Daniel B. Wallace,
Senior New Testament Editor, the NET Bible
As presented to the SBL Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN, on November 18, 2000 in the Bible Translation Section.
The NET Bible was conceived in November 1995 at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Philadelphia. “NET” is a double entendre, standing both for New English Translation and for the Internet, since this translation is available for free on the Internet (lumina.bible.org).
The NET is innovative in several respects, not the least of which is the massive number of notes (about 60,000 for the whole Bible so far), including extensive text-critical, lexical, and exegetical notes. But it is also innovative in its text and translation to some degree. This paper will highlight a few of these innovations.
But perhaps a word should be said first about the broader framework and philosophy of the NET. The NET Bible is a translation done by evangelicals whose highest commitment is to represent the meaning of the text as accurately as possible. The translation is not self-consciously evangelical; it is self-consciously honest. Our commitment to this task can be illustrated by reference to a couple of evangelical shibboleths. First, in Mark 2.26 Jesus speaks of David entering “the house of God when Abiathar was high priest.” The text-critical note says:
A few mss (D W et alii) omit the words “when Abiathar was high priest,” bringing the text in line with its parallels in Matt 12:4 and Luke 6:4. The omission may have been motivated by a perception of historical inaccuracy, since 1 Sam 21 says that Abimelech was high priest at the time of the incident described.
The NET here is bolder than the NIV which implies a broader chronological timeframe: “In the days of Abiathar the high priest,” even though the Greek most likely cannot be taken so broadly.1 And even the REB has “in the time of Abiathar the high priest.”2 The NET Bible, in this instance, is identical to the NRSV’s rendering, even though fidelity to the meaning of the text is problematic for many evangelicals.
Second, undoubtedly the most divisive verse in twentieth-century American translation debates was Isa 7.14. This text was a watershed for orthodoxy, and became the battle cry of many fundamentalists and evangelicals in their attacks on the RSV. The translation of עלמה as “young woman” was deemed inappropriate by many conservatives, for it seemed to simultaneously impugn the virgin birth of Christ and destroy the unity of the canon. Both the NIV and the NASB were products of evangelical reactions to the RSV, and this verse provided much of the catalyst. In both of them, עלמה is translated “virgin,” in spite of the lexical stretch (some might say linguistic dishonesty) that such a translation required. The NET Bible here has “young woman” because, quite simply, that is what the Hebrew means.3 The NIV translators self-consciously conformed the OT christological texts to the NT;4 the NET team has instead self-consciously dealt with each testament within its own historical and cultural setting.
Along these lines, one other point should be mentioned: As far as I am aware, the NET Bible is the first evangelical translation that plans to include the Apocrypha.5There is no sanctioning body to which the translators are subject, allowing them to move more freely in these matters than some other translations have been able to do.6
Perhaps because of the overarching desire to go where the evidence leads, the NET Bible has received endorsements from scholars whose own theological commitments represent a wide diversity: Philip Davies, Robert Gundry, John Walvoord, William Farmer, Klyne Snodgrass, and Raymond Brown, to name but a few.
Innovations in the NET Bible, New Testament
The innovations that I will discuss are grouped as follows: (1) synoptic parallels, (2) innovations in translation, (3) innovations in the underlying text.
As a preliminary, we have already noted that the NET Bible is not governed by any ecclesiastical body, allowing the translators greater freedom in assessing the meaning of the text. On the other end of the scale, however, we feel a great responsibility to the Church at large. Hence, this translation has been available for examination and critique on the Internet from the beginning. It is the first translation ever to be “beta-tested.” We have received thousands of emails and letters from interested readers—from high school students to distinguished professors of biblical languages, from non-native speakers of English to seasoned field translators.7 All of this input is important to us because the Bible is meant for the masses; the challenge of reducing the best scholarly insights into language that the average English reader can grasp means that responses from both ends of the spectrum are crucial in making a Bible translation both accurate and readable. For example, a native of France who is now living in England has sent us scores of emails asking about various renderings that were puzzling to him. In many places, this layman has put his finger on inadequate glosses. On the other end of the spectrum, two recent doctoral dissertations are mentioned in the notes of the NET NT because the authors contacted us via email. Coincidentally, both men are delivering an excerpt of their dissertations at this very hour in the Biblical Lexicography Section.8 One great advantage, then, of this electronic innovation is that the NET team has been able to stay quite current with biblical scholarship, even to the point of learning about materials before they are published.9
I. Synoptic Parallels
Although technically an innovation in translation, the NET team’s work on synoptic parallels should be singled out. Our procedure in examining the synoptic data was first to have individual translators submit their work. Then, this translation was edited to conform it to the general stylistic parameters of the NET. Third, we color-coded the Greek text of Kurt Aland’s Synopsis of the Four Gospels, though with a few changes of the underlying Greek due to our different text-critical reconstructions.10 Color-coding the Gospels is a tedious, detailed process that involves highlighting exact verbal parallels between two, three, or even four gospels, all with their own color scheme; and underlining inexact verbal parallels in a similar manner. This process alone took hundreds of hours to complete. Fourth, we examined all synoptic parallels as well as the few true Johannine parallels for verbal identity in the Greek, and compared such to the English. The point was to conform the English parallels to each other when the Greek was identical unless there was good reason not to conform the parallels. In the process of editing, we noticed many Greek verbatim parallels that in English were gratuitously discordant. In such cases, conformity was sought. In many instances, due to the collocation of other elements that would be found in a lone Gospel, conformity was deemed inappropriate. The whole process took about a year of full time work for two editors. And the result of this work, along with the other extensive editorial work of the last eighteen months, is a revision of the NET NT that involves thousands of changes from the version that Dr. Lewis reviewed last year.
