Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Disputed Words in the Lukan Institution Narrative (Luke 22:19b-20): A Sociological Answer to a Textual Problem

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Disputed Words in the Lukan Institution Narrative (Luke 22:19b-20): A Sociological Answer to a Textual Problem

Article excerpt

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At first glance there might not appear to be much of a prima facie case for seeking answers to textual problems within the social world of early Christianity, and even less a possibility that the results of such an inquiry might have implications for the present. The relationship between a manuscript and the community for which it is produced is, however, both a fluid and a dynamic interchange, in which one is shaped and formed by the other. For good reason, the imperative for understanding and interpreting a biblical text against its Sitz im Leben is long established and routinely applied. Less widely recognized is the possibility that a similar dynamism and a similar methodology can and ought to be applied to the study of the textual transmission of individual manuscripts and to the study of particular textual issues within them. Manuscripts do not simply appear, nor were the earliest textual witnesses of the NT produced in isolation from a community. Only from the fourth century, with the rise of monasticism and the Edict of Milan, does a professional class of scribes and scholars emerge to assume responsibility for the transmission of the sacred text. Throughout the course of the second and third centuries, the most fluid age for the textual transmission of the NT,1 manuscripts were produced by, and for the use of, religious communities. Even when transmitting verbatim from an exemplar, and certainly when translating from one language into another (since all translation is at once interpretation), the scribes who produced these manuscripts inevitably reflected within them the social, political, and theological proclivities of the worlds in which they lived and worked. This can be seen most clearly in the critical examination of what is included, what is omitted, and what is altered, among particular manuscripts. That the dogmatic and theological controversies of the times are reflected in the textual history of the NT has been observed from ancient times.2 But manuscripts are a window into more than the history of dogmatics. They function as textual mirrors (very often the only mirror we have) that invite us also into the world inhabited by the scribes who produced them and the communities for whom they wrote. The variance, dissonance, and agreement in manuscripts are, then, more than statistical units to be compiled in columns and cited in apparatuses; these features function as "a window into the social world of early Christianity."3 This is true also of individual emendations in particular manuscripts, a point I hope to establish in the particular case of the well-known omission of a portion of the words of institution from part of the Western recension (principally Codex Bezae-Cantabrigiensis, D) of Luke's Gospel (Luke 22:19b-20), a passage that has very definite ongoing relevance to the present-day church in the theaters of both its theological reflection and liturgical practice.4

I. THE DISPUTED WORDS IN THE LUKAN INSTITUTION NARRATIVE (LUKE 22:198-20): AN ONGOING CONUNDRUM

14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." "Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" 21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. …

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