You should love your enemies
Irenaeus (±135 – 202 A.D.) was a student of Polycarp who had been taught by John the disciple himself. This exceptional man had been the bishop of Lugdunum (Lyons) in Gaul (France) in his later years. The books he wrote, especially Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) played an important role in the development of the Christian dogma and the interpretation of the New Testament.
He strongly opposed the Gnostic movements of his time, especially Marcion who altered the gospel of Luke to his own fancy and interpretation. In 177 A.D. Irenaeus strongly opposed the Montanists in Rome. The Gnostics claimed to possess a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself. Irenaeus maintained that the bishops in different cities were known as far back as the Apostles. Therefore they provided the only safe interpretation of Scripture. He also emphasized the tradition guarded by the Church.
During that time before the canon had been decided, while many false books (Apocrypha) circulated, he maintained the prominence of Biblical Scripture and emphasized the books we today know as the New Testament. He quoted from 21 of the 27 books we acknowledge as the New Testament and probably referred to Hebrews, James and 2 Peter. Only Philemon, 3 John and Jude do not function in any of his writings. Oh what would I have given to study the New Testament copies he personally used! Can one get any closer than that to the original authors of the autographs of the Bible!
That brings me to Matthew 5:44 where several variations are found in the manuscripts available to us. Should I accept the version Irenaeus quoted, or rather choose another?
To make it easier, I compare the version Irenaeus quoted with all the other versions combined in the table below:
Matthew 5:44 (Mouse – over reveals more detail on the specific matter.)
|Possibilities:||The Irenaeus Version:||All other versions:|
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|201-300||Sahidic||Origen*, Cyprian, Adamantius||Clement|
|301-400||Sinaiticus, Vaticanus||1 Old Latin, 2 Syriac, Bohairic||Washington||1 Old Latin, Gothic||Apostolic Constitutions|
|401-500||Bezae||3 Old Latin, Vulgate, 2 Syriac, Armenian||Chrysostom*|
|501-600||1 Old Latin, Ethiopic||Cassiodorus|
|601-700||1 Old Latin, Syriac|
|701-800||Regius||1 Old Latin|
|801-900||Cyprius, Sangallensis, Koridethi, Petropolitanus||Georgian|
|901-1000||1 Old Latin, 2 Georgian|
|1001-1600||Family 1||Family 13, 19 Minuscules, 2 Byzantine Lectionaries||2 Old Latin|
When we look at the table above, we notice that Irenaeus is not alone with the version that he used. Theophilus, a contemporary used the same version, but Athenagoras, of the same period already quoted from the first variation listed hereunder. During the next century we have a Sahidic (Egyptian) manuscript as well as three Church Fathers representing the same version as that of Irenaeus. One of them, Origen would have done a thorough research since he left us a commentary on every verse of the New Testament. Yet Clement, a contemporary of them also used the first variation.
And as the centuries pass by, more and elaborate versions came into use. Basically there are four versions, each with minor variations.
What do these versions boil down to and how could they all have originated?
Let us look at the versions in more detail.
The words of the New International Version correspond with the version Irenaeus used:
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
Here follows the four versions with the words that differ in dark italics:
Version 1: “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you”
Version 2: “But I say to you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you”
Version 3: “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who falsely accuse you and persecute you”
Version 4, that corresponds with the King James Version: “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you”
When we look at these versions, it is obvious that each represents a further addition of the elaborate version of this statement of Jesus as is found in Luke 6:27-28: “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you.”
How could these variations have originated? It is possible that a scribe could have been under the impression that the scribe responsible for the manuscript he was copying by mistake, might have left out these words or clauses. Now he could be under the impression that he was correcting a previous mistake by letting his version correspond with the other gospel. This we call harmonizing. In a previous post (https://bibledifferences.net/2014/04/13/94-harmonizing ) I explained how naturally such harmonizing could happen.
If one looks at the facts above, harmonizing is the obvious explanation for the four variations.
Whether these words are added to Matthew or not, it makes no difference. – the words are found in Luke anyway. But every author has the right to include in his gospel what he deemed necessary and what not.
So what did Matthew really write down?
The easy way is to choose the version I am used to or grew up with, with which I am comfortable with. The challenge is to put all the facts on the table so that my choice can be validated with logic and sound reasoning. There are 5 variations in the hand written manuscripts of Matthew. One of them contains the exact words God let Matthew write down. Is it the version Irenaeus used, or another, and on what grounds do I make my decision?
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