131Was Jesus appointed over the work of God’s hands? Hebrews 2:7

In Hebrews two verse seven, two variations are found where some manuscripts (handwritten copies) do have the clause: “You set Him over the work of your hands” while it is lacking in others. What could be the origin of this clause, and could it be part of the original autograph of Hebrews?
KJV: “You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet. ”
Most modern Bibles, even the Jewish Bible agree with the NIV without this clause: “You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and put everything under his feet.”
To come to as objective answer as possible, we utilize three criteria. The first looking at the evidence embedded in the manuscripts themselves.
1. External Criteria
The table below gives an oversight of all the manuscripts in the time of their origin:

Hebrews 2:7

Variation Lacking ”…and did set him over the works of your hands.
Witness Greek Translation Church Father Greek Translation Church Father
101-200 Papyrus 46
201-300 Sahidic
301-400 Vaticanus Chrysostom* Sinaiticus Vulgate, Bohairic, Fayyumic
401-500 Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, Bezae Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic Euthalius, Theodoret
501-600 John-Damascus
601-700 Syriac Syriac
701-800 Atous- Laurae 2 Old Latin
801-900 Mosquensis, Angelicus, Lectionary Porphyrianus, Uncial 0121, Lectionary 4 Old Latin Sedilius-Scotus
901-1600 6 Minuscules Ps-Oekumenius, Theophylact 16 Minuscules 3 Old Latin

The United Bible Societies base their choice on the available manuscripts. This is the variation found in most modern versions. Yet they rate their own choice only as a C: “…there is a considerable degree of doubt whether the text or the apparatus contains the superior reading.” That means that the chosen variation has only slightly stronger manuscripts to stand on.
These words have been quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was commonly in use at the time when the New Testament had been written.
Our oldest witness, Papyrus 46 (± 200 A.D.) together with Codex Vaticanus (± 350) are the only Greek manuscripts up to the year 800 lacking this clause. They are supported by only one ancient translation. Over against that, this clause is found in five Greek manuscripts and eleven Ancient Translations up to 800 A.D. Keep in mind that every ancient translation proves that there had been a Greek manuscript with that version during that time and at the place of its origin. These eleven translations also have a wide geographical distribution, from Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria and Russia to Rome and Europe.
On the grounds of the manuscripts available to us, I humbly disagree with the compilers of the UBS Text. I rather accept the version with the clause as representing the original autograph.
2. Internal criteria.
Our second criterion is to try to determine how this variation could have originated.
If the original autograph had been without this clause, someone must have added “…and did set him over the works of your hands…” to his copy. This could have happened quite easily as a wittingly correction from the Septuagint. It could also be a casual insertion from the margin of a copy where someone had made a note of the full wording of the Septuagint. It could just as easily have originated as a correction from the memory. Scribes would  rather add something to ensure that nothing gets lost.
If however the original autograph had included this clause, some scribe must have removed the words: “…and did set him over the works of your hands…” from his manuscript. Looking at the text, there is no reason to prompt such an alteration. An alteration from the longer to the shorter version is therefore highly unlikely.
According to the internal criteria the version without this clause seems the more likely rendering of the original.
3. Intrinsic criteria.
Our third criterion is to study the context, or any other markers.
The New Testament documents were all written in Greek, the lingua franca of that time. Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament were mostly locked away in synagogues and copies in private possession were very scarce. Copies of the Septuagint on the other hand, did not have the same “high” standard, and were therefore more commonly used and in private possession. Quotations from the Old Testament had therefore mostly been made from the Septuagint. The author of Hebrews had been very accurate in the quotations he made. Why would he be careless in this case?
Paul interprets Psalm 8 as Messianic in 1 Corinthians 15:27, Ephesians 1:22, and Philippians 3:21. Likewise the author of Hebrews did here. The clause of our present study is an integral part of Psalm 8. This clause poses no problem for its utilization in a Messianic function. Therefore it is unthinkable that the author of Hebrews would deliberately remove this clause.
According to the intrinsic criteria the variation containing this clause, would rather represent the original.
With two of the three criteria in favor of the longer version, I am convinced that this clause had been part of the original autograph of Hebrews.
God bless,
Your comments at the bottom of this page or via e-mail to me at bibledifferences@gmail.com are most welcome.

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
This entry was posted in Ancient Translations, KJV/NIV Controversy, Papyri. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 131Was Jesus appointed over the work of God’s hands? Hebrews 2:7

  1. Jim Kerr says:

    Hi Herman,

    (Strangely, my Logos copy of Metzger’s TCGNT rates the shorter reading as {B}, not {C}. Is this a misprint or are you citing a different UBS document?)

    With regards to the Intrinsic Criteria you mentioned, if he was composing the epistle (for now, let’s forego the debate over the genre of Hebrews) with a LXX beside him, it is possible that the author’s copy was missing this clause and, although aware of the Hebrew reading, he was reluctant to “add” to the Greek text.

    If, as is more likely, he was citing from memory, it is possible that he simply forgot the clause at that moment. Yes, as you note, he was accurate in his citing of other verses, but, given the odds against 100% accuracy in any manuscript, this fact could be used to bolster the arguement for the shorter reading

    It is also conceivable that the author felt that having the first and final clause of the passage was enough to invoke the message of the whole. Omitting the clause from his text doesn’t omit it from its source. As your post demonstrates, the whole passage is being referenced, whether it appears in its entirety or not.

    God bless,

    • Good day Jim.
      My UBS Third Edition (1976) definitely rates their choice (the version without this clause) as a “C”. Whether they altered the rating later, I do not know.
      As for the quotations by the author of Hebrews, I agree with that there is a possibility of quotation from memory. But with so many quotations and the accuracy with which they are made, I rather think he had a copy with him. Copies of the Septuagint were widely available in those days.
      Thank you for your comments!
      God bless,

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