Thursday, October 07, 2010

Jesus Judged the Israelites in the Wilderness

An aquaintance of mine pointed out to me a textual variant at Jude 1:5. Now it is not so much the variant but what the text is about. He wrote,

There is some variation w/ the greek, some say "κυριος" [Lord] and others say "ιησους" [Joshua], but off the top of my head, I don't think that "κυριος" in the NT ever refers to the Father. (do you know of an example?) Plus, verse 4 calls Jesus both "κυριον"and "δεσποτην"! So, Jesus destroyed those who did not believe in the OT after he had saved them from Egypt. Paints a little different picture than the long hair fairy Jesus!
I decided to get Philip Comfort's, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, out and see what it had to say about the variant.

Among all the readings cited above, the first and second variants are the most remarkable, for they say that "Jesus delivered his people out of Egypt." This reading is found in A B 33 17 39 [among others] cop Origen Cyril Jerome Bede- an impressive collection of witnesses. P72 may possibly be an indirect witness to the reading with "Jesus," because it shows that the scribe had before him in his exemplar a messianic title--"Christ" (="Messiah"). At any rate, it is easier to argue (from a textual perspective) that the reading with "Jesus" is the one from which all the others deviated than to argue that the reading with "Lord" (or "God") was changed to "Jesus," because scribes were not known for fabricating difficult readings.

Some scholars, such as Wikgren have argued that Jude may have written (Joshua) in Jude 5 intending "Joshua" as in Heb 4:8. But this is very unlikely, because Joshua led the Israelites into the good land of Canaan, but not out of Egypt, and Joshua certainly did not destroy those who did not believe (Jude 5b). This was a divine activity. Thus, it is likely that Jesus, the I Am (see john 8:58), who was present with the Israelites and operative in their deliverance from Egypt. Paul shared a similar view inasmuch as he proclaimed that "Christ" was the one the Israelites constantly "tested" during these times (see 1 Cor 10:4,9). Thus, the reading "Jesus," though difficult, is not impossible. As such, it should be accepted as the original reading (as it was by Nestle and FF Bruce). The first edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament contained the reading "Jesus" in the text. But this was changed in the third edition, when a slim majority of the editors voted to put the reading with "Lord" in the text and the one with "Jesus" in the margin. (Metzger and Wikgren voted against this decision).

The first English translation to adopt the wording "Jesus" was NLT. (As the NT coordinator who proposed this reading to the NLT committee, I was glad to see them adopt it.) Two other recent versions have also adopted this reading: TNIV (a change from the NIV) and NET. Otherwise, it has been relegated to the margin of all other versions. NASB notes that "Two early manuscripts read 'Jesus.'" Those manuscripts are A and B.
So whether or not "Jesus" is the original reading, a sound number of scholars believe "Jesus" is the original reading. That is quite compelling in itself. However, even if "Kurios" is the original reading, the overwhelming majority of times Kurios is used, it refers to Christ. Therefore, the NT writers believed that Jesus existed as Yahweh prior to His birth in Bethlehem. There is just no way to get around it.

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