"BEHOLD!" in Luke
according to various ancient manuscripts



by Yuri Kuchinsky

The purpose of this study is to provide a broad comparison of our oldest Gospel of Luke manuscripts in the three important ancient languages -- Greek, Aramaic, and Latin.

The Greek word IDOU means "Behold!" in English. The equivalent Latin word is ECCE, and in Aramaic it is HU (he-alaph) or HAW.

The word "Behold!" is a very common word in the NT gospels, of course. So the following 3 Tables document 91 instances where it is found either in the Greek or in the Aramaic versions of Luke.

Perhaps the main conclusion that emerges from this study is that, quite obviously, none of these versions of Luke is a direct translation from another. All of them betray a very considerable variation among them.

So, it is also very likely that none of these texts is really "the original Luke". All of these represent the edited versions of the original (although, personally, I think that our two Old Syriac texts of Luke are the closest to the original).

Indeed, as we can see below, there's quite a lot of variation in the use of this word in various ancient MSS of Luke. It seems like those ancient gospel editors were feeling quite free to add or to remove it at will. I suspect that they were primarily motivated by literary considerations, after all, something that sounds nice in one language, may not sound quite as well in a translation...

We will not consider at this time the question of whether the original language of Luke was Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew. And, in any case, the following data doesn't really seem to provide any clear indicators as to which version was original, and which was a translation.

While what we see below is a lot of variation in the use of IDOU, nevertheless, at the same time, there's also quite a bit of consistency in this Table. So it stands to reason that wherever some consistency is found in this data, these would be the earliest parts of Luke.

My primary focus in this study was on the two Old Syriac Aramaic manuscripts of Luke, the Curetonian and the Sinaiticus, which are of course both incomplete. Accordingly, in the Old Syriac column below, either there are both witnesses listed at once, or just one, or none, depending on the passage.

Also, certain Old Syriac readings in my Table are marked as either Red or Blue. Red colour is used for those cases where the OS is different from the Egyptian/Alexandrian Greek, but is supported by some Old Latin manuscript(s), with which the Greek Codex Bezae often agrees.

These red cases are important, because they demonstrate that the use of IDOU/HU by the Old Syriac is far from being completely arbitrary. In fact, there still seems to be plenty of consistency there with other important ancient MSS of Western/Peripheral type. What these red cases represent is what is technically known as the Syro-Latin agreements against the canonical Greek text of Luke. And, according to many respected Textual Scholars, these Syro-Latin agreements should be considered as prior to the canonical Greek text. (Altogether, there are 20 such cases in these 3 Tables.)

Blue colour is used in the Tables for those cases where the OS is different from the Egyptian Greek, and isn't supported by any other Greek or OL manuscript. However, often the OS is supported by the Peshitta in these cases, which indicates that the use of IDOU/HU is still quite consistent within the Aramaic textual tradition.

The cases that remained black demonstrate broad consistency in the whole of Luke MSS tradition. Thus, one can surmise that these are definitely the passages that are very ancient, because the Aramaic, Greek, and Latin manuscripts all feature the identical wording there.

And, conversely, we may suppose that those passages that are not supported by other manuscripts from the other linguistic traditions might be rather late... Or, else, they might also be very early -- after all, they might represent the vestiges of a very early text of Luke, before it was taken up by the other linguistic traditions.

Also, a few readings in these Tables are marked in yellow colour. These are the cases where the Peshitta has some unusual reading, that disagrees both with the canonical Greek and with the Old Syriac (for Lk 1:20, the OS is unavailable).

See below for more analysis. (Thanks to Bernard Muller for helping to provide data for this Table.)
 
 
The use of IDOU/HU in Luke
Byzantine Egyptian Peshitta Old Syriac Bezae Gr. Old Latin OL e
1:13 +S - +mixed -
1:20 + + - not avail. + + +
1:31 + + + n/a + + +
1:36 + + + n/a + + +
1:38 + + + n/a + + -
1:44 + + + +S + + +
1:48 + + + -S + + +
2:9 - - + -S + + -
2:10 + + + +S + + -
2:12 - +S doubt. - - -
2:25 + + -  -S - + (-d) +
2:30 - - + +S - - -
2:34 + + + +S + + +
2:48 + + + +CS + +mixed -
3:9 + +CS - - -
3:16 + +CS - - -
5:12 + + -  -S + + +
5:18 + + - +S + + +
6:23 + + - -S - + (-d) +
6:34 - +S - - -
6:42 + +S + +mixed +
7:06 - +S - - -
7:12 + + -  -S - + (-d) +
7:25 + + + +S + + +
7:27 + + + +S + + +
7:34 + + + +CS + + +
7:37 + + -  -CS + + +
8:05 - +CS - +mixed +
8:41 + + -  -CS - + (-d -c) n/a

-- The Old Syriac Luke is supported in 7 cases above against our standard Egyptian Greek text.
-- OS has no Latin or Greek support in 8 (or 9) cases above. But, in 5 of these, OS is still supported by the Peshitta.


