both variants can be traced back to existing in the same early period of transmission. One variant has strong external support and the other variant has weaker external support but good internal support. The question comes down to as to which variant can provide a scenario that plausibly explains how the other variant arose from it.

An original χαριτι θεου that was changed into χωρις θεου is rather difficult. The idea of a mere transcriptional error seems very unlikely due to the fact that the two words do not look similar or are even pronounced similarly. The idea of a marginal gloss reading being incorporated into the main text is hard to accept despite the logic of it. For this theory to be true, one has to suggest that a marginal reading of χωρις θεου occurring in v. 8 was somehow mistakenly thought of as a correction to the phrase χαριτι θεου (which, considering the length of vv. 8-9, χαριτι θεου could have  possibly been found several lines of text after the marginal gloss). Furthermore, as Ehrman pointed out, if this marginal gloss was done with 1 Cor. 15.27 in mind, then the gloss would have likely read εκτος θεου and not χωρις θεου.[10] This scenario, while possible, is not very probable in my estimation.

On the other hand, perhaps one would have to agree with F.F. Bruce and Bart Ehrman (as I tentatively do) and say that χωρις θεου is the original reading that was later changed into χαριτι θεου.[11] An early clash with a gnostic form of Christianity, centering on the relation of the divine and human natures of Jesus, could have very well resulted in an early textual alteration of χωρις θεου to χαριτι θεου by a proto-orthodox scribe. This reading could have found favor with other proto-orthodox scribes and could have reasonably found its way to end up being the dominant variant in later generations due to  the fact that proto-orthodox Christianity wound up being the dominant form of Christianity.


1. Sebastian Brock, ‘Hebrews 2:9 in Syriac tradition’, Novum Testamentum 27 (1985): 236–44

2. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd edition), (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), pg. 594

3. Philip Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, (Tyndale House, 2008), pg. 697

4. For commentaries choosing χαριτι θεου see, e.g., Harold Attridge, Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (ed. Helmut Koester; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989); Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).

6. Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pg. 146-50

7. Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2005), pg. 145

8. Origen’s Commentary on John, 1.35, 28.18, 32.28; Commentary on Romans, 3.8, 5.7; and Dialogue with Heraclides, 27.

9. Paul Garnet, ‘Hebrews 2:9: Χαριτι or Χωρις?,’ Studia Patristica 18 (1985): 321-25

10. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pg. 148

11. F.F. Bruce, “Textual Problems in the Epistle to the Hebrews”, Scribes and Scripture: New Testament Essays in Honour of J Harold Greenlee (ed. David Alan Black; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1992), pp. 27-39. Note, though, that while Bruce does believe that χωρις θεου was changed into χαριτι θεου, he does not believe that the original text of Hebrews contained either phrase! He says that the original text of the verse was “in order that he [Jesus] should taste death for everyone”, and that the marginal gloss of χωρις θεου found in Heb. 2.8 was incorporated into Heb. 2.9 and then later changed to χαριτι θεου.


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