Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jesus Saved a People out of Egypt: Jude 5 in NA28—Chris Keith


At SBL this year, I finally picked up my copy of the new 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  There are some interesting changes from the previous edition, one of which is important for Jesus Studies (albeit not really historical Jesus studies).  At Jude 5, NA28 finally succumbed to the manuscript witnesses’ strength and preferred “Jesus” to “Lord” as the one who “saved a people out of Egypt.”  Despite the fact that the “Jesus” reading has the support of B (Vaticanus, fourth century CE), A (Alexandrinus, fifth century CE), 33 (ninth century CE) et al., the previous editors had gone with “Lord,” which is supported by a (Sinaiticus, fourth century CE). 

The manuscript evidence is confusing but clearly in favor of “Jesus.”  Under normal text-critical principles one would go with the more difficult or unusual reading, assuming that scribes were more likely to alter a difficult reading to an easier one than vice versa.  Thus, since Jesus played no role in the Exodus in biblical tradition, one would assume that “Jesus” was the original reading and later scribes changed this to “Lord,” which would be more in line with the Exodus narrative.  The editors of the previous edition actually acknowledged that “Jesus” was the best reading based on this reasoning and the manuscript evidence, but printed “Lord” instead for the following reasons (from Metzger, Textual Commentary, 657–8).  First, “Jesus” may be due to a scribe reading the nomen sacrum  (“Lord”) for (“Jesus”).  Second, nowhere else does the author of Jude refer to “Jesus” with only the personal name, preferring instead “Jesus Christ.”  Third, this would be an “unparalleled” mention of Jesus in reference to the Exodus (but they cf. 1 Cor 10.4).  In short, they reasoned that the author of Jude just simply could not have possibly meant “Jesus.”  The committee knew these were not very strong arguments, which is why they gave the “Lord” reading a D rating.  The editors of the 28th revised edition, under the leadership of Holger Strutwolf (perhaps the coolest name in Biblical Studies), overturned their decision and went with “Jesus.”  I’d like to have heard the debate.

Interestingly, î72 (third/fourth century CE) has the reading “God Christ,” which the committee of NA27 determined to be a “scribal blunder.”

Regardless, does this mean that we can now speak of a “first exodus” theme associated with Jesus in the New Testament?!

27 comments:

  1. Or?

    1) Should we reject the finding of "Jesus" in the Sinai. On the ground that this is absolutely the reading which early - and present - Christians would have preferred. So that it was therefore not unusual or contrary to expectations; not at all.

    2) I have no confidence whatsoever in the various Criteria; they were never that strong, and are always misused.

    3) Especially when the very earliest manuscripts - the OT or Torah, before Christianity - don't mention "Jesus" in the Sinai at all. Rather of course, they mean the earlier lord, Moses.

    Clearly this is exactly the text that Christians would prefer. And so it would not in any case even match our themselves-unreliable Criteria.

    It's likely just another example of subjective desire, deforming memory and history.

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  2. "Jesus" and "Joshua" are the same name in Greek. I suspect there's something typological or paronamastic going on.

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  3. Jude 1:5 (with "Jesus") was probably inspired by 1 Corinthians 10:4-5:
    "and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness."

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  4. Holger Strutwolf is a bad man strutting his stuff in some theological high cotton there!!

    OK, seriously. I am going to guess and say the initial author probably didn't use the term "Jesus" alone.

    Jesus alone is just not the title the epistles use when they desire to demonstrate Jesus is the visible Yahweh of the OT.

    I'm probably mistaken, but, the term Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ or Jesus Christ are always used when discussing Him as Yahweh.

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  5. There are lots of attempts to interpolate, backfill Jesus into the Old Testament. Like Paul's. Particularly, once you take the old words loosely, figuratively, you can make them say pretty much whatever you want.

    But the results of such word-twisting can look pretty strained at times; as in Paul.

    Paul - who explicitly knew about reading stories as "allegories" and figures for "spiritual" things - is expert in "twist"ing languge, Peter hinted. While here Paul apparently suggests a spiritual "rock" "followed" Moses and his people. Though this already seems a very strained metaphor; since rocks don't follow people around much.

    Was Paul remembering Moses drilling rocks to yield water in the desert? Then on the basis of that, saying that since Jesus was the "rock," and Moses drilled rocks, then Jesus was there with Moses?

