Diatessaronic Witnesses Preserve the Earliest Text of John's Gospel

Four Versions of Turning Water Into Wine (John 2:1-11)

by Yuri Kuchinsky

In this article I will compare four versions of that famous incident of Jesus turning water into wine -- the canonical version, the Magdalene Gospel version, and also the two very interesting versions as found in the Dutch Diatessaron (the Liege Gospel), and in the Persian Diatessaron. These comparisons will establish quite clearly that these three Diatessaronic texts share a large number of textual parallels against the canonical text. And, in turn, this seems to indicate that these similarities go back to very ancient times indeed. In my view, in so far as these three medieval texts all agree with each other, these agreements point to the passages where the most primitive text of this part of John's Gospel is now identified.

Below, you can see four versions of this story side by side, in 4 separate columns. Some words and passages are highlighted in 5 different colours, and this highlighting is explained further below.
Chapter 10 # How Jesus Made Wine Out Of Water
(D. Plooij, ed., Amsterdam, 1929-1970, pp. 99-103)
(G. Messina, ed., Rome, 1951, p. 47)
1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.  1 On the third day Jesus CAME TO Galilee, and was LED to a FEAST, with his disciples. And his mother was there.  One day there was a wedding feast in a city which was called Chana, in the land of Galilee, and there was Mary, Jesus' mother. Jesus and his disciples were also called there to the feast.  On the third day there was a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding feast. 
3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come."  2 And IT CAME TO PASS that THERE failed wine. 3 And his mother said to him that they had no wine. 4 And Jesus said that the hour has not yet come THAT [he] SHOULD SHOW HIS POWER (1) It happened at this wedding that (2) there lacked wine. Then Jesus' mother spoke to him and said, "They lack wine". And Jesus answered her, "Woman, what have I in common with thee? Mine hour is not yet come". [...]  The wine was running out. The mother of Jesus said, "They have no wine." He said, (3) "WHY DO YOU SAY THIS, MOTHER? The time has not yet come." 
5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons (metretas duo he treis).  5 And then his mother said to the servants that they should do all that he tells them to do. 6 Now, there were six jars that the GOOD MAN AND ALL THE MEN WASHED FROM, each MEASURING THREE GALLONS Then his mother spoke to those that were serving there and said, "Whatever he says to you, do that". There stood six stone jars, which had been set there after the manner of the Jews, who (5) used to do their purification in such vessels. Those held as much as (6) two or three measures The mother said to the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it." And there were six stone jars there, that they had placed there for the ablutions of the Jews, each holding (6) two or three measures. And the people were seated in the banquet room. 
7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast (architriklinos)." So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn [entlekotes] the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom (nymphion) 10 and said to him,  7 And Jesus told them that they should fill them full of water. 8 And they filled them full RIGHT AWAY. 9 And Jesus told them to take THEM UP, AND TO CARRY THEM TO HIM WHO WAS THE CHIEF OF THE FEAST. 10 And they took THEM UP, AND CARRIED THEM OVER. 11 And as soon as THE GOOD MAN had drank thereof, he CALLED the BUTLER, and said to him,  Then Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water". And they did so, and filled them to the brim. "Now scoop and (8) carry it to (9) the master of the house", and they did so. And when the master of the house tasted of the wine that had been made of water, and knew not how it had happened, (but the servants knew it well, who had filled the jars with water), the master of the house (10) asked for the bridegroom and said to him thus,  Jesus said to them, "Fill these jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. (7: OMIT "DRAW SOME OUT") "And give [this] to (9) the head of the assembly." They (8) carried and gave [this] to the head of the assembly. He tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the mixers who had filled the [jugs with] water knew). The head of the assembly (10) called the bridegroom, and says to him, 
"Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely (methistosin), then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." 11 This, the first of his signs (semeion), Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory (doxan); and his disciples believed in him.  "Every WISE man serves the BEST wine first, and when men are [already] drunk, then HE SERVES the one that is NOT AS GOOD. 12 And you have kept the BEST wine even until now." 13 This WAS the first MIRACLE that Jesus did. 14 And BECAUSE OF THAT his disciples believed in him.  "Every man is wont to give first the (11) best wine, and after that, when they have drunk of this, (12) he gives wine of his which is weaker. But thou has kept thy (13) best wine until now". This (14) was one of the first (15) miracles that Jesus did in Chana of Galilee, and there he revealed his divine (4) power. And (16) therewith his disciples were strengthened in the faith.  Every man brings out the good wine first; when men have drunk freely, then he (12) brings out inferior wine. You have kept the good wine until now." This (14) was the first (15) miracle, that Jesus did in Cana in Galilee, and [he] manifested the (4) powerof God; and his disciples believed in him. 

