Saturday, November 12, 2011

Matt 5:36 μιαν τριχα λευκην η μελαιναν ποιησαι

The word order found in most manuscripts (including E K M S U V Δ Π Σ 1006 1506 sy-p.h) contributed to the many existing variations of this phrase, either through (1) scribal desire to bring the complementary infinitive closer to the verb, (2) editorial attempt to polish the expression, (3) imperfect correction of an initial homoeoteleuton error from δυνασαι to ποιησαι, which resulted in a text without μιαν τριχα λευκην η μελαιναν ποιησαι, (4) attempted repair of a conjecture, or (5) a combination of these factors. As this pericope is unique to Matthew, there was no standard to which scribes could turn for help, and consequently the following variations appear:

(1) μιαν τριχα λευκην ποιησαι η μελαιναν (ℵ B W Θ 33 892 1342 pc lat) [ℵ*: τριχαν]
(2) μιαν τριχα λευκην ποιησαι μελαιναν (L pc; Chr) [L: τριχαν]
(3) μιαν τριχα ποιησαι λευκην η μελαιναν (0250 f13 700 h)
(4) ποιησαι τριχα μιαν λευκην η μελαιναν (D f1 205 k; Cl Cyp GrN Aug) [D*: ποιειν; f1 205: μιαν τριχαν]

Fritzsche (240–41) thinks reading #2 arose from someone trying to remove a perceived absurdity, namely, that no one would ever even want to make or produce a white hair, which is a sign of age, and so the expression "you cannot make a white hair black" arose. Incidentally, Kühnöl (159) mentions an expositor (Wakefield) who actually conjectures this reading, but with a different word order (μιαν τριχα λευκην μελαιναν ποιησαι). Still the reading (or conjecture) is old as confirmed by Codex L/019 and Chrysostom, but, not surprisingly, it also created another difficulty, namely, that people can make a white hair black through dye. Thus Bloomfield (GNT, 1:36) considers reading #1 "a vain alteration proceeding from the polishing school of Critics . . . for the sake of removing a difficulty," and indeed the reading is a more classical construction, making it, all things being equal, less likely to be original.

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