A few examples are given here.
- Matt 8.3/Mark 1.41/Luke 5.13
The beta version of the NET NT had “he reached out his hand,” “he extended his hand,” and “he stretched out his hand” in this parallel, even though the Greek text was identical in all three gospels. Obviously, there is no substantive difference in these various renderings, but since the Greek was the same it was gratuitous to render the English differently. The revision went with “he stretched out his hand” in each place.
- Matt 12.4/Mark 2.26/Luke 6.4
The beta version of the NET NT had “the sacred bread” in Matthew and Mark, and “the bread of the Presence” in Luke. All parallels now have “the sacred bread.”
On the other side of the ledger, there are synoptic accounts that are exactly parallel except that one Gospel fills in the narrative with other collocations, making uniformity in rendering undesirable in English.
- Matt 8.4/Mark 1.44
Matthew has ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς and Mark has ὅρα μηδενὶ μηδὲν εἴπῃς. The NET Matthew says, “See that you do not speak to anyone,” while Mark says, “See that you do not say anything to anyone.” The addition of μηδέν in Mark changed the collocation, making the verb more explicitly transitive, so that “speak” needed to become “say.”
- Mark 2.6/Luke 5.21
Both use a form of the verb διαλογίζομαι. However, Mark collocates this with ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν. Consequently we gave Mark a fuller translation: “turning these things over in their minds” while Luke is simply “began to think [ἤρξαντο διαλογίζεσθαι] to themselves.”
What we noticed in the process was that although most English translations dealt with the larger issues of consistency in synoptic parallels, few if any had worked through all the minutiae. Or, if they had, they tended to harmonize the English gospels when the Greek was not the same. Not surprisingly, the TEV and NLT frequently harmonized accounts in English when the Greek was different. But so did the NIV on many occasions.11 On the other hand, the NRSV and REB tended to harmonize the English parallels only if there was Greek justification; but on many occasions, even when the Greek was identical, the English was not. For example, in the pericope about Peter’s denials of the Lord, παιδίσκη is variously translated as “servant-girl,” “serving-maid,” and “girl” in the REB.12
At the same time, to its credit the REB seemed to be the most consistent of the translations we checked. Yet even one of the translators of the REB’s predecessor, the NEB, noted that the NET synoptic work seemed to be much more detailed than what had gone into the NEB. In a personal correspondence this past summer, C. F. D. Moule wrote about the changes made by the NEB translators’ panel: “I doubt if we achieved a very thorough or rigorous consistency. You have obviously done the job far more systematically.”13 I am sure that the NET also has its share of discrepancies in the matter of synoptic parallels. Even after all the work we have put into this, there are still bound to be errors. We invite you to alert us to them as we continue to refine this translation.
II. Innovations in Translation
Although largely positioned between formal and dynamic equivalence, the translation philosophy strives to represent the best of current biblical scholarship. Thus, interpretive renderings are offered where there is either a general consensus or where a neutral translation would be meaningless.
A. Interpretive Translation of Passages where there is a General Consensus
In this first category, consider the translation of ἀπόλλυμι in the synoptic Gospels. On occasion, it refers to the religious leaders’ plot to kill Jesus. For example, in Matt 12.14 we read, οἱ Φαρισαῖοι συμβούλιον ἔλαβον κατ ᾿ αὐτοῦ ὅπως αὐτὸνἀπολέσωσιν. Older and more literal translations such as KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, and NRSV render the verb simply as “destroy.” But “destroy” could be misunderstood nowadays to mean destroying one’s reputation. A literal translation could thus be misleading, for in the context it is evident that these religious leaders intended to kill Jesus. Indeed, in the parallel in Mark 11.18, we read that “they feared [Jesus] because the whole crowd was amazed by his teaching,” and thus the religious leaders considered how they could ἀπολέσωσιν him. Something more explicit than “destroy” is needed. More dynamic translations such as the NIV, TEV, and NLT have “kill” in both of these texts. Even the NRSV switched to “kill” in Mark 11.18. The NET editors felt that in this politically charged context, ἀπόλλυμι would best be rendered by “assassinate.” This gathered in one English word several aspects of the religious leaders’ plot: (a) desire to kill Jesus, (b) a recognition of Jesus’ importance in the eyes of the populace, and (c) a need to act by stealth and illegally. The context as well as current scholarship on the Leben Jesu both confirmed that this translation was appropriate. One objection remained: Many translations today are moving away from sibilants because of the unpleasant effect such sounds have on the ear! But in this case, the phonetics are almost onomatopoetic in their pernicious effect: “The chief priests and the experts in the law heard it and they considered how they could assassinate him, for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed by his teaching” (Mark 11.18). As far as I am aware, this is the first English translation to use “assassinate” in these passages.14 This rendering is a little matter, to be sure, but it illustrates some of the thinking behind the NET Bible.
B. Interpretive Translation where Neutral Rendering is Meaningless
In this second category—viz., an interpretive translation where a neutral rendering would be meaningless—scores of disputed texts have been handled differently from other translations. I will illustrate this point with two kinds of texts: those in which no scholarly consensus exists, and those in which the scholarly consensus may well be wrong and the NET has taken a road less traveled.