In the Table above, the Magdalene Gospel Special Material is printed in CAPITAL LETTERS (these are the phrases in the Magdalene text that are not found in the canonical John). The 16 special parallels that the Magdalene Gospel shows with the other two Diatessaronic witnesses (with either or both of them) are all numbered according to their order in the Magdalene text, and then are commented upon later on.

The passages in the canonical text that are not found in the Magdalene Gospel are coloured yellow ochre.

In the passages that are coloured blue, all 3 Diatessaronic witnesses agree against the Greek and the Latin Vulgate text.

The passages that are coloured green indicate the agreements between the Magdalene Gospel and the Dutch Diatessaron.

The two passages in the Persian DT that are parallel to the Magdalene Gospel are coloured yellow.

Two agreements between the Dutch and the Persian Diatessarons are coloured fuchsia red.



First, let's try to examine the canonical version objectively. Of course, for many of us, it's a very familiar text, so we tend not to see the textual problems there. And yet, there are some big problems there, for sure -- immense problems of interpretation, that the scholars have been arguing about literally for ages. For example,

1. Why is Jesus being so rude to his mother, apparently gratuitously so?

2. Why are these water jugs so huge -- they seem to be more like water cisterns! How long would it take to fill all six of these up with water? There seems to be a distinctive lack of realism in the canonical version of this story.

3. But the biggest interpretative problem in the canonical text is what can be described as the "Mystery of the Architriklinos" -- which RSV translates as "steward of the feast". Who is this "steward", what exactly is his social status, and why is he ordering about even the bridegroom, of all people? This seems totally Imponderable, and all the commentators seem to be stumped by this...

Well, now it turns out that our three Diatessaronic versions, taken together, and especially the Magdalene version, solve these three mysteries easily enough.

Of course, I believe that the Magdalene Gospel version of this story is the most primitive of them all. This is based, among other things, on my detailed study of great many other passages in this gospel -- and a large number of these analyses are now published in my new book. So this is why I will now start my analysis with the direct comparison between the Magdalene text and the canonical John. And later, I will introduce the two other Diatessaronic witnesses, and analyse all the agreements between them and the Magdalene Gospel -- altogether, they are 16 in number.


As we can see, the Magdalene and the canonical versions are very similar in length (221 words vs. 215 words, if we compare the modern English translations). There's a lot of shared material there, as well as some seeming expansions, although these expansions tend to be quite different in the two versions.

One of the biggest and the most striking differences in the Magdalene Gospel (MG) is that, in this text, this is not a wedding, and it's not taking place at Cana. So this is just a feast that Jesus has been invited to.

Also, the harsh words that Jesus uses in the canonical version to address his mother are absent in MG. As we can see above, in the Persian version the words of Jesus to his mother are different from all other versions -- and yet there's a clear parallel there with MG, because both in MG and in the Persian Diatessaron (DT) there's not a hint of rudeness there.

The size of the water jugs is also different, of course, however is this to be explained. In MG 10:6, they are 3 gallons, while in the canonical Jn 2:6 they are "20 or 30 gallons". Normally, this more modest size of these jugs should be counted as an indicator of primitivity for the Magdalene version. This basic parallel is also shared by the other two of our Diatessaronic witnesses (although, as we will see later, there are some minor differences there as well between them).

