Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Two Neglected Textual Variants in Philippians 1

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Two Neglected Textual Variants in Philippians 1

Article excerpt

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Recent studies of Paul's Letter to the Philippians have highlighted the epistle's connections to the ancient institution of friendship as well as the closely related Greek and Roman social conventions of patronage and benefaction.1 These studies have drawn attention also to Paul's emphasis on his own role in these relationships of patronage, not only as a client and recipient of financial support from the Philippians but also as a patron and a broker of divine benefaction.2 In light of this development, it would be timely to reexamine two textual variants in the first chapter of Philippians that have not received due attention.

At the end of Phil 1:7, the 27th edition of Nestle-Aland prints the following participial phrase: ... with no indication of variation in the manuscript tradition. Most modern translations and commentaries understand ... as a possessive genitive modifying the noun that precedes it, .... The RSV thus translates, "for you all are partak ers with me of grace."3 This is a grammatically sound interpretation. Yet ... could just as easily be read as modifying the noun ... (this possibility is reflected in the translation of the KJV: "ye all are partakers of my grace"), which would accent Paul's role as a broker and dispenser of his own divine benefaction.4 As it stands in Nestle-Aland, the phrase is ambiguous. The latter understanding, however, would be somewhat more likely if ... were in a position after the noun ....5 What is interesting is that the so-called Western witnesses of Paul's letters do in fact show this reading, .... Nestle-Aland obscures this point by not including this reasonably well-attested reading in its critical apparatus. Modern commentaries have followed suit in not noting this variation unit.

Older editions of the Greek NT do document this reading. In his edition of 1752, Johann Jakob Wettstein reported that ... appears in the Greek text of four Greek-Latin bilingual codices: Claromontanus (sixth century), Sangermanensis (early ninth century), Boernerianus (ninth century), and Augiensis (ninth century).6 It is true that this collection of manuscripts does not represent four independent witnesses, since Sangermanensis is certainly a copy of Claromontanus; and Boernerianus and Augiensis should also likely be regarded as a single witness since they appear to derive from a common ancestor.7 Nevertheless, some weight should be granted to this particular combination. As Peter Corssen has pointed out, when the Greek text of Claromontanus is in agreement with that of Boernerianus and Augiensis, the reading likely goes back to the fourth-century predecessor from which all three texts are ultimately derived.8 Yet, by the standard rules of textual criticism, a single fourth-century witness cannot take priority over the combined support of p46 (third century), Sinaiticus (fourth century), Vaticanus (fourth century), and Alexandrinus (fifth century) for the reading ....9 While there is thus insufficient evidence to suggest that ... represents the earliest recoverable text of Phil 1:7, this reading could represent an early clarification of the verse and thus could provide evidence for how some early readers of the ambiguous ... understood that phrase.10

The Greek and Latin versions of the commentary on Philippians by Theodore of Mopsuestia help to illustrate this point.11 Likely written in the early fifth century, Theodore's commentary on Philippians survives in a Latin translation that Henry Barclay Swete suspected was produced in North Africa in the middle of the sixth century.12 Fortunately, a few Greek fragments also survive, and the relevant portion of Phil 1:7 is among them. Theodore writes: ... Theodore's exposition of the verse does not especially clarify the question of how to construe ... ("For since he himself received an act of benefaction for apostleship in order that others might become faithful, the one who is faithful quite reasonably shares in the benefaction"14), and his citation of the end of the verse also remains ambiguous (the isolation of . …

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