“The Spirit was not yet” John 7,39
What should one do when the source manuscript you are copying has a sentence that is open for misinterpretation? Should you just copy what is written, or should you add that which you might suspect had been left out by the previous scribe?
Young’s Literal Translation of 1898 gives the exact words as is found in the oldest Greek manuscripts John 7,38-39: “`If any one doth thirst, let him come unto me and drink; he who is believing in me, according as the Writing said, Rivers out of his belly shall flow of living water;’ and this he said of the Spirit, which those believing in him were about to receive; for not yet was the Holy Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
These words are open to misunderstanding. Could John be thinking that the Holy Spirit did not exist until Jesus had been glorified? Yet already in Genesis 1:2 the Spirit is mentioned as “hovering over the waters. ” He could also not mean that the Holy Spirit had not yet been with Jesus, for he himself reported that John the Baptist had testified that he had seen the Spirit “come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.” (John 1:32)
Of course John was referring to the out-pour of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, though he himself didn’t report on that event. But here in John 7 there is no clear or direct reference to that event. And to prevent any misinterpretation, some scribes added their own words. That is why we find in manuscripts no less than seven variations.
Ignoring the adding of “Holy” to “Spirit” as separate variations, we look at the addition of “given” as the main deviation from the oldest manuscripts namely: “for not yet was the Spirit” and “for not yet was the Spirit given”
|Possibilities:||for not yet was the Spirit:||for not yet was the Spirit given:|
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|201-300||Rebaptism, Origen*, Dionysius||Sahidic|
|301-400||Sinaiticus Washington||Bohairic||Athanasius Didymus||Vaticanus||Vulgate 2 Syriac, Achmimic, Bohairic||Ambrosiaster, Eusebius, Victorinus-Rome Ambrose|
|401-500||Borgianus||Armenian Georgian||Cyril, Hesychius, Chrysostom*, Theodoret||2 Old Latin, Syriac||Augustine|
|501-600||2 Old Latin, Syriac|
|601-700||4 Old Latin, Syriac|
|701-800||At.- Laurae, Regius|
|801-900||Cyprius, Petropolitanus, Monacensis, Sangallensis|
|901-1000||1 Uncial manuscript 20 Minuscules Byzantine Lectionary||Georgian|
|1001-1600||f1 f13||Minuscules||Old Latin|
Apart from the four variations (two with the addition of “Holy”) we find in codex Besae (±550 A.D.) together with one Gothic and two Old Latin manuscripts the variation: “…for the Holy Spirit was not yet upon them.” The sixth variation is found in the Egyptian dialects Sahidic and Achmimic reading: “…for they have not yet received the Spirit”. The seventh variation found in an Ethiopic translation reads: “…for the Spirit had not yet come.”
Looking at the above information, it is clear that the first variation in the table, be it with or without the addition of “Holy” to “Spirit” represent the original version of the Gospel of John. (…for not yet was the Holy Spirit…”) All the other variations represent attempts by scribes to avoid that a reader of his manuscript might come under the impression that John denied the existence of the Spirit before Pentecost.
The original version of John is found only in Young’s Literal Translation of 1898 with the NLT mentioning that “some manuscripts read: But as yet there was no (holy) Spirit.” in a footnote.
It is the love for the Word that prompted scribes through the ages to rather create a little deviation than running the risk that their copy might be misunderstood, causing someone to doubt the Word, of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.
This involuntary lets one ponder how much concern I myself have and how much effort I put into understanding even the smallest detail when I study the Bible!
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