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Matthew 19:29

Some translations include the word wives. Others do not. For example:

NIV: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

ESV: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

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    An equally valid question is "why do some versions add the word "wife" to the text?
    – Dottard
    Oct 17, 2022 at 20:54
  • Ah..... Should I ask this? Should this be a separate questions? So Jesus is pretty much encouraging us to leave our mom and dad but not our wife?
    – user4951
    Oct 18, 2022 at 7:09
  • "wife" is in the parallel passage in Luke as my answer documents.
    – Dottard
    Oct 18, 2022 at 9:59

3 Answers 3

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It's a matter of textual variants and which Biblical manuscripts the translators chose to follow. The Majority Text, a superset of manuscripts which includes what are popularly called "the Received Text" (Textus Receptus), includes the Greek word "γυναῖκά" which is correctly translated in this context as "wife" (it is singular). There are certain minority manuscripts which omit this.

Biblegateway shows that the footnote in the NIV says:

Matthew 19:29 Some manuscripts do not have or wife.

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  • Of course it's a matter of textual variants and don't you think that's no kind of Answer, but merely a re-statement of the Question? Oct 17, 2022 at 21:42
  • @RobbieGoodwin The question states that translations are different. The answer states that manuscripts are different. Those are not the same statements.
    – Ben Miller
    Oct 18, 2022 at 12:37
  • This is not factually correct - The Majority text is NOT the Received Text - the two differ in hundreds of places.
    – Dottard
    Dec 22, 2022 at 20:58
  • @Dottard The Received Text is the Majority Text, but the reverse is not true. A duck is a bird, but not every bird is a duck. The term "Majority Text" is just what it says it is--and it amounts to well over 90% of all extant manuscripts that read essentially the same. There are minor variations, of course. But the so-called Received Text is a subset of the Majority Text, and within the Majority Text itself you will find many variations.
    – Biblasia
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:20
  • @Even that simplistic characterization is just that. Sections of the TR do not even follow the MT but follow the western text - The RT is quite a mish-mash. But this is not the place for this - I have documented this in great detail - but that is another question.
    – Dottard
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:51
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Matt 19:29 contains a disputed reading that is difficult and quite uncertain (USB5 gives their selected reading a rating of {C} - difficult to decide which variant to select). That is the MSS are divided between including or excluding the word "wife".

For all the details of which MSS supports which reading, see UBS5 or UBS4. Bruce Metzger's Textual commentary on the GNT offers these remarks:

The presence of γυναῖκα in many witnesses seems to be the result of scribal assimilation in the Lukan parallel (Luke 18:29), ...

That is, the underlying Greek text is disputed and some modern versions make a slightly different judgement as to whether to include or exclude "wife" from the text.

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  • what is scribal assimilation?
    – user4951
    Oct 17, 2022 at 16:41
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    @user4951 - scribal assimilation is assimilation of a similar text (from Luke) with the text at hand. That is, sometimes scribes would write part of the text from memory (by mistake) instead of strictly copying the text before them.
    – Dottard
    Oct 17, 2022 at 20:14
  • Would be helpful if you show me where in Luke this phrase show up
    – user4951
    Oct 18, 2022 at 17:12
  • @user4951 - It is listed in the answer above - Luke 18:29 - “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God." Did you even read the answer?
    – Dottard
    Oct 18, 2022 at 19:55
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To add some clarity to your question, as I understand it, different translations have different words (some more, some less) in Mt. 19:29. And you'd like to know why.

As others above noted, the issue isn't the translation (for even the NIV notes the addition of "wife" in the footnote). It is an issue of text-criticism. It is an issue of what manuscripts (hand-copied documents) we have extant for verses and books. And, as a result, what is the original reading.

What is the evidence we have for inclusion of "γυναῖκα". The CNTTS database does a decent job of piling up the evidence:

19:29–9.0 S 0 η(3) πατερα η(4) μητερα 03 a

A 2 η πατερα η μητερα η γυναικα MT SBL TR c f g1 h q A 2 X η π̅ρ̅α̅ η μ̅ρ̅α̅ η γυναικα 01 04 07 09 011 013 017 019 021 028 030 032 034 037 038 045 2 13 28 33 35 69 118 124 157 346 565 579 700 788 1005 1071 1424 2358 2372 ƒ13

M 50 X η μ̅ρ̅α̅ 05 b ff2

R 51 η γονεις 1 1582 ƒ1

Bill Warren, “Matthew 19:29–0.0n , Accordance electronic ed. (New Orleans: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004), paragraph 19734.

Vatican's and Vercelli (old latin 'a') include just "father or mother" (not 'wife').

A bunch of witnesses (and some of them very weighty) include 'wife.'

Bezæ and one old latin witness include "mom or children" (ⲏ ⲙⲏⲧⲉⲣⲁ ⲏ ⲧⲉⲕⲛⲁ·) But 'father' and 'wife' get omitted

A handful of witnesses seemingly just give up and include the reading "parents."

How do we sort this out? Bezæ here can probably be factored out, since it not only omits 'wife', but also omits 'father' as well. That leaves us with one Greek witness, Vaticanus (03) including the shorter reading. ALL, I repeat, ALL of the other witnesses include "wife."

Now, we have to be careful in gauging original readings by numbers. For there's the old rule in text criticism that manuscripts need to be weighed, not just counted. And Vaticanus is a well-copied manuscript. But, when one looks at the scribal habits of the copyist, one sees that the scribe has tendencies to omit here and there, and sometimes when there is better evidence to include the longer reading. (cf. Mat. 18:15; Matthew 21:28; Matthew 21:31; Mark 3:22; Mark 7:4; Mark 9:6, urgghh, there's even more, but this is enough to make the point)

With that in mind, the primary evidence for readings comes from the greek manuscripts handed down to us that are copied faithfully. The weight of the evidence drives us to include the longer reading.

There are hundreds, if not even thousands, of these sorts of examples in NT manuscripts. And bible translations give us only a handful of these variants. None of these variants affect theology. But, in this example, it seems fairly clear that the weight of well-copied manuscripts speaks against Vaticanus (and thus for including 'wife')

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