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marginal inspiration and inerrancy in the NET Bible

February 3, 2013

Ken Schenck has been blogging about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and the ministry of women. He points out that although he doesn’t think that these verses are in the original, we don’t need to prove that to allow women to minister in church. At least, that’s how I read his recent post.

I finally resolved the issue in this way. Evangelical exegesis suggests that these two verses were in the margin of the text. However, they are still accepted as inspired. This, of course, causes a total shift in our view of God. He doesn’t know ahead of time what he is going to say, and needs to go back and add notes in the margin, just to deal with the sticky problem of women.

Here is the note in the NET Bible,

Some scholars have argued that vv. 34-35 should be excised from the text (principally G. D. Fee, First Corinthians [NICNT], 697-710; P. B. Payne, “Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34-5,” NTS 41 [1995]: 240-262). This is because the Western witnesses (D F G ar b vgms Ambst) have these verses after v. 40, while the rest of the tradition retains them here. There are no mss that omit the verses. Why, then, would some scholars wish to excise the verses? Because they believe that this best explains how they could end up in two different locations, that is to say, that the verses got into the text by way of a very early gloss added in the margin. Most scribes put the gloss after v. 33; others, not knowing where they should go, put them at the end of the chapter.

Fee points out that “Those who wish to maintain the authenticity of these verses must at least offer an adequate answer as to how this arrangement came into existence if Paul wrote them originally as our vv. 34-35” (First Corinthians [NICNT], 700). In a footnote he adds, “The point is that if it were already in the text after v. 33, there is no reason for a copyist to make such a radical transposition.” Although it is not our intention to interact with proponents of the shorter text in any detail here, a couple of points ought to be made.

(1) Since these verses occur in all witnesses to 1 Corinthians, to argue that they are not original means that they must have crept into the text at the earliest stage of transmission.

How early? Earlier than when the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) made its way into the text (late 2nd, early 3rd century?), earlier than the longer ending of Mark (16:9-20) was produced (early 2nd century?), and earlier than even “in Ephesus” was added to Eph 1:1 (upon reception of the letter by the first church to which it came, the church at Ephesus) – because in these other, similar places, the earliest witnesses do not add the words. This text thus stands as remarkable, unique. Indeed, since all the witnesses have the words, the evidence points to them as having been inserted into the original document.

Who would have done such a thing? And, further, why would scribes have regarded it as original since it was obviously added in the margin? This leads to our second point.

(2) Following a suggestion made by E. E. Ellis (“The Silenced Wives of Corinth (I Cor. 14:34-5),” New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis, 213-20 [the suggestion comes at the end of the article, almost as an afterthought]), it is likely that Paul himself added the words in the margin. Since it was so much material to add, Paul could have squelched any suspicions by indicating that the words were his (e.g., by adding his name or some other means [cf. 2 Thess 3:17]). This way no scribe would think that the material was inauthentic. (Incidentally, this is unlike the textual problem at Rom 5:1, for there only one letter was at stake; hence, scribes would easily have thought that the “text” reading was original. And Paul would hardly be expected to add his signature for one letter.)

(3) What then is to account for the uniform Western tradition of having the verses at the end of the chapter? Our conjecture (and that is all it is) is that the scribe of the Western Vorlage could no longer read where the verses were to be added (any marginal arrows or other directional device could have been smudged), but, recognizing that this was part of the original text, felt compelled to put it somewhere. The least offensive place would have been at the end of the material on church conduct (end of chapter 14), before the instructions about the resurrection began. Although there were no chapter divisions in the earliest period of copying, scribes could still detect thought breaks (note the usage in the earliest papyri).

(4) The very location of the verses in the Western tradition argues strongly that Paul both authored vv. 34-35 and that they were originally part of the margin of the text. Otherwise, one has a difficulty explaining why no scribe seemed to have hinted that these verses might be inauthentic (the scribal sigla of codex B, as noticed by Payne, can be interpreted otherwise than as an indication of inauthenticity [cf. J. E. Miller, “Some Observations on the Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35,” JSNT 26 [2003]: 217-36.). There are apparently no mss that have an asterisk or obelisk in the margin. Yet in other places in the NT where scribes doubted the authenticity of the clauses before them, they often noted their protest with an asterisk or obelisk. We are thus compelled to regard the words as original, and as belonging where they are in the text above.

I take this note as saying that there is no doubt that these verses were in the margin. In addition, there is no doubt that Paul wrote them. What then is inspiration? Does God inspire marginal notes? Why? Why does God deal with women in marginal notes here, and in 1 Tim. 2:12 with vocabulary not used anywhere else in the Bible? It makes me feel absolutely queasy that God would deal with women in this way. Are we not also human? No, I don’t think so, when I read notes like this. I am so tired of Christian men constantly producing scholarship which has the sole purpose of diminishing women. I always feel a little ill after reading the notes from this Bible.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2013 5:35 pm

    Hi Suzanne – do you see another possible reading – as here and elsewhere in the letter, Paul is quoting the Corinthian correspondence. John Hurd has a very good analysis of this with respect to other passages in the letter but I can’t find a direct reference to an ironic reading for this passage. It certainly works to read it with some irony. That would also explain the margin – the amanuensis writing notes on what Paul was replying to.

  2. February 3, 2013 5:36 pm

    John C Hurd – The Origin of 1 Corinthians SPCK 1965

  3. February 3, 2013 5:36 pm

    John C. Hurd – The Origin of 1 Corinthians – SPCK 1965

  4. February 3, 2013 5:37 pm

    John C. Hurd – The Origin of 1 Corinthians – SPCK 1965 (3rd try at posting this comment)

  5. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 3, 2013 5:54 pm

    Yes, John Hurd’s commentary points out that 1 Corinthians was interlaced with quotations and this is most likely one of them. But then why is it in the margin. If it is a quotation, like many other phrases in this book, why only this one in the margin? The argument would not make sense if the quotation was left out.