In the PART 2 of the Table below, we can see even more variation in the use of "Behold". And we even see there 2 cases where our two OS manuscripts disagree with each other! (See more on this below.)

To be sure, the word "Behold" doesn't really have any big theological significance of its own. It seems to be a purely stylistic/literary embellishment in the text. Whether it is added or removed, no big change in meaning occurs, usually.

One can surmise that, in the early centuries of Christianity, such purely literary features of the text of the gospels were not yet seen as sacrosanct, and were deemed as quite open to further improvement... At the same time, this certainly cannot be said about the more theologically-loaded passages in the gospels, about which there were many open disputes. In these theologically important cases, a lot more control was exercised over the texts.
 
IDOU in Luke -- Part 2
Byzantine Egyptian Peshitta Old Syriac Bezae Gr. Old Latin OL e
9:30 + + + +CS + + +
9:38 + + -  -CS + + +
9:39 + + - -CS - + (-d) +
10:3 + + + +CS + + +
10:11 +CS - - +
10:19 + + + +CS + + +
10:25 + + + -CS - + (-d) -
11:7 + -CS - - n/a
11:31 + + + +CS + + +
11:32 + + + +CS omit verse + +
11:41 + + + +CS + + +
11:49 + -CS - - -
11:50 - +CS - - -
12:19 - - - +CS - - -
12:20 - - - +C-S - - -
13:7 + + + +CS |Cx2 + + +
13:11 + + - -CS + + +
13:16 + + + +CS + +mixed -
13:30 + + + -C+S - (eidou) + +
13:32 + + + +CS + + +
13:35 + + + +CS + + +
14:2 + + + -CS + + +
14:17 - - + +CS - - -
14:22 - - - +CS - - -
15:29 + + + +CS + + +
16:24 - - + +CS - - -
16:25 - - + -CS - - -

 

And here is some information about the ancient manuscripts that were used in this study

1. The first vertical column represents the Byzantine Greek text, which was the basis for the King James Version.

2. The second column represents the standard Alexandrian/Egyptian Greek text, also known as the Nestle/Aland text, or "eclectic" text. This is what most people read in their "modern" English Bibles today.

3. The third column represents the Peshitta Aramaic text, which is the traditional text of the Eastern, Aramaic-speaking Christians -- the text that is still used in their liturgies today. This Aramaic text is a very important witness from the early centuries of Christianity.

4. The fourth column represents the Old Syriac Aramaic text of Luke, based on the two oldest Aramaic MSS that we now possess, the Curetonian and the Sinaitic. (Some parts of Luke are unfortunately missing in these ancient MSS.)

5. The fifth column represents the Greek Codex Bezae, a very ancient, and quite atypical Greek text of the gospels. Some scholars consider it to be the oldest Greek gospel text that we now possess. (Also, the Codex Bezae happens to include a Latin side, which falls under the following sixth column.)

6. The sixth column represents the Old Latin MSS, of which we have about a dozen. These ancient Latin versions of the gospels are considered quite valuable by scholars. The information in this column is based on Julicher's classic edition of the Old Latin gospels [A. Julicher, ITALA: DAS NEUE TESTAMENT IN ALTLATEINISCHER UBERLIEFERUNG, rev. K. Aland, 4 vols. (Berlin 1938-1963)]. In his edition, Julicher brings together the variant readings for just about all extant OL MSS.

In this sixth column, I usually tried to include some more details about how these OL manuscripts read in these passages. Quite often, the abbreviation "-d" is seen there; "d" stands for the Latin side of the Codex Bezae, and this abbreviation means that the Latin Bezae is alone among the other OL manuscripts in omitting IDOU/ECCE in that particular place. Also, I noted those cases where the OL MSS are mixed, i.e. these are the split readings in the OL textual tradition.

