In Ephesians 5:9 we find an interesting difference between the King James Version versus the New International Version, as is the case also with most modern translations. Yet it is only when we study the deeper meaning and application of the words that we understand the significance of this difference.
“…(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” (KJV)
“…(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (NIV)
Was Paul talking of the fruit of the “Spirit”, or of the fruit of the “Light”?
1. External Criteria.
Our first criterion is to study which variation is represented by which manuscripts. It is obvious that the older manuscripts are nearer to the original autograph and therefore has a greater chance to be without alterations that could happen due to the process of the copying of the manuscripts.
|Variation:||Fruit of the Light||Fruit of the Spirit|
|Witneses||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:||Greek:||Translations:||Church Fathers:|
|201-300||Papirus 49||Sahidic||Origen*, Gregory-Thaumaturgas|
|301-400||Sinaiticus, Vaticanus|| Bohairic,
|Ambrosiaster, Lucifer, Victorinus-Rome|
|401-500||Alexandrinus, Bezae|| 2 Syriac,
1 Old Latin
|Jerome, Augustine, Euthalius||Chrysostom*, Theodore, Theodoret|
|701-800||Mosquensis, Atous- Laurae||John-Damascus|
Porphyrianus, Minuscule 33
|4 Old Latin|
|901-1000||2 Old Latin||Byzantine Manuscripts, Lectionary|
|1001-1600||8 Minuscules||3 Old Latin||13 Minuscules|
Up to the year 500 A.D. “…fruit of Light…” is represented by Papyrus 49 (±250 A.D.) as well as 4 Uncial Codices, as well as eight Antique Translations and eight Church Fathers. Another two uncial codices and nine minuscules and also nine Ancient Translations dated after 800 A.D. have the same version.
For the first 500 years “…fruit of the Spirit…” is found only in Papyrus 46 (±200 A.D.) and three Church Fathers. Even after 600 A.D. only two Uncial codices and one Ancient Translation and one Church Father have this version. It is more common after 900 A.D. with some Byzantine manuscripts, Lectionaries and 13 Minuscule manuscripts.
According to the manuscript evidence, the version with “…fruit of Light…” has overwhelming support.
2. Internal Criteria.
But let us consider how this variation could have originated. I am convinced that some scribe must have remembered Galatians 5:22 and from memory, and without noticing it himself wrote “…fruit of the Spirit…”. There Paul had given a list of sins, and then gave the very familiar list of “…fruit of the Spirit…”.
3. Intrinsic Criteria.
It is logic that both the fruit of light and the fruit of the spirit would be the work of the Holy Spirit. But is there any difference between the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the Light? Aren’t they the same? To come to a conclusion we have to study these two Scriptures carefully.
In Galatians it is clearly concerned with the deeds revealed in practice. That is why Paul sets the deeds of the sinful nature of man against the fruit of the Spirit. There he gives a list of sinful deeds as well as a list of deeds brought forth as fruit of the Spirit. Both are revealed in practical life.
But in Ephesians 5 it is about a completely different matter. In this paragraph Paul uses the image of light that reveals what otherwise would remain unseen. Light brings discretionary power. That is why Paul encourages his readers to discern whether something is acceptable to the Lord. The fruit of Light is not about specific deeds, but the three criteria with which to evaluate deeds. “Goodness” is not a deed, but a norm of discernment or to evaluate the worth of some deed. Likewise “righteousness” is about discerning whether a deed would satisfy the judgement of God, and “truth” whether the deed would stand the test of not being false. These three fruits of the light helps us to evaluate our deeds.
The “fruit of the Spirit” refer to specific deeds being lived out, while the “fruit of the Light” refer to the ability of discernment.
To me this is an interesting difference though both are the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul chose his words with great care under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Let us then consciously develop the fruit of Light in our daily lives. Then we need not ask ourselves whether something is sin or against the will of God. By developing our sense of discernment and allow the spirit of Light to grow in us, we will allow the light to a lamp for our path.