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Major Critical Texts of the New Testament
Byz RP: 2005 Byzantine Greek New Testament, Robinson & Pierpont
TR1550: 1550 Stephanus New Testament
Maj: The Majority Text (thousands of minuscules which display a similar text)
Gries: 1774-1775 Johann Jakob Griesbach Greek New Testament
Treg: 1857-1879 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Greek New Testament
Tisch: 1872 Tischendorf’s Greek New Testament
WH: 1881 Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament
NA28: 2012 Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament
UBS5: 2014 Greek New Testament
NU: Both Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society
SBLGNT: 2010 Greek New Testament ()
THGNT: 2017 The Greek New Testament by Tyndale House
GENTI: 2020 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 3:16a (TR Gries Maj Byz NU)
ἠνεῴχθησαν [αὐτῷ] οἱ οὐρανοι
were opened to him the heavens
א1 C D L W 0233 f,13 Maj
Matthew 3:16a King James Version (KJV)
16 … the heavens were opened unto him …
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 3:16a (WH GENTI)
ἠνεῴχθησαν οἱ οὐρανοι
were opened the heavens
א* B syr,s copsa Irenaeus—according to P.Oxy. 405vid
Matthew 3:16a Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 … the heavens were opened …
On Irenaeus, Metzger writes,
The earliest extant manuscript that preserves Matthew’s record of Jesus’ baptism is P.Oxy. 405, which preserves a portion of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies 3.9, in which Matt 3:16–17 is quoted. According to Grenfell and Hunt (1903, 10–11), this manuscript should be dated in the late second century. If so, this manuscript represents an early copy of Irenaeus’s original work, which was produced around A.D. 150–175. The account of Jesus’ baptism, as recorded in Matt 3:16–17, is repeated in the course of Irenaeus’s argument. Matthew’s text is designated with a diple (>) at the beginning of each line of the quotation. In standard scriptorial practice, a diple indicated that the wording needed fixing or, at least, checking. A careful transcriptional reconstruction reveals that this manuscript most likely concurs with א* and B.—Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 7.
The shorter reading (the heavens were opened) is generally preferred if the change is intended. This is a reflection of scribal tendency, as a scribe is far more likely in his efforts at clarification, willfully to make an addition to a text. Very rarely will a scribe intentionally add to his text by mistake. It seems that a later scribe was seeking to bring verse 16a in harmony with 16b, which reads, “and he saw the Spirit of God descending as if a dove coming upon him,” making it explicit as to who the Spirit of God was descending upon, Jesus not the crowds.
The earliest and weightiest manuscripts support the shorter reading “the heavens were opened” (א* B syr,s copsa Irenaeus according to P.Oxy. 405vid), while the later manuscripts (א1 C D L W 0233 f,13 Maj) support the longer reading (the heavens were opened to him). Because the documentary evidence is very strong for the shorter reading, “the heavens were opened,” it is probable that later scribes added “to him” (αὐτῷ) in order to harmonize Matthew’s account of the Baptism with that of Mark, which reads, “he saw the heavens being parted … and a voice came out of the heavens …” (Mark 1:10-11), as Matthew’s account is from his perspective of the event being public while Mark saw it as more of a private event (Jesus saw and Jesus heard). Matthew wrote, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened [scribes adding to him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending as if a dove coming upon him.” By later scribes adding “to him” (αὐτῷ) it makes it more private in that the heavens were being opened “to him,” Jesus, not in full public view of the crowds, which also harmonizes with the second half of verse 16, “he [Jesus] seeing the Spirit of God descending as if a dove coming upon him [Jesus].”
Yet, the entire context of Matthew’ perspective is that it was a public event, which is seen in verse 17, which reads, “and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.’” Mark seeing it more privately wrote it this way, “and a voice came out of the heavens: “You [Jesus] are my Son, the beloved; I am well pleased.’” (1:11) So, a later scribe adding to him (αὐτῷ) would accomplish two tasks in one stroke of the pen, to bring verse 16a in harmony with 16b and to harmonize Matthew’s account of the Baptism with that of Mark. Thus, the shorter reading textual criticism rule supports the original wording (the heavens were opened) as being preferred because the change by later scribes was intended. Moreover, the original wording (the heavens were opened) is also found in the earliest manuscripts as well. Thus, the RSV, UASV, LEB, NASB, and most other modern translations accept the shorter reading found in Westcott and Hort. However, the KJV, NKJV, RSV, ESV, HCSB, CSB, and the NAB have chosen to go with the longer reading.
TERMS AS TO HOW WE SHOULD OBJECTIVELY VIEW THE DEGREE OF CERTAINTY FOR THE READING ACCEPTED AS THE ORIGINAL
The modal verbs are might have been (30%), may have been (40%), could have been (55%), would have been (80%), must have been (95%), which are used to show that we believe the originality of a reading is certain, probable or possible.
The letter [WP] stands for Weak Possibility (30%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading might have been original in that it is enough evidence to accept that the variant might have been possible, but it is improbable. We can say the reading might have been original, as there is some evidence that is derived from manuscripts that carry very little weight, early versions, or patristic quotations.
The letter [P] stands for Plausible (40%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading may have been original in that it is enough to accept a variant to be original and we have enough evidence for our belief. The reading may have been original but it is not probably so.
The letter [PE] stands for Preponderance of Evidence (55%), which indicates that this is a higher-level proof that the reading could have been original in that it is enough to accept as such unless another reading emerges as more probable.
The letter [CE] stands for Convincing Evidence (80%), which indicates that the evidence is an even higher-level proof that the reading surely was the original in that the evidence is enough to accept it as substantially certain unless proven otherwise.
The letter [BRD] stands for Beyond Reasonable Doubt (95%), which indicates that this is the highest level of proof: the reading must have been original in that there is no reason to doubt it. It must be understood that feeling as though we have no reason to doubt is not the same as one hundred percent absolute certainty.
NOTE: This system is borrowed from the criminal just legal terms of the United States of America, the level of certainty involved in the use of modal verbs, and Bruce Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), who borrowed his system from Johann Albrecht Bengel in his edition of the Greek New Testament (Tübingen, 1734). In addition, the percentages are in no way attempting to be explicit, but rather, they are nothing more than a tool to give the non-textual scholar a sense of the degree of certainty. However, this does not mean the percentages are not reflective of certainty.
- Edward D. Andrews, FROM SPOKEN WORDS TO SACRED TEXTS: Introduction-Intermediate New Testament Textual Studies (Cambridge, Ohio), 2021.
- B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882)
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006)
- Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994),
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament: Apparatus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), Matt. 6:8.
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012)
- Philip Wesley Comfort, A COMMENTARY ON THE MANUSCRIPTS AND TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015).
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008).
- Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts: Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, 2 Volume Set The (English and Greek Edition) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019)
- Rick Brannan and Israel Loken, The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
- Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).
- Wallace B., Daniel (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://csntm.org/
- Wilker, Wieland (n.d.). Retrieved from An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels: http://www.willker.de/wie/TCG/index.html