    Paul is wellknown to have strained metaphors, and OT/NT analogies, far, far past the breaking point.

    -Brett

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  6. Stephen, I thought that might be going on as well. We certainly have things like that in, e.g., Barn. 12.9-10. But is there any reference to Joshua leading the Israelites "out of Egypt" in HB/OT? I wasn't sure.

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  7. Anonymous (#1), which criteria are you talking about? Most of the text-critical criteria (NB: not authenticity criteria!!) are well-tested and the best we have to work with, although obviously imperfect. Also, I don't think this example is of "deformed memory." This is simply "keying," and it's the normal business of memory; i.e., just the way it works.

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    1. Text criticism as you are describing it here, seems to employ the Criterion of Embarrassment, and/or Difference. Which suggest that a given pericope is authentic, if it seems to suggest an idea contrary to traditional expectations.

      A supect passage is adjudged to be more likely genuine, and not made up, if it was included - even in spite of going against the grain. (The thinking here being that it was included against our natural bias; and therefore would not have been made up).

      But the Criteria are often rightly criticized by scholars like Goodacre (see his podcast lecture on them). In part because there are many different ways of applying such criteria. Even to the single given situation. As I note above, with regard to the passage we are considering here, in Jude.

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  8. Chris, Joshua first appears out of the blue in Exod 17:8-13, where he leads a successful, early military expedition against the Amalekites, shortly after leaving Egypt. I'm not sure whether this would count as being "out of Egypt" in the mind of the author, but it does not seem utterly implausible.

    Furthermore, in Exod 24:13 he is referred to as Moses's assistant, and there is nothing in the text that states when this took place. The final piece of the puzzle would be an exegetical tradition available to the author of Jude that Joshua had been appointed Moses's assistant earlier in Egypt, and that with Moses, he helped lead the people out of Egypt.

    I realize this sounds like a stretch (no more than other early Christian exegesis, e.g., Matt 2:23 and Isa 7:14), but also sufficiently opaque to explain the manuscript variation that a more clear reference would not have engendered.

    At any rate, even with a (literal) reference to Joshua, I understand the author to be making a typological point here, so ultimately, the person we know as Jesus is involved in the author's argument. But a literal reference to Joshua obviates the argument that the author would not have referred to Jesus so simply.

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    1. This seems to be doubtful, for Joshua neither rescued the people from Egypt, nor destroyed them in the wildnerness, and most certainly did not bind the fallen angels. If Joshua is the subject of v. 5, then the verb τετήρηκεν in v. 6 is left without a subject.


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  9. I should also point out that the text, Jude 5, has σώσας "saved" not "led"--just to be precise.

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  10. Great post, Keith. I wasn't aware of this text critical problem in Jude. As a parallel (beyond 1 Cor 10), I would point to John, who does similar things: Moses wrote about Jesus (ch. 5); Jesus visited Abe who showed him hospitality (referring to Gen 18--is the pretty clear implication in ch. 8); and Isaiah saw his glory (ch. 12). Sorry we missed each other, save that 30 seconds in the lobby, in Chicago!
    Steve

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  11. Glad they finally changed this in NA28.

    Stephen et al, I agree that "Jesus" by itself probably carries exegetical significance, and I think Joshua is implicated. But I think it's unlikely that a tradition of "Joshua as Savior from Egypt" would be in play. Seems possible that themes like "greater than Moses" could be lurking. Could "Joshua" subtly hint at the fact that Moses required successors in a way that Jesus did not (esp given that he's not bound by time/place)?

    Barn 12, Heb 3-4, etc certainly are interesting. When my 5 wk old wakes me up tonight I'll probably be thinking about this...

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  12. Stephen,
    Yes, I'm aware of the Greek, which is why the title of the post is what it is. I also know the Exodus and Conquest narratives, and when Joshua enters. My point is that I can't think of any text or parabiblical text that attributes leadership of the "out of Egypt" stage to Joshua. Can anyone else?

    As I said, though, I'd wondered about things along the lines of what you suggest. Although distinctive, the phenomenon of reading Jesus into the HB/OT is of course entirely common in early Christianity. Unless I'm mistaken, I think there may even be some LXX manuscripts that use the "IC" nomen sacrum for Joshua. But your suggestion would be stronger if there was a biblical text that associated Joshua with "out of Egypt."

