Sometimes little words can carry big distinctions.  Both words are only a few letters long, and they even share a common letter, but there is a world of difference between my wife and your wife!  Confuse the two at your own risk.  Little differences like this become even more important when we attempt to study God’s word.  In this post we are going to consider the manuscript data for Luke 24:47 so that we can reconstruct the original wording of the text.  In a following post I will make some further comments, explaining why the difference is so important for our theology.

The Issue

KJV et al.

ESV, NIV, NASB, et al.

and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. and that repentance for the remission of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

As we can see from our chart above, in the KJV Jesus is talking about two distinct things: 1) repentance and 2) remission.  According to other versions, however, Jesus is talking about only one thing, repentance, which naturally results in remission.  Do we get remission by repenting (ESV et al.)?  Or is repenting one thing, and remissions of sins is something else (KJV)?  How we answer these questions is critical to our theology, and our salvation!  In order to know which wording is the right wording, we have to examine the manuscript evidence.

The Manuscripts

We only have to glance at the data to realize that it is overwhelmingly in favor of the KJV reading.

εἰς/FOR

και/AND

Greek Manuscripts

P75 א B

A C D F H L N W Δ Θ Ψ 33
majority text
Lectionary manuscripts

Early Versions

Sahidic

Bohairic

Syriac (p)

Old Latin (a aur c d e f ff2 l q r1)

Vulgate
Syriac (s h pal)
Armenian
Ethiopic
Georgian

Church Fathers

none listed in UBS5

Hesychius Cyprian Hilary Augustine

UBS5 lists only three manuscripts that say “repentance for remission,” over against 99% of other Greek manuscripts which say “repentance and remission.”  There are really only three ancient versions that support “for,” but there are five or seven ancient versions (depending on how you count the evidence) that support “and,” not to mention all of the Old Latin manuscripts which support this reading.  And it should catch our attention that no early Christian quoted the verse “repentance for remission,” but at least four early Christian authors quoted the verse “repentance and remission.”

And that is only when we glance!  The data is even more imposing when we actually begin to interpret it.

It is true that the oldest manuscripts, P75 א B, do say “repentance FOR remission.”  But let’s remember, even the oldest manuscripts can contain errors.  And when we are trying to reconstruct an ancient text, the ages of the manuscripts aren’t even the most important factor.  We also need to consider the chronological flow of transmission and the geographic dispersion of the text.

When it comes to chronological flow, “και/and” blows “εἰς/for” out of the water.

εἰς/FOR

και/AND

200s

P75

Cyprian

300s

א B 

W a syrs Hilary

400s

Sahidic syrp 

A C D d e ff2  Vulgate

Georgian Hesychius Augustine

500s

H N f q syrpal Ethiopic

600s

aur l r1 syrh

700s

Ψ
800s and later Boharic

F L Δ Θ c 33

A few comments.  For one thing, notice that “εἰς/for” has a three century gap in its chain of transmission, whereas “και/and” has a fairly consistent flow.  For another thing, notice that the readings are both approximately the same age: they both have support from the 200s.  I argue that Cyprian is  a witness to a text at least as old as P75 because it would take time for Luke’s gospel to be translated from Greek into Latin and to work its way over to Cyprian in Africa.

By the 300s “και/and” has twice as much support as its competitor—and the support is diverse. “εἰς/for” has only two Greek manuscripts, but “και/and” has a Greek ms, a Latin ms, a Syriac version, and a patristic citation.

And that is just for chronology!  When it comes to geographic dispersion, “και/and” has an even stronger case.  Of the six witnesses for “εἰς/for,” five of them are from Egypt.  On the other hand, “και/and” has witnesses from Egypt (A C W syrs), Africa (c e Cyprian Augustine), Italy (a D d), France (Hilary ff2), Jerusalem (Hesychius), Switzerland (Δ), Russia (Θ), Greece (Ψ), and the British Isles (r aur), to say nothing for the territory that is covered by the Vulgate, Armenian, and Ethiopic versions.

By way of summary:
1) “repentance FOR remission” (modern versions) is only slightly older than its 
competitor; but it looses all Greek support by the 400s; and all of its witnesses are clustered around Egypt.  On the other hand,

2) “repentance AND remission” (KJV) is just as ancient or only slightly younger than its competitor; it has steady transmission throughout time, both in Greek and versional sources; and its support is regionally diverse from an early point, and continues to be throughout transmission.

Likelihoods

Now that we have considered the data, let’s think for a moment.  Which situation is more likely?

Situation 1: “repentance εἰς/for remission” is what Luke originally wrote.  Somehow “εἰς/for” was changed to “και/and ” at an extremely early date.  This change would have had to occur some time before 260 (Cyprian), because the wrong reading “και/and” already had diverse support by the mid-300s (one Greek witness [W], one Syriac witness [syrs], and two Latin witnesses [a Hilary]).

For some reason the wrong reading “και/and” continued to grow exponentially from there, so that it eventually became the accepted reading in every extant Greek manuscript (except three) and every early version (except three), across the entire territory and throughout the entire timeline of the early church.  Even though “εἰς/for” was the correct reading, no early church father ever quoted the verse this way, because the false reading “και/and” became so popular.

And thus the authentic reading “εἰς/for” was lost to the universal ancient church, and could only be found in a hyper-minority of witnesses which all cluster around Egypt.

*OR*

Situation 2: “repentance και/and remission” is what Luke originally wrote.  At a very early date (the early 200s) an Egyptian manuscript (P75) changed “και/and” to “εἰς/for”.  This early mistake became the popular reading in Egypt, establishing itself in other Egyptian manuscripts (א B).  Because the Greek mss in Egypt said “εἰς/for,” the early translations of Luke in and around Egypt (Sahidic Boharic syrp) also contained this error.

Meanwhile everywhere else, even in other places in Egypt (A C W) the authentic reading “και/and” continued to spread out across the global ancient church through the normal process of textual transmission.  Most scribes did not change “και/and” to “εἰς/for”.  Thus the authentic reading “και/and” made its way into the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts through the normal process of copying and into the vast majority of early versions through the normal process of translating.  This is why “και/and” can be found in 99.9% of all extant Greek mss, in every Old Latin ms, in the Vulgate, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Georgian versions, and in multiple quotations by early church fathers.

Conclusion

Based on the available evidence, I believe that Luke’s original wording was “repentance AND remission of sins” just as the KJV says.  Since this is the case, repentance is not something that we do in order to obtain remission of sins (as “repentance FOR remission” would seem to imply).  This means that repentance is one thing and remission of sins is another.  In another post we will consider what impact this has—or should have—on our theology

One thought on ““And” or “For”?—Luke 24:47

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