Textual Evidence

1st Corinthians 10:28
Haplography in Paul

from: Nazaroo, TheologyOnline Thread, UBS Gaffes - Haplography, (2009)

Page Index

Haplography Variants: & the NT

The Text and Structure
    Review: to 1st Corinthians 10:28 Variant
    English Text: literal translation
    Greek Text: Traditional Text

External Evidence:
    Textual Evidence: Listing
    Interpretation: Evaluating Readings

The Line as an Addition:
    As Deliberate Addition: Intrinsic Probability
    As Accidental Addition: Transcriptional Probability

The Line as an Omission:
    As Deliberate Omission: Paul's Structural Argument
    As Accidental Omission: Scribal Habits

    Summary: Combined Internal Evidence
    Hort and the New Papyri Evidence

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& the NT


For those wanting to know more about Haplography and the NT, please see our companion articles here:
Burgon on Haplography < - - Click here.
Colwell on Haplography < - - And here.

1st Corinthians 10:23-11:1

(Traditional Text)


This example is a special case, requiring extra attention and technique.

To understand exactly what has taken place here, we need to take into account Hort's Intrinsic Probability (what the author likely did) as well as Transcriptional Probability (what the copyists likely did), and find the answer which properly harmonizes the evidence of both kinds.

To do this, we need to take the whole section into account, and understand its structure, from the parts of the text which are not in dispute.

This section forms a paragraph, a 'mini-lecture', which has been intentionally composed by Paul with a poetic structure, using repetition as an aid to memorization and understanding. Acknowledging this provides additional evidence for what likely happened:

Lets have a look:

English Text

Preamble: Introductory Teaching
'All things are allowed to me, but not all things will be helpful;
All things are allowed to me, but not all things will edify.

Theme: Key Teaching
Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's benefit.

Case 1: General Rule
Whatever is sold in the open market,
(a) eat; asking no questions on behalf of conscience;
(b) for "the earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness." (Psalm 24:1)

Case 2: Practical Example
If any unbeliever invites you [to eat], and you desire to go,
..... whatever is set before you,
(a) eat; asking no questions on behalf of conscience;

Case 3: Important Exception
But if one were to tell you, "This was offered to idols,"
don't eat; on behalf of him telling you, - also for conscience;
(b) for "the earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness." (Psalm 24:1)

Exposition: Explaining Exception
"conscience," I say, not your own, but that of the other.
Why then is my liberty mediated by another's conscience?

For if I partake with thanks, why am I blasphemed against?
- for [the food] over which I give thanks?

So then when you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
all to the glory of God do;
Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks
or to the church of God:

Theme Repeated: Guiding Rule and Purpose
- Just as I also please everyone in all things,
not seeking my own benefit, but that of many,
that they may be saved."

(1 Cor 10:23 - 11:1)

Greek Text

a)παντα μοι εξεστιν αλλ ου παντα συμφερει
b)παντα μοι εξεστιν αλλ ου παντα οικοδομει
theme:μηδεις το εαυτου ζητειτω αλλα το του ετερου εκαστος
CASE 1:παν το εν μακελλω πωλουμενον
a)εσθιετε, μηδεν ανακρινοντες δια την συνειδησιν
b)του γαρ κυριου η γη και το πληρωμα αυτης
CASE 2:ει δε τις καλει υμας των απιστων και θελετε πορευεσθαι
παν το παρατιθεμενον υμιν
a)εσθιετε, μηδεν ανακρινοντες δια την συνειδησιν
CASE 3:εαν δε τις υμιν ειπη τουτο ειδωλοθυτον εστιν, μη
εσθιετε δι εκεινον τον μηνυσαντα και την συνειδησιν
b)του γαρ κυριου η γη και το πληρωμα αυτης
Explan.:συνειδησιν δε λεγω ουχι την εαυτου
αλλα την του ετερου
ινα τι γαρ η ελευθερια μου κρινεται
υπο αλλης συνειδησεως
ει δε εγω χαριτι μετεχω τι βλασφημουμαι
υπερ ου εγω ευχαριστω
ειτε ουν εσθιετε ειτε πινετε ειτε
τι ποιειτε παντα εις δοξαν θεου ποιειτε
απροσκοποι γινεσθε και ιουδαιοις
και ελλησιν και τη εκκλησια του θεου
καθως καγω παντα πασιν αρεσκω
μη ζητων το εμαυτου συμφερον
αλλα το των πολλων ινα σωθωσιν
μιμηται μου γινεσθε καθως καγω χριστου.

