Luke 2:22


"And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;"

Here the variant is small, but the difference is profuse. The Authorized Version uses the phrase, "of her purification" (Gk: kathapismou autes ). Modern versions, for the most part, read, "of their purification" (Gk: kathapismou auton). Contextually, the reading must stand as we have it in the King James Version. Under the Levitical Law a woman was considered unclean after giving birth and, therefore, needed purification. The passage in Leviticus 12: 2-4, reads,

"Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled "

The citation is quite clear: this was "her purifying" and not the purifying of both mother and child. Therefore, the Authorized Version agrees with the Levitical Law. To offset this point, some have suggested that the "them" in the passage referred not to Mary and Jesus, but to Mary and Joseph. The argument is that since Joseph and Mary are mentioned in verse 16 and referred to in the second half of verse 22, the "them" referred to the married couple. Agreeing with this we have the reading of the Catholic New American Bible, "When the day came to purify them according to the law of Moses, the couple brought him up to Jerusalem so that he could be presented to the Lord." The obvious doctrinal problem with this is that under the Law of Moses, as set forth in Leviticus 12, the woman, not the husband, needed purification after giving birth. Therefore, the best contextual reading would agree with the Authorized Version, as it would support both the Old Testament Law and the actions presented in Luke's Gospel.

In an Online debate between James White and myself, Brother White claimed Luke 2:22 was an error in the text of the King James Version. His reasoning is as follows:

"First, the VAST MAJORITY of Byzantine manuscripts read "their" (auton). The Majority Text reads "their." 99.5% of all manuscripts of this passage read "their." There are a very small number that read "autou" (not noted by Dr. Holland, though having more support than the KJV reading), and there may be a grand total of 3 very late manuscripts that have the KJV reading, the only one we know of being 76, a minuscule text from the 14th century! That means the KJV's reading cannot be traced anywhere earlier than the 14th century, and most feel that this is actually a conjectural emendation made by Beza as he wouldn't have known of minuscule 76." (Downloaded from America OnLine/ Christianity Today/ King James Bible Only/ Subj: Luke 2:22/ Date: 95-08-21 22:09:17 EDT/From: Orthopodeo.)

In addition, White repeats this on his Web Site in a open letter concerning Dr. Peter S. Ruckman.

"The first passage Ruckman chose to address was my citation of Luke 2:22. This passage is mentioned only twice in my book, once in a table, once in an endnote. Yet it is an excellent example of the textual problems in the Textus Receptus (TR). It also allows us to see just how much KJV Only advocates are really dedicated to the "truth" or to their own traditions. . .99.9% of all Greek manuscripts of Luke read "their"! This includes the entire Byzantine manuscript tradition, which is always called upon by KJV Only advocates as the "pure" form of the text. As Hills admits, he knows of only a few Greek minuscules and manuscript 76 that support the TR reading. Indeed, Beza was probably unaware of those sources, and simply made a "conjectural emendation," which is a nice was of saying, "He didn't like the way it read in all the manuscripts, so he changed it without evidence." Let's think about what this means. The earliest we can trace the specific reading "her" in the Greek manuscripts is to the 14th century-almost a millennium and a half after Luke wrote the passage." (James R. White, James White Responds To Dr. Ruckman, downloaded on 9/10/96 from http://net387.texas.net/ao.html.)

The statements are factually and textually incorrect. While White is accurate in stating that most of the Greek manuscripts read "of their purification," he is incorrect in assuming that the passage was a conjectural emendation made by Beza in the late 1500s. A conjectural emendation is when a text is adjusted for one reason or another, thereby emending it. The new reading produced, which is a conjecture to replace the old reading, will therefore lack textual evidence. White is claiming the reading, "of her purification," was simply an educated guess made by Beza without textual support. However, White has made a fundamental error. To state, "the KJV's reading cannot be traced anywhere earlier than the 14th century," shows a lack of understanding in the field of textual criticism and causes one to wonder how such absurd accusations can be made by one who is considered an expert in upholding the views of modern translations and their Greek texts.

While the text is lacking Greek support, it is not lacking other textual support. The Latin Vulgate (fourth century) and later the Latin Codex Brixianus read, "et postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis eius secundum legem mosi" (And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses). The Latin word "eius," or more commonly "ejus," stands in the feminine genitive singular, thus "of her." If the Latin texts had used "eorum" (of them) the reading would have supported modern versions and White's contention. In fact, almost all of the Old Latin Codices support the reading, with the exception of Codex Monacensis (seventh century). It is found in the Old Latin Codex Vercellensis of the fourth century, and Latin texts of the fifth century such as Codex Curiensis, Codex Veronensis, and Codex Corbeiensis II. Plus, it is found in later Latin manuscripts such as Codex Usserianus I (seventh century) and Codex Rhedigeranus (eighth century). Therefore, we see that this reading stands throughout time in the Old Latin manuscripts.

This reading is not without Greek manuscript endorsement either. Beza's Codex D (sixth century), which is highly acclaimed among textual scholars, has the reading "autou" (of it). While the reading "autns" (of her) is preferred and is written thus in minuscules 76 and 2174, both readings stand in the genitive singular and not the plural as "auton" (of them) does. Additionally, we find the reading, "of her purification," in the Old Syriac version (Sinaitic, second century) and the Sahidic Coptic version (third century).

White states that Beza interjected a conjectural emendation. Metzger defines a conjectural emendation as when, "the only reading, or each of several variant readings, which the documents of a text supply is impossible or incomprehensible, the editor's only remaining resource is to conjecture what the original reading must have been." (Bruce Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament,[Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968], 182.) Beza was not making a conjectural emendation in his Greek text. He was making a textual decision for he had Latin, Greek, and other translations which read "of her."

There was, however, a conjectural emendation by Beza in his Latin text. Beza's New Testament had three running columns side by side. The first was his Greek text, the second his Latin translation, and the third the Latin Vulgate. Additionally, at the bottom of each page he made textual and doctrinal notes. His Latin translation reads, "Et quum impleti fuissent dies purgationis Mariae" (And when the days of Mary's pruification were fulfilled). Beza states that his conjectural emendation of "Mary" instead of "her" is proper based on the Levitical Law. He further states in a footnote that the reading "of them" is improper and distorts the sense of scripture. Beza notes,

"Most of the (Greek) Codices read "of them" and likewise so does Origen, and unfortunately so does Erasmus. However, they have not considered what the actual Law says about the purification of the mother. And so consequently the old editions (of the Greek) are unfavorable . . . because they have distorted the truth of scripture and in some degree have lessened the image of Mary's purity." (Theodore Beza, Nouum Sive Nouum Foedus Iesu Christi, 1589. Translated into English from the Latin footnote.)

Both Tyndale and the Great Bible have the reading as we find it in the majority of Greek manuscripts. Tyndale reads, "And when the tyme of their purificacion (after the lawe of Moyses) was come." However, the Geneva and Bishops' Bibles read "her purification." Of course, the Catholic Rheims Version would also read the same, being based on the Latin Vulgate which we have already shown to support the reading of the Traditional Text here. Thus it reads, "And after the daies were fully ended of her purification according to the law of Moyses, they caried him into Hierusalem, to present him to our Lord."

James White wrote, "Let's think about what this means." It means that some textual critics are willing to present partial evidence, distort information, redefine terminology, and simply make up statistical data in order to hold "to their own traditions."

 

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