1. NO SCHOLARLY CONSENSUS
In the first instance, the most significant departure in the NET from other English translations is undoubtedly the translation of the Pauline expression, πίστις [᾿Ιησοῦ] Χριστοῦ. A neutral rendering in, say, Rom 3.22—“by faith of Jesus Christ” (the KJV wording)—is virtually nonsensical.15 Because of this, modern English translations could not be ambivalent here; a choice had to be made. Should the genitive Χριστοῦ be regarded as objective or subjective? Virtually all modern English translations regard it as an objective genitive, both in Rom 3.22 and the other Pauline texts16: “faith in Jesus Christ.” This is so in spite of an increasing number of scholars who, in the past few decades, have argued for a subjective genitive— “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” This construction, and its use in Rom 3.22, illustrates the need of both a completely new English translation and one that does not hide the tensions of biblical scholarship from the lay reader. In 1975, when C. E. B. Cranfield’s first volume of his ICC commentary on Romans was published, he could speak of the subjective genitive view of πίστις Χριστοῦ in Rom 3.22 as “altogether unconvincing” without giving much support for this conclusion, and citing only an early articulation of the subjective view written in 1891.17 The NIV NT had appeared two years earlier than Cranfield’s commentary. But in recent years, the subjective view has gained a greater hearing, although it still finds almost no place either in English translations or alternate renderings in the margin.
The state of flux that surrounded πίστις Χριστοῦ put the editors in a quandary. The first translator of the NET Romans in fact rendered this as “faith in Christ.” The editors were split, though leaning slightly toward the subjective view. We decided to consult NT scholars in the United States, England, Canada, and Australia, to find out what the climate was in their circles. I wrote to Bruce Longenecker , J. D. G. Dunn, and others who have written on this subject, and visited R. B. Hays, to get their impressions. Our concern was not so much to solve this crux interpretum but to sense where NT scholarship was heading on this matter. The NET is not a market-driven translation, but it is intended to reflect the best of current biblical scholarship. In this case, a decision was by no means easy. In the end, we opted for “the faithfulness of Christ.”
Appendix I is a page from the NET Bible which gives both the NET’s translation and an extensive footnote on the discussion of this verse.18 This page ably represents the NET philosophy overall as well. Three things should stand out in the notes as a whole: (1) discussion, not just mere mention, of alternative renderings of difficult verses; (2) actual bibliography that addresses exegetical and translational issues; and (3) text-critical notes that mention manuscripts by name or number, rather than simply by the well-worn but fairly useless generic description, “other ancient authorities read…” The notes are of three sorts:
sn = study notes, suitable for laypeople
tn = translators’ notes that address exegetical and technical issues of translation
tc = text-critical notes, often including some discussion of external and internal evidence.
We recognize that many of the notes are not easily digested by those untrained in biblical studies. At the same time, we have made a conscious choice to take away some of the mystery for the person in the pew. The generic notes of other translations do little to sharpen the interest of the layperson in scripture. One of the byproducts of the NET notes is that they allow the laity to compare various translations, and to learn why their favorite version has translated the text the way it has—because the NET Bible, unlike their favorite translation, tells them.19
2. SCHOLARLY CONSENSUS SEEMS TO BE WRONG
There are a few places in which the NET editors have disagreed with the present scholarly consensus on the meaning of a given text. This is never a cavalier decision, but always has some substance behind it. Take, for example, another passage from Romans. In the last chapter, the apostle almost sings a litany of greetings to several friends. In 16.7 he says, ἀσπάσασθε ᾿Ανδρόνικον καὶ ᾿Ιουνίαν…ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις. There are two issues in this verse: (1) is ᾿Ιουνίαν a man’s or a woman’s name? and (2) does ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις mean “outstanding among the apostles” or “well known to the apostles”? There is a growing consensus on this first issue—viz., ᾿Ιουνίαν is a feminine name. The NET Bible thus reflects this consensus and translates it as “Junia.”20 There is an even stronger consensus that ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις means “outstanding among the apostles”—i.e., that Andronicus and Junia were apostles and were excellent examples of such. But the expression seemed odd: would we not expect ἐπίσημοι τῶν ἀποστόλων if the meaning were “outstanding among the apostles”? On the hunch that that was the case, two of the editors did some research in extra-NT Greek on ἐπίσημος followed by (ἐν +) dative and ἐπίσημος followed by the genitive. Using TLG, the published volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Tebtunis papyri, and the digitized collections of papyri from Duke University and the University of Michigan—a grand total of more than 60 million words of Greek literature from Homer to 1453 CE—an exhaustive examination of all such collocations was undertaken. And the results were startling: almost always, when ἐπίσημος was followed by a personal noun in the genitive, the idea was a comparison from within (“outstanding among…”); but when ἐπίσημος was followed by (ἐν +) dative—as is the case in Rom 16.7, the idea was elative, with no internal comparison taking place (“well known to”). Thus, on the one hand, in 3 Macc 6.1 we read that Eleazar was “prominent among the priests of the country” (ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς χώρας ἱερέων); on the other hand, in Ps Sol 2.6, where the Jewish captives are in view, the writer indicates that “they were a spectacle among the gentiles” (ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν). In this case, the scholarly consensus was found to be due to an off-handed comment by J. B. Lightfoot in his commentary on Galatians (!) that was picked up by other scholars who then claimed that Lightfoot had proved the Greek idiom in Rom 16.7 to mean “outstanding among”! Because Lightfoot was a good grammatical exegete, no one questioned his opinion on that score, and no one did any research on the construction in any Greek literature, as far as we could tell. Thus, when we examined the data, we were surprised to find it so uniformly against Lightfoot’s supposition. The research done on this text, in the course of wrestling with the translation of the NET Bible, was turned into an article and submitted to New Testament Studies last August. “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7” is scheduled to appear in the January 2001 issue of NTS,21 even though its acceptance came too late to be mentioned in the next printing of the NET NT.22
III. Innovations in Text
The NET New Testament is based on a critically constructed Greek text, following the principles of reasoned eclecticism. The Greek text of the NET NT differs from the Nestle-Aland27 in about 500 places. Further, some readings adopted by the editors are not often found in other translations. Four are briefly discussed here.
