Tag Archives: gospel

Neuter Plurals Singular Verb

This post discusses a textual variant in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 26, verse 31, as follows:

διασκορπισθησεται 𝔓³⁷ 𝔓⁴⁵ D E F K U V W Γ Δ Θ Π Φ ƒ¹ 2 28 565 579 1424 pm Eus Chrys Or-pt TR RP διασκορπισθησονται 𝔓⁵³ ℵ A B C G H L M S Σ 067 0281 ƒ¹³ 33 157 700 892 1071 1241 pm Or-pt SBL TH ΝΑ28 {\} lac 𝔓⁶⁴ N P Q Ζ 0233 346

The nominative substantive, the subject of our sentence here, is τα προβατα, “the sheep,” a neuter plural subject. But the BYZ text couples with it a singular verb, διασκορπισθησεται, while the NA28 text uses a plural verb, διασκορπισθησονται.

Classical, Attic, Greek had a grammar rule that broke the grammar rules.  Usually, verbs must agree in gender, number and case with the subject noun.  This is called concord.  But there was a rule that neuter plural subjects usually took a singular verb.

BDF §133: “This is because neuter plurals were originally in part feminine singular collectives: Schwyzer ɪ 581 f.). The rule appears to have been most strictly followed in the Attic dialect (Schwyzer ɪɪ 607); Homer and Koine are less consistent, while the plural is used exclusively in MGr.  In the NT (as in the LXX and pap.: Mayser ɪɪ 3, 28 ff.) there is marked diversity, and often in individual instances the MSS diverge.  The plural is used for the most part in Herm. (1) The plural is used especially with neuters designating persons (also class., K.-G. ɪ 65), most frequently with ἔθνη, less often wth τέκνα and δαιμόνια. (2) The singular, on the contrary, preponderates with words having non-personal meaning (even when a numeral is inserted: ἐὰν γένηται…ἑκατὸν πρόβατα Mt 18:12), (3) and even more so with abstracts and pronouns (ταῦτα, ἅ etc.).—For stereotyped ἴδε, ἰδού, ἄγε used in spite of a plural subject, s. §144.”

Smyth §958: “A neuter plural subject is regarded as a collective (996), and has its verb in the singular: καλὰ ἦν τὰ σφάγια the sacrifices were propitious X.A.4.3.19.  Here, sheep are a herd, a collective, so take a singular verb, the herd is scattered.  But Smyth then says in §959, “A plural verb may be used when stress is laid on the fact that the neuter plural subject is composed of persons or of several parts: τὰ τέλη τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων αὐτὸν ἐξέπεμψαν the Lacedaemonian magistrates despatched him (Thuc. 4.88), φανερὰ ἦσαν καὶ ἵππων καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἴχνη πολλά many traces both of horses and of men were plain X.A.1.7.17. (a.) With the above exception Attic regularly uses the singular verb.  Homer uses the singular three times as often as the plural, and the plural less frequently with neuter adjectives and pronouns than with substantives.  In some cases (B 135) the metre decides the choice.” 

Here in Mt 26:31 the sheep are persons, so one cannot declare with absolute certainly which reading in this variant is grammatically correct for classical Greek.  Now, there are many other examples of this category of variant in Matthew, but I am showing this one because so many papyri are extant.  The testimony is equally early for both readings.  Each has a III century papyrus in support, 𝔓⁴⁵ and 𝔓⁵³.  The Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, does not pertain here, as Zech 13:7 in the LXX does not have the same sentence structure, that is, there is no neuter plural subject.  Rather it says, “Strike the shepherds, and remove the sheep…” 

Now a question for us is, was Matthew (or his translator, if he wrote his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic) bound to follow Attic rules, or even familiar with Attic rules?  Possibly editors or copyists of Matthew corrected what they thought was incorrect grammar, to follow the Attic rule.  But in this variant we probably have a legitimate exception to the Attic rule since the sheep are persons.  This explanatory note, and many like it, can be read in my translation of the gospel of Matthew, downloadable here.

Matthew chapter 25 verse 6 variant

There is a variant in the Greek manuscripts of the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 verse 6, where the Majority text reads, “Look! The bridegroom is coming,” while the NA28 reads, “Look! The bridegroom.”  So the NA28 text lacks the word ερχεται, “is coming.”  Then after that, in both texts, the next Greek word is also a form of the word “come,” εξερχεσθε, and says “Come out to meet him.”

