Acts 16:16 according to the Textus Receptus (Estienne, 1550):

Ἐγένετο δὲ πορευομένων ἡμῶν εἰς προσευχὴν παιδίσκην τινὰ ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνος ἀπαντῆσαι ἡμῖν ἥτις ἐργασίαν πολλὴν παρεῖχεν τοῖς κυρίοις αὐτῆς μαντευομένη

Acts 16:16 according to Nestle-Aland 28th edition:

Ἐγένετο δὲ πορευομένων ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν προσευχὴν παιδίσκην τινὰ ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα ὑπαντῆσαι ἡμῖν, ἥτις ἐργασίαν πολλὴν παρεῖχεν τοῖς κυρίοις αὐτῆς μαντευομένη.

My question concerns the word πύθωνος (Textus Receptus) and πύθωνα (NA28).

  1. What is the manuscript evidence in favor of each reading?
  2. What is the meaning of πύθωνος in the Textus Receptus?
  3. What is the meaning of πύθωνα in the NA28?

1 Answer 1


Manuscript Evidence

As far as manuscript evidence goes, Metzger offers the following:

  • πύθωνα appears in P74 א A B C* D* 81 326 1837 vg arm

  • πύθωνος appears in P45 C3 D2 E H L P most minuscules it syr

He prefers πύθωνα on what he sees as the harder reading.1

Translation and Meaning

Fitzmyer renders the former, being in the accusative, literally as "a little girl having a python spirit" or "a python as spirit", with the latter (in the genitive) as "the spirit of a python."2

In either case, both he and L. T. Johnson3 go on to explain that (per Plutarch) the pythōn was a mythical serpent or dragon slain by Apollo, that came to be associated with the Deplhic oracle as a guardian and the basis for one of the names of the prophetesses there. And so with its association to the oracle, the term came to denote a spirit of divination or a soothsayer.


  1. Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 396). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

  2. Fitzmyer, J. A. (2008). The Acts of the Apostles: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 31, p. 586). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

  3. Johnson, L. T. (1992). The Acts of the Apostles. (D. J. Harrington, Ed.) (Vol. 5, p. 293). Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

  • 1
    Nice. :) Might help to point out that the difference is one of accusative (-ωνα) which is then, I guess, appositional with πνεῦμα which is also accusative ("having a spirit, i.e., a python spirit...") vs. genetive (-ωνος) which is definitely the easier ("the spirit of a python") -- which is of course the alternative that Fitzmyer offers. It seems not much has changed here since the Expositor's Greek except the preference for the more difficult reading rather than the easier (and, perhaps, expected) one.
    – Dɑvïd
    Feb 28, 2015 at 22:26
  • @Davïd Yeah, as well, Pervo sees πνεῦμα πύθωνα as redundant - πύθωνα already containing the idea of a spirit - and thinks that explains the correction to πύθωνος in D and P45.
    – Soldarnal
    Feb 28, 2015 at 22:37

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