    In light of your and Jason's comments, I wonder if the original scribe was indeed making the typological connection of Jesus/Joshua, which a later scribe deemed a bit clumsy. He changed it to Lord in light of the fact that the semantic range of "kurios" makes it more appropriate; i.e., the author of Jude uses "kurios" for Jesus and there's a longstanding biblical tradition associating kurios/Adonai with leading the Israelites "out of Egypt."

    I really didn't have an opinion on which was likely original when I wrote the post, but I'm leaning a bit towart NA28 now.

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  13. UPDATE: I just realized I committed a mortal sin and went against Tommy Wasserman, who supports the reading "Lord" in what is the definitive study on Jude's text (The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission, Almqvist & Wiksell 2006, 255-66). He considers the "Jesus" reading "a difficult reading to the point of impossibility" (266). On the one hand, it clearly wasn't quite so impossible since lots of manuscripts have it. On the other hand, one does not simply disagree with Tommy Wasserman. I'll see if I can get him to comment here.

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  14. Indeed the "Jesus" reading seems more difficult, but I don't know that it the progression from Jesus > Lord makes as much sense as Lord > Jesus. The latter seems more theologically significant and creates an obvious point of contact with the LXX rendering of YHWH as Lord.

    I'm not really an NT guy, but it seems simpler to explain the change as a single theological assertion by a scribe (LXX = Lord > Jesus) than a theological assertion made by the author of Jude (LXX Lord > Jesus) followed by an scribal change back to the "historical" (er, whatever) reading.

    Just my $0.02. Though, I think the exchange rate may make it something like $0.014.

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  15. I disagree with NA28. Simply Jesus or Joshua does not make sense in Jude 5, more so for "afterward destroyed those who did not believe."
    Reading Jude, it seems "Lord" refer to Jesus ONLY when that Lord is immediately specified to be Jesus Christ (4, 17, 21 & 25). However when "Lord" is not specified to be Jesus Christ, it appears to signify God (9, 14). And, of course, Lord, as God, makes sense in Jude 5.
    I cannot imagine the initial writer of Jude writing Jesus/Joshua in Jude 5, but some zealous early copyist might have substituted "Lord" by "Jesus" in view of 1 Cor 10:4-5.

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  16. This leaves me with the same uneasy feeling I had when I first saw the spirit of the young Anakin Skywalker wishing Luke well at the end of "Return of the Jedi". Jesus led us out of Egypt? 57 Passovers, and I don't remember seeing that before. Has this movie been remastered?

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    1. I agree that of course, 1) the original referent for a saving lord leading us out of Egypt, etc., would be Moses.

      And furthermore, 2) most early Christians of Jewish origin, would presumably a) either know this history of Moses; and b) knowing Jesus, would know that Jesus was not quite what was described in Jude.

      And not "Joshua" either. Rather the description and plot matches Moses. Who both lead his people out of Egypt, but also punished/killed some of them that were disobedient. Which would not seem to fit Jesus at all. Nor Joshua.

      It may be that our earliest surviving manuscripts often have "Jesus" here in Jude; but the use of the earliest "suriving" manuscripts has always been an unreliable second- or third-best, to having something much earlier.

      For a better guess at original, earliest manuscripts therefore? Consider broader historical context. It seems extremely unlikely that the very earliest Jewish Christians - living and writing well before our earliest suriving manuscripts - would have tolerated any such gross conflation of what was clearly Moses, with Jesus.

      Likely therefore those suriving, late manuscripts carry a late scribal error or ecclesiastical editorialization. Earlier manuscripts, religious writers, probably would not have confused Jesus with Moses.

      - Brett

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    2. Brett, I did not mean to elicit a serious reply. (I've GOT to start appending winky smiley faces.)

      But seriously. I see no reason why the early Christians might not have seen Jesus in the story of the Exodus. Why not? Not that I agree 100% with Daniel Boyarin, but it's Boyarin's argument that there were significant strains of binitarianism in second Temple Palestinian Judaism. Boyarin argues that the "Exodus angel" (see Exodus 33:1-3) has something like an existence independent of God, and that this angel was part of what served "as the origin and prooftext for Logos theology". So, it's at least possible that some early Christians saw Jesus in the Exodus, in a role traditionally assigned to an angel or to God.