A. Matt 24.36
“Now about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, except the Father alone.” In Matt 24.36, the NET omits “nor the Son” (οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός), even though this phrase has a strong pedigree in the Alexandrian and Western texttypes. The omission is found solidly in the Byzantine text, but that is hardly a sufficient ground for adopting this reading. More importantly is the fact that the Byzantine MSS do not omit οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός in the parallel in Mark 13.32, thus suggesting that the omission in Matthew is not due to scribal deliberations. Indeed, the omission fits into the known redactional proclivities of the evangelist: Matthew has marked tendencies to elevate his Christology over that of Mark’s, either through omission of offensive material or addition of exalting material. Thus, in this text, the reading that best explains the rise of the other is the omission of οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός. (See Appendix II for the page from the NET Bible that includes Matt 24.36.)
B. John 1.34
“I have both seen and testified that this man is the Chosen One of God.” The NET editors adopted ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ rather than ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. Although the external evidence for ἐκλεκτός was until recently rather thin, it nevertheless had overwhelming internal support. As Brown noted,23 “On the basis of theological tendency…it is difficult to imagine that Christian scribes would change ‘the Son of God’ to ‘God’s chosen one,’ while a change in the opposite direction would be quite plausible.” Externally, ὁ ἐκλεκτός is the reading of ¸5vid Å* b e ff2* sys.c. The UBSGNT4 committee rejects this reading in favor of ὁ υἱός (giving it a B rating); further, the testimony of ¸5 has been expunged from the record in the most recent critical texts. The witness of ¸5vid has been omitted in NA27, most likely because the papyrus has a lacuna at the point of the wording. However, since ἐκλεκτός is not a known nomen sacrum, and υἱός is, the only possible wording on this line—between these two variants—is ἐκλεκτός. Nevertheless, up until recently, the earliest demonstrable Greek testimony to ἐκλεκτός was from the fourth century in the first hand of Å. But now, with the publication of ¸106 (III century) in a recent volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the case for ἐκλεκτός has gotten significantly stronger. As Peter Head noted recently, “This early support [for ἐκλεκτός] in Greek, Latin and Syriac indicates a geographical diversity behind this reading.”24
C. 1 Thess 2.7
“But we became little children among you.” Last year at SBL, two papers were given on the tiny textual problem of 1 Thess 2.7—νήπιοι (“little children”) vs. ἤπιοι(“gentle”). One paper was given in the Pauline section, while the other was presented to the Textual Criticism group. Both presenters came to the conclusion that νήπιοι was authentic. Even though the external evidence for νήπιοι is quite strong (¸65 Å* B C* D* F G I Ψ* it bo et alii), it may result in a reading that is too hard: “We became little children among you, like a nursing mother caring for her own children…” This is a violent mixed metaphor. But if the verse is repunctuated, with a full stop between these two clauses,25 the result is a reading that is neither too hard nor unnatural.26 In the least, the NET Bible is perhaps the first modern English translation to have “little children” in 1 Thess 2.7, even though the standard critical Greek texts have already adopted νήπιοι.27
D. Jude 5
“Now I desire to remind you (even though you have been fully informed of these facts once for all) that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe.” The NET Bible note on Jude 5 says this:
The reading ᾿Ιησοῦς (Ihsous, “Jesus”) is deemed too hard by several scholars, since it involves the notion of Jesus acting in the early history of the nation Israel. However, not only does this reading enjoy strong support from a variety of early witnesses (e.g., A B 33 81 vg et alii), but the plethora of variants demonstrate that scribes were uncomfortable with it, for they typically exchanged κύριος (kurios, “Lord”) or θεός (theos, “God”) for ᾿Ιησοῦς(though ¸72 has the intriguing reading θεὸς Χριστός [theos Christos, “God Christ”] for ᾿Ιησοῦς). As difficult as the reading ᾿Ιησοῦς is, in light of v. 4 and in light of the progress of revelation (Jude being one of the last books in the NT to be composed), it is wholly appropriate.
Altogether, the NET NT includes several hundred discussions of textual problems in the tc notes. In a day when more and more layfolks are getting a one-sided picture of the transmission of the text through publications done in the spirit of Dean Burgon, it is important that modern translations give more than “other ancient authorities read…” In Appendix II you will see, for example, how we have handled the Comma Johanneum of 1 John 5.7-8.
By way of conclusion, I should mention that these innovations are by no means the sum total of what the NET is doing new. Due to time constraints, I could not address either how the NET handles quotations and allusions from the OT in the NT, nor how we have dealt with gender issues in translation. Nevertheless, I hope that I have shown that the NET Bible is a multi-purpose resource for study and worship. It is not intended for scholars only, but it is intended to elevate both biblical literacy and engagement with the text among the people of God. Again, I thank you for the opportunity to relate some of the innovations in this exciting new project.28
The appendices are as follows:
Appendix I is a page from the NET NT at Rom 3.21-26, illustrating both the discussion of πίστις Χριστοῦ and other notes
Appendix II is two pages from the NET NT that show how more detailed text-critical discussions are handled: one from Matt 24.36 and one from 1 John 5.7-8.
