5

King James, together with a few other translations, has "fish and honeycomb" in Luke 24:42, while most other translations only mention "fish". Why is "honeycomb" missing? Is "honeycomb" a newer added word? Or was it left out by some translators due to some error in the recording of the word in the text that was copied?

Luke 24:42 (NIV) They gave him a piece of broiled fish.

Luke 24:42 (KJV) And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

4
  • 1
    Indeed, the honeycomb is present in the Textus Receptus (KJV's Greek source) but not in the manuscripts used now, according to my interlinear. Unfortunately no more detail is given than that. Feb 7, 2019 at 11:16
  • 1
    'Honeycomb' is also included in Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Both the Wycliffe translation and the Douay-Rheims include it.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 7, 2019 at 12:14
  • One theory is that some well-meaning translators omitted it, because it was already then recognized that eating fish was healthier than eating sugar, and they tried to avoid influencing the young Christians the wrong way. Another theory is that they omitted the word "honeycomb", because they wanted to emphasize the secret sign for a Christian, which was a fish. Feb 8, 2019 at 0:02
  • Another theory still is that it was a piece of honey glazed fish that was given to him. Apr 5, 2023 at 0:35

6 Answers 6

7

The matter is whether four words in the Greek should or should not be included. The Greek phrase in question is: "kai apo melissiou keriou" which is literally, "and from a beehive a honecomb".

The UBS5 ranks the omission of the phrase as {B} meaning they were fairly confident (but not certain) that it should be omitted. The evidence cited includes:

OMISSION: P75, 01, 02, 03, 05, 019, 032, 579, it(d, e), syr(s), cop(sa, bo-pt), Clemment, Origen, Cyril(1/2), Ps-Athanasius, Ausgustine(1/4). Compiled GNT: WH, NA4, NA27, NA28, UBS4, UBS5, Souter, NIV, THGNT, SBL.

INCLUSION: 037, 044, f1, 28, 33, 180, 205, 565, 579, 700, 892, 1006, 1010, 1071, 1241, 1292, 1342, 1424, 1505, 07, 013, 022, some lectionaries, it(b, q), syr(c, p, h), cop(bo-pt), eth, Justin(??), Amphilochius, Epiphanius, Cyril(1/2), 07(*), 038, f13, 157, 1243, L253, some italas, + a few more. Compiled GNT: Majority Text, Byzantine text, F35, Orthodox-Patriarchal Text, Textus Receptus. Both Jerome's Vulgate (400 AD) and the Clementine Vulgate text (1592) have "et favum mellis" = and honeycomb.

Thus, the earliest MSS omit and later MSS (from about 400 onwards) appear to add it. However, omitting this text in some MSS continued well into the high middle ages.

This another of those textual differences that are interesting but does not affect any teaching of Scripture; that is, whether it is included or omitted does not appear to matter.

Lastly, since most modern translations use NA28/UBS5, the phrase is omitted. The obvious exceptions are those that follow the Textus Receptus, namely the KJV and its progeny, where the phrase is included.

4
  • (+1). Are you able to link to your source for the above ? Or is it difficult/impossible ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 8, 2019 at 2:56
  • All the above data is from my paper copy of UBS5. I am not aware of an on-line version of UBS5. If you want I can scan it for you??
    – user25930
    Feb 8, 2019 at 2:57
  • Thank you, but no need. I was hoping for an online facility. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 8, 2019 at 10:45
  • @ Nigel J I'm not sure if it helps, please see here a transcript of P75 - no image available unfortunately. in P75 there is omission as shown in the above. Feb 8, 2019 at 13:48
3

I double checked Mac's Musings answer against some major readings from the II-VIII centuries. See some of them:

Justin Martyr (II Century), On the Resurrection,IX: And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honeycomb and fish.

Tertullian (II century), De Corona, 14: For it was after the gall He tasted the honeycomb, and He was not greeted as King of Glory in heavenly places till He had been condemned to the cross as King of the Jews, having first been made by the Father for a time a little less than the angels, and so crowned with glory and honor.

Athanasius (IV cent.), Against the Arians, IV: For certainly he who gives food to others, and they who give him, touch hands. For ‘they gave Him,’ Scripture says, ‘a piece of a broiled fish and of an honeycomb, and’ when He had ‘eaten before them, He took the remains and gave to them

Jerome (IV cent.), Letter to Eustochium: And now do you in your turn answer me these questions... How do you explain the fact that ... Peter saw the Lord standing on the shore and eating a piece of a roasted fish and a honeycomb.

So, in the II century, Justin Martyr and Tertullian were reading a "honeycomb version", whereas Origen was reading a "no honeycomb" version (see answer above). In the IV century, Athanasius too was reading something similar. Jerome is an interesting case, as he seems to mix up John 21:1 with Luke 24:42. why did he do that?

