So we do get lots of e-mail. Can’t even answer all of it. But I thought it would be wise to answer some of it here on the blog so as to benefit a larger audience, so, here’s something from today’s Mail Bag!

Dear James R. White, Regarding John 20:28 Mr. Al Kadhi brings up a case of discrepancy between Greek Bible manuscripts : “Secondly, the word translated in this verse as “God” is indeed the Greek “Ho theos” (The God), and not “theos” (divine). However, when studying the history of this verse in the ancient Biblical manuscripts from which our modern Bibles have been compiled we find an interesting fact, specifically, that the ancient Biblical manuscripts themselves are not in agreement as to the correct form of this word. For example, the codex Bezae (or codex D) is a fifth century manuscript containing Greek and Latin texts of the Gospels and Acts, which was discovered in the 16th century by Theodore Beza in a monastery in Lyon. The predecessor of the codex Bezae and other church manuscripts do not contain the article “Ho” (“THE”) in their text (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart D. Ehrman, p. 266).” (Taken from http://answering-islam.org.uk/Responses/Al-Kadhi/r01.2.2.11.html) 1)According to the newest edition of the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament and/or the newest edition of the UBS Greek New Testament, what is the original reading in this verse, Ho theos or just theos (please state if you are talking about Nestle Aland or UBS or both)? 2)Hypothetically speaking, if we take the original reading to be just theos rather than Ho theos would that mean Thomas didnt address Jesus as God? 3)Which reading would you say is the original and why?

Neither the NA27 nor UBS4 textual apparatus note any variation regarding the article at in the phrase o` qeo,j mou. The Tischendorf apparatus does not note a variant in Codex Bezae, nor does Von Soden. Tregelles does note the variant in D (Codex Bezae). A few background items.

First, Codex Bezae (D) is well known for its idiosyncratic readings. A 5th or 6th century bilingual manuscript (Greek/Latin), it often wanders off by itself, possibly due to the various sources used in compiling the bilingual form. As Metzger notes concerning it,

No known manuscript has so many and such remarkable variations from what is usually taken to be the normal New Testament text. Codex Bezae’s special characteristic is the free addition (and occasional omission) of words, sentences, and even incidents. (Metzger, Text of the New Testament, p. 50)

When D is by itself, without support from any of the rest of the Greek manuscript tradition or from ancient translations, it is generally ignored (which explains why the majority of sources do not even note the variant). One might liken it in some ways to a modern paraphrase of the Bible: its author was clearly willing to insert his sermon notes when he felt like it. The wonder is that there are so few D-type manuscripts, given the tendency for speculation and expansion in the theological writings of the early period.

Secondly, the reading o` qeo,j is well established in manuscripts that predate D (P66, a, B, A, just to name a few). There is no scribal reason for the omission, so Ehrman sees a theological one: he speculates that the predecessor of Bezae and “other” Gospel manuscripts delete the article for anti-patripassionist reasons. Unfortunately, he does not explain why he views this as part of Bezae’s predecessor (how could this be known?), nor does he indicate what other manuscripts likewise have this reading, their character, dating, etc. Surely it is possible, given Bezae’s character, that the scribe/author(!) misunderstood the meaning of the passage (he would not have been the first) and, like so many down through the ages, or even today, offered a “conjectural emendation” (not unlike Beza himself did in other instances 1000 years later) through the omission of the article. Or, it could simply be one of those scribal errors that appear in any hand-written manuscript. In either case, a single, often oddball manuscript in the 5th or 6th century does not overthrow the testimony of the entire textual tradition. So, in answer to the questions specifically:

   1) The Nestle-Aland text and the UBS4 are the same text (they differ only in punctuation). Both have as the textual reading “ho theos.”

   2) There is no basis whatsoever to accept the hypothetical, to be honest, as a single manuscript with highly questionable tendencies is no basis for overthrowing the entire tradition; but, surely if the text read o` ku,rio,j mou kai. qeo,j mouÅ it would be problematic as I see it: why ho kurios and then an anarthrous theos? But again, the hypothetical is counter to the facts.

   3) There is no question about the original reading. D is in error here.

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