Romans 3.19-26 in the NET Bible
3:21 But now29 apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets)30 has been disclosed— 3:22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ31 for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 3:24 But they are justified32 freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 3:25 God publicly displayed33 him34 as the mercy seat35 by his blood through faith.36 This was to demonstrate37 his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.38 3:26 This was39 also to demonstrate40 his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just41 and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.42
Matthew 24.36-44 in the NET Bible
24:36 “Now about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven,43 except the Father alone. 24:37 For just like the days of Noah44 were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 24:38 For in those days before the flood, people45 were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 24:39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away.46 It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.47 24:40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left.48 24:41 There will be two women grinding grain with a mill;49 one will be taken and one left.
1 John 5.7-8 in the NET Bible
1 ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως.
2 In the OT references, the REB equivocates as well. Second Samuel 18.17 (MT) calls “Ahimelech the son of Abiathar” while the REB reverses this to conform with 1 Sam 22.20; 1 Chron 18.16 speaks of “Abimelech the son of Abiathar” (MT, followed by NASB; the NIV and NRSV have ‘Ahimelech’ for ‘Abimelech’ [with the support of LXX, Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate] and the REB both swaps out Ahimelech for Abimelech and reverses the order [‘Abiathar the son of Ahimelech’!], apparently without MS support, to conform it to 1 Sam 22.20. Here is an instance of the REB looking more conservative bibliologically than the NASB, for it corrects the text so as to avoid an apparent error!) This at least illustrates that retranslation of the text so as to eliminate discrepancies is not solely an evangelical vice.
3 For a carefully documented and fascinating history of the debates over Isa 7.14 in twentieth-century English Bible translations, see Peter J. Thuesen, In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), especially chapter five: “The Virgin Text: Evangelicals and Liberals in the Quest for an Undefiled Book” (121-44).
Evangelicals should be aware that not all conservative scholars rejected the “young woman” of the RSV. Many in the Christian Reformed tradition, led by Bastiaan Van Elderen, recognized the integrity of the translation. Thuesen adds that Luther also translated עלמה as “young woman” (ibid., 125), but a check of the 1545 and other early editions of the Luther Bible reveals that he translated the text as “virgin” (“Jungfrau” [modern spelling], not “junge Frau”). It is true that in his exegesis of this text, he partially conceded that “young woman” may have been meant (Luther’s Works, vol 16, edd. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald [St. Louis: Concordia, 1969] 84), but even here he put a strong christological spin on it, allowing him to translate it as “Jungfrau” in Isa 7.14. In other words, Luther recognized that the sense was young woman, even though his christological lens demanded that he think of her as a virgin.
4 In the case of Isa 7.14, the translation conforms to Matt 1.23 where παρθένος, a word that does mean “virgin,” is used.
5 Thuesen noted that the evangelical reactions to the RSV had little impact on the committee: “Yet with the RSV translators themselves only willing to go so far to satisfy evangelical demands, a common Protestant translation on the order of the King James Bible was clearly a thing of the past” (ibid., 138). He adds that “The RSV translators had fairly readily accepted a Catholic corrective for the sake of Christian unity and would by 1968 invite six Catholic scholars, including Orchard and Fuller, to full membership on the committee. But similar collaboration between Protestant liberals and fundamentalists was out of the question for either side” (144). Perhaps the sociological paradigm is shifting now.
6 One of the great ironies of the NIV, according to Thuesen, is that it was produced under the auspices of an ecclesiastical body: after the publication of the RSV, “it became clear that many conservative Protestants were experiencing a momentous change of mind: although they had deeply internalized the sixteenth-century valuation of Book over Church, prominent conservatives were now joining their liberal counterparts in deeming necessary the ecclesiastical certification of Scripture” (ibid., 119).
7 In particular, we wish to single out SIL translators, most notably Phil Fields, Wayne Leman, and Katharine Barnwell. Fields wrote a review of the NET Bible in Notes on Translation 13.4 (1999) entitled, “The NET Bible, an Important New Bible Study Tool,” 42-54; Leman has sent the editors hundreds of suggestions via email; Barnwell has been a consultant for years to the NET editors. Fields’ article received a response as well: D. B. Wallace, “An Open Letter regarding the NET Bible, New Testament,” Notes on Translation 14.3 (2000) 1-8.
8 Biblical Lexicography Section of SBL, Saturday, 18 November 2000, 3:45 p.m.-6:15 p.m. in Polk B. The two papers are: Donald Dale Walker, “The Leniency and Clemency of Christ in 2 Cor 10:1,” and Daniel P. Bailey, “Biblical and Mainstream Uses of Hilasterion as Homonyms.” Walker’s dissertation was done at the University of Chicago, and Bailey’s was done at Cambridge University. The bibliographic data on the dissertations are as follows: Daniel P. Bailey, “Jesus As the Mercy Seat: The Semantics and Theology of Paul’s Use of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1999); Donald Dale Walker, “Paul’s Offer of Leniency of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:1): Populist Ideology and Rhetoric in a Pauline Letter Fragment (2 Cor 10:1-13:10)” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1998).
9 This is due in part to the extreme popularity of the netbible.org website, which fact has given it visibility even in scholarly circles and has encouraged dialogue. As well, the NET Bible notes mention some pre-publication drafts of articles on various passages because the authors were kind enough to send us the fruits of their research before their articles had gone into print.
10 The NET’s Greek text differs from Nestle-Aland27 in about 500 places. A Greek-English diglot of the NET NT is currently in the planning stages.
