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Two or Not Two, That is the Question: Luke 10:1(& 17)

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The text critical problem in Luke 10:1 (& 17) is a difficult one. Externally, the major (Hortian) witnesses? and B?disagree. Furthermore, the major players in text critical scholarship?Aland and Metzger?are likewise divided. The writer is left in an existential crisis, therefore, when he comes to Luke 10:1 (& 17) and the sending out of the seventy (-two). The tables below are designed to outline for the reader both the manuscript evidence for the two readings-to be addressed later-and the respective preferences of certain popular translations of the New Testament.

Text Critical Data Table

Reading #1













180 597 700 1006 1010 1292 1342 1424 1505 M


f1 f13 28 157 205 565 579 1071 1241 1243


l292 l387 l514 l1552


Syrp eth slav


itf,q,r1? Syrh


Marcionacc. to Tert Irenlat Clem Origr, lat Eus Basil Cyr Theod Tert Ambrosevid Jerome

Reading #2

eJbdomhvkonta duvo










B 0181





Copsa, bo-ms

ita, aur, b, c, d, e, l Sys,c

Vg arm geo


Diatess Adamantius Apost-Const Ambrosiaster Augustine




King James


Revised Standard


New Revised Standard


New American Standard


Phillips Translation




New World Translation


New International


Jerusalem Bible


New English Bible


New English Translation



[ ]

United Bible Society4

[ ]

Bruce M. Metzger?s Preference


Kurt Aland?s Preference


Internal Evidence

The intrinsic evidence centers largely around speculation, for no parallel passages exist in the Synoptics, nor does Luke elsewhere mention the numbers seventy or seventy-two. Historically, it has been argued that the number seventy was especially symbolic to the Jew, while the number seventy-two meant very little. If such were the case, it would be quite logical to accuse an early scribe of altering the text to reflect this traditionally-rich number (and likewise difficult to find reason to replace a traditionally-rich number with a comparatively inconsequential one).1 More recently, however, it has been established that both numbers held significance in the early Jewish mind. Bock reflects the most lucid discussion on this symbolism, so he is cited at length:

The OT use of seventy might have influenced its presence here:

    1. Moses? seventy elders (Exod. 24:1, 9; Num. 11:16-17, 24-25)

    2. the seventy nations of the earth (Gen. 10-11; but the LXX lists seventy-two)

    3. a rabbinic tradition about Moses? commandments being heard in seventy languages (b. Sab. 88b ? .)

    4. the Sanhedrin?s seventy members (when the high priest is not counted ? .)

The use of the number seventy-two in various Jewish sources could also have influenced the reading in Luke:

    1. the local counsels of seventy-two (m. Zebah. 1.3; m. Yad. 3.5; 4.2)

    2. the seventy-two translators of the LXX (Letter of Aristeas 46-50)

    3. the LXX tradition of the seventy-two nations in Gen. 10-11

    4. the seventy-two princes and kings in the world (3 Enoch 17.8; 18.2-3; 30.2)2

Which?if any?symbolism was intended is somewhat inconclusive.3 Since neither number predominates symbolically, one cannot identify with confidence the motive(s) of the scribe(s).

External Evidence

The writer has analyzed facsimiles of five manuscripts, both in verse one and seventeen of Luke 10. It was concluded that , L and W all omit duo from the reading (as all apparatuses consulted accurately report), while in Vaticanus it is included.4 When one considers the reported external evidence, he encounters a history of inaccuracy. According to Metzger, ?at Luke 10.1 Tischendorf and von Soden wrongly cite the Old Latin manuscript b in support of ?70.??5

A great deal of unclear evidence was discovered regarding P45 6. The manuscript is unreadable in 10.1, and only slightly legible in verse 17.7 If one can determine the reading in this verse, however, he can confidently assume the same reading in verse 1, since practically every manuscript shows internal agreement between these verses concerning the number. An apparatus debate has arisen regarding P45 8 as to whether the reading in 10.17 is ?ob? (seventy-two) or ?o>? (with the ?>? being a space-filler?called a diple?common to this manuscript).9 The majority of apparatuses list this witness as including duvo, yet Metzger calls into question the accuracy of this conclusion.10

The handful of manuscripts which show inherent inconsistency?verse one reads one number while verse seventeen reads the other?regularly read ?seventy-two? in verse one and ?seventy? in verse seventeen (one can only speculate that two disciples were lost along the way, or took Jesus? words to ?stay in that house? as a permanent present imperative).11 These witnesses include M, 28, 33, and Syrc, and are perhaps best explained as the attempt of the scribes to ensure retention of the original reading in at least one passage (not unlike the difficulty encountered at 2 Kings 8.26 and 2 Chronicles 22.2, where most manuscripts list Ahaziah?s reign at twenty-two years in the former and forty-two years in the latter).


Intrinsic probability alone leaves the textual critic unable to decide in favor of one reading over another with any measure of confidence. However?as discussed above?if pressed toward a decision based solely on the internal evidence the present writer would have to judge ?seventy-two? the original reading, since the number ?seventy? has slightly more symbolic richness biblically. This would establish motive for an early scribe(s) to adjust the number ?seventy-two? to the more significant ?seventy,? while eliminating the motive in favor of the reverse.

Externally, both readings have substantial manuscript evidence in two texttypes (?seventy? in the Byzantine and Alexandrian, ?seventy-two? in the Alexandrian and Western). The character of the manuscripts is also not lacking in either reading. Regarding date, the ?seventy-two? has a clear advantage, antedating the reading of ?seventy? by a solid one hundred years?granted that P45 reads ?seventy-two? as I have here argued.12 Furthermore, it is commonly argued that where B and P75 agree, the reading can be confidently push back well into the second century!

