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.

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    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. – Luke Sawczak Feb 7 '19 at 11:16
  • 'Honeycomb' is also included in Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Both the Wycliffe translation and the Douay-Rheims include it. – Nigel J Feb 7 '19 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. – Constantthin Feb 8 '19 at 0:02

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.

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  • (+1). Are you able to link to your source for the above ? Or is it difficult/impossible ? – Nigel J Feb 8 '19 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 '19 at 2:57
  • Thank you, but no need. I was hoping for an online facility. Regards. – Nigel J Feb 8 '19 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. – Constantin Jinga Feb 8 '19 at 13:48

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?

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  • +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? – Constantthin Feb 8 '19 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. – Constantin Jinga Feb 9 '19 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"? – Constantthin Feb 9 '19 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. – Constantin Jinga Feb 9 '19 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? – Constantthin Feb 10 '19 at 2:06

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