11 Cf., e.g., the following texts: Matt 21.13/Mark 11.17/Luke 19.46 in NLT (“you have turned it into a den of thieves”), while the Greek tense varies between present, perfect, and aorist (ὑμεῖς δὲ αὐτὸν ποιεῖτε σπήλαιον λῃστῶν ὑμεῖς δὲ πεποιήκατε αὐτὸν σπήλαιον λῃστῶν ὑμεῖς δὲ αὐτὸν ἐποιήσατε σπήλαιον λῃστῶν); Matt 8.4/Mark 1.44 in NLT (“Don’t talk to anyone along the way”), while the Greek of Mark adds the direct object μηδέν (ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς/ὅρα μηδενὶ μηδὲν εἴπῃς); Matt 12.2/Mark 2.24/Luke 6.2 in TEV (a question is asked in the Greek of Mark and Luke, while Matthew has an exclamation; TEV has Luke alone asking the question, while Matthew and Mark make an exclamation); Matt 7.4/Luke 6.42 in NLT (“How can you think of saying, [Friend,] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?) when the Greek text has several significant differences (ἢ πῶς ἐρεῖς τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου· ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σου, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ δοκὸς ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ…/πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου· ἀδελφέ, ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου, αὐτὸς τὴν ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου δοκὸν οὐ βλέπων…); Matt 12.43/Luke 11.24 in NIV (“and does not find it” though the Greek is καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκει/καὶ μὴ εὑρίσκον); Matt 13.1-9/Mark 4.1-9/Luke 8.4-8 in NIV, NLT; Matt 23.37-39/Luke 13.34-35 are rendered identically in NIV, except for one punctuation difference and a ‘for’ in Matt 23.39, although the Greek texts differ at several places; Matt 27.38/Mark 15.27 in TEV.
12 Cf., e.g., the following texts: Matt 9.15/Mark 2.20/Luke 5.35 in NRSV (“when the bridegroom is taken away from them”[Matt, Mark]/“when the bridegroom will be taken away from them” [Luke]) while the Greek at this juncture is identical (ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ ἀπ ᾿ αὐτῶν ὁ νυμφίος); Matt 11.19/Luke 7.35 in NRSV (“Yet”/“Nevertheless” when both translate a καί that follows an extended saying that is virtually identical in Greek); Matt 26.11/Mark 14.7/John 12.8 in NRSV (γάρ is only translated in Matthew and Mark; ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε is rendered “you will not always have me” in Matthew and Mark, but “you do not always have me” in John); Matt 26.55/Mark 14.48/Luke 22.52 in REB renders the Greek ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν ἐξήλθατε as “Do you take me for a bandit?” in Matthew, but “Do you take me for a robber?” in Mark and Luke; Matt 27.23/Mark 15.14/Luke 23.22 in the REB renders κακόν as “harm” or “wrong”; the translation of παιδίσκη in various translations in the parallels in Matt 26.69/Mark 14.66, 69/Luke 22.56/John 18.17 (REB has “servant-girl,” “serving-maid,” “girl”; TEV has “servant woman” and “girl”; NRSV has “servant-girl” and “woman”; NASB has “servant-girl,” “maid,” “slave-girl”). Other translations also lack harmonization in the English when the Greek is identical. For example, Matt 8.19/Luke 9.57 in TEV (“I am ready to go with you wherever you go”/“I will follow you wherever you go” [ἀκολουθήσω σοι ὅπου ἐὰν ἀπέρχῃ]); Matt 10.26/Luke 12.2 in TEV; Matt 10.29/Luke 12.6 in TEV; Matt 11.5/Luke 7.22 in TEV (“the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life”/“the deaf can hear, the dead are raised to life” [κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, [καὶ] νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται]); Matt 11.18/Luke 7.33 in TEV; Matt 11.9/Luke 7.26 in NIV; Matt 11.11/Luke 7.28 in NIV; Matt 11.21/Luke 10.13 in NIV (translation of ὅτι); Matt 11.24/Luke 10.12 in NLT (“Sodom” vs. “wicked Sodom”). All of these examples could be multiplied many times over.
13 Letter dated 20 June 2000, from C. F. D. Moule to Daniel B. Wallace. Prof Moule is also to be thanked for his numerous suggestions and corrections on various passages in the NET Bible.
14 The NET has “assassinate” in Matt 12.14; Mark 3.6; 11.18; Luke 19.47. However, various translations have the verb or noun in several places in the OT. For example, “assassinate” is found in 1 Sam 19.1 (NLT); 1 Kings 15.27 (NLT); 16.10 (REB, TEV); 16.16 (NLT, TEV); 2 Kings 12.20 (NIV, REB, NLT); 12.21 (NLT); 14.5 (NLT); 14.6 (NLT); 14.19 (NLT,. TEV); 15.10 (NIV, NLT, TEV); 15.14 (NIV, NLT, TEV); 15.25 (NIV, NLT, TEV); 15.30 (NIV, NLT, TEV); 19.37 (REB); 21. 23 (NIV, REB, NLT, TEV); 25.25 (NIV, REB); 2 Chron 23.25 (NLT); 25.3 (NLT); 33.24 (NIV, REB, NLT, TEV); Esth 2.21 (NIV, NJB, REB, NRSV, NLT, TEV); 6.2 (NIV, NJB, REB, NRSV, NLT, TEV); Isa 37.38 (REB); Jer 40.14 (NAB, NJB, REB, NLT); 40.15 (NJB, REB); 41.2 (REB); 41.16 (NIV); 41.18 (REB); Hos 7.7 (TEV). The noun “assassin” is found in 2 Kings 9.31 (TEV); 14.6 (NIV); 21.24 (TEV); 2 Chron 24.26 (NLT); 25.4 (NLT); 25.27 (NLT); 2 Chron 33.25 (TEV); Isa 1.21 (NJB). The noun “assassination” is found in Esth 7.9 (NLT); Jer 41.4 (NIV). As well, several translations refer to the name of a group in Acts 21.38 as “[the] Assassins” (so NAB, NASB, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NLT).
