Part Five – A Textual Study of Jude 1:22 – internal textual considerations and overall conclusions

2015-12-23 21.40.39

Note: The image above was taken by the author of the text of Jude 1:22 as it appears in the critical Greek text of Nestle-Aland 28th edition.


Over the past several months, this blogger has been investigating the textual issues surrounding Jude 1:22. The reason for this study is two-fold: to better understand the pastoral and practical ramifications of Jude 1:22 and to discern what would had been the original wording of the verse.  The latter reason fits under the discipline of what is called “textual criticism”. In the science and art of textual criticism, the concern lies in recovery of the original wording of an ancient document like the New Testament Book of Jude among all of the many handwritten Greek manuscripts and ancient translations. The question of course is: “how does one engage in the practice and procedure of textual criticism?” Such a practice goes with the assumption that we can know what the authors originally wrote and thus we have in our English translations today the meaning and wording in so far as such translations follow the underlying Greek texts.

Thankfully, scholars such as Dr. David Alan Black, Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Theological Seminary, have produced manuals that walk students and pastors through the process. In this particular study of Jude 1:22 we have been utilizing Dr. Black’s volume: “New Testament Textual Criticism – A Concise Guide”. We have explored by way of his outline the preliminaries for studying the underlying text of Jude 1:22 and the manuscript evidence or “external evidence” pertaining to the variations of wording and phrasing of the Greek text. I have attempted to introduce readers to the fruits of such a study who may never had studied Greek. Below are links to prior blogposts that can connect readers to the work we have done on Jude 1:22 for those readers interested in seeing how such a process is done:

Part One – A Textual Critical Study of Jude 1:22 – Introducing Pastoral and Text Critical Issues

Part Two – A Textual Critical Study of Jude 1:22 – Preliminary Considerations

Part Three – A Textual Critical Study of Jude 1:22 – beginning to work with a textual apparatus

Part Four – A Textual Critical Study of Jude 1:22 – Considering the external manuscript evidence

We won’t rehearse all of the details from those posts. Rather, we will simply say that thus far, the various readings for the wording of Jude 1:22 have brought us to two candidates that are of near equal weight and standing among the manuscripts and current translations. Translations and versions such as the KJV and NKJV go with the reading:  ἐλέγχετε διακρινομενους (“rebuking those who doubt” or “having compassion on some, making a difference”). Other English translations go with the other leading candidate for the original wording of Jude 1:22 in this phrase: ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομένους (which the ESV, for instance, renders “and have mercy on those who doubt”).

Whichever reading we go with will result in slightly different ways Christians handle those who struggle with doubts in their Christian walk. Both readings urge us to be involved, have concern and show mercy. In the studies we have underwent thus far in this study, the external evidence seems to offer various arguments – pro and con – for either reading.

The first reading, (ἐλέγχετε διακρινομενους and its sub-variants), includes the idea of challenging and perhaps correcting those who doubt along with mercy (as implied by older English translations like the KJV and NKJV). The second reading, ( ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομενους and its sub-variations), emphasizes that, in the mane, we need to deal purely in the realm of mercy, patience and forbearance with fellow-Christians who wrestle with questions, doubts or concerns about Christian doctrine and life.

Whichever reading is discerned to be the original wording of Jude 1:22, the next verse, Jude 1:23, has more than enough information to cover the bases, resulting in the ages old observation that no textual variation in the Hebrew or Greek manuscripts of the Bible jeopardizes any major doctrine of the Christian faith.

Understanding what is meant by “internal evidence” in the textual study of the Biblical text

Whenever we talk about “internal evidence” for a particular set of readings in a given text, we are concerned about how that particular author may have worded the text in question. According to Dr. Black’s manual, internal evidence includes three main details:

a. Transcriptional probabilities. Test each of the variants in light of known types of scribal errors. Such errors can include a phenomena whereby the scribe of a given manuscript may had unwittingly included a word from a previous or following line into the text (called “parablepsis”) or wrote twice what should had been written once (called “dittography”).

b. Intrinsic Probabilities. Examine each variant from the standpoint of the author’s style, vocabulary and theology.

c. Evaluation. Arrange variants in descending order of preference on the basis of internal evidence.

In the literature of textual criticism, scholars will usually list certain “criteria” that are used in evaluating the internal evidence just described above. Dr. Norman Geisler in his book: “A General Introduction to the Bible”, pages 57-60, gives the following standard “criteria” for weighing the internal evidence of a given text:

a. The older reading is to be preferred

b. The more difficult reading is to be preferred

c. The shorter reading is to be preferred

d. The reading which best explains the others is to be preferred

e. The reading with the widest geographical support is the preferable one

f. The reading that conforms most to the style of the author is preferred

g. The reading which reflects no doctrinal bias is the preferred one.