In connection with this, also to be noted is the detail that, in MG, the servants take the jugs together with the wine to be tasted by the "chief of the feast", while, in the canonical Jn, only some wine is taken to be tasted. And the same thing as in MG also seems to be happening in the Persian DT. This indicates that the smaller size of the jugs is an integral part of the narrative both in MG and in the Persian version, so this was not merely some sort of a manuscript mistake.

Another striking difference in MG is that it's the "chief of the feast" who is in charge of this whole affair, and not merely a "steward/headwaiter", like in the canonical Jn. The importance of this detail is that, as a result, in MG, the story appears to be a lot more coherent and logical. Indeed, logically, how can it be that the "headwaiter" can chide the groom for keeping the best wine for the last? Shouldn't this be the other way around, since it is the headwaiter, himself, who should have normally been in charge of the wine?

And so, in the Magdalene text it is indeed the "chief of the feast" who chides the butler/headwaiter for keeping the best wine until later. (Of course, since in MG the feast is not a wedding, there is no "groom" involved in this story at all.) And, very importantly, this higher social status for this gentleman is also supported by both the Dutch and the Persian texts.

So now, let's take a look at the other two Diatessaronic witnesses.


The English translation, as used here, is reprinted from the D. Plooij edition (Koninklijke Akademie Wetenschappente [the Proceedings of the Royal Dutch Academy], vol. 31, Amsterdam, 1929-1970, pp. 99-103)

This medieval Dutch Gospel is certainly a lot better studied, compared to the Magdalene Gospel. The manuscript, itself, dates to the 13th century, and it exists in one copy only. Also, this was of course the text that WL Petersen has extensively compared with the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew (Howard's text), and found lots of special and sometimes unique parallels between the two.

In his time, Dr. Daniel Plooij, a highly respected New Testament scholar, has done a very detailed study of every passage in this very special medieval text (that is generally considered as a great classic of early Dutch literature). He also compared it with great many other ancient and medieval biblical witnesses, in all sorts of languages, and found huge numbers of parallels there -- probably thousands of them! And Plooij also used the Magdalene Gospel very extensively in his textual comparisons (usually for those passages where MG agrees either with the Liege Gospel, or with some other important ancient witnesses). Yet, alas, his monumental work is almost completely forgotten at this time.

Still, the Liege Diatessaron is a fully recognised biblical witness, and it is included in the apparatus of the standard Nestle-Aland Greek gospels. Two English translations of this medieval Dutch text have been published.

The parallels between the Magdalene Gospel and the Liege in John 2:1-11 are 14 in number (including 8 triple parallels between all three of our Diatessaronic witnesses). It looks like these 14 parallels happen to come from a common Latin source, which was most likely an Old Latin Diatessaron, now lost, that, in turn, was probably based on a previous Semitic language Diatessaron -- either in Aramaic or Hebrew.


The Persian Diatessaron, just like the other two of our Diatessaronic witnesses, also exists in one copy only (located in Florence, Italy). It was edited and translated into Italian by G. Messina (DIATESSARON PERSIANO, ed. G. Messina, "Biblica et Orientalia" 14, Rome, 1951; the translation from the Italian is mine). The Persian text is dated in the year of 1547, but this seems to be a translation from the Old Syriac Aramaic, as prepared in the 13th century by a Jacobite priest (see Petersen, TATIAN'S DIATESSARON, 1994, p. 260). Petersen finds that there is "frequent recourse" there to the readings of the Old Syriac. Also, according to Petersen,

"Messina noticed that the Persian Harmony's text contained an exceptional number of Semitisms." (Petersen 1994:260)

In my view, the parallels between the Magdalene Gospel and the Persian Diatessaron, 10 in number, are the most interesting. So here we have this extremely fascinating fact that a very obscure medieval English gospel shows some unique and remarkable parallels with a very obscure medieval gospel from Persia. How do we explain this? The explanation that I have already suggested seems like the best and the simplest of them all -- these similarities are resulting from a common dependence of these two texts on a very ancient Semitic language text of John's Gospel, that dated back before our common Greek text.