15 Although Morna Hooker has argued that this text should be translated “by the faith of Jesus Christ” (M. D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35  321-45).
16 Cf. also Rom 3.26; Gal 2.16, 20; 3.22; Eph 3.12; and Phil 3.9 for similar expressions, and compare these texts in the ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, REB, NJB, NAB, TEV, NLT, etc.
17 Cranfield, Romans (ICC) 1.203, citing J. Haussleiter, “Der Glaube Jesu Christi und der christliche Glaube: ein Beitrag zur Erklärung des Römerbriefes,” NKZ 2 (1981) 109-45.
18 It should be noted that only a partial bibliographic listing is found for some sources: because the NET Bible contains an extensive table of abbreviations and bibliography it was felt unnecessary to duplicate all such data in the notes.
19 For another example of a NET translation where no scholarly consensus exists, see 1 Thess 4.4. There, σκεῦος either means either “wife” or “body.” Because of recent work done by Dr. Jay E. Smith on this problem, which he kindly sent to the NET editors (in the form of a pre-publication draft of a lengthy article that is scheduled to appear in BBR 10 [Fall 2000] entitled, “1 Thess 4:4—Breaking the Impasse”), the beta version of “wife” was changed to “body.” To be sure, the issue is not entirely solved, but Smith’s work is both comprehensive and generally persuasive.
20 The scholarly shift in the last twenty years can be illustrated by comparing the entries in BAGD and the new BDAG on ᾿Ιουνιαν. The 1979 BAGD considered this a man’s name, giving the lexical form as ᾿Ιουνιᾶς. The new BDAG regards this as a woman’s name, ᾿Ιουνία.
21 M. H. Burer and D. B.Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” currently scheduled for publication in NTS 47 (2001) 42-57.
22 For other texts in which the NET has gone against the grain of current scholarly consensus, cf. ἱλαστήριον in Rom 3.25 (rendered “mercy seat” rather than “propitiation” or some similar term; Daniel P. Bailey’s doctoral dissertation at Cambridge University under Morna Hooker influenced our decision here); Eph 4.26 (ὀργίζεσθε is taken as an command rather than a conditional imperative), etc.
23 R. E. Brown, John (AB) 1.57.
24 Peter M. Head, “Some Recently Published NT Papyri from Oxyrhynchus: An Overview and Preliminary Assessment,” Tyndale Bulletin 51.1 (2000) 1-16 (quoting 11).
The NET editors had already adopted ἐκλεκτός as the reading of John 1.34 before learning of the publication of ¸106.
25 If we repunctuate vv 7-8, a full stop concludes ἀλλὰ ἐγενήθημεν νήπιοι ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν (thus, “we became little children among you”). Then, ὡς ἐὰν τροφός begins a new sentence in which a comparison is made between a nursing mother (7b) and “we… gave to you our very lives” (v 8). This possibility gains ground when we recognize that ὡς…οὕτως form a correlative pair in the NT frequently enough: ‘as…so [also].’ The construction occurs 14 times, the largest group of which are correlatives. If the repunctuation holds good, then the metaphor is not in distress, and the νήπιοι is not too difficult a reading.
26 One other consideration, that is often overlooked in this passage: Paul uses familial language throughout this chapter that truly mixes the metaphors. Assuming νήπιοι to be authentic, notice the following: (a) Paul and Silas are ‘little children’ in v 7; (b) Paul and Silas are ‘nursing mothers’ in v 7; (b) the Thessalonians are ‘brothers [and sisters]’ in v 9; (c) Paul and Silas are now ‘fathers’ to these believers in v 11; (d) the Thessalonians are once again called ‘brothers [and sisters]’ in vv 14, 17; and (e) Paul and Silas are, once again, children in v 17, but this time they are ‘orphaned children’ (ἀπορφανισθέντες) when they become separated from the Thessalonians. Thus, Paul and Silas, in the space of eleven verses, regard themselves in relation to the Thessalonians as children, mother, brothers, father, brother, brother, and orphaned children! The whole context speaks of family, and the νήπιοι plays that tune well.
27 In the text-critical group at SBL last year (November 1999), Gordon Fee said, in response to the lecturer on 1 Thess 2.7, that the NIV would soon be the first English translation to have “little children” in this verse. What Fee did not know was that the NET Bible already had adopted “little children” no later than February 1999.
28 I wish to thank Michael H. Burer, the assistant editor of the NET NT, for culling the data on the synoptic parallels that were mentioned in this paper, as well as for making many other valuable suggestions.
29tn Νυνὶ δέ (Nuni de, “But now”) could be understood as either (1) logical or (2) temporal in force, but most recent interpreters take it as temporal, referring to a new phase in salvation history.
30tn Grk “being witnessed by the law and the prophets,” a remark which is virtually parenthetical to Paul’s argument.
31tn Or “faith in Christ.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Christ,” an increasing number of New Testament scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involves a subjective genitive and means “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 : 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 : 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objectivegenitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980) 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL 1991 Seminar Papers, 730-44; as well as virtually all older commentaries on Romans and Galatians.
sn D. B. Wallace, who notes that the grammar is not decisive, nevertheless suggests that “the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for the idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb πιστεύω rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful” (Exegetical Syntax, 116). Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith is reliable and worthy of such faith.
32tn Or “declared righteous.” Grk “being justified,” as a continuation of the preceding clause. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
33tn Or “purposed, intended.”