And then, further on:

Augustine (IV-V), Sermon 229J.3.21: Augustine he is talking about the fish only. In Augustine's allegorical interpretation, the roasted fish means faith proved by fire:

Augustine: Imagine a complete body of martyrs. Some suffer because of love, while others suffer out of pride. Remove the pride portion, offer the love portion. That is the food for Christ. Give Christ his portion. Christ loves the martyrs who suffered out of love.

Not a word about honeycomb.

Cyril of Alexandria (IV-V), Commentary on Luke, 24.25: the fact that Jesus eats roasted fish is to confirm the fact that his body is real. Again, not a word about honeycomb.

Hesychius of Alexandria (V/VI cent.), Homily of the Resurrection: While Peter is fishing behold in the Lord’S hands bread and honeycomb ...

Just like Jerome, Hesychius of Alexandria seems to mix up John 21:1 with Luke 24:42, only that here there is no fish, there is bread instead.

John of Damascus (VII-VIII), Orthodox Faith 4.1.22: eating roasted fish is to confirm the truth of the resurrection:

John of Damascus: After his resurrection from the dead, he put aside all his passions: ruin, hunger and thirst, sleep and fatigue, and the like. Although he did taste food after his resurrection, it was not in obedience to any law of nature. He did not feel hunger, but at the appointed time, he confirmed the truth of the resurrection by showing that the flesh which had suffered and that which had risen were the same.

Not a word about honeycomb.

So, in between II-IV cent. I have found authors who are reading Luke 24:42 with honeycomb. Then, from IV to VIII century interpreters don't mention the honeycomb anymore. I find interesting especially Augustine, in whose allegorical reading, the honeycomb could have played an important part. If Augustine was able to link roasted fish + faith proved by fire, we have lots of reasons to think that if the honeycomb was in the text that Augustine was reading, then Augustine would have had take advantage of this and said something about it.

It is very possible that different other interpreters from the same period of time have had something to say about this honeycomb. I didn't check them all.

However I think my contribution is adding to Mac's Musings' picture, the evolution of the text from Luke 24:42 as reflected in some of the major readings of those centuries. One thing that you can notice is the fact that apparently up to the IV century, most authors have read a text with honeycomb. After that, the honeycomb is missing. And there is also some confusion: John 21:1 and Luke 24:42. It would be interesting to see if such a borderline can be traced in the history of the manuscripts too. Perhaps someone erased the honeycomb from Luke 24:42 in order to clarify things with respect to John 21:1? Can we take this into account as a hypothesis?

5
  • +1. Very informative and easy to read. An other comment on your answer that I would like to make concerns the translation of the original word that was translated to "honeycomb". Since some writers mix up two different occasions, could the word have been translated to say, "honey-bread" instead? Feb 8, 2019 at 22:50
  • I'm afraid not. The Greek goes: καὶ ἀπὸ μελισσίου κηρίου. Here, κηρίου is plainly "honeycomb". And μελισσίου, is "honey" from: 1. μέλι, "honey"; 2. or from μέλις, which is a barbarism for μέλι, "honey". In John 21:9 there is ἄρτον for "bread" (ἄρτος). No possible confusion between μελισσίου κηρίου and ἄρτον. Feb 9, 2019 at 17:46
  • It is probably farfetched, but could "honeycomb" have been a nickname of a popula kind of bread of the day; something similar to "croissant", or "danish pastry"? Feb 9, 2019 at 21:39
  • That is not 100% impossible, but you need some evidence for it. If you go on with your research and see if “honeycomb” is used in different other context and by various authors as a nickname for something else (croissant for instance), then yes, why not. But you have to prove it. At the present, the Greek wording is just “honeycomb”, that is all we know for sure. Feb 9, 2019 at 21:55
  • Well, I suppose that if that was the case, then the reason why many translators left it out could have been for the exact same reason that you just mentioned. Otherwise I can't understand why it was omitted? I mean John the Baptist ate honey in the wilderness, so why would it be contentious for Jesus to have a bit too? Feb 10, 2019 at 2:06
1

You need to study about textual criticism and read some reputed books such as Metzger & Ehrman's The Text of the New Testament, and Stanley Porter's Fundamentals of NT Textual Criticism, to learn about why these textual variants exists and why the new versions are based on critical text. Also start with Daniel Wallace articles on KJV.

Metzger textual commentary states on this verse,

24.42 me,roj {B}

The words kai. avpo. melissi,ou khri,ou (or kh,rion) (“and from a honeycomb”) in many of the later manuscripts (followed by the Textus Receptus) are an obvious interpolation, for it is not likely that they would have fallen out of so many of the best representatives of the earlier text-types. Since in parts of the ancient church honey was used in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the baptismal liturgy, copyists may have added the reference here in order to provide scriptural sanction for liturgical practice.

1
  • Another interpolation - thank you! May 28, 2023 at 15:22
0

Jesus said that the bread was a symbol of his body at the cross.