Applying the methods of internal evidence to the text of Jude 1:22

So what do we find whenever we apply the criteria listed above, as well as the headings described in Dr. David Alan Black’s manual? Amazingly, the evidence for either reading turns out to be remarkably 50/50 with respect to the internal considerations of the text of Jude 1:22. In working through the seven criterion outlined by Dr. Geisler, one notices a “see-saw” phenomena, whereby one reading seems to have more plausibility, with the next criteria lending credence to the other reading. Let the reader notice the findings between what we will call variant #1 (ἐλέγχετε = rebuke or correct) versus variant #2 (ἐλεᾶτε = to show mercy, have compassion):

a. The older reading criteria seems equally matched, with variant #1 found in manuscripts dating back to the fifth century and readings potentially preceeding that date (manuscripts A, C, 33, 81, Boharic version and Vulgate) and Variant #2 roughly giving the same age (p72, codex Siniaticus and Vaticanus).

b. The more difficult reading appears to be variant #1 (see why in my concluding remarks at the end of this post).

c. Both variants are equal in brevity.

d. Dr. Bruce Metzger in his classic work “A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition”, writes on page 660 regarding how variant #2 seems to explain the emergence of variant #1: “The….reading is obviously a secondary development, introduced by copyists….”. Now we won’t go into the highly technical discussion introduced by Metzger, only to say he prefers  variant #2 over variant #1.

e. Both readings have near equal geographical distribution with respect to where manuscripts were copied containing their readings. This means that Christians throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world were likely aware of both readings at some point.

f. Variant #1 is a verb that is used by Jude in 1:15 of his letter.  However, variant #2 is also used by Jude in 1:23. This particular criteria, by itself, yields no definitive conclusion as to which variant may had been original. This also reminds us too that all the criteria must be considered together and that they all give a cumulative result as to which reading has the greater probability of being the original reading.

g. Neither variation has any particular doctrinal bias that could had resulted from a scribe copying the text. Hence, this particular criteria yields no definitive conclusion.

So in light of what we find from considering both the external manuscript evidence of Jude 1:22 and the internal evidence, it appears that either reading has about as much plausibility as the other. In this author’s mind at least, variant #1 may have a razor’s-thin advantage, but not hardly enough to merit hearty debate. As author and professor Dr. Bryan Chapell recently noted in his lectures on homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary, there appears to be about 50/50 support for either reading in Jude 1:22.

Summary and conclusion of our textual study on Jude 1:22

The aim of this study was to examine the textual status of Jude 1:22 so as to offer some pastoral application of its contents. It appears that, for all practical intents and purposes, the readings we find reflected in our English translations are reliable and proper with respect to the evidence at hand. It would seem that the readings from both the external and internal evidence yields a near-tie in discerning which reading might had been the original. In widening our study to include Jude 1:21 and Jude 1:23, it may very well be the case that regarding variant #1 (ἐλέγχετε = rebuke or correct) versus variant #2 (ἐλεᾶτε = to show mercy, have compassion) as being the original reading of 1:22 may provide balance in pastorally knowing how to minister to those who doubt.

This observation would yield the three-fold instruction of Jude 1:21-23 as being “ἐλεᾶτε = show mercy”, “ἐλέγχετε = offer-correction”, “ἐλεᾶτε = show mercy”.  As noted in the above comments on the criteria of internal evidence applied to Jude 1:22, regarding ἐλέγχετε as original would seem to make sense, due to how the three-fold verbal structure of Jude 1:21-23 is slightly more difficult than the straight-forward smoothness of the three-fold repetition of the verb ἐλεᾶτε (“to show mercy”) that would be the case if we take ἐλεᾶτε to be the original reading in Jude 1:22.

If I were preaching this text or applying it in a church setting, I would utilize the wider context of Jude 1:21-23 to ensure the proper application. Including both of those verses demonstrates that, as said earlier in this post, no textual variation has ever jeopardized any significant doctrine. Whenever we apply other exegetical methods such as context, analysis of the literary form of the author (i.e genre analysis) and the like, we can rest assured that ministering to those who doubt must include hearty doses of mercy and patience. Discipleship and urging one another onto love and good deeds are spoken of in so-many places in the Bible (such as Hebrews 10:24-25). The hope has been that this study has caused us to reflect on a deeper level how we may be more patient and merciful to our fellow Christians. To God be the glory!


About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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