Friday, January 6, 2012

GNT2012 - Matthew 5

My reading the NT aloud in Greek prompts ridicule from my wife. She finds my voice stumbling over the foreign words obnoxious, yet I persist. Reading through Matthew 5 I became all the more convinced that reading aloud is good practice.

In the text of Matthew 5 itself there are numerous indictors that these are words for speaking and hearing. At the very beginning of Jesus’ most famous teaching Matthew writes, “having opened his mouth he taught them saying . . .” Matthew draws attention to Jesus’ delivery of this speech. Then throughout the teaching Jesus refers to hearing and speaking sacred words (Mt 5.21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43) and his contrasting vocalization (Mt 5.22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). Exploring the way these words roll of the tongue, even inarticulately, is one step closer to hearing Matthew as the early Christians did.

I expected to see numerous textual variants in Matthew 5. After all, this is some of Jesus’ most uncompromising teaching. Yet the manuscripts have no proclivity to soften the words of Jesus or make them more palatable. Nearly all the textual variations are small changes in verb tenses or word order. There is an interesting textual variant, however, in Matthew 5.44. Earliest manuscripts (Siniaticus, Vaticanus, et. al) read, “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you [προσευχεσθε ὐπερ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμας].’” Codex Bezea and some other early manuscripts reads instead of the italicized portion above, “Speak well of those cursing you [ευλογειτε τους καταρωμενους ὑμας].” Other early manuscripts read, “Do good to those hating you [καλως ποιειτε τοις μισουσιν ὑμας],” and others still, “pray for those tempting you [προσευχεσθε ὑπερ τῶν επηραζοντῶν ὑμας].” Each of these readings is very much in keeping with the difficulty of Jesus’ teaching and appears connected to closing beatitudes addressed in the second person (Mt 5.11-12). Ultimately, these additions appear to be an attempt at harmonizing this teaching with Luke’s version (Lk 6.27-28). What is clear is that these textual variants show no attempt to moderate Jesus’ difficult teaching about loving enemies

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