He fed bread and fish.

He said that man does not live by bread (the cross) alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.

Fish represent the word.

Peter had just miraculously pulled 153 fish to shore which his whole crew could not handle, when Jesus told him to feed his sheep.

What would he feed them? The whole word of God in fellowship with God. There was enough fish for 12x12 and 3x3 = 153.

When two things are together, they represent two sides of one thing. A flesh and a spiritual component. For example:

The soul that sins must die, but the spirit gives life. The joint is a connector, the marrow produces blood (life is in the blood) The passing thought is of the flesh, the intent of the heart is of the spirit.

Milk and honey represent the blessings of God. The Milk is a fat product, and the fat belongs to God in the sacrifice. It is spiritual blessings. Honey represents the blessings in the flesh.

It is probably an errant addition. Though Jesus physically ate fish, it represented the sharing of the word. The honey would imply he partook of fleshly pleasures.

We are allowed to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh within the bounds of God's gift. Pr 25:16 ¶ Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

In his return, he did not come for earthly pleasures.

0

Respectfully, I first noticed the missing “honeycomb” while doing a comparative study of different translations of post resurrection verses to the passage in Luke 24. After reading all your very thorough answers as to why the honeycomb reference was “removed”, I am deeply concerned.

May I respectfully ask why any cleric or Christian scholar or any human being, would ever consider themselves authorized to decide to “omit” anything that was in one of the original and oldest Greek texts - especially a Gospel eye witness a blunt in Luke — of Jesus? I’m not looking for justification on why — or their reasoning on whether eating a honeycomb is considered unhealthy (sugar) or might distract from the fish symbology. I’m asking why dies anyone get to have a say at all?

And if we indeed determined that the honeycomb reference in the earliest Greek manuscripts was later omitted for reasons as moot as those- but yet it is still included in the KJV and other versions… why has it not been put back in every version today?

It’s not that the honeycomb reference spiritually changes anything materially in the passage - but it does beg the bigger question: what else, that was in an original Greek manuscript - did mere humans (even if clergy or scholars) decide, for whatever personal reasoning, to leave out? When would that ever be pleasing to God?

This, to me, sets a dangerous precedent— beyond language translation(clearly not the case here) or meaning interpretation. I am of the belief (as stated in the book of Revelation) that we should never “remove” anything from the Bible —

I am so thankful the KJV translators (to this day) resisted , but the bigger question needs some thoughtful contemplation and resolution. Why would there ever be ANY arbitrary decision on “editing out verses, words, etc” from an original and most Ancient Greek manuscript of one of the Gospels?

I’m Deeply concerned - not by what was taken out (the hobeycomb) but by what this kind of arbitrary “editing by omission” represents— and why it is accepted as a practice (especially in this case) . Especially when justified by any reason that is not even remotely valid (due to scriptural conflicts or insufficient evidence that the text is repeated in at least one or more other manuscripts)

Per the gracious insights offered above by others who researched this exhaustively— the hobeycomb appears to be in several early texts and cited as such in the following:

Justin Martyr (II Century), On the Resurrection,IX: And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honeycomb and fish.

Tertullian (II century), De Corona, 14: For it was after the gall He tasted the honeycomb, and He was not greeted as King of Glory in heavenly places till He had been condemned to the cross as King of the Jews, having first been made by the Father for a time a little less than the angels, and so crowned with glory and honor.

Athanasius (IV cent.), Against the Arians, IV: For certainly he who gives food to others, and they who give him, touch hands. For ‘they gave Him,’ Scripture says, ‘a piece of a broiled fish and of an honeycomb, and’ when He had ‘eaten before them, He took the remains and gave to them

Jerome (IV cent.), Letter to Eustochium: And now do you in your turn answer me these questions... How do you explain the fact that ... Peter saw the Lord standing on the shore and eating a piece of a roasted fish and a honeycomb.

2
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics.SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Apr 3, 2023 at 20:17
  • Arbitrary is when the evidence on both sides are equal. This is very rare and you cannot say that unless you're read well in textual criticism. Start from this & start reading books. bible.org/seriespage/3-kjv-rv-elegance-accuracy kjv had no choice coz it's manuscripts was very bad and limited.
    – Michael16
    Apr 4, 2023 at 4:38
0

Honey isn't kosher. Especially if it’s not professionally filtered and there are any body parts left in it. My guess is that’s why honeycomb was removed in subsequent translations. They didn’t want to make Jesus appear as breaking any dietary laws.

2
  • The Christian scribes copying the NT were not Jews to observe kosher law. Read the other answers before posting. The word was added by scribes way later. Since in parts of the ancient church honey was used in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the baptismal liturgy, copyists may have added the reference here in order to provide scriptural sanction for liturgical practice.
    – Michael16
    Apr 13, 2023 at 12:50
  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Apr 13, 2023 at 13:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.