Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Matt 3:4 αυτου ην

     Reflecting an attempt to improve the text, a few manuscripts (ℵ B C D W f1) have ην αυτου, an atticism indicative of the critical editing found in those manuscripts and their relatives. Bloomfield (Annotations, 2) judges that ην αυτου is "the very position that a classical Greek writer would have used," while αυτου ην is the one a Hellenistic Greek writer would have used, thus making it intrinsically more probable. A critical desire to give variance to the phraseology repeated already twice in the same verse (το ενδυμα αυτου . . . την οσφυν αυτου . . . η δε τροφη αυτου) may have motivated the change, but such is precisely the style of the kind of Koine Greek that Matthew writes (cf., e.g., 3:12: τη χειρι αυτου . . . την αλωνα αυτου . . . τον σιτον αυτου, etc.). The slim support for ην αυτου cannot overthrow the aggregate weight of all other manuscripts, and since scribes tended to make the text not less elegant but rather, indeed, to polish and refine unexceptional expressions, it is precisely this class of readings that arouses suspicion, especially when found in only a few manuscripts. Cf. Matt 2:22 επι for a similarly-motivated improvement of the text.

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