Thursday, November 17, 2011

Matt 5:39 την δεξιαν σιαγονα

The Greek manuscript tradition is significantly divided between two readings:

(1) την δεξιαν σιαγονα (ℵ W Σ f1 33 892 1241 pm a f [h])
(2) την δεξιαν σου σιαγονα (E G K L M S U V Δ Π Θ f13 565 579 700 1424 pm c g1)

Reading one (1) is printed in the text of Robinson-Pierpont (2005) and Wilbur Pickering; reading two (2) is printed in Hodges-Farstad (1985), the bracketed text of Robinson-Pierpont (1991), and the margin of Robinson-Pierpont (2005). A third reading (3), την δεξιαν σιαγονα σου, preferred by the editors of NA27/UBS4, is only minimally supported (B; Eus), and may reflect a scribal attempt to place the possessive pronoun in its default position. A fourth reading (4), την σιαγονα σου (without δεξιαν), no doubt reflects versional and patristic influence (D k sy-s.c). Transcriptional considerations between readings one (1) and (2) are divided. On the one hand, as Rinck (250) notes, "It appears that σου arose from the following syllable σιαγ. being read twice and therefore it should be rejected. For it is absent from eastern witnesses (and 1. 33), and in western witnesses traces survive where it was either written above the line or in the margin. For a reason later emerged that δεξιαν should be omitted in some Latin documents and that the σου should be transposed to follow σιαγονα.” Maurice Robinson (in private correspondence) also notes that σου could have arisen due to its presence in Matt 5:30, yet likeness of construction could also indicate likeness of authorship, i.e., Matthew for both (cf. η δεξια σου χειρ in 5:30 with την δεξιαν σου σιαγονα in 5:39). Arguing for reading two (2), Bengel (Apparatus, 99) states that σου "easily disappeared before σιαγονα, since it was left out by Luke [6:29]," or "because it could be left out due to the preceding σε" (so Wettstein, 1:309), or, as Griesbach (1:55–6) adds, "especially because the sense remains unharmed without it." Assuming, then, the priority of reading two (2) over readings three (3) and four (4), Griesbach continues, "But those who transposed σου to follow σιαγονα either wished to avoid cacophony or [simply] did it carelessly.” As scribes tended to omit words, especially short ones,  Robinson fairly admits the possibility of the σου dropping out by homoeoarchton error (a scribe skipping from the first letter of σου to the first letter of σιαγονα). Matthäi (76–7), perhaps rightly, argues that the omission of δεξιαν in reading four (4) is related to a perceived difficulty in the phrase and quotes Origen's observation of the improbability of the right cheek being struck first, since most people, being right-handed and thus swinging with their right hand, would not strike the right cheek first but rather the left. And so the omission of δεξιαν removed the apparent difficulty. In the end, either reading one (1), την δεξιαν σιαγονα, or reading two (2), την δεξιαν σου σιαγονα, is to be preferred.


  1. This isn't a comment about the content. I just wanted to recommend paragraphing the entries!

  2. Dear Jim,

    Sorry for the delay, and thanks for your comment! Very good advice indeed. Or perhaps I should just shorten the posts a little. I've been out of town and without much Internet access lately. I hope to begin some sporadic posting again in February.