      One thing I haven't seen discussed here. Jude 5 has this figure (the Lord, Jesus, Joshua) not only saving a people out of Egypt, but also afterwards destroying those in the Exodus who did not believe. The idea of Jesus in the role of an Exodus avenging figure is more perplexing to me than Jesus in the role of an Exodus figure of salvation. Yes, Boyarin does tend to assign the sword to the second person in his construction of a binitarian God, but I don't think that early Christians exactly saw Jesus in this way.

      So, count me as confused.

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    3. I do not think Moses would be a good fit, looking at the last part of Jude 5:
      "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, **afterward destroyed them that believed not**."

      Only God, not Jesus or Joshua or Moses, could be claimed to have done the two actions, save and destroy.

      The biblical salvation by God would be, among other things, opening of the sea (avoiding being massacred by the Egyptian army) and providing food in the desert.

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  17. Moses ... or the God of Moses. Note that Moses not only 1) saved his people out of Egypt, but also 2) killed many thousands of his followers, when they "grumbled" and broke laws.

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  18. Ex. 32.25-28: Moses orders his men to kill those of Moses' followers that followed the golden calf. Moses delivering his order in this form: "Thus says the LORD God of Israel."

    3,000 Israelites are killed by Moses, in the name of the "Lord" God. On this day alone.

    So Moses, and/or his "Lord," both saved his people out of Egypt ... and also killed lots of them too, when they disobeyed.

    Moses and his God fit Jude 5 therefore; whereas Jesus does not.

    Unless you like to think of Jesus as a killer? An executioner?

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  19. Dear all, I just noted your discussion here. As Chris says, I have written a monograph on the text of Jude (which is available from Eisenbrauns with a 70% discount during December http://www.eisenbrauns.com/item/WASEPISTL).

    A very good summary of the external evidence, and the various arguments in the debate of this problem is found on this blog:
    http://diglotting.com/2012/02/23/who-saved-the-people-out-of-egypt-ιησους-or-κυριος/

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    1. Good summary of (roughly) "Lord" vs. "Jesus."

      I'm arguing in addition, that there is additional "external" evidence that supports "Lord" as well: the clear reference to the God of the OT; specifically the God of Moses. The acts of the "Lord" mentioned in Jude, closely match the old God, especially in Mosiac moments: a 1) Lord; 2) helping guide his people out of Egypt; 3) but punishing some of them for worshipping a golden calf; etc..

      I guess you could also say that the OT God of Moses also 4) imprisons "angels" (Jude 6-7). First in the general sense that he rebukes and stops "false prophets" or false "messengers" from him. (In the story of Moses specifically, as I recall vaguely, Moses at times stops various other alleged agents of God, false religious leaders.)

      All in all, the Lord in Jude more exactly matches the 1) Old Testament "God," with his incidental, specifically Mosaic details, far, far better than matching 2) Joshua, or 3) Jesus. Strongly suggesting that the "Jesus" reading was indeed, preferred when it was preferred, in ancient times, just out of an early Christian bias for Jesus, vs. Moses. And/or out of a current pro-Christian bias among allegedly objective scholars.

      Jude say, calling Moses "the Lord" of course, would have created all sorts of problems for Christianity. Probably that is the reason for not making the Mosaic reference crystal clear. And explains why a scribe might wish to selfprotectively just change the identity of the "lord" to specifically, Jesus. Even in spite of subsequent contradictions to that correction.

      Such contradictions were not always smoothed over. Perhaps indeed, as some (Brodie?) suggested in another context, a contradictory insertion was left in deliberately, incompletely harmonized; just to hint at deeper problems, and problematic editorial decisions.

      - Brettongarcia

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  20. Friends - what of the link of FIRE? In Exodus 3 "the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire" (v2, ESV) and then later "God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”" (v14, ESV).

    So we have a link of fire, the angel of the LORD (which, as you know, some link directly to pre-incarnate Jesus), and I AM.

    Later, in Exodus 13 and beyond it is the flame (and cloud) that leads them out of Egypt. This is also linked to I AM. So, if we're not looking for a bodily leader (such as Moses or Joshua), we still have a physical (and not merely figurative) leader of the people out of Egypt.

    So, going outside the current academic tendencies of lit-crit, it doesn't seem such a stretch theologically or historically for that to have been the intent of the original author.

    I realize there is some work left to bring together the destroyer of those who did not believe, also in Jude v5. But again, we have the plagues in Egypt, and later the plagues (etc.) in the wilderness linking the destruction of non-believers, and the hand (though not specifically the flame) of I AM behind them.

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