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One of the answers to the question about what 1st Corinthians 14:34-35 means suggests that the passage is a later interpolation. From the quote by J.W. Wartick, included in the answer, there are several external clues to suggest we should omit the passage:

  • It "moves" depending on which scribal branch a manuscript belongs to (i.e., Western manuscripts have the passage after verse 40).
  • Some manuscripts include distigmai marking that the scribe was uncertain about the passage in some way.
  • One important manuscript has been corrected to omit the passage altogether.
  • Clement does not quote this passage.

How persuasive is this evidence? Should we conclude that someone inserted this passage after the letter was written (or dictated) by Paul? Is there other evidence that we should consider?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I am going to attempt to walk through the major literature in this discussion, which will be a lot of back and forth. I have linked to all the major works referenced, however not all of the articles and books are freely available online (some must be purchased).

Both Gordon D. Fee and Philip B. Payne are notable scholars who believe that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation and should be omitted from the Bible. Other scholars who hold this position include Straatman, Fitzer, Barrett, and Ruef. In his article entitled Fuldensis, Sigla For Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Cor 14.34–5, Payne points out that

"...scribes in that period simply did not take the liberty to rearrange the argument of Scripture in this manner. We do not have even a single parallel example of a scribe rearranging the sequence of an original text of any of the NT letters to make it more logical. Furthermore, even if Bishop Victor felt he had the authority to rearrange the sequence of the text, there is no adequate reason why the text would make more sense reinserted at the end of the chapter."

In his article MS. 88 as Evidence for a Text Without 1 Cor 14.34–5, Payne claims that

"The evidence that ms. 88 was copied from a text of 1 Corinthians 14 without vv. 34–5 provides additional external support for the thesis that vv. 34–5 were not in the original text of 1 Corinthians 14."

Curt Niccum wrote an article entitled The Voice of the Manuscripts on the Silence of Women: The External Evidence for 1 Cor 14.34–5 that claimed the bar-umlauts themselves were added to the text at a later date and are thus not indicative of an interpolation, but rather of a paragraphos (marginal note).

Payne co-authored an article with Paul Canart entitled The Originality of Text-Critical Symbols in Codex Vaticanus where they argue their point based on new findings concerning the ink used in the Codex; from the introduction to the paper:

"The discovery that the ink of text-critical symbols in Codex Vaticanus matches the original ink of the codex breaks new ground for textual criticism. A scribe in the Middle Ages, apparently concerned with fading, traced over the original ink of every letter or word of Vaticanus unless it appeared to be incorrect. Thus, unreinforced letters and symbols reveal the original ink of the codex. The most obvious examples of the original ink are the few places its scribe inadvertently duplicated a word, phrase or clause. In these cases the reinforcer traced over only one of the duplicates, so the other reveals the original ink."

Payne and Canart make the case that this finding further proves that the original manuscript omitted 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

Payne based some of his beliefs about these texts being an interpolation on the work of J. Edward Miller who had posited that various umlauts (distigmai) might have been an indication of scribal uncertainty concerning the authenticity of these passages. However, after Payne cited Miller's work, Miller wrote an article entitled Some Observations on the Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35 to refute Payne's position, arguing that Payne misinterpreted his findings. Payne wrote a followup article in response to this entitled The Text-Critical Function of the Umlauts in Vaticanus, with Special Attention to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35: A Response to J. Edward Miller, where he makes the case that the bar-umlaut does indeed have a special meaning.

Further work was published in 2007 studying umlauts in Codex Vaticanus, although it is not specifically related to the text in question (but sheds light on it). Unfortunately the work was published in French (and I am not aware of an English translation).

In 2009, Payne published his book Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters which contains his most current thoughts and most compelling arguments for 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to be considered an interpolation, along with his views on all of the other passages dealing with gender roles in the Paul's letters. The book is very scholarly and does a great job considering multiple viewpoints, employing both historical-grammatical interpretation and textual criticism to make his points.

Despite Payne and others scholars' findings concerning distigmai in the text, conservative scholars still insist that this is insufficient evidence that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation. Daniel B. Wallace summarizes this perspective in an article entitled The Textual Problem of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, where he argues that despite the variance in where verses 34-35 are placed in the text, they must have been a part of the original text because they exist in all of the early manuscripts. Wallace makes the case that the Apostle Paul himself added the paragraphos.

