Thursday, July 2, 2015

Matt 8:2 ελθων

The compound verb προσελθών is supported by a wide variety of Greek witnesses (ℵ B E M N Δ Θ Σ Ω 0211 f1.13 565. 892) and many editors (Bover, Greeven, Lachmann, Merk, Soden, Tischendorf [7th, 8th], Vogels), while the simple form ἐλθών appears in similarly early and most later witnesses (C K L S U V W X Zvid Γ Π 047 Byz f35 33. 461. 1500. 2224). The compound προσελθών is often argued for on the ground that the prepositional prefix προσ- dropped out by homoeoteleuton error due to the final syllable of the preceding word λεπρος (so, e.g., Meyer, 174; Alford, 1:77).
     Wettstein (1:347) however prefers ἐλθών, suggesting that the compound form's origin owes to "the preceding word's final syllable [i.e. -πρός from λεπρός] having been repeated." After echoing Wettstein, Griesbach (1:84) concedes, "But yet we must confess that it might also have been that προς either disappeared by accident after λεπρος or was intentionally deleted in order to avoid the cacophony of προς recurring three times among three contiguous words: λεπρος προσελθων προσεκυνησε. . . . Consequently [reasons] are not lacking which may be brought forward to vindicate the reading προσελθων." Nevertheless, Griesbach shows his primary reliance on external evidence, concluding, "But we still prefer ελθων, since most of the more excellent manuscripts," at least in his estimation at the time, "uphold it."
     Fritzsche (305) reacts, "I am in no way persuaded in place of ελθων to concede as much weight to the reading προσελθων as Griesbach assigns to it . . . . For almost nothing is more frequent when two words were arranged together—the one simple, the other equipped with a prefix—than that scribes indeed shared the small prefix in turn with the other word as a rule . . . . Neither does προσελθων possess any excellence from the line of thought, but the words προσελθων ... προσεκυνει rather take on a good deal of sluggishness." Bloomfield (Annotations, 7) thinks προσελθών seems like "a mere correction of somewhat homely Greek," noting that the "simple verb has elsewhere been converted into the compound by critics for the sake of imparting more of definiteness to the sense," and citing Matt 2:21 (ἦλθεν to εἰσῆλθεν); 9:18; 14:25; Mark 5:14; and Luke 8:51.
     Although Matthew uses the compound προσέρχομαι with προσκυνέω elsewhere (20:20; 28:9), whenever using this particular construction (i.e., an adverbial participial introducing the finite form of προσκυνέω), Matthew prefers the simple ἔρχομαι over the compound προσέρχομαι. Interestingly, also in these places some witnesses show a proneness to assimilate the simple form to the compound form perhaps in connection with the prefix used in the following finite verb προσκυνέω (cf. Fritzsche's identical assertion above):

2:8 ἐλθὼν προσκυνήσω
9:18 ἐλθὼν (ℵ B F G L U f13: προσελθών) προσεκύνει
14:33 ἐλθόντες (Θ f13 1424: προσελθόντες; ℵ B C N Σ f1 892: OM. ἐλθόντες/προσελθόντες) προσεκύνησαν
15:25 ἐλθοῦσα (Δ: προσελθοῦσα; S V: ἀπελθοῦσα) προσεκύνει/προσεκύνησεν

     Although the two probabilities explaining the gain or loss of προσ- are conflicting, in view of (1) Matthew's apparent style when using this particular construction, (2) the seeming fact that in three of the four examples above (NA27/28 accept ἐλθών in 9:18) some scribes were guilty of expanding the simple form to the compound form with προσ- probably due to the following προσκυνέω, and (3) the possibility that unintentional duplication of the final syllable of λεπρός in 8:2 could have contributed to the larger number and variety of witnesses exhibiting the compound form, it is best not to overlook the simple ἐλθών supported by most manuscripts in Matt 8:2.