As I say, it's widely believed that the Persian Diatessaron derives from the still more ancient Aramaic (Syriac) Diatessaron, which is also plentifully attested otherwise in various other ancient texts. And it is also important to note that the Old Syriac, the language of that ancient Diatessaron, is apparently the closest to the language that the Historical Jesus, himself, spoke.

It may seem strange that, in the whole history of biblical scholarship, nobody has realised any of this before. (But let's also keep in mind that the Persian Diatessaron had only been published for the first time in 1951. And the Magdalene Gospel had only been published for the first time in 1922.) But there doesn't really seem to be any other explanation -- or at least any better explanation -- for these unusual textual agreements. Also, considering just how neglected the Diatessaronic field is at this time, and seeing just how few scholars are currently working in it, these things shouldn't really be all that surprising...

Yet, nevertheless, as has been mentioned already, quite a few of these agreements have been noted in passing by D. Plooij. And one of them has also been noted by G. Quispel, another highly respected New Testament scholar (Quispel, TATIAN AND THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS, 1975, p. 169). And, even more importantly, both these scholars have also noted some additional very important parallels for these passages with various ancient and medieval biblical texts -- which happens to provide some good supporting evidence for my own analysis. But neither Plooij nor Quispel developed this evidence further, in the same way as I'm doing now.


So now, let us examine all these 16 parallels in sequence, as they are found in the text of the Magdalene Gospel.

LIEGE DT: It happened at this wedding

This expression, "it came to pass", seems like a very conventional turn of phrase as used by the traditional storytellers. It looks like this may have been quite a primitive detail. It's missing in the Persian, so in this passage the Persian text was probably later abridged.

MG: that THERE failed wine
LIEGE DT: that there lacked wine

There is an exact parallel in the Dutch with the word "there". In his notes, Plooij does draw attention to this MG variant. And he also supplies a parallel for this in Ephrem the Syrian.

This is a very important parallel between MG and the Persian (lacking in the Liege). While MG completely lacks the harsh words that Jesus says to his mother, as found in the canonical Greek Jn 2:4, the Persian DT includes some generally kind words instead.

The word "power" is found in all three of our Diatessaronic texts, the Persian, MG, and the Dutch -- although this word is found in MG in connection with Jesus towards the beginning of the story, rather than at the end, like in the Persian and the Dutch Diatessarons. The word used in the canonical version here is "glory = doxas", which is quite a different word.

LIEGE DT: the Jews, who used to do their purification

Although the parallel between MG and Liege is not exact here, still, these two expansions seem to be in parallel overall. The canonical version lacks any such details.

The size of the jugs seems smaller in all 3 DT versions. There's a very close parallel here between the Dutch and the Persian. In connection with this, in his apparatus for the Dutch DT, Plooij supplies the following Latin version as found in Zacharias Chrysopolitanus, "binae vel ternae mensurae".

The canonical Greek has "metretas duo he treis" here. "Metron" is an ancient unit of measure, equivalent to about 9 gallons, and so RSV here translates this as "twenty or thirty gallons". But the Diatessaronic texts have "mensurae" rather than "metretas".

Just like MG, the Persian omits "Now draw some out". This seems to imply that, just like in MG, rather than just a sampling of the wine, the jugs themselves are being carried over to be tasted by the "head of the assembly" (since they are smaller and more portable). Also, see my comments about this above.

MG: CARRY THEM (used twice in MG)
LIEGE DT: carry it

A pretty close parallel here in all 3 of our DT witnesses with this specific word "to carry". In the canonical version, we find "to take".

