RUSETAI in 2 Corinthians 1:10

This is not a seriously doubtful textual issue, but I wanted to make a brief summary and comment on it, because it can help illustrate the interaction between internal and external evidence in a case where the two point in the same direction. For a very brief outline of textual criticism, see Textual Criticism-Briefly. In addition, this is discussed briefly in the Anchor Bible commentary on 2 Corinthians I’m currently reading, so I’m doing something to fulfill my promise to blog my reading.

The text, very literally translated, reads thus:

He who from such a death [peril of death] saved us (aorist of ruomai), and will save (future of ruomai), [that is] the one on whom we have hoped, will also yet save (future of ruomai) us.

Now let me present the ESV, which is very literal, but a bit more readable:

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

You can probably see a number of translation issues, such as where in the translation does “on him we have set our hope” belong. It can equally be translated with the final “rusetai” as with the second one. These three repetitions of the same word have created a bit of a textual jumble, but in this case we have good external attestation for a single reading, and the internal evidence backs it up.

One key textual rule is that the more difficult text, if one can make any sense of it, is to be preferred. Why is this? Well, scribes tended to correct in order to clarify. On the other hand, the rule is not absolute, because scribes would make errors that created nonsense. So everything has to be used with care.

Furnish (AB) simply comments that “[t]he text translated has the best attestation, however (P46 [aleph] B C et al.), and the variants doubtless originated as attempts to deal with the fact that the kai rysetai appears twice, . . .” (pp. 114-115)

Metzger makes a similar note, but points out further that a number of slightly later manuscripts (A D* [psi] itd,61 syrp ethpp) simply omit it, and some even later ones correct the second instance of ruomai to the present tense.

I’m not going to try to cite all this external evidence in detail. The external evidence seems pretty convincing to me, even though Metzger’s textual commentary only rates the reading a C. (I’m working from the companion to the 3rd edition, not the current one to which I linked.) The internal evidence is strong, however. The later readings are simply explained by the earlier.

  1. There is no reason why a scribe who encountered the verse with only two repetitions would add another.
  2. There is no reason to alter the second instance to present, unless one is making a sequence of aorist, present, future.
  3. There is every reason to make either alteration if one is presented with all three together, including two repetitions of the future.

Thus the internal evidence seems compelling to me combined with the good external evidence.

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