34tn Grk “whom God publicly displayed.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
35tn The word ἱλαστήριον (hilastērion) may carry the general sense “place of satisfaction,” referring to the place where God’s wrath toward sin is satisfied. More likely, though, it refers specifically to the “mercy seat,” i.e., the covering of the ark where the blood was sprinkled in the OT ritual on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This term is used only one other time in the NT: Heb 9:5, where it is rendered “mercy seat.” There it describes the altar in the most holy place (holy of holies). Thus Paul is saying that God displayed Jesus as the “mercy seat,” the place where propitiation was accomplished. See N. S. L. Fryer, “The Meaning and Translation of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25,” EvQ (1987): 99-116, who concludes the term is a neuter accusative substantive best translated “mercy seat” or “propitiatory covering,” and D. P. Bailey, “Jesus as the Mercy Seat,” who argues that this is a direct reference to the mercy seat which covered the ark of the covenant.
36tn Grk “through faith in his blood,” but the latter phrase is better taken to describe propitiation than faith. An alternative is “by his blood through [his] faithfulness,” referring to the faithfulness of Christ.
37tn Grk “for a demonstration,” giving the purpose of God’s action in v. 25a. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
38tn Grk “because of the passing over of sins previously committed in the forbearance of God.”
39tn The words “This was” have been repeated from the previous verse to clarify that this is a continuation of that thought. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
40tn Grk “toward a demonstration,” repeating and expanding the purpose of God’s action in v. 25a.
41tn Or “righteous.”
42tn Or “of the one who has faith in Jesus.” See note on “faithfulness of Jesus Christ” in v. 22 for the rationale behind the translation “Jesus’ faithfulness.”
43tc Early Alexandrian and Western witnesses add οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός (oude ho huios, “nor the son”) here. Although the shorter reading is suspect in that it seems to soften the prophetic ignorance of Jesus, the final phrase (“except the Father alone”) already implies this. Further, the parallel in Mark 13:32 has οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός, with almost no witnesses omitting the expression. Hence, it is doubtful that the omission of “neither the Son” is due to the scribes. In keeping with Matthew’s general softening of Mark’s harsh statements throughout his Gospel, it is more likely that the omission of “neither the Son” is part of the original text of Matthew, being an intentional change on the part of the author. Further, this shorter reading is supported by the first corrector of א as well as the following: E F G H K L M N S U V W Γ Δ Π Ë1 33 Byz vg syr cop, along with several mss with which Jerome was acquainted. Admittedly, the external evidence is not as impressive for the shorter reading, but it best explains the rise of the other reading (in particular, how does one account for virtually no mss excising οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός at Mark 13:32 if such an omission here is due to scribal alteration? Although scribes were hardly consistent, for such a theologically significant issue at least some consistency would be expected on the part of a few scribes).
44sn Like the days of Noah, the time of the flood in Gen 6:5-8:22, the judgment will come as a surprise as people live their day to day lives.
45tn Grk “they,” but in an indefinite sense, “people.”
46sn Like the flood that came and took them all away, the coming judgment associated with the Son of Man will condemn many.
47tn Grk “So also will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
48sn There is debate among commentators and scholars over the phrase one will be taken and one left about whether one is taken for judgment or for salvation. If the imagery of Noah and Lot is followed, the ones taken are the saved. Those left behind are judged. The imagery pictures the separation of the righteous and the judged (i.e., condemned) at the return of the Son of Man, and nothing more.
49tn According to L&N 46.16, this refers to a hand mill normally operated by two women.
50tn A second causal ὅτι (hoti) clause (after the one at the end of the preceding verse) is somewhat awkward, especially since the reasons offered in each are somewhat different. The content of the second ὅτι clause (the one in question here) goes somewhat beyond the content of the first. The first ὅτι clause, the one at the end of 5:6, stated the reason why the Spirit is the witness: because the Spirit is the truth. The second ὅτι clause, here, states that there are three witnesses, of which the Spirit is one. It is probably best, therefore, to understand this second ὅτι as indicating a somewhat looser connection than the first, not strictly causal but inferential in sense (the English translation “for” captures this inferential sense). See BDF §456.1 for a discussion of this ‘looser’ use of ὅτι.
51tc Before τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα (to pneuma kai to hudōr kai to |aima), the Textus Receptus reads ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι. 5:8 καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ (“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 5:8And there are three that testify on earth”). This reading, the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence—both external and internal—is decidedly against its authenticity. For a detailed discussion, see B. M. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 647-49. Our discussion will briefly address the external evidence. This longer reading is found only in eight late mss, four of which have the words in a marginal note. Most of these mss (2318, 221, and [with minor variations] 61, 88, 429, 629, 636, and 918) originate from the 16th century; the earliest ms, codex 221 (10th century) includes the reading in a marginal note, added sometime after the original composition. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 1500’s; each such reading was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1517. Indeed, the reading appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either ms, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until a.d. 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant, since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity. The reading seems to have arisen in a 4th century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared, there arose such a furor over the absence of the Commathat Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek mss that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written in c. 1520), Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this ms sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text, as though it were made to order; but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever mss he could for the production of his text. In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: he did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold. Modern advocates of the Textus Receptus and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings—even in places where the TR/Byzantine mss lack them. Further, these advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. (Of course, this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text.) In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum did not appear until the 16th century in any Greek mss and yet goes back to the original text? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: faith must be rooted in history. Significantly, the German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the Comma. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the Comma for the English-speaking world. Thus, the Comma Johanneum has been a battleground for English-speaking Christians more than for others.
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