Color Codes:

Similar beginnings and endings (homoioarcton/homoioteleuton) are marked in GREEN
Identical lines are marked a) or b) and colored BLUE or RED.

The Textual Evidence

Include Line: H-c K Ψ (88) 104 326 330 451 614 1984 2492 2495 Byz Maj (majority of continuous MSS) Lect Syr-H Goth Ephraem Chrysost. Euthal. Theod. Photius (attr. Pseud.-Oecumenius) Ps-Oecumen. Theophylact etc.

Omit: Aleph A B C D G H* P 33 81 181 436 629 630 1241 1739 1877 1881 1962 2127 It Vg Syr-P Cop-Sa/Bo Arm Aeth Ambrosiast. Aug. John-Dam.

The first thing we observe is that the whole section is rife with opportunities for errors of Haplography, because there is plenty of repetition, and also coupling of line pairs. This is undoubtably Paul's authentic way of composing his arguments, with an eye to easy understanding and memorization.

And what is the actual variant?

The second time the Psalm is quoted (here underlined), is absent in a handful of manuscripts. The question is, was it accidentally dropped, or was it accidentally added?

In this case, Transcriptional Probability (scribal habit) suggests an accidental omission is more likely. All the necessary features are here for such a boo-boo to happen.

Yet oddly, because of yet other features (earlier on in the piece), it is also possible that a scribe accidentally copied the line twice by temporarily skipping back to the previous line. This creates a lingering doubt, for in any specific case, we cannot pronounce what happened for certain.

So we must turn to Intrinsic Probability (the author's intent) for additional evidence.

Here we are have two important points to take into account.

(1) Paul is habitually repetative. Its a conscious and powerful teaching habit he uses frequently. This makes an accidental omission likely.

(2) The argument has a unity when the line is included which it doesn't have otherwise. This makes an accidental addition unlikely.

Point (1) is self-evident, and needs no discussion.

Point (2) however, requires some elaboration and analysis.

(1) The Variant as an Addition to 1st Cor. 10:28

Lets consider first the possibility that this line was not original, but was later added to the letter by a subsequent editor or scribe.

a) The line as a Deliberate Addition

If the line was added deliberately, it could not have been added for the purposes of doctrine, or even for grammatical reasons.

It adds nothing doctrinally to this passage, nor does it increase clarity in the argument. It is not a correction in spelling or grammar, or even style.

It must fall under the category of "poetic improvement". But this is essentially unheard of among NT variants. It would be perhaps the only time a reading was invented to increase the "poetic form" of a passage.

There is a minor argument in favour of this as a clarification of subsequent talk by Paul, that is, it serves as a kind of built-in header, or topic notice.

But again, no other section of this letter, or indeed any letter in the NT has any such addition: it would stick out like a sore thumb. Why only here? Why didn't the author invent or add headings to every section of 1st Cor?

We must reject this as a deliberate addition, because of its extreme improbability, and because it refuses to fall into any known category of variant.

b) The Line as an Accidental Addition

Here the surface appearance, while unusual, offers at least a perfectly plausible mechanism for addition:

The scribe had to make essentially TWO errors of the Haplographic type, and/or act in a 'lazy' manner after the first mistake, leaving the text in:

(i) First the scribe copied correctly up to the first appearance of conscience (συνειδησιν) in verse 10:28.

(ii) Now glancing back, he unfortunately begins reading his master-copy at this same word further up, (συνειδησιν) its first appearance at the end of verse 10:25.

(iii) He continues copying, making a Dittography (repetition) error, all the way to the end of the quotation of the psalm.

Here now he must have done one of two things:

(iv - a) He recognises his error, and begins copying where he left off, but does not bother to cross out or erase the line. Perhaps he hopes his superior won't notice, or he makes a mental note (later forgotten) to deal with it, and presses on from the beginning of verse 10:29.

(iv - b) He fails to notice this huge dittographic boner, but somehow by amazing luck commits a second Haplographic error, this time looking by freak chance to the exact right line to continue from, and proceeds. The original Dittography is never noticed.