LIEGE DT: the master of the house
PERSIAN DT: the head of the assembly

This is a very important parallel between all 3 of our DT witnesses. Its importance is in that it indicates that originally this gentleman was probably the most senior character in this whole story (besides Jesus). In my view, originally the scene was not a wedding, so it didn't yet have the "groom" in its early form.

The Greek word that is used here in the canonical John is ARCHITRIKLINOS, which seems to denote the fellow in charge of the TRICLINIUM, or a dining room (in the classical antiquity, this was usually a household slave). The Revised Standard Version, which is generally preferred by the academic community, translates this as "steward". (Please see further the Appendices to this article in regard to the expressions "the good man", and ARCHITRIKLINOS.)

The Persian DT has "il capo dell'adunanza" here, which certainly seems more senior than a mere "steward".

But in the Dutch Diatessaron, this character is described as "the master of the house", which certainly conveys a much higher status than what we find in the Greek text. So, in my view, all three of these Diatessaronic witnesses taken together indicate that, in the original version of John's Gospel, this was the most senior person in the whole house.

And so, the social status of this character was probably reduced later, and he became an ARCHITRIKLINOS. As I see it, in the process of doing so, the "groom" had also been introduced into the story, and thus this whole scene was made into a wedding. Still, this editing job seems to have been rather clumsy overall, since this aspect of the story -- i.e. the precise relationship of the "steward" and the "bridegroom" -- seems pretty obscure, and is barely coherent as it stands now in the Greek text.

Plooij neglected this parallel between the Liege and MG in his notes.

The past tense is used here in all three of our DT texts (CALLED the bridegroom), as opposed to the present tense in both Greek and Latin canonical versions. Normally, I wouldn't have picked up on such a small parallel, but Plooij also lists in his apparatus a whole range of additional support for this in the Syro-Latin tradition.

MG: the BEST wine
LIEGE DT: the best wine

An exact parallel here between MG and Liege. Again, Plooij omits this parallel with MG in his notes. And yet he comments that the Liege version of this story does not really involve any drunkenness, as such. (In the Liege, this seems like one of those later encratistic/ascetic expansions that the Diatessaron is believed to feature, as noted by numerous scholars.)

The words "to bring out" are used twice, unlike in the canonical version. A very similar grammatical construction is found here in all 3 of our DT witnesses.

G. Quispel also lists some more witnesses for this repetition of "to bring out/to set forth" in this verse, including the Arabic DT, and the following Latin version from Ludolph of Saxony, "tunc apponit id quod deterius est" (TATIAN AND THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS, 1975, p. 169).

Plooij missed this parallel in his apparatus.

MG: the BEST wine
LIEGE DT: thy best wine

Again, an exact parallel in MG and Liege with the word "best". Not noted by Plooij.

MG: This WAS
LIEGE DT: This was
PERSIAN DT: This was

Again, like in #1, we have a much simpler grammatical construction here, and this time it's found in all 3 of our DT witnesses. Such a turn of phrase seems more primitive than what we find in the canonical version.

Plooij does cite MG here, and also notes a number of additional parallels with some Old Latin mss.

LIEGE DT: miracles
PERSIAN DT: miracle

This parallel seems quite important (not noted by Plooij). In my view, the original version of this story didn't yet have this rather odd word "sign".

In general, in the context of this narrative, I see "miracle" as earlier than "sign". Our Diatessaronic versions use the word "miracle" to describe this miracle that Jesus had performed, which is like calling things with their proper names. On the other hand, it would be a lot more difficult to explain why the original version here should have had "sign", and then, for some unknown reason, this would have been replaced with "miracle" in all 3 of our DT witnesses.

LIEGE DT: therewith

This parallel is pretty close (not noted by Plooij). Such a turn of phrase, i.e. saying that the disciples believed because of the miracle, seems quite simple, so this may well have been a feature of the original text of John.