Given the (slightly) greater likelihood that a copyist?or liturgist?would have adjusted the less significant ?seventy-two? to the more meaningful ?seventy,? and in light of the earlier manuscript evidence for the reading which includes the duo, we conclude the reading ?seventy-two? is more likely original.


The text-critical problem at Luke 10.1 (&17) is indeed a tricky and divided one, both internally, externally, and Inaccurate reporting in apparatuses has certainly not helped matters. Regardless, the problem is a helpful one for me to consider, given my tendency toward a Hortian methodology (I?ll go with a reading finding agreement between ?/FONT> and B 99% of the time). The passage has forced me to ask?and answer?difficult questions which might not be surface in a more cut-and-dry text-critical problem.

Bibliography Page

Aland, Kurt and Barbara Aland. The Text of the New Testament. 2d ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NewTestament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

Metzger, Bruce M. Historical and Literary Studies, Pagan, Jewish, and Christian. Grand Rapids: Leiden Press, 1968.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, andRestoration. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Biblia Druck, 1994.

Plummer, Alfred. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke.The International Critical Commentary, ed. S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs. New York: Charles Scribner?s Sons, 1920.

1 This is precisely the argument of K. Aland, who takes issue with the brackets around ?duvo? in the printed texts of NA27 and UBS4 (Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 3d ed (Stuttgart: Biblia-Druck), 127).

2 Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 1015. For further treatment, see also Bruce M. Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies, Pagan, Jewish, and Christian (Grand Rapids: Leiden Press), 71-74.

3 If forced to decide which number carried the most biblical symbolism in the early centuries, this writer would say ?70.? Bock agrees, conceding that ?if Luke was making an OT allusion, then seventy is the stronger candidate? (p. 1015). See also Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke, The International Critical Commentary, eds, S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs (New York: Charles Scribner?s Sons), 272. According to Plummer, though the symbolic preference is not readily conclusive, ?The duo might also be omitted to make a favourite number (Gen. xlvi. 27; Exod. I. 5, xv. 27; Judg. I. 7, ix. 2; 2 Kings x. 1; Ezra viii. 7, 14; Is. Xxiii. 15; Jer. Xxv. 11, etc.).?

4 Evidence of extreme interest was discovered in Vaticanus. The writer has conducted extensive research on the scribal sigla in this manuscript, as a response to conclusions arrived at by Philip Payne in a 1995 NTS article, ?Fuldensis, Sigla For Variants in Vaticanus, And 1 Cor 14.34-5.? My research indicates that the scribe of Vaticanus employed a double-dot siglum (or ?umlaut?) next to certain lines of text in which he was aware of variant readings. In the vast majority of instances a variant reading (usually an omission by Vaticanus) exists today in the very lines indicated by the umlaut. Unfortunately, whether today?s variant readings correspond with those known by this 4th century scribe is uncertain. At Luke 10.1 in Vaticanus, which encompasses nine lines of text, an umlaut appears only in the margin next to the line with duvo: ?mhkontaduokaiape.? Following this line, no umlaut appears for dozens of lines?until the line in verse 17 with the other variant reading duvo: ?mhkontaduometaca"? Impressive?if not compelling?evidence that this 4th century scribe was aware of another manuscript(s) which omitted the word duvo.

5 Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies, Pagan, Jewish, and Christian, 68.

6 Even Bock evidences some confusion on this witness, giving unclear (though not inaccurate) treatment of the manuscript in his discussion (p. 1015).

7 Perhaps the very repetition of the expression ?seventy-two? in the same chapter has fueled the confusion. For instance, in the apparatus of Merk9, ?seventy-two? is listed as the reading of P45 in verse one. P45 doesn?t read in this segment of the verse at all!

8 Those apparatuses listing P45 under the reading eJbdomhvkonta duvo in 10.17 include Merk9, Bover4, MT2, NA27(vid), and UBS4(vid), while the apparatus of the IGNTP alone cites P45 as omitting duvo.

9 I have observed the available facsimile and have grown rather convinced of the reading ?ob? (seventy-two). Furthermore, a reverse-image photocopy was made and observed with high-power backlighting. In doing so, Iwas able to observe the distinctive double-hump of the ?b?, resembling a handwritten ?3?. The confidence in the reading ?seventy-two? in this papyrus was further established through a comparison of this shape with other (clear) b?s by the same hand.

10 Metzger writes, ?The present writer has examined the passage in P45 under natural and artificial light, and has assured himself that the Greek character which follows the letter omicron (standing for ?70?) is [not] b, as Kenyon supposed ? but merely the diple, or space-filler (>), which scribes would use occasionally in order to bring an otherwise short line even with the right-hand margin of the column? (Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies, Pagan, Jewish, and Christian, 68).

11 On a serious note, while the writer has not read this hypothesis anywhere, it is marginally possible that the reading ?seventy-two? could have arisen due to parablepsis. Remote though it is, the scribe?s eyes may have advanced forward a few words to the following ?duvo? (or ?duvo duvo??depending on another variant reading) and unintentionally inserted it after the ?eJbdomhvkonta.?

12 Both P45 and P75 date to the third century, while the earliest manuscript for the reading ?seventy? is in ?/FONT>, which dates from the mid-fourth century.






Related Topics: Textual Criticism