Paul’s habit of greeting. Colossians 1:2
Everybody has some habits or traits unique to himself. It could be the way we greet one another. One would say “Hello”, another “Hi!”, or “Good day.” When we answer the phone, often only by the way someone’s greeting, we immediately know who is calling. And yet sometimes this person surprises us by greeting in a quite different way! What if something like this happens in the Bible? The way Paul is greeting the Christians in Colosse, might be just such a case! (Colosians1:2)
KJV: “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
NIV: “To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.”
According to older Versions like the KJV, the grace and peace is bestowed on the Christians by God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Modern Versions like the NIV usually leave out “and the Lord Jesus Christ.” What would be the reason?
Let us look at the manuscript evidence:
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|401-500||D||Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian||Chrysostom* Theodore||A, C, I||Theodoret|
|801-900||Kap||3 Old Latin||Gp||2 Old Latin|
|1001-1600||9 Minuscules, Byzantine Lectionary||Old Latin, Ethiopic, Present Vulgate||12 Minuscules, 1 Byzantine Lectionary||Old Latin, Vulgate, Ethiopic|
Let us evaluate the evidence from the manuscripts to help us make a decision. Our aim is to discern as accurate as possible the original words Paul had written down. It is easier to keep to the words we became accustomed to. The fact is that someone in the past had altered the words, be it by mistake or intentionally, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a variation to consider. The challenge before us is to discern with all facts to our avail the most possible choice to reflect what had originally been written as the Word of God.
We have three criteria to consider:
External evidence: (What is obvious from the manuscripts themselves)
a) Lacking the elaboration: The oldest manuscript we have on Colossians 1, a Coptic-Sahidic translation from Egypt, as well as the earliest quotation by a church father, Origen, both before the year 300 A.D. lack the words “…and from the Lord Jesus Christ!” Both Origen and Chrysostom (±450 A.D.) did not ignore the words by mistake, since both these theologians left us with a commentary on every sentence in the New Testament, including the verse under question. It is also important to consider that the shorter form has a wide geographical distribution including Egypt (Coptic-Sahidic), Old Latin (Europe), Syria (Syriac), Russia (Armenian) and even Africa (Ethiopic).
For the rest, the two possibilities have very equal representation, though later manuscripts seem to favor the inclusion of this clause.
b) Apart from the manuscripts reflected in our table, we also have another Greek uncial from the year ±850 (Porphyrianus) and a minuscule dating around ±1350 as well as an Old Latin and a Syriac translation all with this clause in the variation calling Jesus Christ our Lord. But in translations the elaborated form is geographically restricted to Egypt (Coptic-Sahidic) and Europe (Old Latin).
An objective evaluation of the external evidence, favors the shorter variation.
Internal evidence: (What scribes usually would do)
Three typical habits of scribes call our attention when we evaluate what Paul had originally written down. 1) Scribes would rather add something than leave it out deliberately, unless there was firm ground to do so. No scribe would deliberately leave out these words without certain cause. 2) Any clause that is found repeatedly, like this greeting, could easily be remembered and unintentionally included where it was in fact lacking. 3) Scribes did sometimes deliberately harmonize their copy with similar clauses in other epistles of Paul, thinking that their source copy was lacking the words by mistake.
All three these habits call us to rather stick to the shorter variation.
Intrinsic evidence: (What is characteristic to Paul himself)
In eleven of the twelve other epistles Paul always indicates this blessing as from the Father and Jesus Christ. Only in 1 Thessalonians we also find the same variation as here in Colossians. For what reason would Paul deviate from his normal cause in these two epistles? Looking at the material and general characteristics of this epistle, there is no firm indication of any reason for the deviation. On the other hand Paul does not always stick rigidly to any formula. Apart from the beginning of the epistles, Paul himself writes a few words “with his own hand” in 1 Corinthians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians at the conclusion of these epistles.
According to his own practice, Paul usually indicate grace and peace as from the Father, and from Jesus Christ, but Paul could himself deviate from it for some inexplicable reason, or his amanuensis could by mistake missed out on this clause, causing the original to lack these words!
Having said that, indications still call for the inclusion of the words on intrinsic grounds.
With two of the three criteria favoring the shorter version, and no explicit indication in any direction, one should accept the shorter variation as the highest possibility to be the authentic rendering of the original autograph.
In practice and in faith, it makes no difference at all, though it emphasizes the individuality and freedom of the author of these epistles, Paul the Apostle.