So what would have been the reason for a later omission such as this in the canonical version? In my view, this was probably because of the thinking on the part of some late Johannine editors that Jesus' powers were in general so awesome that the disciples already knew him to be a diving being -- so they didn't need such simple materialistic proofs in order to believe.

(Please note that in the Dutch parallel the disciples are merely "strengthened in the faith" because of this miracle. In other words, they already had faith in Jesus before. So this would seem like a later adjustment in the Dutch, compared with MG.)

Thus, we have 14 parallels here between MG and the Dutch DT. And there are 10 parallels between MG and the Persian DT; 8 of them are also shared by the Dutch, at least to some extent.


And now let us look at the two very interesting parallels between the Dutch and the Persian Diatessarons.

First, there is a very clear parallel there in the phrase "but the servants who had filled the jugs with water knew". In the canonical version, it is,

"the servants who had drawn the water knew".

So, in Latin, this would be hauserant/to draw out against impleverant/to fill up.

This parallel is noted by Plooij in his apparatus. Of course he didn't yet know about the Persian DT when he produced his analysis, but he did note the parallels here between the Dutch DT and the Syriac, Arabic, Sahidic, and Bohairic versions -- a whole lot of them. And yet the Magdalene Gospel lacks this whole long passage, that seems like a later expansion.

Next, also we may note that both the Persian and the Liege DTs add some related expressions to the word "power". In the Persian text, Jesus "manifested the power of God". And in the Dutch DT, it is "his divine power".

So it seems like, compared to the Liege, the Persian DT sees Jesus more in a Jewish-Christian Ebionite sort of way. In other words, there's more of a leaning towards the low Christology in the Persian text.

The two parallels that are shared by MG and the Persian (#3 and #7) seem very primitive. The two parallels between the Persian and the Dutch DTs against MG generally seem less primitive. (Also, some other minor parallels of such a type may be found here and there).

In his notes, Plooij also cites plenty of other parallels between the Liege and various ancient sources, such as versions of Ephrem's COMMENTARY, a wide variety of gospel and Diatessaron manuscripts, Irenaeus, the COMMENTARY by Zacharias Chrysopolitanus, etc. To me, this indicates that the Liege DT is based on a version of Old Latin Diatessaron that had plenty of parallels with the texts that were quite common in the Ancient Near East. And yet, most likely, this was a more developed version of an Old Latin Diatessaron, compared to the one which served as the basis for the Magdalene Gospel.

MG is cited by Plooij very often indeed (perhaps hundreds of times) throughout this whole edition of the Dutch Diatessaron. And yet, as we have seen, he still misses plenty of other parallels between the Liege and MG.

So, here we have the two basic versions, the canonical and the Diatessaronic. Indeed, many elements of the latter can be reconstructed fairly easily out of these 3 DT witnesses.

These close textual parallels between the Magdalene Gospel, and the Dutch and Persian Diatessarons seem to indicate that these three texts ultimately derive from some mysterious pre-canonical version of the Gospel of John. And similar comparisons can of course be made for the other three New Testament gospels.

So what does all of this mean, really? Quite simply, it looks like the more primitive text of the Gospel of John is now identified for the first time ever.

Now, of course, many people might say in reply, "Our canonical John is dated to the first century, and this DT stuff only goes back to the second" -- big deal...

Well, this is not quite how I see it and, realistically, this is not how this matter should be seen. Yes, indeed, this DT stuff does only go back to 150 CE or so (which is where I date the MG, although many of the underlying texts that went into its composition are probably considerably earlier). But it is securely dated to 150 CE. Meanwhile, the canonical version of this particular passage is only dated securely to the fourth century, which is when our main Gospel of John manuscripts, the Sinaiticus, and the Vaticanus, are dated.

