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Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace (Part 2)

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 20 July 2009

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

Part two of the series “Hebrews 2:9 – Separated by Grace.”

What then is the external evidence in favor of each reading? The manuscript evidence in support of χάριτι θεοῦ is very strong. The major manuscripts that favor this reading include P46 א A B C D 33 81 330 614 itar,b, comp, d, v vg copsa, bo, fay, as well as others.1 In addition, Origen, Athanasius, Didymus, Chrysostom, Cyril, Theodoret, and Jerome all testify that the reading exists. Therefore, we have an early reading that is supported by weighty manuscripts spread across several text-types and regions.2 From the B-Text (Alexandrian) there is P46 א B 33, etc.; from the D-Text (Western) there is D, as well as the evidence of the earlier “fathers”;3 and from the A-Text (Byzantine) there is A, as well as a host of unmentioned minuscules.4 The combination of these external criteria typically leads to an “A” rating.

By comparison, the manuscript evidence in favor of χωρὶς θεοῦ is very weak. Aside from 0121b, which is late, there are no uncial manuscripts.5 Additional support for χωρὶς θεοῦ is provided by the cursive 1739,6 a few manuscripts of the Vulgate, Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, a group known as the Nestorians (according to Pseudo-Oecumenius), Theodoret, Ambrose, Jerome, Vigilius, Fulgentius, and syrp mss.7 Here we have a few late manuscripts and a host of patristic witnesses who have varying opinions on the validity of the reading. In sum, the external evidence in favor of χωρὶς θεοῦ is tenuous at best. Therefore, in terms of external evidence, χάριτι θεοῦ should be preferred to χωρὶς θεοῦ.


  1. Unfortunately, the recent discovery of P116, which is a witness to Hebrews 2:9-11 and 3:3-6, does not contain the portion of v. 9 in question. See Amphilochios Papathomas, “A New Testimony to the Letter to the Hebrews (2.9-11 and 3.3-6),” Tyche 16 (2001) 107–10.
  2. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 15*–16*. Here I use Metzger’s arrangement of various major manuscripts into text-types, since he provides a concise and convenient list. Some, including the Alands, would argue that the application of text-types to pre-fourth century manuscripts is an anachronistic practice, since there were, according to them, no text-types during that period: “The text of the early period prior to the third/fourth century was, then, in effect, a text not yet channeled into types, because until the beginning of the fourth century the churches still lacked the institutional organization required to produce one” (Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989] 64).
  3. The placement of patristic witnesses within the various text-types is, in many cases, dubious as it is extremely difficult to ascertain the character of the New Testament text with which a given author may have been working. For more on the difficulties and rewards of citing patristic witnesses (which will be discussed further below), see Gordon D. Fee, “The Use of Greek Patristic Citations in New Testament Textual Criticism: The State of the Question,” in Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism (ed. Eldon J. Epp and Gordon D. Fee; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993); Aland and Aland, Text of the New Testament, 171–84. That said, Metzger lists Greek authors to the end of the third century and early Latin authors as witnesses to the D-Text (Metzger, Textual Commentary, 15*).
  4. Since the A-Text is a later recension, it is of less importance for determining the originality of a reading than the B-Text and the D-Text. See Aland and Aland, Text of the New Testament, 335–36.
  5. The apparatus of both NA27 and UBS4 give 0243 as the uncial manuscript attesting χωρίς. The Alands give 0243 as a tenth-century category II uncial; however, they list it as containing only portions of 1 and 2 Corinthians, not Hebrews. 0121b, however, is the manuscript we are looking for, as the tables in the back of NA27 clearly indicate. Clarification of such manuscript relationships by the Alands’ Text of the New Testament is in order. See Aland and Aland, Text of the New Testament, 126.
  6. Ibid., 135. The Alands list 1739 as a tenth-century category I cursive. The copyist of 1739 also took care to copy the prescript and notes of his exemplar. Analysis of this prescript and the notes to the text have led some, including Ehrman and Zuntz, to believe that the text in 1739 is a very faithful copy of a pre-4th century text. See Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) 146.
  7. Sebastian P. Brock,“Hebrews 2:9 in Syriac tradition,” NovT 27 (1985) 236–44. Brock favors the Peshitta reading that would have been produced by χάριτι, though the Syriac translations, in general, differ amongst how they choose to render this (a question of “God, in his grace…” or “by the grace of God…,” which is closer to the Greek). Brock illustrates his reasons for favoring the Peshitta reading, however, by way of a lengthy argument that is certainly not the simplest solution, but does account for the manuscript evidence by showing that the alterations to and from the possible readings were intentional and theologically motivated.

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