One can see immediately the problems with this kind of scenario:

(iv - a) - at the very least suggests both an absurd, scandalous procedure and a complimentary dereliction of duty unseen elsewhere in early NT MSS.

To top it off, Colwell tells us from careful analysis ( - collating P45, P66 & P75) that this kind of error is transcriptionally highly unlikely:

Quote: "...the scribe looking for his lost place looked ahead 3 times as often as he looked back. In other words, the loss of position usually resulted in a loss of text, an omission." ( - E.C. Colwell, Scribal Habits, op cit. p.112)

That is, scribes committing Haplography commit homoioarcton or homoioteleuton (omission) 75% of the time, but only commit Dittography (addition) 25% of the time.

The probability then, is heavily against an addition, rather than an omission. As we will see later, we must also take into account that the features present in the text also offer the clear possibility that an accidental omission could have, and probably did in fact occur.

(iv - b) - the alternate scenario, that of TWO 'lucky overlaps of Haplography in a row, is even more improbable than the former option.

All of these considerations speak even more strongly against this being an addition, rather than an omission.

(2) The Variant as an Omission to 1st Cor. 10:28

Its time to look at the alternative possibilities:

a) The line as a Deliberate Omission

The line actually works in the text quite well, if we give it the function of a 'heading', a topic for further discussion at this point (10:28) in the argument.

Sidebar: The Structure of Paul's Argument

Paul has given a universal guideline at the beginning:

"Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's benefit." (1 Cor. 10:23)

This is the real topic and focus of the lesson, and he returns to it again to sum up at the end:

"...Just as I also please everyone in all things, not seeking my own benefit, but that of many, that they may be saved." (1 Cor. 11:1)

He ends by re-iterating both the strategy, and the purpose behind it, salvation of men.

In discussing, Paul gives three examples, the first two granting freedom, but the last example being the key one, illustrating this principle under discussion:

The first two are easy to follow, and simply supported by authority of O.T. Scripture, namely Psalm 24:1

The problem comes from the third example. Why doesn't the Scriptural justification also apply to the third case? This is what Paul needs to argue, without undermining its application in the other two cases.

So the Psalm is repeated, as a 'local' topic under discussion:

for "the earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness." (Psalm 24:1)

It becomes the title of the small paragraph that follows. Its as if to say, "Scripture X: Why doesn't it apply to case 3?"

Paul answers by pointing out that this Psalm does not give permission to make one man's conscience rule over all others. Its not "my conscience", but the conscience of every man, which must be taken into consideration.

Paul doesn't deny the operation of your own conscience as a guide to your own sin. He demands instead that we look beyond our selves to the big picture.

A new principle is brought in:

"...whatever you do, all to the glory of God do; Give no offense, (to others)..." (1st Cor. 31-32)

The real test is, are we really honouring God, or causing shame and offense? This makes the application of Psalm 21:1 inappropriate in the third and final case, according to Paul.

With an understanding of the full passage before us, we can see that the second occurance of the Psalm 21:1 is not redundant, but becomes the lead-in for the final argument.

Seeing that it does function in the passage, and that this is unlikely as a "lucky accident", does not mean it couldn't have been mistakenly expunged by an over-eager corrector or superficial reader.

(i) An editor could have simply dropped the line as a redundant quote.

(ii) A corrector could have dropped it as a (mistaken) case of Dittography.

Against both ideas, we have the following:

There are two other whole lines which are not so expunged. If the editor or copyist felt this tendency here, why not in the other places where a similar redundancy and Dittography mechanism appear?

The Dittography features make the second option far more attractive than the first, but the absence of any systematic procedure or multiple examples make both ideas suspect.

A singular variant unit suggests an accidental error, not a conscious program of editing.

Finally, we may well ask, even if the deletion of the verse as a mistaken case of Dittography occurred, this does not really explain the origin of the variation.

In the later environment where the variants have already occurred, this explanation is excellent. But this mechanism (editor/corrector) is better suited to the perpetuation of the variant than it is to the actual genesis of the variants which a later copyist would then have to consider.

b) The line as a Accidental Omission

For the genesis of the original omission, Haplography (homoioteleuton/arcton) is still the overwhelmingly probable first cause, and this is both the simplest and most likely explanation for how the variant arose.

The passage itself suggests that any number of such Haplographic errors could have arose, and the fact that this one did, is only how the cards fell.