νυμφιος ερχεται C³ E W Σ Φ latt syr-p,h arm Chrys TR RP νυμφιος ℵ B C* D L Z cop-sa Cyr SBL TH NA28 {\} lac A N P 0233 0281

What I found that is significant, is that the scribe of Codex D, Codex Bezae, first wrote εξερχεται, which is only two letters different than ερχεται, just adding εξ to it, “out,” but then he omitted εξερχεσθε that is supposed to follow that according to all manuscripts.  He seems to have gotten confused by the similarity of the two words.  Here is a snip from the image of Codex D.

Matthew 25:6 in Codex D

So in view of the problem the scribe of Codex D had, I changed my Greek text to that of the Majority text, adding ερχεται, “the bridegroom is coming.”  Because I find this to be an explanation as to how the variant arose, how ερχεται dropped out of text streams.  In other words, the most important question in textual criticism is, which variant best explains the rise of the others?

Where Swanson is Correct

I have pointed out lately a few places where Reuben Swanson’s apparatus has been incorrect, so now I will be fair and point out a place where I think Swanson is correct and the NA28 apparatus is not.

In Matthew chapter 22 verse 30 there is a variant where most manuscripts say “are like the angels of God in heaven,” but some mss. say only “are like the angels in heaven.” (As does the parallel passage in Mark 12:25.) It is the difference between:
ὡς ἀγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ εν ουρανῶ εισιν and
ὡς ἀγγελοι εν ουρανῶ εισιν.

Swanson’s apparatus says the original reading of Codex E (07) did not have the words τοῦ θεοῦ “of God” and then a corrector (possibly the original scribe himself) rubbed out the original writing and added those words. The NA28 apparatus, however, does not indicate that the manuscript has been corrected there. I think Swanson is right here. Here is a snip of the manuscript:

Note that in the second half of the second line, the words ΤΟΥ ΘY̅ ƐΝ ΟY̅ΝW̅ ƐΙCΙΝ are smaller and fainter than all the other letters. This means the scribe had to shrink the rest of the words on the line in order to fit ΤΟΥ ΘY̅ in the line without having to correct the next line as well. As long as we are here, if you have not seen “nomina sacra” before, here we have two of them. The genitive form of the word θΕΟΣ, ΘΕΟΥ is shortened to ΘY̅ with a line above it. And the dative form for the word for heaven, ΟΥΡΑΝΟΣ, ΟΥΡΑΝW, is shortened to ΟY̅ΝW̅ with two overlines. These are called “nomina sacra” and they did this also for the words Jesus, Christ, David, Holy Spirit, and sometimes for Jerusalem and other words.

Matthew chapter 20 verse 15 variant

What is going on here in Matthew 20:15? The Majority text reads:

Ἢ οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι ποιῆσαι ὃ θέλω ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς; Εἰ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι;

Here are the two significant variants in the verse, showing only witnesses 8th century and earlier:

η ουκ…ει ο οφθαλμος lat Chrysostom TR RP η ουκ…η ο οφθαλμος ℵ C E N W Σ Φ 085 syr-p,h cop-sa TH [NA28] ουκ…η ο οφθαλμος B* D L Z SBL ουκ…ει ο οφθαλμος B² ‖ lac A P 0233 0281. 

All the witnesses above except B D L Z SBL begin the sentence with the Greek word Ἢ, “or.” Then the TR and Majority text for the second variant read ει, a marker for a direct question. What I am pointing out is that none of the English translations based on the Majority reading translate the word Ἢ as “or.”

BUT, neither do the English translations based on the second reading, which has the Greek word η for both variants, neither do they appear to render their text as it is found.

Practically none of the English translations translate the first η as “or.” 

The translations supposedly based on the TR / Majority text, at first seem to read as the Vaticanus corrector. (ουκ…ει ο οφθαλμος B²). The English translations from the Syriac, the Etheridge and Murdock translations, also seem to read as B².

The EMTV, “English Majority Text Version, reads as the SBL text.

We have seen that none of the English translations translate the first η as “or.”  But they are probably not following the reading of B* D L Z Θ SBL. The BDF grammar in Sec. 440 (3) says a simple interrogative ἦ does not exist in the NT.  In Sec. 440 (1) DeBrunner gives four examples in the NT of “simple interrogative ἤ,” Matt. 20:15, 26:53; 1 Cor. 9:8; 2 Cor. 11:7.  This must be how the first η is being interpreted.