    So, it is possible, but does not interact with the evidence that these verses were in the margin.

    Another reason why some of us may resist considering it a quotation is that I am not sure that there was a “law” that women were to be silent in Judaism. Franky, it seems that there were liberating strands in Judaism, Roman customs, and Christianity as well as legalism in all three. We always want the bad stuff to belong to somebody else’s religion, but in fact, there is good and bad across the spectrum.

  6. February 4, 2013 11:39 am

    Well, NET editors have an argument. To be sure, it is not a very compelling argument, but at least the editors briefly summarized the reasoning of their opponents, and then briefly gave their own argument, so that a critical reader could decide the issue for herself. That’s better than many study Bibles which simply make assertions in the footnotes without support or ignore opposing views.

    But, it does seem that the editors are more motivated by ideology than an open-minded, fair examination of the evidence.

  7. February 4, 2013 11:44 am

    Bob, I’m still not sure why your messages keep getting marked as spam. The account you used for your first comment, though, seems to not be triggering the false labeling as spam.

  8. February 4, 2013 2:04 pm

    Suzanne, I love your questions! And this post where you ask them.

    Willis Barnstone, who hardly has as some do any of the hang ups about trying to reconcile this text to something God would have inspired that would be inerrant, does some odd things to “restore” it in translation. But his footnote is rather instructive:

    Women must be silent in the synagogues.
    They do not have the right to speak. Let them
    Submit as Torah law dictates….

    Paul evokes the law, meaning Torah law of the Hebrew Bible rather than the Roman law. It is not clear whether he has a specific verse in mind or whether there is one for his purpose. Normally, when Paul wants to alter a habitual practice or interpretation of law, such as the laws on circumcision, Sabbath, marriage, and divorce, he refers to Deuteronomy or Exodus in Torah. Here he does not do so. Most commonly, without reference to Torah, he proposes his own moral code for the emerging Jesus movement with respect to marriage, homosexuality, and deportment in the temple.

  9. February 4, 2013 11:00 pm

    This, of course, causes a total shift in our view of God. He doesn’t know ahead of time what he is going to say, and needs to go back and add notes in the margin, just to deal with the sticky problem of women.

    This made me sputter and laugh out loud.

    A very interesting post, though, Suzanne. I had no idea of the marginalia hypothesis.

    For comparison, here’s the note from the NABRE:

    Verse 33b may belong with what precedes, so that the new paragraph would begin only with 1 Cor 14:34. 1 Cor 14:34–35 change the subject. These two verses have the theme of submission in common with 1 Cor 14:11 despite differences in vocabulary, and a concern with what is or is not becoming; but it is difficult to harmonize the injunction to silence here with 1 Cor 11 which appears to take it for granted that women do pray and prophesy aloud in the assembly (cf. 1 Cor 11:5, 13). Hence the verses are often considered an interpolation, reflecting the discipline of later churches; such an interpolation would have to have antedated our manuscripts, all of which contain them, though some transpose them to the very end of the chapter.

  10. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 5, 2013 12:04 am

    Here is my question. If these two verses were originally in the margin, then how could they be a citation of some preceding Jewish law? That would mean that the following verse did not related back to the two previous verses. Here it is,

    “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?”

    How could this be a repudiation of verses 34 and 35 if they were not in the original document?

  11. February 5, 2013 12:43 am

    I think the text makes sense (maybe even makes better sense) if those verses are omitted, because then v36 is a pointed culmination of the admonishment that those given the gift of prophecy should yield to one another.

    Here’s the passage with those verses omitted:

    So what is to be done, [sisters and brothers]? When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret. But if there is no interpreter, the person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God.

    Two or three prophets should speak, and the others discern. But if a revelation is given to another person sitting there, the first one should be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets’ control, since he is not the God of disorder but of peace.

    Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has it come to you alone? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet or a spiritual person, he should recognize that what I am writing to you is a commandment of the Lord. If anyone does not acknowledge this, he is not acknowledged.

    So, (my) [sisters and] brothers, strive eagerly to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues, but everything must be done properly and in order.

  12. February 5, 2013 2:15 am

    It seems to me that the location of the verses could indicate that someone put them in the margin, and they were afterwards assumed to be Paul’s because of human bias– the scribes wanted them to be in the text. Or they could have been written by Paul in that location, with his refutation occurring immediately afterwards– and someone moved them because they couldn’t believe Paul put them there only to refute them. What it comes down to is that the scribes wanted these words to be in the text as prohibitions against women speaking. It’s the same mentality that accepts hoaxes because they’re in line with what one wants to believe.

  13. February 5, 2013 10:07 pm

    So, are there any other cases where verses are present in all witnesses but in different places? Or are these verses unique in that respect?

  14. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 6, 2013 12:10 am

    There is the ending of Mark and the pericope adulterae, and some textual differences at the end of Romans 16. Here is are the differences for Romans 16:23-27

    1. 24 omitted but verses 25-27 present 23 25-27

    2. 24 placed after verses 25-27 23 25-27 24

    3. 24 present but verses 25-27 omitted 23 24

    4. 24 placed before verses 25-27 23 24 25-27

    So Romans has two endings: either v. 24 (benediction) or vs. 25-27 (doxology). A basic fact about 16:24 is that “the verse is omitted in the earliest and most important MSS” (Moo 933).

    So this is different from 1 Cor. 14:34-35 since they are omitted in no manuscripts, but appear in two different locations, which is supposed to indicate that they were not in the original text.

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