Tuesday, February 07, 2012

even The Message got this one right

Codex Sinaiticus [א], Rom. 8.2 (NB the pronoun σε [se; "you"], circled)
There's a small but significant textual variant in Rom. 8.2. Both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, two of the more important manuscripts for NT textual criticism, read, "for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set you free from the law of sin and of death." A number of other witnesses, including Alexandrinus, a whole host of miniscules, and many of the Fathers, read, " . . . set me free . . ." (A handful of witnesses read "us," but this is almost certainly an attempt to universalize Paul's point here.)

What I find especially interesting is the hermeneutical potential of both readings. In fact, I would adopt both readings (or, better, I would adopt either reading, depending on context). The "me" reading takes an autobiographical approach to Rom. 7.7–25, in which Paul finds himself under sin's sway and in need of being set free. The "you" reading fits better with the "speech-in-character" approach (which I'm adopting for my course); in 8.2 Paul resumes speaking in his authorial voice and addresses the character in whose voice he was speaking throughout 7.7–25. So, in my judgment, the best reading is, "the Spirit . . . set you free from the law of sin and of death."

But here's the point I've been wanting to make the whole time. Bible.org provides a list of parallel translations of Rom. 8.2. If you follow the link, you'll see that The Message reads "you" here, but the NIV agrees with the King James family of translations in reading "me." Is it really too much to ask the NIV to get it right when even The Message can?!

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