Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Matt 5:31 οτι

The conjunction οτι following ερρεθη δε came to be missing in a number of witnesses (ℵ B D L f1.13 33 565 700 892 1241 1424 pc lat; Chr) for any of several reasons: (1) scribal error; (2) superfluousness; (3) assimilation to the repeated nearby expression where no οτι follows ερρεθη (5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43). Griesbach (1:53) suggests transcriptional error and, rather significantly, appeals to the number of manuscripts in such cases: "Although the select manuscripts B C D 1. 33 with a few others and Chrysostom omit οτι, I rather prefer to retain it, since, with ος following, it most easily could have escaped the notice of the eyes of one or another scribe. In judging omissions of this kind, where that in broad daylight could have caused scribes to err, we think that some degree of weight ought to be assigned to the number of manuscripts." Bloomfield (GNT, 1:36) remarks that critics "cancelled the word as pleonastic and unnecessary," that "internal evidence is in favour of the word, from the greater probability of its being removed than inserted," and that in such cases "ancient Versions and Fathers are of little weight." Thus the presence of οτι, contained in most manuscripts (including E G K M S U V W Δ Θ Π Σ) and corroborated by reasonable internal evidence, is preferable to the omission. Cf. also the note on Matt 6:5 οτι.

Note: Bloomfield lists a number of passages, such as the following, where οτι is absent in particularly influential witnesses: Matt 9:18 (ℵ D f1.13 33 892 pc lat); 20:12 (ℵ B D 085 f1 1424 pc lat sy-s.c.p); 21:16 (ℵ D 983 1506 pc it vg-mss); 23:36 (P77 ℵ B D L Θ f1.13 205 579 700 892* pc); 26:29 (P45 ℵ B D Z Θ f1.13 33 205 892* al); Mark 1:27 (ℵ B L 33 f1 205 565*), 40 (D lat sy-p); 2:16 (ℵ B Cvid D L W Θ 33 1342 1424 2542 pc latt sa bo); 5:23 (D f13 a c e sy-p); 6:16 (ℵ B D L Θ f1 33 205 565 700 892 1342 pc latt sy-s.p), 18 (D 892 pc lat); 7:6 (ℵ B L Δ Θ 33 579 1342 pc sy-s.p); 8:24 (D W Θ f1.13 205 565 700 1424 2542 al latt co); 12:6 (L W Δ 1 33 788 892* al it), 29 (D W Θ f1 205 565 700 788 2542 al it sy-s); Luke 7:22 (ℵ B L W Θ Ξ Ψ f1.13 205 579 700 892 1342 1424 2542 pc it bo); 19:46 (ℵ B L Θ f1.13 892 2542 pc c l co); John 4:42 (B Ws pc b f r1 sy-c; Ir-lat); 7:31 (ℵ B D L T U X Δ f1 33 lat sy-c.p); 8:33 (f1 al b c ff2 l vg); 9:23 (D L a c e l); 13:33 (P66 ℵ* D W 579 1241 pc lat); 18:6 (ℵ A B D L N W Θ Ψ 0250 f1 33 565 al latt), etc.


  1. Jonathan,
    In support of your position, it's worth noting that in Matthew 1 and 2, most of the quotes from the prophets have no οτι, but 2.23 reads οπως πληρωθη το ρηθεν δια των προφητων ΟΤΙ Ναζωραιος κληθησεται. This is because, as some commentators have noted, 2.23 does not give a direct quote to a particular OT verse but an allusion (marked as oratio obliqua). Matthew seems to use the same pattern here, making an allusion to Deut 24.1, not a verbatim quote. Verses 31-32 are a supplement to 27-30, not a new section but still on the topic of adultery, and the allusion is formulated differently from the quotes, with a relative clause not a direct command.

    Meyer notices the pattern with its resemblance to Matt 2.23, but supposes that scribes inserted οτι in 5.31, as "an addition that easily suggested itself". To my mind it's more likely that the same pattern is used authorially in both chapters, and that some scribes fell victim to the tendency to assimilate to the prevailing pattern of ερρεθη without οτι (your reason 3). Perhaps some may even have deliberately omitted οτι in order to avoid the implication that the words being introduced merely alluded to Scripture rather than quoted it.

  2. Dear Tony,

    Thanks for your learned comments, which deserve a place in the actual notes. I hope to implement the other improvements you sent by email at some point soon. Appreciate your support of the blog.