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:
|Variation||Lacking||”…and did set him over the works of your hands.|
|Witness||Greek||Translation||Church Father||Greek||Translation||Church Father|
|301-400||Vaticanus||Chrysostom*||Sinaiticus||Vulgate, Bohairic, Fayyumic|
|401-500||Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, Bezae||Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic||Euthalius, Theodoret|
|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.
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