7. And finally, the seventh column represents the Old Latin MS Palatinus (typically referred to as "e"), a 5th century MS that is generally considered as one of the most important Old Latin MSS, as well as one of the oldest. My Palatinus column is also based on Julicher's edition (in his edition, Julicher places the Palatinus text in its own separate row at the bottom.)
 



 
IDOU in Luke -- Part 3
Byzantine Egyptian Peshitta Old Syriac Bezae Gr. Old Latin OL e
17:12 - - - +CS - +majority -
17:21a + + + +C-S + + +
17:21b + - + +C-S + +mixed -
17:21c + + + +CS + + +
17:23a + + + +CS + + +
17:23b + + + +CS + + +
18:21 - - - +CS - - -
18:28 + + + +CS + + +
18:31 + + + +CS + + +
19:2 + + - -CS + + +
19:8 + + + +CS + + +
19:20 + + + +CS + + +
19:30 - - - +CS - - -
20:33 - - - +CS - - -
20:38 - - - +CS - - -
22:10 + + + +CS + + +
22:12 - - + +CS - - -
22:21 + + + +CS + + +
22:27 - - - +C-S - - -
22:31 + + + +CS + + +
22:38 + + + +CS + + +
22:47 + + + -CS + + +
22:71 - - - +CS - - -
23:14 + + + +C-S - + (-d) +
23:15 + + + -CS - + (-d) +
23:29 + + + -CS - -mixed -
23:40 - - - +CS - - -
23:41 - - - +CS - - -
23:50 + + - -CS + + (-l) +
24:4 + + + -CS + + +
24:13 + + + -CS - + (-d) -
24:21a - - - +CS - - -
24:21b - - - +CS - - -
24:39 - - - +CS - +b +ff2 +l -
24:49 + + doubt. - -CS - - (+f +q) -


6 disagreements in the OS textual tradition regarding the use of HU

In the PART 3 of the Table, there are 4 more cases where the Curetonian and the Sinaiticus MSS disagree in the use of HU, so this brings the total of all such cases in Luke to 6. But in each of these 4 new cases, it is the Sinaiticus that omits HU!

Thus, out of the total of 6 such cases, the Sinaiticus omits HU 5 times, and the Curetonian omits it only once (in Lk 13:30). At first glance, it may seem like the Sinaiticus has some sort of a dislike for the word HU... But, actually, we find that 3 out of these 5 Sinaiticus omissions are coloured Black (where the Curetonian is either Red or Blue), so in fact they simply tend to indicate that the Sinaiticus is somewhat closer to the Greek MS tradition (and in particular to the Egyptian Greek tradition, as Lk 17:21b seems to indicate). So this falls in line with what has already been known previously.

Out of the remaining 2 omissions in the Sinaiticus, one is coloured Red (Lk 23:14, in parallel with Bezae), and one Blue (17:21a).

(The omission of HU by the Curetonian MS in Lk 13:30 seems to be supported by the Greek side of Bezae, although the case might be doubtful. The Greek side of Bezae has the word EIDOU there, rather than IDOU, while the Latin side of Bezae does feature the usual ECCE there. Might this just be a slip of the pen on the part of the Bezan scribe? Everywhere else in Luke, IDOU in the Greek side of Bezae, and ECCE in its Latin side are always in parallel.)


CONCLUSIONS

As I've already noted above, it is quite clear that none of these manuscripts was a direct translation of any of the others. They all seem to spring from a much earlier prototype (in whichever language that was). In particular the last two Chapters of Luke present us with what seems like a remarkable paradox...

What we observe is that, starting with Lk 23:15, in each single case the use of IDOU/HU is different in the Old Syriac Luke, as compared to the standard Greek text, either the Egyptian or the Byzantine! So then how can the Old Syriac Luke be considered as a "translation from the canonical Greek", if it disagrees with all canonical Greek versions to such an extent?

While mainstream NT scholars just love to repeat it over and over again that the Old Syriac Aramaic gospels were simply "the translations from the canonical Greek", this is obviously not so. The fact that they keep saying these things only seems to betray their evident bias against the ancient Aramaic gospels, and in favour of the Greek text.



The Tables above contain a wealth of information that can be analysed in a variety of ways. I hope that my study will be useful to all students of the New Testament, who are interested in investigating for themselves how the gospel text was used and copied by the ancient Christians from a variety of cultural and linguistic traditions.

-- Yuri Kuchinsky

(This file was uploaded in September 2003.)


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