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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Jude 5, Ιησους and the incarnation

There is an old saying passed down from the early years of "modern  textual criticism" and recently reiterated by a popular apologist[1]  "Even the most unwarranted of [textual] variants do not adversely affect essential Christian doctrine." This mantra is never absent from the discourse among those who feel strongly compelled to shore up confidence in the essential reliability of the New Testament text. In popular apologetic discourse we rarely see significant evidence put forth to support this claim. In place of evidence some famous scholar from the past (e.g. B. B. Warfield) is cited and that settles it. After hearing this repeated for forty years it is tempting to wonder if changes in the intellectual landscape over the last several decades might have altered the way we look at this question. In this post we will look at one textual variant in Jude 5 which may have theological implications and consider if theology might have had a part in producing the textual variations.  

The text of Jude 5 is uncertain, with multiple overlapping variation units. I would like to focus on just one of these:  [ὁ] κύριος/Ἰησοῦς/θεός. The evidence is complicated but as early as Karl Lachmann (d.1850) there have been modern textual critics who prefer [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς to [ὁ] κύριος. Decades after Lachmann, Henry Alford having a lot more evidence to work with than than Lachmann (Tischendorf's 8th edition) read Ἰησοῦς. For the third edition of UBSGNT, the committee was split. B. Metzger and A. Wickgren in favor of Ἰησοῦς. In the current scene, Michael Holmes SBLGNT, Robert Gundry (annotated NT, 2010), Philip Comfort, Klaus Watchel, Philipp Bartholomä, ESV, NET, Editio Critica Maior, all favor Ἰησοῦς. A very fine up to date post on the textual evidence can be found here.

 Jude 5
[ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας 
[the] Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt
 Ιησους λαον εκ γης Αιγυπτου σωσας
Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt
Ἰησοῦς is a difficult reading. So difficult that a number of textual scholars rule it out as impossible. The difficulty is christological in nature. The scholars who find it unacceptable assume that the referent of Ἰησοῦς must be Jesus the man, rather than the eternal Son/Word. The Apostle Paul[2] asserts that ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός "the Rock was Christ" but not ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Ἰησοῦς "the Rock was Jesus" and there in is the major christological obstacle, affirmation of Jesus the man as per-existent.   

Simon Gathercole[3] suggests that the referent of Ἰησοῦς (with or without article) in Jude 5 could be to the [total] person of Jesus Christ who is included in the "divine identity" [4]. Gathercole suggests that the readings κύριος/θεός in Jude 5 might be unorthodox corruption introduced by scribes who didn't support the full deity and pre-existence of Christ. On the other hand, the use of Ἰησοῦς alone with Jesus of Nazareth as a referent in a context which is historically prior to the birth of Jesus is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Placing Jesus of Nazareth in an old testament context sounds strange to modern NT scholars[5]. There is some evidence that Origen supported Ἰησοῦς in Jude 5. A marginal note in miniscule ms. 1739 attributes the reading to Origen (c.185–c.254). The other patristic evidence for Ἰησοῦς includes the Vulgate, Coptic (Sa, Bo), Ethiopic, Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), Jerome (d. 420),  Didymus (d. 395). I have yet to find a patristic discussion of the christological significance of Ἰησοῦς in Jude 5. Someone who knows of such a reference might post a comment.

[1] Hank Hanegraaff (Has God Spoken, 2011, p. 50)

[2]1Cor. 10:4 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα· ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός. I Cor. 10:4  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 

 [3] Gathercole, Simon. The Pre-Existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

[4] The inclusion of Jesus Christ in the "divine identity" of is a theme developed in several works by Richard Bauckham.  

[5] Even more strange is the unique reading o θεος χριστος in papyrus P72.


Blogger Ken Penner said...

You may have noticed this entry mentioned at

10:57 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I have now noticed. Jonathan Robie the list owner started the thread and Barry Hofstetter tried to shut it down as off topic. Classic b-greek scenario.

1:43 PM  
Blogger WoundedEgo said...

ISTM that either:

* the referent is Joshua
* this is more heavy-handed Trinitarian corruption

9:55 AM  

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