The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath: Synoptic Problems

I’ve been knee-deep in Synoptic Problem things for the last couple weeks, and it has been quite enjoyable. The degree of complication you face when trying to balance the best critical text of each synoptic gospel with the question of dependence among the gospels really is tricky. The saying in Matthew 12:8 (and its parallels) presents a fun puzzle. After the Pharisees confront Jesus because his disciples plucked grain on the sabbath, each gospel ends the passage with a version of this saying. Here are all three gospels in Throckmorton’s synopsis (NRSV translation):

Matthew 12:8
“For
the Son of Man is
lord

of the sabbath.”
Mark 2:28

“the Son of Man is
lord
even
of the sabbath.”
Luke 6:5

“The Son of Man is
lord

of the sabbath”

Aside from the introductory “For” in Matthew, the core saying differs in just one word across the three synoptic gospels, the “even” in Mark. Thus, the passage presents a very minor agreement between Matthew and Luke against Mark. That is how the NRSV translation makes it appear, anyway. The situation in the Greek text is a little more complicated. Here is the text of the passage in the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland along with its critical apparatus:

Matthew 12:8
κύριος
γάρ
ἐστιν τοῦ
σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς
τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
Mark 2:28
κύριός

ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ
ἀνθρώπου καὶ
τοῦ σαββάτου.
Luke 6:5
Κύριός

ἐστιν ⸂τοῦ
σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς
τοῦ ἀνθρώπου⸃.
p) ο υιος του
ανθρωπου και
του σαββατου A
D K L Γ Δ Θ Ψ ƒ1.13
33. 579. 700. 892.
1424. 2542 𝔪 lat
syh sa bopt;
McionE
¦ txt א B W 1241
syp bopt

The Greek text of Matthew and Luke differs from that of Mark both in lacking καὶ in Mark and in word order, making this passage a more substantial agreement of Matthew and Luke against Mark than the English translation implied. At the same time, however, the apparatus indicates an impressive list of witnesses in which the text of Luke 6:5 matches that of Mark 2:28. So impressive is the list of witnesses that other editors have favored the Markan reading in Luke. Here is the same text in the Huck-Greeven Synopsis (along with its rather less familiar critical apparatus):

Matthew 12:8
κύριος γάρ
ἐστιν τοῦ
σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς
τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
Mark 2:28
κύριός
ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ
ἀνθρώπου καὶ
τοῦ σαββάτου.
Luke 6:5
κύριός
ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ
ἀνθρώπου καὶ
τοῦ σαββάτου.
Mt 12,8 του—αν.]
ο—αν. και του
σαβ. || p: 33-892
Φ-1604 λ1-1582
φ788 σ7-349-517-
945-1424 047 157
al l48 l49 Llz
vg1  —  txt (prm
και): Rpl (pm) Or
Lvl1[e](f vg1)
S1(h) C,f
Lk 6,5 ο—σαβ.] •
του σαβ. ο υι. τ. αν. || Mt 𝔓4 א* BW
S[sc]pj
C(prm και: sb1)




In the Huck-Greeven Synopsis, the printed text indicates agreement of Mark and Luke against Matthew (Tischendorf made the same decision). What is more, while the Nestle-Aland apparatus indicated no variation for Matthew 12:8, the Huck-Greeven apparatus names several manuscripts of Matthew that also have the Markan text for this phrase. Which edition is correct? Here is Metzger’s account of the Nestle-Aland editors’ reasoning for making Luke’s text agree with Matthew against Mark:

“It is rather more probable that copyists inserted καί before τοῦ σαββάτου, thus giving more point to the saying (and assimilating it to the parallel in Mk 2:28), than that καί should have been deleted from early representatives of several text-types. The non-Markan word order is likewise to be preferred.” (Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed., p. 117)

But if the editors of Nestle-Aland text are correct in their judgement, then it seems we would have a case of several later manuscripts of both Matthew and Luke independently harmonizing toward the text of Mark. I wonder how common this phenomenon is (that is, manuscripts of both Matthew and Luke changing from non-Markan to Markan wording in a given passage)?

It is also interesting to note that in some manuscripts, both Matthew and Luke agree with the Markan text (except for Matthew’s γαρ). For instance, GA 33 (BnF Grec 14, ninth century):

Matthew 12:8
κς γαρ
εστιν ο υς του
ανου και του
σαββατου
 
Mark 2:28
κς
εστιν ο υς του
ανου και του
σαββατου
Luke 6:5
κς
εστιν ο υς του
ανου και του
σαββατου

At the end of the day, I’m not sure what to make of this evidence. It is quite interesting (surprising?) that the text of Mark in this passage seems very stable. I will add, however, that the most fascinating variant I encountered with this passage is in fact in the text of Mark in a Latin manuscript of the gospels, the Codex Vercellensis, which generally assigned to the fourth century. The wording of the saying is a little different, but the real surprise is that the passage in this codex has some remarkable additional text after the “Lord of the Sabbath” saying but before Mark 3:1. Here is the relevant page of the edition of Giovanni Andrea Irico (1704-1782):

Mark 2:28 in Codex Vercellensis (edition of Giovanni Andrea Irico, Sacrosanctus evangeliorum codex, vol. 2 (1748)

The Latin of the saying (filius hominis dominus est etiam ipsius sabbati) is a bit different from the Vulgate translation, which more nearly mirrors the Greek word order (dominus est Filius hominis etiam sabbati), but what is really intriguing are the following words: et cum audissent qui ab eo exierunt detinere eum dicebant enim quia extitit mente (“and when his own people heard, they went out to take hold of him, for they said ‘He is out of his mind'”). It seems Mark 3:21 has been displaced to a position here after 2:28. This actually makes reasonably good sense in context (although, to be fair, Mark 3:21 could sensibly be placed after a number of Jesus’s sayings). Again, the wording is a bit different from the Vulgate of Mark 3:21 (et cum audissent sui exierunt tenere eum dicebant enim quoniam in furorem versus est), but this is pretty clearly the same passage. I wonder if any of the other ancient translations of Mark place 3:21 directly after 2:28? I would be grateful to commenters who might know (and for thoughts on the issue of the parallels in the Greek!).

This entry was posted in Codex Vercellensis, New Testament, Textual criticism, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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