To be sure, there's also the matter of the Papyrus 66 that needs to be considered in this general argument. As the textual scholars know, P66 is the earliest long text of John's Gospel that we now possess. It is generally dated to ca 200 CE (although E.G. Turner dates it to 200-250 CE; see Comfort and Barrett, THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THE EARLIEST NT MANUSCRIPTS, Baker, 1999, p. 367). But this text is rather problematic, because it contains a huge number of variants from the standard canonical text. For example, by my count, in our test passage of Jn 2:1-11, there are the whole 21 variations, although most of them rather minor, in P66.

In general, I see the canonical text of John acquiring its present form (more or less) around the time of Irenaeus (ca 200 CE). So even if we assume that our passage of Jn 2:1-11 can be securely dated to the time of Irenaeus, still, the Diatessaronic witnesses will have preserved the version that is earlier. Thus, who should really have the burden of proof here, as to trying to demonstrate which version of this particular passage is more primitive? A priori, whose text should be seen as being earlier?

But the clearest general argument for the primitivity of the Diatessaronic version of this passage is the argument based on the Syro-Latin agreements. Indeed, let me remind that my analysis has now identified 10 parallels between MG and the Persian DT in this passage. And since the Persian DT is believed to depend on an Old Syriac Diatessaron, this will make these agreements the Syro-Latin agreements.

Thus, if it is accepted that these textual agreements between MG and the Persian Diatessaron indeed fall into the category of Syro-Latin agreements, then they should precede the canonical Greek text. After all, great many eminent textual critics expressed the opinion that the Syro-Latin agreements tend to indicate the more primitive textual layer in NT gospels. Among these scholars are B.F. Westcott (1896), F.C. Burkitt (1899), E. Nestle (1901), A. Souter (1909), C.H. Turner (1928), and A. Voobus (1951). [More on this subject of Syro-Latin agreements can be found here.]


The original medieval English text of this narrative can be found here.


This seems like a very unusual word, because, in the form in which we find it in John's Gospel, it has no clear attestation before the time when the gospel is believed to have been written. The earliest attestation outside John is found in Heliodorus, a writer who lived in the fourth or third century CE (Aethiopica, or "Ethiopian Romance" 7.27.7). According to some scholars, Heliodorus may have been a Christian bishop in Thessaly.

And yet the Latin author Petronius (1st century CE), in his famous novel THE SATYRICON, attests this word in a different form as tricliniarches.

According to C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 1955, p. 161, "[W]e lack Jewish evidence for any office corresponding to the title ARCHITRIKLINOS". And he further suggests that this may indicate a Hellenistic origin for this story. But, myself, I think there's no real need to locate this whole story in a Hellenistic milieu. Rather, I would simply suggest that this word alone may have been inserted during a later editing.

So, in my view, the original version of Jn 2:1-11 did not yet feature the figure of an ARCHITRIKLINOS. I suggest that this term was introduced by a later editor, in the process of a major re-editing of the whole story. In the original text, rather than ARCHITRIKLINOS, the story most likely featured "the master of the house", a figure with a significantly higher social standing. This is what the Diatessaronic texts indicate.



In MG, the words "good man" (gode man) are mentioned twice in this story (MG 10:6a, and 10:11a). So it's clear that, in MG, this "good man" is basically identified with "the chief of the feast".

It seems like the underlying Latin expression here was pater familias, equivalent to oikodespoths in Greek, or "master of the house" in English.

The word oikodespoths is used in NT gospels 12 times, and its Vulgate Latin equivalent is almost always pater familias. (In Mk 14:14 only, the Latin equivalent is domino domus.) The Dutch Diatessaron uses the medieval Dutch word hushere in this passage, which has been translated in the Plooij edition as "the master of the house". (Unfortunately, in his textual commentary, Plooij doesn't consider this matter in any detail.) It's also quite interesting that KJV translates oikodespoths five times as "the goodman of the house".

Copyright 2002 by Yuri Kuchinsky

Go to Part 2 of this study.

Go to Yuri's Magdalene Gospel Webpage.

Go to the text of the Magdalene Gospel.

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