In summary, there has been significant research conducted on both sides of this issue. Future work remains to be done concerning the meaning and dating of distigmai in manuscripts. Regardless of whether or not 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation, a parallel text exists in Paul's first letter to Timothy. This parallel text should always be considered when interpreting 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

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Abstract

Using the principle that a text is innocent until shown guilty, the text in question was part of Paul's original letter to the Corinthians.


Since there are two strands of textual tradition on this passage, there are only a few possibilities:

  1. The verses belong between 33 and 36. (The traditional view.)
  2. The Western texts are correct and the verses belong after 40.
  3. The verses are a late addition and do not belong in either place or anywhere else among Paul's letters.
  4. The verses were added shortly after the letter (or at least that portion) was finished or once it was received in Corinth.

I don't think anyone argues for #2 since #1 is the harder reading. Part of the problem here is that the instructions on women speaking in church are parenthetical to Paul's main argument: that the exercise of spiritual gifts should be done in careful order. Ironically, the instructions to women that they ought not to interrupt, themselves interrupt Paul's thoughts. It appears that after the letter was written, somebody went back and added this footnote to the text.

Where would they do that? The simplest solution (and it seems common enough among scribes) was to add the admonition to the margin. And it's possible that the start of the marginalia was around verse 33 and the end was around 40. If so, scribes could reasonably add the text to either location when making a copy. They might also add some sort of mark to signify special handling. We don't have the original autograph, so we can only speculate. Note, however, that omitting the text is also a form of guessing about the original letter.

Who wrote the verses? We can't know. If they were part of the original document, it strains credulity to imagine that Paul did not approve of them. This isn't the place to argue whether Paul authored the Pastorals, but even if he didn't, the early church would not find these verses foreign to the man:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.—1st Timothy 2:11-12 (ESV)

One interesting difference between the instructions to Timothy and to Corinth is that the later does not use the first person pronoun. If verse 37 were part of the movable text, it would be harder to suggest that Paul did not know or approve of the command:

If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.—1st Corinthians 14:37 ESV)

Therefore there is an outside chance that the text was added without Paul's knowledge either before the letter was sent or after it arrived in Corinth. It's even possible that someone remembered Paul saying something like this at another time and put the verse in the margin as a note. Possible, but it seems to me unlikely without further evidence.

At any rate, since these words are universally included in all known copies of the letter (though not all place it after verse 33), we can be confident that the instruction was first incorporated very early in the history of the text. In fact, at the latest the verses would need to be part of the earliest copy circulated outside of Corinth.


I strongly recommend reading the article by Dr. Wallace (Senior NT Editor of the NET Bible) which was included nearly in full in the NET Bible footnote on these verses. This was my main source of information for this answer.

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It looks like the NET commentary contains the entire Wallace article I quoted, lol. See bible.org/article/textual-problem-1-corinthians-1434-35 –  Daи Feb 15 '12 at 17:47
    
@digitaloday: I should have guessed. Dr. Wallace is the Senior NT Editor of the NET Bible. Goes to show I didn't track down every link in your answer. :-( Thanks for catching this. –  Jon Ericson Feb 15 '12 at 18:05
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Not a problem @JonEricson. Posting the content of Wallace's article is helpful to the discussion. My response was concerned with summarizing a lot of different authors' perspectives over time (and some of the banter back and forth in academia), so I didn't quote as much. It was just funny because as I was reading your response I was thinking, "This commentary sounds a lot like the article I read by Wallace." Then I realized it was lol. I am surprised they copied and pasted his entire article into the NET translation note rather than quote part of it with a reference to the rest of it. –  Daи Feb 15 '12 at 18:11
    
@digitaloday: I edited the second half of the answer out. I like to copy these footnotes in full to fix the formatting problems, but I'll have to look out for copies of the text properly formatted as articles to link to in the future. –  Jon Ericson Feb 15 '12 at 18:14
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I can think of another possibility: 5. The verses were added, without Paul's knowledge, shortly after the letter was written. For example, maybe someone in the Corinth church added them to the margin of the original copy. Or maybe someone added them into the margin of the first copy made from the original letter, then the second copy was circulated while the church held onto the original. –  Bruce Alderman Feb 15 '12 at 18:32

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