Saturday, 12 August 2017

Textual Variants are not Errors - The Tale of the Paralytic.

3 version of the story of the Paralysed Man
and the textual variant issue.

I often have seen people claiming textual variations are errata that invalidates scripture.
While I don't think every Bible verse needs to be read or interpreted literally at the other extreme I think a copyist changing one word or syllable vastly alters or invalidates the content of a verse.
The Classics I add have the same problem people arguing over variant texts.

My example here is three passages from Matthew Mark and Luke dealing with the story of the Paralysed Man.Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32.

The main points of variance are not Jesus actual words but in the background setting and description.

Matthew writes of Jesus being in his own (idian) city, mark states it was Capernaum, in a house/home, and Luke just doesn't bother.
Matthew and Mark use the word paralutikon while Luke uses a perfect passive particle but form the same stem, using his higher level of education and usage of a more literary variety of Koine Greek.

Another point of variation is whether the bed is described as a klinee or krabatton or klinidion.

The idea seems to be the same though that the bed that was lowered was something of matting or low pallet.

None of these differences alter the meaning of Jesus' words and message of healing.

His ability to forgive sins and heal a paralysed man are both expressions of his power and authority as the "son of Man"  (Matt. 9.6)

All three versions of the story end with a command to the paralytic.

"rise up lift up your bed and go / walk to your home!"

I note also all 3 versions agree that the scribes teachers scholars and pharisees were mainly alleging Jesus was blaspheming.

Finally the other main variant can be easily explained.

Matthew doesn't mention the roof being removed. Mark and Luke do.

Mark describes the roof being removed and dug through and Luke writes of them going through the tiles roofing the house or chamber after climbing onto the roof.

A simple explanation? An older roof of mud brick or thatch or maybe just one large dining room was being converted to being tile covered. The 4 carriers of the paralytic probably used building equipment lying around to climb up onto the roof and break through it. The roof tiles were still loose and one section was still thatched. Perhaps they had to move both to make a large enough opening to lower the bed.

Unless you have a one of those easy read versions notes at the bottom will tell you if there's another spelling or a different word used. My English RSV and Greek Aland NT both list variants.

Just use also a good commentary that honestly but simply discusses any variation in the Greek.

In most cases you'll find its more likely to differ from English because a verb is Aorist Subjunctiv eor Imperative  or the word doesn't translate exactly into English.

We're dealing with three different views of the same event.

Matthew may have been an eyewitness. Mark was either a very young man or minor follower hearing the story from others and Luke heard the story much later.

Don't get hung up on textual variances. Just use a good sensible commentary.