Crowd versus Crowds

As I make my Byzantine edition of Matthew’s gospel, I get annoyed sometimes by the numerousness of variants that are meaningless in the Greek manuscripts and even in the editions thereof. Matthew chapter 15 verse 36 is a good example, in which there are a half dozen unimportant variants.

One that is actually amazing to me is that the word for crowd, οχλος, is plural in the NA28 but singular in the Robinson-Pierpont, yet in the previous verse, v. 35, they switch, and οχλος is singular in the NA28 and plural in the RP! Both verses are talking about the same crowd and occasion.

15:35 τοις οχλοις E F G H K L M N P S U V W X Γ Δ Π Σ Φ 0233 2 118 565 700 1071 𝔐 it-a,d,e,f,k,q syr-c,p cop-bo Hil TR RP τους οχλους C 892c 1424 τω οχλω ℵ B D Θ ƒ¹ ƒ¹³ 33 157 346 579 788 892* it-b,ff¹,f²,g¹,g²,l vg syr-h cop-sa-mss,mae,bo-mss arm eth Or SBL TH NA28 {\} lac A Q Z 0281 28 69.

15:36 τω οχλω C D E F G H N P S U W X Γ Δ Θ Σ Φ 2 118 565 1071 1424 𝔐 it> vg cop-sa-mss,mae arm Chr TR RP τοις οχλοις ℵ B K L M Π ƒ¹ ƒ¹³ 33 157 238 243 346 579 700 788 it-e,f,ff¹ syr cop-sa-ms,bo SBL TH NA28 {\} ‖ lac A Q Z 0233 0281 28 69. 

I offer a few observations: 1.) The plural is maintained in both by L M Π 700 syr-c,p cop-bo.  (2.) The singular is maintained in both by arm.  I would not begrudge any translator rendering all these as a singular.  (3.) This may demonstrate how insignificant the singular v. plural of οχλος is.

Mark 15 verse 30 variant

As I am making a Robinson-Pierpont edition of Mark’s gospel, I am adding many more textual variant footnotes to all my Mark documents. Some of the data you will not find anywhere else, such as the readings for some variants not footnoted in the NA28 or others, and for manuscripts not collated yet for those variants. For example, the majuscules / uncials 059, 083, 0233 and 0250.

Here is a new footnote on a variant in Mark 15:30. It is not a big difference in meaning, but I am footnoting most of the meaningful differences between the NA28 and the Byzantine text stream. In Mark 15:30, the NA28 text says “Save yourself by coming down from the cross.” The Byzantine says “Save yourself and come down from the cross.”

 txt καταβας ℵ B D L 059vid 083 it-k,l,n vg cop-bo SBL TH NA28 {\} και καταβα A C Σ it-d,ff² TR RP και και καταβα E και καταβηθι P 0233vid  lac N W 0184 0250.  The papyrus 059 is damaged here, but it looks like there is not room enough for the longer Byzantine reading, and it looks like there is a C (sigma) before the visible ΑΠΟ. Below is an image of 059, with the variant being in the middle of the second line. You can download my latest edition of Mark here.

Gospel of Luke Robinson-Pierpont

Gospel of Luke Printed Editions

I have published new printed editions of my translation of the gospel of Luke, with the Greek text alternating verse by verse with my English translation thereof; one edition with an eclectic Greek text, and another of the Robinson-Pierpont 2018 text which I received by email directly from Dr. Maurice A. Robinson.

There are a few minor improvements since the previous publication: I added the Tyndale House reading to many of the TC footnotes, using the abbreviation TH, and I corrected a few typographical errors. The Table of Witnesses is now more full, giving the full names and dates of the major manuscripts and versions.

The eclectic edition is $11.95, ISBN: 978-1-958612-01-9

The RP edition is $12.90, ISBN: 978-1-958612-02-6

Kindle edition also available for the Robinson-Pierpont edition, $0.99, and the eclectic edition for Kindle, $0.99.

Printed Edition of Luke

You can now purchase a printed edition of my translation of the Gospel of Luke, with the Greek text alternating verse by verse with my English translation. It is available on Amazon for $11.95.
Update June 16, I have published a new improved edition of Luke Robinson-Pierpont on Amazon.  It is priced at $12.90, the lowest Amazon would allow for the expanded distribution plan.  This one also comes in a Kindle edition. $0.99