To me the Word of God, as He had inspired the Bible Writers, is ample and the best. Sometimes one reads the Bible not noting a variation that deviates from the original, but when I do notice one, I like to study it. Quite often the variation does have an influence on the meaning of that sentence, or its function within the part it is embedded. Such a case is found in Romans eleven verse six in the King James Version.
On other occasions one reads over the verse without realising the function a clause should fulfil in that sentence. I am of the opinion that this happens when reading Romans 11:6 in the King James Version. The second part of the sentence (which is lacking in most modern versions) is just the opposite of the first. But does it have an influence on the understanding of the first, or of its specific role in the paragraph as a whole? Let us examine this difference with an open mind.
KJV: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
NIV: “And if by grace, then is it no longer by works: if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
Let us try to discern which version would have the best possibility to render the original autograph.
1. External Criteria
First we examine the manuscripts that are available.
|Variation:||If it is by work, grace is no longer grace||If it is by work, grace is no longer grace, if it is by grace, work is no longer work|
|Witness:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|401-500||Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, Bezae||Old Latin, Armenian||Chrysostom*, Theodoret||Syriac, Ethiopic||Chrysostom*, Theodoret|
|701-800||2 Old Latin||John-Damascus||Atous- Laurae|
|801-900||Boernerianus, Porphyrianus||5 Old Latin|
|1001-1600||5 Minuscules||15 Minuscules||Theophylact|
Here we find that in the first part of the sentence there are practically no variations at all. Not in the manuscripts with only that part, nor in the manuscripts that have the second part added. The second part is represented in three variations with several minor differences. When there are so many differences in a single clause, it usually indicates an origin from memory, or a combining of two variations rather than a copy from a source manuscript.
Up to the year 500 A.D. it is clear that the variation without the second part are much stronger represented. 5 Greek manuscripts, including Papyrus 45 dated 200 A.D. versus only the Vaticanus. There are also 5 antique translations and 4 Church Fathers versus only 2 antique translations and 2 Church Fathers. It is noticeable that both Chrysostom and Theodoret quote the shorter version in their dissertations of the text, while using the longer version elsewhere. It makes one wonder whether one or both of them could be the source of the variation. By the year 1000 A.D. the shorter version is even stronger represented than the longer.
The available manuscripts strongly plead for the shorter version to render the original autograph.
2. Internal Criteria.
Next we try to reconstruct how this variation could have started. That could give us an indication of which could have been the original. It is obvious that in the longer version the first statement is repeated in the opposite. “If it is out of works, then grace is no grace, and if it is out of grace, then work is no work.” The second part is only a repetition in the opposite of the first. It shows the signs of a logical construction without any stand in the text. If however the longer version would be taken as the original, one would have to find an explanation for why any scribe would remove such a statement. There is no obvious reason for such a deed.
According to the internal criteria, the shorter version seems to render the original.
3. Intrinsic Criteria.
Our third criterion is to examine the context for any indications.
In verses 1 to 10 Paul examines the salvation of Israel. First he refers to the undeserving Israel who killed the prophets in the time of Elijah. But out of grace God reserved seven thousand who did not bow the knee before Baal. The reasoning is that salvation is completely through the grace of God. It is about grace versus work.
In verses 11 to 24 Paul handles the salvation of the heathens, especially the Romans. Once again purely through the grace of God. That is why grace versus work is of importance, and not work versus grace. What can nullify grace is of importance. What can affect the wages of works is of no importance at all. Therefore comparing grace with work has no function at all. In fact, standing the one against the other brings an unwanted emphasis on the motivation away from the main argument Paul is explaining.
It is obvious that according to intrinsic criteria, the shorter variation would rather render the original.
With all three criteria in favour of the shorter variation, that should be accepted as the original.
4. The effect of the variation.
In the shorter version, the statement that grace could be nullified by works, is of vital importance. Israel’s own achievement on which they trust as medium of salvation, is contrary to grace, the road God walks with sinners. In the longer version the two statements are set against each other as a logical reasoning away from the context where it is embedded. By doing that, the statement loses its power and meaning within the context of Romans 11: 1 – 10.
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