Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Toward a New Scribal Tendency: Reciprocal Corruptions and the Text of 1 Corinthians 8:2-3

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Toward a New Scribal Tendency: Reciprocal Corruptions and the Text of 1 Corinthians 8:2-3

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

From Clement's chambers and Augustine's episcopal see to the centers of production for some of our earliest biblical manuscripts, a late antique conversation transpired about reciprocity in knowledge between God and those who love God. While the details of these conversations are nearly all lost to history, glimpses of the controversy surrounding divine reciprocity remain embedded in the sources and point to an alteration of 1 Cor 8:2-3 that brought the text in line with a widely attested theological commitment and introduced thematic uniformity into the Pauline corpus.

In what follows, I argue that there are strong grounds, both intrinsic and transcriptional, to believe that the oldest recoverable form of 1 Cor 8:2-3 is the shorter reading: ... ("If someone appears to know [something], he does not yet know as he ought. But if someone is loving, that person has come to know"), preserved in its entirety only in the late-second- or early-third-century manuscript p46 and in Clement of Alexandria's Stromateis.1 Careful analysis of the manuscript tradition and of contemporaneous literary sources will demonstrate that the remarkable state of the textual tradition can be most compellingly explained with the shorter text of 1 Cor 8:2-3 posited as the oldest recoverable form. With the addition of a mere five words, inserted during the transmission of the text on the grounds of assimilation to known Pauline doctrine and an emphasis on divine reciprocity, the "shorter reading" above became the "longer reading" of the Majority tradition and NA28: ... ("[If someone appears to know something, he does not yet know as he ought.] But if someone loves God, that person is known by him").

Strong intrinsic grounds for preferring the shorter reading are bolstered by its presence in p46, one of the earliest extant biblical papyri, along with an unambiguous attestation by Clement of Alexandria, whose demonstrable preference would have been for the longer reading had he known it. Codex Sinaiticus (?) and minuscule 33, which witness a "mixed reading" in the original hand, demonstrate a preference in both their text and their corrections for readings that emphasize the theme of divine reciprocity as epitomized in the longer reading of this verse. Analysis of both manuscripts will help to illustrate how the mixed and longer readings arose in these and other witnesses. What is visible in the redaction and transmission of these two manuscripts may well be present in textual units whose state of variation remains invisible due to the relative dearth of early manuscripts. It is quite possible that 1 Cor 8:2-3 is not the only New Testament text altered with an eye to heightening the motif of reciprocity. And were it not for the chance discovery of p46, we may never have thought to query the transmission of 1 Cor 8:1-3 thoroughly enough to uncover the textual contours of this late antique discourse surrounding divine reciprocity in love and knowledge.

I. Intrinsic Probabilities

The text as rendered in NA28/UBS5 is as follows, with variation units not found in p46 enclosed in square brackets. Formatting and punctuation have been modified to highlight structure.

8:1 ...:

...

...

2 ...

3 ...

4 ... :

8:1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols:

We know that "We all have knowledge."

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

2 If someone appears to have come to know something, he has not yet come to know as it is necessary to know.

3 But if someone loves [God], that person has come to know [or: has been known by him].

4 Therefore concerning the eating of food sacrificed to idols:...

"The most striking thing about this opening paragraph is how non sequitur it seems to be," observes Gordon Fee in his commentary on the passage. "Paul begins with the regular rubric 'now about' (cf. 7:1), having as its present content 'food sacrificed to idols. …

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