Summary of the Internal Evidence

We are now in a position to give a relative ranking of the four main possibilities before us, based upon the sum total of the Internal Evidences:

(1) Deliberate Addition: Least likely, as it goes against Transcriptional Probability, and is not supported by Intrinsic Evidences or a convincing explanation regarding motives. Furthermore, contra-evidence exists that fit the Internal evidence far better.

(2) Accidental Addition: Possible but Unlikely, as it goes against our best information regarding Transcriptional Probability, and secondary considerations such as Intrinsic Probability lean in favour of an omission.

(3) Deliberate Omission: Possible but Unsatisfactory, as this explanation better suits an environment where the variants are already in existance, such as between the 2nd - 4th centuries when concern for the original text became a conscious issue.

(4) Accidental Omission: Most Probable, as this accounts satisfactorily for the features of the text and variants, and is in total harmony with both Transcriptional Probability and also Intrinsic Probability. Paul's letters are especially suited to such analysis.

Hort and the New Papyri Evidence

It will be seen that these new weightings of the Internal evidence are greatly enhanced and supported by the latest detailed study of the actual papyri.

Hort also would have wholeheartedly approved of using the data gathered in these modern analyses of actual MSS:

"The first effectual security against the uncertainties of Internal Evidence of Readings is found in what may be termed Internal Evidence of Documents, that is, the general characteristics of the texts contained in them as learned directly from [the MSS] themselves by continuous study of the whole or considerable parts." (Introduction, p. 32)

Hort had full confidence in the overwhelming abundance and weight of such data: Regarding the character of individual MSS, Hort continues,

"Readings authenticated by the coincidence of strong Intrinsic and strong Transcriptional Probability, or it may be by one alone of these Probabilities in exceptional strength and clearness and uncontradicted by the other, are almost always to be found sufficiently numerous to supply a solid basis for inference." (ibid. p. 32)

Hort acknowledged that genealogical evidence could only take us back so far. From that point Internal Evidence in the form of Transcriptional and Intrinsic Probability had to take over:

"Where the two ultimate witnesses [i.e., the reconstructed alternate texts] differ, the genealogical method ceases to be applicable, and a comparison of the intrinsic general character of the two texts becomes the only resource." (p. 42)

In such cases, Hort expected to reconstruct the text based on understanding why early copyists chose one reading over another:

"The rational use of Transcriptional Probability as textual evidence depends on the power of distinguishing the grounds of preference implied in an ancient scribe's substitution of one reading for another, from those felt as cogent now after close and deliberate [textual] criticism." (p. 28)

Thus Hort felt that very often for Transcriptional Probability (knowledge of scribal habits) to be valuable, we have to understand the conscious and unconscious mechanisms of copyist mistakes and editor/correctors' choices.

However, even Hort put plain limits on the need and even value of our own understanding in many accidental cases of Transcriptional Probability.

On the one hand, Hort expects the masterful textual critic should be able to "explain" why ANY reading is probably the 'original', putting ourselves inside the mind of those copyists and editors who were making such conscious decisions.

Hort himself was singularly good at arguing in favour of the "worst" readings:

"...I mean [Hort's] extreme cleverness as an advocate; for I have felt as if there were no reading so improbable that he could not give good reasons for thinking it to be the only genuine..." (Dr. Salmon, 'Some Thoughts..." p.33-4)

On the other hand, Hort fully acknowledges that in the case of plain blunders (i.e., Haplography), we don't need to "understand", and there are some in fact that we simply can't:

"What we should naturally expect, ...is that each reading should shew some excellence of its own, apparent or real, provided that we on our part are qualified to recognise it. If any reading fails to do so, clerical errors being of course excepted, the fault must lie in our knowledge, or our perception..." (p. 29)

Hort himself fully approved of the comparison and combination of Intrinsic (what the author intended) and Transcriptional (what the copyist did) Probabilities.

This was Hort's own special category of strong evidence:

"Internal Evidence of Readings attains the highest degree of certainty which its nature admits, this relative trustworthiness being due to the coincidence of the two independant Probabilities, Intrinsic and Transcriptional. Readings thus certified are of the utmost value." (p. 29)

Thus Hort would have approved of the careful and judicious use of both categories of Internal Evidence, for the determination of difficult cases like that of 1st Cor. 10:28 above.

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