In 2 Corinthians 12:1 the Bible translator is confronted with four variations caused by a very slight difference in the Greek. There is found the word of our investigation that could either be “dei”= be necessary or must; or “de”= but/and; or “dy”= indeed/therefore; or “ei”= if/whether.
These variations are represented in some versions of English Bibles:
1. “dei”: I must/necessary: “I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.” (New International Version)
“As it is necessary for me to take glory to myself, though it is not a good thing, I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” (Bible in Basic English)
2. “de” but/and: “This boasting will do no good but I must go on.”(New Living Translation)
“Well, it is not of profit to me to boast, for I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” (Darby)
3. “dy” Indeed/therefore: “Indeed, it is not profitable for me to boast. For I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” (Modern King James Version)
4. “ei” if/whether: “If it is necessary though certainly not expedient) to glory, then I will next tell of visions and revelations from the Lord.” (CPDV)
Let us first look at the variations as they are represented in the different manuscripts. This is known as the external criteria.
1. External Criteria
In the manuscripts we find the following support for each of the variations:
1. “dei”: I must/necessary: Papyrus 46,(±200 A.D.); 4 Uncials (350 – 850 A.D.); 15 Minuscules (after 900 A.D.); 8 Antique Translations (350 – 650 A.D.)
2. “de” but/and: 3 Uncials (350 – 750 A.D.); and one Antique Translation (350 A.D.)
3. “dy” Indeed/therefore: 2 Uncials (850, 900 A.D.); 4 Minuscules (after 900 A.D.) and the majority of Byzantine manuscripts (500 – 1600 A.D.)
4. “ei” if/whether: 1 Uncials (550 A.D.); 3 Minuscules (after 900 A.D.) a lectionary; and 5 Antique Translations (550 – 1250 A.D.)
According to the manuscripts available, the first variation has the oldest and best representation and could give the greatest probability to represent the original autograph.
2. Internal Criteria
Our second criterion is to look at the normal activities of a scribe and try to discern how these variations could have happened.
All four variations could have been a reading mistake or remembering the wrong word when the scribe moved from source to the copy he was making. All four variations make perfect grammatical sense. But the fourth variation could be ruled out as the original, since the other three variations could not have been derived from the fourth as a reading mistake.
Still any one of the first three variations could have been the original from which any variation could have originated.
The internal criteria brings us just a little further to a definite decision.
3. Intrinsic Criteria
The only other way we can try to discern which variation would represent the original, is to look at the context to try to see which fits into the context and whether some clashes does occur.
It is clear that Paul does come to some kind of boasting, but then not in his own achievements, but in the superior value shed on him by God in a living real relationship with God. He would only boast about his own inferiority, especially the thorn in the flesh.
Any of the variations would fit in the context, though each brings a different emphases to the paragraph. Is any choice possible looking at the context?
This introductory sentence to the reasoning that follows has the effect of putting the main reasoning in a certain context. But all four variations make perfect sense and a choice on the direction one should see Paul’s main point, is purely the choice of the translator. Therefore the only criterion that could guide the translator would be the one best represented in the available manuscripts, namely the first.
It is interesting to note that the second part of the sentence is also found in several variations. Some say: “it is not of value”, others “it is of value”; some “to me”, others “to us” or “to you”. They all have the same probability to represent the original like the variation we examined, and obvious have an influence on the direction the light falls on the main reasoning that follows. But I will not go into this variation now.
Variations like these might be seen as trivial, but they reveal on the one side the human fallibility of people used by God, even today, and on the other side the sincerity with which the scribes did their work.
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